Darwin’s View Blog

21 posts

We can save the world. We have only to go back far enough, remember and care enough. Permaculture and Agroforestry. Alternative energies. Water cultivation and carbon sequestration. And don’t forget the chickens.

Carl—a born and raised New Hampshire boy, and professional trombonist—and I—a homebody and writer—both have a degree of grit, also known as Yankee stubborn resolve. Five years in, we are still figuring out what we are trying to resolve, and learning about solar power and wind; gardening, biodynamic farming, permaculture and agroforestry; not recycling but repurposing; compost and, um, humanure. And just how much of one’s mortal time modern day dinosaurs, more commonly known as chickens, can take up. We are using old technologies made new to heal the soil. In our ad hoc, seat-of-our-pants way, we create our own version of chaos, joining the vortex of energies around us, because if we cannot save the whole world, maybe we can save a small part of her. Here. Now. At Darwin’s View. Please join us.

INTERSTICES

Are these energy articles worth our while? I’m not sure. Rather, it will be a case of the blind leading the blind because I don’t know “energy” any more than the next person. Or maybe I do. Because, in the years since moving from Rhode Island to New Hampshire to live off-grid at Darwin’s View, my perspective on energy has shifted.  As it did when Carl and I bought our EV Leaf in 2012. The cutting edge of electric vehicles at the time, the Leaf requires an off-grid mentality of limited resources, not abundance. Just as I have learned to turn off the lights when I leave a room and not to use a hair dryer, just so the Leaf requires a certain mind set.Planning, which is remarkably like budgeting, we must ask ourselves how far are we driving? Why? Is it necessary? And Carl drives slower in the Leaf because driving fast takes up more electric charge. He takes it as a challenge to keep track of how much less energy he uses on each trip. 

For my part, I drive slower because it’s incredibly satisfying to grow more of those trees that appear on the dashboard when I drive carefully.

Due to the lowering battery life, our Leaf can go eighty miles on a full charge. That means eighty is the number of miles we have to get to where we are going, and back again. On a seventy degree day. No hills. With the windows closed, and no heat or cooling. And the whole time, we feel like we’re in a Star Trek vehicle. The quiet whirr of the electric motor. Sh! You slide past the gas stations, feeling oh, so oil free. And the car has an adorable thing called “turtle mode”. A little turtle joins the trees on the dashboard when the car is on its last gasp of power. The turtle appears just after the red, blinking lights begin, and the sultry car voice announces that the car “will not reach its destination please head immediately to the nearest charging station,” which is usually farther away than one’s destination. And then the car slows waaaaaaay down. Just like a turtle.

And so, driving the Leaf is, at times, like a cross-country train ride: it’s about the adventure, not the arrival. So is living off-grid on top of a windy hill in times of climate disruption. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Frightening. Sobering. Life at Darwin’s View: a study of change and transition because Carl and I might live off-grid but, still, on some days, our propane-powered generator charges into action. 

And so, maybe my experiences here will become the interstices between these energy articles, exhibiting some of the possible answers to the bedeviling issues we face. Or maybe the energy articles will be the interstices between those I write about what we are doing at Darwin’s View. Maybe, with time, the two will become one. We are all, after all, just energy.

Much as we love our Leaf, it’s rather a sad rendition compared to the cars coming out these days that can go two and three hundred miles on a charge. But here’s a secret: I prefer our Leaf for exactly that reason. It doesn’t fool us into thinking we can go farther, faster. Which is a lesson we, humans, must learn. Bigger is not better. More and more and more money is not life’s purpose. And being often makes more sense than doing as energy swirls around us, and our world rockets through the universe, and ever in the background, that aching question: will we save her?

Friday’s post will be ENERGY 102: Energy in the U.S. Of A. Definitions and Infrastructure.

 IN WHICH IT IS NO LONGER A CASE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, BUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.” PAUL GILDING, THE GREAT DISRUPTION

ENERGY 101: INTRODUCTION

Apparently, we are in trouble: Icebergs melting. Waters rising. Species dying. The last five years, the hottest ever recorded.⁠1  These are facts, not conspiracies, and I see the hand-wringing of people—myself included—who want to do something to stop our sprint to extinction. We know that this environmental devastation is due, at least in part, to human activity, and that we, Americans, have the potential to make an enormous difference in dealing with it. Our actions matter. We’re not acting. Why?

That question could take us in myriad directions. We could delve into the psychology of fear, a primal reaction to danger that causes adrenaline to course through the body. Extreme fear, called panic, can kill because it shuts down more rational reactions, like thinking, and action. 

Or we could consider the learned helplessness and disempowerment that has been encouraged by the demo-n-capitalist society in which we live: Bigger is better. You can’t be too rich. Profits prioritized over people, and corporations rule our politicians, so why bother to vote? Go shopping, instead, because there is (arguably) nothing one person can do to make a difference.

Or we can study energy. Energy is complicated. There are so many different kinds of it—kinetic, potential, thermal, electrical. Our labyrinthine lives in 21st century America depend on the convenience and reliability of energy, in the form of fossil fuels, the extraction and use of which is one of the causes of our heating world. What built this country is also its Achilles heel, and do we even know how it came to be? How it works? What will happen when it runs out? Which it is going to. Fact, not conspiracy.⁠2

Convenience rocks. Change is hard. We are complicit in our environmental free-fall because we all partake of the fossil-fueled system. If we want to make a difference, we have to change. But in order to change, we have to know the facts, and our options. So let’s educate ourselves on the thing that keeps us alive and connected: Energy. That simple, elegant and overwhelming aspect of life that is us, that connects us, that runs life as we know it in the United States of America. 

Or not. We can opt to do nothing and watch the droughts and floods, the fires and mass extinctions but the spectator seats aren’t comfortable because deep inside we know this: If we leave others to sink under the rising tides, we lose what we claim puts us above other animals: our humanity. Too, who will be left to help us, and why would they? 

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1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/02/06/undeniable-warming-planets-hottest-five-years-record-five-images/?utm_term=.2561f982839e

2 Fossil fuels are considered finite because they were formed of organic material over millions of years. Millions more years will be required to make more. Thus, for our intents and purposes, they are finite. In 2014, British Petroleum said that in fifty years, reserves will run out.

Ideas Popping Like Popcorn . . .

Bicycles. This is an interesting article on bicycles that might solve a number of problems in a small town like Jaffrey, or a bigger one like Providence. Maybe only in spring, summer and fall. But the infrastructure built to accommodate bicycles might adapt to winter, too. We would just have to think a bit deeper.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/bicycling/growing-importance-bicycle-infrastructure-ze0z1412zhur

What problems, you ask? Parking. Traffic. Obesity and other health issues. Pollution.

But, please, read the article and contemplate the issue yourself. I’d love to get a conversation going about things climate change and the options we have to deal with it, not least bicycles.

Going forward, on Fridays, I will post my Stone Age Redux articles, an alternative to the current path we are on, the one that’s so familiar, so convenient, so inevitably leading us over the climate cliff.

No doubt, I will expose my own version of cognitive dissonance, and starry-eyed willful blindness. Feel free to point them out. Please join in with your own. I’d love to hear from you.

Article to Read!

This is an interesting read on the cognitive dissonance we all live with. I might add that there is a lot of construction and buying of big, expensive buildings on and around the island of Manhattan . . ..

https://popula.com/2019/04/02/heaven-or-high-water/?te=1&nl=morning-briefing&emc=edit_NN_p_20190409&section=whatElse

Missed Opportunities

I’m trying to get a foothold back into the blogosphere, and have been for months. Dozens of attempts fill up a document folder titled “Possible Posts”, and each beginning has a paragraph, or a series of sentences, none of which got finished. Missed opportunities to connect on topics that range from rental goats and possible goat adoption, to heritage breed chickens, broody hens and chicken deaths, and on to a debate about the necessity of winter prep for our resident frogs. (We didn’t, and recently scooped out four corpses from the pond-pool; lesson learned but at such a cost . . ..) The last was about book writing. After fifteen drafts, I have finished At Crossroads with Chickens and now face the daunting process of seeking agents and a publisher, and then publishing, and it’s far easier to write.

(That is a lie. Rather, choosing to write is my choice and, therefore, within my power. I have no control of agents and publishers who might, or might not like, or even read, what I send them.)

When in the final throes and pages of At Crossroads with Chickens, I began a series of articles on energy with an aim to raise awareness about the true costs of fossil fuels, and educate myself and whoever read the articles, on how energy works in the U.S. of A.. Easier said the done. The articles had the wrong tone, from too “lite” to too pedantic. And where to begin when energy in our lives is so far reaching, and each fact requires pages of supporting evidence because ever in the background are the doubters, the deniers, the giver-uppers, and too-laters? So much background noise on top of the cognitive dissonance of the world is ending but isn’t it a beautiful day?

Note to self: The world is not ending, it’s just that Mother Nature, not Homo s.sapiens, will bat last. The world as we knew it, though, is long gone. Coming up is the world without us, and just what will that look like?

That is where I draw my line in the sand. Here. I want to make the world a little bit better. I am done with the question “Is there climate change?” Because the answer is a resounding yes, and it is human caused and more aptly described as climate chaos. We are at ground zero. And, as Derrick Jensen says in his article “Nothing Else Matters” . . . nothing else matters.

Except, perhaps, tone. Tone matters. If I get too dark, people will get depressed and overwhelmed. That brings to mind a conversation I had with a local dairy farmer. A cheerful, kind fellow who spends time with his cows because they have so much to teach him, he smiled when we got on the topic of things climate, Big Ag, soil  health and pesticides. He laughed and said that, when he first started  in organic and biodynamic farming, he was radical. It was his way or the highway but with time, he calmed down, and adopted a live-and-let-live attitude. After all, it takes all kinds. But now—and here his voice hardened, his jaw tightened, his expression became intent and serious—now he is back to militant because who will protect, nurture and heal the earth and its sentient creatures if he doesn’t? 

I’m with him. I can’t control other people, and yes, the situation is absolutely and undeniably overwhelming. And no one person can save the world. But each of us has his, her or their personal being with which they can change the world. Think energy. Think electrons connecting us to everything around us. Our actions make a difference. What we bring to the table, each of us, is our own unique being. That’s all. That’s everything.

Change a lightbulb, and turn out the lights when you leave a room. It matters.

Walk, don’t drive. It matters. 

Hang your laundry, don’t use a dryer. It matters (and will lower your electric bill, too.)

Eat less meat, and try for happy meat. It matters (especially for those sentient animals living in CAFOs).

Call your legislators and tell them climate change matters. Talk to your neighbors and create connections because they are who you are going to need when things get tough.

And they will need you.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing, because there is no perfect, no single answer, and everyone of us is accountable. We have the chance to save the world. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Only time will tell if it’s easier than finding a publisher.

A Book and What’s Next.

What used to be my Darwin’s View 2012-2014 blog is now a 211- page book. It took a lot longer than I thought it would. Deletions and additions, pages of them, came and went. So did quotes and footnotes, and my tirades against America’s Demo-n-capitalism and the inertia of Home s. sapiens in regard to climate change, CAFOs and the poisoning of our soils with leftover poisons from war. Each draft—all fifteen of them—has been a peeling off, development and deepening of the themes of chickens, my mother & Mother Nature, and home. These changes were exemplified by my title tweaking. What began as Darwin’s View One Breath After Midnight morphed into Darwin’s View: A Journey to the Heart’s Core with the Double Assist of Chickens to Off-grid with the Double Assist of Chickens  . . . Off-grid with Chickens: Growing Chaos, Healing Soil, Sowing Hope . . .. In every draft, with every new title, themes braided, morphed, evolved, even as I did.

The final edit was the most eye-opening and, believe me, I would never have done it alone. In 2015, I took a memoir workshop with Ann Hood (The Italian Wife, Obituary Writer, The Knitting Circle, etc.). Months later, I asked her to read a draft, and then another. Finally, I sent her the three hundred page Draft Fourteen. Her suggestions consisted of cutting a chapter here, a chapter there, all told nearly one hundred pages.

The first seventy pages of cuts made absolute sense. But not the chapter on music! Not the one about my father in Hamburg! But as I read how the book flowed . . . I cut. And again. Those final cuts clarified the book as a cook does butter, removing the excess foam. What’s left? At Crossroads with Chickens: A “What if it works?” Adventure in Off-grid Living, and Quest for Home

It’s not the book I thought it would be. It won’t save the world. But I hope it will add what I believe the world needs: more love, compassion and soul work.

And now? I am working on articles on energy. Ideas for a play, a children’s book, another novel, another non-fiction book percolate. And then Carl and I have a plan up our sleeves. We will know in a week or two if it’s a go.

And, of course, there’s Darwin’s View and the chickens. Spring threatens floods and slurry. The chickens race outdoors to muddy their feet and exercise their wings. The young farmer who helps us will be back soon to help with all things permaculture and plantings. And then there’s the question of goats, and the writing of query letters in hopes of finding a publisher. 

More Chicken Rules!

MORE CHICKEN RULES

We are in the midst here at Darwin’s View, moving the chicken coop and bus stop from their winter position—that we thought would be permanent—to where we hope will be their new and, yes, permanent home to the north of the annual garden area. You might ask, “Will this be the thirteenth or fourteenth coop rendition since you adopted the chickens in 2012?” Or, as likely, you might look at us askance and say, “Why, for pity’s sake, are you moving them again?”

Winter lesson: It might be convenient to have the chickens nearby for those arctic winter treks to water and feed them but the amount of chicken feathers, dander and manure that has been tracked into the house is fantastic. I have reached my limit of gross. The alacrity with which Carl agreed and proceeded to move all things coop and bus stop run from the household/human area affirms that he, too, has reached his limit. Thus, the chickens are back across the driveway where they used to live prior to last fall’s winter move. The hiccup being, they are not in a fully Fort Knoxian situation. In the return process, the old coop made way for the quonset hut coop, and the old runs were dragged up and behind the solar panels, next to the water catchment pond, there to await repurposing. At least, that was our plan. Mother Nature had other ideas and destroyed them during last week’s windstorm.  The remnants of the run dot the landscape.

Further exposing our disheveled state? Two of our three geriatric (at age six) hens are sick. Ping—one of our original chicks—and Chickadee—an adoptee that same year. Both hens sit with their tails hanging down, in part, perhaps, embarrassed by their dirty bottoms. Chickadee in particular. This winter I suspected she had arthritis, the way she limped, exuding discomfort whenever she moved. She used to be a weighty hen but is now boney and light when I pick her up. Which I do only rarely. I don’t want to disturb her when she stands still, eyes half closed. She has been “off” for at least as long as Brownie was sick. 

Did I not mention that we lost the last of our devilish triplets last month? I still don’t know why but Brownie started down the hill of non-recovery and got a mite infestation. Mites won’t kill a healthy hen but they will definitely take out an unhealthy one. All my efforts to help Brownie—Epsom salt baths and blow drying her feathers; assisting with dust baths; spraying the environs with various anti-mite natural sprays because the insecticide warnings sounded more deadly to us than to the mites; hovering and worrying. Nothing helped. In fact, I think I made things worse for the little hen when I attempted that second dust bath of wood ash, dirt and diatomaceous earth. Both of us were coughing by the end of it.  I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, until I stepped out one morning to see Brownie squatted down, feathers matted and mites crawling over her shut eyes. Yet still breathing, she was the epitome of abject misery and resignation. I called for Carl. He took her to the chop block. 

There is something quite final about a headless chicken. After weeks of anxious thinking about her, trying to save her, abruptly, there’s no hope. Only the hovering question why am I doing this? I’m no steward, nor farmer. I should rehome them all to someone who knows what they are doing.

Meanwhile, two more sick hens with dirty butts. What to do? Cleanliness is key. I prepared to give the sick girls baths. 

Epsom salts. Three buckets of warm water. Medical gloves. An extra layer of clothing. I walked over to the new coop area where Schtude was prancing about, overseeing his four sisters who were merrily pecked. CooLots and Apricot, too. Ping and Chickadee were sitting under the coop looking . . . meh. I donned the gloves, picked up Chickadee and took her to the bathing area. The buckets weren’t really big enough for her, and was the water too cool or too warm? Was it uncomfortable having me loosen those cling-ons? I removed her from the first, now filthy bucket of water, and plunk into the second bucket went her bum. She was not a happy teabag. A brief struggle. Not done with her cleaning, yet I let her go. I didn’t want to stress her anymore than she already was by Schtude, who harasses anything that moves, jumping up on even his sick coop mates, and attacking my muck boots with me in them.

Dumping the buckets, washing them out, refilling them with warm water, I then proceeded to Ping. I picked her up and settled her down into the first bucket. She kept up a steady conversation. Our Dominque is a sweet, chatty girl. With her rose comb and curious nature, she is my long-time favorite. I have neglected her all winter in favor of the new girls who are so aggressively friendly that it’s hard to make one’s way to the more retiring older hens. If only because there is Schtude, ever scuttling about, sending warnings, eyeing me with suspicion. I paid him no heed, holding onto the soft, downy Ping with both hands in the bucket, tidying her bottom until Bam! My head was knocked by a very hard kerfuffle of feathers. My eyeglasses went flying. So did Ping. I covered my head with my arms, closed my eyes. A very bad headache. Was that blood trickling down my cheek? I shouted for Carl. A deep ache on either side of my head, breathless from shock, and the damned rooster still making feints at me. 

“Carl!” 

He came running.

For the record, cocks have claws, and then there are the hook-like spurs an inch or two above the claws. Whereas Big Red, all those years ago, had very long spurs, Schtude’s are rather short and stubby. Luckily. I only have bruises on both temples, a bit of broken skin, a post migraine-style headache, and a slightly blurry right eye with an extra floater.

Much as I’d like to blame Schtude, it was my fault. Like many roosters, he doesn’t like my attentions to his hens. And when I think back to that moment, he was there dancing about, a yellow feathery blur, clucking and scolding. But I felt more concern for my sick hen than to the antics of that dastardly cock. He was right there in front of me, warning me. I didn’t take note. And so he attacked. 

I took a couple of hours to recover but I figured getting attacked by an overzealous cock is like getting thrown by a horse: it’s important to get back out, not be dominated by a yellow feather of attitude. He came at me. We spent a minute, each trying to get the upper hand, or wing as the case may be. Eventually, I succeeded in grabbing him.

I believe it is highly insulting to a roo to be held, embarrassing to be humbled in front of his hens. I told him to suck it up and deal because I am bigger than he is, however formidable he might seem to the terrorized hens. And then I apologized for the stress of the coop move. The upset of his two hens being dunked. I forgave him his brutality while giving him a long tour of what would be the new chicken area if ever we have time to get to it, and then I set him down. He scuttled off. Just out of reach, he paused to let out a mighty cock-a-doodle-do. I thought about rules and how, according to my rules, all was forgiven. We had reached an understanding, made peace. But, by now, I know Roo Rules are different. When I look out my office window, I watch him and know he is planning his revenge.

And I ask you: Do I rehome him? Do I send Chickadee and Ping to the chop block and rehome the Suffragettes and Squeaky and Swallow, CooLots and Apricot? Or do I do like a rooster and shout out against the wind and nature, “Damn the torpedoes! Hope springs eternal! I’m going to adopt more chickens!” And maybe some guinea fowl to eat the burgeoning population of ticks. Ducklings to eat slugs and be generally cute. But not goats. Those we will rent. In early June. Twelve of them will come with a dog and a shelter and their very own electric fence. . ..

 

Now What?

A few weeks ago, I finished the twelfth draft of my memoir about life here at Darwin’s View, off-grid with chickens. Since then, I have been scrambling to get caught up with myself and everything else that fell by the wayside, not least, the book summaries I said I’d write and haven’t. What was I thinking, giving myself that task? Each morning, I sit down to write. I pick up one or another of the books I’ve read . . . and I’d rather tidy a hen’s pasty butt until it’s back to fluff and order. And so, instead of pumping out reviews, I have organized my flute music. And moved around my office furniture. With Carl, I have gathered up our taxes and reconciled our accounts. And lots of phone calls and texts and emails. I signed off of that time suck Facebook. What a relief! Now I have more time . . . to write the dratted reviews that are like disassembled skeletons. Even once they are put together, they’ll need flesh and blood to make them worth reading. And ever in the background, the question that ends my memoir and jumpstarts this blog going forward: Now what?

Adopting oxen was my first, if temporary, response to that question. Mentioned to us by a new friend, Jesse and James are described as gentle giants, hand-raised from birth, a working team who pull timber . . . and are quite amorous toward their new and petite Devon cattle sisters. Thus, they need a new home, and I thought, why not here at Darwin’s View?

I must have said that aloud because Carl promptly counted out the reasons why not. 

“We have no barn.”

“Oh details,” I replied, and waved a hand in the general direction of outside. “We can build one.” 

Carl countered with the obvious fact that cats and chickens challenge my limits. Oxen are enormous and they have horns. And, before I could respond, he suggested we start with something more our size. A dog. I took the bait and opened PetFinder.com. Carl went down to his man cave to practice, leaving me to drool over corgi mix puppies . . . and, unbeknownst to Carl, goats. 

Not long ago, I read Brad Kessler’s Goat Song and suggested Carl do the same. The book is about Kessler and his wife’s who move from New York City to a Vermont farm where they take on the task of goat adoption and cheesemaking. In the course of the year Kessler details, he tells the history of humans and goats, his own interactions with their Nubian goats, and the process of cheesemaking. That process would include the fact that in order to get goat cheese, one needs goat milk, and to get goat milk, one needs female goats to get pregnant and have babies that are then detached, bleating, from their mother’s teat so that the milk can be used for cheese. And to get that female goat pregnant? Kessler describes his virgin goat’s first time in graphic detail. 

Ah, silly me. There I was imaging that the book would get Carl hooked on the idea of the cheesemaking, and thereby goats. In fact, he was so repulsed by the description of the rutting goat’s rape of that young female goat that he almost contemplated giving up eating cheese. Me, too. Though I was more upset by the bleating kids. Kessler’s goats might be treated humanely but the fact remains, as with cows in dairy farm factories, dairying requires humans to step in and separate mothers from their children. 

Fortunately, I was able to balance the anguish of that with Sy Montgomery’s The Good Good Pig. We might not be able to save all animals but, at least, we can have the satisfaction and self improvement of saving one, in Sy Montgomery’s case, a runt pig that grows to be . . . well, rather larger than an ox calf. Montgomery, though, has a barn. And chickens. And a heart full of love for all the world’s sentient creatures and the verve to befriend and love them all. 

My friend who suggested the oxen, Alyson, works at Nye Hill Farm in Roxbury. It is a brewery and a sanctuary for animals, not least numerous piggies. I have met these piggies and they are grunty and sweet and big. Actually, huge. Overwhelming and amazing and not, in any current context, within my comfort zone, even having read about Sy Montgomery’s Christopher Hogwood. I feel so limited. After all, if it would mean saving a pig from becoming bacon, I should leap at the opportunity. Instead, I harken back to Carl’s remonstrance that chickens and cats are my limits. I come up short even with them. Just ask Nick and Nora. They meow incessantly throughout the night for attention, enduring great loneliness and neglect when I don’t get up to pet and feed them, maybe run the shower for a moment so that water will run down the drain for them who are positively parched at three o’clock in the morning. 

And the chickens? Every morning, while I am strapped in my office chair and don’t dare leave because I know I won’t come back due to one distraction or another, Carl does the chicken chores of watering and providing daily treats. Truth be told, some days, I barely make it out to say hello. Ping is so offended that she hardly deigns to approach me anymore. Granted, she is elderly now and likely prefers to avoid the kerfuffle of the Suffragettes, and Swallow and Squeaky stampeding me in hopes of mealy worms.

In contrast to me, Sy Montgomery is a real, honest to goodness animal steward who develops a relationship with her hens. She keeps her peeps with her in her office as they grow up. She let’s them fly about, be their authentic selves. And when they are grown up, she visits her girls and so they like her.

Pause to note girls. Montgomery doesn’t have the karma that attracts boy chicks to her circle. No cock-a-doodles for her. Her chicks never transgender into cockerels, who start out so sweet and end up chasing her around the yard, rapping her on the wrist with their beaks, insisting she keep away from HIS hens. 

I am not bitter. I am only making reference to my own chick to chicken history which is chock full of roosters. Big Red. Cornelius, Pong and Clayton. Little Big Man and his brother who died too young to be named. Mo and Schtude, who was supposed to be Uncle Schtude but is currently not living up to his laid back, gentle name, thus not embodying the future I had hoped to write about in a children’s book. It will have to be fiction.

All to say, I’m not sure if I should start an animal sanctuary here at Darwin’s View. The animals might not be as attended to as they should be. And it’s so blowy up here. This past week, fifty mile an hour winds that blew out the trim in our attached greenhouse. They’d have to be sturdy animals. What if they got sick and the vet took a long time to get here and they were in pain? And if they died? No. I need to protect myself from the worry and anxiety of animals beyond Nick and Nora and our ten chickens . . . and the resident twelve or fifteen wild turkeys that promenade the property like long-tailed pterodactyls. And the herd of leaping, browsing deer. The porcupines and mice. The frogs in our lap pond . . .. Why not be content with worrying about all those living beings?

Because I know what goes on out there in the world. The carnage and cruelty of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). The terror of the just born separated from their mothers. The slaughter. 

Whoops! Before I get onto my high horse about that I have to go out and attend to Brownie who is not well. And stare at the myriad books I have read, details of which to come. Maybe. Maybe not. For now, I’m going with the flow, seeing where it takes me. Today, it takes me to meet Jesse and James, the oxen. And a couple of goats. Just to see them because we don’t have a barn. Carl is coming with me to be sure I remember that. And then we will come back to Darwin’s View, to the wind buffeting us and the cats and chickens and I will likely read more words, and write some, all with the aim of finding the answer to that still echoing and haunting question Now what?

PERSPECTIVE

I watched the lunar eclipse this morning. The start of it anyway. The moon set within minutes of the shadowing but still, what silent beauty. How awesome a thing, the planets’ dance, and I am left wondering, can the feminine of the moon counter the patriarchy of us? For millennia, Homo sapiens have dominated and crushed, rather than stewarded and nurtured. The human species opposing microbials and the planetary energies flying about? What hubris to think we rule as a species when put into the setting of life writ large.

But still there remains us. What of us as individuals and in the context of the minutiae of daily life? The earth rotates round, and I go about my white, privileged life while others live in fear, deported, arrested and incarcerated for being black, for being different. And still, the earth turns, creating the illusion that the sun is rising, the moon is setting when, in fact, it is the earth ever turning as it rockets through space.

How live an authentic life, a moral life, when one’s own actions seem so paltry, the big picture so devastating, and the biggest picture so humbling?

Tonight Carl and I are hosting a Fossil Fuel Free Future event under the auspices of 350.org and other organizations that are working for change and a better future for the human species. Will it make a difference? Is it too late to make the necessary changes to combat climate change? Once this current administration is finished—and it will be. Whether by election or, in the course of time, by death—how ever will we go back or forward when such damage has been done to our democracy and our world?

It’s all about one’s perspective and attitude, right? Because the fact is, we have little control over most things that fall under the category of life except how we each go about our own lives. We can foment and march, keen for all that has been lost, or work for and celebrate what has been gained. Option three, we can do nothing, frozen and overwhelmed.

Life is not black and white. Moods and energy ebb and flow. And it’s how we live our own lives and what we stand for, or don’t.

Shall I look with horror at the world, or put on PollyAnna glasses and take on an “ain’t this grand” attitude?

It is rather grand from where I sit. Nature’s beauty is simply breathtaking. I am no photographer and yet look at the colors, the sparkle and shy beauty of her that surrounds us. She is divine and it is us who can watch her, appreciate her with gratitude.

At least that’s what I hope to do. Try to do. Every day as I look to the moon, softer than the sun but her pull is underestimated.

The Egg & I by Betty MacDonald

Within days of Betty and Bob MacDonald’s marriage, while still on their honeymoon, Bob announced that what he wanted, really wanted, was to be a chicken farmer. Shortly after their return from their honeymoon, he found a farm off in the hinterlands of Washington State. Betty MacDonald’s book The Egg & I is a memoir of the author’s trial by fire life on that farm.

“When you make a complete change in your mode of living, as I did, you learn that, along with the strange aspects of the new life which seep in and become part of you, will come others to which you never become accustomed.” (p. 94)

I found the initial pages delightful. The broad similarities of the MacDonalds’ relationship and experience with Carl’s and mine that imbued the book kept me happily reading. The humorous recounting of her childhood, and her 1950s conditioning on how-to-be-a-good-wife, lay the groundwork for her lack of rebellion at Bob’s turn-on-a-dime announcement. Their move out to the hinterlands to rebuild derelict chicken coops and outhouses, reclaim the forested landscape to create gardens, all while lacking 20th century conveniences like electricity, running water, a radio and telephone . . . and then the creepy nighttime visits to the outhouse? It was humbling to read. I whinge on if I can’t have an espresso in the morning. My comfort zone might be rather small but—full disclosure—we are very, very comfortable here in our now-large, off-grid home. I might have to clean the chicken coop, refill the water buckets and food bins, shovel snow and toss hay bales with my arm in a cast and in negative wind chill weather, but the chores here are manageable with only ten chickens . .  and Carl.

Too, we have hot showers. I cannot imagine facing the manure and kerfuffle of two thousand hens without running water or a backup propane tank.

Betty and I do share a special something: a lack of organizational skills. Her high hopes and fantasies regarding seeds are mine. She, too, would dream, as she ordered seeds for fancy-ass plants that grow in zone 8 rather than her zone of 3, of a stunning garden full of burgeoning flowers and herbs and bushes. Her attempts flailed and failed as have so many of mine. Carl’s and my greenhouse, for instance, resembles our barren hens, in its failure to provide us with our winter greens and I would suggest that failure is not the greenhouse’s but mine. Even in a greenhouse, for example, one must plant seeds in the dirt and water them. It’s ever so much like gardening. At times, I wonder if, as was suggested to Ms. MacDonald once upon a time, someone ought to say to me, “You ought to get you another hobby, there is some folks who just don’t have the feeling. Yep, you should get you another hobby.” (p. 155)

I would reject such a notion. I only lack intention. Or maybe it’s attention, a skill I am currently honing with the help of meditation and Carl, which brings me to the topic of husbands.

Bob MacDonald and Carl, too, share interests and tendencies. For instance, both love manual labor’s satisfactions. Bob, though, is more enamored of the financial benefits of that work, also known as chicken care. Carl has a more architectural interest, being on coop ten or eleven for our motley flock. And Carl labors more to satisfy my assessment of the coops, rather than the bookkeeping of the final egg count. Clearly, egg count and finances don’t rate up here at Darwin’s View. If ever we get another egg, it will be equal to gold.  If Betty and Bob had had our hens, our girls would have been cooked and plated back in September when they all gave up entirely on providing us with eggs. As she writes “if a hen is lazy or uncooperative or disagreeable you can chop off her head and relieve the situation once and for all.” (p. 39) She further pounded the stake in my heart when she wrote,  “I got so I actually enjoyed watching Bob stick his killing knife deep into the palates of fity cockerels and hang them up to bleed. My only feeling was pride to see how firm and fat they were as we dressed them for market.” (p. 147)

Needless to say, when she wrote “dressed”, it wasn’t in a suit and tie.

To enjoy taking a sentient life isn’t something I ever hope to feel. Which brings me to another point of divergence:

The abundance of nature is throughout her book. Her descriptions of the fauna outside of their door, and on their plates exhibit a flourishing of life’s variety. And its intrusion into their life. In the chapter “Who Bothers Whom”, she describes her scary walk through the woods being followed by some unknown beast. To allay her worries, Bob goes out for a walk with the dogs and a gun. Shots and silence. Upon his return, Bob proudly announces he has killed a She bear. A mother bear. Leaving two cubs. Knowing what I know, to kill a She bear when her babies are cubs equates to killing the cubs, too. They don’t yet know how to survive in the wilds. True or false?

She read my mind when she wrote, “Now, were we bothering that bear? Of course, some people will say that the woods were the bears’s natural domain and just by being there Bob was bothering her. But those woods were our property!” (p.173)

In that same chapter, a cougar “that measured eleven feet from head to tail tip” was killed as well and it just begs the question, for me, on property ownership. I get it. Were a bear to stroll up to our porch and take out a bird feeder, I would freak, too. And when our local bobcat showed up at our coop’s door a few years ago, I ran out with a broom. And then ran back in. But I didn’t call around to find someone with a gun.

“In every case the wild animal bothered us first and it was merely luck for our side that Bob was nerveless in emergencies and a crack shot.” p. 181

That is one possible interpretation of facts. My interpretation is that humans are the one’s trespassing. Certainly, we take all the toys and leave nothing for the other creatures. Given the fast dwindling species, I think it’s about time to consider coexistence rather than destruction. There is a way to coexist. Our chipmunks might be obnoxious, how they take one bite out of every, single strawberry rather than focusing on a few and leaving us the rest. But think how plump they got for that happy kestrel? I would argue that if the chipmunk had not been there, neither would the kestrel. By destroying other creatures’ habitat, leaving them no room to exist, we remove the web that supports life, not least, ours.

Betty is aware of this, I think, in her description of the logging companies working in the forests around her farm.

“The only ugliness we saw was the devastation left by logging companies. Whole mountains left naked and embrrassed, their every scar visible for miles. Lovely mountain lakes turned into plain ponds beside a dusty road, their crystal water muddy brown with slashings and rubbish.” (p. 91) … The small companies were careless and wasteful in their logging, but their attempts at destruction were feeble and unimportant compared to the wholesale devastation this company left in its wake. (p. 227) I counted twenty-seven red flags on the way home. Some of them may have been old, some may have belonged to pole cutters, but even ten were too many.(p. 231)

Red flags on a road side show where a logging company is, was, or would be working.

MacDonald is a product of her time. She notes the destruction and killing but seems to accept it as the way of the world. Humans dominate. We kill other animals for food. We wreak havoc on nature for wood and sustenance. We do what we do to survive. For her, the chickens are more important than the cougars and bears. An understandable attitude.

Less understandable is her insulting descriptions of Native American Indians, whom her husband befriended but she did not. Take this breathtaking example: “Little red brothers or not, I didn’t like Indians, and the more I saw of them the more I thought what an excellent thing it was to take that beautiful country away from them. They had come a long way from Hiawatha.” page 220

And so. Although I found the book amusing initially, it is dated with its prejudices, and casually exhibits the thoughtless waste of nature, and the hubristic, callous, too-often inhumane treatment of our fellow creatures. I, too, am a product of my time. I believe that when a single person or class or race or species claims dominance, the balance of life and nature tips and the world wobbles. The wind picks up. The chaos grows. Hell arrives at our doorstep until nature provides balance again. Because she will find balance, with or without us.

Thus, I recommend this book. The Egg & I is a time capsule, showing a perspective on a past world, one that still burgeoned with the diversity of life, so much of which is now extinct. It provides myriad subject matter for discussion, not least for those who are considering a “return to the land”. And it left me, anyway, contemplating this question: how will our generations be viewed fifty years from now, assuming there is life on earth.

 

One Way to Jumpstart a New Year

Yesterday began 2018. Some people hold the belief that, however you spend that first day of the year portends how the rest of the year will go. Which is only to say, mine was not an entirely auspicious beginning, given my hope for a calmer, more intentional time going forward.

5:15AM on January 1, 2018. Very cozy in bed with Carl asleep next to me, Nick and Nora, too,  at my feet and on my head, respectively. After a few minutes of convincing myself that it was a good idea, I got myself up. The first day of the rest of my life and I was going to write, to draw, to meditate in the dark of the calm of the slow lighting of the sun of the vast beauty of Darwin’s View. Glimmers and outlines of the environment around me. Schtude’s crows from the greenhouse . . ..

I should preface this by saying that it was cold out on New Year’s Eve. Very cold and, being me, I worried about the chickens becoming icicles. And so the wonderful Carl, ever tolerant of my obsessive worrying, had build a simple wall in the attached-to-the-house greenhouse, thereby creating a 4’ by 6’ space, directly next to the door that goes outside. I had put down newspaper and then hay and used two milk crates to serve as nesting boxes and a 2’ by 4’ for a roost. And then I, eventually joined by Carl, carried the girls and Schtude in, one by one, placing them into the house, directly from the outside, into the greenhouse new coop, as the sun had set, concluding the damned year of 2017.

Was it damned? Unspeakable things happened in 2017. Evil. Cruelty. Heralding the demise of democracy and human decency. Maybe of humanity. And yet! Look around and one can see a fomenting, the solidifying of a movement, of involvement and determination.

Who was it who said of the war to save nature “All our wins are temporary, all our losses are forever?”

The clock ticked. It ticks to midnight. And the chickens were, for all intents and purposes, inside the house. Though there is a door between the living room and greenhouse. And then one must walk the 8 or so feet over to Carl’s new wall and door into the 4’ by 6’ area where the ten chickens nestled and kerfuffled. Schtude fomented against the limited area he had to spread his mighty wings and flap. His crows were remarkably closer than when the birds are ensconced in the coop.

He began crowing at 4AM. I was up at 5:30AM. The wood stove fire had burned down to embers. I shuffled them around and filled the stove with wood and left the side and top vents open in hopes of creating a fire, a.k.a. warmth, thereby proving to myself that I am capable of maintaining the wood stove, even with one arm casted and without Carl’s help. And then up into my office. A deep breath. I settled down to my journal, assorted colored pencils, pastels and paint. Peace and quiet as I contemplated the difference of expression between words and forms. Six. Six-fifteen. Six twenty-five. Yes, it was around six twenty-five that all hell broke loss and the fire alarms began to sound. Every one of them.

I jumped up and ran downstairs. Carl was coming out of the bedroom. My mother’s caretaker (Did I mention that my mother is visiting us for three weeks? Advanced Parkinson’s and we have twenty-four hour caretakers which merits a whole other post, if not a book) Tammy joined us as we attempted to figure out where the smell of plastic or candles was coming from. A faint fog but no smoke, per se. No hot walls. The wood stove was blazing merrily but the fire was safely inside of it, not out. Carl shut down the flues. I ran outside. No flames coming out of the chimney.

“Do we call 911?” I asked. Carl hedged briefly. We decided to call. We could, at least, assure them that everything was okay, right? They didn’t need to come, did they?

They came. Long story short, five SUVs and a fire engine made it up our half mile driveway and we got to know our wonderful local firemen, who informed us that two houses have burned to the ground in the past week because the fire alarms had gone off and the people hadn’t called 911; thereby the Chief reassured me that I hadn’t been an alarmist by calling.  He said, please call.

In 2013, I declared war against climate change on my blog. The last month of 2013, I wrote five posts, building on what I had learned and where it had brought me. Years have passed. We, as a nation and as individuals, debate whether to call the professionals. And the alarm bells are ringing.

Schtude crowed. Having people in one’s house and realizing what it must look like, having one’s chickens . . . . I trusted that the firemen had other things to worry about. Once they left, however, I suggested to Carl that, though it was still damned cold, yet, maybe we should get the chickens out of the house because the greenhouse was heating up—a balmy 50 degrees by 8 am, and the change in temperature wouldn’t be good for the girls. It was only 0 degrees out. It would shock their little bodies.

I put on my boots and went into the 4’ by 6’ area with the chickens who complained that there was little enough room to walk about without a human in the mix. I tried to unlock the door. The door to the outside was frozen. An eighth of an inch of frost bedecked it. Not even Carl could open the door and so we had to take the chickens, one by one, out through the house to the coop. First Swallow. Then the Suffragettes, Susan B and Cady. Schtude. Ping. Chickadee. CooLots. Apricot. Brownie and Squeaky were the last two. I headed out of the greenhouse into the living room with Brownie, who is, by the way, the only one who seems more content inside than out, and Carl was in the greenhouse chasing Squeaky. An uh-oh and crash. A curse. Squeaky was free and squawking in the greenhouse. Carl lunged. She arrived into the living room. I stopped to assess the situation. Carl got onto his hands and knees to follow Squeaky under the dining room table. She darted beneath, betwixt and between the dining room chairs. I told Carl to hold on as I struggled to get my cell phone’s video camera up without losing hold of Brownie all with one arm in a cast; I ever have my priorities straight.

Finally, I suggested to Carl that he take Brownie as I might be a bit more able, even one armed, to chase the chicken. He stood up. He stared at me. No comment as he took Brownie and marched out of the house. I chased the chicken from the dining room into the kitchen where she skidded and shat, and into my arms, feathers flying. As I passed Carl coming back in, I warned him of the liquid bomb on the floor.

At last calm? Not quite. Nora was missing. I spent the next two hours wondering out loud, to little effect, where the cat might be. High and low I looked. Carl, as ever, kicked in. While looking in the crawl space in the attic, he fixed the broken lightbulb. In the basement, I hung the winter coats that had been on the floor since December 21. Trying to de-clutter and fix even as we sought the cat who Carl found, of course, in a box, purring and sleepy and safe.

The most part of the rest of the day was spent with a new friend who suggested, as has been suggested by others in the past but we haven’t made the time, that we write up a mission statement. Clarify what our passions are, what we want to do here.

I have been trying to write about our times here. A memoir of our life at Darwin’s View. The end keeps getting pushed back. I keep learning and the fact is, to conclude a book, one must know what one is aiming for, what one is trying to say, one’s mission.

The book will be the backstory to this blog which, in turn, is a step into the future. My point being, I know if I slow down, all the muck that gets raised in the hurly burly of our life will settle. The muck will become the soil in which we grow our selves, our hopes and intentions.

2017 exposed hate, fear and—for all the aspersions cast about fake news—truth. This nation is imperfect.  But it is a union. We are all connected and therefore we cannot stand on the sidelines anymore. We have only to determine, each of us individually, how we are going to act and thereby expose who we are, truly, as human beings.

Apparently, creosote forms much faster when there is an extreme difference between the heat of the stove pipe in the house and outside. We will need to maintain the heat of the stove in order to prevent the build up. Balance in extremes. How apt.

I believe 2018 will be a year for bravery. Daring. Uncomfortable places. Thus, this morning, I sat still. My drawings were full of zigs and zags, of bright reds, oranges, pinks, yellows. Surrounded by dark blues, blacks. And, in the center, because there she was this morning, so plump and shining, the moon setting over Mount Monadnock. Purity, hope, and balance in words and forms.

Happy New Year.

Christmas?

I’m entering the fifth week of the healing of my hair-brain fracture. The cast has been on for two and a half weeks and makes the most basic actions, like typing, challenging. But still doable.

Rather like Christmas. Carl and I didn’t want to feed into the hypocrisy of Christmas this year by buyingbuyingbuying. Instead, we celebrated the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is more in line with our beliefs. The longest night of the year celebrated with friends. The quiet beauty of the moon radiating the feminine power within us, the ebb and flow of energy around the earth, our universe and beyond. A quiet peace and holy calm.

And why should we, would we celebrate Christmas as it is today? A grotesquely commercialized celebration of a major religious figure? A religious figure who represents a religion that has justified torture, murder, rape and usury in the name of its god, and been smug and entitled about it? America’s Manifest Destiny is the basis of much of the evil this country has effected within its borders and around the world. Why ever celebrate that?

. . . As opposed to the original intention of Christmas: to love and be generous with that love. To celebrate and honor the awesomeness of a miracle. To stand awed by powers greater than we are, by nature’s grandeur and beauty. To bow low and be grateful for one’s gifts and abilities. And to wonder how best to share them, and support others?

Best intentions aside, Carl and I fell into the hypocrisy of Christmas. We might announce high and low that we aren’t celebrating Christmas but we didn’t want to end up feeling that uncomfortable feeling of being given something and having nothing to give in return. And so we shopped, buying into the falseness, rather than the deeper meaning.

Am I alone in this hypocrisy? Bring the Christ back to Christmas? Fist fights for the most popular toys? (No, that is not how I fractured my wrist.) These petty arguments distract from the heart of the matter and expose the sickness that we, as a nation, suffer.

The beauty of the concept, if not the fact, of America has been based on its acceptance of others. Here all people might have an equal chance to create a new life for themselves and their families. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? There have, of course, been scapegoats—American Indians, Africans, Italians, Irish, women, Communists. Humans oppressing humans. And yes, we have dominated, rather than stewarded, the stunning array and gifts of nature. And no religion can escape the contradiction between its practice and theory because humans get involved. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could remember the original concept of our grand nation: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness equally to all? And to go to the heart of every religion, love.  There it is. Spread that love generously. Wouldn’t it be grand to slow down and breathe and be with that overflowing, glowing connection of love. To Be in one’s body . . . rather than racing about, going too fast in one’s monkey brain, such that one slips in one’s slippery slippers, and falls down in one’s mother’s NYC apartment, breaking a wrist?

Another ten days to go in this cast. Carl is counting, too, as he’s been doing all the dishes and listening to me whinge on and squawk every time I move my arm wrong. But I slow down. As this hell year races to its close, I sit still more often. It feels right. Every morning, I wake and watch anew the breathtaking beauty of this place. I watch the sunrise. I contemplate the restrictions of this blue cast and consider it a reminder not to get taken up by the greed and hate and distraction of our Demo-n-capitalist society but to work to return to the essence of why, in my ever-evolving opinion, we are here: to consciously experience the grandeur and shivery beauty of the world. To give and share generously, not necessarily stuff but the thing that connects us to each other and holds us together: love.

Civics Lesson?

I will preface this post by saying that I don’t want this website and blog to be political. I get too serious and on my almighty horse when I go down that path. Isn’t it more likely people will actually read these words if they are light-hearted and happy and relate to the machinations of our chickens? This is an issue I will get back to at the end of today’s post.

Earlier this week, Carl and I attended a political event hosted by Open Democracy/NHRebellion, a nonpartisan group working to heal the divide between our two opposing parties and to save the happy little experiment called democracy by getting money out of politics. Professor Lawrence Lessig was the guest speaker and presented, with his usual razor-sharp precision, the facts of our current state: there is a greater divide than ever in history between the two tribes called Democrats and Republicans. And a greater unity. Over ninety percent of Americans don’t believe the government represents their interests. The trust is gone. And without trust, a democratic system of government cannot survive because without trust, apathy infiltrates. People don’t participate or pay attention. Why bother when it makes no difference? And so they don’t vote or get involved or run for public office and the situation worsens, like a ping pong match, back and forth, the ball lowering until one day it doesn’t make it over the net because The People didn’t bother to pick up a paddle and lob the ball.

From whence flows this lack of trust? Money. Due to the undue influence of money in politics, the people elected to represent The People instead represent big businesses and deep pockets. As a result, government does not do what our Constitution demands: represent all people equally. Professor Lessig argues that we must solve this corruption of our government. We must fight for the core promise of representation and thereby restore the self-respect and dignity that this precious form of government demands: the rights of all people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He presented this as a moral idea, an idea bigger than the individual. We must put our country first, not our party, and be willing to sacrifice our mortal time and fight because this is more than a constitutional crisis. This is the future of our planet.

Too serious? I’ll bring in the chickens. The girls aren’t laying. I can’t blame them. The days are short. It’s dark and cold. I certainly wouldn’t want to lay an egg. And I don’t mind so much that the old hens aren’t bearing but the pullets? We have gotten five eggs out of them in total, and not one in weeks. They are eight months old. They should be producing. Carl and I have searched high and low and found no hidden cache, as we did three years ago when we found seventy-six eggs under the poop board. Strange. The most spoiled dinosaurs ever, in their relatively warm and harbored-from-the-wind bus stop.

Even Roo Schtude is wondering what’s up. Every morning he marches proudly down the ramp of the quonset hut coop and into the bus stop run and brings on the morning with his crows. He stands upright and mighty, his blond bangs dangling over his eyes, occasionally losing his balance during the passionate presentation of his daily news report: IT’S MORNING! THE SKY IS LIGHTENING!! DARK BLUES AND GRAYS TO OH!! WAKE UP! HERE COMES THE SUN!! IT IS RISING! PINKS AND ORANGES! YELLOW!! IT IS MY COLOR. MAGNIFICENT! GIRLS!! WAKE UP!! YOU ARE MISSING THE BEST PART OF THE DAY!

In response, the hens cluck and purr and snuggle closer together; time for an early morning nap.

Do you see the resemblance? Our hens are like too many Americans. They don’t participate. They could create an indivisible group, have (egg-laying) huddles, determine who might go broody, leverage an egg for more yellow cheese and mealy worms. The only significant difference is that our hens won’t endure any consequences. I’m not going to wring their necks just because they’re on an extended holiday. Their feathery butts are safe. Americans, though, are in the process of losing everything that the U.S. constitution represents.

Back to the political event. Dan Weeks—currently chair of Open Democracy’s board—presented, too. He spoke of a bill that Open Democracy/NHRebellion will be supporting at the state legislature this January that would create a “Civic Dollars” campaign financing system, a citizen-funded election system that would start to get rid of the undue influence of corporations and the extremely rich. Pipe dream? Variations of this legislation have been working, successfully, in Maine, Arizona and a few other states.

My point? Both Lawrence Lessig and Dan Weeks spoke about our democracy as passionately as Roo Schtude does the morning sun. They know what is at stake: our democracy and our world. We need no longer consider the seventh generation to determine what to do but to the next generation. Thus, in their respective speeches, ever so briefly, both these men choked up. Because every day, every hour, Lawrence Lessig and Dan Weeks have their children in mind. They want their children to have a future.

Carl and I live off-grid in the relative hinterlands of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. I have been asked by friends and strangers if we are preppers, readying ourselves for the apocalypse. My response is no. I have read my history. I know that, at times—these times—there is no hiding. The outside world will come in. I might not want to bring politics into this blog but by its very nature, my website is political. How so when so bedecked by chicken feathers? Because how we, as a nation and as individuals, choose to eat and grow and buy our food is a political act. Opting to drive or take public transportation or walk is a political act. How we treat each other is a political act; racism and slavery and sexism still exist because we have not as a country endured the deep and radical questioning that real change requires. In short, our lives, today, are political and it is Attitude Change Time. A.C.T.

If we are to save the world, we must first save democracy. It will not be a pretty fight. It will not be a short one. It is a necessary act, a moral one. As Paul Gilding writes in his book The Great Disruption: “it is no longer a case of what you want to do, but what you have to do.” 

Carl and I plan to have an informational event here at Darwin’s View for Open Democracy/NH Rebellion, their staff and board to tell us more about their work and their upcoming legislation. Drop a line if you’d like to join us.

Factoid: Six years ago to the day—December 2, 2012—Carl and I moved from the Ocean State to the Granite State. Let’s rock the rock.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

When I mentioned The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben to a forester I know, he scoffed. And the wildlife specialist we were walking with said, “Oh yeah, trees scream in agony.” They joshed about the absurdity and we moved on to the topic of how to create more habitat for songbirds. My secret caveat being, I didn’t want to kill anymore trees.

The same thing happened a few years ago when I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Foer wrote that fish have social lives, and that no fish has a good death. Result: I stopped eating fish.

I have to be careful what I read.

Wohlleben writes of the interconnectedness of trees—through pheromones, roots, fungi, and microbes—to each other and the world around them. Each chapter is a vignette on an aspect of this communication. Wohlleben writes of old growth forests and of planted forests, of trees grown in cityscapes, and how different tree species adapt and react to these varying environments. He describes how trees prepare for winter, procreate, feed and protect each other, grow old, die. Just as ants have been proven to communicate with pheromones, and humans, too, so do trees. With scent, trees give warning of bug invasions. With their root systems, they send nutrients to their compatriots, chemical messages and electrical stimuli, thereby raising the “heated controversy [that] has flared up among scientists. Can plants think? Are they intelligent?” [pg. 85]

Alert: I have read The Secret Lives of Plants and The Secrets of the Soil. I have contemplated and participated in a degree of biodynamic farming. I am on board with the idea that animals and plants are sentient beings. Maybe they don’t think as we do. But trees have been around for millions years—the first trees started to appear 385 million years ago. I would ask this: Why would humans be the only ones to evolve forms of communication and caring? And, even if they don’t think, trees exist at a level we need to return to: nature’s level.

Why do we need to? On page 113 of his book, Wohlleben writes, “An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life and dies out.”

Wohlleben presents facts and details about trees far better than I can regurgitate them. His book describes the elegance and solemnity of elder trees, the spontaneity of young trees and how they can overstep their bounds by growing up too fast, taking too much; the advantages of many trees living together in a forest, and the disadvantages of city life; the importance of diversity, and the possibilities and chances taken by trees who live on a longer time scale than humans. I tend not to remember details. But I do try to gain the essence of what’s being said in a book. I ask, what can I learn that I can apply to my life?

From The Hidden Life of Trees I learned this: To reach deep into the ground for steadiness and connection, and up to the sky for light and water; to not rush but grow slowly; to connect, communicate, share. Wohlleben writes about what I believe: the connection of all things in this world by a vibrant, active energy. Call it electrons, love or sentience, consciousness or not, it’s kind of like magic and can be beautiful.

Does that sound hokey, magic? But there’s so much ugly in life, evil and cruelty. Humans have developed protective tools, concepts like a god who protects us. And we divorce ourselves from the animals and plants that we eat by claiming they don’t feel. But why not believe that they do? Wouldn’t we then take better care of everything around us? The diversity of life on this planet has been destroyed by humans. We live with a mere pittance of what once existed and our economics claim that we cannot save the world because it is uneconomic . . . thereby exposing just how divorced from reality we have become. How can we not save the world when, without it, we cannot exist. Why not accept the awesomeness of such a simple magic as connection and let that lift us up to be our better selves, stewards of the earth, not destroyers. Then we might step forward to make more magic happen.

Does this pass for a book review? Maybe not. But it’s a good book for me to begin this “Read and Reading” page because it expresses my personal beliefs and my hope.

Anyone who yearns to learn from nature will dip into this book and slowly be immersed in tree life. There will be some, like my forester friend, who will scoff and say Wohlleben is no scientist. But the author has lived with trees and has opened himself to what they might teach him. That is a path I will follow.

De-cluttering & Repurposing

Part of the appeal of selling Providence, beyond the opportunity to practice relaxing my clinging muscles, was the fact that all our stuff would be in one place. Which seemed like an excellent idea at the time. The reality? We now know, clearly and unequivocally, that we have too much stuff.

On the brighter side, we have gotten rid of a lot of stuff.

DE-CLUTTERING 101.

The issue I have with Marie Kondo? She has a shopping disorder. How can one consistently get rid of four large garbage bags of clothing? And do it again three months later? Carl and I have the opposite problem. We still have T-shirts we have worn for twenty years. We like the holes and stains. Why would we get rid of a perfectly good work shirt? We need to keep it. How dare we let it go?

Enter The Organizer of All Organizers: Susan P.

We hired her to help us de-clutter and organize the chaos we created in May when we staged the Providence house, and again in late August and early September, when we did the final haul, ending up with an overwhelming amount of stuff at Darwin’s View. We needed help. At least, I did. I don’t work in clutter. I shut down . . . then note that Carl is quite cheerful when surrounded by piles of papers. He can even pay bills without twitching! Not I!

We both knew this about the other but working with Susan P. opened our eyes to a deeper understanding. Until that week with her–actually, it was only three days but it felt like a week and i’s a small miracle we survived to tell about it–Carl had been relatively unfazed by my comments about his stuff cluttering the basement and garage. Admittedly, over the years, he had gotten a bit defensive about it but who wouldn’t be, if someone–me–keeps nudging and commenting about all that junk that Carl defined as items that could be significant, and possibly useful, at some future time. And he never mentioned how much it bothered him, my tendency to start a project and not finish it because I was so enamored with the next project. Susan P. put us and our kitchen under a glaring light and penetrating microscope.

We hired her on only for the kitchen and the basement pantry. Carl and I figured it would take a day, not three. But day one, we got through six feet of the kitchen counter. Even Susan commented how slowly things were going. But every object had to be scrutinized and debated by us. Example: Susan would pick up a rubber band.

“Can we agree to throw this out?”

“No,” Carl would say and remove the rubber band from her grasp. He would shove it into his pocket. She would frown.

“Carl, take that out of your pocket. It’s fine to keep it. (Sic) We only need to find a place to store it.”

That would result in a conversation that would lead to the guest room/home office room where all our recycling had collected. Carl planned to make a recycling center but it hadn’t quite made it to fruition. He had a drawing done. And a partial cupboard built. And lots of stuff to recycle. But nothing had a place and everything in its place. It meant for an overwhelming amount of eye clutter. I had entirely given up on anything to do with recycling. We kept the office door shut. Susan P. opened it, winced, found a plastic container to put the rubber band into. She picked up a salt shaker.

“You have three salt shakers that I can see. Have you anymore?” We shook our head. Miraculously, we agreed to get rid of one. But she countered by saying it might be nice to have it outside on the deck. We pointed out it would blow away the next time the wind picked up. We agreed to disagree and watched as she placed the salt shaker outside on the deck, both Carl and I muttering we’d bring it in that night. Spatulas and knives. Carl offered to make a drawer to contain the spatulas. And another for the knives. At which point, Susan P. commented on how everything was a potential new project for Carl. That maybe we needed to settle for less than perfection. Meantime, she created a “Carl’s future project paper bag.

Etcetera. By the end of the day, our brains were fried, our bodies drained, our moods grumpy.

Day two, Susan P. noted that Carl, as did she herself, has hoarder tendencies. That we can’t save everything. That, at a certain point, we had to throw something out. Carl looked panicked and pained. To give him breathing room, she set her sights on me. I, apparently, am a compulsive starter of projects and my failure to finish them drives Carl . . . batty.

I denied such an insult. . . until Carl confirmed that it did bother him, all those piles of clothes to be sorted, cupboards emptied and left to tidy themselves, dirty dishes in the sink that I will get to but he gets to them first and it’s practically unfair, how he does all the dishes before I can do them!

We are both perfectionists. We just exhibit things differently.

Three days of hell and we didn’t make it to the pantry. We threw out stuff, gave away stuff, organized stuff. We still have too much stuff and on occasion miss what we gave away: the filter for the old lemon squeezer. The teapot that we finally found the sieve for. Gone. But we learned how to organize and set up systems and, at times, when still faced by too much, I think wistfully of Susan P. Sometimes it helps to have that objective third person to direct us toward simplification and elimination.

A Providence friend looked around our New Hampshire house this past weekend. She ambivalently noted that we had managed to fit in all our stuff.

She has no idea how much we let go of.

She has no idea what’s still in the garage.

REUSING & REPURPOSING

Carl and I were exhausted by the de-cluttering and organizing process. We wanted to get on with our new, New Hampshire-centered life. And what better way to do that then to address the chicken coop situation? Chicken Paradise is disheveled. The plastic that protects the runs is ripped apart. The chicken wire is recoiling from the wooden doors. The wood is warping. And there sits the glass Bus Stop Greenhouse in the middle of the field. One plus one equals two and as we watched the dust from Susan P.’s car settle back onto the drive, it was time to build the Bus Stop Chicken Coop.

First we had to move it.

With that process checked off our To Do list, Carl spent the next week, on and off, drawing a plan for the coop that he would build inside the bus stop. Talk about wind protection! But every day, he pecked and poked, and every day, the situation felt wrong. His heart rebelled because he did not want to build a coop, only to have us determine, as we have too often in the past, that it’s not quite right. He knows how we are! He has built a battalion of coops: The Providence Hut. The Hurricane Sandy Emergency Coop. The Hay Chalet. The Chicken Palace. The Nursery. Chicken Paradise. The Road Chick Quonset Hut Coop. And various tweaks in between because every year we have to re-winterize the coop and its runs. That requires determining whether to protect the runs with ninety hay bales or wrap them with plastic. And always, it takes a full day to implement. Sometimes two. And so the very idea of spending yet more money and more time building a chicken coop? Carl didn’t like acting the part of Sisyphus.

He came up to my office and presented his dilemma. I joined him outside in the Bus Stop. The sun shone in through the thick glass. The wood foundation he had built and now sat on, proved the durability of anything we determined he would build. We went around in the circles we had circled before. Coop size. With or without doors. Predator proofing.

And maybe we should just keep the chickens where they are because they were getting a bit insistent about where our boundaries and theirs might meet, and what if we don’t like having the chickens quite so close to the house next spring? But then we remembered the uptick in drafts in the current coop. The distance of that coop from the house and the upcoming winter. Given the fifty inches of rain in Texas and the hurricanes down south, were we in for a brutally ice-y and snowy winter and shoveling the chickens out? Much easier if they are five feet away. Near is good in winter. And so back into the bus stop we went, contemplating all the wood and insulation we would have to buy, the radiant heat tubing for the floors. (Kidding!)

And then ba-da-bing! Lightning struck. I looked at the nearly defeated Carl and reminded him: REUSE! RECYCLE! REPURPOSE! Carl’s resistance to Susan P.’s lessons rose up refreshed and refurbished. Rather that buy new stuff, use the old! We would bring over the quonset hut and attach it to the bus stop. Somehow. Carl would figure it out. And what about the Providence Hut, I asked! The girls love it. It’s in the hut that the young pullets have been laying their little eggies (as we found out when we went to move it. Seven precious, wee eggs.) And maybe, just maybe, we could somehow use the old generator cover.

Carl’s mood dramatically improved, his sense of purpose returned. We dragged all the above over to the bus stop and soon enough the girls came over to join us. They hopped into the Hut as we shoved it around. Jumped into the Quonset Hut, clucking and cooing. Eventually . . . they approved. They really approved. They like this idea so much, we can hardly keep them out of the coops for long enough to reconstruct them into their new home.

It was that easy.

Would we could do the same for the sixty-three million homeless people in the world. Or is it one hundred million?

We are the fortunate ones. So are our chickens. But is gratitude enough? There must be something more to balance the grotesque evil with the gracious beauty of every day.

The Significance of Sh*t in the Shower

En route to Providence this past April—a mere six months ago—my cell phone rang. Carl, as ever, chauffeured and so I answered the call. It was our house sitter extraordinaire Katie. She has house sat for us, first at our East side home, and then our Park side home, on and off, for years. She apologized for being the bearer of bad news.

“I took a bath in your bathroom this morning and when I drained the tub, the toilet began to gurgle and . . . stuff started coming up into your shower.”

Stuff being a euphemism for shit.

For the record, when I think of a toilet backing up into the shower, I don’t think “oh, the perfect opportunity to begin our humanure project.” Surprisingly, Carl didn’t think that either, if only because the back-up happened at our home in the city of Providence, not in the country at Darwin’s View. No, I looked over at Carl and he at me and we agreed. The universe was trying to tell us something.

I called Roto-Rooter. As we rocketed along Route 146, heading to Providence now for an entirely different purpose than a few minutes before, Carl sang along with the Roto-Rooter’s theme song (Roto-Rooter, that’s the name, Away go troubles, down the drain) while I contemplated what it might be the universe was telling us. A few hours later, the Roto-Rooter guy pushed us over the edge to the answer: it would cost us thousands of dollars to repair the sewer pipes out to the street. They might be able to get to the job that weekend, given it was kind of an emergency. We shouldn’t use the water until then.

Adding salt to the wound, the Roto-Rooter guy’s boss sniffed at us through the phone.

“I told them they should replace those lines five years ago.”

Carl and I looked at each other. Neither remembered calling Roto-Rooter five years ago. I asked for the exact date, please. As it turned out, it was seven years ago, and—most tellingly—three days before we bought our “let’s face it. the house isn’t in Providence, it’s in Cranston” house.

I called the young couple then staying at the house to tell them about the back up and the water use restriction. Then Carl and I debated which realty company to call.

I am not bitter. It has been time to sell that house for a while. We became official residents of New Hampshire in 2016, in time for the November elections. And have spent less and less time in our Cranston/Providence home in the last couple of years. With the sewer issue, the balance tipped. It was time. We affirmed our decision to each other time and again. It made all the sense in the world.

Ever with my priorities straight and to celebrate the arrival at Darwin’s View of my mother for a three week visit, we adopted six chicks on April 8th. With their grating peeppeeppeeps emitting from the cardboard box next to the wood stove, we avoided any sign of change. A couple of day trips to Providence to interview realtors, yet we postponed packing until after my mother’s departure. Thus, it wasn’t until the first three weeks of May that we packed up all our stuff and more stuff. We toted it up to New Hampshire where the just finished addition to the house began to bulge even as we staged the Cranston/Providence house. Down to its simplest, sleekest form, it was just a house now, not a home. Right?

The Open House was May 21st, initiating the usual bumps and hiccups of house sales.

The closing was September 6th. The buyers’ lawyer took a minute to comment on how she had had to research the property boundaries, given the house was sited in both Providence and Cranston. And so she had seen the website with all the pretty pictures of our beautiful house. She loved it. She went on and on about how unique it is, what great work we did renovating it, how fabulous. . ..

I interrupted her. “Excuse me,” I said. “I am deeply ambivalent about selling this house? I would suggest you stop talking right now. I haven’t signed anything yet.”

Nervous giggles all around. The sale proceeded. Our realtor, perhaps to lighten things up, commented on how happy her son is with all the records we had given away. All Carl’s and my LPs. Mine that I haven’t listened to since Carl and I got married because we hadn’t set up the stereo system, relying on CDs instead. I didn’t tell her sh! Nor did I say, I want them back. They are a part of me and I have been out of touch with that me. Give them back. Instead, I signed the papers where I was supposed to sign. I was letting go. It wasn’t my fault if the house and the records were stuck to me in a Buster Keaton’s handkerchief kind of way.

I always swore I wouldn’t move to New Hampshire from Providence. I didn’t. I moved from Cranston, from our in-between the beach and the mountain house. Buying, renovating and moving into that house began the transition from Rhode Island to New Hampshire and ba-da-bing. When shit comes up in your shower, the universe is telling you something.

Did I misinterpret it? Was it telling us to move back?

Absolutely not. We have moved forward, and are, in typical us fashion, readying ourselves for the next project, whatever that might be.

Daily Planners

Last December, while in New York City visiting my mother, I spent nearly an hour at Staples choosing my daily planner calendar book for the coming year. It was and always is a daunting task. So many choices. Hardcover or paperback, compact or desktop? Daily, weekly, monthly? Dates and hours printed or free form? Page texture? Color? With or without lines?

None of the myriad choices quite worked. Eventually, I bought a calendar that was visually perfect inside but hardcovered. Heavy. Carrying that bulky albatross in my purse, I determined to keep looking and ended up at a stationary store where, after half an hour, I bought another daily planner that had a soft cover, and was a calming blue. The interior though—peach-colored and thin-lined—grated on my nerves. Back at my mother’s apartment, I prowled the internet, tick, tick, tick, late into the night, verifying that the nice blue cover was faux, not real, leather, but the peach color? Awful. Irritating. I would have to take the time to return both planners the next day and still, hadn’t found the just right one. So much wasted time . . . the obsessive quality of my search . . . the disturbance of my reality and routine. But I couldn’t go forward or commit to anything until I had chosen. I needed to be able to write things down.

That thought caused a skip in my brain and a suspicion that my obsession was not about choosing my next year’s daily planner. It was about the election and my deepest hope that sense would return and the electoral college would not, in fact, allow for a hate-filled, sociopathic, megolomaniac fascist to take office. Why were women not marching on the capital on December 19th, when the electoral college met? January 21 seemed so day late and a dollar short.

Dollars brought to mind money. I turned to my journal and scribbled on about money in politics, money as power. HRC and how she might be establishment but Republicans had spent decades and untold millions of (tax payer) dollars trying to find her guilty of something but hadn’t managed to put her behind bars which to my mind meant she wasn’t guilty of anything they, themselves, hadn’t done. I wondered at all that hate spewed—and wasn’t it just fear? Fear of women. Fear of change. Climate change.

My obsession wasn’t about politics but climate change! Cherry trees blooming in New York City in December and the upcoming year, 2017, was slated by climatologists as when climate change would really start to kick in. And nothing to be done because it should have been done years ago. We knew years ago it was coming and did not act. Denial and our own comforts and busy days kept us blind as baby mice. Helpless. It seemed so inevitable and terrifying. Profoundly, mortally terrifying. Trapped.

Ever deeper, closer to the point. It wasn’t about climate change, either. It was my mother, her illness. Parkinson’s disease. A hideous disease. In parallel with the election of the 45th president, it causes extreme discomfort, and promises the imprisonment of the soul. When I visit my mother, I see, first hand, her sweet, generous soul . . . and the poisonous hallucinations that scare her. The man who keeps showing up, sometimes with female cohorts. They are oppressive. My mother anticipates their coming, and fears their consequence. When not fighting them off, she experiences the frustration of not being able to do for herself. And the anger and helplessness against life’s unfairness. Her future is grim.

So Mother Nature. So democracy. No small wonder that I obsessed on which daily planner to choose. What to hold and carry with me through the year 2017, as day followed day, and how know what each would hold? How much risk and challenge. How much life. I needed to pick the exact, right one. The one that would help me to be organized, to accomplish, to act.

Trump has been as bad as and worse than I anticipated. To counter his vileness, I have withdrawn yet more into busy-ness. This year, we have marched for the most basic American principles; finished an addition that doubled the size of our perfectly sized, off-grid home; completed the install of a regeneration lap pool; puffed the proverbial pillows of our permaculture experiment, with its swales and hugelkultures and sugar maple grove. Most significantly, we have moved out of and sold our Providence house and now face the clutter of nearly three decades of accumulation. Human brains process four thousand words in one minute as opposed to the few we can articulate aloud. Sometimes all we can do is howl.

Or crow.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Mother Nature’s wrath is upon us. A whole lot of the feminine is whorling around and a daily planner? It’s just a distraction. I can plan and organize all day but, in the end, it’s just an attempt to control. In the end, I need to take life down to its essence. I hold out my hands and what is in them? Exactly what I most fear: stillness in the eye of the storm. Surrounded by winds beyond imagination and no way out but through, and soon, very soon, it will be time to choose again, a new daily planner.

Regeneration & Rejuvenation in Three Parts

Our lap pond no longer leaks. It hardly even evaporates. And I am determined to swim every day because this is not a four season pool and the season is fast coming to a close. The last two days, the water was 68 degrees and the air a bracing 47. Nippy. Almost too but still beareable. Delicious and there is a part of me that needs to be in that pool with the frogs and water bugs. When swimming between two mountains in that very cold water, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and convergence. As if all that has happened in my lifetime actually makes sense. That being here at Darwin’s View is exactly where I am meant to be. After these last seven years of bewilderment, that’s refreshing.

How get into the water? Once decided to do it (no, yes, no, yes, no, yes), I ask leave of the resident leopard frog. He dives off into the darkness, to safety. I step onto the first step to follow him, and the next, and the next. I can’t spend time considering the chill of the water. I know that if I hesitate for too long, my toes will be numb before I am fully submerged, and the swim will be a euphemism for a mere wetting. Splash! I’m in and fully awake, swimming from a pinked-by-the-sunrise Mount Monandock toward Pac Monadnock. Clouds rest on its shoulder like a blanket of snow. As I come up for breath, I note the plants of the pool’s stone bed regeneration system. Below me, water bugs do the breast stroke. Snails on the side of the pool. A dragonfly birthed from its cocoon. Skin chilling, I feel the shape of my body, where it ends and the water begins. My awareness of my feet, legs, torso is vivid. The water livens me. It heals me. It is me. Being. I am in the moment, for once, because the moment, this one in the pool, is absolutely perfect.

Only three laps. Four. Five. I could swim forever, and want to, but the cold sinks into my blood. My toes cramp. Unlike the frogs, I am not cold-blooded. Yet, even as I step out of the pool, I regret that sensation of breathless cold against my skin. That feeling of aliveness. Of I exist. Of I am. And I know the ununtterable importance of that beingness. Has anyone else felt it? It is without boundaries. It is the sensation of oneness. That we are all bound up in a whorl of energy that has no beginning or end.

PART II

An example of a lack of boundaries: Our free-range, a.k.a. feral, chickens. They have no discretion as proven by the peeps, who are now adolescents. They have taken over the handicapped-accessible walkway to the porch. It is dotted with their poo. Mo, in particular, likes to hang out there as the enclosure gives echo to his crow.

Yes, once again, we have hims. Mo and Muff. Mo is the top dude and chasing the older hens who are, needless to say, pissed that their peace and quiet is once again being broken by some upstart trying to mount them in adolescent fashion: no foreplay whatsoever. Mo is more concerned with his own needs than the hens’ which, if you are paying attention at all, you will note is pervasive in the world today. Too few are willing to take the time to consider the other side.

PART III

Balance. Life requires balance. In our demo-n-capitalist society, balance has been gerrymandered away. Energy, in the form of money, has been used to upend democracy, creating an unnatural chaos, a seemingly bottomless vortex of anger and hate that masks a deep and unexplored fear. Unbearable sadness. The pain of rejected love and lost connection. We will have to face that pain, if we are to heal it. It is very ugly. Evil. As terrifying as it is terrified. But here we are at a confluence of tides: hate meeting compassion. Words meet action. Words are so much easier. After all, here I am on my little hill taking a dip in my piece of heaven, a regenerative lap pond. Easy for me to say march in peace, be. I am white. I’ve never known poverty. My present moment isn’t dangerous.

Granted, one never knows. There is a gun club near us here. People practicing their aim on human forms.

Would Jesus do that?

Muhammad?

Buddha?

We know that Gandhi didn’t shoot guns, and I have wondered: in real life, as opposed to fiction, does good win over evil? Compassion and love over hate. There does seem to be a shift going on. We are in the midst of a nightmare but look how many people now are involved and active  against intolerance and hate who would not have been otherwise. The question being, will it be enough? Like so many totalitarian regimes, our current head of government doesn’t listen. Doesn’t care. He rolls forward unheeding, like an army tank over living beings. Individuals sacrifice for something bigger than any one person. Life snuffed. Is there still hope?

Rather like the eclipse. It was only a partial eclipse at Darwin’s View. Even so, it was unsettling to watch. Through the welder glasses that friends of ours brought, the sun was green. Had I been a youth, I would have announced, “It’s not the moon that is made of blue cheese but the sun!”

A bite in the sun, getting bigger and bigger, and mini eclipses scattered on the ground through the dappled light of trees.

We know the science of it, the physics, but what of its magic? The energy of so many people coming together to watch the power of Mother Nature. The moon calmly, steadily, inevitably covering the sun. Only for two hours. And then the sun came back . . . perhaps changed. I like to think so. I like to think that maybe the patriarchal norms that have ruled this society shifted, influenced by the moon’s energy and all the women who have been galvanized by the current situation. I like to think that maybe, just maybe, instead of destruction, we will begin to rebuild, using our humanity, not our greed and fear, as the foundation. I have to believe this because the alternative is as dark as if the sun had not come back.

Last week the eclipse.  Next week, a full moon. The tides rise. Especially in Texas.

The Stoner Dudes and Solar Eclipse

I’d like to introduce the Stone Dudes, Mo and Muff. Like their sisters—Squeaky, Sparrow, Black-Gold and Gold-Black—they were supposed to be girls. Enter reality.

The old hens—Ping, CooLots, Chickadee, Brownie and Apricot—look askance at the adolescents. Do these gawky, skitterish dudes really think . . . anything?

Before I get too far into the chicken kerfuffles up here at Darwin’s View, I’d like to say this: Welcome back! To me, too. I haven’t been here in a while. And recognize, too, that I have attempted to reset this blog a few times in the last three years. Today, though, is different. Today is special. On so many levels.

The Personal: As of yesterday, Carl and I are entirely moved out of Providence. The sale of the house there is pending . . . and all our stuff is here. Bulging at the seams. We have doubles of everything, and back ups of more. Our near future looks to be full of culling and letting go inside the house even as we weed and clear and plant outside. There will be no more looking back to Providence. We will focus on here, with intention!

We can hope, right?

The Societal: Interesting times, in a Chinese curse way, aren’t these? Having been an East European History major in college, I always thought it was odd that Russian touted itself as the communist thang under the pseudonym “The Soviet Union” when it made so much more sense for the United State of American, the true (sic) capitalist society to step up to the plate. After all, we had the real middle class, a working class that could be downtrodden and destroyed by the rich. And here we are! We’re a bit late to the game but we have our .01% of the rich having more wealth than the rest of the population combined, and pushing and clawing for more. Education has been removed in favor of fake news and social media that with a snap of a button can be shut down, thereby creating chaos which is what revolutions thrive on. Something is brewing out there.

The question being, will it be a revolution for, of and by the People, or a take-over by the oligarchy that currently runs things, known at this blog site as Demo-n-capitalist Bastards?

The World: To harken back to those naive days when I claimed to be at war against climate change, here we are! Admit it or not, climate change is happening. We humans destroyed the old world, decimating countless species, poisoning the skies and waters . . . but no need to go down that path. Let’s look on the bright side: we now live in the Anthropocene age, where nature is no longer part of the picture. These are human created times. Everything around us has been touched by us. Humans have infected—for lack of a better word—the world and to go forward in our existence on this planet, we now must figure out a way to survive as a species in this new world.

Does it matter if we don’t?

The Universe: Oh, sigh. Couldn’t it, we, be better? Couldn’t we, as a species, shift to a new way of being? One not based on destruction? Thinking of the billions of beavers killed for a hat, I wonder if there isn’t a way to co-exist with those little bastard groundhogs who eat our gardens, and wild horses who persist on eating the grasses reserved by us for our cattle. Is it necessary to kill off all the natural environment?

Of course! We have to feed ourselves. But it seems we aren’t doing a very good job of that. Millions of people are in the process of losing their homes as the oceans rise. Others as their soils turn to dust.

I know. It isn’t economic to save everyone. It might be an idea to educate them, though. A dirty little secret: If we educated women, in particular, they’d have fewer babies. In one generation, we could half the population. Which is currently burgeoning to unsustainable levels. And if we gave the poorer populations food and not bullets, there’s be less cause for war. If we cooperated and recognized that without each other, without nature’s web to sustain us . . .

It sounds touchy feely, doesn’t it? New agey to talk about cooperation and compassion and love, thereby ignoring the existence of hate and racism and greed.

But why not? We have to start somewhere. We are in the midst of a crisis that the opioid crisis manifests. We have a civil war fomenting in our selves and on all levels of self.  How heal? When?

Today there will be a solar eclipse. The moon will shade the sun, giving it a well deserved break. Being the sun–and oh so masculine–must be fraught. I will be watching our chickens for their reaction. And the cats, too. Where we live it will only be a partial eclipse but I’m still holding to the possibility that maybe  this brief, mid-day dusk will herald a dawning.

It will. For me, anyway. Have you noted? I haven’t given up yet. I am back, again, and again hitting the reset button in hopes of starting, for me if no one else, a new age of beingness, compassion and creation. I believe that, however vile humans might appear to be, yet we have an even greater capacity to love. So long as we try. Again and again. We cannot give up. If we do, it would cost us our humanity.

I’m gonna be like this Stoner Dude. Mo has been practicing his crow for a couple of weeks now. He’s getting better. Granted, he’ll never be Big Red. Just as the world will never be what it once was, with Dodo birds and Giant Sloths. But it might be something else. Something quite beautiful, if intangible: a world in which humans are their better selves, entirely conscious, aware of the great beauty around them, and caring for it, tending it, being.

My Goals for the End of April, in Preparation for May

GOALS:

On Saturday, today, attend the People’s Climate Mobilization March in Keene, thereby combining relative Climate Action with errands, thereby lowering carbon footprint by not driving to Concord or Boston, thereby alleviating sense of “Is this enough?” with reality of daily life.

Print out “No Ban. No Walls. No Raid.” signs to be put up at our house in Providence.

Spread POV (peas, oats, vetch) seed.

Stir and spread BD preps.

Host Apple tree grafting party with Ben Watson at Darwin’s View.

Jump start blog.

And clean up basement in anticipation of the extreme organizing because here is my May goal: Sell our house in Providence.

Yes, we are putting our Providence house on the market, hopefully by May 12th.

OMG. However do that?

Breathe.

Go step by step.

Rememember this: loss happens. Letting go. Change. Every minute of the day, there is change. Today. Now. It is a beautiful day here at Darwin’s View. The clouds this morning looked like glowing, puffy gray pillows. Mist on the hills. Tom Turkeys gobbling. Barn swallows swooping. Chickens cackling. The trees are as amazing in spring as in the fall with their variety of greens. Carl’s peach trees are covered with buds. (Not bugs!) The clouds are now a haze that allows the sun to warm the backs of the browsing turkeys.

May 1: Drive to Providence to put up “No Ban. No Walls. No Raid.” signs. Meet with real estate agents and staging consultant. Greet the 15 yard dumpster. Remind Carl to go to his 2PM dentist appointment. Prepare to pack.

May 1-4: Rip out our raised beds. Pluck the iris out of the ground. Roll sod. Mulch.

Pack. Preferably not everything. There is no room for everything at Darwin’s View.

Contemplate the consequences of my choices. Badabing! Done.

But first a march and rally to keep the bigger picture in mind: that we must each, individually, act now, in however big or small a way, to change our habits for the good of the environment. Each and every one of our choices matter. How we get from point A to B. What we eat. How we relate to one another: with compassion or hate.

The words “trump” and “nasty” have been forever ruined for me.

By May 12: Assist Carl in building Chicken Coop 10 for the chicks that are supposed to be pullets but one of the buff polish chicks has a head top that looks remarkably like a mohawk, not a muffin top. His sister (I hope) has more of a muffin top than a mohawk. Thus their names, tentatively, Muff and Moe. And all of these chicks, frankly, have “stand up and look at me” attitudes a la cockerels.

That would just be bad luck to pick six sexed chicks and have them all be boys.

Two trips to NYC.

. . . and move out of Providence.

Even if I move, it exists in my heart. And I imagine what it must be like for refugees. How awful to be forced to leave home, lives in danger. Hunger, thirst, fear. Great fear opposing their longing for home. The unfamiliarity of here. The necessity of enduring, living, loving.

Loving is so much better than hating, giving so much more fulfilling than clinging.

But this is just a rough list. No times to deepen or truly think. It’s time to rally, to march.

Writer’s Block & Electra

IMG_3590I am not writing. I’ve been blocked for weeks. That’s my excuse anyway because then it is within my power to overcome the block and write again. Far worse would be if it is a conspiracy of the swirling energy around me. The negative ones determined to prevent me from reaching my goal of writing a book that might save the world. A big goal? Yes. One that might have something to do with this wall I keep knocking my head against? Could be.

IMG_3589Three days ago, those negative energies had succeeded. I decided to dump the book I have been working for two years. It has, as one reader put it, everything but the kitchen sink. An off-grid memoir. An environmental eulogy. A political rant, and diatribe against our Demo-n-Captialist society. A chicken drama. Yes, this book was to have been a call to arms for an Attitude Change Time-ion (A.C.T.)

It was too hard. Hopeless. I decided to add the sink and throw in the towel. Who was I fooling, right? After all, too few people care enough. Those that do are overwhelmed. Not even the surge of Bernie could uplift spirits beaten down by the disappointment of Hope and Change. So what if our current president had prevented a global economic meltdown, passed healthcare reform, has lower gas prices and higher employment than seen in recent times. Obama is seen as a failure because that’s how Fox News will have him portrayed.

And then I read about the Bohemian club. Have you heard of it? Talk about Sickos. And those Sicko Homo satanicus-types run the world and so I decided to hell with it all. I was done. I would move on to the novel I have outlined in my mind. It has been percolating for the months and months I have been working on Darwin’s View One Breath After Midnight. How could I have ignored it for so long? Because at least in fiction I could control things.

Well. Except my subconscious and unconscious but that’s another conversation. Part of the below mentioned Varied Paths I am going to be walking this month. My point here being, maybe Eloise could save the world given if I can’t. Mother Daze has potential. All ideas do. And it is fresh and new. I could get fired up! and ready to go! and write again!

IMG_3499But this morning . . . I wasn’t settling in. I had been verging two days ago but yesterday we drove to a family memorial in Connecticut. And so my energy was disparate this morning. It takes two or three days for me to settle in again after a day away. We are going to be away a lot this next month or two. Driving the northeast for the “Varied Paths to Publication: Women of a Certain Age . . . and Attitude” tour I am participating in. And if we add on eight hours of road time/carbon footprint by going to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine?

Swirling energy and there are not three days together in one place in my near future. Not for about a month or two, so starting a new book? Really?

I bethought myself. How to settle one’s energy? MEDITATION. Of course. Deep breathing. So I stepped outside my office, set my timer for five minutes—I would be breaking a record if I managed to sit still for that long—and settled down on the solid, granite step. Grounded and grounding. I closed my eyes and Om. A noise. One eye opened. A humming bird in the sunflowers. How cute is that? I couldn’t see it clearly as I didn’t have on my glasses but I was mediating. Calm focus. Rustling to my left. In the garden. Had Brownie gotten into the vegetable garden again? She has figured out a way to leap over our electric fence and scrabble about in there. I peeked. There was definitely something over there. I attempted to ignore it but we still have plant life in the form of tomatoes and eggplant and swiss chard and none of it is ready to be uprooted by a chicken’s scratching. I decided I would free said chicken and return to meditation.

IMG_3594. . . Not a chicken. I yelled for Carl.

I don’t know why. That seems to be my reaction whenever something out of my comfort zone and particularly nature-ish happens. Train of thought: Nature . . . danger . . . who got me into this . . . CARL!! COME QUICK! PORCUPINE IN THE ELECTRIC FENCE.

This brought to mind our previous experience, years ago, with groundhogs also known as woodchucks and/or little bastards. They ate our first garden when we lived on Angell Street. Our beautiful cabbages gnawed on. I hired someone to catch and relocate said L.B.s. They never caught the groundhogs. They did capture two possums on two separate occasions, and I found out that they were not rehoming them.

IMG_3596All to say, I reached for the phone to call a humane society or an Animal rescue number while Carl approached, very carefully, our resident porcupine. Carl and I by now had reached the same conclusion: Sh**.

I brought Carl wire clippers. Lowered the fencing. He clipped the fencing. The porcupine panted in terror. His struggles only got him more enmeshed, his arm more fully tangled in the fencing.

For the record: porcupines are really cute. This is a full grown one but he has a pudgy little face. Very dark brown and soft looking. And the quills don’t look so terrible though both Carl and I maintained a very, very healthy respect for the ones on his tail. Porcupines are rather hedgehog-ish that way. Cuddly looking. Bringing to mind the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover.

It was emitting an odor of fear. I was grateful it wasn’t a skunk. It breathed heavily and it was not Bhasktrika pranayama yogic breath. I wished we knew porcupine language. Instead, we spoke human as soft and reassuring as we could.

You will have to take my word about the cuteness level. Though I had my camera in hand, I didn’t take photos because I thought it would be irresponsible to be taking photos while Carl tried to free the porcupine. Instead of photos, I got a blanket and placed it between Carl’s bare arm and the porcupine’s tail. I found a useless pair of garden clippers. And shooed the chickens—who were all excited! by the excitement! and raced in our direction! to see what was going on!—back into the coop. Where Little Big Man raced about and then out. All the others were in but he was out and so I was chasing him while Carl continued to wrestle with the fencing.

And the porcupine struggled, his left arm entirely wrapped up in the fencing material. If we had been able to hold onto him for a half hour and gently untangle him . . . which was clearly not going to happen.

IMG_3598IMG_0723That was the morning’s dither. The fence is down and fairly well wrecked. Electra, the porcupine, is exhausted and hiding under our deck, his/her left arm tightly wrapped in fencing. I worry if s/he will be okay as I begin to pack up my office. Because my writing day is over. It is time for other projects and more travels. Instead of debating which book to focus on, I contemplate priorities, and how close I was to a porcupine and what photos I might have taken if only I had opted for photography instead of  moral support and an apprenticeship in toreador-ism with a green wool blanket. Next time, will I opt for the camera, only to capture Carl attacked by a rabid skunk?

The only other news from Darwin’s View is that Little Big Man is testing his vocal chords. Both Carl and I heard a stranger noise earlier this morning. Ironically, we thought it was an anonymous porcupine. I looked out to the coop, thinking perhaps a hawk had once again landed on the bench in the run. There was Little Big Man, stretching his neck, lifting his head. Ra-row-a-doodle.

IMG_3602Big Red’s crow is boisterous relatively. Big Red is still three times Little Big Man’s size. And Little Big Man is beautiful, reminiscent of Cornelius two summers ago . . .

Two summers? Is it already so long ago? I was supposed to have finished my book by now. Instead?

Electra. Chickens and hawks. Gardens and forests. Travels. Sunrise to sunset, life happens. Just like that.

Sunset
Sunset

Sunrise
Sunrise