Report date
May 2020
Learning Log

I am very grateful to the Bush Foundation for this Fellowship opportunity. I am also grateful to the Fellows who have shared their reflections and are doing such extraordinary work in this time. In the midst of such suffering and disruption with Covid-19, I wish everyone strength, health, and resiliency.

This year has been a year of learning about my leadership. I met so many people, visited new places, and explored new ideas. I am learning about myself as a sum of many new experiences. There are three areas that rise to the top. I started defining and refining my leadership approach, welcomed a renewed sense of curiosity and awakening, and deepened my understanding of the significance of family and friends and the natural world in my leadership.

Defining and refining my leadership. On a very practical level, I set out on this Fellowship to develop my leadership in a new way. I perceived this leadership growth to be in the likeness of some of those I have known and respected. This new leadership would require me to walk on more public stages and not mirror my well-honed “collective potential” style of leadership. As the year went by, I engaged in two distinct climate initiatives and tested my leadership roles outside the walls of an organization. My success within these experiences called to question my perception of and need for this “new leadership.” My challenge is not to change my leadership approach to mirror others. My challenge is to be aware and stay present in a world of diverse experiences.

Renewed curiosity and awakening. My curiosity and awakening rest in meeting and talking with dozens of people and practitioners across the country who are agriculture and climate innovators, food justice advocates, and rural connectors. My senses and curiosity were awakened by eating a meal cooked underground - steeped in tradition, wrapping my head around the many greenhouse gases coming from agriculture practices, and listening to farmers who are transitioning conventional farms to farms that are weaving in climate friendly practices. The body of knowledge is robust and growing and healthy practices are dotted across our landscapes. I learned about and collected a broad understanding of the potential to address our climate impact within agriculture at the scale and pace science demands.

This renewed curiosity reminds me of waking from a very deep sleep. It is both heavenly and weighty. Over the course of the last year, I have taken the Fellowship opportunity to travel in the US and meet people new to me who are experiencing immensely different experiences. I sat in living rooms and in backyards and found profound joy and deep sadness, tenacity and deep fatigue, and hope and near despair. Gifted this incredible mosaic of experiences and emotions in one year is powerful and sometimes overwhelming. I am not surprised I witnessed such deep emotions. I am surprised at my tenderness.

Significance of family, friends, and the natural world. This tenderness steers me to my family, friends, and the natural world. I am extremely grateful for their presence and for the constant and stabilizing force the natural world has brought to me. My strength and resilience rests on their presence. As part of the Bush Fellowship, we are reminded to build in sustaining practices and are asked to reflect on these practices once a month in our reflections. I reviewed these reflections and was surprised how often I turned to the gifts of the natural world for analogies and comfort.

Reflections… unsettled by the missing seasons that I knew when I was a child…my sense of community as I sat alone in the BWCA listening to the endless chorus of critters and the movement of wind and water…knowing it was time for me to rest when the early snow started swirling and the garden was ready to sleep…the power of Lake Superior and its intricately connected natural cycles and systems…looking forward to the returning sun with the prairie igniting my senses…resetting with the beauty and strength of the natural world…planting seeds and planting more seeds in these times…and our story found in the rings of a tree.

Throughout these Fellowship months, I found a new curiosity and awakening, embraced the fluidity of my leadership, and deepened my understanding of the significance of my family, friends and the gifts of the natural world to remain hopeful and healthy.

I am enormously grateful for this opportunity and for all the efforts of current, past, and future leaders.