May your Days be Brighter and Brighter

Greeting on this bitterly cold Solstice Morn in Wisconsin!  This is a deeply Holy time for me, one who is not very religious but undeniably given to fits of spirituality at times.  Usually when Nature unveils Her Beauty and Power and Mystery.

This Solstice I leave you with these words excerpted from a sermon given last December from a Unitarian Universalist minister,  Reverend Susan Veronica Rak:

The Winter Solstice or Yule is a time of celebration and rebirth. 

We reach the still-point, the shortest day, the longest night.  And in 

that brief moment, as the dark night stretches before us, we feel a 

certain deepness.  No amount of electrical power can breach that 

profound yearning.  Technology may have removed the mystery of 

cold and deepening darkness.  Yet still our hearts are stirred by these 

connections to ancient practices and lore; the celebration of the 

Solstice roots us in a tradition that goes deep into our bones. 

 Celebrating the Winter Solstice grounds us in our ancient roots. 

There is sacredness in nature – not just the gauzily pretty idea of 

“Mother Nature” all meek and mild, but nature in its constant cycle of 

creation and destruction that brings us to this still point, this moment 

to contemplate our place in the universe.  And that may be a small 

space, a blip on the great evolutionary timeline as we know it, just one 

life in millions and millions.  

Let us embrace the darkness and the possibility as we stand at 

this still point, this turning of the year, we realize that in one small life 

lies boundless potential, hidden life and growth and possibility.  

We honor this moment, this turning, in each of us. 

“Mark the time. 

Respond with thought or prayer 

or smile or grief, 

Let nothing living slip between 

the fingers of the mind,

For all of these are holy things 

We will not, cannot, find again.” 

The complete text can be found here.
Blessed Be.
-Rob
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To Every Season…

We had our first real frost this weekend which did in the squash and solancea.  Much of our lettuce survived and we are still pulling potatoes (1400+ lbs!) out of the ground so the harvest continues for the 3rd month at 100#’s a week.  The air is now crisp and fresh and the chores varied and more relaxed -pick a little, clear a bed, mulch one here, plant cover crop there-this is my favorite time of year.  Autumn is a fantastic time, cherished by the ancients for its abundance – a season absoutely riddled with holidays and festivals to celebrate the vitality of the earth before the Long Sleep.  

The service this morning at our Unitarian Church focused on the Jewish High Holidays.  I was deeply moved by the correlations between the passing of the Jewish New Year and my own mindset with the passing of the agricultural one.  I too am thinking of things that went well in the past season – the potatoes were a raging success as was the Hoop House -seeds I hope to plant in the Great Book.  I also reminisced about things to leave in the past – the onion rows swallowed beneath a Sea of Sedges, the fence rows intertwined with 6′ lambs quarter, and others -things that I hope to leave out of the future.  But most of all I was struck by just how my thinking of this season has changed with my growing ecological awareness.

Autumn was often seen as the passing of the year -a winding down, even a death, to the vibrancy of summer.  Outdoor activity had often escalated -this is my preferred camping season -the nights are crisp & bug free for glorious sleeping, the understory is open, dry, and full of aroma, and the wildlife is on the move.  It is still all of these things, but the more naturally I have learned to view the world, the more I think of the seasons as they are meant to -cyclical. 

Now the falling leaves that blanket the soil are also a call to me to mulch my gardens and spread the season’s compost for a final mellowing over winter on the soil.  Where before there was death and decay, now there is abundance and the “putting by” of root crops, and even the rekindling of life as vetch and rye shoots forth before the end of the warm sun.  It is now a time of new beginnings as the beds and fields are stripped bare with the harvest to the sweet melodies of flitting finches in the cupplants and raucous chippies under the oaks sharing my labors.  

Stretching to a longer harvest as my plantings have diversified has greatly increased my enjoyment of the seasons – Summer’s peppers and sauces and now wonderfully augmented by early Spring’s crisp, sweet, frost-kissed Spinach to late Spring’s romaines and now I am awed by the bounty of October’s butternuts, acorns, carrots, and kale.  It is a bountiful harvest, with more to be planted as the Hoop House enters full circle with spinach and mache  for another winters run.  Stretching the harvest spreads the labors and greatly enriches the enjoyment of the tasks.  No energy is so full as that which courses through my arms when I first put spade to soil in those early warm days of Spring, no air so warm and moist as walking through the Hoop House’s 75 degrees in January only to rejoice in the frigid cold as I leave with arms full of greens, and no air so crisp and alive as the fields of October as the flocks gather.  Spreading the Harvest is to take part in the Glory of Nature varied seasons and what they have always meant.  Turn…turn…turn; always and forever.

While Spring and Summer are the seasons of food building, Autumn is now the Season of the Soil.  The bounties of the harvest are coming in full, but time is now taken to Give Back.  As Nature drops Her leaves and folds Her stems to blanket and feed the soil, so too must we give back to that which we have taken of so freely so that the cycle may begin again, enriched, for seasons to come.  

This is our task.  

This must be our promise.

Be the Change.

-Rob

Starfish and Moral Imperatives

In a recent post, Ed over at The Slow Cook brought my attention back to an issue that most of us have know to be brewing as soon as we starting to do the math of the Great Ethanol Push. Basically there really isn’t enough farm land now for the world population, despite the arguments to the contrary, and converting ever increasing amounts of crop land to put fuel in Excursions is an idea bound to send someone to Hell

The “Crime Against humanity” comment was a month ago, and the FAO started backpedaling within days, but now the  truth is out. The poorest of the poor are much, much worse off thanks to Bush’s ill conceived push to use corn and wheat to make fuel to greenwash GM’s Hummers rather than make hard descions (some call it “leadership”) and push for efficiency and Real Change.

In the mean time, our soft drinks and McBurgers will go up some in price, but millions will find it even harder to feed their children. Triage appears to be beginning, and the debate about local food production is rapidly becoming less academic in the face of Moral Imperatives.

Even in my darkest moments, I never thought it would cause huge impacts within the first year after Bush stated that Ethanol was our Savior. Suddenly my debate between which of the plots I am considering on using for my market garden seems incredibly arrogant. Here I am with enough access, resources, and leisure time to debate where I want to grow my surplus food.

The mission is now changing. If I can get enough helpers, it will now be about how much we can grow in the county. Not on my one 1/4 acre, but on dozens. Every pound of food we produce locally makes a difference. This was a 5 year goal. It just got bumped.

One of the favorite stories I tell my children seems appropriate:

Once upon a time, a boy found starfish washed up on the beach after a big storm. He began throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. His grandfather told him that there were too many, that he could never make a difference. The boy calmly threw another into the ocean and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

I can’t save the world… but I can try. Always for me, the best antidote to despair is action. Food Banks here in America are also going empty. Hunger is hunger.

Be the Change.

-Rob

Solstice Salutations!

Hoping that this Solstice finds you well on this dawning of a new season of Hope and Growth. As the Seasons change, so may our thinking grow richer, fuller and more meaningful.

With the passing of the Dark, may each of us pass some of our pain and hurt into the Night and on the Dawn bring forth our own blessings and truth into the world.

May your days shine brighter and stronger!

-Rob

Love Can Save Us

A reoccurring theme in my thoughts on Sustainability is “Why?” Why do I care? It would be relatively easy to insulate ourselves from the effects of Climate Change and Peak Oil. Build yourself a nice little homestead (compound?) off grid somewhere and relearn how to make all the necessaries of life and wait for the rest of the world to come crashing down in a post carbon conflagration. There are numerous people out there today doing just that. But we aren’t. Why?

My quick answer is simply Empathy and Love. While we can each protect or insulate our own families because of our affluence, there are literally billions of others without that luxury. For us Climate Change is becoming the Moral Issue simply because of the magnitude of the pending crisis if we fail to mitigate the impacts. Empathy allows me to experience in some small way the potential suffering of others, and Love for those people I have never, and will never, meet forces me to act on that empathy to help them prepare as well and to leverage my affluence in ways that can help protect us all. Empathy is what causes me to fight against the tide in our village to establish better water management practices, drive my hybrid, and host seminars on organic gardening. Love is what drives me to write this blog, to badger my Congressmen, and why I find it so hard to say “No.” to those that ask for help on Sustainability Committees and Projects.

To wax idealistic, what if empathy and love became more widespread? What if we expanded our sense of community out from our nuclear families to our neighborhoods, and then our villages, states, regions, on out to the global community? Pie in the sky stuff, but asking our selves how our actions impact the earth is critical. It is becoming more apparent to me everyday that the latest techno wonder or funding scheme will not save us. What we need is a global paradigm shift in how we think about our environment and interact with its citizens. Until we can learn to Love as a society we will never be sustainable. At a base level, unsustainable actions are internally focused and provide immediate gratification. “What is in it for me?” “I am entitled to this-I work hard” Whereas sustainable thoughts are outwardly focused in both time and space. Unfortunately, often enough sustainable choices made today will incur negative immediate results-spending more for organic produce- to receive delayed and impersonal goals of improved soil quality and better wages for small farmers or a Fair Trade premium for our coffee to encourage sustainable practices 2500miles away. Empathy is what makes those ephemeral and distant goals so valuable to us. Religions will have more to say about this than science. More correctly Religion will supply the moral imperative and Science the “how”.

Romantic love is all the rage this week, but instilling a deeper love may just be the thing to heal us all. Talk to the members of your Church about the moral implications of Climate Change vs. say, gay marriage to shift focus. Talk to your co workers about doing what is Right instead of what is Selfish, and push sustainability on a grass roots level like the Natural Step to effect meaningful change at a local level. Change happens when it becomes Right for enough people to reach critical mass.

-Be the Change.

Greening Religion: Unitarian Green Sanctuary

For many years now Ecomama and I have been practising Unitarian Universalists. The liberal, inclusive, honestly moral congregations fit our worldview very well and provide us fertile ground to develop spiritually while allowing us to contribute and fellowship as a community.

Recently our Congregation has reaffirmed our conviction that this is our spiritual home by choosing to start down the path to becoming a Green Sanctuary. In a nutshell the program is a statement of conviction that the congregation will include sustainability and care for the Earth and its creatures as a core value. Specific focus in placed on increasing awareness, personal accountability and the incorporation of an environmental ethic into the spirituality of the congregation. I have long believed that Environmentalism is a moral choice with its roots established deeply in the persons ability to empathize with others, make unselfish decisions, and live a life of compassion to others and future generations.

Plans are flying at a furious pace right now including everything from installing green roofs to hosting monthly seminars on environmental issues in our building that would be open to the public and actively marketed. If this sounds right up my alley, your spot on!

Sustainability is edging more and more into religious circles, be it Buddhist, Christian, or others as congregations awake to the fact that our current economic and societal behaviors are destroying creation and leaving the world in a sad state for our children which conflicts with the core ethics of most major religions.

Religion is often at the forefront of societal change-and I am honored that our congregation is doing its part in Being the Change.

-Beo

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