2021 Meeting the Moment #3

All our days and nights are made of moments, tiny consequential invitations, quests, conspicuous and ephemeral all at once. Moments to propel us forward, hold us still, enable us to sway or even go backwards. How auspicious these moments are in our lives seems to be dependent on the value we give to them in our noticing. Perhaps they of such high value we see them coming or so ordinary and familiar they pass and we don’t even blink. At the threshold in the nano second between each moment we rarely have the luxury to hold onto the time to still it completely but the breath in and the breath out can always serve as a reminder of this crossing over from one moment to the next.

Moving at a different pace gives us a glimmer of a chance to experience these thresholds in preparation for each moment. Changing pace reminds me of how sound works and what we can learn from a tuning fork. Consider placing a metaphorical tuning fork to moments. Each moment would resonate, calibrate and send the waves and disturbed molecules before they settled and have clarity arrive. A tuning fork has two tones, one for each of its prongs (tines). These two tones are the fundamental and the harmonic, maybe another version of breathing in and out. Longer tines are deeper in sound because they vibrate more slowly and shorter ones higher because they move faster. And they have actually been made in quartz and used in fancy watches in the 0th century. I didn’t realise quartz precision in advertising was referring to miniature tuning forks to deliver the highest and more precise way of keeping time than previously used mechanical pieces.

As the year opens and inevitable questions about what is being planned for the year ahead and what are you taking in from 2020 or leaving behind from 2020 and what do you want to learn has been central this past week with reflecting conversations, in formal and informal settings with peers, friends, colleagues and sojourners. Listening in there are consistent themes of resilience, improvisation, creativity, surviving and thriving, loss and grief. 2020 started in my part of the world gripped in a drought, engulfed then by bushfires and then constrained by COVID19. Adaptation became visible as we adjusted to each new and changing condition, a reminder of just what kind of species we are, one that can adjust, and harmonise the discrepancies and differences we see around us and bring them together so we can work with what we have got or create something to fit the new.

Systems unable to adjust and their vulnerabilities in these conditions, cracks became more visible and adaptation more difficult for the masses and their systems. And we can see this in governments unable to protect its most vulnerable, communities that rally around each other to fill gaps left or never created by public institutions, consistent acts of kindness and organised volunteering from individuals and not for profits. Moments being met by compassion. Moments being met by fear. Moments being met by acceptance. Time and sound meeting together with the clarity of a bell. A chime for us to meet the moment as we hear the call to stillness, or perhaps it is a call to meditation or prayer. I love to hear the sound of the city clock or the angelus bells or a call to prayer when I am in places where they are in the soundscape. The morning song is as equal to these sounds. We are in a receipt of continuous invitations to meet the moment with three movements: stillness, calibration and clarity. Stay tuned.

Morning Moment

The quartz moves with precision

As the breath moves in and out.

Warbling magpie

sharing the sky with the mournful black crow

Create a seductive binary choice soundscape.

Joy to welcome the day

Invitation to grieve

And with some rain,

bringing counterpoint,

Galahs calibrate and

celebrate dancing on overhead wires.

2021: Meeting the Moment #2

In this historic week when the democratic institution of the USA was threatened with sedition and acts of treason were in full view to the world, those of us following along at home in countries with our own challenges took a deep breath and recognised the frailities in our systems. Australia is a country colonised and founded on ideas of white supremacy, where the White Australia policy thrived and underwrote migration and labour practices that were not dismantled until the 1970s and remnants are still visible in our constitution. We have plenty of our own kind of Village People marching in the streets, storming the barricades, it feels like only yesterday national media figures were calling for on the mob to ‘ditch the witch’ and naming the elected Prime Minister “Juliar”. The under belly of whipping up a mob is only a breathe away and we all saw what it can lead to – may the images in a foreign land be a reminder to us all. During our own Black Lives Matter rallies in the midst of COVID19 more Australians knew the name Geogre Floyd than any of the 432 Aboriginal Australians who died in custody between 1991 and 2020.

We have our moment to meet in Australia. There are still treaties to be made, constitutional recognition to be fulfilled, land rights to be granted, reparation and restitution to be completed. One of the things that struck me in Washington was how white privilege turned up, I even saw some doors being held open by law enforcement officers to the home grown terrorists. I am not sure we are any different, just a little more sophisticated. Many doors are closed to racial justice. Some slammed tight and will need prying open. This is the moment.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart invites all of us to listen and there are voices to be heard. Thomas Major has documented 21 of these voices who contributed to the Statement as part of his custodianship of carrying the statement on the journey towards voice, treaty and truth. Vignettes of the stories can be found on the book’s twitter feed if you can’t get a copy of the book Finding the Heart of the Nation. One of the ways to meet this moment is to to respond to voice by listening, treaty by supporting the Statement and truth telling by turning towards our history and learning more. The Statement is asking for three things: constitutional change to enshrine an empowered First Nations voice; legislative change to establish a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments and thirdly this Commission to oversee a process of truth-telling about Australia and colonisation. A Markarrata is a process of restoration, peace-making after a dispute. It is a Yolgunu word with many layers of meaning. A Makarrata meets the moment. Our political leaders failed to meet the moment of Uluru Statement being delivered and there have been countless failures of not following instructions all the way back to Arthur Phillip who failed to act on his orders from King George III to make a settlement. Ironically the last King for what is now USA was also King George III and we are not yet a Republic.

The First Nations Constitutional Recognition to Parliament Interim Report was co-chaired by Labor Western Australian Senator Patrick Dodson and Liberal member for Berowa Julian Lesser and this (also see below) is how Senator Dodson met the moment of the news that the government have instructed their advisory bodies not to engage with recommendations from considering a First Nations voice to parliament.

So now we arrive at this moment, a couple of weeks away from Australia Day/ Invasion Day, a day where we can reflect on how we, non-indigenous, come to be here, how we live listening to the call for voice, treaty, truth. What is being called out in you to meet the moment?

T-shirt by Sparkke I have been wearing lately.

2021: Meeting the Moment

This year’s blog will be all about meeting the moment.

Everyday moments provide extraordinary insights, opportunities and challenges. The grapes ripen on the vine as the sun turns water into wine. The path becomes smoother the more often you walk it and if you take your eyes to the horizon as you walk the future comes focus.

As 2021 begins, our species is looking towards vaccinations, our planet is holding its breath as we reshape and some resist what She is beckoning for – a much lighter touch to our shared living arrangements. Shimmering in the skies, the full moon appeared a few days ago and rose high into the night closing out the year. A year, for many where there has been a deep desire to let go of everything that has been hard or hasn’t quite unfolded as they might have hoped. These past few days as the new year arrives we know seeds sown in the metaphoric times of a new moon will now come into harvest. 2021 may well bring a harvest from the introspection from quarantine, slowing and fasting from systems that were already withering away. We will be meeting moments in the year ahead from seeds sown long ago. How ready we are to meet the moments?

The losses of 2020 have come with silver linings. The origin of this idea of silver linings comes from the 17th century from a poem by John Milton. He wrote the poem for Michaelmas Day, a time of the year in his part of the world, when dark nights and cooler days begin. Where the season calls for some preparation to retreat and to say farewell before a new cycle would begin. In my part of the world Michaelmas Day is when the days get longer and there is the hint of warmth on the breeze forecasting a summer arriving in a few months. A lining is an inner layer and a wonderful invitation for these times. To look under the covers, to find something that matches the garment, yet cut from a different cloth, to help the outer garment fall well, it also reduces the wearing strain of the garment and helps it last longer – so surely a silver lining might be an even more precious contribution to holding us altogether in these times too.

Ironically, John Milton’s silver lining phrase, was written in a form of theatre known as a masque, and indeed masks were worn in these ephemeral productions. Surely a prophecy as we meet this moment.

In order to meet the moments, we will need to be ready and 2020 has been in many ways a time to get ready, a time to notice what we have and what we value most. A hug has become precious, the fragility of democracy has been tested and fascist playbooks have been dusted off shelves. We meet the moment at the dawn of 2021 in the full knowledge that invisible rogue cells can close a border, end a life, decimate a regional economy, pull families apart.

Meeting the moment by feeling the silkiness of a silver lining and coming to recognising it as adding protection, warmth, comfort and style to our outer-selves, might serve us very well as we start the year. In meeting the moment we will be fulfilling the promises of those who have left legacies and succession plans for us to step up and take our part. We will be accepting invitations and our inheritance to pathways for just settlements. In my country I expect this to be a public discourse for treaties, for a national conversation about what it means to broker climate justice and I also predict there will be moments as a nation we will have to meet with our neighbours in the region and have a heart-to-heart that goes beyond crayfish and coal.

Inner and Outer layers: Pre-COVID19 somewhere in Portugal on the way to Santiago de Compostela – getting ready to be ready as David Whyte says.

Year of activism #51

This is the last blog post for this year of activism and typically by now I have started to discern what the next year’s blog theme will be … and I can feel something emerging …but not yet arrived. To enable something to emerge requires some things to fall away and others to become more clear as fog lifts, or clouds part. The word comes from Latin meaning become known, come to light. The idea of something coming to light holds an interesting movement – the light already being and a hint that the light might be stationary, and the coming a travelling towards what is already there but only visible when the movement of going forward to burn off ignorance or spark the new insight. The whole process may often be quite painful, it can equally be liberating as if a load has been lifted, either way once you come into the light there is a shift of arriving at a new threshold. For the activist this brings an invitation to be tested and practiced in the glow of a new vantage point.

A leading activist is often in the role of mid-wife helping to bring out of the dark what was emerging into the light something new, something challenging, something that will support the system taking its next steps. Once the midwifery is done, this kind of activist may well be no longer needed and the work naturally transfers to others to make the laws, codify behaviours, institute processes and mechanisms to keep necessary evolution flowing. You have come to a place where you are no longer needed, and the hard prophetic walk of making a path is ready for others tread and make strong. Just as ideas begin on virgin synapses so the trajectory towards justice needs to be thought more than once and consolidated by action, reflection and more action and more reflection.

Contemplation and action, the practice of being still and still moving, is central to the life of an activist and the season that arrives at the end of each year, spilling over into a new year is a gift. It is the integration of both contemplation and action that matters. The practice is the integration and to recognize when the pendulum has swung too much one way and to correct that so the emergent can keep emerging. When you notice you are staying in one place more than the other, it is quite likely your ego is inviting you to get into check – too much navel gazing, too much action – both states are not good for you. I am often intrigued how introverts and extroverts name themselves as reflectors or actors – but this is a cop out. Introverts who hide behind reflection and extroverts who hide as busy prophets – both need to get their egos out of the way. Both states are ringing warning bells and if you notice these in your activism, be compassionate to yourself and then make a corrective tilt towards integration.

I am going to be reflecting over the next few days how to keep my pendulum swinging in even time, because there are always bursts of activism and reflection, constantly integrating and finding their way inside of me to stillness and movement. Acts of compassion rising from reflection start with each of us and together all those acts birth movements towards justice when they are grounded in a critical and structural assessment of causes, blocks and barriers. And then in the next cycle of reflection those same acts, causes, blocks and barriers are evaluated to help the path to justice become more visible. I find in the fields I am often working, there is an over emphasis on the evaluation component and not enough on the assessment. I notice this in particular, when the practitioners are professionals and not grassroots activists or coming from lived experience. Helping to correct this imbalance, I know has been a feature of my practice and one that will trip me up from time to time. When I want to stay a little longer, it is usually my ego getting in the way. As this year ends I will be relinquishing some roles and responsibilities, taking up others and finding myself looking to horizons which I can’t quite clearly see and while there is some discomfort, it is a reminder of the calibration of integration, a never ending process of renewal.

Thank you for reading and travelling with me in this year’s blog and I wonder what will emerge before the new year begins?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Silver Sands, April 2020 – Remains of the Day

Year of activism #50

The season of love and light is upon us and with it capitalism is rampant with its images and drive around consumption, lost amidst the jungle of jingling bells and northern hemisphere images of snow and sleighs, you might find the odd candle, star or nativity scene. I have always loved the season of advent from the Christian tradition which are where my roots are, for me it is taken on the idea of adventure, waiting, getting ready to enter into a journey that begins with a twinkle in the sky and inevitably leads to being called to go beyond yourself. It is a journey of embodiment, not a sickly sweet or sentimental act of sacrifice, but one where you bring yourself wholehearted to the table.

The symbolism of the Christian nativity is instruction to all activists, regardless of roots – it has it all. The first direction is to go native, to come into the world you are imaging as a child, receiving and soaking up all the story around you, in the company of all creatures, noticing the strangers arriving with gifts that don’t really make sense for what is needed, being comfortable to ask for what you need and it may even be a roof over your head for something new emerging inside of you. You join the world as a full participant and don’t watch from the sidelines. The second direction in the story for me is to be, not do. Receive all that comes your way, soak up the joy of arriving, notice adoration, notice how others might now be able to have a break from pushing and welcome your arrival. Pay attention who else is arriving and who is already there and what roles they are playing. The third direction is to look up. See the star that has guided those before you and those coming in after you to this place. What is the star made of and who else is following it? What mesmerising powers does it seem to hold and what is the counter-intelligence squad plotting because of that same star?

This story is embedded in mine. It is fundamental to my activism, and while it may not be your story, or your tradition, it has been a source for many activists to take up the mantle of the little one born in a manger to parents who had to make their way in an occupied territory to be counted. When we show up as activists, we too are arriving because others have journeyed to justice to be counted among the ones who want to birth something new.

I am always encouraged that in my tradition the instruction manual arrived in the form of a baby. When the work gets complicated or even chaotic, I call myself back to the idea of arriving as a child and try to tap into the wonder and awe in what I have arrived into and trust that if I can bring my inner child to the situation I might be able to scoop up some new insight, energy or get a glimpse of a promise or gift arriving from some wise person dressed exotically and perhaps not even speaking my language. It helps me keep a look out for the unexpected and to be open to possibilities.

The solstice is near and so look up to see Saturn and Jupiter form their own version of the Christmas Star, it was in Galileo’s time that these were so close. It will be another 800 years before it comes around again. That feels like an invitation to look up in wonder and awe. The calendar year is nearly over and with it this year’s theme of writing will come to an end too. As well as looking up, I am looking into the manger and wondering what is being birthed in me for the year ahead and as I take time for that adventure to be made visible to me. I trust that in the dark the skies will come to life and show me a star to guide me.

Year of activism #49

In the spaces between being awake and being asleep, fully present and day dreaming, fully rested and alert, there are tiny insights to catch like butterflies in a net. I have written about this before and I find the season at the end of the calendar year a time where there is a lot of these spaces. Some people are turning off and tuning out and others are gearing up for what might be waiting around the corner – the ongoing pandemic, bushfire preparations, aching of separation of the holiday season. Counting our blessings may be more ritualised this year for some and the losses of the year crippling for others. It is in these spaces, the activists wholeheartedness, intuition and imagination are tapped. Glimpses of transformational possibilities dawn.

A few times over the years in this space I have referred to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember when Waking (here, here, here), and I find it as good an instruction manual for any activist as the Marshall Ganz, Stacey Abrams, Gandhi playbooks on mobilising and movement building. This poem is about visibility and invisibility, what you hold close, what you notice, the outstretched and always accessible invitation to contribute, not ask for permission to be fully yourself to bring all you can muster to any given situation, to receive the invitation as a gift in waiting for others to receive. That gift needs to be carefully chosen, appreciated by you so you can give it away with all the joy and detachment any gift giving genuinely requires for it to be fully received. (A hint for those who are sharing in this season of love and light.)

What requires our immediate attention in these times and then leading with that in our activism is often the way I answer those people who ask me – but what can I do? And then ask yourself – and what invitations are coming my way? What gifts are ready to be given? I am forever grateful to the poets, the songwriters, painters and prophets who find their imaginations translated onto pages, imagines, sounds, as they guide me, energise me, soothe me when I am weary. Forever grateful to all the creatives who have generously unlocked their gifts and then released their art into the wild.

Remembering is the act of joining past and present, to put back into place something that is required to hold what has been for a reckoning with the present, and potentially restitution in the future. It is a central theme for any activist to not go back to when injustices still needed to be righted, and to be inspired by those acts that did right them in the first place. In the areas of activism that I find myself contributing too, the act of remembering and calling on the leaders who made the path is so important. I am reading Obama’s A Promised Land and I am struck how often he recalls the heroes and heroines who have gone before civil right activists, children, family members, legislators, founding fathers and mothers, to call them into the moment when history is being made. This has been a lifetime practice of mine too, not to just make sure I don’t forget who has gone before and made possibilities and potentialities for me and my generation, but to re-member, to bring those witnesses into real time, to savour and celebrate the moment and to take care in the moment. So to follow Whyte’s instruction to remember when waking, is to bring in the dream world, your yet to be fully formed unconscious thoughts, the deepest and darkest messages to your truest self.

What to Remember When Waking

by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press

Sunrise at Sellicks Beach, South Australia – Watawali – Kaurna 10 Dec 2020

Year of activism #48

Visiting Kangaroo Island this week was like opening a portal to possibilities. My purpose was to meet with women entrepreneurs and there are ideas, collaborations, emergent enterprises and the environment calling to eek out regenerative offerings not just to the island but for the whole planet. These women are inside bottle of fizz being shaken up and about to go pop. They recognise they need to organise, unleash their potential, create their own ways of working to support their creativity, families, community, land and sea. They have everything they need – each other. I had an insight into a role I might play stepping into my wisdom, experience, eldership and cheer leading and the huge value this is in that time when the bottle is being shaken, when anticipation is building and before the power of of what has been dissolved in the liquid, then kept under pressure finds it way through the neck of a bottle and the blockage is removed and all the power of that energy is released. I seemed to have played a shaking up role on this occasion and clear disruptive moment, with a few more shakes before moxie shows up fully and the impact these women will have on the world will be visible to everyone.

There is an active agent inside all of us, waiting to be shaken up, or sometimes to be split into the atmosphere, perhaps already released and transformed circulating the in the atmosphere, being poured into glasses and being celebrated. The year is coming to a close and there are lots of moments to meet and greet others face to face or in real time if your circumstances allow it. As the calendar year retreats into memory, integration, maybe even some revisions will take place, editing of a recollection to better fit how the narrative end – when something that happened may now be reframed as a silver lining – I find it is time to consider what might be dissolved or trapped and held under pressure, like the carbon dioxide in the water pre-fizz and pop.

Breathing out is the exhale, the release of carbon dioxide, the circular economy of breathing. Might the pop waiting in your life to come out, be your contribution to shifting something in the world around you so that with the release comes something to celebrate? I think it is time to treat CO2 with more respect and not terming it a waste product when considering it leaving our body, but as fuel for life, an exchange between inner and outer worlds, an invitation to recreate, regenerate, renew.

Breathing in and breathing out as a lesson is with us each and every day. And if you have ever had a cold, a respiratory condition, or watched someone finding it hard to breathe, you know how precious and fragile this gift is. You also know it is finite and will one day come to an end. As a child I had chronic asthma, hospitalised several times and near death experiences, so grateful for those now to have taught me early in life to value the inhalation and the exhalation in equal measure. As a singer, learning when to take a breath, when to hold on and when to let go I recognise this requires practice, instruction and paying attention. As I cared for a man whose life left him breath by breath for ten years I saw close at hand what happens being hooked up to external sources of oxygen and how you drown without releasing carbon dioxide. I have the credentials to give this advice:

Breathe in

Breathe out

what is held under pressure can be shaken up

once shaken (not stirred)

let the energy find its way through a channel

notice who, what, where, when and why the cork is being removed

be ready to be released

explode into the world showering all around you with all that was into all that is

accept the invitation to be poured into glasses that can hold your essence

Celebrate and be celebrated.

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Year of activism #47

Spring ends in a couple of days and we have already passed records for hottest day in November. The Climate Emergency bells are ringing and even with our planet being a beneficiary of some of the COVID restrictions, the data is in, and the ones listening to the scientists and to ancient wisdom and the ones most alarmed, feeling the urgency …. another COVID response correlation.

Wearing a mask is a sign of public health activism, in same way choosing food that is grown locally, unpackaged and has a fair price to farmers attached. Cue the soundtrack We are the World and somehow that anthem takes on renewed meaning – we are the ones saving our own lives. To all the singers and songwriters who help us grow movements for change one from my tradition and culture always stands out – Pete Seeger. He died in 2014 and in 2009 there was quite a campaign to get him nominated for the Nobel Prize, which I thought was quite a good idea at the time. He was the oldest person to ever sing at a US Presidential inauguration. Listening him sing (all the verses of Guthrie’s) This Land is Your Land remains an abiding memory of how we can live together, work together and put the land and the planet at the centre of our decision-making for ourselves and the future.

Privileging and understanding the centrality of land for climate response seems crucial to me. SDG #15 Life on Land seems to have it all, and there are so many opportunities to make a contribution: tree planting, soil rehabilitation, land rights, understanding land as mother, food security, benefits of nature, reforestation, regeneration. This is not a stewardship relationship with the land, it is an invitational relationship. We get called each and everyone of us, each and everyday to respond to this invitation. The invitation to bring our best selves, knowledge, skills, curiosity, wonder and awe to what the planet, in fact land and sea, has to offer us. We are being invited to halt, to heal, to discover, to mask, to declare, to celebrate, to mourn. These are times in which at every turn we can make and take a step towards turning the sirens of the climate emergency down a notch.

I am examining, with others as part of SheEO’s Racial Justice Working Group, the place of this SDG in relation to racial justice. The language of colonisation, white supremacy, patriarchy continues to get in the way and one of the first invitations I am trying to accept is around language. Moving from extractive to generative language is quite a discipline. I am looking for new words for stewardship, leaving descriptors like First and Third world, developing, under developed behind. Bringing in the mystical and mythological to frame and bring a big enough canvas to hold the depth of values and meaning that is not possible in the transactional nature of most conversations about land.

As our temperatures start to soar in my part of this pale blue dot and summer rolls across the skies and the sands beneath our feet glare and heat up making it hard to even have the grains between our toes, I know there are fire crews training, meteorologists modelling, animal rescue volunteers stocking up on bandages, farmers checking dams, policy makers reviewing plans. So to all those who have been ringing bells and calling emergency for decades and for all those prepping to be first responders in the summer ahead, and for all those who year in and year out have been reminding us it is is time to act, I give deep thanks to you for being relentless in your acceptance of the invitation and for being the vehicle to transmit the message to those of us who have been so slow to hear it being extended to us. This land was made for you and me.

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash

Year of activism #46

The thunder rolled in and with one mighty crackle sparks, the heavily pregnant clouds released and drowned my little part of the planet for less than the time it takes to bake a cake. You can’t always see the clouds colliding in the dark, but you do hear them walking up to the moment and you experience the pent up energy being set free and falling where ever it falls. The balance of refreshment to the earth and heaviness in the air arrives and a invitation that can’t be postponed, to hydrate. The elemental nature of activism is the same, there are times in movement building that the system like a weather system is going to explode and everyone is touched whether they are involved or not. The meteorological forces bring to bear what must be made visible and felt. I think this is the craft of the mobiliser in activism.

Getting out the vote in the US has been like this, all the individual efforts of people being signed onto the roll, driven to booths, postal workers delivering ballot papers from home to polling stations, volunteers offering hospitality and reporters recording accurately, live streaming technologists enabling real time viewing of counting of ballots – each in their own way making rain. And then there is the deluge and the precious drops fall on everyone, regardless of age, race, where they voted, elected, unelected and then the rain stops, the atmospherics have changed, the forecasters explain what has happened and are replaced by the next shift ready to advise on what is coming up.

The mobilisers pause for some satisfying breaths to drink in the cleansing waters and then get back to work. I have been watching the behaviour of the US President-elect who as he heads into his eighth decade is pacing himself, equipped with the wisdom of many deluges, he is patient and persistent. There seems to be a gentle confidence in the elements knowing they come and they go. This is the practice of the ancients. They know the dark clouds are full of what they have drawn upwards into themselves and when ripe can burst and deliver their load on those below. They know they don’t need to do it all, and there is a transformation when the sky and the land meet. This communion will call forth new shoots and in no time at all, new life will become visible, tiny insects will be scurrying around, beetles, bugs, bees, butterflies; trees will be waking up and the scent of herbs will fill the air. Ancients hang onto the this knowledge, they know how to coax the clouds with a dance or send smoke into the air to hasten the process. Ancients know the clouds will burst and the wait will be worth it.

Taking lessons from the ancients and storms in your activism is as good a place to look as anywhere if you are a mobiliser. Paying attention to what works, what happens next and when to look to the skies for inspiration is a guide for me often and when I lie in bed and hear the rolling thunder, the rain soaking into the ground followed by birds singing and starting to gather threads to weave their nests I know, in the words of the English 14th century mystic anchorite Julian of Norwichall shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

The trick for me is to remember that when I am in darkness, or perhaps I can’t see any clouds and to know that the invisible actions of the mobilisers are working on their part and if I am in their number I need to be working on my contribution however molecular it seems because it does indeed all add up for a mighty storm that is a-comin’ and in its wake is new life.

Photo by Valentin Müller on Unsplash

Year of activism #45

As votes get counted in the USA, the most destructive hurricane in the history of Central America ripped through Honduras, a trilogy of daily typhoons hit Manila drowns the metropolis. We are all connected through these events in our common occupation of this little blue dot. While these things were going on, I was laughing, dancing, enjoying the good company of family and friends, listening to music, poetry and holding space for others to have conversations. I took time to recognise and celebrate the oldest continuous living culture on the planet in NAIDOC Week. This year’s theme Always Was Always Will Be, brought the centrality of the land to all that has past, all that is, all that is to come. More than once across the week I dipped into my own story to recognise my ancestors would have been part of the dispossession and now it is my generation to who the reckoning and restitution falls. The need for treaties continues to loom large in my mind about what is needed. The place of treaties as agreements and truth telling intertwines with our relationships to past, present and future. Time is indefinite, continuous on the move working away and threading and holding events, memories, actions, dreams in the past, present, and future.

How we mark time whether it be by the moon, the clock, the height of tree growing is embedded in activism. So often we are trying to halt the progress, or speed something up or even turn it back as a way to get to the justice required by the moment. The practice of mindfulness brings depth and width to time and the expanse of this world crystalized into tiny never to be repeated moments, cherished all the more for their fleeting nature. Just imagine if in every moment we were able to hold the time for justice. That is a practice that will take me more than one lifetime! I do try to bring the practice of welcoming the new day, each dawn, as a way of bringing all the time zones together and when I remember across the 24 hours on our axis on the ecliptic plane, that a new day is dawning somewhere right now. The constancy of this natural phenomena is surely an invitation to a new start while honouring what has gone before. This is perhaps the most profound version of a circular economy I can think of and it is linked directly for me to the relationship to the land, seas and stars and in my part of the planet, named and held by First Nations whose land and seas have never been ceded. Without an understanding of time, connectedness and circularity I am not sure justice can arrive.

The practices to restore, recover, regenerate, reuse, repair are all for renewal. While we might design out waste and polluting variables we have to design in, circularity. I am thinking of waste and pollution as how the turn up way beyond single use plastic to single use votes, single use volunteering, single use actions. single use conversations. All our lives depend on it and you have this power in each and every moment. Keeping the conversations going and bringing in the past and the future are essential, we need to know what has gone before and understand what is to come. The places of the futurist and historians are intertwined, the role of the forecasters and the archeologists, the lessons from epigenetics and immunologists are all connected. As activists we are always at a threshold, the point where change is about to happen, the emergent space, the place of new beginnings. To be fully present in that moment is a practice and when we come to the end of our days knowing we too are in this cosmic circular economy – the one household in which we all live. It has been a regular theme in my life since the 1990s, this relationship between household and economics and our home, and ironically I circle back to it often, reinforcing the notion that it was a generative and not extractive lesson from my twenties.

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its name is, is
nameless now.

Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this:
the fires and the black river of loss
whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:

To love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver New and Selected Poems

For more about: Mary Oliver