Posted by: Banta | May 9, 2021

in praise of safe havens

For all the havens of safety and protection, care, nurture, and love – that arise from human and other-than-human sources – I’m deeply grateful. Blessed are those who create and sustain those havens, who do what needs doing, who show up in kindness, whose very presence is a sacred witness to the ones they serve.

Posted by: Banta | May 8, 2021

the cicadas are coming

Headline in The Guardian this week: “Trillions of cicadas about to emerge from underground in 15 U.S. states.” Trillions. That’s quite a big number. And quite a cacophonous racket when they get to mating in the treetops. But the story below the noise speaks to the layers of interconnection we have with all beings, including the cicada.

These cicadas have been underground in a larval state for 17 years. Doing what? Feeding off tree roots and plant sap and listening to some magical inner clock that tells them this is finally their year. Within days they’ll sense the ground temperature is just right; only then do they start to emerge and shed their outer skins. Their huge numbers ensure species survival through ‘predator saturation’, meaning they can’t possibly ALL be eaten by the numerous creatures who find them tasty. They come out at dusk and scurry up any vertical structure around – mostly trees. Because the cicada lives above ground only 2-4 weeks, there’s a great sense of urgency to find a mate and lay eggs. Hence the high-pitched racket in the trees.

Each of the 3000 cicada species has a distinctive mating song. This year it will be the Brood X boy band. Only the males sing, and if the female likes the song, she clicks her wings. Within a few weeks, their eggs become tiny larval nymphs that tumble out of the trees and burrow back into the ground for another 17 years. University of Maryland etymologist Michael Raupp, aka The Bug Guy, describes this as “one of the craziest life cycles of any creature on the planet.”

Cicadas have been here for millions of years, far longer than humans. And etymologists agree that their benefits to the larger ecosystem far outweigh the temporary racket they make. For example, all those dead bugs fertilize the surrounding trees with essential nitrogen, marked by growth spurts and higher than usual seed production the following spring. More trees mean more acorns and young seedlings. At every stage of their life cycle, cicadas provide a valuable link in the food chain between the trees and the critters – including birds, squirrels, turtles, insects, snakes. Certain fungi also feast on cicada larvae.

If you live in one of the 15 U.S. states impacted by this year’s Brood X band of cicadas, be curious. Your temporary neighbor is one of your other-then-human kin, worthy of your time and respect. Feel their song in the trees. We are all in this life together. (Cicada photo by Harvey Wilcox) #cicadas #animism #belonging #interconnectedness #ancestralwisdom

Posted by: Banta | May 3, 2021

ode to the misfits

Have you ever felt like a misfit in your own family? Ever heard whispers that you’re the odd one, the rebellious child, the black sheep? Friends, you are not alone. There’s a huge global community of folx like us. German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, best known for his work in family constellations, had this to say about the so-called black sheep of the family: “They are “…hunters born of paths of liberation into the family tree. The members of a tree who do not conform to the norms or traditions of the family system, who since childhood have consistently sought to revolutionise beliefs, going against the paths marked by family traditions, those criticised, judged and even rejected, these are usually called to free the tree of repetitive stories that frustrate entire generations. The black sheep play a basic role within each family system. They repair, pick up and create new branches in the family tree. Thanks to these members, our trees renew their roots. Its rebellion is fertile soil, its madness is water that nourishes, its stubbornness is new air, its passion is fire that re-ignites the light of the heart of the ancestors. …Who would bring new flowers to our tree if not for them? Who would create new branches? Without them, the unfulfilled dreams of those from generations ago who support the tree would die buried beneath their own roots. Let no one cause you to doubt, take care of your rarity as the most precious flower of your tree. You are the dream of your ancestors.” (Image by Jose Francisco Morales) #ancestors #ancestorsspeak #ancestralhealing

Posted by: Banta | April 27, 2021

metabolizing grief

How do you meet the suffering of the world? What can one person do to tend our collective grief? Thousands have died in the pandemic over the past year, with no clear end in sight. Even accounting for those with compromised health, there have been countless unnecessary losses. So many deferred funerals and memorials, so many who died alone and afraid. Part of the calling and commitment in ancestral work is to help those who have crossed over to be well received on the other side, well met by their people. We assist in this sacred work by offering prayers for the dead, whether they are known to us by name or not. When we lament the dead and give thanks for the lives they lived, we bear witness to them – we tend the collective grief. Author and grief-walker Francis Weller, refers to grief as a potent form of soul activism. By tending the collective sorrow, we do our part to move it along. We help it dissipate, become compost, find release. Left unmetabolized, grief can morph into every imaginable personal and cultural harm. Martín Prechtel has observed that we are “surrounded by the ghosts of unwept ancestors.” (from his CD “Grief and Praise”) If you already have a gratitude practice, try weaving in some daily grief tending on behalf of the larger collective. Stretching our capacity to hold both grief and gratitude in the palm of our hands, is sacred work indeed. (Photo by Banta. Prayer flags at Amherst Peace Pagoda, Amherst, MA) #ancestralwisdom #ancestorsspeak #grieftending #sacredactivism #healingjourney #calloftheancestors

Posted by: Banta | April 24, 2021

The humble Nautilus

Becoming a right-sized human involves being in right relationship not only with other humans, but with our animal and plant kin, with the larger powers that support life, with the microorganisms, the mountain stream, the Nautilus shell. The Nautilus puts so much into perspective for me. It’s one of the oldest creatures known to survive in Earth’s oceans, dating back some 500 million years. As it grows, it adds chambers to accommodate the need for more space. Perfectly spiraled chambers. A beautiful and elegantly precise work of art. Some say the spiral represents the journey inward, a connection with the divine, a spiritual evolution, ancestral wisdom. But for the humble Nautilus, the spiral is simply home. Bowing here in gratitude, for this ancient creature who invites us to spiral our own way home. (Stock photo from Dreamstime) #ancientwisdom #belonging #ancestors #divineconnection #humblenautilus

Posted by: Banta | April 20, 2021

why now? why this?

Why now? Why this? The answer is unreasonably simple. My ancestors nudged me hard. I didn’t know that’s what was happening at the time. I only knew I was driven to take one step after another in their direction, as if invisible hands propelled me. I dove into months of coursework and several weekend intensives in Ancestral Lineage Healing, plus one-on-one sessions with practitioners already trained in the work by Daniel Foor, Ph.D. In 2019, I applied and was accepted to the Practitioner Training program in Ancestral Healing. Midst the unprecedented upheavals of the pandemic, the greatest antidote has been an immersion in Ancestral Lineage Healing work. Learn more and book a session on the website (Stock photo from Dreamstime image collection.)

Posted by: Banta | May 30, 2019

Curiosity 2.0

It came to me in the middle of the night. The why now? behind the insatiable curiosity that has gripped me for much of the past year. Buddha once observed that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The teacher who flipped the curiosity switch for me appeared in the body and spirit of my first grandchild, a remarkable star being with an old soul. H. isn’t yet three years old, but already she has wrought transformative change.

For starters, her center of gravity is much lower than mine. She lives close to the Earth, fully in her little body, all of her senses finely tuned, and leading with her heart. These are lessons worth remembering.

Making friends with her other-than-human kin comes naturally to her – an ant on a food mission across a leaf, newborn bunnies on a grassy knoll, acorn ‘caps’, wildflowers, butterflies, spiders in their webs, creek water spilling over rocks.

She points out the moon in the morning sky, talks to the otters at the nature center, worries over the chickens escaped from their coop at a nearby farm. Her curiosity is boundless, her empathy toward all beings brings me to tears.

The lessons fill our days to overflowing. Live in the present moment. Slow way down. Tune in to my senses. Notice the light, the breeze, the scent of garlic chives and wild rose, the tickle of a lady bug in my palm, the joy of rain puddles and homemade popsicles. Slow down even more and listen to the crows, the rustle of deer and bear in the woods, the hum of the bees.

Because of H. I am more embodied, more heart-centered, more vulnerable and empathic. She reminds me of so much that I had forgotten, about intuition and curiosity and pure joy. And her easy relationships with the plants and stones, the animals and birds, have triggered my own Sacred Remembering.

The ancient ones, our Ancestors, nurtured reverent relationships with all of life. Small children everywhere invite us to be curious, to reconnect, to Remember. Deep gratitude to H. for her patience with me and her willingness to keep the lessons coming.




Posted by: Banta | May 26, 2019

Saying Grace

Here in the mountains lettuce and spinach compete for space in the late spring garden. The strawberries are coming in, lavender is in bloom and the snow peas are ready to harvest.


These are some of my other-than-human friends. Like us humans, they have consciousness. They communicate among themselves and with each other. When I am grounded and fully present, they also communicate with me.

I talk with them out loud. Not only do I talk to the food and herb plants in the garden, but I also chat with the oak and poplar trees, the water in the creek, the soil under my feet, the white pine beams that hold up my house, the bees and butterflies, the crows and the bears who occupy the land where I live – land of the Cherokee/Tsalagi and the Catawba.

And I listen, too. Before the harvest comes the conversation – and the consent. May I pick these strawberries, this lavender? May I collect this spinach and lettuce and arugula for supper? May I harvest these peas?  May I cut this lavender? I ask out loud and wait for a response.

If I had chickens, I’d be having the consent conversation with the hens, too. May I take your eggs for my omelet? May I kill you and eat you? The food plants are no less sentient than the chickens, and we pay respect to our plant and animal kin when we ask permission before we harvest, before we kill, before we eat. To do otherwise is to practice a level of two-legged human entitlement that I’m no longer comfortable with.

Saying grace before a meal looks different and takes a bit longer these days. While I still thank the Divine Creator and Mother Gaia for the bounty I’m about to receive, I also thank my plant and animal kin for their sacrifice. These plant and animal kin give their lives that I may live, that I may eat healthy food. Their death is essential to sustaining my own life.

When we come back into respectful relationship with our other-than-human kin, we acknowledge our place in the web of all life. We remember our vulnerability,  our interdependence. We take up less space, which is a good thing. We ask permission, show respect, give thanks.

How does this land with you? Are these ideas new and strange? Feel free to share your comments here! Let’s continue the conversation.


Posted by: Banta | May 15, 2019

Grasshoppers Are People Too

No regrets about how long it’s been since the last blog post. I’ve been incubating, gestating, evolving. All the things. That said, there is something I need to get off my chest. I have a confession to make about my past relationship with grasshoppers.

I don’t mean the small fragile ones, the little green leapers that jump when you brush by a leaf. No, I’m talking about the giant yellow and black ones, big as a child’s foot and virtually indestructible. Trust me, I tried for years.

The Eastern Lubber grasshoppers emerged like a plague every spring, their small black young blanketing large swaths of my Florida garden. Left to mature to adulthood, they ate everything in sight: irises and amaryllis, peas, lettuce, kale, beans, cabbage, including in their diet more than 100 species of vegetables and flowers. Toxic to birds, and having no other predators, the lubbers multiplied like crazy and could decimate an entire season’s harvest overnight.

close up photo of grasshopper

Back in those days I waged war on them – a decade long effort to wipe them out. It was nothing short of grasshopper genocide. What the actual f*ck?  I saw them as trespassers, when I was the one who had invaded their territory. I feared their size, got angry at their resistance. Surely they were lesser creatures and I was entitled to dominion over them. Surely they deserved to die. I tried everything in the colonizer playbook. I dropped them into soapy water, crushed them underfoot, threw them off the dock and hoped they’d drown. They never did.

Instead, they returned, year after year, until I could learn what they had to teach me.

Today I bow in apology to the Grasshopper people. I own my colonizer behavior, my arrogant disregard for the generations of Eastern Lubbers I tried to eliminate. I honor their lives, their spirits, their personhood, their ancestors. May we coexist in peace, and may I continue to acknowledge and repair the wounds of the past in which I (and my own ancestors) participated.


Posted by: Banta | September 16, 2016

The place we call ‘away’


After multiple attempts to recycle leftover construction materials, we bit the bullet and took a truckload to the landfill—located nine miles north of downtown Asheville in the scenic community of Alexander, NC. If you’ve never visited a landfill, put it on your bucket list. In our throwaway culture, nothing screams “There’s-no-such-place-as-away!” quite like acres upon acres of trash—the detritus of our wasteful lives.

The winding road to the Buncombe County landfill meanders along the French Broad River, a favorite playground for kayakers and whitewater enthusiasts. We nearly missed the landfill turnoff because the elaborate stone pillars flanking the drive look more like the entrance to a pricey gated community than a county dump. Shade trees line the access road and purple martin birdhouses dot the grassy hillsides, adding to the illusion of a sprawling estate.

We weighed in and followed directions to the top of the hill. Here in the mountains of western North Carolina, long-range vistas capture our attention every day. But we did not expect the stunning 360-degree mountain view that greeted us at the crest of the landfill. Against a backdrop of piled-high trash, the beauty of the view felt cruelly out of place. We unloaded quickly, bracing against the stench of decay and wary of a suspicious squishiness underfoot.

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Surely, this is the Wasteland of which T.S. Eliot spoke: “I think we are in rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones.”

Owned by the County Department of Solid Waste and opened in 1997, this particular landfill spans 128 acres and accepts more than 170,000 tons of solid waste per year. That’s a whole lotta trash. When the property reaches its ‘design capacity’ of 3.6 million tons, projected in 2020, this landfill will close and another will take its place. But where? We are fast running out of space.

A recent news report cited remediation plans to clean up a former Buncombe County landfill in Fairview, NC. Closed in 1976, forty years ago, the site continues to raise concern about contaminated water and soil. Four decades later.

Here’s the thing. Trash lasts so much longer than we think. Roughly speaking, a landfill is a depression in the earth that is lined with clay and thick plastic, rather like a large bathtub. (For scientific details on landfill construction, see Modern landfills try to control for off-gassing and liquid seepage, but leaks do happen. Soil and groundwater suffer as a result. Think about the French Broad River less than a mile away.

Our sobering field trip to the landfill underscored the worthy mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Those items we ‘forget’ to recycle take decades, even millennia, to break down in a landfill. A glass bottle? Maybe a million years. Those plastic bags? Perhaps 500+ years. Plastic soda bottles? About 500 years. Aluminum cans? Eighty to 200 years.

The EPA estimates that the bulk of our household garbage could be recycled or composted—paper, yard waste, plastics, food waste. Even hard-to-dispose-of paints and varnishes, old batteries and electronics have designated recycle days at the landfill and other local drop-off sites.

Simple choices make a difference—buy in bulk (no plastic packaging), go paperless, say ‘no’ to bottled water, opt for cloth napkins and diapers. If the kitchen trash can, or the bin behind the house were the last resort, rather than the mindless first choice, how might our consumer habits change? With a little time and effort, and some focused intention, we commit to recycle more and consume less. Won’t you join us?

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