Dancing Together in the Fields- Mary Reynolds Thompson
Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise.
It is relationship that will endure and relationship that will
sustain the restored land. –Robin Wall Kimmerer
What saddens me is that with each passing year, we seem to be less able to dance and tussle together in the fields. Our inability to make peace with one another is distressing. This “divide and conquer culture” is increasingly polarizing and exhausting. The notion of Earth as a commons is lost to us, and so is our appreciation for our human and other-than-human communities.
In our culture, openness often signifies economic opportunity. Every wide-open stretch of land risks being turned into suburban housing tracts or monoculture farms. What does this imply about our own openness? How can we be comfortable standing up for what we believe in, in a world that divides and exploits? What does it take to put our fear aside and remain open to our longing for community, communion, collaboration? Grassland Woman can be our ally, for she knows these qualities of relating are a woman’s natural genius.
It is by remaining engaged and cultivating new partners and alliances that we can bring our vision to life. When we support each other, we create fertile ground for new ideas to take hold. Female friendship overcomes the barriers that would hold us back and relegate us to insignificance. We are simply stronger when we work together. Alicia Garza, co-founder of The Black Lives Matter Global Network, puts it this way, “Figure out what you really care about. Find other people who care about the same things that you do. Join them. And once you do, keep bringing other people along with you.” ¹
Grassland Woman knows that many of us are hurting because we feel so incredibly alone. It’s as if we are all backed into our own corners, shouting at each other, with no sense of common purpose or connection. Social media is mostly anti-social. Likes and swipes can never replace a hug or warm embrace. We need real connections––and the capacity to disagree and still work together. I have a best friend from my youth with whom I argue about almost everything, but we love each other and soften each other’s edges. We each grow in this relationship precisely because we don’t think alike. Our robust exchanges aerate and turn the soil and keep our conversation and our relationship always fresh.
In our hearts and in our homes, in our houses of worship and our town halls, we need to make space for people to come together, across divides, to talk and interact. We don’t need another fundamental, “my-way-or-the-highway” philosophy, we need to mix and mingle, to try to understand each other so we can tend our patches of common ground, however small or scattered they might be.
The key is empathy. I realized this in a profound way when I was a panelist for “Art and Healing: Words that Hurt, Words that Heal” at the Conference of World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado, just before the 2016 election. The U.S. was in tatters. So many of us were angry and afraid, closed off to one another’s points of view. This division wasn’t just along party lines; we were all furious at different factions within our own parties. The tension in the room was palpable.
One of the panelists, Athena Edmonds, a poet and advocate for LGBTQ youth, read aloud the heart-wrenching poems she wrote while her trans child, little more than a toddler, fought fiercely and unequivocally for the right to be a boy. “He asked me if his hair was pretty, his eyelashes? Then get rid of them, he said.”
Then a woman stood up and came toward the stage to ask a question. She had a son, she said, who is homosexual. The word seemed to stick in her throat. She wanted help to change her child's orientation, to make him normal. To send him to conversion therapy. “People can change, can't they?” Her eyes pleaded for an answer. For absolution.
I could sense the sigh emanating from Athena’s body. The sadness. “I knew a nine-year-old boy,” she told the woman, “who tried to commit suicide because he was trapped in a girl's body. Nine years old and he wanted to die.”
The woman at the microphone then admits that what she is saying is unpopular. And she is right. Boulder is a progressive community. She returns to her seat on legs as wobbly as a young fawn's. Yet her question has been received, and she has been brave enough to ask it.
A reverent silence ensues, so powerful that it appears to shimmer like the light from the windows of the Old Chapel where this session is being held.
“This is what the Rumi is talking about,” I say, referring to poem I had read earlier that begins:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there. ²
“The field is a place to begin the difficult and essential conversations,” I add. “To realize that whether we like it or not, we are in this together. All voices matter. And if they go unheard, then they will poison the ground.”
I let Rumi’s words sink deep. Many of us are crying. As the woman who worried about her gay son sits there trembling, the woman beside her places a hand on her shoulder. And I sense this moment holds the opportunity for something new. Boundaries are dissolving, every person is engaged in this crazy-hard task of staying open, trying to find common ground.
A few days later, Athena calls me, “I don’t understand it, but there was magic in that room.” Yes, I think. Even now, in this broken and divided world, there is a field.
² Rumi, translated by Colman Barks and John Moyne, The Essential Rumi. New York: HarperCollins, 1995, p. 158.
Excerpted from Mary Reynolds Thompson’s A Wild Soul Woman: 5 Earth Archetypes to Unleash Your Full Feminine Power, launching Fall, 2022
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MARY REYNOLDS THOMPSON
Mary Reynolds Thompson is the author of Embrace Your Inner Wild and Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness. She is also an instructor for the non-profit TreeSisters, a facilitator of poetry therapy and journal therapy, and a certified life coach who has helped thousands of people discover and live their Wild Soul Story. She is the founder of Write The Damn Book, a program that guides writers on the heroic journey from procrastination to publication, and is a core faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.