August 2008

I wondered if anyone read this article in The Atlantic?

I was especially interested in Lowell’s thoughts on this article…Lowell are you out there?


This is my first time ever using a blog, and I’ve never been tempted to do so before, but after the amazing week with all of you, I suppose this is one way (assuming you check the blog!) to continue sharing our insights, our struggles – our stories. 

When my group agreed to do our project on bottled water, I thought, “Yeah, well, that’s important, but can’t we do something bigger?  Can’t we push ourselves into unknown and uncomfortable territory in the spirit of gaining new insights through collaborative brainstorming?”  

Well, as usual, I do not have everything figured out, and I am continually seeing the benefits of choosing this topic.  The most direct and specific benefit is a synchronistic moment I had this morning with my boss, who asked me, “Joanna, do you know anything about plastic water bottles, the different kinds out there, their toxicity, and the alternatives?” 

“Well, Mr. Davies, as a matter of fact, I do.  I just happened to be part of a presentation on this topic not even a week ago.”  My recent knowledge and experience gave me the confidence to tell him right away that the bottles we were selling in our gift shop are not safe for re-use.  He asked me if I could send him a report on what’s out there and what the safe alternatives are.  Amazing.  I did that, and now we’re in a position to rid PET and BPA bottles completely.  Amazing.  Not only that, but I had zero difficulty in convincing him to use tap water (with a carbon filter if one so desires) at our workshops and other events.  Wow.  I just can’t believe it.  Amazing. 

I know I spent much of the workshop complaining about Arkansas and my job.  I don’t know if this is where I’ll be in the long-term, but I do know that today was a good day – an unexpectedly good day, and this I am so grateful for and humbled by.  I hope others continue sharing their stories.  We have so much to learn from each other.  Thank you.

So I turned in my notice, and as I expected, I was walked to the door –  Not given a chance to say goodbye to folks. Papers were put in my hand, my security badge was collected and I found myself heading home, long before lunch.  So I stopped by the Y and took a swim as water usually helps me collect my thoughts.  I mostly thought about all the inspiring folks I had just spent a week with in Maine.

Today was spent with the faculty at The Galloway School where I will be teaching.  What a remarkable group of folks.  They would have enjoyed the Climate Change conference.  I met two people who had read Ecology of a Cracker Childhood – how cool is that?  It’s going to be nice to be with a group of committed, thoughtful people.  There are many green initiatives already underway at Galloway.  And we are all encouraged to implement more.

My conversations today reminded me of the kinds of conversations that took place in Maine (which is to say meaningful, thought-provoking and deep).  I think the conference must have been a warm-up for all this.  I hope everyone is continuing the conversation – wherever you are.

Deep conversations

Deep conversations

Making life changes to reflect your commitment to the environment is a process, much like Nalini’s process of scaling the trees.  It takes a moment to get comfortable, figuring out the support system. Can you trust it?  Will the strength of the rope support you?  What exactly is keeping me from falling to my death?  You have guides around you, offering good advice.  Some of the advice sinks in while other content fails to enter your mind.  Your brain can process only so much.  Remember to breathe!  You turn over to the old ways and slide into your comfort zone – doing the things you’ve always done.  Slowly though, enough information sinks in.  You start moving forward.  You gain confidence.  It takes effort, strength and dedication, but you see your progress.  You get some rope burns, but you learn as you go.  The coaching continues from around you and you absorb more and more.  Then you reach a high point, and your perspective begins to change.  You see things differently.  The light on the leaves glows differently.  The way the birds land on a branch, more graceful than you realized when you were below.  The sounds are different too.  There is less distraction and more calmness.  Then you’re ready for the next leg of your journey…

Here’s a photo of our friend Uwe rising into the canopy.  Special thanks to Nalini for making this experience possible.  See you in the treetops…

Uwe going up

Uwe going up

Education and Wonder: As I ponder my learnings over the past four days, I am aware of new meanings and awarenesses coming to me from the experiences of wonder while climbing  trees, writing spontaneously about nature, interacting about climate change, and questioning unbridled technology.  Yet, it is often the informal conversations, the DVD’s, the social hours that inspires me as others share the great work that is being done by others in this workshop.  My mentor Thomas Berry often states, “The Universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”  It is the communion with heart, mind, hands and spirit with others, both human and more-than-human that keeps me hopeful. Yet, it is in the grief over the losses that spurs my actions in working with high school young women and pre-service teachers, not to mention my faith community and other environmental groups.