Archive for July, 2010

Grape Leaf Suppers – by Loba

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Grape Leaf Suppers

by Loba

To walk the canyon in early Summer is to saunter through waves of the most beguiling scent I’ve ever known– the grape vines are flowering! It comes at me from a distance, just a hint of sweetness, then it grows and grows until it I am completely drunk on grapeflower. I lean against the rocks under their vines, surrendering moment upon moment… forgetting all the things I have to do, and deciding that picking grape leaves for supper is at least as important as any of them. Now the grape flowers have become fruits– the little grapes are swelling with the wonderfully welcome monsoon rains! And the grape leaves are still perfect for picking.

There’s not many foods that don’t take kindly to being wrapped about in a grape leaf. It’s refreshing to realize that we don’t need bread products to have the fun experience of piling complementary foods together and eating them with our hands, as in a sandwich, or a burrito. The extra fun of stuffing your own grape leaves is that every single leaf can be filled differently! Their tartness perfectly complements rich meat dishes or simply grilled steak or chicken, baked yams, hummus and other bean dishes, creamy nettle dip, even simply steamed or sauteed vegetables, especially mixed with any of the above. They’re also wonderful wrapped around certain fresh vegetables, especially fresh red peppers, with a bit of cheese and/or an olive and a bit of pesto. One of my favorite ways to serve supper this time of year is to arrange a beautiful, large platter of different foods, sometimes all of them cold, if it is a very hot day. I go through the pantry and coolers and find whatever scrumptious little treats and leftovers might be hiding in there, and slice up some fresh things, and decorate the whole creation with little piles of fresh grape leaves. Their bright green is so beautiful with all the other colors, it’s enough to make me hungry even when it’s almost too hot to think about eating! It’s beyond fun to take each leaf and fill it with any assortment of mouth-watering yummies! Don’t forget to admire each one before you eat them! We also have a lot of fun informing each other of particularly good bites. Suppertime conversation often goes like this, “Oh, I just had the best thing! It was a bit of yam, with some goat cheese, preserved lemon and some olive paste, and a bit of that elk!” “Oh, I have to try it!” “Did you try the roasted garlic with the chard and some eggplant yet?” “Yeah, it’s even better if you put a little hummus in there.”

If you don’t have lots of lovely little treats hiding in your pantry this time of year, you can go to the natural foods deli and get some olives and smoked meats, and marinated things, and delicious cheeses. But here are also some very easy dishes or condiments for you to consider having around for a inspiring summertime grape leaf feast! Some of them do require using an oven, which I suggest either doing in the morning if you have cool mornings where you are, or using a solar oven, which I am most likely to do whenever it’s not cloudy. I also tend to cook any sauteed dishes in the morning, whenever I can make the time.

Roasted Garlic
Gingered Eggplant Relish
Wild herb (or basil) Pesto (see recipe in a previous blog)
Baked Tofu
Delphi Chicken
Elk with Grape leaves
Simple Sauteed Kale with Lemony Leeks
Fresh Corn and Nettle Saute

Roasted Garlic

What a delight it is, to squeeze tender roasted garlic cloves from their papery shells and add this magic substance to just about any meat or vegetable or bread-like treat. If you use a homemade chicken broth with plenty of fat to roast it in, you won’t need to add any olive oil to the pan. But it will come out delicious either way you choose to make it, as long as it has just enough time in the oven.

To Roast Garlic in an Oven:

Several heads of Garlic (4-6, depending on size)
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or rosemary oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch or two of thyme

Place the whole garlic heads in an 8 inch pan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan, and swish the pan around a bit to mix things around. Place in about a 350 degree oven for about 60-90 minutes, or until the garlic cloves have darkened and shrunk a bit, and are quite soft when you squeeze or poke at them.

coming soon– how to roast garlic in an open fire!

Baked Tamari Tofu

You can buy good packaged baked tofu at any whole foods store, but it’s much more fun to make your own.  This home baked tofu is so irresistible that I have a hard time not devouring the entire batch as it first comes out of the oven.  If I hope to share any with Kiva and Rhiannon, I make sure to double the quantities.

(serves 2)

8 oz. package raw tofu, firm or extra firm
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger, minced
4 or more cloves garlic, minced

Slice the tofu into 1/2” pieces.  Put the tamari, ginger and garlic in a wide shallow bowl, or a loaf pan, letting it soak for at least a half an hour, turning once.  Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Remove the tofu from the marinade and arrange the slices on a greased pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes, watching carefully and rotating the pan if needed.  The slices will shrink and firm up considerably, but should still be moist inside.  Enjoy straight from the oven, as a garnish on soup, pasta, or rice, or as party to my Udon Noodles With Tofu and Peanut Sauce (see p. ?).

Gingered Eggplant Relish

This one’s great so many ways, with chicken or fish, in burritos, on polenta, in sandwiches, mixed into scrambled eggs and on and on!  I’ve made many variations on this theme, but the onion, ginger and garlic are always a constant.  I suggest that you try it without the dill and coriander before you try it with…. it’s so good both ways!  I love eggplant so much, it’s always on my list when someone offers to bring me treats from the city.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
1 medium eggplant
1 large onion
6 medium-large cloves garlic
2-4 tablespoons minced grated fresh ginger (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1 tsp dried dill (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the onion into small pieces and cook with the grated minced ginger, in a skillet until halfway tender in the olive oil.  Chop the eggplant while the onion is cooking, in chunks a little bigger than the onion pieces.  Add the eggplant, and stir as often as you can while you are mincing the garlic.  Add the garlic, and the dill and coriander if you like, and stir frequently until everything is tender but not mushy.  Do you have any homemade sesame crackers around?  I hope so!  If not, you’d better try it immediately on some good bread!

Delphi Grilled Chicken

What evokes summertime more than lemony grilled chicken, redolent with fresh herbs?  With fresh corn-on-the-cob and a big Greek salad, this is the perfect meal for clan get-togethers on those sultry Summer evenings.  I like to put on some extra sticks of juniper on the campfire where we grilled, to delight the kids and light up the faces of our friends.
We prefer dark meat, as it’s more flavorful and juicy, so we often buy packages of nothing but thighs.  If not, we purchase a whole chicken that I cut up into quarters. The chicken soaks in the marinade overnight, which is also used to baste the bird during cooking.  Served as is and hot, or mixed with some plain yogurt or sour cream, it makes a scrumptious sauce!

1 whole chicken, or 6 thighs, rinsed in cold water

Lemon Rosemary-Thyme Marinade:

Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, warmed (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, (or 1 tsp. dried, ground in a mortar)
6-10 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix up the marinade in a nonmetal bowl large enough for the chicken to fit comfortably. Combine all ingredients with a whisk or a fork, put the washed chicken in the bowl and bathe it with your hands in the marinade. Cover the bowl with a plate and put in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, turning at least once.  Remove chicken from marinade and grill 4-6 inches above medium coals, turning as needed, for 30-40 minutes or until the juices run clear when a knife is poked in close to the bone.  Careful not to overcook it!
Marinade Variations:

•Spicy Caribbean Marinade
Omit rosemary, increase honey to 4 tablespoons, add 2 jalepenos, seeded and minced finely, plus 1/4 teaspoon each of ground allspice and nutmeg.

•Mexican Marinade
Substitute the juice of half an orange and one lime for the lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for the herbs.  Add 2 teaspoons ground chile powder and 1 teaspoon cumin.

•Sesame Ginger Marinade

Instead of the herbs, substitute 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger and add 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil.  Add up to a teaspoon of cayenne if you happen to like it spicy.

Elk and Grape Leaf Stew

Mediterranean flavors complement stewed elk meat in this earthy, hearty dish. I like to serve this with a salad or a simple dish of sauteed greens or green beans. It’s also lovely on corn tortillas or any flatbread, with scrambled eggs, or even as a simple snack, served cold with some fresh grape leaves or other greens suitable for stuffing. Try it with some Red Chile or Paprika Sauce and homemade piima cream for an extra special treat! And do be sure to try it with the fresh mint or pickled mint garnish– it’s sooo good! If you can’t get elk meat, both buffalo and lamb would be worthy substitutes.

1 lb. elk stew meat (or 2 pint jars Home Canned Elk)
1 onion, diced, sauteed in 1-2 tablespoons butter till golden
3 cloves garlic, minced, sauteed with the onion
1 1/2 cups chopped grape leaves, fresh or preserved
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika or Aleppo pepper
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet
1/3 cup Homemade Olive Paste, or chopped kalamata olives
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, or 1/4 cup chopped pickled mint leaves

Pickled Mint:

Simply pour apple cider vinegar over whatever amount of fresh mint you can get into a jar. Be sure to cover the mint completely. Ready to serve after 1-2 days.

If starting out with fresh elk meat, cut into small pieces, heat a skillet to medium-high and brown in a tablespoon or two of butter. Place in a medium sized pot, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender, usually about two hours.
If starting out with Home Canned Elk, simply empty the contents of 2 pint jars elk meat and broth into a medium sized pot. Add the rest of the ingredients except the mint, and simmer until the grape leaves are tender. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the grape leaves, usually somewhere between 20-45 minutes. Garnish with the chopped mint leaves before serving.

-Love, Loba

(Excerpted from Loba’s upcoming cookbook — Share freely so long as credited)

Solar Electricity – Viable Now, Potentially Crucial Later – Parts 1 and 2

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

SOLAR ELECTRICITY:
Viable Now, Potentially Crucial Later

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.AnimaCenter.org

Solar electricity is more affordable and practical then ever these days, powering remote rural homesteads like the Anima Sanctuary, enabling urban dwellers to actually sell wattage back to the power companies, and helping prepare us for the time or times when there may very well be no functioning grid or other national power source.

I never tire of the dance of the first morning’s rays across the welcoming features of this canyon sanctuary, lighting first the tops of its pine stalwarts and orange and purple cliffs, then frosting in sequence the leading edges of glinting stone, and igniting one after the other its brilliant seasonal flowers.  For awhile, the deep river canyon bottom is as a long bowl carved out of ruddy metamorphic rock and ghost white cottonwood trunks, holding like some dark soup the last of the night until it, too, is drained of all opacity, giving way not to emptiness but to clarity.

The canyon’s seeming pleasure, is mine as well, and we seem to share a common covenant.  In my heart is a morning song not unlike the birds’.  I arrange my body so as to soak up the comforting first rays, while somewhere in the canyon a black bear is doing the same, initially stretching out to warm its back, then rolling over like an overgrown puppy to make available its characteristic belly.  As the moth-pollinated Datura blossoms begin to close for the day, I join in the motions of the wild Beeweed and medicinal Mallow, with the many hundreds of other native and often rare plant species here that lean and tilt, rise and swoop, tracing the arc our days in our favoring of the sun.

The sun is, for most of us, a joyous thing.  As often as I hope for the wild storms that quench these mountains’ thirst, it is not the covering of the sun that gladdens my heart but its certain reemergence.  Nor does it take a sufferer of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” to deeply, bodily sense its many benefits.  And of late we are seeing new scientific data suggesting the importance of sun-provided Vitamin D in preventing an ever larger list of common modern ailments.  The sun provides not only warmth without which this planet would be iced over and lifeless, but also the immense usable energy that life itself depends and draws upon.  Since oh so long before there were cleverly engineered solar electric panels, made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon and running the laptops of spoiled backwoods scribes like me, there were already innumerable species of plants from simple algae to complex conifers harvesting the sun’s bountiful wattage through a still not fully understood chemical process called photosynthesis.  Without these oxygen producing plants, the planet would lack the exact atmospheric mix that animal life including human depends upon.  The sunshine that these plants feast upon comes to us courtesy of a fortuitous, natural nuclear reactor an approximate but nonetheless crucial 93 million miles away… much further away, and it would be too cold on Earth for most or all life forms to survive, while a great deal closer and we as well as the green beings we partner with would most certainly be burned alive.

What is especially amazing to remember is that – unlike the coal fired power-plants that are the primary and most affordable source of electricity in the United States – there is only moderate pollution associated with the production and eventual disposal of solar panels, and none with their use.  And unlike the otherwise practical nuclear reactors that have been built, there is no tradeoff with either long lasting hazardous wastes or possible disastrous meltdowns.  It is, in fact, an undeniably sustainable power source, at least until the star’s projected Red Giant phase some 5 billion years hence.

The estimated 15 terawatts of total electrical use by people at this time, is only 1/6000th as much as the approximately 89 petawatts of sunlight bathing the Earth’s surface.  This isn’t to say that solar or other so called alternative energy technologies are anywhere near currently able to meet the immense and ever increasing electrical consumption of technologized Americans.  They can, however, be immediately put to use by the urban home or apartment complex owner to offset the rising cost of grid supplied power, or in some areas to harvest enough electricity to sell it back to the very companies we’ve been indebted to.  The initial cost of a grid-tie system is slowly made back in this way, while the absence of electric company bills makes remote or stand-alone systems seem more affordable.  Solar equipment is more affordable than ever, dropping from in its early per watt cost as production and sales have increased.  And of late, both State and Federal tax incentives and rebate programs have brought the prices down even further.

When the power in the nearby town of Reserve goes out as a result of heavy snow or a lightning strike, we never know it until we drive in for groceries and see the gas stations closed, un-fueled cars parked alongside the only road, and the lone grocery store running a loud gasoline dependent generator to keep the meat in their freezers froze.  Through it all we continue to make use of our modest but unhampered power supply, submitting our articles to magazines via a solar powered satellite internet connection, lighting our evenings with the soft but adequate glow of low-draw LED bulbs, to the odd world music emanating from the 12 volt stereo speakers.  So would it still be if we had no money to pay a provider, or in the event of a terrorist attack on the power stations, or if civilization itself were to collapse as a result of the manipulations of unscrupulous banking elites, all out war or the assistance of unforeseen natural disasters.  While not immune to the effects, we would still have the possibility of recording our impressions and insights on the illuminated screens of Apples for at least for the life of our deep cycle batteries, and to what could prove to be an oddly affirming Gothic-Americana ballad.

Increased self reliance is available to almost everybody, and in the case of a family’s electrical usage, it can purchased for the cost of a solar system.

———————–

Part 2:
Empowering Anima – Experiences With a Remote Solar Electric System

Outfitting what has become Anima School and Botanical/Wildlife Sanctuary with a functioning solar electric was never in question, even if it’s been an incredibly slow process.  Being situated seven river crossings from the nearest power pole, the only option would have been a gas or propane powered generator, and I loathe the tedious industrial noise of such engines even more than than the hassle and smell of regularly refilling fuel tanks.  Plus we being in the mountainous Southwest, we are blessed with more daily solar gain than the majority of the country, really only losing half a day average during the late Summer monsoon season, and seldom more than three consecutive cloudy days throughout the Winters.

I was a 26 year old man when I moved here, having sold the engine out of my hippie/biker/artist school bus home for the earnest money to start the purchase of this land.  That bus, minus its engine and axles, had only a single deep cycle battery for power.  I allegedly earned the respect of most of my county’s few residents by carrying the 40 pound power storage on my young back for the 20 mile round trip sojourns to buy food and get the local gas station to put it on fast charge.  While I enjoyed the recognition such feats provided, I was nonetheless extremely grateful for the gift of my first solar panel.  Forget that it provided no more than 30 watts at 12 volts DC, requiring several hours of sunshine for every hour of playing my Credence Clearwater Revival cassette tapes.  And never mind that I always suspected my Luddite friend with the felonious tendencies might have “liberated” it from a highway billboard, one no doubt selected because of its shameless glorification of Chinese-stocked super stores or investment firm propaganda.   It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep a small incandescent bulb going inside of a disassembled automotive tail light, dimly illuminating the paper I was hand writing pieces of my first novel on, an unimposing glow nearly imperceptible from outside.

Over the course of the next two decades I traded my artwork for additional panels of varying size and output, then added a few more with the help of one of Anima School’s first financial Sponsors.  My initial solar education came one mistake at a time, as I miswired, bought incompatible elements, and depended on aged batteries intended as trolling motors on small bass boats, but somehow I managed to not only wire our cabins but keep enough electricity stored for the growing needs of computers and peripherals.

Households investing in solar usually have the daunting task of designing and installing a system that can handle the lion’s share of their exorbitant daily usage.  Since most every appliance and many tools that people use are 110 volt AC (alternating current) and draw a lot of power, a large number of batteries and panels are required as well as an inverter that will convert the DC (direct current) power from the panels into the required AC.  I had no such challenge, starting with nothing but a single car tape deck for tunes, and making sure that every electrical item bought thereafter was DC.  This meant stereos meant for mounting in cars, or else “portable” boom boxes that run on “D” batteries, and whose battery boxes I could wire to run direct off the growing 12v system.  DC lights that we changed first to less amp hungry halogens, and then to LED once their brightness was improved substantially in the 1990s.  For years I wrote all my articles and books on a manual typewriter, taking the sheets into town and paying someone to enter them into a computer, until finally getting one of our own.  In the case of computers, too, we avoided the need for an inverter by using laptops intended for mobile and remote use, first a horrid PC with a screen with no backlight, then a series of Macs beginning with a classic Model 160 and leading up to our current MacBook Pros.

These days we are not simply entertained and illuminated thanks to solar power, but also dependent on it for our very work.  Publications that once required typed out pages, now accept submissions of writing as digital attachments only.  Only bills are sent to our Post Office box and no one ever writes us a “snail mail” query letter anymore, making emails the only way that we communicate with the world.  This includes book manuscript submittals, answering folks asking about wilderness retreats, exchanges with our Home Study students, writing and managing the Anima and Healing Arts blogs, and organizing and promoting the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference.  We are reaching and aiding more people than ever, through a satellite internet box that is one of our only 110v contraptions, thanks to two sets of purchased and donated batteries, a controller, seemingly miraculous solar panels, and above all the glorious and advantageous sun.

Unfortunately it seems I made yet other serious mistakes in the system’s development, requiring yet another upgrade and reconfiguration.  First, the potpourri of panels we’ve accumulated are of drastically varying output, when it is ideally recommended that all panels in an array be of the same make, type and size.  Secondly, we have been combining two different kinds of batteries, confusing the controller and making ever completely charging them impossible.  Thirdly, the batteries are prone to sulfation of their plates and thus early demise, for the lack of periodically administering a high amperage equalization charge.  And lastly, time on the online NAWS Solar Forum revealed that we have only half as many panels as what our total number of battery storage requires.  The result is the splitting up of our dissimilar batteries, and the upcoming purchase of two superior controllers, two important battery system monitors, four additional 120 or 130 watt panels and much larger diameter wire all around to better carry the juice… especially in Winter..

The expense of this upgrade is difficult for us at best, but is absolutely essential, inescapable, and will power our place and work for possibly decades to come.  In support of our School and conservation work, the kind manager of Northern Arizona Wind and Sun – a reputable low cost supplier – has offered to provide everything we need at considerably less than their asking price, only 10% above their cost plus shipping.  To help cover the expenses, we’ve initiated a Solar Fund and invited earmarked donations, ably spearheaded by our enthusiastic 9 year old daughter Rhiannon.  We are very fortunate, as well, to have the able services of friends Don and Daniel now, professional electricians giving their labor in trade for an old Willys Jeep that I loved but didn’t really need.

A lot of time and attention has had to go to the system remake lately, but it has also meant my reading a lot on forums and elsewhere to further my knowledge, and inspired me to share some of our experience with you, as well as some of the particulars of building your own solar electric system (coming next week!).

—————–

———-

(Please feel free to quote, forward and post this piece… with credit and Anima URL of course)

If you are interested in the particulars of putting together a Solar Electric System of your own, watch here next week for Part 3: Basic Elements of a Solar System

For general details and suggestion regarding solar electric systems, you can go to the NAWS Information Page

For an in depth discussion of all solar topics, I suggest the many alternative energy forums online, including the one I’ve personally learned the most from (featuring independent moderators not employed by the host company) the NAWS Solar Forum

Other articles of Wolf Hardin’s on homesteading will also be appearing as part of the upcoming ReWilding magazine/website

Wilderness Retreat Experience – Anima Sanctuary, New Mexico

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
We here at Anima are committed to affecting, healing and improving our world through our writings and classes, but there is also a level on which people can be engaged and inspired, stirred and processed, not by our words but by the land itself.  This can be true in any natural place, where earth and human connect apart from the distractions, superficiality, high speed pace, superficiality and emotional dishonesty of many folks’ normal civilized lives.  But it is all the more true in Places of Power, intensely inspirited or energized locations where denial becomes most difficult and truth appears not from the air through earth and self.  This is the value of a Wilderness Retreat, and the reason why we continue to offer the opportunity to experience this magical canyon with or without counsel or study.

Retreats at the remote Anima Sanctuary are primitive if comfortable, contributing to real-world engagement with the basic elements of fire/heat, water and food, with our neglected bodies and essential needs, something that many find to be ultimately authentic, rich and rewarding.  Sweet evidence of this is found in the following journal entry from our recent Retreat guest Lissie, who together with her friend Ava demonstrated a degree of sensitivity, receptivity and appreciation were no less than wondrous:

My Canyon Retreat
by Lissie


These words written in my journal after my first walk down the canyon.
“I feel such an openness in my heart, as if walls have fallen away, and I have let the river carry away the pain and regret.   I cannot say how I will experience my partner when he returns home, but I can recognize the negative reactions that spring up in me uninvited and now, put those aside, and choose love.  Fulfillment of self allows flowering.  Comparisons, fear, feeling not good enough, these go down the river, which in its constancy can handle the pain and remain clear and beautiful.  I too am clear and beautiful.  I am a part of this vast openness, and a part of the tiniest grain of sand.  I walk in the hoof prints of the elk, I play in the same water as the peccary, the crows, the bear.   I bless myself, the centers of energy in my body which connect me to this earth.   I respect the language and the processes of my mind, knowing I can leave those at any time and simply be my feet in the cool water, my hand in the warm sand, my eyes watching a butterfly, my ears hearing the buzzing of bees in the flowers and the song of the canyon breeze.   At last, I am my heart .”
I cannot express gratitude enough for the joy you brought to our experience at Anima, the wonderful meals, your sharing of wisdom through books given and your love of the land, Loba’s sweet song gathering the tears of the wild woman,  and meeting Rhiannon!   Will do what I can to tell people about your work.  Also, this experience me to be more of an activist in my life.  Thank you!
-Lissie
Forward and Share this Post Freely.
Anima Wilderness Retreats in S.W. New Mexico are offered on a sliding scale donation basis.  For more information go to the:
To Apply for a Retreat fill out and return the:

Riparian Restoration: Willow Planting 2010

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Our Sanctuary partner Van of Stream Dynamics led volunteers from Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, Sky Island Alliance and Anima Center in planting 550 willow starters on Forest Service land downriver from us, with permits kindly facilitated by John Pierson and Justin Schofer of the Reserve Ranger District.  Willows have spread effectively northwards (upriver) from our rewilded private inholding, primarily spreading by root and no longer assisted by us.  Downriver, however, there remain a lot of uncovered and untethered river banks, one section of which is now thickly planted with willow starters.  These bank stabilizing trees are so hardy, that any branches pruned off have a high likelihood of growing into whole new trees when stuck a foot or more into moist sandy ground.

In this first photo are the plantings the day they were placed, thanks to the hard work of the land-loving volunteers.

In the second, we see the same stand one month later, already leafing and branching out.  All of the environmental consciousness and Mother Earth bumper stickers in the world won’t do for the planet or ourselves what a single direct action, restored park or yard or planted heirloom garden will.  Groups like the UGWA and Sky Island count on volunteers such as yourselves, to find meaning and satisfaction in giving their time to make real their priorities and beliefs.  Heartful Hand-Work.

Confrontation and resistance have their place in any movement or cause, as do education, litigation and legislation.  What is great about watershed restoration in comparison, is that it benefits all manner of land user or owner and can therefore enlist the support and even assistance of a wide range of folks.  The same revegetation that lessens erosion and contributes to wildlife habitat and proliferation, is also the best known means for ensuring the continuance and purity of surface water for human use.

Our gratitude to everyone that came this year to help out, and we look forward to future groups.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin & Family

Anima School and Botanical Sanctuary

Bear Truth Reality and Grizzly Encounter Sanctuary

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

BEAR TRUTH REALITY

and Montana Grizzly Encounter Sanctuary


Trust me, the photo above is not a photoshop composite, but an actual photograph of Brutus the 800 pound grizzly bear joining the family for lunch.  Brutus is one of several bears saved from being euthanized by impassioned naturalist Casey Anderson, and displayed in natural environs at the Montana Grizzly Encounter Sanctuary.  The sanctuary serves not only as a home for cage-raised animals that could never survive being released, but also as an educational facility to help dispel the stereotype of the grizz as always being a blood thirsty man eater.  Busloads of school children regularly get fairly close to these admittedly exceptional tempered examples of bruinhood, thrilled to watch these giant critters interact in relatively natural surroundings.

As Casey well knows, there is danger in making all big bears seems as docile and approachable, which is why he teaches about caution in bear habitat as well.  For balance and perspective, it is important to take to heart not only the gregariousness of friendly and faithful Brutus, but also the case of bear activist Timothy Treadwell who insinuated himself into a wild group each year in Alaska.  As the excellent documentary film Grizzly Man describes, most of the animals were indeed accepting.  He used his films of these often playful animals to help win support for their protection, putting their images to work for the cause of improved public relations.  One such furry browed individual, however – the one that decided to kill and eat the well intentioned Treadwell – apparently couldn’t care less how his behavior reflected on the species.

The bottom line is that bears, especially wild ones, are potentially unpredictable and dangerous.  On the other hand, they are not and never were the exaggerated threat that civilized humans have made them out to be.  We evolved with them, not in spite of them, coinhabitants of a wild and magical world where we are not the top of the food chain, but a conscious link… finding not only nobility and beauty in the great grizzly but also inspiration for healing.

To read more about Casey’s sanctuary or to support its work, go to the BrutusTheBear.com For further bear reading I invite you to enjoy my piece below, a rather lengthy article entitled “The Medicine Bear”.

-Jesse Wolf Hardin – www.AnimaCenter.org

Bear Medicine: The Grizzly as Healer’s Icon and Agent of Awareness – By Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

BEAR MEDICINE:
The Grizzly as Healer Archetype and Agent of Heightened Awareness

By Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima School – www.AnimaCenter.org


beartooth set in silver
heavy at my throat
I wander into the morning
carrying a basket of flowers
and roots
barefoot in the remnants
of a heavy dew

and I am singing an old song
the blood song
of animal and woman
bound together
into one body, one spirit
-flesh, fur and bone-

-Kiva Rose

A heavy presence pads through the forest primeval, heavy like nightfall, heavy like the weighty body of the universe.  We feel its approach, even as we swim the glare of the midday sun— its corporeal mass slowly moving towards us, intent on enveloping us.  It is the spirit of a giant that survived the Ice Age, tearing apart the fallen trunks of ancient trees, knocking flailing salmon and furry golden marmots high into the air, continuing to stalk the darkly hidden caves of our dreams: the bear.

It comes not to silence but to awaken.  To consume distraction and illusion, to put an end to the irrelevant and trivial, to draw our attention to what matters most in us and around us.  To lead us to the ways and plants that can help us heal.  To deliver us back to our whole, primal, magical, responsive selves.  Some of us may feel the bear inside, raising up and helping us stand strong and straight, driving our hungers and feeding the growth of our insight and wisdom.  Some may claim the bear totem as their own, as though the bear had claimed and inhabited them.  And for all of us, it is a potential teacher that we would be unwise to ignore.

–#–

Grizzly!  The sound of their name is enough to pass a charge, like electricity through our bones,  enough to cast a long and deep shadow across our rapidly shrinking arrogance, illusory sense of omnipotence and fragile certainty.  One glance at a grizz’s unmistakable claw marks eight foot up the side of his scratching-tree and every nerve comes instantly to attention.  Every sense is alerted, every light turned on at once in the mortal housing of the soul.  Enlivened!  Every cell open-eyed and open-mouthed, every molecule on tip-toes, straining to perceive.

Awakeness.  Intensified perception.  These are the first gifts of the great bear.  With their slow lumbering thunder, comes the excitement and clarity of lightning bolts: sudden, penetrating, en-lightening!  Truly, one perceives more in grizzly country.  Sees further.  Hears more acutely.  Smells deeper.  Notices more.  Our senses honed to a fine, irreconcilable edge.  Without ever actually seeing a bear, the mere thought of it is as a claw stripping the opaque film from our perceptual lens.  The civilized traits of inattention and indifference are swiftly gutted like fish, and left to curl and dry on hot river rocks.  Sloth joins nonchalance, pawed into a carrion pile beneath a layer of sticks and dirt.

More people are hurt in California shower stalls each year than are hurt by wild animals in the entire country.  The fact is that there’s a greater probability of being hit by lightning than attacked by a bear.  Our heightened awareness in grizzly country results from the possibility of a bear attack, not by its likelihood.  Systematic and almost complete removal of this wilderness potential allows for us to sleep-walk through most wilderness experiences on “automatic pilot,” the way we may be used to functioning in the “work-a-day” world.  Reduction in any wilderness potential reduces our own ability to experience.

Since our Paleolithic ancestors first contested proprietorship of a cave, the great bear has been a reminder that humans are not at the top of the “food chain.”  Ask any grizzly you meet.  Or, if you’re below a certain size, ask a starving mountain lion.  If anything, soil is at the top, since it gets to eat everybody .  Civilized cultures fear dirt for this very reason, fighting back with soaps, detergents, and above-ground mausoleums.  But they fear the bear most of all.

At its worst, civilized human existence can be unnatural, reduced, confined, insulated like a padded cell, buffered from danger and thus from adventure, heightened sensation, spontaneity and awe.  A great effort is made to ensure the urban environment is the opposite of grizzly country: constrained, predictable, metered, pacified, and inflexibly scheduled.  There’s a singular lucidity to grizzly country, a brilliance and clarity like sunlight dancing on a curved tooth. Time spent in grizzly country is infinitely and necessarily flexible.  Spontaneity and attentiveness are traits that contribute to both our capacity to survive and to enjoy.
But the grizzly, and in fact all species of bear, have more to teach us than merely being alert.  They are intuitives, seers, shamans, travelers of the soul and instinctual healers that have influenced our development and psychology for ages.  Our species evolved in close relationship with Ursus, serving alternately as the bears’ food and prey, as their destroyers, their fawning bards… and their rapt students.

–#–

The earliest physical evidence of human reverence for animal spirits was discovered in various  grottoes high in the mountains of Franconia, Switzerland and Germany.  Along with numerous tools and fauna remains, they discovered purposeful collections of cave bear skulls stacked neatly on shelves, or protected inside stone cabinets protected by slab “doors.”  Some were encircled by a formation of small rocks, while another held a leg bone in its mouth.  Here were not only the tools for killing and fleshing these powerful animals, but proof of their veneration by what must have been a bear cult.  It seems that from earliest times the bear was seen as the “Animal Master,” the strongest of all.  Right relationship with the bear, however each tribe defined that, would determine what other animals made themselves available.

I once came upon some Pueblo Indian friends of mine way back on a dirt road, north of Taos.  Hung upside down next to them was a young black bear carcass.  I’d read how human they look with their baggy hide removed, but nothing prepared me for what looked like a skinned man with his chest opened, the pink muscles layered like a teen wrestler with a size #18 neck.  They salted and rolled up the skin, fur side in, while I watched the flies probe the exposed body.  The hide would be carefully tanned, and the meat left for the coyotes.  For them, eating a bear would be like cannibalism.  For they are the creatures most like us.

The bear’s fierce maternal devotion helps explain her role as the Mother of All Animals.  In her book Gods and Goddesses Marija Gimbutas contemplates the hundreds of ancient terracotta “bear nurses” that have been excavated from various Euro-neolithic sites.  Many are enthroned female bears, or women with bear masks on, and most are nursing a cub.  She sees these as the primordial animal goddess, the Great Mother, nurturing the new gods and goddesses of vegetation and agriculture.  The cub, then, becomes Zeus on the bear’s nipple, Zalmoxis and Dionysus, Artemis and Diana.

Our ancestors in both the “Old” and “New World”  watched the bear go into its den every winter and emerge every Spring— an obvious herald of rebirth, the return of life to a hungry land and hungry people.  The people of civilizing Europe harnessed the bear, and the bear’s mythology, to the purposes of the field and plow.  In England they had the “strawbear,” while in Germany he was called the Fastnachtshar: a man dressed up in a straw bear costume who would be led in early Spring to each house of the village.  There the man-bear would dance with all the women.  The more enthusiastically they danced, the richer the coming crop would be.  Pieces of the straw costume would be snatched by the young girls, and placed beneath their pillows to insure fertility, or placed in the nests of their chickens to encourage the laying of eggs.  The bear has forever represented as going into the self, into the Earth in order to be refreshed, revitalized and reborn again.  Those who would be students of the bear travel the discomforting trail into their inner self, only later returning to the busy surface with the strength and secrets found within.  They know that out of the icy sleep of winter comes the regeneration of life.

Entering into an initiation rite is often like going into hibernation.  The initiate is likely placed in the dark and isolation of a secluded hut, pit or cave.  They may be further wrapped up, blindfolded, or otherwise have their senses and mobility limited as it would be in the womb.  As with hibernation, the initiate would seem to die inside, giving up one persona and climbing out in a new, empowered form.  For this reason, the Dakota refer to a boy’s rite of passage as “to make a bear.”  The coastal Pomo included both boys and girls in an initiation where the children are symbolically “killed” by the kuksu  spirit, with the help of a costumed grizzly bear.  They were then removed to the forest for four days and nights.  When they were “reborn” into the tribe, they brought with them the secret medicine songs and plant knowledge learned in their travels to the middle world.
For the Ainu of northernmost Japan, the bear was “The Divine One Who Rules the Mountains.”  To the Cree they are the “Angry One” and “Chief’s Son.”  The Sami translation is roughly “Old Man With Fur Clothes,” while the nearby Finns say “Old Lightfoot” or “Pride of the Woods.”  Most often, wherever they are found they’re called “Grandmother” and “Grandfather” out of respect.  Long after the adoption of firearms in both Europe and America the indigenous people continued to hunt bears with their most primitive weapons, insisting on honoring their quarry with the personal engagement and inherent fairness of hand to hand combat.
The totemic energy of the bear was invoked by both men and women of one of the select warrior classes of “barbaric” Europe.  They got their name “Berserkers” from the bear (“ber”) skins (“serks”) they wore instead of the uniforms and armor of their more civilized antagonists.  Men and women are said to have fought together, biting at their shields, and raising such a tumultuous animal roar that the earliest Roman invaders fled in a total panic.  They were famous for their ability to ignore pain, facing unfair odds with uncompromised ferocity.  Their characteristic ability to continue fighting in spite of numerous wounds may have been assisted by the consumption of certain psychoactive mushrooms, no doubt showed to them by their rambling bear guides.  Among the Great Plains tribes of America they were called “Bear Dreamers” and “Bear Warriors.”  Known for running head long at their foes, at times with no more than a bear-jaw knife.  They believed the bear spirit would protect them, inspiring incredible feats of courage.

The Pueblo name for bear is often the same as for doctor.  The bear not only ushers in the spring vegetation, but then shows those who watch close enough which plants and roots to eat, and which herbal medicines to gather for their people.  In this country the bear showed the people where to find the kinnickinnick (also called Uva Ursi, or “bearberry”), the yarrow and osha root.  The Lakota emergence myth describes the people being tricked into leaving the middle earth by the Trickster Iktomi.  For leaving the embrace of the Earth Mother the people were subjected to disease, cold and hunger for the first time—  possibly an allegory for humanity’s progressive disenfranchisement from the rest of the living planet.  It was the bear, the doctor, that felt sorry for the wayward humans and showed them the plant remedies they would need to ease their self-inflicted suffering.
In both America and Europe the bear spirit was considered to be the ally of the shaman.  Like the medicine man, the bear could both heal you and kill you.  Both are solitary travelers, garnering their power from the lessons of Nature and the experience of solitude.  Both are feared at the same time they are revered.  Like bears, those with bears for guiding totems, typically make people uncomfortable.

And to be fair, bears can be hard to live with!  People with bear energies or traits are not just strong willed but stubborn, sometimes to their own detriment.  Uncooperative, unless something happens to please them.  Able to withdraw into themselves, to the exclusion of others.  Distant and inaccessible, when they’re feeling either melancholy or bored.  Impatient about anything that matters.  Dangerous when they are crossed.  They are hardest on themselves when they lack a purpose, and hardest on others when they are judged and misunderstood.

Unless and until they develop self discipline, such people may gravitate to extremes of mood and behavior, giddy and playful one moment and perturbed the next.  They may find themselves eating more sweets than are healthy, and sleeping more than they need.  They are not lazy people, only extremely particular about what they commit their interest and energies to.

On the other hand, these bear-folk have the ability to search the inner labyrinths of their creature beings and wild souls, resulting in a deep understanding of self that they can make use of if and when they decide to come back out.  They have the inherent strength and determination to accomplish great things, moving aside immense boulders in order to get to a self-assigned goal.  They are self motivated and function well at solitary work of any kind.  At the same time, they can make incredible mates, so long as they live with someone who not only truly knows and understands them, but who also shares their preferences, desires, intentions, missions, destinations and designs.  They are capable of being some of the very best teachers, authors and parents… and the most dependable guardians of integrity and truth, spirit and magic, land and home.  They make the most powerful healers, whenever they have first done the work of healing themselves.  Those who marry the bear, never want to go back.

It’s not a matter of physical size or shape.  Being bear is in the way one walks flat-footed, and swings their head from side to side.  In the deliberateness of motion, and the absence of frivolity.  In great persistence and high intelligence.  In playfulness that is as intense and focused as hunting or sex.  In the father’s force of purpose, and the mother’s protectiveness.  In the earth-warrior’s devotion, and the inimitable bear-hug.  In the Medicine Woman’s affinity with plants and intuitive relationship to medicinal herbs.  In their huge hearts and berry-chomping smiles.  It’s in the way that they dream of the bear… and the way that bear, in turn, dreamed them into being.

–#–


what is sacred, and
who walks with  naked foot.
the earth below and the mind’s echo in
the long night, the body turns
on poles of cold wind and fire.
what the dream can touch
and the heart hear
(the cracking of gray ice
like a mirror in her eyes)
give yourself to the star, give
yourself to the last bear

-Barbara Mor

Acceptance of the wild bear is tantamount to acceptance of the untamed wilderness, of the untamed energies of womanhood, of an untamed life.  It means acceptance of the dualities of nature, of all sides of the Earth Mother.
I am reminded of Artemis, Greek daughter of the original Animal Mother, grown into the Lady of The Beasts, the Lady of Wild Nature, priestess of the moon.  She was Diana the huntress, but also served as the defender of wildlife.  Her companion was a bear, and together they ruled the plant kingdom and thus determined feast or fast.  She served as protectress of thieves, slaves and outlaws.  She was at once the destructive, all consuming “terrible mother” and the defender of the children, guardian spirit of all pregnant women and “Opener of the Womb.”  Artemis helps us understand how our difficult embrace of the bear is actually an acceptance of the death that must precede any planetary rebirth.

For many thousands of years humankind has looked to the bear as both reality and symbol, seeing many different things in both.  A few land-based tribes in Siberia and North America continue to actively revere the mighty grizzly as a worthy rival and invaluable guide.  Conservationists and nature lovers may continue to see them as important aspects of a healthy ecosystem, and some still draw on them for inspiration, example and power.  But for most people, the relationship has progressed to one of estrangement, with all wildlife becoming distant curiosities or televised entertainment.  They are no longer even trophies to “bag,” let alone threats to avoid at all cost.  To them, the bears are veritable historical artifacts, barely breathing throwbacks to a wilder and more intensely realized time.  They’re magic, and they are indeed disappearing.  But they’re also as real as we are.  And in another way, they’re always here.

Primal humans found something distinctly familiar in the great bear.  In the way the mother gently plays with her cubs, and stiffly defends them against all comers.  The way she gently sniffs the beckoning blossoms, or stretches in the sun.  The bear appeals to that part of the human psyche still pondering its own untamed nature— with perked ears and raised hackles!  It strokes the Paleolithic sensibility that even now revolts against enforced civility.

There is something like destiny, climbing inexorably over the nearby ridge, heading unhurriedly but deliberately our way.  It is a playful dream, a sensual overture, a fur-covered agent of the wild.  It is awakeness, and it is healing.  It promises, in silence, to take us into itself… into its very center!

It is the great bear.

And it is us.

Go ahead
turn around
see the shape
of your footprints
in the sand

-Leslie Marmon Silko

–#–

(The above essay is from an upcoming book by Wolf Hardin.  Feel free to share and link.)

(Beautiful painting “Medicine Bear” is by Dark Natasha)

Tales of a Runaway: The Problem With Lines and the Makings of a Proud Misfit – by Jesse Hardin

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Tales of a Runaway:
The Problem With Lines, and the Makings of a Proud Misfit

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima School  www.AnimaCenter.org

I’m often asked for the story of my first leaving home at age 13 and again at 15, as the first peach fuzz began to form above my lips.  Their queries are usually a response to the way I present my teaching credentials, offhandedly describing myself as nought but a self taught, onetime 7th grade runaway with a certain talent for detecting bullshit and intuiting truths, connecting the dots and rocking the proverbial boat.  I would never have used such an expression in the day, however, being far more focused on those things I was running towards than anything I might have been hoping to escape.

That said, I was without question running – not walking – in what often seemed the opposite direction of my family, fellow students and neighbors, supposedly representative government and the vast majority of humankind.  For whatever strange reasons, I could somehow relate better to principled oddballs like Quaker pacifists and gun toting guerilla soldiers, to socially stigmatized bookworms, bookies and bootleggers, troublesome juvenile delinquents and maverick hard-spurring adults than to the well behaved who blindly toed the line.

It was the toeing that I had least use for, growing up a witness to all the fearful folks remaining rigidly within the boundaries that others proclaim, the children ordered to line up and fly straight, the teens told to get their futures lined out, the wives who never speak up because they might sound out of line.  I blatantly disrespected and stepped over established economic lines and race lines, national borders and social boundaries, ceilings and caps, lanes and limits.  I eschewed using lined paper and avoided any people who seemed to strictly follow party lines.  I snuck into theaters, or else waited until the long line of movie goers were seated before making my way inside, and I would have rather eaten out of a dumpster any old day than to have stood for even an hour in a welfare line.  I had – and still have – a problem with any person or agency trying to line me up or line me out.  While youngsters I knew were trying to get on a football squad or nail down their first job at the phone company, I found I had no desire to become either a linebacker or a lineman.  Nor did it matter if my ideas and direction were aligned with either special interests or the common-sense trumping majority.  I ignored the so called fine line of the law, in favor of doing what seemed right, avoiding hurting people because of either inherent compassion or the usual absence of a pressing need, rather than because some instrument of law chose to proclaim it illegal.  I made plans early to one day be buried under a tree, and not planted in a root-resistant coffin in some cemetery’s grim grid of lines.

Not even sitting in a line of school desks was easy for the wild-card boy looking for freedom, experience and adventure.  I inevitably scooted mine back or forwards just a little, in allegiance to my sense of aesthetic and order even as – from the first grade on – I alternately got into trouble for either asking too many challenging questions or slipping out the window to wander and play.

It was in military school at age 12, that the full extent of my aversion to straight, unwavering lines came to light.  I was enrolled there not as punishment for home infractions but at my own request, in preference to the noodley anarchy of “progressive” schools as well as the paradigm reinforcing public campuses with their often low benchmarks and even lower expectations.  I asked for that opportunity to prove myself and to excel, to study the classics and learn to shoot, in spite of being subjected to a degree of regimentation that I knew from the get-go was going to drive me up the proverbial wall.

Or, rather, drive me up a tree… specifically, the thick gnarly limbs of a giant avocado at the edge of the school’s marching field.  I was content enough during lengthy classes since the teachers let me progress through the material as fast as I was able.  Unfortunately, every afternoon we were compelled to march like trained ants in the heat of the sun, something I couldn’t seem to tolerate.  By taking the position of guidon at the rear of a squad, I was able to drop out at just the right moment and quietly clamber up the avocado’s trunk without ever being noticed, so fixed were the eyes of my fellow students on the placement of their feet, and so unwavering their attention to orders!

This fortuitous tree was situated adjacent to one of the ten feet high concrete walls, built to both provide privacy and effectively contain the academy’s spirited young cadets.  From my vantage point, I was able to view the straight-arrow students – marching in straight lines on a perfectly flat and well-mowed plane – in contrast to the scene on the opposite side of the wall, with its dirty faced street kids wildly wrestling and reveling there, with its overgrown and highly uneven terrain.

These days I am far more likely to think of rivers when making an analogy about lines, such as how unhealthy they are when deforestation has them running fast and straight, flooding often and carrying away their precious burden of finite soil, or how the healthiest watercourse is usually the one with slowing curves and restful meanders.  Back then, though, it was boxes and cages that I visualized as the marchers traced repetitive squares with their measured steps and abrupt ninety degree turns, while it was the sirens of liberty and magic that I believed called to me from the other side.

My inevitable emancipation was gradual and incremental, beginning with my waiting until the rest of the cadets were snoring before tip-toeing out of the barracks and into the streetlamp glow of an urban night, stuffing the uncomfortable metal bunk each time to make it look to the officer on watch as if were securely asleep.  In time there could be no more returning, of course, a moment when risky sojourning would take ultimate precedence over finishing the semester, graduating with a high school diploma, going on to college, getting a good paying job or being able to afford insurance.  This I knew even then, and freely chose.

Dropping out worried my mom, of course, but not because she wanted to push me into becoming anything in life except other than what I myself wanted.  Nor could she realistically expect me to be concerned about a future steady income, given the archaic emphasis on honor and adventure that I’d so often professed.  What worried her most was that her “baby” would end up unhappy, due to never having learned how to fit in.  After all, what employer, sports team, association or club would ever have me, when I rejected not only uniforms but uniformity, took pride not in likeness and team cooperation so much as in individual initiative and dramatized dissimilarity?  If I’d gone into the army, it would have had to special forces doing self directed recon.  If I’d been cut out to be a doctor, it would have had been in the field or jungle and not the harsh lined cubicles of a modern hospital.  Fit was, quite frankly, one of the very last things on my mind.  Too snug a fit, I realized, could be like a fashionable garment whose design restricts movement.   Too comfortable of a fit, and one could end up less inclined to try out either new venues or vessels.

If anything, it was precisely the fitting into predictable and acceptable norms that I was running away from.  Even as I looked to what I ran so purposefully toward, I clearly also sought distance from the normality of passive acceptance, placation and resignation, restrictive customs and rigid rules, from linear process and mechanization, predictability and conformity, stock solutions and any certified assistance.  On a quest for the unusual and exceptional, I did all that I could to leave behind my rote personal habits as well as the controlling regulations of both the academy and of society in general.  I sought to emulate the twisty individuation of artistic root structures, the insistent growth of the outlaw bamboo busting its way out of every yard’s confines, and the rascally dandelion poking up through the subversive cracks of predictable sidewalks, unstoppable by herbicides, absolutely determined to do its dandelion thing.

Unlike many another urchin who’s ever slept under a freeway bridge to the hum of passing traffic, I certainly didn’t run away from home due as a result of neglect or abuse.  I had parental support in taking art lessons, martial arts lessons, and lessons in motocross racing.  Heck, on the day I announced my departure my dear father offered to buy me a car to take my leave in!  I gave it some consideration, but clearly accepting such help would have been contrary to my aim of opening up to and facing the test of a chancy, difficult, and ever changing real world.  What I sought to escape from was not violence or deprivation but security and sameness, the trap of everything being taken care of for me.  I ran from what I’d come to see as the oppression of the sterile suburbs, the matching white stucco walls in every cookie-cutter tract home, the painfully bright and nearly incessant incandescent lights.  Shallow conversation, faux woodgrain, mass trends.  The artificial, the replicated and the horrendously generic.  The contrived events, faked satisfaction and often phony “I’m okay” smiles.  The trained politeness, masking honest dislike and obfuscating our caring intent.  The gerbil-like rush to consonance and accomodation, even at the cost of personal tastes and opinions.  Just getting along and accepting things the way they are, when it is exploration, investigation and alteration that is needed most.  Tolerating what should be intolerable.  Sacrificing excellence and distinction for refuge in feigned sameness.

Feigned, I say, not because people have some self destructive desire to be phony, but because the premise and goal are impossibilities.  Humans can be pleasantly or painfully similar, but we are never exactly the same.  Not even twins with apparently duplicate DNA are truly indifferentiable.  Nor is sameness anything to strive for, as individuals with very distinct manifestations and blends of potentials and unique collections of experiences, varied natural abilities and propensities, personally defined and expressed purpose and seemingly customized calling.

I subsequently spent many years on the streets hustling to get by, and on a chopped Harley acting wild, cooking on low fires in the wooded corners of remote public parks well past the age of 18 when the youth authorities no longer cared where I was or what I was doing after dark.  This was followed by more years on a long and windy road, in a search for my self and what it might mean to feel totally at home in not only my place but my purpose.

In the ensuing decades my image and designs have evolved, my horizons widened and means increased.  I’ve even grown to the point of valuing natural and personal boundaries, the defining and sometimes protective perimeters sketched around my healthy being, known truths and what most matters most.  That said, any boundary of mine will always be an infinitely adaptive and highly uneven one, and not an irrevocably straight line… proof there are at least some things in the universe which change little over time.

(Post and Forward Freely)