"All flourishing is mutual."
-Robin Wall Kimmerer
My central question today is how would we govern our municipalities if we truly believed that “all flourishing is mutual”? What kinds of decisions would we make about who has access to the river, for instance? Pause for a moment and consider the effect that being in or near the river has on your body; few would disagree that this beautiful gift of a river is healing and soothing to the spirit. What if more people could develop a relationship with the river and become better resourced to give back to life?
They might become a more vibrant teacher to light up your kid at school or someone inspired by a vision to connect the generations and decrease loneliness - which might affect you when you age. Who knows where it might ripple to the benefit of all, especially our future generations?
Another example is the dearth of affordable rentals in this beautiful area so that people like me, who go from a double-wage earning household to a single one, are able to continue raising our kids in the same community where we have our established networks of connection and support. My 13-year-old reaches his friends by bike and forest footpath; come July, when I have already decided that my increasing rent of $2400/month for a two-bedroom is just too big of a pill to swallow, we may be obliged to move out of Chelsea. Knowing we live in a place where we could flourish if we fell upon less fortunate times changes how we relate to ourselves, each other, and this land. Our inherent interconnectedness has been left out of policy decisions at all levels and is a central reason why humanity is in our current state of disconnection and alienation, not to mention climate collapse.
The thing is, we can change that by beginning right here in our own communities.
Writer and cultural critic bell hooks writes of an imagined community where “... a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power." At some point in our lives, we all need a circle of hands to receive us. Knowing that, we can start by being that circle of support for less privileged, less ‘accessed’ (to water, to forest) others right now.
If not now, then when?
Abby Karos is a Chelsea resident, for now.