My friend Bradley Olson and I used to have conversations about place and memory and earth and healing and life in the ghetto and life in the mountains and mythology and Joseph Campbell—during the moments before and after yoga classes and in between his appointments while we both worked at Mountain Waves Healing Arts Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. I miss our chats, some of which were astonishingly profound.
Recently he wrote a brilliant essay called One Must Forget Much to Live Here that brought me back to our conversations. Dr. Olson is a Depth Psychologist, and his ideas regarding emotional healing (and haunting), extend beyond homo sapiens and to the world around us. Indeed, he argues, place itself holds memory and energy, which, shape the very landscape of our lives.
A small piece of his essay below, which basically says when a traumatic event happens, there must be healing among the people as well as the place (Earth, the Mother), lest the trauma get passed on to the next generation(s).
One of the most salient lessons of the 20th Century has been the growing awareness that where atrocity has happened, acknowledgment of the terrible events through an act of contrition must be undertaken in order to facilitate healing among people. Less salient is the awareness that just such atonement must occur in relationship to the land as well. I have come to believe that if events are not properly memorialized, if they are repressed or suppressed or dismissed, the sufferings of all those involved (especially the wounded landscape which has literally absorbed the blood, and spiritually taken in the trauma) continue to live on in that geographical space—in the earth, herself—and subtly, unconsciously, influence those who currently occupy that land. The wounded landscape itself reaches out to those of us who occupy it by making its own memories, emotions, and traumas seem to be our own. It whispers to us its story, a story we notice first in the form of vague feelings, disturbing dreams, uncanny sensations, and dimly perceived shadows; feelings, sensations, and shadows we are obliged to recognize and honor if we are to understand and heal ourselves and our land.
This is a very thought-provoking piece – I recommend you take the time to read it.
Then, “Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.” (Shakespeare)