But I had to write. I was no less than compelled to share what is contained within. I won't apologize for speaking from my heart and sharing my experiences in the hopes that someone might find a small nugget that's helpful & meaningful. But it is fair to say that you might wanna grab a cuppa before you read further. I considered dividing this "blobble" into three separate posts, but it needed to maintain continuity, so I'm doing as I'm guided. The post is in three sections though, so you could squeeze in a well-timed bathroom break. ;)
I will apologize for any misspellings, incorrect grammar, and all those sorts of things that can happen when stuff just comes pouring through and you gotta get it down. This was torrential rain, so please bear with me!
When the universe speaks, it pays to listen. Did you ever have a time when you kept running into a certain person or you had a running theme in your life? I've discovered that there is no such thing as a coincidence. When repeated patterns or ideas or people step into my life, it's time to stop and figure out what this is all about. We are a part of the web of life - everything we do is connected to so many other things. I feel the need to share my most recent string of coincidences that started in May, because my life has changed:
- I was invited to attend a workshop featuring the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers who were visiting Omega Institute in NY,
- I had been teaching a lot of programs about water (ponds and streams) in my work as a Naturalist, with specific info about the wildlife and the effects of human activity on the health of our local water, and
- I am working on a research paper with the topic of medicinal plants in Delaware, and had scheduled a visit to our local Herbarium to do some research work.
GRANDMOTHERS <Enter Synchronicity #1>
I've been wanting to meet the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers for several years, but could never make it to their gatherings. I sat staring at that email invite, and I knew I was finally going. Not only was the gathering timed perfectly for me to take the time away from my family, but the tuition had been drastically reduced for this one event. I could go. Everything had opened up in such a way that I could go. I must be ready to receive their wisdom - finally!
The Wisdom of The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers: These women, from different indigenous cultures around the world, have been traveling since 2004 to spread messages of peace and love, and remind people to take care of one another and our planet, because we're all connected, and what happens to one, happens to all. They believe that teaching others about some of their traditional ways could help bring peace into the world and more sustainable living.
I went and grabbed every bit of wisdom those Grandmothers were willing to dispense. Words cannot adequately describe the experience of spending 5 days with these loving women. We were honored to have 7 of the 13 Grandmothers with us, and they shared their stories of their traditions and personal experiences, hoping to inspire others to live in a more sustainable and loving manner. They have each had many challenges in their lives, with loss, poverty, upbringing in religions other than their own, and yet...they are so GRATEFUL for every blessing they receive. Every good thing, and every lesson that they learn from. They are thankful for every single thing! They thanked us at every meeting for being there and taking time from our families to listen to what they had to say. They prayed for our families at home, for every living thing on the planet, and for us to help bring the world into a better place so that the next 7 generations would still have a place to live and thrive. They took turns to demonstrate prayers in their own languages and traditions, and I felt so honored to have been witness to that.
The Grandmothers blessed each one of us in their own healing way/tradition. We cried together for the current state of the world, we prayed for peace and love in our own hearts so we can share that with our communities, and we prayed for courage to continue moving forward in our lives in a sustainable way so that 7 generations from now there will still be a planet that can sustain life in a meaningful way. These women pray in a way that I could only think of as putting the rest of us to shame who claim to pray. Every word was from the heart - honest, compassionate, grateful. Every request for help/guidance was for "all my relations". Absolutely stunning, bringing me to tears on many occasions. Life is sacred, reverent. They honor one another, no matter the differences in traditions and beliefs. Everything is sacred and from the Creator. This is their life. There is no separation from that which is Sacred. All is sacred.
The Grandmothers shared their experiences, their loves, their pain, and their ways, so that others can learn and understand that respect (love) for every living thing on this planet will bring us back to a place where we all have what we need - not only to survive, but be well. These beautiful women, the eldest being in her mid-80's, are traveling around the world to share their wisdom and take part in councils for clean water and other important human rights issues. We all need clean water, air, food, shelter, and love. These Grandmothers are walking their talk and getting things done. Most of us wouldn't have the courage or stamina to stand and do what these women do, on behalf of all their relations (all living things), not just native people. I am in awe.
WATER <And now, Synchronicity #2>
One of their biggest concerns of the Grandmothers is clean water. Grandmother Agnes put it plainly...water is a human right. Every living thing needs water. No one should have to pay for it and everyone should have access to clean water. As Grandmother Agnes was speaking, it hits me - I had just spent the month of May teaching more water-related programs than I ever have, with a focus on the wildlife that lives there and more importantly - the human activities that effect the water quality. I've always been more of a "forest" and "land" girl, as my background knowledge is more about plants and land ecosystems, not aquatic. The health of our local water was already on my mind and I was planning to find out how to participate in a local stream watch program. Grandmother Agnes challenged us further...she said to thank the water, every time we drink, brush our teeth, flush the toilets, etc. The water can hear us! Thank the water - we've done a lot to damage it, but we can start to make amends by thanking it. If this sounds too crazy to believe, please see the work of Dr. Emoto, who has done unprecedented work with water, having created a way to photograph water crystals and their response to positive and negative treatment: http://www.masaru-emoto.net/
ALL MY RELATIONS <Wait for it...Synchronicity #3>
This section is a little longer...you have to read a bit before seeing how all the things connect, so now might be a good time for a quick break. :)
One of the things that touched me deeply about the Grandmothers is their sharing of how some of them were forced into a Catholic education or sent away from their people to learn in what I'll call the "white man's way" (my words, not the Grandmother's). They still remember many of the songs and other things they learned during those early years and those memories are not bad ones, but just a piece of their history where their conquerors thought the white man's way was better. Many indigenous people have suffered deeply with the loss of their lands, traditional food, and their medicine (plants). Grandmother Margaret Behan, a Cheyenne of Montana, is taking a courageous journey in re-tracing the Trail of Tears (the exodus of the Cheyenne in 1878) on horseback to reclaim the Cheyenne heritage and bring the horses home. On the Trail of Tears, countless Cheyenne/Arapaho and their horses were killed. As Grandmother Margaret takes this journey, she is doing deep forgiveness work on behalf of her people and bringing healing back home. How many of us would be willing to undertake this difficult and emotional work? Grandmother Margaret has recognized that healing begins with forgiveness, and this world is in desperate need of healing. And she is Relentless in her work, despite being overwhelmed with this great task. I am so grateful for her, as it benefits us all.
To hear the stories of how the Grandmothers had their heritage brushed aside and their people moved onto infertile and desolate lands with very little available for their basic needs, I felt shame for being white. And these women in no way, shape, or form, ever denigrated anyone as they shared how the Lakota are one of the poorest people in this country, and how many of their different ancestors were killed, and how their people suffer today with alcoholism, diabetes and a host of other problems due to western lifestyle that was introduced.
The time for divisive thinking is over. We need to heal this rift across the world...for ALL people everywhere who have been oppressed, discriminated against, and treated as less than whole for being different.
Each one of us adds to the colors of the tapestry of our world. Each person/people have something special and needed to add to life here Earth. We need one another, with all our differences. I know of no one who fits the definition of "normal". Do you? There may be patterns, there may be similarities, but no two people on this planet are alike, as it should be! Our diversity is the thread that weaves the human race together. When we try to tear out one strand, we have created a hole, and it doesn't take long before that hole gets bigger.
Oops, sorry...stepping down off soap box...
Anyhoo, I'm realizing that we have this wealth of wisdom in how to live sustainably and in harmony with our planet from indigenous people around the world. Yet we've mistreated them, and the irony is that they are probably the ones with the knowledge of how to save our sorry arses and fix this world so that we could actually have 7 generations be able to survive. And I'm wondering how we can start on a path of healing from this for the benefit of all my relations.
(Okay, finally, the synchronicity...Native Americans, their heritage, and moving forward...)
On Wednesday, June 20th and the first day of summer, I find myself at the Phillips Herbarium in Dover, DE (a fabulous resource for plant info with phenomenal and helpful staff, by the way), working on my research project. The Educator mentions that maybe she could put me in touch with a local Lenni-Lenape woman who might be willing to talk with me about medicinal plants. I'm overwhelmed at this little revelation and am trying to stutter something that resembles a "YES, PLEASE!" All of a sudden, she remembers that she received an email and that there is a gathering in the afternoon at Legislative Hall, meeting on the Green outside for a resolution on behalf of the Lenape people. A resolution is up for vote to make November "Native American Heritage Month" in Delaware, with encouragement for schools to teach about the Native Americans who are still alive and present in our small state. This resolution is apparently part of the process to help the Lenape receive federal and state recognition as a tribe, and the email is asking for as many people as possible to show up to Legislative Hall in support. She prints the email out and hands it to me.
I'm dumbfounded. I can't believe this. The ONLY reason I'm even in Dover is because I had to drop my son off for a band rehearsal at a local high school and decided to visit the Herbarium while I was down there.
I have to go...I just came from the Grandmothers...I was just thinking how do we start to heal this rift with indigenous people, and here is opportunity pounding on my door. I say, "Yes, of course we'll go", speaking for me and my 11 yr old daughter who is with me today, willing participant or no.
I decide to wrap up my research by noon so we can eat and go to Legislative Hall. (Side note: the Director had pulled 4 boxes of books and two boxes of papers on Native American history. To be clear, I never asked for Native American info, I had just told them I was researching medicinal plants in Delaware, so I was figuring I'd get info on current plants that have medicinal properties. I had been told that the ethnobotany info for this area is extremely scarce. Both the Director and Educator had gone down the Native American/Ethnobotany path, unguided by me...)
I tell my daughter what we're doing, and she is looking at me like I might have lost my mind, but thinking it could be interesting and she definitely supports the resolution. We somehow find parking in a city I've never actually been in and manage to get to the Green at Legislative Hall. There is no one gathering outside. We realize there probably won't be, as it's 98 degrees and the sprinklers are on. My daughter is looking longingly at the sprinklers, as any 11 yr old would be on a hot day, and I look at her and say, "We're going in." She stops and is looking at me with those deer-in-headlight eyes, trying to let me know she is way out of her comfort zone. I look back at her and say, "Yeah, I know. I'm out of my comfort zone too, but I can't ignore this coincidence. We'll ask and figure out where we need to be."
We go inside, which is invitingly cool and yet unsettling at the same time with the metal detectors and armed police officers, and I tell the guard at the door what we're looking for, handing him the copy of the email. He reads through it and says that he's seen some people already come in, and to come through the metal detectors, get a visitor badge, and then we can "wander the building until we find them". Oh yeah, definitely out of the comfort zone.
We wander around in a circle until we see 3 people sitting on a bench that look, well, indigenous. My daughter and I look at each other and figure we'll hang here for a few minutes and see what happens. Then I see what is clearly a Lenape/Nanticoke man in full regalia come through the metal detector. I decide we'll just follow him and let him know we're here in support. ('Cause really, what else can I say? I still can't believe how we ended up here - it's preposterous!) We stand in some legislative office, surrounded by some Representatives and Lenape/Nanticoke, feeling terribly uncomfortable and quite physically squished. Several people come up to my daughter, wanting to know who she is and why she's here. One grandmother-type Lenape woman hugs her and thanks her for being here, commenting that it's so nice to have young people show. One Representative is impressed that we came all the way down from Newark to be present. I confess that we just heard about the resolution because we happened to be down here, but then find myself saying, "We would have come down anyway".
We enter the room in Legislative Hall, where gavel-banging and roll call takes place, sounding a lot like an auction, 'cause we can't understand a word of what they're saying. The rest of this may not be in exact chronological order, so please forgive any errors, but here's what happened:
- The resolution to make November "Native American Heritage Month" in Delaware, with encouragement for Delaware schools to teach about them, is proposed. Almost as soon as it's proposed, the vote is unanimously in favor.
- An apology is made to the Lenape for not having done this sooner, and the need to recognize them as an important part of Delaware.
- Two Lenape/Nanticoke chiefs and an elder are present, and they make it known that they had to hide for a long time in order to survive, but they're still here and want to share their heritage.
- One of the State Representatives asks for a moment of silence in remembrance of one of the great matriarchs of the Lenape who has recently passed. It is granted and the hall is silent for a moment.
- The Lenape/Nanticoke representatives have come prepared for a prayer and dance of thanks. The dancer, Bruce "Little Drummer" Morris, shares with us that his niece who used to dance with him died a few months ago, and this dance will be in her honor.
- After hearing this, another State Rep. stands and asks for a moment of silence in her honor. It is granted and the hall is silent.
- The dance with drumming commences, with Native Americans and State Reps circling around the room, hand-in-hand, to the drum beat and prayers.
- I have never been so proud to be a resident of Delaware.
So here I am back into the "mundane" life, overwhelmed, exhausted, intrigued, loopy, and still trying to process the whole week with the Grandmothers and everything that's followed in the past few days. I hope I remember to do everything in the "mundane" that I'm supposed to be doing, like paying the bills and such. (If I owe you a phone call or something, feel free to remind me, and my deepest apologies!)
After you meet the Grandmothers, you come back a changed person. I've had dreams, waking visions, ideas, and the nudge to get started on whatever is next. Within 2 days of getting back, this blog was up and running. It's got to be interactive, so I hope people will come together in community and comment in respectful ways. I hope that something I say here touches you and makes you think more positively or act more kindly or get up and do something to speak on behalf of another person or group of people who need it. I hope you think about the legacy we're leaving for the future - not only our children's future, but our own in 30 years if we don't change how we treat one another and the planet we live on. We create the future right here, right now.
Frankly, I don't know exactly where I'm going or how to get there, and it scares the hell out of me. But I can't ignore the facts that I have been wanting/praying/knowing I needed to meet the Grandmothers, asking the universe to help me find my path, and then asking for guidance of what to do next. I think if I just maybe take one step at a time and trust things like coincidences, I'll get to where I need to be. And I figure there's a lot of other people out there wondering what they're supposed to be doing too, so maybe we can all meet up and figure out a way to make this place a little better...one smile, one kind word, one little coincidence at a time. And a lot of laughing at ourselves for being goofy, human, afraid, courageous, passionate, outspoken, shy, and everywhere in-between. We're all in this together.
Blessings to you all on your journeys. Please feel free to leave respectful comments below. I'd love to hear if anything I babbled about here got ya thinking. Or if you're wandering around feeling overwhelmed too or unsure. Maybe we can put our heads together and figure out something good.
Love & Light,