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Day 18: The Steward's Dilemma

A flurry of ideas ran through my head as I walked my dog Aahana today.

I felt the stillness of the land, the trees without leaves and bushes without birds, insects, and other scurrying animals. Everything was still, and then a breeze came through, moving some of the trees but not others. Maybe today my focus is on the balance between doing and allowing Spirit to do.

Continuing on, Aahana was searching for scents. With the ground still covered in snow, the usual aromas of earth and plant and animal are covered by this frozen white blanket. She searched valiantly for something to stimulate her senses. Of course, with a dog’s sense of smell being about 40 times more sensitive than mine, she could very well have been awash in scents. Based on her body movement, especially compared to how she acts in the other seasons, that seemed unlikely. My mind searched for a deeper lesson in observing her actions.

I practiced brief affirmation meditations with each breath shown to be by a teacher and a friend. On the inhale, I offered a prayer of “Welcome,” followed by a “Thank you” on the exhale. That brought up some difficult emotions at times, as I didn’t feel like welcoming in life, and wasn’t feeling particularly grateful.

I sighed. At the very least, it felt nice to be outside.

A little while later, I was taking down the outside Christmas decorations. Several cone-shaped conifers donned strings of white lights and red bows. I tuned into these bushes as I stripped them of our decorations. I wondered how they felt about being strung up. In the past, I have felt some trees absolutely thrilled to be lit up, and others feeling resentful, and happy to have the lights finally out.

Today, these bushes were indifferent. They were more concerned, it seemed, with the invasive plants whose branches were cutting into them.

These plants mark the edge of our property with the woods. My initial response was to reassure the bushes that I will take care of those invasive plants. I’ll trim them and/or uproot them, so the bushes can bask more freely, and less limited, in the natural elements of the seasons.

But then I got to thinking… Is that decision just vanity on my part? Sure, the cone-shaped conifers are more pleasant on the eyes, but they are also likely not native to this land. I didn’t plant them, but they’ve been there clearly for a while. Is the perspective of the “invasive plant” that it is being invasive? It is, after all, growing naturally in its habitat. What if the “prettier” plants are actually the invasive ones?

I felt the energy of the plant with its branches physically invading the space of the bush. It wasn’t that open-hearted. More matter-of-fact, and “Yea, I’m here. So what?”

I am left with a dilemma, one which I will revisit this spring when my yard work resumes. Is it right for me to interfere with the plants’ combat for resources? Is my perspective arbitrary, based on my own visual, human preferences? How do I determine the most honorable and respectful path forward?

As I write this, it occurs to me that a shamanic journey to communicate with the spirits of the land will help illuminate the way. Truly, I’m just a human steward of this land for some amount of time, one in a long line of human (and other) stewards. The land will tell me what it wants and needs, and I will act accordingly. It’s not my decision to make, but rather guidance to seek and act on.

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