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Power of place
Adventures in stability and harnessing enchanted spaces
Last week I did something I didn’t expect to do. I moved my five-year-old’s bed and dresser into my office, and I moved my desk into his bedroom.
Make that, former bedroom.
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I decided I wanted to work and write from the most auspicious and spiritually resonant location in my home - more on that later.
This is partly a story about roots. My father-in-law immigrated to Toronto in the 1960s from a small village in Europe. He grew up next door to his aunts in one of two houses his grandfather built. When they made the move to Canada, they did it largely as a unit. A few Sundays back, he was telling us about how he’s lived in his Canadian home for forty years. “It’s not really that long,” he said; which is true, depending on your benchmark.
By contrast, my ancestral history is marked somewhat by abandonment - many relatives diverged by fleeing or being left behind, languishing in boarding schools, untethered through international careers.
Tiny rural villages are one thing, but in modern urban areas there’s a view that folks who live close to where they grew up somehow lack a sense of adventure.
But what about rootedness? What about stability?
Spending a life within arm’s reach of family and heritage provides a great sense of being settled. And settled is an underrated state of being in this fast-moving, far-flinging culture of ours.
Imagine the sense of being woven-in to family and community that my father-in-law grew up with. Sure, at times it was probably claustrophobic. But belonging is too precious to trade for adventure, for most of us at least. This is the power of place.
This is also a story about home. These last few years, many of us have felt isolated in our homes. We’re told not to expect one human to meet all our relationship needs, so asking one structure and whatever is visible through its windows to meet all our place needs seems misguided.
And yet in its richest light, the place where we sleep and brush our teeth is a sanctuary. In some ways, how marvelous to have a home in which to self-isolate during a global pandemic. If we needed a reminder of why home is so important, 2020-2021 provided that reminder.
My last move coincided with the onset of the pandemic. After five years of on-and-off house hunting and ten unsuccessful bids on homes in a tightly drawn circle around Toronto’s largest park, we’d gone rogue with our search.
Well, rogue might be an overstatement.
We ended up in a home that is well outside of that tightly drawn circle, and within a few kilometres of where I grew up.
Three years on, every day I appreciate that so many of the puzzle pieces of my life are within a graspable distance, giving me a sense of being put back together that I didn’t know I was missing the last two decades being “away”.
This is also a story about earth. Astrology uses elements as metaphors. Each person’s birth chart can tell a thousand stories, and one of those stories is about the elements.
Fire sparks, air soars, water flows; earth is by its nature stable.
In many ways, earth energy could be called the power of place. Earth knows its place and earth is its place.
My birth chart is conspicuously low on earth energy, and last year I found myself in an unexpected healing cocoon by immersing myself in it, literally. It started as a whisper from the back garden, which had been left to its own devices for years by the previous owners. The magnolia shrubs started winking and waving at me with their furry buds as long as my finger. I set out to tame the English ivy at the side of the house and discovered several varieties of hosta underneath, formerly shrouded and now shooting up to reclaim their light. I slathered sheep manure at the base of the lilies. I planted three trees. I pulled out 20 square feet of goutweed and replaced it with rocks and a dozen perennials. I googled “help peonies bloom” and “when do I cut back hydrangea” and a dozen other plant-related queries. I learned to cut grass with a multi-generational lawn mower that I first had to fill from an enormous red gas receptacle. I know. More than once I found myself beckoning my young children to come, lie down on the gentle slope of the lawn with me.
Even the most magnificent sparking and soaring and flowing has its moments of needing to be held, cradled, and embraced. This is the power of place.
So, like most of us, I was basically trapped in my home for two years. During that time I fell into love with each step and groove of it, its unadventurously-rooted location in relation to my life, and was deeply healed by the literal earth upon which it sits.
What does it matter, then, which room I work in?
Well for one thing, the bedroom I’d put my son in seemed too big for him and insufficiently cozy.
Also I’d grown tired of sitting at my desk and gazing past my clients’ faces on zoom into a wall or out a west-facing window into dormant, muddy backyards.
I had started craving the energy and morning sun of an east-facing window and the very subtle bustle of my charming dead-end street. The sleepy dog-walkers and delivery-van folk actually feel like a bit of company.
But there’s another reason. During the pandemic we welcomed a baby. She made her appearance in the draftiest bedroom of our home, surrounded by skilled midwives and a stack of my late grandmother’s throwaway linens, chaperoned by a host of spirit guides, in the fading light of a late winter afternoon, next to an east-facing window on a quiet, dead-end street.
Dear reader, forgive me if this makes you squeamish, but I gave birth in the exact place where I’m writing this.
That’s the power of place.
When I was pregnant for the first time I couldn’t even fathom a home birth. I had been indoctrinated since childhood with significant fear around birth but that is a different story.
Things changed. Two “normal,” unmedicated deliveries occurred. The Pandemic ushered in hospital policies that were well-meaning but misaligned with what birthing people need.
If you’re squeamish, I get it. We’ve all been indoctrinated with complicated feelings about birth. But feeling pulled to this room was as much about what happened here as it was about the eastern sun and the dog walkers.
This exact location is sacred. How could it not be?
So, what if rootedness was an adventure? What if deepening into our foundations, into the intelligent network of fungal threads that connects the trees to one another, counted as a frontier?
I would argue that it does. I would argue that as a culture we’ve discounted stability, home, roots, and earth for a long time.
So here’s my challenge to you: consider the place where you live, or work, or play. Consider what place or places feel enchanted to you, and consider how you can harness that enchantment.
Explore the power of place. Find what you need (t)here.
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