People and Place
One day all our communities will be rooted in a particular place.
We are in an age of extinction, with dozens of species going extinct every day from human impact.
We witness the ecological systems that support life on earth falling apart.
We see the empire grasp for power on the brink of yet another collapse of another hierarchy.
Living lives supported by the last breaths of a dying civilization, we look towards a time when we will all just have each other. By that I mean look out your window. Who is there? Your neighbor, the burrowing rodents, the insects, the coyotes, the juniper trees, the concrete of the sidewalk. At some point, again, these will be our friends, our resources. The people and wildlife and the more quiet, still aspects of our surroundings will comprise the environment that we care about- the only place that we have is the place where we are.
The importing of things from far away will be much more difficult. The movement of people will be greatly reduced, except those moving for survival.
Knowing this, do you wish to wait to learn how to take care of a place? Or will you listen now, listen to the land, the people and animals who know the land and it’s needs to stay healthy.
You have your own values and ways of thinking. They were likely given to you by the dominant culture that has also brought us ecological collapse. All this is inextricably linked. It takes a big, big pause to process the need to change one’s paradigm. It’s takes courage and patience to even see your own paradigm.
Will you wait for the “leaders” to change their paradigm so that they can save life on earth as we know it? What would it look like to change your own paradigm? I mean the kind of shift that results in a belief that humans are not more valuable than other beings. That people with more money are not more important than those with less. That white people are not above all other colors.
Let’s look at human communities. We’ve lost most of the ways we knew how be in healthy groups living together. We’ve been out of practice for generations, and knowledge has been lost. We have not needed to draw on what is outside the window. The fossil fuels that have given the oceans and atmosphere larger and larger doses of carbon also brought us the ability to order from Amazon. They gave us the ability to move across the world from our families but visit every year. They gave us the steady stream of power that we can plug into so that we can meet our social needs through digital devices. It’s been that way for a while. But not really that long. And it won’t be much longer.
There are folks who have been focused on learning how to create healthy human community. Look at Intentional Communities and Temporary Autonomous Zones, Nonviolent Communication and Consensus decision making. Notice indigenous communities focused on preserving and reviving their own cultural traditions. These all point towards trying to live in harmony, trying to build a life where humans support one another. But often these are practices in transient gatherings. Because for those of us with privilege, it’s so easy to move-join other circles, find another crew. It’s so easy to go somewhere else when things are difficult. And we do.
So we can keep doing this until we can’t any more.
Or we can dedicate ourselves to a place. This is the answer to so many things. The Earth needs our attention. The most direct and immediate way to give that attention is to look down at the land you stand on, the hills that surround you. Develop relationship there. Deepen it. Look around for who else is there. Be with those beings who are a part of that place. Even the humans, as awkward as they may be.
I’ve had my feet on this particular ground, my ear to this land around me for a while now. The following is what this place has told me about healthy community:
- Acknowledge the land you are on and a part of. Acknowledge the ancestors who lived on that land before. Learn from them. Be humble and try to live in a way that shows you do not value human life above other life, wealthy and white humans above others. Become a part of this land by giving her your sweat, your tears, your blood. Nourish yourself with what the place provides for you. Eat the weeds, heat with the sun, drink the rain.
- Reciprocity is essential in relationship with the land and with all other beings. It’s all about giving and receiving. Generosity is part of it. Consent is part of it. Listening is part of that. Learning to listen is a first step and goes hand in hand all along the way into weaving a life of reciprocity with all beings around you
- Accountability is key. Follow through to maintain trust in relationships. The accountability should be to your own agreements with yourself, and then naturally the accountability to others will follow. It’s about building trust. When you hold your own integrity as a priority, you remember what you agree to.
- Ritual Creates Relationship. Humans everywhere say hello and goodbye. Often this includes a physical interaction like a handshake or hug. Many of us gather our community to honor people for their birthdays. We sing and celebrate by presenting a sweet treat, adorned with small flames. Humans gather to mourn the loss of a loved one. Each relationship is it’s own sacred thing, and needs it’s own moment. There is a lot of room here for creativity as we become people of a place again.
- A Dedication to Repair is also imperative as we learn to be in community again. We have a lot of learning to do, with all that colonization has taken from our human cultures. We need the will and the ability to rebuild trust once it has been broken. What will help us repair? Acknowledgment, reciprocity, accountability and ritual. And other things.
If you are already a person who belongs to a place, I consider you one step ahead- leading the way. One step ahead in a civilization that is ten thousand steps behind.
My dream is for all earthlings to become a beautiful faunic community as an interdependent aspect of place. I dream for the Earth to speak through each of us as one of zillions of expressions of life bursting from this moment, reweaving the connections of people and place. I dream for our collective expressions within community to do so as well.
It will take practice.
Written by Amanda Bramble