By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.
Returning the other day to the US after three months in Europe I went first to the Sandy River and the Oxbow Reserve near my home in Oregon. Gratitude inundated me as I entered the shelter of the ancient trees. My steps were soft on the cushioned layers that carpet every path, each one a route of glory. Mist wafted from the river, moss hung in thick ropes of Irish green and birds sent their welcome notes from everywhere. The multilingual environment was a rhapsody. There was no misunderstanding the messages. Afterwards, I wrote:
The river is a sheet of shimmering amber oil. Islands of red bush, sheltering birds, lay in its midst, stranded in the autumn cold. Full with the secret language of freedom that I am learning from the winged ones, I drive away from the stillness of moss and leaf cushion. The unstable Atlantic vortex, unusually warm, strokes the hole in our ozone. Twenty-six killed in a church, babies and elders. Mother shoots her two daughters while they sleep. Madness, insensible destruction and greed rule the country of my birth. Where do I belong now? I belong everywhere. How can I, a victim of violence, be a voice to stop it? Give me your sounds of peace my friends of the air; Lift me to your perch of compassion; Teach me, small and alert ones. Silence is not the answer. Give me your sound.
The last place I visited in Europe was County Meath, Ireland. The day was glorious. Bright sun danced off the maroon and golden tree bouquets and illuminated the path to Dowth, the partially excavated Megalithic site adjacent to New Grange. It was late in the day and the only other visitors were a group of young men gleefully playing golf atop the mound.
At the very end of my visit I came across the Stone of the Seven Suns, clearly and delicately engraved with radiating wheels and pitted centers; messages from the past. Art speaks through time and stops us in our tracks. I had no choice but to stay still feeling that I had entered the human gallery where communication, vocal but wordless, endures.
Though I am the vision holder and convener of Climate Change & Consciousness I also intend to be a contributing artist. Long before I became a neuroscientist or an educator I dreamed of being a poet and a writer. That spirit will never die. I have written virtually every day of my life from the time that I knew how to do so. I envision CCC19 as a place where artists will have the space to send their messages through time whether in song, dance, visual art, poetry, music, or performance. As a writer I am more than thrilled to be, through CCC19, in the company of artists like Margaret Elphinstone, Kathleen Dean Moore, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and, I hope, many others from amongst the participants. CCC19 celebrates our capacity to speak for our love of Nature, Life, Humanity and the Earth. As our world boils in its transformative juices, some of which feel poisonous, I intend to celebrate the power of the word, the stroke of the brush, the rivers of song and the dances of our feet that say, “We are here. We care. We are in love with this place. This is our home. We are all indigenous to it.”
For those of you who are not climate scientists and are not motivated to decipher the data, there is equal space for your unique intelligence and different ways of learning. In my research as a neuroscientist I focused for several years on neurodiversity and identified two major categories of neurodiverse brilliance; scientists and artists. I fall somewhere in between and I have great love for both categories but if I had to choose one over the other I would choose the artist.
The magnitude of overload in our world today makes the process of integration one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Some become heavily burdened by the quantity of disheartening news and the proliferation of information. There is nothing that compares to the arts as vehicles for claiming your rightful place and strengthen your voice in this teeming chaos. The arts give the nervous system respite. CCC19’s artists, like Margaret Elphinstone, Kathleen Dean Moore and Xiuhetzcatl Martinez are exemplars of this embodiment of empowerment.
I first met Margaret Elphinstone at Moniach Mhor (www.moniackmhor.org.uk) in Scotland where I had given myself the gift of spending a week working on a novel I have been percolating for years. Margaret is not only the renowned author of historical novels; she is also a magnificent elicitor of each individual’s capacity to articulate their own story. Margaret will join us at CCC19 with this latter goal in mind: to give you the opportunity to speak to your experience in a climate changing world. Each one of you has a story to tell and you deserve the support to tell it.
I heard Kathleen Dean Moore talking about the interface between literature and climate change on the radio while driving in Portland, Oregon. I knew immediately that she had to be one of the artists at CCC19. Her response was as swift as my intuition. Her novel Piano Tide is a stirring tale of how an environmental activist collides with a climate change denier. I won’t be a story spoiler but I will hint that the end result is a literary incantation to the power of music, the Natural World and the collective strength of ordinary people like you and me.
The remarkable Xiuhtezcatl Martinez embodies the soaring, heart opening power of the written and spoken word as well as the human voice through his songs and new book We Rise. The fervor of his mission will infect everyone within earshot as he not only speaks but sings and plays his music at CCC19 events. His fearless activism and how vocally he shares his connection to the Natural World will get us all going in an unquestionably positive direction.
“I am Mexica,” Xiuhtezcatl says. “It is written in my name and the red road I walk. I’m painting my legacy in honor of everything my ancestors fought for and in hope for the world that I will pass onto the next generation. We are all indigenous to the Earth.”
All the arts will be woven into the fabric of CCC19 so that our message of active hope will be loud, clear, multifaceted and multicolored. It will go out to the Nature Spirits, to the creatures of the Earth, to our ancestors, to the children of the future, to each other, and to the global family to which we will broadcast through live streaming hubs.
In addition to on-site programs CCC19 will host art in every form, visual as well as audio, through an international assembly envisioned by Dana Lynne Andersen, Director of Awakening Arts Academy (www.awakeningartsacademy.com). Watch this space for a subsequent blog about Dana’s vision.