Planting a magical garden in our minds

Seeding regenerative culture between two rainforests

From a small-town café in Ecuador’s Pastaza province, our friend and teacher Flavio Santi patiently waits for a connection to reach our circle through Zoom. On this Saturday in July, he has travelled from his family’s home — the Amazanga community in the Amazon rainforest — to be with us onscreen and in spirit, as he has for many weekends now. As a father, healer and lifelong guardian of the jungle, Flavio’s mission on this day is to share ancient teachings passed down to him by his grandfather, Virgilio Santi of the Ayuy Yu clan. This family name means People of the Palm in the Indigenous Kichwa and Shuar languages — the original languages of the prophecies that have been with his family for more than 16,000 years.

Flavio Santi expresses his joy and gratitude as he meets online with our circle of friends in the North.

Flavio lives in the jungle with his children, his mother Lucila Vargas, and his father Rafael Santi. Through Flavio’s work, and travelling to the North to spread his teachings, he has been following his life’s purpose of re-buying his ancestral lands. These lands have been stolen many times by the government, colonizers, corporations, mine and oil companies and the military. Flavio has been able to accomplish part of his mission, but currently owes $38,000 USD to the Ecuadorian government to reclaim their lands from the military.

Alongside these struggles, Flavio and his family live much as their ancestors did, in harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds. The Ayuy Yu clan’s teachings are more urgent than ever for us as humans, and for more-than-human beings everywhere on the planet. Flavio has another lifelong purpose to reunite the North and the South so the Eagle and Condor will fly together again; the purpose of our circle over the coming months is to learn the significance of this vision so we can begin to share it.

A hemisphere away, we gather on lands stolen from the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples by the British and Canadian governments, forestry companies, oil companies, and other industries. Today, three people in our circle are joining the call from home, one is away on a spiritual retreat, and four of us are hosting the call in person at the coFood Collaborative Garden.

This unique Vancouver gathering place is where Living Systems Network carries out the work of seeding radical systems change by sharing tools for regenerative culture. This summer, a group of us from this Network are collaborating to imagine and actualize many different ways of nurturing regenerative culture. In our medicine circle, we recognize that ancient wisdom and healing arts support us in regenerating our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits as we transform our collective relationship with the Earth.

Just 170 years ago, what is now a small parcel of urban land once was home to hemlock, fir, crabapple and cedar in the coastal, temperate rainforest. Here in the North, we see a similar history and current events that also reflect the realities of Flavio’s home in the South. Here, colonizers have also destroyed homes and habitats to make way for settlement and industry, displacing, exploiting and killing many Indigenous people who have always lived here and cared for these lands. Today, two neighbours make this space available for the community to steward together. In five years, through radical and collaborative labours of love, a couple of vacant lots have re-emerged as a vibrant ecosystem populated by flora and fauna, and we humans who care for this habitat.

(In a series of blog posts by Diane Lefroy, we have much more to say about how the coFood Collaborative Garden has been coming into being.)

An outdoor image of three people — Tzunki, Laya and Llushan—gathered around a long table at the coFood Collaborative garden, with computers, underneath a white shelter.
Carmen Contreras, Lori Snyder and Laura Cisneros gather under a shelter in the coFood Collaborative Garden on a rainy and sunny Saturday in July.

In our circle, we’re now accustomed to what we used to think of as technical difficulties. While we wait for Flavio to join us (sometimes for an hour or two), we share tea, stories from our lives and cultures, medicine and ceremonies. We change our onscreen names to reflect the spiritual names Flavio has dreamed for us in his own languages, and we have learned to call one another by these new names. They are our protection from destructive forces, and they are integral to the unwritten stories that have come to Flavio through oral tradition by his grandfather Virgilio and a group of medicine women — Maria, Cristina, and Clementina.

Since the age of three, Flavio experienced these stories with great excitement, and he tells us they were his action and adventure movies… long before technology allowed us to connect through satellites in near space! Until recently, the teachings were dormant inside him, waiting to come to life in the world again. He has told us several times that he was like a sleeping tree, and that he is overjoyed to be coming to life again, doing the work he was always meant to do. Hearing these stories, we are also transported to a world without movies, and where a magical garden comes to life in the joining of our minds.

Knowing we are a part of this work seems to be awakening a unique power in each of us, and together we are uniting to form a hermandad — a Spanish word for sisterhood and brotherhood, and (I like to say) kinship. We use this word to describe the community we are intentionally creating together, uniting people across different cultures, genders, ages, spiritual traditions and many unique backgrounds. Hearing these ancient stories, I reflect on the incredible ways we are using the languages of colonizing forces to decolonize our relationship with the Earth, and how fortunate we are to have two remarkable translators in our midst. As he speaks, Flavio translates ancient prophecies from Kichwa and Shuar into Spanish, which is the first language spoken by four people in our circle. Laura Cisneros listens closely, taking notes for long periods of time before speaking Flavio’s words to all of us in English. A conscious dreamer, Laura spends four hours listening and translating on this particular day, navigating richly storied spaces between the material and the dream worlds.

Of the many teachings Flavio shares with us today, there’s one that especially fills us with awe and hope: He tells us that when we see many insects and butterflies in a place, it is a sign that the spirits are sending beings to cleanse a sacred site for the arrival of goddesses who will bring healing magic. We are meant to respect these sacred places. Lori Snyder has been teaching at gardens all over the city for many years, and she puts into words what we have been witnessing in this wild urban space all morning: “I have never seen so many insects in any garden in this city, ever.”

Bumblebees pollinate flowers on a mint plant at the coFood Collaborative Garden.

In every direction, we are surrounded by many species of bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, dragonflies, ants, flies, insects whose names we are still learning, and the many, many worms that keep our robin friends healthy and well-fed. Like us, all the animals and plants living in the garden come from their own lineages. Though the worms came from Europe a long time ago, they model what it means to be good guests as they work to regenerate rich soils.

When I began preparing the garden for our circle this morning, I offered the smoke of our homegrown sacred tobacco — a medicine that’s common to the North and the South. While gathering wild and Indigenous plants for tea, I sensed I was being guided along a path of bright green leaves, each with a plump bumblebee nestled on it, in every place I looked. The words “We are so blessed!” flooded my heart, and as I share this recollection with Flavio through Laura, I also tell our circle that I feel the North and the South are truly united in this moment. By now we have learned almost one third of Flavio’s prophecies. Once he continues his teachings this autumn and beyond, we will come to know in time what this union truly means.

We are beginning to learn that the truth exists not in the dualities of strength and weakness, but in our power to rebuild and heal the world. Before we close our circle, I share the gift of a tobacco plant for the three women I have known for years, and who are with me at our garden today. There is a plant for every person our circle, and soon enough I will meet each of them in person for the first time. The tobacco plant that chooses me today is the one I will care for this summer, until the time comes to save the seeds, and harvest the leaves for drying. Until I meet Flavio in person, I will keep this plant’s sacred medicine as a gift for the one who has already gifted me my spirit name — helping me reawaken to my purpose in this lifetime, to nurture regenerative interbeing.

An image of four people — Laya, Sisa, Llushan and Tzunki—holding tobacco plants and a computer, in the coFood Collaborative Garden.
Lori Snyder, Jenny van Enckevort, Laura Cisneros and Carmen Contreras gather in the coFood Collaborative Garden, with Flavio Santi joining us online as we connect with these sacred tobacco plants, our relatives.

In Autumn, 2021 we will begin another circle to receive teachings from Flavio, and we invite you to join us! Email Lori and Laura at inHarmony inNature to sign up:

Learn more about:
> Earth to Jenny Communications
> Wayusa School



Living Systems Network is a collective working together to advance regenerative culture practices such as peer-to-peer governance and commons stewardship. We both draw inspiration from observing living systems, and model our evolution on living systems principles.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jenny van Enckevort

Jenny is a storyteller and community wayfinder—collaborating on regenerative social impact and Earth care projects on Coast Salish Lands. Vancouver | Canada