A sense of place … again and again we return to this puzzling concept. Wendell Berry, America’s best-known bioregionalist, says if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are. Does our actual physical location determine our ability to construct the life we yearn to lead?
Wandering from place to place, looking for our environment to provide us with the deep inner peace our souls yearn for may be futile. We have been culturally conditioned to look for what we need outside ourselves, making many of us road warriors, devoid of a sense of place and stewardship to the planet we call home. Committing ourselves to some corner of earth we choose to call home allows us to envision the greater sense of connection we share as planetary participants. If we live somewhere long enough, over time we begin to relate to our sense of place, to observe ourselves in the greater scheme of things.
Constant drifting has left many of us with an inner restlessness where we seem unable to sit still long enough to feel the rhythms connecting us with the lifeblood of Mater earth. This mater is substance, earth, our flesh, blood and bones. Place your ear to the ground, and soon you can synchronize your own heartbeat to the pulse of the planet. It is in seeking solitude that we discover this profound connection, not in isolation from our felt sense of connection to the whole.
Feelings of alienation can cause us to move around unduly, to seek a sense of place, purpose and inner peace somewhere outside the self. When we journey inward, the rhythms we attune to in the pounding of our pulse are the same as the tides, as the terra firma on which we place our feet. The isolation many of us feel is a product of a life spent paying homage to our individual nature. And isolation can only have merit in context and relation to other aspects of our being.
On examining the mysterious tarot cards, the solitary Hermit falls between the Adjustment card and that of Fortune. We are not meant to perpetually wander in order to discover that which we seek. This Hermit’s number is Nine, symbolic of turning inward before embarking on something new. Flanked by an Eight (Adjustment) and Ten (Fortune), our Hermit has relationships with both. Eight is the number of transformation and rebirth. Ten represents completion as well as new beginnings.
These Major Arcana cards of the tarot are symbolic of the Hero’s journey we all embark upon to become sentient and fully human beings. Knowing when to retreat seems appropriate only in context to the whole. The Adjustment card speaks to weighing things carefully before making a decision. The Hermit then compels us to retreat within ourselves to find what is true for us at the time. It cautions us not to become distracted with busy-ness or possessions. When we succeed, we move into the Ten card’s Fortune, where we realize that what we have been seeking is not to be grasped through consumption, rather it rests within our quiet imponderable nature. We discover an inner strength we did not perhaps realize we had and discover, often to our delight, that we possess the will to embrace life such as it is with simple and profound acceptance.
(excerpted from Inner Tapestry Journal, Bela Johnson 2005)