Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tracking, Maps and Dreams

I have met and studied with many of the good trackers in this country, and am blessed to have a mentor who is one of the best in the field. He would not say that. He would say he is a non-teacher. He reminds of me of Yoda, only much much taller. I have just returned from the Degaba system, I mean a mentoring session with my non-teacher, mentor where we engaged in conversation about tracking. He is a recluse now, not teaching many people so I am blessed that he even gives me hearing. I asked him to teach me, he said yes, I will take you on. It is always a little nerve wracking to ask a master teacher who has retired to consider teaching you. He told me to come, and to bring good questions.

Tracking. What is it and why do I do it? For me, and this is just me, because if you ask anyone else, they will tell you different things, tracking is about building a relationship with the natural world through pattern recognition. For me, the natural world is a living fabric, a live thing, like a creature, but bigger, more complicated, and profoundly non-verbal. The landscape is a like the Other, a being, something sentient. It takes an immense amount of time outside to get to know this Other, so tracking is about being with, about lived experience. Sure, you can read a book about tracking, and species identification really helps, and the stories of other trackers help, too. To know the natural world you have to be out in it, observing, over long periods of time. That is how you get to know the patterns. Animal tracks are a most bold way to know the place I am in, but others might choose trees, plants, dirt, birds, the night sky. They are all connected, all the things in nature, and the observed connections lead to questions, deeper and deeper questions, and I am completely engaged.

I believe that tracking helps me with my work as a therapist for I have come to understand that humans are about patterns, too. I think it helps my work with babies in particular. I live in a very non-verbal world, the natural world and the world of babies. My lived experience in all arenas of life, observing, noticing, thinking about patterns, exploring them on every level, leads me into ways of knowing and levels of knowledge. Their application is the art and science of my work. And I am always surprised and pleased by something new. Everything changes. So I am always refreshed and begin again.

My favorite tracker author is not someone many trackers know. His name is Hugh Brody. He has written beautiful books and made fabulous documentaries about his work with native people in Canada. My favorite tracking book of all time is The Other Side of Eden. Brody talks about how the Inuit honored him with teaching him their language, and how his knowledge of the language really came from non-verbal patterns. Living their life with them, in the snows and through the suffering, and into the quiet spaces. It's a fabulous read. Brody wrote another book called Maps and Dreams, about the Beaver people in British Columbia. The Beaver people make maps of their territory depending on where the beaver are (or maybe were). The people dream these maps as well as walk them, but animals appear to them in dreams and the knowing the land leads them in their unconscious. They wake and draw the map. Brody's wonderful writing and documentary about the land rights for native people are captivating. The Beaver people dream their last map to spirit world, too.

So, out on the land, my first exercise is to make maps of different kinds, noticing what I notice and documenting it. It is always useful to be with others on the land, because they see things I don't. I often dream of being with people who are as committed to the process as I am but really, the tracking life tends to be solitary. Dreaming might lead to reality though. Tracking, maps and dreams.

No comments: