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.” http://www.metrolyrics.com/something-good-maria-and-the-captain-lyrics-the-sound-of-music.html

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?

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Surrender
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,
deeper
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
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
Veterans
those wounded
those wounded by killing
Let them breathe.

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.

Remember
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.

Come, Enter Expectantly into the Darkness

Come,  come all you who are weary and frightened,

come into the darkness

enter,

all who seek wholeness.

in this dark time

We feel the chill and danger–the bleakness of our world

as illusions crumble.

The dance of life seems to have led us 10 steps backward

the way forward obscured

the possibility of dancing at all called into question.

Come, come willingly into the darkness,

not the darkness of despair,

the darkness of the seeds waiting underground

the darkness of the earth’s womb.

Come, wait awhile, come rest awhile

allow  yourself to be bewildered

together.

Enter the darkness expectantly

hoping to be shown a way where there is no way

something new,  not yet born

allow yourself to receive the blessings of darkness

rest, comfort, solace

be prepared for the unexpected, unanticipated, unknowable…

Come, into the darkness

so we may bless one another

calling each other to ripeness

May our rage and grief

bodies bent over

be transformed into

kneeling

readiness to receive

as Mary did

the favored status of fire in our belly

Blessed be the warriors of love!

What comes next is beyond imagining

prolonged arduous, communal labor

birthing a more perfect union

a better failure

a confereation of peoples

a comonwealth of neighborhoods

a more perfect revelation of the Kin-dom.

Come, dear ones,

Enter expectantly into the darkness.

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The Grieving Hunter

A Vietnam Vet with a prosthetic left leg from the knee down, Jim, in his 70’s  is usually quite jovial. A non-stop talker in the presense of other humans, he sits for hours in his tree stands waiting and watching for deer. When I first bought the farm, really a 20 acre nature preserve, he left his business card and a note saying he hoped he could still hunt this property as he had for the last 20 years. I imagined a scrawny little white man with a red neck, who shot innocent deer with a rifle. However, since I had bought the farm from my favorite Aunt, and he claimed to have been hunting here for years, I thought I’d at least meet him.

Much to my surprise, Jim was  a tall, well built  white man with a neatly trimmed white beard- AND he was and is a bow hunter. He used a bow. Now it turns out he also hunts with a rifle other places, and he is also fond of hunting with old fashioned muskets. Being a Quaker, I would never allow guns on my property- not even muskets. 2016-01-29 17.08.25Although we have 20 acres, we are bordered on all sides by homes that have much less property and several of them have small children. Bullets that miss their mark can travel for nearly a mile! they can also ricochet. Since deer are not endangered and to be homest are somewhat of a nuisance to vegetable gardens and shruberry, I decided to let him contnue to hunt from time to time during the season.

Last year, my husband decided that he wanted to bow hunt also. Jim taught him some about it and profferred advice, but other than buying the equipment and practicing, my darling husband has never actually hunted. Jim offered to give us the entire first deer that he successfully hunted. We agreed thinking that he would get at least two. He only managed to get one on our property (though he got several on his own property up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and on a hunting trip to Texas.)

Although I felt bad that he only got one on our property and we got all the venison, I have enjoyed eating it all year long and sharing venison with many friends. I occasionally buy local chicken, but I have rarely bought any other meat the whole year. Not only have I enjoyed eating the actual venison, but I have quite enjoyed eating meals that came entirely from our own property.

The ohter day I arrived at the farm to see Jim’s red van parked in front of the farmhouse. A sure sign that he was hunting. A few hours later his granndson showed up, so I assumed he found his mark. But a few more hours went by before I heard a knock on the door. Jim said he’d shot a nice-sized buck and had waited the prerequisite time before tracking it down by following the blood trail (which is how its done), but was not able to find the deer. He was in quite a bit of distress. He had called his grandson to come and help, but he had also been unable to find it. This also made me feel quite sad and upset.

Today, Jim came by not dressed for hunting. He told the whole story again and then pronounced that he would not hunt on our property again this season, indicating that it was a self-imposed rule of his. It was clear that he felt terrible about the whole incident, especially about causing undue suffering. This was not my image of a deer hunter. He also brought us several pounds of venison from his most recent hunt in the Endless Mountains. The whole thing has touched and moved me in ways I can barely understand. He is so much more of a mensch than I had been able to acknowledge before. What comes to mind is the image of a Native American warrior/hunter, who loves the land, the woods and trees and foxes he sees as he sits and waits… who loves the very deer that he hunts, perhaps even as much as I do.

The Gospel of the Givers and Takers

images-6Once and always there was the Light, and since that is all there was, it was as if all was darkness. The Light that is also Not- Light is in the depths of all that is. What we call light in this realm is but a mere shadow of that.  This Light that was also darkness, is pure potentiality, pure love, all possibility and endless regenerative energy. What we call energy in this realm is a mere shadow of that.

When the universe was evoked from the Light that is also Not-Light, a great flaring forth occurred, an outpouring that was also an in-pouring, and an enormous explosion of energy came into being.  Indeed in that instant all the energy that exists in this realm, in this event we call the universe, was created, and no new energy has since been created. It has seemed as if this energy is endless because the universe is so vast, vast beyond all human imagining.

For the longest time, an eternity of time, the energy coalesced here, and then there until eventually atoms formed, then molecules then clouds of molecules, then stars and galaxies were born,  as some are still so doing. Some stars grew and grew, burning more and more brightly until within them new versions of energy were formed, new combinations of atoms became molecules never before seen. Heavy with new possibility, these giant stars exploded in firey self-sacrifice, the dissolution of themselves allowing new forms to come into existence.  The giant stars exploded and the dust full of these new forms gradually coalesced to form planetary systems revolving around new stars.  This, seemingly violent expansion followed by contraction, happened and is still happening, as new stars and planetary systems form.

Our very own Earth and our star, we call the Sun, were formed thus. For eons our Earth was a piece of molten rock, slowly cooling as it circled endlessly round the Sun, and as it did so something new came into existence, a new combination of atoms formed water and it rained for a million years, helping to cool the planet.  All the water that came into existence on Earth then is all there is, no new water has been created since.

Many eons after that, what we call life came into being. One way of distinguishing life from the other form of being is that up until that instant there had been creating and giving, and now there was taking and reproduction. What we call life was able to take the energy of others, freely given or not, and use it to create more of itself.  Thus the Givers and the Takers came into existence. Before that moment only Givers existed, those beings were all that was. Now there were two kinds, Givers and Takers were created both as different, though still part of the all.

It is the nature of all that is, that when something new comes into existence it grows out of what was, so that it has what was, buried within it.  Thus all that came into existence, all the Givers have what can be called a forth dimension, an interiority that is connected to the Light that is also darkness, pure potentiality, pure love, and all possibility… and likewise deep within the Takers, in their hearts lies a Giver, the impulse to love and give, to share their very essence without gain for themselves. Deeper, still, lies the forth dimension, an interiority that connects to the infinite energy, pure love and all possibility of the Light that is also Not-Light.

Our Sun, for instance, is a Giver.  Givers are not capable of any action but giving. They have the potential of creating, but completely linked to the dissolution of their very being. Our Sun burns 4 million tons of itself every second, creating heat and light and sending it out, bestowing it indiscriminately.  All the energy that fuels life on Earth comes directly or indirectly from the Sun, this gorgeous burning generosity, this brilliant self-sacrificing being around whom we orbit.

What we call life, the Takers- yes even plants, captures energy, ingests it and makes more of itself, grows bigger and reproduces other beings that are more of itself. Plants first invented the capacity to do this by directly capturing the photons the Sun creates and sends out.  Animals then invented the capacity to eat plants and/or other animals to get the energy stored there to grow and to procreate. It is the very nature of what we call life to do so.  It is a curious thing that built into life, Takers, is the capacity to create something new and different, at least, slightly different from themselves, most often as a response to something outside of themselves, such as a change in the environment, but also in response to radiation altering something on the genetic level. However, even more astonishing, Takers also have the capacity to respond on the very deepest level, to grow, change, evolve toward greater complexity, diversity and a greater capacity for awareness and self awareness or what is called consciousness, which appears to come both directly and indirectly from the fourth dimension, the interiority that all beings have, the direct connection to the infinite Light and energy that is the ground of all being. It is as if a desire was placed in the very heart, of Takers to give back all that we take and then some. This is the desire to be more like a Giver, and an attempt to be more like the Source from which all is evoked.

Thus, we, who are takers live in the middle of a paradox; we must take in order to live, we must take in order to reproduce, and deep inside of us lives a giver, who gives freely, who can do none other than give. Deeper still, in the interiority that connects us to Source, the realm of all possibility, we experience the pain of taking, along with the joy of giving, knowing beyond words that the creativity we are able to express into the world comes from this very joy and pain commingled! Thus we come to understand in our depths that the circle of Life contains both death and birth, taking and giving and also requires a Holy balance of these that we can only accomplish by returning again and again to Source.

So be it.

The Kin-dom Is Here, Now

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Gradually, yet consistently and persistently, I have come to experience that the world we, humans, have been trying to build, or re-capture, or co-create; the Eden we have felt cast out of, exists now, has existed from the beginning and will continue to exist. We cannot build it, we cannot actually destroy it either. It is the only real realm that exists. The realms/societies/empires that we have created are illusory, though real in their capacity to cause unnecessary pain and suffering* and the destruction of the physical matrix of life as we know it, here on Earth.

What we can and have done is conceal or reveal this Kin-dom, by the actions we take and even the thoughts we have. Day by day, minute by minute, we do things that either reveal this reality or conceal it. I suppose there is a third thing, or way of describing what we do or can do and that is that we can witness the concealment or the revelation. (Currently the BLACK LIVES MATTER and the Movement for Black Lives are witnessing, strongly, to what is concealing the Kin-dom**, e.g. police brutality, mass incarceration and persistent white supremacy in all its hidden and blatant forms.) Perhaps it is important to say that this can also be described as: we can notice, discover, uncover, elicit, recognize, acknowledge, or invite the Kin-dom. Can we evoke it? or even provoke it? We can cover it over, bury, hide, and deny it. We can witness to its being covered over, hidden and denied. But it is here, now, and can be neither created nor destroyed.

But what then of human creativity? Are we not, as some have proclaimed, co-creators, with the Divine, of this new Eden? Are we not called, as many Quakers say, to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth? Are we not longing to build the Beloved Community?*** Humans are, by our nature, creative. In fact, I would say that even more than language, it is our creativity, that defines us as human. In the Old Testament, God says, “Let us make man[sic] in our image”; it is our creativity that is most god-like. Often the very best artists, and even scientists when asked to describe their creativity, or the creative process, say something like, “I get out of the way and allow it to come through me.” Or as sculptors have been known to say, “I am taking away the wood or stone, and revealing what is already there, or what wants to be known…” Perhaps, then, our most true creativity comes through us, more than from us. Though, to be sure , it would not happen at all were we not present.

Yes, that may just be it! Our presence is necessary for the creativity of the Divine to manifest in the particular human aspect of Life. Are we present? Are we present to the Kin-dom in us and among us? Are we present to G!d?

We are fond of the concept of cause and effect, as a species. This causes that. It is especially gratifying when we seem to notice that what we are doing causes an effect that we desire. There is, I have come to believe, something much more subtle happening most of the time; co-arising is likely happening much more than we are aware of or maybe even are capable of being aware of. Co-arising is when two things are some how connected so that they both happen, neither actually causes the other, but there is a relationship. This could be described as the two things evoking each other, or each eliciting the coming forth of the other. Mysterious, but probably more accurate than the cause and effect we are so fond of.

This is very exciting to me because I am such a fixer and because I feel so responsible for everything. (Grandiosity, c0-denpence?) I mostly forget to let G!d do what G?d does, and then just do my part. It is freeing to recognize that the “heaven on earth” that I thought I was supposed to be creating doesn’t need to be created! Because it already exists. This doesn’t mean there is nothing for me to do, or nothing for anyone else to do, though.

Not long ago, in morning meditation/prayer a powerful image came to me. The realm of G!d can be described as an Ocean of Light. It is what we live and breath and have our life in, though most of the time we are unaware of it, not present to it. Human culture, what is often referred to as ‘world’ or ‘flesh’ in the Bible is like a gi-normous oil spill spread out over parts of this Ocean of Light. So, although the Ocean of Light is the only true reality, and the cultures/societies/civilizations we have created are merely the thinnest veneer on top of it, this “oil spill” does have some substance. Our job is to clean up the oil spill so the ocean of light can be seen and known. It is, of course, never one person’s job to clean up the whole schlemiel (mess). If we listen and pay attention we will hear/notice what part of it is ours to clean up, get rid of or transform.

The vision had another aspect: The oil slick has the capacity to make whirlpools, from small ones to large ones to devastating ones such as war, causing much pain, suffering, death and destruction.* These whirlpools are the ultimate concealers of the Kin-dom! But when someone gets sucked into a whirlpool, dragged down and under, especially to the point of death, or wishing for death, the whirlpool can actually be a way into the Ocean of Light. One can be sucked down so deep, so forcefully, as to be free and clear of the oil slick altogether and resurface, as if reborn! Those who have experienced a whirlpool and survived being sucked down, those who get clear of the oil slick and are bathed in the Ocean of Light have important stories to share, stories that may help us understand our own experiences from a new perspective, and that can contribute to the transformation of our lives to be in harmony with the Kin-dom. [Two such are Malala and Elizabeth Smart- both young women who have written books of their experiences. I also find people’s recounting of their near-death, or returned from death experiences to be enormously encouraging and helpful.]

That the Kin-dom is here, now, is deeply challenging to how I have lived my life and to how I have understood  who I am and what I am to do. When I first received this message, it was so startling, that I could tell it was not something I had thought up, but is actually a message coming through me. Being aware that no one person has the Truth, with a capital T, I ,nonetheless, have felt compelled to share this piece of the Truth. I have spent time looking at all the references to Jesus’ proclamations in the New Testament regarding the Kingdom. He says several times that the Kingdom of God/Heaven is near, or at hand. How this can be interpreted is interesting, and, I suspect, unduly influenced by incomprehension, as well as disbelief. Of course, Jesus also said the Kingdom of God is within you. My impression is that the fact that the Greek word used for within also has the connotation of among, is no mistake.  And last but not least, Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.”

Therefore, seek, first, the Kin-dom! How might this change how you see yourself? What you do in the world? Where do you see the Kin-dom operating as you go about your daily life? How can you be more consistently uncovering it, revealing it, pointing it out? How can you join in the witnessing of its concealment, covering over and denial?

 

* By using the phrase, or phrases above that contain “unnecessary pain, suffering and destruction”, I am referencing the perspective that there is necessary pain, suffering and destruction. I would put the fact that everything we call life, including trees and other pants takes other things and beings and transforms them into more of itself. This does cause the destruction of those other things/beings, and often causes pain and suffering as well. As far as I can know, this is unalterable and therefore necessary. Human-made systems, societies, economies, on up to empires cause more, or less destruction, pain and suffering, which can be altered, so is technically not necessary.

** I prefer Kin-dom to Kingdom because G!d as a ruler over us is less true of my experience, which is of G!d at the center, more like a parent that a monarch. It is very similar to the word Kingdom, but implies that we are all related, we are all kin.

*** Beloved Community can be interchanged with the word Kin-dom, but for me implies the human community, whereas Kin-dom is, for me, all of creation; two-leggeds, four-leggeds, wingeds, tree and plants beings and the innumerable other life forms we live in relation to and with.

The Gang’s All Here

The migrating birds have arrived: ruby-throated humming birds, orioles, gold finches and scarlet tanagers. Added to the resident bluebirds, cardinals, various woodpeckers and wrens, the array of colors and songs is almost too much. I am definitely bedazzled, sitting sometimes for over an hour entranced. A plumber came by to check out why the water pressure is so low at the kitchen sink. Seeing my four bird feeders, he enthusiastically told me about the pileated woodpeckers that come to his suet feeder, and then got a wistful look in his eyes as he stated that he’s amazed at the hours he can spend watching birds. Yes…

I haven’t seen any sign of the foxes for over a week, but the chipmunks running under my feet, around the corner and back to their borrow with cheeks full of birdseed that the birds spill out of the feeders keep me entertained while I type. I haven’t seen any sign of the groundhogs either, but the grass is so tall in the pasture, that I might not be able to see them when they come out to graze.

I have noticed some scat of a larger carnivore, three times in the past few days. Could it be a coyote? I looked up coyotes in PA and found an interesting article that claims there are coyotes in every county in the state; 30 thousand altogether! It also claimed that  11 thousand are killed each year by hunters! Who knew? The article also claimed that coyotes are very elusive and only come out at night.  It has freaked me out, just a little. One coyote wouldn’t be a problem, but what if there was a pack of them?!

Last night at 4:00 AM I was startled awake by a loud noise seeming to come from the porch. Sure that it was an animal, I grabbed the flashlight and crept down the stairs, heart racing. When I peered out the window from the dining room onto the porch, I couldn’t see anything. Then there was more crashing noises coming from over by the kitchen window. When I shined the light out that way, there it was, the masked thief- a large raccoon! It had rolled a large tin can (about 12″x12″) that was full of sunflower seeds and tightly lidded, out between the old well and the lilac, right where the hose is coiled and was trying to get it open! Ki disappeared before I could get to the door.

I knew there were raccoons around but had never seen one. Last summer, it seemed apparent that raccoons were enjoying our sweet corn (and leaving us a few ears), but we never saw them. Some friends had spent the night last May, during the time that we were trying to catch the groundhog who was eating everything but the tomatoes and corn. We had set a humane trap bated with an apple hoping to catch ki, but then left before our friends arrived to go in town. The next morning they reported that a juvenile raccoon had been caught and we asked them to set it free- which they did. It took me a while to get back to sleep afterwards, but some of that may have been the moon. though only 3/4 full it was so bright shining in onto my bed, that my hand held up made a definite shadow.

Becoming Indigenous to the Land

How do we become indigenous to the land?

“After all these generations since Columbus, some of the wisest of Native American elders still puzzle over the people who came to our shores. They look at the toll on the land and say, ‘The problem with these new people is that they don’t have both feet on the shore. One is still on the boat. They don’t seem to know whether they are staying or not.’ This same observation is heard from some contemporary scholars who see in the social pathologies and relentless material culture the fruit of homelessness, a rootless past. America has been called the home of second chances. For the sake of the people and the land, the urgent work of the Second Man [European settlers] may be to set aside the ways of the colonist and become indigenous to place. But can Americans, as a nation of immigrants, learn to live as if we were staying? With both feet on the shore?

“What happens when we truly become native to a place, when we finally make a home? ”  Robin Wall Kimmerer, BRAIDING SWEETGRASS, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (kindle edition)  pp 206-7

This passage, and, indeed, the whole book, BRAIDING SWEETGRASS, has helped me understand what I am being called to do, here on Back forty Farm. I am to become indigenous to this place, to make the attempt as best  I am able, and to share my experience of doing so both in my writing and physically with others. This is not a quick process- in fact, quickness is no longer something to be aspired to. This will take the rest of my life, if I live another 20-25 years! This will require hours of observation, patience and faith. It requires the study of permaculture, trying things and then actually noticing what works best on this particular patch of heaven. Observation, endurance, patience… working with the other indigenous animals and plants whose home this is. It doesn’t mean having no impact, or leaving the land solely in its natural state- but it does mean learning from those that already inhabit this place.

One thing that seems much clearer to me than ever before, is the Native Americans perspective that humans are the younger sibling to all other species on earth. The other animals are our older siblings from whom we have much to learn. And the plants- the plants are our elders; we have so very much to learn from them. Just think, plants can take sunlight and turn it into sugars to nourish themselves, and in the process they nourish all the rest of us! Every vegetable we eat has done this! Every animal we eat has eaten plants, or eaten insects that eat plants. There is no human food without plants! Of course the pants also depend upon the earth, the soil, the minerals that come from rocks. They also need the rain, the water that circulates everywhere on this planet in order to survive, just as we do.

A few months back, I had an experience that startled me. I had the distinct sensation that I had been claimed by this land and a deep love welled up in me. It felt like the kind of love that has no bounds, the kind that happens when it is in response to being loved- not for anything I have done, just for who I am. Where did this come from? It is mysterious- but more real than almost anything else I have experienced. Now that I have read BRAIDING SWEETGRASS, and begun to understand what I am being called to do, this experience makes more sense.

The challenge is, now, how to do it. I know that I am not supposed to do this alone.Always when I have asked for guidance from G!d, Holy Mystery, I have been told time and again to never attempt to do things alone. As if I could! And yet, I fail to remember this way too often. Here on the farm, I never feel alone, I am constantly accompanied by what we call nature- the other inhabitants of this place, and even the land itself. But I also have a sense that there there are other humans that I am to do this with. I have faith that they will show up, or that I will be able to recognize them over time.