image : ‘Forest Spirit’, Rob Purday
image : ‘Forest Spirit’, Rob Purday
This is a brilliant and important talk, from both Tessa Lena and Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape). As one of the world’s most prominent scholars of the Doctrine of Discovery and Manifest Destiny, Steven’s insight and knowledge is especially valuable to the entire process of decolonisation and cultural healing in all parts of the world where western dominance has brought subjugation to its lands and people. He is able to get right under the skin of the root problem, expose the linguistic drivers that perpetuate its doctrines and brings a depth of perception that was never the more important to our well being than right now.
He is the author of a best-selling book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008), and is a co-producer of the documentary film, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” directed and produced by Sheldon Wolfchild (Dakota), with narration by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree).
There is hope in care
There is hope in
The discarded things
This is your Earth
This is what you have
To learn and to care for
Wake up one thing
your creative power
To the discarded
This is your Earth
“…the harvest is plentiful
The harvesters are few….”
In respect and honour of a beautiful soul,
We landed excitedly in Alaska in early February with an internship lined up, a few hundred bucks, and colorful plethora of wildly misconceived notions : it is a giant ice cube where polar bears run amuck, grizzlies attack at the slightest provocation, and every man, woman and child hunts moose for their dinner. Of these misconceptions most have been broken as definitely untrue, usually accompanied by a cringe of embarrassment.
In short order we acquired a truck and then a dog, which seemed to be required by law, and moved into a shoddily built dry cabin on six acres, not a neighbor in sight, down a gravel road in the bog. “Dry” cabin does not mean there’s no liquor, quite the contrary, because once you start to live in a cabin with no running water in Alaska, you suddenly really want hard liquor. Dry means there’s no plumbing, and there’s quite a few of these cabins in the frozen north; it’s often easier than putting up with freezing pipes all winter. We deemed it the Bogland Estates, or Chateau de Bog.
Initially, I was thrilled. The exquisite freedom of six acres! So little rent on this bogland with no plumbing! I don’t need running water, showers are for wimps! Early spring months passed by in a rosy glow, buffered from reality by our exuberance, anticipating the snowmelt and longer days. Trips to the frozen outhouse required mental preparation, gently coaxing myself, “Okay, it’s time. You can do this. Walk over there. It’s not that gross” (it undeniably was). I’m not ashamed to admit I peed in buckets to avoid moose encounters in the middle of the freezing night.
Spring nights were spent staring intently into the fire stove. I started dreaming about bears, as though my subconscious was trying to connect with the spirit of Bear, and because that which you fear has a way of finagling itself into your dreams. Mini earthquakes rattled the flimsy frame of the cabin for a terrifying few minutes every now and then.
We found ourselves quintessential Alaskan gigs for the summer: him on a fishing boat bound for Bristol Bay, me at a bear viewing bush flight company. He left for the sockeye salmon season just as the sun started to linger longer in the sky.
I turned to the water, tracking my days in the movements of tides thrumming in and out of the bay; the cycles were a sureness, a consolation, something to hold onto. A moose and her two calves began to visit my front yard every morning and evening like clockwork, ambling along their own paths, often emerging unexpectedly from behind the outhouse, stopping in their tracks to eye me as I eyed them; a strange daily communication.
Months of living alone in a dry cabin will turn you a little feral. I realized this with certainty when the bear guides suggested that I shower. Hauling water, bathing in buckets, filling the wood stove, WiFi a distant memory; survival chores take up the bulk of the day. It is essentially camping with the slightest veneer of a home.
Why on Earth would anyone do this?
It’s like hitting a reset button.
In that unwashed state, I felt glimmers of the reason that propelled me here in the first place, driven by some inner force, some inner knowing that in placing your body in a wild environment, some alchemy of spirit can happen.
Living simply, immersed in the dirty off grid, I was able to release myself into wildness. Becoming an observer of nature, letting the changing of the seasons wash over me, really feeling the building of every lunar cycle, the waxing and waning across the sky over the mountains. It’s slower and more subtle than we usually perceive, but always there for us to feel.
Midnight sun began roaring in earnest above, building in an intense crescendo towards the solstice, making my nerves and metabolism go into frenzied overdrive. A creative exuberance pulsed through my veins; the joy of an Alaskan summer in full swing, so gorgeous it seems to shimmer and shake and glitter.
The water called me to it every day, drawn to the liquid immensity underneath me. The scent of algal blooms, kelp, and sea rot became the sweetest intoxicants to inhale. In the bay, I could breathe in and out with the environment, feeling the intimacy and connection with the salty water. I could notice the exchange of gases between my inner worlds and outer atmosphere, my skin feeling more and more like a porous interface, aided by an awareness that we are made of water and elements recycled from the stars.
Otters and seals in the water tracked my movements; I could feel their awareness on me. Water birds dove and skimmed. Bull kelp grew large and bobbed to the surface in alien looking blobs, their long roots tethered to the sea floor like an underwater forest, otters slumbering coiled in the fronds. Salmon from the open ocean returned to their spawning grounds in a mass frenzy of movement into the streams and tributaries of the bay. Orca hunted the seal, seal hunted salmon.
As the light began to shorten again, the animals responded. Salmon skeletons began to wash ashore; their decaying remnants fed the ocean. Bears prepared for hibernation and migratory birds attuned to the Earth’s electromagnetic fields to lead them south for winter, guided by a magnet in their brains.
Having nothing but the bare necessities: shelter, food, water, space, allows you to open the curtain behind the veneer of civilization to reveal a natural world so complex it blows your mind: the goosetongue grass that feeds the bears fertilizes the humus and michiorzhial fungi web of the forest floor that in turn grows the spruce trees and blueberry bushes that shelter and feed the bears again. The cycle repeats everywhere.
This indivisibility with nature, it slowly falls over your body. In the ever-present awareness of large creatures around you, you feel yourself to be woven into the web of life — human, not superior. We hunt moose and dipnet salmon in order to stock our freezers, participating in the universal preparation for winter, just like the other creatures. It casts in stark relief how much we rely on and need our environment and our animals to be healthy.
We humans think, ponder, reason, extract, build, create masterfully, but who is to say a tiny songbird completing its 1,000 mile journey across the Atlantic using magnetic poles as its guide has accomplished a feat any less epic? Or a family of whales navigating their blue world using sonar to ride ocean currents from one hemisphere to another? Or the cultural knowledge bears have of their ancestral lands, passed down through generations?
To learn and witness these myriad adaptabilities and ways of existing in the environment, whether underwater or skybound, is to know there is a force of creation. The biodiversity of creatures we live amongst is a tangible reminder of this: endless forms, most beautiful. I began to feel that in conserving our animals, honoring the sacred ecology of wild creatures, we would be conserving our humanity.
I began to see our skin as an interface holding something encased. This something, You, the endless god knows of you, in a thin cell, sharing the world with other conscious beings. Whether its a bear smelling prey miles away, or a migratory bird seeing Earth’s magnetic field, or a newborn whale learning to sing, or deaf and blind human building up a rich tactile awareness with which to experience and communicate. Life, in all forms, has a Oneness, an undeniable divine interconnectedness. This awareness toppled me from the supposed top of the food chain down into the grit and muck, and in that muck I found an intimacy, like returning home.
This could happen anywhere. There is equally unruly wildness in a patch of grass between highway medians in Newark, but by the very fact of its vastness and its creatures it seems to happen a little easier in Alaska. I still won’t feel resourceful until I’ve fished and hunted for my sustenance, and I’ve unequivocally determined that running water is the bomb, but for now I can still feel it working its strange, slow magic on me, an alchemical change, a cosmic homecoming, and I know I won’t ever be the same.
This piece was originally published at Medium under the title ‘A Cosmic Homecoming’ and is reproduced here with kind permission of the author, Jennifer Tarnacki
I found fresh tracks today
and felt the shy beautiful eyes
of their maker, watching
as I made offerings
to the water spirits
beneath the old oak
by the brook
of fresh snow
that had fallen
in the shimmering
silence of the night
top image : Warlock by Neil Burnell
Beautiful and rich, these films and article reintroduce the inner world of mapping, inhabited by memory, living spirit and the stories of who we are….
“The Zuni maps are, first and foremost, for the Zuni people. But they hold a powerful message for a non-Zuni audience as well: we are all part of a greater process. We would not be here if the sun did not rise every morning, if the rivers stopped flowing. The maps are in many ways an invitation: How would you map the places that live in your memory? What are the voices of the land that are forgotten, unheard? To ensure the resilience and well-being of the places where we live, we cannot assume that land is simply ours for the taking, a means to our own ends. The Zuni maps remind all of us that we, too, must take the time to deeply listen, to hear and share stories in which we and the land have equal voice.”
Follow this link for the full article and films >>>
From where the wild hive dreams,
and, up here, on the high path
where the deer tread quietly
A river of quartz runs through the land,
powerful and melodious,
a honey laden song line.
I am not alone, here
on the wind,
among whispering pines
While, in the marsh below,
two Herons dance, silently
circling, swooping, lifting
Wide stretched wings,
one, a flight feather,
A cock crows in the distance
Beneath the roots of the tall pines,
The Three Sisters,
As I have come to know them,
The wild hive is silent,
save the soft vibration
of dreaming bees
And, from the deer path
that rises through old oak stands,
where the spirits of the forest can be felt
The lake glints through dark trees,
Holly leaves bristling
with rising Sunlight.
It is beautiful.
in the dappled thicket,
An unexpected blessing, shines
in the black pearl
of the Wren’s eye
During the summer ‘lockdown’ of 2020 UK artist Rowan Jacqueline began taking her camera and a unique approach to choreography out onto the borderlands of land and ocean in response to our times and how they relate to the expression of grief…..
……A Peculiar Shade Of Blue brings ‘Slow Cinema’, ‘Earth Based Dance Theatre’ and a contemporary approach to exploring human experience within time and place together to create a unique series of films that capture the essence of this exploration.
The film work so far completed has already seen significant interest shown from some major contemporary recording artists who could provide the soundtrack for the films, but Rowan needs your support to see this realised and the project completed.
She has launched a crowdfunder to help make this happen and this offers the rare opportunity to supporters to become involved in the project’s realisation, both creatively and beyond.
Check out the crowdfunder here and get involved – its a beautiful project and, no matter how small or large, every contribution matters….
A powerful film.
Healing and reconciliation.
In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”
(Now), four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.
“ShadowGate” put Millie Weaver in jail, for revealling too much truth….