Step through the doorway of poetry into a new story

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A feature of the time we live in is the dominance of an overly rational, materialistic view of things, to the exclusion — or at least debasement and suppression — of the non-rational. The Greeks wrestled with this dual nature of reality, the conflict between mythos and logos, but they did not make the mistake of elevating one over the other in an artificial hierarchy. They understood our experiences to be a dance between visible reality and hidden realms of mystery and transcendence.

“When people spoke of the divine, they were usually talking about an aspect of the mundane. The very existence of the gods was inseparable from that of a storm, a sea, a river, or from those powerful human emotions – love, rage, or sexual passion – that seemed momentarily to lift men and women onto a different plane of existence, so that they saw the world with new eyes.” ~ Karen Armstrong, from “A Short History of Myth”

Since myth is so marginalized today, we are lucky still to have poetry, as a place where mythos and logos can co-exist, a place where important questions are raised, and no answers given. Continue reading

Storying our way to vibrant communities

Shoes_620wOften, the things I think I’m seeking in life are already present, so close I’m not even aware of them. Like the fish not recognizing the water it swims in. I may jump on a particular bandwagon, like longing for “community,” as a sort of magic talisman that’s going to right the sinking ship of modern civilization, only to be shown, in beautifully concrete ways, that it’s right here, all around me.

Last night, my next-door neighbor and I were both coming home late from meetings. He stopped while closing his front gate to call a hello through the darkness and ask if I was all right. Then he said, “Did you hear about R?” (Our 55-year-old across-the-street neighbor had just informed my husband a few days before that he’d had a heart attack in mid-December, necessitating shunt surgery. It was the first we’d heard about it.) Continue reading

Gathering stars and giving thanks

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This guest post is by Duane Marcus. You can read a bit about him on the “Denizens” page.

As I was looking at the new image of the Pillars of Creation from the Hubble telescope I was reminded of a thought I had while collecting crystals at Diamond Hill Mine. We had been poking around in the muddy piles for several hours finding some nice pieces. I was on my knees in a spot where I was finding a lot nice crystals. The sun was low in the sky making the crystals sparkle around me. I picked up a nice clear orange piece and held it up so the sunlight shone through it.

I was struck by the realization that I was holding in my hand pieces of a star of unimaginable age that were subsequently forged into this beautiful crystal by tremendous heat and pressure deep within the core of the earth many millennia ago. It also occurred to me that I, too, am composed of that same star stuff. The crystal and I are one and the same. I could feel the exchange of electrons between us at that moment. Continue reading

Glaciers are the canary in the global coalmine and oh what a song

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It could be argued that art is the best medium for revealing relationships between humans and nature, for reminding us that such relationships even exist. My son and I just watched the stunning 2012 documentary, “Chasing Ice.” We’d heard about it from a photographer we met while on a boat trip in Glacier Bay, Alaska

The film follows photographer James Balog’s single-minded passion and tenacity in conducting the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS). Once he got the idea to set up cameras to watch glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, the Rockies, Canada, and other harsh environments, he was launched on an odyssey of art, technology, engineering, mountaineering, and endurance. Continue reading

Problems are a gift for the imagination

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Don’t force solutions. Let them find you.

Problems may beg to be solved, but they have another, more interesting purpose: to prick our curiosity and wake us from a slumber of sameness and complacency. To hint at the hidden dimensions that lie beneath the surfaces of everyday life.

Problems prod us to soften into the unknown. Or to stand on our head, turn sideways, and see reality — or what we think is reality – afresh. Old ways of coping, of sliding by, no longer work. We are invited to give up control of the eventual outcome, and for that we need to call upon imagination. Continue reading

Naming the dominant stories of civilization

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Last summer, I attended a course at Schumacher College, a veritable Shangri-La of New Story in theory and practice. It’s a beautiful, gentle place overflowing with wonderful, brilliant people who actually walk the talk, and have been for over twenty years. I went to the Dark Mountain course, which brought together the two founders, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, with a self-selected smattering of people who identify with their Manifesto, “Uncivilisation,” and other writings.

We spent a lovely week telling stories, listening to master storyteller Martin Shaw, and talking about a wide range of aspects of this threshold upon which we live. One of our ongoing conversations was about the ways in which the dominant stories show up and what they would have us believe. (Not the “they” that people like to blame when feeling the tightening screws of power-over dynamics, but “they” as in the stories themselves.) Continue reading

Civilization needs a new operating system

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One of my heroes is the writer, speaker, businessman, and sustainability activist, Paul Hawken. I first saw him speak over twenty years ago; a talk that it would be no exaggeration to say changed my life. For one thing, he closed with a Rumi poem that, in that moment, felt like it had been written for me.

He brings a rare mix of realism about how our civilization is wrecking our only home, this planet, and hope that we can turn things around: Continue reading

A ceremony to clear space and invite new perspectives

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I’ve had a vision board in my office for many years. Some images have been there since 2011, and I’ve been adding to them. There are pictures of people who inspire me: Wangari Maatthai, Paul Hawken, David Whyte, Joanna Macy, and Karen Armstrong, to name a few. Other precious images remind me of goals for my health, my family, and my work. Verses and prayers light me up or calm me down.

On the last day of 2014, I took them all down and burned them outside in a ceremony, during which I released specific goals and hopes and turned the next year over to divine order. As the fire quickly moved through and consumed the paper, I honored the many growing seasons of the trees that formed it, of leaves turning sunlight into the miracle of life and growth, now being released into the air by the flames. Continue reading

Mist ecology, or, a thought for the new year

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This guest post is by Lindsay McLaughlin. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page. In this story, Erin is the sweet, boundlessly energetic dog who came to the residents of Rolling Ridge out of the woods in October, a little more than a year ago. She has a bed and a place in every one of the community homes. They are her pack.

We have reached the turning of the year, at least according to the Julian calendar. It is the time of beginning again, the time of emergence and wonder. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” Traditionally, it is a hopeful time. But hope is tricky.

“Dark ecology” is a term I have just encountered, coined by Paul Kingsnorth. It is both a defiant affirmation of our living planet and a lament. Kingsnorth observes human techno-culture rolling on relentlessly over the wild Earth and asks, “Is it possible to see the future as dark and darkening further; to reject false hope and desperate pseudo-optimism without collapsing into despair?” Continue reading