Marriage to the Land: Part 2 of 3: Re-envisioning Sacrifice & Surrender – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

by on April 10th, 2009
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 Marriage to the Land

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Part 2 of 3:
Re-envisioning Sacrifice & Surrender

sunflower2-sm.jpg“Marriage is a relationship.  When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.”           
-Joseph Campbell

It’s possible to go from girlfriend to girlfriend or place to place with neither commitment, sacrifice nor surrender, but a healthy marriage to anyone or anything depends on elements of all three.  We commit to be with someone or some place not just when its most convenient, profitable or enjoyable but “for better or for worse, in sickness as in health.”  When our beloved suffers illness and debility, rages with frustration or quakes from some old and unhealed wound, we hold him or her all the closer.  We meet those needs that we’re able, help heal what we can, abide that which we cannot help, and love the whole .  When our home is hurt we rise to stem the damage, and hold it all the closer as it trembles at the approach of bulldozers, concrete mixers and those furtive men with their seemingly limited feelings and limitless ideas.  The committed hold tight even when faced with an invasion by the most inglorious industries.  I know that a wildfire could blow through our precious canyon home, level our houses and destroy the forest I helped plant a quarter century before and still we would not leave.  We’d stay to bathe its burns with our tears, replant its soil with seed and hope and come nightfall, make our bed on its blanket of ash.

Commitment inevitably requires sacrifice.  If nothing else we sacrifice what we once planned or wanted to do in order to give our time, energy and focus to something that matters even more to us.  To “sacrifice” means literally “to make sacred,” through a deliberate, ritual and voluntary gifting.  As a teenager I hated the term, partly from hearing mothers say in barely disguised disgust how they had “sacrificed” their dreams for their children, and husbands who claimed to have “sacrificed” their lives for the sake of their wives…. using others as an excuse for not having taken the risk to go for what they claim to desire most.  Sacrificing isn’t “giving up” something as if under pressure or obligation, but “giving” it as a gift from our heart…. a meaning-filled offering to others, to Spirit, to home and to purpose.

It’s also true that there’s no sacrifice in inadvertently gifting, or in gifting that which we have no real desire to keep.  To sacrifice is to consciously give of those things we might otherwise rather hold on to, for the sake of our intention, priorities and promise.  Young and relatively clueless as I once was, I nonetheless knew that moving here onto this isolated piece of land would mean sacrificing my gallery and art career, income and social life, and access to cultural activities as well as medical facilities.  Thus instead of feeling victimized or penalized by unseen consequences, I felt empowered by the ritual of choice.  I could value my time and my role in the canyon in even deeper ways, knowing what I consciously gave, and continue to give, in order to be here.

There are no empty holes in life, and as the saying goes, “nature abhors a vacuum.”  If a species disappears, its niche is quickly filled by other life forms.  A basin is sure to eventually fill with rain.  Canyons summon rivers as soil beckons seed.  Thus it is impossible for anybody to give something over, without getting something in return, and with each thing sacrificed we’d do well to look for what might have been gained.   To sacrifice a prerogative, is often to garner respect.  With the sacrifice of one’s plans come the gifts of adventure and spontaneity, serendipity and surprise.  Sacrificing the boost in salary that a move to another region might bring, we gain a renewed awareness of and appreciation for where we already live.  It was through sacrificing my habitual urge to roam that I finally came upon the true meaning of home.

I had just as hard of a time with that other prerequisite of deep matrimony, “surrender”– which I confused with defeat, subjugation and shame.  I would never give up on any task no matter how painful or difficult, and when grabbed in a headlock by school bullies I’d have rather died on the spot than ever “say uncle.”  My images of surrender included cowardly troops on a field of battle, throwing their guns on the ground and marching off with the enemy in hopes of lenient treatment and a hot meal.  In reality surrender is hardly for the beaten or resigned, ambivalent or tentative…. and the stronger willed one is, the more fierce our intention needs to be.  It’s more akin to sacrifice, its roots found in the Old French surrendere, meaning “to deliver.”  Matrimony and allegiance to place have nothing to do with defeat and everything to do with giving.      While submission leads to subordination, surrender is a sharing of gifts that results in recombination.  We invariably become a component of that which we surrender to, and likewise what we surrender to becomes a defining part of who we are.  Therefore one must take care always to surrender to truth and service, but never to illusion or greed.  Surrender not to property but to land.  Not to force, but mission and purpose.  And not to separation, distraction or bitterness…. but to connection and placement, contentment and love.

(to be continued)

(photos (c)2009 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)

Categories: Jesse Wolf Hardin – Essays & Tales, Practicing Animá Lifeways, The Search For Home

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