Sunday, January 18, 2009



Get Into The Forests Again

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,

When we escape like squirrels

Turning in the cages of our personality

And get into the forests again,

We shall shiver with
cold and fright

But things will happen to us

So that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,

And, passion will make our bodies taut with power,

We shall stamp our feet
with new power

And old things will fall down,

We shall laugh, and institution
will curl up like burnt paper.

D.H. Lawrence

What role does nature play in community? It is a great teacher, perhaps the best one to teach us about how life works through simple observation. Permaculture is one science that has learned from this teacher. Natural sciences have compiled vast information about that world, but the information too often stops at the edges of the subject, and doesn't translate to our daily lives.

Permaculture takes the laws of the natural world and plunks them down in the midst of our square houses and square asphalt streets, our frantic plastic creations. What happens is surprising to many - working with nature instead of against her always results in more abundance, more choice, more freedoms.

There is great power in nature, great healing, great peace. Even people who are oblivious to the intricate dance of the natural world will show up at a camp grounds with their fully loaded RVs and their TV set blaring. Somehow, on some level, they know they are better off doing that stuff in the midst of trees. They are healthier for it, even if they can't be there without props.

We have created a reality where nature has no part in it. One can conduct one's life without ever setting foot in it, without ever having to deal with it, really. We even insulate ourselves from the weather, with our automatic car starters and parking garages and buildings heated by cutting down mountains for coal. But yet, we cannot live without the natural world - everything that surrounds us comes from it ultimately, in some form or other, as altered and unrecognizable as it may be. We pay for our ignorance of the abundance amidst which we live - not only the personal price of being disconnected from its power and grace, but a group price - what other culture has been so willing to poison itself and its lifeblood in the name of a game that involves exchanging pieces of paper or electronic bits in order to see who can hoard or acquire the most?

Historically, a community that doesn't understand and embrace the natural world is doomed. Every civilization that has ignored nature has sooner or later been buried by it. The jury is out as to what this culture is going to decide to do - there are many discouraging elements, but also signs of change.

The exploding trend toward organics has made it off the grocery shelves and into our backyards, with record interest in growing our own food. A garden is a gesture toward the natural world - a controlled edge between nature and our square constructs. A food forest is a better edge. But somewhere both within and surrounding a community, there must be wild things, left to their own devices, left to create themselves in concert with their wild world. A place where we can go and be our wild selves and learn from our wild cousins.

How do we return to a true understanding of this world? Each of us has our own path, our own affinities and dreams that lead us there.

Coyote is often the one who leads me. Standing patiently, energetic alert being, he looks at me nonchalantly, with wind eyes. They tell me he will take me into magic realms, far from silly rules and square boxes. He knows what I need, and taunts me to reach for it.

He is an edge creature, one who can live in many worlds. He always returns to the deep wild though, where his cries blend best. He looks over his shoulder, and waits for me.

I think it's time to go for a walk in the woods...


Friday, January 16, 2009

Conversation with God


One of my favorites

A conversation between GOD and St. Francis about Suburbanites

GOD: St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the World is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers weeds and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, sir -- just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back On the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the gro wth and saves Them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a Sheer stoke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the Winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy Something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It's a real stupid movie about.............

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.