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Becoming Native to Your Place

Copyright © 1995 by Jed Diamond

This story appeared in the March, 1995 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

Jed Diamond

"You have an adrenal tumor." The doctor looked at me with concern and compassion, offering a diagnosis that explained the unusual symptoms I had been experiencing.

A major illness forces us to pay attention, to come home to our bodies. I had been away too long. In meditations I asked, "what are you trying to tell me? What am I supposed to learn from this?" My body responded. "You need to slow down. The pace of civilization is killing you."

"But I have slowed down," I protested. "I was born in the go-go world of New York City. I slowed down a lot when I moved to Los Angeles, even more when I moved to San Francisco, and while life in Marin County isn't exactly as 'mellow' as depicted, it's a lot less hectic than in most places." Case closed, as far as I was concerned. My body would surely go along with airtight logic like that.

"You've really done well," my body replied. I smiled and nodded knowing it would come around to my way of thinking. "You've reduced the speed of your life from 100 to about 84. Not bad for this day and age. But the number I had in mind was closer to 9." I stopped smiling. I was stunned.

"I'd have...I'd have." I could hardly get the thoughts out. "I'd have to completely change my life," I said with disbelief and a touch of scorn. "Yes, that's right," my body said with a lilt and a smile.

Six months later, Carlin and I had moved out of suburbia and bought a little house on 22 acres of land on Shimmins Ridge, above Bloody Run Creek, in rural Mendocino County. The idea sounded exciting and adventurous. The reality was terrifying. How will I be able to make a living? What does a native New Yorker, "do" in the country? It's too damn quiet!

My men's group had a "shower" for me. But instead of baby clothes they gave me tools, the essentials they assured me, for survival. I was introduced to foreign objects like mauls, wedges, come-alongs, and coveralls. I wondered if I could use them for protection against the bugs, bees, and bears, which I was sure were waiting to devour me.

In the months that followed something strange and wonderful began happening to me. As I became comfortable cutting wood, splitting logs, and pulling poison oak I began to feel a sense of peace that I had never known before. As I worked outside, pausing whenever I got tired, I began to move more with the rhythms of nature. Clock time gave way to sun and moon time. Fiscal year decisions were replaced by seasonal preparations.

As I enjoy my daily runs, I have come to recognize specific trees, streams, rocks, and animals. More recently I have come to feel that they, too, recognize me, that my presence here is honored and accepted. For the first time in my life I feel committed to a place, not a wanderer on the earth. Increasingly I feel that I belong to this place. Such a different feeling than this place belongs to me.

Having so recently "come home," I feel this is something the men's movement has yet to do. In the 25 years since I joined my first men's group I've been involved with the pro-feminist, men's rights, mytho-poetic, cross-cultural, and recovery wings of the men's movement. I've travelled throughout the U.S. and Canada attending men's gatherings and conferences.

Nowhere have I found a men's movement with a strong connection to the earth. I've attended weekends in the "wild" where young men and elders were honored while we trampled sprouting plants and tore branches off hundred year-old trees with little regard to non-human spirits of the place. Of the 40 events I spoke at last year, only at the gathering in Northern Minnesota was the land honored as a significant presence.

Until men commit ourselves to a place, we will forever be Flying Boys, as John Lee calls immature men. Until the men's movement comes out of its head, into its body, and reconnects to the earth, it will remain rootless, powerless, and ineffective.

I'm beginning to understand what Wes Jackson meant when he said that the majority of solutions to both global and local problems must take place at the level of the expanded tribe. "In effect," he says, "we will be required to become native to our little places if we are to become native to this place, this continent."

Wherever we are--city, suburbs or country--we need to find our place. There are a number of questions we can address:

(1) Will I slow down enough to hear the wisdom of my body?

(2) What place calls out to me? Where do I belong?

(3) Who are my ancestors? What do their bones whisper?

(4) What is my life purpose, my gift, my contribution?

(5) Who are my spirit brothers, my guides, my community? p

(5) Where does my water, my shelter, my food come from?

(6) What have I been afraid to say to my brothers in the men's movement? What have I withheld?

(7) Am I willing to become native to my place?

Jed Diamond, a therapist and leader in Men's Work, is the author of Male Menopause, Men: Inside Out, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, and The Warrior's Journey Home. Jed can be reached at 34133 Shimmins Ridge Rd., Willits, Ca. 95490. (707) 459-5505

Related stories:

 Native American Traditions: Honoring or Exploitation?, by Ron Knobbe

 A Response to Ron Knobbe, by Halim Dunsky

 An Interview with Wallace Black Elk, by Bert H. Hoff

 Reviews of a sampling of books by Native Americans, and authors respected by Native Americans, in order to promote respect for, and a deeper understanding of, Native American traditions, by Bert H. Hoff

Be sure to check out our Native American Traditions Bulletin Board on the Men's Forum. What do you think of men's use of these traditions? Come and share your thoughts!

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