Working on the Book

Midsommar                                                  Most Heat Moon

finger-moon-hoteiStill figuring out how to go about writing a non-fiction book. As a next step, I combed through some material, including the post below and came up with categories. Then, I created file folders for each category. I know, pretty obvious, right? Well, not till it came to me. Now I have to fill them up. My idea is to use the folders as the source material for chapters. Again, pretty obvious. But, again. Not until I thought of it. Reinventing the wheel. Reimagining faith.

Here are the categories:

Great Wheel, Sacred Calendars, Iroquois-seventh generation thinking, Seasonal Rituals, Time, Paleoastronomy

Emergence, Becoming Native to This Place, How a Forest Thinks, Great Work, Original Relation, Beyond the Boundary, Nature Writers, Shinrin Yoku, Wild, Wilderness

Mysticism, Symbolism, Romanticism, Self

Scrambling Around.

Midsommar                                                            Most Heat Moon

eduardo_kohn_how_forests_think_lHere are the key conceptual elements I’ve already assembled for reimagining: emergence, becoming native to this place, the Great Wheel and similar sacred calendars focused on seasonal change, rituals associated with those changing seasons from many cultures, shinrin yoku and its relatives, Iroquois prayer and Iroquois seventh generation thinking, the Great Work, How a Forest Thinks, nature writers and their various approaches, paleoastronomy, original relation to nature and beyond the boundary thinking. These may require editing, probably will require editing. There may be, probably will be, deletions and additions, but these are my starting point.

After a quick scan of my Reimagining bookshelf, I noticed a couple of other elements: Romanticism and the idea of the self. Still not sure how to go about prepping for this work. I’m a fiction guy and I prefer to sit down, start writing, see what happens next. Suppose I could try that here, but it seems unlikely to produce anything coherent.

David_and_Goliath_-1700sMaybe, what, read a book or two from each category, see where that takes me? Rough out a reading plan and outline after that? Or, there’s that 200,000 word dump from Ancientrails. The posts deal in some way or another with reimagining. Read them all the way through, too? This is the sweat of the intellect, confusion. Not unexpected at this point, but still frustrating.

Guess I’ll just keep poking around for a while, see where that gets me. Maybe write summaries at least weekly, if not daily. Perhaps right here. Eventually it’ll come into focus.

The Journey Ahead

Beltane                                                                             Moon of the Summer Solstice

Look for a new post here each Sunday.

In some ways the reimagining work feels too thin. It doesn’t offer salvation, though it might offer remediation. It doesn’t imply or even have the tools for a human ethic beyond one that enjoins us to become friendly to our mother. It doesn’t have that deep resonance that thousands of years of human affection, intellectual pursuit, spiritual imagination offers in most of the world’s religions. It runs the danger of being concocted, a sort of ecological scientology. It will hit the world with little history and no ethnic/national roots to commend it to anyone.

It may, it might, turn these distinct disadvantages into real assets, however. It will not be implicated in the past or present failures of chauvinistic religionists. It will not get mired in the political economics of the nation states, though it will have a critique of them. If done as I hope, it may serve as an ur-faith, a place agnostics, atheists, Taoists, Jews, Sikhs and Christians might find common cause. Its resonance, if it gains one, will come from the deep and abiding instinctual love for mother earth we all have, even if it’s buried by materialism, by political ideology or next world focused theology.

The work has begun, a bit ahead of schedule. Somehow though, as I start, I find myself bogging down, feeling the challenge may be too much, too hard. Can I stretch an argument past the length of a blog post or a sermon? I don’t really know. Guess I’m about to find out.

I will report here regularly as the work progresses.



Beltane                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

Linneaous   Flower Clock

Linneaous Flower Clock

I last posted here after a trip to Tucson, Arizona in 2014. In retrospect it’s not odd that it’s been so long since I came back to this blog. It was in April of that year, in a spirit of reflection occasioned by the long drive and the inner work of the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal retreat I’d attended, that Kate and I decided to move to Colorado. The move took over our life together and the move itself didn’t really terminate until well into 2015  when we had both adjusted to the oxygen scarcity at 8,800 feet.

A bout of prostate cancer, an increasingly painful arthritic left knee, Jon and Jen’s divorce, total knee replacement and Kate’s rough time since then has distracted me. But now I’ve returned. My passion remains creating a sustainable human presence on the earth, following Thomas Berry’s conviction that this task is the Great Work of our generation.

Chambered_Nautilus_ShellI’ve imagined that my primary contribution to this work would be political, a strategy I’ve embraced for many years. Now though I’m focused on something less political, a reimagining of faith that can constantly remind us of the reverence we owe to the earth, the sun, the mystery of life. Reimagining faith will occupy me until I’ve written a short book proposing a way to reenchant our daily life, a way to find wonder in the everyday, to locate the holy not far away or in some ritualized observance, but in the here and now.

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry scientist, wrote in a 1968 paper, ”In the end we will conserve only what we love…wiki  And so the question is how do we love the earth, the sun, the universe? They have conspired to bring us all to this moment when the survival of the human species may be in the balance. This is, after all, the critical reality: it is not the earth that is in danger, not the sun, not the vastness of our cosmos, but humanity. Our actions, unwitting until recently, have brought us to a moment of kairos: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action, the opportune and decisive moment, as Merriam-Webster defines it.

Seasonal-roundKairos in its Greek origin is a counterpoint to chronos, our familiar and assumed understanding of time as sequential and linear: where past present and future separate cleanly and finally, moment by moment. Kairos is a sort of time when matters crystallize, when events are ripe for change, important change. It takes no special genius to see that our time is such a moment, a moment filled with kairotic potential.

Even with the spiral understanding of time that I embrace, seasons turning, pushing forward, but always returning to the same phase of life’s regularity, moments of kairos can occur. This one, when our most powerful elected official turns his back on global solidarity, when the CO2 in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million, when hottest years and biggest storms get surpassed often, when scientists suggest we have only a few decades to slow climate change (not eliminate it, but slow it), we have reached a moment of kairos. And it is our moment.



Impressions. Subjective.

Spring                                            Hare Moon

Spread it out this way.  The fields of southern Minnesota and Iowa, the poverty of Missouri, the plains of Kansas, the shabbiness of Oklahoma, the bleakness of west Texas.  Then, Carlsbad Caverns.  An entry way this Orpheus took, singing his own tunes of loss, passing through the twilight zone to the darkness of eternal night, lit only by the U.S. government.  When I returned to the surface, my journey through many benighted places had been purged, my inner world compressed by the weight of the earth over me.  I had visited Persephone only to find her gone back to her mother, her husband the dismal Hades now distracted and grieving.  Charon was not in sight.

After that the trail hit the desert.  Stark southern New Mexico.  New Mexico, of all the states on this trip, has cast its spell on me, its enchantment.  That vast sea of sand and sparse grass so amenable to the spirit, especially a spirit only recently returned to the surface, that combination, had me set up for the Intensive Journal Workshop.

Arizona, I admit, I come to jaundiced.  Sun City was my first experience of it and what the New Mexico desert was to the spirit, Sun City was its obverse, a place where the soul came to die early.  Then there were those 107 degree September days and the concrete irrigation ditches.  Not to mention the sheriff of Maricopa County. And the loony conservatism so wrapped up in flag, guns, chauvinism, xenophobia and homophobia. This is a state that, in spite of its great beauty has a pinched and impoverished heart.  It practices the dark arts.

The Workshop itself I’ll treat elsewhere.  This is a subjective, impressionistic journey.  Arizona grew in appeal to me as I turned north into the mountains, the temperature falling and the conifers and firs beginning to dominate the landscape.  In Holbrook, after stopping briefly to view the sky, I ended up in the motel with no phone, no wifi and no heat.  I stayed anyway.

This stop was a time out from the luxury of the trip, a reminder that many lived nearby in conditions not at all different from this shabby room with its torn lampshade, grime coated shower door and frayed bedspreads.  There is a lot of poverty and it comes in many forms, but that found on American Indian reservations is often its cruelest.  Here the people live on the land they consider sacred, but have been removed from it anyway by television, English, pickup trucks and alcohol.  Life in Indian America is tough and often brutal.

Leaving it behind at 4 a.m and driving under the sign of the sickle moon and Venus has provided the lasting image for this trip full of rich images.  Northeastern Arizona and northern New Mexico have geological, geographic, cultural and historical depth no matter where you glance out the window.  This is our Angkor, the place where the ancient sage-kings held sway, peoples so faded from memory that only their past remains and that impossible to understand.

It is not caverns or catcus here, here it is people and their astonishing and beautiful adaptations to the land they found.  The Chaco Canyon architecture of small sandstone and the pueblo dwellings hung from high canyon walls.  The adobe of Santa Fe.  The hogans of the Navajo.  Their pottery and their blankets and their painting and their writing. There is something special here.

Now I’m out of all that, up here in Denver where the Rockies and skiing and Century Communications and the National Western Stock Show mediate the meeting of East and West, being neither fully, unable to commit.  And I’m more comfortable here.  I fit in better here.  But it doesn’t stimulate me in the same deep way.



Climate Change Frontlines: U.S.A.

Spring                                                          Hare Moon

The southern and western arc of this trip took me into the frontlines of America’s struggle with climate change.  Of course, one of the ironies here is that it is red states or the red state’s territory of a blue state (California) who contain the heartland of climate change denial.  That means Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada will confront adaptation with one intellectual hand tied by behind their back and their fingers crossed on the other one.  Which is not to say that these states lack climate change sophistication, far from it.  The Climate Change Institute at the University of Arizona has done a lot of work on water, water conservation and water policy, for example.

But in each of these states, my sample one newspaper per state with the exception of Arizona, some environmental challenge or another appeared in the paper and usually on the front page.  Water and the drought, of course, make up much of the coverage, but forest fire dangers, dust storms (haboobs), and the generation of electricity showed up, too.  Because their systems are already at extremes-water availability, summer temperatures, drought, dry forests and plains combined with high winds-as climate change begins to impact them their margins of safety are thin.

This means that they have to consider changes in the climate, no matter what they believe the source to be, and act to ameliorate them.  One example is the presence of waterless urinals and, I’m told, waterless toilets.  Flushing toilets and urinals uses a lot of water so the savings are not trivial, especially in large buildings.

Another, telling, water related action occurs this month as the Colorado sends a flood sized pulse of water into Mexico. (see below)  This is an attempt to heal the scar created from Yuma and the Gulf of California by diversion of the Colorado’s waters to Arizona, Nevada and California.  The former delta region that began in Yuma has become a long scab of crusted soil.

It is my sense that the Southwest will, despite itself, lead the way on climate change adaptation.  Not mitigation, they’ll resist it.  But adaptation will happen here because without it people and plants will suffer.  So I plan to keep an eye on the Southwest over the next few years, watching for what they learn.  We’ll all need it.

Water, Water Everywhere

Spring                                                   Hare Moon

Been on the lookout for water related stories in the newspapers during this trip. I’ve found a few, one this morning in the Arizona Star, the Tucson paper.  It covers an upcoming (very soon) release of water from Lake Meade that will pass through the dam at Yuma into the Colorado River delta in Mexico.  The water that will pulse through in this release amounts to one third of Nevada’s annual water consumption.  But it belongs to Mexico rather than the U.S.

Mexico agreed to store water in Lake Meade and has chosen to use some of it to attempt a restoration of the Colorado River Delta where it used to empty into the Gulf of California.

This is an example of the complicated web of relationships legal, customary, national, state-to-state that have grown up around water use.  There was an example of these in Texas, too, where municipalities and farmers were struggling with a Monsanto plant that had priority rights to water.  If Monsanto used it, either the residents of towns and cities or the farmers would not have enough for their needs.

As the drought out here (the southwest and west) grows worse, these conflicts will only increase, become more hostile and fraught with danger.


Where Great Wheel Is Going.

Spring                                                        Hare Moon

I gave Great Wheel a lot of thought on the way down.  I want a broad approach to sustainability, to creating a livable human presence on the earth, an approach broader than either the Great Wheel emphasis I began with or the climate change focus I considered during the Climate Change course.

This approach will combine horticultural thinking, phenological observation, astronomical events, and literary resources like book reviews with the hard science behind climate change (I’m still noodling the idea of a dashboard of key indicators), the political realities of the struggle to change our culture and the Great Wheel, calendar lore.

Once I get a rhythm going with it, which may take anywhere from weeks to a few months, I plan to do some sort of publicity campaign.  Not sure what that will look like right now, but I want to give Great Wheel a chance to reach a number of people in different places.

Bring the Heat

Spring                                                         Hare Moon

Spring and I met up this year in Seminole, Texas, Gaines County: #1 in Cotton, #1 in oil and #1 in peanuts.  When we began our Intensive Journal workshop here in Tucson, the leader noted that it was the beginning of spring, a time of birth and rebirth.  Yes.

Today, for the first time since I left Minnesota, I’m not pressed by travel and can reflect on the new season.  This is the culmination of Imbolc, those lambs in the belly (imbolc) now gambol on the green.  Or on the snow covered fields in the case of Minnesota.

And that’s a good thing to note.  Spring comes astronomically when the sun’s center lines up with the earth’s equator.  It come meteorologically with a nuance determined by your latitude.  At Minnesota’s 45th latitude, half-way from that equator to the north pole, meteorological spring comes when the bloodroot blooms. (at least one naturalist I asked defined the coming of spring that way.)  That could be well into April some years.

On the other hand, here in Tucson 32 degrees of latitude from the equator spring announces the upcoming dry season, aggravated this year by a persistent drought that has many southwestern parts of the U.S. facing another season of extreme wildfire danger.

In Manta, Ecuador which Kate and I visited in October of 2011 the equinox means the sun stares straight at you.  It was hot when we were there, only a couple of weeks after the spring equinox (which comes in September in the southern hemisphere).

At Artemis Hives and Gardens it arrived with a couple of feet or so of snow on the ground.  That means the activities of working the soil, planting the early crops will not come until well into April.  But the shift in the earth’s relationship to the sun does mean that the solar gain per square meter of ground has taken strong purchase and will one day warm even the soil.

That’s the true promise of spring. It brings heat.  Where the temperatures are moderate, this is a boon for agriculture.  Where temperatures are already hot, spring can exacerbate them.

As the heat begins to change the weather, I look forward to seeing more and more of our land.


Healing Early Wounds

Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

The gifts people carry astound me.  Tonight at the St. Patrick’s day ceremony of corned Crimapobeef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and Irish soda bread Frank brought in as a guest a friend of his Chholing Taha.  Chholing is a Cree woman who had a difficult road back to her native heritage.  At 3 she was taken from her people and adopted by a German couple who lived across the border in Niagra Falls, New York.  Why this happened was not explained to her.

She grew up full of rage and “culturally schizophrenic” walking in two worlds at once. Through a pull that seemed almost genetic she visited sweats, went to the sun dance, got an Indian name from a Blackfoot medicine man and finally did four fasts over a period of four years.  These were not easy nor were they obvious answers to her bifurcation, but they seem to have brought her to a peaceful place, a place where bitterness and anger do not dominate her.

She is an artist with terrific imagery, color and composition, part of a current generation of native artists that draw from deep within their heritage and themselves.  She dreams her works, whole, then records what she sees.

At the end of the evening she smudged us with sage that had been used in a sun dance Creeand gave us each a seeing.  She believes everything is visible, that the world is transparent and if you look, you can see.  She said Tom was comfortable with life, she saw him clad in flannel shirts and wandering the north country.  To Frank she said, brushing him as she did all of us with her eagle feather fan, “They continue to say not to worry.”

Charlie Haislet reminded her of the light in the meadow; Scott sees things at their elemental level.  To me she said I had a precise mind, able to see something small and learn much.  And that I would do amazing things.  It surprised me, brought me tears to my eyes.  It felt as if she had called my name, a name I didn’t know I had.

Her stories and her presence were, as Frank said, remarkable.