It is time to address requirement number seven, “An account of the Dedicant’s efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects of the Dedicant’s lifestyle choices on the environment and/or the local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level.”
It is a good thing that the requirement has a minimum but no maximum number of words given just how loaded the requirement is.
To begin with, it almost seems strange to me the notion of asking a Druid dedicant about their effort to ‘work with nature’. I simply assume that anyone who is exploring a Druidic path is doing so almost entirely because of a deep affinity for the natural world. There are certainly other aspects of Druidry of course, but the image of the Druid as one who works with and through nature is so ingrained in the popular imagination that I have to believe that anyone who comes to Druidry is doing so because they are already ‘working with nature’.
For myself, all of my earliest happiest memories as a child revolve around being in and with nature; woods where the native Americans used to hunt, creeks teeming with crayfish, and above all the overwhelming and never-ending awe that is the night sky. As a young boy I spent a lot of my free time fishing… not particularly because I liked fish, but because I loved being one with that misty morning lake without another human around. This affinity carried on into my teenage years which saw me spending an inordinate amount of time in parks composing bad poetry.
The connection between myself and the natural world was somewhat weakened for a while during my young adult years which saw me living in the big city – that’s Toronto around here – and spending my free time in dark night clubs. However, this was just an interlude after which I found myself – now with my wife – moving further and further away from cities and into nature. We now live on 12 acres of forested ravine land on the north shore of Lake Erie.
And, of course, moving into the country means not just living within nature but also working with it on a personal and daily level. We are becoming homesteaders; trying every year to become more self-sufficient by living off the land. My father-in-law, who met me when I was still a young skinny Goth kid, just couldn’t believe it the first year that I said that I was going to tap Maple trees and make Maple Syrup — but I did it! We’re also into our third year of having a vegetable garden, and plan to get chickens next year. We also heat our home primarily with wood which means gathering firewood — and planting new trees to atone for those harvested to provide us with heat. Our dogs also bring us closer to the natural world on a daily basis as we watch them dispatch vermin (skunks are the worst) and kill and eat rabbits.
So I guess it seems odd to me to speak of my ‘efforts to work with nature'; every day of my life is spent working with nature. And if all that isn’t enough, I even now spend my free time seeking that connection with undisturbed nature. I am a cyclist and love nothing more than taking my bike on neglected trails amongst the deer, otters, and wild turkeys.
As for the Earth Mother, I do have a shrine to her to which I offer offer devotions and sacrifice, but all of my actions regarding nature are deeply interconnected with my devotion to the Her.
So let’s talk about the local eco-system and how I can make more of difference.
I already compost and recycle as much as I can. One can always do more to reduce what one consumes, of course, and this is an area that I can see continually improving upon, but the big impact for me now pertains to my energy usage. I have already studied where most of my energy use comes from, and have undertaken conservation efforts where I can. I know where I can reduce my energy usage, although these actions require monetary resources that I do currently have. Attic insulation is the big one in terms of reducing usage, but there is also the option of roof-top solar panels. My roof is perfect for solar if only I could afford the initial investment.
Finally, other than reducing energy usage (or generating renewable), I know that I can still have a great impact on my local eco-system. Twelve acres isn’t really a lot, but in a part of the country where every last bit of land has been cleared for agriculture, good management of my little piece of ravine land does mean a lot to the local eco system. I am learning about which trees are native and how to encourage their growth, and how to help preserve the local native wildlife, be they salamanders, toads, or tortoises (the vermin still have to answer to the dogs!)