Thursday, December 15, 2011
What are winters gifts? Winter is the time of earth, when all other growth is spared and color is pared down to rock and branch. Brown and black and grey proliferate into a thousand chromal subtleties. Space opens between things, some things sag and some things tighten. The action is all invisible, with roots as superhighways for the churnbuckets of earth. Worms create new life in this womb of the year. Our futures gestate in the fallows of earth and brain.
We lean into the cold, which reminds us about breathing, re-members in us by cold sensory illumination the constant lung root networks whereby air travels to every cell in the earth of our bodies. Winter turtles us under the carapace of cloud, every sky movement an opportunity for nature divination.
This is a time when silence and subtlety remind us to listen closely, to stay quiet so as not to miss the ten thousand voices of crunch, chirrup, breath. The hands of leaves press onto earth's skin and dissolve into her, leaving traceries of the skeletal structures of love in tannins and resolve. We nourish and tend.
We are not estivators, we upright furless monkeys. We rest deeply, but we stay awake. Earth remembers in us in winter how things are made, the starting point before the forms of birth quicken and expand. We live in the seed and kernel time, taking the dense savings and codes of future growth into our own bodies to replicate possibility.
Winter sheds and leans us, a kind of sensory celebration of the subtle form. We make our own seeds from the orbits of the preceding year's growth and decorate. Is this year more hull or pit, more sunflower or nectarine? Has this been a year to grow exoskeletal protection or a time to strengthen at our core? By following the grooves and patterns of what has passed, in winter we hone and harvest. We design and structure. We incubate and portend.
Still now, listen deep. More rock and gesture of leafless branch. More grinning worm shitting earth. More cold air and spacious. Spare and nurturing. Condensing and revealed. Dissolving and forming. These are winter's gifts of earth.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
|From Rankin, 2013, Eyescapes|
Saturday, July 2, 2011
This important change in perspective relates to designing for regenerative creativity. To design from within, rather than with a deracinating sense of distance from, changes me from raptor to water bird, bringing me within the design as an active and activating catalytic presence, blessed by the movements of the work and blessing through my being and interacting presence. The rampant threats of the consequences of scientific innovation separated from the living processes of the planet can be countered through regenerative creativity, which invites symbiotic, ecological, and bodily connectedness. Complex and regenerative creativity requires ecologies of connection and engagement to be saved from the dangers of Cartesian deracination. We become part of the design. Regenerative creativity stirs us into deep, meaningful, and fruitful Earth collaboration, revivifying our creative intelligence, while protecting us from planetary harm.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
- An interview with Stephen Sterling, who wrote possibly the best handbook on Sustainability Education (interview by Terril Shorb).
- An academic article about Pedalogy and Pedagogy - Living Soil and Sustainability Education: "We introduce an ecologically grounded metaphoric language rooted in living soil as an alternative regenerative framework for linking sustainability pedagogy with pedology (the study of soil). Five principles that guide this relationship are presented: valuing biocultural diversity, sensitizing our senses, recognizing place, cultivating interconnection, and embracing practical experience. Nurtured within an environment of curiosity, wonder, and questioning, and set to the rhythm and scale of localized ecologies, soil serves as an embodiment of life right beneath our feet rather than the reach of distant stars. In learning gardens, living soil and pedagogy surface in dynamic ways to create an ecological landscape of sustainability education." (by Professors Dilafruz Williams and Jonathan Brown, Portland State)
- An article on complexity and sustainability education featuring four natural patterns: composting soil, spring bud burst, chrysalis metamorphosis, and hurricanes, as models for increasing depth, collaboration, diversity, and creativity in learning. These are tied to regenerative earth education (by Marna Hauk of the Institute for Earth Regenerative Studies).
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Cajete, G. (2000). Native Science - Natural Laws of Interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light.
From the chapter, "Telling a Special Story"
- "Native science continually relates to and speaks of the world as full of active entities with which people engage. To our sensing bodies, all things are active. Therefore, Native languages are verb based, and the words that describe the world emerge directly from actively perceived experience. In a sense, language 'choreographs' and/or facilitates the continual orientation of Native thought and perception toward active participation, active imagination, and active engagement with all that makes up natural reality....If, as Merleau-Ponty contends, perception at its most elemental expression in the human body is based on participation with our surroundings, then it can be said that 'animism' is a basic human trait common to both Indigenous and modern sensibilities. Indeed, all humans are animists." (p. 27)
- "We all use the metaphoric mind to describe, imagine, and create from the animate world with which we constantly participate. Just as the focus on participation in Native science brings forth creative communion with the world through our senses, so too does the application of the metaphoric mind bring forth the description and creative 'storying' of the world by humans. Science in every form, then, is a story of the world." (p. 27)
- "Because its processes are tied to creativity, perception, image, physical senses, and intuition, the metaphoric mind reveals itself through abstract symbols, visual/spatial reasoning, sound, kinesthetic expression, and various forms of ecological and integrative thinking. These metaphoric modes of expression are also the foundations for various components of Native science, as well as art, music, and dance. The metaphoric mind underpins the numerous ecological foundations of Native knowledge and has been specifically applied in creating the stories that form the foundation of the complex and elaborate forms of Native oral traditions. Realizing that the greatest source of metaphor comes from nature, these stories are filled with analogies, characters, representations drawn from nature, metaphors that more often than not refer back to the processes of nature from which they are drawn, or to human nature, which they attempt to reflect. Because Native science is thoroughly wrapped in a blanket of metaphor, expressed in story, art, community, dance, song, ritual, music, astronomical knowledge, and technologies such as hunting, fishing, farming, or healing, rationalistic scientists, its 'younger brothers,' have difficulty understanding its essence of creative participation with nature." (pp. 30-31)
From the chapter, "Sense of Place":
- "Native people expressed a relationship to the natural world that could only be described as 'ensoulment.' The ensoulment of nature is one of the most ancient foundations of human psychology. This projection of the human sense of the soul with its archetypes has been called the 'participation mystique,' which for Native people represented the deepest level of psychological involvement with their land and which provided a kind of map of the soul. The psychology and spiritual qualities of Indigenous people's behavior reflected in symbolism were thoroughly 'in-formed' by the depth and power of their participation mystique with the Earth as a living soul. It was from this orientation that Indian people developed 'responsibilities' to the land and all living things, similar to those that they had to each other. In the Native mind, spirit and matter were not separate; they were one and the same." (p. 186)
- "All human development is predicated on our interaction with the soil, the air, the climate, the plants, and the animals of the places in which we live. The inner archetypes in a place formed the spiritually based ecological mind-set required to establish and maintain a correct and sustainable relationship with place. This orientation, was, in turn, reinforced by a kind of physical 'mimicry,' a 'geopsyche,' or that interaction between inner and outer realities that often takes place when a group of people live in a particular place for a long period of time." (p. 187)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Reflection – Marna Hauk - Sense of Wonder and Earth in Mind – Pedagogy of Place
"To see what is here, right in front of us: nothing would seem easier or more obvious, yet few things are more difficult. There are unmistakable signs that something may be dying among us: that capacity to see the world, to recognize the 'other' and admit it into our lives. Invisible walls shut us out, or shut us in, and we make them stronger and thicker by the day."
- John Haines, Living off the Country, p. 17
In Living off the Country, John Haines describes a possibly dying capacity amongst humans to experience the world deeply and connect. Haines focuses on the role of the poet to resuscitate a capacity of seeing and a culture of connection. In as much as educators are like poets, he is also describing a revitalizing pedagogy of place. Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, E. O. Wilson, and David Orr all confirm the essential elements of this sensory opening and connection with place.
The capacity to wonder sparked by intimate experiences with place sources both poet and scientist. E. O. Wilson argues in "The Poetic Species" (Biophilia, 1984) that poets, like scientists, are engaged in enterprises of discovery bound by our relationship to other organisms (p. 63), founded in love and childhood fascination, providing a lodestar and sanctuary (p. 65). In other words, love and connection are the bases of poetry and science. And education that awakens this love and connection revitalizes our humanness.
The capacity is within us, it is in-built, this sense of wonder, this capacity to deeply notice. E. O. Wilson and Carson agree about the central role of a sense of discovery. For Carson, informal and direct primary experience and discovery nourish the sense of wonder. Carson (1998) confirms that a sense of meeting the unknown with primary senses, and having someone to share the experience with, are the critical process. "The sharing includes nature in storm as well as calm, by night as well as day, and is based on having fun together rather than on teaching" (p. 17). Shared informal and primary sensory experience and discovery can be exhilarating: "just going through the woods in the spirit of two friends on an expedition of excited discovery" (p. 23)
Educators, like poets, break down the walls that have been built up against primary perception and discovering a sense of wonder. Orr affirms that biophilia and a sense of mystery are connected (2004, p. 138). Haines articulates how by becoming connected with place, places can speak through us—by becoming authentic and connected, the voice of the place can enter our work:
"What counts finally in a work are not novel and interesting things, though these can be important, but the absolutely authentic. I think that there is a spirit of place, a presence asking to be expressed; and sometimes when we are lucky as writers, and quiet in a way few of us want to be anymore, a voice enters our own…I have come to feel that there is here in North America a hidden place obscured by what we have built upon it, and that whenever we penetrate the surface of the life around us that place and its spirit can be found." (Haines)
How can we design, provoke, and/or encourage learning experiences that allow "the hidden place" below the surface to emerge in us, in writing and in life? Berry suggests that Haines points us towards a focus on authenticity and connection: "Once a place and its spirit have become not just subjects but standards of the writer's work, then the connections between art and community, art and tradition, art and thought become necessary and clear" (2010, pp. 52-53). Berry argues that cultivating this sense of connectedness also saves us from "the shrinkage of the world to the limits of the isolated, displaced, desiring, and despairing self" (p. 53), bringing us to realize Orr's values, consciousness, questions, and conscience (2004, p. 8). Andrea Olsen in Body and Earth encourages a process of direct engagement and what she calls inclusive attention before writing and reflection, "valuing experience as well as the language used to describe it" (2002, p. 5). Carson describes this as "expressing pleasure in what we see, calling his attention to this or that but only as I would have shared discoveries with an older person" (p. 23) As Orr expresses, "True intelligence is long range and aims towards wholeness" (Orr, p. 11).
These scholar-practitioners provide insights into how to reconnect and increase what I term Earth empathy (see www.earthregenerative.org/earth-empathy/homepage.html), the capacity for humans to connect with the larger presence of the life of the planet in a deeply meaningful way. Fostering and encouraging earth empathy is a critically important fruit of emplaced learning. Complexity science, with its understanding of emergent properties arising greater than the sum of parts helps us understand how fostering a Gaian connectedness, an Earth empathy, can help connect humans with the larger living presences of which we are a part – place and planet.
One way to apply these insights regarding a sense of wonder and education that keeps Earth in mind takes inspiration from the field of poetry therapy and poetic medicine. By creating collegial experiences of direct sensory experience and discovery as well as writerly reflection, I have witnessed awakenings with groups across ages. Whether with kindergarteners in a school courtyard opening up to the happenings of a blossoming jacaranda, with middle-schoolers getting their feet muddy at a cob building site and habitat restoration, or with adults in deep forest, direct experience with spacious nature opens and connects. Poetic processes and writing integrated with these experiences help learners track the path of their own discoveries, offers a wider language for their expanded perceptions, and allows them to become metacognitively capable of continuing connection. We become, at least for a time, re-wilded.
Berry, W. (2010). Imagination in place: Essays. Berkeley: Counterpoint.
Carson, R. L., & Kelsh, N. (1998). The sense of wonder. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Haines, J. (1981). Living off the country: Essays on poetry and place. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press.
Kellert, S. R. & Wilson, E. O. (Eds.). (1993). The biophilia hypothesis. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
Olsen, A. (2002). Body and Earth: An experiential guide. Lebanon, NH: U Press of New England.
Orr, D. (2004). Earth in mind: On education, the environment, and the human prospect. Washington DC: Island Press.
Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
experiential learning exercises.
This Earth Empathy website also offers core resources by topic and includes a space to add resources and connect and collaborate.
Check out http://www.earthregenerative.org/earth-empathy/homepage.html