The pages of Linda Hogan’s Dwellings smell like crow feathers – a perfume of roots and sky and leaf.

Dwellings is a wise, reverent Spiritual History of the Living World, containing beautiful poetics highly relevant to today’s earth, which is constantly assaulted and threatened by corporate and war interests that seek to profit few while killing our most precious, essential resources – life on this planet and future generations.

The book shows how plants and animals have language – they have feelings – and just like people, they’re impacted by trauma and the destruction of their ecosystems.

Hogan describes how all living matter has conscious energy that is embedded with human cells.  We are all affected by the history of shared air molecules, shared water molecules, and passed on DNA containing the stories of our ancestors – and we all feel global tragedies and desecration of life – stories carried on the wind.

Dwellings helps us remember the divinity of all life, the sacred fragileness, how our instincts are real and should be followed above societal madness of being closed off and human-centric.

“Do you remember the friend that the leaves talked to?  We need to be that friend.  Listen.  The ears of the corn are singing.  They are telling their stories and singing their songs.  We knew that would be true.”

Hogan explains how the earth is a generous giver who wants peace and natural balance.  It benefits all species – human, plant, animal and molecule – when we “participate in a reciprocal and balanced exchange with life,” gratefully receiving the gifts of the present, while giving back with compassion.

Nature is the deepest reality of earth and the universe, and to deny that reality causes us to suffer from toxic life: pollution, global warming, broken heartedness, emptiness and loneliness.

Hogan says:

This far-hearted kind of thinking is one we are especially prone to now, with our lives moving so quickly ahead, and it is one that sees life, other lives, as containers for our own uses and not as containers in a greater, holier sense.

Even wilderness is seen as having value only as it enhances and serves our human lives, our human world.  While most of us agree that wilderness is necessary to our spiritual and psychological well-being, it is a container of far more, of mystery, of a life apart from ours.  It is not only where we go to escape who we have become and what we have done, but it is also part of the natural laws, the workings of a world of beauty and depth we do not yet understand.

Hogan gives examples of how she’s seen animals treated carelessly, like wolves being shot and killed from planes.  From a chapter on wolves…

 Environmental work, like tribal issues have been for us Indian people, is subject to very negative reactions, to what we call ‘backlash.’  This situation is especially fragile, complicated by the psychological fact that wolves carry much of the human shadow.  They contain for us many of our own traits, ones we repress within ourselves.  More than any other animal, they mirror back to us the predators we pretend not to be.  In that way, we have assigned to them a special association with evil.

Close up, there is even more beauty in the wolf than any of us have seen from a distance.  The fur is shadowy gray and golden.  The jawbones with their circular valleys are smooth, outlined by the bare, lean winter.  Inside the mouth, the teeth are layered and worn down.  There are strawberry leaves, frozen in place, on the wolf’s teeth at the gum line.  The tenderness of such an image moves me.  I feel it in the heart.  And there is something delicate about the legs, something gone from wandering earth, something that ran so far it left the body behind.   

This compassionate description of connection with the wolf comes from someone truly alive.  The line, “something that ran so far it left the body behind” is stunning.

In Maine, all the wolves have nearly been slaughtered – some say there are no wolves left here, others think they are scarce and hiding but still around.  And now in this state there is a culture of coyote killing mobs – unlimited numbers of coyotes are allowed to be hunted in Maine, a blood sport that serves no practical purpose.  Why is it seen as okay for humans to kill deer but evil if wolves or coyotes hunt for food?

Hogan observes, “What we really are searching for is a language that heals this relationship, one that takes the side of the amazing and fragile life on our life-giving earth.  A language that knows the corn, and the one that corn knows, a language that takes hold of the mystery of what’s around us and offers it back to us, full of awe and wonder.  It is a language of creation, of divine fire, a language that goes beyond the strict borders of scientific inquiry and right into the heart of the mystery itself.”

Dwellings describes the importance of listening to this language of mystery, and to our own intuition, feelings and dreaming, which provide intrinsic knowledge and understanding.

Hogan describes how our role as intelligent human guests on life-giving earth is that of care takers and compassionate stewards.  We can help reestablish a balanced world by simply praising the miraculousness of all living things – this praise-giving attitude of tenderness helps the creatures by letting them know we share an allegiance of wanting health, respect and love for nature; in turn, such actions sustain ourselves and life on this planet.

“Here is a lesson: what happens to people and what happens to the land is the same thing.” -Linda Hogan