I was absolutely tickled when my daughter, Jessica, asked me to help her with an Environmental Politics project. Not only would it focus on SoulCollage®, one of my passions, but she had requested special permission to use a different research idea than those suggested by her professor. I find that kind of creative thinking pretty cool. But, then, I think she’s a pretty cool kid.
From finger painting and Play-doh as a toddler to crayons, markers and watercolor in elementary school and later to SoulCollage®, Jessica has always been willing to try new things. We’ve always had an “art drawer” at our house and an evening at the kitchen table creating was a favorite way for us to spend time together. I believe it has become a form of self-expression, self-understanding, even a way for Jessica to visualize her future.
Rather than putting words in her mouth, though, I decided to ask her to write about her experience with SoulCollage®:
“After much hounding from my mother, I decided to give SoulCollage® a go. As I struggled through my first card, I had an end product that I was proud of. Since then, I have used SoulCollage® as an outlet when I am going through different parts of my life, whether those moments are happy, sad, confusing, or exciting. The process of creating and reflecting on cards provides insight into the things I want to be or should be doing in my life. Having the opportunity to incorporate artistic expression into a political science class is what is so great about a liberal arts education.”
Well, the girl is not only creative, but candid. “Hounding”, I say, is simply a persistent belief in the extraordinary value of the subject being hounded. And if that means sharing what is valuable, joy-filled, insightful, soulful…call me a hound. 🙂
I am sharing Jessica’s research paper in its entirety and an appendix with cards and reflections that follow. This mother/hound gives it an A+.
“Using SoulCollage® to Analyze Thoughts on the Environment”
By Jessica Gehr, Nebraska Wesleyan University
SoulCollage® is an artistic collage process that uses intuition to guide creativity. Each collage card represents an aspect of one’s personality or Soul. The cards are used to intuitively answer questions and participate in self-discovery. Each cards contributes to one’s understanding of their personality, their family, community, world, dreams, symbols, and one’s Spirit. To SoulCollage®, one intuitively gravitates towards images from magazines, then cuts out images. By moving around and fitting together images, one creates a collage on a 5×8 inch card. This is a multi-leveled, creative process which anyone can do. All that is needed is a good pair of scissors, glue, pre-cut mat board cards, and images from magazines, greeting cards, personal photos, postcards, catalogues, and calendars. Work can be done individually or in a group. It is not anybody’s place to judge another’s card, but, instead, reflect on what someone else’s card means in their own life.
There are certain elements included in the SoulCollage® process including freedom of artistic expression and the “I Am One Who…” exercise. This exercise includes a reflection, short or long, of the created SoulCollage® card. “I Am One Who…” is a SoulCollage® prompt used to speak from, not about, one’s card. Reflecting on the card created includes analyzing why one was drawn to certain images or how the collage as a whole contributes to deeper understanding.
Participants created a SoulCollage® card that represents the environment and/or how they feel about how humans interact with the environment. Participants could also take the prompt of the environment in whatever direction they chose. Creating the card individually, participants also contributed a “I Am One Who…” reflection on or summary of their environmental card.
SoulCollage® is an artistic and creative window to see other’s deep feelings. Collectively analyzing participant’s cards will provide insight into how other’s view the environment and human’s interaction with the environment. An analysis of the cards and people’s reflections show two contrasting views of the environment. These views are contrasting among and within people’s responses. The first sees and appreciates the Earth’s immense beauty. The second sees human’s negative impact on the Earth which is contributing to Earth’s death. Examining environmental views will provide understanding on how to change or propagate current awareness of the environment to develop environmental change and action.
Many contributors commented on the incredible beauty the Earth has to offer. Katie Hejl stated,
“I try to be aware of the barrage of glorious gifts bombarding my senses: the colors of the flora, both vibrant and subtle; the sounds of the fauna, sometimes symphonious, sometimes raucous; the scents, the breeze, the occasions when I’ve met the instantaneous temperature drop due to an incoming cool front (that really is a “cool” experience!) While I’m busy being mindful of all these remarkable gifts, they work their mysterious magic on my soul, on my intellect, on my body.”
Jodi Gehr bows her “head at the splendor of shades and shapes, the rebirth of nature through the sacred spirals of the seasons, the purpose and patterns that are sometimes evident and always sought after. Madison Hayward “enjoys the beauty that our planet has to offer. From the deepest parts of the ocean to the sky stretching as far as the eye can see, nature provides endless beauty and peacefulness. [And believes that] one must simply take life slow and enjoy these gifts.”
Joyce Schmeeckle sees the Earth as “vast and filled with beauty.” It is clear that these people are extremely aware of the beauty that the Earth provides. They try to be conscious of the beauty that surrounds them and never take that beauty for granted. Many note the importance of taking time to notice the beauty that surrounds them: being mindful of it in everyday life.
This positive view of the environment can be beneficial in trying to enact environmental change. Using political maneuvers that tug at the heart strings of those who are aware of Earth’s beauty is one way in which environmental change could be encouraged. Framing the environmental agenda in terms of Earth’s beauty could appeal to the emotional side inside all of us. Seeing the environment in all of its glory is a wonderful thing; however, it’s when Earth’s beauty is glorified so much as to assume it will go on forever that we are in trouble.
The contrasting view of the environment shows how aware contributors are to human’s destruction of the Earth. It also notes the need for humans to be aware of the impact on their Earth and the personal responsibility that results. Katie Hejl states that “apparently, our Mother (Earth) also isn’t too keen on the idea of raising that many babies. But here we all are and how we journey matters.”
Heather White truly believes “that we humans, who are in the process of destroying this planet as a habitat suitable for our own species–as well as many others–have the wisdom to reverse that process.” Joyce Schmeeckle writes as the Earth saying, “I represent the feminine but hang waiting for humanity to see the reality of who I am. Humanity sees me as timeless but time may be running out.” Erica Sternin also writes as the Earth remarking that “I am the one who grieves as the elephants are killed as the whales are tortured with sound, as the garbage gyres in the ocean expand. I love you all, and my body cannot take the strain. I’m dying.” Michelle Hedgecock writes as the Earth that “I am one who’s natural rhythms, resources, and habitats are manipulated, disrupted and exploited for eager encounters with those who are not a natural part of my wild existence.” In another one of her cards she comments “I am one who sees the value in one man’s action.” And the Earth is “one who must rely on the responsibilities of others in order to survive.”
Clearly, these contributors are not naïve that the Earth’s beauty is in trouble. They show not only is the Earth in detrimental trouble, but humans are a the center of the cause. Humans are not creating or implementing solutions to ensure Earth’s continuation. Humans see the Earth as timeless when, in reality, time is what the Earth does not have. Humans are creating an unsustainable population. Humans are disrupting and exploiting the Earth. Humans are causing strain on the environment. Humans have the responsibility to ensure Earth’s survival.
Propagating this view is also essential on the environmental agenda. Yes, the Earth’s beauty is wonderful, but this beauty will not continue because of humans. In the United States, 32 percent of people disagree with the statement “the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity” (Foster, 2014). Educating people on the reality of climate change and the state of the Earth is necessary to create any real change. To act, people need to be educated. In some cases, no matter how much science and data someone is shown, they still won’t believe climate change is a result of human activity. However, some people aren’t educated on the issue or the magnitude. To ensure environmental policy is at the forefront of the political agenda, it is necessary that education through public awareness is also at the forefront of the political agenda.
An analysis of eight different SoulCollage® cards and reflections presents an opportunity to learn how others see the environment. What is wonderful about the environment? What is bad about the environment? What consequences do my actions have on the environment? How can I contribute to change? These questions were pondered in the SoulCollage® process, and it is evident that contributors answered these questions in a deep and thoughtful way. It is necessary to be aware of Earth’s immense beauty. However, it is just as necessary (if not more) to be aware of Earth’s impending destruction due to human activity. Card makers recognize the importance of being mindful and responsible in our actions we take while on this Earth. An analysis of these cards’ meaning shows current outlooks of the environment. This is useful in developing strategies to implement environmental policy that creates real and meaningful change. This change is needed. And, it’s needed now. As Katie Hejl puts it, “May we ‘walk’ mindfully and hopefully.”
This card with a single image + quote probably appears way too simple, but for me it is laden with meaning. In it’s apparent simplicity, it represents what I know I need to do on behalf of the earth, as well for my own well-being: simplify. I’m working on it. Theme-wise, this ‘walking’ card is multi-layered. This Earth Day I consider both my literal and my figurative walk on this beautiful planet that is currently home to all I know and love. Next home? Don’t know much about that, yet. I’m just grateful to have companions who make the trek with me now. All the same, to be honest, I’m not so thrilled to have 7 billion companions by my side. And apparently, our Mother (Earth) also isn’t too keen on the idea of raising that many babies. But here we all are and how we journey matters. May we “walk” mindfully and hopefully.
So, I when I choose to meander (or power walk!) through my safe, manicured little pocket of this lovely Tree City, I pay attention, most of the time anyway. I try to be aware of the barrage of glorious gifts bombarding my senses: the colors of the flora, both vibrant and subtle; the sounds of the fauna, sometimes symphonious, sometimes raucous; the scents, the breeze, the occasions when I’ve met the instantaneous temperature drop due to an incoming cool front (that really is a “cool” experience!) While I’m busy being mindful of all these remarkable gifts, they work their mysterious magic on my soul, on my intellect, on my body. I become healthier and more committed to the well-being of this generous, selfless earth. And I become more hopeful that my co-walkers are doing the same. Perhaps a woman halfway around the world, who is also walking two miles, not to get her ‘steps’ in, but to collect and haul the water that is crucial to her family’s daily survival, will take in and cherish the beauty of her particular surroundings. And the multi-millionaire ski-tripper, or one on safari in the wilds of Africa, or one sailing around the world– I hope for his/her sake and Mother Earth’s that the experience of Nature penetrates, soaks in, inspires. Maybe the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University student, care-freely hiking the Camino de Santiago with classmates (SEE CARD!) will just “get it,” and know all their lives that how they journey on this planet is of utmost importance.
“I am one who” believes in the Divine birthing of our planet and the life-force that is poured out for us by our mere existence in this dynamic, evolving, growing, breathing earth home. “I am one who” exists as part of this environment, receiving the mysterious flow of energy and outpouring of nourishment with open hands. I bow my head at the splendor of shades and shapes, the rebirth of nature through the sacred spirals of the seasons, the purpose and patterns that are sometimes evident and always sought after. The waters of life flow through us—cleansing, renewing, blessing us with existence. Nature gives to us without hesitation. We are meant to receive it with awe.
I’ve named this card “We have the wisdom” because I truly believe that we humans, who are in the process of destroying this planet as a habitat suitable for our own species–as well as many others–have the wisdom to reverse that process. We know what doesn’t work, and therefore what we need to do. I believe love and wisdom are stronger than greed and machismo, but there can be no doubt that decisive action is needed to ensure they win.
Pictured on the card are several environmental activists. Dr. Jane Goodall is well known for her work as a primatologist. Today, at 80, she travels 300 days a year advocating for her beloved chimpanzees and the environment. Her Roots & Shoots program aims to educate the youngest generation about the environment.
The women in the middle are Pershlie Ami, a Hopi elder, and Mary Lyons, an Ojibwe elder, at the 2014 People’s Climate March, where 400,000 people participated. It seems pretty clear to me that had we American settlers followed the aboriginal example in only one respect, considering the seventh generation in every decision, it’s unlikely we would be facing a climate crisis today.
On the right is Tim DeChristopher, 33, who served 21 months in prison for bidding $1.8 million he didn’t have on 14 parcels in a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction. He attended the auction as a protester, not planning to bid, and was inspired to bid as the auction proceeded. The leases were later canceled, and the 14 parcels of land remain unexploited. While in prison, he was accepted to Harvard Divinity School. His website, bidder70.org, is named for his paddle number. At the bottom of the card is a Spirit Bear in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia.
I am one who enjoys the beauty that our planet has to offer. From the deepest parts of the ocean to the sky stretching as far as the eye can see, nature provides endless beauty and peacefulness. One must simply take life slow and enjoy these gifts.
I Am One Who is vast and filled with beauty. I represent the feminine but hang waiting for humanity to see the reality of who I am. Humanity sees me as timeless but time may be running out.
I am Earth. I am the One Who expresses cancer in your body as the Disease of my body, this Earth, is polluted and tortured. I am the one who grieves at the elephants are killed as the whales are tortured with sound, as the garbage gyres in the ocean expand. I love you all, and my body cannot take the strain. I’m dying.
Card Name: ECO-TOURIST. I am one who needs protection. I am one who’s on this planet is valued by many yet suffers in my most primitive needs. I am one who thrives on wild instincts so I may contribute to the survival of my species and the health of the planet’s cycles. I am one who’s natural rhythms, resources, and habitats are manipulated, disrupted and exploited for eager encounters with those who are not a natural part of my wild existence. I am one who is affected by those who love me and want to protect me, because they desire so much to be a part of my world in order to enhance theirs. I am one who has survived the pace of evolution, but is now failing to adapt quickly enough in an accelerated world. I am one who is loved by many, but is growing more alone.
Card Name: Desert Protector. I am one who sees the value in one man’s actions. I am one who sees our Earth Mother in the hearts of those who love and value the desert. I am one who is ancient and patient and determined to survive for future generations. I am one who must rely on the responsibilities of others in order to survive. I am one who cannot live without the desert. I am just like you.
Foster, J. (2014, July 22). Poll: U.S. Leads The World… In Climate Denial. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/22/3462690/us-number-one-climate-denial/
SoulCollage®. (2015, January 1). About SoulCollage®. Retrieved April 26, 2015, from http://www.soulcollage.com/about-soulcollage