We’ve heard the word a lot in recent months. Occupy. Not to belabor the point, allow me to apply the term in a different context. To “occupy” your place of life in the world, you engage yourself as fully as possible with that place. It’s a great challenge to live fully among the many levels of existence to be found in any given place. Is it possible to achieve “99%” of your potential living where you do? I don’t know. To sense and appreciate one’s natural boundaries, histories and ecological setting is quite an order to fill, no matter where you live.
The attempt to occupy a place is greatly rewarding. We begin to feel “rooted” and at home. To get there we have tools, or actions, at our disposal, things like gardening, chopping wood, writing poetry, and tying flies. Invoking the native spirits of a place can be beneficial in bonding with the soil and water.
To the Native (Salvelinus fontinalis) : I stand and cast/ barbless flies/ hoping you will hit./ Downstream,/ knots of humans/ angle for your factory-/ nurtured kin/ dumped in pools/ beneath the bridges./ I belong/ to their tribe/ but today abandon/ insecurity/ mad obsessions and/ illusions of superiority./ In rivertop/ solitude the land/ and waters blend/as one. Your/ brilliant flesh/ meets the hook./ We send each/ other home.
It’s good to know the history and traditions of your place. You start to see your mark on the Line of Time. The farm road, subject of the next poem, has vanished in the decades of poplar growth, but through it I can still see “Popplewood Manor.”
Hidden Farm Road : Curving uphill from/ the barn, it lay behind me/ hidden in orchard trees,/ in crowded lilacs, brambles/ and poplars sprung-up from/ neglect. Never waiting/ to be found, it lay/ all these years beneath/ the westward rising ridge./ Cleared, it mapped the route/ to vistas on house and valley,/ bygone days of use and/ misuse and abandonment of/ hill life. Only now is it/ revealed– a picture for/ recovery with a saw and/ scythe and careful thought,/ small tools for future days.
The poem is from my book Uplands Haunted by the Sea (Great Elm Press, 1992, available upon request).