I often walk in Lone Fir Cemetery in southeast Portland, Oregon. It is always busy with the restless spirits of the dead. Very few of them are tended, the dead I mean, not the graves.
No one I know is buried there. I am a visitor.
The first burial on this piece of land was in 1846. Now there are more than 25,000 graves scattered about under more than 700 specimen trees of 67 different species. Some of the trunks and roots have grown around and swallowed up the headstones. All of the trees are being fed by the bodies of the dead.
Today the cemetery was filled with the living. They gathered in the sunshine on lawn chairs and chatted. They lounged on blankets, reading. They strolled, they jogged, they roller bladed and parents helped their little one learn to balance on their bikes.
I wonder. Did any of them go there today to be fed by their dead or to tend them?
Or did they go there to be with their Gods?
Were all of us being fed unknowingly by the dead through communion with the trees that had consumed them?
Was it home?
Is it home?
“It is a reliable mark of indigenous cultures that their Gods live on the same land that the people do.” Stephen Jenkinson – Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul
What is it that makes a place home?
Are we at home when we live with our Gods?
Are we at home when we live with our Gods on the same land?
Is it more than that?
Is it knowing where our people are buried, knowing the ancestral bone yard?
Are we at home when we know the obligation of being bound to the land, to our Gods and to our dead?
The Othila rune is about home.
About ancestral home.
About the place of the ancestral bone yard.
About remembering who we are.
About remembering that our dead feed and sustain us as well as feed and sustain the land?
Is it possible that in light of all this there are many more of us who are homeless than we realize because we are not being fed by our dead?
I walked past this utility pole and then stopped and went back to be with it. I thought, yes, this is the condition of the news we are getting today. It's tattered, sun-faded, rain-soaked, partly torn away, pollution-coated, unreadable, wrinkled, misleading and outdated and often the phone number posted no longer works. So who do you call for more information? And once in a while some new piece of paper is tacked or stapled on top of all that has gone before, is yet to come or may never happen and you only get one chance to read it before the weather changes.
My travels here in Ireland are coming to an end. A storm is blowing across this rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic. I've been woolgathering on this journey. I have been carried on the words of author, musician Patti Smith, clouds pushed by winds.