by Linda Hart Kochman
A wild campion flower that bloomed in an arctic meadow when mammoths and woolly rhinoceros walked the Earth offered me hope in a difficult time, and I believe she offers hope and guidance for our struggling world today.
Within her delicate white petals and slender dark green leaves is a dramatic tale. She died in the late Pleistocene age 32,000 years ago, stored in an arctic squirrel’s burrow on the banks of the Kolyma River in far eastern Siberia, buried by windblown silt of the ice age, captured in frozen ground 125 feet below the surface of the Earth. Now, she is reborn, having been resurrected by Russian scientists.
When I laid eyes on the little arctic flower in The New York Times, 2.20.2012, I felt ancient memories stir. She entered my consciousness as I stood on the doorway of my sixties weary from months of chemo, surgery, and radiation for breast cancer, thankful for life. Her translucent white petals reminded me of long forgotten dreams. As she was recovered from the frozen dark depths, I would begin to delve into my inner world, my frozen dark depths, and rise naked to buried grief, which helped me to let go of my past and be more alive to the present.
I imagine the ancient flower’s mythical story. Dying in a long-ago cycle of life on Earth, she has returned from the underworld to show her beauty and strength to our world in 2012, the year the Mayan’s predicted the end of a great cycle and the beginning of a new cycle of Life on Earth. She embodies yin and yang, male and female; and she is here to guide us as we learn to not fear the mammoths of our time but to join together in a river of compassion and bear witness to the many stories of pain and suffering.
As I learn to gently hold my own suffering, I have also opened to bearing witness to the suffering in our world, believing this to be a key component to freeing our future. In December 2017, I joined an online global-local community, One World Bearing Witness, a 24-hour healing vigil for humanity, witnessing both the beautiful and the ugly in our cultural humanness (video). As I lay down to rest after these 24 hours, my mind’s eye offered extraordinarily joyful and rich images of many, many acts of compassion throughout time – from the simplest kindnesses to courageous acts – each one equal to the miracle of an ancient meadow flower.
There are many other campaigns of awareness. Three that have deeply touched me: One Billion Rising, founded by Eve Ensler in 2012 as part of VDay, brings women, children, and men together annually in flash mobs around the world to dance and sing and to end sexual violence against women and girls (video).
Thousands of U.S. veterans traveled to Standing Rock in 2016 to help protest the Dakota Access Pipeline; and to kneel before their Native American brothers and sisters, asking forgiveness for the many cruel injustices we have committed against this land’s native peoples (video).
A community in Montgomery, Alabama, has worked with the Equal Justice Initiative, collecting soil from the sites of lynchings. EJI’s new Legacy Museum displays more than 800 jars of soil from lynching sites across the country, while close by the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened this spring 2018, offers a six-acre site containing 801 six-foot hanging steel monuments, each holding names of the lynched, male and female, – over 4,000 victims – recognizing our horrendous brutality that stripped away black people’s dignity and lives (video).
Loss and Discovery
Currently, there is much focus in our country on Russians sowing discord in our land. However, we, not the Russians, ultimately created the divisiveness that perpetuates discord. As an individual, I am learning to be mindful of my own internal discord because I know buried pain is poisonous to my relationship with myself and others.
I return my thoughts to our humanness and the ancient flower buried in the frozen dark depths of Siberia, brought to life again by Russian scientists. The petals of the flower hold a story of discovery and loss. What a shock it must have been to family, friends, and colleagues when scientist David Gilichinsky, who led his team in the discovery of the flower, died unexpectedly of a heart attack just days before the world would learn of the flower. What awe and delight scientist Svetlana Yashina and her team must have experienced as they carefully tended to the placenta from the flower, saw the collective fruit of their knowledge and care bring forth the wild campion’s first green shoots, the first bud, and then…a blossom! After 32,000 years! I marvel at the scientific accomplishment of these Russian men and women who collectively and individually contributed to the rebirth of a flower that encompasses life, the universe, and everything.
A New Story
Perhaps the rebirth of the flower offers us a new story, where we walk together through our divisiveness, our past and present suffering; and we remember the claim of both science and ancient wisdom: we are interconnected. The simple ancient Siberian meadow flower with its translucent white petals is not an object but wholly connected to us, as are the meadows, rivers, and mountains, and all the colors of our humanness. Writing this to you, I hope to offer both you and me the miracle of the flower, and the miracle of our diversity and our unity.
Linda Hart Kochman
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