Friday, September 28, 2007

Wherever You Put Your Foot, There is the Path

He was a Christian, and one night spoke of his belief:
"Your faith must be strong enough that you can walk the path blindfolded.

Without thinking, I responded, "No. Wherever you put your foot,

there is the path. You become the path."

We looked at each other, stunned. At the time I had no clue as to the meaning
of what I had just said, but I knew it was true.
~Derrick Jensen~
A Language Older than Words

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cages: A Very Loaded Analogy

My old cat Isis is yowling to be set free from her kennel.

Her kennel is large and clean, with a soft padded sleeping platform, a private litter box behind a curtain, fresh food and cool water. It is a nice kennel. And she hates it.

She is kenneled because she is incontinent. Too, when she is in her kennel she is protected from our other three cats, two of whom like to ambush her when they think the humans aren't looking. Isis is a feisty cat, but she will be 20 this Halloween, and her eyesight is failing, and she's all of eight pounds, and she is no match for her 15-pound housemates. So I tell myself that the kennel is as much for her comfort as my own, but it isn't, not really. She's in the kennel because I don't want cat pee all over the house.

It's a perfectly legitimate reason, and I see you nodding your head. Nevertheless, she still hates it.

Each morning I come downstairs to her yowling, and I open her kennel, and out she trots, and within minutes she is sleeping in her favorite chair, an old woven-seated wooden kitchen chair, where she more or less remains all day. It's not as though she wants the run of the house. She doesn't follow the sun, like the other cats, she doesn't go upstairs to sleep on a soft bed. She isn't looking for human companionship, either; she's more likely to get that in the room where her kennel is, since it's our music room, and one of our computers is in there, and someone is almost always working or playing in there. No, it's not soft places or friendly people she wants. What she wants is to be out of that kennel.

That's all: just out.

Kennels are cages, of course, and cages are places where we put living creatures who would otherwise wander off, led by their own desires, curiosity, interests, needs. It ought to go without saying that there are all kinds of cages in this world, all kinds of ways to get stuck in a box -- most of which do not involve incontinence. And there are all kinds of justifications for sticking others in a box: convention, control, conformity, convenience.

Isis doesn't like living in a cage, and being the sour old cat that she is, will probably never accept it. And her yowling is so annoying that sooner or later she is let out, and off she goes, tail in the air.

We could learn a lot from that cat.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two Blogs to Share

I love Christine Kane's wonderful blog, in which she writes about all things creative and conscious and courageous. Christine is a singer/songwriter who leads women's retreats four times a year and tells the most disarming tales of her life as a traveling performer, blogger, and mindful human being. Today she quotes from my (other) favorite creativity coach in her post:
"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
-Julia Cameron
And from Keri Smith, illustrator and author, thoughts on a similar theme:
for me, a lot of the self-help stuff was a form of control, a way to make me feel like I was doing things "correctly". more importantly, a way of proving to others that I was great, instead of actually feeling good inside and accepting things as they are. messy and sometimes in need of fixing.

in need of fixing is a perfectly good place to be.

Read her sweet and funny blog here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thoughts on Living and Learning

It's taken me a while to begin to wrap any kind of useful language around the experience Dragonstar and I had at this year's Live & Learn Unschoolers Conference in North Carolina. Words have failed me for days.

But as a first attempt, let me share with you what keeps coming up for me in the aftermath of our return to our daily lives: the conviction that we as a people need whatever it is this conference offers. Our society needs it. The world needs it.

So many of us crave workable alternatives to our desperately dysfunctional culture, but we are stymied in our quest to get there from here. To move us forward, we need to see actual demonstrations of those alternatives. Theory is not enough. Books and descriptions won't do. We need to see it -- experience it -- in action.

We need to see what really happens when relationships between family members are based on principles of kindness and trust and mindfulness and respect. We need to see how it really works when these families who are committed to living their lives based on these principles come together and interact.

And as we observe, we need to pay careful attention to the details of what we're seeing: what is present in those relationships and those lives, and just as importantly, what is absent: coercion, guilt, shame.

Unschoolers know that unschooling isn't merely a method of education, it's a way of life. It's a principled approach to being in the world, to being present and accountable. And when several hundred families come together and demonstrate those principles -- imperfectly, because we're human, but with true and honest intent -- you have the makings of a cultural revolution.

Next year's conference will be held in the same location in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. If your interest is at all piqued, it might be time to come see for yourself what another way to be in the world might look like and feel like.

There are plenty of porches at the Blue Ridge Assembly, by the way, some wide and public, some sheltered and private, and all of them are well-stocked with rocking chairs, just waiting for your arrival.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Live and Learn 2007

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Pomodoros from the abundant backyard garden
of my artist friend Jenny.

I love September.

I call it the "birthing" month -- ninth month of the calendar year -- and for most of my adult life it has been the month for launching major projects and undergoing significant transitions.

Seven years ago in September I opened my coffeehouse. Three Septembers later I sold it to its current owner (and it's still going strong.) The following September our family moved into our current house (where we remain in spite of our landlord's decision last spring to sell. BBPiT says it's one of those rare occasions when our landlord's procrastination actually works in our favor.)

Last September I opened Out of Hand Studio, followed shortly by my gallery. That led to an association with ArtWorks Gallery, a downtown co-op, which in turn led to new friendships with a group of awesome creative people.

This year Dragonstar and I are marking September with a trip to North Carolina for the Live & Learn Unschoolers Conference in Black Mountain. It's our first time going, and we don't know exactly what to expect, except that we'll meet lots of enthusiastic unschoolers -- they're expecting something like 500 attendees.

So it's September: the month of fruition. We're ready for it. Outside the grass has turned to straw (to borrow an image from folksinger Patti Griffin) but in our creative gardens all sorts of juicy things are coming into ripeness.