Maya Carlson, Bioneers Conference Youth Program Manager, reflects on her time as a BKF Fellow:
The BKF Fellowship has brought me to think about cycles of growth and the time it takes for things to fully take form. The seasons we all need for rooting, for hibernation, for growth and fruit.
The collaborations and projects I’ve seeded this summer at Bioneers are only possible through our diverse ecosystem of partners and allies. In partnership with a group called Mycelium Youth Network, I have been designing an initiative called Weaving Circles of Collective Resilience (WCCR) - Talking Circles and Storytelling Mentorship for youth across the country with culturally-representative elders, advisors and movement leaders.
As someone who strives to be in deep relationship with land, particularly with plant medicines, I wanted to find a plant ally that could help to orient myself, and you dear reader, to the growth I’ve experienced with BKF in the last 10 months. The plant that felt right is called mullein.
Mullein is a wild medicinal, biennial herb with soft velvet leaves and a burst of yellow flowers when in blooms. Every part of the mullein plant can be used at different parts of its life cycle. It is a gentle and calming herb that soothes inflamed and irritated nerves. The soft, velvet leaves can be used for all forms of respiratory ailments. They can be smoked to coat and cleanse the lungs or to line your shoes for a long walk. Mullein leaves can be steeped in an infusion to aid in digestion and in chest pains. Mullein flowers offer a soothing and cleansing effect on the skin and can also be used as a yellow dye. The full stock can be lit as a torch and has been used for centuries as a protector against dark spirits.
Mullein takes two years to fully flower. As I have been with Bioneers for two years, a biennial cycle felt apt for this particular revolution.
As foreshadowed during the October 2019 Oasis-retreat through our Fireweed Expedition and a statewide electrical blackout to mitigate rampant wildfires, the conditions I was working in would continue to be in perpetual upheaval. I would need to continue adapting to meet the circumstances as they arose with grace and care.
By January of 2020, the project I initially intended to explore with BKF was no longer growing, and I needed to revision where my energy needed to go. The BKF community continued to remind me to come back to my Heart of the Matter, giving me permission to focus on who I wanted to be in authentic engagement with my work and my relationships.
It was a necessary season of reflection and reprioritization, rooting deeper rather than stretching outwards.
When springtime comes, the mullein plant bolts, growing flowers, fruits and seeds in the summertime.
During the spring, in one of our BKF Oasis calls, the theme of legacy was brought up. The BKF Oasis and the Goddesses that are its wellspring brought me back to my knowing that my being is my work, my wisdom, and my gifts. Despite the physical limitations of connecting in person during Covid, my energy still expanded outwards as I began to
In summertime, the bright sturdy stalks of mullein take over roadsides, parking lot cracks and riverbanks across the country. Bees and other pollinators make their rounds, casting off seeds into the next life cycle of this plant, weaving their medicine into the larger web of life around it. I’ve also felt more embedded in the communities around me, sharing resources and mutual support in all kinds of ways.
Our society is experiencing a reckoning moment. Many people are more fearful of and more isolated from their neighbors. Many feel less stable and less safe. The intention of Weaving Circles of Collective Resilience (WCCR) is to address these issues by providing youth with tools and support from an intergenerational intercultural ecosystem that nurtures a felt sense belonging, resilience and agency.
The seasons to come will not be familiar, there are no precedents for these times. In the midst of so much rupture and rebuilding, we need each other and ourselves all the more. I’m so very appreciative of the spaciousness and refuge that we created in the Oases. It gave me permission to slow down and listen a little more. It gave me room to find unexpected answers in myself and others. It helped me lean into trusting the seasons we all move through in our own time.
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