Wondering what is happening at Open Way? So am I. This March we’ve planted our high tunnel, started thousands of seeds, pulled blackberry cane, hauled apple tree trimmings, hosted Equinox and full moon gatherings, collected sap, gathered eggs, and dyed and hid eggs later to be found by small children. We’ve worked and played, feasted and toiled, all for the good of our families, our community, and hopefully, of the land itself.
And even with all of this work, I am wondering what is happening at Open Way. We are planting in a hot high tunnel, with no snow on the ground, and it’s 40+ degrees outside almost daily. We are collecting sap on days that barely see frost. A part of me feels like we are working in a world turned upside down by climate shifts and too-soon springs. We are meant to have days below freezing coming up, but I’m skeptical.
And even with this awareness, I am wondering what is happening at Open Way. As we continue to start each piece of our vision for community and farm, and live into the service of offering hospitality to activists seeking respite and healing on the land, I feel like we are starting as children, naïve and hopeful. I am looking to the land to teach me, and I feel like I don’t even know how to listen!
As a white person, one of the things I feel acutely is that the traditions of connecting with the land, listening and responding, making sense of the wisdom there, have been lost many generations ago. Instead, white folks made up the Cartesian split, where thinking legitimizes being, where body is cast down, where what is valued is what is abstract. I come from a long line of folks running from their bodies, from the vicissitudes of living and dying, and guess what, none of them could do it– they all lived in their bodies, and they all died in their bodies.
So what am I to do, in wanting to learn from the land, with next to no language for it, next to no fluency in this cross- being communication?
A lot of what I am exploring looks like made up shit, to be honest. We participate in what some folks call Reclaiming paganism, and what we call eclectic and earth- and justice-based. In an attempt to not participate in the time honored traditions from white supremacy of appropriation or Columbusing, we end up engaging in what someone from my academic days would call nascent ritual– ritual we make up as we go along, symbols and meanings that emerge from the weird amalgam of a collective unconscious and a shared discovery in the moment.
Our first full moon ritual in Vermont, this past week, consisted of using sage to cleanse, invoking the spirits with catcalls and animal sounds to welcome the directions on the compass, and charging (read as focusing energy and intention) seeds we planted in peat pots with hopes for the coming season. Then we raised energy by letting tones come through us, spontaneously, in our living room, with my children watching. It’s weird and awkward, though not only weird and awkward. It can also be transporting, grounding, and inspiring– and it’s the best chance I feel I have to move into wakefulness with my body, and connect with the land.
I am also learning from other teachers. Enroue Owa Halfkenney teaches about ancestor worship for all folks, regardless of race or cultural identity. I participated in a public workshop in November where he called for white folks to imagine their ancestors, to picture an ancestor in our minds, even if we have no idea who they are, being connected to their bodied and landed wisdom. I imagined a woman in a hovel in the Ukraine, wearing a babushka and sweeping out the backyard, singing and speaking with her plants. And Dr. Darya Funches has given me some tools to help me open this channel with the land. The central act is of a daily offering to the land, with no expectation or conversation. Just offering. The land deserves this from me, who has benefited already so much in these less than 3 years I have been here.
So what is happening with Open Way? The humans are busy. The seeds are being planted, and many are germinating. But the land of Open Way? The real center of this work and weaving we are building, daily? I’m not so sure. When I find out, I’ll be sure to share what I learn.