Wild ones who hear the primordial call of the Earth Mother, as kin, we come to this gathering with hearts intertwined in the service of continued Life.
This year, we will be welcomed by the great temperate conifer forests, oak woodlands, and wildflower meadows of the Siskiyou National Forest foothills. These brilliant compositions painted onto the landscape remind us of the world we want to inhabit and tend to. In such vanishingly rare places that are still intact, we can listen deeply to the wisdom of this land and her original guardians, and we can begin to rise to the ever-present call of Earth stewardship.
This is the ancestral land of the Tekelma People. Long before European conquest, these foothills were the home of grizzlies, cougars, fishers, pine martens, ringtails, wolverines, owls, eagles, long-eared chipmunks, heather voles, golden trout and salmon. A rich mosaic of ecosystems spanned the mountain ranges, with deep ponderosa and sequoia forests opening into oak savanna, where the wildlife congregated to feast on acorns, as well as countless types of berries, grasses, and flowering plants. Every elevation hosted a different assembly of species, all the way up to where the lodgepole pines gave way to the alpine meadows and rocky spires.
The Takelma and other Rogue Valley Indians hold sophisticated cultural practices to diversify and regenerate the landscape for the benefit of all forest inhabitants. Cyclical harvesting, sowing, pruning, and especially the use of fire in prescribed burns, has shaped the character of the Siskiyou National Forest area. Irresponsible logging practices coupled with the suppression of the natural fire cycles have caused many of the region’s forests to be crowded and susceptible to high-intensity fires. The traditional knowledge of the Takelma people, which is gradually recuperating after near-extirpation, holds a key to enhancing ecological health here in Illinois Valley. The Earth ethic of this gathering impels us to learn about the natural and cultural legacies that have been eroded in recent centuries, and to come with hands and hearts set on lending reciprocal support.
Soon we will stand together like blue oaks, gathering with the deer, bears and foxes, and light up the forest like the lost fires returning!