Seeds of Hope

“None of us are free of the grief of disconnection to place, to storied food, and to the land.”

Earlier this week, I got to attend the premiere of the documentary Seeds of Hope. It’s about a unique partnership between a local seed company- Hudson Valley Seed Company, a local farm- Hudson Valley Farm Hub & the Mohawk tribe. Once indigenous to this very area, they’ve been pushed into a 6 mile x 6 mile patch of land near the Canadian border where their traditional varieties of corn, beans and squash simply don’t grow as well. The film was a powerful & emotional story of healing and reconciliation as some of these varieties were saved from the brink of extinction. The Mohawk Red corn featured in the photograph was down to TWO existing ears- in the world. The Mohawk trusted their sacred seeds to farmers and growers at the Farm Hub and HV Seed Co, and the Native American Seed Sanctuary was born. Last season, over 800 POUNDS of Mohawk Red corn was grown here, ensuring the future of this traditional variety and providing a traditional food for the Mohawk to use for in cultural preservation & ceremony. 

There was an incredible turn out for the film and following the screening, there was a Q&A with one of the farmers and some folks from the Mohawk tribe in Akwesasne. Something very powerful & intimate happened in that room. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room as one of the elders spoke about his distrust & suspicion of white people being healed (to a degree) by the respect our local farmers showed for not only their sacred seeds- but the songs and stories that are entwined with them. We all cried together for ancestors that hurt each other and were hurt by each other, but you could also feel the silent agreement that was made to forgive and heal- not just in our relationships with other humans- but with the plants and the earth as well. The Original Agreement was between ALL humans with the rest of Creation. 

Rowan White of the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network shared a moving story of driving through Nebraska one spring and looking out on miles of fields of sprouting corn plants. An indigenous woman, she was filled with hope & joy to see the baby plants of the Corn Mother and began to sing the corn & seed songs. Then she remembered these were Monsanto corn plants and felt the futility of singing to these disconnected corn plants. It was then that she realized what her grandmother meant when she said that Corn was a reflection of the People: when Corn flourished, they flourished. But the fields of Monsanto corn also represent the state of the people: disconnected from their place in the Nature. We're all suffering this feeling of disconnection from the land, from a sense of place. We try to fill the void with material things, excessive busyness or thousands of social media followers, but just like that GMO corn; that life is heavy on calories, but light on actual nutrients- substance. 

In my practice, I work with a lot of people who are working to eat better. They struggle with their weight and making time to prepare and eat whole foods. I wonder how many of them are actually struggling with this disconnection to place & storied food and are overeating or feel enslaved by cravings to junk food because what they are really craving is belonging & connection. It's not that far-fetched an idea when you consider 'comfort food' and how many of us have deep emotional memories tied to certain foods- Grandma's fruit cake recipe, a beloved aunt's signature cookies. We often cook for people as a sign of love and care, bring them food in times of need. Why wouldn't food also be able to give us a sense of place, ground us and connect us with nature? Isn't eating after all, an intimate act of taking plants and animals into our own bodies and making their bodies a part of ours? If we all incorporated more native, wild and local foods into our diet would it begin to erase our cultural amnesia about where we come from and helps us reconcile with our Mother, Earth? 

The Way of the Hunt

I watch Orion appear in the deep twilight sky as the sun sets on the beginning of this journey. I have not asked if this was intentional with the New Moon or not- but it doesn't matter. It has meaning to me. In the dark, in the depths, is where the seeds of all future harvests are planted. 

My intention for this journey is to reconnect. 

With my deeper, primal human nature.  With the secret, yet unbroken lineage of human hunters who have roamed, stalked, and killed; who have eaten and lived- live still inside of me- inside my DNA. 

With the land that I love. To become native to my place, entwined as new satiated lovers, holding each other so close, borders and boundaries grow fuzzy and fade.

With the other beings of this Earth. To take in my body the body of another- a daily Eucharist to express my devotion and admiration. To let those molecules become me, integrate with my own for time- until the end of my journey when together they flow back into that great River of Life. 

As I step out in the frigid pre-dawn morning, Orion once again presides over the Sacred Hunt, just as he has for human and non-human hunters alike, since the dawn of time. 

Living simply: reclaiming sanity + authenticity

I met a friend for coffee & bone broth the other day and the conversation strayed to evolution, ancestral health and the modern condition. (Friends who will nerd out with me on these topics have a special place in my heart.) She mentioned that in an anthropology class she took in college, the professor referred to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle as the "original opulence."

Though it might not seem like these people have a lot, what they did have was happiness, community and time. Even today, travelers in the poorest areas of the world are impressed with how happy and content the people are even when they have very little. From the study of more recent hunter-gatherer cultures, anthropologists estimate that an individual spent 15-20 hours a week acquiring all the basic supplies they needed for food, clothing, and shelter.

Imagine what your life would be like if you only had to work the equivalent of a part-time job to provide for your needs? You'd have more time to pursue your passions; the things that make you come alive. There would be more time for family and friends, to create art, to build community. More cooperation, less loneliness and isolation. Less negative impact on your hormones and health from the constant barrage of stress.

Can we even go back to this original opulence? Or has that ship completely sailed for the modern human? Can we recreate an adapted version of original opulence that doesn't completely isolate us from the modern world? One where our modern technologies serve us rather than enslave us?

I believe the answer is yes. There is a growing tribe of folks all around the world who are 'rewilding' themselves, their families and their communities. These people are creating their own paths, rejecting consumerist culture and choosing conscious, intentional lives. Yeah, they still have an iPhone and a huge social media following, but they are using this technology to inspire and lead this growing tribe. (And they make it a point to put this technology away and experience uninterrupted connection with nature and community.)

So how do you get started on this rewilding lifestyle of living simply and sanely, of recovering original opulence? First, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to living simply and there is no sequential number of steps to follow. Think of it more like spiral-shaped path: you'll often come back to certain issues and themes, with new insights and understandings at each revisit. Where you end up doesn't matter. That you take the first step, does.

With that in mind here's some idea of places and or themes to start with.

  1. Food. This is where it all started for me. Getting back to the basics of eating real food. Stuff that looked like it came out of nature. It started with organic, but moved in from there to local, sustainable food choices. Now I am learning about growing, harvest and foraging my food (which requires a ton more movement, see below). As I understood more about the connection between food and health, I came to realize that food was the most important investment I made each day because it was an investment in my life, my health, my body, even my future. I spend a greater percentage of my income on food than most Americans and I'm OK with that, even though it means there is less for the new clothes, a big payment for a nice ride, cable TV package, etc. I value my body and my health more. Change your diet and see what shifts and opens up for you. I'm huge fan of a paleo/primal eating as a way of getting back to real, nutrient-dense, health affirming foods and diet that is sustainable for you and the planet.
  2. Movement. There was a shift that happened for me when I dove headlong into the MovNat community. Moving in nature, using only the elements at hand to get fit and grow strong, I realized that I didn't need the latest and greatest fitness training program or equipment to move well and be healthy. I don't even need that gym membership I never use. A heavy rock or two, a tree limb and a downed log will do just fine. Through MovNat,  I've come to see the environment and the elements not as something to shield myself from all time (and that require more clothing/gear to deal with), but something to be selectively and intelligently embraced to make me stronger and more adaptable. Try some MovNat training and see if it doesn't shift your perspective a bit.
  3. Stuff. The elephant in the room- sometimes literally. Our current economy is predicated on consumerism; buying 'stuff' you don't really need is the whole point. The 'gotcha' is that you have to work more to earn more to buy this stuff you didn't really need in the first place. Then you need a bigger house, more stuff to organize all of your stuff, a storage unit, etc. All of this requires you to earn more money, trading more of your time. Personally, the things I want out of life, turn out not to be material goods. At the core of many of the things I dream of doing and seeing and becoming, is a healthy, capable, adaptable body to get me there. I can actually give more focus to this goal with less stuff blocking my path. Start with room, closet, or maybe even just a corner of your home. Clean out the stuff there. Sell or give it away. Don't keep things for sentimental reasons; keep only those things that bring real joy, every day.

Many of these areas overlap for me and they probably will for you too. I have more money for high quality food when I choose less stuff. I have more time to be outside and play in nature when I can work less because I don't need as much money to buy all that extra 'stuff.'  I have more time to spend with my family and community as well. It's a journey and I'm constantly learning too. (I hope one day to convince my husband to sell most of our furniture and increase the spaciousness of our small home while getting more movement in our day by sitting on the floor.) The point being, when we do the bits and pieces of work to rewild ourselves, we begin to reclaim that original opulence. Yes, we create extra work for ourselves at times, but that's the work that makes us stronger and fitter- physically as well as mentally. We reclaim our sanity when we no longer carry the anxiety and frustration that comes from excess 'stuff' management, the burden of debt or or the stress of working long hours in a job we hate just to 'pay bills.' We can be mindful and joyful in the present moment, with the people and places that we truly love, living from a place of authentic luxury.