As the first shoot and root.
Below are my opening remarks for the Together Bay Area 2020 Fall Forum.
When we are challenged is a time to see in what values we have rooted ourselves. As we face difficulties it’s still an invitation to visualize and manifest potential; our apical meristem growing forth.
Many of my learnings are still guided by nature, its elemental forces, and the very landscapes we have committed to protect and steward. To me, it’s actually a process of reconnection and healing severed connections. That the radical and revolutionary is a returning to our roots and regenerative cycles.
From the river, I’ve received the blessing of flow that is not linear. Its sinuous emergence is the balance and interplay of divergence and convergence, of engaging in difference and connecting in commonality.
From the seed, the offering of the power of potential. A tree seed has all the “treeness” within; we can count the seeds in the fruit, less so the fruit in the seed, yet it’s all there.
From the fire, the gift of creation, sacredness, and destruction. If we myopically suppress it to the neglect of its multiple roles, then we only increase its destructive intensity, reducing the potential of healthy succession.
From the ecotone the unfolding of edge effect; abundance in overlapping difference.
And many more.
We know how to be reactive. In emergency and crisis, there is a role for quick responsive action. Two questions may be, do we respond to all as a chaotic crisis? Do we invest in life-affirming systems as much as we respond to the oppressive and harmful ones?
As adrienne maree brown also notes in Emergent Strategy:
“Oak trees don’t set an intention to listen to each other better, or agree to hold tight to each other when the next storm comes. Under the earth, always, they reach for each other, they grow such that their roots are intertwined and create a system of strength that is as resilient on a sunny day as it is in a hurricane.”
And yes, these are lessons for each other.
As Professor Vincent Basile shares in “Decriminalizing Practices: Disrupting Punitive Based Racial Oppression of Boys of Color in Elementary School Classrooms” a powerful practice is one where we Presume Brilliance. Imagine the impact of that for youth and young adults of color in our indoor and outdoor classrooms and spaces. On our Black and Brown communities on the trail and in the street. In all of our interactions with those facing historical, institutional, and systemic oppression.
Because as we tackle the wicked problem of climate change, we cannot leave out additional “inconvenient truths.” That Black Lives Matter. That Native Sovereignty matters. That systemic inequities are not random and inconsequential. That there is a need, a necessity, for Climate Justice.
This is an invitation to see that any discomfort from this is a source of learning and growth, to do better. To understand tension and address conflict with intention. Because there will continue to be that which seeks to break us. The human condition is one that holds space for mistakes, errors, and misalignments. A question is, as Larry Yang asks in “Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity” how we hold each other to break together rather than break apart, to move with pains as we heal, and in doing so, as Nick Montgomery and carla bergman state in “Joyful Militancy” have differences become “starting points for new complicities and the growth of shared power.”
This is not to pitch pollyannaish simplicity. If we seek transformation, it is as much a messy process as a wondrous one. As the butterfly shows us, in metamorphosis, structural change is necessary for the next steps. The old dies in liquefaction for the building of the new. Thus, some things do not continue. Yet nothing is wasted.
Of course, we are not butterflies. Still, a danger has been in amplifying and accelerating our disconnection from nature. Yet, in reconnection, it is also not an invitation to deny the magic of our quantum cultural and intersectional humanity, for as much as we’ve wielded our capacity and power to shape our world in ways that have harmed us, we can do the same to reshape it in ways that can heal us. We have become that species that is culpable, now is our reminder of that interdependent responsibility. What Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer calls “restorative reciprocity,” “an appreciation of gifts and the responsibilities that come with them, and how gratitude can be medicine for our sick, capitalistic world.”
That is also what our non-human kin are waiting on us for at the moment.
So as we begin, can we move forward with the courage and imperative of the first root and shoot, guided to light and nurturing? Can we, as adrienne maree brown notes, be like dandelions, “who don’t know whether they are a weed or a brilliance but with each seed create a field of dandelions? To be invited to be that prolific. And to return fertility to the soil around us.”
Can we do it? Of course, otherwise, we would not be meeting here today. It is in this chrysalis of space, together, that we can lean into our imaginal cells during this transformation, an invitation, to dream, envision, act, do, and transform. To take flight into more of what is possible.
Pa’lante, siempre pa’lante.
- Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times by Nick Montgomery and carla bergman
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community by Larry Yang
- Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change Shaping Worlds by adrienne maree brown