I would like to announce that my lady and I are engaged to be married next year, as of Sunday. Love is in the air here on the a farm and I am a happy man. Hard to really add anything to that little nugget of information. Obviously I am not posting very often here, as more and more of my life is about the farm, but I am sure I will be back with my observations and philosophical musings every now and again.
Take care of yourselves this winter. Enjoy the beautiful warm sunny winter day. Much love to you all.
The bones of the earth are stones and from those stones comes soil and from that soil comes life. And life grows and spreads seed and dies back, and feeds the dirt. Here we are in this vast theater of biological mosaics spreading and shifting across the planet. Water and wind move us around like galactic puppet strings, and we hustle and bustle here and there to make some sort of mark on the universe, our own special note. Why is it that we strive to leave something behind, is it because we fear the vast darkness of the night or are we simply biologically programmed to procreate and produce offspring of one sort or another? In this mystery we wander.
How do we go about our days as if they are endless? Maybe because they are, as each moment stretches onward forever beyond what we understand with our animal bodies. How does the small sapling or tiny yearling survive in this maelstrom of cold and dark, hunger and pain? The sunlight warms it up and it grows, and with the growth comes strength, and the strength renews commitment to life. In this interglacial period we do not see the awe of endless ice, but we don't know what the earth has in store for us after so much tinkering with the climate by mankind. We think we are strong with our steel infrastructure, but a howling breeze can bring it all down in a second. Like the christian bible story says, don't build your house on sand, build it on rock, but the problem is that all rock will become sand at some point. In the long scheme of things we all become bits of stardust floating around the universe. How is this so?
I watched the dried out grass stems waving in the breeze yesterday as the earth slowly turned my little patch of land away from the sun. The enlightened trees became dark and the cold crept up from the earth into the bones of my hand, and I began to walk back to the house to warm up. As I walked I reflected on the impermanence of all things, and how we think of the dead as apart from us. But what we are really is the sum of all that has gone before us, the dead live on within, a part of us, nourishing us in different ways. The grass can become fodder for the goats and their milk and meat can nourish our bodies, their hides can warm our flesh, their bones can provide us with tools. The old tree, after years of hard endless work, producing carbohydrates and converting oxygen to carbon, after years of work and endless infinitesimal organic actions in this world, shading, sheltering, blocking wind, directing rain, the trees gorgeous symphony of life ends but does not end. It continues onward in the life of the soil, the bacteria and fungal webs, it topples over and we can go out with our metal machines and cut it up into pieces to burn and keep us warm through our mini ice age. Here we have eternal life, all around us, every day.
And when those we love pass on we mourn, our hearts heavy as boulders. But they live on within us as long as we live on with them in our hearts, and the nourishment they provided with their love, grace, compassion, friendliness continues on in our lives...even the negative things about them enlighten us so that we learn to not let those things live in our lives, as our lives are to precious to waste on garbage. We need to ferment ourselves to a perfect compost that enriches everything around us, but it is so easy to get out of balance.
Time to unwind is important. Even with ten thousand things to do, I feel like I need to take a moment to relax my soul so that I can be a kinder, more thoughtful person. Even when everything seems crazy I need to realize that my life is like a speck of dust in the wind. I love my life, but it is as transient as anything that exists in this world. Even the hoophouse that we are building, with a bunch of help from other kind people, is simply an ephemeral stirring in the wake of this cosmic canoe of reality. Every moment is simply there, and seizing it is the seminal practice that seems like it should occupy most of our lives. But mostly we seem to float along in a series of events, cause and effect as a giant snake eating it's own tail. To take a moment to ponder where you are right there and then is probably the most amazing gift we have, our human sentience.
Munching on blood sausage and cracklings from our pig is such a weird head trip. She lead a wonderful life, and had a very quick and hopefully painless death. Our two pigs were so gentle and rude, funny and annoying, hilarious and loving, hungry and lazy. They were such gentle beasts and they have already given us a plethora of foodstuffs, even before we have butchered their carcasses. One thing that is for sure, is that they we treasured their lives and their antics, but when the bullet went into their brains, they were dead and then became a meat and fat and bone and blood, and now we treasure those things as they enrich and sustain our lives. I think it will always be a strange thing, to commit to raising an animal to eat it. But like I have said before, this is what we do as humans, we domesticate beast and vegetable, and are sustained by these relationships.
Well, as usual, it is time to go out and get a bunch of stuff done. Happy trails to you in your journeys today.
It has been awhile since I last posted and I'm sorry about that, mainly because writing is definitely a helpful activity that helps me sort out all that is going on in my life. There is so much going on right now that I don't even feel like summarizing it, but suffice it to say that I am living on the new farm with the missus and we have moved all the animals here in paddocks that we have fenced in with good new fencing. We also have the hoophouse up partially, just need a couple more days to get the metal frame up and then onto the plastic covering and then I will be framing in the ends. It is impossible for me to do so on my own so we are working on it on days off when we can. Yesterday was a whirlwind of driving, dropping off shares in the city, getting new glasses, getting supplies from Fleet Farm and a restaurant supply store, setting up a new business checking account. We got home later then we had thought we would, and we tried to decompress by doing some chores and random stuff. All the animals were fine, the house was still standing, and we had just accomplished a lot on our lists, so life was good.
I am amazed at the beauty surrounding me. The goats and pigs, the oaks and rustling leaves, my gentle lady cooking rice and doing chores, the grasses swaying in the winds, the sunlight slowly fading off the fields, the cold dew in the rye grass early in the morning. The ducks squawking, their quack boxes getting a good workout in this warm fall weather. The pigs oink and grunt and root in the soil happily, the moon seems more gentle then I have ever seen it, hanging like an icicle in the sky.
I think that in farming, gardening, or just plain living, beauty is always balanced by that which could be considered not beautiful. We have an infestation of ladybeetles in the kitchen that like to drop on your neck when you're cooking or eating. The roof is showing serious water damage and needs to be overhauled in the spring probably. The basement floods in the rain, and a floor joist seems to be unattached to anything. And that's all just problems with the house. We really have little room for our operation without outbuildings. We have tools and feed and boxes of jars stuffed into our pumphouse, and the chickens don't have a coop yet. No indoor room to store the firewood for the winter to keep it dry, no room for me to work on small projects. We have a refrigerator and the washer outside because there is no room inside at this point. But all this is not to complain, it is to show you that the seemingly idyllic nature of any farm or homestead is underscored by the many problems and projects that compile a long and comprehensive honey-do list. But this is what I signed up for, what I was looking forward to while planning to move to the country and start farming with my girlfriend. It has been a long time coming and I can safely say that I am almost where I want to be. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will always almost be there, but as in all things in life, the journey is what counts. It's hard to remember that sometimes, when you sort of wish the journey could hang on a second while you take a nap.
So soon we are going to be killing our two pigs. We are both quite a bit nervous about this whole process, but we have hired a (hopefully) skilled man to take care of the killing and skinning part. Of course we will be there to watch and learn, and next time we will do it ourselves like homesteaders, farmers, and herders have done for as long humans and animals have had this most intimate of connections, that of mutually symbiotic sustenance. That is the main thing on my mind these days.
The relationship we have with these animals that delight us with their personalities and sustain us with their very bodies is probably the most intense ethical dilemma that I have had to try to comprehend in my life. What it all comes down to for me is that in this world we really do eat to live, and when we eat to live we eat some form of life. The idea that an animal has more inherent life then a plant does not sit well with me, it seems to smack of a hierarchy that doesn't exist in nature. Nature seems to me to be a circle, and without us animals to complete it, it is incomplete. We identify with animals because we are animals, or more to the point, we identify with mammals because we are mammals. It seems easier for most humans to kill a chicken or a fish, then a pig or a goat I would say. Our mammalian history bonds us to those who share our fondness for mother's milk. In the end, we are engaging in a wide range of speciesism ( although I am not using that term in the way that is usually used), implying that species closest to our genetic heritage are more sentient and important than the vast array of living species on this planet. My point is that we have to eat to live, and we eat life, so the only ethical way to consume life is to raise species with the utmost of care and with the best of lives and then to end their lives swiftly and as painlessly as possible. What else is there to do in this world of eating living creatures?
Of course animals and plants feel in different ways. Most animals can't regrow limbs like a tree can, for instance. Mostly we don't recognize that plants have intelligence, but I would argue that what we call intelligence could simply be survival mechanism, i.e. the brain has evolved to react to various stimulus by firing synaptic connections and releasing chemicals that change physiological conditions in the animal body, but who is to say this is a better evolutionary technique then that of the plants which could be said to react to various stimulus by increasing growth, releasing seeds, growing extra runner roots, etc... The one kind of intelligence is mobile and the other stationary, relatively speaking. With all our running about, do we actually ever get anywhere, though? Maybe the plants have figured something out that we should pay attention to...
I feel deeply that you should never stop considering these ethical dilemmas that face us as human beings, just as you should never stop working on your relationship to your family, friends, and partner. There is no real ultimate conclusion to all of this really, there is nothing really new under the sun. Our intelligence can only get us so far and then it is all feeling, and even though the brain denigrates feelings and emotions and intuition as base behaviors, perhaps the brain has it's own agenda? Who can say, but I feel in my heart that what we are doing here on LTD Farm is as ethical and humane as raising livestock can get. Each animal is loved for it's essential nature, and each animal is treated with care and given the best life we can give it. When that animal has reached the end of its useful life, and/or it is suffering in some way, its life is ended. It is a rough analogue of wild nature, wherein the wolves job is to cull the caribou herd of weak or sickly animals for the overall health of the wolves and the caribou. In our case as clever human beings, we have bred domestic animals to be dependent on us, just as we have bred wild plant species to be weak yet produce much food for us.
Perhaps harvesting wild species as food is inherently more ethical and sustainable then domesticating species for food, and I will always be interested in this idea as well. But in a world where some people think potatoes come from trees and steak comes from the freezer, I think we have one misconception and disconnection from the natural world at a time to overcome.
Here I am, four days after killing a turkey for the first time by slicing its throat with a knife that was sadly not that sharp. My first cut didn't go deep enough, and the next two cuts made me cringe with the feeling that I was torturing this poor, beautiful creature, as red blood poured from its neck onto the green grass.
At the beginning of this year, I had no idea that taking the life of a bird was something I was interested in doing whatsoever, but after spending many deeply fulfilling days with my girlfriend on her farm that is focused on ducks, goats, and turkeys, I have become a man involved in the stewardship of animal lives. For years my farm dream consisted of vegetables, and perhaps some chickens for eggs, and a cow for milk, theoretically in any case. But now I see that this web of life must include the animals in this whole ecstatic circle of life and death. We eat and we are eaten. The only certainty is that life will be born, and that it will die.
As I transition into a shared life with Khaiti and a new business, both involving the creation of a homestead and farm, I am excited about all the challenges and rewards ahead of me, and us. But there is always a small part of me that continues to reflect on the limits of our small lives, the tininess of our existence in this universe. But as I kneeled there on the ground next to our turkey dying on the ground, I couldn't help but reflect on the grandeur of any single life. The awareness and spark that drives the life force is something to be admired with open an heart. Compassoinate killing seems like such an oxymoron until you realize that in fact we all are born and we all die, and when we take on the agricultural stewardship of plants or animals, we take on responsibility for those two constants.
In a factory farm there seems to be almost no responsibility felt to respect the awesome spark of life in each being. It seems the bigger you get, the less time you have for the small things, and the small things are what make up the precious beauty of this world.
I want our farm to be focused on the small precious beauty of all life, and not ever get carried away with business fever, growth for it's own good, which is cancer. One healthy cell can generate thousands more healthy, and one feverish cell can spawn fast and poison the environment.
As a potential farmer bodhisattva, I want to liberate myself and all sentient being from delusion, and be a river through which enlightenment moves. Opening your heart is hard and it hurts sometimes but it is the only way, I believe, to true compassion. I am my own biggest project, but to be fearless and open is my goal.
Although my cocoon is being transformed into a butterfly, I still feel the urge to cocoon myself from the busy madness of life. But as a butterfly you are thrust into the wind whether you like it or not, and you have to negotiate the gusts one at a time.
Here I am, less then a month left to live primarily in the Cities...I still have a lot to do, but I am confident that it will all happen in it's good sweet time. I'm ready to finish this large project I'm working on in Uptown, but it will be a while now. I need to cultivate patience no matter what. Staying in the moment will perhaps help me make it through the next couple of months without any mental or emotional melting.
Here I am sitting in the fan breeze. I dreamt that my truck had fallen into a river. I'm not happy being in the apartment anymore. I think it is time to really move.
With the first couple of projects for Shadow Dance Stoneworks under my belt and an eventual move from the Cities to Wisconsin, as well as Khaiti having an amazingly successful and busy year, we decided to up the stakes a bit and become business partners and buy a new farm together. Well, we found our farmland and the offer to purchase is signed and accepted. So now the frenzy begins.
I'm in a bit of downtime between jobs and I am using that time to pack and move things slowly, and to relax my body. I'm thinking of our land now constantly and trying to plan out the layout with Khaiti. We're both running our businesses as well, so we have to find time to do all those things as well, and remember to take some downtime every few days. We did spend a wonderful long weekend with a dear friend down in Iowa and that was excellent through and through except for all the rain, but even that gave us an excuse to stay inside and nap.
We eat like kings and queens, though, let me tell ya. We have had some of the most memorable meals ever this year. Perhaps I will post some pics and descriptions of our meals over the coming weeks as I slowly depart from Minneapolis. It will be odd to live in a really rural area again, but I am looking forward to it immensely. Our land is so full of vitality and diversity.
We have apple trees scattered wildly throughout, strawberries litter the ground under goldenrod, hawkweed, and daisies. Patches of old oaks, scatterings of quaking aspen, brambly raspberries, blackberries, and black raspberries, wild plums, chokeberry, pin cherry...Willows, alders, boxelder, ash, and young maples. There is a small pine grove with red elderberry understory. A huge bowl makes up the northwest corner of the property. There is wetland type area in the middle, and a nice sloping field in the northeast section.
A beautiful place that will allow us to live our dream for years to come.
Okay, I think I might blog a little now that the rain has hampered my workday. My business is going well, except for this weather mucking up the schedule I had planned for the next few months. Overall I think I am almost booked for the rest of the time I am living here in Minneapolis. I am moving to my girlfriend's (Khaiti's) farm in July, out in Osceola, WI, and we are going to try to farm full-time next year. I may continue to work within my business and do some stonework projects as well, but we'll see how the schedule looks next spring.
Meanwhile I have to pack all my old junk and move it slowly from here to Osceola, but I am still running my business here for now so I need certain things to stay here in Minneapolis. I want to see friends but my schedule is pretty full at this time. Khaiti and I are looking for land in WI to buy, in order to build our dream farm. That, along with both our businesses, moving, and everything else in life has made 2010 pretty intense.
It is sort of hard to explain what is going on in my life. Newness is par for the course. I have developed a sort of ecstatic outlook on life, and I'm not sure if that is something that can be easily undone anymore. The grass is green on this side of the fence, and the other side. Wounds heal faster if they are air dried.
Let's get together and celebrate spring. What a great year this is. But then again, I'm getting my taxes done later and perhaps my whole happy bubble will pop! Doubt it though.
I went on three good walks today. One with a really good friend, another with a really good friend, and another with a really cosmic monkey. I enjoyed them all for various reasons, but on my solo walk I bought some organic cheese puffs at the Seward Coop, so that was by far the best one...
Being able to walk again in pleasant weather is bliss: slow, fast, ambling, stupefied, tired, happy, full, hungry. It doesn't matter the state I'm in, the walk brings it all together.
I made two cups of fresh coffee this morning. Then I added some cream that was a bit old. Then I sipped it. It was bitter and rancid from the cream, but I kept drinking because I didn't want to waste good fresh coffee. Then I thought "What the hell am I doing?" and dumped it down the drain, and poured myself a fresh cup.
little morning lesson #1 you can't save doomed coffee by drinking it
Quiet endurance while suffering. Maintaining a state of grace in the midst of pain. Beginning again after failing so many times.
Patience could be seen as a precursor to any attempt at religion, science, or art; evolution/creation. Before the storm hits, with patience we gather our wits and batten down the hatches. Without patience we run around with our heads cut off in a panic and are destroyed by the storm.
Patience is a survival skill. Without patience, hunting wouldn't be a skill or craft, it would merely be an exercise in firepower. Without patience, gardening is the most frustrating undertaking in the world.
Patience is the seed for real meditation and heartfelt communication.
"There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!"
It was beginning winter, An in-between time, The landscape still partly brown: The bones of weeds kept swinging in the wind, Above the blue snow. It was beginning winter, The light moved slowly over the frozen field, Over the dry seed crowns, The beautiful surviving bones Swinging in the wind. Light traveled over the wide field; Stayed. The weeds stopped swinging. The mind moved, not alone, Through the clear air, in the silence. Was it light? Was it light within? Was it light within light? Stillness becoming alive, Yet still? A lively understandable spirit Once entertained you. It will come again. Be still. Wait.
Cloudy Is the Stuff of Stones Wisdom that fits in your pocket by Anthony Doerr Published in the March/April 2010 issue of Orion magazine
WHENEVER I’M OUTDOORS for more than ten minutes I start picking up rocks. In Patagonia, in Phoenix, in a Home Depot parking lot—my gaze is invariably sucked downward into the gravel. I weigh the merits of pebbles by some fickle and mutable aesthetic and either pitch them back or pocket them and stack them among hundreds of their brethren on the counter behind our kitchen sink like fortifications against an army of tiny invaders.
Pebbles from Canada, pebbles from Cleveland, pebbles from carriageways in Caledonia. Maybe the echoes of miners reverberate in my genes; maybe I share a That’s-Pretty-and-I-Want-It covetousness with thieves and princesses and bowerbirds. Maybe I hope someday I’ll finally overcome the fundamental truth of pebbles and find one that looks prettier dry than wet. Or maybe I’m just an introvert, a down-gazer, a bad conversationalist.
But every night as I wash another dish or fill another mug with water, my little hoard stares up at me with its thousand imperturbable faces.
Oh, him, the stones seem to whisper. He’ll be gone soon enough.
Take this nugget of quartz: milky, egg-shaped, the size of a breath mint. Quartz is hard, harder than all the common minerals, and on its journey from mountain to dust this pebble has reached the way station of my kitchen counter by passing through an almost unfathomable series of gauntlets. This little thing is a master of endurance: survivor, abider, traveler; inside it is folded a story of creation and time so large it threatens the imagination.
Born as a crystalline vein inside some huge extrusion of granite, it probably rode a thrust fault into the light a few hundred million years ago, helped bulldoze up a mountain range, got pulverized by a glacier. Over a few millennia ice, weight, and lichen weathered the vein into boulders, the boulders into stones. Maybe this pebble was driven by a cloudburst into a great fan of other pebbles; maybe it was—after another ten thousand rainstorms—sucked back underground where it was compressed into conglomerate by heat and pressure, until it rose again, smaller and rounder, to be polished for a few more centuries in a creek bed before the creek disappeared and the sand swallowed it, incubated it, and hatched it years later into the gulch below my house.
Until last Tuesday, when it traveled into the whimsy of my frail attention. Into my pocket, onto the pile behind the sink. It sits there now and dares me to outlast it.
For some reason I started to consider the concept of the negative.
In photographic terms, it is simply the print in reverse.
It can mean something we consider bad. But I started to think about how a negative situation can be a positive for somebody else. There are many sides to each situation, each problem is a facet of the struggle.
Today I am just tired. I feel neglected, a little empty, hopeful, somewhat content. I feel let down.
Here in frigid Minnesota we're all drinking beer and eating nachos in homage to the coming battle between the forces of good and evil.
But I am not. I am intent on doing some maintenance and visiting today. A productive conductive day. I have even brewed a full press of coffee, and am now sipping some French roast in a French original ceramic mug. The Frenchman is here, man.
If you are supping on gallons of mead and mutton in anticipation of the barbaric display of pointless distraction better known as Megahole Sunday, then my hats off to you. You keep the world spinning, my friends.
This is the end Does anybody read this? The only reason I started a Myspace blog was because Sunshine was on here and I wanted to communicate with her. Now I find it somewhat interesting to check out her friends and Beth's blog now and again, but I don't know if it's worth it. I have another blog that is my primary one, so I probably won't write here anymore very often. I would like to communicate with some people but I think Myspace is weird and it's owned by the evil Rupert Murdoch, the supreme dictator of Fox, which we all know is a neo-conservative bastion of the media. So there.
Maybe a few words here about my last month or so.
I turned 28 on the 28th of August. Old man. I gave up on some long-held idealistic dreams, I gave up smoking, I quit my job, and I'm re-evaluting my life and how I've lived it up until now. I know a major change is needed, I know I've overlooked some major parts of who I am. I love my girlfriend and I want a family at some point, but before that I want to be doing meaningful work, I want to be able to provide for them and myself. I have been too irresponsible.
Life is a dream. But even in a dream we can be hurt, be sad, eat, make love, fly. We must consider everything we do as transitory, like a stream. I realize I was all dammed up, by emotional and physical situations. Now I need to flow. A stream knows where it must go, it follows the lay of the land and gravity. I need to follow my dreams, down into the ocean of nirvana.
When the beautiful and wonderful Sunshine killed herself, I realized that I am alive. I realized that each second of my mortality was slowly ticking away while I watched as if I was a bystander. For years I have been this way, and now I am approaching 30. Thoughts begin to convalesce, and the fractured figments of my imagination begin to melt together into a giant mirror. I stared into my own eyes and saw nothing.
When I die and go deep into that great night, I will have accomplished nothing.
I felt sad about this. But I also felt happy about some of the memories I have with friends and loved ones. I realized that my life, any sentient beings existence, is nothing if not defined by our relationships, our webs, our networks of connection. All life is dependent on all life. There is no individual existence in this morass of relationships that isn't defined by it's dependency on an infinitude of individuals. In other words, the mirror that reflected me exploded into trillions of shards of mirror that exploded into trillions of shards of mirrors, and I dissolved.
But losing my ego only strengthened my spirit.
If there is one thing that Sunshine would want me or you to do in our lives, it would be to be happy, to be free, and to fulfill our dreams. I don't think many of us know how to start fulfilling our dreams, or ourselves. We mistake our egos many desires for real peace or happiness, but in the end it is the ego that causes us the real pain and sadness. Without the ego to boss us around, we can see what is real and what is not. From the moment we are born, we are trained to feed the ego. When the ego sees your spirit soar free it becomes jealous and begins to make demands and create lists for you. Fuck the ego, is what I say.
In any case, I will spend the seconds I have left living with the spark of life in my guts learning to breathe and searching for my path. In practical terms, I may have to take an unpleasant job or go back to school to find my path. I may have to leave everything I know and disappear into the woods, or join a monastery. I may have to learn a vocation, and have a family. I don't know. But now I know why so many religions talk about faith. Without faith, it is hard to continue on sometimes. Maybe Sunshine lost all her faith in the future, and maybe that is why she decided to stop trudging forward. I know damn well how she felt. We were in the same boat; no college degree, in crappy service jobs, trapped in a town. She gave up. It is tempting to people like us. We have no prospects in this society. And yet she would always remind me that she thought I could do anything.
"I hope that you know that you are amazing to me. I talk about you a lot because you are oozing with talent, and I truely believe that you could be anything, do anything, but you choose to be you and that I respect more than anything else," She wrote in her last email to me.
Can I do anything? I ask myself this constantly. Can I be what I want to be, can I be what Sunshine thought I could be, can I be what my girlfriend thinks I should be, or my parents, or you? The questions rip through my heart until I realize I am what I am, but what do I want to do?
Life doesn't give you time to catch your breathe. We exist as a complex network of love and pain and suffering and joy. We eat or are eaten. We run and fall and run again. We lose ones we love and we can't even tell them about the pain it caused us. We can't even tell anyone, because no one can really know what it's like inside our heads. But everyone lives inside their heads, we all are alone inside ourselves but are connected to eachother by that very fact.
Thank you for your support and please contact me if you feel the need to talk or take a walk or anything. I'll be around.
What we put out there is what is out there for all of us to share. There is no shame in pain or joy. Why do we hide these things like something to avoid? We may be rich or poor in many ways, but we are here, alive, and that is all we have. And we should give it all away in some way before we end our journey here in this place. Care of the planet, care of people, fair share. Good enough wisdom for my journey.
My personal pain is a stone thrown into the lake. I reverberate outward.
I want to remain present, to remain silent until I must shout for joy or pain. And in that shout I want to dissolve into the infinite, until silence comes once again to comfort me. Maybe that's all we are, a shout in the infinite.
I had a great lunch with my friends JB and K on Thursday at St. Martin's Table. Not a huge selection of food, but what we had was delicious and I think nourishing for all of us. I was hungry throughout the day for some reason, and then later in the evening I had dinner with my best friend in this world at Tanpopo noodle shop over in St. Paul, which never disappoints. We had sushi, dumplings, miso soup, and soba noodle soup with mushroom and egg, all very tasty. This morning I had the remains of the soup as my breakfast, and I mulled over how efficient chopsticks are, and how they allow you to be more involved with the process of eating. I am beginning to understand that limiting your choices is a good step toward being involved in the process, of eating or living.
Time sneaks by in the morning, but soon I must work; at my job, at my life, at my art, at my relationships. I was reading a passage from a Shunryu Suzuki book, and I came upon the concept of a flexible, fluid heart. In order to be happy, our hearts need to flow, be able to bend when the wind blows, in order to be in a natural state of being. What I see in myself and others is this tendency to maintain rigidity in the face of the unknown. I can't help my muscles from tensing up, but I can mindfully relax them when I become aware. Oh, but it is so easy to lash out at this crazy world.
"How can our smile be the source of joy and not just a diplomatic maneuver? When we smile to ourselves, that smile is not diplomacy; it is the proof that we are ourselves, that we have full sovereignty over ourselves. Can we write a poem on stopping, aimlessness, or just being? Can we paint something about it? Everything we do is an act of poetry or a painting if we do it with mindfulness. Growing lettuce is poetry. Walking to the supermarket can be a painting."
My very good friend and spiritual brother JB is in the hospital today for open-heart surgery. For those who don't know, he has stage IV melanoma that he has been living with for the last two years. His cancer has spread from his skin to his brain, heart, and lungs. He has had treatments to treat his brain and lung tumors, namely lasers that zapped his brain and immune strengthening treatments that were incredibly hard on his body, and left him recovering for weeks at a time. He has been on a modified Gerson diet this whole time, which is basically a really healthy way to eat; cutting out meat, cheese, salt, sugar, fats, and alcohol, and subsisting mainly on vegetables and fruits. There are a lot of juices drunk during the day, and some enemas to deal with. I don't know his current subscription to the diet, but I know he has maintained a high level of health over the last two years, which has had a major impact on his ability to live well through this cancer experience.
Just recently he has had major lung problems over the holidays, and dangerous tumorous growth in his lung has necessitated part of this surgery, which entails removing part of his lung. Another part of this surgery today is removing a tumor on his heart that MRI scans found when he went in for a check-up. This tumor has to be removed, and he may need a pacemaker to function well after the surgery.
Another part of the surgery that has been postponed until perhaps next week is removing a large tumor from his arm which is threatening use of his arm.
Here we have a beautiful man suffering from so many cancer related problems, and yet he is also living a good full life. Today is sort of a major wake-up call for me, in that it definitely has the implications that things will not be the same afterwards. In a way this is pessimistic, but it also seems more realistic. I have been struggling with this question in other parts of my life as well: How long and strong do you hold onto hope for something you want in life, and when do you let it drift away and just find the next piece of joy or peace that you can in this life? So this is what heartbreak is...letting go.
I look at him and see a great friend and teacher who is suffering through a situation I can only imagine, and I search for a metaphor, but I can't find one. I just see a friend.
I am sending all my love to JB and Jason today: internally I am sending JB and Jason good healing energy, wishes for more life to live together, love for my loved ones, respect for my friends, and appreciation for the very life sparks that warms me. Externally I dedicate this day to peace with my friends, family, and coworkers, all those I encounter on today's journey, and peace within myself most especially.
1. Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good things the Creator has given you and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. Seek for the things that will benefit others (everyone).
2. Respect. Respect means "To feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something; to consider the well being of, or to treat someone or somethin with deference or courtesy". Showing respect is a basic law of life.
a. Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.
b. Special respect should be given to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and Community Leaders.
c. No person should be made to feel "put down" by you; avoid hurting other hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.
d. Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially Sacred Objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.
e. Respect the privacy of every person, never intrude on a person's quiet moment or personal space.
f. Never walk between people that are conversing.
g. Never interrupt people who are conversing.
h. Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of Elders, strangers or others to whom special respect is due.
i. Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where Elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).
j. Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.
k. Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her.
l. Show deep respect for the beliefs and religion of others.
m. Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless. Listen with your heart.
n. Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Once you give an idea to a council meeting it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people. Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if those ideas ideas are quite different from the ones you have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the Spark of Truth.
3. Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.
4. Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.
5. Always treat your guests with honor and consideration. Give of your best food, your best blankets, the best part of your house, and your best service to your guests.
6. The hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honor of one is the honor of all.
7. Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family.
8. All the races and tribes in the world are like the different colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children of the Creator they must all be respected.
9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, and the world is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created. Do not fill yourself with your own affairs and forget your most important talks. True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.
10. Observe moderation and balance in all things.
11. Know those things that lead to your well-being, and those things that lead to your destruction.
12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.
streets full of people with trinkets to share offering them up for folks in despair yandi and crystals and oils for growth of spirit and body and mind as we go
emphasis placed on the body and mind the heart is often somewhere behind strange
tiny little bones of the innocent child lookin up to me with the saddest of eyes is her innocence in tact? or has it been stained? has the creature that feeds her taken it away strange so sad it's strange
I recognize my health things I have been dealt places that I have roamed feelings I've had things that I know
home, my home home, my home home, I'm home
running through the bush and all of the trees moving in time with my capable speed skippy ants claw at the edge of the bowl of the shell of an egg of bird long since gone maybe it rose up to spread it's new wings or maybe it nourished a stronger sibling strange
places we roam and people we meet some connections are strong and some of them are weak 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or maybe 5 or 6 or more strong as the roots of a big old gum tree and we'll carry them through to the next life we see strange so beautifully strange
I recognize my health things that I have been dealt places that I have roamed feelings I've had things that I know
I had this idea that my journey would lead me somewhere amazing at a certain point in my life. Since then, I have realized that what I had thought was going to happen is not going to happen how I think it will, or when I want it to, and now I've realized that those desires grew out of a swampy fertile young imagination. I just have an overall sense that these dreams I had as a boy have sort of washed out to sea. I can see them slowly drifting out from the shore, falling apart gradually, sinking into the sunset.
These boy-dreams fall away from me, and I'm left with no dreams, or I dream of empty houses, lovers leaving, things falling apart. Looking at what I have accomplished on my journey, I realize I have only the slightest idea of where I was attempting to go. But that is sort of besides the point. The point is, where is this path that I am currently on taking me?
Maybe that's why the Wizard of Oz hits us straight in the gut. We all have experienced that tornado that whips us into an unknown land full of munchkins and witches. We're on that yellow brick road together, finding each other, hoping that the wizard will solve all our problems. But it turns out he is a fraud hiding behind a curtain. I think we all know that the ending of that movie is make-believe...
So the curtain has lifted, the eagle has landed, the sun has stopped revolving around the earth. My friends and family, you are what's important to me, not the boy-dreams. But it's funny, I managed to harvest some seeds from the flowers of those old dreams. My new guitar feels so good in my hands these days. Speaking and writing are coming more naturally to me. Some dream seeds have already taken root in the compost of my past. It's the way that life is I guess.
I find myself slowing down. I've started to enjoy baths. Perhaps my fear of drowning under this sea of life has lifted, in part because I found myself on the bottom of the ocean with the desire to go back up to the air and the will and power to do so. I'm getting back into my own groove. There is a part of me that wishes I had found my groove ten years ago, but I know that isn't how it works. You can't rush the accumulation of sediment. The Grand Canyon wasn't formed in a day. The layers in life exude beauty.
I've also seen that this path I am on isn't really separate from my feet. The path and I are the same thing. I am the path, and if I can see and feel that truthfully and honestly, I really can't go the wrong way.
"You know, the thing is, it's like...The bottom line here, all of the craziness and the tension between you and I, is based on illusion. You have to understand it. It's an illusion of seperateness, an illusion that there's a you and a me because it just, it ain't so, you know? I mean, we're like these mushrooms. These single individual outcroppings are all part of the whole. You know, there's no seperateness here. There's no other. It's the same with human beings, it's the same with us, you know what I mean? See the thing is, we're really, we're just one. We're part of the same big mushroom. The same big self. You see, what I'm trying to tell you is I never left you, okay, I'm always there."
-Joel Fleishman, Northern Exposure (while he is orating, Maggie is imagining him being strafed by bullets from a fighter plane)
I really enjoyed this scene from the episode "The Great Mushroom" of Northern Exposure. Here is the video clip.
This transports me back ten years when I started to become fascinated by mushrooms. The reality of what these organisms do for the the soil and planet still fascinates me. They are so integral to life as we know it.
They feed off of cellulose, both living and dead, and create organic matter in their own demise. Their mycellium are so fragile, yet they support entire ecosystems. They provide communication between different part of the forest. They are miraculous and deadly. The largest and smallest living beings on the planet.
But in the context of the quote, they provide an apt metaphor for us humans as well. Are we so removed from each other? Is separation and death of the body the end of our relationship with one another?
We are fascinated by the colorful and mesmerizing fruiting bodies that pop out of the earth, but underneath it all is a vast network of hairlike strands of life that support our fragile skin of dirt on this planet.
The gatekeeper said, "There is mortal quandary that you must address within your heart before you can go through these gates."
Standing before the iron bridge, I saw a delicate mist form over the river that flowed far below. My strength was fleeting, my breath ragged.
He went on.
"First you must ask yourself; What do you love? To know what you love is a noble thing. To know love, to be filled with love, is what some call enlightenment, samadhi, salvation, or ecstasy. Love dissolves the borders between us and them; love is how we know our lungs are the lungs of the earth, our fingertips are the fingertips of our brothers and sisters. The most precious gift we possess is the ability to know and be love."
His words rang true but my stomach grumbled hungrily.
I said, "As much as I love to talk about love, I still need to feed my belly. I still need to go through this gate and cross this bridge. I am on a long journey and conversation warms my heart, but it doesn't put food in my hungry belly or new boots on my sore feet. My journey is mine, and what you can say might feed my soul, but I need to continue toward my goal, if you don't mind."
He nodded and struck the gate with his silver staff. The gate resounded over the chasm below, echoing into the farthest unseen nooks and crannies of the cliffs that rose from the water.
"Secondly, now that you have glimpsed the forms and shadows of love and believe with certainty in your heart that you know what love is, you must follow the forms and shadows of love to the ends of the earth. Your journey might fill you with exultant joy, and you might find laughter around every corner, but this well trodden road can just as well lead you into a maelstrom of pain and suffering. But the road itself will always continue toward love. This journey is called many names by many people, but call it what you will. If your heart resonates with the road, you are on the right path."
I stood at the gate hungry, tired, and a little scared. I wanted to go through, but the gatekeeper gazed at me with dark eyes shrouded in shadow.
I told him, "I have found love, I have seen her glowing form, and I have heard that she resides at the end of this road. That is why I am on this journey. I have had a taste and I cannot forget it. I am not sure I will survive, but I have no home nor any family where I came from, so I have no reason to go back there. I must go forward to find her, I must continue or I will perish right here at this gate."
The gatekeeper grinned.
"You have seen the form and shadow of love and are certain you know her. I think you are right, you must continue onward through this gate and over this bridge. Now, beyond this bridge is a land of darkness that you must be prepared for, otherwise you will not survive long. Here, I will give you my bow and some arrows so that you are at least moderately armed against a certain and immediate death beyond this bridge. Go now and find her at the end of the world. This road leads all the way there. Perhaps I will see you again."
The gate swung open with a rusty whine, and he bowed and offered his weapons to me. I slung his bow and quiver of arrows on my back and thanked him. He waved me on. I took a step through the towering gates. My feet were so sore I could hardly walk, but I knew that I had to continue. I could not just sit there and weep for the pain.
I see a silent leviathan erupting from the depths of the dark and endless sea, a boiling saltwater tumor engulfing my pathetic ship of twigs. Then a raucous oil-slick laugh rings in my ears, belching forth like steam from a snake tongued mouth, acid spittle burning deep holes through flesh to my bones. I see the source of this murderous mirth towering above me. Medusa, her head a nest of serpents, her eyes shining with the knowledge of my imminent death. It is impossible for me to look away from those dark and shining eyes, and I cannot stop my flesh from slowly turning into stone, and I sink. I sink to the bottom of this frozen sea where no light can reach me.
There is no light here at all, just pitch black darkness. The light that sustains life is gone. The small flame that I have stoked for so long in my heart is dark. I can only feel and move as stone feels and moves. I was afraid, so afraid, as I set out on my journey, but there is nothing left to fear.
For too long I sailed in my ship of twigs. Twigs that I gathered from the darkest forests, from the driest deserts. Twigs that scratched my hands and drew blood. I thought my ship of twigs would allow me to reach the other side of the ocean. But even as I capsized and my mind's eye saw her face reaching out toward me with shining black eyes, I knew it was the twigs that I had gathered that had failed me, that had come apart under the strain of the waves motion.
I can identify with yoga. Of all the spiritual practices, yoga seems to be the one that will yoke you to the sacred most assuredly. The wholistic nature of yoga include practices that connect your body, mind, heart, and soul in a way that many other practices do not so readily. In my mind, Yoga is one of the most ancient mystical traditions that is readily to anybody who would like to taste the Union.
Today I woke up and went through an asana practice on a DVD called "Yoga Shakti" by Shiva Rea. I highly recommend this DVD for beginning to mid level yogis, which is where I am at in my practice. There are four asana practices that can be mixed and combined to create an asana practice tailored to your needs, 4 hours worth of amazing yoga by Shiva Rea filmed on a beautiful beach with peaceful surf. She has very relaxing voice. The only problem with it that I have is that sometimes when you are in a pose and can't see what she is doing on the screen, her directions are bit murky. But overall it is very high quality. I haven't even gotten past the first asana practice, but I haven't been practicing that much over the last couple years. Perhaps it is time to refresh my intent toward yoga. Maybe yoga can play a large part in my quest to unite with the sacred.
On the other hand, once again we have a system of practices that are already mostly established and have a hierarchy of goals and so forth. I don't think this has to be necessary for individuals, but in my search for the sacred, I must keep my heart and mind open toward all that is out there. Yoga is a path, swimming is a path, art is a path, and maybe computer programming is a path. I don't really know what to make of it all, that is why I am characterizing myself these days as a ranger in the wilderness, tracking prey and picking berries, reading the clouds and following the lay of the land.
Can we take words and ideas like "yoga" or "mystic" and use them in our own special ways? When you know a specific language, you are part of a club, and you feel special. Why do we have so many languages? Why do I feel the need to define myself?
This morning I woke up and had a hunch I should visit a website that I stopped visiting regularly, and I came a cross an article that really crystallizes what I have been thinking about in terms of the whole "us against them" mindset that is so prevalent in our world. I really don't think it is a healthy way to be as a living creature, or sustainable culture. The beauty of the article is multiplied for me because it explores the concept of this ancient shadow dance that we must all engage in to become fully alive. Or at least that is how I am interpreting it.
I encourage you to read the full article.
"Spectral Light Beyond black-and-white thinking in the New, Old West by Amy Irvine Published in the January/February 2010 issue of Orion magazine
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT the human brain is most capable of distillation—of boiling things down to basic black and white. Smoke means fire. Breaking glass signals intrusion. From an evolutionary standpoint, this kind of rudimentary thought process might be a most valuable survival skill—the kind that allows a body to respond to threats even in a state of half-sleep. My husband, Herb, is a lawyer, the kind of man who has been trained to think before he acts—to examine all angles and consider complexities. But at three a.m. on an uncharacteristically cold and moonless night in late spring, even he is reduced. And through that reduction, he would come to see how things that lurk too starkly, even at opposing ends of the spectrum, can shift. As if fundamentals could be that supple. As if values—like the presence of all colors in relation to the sheer absence of them—could be so pliant. As if the natural order of things—like the age-old relationship between predator and prey—could flex into a new arrangement altogether.
The dogs would start it. Their frenzied barks, their teeth gnashing against the glass of the back door, would draw my husband out of bed and into his jeans in a single motion. In the mudroom, he would stumble through a sea of writhing canines, pull on his boots with one hand and turn the knob with the other. Two aging Aussies and a half-blind border collie mix would spill out into the dark yard and charge toward the goat pen. They would make it halfway before stopping dead in their tracks and high-tailing it back to the porch. Herb would hear the screams then, the desperate cries for help. He would fumble in the doorway for the porch light, two-stepping with the returning dogs, and there, his sleep-riddled mind would already be drawing conclusions so swiftly it would feel, he would say later, like pure instinct.
And here I should point out that my husband, despite his profession, is a man who could have been born into the Paleolithic—the kind of guy who has built a life sustained by wildness more than any other element. After college, Herb left Michigan for the West and never looked back. On the other side of the Continental Divide he found the kind of unfettered topography that he needed—for he’s a man who is happiest when ambling over great stretches of soil or stone. He loves the basics, the way they ignite his senses: The procurement of food, shelter, warmth. The silky curves of women, skylines, rivers. Then there is his deeply held belief that he is a sort of Dr. Dolittle; and indeed, I have been witness to his extraordinary ability to communicate with animals. Domestic or untamed, creatures of all sorts seem to enter quickly into some kind of understanding with him.
It is this latter quality that explains why my husband’s guns have never been loaded—despite the fact that we have made our home in one of the more wild parts of the West, where black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and elk are as common as livestock. Where large tracts of untrammeled public land still eclipse both alfalfa fields and subdivisions of “ranchettes.” Herb had stored in various places a .22 Smith & Wesson six-shooter, a 12-gauge shotgun, and three rifles in .22, .30-06, and 7 mm magnum calibers—an inheritance from his grandfather, who had been an avid hunter in both the Great Lakes region and in Africa. All but the .22s had lain in their cases since his grandfather had died nearly eleven years prior—and those two firearms had only been used to shoot beer cans off fence posts on the occasional Sunday afternoon. Looking back, I think we both took a certain pride—and a smug one at that—in having no need for guns in what is largely a gun-toting community of roughneck ranchers, folks who let loose bullets daily on coyotes and prairie dogs.
So it is mind-boggling that Herb would conclude as he did on that night. Call it a natural impulse, or call it one of the ill effects of living in a culture steeped in sensational news and violent movies, but his mind instantly crafted the assumption that the hair-raising cries coming across the dark yard were of human origin. Somehow, he decided—in our critter-laden, outback of a neighborhood that sits seven miles from a tiny, low-crime kind of town—that some heinous, unspeakable assault was being committed by one deranged human upon another. And as he charged away from the now-cowed dogs into the colorless void that lay beyond the porch light’s glare, his brain illuminated with one white, shining thought: This is what the world has come to. Standing empty-handed in the inkwell of night, he was ready to face squarely some malevolence in his own species. "
I've been meaning to outline a purpose for this blog because I have various blogs and websites that are dedicated to one or more aspects of my existence, and I'm starting to feel that I have one too many outlets for my various thoughts and observations. A hazard of the internet, I guess. This morning I had an notion about this blog, Cosmic Monkey, and my life, that I think will be provide an apt goal for both.
I have decided that 2010 will be a year in which I purposefully "Hunt and Gather the Sacred". Imagine those words in big bold letters, like an old spaghetti western movie. The problem is that this phrase doesn't portray the totality of my endeavor, but it is kind of catchy. I'll explain what my purpose is, how I will go about it, and why the title isn't so accurate.
(a few minutes later...)
As I started to write about my purpose and methods, it all came out so wrong. I used the phrase "reunification with God" and realized how extremely tainted those words are. I am not sure I can explain myself right away, so perhaps I will let you figure out your own idea of what "Hunting and Gathering the Sacred" could possibly mean. But I will leave you with the inspiration behind the concept.
As I laid on my blow up mattress this morning, feeling sore from yesterday's beautiful ski run in the oak savanna, I read about the responsibility that mystics, dreamers, and activists have toward this world, that this silken thread runs through seekers of truth and peace that bonds us together and it is our responsibility to share our work with others, to build the energy that might heal so many of the diseases seeping through the veins of the earth and her people. And I had this realization that my life is sort of a constant hunt for truth and peace, that I am always gathering my awareness of the sacred, and if I can use my blog to focus exclusively on this core aspect of who I am, perhaps it will strengthen my intent and begin to hone my practice of Hunting and Gathering the Sacred. The biggest problem with this phrase is that the word "sacred" generally doesn't mean the mundane or work-a-day, but to me everything is sacred. To see and experience the sacred in everything is the subtext.
The earth is my body, my body is the earth. Compassion rises out of this awareness. Pain arises out of the knowledge that the people hurt and are dying in Haiti, pain arises out of the knowledge that down the street two men were murdered as they simply minded their own business. Joy arises at the thought of the rivers cascading down the Sawtooth Mountains into Gitchee Gumee, joy arises out of the thought of a morning making food with a friend.
"The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them, And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! Here, you! What have you to confide to me? Look in my face, while I snuff the sidle of evening; Talk honestly—no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; (I am large—I contain multitudes.)"
Forgive me if I ramble a bit today. I am interested in revisiting a concept I was exploring about a year ago. My interests in the natural world have led me down mystical and scientific paths of thought, and I am trying to make sense of it all.
In a way, I can see how tempting it is to chose a path and stick to it, i.e. religion or academia. I think the genius of Buddhism lies in the idea that the best path lies right down the middle. Choosing a path and identifying with it creates certain problems. Perhaps the reason I have consistently chosen the mystical path vs. the scientific is because of a deep mistrust on my part of any type of authority whatsoever, which is why I haven't ever really considered so-called "higher" learning as a legitimate avenue for me to walk down. My life has presented itself to me as a path with a few twists and turns, and mostly I have trusted my feelings to be my guide, as opposed to my reasoning. I am wondering now if this isn't just another way to fall into the gutter of sides, the old "us and them" approach. Even now, I still view educational institutions with mistrust yet some longing toward what I may have missed. And in some ways I miss the comfort of having a religion everyone respects, one that has a page in the newspaper. But in my heart and mind I am steadily floating down the mystic river, way from both religion and academia. Mostly because of what I feel and know to be true, what resonates with my very soul.
At the same time I float gently down this murky river, I am becoming more certain that most of my actions have been influenced by reasons that have been fed by emotions. You could say I am guilty of the big bad no nos of Buddhism, ignorance leading to desire leading to suffering. A central premise of Buddhism (and Buddhism doesn't have a monopoly on this concept by any means) is that we swim in ignorance and that if we shed our ignorance, we have no choice but to act mindfully. So without that mindfulness, we act like shitheads, even if we don't want to.
The happiest people I have met are those who can live without a dualistic mindset or any strict adherence to so-called "normal" time and place schedules, other then that which flows normally from living a life. Free range people, I guess you could say.
My mistrust of authority and institutions comes in part from their inability to allow free rein to minds and bodies alike to find their own course towards nourishment of the body, mind, and soul. I also have this deep feeling that what we conceive of as "new science" is only rediscovering ancient wisdom that we have lived with for a long time. We have come to a point in human technology where science resembles mysticism and scientists are wacky artists, and religions resemble old schools and priests are sullen teachers. The fluctuation is strange.
I personally don't really believe in or want any titles, labels, or occupations. I simply want to be alive and come to understand how and why I am alive. I simply want to live as a free range mystic knowing full well I will become nourishment to the universe in this endless story we call life. As a free range mystic, nothing that nourishes me is out of reach, and I am one with everything. Forget even that title, I am Andrew Richard French. Forget even that name, I didn't choose it, nor does it resonate with me as the person that I am. I am simply me. I am I under the sky, watching the grandfather sun and grandmother moon as they watch me.
A blog is a sort of a story thread of life. It doesn't do any good for a thread to stop every now and then throughout the material. But I am beginning to wonder how valuable it is to weave this social matrix fabric that we have been informed is only good harmless fun. I wonder.
It is eleven degrees below zero Farenheit out there in that frozen nirvana.
The only thing alive is the tracks.
The tracks show what has happened, what is happening, what will happen. The tracks are breezes from the heart beats of small animals. The tracks are out there, we are in here; cozy, warm.
How do they survive out there in the frozen tundra? How do they make it through the night? I see nothing out there, I haven't seen a creature in a week. I haven't been outside of Minneapolis in months, other then one trip to my grandparents farm to look at an old truck.
The cold quickly seeps into bone marrow. I need to lower my metabolism down to nothing to survive this cold. My body doesn't crave food so much as warmth. Our modern conveniences appear miraculous to me these days. Turning up the heat, turning on the stove, taking a hot shower. All this warmth divorced from it's source, which here in Minnesota is nuclear and coal power mostly. Maybe I use wind power, I can only hope.
The tracks are fresh like biscuits, then they crumble a bit at the edges. They become small indentations. Thaw and freeze recycles them. They are small pocks in the snow. Nothing, a ghost.
But then, after all is said and done, we have the actual material world to deal with. Our corporeal being is what we know for sure, everything else is pure conjecture. I can sit here with my thoughts up amongst the clouds but in reality I have to go to work in a few hours. Such is life.
Perhaps our major malfunction is when we think that life is not such, that life "should be" some other way, when in fact life is only the way that it is, and to fight life is to fight yourself. Some people believe that they walk a path through life toward some goal, some believe that they have a holy purpose or fate, and some believe that they must create meaning in a chaotic world. It is all valid, but I am lead to believe that how we deal with the minute actions of daily life is what really matters. "How we deal" means "our practice".
I firmly believe that I am out of practice in terms of living a meaningful live, and perhaps you are as well. How we come back to that practice is a matter of will. We all need to practice cherishing life constantly in order for life to bloom. I believe that the planet is not so much dying under the toxic accumulative actions of humanity as suffering from a lack of the essential practice of love. The earth is suffering because we do not know how to engage in the practice of loving the earth. The earth includes us all, and we are all suffering.
The living practice of loving the earth seems to be the main practice banned from modern society. It is called "pagan" "witchcraft" "aboriginal" "backward", many words meant to denigrate this essential practice that we must engage in as living beings on this planet. Denigrate means "to blacken". As I have written earlier, I believe everything is "blackened", everything is impure. So we need to take back the practices and words that empower us without regard for how they are perceived by those with a thirst for purity where purity does not exist.
This planet is one of millions, this planet harbors us. Every day we do millions of things that affect millions of things, and life itself is the flame behind this movement. The mirrors are all around us if we choose to look, if we empower our will to see. And if we start to consider every action as a practice, what kind of practitioner do we see? I challenge myself to continue the practice of loving the earth in the face of all the modern callousness and negativity, the scorn, the confusion and misunderstanding of others.
I've read a lot about spirituality, and I have seen many movies about various spiritual traditions. One thing that is starting to grate on me is the use of the word "purify". I can't for the life of me understand what people are trying to convey with this word.
First of all, what is purity? Is a glass of clean water pure even if it has millions of microorganisms in it? Does pure mean empty? If so, I can understand the metaphorical context in which it is used, but I feel that its use needs to be defined, otherwise we start to create a supreme wall dividing that which is pure from that which is impure. A war of morality begins, Good vs. Evil continues forever onward.
I would contextualize my current spirituality as primarily shamanic in terms of my relationship with the universe, but in order to come to a peaceful understanding of myself and my relationship to this world I have utilized the Buddhist path as well. In terms of Buddhism, "purity" can mean realizing the true formlessness of reality. Many people think that such thoughts are hopelessly nihilistic, because without form, without substance. without love and pain, our lives lose meaning. But in my experience, the realization of the formlessness of reality only reinforces the beauty and sacredness of all life. There seems to be a paradox there, but it is similar to when you are sick with a cold and remember breathing easily with fondness. Being sick restricts your breath, but you can yearn for the day when your lungs and sinuses are clear, and when that day comes it is all the sweeter for the absence of any infection or blockage. But this doesn't condemn the sickness as evil, it is simply what it is.
So in my mind, purity is the absence of illusion or blockage, enlightenment I guess you could say. In this universe, nothing is materially pure. There is no such thing as a pure thing, or a pure idea. Everything mixes with everything else, it is the way of the game. So when we attempt to enforce a rigid purity rule on any behavior or material, we end up fighting a morality war forever. In this case I think we should give up and make our peace with impurity forever. That is not to say that we should never clean our houses, but that we should always have the reality of endless impurity in out minds.
For some, purity can mean God. As I have previously stated, I do not hold within my heart or mind any such notion of a single omnipotent being that rules over the universe, so I can only say that if your idea of God is purity, then you will fight a morality war forever. I think we have been programmed since birth to want to be superior in some ways to all of the universe, and a morally pure God is simply our visualization of this ideal. If we work toward acceptance of our own impurity and physical humanity versus warring against all that is impure in life, we could step toward a peaceful path at last.
As Thich Nhat Hanh says so beautifully:
"If you are a good organic gardener, looking at a rose you can see the garbage, and looking at the garbage you can see a rose. Roses and garbage inter-are. Without a rose, we cannot have garbage; and without garbage, we cannot have a rose. They need eachother very much. The rose and garbage are equal. The garbage is just as precious as the rose. If we look deeply at the concepts of defilement and immaculateness, we return to the notion of interbeing. "
I think that, once you start to consider the role of God in the universe, you start to lose the essential nature of what God really is. When we take a word or concept like God, or Agriculture, or Lion, we create a separation between us and that thing. In that way of thinking, the Lion is not a part of us, not who we are, not a part of our world. It is a separate thing. Perhaps the resurgence of mythical thinking can help alleviate this rift between us as humans and everything else.
God is not apart from us.
As someone who grew up as an Evangelical Christian, I know that the Christian way of thinking about the world, interacting with the world, and being alive in the world is definitely not for me. Of course in Christianity, as in all monotheistic faiths, the doctrine is that if you do not follow that particular tradition's every commandment, you are sinning and will go to hell. A fear induced feedback loop. As a metaphor I can appreciate the concept, that we will enter a hell if we sin against our own nature, but as a reality the creation of a fear based dogma to induce compliance fails completely on its own ethically challenged merits. It calls to my mind the moral dillemma of the idea that if God created the universe, then didn't God create sin and pain, and even Satan and hell? As a follower of the indigenous heart path, I can see the mythical reality behind the smoke and mirrors.
Did God create Satan, did Satan create God, or did we create them both? Perhaps the mythical reality lies in our collective unconscious, but it also resides in the bases of our hearts and minds. We have created these mythical archetypes to guide life. We may need to believe in them with all our hearts, and at the same time realize what they are. They are as real and dreamlike as life itself.
In any case, to be hired and fired by a CEO of reality is not my path. When I look around my world, I see beautiful sweet life dripping from everything, and I see this abundance as an aspect of God. In fact, I have decided to wipe the concept of a monotheistic God from my consciousness, because apart from all the doctrine and dogma I've been fed my whole life, I have never ever believed in this foolish concept of a single omnipotent being, and I don't see the point in continuing to support such a false scenario in my own head and heart. In the universe of me, God does not mean what it means to the vast majority of monotheists out there. I am God as much as the maple tree, the snowflake, and the plastic bottle. Why do you think Jesus was so scorned when he preached that he was God? He was a radical, someone who understood the truth of love.
There are teachers out there. I believe that Jesus was one of them, as well as the Buddha, as well as every one of our friends and neighbors. The concept of hierarchy and chain of command has got to give way to the reality of the communal effort, the circle of ecological wisdom.
We separate ourselves from the universe at our own peril. Enlightenment, salvation, happiness...it all just means reconnection with everything.