A friend recently shared to the group on Facebook of alumni from the commune where I lived for nine years a current Google Maps image of our land. It is extraordinary to me how recognizable from the air are the terraces of our vineyard, curving off from the main house in a gentle arc. Seen from the air, they look like faint scratches, the peeling remains of small streaky scabs from a brush with a prickly bush.
That’s our work, visible from afar. The house was never our work—built more than half a century before any of us communards was born. Most of the rest of what one notices as clear evidence of human activity are structures of one kind and another, a few our original handiwork, most much older and in perpetual dialogue between restoration and decay. There are vehicles, roads, many other garden beds, but the vineyard terraces stand in relief for me, since I feel still in my body all the work that went into clambering around on those steep hillsides and shaping them into level shelves, supported by rock walls built where the dirt to level out those shelves was removed. We moved those rocks up the hillside, from the creek bed below the main house, up the hill to as far as the Power Wagon would go. At one point, we shut down that Power Wagon right there at the crest of her capacity, and she stayed there for many months.
The last thirty feet or so of the uphill transport happened with human chains, lines of folks, standing a few feet apart, passing the rocks up, reversing the work of gravity and depositing them where they would soon be able to gaze down on the whole valley their ancestors had formed so long ago, into that creek bed from which they had come, where they would have remained for many hundreds of years, without our human hands and hearts. We picked them up, then put them down where they would then remain for longer than any of the structures any humans had built on the land with flimsier material than they.
There they will likely remain, long after the children of the children of the children of us foolish children who decided to move them have died, our little scratches on the face of “mi amante la madre tierra.” And every time I am able to work in a garden or move a rock from one place to another, I thank her again for giving me permission—even seeming to encourage me!—to make little scratches on her face. Love bites, like the male otter gives his mate during copulation, turning her nose bright red.
She heals, the earth heals from our scratching eventually, one hopes…or does she? Is my lover the earth crying out in pain from the kinds of scratches my fellow humans are giving her? YES, she says, YES, I do not want to be ripped open, blown up, covered over! If you humans must scratch at my face, make beautiful lines, interesting shapes, fill them with plants and creatures, with Life, more of this Life, Yes, I say YES! It is not sadism to want to make these kind of scratches on my lover’s face! It is part of how we make our living together, she and all of us, her lovers. We must relearn how to love her, not as a distant and superior mother (Earth Mother~Mother Superior?), as one unapproachable except through obscure and indirect means, but as a lover, an equal participant in our mutual exploration of how to Make Life together. We scratch gently, in different directions, alone and in groups, learning to respond to her, to read her signs, as one does with a familiar lover, eventually…
We have little time for learning. Those who do not know how to treat her as a Lover—perhaps do not know any lovers in their lives, never had the love shown them that they needed to learn to love anyone else—are fast destroying chunks of her flesh here and there, almost everywhere, in their ignorance of who she really is. We must do what we can to stop them, and continue to learn how to leave only the markings of love on her face.