[Obviously, the above photo isn’t of my neighborhood, nor is it even my photograph, but it is one of my favorite places in all of the city.]
So, ever since I moved back to this city, I’ve kind of been stuck without transportation in a pretty rough neighborhood. Like, most of the time it’s fine. People don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them. As long as the sun is out, the most dangerous thing I have to deal with is the occasional small pack of stray dogs wandering around looking for food, water, or shelter. I try to leave out some water for them, at least whenever I can, but I’ve digressed. The point is that the neighborhood is rough enough for me to not take a whole lot of time walking around, getting to know the environment first hand.
I’m not new to this city. I’ve been here for a long time (despite short stints in other places), but just not on this side of town. This area is a mystery in many ways. I’ve gotten tapped by the local Land spirit, who seems interested in getting to know me (the feeling is mutual), but it’s hard to do that when you can’t reasonably expect to beat the pavement just to get a lay of the land.
It’s so important that it’s been eating at me, because I haven’t been able to do it. While I said most of the time the neighborhood is safe enough in the daytime, I have a two year old that would have to come with me everywhere I go, and I just do not see it as being safe enough for that. If it were just me, I’d probably do it. But not with my son in tow.
So, now what? Now what do I do? How can I reasonably fulfill this directive from the Land, to get to know the land? Well, there’s an unconventional way, if you’re willing to hear me out, and perhaps even try it. It’s something I’ve been experimenting with, and so far it’s been quite helpful in helping me get used to the neighborhood, as well as its landmarks. But it is only the first step.
To begin, open your internet browser and open up Google Maps. Type in your address and switch to street view. Now look. You can see your street, turn 360 degrees, and go off in any direction you want, following the roads of course. Depending on how recent the last Google drive by was, the area may or may not be completely current, but it should be enough to get you started.
Spend a few days using the Google street view to tour your neighborhood and surrounding areas. If you have the time and the funds, you might also try riding the neighborhood buses around, as that is another good way to get your bearings without having to walk around. I know there are lots of reasons why a person might not be able to walk their neighborhood regularly or at all. Whatever your reasons, you should feel able to complete your spiritual obligations without doing anything that may likely do more harm than good.
So, after you’ve had sufficient time to become acquainted with the layout of the area, next comes the reaching out to the land.
This can happen in whatever ways you see fit, in accordance with your practice and spirits. What I do, is pick a nice quiet night when everyone else in the house is asleep, and I sit silently, making offerings to the Land and accompanying spirits and inviting them to meet. I then reach out to the land around me, and I follow it where it wants to lead, through visualization, made easier by my study of the maps, which is still ongoing. I’d like to explore other areas of the city this way, as well.
Now, I should note here that I didn’t just jump right into following the spirit around on the first night. The very first night is probably best for introductions. It’s best to very gradually build up your rapport with the Land spirits, so I recommend trying this or something similar once a week for a few months, just gradually expanding your awareness as you and the Land become more familiar with one another. Eventually, your relationship should develop as you all see fit. Just keep communicating. That is by far the best tool at your disposal.
Also, it’s such a simple way to solve this problem that I’d be really surprised if I were the first one to try this. If you’ve already been doing this, or something similar with a different map site, I’d love to know how you found your results. :)