Tag Archives: Avalokiteshvara

Maple Sugar, Climate Change, Dreams

25 Feb

Sugaring:

It’s been warm here. The plan for February’s work weekend was to clean up the sugaring equipment, and do some indoor carpentry work. But a look at the weather forecast changed all that. And a crowd of people came – first four, and then a group of three arrived just after they left.

Here’s what we did: (group A)

  • Cleaned up the pails, tubes, and equipment. 2016-02-20 12.42.09
  • Tapped the nearest tree, which is a box elder, for practice.
  • Tapped some sugar maples, back in the woods.
  • Cleared a space and built a fireplace for cooking the 2016-02-20 12.44.11sap into syrup.
  • Ate lunch.

 

 

  • Tapped some walnuts, by the creek. Went to look at the bluffs by the creek.2016-02-20 15.34.432015-11-26 10.54.45
  • Took a break, had snacks, and said good-bye.

Group B:

  • Washed a few more buckets and tubes.
  • Went back to the creek, found the tools where we had left them, drilled two more holes in the last tree.
  • Battery ran out. Went back home before dark. Said good-bye.

Yesterday I checked the buckets. Three of the five maples, one walnut, and the box elder have some sap. I’ll check again on Saturday, when it’s supposed to be the perfect weather for the sap to run. (warm day, frozen night) When it starts really running, there will be a lot of work boiling.

What the mind does:

This is a month earlier than we ought to be tapping, amazing and wonderful but it’s climate change. Will the sap run the way it’s supposed to, or will something else interfere? What will happen next year? I’m planning to plant more sugar maples, but if we lose our cold winters they won’t grow, so should I still plant them? We’re in a frost pocket here, so maybe it’s okay and we should.

Everything else:

This year I won’t be hiring casual labor the way I did last year. I hope to find a manager and an office manager, for work that is just too much for me alone. Mostly this year will be about consolidating, protecting the orchard, propagating the berries, and taking care of a small part of the woods: taking a slower pace and listening more to the land.

40 days:

The spring 40-day convocation (“calling together”) holds so much of my dreams. Learning to listen to the land, to really hear its voices instead of applying theories, even good ones like permaculture, to find what to do to care for, protect and nurture the land. An old friend who works with subtle energies of plants, crystals, and earth will be helping me. I hope some people will join me in learning. And I’m reaching out first to the Zen community, hoping that a shared language of spirituality will help us create the community of listening and caring. Not exclusively. https://vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/2016-events/mountains-and-waters-spring-convergence/ If you feel called, consider whether you can come for part or all of this time.

Though I am still the primary creator, a few people are getting more connected on the deep level. One person comes now and then to sit in the meditation space, and volunteers some time. Another is coming for a personal retreat, and will offer some work. Perhaps there will be more such. Those who find a spiritual home here are the ones who will be able to create with me, which is what I long for most. Meanwhile some friends and others are planning to come for a week, two weeks, a month, or to support the convergence by offering teachings. This needs to happen. As people come, we can do the minor carpentry that makes spaces for more to come, as well as the outdoor work that grows food and nourishes the land.

Climate change –

Even though there’s increasing reason to think it’s too late for human survival, I refuse to say it absolutely. I am certain that industrial civilization cannot be saved, nor do I want to save it. Somewhere in the space between those extremes is my life and work. I plant trees and hope they will have a chance to grow before the climate changes too much; I plan greenhouses to protect plants from extremes; I learn to forage, to save seeds and put up food. But most of all, I seek to release my life. Daniel Quinn speaks of peoples “living in the hands of the gods.” I wish to live in that way, and notice constantly how much I do not. My need to control and to figure things out is called colonization; my ancestors have been colonized for over a thousand years so I am not to blame for it, but as a result I participate in colonization, genocide, and land destruction. There I am responsible. I seek decolonization internally, and listen closely to the voices for literal decolonization of the continent.

What kind of heart will we carry forward with us? That is what matters, whether we survive or not. There will be difficulties here, as there already are elsewhere. There are official climate refugees in the United States, not only elsewhere, and there are hungry people as well. I am happy to see my Zen sisters and brothers meeting the issue, facing it directly. May we all find our way, in this time, with compassion.

I treasure your support. If you can, please come. Sending money, volunteering time (here or elsewhere), and other possibilities continue. Here is how to reach me: https://vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/contact/

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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

Buckthorn, Maple, and Land Care

25 Oct

2005-10-11 04.06.53Today’s volunteer day was about removing buckthorn, in the sunny 2005-10-11 04.14.35pleasant daylight following a heavy rain. A mass of shrubbery has now become a beautiful open space.  Looking at our feet, we find that there are a lot of sugar maples here – small, completely overwhelmed by the buckthorn, soon to grow in the open space. 2005-10-11 03.38.01

Donna and I joined Roy, who has been working on this during the past two weeks (since the last volunteer day) when he isn’t working on the culvert repair (photos 2005-10-11 04.05.21later).

We planted ferns (given by Jayne) to stabilize  the creek bank.2005-10-11 04.04.54

2005-10-11 04.04.40

Of course there are piles of buckthorn, which becomes wildlife habitat, erosion 2005-10-11 04.06.08protection, and possible source of wood for carving or fires.

This area is right near the bluffs at the big stream. We look forward to adding native plants and creating a pleasant sitting/walking outdoor area. It had literally been hidden under the buckthorn – a solid mass. There are still many similar areas to address, but probably it will be next spring when we have another buckthorn work day.

It feels good to be doing this land care, watching spaces open up, using our bodies in the last of the fall.  The strangeness of pulling up a species to let individual plants die – balanced with making space for others that were crowded out, restoring health and wholeness to the land, inviting myriads of species to live here instead of one. It does, sadly, remind one of human beings. Civilized humans are better in seeing the invasive behavior of others than seeing our own. Here, we aspire to stop being the one species that destroys all the rest, and to return to our place in the whole. Humans have lived this way in the past, for most of human history. Re-learning it is a key part of what Mountains and Waters means.

Blessings to you all. Visitors are welcome.

Shodo

Can You Help Us Now?

8 Oct

Dear Friends,

If you are willing and able to donate any money to Mountains and Waters, I ask you to do it now. Small amounts are fine. Large amounts, from those who can, help us get out of fundraising mode faster.

If the vow speaks to you, you are already part of it. How would it feel to make that more real – to put a little of your actual life energy into protecting the planet for your children/grandchildren/all beings? Does your personal spending include $5 a month (or a day) that you would like to switch to supporting this large vision? (You can skip reading and jump down to donating if you like – the next heading. Even $5 helps.)

Here’s what’s happening, why I’m asking right now. There’s an intention to get the farm completely off-grid – fossil fuels and electricity – as well as to grow food to share, supporting local food security against climate change effects.2015-09-24 17.56.04Siding Sept 25 2015

We have completed half the house insulation, installed a very efficient masonry heater, its chimney almost finished, and have a wood cookstove ready to install. The orchard and berry patch are started, and the vegetable garden is producing like mad. We’re connected with others in the local food system. I’m leading a small Zen group in Northfield, occasional retreats at the farm, and other Zen activities. The second resident, Roy Guisinger, an Advaita teacher, has arrived. He will be both working on the farm and offering teaching.

The blog now has a list of volunteer opportunities including several that you can do from where you are. If you want to do a working visit to the farm, or to come to a retreat, let me know – here.2015-09-15 17.54.13

We applied for Minnesota’s help for installing photovoltaic panels, and won their lottery system. This means that we pay to install the panels, and then they pay us for every watt of electricity we produce in addition to buying back our surplus. We’re approved for a 9.840 kW system which will cost about $27,500 to install.

Plans are to do the installation next spring. To get approved for that delay, we have to purchase the panels now. So I need to decide whether to proceed or not – within the next two weeks. If I put down $6700, I can get a 4.25% loan for the rest; if not, the interest rate is higher. I’m taking that $6700 as the minimum for going forward with the solar panels.

HERE’S WHAT HELP CAN LOOK LIKE:

Donations to https://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647 are tax deductible. So far we’ve raised $1051 there from 12 people, mostly people who saw it online, including Facebook friends I’ve never met in person.

Loans at no interest would be very helpful. Call or email me.

Donations without the tax deduction save us 5%. You can mail a check here, saving another 2.9% on the WePay fees. (No complaint about the fees. Sending 5% to Alliance for Sustainability is a small amount in exchange for all they give us and do for the community.)

The iGive campaign is still going on, with the special deal ending October 9. Costs nothing – click and see.

Shouldn’t we be getting grants? I’ve been looking. There is a foundation that is likely to fund Mountains and Waters Alliance in a few years – after we’ve shown some stability. A volunteer will be helping with fundraising in a few months, if all goes as planned. The USDA grants for farms are mostly not working now (maybe later) but we have a small conservation grant, if we pull up a lot of buckthorn (invasive shrub).

Get a job? I’ve been in conversation about it and plan to be working about one day a week, which should take care of my personal expenses but won’t support the Farm or the Alliance. The Alliance, by definition, involves many people: Until those people are here, I work elsewhere.

IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE for this organization with lofty purposes to be raising money for something so mundane. The reality is: We need to eat. We need to stay warm in the winter. And if we are to participate in this society, to organize, to communicate widely, we need electricity. The panels change electricity from an expense to an income source. Although I love when I can be away from Internet and phone and machines, loved living without a car, at this time those things are needed to do the work.

The last blog post raised the question of whether I should be here at the farm. That question isn’t coming up now.

Fall is here. There have been light frosts, and we’re going to take down the garden soon. It’s still outrageously beautiful outside, and colors are barely beginning. I gave a River Sept, 2015tour yesterday to Roy (showing progress since his last visit) and to Toby, an intern with Savannah Institute (which encourages and promotes the kind of mixed farming that we’re doing here). Both dug, Toby sharpened the scythe and cut some grass, and left this morning. The sun is shining and workers are coming today.

Mycelium - mushrooms

Mycelium – mushrooms

People tell me the orchard and berry patch look great. I’m pleased and surprised. Leo has mushrooms getting ready in a trash can, Chris is getting ready to plant hazelnuts here for his vision of protein for all, and Andrea brought rescued honeybees that we hope will survive the winter. Andrea also cleaned the chicken house, but the chickens are going to wait until spring. Saturday’s volunteers will pull up buckthorn and Berry patch Oct 2015plant ostrich ferns that Jayne gave me yesterday at the Zen group. (Most of my plants have come from Jenny…not mentioned here I think. Also mention Allison has given food, produce and canned food, and cooked a lunch for us. I’m trying to keep track of the gifts, but it’s hard.)

I think we’re going to make it. All summer I wondered. There’s still the question of how much damage the pocket gophers will do (or how we can stop them – raptor perches haven’t yet worked, snakes are not interested) and whether the deer will IMG_2847[1]get past the tree tubes or the field mice girdle the trees. And how much watering we’ll need to do if next summer is dry. Still plenty of work to do, and I have promised an article for a Soto Zen women’s anthology, have my teacher’s book to edit, have writing of my own that doesn’t happen. But the hardest is past.

Next year we’ll be selling strawberry plants, raspberry plants, strawberries. Later, mushrooms, Chris’s IMG_2636hazelnut seedlings, lots of nursery trees of various kinds. And we got $40 at the farmers’ market a couple weeks ago. Probably will get a little more, when we have time to go. It’s a way to take care of the produce we don’t have time to put up for winter. And I get to take a walk in the woods. Soon. Maybe tomorrow. Harvest Sept 15 2015

Nothing today about news of the world. Another time.

Love and blessings.

Shodo

The most useful thing

3 Oct

I woke up this morning with the thought: “Is this the most useful thing I can be doing?” I spend a lot of time on the farm – taking care of it, thinking about it, managing people who work with me on it, finding volunteers, looking for money – my whole life revolves around it now. That question often arises.

This morning, there was an answer. It was very clear. The answer was “No.” The most useful thing I could be doing is teaching Zen.

I’m not going to make a lot of words around that right now. The answer came as it is. I will say that for me teaching Zen is the way to point directly to what matters, to the liberation of the spirit.

The question remains whether this farm is the most useful setting for my teaching of Zen. That question will take care of itself.

Mountains and Waters – blog updates especially volunteering

24 Sep

Well, first, we have a Facebook page.

Second, I added a volunteer page which includes both dates of workdays (Oct 10, Nov 14) but lots of other options. I was asked to do that.

To simplify, I consolidated the other pages into categories. They should work. Contact info, past event information, and upcoming events (the October 3 intro to Zen retreat day), plus Mission, Vision, Goals, Vow with all my words about what this is about.

Here’s a picture of the chimney construction as it is today. Tonight there should be a few more layers added – every day until they have to go through the roof. Fortunately the weather is being mild.

2015-09-24 17.56.04Soon the siding will go up, covering the insulation before cold weather arrives. The food dehydrator is almost done, and usable once the sun comes back.

I’m gradually bringing my life more into the realm of practicing and teaching Zen. Last Saturday I led an all-day retreat for a women’s group that’s been meeting for years – convened by Nita Wolf, a kind host and excellent facilitator. I was moved by the depth of questions and comments, honored to be invited there, looking forward to the introductory retreat in just over a week.

May your fall be wonderful and your heart be open.

With warmth and respect,

Shodo

 

 

Mid Summer

17 Jul

First the begging (an old monastic tradition), second the photos and farm stuff, and last some thoughts.

I sent out an update on the fundraiser, https://www.youcaring.com/mountains-and-waters-alliance-362647/update/344245. And it includes a recipe. Hint: some people send their tax-exempt donation without me bugging them. That’s really nice, it allows me to take care of the orchard and even have some time for teaching Zen. I do understand I have to get past my terror and call. Oh well. First let me tell you about the free way to support Mountains and Waters Alliance. If you click here you can get the information. Please do that if you like what I’m doing. Next week I’ll start hounding people.

And – to sign up for blog posts, you go to the page (you’re here) and go down the right side to “Entries RSS.” Click and there’s a place to sign up.

IMG_2731[1]It’s finally summer, hot and buggy, and I’m grateful that the house is naturally cool. We work, groups of 2 or 3 of us, sometimes volunteers and sometimes “casual labor” which means friends who work for a lot less than they’re worth. So the orchard trees are staying alive, and we’ll have the rabbit fence up protecting berries, well before winter.

The garden is producing vigorously; Asian greens have gone to seed, lettuce is IMG_2706[1]abundant, rhubarb might still have another harvest. The rabbits are eating the strawberries. There are wild raspberries, dandelions, daylilies, hostas, and just today sumac tea. I probably could still harvest a few nettles, but the season is pretty well past and I haven’t had time to go out. I wonder when the first tomatoes will turn red and when to dig potatoes – and what I will do with them all. I’m learning to grow food, preserve it, and give it away. Selling produce? Another thing to learn.

IMG_2712[1]And we are mulching the trees, pulling weeds out of the tree tubes, taking care of the perimeter trees – and, occasionally, pulling out buckthorn.

Yesterday a volunteer made two high-quality bug hats, and left pattern and cut pieces for four more. If you are laughing, you clearly don’t understand what it’s like to walk into the Minnesota woods. Bug hats can change your outdoor life.

Today I learned that Rick knows tool sharpening, and he taught Dan, and then I taught both of them to scythe, and then we worked like mad in the hot sun.

A friend showed up from the past, a Zen priest who became a Theravadan monk. His life is completely reorganized. In particular, if nobody gives him food he doesn’t eat that day. If he wants to go somewhere, a lay person has to drive him. All his time is available for study, meditation, and service. I really like that, even though I’m not drawn to the lifestyle. In Zen, we study, sit zazen, and do service, but if there are no donations we go get a job or something.

I’ve been reading lately. The Lankavatara Sutra – a core text of Zen, known for being hard to understand. This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. And remembering A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit.

The Lankavatara points to the basic fact, which most Buddhists can tell you about, that we are not separate from each other and everything we think is going on is an illusion created by the mind. (I’m still in the first chapter, this is definitely not a full summary.)

This Changes Everything connects the dots about what’s happening with the climate and how our whole economic system is set up so that ruining the earth is the only possible outcome – unless we change the economic system. For example, a state like Minnesota that sets up an energy program to encourage locally-built solar panels can be sued for setting up a trade barrier interfering with corporate profits. There have been many such lawsuits under the WTO (World Trade Organization) and they win. The TPP will be worse. Everything we do to protect the environment can be a target. (okay, not everything. Most things that local governments might do.)

The farm was accepted into Minnesota’s solar energy program this year. We want to actually use it: it might not be there later. And that’s why we’re having a fundraiser for the solar panels.

People are visiting. Sometimes they volunteer for a few hours, sometimes stay a night or two, sometimes leave a donation and always a gift of themselves. Sometimes we have a conversation about longer visits or even becoming residents. I am learning to be patient about this part, waiting for things to develop. I’ve learned that even people who haven’t been here feel connected. And that’s why I’ve posted the vow in the blog where you can print it and even sign it. I don’t quite know what this is yet. I’m listening for its movement, listening to it breathe. Sesshin starts again Sunday evening, settling down again on the ground of reality – as my teacher says.

With love,

Shodo

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