I used all the firewood I had cut last night. I followed the fire right to its very last log. I’d wake up and glance to see if the fire was still glowing. I curled up in a sleeping bag and slept. I woke up cold with no easy way to make it warm. No switch, no dial, nor kindling or firewood. Because I grew up in a safe and materially abundant home, this is was the first time this had ever happened outside of camping. Experiencing this, I learn what it is to depend on heat. Winter has now stepped up to be my next teacher.
Our yome looks like a spaceship inside now halfway insulated with shiny reflective radiant barrier. Seven year old me is insisting we keep the silvery material exposed for a while and spend the winter playing space travelers together. No doubt we face all kinds of imaginary peril, there in our octagonal vessel with triangular windows in the middle of emptiness, somehow coming through it with ourselves and our bunnies and our cat alive and well for our arrival at the paradise planet called Spring.
I don’t know if half of our perils are imaginary or not. This is something that my childhood, mostly sheltered from danger, did not teach: to discern whether or not danger is real. This means once in a while I have to ask myself if all the systemic collapse talk that Pickle and I pretty much take for granted is just another result of not having learned to discern what the real dangers are. Asking this is good and I ask it by relying on others I trust who didn’t have quite the same upbringing I did. The conclusion is that the danger facing everything we know is almost certainly real but that all we’re doing makes sense to do either way because it feels right so we don’t need to be certain. We just need to keep acting in humble service to what we love.
Being scared of everything we know falling apart feels very different than being scared of trees falling on you in the middle of the night. The worst part about being scared of trees falling on us is the nagging sense that yesterday, I could have done something about it. Even tonight, couldn’t I heroically go out in the 20 degree weather and, after I guess hastily researching how to safely fell big trees next to one’s dwelling, throw ropes around them and use wedges and fell them so that we can sleep as safe as possible? This is where some fear for me has a degree of embarrassment and guilt: I could have done this thing if I were good enough / if I had the right priorities / if I hadn’t made such bad decisions / if I were a better permaculturist / etc. etc. etc.. It really as if the fear isn’t the tree crushing my bones as I sleep but the awkwardness of explaining why I didn’t do something about it beforehand.
For the big fear, the fear that can only really be spoken around fires and sometimes even then only by not speaking, I feel less afraid because I know we’re doing all we can. I also feel less afraid because I know we’re not alone. I know our friends and family and teachers are with us. I know the land is with us, patient and generous in light of our fumbling and trying. I know the earth is with us because she is us and when our hearts are open, we are her acting for her. When I feel afraid of it all changing, I know how to ask the stars, the plants, the animals, the ancestors for help. I don’t know when I feel afraid of trees falling on me other than to pace around inside or to hold my breath with each surge of wind that sounds like a tree-snapping gale through the thin membrane of our walls.
When the wind blows, I think to cut the trees. When the wind stops, I think about other things. The trees don’t get cut.
When there’s a drought, I think to catch water. When the rains come again, I think about other things. The water doesn’t get stored.
When my marriage is suffering, I think to heal it together. When the suffering stops, I think about other things. The struggle comes right back.
When I feel sick, I ask the plants and animals for help. When I feel well, I lose the ability to see plants and animals. I become sick again.
Staying with a thought, rooting a thought, staying with a priority, rooting a priority. Rooting the long-growing subtle places of our heart instead of scraping it all clear each day, each year. A life with silence, a life with seasons, a life with little. I’m giving away half my books, I’m shedding possessions, I’m shedding habits. I’m giving love to my friendships, love to my marriage, love to my family, love to my plants, love to myself. I’m also buying an electric chainsaw. I’m trying my hardest to gentle my rushing eroding changing river into meandering channels and ponds that overflow only to give life. I’m learning, over and over again, to stay.