The weather here on MacKenzie Beach near Tofino is unusually summery. THe families that were running around over the Thanksgiving weekend are gone now and only a few remain behind. We began our learning village with a circle gathered around a fire on the beach, maybe 20 of us, sharing Indian Candy (half smoked salmon) dried berries and tea, telling the stories of our names and why we responded to the invitation to join a week of learning together.
We don’t have young ones here, but the oldest is 82 and we have folks from Denmark, Zimbabwe, the United States and France in our midst. We are teaching and learning with love and kindness, eating and cleaning together, intrigued by the idea of Hahopa, singing songs and repecting protocols, making poems and songs together and starting to find the clarity of the new story we are here to create.
Tonight in the kitchen, where the truly great conversations take place, I was talking about how having the world here on this beach was a harbinger of the new story. the problems that people face in First Nations communities are directly related to the relations between the communities and the rest of the world. Hahopa, as it opens and begins today, was about the world coming to offer its own wisdom and to learn Nuu-Chah-Nulth wisdom. We are in learning together, leaning into a small whisper of a future world of reconciled humanity, beyond apologizing and forgiving – studying together, learning how to learn and live together, and doing it for the children.
All of these are the faintest whispers as we begin, but something is stirring. Here is the poem I harvested in our check in:
Admire’s desire is to ignite the fire of learning and knowledge
and knowing the college of the land, the culture that stands
for a thousands years
cattle farming and ocean rearing
living in open space to face
a way to govern ourselves
to stay true to our passion and the fashion that takes responsibility.
Toke has spoken of the crazy token of blood
that moves through the veins and floods us with connection
between people and the land
and the waves that nudge us together in the foggy morning weather.
My grandmother taught me with out ever seeing
the source of what was being shared with me
and what wasn’t clear to see.
The loyalty and fidelity to peaceful refuge has formed me.
cultivating a future view in community can hospitality
sensing drala that is the real caller,
a deep holler from the land that wants us to stop and understand
what is born again in the sixtieth journey around the sun
What has begun
what it takes to cross places of struggle
confront that which wriggles within us
and begs to be bigger, a mind that can find
the compassionate line at the heart of her humanity
I’m here for the long term, an uprooted farm hand
that has moved across lands
where whatever shows up can be hosted by the whole
so the whole can know what none of us knows
what is encoded in the stories that lives in our bones.
I am with family, my brother and my friend
and there is no end to the people I want to know
to extend my appreciation to this nation.
My roots spread out and my re-beginnings are here
a clear reminder of seven dear racoons
begging for dinner under the light of the moon,
This is truly my whale
and this journey has been us just getting to this canoe
bridging two worlds struggling
to renew an ancient way of being better together
weaving a generous
“ish” not the ish in “selfish”
but the ish in Hishukish tswalk
hahopa wealth, health and a stealthy
ceremony that restores harmony.
This field now begins to grow
as we get to know the flow
that pulls us together
and respects my longing to be known by my name…
What is the indigenous wisdom that needs to be shared with the world now?
I come from seal riders who plumb the depths of this sea
discover the passages that run beneath what we see
and I have sent my life with trees
and climbing the peaks – hawktooa.
I was brought up to help, be proud of what we do and have fun doing it.
I am a woman of many names and none are remembered
but I carry them all contrarian call
that leads to the edges of the earth
My cedar and spruce roots
reach across this island
teach me to understand
how to conserve what has been given to us
The quality of people, quality of land, quality of time
to the watery hearth of the setting sun
this it, the learning village has begun.
Please drop in for a day if you are nearby. Also please donate to the Indiegogo campaign to help us meet the costs of this gathering and seed whatever comes next.
“Tell everyone you know: “My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel – and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good.”
- Esther Abraham-Hicks
via whiskey river.
Heading to Hahopa today. Hahopa is an idea. It is a place of the heart and the imagination which is rooted in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth principle of “teaching and learning with love and kindness.” You might say that it is a place of grace, an ideal place where we can ground our happiness in an experimental way of being.
Hahopa is the dream of my friend Pawa Haiyupis. Pawa’s full name is Pawasquacheetl which means “she gives in the feast with the energy of bees coming out of a hive.” For years she has wanted to give the world a place where Nuu-Chah-Nulth teachings can be offered to anyone who feels that they are useful. Inspired by our friends at Kufunda village in Zimbabwe, Pawa and her family this week are embarking on an incredible dream. The work we do together this week will set in place a lifetime of contribution to the world.
So I am off to Tofino where we will initiate this endeavour being hosted by the land, the beach and the sea. We are open to seeing what will come of it and how it will flow.
If you would like to support this dream, please consider donating to the Indiegogo campaign and follow along here and on the facebook page where I will be helping to harvest what we learn.
Some of my friends and I with in the Art of Hosting community create poems from our work as a kind of harvest, a way of listening to the voices shared in a circle and reflecting back to the group, it’s wholeness using the words of those in the room. The poems are written on the spot and read into the room, slam style. Such poems evoke energy, and honour the whole. We call these ”dialogue poems.” Here is the one from yesterday’s check in in Montreal with our core hosting team…
Hosting team Check in poem
Where did you practice?
Where did you act as if you could do this?
What does the silence have to show us?
What is inside this seed?
A potential to feed what is needed everywhere
Hosting is caring so we’re daring to share
what is in our jardin communitaire:
101 ways in a single day
to face the case of urban space
fall into a call of enfolded breath
and die 101 little deaths, for co-creation to be the method
that we use to create and let go. Whoa. Peace flows
Caroline is on the scene
and clear love flows in between us
a clean passing of a piece to serve
the swerve and curve of jangly nerves
that the emergent life turns up.
This is a romance and a dance of hosted circumstance.
The space of the public dream seems
to be called to scream from the megaphone
deep in our bones in the intention for an intervention
ot suspension to the conventional ways of doing things.
We meet despair with care for beauty and do our duty.
Economics in the commons needs us to anchor danger
as the social order rearranges strangers into the angels of
Words were never spoken for the broken structures I have seen
for the painful way we remain unclean in the unconscious hosting
that leaves us unseen and suffering the wasted talents of human beings
so I offer a new chance to call us all into the hall and
share the commoning of Montreal.
When there is no room at the inn we move outside and work from the rim.
And all we need to take
is one minute, innit?
Because a crack is a small thing to make.
Small is beautiful, but tiny is fuller
What is the smallest container that can hold the future?
A negotiation with a child, a wild realization that we only flower
when the smallest things claim their power
and we take an hour to be in peace with other generations.
The appearance of the aperitif
Helps us arrive and be here
This work can be hard
when we haven’t got a clue
and the parameters make us do things we don’t want to do
we host grief and hate and create the state
for the gates to open and action to gain traction
for a fraction of the cost of the money we’ve already lost.
And then, abundance appears because we stayed with the fears
and the tears and we finally see everyone as peers.
It was a ride to get a guide that would help us get inside
the Art of Hosting and glide us to understanding, landing whatever we can
as a resource to help us plan for this.
Two thousand thirteen seems like a series of scenes
of moments that mean my life has seen
the real application of peace between human beings.
In cote d’ivoire, ravaged by war, a mayor named need
to plant a seed for people to lead the conversations
that stop the bleeding and meet the need for
the chief of chiefs to hold the belief that these ways of talking
can bring relief.
Two hundred thousand years of leadership
called into relationship, mateship and friendship
in a moment of reconciliation for a nation
where you do not have to be sorry
for the story, but you must offer a forum
for the experience of peace and a shift to dignified decorum.
We are not here to be small.
We all just want peace.
That is all.
I am touched to be here.
Daring to appear
Á table citoyen…where the rabble fits in
to chatter and natter about things that matter and
do it in public where the interests clatter
and find a place to practice together
co-create a project that’s better and better…
and shift my life to something unfettered.
by the separation that I’m deluded with.
Tend to the people that are coming,
feel the field and yield to the real.
Since January for me
It’s been a race from place to place
tracing a line from space to space
and stopping a moment to face the grace
That I have to receive for living as me authentically
I hope to inspire near and far
people to be just who they are.
En formations nous avons les informations
pour le realization de collaboration
we carried the living spark
of what was lit in Lafontaine Parc
embodied a some light that shone in the dark
flowing from our humanity, a practice of embodied calamity!
I feel that I am a dwarf among giants
and ready to offer my heart and defiance
of what my own ego wants us to do
so we can be free. How about you?
Here we are On September 22 in Vancouver. Tens of thousands of people walking in the rain across the Georgia Street viaduct, down one side and up the other.
My family and I stood in the rain very near the front of the walk that morning listening speakers talk about what we doing there. Chief Robert Joseph, who we all call “Bobby Joe” had a dream and here we were living it. As a longtime voice of the victims of residential schools and then a champion of reconciliation, Bobby Joe had glimpsed a possibility: that if enough Canadians could come together in one place and have an experience of reconciliation through encountering one another and then being together, then something might start.
He formed an organization called Reconciliation Canada to do just that. He hired good people (many of them friends of mine) to train British Columbians in running circles around the province so that Indigenous and settler could encounter one another’s stories. And he dreamed of a walk together at the conclusion of a week of hearings by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Vancouver.
And so on a wet Sunday morning, I took my family and we went downtown and we stood near an empty stage in the pouring rain and became part of Bobby Joe’s dream. And we stood there for two hours, listening to speeches from friends and colleagues like Chief Ian Campbell and Judge Murray Sinclair and Karen Joseph, Bobby’s daughter. And all the while the crowd swelled behind us and we had no idea how many people had come out in the downpour to be a part of this event until Shelagh Rogers made the declaration that there were 70,000 people and that they stretched up Georgia Street as far as we could see. That was astonishing. I held that number in my mind even as I listened to Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say her piece. It was impressive but not yet powerful.
And then Wa sang.
Wa is a ‘Namgis friend I met at a gathering last November. I’m surprised I’ve never met him before, but we clicked deeply, as Wa does with many people. He is an affable, funny and important man. Important because he is a song catcher – he knows probably thousands of songs from his own community and others around him in the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw territories of northern Vancouver Island and the Central Coast. He knows songs from all the neighbouring nations too, whether Coast Salish, Nuu-Cha-Nulth, Haida, Haisla or Nuxalk. And he helps people, especially youth, catch snippets of melody that float through the coastal air like orographic clouds, hanging in atmosphere ready to be turned into nourishing rain.
Wa sang. He sang something simple and powerful. A monosyllabic single line repeated several times. he sang it from a place of deepest resonance. If we had been in a big house, he would have shook the poles. He shook mine – cracked me wide open.
After Wa sang the walk began. A screen was raised and lowered several times, a thin threshold that separated the 70,000 from a small group of people who were adorned in regalia. Someone was blowing eagle down back at us. Drums and cheering were heard everytime the screen came down to reveal this crowd. And in time we began to walk down Georgia Street and onto the viaduct.
Now the physical location of this walk was important. Georgia Street leads on to an elevated roadway which at one time in Vancouver’s history was going to be a freeway connection from the centre of the city out to the Trans Canada Highway near the Burnaby border. Georgia and Dunsmuir Streets were both led on to elevated expressways but before they could get to Chinatown the project was stopped. Completing the work would have destroyed neighbourhoods and communities, especially the historic urban Chinese Italian and native communities of the downtown eastside. It was, as many projects like it are, undertaken with a sense of contempt for the communities below. But it was stopped and there is a story about that and the story is one of repect – literally “looking again” at something and seeing something far more important to protect in the face of “progress.” Ironically, Dunsmuir Street was named for James Dunsmuir, a former premier and industrialist who was an advocate for raising the poll tax on Asians even as he imported them by the hundreds to work on his railways and coal mines. Georgia Street was named for King George III who issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 – 250 years ago today – that is the basis for all treaty and reconciliation law in Canada. It should be renamed the Reconciliation Parkway.
That was the road we walked out on. There we all were, some three stories above the ground heading out of downtown. It was beautiful, but lonely and confining. From the middle of the crowd I had no sense of how big we were or where we were all going, and so I walked inside myself, reflecting on the act of reconciliation. It felt like the energy had been drawn out, lost and quieted.
And then something astonishing happened. The march doubled back on itself. At the end of the expressway, the crowd walked down off off Georgia Street and did a 180 degres turn onto the Dunsmuir Street ramp. As they doubled back I could hear them coming and then we met – 50 meters apart, three stories into the air, we met the waves of walkers, led by the survivors in their regalia. We couldn’t reach them but only watch and call out as we passed one another in the air. But here we were, finally walking together in a way that encountered each other. Like the two-row wampum belt, separate paths, but seen and visible. Honoured and held up. Survivors waving at us like you do when two boats pass. Songs filling the space between us, cheers and greetings rising up out of the crowd. The traditional coastal gesture of raising one’s hands in respect and acknowledgement became a profound way for me to greet people. I raised my hands to every survivor I made eye contact and I received in return smiles, and waves and raised hands back. It was irresistible, and in the photo above you can see the people on the Dunsmuir side all pressed to the edge, greeting the bulk of the walkers coming the other way.
Somehow unwittingly, this march had created a physical container for reconciliation. We could see each other, greet each other, connect with each other even as we were separated, elevated and moving.
Reconciliation is not a single act at a single point in time. It is living this dynamic swirl of relationships like this always.
Once we came off the bridge the march wound through Chinatown and at one point stopped in front of Tinseltown, a downtown mall. A group of about ten women were drumming and singing a well known women’s warrior song, and we stopped to join them. That song usually gets sung six times through, but as more and more people joined we sang it over and over and over. Dozens of people arrived, learned the song and sang it at the tops of their lungs, bouncing off the glass facade of the mall and the brick facades of the east side buildings. It was utter joy, as it is to sing a warrior’s song at the top of your lungs with survivors. An unleashing of the emotional energy of the day. A marker.
Over the past few years Jerry Nagel and a group of practitioners in Minnesota have been working deeply with the Art of Hosting in the state. The Bush Foundation, who has supported a lot of this work, helped create 10 fantastic videos on the Art of Hosting and some of the methods of the process. You could look through these and get a great foundation in what it’s all about. Enjoy!
1. Art of Hosting – introduction: https://vimeo.com/72614471
2. AOH Community Conversations for the common good: https://vimeo.com/40679035
3. AOH Four-fold Practice: https://vimeo.com/69785461
4. AOH Harvesting: https://vimeo.com/69785465
5. AOH Collective Story Harvest: https://vimeo.com/69798732
6. AOH Chaordic Path: https://vimeo.com/69785462
7. AOH Chaordic Stepping Stones: https://vimeo.com/69798731
8. AOH Circle Process: https://vimeo.com/69785464
9. AOH Open Space: https://vimeo.com/69798729
10. AOH ProAction Cafe: https://vimeo.com/69798730
I have been working a lot with churches over the past few years. One of the things that is interesting about working with mainline churches is that they are a little ahead of the curve in terms of the change of social institutions. What they are experiencing now is similar to what we might experience in the next decade or so with other social institutions like education and health, the non-profit sector and the way we organize community. There is a massive shift underway.
Thom Rainer gives a list of 11 ways you can tell a church is dying – and this would apply to many other kinds of organizations too. The questions becomes, not how do we save it, but what is the next shape?
1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
2. The church had no community-focused ministries. This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.
7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
10. The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
11. The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”
via Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned.
Although I have worked for years in the United States including in and around health issues, I have never fully understood the ways in which Americans pay for their health care, or why their insurance company-based system is so important to them. This article explains how complicated it is to choose a medical plan and how expensive it is not to have one. And fundamentally this doesn’t change under Obama’s new plan. The premium this family pays, even now under the plan they want to keep, are more than twice what I pay for a family of four in a public health care system in Canada, and because we make more than $30,000 a year we are in the highest bracket in BC. We pay $133.00 a month and here’s what we get. There is no deductible. It’s basic, and extended medical plans obviously offer more benefits like dental and eye care, pharmacy and ambulance services (Great West Life’s mid-range plan is close to $400 a month). But with this basic coverage, my son has been in the emergency room twice in the past year with “12 year old testosterone accidents” – broken and suspected broken limbs – and we have incurred no costs other than paying a small fee for ambulance transport. If I wanted the same extended coverage as this family, I’d probably end up paying the same or more (and the deductibles would be WAAAAAY less), but if I don’t want to deal with an insurance company – and believe me, I don’t – then I don’t have to. My basics are covered and I have peace of mind. If I work for an employer, I just sign on with their extended plan. No problems.
Many Americans object to being “forced” to pay insurance premiums. How would you feel if you had the thought that paying premiums to the state for accessible health care was actually a peace of mind situation rather than the actions of an overzealous government seeking to limit your freedoms? This is all a matter of perspective and while I know millions of Americans share the view that I have about publicly funded health care, millions still do not and neither of course do the insurance companies who make their money by charging premiums and minimizing coverage. And now, in Washington, their political lap dogs are doing their dirty work and frankly it hurts the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of Americans who would rather be doing their own thing in the world than tying themselves to wage slavery for the benefit of a cheaper health plan.
Public health care is not perfect but it is brilliant. In Canada, we have very little stress about these issues compared to our southern cousins. Every American I know – and I know hundreds – worries about their health care insurance. In Canada we only worry about it when we have a wait for a service or a bad experience in the hospital, or we have a cranky complaining day. The rest of the time, we are cared for and cared for well, and I don’t think we know how lucky we are.
Good luck my American friends.
Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless put together their brilliant collection of participatory methodologies called “liberating structures” a few years ago. I had occasion to visit their website this week and notice that it is even more brilliant than before, containing detailed descriptions of the structures tools and processes and elegant minimal instructions for using them. For seasoned facilitators, this is a gold mine of reference, and I’ve added it to my Facilitation Resources page.
Home now from Ireland, with this marvellous extract from Flann O Brien’s “At Swim-Two-Birds” that somehow captures my experience of living a week in Ballyvaughn listening to the rush of na Gaeilige spoken from the mouths of scholars and poets and activists and to the floating tunes on the air of the night as I walked home from O Loclainn’s pub with the taste of Green Spot on my lips and my skin kissed by the breeze off the sea.
Of the musics you have ever got, asked Conan, which have you found the sweetest ?
I will relate, said Finn. When the se
ven companies of my warriors are gathered together on the one plain and the truant cleancold loudvoiced wind goes through them, too sweet to me is that. Echoblow of a gobletbase against the tables of the palace, sweet to me is that. I like gullcries and the twittering together of fine cranes. I like the surfroar at Tralee, the songs of the three sons of Meadhra and the whistle of Mac Lughaidh. These also please me, manshouts at a parting, cuckoocall in May. 1 incline to like pig grunting in Magh Eithne, the bellowing of the stag of Ceara, the whinging of fauns in Derrynish. The low warble of waterowls in Loch Barra also, sweeter than life that. I am fond of wingbeating in dark belfries, cowcries in pregnancy, troutspurt in a laketop. Also the whining of small otters in nettlebeds at evening, the croaking of smalljays behind a wall, these are heartpleasing. I am friend to the pilibeen, the red necked chough, the parsnip landrail, the pilibeen mona, the bottletailed tit, the common marshcoot, the speckletoed guillemot, the pilibeen sleibhe, the Mohar gannet, the peregrine ploughgull, the long eared bushowl, the Wicklow smallfowl, the bevil beaked chough, the hooded tit, the pilibeen uisce, the common corby, the fishtailed mudpiper, the cruiskeen lawn, the carrion seacock, the green ridded parakeet, the brown bogmartin, the maritime wren, the dovetailed wheatcrake, the beaded daw, the Galway hillbantam and the pilibeen cathrach. A satisfying ululation is the contending of a river with the sea. Good to hear is the chirping of little red breasted men in bare winter and distant hounds giving tongue in the secrecy of fog. The lamenting of a wounded otter in a black hole, sweeter than harpstrings that. There is no torture so narrow as to be bound and beset in a dark cavern without food or music, without the bestowing of gold on bards. To be chained by night in a dark pit without company of chessmen-evil destiny! Soothing to my ear is the shout of a hidden blackbird, the squeal of a troubled mare, the complaining of wildhogs caught in snow.
Relate further for us, said Conan.
It is true that I will not, said Finn.
With that he rose to a full treehigh standing, the sable catguts which held his bogcloth drawers to the hems of his jacket of pleated fustian clanging together in melodious discourse. Too great was he for standing. The neck to him was as the bole of a great oak, knotted and seized together with musclehumps and carbuncles of tangled sinew, the better for good feasting and contending with the bards. The chest to him was wider than the poles of a good chariot, coming now out, now in, and pastured from chin to navel with meadows of black manhair and meated with layers of fine manmeat the better to hide his bones and fashion the semblance of his twin bubs. The arms to him were like the necks of beasts, ballswollen with their bunchedup brawnstrings and bloodveins, the better for harping and hunting and contending with the bards. Each thigh to him was to the thickness of a horse’s belly, narrowing to a greenveined calf to the thickness of a foal. Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was wide enough to halt the march of warriors through a mountainpass.
I am a bark for buffeting, said Finn, I am a hound for thornypaws. I am a doe for swiftness. I am a tree for windsiege. I am a windmill. I am a hole in a wall.
On a bus at the moment travelling from Tartu to Tallinn, through the Estonian countryside. We pass by fields and forests that remind me deeply of the southern Ontario countryside I grew up, differing only in the occasional ruins of old Soviet collectivist farms and apartment blocks that housed their workers when this was part of the Soviet Union.
This is my second trip to Estonia and it is perhaps not my last one. There is some much that is interesting about this country and my friends here, including a close connection to land and culture and a strong sense of both contemporary identity and traditional practices. It somehow for me embodies the Art of Hosting.
This week we were running a Learning Village – a sort of training where we come together to work and co-create community for a week and share learning that deepens our practices of hosting and supporting authentic human being in community and organization, family and life. We were at that Sänna Kulturmoise, an old German manor that was bought by a group of families who are running it as an intentional community and a place of learning and co-creation. We lived half our time in Open Space, half our time hosted in beautiful process with a local team led Piret Jeedas and Ivika Nögel and Robert Oetjen along with Dianna, Kritsi, Kristina, Helina, Paavo and other AoH practctioners. James Ede, Luke Concannon, Anne Madsen and I represented the visiting contingent.
As beautiful as the Art of Hosting Learning Village was, for me the journey was also about exploring something deeper here in Estonia. I have noticed in my practice lately that it is hard to sustain the kind of energy, interest and creativity that I have always tried to bring to my work. I have been reflecting on this and why it is and what it all means. So the Art of Hosting gave me a chance to work with new and old friends, and to host in a radically different context where I had to be sensitive to language and culture. But it also took place in a part of the world that has something to teach me.
Travel of course, always does this…gets us out of our patterns and ruts. I have had very little opportunity to reflect on my work this year, and so I have been treating this journey to Europe (which includes a leg in Turkey and one in Ireland as well) to be a time to discover something new.
Here in Estonia, it has felt like I have gone through several gates. Arriving in Europe, arriving in Estonia, spending one night in the capital Tallinn, travelling to the rural and traditional south to work at Sänna, and then a journey with friends deep into the heart of Setomaa, the region of Estonia that is home to the Seto people, a small Finno-Ugric tribe that I have come to love. Our friend Piret has a piece of land she is working on in the village of Harma, very near to the summer home of our friend Margus, who works for the Seto Nation. Eight of us packed down to Setomaa the other night to spend the night at Margus’s house, to practice sauna together, eat at a traditional Seto guest house, sing songs from our traditions, take part in local traditional social protocols of sharing a local moonshine called hanza which is used kind of as a talking piece by Seto hosts and to rest on the land. Yesterday morning we woke up and went walking and harvesting in the forest, picking many mushrooms, blueberries and lingonberries, visiting Piret’s land, and a new local chapel called a tsässons, which is a traditional worship place of Seto people. It was a journey that seemed to go every deeper into an ancient landscape of human activity, human community, deep friendship and powerful connection. We were hosted by the land and each other and we were blessed with a quality of time and space that seems rare.
Yesterday as we were leaving, across the fields behind Margus’ place, we witnessed what I think was the teaching that this container held. James and I stood and looked across a field at two women, a man and a horse who were taking hay from a field by hand. The women were cutting it and carrying it to the man who was pitching it into a horse drawn hay wagon. It was an incredibly powerful scene of continuity and tradition and also sustainability, practicality, simplicity and clarity. We remarked that perhaps if we could simply undertake to practice these kinds of ancient human practices with such clean volition, it would be our ideal.
I am leaving Estonia for Turkey this afternoon with the thought that this simplicity of practice is what will renew me. We humans are in love with our brains, and in making things complicated and confusing. Sometimes harvesting the hay is so simple that we can do it the way we have always done it. I think much of our work in hosting is the same. We may be facing novel situiations and mproblems in the world, but there is very little that is different about how we as humans can deal with them. To practice the ancient arts of conversations, meaning making, connection and community in the service of meeting needs, and to do that simply is the lesson.
And in some small but not insignificant way, Esotina works the obvious into my tired spirit, and the close friendships and colleagueships I share here along with a land I somehow know in my bones have hosted a little insight around simplicity that may unfold more in Turkey or Ireland.
I’m staying tuned.