Stewardship of Sequoia Point, in the Oakland Hills, was recently returned to the Lisjan (Ohlone) people. Click here for the full story.

The past year has been deeply meaningful to me in unexpected ways. I am seeing the investment of the years I’ve spent putting out joy and love pay off in ways that make all the trials and tribulations on the journey worth it. It wasn’t all love and light, there were shadow times too. 

In my heart, what drives me is more than just a feeling or a desire for humans to find a way to revere what lies beyond what the eye can see. I aspire to help bring my audience — my clients and employees and my family — to a place where they can FEEL connected to the emotions behind creating beauty and why it is so important to our souls.  

Since we are vibrational beings, we are affected by our feelings about the why behind what we consume, whether it’s a gift we receive or an object we select for ourselves or our homes. This is true whether we consciously choose to see it, or not. This year, I am turning toward the reason behind the season to deepen my feelings about the holidays, rather than getting caught up in the status quo consumption model I know all too well.

Prayer and ritual help me connect to my knowing that I am of this Earth.

When I was about 14, my brother Tim burst my bubble about Christmas. He told me that before religion co-opted the Winter Solstice and turned it into Christmas, people had for thousands of years spent the shortest day of sunlight in ritual and celebration to honor Mother Earth. That day, a seed was planted in me. Now here I am, many years later, understanding on a deeper level what he was trying to say back then. 

I am profoundly drawn to the cultures of Native Americans for how they believe we should live in harmony with Earth and our ancestors. They integrate with the Earth and her seasons, and they understand that we are of it. A Ted Talk I watched recently by Native American Diné musician, scholar, and cultural historian Lyla June, taught me so much about that integration. I invite you to listen to it if you are called to learn more. It was worth the 12 minutes to have my mind blown.

A still from Lyla June’s TedX Talk, “3000-year-old solutions to modern problems” via YouTube.

What I understand about the foundational values of native tribes is how they used ceremony and ritual to celebrate the Winter Solstice. I suspect that is why I feel so called to broaden my knowledge of how we can integrate some of those values into our culture. I’ve become aware over the time I’ve spent taking part in and witnessing the impact that over-consumption, and abuse of our natural resources is unsustainable. I want to find a way to mend my relationship to this planet and fellow humans with love and forgiveness, and heal the harm I have been consciously or unconsciously complicit in. I am changing how to approach this season by celebrating Christmas but also by paying reparations to Native Tribes, The Lisjan (Ohlone) that lived here peacefully and in harmony with this land before colonialism stormed in.

Traditions can be beautiful, and adding new ones keeps life interesting.

In the spirit of giving and healing see below for various ways we can make small but meaningful changes to contribute to the Native People who thrived in these lands.

Lisjan (Ohlone) History & Territory
From For thousands of years, hundreds of generations, the Lisjan Ohlone people have lived on the land that is now known as the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area… Generation after generation, we have cultivated reciprocal relationships with the plants and animals we share this place with, and developed beautiful and powerful cultural practices that keep us in balance.

Shuumi Land Tax
The Shuumi Land Tax is a voluntary annual contribution that non-Indigenous people living on the Confederated Villages of Lisjan’s territory can make to support the critical work of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.

Learn more and make your contribution: The Shuumi Land Tax

While the Shuumi Land Tax is something I’ve just begun to learn more about, I do engage with other practices that allow me to contemplate my connection to Earth. Ceremony and ritual have played a part in humanity’s evolution for thousands of years.

The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck, the Untamed Elemental deck, and the Woodland Wardens deck.

Oracle decks have become more widely accepted in recent years, and can be used with light-hearted curiosity or with deep intentional practice as I use them. Contrary to what I once believed, they’re surprisingly fun, and it is uncanny how often the messages that come through parallel the happenings in my life. Usually, they affirm I am on the right track, or help me explore new perspectives. They can set an intention for the day.

A few of my favorites, themed in nature and the elements, are listed in the photo caption above if you are curious. They make great gifts, and when they are given, they hold even more meaning. I try to shop local as much as possible, and your local bookstore can order these for you if you don’t need them right away. I love Pegasus Books and The Raven’s Wing.

Written by Laura Martin Bovard. All photos by Laura Martin Bovard unless otherwise noted.