See below for thoughts from Colby about her life.
A conversation with one of my heroes
Earlier this morning [Friday] I received a phone call from Periclean alum Colby Halligan (’15). I had texted her as soon as I found out about her recent misfortune. She is safe, but last weekend her home in California and everything in it was destroyed in a spontaneous fire. Thankfully she was out of the house at the time. She is just now headed home to Vermont for the holidays earlier than expected, and I am sure it will be a comfort for her to reunite with her family.
Colby is resilient and will surely march on with grit, determination, and a smile on her face, as always. Though she is just starting out and can rebuild her home, I am afraid the biggest losses were letters from and memories of her mother, which are not so easily replaced. A sorry way to kick off the holiday season, to be sure.
During our conversation I was reminded of the quotation we often reference from Pericles “What you leave behind is not what is engraved into stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Her comment was that although she lost everything -all material items from her life- she lost nothing, because all that was important were the people in her life. Woven into my life to be sure, Cobly indeed remains on of my heroes, and I know that she will bounce back yet again
Her younger sister, Rory, has started a fund to help her bounce back from this: https://www.tilt.com/tilts/colby-erin-halligan. Knowing Colby, I am sure words of encouragement would be equally if not more appreciated! If you or others want to send Colby a note, her address in VT is PO Box 1062, Manchester, VT 05254. Please pass along this information to anyone whom you think would want to know.
“You cannot drive out darkness with darkness, only light can do that. You cannot drive out hate with hate, only love can do that.“
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Admist the muddled confusion of her monkey mind, her heart roared, quiet, strong, and centered. Her body moved through motions without attention or awareness, no hunger panged her belly. She was confused, hollow and whole, displaced and centered. Her mind versus her heart, strings forceful and opposing with limbs dancing in a comical canter between the two mountains of her soul, a shallow valley soon to be filled with smouldered seedlings, passionately sprouting in the remains of a wildfire which encapsulated her home and everything she owned to ashes. Her arms tugged at her heart. “You are safe,” it roared. Her body shifted towards the warmth of her most intuitive, passionate, empathetic, and intelligent self.
This was her. As she leaned with comfort into the warm depths of this maple-sugared orange and red familial mountainside she was tugged, snapped aggressively by her mind which was cold and wet and afraid and unfamiliar, pounding cold waves against mineralized shells in the freezing cascade of the northmost Atlantic. She was disoriented, numb, and safe. Laughter brought her back into the warm room lit with those she loved. They grew soil. They remained passionate about empowering others to grow food. They were farmers.
She looked down at her dirty soot hands, cold and brave. She mourned the trauma in the arms of her community, her mind buzzing incessently like a humming motor of a heated system in the alley of a commercial restaurant; one sole light flickering and individuals clanking quickly on weather cobblestone, the stones wet but crevices packed thin with soil. She paced all night, her slippered feet cold and hard on the wooded floor, the house slumbered, her breath shallow. What did she really value?
Her heart, as it constitutes all that she loves, her community, her family, her passion. She felt unstable and disheveled, in a state of shock and tremor from an experience which stole her home and burned all that she owned to ashes. She was broken, afraid, and unsure. Her heart demanded attention, time necessary for it to feel safe in the rain with petals strong against the calculated weight of water, and safe in the heat of the arid sun. Tended by the hands of many.
She gardened because she believed there was a better way.
She believed in the power of positivity as a lifestyle- of building an alternative, not “fighting against” paradigm; that we have the capacity to faciliate the development of neurological pathways to not only understand but think constantly, in cycles.
She believed we have lost our capacity to grasp that we are a part of a cycle, and that we have a serious responsibility to every substance, every object, every molecule we bring into that cycle.
Waste streams mean more than styrofoam cups- it means the ceramic mug you bring to the coffee shop in the name of being a responsible customer. Not just plastic bags, but canvas. She believed we are natural beings, and in that sense industrialization, cities, and chemical processes we have faciliated are also a part of the natural world- an odd extension of it. She believed we were creators and manipulators and when we manipulate the raw building blocks of the cycles we are a part of; we are indebited, required, gravely responsible for the reintroduction of these manipulated building blocks.
How do we develop this capacity to viscerally comprehend the realities of the cycles in which we live?
We garden. We have removed ourselves from the cycles that are life, we have specialized our way out of necessity for direct connection with reality. A real reality. She believed in re-establishing our lost comprehension. Connection means immersing ourselves in the truth of these cycles. What better place than a garden? What other place? Gardening is a living curriculum of cycles. A perfect place to heal our warped reality- to find our truth and insource our responsibility.
Once there was a woman who farmed because she believe in its power to change, heal, and inspire her. She believed in its ability to change us. She believed in the garden’s ability to fundamentally alter humans and our place with the land- reshifting our focus to our unavoidable place in cycles upon cycles. She farmed because she believed gardening had the capacity, the potential to be the source of this fundamental change- the hope for human’s rediscovery of this deep comprehension- our place in the cycle.
Once upon a time there was a woman who had the day off on Sunday, November 29, 2015. Her heart was raw, charred but whole. Her mother died, and her home burned to ashes. She felt distraught, disoriented, unsafe, and vulnerable. She had a fire that burned in her belly stronger than any physical manifestation. She loved and laughed and cried and believed even in fear, we are whole and living alongside our communities.’
She used the garden to heal. She chose to walk confidently beside those she loved, cultivating health, envisioning balance and happiness, free and wild, passionate and brave.
That woman is me.