Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sitting Dragonfly Vigil

Yesterday I stepped out back to pick a green onion for my breakfast, and discovered a dead dragonfly on the patio. I knelt down to pick him up and he began whirring his wings; he wasn't dead, just dying. I shooed the cat away and brought the beautiful blue and black creature into the house. I gave him a drop of water, which made his wings beat and his legs move. Clearly he couldn't fly anymore. I couldn't think of how to help him, and recalled that dragonflies don't live very long in their adult form. I could, however, make him safe from cats and other predators and give him a place of honor on my kitchen counter, holding the space for him as he passed into Light.

His eyes were like geometric blue opals. They had a depth to them, like a glass gem or a bead of water. My four-year-old remarked that the dragonfly's patterns on his body reminded him of a totem pole. I covered him with a bug-box lid so the cat wouldn't get him but he could breathe, and we left for our trip to the science museum.

When we returned, I thought he had passed, but when I touched him one leg moved. His opalescent eyes had turned a dull black from the top down, with just a crescent of blue at the bottom. I gave him Reiki, hoping it would ease his transition. While he was "just" a bug, he was fierce and beautiful, and I at least wanted to honor his slow death.

When he died, his eyes were completely black. You could literally see the life force leave him through his eyes.

I set him on my altar. Dragonfly is about illusion, and I am writing a book about Zen right now, which is all about the illusions we carry in our heads about life, about each and every thing we encounter. The problem is not that we live in illusion, it is that we think the illusion is "real." Dragonfly teaches us to hold the dichotomy of illusion and what we call reality. He teaches us about the illusion of life and death, and the dichotomy of death being real and final, and not.

I give thanks to the Universe for gifting me this honor of holding vigil while a beautiful Blue Eyed Darner. Aho.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Humiliation and Environmenta Living

Why Green Living is so Hard
I read today on Maria's Farm Kitchen blog that conventional toothpastes contain plastic microbeads for scrubbing that do not biodegrade (of course) and will get washed down the drain and into the water system, eventually finding their way into the ocean. In a quick succession of thoughts, it occurred to me that the biggest stumbling block to our species living in harmony with the earth and creating an environmentally compatible society is not our fear of change. It is not the difficulty of changing our habits. The biggest challenge in humanity's changing course for greener waters is two fold:
  1. We have been sold a seriously long line of crap based on bullshit that we have to realize is bullshit and realize is crap in order to change.
  2. Admitting that we have been duped is humiliating. And for humans, humiliation is worse than death.

The Rat Race

First, regarding the bullshit. Our society believes that life is about achieving prestige, leisure, and stuff. It starts by seeking security, and then the idea of security gets bigger and bigger and harder to achieve. I will really feel secure when I own my home, have savings and investments, and a college savings plan for my kids. No, I will only feel truly secure and can then relax when I own a mansion and a yacht. As you know, it's endless. We do need to feel secure, but we've been sold a line by others trying to feel secure that the only way to do so is to buy their investments, stuff, and lifestyle. Then when I am secure, others will look at me and wish they could live like me - prestige. We can all sit on my gorgeous, expensive deck furniture and feel secure. Leisure. Stuff.

Not that there is anything wrong with college savings, deck furniture, leisure, or security - but these do not equal the most important things in life. And usually, they don't leave us feeling secure or leisurely. We instead feel afraid of losing what we have built. We feel afraid that we are not keeping up with the latest styles, and will lose that prestige. We feel afraid, constantly, that we are no doing or being enough.

Hello Madison Avenue

Second, the line of crap. Marketing and the media tell us constantly from every angle that in order to get those most important achievements (prestige, leisure, and the best stuff), in order to be enough, we have to
a) buy the right stuff and b) look the right way. Toothpaste with whiteners so that our teeth look straight and white. Skinny jeans. Low cal whatever. Diamonds and gold. The prettiest car. The latest gadgets. The nicest smelling detergents, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos. Lipstick and eyeliner. 3000 square feet house with giant television and a private bathroom for every person in the house.

We've been sold these assumptions - that we are not enough, that we need to be wealthy and have the latest coolest stuff, and that buying more things, changing our bodies and our lifestyles and our homes to be better, is the only way to go. That this lifestyle is in fact the only way to feel okay, be okay, be alive. These assumptions get all tied up with goodness, self worth, morality, and education. And many of these practices that are run by these assumptions are really, really bad for the planet.


The garbage, plastic, pollution, toxins and burned fossil fuels that goes into feeding these assumptions are mind boggling. Microbeads to whiten teeth and smooth skin. Fungicides and herbicides and pesticides to give us shiny apples and oranges at any time of year. Toxins in cotton and massive mounts of water (and cheap labor) to bring us the latest t-shirt. Polytetrafluoroethylene, which kills birds and sickens human, for convenient, shiny non-stick pans. And the fossil fuels for each of these and the trillions of other non-crucial items? Stunning to contemplate.

So we don't contemplate these things. It's too depressing, too disempowering, and, frankly, too humiliating to do so.

Desperate to Avoid Humiliation

Studies show that we humans fear humiliation over just about everything else. We do whatever we can to avoid it. Humiliation means potential ostracizing. This fear goes back to our most basic roots of selfhood and humanity. And it is the opposite of prestige, leisure, and the best stuff.

So to admit that we spend all this time and energy chasing after the craziness we have been sold as how-life-should-be is doubly humiliating. We were duped, and when you take away these basic values (prestige, money, stuff), we are left with our basic animalness, and that can also be humiliating. We are left comparing ourselves to poor people in slums in India, and our greed and stupidity s horribly humiliating. So we just don't go there. Life as usual is much more comfortable.

But until we are able to admit these things and change course for what really matters - human rights, compassion for all life, creative expression, the precious Earth - we will not be able to step off the crazy mobile of microbeads and polytetrafluoroethylene. And that right there is the biggest challenge for living an ecologically sound life on our planet.

Have you ever had to apologize to someone in a situation where you really screwed up? It's humiliating. Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, you want to run away. But you know you can't. And then, when you've apologized and the other party has accepted and you make up, you feel so much better. The guilt and fear are gone. And all there is to do is go forward, carrying what you learned. As a society, that's what we need to do. Admit we've been wrong. Learn from our mistakes. Move forward with new understanding.

I do believe this is possible. I think social networking, green living, and our growing sense of global social justice are together pushing many of us towards this realization, acceptance, and changes in living. But it has to happen on a really huge, societal level. I believe anything is possible...

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Simple Life

Sustainable Living

Here's a great resource for spring:

The Simple Life Forum at Daedalus Books

Ideas to Nourish & Sustain
Growing Your Own, Preserving Your Own

"In its broadest sense, the idea of sustainability covers a lot of ground, from growing our own produce in a kitchen garden to finding responsible land and water management practices that we can sustain far into the future. Sustainability and preservation are also at the heart of what we do at Daedalus Books, which was founded to find a second life for remainders—good books that might otherwise be destroyed simply because publishers can't afford to keep them in stock."

Submit your favorite farmers' market via email on their site!

The Way of the Hen: Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens

Daedalus is featuring, among other fabulous books for living simply, my own book, The Way of the Hen. It's only $3.98 right now! Perfect gift for anyone who loves chickens.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Imbolc to Ostara

Snow forecast, but we've seen the first butterfly and several violets!  In the dining room I have this promise, or at least hope, of spring:

That is all. :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When a Chicken Isn't Just a Chicken

A year ago I met with two other women at one of their kitchen tables to discuss getting backyard chickens legal in my city. We had to convince City Council that keeping backyard hens wasn't just a back-woods fallback to Farmville, nor did it mean roosters, slaughtering, smell, or other dangers and nuisances. We had one vote in favor, the woman whose house we met at.We needed six "yes" votes in order to get the ordinance passed. Most of council was adamantly opposed to the proposed ordinance, which had been soundly turned down a few years earlier. They were afraid of "those people" who will not act responsibly in caring for their hens (i.e. immigrants and renters).

So we launched a grassroots effort to let Council know that people wanted hens. I started a blog, created flyers, and posted on a few websites like A woman emailed me offering to setup a Facebook page. We met at a local school, sometimes with nearly two dozen people, but usually with two or three. Our Council woman lead us through the maze of politics, I ran the web end of things including a petition on, and others got signatures on a paper petition. People spoke at council meetings. We used social media and word of mouth to get people on board.

We started out with nothing. With major opposition. Last night, with 220 likes on the Facebook Page, more than 1000 page views on the blog, and over 600 signatures, Council voted to change the proposed amendment! We wowed them with our political presence - ninety people showed up for the meeting where the official vote would occur, with kids in tow. A dozen people spoke in favor. One person opposed came to speak, but when he saw the ninety people stand in support, he removed his name from the speakers list and walked out!

What we showed Council was that a chicken isn't just a chicken. They stand for sustainability, food security, community, responsible action, and personal freedom. Most people who want to keep chickens are responsible members of society. We stood up against racist and classist fears about hen keepers.

We also showed our community that if something matters we can work together to get it changed. I hope to use that power to keep moving - fine tuning the ordinance, but also involving more diverse populations in our gardening and sustainable living movement.

There are a million and one actions that need to happen in our world, and as many people and more who have different opinions about what "matters." Many might roll their eyes at how insignificant this movement is. But I'm proud of our little movement to support backyard hens in my corner of the world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Power of Image in Knowing the Self

Last year my adrenals crashed - panic attacks, hypoglycemia, heart palpitations, and extreme
sensitivity to dairy and gluten. I've been getting care from my doctor, chiropractor, and acupuncturist, all of which has really helped. I've been clear, though, that underlying the physical aspects of this healing has been spiritual rebirth. That work I have had to do myself.

When I was really sick, phases of my life would come up in dreams, images, and synchronicities. They began with my youngest days and moved forward in time. This wasn't something I consciously called in; it just happened. I cleared emotional stuckness from each of these periods by feeling old emotions, crying, and letting go. I did a lot of forgiving things I hadn't realized I was even holding onto. Carolyn Myss talks about the power of forgiveness in healing in her book Defy Gravity. I recommend it to anyone dealing with healing. I also gained insights into these periods of time from my perch in the present. Reframing also helps me release and evolve.

Then recently, after being carried into the present in this life review, two images came to me. One is a photo of myself at age two or so. It's black and white, and it's a close up of my face. I had it on my mirror when I was in high school. I love it because it is a picture of Me. You can see my soul in my eyes. They are centered, relaxed, and wise. When I feel disconnected from myself, I recall this image (I don't have a copy of the picture but remember it clearly). I instantly settle into my body and my soul. I re-inhabit myself, no longer pulled in the directions my ego thinks I should be to make everyone else happy. Which is purely illusion, based on old fears. I am ready to let these illusions go. I need this image to help me do so.

The second image actually came from reading a young adult novel called Seaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee. In this book a girl stays for a month with her veterinarian uncle on an island in Puget Sound. When I was nine, that's what I wanted to be, a vet on an island in Puget Sound. I enjoyed the book, but also what came out of it had more to do with my soul journey. The image that arose was me as a young girl peering into tide pools. Not a memory, but more a sense of my soul, sort of the me that might have been. The me that is inside, unbound by the limitations of real life. Don't get me wrong - my childhood was actually spent peering in tide pools. And it really wasn't horrid. But we all have limitations from the outside, and from the ways our egos interpret these limitations. As we grow older, part of healing and becoming whole is to see who we really are underneath the surface, and work to live that authenticity. That image of soul-child-me playing at the beach, my hair whipping around my face, barefoot, smiling and unrestricted - that is part of my authenticity. My Real Self.

Holding both of these images in my heart helps bring me back to myself. What images have come to you in dreams, while reading, or in old photographs of yourself that remind you of your connection to Spirit, Earth, and Authentic Self? Or perhaps for you it is a song, a phrase, or even a movement? What path returns you to You?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Gardener's Alphabet

What a gorgeous, simple, and life-affirming book! Highly recommended.

A Gardener's Alphabet by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin, 2000)