Published on October 18th, 2008 | by Justin Van Kleeck2
From New Place to Sacred Place: Homemaking by the Human Animal
After recently going through and surviving (albeit not unscathed) the ordeal of moving from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville, Virginia, I have been reflecting a bit on the various ways I made this new place into my homeplace. In turn, making this place my home also entailed making it another sacred place for me. And, in turn, I find some strong parallels to how animals make some habitat their home in various ways–thus linking me and all humans to “wildlife” in every clime and time.
First and foremost, of course, was actually finding a home –a physical building to use for shelter. Now some of my fellow humans are pack animals and need many other warm bodies nearby. But I am a lone wolf, a forest solitaire, so this meant finding a place unto itself (rather than, say, a den in an apartment complex).
Like all animals, the surroundings helped determine my choice in this regard. Instead of settling in the hearty of the busy (ha ha) city, I settled down outside of town in a more rural, naturally stimulating locale. I had to have ample trees close by, along with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains; anything less simply would not do! And there just had to be thriving bird life, since my primary means of “planting my flag” and marking my territory is putting up at least one birdfeeder ASAP.
Aesthetics were a factor , too. Think of the elaborate, delicate beauty of some birds’ nests, or even the intricate underground communities of animals ranging from ants to prairie dogs, all of which are like works of art. So my new place had to be pleasing to the eye; as William Blake wrote, “The eye sees more than the heart does know.” And my heart had to feel at peace with everything along with that: functionality, efficiency, affordability, etc.
Another important aspect of making Harrisonburg my new “hunting grounds” involved scoping out resources for satisfying another basic essential: food. For me, this meant checking out local health food stores, farmers’ markets, and general grocery stores to make sure I could find what I need (as a vegan who eats organic and tries hard to eat local as much as possible). Similarly, a koala or panda would look for a good forest of eucalyptus or bamboo before deciding to call some new habitat home. And a tiger would not go on the prowl in a forest devoid of all possible prey.
Although the issue of family making did not factor into my homemaking, for many other humans and wild animals, the availability of appropriate mates and hence the possibilities of propagation for the species often plays a big part in determining where one settles. In the end, any place will be made exponentially more sacred if one can feel safe and secure raising a family there. And, of course, the family–partner and children, when applicable–is part of what makes a place a sacred homestead.
One other interesting component of my homemaking was finding my particular “territory” in which to roam, a good path for my matutinal meanders. Luckily, my new place is near a rural camp and conference center that I have access to. Its ample, natural, yet well-tended grounds include woodland trails and a pond, which are just fantastic places to pass by in the ethereal, almost pregnant darkness before dawn. Similarly, many animals wear down and/or follow traditional paths for their migrations and general roaming. Some well-known examples include salmon, whales, many bird species, and even caribou. These familiar ways of wandering become sacred in themselves, as do the places they lead to and from.
I know that I am not alone in doing these various things to make my new place my homeplace. Whether one arranges the furniture and pictures just so, splashes new paint on the walls, adds on or knocks down, a human animal makes a new place its own just as a dog will circle round a few times before settling down to sleep.
Having a home is so essential, so instinctual to a complete life for just about all sentient beings. Mere physical shelter may suffice for the flesh, but the spirit needs more. The spirit needs the sacredness of home. After all: Home is where the heart lives.
And when a place becomes a homeplace and/or a sacred place, then we human animals will be ever more inspired, energized, and motivated to protect that place–for ourselves and for future critters to make into a homeplace.