Observations for the Future Generations

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By John Jairo Valencia

Reflections on Time Travel

Audio read by author

we are at the cusp of a transformative time,
i observe the motions of life, desperately searching for tools,
lessons, memories that can help guide us to move with
much more care, grace and sustainable thinking. 

i observe the teachings of the natural world called neighborhood,
the pruning and planting of the spring, the harvest of the fall. 

i learn that in the motions of the natural world,
even in urban landscapes, i can enter mythic time,
timeless time, time that speaks across the generations. 

observe the stillness, in those mundane moments
you will see past, present and future… 


Springtime Lessons

Audio read by author

in the springtime, papa trims the guayaba tree; fruit doesn’t come until the fall but he does this in order to prepare it for its regeneration. this year as he trimmed the tree, a hummingbird flew by him as an empty nest revealed itself in the newfound nakedness of the tree. we clean out the fallen branches and the benevolent winged being circles us in distress several times. we realize that in the annual pruning of trees, the home of this hummingbird was disturbed. 

guilt sits in as papa directs me to clean out the weeds and fallen branches, and i can’t help but to think how harm is inevitable in nature. we are 3 generations removed from rural life. my urban naïvety shows that i lack the knowledge of how to restore a good relationship with hummingbirds. the sun sets, venus trails behind, as they join each other in the underworld, and papa reassures me that the hummingbird will restore its home amongst the network of trees that make up our industrial neighborhood.

i wonder if there are ceremonies that ask for permission and let the ecosystem of birds and insects know that a human needs to chop down a tree. does that restore the harm done? does it happen before, does it happen after, do you leave an offering? is an apology enough? 

i continue to finish our yard work, and as i sift through piles of dirt, rising nettles and other “invasive” plants, i come to terms with the possibility that we humans are the invasion. not necessarily because we are human, but because of the values a grand part of our species lacks. i wish i knew a way to honor the hummingbird nest. i wish my papa knew that he needed to ask the tree permission before chopping much of it down. but the fact that he left the nest intact, reminds me that deep down, we know how to be in right relationship with the natural world around us. 

in time, if we continue to pay attention, we will know the right ritual that can create an avenue of communication between us, my family who currently lives in this home, and the creatures who also call the trees, dirt, bushes, crevices on our “property” their home and playground. they have adapted to us, we are to adapt to them too. 

as i sifted through my guilt, with my hands in the dirt, i am reminded that the natural world is ever so resilient, and adaptable to many changes. the earth itself holds that same resiliency. i personally do not agree with the belief that we, humans, are destroying the earth. the earth is resilient and adaptable, who has sustained eras, eons, grand cycles of time, more than we can comprehend. isn’t it a bit egotistic and humancentric to think that we are capable of such a task. the earth is adaptable, but can we as a species adapt to the changes we are bringing about through the mass harm of ecological destruction of the extractive mindset of deforestation, overharvesting, pollution and overconsumption of non-renewable resources? these practices will cause harm to us, to many many species, but the earth will regenerate. those species who can adapt will continue, humans may not be able to sustain such a change if we continue with the same destructive ways. this is a reminder to the generations coming after me…

i go back to the hummingbird who lost a home. they are resilient and will bounce back quickly, but the initial susto of finding a naked tree that previously had an abundance of protective leaves reminds us that small acts of harm are an inevitable part of nature. i ask us to tap into our collective ancient memory to remember the answers to: 

how do we create balance and what do restorative processes look like in nature that reduce and heal harm?

in my daily prayer to the earth, i apologize for the many members of my species who have evolved to become clouded by egotism; i also fall under that category of humans. i offer these words as i ask for us to be enlightened to restore a reciprocal way of being with all of creation, so that we may coexist in harmony and balance. i thank you earth mama for the life we are gifted. may we remember now and eras into the future that we are, and will always be intimately a part of you.

and like our hummingbird relative, may we remember that we have the warrior-like capacity to be resilient, fierce, and able to adapt to any change that will come forth in our lifetime or the next.


Maíz Narrativez (2019)

a human with long hair connected by an umbilical cord to another human, surrounded by a corn stalk, the sun, a sky being, a star, a hummingbird and a parrot.

image: A human with long hair sitting at the right with an umbilical cord connecting them to a smaller human in a womb that sits at the base of a corn stalk at the right. The Sun is rising at the center of the image, with a sky being and star rising above the Sun symbolizing Venus as the Morning Star. The image is framed by a hummingbird on the left and a parrot on the right side.

Audio read by author

This digital drawing combines several elements symbolizing the creation story of the 5th Sun from Anahuacan cosmology. It tells how the world and human beings were created by Quetzalcoatl, and how later on Quetzalcoatl was gifted corn by the ants to feed the first people.



Summertime Memory

Audio read by author

the end of springtime sprouts young corn stalks,
we are hopeful, eager, and full of energy
moon cycles pass and pull the sprouts
closer to the sky.

the summertime brings forth abundant heat,
creatures find refuge nestled into the maturing corn leaves,
and the sunlight imprints its name into the DNA of the elotitos
that form above the shadows.

the last 7,000 summers, our human ancestors have built
an intimate relationship with corn mother, but many humans
have begun to lose their way, and have fallen into vices of greed.

we don’t listen anymore to the whispers between the stalks,
we are at the cusp of a transformative time, yet those ancient sounds
become more and more unintelligible.

technological “progress” births more naïvety.
as my palms touch the ground in my daily prayer to the earth,
i pray to better understand, i pray that the future generations
can remember what is true, this prayer is for you…


Remembering Corn Mother

Audio read by author

corn mother, i watch the way
you stand with dignity 

i seek to be the same 

but i tremble,
i am weak,
with shaky knees,
and my cracking voice
stuttering my speech 

my pulsating heart
becomes like squash vines
tethered and tangled on the ground
lost in its growth, not knowing
where to go 

oh, you seek to have
wisdom, you say
you want to know 

corn mother, i seek guidance
can my nimble spine
spiral up your stalk
towards the sky? 

my shaky palms
reach into my left pocket
stumbling to make an offering
of lint, crumbs, crumpled paper,
and leftover tobacco… 

a desperate offering 

corn mother, creator, god,
earth mama, wind, fire, water,
ancestor, person in my head, 

whoever can hear me, 

help us to be free,
i ask for courage,
may we be courageous, 

the road ahead is not easy
and we must strengthen our hearts
to make it through 

my spiraling heart,
reaching the tassels
shouting at the heavens 

may we be strong
may we be loving
may we be honest
and true.

Audio version of biography


Among other things, John Jairo Valencia (they/he, 27) is a youth worker, culture worker, and mixed media artist who works primarily through illustrative drawing and creative writing. Their creative work is inspired by stars, spirit beings, ancestors, the natural world, dreams, storytelling and decolonization. They envision their work as a prayer for transformative change and creating “un mundo donde quepan muchxs mundos.” John Jairo attended UC Berkeley where they received a BA in Native American Studies, Chicanx Studies, and Art. John Jairo identifies as a brown queer, xicanx, colombian and grew up on Tongva territory in the neighborhoods of Bassett and Boyle Heights with roots from the Chihuahuan Desert, Central Mexico, and the Colombian Andes. You can find John Jairo’s work on IG: @elotedreamz

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