Trees or Convenience? We choose

You never know what will change things. For instance, one day the local, long-standing Travelodge, and adjacent restaurant, The Mason Jar, both shaded by huge pine and deciduous trees, was operational. The next day, the whole thing was surrounded by yellow caution tape. Days later the bulldozers and demolition crews moved in to dismantle all standing structures. As time passed I had such fear in my heart that these beautiful trees would also be demolished. But they seemed to be identified as worth saving and spray painted to indicate such and were not torn down. A parcel of barren, bulldozed, land is all that remained, save the seven or eight huge trees.

“Thank God they saved those trees”! I thought.

A couple of months later after the demolition was finished I was dismayed to find a brand spankin’ new Walgreens inserted onto the property. There had been a fully functional one located in a strip mall a couple of miles away, but in the interest of creating a grand gateway to a struggling neighborhood the powers that be decided a poorly designed, hard-to-drive-into-the-parking-lot Walgreens would make a statement. A statement of what, I have no idea. (I would imagine those that wave the banner of private property rights and free markets would applaud this use. I personally think we’re all in this together, that nothing is free in the market, and there is only the illusion of “owning” property.  I am in a minority in this thinking, yet the minority is growing.)

Fast forward a few months and the trees are still standing on the property. That beautiful spot could have been a small park, a neighborhood gathering spot, a refuge from the eyesore next door but instead, I see a new construction fence go up with a sign reading “National Bank coming soon!” Again, I am dismayed but cautiously hopeful – they will keep the trees, right?

How stupid am I? Pretty stupid.

All but two of those trees are gone.

Our high desert town has had many things to mourn the loss of, over the years, and for me those trees are one. For me, it’s the death of ancestors, before their time had come, pure and simple.

Something shifted in me as I mourned the death of those trees, something became clear. The deep desire in me to stand with the underdog, and those in need, came to the forefront. The death of six or seven trees have become my personal canary in a coal mine, saying ‘Danger! Don’t go further down this path of needless expansion and death for profit!’ The convenience of buying cheap drugstore items and a drive through lane at the bank is NOT wealth to me.






not enough

You lucky, lucky girl.
You have an apartment just your size.
A bathtub full of tea.
A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid.
~  Frida Kahlo

Sometime the slosh of my messy compassion falls over the rim of my cup and cauldron

as tears, it burns my skin like a 40mph wind blowing in the parking lot, in 20 degree temperatures

hands wet, ice forms, did my excess become his only meal that day?

tears because I can’t give more


then later

12 miles, nothing to me, but 12  miles a recent jailbird didn’t have to walk.

He has a 7 month old he saw for the first time at a court appearance. She’s sitting up now.   Strong legged he says.

I sure wish you well.  There is a lot of  crazies out there for sure, not just there – where you’re from – but everywhere.

I said, “When we don’t have our basic needs met anymore, like food, water, house, respect and love….that’s when it all goes downhill”.

I double around from Leupp road

Wonder at the simplicity of providing just a tiny molecule of the basics.


Is progress and development and ‘growth’ (economic growth is implied) really what we need on this planet?

From the little I’ve come to know about life, if we don’t value what we have right now, then we won’t know how to value the thing we want, once we get it.  We all know the course the dominant culture is on is insatiable.

But what do we need?

We need unadulterated food, soil, air, water and love.


We may think we need more golf courses, economic development, low-wage chain stores, and McMansions, a raise, a newer car, etc. (Yeah, I know, in the short-term a raise can be life saving – but I’m talking the Big Picture)

Maybe a community’s desire to be self-sufficient is what we really need. A group of people who live in a geographic region who desire to sustain themselves and their neighbors to the best of their ability by their own hands, not the hands of 14 year olds in Bangladesh, or the credit afforded by the Big Banks to amass more trinkets.

If money is a lien against the Earth’s resources (raw earth resources as well as human/animal labor), why do we in this country and others, continue to live in such a way that the debt we incur will never, and can never, be paid off? Nothing can bring back the hundreds of mountaintops removed for coal in the oldest mountain range in the U.S., for instance.


In the little high-desert town that I live in, there is a strong push these days to get the “economy” going at a faster pace.  A push to build more and make more money, and in this currently reigning paradigm that is what is needed.  But it’s not a paradigm I subscribe to.  What if the people in this town, instead of wanting more new businesses to open to provide more jobs, found ways to turn the needs of those who live here into a business?  Creating community kitchens so that those who would like to make a business out of making food for others could do it without having to open a restaurant?  One GREAT thing that Flagstaff just did is open a community workshop – THAT’S what I’m talking about!

Rise up or Die: Some questions

We stand helpless before the corporate onslaught. There is no way to vote against corporate power. Citizens have no way to bring about the prosecution of Wall Street bankers and financiers for fraud, military and intelligence officials for torture and war crimes, or security and surveillance officers for human rights abuses.

VIA: Chris Hedges: Rise up or Die –

Having read Chris Hedges book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt”, where he and Joe Sacco go to some of the most impoverished parts of the US and report back that yes, what is happening in this country is the same destruction and sickness that we attribute to third world countries, I was happy to see that he is still speaking up and out about our current state of affairs.

What will be the issue(s) that cause you to rise up or die?

Will you wait until your home mortgage is upside down and you have nowhere to go? Or, will you wait to confirm that the cancer you have is definitely caused by GMOs or pesticides, or your shampoo?  Will you wait until, like in Greece, the government that is no longer FOR the people nor BY the people, plan to literally take your money from your accounts?

I ask myself these same questions. I have risen up on occasion, but I think that what we all know is coming is a mass rising. That said, I do not feel that the rising has to be an “against” rising.  I would love for it to be a “for” rising.

What would you rise for? Are you and I wiling to stand and rise for a sustained period of time or just on the weekends to carry signs in front of passing traffic?  What will finally cause us to coalesce into the powerful billions that we are?

What connection does rising up have to householding?  It has complete connection.  Our planet is our home.  We all collectively hold this earth, as it holds us, and have the power to destroy our ability to live on it or to increase, peacefully, our ability to live on it.

As with householding and homemaking, we have choices. Thank the Gods we still have choices!  We CAN disengage from the current paradigm in many meaningful ways. These are not easy ways in this world, though.  Who wants to disconnect from all the electrical input, for starters? No one.  So, how to continue to be connected but not through a controlled system? How can we have control of our own food if we get 98% of it from a manufacturer? How can we even think of doing these things when we don’t have enough money to make any ends meet? I do believe the answers to these questions are individual and collective. We do what we can and then find like-minded, supportive others to learn, grow and celebrate with.

The great news is that people in your community or location have been doing this type of disengagement for a long time.  Go find those people and talk to them.  Use what you can from what they know and rise up to the occasion of living your life for yourself and the good of your community, not for the profit of a few.

The Fifth Sacred Thing film in development, narrated by Olympia Dukakis.

Only a little crash at the finish line…

When I said I would help with scenery for the local theater’s next play I did not fully comprehend what I was getting into.  Set painting, picking out vases and chairs are some of the tasks that came to mind.  What entailed was 4 weeks and 4 days of hard physical work, strategic thinking, and chaotic family schedule…and painting.  Lots and lots of painting.  What began as 8 X 10 backdrop panels ended up being 12 X 12.  And there were four of them.

Set design for the Opera Judith by Alexander Serov. 1907

Naima did not paint this!    Set design for the Opera Judith by Alexander Serov

I painted deciduous trees and pines in two seasons. Now, I am not a landscape painter.  Abstract realism is closer to my style.  So,  they came out more amateurish than I had hoped.  I use the excuse that I was painting on cheap drop cloths, using housepaint from Home Depot, with shitty brushes, while backstage folk regaled me with tales of yesteryear, all while working against a seemingly impossible deadline…but that isn’t much of an excuse. Did I mention that I have a chronic pain and fatigue condition?  Fibromyalgia is no joke.  It may not be well understood, but it is real and often daunting. I told no one at the theater about how I dealt with the pain of working so hard for a month.  So. Throw that in the mix.

One week before opening night the Technical Director called in a young college student to help out. I’m grateful for her help because it meant that I finished all four paintings in time

Set design for the opera Moïse et Pharaon, Par...

Naima did not paint this!  Set design for the opera Moïse et Pharaon, Paris, 1827. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

for opening night.  She asked to paint some details.  I went through many emotional responses and finally I said yes, feeling generous and grateful.  I may not have done it the way that she did, but again, I was grateful for the help.

Jump to opening night.  I went out with a friend for dinner then we went to see the play.  It was the first time I had seen it all the way through. The musicians did a great job, cramped like they were in the hot cave that is the jump on stage right. The singers/actors belted out their songs with gusto.  It was a right nice play.

The cast made short announcements at the reception afterwards.  They gave small gifts to the Director, some of the technical folks and then…they gave a gift to “the girl that helped with the backdrops, painted trim and lots of other things backstage”.  That’s right, the girl that had been around for a week, and added grass-looking slashes to my paintings with her fingers was getting acknowledged for her work on the backdrops.  The ones that I labored over for almost 80 hours.

Boy did my ego have a hard time with that.

Did I not work hard enough? Long enough? Was it like my friend said and it was just that the cast didn’t know me (I worked during the days so that I wasn’t interrupting their rehearsals at night).  Was I lured into thinking I did something special because I was told numerous times that in 40 years, no one had painted a backdrop for that theater before, much less four of them?

Did I crash at the finish line?  No, not really. The paintings were finished before opening night.  My ego was bruised at the finish line but I need to remember that it wasn’t my ego that was painting, so the bruising was ultimately self inflicted. I had an attachment to the outcome, rather than realizing the moments spent painting were all the joy I needed.

Photo credit George Breed

Panel #3, Day 1  –  Photo credit George Breed

Are YOU a butch cookie maker? If so, join the homemade revolution!

UnknownFrom, Harriet Fasenfest, the woman who brought you The Householders Guide to the Universe here is an excerpt from her website:

“…I believe a great opportunity for transformation is upon us.  Creating new economies, home economies, economies based on reasoned and prudent systems of supply, demand, production, and consumption, will take a hands-on, homemade revolution. It will take a stepping-down from the mainstream marketing matrix. It will require a re-evaluation of wants and needs. In the end, it might well require a radical new legion of butch cookie makers to challenge the dominant economic paradigm.” (emphasis mine)

Or as another blogger Lee Roversi calls it, activism by lifestyle. How we go about our daily lives, I venture to say, is just as, or more important than letters to our senators, arbor day, or any other “special interest” activity. Why? Because our lifestyle is the bulk of our existence. It makes the biggest impact on how we use the Earth’s resources, and is the most visible message to others.

And this, which I LOVE is an excerpt from one of  Fasenfest’s Blogs:

  1. Householding is not a gender-specific act
  2. Householding seeks to revise small-scale systems of home economics
  3. Householding eschews fast food, fancy packaging, and marketing hype
  4. Householding requires a connection with natural systems
  5. Householding sees value in the domestic
  6. Householding eschews “economies of scale” as maligned systems
  7. Householding seeks a healthy environment, family, and community as a barometer of its success
  8. Householding refuses the commodification of everyday skills

Well, Harriet, I’m a butch cookie maker, and have always seemed to be challenging dominant paradigms….I’m ready to find others out there who can identify themselves as Householders, making their homes the place where Spirit shines through, embodying the fact that what is personal IS political, and naturally making a better world for all of us.

If you, the reader, have thoughts on how you see your home being the center of your universe, please share your comments.

Learning to swim

“The mystic and the schizophrenic
find themselves in the same ocean,
but whereas the mystic swims,
the schizophrenic drowns.”  –

Doña Ramona, a Seri shaman from Punta Chueca, ...

Doña Ramona, a Seri shaman from Punta Chueca, Sonora, Mexico.

“Now I’m aware that I alone am in the vast
of the sea
And cause the sea to be the sea

Just swim.
Just swim.
Go on with your story.

Dainin Katagiri Roshi – from” “Long Quiet Highway – Waking up in America” by Natalie Goldberg

So, to go on with my story……

I have always been afraid of being in water.  And, I have always known my grandmother’s house – the one house that has been there my entire life.  One night recently I dreamed that I was in my grandmothers house.  The entire house was filled with water.  There was nowhere to go but through it.

In my dream, I felt myself relax, and for the first time in my life, waking or otherwise, I enjoyed being in the water.  I woke up with a smile on my face and then cried because I wished I could walk to the ocean, right then, and jump in.

Water is a symbol of humanity’s unconscious, and of our emotional worlds, and other things.  I have been allowing so much of my deeper self to “float up” lately that it’s not really a surprise that I had this dream.  The surprise for me was the complete 180 degree turnaround my CONSCIOUS self experienced afterward.  I wanted to be in the ocean, in the rivers, the lakes.  I wanted to feel the caress that only water can give.  I wanted to swim literally and figuratively, mythologically and concretely. The fear was gone.

I have always had a burning desire to delve into the uncommon.  To root around in the dark mass, just below the surface of waking life.  To find my origin and destination.  To try to communicate back to others what I find.  This is no small task.  Turns out, there are  many others attempting the same thing through whatever means they find necessary.  I feel blessed to know some of you personally, and am thrilled by the thoughts of meeting others out there.

As a matter of fact, that thought, that there are many of us “shaman-in-training”, learning to swim through our own personal oceans, that has been almost constantly in my mind lately.  I am quieted inside when I realize that these people are my tribe.  I am quieted when I realize that so many of us are working on bringing awareness into being – into our beings.