MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Thanksgiving day – I awoke this morning far from home and family but filled with a profound sense of gratitude.
Grateful for the sun that was just beginning to brighten the sky outside my window; grateful for the dear friends who have given me a home in this city of cities. Grateful for the health and the support of my family, who continue to love me faithfully despite my wandering ways.
Most of all on this day, I’m grateful for the path I’ve been given this year, a path that has led me from inspiration to inspiration as I traveled from Mexico to Argentina, seeking to learn from those who are each changing our world in their own way.
I began the year with grave doubts about the future of humanity, indeed, the future of all life on this planet. Peak oil, climate change, food insecurity, financial crises, water crises – ominous reports were being released from leading scientists around the world, saying we have passed the point of no return. We have not managed our inheritance well, and turbulent times loom – of this we can be sure.
I also harbored fears and doubts about my own future as a professional journalist who dedicated most of my professional life to an industry that is now shedding journalists like a maple tree in an autumn windstorm.
So I set off for the South on a search for inspiration in this troubled world, among the people who have always given me hope – Latin Americans, an astoundingly diverse collection of peoples who have for centuries cultivated the flame of joy amid the crises, a civilization born from crisis. I founded The Esperanza Project to document the stories of some of these people, and I began working on a book, “Looking for Esperanza.”
I found that inspiration, at countless kitchen tables and gardens and streets from Mexico City to Iguazú, from Guatemala’s Mayan highlands to El Salvador’s tropical forests, from Paraguay’s campesino movement to the artists and permaculturists of Colombia. Everywhere I went, I found people embracing the coming transition of our world with hope and joy.
I began my journey in January, and came full circle last week, with a powerful network of dreamers and doers who form the Vision Council – Guardians of the Earth. I will share more about this amazing network in my next piece. Among this network were representatives of the Huichol people, an indigenous group that is struggling to save its sacred lands from countless invasions large and small and now from a transnational mining corporation, and I will be writing a great deal about this, as well.
Somewhere along the thousands of dusty, sweaty miles I traveled, watching the landscape unfold through the windows of buses and semi-trucks and airplanes and from the backs of pickup trucks and oxcarts and motorcycles, a wider vision of me began to emerge, as well. Every departure became more difficult; I wept as Colombia’s lush green mountains receded into the distance, feeling the bonds I had made tightening around my heart. What was this force that kept pushing me forward? When would it be my time and place to plant my own roots, my own seeds? Where would be the soil that I would cultivate? Where would be the family whose future I would share?
Always the answer came back the same. You are a child of the cosmos. Your home is this planet. The seeds you plant are in the human consciousness, and they will bear fruit for all. Your family is everywhere… just look around you.
Yes, yes, I answered impatiently. But I want those seeds to make a difference. Like those whose stories I tell, I want my own work to matter. I want to be a midwife of hope in these transition times, a light along the way to that transcendent new world we are all dreaming of.
In those green mountains of Colombia, in an ancient ceremony conducted by Amazonian shamans, I surrendered my consciousness to the Pachamama, to the earthly manifestation of God himself. Allow me to be an instrument of thy will, I pleaded. Show me my path. Thy will, not mine, O Lord.
There in the darkness, surrounded by the chants and drums of the shamans, I saw my path. It was green and lined with trees. A soft breeze was blowing. Not a car, not a building, not a person to be seen.
Solitude. Silence. Spirit-filled reflection in the inherent wisdom of the Mother.
Three things that had eluded me in the constant movement of my journey. Three things that I will be seeking now.
During the three-day ceremony I visited at length with the tribal leaders of the Cofan people, learning of their struggles in the Amazon to reclaim and protect their lands from the invasions of cattle ranchers, oil companies, developers and all manner of threats. Struggles that echoed those of the Huicholes of the Mexican Sierra Occidental, who had left their magical mark on me at the beginning of my journey. Struggles that called to mind those of the Mayan peoples of Guatemala, risking and sometimes losing their lives in confrontations with the mining companies.
I have watched over the year as these struggles have continued to emerge and intensify: the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil, mountain-removal mining projects in Peru, massive agroindustrial plantations in Paraguay. As the free trade agreements signed over the past decade break down the barriers to transnational exploitation in the remotest corners, the native peoples who have guarded their lands for millennia are being called to sacrifice their lives in a last stand for their peoples and the Mother Earth.
All of these struggles unfolded before my eyes, the beautiful soulful faces of their protagonists burning their way into my consciousness. It was then that I knew that the next part of my journey would somehow, some way, be at their sides.
“The Madre is furious with us,” Maracame Julio Parra, a Huichol shaman, shared with me on our last night together. “We are not practicing the rituals of protection in the sacred sites as she has guided us for thousands of years. We must go back and make our peace with her.”
Peace with the Mother. Peace for the guardians of the earth. Peace for us all.