shed to live

Three years and seven months after shedding so much….

not just electricity, hot showers, unlimited water, and fast internet, but comforts I didn’t really know I was surrendering: walls, extra space, dry space, climate control, privacy, the ability to close the front door and drown out the din and scrape of the world

and then I had to shed my marriage and shed the big save-the-world dream that was both its lovechild and its devourer

and 16 of the 17 acres of land we bought together; and all the structures we built together – the pulsing lapine spaceship yome, the avant garde theater stage + weird exposed atonement dishwashing purgatory of the outdoor kitchen and deck, the built-naked-in-a-record-breaking-heatwave with tree felling near misses and horrendous arguments barn, the scraggly spiral prayer of a forest garden, even the ducks whose fat moon eggs were for me almost compensation for the insomnia, and even the pine trees who I spent dozens of nights sure would crush me as I slept

and after shedding all that, to shed the consolations I had been promising myself as comfort if I lost my marriage as each was canceled due to plague

and to shed all the solutions I was sure even to the last minute could still make it all better. we’d build a big wall and it would be the best wall, or we would find some experimental new couples therapy, or I would scour from myself the last trickles of trauma and become super-husband, whose god-like vulnerability would exude marriage healing rays that could bend hard reality like a willow so we could just be easy together

and then finally, after shedding all that, I had to shed my certainty that I knew what anything was about or what anything was ever for, when I suddenly found myself joyfully annihilated in transformative love with a beloved friend, who celebrated with me in the tatters and held the heap of me through the long dark of my collapse until no boundary between my tears of grief and of gratitude could be seen

and to shed my own loneliness, as a few of my closest friends came even closer into my life, and the poor inner child in me who had been howling in the woods was the laughing crying center of a hearth of the most brave and beautiful people I could hope to know in this lifetime

and to shed my own renunciation of all capital ‘D’ Dreams, as a dream quite similar to the one we’d started out in the woods was dropped into my increasingly laden basket of utter bewilderment and I was invited to help create another permaculture community and given another chance to plant holy trees in a way that maybe just maybe helps feed life.


A funny detail of my life is that for utterly nerdy reasons, my first strong solid friend group gave me the nickname ‘Snake.’ Even my first devoted lover called me that. For about four years, I was known to more people as Snake than by my birth name. And maybe now I can own this a little – shedding skin after skin after skin.

In the old Lindwurm story that’s been making the rounds in the weird circles I call home, the snake sheds skin after skin after skin until finally, his naked pink interior is scrubbed with steel wool and he cries out in tremendous anguish – only to have his raw skin bathed by a peasant goddess with the warm milk of unconditional welcome. When the bath is done, he turns into a human.

I’d like to send this communication now from the strange vantage of being a human.

What’s it like?

It is deeply humbling. A human depends on countless other beings to exist and on a matrix of just-so conditions that can’t waver too much or – whoosh – no more human.

A human isn’t promised anything or entitled to anything. And yet the non-human beings they co-habitate with are extremely generous. There are so many gifts from the non-human beings they count on that no one who ever lived could keep track of them all. It would be impossible to do an inventory of all the ways a single tree could help a human – and most humans have access to many more trees than one.

If a human slows down enough and resides in the senses, they can touch into a kind of underground river that connects them with all other beings. Even if they can’t do anything to change it, they can feel the whole thing. Sometimes when they feel it they create poetry or songs or just laugh or cry. In that place, a human can also ask god to promise something. a human can be promised something.

A human can experience so much pleasure and inside the heights of true human pleasure which is really made entirely of non-human things is this wonderful secret that can lead right to the heart of stillness. The place of experiencing true pleasure is a place of utter stillness. The birds still sing it to us every day.

A human is asked to play an extremely subtle role in the organism of the earth and the pulsations of the stars. They can’t really know what it is. The stories they can tell about what it is are just the surface concealing the depths. They have to tell these stories anyway, to give cover for the work to happen inside the earth. Human stories are leaves on the forest floor.

A human can change shapes. They can do the work of other animals and plants, as well as of other humans. They can’t do it as well as those animals or plants or those other humans, but they can do it. If they don’t want to do the work, they can help make sure the other animals and plants are there to do it. They can protect them from being taken. If they do not protect the other beings, humans have no choice but to shapeshift into other plants and animals to survive. A human can look very funny trying to be so many plants and animals.

The modern world doesn’t make us human any more than laboratory cages make a chimpanzee a chimpanzee. We can and sometimes do become human inside all kinds of cages – public school cages, prison cages, career cages, dogma cages, political cages, hospital cages – but this is the hard road. Becoming human is easier when foxfire shows us the path in the dark. It is harder when headlamps show us the way back to the highway. We are heading for a time where many, many humans are about to be born.

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