I’m in my childhood hometown of Brookings, South Dakota this long labor day weekend. This morning I ran down to the river banks of the Big Sioux, my legs remembering the hundreds of other times I’ve run down this road to start the day. The wind hadn’t picked up yet, and the sun was glinting off the still wet with dew prairie grass and ditch sunflowers. Even though the view on this little jog has changed over the years – the old gravel road now dead ends at the river, the bridge now years demolished; the two new huge houses on either side of the family homestead; the fences and new driveways where we used to roam free – despite these surface changes, the energy underneath, the whisper of the prairie as the world wakes up and the ancient undulation of the landscape, remains unchanged. It’s always good to come home, even though I no longer live here.
But anyway, I came to release the first copies of Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth out into the world…or at least out into the hands of some folks of eastern South Dakota. Yesterday I set up shop across from my dad’s Hillside Prairie Gardens booth at the farmer’s market, and it was an early morning of loading up the market van, helping dad set up all the veggies (hello tomato season!) into their display boxes, positioning the books so they looked inviting, and chatting with the other vendors. There’s something about the farmer’s market. It’s a good place to spend some time on a Saturday morning, and I always appreciate the opportunity to be part of the community that helped inform how I see the world.
I’ve had my author copies for a few weeks now, so having the physical books around was nothing new, but handing them over to people who came to purchase it was a little surreal. As all authors probably say (or at least think at some point) I hope they like it and tell all of their friends. I’m glad I chose to do the first release in this place. Returning to your roots is usually a good choice, at least for me.
And people also like it when you give them free baked goods, so I baked a bunch of scones.
Act in ways that make you feel what you want to feel. ~Danielle LaPorte
I started listening to The Fire Starter Sessions a few days ago. I was already familiar with Ms. LaPorte’s take on aligning your actions with what she calls “core desired feelings,” but listening to these audio sessions has been a good reminder to actually take that advice. I spend a lot of time as a wellness coach asking about what underlays a desire to lose weight or stop smoking or get in better shape. In a corporate coaching world, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get people to pick up the telephone for appointments, much less talk about what they truly desire for themselves. But sometimes we go there. Sometimes people are willing to look deeply into what is driving them to want something different. And it’s always a feeling. Continue reading “Fire Starters”→
Late August. Western Wisconsin. Mid afternoon. Picture a big white farm house with people flowing in and out carrying trays laden with home cooked food, two bearded men with guitars on a stage in front of an old granary surrounded by hay bales, flags akin to those you might see in a mountain city in Tibet fluttering in a swift breeze, and more life of all sorts milling around the grounds, laughing, painting, eating and exploring. There’s a tent city in a lakeside clearing down a short grassy path from the refurbished – yet – simple barn and a guy on a green tractor pulling a wagon full of people through the middle of it all. Welcome to the Wild Springs Festival at Lily Springs Farm.
The farm’s namesake, a lily — or lotus — grows out of the mud and, in that spirit, their mission is:
..to provide a sanctuary in the natural world, dedicated to bringing beauty out of murkiness by reconnecting to what is essential and generative.
Permaculture and whole systems design are being applied to restore our habitats to health and to build a sustainable perennial-based farm system that integrates land, people and the built environment. Programming flows naturally from that work and from our intention to foster health in ourselves and the land.
Earlier this week I drove 20 miles south down WI 35, a roadway punctuated with greenery, gentle rolling hills, a few curves and some more rolling hills. I took one left turn and meandered slightly east from the St. Croix river valley and sank deeper into the forest with every passing mile. Then I abruptly remembered to pay attention and turned right at the correct fire number and parked in from of a pole barn. A van had pulled in right before me, and a man covered in grass clippings was walking across the lawn in greeting as I approached. The occupants of the van got out and joined us. I had arrived.
The destination? The site of “The Great Back to Nature Exchange” as visioned by herbalist Kelley Hagenbuch. She and her family moved onto 30 acres of wooded Wisconsin wildness late last year with the mission to live close to the land, and she’s passionate about sharing nature-based wisdom and cultivating a sense of community around realigning with ways of being that foster living attuned to our environment, rather than separate from it. Our purpose of the day was to tour the site and do some planning for the event that will take place in early September. After brief introductions, we started off into the woods, stopping frequently to discuss the plants along the trail, identify mushrooms and commune with the resident grouse, all the while absorbing the energy of a place that is still mostly wild. Continue reading “Let’s Get Back to Nature”→
I want to grow carrots not because agribusiness is a filthy, greedy, heartless beast, but because rooting in the dirt is fun, worms are groovy creatures, and you can’t buy the sweet satisfaction of a fresh carrot at any price. I want to live a simple, rooted life not because a place of privilege feeds on other people’s poverty, but because meals of venison, potatoes, and berry pie fill our kitchen with gratitude-crazed grins. I want to leave the car in the driveway not because the carbon spilling from the exhaust will tip the planet into an inferno, but because a bike ride puts wind in your face and birdsong in your ears. It pumps blood through your veins and reminds us that life is a dizzyingly splendid idea.
I heard activist Cynthia Jurs say the words be in the conversation, not the fight earlier in the spring, and I think that they can’t be said enough. The destruction left behind by big Ag and the fossil fuel culture, as well as the premise of living simply so that others can simply live are all great reasons to change our ways. But Hank speaks of living true to his values because of the joy he feels because of his actions. He acts from beauty and a love of life, not from fear or anger or revenge. He is in the conversation, to be sure. But he’s not in the fight.
What if we discovered that changing our ways could lead to more beauty and more joy than we thought possible? What if life really is a dizzyingly splendid idea? I wonder what would happen if more of us grew carrots and felt the wind on our faces and let birdsong be the soundtrack to life.
Last fall I read an article in Taproot Magazine about the Portland Preservation Society. The goal of the society is to provide a forum for swapping homemade food — in their case, mostly canned goods. They meet monthly; usually in people’s homes, in each other’s gardens, and even sometimes at local businesses to talk food, food preservation, support each other’s efforts in living sustainably and go home with a variety of things that they probably wouldn’t have made themselves.
It made me want to move to Portland and join.
And since I actually like Minnesota winters and have a community and little piece of land that I am extremely grateful to call home, it seemed like the next best thing to moving across the country to swap homemade food was the start a local group.
Enter the St. Croix Valley Food Swap.
The plan in my mind is to gather a loose collective of St. Croix Valley (eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin along the St. Croix River area) food/sustainable living enthusiasts to meet monthly to swap homemade goods — though participation is certainly open to anyone who wants to join, regardless of geographical area. So, if you live in Portland and want to travel to Minnesota to swap, you are most welcome.Continue reading “Cultivating Community: St. Croix Valley Food Swap”→
How do you feel about visiting your local large, big box grocer? I don’t know about you, but I tend to dread most things about such an act: from driving to its location perched just off the highway to piloting the car (and a car’s a must…these establishments are typically not pedestrian friendly) through the football field sized parking lot to dodging traffic on foot to get to the front doors to navigating a cart through isle after isle of brightly colored packages, searching in vain for something that fits with my family’s organic, non- processed food preferences and then scanning what I do find through the automated check- out line while the people behind me wait impatiently because my apples are rolling around because I don’t like to put them in the plastic bags the store provides. In short, it’s stressful, over stimulating and isolating all rolled into one “convenient” experience. I typically leave big chain stores feeling depleted even though the goal upon entering was to procure some nourishing, life sustaining food. I leave feeling like a consumer; like just another one of the numbers on an economic check list.
Yesterday I had a few unexpected hours to myself in the afternoon, so I figured I’d use the time to get some things done that are easier to do without a toddler in tow. I needed some flour, some broccoli (our toddler’s veggie of choice these days) and some cream. I needed to clean the bathroom, do the laundry and bring in some firewood. I thought about heading to the local chain store on my way home from dropping Eva off at her grandparents’– it is right on the way and the act of going in and purchasing a couple items would have been a quick detour. It would have been over and done in 15 minutes, and I would have been on my way to the next thing on my list.
In order to free our world from its present nightmare of materialism and exploitation, we need a new story—a story of oneness and interdependence, of cooperation rather than competition. But to make this transition we need a power, the magic that belongs to life itself. How can we find this magic to give birth to a new story of oneness, of the earth as a living, self-sustaining whole, full of beauty and wonder?
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee goes on to say, “The next story is not going to be just a human story, and it’s not going to be on our terms.” It’s going to be on the earth’s terms, and it’s going to validate that we humans are not separate from or above or more important than nature. The current story that we are embedded in heralds consumerism, wealth and getting ahead as the road to a successful and happy life. This story has a powerful pull – it has demonstrated the power to change the physical world beyond recognition in too many cases, and it has demonstrated the power to entice the collective of humanity to turn a blind eye to the cry of the earth. We have poured ourselves into this current story with abandon and it can be hard to feel the new one that wants to emerge. Continue reading “The Need For Magic”→
This winter started early with a foot of unexpected snow mid November, and then 13 days later temperatures in the 40s and 50s invited the ground to turn dry and brown again. Then a few weeks into December, the temperature dropped below freezing, and it snowed just enough inches to cover the ground in bright white. We got a few weeks of ice skating on the rink that my husband likes to clear on the lake, skied some loops around the field in shallow tracks, and our two year old took her first runs down the sledding hill through the wisps of grass that poked through the snow cover. Then it got bitterly cold, and we woke up to wind chills of twenty below zero for a week straight. And now, at the end of January, the temperature is 36 degrees, the sun is out and the snow is succumbing to the heat once again. We made a snowman, and he’s shrinking as I type this. I’m not sure he’ll make it a full week. My skis are languishing by the back door, despondent in their respite from use. The snowshoes are sitting by the door, waiting to be needed. Continue reading “The New World of Winter”→
On the surface, there’s not much going on with gardens in Minnesota right now. It’s January, the temperature outside has been consistently below zero and the view up the hill to the field is awash with brown, gray and bright white. The hoses are wound and covered with piles of snow, the berry bushes have turned brittle with the cold and the garlic that was planted a few months ago lays in wait for the spring thaw that is still months away. A few seed catalogues have arrived, some pots have been moved to different spot in the garage and we continue to add to the compost pile at delight of the opossum that lives nearby, but activities like baking bread, starting fires in the wood stove, skiing around the lake and reading books dictate the flow of the days. There is the coming season’s garden to plan, to be sure……