Nature is full of natural boundaries that define the landscape.  Rivers, streams, shorelines, tree lines, drip lines, valleys and mountains ranges  to name a few.  Each of these liminal spaces are transitional places that change the definition of the space  below, above and around them in a way that causes us to take notice.

In early January 2014, a local discovered Four Bears hibernating on his friends property while out target shooting with his bow.  Fortunately for the bears, they weren’t harmed, he actually discovered them while trying to search for an arrow that went afield.  This occurred not too far from my home and I had seen sign of these bears more than once.  So when people ask me where I am from, I like to say that I am from the land of four bears.  This is a definition of space that makes sense to me and even though the definition is not absolute (after all, should we define this land by the range of the bears or by my own home’s proximity to the story?), it creates a visual context for where I am from even if many others don’t quite get it…they can always ask, I love the story.

Even in this simple, rather open ended definition, one understands immediately that if they come to my home, there are four bears in the area.  Despite the relative and unnecessary fear that might cause (Bears are naturally skittish animals), it is something that defines a characteristic of the land that gives the land some character.  Much like saying that I live above Caribou Bog, one might also immediately understand that I also live in the land where the mosquitoes can carry you away…

There are a lot of people who do not like the context of definitions, seeing them as too limiting but I tend to see it differently.  Nature has definition, even to itself.  The river valley, the bog, the canyon, the gully, the sea; all of these things are definitions we have created to explain what we are seeing and touching as we make our way across the landscape, we establish these definitions as a method defining our relationship with the place where our feet touch the land.  The bog has a different character to how we approach the land than the mountaintop does.

Where definition tends to fail is in the preconceived notion.  If we were to live in Caribou Bog we might grow up thinking that we know everything we need to know about living in a Bog.  However, if we move to a different Bog, we would likely find that the character of that space is similar but different enough that our assumptions about that space make things harder for us unless we remain open to the likelihood of such differences.  This is where defining something reaches its own limit because defining a boundary can be limiting and it can objectify something to the point where we close ourselves off to building a unique relationship with the land in different places.

The spirits of these places may have similar experiences but their stories remain different.  Just like our own experiences may be similar to others and yet our perception of events is different and has deeper or lesser meaning depending upon the individual.  Thusly, we find that our definitions fail to pass muster as soon as we move beyond the boundaries that the Wild provides for itself because these are human definitions and not definitions of the Wild.

I remember a conversation with a close friend recently in which we were joking about the adage “Don’t like the weather in Maine?  Wait five minutes!”  Her immediate response was “How about drive Five miles?”  This is the land of Maine, full of microclimates and varied landscapes.  We have everything from Desert to bog and back again.  The Sea, the mountains, the forests both deep and dark to bright and green.  Here, there is a little of everything and a lot of a everything else.

We define these things as we move over them, through them, around them and they move over through and around us.  We do so in a manner that allows us to create relationship without being chained to a single definition or relationship as we encounter other spaces, other spirits and other stories of the land where our feet touch the Earth.  This is questing Awen.  Awen allows us to understand how these things define themselves in relation to us and thus the edgework can be done with respect and honor for each being and spirit we encounter.  As an animist, I accept that there are spirits all around us all of the time, in every tree, blade of grass, mountain, river…you name it, to me there is a spirit in there.  Even if the spirit in each of these examples is little more than the character of their appearance (which I don’t believe), there is something tangible there to my own spirit and that is where edgework begins, it is where Awen flows and nothing, not even the limited definition that my mind creates when interacting with that spirit can stem or block that flow of Awen.

We may come to dislike labels or definitions but our culture must successfully and collectively rise above the need for them for the necessity to go away.  Language and definition are not our enemy, nor will they set us free.  They simply allow us to speak with one another and share experience.  It is once we delve deeper into spirit that we find how limited our language is and Awen is the manner in which we share that depth with others.  The river is no longer just a river, nor is the mountain just a mountain.  They are wild and sacred places that tell us stories of the land where our feet touch the Earth either over a lifetime or in the moment we are there.  Understanding the relationships we see in the Wild are essential to establishing similar relationships with other people and spirits of place.  We create organizations because we are establishing that this is a group of people with similar goals and similar methods of achieving those goals.  In order to establish an organization, we must define it’s central purpose as something we can connect ourselves to as we connect to one another.  When human relationships begin to get confusing, something that everyone can agree upon is important to remembering our purpose.

So too, have we defined the Order of Maine Druidry, as people who, through questing Awen and learning these stories, serve our community by strengthening the connection between people and the land where our feet touch the Earth.

Greetings and blessings from the Land of Four Bears, on the hill above Caribou Bog.

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