Exploring animism, embodiment, deep ecology, vulnerability, and imagination . . .
“The poetic is humans encountering things bigger than themselves,” a mentor told me once. My immersion in Lecoq-based theatre was an incredible apprenticeship to "the poetic," those gestural images created in performance that transpose the audience into a different reality.
The poetic carries you into a dreaming state, a space of enacted longing. Here, times coexist, consuming emotions are expressed, and inner lives are witnessed. In these moments, acts of aisthesis take place—a kind of soul essence passing between audience and performer. As silences thicken and deepen, the listening itself becomes a palpable tension, a substance conjured out of shared breath.
How do we create change when we are met with resistance? When we experience those moments that “the wall” comes up?
You know the feeling. Your breath is tight, the muscles of your jaw contorting, a warm flush rising to your face, a tingle in your body like maybe you’re going to faint, a hollowness in your chest. And inside you, a motor that starts going so fast the world around you is a blur and all you want to do is yell or hide or punch something or run away. Survival mode. What they call fight or flight.
Marshall Rosenberg, the psychologist who created Non-Violent Communication, would use giraffe ears and hand puppets to teach rooms of business people how to listen to their feelings and needs. Apparently, it is almost impossible to feel shame and self-consciousness while you are watching a puppet show.
Desire lines cover this territory.
Small acts of rebellion.
A refusal of the concrete roads restraining us in a prescribed expedition—the straight line wounds covering this land that keep us estranged from the wilderness—never intersecting or questioning or doubling back.
Not that prescriptive path for us.
Instead, we shed our social bodies. Leaving behind our skins, we journey into the wilderness of ourselves.
“The devastation of our inner worlds precedes that of the natural world.” —Stephen Harrod Buhner
I always misspell devastation. Devestation. De-vest-ation. Like taking off a vest. It never made sense.
Vast, on the other hand, is more appropriate. De-vast-ation. Taking away the vastness.
Standing on a cliff in England with tears streaming down my face while a scientist explains the deep time history of earth. And all I could focus on was what was in front of me: the vast ocean spreading out so far to the horizon.
Spent the night philosophizing with 5 people of my own generation all struggling to understand and hold the world. So much dysfunction and muddling through, so many wounded people.
When a young man said he was an anarchist, I said I was an animist. "What's that?" he asked. I tried to answer: "Animism is about seeing the aliveness of the world and ourselves. Animism is at its core a practice of wonder."
That question we were talking about: "What would you be willing to die to defend in nonviolent protest?" My answer: "Beauty. I think that only if life is beautiful, if it there are glimmers of what is nourishing and meaningful and fulfilling, can there be different, more creative and holistic ways of holding situations of conflict."
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state…in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.” —David Whyte
I stand in a field of bluebells. Something has shifted, something in me has opened, and I am so grateful just to be, to taste the wind, to feel the sudden expanse of sky. I want to create something from this feeling, from this rush of pleasure filling me and erasing me with the distilling wind…I set up my camera to face the bluebells and walk into the frame.
I’m here to heal a wound.
I’m here to show my beauty.
I’m here because it hurts to be alone.
I’m here because I hide my power, because there are parts of myself I hide, parts of myself I shut down.
I’m here because the voice I long for is not the one I use in daily life.
Re-membering Animism: reflections on Dark Ecology short course at Schumacher College with David Abram and Stephan Harding
On the train leaving Schumacher after the workshop, all of the fragmented narratives I have absorbed begin to weave themselves together in my imagination.
All of my moments of being on the peripheries.. Of being drawn to the edges of worlds... the inside parts, the secrets... the pasts of places, the memories... I'm starting now to get a sense that maybe this longing has a name and a shape.
Our group goes into the forest to explore texture, how when we touch the bark of a tree, the tree is also touching us. We witness each gesture of the tree as a language directed to us. We embrace the feeling that when you are looking at something, that something is looking back at you. Standing in the middle of this forest, surrounded on all sides by trees, I feel the same kind of witnessing as standing in front of an audience. A witnessing making you feel very small and very big at the same time, holding you completely in a state of presence.
The moment it happened, I was with a group of students doing a deep time walk along the Devon Coast—expanses of fields, old stone walls, scrabbly grass. The guide, a scientist, told us that the duration of each step we took was 500 thousand years. We were still traversing the vast, amniotic part of our past in alternating freezes and warmings when, all of a sudden, we walked up the rising path and the ocean appeared.
My breath opens outward, my eyes relax, my heart latches on to this vastness—it feels like a string is attaching me to this vast being, matching the rhythm of my own aliveness to its peaceful undulations.
My curiousities entwine around the concept of “mythopoiesis" — literally "myth-making" — the creation of mythologies that nourish our interbeing with the earth.
My writing explores the betweenesses of different fields—deep ecology, indigenous wisdom, trauma resilience, living process, cultural transformation, sacred activism, grief rituals, play . . .
I am learning how to become a connoisseur of the felt sense, a savorer of the moments that create meaning and nourishment in the world.
I am apprenticing to traditions that practice compassionate witnessing, creating containers in which it is safe to release into the depths of emotion, to traverse the grief and holdings that must necessarily be released before healing can begin to take place.