2 years ago, I found myself desperate for something I couldn’t put my finger on. I have had this feeling my entire life, off and on, that I was missing something really important. I experienced it as intense loneliness, deep grief, and an inescapable feeling of isolation and disconnection. I know that I am not the only one who feels this at times.
I found myself bumping up against these questions:
What fucking matters?
Is there some sort of spiritual path I should be following?
Where did I come from? Who are my people? Where is my homeland?
How do we make right that as a culture, we are so destructive and un-appreciative of this land that holds us?
How do we fight for the earth that we love so deeply that sustains us and allows us to survive?
Where do we begin to cultivate the strength to look the crisis of of this earth straight in the eye without losing all hope?
How can I raise my kids in this world with truth and reverence and an understanding of the fragility of our future lives on this changing planet?
I was being called towards activism, and to the earth, and to some sort of spiritual experience, and I had no idea where to begin.
From the depths of the Russian Taiga, deep in the Boreal forests of the northern woods, a seed was planted long ago. Generations and migrations later, this seed showed up in full bloom, in the form of Ayana Young.
Have you ever been around someone who speaks profound truth in a simple, straightforward way so much that they catch you off guard and make you question what took you so long to see the light? That is what Ayana has been for me. In metaphor, meeting her and following her Earth Action work has been a light at the end of a dark existential tunnel.
Today, I want to honor Ayana Young as being a light and a bridge for so many of us from our own hearts back into the land from which we came. She is the facilitator of a beautiful space where the origin stories of earth love are contained. She is a mother of the wild, a mother of girl dogs, and a laugher with the trees.
Ayana is the creator of For The Wild ( formerly Unlearn and Rewind ) where she hosts podcasts which feature front lines earth activists, indigenous leaders, healers, authors, and politicians and engages them in conversations from the heart on issues related to radical earth renewal.
These conversations take us from the trees, to the oceans, to ancestry, spirituality, politics, indigenous wisdom, anti-oppression, colonialism and de-colonization, the magic of mycelium, wild horses, psychology, death, birth, renewal, despair, and deep into the roots of the earth and the love that brings us to want to protect her. Activism rooted deeply in love, activism which deeply inspires.
Through these conversations, we learn that to act as stewards and protectors of the planet, we have to be able to understand all of nature as ‘being’, existing in more than just a physical form but in soul and in relationship to all other beings.
Within these relationships, there is a beautiful opportunity to live in reciprocity, give and take. There is an opportunity to lean in to the feelings of kinship we may feel with the natural world. To reconnect and find soul and earth healing medicine in these simple, beautiful connections. And to let them inspire us to act in protection and support of the earth from a place of deep love.
Through Ayana Young and the conversations on For The Wild, many of those questions of existential despair have been answered for me.
I am reminded that any path that leads us from our hearts into the land that we walk and all of it’s creatures is a path worth following. This path leads us to a deeper place within ourselves, and within the web that connects us all. This path leads us to live with more regard and in deeper reciprocity with our natural world. This path leads us away from loneliness and despair and it inspires a sort of activism that grows from a place of love, the sort of love that is needed to be able to keep pushing forward and finding solutions.
Ayana’s work reminds us that every act of love to the earth we walk is activism, and every minute we spend nurturing our own heart connections with the land is healing for both parties. Laughing with the trees, crying with the snails, praying, watering, nourishing and building relationships with the wild.
That is my love letter of the day. I had the pleasure of visiting with Ayana last week when she came through town. We had a lovely afternoon, chatted and laughed and then we visited some of my favorite trees and adorned them with flowers.
Power, Oppression and Intersectionality featuring Barbara Jefferson
Decolonizing and Reclaiming Indignity featuring Jade Begay and Lyla June
Dismantling Systemic White Supremecy featuring Mollie Crittenden & Rain Crowe
Exerting and Expanding our Rights featuring Yasmin Christopher
Direct Action from the Grass Roots featuring Malia Hulleman
and Keeping Sane and Active amid Mass Psychosis featuring Joanna Macy
I highly suggest signing up for this series.
I got to braid Ayana’s hair, finally;) and also give her a little trim and some rose oil. Her braids brought out her inner Taiga Teenager, reminiscent of the Old Country and the sweetness of youth (her last name is Young, after all) I tried my best to encourage her to get deeper into self-care, something that can be hard for those who throw their hearts so deeply into their work. We truly cannot pour from an empty vessel.
I fell in love with her sweet dog daughter, and she got to meet my human daughters. She left me with a full heart, a shit ton of hope, and 2 half-gallons of strawberry kefir from the farmer up the road from her land in the woods of Northern California.