Saturday’s are days to reconnect to the world around me, and I usually go back to the village that was home for about 15 years. I miss the rhythms of the place and am still learning about the rhythms of where I am now making my home and relying on the tides to help me with the pace and seasons. One of the reasons that my old village still has a hold on me are the rituals of a farmers market, a high street of cafes and conversations, voices of fellow choristers on the wind and high chances of bumping into familar faces across the stalls and walking across the streets. There are nods and waves from people and old trees that carry the stories and a sacred gathering spring fed stream that has been a solid listener to family groups and meetings for thousands and thousands of years.
This Saturday all the ordinary activists were in abundance. First there was a woman who had spent some of her week with companions marking paths for pilgrims conserving habitat and health to create the Willunga Basin Walking Trail. In a few more steps there were the many growers whose techniques and commitment to organic produce were in abundance and respecting health and safety social distancing to get the highest quality of delicious fruits and vegetables into the hands and cupboards of happy consumers. It wasn’t long before a barista and his team were exchanging glances and connecting up with the week that was, taking note they hadn’t seen me for a while and treating my unexceptional purchase as a gift to keep the whole cycle of exchange in motion. The place I gathered with some family members for breakfast, makes a point of being a meat free zone and green is on every plate, reflecting its name. A few more nods, waves and hellos included one to an educator and maker who only works with materials like old enamel saucepan lids, an expression of a used future being repurposed for beauty. When I cross the road again, several trees proclaim the amount of carbon dioxide they express that keeps us breathing and amount of share equivalent to beach umbrellas that shields us in the heat.
My next stop in the village, later in the day, is the opening of an art exhibition. I have been kindly invited to do the honours, to declare the space a gallery, for this season of SALA (South Australian Living Artists). It is a modest affair given the restrictions and everyone gathered respects the rules, cementing our common desire for public health and care for one another inside and outside the venue, yet another reminder to me of living civilly, with purpose. This artist welcomes the viewer to paintings in pastels and oils with bold colours and images she wants to preserve for future generations. One of her first paintings was of a large cave at Maslins Beach – that cave has now collapsed. She has a creation that shows the remains of the iconic Port Willunga jetty and the signs above it now warn of the probably of collapsing cliffs, which currently bow to the sea and are so fragile it is almost inevitable they will continue to fragment and fall succumbing to erosion and changes in the climate. Not far from this location is an avenue of old pines where many creatures, winged and multiple legged, have as their home and food bowl; they will soon be blocked out by the mega school under construction, and Mother Willunga’s curves will find themselves, to the artists eye, in a corset. Her art was prescient last year with scenes of bushfires leaving beloved locations on Kangaroo Island bleached in black with sooty soil and foliage instead of beacons of flowers from rarely blossoming grasses. All the gathered respected and bowed to the artist’s eye and the reminder of the how we each have a responsibility to how we see, walk and leave our legacy to future generations.
The last stop in the day was not in the village, but in the comfort of my own home, mediated by software and technology, enabling 55 quiz teams to raise funds for childhood cancer. There were four generations in the room, gathered to support a friend of a friend. It was a simple occasion and done with enthusiasm, the usual negotiations to come to shared (or not shared) answer, with nibbles and sips of a range of substances from strawberry milk to gin and tonic. The young woman behind the scenes had been organising this event for months, transferred what was originally to be in a central city location to the lounge rooms of homes across the state and even a few interstate. The quiz master donned a moustache that could have been accompanied by a mullet, and the MC had all the energy and positivity of a morning ride-to-work radio announcer. The invisible hand gluing the event together, appeared briefly on the screen, being an introvert, and demonstrating how it is her super power. Nothing was out of place and all the people who want to be in front of the camera were. The team of volunteers she was leading raised enough money towards their target, which would ensure children and their families impacted by childhood cancer would be getting counselling support for the coming year. This kind of activism often goes unnoticed or under the guise of organising a social event. It takes time, commitment to detail, juggling egos and scheduling, and this year, multitasking across online tools and platforms previously used only for work now being deployed and transitioning their utility away from making money for shareholders and building careers, to the needs of the smallest ones suffering, surviving and struggling.
This was my Saturday, noticing activating all around me and once again, all I have had to do is turn up, making modest contributions to an overall mission for our planet, family, friends, embracing beauty in the simplest connections. Embracing our seeing, sensing into our actions, holding the precious moments that aggregate into what Paul Hawken calls “blessed unrest” brings its own kind of peace and justice. All the initiatives that made my Saturday – the Farmers Market, The Green Room, The Gospel Groove Choir, the SALA exhibition, the Telstra Enterprise Team’s Quiz night were beautifully executed by leadership often completely invisible, they are all contributing to building a future where more belong because of the connective tissue, relationships, that holds it all together. Each piece is adding to a goodness ecosystem and the quality of how each piece is managed is done with care and kindness. As Hawken says: Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them. This is how the synapse of movement building gets transmitted, across the relationships managed well in ways that are so inviting that curiosity gets the better of people and they join in.