Here are some highlights from over the years.
2. Interview with Paul Hotvedt: Art & Place
3. Menopause (poem) — Dixie Lubin
4. Kansas Curiosities: An Excerpt — Pam Grout
5. Epicurian Simplicity: An Excerpt — Stephanie Mills
6. As One: A Song
7. The Continental Bioregional Congress on the Prairie – Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
8. My First Bioregional Congress — Copper Ramberg
9. Personal Report/Un Reporto Persona — Subcoyota Alberto Ruz
10. Call and Answer (poem) — Robert Bly
by Lora Jost, Kansas
I think of my art as being more about community than place. This is because I like to include other people’s stories in my artwork, and other people’s participation in the art process. But place is certainly a key part as well, and I think particularly in relation to the project I produced a few years ago called The Experience of Farmers.
Before I talk about that project, I want to mention that I think peace is also linked to community and place and whether people in those communities and places have food and shelter and choices with an absence of war and violence. So in some broad sense of the word, the farm-related project I’m going to talk about here is also about peace.
I would like to read a quote that I like by Carol Becker, who’s the Dean of Faculty at the Art Institute of Chicago. She says, “Artists frequently take a public concern – such as homelessness, domestic violence, ecological disaster, or the AIDS virus – and work it through the self, demonstrate how it has affected them, and re-present it to the public, anticipating the debate it will encourage.”
That is what I try to do in my artwork. In 1999 I began a series of drawings and collages called The Experience of Farmers. The project incorporated the experiences of farmers at a difficult time – when low commodity prices were (and still are) forcing many independent farmers out of farming.
When I think of working an issue through the self – as mentioned in the quote I just read, it occurs to me that I would never have taken on this project about farming had I not moved back to this place – to Kansas, or had I not had an ancestral link to the land– my Grandfather was the last generation in my family to farm near Hillsboro.
For this project I made artwork based on interviews with around forty different farmers. Again, I worked the interviews through myself – that is through my own perspectives and experiences. I listened and took in voices and stutters and pauses. I took notes, and listened again to the tape recordings I made. And finally I picked some quotes to work with, and illustrated them through my own kinds of symbols and imagery and imagination.
The project was all about place – dirt, fields, crops, cattle – in communities such as Concordia, Mankato, Scandia, Norway, Courtland, Belleville, Glasco and Beloit. The project was created in collaboration with eight rural Lutheran churches based in these communities. I also interviewed farmers in Newton – where I grew up, in Lawrence – where I live, and Henderson, Nebraska where my father-in-law farmed.
The main themes in the project include the tension between the joys of farming and the ways farmers persevere through stressful times, and the loss of rural communities and a rural way of life. All these themes are linked to place – to heat and rain and bugs and star filled skies and sunsets.
I brought along four pieces from this project – there are twelve pieces in the series.
The first piece is called “The Locust” and is based on one farmer’s description of her extraordinary experience of listening to cicadas one star-filled summer evening. In her story she expressed sadness about meeting a woman from Kansas City who’d never heard the sound of a cicada before. In the picture I hoped to convey the way that the sound of a cicada can seem to fill up one’s whole body.
A second piece I brought is based on a story told to me by a farmer about his experience of watching his corn die as a severe drought went on and on, with no end in sight. In my version of the story I included a farmer’s hand that touches the dry cracked earth that extends into the sky. And then the cracks cut into the hand and become part of it – almost looking like veins.
So I’m trying to represent connections between earth, sky, crops, heat, people and life.
A third piece I brought is called “During the Hard Times” – it is comprised mostly of words, with a representation of hands holding other hands. The piece represents perseverance, and the quote is based on one farmer’s account of “the hard times” of the mid-1980’s farm crisis. This farmer talked about reaching out to other farmers who were in trouble because he knew what it was like to be in trouble. I asked him how he reached out to others – and this is some of what he said:
You go to them – if they’re really down you put your hand on their shoulder. You give them a hug. You look them in their eye – it’s a physical thing that you have to experience. You can tell by the look on his face if he’s beat. And you can tell – you get so you can tell by the look on his face, you know, how close he’s getting to blowing his head off. And you’ve got to figure out that whenever he gets that close, well you better go do something if you can…It’s not simple. It’s not simple.
The last piece I brought is about the loss of rural communities and it’s based on a quote in which a farmer listed all of the businesses that once existed in the community of Jamestown but have since disappeared, thus describing the erasure of independent agriculture from the Kansas landscape. The art includes photos of dilapidated farms, ag businesses, coops, and cafes that once thrived in communities north of Lawrence – juxtaposed with a Conagra sign that is bright, shiny and new.
Through talking with farmers, I gained a much more complicated understanding of the concerns of rural Americans, and also an understanding of what society loses when independent farmers lose their livelihood. I do believe that sharing stories with others might offer one small step toward peace and social change.
Before I close here I want to mention that over the past year I’ve been laying low artwise because I had a baby last April. I think again, now, about how art is worked through the self. I think about how I heard my son’s heartbeat for the first time the day after two airplanes crashed into the world trade center, and I think about how babies and war have woven themselves into the few artworks I’ve managed to make over the year.
Also over the year I’ve stood in the Lawrence peace vigils in front of the courthouse nearly every Saturday since September. For me the vigils link peace with place. The vigils became a place I wanted to go to be with people — together voicing our opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.
I liked the vigils because people who were similar to each other yet also different, came together to talk and share information. I liked that the anarchists stood together with the Quakers, and the Mennonites, and the artists, and the poets, and the Greens, and the peaceniks, and the unions.
And through the months of protesting I started hearing about all these neat things happening in Lawrence — a kids sidewalk chalk for peace event, an alternative media website, a Kaw Valley Greens potluck, the art of revolution art auction, die-ins, poets for peace readings, a middle eastern film festival, an evening of storytelling about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, and on and on. For me, gathering week after week with the same people in the same place, together protesting and dreaming a different path, provided a glimmer of hope in a time of despair.
After Paul Hotvedt, landscape painter and activist, spoke at KAW Council’s spring gathering and said such interesting things, it seemed only fitting to ask him for an interview. This conversation took place at Milton’s coffeeshop one gorgeous May afternoon. More info.: www.paulhotvedt.com
Caryn Goldberg: What is art?
Paul Hotvedt: The first word that comes to mind that passes all the internal criticism is care. And I struggle to put a second word with that. Of course we feel an obligation nowadays to be very open-minded about this and one can’t be too careful, all puns intended, about defining art. That being said, I’ve been known to express frustration with philosophers who shy away from a definition. Art is an exploration, a humanist exploration, carefully done, otherwise useless. Its qualities beyond that describe a spectrum of response that is mind-bobbling.
CG: For you, is it more process or product?
PH: I’ll take that as a zen coan, and I’ll say it’s a union. It’s equal balance, but let’s talk about that. There’s a paradox in the product part. Let me say it’s recursively paradoxical. The product is the process, and the process is a product. I just had a discussion with another artist, Rick Mitchell, and I was telling him that I would like someday to advertise for a wealthy patron to buy one year of my work for $10,000, and they’d get 100 paintings unframed, and they could do anything they wanted. By seeing a body of work, the process is clearly revealed. Because I work outside, the attempts at versasimulitude are a big part of my work. One can see an attempt to come to grips with the complexity of change in the out-of-doors and the variety of forms and how they change in the seasons. It’s a visual essay, and that’s what essay means from the French, to assay, to try, to attempt. Each piece is also important on its own. You set aside the time to provide attention and care for one piece, knowing all the while that tomorrow another piece will come. Kind of like a baseball player, you never get too high or too low; there’s always a game tomorrow; enjoy what you’ve done; don’t get too bent out of shape about it. One of my favorite quotes is from Rudyard Kipling from his poem “If,” “If people could see success and failure as impostures of the same thing….”
CG: Would you say art is a spiritual practice for you?
PH: It has become part of my spiritual process.
CG: What does it mean to be a landscape painter today? Or what does it mean to you?
PH: Well, in the 19th century and earlier, landscape painting was used as a sophisticated real estate advertisement, and it’s definitely not that for me. However, as I’ve noted on my website, landscape painting and its enjoyment are not substitutes for social action. I paint and enjoy the landscape, and I enjoy looking at other landscapes, but I would not feel comfortable having that being the limit of my involvement in raising ecological issues. Therefore I participate – donate money and time and energy – to philanthropic causes.
CG: What draws you to the landscape?
PH: The challenge of visual forms. I can’t make up the variety of forms sitting by myself in a studio. I sleep better at night knowing all I have to do is go out and do a moderate amount of reconnoitering to relocate my studio and my subject matter each day. I have faith in the process. As I’m drawn to find certain visual forms and challenged to interpret them, the resulting objects will be generous providers of contemplation.
CG: How did you get into all this?
PH: There are a lot of painters, writers and musicians in my family, and also social workers, therapists, nutritionists, and I’ve learned from them that the care of feeding of the visual life, and the care and feeding of the body and soul are pretty closely intertwined. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, I realized I wanted to go into some field that I could enjoy working in as an old person. I didn’t want, for example, to have to change careers in my 30s because I wasn’t challenged. I had an idea that art would become more interested the older I got.
CG: When you were growing up, were you drawn to art?
PH: Yes, my father was a Sunday painter, quite an accomplished one. My cousin’s paintings were always around the house – she makes her living as an artist. My father was a writer as was my father, and we had a very musical family. Because I grew up in a small town, I had the chance to participate in a lot of school music activities.
CG: How do you feel about being a visual artist when we live in a culture where the visual is the most privileged of the senses?
PH: My answer is, when was it not? It’s safe to say the relationship between visual intelligence and logic and metaphor and emotion – all those things we consider to be human – depends very heavily on our visual sense, there’s a strong connection there. As a landscape painter, however, I feel more like the earliest primate in a primitive jungle full of giant creatures. I make stationary objects that don’t change over time, but reflect changes in the viewer’s mind over time. Right now, our culture is invested in making rapidly changing visual events, and painting is no longer the primary visual theater that it was 150 years ago. I’m comfortable with that, but I find myself closing my eyes in front of the television or in a movie theater, not out of censorship but to eliminate gratuitous frame-changing that seems pointless.
CG: That makes a lot of sense to me. What’s your biggest challenge in making art?
PH: Staying in touch with the unexceptional.
CG: Good answer. Why?
PH: Two reasons really – one is the balance in my personal life that unexceptional everyday events brings to me: quiet, simple joys – family, community – that nourish me. I love that aspect of life. The second reason is what is unexceptional to “nature” can become exceptional when considered in art. It pushes one’s threshold of recognition of the universe. That slow, steady development is more interesting than any other process. It does, however, provide for aberrations.
CG: When you’re painting, what’s going through your mind?
PH: Well, I’m standing back as sort of a dispassionate individual in a way – it’s very objective – observing a synthesis. There’s a technical component, “Is this the right color? Do I do this first and that later, or that first and this later?” Then there’s the emotion that is created by the dialogue between the landscape and the painted landscape that’s very rich territory. And there’s the old babbling idiot, and those are usually enough of a crowd to keep me occupied.
CG: Is there some common feeling or realization that comes to you when you finish something?
PH: Yes. This might sound very unremarkable, not very unique, but it’s a spectrum of feeling. One metaphor that comes to mind is that feeling of landing in an airplane – there’s a definite sense of energy, of down-grading, of coming out of another plane, and then an interesting thing happens. If you have the time and energy, it’s very good to work on another piece because all of a sudden, everything seems formally enhanced. You become very aware of visual relationships, and it’s easier to enter into the process again. So, for example, if I’m driving around and can’t find much to work with, sometimes it helps to stop and do a painting of something very, very modest, and that that’s an eye-opener. Then everything seems paintable as opposed to being banal.
CG: You’ve talked about looking at your paintings as a body of work as opposed to individually. Why?
PH: For a number of reasons. About fifteen years ago, I realized, that for me, it was the best path to take, period. If the purpose of art is to help people feel life more acutely, and I mean that in a non-ironic, non-cynical way, then I’ve become more interested in art-making that is compatible with my non-art-making moments as a husband and father and friend. Personally speaking, I found that when I was interested in making large masterpieces, it brought out the selfish side of me. Going back to the interest in the unspectacular, if I’m not getting too high or too low in my artwork, it lets me enter in and out of that world more fluently. And of course if you’re training your eye and your mind to recognize subtle changes in an environment, you can’t help but notice those things in your family and community.
CG: Painting outside in Kansas means looking at the sky a lot. What do you see there?
PH: Sometimes I see sky as consciousness and ground as subconsciousness. It fits the notion of feelings and thoughts evolving below conscious level until they reach some particular threshold to give rise to some thing (a cloud or kind of light which in turn reveals something about its origins). In our brains this usually happens quickly and on a micro scale. Yet I like to think of it as very large and slow moving in the landscape. In this sense one can ask the imaginary questions, what thought is this landscape, what thought processes are this landscape? what role do emotions play in this landscape? It also subverts the usual view of the conscious being solid, and the subconscious being liquid and dark and dangerous. It celebrates the organization, the integrity, the revelation of subconsciousness. It also embodies the notion of an atmosphere as partly terrestrial, an expression of the watercycle, which, together with the atmosphere, is irregular because of irregular landforms, and partly external – the revelatory, energizing solar power. In the mind that would be things felt to be physical local things, my carbon atoms, my neural connections, and the universal, our light…And sometimes I just look at the clouds like Charlie Brown and say to myself, “I see a duck, and a horse, and a dog.”
CG: What’s unsaid?
PH: What’s left unsaid is more of the process. I want to say something about humility because I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t say that humility seems somehow to provide you with amazing adventures. When I go out and do a painting, I never know if that’s the completion of one thing or the beginning of something that’s going to come to fruition in 15 years. (See more of Paul’s work at http://www.PaulHotvedt.com)
by Dixie Lubin, Kansas
I’ve had fifty summers on this earthwalk
Hot green seasons of thunderstorms and lust
When creation hummed with possibility, and
Mushrooms surged from the soil, urgent as erections,
While time got tricky, doubled back on itself…
One stopped for the merest moment to dream
And turning back again, your children have grown,
Left home, or your garden vegetables
Have doubled in size.
I’ve had those summers, yes,
And the yellow-gray drought years
When babies clung shrieking at your ankles
As you shouldered impossible loads, and life was
One stinking alley, layered and gritty with karmic debris
When love was a rumor that got you through the night
And only weeds flourished.
I’ve had, as they say, the time of my life
And years fall around me like leaves.
Winters tend to blur together
So many cold times that last too long –
That desire to surrender, and just lie down
In sparkling snow. That age-old struggle for
Firewood and warmth, eager child faces lit by candles
Smells of winter greenery, and sweet human singing
Three-part harmony in frosty air:
HERE WE COME A-CAROLLING
And that is only half the story.
‘I’ve rolled around the wheel of the year
Ball on roulette table, or the seasons have revolved,
Majestically, around the hub of me…
I’ve not yet spoken of my tentative springtimes
Trembling leaf of my spirit hoping to unfurl, baby bird
Pushed half naked from nest
To reality so new there were no words for beauty
Nor for fear. Oh, I’ve had my epiphanies, my equinoctal hilltop bonfires
When stars burned holes in midnight and my heart beat thunder
With the drums, the drums. Yet that spring my mother died
The coffin colored sky held no stars or sun. Three months of rain,
Fields flooded, river swollen and turbulent
As if the cosmos grieved her passing.
I’ve always loved October best
Glorious gold and blue birth month graced with monarchs
Crisp mornings filled with purpose
Burnished afternoons of smoky, indolent sex
Mellow sun a hypnotic honey filling the body with light.
Yet the nights come cool and misty
Ghosts of the ancestors hover near
Hungry to be remembered, murmuring in the breeze
While high up, invisible, geese call in their magical way
And I fill up with mystery.
I’ve had fifty years on this earthwalk
I stand rooted in my life as any tree
And the years fall around me like leaves.
Pam’s book, Kansas Curiousities, is available at many bookstores, including Lawrence’s The Raven.
I wasn’t lucky enough to be born in Kansas. But when I was four, my father, a freshly-scrubbed ministerial student from Ketucky’s Asbury College, landed his first preaching assignment in Canton, Kansas, home of the hot and cold water towers. Other than my ski bum gypsy period and a few stints overseas, I’ve lived in Kansas ever since.
Since Dad’s days off were Monday through Saturday (he had to preach, of
course, on Sunday), we spent a lot of time driving the state in our red 1964 Rambler Station wagon. I figured every kid got to tramp around five acres of giant Mushroom rocks, pray with Mennonites and eat quarter-size hamburgers at Cozy Inn. I had no idea how lucky I was.
As I grew older, I started hearing nasty rumors. I learned that some people in this country thought Kansas was flat (they obviously hadn’t been to the lookout near White Cloud where you can see four states) and boring. Spy magazine, in fact, had the audacity to call Kansas the most “boringest state in the union.”
Obviously, whoever wrote that, besides being functionally illiterate, had never been here. I mean, c’mon, Kansas has more statues of liberties than New York.
Twenty-four, in fact, that were erected between 1949 and 1951 by Boy Scout troops around the state who were able to raise $350, the price at that time for an 8-foot lady of liberty.
For awhile though, I have to admit, I bought into it. I was an impressionable teenager. I made plans to “go west, young woman.” I “wanted to be king of the hill, top of the heap, New York, New York.”
And then I figured it out.
Kansas doesn’t need or want the glory. Why waste our time defending ourselves or disputing jealous detractors? Like Archie Bunker, those prejudiced busybodys have already made up their minds and most of them have never been here anyway. Those who have been here probably never bothered to get off Interstate 70 except maybe to take a pee at Stuckey’s.
Far as we’re concerned, people can believe the rumors. We’re too busy and
far too happy and prosperous here in Kansas to worry about other people’s misinformation.
If we supported a tourism budget like Nevada or California, if people really knew all there was to see and do here, we might have crowded freeways and drive-by-shootings like Los Angeles. The way we figure it, we don’t need spin doctors touting our state. We already have everything we need.
One summer during college, I took a job with the Kansas Department of Economic Development. At that time, Kansas was the only state that didn’t have an official tourism department. My job, along with three other journalism interns, was to drive around the state in a big RV and promote Kansas, see if we couldn’t lure people into sticking around a day or two longer.
The governor loaded us down with brochures, gave us a gasoline credit card and sent us off to ‘go forth and be prosperous.” To this day, I regard it as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Not only was I paid $700 a month, a veritable fortune for a college kid in those days (my friends were barmaids and getting minimum wage), but I got to stay in hotels with maid service and clean sheets and visit all of Kansas’ hotspots. If there was a festival on the eastern side of the state (the two girls traveled the east while the two boys took the west), we were there, setting up our folding table, passing out our brochures and chatting up cute boys.
We went to swap meets and tractor pulls, barbecue cook-offs and fishing tournaments. We even, if I’m not mistaken, went to Skunk Run Days in Ottawa. There was the John Brown Jamboree in Osawatomie, the Inter-tribal pow wow in Council Grove and Chingawassa Days in Marion.
I never had it so good. In fact, the only drawback at all was the disappointment on some rock and roll fans’ faces when they stopped by our motor home and discovered we weren’t, the rock group Kansas, after all. Our RV had the word “Kansas” splashed across it in three-foot letters and since this was about the time their hits, “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on, Wayward Son,” were leading the Top 40, their dismay was not surprising.
Unfortunately, a couple weeks before our internship was scheduled to end, I flipped a dead wasp at Patty, my fellow explorer, who drove the brand new RV with the painted letters into a ditch. Totaled it. We had to spend the last two weeks of our assignment in Topeka at a Holiday Inn near the state office building where we reported each day to write assessments of our travels. “Where,” the big whigs wanted to know, “would we recommend a permanent tourism booth?” I don’t remember what we wrote, but I do remember those stuffy offices weren’t half as much fun as traveling the back roads of Kansas.
In California, the beauty is obvious. Any idiot can see it. Kansas, I’m proud to say, is every bit as beautiful. It’s just more subtle. You have to be sharp. Here in Kansas we don’t have mountains to ski down or waves to surf, so we’ve have to find our own way. We’ve had to use our initiative, make our own fun, create our own art. And that is exactly why you find startling inventions like the helicopter and the slurpee coming out of Kansas. That’s why we have more folk artists per capita than anywhere in the world. It’s why Inez Marshall carved full-size Abraham Lincolns and Harley-Davidsons out of limestone, why Leroy Wilson painted his basement over and over again for 12 years.
So let other people make fun of Kansas. What do we care if they believe our state is dull and backwards? That mistaken identity just leaves more room for us.
Most of us, in fact, choose to play up our less than stellar reputation. When Howard Stern’s producer called a couple years ago to set up an interview with the famous New York shock jock about a book I wrote, I figured I might as well play into his hick jokes. Since I knew our radio interview (me on the phone in Kansas, he in his New York studio) was being videotaped for his show on “E,” I went out and bought a pair of overalls. I even considered putting a blade of hay in my mouth.
As I said, we like to have fun here in Kansas.
Today, as an adult, I write a travel column called, “Now, Where Was I?” Quite frequently, I’m called upon to leave the borders of my home state. To write about places like Australia, or Portugal or Bermuda. With this book, I finally got to stay home for a change. It is with great delight that I took on this assignment, that I was able to write this book with not just a few, but 200 plus listings about my favorite state.
I guess good old Dorothy said it best. “There’s no place like Kansas.” I think as you read the pages that follow, you’ll come to agree.
Stephanie Mills: An Excerpt
Stephanie Mills, one of the keynote speakers at the Power of Place conference, gave us permission to reprint the following excerpt from her book, Epicurian Simplicity. Stephanie, in addition to being a long-time founder and participant in bioregional congresses, is author of many articles and many fine and life-changing books, including: In Service to the Wild, Whatever Happened to Ecology?, Turning Away from Technology, and In Praise of Nature. She lives in the Great Lakes Bioregion in the Upper Midwest, and speaks and writes on all manner of issues related to ecology and social change. She was also named by Utne Reader in 1996 as one of the world’s leading visionaries. In addition, she’s just an gorgeously gracious human.
The air seems to be vital tissue this morning, entirely alive with mayflies and countless other insects darting or arising in the sunlight, with airborne cherry petals marking the direction of the breeze and of gravity. The chirping of crickets merges into a soft, ubiquitous jingle. The spring air is their sounding board; the whole country is their guitar. Then there’s birdsong, certain presences announcing themselves. Four and twenty blackbirds are chucking and chucking. Jays are dipping low through the pine branches. A mourning dove is cooing. A starling is giving its raffish wolf whistle. Some goldfinches, among them a male with an unusual black eye mask, drop by to investigate the hummingbird feeder. The sky is washed in blue. The breezes are sweet, moist, and cool. What more do I need to know of heaven? Life is the absolute. Today the whole of existence feels like a gift.
To live in a seasonal climate is always to be facing change and often to be carping about it, protesting the revolving, discomforts, a little uneasy with the implications of time’s passage. It is equally to be confronted by the grand symbolism of the stately turning round of the year. Here, the trees strongly body forth the seasons. In the woods most vividly, every year is an allegory of life’s changes. Spring in its infancy, summer its flaming youth, autumn its maturity and fulfillment, winter in its ebbing, the end that contains the beginning. It’s as foolish to prefer one season above all the rest as it is to hold a preference for a certain time of life. I notice that whatever season we’re in is usually my favorite. Perhaps that’s an autumnal mind-set.
Although the Sonoran Desert, bioregion of my childhood, is a realm where cacti, not trees, are the charismatic megaflora, Phoenix had watered itself into oasishood, and the yards in our suburb had trees big enough to bond with. The native saguaros, chollas, octillos, mesquites, barrel cacti, and paloverdes were mostly to be seen on the rapidly receding outskirts of town or in date-palm pastiche desert-style landscapes at the old Scottsdale and Paradise Valley resorts. The desert and its cacti were with some justification regarded as hostile; park-like yards with lawns and elms were the conventional habitat of Anglo-American families such as mine.
In the yard next door, there were leafy chinaberry trees where our little gang of kids could clamber into the cool shade. Behind the subdivision was a citrus orchard. With their low, smooth, elephantine branches, the grapefruit trees were friendly to small climbers. My family’s yard had eucalyptus trees that were worthless for climbing but impressively tall, and shading the west side of the house were American elms. The elms’ lowest branches were too high for a little girl to reach but made a good bandstand for the mockingbirds.
Like any healthy, normal young primate, I became intimately acquainted with trees, if not forests, during my childhood. As most of us do, I outgrew that intimacy. As a young adult, my feeling for trees persisted but became a rhetorical relationship. Trees, especially redwoods, along with all the other conspicuous features of the earth’s imperiled ecosystems – sequoias, bristlecone pines, condors, gray whales, snail darters, Furbish’s louseworts – became objects of my general concern. Before the timber wars got going in earnest, I had left northern California. Now, courageous acts of civil disobedience have become a way of life for hundreds of human beings whose relationship with redwood trees and old-growth forests goes beyond rhetoric to a sacrifice of their days, their flesh, and even their lives.
In the mid-1980s, when I moved to the North Woods, I came to a landscape that had been logged repeatedly and yet still grew trees. Dwindling tracts of second- and third-growth hardwoods, mixes of sugar maple, beech, bass, ironwood, ash, poplar, yellow birch, red oak, and hemlock, persist in different combinations and proportions, depending on soil and slope. There are a few white and red pines and white birches here and there, and near wetlands and flowing water, different forest communities: cedar, fir, spruce, and tamarack. Some ecologists are saying that the combined stresses of acid rain, drought, insects, disease and genetic impoverishment that results from cutting the best trees for the market may not be survivable by the forests, despite their current appearance.
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, much of this land was cut over and kept cleared. Now it grows corn and hay and golf courses. The uplands are good for growing cherries and other fruit, and for sitting half-million-dollar trophy homes on with views. Then there’s all-but-defeated land such as mine, which was farmed to the limit. In our glacial terrain, the limit was reached after a few crops of potatoes, and the soil began to blow. Now it’s parked under pine plantations, where Christmas trees and timber are raised as crops. On my acres, the Christmas trees have been left to their own devices and have grown tall and gnarly, shading and sheltering numerous hopeful cherry, maple, and beech saplings. Our local mosaic of second-, third-, and fourth-growth woodlots, orchards, suburbs, woodburbs, oat fields, and cornfields is picturesque but lacks ecological integrity. None of it adds up to forest, but the robust remnants of the real thing are beautiful for now.
When autumn comes to these woods, the green alchemist chlorophyll, having worked with earth, air, light, and water to grow the trees through spring and summer, ceases its labors. Then every single leaf reveals some different color, pattern, and intensity of pigmentation, going from green to gaudy. There’s a spectacle wherever there’s a patch of hardwoods. The sugar maple’s eye-dazzling range, from plangent yellow to blazing orange and gleaming ruby, makes that tree’s transformations the dominant feature of this most scenic season. After fifteen years of gaping at the sugar maples’ leaves, I have begun to see past them to the other trees in the forest and their less insistent but no less beautiful hues. The fall colors of the white ash’s compound leaves grade from butter yellow to garnet and burgundy, deep radiant tones that quietly invite the eye’s appreciation. Pien cherry leaves are among the earliest to turn and glow deeply as embers. Hope hornbeams and basswoods range from chrome yellow to citron. Beech leaves phase through sunny yellow on their way to paper-bag brown.
The sugar maple’s millennia of upstaging the rest of the fall foliage may be coming to an end. Acid rain threatens these trees, and global climate change may drive their range northward. Whether the trees themselves will be able to migrate as quickly as the weather changes remains to be seen. The Asian longhorn beetle, an alien invasive species recently established in the United States thanks to the expansion of world trade, having arrived in the wood of crates containing goods from China, is likely to infest and decimate this tree species unless unprecedentedly successful vigilance against the beetle’s spread is undertaken and maintained. The sugar maple’s fellow dominant in these woodlands, the American beech, is even more immediately imperiled. Beech bark disease may eliminate as many as half of the beech trees. The possibility that the beeches and sugar maples could all but vanish from the woods, as did the American chestnuts and elms, which succumbed to alien organisms, signals change of quite a different kind from the movement of the seasons and their variation from year to year. These shocking final changes confront us everywhere these days, asking insistently, “How are we to live?” and “What are we to do?”
If we live simply, attentively, and gratefully, it will go better. There is always beauty to see if you have an eye for it. Looking is a practice. Seeing is a gift that comes with practice. The light is autumn is so rich, warm, and romantic, tinted with all the bright colors of the land. Did it rejoice the hearts and souls of the old-times who lived here, engaged in subsistence farming? Were they amazed, grateful? And how did this glowing atmosphere with its rustle and snap strike the Odawa people, when the trees were many and great and the woods offered meat, furs, and medicine and the dangers of wolves and bears? Has it always been a great wonder to be here as the seasons hasten along, and has it always been a vexation to fend with the whipsaw weather that is fall?
from the bioregional congress
This song was sung frequently at the bioregional congress. Thanks to Gwyn Peterdi for the words and music
As one we walk this earth together.
As one we sing to her our song.
As one we love her.
As one we heal her.
Her heart beats with our own as one.
As one we join with her our mother.
As one we feel her sacred song.
As one we touch her.
As one we heal her. Her heart beats with our own as one.
As one we walk this earth together.
As one we sing to her our song.
As one we love her.
As one we heal her.
Her heart beats with our own as one.
As one we join with her our mother.
As one we feel her sacred song.
As one we touch her.
As one we heal her. Her heart beats with our own as one.
Following are excerpts from the proceedings of the Continental Bioregional Congress, held Oct. 7-13 at Camp Wood in the Flint Hills. For complete proceedings and information on the next continental congress, please visit http://www.bioregional-congress.org.
by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
The Continental Bioregional Congress on the Prairie, held Oct. 7-13, in the Flint Hills of Kansas, brought together 150 or so kindred spirits to live together for a week in a ceremonial village where life centered on the earth and community. In a sense, we left time as it played out in schedules, workdays, travel and home life to dwell together in dream time. Participants, who traveled to the congress from as far north as British Columbia and from as far south as Peru, dwelled together at Camp Wood, located in the heart of the Flint Hills, a large range of hills where tall grass prairie has largely remained intact because the flint makes the hills hard to cultivate. In this native landscape, we created our own ecovillage for the week, coming together for the first time in six years to ponder new directions and old wisdom of the bioregional movement, and to renew and reinvigorate a continental-wide community of bioregionalists.
What happened at the congress beyond the resolutions we consensed upon is so richly layered with all of our experiences that all I can offer here are some summaries of what I saw through all the congress parts, which surely add up to more than their sums. Like bioregional congresses past and to come, magical connections, realizations and breakthroughs threaded through all aspects of our work and play, and at any given moment, there was a panorama of amazing things happening.
WE ARE A CIRCLE
We officially opened the congress Monday night with an indoor circle at which time Alberto Ruz called us all together by playing his conch shell to invoke spirit and community. Ken Lassman, from Lawrence, KS., and Laura Kuri, from Cuernavaca, Mexico, each spoke in English and Spanish about this place and our work together, Ken telling us about the contours of the prairie ecosystem, and Laura helping us realize that, in light of the current American administration and economic globalization, we were very brave to even be coming together. David Haenke asked each person who attended all seven previous congresses to leap into the center of the circle, and in went David along with Gene and Joyce Marshall. David then called people who had attended each congress – Missouri, Michigan, British Columbia, Maine, Texas, Kentucky and Mexico – to leap into the center. And then all those who were here for the first time jumped into the center. Finally, all those who were here now took the leap.
The first morning circle, held bright and not-so-early on Tuesday, drew us together to introduce ourselves by sharing our name, place and passions. The responses ranged far and wide from, “my passion is permaculture” to “my passion is bringing down the Bush Administration.” We ended with a spiral dance, “We are a circle/ within a circle/ with no beginning/ and never ending” both in English and Spanish.
The rest of the week, we mainly used the morning circles as place for anyone who had anything to share, in words or non-verbally, to come into the center and speak his/her mind, usually with Fabio Manzini doing an admirable and often very witty job of translating. On one of those mornings, someone told us two pieces of news: Jimmy Carter had been awarded the Nobel prize for peace, and the U.S. congress had just given President Bush full power to make war on Iraq. Several people began sobbing, and Bea Briggs shared a particularly moving poem by Robert Bly, urging us to cry out and to cry for what was happening. Rita DeQuercus led us in a song of hope she wrote. But mostly, we stood in silence on the prairie under the vast overcast sky, many of us crying, no longer shielded from the numbing effects of American culture and completely able to feel the effects of the rulers of this land on other lands and other peoples.
The last day, we made our last circle on the prairie to join together in a ritual led by Carlos Gomez, Angelica Flores Mendez, with help from Albert Ruz and Heather Linhardt. After Carlos spoke to the earth and sky on our behalf, he told us to repeat after him, threw back his head and cried out, “Amerrrrrricaaaa!” We joined him, crying out “America” to the sky, and in doing so, reclaiming the name for this country where we stood. We then cried out, KANSAS!, MEXICO! and even PERU! Carlos, Angelica and Heather soon went around the interior of the circle, Carlos brushing us with a feather and prayers, Angelica giving us each a sacred stone, and Heather smudging us. At the end, Chris Wells brought out an enormous canvas boat, large enough to wrap around the entire circle. Previously, people mounted the turtle quilt, the beautiful quilt made at NABC 1 by people throughout the continent and sewn together by men at the first congress, which now served as our sail. With guitar-players and all of us in the center, we sang “We are the boat, we are the sea” in English and Spanish, circling the field, and even singing our boat into the lodge. As we brought the quilt and the boat of us all through the small door, Chris said, “see, we can even get through small openings.”
Everyone was assigned a clan, which was named for a particular animal, plant or other natural attribute of the prairie region, including coyote, grasses, wildflowers, south wind, spider, crow, etc. While we worked out the clan assignments to be somewhat arbitrary, letting the clan card each participant drew from the basket choose the participant, where people ended up often resounded with their lives. The coyote clan, for example, with both Gene Marshall and Giovanni Ciarlos in it, was so obvious that people started yelling “typecast” when they saw the clan come together. Each clan also had a translator and, in most cases, one child (so that the children were distributed around). The purpose of the clans was three-fold: to give each participant a small circle in which s/he could be heard and could hear others, to draw people together to undertake volunteer tasks, and to celebrate the explore the totem of each clan (in mine, for example, the spider clan, we often sang “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” along with a Spanish song about elephants piling on a spider web).
While a few of the clans were a bit sparse with only three or four people, most had seven to eight active participants who met each morning for 30-60 minutes to talk about dreams hopes, challenges, emotional states of being, and even their clan totem. Speaking of which, each clan was also given a stick to decorate as a tribute to its totem with the understanding that on the last night of the congress, we would parade the totems during our All Species parade and dance. But when the time came, no one could find their clan sticks. I heard, “Coyote can’t find coyote’s stick” in the background while people rushed from building to building looking for where the sticks had gone. The answer came the next morning when Copper Ramberg, a 12-year-old from Lawrence, KS. and a member of the crow clan, brought the sticks into the center of the morning circle, telling everyone, “since the crows didn’t have a stick, we stole all of yours.” Typecast crows too.
Many people came ready to deliver engaging and provocative workshops, and here’s a sampling of what was presented: “Permaculture in Mexico” with Antonia Gracia; “Introduction to Co-Counseling: Getting to Have Your Whole Self” with David Lillie; “The Great Story: The Living Legacy of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimm, and the Universe/Earth/Human Epic Like You’ve Never Heard It Before” with Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd; “Ecovillage Nuts and Bolts” with Albert Bates, Liora Adler, Alberto Ruz and many more; “Corporate Personhood” with Betsy Barnum; “Rank and Privilege in Egalitarian Groups” with Bea Briggs; “Democracy, the Earth and You” with Gene Marshall; “Geonomics Rising” with Kris Nelson; “Mexican Vegetarian Cooking” with Gloria Cardona; “Designing Ecosystems at The School for Designing a Society” with Rob Scott; “Eco-Sapiens Arise” with David Haenke; and several potent workshops on traditional healing with Carlos Gomez and Angelica Flores Mendez.
PLENARIES AND COUNCILS
At the heart of all congresses are the sessions where we meet as a whole group. As one person wrote in her evaluation, these sessions were sometimes ponderous and sometimes amazing as Caroline Estes, drawing on her great experience, great heart, and great intuition, once again did a skillful and wise job of moving us toward common ground.
The first plenary was devoted to deciding what councils we wanted to form to help us wrap our hearts and minds around the multitude of issues effecting us, including everything from hearing the voice of the earth to re-storying the earth to living outside the monetary system. Through a group brainstorming sessions, followed by everyone “voting” by putting stickers next to the issues that they were most interested in working on, we formed four councils: Communities, the Future of the Bioregional Movement, Human Relations with Other Species and Earth & Sharing Stories, and Creating Politics and Economics of Caring (including ending corporate rule and US accountability). With a fairly small number of people, this proved to be the perfect number for having enough participation and depth on each council.
The Future of the Bioregional Congress, through the week, developed a comprehensive plan to start a bioregional office, formulate a coordinating council composed of a balance of people from the north and the south, invite Earthaven Ecovillage in Kutuah to host the next congress, and look at many ways to spread bioregionalism. The Communities Council looked at the core elements of healthy communities, and how we can deepen our connections with diverse communities at home and around the continent. The Creating Politics and Economics of Caring Council put together an extensive list of objectives and actions, including having citizens set rules for corporations, promoting sustainable life, working toward giving a voice to all people, increasing public awareness of political and economic processes, demanding freedom of education and education for freedom, and redistributing wealth. And the Human Relations with Other Species and the Earth Council reminded us to be more aware of our relations and connections, note the tension between who we are and what we want to become, and to share our stories of remembering our relations through a website.
On Saturday, when we had two long plenary sessions, the representatives of the more-than-humans arrived. Caroline began the plenary by telling us they would be coming, and while we could look at them, we were not to talk with them or touch them. Within the hour, a steady drum beat stopped the plenary, and we all looked up to see Jim Schenk beating on the drum, and leading in four representatives: one for the four-legged and crawling, one for swimming creatures, one for winged beings, and one for plants. The energy in the room stilled and shifted into something else: we were now in the presence of the sacred, and we needed to remember this as we spoke and took action. After some silence while the representatives settled themselves, we resumed the plenary with a fuller remembrance of where we were.
By Sunday morning, all the loose ends from all the resolutions were tied up, even though our numbers were dwindling. But all the late-night scribbling and rushed meetings during meals added up to a surprising number of proposals consensed upon, including the re-institution of a structure (an office, a coordinating council, a site committee) to carry us from congress to congress, and a deeply passionate plea for peace.
CULTURAL SHARING NIGHTS
Once again, these evenings proved to be a pivotal part of sharing our places with each other. The first night was Chase County Night, and we were gifted with visits from Jim Hoy, a Flint Hills historian and naturalist; Annie Wilson and her daughters, Flint Hills writers and singers; Jane Koger, a long-time resident who created an entirely over-the-grid ranch on land her great-grandparents homesteaded and she rediscovered through serendipity; and a honey-voiced, powerful gospel singer named Benny, who shared tales of love for this place. As an added treat, Judy Goldhaft performed her transformative water dance.
The next night was Mexican night, first launched with a ritual to honor all the elders among us, feed the earth, and bless ourselves, and then carried into an amazing Mexican dinner – mole, beans, rice, tortillas, a special kind of juice and other delicacies. The chapel that evening was full of music, stories, slides, and video that brought us closer to the work of the eco-punks in Mexico City, the ecovillages in the countryside, and the rich culture reclaimed and honored by some of the 25 or so congress participants with roots in Mexico. Rounding out the evening were trays of Mexican desserts, which Laura Kuri brought across the border to help us taste Mexico a little more.
The following night was a mixture of places and people. Alice Kidd told stories of her community in British Columbia, and in memory and honor the late Fraiser Lang, writer of the Salmon song, we sang and did the salmon dance. Stephanie Mills read from her extraordinary new book, Epicurian Simplicity. Chris Lowry, with backup provided by David Haenke and Dan Bentley. Stan Slaughter shared a touching song about a beloved horse disgarded for tractors on a family farm. I made up some spontaneous poetry, spontaneously translated by Bea Briggs. And John Herrington told about the evolution and near extinction of the American chestnut, now being revived. To prove his point, he and his partner, Karen Shelton, distributed freshly-roasted chestnuts to us all.
The last night of cultural sharing began with an ecstatic concert by Jim Scott which had singing about everything from the layers of the rain forest to peace. KAW Council took the stage to share some stories of organizing the congress while one of our younger members, 7-year-old Forest Lassman, rolled across the stage. Albert Bates and Liora Adler then presented a powerful and extremely far-reaching video on ecovillage design and community around the world. Liora and Alberto Ruz also shared the work of La Caravana as it makes it way around South America, seeding bioregionalism in fertile ground everywhere it travels.
Our final night began with many of us dressed as plants and animals, on stilts or on the ground, dancing around the fire where drummers drummed, singers sang and dancers danced. Despite a short parade of everyone in the chapel and back, everyone persisted in keeping our connection close to the fire where the music went on for hours.
Every so often, I would look into the field surrounding the fire where I could see a tall egret, on stilts and wearing long white wings, swaying in the dark.
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S CIRCLES
The men’s circle, from what I’m told, took place at the labyrinth, a huge canvas unfolded in a pasture where congress participants took solace and found peace and prayer. The men spiral-circled, beginning with the oldest, at age 75, and going down to the youngest, age 23. Each one of them spoke, sharing stories of their lives and celebrating their time together.
The women’s circle was held in the chapel where a circle of 40 or so women sat in a circle on chairs and on the floor. After a sacred song (the hookie-pookie, introduced by Pam McCann, who asked “if this was really what it was all about”), each woman spoke of her life – her struggles, her gifts, her dealings with grief and joy, her power and the power around her, her connection with the earth, and her gratitude for other women. We then rushed outside to stand in a circle that spiraled in tight, all of our arms around us, as we did a healing ritual, and passed a kiss all the around, from Angelica in the center to the last woman and back to Angelica who tilted her head to the sky and threw a kiss up to the heavens. And then we sang and sang and sang while, just across the field, we could hear most of the men and some of the women in another circle, chanting, “Kaw! Kaw! Kaw!” in prayer right before dinner.
Thanks to the hard work and superb organization of Rita DeQuercus, along with spectacular help from our cooks Lori Thomas and Mike Greever, and volunteer help from all of us, we enjoyed many fine meals featuring locally-grown, often organic food. From cashew chili to home-made ginger bread, we joined together for each meal to taste more of what comes from this place and time. Moreover, at the table, friendships were forged, issues were debated, rifts were mended, emotions were released, discoveries were made, reunions were celebrated, debates were heated up, resolutions were forged, plans were made, jokes were told, and a whole of good food was eaten.
EMERGING FROM THE CONGRESS
If nothing else, everyone who attended this congress will remember the congress for a long time whenever they look into their cupboards or pantry because we had so much food left over that we made everyone take something home. Particularly in abundance were Luna Bars, which were to have been sold at the cantina. Some of us on the organizing committee contemplated making all people who wanted to speak at the plenary eat a Luna Bar first, but we relented. Instead, these treats, along with piles of potatoes, packs of tortillas, hoards of apples, jars of jam, bottles of soy sauce and other delicacies were carted home all over the continent to be consumed for days, weeks and months to come.
The travel home seemed to go on as long, or perhaps even longer, than the congress with occasional dinners and gatherings in Lawrence and Topeka with all those who stayed on a few days or weeks. But eventually, even the last of the left-over tortillas got consumed and everyone got home.
Now, months later, when people ask what the congress was like, I find myself searching for some impossible way to translate what it was we did and were together into language that doesn’t diminish any of it. Yet, back in mainstream society and mainstream time, it’s hard to convey what it was to live with everyone in a time outside of time, a time connected to the congresses years before, and a time that will surely connect to the congresses to come. Something happened at the congress that unfolds slowly, a gift that keeps on giving, showing us a wider view of the world, a deeper understanding of what changes are needed, and a spiral of community that gives us all we need to bring bioregionalism home in all aspects of our lives.
Being my first time at a bioregional congress, I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited! Dinner was incredible: salad, soup, rice, and beans for one hundred and seventy five people. The cooks worked like crazy. We were fed three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The cooperation to operate the camp was amazing. All week, people helped with cleaning, cooking, childcare, and anything else needed to keep things going.
The first morning, I didn’t know anyone except some people from Lawrence, and I wasn’t really comfortable. However, being myself, that soon changed. At morning circle, we cawed three times, and someone would make a speech. At another circle we said our name, where we came from, and our passion. I thought that was good for everyone. When we first arrived we had picked a clan out of a straw basket. They later announced the purpose of this: people of the same clan would meet and talk about our experiences, fears, joys, and loves. When you went to your clan, you were supposed to feel comfortable saying what you wanted, creating a sense of family and trust. This was effective for me, though I can’t speak for anyone else.
There were a lot of wonderful people who I could spend a lifetime with! In the middle of the too-short week I befriended some people there. But I couldn’t help the feeling that everyone was standing still, not making progress like they should. I saw the older group of baby boomers, and the new revolutionaries, and the discrepancy between the two. The baby boomers were tired and frustrated, adamant about the way they do things. The young people are frustrated too, which turns into anger. The young people at the bioregional congress got support, but only because they had the courage to enter that world. In my experience at the congress, I learned from everyone. Though I saw many problems, I will definitely go back next year in Peru. You can’t accomplish anything just standing outside and watching. It was wonderful being there; it really inspired me to teach others what I had learned.
Reprinted from The Planet Drum Pulse by permission of Planet Drum and the author.
The Farm, Tennessee
15th October 2000
It took six years after Meztitla´s First Bioregional Gathering of the Americas to reconvene in the North, and it took five years for the Consejo de Visiones in Mexico also to reconvene this spring in Tzajalá, Chiapas since the 7th took place in Dos Palmas, in the Maya-Caribbean bioregion in 1997.
Tomó seis años después del Primer Encuentro Biorregional de las Américas en Meztitla para que el Congreso Biorregional del Norte se volviera a reunir. Y tomó cinco años para que el Consejo de Visiones de México se volviera a encontrar en esta primavera en Tzajalá, Chiapas, desde que tuvimos el Séptimo Consejo en el ejido de Dos Palmas, en la biorregión Maya del Caribe en el año de 1997.
There are many possible reasons why it took so long to meet again at a North American bioregional congress. At this point it is futile to try to get into that. We were not as many as we expected to be at the prairie Kansas camp, but as we say in Mexico, ¨Those who had to be there, were there.¨ No doubt of that. The work to get us all there was considerable, and above all we should thank very much the KAW crew who made it possible, especially at this time in history, and right in the middle of the Bushmen Era.
Existen muchas posibles razones de porqué tomó tanto tiempo para realizar un Congreso de Norteamérica. En este momento es inútil tratar de elucidarlo. No fuimos tantos en el campamento de Kansas como esperábamos, pero como decimos en México: ¨Llegaron los que tenían que llegar, ni uno más ni uno menos..¨ Y no hay duda alguna que así fue. El trabajo para que llegáramos todos fue muy grande, y antes que nada tenemos que agradecer mucho a la banda de KAW que hizo que este encuentro fuera posible, especialmente en estos momentos de la historia que los EUA viven en medio de la Era de Bush.
It took some time to melt the ice. The Mexican representation, nearly twenty of them, were many first-time comers to a Congress, and did not know very well at the beginning how, why and where to integrate in the process. The families from the North were quite aware of the lack of ethnic and age diversity among their participants. A few key spokespeople were absent. But as always, reality imposes itself over “should” and “would.”
Tomó tiempo para que el hielo se derritiera. La delegación mexicana, con cerca de veinte representantes, estaba compuesta por muchos integrantes que vinieron al congreso por primera vez. En un principio muchos de ellos no sabían ni como, ni porqué ni donde integrarse al proceso. Las familias del norte estaban conscientes de que hubo muy poca diversidad étnica y de edad entre sus representantes. También estuvieron ausentes algunas personas claves del movimiento. Pero como siempre, la realidad se impone siempre sobre los podrías y deberías, que siempre representan tan solo ¨lo ideal.¨
Slowly, day after day, the process of integration happened by magic, process, flexibility and patience. The plenary, the morning circles, the clans, the councils, the workshops, the shared meals, the ceremonies, the cultural activities and music every night around the fire, did their job, and by Wednesday, after Mexican afternoon and evening, there were no more group distinctions and we became a large family, a congress, a gathering, a hoop of people trying its best to make the event not only successful by itself but also to reach a purposeful consensus on its future.
Poco a poco, día tras día, el proceso de integración se realizó gracias a la magia, el trabajo, el consenso, la flexibilidad y la paciencia. Las plenarias, los círculos matutinos, los consejos, los talleres, el compartir alimentos, las ceremonias, los clanes, las actividades culturales y la música cada noche alrededor del fuego hicieron su trabajo. El miércoles, después de la tarde azteca y de la fiesta mexicana, ya no existieron más los grupos distintos, y nos volvimos una gran familia, un congreso, un encuentro, un círculo de gente tratando de hacer lo mejor posible para que el evento no solo fuera un éxito por sí mismo, sino de lograr llegar a un consenso de cómo continuarlo con propósitos más firmes para el futuro.
The proceedings will for sure convey a detailed description of the work done at the four Councils, and a list of workshops and cultural activities. I participated mostly in the discussions on the Future of the Bioregionalist Movement. And a few important decisions were reached after not few intense hours of clarifications, concerns, disagreements, among which three I consider the most relevant.
Las memorias de evento van a darnos una descripción detallada del trabajo que realizaron los cuatro Consejos y una lista de los talleres y las actividades culturales. Yo por mi parte participé sobre todo en las discusiones sobre el Futuro del Movimiento Biorregional. Y algunas decisiones que considero importantes se lograron después de no pocas horas intensas de clarificaciones, preocupaciones y desacuerdos. Entre ellas quiero rescatar tres de ellas que considero las más relevantes……
The constitution of a Coordinating Council for the coming congress, included eight people, as full members plus nine as support for those, with four of them coming from Mexico. Two experimented veterans, Fabio Manzini and Laura Kuri and two young leaders from the urban bioregionalist punk band, Alejandra and Raul Salas. I came forward as a representative for South America, with Liora Adler as my support person. Ten people from the northern Congress represent the various bioregions north of Rio Bravo.
La constitución de un Consejo Coordinador para el próximo congreso, incluye a ocho personas, como miembros, mas nueve como sus suplentes Cuatro de esas personas vienen de México. Dos experimentados veteranos, Fabio Manzini y Laura Kuri, y dos jóvenes líderes del movimiento juvenil urbano y biorregionalista punk, Alejandra y Raúl Salas. Yo mismo me integré al grupo como representante de Sur América, con Liora Adler como mi sustituta y personas del Congreso Biorregional representan desde el 12 de octubre a las varias regiones del norte del Río Bravo.
The continuity of the resource center, temporarily in the Ozarks with David Haenke, will expand as new people join that voluntary staff crew in the coming months. And the most important news, from my point of view, was that four members from Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina, offered to take to their council the proposal to host the next Congress sometime in the year 2004. This will be the first time, from the six congresses I have attended that the event is hosted by a functioning ecovillage, and I think this should set a precedent that we should try to repeat in coming gatherings. It adds coherence to our event and it helps support emerging or established intentional communities and ecovillages in the various bioregions of the North.
La continuidad del Centro de Recursos, temporalmente en los Ozarks con David Haenke, ira creciendo con la integración de nuevos voluntarios en los próximos meses. Y la noticia más importante, desde mi punto de vista, es que cuatro miembros de la Ecoaldea Earthaven, de Carolina del Norte, ofrecieron llevar a su propio consejo la propuesta de ser los anfitriones del próximo Congreso, en el año 2004. Esta será la primera vez, de los seis congresos en los que he participado, que el evento se realizará en una ecoaldea funcionando. Creo que esto debe sentar un precedente que debiéramos repetir en los próximos encuentros. Añade coherencia a nuestras propuestas y ayuda a apoyar a las comunidades de intención y a las ecoaldeas en los varias biorregiones del Norte.
The other important news for the expansion of our movement, was that the proposal that the Caravana Arcoiris por la Paz, the main outreach group of the bioregional movement in South America, brought to the Congress the call for a Hemispheric gathering, congress or council of visions in Cuzco, Peru, in September 2003, received full approval and enthusiastic support from the Congress which consented to endorsing and committing to participate in it. It was also proposed that the yearly meeting of the Coordinating Council could happen in conjunction with the gathering.
La otra noticia importante para la expansión de nuestro movimiento, es que la propuesta que llevó la Caravana Arcoíris por la Paz al Congreso, siendo el más activo de los grupos biorregionalistas trabajando en Sudamérica, de realizar un encuentro, congreso, o consejo de visiones hemisférico en Cuzco, Perú, en el mes de septiembre de 2003, recibió una aprobación completa y un entusiasta apoyo de los participantes. El Congreso de Kansas consintió en endorsar y se comprometió en participar en dicho evento Se propuso además que la reunión anual del Consejo Coordinador podría tener lugar e conjunción con el encuentro.
It was noted that even if the movement has continuously and consistently grown since its origins, with these new decisions, we open the possibility to create alliances with other networks, friendly organizations and movements that are working in the same direction our movement has been doing for more than two decades. The event in Cuzco will definitely focus on bringing together representatives from other ethnic, national and bioregional areas, especially from Mexico, Central and South America, so this will provide a unique experience for the northern activists, to meet, learn and share with people from the whole hemisphere. Cuzco is considered to be the heart of the Tewantinsuyo, the ancient Andean confederation of the Four Directions.
Se hizo notar, que si bien el movimiento ha continua y consistentemente ido creciendo desde su creación, con estas decisiones abrimos la posibilidad de crear alianzas con otras redes, organizaciones amigas y movimientos afines que están trabajando en la misma dirección que lo hemos estado haciendo por las dos últimas décadas. El evento en Cuzco tendrá como foco el tratar de juntar a representantes de otros grupos étnicos, biorregionales y nacionales, especialmente de México, Centro y Sudamérica, lo cual dará una oportunidad única a los activistas del norte, de conocer, encontrarse, aprender y compartir con personas de todo el continente. Cuzco es considerado ser el corazón del Tewantinsuyo, la cabecera de la antigua confederación Andina de las Cuatro Direcciones.
We ended the VIII Congress all of us on board a huge ship mural that Chris Wells from All Species Project brought from New Mexico, sailing with the big Turtle Quilt taking the winds and reminding us that wherever we are, and whatever we do, we are all in the same boat, and that the fastest we get our trip together, the more chances we have to reach for a safe land after the coming big deluges finish their process of purification of Mother Earth.
Terminamos el VIII Congreso con todos los participantes a bordo de una gran Arca que Chris Wells del Proyecto de Todas las Especies de Nuevo México trajo, llevando como vela la gran frazada de la Tortuga, principal símbolo del Congreso, recordándonos que en cualquier lado en que estemos, hagamos lo que hagamos, nos encontramos en el mismo barco. Y que mientras más pronto nos unamos, más chances tendremos de llegar a tierra firme después de que los grandes diluvios que están purificando a la Madre Tierra concluyan.
The final consensus was a declaration from the Congress that regardless of the decisions of any president or National Congress, the Bioregional Congress of the Americas vetoes the use of war, against Iraq, its people and its natural richness, or against any other country, as a viable solution to resolve the problems among individuals, interests or governments. This statement will be published with its official language by the Congress.
El último acuerdo al que llegamos a un consenso, fue que independientemente de las decisiones que tome cualquier presidente o cualquier Congreso Nacional, el Congreso Biorregional se opone y veta el uso de la guerra, contra Irak, su población y sus riquezas naturales, o contra cualquier nación, como una solución posible para resolver los problemas entre individuos, intereses o gobiernos. Esta declaración va a ser publicado por el Congreso próximamente.
Once again, the effort to convene in the prairies of Kansas, were fully rewarded by the renewal of our bonds, the sharing of wisdom, hearts, songs, hugs and smiles, and the possibility to give a new start to the movement, with our full commitment to reach out for a richer diversity of people, ages, ethnic and affinity of interests than ours. And in the meantime, see you all in Cuzco and in Earthaven. We will soon more details on the up’coming continental events.
Una vez más, los muchos esfuerzos que todos realizamos para reunirnos en las praderas de Kansas, fueron ampliamente recompensadas por la reanudación de nuestros votos, el compartir de nuestra sabiduría, canciones, corazones, abrazos y sonrisas, que nos dan la posibilidad de darle un nuevo inicio a este movimiento. Con ello renovamos nuestro compromiso por tratar de llegar a una mayor diversidad de gente, de todas las edades, etnias, y diversidad de intereses afines a los nuestros. Mientras tanto, los esperamos a todos en Cuzco y en Earthaven. Ya estaremos mandando pronto un reporte más amplio sobre los detalles de estos dos próximos eventos continentales.
For more information on the work and whereabouts of the Caravana Arcoiris por la Paz
A poem by Robert Bly
Tell me why it is we don’t lift our voices these days
And cry over what is happening. Have you noticed
The plans are made for Iraq and the ice cap is melting.
I say to myself: “Go on, cry. What’s the sense
Of being an adult and having no voice? Cry out!
See who will answer! This is Call and Answer!”
Some masters say our life lasts only seven days.
Where are we in the week? Is it Thursday yet?
Hurry, cry now! Soon Sunday night will come.
We will have to call especially loud to reach
Our angels, who are hard of hearing; they are hiding
In the jugs of silence filled during our wars.
If we don’t lift our voices, we allow others–who are
Ourselves–to rob the house. Every day we steal from
Ourselves knowledge gained over a thousand years.
Robert, how come you’ve listened to the great criers
And now you are a sparrow quiet in the little bushes!
It’s Saturday night, and you still haven’t cried.
This poem was read in the morning circle on Thursday, Oct 10, 2002 – the same day we learned that Jimmy Carter has received the Nobel Peace Prize and that the US Congress had authorized Bush to make war on Iraq. Bea Briggs received the poem that morning from a friend, who said: “Perhaps poetry can wake us up to what we are about to commit…Read it out loud! Please. And pass it on with Robert’s blessing.”