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The time that is given us

22 Jul

The time that is given us:

Two nights ago I was lying under the moon, casually talking with Lynn about a question close to us both. What can be done, what can a person do, about the death-wish of our culture? Is there any way to stop the rushing toward the cliff of climate change – or the killings of innocent people, the revenge killings, the deaths of refugees, the escalating hate and blame and violence. 2016-07-17 21.31.52

It was good to have that conversation under the sky, not in a room or over the internet.

I’m two days away from the news, and about to spend another ten days on retreat, in company with people of shared values and with mountains, earth, grasses, butterflies, sky.

Two weeks ago I came back from checking the woods after a storm (fallen trees, no serious damage) to find people talking strangely on facebook – and finally checked the news and learned about the Dallas shootings. There have been more since. Death is in the air. I have not known what to say.

In the past, when I could, I paid respect to those killed as well as to ordinary deaths by placing names on the altar and chanting for them. I stopped. There are too many.

This appeared on Facebook:

I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkein

There have also been beautiful stories of reaching across barriers of race and politics. Heartfelt stories of what it’s like to be Black in America; I recommend this one: http://lithub.com/walking-while-black/

Perhaps I should be ready for violence in my own neighborhood – at the farm. (Last night Conor thought someone might have broken in to the basement. I don’t think so, but can’t know for sure. A flurry of calls and texts, and I simply have to let it go. If I don’t hear from him, things are okay.) Perhaps the mind of separation and violence will win in my own mind.

Hatred never ceases with hatred. By non-hate alone does it cease.” Buddha, The Dhammapada.

And I continue learning to listen to plants, rocks, valleys, clouds, asking them to help that flourishing of Life. As I walk or hike in these different landscapes (Colorado now), their voices are increasingly warm and strong. I make commitments to teach, hoping others will welcome what I am beginning to learn, replacing human hubris by equal companionship with other beings. As Buddhism has always taught.

Farm and Volunteer News

On our last volunteer day, we put up a raptor perch in the orchard.

Storms have taken down many trees, and coming projects will include a lot of cutting firewood, taking down vulnerable trees (to protect the driveway), and otherwise dealing with the storm.

The bridge, which was thought to belong to the neighbor, actually is part of our land. I finally hired a surveyor to settle it, and we own even more than I thought. We’ve enjoyed having easy access to the wild lands and the river.

Conor Millard, intern, is there while I travel, taking care of plants and things. Paul Carrington-May comes several hours per week to help with gardens, orchard, berries, mowing, or whatever we need. We sat zazen together morning and evening, while I was there, and will again after I return. We went to Faribault Farmer’s Market together,even though there’s not much produce right now.

Next volunteer times (besides whenever it works for you): August 12-14 (afternoons), and then look here.

And we are looking for a farm manager. Someone who wanted to be part of the residential community here would be great, but I’m happy to discuss any option. The manager would be sent to Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings training – because we need both the business part and the farming part.

Zen

Northfield group continues first, third, and fifth Wednesday each month, 6:30-8:30pm, at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center in Division Street. In September we’ll start a new topic. Retreats and sesshins are posted in the last blog post and here.

MWA News

The solar panels are up and running. A small grant request is being considered, which would help us get a real website and seriously improved communications. An office manager (Juli Dupont) and bookkeeper are making their way through the maze of expenses and donations, creating workable Quickbooks files so it will be easier in the future. You may have noticed that we’ve increased our social networking.

And, at the core, I continue to be a student of the land and a student of Life, while giving more talks and meeting more people. In the middle of the (so-far) slow collapse of western civilization, there is warmth, humanity, intimacy, liveliness. May these flourish.

Asking Your Help

Volunteers are very welcome. In addition to farm and woodland volunteers, carpentry or chainsaw volunteers, there could be help with social networking, grantwriting, or other organizational matters.

Residence – the goal is 5-6 long-term residents living as a community, in accord with what’s been written here. Shorter stays of a week to several months are possible. Call or write me with any inquiries. I look forward to needing to create more sleeping spaces because we have people to live in them. We’ve got the plans already. We’re in conversation with a few people, but there’s still room.)

I’m looking for a farm manager – see above.

If you can make a donation, here are specific requests totalling $2080:

For doing the work – teaching or networking – these are bare-bones expenses:

  • $130 Gathering of the Guilds – Midwest Permaculture gathering just an hour away from us – ($65 each for me and Conor, for the weekend August 26-28). I’m presenting workshops there.
  • $275 Bearing Witness Retreat Genocide and Resilience of Native Peoples of Minnesota – November 17-19 (The cost supports native people to attend free. I would like to go to learn, support, and connect.)
  • up to $75 Women’s Spirituality Conference at Mankato October 22-23 – as a workshop presenter, I attend free but they do not pay for travel, lodging, or meals. My workshop is scheduled on two days, requiring an overnight, presumably camping.
  • To get the farm working as a business – training for me and a manager, $1600. LSP offers this 2-year training program regularly, but this is the first time it’s offered in Northfield. It would help us get on our feet financially. ($1400 early commitment plus estimated $200 gas over the 2 years.) There’s a chance that we’ll break even on the farm this year if we sell produce, but long term is very important for supporting our lives and work.

Also, if you are willing, think about an ongoing pledge, which would support:

  • Food for interns – about $200/month each. (Yes we eat from the land, but then we can’t sell it.)
  • Other expenses for interns (increased internet, travel, etc) and it sure would be nice to give a stipend to people who work so hard. Up to $200 each per month. Would make it possible to have more interns at one time, not just more work but more teaching and learning as well.
  • Part time office manager – currently about $1000/month, will decrease once the backlog is covered.
  • Farm manager – unknown, depends on skills and whether they need to pay for housing.

Currently I just borrow from my savings when money gets tight. There’s not yet a plan to repay that borrowing, but obviously it can’t continue too long. 

You can use this button to Donate , or see other options on the Contact page. Please feel free to designate your contribution for one of the above. Let me know whether you want it to be tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor. Special thanks to the woman who has pledged $400/year, unasked, and to all the other past donors.

May our hearts be whole and joyful.

Shodo Spring

 

Strawberry meditation

25 Jun

Yesterday Conor and I spent the afternoon in the strawberry patch. We dug up plants and moved them to an open space (that Paul had weeded) in the next row. We dug up diseased plants (mites, I believe) and moved them to the sun garden – quarantined. We weeded, and we gathered pine needles to use as mulch. We stopped after doing one section fully; lots more to do next week.

What I noticed is that you can’t do these things in a hurry. You have to slow down and be gentle with the plants. When I let go of my hurry, it was easy and pleasant.

Today, Conor and Paul and I got compost and put it on almost all the potato plants: the newly planted, and the ones that are a foot tall and need to be covered. One pickup load, moved twice – in and out. We started in the cool of the morning, ended at 91 degrees – and then took naps in the cool house. Paul’s mother picked him up and told us there was a heat advisory out. I was unable to work; Conor cleaned the pantry where the last potatoes were either rooting or rotting. We talked about things to do when it’s too hot for outside – but the heat wave seems to be ending.

In the outside world, England has decided to leave the European Union, and people are warning of dire consequences. I’m not following too closely. Things are falling apart – the question is how fast. At the compost site there was a man who looked way too old to be shoveling compost, and somehow we got to talking. He had been a stockbroker, and now has a hobby farm, invests in physical things, and warns me to be cautious of the city people who will come looking for food when the time comes. He also pointed out my tires, which need more air and were dangerously unstable on the ride home.

News

There have been an unusual number of contacts from people interested in moving here. Some have appeared and disappeared, but others continue. So I’m looking at actually making more bedrooms in the wonderfully cool space downstairs.

We had the flower essence workshop, with four students, and it was good. Lined up with my intention to form relationships with the nonhumans. In my “lessons” with the land, I’ve started to think of how to related to the grasses, to the mosquitoes (they want full attention, was Friday’s message), to the buckthorn (I promised it a grove somewhere on the hills – but there are two magnificent trees right in the cleared area, and I don’t know what to do.) Talking and listening with each of the many plants requires a calmness that I don’t seem to have. But I continue. And continue to sit zazen every morning.

Going to Indiana for the Zen ceremonies was, on the one hand, wonderful, and was also what I did instead of sitting a three day retreat. Next month I actually go to a 10 day retreat in the mountains, where I don’t have to lead or cook or anything, and it looks like the deep rest that I need. We’ll be back on schedule in September.

After the buckthorn pulling, there’s open space in the woods that’s just lovely, a space for listening and creativity. Most of the trees we planted are doing well, a few seem to have died, and I don’t know what happens next. This fall we get more ostrich fern and other smaller plants; I brought spicebush from southern Indiana to potentially plant as an undergrowth shrub to replace honeysuckle and buckthorn. And mosquitoes have finally appeared – late June – mercifully!  There have been storms – almost tornadoes. The house is solid, and some of our elder trees have been hurt. I don’t yet know how to receive this damage.

More and more it makes sense to operate in this way: accept what’s offered. Instead of controlling what gets planted, I respond to what comes up. So the gift tiger lilies are alive and probably will bloom next year. Last year’s oregano and mints are flourishing, as are basil and lovage and several others. The many little maple trees have no destination yet, but undoubtedly will go somewhere in the woods. Letting go is happening.

My friends Rick and Beth came to learn flower essences, and are going to come Sundays to meet the herbs that live here, for herbal remedies. I just feel gratitude: what will make this work is people who have an independent interest in something here. I can be a learner and helper with them, instead of having to be in charge of everything.

The solar panels are up and will be turned on this Tuesday. I start paying back the loan at that point, but also start making extra electricity to sell to the power company.

I’ve written two small grant proposals, and bought domain names: Now you can search for MountainsandWatersAlliance as a .org or a .net, and for MountainsandWatersFarm.com, and they’ll all go to the blog which passes for a website. One of the grants is for help creating a real website. A volunteer offers to help write grants: extreme gratitude and relief.

Because although I’m capable of learning things, there are too many things to do for me actually to learn and do them all. Part time office manager Juli is taking care of the numbers that I had been simply neglecting, and also helping me get more online presence. I’m still in charge of farm and conservation matters, the house, volunteers (I’m falling down here), teaching, Zen teaching, and the general direction of it all.

And it’s time to check in with the Advisory Council about some of the steps forward. At two years, it seems like the hard survival part is done, and it’s possible to move forward into doing the work.

Coming Events

Well, here is the rest of the year, almost. As well as I know. December is not clear.

  • Saturday mornings are farmer’s market in Faribault, unless (like today) I have nothing to sell.
  • Volunteer weekends are posted here. Northfield Zen groups are in the same place.
  • July 3: I give a Dharma Talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul.
  • August 20-21: retreat of some kind. To be determined.
  • August 22-24: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • September 18-23: sesshin (silent sitting)
  • October 14-19: Lee Lewis offers a 5-day sesshin here, “Land Ethics.”
  • October 22-23: I offer a workshop at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato, “Becoming Part of the Earth Again.”
  • November 6: I give Dharma Talk at Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, Northfield.

 

May you be happy. May you be at peace. May you know the joy of your own true nature.

Warmth and love,

Shodo

Nettles and singing flowers

20 May

Last Wednesday I took 6 half-pound batches of nettles to my local food coop, packaged in plastic boxes recycled from my daughter’s salad and greens buying. I included two recipes and promised more recipes online – so they’re posted now, under “Recipes.” I recommend the Swedish soup, but they’re all good. (I sell nettles! Next year fiddleheads. Morels, when I find them.)

The solar panels are up and waiting for the inspector. In India, people are dying from extreme heat. In Alberta, the wildfire rages on. Temperatures are changing. Electoral politics is tragic. The names on my altar, of people recently passed, includes both Blanche Hartman and Daniel Berrigan. The heroes and heroines of my youth are leaving, gradually, as I finally learn to be an adult.

PLANTS

2016-05-03 10.33.56This afternoon there was the thought of bringing over Jack-in-the-pulpit flowers to join the (hopeful) ginseng plants under my deck. I took a shovel and pails and found the place where the Jack-in-the-pulpits are growing in the path, just asking to be stepped on. With their permission, I dug up each one, plus a few violets and a little moss, and took them back to plant in the place where the ginseng seeds are completely invisible. After all was planted and watered, it just felt good. And I felt good – happy, after an afternoon of hassles trying to get both phone and internet to work at once. (I think it’s worked out, but am not sure yet. The explanation is not worth it.)

This morning was my weekly “lesson” with the plant communities at the East Gate. This time I went to the area where three men have been digging up buckthorn – paid by me, in hopes of being able to complete the “buckthorn contract” and get the county’s cost-sharing money. I also planted two small sugar maples, cut some honeysuckle and pollarded three black locust trees. (Pollarding is cutting them off at 5-6′ tall, so they keep producing small wood to use for burning, stakes, or whatnot. I’m happy I know this tree is excellent wood and not just a nuisance as some think.)

As I packed up the tools, I looked across the creek at some utterly beautiful large buckthorn bushes, and felt sad. There is too much killing, on my land and in my heart. I listened for the voice of the buckthorn. I wondered whether I could negotiate for it to occupy a particular area. Not the state land, where it is hated. But what about a circle on top of the hill – what about a sacred circle that also has room for honeysuckle, garlic mustard, reed canary grass and the whole host of unwanteds. And it seemed to me that the buckthorn sang in chorus, in joy. I imagined we might actually do something beautiful together, and then remembered Carly’s dream in which the buckthorn became a fence protecting an entire farm. (But my image was a smaller circle. We’ll see.)

I also imagine an entirely different relationship with the plants we harvest to eat, different from trying to destroy them; imagine they are willing to support us. So I’m checking out the wild parsnip, and studying garlic mustard, as I wait for strawberries to move from bloom to fruit. And, oh yes, some of us planted garlic and chives and strawberries under the orchard trees, and removed some of their tubes, and we begin to encourage a lively community in that area as well – wishing for more comfrey, some borage, some rhubarb, and whatever the usual plants are for the fruit tree guilds. All in time, in time. And, oh yes, a hundred million potatoes, half planted, because I didn’t eat them all last winter and now they sprout. Mints and catnip and lemon balm, bravely planted in the area where nothing will grow except weeds. Promising to harvest them, if they’ll grow.

The Jack-in-the pulpit is still in my mind. I think I should make a flower essence from it. When I walk through the woods or fields, it seems as if I can hear all the plants, like a community of different voices, together, and they ask me to slow down and listen more, and I am too busy. It’s a story, even though it feels more real every day. But we live in story, not in the Absolute, and this is a story that seems a good way to live. So I don’t say “true” or “false” but just let it be there.

PEOPLE

My old Zen friend Luca has been visiting for two weeks now. He’s fixed several things, sharpened tools, and finished the impossible job – removing the staples from some beautiful oak flooring that I recycled last year. And we talk Dharma, and I try to let my busy mind slow down so I can just be here for that conversation, that person. He’s brought a very interesting awareness to my groups of friends, activist groups, young people living in commitment. He asks questions, and gives respect, and it’s very interesting. Some of us looked at the moon and Jupiter through his telescopes on a dark clear night. I never know what will happen next. We’re halfway through our visit.

EVENTS

The flower essence workshop is being moved, because there are four people (including me) who definitely want to come and we can make that happen. I’ll announce the newcropped-2014-12-02-rohatsu.jpg date. Maybe others will come too. But this Sunday to Wednesday, we’ll sit sesshin in a new way. My usual is Antaiji-style: just sitting, no chanting or services or work, just face the wall. This will include Dharma conversation, a rest time, work practice, and an option for outdoor meditative practice as well as indoors on the cushion. There will be two or three of us – like a crowd, as usually I sit alone. It will be my rest time.

Both June and July retreats are canceled because I will be traveling; June, to my teacher’s temple for ceremonies and community; July, to a small “thinktank” and then a ten-day wilderness retreat which I hope will offer the rest and re-creation I need.

October sesshin will be led by Lee Lewis, with a focus on environment, and will include working with the plants as part of our zazen.

Love to you all. Good night.

Just this, from birth to death

4 May

Just This2016-05-03 10.33.56

Last night I took a walk and scattered seeds in the forest. To walk through the woods is a blessing. Every time, I see more new plants, and want to know their names. I see where tiny buckthorn have come back, or larger ones were missed last time.

It seems like I hear them singing to me, and if I would slow down more I could really join in. There will be a note from a single wild plum tree, or a fern, or a chorus from a whole group of ferns. Sometimes I reply – but the reply is always a little off, I still carry too much noise. Perhaps, as I work in the woods every day, my voice will become clearer. Perhaps trying to imitate is not the point.

This way of being began after Myo-O’s voice workshop, where we spent time with the trees at the end. We’ll be doing it again, probably this fall, probably a whole retreat. But the other guest teacher, Martin Bulgerin, will teach us a different way of listening to plants, by making flower essences. That will be near the end of the 40-day intensive, and followed by a sesshin (meditation retreat). Some of my sesshin time will be in the woods. And that is my healing.

A few months ago I said that this “Living with the Earth” time (also known as “Earth-based Zen Practice”) would set the course for the Mountains and Waters Alliance – defined as “we ally ourselves with mountains, waters, and everything that lives” – getting it into our bodies and hearts. I hoped a core group would participate in this learning with me. 2016-05-02 16.18.582016-05-02 16.20.12

Working in the woods, I notice my preferences for plum over buckthorn, maple over box elder, hazelnut over honeysuckle, and anything over prickly ash. I say those preferences are about whether the plant cooperates with its neighbors, but have to admit that really there is a lot about human convenience. Do they scratch me? Do they give berries in return? I am still human-centered.

Patience is beginning to arise. Zen is full of stories of monks or nuns who spent 60 years living alone in the forest, and eventually students started to seek them out. Suddenly the question occurred: “Did any of them wonder why nobody noticed them? Maybe they were not noble and perfect, maybe they had their miserable days too.” Mostly, thus, I’m able to accept that my own learning and practice is the core. Others may come, or not, but I am finding my core teaching.

And because I have not taken the role of teacher here, I don’t know what others are thinking. I coordinate, solicit, publicize, and do heavy labor – and wonderful conversations happen, and the result is completely unknown. But sometimes a voice comes up in me, and it seems I have words worth saying.

From birth to death

I came back from that walk to learn that Trump had already been declared winner in Indiana. Soon I realized that Cruz had dropped out; it took longer to find that Sanders had won. Imagining Trump as president, I notice fear. Already people who speak a foreign language or can be mistaken for Muslims are being thrown off airplanes, refused entry to things, and sometimes beaten on the streets. Those of us working for change will, I think, be obligated to spend much more time interrupting such things, attending to the basic necessities in our own towns, keeping people alive.

And then I learned of the fire in Fort MacMurray, the evacuation of that whole town, and saw pictures of the place where I had been, 2012 and 2013, to walk with First Nations people in the Healing Walk. Climate change, yes, but how is it? And people are talking about karma, absurdly and cruelly, as if it were the individuals living and working there who were causing the devastation.

What will we become, when we have lost everything? Syrian refugees, Palestinian ordinary people – go back in time to Vietnamese boat people, further back to Tibetan people, whether they fled or stayed – now 70,000 people burned out in North America – what do you become when everything is gone except life and maybe family? Will we finally wake up? You see me searching for meaning. But as always, the people injured are not particularly the people who did the damage, no more than you or me.

There’s a phrase from a Zen story, “Just this, from birth to death.” It’s burned into my mind, but I can never find the story when I actually want to discuss it. Today it is in hiding, but in my mind. Not to do anything special, just be here. Like Daniel Berrigan: “Presente.”

Now – a few photos from last weekend, and some upcoming events briefly.

Playing in the Woods

the plan was to replace pulled-out buckthorn with native trees, 100 of them, and later to add small plants to keep the forest floor healthy. It was amazing to see all the many plants. Maybe they were hidden by buckthorn, honeysuckle, and grasses; maybe they actually multiplied in just one winter.

The Saturday groups (total 4 people plus me, in 2 shifts) pulled up buckthorn in a new area. I cut down tops of plants we will remove, which makes it easier to see what’s happening. We never got to planting the serviceberry, which were donated. Later.

On Sunday I was determined to have a day off. Two of us worked most of the day on the “island” next to the swamp. Nick moved stepping stones for crossing the creek, and half-built a walkway across the swamp to the island, so now it’s easier to get around. The place almost looks like a park now. I left tools and work projects to finish.

2016-05-01 15.56.51Monday I went alone to the island and planted a lot more trees – and found a lot more buckthorn to remove. (For the non-local: if you have buckthorn, you only have buckthorn.) Likewise, if you have bush honeysuckle, or reed canary grass, you have only them – and you either submit or fight. I refuse to use chemical poisons, but watching my mind in its preferences is a challenge. Anyway, its shape is beginning to show itself.

Tuesday I planted a few hundred seeds. Hope they survive. The bare ground under the trees is vulnerable to anything – and we don’t need more take-over plants. And, on the farm, Justin and I looked at the gardens and orchards, pulled a lot of weeds, and planted a lot of potatoes. Thursday we get a load of compost, and get ready for this weekend’s orchard/garden work.

Other news:

I said I couldn’t afford to hire people this year, but not hiring them was worse. A bunch of fabulous people have turned up. We have Juli, office manager, 15-16 hours a week, helping me get organized and also find volunteers and sell produce. (Besides the farmer’s market of course.) Justin, farm, 15-20 hours a week, and a natural. Paul, high school student, farm. Carpenters for a couple of projects. My money is worth more here than in the bank – though I can’t cut too close. Mentally I’m writing grant proposals, but don’t have time to really write them. Maybe another YouCaring, some time.

2016-04-29 12.28.18The solar panels are up, waiting for inspection, and then we see how fast Xcel turns them on.

In July I am traveling for two things: first, a “thinktank” about environmental activism that actually supports the environment rather than becoming part of the corporate structure. Second, a long retreat in the mountains, for activists and meditators, for which I received a full scholarship. I need it. In June I return to my teacher’s temple in Indiana, Sanshinji, for ceremonies and to help welcome his successor.

Events

For local people, Facebook page is now the best place to find up-to-date information. But I will keep the event page updated here too.

May 6-7: “Tending the Gardens” – mostly, we’ll work with moving supportive plants into the orchard, from the berry patch and elsewhere, and weed and tend both of them. The annual gardens take second place. For people who would like to stay overnight, you can make this a retreat and join us for morning meditation. Just working is fine too

Saturday, May 21: Flower essence workshop – about 5 hours, including a class on making flower essences, a talk and demonstration of prescribing an essence for someone, and – what’s special – actually making a remedy from one flower, which includes meditative time outside. There will be a fee, and there will be scholarships.

Martin Bulgerin, the teacher, has been practicing natural healing for decades, and is locally recognized for his work with flower essences. His website is here. More information later.

Saturday -Wednesday, May 21-25: closing retreat – Concluding our 40 days of living close to the earth, we will create a closing retreat that includes meditation (zazen), land care, celebration, and simple ceremony. You’re encouraged to start with the flower essence workshop.

There’s still volunteer work available most of the time, and we’re still looking for carpool connections from Twin Cities.

Future Guest Teachers

Dates are not set.

May or June: Luca Valentino, a Zen person with decades of experience teaching and doing cabinetmaking, will offer some kind of teaching.

Fall (?): Myo-O Habermas-Scher, Minneapolis Zen teacher and voice teacher, will offer a retreat involving work with voice, chanting with trees, and meditation.

Fall (?): Lee Lewis, a Minneapolis Zen teacher, will offer a 5-day sesshin (meditation retreat) here, with teaching relating to the environment and with some outdoor work, nature walks, or other connection with the land.

And that is all for now. Blessings to all of you. Please continue to support us and the whole earth with your prayers, meditations, and everything.

Shodo

Earth-based Zen practice – an invitation

18 Feb

You are invited to come here this spring for earth-based Zen practice – see the poster below and then ask questions. You don’t have to already be a Zen person. People are starting to come, and there’s room for more.

Last year we did maple sugaring in mid-March; this year we start late February. I read the news on climate change, and watch the responses to refugees – and ache. I can only throw my lot in with the earth – Gaia herself,  plants and animals, waters, minerals and winds, and humans. There will be no fence around this land to keep out refugees, if it happens that we have food and warmth longer than others. And if we don’t manage to make the house passive solar, or build the water collection system and the greenhouse, still we have hand saws and water barrels and it will work. We’re just here.

With love,

Shodo

Zen convocation 2016 p1

Zen convocation 2016 p2

 

 

 

From my heart. Also news and upcoming events.

6 Feb

It’s been hard to write.

There’s an idea that I must put on my public persona in order to write these blog posts. Be cheerful, newsy, upbeat. I haven’t been able to do that.

Today my friend James McGinley made a comment – after a lifetime in the marketing industry (which I hadn’t known) trying to figure out how to say things so that people can listen, he’s quit, to just live an honest life. Today I will listen to that. Today I will take the chance that you want to go deeper, and that I might have something worthwhile to share.

Big things in the so-called outside world

One thing is that I’m watching more and more news about climate change, and other environmental problems, and feeling less and less optimistic about our chances of stopping the disaster. By that I don’t mean saving civilization, I mean preventing the end of the natural world as we know it, including human life.

The Mountains and Waters Alliance is based on a premise that civilization is mortally flawed in this way: we think we are separate from all the other beings (often from other humans too) and that the rest of the world is a resource for us to use. We approach as masters, not members. This is the flaw that leads to the situation we are in now, with dangerous environmental situations, politics of rage, extreme racism, and a desperate search for simple solutions.

My proposal is that we completely give up that point of view, unlearn everything we’ve been taught, and learn to listen to the trees, rocks, rivers, microbes, fungi, birds, predators, even mosquitoes. That we allow them to lead, and we follow with our whole being. That we listen more to indigenous peoples and less to civilized ones, because the indigenous have fewer layers to remove, but really to allow ourselves to not know what to do.

I imagine that there might yet be a way to change what’s happening, if we get out of the way. I also imagine that, if it’s actually the end, we might go there more human. But I’m still seeking salvation and am embarrassed about that. I’m particularly embarrassed because I’m trying to lead something. There are others with the same voice, all ahead of me: Charles Eisenstein writes eloquently, and I still love Daniel Quinn’s “living in the hands of the gods.” I want to learn this, living in the hands of the gods. Maybe that’s the thing that undermines all my efforts to be sensible and practical.

It’s time for me to go back to the zendo and back into the woods, at the same time as I continue to reach out to people. Opposite directions. Meanwhile I need to make money this summer. And it’s almost time for maple sugaring, followed by all the farm and land work – which I love.

So this is the plan, as well as I can say:

  • Daily zazen, and continue retreats, continue calming down and listening within.
  • Daily walking the land, listening to the living earth under my feet and to the river, the trees, sun, wind, stars, and all of them.
  • Doing the needed steps for food, warmth (firewood), some communication and outreach, and try to learn bookkeeping without resenting it.
  • Make some money, however I can.
  • Friends and family.

About money:

There was a fundraiser for solar panels, and it ended with about $600 short. I decided to make one last appeal – but am just getting around to it now. Meanwhile a homeless, activist friend sent $50. I’m thinking that this amount could easily be raised by $10 and $20 donations. The link is here: Donate. And just so you know, if you don’t tell me whether you want to take the tax deduction, I’ll do it at $50 and up. With gratitude for any amount. (Break-even point is about 35 cents.)

News here:

For four months this winter, Roy Dopson lived here. He repaired the culvert under the driveway, which had looked like a big expense and possibly an emergency. He dug up a lot of buckthorn. He has left me with probably next year’s firewood as well as this year’s. He did some weatherization on the house, and practically ended the mouse situation.

Two days ago Roy left to be teacher in residence at Mountain Valley Retreat in Southern California. He was going to leave a month later, for his firefighting job, but he’s gone now.

2016-02-02 10.05.492016-02-02 10.21.222016-02-02 10.19.53

So I build my own fires again, shovel my own snow – and rebuild my body. I think about finding people, and try to be patient. I put up notices in some appropriate places. Some guests are coming for parts of the spring, and there is support and encouragement. Most recently a carpenter offered to do work for an incredibly low price, because he likes what I’m doing, so the wood cook stove will be going in soon. Maybe I can afford to have him do some other work too, making more space for guests and eventual residents.

Little things:

  • Yesterday I gave some black cherry wood to a local woodturner. It’s pretty old. If it works, he’ll trade me turning lessons (on that lathe I bought) for the wood. Otherwise we’ll cut down one of the leaning trees. I’d like to make bread boards from the walnut and cherry, and just might have found somebody whose equipment I can use.
  • I can’t even tell you how beautiful it is here. The snows have been mild and (except for canceling travel the day of the blizzard) I’ve been able to get places in my little car.
  • When I go walking in the snow, wildlife tracks are everywhere. I walk along the paths they make. Pictures did not work.
  • The five planets are lined up in the southeast every morning. Every morning it has been cloudy. This will, eventually, change.
  • Someone I would love as a neighbor looked at the farm across the road. I learned that there’s an offer already, contingent on them being able to build on the hillside on the west. Right next to my land, in the area I walk and consider sacred. Preliminary inquiries do not show me a way to stop it from happening, unless it just happens that they’re unable to meet septic or setback requirements. After hours of obsessing, I think I’d better go ask the earth spirits to help. Have not done it yet. Probably because I’m too civilized and struggle to believe they will help.
  • The masonry heater is in and connected to the ductwork, and it doesn’t work as well as hoped. (Toasty downstairs though.) I think there are some improvements to make, but mostly think the wood cook stove will take care of the heat – very soon.

Next events:

Here is the link to the 2016 calendar.

Here is a link to the spring convocation, April 15-May 25. (I’m having trouble with words: convergence, coming together, or convocation, calling together? I think there’s a word I haven’t found yet.)

I’ll close with some of the words I wrote, trying to express this work for possible fundraisers; I don’t know if they’ll like it, but the words look good to me, as a prose version of the vow:

  • To actually work together with trees, mountains, rivers, animals, soil, fungi, all beings (including humans) to change the energetic structure that gives rise to the earth. Those beings are powerful; they have co-created life on earth for millennia. Our best hope is to listen, learn, join with them, and follow their lead.
  • I envision the farm as a pivot point for the turning of consciousness.

Blessings and peace to you all, whatever you are doing, wherever you are.

Shodo

Winter in my Heart

20 Nov

Cold weather has finally arrived here; our long perfect summer is over. But there’s another shift that I’m feeling more deeply.

Last weekend I was ready to post photos of the work from our volunteer day: wide open woods no longer clogged with buckthorn; a new bedroom in an open space downstairs; the first fires in the masonry heater.

I couldn’t do it.

I came out of that beautiful day to learn of the Paris bombing, then the Beirut bombing. Then I heard about the police killing of Jamar Clark, and went down with friends to join protests Sunday evening at the Minneapolis 4th district police station.

That wasn’t the worst. Nor was even the bombing of Nigeria the worst. No, the hardest thing is watching my country turn into the scariest place I’ve ever been. Maybe it’s always been like that: polls from early 1900’s show majority of Americans didn’t want to accept German or Jewish refugees after the wars. State governors and some cities are refusing refugees; Donald Trump proposes name tags for Muslims and is still leading in polls.) I feel like I’ve been transported to some science fiction dystopia. Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here keeps coming up in my mind. Anger and hate are going in all directions, on two fronts: police/Black lives, and Muslim refugees. I understand that if a terrorist wants to enter this country, they would probably pretend to be a refugee. I just think that it’s more important to stop creating terrorists, stop making people hate us.

All week my friends have been going back and forth to the Minneapolis protest; some were there on Wednesday when police maced protesters. A Unitarian minister who took food on Wednesday says it was very peaceful with just a few people agitating – that was before the mace and rubber bullets. I’ll go for the NAACP march today. (Update: 800 people, very peaceful. Lots of food, a dozen campfires and several tents, very clean, and apparently a few agitators trying to make things look bad.)

A little information, by the way, for those who might be receiving reports of any kind. Yes, Jamar had a history of domestic violence, had even been in jail for it, was trying to turn his life around (says his father). One of the police officers involved had been sued for violence and false arrest. (I updated this based on most recent reports.) The rest of the information offered is not reliable, as far as I can tell. Probably he was in handcuffs as 12 witnesses say, but it’s conceivable he was grabbing the officer’s gun and the witnesses lied. When the video tapes are released, we may have more information. Regardless, it’s customary to give a person a trial, not shoot them on the street.

The situation of racism in this country is now officially in our faces. What is an appropriate response?

Any answer would be incomplete. My words here barely touch the surface of what I’m thinking; others have written well already. Maybe later I’ll have something to offer.

And, although my heart is aching, I’ll share some photos.

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