Extraordinary Challenge

gretathunberg_2018x-1350x675-1The outcry of the young is reaching me here in my mountain home. A young woman who has been speaking out for the planet, and trying to get people to listen to what science has told us for most of my adult life, has burst into the public eye. Greta Thunberg’s message tells me that while my inner work is vital, the use of my voice is also essential to being dedicated to the healing of the Earth and all her children.

It was her call for a “state of emergency” response to climate change that caught my attention. If she is right, there is no time to go through endless arguments. If she is wrong, there is no harm done in placing the survival of the planet above the accumulation of money and material goods. One goal she mentioned in a TED talk was the reduction of CO2 emissions by rich nations by 15% per year with a goal of 0 emissions in 6 – 12 years. This is an incredible goal. It will be a miraculous achievement when obtained. It is a nearly impossible challenge which is perfect for this time in our evolution as human beings, and for the work of grandmothers and grandfathers.

We who are seeking to live earth-centered lives in our 60’s and beyond are perfectly placed to lead the way. We have experienced massive changes in our world over the course of our lives. Many of us have let go of “earning a living,” and are settling into a more simple lifestyle. We are aware of the ultimate transition of this lifetime awaiting us on the near horizon. We have worked through many of our illusions, confusions and imagined needs. We have learned that living in harmony with the Earth is a spiritual as well as a practical path.

What are we willing and able to do to slow the rate of carbon emissions? How do we hold to our commitment in the backlash of our conditioned mind telling us that it will not be enough? How do we create an outward space that supports all living beings, while continuing to work on our inner being to allow more of the flow of light, love and creativity of the Sacred Source to flow through us as healing energy for the planet?

These are questions I want to explore on this page. They are at the heart of “Earth-Centered Living after 60,” as we weave our inner/spiritual energy with the outward/practical expressions of deep connection with All That Is. We will each look to our own wisdom and spiritual guidance to see what is ours to do. We needn’t become overwhelmed, since we are each a single cell in the amazing organism of Life.

I think of our parents’ and grandparents’ wisdom. They lived in a less technology-based world and developed ways of living with very few material comforts. They faced rationing in times of war; endured the poverty of depression era living and were often part of immigrant populations forced to migrate far from their homelands. What are the stories you remember of “Victory Gardens,” “Mend and make do,” riding a bicycle to work rather than having a car? Are there images and practices waiting to be rediscovered? Can we honor our personal and collective ancestors by looking to them for the wisdom we need now to help us survive as a species?

From my youth, I remember President Jimmy Carter responding to an energy crisis by inviting us all to turn down the thermostat in our homes and wear sweaters. He cut the highway speed limit to use gasoline in a more efficient way. Can we adapt and adjust these recommendations to help us now?

I am making a renewed commitment to writing in this blog one a weekly basis. I hope this will nurture a forum not for debate about whether extraordinary measures are needed, but how we might take them in our daily lives, in service to this beautiful planet. Please share this with others who may be interested in this community. To face this challenge, we are going to need all of the creative ideas and open hearts we can gather.

Some other background links for Greta and the IPCC report:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2018:      IPCC Report

Greta before the US Congress included in: Several speeches in US in September

Coming Back Into Focus

IMG_E4828I can not even begin to explain the blending of factors that has led me to fall silent these past six months. I am still watching as Grandmother weaves together the mixture of threads of my life transition to give some form to the experience. I know that it is more complex than I could have imagined. I know Bill and I went straight against all we knew about the ways in which multiple changes add to the stress on the body and mind. I know that we were blessed beyond measure by our family; the Spirit of the Huachuca Mountains and San Pedro Valley; the living beings that surrounded us; and the help of those in the unseen world. I also know that it will take time for me to integrate our winter in the desert. I will share that process with you as it takes a more solid shape.

For now, I want to return to the blog as I return to our home on the skirts of Mount Shasta. We have come back in our motorhome, Brego, and are living about one mile and a world away from where be began on December 1 of last year. Brego has become home in a deep and stable way. I am familiar with the rituals of folding out the bed and spreading out the blankets when it is time to sleep. There is a pattern for washing and rinsing dishes to put a minimum of soap and food particles onto the land. I fill jugs of water from the faucet for our drinking water and other uses for the time being, while Bill solves the issue of air in the fresh water pump. We take wash tub baths and try to do part of our laundry by hand. In sum, we are finding how to live congruently with this home and in harmony within our natural environment.

We just returned from our first “unplugged” camping experience up along the McCloud River. Our original plan had been a very brief touching down with our son and his family, and then out into the open lands doing dry camping (without electric and water hook-ups). But somehow life had other plans. The connection with family was one of the threads in our weaving of this new chapter of our lives. The time we spent with them extended through the winter and the dry camping just never came into place.

One week after getting back to home territory we found the time was right. The weather was perfect. We were in Fowler Campground –  a lovely area right at the edge of the river between the Lower and Middle Falls of the McCloud River. This has been a wet and snowy winter and so the falls and river are especially captivating. I hiked for hours each of the four days we were there and Bill combined writing, hiking and gathering wood for our morning and evening fires. We had the sense that this was the life we came out to experience. This is what we are walking toward so we can more fully appreciate and serve the web of life. For me, it was a settling back in with cherished land.

I feel like I am just waking up from a complex, beautiful and disorienting dream. My practices of greeting the day, and doing shamanic journey and ceremony were present in Arizona, but somehow they were sharing my attention with a great deal of learning, living and adjusting. Now there is a sweet feeling of asking permission to sink back into the amazing energy field and companionship of Mount Shasta and all the expressions of nature here. The practical aspects of life continue their pull, but here it is the devotion to the healing of the Earth and All Her Children which promise to fill my days.

 

Age Matters On This Journey

Even as I invite people of all ages to seek their expression of Earth-Centered Living, the “after 60” part this journey does have an impact. Sometimes, I can pretend that age does not matter – that life experience balances physical energy and stamina. Yet, part of this choice is to look clearly at its challenges as well as its blessings.

I got a small lesson on physical flexibility the other day. I was enjoying a solo hike in Ramsey Canyon, having walked about 50 minutes to my lunch/turn around point. I was 3/4 of the way back, considering other hikes on future days, when my toe caught on a rock and I took three off-balanced steps before fully regaining my footing. My first thought was “Good, I didn’t fall.” My second was “I just pulled something in my right thigh/hip and I’m going to have to hobble back to the car.”

In the end, the injury was very minor, but suddenly I was flooded with the sense of vulnerability — out on my own, having our only vehicle with me, having a less limber body than 20 years ago… I can not always count on being able to hike. I need to find ways to let my body rest when these small pulls happen to this aging body.

Will and I are experiencing another challenge that is common to those who set out in new directions in their retirement years.  We find ourselves reaching a physical/mental exhaustion point. While young people fuel their adventures on adrenaline; as older introverts, we have been running on serotonin. After three months of stress and new challenges, including the sense of having left everything and all familiar ties behind, our serotonin and dopamine reserves are at a low ebb. We find our best healing option to come to a full stop and rest.

We will hold steady here with our son’s family near the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona. All we need to maintain our motor home is easy to obtain here, and Brego continues to prove a comfortable, sustaining home.

We are spending more time sitting beside the San Pedro River, allowing the stream to flow by with all its nurturing tones. Our walks are shorter, and allow exercise without pushing ourselves to fatigue. Pampering ourselves is becoming a daily practice, as we gather familiar books and DVD’s from the library, eat healthy flavorful foods, and work with materials that nurture our creative spirit. It is a time for very few rules and a large number of naps.

We have been telling others for decades about the impact of multiple major stressors on a person’s overall health. As a friend pointed out, we have hit a overabundance of major life transitions. To those of you considering Earth-Centered living in a full-time motor home framework, I would encourage you to stay close to your current community as you make the transition. Establish a new set of rhythms with support of friends and familiar places in nature that nourish your spirit. Try to carry your current work life into the next phase, at least at first. Allow the changes to unfold more gradually.  And if this is not possible for you. Then learn the glories of sitting quietly, sinking into the generous beauty of nature, and taking a good rest.

 

Nothing Like a Head Cold …

cold

Attractive woman with cup of hot drink

 

Two days after we claimed Brego (Our 30-ft. 2003 Winnebago house on wheels), we both came down with head colds. Plain, simple head colds that leave you feeling miserable for about 7 days if you do everything right and a week if you don’t. But there is nothing like a head cold to test the home-worthiness of a new abode.

Part of being a couple in a small space is finding a way of letting one another get needed rest. In Brego, there is a wood door that swings open across the hallway to give the bathroom/bedroom a private feel. It muffles the sound enough, so my nighttime self-care in the front of our home has not completely disrupted Will’s sleep in the bedroom.

I have taken to the couch/bed, finding it perfect for sleeping partly sitting up. “Bergo’s blanket,” a rough hand-woven horse-like blanket that we brought with us, has been my extra warm top layer. Topped with a scarf around my head, my forward nest has been perfect for the times my sinuses have allowed me to sleep.

Changing position to sitting cross-legged, with thick robe and blanket around me, it has also offered space for tea and spiritual journey when I’m awake in the night. What a head cold does to the brain cells seems to make it easy to slide into that dream-like thought pattern that allows helping ancestors to teach me at 3 AM. I have received constant reassurance about my current path in life and images of being painted with the colors of this desert landscape as a way of integrating my life into the service of this expression of earth, sky, water and light.

Another message that dropped in one pre-dawn was the challenge to drink 10 cups of tea by 2, a reminder of the wonders of hot, spiced tea. Letting the warmth and moisture move up into my sinuses as a natural decongestant and feeling that relief has lifted my hopes of feeling better.

This is not to say that there are not huge piles of used tissues and a nose chapped almost to bleeding involved. I have done my usual thing of trying several over the counter cold remedies as well, and my body has withstood the challenge. Many times I would have preferred an immediate cure of this cold as a message of the support of the spirits of this land. Yet, now on day 6 1/2 I can acknowledge that there is nothing like surviving a cold to convince me at my core that Brego is my comfortable home and will support me in sickness and health along our way.

 

Getting on the Road Together

One of the greatest joys and greatest challenges of the journey is staying in synch with the man I love. This is very much a shared calling – yet it is the calling of two individuals who each must follow our deepest wisdom and overcome our worst fears. At times, the most we can do is be with the other person when the waves crash over him/her and allow our presence to provide a reference point as our beloved reemerges.

As we did the final clearing up around the house, we hit a wall. This is not moving from one house/apartment to another. There is no destination that we are planning to reach and no “fixed abode” that is at the other end of migrating to Arizona. We are not moving a household, we are lightening our load for travel on through our lives. Once we shifted to packing as though we were moving halfway around the world to an unfamiliar culture, the barriers eased. We are not trying to find out how much weight our ox can carry forward, but seeking to become light enough to fly.

There is the feeling that we have been preparing all of our lives for this next chapter, and at the same time, none of that preparation fits this set of circumstances. It calls both of us to connect with the core of our inner power and wisdom, standing with as much clarity and purpose as possible. At the same time, the vulnerability of it all draws us into a new intimacy and honesty with one another. There is no room to walk away or conceal emotional weather. We are learning not to refute nor take on the uncertainties of the other. We are not asking the other to be strong; to know what to do; or to walk with equanimity through this unknown territory. We are simply pledged to walk with one another through it.

We are currently with friend in Chico, where we lived for 17 years before moving to Mount Shasta. The familiarity of the place and the warmth of our hosts and friends is giving us some breathing room. Upper Bidwell Park has offered broad, blue skies; slightly muddy trails and open vistas. Yesterday, there was a large golden hawk riding the currents over the rolling hills. A wonderful reminder of the invitation to keep our heart light and open to be carried on along our way.

(While this post was written Dec. 3, it seems an important step along the way. So, I will post it today, and follow with news of more recent steps in the journey in the coming days.)

Potlatch to the Fullest

Just over two weeks ago, we held our estate sale and celebrated a sense of Potlatch release of much of our furniture and a number of decorative items. The following Thursday, Paradise, CA was transformed by wildfire in a few hours from a thriving mountain town with over 15,000 homes and businesses to rubble and a chemical smoke cloud that has yet to dissipate. There are a few buildings still standing, but most of  the 27,000 people who lived there lost everything and are grateful to have walked away alive.

We had been planning to leave our 3-bedroom rental house some time early next year, and then stay in the Chico area for about a month for a few last appointments. Suddenly, that all shifted. We told our landlord that if he found a family from the Paradise fire who needed the house, we could be out Dec. 8. This was a bold move for us, especially with no way of seeing what our next housing step might be. Yet, the image came that, if need be, we would get everything into the Subaru and when we reached the end of the driveway make the decision about what direction to head.

For a couple of weeks we have thought that there might not be anyone ready to make the move because of the slow process of aid and insurance money when there is a tragedy this big. The night before last, our landlord called, excited that he might have found the perfect family for the house. Yesterday, we met the mother/grandmother of a three generation household and the fit was perfect. She, her daughter and grandson will move in December 5 and they need as much of our remaining furniture and household items as we can leave behind. Now, instead of trying to find “good homes” for things in thrift shops and as donations down in the Chico area, we are free to drive away with just those things that will fit in our new RV life.

The other piece that fell into place was that we decided that our health-related care can be done as easily in Arizona. When Will spoke to our son, he and his wife told us we are more than welcome to spend December in their home while we look for our home on wheels. So, we are now in the last two weeks of packing, storing some things, preparing the house for its new family and experiencing the fulness of Potlatch.

Everything we have is free to flow to these four people who have lost so much. And they in turn will pass along anything that does not serve them. We are part of a community functioning like the ancestral peoples — when life transitions occur you release everything to those who need it. Potlatch is being fulfilled more beautifully and powerfully than we could have imaged.

The Prison of Our Culture

prisonOur American culture and economic system has imprisioned millions of us and has no intention of setting us free. Our jailer would be glad to see us die in captivity, clinging to the bars of our cell, striving to pry them apart or appealing to the holder of the keys to let us go.

We are taught from childhood what we need: a good education; an upscale car; a spacious house; and all of the things that make life more comfortable. So we go to college and amass debt. Then we get a job to pay off the debt, only to need a new car for transportation to the job. Then we gather convenience items and distractions in order to quiet ourselves after we arrive home exhausted from work.

We are given credit cards and encouraged to ignore the actual cost of what we purchase, so that we end up paying  20/ 30/ 50 times for an item we bought ten years ago that was designed to wear out in nine months. The credit card companies charge interest at 15%+ and the banks give about .01%  on our simple savings accounts.

We start a family and therefore need a larger house, plus feel the need to cover all of the expenses of seeing our children safely through college. The debt continues to build and we work more hours and spend less time with family and more with distractions. We grab fast food and try to find time and money for the much needed vacations.

We are told that we can not possibly retire until we have paid off the mortgage and have a substantial amount of savings so that we can continue the same lifestyle through the end of our lives. What we are not told is the number of people who die at their desks or have their bodies give out under the strain of continuing to try to pry the bars open. Our economic system depends on us never giving up the struggle to get ahead, to continue to gather all the things that are supposed to make us happy and secure.

As I was seeking deep wisdom for our transition out of this culture and economy, the thought suddenly appeared, “You will stand at the prison bars forever shaking them and struggling with them, and the jailer will never let you out. But if you will turn around and begin walking the other direction, you will find that you can walk through the walls that you imagine hold you in.”

The culture and economy can only confine me if I believe their lies. They tell me to be ashamed of my debt and afraid of the idea of living on a monthly budget of $1,000 – $2,000. My heart tells me that I need a forgiveness ceremony to let go of self-punishment for not succeeding in this system in order that I might step fully into a life of “just enough.”  The culture warns me that I must not end up running from my financial responsibilities. My heart tells me that I can choose to walk away from an abusive and manipulative financial structure, as I would leave any abusive relationship.

My culture tells me that I have to have health care coverage based on the belief that my body is a machine to be quickly repaired when it breaks down. My heart tells me that my body is part of the endless dance of energy and that when illness or injury emerge I need to listen for what it is teaching me for my own evolution. I will die, as all will die. But if I fully live my days, dying will just be the next step of the journey.

I am going to turn my back and walk away from the bars. In the coming weeks I will share more posts about this aspect of the transition. I hope you will join me in turning around and beginning to walk through the imaginary walls.