Earlier this year I travelled to Brazil with my partner to explore his homeland and get to know his family. It was my first time meeting his parents, sister and nephew, who all lived together in close confines in a brightly-lit apartment in Rio.
Every night, after a day of sightseeing, Greg and I would head to the family apartment for dinner and be received with joyful fanfare. There were long hugs and elated faces, and, despite my Portuguese being as dismal as their English, hours and hours of spirited conversation. I immediately felt at home, like I knew these people intimately and had shared meals with them before. On one particular night, I had this vision of roots extending from the table where we sat, all the way to my family’s table in country Western Australia, and then to Greg and I’s table in our home in Melbourne.
It was a potent experience of belonging that connected me to a broader web, and to myself. I was particularly struck by how seen I felt, and how animated I became among these people I barely knew. It was like I had been elevated by the kindness I was shown and moved to mirror it back. I’d leave each dinner feeling more and more full, and not just around the waistline.
As I reflected on these experiences in light of this issue of Dumbo Feather, I started to see that belonging is about encountering the self within an ecosystem. It’s hinted at in the etymology of the word: a longing to be. When we feel safe and held by the environment, we arrive in ourselves, and are then free to connect deeply with who and what’s around us. There is a dance that happens here between the “I” and the “we”—and in its ideal state, each is helping the other to flourish. That’s what I experienced around the dinner table in Rio, and it’s what I experience every time I feel like I belong, whether it’s in my workplace or out in nature alone.
This issue is full of ideas and wisdom for how we can create social structures that foster this relationship between self and ecosystem.
It’s asking how we can walk back to one another as a species, and how we mobilise—as John Paul Lederarch puts it—“around dignity and compassion, rather than gut reactions to protect and defend.” It’s not only a celebration of 60 issues (and 15 years of Dumbo Feather), it’s a celebration of the best of who we are, and the best of who we can be together.
With love, Nathan.
To purchase Issue 58 of Dumbo Feather, go to our online shop, or head to your local retailer.