Archive for October, 2008

The Rewilding: Part 4 (of 6): Wild Culture

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

“Rewilding,” a term coined by Animá Center’s Jesse Wolf Hardin in 1976,  first saw print in in 1986 in the following serialized essay.  As a result, Wolf was assigned to write the Rewilding entry on page 1383, Vol. 2 of The Encyclopedia of Religion & Nature (Thoemmes Continuum, 2005).  Given the current economic and social conditions, this way of being and living is more crucial and urgent than ever.  I encourage you to forward this 5 part series to others, by clicking on the “Share This Post” button below.  Blessings.             -Kiva Rose

The Rewilding: Part 4 (of 6:

Wild Culture

By Jesse Wolf Hardin (www.animacenter.org)

wwg07-8-72dpism.jpg

“Ah! What avails the classic bent
And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?”
-Rudyard Kipling
“Culture, the acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world, and thus with the history of human spirit.”
-Mathew Arnold

We are impelled by a wild imperative that finds form and purpose both in our individual beings and in our natural associations, and one that can be evoked, manifest, shared and passed down through the medium of a rewilding culture.

The world “culture” comes from the Latin “Cultura,” meaning “to cultivate.”  Hence, it is the deliberate development and nourishment of human expression.  Far more than just being the administered accumulation of ideas and works, it is the milieu through with we express and extend our selves and our intentions, manifest group values and aesthetics.  Across most of the planet today we find evidence of an increasingly standardized paradigm, with the same polyester tee shirts appearing on the backs of indigenous Arctic fishermen as on New York City shoppers, matching shopping centers on nearly ever continent, and a generally accepted system of commercialism and escapism, resource depletion and disposable products, legislated behavior and intrusive militarism.  Sports icons, movie stars, a  beer drinking dog, politicians, rock stars and Mickey Mouse all work to increase the material consumption of everyone in civilization’s increasingly uniform technoculture.

In contrast, the wild cultures of the past were by nature and by design native, speaking to the needs of the natural human inseparable from place and home.  They were appropriately place-based, and their cultures are reflections of and servants to the character of the land and community of life they were a part of.  And they were tribal, with a social order that despite any inequities develops organically from within rather than being imposed from outside, meeting the needs and requirements of a shared set of values.  Their art and rituals tended to be celebrations of present time, the creative force, the delight of form and function, the pleasure of the purposeful, the bounty of the earth and the gifts they gave in return.

bug-berry-sm.jpgTo qualify as truly wild and healthy, associations today need to be based on common vision and interests instead of class, color or income, and contribute to our interaction with and caring for the rest of the planet.  They must be made up of self empowered individuals – guided or inspired by tribal elders functioning as repositories of wisdom and experience – yet answering first and foremost to themselves.  Unlike with anarchism as it is commonly defined, they do not seek either disorder or exemption from accountability but rather an honest, participatory, dynamic position within a natural, organically evolving order.  They recognize no static obligations per se, but honor their natural responsibilities to their bodies and spirits, needs, beliefs, families, alliances, community, future generations and the land.  They assume responsibility for both their actions and those ways that they choose not to act, manifest or intercede.

Wild society must by nature must be not only self perpetuating, but have sustainable qualities.  Thus wild economics is based not on endless growth but on the balance between human and non-human populations, between what we give to the earth and what we must take to meet our minimum physical requirements.  Wild economics are by nature locally based and regionally self sufficient, with foods grown nearby and few materials and even fewer finished goods imported from outside of one’s bioregion, thus eliminating colonization and destructive exploitation by better financed interests or techno-industrial global powers.  Taxes are minimal or nonexistent, service is rewarded, trade and barter are encouraged.  Investments are local, and credit personal rather than institutional.  Rewilding people are naturally social activists seeking betterment… but to the extent that they are still unable to change the system, they work to create a workable wild culture within but irrespective of the existing dominant order.

Given the pandemic spread of the modern global technoculture, what can we do to initiate the necessary rewilding?  Urban based folks can reclaim their creature independence from the political and social shell that encase them, minimizing their participation in and support of the systems of government, class and consumer fad.  Even law – the gun-muzzle of society, the glue holding disparate social entities together under a common political flag – is an imposition to be questioned and at times violated out of personal conscience.  Most regulations are designed to enforce someone else’s morality, ensure conformity, and systemize the incestuous relationship between exploitive economics and the agencies of control.  Of the literally hundreds of new state and federal laws passed each and every day, only a few address murders, rapes or theft, and even then they are a mechanism of punishment and not prevention.  The rewilded individual chooses to honor and protect rather than to rob or harm, not out of obedience to some law but in response to their personal sense of right and code of honor.

In the process of personal and cultural rewilding, it always helps to question authority, assess dogma, challenge habit, intuit need and circumstance, reconsider ways of interacting, and turn to nature for example and instruction in a more meaningful, healthful, giving and satisfying life.  To dismember assumption and get past our self doubt and fear.  To recall our needs, hopes and dreams, and then begin acting to realize, sate and fulfill them.  To turn off or sell the television and instead help create beautiful songs, inspiring plays and liberating dances.  To unplug the telephone and write more letters, books and poems.  To talk in person more, and increasingly only about the most real and relevant subjects, and to plumb and benefit from silent time.  To make planter boxes out of automobiles, then ride bikes and walk more.  To come to know the world up close rather than traveling to lots of places and only experiencing them superficially.  To become intimate with our home and place, and make the growing and preparation of food both art and prayer.  To find or create jobs that nourish our spirits, utilize our gifts, further our purpose.  To give the best of ourselves to a mission or service, act on our trustworthy instincts, and assist in the creation of a wilder, more genuine, vital, conscious and compassionate culture.  To personally help craft a masterpiece of deep integrity and sublime subtlety – regardless of prevailing constraints or certain costs – out of the native materials of our miraculous mortal lives.

As I write this, the pace of modern civilization’s dissolution is accelerating, with already overly powerful central governments taking over speculative financial institutions in the hope of stemming the system’s complete collapse.  The official response to natural corrections in the market and our shifting perception has been greater regulation, further disempowering the populous, stripping away self belief and limiting the impetus for change.  For this reason and more, the time to change how we interact with the world is now.  Never before in the history of humankind has there been a more urgent need for us to act literally outside of the box, re-envisioning, reinventing, regionalizing and rewilding our cultures as we reawaken, reposition and rewild ourselves.

(photos (c)2008 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)

Songs & Seasons: The Rooting

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

moreplant.jpgWith light frosts coming every few nights now, I’ve been gathering the last of the herbs from my little weedpatch. This time of year, I take special delight in the lingering aroma of Sage and Rosemary on my fingers as the sun warms the mesa in the otherwise cool afternoon. These warm aromas bring a comforting sweetness to the growing chill. The jeep trail that winds through the canyon is covered over in fallen leaves and the cottonwoods are beginning to look bare, though their remaining foliage still whispers to me as I walk by the river.

There’s a music to the river heard only now, in this ephemeral, blessed season. A quiet clarity that runs through every turn and twist of the water tumbling over rock, sand and earth. If I’m quiet enough while sitting on the bank, I can hear the primal melodies that run through this place. While the music is always present and ready to be heard, it seems to me that in Autumn, it is even more clear. Made louder, perhaps, by the absence of distraction. It’s haunting tones reverberating among the dry stalks of cocklebur and echoing off of the cliff faces. Even Rhiannon has been climbing the Alders to play her pennywhistle from up high, her own awkward yet beautiful music a reflection of the larger music of this place.

In retrospect, I think the subtleties of each turning season has taught me more this year than any other. I suspect this is due at least in part to the fact that I have now lived here longer than any other one place in my whole life. While moving all over the country was both fun and instructive on many accounts, it also kept me from the intimacy with the land I now cherish and thrive on. What would seem almost mundane for many who have lived in one spot for the majority of their years, is a special kind of magic for me. The scars on the bark of beloved trees call me to certain corners of the woods, and baby shrubs I’ve been nourishing for the last few years mark time for my own growth.

Now that I have it, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I love my roots, and the wisdom that comes with them – I love seeing the same plants unfurl from the same warm earth each spring and then watching them fade back into that same dirt come winter. I understand now how much I missed in the whirlwind of my previous migrations, and how little of the song of each place I really heard. Even when I listened most attentively, I realize that I only heard fragments of the whole in places where I visited but never settled.

Certainly, I’ve only begun to hear and feel and see the spirit and song of the canyon, but the depth and wonder of my connection is as I’ve never had before. Like a well-matched marriage, it grows fuller and sweeter with each passing moment, month, season and decade. I mark my life by before and after coming to the canyon, before and after my roots began to sink into this riverbed. Before and after I found the me that existed only here, in the place that has always been calling to me as home.

~Kiva

Mud Slips & River Whims – Post Flood Ecology

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

cliffpatterns2sm.jpgMud Slips & River Whims – Post Flood Ecology

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

(www.animacenter.org)

The canyon and most of the Southwest was hit by a short but particularly violent storm last weekend (October 11th and 12th, 2008).   The ground was lashed by a tumult of rain and sleet, moisture spun off by a tropical storm that had hit the gulf coast of the United States earlier.  Usually the ground soaks up a substantial amount of rainfall, before it becomes so soaked that it can take more and the water races down well worn gullies to the so far insatiable river.  It is rare in my experience for the ground to be essentially dry at the onset of a storm, yet have so many inches of rain fall that it immediately begins running off across the whole of every surface.  One result in what we call sheet erosion, stripping away an inordinate amount of soil.  Not only the sandy composite, which is always the first to go, but also banks of clay that are pulled down the hill and deposited in thick layers at the canyon bottom.  The river both swelled and then shrunk again quickly, darkening not to the more typical reddish brown but to the slick gray sheen of a potter’s clay slip.

Whenever the river overflows its banks, things change.  Some are partly predictable, like the way fallen trees or rock outcroppings result in curving meanders, or that a flash event carves steep vertical cuts in the banks in the places where we depend on our jeep to cross.  Just as often there are surprises, such as one flood scooping out a 15′ deep hole that we do high dives into from 20′ up the cliffs, then another flood 3 months later turning the same bend into a sandy beach ready for a family picnic.  The flood last Spring deposited so much sand that we were surprised the plantlife could grow back so vigorously this Summer, but this most recent surge left us with large amounts of the ultra slick clay instead – the same material that the ancient Mogollon peoples used to make the bowl whose pieces we still find scattered on the ground.  And not even the mud has been consistent.  The area by the first crossing where we park our road car is usually impassable without four wheel drive after a good storm, but within two days was uncharacteristically dry.  The 7th crossing coming in still features a 2′ deep mud bog on one side after a full week of sunshine.  Oddly enough though, the crossing itself changed from loose sand that was hard to drive through, to being rocky and firm, and the far bank that was a steep wall of fine loose sand is now a gentle and easy slope.

Van, who own ands manages half of our 80 acre inholding, has made a study of stream and river morphology and dynamics, and a business of their restoration and repair.  Two or more times a year he arrganges for groups of volunteers from the Sky Island Alliance to gather here and do work on the Sanctuary.  He will be pleased to know that the berms they built this Summer on the trail in did a great job of diverting runnoff into forested areas that could capture the soil, and their rock berms also held more water long enough for it to penetrate into the ground where it is needed by the new growth’s thirsty roots.  A thank you goes out to everyone who has ever helped with the restoration work here, from us and every life form better able to thrive because of these efforts.

These periodic high water events point to the value of our understanding and actions down here.  They also remind us of the folly of imagining we can ever fully comprehend and predict a river’s course… remind us of the ultimately fortunate impossibility of ever controlling the wild nature that determines its roar and trickle, ebb and flow.

(To volunteer here, write us.  Please consider offering your time to Sky Island as well, by going to: http://www.skyislandalliance.org/volunteer.htm    ….and feel free to send this article to others)

Acorn Recipes – by Loba

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

green-acorn.jpgLoba’s Canyon Acorn Recipes

It’s amazing how fast it happens– how the acorns grow and ripen, and fall in the canyon every time the wind blows, raining down on us as we gather. We become like squirrels, or bears, or more like the primal humans we once were.  For once upon a time, our kind watched the trees carefully and made use of the season’s gifts. Our hands moved instinctively, quickly through the fallen leaves, finding the choicest nuts, as they do now, at this special time of abundance. Harvesting and cooking with acorns makes me feel connected, in my body, and makes my spirit sing. It feels almost like sitting up around a fire, watching the stars move across the sky, breathing smoke. It’s food for the deepest reaches of my soul. And that’s even before getting to eat them!

On Harvesting and Processing Acorns:
Get to know your oak trees, and try the acorns from all the different species that you’re able to harvest from, as some will be far sweeter than others. After you’ve harvested your acorns, try roasting some in a 300 degree oven till the nut becomes light to medium brown and is still slightly soft, and taste.  If they taste good, the nuts can be used just like regular nuts in any recipe if you use them right away. For longer storage, roast them a little longer, till they get hard and dark brown, and grind them to use in any recipe that has ground nuts. You can store ROASTED acorns in their shells for a long period of time if you put them in plastic jugs with a bunch of holes poked into the top of the containers. This will keep them from getting moldy.  If they taste unpleasantly astringent or bitter, boil them for two hours, “changing the water every time it becomes tea-colored” (from Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus). If you decide to boil them, roast them AFTER they’re boiled, then grind.  The traditional way to “leach” acorns (processing out the astringency) was to put them in a cloth sack in a river and leave them there for a day or so with a weight on the sack.  So if you have a river handy, you might want to try that! To grind them into meal, use a coffee or a grain grinder, or a metate! I haven’t tried a food processor, that might work too.
I like to use acorns in any bread recipe where its flavor will stand out. It works very well with cornmeal, in cornbread or tortillas. I love to mix it with wheat, barley, or spelt flour in breads and muffins, cakes and cookies. I also like to put it in stews and soups, like onion soup, and in any creamy chowder. But I have to confess, at least a third of our yearly acorn supply goes to making chocolatey acorn things! We chop up fresh roasted (still half-way soft) acorns and roll fudge brownies in them, we put them in homemade chocolate truffles, and we make this heavenly little cake, most of all!
acorns.jpgChocolate Acorn Cake

1 cup mashed bananas, or applesauce
2 eggs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup acorn meal
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine all the wet ingredients with a whisk or a fork. Sift together all the dry ingredients except the acorn meal. Stir everything together, them add the acorn meal and stir. Pour into a greased 8” cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Start checking it at about 20 minutes to see how it’s doing. Remove from the oven when the middle of the cake has just begun to firm up, but is a little less than solid. Try not to overcook it. If you do, douse it with a little Kahlua, or top it with the following ganache, and all will be well.

Acorn Ganache

This is so fantastic, with the preceeding cake, or on any regular chocolate cake or banana cake. It’s also very delicious on its own, or served with fresh pears, coconut, or baked apples, fresh dates, or what have you. Feel free to play with it and make your own variations!

6 tablespoons acorn meal
3-4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons pure cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup water

Stir all ingredients together in a small pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until well thickened. Be careful not to burn it! Enjoy!
You can share these recipes with friends, by clicking on the button below.

Love, Loba
(photos (c) 2008 by Kiva Rose Hardin)

The Rewilding: Part 3 (of 6): Wild Body

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The term “rewilding” has been used by diverse writers and even appropriated by a wildlife conservation organization, but was coined by Animá Center’s own Jesse Wolf Hardin in 1976, and first saw print in in 1986 in the following serialized essay.  As a result, Wolf was assigned to write the Rewilding entry on page 1383, Vol. 2 of The Encyclopedia of Religion & Nature (Thoemmes Continuum, 2005).  I encourage you to forward this 5 part series to others, by clicking on the “Share This Post” button below.  Blessings.             -Kiva Rose

The Rewilding: Part 3 (of 6):

Wild Self, Wild Mind

By Jesse Wolf Hardin (www.animacenter.org)

rhiannoninbeaverpond2-sm.jpg“Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts.”
-D. H. Lawrence

The rift between ourselves and our true natures – and between the natural world and human kind – is paralleled by and fed by the cultivated disconnect between thought and feeling, logic and intuition, reason and instinct.  All too often the mind is imagined to be an entity separate from the body that hosts it, a conscious soul piloting an imperfect vehicle of breakable bones and needy flesh.  To the contrary, wild mind – natural mind – is housed not only the gray matter we call the brain but also throughout our entire beings, shared through a network of nerves and translated through the actions of hormones and enzymes, together constituting a literal body of knowledge.

That body, too, is a wild thing – an animal true to its creature nature irrespective of thought and judgment.  It makes “sense” of the world not though its intellectual analytical abilities so much as through a collection animal senses that defy restraint, intimately and unhesitatingly interacting with the rest of the greater earthen body.  It is perhaps that animalism that we have long feared most, a reminder of eventual mortal ends and a surplus of not always welcomed passions.  How often have we heard expressions like “He’s such an animal” when either criticizing or lauding a man’s demeanor in bed.  “She eats like an animal,” a particularly catty friend might say, and news reporters speak of people having been “reduced to little more than animals.”  I’ll never forget when I was a little boy and had just discovered that I too was an animal, a mammal, a fellow creature formed in part by a wild and magic process called evolution.  I ran up to a girl I knew, anxious to share the news.  “I’m no animal!,” she shot back while walking away, “but you might be!”

As adults we may argue that the power of self reflection and deductive thought makes us somehow more sentient, conscious or ordained than the other lifeforms.  Civilized human kind tends to conceive of itself as exempted and removed, the religious  as either God’s mirror image appointed to manage chaotic nature, or as a species evolved into a higher form and largely elevated above the earthen condition, its problematic cravings, messy body fluids and even the course of aging, removed if not immune from the clinging soil and impenetrable dark, from the microscopic and unseen, the fermentive compost forever welcoming us back to the depths of its heat.  Many feel not only annoyed but betrayed by the occasional escape of gas and monthly flow of menstrual blood, the untimely erection, hair sprouting in “undesirable” places, the wrinkles that record a person’s laughter and tears, and that make clear the preciousness of those numbered hours between each birth and demise.

The five senses, together with so-called extrasensory perception, form the pathways of connection and communication between the narrowly defined self and the rest of the world.  We are linked to that which we touch, held by that which surrounds us.  We come to know a “thing” through its smell, taste, and appearance, not through the non-sense of extrapolation.  And the world knows us the same way.  A garden responds to song.  A tree sends out warnings through it roots at the first bite of our intemperate chain-saws.  Moving through this canyon my presence is communicated in waves of recognition passing from boisterous blue jays to ground squirrel to deer like an alerting wind blowing through the boughs of pine trees.

bonelace1-sm.jpgThe domesticated (or civilized) body is almost by definition deadened, distracted from elemental engagement and consequence, perception limited by conditioning, instincts untrusted, the physical senses dulled, isolated not only from the systems and cycles of nature but its own essential, intrinsic processes as well.  Many of the human diseases not directly caused by industrial poisoning are the result of our disassociation from the cycles, needs and warnings communicated by our own bodies.  These ailments are to a degree the product of our dis-ease – our lack of ease – our discomfort with our corporeal beings.  A perfect example are those who focus on their promised afterlife to the neglect of lived experience and personal responsibility, while at the same time spending fortunes on the latest medical technology in an effort to postpone the very death required to take them there.

And there is what we might recognize as being a truly terrifying price:  By persistently looking away from bodily suffering and death, we miss out on the depth and breadth of life.  By going out of our way to miss danger, we lose out on opportunities for challenge and growth.  Insulating ourselves from the sensation of pain, our patterns and padding limit the degree we can experience pleasure.  In learning to block out the noise of sirens and traffic, we are less likely to notice the subtle twitters of birds, savor the music of the rain, or be alarmed in time by the sound of an overhead branch as it snaps or the telltale scream of a vehicle’s brakes.  Training ourselves to ignore the ill odor of asphalt and rotting garbage of alleyways, we progressively lose our ability to discern the scent of wildflowers growing next to the sidewalk or to discern the distinctive aroma of our lover from afar.  Eyes averted from the fight down the street, the wino in the gutter, the blackened smokestacks and glaring chrome of commerce or the eyes of passing strangers, likely miss the graceful swoop of the urban pigeon, the details of an important encounter and the intricacies of turbulence on the surface of a child’s swimming pool.  Physical and perceptual barriers erected for our comfort and protection can easily block sight of the interactive and message filled world, and of our unfulfilled animal as well as human potentials.

lobainwaterfall2sm.jpgThe crucial awakening and rewilding of our bodies begins the engaging of every aspect and element of life, every second of experience, with every one of our atrophied senses.  In this way, even the most unwelcome of pain can increase our ability and tendency to feel, deepen and expand the range of experience, lengthen and intensify our moments of ecstasy.  Uncivilized and rewilded beings exist by nature and necessity in a hyper-state of sensate awareness and bliss punctuated by experiences of suffering.  The wild body is as much as anything else an ecstatic organ, an organ and agent of bliss.  The practice of its reinhabitation involves re-familiarizing ourselves with the feel and function of our flesh.

Wild body is sensate and sensuous body.  The senses take us into ourselves, even as they reach out and thereby enlarge us.  And to that end, I suggest that you practice feeling the blood even now pushing its way through your veins, the way different foods effect your energy and focus, what postures cause you to tighten up and which increase your range of movement.  That you enter the nearest wild places whether park or yard in order to pleasurably open the senses, and so as to make them less likely to close down upon your return to the habits of city and schedule.  That you interpret the world without internal comment whenever possible, reading the nuances of everything around you, tasting reality with the tongue, the ears, the nose.  When using your hands, be sure to register the sensations of everything you touch from the weave of your furniture coverings and clothes to the incrementally warmer keys of a computer keyboard in use.  Use them to explore the cryptic patterns of tree bark, and to learn the desires of your dog or cat.  Rub one hand with the other.  Touch yourself, squeeze a sore shoulder or lightly scratch a seldom tended spot.  Accept that it is okay to make yourself feel good, and you’ll find it easier to do the same really well for others.  Then focus on contacting the world through your skin without using your hands, by touching the bed, the wall or the grass outside with the seldom engaged small of your back, your elbow, your bottom, your toes or forehead.  Alternately stroke, pat and stroke your face with varied materials and textures such as a feather, loofah, wind polished bone, damp lettuce and rough piece of wood, noticing not only the signature feel of each but also the variety of sensations depending on the the varied motion and tempo you impart.  When going about your regular daily affairs, avoid sliding into rote behavior with shut-down senses, avoid ignoring the way the chair cradles you back, the way the air dries the sweat on your neck and the messages of hormonal pheromones released by others in your presence.

Wild body is instinctual body.  With our detachment from our instincts humanity became easy prey.  Not for hounding beasts, but for the predatory artifice emblematic of much of modern society.  Intuition and instinct are the will and wisdom of both the personal and planetary bodies, bodily stored memories of when to run or fight, what places to cleave to and which to avoid, what kind of people to beware of and which to open to in the loving of night.

And yes, wild body is sexual body.  Whether straight or gay, bi or other, androgynous or celibate, male or female, young or old, the body is influenced and empowered by sexual predisposition, characteristics and drives.  Natural sexuality can help us experience oneness with all elements of our selves, with our partners and the seamless universe surrounding us.  But even when alone, the urges of the wild body call to us for attention.  We walk about charged with the energy of our sexuality, the dynamic force of the universe itself, of life endlessly seeking and growing towards completion, of the rest and relaxation of dissolution as well as the creative excitement of re-formation.  Endlessly moving, cycling, spiraling.  Upping the ante and the amperage.  Women can take their temperatures regularly to help them anticipate and feel the actual dropping of the egg, and become intimate with the fluctuations in the shape and degree of their desires.  Men can tune in to the rise in testosterone in their bloodstream, and revel in the jump and plunge of their mammalian urge for union.

Our animal sexuality is but one venue for passion, with passion the fuel of both art and evolution.  An ally of immediacy, it takes us from objectification to the full experience of present time, place and context, responding directly to fete or foe, task or poem.  The wild body runs on the pulse of passion – the urge and obcession to wholly experience miraculous, finite life.


(photos (c)2008 by Jesse Wolf Hardin)

The Dance of My Days

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

juniper.jpgIt rained all through last night, and I woke to see misty wraiths drifting down the river to catch at the cliffs, enshrouding the mountains. This afternoon the junipers glitter with raindrops and the ground is soft — the whole forest fragrant with the gift of the storm. It’s an amazing thing to wander through the newly dampened woods and breathe in the magic inherent there, with the flowers sparkling and bowed to the ground from the weight of the water.

The season is speaking to us of a slower pace — and busy though we are — we try to honor that by going to bed earlier, taking time to listen to the cricket song and savoring the last sweet tastes of the wild greens. At the same time, we feel an urgency to collect the very last of the acorn harvest, get enough firewood cut for the winter and make sure the cabins are in good shape and weatherproof. Last but not least, I’ve been seeing to the putting up of our most important winter remedies such as Elderberry Elixir, Goldenrod Oil, Peach leaf tea and a few batches of my favorite warming salve.

Contrary to popular thought, New Mexico can get pretty chilly come winter. At 6,000 feet in elevation, the pines bend in the cold wind and even the deepest water barrels freeze nearly to the bottom. While we rarely get much in the way of snowcover, the brief blankets of glittering flakes are an exciting event for every one of us. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to the last few warm, or even hot, days left to us this Fall.

We’ve recently been blessed by the presence of many exceptional guests, especially our amazing apprentice Resolute. Her steady growth and vulnerable delight are an inspiration for us all! I was especially excited to get to spend some special time with her this time around. Another highlight of the recent month has been all of the fun Loba and I have been having with the processing and preserving of peaches and apples. Rhiannon and I sat and chopped and pitted many many pounds of fresh, juicy peaches between the two of us, often stopping for a nibble here and a bite there. In the pantry there’s spiced peach skin wine brewing and there’s a couple dozen little jars of delicious peach olive chutney as well.

Raised in a conservative household, I was at one point in my life very determined to stay as far away from a kitchen as possible in order to avoid being stuck “barefoot and pregnant” over a hot stove for the rest of my life. Aprons seemed like the very uniform of female bondage to me and I was glad that my varying occupations left me little time to cook. These days though, there’s nothing I enjoy more than stirring a giant pot of rabbit stew or creating a new flax meal recipe. I’ve learned to take joy in the sensory lushness of the cooking process and long ago (or at least a couple years ago) dropped my attachment to defying all so-called “women’s” activities. I can even wear my pretty rose and lavender apron these days, and not think twice about the cultural implication of enjoying it. I’ve managed to learn to be me instead of constantly insisting upon bucking every convention just for the sake of being different. Food and herbs now mingle into a single medicine in my mind, and some of the most important healing I’ve ever experienced has come directly from from simple sustenance and the magic that real nourishment brings.

As I’ve grown into myself over the years since I first came to the canyon, I realize how healing the simplest, most mundane acts of daily life are and how deeply sustained I am by these primal rituals. In the hand ground acorn meal, the soft cotton of my skirts or even the sweet sound of Rhiannon’s whistling from the river – each of these small things makes up the fabric of my days, and the most precious of the memories I hold in my heart.

Each day is a story, another chance for healing and a bit of ancient magic. Spirit isn’t something separate we experience just at church or in yoga class — it’s in the everyday, in the movements and matter that stitch each moment to the next, crafting the spiral of our lives. It’s the rhythm and movement of the music of the earth erupting through Autumn’s last flowers, inherent in the changing current of the rising river and woven into the whispers of the wind that picks up just before dawn. In our bodies, in dirt and food and dance we find the mystery that is the anima flowing through us all.

~Kiva

salad.jpg