Monday, July 19, 2021

"How to Speak to the Earth": Remembering Frank Barney

 I was saddened to learn that Frank Barney, the founder of the Brushwood Folklore Center  in Chautaqua County, New York, passed away.  Frank had suffered from Parkinson's disease for a long time.

"Center" - the Labyrinth at Sirius Rising

How do you celebrate a visionary and brave life that touched so very many other lives? Whose ideas,  planted where he lived in rural New York,  took root and flowered into a place and community for thousands?  I am sure that Frank's family and extended community have found many ways to remember him - this is my own small addition to the "Ancestor Mound".

Sirius Rising Bonfire -
sending prayers with the
Frank and his family over the years, as they did for so many others, gave me a summer Home to return to, year after year,  as well as a warm and generous (and often eccentric)  community to create with in the woods and beauty of his land.   I never told him how much this often lonely wanderer appreciated it.   I feel so fortunate that I could have those "pagan summers" in Western New York, working at the festivals, building my Moss Garden shrine deep in the woods,  spending time with Frank and Darlene  and the  many people who came over the years to celebrate with ecstatic exuberance the land, Gaia, the Goddess and the God, the rising of the Dog star Sirius, the walking of the Labyrinth, the Summer Solstice, the recreation each year of little shrines and gardens at festivals like Starwood,  Sankofa and Sirius Rising, as they created big and little rituals, big and little bonfires, art and performance and music and much.   Brushwood was a refuge for me, a place of renewal.  

Drum Circle (which often went on all night long)

Brushwood - photo by Theresa Barney

I have posted this interview before, and here do so again, because it was with Frank, I believe in the summer of 2005.  And because what he had to say remains so vitally important - the truth of his roots in nature  that underlay all that he created, under the Celebrations, under the Rituals, under the art.  We were riding through the “village” that bubbles up  out of the ground when the big festivals happen.   It's like I used to feel with the Renaissance Festivals when I worked at Brigadoon, the festivals appear, then  disappear.   I asked Frank what it was like to live with a particular place since childhood, to raise your family there, to grow up within his environment of forests and meadows,  and eventually become  its caretaker and spiritual collaborator.    "How", I asked"do we speak with the Earth?"

Frank (who was a dowser as his father was) answered my question as he always did in  his own round-about way. He was answering in circles, literally, as we circled the grounds in his golf cart, looking at favorite trees, niches of shrines people had made,  feeling the geomagnetic intensities of various places, the “green breath” of the forest, that watchful "presence" I always feel among the trees.

Most of the voices of nature are small and delicate,he told me, “and can easily be silenced. They can be made invisible, or driven underground. And when that happens, people forget that they ever existed at all. Within a short time, they forget what it was like to live in such a rich chorus of voices, among so many stories, intelligences, lives.......and then  they’re living without them in a world that has lost not only that living  population, but also its mystery and vitality. An increasingly flat world with only human voices.  And that is not only a loss, but a peril. “

“If you violate a person, be it a child or an adult, they shut up. You silence them. They withdraw - although, with human beings, the energy of that violence is likely to erupt in some future way, in some future violence. Places, like people and animals, also have voices. Violate a place, like putting a Wal-mart parking lot over it, and all the voices that belong to that place leave.  The land is silenced. ”

“What I've been trying to do” he said, “for the past 30 years is to create a place that can facilitate communion with the Earth. By treating the land with respect, by acknowledging the presence of so many other intelligences, visible and invisible, that are evolving within the immanent cycles of life, right here, on the land. On this land, with all of its uniqueness. "

"And there are different ways we've accomplished that.  For example, because we didn't have much money, we couldn't do what many people do when they acquire a piece of land. Which is to come in with big machines that level and dominate the land, bulldoze it flat, force it to do what they want it do. We didn't have the financial means to do that, even if we wanted to, so Brushwood evolved gradually, organically, according to the dictates of the land, its contours and water ways and bumps and swamps and resources. And also its energy leys and vortices. 

We bring people here who have an earth friendly ethos and mythos. They can feel safe here, they can interact and create and explore without ridicule or hostility. They come here to connect, to play, or to heal. They can do ritual, make things like art or theatre or music, wear masks or costumes, dance, have discussions, make love, get naked in the sun or rain if they like, the children can ride their bikes or play in the mud - they feel safe. So the Earth can speak through them in all the things that they say and do."

'That’s how we talk with the Earth.
 We let the Earth talk through us.”

Erecting the Thunder Bird (2008)
Throughout the week long festival, prayers and intentions were collected,
and deposited in the Thunder Bird "messenger " -  similar to the ancient
Celtic  Lammas rituals  of the burning of the Wicker Man.

The path in the Brushwood woods I walked to sit in my "moss garden". I can see Frank 
walking down it, in my mind's eye, blessing and protecting and opening the way for 
all the people, like myself, who came there.   A true Green Man, showing the Way. 

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Photos of  Sirius Rising are by, and copyright,  Roy Jones


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lauren. I remember the lovely stories you shared with our mask class about your summers in the forest. Your sweet honoring of Frank’s life brings it all back.

❤️ Shari

Elizabeth Fuller said...

Beautiful, Lauren, and necessary to share again and again. It's been years since I walked in Brushwood, but I was right there with you and Frank.

Anonymous said...

Your moss garden still brings delight to the few who venture back that way.