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Though very tired I went on the Full Moon Walk yesterday evening, a lovely tradition or what we hope will become a tradition, when a group of us walks in the dark under the full moon, either quietly or in conversation. The clouds drifted apart enough to let the moonlight through only at the end of our walk, but before then the blanket of snow reflected enough of the residual sunlight and of course the human-made light for us to get by without flashlights, without breaking any ankles.

Walks like these tend to be spiritually “loaded” – sometimes in a funny, humorous way, sometimes a bit morose, most often both in rapid succession. When someone brought up the very real possibility that these open fields, which in season grow hay and bluebirds, would be turned into soccer fields (and parking lots, of course), we all rose up in protest, but then inevitably the conversation turned to the recent history of other such atrocities, and how it got to be that yet another atrocity, here, in this field, is legally, even culturally possible.  No one went too deep into time, though – what atrocities lie there are too much. And someone said: “Well, that was a buzz kill!” and we laughed and enjoyed the walk – the enjoyment of the walk the very reason for, if need be, fighting for this field, and therefore, don’t get me wrong, a very worthwhile effort.

But it set the tone for me.

Geese started honking at each other in the dark distance, calling up that deeper time, and deeper still. How ancient are their species and their flyways and, glory, here I stand listening to them, in what is truly their field. Further off was also the sound of the traffic on the road. I wondered out loud why there was so much light (the cloud cap was still tightly drawn) and why it was so orange/pink – but no, no one else would have it. Someone said it was the snow reflecting the light, believing, perhaps, that one being natural, so must the other.

I was not the only one, though, struggling with the contradiction. It ran through the hour. How ugly and artificial our world is, how nurturing is nature.  Someone talked about dragon lines, which are alignments in landscapes. Are they natural, artificial? But the thread was never really taken up. It was – it was – too enjoyable to be there.

It wasn’t time for activism, for plotting how we would save this field, get others to walk it with us and get attached to it. What then, was I feeling that I could  not let go?

I laughed with everyone when one of us, who was not looking down at the slushy/slippery treacherous ground while we were descending a slope, all strung-out, called moooo-OOOON in a very wild and haunting way. We all stopped and looked up then and the ice floes in the sky broke up and there she was, that body. Others took up the call, but not the one dog present. I found I could laugh with them while the moon pulled at me. Like Josh Ritter writes,

“she pulls on your heart as she pulls on the sea”

and she ripped the grief right out of me.

Funny, I thought, that it would be the moon, that extra-terrestrial that is oblivious to, above our mayhem. Then I did a double-take. Of course, the moon too has seen our mayhem: we went there, too, planted a flag there. We just couldn’t resist.

And that that was a US flag also mattered. I have been thinking of what it means that I immigrated to this country, that I live on and off the many takings and that I too am therefore a taker. I started reading about the indigenous people to learn what it is like for those living in a dying culture, to see it die. That was at first. I soon realized that by immigrating here, living here, calling this “my home”, I too am living on the corpse of that murdered culture.

I’ve been in that state, lately, of openness to whatever accusation the land will throw at me. If I call it home (whether rightfully or not), the land has the right to call me out.

But here now were the geese, calling me out, and the pink field, too. And now the moon as well!? I wondered, how do I even stand upright and laugh at the wild yell of  these fellow human beings clad in Gore-Tex and Ray-Tech, and leather. How is this even possible? And then it hit me.

This is not guilt that I feel, but grief. The field, the geese, the moon were telling me this. Stop feeling guilty, start grieving. You cannot live with guilt, you cannot make peace with it. But we want you to live, we want you to make peace with yourself, and we want you to grieve, because only if you are grieving will you be truly, deeply alive and able to do right by us.

On the way back, five minutes to the parking lot (yes), I could no longer hold it back. I could typically not directly say what I was feeling (I hope that skill, too, I will learn), so I anounced my admiration for Stephen Jenkinson and his observation that

“guilt is grief for amateurs.”

Well, that came out of nowhere for the friend to whom I had directed the pronouncement. She said, but let’s not dwell on guilt, and added that that’s what she likes about Transition, that it’s so positive. And I said, yes, guilt we must avoid, or work through, but grief… grief… I could not make myself understood, but she must have grasped some of it. She brought up the documentary Traces of the Trade, A Story from the Deep North, about a woman (the filmmaker) who realized that her ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in the US, and who set out to stare this atrocity in the face.

Well, had I not just had the Great Insight into grief-not-guilt, I would have stark fallen over, right there in the slush in front of everyone, and wailed. How had I left out that atrocity? This land is piled with corpses…

I reeled but stood, quite speechless. My friend and I left it at that, an opening. I came home and after Amie was asleep I watched the trailer of Traces of the Trade and was in for another  surprise. In that trailer, Katrina Browne, the filmmaker, says it, literally, exactly that: that once she looked, unflinching, at the atrocities and her and her family and the world’s role in it,

“it became natural to want to make things right, not out of personal guilt, but out of grief.”

I have to stop being an amateur and start the work, part of which may well be to teach the absolute necessity that we not mistake grief for guilt, that we must grieve because the situation is grievous, and that only then can we start the work of making things right.

I often talk about making our own place into a model. At this year’s Earth Day, for instance, we’re doing Open Houses all over town, and ours is one of them. We’ll show the PV and solar hot water system (which they’re putting in as I write this), the compost, veg and perennial garden, bees, chickens and rain water catchment. We’ll also show plans and hopefully the foundations of the Hugelswale system, the fish pond and the orchard, which won’t be established yet. Most of all, we’ll show how it all fits together, how they’re all elements in a wholesome and open system, along with the line-drying, the solar cookers, the eclectic library, the cabinet full of homemade medicine…

But this talk of models and modeling doesn’t seem right. Not because of arrogance – I’m a firm believer now in Jenkinson’s observation, that you have to risk arrogance because, you know, we have a huge amount of hard work to do. No, it’s more about what it would mean for us to live in a “model house”. It would stop being the refuge that we want it to be (for us, our family and friends, the community), thus also stop being a model of what we really want people to see: a refuge. Long argument short: you can’t model a refuge.

I’d still want people to come, but not to come and see, not to find a demonstration for them to observe, pen and paper in hand.  They’d come to participate - which means, of course, to work. Not looking in at “life” behind a glass partition, but immersion.

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Amie and I planted the first seeds in flats. The heat mat is now fully booked. I’ll move the mache because it doesn’t need warmth to germinate and use that space for the leeks and onions, which I like to give a haircut so I can munch on the trimmings while working the seeds. This was the first time Amie stuck it out the whole hour and a half to clean and set up the place, and sow the seeds. She has her own containers, for her own garden box come Spring time. She and I have checked every day now, but nothing yet.

In on 2/22:

  • broccoli
  • chard
  • collards
  • brussels sprouts
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • mache
  • parsley
  • celery
  • lobelia
  • valerian

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Is this neat or what? We have a SECUSOL system, manufactured by Wagner. The MassCEC sprang for the monitoring system. They get valuable data (which they use to determine rebates, etc.) and we get to look in.

The chart above is today’s. It was grey throughout. The top of the water tank (green line at the top), where the heated water hangs out, waiting to be drawn on, hovered around the desired 130F. However, as you can see by the thick red line bordering the pink area, the temperature of the heat exchange fluid coming from the panels was only around 70F to begin with, dipping further as the day got colder and the clouds thicker. That means that our backup (oil furnace) had to kick in the difference.  That also means, however, that it was doing some of the heating (indicated by the pink area) of the water in the cold bottom part of the tank. At 5:30, for instance, the heat exchange fluid released about 10F to that water: it was going into the tank from the panels at 70F and coming out again, as indicated by the thick blue line, at a little below 60F. Around 15:30 (3:30 pm for you Americans) the fluid in the panels was no longer warmer than the cold water in the bottom of the tank, so the system shut down, not wanting to cool the water in the tank.

(The thin black lines are interesting too: this flow rate indicates our water consumption. That tall peak around 9:30 is me taking a shower, and the two peaks around 13:30 are us replenishing our fish tank, and the last two peaks are DH clearing the drains).

Below is yesterday, the 22nd of Feb, a very sunny day and a very different chart from today’s. The panels provided enough and, between 9:30 and 15:30, sometimes even more than enough, heat to get the water in the tank to the desired temperature.

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Now I’m thinking we should adjust our water consumption schedule: shower on sunny days, and later in the day too. But first we’ll gather more data.

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I found this great seed (and plant) supplier, Horizon Herbs, through Mountain Rose Herbs, where I usually buy my dried herbs. I admit I went a little crazy. But if I can grow all of these, harvest them and make them into medicine, and also take seed from them and propagate them… it’s a dream I’ve had for years now, the apothecary dream.

  Mullein Common (Verbascum thapsus) packet of 100 seeds organic

  Goji (Lycium barbarum) packet of 100 seeds in dried fruit organic

  Aconite Chinese (Aconitum carmichaeli) packet of 50 seeds organic

  Aloe arborescens (Aloe arborescens) packet of 20 seeds

  Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) packet of 50 seeds organic

  Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) packet of 100 seeds organic

  Chamomile Roman (Chamaemelum nobile) packet of 500 seeds organic

  Cleavers (Galium aparine) packet of 50 seeds organic

  Horehound White (Marrubium vulgare) packet of 100 seeds organic

  Jewelweed Orange (Impatiens capensis) packet of 20 seeds organic

  Lobelia Official (Lobelia inflata) packet of 1000 seeds organic

  Lobelia Set (3 seed packets): Lobelias — Great Blue & Official; Cardinal Flower (all organic)

  Mugwort Common (Artemisia vulgaris) packet of 300 seeds organic

  Echinacea purpurea packet of 200 seeds organic

  Myrrh Garden (Myrrhis odorata) packet of 10 seeds organic

  Nettles Stinging (Urtica dioica) packet of 200 seeds organic

  Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) packet of 500 seeds

  Pleurisy Root Official (Asclepias tuberosa) packet of 50 seeds organic

  Saint Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) packet of 500 seeds

  Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) packet of 50 seeds organic

  Skullcap Official (Scutellaria lateriflora) seeds organic

  Solomons Seal Giant (Polygonatum biflorum) packet of 20 seeds

  Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) packet of 30 seeds

  Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) packet of 300 seeds organic

  Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) packet of 100 seeds organic

And from Fedco I bought:

  • Astragalus OG
  • Borage OG
  • Bodegold Chamomile
  • Bronze Fennel OG
  • Hyssop
  • Licorice
  • Motherwort OG
  • Mad-dog Skullcap
  • Topas St Johnswort
  • Valerian
  • White Yarrow
  • Maya Orange Calendula OG
  • Solar Flashback Calendula Mix OG

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Holding the edge with a bunch of intrepid friends. A  local “rally” in solidarity with our friends marching in Washington DC.  We stayed till I no longer felt my fingertips and toes, and my speech became slurred. Then we had hot cocoa.

This is the article I wrote for the local press:

Waylanders Rally for Climate Change in DC and locally

On Sunday, 17 February, a small group of Waylanders stood on the corner of Routes 20 and 27 holding signs with “Climate Change Act Now” and “No Tar Sands”. They were showing their solidarity with the tens of thousands marching in Washington D.C. that day to urge President Obama to move the nation forward on climate.

“I couldn’t make it to the rally in D.C.,” said Anne Harris, “so it was fun to have our small rally here in Wayland. My hope is to keep climate action in the forefront of people’s minds as we ask our leaders to seek solutions to the country’s challenges”.

The freezing temperature and nasty wind in Wayland rivaled the conditions in D.C., where 35,000 marched to make the largest Climate March in US history, according to 350.org.

Wayland resident Sabine von Mering, who was there, said, “To me this march was a great experience because, like Bill McKibben, I had been waiting for this movement to come about for many years. Since I first came to the US twenty years ago I thought it’s impossible that a country that brought forth the civil rights movement and Dr. King, and people like Henry David Thoreau and Rachel Carson, would fall so far behind Europe in demanding environmental justice and action on climate change. Today at this march I saw the real America, the USA that I love and cherish. People who care that our political leaders listen to our best scientists, people who take a two-day bus ride to make sure their voice is not drowned out by moneyed lobbyists. People of all ages and walks of life who join together saying ‘enough is enough. We must protect this planet. It’s the only one we have’.”

The group at the corner of the Cochituate and Boston Post Roads also had the blowing snow to contend with and, admittedly, not that many bodies to stay warm, but all that didn’t seem to matter. That the day was a typical winter’s day wasn’t all that ironic to Andrea Case. “A snowy winter makes people question ‘global warming’,” she said. “But intense weather, whether blizzards, hurricanes, droughts or repeated record high temperature days, are all harbingers of climate change.”

Asked if this was a successful event, Kaat Vander Straeten, said, “Yes! Look, there were only seven of us, but there was no place I’d rather be. Hundreds of people driving by saw our message, and that wouldn’t have happened if we had stayed home.”

Back in DC, von Mering noted, “There was clearly a somber note to the gathering, because we all know that our chances of winning this fight are pretty slim. Which is why it was so important to see so many of us. Every single person I met today understands what’s at stake. This was a gathering of smart people who care and who want to turn things around. People who are willing to risk a lot for everyone’s sake. I was proud to be with them. I feel greatly encouraged for the future.”

 

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This is (four days shy of)  two month’s worth of trash: one 30 gallon bag (our town uses PAYT – Pay As You Throw – and these bags cost $2 each, which is still way too little if you ask me) and an assortment of recyclables.  I didn’t weigh all this before taking it to the Transfer Station, but I doubt it came to 6 lbs. per person per month (the value I usually put into our Riot).

On the way back from the Transfer Station Amie and I stopped  by our town’s Winters Farmer Market to see the lamb and buy some carrots. We learned that there were also Angora rabbits, which we immediately sought out.  While admiring the rabbits in their cages we asked questions of the farmer. Another mom with her two-year-old joined, right on time for my next question:

“How long do they live?”

Woah, the look on the other mom’s face! The farmer saw it too and merely gave me a sheet of paper, saying there was a lot of info there. None of it, I see now, about how long a rabbit lives. She told me that after the other mom had left (5 to 6 years, some 9 years).

The death-phobia in this culture is something fierce! We no longer tell our kids Grimm’s fairy tales, because people die in them (the gall!). Taylor Swift scored big giving Romeo and Juliet a happy ending, and the only characters that die in kids’ movies are animals.  Human characters may die only in  animated movies. One is no longer allowed to ask about lifespan of animals  in public because, dear lord, the concept of span implies a beginning and an end.

Well, more about that soon. Did you know that rabbits can die of wool block?

 

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Well, that was cheaper and quicker than the PV. Took them seven hours to install the entire system. We have two Wagner collectors,  one 92.5 gallon storage tank, in a drain back arrangement (it’s basically this Secusol system), with our super-efficient oil boiler as backup (second heat-exchanger). A fun addition was the monitoring system, which the State of Massachusetts paid for. We’ll have data soon! We like data.

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And here we go again. Nemo is upon us, starting to throw what will amount, according to the forecast, to buckets of snow. Of course the power is going to go: we expect it now. And as I alternate staring out the window with staring at the Wundermap, I realize how contradictory and conflicting my feelings are about all this.

Staring at the Wundermap, it bugs me that our power grid, our communities, our homes are not resilient. Put the darn lines underground – but who will pay for that? Why didn’t we at least get a generator?  Why are we dragging our feet on the issue that when the grid goes, the solar array goes as well? Should we get a battery backup or some other way of storing the energy? I check on the chargers, powering up all the batteries in the house. I crank the emergency radios. Did mice get into  the bug out bag again? Half that bag is electronics. We’ll have the Kindle and DH’s smartphone to go on the net. The freezer is stuffed: if we don’t open it, the food in there will stay good for a couple of days. We should move our cars to the bottom of the driveway…

Staring out the window — at the towering, whitening, waving trees, the snow horses blowing through, the raccoon’s tracks, erasing — I calm infinitely  down. I know there is a big wood pile and lots of dry firewood on the porch still. The wood stove is idle now but it’s ready to warm our house when the temperature drops, and for cooking and boiling water. The pantry is stuffed, and I just made bread. We have enough books and games to keep us entertained for weeks-years. I’m thinking, if he power goes out for a long time we’ll just put everything in our fridge in a box on the porch – latch the door so the raccoon won’t get in. The tropical fish in the heated tank would perish, but the chickens and the bees will be fine. I wish we had a cat, to take care of those mice. Amie can play for us on the cello. I wish I could play the cello…

I find more comfort, more safety in those things:  in what Ivan Illich called “tools for conviviality,” in wholesome sources of energy made available by nature, and in the fruits of hard work on our part, and in companionship. The wishes and wants that these conjure are sweet and slow.

In my work I promote both these sides.  I am trying to make my community “go solar,” working on energy “solutions” while promoting skillshares, arranging potlucks, joining in hope and despair work. But more and more I know that it is only the latter that I am passionate about because only they make me feel truly safe, fulfilled and connected. No extra machine is going to make me feel secure in the face of the fragility of our technology. I may rationalize that we need “green technology” to buy us the time we need, but I believe it less and less.

More and more it feels like just another postponement of the inevitable, and we’re the kid who did something wrong (terribly wrong), taking a detour on the way home, where the reckoning awaits. But we must and do want to and will go home to the deep and dark ecology.

Update: the next morning:

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With the help of my ancient but working bread machine, which makes a hearty and very slice-able whole wheat  loaf, I now bake one bread every other day. However, the ends never get eaten, and by the second day I have to cut off the entire crust for Amie because chewing on it hurts her new teeth coming in. On top of that the eggs were also piling up. The hens are back to 2-3 eggs a day now.

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So I made bread pudding/cake. We call it “potting” in Flanders. It’s not too sweet, spiced and flavorful, moist and chewy and crunchy and takes me back to my childhood. It’s everyone’s favorite. Yum!

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