Sacred Ground
Threads and stories

Sacred Ground: Part II

The Fairy Spring in autumn

Following on from yesterday's post, here one's more passage from "Telling the Holy," by Scott Russell Sanders' fine essay on myth, story, and sacred ground, accompanied by pictures of the "Fairy Spring" near our village Commons through the four seasons, beginning with autumn:

"If all creation is holy," Sanders asks, "if one power flows everywhere -- through psyche and cyclotron, through grass and granite -- then why do we identify certain groves mountains, or springs as sacred? Because they concentrate our experience of the land. We cannot hold the entire earth or even a forest or river in our minds at once; we need smaller places to apprehend and visit. We go to such places in thought or dream, to renew our strength, to remind ourselves of the source of all things....

Tilly at the Fairy Spring

The Fairy Spring in winter

"Pilgrims often journey to the ends of the earth in search of holy ground, only to find that they've never walked on anything else. Here, for an eloquent example, is what Peter Matthiessen discovered in Tibet, where he went in search of the snow leopard and enlightenment:

" 'The search may begin with a restless feeling, as if one were being watched. One turns in all directions and sees nothing. Yet one senses that there is a source for this deep restlessness; and the path that leads there is not a path to a strange place but the path home....The journey is hard, for the secret place where we have always been is overgrown with thorns and thickets of 'ideas,' of fears and defenses, prejudices and repressions.'

The Fairy Spring, early spring

The Fairy Spring in spring

"I have spied that secret place from time to time," Sanders continues, "usually through a glass darkly, but now and again with blazing clarity. One time it glowed from a red carnation, incandescent in a florist's window. Once it shimmered in drifting pollen, once in a sky needled with ice. I have seen it wound in a scarf of dust around a whirling pony. I have seen it glinting from a pebble on the slate bed of a creek. I have slipped into that secret place while watching hawks, while staring down the throat of a lily, while brushing my wife's hair. Metaphors are inexact. The experience is not a glimpsing of realms beyond, nor of becoming someone new, but of acknowledging, briefly and utterly, who I am.

The Fairy Spring, summer

"Barry Lopez, another pilgrim, has traveled from the Artic to the Antarctic in his search for an understanding of how to live wisely within the natural order. In all his travels, he has found that wisdom embodied in stories:

" 'The aspiration of aboriginal people throughout the world has been to achieve a congruent relationship with the land, to fit well in it. To achieve occasionally a state of high harmony or reverberation. The dream of this transcendent congruency included the evolution of a hunting and gathering relationship with the earth, in which a mutual regard was understood to prevail; but it also meant a conservation of the stories that bind the people to the land.'

The Fairy Spring in autumn

"Against those who warn us, as Forster and Eliade do, that a respect for myth and a hankering for the sacred are throwbacks to our dim origins, I appeal to the testimony of such witnesses as Lopez and Matthiessen, and to my own grounding experiences. If to be modern is to give up inquiring about my true home, then let me remain archaic. The root of primitive, as Gary Snyder points out, is primus, 'or "first," like "original mind," original human society, original way of being.'

"Sacred places, and the stories we tell about them, put us back in touch with what is original in ourselves and in creation."

Leaping from the Fairy Spring, autumn againThe text above and in the picture captions is from "Telling the Holy" by Scott Russell Sanders, from Wonder & Other Survival Skills: An Orion Reader (The Orion Society, 2012). All rights reserved by the author.