Ceremony for the Land We Thought We Knew

Story Info

Omega EEx 2019

Story & Experience

Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, has been offering programs in creative expression, healing and health, and mind-body-spirit practices for more than forty years. Thousands of people have had life-changing experiences on those grounds, both because of the people they’ve met and what they’ve discovered about themselves.
There is another, sadder story about the land that is now Omega that we learned about and honored yesterday.
From May 27-29 three members of the Radical Joy for Hard Times board of directors, Polly Howells, Liz Kashinsky, and Harriet Sams, and I came to Omega as one of eighteen nonprofits chosen to participate in the Strengthening Communities Summit, an opportunity to meet, free of charge to plan, deepen, and envision our work. We also planned to do an Earth Exchange, our practice at all our annual meetings.
However, we didn’t know the focus of this year’s ceremony until we met Sachem (Chief) HawkStorm, chief of the Schaghticoke First Nations and a direct descendant of the great Wampanoag Chief Wasanegin Massasoit. Then everything unfolded.
We met on the lawn outside the Omega dining all and began by inviting the nine people who attended to share what they loved about Omega. Then Sachem HawkStorm told the story of what had happened to his ancestors. In 1744 white colonists massacred the native people there. Those who survived were displaced. After hearing the story, everyone took a few minutes to spread out over the land and looking for one object that represented the beauty of the place and one to represent the sorrow. These objects we brought back to the circle and shared, along with our stories of what they told us. Finally, we all worked together to create the RadJoy Bird out of the found materials.
Since we had only half an hour between breakfast and the first meeting of the day, this ceremony was abridged. And yet, it was profound, showing us yet again that there are so many ways to acknowledge both the beauty and the tragedy of a place and to give back to the Earth that has given so much to us. Hearing HawkStorm’s story did not in any way detract from the magic of Omega; it deepened the reality of the place and gave us a sense of the people who had walked that land before us.
—Trebbe Johnson


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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.

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