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.

Iñupiaq ancient lore in video game May 11, 2014

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Exciting news on the indigenous storytelling front: the Iñupiaq people (of the place currently known as northern Alaska) will soon release a video game based on their traditional stories. For those who haven’t the ability to physically sit at the feet of their First Nations elders and listen, what better way to get this ancient knowledge of how to live in right relationship with the more-than-human world into the ears of today’s youth — and even the world?

Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) is the story of a young girl who, with her arctic fox companion, must save her people from an endless blizzard.  From their trailer:

“Welcome to the top of the world. Where nature challenges life in the extreme. Where death lies waiting in the cold. Where you must explore the fantastical world of Iñupiaq stories to help a young girl save her people from an endless blizzard. …A game of survival in a place where survival shouldn’t be possible. A game that opens a gateway to explore what it means to be human.”

Indigenous-Owned

Upper One, the creators of this “atmospheric puzzle platformer” adventure game, say they are the first indigenous-owned video game developer and publisher in the U.S. To create Never Alone, they had experienced game developers join forces with Alaska Native storytellers and elders. Some of the stories are thousands of years old.

Ecopsychological Dimensions

On the one hand, such video games encourage more staring at glowing machines indoors instead of actually interacting with the natural world in both its physical and magical dimensions, as seen in Never Alone‘s storyline. From an ecopsychological viewpoint, I find this a painfully ironic disjoint. But if we accept the fact that the burgeoning use of internet technology is here to stay for now, telling traditional stories in an interactive way like this is a wonderful use of it – especially if players then apply the principles to their own lives, seeking deep relationships of the sort featured in the game.

Native Language

The game will be released in Fall 2014 so I obviously haven’t played it, but from the trailer alone I love nearly everything about it. Besides the sheer gorgeousness of the visuals and the fact that it offers vitally important traditional lore in such a delicious and widely accessible package, one of the best things about this game is that it is presented in the characters’ own language of Inupiat, with an English translation below.

Why is this so great? Because native languages are in serious trouble. According to MIT’s Indigenous Language Initiative, “In the world, approximately 6,000 languages are spoken, of which only about 600 are confidently expected to survive this century.” Preserving them is important not only for the speakers of the languages themselves and the integrity of their cultures each one’s language creates and holds, but the fact that diversity of languages is intimately tied to biodiversity.

First Nations languages contain words and phrases for local natural events and features. They therefore hold keys for the local natural world’s survival and thriving, so when the language is lost, this knowledge of how to work with and care for the local environment is lost as well. The loss of a native language is therefore a painful loss for the whole world. Exposure like this game offers could go a long way toward preserving and even expanding these languages’ use.

What, no Mac version?

The game will cost a reasonable $15, but is only going to be released for PS4, Xbox One and PC. No mention of Mac. 😦   So I only hope I can gain access to the right kind of machine for awhile to play it. (Hey Upper One developers, if you’re reading this, please make a version for Mac too!!)

To learn more or to play it once it’s released, here is the game’s websitehttp://neveralonegame.com

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New Year Intention Meditation December 31, 2013

drawing by jef murray

Happy new year!

From the composting wisdom of our past years, may we all grow a strong, supple new year of life; one that shelters and feeds the singing birds of the soul.

The environment has effects on us – body, mind and spirit. If we align our actions and thoughts with large natural movements like seasons, weather, lunar/solar lineups, night and day, etc., such powerful and pointed energies can help with the smaller echoed movements of our own lives.

January 1, 2014 brings a lunar perigee, a.k.a. “supermoon.” This means very special conditions. A lunar perigee occurs at a specific point in the Moon’s elliptical orbit dance around our planet: the moon is full or new, is lined up with both the Earth and the Sun, and finally, comes very close to the Earth. Balance and swing your celestial partners!  According to Cornell University’s astronomy site for laypeople, the Moon is slowly leaving us. Each year, the moon orbits earth about 3.8 centimeters further away. So the power of these lunar perigees will slowly lessen over time. Let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it. At the dark of the year with that supermoon inciting powerful tidal influences to boot, why not work now with intention setting?

On the eve of each New Year (as currently celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar), rather than setting myself up for sure failure by making soon-to-be regretted “resolutions,” I enjoy simply taking time to contemplate my life over the past year(s) and considering what I’d like to invite in for the new. These are not wishes for material possessions or specific adventures. Although both are indeed enjoyable, that’s not the point. These intentions are about habits like internal qualities, thoughts, and behaviors to further develop, or decisions about how to better relegate my time and attention, so my life is more connected and joyful.

To facilitate that process for you too, here is a simple, contemplative, intention-setting process.

Contemplative New Years Intentions

  1. Find a quiet place to comfortably sit still. Light a single candle if you like, to help focus your mind. Look into the flame and do some deep breathing to relax. Make a little internal offering of gratitude for your life and this moment.
  2. Then connect with your heart, soul, higher self, spirit helpers/ancestors/god(s)… whatever you resonate with that is larger than your ordinary-reality personality-level self; that which is vast and loving and wise.
  3. Consider the past year. Ask for help in seeing clearly, and with eyes of kindness, which aspects of your life are going well and which could use some changes.
  4. Feeling some regrets? Yeah, welcome to a human incarnation. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Kiss the regrets and let them go. You have the chance now to try a different way. If they really burden you, write them down and then set them to one side for now.
  5. Consider what you’d like to bring into your life now. What seeds do you want to plant now for germination or even full flowering over the coming year? What specific kinds of things should you consider for your intentions list? Which are simple, yet also deep leverage points for change? You can also ask for help with clarification. Choose no more than 5 intentions, maximum. (Make this an opportunity, not a burden. How much attention span, time, and energy do you really have? Only name those intentions you can, and truly want to, focus and work/play on.) Write these down on a different paper.
  6. Read each intention aloud. As you do this, connect with your heart and imagine your life with each of them coming to pass. Use all of your senses, if possible. Reading them aloud like this can bring more clarity: you may then wish to re-write them or change them. That is fine. Keep doing this process until the words feel right all through your body.
  7. Rewrite your Intentions list on a nice piece of paper. Place it on your bedside, dresser, or altar where you will see it often over the next months, reminding you to keep bringing the intentions into being.
  8. On New Year’s Eve before you go to bed, read your intentions list and feel each one in your heart.
  9. Do this again upon waking on January 1. If possible, go out into the sunshine to read them, allowing the warm golden light to energize them and you. After reading your Intentions that morn, become very still for a few moments and allow their meaning to settle deep within you. The new year has begun, and with it, your life’s potential.
  10. As the year progresses, keep asking spirit to keep giving you guidance about necessary course corrections or attitude adjustments – whatever’s needed to help what’s on that list turn into manifest reality.

May your new year of life bring you much joy.

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The lovely drawing is by Jef Murray. See more of his work at http://jefmurray.mymiddleearth.com/

 

 

Winter Solstice December 21, 2013

Niwot sunset*

Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere: it feels like winter is just getting started. Here in Colorado, the late December days alternate between relatively mild with lots of sun and below zero with violent winds or snow, then back again. It’s as though the earth is kind here, slowly giving us a chance to get used to the idea of the coldest season being real. We’ve just passed autumn: winter still feels new. The ski season is just revving up. We haven’t begun to resent the bitter cold of January or dread the bleak eternity of February, March, and beyond.

What I love about Winter Solstice time is the widespread reminder that even though it feels like it’s just getting started, the reality is that after today, winter is on its way out. Frosty Elvis is leaving the building.

It doesn’t seem possible, but that’s the truth. No wonder people from time immemorial have celebrated the return of the sun, with its light and warmth and life they bring to every being here on earth.

Every winter holiday that I know of has light as a central motif: the Hanukkah candles; the Christ Child as the light of the world; the Kwanzaa festival of lights; the idea of celebrating a New Year now (instead of in spring when on the surface, it would make a heck of a lot more sense to celebrate new life with the return of new growing shoots), and even secular Santa with his reindeer’s glowing nose lighting the way to bring abundance to the young and innocent.

We put human faces on it, but these holidays are all really about this vast, fundamental celestial dance that ultimately determines life and death for all of us fragile beings on earth.

Imagine living in a subsistence culture, or any human culture during much earlier times. If it’s cold too long, all of the plants die. The animals then starve too, and/or freeze, and there is nothing for you to eat. The firewood is buried beneath meters of frozen snow, so now there’s no real way to keep warm unless you prepared by making stacks during warmer times – but even so, for how long? And what if your fire goes out? Worse, what if the warm times never come back? The idea may sound childish, but that was the reality during the Ice Age… over the course of generations, it never did! No wonder we humans need the hope that yes, even though it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time because each one goes for so long, the seasons flow in a cycle, not an eternal line, and Spring will indeed come again.

Food, gifts, and gathering together are also part of this – another reminder that life isn’t always going to be spare. Fear begets hoarding and separation, shrinking away; whereas generosity begets some abundance for all, at least in the heart.

Some of my friends in Morris troupes got up today before dawn to dance up the sun. I will call contradances this evening as part of the Solabration festival in Denver, which also features group singing, potluck feasting, storytelling, a Mummer’s Play, Xtreme juggling and more low-tech offerings both silly and sublime. Trees have been brought into our homes and honored with gifts of ornaments and yes, lights. They are evergreens, another symbol of eternal life. In a sea of bare branches, they remain supple and ever green. Gifts await beneath their boughs. People bring ridiculous numbers of cookies to work. We put on fat that can tide us over if the winter lasts too long.

Light, warmth, sharing, possibility, hope. We can make it through another dark time.

Tonight is the longest night of the year. In this darkest time, celebrating the Solstice offers a reminder of the physical reality that really, things have turned and it’s getting easier now. It’s not just wishful thinking: it’s Science! 🙂  The Sun bought her ticket and packed her bags, and has just begun her long journey back to us. Already tomorrow the world will begin to lighten up.

It might not feel like that for months, but just hold on. Watch the skies. Go outside first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to bed, and notice how things are changing. Pay attention. The gratitude will come.

Midwinter is a cusp time: both dark, resting, & quietly contemplative and also a tender new beginning. The energy of all earth begins to quicken now.

Along with zooming around taking care of the details of the impending Xmas etc. extravaganza, you may wish to take the opportunity to align your life with these large natural energies. The ancient Taoists would certainly applaud this notion. Unless you’re a salmon or we’re talking political metaphor, isn’t it wiser to ride strong river currents in the direction they’re going instead of fighting to go upstream?

Here’s one way to work with the energies of the winter solstice. Sit quietly, preferably outside. Feel the earth breathing. This day offers a pause: the cusp of earth’s autumnal in-breath (pulling in to let go and rest) and her spring outbreath (birthing new life). Take some time to consider your life. Where have you been this past year or more? What structures, qualities, etc. have served you that you find precious and want to keep and grow further, and what would you like to let gently and naturally fall away like dead leaves? Finally, what new sources of light would you like to bring into your life at this newly waxing time of unlimited potential?

Merrie Solstice.

 

Happy May Day May 1, 2013

… from Boulder, Colorado.

Sigh.

May Day 2013. (Image by Tina Fields)

One of my colleagues said today that it feels like we’ve slipped over the line into Narnia, where it’s “always winter but never Christmas.”  (–C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

Cue the music here:  ☆*♥¸.•*¨`*•♫♪♫♪   Someday our Spring will come…

 

What happens if you wash your hands in outer space? April 20, 2013

This is just majorly cool: how water acts in outer space, without gravity to dance with.

Imagine you’re an astronaut. You’re orbiting the earth in a space station for weeks on end. At some point, you’re gonna want to wash yourself.  Or your fellow astronauts are really gonna want you to wash yourself. How to pull this off?

Obviously, a shower would create a potentially tremendous mess. Plus water is very heavy and therefore fuel-expensive to carry, so you wouldn’t want to waste your limited supply on anything besides precious life support.

Enter the special astronaut washcloth. It looks like a little condensed hockey puck. So you shake the thing out until it looks like a small towel, then get it wet to give yourself what my mother used to call a “spit-bath.”

What happens when you wring the washcloth out in this gravityless environment?

Watch and be amazed.

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One more thing that adds to the overall fabulousness of this: the experiment was originally proposed by high school students! Go Canada, supporting the curiosity of your young people.

From the YouTube video site:

CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield performed a simple science experiment designed by grade 10 Lockview High School students Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner. The students from Fall River, Nova Scotia won a national science contest held by the Canadian Space Agency with their experiment on surface tension in space using a wet washcloth. Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA

CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield has made a number of interesting videos showing aspects of everyday life in space. Do check them out, and let yourself fill with wonder – plus perhaps a new appreciation of how gravity makes life so much easier down here.

 

Joyous Eostre! March 31, 2013

vintage-easter-celebration-chick

Happy Eostre! May the increasing return of that glorious sun bring a corresponding increase of warmth, light and energy into your own life.

Easter is based on a much older celebration (Eostre/Ostara) based on this fundamental recognition of the rebirth of the planet, as it warms from the ever-increasing sun.

Have you noticed how Easter doesn’t fall on a regular, predictable day of the month — or even in a predictable month? That’s because it’s a seasonal holiday based on the actual wheel of the year, not just the Gregorian calendar. Easter is always celebrated (take a breath here) on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal (spring) equinox. That’s when fresh green food begins to grow once more; lambs and chicks are born; the sap rises in the trees, and flowers open their lovely colors out of the dead winter ground. Crocus! Delicate purple petals rising from the snow! What isn’t possible right now?

Easter: note the similarity with the word “estrus”? All of our beloved Easter imagery — bunnies, eggs, flowers, chicks, baskets filled with green grass nests, Christ rising from the grave to live again — are based on the concept of renewed fertility and possibilities for life. It’s all about birth and rebirth.

I began the day with a sunrise ritual created by my pals at  Milk and Honey, a goddess gift shop in Sebastopol, CA. (Yes, I was up before the dawn. Me! That’s very unusual: clearly that sun was calling.) Here it is, if you’d like to do something like that too.

The Ostara Ritual  

Purpose:
To acknowledge the balance between light and dark; to revere the growing strength and energy of the Sun who is now strong enough to conquer darkness; to acknowledge the time of new beginnings; to bless new goals and projects; to thankfully reflect on the gifts of fertility.

Tools:
4 sticks of incense, blanket, 1 hard-boiled egg per person, cauldron & freshly cut flowers.

Time:
Sunrise (is best): anytime between the Full Moon or Easter morning

1. Find a special place outside.  Lay blanket on ground with intention of connecting to the earth.

2. Arrange the egg(s), cauldron and flowers on the blanket facing towards the Sun (East).

3. Plant incense into the ground in all 4 directions, beginning with East, then South, West and ending with North to represent the 4 quarters.  After incense is in the ground start with East, and moving in the same direction, light each incense stick and verbally welcome and honor each direction.

4. While standing, feel your feet on the earth and allow yourself to feel grounded and centered.  Then allow yourself to relax and sit on the blanket.

5. Verbally state the purpose of the ritual.

6. Lift one flower at a time with great intention.  For each goal or new project you want to begin working on:
– Hold a flower in your hands and focus on the positive end desire of your goal.
-Break the stem off and put the stem in a pile to your left
-Slowly, pull the petals from the flower and place them in the cauldron while reflecting on the meaning of Ostara.
-Repeat with a new flower for each intention and goal you are focusing on.

7. Stand up with your egg and throw it into the air as high as you can and let it fall to the ground.
It is said that the higher the egg goes, the better your luck will be!

Then sit back down.
8. Peel the dirt and shell fragments off of your egg and put them in the pile with the stems.

9. Eat the egg and let yourself become energized with healing and positive energy.
It is said that if the egg is eaten at sunrise, you will gain much luck, health and happiness.

10. With your hands dig a hole in the earth in the direction of south.

11. Bury the stems and eggshells.
This is an offering to the Earth!  Verbally thank her for fertility and the gifts she presents us with daily!

12. Grab the cauldron of flowers and heave the contents upward and outward as hard as you can to bless your new projects, and to return to the Earth that which is hers.
Laugh or shout with joy!
The season of wonder is now beginning!

13. To close the ritual, beginning with North, going reverse to West, South and ending with East, face in each direction and thank the direction for holding sacred space for you and then release it.  At each direction turn your incense stick upside down and extinguish it in the earth speaking, “So mote it be.”  (Translation:  So may it be).

May this ritual bring you exactly the energy you need in the days to come.
Blessed Be!

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PS – Just remembered that I posted on Easter last year too. For more: https://indigenize.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/happy-eostre/

 

Bioregional Awareness Quiz March 21, 2013

Swiss mountain painting, Riederalp, by Tina Fields

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If you want to get to know your home place, playing with a “bioregional quiz” like this one is a good place to start.

There are many versions of such quizzes out there. I’m pleased to announce that this particular expanded version of the Bioregional Quiz, which I wrote, will soon be published in Planet Drum Foundation’s updated edition of  Home! A Bioregional Reader.

How many of the questions can you answer, without referring to the internet or field guides first?

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BIOREGIONAL AWARENESS QUIZ

Bioregionalism is a call to become knowledgeable residents and guardians of the places where we live. Although we are seldom aware of it, we live in naturally unique physical, ecological, historical and cultural areas whose boundaries are more often ridgetops than county lines and state borders.

This is a call to get to know our local land and water; our local weather and sky; our local plants and animals; our local neighbors and communities. It is a call to join our hearts, hands and minds with what has been, what is, and what could be, in this place.

Getting to know the place where we live is important for both our well-being and for the well-being of our home. Becoming aware of our “sense of place” helps us to see it as a unique part of the living earth, deserving of respect, gratitude, and careful treatment. We humans can then begin to shift how we live more towards balance and harmony with the wider life community. Security begins by acting responsibly at home.

Welcome home!

This quiz provides a lot of starting points for getting to know your own living home region.

It can be sobering to realize how little we know right now.  The intention of the quiz is not to make us feel bad about how disconnected we are, but instead to gain awareness of the multi-layered things yet to discover about the richness of our home place.

Please treat it as an opportunity. Maybe you want to only choose a few questions, the ones that call to you the most. Feel free to find out the answers in any way you can: Ask your neighbors, go to the library, read the newspaper with this sort of focus, go outside, wander around, and pay attention every day. “Waste time” doing nothing but noticing our world.

There’s no way to cheat. Spend some time investigating; ask for some help. And feel free to make up some more questions of your own.

MAKING CONNECTIONS
1. Where does the water in your house come from? Trace the water you drink from rainfall to tap. Where did the cloud gather its moisture?
2. Where does the water go that drains from your sink? What about the water (& other stuff) leaving your toilet?
3. Choose a favorite meal and trace the ingredients back through the store…the processing plant…all the way to the soil. How many people, states, or even countries helped produce this meal? What went into the packaging and transportation of its ingredients? How many of the ingredients could you (did you?) get locally or even grow yourself?
4. What kind of energy do you primarily use? Where does it come from? Trace the path of energy that powers your home from its sources to you.
5. When your garbage is thrown away, where is “away”?
6. What are the primary sources of pollution in your area?
7. What are the major natural sounds you are aware of in a particular season?
8. What agencies are responsible for planning future transportation and land use in this area?
9. List three critical environmental issues in your area. What can you do to help?
10. Draw a map of your territory, the areas you travel regularly – without using human markers like buildings or street names.

EARTH
11. What primary geological events or processes that shaped the land where you live? (Extra Points: What is the evidence?)
12. What soil series are you standing on?
13. How has the land in your area been used by humans, over the last two centuries?
14. Who lived here prior to white settlement, and what were their primary subsistence techniques?
15. What was the vegetation type in this area prior to white settlement?
16. Where is there wilderness in your bioregion?

WATER
17. What is the elevation above sea level where you live?
18. What is the average annual rainfall for your area? What was the total rainfall in your area last year?

NEIGHBORS
19. What Spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?
20. Name seven common trees in your area. Which ones are native? For the others, how did they get here? Why were they brought?
21. Which indigenous people inhabit(ed) your region before you? Are they still here?
22. What were the primary subsistence techniques of the culture that lived in your area before you?
23. Name five edible wild plants in your region and their season(s) of availability.
24. Name three medicinal wild plants in your region, and what they can be used for. BONUS: which parts are the most effective (stems, roots, fruits…)?
25. Name seven mammals common to your area. Which are native and which are new here? From where did they come? Which animals are extinct from your area?
26. Name ten birds common to your area. (Extra Points: Which are year-round residents? Which are migratory?) (For the EXPERT: Where do the latter winter over?)
27. If you have deer in your area, when do they rut, and when are the young born?
28. Name five grasses in your area. Are any of them native?
29. Name four wild mushrooms that grow in your area, two edible (only if you are an expert) and two poisonous.
30. Describe the defense techniques used by three different other-than-human beings living in your area. (Examples: camouflage, poison, thick skin, thorns…)
31. What are the major plant associations in your region?
32. What plant or animal is the “barometer” of environmental health for your bioregion? How is it doing?

SKY
33. Sitting in your living room, point North.
34. How recently was the Moon full? What phase is she in now?
35. On what day of the year are the shadows the shortest where you live?
36. From what direction do winter storms come in your region?
37. How long is the growing season where you live?
38. How has the typical weather changed in your area since you were born? (Ask an older person to remember weird weather.)
39. Name one constellation or star that comes out only in winter, and one that comes out in summer.

FIRE
40. When was the last time a fire burned in your area?
41. What caused it?
42. How did the land change after that? What grew back first, second, third? What bugs, birds, and animals followed?
43. How is fire dealt with where you live? (Controlled burns, completely prevented, seasonal controls – what sort?)
44. What are three of your favorite songs to sing around a campfire?

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Thank you so much for thinking about these things; for paying attention to y/our home place. May this Quiz contribute to your deep feeling of belonging here.

Feel free to post your reflections on both the questions and the process of facing the questions in the Comments section below. May you have fun getting to know where you are!

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These questions began with “Where You At – A Bioregional Quiz” by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynn Milliman and Victoria Stockley, which was first published in the Winter 1981 issue of Coevolution Quarterly and subsequently reprinted in Home! A Bioregional Reader (New Society Publishers, ISBN 0-86571-188-7, 1990).

I (Tina Fields) made extensive further additions and when it grew unwieldy, created the breakdown by category to organize the expanding inquiry.

In addition, a few of the questions were gleaned years ago from the work of Fox Tales, Chas Clifton, & the folks at the Co-Intelligence Institute. (No, I don’t remember which. But the ones about whole systems flows and changes, native peoples, and songs are definitely mine.)

The late Peter Berg started the Planet Drum Foundation. I still miss his wisdom, humor, and wide curiosity about what’s possible to create in the world.