Urban deep ecology
Ode to rubbish
(Dedicated to The Order of the Rubbish)
Garbage men are magicians
They take our waste to the mythical realm ‘Away’
We take sacred matter and make it profane
We remove it from the cycle of life, death and rebirth
We call it ‘rubbish’ we call it ‘waste’
Then we give it to the garbage men
And they bury our shame.
This is how the archaeologists of the future will know us
By the buried remnants of our fear of death
A fear that may yet kill us.
The oceans are full of plastic
The ground is desecrated by our waste
Our obsession with immortality has broken the very thing we long for.
In my future, garbage men are shamans
Mystical midwives of matter
They speed it on it’s journey from one form to the next
Reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle
In nature the waste of one is nourishment to another
This is alchemy
This is eternity
Let go your fleeting form and become.
Spontaneous new moon ritual
Tonight is a new moon, the second for January making it a black moon and a super moon meaning that the moon is very close to the Earth. A friend of mine decided she wanted to mark this auspiscious occasion with a spontaneous ritual.
A small group met at Abbottsford Convent this evening to do just that.
I was keen to let things go and the convent is near the Yarra River so I suggested we make little boats with leaves and sticks and release them in the river with our fears and shadows. My friend suggested we follow this with a moment of connection and gratitude for the moon. It all felt wonderfully easy and relaxed. We were delighted to be joined by the teenage son of one participant, a couple of his friends and another mother along the way.
As we wandered toward the river we collected sticks, bark, leaves and flowers to make our little offerings. We found ourselves taking a circuitous route as we were confronted with locked gates but somehow it all turned out fine.
We finally came to the river and found a flight of stairs that took us down to the water with a concrete landing that was just the right size for our little group. Then we took it in turns to make a statement (alloud or silently) and release our little boat to the river. The rushing of the water drowned out the city sounds and left me feeling soothed.
I came home relaxed and fresh and just a little lighter.
I cross the Yarra River twice a day on my way to and from work. I always try to catch a glimpse as I go past, it never fails to move me.
Last weekend I went to the second half of an Ecopsychology two day workshop. The main presenters were Tigrilla from Damanhur and Geoff Berry (formerly Cities of Light and now The Play of Light). It was a lovely gathering of passionate individuals and the experimental activities have sparked all sorts of ideas about deepening our connection with nature and each other. One of the highlights was Geoff’s urban songlines activity, which has so much potential for re-inscribing human communities into the land.
I particularly enjoyed hearing about the different things people do every day to connect with nature. Tigrilla mentioned that at Damanhur (an ecospiritual community in Northern Italy) every household has a greeting tree. There is a custom of presenting oneself to this tree by placing your forehead against it before you go into the house. Another woman shared a similar ritual where she spends time with a tree in front of her own home in order to leave behind the stress, worry or irritation of the day before greeting her housemates.
Someone else shared Min Mia‘s concept of carrying your ‘poopy pack’ around and collecting ‘shit’ from people, if you don’t give your ‘poopy pack’ to a tree then you are likely to throw it at someone you love. This sparked an interesting conversation about whether giving our cares and worries to the trees is akin to composting them, some felt that it necessary to finish with gratitude to avoid viewing trees as some kind of energetic dumping ground. Ideally we wouldn’t view our ‘negative’ emotions as waste but compost, an opportunity to learn and grow. I wonder if the act of giving those energies to a tree actually involves acknowledging and embracing the feeling paralleling mindfulness exercises like DROPS (don’t resist or push, soften). Trees, like all nonhuman nature, are wonderfully free of judgement.
It was wonderfully affirming, like when I discovered the tree project, to find that so many people share my arboreal affinities.
Big shout out to Joe and Mira and the Melbourne Evolver Network for putting the weekend together!
Six years ago I did the Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The moment of participating in the welcome ceremony and receiving a gumleaf – symbol of permission to pass through Wurudjeri country – was profoundly moving. I wasn’t aware of the guilt I carried around until that humbling moment. The following extract is taken from my journal at the time:
My head is still spinning. The information is one thing – all the uses of plants, the stories, the words for things, the tools, the place of animals and the interaction between people of different language groups. How do you make sense of such a complex culture in only two hours? … Their whole way of life is different to mine. Their stories overlay the city, I look around and imagine people … interacting here, imagine a whole other landscape with waterfalls and different names.
There’s a song by Tiddas that captures it perfectly “A living history beneath the concrete of the city streets which we walk upon.” When it comes to ecological identity I have so much to learn from Aboriginal Australians. I feel so hesitant though, I desperately want their knowledge but I am so ashamed of the way my people have decimated their culture (and continue to do so). I feel unworthy of the teaching. Then again restoring my own relationship to country and learning to care for it may provide a path to reconciliation.
A friend once told me that he volunteered to support urban Aboriginal people living in poverty. When I shared my feeling that my relationship to the land was dependent on reconciliation he told me he didn’t think reconciliation would lead us back to the Earth. Instead turning to the Earth and caring for country is the only way nonindigenous Australians could come close to understanding our first peoples.
Nature in the city
Yesterday I made it out into the bush. It was awesome, the smell, the sounds, the largeness of it all.
It caused me to reflect on the limitations of ‘connecting with nature’ in urban environments. When you are in the bush you are overwhelmed by the non-human, you don’t have to look for it, you don’t have to try, it’s just there. Continue reading