I've been building the web presence for the Fetzer-funded project, the Powers of Place Initiative, for almost a year now and we are finally ready to launch! Check it out: www.powersofplace.com
This project is dear to my heart, given how profoundly my life has been effected by the sense of place - coming up through young adulthood by the love of the NorthEast Kingdom in Vermont, calmed and grounded by the expanse of Balboa Park in San Diego, in love with the contours of the green and pleasant land of England's south coast, and now blessed by the sacred Mt Tamalpais here in the San Francisco bay area.
How have the powers of place effected you and/or your work? If this is a subject that interests you, you might want to join this group in doing serious research and dedicated inquiry into the phenomena.
My annual Dreaming Ceremony was a little different this year, due to the series of storms that hit the California coast in the last few weeks. The winding mountain road I took to get there was a 2 hour obstacle course of rock-slides, flooded low spots and downed power lines, so it was no surprise to find there was no electricity when I arrived.
We gathered that first night in a large room in the Santa Cruz mountains, lit by a roaring fire in the fireplace and the glittering lights of this year's altar (created by Lightning Dove, aka Sue Blondell). The heat in the building was electrically generated so it was cold and we were all wrapped in medicine blankets and woolly socks - some of us wearing scarves and hats, and even gloves.
It was magic...
One of the main motivations that takes me to the Dreaming Ceremony - and the Summer Solstice Ceremony that bookends my year - is the wish to realign my system to the rhythms of the natural world. The conditions could not have been better for that purpose, or for the collective Dreaming we all came to do together...
Later that night I took a flashlight back to my little cabin in the woods and lit a bunch of votives to do some journaling before snuggling into bed and watching tree shadows moving outside my windows. I left my porch light on so I could tell if the electricity returned and when it came on in the middle of the night I was kind of disappointed.
But that wasn't the end of our adventures with the weather- the electricity was on and off throughout the four days of ceremony and the darkness in the Kiva was especially deep when there was no electric current to distract us from the Void. My body actually began to remember what it was like to live without it and the re-calibration of my internal compass was well and truly set by the end of our time together; I figure it's good for another six months at least!
This is not one of those books you skim through and set aside - you could profitably keep it on your nightstand and read it over and over, always finding something new and valuable. In fact, one of the basic lessons of the book stood out for me in Alan's talk as if I were hearing it for the first time: there is a point in many collective interactions where we have a choice to either ascend to a "higher place" together or fall into "folly". That point, Alan says, is characterized by disagreement or conflict. It's in negotiating problems where we are in danger of collapsing into either polarization (disassociating ourselves completely from the others' point of view) or false agreement, which is equally pernicious.
If in that critical moment of conflict, however, we are able to really listen to each other and find a way to accept our differences and continue to treat each other with respect, we truly have the capacity for reaching collective wisdom. I've been at this critical point several times since the TLG and remembering Alan's words - to listen more deeply, ask questions and make an honest attempt to understand another view - has made all the difference.
Now we just have to get the book into the US Senate reading list...
I found this quote the other day while changing the signature on my emails...
"There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility."
~ Thomas Merton, from "Hagia Sophia"
That's my wish for myself, and for all of us in this new year... a deeper connection with silence as a fount of action and joy.