Article and Images by Sarah Morairty
I feel that I am not alone in saying that at this point, I am completely lost. We are all no longer able to live the lives we were accustomed to. Our existence, in a way, has been utterly and irreversibly altered. These social distancing protocols have imposed a whole new twist to life, and one that none of us saw coming or were remotely prepared for. During this time of distance and confusion, we are all looking for something to feel connected to.
Generally speaking, our daily lives typically consist of activities and things that give us purpose, whether they be exercising, owning a pet, working a 9-5, going to school, etc. I feel that we as humans are always trying to find our individual purposes, a feat that was hard enough before this crisis. Now, social distancing has added an even more difficult complication. Every day, we have to wake up and figure out how to translate our old lives into a new, more restricted one. Every day, it seems we are presented with another unforeseen consequence of the virus: some are losing their jobs, some are losing loved ones, loved ones are dying alone, healthcare workers are working at maximum levels, students who are graduating in spring aren’t able to have graduation ceremonies, the list goes on. For some, the worst consequence is that they have to be locked inside all day with only themselves and their thoughts.
Amid all this negativity, though, there are beautiful phenomena blooming out all around us, both figuratively and literally. In the figurative aspect, social movements of caring and helping each other are growing. Social media has been a never-ending venting/therapy session where strangers from all around the world can find support and validation from each other. People have become more understanding and compassionate. On the literal aspect, with the retreat of human activity, ecosystems around the world are making comebacks and beginning to thrive again.
Nature continues to move forward, even when it feels like our world has come to a halt. I find this inspiring and beautiful. It seems like many people, including myself, have been looking towards nature for a sense of comfort. Us human creatures have this subconscious yearning for connection to other beings and life, a biophilia that drives us to continuously seek these connections. We are all creations of Gitchi Manitou, the Great Spirit, and our Earth Mother. We are all connected and have large impacts on each other, and now is the time where this is being made very clear.
I urge us to look toward our communities’ teachings and Earth Mother for guidance. The medicine wheel has brought some organization into my newly unorganized life. I learned from one of my elders to use each section to represent an area of my health and well-being: spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental/intellectual. Each week, I make sure to keep track of the things that I have done to maintain each section. When one area is lacking, I can take more time to fill in the holes. In this way, I am ensuring that my well-being is holistically being cared for.
Right now, we are in the time of spring, ziigwan, the yellow section of the wheel. In my tribe, it is a time of renewal and new beginnings. Just as the land is awakening and creating new growth, we can utilize this shift from COVID-19 to grow and start anew. While we cannot go out and do all the things we used to before, there is much to see around us. Go outside and look at all the fresh growth. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, spiders are spinning their webs, squirrels are scurrying amongst the trees. Take advantage of the clearer skies and look at the sunsets, the stars, and moon. Enjoy the beauty that each day brings.
This period in our lives is difficult and even painful at times. But we mustn’t let the negativity consume us, lest we all become windigos1. Stay kind to your neighbors, to your environment, and to yourself. I wish you all the best in this challenge of reinventing ourselves and our futures.
1A windigo (there are different variations in spellings from tribe to tribe) is someone who has become overwhelmed with greed, selfishness, and/or negativity and has thus turned into a wicked monster. It is a warning tale of my tribe against these negative characteristics.
Sarah Morairty, LiKEN Research Assistant
Sarah is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. She is part of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She is a passionate activist for the rights of Mother Earth and marginalized communities and has research interests in sustainable development, climate change and its impacts on communities of color, traditional approaches to land and resource management, economic and political approaches to the transition towards a green society, food sovereignty, cultural preservation and protection, and institutionalized marginalization. She wants social and environmental justice for all, as well as a healthy and positive future for our children. As she says: “In the words of my ancestors, ‘Maamawi mashkogaabawiyang’; together we stand strong. Let’s build a better world together.”