Earth’s Memory

nomanslandserreOld battle grounds – I’ve seen so many of them and the memorials built on them, monuments to human pain and unnecessary loss on a scale beyond conception. But, in saying this, is there not also another dimension to this pain and heartache?

Walking on the very ground that heard the anguished cries, saw the human carnage and felt the warmth of blood, I’ve often wondered about the earth’s memory, residing deep in the darkness of that soil, recycling the memories of her pain and woundedness and slowly, over the years, restoring herself back to health and wholeness.

Every battle ground I’ve been to always has a stillness about it with the inevitable soothing twitter of birds. The scars are there in the earth, but no longer jagged and blatant. Rather they’re hidden under a soft growth of healing and restoration.

Strange how our healing is akin to the earth’s. But then, is the earth not in us and we in the earth?

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About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
This entry was posted in Beauty, Contemplation, Nature, Poetic Imagination, Spirituality, wisdom and insight and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Earth’s Memory

  1. nrhatch says:

    Battlefields often are quiet peaceful places . . . as they heal, we heal?

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  2. Hudson Howl says:

    I am one who thinks, the earth is quick to swept the shenanigans of man under the carpet and forget about him. An someday the dog will find a way to rid itself of that irritating flea. Then perhaps it can heal.

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  3. I’ve been to numerous battlefield sites. And to your beautiful description, they do seem sureally similar. I’ve visited Dachau and Auschwitz, yet I’m unsure that ground will ever heal. Can’t quite fathom why I feel this way.

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    • Don says:

      Difficult to imagine what the ground in Dachau and Auschwitz feels and the memories it holds. I’ve heard tell that when you’re there you don’t hear birds sing and that not much grows there. Wondered what your experience of this was? I agree Eric, not sure if that ground will ever heal.

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  4. darrelhoff says:

    wow this is very cool. I have been doing my second assignment with my tourism studies and note how many war monuments south africa has. i guess remembering those events are good. but we can’t stay there too long… we need to move forward…

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  5. Healthy A-Z says:

    My experience was very different. I visited Dachau and Auschwitz when I was 20 years old, and I felt no sense of peace there. There was only turmoil and angst. I can’t imagine returning. In this case avoidance works better for me.

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    • Don says:

      I can just imagine those feelings you had. Must be deeply disturbing. Interesting that your memory of it is still so powerful. I suppose it’s something you just can’t forget.

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    • Mary says:

      Hi Cyndi, I went there when I was 18 and will never forget the place, feelings and sense of death. Visiting a place like those camps never leave, do they? I understand every time I see certain barb wire fences – right?

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      • Healthy A-Z says:

        Mary, just reading your reply gave me goosebumps in recollection. I think I’ll stick with thinking of your beautiful paintings of nature and other happy thoughts for today. 😉

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  6. sefeniak says:

    Poignant. Well said.

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  7. Mary says:

    Thought-provoking piece, thank you for sharing.

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  8. Lyn Viljoen says:

    We visited the memorial to the Jews in Jerusalem. Although beautiful and with all it’s candles one can feel the loss. A very sad experience.

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  9. Terry says:

    Don, haven’t visited for a while, been so hectically busy, but I chose today to read your post and I am so glad I did. Yes I also feel that same sense of quiet whenever I go to a memorial. Neil and I did a road trip at the end of last year (inland) and visited so many of these places, but I suppose the saddest place for me, was the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum. Its in the hustle and bustle of Soweto and yet inside it was quiet and peaceful even tho’ the pain and suffering was so evident in the photographs. I cried and cried as I walked around that building feeling all sorts of emotions at the time. Wow – it was a tremendously enlightening experience for me and I wish I had lingered a little longer. Lots of Love Terry

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    • Don says:

      Thanks Terry for sharing your experience. It is a very sad memorial. I think because it is still so fresh in our minds we feel it even more poignantly. Good to hear from you. Must have been a good roadtrip.

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  10. katy says:

    Have you seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan”Don?. As an old man “Private Ryan”visits
    the cemetry filled with white crosses of all the fallen soldiers. You can almost feel the aura
    emmanating from the field, so much anguish, pain and loss and yet it comes over as being
    extraordinarily peaceful. Barry and I . recently spent a few days at St. Lucia and on the roadside
    someone had planted white crosses, one for each rhino that had been poached. It also
    was a battlefield of sorts.

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    • Don says:

      I have seen it Katy, and the scene you describe is both peaceful and profoundly sad. What I found so moving was when he strides out in front of his family in order to get to the grave of Captain John Miller, almost as if it needs to be only him and Miller in that moment. Sad, so very sad.

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  11. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget what they did here…Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg battlefield toward the end of the Civil War in the USA. Our family was at Gettysburg last year and re-visited the site where the earth has tried to restore itself – and us along with it. The struggle continues.

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    • Don says:

      Wonderful words by Lincoln, Shiela, and so apt and true. Also so true what you say,”The Struggle goes on” in the sense that the Battle on the field may no longer be, but the battle goes on in all sorts of other ways expressed in different forms. When I visited your country some time ago I had the privilege of visiting some of the Civil War battle fields in the South. It was both deeply moving and disturbing. I also noticed how that rift persists to this day. I never realized just how intense it is. That was an eye-opener for me.Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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  12. josna says:

    Bloody battlefields, radioactive and toxic waste sites, places haunted by massacres and other atrocities: your image of the “soft” new growth covering the scars is a beautiful and hopeful one, but also raises for me the spectre of the old, contaminated wounds hidden but by no means gone away. There’s also the kind of scar tissue that hardens, like the hearts of people indoctrinated with collective memories of hatred. Colonialism, slavery, genocide, childhood abuse: how does healing happen? Does it just occur naturally, with no need for us to act to promote it, or do we need to contain, purify, change the underlying conditions that gave rise to it in the first place? Your piece leaves me saddened at the thought of all those un-healed wounds. But perhaps, too, there is hope in your beautiful description of stillness; given time, peace and understanding may arise, and the birds start to sing again.

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    • Don says:

      Josna, thank you for such a challenging and insightful comment. Appreciate it very much. May I just share some of my thoughts on what you’ve shared. Firstly, I’m with you wholeheartedly on the collective sense of healing. Any kind of individualistic approach to healing, I feel, tends to become an aberration. Our healing is always contextual. On the issue of the healing of those structures that cause the hurt and pain in the first place, I couldn’t agree more. Having lived in South Africa and having been part of those immense changes that have come our way it becomes only too clear that structural healing is of immense importance and in fact, I believe, lies at the very heart of all healing. And so I say a great big YES to all of this.

      Now, and this for me is the great challenge, and you put it so beautifully, the two dimensions of healing, actively doing something about it and that which happens naturally in spite of our action. I don’t see them as being opposed to one another. For me they are in a kind of dance together. Activism which challenges and seeks to change wounding and oppressive structures, I think, has a powerful and extremely important role to play in the process of change and healing, provided it is informed and comes out of a wise and discerning art of contemplation. I’ve seen too much harm being done to wonderful causes which start out well and then slowly deteriorate in to the very thing they are challenging because of raw and uninformed activism.

      Together, with informed action there is something else going on, even long before we engage in our own activity. Call it what you will, but I see it as a universal principle of justice and healing that works in spite of us, but which also links itself to all our informed activism or action. I’m convinced that there is always a “natural” healing going on long before we start and also beyond what we do.

      I feel that the same happens within the context of our inner lives. Actions of introspection that continually open up wounds are not conducive to healing. I think there’s a sense in which we can shine too much light inward and cause more harm than healing. However, an informed and compassionate inner understanding of ourselves is a profoundly healing thing, but there is also something that goes on within us – natural – beyond what we do. It works toward our healing in spite of what we do.

      I think I’ve really said enough now and perhaps I’ve even over stated it; but thank you for invoking this. I just felt I needed to share at this depth. Hope you don’t mind Josna. Again, thank you for your great comment.

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      • josna says:

        Thank you so much, Don, for such a deep and thoughtful response. I can’t respond to this right away because I want to sit with it a little, but in the meantime just want to send my deep thanks for this, but also for your blog as a whole, in all its facets. Here’s to the principle of justice that will ultimately prevail, and the healing that goes on in spite of what we do!

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      • Don says:

        Here’s to all of that Josna. Thank you.

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  13. I love the hopefulness you share in this piece but it reminded me of our visit to Oradour in France, a village that was destroyed by German soldiers in revenge. The village has been left as it was. The burnt out cars sit in the roads, the burnt sewing machines are still there in the houses and the ‘tourists’ walk around the village in silence, often with tears running silently too, reading the various plaques explaining who was murdered at this place or that. Here there is the saddest silence and the birds don’t even sing.
    Grass is growing but the village is still raw and the horror almost tangible, all these many years later.
    Hudson’s comment seems most apt and I’m with Jesna in her thoughts too.
    Now I need to go out and seek some beautiful things!

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    • Don says:

      What a moving comment, Sally – hope you don’t mind me calling you by name. I can’t imagine what it must be like to walk through that village. The fact that birds are not singing moves me deeply. Nature always voices her protest and shares in the pain of it all. Thank you so much for this. I must google it. Would love to know more about it. Now I’m going out in to the light to have breakfast on the beach.

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  14. Maureen says:

    Life is strange. because I stumbled upon your blog by accident and read this post. I decided to read the comments section and was surprised to see that others had made the same connections to it that I did. Many years ago, I was traveling in Germany with my now, ex-husband (who is half German/half American but was raised in Canada….it’s complicated….) and we were in the car with his aunt and uncle.

    I noticed a road directional sign that said “Bergen” and I blurted out, “Oh, are we near Bergen-Belsen”?

    For a moment there was a hushed silence in the car, then his uncle said “Yes, we are.”
    I said “If it’s close by, can we go there”?

    Another silence greeted me and I was thinking “Oh no, me and my big mouth, in Canada this wouldn’t be offensive but perhaps here it is!”

    To my surprise, his aunt and uncle had a short conversation in the front seat; I don’t speak German very well, but got the gist of it that they were discussing what I’d asked and the next thing I knew it was decided that they would grant my request. Bergen-Belsen is not an intact camp like Auswitch; it was liberated by the British and the barracks were burned to the ground but there is a memorial there with Anne Frank’s picture and photos of others who also perished there. The grounds of the site are preternaturally quiet and people tend to whisper as they walk around. My husband’s aunt said something profound; the translation of it is “It is so peaceful and quiet now that you can’t imagine the horror that took place here all those years ago.” We left quite saddened by the experience but I have never been sorry that I asked to go there. There is nothing like visiting these places that brings up the feelings that actually being there creates and I’ve always felt that I am the better for allowing myself to go there both physically and emotionally.

    Your post really touched me; I wish more people allowed themselves to feel…..

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    • Don says:

      Thank you Maureen for sharing your moving story. I agree wholeheartedly with you. When one has been to places like that and have allowed yourself to feel and perceive deeply, you’re never the same again. Your husband’s Aunt’s words were extremely poignant. What an experience it must have been for you. Again – thank so much for taking the time and sharing so extensively of yourself.

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      • Maureen says:

        Don, you won’t believe this, but life just got even stranger. I had a phonecall last evening from my (ex) mother-in-law who even after all these years of my being divorced from her son, still considers me one of the family. I see her only a couple of times a year though I send her e-mails regularly. She called to tell me that her sister’s grandson committed suicide in Germany on August 9th……her sister is the aunt mentioned in my story above. It’s not like I don’t ever think about her, but it is sadly ironic that I was just writing about her yesterday…….like I said, life is strange…..

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      • Don says:

        I’m so sorry Maureen. How deeply tragic. I can’t imagine how she must feel. Suicide is such an enormous issue to deal with – so many questions and loose ends. It certainly seems that some kind of synchronicity has been going on. So strange. Kind of you to share this with me. Strength to you Maureen.

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