Ceremonial Nature

December 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Nature Space

Edinburgh by Amy PalkoThe city of Edinburgh has a riverway which runs through the very heart of the cityscape.  The Water of Leith flows past fecund allotments, historical sandstone structures, new riverside luxury developments, muddy football fields and busy intersections.  Past graffiti slogans, traffic crossings, Starbucks and builders’ yards.

The river itself is accompanied either side by a variety of deciduous trees: willow, oak, sycamore, beech.  And the ivy and the bindweed creepers twist themselves around fences, trunks, and telephone poles.  The water flows fast, rushing perilously headlong down a series of weirs; flows slow in narrowed sections deep, cool, calm; flows in trickles past the feet of heavenhigh bridges where breadth is great and depth is shallow.

Here, the natural world sits cheek by jowl with the urban world, but it becomes easy to feel as though you are walking in the countryside: the sky reaching branches of the beech and the water trailing branches of the willow obscuring the man-made, filtering the light through leafy layers, dappling the pathway ahead.

On my last walk along this rural/urban treasure, my mind tricked itself into believing that I was indeed far from the city – far from the people, the traffic, the high-powered hunger for bigger, faster, better, more.  Instead, I believed myself to be on a journey through the countryside, lulled by the trickle, the rush, the flow of the constantly moving water.

Until I was shocked out of my reverie as I turned a corner and found myself in amongst a memorial service.  The mourners were gathered at one side of a footbridge, and were listening to a eulogy spoken by an elderly gentleman who was standing on the bridge itself.  Each person had a long stemmed yellow rose in their hands.  I hung back not wanting to intrude, just outwith listening distance.

Once the eulogy was over, each took it in turn to climb the few steps onto the bridge and cast their yellow rose into the water.  Soon a trail of yellow blooms were gracefully, gently floating downstream, and the mourners stood and watched as nature reclaimed its own.

This beautifully simple ceremony struck right to the core of my being, as I was reminded of the way we connect with our environment.  That by engaging with our surroundings in a meaningful, meaning-making way, we can create simple, powerful ceremonies – rituals that when conducted with grace and sincerity, resonate with a quiet but insistent vibration.

I walked on, but this time far more aware of the human interaction with this vein of green snaking its way through the city.  I no longer solely saw the lush green allotments, but the hands of many dedicated gardeners.  I no longer saw the parks with white football lines chalked across the green, but the hopes and the enthusiasm of children and the dedication and encouragement of their parents.  I no longer saw the river, its inhuman relentless rush as it excoriated its path through the urban landscape, but the souls that stared into its surface, and the souls that stared back.

The land exists regardless of our presence or not, but by actively engaging with the land, by participating in simple, respectful rituals, we invest the land with our humanity.  And we find that we can create peace, understanding, joy, resonance in ceremonial nature.


10 Responses to “Ceremonial Nature”
  1. Very evocative, Amy. Did seem fitting with today’s news story of proof of Bronze Age people placing flowers with their dead http://bit.ly/7qF5zM

  2. L.Hunter says:

    A most enjoyable piece of prose, Amy. A piece of the mysterious life of Edinburgh that I hope someone will gather into a collection and publish.

  3. Marilynn Grimm says:

    My grandmum left Scotland at Edinburgh in 1906. She was 6. I have the papers from her arrivqal at ellis Island. Although I’ve never been, I like the romance of Scotland. The image made me want to make the trip. The writing allowed me to travel there in my soul.

    thank you

  4. Amy Palko says:

    Wow – thanks so much everyone for your beautiful comments. So very appreciated!

  5. Hilary says:

    Hi Amy .. what a lovely descriptive piece .. we could walk with you along the river bank. I haven’t been up to Edinburgh for years and must make another visit sometime soon ..

    Have a good rest of the week –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

  6. Anne Maybus says:

    A lovely piece of writing, Amy. I love the way you bring your world to life for the rest of us. Merry Christmas.