When I visit the east coast, I’m always a bit disoriented to realize that the element of water is found in the east, not in the west. I’ve been calling the directions for over 30 years and have always placed water in the west. But that is not everyone’s experience of their own landbase! So I started a practice of really centering myself in Place by imagining what physical features actually exist in each of the directions.
How might you honor the four directions that radiate out from the Place where you live or the Place you are visiting?
Begin by honoring the original inhabitants of the land. Do a little research, if you don’t already know. This map will help you discover who they are. Land acknowledgment is a simple yet powerful way of showing respect for indigenous people’s history and culture. (Here’s more information on why it’s so important.)
Then consider each direction in turn, studying maps and finding out more about the area’s natural and cultural history.
Here’s an example of a blessing I wrote for a gathering at Aldermarsh Retreat Center on Whidbey Island.
We respectfully acknowledge the Coast Salish tribes on whose homeland we meet; the Skagit, Swinomish, and Snohomish people who have stewarded this land throughout generations. We are grateful for the more-than-humans (the plants, the animals, the stones, and more) with whom we share this earth.
Now we open our hearts and minds to the Four Directions that radiate out from this gathering place, this Marsh House.
In the East, we greet the alder marsh, the gardens, the Chinook lands of the Whidbey Institute, the water that separates us from the mainland, and farther on, the glistening Cascade Mountains.
In the South, we greet the fields and beaches of this green island, the waters that we cross to reach the metropolis of Seattle, and farther beyond, the great shining mountain Tahoma.
In the West, we greet the beaches and waters of the Salish Sea, the luscious Hoh rainforest on the peninsula, and the vast Pacific Ocean beyond.
In the North, we greet Grandparent Fir, and the islands and waters of the Salish Sea; the small cities, towns, fields and farmlands, all the way to the pastoral lands and cities of British Columbia.
We give thanks for the Great Above, the Great Below, and the center, the still point of the turning world.
I invite you to write a blessing of the Four Directions for the Place where you find yourself today, and share it here in the comments.