Archive for July, 2008

Looking To The Children

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

rhiannoncrystal-sm.jpgWith our daughter Rhiannon, it’s easy to see the importance of what we chose to expose or protect her from, the ways we inspire, instruct and guide her, and even more crucially the examples we set. We strive to provide an unconventional but empowering upbringing, so instead of talking about chores, we speak of the value and the rewards of taking care of things. Difficulty is described as a means for getting stronger, and an opportunity to distinguish our selves. When there is something hard or unpleasant that needs doing, we try to make it possible for it to be her choice, knowing that is the way to empower her, and have her taking credit instead of feeling victimized, controlled or obligated. And while paying attention to the ways she needs to be taught, we’ve also given attention to how much she and every child has to teach.

Her greatest contribution so far may be as a vivid example of right living, doing her work without complaining, saying yes to reasonable suggestions and standing up for herself when some friend tells her things she knows is wrong. She assumes that she is good, rather than assuming she is sinful or flawed, and builds her self one authentic part at a time. Regular trips to the river emphasize the importance of taking time off from projects to connect to the canyon, celebrate and savor. She readily tries most difficult tasks, acting as if there is nothing she cannot discover a way to do. When food is passed out, she makes a prayer of deep gratitude and heartful communion, acknowledges every plant and animal that contributed to the meal, and will sometimes resist the conversation to focus on the tastes and textures delighting her mouth. That does not mean she is unconscious of her effect, noticing as she does how words as well as actions can guide, strengthen, clarify or affirm. Rhiannon is thus quick to respond to a perceived need with appropriate counsel and advice. She can often read how people are feeling in spite of a forced smile, and offers precious advice about being fully present, self love, the value of dressing up and treating yourself well, being true to your needs and mission, trying to do the impossible, expressing sadness when sad the importance of celebration, as well as doing whatever it takes to resist wrongs and live our dreams. Even if our students and guests ever wanted to discount her, the palpable truth in her proclamations likely won them over, the earnest look on her face convincing the most committed skeptics of the power of her insights and observations, recommendations and convictions.

rhainnon-watering-dock-sm.jpg

The kids of today need good reason to look up to us, it’s true. But when we think about how to live a meaningful life – love deeply and satisfy our curiosity, play hard and enjoy the outdoors, be easily intrigued and heartily pleased, be true to our natures and honor the natural world – it is to the little children of the world that we adults might best look.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin

 

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All photos (c) 2008 by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Cooking With Wild Grape Leaves -by Loba

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

stuffed-grape-leaves.jpg

All over the canyon, the grape vines are loaded with the most beautiful leaves. Picking them is my my favorite activity after I’ve gone for a float in the river. I love to arrange them in a perfect pile as I pick a stack big enough to have with our supper, with some extra to add to the quart jar on the counter. I’ll try to fill a few gallon jars of these precious leaves before the summer is over, most likely with the help of many guests and students.

It’s hard to imagine the special quality grape leaves can impart without experimenting with them yourself! And for me, it’s hard to imagine life without grape leaves! We take out a little stack of leaves and rinse them off to use as wrappers for a huge variety of dishes– from Asian-style stir-fry to Mediterranean influenced polenta and rice dishes, to Mexican-Native American style chile and beans. We chop them up and put them in chile, in potato salad, in posole, in panfuls of stir-fried yams, tomato sauce, or with chicken and onions. And perhaps my favorite thing to do with them is to make a skillet full of Pan-Fried Grape Leaves, or a pot of Steamed Grape Leaves. They’re “oh-my-goodness-YUM”!

lobagardenplatesm.jpgHarvesting, Preserving, Shopping for and Stuffing Grape Leaves

If you have a grapevine to pick from, make sure it hasn’t been sprayed, and harvest the biggest leaves you can get. Ideally they’ll be about big as your hand. It’s fine to use smaller leaves, they’ll just be a bit harder to stuff. When I harvest I often put the smaller leaves in a separate jar, and use these for chopping up, and save the big ones for stuffing. To preserve the leaves, put them in a quart or gallon jar, cover with water and add salt. If you’re planning on using the leaves up in the next month or two, you can use 4 tablespoons of salt per quart. If you’d like to store them for the winter, double the amount. Weight the leaves down beneath the water with a clean stone that fits easily inside the jar. Keep a lid on the jar. You can add more leaves as you are able to make time for picking them.

When using fresh picked leaves for stuffing, you can soften the leaves by soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes to make them easier to handle.

If you don’t have a grapevine, there are jarred grapeleaves available in Mediterranean stores, I’ve heard that the quality of them is not consistent, so keep trying till you find a brand that you like. If you’re using preserved grape leaves for a recipe, either home-preserved or store bought, be sure to rinse them off before using them, as the salt can be a bit intense.
To stuff the leaves, open a leaf and spread it on the kitchen counter with the smooth side of the leaf down, the rougher veined underside of the leaf up. If the stem is still attached, pinch or cut it off. Put a spoonful of stuffing at the base of the leaf, where the stem was attached, close to the edge. Fold the bottom edge up around the stuffing, then fold in each side, right and left. Carefully roll the leaf toward the point, keeping everything as tucked in as you can.

Pan-Fried Grape Leaves

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic
1 onion
3 cups cooked rice, brown or white basmati, or sushi rice
1 cup minced fresh tomatoes
1 cup cabbage, chopped rather finely
1/2 lemon, or 2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon
1 chipotle chile, minced very finely (omit if you’re very sensitive to hot things)
3-4 oz. sharp cheddar, jarlsberg, or mozzarella cheese, chopped in small pieces (about 3/4 cup cheese cubes)
5 tablespoons Butter Toasted Pine Nuts, or chopped Butter Toasted cashews, walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup cooked ground lamb or pork sausage, crumbled (optional)
Salsa and Sour Cream, for serving

Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil till it just begins to soften (a few minutes), then add the chopped cabbage. Cook until the cabbage softens, a few more minutes. If using fresh lemon, cut into thin slices, remove the seeds and mince as finely as you can. Add the lemon (fresh or preserved), the pine nuts and the minced chipotle chile to the pan with the rice and a few more tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well in the pan and heat until everything is well incorporated. Turn off the heat and let cool for a minute or two before you add the cubed cheese. After adding the cheese, follow the instructions for stuffing the grape leaves. When done, heat a large skillet and pour in four tablespoons of oil. As soon as the oil’s hot, place the little stuffed leaves in the oil, folded side down, and tilt the pan a bit to spread the oil around somewhat. Cook the stuffed leaves on both sides until they’re deeply browned and crispy around the edges. Expect some of the cheese to leak out and form “cheese crispies” at either end of the little packets, and expect some of the leaves to fall apart– don’t worry, just continue to cook them and they’ll be just as delicious!

Serve with slices of fresh lemon for squeezing (to balance out the oil), or salsa mixed with sour cream. I also love to mix a little minced chipotle en adobo and minced whole lemon!

Steamed Grape Leaves

You can use the recipe above for the filling, but instead of pan-frying the stuffed leaves, carefully stack them in a steaming rack set inside a large pot. Steam them for about 20 minutes, and serve with melted butter or olive oil with several teaspoons of lightly sauteed minced garlic stirred in. Minced fresh rosemary in the garlic oil or butter is even more amazing!

Enjoy! And let me know how your experiments go!
Love, Loba

The Wilderness Retreat: Embracing Solitude, Connecting With Nature, Nourishing The Self

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

julymorningmist1-sm.jpgSome of each evening’s rains drift upwards with the kiss of dawn, like a waking lover’s head lifting from a pillow to meet their mate’s lips. It begins by covering the canyon with a veil of dense fog and then tightening into bands, craning skywards to slowly reveal the bright green foliage and reddish gold rocks below. Rays of sun pour unevenly through the dips and gorges of mountain-shaped clouds, drawing the eye to first one carefully spotlit scene to the next. If there is a more spirit soothing, soul lifting vista anywhere, I have not yet drank from it with these canyon sated eyes.

The enchanting transitions of this morning will attend and sweeten all my day, enlightening and enticing. I feel soothed, as a Japanese garden or the sound of a running brook soothes, finding contentment in the arms of place the way a child finds refuge and seeks love in the encircling embrace of a parent’s hug. And at the same time, I feel an excitement to move forward, to explore, entrain, express, to create, beautify, remedy and change. I am at once awakened, energized, compelled by waves of urgency and import… and also stroked and feted, fed palpable reminders of my value, gifts and blessings, affirming my wholeness and contributing to my sense of satisfaction. As always, this is a place that both stirs and soothes, simultaneously causing us to not only gladden and heal, but also look at any unfulfulled dreams and face our suppressed fears.

It is that double-sided gift that our Retreat guests come here for, as much or more than our events, counsel and Anima teachings. And we continue to offer various forms of Wilderness Retreats here for just that reason, providing an opportunity for connecting to true self, the natural world, spirit and purpose for folks who might never come as students, seekers or questers. We welcome people to book either the Gifting or Gaia lodges, or to tent camp next to the singing Sweet Medicine River, with a hot dinner feast delivered by Loba, naturally on a sliding-scale donation basis. Counsel is offered but entirely optional, and there is no absolute requirement other than bringing open minds and sensitive, grateful hearts, coming to receive what this land of its own accord so willingly offers.

I recently shuttled a Retreat guest’s bags to her vehicle, parked a little under 2 miles from the Center. As I came abreast of her, I slowed to look in her eyes and feel who she was and what she might have received herself while here. In the brief seconds we had, I sensed that there were unanswered questions and remaining struggles and goals we might yet help with. But just as surely, I could see that a Retreat here – with her self, with her reawakening vision and realigning mission, and with this telling land – was full in and of itself. I resisted saying hardly anything, and her words to me confirmed. “I’ve gotten everything I came for,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes, “…and more.” One of the things I wanted to say but didn’t, was that it is exactly that depth of intending, noticing, feeling, embodying, caring and apparently utilizing that makes a Retreat guests time here a wonderful gift to us and this place as well.

As this woman so clearly understood, going to a wild and beautiful area on a nature “Retreat” has nothing to do with disengagement or escape, but rather is an opportunity to be restored to balance and inspired to act.

One can have a moving and healing Retreat experience other places than Anima Sanctuary or the Southwest that so many call enchanted. It may take an hour or two to get there, or it could require a day long plane ride. A car rental to explore the Olympic Peninsula with, a burro ride into the Sierras, a boat trip to a remote island, a rugged jeep ride, or a walk in that requires wading the same shallow river seven times. Inevitably it will be somewhere selected for its dramatic grip on the imagination and the senses, its powerful natural setting or longtime association with ceremony and magic. Crashing ocean waves. A secluded forest grove. The stunning view from a mountain top stupa. The embrace of a clearly magical river canyon. The cherished holy places of exotic traditions, or the colorful mesas where generation after generation of Mogollon Indians held their ceremonies and prayed. Upon arrival a gong might ring, and a set of bamboo gates swing open. Or perhaps it is only the touch of the river water on one’s bared feet, and the call of the eagle or raven that announce one has left behind the expected, the known, the busy and rote, and entered into enchanted place and time.

julymorningmist2-sm.jpgFor thousands of years our kind has made conscious and deliberate sojourns, and for far more than rest, no matter how restful such experiences can be. The Buddhist goes on retreat to deepen his or her practice, in a special place conducive to such aims. The Franciscan Friar retreats to a wilderness abbey, to get further away from the distractions of the parish and power struggles of the church, and closer to the experience and reality of god. The shaman leaves the comforts of the village in order to contact the truths and forces that can help him in his work when he gets back. The tribal Medicine Woman, or the modern herbalist and healer, will take time out in the forest or desert where she can be herself healed, fed and affirmed… and in this way, be better able to heal and give to others. And likewise, businesswomen, community activists and urban merchants often realize that they can accomplish more of their goals in the long run, if they first take some time out of their busy schedules to give to themselves. More an more healers are defining health as wholeness and vitality, both of which are gifts we can give ourself through focused and nurturing Retreat.

Solitude is both a blessing and a challenge no matter where we experience it, and no where more than in a place of intensely realized power. It no longer surprises us to hear that most folks, even nature lovers and backpackers, have never spent more than a few waking hours by themselves, let alone far away from other people. Instructors from Outward Bound type programs tell us they are trained never to be out of shouting distance from their companions, and other people have described Vision Quest programs that involved groups sitting within sight of each other or constantly monitored by protective staff members. And yet, learning to be content in and even nurtured by solitude is a crucial part of any person’s healing and growth. It is only apart from the criticisms and pats on the back from others that we can sense who we are apart from the need to fit in or desire to please. We may claim the only reason we don’t like to be alone is that we enjoy being around people, but inevitably there is an element of not wanting to spend time with, face or have to fully learn to love and cohabit with all elements of our whole beings. It’s gift, then, is not only the added opportunities for increased focus and contemplation, the informative sights and sounds of a world without human chatter and distraction… but also the gift of finding or re-embracing our true selves, needs and callings.

A Retreat affords that gift of solitude, to the degree that we can disengage from our anxiety, attention deficit habits and constant and search for stimulation or reassurance. But it is not meant to be entirely easy, and certainly not so comforting that it insulates or pads our experience. While there may be cabins with comfortable beds and homemade feasts, those on Retreat not only deal with the relative solitude, functional primitivity, lack of phone and TV, but still have to go to the trouble of adjusting their work schedules, arranging for child care and transportation, and temporarily suspending the million and one things that they would normally be doing. Such intention, effort and follow-through makes the retreat all the more powerful, and its effects longer lasting.

Whatever the cost in getting there, or in projects delayed, we pay a much higher price when we neglect to treat, tend and recharge ourselves. Hypertension. Heart attacks. Premature aging. Disrupted sleep. Feelings of unease and dissatisfaction that lead to ambivalence or despair. It can help to take a single hour of the day, every day, and make it a set time for focused, ritual engagement, for turning off the mental loops and consciously reinhabiting our bodies, emotions, and spirit. For sensing ourselves in connection to all that is, and drawing vision and energy from the earth beneath our floors. The key is how deliberate we make that hour. How dedicated to the purpose of our personal, enlivened wholeness. And how focused on our enjoining, and hopefully bettering in some small way, the whole world that we are a part of.

Going on retreat was never meant to be a substitute for personal manifestation and action, but rather, a place and a way in which to be nurtured, instructed, energized and empowered. We still need to act on our priorities, after a retreat helps us sort out what really matters most in our lives. And it remains up to us, to utilize the energy and manifest the visions that retreats provide.

The advantage is that on a wilderness Retreat the native inspirited world offers up its insights, allowing one to tap with some inner root the accumulative planetary wisdom of 4.5 billion years of evolving consciousness and life. And it is also in retreat, that even those with the busiest minds can quiet the chatter long enough to hear their own inner pleadings and promptings, warnings and assurance, contented purring and sagely advice. We Retreat into nature not to distance ourselves from anything, so much is to edge ever closer to our own inner natures… our healing and hopes, our dreams and purpose.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin

To register for a Healing or Student’s, Writer’s or Artist’s, Solo or Couples Retreat at the Anima Sanctuary, click on and download the Retreat Registration Form: retreats-registration-form.doc

Please copy and share this article. Thank you .

(Canyon photos (c) 2008 J. Wolf Hardin)

Spiraling Deeper: Monsoons & Wildflowers

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

 

Nature was my first mother.
I memorized the forest floor as I would
my mother’s body. This forest skin
smelled like pine sap and sweet rot, and
it stained my diapers green and
perfumed my hair, which was always
tangled with bits of leaves, small sticks,
and moss…

– Brenda Peterson, Nature and Other Mothers

Two days ago we were caught in an afternoon storm that came rumbling through the mountains on dark heavy clouds. We were downriver when the rain started, beginning with just a light sprinkle then a pounding symphony that made the river dance and Rhiannon shiver. At first, we clutched our clothes around us and hurried to get home but then we slowed to admire the shifting colors of the cliff face in the changing light and the sparkling droplets on the flowering Silverweed. The young man who was with us remarked on how being soaking wet made him so much more aware of his body and every muscle contained therein. We stopped to gather armfulls of the near-flowering Wild Mint that flourishes in the cliff-side seeps. All around us the the canyon hummed with proliferating life, the Beeweed rampant alongside delicate white Yarrow flowers and a few birds sung through the pouring rain.

beeweed4.jpgI call monsoon season our second spring and this is when the greatest diversity of plant and animal and fungal life express themselves most intensely. Lichen plumps and fruits on the damp rocks while Elk sing and whistle from the riverside. I take my longest walks in these months, searching out otherwise elusive water dependent herbs and the taking in the sparkle and gleam of rain kissed quartz crystals growing from the arroyo walls. Loba and I venture time and time again up the wash searching out wild foods and medicines, and stopping to enjoy the multitude of butterflies that sweep through on mountain winds.

In every season the canyon invites a different kind of intimacy, from the delicate fierceness of ice jutting across the river in January to the harsh beauty of gold grasses and distant smoke in June. In the lushness of this season we lay in the soft grass and press our faces up against fragrant flowers and smooth, sun warmed rock. I feel the weight of the humidity against my skin and smile up at the brooding clouds overhead. They may mean a limitation in our solar power but they also mean the Purslane will thrive, the river swell and the bears eat well this year.

coyote-tobacco-sm.jpgNot long ago, in the deep shade of thick Willows I found a new friend. The soft white flowers reminded me at first of tiny Datura flowers and I cocked my head at the three foot tall plant in wonder. And then I realized! A Coyote Tobacco in bloom, a close relative to the Datura and the many other seductive members of the Nightshade family that make their home here.

I sat down in the wet sand and gazed up into the trumpet shaped flowers, watching the sun filter and change through its velvety folds and breathing in the powerful and strange scent of its medicine. Colorful insects whose names I’ve never learned emerged from wilted blooms and hummed around my head. I leaned back against a Willow and looked out at the world from down low, from the perspective of children and rabbits, creeping plants and coiling snakes.

When I am quiet enough I forget that I ever imagined myself separate from this world of color and magic. I forget I am anything but wind and dirt, dappled light and wings caught by sky. In this intimacy, this primal magic of becoming small I find my own pulse and rhythm. The thrum and dance of the blue dragonfly on the river’s skin teaches me my song, and the clouds moving overhead mirror my own seasons shifting from lost little girl to medicine woman.

In the dirt and rain, we find ourselves. Over and over again, spiraling always deeper.

A Taste For Magic – Cookbook Essay 2 – by J. Wolf Hardin

Monday, July 14th, 2008

pestofixins5-sm.jpg“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.”
-Elisa Schiaparelli (1956)

An apt and sense-itized student, Jared, answered artful cooking when asked to list his blessings and abilities. It reminded me again, of how there’s an element of magic in any cooking… and how every truly enchanted cook is a magician.

Magic, after all, is the spell behind every successful recipe no matter how basic its designs or mundane the presentation, no matter how often it’s been served or how quickly consumed… and it’s one of the missing ingredients in any culinary flop. It’s evident to our sanctuary guests, sitting wide eyed in the presence of a flaming glaze flambé at midnight, or ushered into the state of enchantment by the designs of foodstuffs artfully arrayed on the plate, their colors swimming about under the influence of allspice and candlelight. There’s certainly magic afoot whenever sunlight does that ol’ soft-shoe across the drying dishes. Whenever Loba leans towards the window facing the river, to better spoon moonbeams into the blueness of her bowl. And when an eagle calls, just as the cook concludes her daily dinner’s blessing. Watch her lift a spatula in the air like a magic wand, followed by a trail of tiny exploding stars! A gentle motion of her hand, and Loba calls forth the spirit of flying doves from a steaming pot pie, evokes the essence of laughing children residing in homemade cookies and milk, raises swaying sheaves of wheat from the holy ground of her wholesome crusty bread.

Not that the essence of the magical is restricted to such singularly exquisite moments. There is utter magic in the way that organic molecules reconfigure themselves, making the transition from soil to plant, to animal and to human, and inevitably back to soil again. There’s magic in our digestive systems, a partnership of bodily acids and bacteria rendering food into a puree of assimilable nutrients. In the way smells transport us through an ether of mirage-like memories and immediate desires. The way that tiny single-celled yeast plants inspire bread dough to heave and rise. The way that the sun’s rays are swallowed up by the glistening leaves, sweetened with the tree’s best intentions, and then squirted into the chambers of a pulsing orange. The effects of an orange on our tongue. The bodily mending made possible by its vitamins and its minerals. The inevitable smile on the face of any kid who eats it.

The greatest magic of all is that which is intentional, directed not just by the penchants of destiny and the attitudes of spirits but by our own intent, will, personal power and impeccable followthrough. We can make the preparation of our food a sacrament, casting a circle of unity, focus and protection around our kitchens. Honoring the four directions, Spirit or God by any name you know it. Honoring the plants and animals that gave their life, the eggs that surrendered their opportunity to become chickens, the trees that fruited, and the water and soil that brought them to fruition. Give thanks to the wood, electricity or gas that provides the heat. Treat your table and counters like altars, your knives like ritual items. Chant, sing or pray. Extend the meal not only your empathy but your joy.

A magic potion is that which enchants and charms, inducing a state of heightened perception, raising the sensation of smells and tastes to a fevered pitch. It dissolves the line between excruciating awakeness and sensuous sleep, daytime visions and nighttime dreams. They say it only takes one dusting from the Fairy Godmother’s silk lined box, or a splash of water from a sacred spring, or a drink from a blessed ram’s horn for the heart and senses to overcome the rigidity of the rational mind. When you make one of Loba’s or Kiva’s recipes, a connection with self, earth and anima is made. Taking a single conscious bite can be a revelation, with perception-bending revelations thundering in. In that instant a connection with the universe is made. Great things are suddenly possible, and yet there is nowhere one needs to go to do them. All that matters is right here.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin

(excerpted from The Enchanted Pantry, an Anima cookbook in progress)

(photo by J. W. Hardin)

Monsoons, Rainbows, & The Matter Of Entitlement & Respect

Friday, July 11th, 2008

rainbow-sky-sm.jpgToday we had one of the most intense monsoon showers yet, though not for long enough to raise the level of the river much. As always, the river’s swell is determined not by what falls here, but by what falls near the Rio Frisco’s upper headwaters. We welcome the afternoon rains in the name of the thirsty land, willing to dig out the run-off ditches surrounding the cabins and mix concrete to repair the water cache area, happy to get wet while driving in and out weekly in vehicles without doors. If there is any reticence, it is only because of the way August’s precipitation could make the trail into here impassable for some hoped-for visitors like Dr. Blue.

The canyon continues to resonate with the vibrations of the Shaman Path weekend, the way the cottonwood leaves quake in acknowledgment seemingly long after the thunder has passed. Today I stood below our work-study lodge and above the swiveling solar panel array, drawn away from even the most urgent work by a triple rainbow. It is rare, for one end of a rainbow to clearly extend down in front of the close by hills, and this was the first time we had ever seen a ‘bow touch the canyon bottom at both ends, shimmering between us and the ponderosa pines only a hundred and fifty yards to the southeast. Never for a moment do I take any visage here for granted, any lesson or gift, mundane process or most common tree or rock. And never do I feel entitled, with me working each day to be yet again cognizant and in service to its shelter and blessings, its informing and imploring. To the extent that we are both called and worthy of our calling, it is through our faithful staying and tending, the dropping of projections and onset of true listening, utilizing the intense perceptivity it affords, sharing the insights that come forth, and fulfilling its assignments.

I have, however, seen young Anglos acting as if they were entitled to be allowed at sacred Hopi and Taos Pueblo rites, tourists act entitled to remove petrified wood from protected areas, accolytes act entitled to call themselves healers or shamans without first having the experience, doing the work or paying the price. Among all the thousands of people who have made their way to the Animá Sanctuary and had their lives irrevocably intensified or changed, have also been a handful of people who acted entitled to the services we give selectively but freely, and entitled to a personal relationship with this canyon that superseded our presence and role.

rainbowgalspanels-sm.jpgMore typical is an attitude of humility, deference and respectfulness, with students and guests grateful to us and to every ally and supporter who has ever helped make this all possible, praising this place and its caretakers and organs of communication until we have to remind them of how much they, too, are a gift in turn to the the canyon and us. They do not expect or project, assume or presuppose, and often they have to be encouraged or provoked just to share their stories and express their needs. If they are teary eyed, it is often a reflection of the depth of their gratitude, perceiving all that is shown and shared as a gift not as something owed.

It is in that way that we try to step out of our cabins each and every day, barefoot not just for the sensual contact with the earth but also as a matter or respect the way the Japanese used to always take off their shoes before entering someone’s house or onto sacred grounds. While our heads are raised, it is not for wont of humility but rather, an honoring of life and land by noticing every detail and nuance of our surroundings with eager lifted faces. Most times we talk quietly, to better appreciate the songs of birds and river, and to be most alert for the approach of a threat, sweet possibility or oncoming change. After decades of struggling to pay for the Sanctuary, we now have title to the land, but that doesn’t mean we are entitled. Nothing we did or spent in the past pays for our future here. We earn our place, our home, our knowings, our abilities and visions through our continued honorable and focused efforts, through our devoted staying, listening, respecting and doing.

(photos copyright Kiva Rose and J. Wolf Hardin)

Independance Day

Friday, July 4th, 2008

bullsnakeart-sm.jpg(We’re in the middle of a satisfying Shaman Path weekend, and will report on it by the first of the week.  Meanwhile we thought you might enjoy a piece Wolf wrote about the 4th of July, being published in mainstream and even conservative papers)

————–

Today is a national holiday created to celebrate the unending struggle against conformity and control, dedicated to the principals of human liberty, regional autonomy and individual rights: Independence Day!  Not “Dependance Day,” mind you.  Nor “Obedience Day.”  The political spin doctors and Madison Avenue flag merchants may have done their best to turn it into a high dollar weekend and “boost to the economy,” a veritable paid advertisement for the status quo.  To others of us, it is a celebration of our right to say “no!”

This country was founded by revolutionaries, for goodness sake!  Believe it or not they were labeled “terrorists” by the privileged English monarchy, no doubt because those wild eyed visionaries packed an attitude that just wouldn’t quit.  Leading up the Revolutionary War they were effectively vandals and saboteurs, philosophical party-hearty hell raisers fighting what most of us today still consider to be “the good cause.”  With so much blood having been shed to win our rights including free speech, privacy and redress, the signers of the Constitution would likely be mortified to see their Bill of Rights gutted in the name of “increased security.”  And likely the last thing they would want to see hundreds of 4th of Julys later, would be rows of unquestioning and well behaved citizens all lined up in matching aluminum chairs, nodding their heads in unison while some scoundrel in a suit presents a passel of lies under patriotism’s guise.  Bear in mind that those beautiful fireworks displays we enjoy today were originally intended to symbolize the exploding shells of terrible battles, and to celebrate what it means for a people to risk their comforts, their profits, and even their very lives in order to defend precious personal liberties and do what needed to be done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for 4th of July parades.  In the past I’ve gotten a kick out of watching the marching bands, and the children waving from flower bedecked floats.  But why limit the parades to Main Street, U.S.A., when we have a point to make and something to say?  Why not reroute them instead, parading for individual responsibility, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, parading not down the street but through the halls of government!  I can see it now: underage activists and wilderness restorationists, fed up farmers and preschool teachers, irate mothers and economically depressed senior citizens, making the case that our land, freedoms and hopes have champions, that what we value most is in more danger from the freedom spouting, oppressive earth-razing dominant paradigm than any number of turbaned Jihadists.  Resistance to a wrong is not just for conservatives or militaristic males, it is the birthright and too often concealed attitude of women tired of oppression and militarism, of children insisting on having their own minds.  The rattlesnake was an early symbol of liberty and American resistance, but perhaps the bulls snake works even better.  The bull snake, after all, has no interest in biting anyone its not trying to make a meal of, seems to love a life of peace in the sun, and can even be picked up so long as we don’t try to hurt it.  It is, however, one of the only animals capable of taking on an aggressive rattlesnake, not only defeating but eating it.

“Learn to leave well enough alone,” I’ve heard many people say… but given what’s being done to ourselves and our planet, it might be better we stand up for what’s right each and every Independence Day.

Have a great holiday weekend–
-J. Wolf Hardin

 (bull snake photo by J. Wolf Hardin)