Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worth Repeating

This from Lloyd Kahn. With thanks for a bit of beauty in my day.

Cats Don't Die

I'm beginning to believe that cats, when left to end their lives naturally, do not die in the same way that other animals do. They rapture.

For the past few months, I have watched the health of my nineteen-year-old cat decline inexorably. He lost weight, his fur became increasingly ratty looking, and his teeth started falling out. Then he stopped eating. On Saturday, he was so weak and frail that he could barely walk. I held him in my lap and infused him with Reiki to ease the transition; I told him what a wonderful companion he had been and assured him that life would be even better on the other side. Then I put him in the shade of an azalea bush and gave him some time alone. When I came back to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. I searched the yard, checking all his favored spots. No cat. My husband searched the neighborhood even though it had been years since he had strayed from our vicinity. No cat. The neighbors, out walking their dogs, joined in the search. No cat. I can only conclude that he raptured -- and I know of two other cats that have done the same.

It's been several days now, but I keep checking the front door to see if he might have, after all, found his way home. I know it's irrational, but we are not rational beings for all that we believe ourselves to be. I've been surprised, too, at the depth of the emotional hole I've been thrown into. He was never a lap cat -- always too independent to want to be held -- but he was there, a serene, calm presence in the household -- a shadow who followed me around the yard, watching with curious, non-judgmental eyes, the activities of a human. And he is missed.

Today, I am thankful for nineteen years of cat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do Something an Alive Person Can Do

Ran Prieur had a couple of interesting posts this week. I hope he doesn't mind me taking his words and posting them here.

Personal conservation does nothing to avert climate change. It might, if everyone had their own oil well. You could convert your house to solar, cap your well, and leave your oil in the ground. In practice, all the oil (gas, coal, etc) is sold to whoever wants it, and nobody is talking about leaving the oil in the ground. All of it will be burned, and anything you conserve will just be burned by someone else. Now, there will come a time when the remaining oil is so expensive to extract that renewable energy is cheaper, and then it will be left in the ground for economic reasons. So the best way to reduce climate change is to spend money on renewable energy research, and burn oil to build alternatives to the present system. I'm reminded of the permaculturist who said that five gallon buckets are the best use of fossil fuels. . . .

A few readers have argued against yesterday's post, but I haven't changed my mind. No fossil fuels will be left in the ground until they are outcompeted by other energy sources, and your personal conservation has negligible effect on when this will happen. More generally, I disagree with the moral system in which you imagine your actions being magically multiplied. The test of an action is not what would hypothetically happen if everyone did it, but what will actually happen if you do it.

This is related to a test proposed by Bruce Sterling, and described in this Ribbonfarm post, Acting Dead, Trading Up and Leaving the Middle Class. The idea is that you're wasting your life doing anything that your dead great grandfather, in the grave, can do better than you. You're using fewer resources? Your great grandfather is using no resources, and if he could talk to you, he might say, "Stop doing stuff that a dead person can do. You're alive -- do something that an alive person can do."

Of course, I'm totally in favor of shifting out of the industrial consumption economy, but for a different reason than ecopuritanism. If you learn to live on less energy and less money, then you become stronger. You have more unstructured time to learn internal motivation, more mental space to think independently, and more skills that everyone will need as the industrial economy continues its decline. You're not "saving the world", but becoming a seed of a better world to come.

This is something I struggle with constantly -- I want to live more sustainably but doing so is not always possible and frequently not practical. Sure, I would rather take a train to visit my new grandson in Oregon, but the connections are just not there. So I fly. And I console myself that that jet is going to Oregon with or without me and I might as well take my seat along with everyone else. I hang my clothes to dry -- except when there is a pouring rain, and then I use the dryer -- knowing that waiting a few days for the sun to reappear makes no difference to the global situation but a big difference to our own convenience.

I have noticed that in the world of permaculturists, there is a lot of 'do as I do' advice and I find it off-putting. We don't need more group-think; we need to consider what others have to say, but think for ourselves. Each of us is in a unique situation and we need unique solutions to the challenges of life. I believe in diversity and in a diversity of options. And I like Ran's point -- the idea of doing something an alive person can do -- and instead of trying to save the world, to focus on planting seeds of a better world to come.

Today, I am thankful for all those people out there planting seeds of a better world to come.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Homes with Soul

Today, I am thankful for people like SunRay Kelley and Dan Phillips -- people who imagine living in spaces that have soul and then go out and build them from materials other people would throw away.

I'm trying to figure out how to retrofit my own house to be more soulful, how to make it more energy and water efficient, and how to do so without creating more waste.

Most of us will never live in a Dan Phillips house, or a SunRay Kelley sculptured shelter. Besides which, America does not need more houses -- we have more than enough already. We need to find a way to take the inspiration of others and apply it to a cookie cutter house in sprawling suburbia and turn what has been a blight into an artistic endeavor. If we can do that, we will surely inspire others to do the same!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Online Community

Today, I am thankful for the internet. The first thing I do, each morning, is make myself a cup of tea and turn on the computer. I never know what I will find there -- it's like opening a treasure box. Some days, there are photos or videos of my wonderful, beautiful, amazing grandchildren. Some days there are messages from friends I hadn't heard from in years. Some days there are links to transcendent music and goose-bump inducing photographs of our incredible world. Some days there is poetry that touches my heart or news stories that twist my gut. But every day, there is a connection that occurs -- a deep and satisfying connection to the world of ideas, creativity, and to the lives of others. Today, among other wonders, there was this.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Light We Share

Today, I am thankful for all the women who have shared their light with me, who have inspired me with the beauty of their lives, and who have taught me to open my own heart just a bit wider. I am thankful for the time we spent together, for the memories that linger even when they leave us, and for having had the great privilege of calling them friend.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are

My dearly beloved sister has begun using her Facebook page to give thanks on a daily basis. I like the idea so much that I'm following her lead, even if I don't manage to do it every day.

Today, I am thankful for the wild and untamed things of this earth -- for the wolves and the bears, for the owls and the mice upon which they prey, for the winds that come in the night and whistle around the corners of the house, for the indomitable weeds that push up through cracks in the asphalt.

I am thankful for the wild women of this world, for their quiet courage and unyielding strength, for their raucous laughter, and for the mischievous glint that sparks their eyes. I am thankful for the beat of their drums and the wisdom of their lives. I am thankful for dance and firelight and dark corners in which to hide.

I am thankful for the wild dreams of the night -- dreams in which flight is a joyous possibility, in which the dead are never gone, and in which, however far we may roam, we find in waking that we have never left home.

I am thankful for the wild possibilities of life, for the adventure that each day brings, for the uncertainties that keep us from growing complacent, and for the edges that we walk.

May we open our hearts to the wild, and may we never be fully tame!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saving the World One Point at a Time

Okay, so I've kind of gotten past the 'save the world' stage of my life. Maybe. But Paul Wheaton is still there and I don't mind giving his effort a boost. I'm not sure hugelkultur will save the world. I'm not sure the world needs saving. But hugelkultur is a great way of gardening and deserves a big Pass-it-along:

A quest to save the world by getting this message to 50 million people.

This is one point in six in dramatically making the world a better place for everybody.

Hugelkultur is a type of raised gardening bed that has wood in it. And yet, this simple thing can save the world.

- reduce global warming by sequestering tons of carbon in your back yard
- reduce world hunger, and better feed your family?
- reduce overconsumption of water by eliminating garden irrigation
- reduce consumption ($$) of hoses, sprinklers and fertilizers
- gardening becomes dramatically easier: fewer trips to the grocery store

Using hugelkultur, gardens have thrived in deserts without a drop of irrigation or fertilizer. Any gardener can make one and eliminate the chore, the hoses, the cost of the water, not to mention just living lighter on the planet while making it far easier to provide food. And can this help to solve world hunger?

This practice can sequester carbon right in your own back yard. Dramatically lower your carbon footprint, and reduce carbon in the atmosphere while getting a huge use from it.

Perfect for places where trees have been downed by storms.

A use for branches, twigs and trees without having to haul them to the dump.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pass it Along

Some good stuff here. Pass it along.

An Ecosystem Being Transformed: Yellowstone 15 Years After the Return of Wolves
On the 15th anniversary of the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, a quiet but profound rebirth of life and ecosystem health is emerging, scientists conclude in a new report.

The Revolution Begins in 2012

The Tea Party might not know it but they are mad about the same thing that Occupy Wall Street is. They have a sense that our politicians have sold us out - and they are 100% right. The problem isn't Big Government or Big Money. The problem is when Big Money buys Big Government leading to Big Corruption.

I prefer the term 'uprising' to 'revolution' -- 'revolution' is associated with violence and I'm not advocating violence in any way, shape or form. It is time, however, for the American people to reclaim their right to be heard. The 99% is not about redistribution of wealth, it is about the redistribution of power. If money is a form of speech, then some have louder voices than others, and corporations have the loudest voices of all. That is a violation of the spirit of democracy plain and simple. If we don't make our stand now, we may wake up some morning to find that all we cherish about our country has morphed into something ugly and unrecognizable.

And on an entirely different note, if you have slugs, get ducks:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rise and Root

Risa, over at The Hermitage, has created a new symbol for an uprising rooted in the earth and is sharing her symbol with the world.

. . . I made this drawing for you - Rise & Root - a symbol perhaps, a waymarker for the Zapatistas of suburbia. As I drew the rooted tree-people raising their fists, I realised that they were the embodiment and representation of my dream-rune: raised fists to the fight, and roots in the earth. I give you this image to do with what you wish: download it, reblog it, print it, photocopy it, make it into stickers and take them with you in your bag to stick on the backs of public toilet doors, on supermarket conveyor belts or over underground advertising screens; make it into a poster, a projection, print it on bags and T-shirts, paint it large on the sides of petrol stations, pavements, parliaments.

Or take the rune as a symbol we’ll all recognise when it’s chalked on our doorsteps, and tattooed on our foreheads. I want this image not to be for sale - take it freely and use it, let’s make it spread unrelenting from the edges, appearing everywhere, but not obviously authored. I will not make a website about it. It is rough, and black-and-white as a badly photocopied pamphlet. It is yours. A gift to our revolution for Two Thousand And Twelve. Take it and run.

With her blessing, and mine, take it and run!

Fog and the Midnight Hour

Here in the 'hood, the year ended with fog -- a fog that got progressively thicker as the day wore on, so thick that our neighbors all but disappeared into a parallel reality. But at the midnight hour, the fog cleared and the stars and moon shone out in all their brilliance, lighting our way home.

What better metaphor for the dawning of this new year?

Hope, Not the Bob kind

There’s an interesting discussion at The Arch Druid Report about hope and optimism and pessimism and whether wishing on a star is a good thing or a bad one. I touched upon this subject a while back, but it deserves another go-round. These are words that are used daily and yet there seems to be no universal understanding of the concepts they represent.

John Michael Greer offers one definition of hope:
“ . . . hope doesn’t depend on a sense of entitlement that insists the universe is obligated to provide us with whatever happy ending we think we want, and in any real sense, it’s incompatible with notions of that kind. Hope is the quality of character and the act of will that finds some good that can be achieved, no matter what the circumstances, and then strives to achieve it.”

On the first part, we are agreed. “Hope” has nothing to do with a sense of entitlement, nor with the kind of wishful thinking around which we have built a cult of Positivity. But neither is hope a quality of character that works to make the best of a bad situation. I’m not sure what the term for that quality would be -- courageous, perhaps . . . resilient, or resourceful, or some combination of the three. We are arguing semantics here, but it does seem that semantics matters.

Hope can be a verb or a noun, but not an adjective. As a verb, ‘to hope’ is to recognize that there is more than one outcome possible and that some of those outcomes are more desirable than others. ‘To hope’ is to focus one’s imaginative power on the more positive outcomes. ‘Hope’ as a noun refers to the belief that a positive outcome is still possible even when it is unlikely.

It seems to me that hope is most appropriate for those events in life that are beyond our power to effect -- we hope that a friend who has cancer may be cured; we hope that the Saints will make it to the Super Bowl; we hope that the lost child in the news will be found whole and happy. Hope is a wish for the best and yet a recognition that our wishes are not always fulfilled. Hope implies the possibility of an undesirable outcome and is an attempt to ward it off with the power of positive thinking. Hope, at best, is weak and ineffectual, but it can keep a light burning where otherwise there would be darkness. It can also prevent one from accepting and dealing with reality. On the one hand is a person who boards up the house, evacuates, and hopes that the hurricane loses strength before it makes landfall, and on the other is a person who sits stubbornly at home while the waves come crashing ashore and yet entertains the weird notion that hope will suffice.

Hope, to me, is not one of the great virtues. Courage is, as are resourcefulness and resilience. But hope . . . I’d rather have a clear-eyed reality check any day. After I’ve prepared for the worst, then, and only then, will I hope for the best. And if the worst comes anyway, I hope that I may have the courage, resourcefulness and resilience to make the best of a bad situation and to inspire others to do the same.

Language is funny, isn’t it?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It Works for Me

Rather than dig around in an over-cluttered brain for something true and wise to write as 2012 dawns, I’ll just share a few wise words that others have written.

“ . . . my wish for all of us for 2012: that we may each find our way of living from the very centre of who & what we are; that we find a deeper level of freedom to be who we are without concern for others' opinions or life-limiting beliefs we were taught or constructed around a fantasy of inner or outer "safety." I smile as I write this. Life is not safe- it is unpredictable & short, a messy mix of joy & sorrow, a glorious plethora of endings and beginnings.

. . . seeing the new year through the lens of heart, mindful of the gift of being in this breath-takingly beautiful world. My New Year's resolution? To savour each moment, every taste & texture, sound & scent, shape & colour; to hear the music & dance when I can; to allow the divine light embedded in the centre of every cell of my being to guide & direct me.”
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." Joseph Campbell

My personal resolution for 2012 is to wear more feathers in my hair. Not as profound as Oriah's, but it works for me.