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Community, Nature and Culture

Mbali Marais
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Sowing The Gifts We Reap- Angelique Michaels, Trainee Leader
This month has been one of planting and of sowing seeds, and for me personally, one of remembering the value of community and connection.
On July 15, Return to Origin hosted its annual fundraiser and we, trainee leaders of the organisation’s Indigenous Knowledge Leadership Program, being myself, Arnoldt Michaels and Lindsay Burch, had the opportunity to exercise charge and assume responsibility for the processes and operations leading up to it. In preparing for the fundraising market, I came to know some of what it takes to keep a good thing going; some of what it means to keep facilitating and making possible the work with community and youth that inspires the organisation’s projects and initiatives.
The days leading up to the event caste some light on my own inclinations for structure, order and classification. The dividing line separating nature and culture is an indistinct one, and the boundaries between these themes and everything created and existent, are porous indeed.  And if nature itself is an expression of the inner and the outer, of the essence of things and of the element that encompasses all others, connects and moves through all things, how could anything be severed from it?
Through this, and in reflecting on my own ways of being, my everyday practices and thought processes, I am reminded of the teachings that can be found in everything, for those ready to receive them. Teachings that can be found in the dreams we have when consciousness surrenders its need to control, teachings in the fleeting moments when we transition from one thing to the next; teachings in the animals who visit us, in the words of others, and in our responses to them. Teachings in movement and stillness; teachings in little victories and glorious mistakes. Teachings in all things for those who listen.

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“Everything flows on and on like this river, without pause, day and night.” Arnoldt Michaels Trainee Leader
When Confucius uttered these words while standing on the bank of a river more than 2500 years ago, he not only encapsulated my experience of the month of July perfectly, but also acknowledged one of Life’s greatest and eternal truths.
As July was filled with non-stop action and activity for me, I at first felt like I was thrashing in the rapids on the upper reaches of this river, yet I soon came to understand that time waits for no-one;
Nature was my teacher by simply showing me the way in which weeds could rapidly take over my garden if I didn’t maintain things continuously.
“You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”
Drawing from this, I found that I could ease my stress and pressure by calmly focusing on one detail at a time as they arose. This allowed me stop thrashing in fear of drowning and calmly begin to float down the river, simply enjoying the beauty of the journey; transforming panic into peace.
It was with this realisation that I began to take joy in preparing for Return to Origin’s Nature Meets Culture Market… putting the “fun” back into fundraising!

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This event itself brought much insight as I saw the various members of our greater community come together and got involved to each contribute in some way or the other.
It is exactly this sense of community involvement that lies at the heart of Return to Origin and the work that we do! I would, therefore, like to express our immense gratitude to all those that contributed with their donations, support and patronage to make this event a success.
Thanks to your assistance we were able to visit the community at Vrygrond three days later on Mandela Day, honouring Tata Madiba’s legacy and memory by planting trees with the youth there; doing our small part to bring Nature’s healing presence back into this community that is all too often beset with violence.

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Visiting Vrygrond and spending time and energy in service to the youth and community there has served as a reminder of the importance of the work that we do, and further strengthened my resolve to continue in all our projects.
And thus the river joins the sea…
Together we come in unity!
Amandla! Our Community!

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