“I am Cloud. I’ve been big, and I’ve been small. I’ve dissolved and been re made many times. I think the humans could stand to dissolve a few times, and it is unwise for them to resist this...

It was hard to identify with Cloud because sometimes (a lot of the time?) Cloud isn’t in a form I would recognize as a cloud. Sometimes in rainwater and sometimes mixed in with other beings - what is Cloud when they’re not being a Cloud? Do they remember that time? How do they feel about it? What language would Cloud use to describe this process?”
Participant, Imagining City in a Forest

Welcome to our multispecies council

How might our imaginations help dream into being other possible worlds? A City in a Forest? Little Forests?

It’s 2044. I welcome you to our gathering of a multispecies Council of all Beings¹ in the gichi-oodena (city) known as Katarokwi. Katarokwi lives on the shore of Niigani-Gichigami (“Leading Sea” Lake Ontario) the source of Gichigami-ziibi (St. Lawrence River) and at the mouth of the Katarokwi-ziibi (Cataraqui River).

Twenty years ago, back in 2024 (for some of you I know this is ancient times, for others just a tiny blip in your lifespan), the beings of the more-than-human world – including Aki (soil), Nibi (water), Mitigwakiing (forest), mitigomizh (Oak), aninaatig (Maple) along with all of the photosynthesizers, the food providers, the processors, the consumers, the recyclers, and Gichigami-ziibi herself collectively called for humans–their younger siblings–to learn the art of reciprocity from the original peoples of this land.² We challenged the humans–those they call the two-legged ones–to work with us to create a flourishing future where we would not just survive, but thrive.

I welcome and celebrate each of you for bringing your wisdom to this Council, acknowledging that some of you (like the manidooshag) are great-great-great-great-great-great descendents of the convening members.

I am going to ask you to share a little bit about yourself and your experiences in this small (or for some of us immense) patch of the City in a Forest we grew together as a result of our 2024 gathering. What is it about this Little Forest, this place of wonder and connection, that makes you feel at home? 

Who is the Self you are bringing into the Council?

Let another life-form occur to you, one whom you will represent at today’s multispecies Little Forests gathering. Relax and let yourself be chosen by the life-form that wishes to speak through you. Perhaps a plant. An animal. An insect. A water body. A rock. A being not yet known in this place. Often the first being that comes to mind is the one who is right for you at this moment. Allow yourself to be surprised by the being who comes. Once your being comes to you, visualize them fully and from every angle. Their size. Their shape. Their ways of moving. The sounds they make. Their kin. Request this being’s permission to enter them, so you can imaginatively sense their self from within.

Ask yourselves: “What is happening to me as this being here, in this Little Forest, today in 2030? What do I see? How do I feel? What can I taste? Smell? Hear? What do I dream of? What brings me joy? What other senses help me make sense of my world? What is my life like? My days? My nights? Who are my relationships with other beings in this place? How do I shelter in, receive sustenance from, raise my family in or move through this Little Forest? What would I like to tell the two-leggeds? What wisdom do I have to share as this being?”

Listen inside yourself for the answers to these questions. NOT what you think the answers would be; imagine the answers, feel them in your heart, in your gut.  Ask the being how they wish to be represented. A drawing. A poem. A movement. Other possibilities.

“To listen is… to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.”
David G. Haskell

Role call of assembly of beings

One by one, let’s introduce ourselves as our being (e.g. “I am Cloud. I’ve been big, and I’ve been small. I’ve dissolved and been re made many times.") Refer to humans as “they” or “the two-leggeds”. Feel free to let your being express themselves in any way they’d like – including movements or noises.

I invite you to share a little bit about yourself and your experiences in this forest of imagination, wonder, and multispecies relationship.

Imagine a love so immense - Harold R Johnson - The Power of Story

Learning from Kawsak Sacha (The Living Forest)

What can we learn, as we continue to imagine City in a Forest, from Kawsak Sacha (The Living Forest)?

Kawsak Sacha
Image: Kawak Sacha by So Zapato

"Kawak Sacha (The Living Forest) is a proposal for living together with the natural world that grows out of the millennial knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples who inhabit the Amazonian rainforest... Kawsak Sacha recognizes that the forest is made up entirely of living selves and the communicative relations they have with each other. These selves, from the smallest plants to the supreme beings who protect the forest, are persons (runa) who inhabit the waterfalls, lagoons, swamps, mountains, and rivers, and who, in turn, compose the Living Forest as a whole. These persons live together in community (llakta) and carry out their lives in a manner that is similar to human beings."

¹ Adapted from a practice known as “Council of All Beings” that comes from the body of work known as The Work That Reconnects. The original version of this practice was created by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown. Learn more about the Work That Reconnects.
² With gratitude to the teachings and wisdom of Indigenous peoples. "Indigenous story traditions full of cautionary tales about the failure of gratitude. When people forget to honour the gift, the consequences are always material as well as spiritual. The spring dries up, the corn doesn’t grow, the animals do not return, and the legions of offended plants and animals and rivers rise up against the ones who neglected gratitude.” Robin Wall Kimmerer