Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season of Light and Hope

For some the month of December is filled with celebrations and one is the Winter Solstice.  It’s all uphill from here as winter begins.  Sounds like a true paradox, doesn’t it?  But from this day on we can celebrate more light as the days become longer and the nights are shorter.  I’ll stick my neck our here and say for most people light is a desirable need, as light and life are born together.

It can also be a time that people fear as the lack of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere makes us realize how fragile life is.  We depend on light for many things and hope that the sun doesn’t continue to go south and vanish.  For this reason today and long ago, cultures have celebrated the light and performed ceremonies to wield the doubt that the sun and therefore light will disappear.

Different seasons occur during the summer and winter solstices at opposite times of the year in the north and south hemispheres.  As the earth rotates about the sun the axis on which it spins is tilted about 23.5 degrees towards the plane of its rotation.  This tilt allows more direct sunlight for the Northern Hemisphere during the summer solstice and less during the winter.  The opposite is true for the Southern Hemisphere.

The winter solstice has been celebrated around the world for thousands of years.  The celebration in Europe was known as the Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.  In Western culture this time of the year is referred to as “Christmas” when its pagan roots reveal the birth of the “Invincible Sun”.  Later the Christian Church selected the same day, December 25 to represent the birthday of Jesus.

Today it’s hard for me to keep track of who the real “Santa” is.  I just know that the milk and cookies were always liked and he always knew what gifts would benefit me the most.  As a little girl, I longed for a chimney that he could come down.  I imagined what that would look like; instead we had wet footprints and snow at the back door.

A transitioning for me personally to relax, hibernate inside and go deep into what is important in my life.  I reach for the necessary and let go of what’s not.  I worship the importance of what sustains me and what pushes me forward into the light.  I hear and see like no other time of the year and my attention is devoted to what allows me to live each and every day.  Every solstice is a coming around again and noticing changes that we’ve made over the course of the year to give back to Mother Nature who provides for us.

We celebrate in dim candlelight the warmth that radiates a bright light in each of us as we share love and kindness.  The solstice is much more than a day of celebration; it’s a time of humility and humbleness as we pass the food around the table.  A time to be thankful for the richness and diversity we find in each other, a time to believe that the light will pull us through the darkest days.

As the month of December carries on, I hope we have the love inside of us to help nature return it’s full brightness and may we all find a common place to celebrate the light that shines on us all today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As darkness pushes the day into night I look out at the forest behind us and I’m thankful for a day of sharing and caring amongst family and friends.   I walk outside in the lightly falling mist to close the chicken coop and I count thirteen chickens and know that they all made it home safe. Walking back to the house I hear the water running hard now, meandering off the property to its destination below. 

Over the last week, we’ve had over 7 inches of rain and I wonder when we’ll see the sun again.  I look down at the garden that was so alive a couple of months ago and now see only a few vegetables left in the ground.  A bed of Rainbow chard, celery and kale cover a small area where their colors stand out vibrantly waiting to be picked.  The ferns from the carrots still green remind me that they’re still there.  Instead of seeing a garden with no life now, I envision a weary soul who is resting for the next battle.

Thanksgiving means something more to me now that I understand what it is that I’m giving thanks to.  Every day I try to notice the beauty while being a part of the pain.  Today like all other days I’m thankful for learning how to love what’s important to me.

Our china, a wedding gift from Mom & Dad decorates our table as friends and family sit sharing food, some of which didn’t travel but a few feet.  I scrub some carrots for dinner and stare at the pumpkin pie waiting to be cut.  I watched as the pumpkin was cut this morning and once again I'm reminded how close our food supply is. 


As many prepare for the mad rush of shopping days driving to the malls in oversize vehicles that wait to be filled with unnecessary items, we sit by the fire and contemplate the future as we begin to let go of the past year. 

I often wonder about traditions now and hesitate at times to partake in something I know and understand little about.  History is often written by those who write and not by those who see.  I sit looking out the window anticipating what the season will bring.

Winter usually approaches slowly as fall puts fast to sleep all that needs rest.  Seasons come and go and I allow the changes that time creates.  I try to see things as they are and not what I expect them to be.   I don’t allow myself to hope for things that are not possible but instead rejoice in what is.  I enjoy spending holidays with those who are closest to me and understand the nature of things.  We reflect on time passed and lessons learned.  It’s a time to move forward and let go, a time to be.
Surrounded by warmth, I look out the window and see a changing landscape.  Leafless are the trees now that stand apart without green filling the spaces in between.  They stand naked in their glory as the energy that once was visible above the ground is now buried in the roots that support them.  In the garden, Clover wanders in between the beds and over them forming an endless green blanket fixing nitrogen levels for early spring plantings.  Fallen leaves are piled high on some beds providing green compost for the microbes below the soil.  I watch the stems of the sunflowers swaying back and forth as Blue Jays hang effortlessly eating the last of the seeds.  Spotted Towhees dance back and forth scratching the ground.

More days than one I give thanks for the bounty that nature provides us.  I look before I eat at the food that decorates my plate and I see where it’s been and appreciate how it got to my table.  During the seasons of life, I enjoy what each has to offer.

My shelves stacked high with books yet to read, now warm my lap as I sit next to a fire made of fallen wood from a forest nearby.  I spend time with fibers ready to spin wrapping loved ones in clothing that they wear close to their hearts.  I take this time out of the busy rush of the season to search for pictures to color the pages of this year’s garden journal and I fill in the missing links to the map of crop rotations.

Giving thanks makes me think of how different our lives would be if we didn’t have oil to depend on.  We think nothing of booking a flight to visit family we haven’t talked to all year.  I wonder how some would share their holidays if they only had those that lived near them to share it with.  People we may see throughout the year but never have the time to connect with.  Here at home, we take traveling fore granted as it’s always been available to us, but have we ever thought how different it would be if we didn’t have the ability to fly as we do.  Could we survive a holiday alone if we had to?  If not, why?

I’ve known some people over the years that are fine with the idea of staying home alone and not eating turkey for a holiday meal.  It’s only when others look at them strangely that makes them feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes traditions are made to be broken and new ones made in their place.  Who’s to say what moments in history should be celebrated, some of us celebrate waking up each morning and looking outside our window at what waits to be seen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We The 99%

For the first time I passed the Occupy Eugene encampment yesterday and noticed a banner facing 6th street that read:

Never doubt that a small group
of thoughtful committed citizens
Can change the world.
Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.

I proudly own a tee shirt with the saying from Margaret Mead and have always believed it to be true.  If not us, than whom?  Ever stop to wonder why we allow 1% to rule the rest of us?  Don't we all have a vested interest in changing “business as usual?”

As I drove past the camp, I looked around the site to see how it could grow.  The highway overpass intersects 6th street which is one of the main streets going through town.  Maybe a better name for the movement would be “taking it to the streets” since Wall Street isn’t the only street to occupy these days.  Every Main Street throughout the country should be occupied as more and more everyday people begin to scrutinize the actions of corporate America and the unethical behaviors we’ve allowed to go unnoticed.  Maybe we can borrow the loudspeakers that have been used for torture and play the Doobies over and over again while we take back the streets that are ours.

What angered me to write this is the fact that some of the 99% are driving around thinking it's not about them.  Guess what, you’re wrong!  It’s already affecting all of us, if not in the price we pay for food, it’s in the costs of healthcare.

This past week 37,000 retiree’s of Century Link, formerly Qwest Communications received our health care packages.  What is commonly referred to as “ Open Enrollment” has become more like open season for hunting and all is game, especially retiree’s whose only option is to decline the coverage.

Some of us have observed the changes that have taken place over the last several years such as pension plans being replaced by 401k plans, union employees being replaced by non union contractors and a lot less strikes as corporatism wins in the battlefields of the poor.  I heard from workers during the last contract dispute, “we can’t afford to strike”, while I stood firm to the fact that we can’t afford not to.

As I flipped through the pages of my health coverage, the high deductible was not the only thing that went up in costs.  Our monthly premium for my husband and I went from $64.77 to $345.70 in one year.  This is more than our monthly bills combined.  Never have we witnessed such an exorbitant increase in a monthly bill before.  What many of us have been saying for several years is starting to raise the eyebrows of some but not near enough.

Crossing age barriers as well as political boundaries the 99% had better wake to the fact that the American Dream has ended abruptly with a nightmare vision of what’s to come brought to you by the other 1% who control things.

When the local farmer answers to the high cost of feed by raising the costs that’s passed on to you, than it’s time for us all to examine the way we live and how we can help each other instead of making the rich richer.  Recognizing that we’re all in the same boat drowning in the torrential downpour from the upper echelons is probably a good thing and perhaps we’ll all be occupying the streets that we own before long under one big umbrella.

I’ve received emails from union officials telling me to hold on tight while they check into things as well as other retiree’s who tell me they’re not so concerned as they have Medicare to stop them from drowning, and lets not forget to “thank Gawd for Social Security”.

Many of these retiree’s are Telephone Pioneers who depend on antiquated systems that may no longer be safe.  This doesn’t have to mean that our pioneering days are over and as for some of us they’re just beginning.  Maybe we all need to be reminded of what a pioneer is.  I tried to put all the definitions together and this is what I came up with this:

Person or group that creates or develops a new way of doing something for the first time.  Someone who like a foot soldier goes ahead to explore uncharted and unclaimed territory so they can begin to live in what once was unoccupied space.

Metaphorically speaking this may mean that we pioneers should be looking for territory yet to be discovered, living like we’ve never lived before--- simply, forgoing a life that promises riches when the only one that's getting rich is the 1%.

We watch as public servants go through revolving doors of the public sector to the private sector and back again while rewriting laws to their advantage and watching their paychecks increase astronomically.  Haven't we had enough?

Good morning America, can you smell the coffee?  It’s been brewing for some time and it may be a little burnt tasting for some.  Soon we’ll all be without our daily fix of entitlements and maybe then we the 99% can begin to let go of what we think is ours and help by voicing our concerns to those who may be listening.  The platform is there for all of us to tell our stories and share our experiences.  It’s not just about Joe the plumber, it never has been, it’s about all of us, we the 99%.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What the world needs now is empathy.

Ever think about wearing another’s shoes, boots, high heels or moccasins?  I think about it more every day as our country destroys more of what is ours; ours as a people throughout the world.

Disturbing pictures of the before and after of Libya and annunciating articles about what the people there will never have again,

I'm sickened when I put myself in a place of such destruction, destruction of and by mankind.  If we’re fighting evil throughout the world, shouldn’t we be fighting every human being who continues to destroy the place "we" call home?  My dictionary defines evil as morally wrong or bad, don’t we have enough of it right here in “our” own backyard?  Is it right that we defend what is "ours" while taking what is "theirs"?

Recently I picked up a book, Humanity On A Tightrope by Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert E. Ornstein, a book about thoughts on empathy.  I have a better understanding now after reading it of what we’re lacking in order to survive as a species and I question whether we can be empathetic enough to survive as one.  Not one under God but one on the planet.

These writers discuss “us” and “them” and what I feel is the duality of our species.  Even in our own little corner of the world when we try talk to others about peak oil, climate change and collapse we hear,  “You’re one of “them”, I can tell.”  As more of us speak openly, sharing information that is factual, we’re told, “don’t’ go there, that’s your belief not mine", or “you’re too judgmental”.  Facts are based on what is real and not on someone’s opinion and judgments are based on opinion.  I guess you could say, "I don't like that fact" and be judging it. But the fact remains, it's still a fact.  Some may argue that it depends on where the fact comes from and whose fact it is so they can justify the lies being told.  The color gray isn't bad as long as you can recognize the black and white on either side of it. 

Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
removes the colours from our sight,
Red is gray and yellow white,
But we decide which is right, 
And which is an illusion?---The Moody Blues

The black and white is the landscape of the history we leave behind.  Why not discuss it?  In order to be empathetic, don’t we need to know the history behind why we do what we do?  Isn’t it our responsibility to understand the difference between fact and fiction?  History like the human race comes in all colors but some things are very black and white no matter what other beautiful colors there are.

Many of us found George Carlin to be funny on stage but those who followed him throughout his career could see the anger and disappointment in his eyes as time went on.  His last HBO performance, Life is Worth Losing, told “us” to pay attention to the different hats people wore, as it may be important someday.

I don’t know what it is that makes people in this country happy when we kill a ruler in another.  Do we really think we’re helping the people there, when we’ve demolished their land to rubble and nothing else?  Let us remember Libya and in a few years look back at how we’ve helped them.  Let us put ourselves in their shoes and ask if we’re all better for it?  I can’t begin to imagine what living in a war zone looks like, as we’ve never had to experience it.  What about innocent children that happen to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Do we ever consider that they could just as well be our children and not just theirs?  Casualties of war is no legacy to leave to any children.

My mom always told us children never to be hateful, so what does it say about mom’s today?  Are we breeding hatefulness?  What hope do we have for children of the world if all they are subjected to is hate?  What religious philosophy goes against do unto others as you would like done unto you?

Empathy may not be the only determining factor of our survival but it certainly will be one of them.  How we feel about others is definitely a reflection in the mirror of who we are.

Can’t say I have hope that we’ll discover the empathy needed to save humanity but I can say that what we’ve done in “our” name has made the tightrope longer and thinner.  Someone once said, “what goes around, comes around” and without empathy it will be here sooner than “we” think. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Picketing Wall Street

       At the end of my last post I briefly mentioned walking away from a $60,000 a year job to pursue a life more balanced with nature and outside of the corporate system we see collapsing before us. 
       My career in the telecommunications started as a telephone operator, assisting customers with phone numbers (Directory Assistance).  I started my career in 1978, which was then the only utility company under American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) and was favorably called the Bell System.  The good ole days when work ethic meant something and obedient servants did what was expected in lieu of a decent paycheck ($156 dollars a week if I remember right). 
       As a Directory Assistance Operator, these were the days when one had to ask to be excused to use the restroom in between breaks that were of course allowed (we’re talking the late 70’s, it wasn’t that bad), the days when perfect attendance was expected and not rewarded.  I was blessed to have a good union job that would allow me the right to retire after 30 years with a good pension.  Ah, welcome to the Age of Entitlement, and thirty years to the day I retired but not with a pension as I wondered if it would be around as long as I would.  I opted another way out, one that I could use my money when I wanted to…well not without the penalties and the taxes.
       Being raised a “union girl” and remembering the UAW strikes that my Dad went through, I soon became involved with the union and worked for a short time as a steward in the lowest paid position as operator.  Among the many things I walked the line for during the strike of 1988, were the company demands of a “team award” in place of our COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that allowed those already making more money to make even more while us operators who were the so called “ambassadors” of the company lost equal ground for sustaining ourselves. 
       I remember asking our president why we would give up our COLA when a loaf of bread costs the same for all of us?  His wage increase was already at least 4-5 times as much as what us operators were about to get, (if my memory is correct our raise was 3-5 cents an hour).  And to this day I’ll never forget his response, “we’re more valuable to the company”.  Perhaps there was truth in this, but as I climbed the ladder of success, I saw for myself the real value in all employees.
       I remember writing a letter to the bargaining agents (some women) and having members sign it (which was mostly everyone in the department).  Our voice as the ambassadors of the company needed to be heard.
       Well a long time ago that was, and the outcome was not to our liking as the COLA was eliminated and we proud members of the union accepted the grains left over from the bread.  We’ve come a long way in this circus of “bread and crumbs” (love Dmitry Orlov).
       Or have we?  Now that the rain is falling though bursts of sunshine light up the sky, I’ve had the opportunity to sit at my wheel and spin, something that is near and dear to me.  Most times I’m in the moment feeling the fleece pass through my fingers and watching the twist gently pull towards a bobbin that fills quickly waiting to be plied into a yarn that eventually gets worked into a sweater.  Work it is, but not without reward.  I even get to pee without asking.          
       Today I was spinning and couldn’t clear my mind about “the movement” occupying Wall Street.  I couldn’t help to hear on my National Propaganda Radio station that the CWA (no it’s not the Cattlemen’s Workers of America) was behind the youthful group of protesters who have degrees with no jobs.

     I won’t bore you with my 30-year history but I will say this, I worked my ass off (mentally more than anything else) learning all that I needed to learn to end my career with the highest paid craft position.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not intelligent, but I will admit to having some common sense and being raised by “union folk” meant something to me and I paid attention to detail.
       Though still proudly a retiree and member of the union, I question who these corporate elites are working for.  All of them, are they sleeping in the same bed?  Have the lines become closer or even crossed? 
       The days of walking the picket line in a “right to work state”, (AZ) as well as here in Oregon, are now over for me though I would do the same today if I was working, but only because it’s the lesser of the two evils not because I believe.  Much like that of the Democrats and the Republicans, I wonder if the sheets even get changed between meetings, or if they’re fondly in each other’s dreams?
       As I sit waiting to the day when I am responsible enough to touch my own money without penalty, I have to wonder who is using it now?  How much are “they” allowed to loan out and make on “my money” because the powers to be claim me irresponsible to do it on my own?  How is it for a couple who have lived more like the Cleavers (although with reverse positions) where one of us was home to raise our children with the same work ethic, where we lived mostly on one income and were still giving eggs to the mission and money to charity, who now own their home and property, are not considered to be responsible enough to manage their own retirement, and who says? 
       If I were to join a movement I would be asking some tough questions.  I wouldn’t be counting on my occupying the streets thinking “they” will become accountable.
       As the working class (still) we not only have to walk the line but also walk the talk.  I don’t believe change can happen in the streets until we feel the desire to change in our hearts the way we live everyday.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Plant What You Want to Grow, Reap What You Sow

     Don’t know where September went but here we are in October and the rain is falling as I type.  We typically look forward to the first rain though we don’t care for the shorter growing season.  So fickle us humans are!
       Talk of rain is what prompted a fire drill to harvest everything that was close to being ripe as we’re all too familiar with mold.  Earlier this summer we pulled up many of the drying beans as the spring rains lingered on and mold was prevalent. 
       Today we’re halfway through cracking open the pods to expose the beautiful colors of Swedish Brown, Aztec Runners, European Soldiers and Tongue of Fire.  There is no discrimination here, especially when it comes to good food.  Our culturally diverse garden is planted with heirloom varieties from around the world.
       As we sit shelling beans in the afternoon we sometimes forget what we did in the a.m.  Not much time to think about doing we see what needs to be done and do it.  Until now we haven’t given much thought to the work that’s been accomplished and the bounty we’ve harvested so far.
       In the spring our seeds our planted and throughout the year they are subjected to watering, thinning and sometimes singing.  We carefully pull weeds that inhibit their growth and sometimes plant companions nearby them to help attract pests that feed on the developing shoots.  We depend on them to provide us with what we need to sustain ourselves.        
       Even though we’ve entertained guests from many walks of life, we’ve discovered that so few reap any kind of harvest.  Whether its professors and students from the nearby university (many of whom teach), health care professionals who heal, spiritual beings looking for peace and quiet or peak oil activists and writers preaching resource depletion, very few are harvesting a bounty to which they can sustain themselves.
       Most of whom I speak of are aware of collapse but have yet found a way to commit to securing their food source whether it’s doing the work themselves or hiring others to do it for them.
       Not only have we asked teachers if they follow the work of their students after classes but we’ve also asked students what changes they’ve made to their lives with what they learned?  After 4+ years of learning and a couple of R&R years, some say they’re in the planning stages of planting a garden and some are proud to announce they traded their SUV for a Prius.  Though good starts, we still don’t know how much work they’re capable of doing and if they really want to work for food?
       As mentioned in previous posts, many will find it hard to survive if their lives depend on doing the work necessary to plant, grow, harvest and process their food.  One can obtain a certificate or degree towards the many aspects of sustainability and many have, but what if any follow up is done to see how students are using this knowledge.  Do the teachers care what kind of success rate they have?
       Similarities abound between teachers and farmers who search for fertile ground to plant their seeds.  Both must be available to nurture change and encourage growth.  Some teachers put their students in the best position to help them succeed, as a farmer will plant seeds using the most favorable conditions to encourage the best yields.  Unlike a farmer though who has to maintain those conditions in order to see the fruits of their labor a teacher need only plant the seed.  Fertile ground requires care even when it’s not producing; one still needs to cover crop water and weed. 
       As producers of food we track our success rate every year by charting our bounty, here is a sample of what we’ve done in the past two weeks:

Started 5 gallons of Sauerkraut
Canned 28 quarts of Tomato Sauce
Canned 8 quarts of Apple Juice (apples were given to us from people who didn’t want to process them.)
Canned 8 pints of Ketchup
Started and canned 8 quarts of pickles
Cut and dried 35 quarts of tomatoes
Canned 10 quarts of tomato leather (made with a variety of other things, such as basil, kale, celery, onions and garlic.)
Cut and dried 4 quarts of Kale chips
Diced and dried 25lbs of peppers
12 lbs of frozen peppers (cut and removed seeds, mostly Anaheim)
8 gallons of blackberries
2 quarts of herb vinegar
Picked and shelled 12 lbs of drying beans
Picked, dried and froze 10 gallons of hops
Drying corn pulled up and hung to dry (approx. 225 ears)
Onions, pulled and cleaned
Cleaned up 8 garden beds and seeded with clover, fava and vetch
Also planted Fall garden including Lettuce, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Onions, Parsley, Chard and Bok Choy
Dried and made oils with Comfrey, Arnica and Lavender, picked and dried mint, skullcap, lemon verbena and calendula as well as collected seeds from Celery, Peppers, Tomatoes, Dill, Calendula, Nasturtiums, Chives and Hollyhocks.

       During this time frame we also had 2 Open Houses that we did together.  Though not many came, we still needed to make ourselves available as well as have our home and property looking respectable to sell.
       Maybe at this point you’re asking why we would walk away from a secure food source and for us the answer comes somewhat easy, it’s a whole lot of work for two people.  We built our garden for 4 or more people thinking it would be easy to attract others who see the rain coming.  Now for sale, our homestead welcomes those who are willing to maintain the work that’s already been done.  If we don’t sell, the worse that can happen is watching some of it go back to nature as it was.
       It’s great to hear the thanks for the work we do and it’s always wonderful to see enthusiasm from those who visit.  But, our success depends on others who understand the work that needs to be done, those who aren’t afraid to walk away as is so profoundly stated in “Walking Away from Empire”, a new book by Guy McPherson found here:
       Sometimes I find myself wondering why I didn’t continue working my $60,000 a year job with 5 weeks of vacation.  Afterall with the homestead paid for we could of lived a life of luxury compared to how we got here.  Though I occasionally think about it, I don’t spend much time entertaining such thoughts as I feel it was the right choice to make even if the outcome is not what we hoped for.  We just continue to plant what we want to grow and enjoy the harvest that it provides.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering How We Learned

     So here it is ten years later and I’m sitting outside feeling the breeze of the wind blowing in a different front.
     I remember painting our home together with our youngest daughter when our oldest called from Colorado frantically explaining about planes flying into buildings and how on every channel the image repeatedly played.
     We had just moved into our home here on five acres and had no cable or satellite hookups and our stereo system was still neatly packed away in boxes.  We never thought about turning on the radio as it had been so long since we enjoyed peace and quiet listening to sounds only nature can provide.
     Today as I listen to wind blow through the canopy surrounding us, I wonder what the new front will look like as the weather patterns become more erratic in nature.
     I also wonder who else is playing remember when.  The bigger questions for me are, how were you affected?  What changes have you made to your life, and are you safer for it?
     I know for us homeland security played a major part in the changes we made and it began here at home.  Securing our food supply was on the top of the list and we’re still learning things to make it better.
     Baby steps taken over a 10-year period will definitely teach you how to walk away from empire and stand strong against the wind.  Never in my life have I fallen so hard yet been able to get up again and take another swing.  After this long I know the game will never end no matter how many runs I score, but it never stops me from playing.
     Punching a time clock for 30 years taught me discipline that has served me well, but no lesson compares to what I learned after September 11, 2001.
     I sit here outdoors feeling the temperature drop as the day goes on and I know darkness is just around the corner as fall is not far away.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Truth Hurts

     For years I’ve tried to embrace what I know.  Laughing and crying, discombobulated at times but always trying to understand the life that others live thinking they no longer have a choice to live another way. 
     As collapse happens, I look for changes to occur with those I know and love.  I see frustration, anger and resentment but little else to drive away their fear of anxiety, caught up in the propaganda that things are the way they’re suppose to be even when they themselves can see and feel the wrongness of it.
     While discovering the truth that has set me free I’ve also learned that both sides of the sword are sharp and can hurt me just as much as living the lie and maybe that’s the penalty I now must pay to nature since I need it more than it needs me.
       I try to live consciously being aware of the intricacy of the web that sustains me.  I challenge myself daily to find something harmful that I continue to do so I can stop doing it.  I think of death as I watch nature become more selfish in what it gives us.  I slide into base as the empire calls me out and I relinquish the bat to nature.
       I know that I’ve tried to live simply without incurring debt and challenging myself to live on less every year.  I have done so without the support of friends and family whom I can talk to and commiserate with while speaking openly and honestly.   I sometimes ask myself where I would be without my husband and best friend who for the last 34 years has encouraged me to search within myself for the answers that I needed, though I knew he would help me find them. 
     Recently our latest struggle depended on others to support us both.  We thought our quest for sharing our property and home with others had ended and that we found what we were looking for.  Unfortunately for all of us we’ll never know what might of become of our sharing as they were stopped by their emotions of leaving loved ones who choose to live life the way they always have.
       I now embrace the improbability of finding others to live alongside of us sharing and caring while preparing for a different future.  Though this was not my dream to live this way, I felt it was necessary for us to make it through collapse but I’ve learned that empire has destroyed our ability to fight back and am at peace knowing that I’ve done my best to try.
       I’m trying to embrace what I learn while living through collapse allowing myself to feel all of my emotions including but not limited to anger and grief. 
       Though the feeling of sadness predominates me right now and I hurt indescribably; I know that this will be like a “skinned knee” in comparison to what will come.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fitting In, In Our Quest for Truth

     In our quest for truth we meet with obstacles that disallow us from going into darker corners of reality and therefore we trip, we stumble and sometimes we fall hard.  If and when we get up we may pick up where we left off or go deeper into denial.  I have come to learn this from my own experience as well as talking to others who have tried.
     I was recently reminded of David Korten’s book, The Great Turning and how he walks the reader through different stages of consciousness maturity that I’ve summarized below.  He says most are part of the third stage called, Socialized Consciousness:

The majority, willing to fit in with the prevailing culture whose focus in on values and morals.

     I sometimes find myself torn between this and the next stage as I like to “fit in” and be accepted by others, but the core of who I am falls more into the fourth stage, which Korten calls, Cultural Consciousness.  This stage can emerge after age 30 though not always and is more about focusing on an inclusive worldview founded on liberal ideas.  I find myself wanting to reside in the latter, but because of struggling to be accepted by the majority, I find myself back in the Socialized Consciousness stage at times.
     I admire those who are secure enough with their own beliefs and find it more important to work towards creating rather than being concerned about acceptance.  They say the latter may come once people discover what they can create together, and in the meantime they would rather spend their energy on creating, as change in others will only come from within, if it happens at all.
     I still remember what it felt like having a foot in both worlds, one where most are struggling to survive and/or happily ignorant and the one I find myself in now, where I’m accepted by the few and shunned by the many who are still part of the first stage which Korten says is normal for children from ages two to six.  This is the Magical Consciousness stage:

 Focusing on powerful, magical beings
who may be
charitable or malicious in nature
spreading goodwill or creating harm.

     Over the past seven years while entertaining guests with some commonalities we’ve learned to hone our skills and to not be afraid to ask questions.  I still remember feeling reluctant to share our blog as I didn’t want them to think we were “doomers”.  Now it’s part of our first email response, kind of “read at your own risk” as your illusion of who we are may change after reading, though we don’t accept responsibility for the pain it may cause you.
     In our attempt to find our co-housing partners, we have had to change our ad many times with more specifics of what we’re looking for.  We agreed that next to being able to share expenses our other main objective was to find others who understand the predicament we’re in and ready to do the work to secure the necessary things needed to sustain us, mainly food, water, housing and clothing.
     We strive to be open and honest hoping we get the same in return, though we try not to have expectations.  I think this would make a good fifth agreement (see Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements), “Don’t have expectations”, though some may disagree since the third agreement is: “Don’t make assumptions”, which can mean the same thing.
     It’s hard not to build on enthusiasm and hope for the best outcome though sometimes short-lived, then there are other times we learn quickly that the mechanism isn’t there to make the wheels go round to continue moving forward.  It’s been an interesting ride and the experience we’ve gained in improving our communication skills has proved to be invaluable.
     Often times I’m reminded of musical chairs and how I hated never having a seat to sit on like all the other players.  Sometimes for the social butterfly it means having to get their wings clipped now and then to experience the quest for truth.  I’m just thankful that the journey has been full of amazing color and beautiful scenery filled with lessons to be learned.  Maybe someday I’ll find myself on the same stage as everyone else dancing to a tune that we all know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thanks to a Great Guy!

     Thanks to Guy Mcpherson, for helping us connect with others trying to unplug from the system.  His interest in helping those who want to pull resources together and work towards a simple life preparing for a future with limited resources is genuine and sincere.  I encourage others to read his blog for valuable information.  He gave up a great deal to prepare himself and those longing for a different future.  He unplugged from a system that devours the nature that sustains us.  I even find the comments from his readers to be informative and beneficial, they are educated in many areas relating to the subjects he writes about. 
       After contacting him about the difficult time we’ve had in trying to connect with those who share some our same concerns, he wrote a post, and added a Classifieds section to his website where our ad appears.
       Recently he referred a couple to us in regards to our ad and what we’re trying to set up at our homestead.  With his help we found our perfect match and we hope going forward the day will come when we can finally remove our ad from all sites, including his, which I’m sure will put a bright feather in his cap not to mention a smile on his face.
       This couple like so many others want to unplug from the fake system that’s been established making most keep reaching for the unreachable at all costs.  Our emails back and forth led to a visit sharing the homestead and enjoying good conversation, good food and good people.
       We spent a couple of days together discussing, working and supporting each other.  We laughed and cried while sharing stories of our lives being part of the “establishment”.  Throughout our time together we developed a friendship that was based on mutual respect and understanding while discovering more about ourselves and what we’ve endured in trying to find just another couple of people to share what we have to offer.
       Though we live in different worlds now, we found commonalities to build on going forward.  We talked about possibilities and for once felt we were understood.  Sharing strengths as well as weaknesses make us vulnerable to understand the complexities as well as the easiness of building relationships.  From breaking bread together to star gazing in the dark country night, we shared a closeness that is seldom developed in such a short amount of time.
       Since we started trying to connect, we have yet to find such passion, openness and honesty and even if this doesn’t work, it has renewed our hope that there are others like us who need a hand in walking away from the brokenness of society. 
       Except for the couple of emails and one phone call, we were strangers, yet as strangers we were able to discuss things that are unspeakable with other friends or family members.  This felt refreshing though sad. 
       We never expected to have so many of the boxes checked off our list of character traits we wished for and hope that we can make it happen for the good of all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

No Fireworks, Only Shooting Stars

     Out of the blue the other day in a small second hand store in Eugene, a lady approached me holding up a vest and said,

“I was wondering if I could get your opinion, do you think anyone would wear this?”

     She held up a hanger that displayed the front of a vest.  Half of it had red and white stripes on it and the other half was dark blue with white stars.  I never asked to see the back before I quickly answered,

“I wouldn’t wear it.”

     Soon after a clerk in the store cheerfully chimed in,

“It’s perfect for the Fourth.”

     I confidently went on my way knowing I answered truthfully without feeling ashamed.  I notice that this gets easier for me every day I live to embrace collapse.
     This dialog I had came back to me this morning while reading Dmitry Orlov’s blog and seeing the t-shirts that he’s offering for a donation.  Now that’s something I would sport, fashion at it’s finest, perfect for the Fourth.
     Some of the fireworks started last night; I could hear them at a distance as I tried to fall asleep.  I dreamed of the time sitting in our Ford galaxy in my pj’s watching the design of hand-selected fireworks that created scenes of a play in the sky.  Hand clapping could be heard in between the blasts and whistling noises as the fireworks illuminated the streets as well as silhouettes of the people watching. 
     Gathering of people in a nearby park appearing like a community smiling in harmony.  What a dream that was, then I woke up and not so cheerfully I was once again reminded of the country I live in. 
     Us doomers have heard it before, “love it, or leave it”, but my take is I’m loving how it’s changing, unraveling, coming apart.  Why would I want to leave now?  I’m enjoying myself as I respond to many more emails from people wanting to change the way they live. 
     So why did the lady in the store ask me about the vest?  What exactly was the question?  Like Carlin said in his performance, Life is Worth Losing,

“Life is filled with interesting things, that’s why I could never commit suicide, I’m having too much fun keeping an eye on you folks.”

     It is interesting to observe and listen to friends tell you what you told them three years ago.  I can see the predicaments that some are in and I see what they’re doing to get out of them, ways that are very different than what was used in the past.  Bankruptcy was unheard of until corporations led the way and we all know what the bankers have done.
     Many people today are walking away from mortgages that they’ll never pay off in their lifetimes, some buying big ticket items and enjoying what they have to offer, from huge televisions where they say their entertained by watching main stream media lie to them, or 4-wheelers they can use to escape to the high country and sailboats that allow them to leave the shore in search of bluer waters.  Yes, George it is interesting to watch and listen, and you were right, it’s a big club and we’re not in it.
     As I celebrate my deliverance from believing we have independence, I sit and watch the robin out front building her nest preparing for what’s to come and I wonder what the Fourth of July would look like with people sitting at tables graced with food from gardens of many colors besides red, white and blue. 
     No, I won’t be stuffing my mouth with a hot dog this Fourth of July, instead I’ll gracefully accept the bowl of strawberries just picked and the only ripened tomato that I’ll have to share.  And no, I won’t be dressed like a flag watching fireworks, but you may find me in my pj’s watching the shooting stars.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jethro Tull, a Message Worth Hearing

Jethro Tull Concert-June 16,2011 
Cuthbert Amphitheatre Eugene, OR

      Father's Day came just in time this year to see Ian Anderson perform at 63 years old, a father of “rock-n-roll” singing songs of yesteryear with messages that are still relevant today.  
      Gates opened at 530pm and a group of hardcore Tull fans sat waiting on blankets eating brownies made with magic oil conversing about concerts of the past and the old ballrooms that rocked.  When we entered the gates, Frank Zappa’s voice sang, “Give me…your dirty love” and flashbacks from the 70’s appeared before my eyes as cohorts wearing berets, beads and tie-dye filled the amphitheatre now buzzing with conversation and dance.
      Under blue skies and sunshine most of the early birds chose to sit on the lower lawn spreading blankets though some brought their lawn chairs and sat where they were allowed in the upper section.  I didn’t see any altercations the whole evening as most of us appeared to be there for one reason and that was to enjoy the music of an artist that began his career over 40 years ago. 
      I noticed there were fewer women than men and maybe that explained the small amount of cell phone chatter that we heard.  We vowed two years ago after seeing Jackson Browne perform that we wouldn’t go to another concert since it was hard to listen as there were so many cell phone conversations thanking place all around us, made me wonder why people pay to see performers do what they do best.
      As we waited for the show to start, we befriended two of the young women guarding the assigned seating section in front of us, one with a shirt that said, “STAFF” and the other that said “Crowd Control”.  I asked the latter if she even knew who Ian Anderson was?  She replied, “oh yea, my mom listens to him all the time.”  My husband spoke of his first time seeing Tull perform at Cobo Arena in Detroit, Michigan when the admission was  $4.50 a seat.  One of them said, “you paid more for your beer tonight than you paid to see the band then.”
      Next to the price of tickets at $35 apiece, our beers were the only money we spent.  No paid parking, we walked.  Food we brought with us, most of what came from the homestead.  Omelet sandwiches made with our eggs, onions and garlic, re-hydrated tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts served on a local bakery bagel with a few kettle chips.  Compared to what I could see being sold and consumed on the premises, (not to mention the cost) ours was a meal to envy.
      I should have checked the price of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, it had to be pretty close to the cost of a beer at $6.  I heard a guy tell his wife not to bother buying a t-shirt since they wanted $35 for one, said he could get one online for less.  David brought his out of the hall of fame in perfect shape since it’s only been worn a couple of times.  I imagine it soon will become a piece of artwork on one of our walls. 
      The image of the old man from Aqualung is sketched onto our memory and we sometimes wonder if it’s the same guy we see on the street corner in Eugene, holding a sign, “I won’t tell a lie, I need change for a beer”.
      At 7pm sharp, the group walked onto stage and started playing just as I assume they did in the clubs of Blackpool.  Most of the band members wore sunglasses, and Ian commented that it was his first time to perform wearing sunglasses.  He’s played here enough to know that it’s normally the mac and umbrella that you need. 
      Wearing a black do-rag and stretch pants, Ian appeared with flute in hand waving to the crowd as he performed the opening tune.  It appeared that he was wearing black leather tennies in place of the laced up boots he once wore.
      The audience was mostly baby boomers and senior citizens, sporting hearing aids, canes and smiles.  It felt good to get out and enjoy ourselves since we don’t often indulge in spending money on entertainment. 
      We certainly got our money’s worth and have never been disappointed in any of the eight or more times we’ve seen the band perform.  Charisma, charm and energy filled the stage for over two hours as we celebrated together the 40-year anniversary of Aqualung.  The entire album was played except for “Wind up” which we’ve yet to see him perform live.
      The words to most of the group’s songs were written by Ian and in many ways he warned us of “how not to play the game.”  His message of religious indoctrination, system hegemony and resource wars were ours to listen to, maybe we didn’t buy the hearing aids soon enough.     

“When I was young and they packed me off to school
and taught me how not to play the game,
I didn't mind if they groomed me for success,
or if they said that I was a fool.”
From Wind-Up
Jethro Tull

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Soldiers of a Lifetime

Soldiers of a lifetime
Fighting to provide
A world with much to offer
Their children to survive.
Their love is your armour to protect and defend
Against the enemy, use it to mend
Learn from their honor
And believe in their trust
They will give of their lives
For you if they must.
Know that no other
Can fill in their boots
As they work every day
To give you your roots.
Grow strong and stay true
To the lessons you've learned,
And know in your lifetime,
Your Father, Your Friend.

I wrote this in 2005 when I began to realize how important it was to my husband to help our daughters understand how different their lives would be in the future.  I listened as my husband shared pieces of history with them,  hoping to open their eyes to a different reality than what they believed to be true.

Some say it takes guts to talk openly about collapse with your children, but for him it's a responsibility that every father has and just because it hurts to tell them what they don't want to hear,  is no reason to stop.  I'm blessed to have a husband who always encouraged our daughters to ask questions, listen well and to be independently strong.

To all the men in my life that have loved me, taught me, supported me and listened---thank you

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beauty and Pain

     Our blog name may suggest that I’m enjoying the changes that are happening all around me, but only for nature do I welcome them.  Maybe I’m just one of a few because I realize how much a part of nature I am, nourished by the food I eat, the water I drink and the air I breathe. 
     As a nurse’s aid in my younger days and a hospice volunteer now, I have watched patients fight to breathe their last breaths and I have seen and felt death against my lips as I kissed my first real boyfriend one last time while he laid to rest in his casket.  Some may say it's morbid and I'm not so sure I would do the same today knowing how cold and hard his lips felt against mine, but at 16 I only knew I wanted to say goodbye to someone I loved.  The beauty of our memories together made me forget the pain as I knelt over him.
     Today I don't relish dying but I certainly don’t want to think about living in a dead world.  I wake often to hear the birds singing and every season it’s a different song.  I get out of bed knowing that in nature I’ll see beauty and feel pain throughout the day.  I realize I'm living now through collapse and I see the differences taking place before my eyes and I feel the pain as if it was my own.
    Two Big Leaf maples right off our patio provide shade in the hot summer months, though not many  anymore.  They were the selling point for me when we bought the house, reaching high and wide I knew we would welcome their shelter.  Many evenings before dinner we relax under their arms full of birds singing their different tunes.  Though still beautiful, it’s pathetic to see how they’ve changed.  I remember a few years ago when looking up all I could see was green.  The canopy now is half the fullness and the leaves are smaller and fewer.  Once we noticed the color change, now they quickly turn from green to brown and fall.  Even in their pain they still offer compost to the garden where they’re laid to rest.  Though hurting, nature continues to shelter us and provide us with life.
    Herbs that return every year vibrant and strong offer us medicinal qualities in a variety of ways.   This week I harvested comfrey to make tea for the vegetables and salve for our aging bodies after a hard days work.  It made a nice addition to my medicine chest alongside the cayenne and arnica salves.  I ought to call it my Marley shelf with jars of red, green and yellow.
    Yesterday I noticed our large Oriental Poppy began to open it’s salmon colored paper flower to display a deep burgundy inside and the Iris’s are beginning to share their beards of purple on white.  I also spotted our first swallowtail butterfly swooping through the garden not planning on staying anywhere for too long and the swifts are back flying through the air like torpedoes hitting their targets as they catch the meal of the day.
    The bees no longer need their sugar water as the berries are beginning to bloom.  Even some of our turnips, rutabagas, and kale from last fall are flowering now and their beautiful yellow flowers are attracting their attention.  How interesting the taste of honey will be.
    For the last four years we’ve had babies in the birdhouse which is now about 20 years old.  It was a gift that David made me for Mother’s Day complete with shingles for the roof.  I still remember it hanging from a small wooden fence around our backyard in the suburbs of Denver.  I never thought I’d see birds in it there as it hung just a few feet from the ground, but I did, though it took years for the paint to weather and the birds to feel at home.  This past Christmas David made me another from a gourd we grew.  Its psychedelic paint job will hopefully attract something colorful.
    While I see beauty all around me, I feel pain.  While some view collapse from the eyes of the artificial world I see horror on the ground and in the sky above.  I watch from knees in the garden planes spreading their white trails overhead contaminating food and soil.  More of them every day, I can’t wait till the day they disappear over the mountains never to be seen again.  That’s hard for me to say since I had always hoped to travel more. From just months old until I was 15 I visited England seven times, once every other year while my grandparents were living.  Now I watch memories on a disc made from 8mm film of my Granddad holding me while watching ships on the Portsmouth Harbor.  I doubt if I’ll ever get to see my cousins again, some I’ve yet to meet.
    Sadness does try to overtake me sometimes but not before guilt takes hold.  We were given such a beautiful home in nature and it matters little of what I want anymore.  I only have to look out the window as I write to see the pine trees dying while standing up, a walk up the road shows signs that we humans cannot live within the limits of nature.  Old tires, rusty bedsprings, and thousands of red plastic Remington caps lie abandoned on the side of a dirt road where others have entertained themselves or maybe they’re preparing to protect and defend, time will tell.
    It’s unfortunate that some can no longer see the beauty before their eyes and the only pain they feel is self-inflicted from the artificial world.  I embrace living every day some more than others but I notice all I can while I sometimes laugh and cry at the same time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jump, We'll Catch You

     My journey into collapse began with a viewing of Michael Ruppert at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, Oregon in 2005.  I didn’t realize how cutting edge this was at the time and when I left the theatre that night I had no idea how my life would change going forward.  I remember being one of the few that raised my hand when he asked how many had credit card debt of less than $10,000 and how many had their hands up when he asked who still had a mortgage payment.  Though I felt relieved in many ways, I felt sadness and fearful of the future. 
       Three years later after reaching my 30-year career goal I retired and began to work towards another goal of living simply or simply living.  Being use to taking orders from the upper echelons of empire, I soon felt comfortable following orders from those who not only knew the systems in place but also could help navigate with their maps into the wilderness that we now live in. 
       After several years of physically challenging work, my husband and I know jumping was just the first step; we now seek to network with others who are building “working models” and ask writers such as Ruppert to help.  They have a captive audience in place to help those who have moved ahead, so why should we reinvent the wheel?  
       Just as a syllabus helps to know what’s to be expected, these working models will lead as an example of how life after empire works.  I remember asking, “is there life after work?” what I didn’t think to ask is who will be working?  Those who write about collapse may learn something more by working the fields for a few months, hell take a sabbatical it may get you prepared for what we all face.
       I want to hope that some more are beginning to see through the lies that are now a necessity of everyday life in empire, but I know that hope is not a strategy, as my husband says so often.  Lately though, we have seen an upsurge in responses to our advertising of living together and sharing resources.  This has helped us refine what we’re looking for.
       Since retiring in 2008 after 30 years with telecommunications, I’ve learned that most people have a hard time focusing, their communication skills are lacking and the slightest bit of detail makes them run the other way.  In trying to find others whom you can trust, work well with and depend on, one needs to ask questions to begin to build relationships.  I’m not sure what it is about our culture that makes most shy away from any type of sharing, whether it’s information on where they buy their food or if they know of a good dentist.  I wonder then why they give any thought to responding to an ad to live with others.  Could it be people are running out of options and time, or maybe some are beginning to envision a better way of life?
       Each day our lives become better as collapse takes hold and we find another authentic attachment to nature, but working with our own species can be quite challenging when they don’t want to open their eyes or listen.  After so many years of trying to network we became despondent and started to advertise our homestead for sale over a year ago.  Like a “Hail Mary” we thought it couldn’t hurt to look at other options, though we knew our chances of selling were slim and it wasn’t what we really wanted to do.  The winter rains didn’t bring much traffic through but spring has blossomed once again and like the habitual creatures we are, people are again looking for a home in the country.  A call came last week from a couple who wanted to see it, and after a long, heated discussion we decided this would be the last time to show it but before we managed to pull our ad, we had three more people interested. 
       It definitely has a bittersweet flavor and is quite tempting to give up and try something new but neither of us are quitters and since we believe in what we’re doing and know eventually it will be worth more than gold, the decision was made not to look back and get to work in the garden.  We’ve had to be patient so many times before in our marriage and we need to put it to practice once again. 
       In meeting others through our networking as well as those who have come to buy, we’ve found that most people who have visited are looking for the same reason; to get out of the city and grow food, but they don’t realize the task they’re taking on.  We know from our efforts and the discipline that’s needed, they won’t be able to go it alone.  There are big differences between growing enough food to get you through another season and having a few crops to eat during the summer months.  For some we helped to open their eyes and understand sharing not only the benefits but also the work.  One favorite comment we received in an email after a visit was "I love how you spoke of "sharing, this is a word we rarely hear as adults.”
       Many comparisons can be made to the types of people that we’ve been in touch with.  Some who are scared shitless letting fear rule their choices, wanting to leave the system for a simpler life while gripping on to the only security they know.  First time I ever heard the term “cubicle monkey” to describe how one feels at work.  When I look back on my working days in the system, I see the character Jurgis from Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle.  I did most anything that was expected of me and more.  I was always recognized for being such a great employee swinging from position to position seeking higher pay and more responsibility.  Now my rewards of satisfying food, herbs that heal, and a soft footprint help to ease the guilt of giving so much to a system that is setup only to take.
       While some fear the risk of taking the plunge, others can’t wait to feel the splash but have no resources to do so.  They can’t see the trees for the paper and while reams of debt stifle them, they desperately seek what they know they want, though it may be too late.
       Some of the young people we’ve spoke to are creatively thinking of ways to partner up, though most have not left the fraternity type of life.  With the student loan debts that they have, they’re aware that they need to share to make it, whether it’s college or life after.  I still don’t see many with enthusiasm about doing the work; after all it’s much different than reading and writing.
       Unfortunately as we continue to plough ahead answering emails and phone calls, arranging visits and feeding people that have heeded the warnings from those such as Michael Ruppert, Carolyn Baker, Richard Heinberg, Jan Lundberg as well as others, we know there is no network in place for after you jump.  Some of these pioneers continue to ride the wagon that they told us to jump off of while we blaze a new trail alone.  I’ve taken time to write and explain our dilemma to these writers asking for any suggestions on networking or help in doing so, but have received little to no response from them. 
       We’ve been growing more, storing more and learning more which is really beneficial to us, but what good is a few people who have their shit together when we’re spread so thin?  What happens when everyone is on board and awake?  Eventually the lifeboats will need to leave the shore.  Our advice to others who are looking to jump is simple and sincere:

Know what you're up against and the situation we (humans) are in.
Take in as much information as possible.
Ask lots of questions.
Learn from others.
Be open to other avenues that you may not have thought about.
Make an intelligent decision using both head and heart,
knowing that you don’t have the luxury of time
to make the mistakes that we have made.
Take help from those who are willing to lend you a hand.
Stay focused, one step at a time.
Don't look back.