On Coming Home: an update

These past few years have been rough ones. So many people I know have made major life transitions, lost dear ones, confronted the realities of chronic illness, moved into the unknown. On the larger scale, we are living in a world that is stressed and wounded because of the ways that we humans have exploited the Earth for all of her precious gifts. I write this during one of many intense Nor’easters that have left people without power and damaged so many trees in our region. It is a reminder that we are living in a time of transition for the Earth and all of her species.

In the midst of transition and division, how do we find ground under our feet? How do we acknowledge all of the difficult things about living in this time while also maintaining a sense of hope, connection and love for one another and the Earth? How do we avoid despair?

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This past year, I had the good fortune to move to a home with land where I can grow gardens and feed my spirit. I hope to spend the coming years feeding other people’s spirits here too–creating a sanctuary where we can reconnect to what we have been missing because we have forgotten our sacred connection to plants and to the Earth. I have been inspired by so many people’s teachings, by the flourishing of solidarity and healing activism, by the knowledge that this land I have been lucky enough to become connected to is not a thing that I own. This land is mine to tend and nourish and honor with prayer and offerings and love. Every time I walk out the door and see the beautiful White Pine who protects us, I am reminded that these days are a gift that I must live into, a bargain that I must uphold. This morning, I imagined an altar over our well to honor and feed the spirit of the water. I am shaped by this place as much as I might shape what takes root here. I am learning how to really listen–to hear the voices of the land’s spirits, the ancestors who lived here, and the plants and animals who call this land home. Through listening, I hope to become a better caretaker, a more open-hearted humble spirit. I hope to offer classes to share medicine-making and growing skills with my community. I know how much this knowledge has changed my relationship to the Earth and I want to do what I can to pass that on. It wasn’t always apparent that this is the path I would walk, but I am so grateful for all of the teachers who have helped me to find my way.

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Though I grew up in the woods, I always thought I needed to be in a city to have the life I wanted to live. I moved away from home and traveled to numerous locations around the United States looking for a place that would nourish me fully. Though I deeply enjoyed the luxury of poetry readings, art museums, dance parties, and queer community spaces, my heart always had its home in the land. On the busy corner of Broad Street and South Street in Philadelphia, in a community garden plot overgrown with tomatoes and calendula, I rediscovered a longing for having my hands in the dirt that I didn’t even know was part of me. Since then, nearly 15 years ago, I have been moving closer to a dream of planting seeds in the Earth in gardens that would be mine to tend season after season. It still feels somewhat unbelievable that I am living on this amazingly beautiful spot on the planet. So much has changed in me since this move–changes that I hope to share in later posts. What has been calling me lately are the voices of my own ancestors. I am looking forward to sharing some of that journey as it unfolds. It requires more listening and more patience.

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2 thoughts on “On Coming Home: an update

  1. Hello Cathleen Miller, I was going through old emails, and discovered those we sent back and forth prior to our reading together at what used to be Robin’s. This is how I discovered your blog. It seems that you have bee through quite a number of changes since we last saw one another. Are you in touch with CA Conrad any longer? Do you still write poetry? I do still write poetry, and I’m still working, but at Philadelphia Community College and at the Penn Museum. I had to take an early retirement from the Free Library while I was taking care of my mother for 4 1/2 years when she was ill and dying. Anyway, this is a very interesting blogspot and I wish you all the best. Perhaps I will even come across some of your poetry eventually. I remember liking your poetry very much.
    Michele A. Belluomini

    • Michelle,
      Thank you for your comment! I have, indeed, been through many changes since we were last in touch. It sounds like you have too.
      I am now living in Maine, working at a special collection called the Maine Women Writers Collection at UNE, and have been working on building a quieter life for myself. I am still writing poetry, but not publishing a lot lately. I hope that will change sometime soon. I haven’t really been in touch with many of my Philly poetry friends lately. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since I left.
      I hope that your poetry has been going in a good direction. If you ever want to be in touch, I’m still at the same email address.
      I hope you are well. It’s nice to hear from you.
      Cathleen

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