All the Light We Cannot See

The title of the acclaimed novel by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, 2014) begins in the dark, 1944 Germany, a blind girl in a small town on the Coast of Brittany, France, 1944, waiting alone in a house for the bombs to fall.

My brother highly recommended this book to me. In this tightly woven story of suspense and relationship, I am waiting for the light we cannot see. How will it be revealed?  The title is curious to me.

In this hemisphere we are moving quickly towards December 21, Winter Solstice. The long shadows of the darkness now subsume the light.  Each day grows shorter. We need light to live. But we also need the balance of darkness to heal, to rest, to cease all our insane activity and grow silent for a time. The earth renews. Light and new life grows in the darkness, often unobserved and unseen. Hidden for a season.

My bees, little light beings who orient themselves to the the sun god, have filled their homes with the stored light of flower’s nectar. They have grown sluggish and slow. Dormancy sets in. They need the slow dark. Their light becomes the pulse of their bodies generating heat in a glowing orb inside the hive.

It is a life metaphor I often forget. A cycle of darkness is a part of a healthy season of light. It is a balance. It allows new life to incubate and ferment. Under the cover of darkness, the light from a season past is captured and unimaginably reseeded.

And one day, like the bees, all the light we cannot see will burst forth and the miracle of photosynthesis will again rise.

And so we live on our own collected light for a season. Memories, images, words, loves that feed our light in this time of darkness.

And we watch for the light to return…

Small Minds and Great Hearts

So now that we have our clarion call as humanity to wake up!, we can no longer rest on our laurels, take more than we need, forget the vulnerable, and isolate from one another. There are powers and principalities of hatred increasingly arrayed against the forces of love and healing. We will see the mainstream media gathering around a new administration, normalizing it, feeding off the ratings. There will be an increasing lack of transparency and truth.

Petty dictators, tyrants and and empires have been a part of the human landscape forever. They will always be with us. Many suffer greatly under small minds. Fear pervades. Absolute Power creates a drunkenness.Today we see a political landscape of white men consolidating power. We are seeing the militarization of our society. For some it seems safe and secure. A throw back to the Cold wars and post WWII, when the world was “unsafe”. Then as now, people are hungry for security in the face of terrorism and the changing times.  But trying to secure the fortunes of the future is an illusion. Especially in the halls of power. It will only corrupt and destroy. It is time to go to the heart of the hive, a biblical metaphor for that which is precious, healing, nourishing, and sweet. We must get to work.

The beehive is not about consolidating power, it is about sharing power. Everyone has a job. Everyone has a place. Every being is valued. Every gift from the hive is medicine for the body and soothing to the soul.rlind_anitaamstutzbees_061215157

One of the biggest indicators of a healthy hive is their inter-communication. They talk all the time. Buzzing, rubbing up against one another, sensing with their antennae, sniffing the pheromones in the air. They are vigilant, awake to outside forces that might dismantle the commonwealth. They adapt. They are resilient. They work together to create healthy communities that can withstand any onslaught or insidious forces, unless the external forces arrayed against them overwhelm their immune system.

The thing is, a hive would be destroyed if they began to work only for themselves. It’s not possible. The mind of the hive is every single bee.They quickly die if taken from their community. You see such poor souls buzzing around aimlessly, lost and forlorn.

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Recently I saw a TED -like talk by Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku. He said the jobs for the future that are already on the wane because of the machination and rise of robots are repetitive, assembly line jobs.What will be needed as we transition is jobs that require us to grow our capacity for change, common sense, imagination, leadership, analysis, telling a joke, writing a script, a book, doing science, meeting the public, interacting with people. the service economy. Robots simply do not have the adaptability or emotional intelligence of the human brain and heart.

During these times we will also see the rise of great hearts. People whose courageous and luminous leadership will call us to back to our moral compass. But ultimately, our true power lies in the commonwealth, the Beloved community—acting on behalf of the good for all.

This gives me hope.

Post Election Notes on a Bee Republic

The tectonic plates in our shared polis shifted this past week. Some might say there were winners and losers. I’m of the mind that we all lost. Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but couldn’t all the money raised, spent and squandered by all parties in this 2 year political slog have shifted a whole impoverished underclass by now?

 We are all waking up to a new normal. Like post-911, our illusions about one another and our society have been ruptured. Our moral compass as a nation is spinning. The real issues are lost in a morass of our country’s shadow. Racism, elitism, misogyny, classism, violence and the cultural wars have become uncorked. The media has capitalized on the sensational and spectacle. The thin veneer of this country’s civility is now scratched open and the chasm of our discontent yawns wider. Our republic is broken.

Friends, there is no time like the present to visit the wisdom of the bee republic. Everyday, bees collectively roll up their sleeves and work for the commonwealth. Oddly, all the leaders are female. There is no celebrity. It is a gift rather than a cash economy. All the goods of the hive are shared by all. They even share with non-bees. We rarely say thank you.

The queen, contrary to popular opinion, is not the superstar. She has only one role:  working for the republic of bees, ensuring a healthy genetic survival for each successive generation. She will never see the light of day once anointed as queen (yes, it is quite drab). She will lay eggs tirelessly on behalf of her colony.

The Bee Republic is a commonwealth. Jacqueline Freeman, bee whisperer and author of “Song of Increase(Battle Ground, WA: Friendly Haven Rise Press, 2014)spoke about listening to bees. After years, she understands the life of bees and the hive with a new level of competence and reverence. She points out how our small understanding of bees as only for our purposes of pollinating food leaves us viewing them as “chattel…indentured servants whose mission is to serve our needs.” (Forward to book)

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This narrow thinking has led us to create ways of employing honeybees that keep us blind to the tremendous depth of knowledge they embody and the generosity with which they carry forth each day to serve the highest needs of our spiritual development and the evolution of the world.

I’m sure you know about the problems bees are having right now. Man could hardly come up with a better way to stomp on them than our current attitudes and beekeeping methods. These methods may serve man’s purposes but they certainly aren’t bee friendly. Treating bees this way is tremendously disrespectful.

Here I speak about treating bees with respect and gratitude, which is what bees are all about… Their respectful industry and fellowship are living examples of love, interdependent communities, and an ever outflowing story of creation. (Forward to book)

We can no longer rest on our laurels. It will take all of us who are awake to build a new world of dignity, respect and basic rights for healthy human and non-human communities.

Words are cheap. Actions mean everything. Walking the walk will mean more than talking the talk. More than ever we must examine those whom we give power to. Money, our pet issues and celebrity are low bars. Now we realize we must have leaders with integrity as well as a deep commitment, a listening heart and sensitivity to the zeitgeist of our time.  Candles of dedicated wisdom shine throughout our shared story. Abraham Lincoln.Dorothy Day. Nelson Mandela. Jimmy Carter. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Leymah Gbowee. Aung San Suu Kyi. Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and MLK, Jr….to name a few. Their leadership spiraled out from a soul intact, a heart burdened with respect and love for humanity and a spiritual foundation that embraced a vision large enough for a nation, a whole earth. They enriched us through their lives of selfless service.

So, it is up to us, intrepid bee friends.

Let us go out now into the world that we must create together…with bees, butterflies, bats and more.

 

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We Stand at a Crossroads

Yesterday I could feel the tide of collective societal anxiety rising as we inch closer to November 8. I became lonely for bees. The bee hive has been a place of solace for me, contemplative peace and that which is life affirming. So I went looking on a 70 degree F day in Minnesota. I heard that the monks kept bees near their graveyard. On my way,  I roamed first through their hoop house and garden spot full of squashes and pumpkins.

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Hoophouse at St. Johns Abbey, MN

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Then through their cemetery overlooking Lake Sagatan

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Graveyard for the monks at St. Johns Abbey, MN

I finally came to the now leafless orchard.

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Fruit trees by the monk’s cemetary

And there I sat with the bees for a time. They were sluggish. But they were still flying.

 

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The girls

One bee in particular caught my eye. It was one persistent little girl who was intent on kicking out a drone, the male bee. First she threw him out. Then when he, in all his bug eyed, swaggering girth, pushed past her, she followed him inside. Soon he came back out. She was riding him this time. Attached to his back, she refused to let go. He had to walk around dragging her tiny body.

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It is not unlike the epic struggle we face on so many levels in our culture, our world, this very moment.

The one that most catches my heart and my eyes and ears these days is Standing Rock, North Dakota. Maybe it’s because I’ve been there, seen what is happening, continue to keep my ear to the ground…

In a vast windswept, seemingly empty land, with rivers running through it, thousands of people are fastened and embedded on Mother Earth, with tents, their two feet and love of the sacred waters.

It is not so different from that one little bee. These at Standing Rock are attached to the backs of the profit makers and greed mongers, judicial  injustice and militarized state who are desperate to clear them. They are desperate for DAPL to finish on time for the  magnificent billions to pour into their investor’s coffers.

The people are hanging on for dear life. Determined. Dignified. Peaceful.

The following is from an article in YES! Magazine, Nov. 5, 2016. If you are weary of the destruction of all that we know is life affirming, keep your prayer lights burning. It makes a difference.

Here, on a highway stretching across trampled prairie grass, the fundamental contest of our time is playing out.

It’s a confrontation not only between two groups of people, but between two world views. The space between the lines vibrates with tensions of race, historical trauma, broken treaties, money and politics, love and fear. But the underlying issue that charges the air, mixing with the smells of tear gas and sage, is the global contest between two deeply different ideas about the true meaning of land.

On one side is the unquestioned assumption that land is merely a warehouse of lifeless materials that have been given to (some of) us by God or conquest, to use without constraint. On this view, human happiness is best served by whatever economy most efficiently transforms water, soils, minerals, wild lives, and human yearning into corporate wealth. And so it is possible to love the bottom line on a quarterly report so fiercely that you will call out the National Guard to protect it.

On the other side of the concrete barriers is a story that is so ancient it seems revolutionary.  On this view, the land is a great and nourishing gift to all beings. The fertile soil, the fresh water, the clear air, the creatures, swift or rooted: they require gratitude and veneration. These gifts are not commodities, like scrap iron and sneakers. The land is sacred, a living breathing entity, for whom we must care, as she cares for us. And so it is possible to love land and water so fiercely you will live in a tent in a North Dakota winter to protect them.

So be it.

BIGHORN SHEEP and BEES

 

My sojourn in Minnesota has been a time to live a more contemplative life. I awaken as the dawn barely lifts the morning sky. I read or do some morning stretching and meditation. On my “busy” days, I go to the gym and lift weights and run on the elliptical for 1/2 hour.

The lion’s share of each day is spent sequestered in an overheated office, looking over a colorful courtyard of brick with orange and red ivy crawling up it’s girth. My best friends have become books. I examine the inside of my own brainpan.

I edit my Sabbath Keeping book, due in 2 months to the publisher. I read about the colonization of New Mexico, it’s Land and Land based people—my other project. It is part of my book on beekeeping and a friendship with Lorenzo. He is a “manito”, whose ancestral family arrived here in the 1700’s as settlers granted land from the Crown of Spain.He has a small organic farm in the South Valley where I put beehives this past year. His family intermingled with the Indigenous peoples early on. They became pastoral, land based people. After the Anglo’s came in the 1800’s, riding a wave of colonization that exploited the natural resources, cut down the forests, depleted the land with grazing, and trapped the rivers dry of beaver, the fragile desert watershed collapsed. Land based people suffered loss of land and dignity. Most of this is recorded in William deBuys, Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range (New Mexico University Press, 2015)

You might wonder about the title. What do Bighorn Sheep have to do with bees? Spoiler alert. Wild sheep and bees are exquisitely locally based. They cannot be anything else by nature. They can teach us what it means to become more indigenous to the land we inhabit.

My recent favorite book by the late Ellen Meloy, Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild, explores the last wild roaming Bighorn Sheep colonies of the West which have collapsed numerous times from the colonization of their land. First it was the domestic sheep, grazing around the tiny strips of stone they have come to inhabit, infecting them with viruses that evolution had not equipped them for yet. Then it was the uranium mining, destroying the land and fouling the water. Today it is all of these plus human populations pushing in against their last stands of high country, feverish with drought. Their survival is carefully followed by wildlife biologists now, they roam with huge radio collars and big orange tags in their ears. Another kind of colonization.

At one point Meloy queries us, Why are we so immune to noticing or understanding the beauty of other life forms?  We have a hard time sharing our space, our land with creatures. We trap them, hunt them, destroy their habitat.

Unlike humans, who have a love affair with mobility and are able to constantly move from one landscape to another, there are life forms that will die if they are not allowed to be place based. They have evolved local. She writes that Bighorn sheep are “place faithful to the core…an unshakeable fidelity to the stone [they inhabit].” (138-140)

Bees are local too. Which is perhaps why they are crashing. Their habitat poisoned or stripped from them around the country. They cannot fly off to different landscapes to ply their trade(unless of course you count the migrating hives on semi-flatbeds, a form of forced labor). Like the Bighorn sheep, their fidelity is to their locality.

Meloy writes, ‘The truth is that we are starved “(138). For this kind of Indigenous way of being, our hearts and bodies long, but we do not know it. Today, as we see a wave of Indigenous people protesting the destruction of their homeland, water and soil, they are showing us the way back to this fidelity to place.

My chance to read about the layers of colonization of my chosen landscape of New Mexico have been eye opening, to say the least. It is a small act, but the first step in becoming more Indigenous to this landscape I call home.

The day of my spiritual awakening
was the day I saw and knew I saw
all things in God and God in all things.

—Mechtild of Magdeburg (c. 1212—c. 1282)

 

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Politics, Brawlings and Benedictine Bees

Our country has slogged through a two year political season. Mercifully, the election at least, will soon be over.  I’m still trying to figure out how to think about this time. It’s felt like a great big public brawl. The kind where we are down in the mud with each other. It’s plowed up things we’d rather not talk about in polite society. Racism. Sexism. Classism. Corporate elitism. I have to say, it feels like a national enema. As stuff is getting cleaned out of the system, I hope and pray for social transformation on all levels. The Benedictines can teach us how to navigate these dark times in our national conscience, when, as I’ve heard it said, “It is darkest just before dawn”.

During the Medieval period, the Benedictine communities scattered throughout Europe helped humanize a time when all manner of wars, religious superstitions, economic disparity, inquisitions, and diseases were unleashed upon humanity. They became oases of peace and civility.

According to a monk I spoke with, villagers would literally build their homes around the monastery as a place of safety amidst the turbulence and social disruption.

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Honeycomb insignia etched in the chapel doors

The Rule of St. Benedict was a tool of gracious living and spiritual enlightenment. I first met the Benedictine monks in the high desert of New Mexico. They were beer makers, soap and candle artisans and hospitality keepers.  But here in Minnesota, on both the sisters and the monk’s campuses, I see beehive themed windows, doors, art and buildings. Everywhere I go there are the bee themed hexagon shapes of the honeycomb.  The fact that I have landed here, writing about bees suddenly hits me as Providence. Yes, there is a bee angel.

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Chapel of St. John’s Abby, architecture by Marcel Breuer (1902-1981)

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Chapel at St. John’s Monastery

When I asked Abbot John whether the honey comb/ beehive theme was part of the whole Benedictine order or particular to St. John’s, he looked at me with a smile, his eyes lighting up when he found out I was a beekeeper. “It’s particular to us”, he said. There were interesting politics about how the bee themed architecture came into being,which I won’t go into. But based upon my observation, the monastery is an important symbol of a healthy community. Everyone has a valued place, diverse interests, specialized labor and creativity flowing, (Gardening, teaching, healthcare, beekeeping, candle and jam making, pastoring, to name a few). All are ultimately striving for the common good.

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Rule of St. Benedict

We are a people living in the Pleistocene Age, and the last gasp of the fossil fuel age. We have reached the limit to our destructive human lifestyles on this planet. The returns of our activity is no longer serving the good of all living beings. We have only a climate and economic debt to hand our children. We are all living on borrowed time.

News from my beekeeper friends in Albuquerque remind me that creatures are also living  on the edge of collapse. Nectar has been scarce. They will eat up everything they bring in immediately (pollen, nectar) and feed it to their brood, just to survive the day. They will put up nothing for a rainy day. That means an empty bank account come winter.

Humans aren’t much different. Many individuals and countries (including the U.S.) are living on borrowed credit—maximizing debt to live in the present. The rich are getting richer off the backs of the poor becoming poorer. Many around the world are living in war zones, hoping that the world will see their suffering and stand up to speak out or reach a steadying hand so more don’t perish.

These are desperate times. These are transformative times. Dickensonian in many ways. The best and the worst…

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Meanwhile, there is a light on the horizon. Daily newsfeeds of water protectors popping up everywhere, shutting down fossil fuel pipelines—from Indigenous nations at Standing Rock to regular everyday people in Washington State, Minnesota to Canada, southward and around the globe. They are getting in the way of earth and people exploiting corporations and their massive profit driven projects that are destroying our very lifeline. We see Black Lives Matter rolling forwards. We see women standing up and speaking their truth.

This Rule could help us in this time of political and social upheaval, with the great cleansing we seem to be undergoing. It is a time of suffering. It is a time of healing.

The Benedictines chose to become oases of peace, hospitality and love.

May our time also choose this.

What makes your heart sing?

I am currently in a place that makes my heart sing everyday. I live beside a lake in Minnesota. Some days when I’m walking the wooded trails, not another human being in sight, I pinch myself (in my mind) to make sure this is happening. I am blessed in this moment. I give thanks. Every day is dedicated to writing. There are ongoing spiritual conversations with my colleagues, with monks and sisters and students and and professors and devotees of all faiths—Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist.

I will eventually end this chapter in December and move on…As we know, all good things eventually come to an end. Mercifully, so do hard and difficult things. Life is a continuing river that we swim in, sometimes floating, sometimes thrashing around for our lives.

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Life is so short and the political season is so long, that more and more, my motto is “joy”. If possible, amidst the crappy potholes of life, the media on steroids and all the things humans do to make life impossibly depressing,find something or someone that brings you joy. Everyday. And gratitude for the good stuff. Did I mention that?

Recently I came across a beautiful conversation about deep listening to the land. It is from the spiritual wisdom of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Our heart’s song is so often connected to the spiritual art of listening.

The following is from my upcoming book, to be published in Spring 2017…the title is the same as this week’s essay. It is my musings on two non-human loves in my life. Bees and Music.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays

The tiny honeybee makes my heart sing. Even as I write this, I am surrounded in my backyard by the busy buzz of hundreds of thousands of bees flying in and out of their hives. It is music. Bees are life. Their return is marked by the advent of flowers. They are the sacred guardians of our land, air, and water, pollinating our food to the tune of one in three bites. When the habitat around them becomes toxic, they imbibe this and die. Our existence is intertwined with these enchanted creatures. They are the canaries in the mine for our future, as well as theirs.

Because of my particular fascination with bees, I am happy as a clam when I can work on behalf of bees. Educating, advocating, talking about the wonder of bees to schoolchildren or adults. The time spent working in the hive is also soul time. It’s like that when you love something or someone. Your heartstrings thrum with joy when you are in the presence of this thing, this being that makes your heart sing.

Precious little time is made in our lives to consider what makes our heart sing, and then going about and doing it. Nurturing our soul’s song in alignment with our Divine purpose is not something we necessarily learn, side by side with potty training. The voices that have shaped us, by and large have been about economic practicality and efficiency of time. We stay in the salt mines, our faces pointed toward our retirement packages or our failing health, holding our breath til we are released. Thank God Almighty, free at last.

This is not inherently a bad thing. This lifetime does require prudence, after all. But don’t miss out on your soul’s song, or silence it too early.

For then, it may be too late.

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Next Week, The Benedictine connection with the Hive Mind and honeycomb

Forgive us

Migrating Monarch butterfly enroute, St. John’s campus, MN

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beloved niece

If I were alone in a desert
and feeling afraid,
I would want a child to be with me
for then my fear would disappear
and I would be made strong.

This is what life itself can do
because it is so noble, so full of pleasure
and so powerful.
But if I could not have a child with me
I would like to have at least a living animal
at my side to comfort me.

Therefore,
let those who bring about wonderful things
in their big, dark books
take an animal to help them.
The life within the animal
will give them strenth in turn.
For equality
gives strength, in all things
and at all times.
–Meister Eckhart, German mystic, philosopher (1260-1328c)(ed. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, EarthPrayers from Around the World (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991)253

A bee friend and mentor sent me a link yesterday…Reuters News reported seven kinds of bees once found in abundance in Hawaii are now facing extinction. Other bees with such charming names as the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and the Yellow Faced bee have been placed on the endangered list in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S. Another European study has found Drone’s bee sperm plunging by 39 percent from Neonicitinoids. Bees are not just dying off, they aren’t being born. The North American Monarch butterfly is in danger of becoming “quasi-extinct”, whatever that means.

I don’t even know what to do with this kind of news. It is coming so hard and fast. All the beautiful creatures that we’ve taken for granted, mostly ignored, left as an unobserved treasure trove, except by a handful of scientists. All these little ones are now leaving us. And our days and years fly by so fast that we don’t even take time to mourn such a tremendous loss. That is the greatest tragedy.

We are reportedly living in the 6th great extinction. For me, that calls for many seasons of lament. We and our children will be so impoverished by this loss, we cannot even begin to imagine. I call us to turn to our creaturely kin, whether plants, insects or animals and begin to see them. Remember them. Mourn their loss…

Black Bear skull, Northern Minnesota

As Wendy Johnson wrote, from Green Gulch Farm in N. California,[Earth Prayers from Around the World],

Plants [insects] and animals in the garden, we welcome you—we invite you in—we ask your forgiveness and your understanding. Listen as we invoke your names, as we also listen for you…

Take a moment, remember and breathe the name of even one of those fuzzy, winged, four footed, finned wild ones that delight you…

“In the end, we will conserve only that which we love. We will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught”. (Baba Dioum, Senegalese forester, 1968)

It is a Meister Elkhart day. I leave you with a final quote from him…

Apprehend God in all things

For God is in all things.

Every single creature is full of God

And is a book about God.

If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—

Even a caterpillar—

I would never have to prepare a sermon.

So full of God is every creature

Journey to the Heart of the Hive

I just returned from Standing Rock, North Dakota.


A young street artist noted, as I painted a bee on his community canvas, “This is just like a beehive!”. We marveled at the amazing gathering of people from around the world, all entering into an alternative world of the gift economy. Like the bees, everywhere you went, people were busy volunteering their time. The first thing we were invited to do was “jump in and help” where needed. So, I worked in the kitchen. I picked up trash. I served the elders. I helped at the Sacred Sweat Lodge fire preparation. The people assembled were of all races and creeds. It was love in action. The division of labor was like a beehive—from guarding the permeable entry to make sure no weapons or drugs came in, to cleaning, to feeding, teaching and caring for the children, to helping the sick, to nonviolent resistance at the front lines where the pipeline scars remained.

No money was exchanged. It was like the peaceable kingdom. It was the Great Banquet where the least of the least, in spite of the politicians, the pundits, the journalists, the gawkers, the famous were welcomed with open hearts and arms.


And there to welcome our Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery group was our MCUSA symbol, attached to the flagpole of many nations. Where it came from, nobody knew.

Entering into the main camp (of which there are 4 camps) with thousands of others, from all over the world, including politicians and dignitaries, there was almost a festive feeling of celebration. A feasting together on justice, love, respect and an open hearted shared community. This effort is rooted in prayer.

It was remarkable to see the intelligence of thousands of human beings organizing at this remote on demand site. Red Cross and Traditional Medicine camps, makeshift kitchens. Recycling. Trash pickup. Water for the masses. Spiffy Biff’s porta-potties, regularly serviced. Ceremonial and prayer spaces. Communal gathering places to vision and plan. And the material resources pouring in….wood, water, food, clothing, tents, sleeping bags, stuff galore. And the beehive busy sorting, organizing and storing.

Horses, tents, tipis, Indigenous people from all nations—Canadian Ojibway, Shawnee, Menominee, Lummi, Potawatomi, Sisseton Wahpeton, White Mountain Apache, Mochican, Cheyenne, Lake Superior Chippewa, Crow Creek Sioux, Southern Ute, and the New Mexico Pueblos along the Rio Grande. All brought their flags and an amazing gathering of unity.

From multiple conversations, I learned that Great Chiefs such as Sitting Bull had predicted that 7 generations hence from their lifetimes, after suffering upon suffering, the 7th generation would rise up to defend Mother Earth. This would be a rainbow of humanity coming together, not just Indigenous people.

Thus, even we settlers, who represented a colonizing people, were welcomed in with generosity. As one Indigenous Elder said, “The is the way we are healing humanity”. One Maiti grandmother said, “We are all Indigenous. We are all guests. Mother Earth is the host”.

The sooner we understand this perhaps the sooner we will all heal from the sorrows we visit on each other and our lifeline, this planet.

So into this amazingly joyful community we were absorbed for four days. Sleeping on Mother Earth each day and living outside continuously would seem at first to be hard. But by the end, I felt stronger, healthier, more vital from the energies of the wind, the soil, the quiet, and unplugging from a culture that is becoming increasingly disconnected, sick and violent.

There was good news and bad news at the frontline. Mostly young people were encamped, including one very young white woman, as slender as a reed with a brilliant heart and mind.  She said that they were awaiting the court’s decision, hoping to delay things in court. Meanwhile, the Pipeline company, Enbridge and their billionaire Texas investors, had bought up all the land that we could see sweeping south to the Missouri—from a rancher who was paid millions. They planned to continue, avoiding the tiny piece of roadside that the water Protectors were encamped upon. To our North were the desecrated sacred grounds and the silent Caterpillars, for now.

Keep your hearts open. Continue to pray…and act for justice.

Winter is coming and the people are not leaving. Something too precious is at stake….for all of us.

Mni Wiconi. Water is Life.

Intelligence of Creatures

There is a little squirrel that visits me daily. Or at least I am filled with enough hubris to think she is visiting me. Her job is to find and secure nuts for the winter. She forages long into the day around my apartment here beneath the grand dames—the oak trees. But lest I think she is not paying attention to me and my habits daily in her industrious scurrying about, she taught me a lesson recently.

Last evening as twilight crept across the lake, I was journaling in my living room, facing out the great Windows to the lake.


Feeling a little down and lonely, I suddenly noticed the aforementioned squirrel arcing gracefully across the grass, with not only a nut in her cheek pouches, but a huge yellow thing plugging her mouth. I began to laugh as she jumped up on the stone wall dividing my patio from the lake, leaping into one of my lawnchairs. Clearly the bulging thing in her mouth was awkward to run with. She tried to scale the back of the patio furniture to peer at me in the window. To no avail. What was it? A yellow ball? A lemon?


So, after hovering briefly on the chair she settled for the small table. Leaping onto the top, she carefully placed the yellow object there and raced away after flicking her tail. Upon closer examination I realized it was an apple that I had brought with me from Albuquerque. Shortly after arriving from my long trip to Minnesota, I cleared out my car, finding an apple with a bad spot rolling around under my seat. I threw it out under the big spreading Maple tree in front of my apartment, where I often heard her rummaging about amongst the leaves, jumping from branch to branch. I hoped that perhaps it would provide some readily available food. I’m not surprised if she saw me and immediately examined this thing that the human had discarded. Food for the winter? A few nibbles and she clearly realized it was not going to provide the needed protein.


As if to say “I know this is yours, I’ll leave it right here for you”, she brought it back. Was it a fluke that she happened to put it on MY patio rather than one of the other humans assembled here? Creatures are constantly vigilant and curious of their environment. It is part of their indigenous nature, rooted in the piece of earth they occupy. Yet, we do not afford them the same keen observation and curiosity. We rush through our lives, preoccupied with our human endeavors and thoughts. I think of the holocaust of little furry bodies littering the roadsides as I drove north. Roads crisscross their migration paths for food gathering and travel. Our cars move at lightning speeds compared to their inner time clocks. We lose what Wendell Berry calls, “The Peace of Wild Things”.

 

  • Little Squirrel Wallpapers Pictures Photos Images

I am amazed that every day I am met with lessons about the manuscript I am working on. This particular day it was about creaturely intelligence. Even as I am observing the squirrel I am working with my friend Lorenzo in Albuquerque as one of our beehives will need TLC. How do we connect with their instinctual nature so as to work with them rather than against them for survival as winter nears? It is not just a matter of “the best practices of the industry”, but rather balancing that with the spiritual wisdom borne out of a relationship with the bees.  The wild ones and the ones we tame have their own innate intelligence that is not what we humans might measure according to our IQ tests. How to align with this?

It is an intelligence that is native to a place.  Indigenous. That comes from deeply being rooted in relationship to a particular land base, watershed and piece of earth shared with other creatures. Recently I read that we as humans don’t understand creatures and the natural world according to its own intelligence and wealth of knowledge. We seek to measure them against ours, finding them wanting. We miss the point. It is the same with people who are indigenous. Until we are willing to stop and listen and learn the particular wisdom that comes from being connected to one’s particular land base, we will not stop our march towards colonization and dispossession of earth or land based people.


This week I will be heading to North Dakota to be with those at Standing Rock. I feel blessed to go and be with a people whose heart and soul and very bodies are indigenous. They are so connected to their land and waters that they will rise up with fierce love to protect her. I want to be there with them.

May we all become Indigenous to the place we live and the places we love.

Footnote: today when I returned from church, the apple was gone. I wonder if I rebuffed squirrel’s offer to take back my apple?! The mystery deepens…