Many times I hugged my fellow companions from Port Townsend and could only say "We're in Liz Rog's kitchen in Decorah, Iowa."
Deanna Pumplin might chuckle, "I know! What are you doing here??"
Wild. Wild means something so different now, not only the exquisite wilderness of the Olympic Mountains, or the changing courses of Canoe Creek, but the taste of a great homemade wine, or the feeling of holding someone you love thousands of miles from where you usually see them. Like geese flying high, like doing something you've never done before, like the wine sliding down the tunnel of our throats, like speaking truth.
Laurence Cole says, "We're a long way from home, but you people are who I live with."
I am learning perhaps culture lives inside something much bigger than just a place. Though each place I have been has put itself within me - wood nettles, forest licorice, sugar maples - and other travelers bring things from their places - rhubarb wine, ceremonial cacao, fresh sunflower oil. I think it's impossible to know exactly what we're "supposed" to be "doing" to do "good things" in the world right now. I do not believe there is a way that it should look, like planting trees, or making houses out of mud, painting the street or carving spoons, or singing songs together -- any of these things can be done without opening ones heart to experience what it all means to us.
What I feel, having been back in Port Townsend for less than 24 hours, having driven alone across the country - there and back - is the necessity of doing only what it is that I Love, and working with those that I Trust. We have the capability to travel across the world, in a way that isn't going to last much longer, and who knows for what purpose or to what detriment. I don't know that we can know. We can opens our heart :: to love, to fear, to anger, to joy, to music, to tears, to Life. And choose to live inside of all of it. To sing inside of all of it. Wildly.
It's one of those things - like a set a paints or a musical instrument - that is physical and yet will be the vessel for countless memories, the universe itself expanding all the time.
I'm struggling to find words for what I wanted to share here about what I'm bringing back for Working Song Gathering. This trip has been life-changing, some aspect of describing the 'outcomes' is feeling mechanical. The moments of tears and tenderness, and harmony and discourse all folding into something of a generator inside, making new cells in my body's life. And here we go with an outcome: so, Ida brought an organizing structure called "8 Shields" from her school in California. Working Song has started to model our organizing structure on the Singing Alive structure of "ensembles" (using Dynamic Governance). I'm looking forward to figuring out how we can spread out the responsibilities and tasks of the group by what people care about by meshing together the ensembles, the diagram Mia Van Meter & I developed over David Holmgren's Permaculture domains flower, and fit it inside the 8 Shields model so that we can collaborate with Village Fire.
This looks like: ensembles + permaculture = 8 shields for Working Song.
Why 8 Shields? In short, my love for the people who run Village Fire. It is interesting to me, for our first Working Song in February we didn't use a formal structure, but we had a large group of people who were holding various aspects of the gathering - opening ceremonies, food, venue, song circles, craft teachers - and through many individual meetings the sharing of responsibilities naturally flowed to people's desire to help. With no structure, though, Spring Working Song showed us we need something to hold us together. I find it exciting to use something like 8 Shields so we can use the same language as another organizing group to collaborate on organizational structures and growth of an organization. It is also true that I like the 8 Shields model, but every organizational structure I've been inside of deviates from what is intended. There's what is "ideal" and then there's who is there to do it. What I see helps groups the most is not having the most perfect structure, but the people within having Love for each other, and the structure allowing for people to connect in a genuine way.
We sing. We sing all the time, for joy and gratitude, grief and sorrow and silliness. For revolutions, for peace. Music unites us.
Some of my favourite words on the topic are by Gus Speth: "I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy... and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don't know how to do that."
No single group of people will "know" in a concrete way how to "do that". How to radiate - like an enormous, massive, gravitational sun from the center of your chest and through your whole being - a great Love, how to tend to broken and fearful hearts, how to heal a wounded culture. But when we sing, all differences melt away.
Another attendee of Village Fire wrote an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about such: here.
Only in silence, the word.
Only in dark, the light.
Only in dying, life.
Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.
~ Ursula K. Le Guin