We find ourselves in a critical time….
Personally, I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure and anxiety. That’s not normal for me. Time in the woods, at the ocean, or at the beach, is very important for us all right now. I recently spent some time up north, among the old trees and the ancient mosses and lichens. I left prayers on the waters at Nooksack Falls. Those waters have moved on, down river, to bless and love others. I carry them in my heart.
I remember hearing Tsartlip elder Tom Sampson state that the treaties were written in a way that honored the relationship indigenous people held and nurtured with the land, the water and the more-than-human relatives.
It’s about the relationship, and relationship as a verb, not a noun, is what we desire more than anything.
How many years and teachings does it take to recognize what black water means on the Salish Sea? How many generations does it take to understand that the trees are moving upland in response to the weather? How many generations of living on the land does it take for one to know that the maple, after a hard spring freeze, will taste significantly different? These teachings do not happen overnight. Sadly, we know that this knowledge and these teachings can often be lost in the blink of an eye.
These teachings require inter-dependence of human and more-than-human. They require us to be devoted to bringing them back to life. They live on, in the DNA and cellular stores of all life on this plane.
If we define reciprocal relationship as a mutiversal relationship – and I would argue that this is a solid foundational premise upon which we can build – why does it sometimes feel that the world is populated with people who are either incapable of, or unwilling to engage in reciprocal relationship with all living beings in our world?
How unbalanced is it to look at a river teeming with King Salmon, averaging 80 pounds, and think, “we ought to dam that river”?
How unbalanced is it to not recognize, 50 to 100 years later, the depletion and damage to the sizes and numbers of Salmon Nation as a result of the unbalanced thought that it was a good idea to dam the river?
How does one develop a reciprocal relationship?
I won’t claim to have the one, end-all, be-all answer to that question. Each human being must answer this for themselves. We can look to others for examples and guidance in developing this relationship. I will attest that it is not easy and that it takes dedication and diligence. It takes a commitment to truth and an unflinching willingness to change no matter how painful it might be. I am no authority, having a lot to still learn myself. Some would say that this work involves becoming active, adopting a title of “activist”.
Labeling ourselves activists doesn’t mean anything if we only are activists as nouns. The label is without spirit. Activist as a verb must be very intentional. What are your actions yielding? What fruit are your actions going to bear? Will they be edible and nourishing? Or will they leave a bitterness in the mouths and souls of those who observe your actions?
There are some who believe that if we humans were to disappear from the earth, that the earth would get along just fine without us. I used to believe this too. Not anymore.
I now know, at a cellular level, that the earth needs us as much as we need her. In fact, I would venture as far as to say that we were created to be companions to her, to all the more-than-human relatives.
I believe that if more people could see the world with this lens – the one where our presence is appreciated and valued – we would get closer to the restoration of our reciprocal relationship.
Be encouraged to undertake the work your soul has called you to do. Remember that the more-than-human relatives are part of your cohort and behave with the proper amount of respect – not only for them, but for yourselves. Undertake the work, make the mistakes, learn from them, and create the beautiful world we all know is possible.