We Must Face Our Shadow: Talking Hard Truths About Solar and Wind Power

While gratefully participating in the brilliant and beautiful recent NC Climate Justice Summit, I did find at least one piece of information on our shared movement I was desperate to hear in the conversation that I did not have the chance to share.

Stated simply: in order for 100% or even 75% renewable energy to work, we would need to adjust our demand to the available supply of sun and wind. High tech batteries can help but do not ultimately change this physical limit. This “shadow” of the renewables conversation is not a small thing. It has radical implications for the economy and our way of life that as a movement we must begin learning to face now.

Tons of smart person data here (and yes, this person is very sympathetic to renewables):

http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2017/09/how-to-run-modern-society-on-solar-and-wind-powe.html

In other words – it would be possible to have a future where we have electricity and we do not destroy the whole planet, but it would mean not having electricity whenever we want or as much as we’re used to. It would mean the current American way of life just can’t be lived without future-destroying overuse of fossil fuels. We would have to adjust our lifeways and our livelihoods to the real patterns of the wind and sun regardless of battery storage. Our lives and our systems have to change – not just our lightbulbs. This isn’t a don’t-use-plastic-bags kind of change but more about actually learning to live within the rhythms of the planet and accept “no power now, wait until morning” as an answer for homes and businesses.

It’s also a pretty sure thing that we couldn’t continue “growing” the economy with 100% renewables. The economic growth imperative as we know it is not compatible with a fossil-fuel free world. Even as we ephemeralize more and more of the economy, growth still requires a growing power supply to support it. We can have economic growth or 100% clean power but not both (…though one of those will lead to its own end anyway).

It is hard for ecological advocacy organizations to accept and speak of this physical limit because it further radicalizes their position from the perspective of business-as-usual politics. The pressure is to adopt a “pragmatic” approach in order to get policy passed and keep receiving funding from large donors who make their money off the industrial growth system coming – but in this case, it can be at the cost of actually meeting the goal of enabling human life to continue on planet earth. That isn’t worth the short-term gains that we can achieve by not talking about the elephant in the room. This is a time to face the darkness together so we can speak the full truth.

The ecological justice movement has done so much courageous work to amplify intersectionalities and see the non-separateness of the different justice movements we work for. This is another of those truths it must learn to incorporate. The narrative around economy, jobs, and increased economic opportunity and the possibility of simply replacing fossil fuels has a shadow that it will need to just as courageously face and integrate in order to be whole.

If de-growth does not become a part of the same conversation as renewables now, it may later be faced as an unexpected limit and be a division point for the movement – or, far worse than that, it will be kept at the margins of the movement and we will continue being enablers of the growth economy’s energy addiction by building the CO2 intensive “clean” but CO2 intensive infrastructure (supergrids, batteries, peaking plants) for a 100% renewable system that can still keep the same corporate-state mess running in the same corporate-state way – which means we could find our grandkids fifty years from now in a situation where we have transitioned to 100% solar and wind with batteries and supergrids that the construction of which put so much CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere that future generations must still say farewell to most humans and much of recognizable life on earth. I think we should avoid that starting now.

This is part of why Permaculture co-founder David Holmgren suggests that the most valuable thing about solar power experiments like we’re currently running is the way they can teach us to live within limits (and right now, with that winter sun, we are feeling the limits! we’ve had almost no power the last three days). This is something missing from all the completely understandable cheerleading for solar panels and wind. I am not stating this to take the wind out of the turbines of my sisters and brothers fighting for clean power but to strengthen the movement with an inevitable truth that will surface sooner or later because of physics.

How can we begin to tell the majority of the people in the US who are used to on-demand almost everything that, rather than a future of flying cars, it will be a future of learning to accept new limits?

I suggest we can do this by becoming the ones who learn the beauty of those limits with our own lives and can speak from the actual joy that comes from the intimacy of living skillfully with the rhythms of sun and wind.

There is a mystery school teaching that the limits of a being are its beauty. The beauty of a flower is the shape of its limitations. The beauty of a bird is everything it gave up. It gave up heaviness, great stores of fat, strong land legs, a hard protective shell, deep ocean diving, warm burrow digging, nimble tree climbing – and in so doing, bird learned to live singing beauty in the heavens themselves.

Will we miss the industrial growth system and the “always-on” digital haze world that we’re all more or less compelled to give our entire lives to serve for the short-term profits of an oligarchy anyway? Let’s talk about whether or not we do when we share food from our gardens decades from now under the finally once again fully visible stars.

Land Belongs to No One But We Can Belong to It

 

Dear friends: I am in the shaky practice of learning to speak my truth without judging. I am still a baby in this – and so I need to say:  I trust you, I love you, please bring your disagreement, your wisdom, your forgiveness. I need to speak my truth and it is not in opposition to your truth. However you serve love, I honor you, I trust you, I am so grateful to know you and please forgive me when my pain puts a growl in my voice. I do not growl at you but at my own great delusion that keeps me from seeing you and all life as family. Even when I growl, may my heart yet be in the same moment setting a table for all of us even including all of myself. If the way I speak my truth pushes you away, the greatest gift you could give me is the intimacy of telling me how I’ve hurt or misunderstood you and the call for me to sit and hear who you are and what wisdom your life exists to teach. I don’t know anything but I also must use my voice. May I learn to use my voice to serve love.


It Isn’t Ours

I think owning land is a delusion.

I can’t create or destroy land. It was / will be there long before and after me.

Land doesn’t need me to survive. I need land to survive. I am totally helpless without it and my body is made of it – therefore, I am not the land’s owner, but the land’s child. I approach it only with the delusion of being its “master.”

We are completely dependent upon land’s gifts and health to live. If land decided to cease giving us the gifts of everything we need to live, we would see quickly who ‘owns’ who.

To arrive at the matrix of interlocking cultural assumptions required for us to even make sense of owning land took hundreds of years of indoctrination, theft, and force. It isn’t “natural” to own land. It took hundreds of years of campaigns of slander, violence, and theft to, for example, enclose the commons from the peasants of Europe. We can easily forget, growing up in America, that the concept of land ownership is a culturally bound one local to this time, place, and set of philosophical assumptions that don’t have any grounding in what is real. To misquote, it takes a hell of an education to make us take something this crazy as normal.

Owning land is not like owning a car or a house. It is almost sensible to us how flawed it is by talking about someone owning a whole neighborhood, though a neighborhood is really just people inhabiting structures on top of land. It is more like someone trying to own a river. Every piece of land is infinite and provides life for uncountable other beings through time.

Land is “bigger” than me. A square foot of earth and sky stretches farther above and below me than my entire body and is infinitely more complex, potent, and unmovable. Its memory is longer, its capacity to create life over time is greater.

Land does not have any boundaries. Land doesn’t have a beginning or end. Trees and animals don’t recognize property markers. At absolute best, property markers are a short-term negotiation between humans about how to peacefully share the means for survival. As they mostly are now, property markers are strips of plastic demarcating the ability to refuse others entry and abuse the land and its beings.

Property markers are flags of our old ancestral terror coming from thousands of years of war, exile, enslavement and famine that tell us in our genes that we remember not having enough and must keep what is ours. They are also a legal sorcery corporations can cast to sever themselves from the obligations they have to the land, the past, the future, and all life on earth.


It is Ours

I just returned from the wholly life-giving NC Climate Justice Summit. Many people there understood the basic delusion of owning land at all. Some of these same people (like myself) use land ownership as a strategy to accomplish goals, like protection of ecosystems from industry or helping long discriminated against communities keep home, livelihood, and generations of community, connection, rooted memories, and proximity to the ground and cemeteries containing the bones of their ancestors.

Owning land to protect mother earth and her peoples is one of the thousands of dizzying double-binds we’re forced into when we try to live ethically in decline-stage capitalism. Every time I spoke at the summit about our life and our best guess, I saw the shadow not just of the privilege that allowed us to buy land and add shelter on it, but of buying land at all. In my heart I can only always agree with indigenous peoples’ telling us that land cannot be owned; and we also find ourselves currently by legal definition landowners.

If someone came to us tomorrow and said, “you don’t believe in land ownership – therefore, I am going to do whatever I want on your land” we would try to get them to leave – first, through clear communication; but then if they did not leave, wouldn’t we also find ourselves reluctantly but inevitably summoning like a demon that we do not know the rites to afterwards banish the systems of enforcement of the institution represented by those paranoid orange flags – criminal “justice,” militarized police, the legal constructs of property ownership itself?

The “legal” in “legal ownership” means we possess a power backed up by the entire apparatus of the militarized state. The guns and prisons of the enforcement of law are there at the margins of our deed pointed at no one yet but waiting in the wings. That simple piece of paper contains an intimation of violence at the ready. That violence isn’t to protect the land, the soil, the water, the animals, the trees, but the ability of the landowner to retain the power to restrict the ability to take the life of the land to them and their heirs.

…and here we are, us with every intention of eventually sharing “our” land with others in true equal “ownership” in order to deconstruct some part of this violent delusion of ownership and personal privilege to use that delusion, but we simultaneously stand ready to “defend” the boundaries, keep the gates of who enters and who does not, who lives here and who does not, who and who does not meet their survival needs here and how they do and do not do it.


We Can Try

This, then, is the peace I’ve found for now with this question:

Like all life, all humans (including us) deserve to live and meet their needs and we need to live somewhere and to meet our needs from the life of some land (whether or not we see the face of that land). Owning no land does not mean we are liberating land from ownership. As renters of land / a home in the US, someone still owns it. We can both be more secure ourselves and do much more to protect land by having the “rights” to it. We also are not finding land ownership to be more expensive than renting. The opposite can be true. From this perspective the choice was easy, but there is more to consider.

Why should the land that we happen to be able to afford to “own” be ours just because we could pay for it? We had two good paying jobs for three years while living simply and so were able to save a lot of money that let us afford land; and, it’s completely arbitrary that our jobs that our privilege helped us to get earned more survival tickets (aka money) for the sacrifice of our time and labor than anyone else’s work (…if anything, I would think that the road maintenance workers breathing in toxic asphalt fumes while sweating in safety vests in North Carolina’s furnace of a summer or the sometimes completely unpaid workers picking tomatoes in fields of carcinogenic pesticides for my pasta sauce deserved a lot more remuneration than me in my comfortable office job moving around bytes). What can we do about the unfair distribution of the security and abundance of “owning” a place?

The way that I work with this question is this: those of us who happen to be benefiting from the current arrangement of capitalism can do our part to deconstruct privilege and private property by helping others who are not benefiting from the arrangement to have the same access that we did by actually giving up part of our access – and, at the same time, we can deconstruct land being “owned” by structuring agreements between people sharing land in a way that gives the land an overriding voice in the conversation. 

This last point is one of the key differences between us buying our own humble 2.5-acre plot (i.e. what would be needed to meet our needs without extracting the life of land we are not in relation with and so cannot help to regenerate) while giving away the rest of our savings to others for a down payment and the current approach we are taking. We are holding what we believe is a vital opportunity to transform our relationship to land, “property,” privilege, and each-other. By following the former path (donating our surplus), we would be deconstructing privilege only. By following the path we’re following, we hope we can show a model that plants the seeds for a network of collectives deconstructing both privilege and ownership, living in equality and ecological harmony, and entering a scenario that is ripe for us to learn the future-vital tools for cooperation and peacework lost in our alienated to-each-their-own take-it-while-you-can autoplay-next-episode society.

Importantly, we are not going to live with separation between how we live and how the people coming to share “ownership” of the land live. We aren’t going to be sitting on some great discrepant security of savings or some high paying jobs while pretending to be in the same struggle as the people around us. We definitely aren’t going to be anyone’s saviors. We aren’t going to retain some elephant-in-the-room ability to sell the land out from everybody if things ever get uncomfortable for us. We will be skillfully renouncing anything that is more than what we actually need. We will struggle together, celebrate together, create together, as equals; and we will need each other. 

From my limited life experience and ignorant perspective, I’ve come to think that this is the only way that “charity” can go without creating more separation – not towards “green” or “social” investing that lets us retain our great distance from the people we “help” while continuing to live a life that doesn’t begin to resemble the communities we “serve,” but a great composting of the inequality itself into something that feeds the life of everyone and that lets us indebted privileged people actually finally be healed within our own aching damaged and therefore damage-causing spirits by the only true riches of interdependence and mutuality with all our sisters brothers siblings plants waters darkness and light. I ask rhetorically: what can we ever know about the “problems” we try to solve unless we have the wisdom of our own bodies’ needs intelligently processing them in order to help us and our community weather the ten thousand storms? There is a genius in need, the ‘mother of invention” that any top-down solutions lose because the people making them never get to actually feel the needs from the comfort of executive conference center leadership retreats and impact measurement infographics tailored to likely even more vastly separated  wealthy donors who likely have in their lives had to know very little about what it’s like to kiss the ground and pray for rain.

Compassion has only ever meant “suffering together.” Once your suffering is my suffering, we can together use the wisdom of our own blazing inner lights to inform the permaculture designs and healing arts that can lift all of us together as one out of that suffering hand in hand, teaching each other, feeding each other, needing each other. We remember that without each other and the land, our song is incomplete.


We are the Land’s

None of what we’re doing is a new idea. In the post-industrial US, eco-villages often do just this and this is the model we are primarily following. We are also massively inspired by the egalitarian communities like Twin Oaks, Acorn, East Wind, and others that share the radical economics we are working with. We also know that billions of people currently alive, recently alive, and on through history have already done this including probably the people who once intimately inhabited this very land that was stolen from them leaving confused moderns like me now two hundred some years after trying to figure out what the hell to do about it.

This experiment is a humble attempt to begin the infinite never-ending process of paying some part of the immeasurable unresolvable debt to those people and the earth that sustains us specifically for those of us like myself raised in this very recent version of cultural amnesia and deliberate state-corporate alienation of us from the earth and each other.

So, roughly, our guess, may it please. please serve life!: we buy as much land as we can afford, create an ecological agreement with the land that recognizes our sacred debt to it and our total dependence upon it, and then, living simply humbly lovingly gratefully cooperatively and joyfully within the healthy sustainable carrying capacity of the land (meaning its soil and water health will continue to increase year by year, its wild beings will still roam, its forests will still regenerate and mature, even as people can meet their needs and feel safe and reasonably comfortable), we invite others to share in true legal “ownership” of the land regardless of the monetary contribution they are able to make as long as the community can continue to exist. 

Then, with the inviolable agreements we make with the land, we collectively move from “ownership of land” to “belonging to land.” Because we depend on the land for our food, heat, shelter, medicine, and emotional well-being and we meet these needs only within the limits of the land, we slowly move towards belonging to this ground we live upon. We tend it, we care for it, we love it, we shape it – but there is no question that we also need it, we are indebted to it; we are nothing, ultimately, but part of it, and some of us will return our very bones to it. I would say the land “owns” us, but I don’t believe any living thing can own any living thing. Rather, we belong to the land as children, as interdependent caretakers, as lovers. We live in close humble reliance on it that does not let us forget this, but we are not “playing” at being poor. We choose to give away our excess so we can stay in the profound gift of this close intimate relationship.

In this, we are crucially not martyring ourselves or having to leave because we’re too hard on ourselves; that’s bad design and though there will be bad days (like everywhere), we don’t have to be miserable to be humble. It is quite the opposite! I imagine all of us living in something like paradise together because we can feed each other abundant ecstatic foods, be surrounded by piercing natural beauty, and be held by people who love us for exactly who and all that we are – while of course having a very low cost of living so we can dedicate more of our time to purposeful life-serving work, rest, and play.

I have lived in an ecovillage in NC. It was certainly full of problems: most crucially, the cultural and racial homogeneity and the buy-in-cost, which we are trying our best to change with our design. Even so, the village was in some key dimensions the closest approximation of paradise I have known and I would wish it for absolutely everyone because modern “luxury” communities feel like a morgue designed by an Apple store compared to it and there’s definitely no time to miss shopping, netflix or facebook because you are too busy being completely, utterly, and resplendently alive beneath the stars’ eternal welcome home.

Living simply doesn’t usually mean living with heat stroke, frostbite, fleas, or hunger (if the rains come). Thanks to the struggles of all the beings that came before us and those that are working alongside us now, we do know the design patterns that enable us to live both joyfully and within the limits of the land. Permaculture’s promise is that a lot of misery is solvable through good design. We have the profound unrepayable gifts of countless millenia-tested-and-refined subsistence solutions from all the peoples of the world. Rocket mass stoves, terra preta, brilliantly designed hand tools, passive solar design, solar hot water, ancient seeds, perennial food crops, regenerative partnerships with animals, light applications of solar and wind, plant medicine, and the spirit tools of cooperation, meditation, prayer, song, play, love, and peacework – plus, a wood-fired sauna with caught rainwater next to a swimming hole. Thanks to our ancestors and earth healers from every culture of the world, we find immeasurable help on our side to make the simple life really really good and innumerable companions to help us along the way.


Power

It would be hazardous to pretend our approach does not leave an intense power dynamic in place. When one person, family, or small group purchases the land to move from private ownership to collective belonging, they usually get to decide where they want to live on the land first and have thousands of invisible influences on the direction it all moves in as a result. They clear the first small patches for access, for forest gardens. They bring in animals and plants that can change the balance. They also lay down some or all of the ecological agreements with the land that future inhabitants would need to abide by to be part of this belonging. They have thousands of subtle and great impacts on the basic culture of the collective. They also, of course, are actually deciding what land to live on at all. Finally, and perhaps most unjustly, they are deciding as an initial group what additional people are allowed to come share in living together on this land. They can say ‘no.’

I am, then, being a gatekeeper in at least three important ways. I am saying that anyone who wants to live here must   1) agree to a specific kind of ecological relationship to the land that determines some of what they can and cannot do to meet their needs   2) agree to a certain amount of cooperation, emotional intimacy, and conflict resolution that will keep our living together harmonious and our collective surviving  and 3) have enough alignment and personal compatibility with us that we all actually want to see each others’ faces every day, through the good, the bad, and the rising waters.

This is not insignificant and it is not fair, but it seems like an essential compromise for this particular guess. I see how privilege led us to extra money which led to more ability to begin the process which led to more initial influence.

This approach deconstructs a lot of the privilege by taking ownership out of the hands of one person, nuclear family, or company, but it still carries a ton of it. The hope would be that much of it equalizes over time as it moves further and further from the initial “purchase,” and more and more towards the collective belonging and legal and economic equality, but it still would massively exclude people who are not willing to live in a certain kind of relation with the land and each other (or who just don’t want to share a life with us!). A little more can be done to remove privilege concentration by separating the land from genetic inheritance. The real “inheritance” is the ecological agreement of belonging with the land and not the right to sell or profit off the land in any way. The children we love  may or may not be the caretakers who tend the face of the future wild but they will not be the sellers of it at auction as inheritance defined by ownership of property is a deep disparity-concentrating iniquity in our time.

The experiment does exclude people who are not culturally aligned with the kind of ecological care and commitment to cooperation and conflict resolution we’re talking about. This is very significant, as this would exclude even cross-culturally almost everyone in America right now.

Part of my choice to do this is that I don’t think we’re going to survive the future without cooperation and healthy soil and so while I don’t think everyone needs to base their life around re-membering these lifeways that were how most humans through most of human history approximately lived, but I do think some of us need to and I need to and I also don’t feel comfortable with assuming that cooperation and caring for the earth is this liberal white thing rather than actually what every non-manufactured culture has done for pretty much all of its existence when not isolated by tremendous wealth or being actively hunted starved killed or enslaved. I also don’t think I’m doing myself, any people, or the earth any favors by pretending we can all keep tilling, flying, growing our economy, and using air conditioning and it is just not my path to act like it will be OK if we do when I now irrevocably understand and accept that it won’t be.

A justice movement based around letting all communities get access to the same earth-destroying, life-commodifying and culture-eradicating systems just won’t last very long as mama earth is starting more loudly to burn and to weep and the dying soil has put us all as equals on notice.

With this said: it is also important for me to remember that the scale of our experiment means it is replicable and iterative. Others can copy it and change it open source style. There can be communities that make all kinds of variations on the ecological agreements and lifeways at the core of it. Ours, for example, probably won’t ever accommodate air conditioning or flush toilets, but some ecological collectives could accept those as a trade-off. Others could have a shared spirituality, culture, or ethnicity as defining traits.

We dream of there being a place that feels like belonging for everyone. We dream of a strong resilient diverse network of cooperating collectives across this region and we enact that dream by working to create our own small part of it.

I benefit from hearing and being changed by your disagreement, your body’s wisdom, your life experience, your needs. I am lost without it and I dream so deeply of a regional wisdom council made of a hundred rooted Piedmont communities integrating our different perspectives and approaches into one blazing lamp of uncountable colors that needs no oil and just might save some of our most precious cultural and biological seeds for the future tribes of the long renewal, those for whom I live.


Living the Questions

This, then, is part of our dream and a question we will never lose sight of. How can we move from the lie of owning land to the truth of belonging to it? How can we move from the market assertion that we deserve a safe place more than others to the just sharing of what economic resources we have been given? How can we tend the vital wild together in the shadows of our grandchildren singing a song of love where every voice is heard and where in the silence clean waters still sing, coyotes still play, gentle trees still grow?

In gratitude to my sisters brothers and siblings at the NC Climate Justice Summit. You are all my teachers.

 

 

 

 

 

Spaceship, Fear, Wind, Rooting, Love

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.

Suddenly, Fall

The one storm exhales. The wind is blowing from the wrong side of the forest. At 11am I heard coyotes singing a round down past the stream. Why are they singing now?

The forest feels completely in every way a different being than it did a month ago. Meanwhile, those clouds and I find myself pacing, unable to settle on a task for long.

Saw a small grass green snake I almost chopped beneath my peasant hoe. Moving biomass into piles. This is what animals do, I think. We use our bodies to concentrate the green life from distributed all over to built up in certain places. I’m trying to guide the dream of the young healing forest into the dream of a forest garden. If I get confused and start to think I’m the dreamer, I only need to stand still in the small clearing and feel those backwards winds, feel how I and the soil are holding in the same breath in the same waiting.

Storms rains and winds have this way of totally ruining the work my fear has done all life long to see me and the land as separate beings. Actually what it’s like is the looping anxiety of tired stories falls away as a more elemental fear / awareness / sharpening / reality takes the stage. Here I’m pacing watching the trees, scanning like the vultures, moving down the same paths with new efficiency in response to the chill in our fur each of us mammals in this young forest are feeling alike.

I see ahead a season of winds and rains punctuated by small charcoal fires and then more winds and rains and all along something in our cells saying let go, get ready, grow fur, get light, burrow, nest, prepare, walk fast, eat lots. It isn’t yet the season of the scythe and it also already is and always has been.

Somewhere in me I know there is only one storm. A storm has no beginning and end. You can never draw its limits. There isn’t a place that isn’t the storm. There isn’t a place that isn’t the calm. Here the awakening chill is just the distant whisper of a roar happening to places we know or have heard of. We are flooded and we are dry.

Our way of life makes hurricanes. This isn’t because we’re bad. We’re trapped and we don’t know how to do it different. I drive to the coffee shop because I am lonely and I am a hurricane maker.

I think if I didn’t have permaculture and all the permaculture teachers I’ve learned from I’d have given up by now; even then, all I really expect from permaculture is to slightly control the fall. Permaculture is a parachute for civilization – we will certainly fall but we can have a little say of where we land. The best dream I seem to be able keep is that we’re falling together holding hands, singing songs about the beautiful fall and seeing and telling from the high vantage point of people falling the vision of a land and people restored and healed on some day to come.

Like coyotes we will learn to sing as the storm winds begin at once to blow.

Wishing peace to the spirit of a Permaculture hero

I only know the smallest fraction of the beautiful contributions of Chuck Marsh in the service of mother earth and from that glimpse alone he is a hero to me.

Permaculturist Chuck Marsh died yesterday, his spirit set free to echo on in the lives of the plants and people he tended joyfully, generously, with laughter, skill, and devotion.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him even a little and to bathe in the peace of the place he helped to create, the courageously always flowering and reflowering Earthaven Ecovillage.

The last thing he ever said to me was, “nice hat, brother!” This is probably the point I decided to permanently wear a hat whenever I ‘do permaculture.’

To honor Chuck last night, I made a biochar fire in the site of our future forest garden. I’m sure those at Earthaven were offering their own beautiful prayers as I know they have so powerfully learned as a village to do.

Here is a Permaculture Podcast where this dear human talks about the neo-horticultural revival: http://www.thepermaculturepodcast.com/2012/chuckmarsh/

…and if you tend to fruiting perennials of any kind, his free videos from the Useful Plants Nursery he started at Earthaven are a tremendously helpful resource: https://www.usefulplants.org/

May the seeds he planted in the hearts of so many all flourish. Peace, Chuckster. We’ll watch for you in the garden.

resistin

As long as we cannot meet our own needs and ‘need’ a certain quality of life that only extractive systems can deliver, much of our lives will ultimately go, no matter what political opinions we express, to feed the industrial growth machine just so we can live.

That machine may occasionally reward some of us with small reforms and concessions, but it cannot defy its purpose: to protect and concentrate wealth for a few. As it finds more ways of existing without us (e.g. automation), it will eventually choose those ways rather than give power and wealth back to people.

In our lives we always have tremendous power to be healers to the land and people around us and this is vital, precious, and needed always. We can live lives of great love, healing, and regeneration no matter who we are; the grocery store is full of saints and miracles; but if we want to talk seriously about slowing the big machine, we need to talk about how powerless we really are unless we can live without it.

When we can learn to court the land for the impossible gift of abundant food; when we can create our own shelter from the grove we keep healthy for future generations; when we can entertain ourselves without digital media; when we can heal our bodies and spirits from the plants; when we can travel by horse and bicycle and gather our families and friends around us in a village; when we can live with so little power that Duke Energy will not have any customers to buy its coal – these are the places the power to resist the industrial growth system comes from.

If we cannot meet our needs, we can only beg the institutions which are the codified algorithms of our reified self-perpetuating fears to be a little less horrible. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. Meanwhile we’re stuck asking congresspeople to even begin to care about the smallest version of our most compromised dreams.

Better to start learning to beg the land for food. Better to stand outside the office of the soil humbly practicing your best arguments as to why you need the land to please hear your very legitimate need to live.

What if 100,000 activists sang a honey-tongued petition to the land right beneath their feet to please help them live without relying on the bulldozers, mountaintop removers, nuclear reactors, child laborers they never see but certainly somewhere inside feel?

What if those 100,000 just went on a general strike from the laborious and hazardous daily maintenance of the illusion of separation, instead seeing the people around them as the stubborn flawed and immeasurably alive and potent members of their very own village with whom they will tearfully and screamingly learn to cooperate with no matter what?

What if 100,000 learned herbal and country medicine that weaves people back into the land as it weaves whole their bodies?

What if 100,000 sold their worthless guns that can only ever ultimately create yet more trauma and ghosts and instead bought from a local blacksmith scythes, hoes, broadforks, axes, and saws?

Once the pain of the news is just too great, it is time to stop feeding that system with your life.

There is something holy in the land beneath your feet that wants you to feed it. Do you hear the patience in that wounded scorched soil? We can stop giving our attention to our “feeds” and start feeding our attention to life.

Begin with stillness, and then loving actions of care with the land to meet our common needs; these are the only things that will serve us through the million possible futures and under it all, the welling up joy of an infinite sunrise…

Outside Inputs, Experimentation, and Self-Compassion

As I’ve written about before, my milpa farm experiment of gardening in the heart of the forest is an attempt to grow food without material inputs (other than seeds, tools, knowledge – all extremely important!).

For me, this experiment is important because we need to relearn how we could still grow food if we didn’t have access to fossil-fuel transported compost, manure, straw, rock phosphate, or even waste stream products like municipal yard waste or woodchips. Even more important to me was to be able to do this work without any fossil fuels used to prepare the fields, chip woodchips or shred leaf mulch, or using a chainsaw to clear the forest. If we don’t know how to do this, we may be unable to grow food one day. This is motivation enough, but I also believe in the ability to have this experiment teach me far more about how to tend the wild and work with nature than I would ever have to learn if I could just purchase and import solutions.

At the same time – this year, because of this slow approach and my lack of knowledge of limits, my plants did not produce food for us.

One of the vital Permaculture principles is Obtain a Yield. I obtain many yields from my milpa farming experiment: joy, learning, inspiration, wonder, beauty, healthfulness, but I do not yet obtain food. We find ourselves at the grocery store frequently and I find myself unable to feed the family, friends, neighbors, and community I love.

My sense of mutual indebtedness to all the beings that have so long supported my body and my heart has led to a longing of many years to simply feed others. It was so sad for me this year to realize I will not yet be able to do that and to understand that the milpa experiment, vital for the future and the way of farming I hope to ultimately rely on, may take a while.

Pickle is one of my main teachers of the profound arts of gentleness and self-compassion. She is also an avid and to me legendary harvester of the Waste Stream. Constantly on craigslist farm and garden section and neighborhood listservs, she deftly discovers abundantly available free or cheap resources to support our vision. Master of the Create No Waste Permaculture principle, she sees others’ refuse as something that can serve life instead of landfill.  If at any point I’d asked her, “Please help me find manure for the garden!” she’d have been able to track down enough to provide all the nitrogen the milpa could need in a day – but, I did not ask. This experiment is too important to me. At the same time, I was aching to produce food to nourish us and others and to begin selecting and saving seed for the future. What to do?

In an act that feels like the kind of peace-making synthesis that I am a student of, I finally decided to accept the reality of our scenario – i.e. it will take a few seasons for us to slowly generate the fertility we need to create food, but we also want to produce food right away – and find a simple pattern to harmonize these two seemingly contradictory facts. I have designed a “zone 1” garden close to the yome in which I will welcome waste-stream inputs. Yard waste, woodchips, even manure – if it’s free, organic, and in the right proportions, I will use it within the annual and perennial forest garden beds around the yome.

With this, I can already see a clear path to producing abundant food next Spring. Meanwhile, the milpa experiment will continue in the heart of the forest, slow and input-free, working only with what the forest itself can create, with me learning and responding to feedback from the plants and discovering how to grow food in this old and simple way.

I am a person who tends to feel the weight of the world and, because of my pain for all of our loss, I tend to try difficult and somewhat extreme solutions. My usual thinking is that enough people understand how to walk a middle-road; my role in our cultural immune system is to discover the marginal solutions that will make life possible when the middle collapses. I know this is part of my purpose and welcome it. At the same time, I am learning that the medicine for this way of being is to be gentle and kind with myself; to trust that slowing down and offering myself self-compassion, forgiveness, and ease doesn’t compromise the edge experiments I am working on but actually enables them.

To hold in one hand the help of all these in-this-moment available helps from the outside in terms of free nutrient flows to our deprived soil while holding in the other the awareness that these flows will not always be available and that we need to learn how to tend the wild from the wild alone heals my spirit. I love my fossil-fuel free milpa who is my greatest teacher and I love my simple beautiful easy waste-stream garden who can feed us as we learn.

The joy I feel looking at the ducks and geese playing in the truckload of free spent mushroom straw has been a gentle rain upon my heart.

bonus tip: if you also tend towards extreme solutions because of world pain, look into a tincture of Passionflower, Milky Oat, and Wood Betony from Medicine County Herbs or make your own.

Earthworms, Charcoal, Flows and Stocks

Earthworms and charcoal are made for each other.

Here’s the thought I had yesterday about gardening in and regenerating an American temperate forest:

Anyone who has been to a party with me has probably heard my invasive species rant (i.e., how the term ‘invasive species’ is almost meaningless, has its roots in a fundamental error in how we think about systems and change, etc.). It was somehow still new to me when someone, in a well-meaning but misguided anti-invasive discussion that I decided to diplomatically stay quiet through brought up our beloved earthworms with the same accusational tone people use for kudzu or Japanese honeysuckle. Earthworms?

Ever since I began gardening, I saw earthworms in the soil as a sign of life, health, vitality. If there were earthworms, the soil had enough for them to eat and enough moisture for them to survive and was in turn being continually improved by their subterranean livelihoods. If I improved soil, more earthworms came; and then the soil continued to improve. Earthworms aerate compacted clay soils and gently mix and move the layers of soil to help communication between them and aid plants and other soil organisms in accessing what they need. Earthworm castings are rightfully seen as gardener’s gold, having not just essential nutrients in abundant available forms, but helpful plant growth hormones. Earthworm vermiculture bins turn kitchen scraps into choice concentrated plant food faster than any method of decomposition I’ve worked with.

All of these benefits are possible because earthworms rapidly break down decaying organic matter – and this, in invasion biology, is the root of the complaint. Earthworms were all over North America before the ice age and remained in the south after it but were wiped out by it in latitudes above 45 degrees. ‘Invasive’ earthworms came over again from Europe and Asia in the 18th century (that recently! …and that long ago) and there was likely nothing that decomposed decaying organic matter as quickly as they did. Both ‘native’ and ‘invasive’ earthworms are migrating north with climate change and the efficient ‘invasive’ earthworms also play a transformative role in southern temperate forests. The entire rate of decay, and therefore the whole process of nutrient cycling in temperate forests, and therefore temperate forests themselves which in one sense are nothing more than these cycles of stocks and flows, would have been very different before the movement of these earthworms came over. Earthworms changed and continue to change the forest dramatically.

What is or was your first response to this knowledge? Are you wondering if we should try to get rid of the earthworm? Or do you feel like I do – fear in your chest that someday corporate-sponsored ecologists will be trying to genetically modify earthworms into sterility to “restore” the dream of an old ecosystem? Do you feel a crying out to stop the spraying, the gene splicing, the rejection of new organisms, of immigrants, in favor of a dream of the old, the idea of Make the New World Forests Great Again like they used to be?

* * *

In Permaculture the Problem is the Solution. 

Earthworms, when viewed as a problem, do this: 

Relative to the conditions temperate forest species lived in before they arrived, they accelerate the breakdown of decaying organic matter, spreading it into the soil and making the nutrients more immediately available.

This is a problem because many of the northern forest ecosystems were more recently adapted to conditions of lots of accumulated decaying organic matter. Nothing broke the forest litter down so rapidly so species would make use of that slow breakdown to gradually feed their root systems, provide a long-lasting mulch, house lots of insect life, and so on. Worse yet, when nutrients are released from the system’s stock or storage of a resource into the flow or movement of a resource and lack enough plant life / root life / soil organic matter to sufficiently take up the flows back into stocks in the form of plant bodies, the nutrient flows leave the system and end up in bodies of water that carry them away, thus impoverishing the forest of essential nutrients. This becomes a ‘spiral of erosion’ in Permaculture terms or a ‘positive feedback loop’ in systems dynamics, leading to less overall and less diverse plant life which then has even less ability to catch the nutrients made available by earthworms, thus leading to more loss of nutrients, and so on – or it can be explained like this:

Earthworms rapidly breakdown organic matter -> plants dependent on slow breakdown and leaf litter die off -> there is less plant life to catch nutrients -> nutrients leach out -> plants die off -> earthworms breakdown the organic matter -> …..

…and so in this scenario, what would being a friend of the earth look like? If you cherish these northern forest ecosystems, what would you do?

* * *

Earthworms, when viewed as a solution:

Relative to the conditions temperate forest species lived in before they arrived, they accelerate the breakdown of decaying organic matter, spreading it into the soil and making the nutrients more immediately available.

This is a solution because it means there is an abundantly available flow of life-essential nutrients. In this time where our top soils have been massively depleted by industrial farming, we have an ally available who can hypercharge the decomposition process, speeding up the release of organic matter for the life around it. This is a condition we work hard to simulate with our compost piles, worm bins, cover crops, and in a sense, tilling (although in tilling’s case, it leads to soil death and nutrient loss since there is nothing to catch the suddenly available flow). If there are plants with roots at all depths and good soil organic matter to catch the rapidly made available nutrients, then we can create what in Permaculture terms is a ‘spiral of abundance’ from this. The spiral, or positive feedback loop, would look like this:

Plants release organic matter to the forest floor -> earthworms create rapid decay and available nutrients and increase soil organic matter -> plants grow more in response to the available nutrients, plant growth hormones, and soil organic matter -> plants release more organic matter to the forest floor -> earthworms create rapid decay….  additionally, through the accelerated plant growth, we get more carbon sequestration in plant bodies and in the soil organic matter, which means we’re taking more carbon out of the atmosphere while increasing our future ability to take even more carbon out of the atmosphere.

…and so in this scenario, what would being a friend of the earth look like? If you cherish these northern forest ecosystems, what would you do?

* * *

Which of these two stories are true? Do earthworms lead to a net nutrient loss from the system and eventual forest collapse or a super-abundant accumulation of forest life and thriving nutrient-rich soil and forest?

* * *

It is true that many of our industry-abused forests and fields already do not have the ability to keep the nutrients they have within the system. Rains flooding the nutrients freed up by mass-die off of soil life in a newly tilled field, high-grading of the healthiest trees from a forest or cyclical clear cuts that turn forests temporarily to deserts that leach nutrients for lack of roots to hold them, pine monocultures that destroy forest ecology, forests struggling to adapt to climate change – our ecosystems are already suffering. Earthworms, as part of a system that already cannot absorb its nutrient flows, increase the speed of these nutrient flows. In this context, the additional nutrient flows can be a problem.

In the absence of earthworms, we would still be facing the problem of nutrient leaks from the system. As with all invasion biology thinking, we are perpetuating a perception error with tragic consequences when we blame a species that cannot speak for itself rather than question the industrial growth economy’s continual extraction and abuse of these systems as a whole. Remove earthworms and the process will still occur. The forest is kept out of balance by our constant over-exploitation of it and insistence on maintaining it in life-deprived monocultures, clear cuts, and false ideas of restored wilderness based on an unrealistic idea of what the forests once were. In most American ecosystems, the context itself is one of damage, fragility, and loss.

As Permaculturists, our true hearts’ work is the tending of the wild – the wild in the forest, the wild in the field, the wild in ourselves. What does it mean to tend the wild in this case? How do earthworms fit into this sacred work?

Catch and Store Energy

Given the reality that our industry-wounded forests are struggling to keep the nutrients they have and that the earthworm is making even more nutrients that cannot be caught available, how do we work with this reality to regenerate the wild and provide for ourselves and all beings?

Most of my friends will be sick of hearing this answer by now, but:  CHARCOAL!!!!  yep, of course I am once again going there. But hear me out –

Forest-made charcoal is ideally suited to turn the earthworm into a net gain for the entire forest ecosystem.

In forest ecosystems where earthworms create an unusable abundance of nutrient flows, trees mostly continue to thrive because of their ability to pull up nutrients from the deep levels of soil. Trees then create woody biomass in abundance. Woody biomass, as part of good forest tending practices (especially including coppice agroforestry), can be selectively thinned for charcoal production.

Charcoal added to the soil is the perfect stock. Charcoal has a remarkable ability to take up nutrients. Its slow breakdown makes it a long-term buffer or battery for excess flows. In times of excess nutrient flows, charcoal-rich soil, along with soil organisms and plant roots at many depths, can hold the nutrients. They then became available for slow release over time during times of relative nutrient scarcity.

When forests are too depleted of life and diversity to have sufficient root networks to uptake the overabundance of nutrient flows made available by earthworm rapid decay, charcoal can be the battery to catch-and-store these flows.

As a result, charcoal in the soil can accumulate what is needed to turn a spiral of erosion into a spiral of abundance. The herbaceous plants of the forest floor that need those earthworm-freed resources to stick around long enough for them to use can access them, in partnership with symbiotic mycelial networks, from charcoal.

A human-implemented small-scale charcoal-earthworm tending strategy has the potential to hypercharge the growth of life-supporting soil organic matter while keeping the vital flows from leaving the system.

This could be the basis in our Piedmont region and others of an accelerated regeneration for our top soil and ecosystems that would not be available without the ‘invasive’ and other earthworms.

Now when I see an earthworm, my wonder is increased: this being that was not here offers an opportunity for more rapid regeneration of our soils and therefore all life than we would have without it. The difference between the spiral of abundance and the spiral of erosion here is once again loving and skillful human intervention. To find the way to the right intervention, we must again learn to drop enemy mind, problem mind, bad species mind. We must again learn to see the radiant dance of stillness and movement, stock and flow, that all plant animal and fungal life trace the shape of.

* * *

Bill Mollison reminds us: a tree is an explosion. The ecstatic branching magic of a tree’s yearning is the story of nutrients racing out from a center towards the sky and the center of the earth. Everything alive is a dynamic explosion of material and energetic gradients. The seed of a tree falling on the forest floor is like an answer to the prayer of the patient accumulated nutrients, hoping to discharge themselves up down and out through space and time to express the joy in having gathered together, having something to offer, having life.

Therefore, another way to think of humans tending the wild – we are slow explosions learning to slow down other slow explosions.

Professional explosion slower. This will be my new title on the business card I give to officious squirrels questioning my credentials.

Dreaming…

…next year if the pine trees don’t crush us and our hearts stay brave:

The pine forest path from our car to our shelter sings a corridor of shade-dwelling gifts: juneberries, paw paws, young hickories and hazels, gentle forest medicine plants, rattlesnake plantain, tea. along the way deadwood lies across the contour helping slow the manic Spring rains (should we be so lucky as to welcome them who we depend on completely to live) into the thirsting sandy earth, collecting decaying life and decaying along with it to feed the tender saprophytes. King stropharia wine caps bloom in the pine straw in this newly humid earth, hawks nest in the tops of loblollies, and the trees are blessed with what we weave and sculpt and paint and carve.

Our bold vulnerable silly and dignified bunny-like octagonal shelter, an inside that every day courts the outside, barely more interior than a nest and as fragile and as much a nurse of early dreams of flight, wears a cloak of trellised passionflowers opening the alien impossibility of their blooms enough to repel government officials, linear thoughts, obsessive anxieties, productivity measurements, budget concerns, and repressive missionaries and also distracting enough to distract from distraction, visitors lowering their smartphones like weapons before a miracle as the buzzing radial life pulls everyone a little bit deeper into the sometimes lucid dream of their life in which they soon are drinking passiflora tea and wine and finally like tendrils grasping at empty space remembering what to forget.

Butterflies and persistently curious bee mimics, hummingbirds we are mutually indebted to, house-rabbits doing their daily cocky dance for the watching hawks upon the deck and a sleeping tree cat dreaming of raising her babies in the tree tops, and the earth shrine of a handmade kitchen that uses no coal, oil, gas, nuclear or ecocidal dams to prepare the prismatic food that blesses us from the earth in defiance of all greyness, the food always part wild with bitter flavors that wake us and nectarous flavors that tickle our mouths into ravenous pulpy grins and hearty flavors that let us become nests for each other and for peace. The perennially unwashed molcajete’s accumulated memory of a thousand spices, herbs, meals, seasons, rains, oils brings a hint of absolutely everything that is into each meal for those who become nothing enough to taste it. Sweetgum railings protect all of us from falling from our high home just as the perfumed sweetgum medicine again and again keeps us our health from falling into sickness and suffering, just as the ecstatic smelling sweetgum charcoal we make and bury keeps the precious mineral jewels in the soil from falling out of the earth and into the waterways. Meanwhile our circus stop-sign of a yome billows our simple protest to the sky: you are our breath and our star and we will not participate in that which harms you any longer, we will stop.

Beneath the deck a shady bar without walls makes no money and is corpulently wealthy with ten thousand half-feral laughs. The under-deck bar emerged naturally from our bodies’ simple need to duck out of the Piedmont’s soul-refining summer Sun but became known to visitors as half speakeasy, half medicine house where few gins ever get served without a kiss of smilax root, honeysuckle flowers, or sweetgum. Here we honor rest, friendship, intoxication, silliness, chance, and especially the specific kind of aliveness that comes from one of us growing up awake in Florida’s teeming interior.

Continuing downhill two great shoulders of charcoal-mulched blackberries, blueberries, juneberries, otherberries absorb greywater and rainwater and explode with a ‘pestilence of berries’ enough for everyone to experiment and make cocktails and fruit leathers and paint our face with berry dyes and smash berries anywhere on our bodies really and throw berries at sassy ducks and give away cuttings to visitors to create their own berry pestiliences for which they can only blame themselves.

A secret skink, anole, and snake nest brush pile we skillfully pretend to be totally oblivious to, occasionally saying ‘i sure hope there aren’t any long hungry sinuous mouse-eating copperhead-devouring black snakes in there!’, sits securely in its messiness slowing erosion and deterring all but the bravest warrior mice above the zone 1 herb and vegetable garden that we feed and water with duck and goose energy and forest leaves and our pee and our slow worm hotel compost and in which we shamelessly have an herb spiral, yes an herb spiral, a big unapologetic spiral nipple of the earth with ten thousand specific microclimates, one of which some totally forgotten variety of amaranth somehow migrates to, takes a deep breath and says ‘finally someone understands me!’ before bolting twenty feet high and covering ten square meters in miniscule black seeds.

Near this, a small greenhouse and near this the new cavernous entrance to the old kind certainty of a root cellar which doubles as an ancestor shrine, triples as a tornado shelter, quadruples as a secure archaeological store of all our buried for generations after ours waiting even millennia to sprout seeds of the first and always reincarnating dreams of our true hearts, and quintuples as somewhere to get some earth quiet when the neighbors funk a little too loud again, sextuples as the most predictable yet still somehow overlooked hide-and-seek-spot, and octuples as somewhere to sincerely practice freestyling that is not ready for the world / the world is not ready for.

Around it all, a real forest garden bordered by forest; the dream of living without having to disturb the soil, of food fed by its own stretching exploring roots, of food that is also habitat, of food the main labor for which is continual harvesting and joyful making use of the precious leavings, and all through it places for humans and ducks and geese including and especially the small glorious emerald pond fringed by edible and medicinal water plants that cleanse water and bird and human, that grows duckweed to feed the ducks and people, that hide frog and fish and fly, that buffers the frost and the soil temperature, that quenches fires and gentles the air, that breathes dew crystals into the wind and gives us a tranquil reflection to be with as we sit on the small screened porch of our humble hippy log cabin bathhouse in the cool rainwater bathtub in which we try by holding still to catch the full moon in our belly buttons as if our navels were ancient astronomical calendars only to find that the full moon in your belly button is mysteriously ticklish making holding still impossible.

From here, a winding wild path back to the forest where we are helping the young succession woodland move into its next life as an oak-hickory forest…

…an in-the-heart-of-the-wild milpa garden in which I have finally, finally learned to grow the corn that has so unexpectedly become my north star

…a gentle terraced slope meadow of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, barley, and old wheats to run our hands through, to watch the wind in, to sing to, to watch the stars in, to make a treehouse in, to nourish the earth of our bodies

…a creek that has been dug out, slowed down, protected, healed, held, loved, pooled, meandered, honored, worshipped, and relied on

…a herd of sassy wild goats who wake up our eastern energy and call us to play, who are equal partners in our forest cooperative, whose smells are prohibited by municipal code from being within ten thousand feet of any office buildings for fear of prompting mutiny, whose bodies we take in grief and praise to give us the strength to lift our bodies to work again, our hearts to beat

…a community of other souls beginning to gather in humble dwellings who ache to burn themselves up completely in joyful aliveness, in service to the wild, in devotion to the love that is the ultimate fruit of mother planet earth.

This is my dream for next year.