Historically they used the Eastern flyway but were extirpated by hunting… a slow recovery is in process and the stately Sandhill cranes are once again returning to breed in Maine… so far only birders have been keeping track of their numbers but these majestic pre-historic birds have haunting cries that are often described as bugles, rattles, croaks and trumpets and can be heard 2 -3 miles away. They also utter sounds that combine a kind of brrring in unison. Their impending arrival next month calls up a chant I love…
“There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings. There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of warriors with wings.”
I remember the chill that crawled up my spine as those words seeped into my body all those years ago… I wept, not knowing why.
Without thinking I threw the old seed into a bag of moist liverworts that I would be looking at under a powerful microscope with my scientist friend Al in a couple of days. I have no idea why I added the seed. The scarlet runner was one I kept in a winter bouquet that I had recently dismantled. The purple and rose bean had to be four or five years old. It would not germinate now …
Imagine my astonishment when I opened the bag in the lab. The bean had sprouted! The fat twisted root was hunting for earth. Carefully I re – wrapped the bean and put it in a little container until I could get home and plant it, but not before we looked at it under the microscope. More about that later.
Most of us are familiar with the mythology around oak trees. They are considered oracular beings in many traditions. The Druids considered them to be sacred, the Greeks associated oaks with Zeus –( patriarchy strikes as the ‘ king’ of trees). In Britain there was a goddess of oak trees….but in general oaks are considered to be male beings though they bear seeds and flowers on one tree.
Mighty male trees ? Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of behavior because oaks are found all over the world and in this country they are what is considered to be a keystone species. What this means is that oaks support and nurture an incredible amount of animals, insects and birds. A ‘ Mother ‘Tree in every way. We have four species in this country, one of which clones itself and behaves like a bush. It is believed to be about 1300 years old ( found in the west).Throughout the world oaks are also considered to be keystone species.
Every spring it’s the same… the hunger to begin starting seeds. As a woman and an eco -feminist I am convinced that this need to work with seeds and soil is an ancient pattern that stretches back to our egalitarian matriarchal beginnings.
Some of us like me come from a family of gardeners so there is something to say about the influence of our ancestors directing this process on a personal level. Both patterning and ancestral influences seem to work together. Another “both and”.
After I broke my foot last year I was forced to cease gardening altogether out of necessity because I could no longer use a shovel. If I am really honest I can say I was more than ready to let go. I have grown both vegetables and flowers since I was a child, then while raising a family. At mid – life when I moved to the mountains I made (what seems today) a radical decision. I decided to plant trees, plants and flowers primarily for non – humans in a small area around my house. Nature determined what grew and thrived on the rest of my land. Today people call this re-wilding but then my intention was simple. I wanted to give back to nature what S/he had given to me. I wanted nature to be the receiver.
“Shamans bridge the night flow…” the first lines from a poem I wrote long ago keep coming into my mind. Frustrated because I can no longer access the poem, I accept that the first line is what I need… ‘bridging the night flow’ of intrusive negative feelings/actions on the part of others (as well as myself) is precisely the edge I am on. Even smoke – filled rooms remind me that I need personal protection.
An Indigenous healer and impeccable scientist and naturalist friend of mine reminds me of what I know, spiritual forces are moving. When I told him of my dream his response was to focus on protection, create the intention, and let it go… I tried to do this in my mind with limited success but apparently our discussion around this subject opened a door for me or we both did as I remembered how important it is for me to ground my intentions in something concrete. How had I forgotten?
When I was a young woman, a divorced mother of two, working as a waitress I became obsessed by a window hanging in a local store. This cluster of grapes was fashioned out of thick, uneven hunks of stained glass that the artist had retrieved from bombed cathedrals in Europe. The grapes shimmered – ecclesiastical purple with limed green leaves. Although I could hardly afford to, I paid an outrageous $50.00 for this piece and hung it above my bedroom window. I never regretted the choice. Whenever I looked at the stained glass, I had the strange sense that there was a message hidden there. I ignored it.
After my brother’s death two years later (my youngest son was two) I lost most of myself, but held on to my love for plants tending to them with deep affection and attention.
My first word was ‘fower’ for flower so my relationship with plants stretched back to babyhood. I believed the flowers plants and trees that lived around my grandmother’s house were my close friends.
Part 1 was posted last week. You can read it here.
When I first came to this area 40 years ago I was ‘called’ to land about 15 minutes from here. That first summer I was out in the field picking blueberries when the field rose up around me and held me like a mother. For the first time in my life I felt loved. Shortly afterwards I visited an area that had been brutally logged. I had never seen anything like this and just the scent of weeping pines sickened me. That night I had a dream: the terrifying picture of dying trees and slash and then superimposed over it the image of my beautiful land. When I awakened I thought that the dream was telling me that loving my land was somehow helping the ravaged forest I had seen the day before.
Soon after this experience frightening tree dreams began… whole forests were being slaughtered all around me. The waters were receding in my brook and destructive uncaring neighbors moved in. Two were already living here.
Julian of Norwich (while purportedly holding a seed in her hand) – 14th century
“Even if I knew that the world would end tomorrow,
I would plant an apple tree today.”
Have you ever had bedbugs or lice? If not, you’re lucky. If so, you understand just how hard they are to get rid of. Why is that? Because they are essentially seeds with legs.
Seeds need to be able to travel in order to be successful spreaders of life. For example, when an acorn falls from an oak tree, it probably can’t germinate right where it falls. The mama tree has already taken up all the earth/soil space as well as the water sources for its own roots. And the mama tree’s own leafy branches will block out access to the sun. So the innate goal of the seed is to move to find a more friendly space. Evolution has created all sorts of ways for seeds to use motion in the service of finding their own place to germinate. In the case of the acorn, there are squirrels. Because they are a food source, many of the acorns get taken to dens under the earth. Many of those are not eaten. Either they are forgotten or the squirrel in question meets another demise. An acorn that is nestled in a den under the earth, can have a potentially perfect environment to sprout far from its origins.
Leaving chores behind I bundled up and grabbed a trowel and drove between still waters to my beloved forest. The premature snow had melted, cracked ice created fantastic glittering patterns in shallow waters informing me that it was probably too late to dig plants for the frog house. Al, scientist, scholar and naturalist, Owl, my friend had just given me a terrarium, someday to become a frog house… my intention was to gather moss and jagged pieces of lichen covered bark…maybe a partridgeberry or two for both of us. Coming here to Hemlock Hollow seemed like just the right place. I also had come to say goodbye to my friends the Hemlock trees for the winter season…
At first, I scrambled around disappointed that most plants were frozen in including the sphagnum moss. Not wanting to disturb sleeping plants, I lifted pincushion and red stemmed moss that grows quickly and visited an old log ripe with rich soil and rotting sides which came away easily. This decaying wood would make walls for my frogs to cling to as vines crept up the sides. Picking up lichens on old sticks, I also uprooted two tiny hemlocks growing on a log that would thrive in a moist environment. Satisfied, that a little of this forest would spend the winter with me I returned to the car with enough bounty to satisfy both Al and me. I was going to give him and his frogs more than half of what I gathered as a surprise.
The older I get the more important the forest becomes to me because it is a place where I find inspiration and peace. I also play in the woods! During the month of October and what I call the “Witching Moon” that has just passed I think of all the women healers that lived alone in the forests with their animal and plant ‘familiars’. These women learned that nature instructs those who apprentice themselves to her. Animals and plants spoke to these women through intuition, sensing, feeling, or through their dreams because these women listened to them. Did these women play too? Westerners fear nature because they are so separate from her. Unable to imagine conversation (let alone play) occurring between women animals and plants, even today women who live close to nature are viewed with suspicion. I know because I am one of them.
I spend a lot of time in a 12,300 acre wood that one family has preserved for perpetuity. Recently these generous people have leased the land to the local land trust so it is getting more attention. I am not sure that this is a good thing. I note the amount of motorcycle and four wheeler use has increased dramatically on the roads that run parallel with the forest; some of the once quiet woodland paths are either echoing or saturated with sound.
We use the word “transformation” very casually in our culture. Humans including feminists have ‘adopted’ the word to describe an inner shift in mental awareness, and of course this can happen, although not usually after a weekend spiritual retreat. The dictionary defines transformation as a dramatic change in form or appearance. In animals, transformation becomes a metamorphosis – a true change in form during that creature’s life cycle. In physics the word denotes an induced or spontaneous change of one element to another by a nuclear process. As a naturalist and ethologist it seems to me that humans may not really know what the word transformation really means. Doesn’t transformation include both mind and body? Perhaps we need to turn to nature to find out! One point becomes abundantly clear. Transformation is fraught with danger and only some creatures (and humans?) are able to survive the shift. What follows is a story of transformation that moved me to tears.
When the extraordinary creature emerged from a split translucent capsule I could hardly believe my eyes. Although I have witnessed butterfly transformation many times over the course of my life none have moved me like this butterfly birth did.
Small, perfect, magnificent! The creature lay in Mark’s hand, unmoving. Stunned or dead—we couldn’t tell. Some birds recover from impact with our sliding glass door and some do not. This was a hard hit—I could hear it from another room—and as I gazed at the beauty of this bird—a blue-winged warbler Mark said, I felt pretty sure the Goddess would call home it soon.
As I write this, fall equinox—Mabon to some of us—is two days away. Already here in Maine the days are noticeably shorter. The dark times are upon us now. Daylight will diminish minute by minute until winter solstice when the sun will grace us with nine whole hours of light before the Wheel of the Year turns and the days begin to lengthen, almost imperceptibly. The anniversary of my first husband’s death is a few days after equinox so this is always a hard time of year for me as I face into the darkness and the inevitably of death.
The heat wave was real. Suzie squinted into the afternoon light glinting off her pink ’69 VW. How was that still running, she thought, rebuilt and rebuilt? Work?
That’s how. And that’s how she’d keep running. Work. You just had to not freak out. You just had to not over heat.
But it was 125 degrees in Bakersfield. And she, like everyone else, had no air conditioning. And it wasn’t supposed to get better—it was supposed to get worse. She got in her VW and drove with the windows down—no AC– but a breeze was better than nothing. She pulled into the parking lot and waited for a spot to open up. She turned off her car to wait. Ten minutes but it was worth it. Six p.m. – it was a good time to have come. She walked out and got into the cart area.
Barely inside the supermarket she stood and let the air wash over her—air conditioning. Conditioning the air. The security guard asked if she was a buyer or a browser. Browsers could be in the front area with the carts, as long as there was room. Buyers could enter and walk up and down, and down and up—the breeze lifting the sweat from their skin.
On July 4 countless people in the United States celebrated Independence Day and many enjoyed a long leisurely Independence Day weekend. While there’s nothing wrong with celebrating freedom and all that is good in your country, I’ve become increasingly nervous about any form of unchecked, uncritical nationalism. Lately in global politics there’s been a resurgence of nationalism, populism, and isolationism of the ugliest kind. The kind that says, “Our own people first,” and “We need to build a wall,” and “Let’s drive out the immigrants,” and “Let’s start a trade war with China.” In Europe this sort of nationalism manifests itself in political movements like Brexit and in right wing populist parties like Front National in France.
To counter these divisive trends, I believe we need a new global holiday and a global Declaration of INTER-dependence. Our stark reality is that we inhabit an increasingly densely populated and fragile planet with finite resources. All human and non-human life on the planet is facing the specter of climate change and other environmental factors that threaten the fabric of our very existence. We live in an increasingly interdependent global economy. If China crashes, we will all feel the repercussions. Russian interference tipped the 2016 US election. A war in Syria and wars and grinding poverty in Africa have flooded Europe with refugees, which, in part, gave rise to this right wing, populist, anti-immigration push back. But if people in the developing world continue to suffer the worst ravages of climate change and the resulting famine, war, and poverty, our global refugee crisis is only going to escalate. Continue reading “Declaration of INTER-Dependence by Mary Sharratt”
Whether the Presidential Decree will result in protection on the ground remains to be seen, but it is an important step in the right direction. The Presidential Decree was issued after years of negotiations initiated by the European Commission to compel the Greek government to comply with the law. A Complaint to the European Commission regarding failure to protect the Natura wetlands of Lesbos on which I was the first author formed part of the basis of these negotiations.
Almost as soon as I became a birdwatcher in 1999, I began to notice the degradation of bird habitats by dumping, drainage, and building, especially in wetland areas. Wetlands are seasonal bodies of water created by winter rains that dry out in the summer heat. Generally, they are shallow, which means that they are a perfect stopping over place for migrating birds. The most common visitors to wetlands are wading birds that stand in shallow pools and puddles without immersing their bodies in the water. Lesbos, the island where I began to watch birds, has some of the most important wetlands in Europe, visited by birds migrating from Africa to Europe in the spring for rest and feeding. Because of this, Lesbos is also a destination for birdwatchers.
Wetlands are not only important for birds. In rainy periods they act as a sponge between rivers and the sea and dry land, absorbing water that otherwise could cause flooding. The devastating flood damage to New Orleans in recent years is the result of building on wetlands. Similar damage occurs regularly wherever wetlands are drained, including on the island of Lesbos.
In 2001, I wrote a petition that was signed by over 600 birdwatchers and others urging the Greek government to protect the wetlands of Lesbos. I presented it at an open meeting in May 2001 organized by the Mayor of Kalloni, Lesbos, Aris Eleftheriou, to explain the plan to protect the wetlands of Kalloni which had been funded by the European Union. Instead of being congratulated for his work and vision, the mayor was met by an angry mob. Many of the Natura wetlands are privately owned fields traditionally used for grazing sheep and goats. As local economies were transitioning to tourism, landowners did not want any restrictions placed on their ability to drain and build on their land.
It was in this context that John Bowers, a longtime birdwatcher in Lesbos, an environmental economist, and the first to sign my petition, formed Friends of Green Lesbos, an international internet-based group dedicated to protecting the wetlands of Lesbos that soon counted over 800 members. I became its Vice President. In 2003, Friends of Green Lesbos, in co-operation with Idatinos, a local environmental group, drafted an internet letter and petition, that was automatically sent to the Greek government every time it was signed, asking the Greek government to fulfill its legal responsibility to protect the wetlands of Lesbos. The government responded that it was required to enforce the Natura law even though no specific Greek law had been passed specifying how this was to be done. A committee in the department of building and land development in Lesbos was created and charged with the responsibility of protecting the local wetlands.
We did not understand that this committee would not be monitoring the wetlands on a regular basis, but would only respond to complaints. This was clarified at a meeting organized by World Wildlife Fund in Athens in 2005. I was then put in touch with a new local environmental group, Nautilos en drasi that was also formed to save wetlands. Together with WWF, we began to draft complaints about the degradation of individual wetlands. These complaints, numbering well over fifty, were all decided in our favor. Fines were issued, but there was no mechanism to ensure compliance. Numerous meetings with the Governor of the island resulted in promises that were not kept. We finally realized that he was more interested in currying favor with landowners and developers than in enforcing the law.
In 2008 while lecturing at a conference in Ireland, I met a Green Party member of the European Parliament who encouraged me to write a complaint to the European Commission. After six months of intense effort, I completed a formal complaint of over 100 single-spaced pages, supported by two large files of documents, detailing the government’s failure to protect the wetlands under the Natura law. It was immediately approved by Friends of Green Lesbos and Nautilos en drasi, but it took over two years for World Wildlife Fund and Hellenic Ornithological Society to revise and sign it.
The complaint was submitted to the European Commission in September 2011. After several requests for additional documentation, the Commission found Greece in violation of the Natura law in Lesbos in October 2014. In August 2016 the Commission informed us that it had made our case part of horizontal negotiations with Greece regarding its failure to protect all of its Natura sites. The February 2018 Presidential Decree is the fruit of these negotiations. It is certain that the European Commission will continue to watch the situation in Greece to ensure that the government follows through with the monitoring and protection mandated by the new law.
This has been a long and tiring and often discouraging struggle of nearly two decades and it is still ongoing, but if the end result is the protection of all of the Natura sites in Greece, it will have been well worth it.
Others involved in Natura struggles in Lesbos besides John Bowers and myself include Eleni Galinou, Michael Bakas, Costas Zorbas, and Stellios Kraonakis, and in Athens, Foteini Vrettou, George Chassiotis, and Elias Tzirtzis of World Wildlife Fund Greece, and Malamo Korbeti of Hellenic Ornithological Society.
I love a road trip. It’s exciting to get behind the wheel of a car, get out on the highway (or bi-way), and just go. The road seems to stretch out forever in front of me, full of possibilities, adventure, and fun. Again, this summer I drove two thirds of the way across the United States from Virginia to New Mexico and back again. I varied my route because why not? The country is vast and diverse. I want to see as much of it as I can. The broad, open, colorful skies of Texas and New Mexico. The wheat fields in Kansas. The green, rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. On this particular trip back to Virginia, though, one of the sights disturbed me deeply.
The second day of my journey eastward, I drove from Amarillo, Texas, to Springfield, Missouri. All along the panhandle of Texas and into Oklahoma, I encountered feedlots. These are places where cattle live for several months in order to fatten up before slaughter. The animals are fed grain (mainly corn), growth hormones, and antibiotics. They live in crowded spaces and in the feedlots I saw, the cattle had difficulty walking due to the layers of muck, mire, and manure all over the ground. I could smell a feedlot long before I saw one. The stench nauseated me.
Much of our lives lack the rich culture of ritual that I think would help us repair the relationships we have with our own bodies and with the earth. The Rg Veda is one of the oldest collection of hymns from India. In them, I find a playful and introspective expression of desires and fears that, at first, did not seem to me to hold much wisdom for a modern contemplative. But lately, I have been noticing how the speakers communicate to or about the earth, and how their lives seem centered around trying to take a part in creation. Mostly, these hymns are stories and supplications for rain, cows, victory in battle, and a long life. But there is a deep understanding of the power and divinity in the universe that is the very earth-based wisdom that our humanity-in- crisis needs. If the Qur’an is God calling for humanity to be grateful, the Rg Veda is a model of a humanity that could be nothing else.
I love one incantation, for instance, found in the tenth mandala, that seems to be from a compounding physician, praying to the healing herbs that might make her client well again. I imagine her alone, in a greenhouse pharmacy, on a damp late afternoon, fingering stems and leaves before crushing them with her mortar and pestle to make a bespoke tincture that holds a cure. She knows the plants intimately, and works as if she is on holy ground: Continue reading “Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling”
She studies, and disputes, and teaches,
and thus she serves her Faith;
for how could God, who gave her reason, want her ignorant?
—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Villancico, or, “Carol”, in celebration of St. Catherine of Alexandria (1692)
The reason for this blog, and for writing it on this day, is to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
In 1994, I was exposed, by chance, to the life and writings of 17th century Novohispana feminist Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. I am the product of twelve years of Catholic education, eight years of which were in an all-women setting. Again, by chance, I learned about Sor Juana in a liberation theology class while studying feminist theology at Harvard Divinity School. In this class, I learned about Sor Juana’s bold advocacy of the right of women to be educated. This spurred me to learn more about this Catholic Latina theologian whom I would later discover was the last great author of El Siglo de Oro (Spain’s Golden Age), recognized in her era as an esteemed poet, mathematician, astronomer, and more. This was the beginning of my life-long passion to reclaim the legacy of Sor Juana and her-story within the Christian, non-Christian Western tradition, and in Spanish and Mexican history. Continue reading “Remembering Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Life and Legacy: Champion of Universal, and Non-Human Rights November 12, 1648/51 – April 17, 1695 by Theresa A. Yugar”
There is some very helpful guidance in the Qur’an for how we should and should not treat the earth. In my exploration of Qur’anic verses on the environment, I have found a great deal of Earth-love that I want to share.
The first idea is that the earth is not ours to trash and misuse recklessly or indulgently. Sura 2:284 says, “Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to God.” This sentiment is found throughout the scriptures. Individual wealth and the practice of financial profit and salary as reward has given us the illusion that, if we’ve earned the cash, we can do with it whatever we like. We can buy anything we want, show it off, hoard it, and then trash it. How often do we quell our suffering or attachments through consumerism as if there were no consequences? But we need to begin to shift to the perspective of honoring the earth as not something we are entitled to or even deserve. If we are supposed to be stewards of the earth, then fine. But it seems that selfishness and personal gain have distracted us, making us neglect our duty. The idea that the earth is a bestowed gift is embedded into the Qur’anic “golden rule”: “You who believe, give charitably from the good things you have acquired and that We have produced for you from the earth. Do not seek to give bad things that you yourself would only accept with your eyes closed” (2:267). Yes, we work the land to produce food, but not everything is within our jurisdiction. Continue reading “Earth-Spirituality in the Qur’an and Green Muslims by Elisabeth Schilling”
At the time of climate change and crises of capitalism we need to drop our sense of entitlement to comfortable life or even to life at all. Nature will not spare us just because we are humans. When the meltdown of economic and environmental systems occurs, we are all going down: humans and non-humans, women and men, spiritual or not. We have almost run out of time.
Victor Pelevin, my favourite contemporary Russian author, has a novel called “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf“. I love it in part because, like Kill Bill, it is a rare creation by a male author, which manages to capture the female warrior spirit.
It starts with the main character, a Chinese Buddhist Were Fox who lives in present-day Moscow, consoling herself: “What else (or What the fuck) did you expect from life, A Huli?” A Huli is her name, supposedly meaning Fox A in Chinese. It is also a swear phrase in Russian, meaning “What the fuck?”
I am a student of the Northern European/Old Icelandic worldview known as Seidr. What I find particularly fascinating in my studies are not the deities but rather the creatures living on the World Tree, along with the Primordial Giants who predated the gods. One such creature is Níðhöggr, the “Derision Striker.” Níðhöggr is a great dragon who lives at the base of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. She gnaws on the roots of the tree, stimulating new growth. Her home stretches from icy Niflheim, near what is called the “Roaring Kettle”, the sacred well of all the rivers of Niflheim, all the way to Dead Man’s Shore in Helheim where she devours the piled corpses.
Níðhöggr embodies the principle of rot, which is that all things must decay to make room for those things that are new. It is Níðhöggr’s job to clean up the mess! She is involved in acts of undoing. She reminds us of the impermanence of life and that eventually, all that is must become undone. It is important to know this so that we can be prepared for unexpected or difficult changes in our lives.
Níðhöggr is there to devour nasty things in one’s self, both physical and emotional. She is there to take away anything that no longer serves us, as long as we are willing to give it to her. She also is there to help anyone working to clean up the environment, especially from our own pollution.
Many fear Nidhogg because of the job she must do but without this part of the life cycle there would be no cycle at all. We make every effort to hide things that are unpleasant. We flush our human waste into our water supply instead of simply giving back to the Earth where we can restore it and use it as nourishment for new life. Menstrual blood is hidden away as if somehow shameful. We hide all that is ugly or that which makes us uncomfortable. And so it is too, with creatures and characters in mythology. Somehow in our dualistic world, the lines between good and bad, negative and positive are clearly drawn. So often those things we suppress, hide and call negative are actually, what save our lives. They are the things in our basic natural spirit that propel us forward into becoming better human beings.
Níðhöggr also serves us as a moral agent, reminding us that our own cruelty, especially harmful acts that undermine another’s sense of self. Bullying behavior is a good example. She reminds us that our actions always have consequences to the energy of the whole, not just our own lives.
Her work is much like that of the vulture, a bird so ugly it is beautiful. I have always thought of vultures as the great recyclers, returning what is lifeless and no longer useful back to the Earth to make ready for new growth.
She is truly all about roots, and keeping them clean. As that, she reminds us that real strength is found in one’s roots.
In her story, at the end of days, Níðhöggr chews through a root and upends the World Tree. Clearly if this were the root upon which all else depended, the mighty tree would fall. Perhaps this would represent our own failure to clean up after ourselves, both in our own lives as well as here in this place we call home, the Earth.
Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of the Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch where she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, Northern European Witchcraft and Druidic Shamanism. She mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.
The bondholders and the international press tend to portray the Greek economic crisis as a morality play in which foolish Greeks borrowed too much and must suffer the consequences to pay back their loans. If Greece were a lazy teenager appearing on Judge Judy, tough love might be the answer.
I believe that we can restore our hope in a world that transcends race by building communities where self-esteem comes from not feeling superior to any group, but from one’s relationship to the land, to the people, to the place, wherever that may be.—bell hooks
In these words from her poignant memoir-reflection-analysis Belonging, bell hooks suggests that rather than creating identity by comparing ourselves to others, whether in the academy, in communities, or in the larger society, we would do better to root our identity in the land.
Hooks “left home” in rural Appalachia in order to pursue “higher” (why do we call it that?) education including a Ph.D. which enabled her to teach at prestigious universities in the urban north. Despite her considerable success as an academic and a black feminist, hooks suffered persistent depression in the cities where she taught. Eventually she diagnosed her dis-ease as a longing for the home she had left behind, specifically as a need to connect with the traditions of her ancestors, the mountains, and the land that had sustained them since the end of slavery. Continue reading “Belonging to the Land by Carol P. Christ”
An artist’s place in society is ambiguous and one not often discussed. Artist’s often have difficulty claiming themselves as ‘artist’ for fear of criticism and rejection both inside and outside the art world and from within. Historically, artists have had their work labeled as narcissistic, sexist, racist, classist, elitist, indulgent, hermetic…and the list goes on.
I have been on the end of some harsh criticism. Comments made by the board of Queensland’s most prestigious art school have stayed with me for over 15 years. “Impressive folio” they said, however, using images of indigenous persons is ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘unacceptable’. They were referring to a series of pieces I had been encouraged to create under the mentorship of a fine, accredited artist Wim De Vos.Continue reading “Social Responsibility of the Artist by Jassy Watson”
Climate change is in the news again due to the devasting storm known as Hurricane Sandy. Scientists, activists, journalists, and politicians are telling us that Sandy is not just another “unpredictable event” brought to us by “Mother Nature.” Will we listen this time?
Hurricane Sandy is a human-made and entirely predictable and sure to be repeated environmental consequence of the use of fossil fuels, especially oil and coal. Burning fossil fuels puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This raises the global temperature in the air, land, and sea. Melting of polar ice caps is a result of the rise in global temperatures. This will cause a 3 foot or more rise in the seas, leading to the permanent flooding of the seacoasts and sea coast constructions, including homes, restaurants and shops, office buildings, and harbors and ports.
The warming of the seas is also producing extreme weather conditions, including high winds and hurricanes, along with colder winters and hotter summers. Extreme weather conditions will lead to regular storm-related flooding of rivers and sea coasts, erosion of hills and mountains in winter, followed by catastrophic fires in summer. Prolonged droughts and unseasonal rains will devastate farms and food production. Wildlife habitats will be destroyed. Places where people live will become too hot, too cold, too wet, and generally unfriendly to life.
With the final day of voting in the US election less than 24 hours away, I feel a deep sadness descending on my soul.
This election will have far-reaching consequences in relation to a number of issues I care deeply about. Among them are health care, social services, a social safety net, a graduated tax structure that taxes the rich and to a lesser extent the middle classes in order to provide services for the poor, equal pay for equal work, a woman’s right to choose, and gay rights. On these issues there is a clear choice between the two candidates for President and the two parties.
Democrats believe that health care is a human right, that social services should be provided for those who need them, that taxes should be paid by those who can afford to do so, that women have a right to equal pay and control of our own bodies, and that gays and lesbians should have all the rights of other citizens. Republicans believe that government does not need to provide or control health care, that social services are largely unnecessary, that it is unfair to tax the rich, that equal pay is not important if women have husbands, that the church and state should be making decisions about women’s bodies, and that homosexuality is a unnatural. There is a clear choice on these issues.
For this reason, I urge all of you who have not voted yet—and those of you who are considering not voting–to vote, no matter how long the lines are, no matter what intimidation you may face, and no matter what discouragement and disappointment you may be feeling.*
“I had known that dumpster diving is subversive….What I hadn’t considered previously is its arguable feminist and biblical precedents.”
The following is a continuation of a two-part blog. Read part I for what prompted me to go dumpster diving, what freeganism is, and what three things surprised me the most about dumpstering beyond the sad and shocking reality of tremendous waste.
My Dumpster Dive Haul
After sorting through several trash bags of edible food in the approximately 10 minutes that we spent at one site in my first ever urban scavenging trip, this is what I ultimately brought home.
(Reminder: As explained in part I, I have intentionally photoshopped out the store’s name and the use-by/best by dates).
“I get that consumers generally prefer to buy produce that looks a certain way, but can the routine act of trashing whole bags of clementines, apples, or tomatoes because of a few imperfections be justified in a world that is full of hungry and malnourished people?”
Renowned climate change activist and author Bill McKibben spoke at our graduation earlier this year. Among the charges he gave to all of us in attendance (i.e., not just the graduates) was for us older folks to be willing to bear more of the possible “costs” of political activism. His reasoning was that being a 20-something with an arrest record was not a particularly good thing for young job-seekers today.
I was inspired. I thought to myself, “I have tenure, I work with colleagues who champion prophetic civil disobedience, and my class privilege would allow me to post bail if arrested.”
When chatting with a graduate that afternoon, I told him that I’d like to make good on something we once discussed in class during a session on the ethics of consumption—I’d like to go dumpster diving with him.
Mind you, I don’t fit the stereotypical urban scavenger profile (although middle class dumpster diving is on the rise). I grew up in a gated community, once brought my portable curling iron on a junior high church group camping trip, and today am more bourgeois than Bohemian. So what interest did I have in electively digging through garbage?