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it is in our bones to remember.

i live in LA. this city is very ill. meditating this morning in the breezy, mottled shade of a beautiful california morning…

suddenly i find myself

Cold Stone Slab

Steps

Overlook

Mountains, green lush vistas, amid the clouds

Do you know where I am?

Terraced walk-ways, sloped crag-side settlement

Cold stone slab on my feet, surrounding me left and right in the walk-way

I feel the stone penetrating my feet, grounding me, earthing me, reminding me, making me, in-forming me
I am present, embodied, alive, refreshed, Charged, here

I have been here before
This is in my bones, imbedded,

Later, I read in Wikipedia, “In Peru in the 15th century AD, the Inca made use of otherwise unusable slopes by building dry stone walls to create terraces. They also employed this mode of construction for freestanding walls. Their ashlar type construction in Machu Picchu uses the classic Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. Many junctions are so perfect that not even a knife fits between the stones. The structures have persisted in the high earthquake region because of the flexibility of the walls and that in their double wall architecture, the two portions of the walls incline into each other.”

how did they cut the stone? crystals? beams of light? intuitively this is what comes up. reminds me of the time i spent on the thousand year old tree in washington, the way that, through the energies surrounding the tree, i was reminded of these cosmically grounded ways of knowing that we’ve forsaken in the society in which i am birthed. being in the energies of the tree was like being in a vortex and, with an open mind and heart, i was able to read this energy and have access/be privy to thoughts and intuitions beyond the “normal” scope of seeing as we look at it today. i am coming to remember that, through nature, humans have access to ways of being on the earth that enable us to be more embodied, prepared, present and fused with evolution in a co-creative way. how exciting! how beautiful and magical! and ironic in a way that embedded right where we are, on the earth, lies this deeply connected, rooted way of being in which we can create systems rivaling if not going beyond our wildest current imaginations….

 

Bringing this “back”, embodying and creating these visualized, flourishing and connected ways of being is what I’m about here. Clay, Stone, Crystals, Trees, Humans, Animals, Elements, Seeds; these are a few of my favorite things… :)

This also falls in line with and is encouraged by something I read and copied down by Annie Dillard in The Writing Life a few days ago as I consumed the book in the South Pas library,

Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you.

There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to your own astonishment.

Originally written for a local online sustainability journal and published to 5miradius.org

love to hear your thoughts!

 

Everywhere there is talk of needing to move into a sustainable relationship with the environment. We know this is imperative. We hear this and we feel it from within; this message is on the wind and there are a myriad of distractions which drown out this most basic of messages. If we don’t shift soon, we hear, the planet is in big trouble, we, its inhabitants, are in big trouble. Many sources say we are already in big trouble. Ecosystems are failing, animals are going extinct, massive populations are impoverished, the earth is acting funny, being hot when before it was cooler, erupting and quaking, the list goes on. The state of life on the planet is changing drastically, we hear, and it’s not for the best.

Yet what can we do within a culture where, in most cases, to live sustainably is a great challenge and against the flow of the main stream? How can we sit amid the reality of this dis-ease and find the courage, fuel and knowhow to take proper action? We ask, what steps can I take, can We take, to reach toward a sustainable life? How can we cease spoiling our nests and not deplete our resources amid a mechanized culture which, in many instances, relies on this devastation to function? How can we take care of ourselves and our environment? How do we balance the need to provide for ourselves with the looming need to shift our standard and mode of living? How can we hear and act?

What does sustainability look like and how do we step toward it Right Now?

Fueled by these questions, I set off on my bicycle in early August from Los Angeles and headed north, chugging along the shoulder of the 1. Like many of you, conscious and sensitive to pollutants in my environment, I have long sought answers to these questions and, becoming overwhelmed by the polluted environment surrounding LA and propelled by the urgency of the inner imperative to be sustainable and healthy, I dedicated myself to this search.

Through Southern, Central, and Northern California, along Oregon’s coast and Washington’s peninsula, and into Vancouver Island, British Columbia, I begged these questions, Provide me with some answers! I visited ecovillages and intentional communities, met individuals and small tribes of humans dedicated to living this imperative of sustainability within their environments, sometimes staying for a day, other times exploring for a month. I want to share three findings with you, 3 B’s (Ways to Be), which will help us to reach toward sustainability now: Be nourished by and create Beauty, Befriend local representatives, and Band together.

In relation to what is truly sustainable and how to align oneself with it, I realized that there isn’t an answer or pat solution. The answer is a constant prodding and continual return to the question itself. We keep asking and realize that there is no one way to be sustainable. It is peculiar, organic and local, specific, immediate, and long-term. The desire for sustainability is our root and, as we grow in our understanding of the implications of what it means to be sustainable, our daily activities become our branches, fed by our hungry rootlets seeking nourishment, prodding ever-deeper.

I found that sustainability is about interconnected systems, from our individual homes (food, wastes, building materials, water, land use, relationships), how we connect to our environment (transportation, income, community), and how our environment connects with us (local and government systems, regulations, laws). Because sustainability is a personal and collective intention, it beckons us to create local and collaborative systems. Sustainability is about networks, branching systems; it is our human web. Think of mycelia underground and how it is strengthened through its web, sometimes stretching for miles, popping up in the right conditions.

It looks like all of these things: a hand reaching out to share with a neighbor, a daily, continual effort, the fruits of which may not come on for 12 years or more, catching water, growing food, carpooling, saving and sharing seeds, building relationships, minimizing waste, co-housing, a gentle and sometimes aggressive digging at and revamping of the systems which seek to support, but which are oftentimes dreadfully in the dark and without substantial nourishment. Yet most of these actions are just branches. We need deeper-reaching roots. The 3 B’s or Ways to Be are a great place to start.

Be 1. Create beauty which supports the shift you want to make. This is simple: Everyone is an artist, let the judgment go and create art you love to have around you. Create art to live with, to inspire, to share, to describe, challenge, encourage. Beauty is one of the biggest motivators for humanity, and the possibilities are infinite. Beauty is everywhere and if we look for it, we will see it. Tune into beauty as a daily activity. For instance, reuse recycled materials in the garden as functional sculptures for trellising, create collages, murals, and beloved objects which remind you of your vision; make space sacred and creative, and it will feed you.

Here are some picture examples of nourishing beauty I found along my trip:

eesunchair

Cob art bench at Emerald Earth Sanctuary, nourishing and functional.

cob

Cob oven at OUR ecovillage, BC

Be 2. Befriend your Representative: Connect and permeate local systems of governance. Let’s face it, many of our shifts toward sustainability (building sustainable and affordable homes, catching water, growing our food collectively and sharing it roadside or at small, neighborhood/corner farm stands and collaborative markets) entail that local governance and laws change to allow for the required creative space of our sustainable systems. Start prodding toward these shifts now! Perhaps you want to build a cob oven, garden and sell produce with friends on the corner in your neighborhood, get government support and rebates for riding your bike to work or planting fruit trees. Like the cherimoya you planted in your yard last year (great job!), realizing legislative shifts may take years to bear fruit. These are the steps we must reach toward now.

A great model for this is OUR Ecovillage in British Columbia or Dandelion Village in Bloomington Indiana, two far-from isolated villages within reach of towns and cities which have steadfastly worked alongside local governance to shift neighborhood zoning and building codes in order to gain permission and even in some cases, government funding, to do what they want to do: build homes, catch water, have so many humans living this closely together on this much land, grow food and sell it, etc. One thing I learned from working intimately with these two villages is the phrase:

Befriend your local Representative – we must weave ourselves through genuine connective friendships with our representative. Hey, become a representative yourself and bring power to your community by sharing your voice.

our new building

The most recent and completely zoned cob kitchen addition at OUR ecovillage, British Columbia

annbuilding

Annabelle and Nigel preparing the cob at OUR ecovillage

Be 3. Band together – Alone we can only do so much, Together we are resilient and strong.

“One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman: two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.” – William Morris

The strength of our collective voice comes through our relationships. Our relationships are strengthened by communicating our passions, fears, heart songs, dreams, and stuck places. Form mini-tribes which meet together weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. Grow a co-op, intentional community or ecovillage in your neighborhood (or connect to one already in the works), or share a house with neighbors (it is cheaper and communication is more rapid). Practice and study non-violent communication and commit to speaking from the heart and the head in the meetings. We are empowered through our ideas, yes, and also through sharing our feelings which include our fears, strengths, loves, hopes and desires in supportive and enlivening environments. Our feelings are our fuels so collectively band together and voice. Gather two and three to start and grow from there. The embers stay hotter when coals are collective, so gather that fodder and enflame in our collective visioning!

These are steps toward community empowerment that I have gleaned and seen on my travels. I have visited numerous ecovillages, intentional communities and striving and impassioned humans over the last three years of my life and I have dedicated myself to living out this question. I challenge you to continue living it out in your home and community sphere and especially encourage us to DREAM BIG! What is it your really want that is aligned with a sustainable earth-vision? It will look different for all of us, yet in diversity we find strength. Forests which have many species are stronger and more resilient than mono cultures. We know this.

Way to Be 1: Befriend Beauty and Create, collectively and individually. This will nourish, inspire and enliven us in the here and now and times to come! Everyone is an artist and connected to beauty. Yes, you! Way to Be 2: Befriend your Local Representatives. Invite him or her over for tea with your friends. Call her and create a real dialogue, partnership or collaboration. Look at it as a real relationship, because it is and it is people in these positions which have the vocal power to shift our laws and systems by which our larger cultures are run on/planned by. I can’t stress the importance of collective empowerment through local governance enough! Way to Be 3: Band Together. Find friends who feel similarly to you and talk about your thoughts and feelings and once you’ve talked about your feelings and dreams, collect your ideas into concrete actions. Build a community garden after talking to your local governance about that plot of land that’s been vacant or use a space in your friend’s grandmother’s backyard to grow veggies for your families. Grow too much and find a community abundance-trade group like Ripe in Altadena or trade your eggs with your friend on the bus for eggplant. Weave your web and be conscious that it is this through which we are strengthened. All of these individual acts at home are great and they are a start, yet it is through our collective visioning that we are strengthened past what we can be and do alone, through which we are sparked, kindled, enlivened, challenged and loved.

In all of my exploring I have seen these Ways to Be in action: communities living together on the land in the country and in co-housing urban environments. Bi-monthly potlucks, work days, creating heart and logistical planning spaces which act as containers in which humans are talking about and acting on the things which are really important to them, gardens in back yards and surplus produce exchanges with neighbors, active barter economies, connections forged over time with local representatives which bring meaning and lessen the gap between those “in power” and their constituents, gardens which are sacred spaces and exude beauty and practicality, bicycle pathways painted by the city from the ecovillage to the thriving city center, communal car shares, small urban farms producing thousands of pounds of veggies, urban orchards, humanure and a plentitude of composting systems. These connective pathways are happening and we can all start where we are today!

Tribe, consider this an evocative invocation toward co-creation! I wish us courage and clarity on this collective journey as we dialogue and prod our roots onward and deeper in order to grow further reaching branches and weave more expansive webs.

Lauren “Wren” Haffner is the recent creator of a chapbook titled Earthy, a poetic exploration of the intersection between spirit and sex in relationships. This and writings of her visits to ecovillages and her recent bike journey can be found at ourdailyride.wordpress.com. She is also the co-founder of 5miradius (5miradius.org), a community urban farming venture and model which begs to be replicated. She is currently continuing her exploration of intentional communities and welcomes support and collaboration in her endeavors.

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