Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina

Sacred Space, Sacred Rights: Reflecting on the Braiding Sweetgrass Book Study

In our discussion of Part 3 in Braiding Sweetgrass last week, we addressed the idea of extending human rights to nature. In this section of the text, Robin Wall Kimmerer underscores the benefit of interacting with  nature in a relational way—asking permission to make use of resources, thanking the world for its many offerings that benefit us, regifting the earth with the nourishment the air, water, and soil need replenishment. Kimmerer addresses this idea of nature having agency, and therefore, rights that we usually reserve for humans. This is ultimately referred to as environmental personhood. The concept of environmental personhood is understood in many indigenous cultures, and has been employed as a legal tactic to protect sacred rivers and land masses. The acknowledgment is that these spaces are inherently valuable—that they have rights in and of themselves. 

CCA intern, Aundreya Shepherd, noted that this was intriguing to her—particularly as a conversation around consent and striving to exist in a respectful relationship with nature. She reflected saying,

The idea of listening and being attuned to what a plant is communicating as a way of relating to that being in a way that is mutually beneficial, respectful, and consensual was wholly novel and intriguing to me. I love the idea of humans being so attuned to the greater Spirit of Creation, that we can be given and refused permission. I was also excited to learn that Kimmerer is not alone in her emphasis of the need to ask permission of the earth.

These are the kinds of conversations and quandaries that Braiding Sweetgrass is leading us to. What a gift to think more deeply about our relationship with the world and how we interact with the fullness of Creation. If you’re interested in joining the next discussion of the book, email Aundreya at shepak19@wfu.edu





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Learn about the Red-Tailed Hawk

Christmount Assembly in Black Mountain, NC has been integrating educational murals onto the bathhouse at the camp in preparation for their Fern Way Farm Camp summer programs! Different sides feature local flora and fauna for campers to learn about as a way to connect to their own places and ecosystems. The artists are Ohio-based Laura McNeel and Elizabeth Hatchett (her work can be found at Betty Hatchett Designs). It was completed with volunteers’ help from both the Christmount neighborhood and the surrounding WNC area!

Today’s mural depicts the magnificent Red-Tailed Hawk, otherwise nicknamed as “chickenhawk” in WNC because of their carnivorous diet, although they mostly eat rodents. Red-Tailed Hawks are a great example of resilience as they are able to make their homes in many different biomes. They thrive in habitats from the Arctic to Mexico and their diverse diet reflects the variety within their habitats. Their ability to adjust and hunt in new ways only proves their unique adaptability. The Red-Tailed Hawk is protected by the United States’ Migratory Bird Treaty Act because its migration spans continents. 

When the snow begins to come, the Red-tailed Hawks leave their breeding grounds for warmer climates. For nesting, they tend to search for tall trees to create their cliff nests with a “bird’s eye view” of the surrounding area. When areas use selective-cutting or high-grading, it limits the trees available for the hawk’s nesting to smaller trees where Hawks are more vulnerable to attacks because of their lack of a safe perch. Red-Tailed Hawks are also one of the most popular birds for falconry in the US because of their intelligence and ability to be trained. Though falconry can lower the number of hawks, it is tightly controlled, and thankfully, hawk populations haven’t suffered significant losses in numbers. 

Fun Fact: The infamous Bald Eagle cry in movies, is actually the cry from the Red-Tailed Hawk!

Welcome Director Sarah Ogletree to CCA

Tuesday was our new director’s first day! We are so excited to welcome Sarah Ogletree back to CCA. Sarah served as an intern with CCA during her time as a student at Wake Forest School of Divinity, where she focused her studies in religious leadership and ecology. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University. Since then, Sarah has worked at the intersection of faith, ecology, and Creation Care at United Methodist Churches in Cullowhee and Winston-Salem, Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, First Baptist Church in Sylva, and here with the Creation Care Alliance back in 2017. Her dedication to seeking justice for both people and planet shines through in all aspects of her life, and she has consistently been recognized with awards for her leadership, dedication and excellence. Notably, she was the recipient of the national 2018 Emerging Earth Care Leader Award from Presbyterians for Earth Care and was named a 2019 Re:Generate Fellow. She has been committed to the work of creation care for many years and is incredibly grateful to be returning to CCA in this new capacity!

In her free time, Sarah enjoys planting flowers, singing, and playing the fiddle with her husband, William. She is a fan of snuggling up on the couch to read southern Appalachian novels and also loves exploring with her small but mighty dog, Bo. Be on the lookout for more from Sarah in this week’s newsletter—coming to an inbox near you soon!

All We Can Save, Book Review

“Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis” is an anthology of essays and poems written by 41 essayists and 17 poets, all women.  In this collection of writings, this diverse group of women—scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and races share their expertise and insights regarding the climate crisis.  Although it is generally recognized that women and girls, especially those of color, are most often affected adversely by climate change, and although as made clear by these writings that women can be a vital instrument of change, their voices are often left out of the conversation.

Edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist and policy expert, and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson, an author, strategist, and teacher, ALL WE CAN SAVE does not paint a “doom and gloom” picture.  As the subtitle indicates,  the authors have told the truth about their particular area of expertise and have demonstrated the courage to pursue innovative solutions.

The book includes an extensive list of climate solutions and referenced organizations as well as a brief bio of each contributor.  You will be impressed and inspired by the accomplishments of these amazing women.

Written by Janet Mitchell

Braiding Sweetgrass Book Study Sign-Up

“Will you hold the end of the bundle while I braid? Hands joined by grass, can we bend our heads together and make a braid to honor the earth? And then I’ll hold it for you, while you braid, too.” – Braiding Sweetgrass

 

Please join Intern Aundreya and others from CCA in a book study around Braiding Sweetgrass. It will add an indigenous voice to our conversations around sacred land. We are planning to meet each Monday at 6 PM, beginning on Monday, June 21, over Zoom. Each week we will begin by discussing a specific essay within each book section. Feel free to bring any other interests that come up as you read!

Learning about Native Species Through Murals at Christmount

Christmount has been integrating educational murals onto the bathhouse at the camp in preparation for their Summer camp program! Different sides feature local wildlife and fauna for campers to learn about. The artists are Laura McNeel and Elizabeth Hatchett at Betty Hatchett Designs. It was finished up with volunteers’ help! To support Christmount’s ongoing efforts to educate and care for others, you can make donations, sponsor a camper, or volunteer to help with projects, like this mural.

This mural is of the Northern Saw-whet Owl, which is native to North America. They are some of the smallest owls and their size makes them easy prey for larger birds and animals. An isolated community of these owls in the Appalachian mountains is now declining due to the destruction of their habitat. The Northern Saw-whet Owl is now listed as a threatened species because of logging, developments, and pollution that harm our natural forests. These owls like thickets and dense forests, but if forests are being cleared, even if not entirely, it rids them of the thickets that provide this owl with safety and shelter. There is also a chipmunk as well as some native fauna in this photo including Trillium, Lady Slippers, and Rattlesnake Orchid.

Regional Gathering on June 17

While CCA transitions to a new Director, we will continue our Regional Gatherings on a bi-monthly schedule. We will meet by ZOOM on June 17 at 6:00 PM. Register HERE to get the ZOOM link.

The theme will be Food Justice and our summer intern, Aundreya Shepherd, will lead us in learning about why and where food justice is needed across Buncombe County. We will discuss how food justice, especially gleaning, is one way to connect with rural faith communities that can be integral in food ministries. There will be a time where you can share what your community is doing around food justice. How can we create more access for those in rural areas?

CCA Doing Justice and Loving Kindness- A Director Farewell

“God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

― Micah 6:8  (Hebrew Scriptures)

Today as I step out of my role as Director I am reminded of Micah 6:8 from the Hebrew scriptures and the ways you have helped me and one another see this passage come alive over the years.

You are doing justice:

  • Planting seeds of tomatoes, trees, and wisdom for neighbors in need and for generations to come.
  • Embracing the interconnectedness of all creatures as expressions of the sacred.
  • Resisting dominion theologies and practice as well as the insidious cousins, racism and unbridled consumption.
  • Facing the challenges created by a changing climate with courageous sermons, steeples surrounded by solar panels, and spiritual care for all those impacted by climate change weather. Whether caring for families fleeing drought or storm or caring for children and adults swimming in eco-anxiety or depression, you are offering hope with its sleeves rolled up.

You show loving kindness:

You are teaching one another with your attractive ways bringing people from within your congregations and your communities into this good work. While you are honest about injustice and systemic challenges, you seek transformation without shame and a healing that is driven by love.

You walk humbly:

CCA congregations see the good created by hands, hearts, and resources and then you talk about it, not because there is a sense of competition, that your creation care is somehow better than the church up the street, but because after a while when you’re doing a good thing you simply cannot contain the light.  It is not your place to stifle the light.

As I have served as the director of Creation Care Alliance, your stories and our connections have deepened my understanding of Micah 6:8 and your work as people of faith and conscience. Your light has revealed much in the world and within my own heart. Thank you.

The CCA Steering Team and MountainTrue Staff are continuing this light-bearing work even as the search for a new Director moves ahead. In the interim please feel free to reach out to the Steering Team and/or MountainTrue Co-Director Bob Wagner at wagner@mountaintrue.org.

May you keep doing justice, seeking kindness and offering your light with humility. The challenges and your responses can be soul-crushing, You cannot do it alone. May you continue to find one another, hear your name as beloved, and find places of rest.

Grace and Peace,

Scott

You can find me at shardinnieri@gmail.com in the future if needed.