Saturday, February 8, 2014

A New Season, A New Cycle 'Round the Year

Welcome Back! I am grateful to be ready for another year of blogging! This will be my first full growing season, so there will be lots to learn. I will pass on some lessons to help me track my learning and hopefully offer some inspiration and information to anyone who is interested in home gardening and practices of self-sustainability...and anyone who wants to know about my life here at the Homestead :) Just a quick reminder since it's been a while: this blog is *usually* categorized into sections according to different kinds of bees that help keep a colony alive. As Melissa ~ Honey Bee, these categories feel very relevant to some of the elements that compose my world. Thanks for stopping by!

* Gatherer Bees * 
For savorers of the sweet stuff - the sticky, juicy nectar of inspiration 

I care for you and you care for me
Cry Out in Your Weakness 

A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth.

A courageous man went and rescued the bear.
There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save
anyone who cries out. Like Mercy itself,
they run toward the screaming.

And they can’t be bought off.
If you were to ask one of those, “Why did you come
so quickly?” He or she would say, “Because I heard
your helplessness.”

Where lowland is,
that’s where water goes. All medicine wants
is pain to cure.

And don’t just ask for one mercy.
Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.
Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton
of consolations, so you can hear the sphere-music. . . .

Give your weakness
to One Who Helps.

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.

Just a little beginning-whimper,
and she’s there.

God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.

Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of Loving flow into you.

The hard rain and wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.

Be patient.
Respond to every call
that excites your spirit.

Ignore those that make you fearful
and sad, that degrade you
back toward disease and death.
~ Rumi

* Drones * 
For lovers -  reflections on subjects of life sustenance and creation 
Many members of our household and friend community have begun reading Charles Eisenstein's new book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. It is something I recommend so deeply that it barely occurs to me to try to describe what it is about. So I'll just jump into my reflections. The piece that is standing out to me right now is about inhabiting your life from the inside of it, as opposed to being driven by outside ideals of what you should be. "The transition we are entering is a transition to a story in which contempt and smugness no longer have a home. It is a story in which we cannot se ourselves as better than any other human being. It is a story in which we no longer use fear or self-contempt to drive our ethics. And we will inhabit this story not in aspiration to an ideal of virtuous nonjudgement, forgiveness, etc., but in sober recognition of the truth of non-separation." I will paraphrase some of the ideas that have previously given context to this story. This new story is one that recognizes all beings that seem separate and individually working for self-benefit, as deeply connected nodes in a much larger Interbeing. Therefore, to help ourselves, we do not need to dominate and war against other parts of ourselves. Non-war is a new way of acting as whole group of people, as creatures who interact with plants, insects, land and animals from whom we receive our needs, and as microcosms of this universe within our own "selves." This perspective stands out a lot to me because I have been quite driven in the work of self-improvement for many years. Sometimes I truly benefit from the practices that I implement in my schedule or my daily routine. I have been noticing recently, though, a sense of fracture between myself and the ideals of what I expect from myself. Because of that split, no matter how "good" I do, I have a very hard time really enjoying the fruit of my work as myself; as long as there is a separation between the "task driver" and "me," creating a situation where some "part of me" is doing work on the rest of me, the two me-s are not combined, and one of them always feels alienated, whether in work or rest. I want to cease the war against myself, in which I am trying to dominate, domesticate, and train the soil and the native peoples of my natural self to become what the higher, more educated invaders *think* they know is best. Does that story sound familiar? It echoes and perpetuates on many other wild and beautiful frontiers than merely the colonized continents of our planet. What possibilities does the new story provide? That the chooser of my actions and the receiver of their consequences could be one, could be me, and that I, in my wholeness, may be present throughout the phases of my experience.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1|1 

* Worker Bees * 
For do-ers and make-ers - tips and tidbits from handy skills I've learned
Because of our great indoor lamp system, and our need to get a soon start on things for the first season of our very own Homestead Community Supported Agriculture Farm, we have started the first seedlings of the season!
  Starting with some members of the Brasica family: Kale, broccoli, and cabbage. For good garden-keeping notes, keep track of what varieties you are planting, how many, and when. 
 Moisten the soil that you are starting with so that it is damp to begin with. Preferably, it should be light and airy, so that the seedlings can poke their way through  as they germinate.
 Fill plastic starter trays, packing the soil so it is even across the top, to prevent water from pooling.

 If possible, use a mister to water the seedlings, so as not to disrupt the soil. When you begin to see water pooling on the surface of the square you are working on, move on; this allows the water a chance to seep into the whole capsule.
 Our lighting beds are on a timer from 6am -6pm 

 After just four days these little guys are ready to stick out their faces and see the world! 

More to come...much more! 

* Queen Bee *
All About Me - news from the goings on in my life
I am now a newly-hatched twenty-two year old! I feel like my 11 or 13 year old self, or even my 16 year old self, who looked up to people such as 22-year-olds with such longing and admiration, would be proud and amazed to be me right now. Indeed, I have the makings of quite a beautiful creation right now, a beautiful creation of my life. All the pieces are present, and anyone looking in may say it is already fully in order! For me, I am ready for my soul to flow through these pieces, breathing life and giving strength to my circulation, uniting the fragments and believing in my wholeness. The external blessings in my life are larger expressions of the beauty that I know is present inside of me. However, I have known it like something I discussed in school once - I want it to hold that beauty close, to ingest the light of my me-ness and let it permeate all of me; I want to inhabit myself and believe in my aliveness, and the worthiness of each moment in which I am here, being. Whatever journeys I have been on to get me to this moment, I thank them. I imagine my soul right now as the staff of Moses, the one that is so animately alive that it may become a snake! I reach for that staff and feel the smooth, soft, solid wood in my hand. It is a perfect hight for me; it comes to my shoulder and maybe a little more. It has markings on it that are so intricate and so mysteriously enthralling that if you were to begin to run your fingers over their indentations, following the spirals in and in as they rivet like streams through the canyons of the wooded grains, into the heart of her Tree-Essence, you would surely find yourself on a journey of the kind you once dreamed about, staring out screen mesh windows of your childhood bedrooms, kept awake by moonlight and your unbearably urgent longings for adventure. This is my traveling staff, this is my soul. And when this Tree turns to Snake, she is alive, and she follows ancient knowings, and I do not know where she leads, but I always end up where I belong. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dare I Say It?

roomies on the beach

It has been nearly a month since I have blogged, and I feel grateful for the way this opening has, finally, gracefully made its way into my capability. Although I have been silent in terms of expression of the thoughts, reflections, and activities that have been taking place in my life, my mind has certainly not been so still- in short, my internal dialog has not been so inactive as my blog. The past few weeks have brought waves of new understanding to me, and quite honestly, I have had a hard time processing all of the newness, even when that newness is largely comprised of changes that I consider to be positive. I will address a few of these areas of "newness", briefly.

I live in a household that values the potential of each person to be genius. Genius in their creativity, their gifts and contributions, the positive impact that each person can make in a larger group by simply being themselves and working in a conscious way with those around them. From this perspective, living in an intentional household is a way of practicing what it is like to live as an organism comprised of many parts. Like clusters of mushrooms, colonies of ants, beehives, what may seem to be an individual is actually a complexly connected aspect of the entire living cooperative. As we become aware of the ways that we affect each other and open to the possibilities of how we can use this phenomenon to bring out the best in each other, we actively gain power on an individual and collective basis. A huge part of this change has taken place even within the last week, after spending a whole day within a three-day retreat as a household, holding open discussions with each other. What came out of our conversations was "practical" and "productive" on multiple levels. Yes, we created a list of action items to be accomplished, which we have already started work on (things such as garden planning for the next season, aesthetics-boosting in the household, committee meetings for upcoming projects, preparations for future potential roommates...). On another level, what most of us have found just as much, if not more powerfully effective is the consciousness of communication and personal care that we came away with. One at a time, in different ways, the people I am surrounded by, including myself, opened up in ways that felt vulnerable. Ways we felt unappreciated in daily interactions, bullied by popular beliefs and assumptions, afraid of the darker side of our personal internal experiences- all of these were brought carefully into the safety of our willingness to listen, and to speak from a place of authenticity. The resulting conversations brought about deep experiences of connection to each other, as humans and as friends (not to mention as community members, project companions, and housemates). It opened us to a healing level of care, awareness, and acceptance that has continued to unfurl its blessings as we begin to apply our revelations to our daily choices.
my other family
getting to know you
In another arena, I have been exploring relationships not only in a communal setting, but also in a partnership setting, through a dating relationship. Again, I have witnessed the healing and unfolding affects of interacting with a person in a way that does not guard against failures and inadequacies, but rather, tries to accept them (and move towards being one's best self). To be loved and accepted even in what feels to be an incomplete form of my personal development truly takes practice.  I recognize this reality even more clearly when I see it the other way around- when someone else is feeling the same way; all of these aspects of life take practice! They do not simply come naturally, especially when they really emerge from a paradigm that has long been discounted, dismissed, or ignored altogether. From my perspective, the "new" paradigm I am talking about is one of liberation. In this paradigm (worldview, philosophical framework underlying theories and methodologies of how something should be done), individuals are liberated to experience themselves as fully as possible, in all of the aspects of his/her existence, including the communal ways they are connected to other individuals. This liberation comes from acceptance, compassion, education, and creativity, all based on foundations of health that come from a large, interlocking base of support (including how we feed and use our bodies, how we interact with our minds, and the power of our own will, especially in what we say). Each of those characteristics (acceptance, compassion, education, and creativity) could (and should) be more widely expounded on. But I am getting to that wordy, tired stage, so I need to wrap this up...

As I mentioned earlier, I have honestly become overwhelmed in response to both the communal and personal levels of unfolding that have been taking place for me. For the majority of my life thus far, I have practiced patterns within mental systems that I use to cope with my world. One of the things I experienced this week was the sensation of feeling emotional stress in my physical body- not just the emotional stress of one moment, but the built up effects of years of concentrated trauma to the nervous system. These patterns have resulted in an experience of myself as a person who lives with a lot of nervousness, anxiety, and over-analyzing in nearly every kind of situation. Many people who have known me may perhaps not recognize those descriptions of me, but they are ways I have felt painfully isolated for a long time. As I finally, slowly, have been able to really let down my guards and feel my own body, I felt the sensation of aching muscles, so sensitive I could barely handle to be touched. I felt electric and burning, charged with energy that was surfacing for perhaps the first time in my life. I have tried to offer myself as many healing, compassionate, and gentle activities and circumstances as possible, including dance, rest, reading, stretching, healthy eating, and journaling. Still, though, the system I am most accustomed to using to compute and analyze my life is my mind, and quite frankly, my mind has not known at all what to do with this major input of new possibilities.

It was in this state and cycle that I found this video in another blog I subscribe to. It felt like true education to listen to these three deeply sensitive, brave, and intelligent panelists teach their findings and perspectives on mind-body interrelatedness, and the powerful effects of mindfulness meditation. I feel like this is exactly what I needed as my next step right now. Though I have had many people refer me to the practice of meditation, and though I have spent quite a lot of time practicing it myself, this new bit of understanding really helps me to feel like it is an accessible form of healing and strengthening for me. I am going to start small- which for me right now means 11 minutes every morning of quiet, peaceful breathing, using the mindfulness techniques described in this video. Will you join me on a 15-day challenge of practicing daily mindfulness? I officially invite you to end the month of December, and transition out of this year in the next two weeks by taking time and setting the foundational habits for a life-changing mindfulness practice.

The other thing that helped me immensely was talking to my sister. I am leaving tomorrow to visit my family in my New Mexico Home for the rest of December. I am immeasurably grateful to be able to go touch home-base on physical and heart-levels, and then return to my Oregon Home to begin a brand new, beautiful year! Please continue to check in on my blog in 2014. I will begin to reincorporate the How-To section more, especially as the planting season begins in the spring! I would love to share it with you! Much love <3

Also Please don't forget our Home Grown kickstarter! We have 13 days left for you to become a part of a wonderful success story that will continue to share its benefits to your stomachs and to the world :)

Go Team Go

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kickstart a Revolution!

Constructing a garden dome with friends - a project only possible together! That's me in the yellow :-) 

         Hello! I would like to continue with the free-flow format for a while, especially as what I learn how to do, what I find inspiring, what I think about, and what is more personally going on in my life all begin to overlap, interconnect, and feed into each other. This week my theme is interconnectedness. It has been my desire for years to be able to see my social life, work, and daily living come together; and after my first month here in McMinnville, I can confidently and contentedly report that, that is exactly what I have gotten myself into! My current happiness and wellbeing is something that I've come to recognize irrevocably as deeply tied to the lives of others. For example, the friends, housemates, neighbors, and community members around me support me in so many physical, emotional, and intellectual ways; my family and friends back home have given me the inspiration, support, and lessons that I've needed to even make it this far; my body is able to become healthy and stronger because of the Earth and all of Her elements that provide the nutrients I need in my food, and the water that I gratefully pour through my body; my grandparents, great grandparents, and all who came before me have made decisions, generation after generation, that tried to offer the best they could for their children, laying down the foundation for my physical life and all that I am able to experience today. These are examples of glimpses of the ways that every layer of my personal health, happiness, power, vibrancy, and ability to love life and help others exists in relation to the lives of others. 

Together on the Beach! 

         Truthfully, this goes against what I have always believed about myself: that I must learn to sustain myself, provide for my own needs, and not depend on others. I think that there are many ways to look at this, and probably many different understandings of words such as independence, dependence, individual, and together. Rather than try to pick it apart intellectually at this point, I will just give a an example from my experience this past week that represents the kind of mutuality I have been introduced to: this last Thursday, our friend and neighbor, Ellie, hosted a huge party at her house so that I could give a concert of my music! I felt my interconnectedness as I helped her move furniture, wash and cut vegetables, and set out tea cups for the coming guests. She served dinner to 30 people that night! And of the thirty, there were people who also shared music, who shared their writing and their poetry, who brought food and artwork, who drove and bussed from cities an hour away, and who stayed all night to offer their smiling, attentive care to each other and to me. Ellie's generosity literally opened up the door for an entire community to get together and share a spirit of openness, abundance, honesty, and inspiration. It was so fulfilling and joyful to have my music draw people together like that, and it was such a beautiful encounter of how the means themselves were the meaning- that is, the experience we created could only have been accomplished together, because the very outcome was, in and of itself, the experience of our togetherness ~ 

This brings me too... 
Home Grown Food Products Kickstarter! 
Home Grown Food Products is the resident business in our household, spearheaded by these two wonderful fellows, David and Alex (a.k.a. Freedman)!  
          As you may have seen, I have previously posted a step-by-step process of how to transform fresh organic vegetables into a delicious, live-cultured kimchi that helps restore the healthy bacteria in the stomach- and of course, make any meal deliciously exciting! Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles- these are some of the colorful, flavor-packed foods that I have had the pleasure of helping to make in our home kitchen and sell at a Portland farmers' market! I am excited to announce that this fabulous team has officially launched a Kickstarter project to raise money to support the thriving life of this great business! For those who have not heard of it, Kickstarter is a fundraising program that helps people to reach their goals and follow their dreams through the collective effort of many people giving small (or large) amounts of money. I first found out about this program when Lara Ruggles, a dear friend and talented musician, launched one last year for the production of a full-length album! It was super exciting for me to get involved in funding a promoting the project. I felt immensely inspired by the possibility for a huge crowd of people to collectively achieve something that, individually, would never have been possible. With kickstarter, we get 42 days to reach our goal of $13,000. If we do not reach this goal, we do not get any of the money, but if we reach or surpass this goal, everyone who participated gets a reward of their donation range category (this means that all of you New Mexico folks could get a taste of delicious home-made kimchi or sauerkraut from our kitchen for $25 or more!) AND they/we get to proceed with a fantastically successful young and local business. Please watch this BEAUTIFUL VIDEO to get a better picture of this important part of my new Oregonian life :)

        Not only is the kickstarter model itself an exciting way to distribute money to worthwhile projects, but Home Grown itself is a beautiful model of a local, responsible business that supports its community in both its product and its process (and if you happen to be around our house on production day, supports everyone with lots of joy, cabbage-chopping, and great music)! I am grateful to have such a direct way to share what I am doing with those who are far away from me, and use technology to support local movements both near and far... by helping each other, we help us all ~

Taco time for the ladies ^.^ 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Six Minute Free-Write!

I'm a farmer!

 I want to share these pictures of myself tonight to show to friends and family who are missing me, and whom I love so much, to see how truly happy I am, how well and healthy, grateful and alive I am  ~                                     thank you 
I'm a stick-shift driver in my new-old truck!

Now, Six-minute free-write: Go!
I have not blogged for nearly three weeks, and I think I needed that. I have been able to speak with myself more clearly, in a more liberated way than I ever have before. I do love categorizing things, like I did with my blog, and I also love integration, bringing the pieces together into a fully-integrated Whole. I love my life. I have never felt more safe within my own skin, in relation to my own mind, in relationship with my own spirit, in the guidance of my own heart, perhaps ever in my life. I love living in community. I love that there are so many ways to be loved, and so many needs around me that still need to be met, that invite new creation and new possibility all the time. 
One of my greatest revelations these days is that I am as much me now as I will ever be; everything from here on out is just an extension of what I already am (it has always been this way, every moment; I only now am conscious of it. Additionally, I have been thinking so much about language. Just as with this blog, I felt the need last night to catch up with all the things I have not spoken- not from three weeks, but from a lifetime, a lifetime of second-guessing, of doubting and filtering and going back in red-pen edit mode before I've even uttered a breath. The bravery to say anything at all is the baseline, the starting point for life, for any growth, for any exploration, for any mistake, which means opportunity to go deeper. And lastly, everything is communication; all aliveness is language, not just words. So I know I have been speaking. I know you have been hearing me. I know that all of the music that flows through my every day and waking moment is a symphony comprised of all of the unheard notes of each of your lives, too, and so many, many more. I love you.
I'm still silly old me :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Honey, I'm Home!

Today's bittersweet harvest from one of our abandoned hives. Thankfully the other is thriving & well.

* Queen Bee *
All About Me - news from the goings on in my life
Has it only been a week? (In this case, no, because I'm a few days late in posting, ha!). Still, it always surprises me, especially when I look back over my pictures and remember all of the things that I have done and seen.
Taking the Ferry to Grand Island
I started off the week by visiting the farm where some of my housemates have / currently work. After breakfast at dawn, I took a lovely walk out to the pasture, where I got to watch four dairy cows being milked and cared for. This was a very welcome image in my head later on in the day, when I tagged along at a livestock auction. I felt very affected by feelings of fear and chaos, due mostly because of the crowded, feces-steeped holding stalls and the way some of the cows were in poor health. As a couple of friends and I were reflecting, one reason scenes like this may be disturbing is because the way that we treat animals reflects on the way that we treat people. Thus, to see them poked, prodded, and paraded, spooked into frantic displays of their qualities, I could not help but to think of times not so long ago when humans were similarly treated as creatures not worthy of respect when money was on the line. It reminds me of a teaching in "Be Here Now" by Baba Ram Dass:  "A holy man once gave two men a chicken and told them to go and kill the chickens where no one could see. The first man went behind a fence and killed the chicken. The second man walked around for two days and came back carrying the live chicken. When the holy man asked him what had happened he said 'Everywhere I go, the chicken sees.' " 

 Though it was an intense day, I deeply appreciate my time on Grand Island, where I took a bike ride on open road beneath bright Autumn sky, completely alone amidst fields of green and wondrous, sweeping hawks!
           My week also contained the wonderful experience of visiting the Traditional Japanese Gardens in Portland. I'll save myself the trouble of a deeply impressive description by sharing the statement from their website: "Proclaimed the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, the Portland Japanese Garden is a 5.5-acre haven of tranquil beauty nestled in the scenic west hills of Portland, Oregon." It truly was a tranquil and impressive experience that made me want to return and spend hours there, simply watching the complex displays of light amongst the leafy shadows, or moving across the rock garden's sturdy stones.

A wonderful view of the Portland Skyline through the trees on the East edge of the garden

          One of the interesting things I learned from eavesdropping while passing a tour group is that only 30% of the land in Japan is habitable, meaning that the population is concentrated into very small areas. I'm not sure if this is statistically accurate or not, but the ideas was very interesting to me: with a very condensed space, the art of spatially expanding an area through the use of layering became a very valuable technique for making a small space feel much larger. I definitely felt this way in the garden, because the landscaping started with such small, up-close details, and the trees opened up higher and higher, drawing your gaze ever upward and giving each section a feel that it is decorated with the infinite. Truly, because the light and seasons are always playing their own artwork differently upon the leaves and branches of this (and every) garden, it always is an expanding, changing artwork. The aspects of scale, infinite space within a finite boundary, and the ever-changing nature of a seemingly still experience all reminded me keenly of the characteristics of fractals. This artist, Dez Pain, seems to think so too!

* Worker Bees * 
For do-ers and make-ers - tips and tidbits from handy skills I've learned
            This week I got to learn how to make Tomatillos salsa, combined with the skills of canning it! 

Step 1: roast tomatillos, peppers, garlic, and onions (remember to slit tops of tomatillos- or tomatoes) 

Step 2: grind roasted veggies in food processor.
                                                                                        Add cilantro, salt, and lime, as wanted
Step 3: as an extra, secret step, saute the salsa until it gathers a gentle froth on top. To the best of my perception, I would say that this step helps to blend the flavors, evening it out    (good)                                                                                                                                       

Step 4: sanitize jars, lids, and lid rings (using handy lid and jar dunking tools, if available) by letting them sit in boiling water
 Step 5: fill jars, leaving a little bit of space at the top (but not too much). Seal jars with lids, but do not screw on too tightly- this way air can escape. If the air remains in the jar, it will become oxidized (not good).
Step 6: arrange filled jars in pot of boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes or so.
 Step 7: let sit with heat off for a while, then remove jars. You can take off the lid rings to reuse for other jarring projects, because the lids will still retain their seal.
Step 8: if storing for winter, repeat this process many, many times
(My household completed these and more before I got summer that will not be the case) ;) 

* Gatherer Bees * 
For savorers of the sweet stuff - the sticky, juicy nectar of inspiration 
An Asian Pear and a flower blossom  -  in honor of fractals 

From "A Geometry of Nature" in Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick         

"As it happened, that dichotomy [between small transient changes and large long-term changes] had no place in the pictures of reality that Mandelbrot was developing. Instead of separating tiny changes from grand ones his picture bound them together. He was looking for patterns not at one scale or another, but across every scale. It was far from obvious hot to draw the picture he had in mind, but he knew there would have to be a kind of symmetry, not of right and left or top and bottom but rather a symmetry of large scales and smalls." 

"Clouds are not spheres, Mandelbrot is fond of saying. Mountains are not cones. Lightning does not travel in a straight line. The new geometry mirrors a universe that is rough, not rounded, scabrous, not smooth. It is a geometry of the pitted, pocketed, and broken up, the twisted, tangled, and intertwined. The understanding of nature's complexity was not just random, not just accident. It required a faith that the interesting feature of a lightning bolt's path, for example,was not its direction, but rather the distribution of zigs and zags. Mandelbrot's work made a claim about the world, and the claim was that such odd shapes carry meaning. The pits and tangles are more than blemishes distorting the classic shapes of Euclidian geometry. They are often the keys to the essence of a thing."  

(Euclidian geometry: straight lines and perfect symmetry... what fractals are not) 

* Drones * 
For lovers -  short essays on subjects of life sustenance and creation 

Life as a Quest 
         This week at game night, I learned a lot about myself by playing "Settlers of Catan." I made a rather poor competitor as I struggled to embrace the mindset that my goal was to expand, taking over as much of the board and its land as possible. (Yes, you caught me - I am sometimes known to take board games a bit seriously...and other things. Ahem.) Instead, I felt most secure to "hunker down" in my own little settlement, trying not to cause much of a stir. (Don't play board games with me unless you take that term literally... On second thought, please do!). I realized, upon later reflection, that all my life I've tried to live by that mindset: it's best, when possible, not to need anything. Then you don't have to involve yourself in the messy business of trading with other people, getting your request turned down, making a bad decision- just stick with what you've got and keep things simple to avoid mistakes. This opened my mindset to a new perspective of internet games, video games, computer games, all of those situations in which you, as a player, are on a quest to accomplish something. Here in your inventory is everything you have to work with, and as your forge your way through your world, making your way through varying degrees of danger, you use these items to accomplish your task. Trading, exchanging, deciding when a loss is worth it in the end, figuring how best your means would be accomplished...these kinds of skills are a little bit terrifying to me, in real life. I noticed that instead of getting involved in the tedious, risky task of asking my neighbors if they had bricks (for instance), I would store up four wood sets to make a more private transaction directly with the "bank" of supplies. In short, I was faced with the reflection of myself as introverted settler who did not use the human resources of my fellows, because the aspect of competition threw of any clear understanding of boundaries (when is it good to help someone accomplish their goals if their success threatens your own? Why would they help me?) What if it's good to need something? I began to wonder. What if it is our needs that give us a means by which to engage with people in the world around us, an invocation to get involved, in short, to play the game? As I am writing this, I am a little skeptical that drawing generalized philosophic conclusions from a board game and extrapolating it to living in the real world is really the wisest way to learn a lesson. Yes, in fact, that is the new message for this essay: relating every little microcosmic event to what it means to live life can make the littlest things way too stressful. So don't do it. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Welcome to Your Body, Welcome to the World

* Queen * 
all about me
 news from my life
Wow, what a week! Through work, play, and interesting bits in between, I have been learning and pondering a lot! First on the list is helping two of my housemates with their business production of Kimchi, a delicious Korean fermented vegetable mix. In short and simple overview, the process is as follows:
Step 1: chopping vegetables...LOTS of vegetables
Step 2: Leaving them to sit for a week or more in salt brine, a process called Lacto-Fermentation, in which a good bacteria called Lactobacillus  consume the sugars in the vegetables, turning it into a lactic acid that is extremely beneficial to the digestive system, and which gives the kimchi a yummy, tangy-sour flavor!  
Step Three: Delicious Kimchi!  
Not to mention, the packaging into jars, labeling, boxing, and taking them up to the Portland farmer's market to sell!

Next on the list is my visit to a nearby sheep farm belonging to some friends I was kindly introduced to. I got to meet the amazing Jacobs' Breed Sheep, (classified by being roughly 80% white and at least 15% brown). After bringing them in for the night, an exciting chore that involved merely opening the gate, calling out "Sheep food!" and watching them race into the barn, I got to see some of the wonderful ways that their spring-shorn wool is used! The cleaned wool is carded (by hand or by machine) into poofy sheets of roving, which can then be dyed with color. Strands of colored roving can be blended together for lovely color varieties, which can be described as variegation. Using a spinning wheel, strands of roving are then fed to the pedal-treadled loop, whose spinning motion twists the fibers of the roving into a sturdy thread of yarn. Multiple yarns can also be spun together to add more variegation and strength. Depending on how many threads are incorporated, the yarn is called a single, double, or triple ply, and so on. Oh! The part that blew my socks off completely, (nicely cotton knit socks, I might add), is when she showed me how a large, double-bottomed sock that looks like an elf shoe, knitted with wool, can be felted by putting it in the dryer for a little over 10 minutes. I was stunned to see how it had transformed into a sturdy felt shoe! Perhaps only durable for use as house slippers, but incredible nonetheless! 


Lastly, my sweet cousins visiting from Arizona/working part-time in Portland drove out to McMinnville to pick me up, and we spent three days adventuring together! We hiked in Silver Falls, through a trail of ten gorgeous waterfalls, including one with a huge cave behind it. I caught a sliver of the golden light of sunset as I sat in that cave, and as  its light touched the misting cascades of a million  waterbeads in flight, I felt that I was sitting behind the eye of the World.   


The second part of our trip was touring the coastlines, all the way up from Lincoln City to Canon Beach. 
In the wavering reflection of moonlight on a waning waterline, I stood still as the thrusting force of an outgoing wave cast endless argyles of water around my sinking ankles. I looked out past the edge of my home continent and felt reconnected to a sense of hope for my life; the waves seemed to rustle through my ears with the sound of all my inmost dreams, forgotten, remembered, and rekindled with inspiration, bright as the bowls of light from burning  campfires along the shore. Thank you, Cousins! 
Thank you, Ocean!

* Worker Bees * 
for do-ers and make-ers
 practical skill, tips,  or tasks I have learned this week
The word this week is: Thyme
A housemate kindly invited me to sit in on an Herbalism class he is helping to teach, and the herb of the night was Thyme. We learned about its healing properties for colds and coughs in a very timely manner, because the next day, I woke up with a tight chest and cough. So here's a remedy, which proved to be quite successful! 
  • For a deep, persistent cough, boil thyme over the stove
  • Make a tent by putting a towel over your head, taking care to keep it safely away from the burner
  • Breathe in the vapor from this aromatic plant and enjoy the soothing touch of its steam   

  • If you or your child is too sick to stand over the kitchen stove, try shutting yourself in the bathroom, adding a few drops of Thyme essential oil to the shower, and keeping it on hot to steam up the bathroom, making your own medicinal sauna 
    • Another way to take it is by making a simple infusion by brewing one Tablespoon of Thyme in 8oz of water, the way you would with looseleaf tea, letting it sit for 10 minutes (you may even use the water you used from the steam session!) This infusion is nice with some honey and lemon 
    • When choosing thyme, it is always preferable use a freshly grown plant stem. If you or someone you know is not growing Thyme, though, the store-bought cooking spice version of it will do better than nothing!
    (I wish I would have known about this a few weeks ago, when my poor Mamma was coughin' up a storm! Thankfully, my friend had Osha root from the Sandias, which seemed to help too).

    A couple more things that are good to know about Thyme are: 
    • Thyme is an anti-spasmotic, which means it is not used to prevent you from coughing when you have a bad cough, but rather, it helps you to have productive coughs that actually clear out the infectious mucus from your chest cavities
    • Thyme is an emmenagogue, which means it helps to bring on menstruation for women who are not regular. This means it is not a safe herb to be taken in high quantity for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
    • One of the nicest things about Thyme is that using this herb can help remind you that the most important thing you can do for yourself when you are sick is to take the "thyme" to rest!    

    * Gatherer Bees *
    for savorers of the sweet stuff
     sticky, juicy, colorful, sweet stuff that serves as inspiration 
    One Swaying Being
    Love is not condescension, never 
    that, nor books, nor any marking

    on paper, nor what people say of
    each other. Love is a tree with

    branches reaching into eternity
    and roots set deep in eternity,

    and no trunk! Have you seen it?
    The mind cannot. Your desiring

    cannot. The longing you feel for
    this love comes from inside you.

    When you become the Friend, your
    longing will be as the man in 

    the ocean who holds to a pice of
    wood. Eventually, wood, man, and

    Ocean become one swaying being. 
         ~ Rumi

    * Drones * 
    for lovers
     short essays and stories about things that are important to me when it comes to creation and sustenance of Life
    Food: A Matter of Life and Death 

                 To begin to try to share my thoughts on food feels like an overwhelming task, because it branches into so many areas of life with such complexity and such a deep root system of beliefs. I could say that food is why I came to Oregon, that food is actually at the heart of every single conversation that is ever had, that, in short, food IS life itself. In a very basic way, beyond the 40 or more days that humans can survive on just water, to be talking about food is to be talking about the only way that we can go on living to talk about anything at all. No matter what your beliefs about the spirit or afterlife, there is a very real way in which the body will one day die, and depends on food to stay alive. Sometimes, nothing connects me so immediately and powerfully to the fact that I am alive and have a body, than to remember that there will be a day, one way or another, when this very same body that I and others are so familiar with as being Me, with all of the little details like my little nose and freckled arms, green eyes and in turning pinky toe, will also lie utterly still, never to live again in this way. There may be a sense of morbidity in our culture that says this kind of conversation is creepy, unwanted, unnecessary: "yes, yes, of course you're going to die, we're all going to- but let's not think about that now!" I think this repulsion from the "grossness" of death is what leads us to embalm, to turn our dead into dolls that look prettier than rot, but only in a way that many find to be innately unnatural, covering the faces of our dead with makeup so it is not quite so startling. If these words turn your stomach- LISTEN TO YOUR STOMACH! This conversation is about food, remember. Could it be that this plasticky fakeness, this obsession with image, seems disgusting to us when we talk about corpses (bodies that are no longer animated by functioning organs, including the neuron-firing brain, blood-pumping heart, digesting and excreting stomach, kidneys, liver), but that without even realizing it, we are reacting to our LIVING bodies with the same kind of fear? What I learn from looking at the death situation, the process of dealing with corpses, is that many times when we humans are afraid of something, we cover it up. Just as pumping human veins with preservative chemicals to make the skin look like a waxy replica of a living relative may turn our stomachs, we are currently pumping our food with toxic chemicals, and the look of it is so repulsive that we are covering it up with the makeup of colorful packaging and fancy labels in attempts to feel a little more comfortable about it. 
             This particular train of thought was sparked for me especially by a conversation I had this week. A friend told me at one point in our talk, "Yes, I'm glad you're experiencing God through contact with nature, especially through natural food processes, but you know, that's not the only way that people experience God. Some people can't afford to eat all fresh organic produce and locally produced foods, and God still loves them." This sentence pained my heart in some excruciatingly deep way that I didn't know how to explain at the time, to my friend or to myself.  Now, I say: this sentence of words hurts so much because it puts God outside of the health of our human bodies. To speak of God, to speak of Love, as a parent who would wag the "naughty" finger at us for not buying organic foods, feels like a view of our Life Source as something outside of the Life Process! When we view eating organic "natural" foods as a trend followed by rich people who think they're better than everyone else (or praise ourselves in such a fashion, if we do eat that way), we are still disconnected from the very physical and very alarming fact that a terrible majority of the food availabe or purchasable at the stores is filled with chemicals and made by processes that simply aren't good for us! To me, this means that the phrase "God still loves people who can't afford to eat healthy" could really be reduced to: "There is a portion of the population of people where we live (in this country and in this earth) who cannot afford to not feed themselves toxins." THIS is a problem! 
              On a more manageable (and hopeful) scale, there are actually great, affordable ways to eat healthy foods without being "rich." One small example is the way some food stamp programs are collaborating with local farmers markets to turn EBT money into tradable tokens that farmers can then cash in. Additionally, the more people who are able to grow food in their own gardens (and learn how to cook with all this raw material), the better!
           I would like to pull this back around by suggesting that the change that needs to take place for people to thrive can begin taking place on a deep ideological-level and close belief-level way. When we turn away from the beautiful life that literally courses through the veins of our living bodies, giving us the ability to run on the beach, to take in deep breaths of fresh autumn air, to savor a lovely meal, in short, to live and really love life, we may come to see spiritual beauties and truths as somehow outside of the bodies that allow us to be here. That God Loves is not the part of the conversation that I disagree with- I believe God is Love and that Love and can be found in every aspect of life. I welcome a time when we spiritual-physical beings can come to experience communion with our Life Source through the beautiful process of this earth feeding us with grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, and animals, sharing its own life with us so that we can continue to be alive to experience and enjoy it. I welcome a time when we can experience Divine Love through this sacred exchange of food as much as we ever have through texts, doctrines, or theologies (and perhaps even a little bit more). 

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    And So It Begins

    * Queen * 
    all about me
     news from my life
    Hello! I am posting on a Monday, instead of a Saturday, again, because it has been turning out that my weekends are the most busy days of the week so far! This Saturday I went with one of my housemates down to a farm in Eugene for a gathering of the Oregon Bio-Dynamics group. Just as humans can use herbs to make homeopathic medicines that help work with our bodies to heal them when we are sick (I gratefully benefited from the success of homeopathic medicine all growing up!), Bio-Dynamics is a way of creating homeopathic cures for the Earth. Carefully prepared fertilizers timed to seasons and movements of the planets, this Ayurveda for the earth deeply aids the soil, not merely by offering dense nutrients, but by applying qualities of nature that allow the soil to open itself to what it needs from its environment. I sure enjoyed my introduction to this complex process. About thirty of us worked all day, digging holes, tenderly preparing animal parts, praying in a big circle, and finally (after trudging through a muddy bog, a first for me), enjoying a fantastic potluck.

    Sunday was our household work party. With the onset of winter, it is time to embrace the part of the life cycle that includes dying, releasing, and being cleared away. In this spirit of gratitude for the rich harvest and willingness that such colorful, bright abundance should come again next year, we cleared out at least eight rows of old tomatoes, tomatillos, corn, beans, and squash. Out comes the nettle, the stakes and twine, and soon the plots are cleared out for the next planting of winter crops. Of this vibrant harvest, one of my housemates and I cooked a dinner for ten people, my first shift as chef in the household rotation. The joy that I receive from being a part of the process of harvesting and caring for these plants, and then seeing, smelling, and tasting them in such a colorful, delicious, and wonderfully healthy meal, is enough to allow me to say that as much as my heart sometimes burns for my friends and family down in Albuquerque, I know that I am exactly where I need to be ~ 
    (a very simple recipe of carrots, leeks, onion, squash, and beets roasted in a pan in the oven for 40 min in olive oil, anise, and fennel) 

    * Worker Bees * 
    for do-ers and make-ers
     practical skill, tips,  or tasks I have learned this week

    Just a couple of tips for keeping clean, beautiful, non-stick cast iron pans 
    (this does not include instructions for curing the pans when you first get them or they need renewing) 

    • In a pan that is properly cured (non-stick with a good layer of grease) most cooking should not really leave much of a mess. In these cases, using a simple scraper to clear out any food bits will leave the pan greasy and clean- no need for water
    • When the pan requires more cleaning, use hot water but no soap. You can use a steel sponge as long as you don't scrape too hard. In this case, after washing it is good to heat the pan on the stove to help dry it out, and then add a nice layer of good, high-heat oil, such as coconut, canola, or sunflower 

    * Gatherer Bees *
    for savorers of the sweet stuff
     sticky, juicy, colorful, sweet stuff that serves as inspiration 

                               Our lovely home                             (garden, my room, dining room)    

    Gathering the great chanterelles!   
    * Drones * 
    for lovers
     short essays and stories about things that are important to me when it comes to creation and sustenance of Life

    The Meditation of Flow
    This Wednesday, I joined one of my housemates out at the Community Supported Agriculture farm where he works. I helped to harvest kale (Tuscan heritage  a.k.a. “Dino,” and red winter), peppers (pepercinos, Hungarian sweets, red bells, paprika), lemon cucumbers, and the last of the basil, (green and purple ruffles) and sweet beans. This was my first experience of harvesting on a larger scale, enough to bring to two restaurants and two large CSA deliveries. As far as farming goes, this is really quite small, but when considering that every single bean and basil leaf was to be collected by our fingertips, it seemed a rather large-scale task to a first-timer. This experience, the first of many to come, taught me a lot, especially about a kind of meditation that I think I will come to cherish more and more as time goes on. Our first item of the day was the basil, which grew in raised beds. As I first began to bend and squat, trying to position myself over the plants in a stable and efficient way, I began, after a few minutes, to mentally panic a bit. Oh my gosh, this is so uncomfortable! There are so many leaves! This is going to take so long! My calves, thighs, back, butt, fingers, and neck suddenly understood what it means to “harvest.” Just like an uncomfortable yoga pose or the somewhat shocking silence of a first meditation sit, the physical position of this work really called for a certain inner position of the mind and heart. Instead of continuing to panic or feel miserable, I began to ask the plants, and ask my body for a flow that would allow me to move through the work gracefully, using my energy well. What this means to me is that I have always approached work, especially physical labor, with a kind of toughness that says, “Move aside- I got this.” If I try to accomplish this work by my own gusto, though, I end up sore, stiff, and exhausted. Instead, this interaction asks for a gentler approach- pulling, carrying, and picking not with the force of muscular resistance, but rather, with careful sensitivity to the ways my body can use balance, the right application of force, and steady patience to find the easiest, smoothest, and softest way to move and interact with plants, boxes, and otherwise. 

    As an Aquarius who loves to have theories to hold theories, and a person attracted to the philosophy in things in general, it is so much more fulfilling to me to come upon these kinds of lessons in such a physical way, a way that my mind alone could never understand if my body was not doing the work or finding the flow so intuitively. No matter what kinds of physical work or movement you do throughout your day, out of choice or necessity  you might be amazed at what your body has to teach about slightly different ways to do things that makes a better, more lasting and healthy use of energy ~