on feeding the winterfire...

"Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it. Then the tie of association is born; then spring those invisible fibres and rootlets through which character comes to smack of the soil, and which make a man kindred to the spot of earth he inhabits."
-John Burroughs, from The Exhilarations of the Road, 1875 


ramblins from zone 00

you know that feeling when you fully believe you've misplaced something essential.
Just a bit panicky.
Just a bit.

But you calm yourself down.
You remember your breath.  

You recall with faith the beauty of letting go.

then, once you've come to terms with your plot in this world, you realize that the reason you couldn't find that one essential something is because you put it back last time you used it.

it's been right here all along.
right where it belongs.
you just couldn't see it.

                it's that profoundly human, paradoxical feeling:
the one that pats us on the back 
while simultaneously smacking us in the forehead.


pues vamos ya.

it's hard to know where to begin.
it makes a body wonder how so much living gets crammed into a life...

when last i connected with you, o vast interwebs, i'd been in mexico for a moment, but the experience had truly just begun.

& now i'm back stateside, where its easier to get a hold of something called a bacon buffalo ranch chicken McSandwich than it is to get an actual chicken. merr.

i've got to admit i've been a bit spoiled: woken by roosters and the sun, privy to in-season citrus fruits i'd never seen, papaya con limon, walking through a fairyland of wild flowers, made pliant by the dual action of mezcal and manual labor, in the midst of a vibrant food culture, passing time with wonderful humans, graciously fed amazing meals by the wonderful Madame Flowers, cups full of amazing coffee, basking in the glow of a life free from cell phones and superfluous social media.

Mexico is magical.  & i hope to get back there to explore more, visit the beautiful souls i was privileged to meet & get closer to, and hopefully improve my fledgeling spanish skills.

among the many lessons learned on this adventure, though, is the fact that i want all my travels to have purpose: to work on a project, to learn, to teach.  i don't want to be a tourist, i want to actively contribute to collective endeavors.

And that's exactly what i got to do during my stay in Santa Rosa. 


Una Aventura Analógico en México

Sitting in a cafe in San Miguel de Allende, alternately sippin fresh-squeezed orange juice & an americano con leche... trying to crystallize a synopsis of the whirlwind of events that brought me to this place in this moment...

robots abandoned in Gringolandia, save a cell phone with a camera but no service, glancing out a tiny window as rows upon rows of fluffy lil clouds seemingly marked the topographic contours of the heavens.  The old iron eagle (or in this case, maybe juvenile falcon would more aptly describe the contraption) skirted the Gulf and headed inland over the Sierra Madre Oriental range, bound for the geographic center of our neighbor to the south.

There's all manner of bits of me that contradict each other.  For example: my current walkabout vs. my intention to minimize my environmental impact. As a human, i've gotten pretty good at justifying the ridiculous things i do, & surely this is no different.  We've each of us inherited a world quaking from the impact of our forebears, & sure, we all have a duty to regenerate the systems that we, as a species, have helped to deplete.
It seems we're nearing the end of the Age of Cheap Oil (allah akbar, wahe guru, ojala, etc., etc., y blahblahblah), and, while i know we should mindfully utilize this diminishing resource, the sad fact is that the planes, trains & automobiles will most likely keep putting along until the last drop of petrol is wrung from the belly of mama earth.

& there's a lot to explore: a whole world full of places to go, to see, to feel, to touch, to taste, to smell, to learn.  So f-word the b.s., i'm gonna hop on a few of them planes that're raining contrails on my head before this life is done.  


Permaculture & the Pen & Ink Discoball

Day 1 in Guanjuato: i met my friend/guide/host/strange wood nymph Nicole as i sat on a bench gawking at a giant statue of Don Quixote y Sancho Panza.  After dropping off my pack at the little organic grocery shop she runs, we went on a lightning tour of the callejones and plazas of the city.

That day i was fortunate to meet an artist, a true maestro of line, by the name of Rodrigo Rojas as he prepared for his exposition, Narco Pop, set to open on the night of Dia de los Muertes at the Museo Dieguino in the heart of Guanajuato.  The show is a mixture of pen&ink (&blood applied during the opening!) drawings, music & dance dealing with the societal implications of cartel violence.  With my background in fine art, my love of ink drawing & my enchantment with this intelligent, well-spoken, compassionate human being all compelling me, i volunteered to assist Rodrigo in his preparations.

Fast-Forward a couple days: in the museum that feels a bit like a crypt, staring at a JPEG of a discoball, attempting to capture the image in ink with less than a day until the opening, I began to feel frustrated and get lost in the details...

there must be some evolutionary advantage to the adoption of belief systems.  choosing a lens through which to view the world surely must aid in the navigation of reality, provided, of course, that one doesn't get caught in a loop of fanaticism.

As much as permaculture is a design science, it also holds within its vast umbrella the hallmarks of a belief system: a central core of ethics surrounded by principles capable of guiding us through our tasks and duties.  No wonder so many folks get a bit dogmatic. Be kind.

As my frustration nearly boiled over, i remembered that one of my primary goals on this adventure is to practice permaculture, & it is a practice, a sadhana: more a way of life than a profession.  Claro, the most difficult permaculture principle to assimilate for me has been this:
Design from Patterns to Details
it's annoyingly easy for me to zoom in on some tiny detail that turns me on and accidentally neglect the bigger picture, but by stepping back & observing, then designing, overall patterns, details fall into place. in this way all the tiny elements of a design or a drawing or a life fit into the context of the whole.  consider the spider constructing it's web: she doesn't start in the center because it's the most interesting bit when it reflects the morning sun off myriad droplets of dew, she begins with the overall structure and meticulously follows the pattern she's established until the whole web is a series of interconnected strands: an incredible display of functional beauty. A huevo, don't forget to remember.

 Temazcal y la Luna Nueva

so, off the soapbox & back to the narrative... discoball done, the museum began to fill with folks decorating for the Dia de los Muertos festivities the following day.  Pens packed and pesos pocketed, i made my way back to the store (hereafter referred to by its proper name, Natura) to meet up with Nicole.

As night fell on the city, she led me up the callejones to a nondescript door.

It's humbling to be a stranger in a strange land --not fully understanding what the people around me are saying & unsure of the customs & social norms.

After ascending the cave-like path through the old wooden doors --up into a garden filled with medicinal herbs, a raging fire filled with las abuelas (the grandmothers: volcanic rocks for the sweatlodge), & a cloth-covered low dome-- i was directed behind a curtain in the corner of the garden to disrobe.

Carolina, the medicine woman (?), purified us before we crawled through the door of the temazcal. As we smeared our bodies in a mixture of clay & chocolate, a young man began transferring las abuelas from the fire outside to the pit in the center of the dome.  Bienvenidas Abuelitas. Despite my lack of spanish comprehension & with some help from Nicole, i was able to understand that we had passed into a symbolic womb of mother Earth and we were to pass through three more elemental doors: water to air to fire, before passing back out of the Womb and back into Life.

The heat, the heat. water and fragrant herbs strewn on the red hot rocks. sweat pouring rivers.  in the warm wet dark, Carolina's voice rapid y melodic. tapping the beast within. fire consuming the detritus of my derelict heart.

 How is it that Life provides all the necessary experiences to become whole, to heal, to grow?

No se, no se.                                                

Must be one of those miracles i've heard so much about.


this is real life

“It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”
-Wendell Berry

I have been privileged here at Taproot Farm to invest my days in a manner congruent with my mindset, cycling naturally with the rhythms of the sun & moon.  While oftentimes my mind and heart churn & boil, my head and hands engage in meaningful collective effort.

In crisp autumn moonlight, washed in a sea of stars, I stepped into the labyrinth.  The path to the center seems convoluted because it is.  It must be.  Each step, each moment in the maze, lends clarity to the whole...

maybe sometimes it's necessary to lay awake nights, staring into the darkness, allowing all the uncertainties of being to bubble up from the secret depths.  hearing & seeing - listening & believing to-- the raucous chorus of emotion, feeling each one deeply.... it must be... must be.

but, just as you could classify me as a visual/kinetic/impulse-driven/mistake-based learner, you might consider me a kinetic healer.  it's easy for me to get lost in the stories my mind tells my me. i tend to get caught in loops.  somehow, though, it's mostly when my hands get dirty interacting with life on earth (i guess you can call it 'working,' if'n ye must) that the torrent swirls into manageable eddies. 

Undoubtedly, there are bits of me that are broken. All I can do for now is embrace that & hope that the hugging helps to heal it.  Eso si que es.

When we were rooted in Querencia, swimming silently in the vast ocean of our bodies, Beth's voice purred through the void:

Remember that you are the Mountain.


this place, this place! saddled between the Alleghany and Appalachian mountains, birthed of devonian rock, shedding its waters into the Cacapon river as it flows into the Potomac and out Chesapeake Bay to commingle with the deep birthplace of us all: the salty seas.

There's a kind of wild magic on this farm that Beth, Tim & Alexor have found a way to cultivate.  If life is located at the intersection of here & now, then Taproot is there too, at the nexus of plants, animals & spirit that you can see when you finally realize you've arrived.  

thank you.

thanks for the photos Lex!
These 3 weeks seem to have flown by, and the longer i stay the less i want to leave.  It's rare in this world to find places to feel completely accepted, where humans interact reciprocally with each other and their environment.  I feel blessed to have stumbled upon it and grateful to have been welcomed back time and again.  And i'm happy that i can say "see ya next time" and know that it's going to thrive in the care of these stewards, and that i've had some small hand in the process.   


bluegrass in the barn

apparently I blog to process previous experience, so i'd like to habituate the practice and hopefully stay up-to-date with what's happening, when it's all happening all the time, at the intersection of here & now. Sheesh.

Blowing in before the storm that hit a nor'easter and caused a misty sog-loop, I have arrived.
I am home. Arrived. Home.


the day the garden died

i woke up in a haze.
 recall: the bonfire raged and all that was bottled up -bottled in-- floated like ash in the updraft.

Wake up. Stoke the flame. Carry on.

the reason we call now the present

   I seem to learn lessons cyclicly & one of them is that i'm bad at moving.  If it wasn't for the help of some wonderful humans i'd no doubt be mired in a pit of my own kipple. Thanks folks, from the bottom of my heart.  Some days are spastic, others are mindful, and still others tend towards spectrumy statuses.es.es. On moving day, I was downright spastic.
loads of nodes on some cowpeas!
N-fixin bacteria root colonies!
Nature in Action.action.action

   There's something gut-wrenching about seeing a fluffy patch of fertile soil being raked smooth, spread throughout the grass'n'weeds.  But a solid crew came through to help dig up & save a load of useful plants. And every act is educational.

  It's important to me to treat every place as if i were gonna live there forever.  
  It's important to leave fertile footprints, even if those footprints are just an annoyingly fast-growing patch of grass in the middle of a suburban front yard.

And yes, i have a strong desire-impulse--drive to root, but as a human i might not root in like a tree. i might just root in through the base of my spine, wherever my barefeet are grounded with the earth.

Or it could be that i just need to migrate for awhile until i find the right spot, who knows? But so far a bunch of spots have sung the song of my heart and bones, so I feel it would be wise to keep exploring...drink in the magic of each place...share knowledge, tips, tricks and techniques, build, grow, eat & shit & breathe.  I think that is a natural urge of mine, and has more to do with an explorer imprint -with being a neophile, as Robert Anton Wilson puts it- than an escapists' need to gogogo.
chicken coop on wheels on wheels.

Thankfully, the portable coop ended up being remarkably portable.  Using a borrowed truck ramp from the neighbors we wheeled it and the ladies into the back of one pickup and slid the chicken run into a second truck.  The ladies seemed a lil ruffled after their 20-or-so minute excursion into the paved part of reality, but no worse for the wear.

Although i lament the loss of my garden out in the burbs, a good friend pointed out that the garden didn't so much die as sporulate. Plants found their way to new homes, to feed good friends and family, to thrive outside my narrow sphere of influence. And that is good.

I've shucked off a fair bit of stuff'n'things'n'baggage'n'sedentary debris. There's certainly more to sort and process, but for now i've made it to Taproot: the place where I first learned to build with the earth, where I was first exposed to the works of Helen & Scott Nearing, the place that's always been welcoming, where good friends and good food meld together into a helluva good time.  Everytime i've come here i've left feeling more than rejuvenated, i've felt a little more complete.  And here i'll be for 3 weeks helping get the new farm intern cabin live-in-able and working on a permaculture patch design... but more on that next time.
Meanwhile... back in time...  

As I walked the house and the yard one final time, shell-shocked by the sudden lack of biodiversity and the quick erasure of the signs of a life that wasn't meant to be, I happened to spot a perfect little chicken feather, one of kodo or podo's, resting lightly against the fence.  Carefully picking it up, I thought it to be a memento or a fond farewell.  And as I drove away from that house for the last time, that feather on my dashboard caught the wind,
        that feather soared out the window
                          and shot upwards
as if caught in the updraft.

for a moment i was struck by a profound sadness

then I laughed

 & laughed.


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