Seasonal Musings on the Shore of the Salish Sea

Ah, the freshness of this season! I marvel at late spring’s luscious green growth. The humid hands of the rainforest trail against my legs as I meander the Chinook lands on Whidbey Island. The moisture held by the forest relaxes and nourishes the tender tissue of my lungs and I’m grateful to the genius of the forest ecosystem to parent water in the way it does. During these dry days, which feel more like hot mid-summer than late spring in the Pacific Northwest, there is a poignancy and worry. The loss of forest ecosystems around the world is a frightening reality in the face of the scorching effects of climate change. Oh for the paradox of gratitude and grief.

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The fir trees reveal bright-light green growth and I take some of this new growth, soft branch needle tips, for my tea. I gather a handful of the ripest salmonberries I can find, pardoning myself to the many birds who vie for these same morsels. A persistent cheeping is heard coming from an alder snag, and a naturalist friend points out a nest of baby woodpeckers – hairy woodpeckers, we think. Along the path ahead, a female robin lingers, enticing us to follow her and move away, undoubtedly, from her nest of vulnerable chicks.

Everything is growing and fresh and the light stays with us so long these days. We’ve passed Beltane now, the Celtic fire festival, and we’re moving toward the Summer Solstice. Where are you in this grand cycle, are you noticing, are you warming up and stretching out? Beginning to sport the flowers that will bear the fruit, and the seed, for another time, while relishing this one, living this season fully?

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Deep Time Walk and Algae Exploration – Biodiversity Galiano Island Project

This past Saturday on Galiano Island in the heart of the Salish Sea, a small group of nature-lovers walked across 4.57 billion years of Earth’s history, marvelling at the slow, slow, slow and toilsome work of the bacteria; the wonder of the profound evolutionary changes of Earth, feeling in our bones and bodies the slow-fast punctuated pace of this change. The vastness of geologic time contains a depth difficult to comprehend with the mind. Developed by ecologist Stephan Harding at Schumacher College in the UK, the Deep Time walk allows a felt sense of this depth. Walking, writes Rebecca Solnit, is “how the body measures itself against the Earth”.

This was the first event of the Biodiversity Galiano Island project, and a wonder-filled start to the series.

We also explored algal life in the Salish Sea, and created pressings of the species of brown, green and red algae we collected.

This was an awesome event to participate in – come on out next time SSSEA folk!

Seeing the Human and the More-Than-Human in the Calais ‘Jungle’

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Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr depicts the refugee crisis.

I recently spent a brief week volunteering in an encampment for displaced people – migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees – in Calais, France. What follows is the first of a few short blog posts in which I aim to connect my experience to an exploration of a spiritual-ecological view of this seemingly anthropocentric crisis. The beginning may be a bumpy in this regard but I’ll get there with a bit of a warm-up, I hope.

I traveled to Calais from Southwest England, where I had been living and doing a work-exchange at Schumacher College [1]. Me and a small group of caring women, a farmer, a Steiner teacher, and a gardener, left on a chilly morning and returned about a week later with decidedly expanded perspectives. Still limited of course, by brevity and privilege.

On that note, there’s something I want to acknowledge: with the barest glimpse of a complex constellation of human-ecological tragedy and resilience, I write from a very privileged social position: as a white, middle-class, Settler-Canadian woman. Unlike the many displaced people in our world, I’ve never encountered the persecution, violence and tragedy that at least 60 million displaced people now endure. Their resilience is incredible. I hope to represent my experience in a manner that honours those I encountered in what’s known as the Calais “Jungle”.

And so my story opens in England, after our return from France, when I began to reflect more fully on and write about my experience. After this brief intro, my narrative journeys back to describe events in the Jungle interwoven with my learning about the situation. Learning about the migrant and refugee situation in Calais and beyond is new learning for me, and so I encourage you to respond to this post with your own knowledge and understanding in order to create a fuller picture.

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 It’s late winter in southwest England and rain has been a loyal companion to both day and night. January’s storms live on the land through the archetypes of air – wind – and water – rain – reminding me why the ancient forces of ocean-and-earth are the gods of old.  During the winter, I have often watched outside my window as sturdy once-leaved trees are shaken from trunk to tip of branch. Just as often I have felt an easy gratitude for the comfort of those indoor moments. I’ve sat with a tinge of guilt for my glad domestication, and for my feet, warm and dry within socks and walls. Now that tinge is mixed with humble awe, as I think back to an old landfill site 5 kilometres from the centre of a city on the Northern edge of France; a place I found myself working as a first aid volunteer.

An Ode to Socks in the Jungle

“You need socks!” exclaimed Leila, a nurse from Paris, sweetly admonishing the young man seated on a bench across from her in the first aid caravan. “And a scarf. You must stay warm, tadaffa’a, tadaffa’a”. She emphasized the Arabic word for warm. He nodded. I looked down at his feet, bare inside sneakers. I rustled about in a cardboard box, and pulled out a pair of men’s dress socks. They were one of the few large pairs we had. But they were too thin. After years of treeplanting in Northern parts of Canada amidst vast wetlands – the boreal forest is replete with bogs atop some of the most ancient rock on Earth – I have a keen appreciation for good quality, thick socks. I could write a love letter to socks. An ode to socks is especially relevant in the Calais Jungle, where warmth is desperately needed.

Like southwest England and Vancouver, it rains a lot in Calais. When I first arrived in the Jungle, I was struck by the enormous puddles of water and pathways of muck that line makeshift streets, requiring the displaced people living there to inevitably get their feet wet. At the location of the first aid caravans – my job site – a veritable moat, littered with plastic waste, spread out in all directions. Steve, an epidemiologist from Scotland – a chap keenly familiar with rain – spent his volunteer days engineering trenches with a shovel. “Ay, I’m working on ya problem” he’d said to Leila and I, “I’m hoping to put doon gravel, but d’ya know I’ve got to put me shovel to draining water at peoples’ tents thare”. Despite Steve’s best efforts, the problem was stubborn and the equipment inadequate. Water returned as rain to gather in enormous mucky puddles with seemingly infinite determination. I couldn’t help but imagine an excavator and a focused crew of folks making short work of Steve’s repetitive labour. But nothing seemed easy in the Jungle in winter, where dry ground, dry feet and the right equipment were elusive. As the days progressed I came to see how good socks – well deserving of poetic praise – were a kind of symbol for basic comfort and conditions that largely lacked it. As drying facilities in the Jungle are non-existent, people often simply do without socks, or carry on with wet ones. But it’s cold in early January, and dry, covered feet are a vital part of staying warm and well. This is to say nothing of the need for a warm and dry place to sleep.

The Calais Jungle has been notorious for disastrous conditions. A recent environmental health report written by researchers at the University of Birmingham[2] details them:  desperately inadequate levels of toilets; contaminated water; poor shelter; standing waste of all kinds; the threat of physical assaults upon migrants by police, fear of sexual violence for the small number of women in the camp. While I observed these conditions ‘on the ground’, I had to dig into others’ reporting to find out the Jungle’s decades-long history. And to gain a better understanding about why French and EU governments, and the UN, have been so waylaid in response to this growing crisis – and a shantytown beneath a motorway – in the midst of a developed city.

A Brief History

In the evening and minutes from the city’s only hostel, the Port of Calais blazes with industry. Across the English Channel, the Port of Dover matches with its own blink and twinkle. Calais is a mere 60 kilometres away from Dover, and its close proximity to England has made it a major port for centuries. Indeed, its 17th century heritage as a smuggling port holds true today. Many migrants camp on the very edge of this land because they seek to smuggle themselves across the English Channel and land safely in England. This has been happening for years and years.

In 1999, a refugee camp for asylum seekers arriving largely from Iraq and Afghanistan was opened by the French Red Cross in the seaside town of Sangatte – less than 1 km from the entrance to the Eurotunnel between France and England (about 10 km from Calais). Contested from the beginning, Sangatte closed in 2002 due to conflict between the British and French governments over responsibility for border control[3]. Since 2002, hundreds and thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from Africa, Afghanistan and the Middle East, have continued to gather around Calais, settling on unoccupied land in as many as 9 encampments. According to The Guardian, the ‘Calais Jungle’ or simply the ‘Jungle’ is the largest encampment[4]. The Jungle has grown nearly exponentially over the past year, as more and more people flee armed conflict, persecution and poverty. As many as 5000 people now live there, waiting to smuggle themselves or hoping for resettlement. Women and children represent only a small minority of people in the camp: 80 – 90% are men, mostly young men traveling alone, like Ami, a 24 year old student from Syria.[5]

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Syrians in Calais urging UK to accept them, November 2014, (Bauke Schram, IBTimes UK).

Leila and I met Ami on our second day volunteering in the camp. We were out walking its muddy makeshift streets, familiarizing ourselves with its geography and searching for the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic, a place we frequently referred our first aid caravan clients. Ami was gregarious, and immediately offered to help with Arabic-English translation. “Take my number” he insisted, scribbling on a scrap of paper, “and I’ll come when I can”. His English was excellent. We called the next day but he was busy building the wooden frame and pallet structure that would serve as his living and sleeping quarters. He had been living in a bargain basement tent – akin to the state of peoples’ socks, those who had socks, that is – for 3 months until that point. At last, supplies and volunteers were adequate to provide him a warmer, drier, temporary home.

After those years of treeplanting and living in a tent in all weather, I had a tiny glimmer of how it must have been for many people in the camp, sleeping night after night on cold and wet ground. But the ground they sleep on is not only cold and wet but also polluted. The Calais Jungle is located on an old landfill site. It’s what is known as a “Seveso site”, an industrial area classified as low or high threshold based on the type and amount of pollutants present[6]. While the camp itself is apparently in a low-medium threshold site, it is next door to several chemical factories classified as high threshold. Not the most environmentally hospitable of places.

While treeplanting, I spent nights sleeping atop ripped up ground amidst kilometres of stumps. The violence of that clear-cut scene, likely felt in my body in ways I wasn’t even aware of, is something comparable to the wasteland of the polluted ground beneath and around the Jungle. The land and the other-than-humans that inhabit it have been damaged and desecrated in the interests of industrial production and consumption in a comparable manner. But of course, life in the Jungle for a migrant is an altogether different thing than the life of a treeplanter. The struggle to live and sleep on that land made itself apparent in the sickness that I saw at the first aid caravans (I’ll speak to this in a later post).

Listening to Place

Perhaps it was the bleak weather of January. Or the greyness of Calais’ industrial cityscape, razed to the ground during World War II. Likely it was the knowledge that thousands of displaced people are trying to survive in a polluted, cold and wet shantytown on the outskirts of this developed city. Whatever it was, I did not feel a welcome from the city nor from the land there. The mood of the place was grim; the suffering of humans and of the land seemed to speak as one complex living being. According to Craig Chalquist, “when [a] human system joins with those [parts] that characterize a place – its ecology, its geology, its plants and animals, its history and architecture, politics and artwork – we face a truly complex ‘presence of place’ we must understand on its own terms.” In the next blog post, I will explore the ‘presence of place’ of the camp in Calais, and aim to dive more into story and ecology.

In the meantime, I am grateful for warm feet and good socks; for the luck to sleep in a clean and warm bed tonight. I hold knowledge of the migrant situation in the Jungle, and my conflicting reality, in my imagination to stay connected and to remember my steps into acting in a good way.

[1] https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/

[2] Dhesi, S., Isakjee, A., & Davies, T. (2015). An environmental health assessment of the new migrant camp in Calais. University of Birmingham.

[3] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/calais-migrant-chaos-eurotunnel-asks-9-7m-france-uk-disruption-costs-1512012

[4] ‘At night it’s like a horror movie’ – inside Calais’s official shantytown. Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 6 April 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015.

[5]http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/may/23/immigration.immigrationandpublicservices1

  • Ami is a pseudonym to protect anonymity

[6] https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_Seveso

http://www.msf.org/topics/refugees-and-idps

 

 

Solstice is the Stillpoint

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In the northern hemisphere, we know winter solstice as a time of low light and long night. It’s a time when the Sun clings to the horizon, arcing low. There’s clearly a retreat at work. Since the autumn equinox, the Earth has appeared to draw its energy within as growing darkness and cold are felt by all of nature. The northern pole is the farthest away from the Sun it can be, and we feel this distance daily. For all of Earth’s creatures, the Sun is a profound source of life and warmth. It is the fire of outer nature. It’s no surprise then, that since time immemorial and everywhere on Earth, spirited celebration marks the return of the light.

The solstice is the still-point, the turning point. It’s the deepest, darkest part of the year. And it is a time of transition. The solstice marks the lengthening of days and the flush of renewed life. Simultaneously, it symbolizes death and rebirth. In Celtic and Pagan traditions, this process was known as the ‘Cauldron of Regeneration’, wherein roots and seedlings grow in darkness and from death; as do our own personal seeds, plans and dreams. The algae and plants will again receive their solar nourishment and live, feeding the web by producing oxygen and becoming more and more, themselves. We too have the chance to bring forth our depth.

OUT OF SYNC WITH THE SEASON

The other-than-human world knows these regenerative seasonal shifts instinctively. Human beings, like other animals, are also seasonal but a strange estrangement is afoot in our technologically-oriented age. We are living further away from our bodies, the Earth’s seasonal rhythms and the darkness of the solstice time, perhaps than ever before. This way of living is working ‘against the clock’ in an attempt to transcend these natural cycles and rhythms; and the regenerative needs of our bodies and the Earth. But without the necessary periods of slowing down, quiet, reflection and assimilation, how can we biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually, rejuvenate? The winter solstice, it seems, offers what is desperately needed – the invitation to slow down, integrate and listen deeply within. I am reminded of a quote by social reformer Octavia Hill:  we all need space, unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently. 

What is it like to embody this Winter’s Solstice with it’s longest night and rich darkness, more deeply than we can recall? Can you, can I, live this soulful time, like the birds and creatures of this world, “unutterably themselves”, with our bones and our choices, for our own wellbeing and that of the world?

Light in the Dark - Solstice

INNER FIRE

The time of winter solstice invites a turn inward and thus away from the outer world. Outer nature’s warmth has waned and we are called to seek warmth within:  the inner fire of the heart and hearth. The Sun’s outer absence becomes the presence of the inner fire of the heart. I am reminded of an experience I had last summer while on a long walk in rural Southwest England. Following a muddy trail out of a small woodland, I stopped to rest in an adjacent field. Spreading out my jacket on the ground, I settled onto my back and gazed at the sky. Clouds puttered across its blue expanse and occasionally blocked the Sun’s rays. Without the Sun’s warmth, the cool undertone of the air felt positively chilly. I was annoyed at the absence of warmth and desired the heat on my skin again. As the clouds continued their movements and this cycle repeated itself, I realized that I could not summon the Sun’s warmth. I needed to heat myself up.

The Earth and the Sun, and their living cycles manifest on Earth, teach that we must turn inward to receive what is not available outside. Love, like warmth and light, too must be generated from within by the inner fire of the heart. In my experience, retreat – like the kind of retreat that the winter solstice invites and the Sun symbolizes – has always been a time to assimilate experience, incubate ideas, process grief and remember what I love into action. From retreat, love has emerged more alive and poignantly real for me than before.

We give thanks for the Earth for this period of rest and regeneration in the dark. We give thanks for the deep wisdom inside ourselves that has helped to guide us. We strengthen our roots and create our stability. We anchor ourselves in our hearts and in our love. As the Sun is reborn, we begin to make ready for a new part of the cycle. We ask that we stay grounded and connected to the Earth. We ask that we grow well with love and care for our Earth-home.

Glennie Kindred, Sacred Earth Celebrations

Winter solstice is just one point, a tiny part, along the orbital path of the Earth – the Earth’s revolving life, it’s cycle. This precious dark time is a pattern of and on Earth, revealing our planet’s life and temporality. To me, it speaks assuredly about the need to look inward. This is an innate capacity of being of Earth. To recognize this calling to slowness and inward looking is to recognize we too are nature. Within this movement is a quest: can we live these days more deeply than before to know ourselves as nature? What winter solstice asks of us is to be attentive, more than ever, to participation with and belonging to an inconceivably great web of life and being; and to include light and dark, dying and rebirth within our conscious knowing. We are invited to learn again to live simply, to let go of what is no longer needed. We are invited to accept what we must.

As we step steadily into winter and the day’s light lengthens, the cycle continues.

EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU

Your great mistake is to act the drama

as if you were alone. As if life

were a progressive and cunning crime

with no witness to the tiny hidden

transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny

the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,

even you, at times, have felt the grand array;

the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding

out your solo voice. You must note

the way the soap dish enables you,

or the window latch grants you freedom.

Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.

The stairs are your mentor of things

to come, the doors have always been there

to frighten and invite you,

and the tiny speaker in the phone

is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease

into the conversation. The kettle is singing

even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots

have left their arrogant aloofness and

seen the good in you at last. All the birds

and creatures of the world are unutterably

themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte 

Yew

Top picture: Day and night sides of Earth, December 2015 solstice –(2015 December 22 at 4:48 Universal Time). Image credit: Earth and Moon Viewerhttp://earthsky.org/earth/everything-you-need-to-know-december-solstice

Bottom picture: This mature yew is purported to be nearly 2000 years old, and it has undoubtedly witnessed great changes, ceremonies and events over the centuries. Long-living and evergreen, yews were a pagan sacred symbol of new springing from old, death and rebirth.

In Sync with the Season: Reflecting on the Past and Envisioning the Future with SSSEA

 

In Sync with the Season:  Reflecting on the Past and Envisioning the Future with SSSEA

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It’s mid-November and autumn moves quickly now, descending in the decaying fruit of plants and fungi, and evident in the growing darkness. It felt good, at this time of falling and unraveling and transition, to gather, reflect and to creatively envision our work together as the people of the Salish Sea Spiritual Ecology Alliance. Autumn as a season, with its ecological and astronomical signs, as a soulful being expressing the life of the Earth, is a time well-suited for harvesting what’s past and seeding what will grow in the coming months and beyond for SSSEA.

Reflecting on the Past – SSSEA’s Forest Day, 2015 Convergence

In preparation for that gathering and visioning process last Thursday evening, I reflected on what’s past, specifically one day of our 2015 Convergence. Several themes emerge from that event that may resonate and feed our shared vision.

SSSEA’s 2nd event of the 2015 Convergence happened on the unceded, traditional and ancestral territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking Musqueam people at Spanish Banks West and Pacific Spirit Park. It was a privilege to have sχɬemtəna:t Audrey Siegl, who serves as an advocate and activist for indigenous sovereignty, indigenous women and the Earth, welcome us to her peoples’ territory and speak and sing from her heart.

It was a delight to share that blustery time where the forest and ocean meet, in conversation together and with the surrounding forest. Those teachings, as you may know, were diverse and holistic, including storytelling with poet and storyteller Nadine Pluzak; contemplative forest school skills with Roland Campbell of Soaring Eagle Nature School; foraging with ethnobotanist Bryce Watts of the Forager Foundation; forest ecology with forester and community builder Robin Clark; nature-based meditation with actor and meditator Matthew Spears; forest gardening with permaculturist Laura Walker and ancient forest activism with forest conservation expert Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance. To close the day, Emily Townsend facilitated a community dialogue about the dualism/nondualism of the human-nature connection. It was our good fortune to have a truly invigorating mix of teachers and topics. Here are a few of the themes that emerged from that day:

Nature Connection

One of SSSEA’s intentions for the 2015 Convergence was to embody Joanna Macy’s Spiral of the Work That Reconnects, and our Forest event was a day of skill-share workshops exploring the 3rd component of the Spiral: Seeing with New Eyes. To “see with new eyes” is to awaken to the reality of our “inter-being” (as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it), our intimate and living connection to all that is. Through activities like identifying and learning about medicinal and native plants, doing contemplative practice like meditation and yoga outside, we connected with inner and outer nature. Nature (re)connection, according to many ecological thinkers, is one key to the individual and collective transformation required to bring about an ecological society.

Contemplative Practice

Deep connection with nature can be cultivated through contemplative practices which develop sensory awareness, concentration and deep listening. Seeing, feeling, hearing and experiencing what is present outside and what emerges within us – the very ground beneath our feet, the feel of wind on our cheeks, our sense of self in relation to the elements – feeds the sense that “we too are nature”. But neither nature connection nor contemplative practice is not about connecting with nature as a ‘wild’ and unpeopled place.

Allying for Decolonization

While the “purpose of SSSEA is to facilitate a deepening of our spiritual connection to place, landscape and ecology”, this cannot be done honourably or justly without – to barely even begin – acknowledging the original peoples of these lands and waters, who have lived here since time immemorial; who have had/have an epistemology and identity woven with a sacralized and animated sense of place, land and ecology (see Kovach). But as Musqueam elder Jeri Sparrow writes,

Our traditional territory has been taken from us according to European settlement and colonization. Part of the teachings people need to know is how vast our territory was. It’s not this little 450 acres that we have now. It’s much, much larger and it meant so much more to us.

While acknowledgement of Musqueam serves to bring a decolonizing lens to a geography that otherwise continues to colonize through repression of the natural-cultural history of place, it is surely just a beginning – an absolutely necessary one – in allyship.

To be a settler, according to UBC professor David Gaertner, is to “perennially be aware of guesthood and to guard against the complacency and entitlement that comes with “making oneself at home” in Indigenous space (physical, ideological and epistemological)”.  According to Gaertner, a settler-professor at UBC, the foundation of good protocol in Indigenous territory is self-identification. He cites Joy Harjo (Creek) who writes, “protocol is a key to assuming sovereignty. It’s simple. When we name ourselves… we are acknowledging the existence of our nations, their intimate purpose, insure their continuation.” On Forest Day, SSSEA was welcomed to the territory by sχɬemtəna:t Audrey Siegl, but I know that I did not identify my self in the way Gaertner suggests. There is much to learn.

What does it mean for the diverse group of settlers that make up SSSEA to ally for decolonization? As settlers on these lands, how do we consciously participate in reparation and solidarity? In their striking article Decolonization is Not a Metaphor, Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang state strongly that decolonization is a process that involves the repatriation – that is, giving back – of land to Indigenous peoples. Decolonization as a process is “not a metonym for social justice”, it is “incommensurable” – it does not fit and it is not comfortable.

Activism for Forest and Biodiversity Conservation

SSSEA’s Forest Day was also focused on connecting with the forest of the Salish Sea bioregion, one of the most significant ecologies we inhabit – and of which much has been lost. The work of Ken Wu (https://www.ancientforestalliance.org) and Douglas Tolchin (http://www.salishsea.org) – both present at this event – inspire action on behalf of old-growth forest conservation and the restoration of Salish Sea native biodiversity. Ken Wu’s call to protect 2nd growth forest so that it may become old-growth weaves into Douglas’ vision to return natural animal populations to 50% of their historic levels. Douglas is currently working to ensure that the interests and leadership of the  Coast Salish peoples’ of this region are forefront in the Salish Sea Bioregional Marine Sanctuary.

Forest Day was just one of the four event days of our 2015 Convergence. Each held its own rich thematic elements and each may guide our visioning. Additional reflections were offered from the group gathered at the Kits Neighbourhood House last Thursday.

Back to the Season, and the Visioning

As we began our small visioning gathering with a centering prayer-space and practice to enter the here-and-now, the contemplative character of the autumn season seemed to guide and ground our vision for creative engagement. Suresh Fernando shared his heartfelt description of the human search for widening circles of family and belonging, and the need for love to be the ground of action. Several poems were read.

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If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees

  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours: Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God 

This road demands courage and stamina, yet it’s full of footprints!
Who are these companions?
They are rungs in your ladder. Use them!
With company you quicken your ascent.
You may be happy enough going along, but with others 
you’ll get farther, and faster.

  • Rumi, Selected Poems

The character of these poems speaks to the group’s core values, which became distilled through the process of reflection and brainstorming. While we did not explicitly identify our vision and values in the form of a group mandate, we largely emphasized the confluence of spirituality and ecology, represented well by the terms “interpath” and “earth-centered”. But the core value and intention of our coming together, our most basic value, revealed itself as friendship. Thanks to Fleurette for drawing this up in her stories,  Anam Cara, the spirit of our visioning meeting and the thread we at SSSEA may follow forward together.

In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam caraAnam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the “soul friend.” In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.”

Check out John O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara:  A Book of Celtic Wisdom