Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.
*Ask Your Mama™
The What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who of
Ceremony & Spirituality
©Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
A Question of Needing a Catalyst
Dear Mama Donna,
I just came across your photo of standing eggs on end at the art-that-heals.org web site. This was only minutes after I was pondering how to create a certain earth-healing ritual.
There is a creek here in the city of San Jose, California, that no one seems to own. It’s a tributary to the Guadalupe River. This poor creek is suffocating with trash of all kinds. I’ve seen birds and ducks living there — it can’t be easy.
I work in a HUGE corporation that is full of resourceful, talented, caring people. I know that if I provide the framework, they will show up. I’d like to perform a general clean-up, perhaps award a prize for the weirdest trash, and then perform a simple healing ceremony, such as tying strips of cloth/prayers to certain branches, or putting up a sign that defends the creek from future trash. Then I’ll buy the volunteers a round at the bar across the street.
I’ve been wanting to do this for months, but I’ve been missing a catalyst — experiencing paralysis and a lot of guilt for not taking action. Have you done something similar to what I’m proposing, and might you have any words of advice for me?
Hoping to be Helpful in San Jose
First of all let me commend you for your fine feelings and fabulous intentions. Good for you! The urge to do something positive for the earth is most honorable, and, as you have discovered, quite daunting, as well. Nagging doubts often delay and deter our action. What to do? Where to start? How to progress? Who am I to aim so high?
As Marianne Willimson said, “Who are you not to?” You have obviously given this project much thought. If you re-read your letter, you will probably be surprised to see that you have already answered all your own questions. It seems to me that you know exactly what to do and how to do it.
The creek obviously needs a major cleanup and your band of fellow workers seems perfectly suited to the task. Perhaps you could expand your out-reach and involve a local school, day care or senior citizen center, scout troop, or such. And sure, reward them with whatever seems appropriate.
Adopt the creek in a formal ceremony, claiming response-ability for its future care. Post the sign that you envisioned. Continue your efforts on a regular basis with periodic clean-up days and educational events. Have plastic bags (recycled, of course) printed with your logo and slogans and pass them out to encourage on-going trash collection.
I love your idea of a prize for the strangest trash discovery. Why not take it a step further and create sculptural elements from the flotsam that you find and decorate the banks and environs of the creek, creating a sort of whimsical ecology/art park? Host community picnics there and celebrate your surroundings and your own self-involvement.
What a lovely vision you have imagined. I see it all so clearly. A brave and beautiful world where we each take responsibility for righting whatever wrongs we witness and create for ourselves with our own imagination and ingenuity, a brave new, viable, sustainable, magical way of life and living.
So, consider this the catalyst you’ve been needing. Swallow that energy-draining guilt, girlfriend, and go for it! We need you.
P.S. For further information and inspiration regarding some of your ideas, you might want to refer to the following:
Re: Cleaning the creek: Heartist, Dominique Mazeaud has made a long-time monthly meditation project of cleaning the Guadalupe River in Santa Fe, New Mexico. http://www.earthheartist.com/
Re: Found junk sculpture: Alice Guffy Miller is the queen of fantastical ecological structures, which she creates with community involvement using trash and recyclables. http://home.comcast.net/~sitron45/pf/alice.html
Re: Tying cloth to branches as a healing ritual: I actually wrote an entire book about just that! Dressing our Wounds in Warm Clothes: Ward’s Island Energy Trance-Mission ( Astro artz, 1982) is available through me, www.donnahenes.net
Dear Mama Donna,
I so, so appreciate your letter of encouragement and guidance. You were
right on the money. I know the steps, and your energy added the necessary *zing*. The day after I wrote to you, I actually met with the right person to advertise this project within our company, so it has begun to take on a life of its own.
As my request for help churns through the slow bureaucracy, I notice that nature took a hand and flooded the creek with three days’ rain (we need it!) All the trash danced on top. By the time my company can help, the tide should be out enough. I am filled with optimism! It reminds me of how the National Park Service came up with a 30-year plan to demolish many ugly buildings in Yosemite — and within only 3 months 2/3 of the plan had completed — by (El Niño) nature!
I realize now that the branch-wrapping idea must have come from Dressing Our Wounds in Warm Clothes, a copy of which was at my mother’s Manhattan apartment in the eighties. That’s how powerful your book is — to stick under my skin all these years after a single evening looking (mostly) at the pictures. I am so delighted!
I’ll let you know how the cleanup goes. You remind me of a little prayer that starts out: Oh, Great Mother, bless this Earth through our actions.
Dear Mama Donna,
Here’s the latest — We are organized and lined up to clean the creek around Earth Day. In an ironic note, the local cops have forbidden us to enter the area that needs the most work. They tell us it is too dangerous (crime, dealers, needles) for the likes of us. Apparently, no one has told the ducks that!!!!!
Blessings from my activist life,
Are you ever! Good girl. When the authorities get all hot and bothered, you know you are doing something right. Take it from me. I once went to jail in Los Angeles for chanting for peace on the Autumnal Equinox, charged with “Inciting to Litter!” A few years ago on the Winter Solstice, 33 of us were arrested for chanting, “Reverence to Her” on the beach. This time, the charge was “Unauthorized Presence.” Well, I think so. And that’s just what ruffles them. We are unauthorized and live and act according to our own inner authority based on integrity, respect, reverence, and mutual response-ability.
Carry on in pride,
“Art can be a form of enlightened behavior that is constructive, done out of compassion, not only for human beings, but for the environment and for the planet itself.”
*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. *Send your questions about seasons, cycles, celebrations, ceremonies and spirit to Mama Donna at: [email protected]
Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD, an acclaimed Ezine and writes for The Huffington Post, Beliednet and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.
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