A Visit to #TentCityATL

POETS FOR PEACE
Tour #2
Day 5 – Atlanta
photo by Heather Marie Laveau

On our last night of tour, as the Libra full moon rose over downtown Atlanta, Catherine Rush and I performed with the local leaders of #TentCityATL. It’s an occupation outside of the former Braves baseball stadium, which is being redeveloped by Georgia State University. The encampment is set up to protest the gentrification of the surrounding neighborhoods and make sure the Community Benefits Agreement agreed upon by thousands of members of the neighborhood is used for any future developments.

There was magic held in this moonlight to share words on the front lines in the urban center of a city, and call upon the bald eagles and many blessings I witnessed at Standing Rock to come here to this city of Atlantis. To hear the stories of neighbors and their experiences fighting the imperialistic war machine throughout their lives. To see community formed around a cause that will benefit the many, and take power away from the few.

This energy is rising. It has been for a while now. The floodgates have been released. In each city. In each neighborhood. In each residence. The people are coming together and fighting off the warmongers. Fighting off the profiteers. They’re fighting for the right to exist. They’re fighting for their identities. They’re fighting for PEACE.

One wisdom from the night shared by a sister activist and poet: “When we think of peace, we think of flowers. But, to get flowers you have to shake up the ground a little. You know, till the earth and such. To get peace, we’re going to have to shake things up a little. Overturn the ground. That’s how peace can grow.”

A Visit to #TentCityATL

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

A pleasant mist hangs in the trees. There are bright colored faces carved into the wood. Ancestors reaching through the bark to the present. Half asleep in their awakened stare.

We circle around the open fire as the Peace Walkers march in. Peace Walkers from Okinawa and elsewhere. Buddhist in Faith, but all of us connected in prayers for the Water.

We face the East and welcome the Sun. We face the West and watch it go. We face the North and welcome the Wind. As we turn South, Red-Tailed Hawk soars over us in a patch of sky between the trees.

I’m reminded of my time spent in Standing Rock, from the songs that are sung. From the drums that are played. Native flutes and sage smoke. Tobacco and prayer.

We stand near the water and hold it in our hand. Prayers of Love and Hope. We blow on these Prayers with our Breath and sprinkle them into the Ramapo River.

I watch as the Tobacco drifts downstream. It swirls with renewed energy. It feeds the Waters with Life. A Life to Protect.

“MAHWAH” MEANS “MEETING GROUND” IN LENNI LENAPE

Where The Wild People Live

The full moon rises. Another night of song and prayer. Howls echo into the night as mother moon reaches her maxim. Drums are the driving force. Fireworks burst in the night time sky.

All day there are chainsaws resounding across the camps. Groups of people chopping large woodpiles for their neighbors in preparation for the coming snows. Yurts and teepees going up filling every open space. 

Daily actions drive out in caravans to disrupt DAPL’s construction. Those that return tell stories of great strength and peaceful resolve through extreme conflict. Armed DAPL workers that pull out their guns and threaten the Water Protectors. National guard lined up in riot gear. Water Protectors being jailed in dog kennels. Twenty hours spent imprisoned by a police force that is utterly disorganized in their attempt to control the will of the people.

At sunset, my uncles strip down and dive into the freezing waters of Cannonball River. They shout, “In the spirit of Crazy Horse! In the spirit of Sitting Bull!” as they resurface. The river reflects the purple-orange of northern heavens.

A somber note is in the Hayukka Camp. Clowns feel as much sadness as everyone else, if not more. They feel it all, whatever it is. 

News that the pipeline is almost 100% complete in North Dakota has reached the front page of the Bismark Times. Everyone holds their breath that there will be a continued halt to construction as the Army Corps continues to not approve a permit for construction underneath the Missouri River.

The Bismark Times says the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is going to go ahead with construction anyway. They can afford to pay the fines. They even offer to pay the $10 million in expenses that Morton County has incurred arresting everyone.

This is where this country is these days. The only penalties banks and corporations face are monetary, and they have so much amassed wealth no fine is too much to stop them.

Where are the People to hold these tyrants accountable? You think politicians have any control of these bullies? When are the People going to rise up and demand change?

Iceland is a small island. And yet after the financial collapse they had millions in the streets. Within weeks the bankers that caused the collapse were in jail. A new government was in place. Now they are one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, with the Pirate Party making gains each election in Parliament.

It doesn’t take much for social change. It takes the people trusting their own power. It takes getting rid of cynicism and despair. It takes warriors investing in their hearts.

Standing Rock is where these warriors are born. It is where the wild people live. The last people willing to take risks to save the water where all life comes from. It is a native movement that has encouraged others wanting to find their roots to dig in deep.

Communication is key here. The white way of talking has ruled this country for far too long. Man comes up and tells Other Man what to do. Other Man responds by arguing a better way of action. Both Men spend more time arguing than doing anything.

Here that doesn’t happen. Nightly, the conversation over the fire is about letting go of this old way of talking. Letting go of this toxic masculinity. Listening and showing respect.

Grandfather walks up to the Sacred Fire. The fire goes quiet to listen. Grandfather taps the fire with his staff and says, “This fire. These rocks. This river. These have been here. A long time. These people. We come here to learn the old ways. The ways of our relatives. The ways of this earth. This ground. These stars. The people come to the earth. They ask for her lessons. This is the way it was told. This is what we find here.”

The youth lead the charge. The elders are there with them. The clowns provide distractions to disrupt the Black Snake, so that the rest can continue to take action. The rest learn how to live without the Black Snake’s influence.

Two nights ago, I dreamt of the Black Snake. He had all my relatives entangled in his long winding scales. But he was not invincible. He was not indestructible. In the dream, I was close to defeating him. Another swipe of my sword and he would have fallen.

Life, unfortunately, is destructible. And we must protect it or fail ourselves.

Where The Wild People Live

Heart Warriors

Perhaps what I miss the most is being referred to as “Warrior”: 

“Warriors protect your sisters. Protect your aunts and grandmothers. Form a line to surround them in prayer. Hold the line, warriors!”

“Warriors form up. We’ll build a fire for the women’s sweat. A big fire. Be in prayer as you build this fire. Think of the women in your life. Think of the women you love. Hold them in your heart as you gather wood. Hold them there as you chop it. This whole ceremony is a prayer. After the fire is built, you’ll stand guard over your sisters. Make sure no one comes in to disrupt the ceremony. Make sure no one is gawking or taking photos. Make sure the women feel safe, so they can be in prayer. Make sure the fire is healing.”

“Warriors! Don’t leave anyone behind. You need to watch out for your elders. Make sure you offer them a hand to get back to safety. Your duty is to protect your elders. To protect your sisters. To protect the future generations. Warriors! Be strong! Protect life!”

My inner Aries, God of War, already feeling greatly encouraged with an ax in my hand, swinging at the logs, building camp fires, and living a rugged simple life, smiling to be referred to in this way, empowered by a culture of strength.

Though, one day, an elder revealed “The Warrior” in Lakota culture is not so much a person who goes out onto the battlefield, ensnared by a cycle of bloodshed, but instead is a person who is heavy with heart, feeling all things, and following the flow of life through their veins, protecting those around them, recognizing the sacredness of life and how the heart’s ability to love is the only way to restore balance, when darkness has overtaken the light.

It is this second definition of Warrior that I felt the strongest while camped out with fellow Water Protectors in North Dakota, defending the Sacred Waters of over 32 million people downstream, living off the land in a community strengthened by Love. There are plenty of days where the weight of my heart caused tears in my eyes. I would weep by the river I stood near to defend. Other days, I was overwhelmed by so much hope and love, my whole body glowed from the embrace of this inner warmth. Inside myself, I felt a peace of action. Doing right by my being.

Daily, I felt my Celtic origins coming to the surface. My Irish ancestry mystified by the land on which I lived to protect. Earth which lived to give a foundation to my community. A balance of Mother and Steward. My Pagan heart warming me through Grandmother Winter’s onset of cold, a lesson of humility, while Grandfather River flowed by increasingly charged by our prayers, to which an elder said: 

“We drink this water, DAPL drinks this water, the police drink this water. We are all drinking this water that we’ve put so much prayer into. Eventually, these waters will be so full of prayer, they will be unable to resist. The conflict will resolve itself. The people of this land will be healed. The scars on the Mother will be replaced by a harvest shared by all. A coming together of all people will be celebrated. Water is Life will be the refrain.” 

I met some of the bravest, most creative, inspiring, strong people during my time at Standing Rock. They came from all generations and backgrounds. Something pulled at their hearts and brought them there. Some traveling thousands of miles and across vast landscapes  and even oceans. Over 500 flags from over 500 indigenous nations displayed in the wind, proudly. These Water Protectors each from a long line of warriors, using their hearts to defend the sacredness of life.

This battle is ongoing. 

It will spread to each of our communities. 

Everywhere it spreads, be sure there will be Warriors there to carry Love in their Hearts. 

Enough Love to Protect Life.

No Spiritual Surrender.

Heart Warriors

Gratitude Is The Highest Order Of Thought

Honestly, I find it hard being back in this plane of existence after experiencing the pure way of life that I found up at Standing Rock. I expected culture shock, but seeing as Taos is one of the wokest places I have ever lived, a community made up of all kinds of healers and mystics, I didn’t expect my heart to be all that divided. I mean, what other small mountain town would fill a huge renovated aircraft hangar in the middle of the desert last night to watch Seun Kuti perform his politically-active afrobeat with his father’s arkestra, Egypt 80? I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for such a rêvelution of sound.

But it feels as if I have left a piece of myself on that southern shore next to the Cannonball River. This piece of self is burning eternally in Rosebud Camp’s Sacred Fire along with the spirits of my ancestors, my native relatives, and the spirits of the Dakota lands. It burns in prayer. A prayer that vibrated throughout me for the eight days that I stood there, chopping wood, sharing tobacco, building winter structures, going out on actions, talking and learning from my relatives, listening to stories told by my elders, feeling hope.

For a lot of you, the actions are the only thing you see of Standing Rock. The arrests. The mace and tear gas. The violent police brutality towards Water Protectors. If I thought it culturally sensitive, I would’ve shared more photos of the sense of peace and love present in all of the camps. But even then it’s really something that is better experienced first hand.

This sense of peace and love vibrates throughout all exchanges. Not a single word of hate against the police, the pipeline workers, or any other oppressor, but instead prayer for them and their children because this is all of our water for which we defend. The oppression of indigenous cultures is relieved as these people open up to the vulnerability of sharing their spirits completely, trusting that those they share with will be moved deeply towards greater respect and active solidarity. Allowing the descendants of white invaders into ancestral ceremony in order to change all of our futures. The coming together of so many colors in order to fulfill prophecy and overcome the industrial upheaval of our humanity. Forming a medicine wheel, symbol of the Rainbow People, tool of healing, holding hands to strengthen our sense of what it means to be human and what it means to be an organism of this Earth.

The Water Protectors are not merely building winter structures for the coming snow. They are building a sustainable eco-village where Protectors will not only survive, but they will thrive. The daily hope I felt around camp, was largely a reflection of the nonstop prayer being sung and drummed at all hours of the day. In addition, every action I took there was given this extra context of walking the walk that I’ve often talked.

Every camper soon found a purpose. This whole society functioned fully on the hard work of thousands of individuals. For me it was gathering and chopping wood to distribute throughout the camp to different groups like the International Indigenous Youth Council who were too busy leading actions and ceremonies and attending meetings to have time for this on their own. For others, it was providing three meals a day with increasing spirit to a whole camp of hungry hearts. There were folks who organized the donation tent daily. Teams that organized and built structures like a meal hall, an outdoor shower, multiple teepees and yurts and tarpees. 

I met a group of sustainable contractors from the Appalachia of South Carolina who drove up to offer their services and were tasked with building a winter tool shed for camp. I saw two busloads of separatists from the Cascadian Movement delivering supplies and putting together workshops about how to live with the land cut off from the outside. I heard Food Not Bombs talking about farming in the spring and eco-conscious everything. 

Even on prayer walks, we all were found picking up garbage in the streets of Bismarck or around camp, so that the land felt renewed beneath our footfall. Health care may not have been provided through private insurers, but the wellness tent, the sweat lodge, the fire worked to heal anyone under the weather.

To be in a society where currency is removed and shelter/food/clothing/community are provided allows the individual to grow. The heart no longer feels a repressed sickness from outside forces. It opens wide to its environment. Love comes easy. Gratitude is the highest order of thought. Dreams are manifested in a time of magic.

I saw a Bald Eagle fly over our action on DAPL Headquarters. Two Bald Eagles flew overhead during our Veteran’s Day March. Another Bald Eagle followed the car I rode home in as we exited North Dakota. These spirits of the land constantly came forward as if in a waking dream. These shared visions encouraged our ways. The Earth actively voicing its support. Its guidance. Its resilience against extreme adversity.

I saw police officers moved to tears. I saw DAPL workers silent in reverence. I saw dialogues that spread across cultural hurdles and expanded already progressive thought patterns.

When I say, I was living in the future, I’m not exaggerating. 

There is just no other way to describe the scenes that I witnessed.

In my mind, I constantly revisit my memory of the elder who came to the Sacred Fire in the middle of the night, while I was sitting there in prayer. He said the people who have come to Standing Rock, have come there to learn the ways of their relatives. To learn the ways of the land. To protect their ability to be human beings born of the Earth on which they live.

While the majority of the country is stuck in an endless sado-masochistic news cycle of “What Trump said”, the people up at Standing Rock are actively pursuing the future. Not only that, they are creating the future through which we will all continue to not only survive, but soon be able to thrive. 

As these people, return to their homes, expect this future to spread. Expect that it won’t matter who is president, or Attorney General, or White Supremacist head of cabinet. There is enough movement forward to wrangle in the Black Snake and set us free from its corporate stranglehold of our lives. There is enough movement forward for us all to find a way out. 

It starts today. Grab your readymade sign or banner. Defend the Sacred Waters. Defend your Community. Hear your voice heard in the streets. Begin with Love and feel the rest of it come forward easily. This new day is rising. We can no longer sit back and watch the present unfold. 

We must come together and fight for our future.

Gratitude Is The Highest Order Of Thought

Jet Fuel Doesn’t Melt Steel Beams And Climate Change Was An Inside Job

(Written on 9/12/2016)

On the tops of the Rocky Mountains there are trees dying from something called Pine Bark Beetles.

Whole forests turned gray with the life sucked out of them because these little beasts are going on parade in the summer haze.

The pine bark beetles have always been an issue for these forests. They’re not a foreign invader. The difference from then and now is global climate change.

Remember how it was 40 degrees in the North Pole last December? Or rather 70-80 degrees in Philly? Well, the Rocky Mountain tundra no longer freezes. Or rather 15,000 feet up it’s not freezing for long enough. 

The pine bark beetles need a three day freeze to keep their eggs from living in any special quantity. That hasn’t happened in a decade. It’s left these forests unchecked. Pine bark beetle populations are sweeping the landscape, feeding on the sap of the trees for miles and miles.

Imagine death. Death is not some grim reaper. Death is the gray carcass of a dead tree that no longer breathes out oxygen. Now drive through it for over an hour. A hefty tinder box, the size of an entire mountain range that spreads across our midwestern horizon, waiting for a lightning strike that sets off an untameable apocalypse.  

It starts with climate change. Which leads to warmer weather and the survival of something as lonely as a pine bark beetle. Which then results in the death of an entire alpine forest. Then lightning starts the fire and the whole thing burns for months, years. In turn, there are no longer any living roots holding the thing together. So now there’s flash floods and mudslides. Eventually one of the most immaculate places in our country becomes the scene of utmost devastation. And the most we can do is sit back and watch what the previous generations of industrial conquistadors have caused.

What’s next? We still have the choice for change, but we’re almost out of time.

Jet Fuel Doesn’t Melt Steel Beams And Climate Change Was An Inside Job

Rocky Mountain High

(Written on 9/11/2016)

I’m familiar with Crow on every fence post, but it’s been a while since I’ve flown along his path. Soaring across the highway when we pass. The way the sky changes at sun down when it has more room to express itself. How Rocky Mountains are actually quite rocky when they begin to populate the horizon. Passing towns have signs like “historic” and “preserving the west” with pictures of cowboys and yet they’re only 100 years old. I begin to see sunsets followed by sunrises. Having completely fulfilling days.

Fox greets us at the first campsite. He stares nonplussed into the headlights waiting for us to make our move first. When we remain stunned he moves back to his lean-to stores. A pile of packaged meat, left by some wayward wanderer. Fox carries off ham, ribs, turkey wing, one at a time. His bushy tail sailing behind him especially pompous.

We decide on a campsite less occupied, a little further down the road. There’s a feeling of darkness in the night but we seem pretty much untouched by it. In the morning, Fox transformed back into his human form, comes and collects money for the campsite from us. He has a bit of a Southern drawl and is generally well-humored.

We see Coyote in the road. Several times. He’s snooping after Wild Turkey. Later on the trail, Wild Turkey leaves behind his tail feathers for us to gather. I find Hawk’s feather as well.

The trail to the pictoglyphs is still one of wonder. We drift through ruins, along canyons hundreds of feet deep, with bird faces and elder faces set in the stone.

Mule Deer comes and visits our camp in the morning. She realizes we’re friendly and invites her newborn fawn. And then her sister too. Turkey Vulture circles above. We wonder if she found Turkey for a meal.

The ancients visit our dreams. They visit our conscious conversations. We talk of existence and the story we all tell. We envision the effect of humanity on the ecosystem. We express intelligence is probably not humanoid, but rather a much larger system. Aren’t moons intelligent? Aren’t whole planets? If intelligence were to grow to its full potential, wouldn’t it want to go some place it couldn’t be found?

The landscape is serene. It is the definition of serenity. There’s some days where it’s even more pretty. But every day the sun sets and the sun rises in the most dazzling of colors.

Rocky Mountain High