- The Farm
- The Alliance
Let’s be quiet now, for a little bit – a few hours, or a few days or months or maybe a whole year. Anyway, just now, a little while.
One of the gifts of Buddhism is an understanding that discomfort, inconvenience, and even pain are part of life – and that it’s possible to be at peace anyway.
The last few years of our shared life have seemed like one crisis after another, with little personal moments of sweetness mixed in. Here’s one of mine: In the first months of the pandemic, my youngest grandchild would get together with her best friend and spend the day playing together in a park a long walk away. Like my own childhood summers. The way childhood should be, in my mind.
I won’t list the hard things that have happened; we all know. We’re in the Age of Consequences. Things are falling apart. Even understanding they need to change, it’s uncomfortable to the luckiest of us, painful to most, deadly to some. We don’t know what’s next. Renewal, a way of being together full of life, harmony and spirituality and blessing? Dictators? Slow death by climate change? Don’t ask to know, just work toward the well-being of all life.
Inner peace does not come by positive thinking or by hope, though they may help us mobilize. We are called both to complete acceptance and to wholehearted engagement. (Meditation and prayer are forms of engagement, as are farming, civil disobedience, and so much more.)
With Ram Dass:
This year’s work has been focused mainly on writing the book. The subject was climate change and consciousness, but it grew to include everything. How did we become the people who insist on consuming the earth, at the expense of animals and plants, indigenous people, and our own grandchildren? That was in aid of the real question: “How do we become the kind of people who bless the earth instead of destroying it? That is not an individual inquiry; if the Kochs and Bezoses, the Enbridges and Peabody Coals and Nestles and Lithium Americas of the world continue to devour the earth, our personal actions will be like a teaspoon of salt in the ocean. Political/cultural/economic/spiritual change is needed. I’d like to think the book will help that movement.
I have a working title rather than a final one: Alliance: becoming the people who can bless the earth. The book is with the editor right now, then revisions, then finding a publisher.
There have been three long silent retreats, with two or three people each, as well as a land care retreat outdoors, a few workdays, and the online groups. The Zen group started early 2020 has settled into a steady community and my home base. The Gift of Fearlessness group is a creative space and also community; we’ll open it up after a bit of clarification. Monday morning zazen moves steadily along with two or three of us each week.
This has been the year of action for water protection/pipeline resistance at Line 3 in northern Minnesota. I’ve felt my absence keenly. In early spring I offered quarantine space to a group that had been doing active resistance and then needed a place to go. In summer Sawyer and I went to the Treaty People Gathering as part of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and of course there was support with letters, calls, donations, and the like – but I wished I could go up to the action, and I couldn’t.
We’ll have four long silent retreats – March, June, September, December – and some kind of retreat or offering on the third weekend of the other months: land care retreats, Introduction to Zen, solo retreats. The online offerings will continue.
Visiting remains an option, and I’m still open to discussions about residence here. There’s also a possibility of Zen training periods here (3-6 months) in the future, coordinated with my teacher’s temple.
Construction is planned to renovate the house to create community living space, early spring this year.
We made a Covid policy for the farm, beginning January, linked here. It will change as needed. The main point is that people can feel safe coming here, so it’s a conservative policy.
Working on the book, I spent much time at the computer and not as much outside as I would like, but the richness of reading and research and the challenge of making words has been a joy. I’ve had medical difficulties, and am seeing a doctor and an acupuncturist in addition to my homeopath. Trying to upgrade a lifestyle I’d always thought was healthy. In 2022 I look forward to more time outdoors, more sitting meditation and formal Zen study, less news, less facebook, more social time, slowing down. From time to time I talk with someone who might move here and start community with me.
My children and their spouses are delightful adults, my grandchildren moving through their teens with grace.
This life is so precious and beautiful. I can’t believe my good fortune, to live where I can see the stars and listen to the birds, greet violets in spring and milkweed in summer, blazing colors in fall – and to have safe food and water and enough of them, warmth, shelter, physical safety, a body and mind that work well, and love. And a calling, a path, a work to do. That last would serve, if I lost the rest.