Tag Archives: maple syrup

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

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April events and a few notes

4 Apr

Living with the Earth” 40-day intensive:

Guest Teacher events

2016-04-03 14.13.15

 

Sunday, April 17: Valley Sounds, Mountain Colors: a chanting workshop, 1-3 pm

  • with Rev. Myo-O Habermas-Scher, a voice teacher for decades – more info here. If you would like to come, please register now – or ask questions now.

Saturday, April 23 (Earth Day): A workshop on subtle energies

  • with Martin Bulgerin. After attending a class with him I knew I wanted him to share his work as part of the spring intensive.He may teach flower essences, or something else.  His website is here. If this sounds intriguing, you’re encouraged to contact us now. Details later.

Community life

You’re invited to join us for single events or a day, or ask about residential options for a weekend, a week, or longer. For residents, most days include morning and evening meditation, work, meals, and sharing of living tasks. There is space for a farm apprentice for this season.

On work days, meals are offered. For non-work events, we ask a donation.

Friday, April 15: Land care half day

  • Native trees arrive and planting begins as we restore damaged places

Saturday, April 16: A one-day retreat

  • opening the intensive with sitting and walking meditation, walking outdoors, council time, and private time.

Sunday, April 17

  • before and after the chanting workshop will be quiet times, a little work, not formal retreat

Monday-Wed, April 18-20: retreat

  • with sitting and walking meditation, shared meals, gentleness.

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.

Community work (land care and/or garden/orchard; backup carpentry work for rainy days)

  • Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays from April 21 to May 20

  • Email to get on the volunteer mailing list

  • We are looking for carpool support from the Twin Cities – it’s helpful for us to know who to contact when we have a request. (We have2015-05-02 13.37.43 some ongoing requests.)

Notes

Spring weather is coming and going. Volunteers keep turning up, not in crowds but delightful small groups.

Last Friday three college students came. We cooked sap from box elders, gathered sap from all the trees, and took out the taps to end the season. Today and tomorrow I’m still cooking sap. It’s an extravagant use of time, when I could be starting seeds indoors or prepping garden beds, but something in me needs to forage. And – yes! – we are now eating nettle soup and nettle pesto. I’ve been clearing the nettle spaces so I’ll be able to harvest more. If interested in buying nettles (with recipes) or nettle products, let me know.I can’t tell you how much energy they give!

Yesterday Martin and three friends came to walk the land and get acquainted with the energies. I learned, interestingly, that they think more like engineers than mystics. That way of thinking is in my background but it’s been a very long time.

Meanwhile, I’m committing myself to be a student of those energies, to let them teach me how to restore the land. It begins where we pulled up buckthorn, and what to plant there. Of course that oversimplifies the task. I’ve studied what I can, and look forward to getting directly involved – and learning to listen.

I was sick for two weeks – never sick enough to stay in bed (just one day) but mostly sick enough to be doing just the minimum. It’s good to finally be back to full functioning.

And the photovoltaic panels are halfway installed on the roof of the house. Pictures later.

The pace is slow, now. If I were certain what to do, it might be faster. Abandoning ideas of being master of the earth requires listening, which requires slowing down. I think that illness probably was about slowing down, something hard for me to do. I continue to be amazed at being able to live in this beautiful space, after a lifetime in cities. I am trusting the land to call in the people who belong here, in all the many ways of belonging. (And I’m as involved in the current political scene as anyone, but don’t want to bring that here.

I hope your spring is going well.

Warmly,

Shodo

Living With the Earth is not a Metaphor

29 Mar

Winter has blended into early spring, warming and cooling unpredictably. Tapping maple trees started a month early, but the repeated cool spells mean the sap is still flowing, still requiring attention. Activities are tapping maple trees and boiling sap, checking for new growth in woods, orchard, and garden, and harvesting the first nettles and dandelions.

Living with the Earth: 40 days
The point of Mountains and Waters Alliance is to learn to live with the earth, together with all beings including rocks, trees, rivers, meadows. This is real, not a metaphor. The 40 days this spring have the intention to make it real for us. We will be doing what we do not know how to do, and inviting teachers who may help us – while the real teachers are the hills and meadows themselves. Zazen is the backbone, and the home place, for this experimentation.

In the first day, an opening retreat, some of the meditation time will be walking outdoors in receptive mode, just as we sit zazen in receptive mode, or listen to each other in receptive mode. There will be chanting practice, first with each other and then as an offering to sacred places outdoors. There will be a day of learning to work with plant devas to make flower essences, and many days of land restoration under the guidance of the nature spirits – which means learning to receive their messages.

I hope some of you will come, for some or all of this time, to help ground Mountains and Waters in right relationship. It’s the most beautiful time here.

First I called it “Earth-based Zen Practice,” then I changed the words and tried to make it a little more clear, here.

Notes from the Farm:
Sugaring has been the big activity here. We have over a pint of black walnut syrup, nearly a gallon of box elder and 2016-03-28 10.12.54half a gallon of maple – with an equal amount to be made from sap that’s waiting to be boiled.
Stinging nettles are up – they’re tender when tiny, but require a lot of washing. I’ve had one meal with nettles, and made a pint of nettle pesto with too much garlic. They will be a primary food source shortly.  I’ve been studying Sam Thayer’s foraging books, experimenting sometimes. I really liked dandelion roots and crowns. Instead of burning the fields to clear my way to the nettles, I decided it’s better to whack down the old plants and use them for straw; we need straw. My two-hour experiment with the scythe went better than expected.
I planted elderberry sticks along the outside of the orchard – they’re supposed to discourage deer, and of course they’re edible if I can get there before the birds. I’ve got some Asian greens and some arugula, peas, and potatoes outside, and blue flags in hopes of flowers at the pond by the house. Indoors the tomatoes are tiny, two peppers and a few onions and I really ought to get methodical about putting in more seeds. But finally the

Boiling sap

Elderberry start

energy is there; even though I’ve had the flu for a week the land is now calling me to it, and there is gladness.

Other Notes
Both writing projects are finally finished. There is still accounting, taxes, and organizing the office – but all those are part of this work, right here. The big outside distraction is an election campaign. Once again I’m allowing myself to hope that a certain candidate is what he appears to be. Zen reminds me: “Don’t believe what you think.” And don’t expect happiness from external things.
But I’m a delegate to the county caucus, and am spending too much time following the whole thing. In the same way I follow climate change but try to ignore what I learn, and follow the murders (five this month) of indigenous environmental activists. I place their names on my altar, along with an old friend and a person in “The Jungle” in France who committed suicide. All this news comes through Facebook, as does news from environmental and other movements here in North America, from people I have met or feel like I know. The courage and determination of people who are giving everything, and the sorrow and cruelty in the news, breaks my heart in so many different way.
Living comfortably in this beautiful place instead of being on the road, on the front lines of protests or hunger strikes, all I can do is include them somehow.

Others practicing with the earth
Suddenly, everywhere I look, Zen people and spiritual people are addressing climate change, our relationship with the earth, and colonization, injustice, and the like. In particular, the very traditional Zen Mountain Monastery is devoting its spring practice period to “our one home, this great earth.” This letter describes it, and the talks are well worth hearing.

Thank you all for your support. Please know you are welcome here.

Warmly,
Shodo Spring for Mountains and Waters Alliance

The entire world is the true human body

5 Mar

The entire world of the ten directions is nothing but the true human body.” These words by Dogen were the entry to my talk at Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul, Minnesota. The talk is here: http://cloudsinwater.org/dharma-talks-audio-files/ Here I express my earth-based practice from a. basis in Zen practice and teaching. (About 30 minutes talk, 20 minutes Q&A.) I would love to hear what you think. Some new things came up; when I have time, I’ll try to put something on paper.

I was interviewed by Minnesota Women’s Press, and the article is here. It’s brief and focused on my activist life. My only wish is to replace the phrase “changing the consciousness of the earth” to “learning to be part of the earth,” focused on human consciousness. (I think the writer understood me but not how the words might be read.)

Events:

At the farm, the 2016 calendar here and spring events in more detail here:

March 12, 11 am to ?? – Continue with maple sugaring – boiling, hopefully some new tapping.

March 19-20, 9 am to ?? with overnight option – Garden work: starting plants indoors, outdoor prep, whatever is weather-appropriate. Continue sugaring if appropriate. The weather is literally a month off, warm, and I hesitate to make predictions.

I’ve already written about the April-May convocation, and would like to specifically mention the April 17 chanting workshop with Myo-O Habermas-Scher. Other dates will be announced as they are set.

Possibilities:

Here’s the wish list, for people. Intended for people who might try out living here, but local commuters are also welcome.

Farm manager: take charge of orchards, berries, produce, possibly wild foods, possibly animals. Ideal person has farm managing experience including money and sales, and a permaculture background. Advantages: lots of creative opportunities. Stipend. Spiritual community.

Farm workers: Work here, live here. Stipend maybe.

Office manager: Ideal person has office management experience and likes doing it. Stipend.

Just resident: People with a job in town (paying rent) are also welcome.

Volunteers: work on farm or otherwise. Everything is needed – see the volunteer page, especially “other volunteering” at the bottom.

All residents: Ideal person has experience living in community, supports the intentions described here, wants to be part of a residential Zen community.

Farm News:

It is my intention that this is the year the farm makes money instead of costing it. This means marketing – the nettles, other wild plants, and then produce from the gardens. It’s the strawberries that I expect to actually provide, if weather supports it. I need to do a lot of accounting, a modest amount of housecleaning, and get started on indoor seeds for the garden. And reach out to potential volunteers, residents, and supporters.

The photovoltaic panels, after spending the winter in the garage, should be installed next week. I expect this should yield a small profit, but it goes first to repaying the loan.

Visitors have come, and there will be more. Some come for Zen practice, some for “personal retreat,” some to volunteer. Some make donations, all do some work, most join me sitting in the zendo. It makes me glad; it’s feeling more like the community space it is meant to be.

Personal:

I’m trying to wrap up the editing of my teacher’s book on Mountains and Rivers Sutra, almost finished. Then I rewrite my essay for an anthology on the eight-fold path, and work on some of the projects above. Two days ago I stopped building fires for house heat. Building fires didn’t take long, but the time to go out and gather kindling and split logs did. I miss the fires, but it’s okay for now.

I’m attending a biweekly study group in St. Paul, spending time with other Zen teachers, and enjoy sharing study as well as exploring the Lankavatara Sutra which I had not met before. I go to activist groups as well, some of them social, and I trade bodywork with an old friend, so I’m not really very alone. Now and then I drop in on my daughter and grandchildren, and look forward to occasional visits – but they’re becoming teenagers with lives more rooted in their friends.

Climate change and other scary things are constantly present in my mind. It will take 5 years for the apple trees to bear, once we’ve grafted them next year. Will that be too late? (If you’re not following climate matters, surely that sounds absurd. A helpful response would take too long.) I don’t know. That part of me – the one that thinks the end is coming soon – is contemplating appropriate response – how to settle in, join the earth, be ready to care for people – without yet giving up.2016-03-05 11.25.25

The fig tree is promising actual figs this year. May it be so.

And:

It’s always okay to make a donation. Donate

Blessings. May life be good to you, as we move into spring.

Shodo

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/

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.

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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

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