Speaking for the Earth:
By Nina Tepedino
Connie Mahoney might very well be an elder soul, reincarnated from a remote Hopi village in New Mexico.
I have a vivid recollection of Connie reading that wonderful proclamation of Native American wisdom, “Hopi Elder Speaks.” She is standing before the microphone in the wooded grove at Jenner. Her voice trembles with a powerful passion for ALL elders. At her side is Kay McCabe, who originated the annual celebration for the Russian River. A strong wind from the ocean is blowing Connie's silver hair back from her face — a face that is smiling out to the whole world, a face that communicates a fierce excitement for beliefs now put into action.
It was with this same energy and passionate advocacy that Connie founded Earth Elders in 1998. Though she saw Earth Elders as a global network — “Earth Elders exists wherever and whenever an individual calls herself or himself an Earth Elder” — she worked with great energy to birth a specific local organization in her own backyard of Sonoma County, CA. Connie's wish was to join together compassionate and wise elders committed to caring for the Earth. Over the last eight years — despite sabbaticals for family, traveling and her stoic and brave battle with cancer — Earth Elders of Sonoma County has continued as a vibrant legacy for elders who share this beautiful corner of the Earth.
A prime annual activity of Earth Elders is the celebration of a traditional Earth Day event on April 22. Plans for the event this year — set among the towering redwoods on Luther Burbanks Gold Ridge Farm — are representative. It will open with musical ceremonial welcome followed by a Calling of Directions by local Native American, ChoQosh Auh-ho-Oh. After the recognition of this year's “Earthkeepers of the Twentieth Century,” the “Earth Day Proclamation” of the City of Sebastopol will be read by Vice Mayor Sam Pearce. Songs for action by the Raging Grannies will lead the participants into “A Walk Through Time Into The Future” encompassing many of the teachings of Thomas Berry. A closing circle to express Gratitude, Appreciation and Commitment by all attendees will be followed by an organic reception.
Through her motivation, meticulous organizational skills and enthusiastic encouragement, Earth Elders of Sonoma County continues with monthly gatherings that mark and celebrate earth’s seasons. Its members are active volunteers in our local and national political and environmental movements. Its Environmental Book Study Group meets twice a month to discuss books by local and national authors like Luther Burbank, Martin Griffin, and Thomas Berry. Indeed, Connie's passion for one of Berry's books, The Great Work, has been downright infectious.
Connie Mahoney has inspired us. In the way she expects excellence she has urged all of us to be the constant dreamers and to challenge the current status quo for the sake of the generations yet to come. A quote from Teilhard de Chardin accurately describes her impact on our lives:
“Once the truth has made its presence felt in a single soul, nothing can ever stop it from invading everything and setting fire to everything.”
You have been telling the people
that this is the eleventh hour.
It is time to speak your truth,
Then you clasped his hands
together and laughed and said,
There is a river flowing now very
The elders say we must let go of
At this time in
history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all,