About the Activist / Artist
"I weave this from the loom of myself, not only for the ancestors whose names I know, but for All the Ancestors, going back and back into the time when there was not time.
Where my brother was a Raven, and my sister was the Moon."
- Jorie Jenkins
As a child, I observed ants crossing the sidewalk, and I saw myself. I was aware, in some unexplained way, that the ants were, quite dutifully, a part of something. My grandfather showed me a cicada molting on a tree, and I was utterly amazed by the papery amber ghost the insect left behind. The exoskeleton of the insect, from a distance, looked like a part of the tree. I discovered milkweed, and watched its spores departing on the air; the weightless pirouettes of seed were a part of the wind, the earth - a part of the past and the future at the same time.
I found a bee trapped inside the house, felt compelled to free it, and watched it feel obvious, invigorating joy as it was reunited with the sky it understood; the sky it was a part of. The crows obviously spoke to each other, and observed things around them intently - they were a part of the sky, a part of the tree, a part of some secret, sacred group.
I touched living moss and felt it speaking; the moss was part of trees, the wind, the moss, the sky, the crows, the milkweed, the cicada... Without anyone explaining this to me, I seemed to just feel this to be true, and I quietly recognized myself as a part of it all, in the undeniable awe I felt toward everything.
As I was the only child in my perceivable surroundings for the first years of my life, all my peers were adults. No one spoke to me like a child, and everyone treated everyone else with respect. I was content to play outside and 'alone', though I rarely felt that way. I was fortunate to be surrounded by wild green lands, so I was quietly influenced and guided by what I later called 'the elders and the alders'.
Passing into the gauntlets of public schooling, I was ill-prepared. I witnessed children in my peer group intentionally hurting a living thing, and saw others my age regarding nature as something to mock and dominate and destroy. Where had they learned this?? I felt a crushing, overpowering, intense anger, a truly fiery sense of wrongdoing. I spoke out. I protected those who were suffering.
Perhaps it was at this moment that I became an Earthspeaker. But among my peers at least, even strong words and actions were not enough to dissuade them. They made efforts to mock and destroy me as much as they did anything else, and I withered into a secret place. It would be a long time until I found other people who were gentle, who felt awe, and who were as concerned about the ways of Men in the world as I was.
Meanwhile, I began to ask very deep questions:
Why did it seem that some people enjoyed hurting others? Was it because someone had hurt them?
Why, if someone behaved or looked 'different', were they so often perceived (and treated) as a threat?
As less? As disposable? As devoid of feelings?
When we do hurt others, do we not also harm ourselves? Why is it that some people choose to inflict pain
once they've felt it, while others seem to live in the wake of cruelty within a conscious pledge of kindness?
What has value? Money, or a river?
And why is it all too easy, as a human being,
to go from being 'a part'
to being 'apart'?
Very early on I escaped into my imagination. I was enthralled with the worlds of Seuss, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and other world builders like Frank Herbert and George Lucas captured and held my attention. I began to draw and make up stories at an early age. When I saw Jim Henson's 'The Dark Crystal', at the age of 8, a dormant but fertile seed in my imagination took root. I have been putting out similar roots ever since, and as an adult I was truly honored to meet the conceptual designer of the film, Brian Froud. Anticipating the meeting, I had brought along Froud-inspired drawings I had done as a child, and he and his wife Wendy Midener Froud (who, incidentally, createdYoda) doted upon the scribbles with glowing smiles. When I saw her again some months later at The Fernie Brae Gallery she welcomed me with a warm hug, and readily recalled the illustrations I had shared. It seemed that even my mentors found the creations pouring from my spirit relevant and beautiful.
For a time in life, it had seemed that a traditional marriage, a house, a job and children were the things I was supposed to work toward and desire. It was only after I abandoned these paths that my true voice spoke to me. When it did, there was a 'surrender' moment, when all I thought I had wanted was stripped away. Alone, literally prostrate on a floor, I submitted to a powerful, sudden inner 'A-ha!' I said out loud, to no one in particular, "Okay, whatever it is you want me to do, I'll do it. I'm listening." Maybe I was speaking to the Universe, which had seemed, in that instant, to abruptly press in close and show me something. Most importantly, however, I heard myself, perhaps for the first time. Soon after, things started to shift. It was almost as if the creatures had been standing with an ear to the door, and when I announced my willingness, they didn't even knock - they just came right in.
"The Raven still speaks the Moonlight words,
and the Moon still understands the Raven's wings
And, it seems, I still understand the Raven and the Moon."
As writers and artists, creative visionaries and earth speakers, I feel that each individual merges with a piece of the truth. In art and expression, however they interpret it, the truth branches forward, through them. Like the tributaries of a great river, or as the branches of a massive tree, we sweep ever outward from the source, recalling some part of it, and telling the story in our own time, in our own way.
A broad-reaching, didactic fable has since unfolded, through me. It is so much 'a part' of me that people who hardly know me seem to recognize it. Hundreds of songs, poems and numerous creation myths have come to fruition, and, to myself and others, have become very real. A world has been born. I dream of screenplays and envision books filled with epic narrative. I imagine eloquent plays and playful costumes, tribal dances and authentic performance art, puppets, children's narratives... I mean to entwine with other creatives on a grand scale, but just how all that will happen remains, at present, a pleasant mystery.
Untold hours are spent researching, illustrating and cataloging, designing and sculpting, writing and painting. By now I have trouble keeping track of all the ideas and notes and inklings that have come to me. But I write it all down no matter what, scribbling ideas in the margins, or on a napkin, trusting that one day it will all make sense of itself. As in any life's work, the underlying truth of it weaves together in gradual strands.
Somehow I manage to hold a job I love in the 'real world'. I have wonderful friends and family, and surround myself with those to also feel awe, and joy and connection. I love where I have chosen to live, a place that quickly departs from the angularity of asphalt to the cosmic spiral of the Fiddlehead fern. The sacred, the magic, mystical places where the ideas and the characters reside, is nearby, lingering in a vapor among boughs, whispering in a brook laughing over mossy rocks, whirring in the pleasant work of the bees in the fennel gone to flower in my garden.
I have surrendered to the shamanic purpose - the commitment of those who walk across a bridge to two worlds - and I've come to the realization that there are many quiet, purposeful and diligent ways to be a part of the sacred, and the 'real'.
There are only so many days that each of us get to be here, only so many moments we can call ours in this brief and mysterious human life. So in the time I'm here, I have set out to walk a good path; to be meek and aware and awake enough to pass through the world in a gentle and thoughtful way, but to be strong enough and brave enough to speak out against what harms - what hurts - what isn't sustainable.
I mean to protect the natural world, the earth, the elements - all of which is not mine, but of which I am a part - a world that I must nurture and revere and then pass on to future generations; and not just future generations of people. This world belongs to the bee, and the crow, the moss, the tree, the milkweed and the cicada. These sacred, wise and integral beings, and the ecosystems that support them, are far more important than I am, and I will defend their beauty and purpose, their fragility and strength, every day, every way that I can.
I urge you to do the same.