Indigenize!

Rekindle Your Wild Joy and sense of deep Belonging through spiritual ecopsychology and the arts, incl. bioregional awareness, animistic perspectives, strategies for simple living, & low/no-tech DIY fun.

Lessons from Omelas January 24, 2018

Ursula-K-Le-Guin

 

I was sad to hear that writer Ursula K. LeGuin died last night. I got to meet her once, when she was GoH at a conference of the Mythopoeic Society, and found her to be as stunningly present and wise in person as on the page. Plus I was moved beyond words when she chose a piece of my art for the “Author’s Choice” award. But that was just a mild fangirl moment: her influence on me was much longer and stranger.

We rarely get the chance to know and understand the influences we have had on the lives of others. You know? “That changed my life,” someone says, referring to some random statement or deed that you may barely even register or recall. Yet it turns out to have had a profound impact on them. This is just such a story.

When I was in high school, I had the tremendous blessing to have gotten Joanne Burnett (also fondly known as “Burnie”) as my teacher for sophomore English.

She had also founded the Tolkien Society, a haven for the brilliant weirdos who otherwise would likely have no home in high school society at all and may even have dropped out. Honor students who loved science fiction and fantasy: the skinny smart boys who knew every word to Monty Python’s routines; the musical genius girl who was put two years ahead and so was emotionally worlds away from most of her peers; and me with my untimely wild curly hair and braces on my teeth, a flowery vocabulary, and a noxious only-child combo of shy insecure artist with poor group social skills plus the costumed ego that attends a love of theater. She took us all in and gave us not only alternate worlds to inhabit, but a real-life community to go there with in a creative way that had us all laughing and reveling in our weirdness instead of drowning in it and then squelching it for survival. We built a dragon float for Homecoming, complete with steam that shot out in the general direction of the football team.

Burnie 1980 copy

One day, Burnie was teaching LeGuin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” It’s a story about ethics. It teaches insecure kids about the need to care about others. What greater lesson could there be? It made many of us into activists. That story, combined with Burnie’s political letter-writing assignment, made me feel politically empowered for the first time: able to contribute to making large change instead of just being a helpless victim of circumstance.

This story, Omelas, moves her. She had taught it dozens of times already, but every time, she told me later, she had cried. This was no different. She got to the end, and not only teared up, she struggled to control her tears so much that she could not keep reading. Her head was down as she held the book loosely in her left hand and tried not to sob.

You know kids. Adolescents struggle with their own turbulent emotions, so a teacher openly showing hers like that? Awkward. The class sat there semi-frozen, looking at her fixedly or darting glances at one another out of the corners of our eyes. Waiting for Ms. Burnett to pull it back together, the silence in the room grew uncomfortable. Too uncomfortable.

I know what it is like to feel strong emotions when it’s socially unacceptable, and the desperate futility of trying not to cry.  In fifth and sixth grades, the world got to me and I cried every day from a feeling of impotent agony. It began in math class, where the cruelty from Dean, the blond freckled kid in the desk next to mine, was strongest. Turning the pain inward like so many girls do instead of outward like Dean was doing, I began to physically hurt myself every day. In a visible way, which of course made things far worse. And after awhile, I couldn’t stop. (But that’s another story, perhaps for another time, if there’s a chance it can help someone now.)

My unwanted tears welled up other times too, when feeling helpless fury over other kids’ meanness, especially in groups; or at home, when considering the “duck and cover” training we were told would save us from nuclear attack, even though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how cowering under a tiny school desk for awhile could help much.

This duck-and-cover practice meant repeatedly confronting its inherent idea that we might never get to grow up. That we were all at the mercy of powerful men at the helm of our countries; men who might be, or get, mad enough to push that button.

I understood that possibility as real, due to repeatedly experiencing Dean’s casual meanness. And when you look at the world that way, why would anything matter? Since we might never get to have a grownup life or career anyway, why not just read comic books and climb trees while you can? Why not savagely poke each other to the point of blood with your compass’ steel point in geometry class when nobody is looking? Why not just do anything you want while you can, and damn the rest of the world?

Burnie’s lessons about social justice finally gave me a reason why. I mean one beyond the heart, which knew all along and had been crying for that; she offered a reason that I could articulate in order to then reason with others. So I thought her tears for injustice unspeakably beautiful. She dared to face the situation, which is the first stage of changing it. She faced it with not only her mind, but also with full, brave heart and spirit. And she was teaching us how, too.

I didn’t want her to be put down for her open sensitivity like I had been.

So when the feeling in the room began to grow too uncomfortable, I got up from my seat and walked to the front of the room, where I gently took the paperback book from her hands. Finding the last line she had read, I read it aloud again to orient everyone and then kept going with the story from there, reading it aloud for the class until the end. I then closed the book, quietly placed it near her on her table, and returned to my seat.

Ms. Burnett looked up through her tears and smiled a thank-you. In a few moments, after blowing her nose, she pulled herself together enough to lead a moving discussion about the story and its lessons regarding what is truly important; about to best live as a full human being. Lessons that few high school teachers dare to touch, let alone from a place of deep personal authenticity. Deep, vital questions that can impact a student for life.

The only reason I remember this story is that Burnie told it again numerous times over the years. How my kindness at age 14, in the face of widespread potential disapproval from my peers, had moved her. How that act had demonstrated, in a small way, the principles the story was trying to teach.

Because of that story, I caught Burnie’s attention and eventually we became dear friends. This friendship lasted more than forty years, until her death a few months ago, and was one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. In my later teens and early 20s, it brought me a whole larger community of kind nerds, with whom I still remain emotionally close even though I now live in a different state. Burnie’s people-gathering skills spawned our own local chapter of the Mythopoeic Society as well as the first northern Nevada chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. She saved the brilliant weirdos like me, and I in particular have LeGuin, in part, to thank for it.

Now I teach the “Omelas” story too, but to Ecopsychology M.A. students. It opens doors to discuss the needs and wants of the individual vs. collective, and the hard question of whether we have an ethical responsibility to take action when need is seen, especially when it seems futile in a practical sense. The outer and inner ramifications of each choice (to act or not) make for juicy discussion. I now get to honor and encourage in my own students, as Burnie put so fabulously, “the moral courage to give a damn.”

 

Collared_Sparrowhawk_(Accipiter_cirrocephalus)

 

Ursula K. LeGuin loved Taoism, as do I, and her themes often speak of the balance inherent in that philosophy (and in ecological reality). I’ll end this with my favorite poetic lines from the first book of hers that Burnie gave me at age 14 or 15.  I still call upon it in times of need. May it serve you in turn.

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The Creation of Éa

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light
only in dying, life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

— Ursula K. LeGuin, epigraph in A Wizard of Earthsea

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Farewell to two bright spirits that have enhanced this world by their embodied sojourns here. (I can imagine the “Hereafter Speculative Fiction Book Club” that’s forming in Taoist heaven as you read this. Maybe discussing books that haven’t yet been written? Maybe offering useful suggestions to their future authors? We writers can hope…)

Further Resources:

My personal favorite by LeGuin is actually Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. What is yours?

 

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Collared Sparrowhawk image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image of Ursula K. LeGuin sourced from http://www.orderofbooks.com. Image of Joanne Burnett was made around 1980 by unknown source, perhaps the Wooster High School (Reno, NV) yearbook.

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Womens River Retreat in May – come along! January 12, 2018

Women and women-identified folks: Want to renew your spirit on a beautiful gentle river, including an overnight solo between just you and the spirits of the land?

Join the 8-day Womens’ River Retreat I’ll be co-guiding for The River’s Path, down Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River of Utah with Lauren Bond Kovsky & Kathy Beadle.

“The River’s Path offers a supported 48-hour solo experience in Labyrinth Canyon as part of a 8 day canoe river trip down the Green River of Utah. Our women’s river retreats are a deeply spiritual journey… a powerful way to connect with your purpose during times of great transition. All ages, ability levels and backgrounds are welcome.”

May 5-14, 2018.

For more info: https://theriverspath.org/womens-river-retreats/

 

Partial Eclipse August 21, 2017

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96% totality experienced.

Even at that much shadowed occultation, the sun offered a surprising amount of light.

The profound takeaway I got is this:

If we consider the parallels between the larger natural world and our own psyches, it’s a sweet reminder that even if we’ve sabotaged our lives a lot through our own BS patterns, our pure original nature still shines more brightly than we realize.

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Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop June 22, 2017

Filed under: Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 10:25 am
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I dance both roles buttons

 

Contra dancers, if you’ve ever been curious about dancing the other gender role, I have published a new article with co-author Erik Erhardt about how to optimally pull it off.

We of course offer tips for smooth swapping points and the like, yet our main point is the “prime directive” of keeping neighbors, shadows, and other dancers in the line comfortable with this kind of play so that acceptance will grow among participants and non-participants alike, thereby ensuring ongoing fun for all. Here’s the beginning:

Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop.
CDSS NEWS (Summer 2017, pp.10-11 with fuller text online)

Introduction

This article offers concrete “hows” for experiencing even more joys in contra dance. A workshop that encourages dancers to play in both dance roles is a fun opportunity that also helps evolve the skill of
your dancers. While swapping roles initially seems like an advanced skill, it is often learned quickly and improves a person’s ability to dance well in either role.

We first provide swapping principles. In the online version of this article, we provide a selection of swap
points in three scenarios, then we offer a workshop outline that you can use, based on the “Gender Shenanigans” workshop we gave at Stellar Days and Nights dance camp held in the mountains of Colorado in February 2015.

While this type of workshop works well as part of a weekend dance camp with most dancers in “traditional” dance roles, small doses have proven to be popular at local dances, too.

Swapping principles

It can be very fun to cultivate the ability to be “ambidancetrous”; that is, to be able to dance either role and even to switch roles multiple times during a given dance.

When considering role swapping, the first thought that arises might be the simple puzzle of body mechanics in the various moves. But first and foremost in community dancing is actually the need for consideration for good dance etiquette. Etiquette is the art of making someone else feel comfortable, and this includes not only obtaining consent from your partner, but also being aware of the expectations of the entire dance line.

Always dance with respect for your neighbors. It is our observation that the essence of truly excellent dancing isn’t making fancy moves, but matching the needs and energy of each person met. Just as the elderly or disabled may need shorter, gentler swings, attention and courtesy must be given to each person encountered when swapping. Be in the right place on time for the next move, and confidently project to approaching dancers, particularly beginners, which role you’re dancing. This can be done by making eye contact, clearly offering the appropriate hand, and additionally saying “I’m the gent/lady” if helpful. If you’re swapping, you shoulder extra responsibility for dance excellence. If we follow this “prime directive” of respecting the line, role swapping will continue to grow in acceptance and popularity, even among those with little desire to do it themselves. …

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Link to the full article, including a list of swappalicious moves and a three-part workshop you can try out with your own local dancers:  Leading a Contra Dance Role-Swapping Workshop

Enjoy! Please let us know your thoughts by posting in the Comments below. Also, if you try the workshop, let us know how it works out for you. It’s through many voices that a community is made.

(NOTE: The very useful “What’s Your Preference? I Dance Both Roles” buttons illustrated at the top of this page are made by Mark Galipeau for the San Francisco Bay Queer Contra Dance (now “Circle Left”), one nexus of the gender-free dance movement. For minimal cost, you can order the buttons for distribution. I’m one of many who has handed out dozens of them to all who want one.)

 

Paris Climate Agreement: We Are Still In June 6, 2017

cleanup on aisle one

I feel proud to be able to tell you that my employer, Naropa University, joins other college and university leaders, mayors, governors, investors and businesses in declaring that regardless of current decisions made by the Republican president, we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

This action thereby continues alliances with other countries, businesses, and systemic thinkers around the globe. More basically, it is a step that helps ensure that large mammalian life on this planet (such as humans) can continue.

This is the only smart move.

Companies like eBay, Netflix and Microsoft are in. And you can add your company’s name to this pledge as well – link below.

You may be as surprised as I to learn that even ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, two of the world’s largest oil producers, pledge to abide by the Paris Agreement! They recognize that this change to alternative fuels is inevitable, and that being on board is the best choice for their business’ bottom line. From Bloomberg.com:

“President Donald Trump faces some unlikely opposition to the idea of pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate accord: Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, two of the world’s biggest oil producers. 

Both companies reiterated their support Wednesday for the global agreement to cut greenhouse gas pollution amid reports that Trump planned to ditch a pact he says hurts the U.S. economy. Their argument: The U.S. is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions that are largely produced by the fossil fuels they profit from.

…ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil and gas producer, also expressed support for the climate agreement on Wednesday. “It gives the U.S. the ability to participate in future climate discussions to safeguard its economic and environmental best interests,” spokesman Daren Beaudo said in an email.

BP Plc CEO Bob Dudley, another oil executive who supports the accord, said that even if the U.S. quits, the nation should find new policies to support the inevitable transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Every one of you, please stand up and act with us – the majority.

climate change rift w world

Here is the formal statement, with signatories visible below:  We Are Still In  Note that you can add your company’s name to this pledge as well – see link at the end.

Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders

We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations – inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses – came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.

The Trump administration’s announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.

In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.

In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.

Click here to read full press release.

Companies, investors, mayors and governors wishing to add their name to the statement can do so by registering here. Colleges and universities wishing to add their name can do so by registering here.

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trump baby earth

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ON BEHALF OF THE EARTH AND HER CHILDREN OF ALL SPECIES, THANK YOU ALL.

Thank you for being responsible adults who take care of our home, despite the short-term difficulties we face from the current White House now.

In the wise words of King Solomon, this too shall pass. According to the New York Times, the withdrawal process from the Paris Accord could take four years to complete, by which time the regime will have been changed. So let’s just keep steering our collective boat of systemic wisdom through these jerky rapids until the river flows freely and easily once more.

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The terrific political cartoons in this post are by Dan Wasserman, Monte Wolverton, and Christian Bloom (from Norway).

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Love as a Practice February 14, 2017

The following is an essay written by my contradancing pal Lynn Ungar, who also happens to be a UU Minister, raiser of show dogs, and a very fine contemplative thinker. It’s reblogged from the UU website; full link below.

She reframes love from an exclusive romantic destination to a daily practice for everyone. I find this very timely right now, and hope you benefit from my sharing it here. As you read Lynn’s suggestions, please also consider how you might add small acts of kindness to the earth. Done out of love, these changes of behavior can turn in the heart from a burden to a joy.

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         Valentine’s Day, by 

I could be wrong, but I rather suspect that Valentine’s Day is the most widely despised holiday in the country. Really, unless you’re in the small minority of people who are in the throes of romantic passion, what’s to like? You don’t get a day off of work, there’s no religious ceremony or significance, and for weeks ahead of time the stores are filled with a boatload of pink and red crap that nobody needs, and hardly anybody actually wants. Jewelry store commercials aside, the number of lives that would be improved by the gift of a heart-shaped diamond is, I suspect, shockingly small

Worse than that, for many people the holiday is an affront. If you are single, it’s a reminder that society expects people to pair up, and a suggestion that you are probably a loser because you’re alone. If you’re in a long-term relationship that has become more centered on helping with homework and making sure that there is milk in the frig than on lust and making googly eyes at one another, it’s a reminder that popular culture is obsessed with passion and falling in love, and no one will ever make a blockbuster movie that looks anything like your life. If you’re gay or lesbian or in any kind of non-traditional relationship you know that there probably isn’t going to be a card in the drugstore that is in any way designed with your kind of love in mind. And if you’ve recently been through a break-up, or your relationship is going through a rocky period from which it may or may not recover, or your spouse has died, well, then Valentine’s Day is pretty much designed for your own personal torture.

So here’s my suggestion: Maybe a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by buying candy and flowers would be to embrace the fact that love is often difficult. Rather than a day about romance, why not a day for concentrating on loving something or someone that makes you uncomfortable?

You might want to start by loving your crooked toe, or your stretch marks, or the flabby skin on the back of your arms. Anoint them with lotion, and a long, loving look, and consider the possibility that they really don’t need to be any different than exactly what they are.

You could try loving your neighbor who plays loud music and leaves his RV parked so that you can hardly get in your driveway. Maybe the music is his only stress reducer after caring for elderly people all day; maybe the RV is the only place his son has to live; maybe he’s so busy trying to hold his life together that he forgot to consider what would be most convenient for you.

You could work on loving your daughter’s crappy fourth-grade teacher who doesn’t appreciate your child’s unique gifts and has failed to teach her the structure of a paragraph. Chances are good that there are too many kids in the classroom to give each their due and the teacher is exhausted simply from trying to maintain some semblance of civilization until the bell rings.

You could try to love the person ahead of you in the line at the grocery store who has 27 items in the express lane, or the punk who cut you off on the freeway, or the customer service representative from the cable company who does not appear to have the slightest idea what “service” might mean. Just for today, since it’s a holiday.

You might even go all out, and work on loving your ex, or the person they left you for. Not necessarily forgiving, and certainly not forgetting, but just a little warmth, a little bit of an open heart for someone who, like everyone else in the world, is trying to find happiness in the best way they know how. Which isn’t necessarily a good way, but there you have it.

Just for this one day you could practice love not so much as a feeling but as a choice, a discipline, a practice. You could start with the conviction that everyone certainly needs love, and the possibility that everyone deserves it. Not because they have earned it, not because they are loveable, but because each of us is capable of being an instrument of grace, which is another name for the love that we don’t have to earn or deserve.

Happy Valentine’s Day. And good luck.

 

–by Lynn Ungar.

See this and more of Lynn’s excellent writing at the Unitarian Universalist Collective’s blog, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/uucollective/author/lynnungar/ . This essay was originally posted there 2/14/2014.

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Solabaration! 2016 December 17, 2016

Filed under: Announcements,Arts,Dance — BrujaHa @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Folks along the Front Range of Colorado, come drive the cold winter away tonight with dance, song, story, cheer, xtreme juggling, a mummers’ play and more. All ages are welcome.

I’m honored to be one of the three dance callers.

Solabration Click on the sun for info.

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