September 15, 2017

Nature Is My True Business




Like Henry David Thoreau turning his “face more exclusively to the woods”, I am better known amongst the trees around my home than among the folk of our nearest town.

To me, the woods are a locale of self-salvation. Here, surrounded by Nature, I find respite from the brutality of the human world. The woods are full of beauty and interest and mystery, and draw me in to the comforting embrace of friendly boughs and limbs.

Within the mystery of the woods, I am never afraid. I am where I belong, and I can feel it in every cell of my body.

Here, I am carrying out my true business - living without the silly self-imposed separations inherent in the human world. Buckminster Fuller called it “categoryitis”, and it is the great separator that prevents collective action toward our common challenges.

Fuller warned that our illogical obsession with questions like “What is your race”, or ”nationality”, or “religion”, or anything else that artificially separates us, will be our doom. “By the twenty-first century,” he said, “it either will have become evident to humanity that these questions are absurd and anti-evolutionary, or humans will no longer be living on Earth.”

No such separations exist in nature. Naturalist Hal Borland described perfectly when he said, “You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion, or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

I love the simplicity of that state of being. In Nature, things just ARE. Why can't we be that way?

One day we will join together as One with, and in support of, Nature. When that happens, we will see Earth for what it was meant to be - our collective peaceful paradise.




September 11, 2017

Garlic Harvest

It's the last two weeks of summer, but the signs of fall are everywhere.

Our grassy field is turning brown, temperatures are cooling, and the hummingbirds are almost all gone. It can only mean one thing - harvest time. 


Freshly harvested garlic. We cured it outside and in the garage for two weeks.


One of the joys of this year's harvest has been our first ever crop of garlic. Our experiment was a success. The challenge now? Could I learn to braid it?



Hey, this isn't what the nice lady's braid looked like.


Linda and I watched a video posted by a woman that had been working on a garlic farm for decades and had probably done hundreds of braids in her day. She had prepared the scapes (stems) beforehand by soaking them in water to make them more pliable, and put together a beautiful braid in no time. It was hard work, even for her.



My messy twist of cured garlic.


Having watched one video once, I gathered together our cured garlic to try my hand at a new skill. It was fun to work with, but I did not soak the scapes first and it was amazing how tough they were to manipulate. But I persevered bravely, and attempted to organize the uncooperative stems into something both functional and beautiful.

I got functional, although garlic plants are inherently beautiful, so you can't really go wrong, even if they aren't perfectly put together.



Our first homegrown garlic, ready for eating.


After I was done I downgraded my description from "braid" to "weave".  Then maybe to "twisted"? Or "mangled"? But I did end up with a structure that had a handle on top, and all the garlic together so it can be hung.

Just a few more weeks and we will be planting next year's garlic plot. It will be the first using our own cloves. It will be another opportunity to perfect my braiding technique.




September 9, 2017

Emergency Solidarity



I have been watching footage from hurricane Harvey, starting in real time when the storm made land fall. In spite of the horror of the storm and ensuing fallout for the people of Houston, I saw more good news stories than I have in a long time. Emergency solidarity was everywhere.

I didn't have time to recover from my "bystander PTSD" from Harvey before Irma cranked up to a Category 5 storm. Now we are seeing emergency solidarity arising in Florida, and the Caribbean, and who knows where next. Such beauty in the face of overwhelming struggle and hardship.

Rebecca Solnit calls them "disaster communities" in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. They are groups of people that spontaneously come together in mutual aid and support in hard times.

“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”  

- Rebecca Solnit


Emergencies wipe away all the artificial ways that we get separated from each other - there is no time for silliness like that. We are forced to face the simple facts of survival, and the outcome is cooperation and solidarity. Our true nature is revealed, and it looks much different than our selfishness-based economic system.

Emergencies blow away all considerations of race, gender, wealth, orientation, class, and religious or political affiliation, and we realize that we are all members of the same community. We are all part of the human community. 

Because we have been trained to think in self-serving, competitive ways in order to fulfill our role as cogs in the consumer machine, we are amazed at the outpouring of help from total strangers. All of a sudden people become much less materialistic. Who cares about stuff when you are thrilled just to be alive and feeling connected to something bigger than yourself?

Profit as a driving concept simply does not exist when we come together in a common cause, like a disaster. Quite the opposite - abundance rules the day. Just look at the tons of donations, the money that is donated, and the volunteerism that follows adversity. I didn't see any rescuers charging people to be rescued. Why not?

It seems that capitalism does have limits, and it dares not enter into disaster communities. If it did, it would seem exactly as it is - crass, self-serving, and opposite to our natural desire to work together with our neighbours for the betterment of our communities. For free.

What if every day life was as altruistic and cooperative as what occurs every time we are met with extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances? What if we were satisfied with the magic of being alive, and saw our stuff for what it really it - piles of distracting crap?

The way we come together in isolated emergencies the world over, is the way humanity needs to come together on a grand scale to ensure our collective survival on this planet. That is the big emergency that should unify us all.

When I see the resilience, love and hard work of helpers after disasters, I feel I am seeing the true nature of humanity. We can do this thing. We can make everything better. Together. It is our default setting.



September 6, 2017

Getting Off Mechanical Time

Grandma had a Cronos clock on her mantelpiece - tick-tick, tick-tick... Time passed more slowly there.


The clock is one of the oldest human inventions. It is also one of my least favourite.

I have always dreaded the tiny tick of gears and whirring mechanisms, as well as the glow of digital time lords. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandmother's neat and orderly living room. The only sound was the tick-tick of the clock on the mantelpiece. Wanting to be playing outside, a second passed in that living room much slower than a second running around out in the cool air of the yard.

For as long as I remember I have been trying to rip the hands off the time tyrant's mechanized time-bots. I am not built to live according to mechanically measured minutes. I am not a machine - I am an animal. I would rather rely on the internal biological clock, and the cues that nature constantly gives us.


"The mechanical clock dates from the 14th Century... The machine that mechanized time did more than regulate the activities of the day: it synchronized human reactions, not with the rising and setting sun but with the indicated movements of the clock's hands: so it brought exact measurement and temporal control into every activity, by setting an independent standard whereby the whole day could be laid out and subdivided. 
"The measurement of space and time became an integral part of the system of control that Western civilization spread over the planet.
- Lewis Mumford


Culturally, there are many, many different ways that humans experience time. Most are very different from our artificial and imposed time structure. My own belief is that things will happen when they need to happen. You can't organize a modern, capitalist organization with this particular view of time? Oh well.

Nature operates off the clock, the movement of celestial bodies probably being the closest thing to a mechanized, dependable schedule. Otherwise, things happen when they happen, without measured time. And it all seems to turn out fine.

What a joy to sleep when tired, and eat when hungry. We have dropped the usual designations for meals, because what do you really call it when you eat breakfast at 4:30 pm?

Now we just call them all "meals", or if we need to distinguish one from the other, "meal one", "meal two", and (if necessary), "meal three".

I like not knowing what day of the week it is (that's right, I have a problem with calendars, too). Sometimes it gets so good that I lose track of the month, while being lost in just being. Amazingly, things continue to happen in a somewhat orderly, if unpredictable, manner.


"If victory over nature has been achieved in this age, then the nature over which modern humans reign is a very different nature from that in which humans lived before the science revolution. Indeed, the trick that humans turned and that enabled the rise of modern science was nothing less than the transformation of nature and of their perception of reality. 
The paramount change that took place in the mental life of people, beginning during roughly the 14th Century, was in our perception of time and consequently of space."

- Joseph Weizenbaum


It is good to discover the joys of living an unmeasured life free from the endless sweep of Cronos' influence. Off the clock, time is no longer a destructive, all-devouring force. Rather than moving through fragmented time segments, like an endless staircase that only goes in one direction (toward death), one moves as if through a river.

Life flows effortlessly from one moment to the next. And the next...

To get off mechanical time is to free yourself to fully experience yourself as an integral part of the natural world. Beat the clock. Be free. Whenever possible.





September 3, 2017

The 0.14%

Never mind the 1% - we are the 0.14%. But unlike them, anyone can join us.


How many people know our planet is in peril? Of those, how many use that knowledge to change the way they live? Surely there must be many of us. No?

Dave Cohen at the Decline of the Empire website writes:

"There are roughly 7.2 billion humans on Earth, and, roughly speaking, about 10 million of them are painfully aware that Homo sapiens is destroying the biosphere, slowly on human time scales, but in no time at all on the geological time scale. (10 million is a very generous estimate.) 
Some of those exceptional people, a goodly portion of whom are working scientists, are actively opposing the ongoing destruction, though many are not. Rounding up, those 10 million souls represent approximately 0.14% of the entire human population. 
The other 99.86% are either actively destroying the biosphere, or indifferent to that lamentable trend (i.e., they are merely current or would-be "consumers" who are thus acquiescing in and contributing to the trend indirectly)."

What? 10 million on the entire globe? Wow. I hope he is widely underestimating. How can we fix something if we are not aware that this is a problem of our own making?

Are you part of the 0.14%? Have you changed your personal consumption habits according to your knowledge?




August 31, 2017

The Land Is Our Church




“The Creator gave to us all the living things so that we would know how to act. The natural world is our Bible; by watching the chipmunk and the meadowlark and even the tiniest flower we learn the lessons that the Creator has put before us. Everything is sacred. This very land is our church.”

- Chief Fools Crow of the Oglala Lakota





August 30, 2017

Motor Vehicles - Ecocidal Agents of Destruction




Road kill. We say it without really thinking about it. Trillions of deaths annually are seen as unavoidable collateral damage, simply so we can go places faster and more conveniently.

I have been around cars for my entire life. During that time I have often thought about all the wildlife killed by cars every year.  The windshield alone is a speeding zone of death, evidenced by the ample bug stuff splattered everywhere after a road trip. What a way to go.

Like most North Americans, I have a motor vehicle (a wheelchair accessible van). Unlike most, for the past few years it has been driven an average of about 1600 km (1000 miles). When I drive to the grocers, which is about the only time I drive lately, I am usually not driving fast enough to kill any bugs.

Going slow means there is lots of time to stop or manoeuvre around anything on the road, although ants are impossible to see from the driver's seat. Now I mostly kill things with the noxious fumes emanating from my tailpipe. That doesn't make me feel any better.

The forecast is for more cars in the future. Lots more. Perhaps up to a billion more, and enough new roads for all of them, that would circle the Earth 600 times. These vehicular ecocidal agents of destruction will have serious repercussions for wildlife globally.

“A recent paper by Canadian scientists suggests the upsurge in traffic could itself be responsible for the fall in insect numbers. After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, researcher from Laurentian University calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.” - Source 

What would our transportation look like if we had reverence, compassion and care for all the other life that shares the planet with us? We can move toward this by staying closer to home, avoiding unnecessary trips, and when traveling, choosing less deadly forms of getting about, like cycling, walking, bus and train.

You can read more about the "highway holocaust" here. It might make you feel like leaving your car in the garage or driveway more often. We can help to radically reduce road kill.








August 27, 2017

Nature Abides

Trains ran on this abandoned line, from the 1800s until the 1990s. It linked the cities of Halifax and Yarmouth.

Nature has cycles. Things are born, live, and die, including civilized things such as train travel, which has been dieing a slow death in North America for decades. Through it all, nature abides.

Natural systems are the constant thread stitching together billions of years of Earth's development. It will probably continue for billions more, with us, or without us.

I am reminded of nature's cycles, and humans' path, every time I go for a bike ride on my local Rails to Trails route. For over 100 years, trains serviced the province of Nova Scotia, including a line to the southwest part of the province. It is this line that passes close to my home.

Since the 1990s the trains have been gone, and now it is a multi-use trail. The route passes through a rural area of farms, orchards and wood lots. It would be great if there were still trains here, although it is a great place for a long bike ride away from cars.

It is also great if you are interested in graphic examples of how nature endures our provocations, then carries on as if we were never around. All around are old farmsteads, abandoned, and being reclaimed by field and forest. They are both beautiful and melancholic at the same time.






Along this route one finds evidence that the area is in the later stages of development. Like me, the place is feeling its age.

The best economic conditions in the province were probably about the time it was a major wooden ship building centre. Steel hulled ships may have been good news for our forests, but they didn't do much for the economy here. The second smallest (and most beautiful) province in Canada has been coping ever since.

While other places today are facing similar conditions, Nova Scotia was over the hump long ago, which should make the people here well prepared for a future that will generally be less wealthy than the more lucrative past when resources were more plentiful and easily accessed.





The wooden ships are gone, the trains are gone, and many people are gone, too. One of the things this province is known for are its migrants going west to other provinces in search of work. In the past 5 years the county I live in has lost 4% of it population.

As you might surmise, the folks around here are indeed rugged and resourceful, by necessity. It is not hard to see the people here thriving in conditions more similar to the province's roots than more recent modern times.







I don't mind, coming from the west of Canada in areas that were growing at a frenzied rate. Such growth is a double edged sword. While it may be good for maintaining a certain standard of living, it is not so good for ones mental health if you are sensitive to the destruction that goes along with rapid growth.

I like life at a much slower, gentler pace, and Nova Scotia is all of that. Here, as I pass by the weathered wood siding, and rusty pump handles, I am reminded that civilizations have come to be, flourished, and are eventually swallowed by the deep sands. Or soil, or jungle, forest, or water. Gone, and that's ok.

We are not exceptional. We are not above the laws of Nature, no matter how much we deny them, or try to cheat our way out with technological saves. "And so it goes", as Kurt Vonnegut said.

Through it all, Nature abides. I find that uncomfortably comforting.




August 22, 2017

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

Experiencing the sacredness of nature can cause feelings of blessedness, joy, ecstasy, and serenity.

Humans have not always seen the natural world as a soul-less void passively existing to serve our needs and wants. At one time we knew that everything was alive, and crackled with life, magic, and soul. Trees, rocks, mountains, birds - every thing was sacred.

One of the beautiful things about believing in the sacredness of the Earth is that you don't see yourself as separate from it, and therefore hesitate to harm any part of it. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

In the 1800s, Chief Seattle explained his peoples' take on this. He said, "Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people". That is certainly my personal experience when I interact with natural surroundings.

"How can other people not see this, feel this?" I wonder to myself. For me it is powerful and unmistakable. Everything, in my perception, is crackling with energy, magic, and life.



Being in touch with the power of nature can awaken us to the spiritual dimensions of our existence.

Take the "sacred" designation away and distinctly un-natural things happen. We think we can "own" nature. We think it is all inferior, dead, and put there for the sole use of humans. Where did the sacredness go? How did we lose such an important part of ourselves?

In the book, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance, Swami B. V. Tripurari gives one possible explanation of how we arrived at seeing an essentially dead environment made for our own benefit.

"Our present environmental crisis is in essence a spiritual crisis", he says. "We need only to look back to medieval Europe and the psychic revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism to find the spirit of the environmental crisis. 
Inhibitions to the exploitation of nature vanished as the Church took the "spirits" out of the trees, mountains, and seas. Christianity's ghost-busting theology made it possible for man to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. 
It made nature man's monopoly. This materialist paradigm has dominated the modern world for last few centuries."

His solution? Put the sacred back into Nature. Give it the reverence it deserves, and see our selves as an integral part of the whole. Kind of like Chief Seattle was saying.

"The current deplorable environmental crisis demands a spiritual response", says Tripurari. "A fundamental reorientation of human consciousness, accompanied by action that is born out of inner commitment, is very much needed.”


Another special spot in my backyard woods. I look at the trees -  they look back at me. We are one.

Would you like to experience the sacred in nature more often and more powerfully? It is possible to learn to cultivate a relationship with nature that enhances our experiencing of the sacred. Such spiritual growth leads to positive change in our relationship with the Earth. We feel powerful, connected, at peace, and unafraid.

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

1. Find a special place in nature. How? Usually, such locations are not simply chosen, and rather, are revealed to us after a bit of a search. You will feel drawn to such a place. Allow yourself to listen to the call. Let it lead you. You will know, you will feel, when you have arrived.

2. If you are fortunate enough to find such a place, go there regularly, when called, or when the occasion requires it. In any case, go to the places that call you, and be open to their influence.

3. Repeated visits to special places help develop your sense of connection to nature. A special place could be in your backyard, your garden, a nearby park, a special tree, stream, hill or mountaintop. Visit at all times of the day, and in all seasons. Let yourself merge with it.

4. Meditating on the ceaseless rhythms and cycles of nature opens the gateway to sacred time vs clock time. Nature meditations allow one to touch eternity, and feel touched by it in turn.

5. The sacred is most powerfully available to us during times of transition -- sunrise, sunset, midday, phases of the moon, equinoxes and solstices. Take advantage of these moments, whether through cultural celebrations, or immersing yourself in a special spot.

6. Be alone, be still and silent. Silence is the key to opening a gateway into solitude and communion with the divine. Psychologist Clark Moustakas studied loneliness, and found that, “In absolute solitary moments, humans experience truth, beauty, nature, reverence, and humanity.”

7. Don't rush, be calm. These things take time. Insights will come when one is ready. But they will come, be assured.

When we are in intimate dialogue with nature, we can have powerful moments of insight and illumination. These moments are confirmations of our faith in the possibility of re-integration and wholeness, a confirmation of the healing process by which one can restore one’s relation to the world. 

When we feel the sacredness in nature, the meaning of human existence is revealed, even if it’s only for a moment. In these glimpses, we are put in profound contact with our own basic humanity and the nature of Being. We experience being part of the whole of nature.

Our individual being merges with the being of Earth. We are one.

It is this state that will change everything. Our actions become ones which honour nature, rather than exploit it and use it to satisfy our own greedy desires. We become sympathetic to the rocks and trees and air and water, because we see that they are us, and we are them.

This is the change in human consciousness that needs to happen in order for us to save the planet, and ourselves.




August 17, 2017

Rumi In The Woods



There is an old cabin in the woods in my back yard. I have hiked, or snowshoed, to it many times, but on my last walk in the woods I looked at it differently. Is it possible it looked more tranquil and appealing than ever before? 

Who doesn't want to run away to a cabin in the woods? Maybe its me and my love of the simple life, but a cabin next to a small brook and surrounded by a vast forest sounds pretty good right now. 

I imagine myself living here from day to day, hauling water, cooking over a fire, tending a small garden. Meditating. Sleeping. Blissing out on Nature. And reading. 

I would definitely have some Jalalud’din Rumi in my sanctuary in the woods. This is a prefect setting for contemplating the deep insight of this 13th Century Persian Poet, better known simply as "Rumi". 



"My soul is from elsewhere - I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there.”


"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world… today I am wise so I am changing Myself."


"When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near the truth."


"What you seek is seeking you."


Away from the madness of material culture, and surrounded by Nature, I deepen my own insight, and tap into a peaceful joy. 



August 14, 2017

Hugs Not Thugs




Hugs are a good way to say "I love you" without saying, or buying, anything.



"Let's have a war on hugs", said no one ever. Doesn't everyone love hugs? Problem is, not enough hugs, and too many thugs.

Here's the right idea - a "Bliss Mob Hug Parade". Yes, it is a real thing.

Our problems run deep. Hugs alone won't fix them.

But hugs will definitely make things better. So let's do this thing. Hugs all around. More hugs will decrease the incidence of thuggery. It will prevent the formation of new thugs.

Hugs before we start the hard work before us. Hugs during the hard work that we will do to create a better world. And lots of celebratory hugs when we see the joyous outcomes as we journey together.




August 11, 2017

Millennials Not Buying It

There is a major cultural shift taking place. Goodbye Boomers, Hello Millennials.


Hooray for Millennials. They are making money-makers mad. Many individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s are going off script. They aren't playing the game, and a variety of industries and products are feeling the pain of being left on the shelf.

There has been a culture shift quietly taking place in the most nonconformist generation since the hippy movement of the 60s. I am loving these Millennials, or "The Cheapest Generation", as frustrated sellers of stuff call them.

But the system should take notice - I don't think that ridicule and name calling will work this time.

Back in 1918, Nicholas Klein, a trade unionist, stated "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you." If the Millennials continue their game changing ways, and don't start buying and doing what they are suppose to, expect the attacks against them to ramp up.

"The least useful generation in America" aren't buying the dismal consumerism life that has been offered up for decades now. They see where that got their parents - debt, stagnant pay, depression, and struggling to raise a family on two wages. They see what the system has done to our planet. They were raised in an era of perpetual war.

Consumerist capitalism has infected everything. We live in a excessively wasteful, throw-away world. Disposable income, disposable products, disposable people. Waste defines our grotesque wealth.

Understandably, many of the young are not big fans of capitalism, with 42 percent of Millennials favouring a more people-centered approach. No wonder the establishment is in a huff, hurling insults such as "lazy", "high on self-esteem", and "entitled" at this recalcitrant cohort.

Get used to it. This group wants experiences that are more authentic, and less reliant on the Big Corp/Big Government cabal. This cultural shift is another nail in the coffin of a way of life that has been unsustainable from the beginning.



Things Millennials Aren't Buying


- car and home ownership

- uninspiring wage-slave jobs

- ownership (why own something when you can rent it?)

- bosses that use fear as a management strategy

- golf

- TV

- Mainstream Beer

- Big box stores

- Children

- Anything their parents tell them to buy



This is the most hope I have had in a generation since the Gen X slackers gave the finger to the mainstream. Having grown up through the Great Recession, Millennials are "an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits." Excellent.

It is good news that this group doesn't spend as freely as previous generations. Nor should they, unless they want to keep the whole Ponzi scheme going. And they don't. Is it because of financial constraints, or is this the generation that will embrace more sensible DIY frugal simple lifestyles? Will there be monuments to Millennials in the future? Time will tell.

I do hope it is true that Millenials are"ready to fight—to do whatever it takes". I hope they are truly  "not afraid”, and that that they go down in history as the generation that restored some sanity to a consumer culture gone mad.

If not them, who? If not now, when?






August 9, 2017

Simple Living Advice

Think. Ask questions. Learn. Answers follow. Take action. Repeat.


A big thank you to everyone that responded to my last post with advise for NBA reader, Hagan, who is looking to break out of the 9 to 5 and live a more adventurous and free life on the road. It has turned out to be one of my favourite comment threads of all time on our blog.

The responses are great for anyone pursuing alternative ways of living, and who isn't these days? Following the comments, and thinking about Hagan's 23 year old thoughts, has me thinking a lot about my own path, 33 years advanced from his position.

Whenever I am pondering something, patterns become apparent, and information presents itself at precisely the right time. For example, I was reading at the Down To Earth blog. I find that we are often on the same page, and this time was no different.

On her most recent post Rhonda Jean wrote:

"I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life.
The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one and each day, small step by small step we move through life. 
There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled."

I thought of Hagan, because like the comments posted here, these are words to live by, words that I have lived by. It reminded me that there are no simple answers, no one size fits all response when it comes to thinking about how we should best live this precious, precious life we have been given.

Having said that, one can't go wrong by advising a life of simplicity centred on continuous learning and self-improvement. It seems that if one focuses on that, the rest will fall into place.

Again, thank you to NBA commenters that have shared their wise thoughts with us. I do hope that Hagan has seen your kind words.

You can read the post and comments here. And if you haven't already, do consider leaving a comment of your own.







August 2, 2017

Conflicted

Stick your finger in the map - it smells of the open road. 


Do you yearn for a life on the road? Or a simple life, anywhere? Does thinking about the 9 to 5 make you nauseous? Need more than a mainstream life of conformist mediocrity?

NBA reader Hagan is feeling the disappointment of mainstream life. Like many of us, he is not feeling spiritually enlightened by materialism and the work-shop-work cycle. He left a comment on our post called Rubber Tramping.

Hagan said,

I am feeling so conflicted. I have been spending the last almost 2 years, waiting, pacing back and forth. Figuratively speaking; I've been banging my head against a wall because I don't want to live a 9 to 5 lifestyle. 
I feel stuck. I feel decompressed and restricted. I am a decently talented artist/ musician who has lived the same place in Colorado my entire almost 23 years of life. And I don't think I will be able to just.. be. 
Ever. Not like this. 
I'm asking you all for advice. How do you make a living on the road.? I've talked with good friends about this topic and a lot say spanging, wire wraps, jewellery, all the way to selling dollar beers, and grilled cheeses at music festivals. 
Please give me insight if you could as I am in need of all the advice I can find.

I responded,

Hagan,
I have been thinking about your comment since you left it here. I, and many people that visit this blog, know how you feel. Your need for freedom is palpable, and it is serious. 
You must act. 
I don't know about making a living on the road, having never had to do it before. But I do know a bit about living with as little as possible so I can be as free as possible, both on the road, and off. 
Cut your expenses, and make the life you envision happen. It will be hard, and at times scary. But it absolutely can be done. And should be done. A life of conformist mediocrity is a hard row to hoe as well, so you might as well be free. 
Be free. Do whatever it takes. That is my only advise. And let us know how it goes.


That doesn't seem like much help to this young, suffering soul, but it is a complicated situation. Pretty much everything in our way of life is meant to stifle freedom, not augment it. You will work for us. You will give us your hard earned cash in exchange for trinkets and distractions.

Obey. Conform. Wanting a simpler life and more freedom seems like a natural reaction to an un-natural exploitive system. I think Hagan is on the right path.

My own quest for simplicity has been a decades long adventure. But I do remember feeling similar feelings when I was 23. There has never been a time in my life that I envisioned doing the same things as everyone else around me. I wanted to find, and take, the road less traveled.

Regular life is not for everyone. Maybe a life such as what we have for the masses today is not for anyone. Now seems like a great time to explore alternatives, on the road, or off the road. Anywhere.

Rubber tramping. Leather tramping. Tramping. Being free. Being.

Do you have any advice for Hagan, or others (young or old) looking to live more simply and with greater freedom? How does one get off the 9 to 5? How do we break free of the chains of mainstream culture and the consumer capitalist system?




July 30, 2017

Things Are Falling Into Place



Everything seems to be falling apart. Nothing is working the way it should, and the future looks bleak. But what if current conditions are necessary pre-cursors to the changes that we wish to see?

More than likely it will take something of the magnitude of a political Fukushima, like the threat of fascism or neo-feudalism, to shock citizens into much-needed action.

Therefore, the current most powerful man in the world might be an unpleasant, but necessary, bit of fire starter under the complacent tinder that has built up over the decades of inaction on the part of the people.

Even with the MSM trying to scrub the news of any real meaning, some truths manage to sneak through occasionally, and more and more people are starting to take notice. For those that are paying attention, it is evident that things are crumbling.

At the same time, things are falling into place.

Personally, locally, nationally and globally an awareness of the need for change is exploding. Don't look for government or corporate leadership here - this change, like all lasting change for good, comes from the people. And it is happening.

The citizens of Earth bear a terrific responsibility. Now is the time to accept it and move forward with passion and collective action.

Are things falling apart, or are things falling into place?

Time will tell.




July 27, 2017

Cathedrals of Consumerism Losing Their Congregations

Is this the beginning of the end of consumerism?

I never did like shopping malls much. Therefore, now that they are an endangered species, I am not mourning, despite having a twinge of nostalgia when I think about them.

"Corridor of nothing."

When I was a young dungaree-wearing hooligan, my friends and I would congregate at the new mall in my hometown for "something to do". But then, as now, I was not buying anything. It was more about the social aspect, and staying one step ahead of mall security.

 “Two million square feet of echo.”

Because malls were for shopping, not loitering. Not buying anything? Get out. What a difference a few decades make - now hardly anyone is buying anything at the mall.

Besides nostalgia, I find malls fascinating from a ghost town perspective. There is something to be learned from our futile failed experiments, including this one, that started with the first mall in the 1950s. I consider it a good thing that our cathedrals of consumerism are finally losing their congregations.

"Almost one-fifth of the nation’s enclosed malls have vacancy rates considered troubling by real estate experts — 10 percent or greater. Over 3 percent of malls are considered to be dying — with 40 percent vacancies or higher. That is up from less than 1 percent in 2006." - NYT 


I wish the demise of the mall was because we have decided that overconsumption is so, like, 80s, and we are moving on to a more ecologically aware way of living. Maybe it is. We are going through monumental changes right now when it comes to shopping and our relationship with materialism. We know that the priests of commerce lied, and that salvation can not be bought at the mall. Or anywhere else.

“There’s no customers, but they have a customer-service desk”


Are shopping malls endangered because their parents, consumerism and institutionalized greed, are themselves endangered species? Is humanity, dare I say, evolving into an eco-consciousness the likes of which we have not experienced for a very long time? Dream big, I say.

Goodbye, malls. I won't miss you, or any of that stuff that I didn't buy. Don't worry, it's not you, it's us.


A report issued by Credit Suisse in June predicted that 20 to 25 percent of the more than 1,000 existing enclosed malls in America will close in the next five years.


July 23, 2017

En-laughter-ment

Warning: consumerism will not lead to enlightenment.


I am having a bit of a Zen moment lately here on NBA. My last post on Zen Kitties elicited this response from Sophie:

"I wish I had read this wonderful post BEFORE I cleaned the cats' litter box! This gave me a much-needed laugh today."

Reading Sophie's comment led me to think more about Zen and laughter.




Often Linda gives me cause to spontaneously erupt in a belly laugh. She is a very witty person with a wicked sense of humour, one reason I love her so. She is my laughter guru.

In these moments it feels like a window on the Infinite has been thrown open. A brief moment of enlightenment, ala Sosan, the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. He would "awaken" his students with unexpected loud noises, but it seems to me that anything jarring that surprises you could put one in a receptive state.





For me, that is stealth humour where I am caught unaware, and am laughing joyously before I even know I am laughing. In that space I am grounded, centred and present.

In that moment I am one with Linda, with humour, with my environment, and with a very delightful (and often funny) Universe. Even if only for a brief moment, it feels wonderful with all barriers and separations dissolved.






I hope this blog can keep Sophie, and all NBA readers, laughing from time to time with zingers that come out of nowhere.

Clang! There it is - en-laughter-ment.

Other things that I have found that lead me to moments of clarity include the practices of: love, compassion, humility, forgiveness, making music, helping others, and living simply. I wish to share those here as well.

And all the while laughter, as we progress together. Ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ho. Hee, hee, hee. You can not possibly have too much laughter.










July 19, 2017

Kitty Mandalas





“You suffer because things are impermanent and you think they are permanent.” 
- Thich Nhat Hanh

I will meditate on this, the next time I wipe my garden clean of kitty "art". Every experience can be seen as an opportunity for learning and growing, if only we are patient, compassionate, and open-minded.

I will call it, "Zen and The Art Of Garden Maintenance".




July 18, 2017

My Empire Of Rocky Soil Under Attack

Our first ever garlic is looking good.

This is it - my summer domain, my playpen, my 8X16 Empire of Rocky Soil. And, as it turns out, my giant litter box.

In the spring, while seeds of peas and beans and acorn squash and such were germinating, what I mostly harvested from my vast track of land, was kale from a second year plant (they are biannual), and cat poop.


Acorn squash flowers are big and bold.

Every morning I went out to collect some kale for a green smoothie (not a brown smoothie), I would also find a smelly gift from a neighbourhood feline. Maybe it was a bobcat, which are common in Nova Scotia, but rarely seen. Either way, poop is poop, and it does not belong where I am growing things to ingest.

While cat droppings contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash, which are all primary ingredients of organic fertilizers, they also contain organisms such as the toxoplasmosis protozoa, and that can make you sick. They are little toxic bombs, and they have to go.


Pole beans are climbing the tripod I made out of sticks from the forest.

I had to defend my borders. I crisscrossed sticks between the seedlings. I kept the soil wet. After reading that cats don't like strong smells where they do their business, I spread bits of orange peel. I didn't want to go to the nuclear option of sitting out all night with a spray bottle of ice cold water. Or giant cymbals.


It won't be long before fresh peas are on the menu.

The deposits dropped in number, but still continued, as did my ritual of cutting kale, then searching for land mines. What did work, in the end, was having the garden fill in. The cat (or cats) have been crowded out, and moved on to a better box somewhere else.


Beans are just flowering now.

Now I wait for the next interlopers, perhaps some hungry caterpillars, or cucumber beetles, or powdery mildew. While the cats have given me a chance to pause for a while, and let my defences down, I must stay alert in order to (organically) guard the food growing in my little rocky domain.







July 14, 2017

Frugal Living vs Extreme Frugal Living

Frugal living - making beans on the stove top. Extreme frugal living - making beans in a heatless cooker.



One search phrase that leads many readers to this blog is "extreme frugal living". I am not sure that is what I am doing here, but it is alright with me to be associated with such a concept. I am happy to have visitors that are looking to become more efficient in their use of Earth's gifts.

It is not surprising to me - everything has to be "extreme" these days in order to capture people's attention. The unwritten motto is, "Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the extreme". So you get extreme pretty much anything.

I am not sure what the exact difference is between frugal living and extreme frugal living, except the later must somehow be more frugal than the former. Maybe it is an ego/competition thing.

"I am frugaler than you are."

"No way, dude. I am the frugalist."

Frugality kind of seems like being pregnant. Either you are, or you aren't. However, it is hard to fault someone for wanting to continually improve their practice of living more lightly on this planet.

In trying to understand what separates the merely frugal from the more extreme variety, I share a few ideas that came to mind.


Frugal living is cutting your own hair.

Extreme frugal living is cutting your wife's hair.


Frugal living is buying discounted food.

Extreme frugal living is dumpster diving.


Frugal living is biking everywhere.

Extreme frugal living is walking everywhere (or deciding that there is nowhere to go because you are already where you need to be).


Frugal living is sleeping in a van.

Extreme frugal living is sleeping in a box car.


Frugal living is wearing the same clothes for a year.

Extreme frugal living is wearing the same cloths till they are threadbare, then making paper out of them.


Is it frugal living, or extreme frugal living? Or just being sensible? It depends on who you ask. Plus, what used to be the way we did things has become the new frugal as we adopt increasingly luxurious ways of living.

Darning socks? Once common, now frugal. Or even extremely frugal.

Either way, the more careful we are about spending money or using resources when not needed, the better it is for everyone.





July 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Henry David Thoreau



"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."   
- Henry David Thoreau


If you are interested in voluntary simplicity, chances are you have been influenced by, or at least know of, Henry David Thoreau. While he was born on this day 200 years ago, his anti-materialist/pro-nature philosophy is more important today than ever before.


"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."  - H.D.T.


Thoreau's writings inspired me at an important time of my life. As a young man just starting out, his liberating outlook encouraged me to explore alternative ways of living and being. In him I found a friend in the struggle to come to terms with a set of basic questions that no one else seemed that concerned about.


"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life." - H.D.T. 


While those around me thought they knew "what to do" in life, I thought the most important questions should be asked before deciding what direction one should take.


How best to earn a living? 

How much time should I spend at it? 

How much do I need to live well and to be free? 


Eventually, Thoreau's words moved me to actively search for my own version of the cabin, and lifestyle, of Walden Pond. He assured me that marching to my own drummer was the thing to do, and I have been dancing to that unique beat ever since. What a path it has lead me down.

"Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." 
- H.D.T.


Today, Linda and I have christened our new Nova Scotia home our "Cabin on Acacia Brook", even though it is neither a cabin, nor is it directly on the brook (which is across the field and down a forested slope).

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination." - H.D.T.


But it is as close as we have come yet to our ideal simple living arrangement where we can live out our most precious hopes and dreams.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." 
- H.D.T.

So, today I commemorate the powerful influence that Thoreau's words, ideas, and philosophy have had, and will continue to have, on the world, and in my own life. Thanks, Hank. I hear your drum beat.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - H.D.T.




July 10, 2017

10 Ways To Have A Shortened Lifespan

Can you tell me which one tried to kill you?

How long do you want to live? If things continue the way they are, we can expect the average life span to stop increasing as it has for the past few decades, and begin to contract.

For those that have no ambitions in the area of longevity I offer the following guidelines. I call it the "Here For a Good Time, Not a Long Time" plan, also known as the "Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away" school of thought. It seems that many people are following it.

  1. Don't be concerned with heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, or accidents. Most things in a modern lifestyle are potentially harmful, and you have to die from something.
  2. Work as much as possible, preferably more than 40 - 50 hours per week. Live to work instead of work to live.
  3. Eat a meat-based diet heavy on processed and fast foods, and eat extra calories every day. The guidelines of about 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day for men, and 1,600 to 2,400 calories for women, should be considered a starting point. Don't worry - animals don't feel any pain.
  4. Be busy all the time. Allow chronic psychological stress to dominate your life. Success doesn't come easy.
  5. Don't exercise. Who has time? Plus, no one likes to sweat.
  6. Drink alcohol  Life's a party!
  7. Cultivate a negative attitude. It's not pessimism, it's reality.
  8. Don't laugh. These are serious times.
  9. Don't spend time in nature - go shopping instead. Nature is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and often far from amenities. How can you buy anything there? It's all free.
  10. Be a rugged individual! Don't cultivate relationships. Do it all on your own.

I do hope that you ignore these guidelines, and are working toward having a long, happy and healthy life.


“Of the 3,142 counties in the US, McDowell County, West Virginia comes in at No 3,142 in terms of life expectancy. For men, that’s 64 years, a statistic that, as Bernie Sanders likes to point out, is the same for men in Namibia.” - Source


    July 5, 2017

    Plant A Garden

    Grow food, not lawn. We could use about 8 more raised beds in our yard.
    Thankfully, lawn care is included in our rent.

    If you are asking yourself if you should plant a garden, the answer is always, YES. There is much enjoyment, wisdom and food to gain, and nothing to lose. Anywhere, any time, the answer is always - go ahead and plant.

    Most years since Linda and I met, we have had a garden. We are by no means experts, and you will not read much in the way of gardening advice on our blog. But we will say, "Grow one!" without hesitation.

    Nature is an amazingly abundant and magical force, and when nurtured in an organized (or even semi-organized or totally chaotic) manner, wonderful things happen. And since plants are survivors, even temporary neglect can work out, just in case you are worried it will be too much work.


    This year we are growing plants new to us: garlic, cucumber, acorn squash, and onions from seed.


    One year we were gardening with a partner. In theory, what was supposed to happen was that we prepared and planted in the spring, and she would tend things through the summer while we were away.

    As it turned out, it was a case of "If you want the gods to laugh, make a plan". The fully planted garden was untended for several weeks, without additional watering, thinning, weeding and general tending.


    Garlic scapes are starting to grow.


    As it turned out, it didn't seem to matter that much - we still got wheelbarrow-fulls of food for us and our neighbours. Our garden partner was forgiven once we witnessed the out-of-control abundance that was created in that neglected patch of soil. Not the ideal situation, but not planting would have been a bigger mistake than our choice of garden buddy.

    The good things that occur when you grow your own food happen both in the garden, and in your life. You do not need to be an expert, or a work-a-holic. Your garden will evolve to suit you, your skills, and your needs. You aren't just growing plants, you are growing a whole way of living.

    Do as much, or as little as you wish, but by all means - plant a garden. Plant anything. Enjoy.




    July 3, 2017

    Turtles All The Way Down

    Turtle Crossing: Proceed With Caution

    Another bike ride into the wilderness, another amazing turtle encounter.

    My dad used to tell a story similar to the one Stephen Hawking shares below, so I often think of it when I visit with turtles. It is funny that a symbol of Mother Earth makes me think about my father.

    And my mother. And the mother we all share. Enjoy the turtle tale.




    A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.  
    At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."  
    The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"  
    "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady.  
    "But it's turtles all the way down!"

    - A Brief History of Time, Ch. 1. Our Picture of the Universe





    July 1, 2017

    Moth, Rust, and Mold

    Moth, rust, sub-prime mortgage crisis... and mold.



    The bible has a quote about material things that starts,“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy...". Hmm, nothing about mold (or the Great Recession). Probably because the authors were desert dwellers living in simple hand-built homes.

    Basically, no moisture, no mold. And no mortgage, no meltdown.

    For 9 years before moving to the Atlantic side of Canada, we lived 5 meters from the Pacific Ocean. It was more humid than any other place I lived previously, which includes being born in the semi-arid climate of the Palliser's Triangle of the northern Great Plains.

    On the prairies things dry up and blow away, so for many years I knew nothing of the power of molds. Now we live a few foggy kilometres away from the ocean, which surrounds our area.

    I am convinced mold is nature's way of making sure there aren't too many things sitting around unused.

    Mold spores are a common component of normal household dust. They are found everywhere, and can grow on almost any substance when moisture is present. These amazing life forms can grow in temperatures from 0 to 35 degrees Celsius (32 and 95 °F). Yes, they are persistent.

    In a high humidity climate, like on the coasts, things that aren't in use, and circulating in and out of storage, are in danger of molding. It is relentless. A rolling stone in coastal humidity of 96% may gather no moss, but it still molds.

    The worst thing is when something you don't need or want succumbs to one or more of the thousands of known mold types. I guess if it isn't being used, you deserve to have it broken down into its component parts and returned to nature.

    But really, how is it that even after downsizing to the point we fit everything we owned into a travel van, upon arriving here 6000 km away, we realize we still have things we don't want or need? How does that happen?

    I think it is the round leaf sundew stickiness of material things.

    Stuff is easy to acquire, and difficult from which to get unstuck. Almost three years later we are still finding things that are not doing any work for us. And if something starts to mold, it is creating work. Mold in a house is a bit of an emergency that must be dealt with immediately.

    Which makes me think, "How much time do we spend maintaining, storing, moving and shuffling our possessions? Or worrying about them? Or keeping them safe from theft, and dust, and breakage?"

    The answer to that is probably, "Too much time". They aren't possessions, they are possessing. Possessing us and our precious time. Things are so needy, always vying for our attention. When they are taking more than they give, it is time to get unstuck, and let them go.

    We are nearing the end of dealing with our current moldy mini-crisis, which turned out to be yet another wonderful opportunity to get rid of even more excess baggage. The Universe is telling us something, still.

    1. You can live more freely, joyfully, and less moldily, with fewer things, and

    2. Run a dehumidifier (we borrowed one from our landlord) to make sure the things you do need and want don't succumb to the whole moth, rust and mold routine.

    I am getting closer all the time to my ultimate goal of being able to fit all my possessions into a shoebox. Thanks, mold, for helping nudge me in that direction.







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