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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Horizon in Every Direction: Engaging the Soul of the Great Plains and the Smoky Hill Trail

A Horizon in Every Direction: Engaging the Soul of the Great Plains and the Smoky Hill Trail
by Carla Paton

“It is here that our hearts are set,
In the expanse of the heavens.”

—Pawnee song

“It is no mere coincidence that our feelings about a place take on spiritual dimensions. An old rancher once told me he thought the lines in his hands had come directly up from the earth that the land had carved them there after so many years of work.”

—Gretel Ehrlich, “Landscape”

With the aging of my parents, now in their eighties, and our joint purchase of a large tract of ranch land on the Eastern Colorado Plains, I feel them, myself, and my children, three generations, coming full circle. The prairies and plains of Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado have been our home and homeland for many generations. In this series about our ranch home, I hope to share some of this area’s story, my family’s story, as well as insight into why this particular place exerts such a powerful claim on me and others. My intention is to illustrate that place can link us to our individual and collective depths, as well as provide healing and transformation with the Earth, within ourselves, and communities. To do this, I will explore the archetype and cohesion of place—its alchemical synthesis of land, myth, and history—by focusing on one specific area: the Smoky Hill Trail as it traverses time and the plains of Kansas and Colorado. My overall method is best reflected in the practice of terrapsychology that Chalquist (2012) developed for engaging the soul of place:

Terrapsychology is the deep study of our largely unconscious (because disregarded) connections to and interdependencies with the multileveled presence of our living Earth, including specific places, creatures, and materials. “Deep” because what links us to places and animals and the elements travels along bridges of symbol, metaphor, image, and even synchronicity and dream. Terrapsychology explores how the patterns, shapes, features, and motifs at play in the nonhuman world sculpt our ideas, our habits, our relationships, culture, and sense of self: freeway congestion in congested conversations, lake toxins in our darker moods, salt-choked fields and bitter relations, healing landscapes and regenerating hearts. We also study the reverse, the province of ecopsychology: the impacts of colonialism, nationalism, and other dissociative cultural constructs on the increasingly paved and gridded world around us. (pp. 1-2)

Engaging the soul of a place also tugs on our personal sense of home and an archetypal sense of innate yearning for a place of our own. In finding and making our home, it then becomes a sacred space. Since our desire for and sense of land and home are remarkably similar in all cultures throughout history, they also displays profound archetypal energy. This archetypal field is strongly felt not only in our designated home or sacred sense of place, but also in nature and within cultural groups. In addition, I will explore what a deep map of Place might look like when it includes the unconscious and an alchemical understanding of nature as it relates to psyche.

Chalquist, C. (2012). “TI2: An Integrative Methodology for Coming Home to Place, Nature, Matter, and Earth”. Retrieved July 27, 2012, from TerraPsych.com, http://www.terrapsych.com/

- See more at: http://www.depthinsights.com/Depth-Insights-scholarly-ezine/e-zine-issue-4-spring-2013/a-horizon-in-every-direction-engaging-the-soul-by-carla-pato/#sthash.ery74K6R.dpuf