Have you ever dreamt of a world beyond what we currently know to be possible? Not of a dystopian future where the soil is bare, and the water is spoiled; and not of a utopia where we all live in harmony free from suffering. But have you dreamt of a world where we fully embrace the power we contain when we form deeply meaningful relationships with the people and places in our lives? A world where we do not compete for status, wealth, or resources but measure the quality of our lives by that which we create together; a world where our imperfections are not perceived as deficits, but as a part of what makes us our unique, whole selves; where we are empowered simply by knowing that we are unconditionally loved by one another. Have you dreamt of all the just and liberated futures we are collectively capable of creating?
Throughout my time at Northland, the memories I cherish most are the moments when we dreamt together. I remember dreams inspired by the dancing colors of the sky as we watched the sunset beneath the lake a thousand times over; dreams of futures without lawns, only forests and regenerative gardens; futures without political borders that rip families apart and disrupt the migration patterns of wildlife.
As winter arrived, we walked out onto the middle of the Bay and dreamt of all the ways we would continue to love and care for this place and for each other if the Lake becomes too warm to freeze or too polluted to immerse our bodies in its waves.
The dreams we shared were not a form of escapism from our current lives or a way to forget about climate change projections and the other fears we harbor. Rather, the dreams that we shared speak to all that we desire and long for both in our present lives and our uncertain futures that will inevitably contain both joy and sorrow, love and harm, life and death.
From the first campfire we shared during Outdoor Orientation to our last dance at yesterday’s Hootenanny, we spent innumerable hours dreaming of all that we are capable of accomplishing. Some of us dream of restoring shorelines and protecting our waterways; of feeding people with our hands in the soil and our hearts wide open; of creating just, equitable, and sustainable cities for us to live in communion with each other; of forming big queer families however our love emerges.
And when we dreamt of all that is possible, it did not take long until we recognized the agency within both ourselves and our community and asked one another to start doing what our hearts desired to do—to live our dreams every day.
As we engaged in the simple acts of living in a meaningful relationship with the people and places around us as a form of renewal and resistance, we recognized that our path towards a more just and liberated future begins with us committing to practicing our collective values in community with each other.
And yet sometimes we struggle to remember the immense power we collectively hold to shape the futures we long for as we accept the reality that learning how to grow our own food along the shores of Lake Superior has not halted the industrialization of agriculture, or that cutting down buckthorn in the ravine did not stop the spread of invasive species, and that making soup for people who are food insecure in Ashland did not eradicate poverty.
But in those moments, when I feel crushed beneath the weight of the world and the severity of suffering, I return to the community that dreams with me to remember that I matter to the people around me and that you matter to me and that our actions—regardless of how small they feel—have power beyond what we know, maybe even beyond what we can dream of.
I return to the community to remember that little can be accomplished when we are alone and afraid of the harm occurring around us; I return to be told that it is okay to rest, to trust in others to provide what I cannot, and to know that contributing what I am able to contribute will always be enough.
It was common that our dreams had conflicting components that created tension, discomfort, and sometimes a strain. At our best, we tended to the tension between our differences and let our dreams unite us in our desire for a better world. When we failed to heal the strains that emerged from our differences, our idyllic perception of community was challenged as harm occurred and fractured our relationships. Times when we forgot to have empathy and rather assumed the worst of each other; times when we referred to people we know as “the other” or “them” or “the administration” rather than finding a way to heal from the pain we were experiencing. We learned just how difficult it can be and how much work it takes to build and sustain communities, and yet we learned how rewarding it is to commit to finding ways to be a part of a community that loves unconditionally.
Our commitment to community is essential to addressing both interpersonal harm and systemic injustices because we are most resilient when we are engaged in acts that bring healing, help, and joy to the people we interact with.
Investing in our community and building relationships with each other has the power to heal the world because we know that whole systems cannot transform without each moving part—each one of us—doing what are able to do. And when our actions do not amount to solving all of the problems that we see in the world, we remind ourselves that the positive impacts we made in our community are enough to rejoice in all that we have accomplished. And when the seas rise—because they are—we rise with them as we reconnect across our differences to realign with the dreams we dreamt around that first campfire.
As we depart from each other, from this community, and from this place I find myself dreaming with both excitement and nervousness about how the community that we have built, the lessons we have learned, and the love that we have shared will carry on and grow in new directions. I will miss walking down to the ravine to find the bridge that was carried away in the summer storm rescued by a group of determined students; I will miss sharing in the excitement of each new moon and flower that has bloomed, and I will miss dancing to our heart’s content underneath the starry northern sky.
But as I grieve the loss of our everyday interactions, I dream of all the ways our love, passion, and determination will continue to build communities that are working towards the just and liberated futures we began to create in this place.
Thank you all for contributing what you were able to contribute to this community. Thank you for the abundance of love that you shared with each other and this place. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of a community that I know I can always return to when I need to rest, rejoice, and dream. Congratulations Class of 2019.