This is not Palo Santo

This is not Palo Santo. Nothing against that remarkable plant, but it doesn’t live here, and I realize I don’t even know what it looks like! A quick google search turns up almost exclusively pics of sticks for sale. But palo santo isn’t a stick ~ it’s a tree! Do you know what it looks like?

Here’s the thing: we burn palo santo from South America, white sage from the Southwest and SoCal, sweetgrass from a few places in the States… But do we know what actually lives and grows where we are?? When we walk in the hills or on the plains, do we befriend and get curious about all the wild plants growing there ~ or are they just “wild plants” ~ pretty but unknown?

This here is a bit of #aspen wood and bark that a beaver left behind from its industrious wood-chopping (in pic 2 you can see its work, and in 3 you can even see its home off in the distance :-) It doesn’t smell anything like palo santo, and isn’t nearly as intoxicatingly sweet ~ but it holds a beauty nonetheless, and it didn’t have to be harvested from some unknown tree in some foreign land, packaged, and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles. And its story involves me learning about ecosystems (high country Colorado beaver populations ~ how cool!)

Anyway, I post this because I find it remarkable how much we crave connection with the earthy and the sacred, but don’t take the time simply to look under our own feet. There are wonders here, even close to and sometimes within our cities! Relating with the land in the everyday is one of the most potent sacred activities that we can do.

Forget your altar with all its imported fascinations ~ wander the land and find a pebble that calls to you. Consider its ancient destiny that brought it here and now: all the rivers, sedimentary compaction, metamorphosis, and weathering that created this simple beauty called “pebble.”

Wander the land and see if you find a feather ~ maybe you’ll find a few ~ and begin to learn from what species they came. Suddenly you may begin to see and hear the birds as distinct entities, not just a lovely background chorus.

Wander the land and get curious about the plants ~ maybe even pick a leaf and crush it between your fingers to see how it smells (of course being careful to avoid poison ivy or hemlocks…).

I can assure you, these simple practices will bring you so much joy! Let me know how it goes…

P.S. While I’m at it, this whole topic reminds me of the current buzz topic of #culturalappropriation. Here’s the thing: it’s not just that we go to other cultures for traditional knowledge and wisdom because we are disconnected from our own lineages, but because we are disconnected from daily, reciprocal, earth-based practices. We don’t know our land, and we don’t know our place within it. Making friends with the land is one small but extraordinarily significant step in reconnecting with a sense of real human beingness, real cultural identity, which has always grown up from and been shaped by the land it lives on.


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