“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”
Exerpt from Robert Frost, Mending Wall
I’ve been dogged by the notion of mending for some time now. Not mending relationships between people, but rather mending between people and the natural world. I’ve come to see the act of mending as an essential requirement for life. This awareness percolates throughout many cultures: that just the act of living, for any people – even those who strive to live harmoniously, is somehow disruptive to the greater presence of the natural world. Once a culture has this realization at its heart it then becomes a requirement to mend the ruptures our activities create.
The Celts had practices of mending relationships with the Sidhe, who I believe can be thought of as the people of the land as well as the land itself. The practice of Creideamh Si, or the Fairy Faith was focused on staying in good relations with those spirits that impacted peoples daily lives. It was not a once yearly activity, but a way of being with the land. I think it was understood that a regular addressing of any tresspasses was required just as part of one’s daily path in life.
There are myths that clearly instruct us in this – how to restore balance when the fields whither or floods devastate. Sometimes these tales involve great quests, self-sacrifice, being completely unmade and then remade. But I find the sweetest notion of this to be found in the simple gestures of thanks for harvests. This can be the harvest of meat in the hunting of animals, or even in the harvest of food from the land. An offering is made, something that makes sense, to the spirit of a place, or the universal spirit of an animal, to thank it, to promise to do your part for renewal. It is a prayer and a commitment to receive this gift, make it count, and choose to make your life work towards something, anything, that increases peace for all.
You don’t see cultures that engage in mending criticizing predators for not making offerings for their kills. The whale, hawk, or seal is not somehow out of step because they make no gift after devouring their latest feast. We recognize that the birds that thieve our crops owe us no apology, they are just acting within the natural order of life. Whales do not forget how to be whales, people do forget how to be human beings though.
There is something unique about human beings that allows us to create abrasions in life. Its not just the physical disturbance, in a way all animals create those kinds of disruptions, life is made of that. Its that we are prone to laying outside the rhythms and flows of life. Because we can observe, generate stories that are outside of that rhythm, we make ourselves out of step with the flow. So mending is required for life, for the stories we make about life, and for our own spirits.
A place where your feelings and spirit come together.
Mending tempts us to speak poetry.
Mending asks us to sing.
Mending may require dance.
Mending asks us to allow ourselves to be filled with light.
Mending asks us to grow.
Mending requires that we receive as well as give.
Driven by guilt.
Performed only by saintly people.
The work of those starved for attention.
Ever really finished.
This work has brought me back to daily prayer in my life. Not prayer as asking for something, but rather as an offering of energy in the process of mending. Prayer becomes a way of restoring our relationship with the Sidhe, with the land, and most wonderfully, our own souls.
My prayer is for
the gift of wings
lifting warm bellies
curving above the stone-thundering Pacific.
For the sky dancing voices
hunters & hunted
squawking caramel laughter.
What if offering a mending, though it makes no measurable material difference, is still important – even somehow required? What if intangible gestures towards nature are what make being here joyful and fulfilling? What if our own individual arts are what life is wanting us to bring forth in mending our way with the world?