Being Chosen and the Spirit of Place

Susan Minyard - www.sweetwaterpottery.bizBy Sara Firman (Sulis)

You can’t choose, it seems, without being chosen. For the place, in return had laid its claims on me and had made my life answerable to it…’ Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow.

I’ve lived in the Ozarks since the summer of 2002 when I happened to be passing through. Without meaning to, I fell in love with a piece of land; and, as love goes, jumped into its arms without much further thought.  The result was as tumultuous as you might expect.

I’ve now lived here longer than any other place in my 51 years of gypsy life.  Though I was wrenched away from it as a result of a personal crisis in the spring of 2007, I was back soon after the turn of the year.  The creekside land was lost but a forest claimed me next.

I have found here a fine sense of human community, but it is the land and its natural community of living water and wild plant and animal beings that really won my heart.  Sometimes I describe it as having at last taken root or maybe gone to ground.

Perhaps on some level I empathize with the water that makes its vulnerable way through karst rock channels, the trees that cling to often very shallow soils, the adaptive creatures.  Anything that survives here has the kind of tenacity I find admirable and irresistible.

All this brings out the fighter in me, whether in an attempt to protect the delicate life of an Ozark creek from instream gravel mining (as at my first home here) or in trying to lend my support to a forest devastated by an inland hurricane (where I now reside).

I’ve noticed how easy it is to assume ‘ownership’ of land, even if we call it ‘stewardship’. Perhaps to see this relationship as ‘partnership’ is better. These days I try to pay close attention to what the land needs from me rather than the reverse – to be in service to it.

The best way I’ve found to describe how I feel about this place has been through the poetry that began to emerge not long after I came here.  There seems to be a mythological or archetypal quality to my relationship to the Ozarks – it continues to be a mystery unfolding.

Three poems capture a little of my soul experience here (click on each title to read the full poem):

beside the creek (Lilith – … Through the shadow of dreams/ Carrying my longing/ I heard her, and went….), the anguish I felt when I was away from it in England (Belonging … only a dream of a river flowing …), and how the forest where I now live first spoke to me (ViriditasThat gleam on green/ whose swift pause/ is a glimpsed mood).

This post was inspired by an invitation to participate in a Back to the Land history panel as part of the Smithsonian Journey exhibition in my nearby town West Plains.  Many fascinating stories were told there by people who have lived here at least three times longer than I.  I hope the telling will continue!

The image above is a ‘community gathering’ plate created by Ozark potter Susan Minyard.

This article was reblogged with permission from Aquaest 

Copyright Sara Firman


About the Author:

Sara Firman (Sulis)  holds a B.Sc. in Genetics from Edinburgh and M.Phil. in Plant Breeding from Cambridge University in London and is a trained LMT Watsu massage therapist and an expert in aquatic therapy and bodywork.  Sara has practiced her art in the finest spas around the world, including her own Auqaest Retreat.  Currently Sara is a spa consultant, speaker, writer and author of several wonderful blogs, including Aquaest, Aquapoetics, Diving Deeper and Vision Spa Retreat.  She lives in the heart of the Ozarks.


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