¿Homecoming?

 

Middle America

A river’s leisure

My mother’s home

Where the corn

And black eyed susans

Ear and eye forever

And Chicago

Steals the show

Glimmering

On Lake Michigan night

 

New England

Maine land

Where my ancestors

Early for Europeans

Set foot on

Rocky coast

That watershed moment

Where the fingers

Of the sea

Are laced upon land

Pondering the tide

Where I learned

To be a grown person

To plant seeds

To read forests

That a small farm

Is as rich with lessons

As a hall of brick and ivy

 

Driving

With my second half

In a fishhook

Of the American West

The vastness

The rocky spine

Of Colorado Plateau

The shark tooth Tetons

Afire above Aspen

Populus Tremuloides

Bursting gold

Rustling

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The once Oregon Territory

We followed the Snake River

Then the Columbia

Such a work of earth

And fire in the gorge

Tea with my grandma

Gardener’s dream

 

To the California coast

Lost among

Sequoia

Jack pine

Poison oak

Douglas fir

Lone Pine

Snyder’s words

Sinkyone

Joni Mitchell

Internet

Airshow

Music

Hardly strictly

Nothing

Brother

 

 

My brother lives in Berkeley

He is a painter

We worked on his bicycle

And drank watermelon juice

Such nectar

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Drove south

Chased by fire

Through Pacific night

Through Salinas

Listening to Steinbeck

Passed LA

At midnight

Into the desert

 

Phoenix sun

Is reborn a day

And grandparents

Illuminate

The good of life

Without ignoring

The bad

 

We ate sushi in Scottsdale

And then gelato

 

The Grand Canyon

A stop too much for

Words

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Colorado River

Fertile ground

For the revelation

That made this life

The best landscape painter

In all the Southwest

The mud rapid runner

I just wanted

To wash my face

 

Then home

It still feels like home

Santa Fe

Where parents

Bring musicians

Where clay and chords

Entwine harmonious

And early morning

Smells of piñon pitch

Juniper smoke

Green chile roasting

Aspen leaves

Chamisa brush

I had a fragrant childhood

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The Press

Taught me freedom

Bluesky

Taught me infinity

Red earth

Taught me time

 

Nothing in land

Everything inland

Even outland

Is homeground

And I am homecoming

 

A River of Self

Dear Readers,
This is the last post of my Watson year. It comes as the first drop in a river of reflection that will only grow and meander from here forward. Before we dive in, I want to thank you for reading my work; writing for me is solitary only in action, but in larger scope, it is shared and made possible by all who inspire and all who read and pass it forward.
Today as I sit, a year of experiences abroad is set upon my table, and I have to prepare a meal. To begin, a question:
In what ground does life grow? From what river is it watered? 
I am recently enthralled by the ideas of Israeli writer and historian Yuval Noah Harari. In his book Sapiens, Harari questions how a species of big headed, relatively weak apes could take over as the dominant species on the planet in a fairly short period of time. Harari credits our immense success to our ability to organize ourselves in masses around particular intersubjective fictions – money, myth, and law to name a few. Homo sapiens means “wise humans” in latin, and I am humored to think that maybe we should call ourselves Homo fictas, “humans of fiction.”
As a writer, storyteller, and student of language, I am concerned with words, their purpose and manipulation to form interpretations of the world, to compel action and incite emotion, to unify, to uplift, and to protest, to tear down. Language and writing are the fertile ground on which the great narratives of humanity are built and stratified, fortified with time and power.
Part of the work for survival is to compete, to make it in a harsh world, and there is only so much room for one species before others begin to disappear; we are seeing extinction on a major scale, a global scale, and at a rate unprecedented by any other blossoming of a single species ever. While the examples of extinctions caused by humans are staggering, I want to lead you and myself on the road to despair only so far as to find ourselves honestly weighing the components of life.
Because of our ability to tell stories, we are not only prone to biological evolution, but to the evolution of consciousness. Just think about technology for a moment; in 20 years, the global paradigm has shifted, the internet became a global wildfire and is bursting culture at the seams. Can we cocreate a story about the environment as compelling as that of technology? As common vocabulary moves from nature into digital reality, is it possible to entwine strands of our ancient reliance on land, water, flora, and fauna into the sphere of binary code and complex computation?
One metaphor of the river has to do with the movement of time: a child growing up along a certain stretch of river cannot perceive the full scale of the river, but a pilgrim who has walked the river’s length many times will have a longview, a longerview at least. We must look for those with the longview for guidance, and I, in the estuary of adulthood, am looking for those Sapiens who truly have wisdom. Is evolution necessarily competitive? Where do empathy and stewardship fit into the narrative of biology? 
At this moment in my life I feel it is necessary to assign myself a task. I will think of this in the shadow of Buckminster Fuller, a human of extraordinary courage who worked during World War II as a naval engineer. Post-war, depressed and losing capacity to live well, Fuller decided to take his own life. Standing on the shore of Lake Michigan pointing a gun at his own head, he had a revelation. He thought, why take my own life and deliver suffering to all the world around me when I could similarly sacrifice myself but for the good of others? From that moment on, Fuller dedicated himself to a 50 year experiment – how much good can one person do for the rest of humanity and the earth? His experiment lasted 56 years until he passed away and left us the foundation of nanotech, the language of synergetics, a plea to prevent buildup of greenhouse gases in the 1970s, and an inspiring legacy as ripe fruit for the world to pick and revitalize.
I hereby dedicate myself as a writer, ardent student of nature, and dedicated member of society to such an experiment – to live as a positive actor in pursuit of what promotes good life. How much can I do for and with the world around me? I must not take knowledge or ignorance for granted and need to bear in mind that money, fame, and power are fictions, tools for certain ends and at times too alluring. Above all, I must always remember that life is the essence of existence, beyond comprehension and at the heart of every moment – there is always room to grow.
With so much work to be done, I must be patient to settle into my place in the wonderful puzzle of chaos. I mean that literally, for chaos theory outlines how the smallest differences in initial conditions in a dynamical system create vastly different and unpredictable outcomes. Each of us has in our power the capacity to create initial conditions in a reaction of life to transform the world around us. This could be planting a seed, writing an essay, passing a law, preparing a meal. Now I am working as a farmer, working with soil, water, and plants. Perhaps next year I will be a student of law, exploring one of the great fictions that shapes our vision of the world. Angela Davis, a woman at the core of the civil rights movement says that “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” It is powerful to be discerning about what is fiction and what is objective reality, and ironically it is radical to speak truth to power, to see beyond the fictional river, and swim in the real one as polluted, dammed, lively, or clean as it may be. 
Jumbled as all of this may sound, it is a document of my life view from the age of 22 as I land on homeground with the richness of a year in the world fertil on my mind. The urgency and difficulty of so many situations we face on earth, while affecting and at times despairing, give me a deep jolt of motivation to continue downstream into the unknown.
Thank you for this year.
Galen

Rivers of What? My Watson Presentation

This poem is called Fishing

 

What are we looking for

Standing on sand or stone

Fishing into the waves

Getting our feet wet



What are we looking for

When we turn our eye

To the orange moon

The ironbound cliff

Fire in the place

Where fire burns

 

When we look at our hands

Lined with life

Telling stories that nobody writes

Our hands are truth

Look at your hands

 

When stars

And shadows on the deck

Don’t point North or South

And a dead reckon

Is all we have

 

When I was so afraid of the water


What the burning sun

Says to the corn

When it decides to grow



When grandma opens

The canned corn

And you take the kernels

To go fishing in the river

When the river fishes back

And pulls you in


What is it in the river

That speaks

To the soul

About moving on

About the ocean

About no end beginning

About loving the dirt

About what moves Earth

 

We begin when the Ganges River descended from Heaven.

 

When King Sagar wished more power, he decided to sacrifice a great horse. Jealous, Indra, the King of Gods, stole King Sagar’s chosen horse. To find the horse, Sagar sent his 60,000 sons who interrupted the great Sage Kapila in meditation, mistaking Kapila for the horse thief. Infuriated, Kapila incinerated the 60,000 sons. When Sagar found out, he broke down weeping, and Sage Kapila told him that to purify the incident, he must bring River Ganga to earth for salvation. Bhagiratha, the great-grandson of Sagar, convinced Brahma that Ganga must descend to Earth. Insulted to be expelled from heaven, Ganga wreaked havoc, flooding the world. Bhagiratha prayed urgently to Shiva, please entwine Ganga in your hair to hold her back, to save us. Hearing the call, Shiva agreed, and braided the great river as seven streams into his matted locks. Pleased at the union with Shiva, Ganga washed away the ashes of Sagar’s sons and filled the oceans and continues to bring salvation to India to this day.

 

Here is where she begins.

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In June two years ago, I went looking for a book by environmentalist, Edward Abbey. Instead, I found Abbey’s friend Jack Loeffler – his big white beard and blue eyes and a universe within them. Jack Loeffler is a river man who spent his life recording geomythic mapping songs of people all over the world. He urged me as he urges everyone to think like a watershed.

 

A watershed is a community of life and land unified by water. A watershed is the whole body of a river system, and surely in that there is some soul.

 

This year, I wanted to find terra incognita and anima incognita, the margins of my map and the margins of humanity only charted with wild creatures and ideas, with water at the center. I wanted to map the unmappable, a sort of anthrocartoraphy to find out what anchors us in place. Of course, mostly I failed, hindered by so many human things. But, like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, I had the opportunity to listen to the great river when I felt lost.

 

To think like a river. Like a mountain. Like the wind. First, one must listen.

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The youth of India. Do they see Ganga as a goddess? Do they feel salvation in her waters?

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In India, it was at times difficult to hear the river, for the fugue of humanity there is a lot to attend to. I do not have images of the garbage and sewage and bodies that Ganga carries, but one can imagine.

 

A river, a goddess.

 

There is Ganga and there is Torne.

 

Mikael rowing on Torne.

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And Mikael skiing on Torne.

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Mikael is on the river everyday. He rows, swims, iceskates, and skis. Mikael has surely listened a lot to the river; he picks berries and mushrooms to feed his family and knows the forest as a neighbor; he can name the things all about and he knows where the ice will be thin and how to survive in the winter woods. He is a philosopher, a naturalist.

 

We drank Torne’s water in confidence, without purification, a rare privilege. I think Torne is divine like Ganga, though she has less humanity to carry and no dams to clog her up. I also think that Hinduism is wise to anchor the gods in natural phenomena, for what miracle is more available to all of us than the gangetic river dolphin, mycelium, a blueberry, a pine tree, or a man on skis.

 

Another miracle, in Atacama one can find towns where no rain fell for 40 years. It’s as surprising to see green and water in Atacama as seeing a sadhu acetic on a cellphone.

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Rio Loa, river in the great expanse of Pacific-bound desert serves the needs of a very large hole in the ground.

 

Chuquicamata, one of the largest open pit mines on earth is Loa’s neighbor, producing copper to electrify the world. Calmly, Loa quenches Chuqui’s thirst, and carries away Chuqui’s toxic detritus.

 

In Werner Herzog’s film Lo and Behold, about internet and connectivity, Ted Nelson explains the internet as dragging one’s hand through water. The most interesting thing about Chuquicamata is how it physically links water with the web.

 

These days, as we here testify, humans are globalizing. To think like a watershed leads to the realization that all water is cycling, interconnectivity is. And so seems the path of global civilization.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson considers ethics as a system of human duties like religion but without the personality of God.I feel that the imaginings of Gods are but human personalities divined to voice human ethics in the face of Nature which does not observe morality with human eyes but rather offers us eyes and intelligence to observe the universe.  Yuval Noah Harari suggests that Silicon Valley is a new sort of Vatican. And I agree, but what will be our book of Proverbs?

 

Our ethics about technology and our ethics about rivers are part of the same phenomenon; reformation. We are a species overwhelmed by our inventions and we need a philosophy of nature that includes the internet and smartphones and plastic garbage.

 

My grandmother Irene says this is Planet Life; we are in the terrarium of divinity, and in that, if in anything, we are unified. If the true cost of a thing is the amount of life expended to make it, what is the true cost of life? This is a question we must ask ourselves as rivers are declared dead and black, as the vocabulary of nature is disappearing from mouths and minds into libraries or worse.

 

My quest to create a linguistic cartography of humans and rivers was futile, alone. It is asking a painter to paint her soul. Such work is a worthy endeavor, but to be a force of nature it must be done together. We are all charting a cartography of place all the time, we are all painting our souls. We are poets of existence. Along with the rest of the universe, we create nature along this rapid of time we happen to be paddling. As messy as it will be, as dissonant as jazz, I want a poetry, a manifesto, to synergize nature and technology.

 

Let’s be the manifesto, let’s be the poetry to merge nature and technology, lets call on Shiva and Ganga to help braid this flood into a river of salvation.

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Welcome Home

Walking on the green grass

A buzz overhead

A plane flying by

With a large banner.

I read it:

$3000 Dollar Breast Implants

But no phone number

What if I want breast implants?

I remember another sign

That I saw in the morning:

Welcome to the United States

Welcome Home.

River

Where the river knows no end

Is in kindling flames of family

It is the poetry of the river

To unite mountain to plain to sea

And in that synchronous flow

Where beginning is never nor end

Is the promise of passing

A promise of time

Which holds us all

Together

The Blue

A distant mountain

Pretending paradise 
Blood in

The rivers of my hands
And looking up

We are everything

Meat

I walk to the corral

Outside Antonio

Clears gravel and sand

From an area the size

Of a sheep

And digs a small hole

On one side

 
I follow him through

The pallet gate

And stand by

While he finds

The one
Roughly he grabs it

Holding its forelegs

Walks it to the gate

Through and onto the ground
Tells me to tie the legs

And I fumble

He gets tense, tenser

I continue to fumble,

Bastante, says he,

Enough
I hold the legs together

Tight
Antonio draws the knife

Clean over the neck

Again and again
Fire ignites in the legs

I can’t hold on

And the movement is wild

Spastic
We step back

And the small hole

Becomes a red puddle

And the bloods seeps in sand

Like water to the aquifer
I feel so grateful

For the life of this sheep

For the meals it gives us

For the cycles that brought

Us to this moment of siege

The taking of life
Then it is still

And we put the fluffy

Thing in the wheel barrow

To bring it over to

The butcher table

And the sweet birds

Sing the funeral song

As the day begins

Solstice

The sun warms my back

As if to console my column

To soothe my northern spirit

And I believe that today is

Afterall, the longest of the year
But well into afternoon

My appetite grows for dinner

And evening rises with it

Sun to the northwest horizon

Waving goodbye to the desert
The earth cools underfoot

And winter whispers brush

This is solstice

My first southern solstice

Winter after winter

On Nature, Nation, and Democracy: What to Imagine?

Dear readers, this is apart from the poetry collection I am working on, but an essay that I  felt very compelled to write today. Please respond!

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Having been abroad for the duration of ten months, the unfolding of a new chapter in the government of the United States of America has caused upheaval, and I can assure you, in the hearts and minds of people across the globe. I am assigning myself a challenge: to try, however vain it is, however ignorant I am, to extract my current thoughts about the nation into which I was born in these pages in hopes of a dialogue with anyone who wishes to join in as conversation.

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All throughout the campaign season of 2016 in the USA, with Brexit in mind and the ever present concerns about the state of Nature, there was the murmuring of “death of democracy,” a new rise of nationalism, and the uncomfortable rumbling of a particularly vile sort xenophobia. After the election of Trump, the murmurs and rumbles began to shake, and people of a staggering diversity began to take public voice, often shouting, exposing the many hearts behind the stars and stripes, the dissident voices united by an uncanny force of human imagination, the nation.

In his book, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson writes, “[the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.” I want to take that quote for a moment and hold it up with another, produced John Adams during the foment of the American Revolution, “Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

Democracy has been the battlecry of the United States since its declaration of independence from Britain. Democracy is and has been the cover banner for crusades through much of the world in various fights against communism, fascism, genocide, and most recently terrorism, and has been a cover for manipulation of many peoples and places in various pursuits of the earth’s riches. But I find that I have to remind myself what democracy is at a fundamental level in order to consider these many histories and ongoing stories.

Democracy is government by the people. It is an electoral system that it intended to deliver power by way of the people’s voice. Democracy allows the citizenry to have representatives in a united republic, representatives who work for their constituencies, and John Adams believed that their fundamental role was to govern for the highest wellbeing of the most people within that republic. In its own definition lies the paradox, though a paradox is by no means discountable. By the people, but what people?

Many critiques of American democracy make a strong point that capitalism, and the freedom to join capitalism with democracy via avenues such as Citizen’s United have caused our government to steer very far afield that ideal of Adams. With wealth concentrated among a very specific class of Americans there is a similar concentration of purchase power, power to purchase power, not goods but politicians. We have seen this time and again in the United States, where private interests invade and conquer the will of those elected for public service.

Nation and economy share a profound center: both are imagined. Yuval Noah Hariri in a TED Talk entitled “What explains the rise of humans?” points out that among the most compelling human narratives, those of religion, nationalism, law, and so on, money is by far the most universalized and compelling narrative we share for better or for worse. I am afraid that in the case of the United States government, the lure of wealth is proving for worse as the working class, the majority of the voting body, the heart of the nation, is marginalized, expended at the enrichment of the few.

Also along the lines of democracy, I think that the United States can hardly crusade for democracy if it is not within the fundamental desire and upwelling of the powerful people of any given place. Take Afghanistan as an example. With American forces there responsible for many atrocities of war for well over 15 years, the fundamental aim has been, apparently to oust the bad guys and help raise democracy. But the powers of the Taliban and later ISIL have resisted and resisted and continue to do so with incredible force. During the American Revolution, the powerful colonial class, though under constant attack from within and without the colonies, won the war against Britain with unfavorable odds. But the movement came from within itself, sparked by characters at the forefront of the colonization.

The moment of independence, as Adams’ and the writings of his beloved and stunningly wise wife Abigail reveal, was a moment of immense and tragic loss of life, but also of uplift of their human spirits to a degree that compelled the uncontrollable rise of the United States, an American Republic, as a global power.

To me there is enormous conflict of interest, something deeply troubling about the foundation of the  republic of the United States that is clear in the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson at the persuasion of John Adams. The declaration begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that are among these Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This gallant turn of phrase is stirring, progressive I dare say, and what follows is a wondrous permission to the people to overthrow any government that turns away from the public interest. But later, it goes on discussing the faults of King George III in ruling the colonies, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions” (emphasis added).

I have to pause there – “the merciless Indian Savages.” That is what it says. And also, there were black slaves at this time, not just in the South, but also in New England. John Adams’ father-in-law was a slave owner. All at once, my attentions are disparaged. If there are slaves (humans presumably half of which were men) and merciless Indian Savages discounted from all then men who are created equal, then who are all the men? And what about women? What about the Americans from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego? Abigail Adams foresaw a side of this exclusion in a letter to her husband on March 31, 1776:

I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. 

That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend….

Why wasn’t Abigail Adams in the first Congress of the United States of America? Why did John Adams feel so sure that democracy “is more bloody” and “never lasts long?” How did we end up with this situation where academics like Naomi Klein openly deem the tyrannical President of the United States Donald Trump an idiot whose really good at being an idiot?

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My grandfather likes to quote Sir Winston Churchill (who in fact was quoting someone else), that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for the others.” Government is unendingly flawed. As an institution, and a bureaucratic institution, democratic government will always be behind the times. It will always be behind the edge. But the edge is our responsibility. We as citizens of the earth, we are a part of the edge, of the everpresent present, and our existence is by virtue of itself, political. At least some of us are keen to take responsibility for that and dive into the institutions and bureaucracies in order to surrender ourselves to the social order, the social chaos, and some of us, indeed, do so with strong integrity, honesty, and true service.

Sonia Sotomayor seems to be one. In her book, My Beloved World, she writes, “Quiet pragmatism, of course, lacks the romance of vocal militancy. But I felt myself more a mediator than a crusader. My strengths were reasoning, crafting compromises, finding the good and the good faith on both sides of an argument, and using that to build a bridge. Always, my first question was, what’s the goal? And then, who must be persuaded if it is to be accomplished? A respectful dialogue with one’s opponent almost invariably goes further than a harangue outside his or her window. If you want to change someone’s mind, you must understand what need shapes his or her opinion. To prevail, you must first listen.”

“You must first listen.” This is essential. We have long obsessed about how partisan politics is not functioning, the gears are not turning. During Obama’s presidency, the 112th United States Congress agreed on fewer policies than the 80th congress, that was deemed the “Do Nothing Congress” in the 1940s. The 114th Congress doing worse than the 112th. And we know that the democrats and republicans, political liberals and political conservatives, are not listening to one another. But why? Why not? Well certainly some representatives ears are just stuffed with money, but there are also myriad other political reasons, some of which have to do very much with us.

In this time, when there is so much to be done, a time that I think is the most exciting possible time to be alive because, well, we are alive now, where can we find middle ground?

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I am currently in Atacama, Chile, spending my days on a farm that is home to sheep, goats, llamas, and rabbits, all fed from alfalfa growing in sandy plots west of the house. There are potatoes growing and carrots, and the place is run by marvelous 82 year old Doña Maria Berna and her son Antonio Panire Berna.

Chile lived through a dictatorship, that of Augusto Pinochet, and one that cannot be forgotten. It often feels that this is a country where memory is pain, and many of those killed by the militant dictatorship were anonymously buried here, in the Atacama Desert. The being on a farm, confronted with learning about such brutal politics, bring George Orwell and his Animal Farm directly to mind. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Why were some Chileans killed and disappeared and not others? Why was their dissent worthy of death?

Spending my days working in soil, and with the satisfying labour of manual jobs, I am privileged by thought and confronted with the realities of a life lived. Today was Don Antonio’s birthday, and we ate rabbit. So good was the rabbit stew. But I had become fond of that rabbit, feeding it every morning. It was a quiet and shy rabbit, big and very adorable. No matter how tasty, that was a life, a valuable life! And it must be thanked. The potatoes are invested in with long hours of attention, as are the carrots, and the cheese that comes from the goats’ milk, not to mention the wool blankets we sleep with that are made of wool given by the sheep and llamas. They must be thanked! But there is a conflict of interests here that yet I don’t know how to evaluate.

At dinnertime we are in good humor and health, and united by work, wonderful work caring for living things that in turn care for us, but at times it is bloody, like the killing of the rabbit. It is not always easy or fun work, but I feel fortunate to value the labour, to value the land and the water, and what we can produce.

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And what of the values of democracy? What of the values that surround our collective labors, our life and land and water and what we can produce?

I am attracted by some of the thoughts of Peter Kropotkin, a philosopher from Russia who pitched that not only is evolution a product of competition but of mutual-aid. He wrote, “All is for all! If the man and the woman bear their fair share of work, they have a right to their fair share of all that is produced by all, and that share is enough to secure them well-being. No more of such vague formulas as ‘The Right to work,’ or ‘To each the whole result of his labour.’ What we proclaim is The Right to Well-Being: Well-Being for All!” An anarchist and staunchly set against American democracy, I find a certain irony that what Kropotkin valorized is not that different from Adams, and both were radical for their time.

Nature has a way of setting up violence. I am not saying this as a justification of action, but as an observation. We are humans, we have our technology and so on, but we are Nature. Yes we are. And Nature is a well tuned balance, where darkness and light visit equivocally, often appearing in the same place, in the Declaration of Independence for one. This delicate balance is as though the image of Lady Justice holding her scale. Law and Order as documented in the film “13th” by Ava DuVernay, have created a Prison-Industrial Complex in the United States, creating a horrifyingly unbalanced “justice” system that uses racism to its advantage putting millions of black men into prisons for unworthy crimes, abuses their labor, and excludes them from their rightful roles as citizens, like voting. Where is the right to well-being, to participating in society, to, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?” Surely “Life” does not refer to a jail sentence. Who made lady justice’s scale?

I’d like to share two quotes from Angela Davis of Birmingham, Alabama, an unrelenting figure of Civil Rights movements in the United States. She says, “As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up in and flow from my participation in my people’s struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism.” And, “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’”

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We are alive at a time where democracy is threatened, deeply, and the greatest threats are its own shortcomings, our own shortcomings. I do not have answers, in fact I feel naive and ignorant and have an overwhelming number of questions. Now, how do we involve ourselves in such things that are so much bigger than the sum of parts, with roots extending far beyond our own lives?

What do I imagine for the future? That is the question I want to ask you.

As this is only the beginning of my life, I’d like to end this piece with the words of someone much older than myself, with more experience in so many ways who has spent ample time observing the to and fro of nature, who, I think, shares a similar struggle for understanding as myself and an eagerness to seek out truth and justice.

“A dangerous bit of American folklore is that our social, environmental, and political problems, which grow more ominous by the day, call for the healing touch of a genius. They do, but if we’re intent on waiting for some such remarkable individual to show up we can count on disappointment. The solution to what threatens us, however, is already here, in another form. It’s in our diverse communities. Most often we recognize the quality of genius in an individual man or woman; but the source of that genius lies with the complicated network of carefully tended relationships that sets a vibrant human community apart from a solely political community.” Barry Lopez

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