The land demands

| 06 Feb 2012 | 04:40

Thin places change. For several years, I’d been climbing the area around Fitzgerald Falls, off Lakes Road on the Appalachian Trail at the power lines on the border of Chester and Greenwood Lake, NY. After a short walk through some wetlands, the white blazes take you to the 25-foot falls. The local Indians considered the sound of rushing water the “voice of god.”

But if you take the blue blazes, you go up to a ridge to a spot my hiking friends described as an old Indian sacred site. It was a circle of stones with an opening to the east. I was told that was the “eye of god.” We would walk by this and nod on each hike. One year we went with a larger group of people.

There were a few families with children who knew this story and also on this trip was a local Native American. The teens had run ahead as we reached the stone circle. They started shouting and waving. When the rest of us got there, we saw what had been an open circle of carefully placed stones, was now a pile of stones with beer cans and charred sticks with ATV and dirt bike tracks all over. We Anglos were incensed, shocked. Our Native American friend Raymundo looked and just said: “Oh, like Spengler says: ‘The land demands.”

I have looked and looked and have never found that quote, so in writing this column, I dug up Raymundo’s email and inquired. The quote, he replied, is from German philosopher Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West. Spengler believed that all people will eventually turn out to look like the original Native inhabitants of the land, and land use and husbandry will be forced to return to the original ways and uses because the land demands it.

Raymundo pointed to Detroit (named after an Indian chieftan) as an example of the land getting what the land demands. The industrial, pollution-smeared city collapsed and neighborhoods were torn down. Because the people there no longer farm, the land reverted to woodlots and then back to forest, wildlife has quickly returned, and people from the inner city come to wander the surrounding forests, just as in Native times.

The implication, Raymundo explained, is that there is a consciousness in the land that will greatly influence and affect human usage and presence.

The ATV riders were simply heeding the whispers of the lands’ demands with their own initiatory ritual, which includes fire, spirits and loud noisy machines. “So yes, the initiation rites still take place on the site where they should,” wrote Raymundo, “they are just disconnected and not ‘traditional.’”

I was there recently and the eye of god is still in use.

Dan Mack, Warwick