Where I am, Who I am, and Why
Place, Identity, Service, Ceremony
by Bobcat Robert Brothers
I first came here when I was 29, and returned when I was 58, recycled back by the Spirit.
After receiving my doctorate, the completion of a full academic education, I was still searching, and remembered the reminder of a friend: "There are people who live inside, and there are people who live outside."
So I dropped out, and a few months later found myself alone in a forest wilderness, crossing a little stream. There was one wet, mossy rock that I needed to place my crippled foot on just right to avoid slipping, getting soaked, and hurting myself far from camp on a dark winter's day. I looked at that rock for a long time, studying it, feeling it, until the realization came to me that if I knew this rock really well, like one knows a close friend, then I would know how to treat it, and it would help me cross over.
This was a lesson of respect, and it started me on a two-year journey of living in the wilderness, camping out with ponies given to me by a friend, learning for the first time who I really was -- because I knew where I was. I was in the natural world, a friendly place when treated with respect, a beautiful place that filled my heart with love. I felt at home like never before. Every plant and animal around me felt like family. Amidst mountain lions, bears, and rattlesnakes, I was never afraid. I felt completely taken care of. Grounded by the simple earth, centered by the act of paying attention, I realized that my true identity lay outside any social conventions. I had been adopted by Mother Earth.
When I left the wilderness, it was on assignment to keep these values intact in the larger world. Growing our food from land near the forests, when we saw them attacked by herbicide poisons and clearcuts, I knew that I had a job to do. Twenty years went by in a steady, non-stop series of actions using all the tools: civil disobedience, public education, lawsuits, legislation. Herbicides were banned from federal lands in 1984, and 9.1 million acres of ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest were saved from clearcutting in 1994.
Saving this much land was a miracle to us, something beyond the wildest dreams of the rag-tag bunch of tree-huggers who reached out to the scientists and the lawyers. But with prayers and lawsuits, it was done.
Since then, holding on to and reinforcing those victories has been a very difficult task. More needs to be done, and many more are doing it. But by 2002, I was tired.
Then I heard of a piece of land in a place I knew well that needed protection in a different way, by having someone live there as caretaker. This is where I am now, just a few miles downriver from the rock that introduced me to the place where I learned who I am.
The day that I moved in I was given a most powerful confirmation. A year before, in the old house where I was living, I found several Scrabble pieces laying amidst the trash on the floor of an empty room. When I put the pieces together, they spelled out PROUDSWEETLND. The A was missing. I liked what it said, but didn’t think too much about it, since as a forest defender, these were not surprising thoughts for me to find in some random letters.
When I moved to my new home in the mountains, I laid the Scrabble pieces out on the window sill. They spelled out PROUDSWEETLAND. The A was there! There is no possible physical explanation for it’s appearance.
To me, this was an incredible affirmation -- that I was in the right place -- a sweet place – and that I had done well on my assignment to protect Mother Earth. The land was proud of me, and Spirit had brought be back home.