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Acker: Cultivating Resilience

I never think about getting older, but I do cultivate resilience. I walk for happiness. I go to yoga and the Y for strength. I wear a wide-brimmed hat and kneepads for farm and garden work. I love using a pitchfork. I eat lots of vegetables and sunflower seeds.

And I cultivate optimism. I thank others for being optimistic, especially in these times with heartbreaking news all around. I glean hopeful stories from my neighbors and from organizations working for social justice.

More than fifty years ago, I was fifteen and holding signs against the Vietnam War outside a draft-board in Philadelphia. I decided then to become a socially-conscious artist and gave myself ten years to find something to say. But I soon discovered that this would take a lifetime. I also learned that art, both created by myself, and created cooperatively can be equally compelling.

But there is one place where I do call myself “an elder” - and that’s at The Intervale Community Farm's board meetings, where I've served for twenty four years. Remembering the roots of an organization has a good place on this earth.

Beyond helping on farms, planting berries and tending flower-gardens, learning from young people, and making time for my landscape-painting, I now need to look ahead.

It’s time to stop procrastinating and catalog my lifetime of art so that samples of my work can go to a university-archive or another publicly-accessible center. I've been so inspired by past artists and I hope that future generations can be inspired by me.

It’s also time for me to learn more about climate change and wildfires. My beloved daughter has been a wildlands firefighter out West for five years now. To honor her and her crew-members, I need to speak-up more loudly for environmental stewardship, local and global.

In the time ahead, I hope to expand my horizons and my usefulness. And I’ll continue believing in those coming after me, as we all search for ways to save this precious planet.

Bonnie Acker is an artist who lives with her husband John in a house with a backyard full of berries and bees in the Old North End of Burlington. She’ll be turning seventy this coming May.
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