O Beautiful Gaia
~ Reflections on the Second P.E.I. Gathering ~
October 27th 2002
On my way to O Beautiful Gaia, I am musing on the gathering place, MacPhail Woods Nature Centre and the convergence of good work.. The Centre is a renovated barn with nature displays, murals, carvings and etched glass, all the creative genius of one of our sisters in song, Kate. Is this a sign that we are getting close to the tipping point towards a joyful, sustainable, nature based future. It is on a tract of land, fields once farmed and woods belonging in technical sense to the people of the Island but restored and cared for by one of the Islandâ€™s eco-visionaries, Gary Schneider and a group of dedicated staff and volunteers. Thereâ€™s a large nursery of native trees, shrubs, ferns and wildflowers, all derived from seed collected in Prince Edward Island. On this wet and blustery day, the Witch Hazel is flowering, it is the last species to flower in the year and I think of the first, the Mayflower on brown sunny banks in April. I donâ€™t share this flowering thought with anyone.
The Orwell River travels in a beautiful ravine clothed in hemlocks, yellow birch, white pine and red spruce. Four of us take a walk along the river and talk with the trees sheltering us from the inclement but necessary weather. This is Prince Edward Islandâ€™s rainforest. The wooden bridges are carpeted with the bronze leaves of yellow birch; the swollen, rapid river is cloudy with sediment and someone mentions that they hope it is too late for pesticide run-off upstream and the inevitable fishkill.
Gaia restoring, Gaia forgiving.
Twenty of us gather, singing, talking, listening and I remember our first meeting in September. I am struck by the different mood. September had a â€œfirst meetingâ€ feel to it. Perhaps it was what Joanna Macy refers to as positive disintegration in her book, Coming Back to Life. Even though many of us knew each other from Carolynâ€™s workshops and other connections, there was a tentativeness, an uncertainty. Today, we move easily and with much laughter into developing a pictorial totem depicting our collective skills, talents and traits. Tenacity, humour, passion, voice, facilitation and a love of slime moulds were amongst the many. We display the totem and will do so at each gathering. Some wonder if it might evolve over the moons of winter into a lasting work of art, a legacy of our Beautiful Gaia..
The rain has stopped: Anne leads us outside to a practice of Hara Kumbhaka, honouring the four directions. Time alone in nature as we drift among autumn trees, walking meditations in nature then returning to the meeting room we are greeted by giant mushroom, maple leaf and frog presiding over totem. It feels right to discover and declare our commitment to the project, common themes emerge from clusters of animated conversation. Turning to one another, we discover we are here to change our relationship with the world, her species, her rocks, her rivers and her seas. We want to evoke a vision for global change grounded in our communities and ourselves. Justice and joy, energy, knowledge and connection.
A special connection is manifested today by having Susan Sorensen in the circle. She is one of the Singers of the Sacred Web in Saskatchewan. Singing is woven through the afternoon, Nathalie plays the harp, Lise the piano, we are missing Paulaâ€™s musical magic. We close the circle gathering with O Beautiful Gaia, the Zimbabwe Womenâ€™s prayer and thoughts of November with Carolyn in our hearts.
Photos of Gathering 2
O Beautiful Gaia
PEI Gathering 2
~ MacPhail Woods Nature Centre ~
Oct 27, 2002
Those present were: Anne Taylor Murray, Melissa Mullen, Marion Copleston, Katherine Clough, Carol Gabanna, Nathalie Lefrancois, Charlotte Keen, Lise Morin, Michelle Jay, Margie Loo, Kate Poole, Jan Devine, Sandra Lore, Diana Clarke, Sylvie Arsenault, Maureen Larkin, Anne Leblanc, Heather MacDougall, Gail Carter-Jay, Susan Sorensen
We missed Clare Waddell, Pix Butt, Margaret Tusz-King, Paula Foley, Laurie Brinklow
Organizers of this gathering were Carol Gabanna, Katherine Clough, Jan Devine
Although the gathering officially began at 1pmâ€¦there were a few brave women
who arrived at 11am in the driving rain to walk in the 'rain forest' along
the stream in the woods of MacPhailâ€¦they returned with the water coursing
off their shoulders and smiles on their rosy faces! Another group of women
arrived around noon to share lunch together, and help with the last of the
setting upâ€¦and then women just arrived in twos and threes and clustersâ€¦til
all who would arrive, had arrived.
We welcomed two new women to the group with a round of introductions
and a word describing how we were feelingâ€¦these ranged from 'happy' to
'delighted' to 'wet'! We sang O Beautiful Gaia to some beautiful
accompaniment by Lise on the keyboard and Nathalie on the Harpâ€¦Jan went
over the agenda, and explained the 'Gathering Template' that the organizers
of this gathering had developed for future organizers.
Last gathering we had talked about how great it would be to know a bit more
about each otherâ€¦especially what kind of gifts, talents, skills we all
brought into the circleâ€¦The next activity brought us into that sharing a
bit. Carol led us in a bit of thinking about what we felt we brought to
the circle in terms of personality, skills, talents etcâ€¦then we each got a
paper and coloured pens and drew a 'totem' for ourselves symbolizing some
of the qualities with images of plants, animals, or other symbols.
Then we did a round and everyone presented their totem to the groupâ€¦and at
the end of that, we taped all the totems together into a connected 'group'
totem and put it up on the wall. We hope to have that at each gathering,
and are free to add/change/enhance our own particular drawings at any
timeâ€¦.this activity brought us often into laughter!
We sang some more â€¦Spirit of Life, Among the Many, There is a timeâ€¦I'm not
sure of the orderâ€¦but will try to remember all of them by the end of the
Anne Taylor Murray taught us a Yoga Sequence inside, then we all went out
and did it outside to the four directionsâ€¦after that we had a 5 minute
silent meditation outside and most women chose to wander off in all
different directions on the beautiful land at MacPhail. The rain had
stopped by this time, and although the sun wasn't shining, the sky had
brightened, and the fall colours were magnificentâ€¦.Women returned to the
At this point, Katherine guided us into some group discussion to look at
discovering and declaring our commitment to the projectâ€¦The group looked
at three questionsâ€¦
1. What personal needs are met through this commitment?
2. What are the needs of the community that will be met by this commitment?
3. Global Intent?
Women chose one of these areas of focus and formed three small groups to
engage in discussion with around each of these areas. At some point, all
the women in the 'personal' group split up and joined the two other groups.
These are the highlights of those three discussions:
- Change happens by merely singing together as women
- We are challenged to expand our limits, think beyond our routines,
caring for the earth
- Priorities move into inspiration into action
- Need a 'Vision' for PEIâ€¦an intentional direction moving toward a dream
- Imagine a better worldâ€¦"as if" i.e. we have gone organic, no use of
petroleum products, no violence etcâ€¦do a 'mockumentary' from the future
interviewing the people who made all these good things happenâ€¦what did it
take, what were the difficultiesâ€¦etc..
- Vision of everyone in community
- Power of ideas
- Work back from utopia to what steps were necessary for it to come into
- Awareness of positive steps to work towards goals
- Evoke broader vision through music
- Cultural change/shift, new social paradigm
- Personal changes have global implications
- Connecting, particularly with US women, at this time is essential
- Important to maintain global vision of justice, awareness of other
beings, we are part of a living planet
- Be open to guidance on a global level, conduit of bigger process
- Global/personal/community all so interconnected - intended, directed ,
expressions of love in the world changes the world, manifests change
- Activism and music = justice and joy combined
- There are women working together everywhere...connected and energized
We moved out of this group discussion by doing a 'dot-mocracy' on the
brainstorm ideas from the first gathering. Women had 3 dots each with
their name on each, and were invited to place the three dots in any way
they liked (i.e. one dot on three priorities, three dots on one priority,
or whatever other combination they desired) on the activities listed on the
wall from last gatherings brainstorming session.
Listed Below are the Items which had 'dots' on them and how many.
Farmers Market 3
Note cards 4
Photo Exhibit/Atlantic Women/Environment 2
Celebrate Earth Day/International Women's Day 7
Stand together and Sing about an issue 3
Dance together: Mambo/Elm Dance 6
Improv, Chanting, Instruments/Drumming 3
Activities to expand knowledge of Earth 6
Leave a Legacy
Land conservancy on PEI - preserve/rejuvenate 9
Identify/Establish National Gaia Land Trust 1
Create a walking Labyrinth on PEI 1
Mockumentary- a vision of PEI in 2050 3
After this we did some more singingâ€¦Ancient Love, Uprising of Hope,
So Great a Love
Jan gave a brief 'Nut's and Bolt's session in the last 15 minutes.
Here are the highlights of this.
Carolyn and Jan were in St. John's last weekend and worked with Helen
Murphy to give a morning introduction to Gaia, some of Carolyn' s music,
and talk about a group of women continuing to meet in St. John's. There
were 16 women who gathered and the energy was very welcoming, and there
was keen interest to both be part of the project and to bring Carolyn back
again for a full gathering in circle there. They will work on continuing
- We received a $500 donation from the Saskatchewan women's web. It was
so great to have Susan Sorensen visiting with us, and to thank her in
person for this generous support and love.
- Gaia fundraising CD's are going wellâ€¦Jan has just sent a big box of them
to Edmonton for the western gathering next weekend.
- Donations received from the first PEI gathering were $242, and expenses
were $80 (mostly binders and photocopying. Donations received from the
first NS gathering were $292 and the expenses were $115 (Binders,
Carolyn's Visit Next Month:
- Carolyn will spend the day with the PEI group November 16, MacPhail
Woods, 9am-4pm The day will begin at 9am sharpâ€¦so please arrive in time
to settle in and chat a bit first, so we are ready to go at 9.
- Sylvie, Nathalie, and Jan will plan the opening, closing, grounding
activities for weaving around the focus on singing we will do with Carolyn.
- Cost for the day will be $30. Please let Jan know if you need any assistance
- Please also let Jan know if you will be attending this day long
- Lunch will be??????
- some of the francophone women will work on some French verses for I
sing the Longing and O Beautiful Gaia, and as well will translate some
of the species names so we can sing some of their names in French as well
- Margie volunteered to check into availability of a booth at the Farmer's
Market. Melissa, Margie, Michelle offered to do some thinking about
gathering some stuff to sell at the farmers' market as a fundraiser in Dec.
We closed our gathering with O Beautiful Gaia, and Zimbabwe Women's Prayer.
Feedback from the gathering that arrived via email thanks to Marion's
good suggestion of sending out the questions by email afterward. Looking
forward to seeing everyone in three weeks!
1. What went well, which activities did you enjoy?
-The drawing was fun, as well as the discussion in small groups on
committment to the project.
-I quite liked all of it...this was my first gathering, and I thought the
group development and the conversations around our commitment were quite
helpful, in drawing the group together, and helping me focus. The time
outdoors was good too, although the weather wasn't very cooperative. Of
course, I loved the singing... would have liked more, but I know these
other things are needed and important.
- I loved that we sang a lot. Having Lise and Natalie play the keyboard
and harp was wonderful. I like that we went around the circle to introduce
everyone. I would like to do that every time, even if we don't have new
people, because I am so terrible with names.
- A well run meeting that I thoroughly enjoyed. I appreciate the
opportunity to work with so many talented women
- had a great day. I loved the walk, the singing, the totem exercise,
the yoga, the piano and harp. It was a nice mix of talking, singing,
participating in physical and artistic pursuits.
- The walk was absolutely lovely and a good way to start such a day.
I really enjoyed the totem activity and hearing what everyone had to say
about their own totem. I had fun playing harp on O Beautiful Gaia.
- For me it is the singing which matters most in our Gaia gatherings. I
also appreciate the short sharings where we get to hear a little about each
2. Was there anything that did not go well, or activities that you did not
- As much as I loved the singing....it also felt laboured. I don't know if
that's not everyone knowing the music...or that the piano didn't seem to
connect with our voices...or what.
- I think that we had the directions wrong when we did the
- There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy
- No, nothing.
3. Do you have suggestions for improvement, activities that you would
like to have included?
- Wish we'd had more group discussion time, but it's hard to pack it all in.
- I didn't make it for the very beginning. Was there singing? I wonder
about a 15-20 minute block of singing...just to get the energy moving and
the passion flowing! Where we supposed to bring tea, drinks, cups, etc?
Maybe I didn't read the notes or maybe that was because I wasn't at the
first gathering. A little more clarification around that would be helpful.
I wasn't able to stay this time to help clean up. Would it be good to have
a "clean-up" crew or will that just automatically happen...or will the
planners each time be responsible for that.
- In terms of getting to know each other better it would be nice to
know some of the other skills people have, related to their hobbies or
work or other life experience. I would like to sit together with other
altos to try and sing the parts
- I think we should take time when we start our gatherings for centering
and connecting to each other (chanting, prayer, meditating, etc). That
would facilitate us to letting go of other things on our schedules, bring
ourselves to the group, and let the spirit do its work through us.
4. Any other comments?
- I really liked the three dots as a simple non-verbal way to assess what
interests people the most. I felt more encouraged by this meeting, less
overwhelmed by the vague possibilities ahead for us. It felt as if there
was more room for humour, which I find always lends itself to warmth and
intimacy in a group.
- Over all I think the planners did a great job...there was interaction,
conversation, singing, some silence, some physical movement. I think that
for the second time it was quite fine.
- Could we have people singing alto or parts close to each other?
I'm sure some people would be able to sing parts if they had other voices
to follow. Otherwise, it's hard for people to keep their parts. Also,
could we have someone/something that could somehow help us keep the beat?