Ask Your Mama: Follow the urge
A tale of positive action in reverence of the earth.
by Donna Henes
Dear Mama Donna,
I just came across your photo of standing eggs on end atthe art-that-heals.org Web site. This was only minutes after I was ponderinghow to create a certain earth-healing ritual.
There is a creek here in the city of San Jose,California, that no one seems to own. It’s a tributary to the Guadalupe River.This poor creek is suffocating with trash of all kinds. I’ve seen birds andducks living there-it can’t be easy.
I work in a huge corporation that is full of resourceful,talented, caring people. I know that if I provide the framework, they will showup. I’d like to perform a general clean-up, perhaps award a prize for theweirdest trash, and then perform a simple healing ceremony, such as tyingstrips of cloth/prayers to certain branches, or putting up a sign that defendsthe creek from future trash. Then I’ll buy the volunteers a round at the baracross the street.
I’ve been wanting to do this for months, but I’ve beenmissing a catalyst – experiencing paralysis and a lot of guilt for not takingaction. Have you done something similar to what I’m proposing, and might youhave any words of advice for me?
Hoping to be Helpful in San Jose
First, let me commend you for your fine feelings andfabulous intentions. The urge to do something positive for the earth is mosthonorable, and, as you have discovered, quite daunting. Nagging doubts oftendelay and deter our action. What to do? Where to start? Who am I to aim sohigh? As Marianne Williamson said, "Who are you not to?"
If you re-read your letter, you may be surprised to seethat you have already answered your own questions. It seems to me that you knowexactly what to do and how to do it.
The creek obviously needs a major clean-up and your bandof fellow workers seems suited to the task. Perhaps you could expand youroutreach and involve a local school, day care or senior citizen center, scouttroop, or such. And sure, reward them with whatever seems appropriate.
Adopt the creek in a formal ceremony, claimingresponse-ability for its future care. Post the sign that you envisioned.Continue your efforts on a regular basis with periodic clean-up days andeducational events. Have bags printed with your logo and slogans; pass them outto encourage ongoing trash collection.
I love your idea of a prize for the strangest trashdiscovery. You could also create sculptural elements from the flotsam that youfind and decorate the banks and environs of the creek, creating a sort ofwhimsical ecology/ art park, and host community picnics there.
What a lovely vision you have imagined. I see it all soclearly. A brave and beautiful world where we each take response-ability forrighting whatever wrongs we witness and create for ourselves with our ownimagination and ingenuity, a viable, sustainable, magical way of life andliving.
So, consider this the catalyst you’ve been needing.Swallow that energy-draining guilt, girlfriend, and go for it! We need you.
P.S. For further information and inspiration, you mightwant to refer to the following.
Re. cleaning the creek: Dominique Mazeaud has made along-time meditation project of cleaning the Guadalupe River in Santa Fe, NewMexico. www.earthheartist.com/
Re. found junk sculpture: Alice Guffy Miller is the queenof fantastical ecological structures which she creates with communityinvolvement using trash and re-cyclables.home.comcast.net/~sitron45/pf/alice.html
Re. tying cloth to branches as a healing ritual: Iactually wrote an entire book about just that! "Dressing our Wounds inWarm Clothes: Ward’s Island Energy Trance-Mission" (Astro Artz, 1982) isavailable through me, www.donnahenes.net
Dear Mama Donna,
I so appreciate your letter of encouragement andguidance. You were right on the money. I know the steps, and your energy addedthe necessary zing. The day after I wrote to you, I actually met with the rightperson to advertise this project within our company, so it has begun to take ona life of its own.
As my request for help churns through the slowbureaucracy, I notice that nature took a hand and flooded the creek with threedays’ rain (we need it!) All the trash danced on top. By the time my companycan help, the tide should be out enough. I am filled with optimism! It remindsme of how the National Park Service came up with a 30-year plan to demolishmany ugly buildings in Yosemite – and within only three months two-thirds ofthe plan had completed – by (El Niño) nature!
I realize now that the branch-wrapping idea must havecome from "Dressing Our Wounds in Warm Clothes," a copy of which wasat my mother’s Manhattan apartment in the ’80s. That’s how powerful your bookis-to stick under my skin all these years after a single evening looking(mostly) at the pictures. I am so delighted!
I’ll let you know how the cleanup goes. You remind me ofa little prayer that starts out: Oh, Great Mother, bless this Earth through ouractions.
Dear Mama Donna,
Here’s the latest – We are organized and lined up toclean the creek around Earth Day. In an ironic note, the local cops haveforbidden us to enter the area that needs the most work. They tell us it is toodangerous (crime, dealers, needles) for the likes of us. Apparently, no one hastold the ducks that!
Blessings from my activist life,
Are you ever! Good girl. When the authorities get all hotand bothered, you know you are doing something right. Take it from me. I oncewent to jail in Los Angeles for chanting for peace on the autumnal equinox,charged with "inciting to litter"! A few years ago on the wintersolstice, 33 of us were arrested for chanting "Reverence to Her" onthe beach. This time, the charge was "unauthorized Presence." Well, Ithink so. And that’s just what ruffles them. We are unauthorized and live andact according to our own inner authority based on integrity, respect, reverenceand mutual response-ability.
Carry on in pride,
"Art can be a form of enlightened behavior that isconstructive, done out of compassion, not only for human beings, but for theenvironment and for the planet itself."
*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary?Completely clueless? Wonder no more. Send your questions about seasons, cycles,and celebrations to Mama Donna at mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org