Call & Response

by Oct 30, 2020

In a functioning ecology, the dialogue
between wound and medicine
is ongoing; there is a call and
response always happening. 

Francis Weller

Do chickens or the eggs come first?
They do.  

Am I living or dying?
You are. 

So, it goes and goes. Call and response.

The birth of a child calls forward the response of parenting. In turn, nurturing parents make way for the health and growth of a child. Milk gets spilled, tempers lost, books read, cuddles enjoyed. Misunderstandings and confusion are inevitable. Each disruption leads to readjustment – one way or the other. Love persists. Call and response, the dialogue continues. All of it, sustenance for a family’s ecology.

So too, with the northern hemisphere’s call into autumn as the planet revolves to tilt us away from the sun. The leaves to slow their chlorophyll production, losing their green to other colors, and then falling from their branches. Quieted, the trees pull the energy of growth in for a rest – recharging for the next tilt back toward the sun, when buds and blooms will carry spring into summer. Round and round. Call and response.

And today, rancorous politics. A pandemic that’s feeling perma-demic. A struggling economy, especially for the people in the lower 90% of earning. Ongoing racial injustice and stubborn misunderstanding of the problem – of what racial justice really means.

Wound calls forward medicine. It’s happens all the time in the natural world. And we only exist because that’s what we are – part of the natural world. So, listen for the call. Watch for the medicine. Take your active part in the response.

There’s an ancient Aspen forest in Southern Utah. It covers about 106 acres and holds more than 40,000 trees. Each of those trees is born from the same root, so together they make up the world’s largest organism. This giant being is also very old – evidence indicates at least 80,000 years – maybe 1 million. To be that old means this single life has been through unimaginable change. From ice ages to incinerating fires, from bug infestations to today’s climate change-induced droughts.  Across those years, every wound has called forward the right medicine. The enormous pulsing root has remained secure below ground where nutrients and temperatures allow healing, rest, renewal and – when the circumstances above ground are right again – growth to push new Aspen. As a result of the reciprocity of change and stability, the world’s largest organism lives on.

For us humans, a big part of our ability to “live on” resides in that trust that the right medicine is always there. Think about everything you’re trusting right now, likely without even realizing. The air you’re breathing, the light revealing these words, the soil and water and seeds and labor that made possible every meal you’ve eaten in the past week. The craft that went into the room where you sit, the road where you stand, the bed where you sleep.

In the end it’s only our trust that makes it possible to see what we don’t trust so much. And this too, then, becomes a kind of call and response – a tie between the wound and the medicine. Inviting us to always walk on through. To keep our eyes on the prize.


NOTE: Check out the heritage of the phrase, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Wikipedia is actually a rich resource for this one – another story of connection – of call and response.