“Where are you from?” and “Where do you live?” are mundane and seemingly simple questions. Yet like all questions they have hidden ancestries and invisible motivations. They understandably want to locate us, anchor our boat of identity, establish a riverbank in a fluid world.
Questions are ways of connecting with the other. They can be powerful tricksters, ways of knowing (and hiding) who we are, ways of living accountably (or not) in the world.
I feel a kin-ship with the thrush. They like to migrate. They like to experiment. They like to throw ever-widening iridescent loops of sound-meanings into the world, asking us to keep opening and stretching.
There comes a moment in deep autumn when suddenly their familiar melody is gone, and for a bit I am forlorn with the absence.
Among the five North American thrushes in the genus Catharus, Hermit Thrushes are the last to migrate south in the fall, the first to head north in spring.
The melody lives in me year-round now, but I wonder: Where do they go? Who is on the receiving end of their gift down there? Where are they ‘from’? Where do they consider their roots?
As a child I also moved a lot—by age 18 perhaps a dozen places. And as an adult I’ve lived in many places and traveled widely. Like so many, I feel I’m at least half a migratory animal.
That I’m from Iowa, now live in California is a type of story. That I am a white settler of northern European ancestry on unceded Wiyot and Sinkyone lands in so-called Humboldt County is a way of locating me. That I live under redwood trees and drink wild spring water from the Eel River watershed is another.
They are all true. And all limited. Like words themselves (and I’m saying this as a word man), questions and the answers they prompt hide as much as they reveal.
What if we also asked “What places bring you alive? To what land and landscapes do you belong? To what watersheds do you owe your allegiance? Where have you let your tears join the watershed? Where do you feel safe to fling your widest song? Where have the moon and seasons cycled through you, the scents stuck in your soul?”
These invite a different set of conversations and locates us in a different way. Perhaps they are coordinates of the soul and portals to deeper belongings.
These are inquiries I’d like to ask more, and be happy to hear the answers. They are questions that help us spiral into different ways of arriving—with ourselves, with the other-than-human kin, with each other.
CUSTOM WILDERNESS CEREMONIES/RITES-OF-PASSAGE (for individuals or small groups up to 4)