One of the most common questions I am asked when campaigning across America is, who provided the inspiration for me to get out into the world and dedicate my life making a difference? So today let me share the wonderful story of my mother, Julia Massey, for she is the answer. In her journey I experienced the power of intuition over external authority, spirit over matter, and how serving from the heart brings forth more bountiful fruit than working for a motive.
If ever there was someone who embodied all that is powerful and wonderful about Schumacher's "small is beautiful" philosophy, my mother is that person: "Look after your own little corner and stand up when your community needs you" and "always turn a negative thought into a positive action" were and remain the mantras we live by. But hers isn't a story of philosophy; it's a story of vision.
In 1969, at the age of 19, my mother and father, came upon a dilapidated property at the end of a country lane in Essex. The front door was nailed up, the back door tied up with a piece of string. The land around it was a rubbish dump plagued with abandoned rotting cars, household refuse and dense brambles and nettles. They fell in love with it, and to the dismay of their family and friends, married, took out a mortgage and bought it. They cleared the debris by hand after work in the evenings and on weekends, and slowly renovated the house with the pennies they had to spare.
Over the last 45 years my mother has created a little paradise of biodiversity, wildlife and healing. That once abandoned unloved property is now 'The Upminster Complementary Healing and Teaching Sanctuary'. This is her journey.
I was born eight years into my parents' marriage. My sister, Verity was born four years later. Mum created a home life akin to a real life Beatrix Potter storybook. We kept dogs and cats, hens, ducks, guinea fowl, doves, pigeons, pheasants, a rabbit named Allsorts, a goose named Simon and the occasional visiting peacock. Jimmy-James, our Muscovy duck, was frequently wheeled up and down the drive in our doll's pram. William, our English Pointer had been hand reared so he considered himself human. We would adorn his neck with a bib as he sat on the chair at the end of the kitchen table at Maytree Cottage, while we ate our dinner listening to The Archers on Radio 4. Weekends were invariably spent doing something that necessitated wearing our Wellies, like jumping in one of our large organic compost heaps, collecting flints and bones from the Anglo Saxon archaeological excavations in the back field, or jumping in muddy puddles in the bluebell woods.
Things weren't all rosy however. In the '80s, we witnessed our mother progressively weaken, her body and spirit danced the line between life and death. After many hospital visits, a great deal of pain and shocking weight loss, she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Her doctors had no idea what to do other than to advise radical surgery. Turning away from every aspect of her very traditional English conditioning to 'submit to authority', she declined. Intuitively she knew there was another way and she was determined to seek it out. Removing herself from the medical establishment, mum discovered the local health food shop, studied and quickly adopted whole food nutrition, became a vegetarian - with the aid of Sarah Brown's cookery books and, by conventional medical standards, "miraculously" cured herself without any medical intervention or drugs.
Confident in the power of her experience, mum enrolled to train as a professional holistic aromatherapist and reflexologist. She read Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine and started along the path to becoming a powerful intuitive healer. She took control of her life, divorced my father (who remains one of my best friends), transformed her path, and with it, our worldview. It was the early 1990s. Times were very tough. The recession had hit. We had very little money and were forced to accept state support and free school lunches in order to survive. Friends donated food and our Nan provided dinners several times a week. The house was in foreclosure, but mum was determined to make things work and to save our home. And she did! She established a healing practice and I watched the archetypal journey of the wounded healer unfold before me. My young sister and I journeyed with her every step of the way; 'The Three Musketeers'.
In the early 2000s, mum turned our barn into a beautiful healing and teaching sanctuary with therapy and teaching rooms. The grounds are now a quintessential English garden with raised organic vegetable beds, a herb garden, a pond garden, and of course a beautiful canopy of mature trees including hornbeam, apple, apricot, pear, plum, rowan and of course May trees from which our neighbouring cottage's name is derived. Mother is now a senior associate of the Royal College of Medicine. She professionally practices and teaches many holistic healing arts. My 'regular mum' is now a community healer, with people visiting her and experiencing not only a professional therapist but a woman who carries wisdom in her humility and service of others. I am so lucky for having been born to such a great courageous teacher.
From a small English village to America's capital city, by way of Indian slums and the Tanzanian bush, Elizabeth Kucinich has experienced an incredible journey. As a schoolgirl, she would spend her days off lobbying Parliament on industrial animal agriculture issues. She is now the director of policy at the Center for Food Safety on the front lines of food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture battles in Washington, DC, and internationally. She is the wife of one of the world's most prominent progressive voices, (now former) eight-term U.S. Congressman and two-time U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich.