Back in Monticello, Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River where we are running the third residential learning session in collaborative leadership for a cohort of groups working to improve health in their communities.
The river is high here, and the channel is full. Downstream, in the rest of the United States, the Mississippi is challenging communities and families who are in a fierce struggle to learn how to live with the river’s whims, with the river’s power and its overwhelming desire to renew the floodplains that stretch away from the main channel.
Sitting by the river yesterday it felt right to offer a blessing to the water so that as it travelled it would use its fullness for good, and it occurred to me that at the end of this nine month period of training and working together, our participants are also full and ready to move out and do serious work. So the dialogue poem I wrote this morning, a harvest of the check in circle, was offered as a blessing to the river of leadership that was flowing through this room.
I have grown more open
to new ways of working and meeting
collaborating, fabricating ideas
I have a garden where I relax
and am relaxed about taking time
having fun while I get things done.
expanding myself settling myself
knowing you as friends, partners and allies
tend to what’s starting, the group that tries to change the world
starts the work.
The river connects us,
sends a shiver of recognition
through names that come down to us
between the banks,
a thanks that is my privilege to offer
to this little village.
This is a space of learning,
earning my knowledge in a community that cares
moving forward together further than I ever dared to go
on my own.
I am always asking, who is not here? What do we need to be clear?
Together we can act without fear.
The process is here
and the chance to mentor is at hand.
It’s a transition that is sad on the one hand
but I’m glad to use the ning thing and get face to face
to learn how much more we can do.
I have comfort and peace, sitting in this chair
much more aware of my triggers and cues
so I know it’s not just a brainwashing ruse.
Instead it seeps into my work,
creeps into my practice, charms and disarms,
I came here guarded and shy
but over time I have started to fly with new skills,
more at home than I ever thought I’d be
in the chaordic space of discovery.
My art has been liberated,
and I can draw on the inspiration of the heart.
Just to come and sit in a room of friends
is an end in itself. But a space that gives so much learning
is the space I have been yearning for.
I’ve learned to fit and use this space to reclaim sanity
that has eluded me in my daily life.
I was feisty when I arrived, wanting to bust through walls,
but now what calls is a gentle opening of doors
and I see so much more.
Your stories change me and my work. Change is good
and growth is inevitable, even though what we are doing is unexplainable,
people know it has worth.
Communicating and collaborating I’m more self aware,
living without fear,
whether tending bar and slinging beer, there is a resilient wealth
that comes in my work public health.
I’m hip to this flip in ways of working
with sedated conversation, co-created presentation,
Thankful and appreciative. I am no longer alone. These four I brought from home
mean the world to me. This has been like the blossoming of bulbs
the flowers reaching for the light through the occasional dump of snow,
always rising, always knowing that the spring is coming
that the flower will open and our power will rise into a glorious summer.
I am more aligned and intentional
more present and keeping a sentinel watch
over what old Swedes and Norwegians can do
posting statements on the doors that we will no longer go through,
and leaving notes about where else we will go, what else we will do.
My story has been one of complication,
each retreat has resulted in an emergency
some urgency that has resulted in surgery.
And that is true in community too, where we have focused on
what needs to be done…we can laugh now, but it isn’t always fun.
The truth is that we sometimes lose body parts that you can’t see,
we are working on invisible health disparities,
privilege and white supremacy channeling the energy
of discomfort from anger to resiliency, and working change to create opportunities
for long term change sustainability.
When I walked in here to see the circle
I knew the work was here, the task is to braid together
what we have made together, but I already grieve
for what we will leave behind when we go home,
and I don’t want to be alone.
I feel worthy to practice here.
The further I walk down the path of vague notions
the more I find oceans of possibility releasing into
In the car, we pool our learning, drink from the clear water
that we found in the place where we now ground ourselves
knowing that we can break patterns and do anything together.
Clarity and calm, and growing personally
has been a healing balm for me own growth and learning;
ideas rearranged by being with strangers
who are friends now and who chatter in the back of the van
that is speeding forward toward.
I can sit here through sun, rain and snow,
see the community that grows
from thirty kind hearts, sat beside a river that ever flows.