Today, just now, in fact, four us met to talk about “inner work”. The question was: what do we need? Not just us, but our community. We talked about how we often feel judged and marginalized simply because we voice our doubts, fear, grief, helplessness. About how there must be others in our towns, struggling with these feelings, but alone. They might think that there is a problem with them, that it’s depression. But, as Jenkinson says, “what if there is nothing wrong with you?” What if it’s not their psychological problem, but a whole community’s cultural problem? What if what you’re feeling is not depression, but grief, and you have a perfectly good reason for that grief? What if we as a group started speaking a bit more openly about our grief, owning it, valuing it? What if we started building a whole new culture. We might create a space where people can come and talk, a safe room like Francis Weller describes, with a floor where we can stand with our grief and not feel like we’re in free fall. More organically, a place and community, in nature where we belong, where grief can enrich us and blossom along with its sister, joy.
I’m so glad I picked up Barbara Hurd’s books, Stirring the Mud and Entering the Stone. I’ve started reading the first one and was hooked as of page one. She alerted me to the wetlands, bogs and marshes, and the marginal areas, high-traffic, super-diverse, home to species of the two biota that overlap there, as well as to “edge species”. Humans, she points out, are not such an edge species. We don’t feel comfortable in the undefined, not-one-or-the-other places. We don’t like to be on edge.
I like the idea of the edge. We’re not talking the kind of place where one thing stops and something else begins, a clear edge like a cliff, or the horizon, or the doorstep where indoors becomes outdoors. We’re talking of two edges in fact, in the case of the wetland, the edge of the land, and the edge of the wet,and an overlap, where it’s both wet and land. A nest of being, being-neither and being-both.
Can we think of ourselves in such a place? In between two stories, in both stories, and in neither, all at the same time. We are undefinable. Saints and hypocrites and average human beings in the twenty-first century. Let’s put others on edge. Everyone who thinks they know where they are, in terra cognita, when they’re with us and we’re at our best (with our talk of grief and danger and immeasurable joy) will suddenly find they have wet feet!
I also read, in Paul Shepard, that the ferocity of territorial species is highest in the very heart of their territory, and less on the edges, where the work is one of balancing territoriality with sociality, security with vulnerability. On the edges of the territory are the common spaces. This should give us courage. There is a way of being on edge together. We may have forgotten it – we who have paved over the wetlands, colonized the whole world into one territory, retreated deeply inward via the internet and psychotherapy – but that is our culture‘s error. We know that deep inside we are still human. Let us learn again the way of the edges, where give means take, take means give – one wild and fecund circle!