It is a strange and fascinating experience to be back in a land where the day is a neutral experience that serves as a benign backdrop for your human activities. For so many years I have lived in a place where the day demands your attention, shapes your awareness, determines your state of mind, and often challenges your very skills at physical and emotional survival. Now I am in a place where the day sets a gentle and bountiful table before you.
It changes everything.
Hope takes a different shape. The Self looms larger in both a good and bad sense. Even your physical posture changes, because your body does not demand accommodation to inescapable and undeniable outside forces.
I realize these are summertime thoughts. But I remember this experience from the last time I lived in the west, and it holds true throughout the seasons. Each environment shapes our consciousness and even our physical self in very specific ways.
It was this discovery many years ago that first ignited my fascination with Native cultures. I realized that the inner quality of their spiritual lives reflected the outer quality of their physical environment just as it was shaping the lives of those of us living in contemporary society. And, further, that there was some rough and distant correlation between their spiritual adaptation and our spiritual yearnings, and that the Native peoples of any geographical and physical environment had much to teach us spiritually if we could see the deep truth of their adaptations and not try to mimic the rituals and cultural expressions that they had evolved in their own lives.
I wrote a wonderful little book called A Haunting Reverence that tried to address this issue metaphorically. Perhaps it was before its time; perhaps an extended metaphor was too abstract a premise to attract a readership. But the book never found a significant home in enough people’s hearts, so it disappeared from view. I often wonder if I should resurrect it.
For now, it is enough to drink in this new world and wonder how it will affect my sensibilities when I sit down again to write. From the harsh north where the turning seasons create a sense of benign fatalism and measured distance, to the Pacific west where sunsets over the ocean’s dim infinity turn the eyes from the practical to the limitless capacity to dream.
It will be an adventure. It already is.