Ellie Percey, Landscape Developer at Commonland, offers a reflection of the recent communing of the Bioregional Weaving Labs collective in Brandenburg, Germany, woven with inspiration from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s seminal book Braiding Sweetgrass.
“It is an odd dichotomy we have set for ourselves, between loving people and loving land. We know that loving a person has agency and power — we know it can change everything. Yet we act as if loving the land is an internal affair that has no energy outside of the confines of our head and heart.”Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
The Bioregional Weaving Labs (BWL) Collective is a learning network for land and sea regeneration in Europe – a web of ‘system mediating organisations’. At our centre, we’re a group of place-based organisations nurturing relationships between people for bioregional regeneration across the continent.
There is a difference between a network and a community, but in November, we communed as a European community near Berlin, in the Brandenburg landscape Commonland supports. We don’t have the ancient deep-rootedness of glocal indigenous communities but, nevertheless, we spent the time connecting our different roots to learn together.
I have been reflecting on the increasing need for building and nurturing place-based community – between people and the more-than-human world, connected to the natural cycles of place and belonging – of people to the watersheds that give them life. And I am increasingly noticing that regional learning networks can play a vital role in (up)holding communities of weavers.
At our gathering, one person said ‘Weavers are the people-land health workers’. Weavers tend to the connections that have been disfigured in so many places because of global Capital, extraction and consumption.
Weavers pioneer community-building and restoration work in rural regions; they often find themselves alone in their desire to rootle deeper and reach wider into exploring (the transition to) possible, alternate ‘worlds’. They work to nurture ‘spaces of belonging’ in the landscapes they call home. This can be painful work, attuning to the trauma of our separation from nature’s life cycle. They have to listen deeply to how those traumas show up in the lives and work of strained land managers, the youth and the elderly, in the co-morbidities of human and more-than-human life in the 21st century.
Kimmerer speaks of the wisdom of regenerating (as in, re-visiting, renewing) ceremonies: “Ceremony focuses attention, so attention becomes intention… Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies that magnify life.”
Ceremonies, enacted together – in honour of life – can cast rippling effects out into the world. They can set our collective intentions to ‘pass it on and pass it on’; they are spaces of joy and reverence, where the ineffable – love and spirituality – meet the physical and practical in a way that – if practiced regularly – could really. shift. us.
All that to say, this hopeful gathering of beautiful, care-full souls got me thinking about inviting more life-celebrating and thanksgiving ceremony into my life and of those around me. For now – thank you to the weavers who came together in November: thank you for all that you brought to our days together in Hoher Fläming, Brandenburg.