Tapestry Institute

Burning Through the Roots, Introduction

This paper was prepared for “Cosmos, Nature, and Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference”, July 18-21, 2009, in Phoenix, AZ, USA a program of the Metanexus Institute.

Abstract.  Sowbelly is a sacred canyon high on an edge of the Northern Great Plains. I first met it in 1974.  Thirty years later, to my surprise, I was called there to create a teaching facility for the organization I had founded and still led at that time. Two years after, in 2006, the canyon burned.  This wildfire fulfilled the very Dream that had led me there to begin with, though of course I only realized that once I found myself in the dreamscape, awake.  It turned out I'd been wrong about why this Land had called me:  it was not to found a facility, but to bear witness to a wildfire and the Story it told.  The Canyon was our Elder, beloved teacher and guide, and for fifteen months after the fire, we struggled to learn from its continuing wisdom.  That became harder and harder in the face of mounting pressures from the culture around us.  At the end of that time, we lost Sowbelly and had to leave it forever.  But its vision lives on, as does the Story it gave us with the last, tenacious strands of its life.  This is that Story.  It is one of fire burning through the roots of the trees, underground.  Those underground fires were and are living stories.  Eventually, firefighters put out the particular fire that burned Sowbelly Canyon.  But the Land is still burning, underground, there and all over the world.  The trees hold hands through their roots in the darkness of Earth that is deeper than soil, deeper than human culture, old enough to be thick with dust but every bit as young and as hot as red-streaming lava.  And the fires still burn from one to the other, tree to tree, stone to stone through the dark there -- the fires and the stories that feed them.  Burning to be heard.  If you would live, listen.

Author's Bio.  Dawn Adrian, Ph.D. (Choctaw) is founder, first president (1998-2007), and Vision-Keeper of Tapestry Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization that reconnects people to the earth by integrating different ways of knowing, learning about, and responding to the natural world. She has been awarded 5 National Science Foundation grants for science education research and Indigenous science.  She held numerous positions in the Templeton Science-Religion Course Program after founding Tapestry, including Southwest Regional Director and Award Judge.  Adrian holds a doctorate in vertebrate paleontology from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Master's degree in Systematics and Ecology and Bachelor's in Geology from the University of Kansas.  She has been on the faculties of Presbyterian College and Baylor University.  Adrian founded Tapestry in 1998.  She now pursues writing full-time and is presently finishing a book about wildfire in contextual perspective, based on Tapestry's experience with wildfire in 2006.  Two years ago the organization relocated to New Mexico, where she presently lives near Santa Fe.  Her adult son, Harrison Adams (Qiu Lisen), is an Asian scholar living and working in China. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and of Choctaw, Chickasaw, and mixed European descent.


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