How I Was Reared through the Geography of Hope

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Photo Credit: Waimea Canyon, on the island of Kauaʻi. © Frank Schulenburg / CC BY-SA 4.0

It is not an exaggeration to say that the series of Geography of Hope conferences hosted by Black Mountain Circle guided me onto the path of living my soul’s work. I write this sitting in the apartment I just moved into, which overlooks a natural river flanked by large volcanic rocks full of weighty presence and a lush tropical jungle full of vibrant life on the island of Kauai. I came here to start a non-profit that truly honors nature and people, with a soul-family sister-friend. I would not have met her, nor would we be here now, literally, if it weren’t for the life-changing catalytic magic of the Geography of Hope conferences.

A few months after I moved to Point Reyes, when I was about to attend my first Geography of Hope conference in March 2011, the major earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster happened. Being from Japan, I was struck by a feeling of deep anguish larger than that concerning myself or my family and anyone I know closely, though fortunately no one I knew well was affected directly.

I felt tremendously held—in heart-full sympathy and empathy extended toward me and my country of origin—at the Geography of Hope conference during those days of shock. Even though I was still new in town and didn’t know that many people, I was treated with care, as though I were a beloved family member in grief. I can still recall the warm hugs Steve Costa always gave me.

That the theme of the conference was “Reflections on Water” somehow did not seem coincidental in my deep-feeling state. I felt the reverberation of the catastrophic effects of the tsunami waters that took lives away, and the water that gave hope as seawater used to cool the nuclear reactors. In the mysterious ways that human consciousness sometimes steers events unknowingly in a prophetic direction, the choice of the theme of the conference for that year seemed to me a manifestation of unconscious genius by Steve and Kate Levinson unknowably pre-sensing the deep currents of universal timing. Later when I learned their personal history involving a tragedy—as a reason behind them moving to Point Reyes, buying the Point Reyes Bookstore, and starting Black Mountain Circle—I knew that these undertakings were expressions of their deepest soul purpose and service. When people bring such deeply felt intentions to their efforts, it seems to invoke mysterious forces to open their doors, bringing in unfathomable results.

The magic of Geography of Hope conferences kept going. At the 2015 Geography of Hope, “Women and the Land,” and the 2017 “Ancestors and the Land: Our Past, Present, and Future,” I was bathed in influences that spoke eloquently to the deepest notes in my being. Without me knowing it at the time, these influences formed the course of my future. Most notably, at the 2017 conference, I met Ilarion “Kuyuux” Merculieff, a traditionally raised elder from the Aleutian Islands. I sought him out after I heard a pre-conference radio interview where he spoke about the significance of Indigenous languages in relation to the land—that they actually carry the vibrations of the land. This provided illumination for an inexplicable experience I had at the 2015 Geography of Hope conference. When I heard Ilarion address something I could not find any scientific explanation for, it was as if a light found the dark back corner of a room I had been struggling to make out the shape of.

I was also profoundly impacted by Winona LaDuke and Lyla June Johnston, and was fortunate to have a personal interaction with Winona and experience her enfolding maternal caring.

Little did I know that I would end up working to spread the wisdom of Indigenous peoples after these experiences at the Geography of Hope. After I volunteered at the gathering of Indigenous elders from around the world on Kauai that Ilarion organized later that year, I went on to work for the Wisdom Weavers of the World organization that Ilarion co-founded. More than just an interest or a job, much of what I learned and got exposed to at Geography of Hope conferences and other Black Mountain Circle events became the base fabric of my entire way of being.

I am currently starting a new phase of my life, all aspects of which can be traced back to the Geography of Hope conferences. I met the friend I will be co-creating the projects with through meeting Ilarion, as she was the co-founder of the Wisdom Weavers. We will be working on projects that uphold the values and perspectives that Geography of Hope and Black Mountain Circle sought to disseminate.

If anyone asks if Steve, Kate, Kamala Tully, Kailea Frederick, and others’ labor of love was successful or impactful, I can honestly answer that I am a living example of their success. And that I owe the tremendous fortune of living my true, soul-aligned life to their efforts. My expression of gratitude to them is my continuing in their footsteps.

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  • Piro Hiroko Ishizaka

    Piro Hiroko Ishizaka was originally made of water and elements in Japan. Having perceived extraordinary expressions by nature, she seeks to bridge the divide between humans and nature as sentient existence in the way indigenous peoples experience/d nature.

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