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“Wild Space” Wednesdays : Reflections on Marching and Why Wild Space?

Today, I’m instituting a new rhythm post for Wednesdays called, “Wild Space.”  I’m borrowing and improvising with this concept I recently discovered from Dr. Sallie McFague, Eco-Feminist, who, two plus decades ago, began a systematic revisioning of her own theology of God, Humanity, Salvation, the Church…Creation.  She suggests the church has lagged behind in waking up to the reality of climate change and the gnarly, challenges of  the addiction of consumerism that feeds the damage being done to the planet.

I’m inspired by the concept of wild space because it’s roomy for interpretation and improvisation.  Here’s a little more about the context. In her recent writings, McFague presents a path for “ecological praxis of incarnational compassion in action.”  Fancy words, I know, but words I find visionary and inspiring, rooting progressive, creation-based, theological reflection with action. Yes!  One of the steps on this path is voluntary poverty.  In her brilliant, honest manner, she writes of this spiritual practice as a part of a kenotic spirituality, a practice based in self-emptying.  She presents profiles of luminaries like Dorothy Day, Saint Francis, John Woolman, folks who show us what it looks like.  It seems strident initially, but she’s not proposing we become saints and give up everything we own. She is suggesting, however, we avail ourselves to the wild space of self-restraint in our consumption.  She is suggesting we (folks of the middle class, folks with means) do everything we can to leverage our influence on social justice policy…this of course includes climate.

Wild space for Dr. McFague, refers to

A window of opportunity to see a different vision of the good life, [one that is broad and inclusive].  Being a Christian means having a wild space.  This different vision is counter-cultural.  It is based in the radical, generous, abundant love of God and God’s desire for abundant life for all [creation].”

I’m with her…and her…and her

The Womxn’s March experience was a wild space territory for me.  It was a march about abundant life for all, for sure.  Taking action in this way with my body, showing up for myself…walking on behalf of all my women cousins and loved ones in small towns across this country who wouldn’t dare step forward to march, walking on behalf of the Chowan River and Puget Sound, I feel in deep alignment.

and with her…and her…and her

Guest poet

I have traveled outside my skin
for so long
that I want to become the wind
so that I can reach you.

ann-marie stillion

Writing field notes: A spiritual practice of connection

It’s been a couple of years now since I set out to explore and cultivate a deepened connection with the natural world right outside my door. Like many, I live in an urban setting with ample amounts of cement and asphalt, but I was not to be deterred.  I wanted to know the names of the trees and plants in my yard.  I wanted to know the names of the winged ones coming to the bird feeder, the ones hanging out in the nearby city park as well.  This desire for deepened connection sprang from an evolving, awakening of spirit, and a discovery of new capacity to wonder and to pay closer attention to what’s happening around me, especially in the natural world.  It also emerged as I became more conscious and curious of what interdependence meant on a day by day basis.  To realize that my place in the interdependent web of life is actually NOT at the center after all, I am being reoriented to place and to growing relational capacity to be able to receive freely extended revelations offered by the living beings around me.

Today, I confidently identify a fair number of birds and water fowl by name.  Coots and Cormorants, Mergansers and Wigeons, Shovelers and Mallards, Ring-billed and Mew gulls, and those Northern Shovelers, recent arrivals.  Juncos, Chickadees, Finches and Sparrows of various stripes, Wrens and Towhees, Robins and Cedar Waxwings. Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks.  Yes!  The sighting, the naming delights me endlessly!

This practice of cultivating connection with the living beings in my yard and neighborhood takes expression as a spiritual practice I refer to now as urban questing.  Urban questing is about knowing where you are, knowing who’s with you, and being where you are. Seeking to explore and build connection, I’m practicing placing myself out there in the field of my yard, in the field of the local park, by the fields of waters, listening, receiving, because I know I must now.  I am a part of the interdependent web of life and I have so much to learn yet about being in relation this way.

Identifying, naming birds, can be a first incremental step of connecting, discovering one’s place in the larger scheme of things.  What I’ve noticed in placing myself outside time and again, is that I’m beginning to really care.  Yes, you heard me say it.  I CARE about the beings in a way I never cared before.  I care about their habitat.  I care about the conditions impacting them.

So there are natural consequences for practices like this, some intended, some discovered.  I am finding welcomed, new capacities to see, to hear both in the outer fields, but also within. I’m becoming more finely tuned to the pace of the places I enter.  The places are requiring me to slow down. I’ve also noticed that as my care is deepening, I’m challenged to look more clearly and soberly at the impact of my way of life on the environment.

There are consequences to practicing connection.  If you care enough to make connection, you eventually will face a disorientation that comes when you become aware of how your actions are directly impacting the wellbeing of the larger web.  Eventually, there will be a necessary review and reorientation that reflects a deepened re-alignment of your behavior with this new consciousness.  It will be too uncomfortable NOT to realign yourself, otherwise, the connection is doomed.