Friday, October 18, 2019

Bioneers 2019 - The first day begins with 10,000 tears

If the Bioneers folks intended to have the first day of the 30th annual Bioneers Conference grab us by the heart, they succeeded. The beloved founders Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons were greeted with a standing ovation before they even opened their mouths. And when Nina told us of the recent departure of her mother, the tears began, hers and ours. 

Tears continued as Terry Tempest Williams approached the podium after Nina and, obviously affected said, “I don’t know how to speak.” After a pause, she said, “Maybe we should just hold the silence and weep together.” 

And we did, until she began to tell us about Castleton Rock where scientists recorded its vibrations which pulsates at about the same rate as a human heartbeat.

Terry played a recording of Castleton Tower to a pin-drop silent audience."The earth has a pulse,” she said. 

“It is alive.” And we knew it was true because we had just heard it. (You, too, can hear it here.) Then she went on to read from her powerful new book, Erosion, Essays of Undoing. I was delighted to have her sign my book and let me take a picture of her and her husband Brooke holding up a poster highlighting her reading: "Boom! Erosion of Belief.”

My favorite quote: "I refused to perpetuate this lie, this myth, 
this abuse called silence. 
If birds had a voice, so did I."

Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues fame prompted more tears as she told the story from her new book The Apology about what she wanted, but never received, from her father who sexually and physically abused her for years. She wrote the apology she wanted from him and advocated it as a way to finally reach forgiveness. Then she spoke her own apology to the earth and we all wept again.

Jerry Tello, co-founder of the Healing Generations Institute, made us fall in love with his abuela (grandmother). Jerry grew up on the rough streets of Compton but says that his abuela telling him every day, “You are a blessing, just the way you are,” inoculated him from the wounds of that rough world. “When people are related to you, you treat them different,” he said as he greeted us all as relatives and invited us to do the same with others.

David Orr, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and author of Dangerous Years: Climate Change and the Long Emergency, warned us that we are experiencing the most dangerous challenge to free government that any of us have experienced. He explained that democracy seldom fails due to outside forces but normally commits suicide as inequality and despair become the norm in a society and lead to oligarchy where money and power wind up in a few hands.
In the evening, four environmentally focused films were shown. My favorite was REBBL with a Cause, the story of how a company is fighting human trafficking by helping communities build a sustainable income source through a healthy product. I didn’t realize that "Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal industry of our time with 45.8 million people currently being exploited worldwide.” This is an inspiring and uplifting story of what a company can do when it focuses on people over profit and who knew that Brazil nuts grow in a ball?

Brazil nut ball.Photo credit:
Throughout the day, music and poetry weave through the often intense presentations and the repeated reverence shown to the land and the cultures of the indigenous peoples create a sense of sacred not often found at conferences.

Bioneers 2019, Day 1 - Babies and Baskets

Thursday, October 17: Babies and Baskets: Honoring California Indian Woven Knowledge

Blue sky and the bay welcomed us to McNears Park (San Rafael) as we formed a large circle and three indigenous cultural leaders prayed and sang for the day to come. One Hopi leader from a desert farming community was overwhelmed by the abundance of water.

The first day of Bioneers is always an offering on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). This year focused on baby baskets and the gathering of materials to make them.The baskets are not just something to transport the baby in, as I had thought, but a central part of the culture. I was amazed at how much respect it shows the baby, surrounding her or him with natural materials to smell, touch, and chew on as well as giving them a sense of safety, security, and belonging.  

One of the most touching stories I heard was about a basket project for children who have been fostered out of the culture. Women make baskets for a specific child and accompany it with his tribal history. The baskets are stored and offer a re-entry point, so that when the adult is ready, s/he can come home. The baskets tell them, "These are your roots.”

One basket weaver showed us her daughter’s baby basket (they takeabout a year to make) and told us how she “became a mom,” which was not the normal story of impregnation and hospital trauma. 

In her culture, the new mother stays in a special place for 10 days with her baby, while the women of the tribe take care of her and the baby and give them time to bond. Her story made me think about what my own teenage mother went through as she was already divorced, under-educated, and forced to ask her father to pay her hospital bill. Life created a situation where we never bonded properly, leaving both of us wanting something neither of us knew how to find.

Lunch was a Native American offering ... not only delicious, but a special treat for me since I didn’t have to worry about garlic.( I had emailed the chef in advance.)  The squash-apple-ginger soup was incredible (and simple enough for me to make (I think) and the hit of the day were the blue corn huckleberry cookies.

There was a lot of discussion about what the tribes are doing to revitalize their customs and reclaim their culture and their roots. And, there is obviously great pain about what they have lost and how badly they have been treated. One leader called herself "extinct."

It makes me also wonder about the pain of never knowing those deep roots ... not knowing what we lost. All of us at one point were indigenous, native to and connected to a land. Somewhere in the deep past of time, we left the world of hunter-gathers, became farmers, became industrialized, became immigrants to a new land or lands, leaving behind language, ceremonies, and knowledge. Because all of that is buried so deeply in our past, we can't even name the ache. However, maybe it is a part of our call to consumption as well as the soul sickness that shows up as depression, greed, hatred, violence.

Later, the day became even more special when I found two incredible trees on the grounds of the Convent across from Dominican University. Here's one of them ... they were huge!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #16: Dancing with InDesign

by Joyce Wycoff

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day, the 17th of every month, 
and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)

I love learning … when it’s easy … when I can quickly use what I’ve learned.
I’m a practical learner … an impatient, practical learner.
A friend with the same proclivities calls us “5-minute experts.”
We can skim the cream and talk a good game.

InDesign said, “We’ll see.”

I wanted to make a book I could hold in my hand.
The idea came easily.
The cover showed up in a flash.
I had done this before. Piece of cake.
Cost-per-unit finances required a new path.
I wanted to follow the old one.
                                                It failed.

With trusty Photoshop in hand, I tried again.
                                                It failed.
The Learned Ones said, “You need InDesign.”
“No, I’ll do it my way,” I replied.
                                                It failed again.

I put the project aside ...
Nasty thing that wouldn’t co-operate.
It whimpered and whined until I said, “Alright already!”
Giving in, I bought InDesign, uploaded it ...
Prepared to begin again.
It was Photoshop’s cousin; bound to be simple.

    Step 1 … one week … two weeks …
    Buy an online course …
    27 videos later:
    Step 1 … one week … two weeks …
    Microscopic aha.
    Page 1 … 2 … 3 … on a roll.
    Page 4 throws up a new rule, refuses to go on.
                                                Start over.

More videos, a thousand Googles, and a pretty aha.
Redo pages 1, 2, 3.
Even 4 works.
But, now I don’t like any of them.
                                                 Start over.

Starting to see daylight, excited, want to wrap text.
Simple, but doesn’t work.
Rewatch videos. Retry.
Rinse and repeat. Again. Again. Again.
Something is wrong.
                                                 Start over.

Eureka! Problem solved. Clarity at last.
Progress made.
30 pages in, decide to test.
12 broken links.
23 overtexts.
                                                 No partridge in a pear tree.

Back to videos. Back to Google.
Curse internet for storing answers from 2012.
Reread current answer 5 times trying to understand geek-speak.
Search for Link Panel … pictures would be nice.
Play with preferences.
Undo the mess preference changes made.
Fix all the errors committed along the way.
Day 746 (it seems) exported my first pdf.

I love learning new stuff!
Assuming InDesign and I keep dancing, eventually there will be a book about my two years in Mexico … why I moved there, some of the beauty I saw, a few of the things I learned, and, I hope, a deeper understanding of why I left a place I loved.

The book cover is above and here is the Contents page and the opening spread for Chapter 1.