The Land is Alive #intro

‘There is nothing new in the kingdom,’ said the demon, ‘but the land has woken up.’

In Terry Pratchetts book ‘The Wyrd Sisters’ the story takes place in the land of Lancre. A king has been killed and there is a new ruler. Three witches notice something they have not encountered before.

…It was a landscape never intended for human beings – not hostile, any more than a brick or a cloud is hostile, but terribly, terribly uncaring.

Except that, this time, it was watching her. A mind quite unlike any other she had ever encountered was giving her a great deal of its attention…

‘It’s out there somewhere, in the mountains and the high forests,’ she said. ‘And it is very big.’

‘I thought it was looking for someone,’ said Magrat. ‘It put me in mind of a large dog. You know, lost. Puzzled.’

Granny thought about this. Now she came to think of it…

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Something like that. A big dog.’

‘Worried.’ said Magrat.

‘Searching.’ said Granny

‘And getting angry,’ said Magrat.

I have always spent a lot of time outdoors and as we moved around when I was a kid and got to spent time in different landscapes and environments. And I remember the first experiences of the strangeness of bigger cities. Where landscapes have stopped being a negotiation between humans and nature and become a dull sense of suppression. Buildings upon buildings upon buildings. And of something waiting under all the bricks and concrete and asphalt.

‘Can you tell us why?’ she said, without turning round. She had felt the mind of a whole country…

Granny considered herself something of an expert on minds. She was pretty certain things like countries didn’t have minds.

They weren’t even alive, for goodness sake. A country was, well, was –

Hold on. Hold on… A thought stole gently into Granny’s mind and sheepishly tried to attract her attention.

(…)

She’d often thought of the forest as a sprawling creature, but only metaphorically (…) It occured to her that in addition to being a collection of other things, the forest was a thing in itself. Alive, only not alive in the way that, say, a shrew was alive.

And much slower.

I love where I live. It is not a wild place but nature is here in an undeniable, unsuppressable way.

And when I look out on the hills and walk in the valleys I feel held. And when I get up on the tops I see the Land is alive and moving like the sea. Slow eternal waves against the endless sky and I feel a love in my body that is not about attachment but about presence.

I think I believe that the Land is a cocreation between all living things – and so some land is alive with the history of humans and through the cultivation of nature that humans are capable of. Nature itself exists beyond humans, beyond land and beyond this planet. The Land is as much untouched landscapes of wild nature as it is strange cityscapes where humans have lived for thousands of years. It is as much Europe’s massive areas of neat farmland carved up into little squares as it is the unknowable depths of the oceans. The separation between humans and nature and the Land only exists in the human mind.

I regularly have experiences and conversations that remind me how strongly I feel that the land is alive. And I want to try and write about this. Some of these are old writings and some are newer.

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