Great Grandmother, I stand before you as I AM, I ask you for your blessing in gratitude for the heart you've placed in me
Dear Sacred Wild One, judgement will succumb when you begin to be gentle within
I am connected to everything
“If we don’t train young people and middle aged people in Elderhood, we will have no Elderhood.”
- Stephen Jenkinson
I have a feeling, or some might call it an innate knowing, an intuition, that everything must change.
To me, it is quite clear that the way we have built our society here in the United States of America is not working. I also have a feeling, that the vision I am dreaming and imagining for us most likely won’t be something I see manifest fully in my own lifetime.
Paraphrasing Angela Davis, “We are the materialized dreams of those struggling against slavery, those who dreamt of a free society yet never lived to see the day. We are those who inhabit their dreams, those who fought for their dreams of freedom. And now, how will our own dreams inhabit the spaces by those who will come after us?”
Davis’s words humble me. Reminding me of this nanosecond in which we exist on the timeline of humanity, the timeline of life, the timeline of the universe.
If you were to leave messages that would support future generations, what would they convey? What shape would the messages be in? Story? Activism? Writing? Song? Dance? Painting? Something else? What would you do to try and assure it travels into the future? What makes a message worth delivering to the future?
For me, I use song as a vessel for messages of history, grief and rage, despair and joy, consolation and bereavement, magic and mystery, resilience, curiosity and hope.
For me, much of my life I have grieved an enigma, until recently I unveiled it: A lack of Elderhood or mentorship. I did not grow up with grandparents in my life. I grew up with hardly any guidance at all and the guidance I did receive, came from dominant North American culture which as an adult, I realized, was not the food for soul I longed for.
When I use the word Elder, I am referring specifically to Elders of European decent in North America. There are many Elders of many cultures who have so many wise teachings, some of whom have guided me on my personal path that I am forever indebted to. However, I am not speaking to, or of, them in this particular writing. That is because what my spirit is longing for are the stories, traditions and culture that my own ancestors have lost, had stolen or given up for survival along the way. Also, when I say Our in the writing that follows, I am referring to my ancestors and other people who identify as someone of European decent.
My young adult life was full of wandering aimlessly, spiritually starved, like an emaciated ghost latching onto cultural practices that I witnessed would feed others. Yet still, there was a hole that could not be filled.
As I began to dive into the history of my own DNA, a journey I began in 2012 - I learned the struggles of my ancestors (Jewish/Scandinavian/Northern European). I unearthed resiliency amidst constant diaspora, exile, witch burnings, deracination from our lands - from our communities - from our songs, our dances and our stories.
In the migrations to Turtle Island (the U.S.A.) our memories were replaced with stories of “discovery” (displacement of Indigenous People in the name of “God”) “victory” (genocide of Indigenous People) “economic triumph” (stealing Africans from their homelands and enslaving them) and “growth” (the free market, capitalism, human and land exploitation). In other words, what had been historically done to our ancestors, we now did (do) to others.
These quotation mark stories are not the stories I tell to my daughter. Nor will she tell to her children. What are the stories we are telling? And where are our Elders to tell us these stories? To remind us of where we come from... Of what we come from... Of our inherited legacies and our resposibility to dismantle many of them... Of our struggles, our failures, our lessons learned… of our interconnectedness and interdependence to all the animate and inanimate beings?
I have heard that people cannot self identify as an Elder. Elder is an earned status in the community. An Elder could be like a Bard - a story teller, a verse-maker, a music composer, an oral historian. An Elder could be someone whose eyes you can stare into and see an entire universe of joy and pain. An Elder bares wisdom from a lifetime of living.
Although I have witnessed Elders (or Elders in training) who do not look like “Elders,” their hairs have not yet all turned to grey and some of them are even in the bodies of children, I have been lucky to meet one living, breathing, aged Elder here in the PNW. A wise one that is holding containers of grief for entire villages, who is modeling what grief looks like for us, what vulnerability looks like, what peeling back the layers of toxic masculinity and white supremacy looks like, who is teaching us to sing, drum and share stories, to tend to the earth with our hands, to stand for justice and not be complicit with the status quo, that wholeness is possible.
These are the stories that are filling the deep, wounded hole I have carried all these years. They are filling it with a remembering of what I am responsible for, what I belong to and who I belong to - which is to the wholeness of earth and all that inhabit her. These are the stories I want to partake in. These are the stories I want to tell, to pass along, to give life and meaning to.
My life’s work is where story meets action, where dreams meet movement, where imagining meets creation.
I had a dream - the sleeping kind - where I was told to plant these seeds inside the children. The seeds I cultivate are of song. And I feel reverence to harvest song with you and your children. May we honor our Elders, our movements and the Land with song.