Header Image: Koa Kalish
It matters that you care. It matters that you feel. It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
- Roger Keyes
It matters that life lives through you.
- Roger Keyes
How many ways to tell you that there is nothing better than this moment.
Nothing better than sunflowers blooming while watching fog slowly clear overhead.
Nothing better than hands wrung dry from sun baked soil and the smell of your skin after hours in the wind.
Don't forget, don't forget, don't forget.
I am currently in collaboration with LOAM magazine over the next month as an artist- in- resident. The article below was written for and originally published by LOAM.
“So long as Hawaii was a monarchy, however, a non-Hawaiian would never have complete control of the government and therein lies the tale of Bayonet, the Overthrow and the American annexation.
The same founders of the Independent/Reform Party in 1883 made up the committee of safety that took control of the government in 1893 under the protection of American soldiers and warships. In 1895, in a particularly spiteful and cynical piece of timing, they declared their republic on July 4, a “government” that had all of 4,000 mostly white citizens, and declared Sanford Dole president for life. That this “republic” was set up for no other purpose than to encourage the Americans to annex the islands makes it impossible to commemorate the Fourth as a day of independence. I cannot imagine how any Hawaiian, knowledgeable about this history and feeling any sense of kinship with his or her nineteenth century ancestors, celebrates the Fourth of July.”
– Jonathan Osorio, Excerpt from ‘A Hawaiian National on Independence Day’
My family is First Nations from northern British Columbia, but I grew up in Hawai`i, and have an American passport. These identities are more than present for me, from July 1st through the 4th as Canada celebrates its Confederation Day and America their Independence Day. As I’ve become an adult, these four days have also become all the more confusing for me. I didn’t grow up with a nationalistic sense, as my parents were always honest with me about the history on which this country was founded. My mother, an African American woman, had us watching Roots at an early age so that we would always understand how the color of our ancestors skin was linked to the inequity of the ‘American Dream.’ I remember having serious doubts around the age of 10 about the daily standing in school to observe the flag while pledging allegiance to “The United States of America”. So much of my ancestry and present reality did not lend itself to comfortably believing in this pledge. Hawai`i is geographically isolated from the mainland of America. We were literally, not united with the rest of the states, and culturally we were being raised with what seemed to be a very different mentality than those raised on the mainland.
The Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement has been present my entire life. On the side of the highways are homemade signs that state just this: "Reinstated Kingdom of Hawai`i". I couldn’t always comprehend the full immensity of these signs as a child, but by the simple fact of being native, there was a deeper sense of knowing. I often sit with myself now and ask, “What does it mean to be native?” For me the answer is tied up with an understanding that at some point, invaders arrived on the land of my ancestors and took over through any means necessary. Today we use words like colonization to sum up the before history of massacre, disease and religion, when really colonization is only possible after indigenous populations are left decimated, hanging onto the bare threads of survival. Assimilation is also a part of this process. Through the use of shaming the native or Indian out of populations, total control can be taken, as cultural identity is lost to the larger mass identity of nationalism.
A few years ago new language began to rapidly move around me in the islands. “Occupied by the American Military” was suddenly a way to understand the deeper ‘why’ behind Hawai`i as a state and the large military base that is on the island of Oahu. “The Overthrow” of the Hawaiian Kingdom became a focal piece of history as the general public started untying the knot between water issues, the shipping industry and our extreme dependence on food and other resources from the mainland. People started understanding their place in it all. The word settler, became commonplace as those non- Hawaiians accepted the actual history of the place they now inhabited. We were not Native Hawaiians, we were from somewhere else, but that didn’t mean that we couldn’t work together. As it was most recently explained to me, if you are not native to the land you are currently living on, then your responsibility is to support those who’s ancestors are of that land in their rightful fight for sovereignty. Part of this process is supporting the re-framing of what was once commonplace. I don’t write any of this in an act of shaming, but I do write in an act of honesty. Simply put from my perspective, the celebration of Canada Day and The Fourth of July are a celebration of continual land theft and most importantly, the celebration of Indigenous resiliency in the fight for survival against all odds.
I am aware that there are many other perspectives that one can bring to my viewpoint, but as our “democracy” unravels for all I am sure many more are beginning to feel into this loss of “independence” that native peoples have felt for hundreds of years. There are ways forward, and together, but they will not fit into our conventional sense of business as usual. As The United States takes pause to observe and remember false histories built upon slavery and war, I ask you to take a moment aside from the usual agenda as well. Ask yourself, who are the original caretakers of the land I live on and where are they today? How is their history wrapped up in the one that America is celebrating? And lastly, what do I want my place to be in it all? That might be the most important question, because against all desires of our government at hand, you still have a choice in how and where you bring your voice.
I’ve been watching dandelions spring up within my yard over the last months. At first there were just a few, lone yellow topped stalks that budded closed at night and wisped across the yard over the days, seeding the barren soil. Now they are everywhere, covering whole areas with their thick dark green leaves, I can’t help but look at them and think, “against all odds.” Dandelions are incredible. The plant itself is a token of resiliency, a reminder that even where seemingly nothing can regrow, there will be life again. When used medicinally to treat inflamed livers, they whisper, “this too will heal.” I decided that for these thoughts I wanted to sit with these plants as a way to provide healing for my own anger and pain. The prayer that wanted to come forward was one that asked for wholeness.
I collected petals that had fallen from their stems over the last week and began to weave them into the base of dandelions, re-forming them into a larger flower. I thought about how many of us are scattered from our true places of origin, how many of us hurting in our search for a place to call home. There is so much that cannot be rebuilt to replicate what was, but that does not mean re-building cannot happen. The reality is just that what will be born will look different than what was. I don’t think its wrong that it hurts to come to that realization, because it does hurt. In matters of reconciliation we ask, “What is possible?” Sometimes the answers seem futile, not enough for all the wrong that has been. But then I have to ask myself, “Will my anger feed me and those around me into further right action?” I know that it won’t. I know that the real injustice is to live my life out of anger and the only real possibility of reconciliation is to define my own healing.
This is my own prayer for healing from the roots up.
I continue to be in a state of perpetual awe at the simple days, and small moments that yawn into my dreams at night. Here is one:
Today Adam and I took our lunch in the hills that overlook our home. The grass is long, bleached and browned and as the wind rustles through we are engulfed in their conversation. A never ending chatter made louder by the birds that flutter through, snapping their stalks along the way. We lay on the picnic table and listen to their brittle sounds. We look up into the cloudless sky and sweat trickles beneath my shirt. We share a peach as we walk back down, pausing in the shadow of trees, letting the low hum of summer hold our hands. Here we were, two human beings, learning the sounds of grasses in the summer. A harmony between the world and us.
I am currently in collaboration with LOAM magazine over the next month as an artist- in- resident. The article below was written for and originally published by LOAM.
July 1st, 2017
This video clip has been haunting me.
Stephanie Woodward, a disabled woman protesting Trumpcare, is literally ripped from her wheelchair while being arrested. My immediate response is a tightening in my throat as I watch the footage from the comfort of my bed. Everything that created this one instance is wrong and I am struggling to understand how this can be okay. Simply put, it is not okay. Just because it is happening, does not make it okay. Sometimes I have to say this aloud to myself so that I don’t forget. Disabled peoples, whose lives are being placed on the line by a proposed $800 billion dollar cut to Medicaid, should not be arrested for stating their right to stay alive. As Woodward writes, “I mean to live in freedom. Because the liberty of so many Americans with disabilities is at stake, we laid our bodies on the line last week. We chanted loudly as we were taken away from the office and into police custody.”
I went and sat out in my garden after watching this clip. My baby greens have bolted and I harvested the last bits from a plant before pulling it out of the ground. I outlined a circle in the earth, where the roots of the plant had once been. I wanted to ‘plant’ this prayer in my garden bed. I had carried from the house a bowl of purple flowers that I had dried a few months ago. My original inclination was to make something with all of them, but once outside I only felt like using a few flowers and nothing else. Nothing so big wanted to be created, because within me I felt small. This actual piece itself only took about two minutes to put into place, but once done I sat with it for quite some time. I lay my hands down alongside the edges of the circle I had traced and closed my eyes. I realized that as much as this was about those directly impacted by Medicaid cuts this was also prayer of forgiveness. I thought about what it would feel like to be one of those policemen pulling disabled people from their wheelchairs, and my heart broke for them as well. As Woodward had put it in an interview with Democracy Now! the ADAPT activists and the policemen were both doing their jobs, it just turned out that on that day, those jobs directly confronted each other.
I am currently in collaboration with LOAM magazine over the next month as an artist- in- resident. The article below was written for and originally published by LOAM
Can we learn to respond to the mounting violence in our time with soul- honoring and life- giving ways of being in the world? Much depends on the answer.
- Parker J. Palmer
In the face of social, environmental and political unrest, Parker J. Palmer’s words have become my compass of compassion and grounding. While thinking about what I wanted to offer to the LOAM community, I referred again and again to the feeling that these works evoke within my being. “Somehow, through it all, there could be a way to exist within the chaos,” they seem to be whispering. This idea, that I could feel whole while living within so much fragmentation seems far-flung and nearly impossible. I decided that for my artist-in-residency I wanted to explore deeper into this contradiction.
Most days people refer to me as an activist or an environmentalist. I like to call myself an educator on earth stewardship. My personal life is as much my work as my work is personal, as I am always seeking to live into what it means for me to be an active steward. For most of my work and projects I am asked to take in an incredible amount of media. This media more often than not comes in through screens and sometimes through radio or actual printed publications. I love my work and the relationships that have been built through these spaces, but staying updated on all that is going wrong in the world often leaves me depleted. I think many of you out there might feel similar. We live in an age of unbelievable connectivity and at our fingertips lay an endless string of ways to get involved amidst the devastation. As Kate Weiner of LOAM writes, “There is a tremendous pressure within the mainstream climate movement to work yourself to the bone. I've written before about how the pressure to perpetually act conforms to the same capitalist measures of productivity that so many of us are fighting against. But it can be difficult to bring it on home— to believe that it is not only nourishing but also necessary to provide pauses in our day; to trust that sitting some things out can create the space for beautiful things to bloom; and to know that rethinking our everyday actions can be as healing to the world as advocating for broad policy change.” This is the space from which I wish to share and offer an invitation, and LOAM as a publication is the perfect place to offer from. Here, the concept of sustainability is understood as more than just an outward application. Sustainability must first and foremost begin from within if we are to talk about this being the work of our lives. And so I ask myself, “What will be the soul quenching practice of pause that will nurture me for the long- haul?”
The times are urgent; let us slow down.
- Bayo Akomolafe
Pause Within the Chaos is an art project that works with imbuing prayer and ritual into everyday life. Inspired by Asumund Seip’s book, 100 Days for the Earth, which explores 100 days of writing to the places we hold dear, Pause Within the Chaos, will channel this same exercise of dialogue with the earth as a daily practice of active prayer. The practice will follow three steps, which I’ve outlined below.
1. In-taking media: This project is orientated around finding new ways of working with taking in and digesting media. The daily ritual of listening to or reading the news will remain a crucial part of this process.
2. Giving pause: Often I let incredibly dense news wash through me unconsciously. I realized that an important piece to keeping my own sanity is to create moments of pause after learning about something particularly maddening or upsetting. Often it is only a few minutes, but those moments allow me to build the capacity in myself to hold this new information. I noticed that when I fall into the unconscious space of letting news hit me, while say I am preparing and/or eating food, that my body’s ability to even digest is limited. Giving pause is a part of how I integrate.
3. A breath & a prayer: From this place of pause, small earth prayers will then be made from natural materials like sticks, rocks and petals. The idea is not to illustrate the media but to find a way to work with creating a healthy cycle of inhalation and exhalation; Inhale media, exhale a tangible prayer of grace. While facing “the mounting violence in our time” I feel dedicated to finding a new response to that reminds me of my own humanity.
Simplicity is key to this project. Like many of you, my life is full, and I am often looking for practices that can be easily incorporated into my routine. This project is also an invitation into a conversation with each of you. Perhaps you work with a practice that proves to be sufficient in holding space for the pain of the world, or maybe you are seeking one. Over the coming month, I would like to support a dialogue around what feels enriching, nourishing and soul- giving for you during these wild times. I am also curious how can we begin to become even more creative when thinking about ways to bridge our personal lives and the work of our lives. Your thoughts are eagerly welcomed as we continue to recognize and harness the power of our collective minds.
In Deep Gratitude,
- LOAM is an environmental arts magazine dedicated to promoting the work of pioneering individuals and organizations in the realm of sustainability. We see creativity and sustainability as symbiotic. -
Summer Solstice 2017
“Wheel of the Year circles and rituals are not only about the seasons and agricultural traditions, they are remnants of an ancient nature- based spiritual psychology and spiritual path. It’s easy to imagine our foremothers using the same observable realities- the cycle of changing light, the growing seasons of animal and plant life - to illustrate their own inner lives and the dynamics amongst themselves in human relationship and community, just as we do now... it’s more important than ever to have a spiritual psychology to walk with during these challenging times”
— We'Moon 2017
It has been a while since I have brought words to this space. Much has shifted in my life and the world in which, Harness Your Breath was born is now an incredible piece of my history.
For those of you that do not know, Harness Your Breath started in the summer of 2011 when I was 19 years old. The world then felt brand new to me in so many ways, and I was testing my own capacity to carry myself by traveling on the road for 3 months. Those 3 months are still embedded in my memory. Up and down the west coast of North America I went, with a touch down in New York city and then a month in Greece. While on that trip something began to breathe fire into the pit of my belly. I felt so alive and in love with our world, yet I didn't understand much of what was going on. I started asking big questions about war, about politics, about the earth. I wanted to understand my place in it all, and I was frustrated by how little I knew. For that month I spent in Greece, most of my nights were restless, researching until the sun came up on what my next step should be. I was looking for support and guidance into this next chapter of my life. As a part of this process I decided to reach out to girlfriends of mine who inspired me. I wrote a handful of little notes with an invitation to create an online space where we could keep in touch about the deeper topics that moved our hearts. I was thirsty for quality dialogue as my feed on Facebook at that time was not generating conversations that created points of connection for me. I wanted something more than just the day-to-day moments, I wanted to deconstruct, inquire and hopefully one day contribute.
Harness Your Breath first came into being on one of those hot sleepless nights. It started out as a tumblr account and a year later I built it this online container that you see today. Over the past 6 years the space that Harness Your Breath has offered me has been tremendous. It has been a platform for all of my exploration. From homesteading on Maui, to a year in Sweden while studying at The International Youth Initiative Program, to my first steps into grassroots organizing and my exploration into photography. I have created and found my own home here again and again while moving around the world.
As some of you may know, last summer I started a program called The Spiritual Ecology Fellowship.
One of the main aims of this program was to support youth like myself in further developing a project forward. Over the past 9 months I have been working on my project, Earth Is `Ohana (EIO), which is an adaptable environmental curriculum. I have just returned home after 12 days of teaching a portion of it at women's gathering called Spirit Weavers. These last days have been absolute dream for me. After holding a project so close it felt like a giant release to finally be able to ground it in tangible action. Earth Is `Ohana finally feels ready to grow and bloom. A part of this growth has been the creation of a new website that is solely dedicated to moving this vision outward. You can find it at earthisohana.com. That being said Harness Your Breath will be in a place of active rest for the time being. I will keep this site live, because there is still so much goodness here, but please do accept my invitation in moving your active support over to Earth Is `Ohana. There is a blog space there where reflections will be shared, an opportunity to sign up for my new newsletter and even a book club you can join. As always my intention for any of my online spaces are too support education and nurturance on the topics that I hold close in my heart.
Thank you again for tuning in, I look forward to continuing the conversation with you for years to come.
Meduh // Mahalo
Kailea // earthisohana.com
Photo: Koa Kalish
I woke up to December 1st. Everything a hush in the air out side of my friends apartment. I've been in Switzerland for the past days acquainting myself again with normal bed times and waking up slowly. I move my toes and I turn on my side, while wondering where all of our chaos is leading us. This is where I am sourcing my energy from these days, and it makes me get up and out of bed. I make coffee and write letters to all of my loved ones that I have overlooked in these last frenzied months of non stop movement. My little sister sends me a picture of her newly shaved head, I gasp over her beauty. Every day it seems someone is sharing a new type of courage with me. I spend whole afternoons by myself while my friend is at work. I can't place a memory to the last time that I have kept my own company, and sometimes the most delicious thing I can do is stare out the window at these trees. It is covered fully in frost today for the first time since I've arrived. Another layer of stillness. I read the words of Åsmund Seip, a modern Norwegian man who gives a gentle voice to our inner conflicts and desires. Sometimes its a poem, sometimes a paragraph, always though he brings my mind back down again into the cracks of my own heart. "I have sent you nothing but angels" he says, and I believe him.