I am no wanderer. I feel no desire to travel far from home, to visit foreign lands or step foot on other continents. I am happy in the same state, the same rainy peninsula, the same ten mile radius of forest and water where I grew up and which I still call home. This place is where I want always to return at the end of the day and I ask no more than that. As I said, I am no wanderer. I am no wanderer, yet the land around me has changed so that I feel lost in this alien landscape. Forests razed to make way for shopping centers; picturesque waterfront blocked by million-dollar homes. Storefronts sit empty while commercial building continues to churn out box stores and parking lots and cheap cookie-cutter housing. The nights aren’t as dark, the stars aren’t as bright. Every season seems hotter and drier than the one before. Where am I? I did not leave my home, yet neither do I recognize this place.
We anthropomorphize what we do not understand and deify what we fear. Perhaps, therefore, I should call this terror and awe Cascadia and give it a name, a form, a realm to rule. Grand Cascadia, She Who Slumbers Uneasily, She Who Builds Mountains and Destroys Cities. Ancient Cascadia, who sleeps beneath the earth’s crust and whose every toss and turn rattles the land above. Cruel Cascadia, whose laughter stirs tsunamis, whose anger detonates stratovolcanoes and sends shockwaves of destruction through two thousand miles of rock and earth. I see her body made of the fine silt of the ocean floor; her eyes glow the hot white of magma; her hair is ash and smoke and seaweed and minerals. She is a uniquely Pacific Northwest goddess, one link in the great ring of fire through which she and her sisters transform the world.
It is tempting, I’ll admit, to hand the fear of what I cannot control over to a deity I can at least implore. I could light red candles in her honor and leave her offerings of seashells, saltwater, Mt. St. Helens ash. Beneath her altar I could store flashlights and emergency rations. I could write songs and poems for her, about the people she has killed already and those she will kill in the future. I could, I could, I could – but what good would it do? Even if Cascadia were a true goddess, she would not be swayed by offerings or pleading. She would be something more terrifying than Kali and more uncontrollable than Sekhmet, something that gloried in death even more than Inanna or the Morrigan. There would be no appeasing her. She would only sleep, wake, slaughter, and sleep to wake and kill again. All the prayer in the world could not reckon with her, and when she next wakes her death toll will be in the hundreds of thousands.
Sleep, Cascadia. Sleep.
It’s hard to grasp and hold in my mind that distant, ancient land, to feel the great weight of the sun baking the earth and pressing against my flesh. Hard to comprehend the grandeur of tombs and statues, the wealth of gold on wrist and collarbone, the richness of celebration and worship beneath ever-present gods, so foreign is it to my own experience. I know this place existed once as more than sand and ruin, and exists forever at its most fantastic within Her memory, but it is not my memory and not my place. I am not a sun-browned child of burning sands and fertile deltas, of golden temples and gleaming hieroglyphs. I am a pale child of cedar and mountains, of white fog and rocky Pacific shores. The arid land of lion and cheetah is not my land; my land is the forested land of cougar and bobcat. I feel this land in my heart and soul, and struggle to imagine myself in the first. But why does this make me feel unworthy or disloyal? This is Her land too, isn’t it? Wherever Her children walk, She is there. Wherever Her followers exalt Her name, She is there. The same sun and moon and stars rotate over this land as over that of Her first cult, so why should She eschew it because no formal temple has stood on this ground? She is a goddess of fire and freedom, instinct and survival. The wilderness is Her temple. The shadows and lurking places are Her temple. Any place touched by a silent paw or fleeting form is Her temple. Seeking adherence to desert tradition, I forgot She has always been with me here in this land, in this time. I can sit among damp lavender and pine branches and speak to Her just as easily, and with as much approval, as I could were I able to find my way to Her first place of worship. Silly devotee, to have thought She could watch me grow up in this place and not call it Hers as well!