Carried On The Breath

Years back, in saner times, I went walking in Wildcat Canyon. It was midsummer, the green was creeping down the hills as the relentless sun of the dry season drove the water downhill. I sat under an oak tree and looked at the patterns the color made as gold engulfed green. I came there often and was realizing just how easy it was to get a specific lesson from the land, just by taking the time to really observe. The pennyroyal patch that I’d been making cups of tea from was obviously a place where water pooled below the surface even in summer. The reeds grew in another low place for part of the year. The bracken grows in winter, the wet season when our biome comes alive, and its brown skeletons can be seen as the dry season sucks the green plants dry. The hills are pale gold and the hum of life rises to a subtle scream of heat and light that stretches the days to the breaking point. This is when fire stalks the land. For a time, the only patches of green are the depressions between the hills, the streams marked by the trees that grow on their banks. The alders grow on the lower hills, closest to the water, the oaks and laurels take over from there and dot the hills. The huge purple thistles and Himalayan blackberries, brought by people who should have known better, are happy in their new home on the hills and in large thickets, and broom, another plant that was brought here, crowds out the native coyote brush and ceanothus.

I used to live close enough to ride there. I’d lock up my bike in the parking lot and walk the road that goes nowhere, my very own dystopic landscape when such places were delicious fantasies instead of looming realities. I’d think of what it would be like to be a nomad on a bicycle, living off the land and having adventures.

There is a turnoff and a steep section of hill that ends at a cattle gate. You can let yourself in and continue up the dirt road to the remains of what was once an estate, and then a sanitarium, and then was consumed by fire over half a century ago. What was once a long driveway lined with palm trees is now a rough trail with one or two weatherbeaten survivors, their trunks stout and battered by the struggle of living in a climate they were never meant for. Among them are oaks and bay laurels, the remains of rose bushes, and the low lines of what were once walls. There is a set of steps ending in grass, a fine place to sit, and further on an orchard reduced to a few stunted apple trees sheltered by a snaggletoothed line of cypresses. Strike off for the top of the ridge once you pass the line and there is a brass benchmark set in the bare top of the hill. The view is impressive, you can see the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Tamalpais, the refinery with its round tanks off in the distance.

That day though, the heat had driven me off the ridge into the shade. I was thinking about the planet and how we were changing it. How it must feel to be the earth as it warmed. The hot day was a reflection of the planetary fever we are creating as we move the stored carbon from the land into the sky. I closed my eyes in meditation and asked the Earth what it felt like to breathe as a planet right then.

I began to feel the heat as I hadn’t before. My throat was dry, and I wanted to lie down. The air was drying me out, and my eyes popped open. I took a gulp of water from my canteen but it didn’t help. Each breath was drawn with difficulty, through the thinning tube of my throat. I began to panic.

Then I remembered what I had asked and realized what was probably happening to me. If it wasn’t, I was far from help and this was before the age of the cell phone. I did lie down, and slowly took a deep breath. I felt the land beneath me, holding me up, and spent some time just breathing, sending the fear down into it, reducing my need for air in stillness, looking up through the leaves above me, the bits of blue sky above. Slowly, the dizziness subsided. I wasn’t sick, not really. The Earth wasn’t even sick. Things were just a bit harder than they had been and I was a vessel far too small to contain the Earth’s pain. I sat up, drank more water, and thought about what had happened.

It has been years since I lived in Richmond. That day I’d driven up there on a whim, wanting to see the place again. As I walked back to my car, a battered silver Honda that had taken me on many an adventure, I realized that this had to be my last car. The Earth could take no more and I would no longer be part of this madness. Yes, my gas-crunch car sipped rather than gulped. It was tiny enough to fit in any possible parking place. Its emissions were so low that smog places asked me what I’d done to it, suspecting modification. I’d bought it from a guy who’d had tears in his eyes as he’d turned over the keys. Impulsively, I’d asked him what its name was. He said “Phoenix,” so fast and low I almost missed it. It had been rear-ended by an SUV, the back hatch had been crushed, but the frame was fine and the car did live up to its name. For practicality, and I admit to add to the Road Warrior ambiance, I popped the back hatch open, installed a couple of hasps on the sides, and padlocked it shut. I loved it like a member of the family. In the end, Phoenix died when a truck turned left in front of us on Highway 1 out of Crescent City. I managed to get down to 35 by standing on the brake. I wasn’t hurt, my coffee hadn’t even been spilled. Phoenix was totaled. With tears in my eyes, I turned it over to a wrecker and in the end joined a carshare.

Today the sky is hazy. The morning light was strained through smoke, the color of fine old Scotch and smelling like it has every summer for the last few years. Fire season is so beautiful, and so sad. We won’t be burning, we live in the city. We are lucky enough to be able to stay inside, able to do the right thing in a pandemic, but so many of us have to go out there, have to work or flee burning houses, or to places where we can breathe.

We’ve triggered planetary defense mechanisms, passed tipping points. In California, we are seeing the beginning of desertification. The forests are changing, turning to savanna in some places, changing their composition in others, burning and dying in places that were once beautiful. Sudden oak death is taking the oaks on Mt. Tamalpais. They are being supplanted by bay laurel and Douglas fir. What will happen to the redwoods, who need their feet in the water? Big Basin is burning, the oldest California State Park, home to the giants.

We’ve targeted the atmosphere, that thin layer of gases that the lives of so many creatures depend upon. It’s as if the planet is sending humanity the same message I received when I asked my question years ago. In specific areas, for specific people, we can’t breathe. And yes, we are compounding our folly by choking innocent people to death, as if to make this human-made tragedy complete.

COVID-19 is the icing on the cake. A disease carried by the air. It most often settles in the lungs, and most people survive it, but that is a deception that only allows it to move more freely among us. As it spreads on our breath we find it has so many more ways of killing or causing permanent harm. A zoonotic disease, it has spilled over into humanity because we can’t seem to share this planet we are part of, and collectively we don’t care about any of the other beings on this planet except as they relate to us. The remedies to limit its spread are simple, but unpleasant and expensive and require cooperation and sharing what we have.

We are being tested—not by a faraway being who created the Earth as some Petri dish to see how far the experiment will run, but by ourselves. We are stretching the limits of our only home and we have nowhere else to go should we damage our habitat to the point it can no longer sustain us.

We can stop this. The test we have devised for ourselves has no individual solution. Living a climatically virtuous lifestyle—whatever that is—is a way to experiment and find alternatives to the unbridled pursuit of growth that has been the norm for the last ten millennia, but it is like throwing a bucket of water on a forest fire. It will not save us as individuals. Enough of us have forgotten how to live as if other people matter, as if other species matter to push us over the edge of the carrying capacity of this place we call home, and until and unless we learn to live as part of a collective superorganism, which is, after all, what this planet is, we will not survive. Like everything else here, alone in the sea of space, we are all connected. Our actions in this time matter deeply. We are unlikely to extinguish all life, but we can certainly extinguish ourselves.

I don’t know how to fix this. The caterpillar doesn’t know how to become a butterfly, but it does so. Are we part of a galaxy, a universe, where this sort of metamorphosis happens? We won’t know unless we make it to the other side. It may turn out that we’re worrying for nothing, that what feels like death approaching is only the process of transformation. All I know is that when we seek stillness and listen to the rest of the world we do know what we shouldn’t be doing.

Our planet lies between two others, Venus and Mars, that for reasons we do not yet understand went in opposite directions, one falling victim to a runaway greenhouse effect and the other possibly losing the ability to support an atmosphere and retain liquid water. Did they ever support life? We won’t know if we don’t survive, but we do know that continuing to fill our atmosphere with carbon dioxide is a foolish thing to do.

I am not for an instant calling the current pandemic a blessing. My own country is closing in on 200,000 deaths, and the havoc and death that has been created by one little virus is not something any sane person would wish for. It is, however, the kind of shock that can create change. The countries who have taken it seriously and taken sensible action to deal with the crisis are beginning to recover. It is blindingly obvious what needs to be done and the consequences of not doing these things. I’m not going to go into those actions because they are being discussed worldwide and the information is available to anyone who chooses to open their eyes.

These things aren’t easy for people who have been accustomed to thinking only of themselves, their families, their nations, their species. Doing them will mean we have at last begun to grow up as a species and realize that we must act for the good of the whole. We will be on the road to planetary consciousness. It will mean that we think before we act, and we observe and learn from the world around us instead of looking for the facts that justify the actions we wish to take.

Someday, when we have done what we need to, I will walk in a wild place once more. Until then I will stay inside and remember what I have learned. Once upon a time I walked the ridge above Wildcat Canyon, camped beside the sea at Point Reyes, stood inside a redwood in Big Basin. Is that tree still standing? What will be left of Point Reyes? Or, like so many beautiful places, will they be only memories?

70% of All of Us

Pardon me, do you have a minute to talk about water? I really think this conversation is long overdue. When you turn your tap, have you ever considered where the cool clean miracle that comes out of it came from? Go ahead. Get a glass. Fill it up and take a drink. Feel it slip down your throat and become part of you.

Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act, we in the United States have the right to know where our drinking water comes from, and what exactly is in it.

Tap water is a blessing. Water is a gift from the earth and the sky. Tap water in the United States is more rigorously tested than any bottled water, and it is available to all. It is subject to laws that are getting better and better at using it sustainably, for the good of all while bottled water is a product of profitmaking companies, who take without any thought for the amount, and the effect on the land they take it from. That pretty picture on the label is likely a lie. Major brands like Aquafina (Pepsi) and Dasani (Coca Cola) are basically tap water. Spring water is not required to come from a spring to bear that label. These companies are damaging the land I live in, and our already overstressed aquifers. They are doing this all over the world. There is a campaign in my state, as a matter of fact, to get people to trust and drink tap water. The idea that it isn’t safe is yet another set of lies by companies who want to sell us water filters and–you guessed it–bottled water. I won’t go into the waste and hype any further here because that isn’t my main point, and the information is readily available. I hope I’ve inspired you to go and seek it out for yourself because it is an illuminating exercise.

Where does your tap water come from? Mine comes from the Mokelumne river and is stored in Pardee Reservoir. From there, the trail back to the source leads to the Sierras, and the snowmelt that feeds the river. The water that runs from my tap is piped from the reservoir, and across the Central Valley to Oakland, where I live.

The story darkens from here. Pardee Dam was built in 1929 to supply the fast-growing East Bay with water. In the process, the salmon runs were forced downstream. The downstream Camanche Dam was added in 1963. The fish managed to make the adjustment at first, but now, between population growth, destructive water management practices and climate change, the salmon and steelhead runs are nearing extinction.

Mokelumne is a Plains Miwok word meaning “people of the fishnets.” Their connection to the river and their means of existence are encapsulated in that name that we don’t think about. The people were long gone before the dams were ever built, having been removed to the missions. There are few left today. The Ohlone, of which the Miwok are a part, are not federally recognized tribes, and live on meager allotments while they fight for recognition. Their ancestral waters have thus been appropriated for our use.

All this information flowed from one simple question: Where does the water I drink come from? Now my questions are many, and answers few. What can I do to help the salmon? To support the people who have lost their river and their way of life in their quest for recognition? The other Native Californians who deserve recognition, and respect? What are their land spirits, and how can I respect them as well? Scattering tobacco and saying thanks is nice, but it doesn’t change anything for the people and the land, it only means I have manners.

I don’t know any of this yet, and I do know that respect for water is only a beginning. I know that connection to this land that I live in is something that begins with simple things like knowing where my water comes from, using it with awareness of its scarcity, and not wasting it. Knowing the plants and animals that share this land with me, and respecting the people who took care of it before I was born is not only manners, it makes my own life more meaningful. I know that the more of us who do so, the richer our lives will be, and the more likely it is that we will find ways to make connections that will bring us together in truth. Together we can pass the land to the future in better condition than we received it.

I began this post with a simple way to appreciate and connect to water. Here’s a more challenging way to do it in my area. On a hot day go to the hills, where in my tradition, Lugh reigns right now. Walk in the heat and the dust, smell the dry, golden grass all around you. Touch the powdery dry bark of the live oaks and feel their waxy leaves. Listen to the hum of heat, and feel your own sweat run down your body as you hike in the heat and glorious sunshine. Feel yourself getting parched and overheated. At the top of a hill, where you can see the glorious Pacific, or San Francisco Bay spread out before you, open your pack. In it you have packed a water bottle, wrapped against the heat, beaded with condensation and filled with cool water. You won’t be able to resist running that bottle over your body, holding it against the back of your neck, feeling the beads of moisture on your skin, cool and wonderful. Hold it in your hand and open it, and when you drink, you will feel every molecule of coolness as it slips down your throat and becomes part of you. You will feel every cell in your body open to the giver of life, the gift of California’s rains and her living heart, depending on where this water you drink comes from.

When you go home, take a shower, wash yourself clean, and think about the miracle we all have installed in our homes; an ever flowing waterfall, that runs at any temperature we choose. What has it been? Seventy years or so since showers became a regular part of our lives? We are so wealthy. We would do well to appreciate what we have, and give thanks for it.

What is the story of water in your land?

The Grove of the Old Trees

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I got to spend a little time in the remnants of the temperate rain forest that once covered my homeland. The presence of the trees was immense. We had come as Druids, to pass one of our own between us. My southern group had chosen to make the trek to the northern group and they gave us a place beyond any expectations to do our rite.

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It was a one way journey, as good adventures are. Whether you intend to return to a particular spot or not, chances are you won’t be doing it. On our walk around the place we stopped at an immense old growth redwood, hollowed by time and fire. It was large enough that all eight of us could fit inside. We sang cascading Awens in there, the space a gigantic resonator.

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I know that this huge silence, these gigantic trees, were once the way this coast was, but I’m still surprised by it every time I come within it. There’s something in it that is part of me even though I’ve always lived in the heart of the city. Given a chance, I would build my city within it, or a city that will not be seen for centuries as the big trees grow. There are redwoods in the center of 14th Avenue, and they dot my city in ones and twos. They are always eager to grow, throwing off green shoots from their large burls wherever the sun shines steadily on them.

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They remember what they could be, what they are in places like the one I was in on Sunday. This forest is mainly young trees, but there are venerable elders there, guiding the younger trees into the form they might become, if allowed to.

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Will we be here to see them, if they do?

The Song Of Life Sings Through Us

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Mount Tamalpais was dripping last Sunday. We went up between the rainstorms, through fog so thick the drive was frightening, but the walk through cool silence was something absorbed through the very pores of our bodies. The grass that was gray last time is now disappearing under a growing layer of green. What is left is turning golden brown.

Rock Springs is running. I filled three half gallon jars and together we sang our thanks to the music of the running water.

We know what feels good. We know what we need to do. The song of life sings through us. We turn towards life.  All we need to do is follow that turning in all that we do.

Is changing our ways really so hard? We’ve done it so many times in the last two centuries. All we need to do is what we always have, to grow towards a better life. The only difference this time is that we have to take into account the consequences of our actions on the whole planet, not just ourselves. Now that we know that we’re all connected, we can see that that’s in our best interests, can’t we?

Even in my neighborhood, where people tag any open expanse of clean wall and throw trash around with gay abandon I see the changes beginning. There were three houses with roosters on my morning commute last year. Now I hear crowing from at least five. More bicycles share the road with me than ever before, even if a lot of the drivers still treat stop signs as decorations. They slow down, take a look, and roll on through. There were always some gardens in place of lawns in a lot of the yards, but slowly, slowly more of them are appearing.

Think what it could be like. What if we made clean air, clean water, clean earth a priority? What if we opened our streams and creeks to the sky and kept them clean? What if we expected the water in them to be clean enough to drink, and it was tested regularly to make sure this was so, just as our municipal water supply is now? What if we could plant things in our gardens, knowing that the soil was clean because that is as basic a thing in a house for sale or rent as a good foundation and working plumbing? What if apartments came with garden plots, not parking spots? And public transportation was clean, safe, pleasant, and ran 24/7? If public transit was a real priority, we could all enjoy a quick, direct ride to wherever we were going, and be able to use our digital devices safely and sanely. We could read instead of sit in traffic. What if cars were a public utility? Each neighborhood has a lot, and you rent them by the hour?

Crazy? I don’t think so. I’m living this life as far as is possible without public support, and while it could be better, it isn’t half bad even as it is. My problems are mostly financial, not infrastructural. I’m not saying that everyone has to live the same life, and I’m not trying to pry your hands off your steering wheel or make you shiver in the dark. What I’m trying to do is spread some ideas and blend them with others so we can make changes in the way we live while we still have some quality of life. I’m trying to show how we can have a better life than we do now.

If we all walked more, we’d be healthier. If we drove only when we really needed to instead of all the time, our streets would be safer in so many ways. The streets of Oakland are dangerous mainly because there are so few people using them, and we don’t know our neighbors. What would it be like if there was always someone on the street, if we could put names to faces? Don’t you think that if people doing crappy things were easily identified, and if we all spoke up when we saw bad things happen, that we’d all be safer? Our neighborhoods aren’t really ours, have you noticed that? Do you know what’s around the block and down the street? Do you know who lives there? If you have a neighborhood park, have you been there? Do you feel safe there? Is there a decent grocery store, restaurant, coffeehouse, or other stores close enough to walk to? Do you know the bus routes around you and where they go? Do you feel safe on them?  If only a few of these things are true, do you really feel a part of where you live, or is it just a place to sleep and keep your stuff? Is it truly a place you can call home? Is this really how we want to live?

What do you know about your food? Have you ever looked into the eyes of the animals your food comes from? Does that last sentence sound scary and weird to you? If you’re vegetarian, and more power to you if you are, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph because I’m talking to the omnivores now. I invite you to look into those eyes. Our collective health depends on it, and it can be a very powerful and empowering experience. When I had chickens (and when I have them again) it was very comforting to eat an egg breakfast while our hens scratched contentedly in the yard outside our kitchen window. We knew without a doubt that our breakfast came from birds that were having happy lives. The bargain between us was sound–they gave us eggs, we gave them food and shelter and a pleasant place to live. It isn’t necessary to keep the chickens or the cattle yourself. What if it were possible to walk around the corner and buy eggs and milk from a neighbor or a neighborhood farm and see up close how those animals were treated? And if you eat the whole animal, is it really better to see it only as an anonymous bit of flesh in a styrofoam tray? Is it safer to have no idea whatsoever where it came from and what kind of life it led?

Our vegetables and grains are no better. While I’m not expecting anyone to raise all their own food, I think we can get most of it a lot closer to home, and I think we’d be better off for doing it. We’d use a lot less energy and we’d have a much safer and more reliable food supply. It’s the difference between having terminals off a mainframe computer as opposed to a lot of laptops. We’ve chosen the latter for years because of the independence and reliability such a diffused system provides, and because it gives us all so many choices. There are other examples, the quality and variety of craft beer as opposed to big brewing is to many of us a definite improvement. If you buy your vegetables and other foods from local producers, you have a real person to go to in case of trouble and you can go and see how your food is being produced.

This is all very up close and personal, and probably downright scary to some. I’ve avoided getting into specifics on this blog, just as most businesses have. We prefer to talk in generalities like energy independence and food security. The problem is, apart from a few of us who know we are hungry for such things, no one is moved to make any changes. There are no specifics to sink our teeth into, no specific actions to take other than buying a different brand of garbage bag or getting a steel cup. Changing our light bulbs and buying cars that get better mileage are pretty much non actions. We’ve been doing these things for years and what has changed? Only the labels in the grocery stores and the brand names on the cars. Public transportation in my area has actually gotten worse, and we’re still driving to work one to a car.

So here are a few of my ideas. I’m offering them as a starting point, based on the actions I’ve already taken and the ones I’d like to see us take as a city, a state, a nation, and a world. I know yours are different, and only by blending our different ideas and doing our own experiments with change will we come to a place where we’re all served, where all humans have food, shelter and clothing, and all beings have food, shelter, and a decent place in the web of life to live. We all deserve better than we have right now–what do YOU want to see changed?

I took a bottle of Rock Springs water with me when I busked this week. That’s something I haven’t been able to do since December. It was as always, water from the heart of the earth, cool, refreshing–and clean.

The Awareness Shining Out Of Gaia’s Eyes

It took us eons to claw our way up from lifeless matter to consciousness. Our planetary lifestream has been pruned back five times that we know of since we came to life, but never before have we had any awareness of the process or control over it.

This time it’s different. We know ourselves in a way we never have before. We’ve gone into space and seen ourselves, our whole body floating in the darkness of space.

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This picture changed us. In the words of two astronauts:

“Beholding our planet from space has enabled us to see our place in the universe in a new way. For those who have seen the earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.” -American astronaut Donald Williams

“The first day, we pointed to our countries. Then we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth.” -Saudi Arabian astronaut Sultan Bin Salmon al-Saud

The history of the life of Earth is one of cooperation. Details and models differ, and this story I am telling right now can and probably will change tomorrow. It is difficult to remember where we came from, after all, and we learn more every day. But what was here in the beginning kept interacting with itself. Compounds combined to become self replicating, then kept combining to form amino acids, proteins, and eventually cells. Those cells kept it up, cooperating, ingesting each other, combining their talents and their functions to become ever more complex. We became one vast web, sharing what is here, nourishing each other, becoming each other, all the while part of a greater whole that is our glowing self, floating in space. We live an endless paradox, separate and one at the same time.

The most dangerous and damaging myth of all is that of our separateness. We cannot live without the rest of life, our very bodies are colonies of beings, the bacteria that break down the other beings that become us as they are consumed being but one example. We are all consumed when each of our individual lives ends because we are all part of everything else. We cannot be separate, every part of us must return to the whole to become something else in an endless dance. If you don’t believe me, just try to hold onto all that you are right now. How long can you hold your breath? Your bodily “wastes?” Your hair, skin, nails? Even enbalming is a temporary, desperate attempt to stave off of the inevitable process of being consumed as all that we are returns to where it came from. Our “separate” lives are a constant taking in and letting go, and we grow more complex as time goes on.

We have to think of all beings. We have grown so complex, so powerful, that we are determining the very shape of the whole. Our actions are determining which creatures live, and which die. Humanity is conscious of ourselves, we are aware of the very shape of our whole, but we have forgotten that we are only a part of it. We don’t yet realize that we are the arrow pointed at our chest. We don’t remember or know that cutting off the lives of entire species is another way of cutting off pieces of our own bodies. We know that an animal that outstrips the resource base that keeps it alive is heading for a population crash, or extinction, but we do not apply that knowledge to ourselves. We are different, separate, somehow exempt. We’re smart enough to find a way to survive.

I believe that we will, but I think that we will accomplish that by remembering who we are. If we can be the awareness shining out of Gaia’s eyes that we were evolved to be, we will work as part of that whole and survive. If not, we will go the way of the dinosaur and the trilobite, and earth will start that slow majestic climb toward consciousness once again.

We live in wonderful, terrible, pivotal times. What a gift it is to live here and now, to hold the world in our hands, to see the shape of it as no other creature ever has. Sit down, be still. Choose carefully, the future depends on it.

We Each Have Two Small Hands

It rained yesterday. Chance of rain again next week. The salmon wait, the trees are not growing green tips this year. The land lies dry beneath the winter sun. I walked to the bus yesterday morning and a neighbor was washing down the sidewalk in front of his house. Drawing from the dry well.

We did this. We can undo it. Park the car, sweep the sidewalk, walk to the store. Plant a lettuce box, look up at the stars. Let the song of creation sing through you. Your every action changes the world. Is it part of the problem, or part of the solution? Your every action matters, especially now.

Yesterday I walked home from the bus and smelled a freshly manured front yard, a newly planted cypress next to the fence. As I passed the corner of East 22nd St., I thanked the sleeping gingko for its gift of fallen leaves. Some fell on the waiting earth, on their journey to become new soil.

We go out in the hills and do magic, then we go back to the trailhead and get into our solitary cars. We rejoice that we “called the rain” if it rains, and then get on with our lives. Magic alone won’t do it. “Wish in one hand and piss in the other,” as my mother used to say, “and see which one gets fuller faster.”

There are, however, plenty of things that can be done, and are in fact being done. I’ll start close to my home in the United States and work out. Your circle will be different, it is important that you find its shape, know your place in the world.

The Arbor Day Foundation has an excellent volunteer page. I used it to find an opportunity near me, as a matter of fact. I had some pretty specific requirements, which they managed to meet. I work supervising volunteers myself, which means that Saturday workdays are out. I also don’t own a car any more, so the opportunity has to be bikeable. They delivered. The ride will be two miles uphill, but the ride down at the end of the day should be magnificent. It will also introduce me to another wild area that’s bikeable from my house. Working in tune with the planet can be both fun and useful. My bicycle has given me great legs, after all. What are your requirements? This site might just be able to meet them.

In Wales, the Anglesey Druid Order is restoring Cae Braint. This former nature attraction is becoming a true nature reserve that will benefit wildlife, the local community, and provide a sacred home for the Order.

In India, one of the most ambitious planting programs of all is happening. Project Green Hands aims to reforest Tamil Nadu. To date, 1.5 million volunteers have planted, and are caring for, over 17 million saplings. MILLIONS. That is the true power of our two small hands.

You can volunteer for these programs and many others. You can donate money to them. And that is only the beginning. We, collectively, have grown to be the power in this world. We are responsible for the state the world is in. Such a blessing that is! Unlike the Ice Ages, and the mass extinctions of the past, we have the power to change what is going on. If we change ourselves, we literally change the world. Our problems are largely problems of awareness.

We each have two small hands, what will you do with yours today?

NEXT:
We are the awareness shining out of Gaia’s eyes.

Rock Springs Is Dry

I feel like the one person the serial killer has freed so she can tell the world what happened. Only there’s no one to tell. No “crime” has been committed.

I went up to Mt.Tamalpais on Tuesday to get water from the spring. It’s something I do every few months, having living water on hand is something that appeals to the Druid in me and it’s a great excuse to go up and spend some time in the forest. This time the pipe was dry. I’ve never known this to happen before. I’ve been drinking from this spring since my teens and even on the hottest day in summer the mountain has always had a cool drink to offer.

It’s January and the pipe is dry.

The dry pipe at Rock Springs

It’s January and it looks like *August.*

The path to Rock Springs

I know droughts are part of life. That’s the story we keep telling ourselves anyway. But this one is part of a pattern. The climate is changing, catastrophic events are becoming the norm. In other words, this isn’t a catastrophic event, this is a catastrophe.  A slow one, so we can fool ourselves into saying it’s an isolated incident. We can avoid noticing what’s going on all around us. We humans have managed to throw enough carbon into the atmosphere and cut down enough trees to deform the jet stream.

This is a worldwide problem, of course, though we in the developed world have so far been lucky enough to escape the worst effects of it. Lucky enough, in fact that I can be so shocked when the beginnings of desertification appear on my own doorstep. We have dismissed the droughts in places like Ethiopia, Somalia and Syria as normal, if we’ve noticed them at all. Those places have always been deserts, as Sam Kinison, among others, have said. It’s a problem that we in the developed world have created, and we’ve taught the rest of the world to follow our example.

We’ve caused this, and this is the biggest blessing of all. We did this, and we can undo it. We know what needs to be done, and it’s well within our capabilities. All it will take is hard work, and it can even feel good if we choose to let it.

I wrote a song on my way back down the mountain. The long slow curves of the mountain road became a tune, and the terror I felt became a chant. When I hit the parking lot of Good Earth in Fairfax, to fill my water bottle, the verse began to break through with the ludicrousness of the fact that I had to ask two separate people in two different parts of the store for a source of cold water. Bottled water or any number of cold packaged drinks had stared me in the face from the moment I walked in the door. Back up the mountain I went, pulling off at turnouts and singing the bits into my iPad. A full first verse and scraps of the second and darkness was falling. Butt-in-BART-seat back and forth over the next day and it was done. I offer it to you as a warning and a call to action.

The Springs of Tamalpais

DISCLAIMER: The drain pipe of the Rock Springs fire hydrant is not potable according to Marin Municipal Water District. Consume at your own risk. I drink it, I’ve never been sick, but I am a nut. And that’s the saddest commentary of all, to me. Our springs and creeks are not safe to drink and we don’t even realize how insane that is.