Friday, July 31, 2009

Life is Compost

"Life is compost."

"You think that a strange thing to say, but it's true. All my life and all my experience, the events that have befallen, the people I have know, all my memories, dreams, fantasies, everything I have ever read, all of that has been chucked onto the compost heap, where over time it has rotted down to a dark, rich, organic mulch. The process of cellular breakdown makes it unrecognizable. Other people call it the imagination. I think of it as compost heap. Every so often I take an idea, plant it in the compost and wait. It feeds on the black stuff that used to be a life, takes its energy for its own. It germinates. Takes root. Produces shoots. And so on and so forth, until one fine day I have a story or a novel."

"Readers," continued Miss Winter, "are fools. They believe all writing is autobiographical. And so it is, but not in the way they think. The writer's life needs time to rot away before it can be used to nourish work of fiction. It must be allowed to decay. That's why I couldn't have journalists and biographers rummaging around in my past, retrieving bits and pieces of it, preserving it in their words. To write my books I needed my past left in peace, for time to do its work."

From "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield

This wonderful quote was sent to me by my friend Gary Jo. The passage is spoken by a famous author near the end of her life. She explains how she held the compost generated by her personal life as sacred fodder for her creations. There is something so sustainable and integrated with the concept, every little bit of a life heaped and allowed to be digested in the darkness of the subconscious, then recycled as creative manna for nurturing new life.

I’ve written about the need to own one’s story. Life as compost reminds us that there is also a time to let go of the details, the emotional triggers, attachments, and even the story itself to allow the dark to work its magic.

Buddha said that all life is suffering,
I’ve never been able to fully back the idea…
But life is compost… this I understand.

The uncomposted bowel movements or rotting copses of our past are seldom met by life art. In organic production, time and temperature are monitored to chart when the waste is ready for use. In my backyard compost bin and personal life I am far more casual with the monitoring. It’s not uncommon in our household to make two or three trips a day, arms full of peels, rinds, leaves and shells- all into the bin. Everything not eaten is food for the dark, to emerge on a new day as food for our plants and life.

So perhaps great gardening and creativity…
May share the same humble beginnings
In compost.
I’ve got loads of compost!
And you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pruning & Cut -backs

"It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about your gardening. You must love your garden, whether you like it or not." ~WC Sellar &RJ Yeatman... In Personal Permaculture- The garden is you.

Last week I was pruning grapevines in a friend’s vineyard, we went out early in the morning and quit when it began to get warm. It was very lovely, thoughtful, and heartfelt work. Pruning grapes has an interesting balance, between the rules for pruning or preserving the best fruit. It was cathartic and made me consider the constructive side of deconstruction, the plowing, weeding, pruning, or thinning, in relation to the permaculture of self.

Growing grapes involves different levels of pruning from light to hard for different seasons then, every seven years, the grapes should be allowed to grow wild with abandon. The grapevines left on their own reach out forever with long vines and large leaves in every direction, but don’t focus on roots or fruit so such years are not about the harvest. That first hard prune after a long summer of undisciplined revel must come as quite the shock to the plants…perhaps not unlike now on the planet. Life has been remarkably easy for most for quite a long time. At this time on the planet many people are experiencing a hard prune in one or more aspects of their lives. It has come in the form of lost jobs, home, cars, financial security, the loss of health, relationships, and or lives. Although strength and solace can be found in friendships, prayer, silence, work, or gardens, there is nothing which makes great loss comfortable.

The season which follows the year of casual abandon in the vineyard typically offers a spectacular harvest. Human cycles are not as short as that of a grapevine but understanding that there is cycle, however long it may be, can be helpful. With people we have the choice to grow, hunker down or retreat further, making ourselves smaller. I feel that I am too young to either begin arguing for my limitations or recoiling in retreat. So after the initial denial, drama, and grief, I track back through the choices I’ve made, finding the points where, either out of story or my very incarnation, I can own my life as my creation. Ownership is paramount.

Part two takes even more courage- Dreaming one’s self onto new ground.
How does a thirty year old, sixty foot tall, sprawling avocado tree cope with being stumped chest high, painted white and having its water reduced to almost nothing? With the California water restrictions, stumping has been the strategy for managing the older groves. It’s harsh. Sometimes not a leaf is left on the tree. I imagine it feeling like imminent death.
Yet, after a time of stillness, miraculously they begin sending out branches. It takes a few years, but the trees come back with structure and bounty. Avocado trees know they are connected to the earth and sky, they naturally stretch back out and fill the space.

And us?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Repetition---You are here.

Last week in Comments, Rosalie asked some great questions. In answer…

• Nature is full of stories. Take the built-in story arch of the seasons, Winter to Spring, Summer to Fall, birth death, a story unfolds with a beginning, middle and end. In tracking story arch you must know the story along with where it ends, the rest is easy.
• Repetition. The same as we find the repetition of story and patterns throughout nature, we’ll also find repetition of theme. Shakespeare said there were only seven plots. That would mean a lot of repetition and plenty of opportunities to wake up. Stories repeat. Pay attention, if life looks familiar, last time you were here…. how was the ending?
• A Story has a shared eco-system. The Bushmen understood the potency of the psychological eco-system intrinsically woven throughout story hence its great value. If story lives in a vacuum of one, it is either a seed waiting to germinate or there is a disconnect. In most cases story will be shared and spread throughout a family, group of friends, or community.
• Nature is constantly adjusting for influx or lack. Similar to the eco-system the story will always seek balance and seek completion. If a story is lacking an element it is constantly in search of the element. So the missing element is as much a part of the story as those which are present. Often more so. That’s why I said that for MJ, the completion of the story would be unjust persecution, to counterbalance the soiling of his soul from the worship and adoration. Stories seek balance.
• You can’t plant onions and expect to grow pumpkins. An example; I work extra hard for a withholding parent or boss so that they will recognize and honor me. Only one thing; the part where I cast the person who is never going to see me, honor or meet me. That would be like hoping to harvest a pumpkin from an onion patch. What grows in your story’s climate and eco-system? Can you get there from here? If not, how can you alter the story?
• Nature is a miracle unfolding, stories also unfold. Waking up within the story comes in phases. I think that Red Riding Hood woke up when the wolf ate her. The woodman cut her out of the Wolf’s belly, so the next time…and there will be a next time, Red might take one look at grandmother’s BIG EYES/TEETH and RUN. Later, she might become aware of being followed in the woods and double back. Eventually she might think twice before going into a woods dressed in red, (really now red?) all loaded up with fresh wafting baked goods.

Then she might decide to visit the woodman’s son. If he pays no attention to her, she might come back with a basket of goodies dressed in her Red Cloak. The difference being, the story would have become conscious.
Then perhaps she will try on a new story…

Friday, July 10, 2009

The End.

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
—Barry Lopez, in Crow and Weasel

If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life. —Siberian Elder

In my quest to imbue a power to relax into a healthy sustainable psyche, community and planet, I keep returning to story, because our story writes our script. I’ve been thinking about stories this week in the context of watching the mass mourning of Michael Jackson’s life and death. I was struck by the repeated comments about his death being untimely. Maybe not, consider this: Michael’s story was of being Peter Pan. The trajectory of the Peter Pan story is to never grow old, yet the body he inhabited was 50. When Michael announced his final tour, wearing large dark glasses shaped like eye sockets of a skull, pale white, and 112 lbs. with a wide toothy grin… it seemed that he had abandon Peter for being the brother of Jack Skellington.

One does not age from either story.
I didn’t know Michael but I do know stories and stories follow rules.

It also struck me that his mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Not being a follower of MJ I didn’t know this. Had I known, I would have seriously doubted the accusations against him for sexual molestation of children. Jehovah’s Witness do not celebrate birthdays or holidays, rather it is believed that salvation comes through suffering. To be persecuted is considered Christ-like and is one’s ticket to heaven. From youth, Michael was forced into a life of being celebrated. Part of him thrived on the attention, but the religion of the mother that he loved judged such adoration as counter productive to the soul’s salvation. Think about it. How then to find redemption? Playing the innocent in such a way that it would lead to persecution… this would fit the story.

The rule is this:
The story owns us until we own the story.
The first story is the one we were born into.
The second story is generated by what happens to us.
The next story is the one we co-create with life.

I long ago noticed that invariably the people with the cool lives had good imaginations, and a love and respect for story.
What is the trajectory of your story?
Where will it lead?
Where will it end?
How will it leave the world for future generations?

If the answers are not stellar… start reading, writing, and practice telling a new story.

“The story was the bushman’s most sacred possession. These people knew what we do not; that without a story you have not got a nation, or culture, or civilization. Without a story of your own, you haven’t got a life of your own.” —Laurens Van der Post

Friday, July 3, 2009

So why the attitude?

"Independence"... [is] middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth. ~G.B. Shaw

Yes, so why the attitude?

Haven’t we reached the point where, denial of the inter-relatedness of all souls on Planet Earth is adolescently futile? Let’s face it, there is no such thing as a sustainable system of one. As of yesterday there were an estimated 6,845,146,643 people alive on this rotating real-estate, we are all dependant on the orb and each other. That’s a lot of inter-dependence. When I consider how challenging it is some days to get my husband and I in-sync and in agreement it’s overwhelming to ponder…, how can I even begin to know how to interact constructively or inspire awakening and responsible interaction in 6,845,146,641+ others.

On the bright side I know that there are many other people on the planet who are playing with different sides of this same puzzle, and history shows us that this is not a new quandary. For thousands of years humanity has been testing ways to incite group movement and transformation, religions were born of such ponderings. Although we do have more examples of failure than success, at least we know that making everyone, or killing, shamming and coercing the masses to work towards the good of the whole, does not work. Bribery is even looking less promising, so what to do?

I am not one who by choice, wants to be responsible for others. I’d much prefer others be responsible for themselves. It takes most of my focus and attention just being true to the line of me, (in my defense -the line of me is not a static point, it is in part a constant yet always in motion,) maintaining that and directing others freaks me out…What if taking out the trash isn’t their joy in this moment?

I like it best when people tell me what they want to do, then we can marry that to a job which needs doing. I’m very good at channeling those who know what they want and have some passion. I’m less good with the Tigger people; “Tiggers love water! Yikes! Tiggers hate water!” I ‘m even less good with the adolescent “independents,” self contained with no containers, all opinion- no passion, those are not my people.

With the creation of our company we’ve chosen to encourage awakened and sustainable inter-dependence with our company policies. A Bee Organics’ fee schedule is structured to favor those clients who show up awake and responsive. We have designed a modest base-fee, partnered with additional fees for additional time. This will allow our responsible clients to get certified organic affordably, clients with greater time and energy demands because of special attention needs will pay more. We are weaving this philosophy of personal accountability into every aspect of A Bee.

It’s a lot like Farmtown,
Only it’s USDA-Land,
And we are setting up clear and fair fields-of-play.
I have never worked in such an environment…
I’m getting exited.