When I stepped outside on Sunday morning, I knew it was bad. The trees on my street were whipping and swaying in a strong off shore wind. When I got to the water, I could see huge swells of white water pushing east. This is not good. Today was the first Session of the 2015 Convergence: Place-based Activism and Spiritual Practice, and our 35 participants were planning to spend two hours on the Salish Sea in Longboat canoes.
When the outfitters arrived, they were frank: We cannot go out in this. So I made the call. We would press on without the mindful paddle. Mindfulness is about being present to the moment. And at that moment, the wind was blowing so hard that sand was prickling my cheeks, and the distant Burrard Inlet looked like a tempest. Peace. Acceptance. This is what was supposed to happen.
We gathered outside the Jericho Sailing Centre, and let our feet push through the lawn into the dirt of unceded Musqueam land. As I introduced myself, and explained the rearranged format, I felt a pang of joy, and acceptance. It was finally happening! Our Musqueam guides welcomed us their territory, and taught us of their own traditions with this place, this inland sea.
Instead of paddling, we took an hour to be in silence with the sea, the wind, the sand, the sun, our bodies. And each was assigned to bring something back to the group that attracted them. I stood on the shore and watched the waves push east, push over my feet and try to drag me back into the sea, the wind surfers brave waters, and oil tankers in stoic stillness. I picked up a feather. That delicate dance between life and wind–one shaping the other into a perfect and beautiful design.
Following Joanna Macy’s spiral for ‘The Work that Reconnects’, we were trying to cultivate a sense of gratitude on the water’s edge so that we could more fully honour the pain we feel at her destruction. We viewed images of the damages done to the ocean by a single species. It was difficult to sit with our pain. We wanted to help each other feel better, not feel guilty, not feel sad. But had to return to the painful truths of what is happening to the seas, and what will happen if we do not act. It was difficult to sit with our pain. But our pain is also our teacher. Feeling pain and sadness leads us to the deep interconnectedness of all life. It leads us to act. To bury our pain numbs our ability to act.
In our next segment, we recreated another of Joanna Macy’s workshops: The Council of Salish Sea Beings. For this segment, seven volunteers read in the voice of seven threatened or endangered species from the Salish Sea bioregion. Yes, many species are bouncing back in the Salish Sea, but in the last decade, the number of threatened species has more than doubled to 113 species. Each voice at the Council spoke of their ecological role, and the threats they face from a single species: humans. We honoured their pain, and began to see with new eyes.
The Council resolved to address these grave threats.
A vision was proposed that would bring all Salish Sea native biodiversity back to at least 50% of historic levels as soon as possible by declaring the Salish Sea a Bioregional Marine Sanctuary. At 7,000 square miles, the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary would be the largest in continental North America. Douglas Tolchin, an investment banker and real estate mogul turned ecological crusader, has proposed a unique model for the Sanctuary. Rather than beg the governments of the US and Canada to implement the Sanctuary, we the people would proclaim it. Through ally-ship with First Peoples and a popular ballot-initiative process on both sides of the border, the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary would be imagined and then proclaimed by the peoples who live here. Doug invites all to participate in shaping the vision of the Sanctuary.
The purpose of the SSSEA is to facilitate a deepening of our spiritual connection to place, landscape and ecology. But we seek to participate in crafting a shared vision for the future of this bioregion. The Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary forms part of that vision.
After feeling the heavy burden of fear and pain over the plight of our precious Sea, we were all energized. There was a sense that we were not alone, and that there was hope, together, for an alternative to fossil fuel-consumer economy. As we closed the day, we talked about our found objects, and touched the waters of the Salish Sea, and proclaimed in a few words our intentions going forth. Going Forth is the final piece of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects. After honouring our Pain, we must see with new eyes and go forth ready to fight for the places we love.
It is our hope that the SSSEA has help in that process!
Join us for the next three sessions of the 2015 Convergence!