Love What Is, Find the Land You Belong To

On my way to mid-week worship yesterday, I was thinking about the state of the world and the predicament we humans have created. While in Chicago last weekend for a family wedding, I was walking briefly along the “Miracle Mile” shopping district (where our hotel was located), coming back from finding some relatively cheap stockings for my daughter Kate, since all the ones she’d brought were full of runs or ran as soon as she tried them on. The street was crowded with people going home from work, shoppers and tourists. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a bittersweet sadness, recognizing that humans are just here, doing what we do, much of it unworkable and unsustainable, some of it gorgeous, creative or just plain loving and compassionate. Mostly folks are just getting by, day to day, trying to make a go of it. What a hash we’ve made of things, and maybe, it’s just what it is, no more, no less. Perhaps, I can just be here, noticing and loving what is. I come from a long line of would be fixers, people who want it to be better; a world that is more just, more compassionate. But sometimes, as my husband says so often these days, “its just above my pay grade”. So I cried some tears, of sadness and of relief that I don’t have to, and can’t anyway, fix everything!

As I continued on my short 10 minute ride to worship with a small group of outliers, even for Quakers, I thought also of the the beautiful two wedding ceremonies of my niece and her, now, husband; one Episcopalian and the other Hindu. While I enjoyed them both, I’d never experienced a HIndu wedding before and really enjoyed participating in the surprisingly earth-based rituals and ceremony. However, I sorely missed our Quaker tradition of worshipful silence, and the opportunity to share messages of love, or stories from the lives of the couple before and after they met; meaningful, or humorous, wanting to be shared. There was, of course a little of that during the reception and dinner. Both Anna’s mother and Vikrum’s brother spoke from the heart.

 In remembering something opened up and a message came through. Something wanting to be spoken, what I would have liked to say, not just to them, but to all present:

What matters now is our relationship with Earth; as our foundation, our mother, the very ground of our being. We are all, not just metaphorically, but actually outcroppings of this planet being. Gandhi once said something to the effect of,”when you are making a decision, think of the poorest person you know, or know of, and what effect your decision will have on their life.” We must now do the same for the Earth. When we are making decisions, we must think of Earth and what effect it will have, as far as we can know, because that will effect all human life, and more so for anyone poor who is temporarily unprotected by wealth, status or geography from climate disruption, sea rise, fires, storms, floods and droughts. 

However, for most of us, it isn’t really possible to love the whole Earth, we need to love a more specific part of it. Here is where the message got very specific: “Find the land you belong to. Love it/her, bless her and she will bless you. This will make all the difference.” Belonging to, is quite different than owning. For city dwellers and people who have been impoverished, it may mean a city park, a neglected lot, or a rooftop garden. Allow yourself to be claimed by this land, tend it in whatever way you are able. Take care of what is already growing; help restore the land if nothing or little can grow there. Make a small pond, a butterfly garden, create a brush pile that will be shelter for small animals and birds. Give it your attention, when you are able. smell the dirt, the plants, what its like when it rains. Be open to receive whatever it has to give you; beauty, food, tranquility, life in all its cycles, including birth and death. Put your bare feet on it… If you don’t seem to be able to experience any of this, you might try noticing that the people or person you belong to, that you love and feel grounded in, is an outcropping of Earth; every bone and muscle made from the stuff of the Earth; minerals, chemicals, water, blood, bone, teaming with the elements that come from the Earth, teaming with a microbiome that comes from the Earth.

We have forgotten that in some very real way we belong to the Earth; we are her children, all siblings and cousins to and with all life, animal and plant alike. So finding the patch you can belong to and beginning to act like it, might, indeed, make the difference that needs to be made; that may inspire and support us to turn away from our destructive cultures and practices and most of all to create an economic system that does not exploit  not even the Earth. Impossible? Seems like it, but then so many things that seemed impossible 100, or even 50 years ago have come to be. One of the greatest arguments against ending modern-day slavery in Britain and the US was that no one could imagine how things would work economically without the unpaid labor of enslaved people. Even people who knew it was morally wrong, couldn’t image another system.

So, find the land you belong to, bless it/her and she will bless you. This will make all the difference.

The “Missing Link” to Healing Trauma and Eliminating Racism: Our Bodies

Resmaa Menakem may well have written the most important book of this era: MY GRANDMOTHERS HANDS, Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. It is primarily a manual with step-by-step healing exercises based on the latest neuroscience and somatic healing methods. These practices are also, for the most part, age-old ones that many cultures have embedded in them. What is new, is the conscious understanding of the connection between the racism perpetuated in the very structure of our society and culture and our own trauma, embedded in our bodies, past down from previous generations.

Over the last few years more and more of us are understanding trauma in our personal history as well as generational or historical trauma and that these exist in our bodies as much as our minds or psyches. In fact, trauma may exist mostly, if not entirely in our bodies. While the exact numbers or percentage of where trauma resides may not have much importance, how healing occurs is something quite different. Checkout another great book, THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE,  by Basell van der Kalk.

Some of what Resmaa Menakem has to say will come as no surprise, such as breathing techniques. Others, though surprising, at first, will seem quite natural such as humming, or gently rocking. However, understanding how our nervous systems works and how healing occurs, and most especially how all this relates to dismantling structural racism otherwise known as white supremacy, is quite remarkable, indeed, stunning.

The other remarkable thing about the book is it is written for 3 different groups, African Americans, white Americans and law enforcement officers. Each has different trauma and somewhat different  methods of healing, and the healing of each group is absolutely necessary for us to dismantle racism and white supremacy culture.

In the untitled introduction Memakem says,”If the persistence of white supremacy in 21st century America surprises you… If you are not surprised that white supremacy continues to injure America, but have no ideas or little hope… If you see white supremacy as a belief system or ideology… [keep reading]… If you are convinced that ending white supremacy begins with social and political action, do not read this book unless you are willing to be challenged. We need to begin with the healing of trauma– in dark-skinned bodies, light-skinned bodies, our neighborhoods and communities, and the law enforcement profession. Social and political actions are essential, but they need to be part of a larger strategy of healing, justice and creating room for growth in traumatized flesh-and-blood bodies.” (p ix)

As a pale-skinned person of European descent, I am finding Menakem’s matter-of-fact attitude about European historical trauma, encouraging and validating of my own intuitions and investigations. His clear and practical understandings of our bodies and how to heal them are priceless. AND, his challenge to me and us, is bold, clear and hopeful. “Throughout the United States history as a nation, white bodies have colonized, oppressed, brutalized and murdered Black and Native ones. But well before the United States began, powerful white bodies colonized, oppressed, brutalized and murdered less powerful white ones. The carnage perpetuated on Blacks and Native Americans in the New World began, on the same soil, as an adaptation of longstanding white-on-white practices. This brutalization created trauma that has yet to be healed among white bodies today.” (p 62)

Resmaa Menaken, not only teaches us how to heal our trauma individually, but also encourages us to create a new culture where trauma is less likely and healing easier. “If all this sounds daunting, it is only because the task of culture building may feel so unfamiliar. People are not often urged to build a new culture. However, white Americans–and their European forebears before them– have done it many times before. This time, however, white Americans need to create a new culture without murdering, enslaving or debasing others.” (p.265)

And this, dear ones, cannot happen without  first recognizing our personal and historical trauma and then healing it. Reading this book together and acting upon it is a good start.

Can We, Pale-skinned People of European Descent, Heal from Our Historical Trauma?

The title begs the question; do we suffer from historical trauma?

“Historial trauma has to do with collective, cumulative emotional wounding that results from cataclysmic events. These are events that don’t just target an individual, they target a whole collective community, such as forced relocation, like the Trail of Tears, that my ancestors endured. The trauma is held personally and can be transmitted over generations. So, even family members who’ve not had direct experience of the trauma, itself, can feel the effects of that event generations later.” (Katrina Waters, Director, Indigenous Wellness Research Institute)

As a woman, I feel this definition applies, first and foremost because of the millions of women killed, tortured and imprisoned, ostensibly for practicing witchcraft. But new understandings on this period, the 15th to the mid 18th century, as the time when multiple forces (mostly human), including but not limited to the Inquisition, the Black Plague, and the brutal crushing of the peasant reform movements and rebellions, were a death sentence for what remained of most of the indigenous culture/s of Europe. Part of how this was accomplished was driving a wedge between women and men, by targeting the traditional woman leaders, healers, midwives and generally assertive ones, labeling them witches and killing, torturing and imprisoning them. At the same time, what was traditionally common land, was being claimed and enclosed by the emerging rulers and bourgeoise,  paving the way for for capitalist accumulation of wealth and a new economic order that needed subservient workers.

Yes, there were indigenous cultures of Europe, cultures that were matrilineal, and matrifocal, where land was held in common and where there were the equivalent of clans and tribes. The Sami, those we call the Laplanders still exist to this day. The  speaking of Welsh, or Gaelic dialects and passing on the stories that go back into the mists of time are remnants of these cultures. In the USA, though even farther removed, the Appalachian folk we call hillbillies and those that live deep in the bayous of Louisianna or the Osarks, have managed to hold on to some of their traditions.

Unfortunately, slavery as practiced by the European colonizers and then the Americans added a further death blow to these European traditions, as whiteness was invented to keep the indentured servants divided from the enslaved Africans who had joined together and rebelled against the ruling class (see Bacon’s Rebellion). This “whiteness”, essentially the illusion of allying with the ruling class and having a few privileges that were denied enslaved people upon emancipation, came at a cost: giving up your ethnicity/culture for these paltry privileges. Each new group of Europeans that came to this land have been offered the same bargain, and each has wittingly or unwittingly accepted it, so that whatever remnants of our ethnicity that we have been able to hang onto  is inconsequential and irrelevant to the dominant culture of white supremacy.

But how did things come to this? Part of the answer, I have come to see, is the unhealed collective trauma from our European history, as delineated above.

“The effects of trauma inflicted on groups of people because of their race, creed, ethnicity [or gender] linger on in the souls of their descendants… The persistent cycle of trauma destroys family and communities and threatens the vibrancy of entire cultures.” (Historical Trauma and Cultural Healing, University of Minnesota Extension)

Of course, the above does not even count things like the 100 years War between France and England, the colonization of Ireland by England, not to mention that before revising the “New World” extracting so much of its metals and other natural resources, the European principalities accumulated wealth by stealing it from each other, or going on Crusades to the Middle East! This, begs another question: How is this different from the history of other regions and continents the world over? It may not be that different, however, Western culture and its version of global perpetual growth, extractive capitalism dominates the world and has wreaked havoc nearly everywhere, but especially here in the US. Why have things gone this way? and can understanding ourselves as victims and survivors of collective/historical trauma, help us to heal and therefor begin to repair the damage done?

Let me get personal; I have come to see, just in the last few years, that I am terrified to step up, step out and speak my mind, let alone fight for change for myself or others. Now, since I was raised in a subculture of activist Quakerism, I have done quite a lot of organizing and protesting over the course of my 66 years in this lifetime. However, I am still terrified. As I began to see the connections to the unhealed trauma of the European witch hunts, the burning times, and face the true history of whiteness and racism embedded in the history and culture of this beloved country of mine, it is clear that it is not just me.

So, let the healing begin! How? I can only look to the examples of Indigenous peoples and African Americans who are already on this journey.

“…to begin a healing process, to move forward, to reclaim traditional culture… to stop [sic] identifying ourselves as victims, to move from identifying as survivors to transcending and thriving.” (Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PHD; Historical Trauma and Unresolved Grief: Implications for Clinical Research and Practice with Indigenous Peoples pf the Americas) Dr. Yellow Horse Brave Heart goes on to list the “Four Major Intervention Components: 1. confronting Historical Trauma and embracing our history, 2. Understanding the trauma, 3. Releasing Our Pain, 4. Transcending the trauma.” (ibid)

For, us, pale-skinned folk of European descent, there are a few differences. The most obvious and important one is that we were/are on both sides of this equation, so to speak. Our ancestors were both the perpetrators and the victims. In the very specific case of the witch hunts, it was ruling class and both Catholic and Protestant male clergy perpetuating the cataclysmic harm against predominantly women, but men were also burned and persecuted. Both the Plague and the religious persecution of the so called heretics, then the witch hunts added to that created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and many women became accusers of their sisters (literally and figuratively), as well.  so even in the case of the rich hunts there is one group killing and repressing another. However, the end result is similar, except that the Indigenous cultures of Europe were even more thoroughly and completely wiped out. But, especially, here in the US, we, pale-skinned folk of European descent, participated in this destruction. so many of our ancestors fled the persecutions and horrors of Europe, only to agreed to the oppression and exploitation of enslaved Africans and the killing off of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, in exchange for the privileges of becoming “white”.

Therefore, renouncing racism and healing from our own historical trauma, must go hand in hand. We owe it to ourselves, to those to who we will be ancestors to and to our beloved kin of all races and ethnicities to make every endeavor to heal from our own collective trauma. As we do, we will allow, Beloved Community to manifest in its many and varied forms and cultural expressions, led by those who have suffered most, yet managed to hold on to and reclaim their Indigenous traditions on every continent.

For starters, read this:



The Mystery of the Missing Blue Jays

A little more than a week ago I noticed that Blue Jays are absent from our numerous winter bird feeders. We have now been caretakers of this delightful 20 acre farm which is really a nature preserve and Blue Jays are ever present, all 4 seasons of the year. They are indeed noisy and many people call them aggressive, but to my mind they are overpowering mostly because they run in packs, or fly, I should say.

Once I noticed their absence, I realized they’d been gone for months- perhaps since the middle of the fall. I began to wonder, was it the weather? The ground has literally not dried out since June. Small ponds have formed and our back lane has become largely a tiny stream- and so soggy elsewhere that we have not been able to use it for months. So I pondered, do Blue Jays not like wet weather? It hasn’t bothered the other birds who stay here year round. All the Woodpeckers, Sparrows, and Carolina Wrens, Chicadees, Nuthatches, Titmice and House Finches are mobbing the feeders, especially when it snows. We have even had Northern Flickers at the feeders- a species I had only seen ground feeding previously. But No Jays!

After mid-week Quaker Meeting for Worship this morning, I commented to those who’d hung around about the lack of Blue Jays and they confirmed my observations. We speculated what it could be that is causing their absence; disease? chemicals? loss of habitat? I wondered out loud about the weather.

When I got home, I began looking for answers first in bird books and then on the internet. All I could find, at first, was that a few Blue Jays migrate; some in large flocks, but only a respective few in over all numbers. Also the Blue Jays that migrate are inconsistent- they migrate one year and not the next… I kept digging until I found an article that again stated that Jays migrate and that there had been no studies showing why. However, there was some speculation that it may have to do with the mast years of wild nut trees, since they are largely dependent on acorns and beechnuts. Ah ha! the lightbulb went off. But, you may be asking, what is a mast year?

Another natural phenomenon that we humans (at least Western science educated ones) do not fully understand. Nut trees, especially the wild kind have years when they produce lots of nuts and other years when they produce almost none. Here is what wikipedia has to say:
Mast is the “fruit of forest trees like acorns and other nuts”. The term “mast” comes from the old English word “mæst”, meaning the nuts of forest trees that have accumulated on the ground, especially those used historically for fattening domestic pigs, and as food resources for wildlife.
Back to the Blue Jays: Ah ha! Beechnuts! It has been unbelievably wet since June, as mentioned. I had noticed as the summer progressed into fall that most of the Beech tree leaves had become transparent. They appeared to have some kind of fungus (I know that most fungi like wet.) It also appeared that this affected their ability to capture sunlight and make food for the tree. This was confirmed when there were virtually no beechnuts this fall. The lower half of our woods is almost all Oaks and Beeches. Every fall our long steep driveway is covered with beechnuts- none this year.

So, there you have it, the Blue Jays migrated because one of their main sources of food disappeared.


Does the tree forgive the woodcutter?

Does the deer forgive the hunter?

Does the mountain forgive the miner?

Can I forgive myself?


Where did I get such disdain for the common people?

those, who have been called ‘the teaming masses’

those less educated, less discerning

those that I was taught I was better than?


Can I, will I befriend myself as I recover

from end-stage Empire, endless growth, commodification

earth-destroying global market capitalism,

Western, so-called, civilization?


Really? REALY? me-‘better than’ – ha!

incest survivor, not yet healed from the childhood trauma

of a father dying and the shattering of a family…

So disdainful of myself!

Just writing this- confession, is a step

Befriending myself, and all my relations

as I learn belonging;

to earth

to Life

It may take the rest of my life, but

I can feel the third chamber of my heart

growing, responding to the call of

the Great Mother

Evoking the Energies Needed for a New Future

Will technology save us? Can you envision a future that does not include perpetual economic and industrial growth, that does not include the exploitation of humans?

In the debate about whether to abolish slavery in Britain two centuries ago, even people who recognized the evil of enslaving other human beings had a hard time imagining economic prosperity without it. English mills needed the cheap cotton picked by enslaved people in the United States (not to mention sugar, rice and all the wealth that not paying enslaved people created). Though slavery was destroying their souls, many continued to argue for the continuation of  buying and selling humans as if they were workhorses. Doubly so, here in the USA, and indeed slavery continued in this country for another 50 years. It took a very bloody war to end it as a legally justifiable practice, though, virtual slavery for African Americans continued under the convict leasing programs of the South, along with share-cropping and enforced by the terrorization of the KKK.

Currently we are now facing a seemingly unrelated, but similar situation. The Enlightenment, which lead to the many wonders of scientific discovery, technology and industrialization also produced a vision, a millennial vision, proclaiming in quite religious terms that the combination of science and industry would bring prosperity beyond imagining and freedom for all. First the Europeans and the former colonies of European countries became entranced by this vision, and it seemed to be true. More recently just about every people/nation-state has fallen under this vision’s spell. The technological advances have been mind-bogglingly swift and the growth rates of economies and the accumulation of wealth astounding.

There is just one problem (well more than one, but…) Basically we have enslaved the earth. We have made up that the earth is not a being, not alive, not sacred and that it is possible and desirable to work her harder and harder and take more and more from her, and dump more and more refuse and pollution in her water and air without end! We believe that these things will not cause us any harm because we are somehow “magically” outside of what we call nature, (which can be defined as all the processes of the earth’s functioning; sustaining and regenerating life). We deny that we are totally dependent on the earth, that in actuality we belong to earth. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that there will be some new technology/ies (think robots!) that will make it possible to go on doing so, ad infinitum.

A new vision has been emerging and many are needed to articulate it; make it accessible now, more than ever. Artists, poets, playwrights, directors street performers, musicians… are called to create the songs, poems, plays, movies, videos, TV shows, mini series, paintings, murals… to inspire confidence in this emerging vision.  In his book DREAM OF THE EARTH, Thomas Berry has this to say, “The ideal of a human habitat within a natural setting of trees and fields and flowering plants, of flowing streams and seacoasts and those living forms that swim through the waters and move over the land and fly through the air- a world of nontoxic rain and noncontaminated wells, of unpolluted seacoasts and their fertile wetlands- the ideal of a human community integral with such a setting , if properly understood with all the severity of its demands on its human occupants, would seem to be our only way into a sustainable and humanly satisfying future.

“This is, of course, a mythic vision, highly romanticized if it is taken too literally. Yet it is considerably less idealized than the wonderworld vision that supports our present industrial system. In both cases we recognize that the mythic vision is what evokes the energies needed to sustain the human effort involved.” p. 30

“We are returning to our native place after a long absence, meeting once again with our kin in the earth community. For too long we have been away somewhere, entranced with our industrial world…

“The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and glittering stars in the dark night heavens, the world of wind and rain, of meadow and flowers and flowing streams, of hickory and oak and maple and spruce and pineland forests, the world of dessert sands and prairie grasses, and within all this the eagle and hawk, the mockingbird and chickadee, the deer and the wolf and the bear, and the coyote, the raccoon, the whale and the seal, the salmon returning upstream to spawn- recently rediscovered with heightened sensitivity, is an experience not far from that of Dante meeting Beatrice at the end of Purgatorio…” or of the return of the prodigal son.

“Something of this feeling of intimacy we now experience as we recover our presence within the earth community…”  What he leaves out, is very important: the world of Indigenous peoples, the beautiful and diverse world of people of all colors, of wide-ranging and various cultures and languages and all the marvelous forms of cultural expression that make up the human family, and this human family taking its place in the Earth family, taking our place with our relatives, our kin; the four leggeds, the flyers the swimmers , the crawlers…

The above references to Dante and Beatrice, and my own referencing the prodigal son- are icons for people my age (65) or older. We need references that speak to my children and others their age and younger. This is a time of great danger, great hope and great opportunity; we need all the creativity we possess to enliven and illuminate the vision that will evoke the human and other than human energy to get us there.

Like those who made the decisions to abolish modern slavery, we are faced with a situation that seems unresolvable. How shall we live, how can we produce what we need for living without enslaving the earth, without destroying the very thing that we depend on? We humans have made this kind of enormous change before, most notably when we went from being gatherer-hunter societies to farmer-town dwellers. It is nearly impossible to imagine the immensity of that change, so looking back to the time of modern slavery and its abolition, may be helpful, at least noting that one aspect of the dilemma was quite similar, not being able to image a future that is not dependent on an obvious evil.

What we need to do, perhaps is start by acknowledging that we cannot control the situation, that is to say we do not have ultimate control. We are members of the earth community whether we act like it or not and what we do, how we treat the earth, including how we treat each other as humans has an outsized effect on the outcome. Wendall Berry says,”The earth is what we have in common, it is what we are made of and what we live from, and we cannot damage it without damaging those with whom we share it. There is an uncanny resemblance between our behavior toward each other and our behavior toward the earth. By some connection we do not recognize, the willingness to exploit the one becomes the willingness to exploit the other… It is impossible to care for each other more or differently that we care for the earth.”

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Becoming Indigenous to this Land

2016-07-18 18.32.26Some Native American Elders have been quoted as saying, “These newcomers, they still have one foot on the boat!” There has been a call from them to us, that we newcomers must learn how to be indigenous to this land. My soul has heard the call and I am making the attempt- not to mimic Native Americans, but to allow myself to be claimed by this land I own (or rather that I have the responsibility to care for). I was surprised two years ago, the first week in May, 2015, to find myself besotted with this “farm” that we’d bought from my Aunt who’d lived here for fifty years. This is now our 3rd planting season, the second, hopefully, successful full kitchen garden as well as small pockets of edibles up near the house where there is definitely a warmer micro-climate.

The first year the resident groundhog ate everything but the tomatoes! We had decided to try a small garden- not in the kitchen garden plot, but in the foundation of the old chicken coop. We naively speculated that the concrete foundation and a 3 foot high chickenwire fence would deter the groundhogs and deer. Little did we know that there was a groundhog burrow entrance  under an old stump just outside the foundation. We didn’t discover until much too late that ki had dug an entrance right up into the corner of the garden (under the tomatoes), and was eating all the newly planted seedlings; lettuce, spinach, beets, peppers and okra! The tomatoes, and arugula seemed untouched (and corn, which we unwillingly shared later on with the raccoons). Much to my dismay, David ordered a kill trap for the groundhog after our Have-a-heart trap failed to catch anything. About a week later, I found ki, quite dead, and was so distraught that I vowed we would find another way.

Since then I have trapped 3 young groundhogs and relocated them. After the first one, I found out that you are not allowed to relocate them anywhere else but your own property! Fortunately we have 20 acres, so I took kin as far away as I possibly could. Did they come back? Not to my knowledge. To make sure, by the third one, I spray painted a red splotch on kiz tail. But actually, last year we decided to use the long-time kitchen garden, and make it secure with a solar powered electric fence. We also used a hunting camera to keep track of what was getting in the garden. Only a young groundhog, and not for long! David had to adjust the lower fence wires a few times, but eventually got it right. Although there was some insect damage, and a few other problems here and there, we ate the vast majority of the things we grew, as well as sharing the bounty with friends and family.

Our woods (10 acres) are full of wild edibles, most especially ramps and berries. There are some mushrooms, Hen of the Woods (Mitake) and Lions Mane; there is also a bit of Water Cress, down by the springhouse. There are probably other things as well, but I don’t know about them yet. I have read about the concept of the honorable harvest. It is a Native American precept. To my understanding there are two parts to it. The first is respect and gratitude. You ask to be able to harvest (ramps, for instance), by giving honor in some way to kin and then you thank kin for kin’s generosity. The second part is only taking what you need, and always leaving some (the majority?), so that kin may continue to prosper and reproduce. I think of this second as never taking more than 10%, especially since there are just two of us.

This morning in Quaker Meeting for Worship, I began to wonder how honorable harvest might apply to growing your own food, as opposed to gathering from the wild. Basically we eat all of what we grow (or share it with others). There are, of course, many differences in gathering (or hunting) and farming (or gardening), but somehow, it seems to me that there must be some way to honor the plants we grow and eat. Then I remembered digging the trench for planting potatoes just a few days ago. While I was planting the  potato “eyes’, I noticed hundreds of little volunteer tomato seedlings growing in the mounds near where the Sungold Cherry Tomatoes had proliferated so wildly that we didn’t eat half of them in the end! I tenderly transported a handful of them back to the house and potted the most promising looking ones in seedling pots. We also grew more squash (much of it volunteers from the compost pile the previous year) than we could eat. I had saved the one volunteer Hubbard Squash and we just ate it two weeks ago. I put aside about half of the seeds as I was preparing to cook it, and planted several of them in seedling pots. I transplanted 4 of them outside a few days ago. Now, as I am writing this and can see the various seedlings we have yet to transfer into the garden, I notice the 5 Pole Bean sprouts that I grew also from seeds I saved.

Seed saving, it occurs to me, is a way of honoring the plants we grow and eat. If the seeds saved and sprouted, survive outside and produce, and then seeds saved from those, we will be continuing the chain of being for these plants into the future. I can’t think of a better way to honor them, and it fulfills, at least in spirit, the honorable harvest.

Living here on the land (as much as I can) and learning from the other inhabitants; birds, deer, groundhogs, trees and plants by observation as well as reading about them, all seem to be part of becoming indigenous to this land. It is a long-term project, one I expect will take the rest of my life. It would give me great joy to have someone/s to pass all this on to- but for now, it is enough just to enjoy the process and share it with whoever wants to listen.

Besotted, again!

The Wood Thrush has returned. With lyrical song ki heralds the evening and the symphony of all the birds. The Cardinal finds the tallest branch on the old pear tree and peels out kiz song, the sparrows, Titmice and Carolina Wren’s all join in. At a distance the the Barred Owl’s “whoo, whoo, who, whoo whoo whoo–aw” brings a smile to my lips. If you listen very closely you can also hear the Spring Peepers a half mile away, down by Chester Creek. The Lilacs  delicately sent the air and  underneath that, if you have a discerning nose, you can smell the Wisteria. The 100 year old vine that climbed up the Shagbark Hickory and now is 100 feet high!

The ramps are just about passing their peak; thousands in the woods. The watercress down by the old springhouse is a foot tall and begging to be picked. The 50 year old rhubarb is coming into maturity, ready to be made into my new favorite, Blueberry Rhubarb compote with just a little bit of maple syrup to sweeten it. The small salad garden just out the kitchen door had enough baby greens in it for our dinner tonight. We have had 3 or 4 meals from our 2nd year Asparagus; time to give it a break.

This evening, after the heat of the day had passed on and a sweet little breeze began to cool things off,  we began planting in earnest. By the time it was too dark to work anymore we had dug an trench and put in 20 potatoes, added about 20 more asparagus roots and planted our first round of corn seedlings. While digging the trench for the potatoes, I found a lot of volunteer Sungold cherry tomato seedlings from last year. I tenderly replanted  9 of them in seed pots, hoping a few will survive and produce that delightful sweetness again this year.

I grew some Hubbard seedlings from seeds I saved and 3 are now in the ground, next to the Cherokee Purple tomato plant I couldn’t resist buying from the local Agway store yesterday. We’ve got Okra seedlings waiting to be planted and tons of tomatoes of various heirloom varieties, waiting to be a little bigger before they go into the ground. The Rosemary, Sage and Tarragon all survived the winter in pots in our little micro climate near the house where the West-facing porch makes an L with the South-facing exterior wall of the old part of the farmhouse. The Oregano came up again and the Marjoram also survived the winter in the micro climate; Cilantro and Dill are going strong. The Sugar- snap and Snow peas are moseying along, slow but steady.

I am blessed, indeed. with this little patch of heaven. Makes me want to sing, “so, somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

Can There Be Light Without Dark?

Although I was raised in the predominantly Christian USA culture of the 1950s & 60s, my Quaker family didn’t identify as such. I was told at a tender young age that Jesus was our most important teacher, but not the incarnation of God. Never the less, we celebrated Christmas with our own special kind of abandon. Thus, I have always loved this time of year, while also becoming increasingly alarmed at its commercialization. Although some rail against the secularization of this religious holiday, I don’t mind- because I have come to know, to experience more consciously  what this season is really about, at least for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere of our home, Earth. Much of ‘how’ we celebrate Christmas dates back to before Christianity was the dominant religion of Europe. It is essentially a pre-Christian holiday of the season, the winter solstice. It celebrates the divine darkness, the resting, the waiting and the hope that, once again the light will return. How odd we humans are, celebrating the light in the dark!

Take the origin of the wreathe. It was a tradition to spend the weeks before the solstice (the shortest day of the year, or when the sun turns the corner, heading us back towards summer) in prayer, supplication and preparation for the celebration of the sun’s return. So people removed one of the wheels from their cart (the major form of work transport), decorated it and hung it on their door. As you can imagine, this slowed things down a bit. Work was not impossible, but mostly just the essentials got done, it would seem. In todays world what wold that look like? Decorating our smart phones and hanging them up, letting their charge run down?

The ‘Christmas’ tree, bringing greens into the house to decorate, caroling and feasting are all from pre-Christian times! What I have found increasingly wonderful is how the Advent and Christmas practices fit so well with these older traditions. In fact, it is no longer a secret that the actual birth date of the person Jesus was never recorded and that it was the medieval Catholic  Church that chose this  time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ in order to supplant the persistent ‘pagan’ practices of celebrating the winter solstice.

So I don’t mind why you celebrate this time of year, or whether you are a Christian or not. But I hope you do find ways to genuinely celebrate. I do hope that you are more aware of the actual season; more aware of the dark, the moon phases, the glittering stars… even the lights, the marvelous lit up houses and lawns! May your gift giving bring you joy, if that’s how you celebrate. May you rekindle friendships and family ties. May you sing together and feast together. May you sense the light returning, both physically and internally. May the image of the mother and baby kindle compassion and remind you of the deep love that is possible between all beings. And may you fall asleep on Christmas eve, longing for things to be right for everyone, everywhere, with all your heart- knowing that your heart will be broken the next morning, yet longing still.

Happy Solstice! Merry Christmas! And may justice and mercy reign!

How, Then, Shall We Live, In These Bleak Times?


All you thought you knew.
Stand your ground.
Build a new chamber of your heart.
“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

Wait, impatiently, if necessary.
Listen for guidance from within.
Listen again,
Wait expectantly for the Inner Teacher
to light your way.

Do something, anything:
Make a donation.
Join a cause,
Make a new friend,
one that makes you uncomfortable.
fail better.

Love yourself.
Build community-everywhere you go.
Watch for the Kin-dom,
notice where kindness shows up.
Ride on public transportation.
Give someone else your seat.
Take the seat offered you.

March, vote, cry, laugh
Love, love some more.
Hold someone’s hand.
Ask to be held.

Grow vegetables
Eat less, dance more.
Tell your friends you love them.
Love your neighbors
Need each other.

Let love flow through you
not from you
when the channel is open
Pray for this openness
for the love to flow even when there is no liking
those known
as enemies

Protect those you can.
Grow this capacity
be a sanctuary
build sanctuaries for
Muslims and Mexicans,
Indians, renegade cowboys
those wounded
those wounded by killing
Let them breathe.


Start locally
build on what’s already there
build on capacities not seen before
make it easy to be good
Build up more than you tear down.

the arc of justice is long
longer than you think
and it bends toward justice.
Do justice.
Walk humbly.
Love mercy.

Surely, surely
goodness and mercy
will follow.