Balancing the Tribal


This blog is about…

Not really. But it is a blog about balance—the balance of living a life that is comfortable, fulfilling, healthy, full of creativity, full of wonderful words, activities away from the job—or in my case, jobs—and deadlines.

I wrote not too long ago about cutting harmful things and toxic people out of our lives. Yeah, I know, some of those toxic people are family, and may not be cut-able, but most of us can limit the amount of time we spend with toxic people, even family, to improve our lives’ balance.

And most of us make time for the good-for-us (non-toxic) family and friends, and make time to go out into the world in social situations like parties, lunch out, tea or coffee with special people. We remember to exercise (sometimes), pray or meditate, and learn new things (which can be read as research, too). But sometimes we forget to do the things that feed our souls, things that are spiritually renewing. Which is where, for me, gardening comes in.

Many people, myself included, go to mosque, synagogue, or church for spiritual renewal, but there are other ways, places, events and experiences that call out to deeper, and far more human, parts of our spiritual natures. And that human, tribal, part of our spiritually often gets left in the dust. All people were once tribal, whether our ancestors were African, AmIn, Celts, people of the steppes, Mongol, South Pacific, whatever, we were tribal long before we settled into cities. And tribal people had rituals to celebrate, recognize, and denote all the different landmarks of human life. As writers, I think we are closer to the ritualistic parts of our human natures than lots of others, and I think we depend on the deeper, mystical, parts of our psyches than most—which is where those amazing story endings come from that we’ve spoken of here several times. But we also often forget to nurture those parts of our natures that we depend upon so much. And I am not talking about other creative endeavous, though that may be part of our personal rituals.

For me, those mystical moments come when my hands are in the soil, or my hardboat is moving with the current down a river or rocky creek. I deeply *need* to get my hands in the soil of mother earth. To paddle down her lifeblood is essential. When I don’t do both I feel the ache deep inside, and there is a fractured anger that splinters through me, making me the toxic person in my own life. For the last five years, I gave up gardening in favor of two books a year, and my soul—though nurtured by plenty of rivers—missed it deeply.

So, I’ve begun to terrace the hill in front of my house, and will bring in soil for the garden I’ve missed so much. It’s backbreaking work, hauling stone for retaining walls, shoveling, making level foundations. And yeah, I’m doing it myself, with the help of the hubby. (He got drafted, but he’s agreeable.) Gardening is one thing I desperately need—as both writer and human—that I’ve neglected. I’ve starved my own creative, human, tribal soul and getting my hands back into the body of the earth is already so fulfilling, that I’ve been able to craft a book proposal in about half the hours it usually takes me.

Anyone here have something feeds a deeper nature? Something that, if left undone, creates a toxicity of/in your life? Feel free to share.

Faith—who has dirty fingernails…


26 comments to Balancing the Tribal

  • Just planted lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, and various kinds of peppers (including cayenne and habaneros I grew from seed harvested last year). I love preparing and eating produce from my own garden. Maybe I’m reconnecting with my tribal roots. Either way, it’s very satisfying. And yes, anything that reconnects us with the ground helps writers who often have to depict less modern societies. It’s all too easy to forget how supermarkets and vast, hangar-like grocery stores–and the way they have made food easy, varied and plentiful–are a very recent invention.

  • Amy

    For me, it’s always been hiking. I’ve realised this a lot more fully now that I’m living in a city. Every couple of weeks, I just have to get out into open countryside, away from traffic noise and crowds and technology. When I don’t do this, I start to go a little bit crazy very quickly! And, of course, as soon as I get away from the keyboard/pen and paper, my head fills up with dozens of story ideas that I can’t write down…

  • Kim

    I like this post, Faith. It’s all about balance. Recognizing what gives us balance can be elusive. I use my “dirt time” as a goal to get through the stuff that’s hard for me. And when I can’t get in the dirt, I play in the kitchen. And when I can’t do either, I get nasty. -laugh-

  • Mine is dance. Not just belly dance, but all sorts of musical movement. It reaches me on a deeper, ancient level, the place where my body doesn’t hear lyrics or instruments but recognizes the beat and responds without any prior thought. Doesn’t matter if I’m any good to look at. When I’m sweaty and my heart is slamming and my breath is rushing because I’ve just thrown myself around the room for a while, I feel clean inside.

  • I love hiking for a “back to nature” moment. But nothing rejuvenates me more than the Blues. I sit down with my guitar and can just get lost in playing. And if I’m nowhere near my guitar, I’ll listen to the Blues greats on my mp3 player.

  • Faith, this is a great post!

    I used to think I could be a gardener, but I kill everything I touch, and I found hiking and running. Though since I found writing I really realized what I had been missing in my life. I do love to create things, and I tend to draw and paint if the weather is not up for my main energetic releasers.


  • For me, it can be a lot of things.

    Hiking, horse-back riding, day-dreaming, staring out the window, cloud-spotting, train-spotting, tree-spotting. My phone is so full of cloud pictures, it would probably take five minutes to download them all to my computer. Also, poetry, listening to music, playing piano, guitar though I’m way out of practice, drawing. Archery and swimming are fun, too. Haven’t canoed or kayaked recently. 🙁 I used to do meditation, but I’ve slacked off on it recently. Oh, running. There’s nothing like a good sprint flat-out down a path in the woods. And I can’t forget learning. I’m not sure I think of any of this as “spiritual” exactly, but I think it’s somewhat equivalent.

    If I wasn’t such a clean-freak, I’d probably enjoy gardening as well.

  • AJ, I can’t wait to get some plants into the ground. Of course, I have to terrace and get a dump-truck or two of soil (and some sand and some peat and some mulch) first. And then cart it by hand and wheelbarrow to the terraces. And shovel it into place. And work it all in together. Ummm. Makes me wonder why I’m doing this!!! Oh Yeah! Ballance. Right.

    Amy, I’m with you on the hiking/country vs city. When the hubby and I moved here, it was an old farm, with only a few houses nearby. Now we have to leave home to see country and I miss it!

  • Miz Kim, you don’t have a nasty bone in… Wait. You kill off characters almost as easily as I do. Never mind. (grins)Yeah, I’m happiest when I have my hands in the dirt. And yes, I can feel the meanness in me when I don’t have a garden.

    Misty, I remember arriving to a dance class early one night, and you were already there, music on, bare feet moving, your eyes closed and this dreamy, peaceful expression on your face. I just stood at the door and watched.

  • Stuart, the hubby pulls out his guitar sometimes plays like that, alone, just him and the instrument. I can watch as the music rejuvenates him.

    Thanks, Hinny. I used to run, like you and Atskio, but the knees don’t like it. As for hiking, they can take it okay, if the grade isn’t too steep. But I have to say that for me, being strapped into a hardboat, bounding through the wavetrains, now that is pure heaven. I am dreaming of the Nante!

  • Music, photography, birdwatching. Not necessarily in that order. I have neglected all three in recent months thanks to Robin Hood and a certain thieftaker who shall remain nameless… But I am finishing a book today (!) finishing a story in the next three weeks, and taking spring and summer off to renew myself. It’s been too long, and last summer was difficult and painful. I’ve earned time off, I think, and I intend to strip off my professional shell and dive naked into the things I love to do. Lovely post, Faith.

    I should add here, that part of my renewal this spring will be hanging out with my MW family at ConCarolinas…

  • David said, I think, and I intend to strip off my professional shell and dive naked into the things I love to do.

    But you won’t wear a kilt????

    *grins, ducks and run*

  • Susan S.

    Sometimes, I think it’s more a matter of letting go of the guilt. I shouldn’t work in the garden, read a book, take a walk because x, y, and z still need to be done. Once you realize X,Y, and Z will get done faster and easier if you take some time to connect back to your sanity by playing in the dirt, the guilt falls away.

    The so-called puritan ethic in this country runs deep. We can’t take time to replenish ourselves because there’s still work to be done. We’re not machines. But then again, you need to take machines out of service periodically to oil and lubricate them otherwise they have a nasty habit of failing at the absolute worst time. So maybe we should be treating ourselves a little more like machines. *s*

  • I garden…or at least try to, every year. I don’t have a very good spot to do so and my garden doesn’t get enough sun. And one side gets more wet than the other. There’s a giant pin oak that shades the only decent garden spot that’s not right in the middle of the front yard. We’re trying to convince the landlord to let us get it cut down. My Dad’s even telling him that he’ll pay to get it cut down if he can keep all the lumber from it. I got no problem planting a nice fruit tree to replace it, but without adequate sun the garden suffers every year, which does not help my mood in the slightest. It’s either that of I plow up the front yard and plant my garden there this year. I’m already going to be expanding the lettuce and herb section this year to include my mini sweet peppers, as they don’t get enough sun in the spot near the oak. So, as much as I’d like the gardening to help my mood, it’s just an annoying practice in futility until the oak is gone and there’s more nutrients and such in the soil.

    I like to cook, but I hate spending hours doing dishes because we don’t have a dish washer.

    I write and do other things of an artistic nature to de-stress, so constant interruptions that keep me from doing those things actually grates on my nerves. It’s been happening so much lately that I was told by a few people at the Gift of Light Expo that I needed to find a way to de-stress because it was showing up a lot in aura and other such readings. I’m considering buying a kick bag and beating on it for a while under the guise of a kenpo workout.

  • Yea, David! It sounds like a needed and joyful plan. I bet the ideas just well up and overflow during your time off, too, forcing you back to your Mac to get them down before they are replaced by others. And hey — kilts might shrink. Don’t swim in them no matter how much Misty begs. For me tho, I’m wearing a suit.

  • Susan, you are so right. For me, guilt is like a second skin, an itchy, scratchy, too tight skin. So, today I transplanted four plants, planted three new orchids, and tossed a plant I loved because it was dying anyway. And tonight, starting now, I’ll work on the proposal outline. Tomorrow, if I don’t get called into the lab, I’ll get back to work on the terracing. And I refuse to give in to the guilt. Thanks for the reminder!

    Daniel, my old garden was in the back, and an oak (which had not grown in five years) grew up and shaded the spot — after I’d spent soooo much time on the soil. I was really ticked off, and that was part of the reason for the garden-haitus. Sorta like the old adage, she cut off her nose to spite her face, I cut off my gardening and I was the one who suffered. Here’s hoping the landlord will let you cut down the pin oak and replace it with a lovely fruit tree or two.

  • Oh, yes. Reconnecting with myself spiritually is so important, yet somehow so easy to forget.

    I need to get out in nature, soon, but in the meantime, I have other things I can do. Come May, I’ll recommence throwing myself off a cliff. 🙂

  • Moira, that is a beautiful place! PADDLE!!!!

  • Dino

    My renewing comes from working in my fishhouse.
    A large number of the species I work with are extinct in the wild or threatened by habitat destruction, so being part of the network of folks who are working to keep these species from vanishing forever feeds my soul.
    Plus, it stays about 75-80F year round, which can be fabulous on a dark, cold winter’s day.

  • I too love gardening, but I’m a shoveler/raker/digger kind of guy. I leave the careful planting stuff to my sweetie. Though, I’ve taken it on myself to learn more about pruning to help our garden live long and prosper. Last year we made some great salsa from the herbs, tomatoes, and hot peppers we grew in the back yard.

    One of my other releases is cycling, though crashing may be more appropriate after last year’s four tumbles. I’ve done some kayaking and quite enjoyed it, though my beat up football shoulder doesn’t agree with it the days following.

    This is a nice post. Though it’s nice to come here for great writing advice, it’s also nice to review ways to recharge.


  • Dino, it’s people like you who will save our planet — if it can be saved. Yeah, okay, that sounds glass-half-empty, but then, I see up close and personal just bad the rivers and creeks are. So I’m glad one guy’s recharging is another’s (and another fish’s) salvation.

    NGDave, the hubby had shoulder injury problems too, until some reconstructive work a few years ago. Now he’s a paddling nut. And your salsa sounds lovely!

  • Judy B

    Hey Faith,

    For me, I love the desert southwest, especially Capitol Reef National Park in Utah! Which is strange, since I grew up in the verdant green of the East Coast.

    I love the smell of the sagebrush, the rustle of the Cottonwood leaves, the towering mesas and buttes, and the intricacies of a slot canyon!

    The red rock of canyon country whispers to my soul and haunts my dreams. We’re way overdue for a visit and I think it’s time to start planning a fall trip! I need to dust off my cameras, pack my backpack and head into the wilds.

  • Judy B

    In the mean time, I’m building raised garden beds for vegetables.

    We’ve purchased a bunch of Heirloom Seeds to plant, so if the deer, rabbits, raccoons and groundhogs don’t wipe us out, we should have one heck of a feast this year! YUM!

  • Judy, I’ve never been to that part of the country. And I have a feeling that the hubby will never go — not enough rivers to run… But it sounds wonderful, and you captured what is for me, the essence of a place — the smells.

    On the other subject: Don’t know if it will help, but I’ve heard that spraying garden boundries with urine might keep away critters. Gross, yes?

  • Judy B

    Yeah, they even sell coyote urine for that reason, my luck it will attract coyotes!

    The deer and squirrels have already eaten most of my tulips and crocuses. Wish I could get them to mow the lawn so I wouldn’t have to!

    Too bad the hubby has to have rivers to run, I think you’d enjoy canyon country.

  • QUOTE: my luck it will attract coyotes!

    Same here. We have coyotes around here, so I’ve been told. My Dad mentioned some tricks, but I’ve forgotten them, alas. I’ll have to ask him again.