For someone who has never been prompted to think about it before, ‘the land’ is such a large, vague thing, that ’connecting with it’ seems like equally vague new age noise. For someone whose primary experience is of tarmac and building interiors, how can connecting with the land even be possible? It is.
Let’s start by refining the idea of ‘the land’ into something a bit more workable. Namely the bit of land around you, right now. It’s there, somewhere, under the building, under the pavement, maybe even visible if you’re lucky. See if you can find an exposed bit, just to say hello to. With a bit of research (or asking a gardener) you can find out what kind of soil there is, which in turn says something about history, and behaviour. You might pick up something about underlying geology, too. The internet can tell you all manner of interesting things about what your soil and rocks mean, how they form, where they come from, what they like, when and why they misbehave. It’s not ‘the land’ now, it’s a soil type and some geology, which in turn holds your bit of land in relationship with the vast geological history that made it this way.
There may be more recent stories to unearth as well. What is the land used for now? What was it before that? Many urban areas used to be something else, and seeking the history of use is a way of building relationship. Some woods are not ancient. Some fields were once landfill sites, or villages. Landscapes change over time. Rivers shift course. Industries come and go. Settlements grow and are abandoned. What you see today is a surface, under which lie many, many stories.
Who lived here, and how did they live? How did they interact with the landscape you now occupy? What did they leave behind and where are they buried? What are you leaving behind?
We can’t make a connection with ‘the land’, only the bit we are on. The hills I have not yet walked are unknown to me. If I travel ten miles down the road, I no longer have the same relationship with the land (depending a bit on direction, that could be more as well as less). If I go to some gorgeous ancient Pagan site, my ‘relationship with the land’ does not magically travel with me. I am a foreigner places like Avebury and Rollright. It is not my land, I have a passing acquaintance, not a deep relationship.
When we play with big concepts, throwing around terms like ‘the land’ and ‘the elements’ we may fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing far bigger things than is the case. If I imagine that my relationship with one river represents, for example, a profound relationship with water in all forms, I’m kidding myself. I also won’t do the work that could take me into deeper, or broader relationship with other manifestations of water. It’s easy to say ‘I know the land’ and far more difficult to actually get out there and know it, up close and personal.
I think Druidry works best when we try not to tangle with those big, vague concepts. Stay away from ‘the land’ and head instead for the bit of land that is familiar to you. Don’t call to vague and impersonal elements, call to the things around you and in your life. Work with the relationships you actually have, not with the idea of relationships. This tree. This hill. This place.