Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Archive for April, 2010

Earth Day, 1970 & 2010

Key West Community Garden

It’s Earth Day, so I found myself thinking about the first official Earth Day in 1970 (I still have my decal…somewhere). I went to an Earth Day program on campus, my baby daughter in a carrier on my front, and all I could think about was how different the future would be for her. Much has changed since 1970. Now that baby girl is over 40 years old and has two daughters of her own. People are finally taking climate science seriously.

Key West Community Garden

It seems to me that the earth is a much more troubled place now, politically, climate- and ecology-wise, and economically, but my daughter and her family are rising to the occasion. It gives me hope.  She and her husband started Key West’s first community garden, which was such a success that they are in the process of starting another garden there.

She and her husband grow bananas, papayas, and pineapples in their yard, which is across the street from the first community garden, where they grow veggies and flowers. Life in paradise! Here in the Northeast, we have our own local food movement, for which I am grateful. But alas, no locally grown bananas!

Banana Tree, Front Yard

Bananas Ripening Indoors

‘GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness’

My friend Marian Van Eyk McCain has edited a new book, GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness.  Because the topics in it are related to my work on Temple of the Cosmos and my interest in our spiritual responses to our world, I intend to read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.  Marian also wrote The Lilypad List: 7 Steps to the Simple Life.

8/17/10 News Flash! Marian Van Eyk McCain, editor of and contributor to GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness, will be in Chatham, NY on Sunday, September 12. 2010, 2 PM to speak about the book and about living simply. The Real Food Network Co-op, 15 Church Street, Chatham, NY. This event is sponsored by Sanctuary Without Walls.

Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

The Green Man Archetype

We should not be seeking the Garden, it is not lost. It is we who are lost. It is we who are alienated from the Garden of which we are a part, which is around us and within us now, and always has been.

Green Man

So says Billy, one of the many Green Men present at the Convention I am attending this weekend. I apologize that his photo, above, is not more clear; the light was low.

Brian Froud said that a first step in reconnecting with the spirit of nature is to acknowledge that it is possible. Before “taking things” from nature, we should seek permission. Communication, he said, is possible and necessary, and there are no “rules” about how to do it; it is individual and intuitive process.

At the end of the Green Man Panel, Brian was made an honorary member of the Blessed Order of the Greenman (BOG).

Blessed Order of the Greenman induction ceremony

Other members on the Green Man panel included Celtic scholar John Matthews, folklorist Steve Winick, artists Wendy and Brian Froud, and BOG founder Shane Odom.

So far (it’s not over yet) attending this event has been a colorful, inspiring, and thought-provoking experience. There have been many other workshops, gatherings, and events here. More posts will follow as time allows – it’s a busy time!

Coltsfoot and Prosthetic Ears

We have returned from Vermont, where near the pond by our temporary abode we found coltsfoot in bloom.

Coltsfoot in bloom, Easter 2010. Photo by Seth Rockmuller.

When we arrived home this afternoon, we found blossoming forsythia and daffodils, a beautiful Easter surprise.

It felt strange to be away from family, friends, and my spiritual communities for the holiday, but somehow the Easter Bunny managed to find me, and I awoke to find myself staring at a white chocolate rabbit on the bedside table. Since then, I have nibbled on it, but the clothes pin I used to reseal the wrapper makes for some great prosthetic ears! Seth liked it so much, he added ears to his larger nibbled bunny.

Easter Bunnies. They can hear you!

Now what will tomorrow bring . . .

Respite

The view from my balcony today:

Balcony View

Glorious day, sunshine, warm breezes, very strange for April.

It’s a respite. A time to just sit, to rest, heal, read, and write. This time of sanctuary was not easy to come by. Hard-won, it is lovely.

I highly recommend it.

Stairway to Heaven

If you could see the stairway to heaven, what would it look like? Would it be ethereal? Made of rainbows or mist? Would it be gold and ivory, studded with pearls, emeralds and sapphires? Would it be a simple wooden stairway, leading up through a canopy of trees? Would it be within a whirlwind which sweeps you off your feet?

Since I am agnostic about the existence of an afterlife heaven, (or anything else after death, agnostic meaning I simply cannot know) – I have no idea what a stairway to heaven would be like. Nevertheless, today I found myself on a staircase that made me look twice, three times.

In a big brick building, possibly an old factory, which had been converted to a many-leveled bookstore and café, going from one level to the next was an ornate iron staircase which had been painted in shiny black enamel. It was huge, very sturdy and strong, yet appeared (to my untrained eye) to be suspended. A suspension staircase. The idea caught my attention.

Stairway

A stairway to heaven. What does yours look like?

Today I vote for iron, the metal at the core of our planet. Iron: magnetic, malleable yet strong – because creating heaven here on Earth is a messy business. It’s a process, much like climbing stairs. We can get stuck, go down when we mean to go up; we can wonder why we need to struggle against the flow, or how we will find the strength to lift our leaden feet to the next step.  In creating heaven on Earth, we each have our own small part to play in making the world a greener, more compassionate and joyous place, so it’s a good thing the stairway is wide enough for all of us. And it needs to be strong, for those times when we are not. And through our struggles, our rejoicing, and when we stop to rest, we remember that the stairway to heaven is suspended. From what? From whatever we find to be true, foundational, sacred, ultimate, holy.