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“Forest ecologists hypothesize that mast fruiting is the simple outcome of this energetic equation: make fruit only when you can afford it. That makes sense…. If this were true, each tree would fruit on its own schedule, predictable by the size of its reserves of stored starch. But they don’t. If one tree fruits, they all fruit–there are no soloists. Not one tree in a grove, but the whole grove; not one grove in the forest, but every grove; all across the county and all across the state. The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together. All flourishing is mutual.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, “The Council of Pecans.”

Our anger is righteous. Our sadness is profound. Our joy is necessary. As a growing sea of us honor our emotions in our movements for justice, equity, and liberation, we must keep nourishing ourselves as individuals and as a collective in new and remembered/reclaimed ways so we can grow and thrive together. This requires ways of being and doing that are rooted in mutual liberatory practice.

This turning of season brings our awareness (back) to the wisdom of nature in understanding liberatory practice. It also provides nourishment, grounding, spiritual sustenance for the work that lies ahead. 

As some trees shed their leaves, summer crops return to compost, and some animals set out for winter travel, we humans wonder what this new season will bring us. Many will be returning inside, or continuing to stay inside as this year would have it, to prepare for hibernation. We might be asking… How might we be together, yet alone? How might we continue to grow a powerful sea of people organizing in defense and celebration of Black lives? How might the collective join together to spark transformative change from this election? How might we continue to rise up together so that we never return to what and how we were before?

These times are calling us to find (or remember) different ways of listening, sharing, and communicating—to transform how we be and how we perceive in relationship to the experiences of community, closeness, and radical change toward love, dignity, and justice. 

Many of us at Change Elemental have been using our artistic and inner work practices to tap into connection, the collective, and change. Our understandings of connection with ourselves, with family and community (past and present, future and imagined), and among the many living things with whom we share this world can all be transformed by listening at new depths.

What if trees have values? What would they be?
        In the singular and in the many
        In stretches of maples or elm or pecan trees
        And where many species grow together.
Trees that grow away from one another, both to get light they need and to make space for others.
       Different shapes, needs, rates of growth.
       Different and in relationship. 
What might we learn?
What might we ask?
What is the Bill of Responsibilities we might create? 
       How might we live them now?
 – Natasha Winegar 

These practices got a few more of us curious about what it would mean to really listen to other life forms to support how we are moving through the now. What is the being and doing of the natural world during radical transformation, during complexity and chaos? What values and ways of being together weave ecosystems over time and place? And then what becomes necessary to live these values, to feel into transformation together as we envision and prefigure a liberatory world.

“When my kids were in school they had to memorize the Bill of Rights, but I would venture to guess that maple seedlings would be schooled instead in a Bill of Responsibilities…If good citizens agree to uphold the laws of the nation, then I choose natural law, the law of reciprocity, of regeneration, of mutual flourishing. ”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, “Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide.”

What would a Bill of Responsibilities look like in this moment as we rise up in defense and celebration of Black lives amidst a pandemic and rising authoritarianism? What liberatory practices might it include? How can we live them now?

Here are a few resources that inspired some of these reflections and discussions:

  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs, on Sharon Bridgforth’s podcast Who Yo People Is, who shares she “is carrying on bloodline traditions of listening to whales. She says, ‘one foot in the water one foot in the sand is where I hear the best.’”
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer offers many questions and teachings like those quoted above.
  • Learning With and From the Plants During COVID-19 with healers Kifu Faruq and Agua Dulce from Move to End Violence is a recorded webinar that offers many paths of connecting with nature and with source.

Imagine yourself connected to all living beings, through tiny networks both visible and invisible—the planetary mycelium. We are distant and we are close, and we are also open to new ways of being and doing. We are nourishing each other. We are thriving. We are liberated. This new season is an invitation to listen deeply to what we haven’t before (or have forgotten to) and keep creating anew.

P.S. For more arts and inner work supports for these times, see here. Please share below what has brought you joy and inspired new ways of being and doing now. 

Banner Photo Credit: Josephine Chu

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