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Embracing Reality

24 Sep

The deep vow is to free all beings: the first of Zen’s four vows.

The manifestation, in this particular body, is to become intimate with the un-freedom of my personal mind and of my culture, and working to release the internal while addressing the external. That is how the vow of the Mountains and Waters Alliance looks right now.

My writing “Right Action: The World is My Body” is a chapter in The Eightfold Path, edited by Jikyo Wolfer, published just now by Temple Ground Press. Re-reading what I wrote, I find my thoughts well expressed. The most difficult part was writing about political action, of course.

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These beings have promised to help.

If you buy this book, please get it from your local bookstore and not from Amazon. Or get your local public library to buy it. Your actions matter. Local bookstores matter. I am asking you to join me in avoiding businesses that use slave labor; Amazon is one of the big ones. (If you have no local bookstore, you can buy online from someone else.) This is a small step of independence that costs perhaps a few dollars, perhaps not, and supports a healthy economic community. If you don’t understand this, ask me and I’ll write more about it.

As the vow becomes stronger in my life (particularly as a result of the 10-day wilderness retreat in July, and life following), it becomes harder to carry on with ordinary life. I am determined to remove excess baggage and stay with the center.

Since returning home, I’ve been attempting to clarify that center and to make practical decisions. The most important activities include

  • studying, practicing, and teaching Zen,
  • undoing the cultural habits of civilization – which in this case means learning to listen and talk with trees, mountains, and other nonhuman beings;
  • supporting others who are undoing those cultural habits; at this time the key group is the growing resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (based in spiritual and cultural traditions that are rooted in human connection with the whole natural world); there are individuals and organizations around the world doing work of this kind.

In morning service, I offer blessings to individuals – sick or in need, but also those doing large projects – and to groups protecting and sustaining the earth, and to those teaching and leading the healing of spirit. The list is long. I send healing to the beings of earth itself. I include those who are disconnected and doing great harm, but rarely say names here because it feels like a judgment.

The other parts of the Alliance – creating a residential spiritual community, and a farm which grows food to be ready for when the collapse comes – seem less central. Thus I look at what I can release.

The land grounds me, heals me, and is my place of learning. Farming and caring for it takes more energy and focus than I have. I’m trying to protect the work already done (orchard etc), harvest crops planted this spring, and do the minimum needed. Also, I’m working to make it a space where more people can live, if those people appear. An extra bedroom is almost ready, and I’m being helped greatly by a Vipassana practitioner who is an excellent carpenter.

It would be easiest if some people came to live here with me, to practice with me, and to live with this vow. The invitation is out – and here I remind you of it. But I’m preparing for the backup plan: find my own financial support, take minimal care of the land, and plunge myself into the deep work – I’ve been saying hermit work, but it will include engagement – for as long as needed.

Coaching: The financial support plan is a coaching business focusing on wisdom, empowerment, and love. I’ve dropped my clinical social work license, but offer my services to individuals, couples, or groups, by phone, Skype, or in an office in Northfield, MN. There’s a set fee, and I can’t accept health insurance; everything else I do is for free or by donation. Information here. Feel free to make a referral.

The big world: In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Tribe is saying no to a pipeline that would invade sacred burial grounds (legally protected) and endanger the Missouri River (and all downstream). It feels to me like the encounter of the deep energies of our time: one based in community, connection with the land, and tradition; the other based in profit, denying responsibility, and willing to destroy both climate and waters for what is called “our way of life” – also known as self-indulgence at the expense of our own children and everyone else on the planet. If you don’t have access to reliable information, let me suggest Censored News, Democracy Now, or Yes Magazine.

I imagine going to Standing Rock to sit sesshin, in honor of all life. The practical details are overwhelming, and I may just get there for a weekend, do some labor, and get acquainted. Only because it seems so important – traveling is not generally part of my practice, but there are frequent carpools from near here.

If you would, join in the October 10 day of prayer and action. Divest from the banks that invest in pipelines, listed here. If I organize a prayer action, I will let you know. Local events will be on the website.

Meanwhile Black men are being killed by police at an incredible rate, white people are making a fuss about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful and respectful protest, and one Black community has finally erupted into violence after intense provocation. That eruption is a victory for racism. I have only sadness to offer. There have been poems, heartbreaking. Here is one:

Leslé Honoré            July 14 · Chicago, IL ·

Backpacks

When black boys are born
We mothers kiss their faces
Twirl our fingers in their curls
Put them in carriers on our chest
Show them to the world
Our tiny black princes

And when they start school
As early as 3
We mothers
Place huge back packs on their backs
And we slowly fill them with bricks
Etched with tools
Tattooed with truths
Hoping to save them

Don’t talk back
Don’t get angry
Say yes ma’am
Say no sir
Don’t fight
Even if they hit you first
Especially if they are white
Do your best
Better than best
Be still
Worker hardest
BRICK

they get a little older
And we add more

Keep your hands out of your pockets
Don’t look them in the eye
Don’t challenge
Don’t put your manhood before your life
Just get home safe
Don’t walk alone
Don’t walk with too many boys
Don’t walk towards police
Don’t walk away from police
Don’t buy candy or ice tea
Don’t put your hood up
I’ll drive you
I’ll pick you up
You can’t be free
Don’t go wandering
Come home to me
BRICK

They get a little older
And we add more

Understand you are a threat
Standing still
Breathing
Your degrees are not a shield
Your job is not a shield
Your salary makes you a target
Your car makes you a target
Your nice house in a nice neighborhood
Makes you a target
Don’t put your ego before your safety
Don’t talk back
Don’t look them in the eye
Get home to your wife
Your son
BRICK

They weigh them down.
This knowing
Of having to carry the load
Of their blackness

the world hasn’t changed
The straps just dig deeper into their skin
Their backs ache
But their souls don’t break
Our beautiful black men

When you say to me
All lives matter
I simply ask
Will your son die with the world on his back
Mine will.

 

Very local: Finally some work is getting done on the house. The photos are not impressive unless you’ve been here – but here is the tiled floor, ready for the wood cookstove.

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With love,

Shodo

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

 

The mission – and some thoughts

7 Jun

Our work is to heal the mind of separation, the cause of our time’s unthinkable violence, and to ally with forces of nature to protect and restore the wholeness of life. Releasing human arrogance, with love and beyond conventional wisdom, we seek and follow guidance from those forces: land care, growing food, teaching, writing, retreats, and whatever is required. This is our intervention on climate catastrophe, while we prepare to offer hospice if needed.

Working on a grant application, some things clarified themselves. The first paragraph is above.

A key clarification is that the alliance with all beings is in fact the center. The land is a learning center, a place to begin that relationship, and a place to take in climate refugees if and when that happens. But the most important thing is changing our relationship with the rest of the planet – collectively. Thus, when asked “what if you don’t get the funding you need?” I answered that the shape of the work will change, but it will continue.

Please look here, for better language. Reading the first few paragraphs will be plenty for most people.

Since I last wrote,

  • three people sat a full three-day sesshin here. That’s a first. My friend Luca visited for three weeks, offered countless labors and gifts, and during sesshin took over timekeeping and bell ringing so I could just sit and give talks. (We shared cooking.)
  • we “finished” pulling buckthorn and earned a cost-sharing grant from the National Resource Conservation Service. It was supposed to cover half our costs, and did about that. I’d hoped all that volunteer work would actually bring income, but we finished it with paid labor, and I’m not sorry. We planted some trees, ferns, and so forth, and there’s more work to be done there, but it’s alive with wild plum, willow, oak, black cherry, and lots more.
  • The process of pulling and cutting all those trees has set me back. How can I claim to be listening to the forces of nature while warring on some of them. I have said, I’m on the side of balanced natural communities and removing the invaders – removing the plants that act like us, actually – but it still puts me at war. I’m gently considering communication with all the plants, not just the ones I like, and we will see where that goes. I committed to learning from all beings, to abandoning human superiority – and here I am.

There’s some traveling coming up in my life:

  • Tomorrow I visit my friend Setsurin McCarthy, who is walking across the continent. I meet up with her in Des Moines, the closest point. Unfortunately I don’t have time to walk a few days with her as I have hoped.
  • A week later I visit my teacher for ceremonies – he’s appointed a successor – and also visit my old friend in prison there.
  • In July I join a small group of people looking at the environmental crisis beyond what “the system” allows us to think and know. Wish us luck! And then a deep vacation: “Nature and Wilderness” retreat, Colorado mountains, activists and meditators together – looks like the rest I most need. (got a scholarship)

A Zen student arrives in June for a few months; I expect another shortly after he leaves in the fall – good news, not to be alone here. This is meant to be a place of community.

Teachings: I’ve updated the calendar, will just mention a few:

  • June 12, flower essence workshop here with Martin Bulgerin. I expect this to help me listen to the plants, as did April’s voice workshop with Myo-O Habermas-Scher.
  • July 3: I give a Dharma Talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul.
  • 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.

And I don’t even know what’s happening in today’s election.

Here are some pictures.

 

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.

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

The light returns

24 Dec

Past the longest night, moving into the full moon and toward the new year, I wonder how to greet you, what blessing to offer. I found this poem by Ganga White:

“What if our religion was each other,
if our practice was our life,
if prayer, our words.
what if the temple was the earth,
if forests were our church,
if holy water—the rivers, lakes, and oceans.
what if meditation was our relationships,
if the teacher was life,
if wisdom was self-knowledge,
if love was the center of our being.”

What if, indeed. There is no agenda in this poem, just a way of life beyond success or failure, right or wrong. I offer it to you as my new year’s blessing.

Last month I wrote about difficult things in the so-called world. There are also some good news items, fragments: A judge says young people do have the right to sue the government about destroying their future. Congress does not ban Muslims from entering the country (imagine that it was even conceivable!). I’ve noted and forgotten other court decisions in favor of people protecting the land. Then there is the climate summit, hopeful words and no firm commitments. Meanwhile I imagine (just imagine) that this is the last normal winter. I want to be encouraged by the small changes and by the words and by all the people I now see engaging in spirit-based activism.

At the farm: life is much easier now, with Roy here and no farming to do. We now heat with wood all the time (except for right now while we are both away). The culvert is repaired and more than an acre of buckthorn removal is done. We do have to check the root cellar regularly, keep the fire going, and remember to eat from the freezer and the pantry.

My next practical task is to tile a floor space in the kitchen, where the wood cookstove will go. Other tasks are getting a real website, finding people, doing the accounting, and keeping in touch with you.

In addition to donations, we’ve been offered private loans enough to go forward with the solar panel installation. This will turn our electric bill into a small income, and move away from fossil fuels. If you would like to make a donation before the end of the year (or after), look here. $2500 would enable us to repay or redirect the loans.

Personal: I’m getting a little more time with grandchildren and children, and am visiting my long-distance family for a while. It’s time to finish editing my teacher’s book, and I expect to complete that before returning home. I’m sleeping better, but my body misses the vigorous exercise of the farm work. (Snow shoveling should make up for that.)

I’ve gone into practice as a “mindfulness coach,” with office space in Northfield and a phone or Skype option. It’s pretty new, and I haven’t said much except making this listing. I liked counseling in the past and expect to like this, but apparently I’ll have to actually do some marketing. (Alas.)

After sitting zazen every morning at the farm, and a 3-5 day retreat every month, I chose to attend a week-long sesshin (retreat) at Clouds in Water Zen Center, with my old friends and Dharma sisters and brothers. I feel like I’ve rejoined my first Zen family. I’ll be joining a group of priests for regular Dharma study, a very welcome connection.

Mountains and Waters Alliance: A vow came to me spontaneously, and defines the Alliance. It doesn’t really say what the Alliance does or is; it just positions us within the universe of life. Sometimes I wonder how it might take form. I imagine a gathering next spring, a beginning, partially described here, in which we come together to quiet down, listen, and open to creation. (April-May 2016) Currently, I’m asking which plants and animals to add to the woodlands, and walking the land to listen. This is a large temple.

The vow is both about spiritual practice and about protecting the earth in a way beyond what industrial civilization allows us to think. We need to become very quiet and open and find out who we are.

A thousand blessings to you all in the new year.

Shodo

Mountains and Waters

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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