Women RISE

"Walking the land" with Becca Gardner

March 11, 2023 Claire Molinard Season 1 Episode 1
Women RISE
"Walking the land" with Becca Gardner
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Becca is an environmental social justice advocate who works on the state and national level. She describes herself as « deeply honoring all beings of the natural world, including the winged swimmers, creepy crawlies, standing people, and furries ». She was raised by women who conveyed to her a deep resonance with animals and  plants. In this episode, she shares how, as an elementary school teacher she cared to awaken a connection to nature with her students, and how her love of nature has evolved into her practices of organic gardening and “walking the land” which she now shares with her community. 

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My guest today is Becca Gardner.  Becca is an organic gardener. She carries her name well. She describes herself as « deeply honoring all beings of the natural world, including the winged swimmers, creepy crawlies, standing people, and furries ». 

Becca is an environmental social justice advocate who works on the state and national level advocating for low income housing. Reduction on US military spending, nuclear disarmament diplomacy instead of war. Risen reform, best education for all children and the honoring of indigenous rights and treaties when she's not gardening and taking care of her human family. Becca is writing letters to her congressional representatives, showing up in meetings with her staff, participating in legislative hearings. Giving testimony, joining rallies, and respectfully moving public awareness toward consideration of everyone's needs. Becca, Welcome to Women Rise. I'm super excited about this interview and I'm so curious to know more about you and how you got into this work and what animates you. 


Oh, well thank you Claire. It's an honor to be here with you and this lovely project that you're involved with. I just think it's, it's so, such an important project in today's world for women to connect in a, a loving and respectful manner with, with the powers that be and, uh, make our statements about who we are and the power of our heart and wisdom.


So, yes. Um, let me see. I, I got into an honoring of the land because I come from, uh, a line of minister farmers in Maine. And, my grandfather said that if he had a religion, it would be the worship of trees. And the women in my family,  have just had. A connection and a resonance with animals and with plants, noticing their responsiveness to human touch and to human awareness.


So that's been in my family for a number of years, and I remember that when I was a child, my mother had hung a picture of a, , an Indian maiden.  and she had a lovely peach outfit. She was kneeling on a rock and behind her was a sunset. And so that greeted me in the morning and at night and I'm sure had some, effect on my images of the way I would like the world to be.


And that is where humans. Interconnected and aware of the, other critters of the world, both the fauna and the flora in a respectful way. So,  I love hearing stories, such as,, a fox, coming  closer and closer to a flute player who's, outside her cabin in the corner of light. And it's, she realizes this creature is moving closer and closer to her in the dark, and she's playing a flute.


and just, uh, enthralled with the sound and the energy that is being sent out, as is the little fox apparently, because it approaches her on its belly and it actually puts a paw on her boot looking up at her, and she doesn't, doesn't wanna disrupt. The, the energy, the connection going there. So she just keeps playing her flute.


And then at some point, I think she does, accidentally, tap her foot and the animal looks up and turns around and looks at her, and  moves into the shadow again. So they are responsive to sacred, , music and to voice. , , and to when human beings absent themselves from their personality and their normal reactions of, , seeing things as different, , animals just can move into that connection with humans.


Totally, totally. So it sounds, Becca, that from the beginning and the way you were raised with the women in your family, your grandfather, it sounds like it, there was a, a natural, environment for you to grow into that really fostered that way of being in you. So, tell me, 

how was it for you to, to work  within a governmental organization? 


I was a public-school teacher. And I taught reading and writing to 11-year-olds. Sixth and seventh graders. And I found the protocols quite stiff there, increasingly, we were asked to teach to a test and children like most natural creatures, they don't respond well to a structure that they didn't understand as organic to them. 


So how did you navigate this world with this consciousness that you were carrying already? That you, you seemed like you seeped into this interconnected consciousness from a very early age.


How was it for you to have one foot in this world and one foot in the more natural and more organic world? 


Well, I had, uh, of course we were allowed certain projects and I would incorporate in those, writing projects. We would go out in excursions by the creek and they would, you know, I'd give a model of them, of someone connecting with water and light and, and critters. And then we would sit, find a place that was comfortable and sit down and write about it, and then develop it into a play. So, uh, it was usually through occasional when I could work it into the curriculum, uh, moving out into the woods and the trees and, and sort of, did you notice and what did you notice?


And then of course they love to draw by and large, and they were frisky, they were not always, and of course on task, right? So the kids are very responsive. They want the adults to be,  indicating a direction that's beneficial. So they, they, many of them got it. And right on some level they got it, even if there was a dissonance as far as how they were raised and how their family was treating them. So yes, uh, largely through explorations, games outside and theater when I was allowed to work it into the cu. 


And of course children are more malleable and,  I imagine that your visionary self had to, navigate between,  the adult world and the regulations and all the procedures that were in.


Um, so tell me a little more about that side of the challenge. 


Well, it was a great learning process. We were on teams of a social studies language arts, which I was science and math and it was a wonderful learning process for me. It, it definitely softened some of my edges about, um, you know, as a young person and my adamancy that I had about the way things should be was met by their adamancy about the way things should be.


So it was a, it was a bumpy collaboration.  because a lot of, many of the things I did were not seen as sufficiently, curriculum oriented. Mm. Um, but the you know, the administration seemed fine with it.  But it was, it was a, it was a learning process for the four teachers in on our team to work with one another.


And so what did you learn about leadership through that process? And I realize it's a very wide and big question. So just take any angle that you feel inspired to. What did you learn about leadership through these bumpy relationships, throughout this years of working for an institution that's so formatted? 


I learned to, of course, follow my own discernment because I was young and there were, I, there was a question, a self-questioning there. Um, so I learned how to listen and how to hear what my, inclinations, what my leading were, and, , I think I also learned to be,  more compassionate to people who, Were contracted into a protocol that seemed artificial to me, because they are coming for, from where they are, you know, with we've all, none of us get out of this without traumas. And they had their own and they had resolved them. Uh, they were in the process of resolving them themselves. So I would say compassion and, learning not to do a confrontational approach was important to all of us, uh, and to honor all of the people who are on the team's input and see what their gift and their strengths were.


Yeah, that's, that's part of what I learned about being my own leader in my own project. . Yeah. And Becca, you're not mentioning it because there is a certain natural humility in you, but I understand that you seeped into this nature, consciousness, and interconnectedness from an early age, and that was a gift, you know, from a very early age… And I imagine that you didn't just arrive in this job as a young teacher without any wounds, I mean, you didn't develop a compassionate heart naturally, right? Even though you grew up in a beautiful and connected family, I imagine that it was a path for you to, to get there. And, I'm just curious, how did you develop that compassion? 


Well, because I had examples of what I would call enlightened people, people who were willing to,  look at other dimensions besides, uh, just the conventional way of looking,  people who were willing to listen to their own discernment. Because I had that model, I gathered it around me. I've had teachers who were just lovely human beings. One of them was just when I was going through a particularly hard point, I was about 11 years old and, she was a psychoanalyst from Canada, a friend of my mom's, and she gave me a little card that said “Keep a green bow in your heart and a singing bird will come”. I think it's an Irish, saying. But her just poignant discernment of the struggle that I was going through was just, it was like an opening. 


What a beautiful image. 


Yes. And I've also had a teacher and a friend lover, a Korean War veteran who had done a lot of internal self-reflection and had wonderful people helping him do that and, , he just was very patient and very, you know, would just over just be quiet. He'd say, “just let me talk. Just absorb, just your mind will be able to put it where it needs to go. It's an open file cabinet. Your mind will automatically absorb what it needs and work with it, work with it, and, and call upon it again”. And that was just wonderful. You know, for the part of me that was contracted, about my own abilities.  to just say, you know, and what he had to say was very worthy. He was, he was a profound human being. So, yes,  and I've had other friends that were just gentle and poetic and allowing and joyous.


So Joy is,  is just an amazing,  That comes through us and out of us and around us. And that's one of the things that I feel about critters, natural critters, standing people, the trees, there's just a, they're all connected under the ground. The trees are, they're roots doing amazing things, protecting each other, giving us herbs and, and medicines for our heart and for our body that we need. So, yes, joy is a, a critical thing to allow for children Yeah. And to acknowledge in them. 


And it sounds like you shared quite a lot of joy with the children throughout your whole career. I can imagine there were many that were able to benefit from your presence and transmission?  And so so tell us a little more about, how this desire to contribute, to share the joy, to live your consciousness of interconnectedness. How has this translated into what you are doing now  in all the ways that  you're being active today, I know there are  many, directions we could take  but,  I'm just going to give you the floor and yeah. What would you like to share about that? 


Well, my, in my organic garden, I have I have probably 30 different gardens. There are plots that are 15 by 15, 30 by 30.  I have wild flower areas where the giant rag we, which is a wonderful plant. It's particularly when it's young, but it does grow to 12 feet and basically accrue the light for the wildflowers. So I'm working with it and trying to move it into certain areas because the, oh my heavens, there are so many birds and bugs that benefit, benefit from giant ragweed that, you know, you don't wanna destroy it.


It's chosen to be there.  I once was told by a friend, he lived out in the country, and he had a sense that plants would grow in, where a human was that had a specific disharmony  And so because it chooses to be there, I will, you know, weed out the giant rag in certain areas to allow the wildflowers to grow but I also allow it a space and pay attention to it and pay attention to where it grows. And I share this with friends. I have pathways through the wildflower gardens that. Right where my grandchildren and friends come and we talk about it, and it's, it's a lot about a game that a friend from the city taught me. Uh, “did you notice”? “did you just notice that person? for that expression? Did you notice those kids in the water fountain? Did you notice what their game was all about? How much they shared with one another… So, yes, I, I play “Did you notice”? In my organic garden, I appreciate, I thank and I am involved with a number of Native American groups, , that have their own spaces that they're advocating for recognition for, and I support them in that.

And I have native Americans who come here and because that was the nation that used to live here and, we just walked the land because when there's a boulder that's cracked open, we know that that Boulder has stories. There have been, there's been treachery around it. You can feel the energy, the rocks speak to you, and this land has just some amazing rocks on it.  And the lay of the land and the way the creek winds, and there's just so much that, a person with a native mind can be inspired and find joy about. So right now, I'm, I am tentatively moving into having more people on the land, gardening.  I'm drawn to Native American because I think in this wonderful push in America for reparations, we sometimes forget that they were the original people and that's where I'm going with it, is I'm opening to the possibility of having, ceremony here again, because I've, I've been involved with. A native ceremony on this land before, but again, and just seeing what kindness and what good stories we can share together here. 


Beautiful. So, when you say “I walk the land”, tell me more about what does it mean to walk the land? 


Oh, it means to, uh, for me it's usually, it used to be longer periods. I've done, uh, vision quests overnight in the woods,  by myself, but now it tends to be for an hour and a half where I just walk wherever my leading takes me in whichever rock and I stop by it and I see what's growing on it, what critters  have left their calling card and, and what liken and, you know, what stories you can see on the face of it.


Um, just letting my imaginal capacities, play with it.  and then, you know, if I'm called to walk down by the stream, which I frequently am, I bless it and I thank it, and look at the face a bit of how the water is blinking on it. And just feel all of the beings, the trees, the deer that are watching me, the birds that are watching me, and feel what they do, how they swoop around me.


So it's, it's listening to the earth and listening to the story and just honoring it, , in this world of, you know, otherwise mechanization and, , agendas and, and push and wins metrics. And, , you know, just listening to the generosity of the song and  the movement of the, the earth in which we are enmeshed. I love that statement. It's all connected. It's all alive. It's all intelligent. It's all relations. 


That is so beautiful. Becca. I don't even wanna go any further because you've said it all here. It's such a beautiful practice that you're involved in and I , hope that more people can benefit from, your transmission  on your land. Is there any, anything that you want to add? I just felt like this was such a beautiful transmission, what touches me most in your story is,  unique it is  your sensitivity and how beautifully and so gently you transmit that through  your unique self. . So I just wonder is there something that you wanna add or do you feel complete?


I feel complete. I'm delighted that, that this may touch other people. I realize that,  many of us suffer from living in a city where we're compacted and we don't have a sense of nature except for the dandelion that that just got strewed upon by our next door neighbor's. I do feel complete. I wish everyone the joy of, of  a nature walk. 


Yeah. Thank you. And I wish you to have many nature walks with people who, who want to meet you and learn from you. So thank you so much for being here and, and sharing your joy and your beautiful self. 


Thank you, Claire.  



Becca's early years of immersion into the natural world
Transmitting Nature's wisdom as a school teacher, despite the rigidity of the educational system
The importance of having role-models to developing heart-centred skills
Organic Gardening, as an act of activism
The practice of "did you notice"?
On the practice of "Walking the Land"
The song of the Earth: "It's all connected, it's all alive, it's all intelligent, it's all relations".