This is the Now

This is the Now.

At this moment, as I write, Mack dog and I eat our respective dinners. Mine, at least, came by my own hand. From the vegetables I helped gather from the end of a vast waste-stream, to the yogurt I taught others to make as I made it, I have crafted this dinner. Someday, I hope to do the same for Mack.

Today was a good day for myself, by myself. I played in our Little Forest, readying the ground for the coming of Spring. I twisted sumac boughs into a spiral, starting to craft a boundary from the soon-to-be-vibrant Thicket; I sculpted the creek to bear a form I desired, her waters finally warm enough to step in barefooted; I crafted a form for adobe bricks to be made from the red and gray clays we’ve found on the land; I finished the raised bed with a thin layer of shredded hardwood to hold down the fluttering leaves. The storm has passed us by, but we remaining on its windier edges.

To understand the life I have chosen to lead, these words are crucial, as for me, they describe a pretty much ideal day. The kind of day I would have chosen as my birthday, kinda day. This is the kind of day that I have sought to live for: to make vacations and “personal income” obsolete terms, to learn and live the visions I have for how it can be to be free.

Lofty words, to be sure. My writing style is being affected by the books I’m reading, but I’m sure it’s all for the better, to speak in a bold mix of archaic and modern terms…dude.

Do you have a dream? A calling? A vision for what your life could be? Not what you expect to get, nor what you fear to receive, but what you dream for yourself when you are feeling your best.

I have strove (striven, strived?) to live a life free from guilt. Not to turn away from compassion, but to open up to a world free from shoulds. A life, instead, populated with coulds, cans, and wills.

Today, I could and did have a Day On on my day off.

 

55 Hours to Michigan

Tuesday, April 14th 10:00 AM

Beauty, it seems to me, is enhanced in the unfamiliar. Take these canyon walls, for instance, with their majestic, soaring spires sandstone jutting into the azure sky. Carved over millions of years by the Colorado River, living up to its name as the Red River — although it seems more brown, to me.  I haven’t been here before, seen this valley before, and it’s rugged beauty is enhanced by its newness. Of course, it is simply beautiful. The varied greens of scrub-brush and trees, turned emerald by their contrast with the rusty red canyon walls are beautiful. The rushing water, slowly carving it’s way down into the rock is beautiful.

We share these views with a few boaters scattered along the river’s edge, some rafts with oars and some with motors, all inflatables that I’ve seen so far. I actually dreamt of rafting for a brief time last night, perhaps the motion of the train translating into rough and tumble of a trip on the river– although it turned out to be an IMAX with water wetting us patrons to “enhance the experience.” I also dreamt of my friends Maykel and Paloma, somehow being on the train with me, Paloma leading a yoga class, and Maykel casting spells I had written (he’s a Shaman).

I slept last night–if you can call it that–on the floor of the Observation Car. Or really, alternating between the floor and the “three-er,” a unit of three chairs in an L, short side divided from long by a small triangular table. I was not the only one to have this idea, and I have to give credit to the man in the Lounge car last night.

“First time sleeping on a train?” he said. Guy has a good memory, been working for the train for 20 years. 16 hour shifts. I can’t imagine how he remains so chipper at the end of such a day. I guess after that long, you develop a certain kind of endurance. Even the shittiest jobs (which his is certainly not) can be gotten used to, I guess. I went into the Lounge first to buy a beer. It’s telling that I’m more willing to spend money on alcohol than I am on food, even though the food is guaranteed to be better for me. I took the Budweiser, chosen because I would drink it slower than BudLight, up to the Observation deck, where I sat sipping on it for a few minutes.

“At least the alcohol is reasonably priced,” I said to the car, but to no one in particular, perhaps trying to start a conversation, perhaps simply to complain aloud about the cost of food. Not that bad, I suppose, but a 400% (at least) markup, and all the hot food is microwaved. The young man seated in the chair behind me had a little to say, “I haven’t bought beer yet.” No one else bothered to respond. I wrote in my journal for a while before trying again. This time more directly. I started with one of my standard openers, “Would you rather live in a Treehouse or a Hobbit Hole.” Treehouse, he answered. My follow up: Ewok Village or Hobbitown? “Ewoks are cool,” he said.

We dove quickly into a conversation about wage slavery. He quit his “slave job” around 3 months ago as a home-insurance inspector, mostly assessing water damage. He’s from Baltimore and said I looked like I could be too. A Bohemian town, although not “vagabond-friendly.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard of Baltimore in recent months, and it piques my curiosity in much the same way that New Orleans, Austin, and Maine have in the past. Perhaps it’s red-car-syndrome affecting me, but why the sudden attention spent on this city in particular? What caught my eye to begin with, I wonder?

I never caught his name, and after we spent a couple of hours together, he escaped to the restroom, never to return. Not sure if it was a signal or just awkwardness, but we haven’t spoken since, although we’ve passed each other a few times. Either he was a single-serving friend, or we’ll hang out again in the Observation Car (OC) later when I feel like heading there. For now, I sit in my chair, having just eaten a microwave burrito from Dave’s Outpost, a little store abutting the Grand Junction station with prices better than here on the train. Still, I feel like I just ate 360 calories of poison. Better to think of it as sustinance, regardless it’s origins.

Riding public transit — trains, buses, whatever — always serves as a reminder of just how damaged our society is, how unhealthy its people. I am uninterested in talking with most of these people, perhaps judging them unfairly in my assessment of them as “standard” Americans, with views that mostly stick in my craw as naive, programmed, pampered, ignorant.

The woman seated behind me asked of her husband this morning, just an hour ago, as we were passing through a more rural area of scattered double-wides and manufactured homes, “How do they survive out here?” How, indeed? At that moment, as the train progressed down the tracks, we had an answer.

Extraction. Oil, natural gas, stone, gravel, sand, water, food. How much of our “economy,” I wonder, is wholly extractive? We generate wealth by raping the land, caring little for the downstream impacts — both in time, and more literally as “waste” products entering the surging flow of the Colorado River.  The majority of people, I think, survive here as anonymous servants, in various stores and restaurants. “Service Workers” they are called. And who benefits from the extraction of resources? Who gets the vast bulk of profit generated by claiming material that should rightly belong to all or none? Certainly not the extractors themselves. They serve as much as the woman working part-time in Burger King. Probably they are not paid much more for their labor, only doing their Job.

So who is responsible? Is there anyone we can pin this System on? Many blame the Rich, a limited cabal of wealthy owners who benefit most from this loosely tiered system of industrial slavery. People who are in the positions they are, not because they work harder, not because they are intrinsically smarter in any way–although they manage to avoid many of the pitfalls of modern dietary deficiencies–not because they are better than the rest, but largely because of circumstances completely out of their control. Who they were born to, the schools they were afforded to go to, the connections available to them upon reaching Adulthood. These opportunities were not their choice.  Just as it is not their credit to claim, it can neither be their blame. If they are not responsible for their wealth, how can they be responsible for the damage we all collectively do? No. The rich are not to blame, although they should assume a larger burden of the responsibility for repair, given their access to resources.

Truly, there is no one to point the finger at, or there is everyone.

We all serve the System.

I am serving it as we speak, writing these words on a laptop computer developed and built by wage-slaves the world around, with probably tens of thousands of miles of travel under its belt in its various components and materials. I am riding this behemoth of plastic and steel, taking equal advantage of the system our ancestors struggled to build. I eat of its food every day, drink of its water — although, what choice do I have? How could I live without furthering the machine of which we are all a part? Even Ted Kasinski, fervent hater of the System that he was, could not live without relying on its outputs. There is no where to go that isn’t owned by someone, no resources that have not been tapped for the “Benefit of All.”  Of course, thinking these things, writing these things serves no real purpose. I am still a slave. Perhaps it is better to find my niche within the System, rather than to rail against it. Perhaps, the greatest impact I can make is not through vitriolic words of judgement, casting us all as villains, but as a rejuvenating force, bringing joy and peace to my own life, and hence, to the lives of others. If we are all in this together, we will all have to get out together. Like ants forming a living bridge over water, we will have to rely on each other to save us from the vast abyss we collectively hang over.

Keeping myself entertained as best I can: reading, writing, observing. I have not yet found anyone willing to talk for very long, although I must admit that I haven’t really tried. I’ve been back to the OC a few times to score a seat, but they’re mostly full up or taken by peoples’ stuff. On one of our “smoke breaks,” I met a pair from Salt Lake City on their way to Denver. They seem like a couple of cool cats, and the dude is from Michigan, I don’t exactly recall where, but he’s one of the many that have given Grand Rapids a good word or two — although that might just be politeness. What somewhat-conscious adult is going to say that the place you’re headed to is awful? I hoped to run into the two at the OC, but passed them on the way there both times, seemingly content to sit in their seats.

2:45pm

The river below in Bear Valley braids its way across the valley floor. The hills above are a tan tinged with ocre and grey and spotted with green and blinding white — there’s some scattered snow on the ground in the higher elevations. The landscape is dry, mostly chapparral and mixed pine, rocky where the surface has been bared by erosion. A highway hugs the valley wall, cut into the steep slope. The conductor has just come on anouncing “Dead Man’s Curve,” where a light-blue station wagon rolled off the road in the mid 50s and somehow still hangs high above us. Additional informational tidbits include the movie Undersiege 2: Dark Horizons, starring Stephen Segal, which was filmed along this stretch of the rail.

The valley becomes a canyon, the walls shooting up to 1500 feet and the waters below turning white as they plunge tumultously through spaces in the stone. We must getting higher into these mountains, as snow remains in the shadows all the way down to the waters edge. We pass quickly through three short tunnels, lichen coats the rocks with an iron-orange fuzz, my ears pop. 45 minutes to Granby, Colorado.

6:20pm

We pull slowly into the station in Denver, Colorado. There’s quite a bit of maneuvering that needs to be done. To the right of the tracks some new apartments, constructed almost entirely out of particle board, a large pile of rotting railroad ties, a slow river with trash and young lovers along its shore. They are replacing the old creosote-soaked wooden ties with concrete ones, it seems.As we pass through the trainyard, 10 or 15 sets of tracks converge, Y-ing into fewer and fewer until only one pair remain. “EGO NES” reads the warehouse graffiti. A man and his dog run by on a trail beneath us along the river. Downtown Denver glows in the lowering light, buildings not yet afire with dusk, but turning golden with the setting sun.

I’ve started reading ​Seeds to Harvest​ again from the beginning, although there’s no way it would hold my attention as it did the first time several days ago. A collection of 4 connected novels by Olivia Butler, it was recommended and gifted me by Daniel back in Capay. I do this instead of sleep, socializing seemingly out of the question in my current mood.

Meeting new people is aparently no longer one of my passions, or at least not on this trip. I would rather sit at my chair, re-reading material just finished than open myself up to new perspectives, stories. I have not attempted to engage my neighbors in conversation. They are a variety of folk, mostly older than myself. A latino couple sits at my rear diagonal. Some elderly WASPs sit directly behind. The woman before me rocks to her music, sometimes powerfully enough to shake my footrest, as she is now. She resembles Tracy Chapman from that show with Tina Fey, ​30 Rock​.

I think a lot of people are getting off at this Denver stop. I was hoping for enough time to go wandering, perhaps busk a bit, or get some food from a cheaper establishment. As this parking job drags on, I can feel that chance slipping away. Another walk about, another smoke break. I may be eating dinner again on the train, perhaps a microwaved pizza or a chicken-sandwich. I chose the pizza last night, mostly based on the amount of calories for the money.  We have arrived. I will endeavor to adventure in the 28 minutes I have available to me before we depart again.

I managed to find a “street food” restaurant around the corner from the station, where I bought a good meal of rice and chicken and potatos. I considered buying a side of vegetables, but figured the $9 I spent was enough for the meal. I will load up on veggies once I get to Grand Rapids tomorrow evening. I took my guitar with me in the off-chance I had an opportunity to play.

I had had some time in Reno yesterday and met a young man named Hippy–Kevin to his friends–on the overpass above the tracks. He had a guitar on his back and a longboard under his arm and a pretty apparent drug habit. We chatted briefly, then jammed for a few short minutes. He joked about running away with my guitar. It wasn’t funny. I encouraged him to travel. He’s been homeless in Reno for 5 years, has wanted to leave for some time. It’s a testament to my former lifestyle that I am much more willing (and able) to strike up a conversation with a homeless guy I just met than with an old white lady who’s been sitting across the aisle for the past 20 hours.


April 15th, 9:45 AM

I slept in my chair last night, waking every few hours to stretch and readjust. The forced air system in this train makes my sinuses dry and bloody. I had many dreams last night. One I can remember was about my cousins coming to meet me at some point and me being really nervous about a dreaded traveler kid that Gloria was going to travel with. Like he was up to no good and it was my job to tag along and make sure she was okay. They had both dyed their hair blond and he was taller than me. Cheerful, but hardly friendly. Another dream was about driving around with my buddy David, getting mad at him for driving extremely recklessly and ignoring me when I asked him to slow down. I didn’t have my seatbelt on and I was seated in a way that if we crashed it would be really bad for me. Mack dog was with us, and I was dumpster-diving for cardboard for a restoration project I was working on outside of town. Eventually, I got mad enough at him to leave his car and I met up with Becca and Natalie and Greg, who were somehow riding in a car without a driver. I jumped into the front seat to guide us to my garden, and promptly blacked out and crashed the car. I woke for a smoke break at 4:45 this morning and then returned to bed.

We’re traveling through Iowa right now. A rolling countryside criss-crossed by rivers and dotted with ponds and swamps. The ground has the messy look of a place that snows, but there’s no sign of it now. Most of the trees are just now coming into their leaves. It’s strange to not be able to see any mountains in the distance. I don’t think there are any, the highest vantage point being the small hills that stretch as far as I can see. It’s not exactly flat, but it’s certainly not mountainous.

Last night I spent some time in the Observation Car, listening in on the conversation of a pair of cute dread-locked girls who got on the train in Denver. I didn’t have the guts to strike up a conversation and after 20 minutes of eavesdropping, decided I had little interest either. I drank my beer, wrote in my journal, and retreated to my chair.

Or chairs, really. I’ve been blessed with two of them since I started this trip. Plenty of room to stretch out, and if I put both leg rests up, a handy surface to curl up on, although it’s sharp in some places. My body doesn’t ache nearly as much as I would suppose it should after being cooped up on this Train for the past 45 hours. I guess I’ve been exercising my lounging muscles these past few weeks, especially after being sick and laid out for the few days preceding this journey.

I’ve just lost my double-wide in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

12:45 PM

A rather attractive Australian woman was sat next to me by our car steward, Rob. I tried to engage, but it’s almost like I have an anti-conversation spell on me or something. Maybe it’s just happenstance. After a few minutes of me asking her questions (She was in Iowa to see her brother and is on the way to Norway to see her sister), she got up to “go find the dining car.” That was two hours ago, and much like Baltimore dude from the other day, she hasn’t returned. She’s probably hanging out in the OC. Probably she just wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. Perhaps she found a better one there. The view is certainly better. I wonder if my incipient negativity is what drives people off. Although I’m struck by the beauty of the natural country, especially Utah and Colorado, I haven’t had much good to think or say about the man-made world we’ve passed through. I have little interest in people’s jobs or tastes in music. Have I become so embittered? Or is this simply a symptom of being cooped up in this train for so long, hungry for real food?

Riding through Princeton, Illinois. It’s as flat as Iowa, but seemingly more populated. The dirt roads are pristinely graded. I think perhaps the presence of snow makes asphalt crack too much and need too much repair for use in country roads. I remember Alaska had similar paving techniques, choosing well packed gravel over asphalt in all but the most traveled roads — and those may have been surfaced with concrete, not asphalt. It’s interesting how the small details strike me. Like the lack of roadside curbs in the small town we just passed, even though the streets themselves were well defined.

5:00 PM

The Australian returned when they closed the OC. She curled herself away from me, crossing legs and arms and staring out the opposite window. She held her scarf to her face, as if covering the smell of something awful. I hope it wasn’t me and it was just a nervous tick, of some sort. I know I’ve been on the train in the same clothes for two straight days, but I can’t smell ​that​ bad. I think that maybe she’s just an awkward person. I did joke when she first sat down that I was “surprised she could stand me.” Perhaps that suggestion was enough for her to think I really smell terrible. I’ll never know. She left without a word or a smile when the train deboarded. I exited the train into the cavernous tracks below Grand Central Station, here in Chicago. A big structure — although I’ve been in bigger — the bustle of traveling people filled the space with the sound of squealing luggage wheels and the low murmur of conversation.  I checked on locker prices. $6 per hour. Not worth it. So I lugged my stuff outdoors to catch a smoke and play my guitar. I had an audience of two. A young man just released from prison a week ago. His crime was growing marijuana. 7 months and now he’s on his way to a half-way house across Chicago to serve out his probation. The other member of my brief audience, an older man, gave me $4 in change and dollar bills and thanked me for playing. He clapped every time a song was over and came over to chat a few times.  With an hour left of my layover, I went back into the station to get some food. It wasn’t worth carrying my stuff all over town to try and find something cheaper, and I found reasonable prices in the food-court at the “Mediterranean Grill.”

Leaving Chicago now on time. We pass row upon row of brick tract homes and apartment buildings and the occasional clapboard house squeezed between. But by far the redominant architecture is red brick. Chicago is sprawling like most cities. We pass the stadium and vast, empy parking lots. Soot-stained warehouses and a rusty watertower pass before we’re back into the brick neighborhoods. It’s warm here, although it seems winter is just ending. Trees are just now beginning to bloom, and so the city has a barren feel to it. At least with snow on the ground, there would be a reason why so many trees were bare. As we get further out from the city center, the number of abandoned homes increases, boards over doors and windows, some fire damaged, most just left to rot amongst their neighbors.

I catch brief glimpses of peoples’ lives: a man waiting at a gate, boys playing on the asphalt outside a school, people commuting home from work in the city.


April 20th 4:04 PM

I sit on the couch at Brie’s parents’ house. Her mom has just arrived home (to much barking of the dogs) and is doing stuff in the kitchen. Brie just finished up her computer work and is who-knows-where. This is the first real chance I’ve had to write since I arrived in Grand Rapids 10:30 PM on April 15th.

The city of Grand Rapids is a sprawling city of around 190, 000 people, with an additional million or so in the surrounding metropolitan area. There are lots of large houses on multi-acre lots spread across the country side. Most buildings are made of brick, which is strange to me as a Californian, where earthquakes happen. Apparently there was an earthquake whose effects were felt in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It shook a mirror on the wall of Karen’s room. If there are ever any bigger quakes in the area, many of the building and houses would collapse, or they would sink into the sandy dunes that make up most of Michigan.


April 21th 2:50 PM

Go anywhere in this state, it seems, and dig down less than a foot and all you will find is sand. I’ll have to re-up my permaculture skills to account for the differences. Like, how do you build soil on such sandy ground? Where do you find clay, humus?

I’ve been here for almost a week, now. It’s starting to feel like home to me, or at least a semblance thereof. We’ve been so busy every day, it’s hard to find time to write, but Brie’s making lunch now. Listening to some Devil Makes Three and finishing this.

It’s the small differences that make me feel like I ain’t in California anymore. It’s the way people look into your eyes when you’re buying things from them. It’s the way stop-lights hang from wires instead of on poles. It’s the way there are no curbs on the streets, and the potholes are positioned to break axles. It’s Rainbow Gatherings in the sandy forests of Western Michigan and the strangely sprawling rural communities. It’s kayaking on the waters of a city reservoir.

Well, here I am.

Choices To Be Made

The possibility of an extended stay with a new group in Oregon has diminished. They are too taxed financially to host me as an intern. Am I willing to convince them to have me on as a work-trader instead? To simply provide food for my sustenance, with me paying into the group fund via my food-stamps.

Their liason and founder says that they don’t have the space (budgetarily) for a full-time intern for the entire growing season. There are many other possible relationships that could be neither full-time nor an internship that may work for all of us.

fullbloom

Full Bloom Community

Am I willing…? Am I as excited as I was when I applied? When I heard back?

I’ll ask myself tomorrow. Upon reading the latest communique, my brain immediately jumped into “What do I do now?” mode. This is not the best time to be making any long term pronouncements, decisions, or actions. I need to sleep on this new information and do some gridding.

There are so many things about this group that resonate with me, or at least about what they say, which is bound to be different from the reality, to a degree.

The way they are raising their children in Community, with clear and loving communication, play, and plenty of good food. The way they acknowledge the damage done them by our ailing culture, and the way they seek and act to heal. The way they have the overwhelming need to be sure that their actions are of a benefit to the surrounding environment, and the way that farming food strikes them as a compromised solution that has much room for improvement. I like that they are entering into a Permaculture-design-implementation phase of their growth. I like that they are ecstatic dancers and yoga practitioners. I like the buildings they have crafted for themselves, the way they present themselves on the Internet.

I could go on. But instead I will go to sleep and dream into these growing pains and awaken stronger and more determined than ever to achieve my Vision in whatever way the Universe conspires to allow me.

Prosperity

I am noticing that I don’t know where I want to be, what I want to be doing for the next year. I am tired of the type of flow that I am in, moving from experience to isolated experience, with my solitary being the only one on this journey.

I want to have peace of mind regarding the midterm future

Things I know to be Truth:
1. There are several places that I know that I COULD be for a significant amount of time. There are groups of people that I have bonded with, my family, folks in Big Bend, in Santa Cruz, in Capay Valley. I have been having a GRAND adventure, just by being me.
2. I love me.
3. I love everyone.
4. Prosperity is mine if I choose to serve it.
5. Love is the answer to the questions in my heart, like where do we go, and what do we do and how come it’s so hard.
6. It’s always better when we’re together.
7. I want more than one center to my life. I want partners, though that will travel with me between them.
8. I want a tribe that I feel is mine, that I truly belong to
9. The members of my tribe are my friends and my family. Most of whom I know right now.
10. The pieces are there, it is only a matter of starting to lay them down. Just as my metaphysical ideas come together from many different perspectives, everything that I do, so long as it is for my larger purpose (heal the land, heal the self), will add up to greatness.
11. Everything will be All Right. All True. And it will be FUCKING AMAZING.
12. I will feel sad sometimes, I will feel down. That is OKAY. That is PERFECT. It is exactly what is need to appreciate the MAGNITUDE of Joy that I am capable of.

Doin' it right with three points of contact

Doin’ it right with three points of contact

To Whom It May Concern

My name is Shawn Rutan. I was born in Paraguay to Baha’i pilgrims and raised in Davis, California. I’ve lived in this state for most of my life, but have traveled widely, both in the States and abroad.
I have been living a home-life on my father’s land in the countryside of west-central California for the past year and a bit, interacting and sharing work with a wide variety of rural-dwellers.  Proximity to UC Davis–a fairly liberal agricultural college town–means this area has a pretty eclectic population.  Small organic farmers, natural builders, inn-keepers, do-it-yourself handy-men, Psychonaut Phds. I thrive best when exposed to this kind of diversity and passionately seek it out if it’s not immediately accessible in my environment.
During my time here, I have worked to apply both my analytical talents and my moral compass to the projects I have undertaken. A tendency towards rational thought was sharpened by an education at California Polytechnic as a Mechanical Engineer and 3 years of working as an engineer in both the Space and Semiconductor industries as an intern, tech, and engineer (not necessarily in that order!).
Working in a “high” tech industry allowed me to live in a style and luxury that put me in the top 75%, income-wise. With my friends and partner, I would go rafting, skiing, or backpacking almost every weekend. I would eat out at upper-middle class restaurants at least 3 times a week, and upper class restaurants once or twice a month. I was paying off my student loans, was the pride of my family, and was able to afford the things I wanted–in both experiences and material possessions.
But I soon discovered that the things I valued most…were free. The time spent with friends, laughing and working our bodies at the urban-sustainability collective I lived at for a year and a half. The time spent with strangers, crafting music and magic from the Source at parties and gatherings around Oakland and the Bay Area. The time spent working for common good and mutual benefit at urban gardens and farms, hackerspaces and sustainable PLACEs.
Most of my time, however, was spent making money I didn’t want to buy luxuries I didn’t need. The products I was helping to manufacture did nothing obviously good for the world. And almost everyone I knew was UNHAPPY doing it too. Yet, no one I knew was doing anything about it. Sure, people were recycling and watching their footprint and buying fair-trade. People were sharing calls for action on Facebook. But they were still working, and they were still making, and they were still consuming. And so was I.
One night, I was walking around the dining room of our collective, looking at various knick-knacks and inspirational quotes and I stopped at one.  The card had a picture of a skinny, bespeckled, robed man in a meditation pose with a beatific smile.  I had seen the card before and largely dismissed it as a platitude–something to be agreed with wholeheartedly, but no cause for major change. Be the Change You Want to See in the World, it said. By Mahatma Ghandi.
No matter what it meant to me before, however I may have agreed and dismissed it, at that moment, and every moment since, it changed me. I felt a shift deep within me, and a loud, clear, silent Voice said “NO MORE.” No more would I work to strip the earth of it’s life, land, and liberty. No more would I labor in aid of the enemy of all landkind — Mankind.
So dramatic! So impassioned! I quit my job, and lost my life. I ate my savings away, half-heartedly seeking a way to make my way without money. I lost my partner, some close friends, and the respect of my younger siblings.  I experimented with Time-banking, lived with post-Occupyers in Anarchic tension, and traveled the West coast as a Tramp-on-Wheels. I jammed with Merry Pranksters, and built with natural building Gurus. (humble aside: I toot my own horn well, don’t I? Sheesh. Trust me when I say that I recognize many of my faults and limitations and will get to them later). Did I do everything I could to minimize my impact? No. Did I still drive places and go to movies and eat out? Yes. But I tried. I thought about how to do things, and then I did them, and sometimes the outcomes were good, and sometimes not, but I tried again. I built and failed and traveled and stayed.
But nowhere did I find those who were doing it right, in love and triveability. No one I met could disconnect themselves entirely from the world wide web of global capitalism. Nowhere did I find anyone working well enough with enough others with enough resources to make a viable alternative WORK. Perhaps they are out there. Perhaps there is a whole underground network of them working steadily to unchain themselves from a System intent on destroying Our world and I merely haven’t met them yet. In fact, I know that there is. And I want to join them.
After all, The Revolution begins from within. The wooden horse is at the gates of the gated communities and it’s Us, their neighbors bringing home-grown goodness to share. I changed my mind. So will others.
Here I go in fits and starts to change myself to change the world.
Peace.

Leaving on a Trash Raft

People come, and people go. Plans change, and plans fail. I have had my fair share of failed ventures in the past months. The Salon I was working to open — a place to gather and talk, not a place to get your nails did — failed to get off the ground. The integrated bed I designed lies unfinished. My Beaver Den has seen little-to-no modifications since the early spring and those torrential rains.

Appropriate vision, consistent motivation and follow through, assistance and community support. These things are all necessary for most plans to succeed, and were all missing to some degree. Being able to follow through with stated plans here without changing my mind or losing interest has one of my most aggravating limitations. I’ve coined the term “Existential Continuity Defficiency” to describe this lack.

A friend of mine likes to reassure me by saying, “Everyone has a different work ethic. Everyone has a different way of doing things.” She’s right. I have a different way of doing things.

Sometimes this works out for me, as when I work hardest right before a deadline and somehow pull through, not with bare minimum success, but with an inspired design and skilled craftsmanship. Sometimes this doesn’t work at all, especially when people are counting on and judging progress along the way, not knowing how it is I most commonly operate.

Six months ago, I pledged to be here for a year, doing what I was doing (which wasn’t much), and trying to make enough money doing odd jobs and gigs to meet the minimum payments of my student loans — not much money, to be sure, but difficult to do without a job.

So what have I learned, being out here? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking, talking and thinking. People ask me what I’m doing out here and I’ve told them that I was having a “Thoreau” moment, but where’s my Walden’s Pond? I suppose it will have to wait. In short, though, what I’ve learned is that nothing that I want to do, nothing, is possible without a community to do it with and do it for.

The stated purpose of this blog was to explore how I started to “Be the change” that I wanted to see in the world. I wanted to see a culture that refuses to enslave the beings around it to meet its own ends. I wanted to see a people who manifest in their daily acts what it means to live rightly. I wanted to see a world that is long on love and short on exploitation. I still do.

So where are these people? Where is this culture? Where or when is this World that I want to be a part of?

I thought I could be here, in this great Valley and help foster greater community connections. I thought I could help support an alternative economy that actually follows Natural principles, instead of warring with them. I thought I could help build the world of my dreams. And I have, to some small degree. But my tendency has been towards lax inaction. Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics has this to say about so-called laziness.

“Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue, and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life we are offered. When the conscious mind cannot find a reason to say no, the unconscious says no in its own way.”  ~ Charles Eisenstein

I need to know what people are doing towards changing the program, for I know that they are out there. I’ve read enough, seen enough, listened enough, to know that I am not alone in my aspirations for a just culture and a healthy existence. I know that I am not the first or last to ask the question, “But why?”

But why does it need to be this way?

But why aren’t more people turning away from what they know is wrong?

But why is it so much harder to work for the good of many than for the good of oneself?

So many Whys; so few satisfying Becauses.

Here’s another Why that will likely not have a satisfying Because:

Why am I leaving?

I am leaving because the density of like-minded people here is not enough to foster a day-to-day community of people working together towards a common vision of common decency.

I am leaving because I have too few peers who see things my way, and although diversity is key to the health of any community, without support and without people TO support, nothing that I want to do is possible.

I am leaving because money being made, no matter how righteous it’s Cause, is still money being made to be used for purposes and ends I don’t condone.

I am leaving because the water is drying up, and people are asleep at the pump.

I am leaving because I am lonely and bored and tired of having nothing to believe in.

And, yes.

I am leaving because I have failed to meet my goals here.

I do not know enough, I do not have the skills necessary, nor the habits formed that would make my goals achievable. One may argue that leaving is running away, but I really feel that it is more like a study abroad program. Go to where the knowledge is to learn the things you need to know. No one here is living in the kind of community that I desire to live in: one made up of hundreds or thousands of individuals, where the medium of exchange is trust and not capital. Where people work together to meet shared goals and cover shared needs.

So what to do?

Go to where it IS happening. And have a fun time doing it.

Our Trash Raft is called the Pure Whimsy and we will be literally “going with the flow”.

What is a Trash Raft? It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a raft…made of trash. Or at least, what people call trash. Or salvage. Or recycling. Whatever you call the materials we are using to construct our craft, they are the refuse of our material culture, relegated to salvage yards and dumpsters. Plastic drums and feed-bags filled with sealed plastic bottles will form the basis of our flotation. Variously called Trash Boats or Junk Rafts, these hand-made floating art pieces are not new, nor are they my idea alone.

And so we leave this Valley, this sedentary lifestyle, in search of many things, both in ourselves and our environs.

 

 

Rainy Day Ruminations

It’s raining, and it’s Monday. So, it’s back to work finding things to do that are either: 

a) Indoor work (such as writing in this poor neglected Blogspace)

b) Outdoor work that’s worth getting wet for (like fixing a leaky roof)

Today I worked some Spring cleaning of my Beaver Den in preparation for the next phase of development–namely, putting a new roof on and reorganizing my covered space to be more efficient for what I want to use it for.

I also braved the sleet and snow-free drizzle to work on my latest sunken bed. This is Version 2 of what will eventually be an adaptable system for dry-lands agriculture. I call it the “Rutan Integrated Sunken Bed” for lack of a better name for it, and it combines hugelkultur and aquaponics, circulating as it will the wastes from a downhill pond through piled wood and soil. Fungus should grow to take advantage of the wastes, and hopefully enough bacteria to convert the ammonia and nitrites to nitrates accessible by the plans to be grown. We’ll see how it works and make changes for the next version. I still haven’t figured out for sure what plants to use for testing the system’s effectiveness. I’m thinking I might make it an herb bed with tall dry herbs (thyme, oregano) on the South side, water loving herbs in the center, and shade-appropriate plants on the North side. Any suggestions?

Rutan Integrated Sunken Bed V2.0

A photo of a picture — not as good as the picture itself, but what’ya gonna do?

I started digging the drain, which was actually made easier by the rain as I get a very clear visual of where the water wants to go without needing measuring devices. I also started puddling the bottom of the bed, i.e. stomping the wet clay so that smaller particles move to the top, creating a (somewhat) impervious layer to water flow. I’m adding straw and rotting leaves to the mix to form a cob-like barrier that hopefully will crack less and provide a nutrient rich layer for bio-films to grow in. The bed does not need to be water-proof, just to bias it towards flowing the water downhill to the pond — which I will probably use a liner for. This is more of an art-work in progress than a technology, a technique and a process rather than a perfect finished product. It’s possible that I would be better off by simply digging a pit and filling it with wood and say futz to all the complicated(ish) systems I’m trying to integrate. Well, I’ve got that bed–it was version 1. Time will tell whether one bed works better or worse than another, and honestly, I’ll never really know why.  Different positions, different orientations, different contents, different plants growing. This is a mani-variable experiment.

Integrated Bed V2

Woodpecker Tree!