Today I am feeling humbled by the cycles of life. The fleeting gifts that show themselves in a burst of life, only to shift and change form. In the midst of this late summer, we see changes all around us; the days are growing shorter, the fruit is ripening in a rush to complete the cycle from seed to seed, birdsong is returning as the days and night are cooler. Just a month shy of the Autumnal Equinox, and we are feeling the hints of fall and the hurried pace of harvest season.
Our family mimics the role of squirrel, as we begin to put up and store away our season’s bounty, so that we may taste these rainbow of flavors all winter long. There are so many moments that are fleeting gifts;
With all these blessings, my heart and mind is also struggling with earthly loss. Yesterday I heard the news that the planet has lost a great man. Ferrell Cunningham was the last fluent Mountain Maidu language keeper. He was also a coyote teacher, an incredible storyteller and artist. Here is a beautiful blog post with details about his life and his impact on those who shared time with him.
We had the privilege of witnessing him weave an incredible tapestry of story one evening at the North Columbia Schoolhouse. Those of us who were there were transported to an ancient time, as Ferrell wove stories in both Maidu and English. I swear that by the end of the evening, we all magically understood his stories told in the Maidu tongue. He was a powerful alchemist of story. Ferrell was a fleeting gift, but his memories will live on.
Knowing that we won’t be able to sit with Ferrell around a story circle is sitting heavy with our family today. What a huge exhale we felt, as we mourn the loss of this special man. We will cherish the time that we witnessed the magic that he brought forth with his stories and oration. With his passing, we are balancing rocks and eagle feathers, raindrops and thunderstorms.
Here is a video of Ferrell and some of his language students talking about their efforts of language renewal. May the ripples he set forth by the seeds of his language classes see fruition.
Ferrell was singing his own seed songs, planting the intention that the language of his ancestors will live on. With his passing, there will be renewed intention from many in our community to see that his vision of a new generation of Maidu language keepers is born and thriving.
To honor this man who has now become one with the ancestors, we will do our best to keep his stories alive. Our children will carry those stories with them as they walk this land of the Maidu ancestors. This land where our farm sits, this is part of the ancestral homeland of the Maidu, and these stories and language reside here in memory and vibration.
Ferrell was involved with the “Pulum Koyo ( Grinding Rock Meadow) Restoration Project. ”The goal at the heart of the project is to restore the land to a condition similar to what it would have resembled in the year 1800 utilizing the philosophic thought patterns of the Maidu as exemplified through Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This goal will be achieved through an adaptive landscape stewardship and restoration process focused on long-term sustainability and maintenance.” ( see the project details here at the Living Wild blog.)
This project has these as its guiding principles:
1) Take care of the land and the land will take care of you
2) Humans have been, and can be again, positive contributors to the ecosystem
3)Humans are part of the ecosystem
4) All other ecosystem components are people too
5) Thought patterns affect ecosystem restoration outcomes.
To honor Ferrell’s legacy, I vow to teach these principles to my children, to show them how to live in harmony with this land we steward.
Here is a picture of Ferrell at the Grinding Rock Meadow.
As an offering to the fleeting gifts in life, to the cycles of change and the blessings in each moment, I offer up this poem I wrote last year. I re-read it today, and found it to be an appropriate reminder to my own heavy heart that there is no true death, just a change of forms….
I was born again today.
To suckle the sweet sunshine, the warmth on my tender skin reminding me of my true nature.
A flower has bloomed in the garden, and the symphony of songbirds ring a familiar chord.
Reminding me of my Beloved, and our forgotten communion.
Indeed my flower only turned to seed, which grew into soft shades of green, after the long cold winter.
Born again, I taste the renewed earth it tickles light upon my tastebuds,
Flavors mimic the colors reflected from the wings of butterflies.
The mists of the morning have carried with them the secrets of dawn…written on dewdrops and spiderwebs.
Today the sky parted,
and poured God into my cup.
-Rowen White, 2012
Many blessings to you all this week, may your hearts be filled with the love of a thousand lotus petals. We will sing songs to ease our hearts, and we will collect acorns, manzanita berries, and other wild foods to honor the life and traditions of the ancient ones of this land, the Tsi’Akim Maidu. Peace and love.