I enjoyed reading through this thread tonight. Sleepy as I am I couldn’t stop until the end.
I feel like ultimately so much depends on the land itself, the plants and animals—forming a relationship with a place, finding the roots there, following those roots.
A couple of weeks ago I told my daughters a story about Finn MacCool and the Salmon of Knowledge. The salmon in the story, and the hazelnuts, made me think of the PNW where I grew up, and it felt good to think of there being salmon and hazelnuts in Ireland too, where some of my ancestors (including my father’s father) lived and died. It was funny how happy I felt thinking of the salmon and hazelnuts in faraway Ireland.
I spent a year in Northern Ireland (Coleraine, north of Belfast, near Giant’s Causeway) at age 19. The climate reminded me in some ways of the PNW. I didn’t feel entirely foreign in that climate, close to the sea.
I still dream from time to time of that place. Those dreams are filled with feelings of longing, bittersweet and melancholy, and usually involve searching for old friends but not being able to locate anyone and feeling like a stranger everywhere.
What a description for some of us: feeling like a stranger everywhere. It can be really confusing being human! I do want to have compassion for even the most idiotic-seeming cultural appropriators. It’s hard having the history and nature hammered out of you.
I remember some American exchange students being mocked mercilessly by the Irish students for saying something along the lines of, “I’m Irish too.” I remember avoiding after that point even mentioning that my grandfather and uncles had been born and raised in Co. Kerry.
I took a film class that year focused on the Irish identity. It boiled down to contrast between old American films about the Irish, which idealized the Irish and made Ireland fuzzy and quaint, and old British films about the Irish, which portrayed the Irish as violent, half-human imbeciles. Not unlike portrayals of Native Americans, or I’m sure any number of people…
It’s funny but sometimes I just sit and feel so grateful for the goddamn trees. I’ve tried to think who my people might’ve been, in terms of cultural mentors. Honest to goodness, though, I think the earth itself helped me along the most. I come from that place, and share that place with many dead people of varying origins and ancestries, including of course many, many generations of indigenous people. I have deep affection for plants and animals—and smells, colors, textures, etc.—of the Puget Sound area, because I was a child there.