Saturday, December 26, 2009

the Ebenezer season

winter tiredness has hit me hard. it is dragging my eyelids through slushy pot holes--liquid ice and mud and street salt pools that burn real bad.

my heart is heavier than the gravestone in my back yard and the frozen dead chicken still resting soundly in the garage. it is heavy cause blood family can be so complicated. and when 39 year old relationships can no longer withstand the daily test of love and being together, it can roughen the heart of even the most optimistic of people. not that i am an optimist--far from it.

and so let me start over. let me tell you that i can be sentimental. i like to hold onto objects that have passed over the hands, mouths, faces, teeth, breasts, butts, and other fleshy parts of long dead humans. i like old agricultural and woodworking tools--the kinds with worn handles--smooth and slippery from sweaty, oily palms of men who have died due to various diseases and accidents. a slip on an icy patch of concrete and a divot to the temple--dead like that. a long agonizing death treated only with drips of liquid morphine as the jaw bone fell apart from the ravages of mouth cancer in the year 1940. a quick unexpected death from a heart attack--a grasp of the chest a turning up of the blue lips in a quick flash of pain only to last as long as it takes to stop the beating of the human heart.

i think about these things. these made up deaths in my head. haunting me. keeping me company. a story to go along with the handle of a 100 year old ax.

but, i am having difficulty appreciating the many words left by humans about what all this living is supposed to mean or about how we are supposed to do this living or about how we are supposed to love while living or about how we are supposed to die well or about simply being.

some of these words come in the form of inspirational, contemplative bullshit that circulates in a whirling deluge through the interwebs and books and "news" sources and audio recordings and dvds and etc; all that inspirational gunk floating throughout space; all that shit is driving me mad. up a wall.

who cares? really? do the words make it easier here on this planet? maybe for a brief moment. but really? and i am reflecting on all of this after giving my uncle who is battling the unbeatable pan.creatic cancer a bo.ok of blessings to try to help him get through a few minutes of the day.

yes, maybe a few minutes.

in the end though, we will succumb and no longer draw air into our bodies and we will do it either lightly or heavily or quickly or lingeringly or maybe all of those together. we will end up burned into dust or placed in the ground wrapped in gauze or bomb proof caskets with silky linings for our dead skin to feel not or a pine box or some other simple contraption or maybe we will be left out for carnivorous birds to tear at the sinewy strings of our muscles or maybe we will be thrown--flesh and bones and blood and hair--into the midst of a hot compost and break down into a perfect kind of soil additive. we will come to death and hopefully some of us will have myths and meanings wrapped up around this event that is bound to happen to all of us. and hopefully these myths and meanings will be deeper than the wordiness of this post or of the hundreds of thousands of rants of words that fill the human airwaves.

all in all, i sometimes think that all the inspirational bullshit hovering around is some kind of balm to keep us in denial about the impending end and the crusty parts of living that are like a big, snotty nose that has been sick with a sinus infection for days on end. you know the kind when your skin is rubbed raw down to the layer right before bloody. touch that raw place. touch it and press it and plant a seat upon it for a few hours. maybe the meaningful words written by too smart for their own good people or too spiritual to be drawn back down to the rocky soil we are treading on esoteric type of folks would get lost among the pus and pain. maybe every once in a while we just have to stare the suffering in the face and say you suck suffering--you suck real bad. and you suck hate--you suck worse than suffering today. irreconcilable differences you suck.

not eloquent or soft and fluffy, but at least this thinking keeps me rooted; at least it keeps me grounded. the sentiment above is what keeps me from ever becoming an addict (drugs, alcohol, etc); i like to feel what is happening before my eyes or what is unfolding somewhere beyond me, but has been conveyed to me by letters or phone calls. i do not want to be numb. i do not want to smile or think that was oh so very deep and profound and now it all makes sense because of something i read. i want the real to unfold around me and to grab hold of it, even if it is a razor blade and squeeze it until my hand is gutted and my heart aches. okay maybe not that dramatic...

oh and maybe the inspirational fodder adds some drama to the day. to this day. and writing is a god thing after all. it makes for fun times.

and now this crotchety soul will move on to another glass of beer and try with all of her might to ignore the trembling, shaky leg syndrome person in the booth behind her. but that might be the festering raw sore i was talking about sitting is for me tonight.

Monday, December 21, 2009

to a longer day--to not knowing what tomorrow has in store

time ticks away. the days fall flat or robust or somewhere in between like a deflating sausage casing. night is long. and now it is getting brighter. or at least the seasons teach us and promise us that after today the days will get longer and light will be our helpmate, our sustenance, our teacher, our guide.

This time has been heavy for k and me. Always it is. Always the months of October, November, and December hold the traces of people who have passed on from us. k's mom was born in october she faded through november; she became vapor like in december; she vanished in January. all of this happened years ago, but still her fingerprints leave smudges over the lead glass windows of our house and the liquid surfaces of our eyeballs.

I could go on and on about the dead ones and the dead almost ones (like what happened last year at this time to my body and then came out all bloody and lifeless in the toilet) but i'll spare us all the memory traveling and reexamining of emotions and emptiness left on the concave ridge of kk's collarbone and i will tune in to where we are now.

we are waiting for the days to get longer. we are learning that chickens do not appreciate the wet piles of snow accumulating all over the yard. we are thankful to still have this deep love, like a tunnel to the other side of the world that seems to go on and on forever, between us. we are happy with one another's softness--the soft parts of our skins, the pillow world of cheek and the bone hard security of shoulder.

we spend time together as though time might soon slip away from us and fall out of line with the tale that seasons have told for so many winters and summers and springs and autumns. like it might just end, be gone, flit away in the particles of dust shining in the sun shards coming through the window of a dark, deep basement.

we wonder what it will be like to be old and childless. we wonder what it will be like to be old and parents. we wonder if we will even make it to old, or if cement or bumper or disease will have its way with us before the silver and white coat our skulls. we wonder a lot about the future and work. and we think about where we want to be in this world and how we want to be in it. we think too much.

on this solstice--this night that is long in the veil of dark, navy sky creased by the shy light of a sliver of moon--we tried again to make something of a life in kk. who knows what tomorrow holds, but for now we will cheer the promise of a longer day and taste the star shaped snowflakes of december on our tongues.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

dead chicken/enormous hair

Winter wind has met us--cold and breaking the dusk and night sky with the knotted knuckle hand of a fierce whip cracker.

In the bust of cold that has draped itself over this fair Midwest state, one of our chickens took her last breath. K found her dead in the corner of the run yesterday evening. She picked up the lifeless hen and placed her in a plastic bag. Now, I need to dig a hole and bury her.

The ground is semi frozen—not deeply frozen yet, but for sure tougher to work than earth in August or September or October. I need some daylight hours to crack the shovel into a tuft of grass and turn it and lay the wee dead bird down in the soil.

In Savage Beauty—a bio of Edna St. Vincent Millay—the author tells the story of when Edna’s mother passed away in the depths of a frigid winter and they had to blast the side of the hill open with dynamite to get her body into the earth.

If only I had some dynamite to blow a hole in the backyard under the sleeping red bud and then rest our feathered friend in the December dirt.

However, I always arrive home from work when the light is fast fading from the sky, and I leave when the light has just arrived. So for now the chicken is in a bag in the red wheel barrel in the garage.

And, I am still up to similar shenanigans. Riding my bicycle, working, cooking, traveling around the usa when my toes get the tickle.

I’ve also been sporting some enormous hair lately. And while I know that the big hair has nothing to do with the dead chicken or how I pass time on a daily basis, it has something to do with hilarity. Hilarity is that dose of jolliness that I need sometimes to make it through these dark, winter days. How perfect that I simply have to look in the mirror at my own curly mess of hair to ignite that tin can echo laughter in the flabby parts of my belly.

I’m not really sad about the dead chicken; she lived a good, good life. We will go through less feed, now. I’m just a little nervous that she may have had some disease that will spread through the rest of the flock. I think this is not the case, but I have this tendency to make everything into something more convoluted than it really is.

But then I turn to my own head of hair and it shakes me back to a place with steady ground and more realness than those imagination disasters in the gray parts under my skull. Night scatters cold wind through the decaying leaves and frozen ground and a dead chicken stays put in the shelter of the garage and my heart leaps at the thought that tomorrow the sun will soar behind cloudy skies and I will trace the pattern of the days with the tips of my fingers and the prints of my hands will leave solid sections of stars across this time, this now. Each winter day will teach that lesson of patience to be, just be, and sour lipped laughter will abound at the reflection in the mirror.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

yearning without devotion

lately, ambivalence has struck a chord in the sinewy parts of my muscles. it is that in between place--the not too deep in the dark but not quite above water place.

michigan winter always casts a fervent deep blue over my days. sometimes the blue appears gray and other times it is trying for azure and little specks of sunlight on the horizon shift over the silhouettes of barren trees and dried stalks of sunflowers.

i'm not apathetic. i'm just yearning without devotion. without devotion to act on the yearning that has singled itself out on the deep red threads of my heart. and i do act in small ways, but i do not jump into my dreams with fierce confidence.

when it comes to that which i am not ambivalent about, i become animated with delight and willing to sweat and sweat and work and work on the little projects around my small homestead. cause it is the keeping of bees and the raising and tending to of chickens and the planting of trees and the preservation of food and the cooking of things we have grown or that have been grown close to where we make our home, these things make my throat tense up with a tightness close to joy.

i do not necessarily think it is bad or wrong to not act right away on making the big changes in my life--the changes that would lead to eradicating the ambivalence.

the small steps i have taken lately to move closer to working with the land and the creatures who live around my family are outlined below in some pictures with words. also, i will be attending the young farmer's conference this week in new york and i am not ambivalent about that at all. i am super happy about it.

did i tell you that i am in love with honeybees. they are miraculous and beautiful beings that rush forth sweetness from their bodies and create such useful and intricate comb.

the above picture is me going into the hive for a late fall harvest. i did it on my own and things went very well. the girls are so mild and mostly just not interested in humans unless of course i stay in their space a little too long.

more bees

comb and honey in a bucket. i cut the comb into the bucket and used a paint scraper knife on the end of a long pole and crushed and crushed the comb and honey. i crushed it till it was a liquid mess that i could drag the knife through more easily. then i strained it through painters' sieve cloth and let the weight of it press out the liquid honey in two batches for 24 hours each.

then i jarred it.

and i also made labels. someday, i'll show them to you.

And, I love my chickens very much. They are so funny. Kk says she cannot help but smile when she watches them run around the yard and i agree. They are like our little, Pomeranian dog friend, Lilo, she always makes me smile and so do my chickens. Except the chickens' tongues have never entered my ear with wet, slobbery, stanky kisses and they never will.

and someday sooner than later i want to get some goats. The picture above is me milking a goat at the ann arbor reskilling festival. i would probably get Nigerian Dwarf goats (not pictured above--Nubian above). But k says no for now.

oh, and I also like to cook stew over fire.

and walk through the old cemetery in this town i love...

i'm not ambivalent about those things.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

wee critters killed

Often while riding my bike I run across the dead remains of animals--once living things smeared to the road in horrific positions. I call them unnatural conditions because their death encounters with automobiles seem so very far from what their deaths would have been had humans not infringed on their habitats with roads and fast, zooming vehicles.

On Wednesday while riding, I saw the jaw of an opossum cracked in wet shards to the pavement. Her face was pasted to the ground in a long stretch of flesh, fur, blood, bones. That small twinge of sadness that bubbles up under my diaphragm came visiting, and I rode on thinking about how I disdain cars. And, thinking about how death is supposed to be a natural and everyday occurrence; the thing that all living beings will one day greet and sit down for tea with and how our human drive for power and shimmering energy beyond our control has set us on a path of destruction that creates gruesome deaths.

The smeared bodies of animals all over roads should help us to pause and think about our own coming demise. How do you want to die? Not that we can determine how it will happen, but I would rather move on from this world untouched by the violent scythe of modern technology and human ignorance (the misuse of uranium, the death trigger of a handgun, the crashing impact of a high speed multi ton vehicle into the fine, thin line of my exposed spinal column while riding my bicycle).

And maybe all of this road carnage is natural. But really I see it more as being bound to happen cause there are so many more of us in our sprawling suburban homes and steel, framed motorized coffin bubbles driving through the once more densely treed landscapes and winding river expanses that held the homes of squirrels, foxes, turtles, frogs, mice, opossums, woodpeckers, blue herons, swans, green herons, bluebirds, red wing blackbirds, minks, moles, muskrats, otters, beavers, raccoons, fox and garter snakes, and so on.

The look on the face of a wee critter who has been struck by a car is often one of terror and distortion. I see these lifeless shells up close and personal every damn day that I ride my bicycle. And maybe I am, through my own human definitions, applying those words terrified to the emotional landscape of my fellow dead being? But, maybe, I am not.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

again, maybe try

slurred words bouncing down the chilly November sidewalk. drunk or high, who knows this time. someone out there in the autumn air is loopy and full of something that makes the person not quite of this world. and here I sit thinking about the pain in my gum and whether or not we should shoot sperm into k after her period this month.

yep, same old question.

my mind feels soggy -- limp, stale, wet bread waiting to make its way to the chickens’ run.

speaking of the chickens, I miss being with them throughout the day. i make it home sweaty and almost breathless as dark is settling in and the chickens are locked up in their nice little run and it is too dark to let them graze the yard.

we have two escape artists and one has already spent the night in those sinister urban woods behind our house. so, I am missing them and pook, our dear little whippet. the bees have gone to bed for the winter. or at least they have slowed their furious wings to a fanning ball to keep themselves warm up inside their hive.

but I miss them too.

bones are busting through my back gum. this is shard number three; I’ve been to the oral surgeon twice. once to be told that the bone had already erupted; next to have a small bone plucked from my gum. now, bone number three is shimmying its way to freedom and I am in dull, achy pain.

and so that old question about whether or not to try to get pregnant again is back. on November 25th it will have been one year since k put some jiz inside me and I got pregnant, miraculously, instantly (the first time that bleachy, catalpa liquid ever touched the deep red of my female parts and probably the last time).

so, k has had a one year break. and maybe, just maybe, we will give it another whirl. and maybe, just maybe, we won’t.

in the meantime I intend, via copious amounts of wine or painkillers, to join the land of the loopy, slurring street strangers and cover the pain of this erupting bone.

Monday, November 9, 2009

good bye sabbatical

I've been back to work for one week.
It was hard diving in. I cried. Well, I wept hard.

I was scared that all my compassion had dried up and that stumbling back into the madness of direct connection to a justice system so full of injustice and ache and madness (not insightful madness, but the angry, heart wrenching madness of a system rusty at the root and too heavy with the bones of too many souls to turn in any degree of right direction) would be too difficult to stomach.

When the days were long and the flowers were blooming and life was pulsating in the perfect patterns of aliveness all around me this summer and early fall, I felt contentment. I also felt that deep satisfying exhaustion due to all of the hard physical labor I did around the yard (our little urban farm on the edge of some woods; the kind of wooded area in cities where dead, human bodies turn up--eerie woods I would not walk alone in at night).

Anyhow, I was so fortunate to have these many months off and explore the pieces of myself that have often been pushed asunder because so much of my time is spent working away from my homestead. When I list what I accomplished over the last 3.5 months it is quite amazing:
Scraped and painted front porch and railings
Got chickens
got bees
learned about beekeeping from my beekeeper mentor and some books
harvested over 2 gallons of honey two weeks ago by myself--well kk was my helper--but I did it without my mentor
rendered beeswax
made lip balm
built from scratch with no plans mobile chicken run for chickens
put together pre made coop and permanent chicken run
took a permaculture course and got a certificate
dug a four by four by four root cellar in the back yard
filled it with a shit load of michigan squash, onions, and soon some sweet potatoes
planted and tended gardens at home/gardens at community garden
made a lot of pies
went raspberry picking
went blueberry picking
made blueberry freezer jam
dehydrated a hell of a lot of roma tomatoes
taught myself to cook lamb shank
cooked a lot of good food from local farms and my own backyard
read some books
tended to kk's dying grandma
ushered in her death in our living room
eulogized grandma s at memorial service
spent a vacation up north with my sister,eo, her husband, the 3 wee ones, my ma and dad, k's dad, and grandma c and got along swimmingly
threw a great dinner party for my baby sister's,ea, pre-wedding celebration
stood up in aforementioned sister's wedding with kk and other sister
road my bicycle a lot
planted three american black currants, two precocious hazelnuts, one american hybrid chestnut, two beach plums, four regent serviceberries.
pulled out bushes in front yard including stumps, by hand, in order to plant the serviceberries
ran a chicken wire fence behind where the tall bushes once lived
went to reskilling festival and milked a goat
drew a little
loved a lot
enjoyed my friends
enjoyed sleeping
drank good beer
got my hands dirty
hit 5,000 miles on my portland
loved some more
realized how much i love animal husbandry and how one day i want to keep goats too and homestead as full time as possible

so, I am back to work and I still have an ever-flowing chest of available compassion which I am thankful for. And I have the understanding hearts of people around me, at work, who are insisting that I not jump full force into the nitty gritty and that I be good to myself.

Good bye dear sabbatical; you were so good to me and my heart is better for having known you.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

their small fingers dipped into the dripping honeycomb

the confused longing pounced on my heart like a stealth cat on the prowl for a helpless rodent. it came fast and furious--the ache. not quite empty; not quite loss--just a sadness fused with a smile for the memory of the moment that brought the longing.

their small hands--hands that are learning everyday more and more to draw and write and maneuver hockey sticks with grace and finesse--dipped excitedly into the oozing honeycomb. they scooped up wax and dripping, sticky amber liquid and chomped down on it with fierce laughter at the newness of the experience. and i smiled.

cause only at our house--this home k and i are creating everyday--could these young boys have this experience. the experience of tasting honeycomb in their aunts' kitchen. honey that was harvested only days before by me, a novice beekeeper, and my beloved, my kk.

and the longing hit, because the excitement of sharing this gift from the beautiful bees that live behind my garage and forage the neighborhood's gardens and sparsely wooded areas with our nephews brought up all kinds of dreamed desire for building our lives together with the honest yearning of our own children.

and then the longing retreated to a silent place in the long cavities behind my blood filled organs. and i remembered my thankfulness for all this life that has surrounded me these last many months. the lives of these bees and the chickens and walnuts, zinnias, turnips, beets, black raspberries,autumn-orange-brown oak leaves, and all that shines deep red orange in the morning sun and even deeper purple orange in the setting sun makes my heart full and lessens the ache to a dull thud that only surfaces in tiny moments.

tiny moments when small fingers fall into the sticky life of a honeycomb and small mouths turn up in amused smiles of wonderment and astonishment. smiles that adults do not know how to conjure up to our faces. smiles that we may be missing out on for ourselves...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the story of k's 35th birthday and my last hurrah before returning to work--Part 1

the week of the 13th of october I headed out by my lonesome on a little adventure to kind of say goodbye to all of this time off. Two days were spent alone and then my love and many of my pals met me up north at all season's to help celebrate my lovely kk's 35th birthday.

On my alone adventure, I went to a bed and breakfast in bellaire, mi for one night and visited short's brewery. Short's makes delicious beer and sipping on two different lovely, hoppy beers off draft made me happy. I wandered down the brisk autumn michigan streets of a small northern, but not totally north town, back to my cozy b and b and took a warm bath in a deep, clawfoot tub. Then I slept and awoke to a yummy gourmet breakfast of mushroom oil infused spinach, feta eggs; brioche with orange sauce and cranberries; fresh berries with orange cream yogurt and fake sausage. I drank seven cups of coffee cause I was nervous which, of course, made me more than nervouse. All of the other guests were in their late 60s or early 70s and then there was little boy/girl me from ypsilanti.

treating myself to a b and b

then I headed out for a scenic drive to all season's (k's dad's rustic resort up in Carp Lake). I stopped at King Orchards and Friske Orchards and bought apples, honey, dried michigan cherries sweetened with apple juice, and apple butter. I slowly made my way to Carp Lake. I went on an 18 mile bike ride (which included a bit of the Mackinac to Petoskey rails to trails cause I put some cyclocross tires on my sweet, burly Portland) I cooked a small dinner for myself in K's dad's cabin and then sat with grandma C. We watched wheel of fortune and jeopardy.

Carp Lake Rails to Trails. On this trail I met a little old man with a rifle. He was very kind and hunting partridge, but really he was going for his second nature filled walk of the day.

Then I headed over to my cozy, little cabin (cabin number 1) and watched the American Masters' documentary on Joan Baez.

Then I slept and slept and slept. I fell to sleep at midnight and did not get out of bed till almost 11:00. It was a crazy deep sleep. The kind where you almost could adult wet the bed cause you are too passed out to wake and dreams of peeing start to filter through your mind...

Anyhow, the next day I took myself on a car tour through the tunnel of trees (M119) from Cross Village to Harbor Springs. I was going to ride my bike (lots of bicycley mags/articles touted the tunnel of trees as a great bicycling route). I am thankful I did not venture on the many miled trip cause it is a freaky road to drive in a car on let alone try to wind and wind and climb hills and wind and wind on a bicycle. It was gorgeous.

a view of the big lake from the tunnel of trees

I stopped at Pond Hill Farm and bought some awesome michigan apricot (the jar was consumed in something like four days by me) jam and some turnips and carrots for the stew that I made for k's b-day celebration.

Then I drove back to Carp Lake and wrapped k's b-day gifts and continued to draw pictures on the paper bag wrapping.

I read and relaxed and waited for my love to arrive. Finally, she drove in with the triple As (yes, three dear friends with names that start with A, and they all stayed in cabin number 3 together). We stayed up way to late talking and talking and laughing.

The next day some of the folks (all ladies) who had arrived on Thursday night and/or Friday morning went on a glorious hike along the wooded dunes of Lake Michigan. It poured on us. But it took two hours and was invigorating.

Ladies on the Lake Michigan's shore while hiking

After that big hike, I decided to ride my bike with T motion to Legs Inn where a bunch of us met for dinner on Friday night. It was freezing out; probably in the high 30s which is colder than usual around that time of year in Northern Michigan. T and I had a fun ride; we avoided most of the hills, and we made the 18 miles pretty quickly. We all gorged ourselves on lots of polish food and beer and then T and I (and our bicycles) both hitched rides home. I also got to try out my new bicycle helmet, head lamp that T had ordered for me and K a while back. His has been a hit around ypsi and now we have some to go with his!

Hockey at legs

Then we headed back to the cabins and drank bourbon and beer and played euchre and spoons in one cabin and then in another folks played apples to apples. The euchre cabin, where I was, was the X rated cabin; the apples to apples cabin, where K was for most of the night, was the PG cabin. We vividly and unabashedly discussed taint in the X rated cabin if that gives you any clue about the dirtiness.

The next day was Saturday, October 17th, K's 35th birthday. She is getting older and her eggs are drying up (which may or may not matter to us), but we had a glorious day. While the day was cold (in the 40s) the sun shone like mad. a bunch of us went on a good 24 mile bicycle ride around the shore of lake michigan into Mackinaw City and back to the resort. We took our time and marveled at the water and the wind and the sun and all the things that make me glad to be alive.

the birthday bike ride. all of us lookign up at birds that were almost black dots on the blue sky; they flew so high.

the rest of the 35th birthday weekend to be continued...sooner

Thursday, October 22, 2009

a question for all of you

A question for all of you, my kind readers--from where does your spring and supply of compassion originate and continue? What keeps it flowing? What do you do if it runs dry? What do you do when hope becomes a wrinkled, burnt raisin on the vine? tell me please how do YOU maintain compassion.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I've been digging a hole in my backyard. It is an experiment. A root cellar experiment. I will be sinking a rubbermaid tub full up of sand and apples, carrots, and squashes down in my deep, deep hole. I will seal it up tight and add rocks to the top to keep out unwanted critters. It may work. The hole will end up being approximately 4 X 4 X 4.

Grave like.

I love the soil. I love digging in it and pulling my hands through it. I've found quite a few bones in this area of the yard. I've also had to lacerate tree roots, and I marvel at the water that pours from their sad underground limbs--so much like blood, so full of life.

The theme of this week; maybe the theme of my whole sabbatical is soil--earth--that living body of death, decay, life and energy below us. I am reading the Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan right now and re-reading the Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry and simultaneously digging a hole in my backyard and watching my chickens shit and scratch and cultivate and create beautiful, fertile compost.

It is all too amazing for words. And still my eyes well up with tears as I read and dig and watch because, dammit, I desire something different for my life. I desire this closeness to the earth that I have been able to foster over the last few months away from my paid work.

The Worst Hard Time is about the dust bowl--the killing off of the buffalo; the massacre of the soil the destruction of the earth in the name of profit and the constructed american dream that trampled down the Comanche and other indigenous people in the name of profit for the "civilized" and the mad vengeance that befell the people who were still there when the dust came ripping. I'm not done with the text yet, but the first 90 pages are a fantastic historical account of the tragedy that human beings can create by fucking up the planet.

In the Unsettlng of America there is a great chapter called The Use of Energy. It is all about soil and agriculture and the destruction that we have waged on the planet through the god of big agribusiness and our disconnection from the land, animals, and plants.

on my mind.

I'll end with this great passage by Mr. Berry, "The Soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life."

Monday, September 28, 2009

some pictures instead of some moaning

I wrote this whole big thing about a lot of the complex internal shit going on in my head and heart and then I thought, "not now."

So, instead, below are some pictures from the last couple of weeks.


they love to be near us:

a lot:

my new paint job on the old porch and my kk's mums:

bicycle tires outside ypsi cycle:

the new adobe oven at the growing hope center:

driving along with my darling in a borrowed truck:

one wall to the mobile chicken run i've been building:

the gift of eggs from our lovely hens:

a break during the 62 mile ride of the tour de troit:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I think the zoloft is wearing off. Or maybe it is just that autumn has arrived (sort of it is still high 70s and humid, but) and my general winter malaise is setting in. Or maybe it is that I get really pissed about the asshole strangers that roam the streets of ypsi and create havoc through thieving, exploiting, pimping, shooting and threatening.

I'm having trouble mustering up my usual compassion for the human race. Actually, I am pretty much over most people. My therapist says it is normal to feel uneasy during these trying times that the world is facing, but I think I am more than uneasy. I am downright hostile. People make me furious. I give the most evil looks to drivers who pass me and then turn right in front of me and cut me off. If my eye sockets had the capability to shoot out metal, bullets would probably go flying during these rage times.

The other evening we came home to a really nasty note left on our car that was parked in front of our house. It said, "Nice job parking u stupid motherfucker next time it won't be just a note."

K and I both felt threatened by the nastiness and incredibly ill at ease. Right then, I envisioned harming the person who left the note--this is not like me--I am usually a peace loving person, but I am tired of animosity and violence and I am not quite sure that sitting back and doing nothing or even calling out the nastiness for what it is or offering up kindness in place of the nastiness is going to make one bit of difference.

Then today I was at a place when a wallet theft was discovered. I won't draw attention to the place where it happened, but just because a door in an office building is left unlocked for a couple of hours does not mean it is okay for some asshole to come in off the street and rip off someone's wallet and then start spending on the person's credit cards. The office was left open by accident... and just for a bit. So, I suspect that aforementioned asshole or multiple assholes consistently scope out the offices in this place and take willy nilly whatever he/she/they want to.

Also, in the last three weeks, I have heard gunshots at night in my neighborhood multiple times.

I'm constantly cautious in my own house and yard. Most of the time, I lock my bike to itself when I am running in the house for something; I lock my front door whenever I am in the backyard or basement; I keep our bicycles inside our house not in our garage cause my neighbors have had their garages broken into multiple times. I clean up streams of wrappers and liquor bottles--swiss rolls, slim jims, mini vodkas, cheese curls, condoms--from my front yard frequently.

This might seem like petty shit going on in my neighborhood and town, but really it is completely indicative of this larger culture of people just straight up disrespecting one another. Frankly, I do not think there is a cure for disrespect. Can we teach respect? maybe not. Can we model respect in our interactions with one another?? maybe; maybe not. What I do know is that if we cannot create respect between people and respect for this planet then nothing is ever going to change for the better.

Here I sit a prisoner rights activist; a prison abolition dreamer, and I feel so cynical that I can no longer come up with creative ideas for how we might create "safer" communities. You can only give so much...

In the Iceman Cometh, by Eugene O'Neill, Larry Slade states in response to why he has left the anarchist movement, "You ask me why I quit the movement I had a lot of good reasons. One was myself, and another was my comrades, and the last was the breed of swine called man in general."

I think I'll explore his 3 reasons in more detail over the next few days here on this blog. Why, because at least I can write about the ferocity of the lack of respect hovering around me and the rage that is boiling up under my skin and turning to cynicism instead of action.

Friday, September 18, 2009

filling the locket with bones

candles lit.
the transferring of burnt bones and skin and blood
to a locket.

tonight, we sat together and burned bees wax and sweet grass.
we filled an old, gold locket from 1874 with the smallest amount of k's mama's ashes.

for over seven years, her ashes have been locked in an urn on k's dad's fireplace. Finally, on Sunday he fumbled with a screwdriver and opened the urn. Amidst the scattered mail on the dining room table, he scooped with a worn, aluminum teaspoon the deep gray of his beloved's remains into zip lock bags. Then I cracked open the cheap, black, plastic container that held the recently cremated body of grandma s and k undid the twist tied plastic bag inside and then k's dad scooped the dust of grandma s's daughter into the bag. The two--one dead at 56; the other at 96--blended together.

He trembled. And kept saying that this day has been hanging over him for years.

He was so stirred that he could not screw the bottom of the urn back on, right then.

Then we drove to the graveyard and participated in the memorial for grandma s. I wrote and read the eulogy--to do so was an honor. It was her passing that finally compelled k's dad to open up his beloved's urn because she had wanted some of her ashes mixed with her mother's. For k, the opening and spreading about of her mother's ashes has been something she has wished to do for the last many years, but her father was not ready until now.

Tonight we stopped into our favorite antique store in downtown Ypsilanti. A few weeks back we had asked the owner to keep his eyes open for a locket for k to hold a picture of her mama and a bit of her ashes in. He had found a beautiful piece from 1874. He was so happy to have found it and we were so very thankful.

Upon returning home, k burned a candle and called on her ancestors to be near us. I popped the locket sides open and we picked through the dust of her mother. the bigger pieces of ash--the bony and caskety chunks--we pulled out and made a thin layer of gray particles across one side of the locket. Then k cut out a lovely picture of her mama, and I placed it in the other side.

It is so grounding to sieve through the dustiness of someone who once lived and walked and loved and talked and dreamed and gave birth and laughed here on this planet. It is like waking up while I am already wide awake. The sureness of my own mortality and the mortality of loved ones is held up raw in my face. It is heavy--thicker than cream, lighter than rock, more noisy than radio static. The brushing of ground bones across my pants to clean the tips of my fingers from the task that was at hand is like liquid thunder hovering over the edge of a cliff.

At the same time, it is so very usual and mundane and still so sure and sound.

Tonight the supple skin of k's cheek beneath my lips will matter all the more. Her hot breath around my face and pillow will hold me fixed with desire and true with longing for the now to be forever and the dust to keep its sights fixed somewhere else for longer than forty years. for longer than can really ever be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

for something different

have you ever woken at dawn and felt as though it is dusk--that dusk feeling--you know the one like the sadness of the day is falling into night but still hovering over your chest, following you to bed? but today it was morning and the dusk still settled softly over my bones and my dreams still teased me with vivid images; images not so lovely and not so terrible.

my perception of time is all mixed up, yet my affinity for the cycles of life taking place all around me is thriving.

the hens in the backyard know it is dawn. they do not get confused. they are walking and bouncing on specific patterns of time.

I am trying to sync with the goings on in my backyard and garden. I am trying to line my life up with these miraculous cycles. I am trying to eradicate this blurriness between dusk and dawn.

I think that is what I am here to do--to close the gap that has been created between humans and the living things all around us. that gap is responsible for the violence and harm we wage on one another as human beings, and more succinctly and profoundly the violence we wage on this beautiful earth.

If i could have my dream--if i could live more for that which is just, i would be working here at my home to raise my food and share it with my family and community. i would be involved in detaching more and more from the bullshit of desire for useless things. all in all, it is this desire for stuff that helps to create systems of perceived needs (which are really wants).

Of all of the people I have crossed paths with who are locked behind bars, none of them have been locked up there for stealing the basic necessities needed to live--stealing food, or clothes (well maybe retail fraud, but that is above and beyond stealing the clothes needed for warmth and protection from the elements), or squatting to keep a roof overhead.

But the ravages of isolation, addiction, desire for a constructed idea of comfort and belonging based on the accumulation of more objects, distrust, heartache, and violence (connected to our ultimate separation from one another and the other living creatures on this planet)--these are the culprits that lead to destruction and then in turn to our complicated system of punishment.

I really do not think any of it can be "fixed" within our current reality. Do you know how futile it makes me feel about my paid work--this work I have been doing for nearly 7 years for justice/for change/for something different? Not that anyone out there reading this really gives a flying fuck about these constant conflicts in my head and heart, but I had to vent and I had to introduce you to our new chickens--some days I wish I was a chicken or a bee then my dawn and dusk would be marked with no edges of confusion.

Monday, September 7, 2009

coop, insects, photos

soon chickens will be living in here

Right now my body is hurting with some deep muscle pain from hours of scraping and prepping our front porch for a new coat of paint, priming the clothesline poles and the porch rail, and helping to carry an enormous chicken coop over our fence and then screwing it together (at one point k and I almost literally appeared to be screwing the chicken ramp cause it landed between our legs while drilling up under the house).

Besides house improvements and mini-urban farming, I've also been riding plenty of mileage on my bicycle. I am up to 4,400 miles.

Lately, I have this obsession with insects and eugene o'neill. Below are some pictures I took on one of my bike rides down by the river i love.


many at work


alone at work


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

flying time

Up north sunset--lake michigan

I know people say it all the time--you know those words about time--about time flying so fast. well, it is a common (overly common) expression for a reason; it is true. really, very hard-hitting, actually ever so true.

My sabbatical is wizzing by me. I've been doing lots. I went away for a week to a permaculture course. It was a blast. I camped at Tibbits Nature Sanctuary Tibbits Nature Sanctuary and lived through an intense night of rolling, strobe lightning thunderstorms. My tent rained in on me, and I tossed and turned even though earplugs were in my ears cause earplugs do not keep out the deep booms of thunder nor do they act as an eye patch for the lightning that beams pulses of blue and white through the thin sheen of tent fabric. You can read more about the LSC at : Qani's (the summer caretaker's) blog

I met great people at the course and really got a general overview of so much connected to permaculture--observation of the land, observation of patterns and plants and wind and sun, becoming more self sufficient and community sufficient while living in our own houses and on our own land (however big or small it may be), and on and on.

I also had the privilege to poop in a humanure all week. A humanure (well this one) was a bucket. We, 25 strangers or so, pooped on top of one another's poop and each time a person expelled feces into the bucket the person covered it with sawdust. As the bucket got full, it was dumped in a compost pit a bit beyond the lovely little house where the bucket lives and it was all covered with thick brush. It will have to compost for two years and then it will be used around trees not vegetables.

humanure outhouse

After the permaculture training, I came home and did homesteady and community things for a week. I made blueberry freezer jam from the 14 pounds of blueberries we picked a while back. I dried a bunch of romas from my garden, i made butter and then i made ghee with that butter; i made some corn chowder with the buttermilk from the butter-making run off. And one afternoon rode around with A from growing hope to plan out the GH Tour De Fresh coming up in september.

blueberry jam

golden ghee


I extracted some honey from one of my frames I harvested a while back; this turned out to be quite a fiasco. I harvested the frames a few weeks ago and, little did I know, I should have frozen them for 48 hours to kill all the wax moth larvae. I did not; so when I opened the tub--yes wax moths and eggs and worms galore. My friend, R, was there with me when I took off the lid and I am so thankful she was. While I love bugs, worms that are not earthworms can make me squirm.

R shaved the sides of my hair out in the driveway cause my hair is growing bushy,bushy, bushy. The top is still all huge but the sides are down a bit now.

And then we packed for vacation and now I sit here typing from the great up north. We are here at all seasons resort-k's dad's place with my mom and dad and sister and brother-in-law and 2 nephews and niece, plus K's dad lives here and her grandma too. And family friends from way back are vacationing here right now also. So, it is a big group and we are having fun together. The kids make me laugh a hell of a lot. and time is flying by too fast but i am not holding my breath and taking it all in.

winning ayla a stuffed patriotic donkey on the claw machine at leggs inn

Sunday, August 16, 2009

to die in our house

I'm back; kind of.

The last few weeks have been full up of life-changing experiences and incredible volumes of prismatic glimpses into the cycles of living and dying and living some more going on all around us.

After my last post, k's grandma got really sick. She had been starving herself for quite a few weeks and then her small, 83 pound body started to crash out. On July 28 she was rushed to the hospital from the skank-ass nursing home she was living (if you can call it that) in. She had suffered multiple heart-attacks (ya, those heart attacks somehow slipped past the nursing home staff) and was not able to talk very well any longer.

The short of it is that we brought her home on Friday, July 31 to die at our house. And her final hours in our living room were a gift that will linger long on our hearts. Hospice is an amazing organization. They got a bed delivered to our house asap and oxygen and then grandma sterling was brought via ambulance. When they took her off fluids at the hospital her blood pressure dropped to almost nil and R (an amazing friend of the family who waited with grandma at the hospital while we went home to prepare a dying space in the house for her) did not think she would make the ambulance ride. But she did.

And then we moved her into our front window and the late afternoon light shone over her dwindling body. Her skin was so translucent we could see her bones and her beautiful blue veins--straight skeleton lines and undulating blue rivers trapped beneath her soon to go back to the earth flesh.

R came over to our house to be with us and grandma until other people could be there. I cannot express the gratitude that surfaces in my heart when I think about R and her kindness. 7 years ago when K's mama was dying, R was there by her side and by K's family's side. She is a bulwark--she brings strength and compassion in her shining shadow--she is good and sets for me the example of ideal friendship and loyalty.

We knew at this time that grandma did not have many hours left, so we rallied K's dad to come down from up north, where he runs the resort in the summer and is busy beyond belief, to say his goodbye. He had planned to come on sunday, but we knew she would be gone by then, so he jumped in the car and started driving on Friday evening.

All of this is still so fresh with me. It is hard for me to write about it. I've tried getting it out on paper, but without real results. So bare with me.

We stared at grandma as she lay dying in our living room. It all felt so right and okay. Her life had been long and full. I could not help thinking how the miscarriage happened for a reason. Instead of carrying a new life into this world in the month of August, we were able to help shepherd this old life out of this world. If I had been pregnant, this would not have happened. I would have been about to burst with child. In contrast, we were able to open our home and hearts to a woman who had been the catalyst for the life k and I live together. Without grandma sterling there would never have been a KK.

I watched as the sun dappled brightness over grandma's gaunt and wrinkled yet smooth and beautiful all at once cheeks. I thought about the last of the vitamin D that she soaked into her still moving and living cells. I thought about how one day I will no longer see or soak up the sun. I marveled at the kindness of friends. A cooked for us and sat with us and stayed by our sides. T and R came over and kept vigil for a time. T sang the loveliest of songs to our dear grandma and grandma raised her eyebrows to let us know she heard the melodies and the words of love and assurance.

K's dad arrived at midnight and he watched over grandma with us throughout the night. The mother of his dear, loving, and no-longer-with-us wife now lay before him passing from this world and I could not help but think about all of the sadness that must have crept gently into his gut as he rocked in the rocking chair of his brother who also had left this world while still so young.

We stayed up through the night, sleeping an hour here and then there. We waited for grandma to take her last breath. Her breathing was so inconsistent and shallow; we wondered when it might cease and if we would notice.

Around 9 in the morning K's dad left to go get rest and K and I stayed beside grandma. K had a powerful and lovely morning with her grandma. She called on her ancestors who we could feel hovering in the room. I burned sweet grass around the outside of the house (we did not want to blow up the oxygen tanks so I stayed outside). The tender smell of the grass lifted with the gentle breeze through the windows. Around noon K's aunt came back to the house. And then around 1:00 grandma took her last breath.

We stayed with her body for two more hours. The hospice nurse came to pronounce her dead and get everything wrapped up (like disposal of morphine into cat litter, etc) She told us that we could roll a towel and push it under grandma's chin to keep her mouth closed, so I did this. We did not wash her body and I regret this, but I do not think K's aunt could have handled it. And then the cremation men came in a big, blue, unmarked van. The one man was tall and wide with a white, bushy handlebar mustache. He was gentle and his sidekick was a nondescript man with a small smile and kind hands. Their short-sleeved collar shirts were worn thin and I wondered what their armpits might smell like. K and I stood side by side--K's aunt went into the backyard and they lifted grandma from the bed onto the removal gurney. They covered her face with a sheet and then with the maroon, terrycloth-like gurney cover (the same color was used when a different set of collar shirted men took K's mom's body from the house). And then they took her 96 year old body from the house and set her in the back of the van.

K wept then. We stood on the porch and I held her and she wept. And I held her more.
And then we went inside and K asked me to get the empty bed out of the window. But I could only move the mattress and pillows, so I did.

The last two weeks I have been processing all of this and dreaming of grandma sterling often. There is so much more, but for now I will close.

Monday, July 27, 2009

a soundtrack to one story

The soundtrack to this story is throw silver by mecca normal (the song is used without permission and produced by K records). For, many years now, this song has brought up so many feelings in my gut. It makes me long for something and at the same time it makes me feel buried in the beauty of the present that is made by all of the pieces of the past.

The soundtrack reverberates with the theme of generations—coming and then passing subtly and ever-so-real from this world into the place of dust and stone. There are practical things in my life that are making these thoughts so present and persistent, but also there is this propensity within me to care about that which has happened before I lived and to think and care deeply about that which is to come after I pass from the living.

Two months ago, K’s 96 year old grandmother was moved from her apartment to a nursing home. We have been going through her things and hauling old pictures, and letters, and keepsakes, and pottery, and the belongings of a woman who held onto objects as if they were oxygen to our house, so we too can hold onto these things as our own oxygen.

All of these brittle belongings are lifted and looked at and cared for by us and then I move to my gardens and weed and mulch and fork the soil. I am so much more at peace with my hands in the earth, but I also love to hold onto the remnants of human laughter caught in a photograph or an old note.

And maybe in this time—this very specific time of dying, cause, yes K’s 96 year old grandmother is beginning to pass (she is starving herself)—I am drawn even more to the land and the birds and blueberries.

These words from Bill McKibben’s essay entitled Enoughness (he wrote a whole book entitled Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age) fit in nicely to the throw silver soundtrack busting through my head and this post, "Nature schools us in sufficiency—its aesthetic and its economy demonstrate ‘enoughness’ at every turn. Time moves circularly through the natural world—next spring there will be wild flowers again…The testimony of the rest of creation is that there’s something to be said for fitting in. And because of that, the natural world offers us a way think about dying, the chief craziness for the only species that can anticipate its own demise. If one is a small part of something large, if that something goes on forever, and if it is full of beauty and meaning, then dying seems less shocking.”

In the gardens and the woods I see that all will continue. In the eyes of a granddaughter looking at her grandmother’s past in objects, I see that generations will go on. It is a story; an okay story—set to the sparse guitar and creaky voice of a two person band I have loved for too many years to count (this particular song is slower than much of their other rather loud and irritating-but in a good way-music).

Below is a little quicktime slideshow with photos of the community garden, K’s grandma and some of her old pictures, pics of food and backyardness and my art, and flowers, and lake Michigan, and some of k’s grandma’s furniture from the 1930s all with Mecca Normal’s Throw Silver in the background.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

lethargy amidst the crap--and how i cannot get the keeper up inside me

Right around now I would have been 8 months pregnant. When I think about it, I freak out a little bit. Mostly, the idea of me being pregnant or visibly pregnant--all plump with a busting bigger than a bowling ball protrusion extending from my abdomen--makes me cringe and cry.

Actually, i have not mustered up any tears for that which is not: not being pregnant;not having kids; not really wanting kids anymore, but I have thought a lot about it all lately.

I've thought about where we've been--me and my k and where we are going. I've thought about how maybe the miscarriage was really my fortune. Because this morning I was trying to use the keeper (I'm really striving to transition to no waste during my period; k's been using her cup for years, but when I've tried before well) and I kept fiddling around down in the wetness and coming up empty handed with blood all on my fingers and in my nails. I squeezed the damn thing and pushed, but I am tight. My hole is all bound up with muscle and years of being a mostly non-entrance top.

And I thought to myself, as I pushed and shoved and couldn't get it in, how in the hell would an infant human ever come out of this hole? How would I have been able to give birth when I cannot even get a silicone, smooshy, bendable, small cup up inside me?

And then I started thinking about how it would have been 8 months and then I got not sad but lethargic about it all.

Now as k's grandma s is fading from this earth minute by minute and I think about family and growing old and reproduction and hetero-normative bullshit and us(me and my k and our love and tenacity in the face of adversity after adversity), I really feel kind of numb. Like how can I think about this all anymore. How can I make decisions or even desire anything much more than what is just now here before me.

Without sounding all Buddhist, cause I am so far from being a Buddhist, I can only take the minutes as they unfold before me right now. Not that life will always be like this, sometimes anticipation is my greatest friend, and dreaming is my lifeblood, but lately just being able to make it through the day and take whatever news about all of the shit with work, or the march toward death unfolding before us, or the family conflict that comes with that march, or the conversation about children and the future, or the fact that I am taking a drug that makes me shit my brains out on a mostly daily basis,or the fact that k's dad wants some ill-equipped people to care for her other grandmother (the one not quite dying at least not yet, but almost died last year). I'm trying with all of my might to steady myself for the three months I have have off from work (this starts after 5:00 on Friday) and just let the shit roll and me slide side car through it all--with a grin on my face when capable of it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

life is so full

life is so full.

goodness, green, stress, sweat, muscle pain, fatigue, happiness, heartache, sore hands, hard dreams, escape dreams, chewing and swallowing, speaking to one another, crying, smiles forming everlasting creases on the surfaces of human skin, not knowing, knowing too much, wishing for more, yearning for less, wondering, being mean, being kind, patterns, persistence, the calm before the wind comes blowing hard and fast, the calm after the rain leaves dents in the soil, burning in the gut, watching the birds, learning to love always, listening to the sadness, vegetables, animals, bees flying dances of fertility all around the yard, berries, drying the clothes that keep us sheltered from the elements of wind, rain, and fire, calf muscles pulsing as pedals push, enjoying friendship and family, food and drink, dancing on the porch, laughter.

knowing our ever empty wombs are right and that in spite of no children our lives are full and good and sad and lovely and all of it.

below are pictures from the last many weeks.
life is so full.

blackberries--many bushes live and give in our yard

my new beehive in the back of our perennial garden

pie made by A from the blackberries and mulberries in our yard

K hanging clothes on the new clothesline that A and me (and my pops did help with drilling the eye screws) built and put in while k was in scandanavia

a beautiful turnip from one of my vegetable gardens

the turnips cooked in butter in salad with feta and walnuts

garden flowers

trey and me after the ypsilanti fourth of july parade that we rode our bikes in

Friday, June 26, 2009

work, the body, the soul (June 25)

I am sitting here loving a respite from the humid heat that’s been hanging like a milk soaked sponge over our heads for the last day and a half. A late afternoon thunderstorm emerged out of the humidity and pressure; dousing the 93 degree 97% humidity day with nickel size raindrops and ripping cracks of thunder that boomed lead heavy into my ribcage as I pedaled with all my might up the hill that emerges from the Huron river valley.

The rain was hot on my shoulders, but the wind chilled the wetness and sent the gladness of cool over my sweaty skin. The temperature reminded me of how present I am in the always recognizing the physicality of my own body.

Lately, I’ve really been contemplating work. The action of moving our bodies as human beings and gaining something in return—that which must be done to stay alive—work is in essence all about our survival. I am not talking about paid work. I am not talking about our jobs as the tool for survival. I think paid work (and this is stating it simply—but the idea that we make money in order to buy the things we need to survive is what the root really is) is one of the roots to all of our current woes—violence, addiction, “economic hardship”, starvation, lack of community, homelessness, individualism, the existence of the nuclear family sand the extended family, to name a few.

I’m a big Wendell Berry fan. I like his frankness and willingness to call things as he sees them even if sometimes some of his ideas might be twinged with a dose of didactic, white heterosexual man syndrome that makes me cough. I think overall he is a reasonable and very important thinker.

So, I was reading The Body and the Earth from the Unsettling of America a while back and I wept over a couple of paragraphs. I mean really cried. Of course, I had just had my wisdom teeth out. But I was numbed in the mouth, and so my tears came because of the substance behind the text. There is this whole section of the chapter where Berry is arguing that working with the earth has been conceptually turned into drudgery through the disconnection of body and soul imposed upon us by modern urban-industrial society (of course this is my simplistic weaving together of many of his much more complicated points).

The paragraphs talk about the evolution of the “hatred of bodily labor.” Berry states, “ Perhaps the trouble began when we started using animals disrespectfully: as ‘beasts’—that is, as if they had no more feeling than a machine. Perhaps the destructiveness of our use of machines was prepared in our willingness to abuse animals. That it was never necessary to abuse animals in order to use them is suggested by a passage in The Horse and the Furrow, by George Ewart Evans. He is speaking of how the medieval ox teams were worked by the plow: ‘…the ploughman at the handles, the team of oxen—yoked in pairs or four abreast—and the driver who walked alongside with his goad.” And then he says, ‘It is also worth noting that in the Welsh organization…the counterpart of the driver was termed y geilwad or the caller. He walked backwards in front of the oxen singing to them as they worked. Songs were especially composed to suit the rhythm of the oxen’s work…’”

And then I cried. Because this kind of respect and connection and interdependence in the ways we live on this planet, in the U.S. in particular, is so missing. Some of my finest days are the days full of what some might call drudgery. When K and I work in our yard and grow things together and create and build a life and cook and eat and smile into one another’s eyes and sweat deep puddles of salt, these are the days that sink into my heart and fix themselves like nails of golden memory to my brains.

While I am fortunate enough to have meaningful paid work, it still is not the work of creating a household or a community that I will come home to and build my days with. I think in this striving for constructed leisure that now rules the waking hours of so many people’s existences, we have blemished the goodness that can come from hard, physical labor that is interwoven with our very survival and our seeking of that which is beautiful, creative, and beyond our own understanding.

There is a great documentary out there called Ancient Futures: Learning from the Ladakh that is based on a book “by Helena Norberg-Hodge, has become an international grassroots best seller. Part anthropology, part uncompromising critique, it raises fundamental questions about the whole notion of progress, and serves as a source of inspiration for our own future.”

The documentary gives insight into the traditional Ladakhi people and the ways in which body and soul are still connected in their everyday lives--in their work which is their living and survival. It also demonstrates how the body/ soul dichotomy ideology of the west and the ever growing push, that comes with western ideology, toward automation, individualism, monetary wealth and “leisure” has begun to infiltrate and destroy their culture. Anyhow, I suggest checking it out.

So, what I want is to work with my hands and legs and arms and continue to help build this household and community that I am a part of and to do this well and to have the love and beauty that is grown from the people and the other creatures of this region carried on to the next generation and the next.

As Berry succinctly wraps it up, “It is possible then to believe that there is a kind of work that does not require abuse or misuse, that does not use anything for a substitute for anything else. We are working well when we use ourselves as the fellow creatures of the plants, animals and materials, and other people we are working with. Such work is unifying, healing. It brings us home from pride and despair, and places us responsibly within the human estate. It defines us as we are: not too good to work with our bodies, but too good to work poorly or joylessly or selfishly or alone.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

garden dinner

It sucks that my girl is in Scandinavia, and I am left camera-less because now you can't see my veggie garden thriving nicely next to my driveway or my new beehive quaintly tucked in the perennial bed in the back yard, or my tomato bed at the community garden that is bursting up ever taller and thicker with life.

But I can tell you what A and I had for supper which ended up being just divine. Oh, and byt he way K and I have a new roommate. A moved in with us nearly two weeks ago. A is one of our best friends. We redid our back downstairs room and now she's all set up with a robin egg blue space and gray carpet that K and I laid ourselves one long night.

A is a great roommate and we are so happy she is here with us. We worked hard in the yard this afternoon on something I cannot tell you about, and then I weeded and watered all of the garden beds--home and community--and then I picked four young turnips and four pea pods and a bunch of kale and stir fried all of it with the turnip greens in olive oil, salt, pepper, honey and sharp cheddar cheese. It was really quite tasty--sweet and sharp with a bit of spicy zest and served over whole wheat noodles.

One other big note in my life right now. In approximately 3.5 weeks I will begin a two week unpaid furlough from work and then when that is over I will begin a 3 month sabbatical from work. I cannot wait--I need a breather; a big, deep break.

On August 8, I will begin the Midwest Permaculture course in Columbiaville, MI
I'm using some of my tax return to pay for the sort of very expensive course, but I will be certified in Permaculture design when done!

Tomorrow for dinner I will munch a bunch of lettuce from the garden and wait patiently for Sunday to arrive so I can see my kk again and have my camera back.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Sleepy. should be my middle name. I am sleepy.

My baby kk is in Sweden with her aunt (it was supposed to be her 30th birthday present from her aunt but life-or trying to make a new life-and death-the death of k's uncle) got in the way, and so it took 4 and a half years past her 30th birthday for it to happen.

I am in the upper peninsula of michigan in a comfort inn after giving 4 workshops in 3 different prisons up here. We have 5 more workshops to go and 3 other prisons to hit over the next 2 days. Did I forget to mention that prisons are one of the major forms of employment up here in the Yoop?

So I have lonesomeness imprinting itself on the fabric of my moods these last few days. I am lonesome for my kk; I am lonesome for my house and my gardens; I feel lonesome for the men I am seeing in these prisons who have been removed from their communities and brought to a land that is so white and so foreign and so hard for so many of them.

Every time I leave a prison a little bit of emptiness hollows out a corner for itself in the soft, fleshy parts of my heart. Being behind those caged fences and thick doored walls brings up all kinds of feelings for me about our nasty american history and the ways in which we hurt one another and fail so miserably at taking care of one another.

However, I did see two sandhill cranes on the way to the prison and their strong brown necks brought me a moment of treasured contentment.

All of this lonesomeness, makes me yearn to create even more community and to really think about what i want to do with the rest of my life. I want to grow things and build my household. i want to work for justice by making the world around me more livable and healthy and compassionate. i'm not sure i can stare the raw suffering of so many people in the face for much longer.

with that said, i am looking forward to going home and visiting with my new bees. yes, i have a hive. my neighborhood friend gave me one. it is full up with live, humming, little pollinators. i think that bees are probably never really all that lonely.

Monday, June 8, 2009


If only I could bellow like the thunder roaring and the the sirens shrieking outside my old cat scratched screens.

If only I could shout to the heavens and ask them for relief from the dark cloud hanging on the rusty hinges of my heart.

If only...

So, really things have not been all that bad. Zoloft has given me a lift and I have become chatty cathy queen. Oh, yes, dear readers, I have been popping a pharmaceutical. I take it daily and I think it makes my tits hurt and it makes me pee a lot and I was hazy for the first three weeks and I wanted to scream that I had caved to what I had called the lies of western medicine.

But after losing the pregnancy--oh yes I was fucking pregnant which sometimes sounds so weird as it rolls off my tongue or saunters over the soft gray matter of my thoughts--all the chemistry in my brain went back to the high-anxiety state of precoming out of the closet. All late winter and spring I had panic attacks and sleeplessness and even night sweats.

Finally, more than six weeks ago, my therapist was like, "you need something to break the chemical cycle that you cannot control." And so I started the drug. Well, I got the script and then it took me two weeks to start it but I did it. And now I am kind of "normal" again. Kind of.

But work is slowly giving me the kind of anxiety that feels like 3000 bricks piled high on my chest, and I just want to say-SHUT UP WORK. I AM THUNDER. I AM SIRENS. I AM SCREAMING AT ALL THE BULLSHIT.

I love my work--the actual work--the working with people in prison and their loved ones and trying with all of our might, together, to make us all look at crime and suffering and victimization and mental illness and hurt differently. And exposing through the direct stories and testimonies of the people living behind the caged walls what prison really is like--guess what folks it hurts people and communities more than any of us will ever realize.

But, without going into too much detail--my organization is having financial trouble right now and I am tired, tired, tired of the fall out of years of dysfunction--the dysfunction before the financial dysfunction that is exacerbated by the financial woes--cascading mountains of ash all around me.

So, lovely, nearly mid June Michigan thunderstorm, I am bellowing with your voice; I am calling out to the winds to bring more rain to cover the ash of the dysfunction and the wounds within our own hearts and histories.

Stopping the melodramatic writing: I really am just screaming and hollering like crazy, loud in my head and waiting with more and more anticipation for my sabbatical which will arrive soon and very soon (more on all that later).

Monday, June 1, 2009

four wisdom teeth extracted and six movies watched

Today, I have four less teeth than I had last week. I had my wisdom teeth yanked out on thursday afternoon. I did it with only the local numbing. I have this terrible fear of being put under, so I resigned myself to being awake for the pliering, levering, drilling experience that oral surgery really is.

The pain has not been all that bad, but the tiredness that has crept up on me, because of the procedure, is something else. I have been sleeping like crazy--10 to 14 hours in a 24 hour day. My dentist had been bugging me to get them pulled for years and then I got pregnant and I got this little nagging infection like thing in my one wisdom tooth and she said, "I don't mean to say I told you so, but I told you to get them out." And then I became no longer pregnant and then k went to the dentist (the same dentist I go to) and the two of them set up my oral surgery consult and appointment and then let me know they had done so. It is all good cause in the next few months the organization I work for will be taking away our dental coverage, so I had to get them out...

I've been living on liquidy things and have been mystified at the constipating powers of codeine (I stopped taking it early saturday morning but that shit blocks up a person's intestines like you would not believe--the regular flow is almost back in order--for those of you who care).

K took me up north on Friday--she went to plant flowers and I went to heal--and I lazed around the cabin watching movies on my macbook and trying to heal and get through the haze of codeine (I am not a pill popper; I like the realm of sober very, very much). I watched 6 movies in four nights.

The movie list in best to worst order with super brief one sentence reviews:
The Wrestler (excellent; Mickey Rourke was fucking phenomenal--I think it is the best movie I've seen in a long time and the main character was real and deeply developed)
Slumdog Millionaire (visually amazing and I dug the soundtrack a hell of a lot)
Twilight (I liked it; what can I say it was fun fodder for the evening)
The Secret Life of Bees (cheesy but moving at parts and Dakota Fanning is a good little actor)
Tied for worst below
Some horrible lesbian movie that I cannot remember the real name of Running on Empty
Dreams or something like that (absolutely the worst lesbian movie I have ever seen which does not say that much about it cause you all know how bad the girl on girl movies are; I fast forwarded it through much of the shit to the girl kissing girl parts)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (I thought is was a fucking sappy, horrible, mess of a movie. a movie that shallowly depicted the deep and complex human experience of aging, dying, and living; it was bad; real bad. The wrestler captured way more realistically and creatively the human experience of growing old and living into death.)