So you may have noticed I was pretty quiet throughout February as I was out of town for a significant portion of the month. First, I headed north to Seattle to vend at FaerieCon West, and then just a few days later my partner and I drove down to San Jose for PantheaCon. On our way back, we took the laid-back scenic route up the Pacific coastline, since I hadn’t seen the coast south of Newport, OR, and we were both in sore need of a vacation.Travel is both a benefit and a challenge of my self-employment. On the one hand, I get to go to new places, or revisit ones I haven’t seen in a while. On the other, though, I end up feeling rather dis-connected from my home territory. I am a homebody at heart, and while I love a change of scenery as much as anyone, I’m also glad when I see the Portland skyline and Mt. Hood off in the distance.
When I go to a new place, one of the very first things I do is connect with the Genius Locii, the Spirit of the Place, or, as I prefer to call it, the Land. The Land isn’t so much a sharply defined being, so much as it is the amalgamation and overlapping of the many spirits and denizens of a given place or ecosystem—the animals, plants, waterways, geologic formations, and other characteristics. Each of these contributes its spirit to the Land, and even cities have this conglomerate place-spirit or personality.
There’s a certain ease to connecting to the Land that I’ve always had no matter where I’ve gone. When I go to a new place, I can feel my energy begin to shift to meet it, wrapping myself into the nooks and crannies where I best fit. It’s part of what made the road trips I had this past month so much richer.
Portland’s spirit and I hit it off almost immediately when I moved here in 2007, and my relationship with this place is stronger than almost any I’ve experienced. I had a job in less than a month, and local totems made themselves known to me even faster than that. It’s a good home base for exploring the surrounding area, and even with the rough spots in my personal and professional lives, Portland has caught me and buoyed me up in ways no other place has.Seattle was like returning to a former significant other with whom there was the mutual agreement to just be friends, and which bloomed into a solid friendship at that. I lived there for a year before moving to Portland, and while it wasn’t a good living fit, it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. The Land there bears me no ill will, either, and I feel welcome in Seward Park and on the busy commercial Piers alike.
The little bit of San Jose I’ve gotten to see was a tougher nut to crack, as it were. I’ve not seen much beyond rows of hotels and bail bond agencies, plus the massive, sprawling airport, and the trickle of the Guadalupe River. But I went dancing at a goth night at a club while I was there this last time, and gained a new appreciation of this Land and what it had to offer—as I fell into trance with the heavy bass, surrounded by my fellow human animals, I felt that gritty spirit open up just a bit more, just a touch more friendliness.
And then there were the massive redwoods north of the San Francisco Bay. And the bluffs overlooking the central California Pacific coastline. And Rio Dell, a little grid of a town along Highway 101 a little outside of Eureka. And I could almost feel the shift as we crossed over into Oregon, the boundary of the mountains providing a rocky segue. Each of these was its own Land, and each greeted me with its own curiosity and welcome.
Truth be told, I can count on one hand the number of places where I felt uncomfortable and unwelcome—driving through Gary, Indiana, for example. I’d been in heavily industrialized and polluted places before, but something there wailed and moaned like a tortured haunt, and I was glad to move on. Still, I gave that place as much room to greet me as any other, and opened myself up besides.
And that’s what I do. I go into every new or known place open and welcoming, curious, and looking for what is beautiful about the Land. I want to know what makes the place itself, and over time I’ll get to know the ugly details underneath. But in the beginning, whether it’s the first visit or the hundredth, I greet the Land as though I’ve been waiting my entire life for that moment. And the Land, no matter what Land, has almost always responded with similar enthusiasm. And we just continue that with each other, no matter how our relationship changes over time, like greeting a partner with a kiss and a strong hug.I know other people whom I respect greatly who would never be so uncautious as I am when entering a new place. I’ve heard the stories of angered spirits, haunted that lingered, bad luck. I don’t doubt their veracity. I’ve simply not experienced them myself.
So if you do as I do, and open yourself up to each new place, allow yourself to be aware also of potential pitfalls. Don’t assume that anything that goes wrong ever (didn’t get the job you wanted, cat got fleas in the new house, car got a flat tire while traveling through, even the heebie-jeebies) is a sign that you’ve angered a local spirit. Sometimes life just happens. But do be aware if something really just doesn’t feel right about the place you’re in. If your intuition says “Move on,” then get going to the best of your ability. If you get an undeniable sign that somebody somewhere doesn’t like you being there, or that you trod on the wrong stone, investigate with both openness and skepticism.
But don’t be afraid to open up anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Be respectful, yes, but allow yourself enthusiasm, too. Whether you’re going someplace new, or simply returning home after a weekend on the road, treat the Land as though it’s your first meeting, and greet it with all your heart and soul. Greet the Land with love.