I spent the past weekend up north with Movement Generation's ecological leadership retreat. I am still taking in the depth and breadth of that space, the people, and unexpected places that the gathering awakened (and recreating the delicious recipes...). One afternoon by the freshwater pond, we were asked to reflect on right relationship - our relationship to the future, as ancestors in a time of ecological crisis. My reflection came as a letter:
I am waiting for this pen to move, to be stirred by imagination. But I am having a hard time. I can barely imagine my own unborn children, or what the future will look like in 10 years, let alone your face. Yet somehow I believe I will meet you and learn from you as my teacher, in the next world.
Someone once told me of another way to understand DNA - as descendants now ancestors. Strands of me will live through you. They are waiting to be born. Right now my grandmothers write this letter to our future through my hands.
Our people have this word: balikbayan. It's used to describe Filipinos visiting the homeland, and as a brand name for those cardboard care packages sent to the Philippines. What it really means, though, is to return to the land. To homeland, because land is home.
My generation's story will sound like a fairytale to you. We have realized that we have been away from home for too long. This distancing came with a price. We have become sick - homesick. Its an illness that spans hundreds of years.
Our homesickness touches everything - the air, water, plants, animals, and soils.
But instead of naming the disease, many of us were told we had to create new diseases to cure the old ones. The cures would be expensive. They could cost us everything. Sometimes we were told it was our fault if we were sick, and that we deserved it. Worst of all, sometimes we became used to this terrible disease.
In this generation, we each had to become more than we already are - which is what we already are. We had to become doctors without going to medical school, learning new ways to heal. We had to become midwives, attending to the birth of a new world out of the old one.
Granddaughter, for some reason I am certain of you. When I remember you, you give life its compass, a throughline within uncertain waters. I know you will survive because my own ancestors survived. Through 500 years of colonization. Through enslavement and cultural erasure, through forced migration and assimilation.
If my only ability in our age of extinctions is to relearn being balikbayan, I've fulfilled a responsibility passed on from the past. We are here to renew life. In a changing world, we must use our remembering as a weapon and a salve.
Granddaughter, I hope we will meet soon.