Nov 3, 2011

One of my life goals is to learn and practice permaculture. To that end, today I am heading to Spokane for the Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference. I hope to glean some useful ideas, have conversations with people who are pursuing similar paths, and find inspiration there.


Nov 5, 2011

Pulsing with energy, life, purpose bestowed, nurtured by the world, feeling a need to give, remembering how to create, dreaming the future, anchored in the present, I am. Where shall I put my energy now?

Answers to this question come with such abundance, I pray that I not forget these moments of inspiration, this renewed drive I have found surrounded by such positive energy from this gathering of so many amazing people. May I put the gifts that have been bestowed to good use.

(And yes, this website, though it has a pretty picture, really needs some coding work. Soon, when I get back to Missoula with time to devote. Soon.)

Peach Farm

Monday, November 7, an hour before departing Spokane

During the Permaculture Conference field trips on Friday, one of the places I got to visit was the Peach Farm near Spokane, whose mission and operation appear to be somewhat similar to Missoula's own PEAS Farm. During the tour, I took a few photos. Here's a couple of my favorites. (Aside: Someday, I really, really, really want to raise a few chickens, but I'd rather do so in a place where I don't have to keep them in a confined area.)

(Yes, I know this site's stylesheet is messed up at the moment. It will improve as I gradually continue to give this long-neglected website a bit more attention again, a little bit at a time. "Use small and slow solutions.")

Peach Farm


Coming Down (Warning: Rant Ahead)

Music: Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile

Tuesday, November 8, approaching ?:20am

One clock says 3, another says 4. Whatever. I'm back in Missoula, Fuck if I'm getting any of the shit done that I planned to, in all that inspired fervor back at the conference. It's always the factors you don't quite anticipate or account for in manifesting that tend to gum up the works.

Like stepping into the door of the new "home" I moved into a couple weeks ago, only to have drunk roommates immediately begin making demands of my time to tell them about how things went at the permaculture conference. Not requests. Demands. In a sort-of friendly, naturally curious manner, of course, but still, it was a demand. Knowing that a large part of my mission involves reaching and connecting people, and sensing that the curiosity was genuine, I humored them; brewed myself a cup of tea, sat down, and began to answer the questions. Yet I barely begin speaking the first sentence about what I learned, only to be immediately interrupted and told how futile that all is, and why. ("Overpopulation in India. There's nothing you or I can do to stop it!" And other utter non sequiturs.)

Well, I engaged and debated with this nonsense for the length of time it took to sip down the cup... No biggie. At the end of it, the roommate admitted that he was just wanted to find out how real I was about it all. Apparently, I passed whatever little test it was. Oh goodie. (But at the same time, it revealed to me that the supposed curiosity about my experiences was more of a farce than genuine interest.)

Then being hassled again while I was preparing dinner (which I was offering to share with the house), under the guise of "helpfulness" in the form of suggestions regarding better knives to use to cut vegetables, followed by unrequested tips and assistance in unnecessarily sharpening them. Repeatedly. Then the ongoing petty bickering between all the other roommates over petty BS. (Understandable, in a sense, given the intricacies of the situation.)

Then knowing that when I go back to work tomorrow -- if ongoing past trends are any indicator -- that similar patterns are likely to ensue between co-workers. Fuck. (Yes, one of the reasons I stopped blogging a long time ago regarding workplace/personal relations issues was because of the way rants like this can have a tendancy to "leak" their way back to the people they're about. Even if you try to be vague and non-specific about it. People have fragile egos. Corporations even moreso. But now? I'm again at the point of saying Fuck It. I refuse to be ruled by fear.)

I rented this room, and agreed to go to that job, for the purpose of having a heated place during the winter to bone up on my permaculuture book-learning so I might be a bit better prepared when I go to get my PDC next spring. Tried doing the van-dwelling thing for a while last month, while simultaneously participating in the Occupy while holding onto my increasingly wearisome part time job, and quickly realized that I was nearing the end of my rope with that mode of living. Am I already nearing the end of my rope with this? No. Not even close.

I know that I manifested and consented to everything in my life that is now occurring. Now, I'm thinking I may have bitten off more than I can chew, and with sincere intent, tried to offer help to more people, organizations, and projects than I can realistically undertake. Not the first time I've gotten myself into such a pattern.

Thanks to the permaculture conference, I've gotten another good strong taste of what it's like to be surrounded by individuals who are genuinely all about taking constructive, effective, actively co-operative approaches to dealing with the world and with one another. Then going back to the bunch I've surrounded myself with for my "normal life", the contrast feels a bit shocking. It helps me realize why I've had a hard time making any progress with anything over the past 6 months. There's very little room to "just be" here, or anywhere in the context of the way I've been directing my life. My time is not my own. Even off the clock, people just try to suck my energy dry wherever I go. I'm not crazy. I know what's going on.

It's very tempting to fall into the belief that I'm in a "no win" situation, but now, after seeing and interacting with so many others who have found ways to get their gardens planted despite all manner of adversities beyond the difficulties I face, I know that if I persist in following my will, I can find a way. However, in the process, I may need to ditch and/or push away those who persist in manifesting disempowering patterns. That's not an easy thing to do, because I want to help people. But if I spend all my time catering to self-defeatists, it becomes toxic to my own mental well-being and ability to accomplish anything. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

Now, I feel sleep calling again. Must allow it, if it really, truly wants to give itself to me. Thank you. Will keep this signal alive.

Leveling out

Tuesday night. Tempted to remove the insomniac rant of last night, as it was really written more as a means of self-therapy than anything likely to be of interest to the general population. But I guess in the spirit of my old-school website journaling habits, I'll leave it as a chronicle of the turn my mood took in the wake of returning home and to get back to so-called everyday reality after the awesome community experience among fellow permaculture enthusiasts.

I agree with Ran about the Saturday night contra dancing. An experience of sheer joy to revel playfully amongst like-minded, good spirited folk! (OTOH, I disagreed with him about which apple variety was best. My favorite was cinnamon spice.)

Now allowing myself to ease up and relax a little more; though there are a great deal of things I want to do, it doesn't all have to happen in a one day. I don't need to rush and strain myself to squeeze it all in immediately. [so says the procrastinator]

Earlier tonight, at the KBGA meeting, after eating pizza and discussing official business related to our beloved radio station, fellow DJs and staff got to hang out and make collage art using old early 90's news magazines with scissors, glue, markers, and various other art supplies strewn out over the table. So much fun! For so long, I've needed community building experiences like that where there's no pressure, no judgement, no need to worry about doing anything the "right" way; just hanging around with people, chatting, and each doing (or not doing) our thing. Exactly the sort of experience that so often feels missing from life in this culture.

As for my new roommates... Well, some of them do have alcohol problems, yet there is also a healing energy about this place. People working through their issues, trying to help one another as best they can. At least, that's the sense about it that I'm getting tonight.

Now, time to go to sleep again. Feeling good about life.

back to basics

November 9. Ran Prieur writes the following about one moment I also remember hearing at the conference:

Another story from the conference. Michael Pilarski, aka Skeeter, is the elder statesman of northwest permaculture, and generally the lead organizer for the conferences. He was speaking to the whole group, talking about some kind of vision of the future, and said that it would take several generations. Someone in the crowd said, "We don't have to wait -- we can do it now." Skeeter's response was perfect: "Oh, we won't be waiting. We'll be working all that time."

This exchange highlights a common blind spot among activists. We can imagine suddenly changing the world, and we can imagine doing nothing while the world changes slowly or not at all, but we can't imagine working effectively, year after year, and still taking generations to get where we're going. The human mind cannot grasp a task that is that hard! That doesn't stop tasks from being that hard.

This fits a bit I just read in the book My Stroke of Insight. When the author is beginning to recover, she realizes that setting a goal of sitting up is too difficult and will lead to discouragement. Instead she focuses completely on rocking, and when she masters rocking, she focuses on rocking with enthusiasm, and then rolling upward, and then finally sitting up. Later in recovery she has to master difficult steps without even knowing what the next step is going to be.

This is exactly why Occupy Wall Street is not making demands -- at this point, demands will lead to failure and discouragement. The task at hand is to frame the issues and build public support, and only then will we see the next move. Related: a post from a few years back about radical hope.

November 10

There were many workshops and speakers at the permaculture conference to choose from. I liked the sound of so many, I wished I could be in several places at once. But as the first day of sessions began, I found myself particularly drawn to one entitled "Deep Nature Connection, Permaculture & Cultural Restoration - Rekindling Community Resillience." It was a two-part workshop, which meant two precious time blocks in order to attend the whole thing. I decided to try the first one out before deciding whether to return for part 2.

I immediately found myself identifying strongly with the stories told by Tim Corcoran, the leader... of how he followed the rules in school as a child, got good grades easily, but didn't find the experience very satisfying... studying computer science, working at a desk programming, and feeling like Neo, needing to wake up out of The Matrix.

He went on to talk about his experiences of learning from Tom Brown Jr attending wilderness survival school, and finding profound satisfaction in reconnecting with the land. The story he told about the abundant feast the natives gave in the cold month of February resonated powerfully.

Later in the afternoon, I attended part 2, where we went outdoors and practiced the skills of foxtrot walking slowly, using our peripheral vision, and meditatively connecting with the plant life around us on the community college lawn.

But the real fun came the following morning, when I got to attend his workshop on making fire using 3 pieces of wood, a bow strung loosly with some rope, and a piece of obsidian stone. Since the workshop was limited to 2 hours, we used tools that he had already prepared, though he talked through what types of trees were best for each use.

After he demonstrated how to create enough heat through friction to start a fire, we all got to try it. So it was that I found myself in utter delight as I got the bark to ignite, right out there on the sidewalk!

I want to go back there, to the Twin Eagles Wilderness School. And I will. I know I will.

November 11, 4:30am

I was there when this podcast was recorded. A powerful memory: Sitting to Paul Wheaton's right at the lunch table, while he interviewed the writer whose work has influenced me more profoundly than any other in the first decade of the 21st century, not only because of what Ran himself has written over the years, but because of other things I read after following links on his website. Blogs, books, links from those blogs branching out to other brilliant thinkers. They brought my mind out of the sinking pit of depression and disillusionment, which had reached its lowest point in early 2004 when I was unemployed, surfing the web from my parent's apartment, and found a startlingly refreshing piece of satire by Ran Prier on a site called Unknown News entitled "Democrats Nominate Hitler". I was a fan from then on. Now, I am thankful to consider him a personal friend.

How far things have come. Wow. What a life!

November 16, 2011

Stop Censorship

November 16 was American Censorship Day. On this day, Congress held hearings on the first American Internet censorship system (a.k.a. proposed "The Great Firewall of America"). The bill (H.R. 3261) was sponsored by Lamar Smith (Texas Republican). Other sponsors:

Rep Amodei, Mark E. [NV-2] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Barrow, John [GA-12] - 11/14/2011 
Rep Bass, Karen [CA-33] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Bono Mack, Mary [CA-45] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Deutch, Theodore E. [FL-19] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Gallegly, Elton [CA-24] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Goodlatte, Bob [VA-6] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Griffin, Tim [AR-2] - 10/26/2011 
Rep King, Peter T. [NY-3] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Lujan, Ben Ray [NM-3] - 11/14/2011 
Rep Marino, Tom [PA-10] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Nunnelee, Alan [MS-1] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Owens, William L. [NY-23] - 11/14/2011 
Rep Ross, Dennis [FL-12] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Scalise, Steve [LA-1] - 11/14/2011 
Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2] - 10/26/2011 
Rep Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [FL-20] - 11/3/2011 
Rep Watt, Melvin L. [NC-12] - 11/3/2011

Senate Bill S.968 (a.k.a. "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011", a.k.a. PROTECT IP) was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (Vermont), and cosponsored by the following culprits:

Sen Alexander, Lamar [TN] - 5/25/2011 
Sen Ayotte, Kelly [NH] - 6/27/2011 
Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] - 7/25/2011 
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 10/19/2011 
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Blunt, Roy [MO] - 5/23/2011 
Sen Boozman, John [AR] - 6/15/2011 
Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] - 10/20/2011 
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] - 7/13/2011 
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] - 9/7/2011 
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] - 11/2/2011 
Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] - 6/23/2011 
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Corker, Bob [TN] - 6/9/2011 
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 6/30/2011 
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 9/7/2011 
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Franken, Al [MN] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] - 5/26/2011 
Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Grassley, Chuck [IA] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Hagan, Kay [NC] - 7/5/2011 
Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] - 11/2/2011 
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] - 10/3/2011 
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Kohl, Herb [WI] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] - 10/17/2011 
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] - 7/7/2011 
Sen McCain, John [AZ] - 7/26/2011 
Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] - 10/31/2011 
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] - 9/23/2011 
Sen Risch, James E. [ID] - 11/7/2011 
Sen Rubio, Marco [FL] - 5/26/2011 
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] - 5/12/2011 
Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] - 6/30/2011 
Sen Udall, Tom [NM] - 7/7/2011 
Sen Vitter, David [LA] - 11/7/2011 
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] - 5/12/2011
Sen Moran, Jerry [KS] - 6/23/2011(withdrawn - 6/27/2011)

I once admired comedian Al Franken, but now, all I have left to say to him is, "Shame on You!"

For my part, I visited the offices of Denny Rehberg (Montana representitive), Max Baucaus (MT, Senate), and Jon Tester (MT, Senate) to inquire about their positions on this legislation. The helpful staff at each of their offices told me they had not taken a position yet. I let them know in no uncertain terms that I want this bill to be stopped at every step. Will they listen? Stay tuned.

December 31, 2011

I'm sorry again world. I had planned to write more, make a new layout for this blog, and share all the ideas and visions I could. But somewhere along the way, around mid-November, I overloaded myself. I wanted to do everything for everyone, and of course couldn't, then it all kind of collapsed from within. Over the "holiday" season, found myself passing into some very strange reality tunnels, where the meaning of what my life is all about suddenly seemed elusive and dwindling, and the rest of my species seemed far, far away. I suppose you could call it depression, though I find that word vague and not very descriptive. Anyway, seems like I'm seeing the light at the end of this one, as I again endeavor to engage with my community and care for my world anew.

2012 looms large ahead. My goal for this website in the coming year is to document my experiences and record what I learn and practice in the study of permaculture. Of course, I may also put up stuff on other topics of interest, such as music, computer hacking, icky politics / cultural disintigration, and spiritual insights, but I'd like permaculture to be the central focus, as I consider the cluster of ideas, philosophies, and practices encompassed by the word "permaculture" to be humanity's best chance to survive and thrive in the post-2012, post-petroleum future. On a personal level, I also see the path of permaculture as a means to maximize my own quality of life for however long I remain on this planet. There's a long way to go!