What a project it was! A woodlot lumpy with garbage—former tenants’ milk cartons, clothes on hangers covered with a thin layer of dirt, and the detritus of the landlord’s begrudging repairs–shingles and flashing, nails, board rot. The glass! Shards everywhere in the little forest, mosaic-ed beneath field wire that stabbed into trunks of mulberry and elm.
Underneath all that, I could tell that the place and I wanted each other.
For one year I dreamed. For one year I cleaned. Then mower and tree trimmer brought forth the temple green.
The altars are repurposed wood seats and rocks like giants’ knucklebones. Possums amble forth if I bring food; to mosquitoes, I am the restaurant. The kindling nestled soil so long it explodes with stored moisture that expels sparks from the pit.
Don’t we learn to recoil, to say, Possums—what ugly things! Nuisances–have you ever seen their teeth? Or, Mosquitoes? Ouch, swat, itch. Don’t even! How do I pursue the land erotic with these things “intruding?”
Essential oils. Skip the snacks that draw critters. Live by letting live.
The ardor spiked by towering leaf-roof and crackling fire ignites—I’m in a lover’s bier. It’s but a little carve-out: pace off twenty feet by twelve. Though I’m guilty of carrying on conversations with imaginary friends there, it’s not that the niche needs filling. I fill it and am filled. The spirits elbow in and hunker down.
Feet are free and the grass obliges. It’s a sparse growth, between rains that have dropped steadily and shade that is constant. My soles brown into the soil. This is called “earthing,” said to promote health. In fact, it is intimate touch if you can get past your labels (“dirty!”).
All grown up as a sophisticated cynic, you may ask: “Must you sexualize everything?” But I ask you now: why is Eros ghosted while flowers wave naked pistil and stamen in plain sight, small mammals constantly copulate around you, bark dribbles its lifeblood we call sap, and seasons tumble against one another to be born? Can’t we go into a new homage that bypasses the hubba-hubba striptease designed to Sell Stuff? Can’t you dare to feel nature’s kiss and squeeze–or are you too old, too parentified, too intellectual for your own good?
I knew a woman who sexualized Jesus. A professional of Northern European ancestry, at her business hung a two-by-three-foot portrait in a raised-box frame: his pale, dreamy face, the flowing hair, no wimp’s upper body. Flick a switch and the whole thing went incandescent. She frowned when reminded Jesus wasn’t Aryan in real life. She preferred him over her querulous husband, with whom she fell out at such volume it brought the police. The woman was soothed to meet with her version of the Prince of Peace: in trance, where he won her hand over and again, vanquished real villains, and promised to never, ever leave.
She swoons in pious company! Nuns take their vows as the “brides of Christ.” The orgasmic transports of the medieval mystic, Teresa of Avila, are described in her autobiography in vividly sexual terms. And shamans know the way: where the erotic is often the avenue through which to woo the spirits, for all life is seen as erotic to its core, even in unseen realms. Archaic techniques of ecstasy, indeed.
In The Land Erotic: A Memoir of Acres, Ecstasy and Marriage in Midlife and Beyond, I describe how I gave myself over to sacred sex with nature as my marriage capsized during its night sea journey. Nature was not a consolation prize or sideline friend but a lover who’d always waited in the wings with an embrace wide as the world. I asked myself: what shame to look beyond the human other, what shame by earth water fire and sky to be shaken sensuous?
At each new or full moon and often when the waning reaches dark moon, with nature I do what bonded partners do: touch, talk, gaze, and bear silence together. Watch the shadows of night come in. Breathe the dark. The proof that Eros lives in this nook-niche? I never feel alone, I feel held. Seen. Answered.