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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Morrill (Pyrosketchology)

Listening for Land Languages and Whispers of Fire

I am learning to listen to the language of the land and the whispers of fire. I just finished my notes and the reading assignment for Emergence Magazine's Deep Dive Spiritual Ecology workshop I'll be taking the over the next few weeks. This session is focused on David Abram's writing about primacy of place and reciprocity with the more than human elements of our world. In the journaling prompt he asked that we reflect on a nature encounter that stuck deeply and encouraged a more than human reciprocity with the land.

I can't help but think back to a few years ago when I'd started my nature journaling practice. The every day things around me started to become more vibrant and interesting. On my daily walk with the dogs, I had noticed a large patch of yellow flowers blooming long after the spring flowers and grasses had died. I had seen these year after year and always appreciated the beauty, but just looked at them as weeds. But with my journaling practice, I couldn't help but stop and look deeper.

I noticed that the flowers seemed to greet me each morning as I entered from the east. The vast majority of them tilted open toward me. I guessed it was the morning sun they followed across the sky and somehow felt more keenly aware of my location in space and time. I felt connected to the early morning sunrise and the patch of plants as we followed a similar route.

On an afternoon walk past the same flower patch, I noticed a sweet medicinal scent soaring in the warm and dry breeze that drew me closer. I gently touched the woody stem and tiny thick leaves that glistened with a sticky substance. The scent was carried on my finger tips throughout the day, a constant reminder of those flowers and the warm summer breeze.

With my curiosity peaked, I did some research to identify the plant species and learned so much more about the wonder of this plant, Madia elegans or tarweed. I learned how they were often tended with fire, after seed harvest, by Native American women living in California along these river valleys and foothills.

As a woman that has spent many years working in fire management, I was excited to make this fire connection to a native plant use and maybe a woman from the past. I also felt a deep and almost haunting experience with this place. I wondered if the same medicinal summer scents wafted through the air long ago, like a perfume or a voice calling to the indigenous people to bring their fire medicine to the land and in reciprocity to this plant.

I will forever connect the scent of late-summer madia with a call for fire. On the breeze, it is a whisper calling for a delicate touch of fire. Other plants and places carry a language of fire. How do we listen? How do we help answer the call?

-Miriam Morrill



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