Spring Wishes

  • Noticing, feeling, smelling the flowers and fat green leaves as they appear
  • Harvesting and eating wild plants
  • Making all sorts of food and drink from dandelions
  • Planting seeds
  • Growing basil on the windowsill
  • Playing a new instrument – maybe a flute or recorder
  • Giving away possessions and cleaning our living space
  • Hearing, seeing, photographing bees
  • Getting to know more herbs
  • Listening

These are some of my spring wishes.

What is Enough?

 

What is the work I should be doing in the world? And is it enough? Am I doing what I should to live an ethical life?

 

These are big questions for me.

I’ve long wondered what my work to do in life might be. I’ve dabbled in this and that. I’ve done work that is clearly not what I should be doing. I’ve also done work that has contributed positively to the world.

But what can I do that will be enough – enough that I am not falling short of what my ethics and heart require?

Perhaps especially at this time in the world’s history, there is much that needs to be done. There are endless needs in the human community and even more endless needs in the larger life community of the earth.

It is hard for me to accept, but it is that case that even if I am doing wonderful, beautiful, important, nurturing work – meanwhile, species are being driven to extinction by human violence. Meanwhile, forests are being killed.

 

The work I have begun this year with children feels important and needed and good. But while I do it, I am not doing other work. I am not saving the water from being poisoned by fracking. I am not slowing the destruction of bee communities. I am not preventing other children from starving.

So, have I chosen the right work? Can my work be right when it doesn’t address the peril that so many other parts of the earth’s community are in peril? Is there work that could be truly best given the massive, urgent needs of the world?

If not, what does this mean? Does this mean what I am doing is enough? Is it OK (ethical, loving, acceptable) to focus on this one thing and be satisfied, even while my heart mourns all that I cannot do?


These are some of the big questions in my life.

I do not expect to hear the answer or expect that your answer will also be mine, but I do love to hear thoughtful discussion of these questions.

Crystal

Just because…here’s something that has nothing to do with trees, which I wrote last summer. I sat down with some people and found myself suddenly challenged to write the story of a quartz crystal that was sitting on the table in front of us. Led by Leslie, everyone in the group quietly wrote their own piece. This was mine.

——————

I grew in the earth – the hardest part of the earth. But I am also hard and strong. I am what makes the earth solid. So, to you on top of the earth, I call my birthplace hard. To me, it is what I am.

I grew quietly and slowly. I grew microscopically. I am billions and trillions of smaller, tiny, visible, and invisible crystals. I am we! We are all crystals and crystal.

In my current form, I reach upward and sink down. I’m a bird rising up and a root stretching down deep.

My colors are also deep and heavy, high and light. In me, you can see the feeling of the center and the edge. The secret and the shared.

My edges – our edges – are where your eye sees the beginning and end of me. Inside, though – inside are edges you don’t see except, perhaps, in a glint of light or a moving shadow.

I grew in the earth – the hardest part. I grew in secret and now the secret grows in me. I share just a little with you at a time.

a little about Occupy Philadelphia

A friend and I visited the 4th day of Occupy Philadelphia yesterday. We couldn’t stay long – not even long enough to be part of any events like the daily General Assemblies, trainings, rallies, marches, etc.

But even without any of those which are so much of the action of the movement, I experienced something important there outside City Hall that needs to be shared.

We arrived early and many people were still sleeping. People are inhabiting around 80 tents now. Many others are sleeping on the ground, on benches, or wherever else they can find rest (alongside the many homeless occupants that have been in this space for so long).

Since my photos show the early morning scene (and I wanted to respect those sleeping out in the open), you won’t see many people. But the people were there – sleeping, waking, getting ready for another day. (There are many other places to see more of the people, including here.)

There are many people saying many things about the Occupy movements (and many others saying nothing). Here’s what I want to say, for now:

In the settings of this movement, people are learning, experimenting with, and working hard at communication, collaboration, consensus, and community. For many of these folks, it may be their first opportunity to deeply experience this.

I don’t know how to say this strongly enough, but I believe that is of the utmost value.

I see education on white privilege, on the pre-existing occupation of this land that was taken from native peoples, on the history of uprisings, on class, on language, on permaculture. I see cooperation forming between activists for women’s rights, LGBT rights, disability rights, immigrants rights.

I see people experimenting with the idea that there are other ways to live, that we have unexplored power as individuals and as a group.

I quickly found work at the food station yesterday. Mere moments after arriving to volunteer, I was meeting the others and pulling on gloves to serve food. Having only just met and exchanged names and smiles, we were immediately working effectively, side-by-side (One person exclaimed “If only the welfare lines were as organized as you all!”)

We served breakfast to person after person. Many were members of Philadelphia’s extensive homeless population, many were demonstrators. We fed everyone. Food donations kept arriving almost out of the blue. Sandwiches, homemade cookies, a fruit bouquet, a beautiful apple pie – everything came in and was handed out.

There was so much kindness in the air and a sense of meaning. Kindness and meaning…isn’t that something so many of us are starving for?

There’s too much to say, but perhaps this is a start for me.

As my friend Douglass said: “This is worth nurturing.”

Autumn Wishes

  • Time around a firepit, campfire, or bonfire
  • Walks in the forest, breathing the air and enjoying the colors
  • Collecting acorns
  • Picking apples, baking pies, making applesauce
  • Hearing stories in the dark around the fire and in the woods
  • Drum circles
  • Making masks
  • Mulled cider and wine
  • Carving a pumpkin
  • Making lanterns and walking with them after dark
  • Listening for owls
  • Knitting a big shawl
  • Watching shadow puppet stories
  • Baking sweet potatoes in a fire

These are some of my autumn wishes.

Price vs. Value

A friend was recently talking about the fact that when he offers his professional services for free, people do not take what he’s offering seriously. They don’t show up for appointments, respond to emails, or seem to value the service.

He’s certainly not alone in this experience. I’ve often heard that from all sorts of people. If you offer a class for free, people won’t show up as often or participate as enthusiastically. If you give away things you make, people treat them as though they have less value than something with a price tag.

 

It’s interesting and, I think, a concern.

 

The idea that money is what creates value is definitely a dangerous concept. Often, the higher an item or service’s monetary cost, the more it is coveted.

 

We say “the best things in life are free.” How we act is often the opposite.

 

But of course true value has nothing to do with money. How can we increase our appreciation of things and experiences with no price tags?

 

Three ideas:

  • Experiment with purposely not learning the price of an item. Look at it. Feel it. Reflect on how it makes you feel. Think of what its uses might be. Consider (or learn) how it was made. How long did it take? Who designed it and who created it? And why? What does this object add to your local culture? Be sure that you do not know the price of the item. Now…what is the value (not price) of the object?
  • Try out Time Banking. In a Time Bank, members exchange services based on the idea that everyone’s time is worth the same. We all only have so many hours in our lives. In this system, one hour of service always equals one “time dollar,” regardless of what the service is. Members exchange services ranging from gardening to massage to rides to learning to cook to companionship to tax prep to childcare. For the purposes of this post, we can look at Time Banking as a way to value experiences based on time.
  • Spend 5 minutes down on the ground. Look at the blade of grass, the crickets, and the variation in dirt. Feel, smell, or taste the leaves. Listen to what you hear. Feel what is warmer or cooler. Look at something totally mundane for much longer than you ever have before. How do you feel? What have you experienced? How would you value this? Could you imagine assigning a price to it or does that sound ridiculous?

These are just a few ideas to experiment with.

Why does all this matter? Maybe that’s a subject for another post.

 
What do you value more or less than its price (if it has one)? How might you look at value separate from price?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

Speaking My Side

There’s a stretch of land in our town that used to hold buildings related to the steel industry (and more). The buildings have been gone for more than a decade now. From the days of the steel mill, the land is poisoned with lead, arsenic, and other substances.

7 acres of this land is currently being discussed as the site of a new ‘development’ of retail and office buildings, parking garage, new road, etc.

If you’re local, you probably know the land I am talking about. You may have talked to me about it, yourself. I’ve been a part of many conversations about this ‘development’ proposal. 30 people came and talked about it on one evening in particular.

But I realize I may have been unclear. I realize just about everyone seems to think I am on their side in this.

I’m not. I’m not on any of the sides that I’ve heard spoken in human words.


I can only say that I am on the side of the bees collecting pollen from the plants growing with roots stretching into this land.

I am on the side of the wild rabbit I saw on my first visit to this land. I’m on the side of all that rabbit’s offspring, unseen.

I’m on the side of the trees that have grown upward and the thickets that have woven themselves into tangled, shadowy homes.

I am on the side of the birds and deer finding places to live there. I’m on the side of the multitudes of insects and earthworms living, crawling, digging, flying.

I’m on the side of the soil, dirt, earth, land that has been poisoned again and again by generations of humans. Somehow life keeps taking root there.


I am on the side of wineberries, burdock, clover, and garlic mustard – edible even for humans, except that they grow in poisoned ground.

I’m on the side of all the life that breathes and grows and lives and dies outside of human observance.

All photos in this post have been taken on this particular plot of land. This is land that has been called a “blight” by the people wanting to turn into a stretch of pavement. We have been told this is not “green space,” as you might think, but rather “brown” and therefore a waste.

Yes, brown is one of the colors you’ll find here if you have the eyes to see anything. Brown, green, purple, red, orange, yellow, pink, silver…


Yes, brown is also present here in the sense of “brownfield.” This land has been abused and is poisoned.

I am on the side of healing the land for the sake of healing the land.

I am on the side of bio- and phytoremediation, re-introducing native plants, allowing for even more wildness to thrive.

I am on the side of valuing something more than commerce, of investing in life for the sake of life, of respecting the right of non-human beings to have homes and food and beauty.

Look at each photo in this post and understand it’s a tiny, tiny glimpse of a much larger whole.

Next, imagine everything shown here replaced with pavement.

Which side are you on?

I can only say that I am on the side of the bees collecting pollen from the plants growing with roots stretching into this land.

The Start

“The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. Not only is there an impoverishment of our emotional and sensory life, flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic, but this psychic numbing also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.”
— Joanna Macy