December 31, 2017

Snowshoeing To Winter Cabin

First I pass through an old hemlock forest of giant woody columns holding a roof of snow canopies.

I can't think of a better way to end the year than by going for my first snowshoe of the winter. There was also a mission I needed to complete - get a winter photo of a snow-covered cabin for our blog banner so I can observe the official change of seasons.

Going down.

The cabin is on a brook in a valley behind my home. Going down on snowshoes is much more forgiving than boots on the ground. It is puffy, floaty, slidey, fun. Sharp pokey things are covered - everything is child-proofed and one can go anywhere and do anything.

Next to weightlessness, this is the best possible liberation from the potentially dangerous effects of gravity and friction while hiking. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

Impossibly puffy puffiness of fresh powdery snow.

Jumping and sliding down the valley side to the brook does not take long. The water is a tranquil spot to enjoy the sound of moving water, be still for a few moments, and see the scene, while being seen by the scene in turn.

At moments like this, spirits merge.

The winter landscape feels like a Chinese watercolour painting.

After reaching the brook I move upstream toward the cabin, which is on the other side of the water. Soon, there it is, all tucked in.

What a get-away. No power. No phone. No billboards. No shopping. No fences. No Gates. I'm not even sure if there is a road to the cabin.

I wonder what it would be like to live here. Very, very simple. Challenging. A lot of hard work. A deep solitude and tranquility - total separation from the affairs of humanity (or "inhumanity").

I think about pulling a Henry David Thoreau, naming this spot "Walden, Too", and embarking on an extended retreat. Never mind extended, even one night out here would be magical. Imagine a week. A month. Or a year.

My reveries are interrupted by the fact that the fading light had faded further. I start back up the hill, avoiding groves of conifers because their snow-draped canopies make it even darker below them. There is more snow under the open canopies of deciduous forest, and there the snowshoeing is best.

Everything looks unfamiliar and new in a thick winter jacket, but my homing instinct is strong. I get to the edge of the forest and start across the field. I see my own "cabin" at the top of the slope.

My "cabin" - heat, light, food, clean drinking water, and Linda are inside. Almost there.

I feel fortunate, recharged, and ready for another orbit around the Sun on this beautiful planet. It is good to be riding with all of you.  

December 25, 2017

Only 364 Days

"Only 364 days till Christmas 2018. This shopping thing is exhausting."

December 21, 2017

Happy Winter Solstice

Today I took my ritual sunset hike in the woods behind my home. The chickadees say, "Hi".

Today is the day I have been dreading since June 21st, when I am usually out enjoying the longest day of the year. At that time of year I can leave the house for a hike any time up to 9:00 pm, and still be home before dark.

It is a time of photonic riches, but not for long. I savour them while they last. I am a solar powered group of cells soaking up Sun love.

From that summer day, bit by bit, the sun starts its long march to this day, winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Photons, why have you forsaken us? All light is sacred this time of year - it is fleeting, fleeing. Pray that you will see even a bit of it.

Today I had to make sure to prepare for my ritual hike before 3:00 pm to avoid hiking home in fading light. Even at noon the light is weak and wanes fast. I have to hike at a rigorous pace, both to stay warm, and to beat the shadow rolling across the landscape towards me.

I stop at the brook and am immediately mesmerized by the sound of water gurgling and splashing to the sea, 4 km downstream from here. I have an urge to start a fire and stay all night in the woods. Instead, I say goodbye to the water spirits and start back up the valley.

Along the way I am mobbed by a group of black capped chickadees. One lands on a branch an arms length away from me, right at eye level. "We are the same, you and me", I tell the bird. I can see every feather in its fluffy little body. Its black eye looks back at me.

I am mesmerized again, or should I say enchanted? I can't feel where I end, and the forest, the water, the sky, and the bird begin. We are all part of a single body, the creation of The Great Photonic Being. We exist because it bathes us in its love.

The Sun is life.

"Keep on hiking." It's the responsible hiker voice in my head telling me to move on. I don't want  a peak experience to become a near death experience.

Once home, the dark descends with a thump, and thus begins another long winter night. And if we are lucky, it will be the beginning of a long winter nap as well.

Happy solstice to NBA readers and all of Planet Earth. May your New Solar Year be filled with lots of hearts and photons.

Thank you for being bright candles for Linda and me over the last year. We are fortunate to bathe in your warmth and brightness. It make us feel that Yule be ok, we'll be ok, and the world will be OK.


December 19, 2017

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

We are sorry your mission has been hijacked by rank consumerism. You used to stand for something wholesome, giving the needy some of the things they would need throughout the new year. Now you are a symbol and excuse for conspicuous consumption. Your name has been sullied, and it saddens us.

In order to lighten your load, and ease you guilt for reinforcing the idea that material possessions are a real substitute for happiness, we are asking that you do not visit our homes this year. This includes future years also, unless we actually need something essential for sustaining and improving life.

And how many gifts fit that bill?

That is why you started giving in the first place - to help people with things they need. Today we confuse want with need, and your mental health hangs in the balance, as you are now complicit in environmental destruction and potential global collapse.

How can you Ho Ho Ho with a straight face when you are experiencing an existential crisis?

Worry not.

Many of us are working to see the day when your simple mission has been restored, gift-giving has returned from the stratosphere, your good name has been restored, and your elves can get that holiday you've been promising them since you kicked up your sweatshop assembly lines to 24/7/365.

You can still drop by for cookies and milk if you need a break.

Happy Solstice,

Your Friends at NBA

December 17, 2017

In Winter Enjoy

Sun's rays hitting Mughenge in my kitchen, about an hour before sunset.

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."

"Where man is not nature is barren."

- William Blake (1757-1827)

December 15, 2017

Rise Above Consumemas

Creating art from found natural objects can be a meaningful new Winter Solstice ritual that costs nothing.

Is there any Christmas left in Christmas? It is more like Consumemas now. It is all about the presents, the loot, the haul, the stuff. Shopping, wrapping, unwrapping, throwing away - same futile cycle with the same futile results. Within a few days all that remains is the debt and damage. 

It is no wonder many people find this madness to be depressing and demoralizing. But we can rise above Consumemas, and reclaim this special time of year for our own. It truly is an event worth celebrating, as humans have for millennia, before Christmas, or Consumemas, ever existed.

And while gift giving may be involved, it does not have to be all about the gifts. Indeed, gifts are not a required part of enjoying this time of year. While the social pressures are great, many are breaking free from the burden of mandatory (and often mindless) gift giving. 

Those with experience have found that involving a group of people in the discussion surrounding radically changing winter celebration traditions can be fruitful and liberating. Often they find that they aren't the only ones wondering how they can stop others from buying them things they don't want, or need. 

I got the following email reminder from Adbusters concerning #BuyNothingXmas:

"The malls are full of anxious sweat. The throngs are out and about for the final shopping "rush", hunting the aisles with a tense urgency that's inimical to the spirit of giving. But another Christmas is possible. Another way of being is possible. 
Reclaiming the ritual of this magical season – consciously and deliberately – is a radical, emancipatory choice. Since manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of the global carbon dioxide emissions, choosing to buy nothing this Xmas may give Gaia some much needed relief. 
And if you still need to be convinced to consume less – consider that if we heat up just 4 degrees more, we will witness a total and irreversible collapse of human civilization. We're killing ourselves – but even as the denial about global warming is slowly breaking over us, we still choose – sheeplike – to join the madness in the malls. 
Consumerism is the opiate of the masses. Without significant rituals, we clamour to participate in the only ones we have, like the Christmas shopping binge, driven by our desire for meaning – of which our culture is devoid. 
#BuyNothingXmas gets to the heart of this matter. 
As the much awaited solstice arrives and Christmas nears, can you find the strength to break the addiction, to wake up from the nightmare ... will you be brave enough to plant the seed of a new way of being? Make your life a demonstration, a defiance, a piece of art, a heroic journey. 
Start this Christmas – dare to gather your friends and family together and vow to do it differently this year."

There are many meaningful ways to celebrate at this time of year. Conspicuous consumption does not have to be one of them.

“Creating a new tradition that brings more peace and heart to your holidays could also bring you closer to family and friends. 
Sharing a ritual founded on love of nature, on respect for the always renewing cycles of life, and on faith in the future has a way of bringing out the best in people.”

- Deena Wade

December 13, 2017

Winter Meditations

We have had our first significant snowfall of the year, although warming temperatures and rain in the forecast will see it disappear today. Chances are we won't have enough snow for winter activities until January, which is about the time it gets cold enough for the snow to stick around for longer periods.

That means we probably won't have the raw material to build a SnowHenge for a December 21 bonfire celebration. But it looks like it would be a fun way to accentuate any Winter Solstice celebration.

There are many ways creative folks have built Stonehenge replicas, ranging from scale models that accurately align with the cosmos, to designs like the one above which are only suggestive of the original.

Imagine the ambiance of having your very own SnowHenge. I'm thinking one would look great in my front yard. And like a sand mandala, impermanence would be its defining quality. I wonder, if I built one, would Druids come (before it melted)?

Psychologist David Fontana tell us that the symbolic nature of such structures can help us "access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises.”
Snow mandala by Simon Beck

It is my hope that we can all experience the "mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity" of the cosmos in the new year.

We shouldn't look for these peak experiences in stores. Or in a box under the tree. They can't be ordered online, at any price.

Better to build a SnowHenge in the yard or park. Or a snow mandala. Or just go for a walk in nature.

I'm looking forward to winter, the most meditative of seasons. Stay warm, Northern Hemisphereians.

December 11, 2017

The Darkness Before The Light

We are entering dark times. Today we slide into the shadiest week of the year (in the northern hemisphere), leading up to that most monumental and hopeful day on the calendar, the December 21st event of Winter Solstice.

Up till then the Sun appears to be marching relentlessly to the dark side, and us, powerless to stop its trajectory. That sounds like a familiar theme these days. And then, we see at Solstice that our life-supporting energy source is not going to abandon us permanently. It is a time of rebirth and renewal.

Things are dark in human affairs as well. But we can be assured that reason and compassion are similarly not gone for good, despite what we see around us. The light will return.

Mayan prophesies predicted this long ago, and even took the time and effort to etch their message in stone for the benefit of those of us who would be around past the 2012 turning point. According to the Long Count Mayan calendar, Solstice 2012 marked the end of one civilization and the beginning of another.

It predicts a spiritual transition towards a new consciousness, and while it may not get much press coverage, such a transition has been taking place, quietly, relentlessly, here and there in pockets of awareness the world over.

Certain forces of human darkness can slow human evolution - or are we going backwards at this point? - but they can't stop it. Most of us choose light. Many of us are lighting candles. Or starting bonfires.

The Mayans told us that humanity must eventually choose between disappearing as a species that threatens to destroy the planet, or evolve towards integration with the planet, and everything else.

I know what my choice is.

Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly explained the special significance of Solstice 2012:

"The scientists know very well that this marks the end of an anthropocentric life and the beginning of a bio-centric life. 
It is the end of hatred and the beginning of love, the end of lies and beginning of truth. 
It is the end of sadness and the beginning of happiness, it is the end of division and the beginning of unity, and this is a theme to be developed.”

That makes a nice list of lightness for the new year. Put it in your daytimer, or calendar, or on your fridge.

Bring on the light.

Things To Do in 2018

1) Honour the Earth and all life. 

2) End hatred/promote love.

3) Steer lies toward truth.

4) Comfort sadness, be the source of happiness.

5) End division/focus on unity.

Note: no need to wait until the new year to start.

December 8, 2017

You Can't Buy Love... But You Can Sell With It

It makes the world go round. Newborns fail to thrive without it. And you can't buy it. But you can sell with it. It is love.

In the brave new world of marketing manipulation, advertisers are pushing their crap with sex, as usual, but now they are also exploiting love. Perhaps consumers have caught on to "sex sells" advertising, and aren't consummating as many purchases as when the act was still novel.

Love is the final frontier for getting you to buy more everything.

One of the worst advertisements I have heard recently states that what makes a particular manufacturer's car, is love.

"Really? Love?" I think, "not steel, glass, rubber, lots of plastic, and the energy of thousands of workers along the supply chain?" It makes me want to throw up, or at least throw my hands up, every time I hear it.

Where is the love? In the glove box? Are the tires filled with love? Does it run on love? Are more expensive models made with more love than cheaper models (or are the cheaper ones made with "like").

If there is any love involved in capitalism and marketing, it is the love of money and profit above all else. But they don't say that. It is all about the loving relationship that they manipulate us into through propaganda, lies, deceit, and all that brain chemistry poking and prodding.

What if ads could only give factual information about products, instead of hacking into our emotional treasure chests and subconscious?

The problem advertisers would have with that is their teams of sell-out psychologists, neurologists and brain researchers know that just giving people the facts doesn't work well enough to satisfy the big brands. They know they have to manipulate their victims emotionally in order to maximize profit.

A Canadian brain researcher says, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

The heart is impulsive, while the brain is analytical. Sellers want us to be impulsive. They don't want us using our brains, because they fear that the conclusions we would arrive at are:

1) I don't need that, or
2) I can't afford that, or
3) That product causes great harm to the environment, or
4) so many other conclusions that would lead us to reduce our consumption.

Wrap your brain around that as the consumer frenzy reaches its peak over the next few weeks. Defy the advertisers - use your heart AND your brain when making purchase decisions.

"To buy, or not to buy", is the question they never want us to ask ourselves.

December 6, 2017

Garden Fairies

I chose the best bulbs from last year's crop to plant for next year's crop.

On December 1st I stood in my garden and pushed a shovel into the soft, rich soil. "How late is too late to plant garlic in the fall?" I wondered as I dug. It didn't really matter - my garlic was going in.

Being only one crop into my garlic growing experience means that I have much to learn. My research leads me to believe that garlic goes into the ground after the first few frosts of the fall, but before the ground freezes.

Once planted, the bulbs like several weeks of non-frozen soil in order to get root growth started. However, if it gets too warm, the greens may sprout, and you don't want that to happen till spring.

Since moving from the west coast to the east coast three years ago, we have been learning about the climate of our new home. For optimum gardening, knowledge of the local climate is crucial. We live in a 7a zone here, same as where we lived on Vancouver Island.

Grandparent garlic.
That means that planting my garlic December 1 (we planted our first crop in October last year) means that we could be four to five weeks from colder weather, snow, and frozen garden soil.

It all comes down to actual experience of putting things in soil and seeing what happens. So that is what I did. If you don't plant, you will for sure not get any garlic.

It seems that my late season efforts were sanctioned by two tiny garden fairies that joined my garlic planting party. While I was plunking garlic cloves into the dark soil, two tiny specks of flying life forms hovered at my side.

I guess they might have been insects, and if they were, they are insects I have never seen before. They were etherial, with teeny bluish wings, and a small body that was luminescent, glowing brightly with white light.

I thought I might need to rub my eyes and take a second look as the two of them flew near me and my garlic, but then they seemed to disappeared into the mildness of the day.

Wow. Did I just see that? Beautiful late fall day. Soft, workable soil. My own cloves going in the ground. And garden fairies. Or were those garlic fairies? I am not sure if they are specialists, or generalists.

So much to like at that moment, I breathed deeply and felt life's magic flowing, vibrating, and shimmering all around me.

"... there is no way for mere gardeners to know what garden fairies look like. 
We live in a dimension called the garden dimension. Only a small handful of people have ever spent enough time in a garden to actually see into this dimension. 
And even when they do see into this garden dimension, they have no idea they are seeing garden fairies." 
- excerpt from The Garden Fairie Journal

I covered the cloves with 2 to 3 inches of soil, levelled the surface, and tucked in the thirty plants for the winter. Then I went inside to tell Linda that the garlic was in, and that the event was supervised by fairies. She asked if they looked like the tooth fairy that she saw as a child.

I'm not too sure about fairy nomenclature, but I predict a bumper crop of garlic next summer.

“Stop automatically discounting modes of experience that most human beings have treated as just as valid as the material senses, start paying attention to all the ways in which natural processes behave like subjects rather than objects, and you’ll find yourself stepping into a living world—or, more to the point, realizing that you’ve been in a living world all along.”
- John Michael Greer

December 4, 2017

"Happiness" by Steve Cutts

Steve Cutts is one of my favourite illustrator/animators, and not only because of his artwork. Mostly, I like him because his artwork focuses on the excesses of modern society. And there is so much excess to excoriate.

He used to work for the dark side, doing animations for evil corporations like a certain sugary water beverage maker, a high tech firm making semi-disposable electronics, and one of the biggest car makers in the world.

Then he broke free of all that, and became a freelancer doing his own thing. Since then he has been stripping the curtain back from our sick system to show the reality of our madness.

One of his first short film was "MAN", in which Cutts says he explores our relationship with the natural world. It is not a pretty picture, but should be a wake up call.

In 2016/2017 he did two music videos for the singer Moby. Both, he says, highlight "consumerism, greed, corruption and ultimately our self-destructiveness". Readers of this blog will have an awareness of all those things.

Of his new animation (the short film above), Cutts states, "The story is of a rodent's unrelenting quest for happiness and fulfillment."

Warning - some scenes are disturbingly similar to humans' pursuit of the same, and may elicit a sense of the uncanny in certain viewers.

December 1, 2017

What Would Jesus Buy?

Depiction of Jesus from India as "True Teacher".

Now that the drooling peddlers of stuff are reminding everyone that there are only so many days until the celebration of the birth of Jesus (yes, that is what Christmas is really about), it is time for me to give my own annual reminder about Buy Nothing Christmas.

I have to wonder, would Buy Nothing Christmas get the Jesus seal of approval? Or would he want us to go into debt buying each other things we don't need? In his name?

I have to wonder, "What would Jesus buy?"

When you have understanding, wisdom, insight, purity, integrity and love, what else do you need? He would want nothing, would buy nothing. Except maybe for people to stop misrepresenting him in predatory consumeristic ways.

If Jesus were here today, I imagine he would be tolerantly miffed by our materialist ways, and would go about patiently re-teaching us the shortcomings of living a purely material-based life. However, I imagine he would forgive us with mercy and compassion, a couple of other things we obviously have not learned yet, Christians and non-Christians alike.

The gifts that Jesus and all other enlightened beings give humanity, are the lessons that lead to us to being free from greed, developing true friendship with all creatures, doing our duty regardless of consequences, being devoted to the Universe and each other, and practicing mindful concentration in order to rise above banal materialist lifestyles.

You can't buy such worthy gifts anywhere, despite what advertisers claim.

The true spirit of Christmas will not be found in any store. For that, we need to look within ourselves.