One of the things that I noticed about myself, when my father passed away, was that his death marked the beginning of my adulthood. It didn’t happen when I turned twenty one. It didn’t happen when I had my son at 28. Those may have been benchmarks, but they didn’t make me an adult.
Of course I was saddled with new responsibilities, and struck by a whole new way of looking at life when became a parent. Sure, I was suddenly thinking about things parents think about, like healthier foods, boo-boos and bandaids—his education, raising an intuitive, loving protector in the face of a society ravaged by patriarchal injustice. But the sum of that weight didn’t add up to “adult”.
Moving through life as a parent, I feel more adult every day, yet I still hold to the youthful exuberance of promise and possibility. And to that I cling happily, as I watch the breath of creativity course through my child, now a young man grasping at the myth of his own adulthood.
As the clock struck midnight, entering what would have been my father’s 75th year, in a room full of change-makers, young and old, I sat, representing the next generation stewarding the greatest, landmark institution to spearhead the direction of Environmental Action as we know it today. Challenging the old guard to take a fresh look at the old way of operating, restore it’s mission to the roots it was founded on and rebuild from the soil that nourished the tree that shelters our community. A tree my father sat beneath with the man who planted it.
It wasn’t long ago that I was reveling in the accomplishment of a little more power in the principal’s office… “I’m a parent now, and this is not my mother’s forged signature!”
Now, sitting in a “grown up seat”, I still have so many questions of myself, my mentors and the ancestors… There’s so much catching up to do…. I will likely never be able to wear the moniker of “adult” and certainly not with a capital A.
Shall we take what we know is not working, compost it, turn it to useful soil, nourish it to harvest and brew the sweetest part of the bounty?
Full circle. The cycle of life. Ripening. With the semantic Feng Shui of appropriate language “I enjoy the concept of “ripening” far more than I do that of “aging.”
When the fruit reaches it’s fullest state of ripeness, it has the potential to nourish only those who consume it—unless new life is created from the seeds inside, and the potential for continuing ripeness is multiplied.
Now, seventeen years into parenting, three years into the first true leg of adulthood—the one that limps a bit, getting used to the first loss of a parent—I am finding myself in the wildest places as I continue to see this life eternal.
In my own ripening, while it comes naturally to support the voice of other’s empowerment, I must accept the strength of my own voice and my ability to speak truth to power, or what may seem as such in the moment.
When calling on my colleagues to recognize the need to value a sharing community for the sustainability of the whole.
Something changed for me when I took the next step ”to not only be accountable for myself, to my child, in my relationships and passing strange, but to become accountable to my community, locally, regionally and globally. Which comes with accepting new sets of responsibilities and fashioning new tools to match.
We must begin to look at new ways of sustaining this planet we steward, and it is looking more and more every day, like we have lots of compost to turn do it. Right in our own back yards.
“I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.”—Pete Seeger
I think about these things a lot, lately—helping to strengthen, with one hand, the momentum of a fast growing Youth Led organization as the other works to support the long term sustainability of an inspirational giant.
Two ends of the same straw—I fascinate myself with discovering the parallels and bridges as I work collaboratively to help support the long life of each…
And lately, I am asking these questions…
- How to sustainably steward a legacy so indelible, yet bound by the interpretations of all who come to believe they are responsible for it’s tenure?
- What is stewardship—of the relationships that gave us life—of life we’ve facilitated—of an organization—of the planet?
- Is there value in clinging to the key to a door that has always been open?
- And if the door is always open, who is responsible for what happens to the house when we choose not to walk through it?
- And if we walk into the dark room together, might the light in our hearts shine the light on what repairs are needed and illuminate the path to mending them?
- What more can I do while still sustaining my own reserves?
Participation, collaboration, community. That’s what we’ve got right now…
“Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” —Pete Seeger