I am a bird. When I journey I can fly. This is more than dream or imagination. As I stand at rocks ledge at what has been colonially named Washington Pass, my cells scream with the memory of being able to shapeshift. The mountains awaken the urge to take bird’s form and fly down their slopes. I clutch the railing in front of me to be sure I won’t fling myself off the cliff. If I ever try to commit suicide, it would probably be here and it might be half accident. I make a mental note to not come here if I’m in a state of bipolar mania.
Even at my sanest, which is still outside of the comfort zone for the limited view of most psychiatrists, I come here to weep with the mountains who have seen such change. But they assure me that their spirit is full. Full of life even in this poisoned land. They have their sisters. They are even honored by the people who visit. I ask if it offends them that it is a “taking” honoring, as in people take photos and memories but very rarely offer anything. It is a choice, they remind me. You can set up accounts and tally who is giving and who is taking or you can accept the honoring. But they do thank me for the offering of my tears and my willingness to open to the grief of the long memory of this place.
Even though I was born in this corner of the world, I know that I will never feel at home here until I fully open to this grief. But it costs so much to feel the tragedy that my people have brought to a land once filled with abundance, a land once in sacred relationship with its thriving Native people. I can feel the clear cutting as I wind my way up Highway 20 through the north cascades. I feel the carving of the road where there were once only foot trails. The views that are now only a couple hours drive from my home were once earned by days of walking. I try to feel what it might have been like to walk this place when it was still what we now call old growth. The mountains remind me that there is always change. This is earth who has seen ice ages, heat and volcanoes. I accept this and bring it into the grief I feel as the heart’s tender way of marking of time.
I once thought that it was my guilt that prevented me from connecting to this place, but over the years I have come to see that my guilt was a way of keeping out the heartbreak that true connection would bring. It is heartbreak born of knowing that unlike ice or fire, this change was brought on by my people. It is a heart break that begs the question of if I, as a colonizer, can ever belong here. I’m not a stranger to grief and so I open a little crack in my heart and start to invite in the story of this place and the complexities of relationship. And as I do so this place brings me the gift of the memory of my wings. It awakens the knowledge held deep in my DNA that no amount of colonization, patriarchy or capitalism could entirely snuff out. I see why I was taught to fear myself and repress myself as a woman, because the dreaming of my womb is powerful, a power we fear so much we label it crazy. We were once magic - just as the world around us was. We have forgotten and the world has slept during our forgetting. It is time to awaken and bring new life to this poisoned land.