It’s 11:00am on Thanksgiving Monday. I’m sprawled across my couch, semi-comatose, digesting ferociously. The morning’s low clouds have excused any serious activity so I’m cozying up with a mug of ginger tea and getting down to business. Tracy Chapman is turned down low in the kitchen. I’m wearing my thickest wool socks. Everything is in place for that post-feast marathon. Odds are, you can relate.
What might be surprising is the fact that I didn’t carve into an enormous dinner during the weekend. This year I’m bracketing my Thanksgiving with a trip to Seattle last weekend and one to Salt Spring Island next Friday. This weekend is a quiet interlude for me. What has me couch-bound is not a Thanksgiving meal but the enormous task of churning through Groundswell’s intellectual feast. The lectures and workshops in week five once again packed my mind and body with ideas to tease apart, mull over, integrate and absorb. I’m stuffed!
A single blog post can’t possibly give full justice to the depth and breadth of the material we covered last week. Each day filled pages of my notebook and hours of my thoughts. Monday’s full day anti-oppression workshop with Kalamity Hildebrant left me inspired and exhausted. I have such gratitude for their deft facilitation and the willingness of my fellow Groundswellians to compassionately hold each other accountable as we navigate and deconstruct systems of social oppression. Tuesday’s presentation by Itai Bavlion on growing up as a Kibbutznic enlivened my ability to imagine alternative modes of community social organization—‘juicy’ and otherwise. Again, I left feeling shaken out of my default understanding of what is possible and all the richer for it. Liz Lougheed Green’s practical advice that afternoon served as a perfect compliment to the morning’s conversation. Her wise suggestions regarding financing and organizational branding grounded my lofty ideas with pragmatic insight into the functioning of alternative-businesses in Vancouver. I’m continually amazed by the generosity of guests such as Liz to speak frankly about their rich personal experiences as social entrepreneurs. Wednesday evening’s presentation by Christina Ladhe and Violet Rose Pharaoh from East Van Roaster’s seamlessly continued these conversations. Their willingness to engage with the complex and muddy process of creating socially just business alternatives revealed an admirable bravery. It wasn’t just the delicious potluck spread that left me feeling warm and content as I biked home that night.
Although summarizing this week’s lessons and anecdotes is impossible, two themes appear to weave through my experience of the week’s conversations. First is a feeling of fullness that comes from hearing about the diverse work occurring in our communities. Second is a feeling of gratitude for the trusting willingness my fellow students and the wider Groundswell community to engage with challenging ideas, narratives, identities and social systems. A perfect Thanksgiving combination. I’ll be making sandwiches from these leftovers for weeks. But for now, please excuse me while I pull up this blanket and dim the lights. I think I need to sleep this one off. The Groundswell feast starts again tomorrow.