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Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

In his new book, Parker Palmer takes a deep and wise look at the loss of values that have impoverished American democracy and public life. He discusses healing the heart of democracy and the five habits necessary in moving forward. Our extended correspondence interview with the Quaker elder and educator.

Which piece of music would you choose to complement Wendell Berry reading his poems?

Wendell Berry shares his wisdom on the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in this 4-minute video.

A video clip of Joel Salatin in Food Inc prompted by Ellen Davis' comments on the stewardship of land.

About the Image

"Day Three of Creation"

Photo by Luke McGowan

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Going across the country by rail was a dream I had since childhood when the wail of a train in the night brought fantasies of adventure beyond the prairies and cornfields of Illinois where I live. I was a senior citizen before the dream was realized. In 2008 I booked a trip with Amtrak from Illinois to California. The high point of the trip was to be going through the High Sierra mountains, but searing heat-related engine breakdowns and subsequent moving aside for freight trains made it obvious we would pass through those longed for mountains at night. The surprise came when, as midnight neared, I looked into the sky and saw the most glorious host of stars I have ever seen. The memory still brings tears to my eyes. I remember hearing that in the desert of Israel the stars seem to touch the earth. They could not be more beautiful than what I saw that night. It was a highlight of my trip and a reminder of the canopy of light the Almighty set in the sky to guide and inspire us mortals.

I am beyond the 'deeper meaning' of possession of land and it's care. For the first time in my life, especially with the Gulf oil spill, I am experiencing anxiety and get nauseous if I think too long about what's going on and how it's being mishandled.

Since a teenager, I have felt that if I had to choose a religion and the 'American Indian way of life' was a religion, this is the religion I would choose. For me they had a respect and honor of the earth that was pure and genuine and served both parties. I believe their genocide was the beginning of the outcome we're experiencing now. We have raped and pilaged our own planet and still don't get it...but we will; when there's no longer clean water, sustainable soil for our food or acceptable air to breathe, we will finally 'get the message'.

For myself, I try to live within as small a carbon footprint as I comfortably can stand. I am not a master here, nor is my footprint as small as it could be; the operative word is 'comfortable'.

This I know for sure, Mother Nature WILL have the last word.

Recently I travelled 1200 miles to the beach in Rhode Island where I spent my summers growing up in the 50s and 60s. It was a nostalgic and refreshing visit to the sand-and-salt-water world of my youth. My distant connection with that place felt vividly real again.

The simple cottage my father built for our family still occupies its hundred-foot frontage on the Atlantic Ocean. The dunes are deep and strong, protecting the house from storms. Lush and colorful rugosa roses and beach grass, lovingly planted and maintained by hand, hold the dunes in place with their roots.

I learned the lessons of beach ecology as a child and they remain with me today. Along the way, I was involved in the environmental movement of the 70s, and that evolved into becoming a natural resources planner. My job was to modify building projects so that the effects of man on the land, water, and animals would be minimized.

I did that for many years. I also worked for a while with scholars to publish materials for local land management and planning boards. Not surprisingly, I have always lived near water or beaches. I continue to support personal and corporate efforts to reduce man’s footprint on the earth. The strong connection with things of nature that I learned as a child remains in my blood.

Today, I am deeply saddened over the anti-science faction of society that is taking hold of millions of innocent and unsuspecting people. The perpetrators are not just those corporations like oil companies whose operations put our earth’s health at risk. They also include those in the business of selling religion for profit.

Sadly, a segment of the media and certain churches benefit from quoting selected excerpts from the bible to undermine the realities of global warming, evolution, and other proven scientific facts connecting humans with the planet earth. Greedy individuals are using God (and country, too – the subject of another whole article –) to victimize those who do not know better. Certain private and religious corporations have reinvented science to create artificial barriers among humans whose interests are actually the same. It breaks my heart to see this happen.

The fact is there is nothing in the bible that precludes modern scientific knowledge. Absolutely nothing. It is entirely possible, for example, to revel in the beauty and wonder of a tiny humming bird and know at the same time that it is a product of evolution.

Why do we allow ourselves to be victims of falsehoods, even in the name of “religion?” Let’s use the brains God gave us and ask ourselves, What do the anti-science groups have to gain from our following them? If the answer is monetary profit, then we must resist their attraction. Instead, let’s focus on our common gift. Let’s be intelligent and loving stewards of this great earth our creator has given us.

Shows like Speaking of Faith give me hope that the well-funded anti-science groups will, in time, be revealed for what they really are. Krista Tippett interviews individuals like Shane Claiborne, who represents groups of young people who have chosen a way of life that is responsible to God, his children, and the planet earth. They are inspirational. Day after day these “new monastics” make tiny changes in their immediate world: they grow their own food; they help out teenagers from the South Philly neighborhood in which they live.

These young dedicated people remind me of the forces of nature acting on the barrier beach where I grew up in Rhode Island. During my recent visit I couldn’t help but notice the many signs that Misquamicut Beach is slowly shifting into the tidal pond behind it. This is as it’s meant to be.

[The photo illustration is Misquamicut Beach, Westerly, RI]

I have included a picture of my home in SW'ern Colorado. I lived here w/ my husband and daughter 2 over two years, in a 700 sq ft. 100% off-grid cabin: no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no running water. Much of the year we could not even drive up to the house, but parked at the bottom of the hill and rode an ATV up. Living this way, at a time when I was home raising my young daughter, was as close to God as I have felt. In so many ways. Because it is so labor intensive living this way, nearly every undertaking had a deliberate purpose to it. It is as if the world slows down and the opportunity to take notice of all the subtle little changes in the natural world, and in myself. I now live in Baltimore, MD, which seems a lifetime away from my cabin in SW Colorado. But I still have it, and the impact of living conservatively, deliberately, and in concert w/ my surroundings has stayed with me.

The Gift

Driving for home, it is late and I am tired. My heart begins to vibrate. I am getting close to Elsewhere, that place where my understanding shifts. I can feel it coming.

What's this? The headlights illuminate a large bird lying in the road. Her wing points straight up at the moon, signaling like a flag. Could the wind move her wing that way? I turn my truck around to check on her.

She is unconscious. I pick her up and weigh the situation. She's about the size of a cat. Hollow bones and powder-soft feathers make her look big, but she is very light. Nothing appears to be broken, however, she is not out of the woods yet. Intent on seeing her in more light, I gently set her through the window of my camper top.

I lift a lump of bird out of my truck and hold my bundle close to my chest. My dingo dog, Jake, welcomes us home with a song and dance. Naturally, he is excited. Young, strong, and beautiful, he's got definite ideas. Cattledogs can make their voices vibrate so loud it stuns small animals.

"Let me tell you how I think this should go," he hollers.

My ears are ringing. "I can't believe you're using this trick on me at a time like this." I shoot back at him.

Halfway to the house, his intensity spurs the owl to heroic effort. An armful of wild-eyed raptor wakes up. Intuition becomes a tumultuous, heart-pounding intensity. A surge of adrenaline shoots up my spine and detonates my focus.

Fragmented and paralyzed, I am suspended between all I know about birds and all I don’t know about owls. That beak is made for tearing flesh. Those toes are equipped with daggers. Is this bird strong enough to put up a fight? Am I her most immediate obstacle? Should I let her go? Everything seems to hit me at once.

"Let her go," Jake dances around my legs. He's frothing to solve my problem for me. "Now that you've caught her, let's be wolves together. C'mon, girl. I've got you covered."

Dogs are always stopping the action with force. Birds are yin. Females are yin. Darkness is yin. I hand over my puzzle to the Silence. "How am I going to lead the supernatural being in my arms and the hellion at my feet simultaneously?" I ask the darkness.

The moment takes on an endless quality. The Silence stretches through time, holds my heart, and catches my breath. I entangle myself with it and squeeze my mind into a space in the world that is humbler, sweeter, and smaller than a bird. I feel light and easy despite my inner turmoil. Now that I'm centered, I'm suddenly aware of all of the things that are not happening. Amidst the cacophony of mental and physical noise, my spirit begins to rise. I'm the best chance this bird has. Years of experience shoots through my skull. I filter out my best intentions and focus on what I'm doing right. I choose the best future and project it forwards taking my friends with me.

Inspired, I breathe into my body again. As the three of us pass beneath the trees and cross my yard, I reconcile things with Jake. "You've never met a bird like this, little buddy. Now let me see what I can do to help her." My adolescent wolf adores my softness so much he easily bends his will to mine and falls in quietly behind me. "Good boy." I assure him.

Then, I send our guest a dose of chi. She hides in my arms. Clearly, she is frightened, but she is not looking to make a getaway. Her tenderness buoys me up. I gently press her close to my chest to comfort and contain her. Time expands again. We relax.

As I take my owl into the house, I think of my own birds. Everything's a power struggle with them. Parrots in cages bite to gain dominance or to defend themselves. They are ever-mindful that they are prey animals and keenly aware that birds who can't hide their weaknesses may not survive. That's why taming them takes so long. Trust is earned. Understanding of what's true for them is offered in increments.

This barred owl, on the other hand, is a predator and a loner. What do owls know about social skills? I might get this bird to follow me if I find out. Inside a safe space, I become a steady perch and support my elbows on the floor. My owl presents her back to me. This simple gesture is beyond my ken. No parrot I know would be so brave. "Has this bird ever been afraid of anything? What must her life be like?" I marvel.

Her innocence feels very much like trust. I revel in it. I walk my talk and keep my face very close to her head while we sit together. We are intimate like old friends. It's easy to pretend whatever I want. Her back is to me.

I use her proximity to reinforce my bravery and to get down to business. I scan all the non-verbal signals she sending about how badly she is hurt. How does she hold her body? What condition are her feathers in? I look for the slightest indications. Does she feel threatened? Am I too close? Should I avoid looking directly into her eyes?

Judging by the grip she has on my wrist, she has a few questions for me too. Her talons dig in deeper. Her head begins turning my way. She's bracing herself for what she is about to see. She is turning around. She's turning around! We’re about to meet for the first time!

My heart pounds loudly in my ears. I have no idea what to expect. Since I'm the first human she's met, I wonder how this will go. How will she read my intentions? We have no time for translation. Will she take direction from me?

I sit within striking distance and close my eyes. How else can I show her where she stands? Now that I’m completely vulnerable, sitting in her presence this way internalizes my struggle. A new adrenaline rush ignites my heart. I've never felt so engulfed in flames without trying to escape. I use my mind to direct my chi back down into my dantien and turn my fear to smouldering embers. The sudden release of tension catapults me into a state of heightened awareness. I hold all of my diametrically opposed emotions in limbo and free the energy.

Ahhh! This is the moment I've waited for all my life. I feel a rush of unconditional love. Intensity and detachment strike a balance, the gates between us crumble. It's the most incredible feeling I've ever felt. We are one! I open my eyes and almost burst out laughing.

My owl’s reply is impeccable. Her soft response is unmistakable. Her eyes are closed too! We touch spirit to spirit. She slips inside my head with me. There are no barriers. The thrill is sublime. I feel electric! I share my beauty and vibrant strength with her. She takes it! She gives it! The energy moves between us. I've just mind-melded with a wild bird! My heart pounds through my chest as if I am empty, but I have never felt so full. Nothing could prepare me for the euphoria of it.

More than simultaneous surrender, I catch a glimpse of the infinite transcending even species. For a moment, I am a shaman crossing the valley of death meeting my totem animal--one pure spirit wearing two masks. Complexity melts into simplicity. Timelessness blankets us. I watch that single moment expand until all the moments of my life line up behind it making sense in a new way.

My wrist pulses with pain. I am acutely aware that asking my owl to shift her weight will end our love affair, but it’s necessary. The pressure of her razor sharp claws cuts my skin. I hold my breath and try to simply reposition her. Exerting even the slightest force brings out her wild nature. She lets me know my compassion may be weightless, but my willpower isn't. She takes her cue, leaps out of my hands, falls into the corner, flaps against the wall, and loses a few feathers. Heaven fades as Timelessness melts back into linear time.

I scrutinize her body and watch her wings work. She’s breathing well. No broken bones, no blood, bright eyes. I'm certain this owl hit a car while she was flying, not the other way around. Scooping her up again in my arms, I walk out into the moonlight. Somewhere between boldness and reckless abandon, I take a final liberty and kiss her wild, symbolic wings. I can feel the electricity in my fingertips. I can feel it in the wind moving my hair. I am much bigger now than I could ever be by myself. A deep sense of gratitude enfolds me for all the perfect synchronicity that has already occurred throughout time to allow this miracle this to happen.

She slips back into the darkness.

All summer long I listen to a barred owl in the woods behind my house. Low and sweet, she calls, reminding me how to surrender. I am listening with every nerve, every pore to a language I have always wanted to hear. What she taught me in a few moments, I will never forget.

Native Americans put feathers in their hair as a sign of their brave deeds. On special occasions, I wear the ones that owl gave me. They dangle from my ear on a tiny chain. They may look like feathers, but they feel like wings in my heart. Those feathers remind me how I can affect the world. In a moment of grace, I saw it for myself on many levels. What gift could be more precious? The one I give or the one I take? Now, I see, they are both are the same.

"A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses." ~ Chinese proverb

The Gift

Driving for home, it is late and I am tired. My heart begins to vibrate. I am getting close to Elsewhere, that place where my understanding shifts. I can feel it coming.

What's this? The headlights illuminate a large bird lying in the road. Her wing points straight up at the moon, signaling like a flag. Could the wind move her wing that way? I turn my truck around to check on her.

She is unconscious. I pick her up and weigh the situation. She's about the size of a cat. Hollow bones and powder-soft feathers make her look big, but she is very light. Nothing appears to be broken, however, she is not out of the woods yet. Intent on seeing her in more light, I gently set her through the window of my camper top.

I lift a lump of bird out of my truck and hold my bundle close to my chest. My dingo dog, Jake, welcomes us home with a song and dance. Naturally, he is excited. Young, strong, and beautiful, he's got definite ideas. Cattledogs can make their voices vibrate so loud it stuns small animals.

"Let me tell you how I think this should go," he hollers.

My ears are ringing. "I can't believe you're using this trick on me at a time like this." I shoot back at him.

Halfway to the house, his intensity spurs the owl to heroic effort. An armful of wild-eyed raptor wakes up. Intuition becomes a tumultuous, heart-pounding intensity. A surge of adrenaline shoots up my spine and detonates my focus.

Fragmented and paralyzed, I am suspended between all I know about birds and all I don’t know about owls. That beak is made for tearing flesh. Those toes are equipped with daggers. Is this bird strong enough to put up a fight? Am I her most immediate obstacle? Should I let her go? Everything seems to hit me at once.

"Let her go," Jake dances around my legs. He's frothing to solve my problem for me. "Now that you've caught her, I've got you covered."

Dogs are always stopping the action with force. Birds are yin. Females are yin. Darkness is yin. I hand over my puzzle to the Silence. "How am I going to lead the supernatural being in my arms and the hellion at my feet simultaneously?" I ask.

The moment takes on an endless quality. The Silence stretches through time, holds my heart, and catches my breath. I entangle myself with it and squeeze my mind into a space in the world that is humbler, sweeter, and smaller than a bird. I feel light and easy despite my inner turmoil. Now that I'm centered, I'm suddenly aware of all of the things that are not happening. Amidst the cacophony of mental and physical noise, my spirit begins to rise. I'm the best chance this bird has. Years of experience shoots through my skull. I filter out my best intentions and focus on what I'm doing right. I choose the best future and project it forwards taking my friends with me.

Inspired, I breathe into my body again. As the three of us pass beneath the trees and cross my yard, I reconcile things with Jake. "You've never met a bird like this, little buddy. Now let me see what I can do to help her." My adolescent wolf adores my softness so much he easily bends his will to mine and falls in quietly behind me. "Good boy." I assure him.

Then, I send our guest a dose of chi. She hides in my arms. Clearly, she is frightened, but she is not looking to make a getaway. Her tenderness buoys me up. I gently press her close to my chest to comfort and contain her. Time expands again. We relax.

As I take my owl into the house, I think of my own birds. Everything's a power struggle with them. Parrots in cages bite to gain dominance or to defend themselves. They are ever-mindful that they are prey animals and keenly aware that birds who can't hide their weaknesses may not survive. That's why taming them takes so long. Trust is earned. Understanding of what's true for them is offered in increments.

This barred owl, on the other hand, is a predator and a loner. What do owls know about social skills? I might get this bird to follow me if I find out. Inside a safe space, I become a steady perch and support my elbows on the floor. My owl presents her back to me. This simple gesture is beyond my ken. No parrot I know would be so brave. "Has this bird ever been afraid of anything? What must her life be like?" I marvel.

Her innocence feels very much like trust. I revel in it. I walk my talk and keep my face very close to her head while we sit together. We are intimate like old friends. It's easy to pretend whatever I want. Her back is to me.

I use her proximity to reinforce my bravery and to get down to business. I scan all the non-verbal signals she sending about how badly she is hurt. How does she hold her body? What condition are her feathers in? I look for the slightest indications. Does she feel threatened? Am I too close? Should I avoid looking directly into her eyes?

Judging by the grip she has on my wrist, she has a few questions for me too. Her talons dig in deeper. Her head begins turning my way. She's bracing herself for what she is about to see. She is turning around. She's turning around! We’re about to meet for the first time!

My heart pounds loudly in my ears. I have no idea what to expect. Since I'm the first human she's met, I wonder how this will go. How will she read my intentions? We have no time for translation. Will she take direction from me?

I sit within striking distance and close my eyes. How else can I show her where she stands? Now that I’m completely vulnerable, sitting in her presence this way internalizes my struggle. A new adrenaline rush ignites my heart. I've never felt so engulfed in flames without trying to escape. I use my mind to direct my chi back down into my dantien and turn my fear to smouldering embers. The sudden release of tension catapults me into a state of heightened awareness. I hold all of my diametrically opposed emotions in limbo and free the energy.

Ahhh! This is the moment I've waited for all my life. I feel a rush of unconditional love. Intensity and detachment strike a balance, the gates between us crumble. It's the most incredible feeling I've ever felt. We are one! I open my eyes and almost burst out laughing.

My owl’s reply is impeccable. Her soft response is unmistakable. Her eyes are closed too! We touch spirit to spirit. She slips inside my head with me. There are no barriers. The thrill is sublime. I feel electric! I share my beauty and vibrant strength with her. She takes it! She gives it! The energy moves between us. I've just mind-melded with a wild bird! My heart pounds through my chest as if I am empty, but I have never felt so full. Nothing could prepare me for the euphoria of it.

More than simultaneous surrender, I catch a glimpse of the infinite transcending even species. For a moment, I am a shaman crossing the valley of death meeting my totem animal--one pure spirit wearing two masks. Complexity melts into simplicity. Timelessness blankets us. I watch that single moment expand until all the moments of my life line up behind it making sense in a new way.

My wrist pulses with pain. I am acutely aware that asking my owl to shift her weight will end our love affair, but it’s necessary. The pressure of her razor sharp claws cuts my skin. I hold my breath and try to simply reposition her. Exerting even the slightest force brings out her wild nature. She lets me know my compassion may be weightless, but my willpower isn't. She takes her cue, leaps out of my hands, falls into the corner, flaps against the wall, and loses a few feathers. Heaven fades as Timelessness melts back into linear time.

I scrutinize her body and watch her wings work. She’s breathing well. No broken bones, no blood, bright eyes. I'm certain this owl hit a car while she was flying, not the other way around. Scooping her up again in my arms, I walk out into the moonlight. Somewhere between boldness and reckless abandon, I take a final liberty and kiss her wild, symbolic wings. I can feel the electricity in my fingertips. I can feel it in the wind moving my hair. I am much bigger now than I could ever be by myself. A deep sense of gratitude enfolds me for all the perfect synchronicity that has already occurred throughout time to allow this miracle this to happen.

She slips back into the darkness.

All summer long I listen to a barred owl in the woods behind my house. Low and sweet, she calls, reminding me how to surrender. I am listening with every nerve, every pore to a language I have always wanted to hear. What she taught me in a few moments, I will never forget.

Native Americans put feathers in their hair as a sign of their brave deeds. On special occasions, I wear the ones that owl gave me. They dangle from my ear on a tiny chain. They may look like feathers, but they feel like wings in my heart. Those feathers remind me how I can affect the world. In a moment of grace, I saw it for myself on many levels. What gift could be more precious? The one I give or the one I take? Now, I see, they are both are the same.

"A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses." ~ Chinese proverb

Hi, I can't find the link for the upcoming sustainability photo essay project, but when I heard about it my mind immediately jumped to the the Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, UT and it's proprietors, Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle. A better, more complete description of their creation can be found in their beautiful book of photos, recipes, and essays, titled With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant. My quick version is that two incredible women with a passion for good food and sustainability, shaped by their Buddhist foundation, came into an incredibly beautiful tiny town in southern Utah, and have managed to work with the overwhelmingly conservative Mormon population to create a Zagat-rated restaurant featuring organic, locally raised meat and produce. And did I mention the tiny farm town of Boulder nestled in the giant exposed slickrock of Utah's canyon country (the bones of the earth exposed in eve ry imaginable shade of red, orange, and white) is so photogenic as to defy adequate verbal description? Thanks, Misti

As a child on my grandparent’s farm I laid on a big round hay bale and peered up at the sky. I never felt so free and so connected.

As a young adult on an Earthwatch expedition we spent days in the preserve…a pure unbroken ecosystem. In the evenings we drove the road that divided the park from the reality of today. To my left, a pristine habitat of Jaguar, Maned Wolf, Anteater, Giant Armadillo, Tapir and Burrowing Owl. To my right, acres of soybean and cotton as far as the eye could see. In that moment I realized - every choice does matter.

Today, my morning was spent tending a flock of Gulf Coast Sheep and heritage poultry just a stone’s throw from that big round hay bale.

www.farminginpraha.com

The morning after my mother died, the thin light woke me from a deep sleep. Within the strange first moments of this new day—my first on earth without my mom—I knew instinctively what I needed to do. I padded down the stairs and outside to the porch. There waited bags of soil, packets of vegetable seeds, and planting trays. I had intended to bring new life to our backyard garden for my mom to see in her last summer alive. But death had come to claim her sooner than any of us expected. At that moment, sowing seeds felt like the only thing I could to do grasp for power in a tremendous void of loss. I needed to birth new life in the wake of death. I was starting a new season and a new chapter in my life by seeding the crops that would feed my own, still living body.

It was while chopping vegetables for dinner each evening in South Africa that I first awakened to the powerful connection between food, agriculture and identity. My host mother—Nana – adored the mysteriously wild flavor of the greens and the cloying sweetness of overripe mangos we ate together, yet could rarely afford either on her paltry janitorial salary. My stay was an exception, as Nana received a stipend for hosting me. When she was growing up on a small farm in rural KwaZulu-Natal her family grew all the fresh produce they needed. But when she moved to the city looking for work during apartheid, she could no longer access to the foods of her childhood. On her tight budget, she filled her belly with Coca Cola, white bread, neon-colored processed cheese, and canned beet root. To Nana, these were the foods of apartheid’s lingering oppression.

Towards the end of my stay in Cato Manor, I visited a plot that neighbors had transformed from a vacant lot into a productive community-run farm. As the farmers walked me through the beds of native greens, squash, and potatoes, I sensed a tremendous joy and pride in the collective accomplishment of the farm. The harvest was not only one of healthy food, but of community empowerment and nourishment.

With my interest piqued, I spent the summer apprenticing at a community farm upon returning to the U.S. Filthy and exhausted, I was hooked at the end of my first day. Never had I felt so engaged with my community’s health and self-sufficiency. Little did I realize, though, how pervasive the thread of agriculture would become in the weave of my life.

In the March after my return from South Africa, I lost my mother to cancer. My mom had been an avid backyard gardener for most of her life, and our shared passion for growing food brought a previously unknown intimacy and joy to our relationship. Towards the end of her four-year illness, reveling in talk of farming distracted us from the silent acknowledgment that our time together was running out.

I have continued to grow food each season—from rural farms to small garden plots— since I first visited South Africa. These days I grow in community gardens and in my windowsills in Brooklyn. I have found an ad-hoc family among the cross-cultural community of gardeners and farmers, no matter where I am. Growing food has become the one constant in my life; it is the way in which I shape my own heritage and keep alive the memory of my mothers- both Nana and my own birthmother. Food and agriculture, I have come to see, speak a universal language. They ground us all in our history and strengthen our connection with our families, land, health and sense of self. In setting roots we become more resilient. I know I have.

Last year I had energy efficient replacement windows put in the old farm house I live in.
I did this to take advantage of the energy tax credit and cut down on the utility bill to save the enviroment and money. I have discovered this summer that I can open the windows at night and let the cool air in and close the windows in the morning and keep the warm air out. I have not used the air conditioner or a fan all summer in near record heat. My electric company burns mountain top mining coal and my heat comes primarily from oil with some solar. Last winter my heating bill dropped by one-third. So I am proud to report I am reducing my carbon footprint. Is this a sacifice? No, I actually feel spiritually closer to the earth and my mood is lifted everytime I water my garden with the rain water
I have collected in a thirty gallon garbage can and every time I check my electric meter and joy in how slowly it turns.

I'm not sure where this "belongs," but Speaking of Faith, in the light of a need for radical approach to climate change, might consider it. I've listened to the McKibben hour each time it aired. There is a huge irony in the focus on "durable community" as the key to a post-350 human future. The piece of my life least accommodated to a responsible lifestyle is the religious piece. I am very much solo, and have worked out of my apartment for decades, now using a half dozen computers and internet; I get around by bike, rental car if needed; I live in a city that is beginning to focus on ending sprawl, ensuring plenty of town farms and farmers markets, building more bike paths; it's all pretty good. My work schedule is such that I hardly ever get to see anybody; there is certainly no time for church.
There's the issue. Church community is built around time spent and money given, a cooperative of sorts; its effectiveness is measured in many ways by face-time, group face-time. A team without the actual "matches." A lot of driving around is involved.
To some extent I brought a dilemma on myself by joining a church I felt was compatible which is an hour's bike-ride away. I did that decades back when I did have expendable time. But here is a challenge: Can a church function without the kind of access usually undergirding such an institution? (Can I?)
I consider what if I were a member of a church 300 yards away, of which there are about four or five. And I think I actually need the distance; I need to make "it" work from a distance. "It" to me includes or at least implies the whole world. And "it" has to do that with my coming and going hardly ever.
To some extent I think of my religious commitment being to a much, much wider world (as does that church, by the way), but in a way, as you see, which was inconceivable when the early churches were first coming together. Ethical awareness now has global reverberations (as McKibben lays out: my plastic/my heat is your drought, your flood, your famine, your tornado); religion has by default of circumstance a new kind of inclusiveness, a new kind of particularity, a new "us."
Perhaps once upon a time religion was meant to be a comfort to the oppressed; but I think American churches are beginning to see religion as having some responsibility, and a question is how best to exercise that. The image of fiddling while Rome burns comes to mind, or maybe the sound of the elegant strains of a Bach fugue while the Titanic sinks.
What is the role of churches in the face of an existential threat to our species?

As a child I roamed the rocks. Cascading from one large boulder to the next over a natural obstacle course that line the shores of Lake Huron. The landscape was like nothing I had ever seen before and for hours and hours I would jump and run across racing my best friend until our tummies bellowed for replenishment. I fell entranced with these exotic wonders that fifteen years later still illuminates my mysticism and astonishment with nature. One boulder, called Bullard's or now more commonly, Turtle (it looks like a turtle), sits alone in the water, far enough offshore that once one ascends to the top, they can freely jump off the six or seven feet drop, only, to climb right back up, if grafted in the tireless days of youth. Others are aligned into meticulous routes requiring the expertise of a child who has spent his or her whole summer sifting over, under, and between the rocks. Another rock is called Chicken. The name is this because it stands about twelve or so feet above the water and many have been called "chicken" because they were suddenly overcome with fear and backed down. "The Rocks," as they have become familiarly known as, are the essential ingredient of a wholesome summer house community that fosters a reverence for nature and desire to interact with it. Here the possession of the land upon the shore is expensive and seemingly esoteric. Yet, I feel as though one cannot complain or disapprove of those whom own it. There is a buoyant characteristic in the people who live there that seems to celebrate, daily, the fact that they are so fortunate as to share in the beauty of this minute piece of Mother Earth.
The kids up here are free to explore the caverns and streaks under and between the rocks where they must crawl hand and knees to look up and see that brilliant brightness of the sun gleaming in through the trees. It is here, where I, myself, find a whimsical butterfly effect robust in my stomach and love emanating out for all.

Krista,

I don’t know if you will remember me. Our children were in the same class at City of Lakes Waldorf in the seventh grade. My son is Gabriel (Gabe). You might remember him more than you would remember me. He was the lion in the “Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” school play. (A very auspicious part.) We spoke briefly at that event. It doesn’t really matter.

The reason I am writing is that I was listening to your interview today with Bill McKibben and heard your invitation for listeners to send in thoughts, images etc regarding “Possession of and care of the land.”

I am working on the design of a home with a wonderful couple that owns a pristine 250-acre valley in Wisconsin. They have owned and cared for the land for many years. They have planted trees, managed the watershed, gardened and harvested from the land in their valley. They both derive a deep spiritual connection from living there. (He is there full time as he is largely retired. She lives in Minneapolis during the week working as the CEO of a major local corporation but spends every weekend on the land.) We are working on a home which is to be built on the north face of the valley looking over 180 degrees from sunrise to sunset. The home is to be built largely form materials harvested from the site. The stone foundation and fireplace will be built from the crumbled foundation of an old barn on site. This stone was cleared form the land for farming over a hundred and fifty years ago. The framing, flooring, and cabinetry for the house will be made from reclaimed wood fro m the old barn and outbuildings. We will be using wood from managed forests at the valley’s edge and will replant new trees for each one harvested. The rain from the roof and the watershed behind the home will be captured and used for bathing and the care of a vineyard recently planted next to the building site.

The house itself will be sited to receive the summer and winter solstice sunrises. Each of these events has been carefully marked on the site this last year and we will be designing the home so that each year the morning sunrise on these days will carve its way through long slender openings in a massive fireplace stone wall to strike sculptures designed to celebrate the coming of the harvest and the return of the sun. The intent of the design is to connect the owners of the home with the land in a deep way. We hope the home will invite the celebration of life in our union with the natural world. The world from which we have emerged, and so often have mistakenly imagined ourselves separate from.

The attached images are ten pages from a notebook in which I have been keeping track of some of imagery for the house. The images are a sort of cartooned narrative. The design is still underway.

Peter

I heard on SOF this week and last, that you are requesting input on how sustainability relates to me as an individual (to paraphrase). I have heard so many people around me say climate changes are too big for an individual. Instead, I personally believe that I can make changes in my own part of the world for good. So I bought a 100yo house which had a lawn all around it. I changed most of the lawn into sustainable landscaping with perennials, herbs, fruit-bearing trees and bushes, and a small vegetable garden. Since I know that for every kwh of electricity used, a pound of coal is consumed, I decided to have photovoltaics installed on my property to meet most of my energy needs. Furthermore, I am grid-tied so I am producing a little energy for my municipal utility company. Admittedly, it felt good knowing that in the last 2 weeks, I had produced enough energy equivalent to the cooling effect of 4 grown trees. Birds, previously devoid of my smalltown lot, now chirp away in it, too. So, I have developed not only a community example, but a small oasis. (I need to work on developing a picture of my PV array.)

Merrit Island, Florida.

Merritt Island, Florida.

These photographs were taken in the early morning hours at a refuge in Merritt Island, Florida.

Photography can be a means of contemplation, where the experience of the land and one's self are not two.

Reading Douglas Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home" has impacted me in profound ways. It has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of not only biodiversity, but of using native plants in the home landscape. Prior to reading his book, I knew that native plants were beneficial because they require fewer resources, such as fertilizer and water, to maintain. Dr. Tallamy's book, however, points out their importance in that they serve as hosts for insects in all of their life stages. These insects, in turn, serve as food for other forms of wildlife. My (probably simplistic) understanding of this, essentially, is that if we want to have birds and butterflies in our yards, we need to replace our lawns with plants that, either directly or indirectly, feed them.

I have spent the past couple of summers putting plants in my yard that will appeal to different larvae, as well as the "grown-up" insects they become. It is so gratifying to me to see butterflies flocking to the milkweed in my front yard. They are beautiful to look at, yes -- but even beyond that, providing food for them and their offspring makes me feel connected to nature/science/the universe/God-or-whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

Through my church, I am able to help *people* in my community and the world, but I don't really see the effects of that. Caring for the plants that feed butterflies and their larvae in my yard is something really tangible I can do to help these creatures - and the world.

I work as a garden coordinator for a 1 acre community garden called "Community Roots Garden/ El Jardin de Raices Comunitarias. This non-profit garden, founded to increase food self-reliance, is a ministry of the North Oxnard United Methodist Church in Oxnard, CA. Oxnard is home to a large population of indigenous people from Oaxaca, Mexico called the Mixtec. Many of the Mixtec work as farm workers in the area, and are often marginalized because, in addition to their immigration status, they speak different indigenous dialects and Spanish is a second language.

Over the last year, our garden has been developing a partnership with a Mixtec organization in the area. Last weekend we invited them to come plant with us and to share their knowledge about medicinal herbs. About 15 people came, bringing different Oaxacan seeds and transplants with which to start a medicinal herb garden.

The location where we chose to plant was, to me, a profound choice. We dug into the rich, soft soil at the foot of the cross, planting indigenous healing herbs under the Christian symbol of reconciliation.

Yet even more meaningful than planting seeds for healing under the cross was the small act of reconciliation that followed - a shared potluck. Our predominately white, upper-middle class regular volunteers exchanged both plates and broken Spanish back and forth over the table with the Mixtec gardeners. I felt a hunger then in all present that went beyond food, a hunger for relationship and connection with those who are different and kept separate by society's borders and walls.

Fred Bahnson, writer, farmer, and previous director of Anathoth Garden in NC, wrote in a recent essay, "Jeremiah made clear that planting gardens and seeking peace were symbiotic practices—like sowing beans with your corn, and marigolds with your tomatoes—and exactly the kind of companion-planting the church should be doing." (http://flourishonline.org/2010/08/famine-to-feast-the-story-of-anathoth-...)

I believe that the Christian church can enter into a place of witness, hospitality, and justice for the "stranger" in the land when it practices this "companion planting," as Bahnson so eloquently describes it. Churches, like the one where I work, can move to dis-posses their land in favor of the dis-possesed. Many Latino migrants to California came due to our government's economic policies in Mexico, pushing small farmers off their land and pulling them into the work of feeding the U.S. population through farm work. What better role for the church to fill than to offer an opportunity for re-possession of land and labor through providing a space for dispossesed indigenous farmers to garden? What better way to welcome the hungry of all social classes and races, to share the earth and become neighbors? What better place to plant healing herbs together, and to break bread and tortillas, and, in the process, the walls that divide.

Growing up on a farm in Nebraska was focused on land; its settlement, cultivation, and people. After becoming a landscape architect and practicing all over the world and on practically every continent, I am drawn back to the landscape where it all began, and the quiet but mighty, indestructible remnants that changing landscape leaves in its wake of development. In two weeks, an organization I started in Nebraska to conduct projects that investigate contemporary aspects of Midwest land-use, will be installing 13 - 20x80' designed images on the exterior of Omaha's largest derelict concrete grain elevator. In response to a call for artist submissions for images that speak to land use, agriculture, and food as embodied in the vacant elevator, we received 150 submissions worldwide and hosted a jury to select the final ones for print at the massive scale. In conjunction with the exhibition, we are hosting a 500-person community dinner, on the ground next to the elevator at a continuous table placed on the now derelict rail bed that once serviced the elevator. The dinner is being prepared by 10 local chef and all ingredients provided by local farmers. This project has captured the imagination of now 1000's of individuals, and the artwork depicts a deep and profound human connection to the artifices of the landscapes that nurture us.

I took this photo this spring as the corn was making its first appearance; this plant is about 2 inches high. In 3-4 months, this plant will be 8 feet high.

I'm mesmerized by the seasonal rhythm of crops. From the barrenness of the fields through the winter, with only the dead debris of last year's harvest strewn about, to the fertile abundance of summer, when the fields are literal seas of green, back to the empty barrenness of winter.

My absolute favorite time of year is late spring, as the first glimpse of green appears, and my favorite crop to watch appear is corn. From this fragile little 2-leaf beginning will come a mighty stalk that will provide food for many.

This spring I needed a new beginning, and this stalk, and the seemingly barren field with little green sprouts poking through the soil, reminded me that new life begins quietly, but given proper nourishment and time, it will grow tall and strong. This image gave me courage to be patient with the transformation happening in my soul.

among the papayas and bananas
between the ginger and the orchids
my garden whispers
in a leafy voice
come to me

I have two granddaughters, Maisara (age 3) and Gwyenth (age 4 months), and I must begin farming for them and myself. I am a 61 year old grandmother. I raised two daughters and worked as a social worker for nearly 30 years. Now I am looking for a small farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I am one of those people that always wanted to farm, one that Aaron Bell spoke about how maybe everyone would like to be a farmer. Farming was a way of living with my grandparents and greats and great greats, so farming is in my blood. My father didn't farm but he sold John Deer tractors.

So I am kind of old but not too old to start growing food. If I don't grow this season I will grow next season. Oh! today is the first day of Spring, 2011. My grand daughters will grow up on a small farm as they visit and stay over with this grandmother. They shall learn how to grow, prepare and cook what they eat. I figure this plan takes in a "deeper meaning" of growing and living both on and off the land. There aren't too many better ways to teach my granddaughters about sustaining themselves and those they love and care about. I can't think of much else I would like to pass on to granddaughters other than farming during the day and playing the piano together of evenings.

Well, I don't know how to farm, nor do I know anybody with a farm so I am reading Oregon Extension information. If you know of local farmers that I can learn from please pass their name and number to me, otherwise I'll figure it out. I'm really friendly, after all I was a social worker for nearly 30 years. This short story is my renewed hope for the rest of my life and my future generations of grandchildren. That's it.

I guess I might be 2 years too late...don't know how I stumbled across your comments. Have you heard of "Farm to Fork"? You can visit local farms around Oregon for a special dinner;. one of these farms might be in an area near you. http://www.farmtoforkevents.com/ Also community gardens are a good way to get started and meet others who are growing food.

The video link below is about my family's small dairy farm. It was created by Joshua DeMotts, as part of his Military Journalism program at Syracuse University's Newhouse School.

When being out side in nature, whether in my garden, deep in the woods, or in a massive city parking lot where one lonely 'landscaping' tree provides rest for a hundred starlings, I feel closest to God. I know my bond with the Creator, His gift of the source of everything. We are now partners and I feel moments of completeness.

You were asking the question "Should you apply background music to the poetry?" read by the poet himself, on the Sunday November 27th Oregon Public Broadcasting Radio.

Please make use of the two stereo channels. Put the background music on one channel and the poetry on the other. That way one can choose to have background music or not, or maybe a very quiet background music. This struck me very strongly when you mentioned it on your show. Of late I have noticed that the background music is increasingly loud on much of the public broadcast
shows. Many times distractingly loud so as to make the speaker (person) almost unhearable. All this before mentioning that sometimes, maybe more often than not the music is speaking a completely
different message than the picture is.

So separating the background music from the poetry techologically would help for now, perhaps untill we become more evolved about our intention in broadcasting.

Your discussion on our connection to the land stirred in me the desire to bring to light
something very prominent in my immediate environment at this time. In my local environment
there is a very large percentage of people that are struggling to be very obediant consumers.
And this is to the sacrafice of much else that is towards life. Part of it is the need to belong.
A very strong drive. The other part seams to be a frustration. I am finding, personaly, that most
of commercial messages/interruptions are only succeeding by wearing people down by "nagging"
the customer to buy their product. It has come to my attention, being on a very low rung in this
economy, that people of means (the haves) really only manage to convince each other to do things
by "nagging" them to do it. They don't really manage to convince. The just wear each other down
untill they say "Ok, Ill do it just so you will quit bothering me." Not that it is good for them or any one else.
Just so someone else will get off their back.
Blessed are the people "without" (the have nots). No matter how much you "nag" someone "without"
they are not going to "buy it" because they can not. They just don't have the money and sometimes
the strength to "buy it, do it, build it". You can "nag" them untill they are in tears or they commit suicide.
They are not going to do it because they can't. They don't have. Blessed are the "have nots" because
they are the stabilizing force against the sunami of "nagging" in our every day life. They just don't do it
because they can't.
So back to my local environment. The majority of the locals here are exhausted by the "nagging" and
they try to make the "A" grade and "buy" what ever it is and then rush off to try to seek some refuge
from it all. All the time missing the point of the gift of life and this beautiful planet that came with it.

People are exhausted by this and don't realize that being an "A" grade consumer is not going to releave
the pressure.

Latebloomer

**This is a resubmit**
I was reading Christa's latest interview with reference to enlightened scriptural interpretation and the beautiful poetry of Wendell Berry with reference to contemporary poets like Mary Oliver. As a poet and writer with loving ties to a wonderful local band of poets I would venture to add that poetry isxa distillation of life's essence. Poets perceive through mostly sensitive lenses a world of metaphoric connect that is symphonic in its one ness. Poetry is a constant explication as is all art of such exquisite and hidden connectivity. We see these connects constantly in iteration and always through the unique eye and I of the poet. Art brings this into the open and we exhale that Aha! experience. In other words we are explicating a unity present in all things. A leaf could be a feather, a bird in flight or page from a book or its delicate traceries the veins in our hands. It IS all of these. A poet uses language in beautiful ways consciousl y and unconsciously milking the aural connects, deconstructing and reconstructing endlessly. Be leaf Be lief leaves me departs Relief Re leaf. We can play endlessly with this clay. Why we can do this so ever and always is the question nobody seems to ask. The answer will bring us all home!

Dear Ms. Tippet I am a long-time listener and a fan. I'm writing to you in response to your question: " Does music bring the poet’s words and reading style to life?"... I am a compose and I have created an interesting hybrid: a poem-song, it is a not music behind the poem, or a poem set to music, it's something else - a poem becomes a song becomes a poem. You have probably heard of Kay Ryan - The american poet laureate. It will be my great pleasure if you could find time to listen to a few short compositions based on Kay's readings. Here's the link: http://soundcloud.com/mark-shamrock/sets/kay-ryan/ Thanks for great shows.

The Gold-Light Path by James Hanny In most anything a Man encounters or desires, he has a choice upon which road to traverse. And in that destination, he chooses one of two essential directions in which to flow his decisions—to release and direct his energies. **************** One path taken is guided by his shadowy, dark fears. It appears to be, and he perceives it as, the real fabric of his experiences. This illusory path was configured from the legacy of his youth by the labors of shadow figures echoing within him; then made believable by the investment and attention of his own energy. Through sheer mental projection, or by sheer attraction, this path is filled with ominous shadows, tricksters, and miscreants. From his dark recesses, he may summon demons, monsters, the darkest of fellows, or wicked Sirens. Those energies populate the dreamscape of his own creation; for it is a but a dream–an illusion dictated by his own creation–his choice to take the dark path. And those energies are what he sees reflected through people and circumstances, alas, even his own body–through the muscles, his posture, and his health. As he gives those energies power, he is kept in that realm, under a spell, entangled. And, either consciously or unconsciously, he forms an allegiance with those energies. He attracts other men, women, and conditions that are in tandem with his shadow realm; people or conditions that share similar dark- shadow energies. In maintaining the illusion of the fearsome shadow realm, they too assist him, and he them, in making it real. This dark shadow path is centrifugal, progressively narrow, and leads the Man further and further away from his true center. It has a horizontal, outwardly focused/reflective orientation–the Man defines himself and his Life through external means. It serves his shadow realm. It is self perpetuating and continues for as long as the Man values it; finds it somehow useful; indeed…for as long as he remains spellbound. His Gold is continually hidden. He does not heed its calls to him, and he knows it not. **************** The other path to take, the other choice, is set down for him by his birthright, the path of which his wise elders and true comrades speak. It is his Garden, a field of potentials, ripe possibility, and is the true fabric of his being. There too, he meets the shadow figures of his youth (as there is no escaping them). However, through formidable instruction, sheer benevolent acculturation, or sheer providence, he learns that an inner realm orientation is his true guide. This inner realm path has a vertical orientation and fills all space, in all directions. It is the realm of potentials, of possibilities. It is the path of brilliant (lighted) choices, of allowance, and expansion. He chooses what he wants, he makes himself wholesome. That path is connected to the Grand Fabric of all Life and Humanity. He chooses to listen to this guide–the constant echoes of his true inner Gold realm. He confronts the shadow figures, dispels their lies and false apparitions, and forms no allegiance to them. He travels this path, exposing the falsity of the fearsome shadow realm. He finds with each successive victory, he steps through another veil, breaks another sheath to greater freedom—onto a space that is more and more expansive; where he vibrates to his inner Gold realm; his true Essence. *************** Both paths are choices Now, and can be made each moment, within each day. One path is ever expanding. The other is ever constricting. One path is Light and filled with Light Beings in many forms. The other path is dark and filled with false evidence appearing real. One path flows easily downstream. The other path is resistive, contrived, and is a strife filled, upstream ordeal. One is evidenced and indicated by predominantly positive feeling and emotion. The other path is evidenced and indicated by predominantly negative emotion and feeling. One is simple and true, and can be termed ‘the next right thing,’ for the man. The other is convoluted, perplexed, and riddled with broken pieces. In duality, a Man learns from either path taken. However, he must at some point choose one path over the other as the predominant course he values most. Either path becomes outwardly reflective and forms the quality of his experiences—from the inside-out. He must consciously form an ultimate allegiance to the path he will ultimately serve, within himself. For there is only one, clear, ultimate choice; one ultimate allegiance to the path of his true essence. For there he can live in his Gold, and find Bliss. Hanny-igroup39Journal/06.2010 James Hanny is a Father, Husband, a Brother and Son, a Speech Language Pathologist by profession, and has a graduate degree in Transpersonal Psychology. James primarily writes poetry. He also writes Essays on depth psychology, metaphysics, spiritual and personal growth, and the Taoist reality of the Natural World. He is a third generation Missourian, and a proud son of ST. Louis. Tags: Carl Jung, Jungian, Poetry, shadow

My Sunday moring worship occurs again as I listened to your iinterview with Mr . Gates.

among the papayas and bananas
between the ginger and the orchids
my garden whispers
in a leafy voice
come to me

That was some interesting stuff here on www.onbeing.org Thanks for posting it. good luck!

Another picture for your desktop wallpaper. I wonder what's the meaning behind this feet picture?

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Voices on the Radio

is the Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at the Duke University Divinity School and the author of Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture.

Berry is a farmer, poet, and moral essayist who has published more than 40 books. He lives in Port William, Kentucky.

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