Saturday, September 14, 2013

Notes from 'Celebration of Discipline'

p. 9 "Leo Tolstoy observed, 'Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.' Let us be among those who believe the inner transformation of our lives is a goal worthy of the best effort."

p. 13 "Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the devil ." Carl Jung

p. 14 R.D Laing writes, "We live in a secular world... There is a prophecy in Amos that a time will come when there will be a famine in the land, 'not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of God.' That time has now come to pass. It is the present age."

p. 15 "There is need for detachment-- "sabbath of contemplation" as Peter of Celles, a Benedictine monk of the twelfth century, put it.But we must continue on to attachment.

p. 16 "The best over-all preparation for successful meditation is a personal conviction of its importance and a staunch determination to persevere in its practice" P. T. Rohrback.

p. 17 Thomas Merton "Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life."

Meister Eckhart wrote, "Even if a man were in rapture like St. Paul and knew of a man who was in need of food he would do better by feeding him than by remaining in ecstasy."

p. 18 Albert the Great said, "The contemplation of the saints is fired by the love of the one contemplated: that is, God."

The inner reality of the spiritual world is available to all who are willing to search for it. Often I have discovered that those who so freely debunk the spiritual world have never taken ten minutes to investigate whether or not such a world really exists. Like any other scientific endeavor, we form a hypothesis and experiment with it to see if it is true or not. If our first experiment fails, we do not despair or label the whole business fraudulent. We reexamine our procedure, perhaps adjust our hypothesis and try again. We should at least have the honesty to persevere in this work to the same degree we would in any field of science. The fact that so many are unwilling to do so betrays not their intelligence but their prejudice.

Frederick W. Faber-
Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breath the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.

p. 19 The history of religion is the story of an almost desperate scramble to have a king, a mediator, a priest, a go-between. In this way we do not need to go to God ourselves. Such an approach saves us from the need to change, for to be in the presence of God is to change.

Anyone who imagines he can simply begin meditation without praying from the desire and the grace to do so, will soon give up.

p. 22 Francis de Sales wrote:
"By means of the imagination we confine our mind within the mystery on which we meditate, that it may not ramble to and fro, just as we tie a hawk by his leash so that he may rest on the hand. Some may perhaps tell you that it is better to use the simple thought of faith and to conceive the subject in a manner entirely mental and spiritual in the representation of the mysteries, or else to imagine that the things take place in your own soul.This method is too subtle for beginners."

p.25 Evelyn Underhill warns "To elude Nature, to refuse her friendship, and attempt to leap the river of life in the hope of finding God on the other side, is the common error of a perverted mysticality.... So you are to begin with the first form of contemplation which the old mystics sometimes called the "discovery of God in His creatures."

More to come, this book is from a different spiritual path, but the practice of meditation has reached many peaks by way of many paths.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Religious Morning.

 To the East Fort Collins carries on according to its own logic, with weather subtly adjusting the mood of all.

 To the South flash floods ravage low lying areas of the Front Range. Two human lives confirmed lost as dams break, bridges and rails are knocked out, and massive structural damage. I ponder how vulnerable our infrastructure is along the edges of the mountains, sipping coffee gifted to my household by a new friend, imported from I know not where.

To the West Mountain folk reschedule their weeks to accommodate nature. Parts for a Wind Tower are sold, the technology, even according to those who make them, proving to be barely practical for most purposes. The viability of life in the mountains dependent on constant repair of roads, which serve as a constant reminder that even mountains are liquid when measured against the standards of fixed lines on a map.

To the North I look out the kitchen window, writing this, eyes fixed on a pile of compost in the back yard, light rain falls on it and fog erupts from its summit.  Inside a drama of countless species and players works its self out, shuffling carbon and nitrogen, breathing, and warming itself. Different temperatures support different civilizations and cultures, over lapping, struggling and cooperating on common priorities. On a time scale of days to me, but countless generations to the utterly different inhabitants of the pile, the pile evolves, different chemical composition and the supply of carbon slowly winds down, the pile will soon start its long cooling process. Many of the colonies and cultures formed in the pile will reach their end, only to wait a long long winter before their rebirth in the spring garden.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Refreshing Times.

This blog and the very project of throwing myself at the mercy of the people of Fort Collins while finding volunteer work to make it a more sustainable place was a bold if vaguely conceived plan. Many things proved much harder than I had expected, but at the same time new opportunities came out of the blue, often faster than I could keep up. So I want to take a moment to look at what's been accomplished by the project, express gratitude for the help and support I have received, mention a couple of lessons I have gleaned from the experience so far, and talk about some goals for the time to come, including what kinds of support I would need to actualize them.

At Haas Community Garden I was given the opportunity to grow food for in an otherwise underutilized front yard. So far my friends Micky and Roman have helped me put in about 800 square feet of garden space, most of which is thriving. I am about to use up the compost pile I started when I first got there, it went from 60 square feet to a small pile of well textured soil amendment. In the garden the radishes are ready to start eating and the greens are close behind; the tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos are finally starting to take off and the potatoes are coming up strong; corn is well germinated and growing quickly, and both onions and leeks are growing every time I see them; the peas and green beans are doing lackluster, as their planting time was delayed by the weather this spring; beets, carrots, and turnips are growing quickly; and many kinds of squash are just starting to take off. Mulching, tilling deeply, and large helpings manure are the main features of the garden, the squash is even mulched in with cardboard to control for weeds.

The Haas family has been a wonderful help by offering the garden space, manure, and card board, hosting a BBQ and even helping me keep at least one bike in operation most of the time. Micky and Roman have helped with seed and labor around the garden, and are working together to continue the compost production. Bob Davidson donated the mulch, a left over from a project at his house. Tara Parr donated several starts to the project, and the growing project let me use a handful of radish seeds to start the beds. Thank you everyone who has made it possible.

At the beginning of the garden I did not amend the soil enough, and a bit of compost tea was needed to adjust for this mistake. The beans were planted too deeply and, I think, left to soak for slightly too long before planting. Mulching is very important in Colorado with our dry climate and hot sun, the aged grass clipping I am using are doing the job well. Pull bind weed regularly and the chore doesn't get too big. Radishes are an effective trap plant to protect others from flea beetle.

This Friday Micky and I are going to start preparing a small structure on the property to grow oyster mushrooms in. It is made possible with spawn being growing by my friend Dave Carter and buckets from Brightheart. We hope that by early July we will have a good source of complete protein with this project. We still need hay or straw to grow the mushrooms on, but it will not be a major cost, even if we need to buy the straw.

The Growing Project has been a pleasure to work with, Chad is a skilled gardener, and runs the volunteer program with great leadership qualities. I have been able to participate in starting seeds, weeding rows, transplanting and seeding rows, repairing irrigation and preparing row covers. I want to thank the growing project for the warm welcome to Fort Collins gardening and the learning opportunities, not to forget the scrap produce I have been sent along my way with. Hopefully I will continue to work with the Growing Project for the foreseeable future, and we can continue to work together for a better feed Fort Collins.

Happy Heart Farm may have received mor of my hours than anywhere else, and a lot of that has to do with the joy of meeting its community of volunteers and working CSA members. It is where I meet Micky, Roman, Whitney, Tess, Andrew, Justin, Jake, Ty, Trrevor and more others that I am willing to list, knowing that any list would be hopelessly inadequate. As a general rule I have enjoyed all of these connections almost as much as I benefitted in knowledge from watching Denis farm and lead a crew of volunteers. There are no words to do justice to the lessons of farming at Happy Heart, and it should best be experienced.

Gaia CSA was the first farm to reach out to me when I let loose my offer to volunteer across Fort Collins. The owner Kathleen has a rugged determinism to keep her farm running no matter what it takes, and impressive knowledge of gardening generally. I want to thank Micky, Matt, Maria, James, Rachelle, Ted, and Miche for all coming out to help plant beans, corn, and onions over the last few weeks. With the phase of planting passing its frenzy I look forward to seeing what happens next up in Laporte.Kathleen has big dreams for the place, and it could go far if she can find a way to support the help she needs for such grand goals.

Spring Kite CSA is across the street from the Haas place, and I have had a couple opportunities to work in their fields, Michael and Michelle are both wonderful people and well on their way to a successful farm, especially since neither fears hard work.

Greendog CSA is one of many in the area started by a Happy Heart alumni and last I saw had the most impressive cabbages in the area. Karl is about the most distinctly friendly person in Fort Collins to my knowledge, and a skilled gardener. After my first time meeting him he helped me find information on manure sources in Fort Collins for the building of compost piles, other factors hold me from acting on the information until I can schedule time with a truck.

Since moving out of my house on Prospect I have logged about 70 hours of volunteering between these farms and a few other, smaller, projects. This is less than I had hoped to be at this far in, but the stress of acclimating to homelessness was greater than I thought it would be. Only last Monday did I find a relatively stable place to sleep. Laughing Buck Farm had offered me some assistance, but issues of bicycle commuting limited the practicality of that option. Now though things are smoother, and I get time to recharge.

Thank you to Gary, Claudia, Brightheart, John Henry, Fran, and Irene for all helping me with odd jobs which have helped fund this project, it has been nice working with you. Thank you to the Geller center for the open space for computing. Thank you to some of the guys I have meet around the corner of Mountain and College, though you have the least to offer, you offer it with the most understanding and generosity of anyone. Thank you to Plymouth UCC for all the great members I have meet through there. Thank you to the Bike Coop and Don for keeping me on the road.

There are some difficult lessons I have learned from this summer. Most of them can be filled under one big impersonal category. there is a devastating ADHD epidemic in our culture. Trying to plan things out in advance, through the fluid schedules and overloaded lines of communication straining attentions and timing is very difficult. For now there is a need to go with the flow and be patient in all group work, because just about everyone is too busy to, oh a squirrel! I have regularly been underestimating how much time 'minor chores' would take and I have noticed this bias in many others. Biting off small projects and finding routines seem to help. A more hopeful discovery is that there is exists vast amounts of unused potential for increasing local food production, and more people than I know could go into it for very little money, given a strong enough work ethic, and the patience to build up trust with resource holders, in need of help developing their projects. I also see countless small ways for members of our community to help each other if some trust and reliability can be fostered in even small amounts.

Right now I have my eye on many potential projects, and I will have to prioritize them depending on what order help comes in for the projects. Right now I am starting a oyster mushroom grow at the Haas place, and considering other locations to set up grow rooms, the more places and assistance I can find the more quickly we can experiment with the many options in oyster cultivation. I just started my second large compost pile today, about 50 cubic feet 1/4 mile north of the Haas place, I plan to scale it up to 3 times that over the next few days. A lack of reliable access to a truck has hobbled my goals of making an even larger pile north of Fort Collins, but I am continuing to work toward that end.

My main interest at the moment is to find ways to gather, cook, and give away produce at community dinners this summer. I am aspiring to be able to work with some people at the Geller Center to make Food for Thought active during the summer; hopefully soon find farmers to host some potlucks over the summer; to continue supporting existing projects like the Mulberry Community Garden Thursday night Potluck.  If you have any ideas when and where a little community dinner could happen (ideally weekly) let me know, it could even be YOUR house! ( I would even help with cooking and cleanup). As more people get together, hopefully we can find some opportunities to make Fort Collins a better Commons.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Growing Season.

This morning I awoke under a canopy, light shinning down through cottonwoods and a pear tree. I stayed in the sleeping bag listening to song birds and traffic. As I write this post I am waiting for the grocer to open that I may make a breakfast and lunch. I finally feel homeless.

Though the charm of leaf filtered sunlight as my alarm is significant, I wouldn't sleep this way more that a few times a week other things being equal. It might be better if I can negotiate some camping places where I feel no need to hide. What is better than living outside scheduled around sun set and rise to be trained in the subtle timing of natural gardening?

Now I have started volunteering with several projects: Happy Hearts, Gaia Gardens, Spring Kite, Haas Gardens, The Growing Project, and Green Dog Farm. Hopefully over the next couple weeks I will be able to streamline a schedule to balance about 40 hours a week among those projects. At this point too much time is spent on scheduling itself, especially when I am trying to organize other volunteers to help the farms which have the most to gain.

It isn't as much the farmer that I try to help as the farm itself. Loyalty to the land and its own potential to participate in the wider affairs of the area, actualized by human labor. It is the land itself that deserves our highest respect. The farmer is at their best as the farm's representative and steward in the world of humanity.

Through Happy Heart I have meet with many magnanimous young folks who are also passionate about growing food and building sustainable systems. I hope to be able to keep working with them, and to together find ways to start building the sustainable systems that fill our collective dreams. At Gaia Gardens I have found a beautiful place and a high minded farmer, there is much need for manual labor to bring the place to its fullest potential, I hope to find more time to contribute my share of that labor, feel free to volunteer with Monday work parties which will hopefully become regular there. Spring Kite farm, in its second year, is on a wonderful old farm being raised to a new glory, with the loving work of a couple who found their calling in the land; I have only helped there once, but the place is filled with dreams of a bright future. Haas Gardens is the name I give for my modest garden, still only 600 square feet, on the Haas family's property, the land is wonderful, and the family loving by disposition, their support this summer has been invaluable, and hopefully the increasing fertility of their land will find good expression as time goes on. The Growing Project raises food to help the broader community under the expertise of Chad and Lou, both skilled gardeners and generally handy. Greendog farm is another place where I have so far only worked once, but its owner Karl was bright with gratitude for my small contribution, and his attitude makes me eager to work with him more again soon. Raindrop retreat has not been on my radar for a couple weeks, but Tara the owner is such a generous soul, I hope to go and help there again soon. Also the Environmental Ministry Team at Plymouth and the Church more generally has been very supportive!

Roman, Adriana, James, Matt, Dave, Whitney and Micky have all shown great interest in this growing season, growing something of a higher value and type in Fort Collins. Maybe we will be able to grow more than a sense of community but a real team able to pioneer sustainability in Fort Collins. More on that in the next post.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Presentation for the Growing Project on May 6th.

Common Learning For Common People

Fort Collins is nearing a point of transition, in its rapidly developing local sustainability movement. Today there are many projects active between the bookends of starting up and being self supporting. The success of this season for Fort Collins sustainability will be measured in the movement of these projects toward the latter bookend of stability. It is generally known in the local and organic food movement that our current way of life cannot be sustained, and the signs of the unsustained aspects are showing themselves. We see then in unpredictable and extreme weather; in erratic and unstable economics; we see it in our forests, aquifers, soil, and our social institutions. Time and again these problems trace back to a tragedy of the Commons. What has been called "rational self interest" has again and again exploited resources which served whole communities.

The defense of the Commons has been the traditional duty of community, at duty that has been taken up in ways as diverse as the ways of life on Earth. But in our society's living memory this duty has been neglected to the point that the very skills, values, and traditions of protecting the commons - themselves commons of a sort - have suffered.

Those in Fort Collins aware of these difficulties have a duty to take roll model positions by beginning the great work of reforming and defending our local Commons. Some of that will involve protecting and regenerating systems, but they is also much which will need to be invented from whole cloth; likely a long and era prone process.

Many people are taking up this work, each in their own way or with friends, but it is inhibited in many ways. Complicated lives limit our time available to do work. Time consumed by jobs that too often produce little of lasting value; our minds often running on the ragged edge of information overload; our social networks which reach great distances spanned by too many gossamer threads that break under stress or neglect. Even the most impassioned are tied down in time, thought, and commitments to other tasks, often by chains of habit.

More generally the uncertain path of rediscovery and invention toward creating a regenerated and protected commons is difficult and uncharted. To break from at least some of the chains preventing this exploration this summer will, for myself and others of my generation I know, be an ongoing experiment in deliberate poverty. For me it makes possible the time and energy for a small, yet I think important, part of the a responce to this task: an attempt at a School of the Commons.

To Start a School be its First Student

An education of the virtues, skills, and duties needed to foster a commons, which I suggest takes the form of having the students regenerate, maintain, allocate, and manage a commons, the school itself. Working for existing projects, and gathering together a commons of infrastructure, communal structures, resources, and information that can usefully contribute to re-localizing our dependencies. Since the ways of life that will have to be practiced are still unknown, this summer is an experiment of being an untested schools first student.

I look forward to continue supporting and working alongside The Growing Project and many other worthy builders of a locally resilient commons around Fort Collins. If you are interested in such a project stay alert for how you could support and enable the work, or look into becoming a part of the experiment, even using your current work that may contribute to our regions commons as paradigms for future curriculum. Suggesting projects where a few motivated people can help you develop a bit of local resiliency is always appreciated.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My April 28th report to The Environmental Ministry Team

I have been investigation the local sustainable food movement and experimenting with a garden plot on the Haas' families land. In the next few days I will start planting a 100 square foot garden bed using seeds, starts, and tools gifted from farms and friends I have recently worked with. Working with Rob Haas we are going to put in more beds. Right now 50 cubic feet of compost is heating up on there property. I hope to scale that up with any plant matter that can be collected to build a cache of compost ready at hand for any future gardening opportunity  that may come. Both Plymouth and the local sustainability project 'Citizen Planners' have offered to help provide vegetable scraps for developing the compost; and give guidance in the garden.

Everyone, through the Environmental Ministry Team or otherwise, is invited to help. There is room enough to expand the garden as much as can be justified by the combination of committed helpers, gifted supplies, and personal experience. I have also been working with 'The Growing Project,' a group of passionate farmers growing organic food for Fort Collins, they are doing good work and are looking for volunteers, or other forms of support. 'The Growing Project' also covers the 'Mentor the Garden Mentor' program which gives monthly training on local gardening practices.

These projects and others unlisted for now have been supported directly or indirectly by Tara of Raindrop Retreat; John, James, Jeff, David D., David C., Brightheart, and Matt my close friends; Erica and Kasey of Citizens Planners; Helpful comments by posters on the AODA forums; the UNA of Fort Collins; Kari Grady Grossman of Sustainable Schools International; many members of Plymouth UCC, including but not limited to Mark Lee, John Fitch, John Henry Peck, Gary Olson, Claudia and Bill, Fran and Irene, but especially Sheryl and Rob Haas. Thank you all!

[edited for blog format]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On The Short Rope

I never could figure out what to do with my life, the most important thing seemed to be doing good. Such was the simplistic thinking that drove me into the study of philosophy, in hopes of finding a way to answer what I should do. I found that the way of learning philosophy available in school was not providing me with the stuff of useful answers. Some techniques of thought and analysis are useful in themselves for clarity of thought; the skill of deep reading taught by Tom Trelogan helps in learning of new material of all kinds; a basic knowledge of the history of the moral conversation upon the Earth is also good for seeing what has come before, and what came by it.
Philosophy could not answer the question that I took to it. Philosophy is not wisdom, and it does not teach one to be wise. Philosophy is the loneliness of a person who feels a great lack of forlornness for Wisdom. Be this person wise, or be they a fool, they seek wisdom, and look for it, and live their lives in whatever way seems, at the time, most likely to draw that most beautiful beloved closer. The philosophic conversation, like the stories of triumphs and lost loves we hear from our elders, is the account of those who have felt this urge before us and have left their account for the future. These stories offer insights into what has worked in the past and what has gone awry. But each person must find their own love, and must build a life appropriate to that love. The wisdom of a Friar is very different from the wisdom of a Grandfather, and each to be with their wisdom has had to obey the life requirements their own relationship to wisdom.
Some time ago the original pointedness of my question, "What should I do with my life?" faded away. It is a question with out any one answer, but instead which is answered again and differently in every moment. No longer do I look for grand narratives to take part in, but instead I am trying to make a living within the requirements that my relationship to my Little Wisdom requires. It is a happy relationship, and one which I would put first against my other values, but like all sanctified relationship one requiring sacrifice. My Little Wisdom keeps me on a short rope, my Little Wisdom requires me to live a very different kind of life from what I hear generally taught.