Xenotopia: – “an uncanny or unsettling landscape; an ‘out-of-place place’

~~~ as defined by Robert Macfarlane, with an illustration ~~~

I’d planned this week to share some of the salmon myths from around the world, a perfect follow-up to last week’s post. But this has been a turbulent week & I find myself distracted.

…The continuing wars & crises all around the world & the rips in the very fabric of Life on Earth….. Here in the U.S. I am still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decisions to expand so-called gun “rights,” to overturn Roe v. Wade, and now to limit environmental protections. I was shaken this week to hear Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) proclaim that “The church is supposed to direct the government.” Although it confirmed what I’d expected, I was still stunned by Tuesday’s Jan. 6 hearing in which Cassidy Hutchinson bravely & explicitly described how the explosive, tantrum-prone former-president and his collaborators plotted to overthrow our government & destroy any attempts at democracy — a plot that is still alive and well in many state legislatures and in the extremist views of many of our citizens. And I am grieving the deaths of people seeking a safe life — this week more than 50 human beings killed, left locked in the over-heated back of a semi in Texas.

Add a couple of slightly stressful appointments this week and I have ended up feeling like Dorothy dropped into Oz, like Alice stepping through the looking glass & falling down the rabbit hole. I wonder where I have landed.

I am taking off a couple days to ground myself and to try to figure out where I am. I am spending time and finding solace with animals and garden and trees.


"Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
 Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
 And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
 Must ask permission to know it and be known.
 The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
 I have made this place around you.
 If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
 No two trees are the same to Raven.
 No two branches are the same to Wren.
 If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
 You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
 Where you are. You must let it find you."

                                                                 ~~~ David Wagoner

Seeking Sanctuary

12 thoughts on “Xenotopia: – “an uncanny or unsettling landscape; an ‘out-of-place place’

  1. What a powerful weaving: I saw a scarred land mass but I also see a womb…

    These unrelenting, turbulent, dystopian times, call for everything within us to hold fast and some days, I hang on by a thread…it does no good to take a break from the news because that only lasts for a day. What I’ve tried to do is to watch less news video and read more of the news but even then…

    What has helped is knowing that I can turn to all of you, our community of women who share our stories, who speak our truths, who care and connect and who are touchstones in my life: Robin Wall Kimmerer had a quote in her book, Braiding Sweet Grass, from Paula Gunn Allen, Grandmothers of the Light:

    “Life unfolds in a growing spiral as children begin their own paths and mothers rich with knowledge and experience have a new task set before them. We become the women who use our strengths turning to a circle wider than our children, to the well being of the community, The spiral widens farther and farther so that the sphere of a wise woman is beyond herself, her family, beyond the human community, embracing the planet, mothering the earth.”

    May we never forget that we all are wise women and even when it all feels, at times, so beuyond our ability to do anything, we walk the spiral path, together, arms linked, hearts and minds connected…


    • Thank you for the quote. I, too, am grateful for this community with whom I walk the Spiral towards Elderhood. In these chaotic times, I have been thinking of Nietzche’s assertion that “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”


  2. Yes, the colonial myths of Dorothy and Alice; they end in contrived resolution …
    What we face now is quite different — actual events of a reality denied. When a culture’s myth is no longer connected with reality — no longer nurturing adaption and evolution, wisely guiding action, teaching deeper connections and more loving relationships — the myths must change or we are lost.
    I have a personal experience of seeking the oak tree that taught me a great lesson in my childhood. It lived on the bank of a creek at the end of the road where I lived. Returning thirty years later, the path no longer was. It was blocked by a high fence displaying a brazen NO TRESPASSING sign. I walked around to a street bridge that still crossed the creek, still running in its soft summer way. And walking over the stones and barefoot in the water, I came to a culvert — from there I could look at the stripped land, the lawns and houses — and see the place the oak once stood. Where I sat and received the first teaching of my lifelong (if often interrupted!) spiritual way.
    Thanking Oak for another lesson I went on my way.
    What we are facing now are so many connected losses. “Seeking Sanctuary” says it with love and hope.


    • Yes – the dominating cultural myths of disconnection (e.g., individual over community, personal gain over cooperation & sharing) must change. As Ben Okri has said, “‘…I think that now, in our age, in the mid-ocean of our days, with certainties collapsing around us, and with no beliefs by which to steer our way through the dark descending nights ahead — I think that now we need those fictional old bards and fearless storytellers, those seers. We need their magic, their courage, their love, and their fire more than ever before. It is precisely in a fractured, broken age that we need mystery and a reawoken sense of wonder. We need them to be whole again.” Fortunately, many people have begun to realize this & to search for guidance in old stories and in new scientific understandings of the cosmos. This is an important work for us all. And thank you for sharing your special relationship with the old oak and its profound teaching. I wonder how many of us have experienced similar learnings.


  3. Xenotopia – yes, I first heard this word from Rob Macfarlane. It seems helpful to me just to think that there are so many strangenesses human beings have encountered (or – created…) and struggled to survive.

    I have some news – I’m going to an art opening tomorrow July 3 featuring Susan Barrett Merrill’s work along with two of her friends. You may know she lives in Maine, not too far from me. I’m excited about the event and will report back, as I know her work is important to you.



    • Wow — you are so lucky to see the show! Susan sent me photos of 2 of the masks that will be there. They are beyond amazing! I wish I could see the rest — and it would be great to meet you too! 🙂


  4. Xenotopia…yes. The world at large and closer to home. I just remarked to J. yesterday about how bad the streets of my commute have become, since I returned to work last Oct. The amount of dumping on the roadsides is unbelievable…the unhoused situation has exploded…the Way folks drive has worsened…all of it just purely overwhelming – on top of national and world news. It is good to have a word for it all.
    Your “Seeking Sanctuary” piece is stunning in its softness, earth colors and sense of safety it provides. The comfort of being held in love. Thank you for this.


  5. Loved that you ended with Madonna and Child .. it leaves me with a feeling of peacefulness that I really need right now .. given everything you mentioned in this post. Peacefulness and gratitude .. love you all!!


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