Of Crows and Rain

by Tracy Wharton

photo by Moira Ashleigh

I was invited to write something for this blog back in May and I thought what could I possibly have to say that would have meaning enough for my community to spend the time to read? What of my life carries an important meaning that should be shared? What lesson would I pass on?

As I stood in the medical tent at the Occupy Detroit rally, putting together health kits, listening to a squawking murder of crows complain about the rain, I finally got it. What my friend Chris Lafond calls the “universal clue-by-four” (you know, that piece of wood that slaps you upside the head when you just aren’t seeing the obvious).

Crows.

Now, to be clear, I’ve never been part of Crow clan. I’ve been many things at Twilight Covening: Sphinx, Panda, Butterfly, Tiger, even aspired to the as-yet-mythical House cat clan, but I’ve never been a Crow. For those who haven’t had the experience of Twilight Covening yet, the long weekend is arranged around small group study and activity and each clan, animal themed, takes on a different intensive topic. The Crow clan is about service to community. The Crows hold space for us while we journey and make sure that there is space for us to return to from our travels, both in and out of the world. They enact spirituality through holding the community strong and safe.

To those of us who attend the activities of the Crow clan are mostly out-of-sight and we generally have no idea what they are doing most of the time. But they are there, doing what needs doing. This is what suddenly struck me.

There are many in our community who are great and wise voices in the world. There are a number of us who bring artistic beauty into the world, or stand and advocate and build bridges in a world too often fractured by artificial lines in the sand. There are those of us who teach and build the skills of others so that we may grow our communities, both in our home places and in our tribe. But there are just as many of us who simply live our lives, going about the place and doing what needs doing, usually without any attention or fanfare and generally out of sight and not thought of by almost everyone who isn’t directly involved.

I have said for over two decades that I live my life in service to others. This, for me, has manifested in both artistic ways, giving a break to people’s reality for a while and literal ways of service: as a social worker, a therapist, a human services manager, a researcher, a teacher, a priestess, a crisis worker and whatever else I might be doing at any given moment that gets some kind of nifty title. There have been hundreds of times when I’ve felt so small in a great sea of need, when I’ve wondered how my one small contribution could help change the world, or do anything at all. As I sat in the med tent, I thought about how I wasn’t carrying a sign, or laying down in the road for the police to carry away, or camping out long-term in the park like so many of the brave people who were genuinely taking a stand. I challenged myself about my convictions, how much I really believed in what was happening around me and thought long and hard about why I was there. Then I saw the crows and I realized that my belief in the nature of the world, my spirituality and the very fabric of what I am made of, is grounded in what I was doing and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was exactly what I needed to be doing and exactly where I needed to be when I wanted to stand and be counted.

You see, when the protesters that we see on tv call for a medic, someone usually appears. There is always someone who steps forward with water, tissues, bandaids. In disasters, there are those who appear with food, with mops, with fresh garbage bags, with tarps and hammers and chainsaws. When the tornadoes hit my hometown of Tuscaloosa, people came from around the country with trucks and chainsaws to help clear trees and debris and haul away the mess so it could be rebuilt. They just did what needed to be done and that act gave space to those who needed it to do what they needed to do.

My point is that sometimes carrying our spirituality out in the world isn’t a grandiose thing. Sometimes it isn’t sign-posted and sometimes it isn’t even clear that it’s what’s going on, but when we stop and do what needs doing for the greater good or in support of something that we believe in, we are enacting what we aspire to. We have a chant we sing in EarthSpirit that goes like this:

Carry it home to your children, (NB: many of us sing “Carry it on to the city” for this line)
Carry it out on the street.
Carry it on to the ones you love,
On to the ones you meet.
Carry it light on your shoulder,
Carry it deep in your soul.
For we have been blessed with magic,
And the magic will make us whole.
(by Betsey Rose)

As I listened to the complaining crows and the sounds of rain on blowing tarps, I realized that “it” is what I was doing. I carry my spirituality deep in my soul and carry it everywhere as I go about doing what needs doing and right then, I was carrying it, literally, out to the city and the streets, as I put cough drops into little baggies so that people could soothe their throats after shouting and spending the night in the cold damp park. And that is the point, isn’t it?

Our lives are woven of small actions. It is the interaction of all of our lives that forms the tapestry of what we experience as “Life.” Just as the web that we weave each spring is made up of a thousand little knots and ties, our lives interact with one another to form the whole of what we experience. Some people hold the great spokes of the web and some people dance underneath and weave. Some people march on the front lines of the journey and some people stay in the tent and hold the space to keep them safe. One cannot survive without the other, both are needed to make something happen and there is space in our lives to take a spot in both places, sometimes in the front and sometimes not, but not all at once.

What is the lesson that I would pass on to others? That carrying it out into the world may mean that you do something huge, but sometimes it is a small act, something done without fanfare or credit. Sometimes we are called to hold space, to support others, to protect their journeying and that is every bit as important and valuable as any other role. The web doesn’t hold together if you start pulling out strands; our lives only become the tapestry that we want them to be when we hold all the strands as beautiful and valued. It is our interaction with others that gives life meaning and that is worth passing on.

Sparks and Ripples at Rites of Spring

by Deirdre Arthen

This year at Rites of Spring, EarthSpirit’s largest annual gathering ( www.earthspirit.com/ros/index.html ), we embarked on what will doubtless become a tradition there – an exploration of how our community’s spirituality manifests in the world. We called it “Sparks of Inspiration, Ripples of Action, Exploring How We Walk in the World”. We all come to the EarthSpirit Community from different places and paths, but we all share the belief that the Earth is sacred so we wanted to look at the many ways we live that belief in our day-to-day lives. The ways may be large and dramatic, or small and simple; public and visible, or private and subtle, and together we make a vibrant mosaic, a beautiful pattern of spirited and spiritual engagement with the world.

To make the patterns visible, we invited all Rites of Spring participants to share their particular part of the mosaic – any actions that have been inspired by their spirituality or connection to the Earth, whether those be in the community, through creativity, for the Earth directly, or in the lives of others – by creating a page, including a description of what they are doing, to add to an actual mosaic on the wall of the Dining Hall. It was wonderful to see how many different ways people are living their spirituality. We read about permaculture and green building, about assisting with births and deaths, about living off the grid, about working with children and working with local communities and about college students planning career paths directly emergent from their spiritual values. The scope was broad and the writing thoughtful. I look forward to sharing some of the specifics with you here soon (after I get permission).

There were several other aspects to “Sparks and Ripples” this year, in addition to the wall mosaic. One was an event on Saturday morning where some very active members of the community, Jimi Two Feathers, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen, Steve Trombulak, ALisa Starkweather, Isobel Arthen and I and some others, spread out on blankets in the merchant Circle to share more about our inspirations and actions in person. The topics ranged from environmental activism, to community planning to service-learning to healing. On Sunday during lunchtime, Sarah Stockwell-Arthen and Isobel Arthen hosted an introductory talk and round-table discussion about sustainability and activism, and several of our community rituals also included some focus on how we manifest our spirituality in the world. (Many thinks to Sarah, Isobel, Stephen, Morwen, Eric and Chris for their work to make this vision a reality at Rites of Spring this year.)

The Web Ritual, in particular, was very meaningful as people first made commitments to taking their own actions in the world and then as so many stepped forward to hold the strands of the web that make our own community – strands of communication, teaching our children, creating music and art, writing, growing food, developing earth-friendly technology, maintaining our sacred traditions and more. As small groups held the strands the rest of us wove ourselves into the web with many colored yarn – some even home-spun that day. The resulting structure was not only beautiful, but especially powerful to be with because of the depth of true intention that went into it.

“Sparks and Ripples” is a chance for us to see new aspects of each other and be inspired by the many ways that members of our community take actions that ripple out through the web, far beyond the bounds of Rites of Spring. We look forward to hearing what you have to share. Please drop us a comment and let us be inspired by you too!