Archive for August, 2010

Commitment & FollowThrough – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Intro: I never fail to be impressed by and grateful for the folks in our lives who honor and tend their commitments… to us, but especially to themselves, their studies, processes and dreams.  They are made special by their rarity, for staying focused in face of distractions, remembering the reasons for their promises and then unfailingly keeping them.  In Anima we teach that any pledge worth making is worth keeping, and that anything not worthy of that effort and devotion shouldn’t be promised to in the first place.  While relatively few may actually donate to the School’s needs or commit to a Sponsorship, you do so with unerring faith and follow-through.  And while none of us are flawless in this way, among the most dedicated and dependable are the Anima students devoted to their studies and practice, and the allies who support this work.

Commitment & FollowThrough

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

What in the world, is this world coming to?  Increasingly we are becoming a one-world society made up of city-states, where neither individuality, privacy or honor have any real significance.  We’re taught to compromise our beliefs, whatever the heck they are.  We’re fed salvational technologist lies, as personal responsibility is replaced by avoidance, compromise and obedience.  Instead of a code of honesty and compassion, we have a million and one complex new laws on the books regulating every element of our lives.  Rather than seek out what are at times unpleasant truths, a growing majority of people would rather pay for the paddings of comfort with their precious mortal hours, and trade in their native rights in exchange for the illusion of safety.  Outside of the cranky, archaic and highly opinionated rural towns of the West and South, it’s getting progressively harder to find anyone willing to “tell it like it is” no matter what the consequences, folks who live up to their oral contracts as well as the binding written ones, who make it a point to keep their word once given.  Rare indeed, is anyone willing to commit… even to the very people, ideas and things they themselves most care for and believe in, let alone to fully follow through on those commitments.

I spent some of my teen years hanging around rowdy, socially deplorable outlaw bikers who – in spite of their numerous and indefensible bad habits – curiously demonstrated a considerably greater degree of commitment and loyalty than the average citizen, including those politically correct and particularly sweet Peaceniks who nonetheless tended to look down their noses at my greasy-jeaned, saddle-sore buddies.  And of all the truly deeply caring, alternative type folks I have known since, sadly only a much smaller percentage seem to have taken in what it means to commit to a relationship or a project, or to follow it through on something to completion no matter what the obstacles or reasons.

Maybe it’s living in close proximity to the land that does it, setting the example with nature’s intense determination, extracting or inspiring a greater degree of authenticity and response, but I know far more cowboys and farmers that actually do what needs to be done, manifest their ideas in the real world and real activities, or bring to a finish what they once set their minds to.   My rural neighbors from Montana to the Mexican border often set the example when it comes to living their dreams, holding a marriage together, keeping a promise or completing a self-assigned task.  As it was in the days of the pioneers and before, if someone says that they’ll cover a debt later, they usually do.  If they tell you that they’re going to punch you, it’s time get out the rag for the inevitable bloody nose.  But when they pledge their friendship, we can generally count on their help and support no matter how odd we were at the time, or how unpleasant we might have since proven to be.

There are some basic tenets or beliefs that both the intense Anima teachings and the West’s largely conservative rural population generally hold to be true, that:

• A commitment is an unbroken promise.  And a pledge, deliberately and continuously fulfilled.
• Commitment is the full investment of the self – with no provision for default, no requirement of success, and no room for regret.
• Commitment binds us to that which we are committed to.
• Taken together, commitments form the foundation for relationship.
• It is better to fulfill commitments to a very few things, than to commit to many and fully honor none.
• We earn credit for the depth of our intentions, the degree of our commitment, and the extent of our follow-through.
• Commitment requires regular attendance: For example, one cannot claim to be committed to a buddy or spouse, unless we are there for them when we’re needed.  Or to a goal or practice, that we only honor one day a week.
• Commitment requires hands-on effort.
• Commitment begs for completion: We can’t say we’re truly committed to a process, unless we’re braced to stick with it through the very end.
• Commitment requires insistence: One isn’t truly committed, unless that commitment survives every distraction, challenge and test.
• It can take a hundred promises kept, to balance out a single commitment failed.

When folks are called on to define what’s best about “old-timey” or “country ways,” they often mention the qualities of gumption and completion, commitment and follow-through.  In the real world anywhere, one is measured not so much by what we think or say as by what we actually do.

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Sharing A Meal: The Lion’s Elk – by Loba

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Intro: Besides our personal trials and tasks, we’ve been working such long hours on the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference that I’ve been tardy in getting Loba’s following story – and resulting recipes – to you like I promised.  With all due respect to the sensibilities of our earth-loving vegetarian readers, this is a tale of fang and claw, hunter and gatherer, flesh and feast.  It is inevitable that we intimately and corporeally share with the rest of life, share in its body and force, then one day share in turn the nutrients that are us.  In death we are without exception a precious gift to the all, even if we never give ourselves enough credit for the gift that we are when alive. -Wolf

The Lion’s Elk
by Loba

Anima Wilderness School:

Rhiannon and I were out near the third river crossing picking grape leaves early in the morning for a special morning adventure. We were picking from vines that wrapped all the way around a big oak tree. She had gone around one side of the tree to pick and wandered off a little ways, and came back to me all excited. “Mama Loba, there’s an elk that’s been half eaten, pretty recently!” Of course I had to investigate. We went through the forest a little bit, and there right under a juniper tree in plain sight were the remains of a young elk. The skull had been picked clean, the guts eaten, and the hindquarters were perfectly intact. Barely cool, it had been, I guessed, only a very few hours since the elk had been killed. Claw marks showed where she had brought the unfortunate animal down… marks that remind us how in the long run the lions bring a gift of strength and awareness to the elk tribe!

We picked some more grape leaves, then walked back to tell Wolf and Kiva about Rhiannon’s discovery. Kiva drove out in the jeep with me to gather up the hindquarters. When we came back to the site I went looking for tracks, and was able to find some very close to the elk that were, indisputably, lion tracks!  Later Wolf pointed out the clean, knife like, nearly surgical cuts, typical of a cat and not a coyote or wolf.  He told us that the lion had most certainly been interrupted by us in the act of eating, as they tend to cover and hide any remaining meat for later.  No doubt she was very close by, watching us the whole time!

Once discovered, I knew she wouldn’t go back to eating, so there was nothing to do but bring the undamaged portions home!  We far prefer to eat wild meat to any other, for flavor as well as to be getting chemical free, wild hearted protein, so this was a real boon!

I was so excited, I wasn’t even finished skinning the hindquarters when I had to heat up a pan and fry up a bit of the meat. It was as juicy and tender and mild flavored as any I’ve ever tasted.  This Wolf tells me is not only because the elk was so young, but probably because the quiet stalk, sudden rush and incapacitating bite to the neck happened too quick for hardly any adrenalin and fear vibe to kick in!

Needless to say I had to give Kiva a taste right away, too, and she was just as excited about it as I was. Altogether there was at least 15, maybe 20 pounds of meat to freeze at a friend’s house and can for storage at home. We were all so proud of Rhiannon for finding us so many wonderful suppers-to-come!  She’s learned so much about nature as well as herself, and Wolf’s awareness training has really paid off!

For those of you omnivores who might hunt, discover a truck killed animal still warm on the side of the road, or be given the gift of wild meat, below is my favorite way to serve it up fresh.  Note that this works equally well with deer and other red meats. Very easy!  And by preparing it so well, and appreciating it so much, we help honor its mortal blessing and gift!

Elk with Fennel and Garlic

1 pound elk meat
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle OR 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons mixed dried veggies (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Butter or bacon or lamb fat

Slice the elk meat across the grain in pieces about 1/2 inch thick. In a medium bowl, rub in the fennel seed, garlic, dried veggies, salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet to medium-high, add the fat and then the meat as soon as it’s hot. Fry the meat until lightly browned on one side, then flip and quickly fry the second side. The meat should be done cooking in about 5 minutes. Serve with sauteed wild greens or with other green veggies.

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(photo of lion in the act of pouncing courtesy of Scientific American Magazine.  All other photos by Kiva Rose)

(For more homesteading and rewilding tales, stay tuned for our upcoming new online magazine site this Fall)

Late Night Prioritizing – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Late Night Prioritizing

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima Lifeways and Herbal School

Intro: The following is an excerpt from a recent letter to an understanding friend, summoned forth by the knowledge that my feelings as well as song of purpose would be truly heard.  As personal as this missive is, I have decided to share it here, in part in order to aid my readers’ comprehension of what our healing cause requires and our creative surges put us through.  Such late night or pre-dawn contemplation need not be perceived as torment, however.  By following the cycle of considerations through to a point of clarity, we come not only to acceptance and resolution but excitement and renewed vigor!  From these thoughts below, came an action list of change and development for Anima and our sites, approaches and means, which we may also share with you in a month or two.  We appreciate your company and support, in this life and work inseparable.

The days have finally gotten to the sweltering, with the dimming of the sun each afternoon a comforting relief.  Comforting, but a graying as well, in which the colors of my world seem a little more subdued, the facts of society and politic even more ominous.  The thunder is a relief in contrast, a dismembering of the gray sameness with a stroke of a lightning cutlass.  We could use more rain actually, and less build up, warning and hesitance, fewer intermediate shades.

I’ve woken up at night a few times lately, occasions where my mind has stirred itself in search of some new or enhanced recipe.  During such periods, it feels good to know those I am responsible are sound asleep as the hours of darkness pass into light, but I am also pleased not to have missed the sounds of the elk on the river sands below, the cries of rabbits at the clutch of an owl, the whispered lapping of the river’s waves… nor to have missed the ideas and insights that may arise only at such deep and undistracted times, or missed out on even the darkest of worries or heaviest of considerations that revolve like ghosts in the dark.

At such times, I may think of my wishes for the land and the threats to it, the sadness in certain special people that I can bring some balance to but never affect a cure, falling old growth redwoods and the FEMA regulations passed in part to control Americans with their own military, and every other detail of the sometimes pernicious web of human dictates and distress.  But what I most consider whenever I am awake in the predawn, is how to best utilize my gifts and knowledge, and further my purpose.  Such could well be one’s focus no matter how young, and certainly as one gets old enough to contemplate the truly finite nature and number of mortal moments in this form.  Not a second to waste, whether set to great tasks or given to rest and enjoyment, and again all the more so when there’s a sense of mission.  The question for me, of course, is never what my reason for existence is, or where I belong, nor even the essential elements of liberty and land restoration, teaching and writing, but rather the audiences, venues and means.  When writing, would I touch the hearts and lives of the most people by self publishing my essays, expanding course curricula, or writing fiction so that more people can be reached and my talents in that area utilized?  Historical or speculative and mythical?  How much time to the promotion and distribution of each, that might otherwise go to creating ever more new works?  Which audiences, the nature lovers, homesteaders, urban activists and wise herbalists who are already determined to live lives close to the earth, or the folks furthest from the land’s truths and values, who might do the mast damage or need our message most?  And what about oral, audio tapes and blogs or feeds, since it takes less time than typing and can be heard better with the inflection, rhythm and tone?  If so, how and working with what or whom?  And video, which is the way that most people today get their information, a series of YouTube and subscription stories, tales, lessons?

If the lifetimes were available, I would simply and gladly do it all, every way and means of communicating truths and tools, inciting as well as providing insight, entertaining in the ways that plant seeds of ideas and feelings, rock boats, rattle cages, heal wounds, promote wildness and heal separative wounds both physical and psychological.  I would do it if it won me no recognition or credit, if I did the work under a pseudonym or anonymously, if it cost me income or threatened my freedom or survival.  But there are only so many moments in a lifetime, and no matter how much or how little one sleeps there is a limit on what we can experience, create, affect or accomplish.  To do one thing, means that we are not doing others.  If I am giving much of my day to organizing a healing conference or writing a book, the result is however many hours of not drawing or painting, playing drums or making love, gathering medicinal plants or planting food, frolicking in the river or tracking the outlaw wolves, hours not given to fighting the system more blatantly, not demonstrating under threat of fines and jail, not being filmed or recorded in some nature-lover’s music studio.  The questions for me and those like me, are always “what is the priority this very second, what serves my spirit and purpose best, what ways will I be most powerful, helpful and effective?”  What audience, what article topic, what voice and information?

“Listen to your heart,” I might counsel others, but when I hear mine it is fully convinced in the value of whatever project it is I am working on at the time… as well as an uncloaked desire to still do everything.  It is how I learned, combining school and street life, reading and doing, martial arts and anti-war protests, making them all work together.  And it is how I most like to teach, connecting the myriad dots, the social and ecological, artistic and polemic, political and personal, soil depletion and the oppression of women, fungal communication and the power of prayer, historical events and future possibilities.  So when I am not actively doing, when I am listening the night’s quiet and the kindly silencing of my mind, there still seems to be a subconscious sorting of criteria and potentials, a weighing and measuring, assessing and apportioning.  It needs no words, measuring the way an old woman at an outdoor market might, by feel and not sound or sight.

I look around me, like a hunter-gatherer, seeing what rocks have the best shape for tools, what tasks and lessons await my attention, watching for new connections and helpers that might signal time for a shift to a new medium or media, an editor anxious for my next Medicine Woman short story, a film maker ready to roll.  But getting up with the dawn’s bright bird songs, there is no waiting, only some number one task that I am equipped to complete, and a sense of ever re-prioritized elements and redirected moments in my being more than head.

It is this, that I wake to, morning or nigh, and celebrate.

And it is mostly for this purpose, that I ever rest.

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Southwest Monsoons: The Gifting of Storms and Value of Extremes – by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The Southwest Monsoons:
The Gifting of Storms and Value of Extremes

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Anima School & Sanctuary

Introduction: I find myself writing about the gift and lessons of our local monsoons, at the same time as villagers in Pakistan are dying by the hundreds in monsoon swollen floods.  All the more reason, to measure not only the ferocity and cost of these patterns, but the depth of their lessons, the value of their example, and the blessings of their life giving side.

The latter part of every Summer, the Southwest United States is host to what even the weather forecasters call the “Monsoons,” a series of thunderous daily showers that have more in common with the weather patterns of flood and drought ravaged Bangladesh than the remaining three quadrants of this country we belong to.  And sorry, friends, there are no monsoons in Oregon or east of Texas, no matter how strong your storms might ever be.  This particular weather dynamic often involves a seasonal speeding up and reversing of predominate wind direction, and on the North American continent always involves powerful winds blowing Northeastwards, powered by the extreme disparity between the Summer heating of land and ocean.  The resulting lower air pressure above the land acts as a siphon, drawing immense volumes of evaporated seawater high into the atmosphere and then releasing it in heavy concentrations on specific if seemingly random targets along its path.

They announce their start with the faint scent of salty ocean swells in deserts and mountains lying hundreds of Mexican desert miles from the Pacific coastline, and are characterized by dramatic dumps rather than slow and steady soakers.  Whereas the Winter monsoon patterns are dispersive and often contribute to drought, their Summer counterparts can result in flash floods in otherwise dry arroyos, and rivers swollen beyond their bed’s capacity.

It is perhaps that which I relate to most, the consistent embrace of wild extremes instead, the roaring and quaking over the calm and quiet storm, full sun followed by darkest imaginable clouds, the chance to thirst as well as to gorge and stretch.  There’s none of the uncertainty or equivocation of softer systems here, delivered on ever so gentle of winds.  And none of the kinder if monotonous storms that subtly inundate other places, settling in over the land and mind like great gray sheets.  Unlike with so many things in life from people’s characters to personal decisions, there are essentially no “gray areas” when it comes to the monsoons of the Southwest.  The boundaries between dense cloud and clarified sky are stark and easily referenced, and natural shape and fanciful form result from the delineation and contrast.  Sudden and severe fluctuations make boredom and desensitization nearly impossible, and contrasts and choices all the more obvious.  Indeed, if storms had minds, these would no doubt come with strongly formed opinions, forcefully argued in thunder’s rumble, and with pointed lightning bolts for impossible to ignore exclamation marks.  As a writer ultimately dealing with complexities and twists, I get relief from their certitude, feel gratefully affirmed by their make-no-bones-about-it honesty.  I find inspiration in their example of not hinging their act on audience response, “doing their thing” regardless of whether the human throngs either dread or adore it.  I only wish I could say as few lines as these storms, and understood as clearly.

I can intimately relate… to the monsoons’ immense energy, dedicated to what is in the end a life saving mission of bringing water to animals, people and plants that would otherwise perish without. To what feels to me like the freedom of the winds, of a great but guileless power answering to no authority other than its own true nature.  To the myth-worthy act of rushing in, accomplishing a goal and literally “making a big splash”, then slipping out before the applause like the Lone Ranger, while the gringo’s scratch their head and ask “Who was that masked man – masked writer, masked activist, masked healer?”

What I can’t relate to, and seem to have resistance to emulating, is the monsoon’s often absurdly consistent schedule, punching in like clockwork and almost always checking out on time.  Like a dinner date, these storms can usually be expected to arrive no later than 2 PM in the afternoon, and to pack up and leave that same night at a reasonable hour.  In the Northwestern sections of the country, folks often wake up to find a laid-back storm still asleep on their couch.  Not so in good ol’ New Mexico, where the Summer fronts storm in, perform a raucous rock n’ roll set for all assembled creation, and then get back on the road before before either their groupies or their detractors know they are gone.

Our monsoons begin after the July temps get up into the 80s.  And in the same way, their clouds seem to wait each day until the the afternoon’s heat is nearly unbearable before rushing in to darken, dampen and delightfully cool the Southwest’s fabled air.  It’s as if it were set up that way, so that we’d first have to really crave – and thus learn to better appreciate – the gift and relief of cooling moisture, before being subjected to what is often a discomforting deluge.

The clouds don’t roll in around here, they’re sucked in, on winds set to send fierce torrents splashing in great waves against the cliffs, bending over the tops of trees an hour before the first rain drop.  The thunder calls from a distance at first, then tumbles closer and louder, causing birds to launch and flutter, and leading a number of insects to take shelter on the protective undersides of leaves.  Magnificent white thunderheads suddenly rise up from behind the mountains like proudly unbeatable warriors, poised to overwhelm our bastion of relative tranquility and peace, a moment that arrests the prattle of the mind and bares the quaking heart.   The lightning arcs just overhead, illuminating both our inescapable mortality and the immanence of resilient life.  And with each thunderclap’s mighty roar, come the rains that pour, and pour, and pour.

Even with the lightning cause fires and the storms’ eroding of precious soils, the monsoons are still a sweep of the arm that bestows blessings.  The land is not just watered but graced.  The dusty greens of area trees and grass instantly brighten as if lit up from inside.  Normally dull pastel rocks shine like polished gemstones.  The seeps flow in serpentine patterns more beautiful than any artist’s design.  And everywhere a rejoicing!  Every person, plant and creature and even the soils themselves seem to give a glad shout!  A resounding “Yes!” to the rains that spur growth, the winds that test, exercise and thus make us strong, to the thunder that awakens and the water and spirit that sates our thirst.

As the monsoons pass over our cabins and Sanctuary, we do our best to gather every drop that pours off the metal roofs, transferring the life-giving liquid from barrel to barrel in what must look to an observer like a ballet of buckets.  We strive to make the most of these seasonal storms when they’re happening, to have our vessel emptied and waiting… and to be gladly willing to do the work of taking it all in.

As quickly as it starts, each monsoon storm stops.  The pummeling wind quickly dissipates, no doubt.  And what looks like a whole new set of stars soon pop back out.


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