This is the second blog post of our #surpriseweresoulmates storytelling campaign, sharing the many instances of alchemy when our communities combine. Watch our stories page for more in the coming weeks, and keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram accounts for highlights.
Love in a Time of Climate Change
By Rachel Plattus and Diana Marin
“I need to trust that change is possible.”
“I need company.”
“What have I got to lose?”
“To make the leap, I need someone pulling me forward. I’m looking to your generation to be the ones holding my hand.”
These were just a few of the words shared at a recent retreat about living boldly in these times. The retreat—attended by many Nuns & Nones organizers and held at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, CT—was hosted by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. Weaving her perspectives as a Potawatomi culture bearer and professor of botany, the retreat was titled “Returning the Gift: What does the earth ask of us?”
Robin herself offered this condition for committing to work toward a better future:
“I need to be able to say: ‘It’s so beautiful. I want to be there.’”
The sacred work of healing our broken world is not just about restoration, Robin reminded us; it is about “re-story-ation.” We are called to transform the story of humanity from a story of alienation, to a story of invitation. How can the story we tell about ourselves move beyond the harm we have caused, to the possibility of right relationship? How can the story we tell about the world move beyond destruction, to the possibility of a more beautiful future, the future we long to inhabit?
As we begin to weave together the many stories that make up the larger story of Nuns and Nones, we are learning how bonds between sisters and seekers can be an invitation into right relationship—with our communities, with our spiritual traditions, with the land, and with the institutions and movements working to create a more beautiful future.
We have learned from many sisters about the changes that shaped their lives, about Vatican II and the Vatican’s investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and many more subtle shifts in between. Rather than being about “diminishment” of their way of life, their stories illuminate vitality, flexibility and acceptance of emergence, and a long view of history. They deal with leadership and power as communal, not individual, pursuits. We see in these stories, and the people who share them, living embodiments of the divine feminine—which seems only to be growing in response to the times.
As Erie Benedictine Sister Linda Romey points out:
Patriarchal structures continue to crumble, last ditch hurrahs notwithstanding, in many of societies' institutions, church included. A world that has long been dominated by western/white male interests is shifting and providing us with new opportunities to shape who and what we are and are becoming as members of the human community as well as of religious community.
And so we understand that the work of changing the story of this moment in religious life is the same work as that of dismantling patriarchal and capitalist narratives. This is also the work of changing the structures that have created climate catastrophe. Healing our relationships anywhere contributes to healing the world everywhere.
The retreat at Mercy by the Sea coincided with the full flower moon, and on Saturday evening the retreatants gathered on the beach to greet it. We sang, shared warm layers, and lost our words as a most spectacular moon rose over Long Island Sound, the moon’s song gracefully interjecting just as Robin was about to invite us to sing with her.
In listening to the rhythms of the earth, we’re telling an ancient/new story about who we are in relationship to the land. We’re remembering the stories of our elders and creating new stories for future generations.
We came to the retreat not for solitary contemplation but rather to explore practices of community transformation. We listened closely to our new neighbors, both human and not, sought and pulled forward moments of interconnection. Our vulnerability and raw truth-telling reflected a commitment to personal and relational transformation as the fundamental building blocks of large-scale societal transformation. Loving in a time of climate change means trusting that we are not isolated in our heartache, that there is power in our interdependence.
Some of our group traveled across the country to be at this retreat, transitioning from the whirlwind of the Pilot Residency to be held by this new place, and some of us have called this region home for multiple generations. We are tasked with being present in places both familiar and wholly new, understanding the land to be a living being that tells its own story. We are a part of it, and it is a part of us.
We invite the wisdom of the land as we listen into the story of who we are, accompanied by teachers like Robin who invite us to weave indigenous ways of knowing with what we can learn from scientific study, and from one another. As we travel, and as we deepen relationships in place, we ask: Who has loved this place? What communities have inhabited and stewarded this land? What has happened here that needs to heal? How has this place been shaped by generations of sisters, and seekers? “What does the earth ask of us?”
We received Robin’s song offering later, as we closed our time together.
We’ve got to humble ourselves in the eyes of the seekers,
We’ve got to bend down low.
We’ve got to humble ourselves in the eyes of the sisters,
We’ve got to know what they know, and
We will raise each other up, higher and higher
We will raise each other up.
We walked together across the land, where it meets the sea, and humbled ourselves. Humbled ourselves before the moon, and the sun. Before the land, and the sea. Humbled ourselves, as we are learning to do each day in Nuns and Nones, before each other.
The song’s invitation is also ours:
How might we raise each other up?