It was a warm and sunny morning when I arrived on-site to Live Oak Camp, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for a day of Regenerative Action.
But many of us attending were wondering, what is regenerative action? We would soon find out, on a full day of community building, stewardship of the earth, and learning by doing.
The Regenerative Action Day (R.A.D.) program was a continuation of Lucid University Courseweek; the learning program that’s been going on for several years at Lucidity. With this year’s theme of Regeneration Earth, it was appropriate that the program brought learning into action. The focus was on grounding and embodiment of our knowledge and values, truly and radically shifting our ability to Lucid Dream into the conscious lifeway of Lucid Living.
All of the RAD attendees met for an opening circle around 10 AM, where we introduced ourselves, our bioregions, indigenous territories of the land we live on, and what we are grateful for.
Jamaica Stevens, the cheery and energetic host of the day, guided us to drop into non-judgemental awareness of the space, listening to all the sounds of nature and being present. She then brought our attention to the fact that Live Oak Camp is Chumash native territory, and that the festival organizers have worked to foster a positive relationship with the Chumash.
Carmen Sandoval, a Chumash woman and representative, comes to the grounds and does a water blessing before each year’s gathering. Jamaica then guided us to give thanks to the trees, who are the grandmother guardians of the space and whom we would be working to honor and support during the weekend.
We learned that Live Oak Camp is almost exclusively occupied by older trees, and that it was very difficult for young saplings to establish themselves due to various factors, including heavy use and traffic in the space throughout the year. “How would you feel if you were a grandparent and you had no young ones running around,” asked Jamaica.
We learned that it is incredibly important for trees to be able to create offspring for future generations, but that they need the proper conditions to do so. From there we could clearly see our regenerative action for the day, which was to nourish and support the three hundred oak saplings that were planted a couple years back by the stewards of Live Oak Camp. But first, we would walk the land with program’s instructor Loren Luyendyk for some regenerative learning.
What Does Regenerative Action Mean?
Loren, a seasoned permaculture teacher and practitioner with a great sense of humor, a youthful spirit, loving eyes, and keen observation skills, helped us understand what regeneration really means. As the R.A.D. group walked the lush Live Oak Camp grounds, we stopped at various points as Loren asked insightful questions to the group and helped us develop our own skills of observation.
We stood in a circle surrounding a struggling, yet majestic Valley Oak tree hosting a bustling bee hive and blue belly lizard. Loren asked us to observe the tree and its surroundings for a bit, and then attendees were prompted to share what regeneration meant to them. “Sustainability,” one student piped up. Loren responded with something like, “Yes! And, also taking the step beyond sustainability and into harmony, abundance and thriving.”
A woman in the front contributed“Building healthy relationships!” I offered, “healing the damage that’s been done,” as another definition. “Working with nature,” chimed in another student in the back. Loren continued, “Working with nature, as nature.” We explored how humans are part of nature, and how indigenous folk across the globe live and have lived as integrated stewards of their ecosystems for millennia.
How Might We Begin to Regenerate?
Loren segwayed us into practical regeneration frameworks by asking, “Why might this oak tree be suffering, and how might we regenerate it?” We observed that the tree was surrounded by three roads, separated from its brother and sister trees.
He showed us with a shovel how hard it was to dig on the road, and how soft and fluffy the soil was closer to the tree. “The roots system gets compacted when it is driven over by heavy cars,” Loren explained, “and the compacted soil is unable to soak up water… the rain will just wash the soil away and it doesn’t soak deep down to the roots.” We learned that to support this tree, the area could be fenced off, part of the road redirected, and the soil planted with more beneficial fungi, microorganisms, and native species.
We all learned how important trees are in maintaining a healthy hydrological cycle, and that compacting soil and cutting down trees leads to desertification. I was personally stunned to learn that the entire central valley of California was once an incredibly lush swamp, and it was clear cut and drained for agriculture when Europeans arrived.
“The landscape in California used to look incredibly different before European colonization,” continued Lorin.“ Indigenous people across California did prescribed burns, which helped ecosystems regenerate and prevented catastrophic wildfires by recycling excess brush buildup. They tended and planted oaks, which provided an incredibly abundant and nutrient-dense food source: acorns.”
Regenerative Relationship With Nature
He pointed to the 25 foot tall and dying Valley Oak tree in front of us. “Valley Oaks used to grow to be 250 feet tall and wide. Can you imagine?” Now those tall oaks are few and far between, because we have lost our relationship with the land and the trees. Lorin concluded, “We’ve severed our relationship with nature. We need to regenerate our relationship with the Earth. ”
We continued walking the land as Lorin helped us understand how hydrology (the cycle of rain, evaporation, and flow) is essential to life and ecosystem regeneration. When water runs across baron lands, compacted soil, or land that only has plants with short roots (i.e lawns and annual grasses), it runs off site quickly, creating flood and drought.
The trick to regenerating the water cycle is to slow water, spread water, and sink water. Lorin shared with us the idiom “If the water is running, help it to walk. When it is walking, help it go to sleep.” Adding organic matter to soils, encouraging native plants and plants with deep taproots, and safe prescribed burn practices can all help to restore a healthy hydrological cycle.
After a yummy lunch provided by Salt & Soil, we grabbed our shovels, pitchforks, rakes and wheelbarrows and set off to work. Our task was to support the newly-planted oak saplings across the property. We added woodchip mulch to each tree, in order to help them retain moisture. We also planted three species of native perennial grasses provided by Noey Turk of Yes Yes Nursery.
Noey shared her deep knowledge and appreciation of native perennial grasses, which have deeper root systems than invasive European annual grasses. These deeper root systems help bring moisture deeper into the soil, and bring deep moisture up to the surface during dry months.
Along with trees…
These native plants act as sponges during dry summer months. We learned that the perennial grasses also have fungal relationships with trees, which helps not only support inter-plant communication but also moisture and nutrient distribution.
Noey also taught us that we don’t have to formally study ecology, permaculture, or any environmental science in order to do regenerative work. She helped show us that building relationships with plants and ecosystems can be as simple as developing deep observation skills, growing plants from seed to seed, and tending to local struggling plants in our communities.
A weed is just a plant we don’t know, and plants want us to know them as they weave themselves into our lives. It’s not as important to know everything about plants or ecosystems as it is to be an active participant and beneficial inhabitant of one.
After another delicious meal, we met in the evening with Jamaica for an integration and processing session. We sat in a circle and had a deep discussion on how to embody regeneration in our communities and in our own lives. There were some major transformative takeaways that we harvested from the discussion:
- We must humble ourselves to Mother Nature and always keep a beginner’s mind.
- We cannot ourselves regenerate an ecosystem, but we can help create the conditions for regeneration to occur.
- Regeneration does not mean fencing off nature and separating humans from the picture (although there are exceptions to this rule). Regeneration means being an integral part of nature, and merging ourselves with her cycles.
- Regeneration exists in all life; it exists in our bodies, in our communities, in our social constructs, in our building methods, in our economies, in all of our relationships.
- Practicing mutual care and community connection is a radically regenerative act. Practicing self-care and rest is just as important and radically regenerative.
- Regeneration exists on the edge between disruption and restoration; action and rest; stress and healing. Both sides of the coin are necessary for a healthy system.
- In the modern world, regeneration requires systemic change. Communication, education, disruption, cooperation, interconnection and play are all vital elements.
I was deeply impacted, uplifted and inspired by the Regenerative Action Day at Lucidity 2022.
As a two-time attendee of Lucid University programs, I felt honored to be a guardian and ambassador of the space as other attendees flooded in for the weekend. I put my knowledge to use and educated people kindly about how driving and parking underneath trees will degrade soil and tree health. I encouraged folks to learn more at workshops in the Altar of Earth. I gave thanks to the land we co-habitated and co-created for the weekend, and most of all I went home feeling refreshed, regenerated, and ready to take action.
Special shoutout and deepest gratitude to everyone who contributed to this year’s R.A.D. program, including but not limited to: Jamaica Stevens, Ksnea Doudin, Ash Tree, Allison Hensley Sexaur, Noey Turk, Loren Luyendyk and all of the absolutely RAD attendees who showed up and put their hands in the dirt.
Cover Photo by Jacob Avanzato