Not Just for Native People

Today about 160-200 people gathered in Augusta Maine, in solidarity with the Native Nations Rise with Standing Rock march in Washington.  Organizer Sherri Mitchell commented how important it was that non-Native peoples were showing up–both because for too many years Native people have been struggling without support from the white community, but also because these issues really affect all of us.  Issues like water to drink, on which depends everything else about our lives, or the problem of toxins in the land, like uranium mining and oil pipelines, which so often have first been situated on land where Indigenous people were living, but then spread everywhere.

People Gathering in Augusta.jpg

[People beginning to gather at the Augusta rally]

I think about how my activism on these issues is often perceived by (white) others as something I am doing “for” Indigenous peoples, or a “special interest.” Perhaps I am misperceiving it, but I get the impression that some see it as too “narrow.”  But Sherri gave voice to what feels true to me–that Indigenous issues are tied in to so many other issues that we are facing in this time, issues that will determine the future of our planet.

I tried to articulate this in my book, Finding Our Way Home.  So many of the issues we are facing are the result of disconnection from the land, from other people, from the spirit within and between all beings.  So many of the issues we face are a result of the original colonization and theft of this land from Indigenous nations.  There is such a pervasive overlay of denial around the true origins of our nation, that it is easy for me to feel tongue-tied just trying to speak or write about it.

After leaving the rally in Augusta, I went to see the movie “I Am Not Your Negro” (directed by Raoul Peck).  What a wake-up call from James Baldwin to white America–again, confronting the pervasive overlay of denial about racism in America.  Can’t we see that racism makes white people monsters!  Our country will rise or fall depending on healing the wounds of colonization and racism, and we can’t heal what we aren’t willing to acknowledge.  Or as James Baldwin said it so eloquently, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I grew up in a bubble of “innocence.”  I remember when white people applauded the innocence of children who knew nothing about racism.  But “innocence” is not what we need to heal–we need to wake up, we need full vision, we need to face it.

Some of my colleagues in ministry speak of their congregations growing weary of our preaching about racism, such a downer.   I don’t know if my congregation has grown weary of my words about racism, or my work supporting Indigenous rights.  But here is what I want to say.  It doesn’t feel like a “downer” once it is acknowledged.  Yes, it can bring up tears and rage and regret.  But there is also a sense of relief that comes from experiencing what is really true.  There is a sense of solidarity.  Because it gets to the heart of what is wrong in white America, it gets to the root of what is wrong in all of America.

As I said, I don’t feel very articulate today, but I feel inspired by the rally, inspired by the movie, encouraged in the fog of the everyday illusions that comprise so much of our country, to #staywoke.

 

Business Is Funny

title-pageMy book, Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community is now available for $17.99 through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and via special order at your local bookstore through Ingram, as well as directly from lulu.com.  You can follow the links, or search using my name.  It may ask you, Did you mean “Mike Johnson”?  Say, no, “Myke Johnson.”

A funny thing.  If I go to its listing  at Amazon.com, it also says there are “2 used and 11 new copies” available from other sellers. But obviously, there are no used copies in existence yet–this is a print-on-demand book that was just released.  But there are all kinds of discount booksellers who list it at prices varying from $14.52 to $24.44 plus shipping.

From the business side of things, it is still better for me (financially) when folks order it directly from lulu.com or get a copy from me in person.  This is because other sellers take over half the list price, so I receive about a third of what I would receive if someone ordered it directly from lulu.com.  On the other hand, if someone orders it from their local bookstore, it helps to support local booksellers, which is fabulous. And I myself use Amazon.com for its convenience and speed, and its free shipping when I accumulate a few titles. Plus, you can look “inside” the book on their website.  So all in all, it feels good to have it listed out there in multiple venues, so folks can get a copy in the easiest way.

It has been illuminating to learn more about the business side of book publishing.  I don’t expect to make a lot of money from this adventure in publishing, but I do want to get the message out to wherever it might be welcome.  It is up to me to do the promotion and marketing for the book.  But it won’t really work without some help from my friends. Thanks very much to those who have already purchased a copy!

And thanks very much to some wonderful members of my congregation who are hosting a book launch party this weekend.  If you are near Portland, Maine it is from 12-2 at the Allen Avenue UU Church on Saturday, January 14th.  There will be copies of the book to buy, a reading of selections from the book, music, refreshments and I will sign your copy. Everyone is invited.

Other ways you can help:  If you read the book and appreciate its message, tell your friends about it or give it as a gift.  Share it on Facebook.  You can also help promote it by writing a review under its listing at lulu.comAmazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com and then sharing it via Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you in advance!

The Chamomile & Me

From the Introduction to my new book, Finding Our Way Home:  A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community:

When I was a young adult I became intrigued with the use of natural herbs for healing. I read how particular flowers and leaves and roots were able to address different ailments of the body. I purchased herbal products in the local food coop, and steeped them in teas when I didn’t feel well. I learned, for example, that chamomile tea was calming during a time of stress. Then one day, with a group of peace activists protesting outside a nuclear weapons facility, someone pointed out to me a chamomile plant growing wild by the side of the road.

wild-chamomile

[Photo by Lazaregagnidze via Wikimedia Commons]

It was tiny, easy to overlook, with tight yellow-green berry-like flowers. Its feathery leaves branched out over a stony patch of ground.

I suddenly felt the connection. Chamomile wasn’t merely something I bought at the store. It was a plant that grew by the side of a road. Something in those chamomile flowers could ease my stress. We were related to each other in a deep, essential way—physically, chemically. And not only chamomile. I understood in that moment I was not separate from any of the plants or animals or people on the earth. We were all one, all interconnected. Something in me woke up.

But if we were one, why did we lose our awareness of our connection? What broke us apart? And more importantly, what could bring us back together? Standing outside that nuclear weapons facility, the contrast could not feel more devastating. If we truly felt our interconnection, how could we even imagine such destruction? Somehow, we had become lost, we had become divided—from the plants, from the earth, from other human beings, from the Mystery binding all of us together. How could we find our way back to each other?

…Without experiencing our connection, we cannot begin to address the dangers facing us in our time.

I invite you to join me on this journey into earth community. I offer stories from my own path, and stories from others who have helped me to find the way. Along this winding road, I had many teachers. Human teachers, to be sure, but also a red bird, a copper beech tree, a piece of bread, a common mushroom, my cats. I have not reached the destination, but I have come to understand a sense of the direction we must travel. We must cultivate deeper relationships with our fellow inhabitants of this planet, both human and non-human. We must understand that the Divine Spirit is here with us as well, not separate, but present in each being, and present in the larger reality of which we are a part.

 

Ten Ways to Help

10 ways you can help the Standing Rock Sioux fight the Dakota Access Pipeline:

1. Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. You can leave a message stating your thoughts about this.

2. Sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/…/stop-construction-dakota…

3. Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux at http://standingrock.org/…/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakot…/

4. Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List:
http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/

5. Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

6. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund: https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf

7. Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp gofundme account: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp

8. Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903

9. Sign other petitions asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here’s the latest to cross my desk – https://act.credoaction.com/sign/NoDAPL

10. Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:

a. Lee Hanse
Executive Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6455
Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com

b. Glenn Emery
Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6762
Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com

c. Michael (Cliff) Waters
Lead Analyst
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
1300 Main St.
Houston, Texas 77002
Telephone: (713) 989-2404
Michael.Waters@energytransfer.com

(Reposted from World Indigenous News)

Dawn Standing Rock

Dawn at Standing Rock, Photo by Benalex Dupris, Sept 3 2016 (Shared from FB)

Ferns

Fern One

Fern One

Today in my walk along Capisic Brook, I took photos of ferns, hoping to identify the different species I noticed.  When I got home, and tried to compare these with fern guides online, I realized it was much more complicated than I realized.  I don’t know the names of any of these yet.  If you do, let me know!  But here are three, four, or five different varieties I found. The differences between one and two and five are very clear to me, related to the shapes of the leaves, and how they are divided.  But the differences between two, three and four seem more subtle, and three and four may well be the same.  So much to learn about the plants of the natural world! Can anyone help me out by identifying any of these?

Fern Two

Fern Two

 

Fern Three

Fern Three

Fern Four

Fern Four

Fern Five

Fern Five

Trout Lilies

These lovely small flowers were near the trail on Capisic Brook. A couple days after I took this photo, I went on a Nature Walk at our Ferry Beach retreat and I asked the person who was leading us about this little yellow flower with the mottled green and brown leaves, and she suggested the identification. These are buds that haven’t fully opened yet. I am getting to know my new neighborhood.

Trout Lilies

Walking

Intertwined rootsI am feeling an paradox today.  I began this search for greener housing out of a desire to live more in harmony with all beings of earth.  It grew out of a deepening experience of our interconnection in an earth community.  Yet, the disruption and labor of moving from one place to another has chipped away at that felt sense of connection and I have been out of balance and spiritually exhausted.

What helps me to start finding my way back into balance are the walks I take most mornings near our new home.  I go out our back door, and then wander in our neighborhood, some days over to the Hall Trail near Capisic Brook, other days over to the trails at Evergreen Cemetery.  I’ve found a huge old grandmother tree a few blocks away, the oldest one I’ve seen so far.  Given the season and lack of leaves, I don’t even know what species it is, though I am wondering about Maple, since there are maple seeds on the ground nearby.

Old Grandmother Tree

Along my walks, the cardinals have been singing their most beautiful dawn songs, naming their territories and wooing their loves.  I am a tree person and a cardinal person and so I stop to put my hands on this tree, and I stop to listen to the cardinal songs, and try to catch a glimpse of them, usually bright and beautiful near the top branches.  There are cardinals in our own yard too.  So day by day, I hope to restore my strength, to reweave the threads that are torn and frayed from the move.

Cardinal at our new home