The auditorium was so full it felt like the structure was bursting at the seams. There was the almost deafening sound of people chatting. And just when you felt like you were about to be overwhelmed, the beat of drums appeared. They appeared from one side of the stage, making their way to the center, all the while drumming. Drumming to let us know that it was time to listen. It was time to learn. Time to settle into a sacred space. Time to channel the beats in any way. Some people took it as the time to start dancing.
As soon as the two women finished drumming, a wave of calm seemed to roll over the room. We were ready to be empowered. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the tale of my learning at Bioneers.
Mike, Bryan, Sebastian, Annabelle, Chrissie and I, along with Alexis from Downieville, and Mia and Sierra from Sacramento all traveled down to the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael for the Bioneers Summit Conference. With the exception of Sierra, Mike and Annabelle, we were all new to the conference. I really did not know what to expect. I have been to conferences with my parents for their associations, so I was expecting it to be similar to these: mostly indoors, booths recruiting us to sign up to save one thing or another, a bar or three, and uptight, rich people dressed in suits and fancy clothing telling us about how much money they donated to “Save the Species”, trying to place themselves higher than the Average American. I was not expecting the conference to be full of people who were actually actively doing things for the environment, for women, for change. I was not expecting everyone to be in plainclothes, sipping fair-trade coffee, and talking to one another about their experiences and what they had seen.
I too want to share what I got out of the Bioneers experience, and how the new-found knowledge influenced my thinking on where we stand as humans and how to heal the wounds of the Earth. As a woman, I got a lot out of relating to the empowering female energy of the conference.
On the first day of the conference, I listened to Eve Ensler talk about how Eve [the biblical one] knew what she was doing when she ate the apple. Eve knew that she was in the wrong garden and needed to find the nearest eject button. Ensler said that we, as a species, need to develop the capacity and vision to recognize that “Paradise is already here.” We need to stop searching for something we already have and are destroying in the process of our search. With the audience pumped, her final words were to, “Eat the f*****ing apple!” Eve Ensler was the first of many women to speak of female empowerment. And what a way to start the conference: not with a whimper, but with a bang!
Being a young woman, I of course wanted to go to every program about the “fairer sex”. Unfortunately seeing as I did not possess a Time Turner, I was unable to satiate my desire. I did make it to several talks.
One of the programs that was very intriguing to me was Archetypes in Every Woman. The panelists discussed their views on women’s roles and presence in myths and spiritual practices. I thought that it was interesting to hear three completely different women finding similarities in different cultural contexts.
Continuing on the subject of strong women, there was a spoken word duo, Climbing PoeTree, whom I adored. They used hip-hop, art, words, and raw, beautiful power to bring up topics such as oppression, violence, interpersonal dynamics and self-doubt. I was in awe of how seamlessly they wove words to unheard rhythms, one voice uniting with the other, painting pictures with their arsenal of diverse terms.
The next new day started with the familiar beating of drums. After the main speakers, I, along with Mia, interviewed Luisah Teish, a woman who was one of the panelists for Archetypes in Every Woman. She had an aura of worldliness that humbled me from afar. Up close and conversing with her, she was a ball of warmth and endless knowledge. She spoke of her experiences as a child growing up in Louisiana – what she referred to as the Jim Crow south – while major changes in society were occurring. I wish I could bottle up the essence of her bravery and positivity and distribute that to the entire world.
On the final day, I was in awe of the stellar being that is Terry Tempest Williams. She is a very passionate advocate for the wild places that we used to call home, which are now disappearing. Her mastery of the English language made me feel what she was talking about in my heart, body, mind and soul. From her word-smithing, I was ready to lay my body down in protest of the environmental injustice that is taking place all over the world.
From the women at Bioneers, I have gained new insight into modern social and natural environments. All of these women come from different backgrounds and locations, but they seem to have a unifying theme: passionately empowering others to heal the Earth and ourselves and to mend our bridges to others.