Vanessa Reid (Santropol Roulant)


NOW activism for me is in living this question:

What are the old stories that we need to let go of, re-invent, and learn from to create the stories of NOW that will move us forward into the world we want to, and are currently, creating?

We are the stories we tell. There is a First Nations saying that you can only tell your story 3 times, then it is old. You need to change it.

The language and lexicon of mainstream media and culture and the dominant stories in the so-called “news” crush imagination and possibility and negate what is actually going on in the deep layers of communities, across networks and in the hearts of people around the world.

In Mexico I saw, felt and heard new stories. Meeting face-to-face with the people from the Berkana Learning Centres, visiting and being in conversation with local learning centres in Oaxaca ~ Nuestra Papel and Mundo Mujere ~, I was struck by how these stories weave family, community and the larger sphere of earth, ocean, cities, villages and all the spaces in between. They are stories of living one’s purpose at all levels, in every cell of our bodies, and in the actions that manifest that purpose.


Mundo Mujeres. Perched on the side of a Oaxacan mountain, every molecule of this small piece of land has a purpose that reflects a deep integrity: an organic garden for food and beauty, careful attention to water and land use, a composting toilet as a sonata of aesthetic utility, broken yellow glass from found bottles are tucked into a window, the adobe home is designed and built with such attention to beauty, function, detail and imprint on the earth. Relationship with loved ones, neighbours, the land, local enterprises -- Mundo Mujeres is a story unfolding in the scent and sensuousness of manifesting who we are in how we live. They write this story every day - they are doing it right now - with their hands and hearts in the creation of home, community, deep relationship with one another and the earth which nourishes, sustains, inspires them.


Nuestra Papel’s story starts with a critique of the globalized paper industry and its impact on individuals, the earth’s resources, systems of production…. Or does it start with Family - both blood family and chosen family - as the primary unit of survival and thrival, of production and invention, creativity and love? They are telling their story with hands deep in the craft and wisdom of making paper and the wealth of their own community as the source of story, and of lived possibility. All these actions, all of our actions touch each other in some way…


In my own journeying, I have witnessed extraordinary acts of courage in communities, within organizations and by individuals that are a lifetime of commitment, not a heroic moment of glory. This iterative process of living, celebrating, sharing, learning, remembering is NOW.


And the story is about courage, change, connection and the diversity of lenses through which we can see and experience our life, the collective, this earth, this time, all time.

 So my offering here is a story.


There is a story of a place, and a people, who lived their Stories. These were the stories of their ancestors, of the land, of the knowledge and wisdom of their hearts across time, and of their spirits in communion with each other and with the universe.


Everyday they touched the earth and breathed the sky, and they looked each other in the eyes with clarity, inquiry and compassion. They shared their sadness, sorrows and pain with hearts wide open; they laughed their joys, hopes and love with arms spread in invitation. In harsh sun and through cruel snow, in the cry of a new life and the cycle of the seasons, in the peace of morning and the sigh of evening, this place and these people gave thanks for the mystery of the unfolding of every day, every moment. And they shared it, always, in Story.


One day, there came a comet, its mass of ice and dust, crushing their homes and burning their plants and gardens. It had arrived, unannounced, a force of devastation. After ashes and tears and shock and alarm, the people moved toward the comet with curiosity and trepidation. They held hands, and encircled the new arrival, holding a space for the unknown to become known, trusting each other, trusting time.


An elder began to chant an ancient tale of pioneers to a new land, the chronicle of her family and collective aspiration in a time of hardship and struggle. Recognizing the story, her grandchildren offered their sweet harmonies, adding their own cadence and beat.


Some said they should barricade the area, and leave the comet alone. Others wanted to touch and honour it, as it had come from the sky and was now part of the earth. Still others felt to break it down further, crush it to pieces out of anger, and others simply to integrate it into their land to help their crops grow.


Young children chimed make it a playground, imagining that they, too, could travel across the universe at light speed and visit new people in new lands. That by playing with this force, they could share in its magic.


Ashamed at the confusion it had caused but still bewildered by its dramatic journey across the sky, the comet finally got its wits together, and spoke.


But no one understood its language. They did not speak Comet.


Yet they did understand. By looking into each other, deeply, with inquiry and compassion they saw that together, at this moment, they were creating the new Story. And while new ingredients had been offered, suddenly, shockingly, they knew that what mattered was their intent, the strength of their courage and imaginations and the integrity of their actions NOW. The raw force and mystery of the cosmos mixed with the openness of their arms and hearts would compose the music that would be sung through time by their children, absorbed into every particle of the earth, their bodies, and threaded into the complex fabric of a Story of a place, a time, a people.


The comet had landed, changing the landscape of Story in a moment. A moment that had taken light years to arrive and whose energy would spread beyond all boundaries murmuring whispering uttering pronouncing personifying….we are the stories we tell….

"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

T.S. Eliot