Optimistic Activism…. Inspiration to live this life.
Working as an artist with plants has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome people and some pretty special plants too. On the 2nd May at 5.30pm Wild Flower/Women II will be opening at the Caloundra Regional Gallery, Qld. I was invited to be one of the artists that explore Kathleen McArthur’s work and create my own response.
For those that haven’t heard of Kathleen, she was a women who lived on the Sunshine Coast, and with her good friend (poet) Judith Wright created a life of love for the environment and place, that evolved into activism that saved a lot of the parks and ‘wild’ places that we have surrounding us here on the coast today.
One of the ways she found to share her passion for this landscape was by creating botanical drawings of the plants, by doing this she hoped to engage people in an intimate knowing, her belief was when the landscape becomes intimate, you truly see what is there, and the wildflowers would be seen and saved.
In todays world of technology ‘online’ information we are surrounded by activism, most days I will get over 10 emails from different organisations, people and spam asking for support, share, email, sign or give money. And the updates follow, some daily. On a good day I think wow, there are all these amazing people helping, joining the cause to make this world a better place.
On a dark day, I start to feel the cycle of disempowerment, disillusioned and feel sad for the Mother Earth and for my great, great, great, grand children wondering what they will think of what we did, or for what we chose to ignore. I see why a lot of people burn out, and become depressed when they feel so passionately about a cause, and put their heart and blood into raising the awareness, petitioning, lobbying, meetings and protesting, to claw back some sense in our world.
About five years ago turned off the news and the TV, stopped reading newspapers and magazines, I live on a bush block in a semi-rural about 10 minutes from town. I spend a lot of time living the life of mother, and the routine that surrounds that, school, local shops, and the other part of my time I spend working with plants. I ask myself, how does this help any form of activism, or change in the world? How can any of what I do make change for the generations ahead?
What is my part in ‘Change’ how can I be a change agent, there are so many words and not actions, in a moment of despair and frustration, feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, I asked what is the greatest threat…
The answers flowed…. (names of people who posted have been removed, thanks to everyone that took the time to share).
“Tourism is both a blessing and curse. I worry about the need for land for industry threatening our beautiful forests and fauna. Imagine turning into the Gold Coast?!”
“Looking forward to this conversation Anne, which I will share with Brian Stockwell (Noosa council) and the environmental round table he is developing with Peter Hunnan the new lead of NICA and some Gubbi Gubbi leaders.”
“Personally, the mining leases being now renewed, the use of Glycophosphate (Zero) and the threat of tourism development are the biggest threats. Our land, our water and the number of people in this natural environment must be tempered and controlled by political and legal decisions. Brian Stockwell’s Noosa Coast and Country is the Facebook page.”
“For me, disconnection to land is the greatest threat – which enables the abovementioned situations (which all indicate a lack of connection to/appreciation for/understanding of earth) to occur. Natureweavers is nurturing this connection to land with children and families throughout the Sunshine Coast in an effort to increase the environmental sustainability of this region. Thanks for inspiring this conversation, Anne. You are a true earth steward.”
“When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to get away from here, as an adult I couldn’t wait to get back. I see inappropriate development and besides my disappointment/anger, if I quiet myself, I think I see my childhood feelings, wanting this to be something else, something it isn’t. And I guess that came from thinking what was here wasn’t enough. I wonder then, besides greed, if development that should never happen occurs because people aren’t proud of what is here, and this probably comes through social disconnection to land. So restoring those connections and awareness of our kinship with place would for me, seem like something important. 🙂 Or ^ what Carly said, and does a great job of. :)”
“For me, disconnect is the number one issue, from land, self and soul (if we must differentiate). So eliminating punishment and shaming from our parenting practices , while allowing full expression of feelings, with warm, firm limits, will go a long way to healing everything… because connected people protect and nurture what’s important, as Indigenous People well know.”
“Cattle plain and simple. They do more environmental damage than all the transport and humans combined.”
Reading these responses, I tried to make sense of where I fitted in, how can I be accountable, and have an awareness and own my part of what is happening? This isn’t a blame game, or a guilt fest, its just a consciousness. How can I breath, laugh and live my life to its fullest when it’s because of my human desires, I drive my car on a good road, I have a house in a clearing, I buy my food from the shop, take my kids to school.
And then the other day I was visiting my friend, I walked past an old tree, I always go and see this tree when I visit their farm, and this time it was early, instead of me as dominant human, I was tired and drained I went up to the tree and just laid against it, with my face touching the bark, I didn’t ‘give’ it a hug, I just lay against the trunk and closed my eyes. The tree held me, forgave me, gently let me know that mother earth is here for me, with me (and all of us) when I took the time to stop being so human, and let myself be vulnerable and real.
A friend introduced me to humble or in some cases the hated weed, the plants that no-one invited, and its funny how as we globally destroy plants and habitat , clear, and change the landscape, these uninvited plants, grow quietly healing the wounds that we leave. They cover the soil to stop erosion, they bring nutrients back and life. The resilience, patience and strength that the earth and it’s plants demonstrate with this tireless work that it does, is like having that beautiful Grandmother some of us remember as a child, who no matter how big our tantrum or what ever we broke when we were being ‘silly’ she would still take us onto her lap, kiss the top of our head and hold us and we would know that it would all be ok, and we are safe. (I know their are some weeds that do much more than this, I think those ones have been learning a few too many human lessons..)
The inspiration and motivation for what I do is I see my art work as reciprocating, if I work with a plant and find a way of sharing its essence then someone might enter into a dialogue with the plant. Who knows where this interaction may lead, all I know is that when I work with plants I feel a great sense of optimism and strength. The disempowerment of ‘What can I do?’ fades away and I just get on with living this life, some days I’m awesome I remember my reusable bags, cups, plates. I plant seeds, harvest food, car pool and share and sign petitions. Other days I use plastic, eat takeaway, drive my car too much and shout at the kids. Most days I work with at least one plant.
Inspiration and Seeing the Bigness of the Ordinary
Caloundra Regional Gallery – Kathleen-McArthur
Braiding Sweet Grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Life Without Plastic by Chantal Plamondon & Jay Sinha
Heidi Merika Community Herb School