Friday, April 20, 2012

Nine Steps for Pagans

I discovered yet another set of recovery steps in my web browsing. It's a nine-step program specifically for pagans. Here are the steps:

1. We came to feel enslaved by excessive behaviors which were harmful to us, throwing our health and relationships out of balance through addictions, compulsions or both.
2. We realized that resources were available to help us win our freedom if we were willing to use them.
3. We became willing to reach out for help, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
4. We sought help from our Deities, fellow humans, healers, clergy, groups or whatever source necessary to aid us toward freedom and health.
5. We established a pattern of life-affirming behaviors, avoiding the sorts of isolation that would make us vulnerable to relapses, creating a foundation of supports which could help us recover from whatever lapses we might have.
6. We considered, acknowledged and took full responsibility for the harm we had done to others and ourselves in our time of slavery.
7. We considered and discussed, with a neutral adult, the harm we had done and how we might make restitution or otherwise restore balance, facing the fact that in some situations no direct redress was possible.
8. Where possible, and using whatever support necessary, we endeavored to restore balance in those situations and relationships previously harmed by our servitude to our addiction or compulsion.
9. Remaining constructively vigilant in our self-regard, we continued to grow strong in health and freedom, eventually becoming a source of support for others seeking to bring their own life into balance.

I like these steps a lot. They are balanced and practical and I especially like that the physical aspect is considered as well as the concept of remaining vigilant in our own self-regard. There's no feeling of the Christian sin and redemption concept and no implication that we are any more defective in character than other human beings who struggle with other problems.

And of course the most important thing is that they are another option for people attempting to recover from addiction. Lack of choice is always limiting, never growth-oriented, and leads to less freedom, not more.

Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Physical Component

If there is one thing that's glaringly missing from all the models I discussed in the previous post it's the physical component of alcoholism and addiction. Most alcoholics and addicts are malnourished, have weakened livers and immune systems, are hypoglycemic, and suffer endocrine and hormone disruption.

Part of my recovery work will be researching this and learning how to support the body in recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

Personally, I won't feel my recovery is complete until I give up the cigarettes and probably the coffee.

I ordered a book today about just this thing and I'll be writing about that as well.

Thanks for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Doing Whatever It Takes

With years and years of interrupted attempts at recovery behind me, I have finally become ready to do whatever it takes to maintain my sobriety. Maybe it was knowing that the physical and mental effects would soon be irreversible. Maybe it was knowing that I would lose my job and my partner if I kept it up. Maybe it was another moment of grace of which I've been afforded many on this long journey.

I've put all my misgivings about AA behind me and am using it as one of my primary recovery tools. I'm still participating in my on-line secular recovery group as well and I'm revisiting Charlotte Kasl's 16 steps to empowerment. Being pagan at heart, Addiction Alchemy is also a recovery model that speaks to me of hope, recovery and wellness

In the weeks ahead I'll be looking at the first 3 steps of AA and Charlotte's empowerment steps as well as the Addiction Alchemy approach.
They are:


1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Empowerment Steps

1. We admit we were out of control with our addiction, but have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.
2. We come to believe that God/Goddess/Universe/Great Spirit/Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to that power.
3. We make a decision to become our authentic Selves and trust in the healing power of the truth.

Addiction Alchemy

East Points: Awareness, Realization, Surrender

Intention: I come into full awareness that suffering is due to attachments (addictions) which ultimately form as a result of the denial of my interconnectedness of all that is and my rightful place in the Universe.

Affirmation: I have come to the realization through personal experience that the intelligence of mankind is not the only intelligence at work in the Universe.

Result: I am committed to seek the truth in all things in order to restore my connection with my Center and to reconnect my Will with that of my highest purpose.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I'm praying again. Simple prayers requesting assistance with staying sober, prayers for friends and family and the earth and the animals. Prayers that feel like they're going somewhere, being heard, responded to. In my world the only thing worse than being in relapse is praying and feeling like the prayers stay lumped in my chest, held prisoner by my own reluctance to just let go.

Now, I know what to do after prayer: follow it up with action, disconnect from the outcome, and trust.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mental Twists

After many months of continuous sobriety I had a relapse upon returning to Georgia from Montana. As I approach 50 years of age, and as I have friends who are paying the ultimate price for relapse, I've decided to write again at Eclectic Recovery. I've been sober a couple of weeks since the relapse, which luckily did not last long, and I'm feeling very free of my addiction at the moment. But I've been relapsing on and off for almost 17 long years and I want to put a complete end to it.

There are a couple of mental tricks I play on myself to convince myself it's okay to drink. One is that I tell myself that it will just be one time, that I will drink for one night and then return right to my sober life. Only I never do because one night of drinking sets up the craving and then my twisted mind says if I "got away" with it one night I can "get away" with it another, and another. And then I'm off to the races with all their attendant shame, guilt, humiliation, depression and yes, pure insanity.

Another idea that sets me up to relapse is thinking that I have to get some relief from my daily life. After a few months, usually about 4, I begin to feel the pressures of being a responsible adult and I tell myself I just can't take it. And it really does feel that way; there are times I feel I will just explode if I don't get some relief. Then I usually do explode, into drinking, and while I may get a few moments of respite, I also get all the aforementioned pain to follow it, which is always worse than the pain that precedes it.

As far as alcoholics go, I've been especially lucky. I've had my serious consequences to be sure, but overall I haven't paid the price that many have. I know luck doesn't last forever and I've pushed mine far past the point where it should've already run out. But it's not just that. I want to be a sober person because the sober alcoholics and addicts I know in my life are the people I admire the most. They move forward with their lives (usually) and get out of the endless cycle of pain and despair that is the drinking life.

Approaching 50 is sobering in itself, but despite everything I don't feel old. If there is anything I could do in my life that would help me reach its end in a state of peace and acceptance, it's to stay sober.

So here I am again.

Thanks for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thank You

I have been unable to decide what to do with Eclectic Recovery. I kept thinking I would write again, but it looks like it's time to put ER to bed.

I've enjoyed writing here and the people I've gotten to know through blogging. I believe it's a very special medium and I'm glad I've been part of it.

I'm going to leave this up for about a week and then take it down. My warmest wishes for a happy holiday season.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tending the Fire

Even though we only had one full month this year that we didn't build a fire, I forgot some things about tending one. The weather is chilly cool and rainy, the tamaracs are a painting on the mountainsides and there's a nice white-tail buck stalking the woods surrounding the house. The black bear seems to have moved on and wood must be fed in a consistent manner to keep the house toasty warm.
A consistent manner - hour by hour, day by day.

No, that's not my fire pit, not my gorgeous cast iron dutch oven, but I'd love to cook that way sometime. I fancy myself green witch drawn to cauldrons full of critical ingredients - onions, garlic, potatoes, venison, parsnip, yam, ginger and peppers. And maybe the occasional eye of newt. I sprinkle some leftover or borrowed hope, a glimmer of faith, a forgotten belief in something. My own cast iron skillet goes in the oven to be retrieved an hour or so later with food medicinal in nature, glorious in taste. I feed the fire.

I know I've been silent here for awhile but it was necessary. The inner fires have been raging and have required their own consistent tending. They have left me wrung out, exhausted and mad. I temporarily lost interest in much of anything except my sobriety and getting through the day. It's entirely discomforting to suddenly turn scarlet with flush, break out into an entire body sweat that feels like it's literally steaming out the top of one's head while trying to speak with a customer or a friend or the cat for gods sake. Mini-kundalini volcanoes. I'm reading Derrick Jensen and the words reach me in a deep place that takes time to assimilate: the truth harsh and cold. I have to take breaks from the book, but I'm compelled to continue reading each time I pause and I steel myself and open the pages - telling myself I can keep it at an emotional distance, I can keep from going into the dark place, telling myself it's necessary, it's part of becoming aware. I read chapters aloud to Brent and he hangs on every word. We feed the fire.

I have continued following the Gulf Coast and there continues to be excellent work done there, although don't for a minute think BP or our government have much of anything to do with that - except getting us there in the first place. National Geographic did a cover story, which mostly bored me to tears and the spill has been in the national news again, but the reports come with no real stories of assistance where it's needed most. They do not engage me the way Drew Wheelan with the American Birding Assocation and the bloggers at the Gulf Restoration Network continue to do. These grassroots activists are my heroes and there are pockets of them all over the globe. A friend in South Africa works to slow the same type of destruction to her Delta knowing that it's late late late in the game. We feed the fire.

We can all see what's happening here, can't we? The story will continue to die down as more and more of these disasters take place. I haven't heard much about the Red Sludge lately. They've built a wall, people are returning to their homes. But there's lead in that stuff and it's radioactive and the ground is a sponge. And it's happening in a thousand different ways in a thousand different places that we never hear about and never will.

We must see that any real answers will not come from the established order. Pluto cojunct Ceres asks us to revolutionize our relationship with the food we eat. To offer it respect and good soil, clear sunshine and pristine water. To thank it for the life it gives, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and to offer something back. The deer are abundant here and their meat is healthy, lean and good. I will let one choose me and honor our pact from the moment I take the shot to the last savory bite. My willingness to participate so intimately with my food is surprising still to me. It is changing me. It is making me better. I don't like the task especially, don't enjoy killing in any way except that that's the way it feels it should be - if I want the meat (and I do) and I intend to eat it (the only reason to hunt in my opinion), I should at least bless it for myelf and recieve the animal's blessing. I'm almost certain it changes the food, making it a bit more nutritious, a bit more delicious, allowing a healing alchemy to take place in the cells. Our plant and animal siblings help feed the fire.

I'd love to hear how you're feeding the fire.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Buddha Dad

It was chilly and damp while my dad was here, a portent of the La Nina winter we have upcoming.

We went fishing, quite unsuccessfully, along the Flathead River one day and picnicked in Glacier National Park another. The weather never broke (that sun I'm blocking in the picture was oh so brief) and dad left a day earlier than planned, but as far as I'm concerned, it was a perfect visit.

My dad's presence is comforting, calm, borne of living in a house with four women for 18 years and a spirit that embraces growth no matter how difficult.

Dad and Brent get along well and they're both great debators in their own ways. We had gotten into some philosophical discussion over the morning news, and the evening news, and any news we ran across, and Brent was asking, "How do you know what's real? How does one know what to believe anymore?" My dad said, "This is real. this right here, here and now." Well, hello, Buddha Dad.

You are always welcome here and next time you have to drag that wild crazy mother of mine with you.

Much love to all my family!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hard-Ass Work

"Since the media is no longer here, no one is asking the questions, and BP seems to have the run of things. I have been in a deep depression the last two weeks coming to term with the fact that the nation's attention span doesn't seem to allow for any more real reporting about the spill. One of the main problems is that to solve this issue involves confronting our very own personal behaviors and habits, and it makes it a much harder thing to deal with day-in and day-out. We just want it to be rosey and good and for the birds to live happily ever after, and that's not the case."

The above quote is from Drew Wheelan who blogs for the American Birding Association and has been reporting findings from the Gulf that are much different than what you will hear on the evening news. Drew has become one of my heroes, along with most of the other organizations and bloggers I link to. For some reason, though, I was drawn more personally into the experience through Drew's covering it. In the past few months, Drew has awakened to a reality he finds difficult to face. And yet he continues to face it day after day, he continues to consistently report what he finds and try to gain attention, and he's man enough to tell us how dmaned depressing it all is - especially the head-in-the-very-oily-sand attitude of his fellow Americans.

He linked to this site by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. There is very disturbing video on this site - hundreds of dead birds on Raccoon Island, not necessarily oiled, but definitely killed by something.

I understand Drew's feelings all too well. I continue to experience depression and some anxiety as I learn about the true state of the world, my complicity in that state, and how very late it is in the game. Like Drew, I'm learning about these things in a very short period of time. These intense negative mental states were not new to me. My life-time struggle with alcoholism and mental health issues had wrought similar states in the past. Everyone assumes that awakening is a glorious, spiritual experience usually accompanied by states of bliss and oneness. I beg to differ.

Awakening is hard-ass work; it's mostly not fun at all and the frustration level itself can be paralyzing. But there is something through the other side and for me it's a burgeoning sense of purpose. Every day that I stay sober I beat the odds. Every time that I post about the crime in the Gulf, which is only a symptom of the larger crime being perpetrated, there's a chance the right person will read it. Every plan that I make and implement to live closer to the earth is an opportunity to feel my true place and share how I think such village living is a huge part of the answer to the world's woes.

My wish for Drew, and for anyone else struggling with anguish over our world, is that they find this same sense of purpose. That they know there is no small action now. Everything counts.

When we need comfort around here, we turn to our food. Slow comfort food. One of our favorites is roasted roots, rustic. Here's my favorite version:

Roasted Roots, Rustic
1 sweet potato or yam, sliced
1 yukon gold potato, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper sliced in strips
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper sliced in strips
1/2 onion sliced however you want it
cloves or garlic, as many as you want, these turn out so yummy and are packed with myriad health benefits along with all the other ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coarse ground sea salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
few sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional)
Place ingredients in an oiled cast iron skillet. Drizzle olive oil over all and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Eat. Go to heaven.

Thanks, Drew! For all your hard work and commitment. You are not alone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Absolutely Painful

Drew Wheelan of the American Birding Association and the bloggers at the Gulf Restoration Network continue to report the oily truth in the Gulf of Mexico. How many people believe that the disaster is over; the oil cleaned up or "dispersed"; the damage somehow mitigated? Do you believe that?

I've been working a lot the past couple of weeks. I come home tired, feet and legs hurting. My diet goes to hell because I don't have the energy or the time to cook like I usually do. I actually like my job, but that doesn't seem to make me any less fatigued when I'm done. The store where I work is a home and ranch store - they play a country music station all day that plays the same damned songs over and over, taking us down to the little white church at least 8 times a day. It's a large store with bright eye-piercing light and concrete floors (luckily the dept. I work in has a thin layer of something akin to carpet over the conrete). The radioes are going all day and this week is school-shopping week. That means kids. Lots and lots of kids.

I find it overstimulating at best and absolutely painful after 6 hours. I like to work and I definitely need the money, but I hate how it sort of sucks the passion out of my life temporarily. And I'm running late this morning, but I did want to keep the attention here at ER on the Gulf. Surely this story will eventually break.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Unbelievable to me that Drew continues to find oil like this and it's not being reported anyplace where it could actually make a difference. It's obvious that BP has no interest in mitigating the environmental disaster caused by their spill and all the average American seems to want is a return to "normal". A return I'm afraid will not be forthcoming. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: oil does not disappear - especially not that amount of oil.

I continue to ask myself, daily: "What can I do?" I have a real averson to facebook and haven't even given twitter a twit. I did recently rejoin facebook so I can see pictures of my nieces and nephew and keep up with my cousins in South Carolina. I'm thinking this information may get more attention there, so even though I don't like the medium, I'm going to employ it for the cause. As soon as I can figure out how.

There are moments while looking at Drew's work that my rage can hardly be contained. I jump up from the computer and pace the floor, my heart racing with anger. I do some deep breathing and before I can even respond to the rage it's replaced by despair. A sinking feeling so deep you never get that final relieving thunk - it seems to go on, and on. Then I shrug it off and start looking around me to see what I can do - starting right here with my own personal environmental disaster. That's how I'm seeing my alcoholism now - as my own personal environmental disaster. For most of my life, for reasons known and not, I've responded to the polluting of my own system by my own hand about the same way BP is responding to the oil spill. Ignore it, cover it up, do everything right except stop the poison leak. Was it stupidity? Was it powerlessness in the face of a force stronger than my own will? Was it a deep desire to not wake up to reality?

Whatever it was, it's been relieved for the moment. That brings on a depth of gratitude which is the perfect remedy to the rage and despair that's bound to visit unheeded when you watch blogs like the American Birding Association's, when you stop to ponder just how and why we find ourselves where we are today: a nation that seems to not care. I don't believe that's who we are. And when I stop and ponder? Oftentimes, all I can come up with is the cowboy's favorite phrase: Fuck oh dear.

Fuck oh dear. Indeed. I remember that by all rights I probably shouldn't even still be here. I remember that joy is a choice away and the pain doesn't preclude the joy, it accompanies it. Always.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Than One Kind of Oil

Drew's fly-overs of the Gulf become more disturbing by the day. (If you live in the U.S. and you don't follow that link - shame on you.) This is the kind of information that can start a revolution, but no one is really paying attention. Meanwhile, headlines say the economic "recovery" is slipping. I really want to curse here, but I will refrain. There hasn't been any kind of recovery and the media's own spin, brought to you courtesy of the Administration and corporate conglomerates, is not working anymore. Just this morning it was reported that the month of July was the second largest month for foreclosures ever.

The proposed energy bill is woefully inadequate to deal with our environmental issues and the advertisements for the Dodge Ram get glitzier and glitzier. Food prices are going up and the water table is going down. Those of us who have given up rearranging deck chairs are left to watch, mostly helpless, as the ship goes down. Maybe we'll be the only ones able to enjoy the stars on a dark night at sea.

I've begun writing to people who might be able to get the word out on the true story in the Gulf. In the meantime, there are things that provide me comfort. I hope no one thinks that I walk around living my life in a state of doom and gloom. True, I feel deeply the pain that goes with the kinds of issues we face, but it doesn't define or rule my life. I rarely speak of collapse with anyone but Brent, who is of a same mind.

Once acceptance is reached, every little thing becomes a blessing. Fresh food. Clean water. Relationships with family and friends. The ability to connect on-line. I have it better than most. I live in a state that has roughly a million people and takes a day to cross. I see eagles, osprey, white-tail and turkeys on a daily basis. Right now, there is abundant food to fish and hunt if you're willing to do that and I became willing some time ago. Actually I feel learning to hunt was an initiation that is helping me deal with things now, helping me to feel more empowered and capable of stepping up to the plate, whatever it holds.

I know my little blog is not doing much in the big picture, but it provides me some sense of participation and is a kind of launching pad for the activist I'm becoming.

I request, once again, that you please join me in sharing this vital information. Thank you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Industrial Disease

I have industrial disease. And you do, too. I'm waking up from our shared delusion of living in the "more, more, more", consumer-driven, petroleum-based, disaster that we call our society. And you can, too. But you can't look away. You have to look and read and become truly informed. And maybe the hardest part? You have to admit we've all been duped.

My industrial disease manifests itself in all kinds of ways - both physical and mental. Physically, I've become wheat-sensitive (the reason which is another post in itself); I have inflamed tendons in my heels from being on my feet 8 hours a day for a pittance; I would find it extremely difficult to function without my car; I'm becoming allergic to lotions, soaps, make-up and especially perfume (hi Sherri); and the internet is my lifeline. Mentally, I struggle with strong emotional responses: depression, anxiety, nihilism. Then sometimes, like now, I feel alive and real like I never have before. I feel the kundalini energy tugging at the chakras.

Those are some late-stage symptoms. Early stage symptoms were a deep sense of disconnection from source, bad - as a matter of fact, very bad decisions based on false assumptions about how to live life, an appetite for drugs and alcohol that overrode my wise mind and early family issues I couldn't resolve at the time.

I'm almost 49 years old and though I'm sober today, I will be living with the affects of my use the rest of my life. I think I've finally accepted that. I've discovered a new commitment to myself and the earth and its inhabitants and the only thing I really want, which is to be awake and sober right now, is mine as I choose it. If I didn't take action now about the things I see happening, I would never forgive myself. I've made a mess of most of my life, but I can make a difference now. And so can you.

I don't know if many people are still visiting my blog. But I'm calling on what readers I have and my fellow bloggers to help me draw attention to the people on the ground in the Gulf who are reporting the real story. We have to fight. For ourselves, for the earth, for future generations if there are to be any. Information is currency. Food is going to be currency.

Sign the petition. Write your congressmen. But don't expect the change to come from them. It will only come from us. Put a link on your blog to Drew Wheelan and Jonathan Henderson. Even if it's impossible to wake up to the whole picture right now, wake up to this part.
Thank you for visiting Eclectic Recovery.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

News from the Gulf

I don't have much time this morning, but I wanted to bring your attention, once again, to the reporting that Drew Wheelan, the Conservation Coordinator for the American Birding Association, is doing in the Gulf.

His reports continue to contradict what we're being told by BP, Obama and Corporate Media. He's obviously getting discouarged, feeling pretty helpless in the face of the situation, but he keeps flying-over and he keeps writing.

Drew is one of my current heroes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Jolly Good Time

My best friend from Georgia, Wendy, came out with her husband and two beautiful girls for a few days and a jolly good time was had by all.

We spent two days in Glacier National Park where we spotted mountain goats and their babes but alas, no bears. Not that they weren't there: the young ranger we spoke with told of a harrowing encounter the previous day with a sow and three cubs which brought her within 10-feet of mama. A little too close for comfort. Luckily, her bear spray got her out of a tough situation with no harm to animal or human as it did with Jack Hanna a day or two later in the same area. He was at Glacier doing a public service announcement for, guess what? Bear spray. Unfortunately, one fellow visiting Yellowstone, as noted in the article, didn't fare so well.

We kayaked Swiftcurrent Lake, did some hiking, picnicking and generally just had a grand ole time. Still, I have to apologize to Abby (far right) - while kayaking her paddle was a little warped, the wind was up, and I think she got pretty frustrated at going around in circles for half an hour. She was a good sport, though and I really have to say that for teenagers, Abby and her sister, Avery (next to Abby in orange t-shirt) were an absolute pleasure to be around. Tommy, Wendy's husband, is an all-around great likeable guy with an adventuresome spirit. Yes, indeed. Very good times.

The third day we drove to the National Bison Range. We saw large herds of bison, the random pronghorn antelope and mule deer and had a nice picnic at the top. And the last day we did this. Oh my god it was so much fun! I was a little nervous about flying through the treetops 100-ft above the ground at speeds of up to 50 mph, but it was nothing but fun. It just didn't last long enough and neither did the Weatherford's visit.

One thing that's lasted almost 50 years now is mine and Wendy's friendship. I'm nine days older than Wendy and we grew up within 1/8 mile of each other. We were virtually inseperable in grade school and if we were little terrors individually, as a team we could be devastating. Luckily, her offspring don't seem to show the same tendencies. Friendships like this are a rare and beautiful gift and I was struck more than usual by what it means to share such a history. It's comforting to be around someone who knows you that well.

I burst into tears when we got in the car to leave the hotel their last day here. They were mostly happy tears: happy we got to spend such quality time together, happy everything went well, happy they are doing so well and the girls are growing up to be such poised and beautiful young women, just happy. Well, maybe some sad, too. Sad because I'm not immune to homesickness for my family and friends in Georgia, sad in a 48-year old we'll never walk this way again sad, bittersweet, happysad.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf the stories from the ground continue to contradict what we're being told by the media and the government and BP. Trust me, there's a reason they don't want us to know the whole story just like there are reasons they don't want us to know stories like the Afghan War Diary. Wake up time. If you're really lucky right now, you'll have lifelong friends who will give you back your hope, or at least let you borrow theirs. Thanks, Wendy. I love you, girl.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

News You Probably Won't See on CBS

This is what's happening now in the Gulf while BP and the government begin plans to stop the clean-up because well, you know, the well is capped and no large plumes of oil are on the surface. This paragraph is especially troubling:

Also in the mouth of the bay (Fort Pickens, FL) was a large barge that was actively decontaminating oiled equipment. The chemical they were using, along with the oil and dispersant was being aerosolized by the act of pressure washing, and the odor was pretty offensive and probably quite toxic. Gregg felt sick when we got to the car.

We have really no idea what's going on down there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Possible Responses to Current Reality

Carolyn Baker was one of the first people I read who helped me accept our current reality, one of the first people who gave me hope that I wasn't losing my sanity but actually finding it, one of the first people who offered me a new vision of ways I might pesonally respond to the situation at hand. I have intended to write her for months and let her know what a positive impact she's made on my life, but I haven't done it. I know why and I'm working on that particular fear.

Carolyn believes that collapse offers humanity a rare opportunity at this time - an opportunity to become reinitiated into the earth community. Carolyn has identified several possible responses to learning about collapse which she categorizes as either "initiated" or "uninitiated". We all begin from an uninitiated perspective. I prefer to categorize them as "before" and "after". Before we learn about what's happening, how could we possibly be expected to respond in a mature way? And after? Well, that's up to us.

Uninitiated Responses

Entitlement: This should not be happening to me. I have worked very hard in my life and
deserve to be gainfully employed doing meaningful work.

Positive Attitude: You can wallow in gloom and doom if you want but I'm going to maintain a positive outlook. I'm afraid I'll get depressed and won't be able to dig myself out of an emotional dungeon.
Solutions: There are solutions to these problems. Technology and human ingenuity will lead the way.

Sustainability: If enough people recycle, cut carbon emissions, buy green products and use renewable energy, we can prevent the collapse of civilization.

Delay: I deal with problems when they happen instead of obsessing about them ahead of time. I'll take action when I need to.

Present Moment: It's important to live in the here and now right now and right now my family and I are okay. It's mentally unhealthy to be thinking and talking about the collapse of civilization.

Love/Fear: I want to take action, but I don't want to do so out of fear. Fear is not a good motivator. I prefer to focus on love and compassion.

It's so interesting when I run into these responses in the real world and I do all the time. I'm finding that the majority of people with whom I discuss collapse are responding with Solutions. I hung onto that one until the Gulf spill. Now it's obvious to me that we do not have the technology to safely finish what we've begun. I also run into a lot of Sustainability, Present Moment and Love/Fear, the latter two which find their home in the current New Age spiritual paradigm.

Now let's look at the possible responses from an initiated/after perspective:

Initiated Perspective

Non-special engagement with humanity: Yes, I've worked hard in my life. From that experience I've gathered many skills which will be useful to me as the earth community undergoes enormous shifts. Because I am not separate from that community and because we are all deeply connected, I am being called, along with all other beings who inhabit the planet, to not only experience these momentous changes, but to contribute my talents and skills to enhancing our common well being in the process.

A willingness to confront what is, not what I'd like it to be: I do not enjoy looking at unpleasant realities, but if I don't look, then I cannot see, and if I cannot see, I am not serving myself or anyone else. I will look, and I will feel the feelings that surface as I do so. I will remember that within the word "emotion" is the word "motion" which means that feelings are fluid and shift and change like the flow of water. Feeling sad today does not guarantee that I will feel sad tomorrow or that I will become frozen in any one emotion. I wll ask my community to look with me, and we will support one another as we do.

There may be no solutions to the issues created by humanity's greed, self-absorption and cruelty: We may be encountering a predicament that cannot be solved but only responded to. How can I and my loved ones and community best respond to these daunting challenges? How can we work together to minimize the loss of life and care for each other? If ther are no "solutions", then what does this mean? What is the message in this unprecedented reality?

The crisis the planet now faces is far more immense than responding with mere sustainability: Sustainability means that something lasts, and living sustainably is a natural and inevitable response to living in connection with the earth community. Living in this way at this late hour is unlikely to prevent the collapse of civilization. I will need feed the puerile paradigm of civilization for the sake of supporting green products because it's the "right thing to do" or because it makes me feel good. I want to live sustainably not because it will "save" the earth but because my connection with the earth community compels me to do so.

I am willing to deal with both the present and the future: It is foolish to only live n the present moment. Time is a tapestry of past, present, and future, and I need to prepare for the future as well as enjoy the present moment. Because I am an adult, I need to be mindful of the well being of myelf, my loved ones, and my community, as well as generations that will succeed me, and therefore, I cannot afford to live exclusively in the present.

Ironically, the more I consider the likely consequences of the future, the more I appreciate the here and now: Each moment, each meal, the reality of having food, shelter, health, friends, and my faculties I savor more intensely because I am aware of the likelihood that in the future, these gifts will be much harder to acquire than they are now. In fact, humans have the capacity to read the indicators of how the future might be based on compelling evidence; not to do so or having done so, then choosing not to prepare would be mentally, physically and emotionally unhealthy.

I will not polarize the emotions of love and fear: Fear in humans serves an evolutionary function to warn of impending danger so that one may take action to prevent harm. From the initiatory perspective, love and fear are complementary, not conflicting, emotions. Through fear, humans often tap into layers of courage that were previously unknown and unused. The word 'courage" has its roots in the French word "la coeur" which means heart. To have courage is to have heart and to be motivated by love and compassion.

People have been expressing concern over the direction of my writing, worried that I am taking a "doom and gloom" attitude, worried that I should stay in Positive Attitude and Present Moment, worried that I'm sidetracked from my recovery.

Simultaneous with consciously choosing an initiated response in my ownl ife, is improved mental and physical health, a real sense of empowerment and most importantly, a renewed connection with the earth community. I would say this began in earnest for me when I hunted and processed my own meat for food and was infused with an enormous sense of gratitude for the mutual synergy that is a natural relationship with our fellow creatures.

I find that my sobriety is more sustainable the more I focus on overall health: healing food, healing relationships, time to contemplate, time to play, time to work.
My wish for all of us is that as we continue to face what needs to be faced, these gifts will be activiated in all our lives.

I went through all my treatment materials recently and came across a poem I wrote while I was there. It was during my first 9 days, when I didn't sleep but an hour or two at most and that disturbed and fitful. By the end of those 9 days, I had pretty much reached full psychosis (anybody would). I remember writing this now, but I had forgotten about it until I discovered it. It's a hard poem, and really unfinished, but here it is, written in November/2009:

I have wandered through the
wet blackness
Blind as the colorless cave creatures
through oil-black sludge
sticky sucking sand
pulling me further into the darkness.

Down. Down.

Where there is no light.

And you.
You have been there with me.
I couldn't see you
but the smell was unmistakable.
From within the blackness

I have seen the tiniest pinprick of light.
Let's follow it.
And see where it goes.

Pretty dark, huh? Well, except for the light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, the new fawns don't seem to have a conern in the world, except frolicking in the spring daisies and keeping close to mom.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rolling the Dice

The more I learn about the chemical dispersants used by BP in the "clean-up" effort, the more baffled I become by the public's lack of alarm.

Following are quotes from an article published on the Corpwatch webpage, an entity, which as far as I can tell, is actually an independent corporate watchdog.

The most interesting part, if not the most disturbing, is that the oil industry is making the dispersant - Corexit to sell to itself. They've (BP and Nalco) been hanging around together in this king size bed with raw silk sheets, down comforters and feather pillows, sipping champagne and noshing cavier for quite awhile. And the EPA is about as effective as a limp rag in holding them to any accountability. And you know why. Surely they've been stopping by for an occasional sleep-over.

The most disturbing part? They're testing the seafood coming out of the Gulf for oil, not chemical dispersants. You realize what this means. They (the gov't and BP) are taking a "wait and see" attitude with the future health of the people who eat that seafood and making it seem safe by saying it's been tested for oil. I don't know about you, but that makes me slightly furious. Seems criminal to me.

I would stand with the people in the Gulf in demanding that the seafood be tested for ANYTHING unsafe.

Anyway, here are the quotes with a link to the full article:

"We're basically rolling the dice with the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf," said Richard Denison, an Environmental Defense Fund scientist.

Aside from the public relations boon from low balling the flow, BP has a financial incentive: U.S.-government-imposed fines are based on quantity of oil released.

While state and federal agencies have been testing gulf seafood for oil, no one is conducting chemical testing for the presence of dispersants.

In the first month of the spill, Nalco stock spiked, and estimated sales of Corexit garnered $40 million. Next quarter sales will be released on July 27. Watching with envy, other dispersant manufacturers have cried foul, and linked the exclusive use of Corexit to Nalco's close relationship to BP, rather than to the products' superiority.

Nalco board member Rodney F. Chase, is a nearly four-decade veteran of BP, most recently as a managing director and deputy group chief executive. (A former Exxon Mobil Corp. president is also on Nalco's board of directors.)

"It's a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically," Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife, was quoted in a May 13 Greenwire blog.
And here is the material safety data sheet for Corexit.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It Really Does Take a Village, or Two

Every morning I sit down at the computer with a cup of coffee and check the Gulf Coast links on my sidebar to see what's happening. This morning I was happy to see a new post from Velveteen Mind. Megan is an incredibly smart woman, an excellent writer and as far as bloggers go, well, she's what you might call at the top of the food chain, publishing her own literary e-zine/blog called Blog Nosh which I am only now beginning to explore.

Megan has hope that BP actually can "make this right". Better even.

Well, wouldn't you if you lived there? Do you think you could face the devastating loss while still reeling from Katrina, a not-so-great depression, huge corporate buy-outs paid for with OUR money, lies and deception at every level of government and corporations. Wouldn't you cling to anything that might provide some glimmer of hope for the people, the ocean and the wildlife? For a way of life which Megan describes beautifully? I probably would if I were there. But I've taken Derrick Jensen's advice and given up on hope:

A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn't kill you. It didn't even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems, you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon or even the earth itself - and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

Also, I'm not there. I'm about as far away as you can get from the Gulf and remain inside the contiguous U.S. But growing up in Georgia provided many wonderful times in the Gulf. It was only 6 hours to Panama City, Destin or Pensacola. I love the Gulf and I hurt for it. Perhaps my distance allows me to be more cynical about this disaster, or more realistic.
Many in our country now are sympathizing with the poor sots in the Gulf Coast. "Oh, how awful for those people." You can practically hear the relief in their own voices. Finally, someone has it worse. We may be un or underemployed, without health insurance and unable to afford care and we may be on the verge of bankruptcy, but we're not down there. We're not covered in oil with no end in sight and the losses growing by the minute.
Here's the thing, though. WE ARE. We are all down there. That sigh of relief will empty your lungs and lower your heartrate slightly, but it won't change the facts. We are all drenched in oil. This country has been built on it for the last 150 years and our arrogance and stupidity are catching up with us. In my experience there's only one thing to do with an addiction like we have: face it and do the best you can. Read. Be informed. Take action. Find it interesting when a non-profit environmental organization scolds BP while cozying right up to them. Do not turn away from what's happening to the wildlife, even when it hurts. And it will.
Know that there are 27,000 abandoned wells now in the Gulf of Mexico; many of which are probably leaking. Oh yeah, don't forget all the ammo from the WWII ships coming home. Don't forget that most of the fish we eat is already contaminated with mercury, PCB's and other toxins, even before Corexit (make sure to read down to toxicity). Don't forget that all we have left is our choice of how to handle the things we face. We will either stay in denial and await a return to "normal". Or we will get busy re-creating normal into some semblence of what it actually is for human beings and the earth: small communities, small economies, local food resources. In other words, villages.
That little fellow above is a river otter we saw on a recent kayaking trip. He's not covered in oil; he just has an incredibly black coat designed for colder waters and sleek swimming. Isn't he wonderful?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Big Box Stores - An Industrial Dilemma

I’ve been avoiding thinking about this, much less discussing it. At the risk of sounding somewhat melodramatic, I have to say that I hate the big W. It is the ultimate representation, in my mind, of what ails our society: consumption, consumption and over-consumption of cheap crap that you won’t care about tomorrow. Montana has been slow to get on the W wagon but a Super W just opened in Kalispell and I finally went shopping there last week. Usually, I only buy prescriptions or health and beauty items (toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) there, but after seeing the prices, I did my grocery shopping there. Here’s the thing: I can’t afford not to. In the past three years, my income has decreased by 2/3rds and I was barely above the poverty line before then. I receive food assistance from the government, go to the local food bank and apparently, food shop at the Big W. I could kick myself now for every time I’ve shopped at W without giving it a second thought. Before my education.

I don’t want to support W with what little money I now make. I do want to eat. I will eat healthy. There’s no way I can afford food shares from a local CSA and W has beautiful produce with an organic selection that someone on such a limited budget simply can’t pass up.

The food I bought at W would’ve cost me over twice as much at my local grocery; close to three times as much at my local health food store, both of which I would much rather support. I would boycott W if I could. But for our household I have to make decisions and obtain the best food at the best price that I possibly can. So I’m presented with a major ongoing dilemma.

Last year I joined a club store so I could afford to purchase items like wild salmon, nuts, bulk olive oil and a peach mango salsa that I became addicted to. Then I worked at that store for two days. I didn’t work for that store because I worked for the contractor that handles the flowers sold there – or rather the contractor that the contractor that handles the flowers hired to maintain the flower display. My first day after a 6-hour training 4 weeks earlier was Mother’s Day weekend, the second largest floral holiday of the year. I arrived at 7:00 on Saturday morning and met up with 10 pallets of flowers to be stocked, restocked, maintained, displayed and sold on my first day of work. Nice. Workers are hired through a system whereby the employee is completely dispensable unless they're part of “corporate.” At the end of the day, all the flowers that weren’t sold and were showing the slightest bit of age were required to be thrown in the dump with a club store employee present. And that’s just the beginning. Air miles, ground miles and despicable waste is being produced to get those stupid flowers into that stupid display so stupid people can buy them at the least cost. Only people aren’t necessarily stupid – just very uninformed, dulled by the promise of more of the best and always for less no matter what – no matter the cost to our planet and millions of people in third-world countries who can’t afford not to produce the food for the conglomerates. Now it’s time to re-up with the store and while I hate it, I will probably do it because otherwise I will not be eating those items, only one of which I consider a complete luxury.

I guess the best advice I have if you find yourself in a similar predicament - not wanting to buy from the big stores, but unable to afford not to, is to do what you have to do right now. Don't feel guilty about it, but be very aware of all the social consequences you're supporting that you would rather not. Become more conscious and start small to empwer yourself away from the corporate food grid for the long-term.

On the positive side, my permaculture campaign with the cowboy is slowly but surely making progress. I hope that by next summer we will at least have a goat, some chickens, a worm farm and share a garden like I’m doing this year. We’ve also decided to store some dry items like rice, beans, salt and grains. Following the links will show you how each one of these things is not only fairly simple, but healthier for humans and the planet. I believe that for the planet to heal, food production needs to go as absolutely local as possible: like your back yard. Don't forget good dirt: an acre of organic cropland can take approximately 7,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year.

Meanwhile summer just can’t quite get here this year. We built a fire for warmth on the 5th of July. But last Saturday it was 80 degrees and we kayaked McDonald Lake in the Mission Mountains. That's where the picture above was taken. I'm so fortunate to live in a place that still retains remnants of wildness.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What Can I Do?

I ask myself this question many times a day: "What can I do? How can I make a difference?" It's a hard question to ask knowing how powerless one is in the face of obstaces which don't just seem insurmountable, many of them actually are. As the reality of our destruction to the environment, to ourselves and every other critter on the planet becomes, well, more real, it's easy to get lost in despair, frustration and rage. These emotions are necessary and important and will be experienced if you're waking up, but they are meant to be moved through. I have found that taking some action, however small it may seem, helps these energies have their say and then move on, to be replaced by empathy, compassion and a need to set things right, somehow.

What can I do? I can help my readers become better informed and offer them ways I've found to become personally and politically active. I would request that you take a moment and check out the sites I've listed on my sidebar under Gulf Coast. Or better yet, why don't I take you on a little tour?

This site is the Gulf Restoration Network. They show trajectory maps for the oil spill and provide good information on what's happening politically.

Here you will find the National Resources Defense Council site where bloggers are working to educate us about all the environmental disasters going on now including the Gulf spill.

This one is Unified Command - BP's response site. Proceed with caution here and do not go if you're already feeling angry or anxious. Become conscious of the perpetrators.

The American Birding Assocation is working hard for the winged wildlife in the Gulf and on keeping their readers informed.

After salivating over the figs shown here, check out their Hands Across the Sand: an international peaceful protest against off-shore drilling organized months before the Gulf spill.

This website will cause your hope gene to kick in and this one may make you cry.
And last, but certainly not least this one provides a way to make your voice heard. Sign the petition. Get involved. Send it to your local elected officials as well as the President. Declare your commitment to transitioning away from an oil-based, patriarchally defined society towards a reverence-based lifestyle. Reverence for all life, our fellow travelers, our deluded masses, our visionary environmentalists, ourselves.
I will, of course, continue to add sites I find relevant. And now for some food therapy.

Rustic Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Basil and Sharp Cheddar


2 farm fresh eggs

Basil leaves to taste

Sharp cheddar to taste

Coarse sea salt

Fresh cracked pepper

Olive oil and real butter
Ground flax seed (optional)

Crack eggs into bowl and whip with delighted abandon. Bless the chicken, bless the egg, bless our hearts. Heat a tiny bit of olive oil and real butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter begins to froth. Oh my god that heating butter smells like heaven. Pour in eggs and treat like an omelette, folding not mixing until a slight browning forms. Before removing from heat, tear fresh basil leaves with your fingers and top eggs. Put 'em on a plate and shred sharp cheddar cheese to your liking - add coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Feel your body respond. Rocket boost your omega fats with a tablespoon of ground flax seed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Waking Up

Even though she’s no longer with us, Chani remains a source of inspiration and courage for me.

From Chani’s blog, September 30, 2006

I have found that giving up materialism and consumerism has brought me to a higher respect for all life around me, the things around me and a consciousness of the way I view others. This culture teaches that human value is determined by participation in the economy. A lawyer has more value than a customer service representative, as an example. This culture diminishes the disabled, the elderly and the poor. It diminishes extended family. It places the individual above the common good. It diminishes primary relationships, turning them into utilitarian contracts. I am very aware of how much this has crept into my thinking and I have always been socially conscious, so I thought. Now, I deliberately watch for this and change it. It's very subtle and pops out in the most unexpected places. (Just today, I read a rather vile post on one of my Buddhism mailing lists in which a member ran down homeless people. Two years ago, I wouldn't have challenged it. Today, I did.) It has increased my compassion.

I believe Chani was way ahead of most of us in her level of awareness about the reality of the culture we have created. In the quote above she expresses the imbalance with which we live in a few succinct sentences, and brilliantly. Also, in one small paragraph she shares with us ways she had found to be the change she wished to see in the world.

As my own awareness expands to include more painful realities to be faced, I’m humbled by Chani’s fierce spirit. She undertook the responsibility to change her reality from the inside out, despite a world that never offered her much in the way of support. The more of us who become willing to follow her lead, the easier the transition will be as global civilization continues to crumble.

Chani successfully dealt with her own addictions and like anyone who has addiction, she knew that more than anything addiction is about loss. Not only loss of material things, but deeper more important losses: dignity, self-respect, relationships, the simple ability to feel your feelings no matter how uncomfortable to you or anyone else they are. It takes great skill and creativity to understand the insanity of this world and still work to gain the resources needed to live your life. Chani had the imagination and she developed the skills to drop every notion of what Western culture taught her was “normal” and to forge a fulfilling life.

I don’t think many of our general population has any idea how to get up day after day, when the losses seem too great and the disease too far progressed and still brush their teeth, still get dressed and still find meaning within daily life no matter how diminished life may seem at the moment. No idea how to navigate a world where compassion, kindness and value for all of life have taken a backseat to greed, self-aggrandizement and hate.

We have lived within the illusion that our way of life was right. We’ve turned a blind eye to the way we’ve abused our own resources and a lot of the rest of the worlds as well. As long as we could still get a fix from a new toy (gas-powered of course) or the right brand name t-shirt, shoot-up with our own sense of superiority over those less fortunate and cop-out on our responsibility to our fellow earthlings (animal and human alike) we could maintain the illusion.

But as soon as the things we count on to keep us transfixed start falling away the illusion fades. And then what’re we gonna do?

Currently I’m doing a good job of detaching from the shared hallucination. I have let go the American Dream and man what a relief. I was lucky, though. The illusion never worked very well for me in the first place so I’ve had experience with breaking free from it, but only recently have I been able to maintain the disconnect. I find that as I continue to watch from a safe distance, my personal equanimity finds its place again.

I believe part of the illusion in my own case was getting caught in the Western dream of recovery from addiction. If one just follows these steps, reads this book, does these exercises, takes this medication and prays daily to a patriarchal god, one can become “free.” Sometimes what we think is our salvation is just another trap, another rabbit hole, another place to hide.

I don’t mean to sound flippant about my past year’s of alcoholism when I write about getting drunk one night on a family vacation and interrupting a perfectly good trip with my problem. But there comes a point when one has to consciously choose to leave that shame and guilt behind, realizing that it’s all internal and that sobriety will surely not be had while lugging it around. There comes a point when one realizes that the more attention one gives to addiction, whether it’s living in it or “recovering” from it, one is still feeding the beast. I’m finding that when I stop feeding him – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, he just slinks off to a dark, damp corner and lies in wait – one eye open, cold and wet and hungry. I imagine his one eye becomes heavy with sleep and pretty soon he’s just a snoring hunk of junk, harmful only to those who fear him still, only to those who have to keep living a collective nightmare.

I don’t freakin’ think so.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Memories of the Gulf and other assorted debris

And along comes Alex. Well I don't know about you, but all my worst fears about the oil gusher in the Gulf are coming true. I can hardly bear to think about the devastation. I grew up in Georgia and spent a lot of time vacationing in the Gulf, sticking mostly to the tourist areas: Panama City, Destin, Pensacola. Some years ago, my sister Cindy discovered an incredible secret in the Gulf called Cape San Blas. Cape San Blas is defintely off the beaten path and we had a great vacation there one year. Cindy's kids were little, our aunt went with us and if I just hadn't gotten drunk that one night it would've been a picture-perfect trip. Oh, except Carlee hit her brother between the eyes with a boomerang. Accidentally, of course. That was some drama. Anyway, the cape is so far off the beaten path it's a real trip to eat in a restaurant, but with her superior gastro-investigative skills Cindy found the best place for fresh oysters in the entire region: Boss Oyster. Located in Appalachicola, they offer menu items like Oysters Lim-o-zine: bay oysters and artichokes poached in champagne and cream over tender baby spinach layered in a puff pastry. Can you feel it?? Unfortunately, pastries are out for me these days. Anything made with commercial flour produces a very unpleasant response in my tummy. I guess good fresh oysters at Boss are soon to be a thing of the past as well.

I browsed through the websites for the Gulf towns listed above. One of them has a link to the Unified Command webpage, BP's response site. Take a look and tell me it doesn't look like those boys are having fun.
When I see my mental health doc she always asks me a set of questions.
"Have you felt like hurting yourself?"
"Have you felt like hurting anyone else?"
"Only (fill in the blank)."
"Who's that?"
Complete and utter silence as I wonder in amazement that this intelligent, thoughtful woman had no idea who it was. So I told her. I mean, he'd only been on the news and in those disgusting commercials every day for a freakin' month.
She changed the subject.
Later that same day I saw my mental health therapist. I told her I needed a revolution to join. She thought I was kidding.
I have found a good therapy for myself, though. I call it chop therapy. Rustic eating requires lots of chopping of vegetables and herbs. I can really get into chopping. Chop! There goes one head. Chop! Chop! Two more. Chop! Chop! Whack!! I feel my blood pressure begin to lower.
And I pray. All the time.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Only the willing undertaking of responsibility can lead to healing.
Starhawk, The Twelve Wild Swans

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Catching Up

It's been 8 months since I've had consistent access to the internet. If I hadn't filed bankruptcy I still couldn't afford the access, but my return to work along with a great deal with my ISP have made it possible for me to once again be connected via the world wide web. Living without an internet connection has probably been the most difficult thing to deal with since I went from being middle-class, to poor, to very poor over the past few years. I resume using the internet with a new appreciation of how we use our technology or our technology uses us. A certain mindfulness is required in order to not get sucked into the frivolous and meaningless. The most important aspects of the internet to me personally are the access to real news and the ability to find and make connections to community . . . and I ain't talking facebook here. I have especially missed participating with my blogging community and am looking forward to catching up and seeing who's been up to what.

On that note, I've been eager to read the entirety of Chani's blog and I started today. For those who don't know, Chani was a friend of mine and many others in our blogging community. She passed away unexpectedly on March 23rd of this year. I'm not sure exactly when I began reading Chani's blog, but it was quite a while after she started it and I don't usually read back on blogs. Reading Chani's blog from start to finish is a way for me to honor a friend I never met in person, but who made a tremendous contribution to my life with her authenticity and loving friendship. I believe Chani's community called her home and I hope she realized how far she had come in creating community for herself here. I am a better person for having known Chani. She started writing in September of 2006 and I resonate emphatically with much of what she wrote then. Like this:

I began to read. I took in ideas the way a thirsty person takes in fresh water. I was hungry for ideas beyond my immediate reach, for things that would link me somehow to this odd world which I perceived as being so unreachable. Where were others like me, others who had a non-aggressive, non-competitive approach to life? Where were those for whom western culture was little more than soul-sucking? Where could I go that wasn't reduced to a glorified marketplace? The religions I investigated wanted to either pick my pocket or force me into a box that wouldn't fit. Inevitably, parts of me would begin falling out the sides and I would lose my new community.

I'm still working at the ranch store. I moved from being a cashier in the main store to the clothing department. I don't get as many hours but the job is doable without creating the intense anxiety that leads to panic attacks, emotional meltdowns and generally feeling like total shit. It was hard for me to ride the whole thing out; it was questionable whether I would continue working there and I was humiliated and embarrased by the panic attacks. But now that I've moved departments, I'm glad I hung in there and stayed humble and willing. I don't believe this mental state will last forever. I'm working my way out of it since I went to treatment, but it's slow.

After much consideration and discussion with my mental health doc, I decided to discontinue the anti-d I had been taking since Feb/09 when I was hospitalized. I have decided to use St. John's Wort for depression and valerian for anxiety while working on a cleaner, healthier lifestyle in general. Healthy food, exercise and sunshine are hard to beat. I became allergic to wheat this past winter and have notched up what was already a pretty healthy diet. I've begun making my own body care and home-cleaning products in moving towards a goal of getting off petroleum-based living. Peggy and I are harvesting mixed greens and herbs while we await the carrots, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, peas, beets and spuds. I'm eating pansies, nastursiums and dandelion greens. I've come to think of the way Brent and I eat as "rustic." Whole foods, good ingredients, lots of garlic, onion and pepper, herbs and spices, olive oil. It occurs to me I've developed a lot of skills learning to live well on much, much less. It occurs to me we're all going to have to learn those skills. It isn't easy, but it can be done.

Yeah, I still believe civilization is collapsing and I believe things are going to go from bad to worse. But I've stopped bargaining and raging and started accepting. Of course I know I will bargain and rage again. The good thing is I no longer think that response is pathological. I think it's pathological to refuse to see and accept reality, but that's what addiction is all about really. We're all addicted to oil-based living and we're all going to get to go cold-turkey, detox and hopefully come out the other side a bit better for it. Two books helped me a lot with moving into acceptance: Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse by Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. and The Little Book of Letting Go by Hugh Prather.

I promise you and myself one thing as I resume blogging: no censorship. It may be hard for some people to believe that I've censored myself in my writing here, but I have. I won't anymore.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Collapse - Up Close and Personal

WARNING! My thoughts are of such a dark nature these days that I have been hesitant to share them. I thought about starting another blog where I would be more anonymous. I don't want to concern or hurt anyone in any way. But for my own sanity, I want to share openly about the things I perceive. If you think the subject matter might bother you, please do not read further.

It becomes more and more difficult for me to function within society. I overestimated my readiness to return to the workforce and took on 3 new jobs in one week. It was a costly overestimation. I'm now down to one job 35 hrs/wk and having difficulty maintaining it. I've only heard one description for the type of anxiety I'm experiencing - PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Last Thursday, 3 hours into my shift, I had a major panic attack followed by an emotional meltdown from which I'm still reeling. I could not regain my equilibrium that day and had to leave work early.

The first thing to be affected by an attack is my breath. Suddenly the air will not move beyond the top of my chest and the more I try to force it, the worse it gets. The panic rises with each shallow breath, I feel the sweat break out on my face, noises become unbearable: the ding of the cash register, the jolt of static from the radios, the hard light, the hard people. Sights and sounds begin to merge until nothing feels solid anymore. Reality is a full-steam ahead freight train headed straight your way. Logical thinking disappears and pure instinct is all that remains. My language and actions are hard to control and the only option that seems practical is to GET THE HELL OUT!! As soon as possible!!

The job is a cashier position at a local home and ranch store. The rate of pay is a new low for me, but I like the store and it's grand central for gardeners in the area. This was my 2nd meltdown in the three weeks since I started, but the first happened at the end of a shift and I was able to regain my footing, however tenuous, until Thursday. For the following 18 hours I just cried, a lot.

I've spoken with my parents, always loving and supportive, and my mental health therapist with whom I have an appointment on Monday. I also spoke with my manager at the store and he wants me back next week. Sometimes kindness makes me cry more for awhile although I've learned to be leery of it as well. It often comes with a high price-tag, although I don't sense an underlying agenda here. That's one skill I've been steadily improving.

When the oil disaster in the gulf began, everything I've leanred over the past few months became more ominous. I think it's impossible to become really aware of the state of the earth and her inhabitants and not be affected by it. Media news would be laughable if it weren't so sad, and bad I might add.

Did you know that GM and an american electric conglomorate are buying large swaths of Brazilian rainforest?
They say they're acquiring "carbon credits", business as usual only they seem to know the commodoties are going to be oxygen, clean water and farmable land. Big Auto, Big Oil and the government show no signs of remorse or responsibility. If you still think anyone whoever ends up in the White House is not a puppet already, I feel sorry for you. I had high hopes for Obama. Now I have none.

Did you know that Henry Ford gave his wife the electric car he designed because it was so much cleaner, more efficient and easier to maintain?

There is one thing I don't think the big guys are counting on: not only is it not nice to fool Mother Nature, it's impossible. We are part of Mother Nature and when we abuse her we abuse ourselves. If she dies, we die. Even if they counted on disastrous climate change, they must realize it's a total toss of the dice who will make it and who won't. All the carbon credits in the world won't save them from our fate.

Despite working through a lot of my own denial about civilization's collapse, and even more importantly, the extent to which we as a nation are complicit, I was still shocked to see BP officials and the Coast Guard working together to cover-up what's happening with the "spill". I wonder who asked the locals if they thought it was a good idea to pour toxic dispersants over an already over-heated Gulf of Mexico. Might as well call it the Gulf of Texaco now. Trust me, the gulf is not a "big ocean" as that asshole from BP would have you believe.

As the earth warms and warms, my blood runs cold and I despair. I can't tell if the PTSD is post or pre. The only safe place is the present and I find it increasingly difficult to stay here. I'm practicing DBT skills in earnest: tactile information. What do you see, feel, hear, right here, right now. Touch something. Hold ice in your hand. Breathe if you can. Ground. Small ritual helps a lot. I add to my compost pile. I help Peggy in her garden. Every bite of fresh food is sacred, clean water a blessing beyond belief, the warmth of the body next to me comforting. I call that prayer.

Mom says we just can't think about these things and I know she's right - we can't dwell on them. But I am unable to not think about it. I could go back into one of my addictions or bury my head in the sand some other way, but I won't. It would never feel right to me. If all I can do is be a witness at this point, I'm goddam well going to be an awake one. I may be herded into the inferno along with everyone else, but I'm going with awareness and hopefully a little courage and a whole lotta grace. By the way, if I thought I could distract myself from what's coming, I probably would. My distractions are currently all used up.

So I gather dandelion greens. I watch the hummingbirds, the red-tail, osprey and eagle. The sky is still blue even if the Gulf of Mexico is black. Right here, right now, I have what I need and I am grateful.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Alive and Well

I'm still kicking. I began work and haven't had much library time available. For now, I'm going to put ER on hold until I can get internet service at my home. Recovery is going well, my new job is going well, the relationship is great and the world is falling apart. Have you noticed??

Much much love to all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thailand Chani

I received a real shock yesterday when I learned of the death of one of my dear blogging and recovery friends, Thailand Chani. Chani was something else. She was an incredibly talented and bright woman who enjoyed many years of sobriety but never made a real big thing of it. She only offered her insight to provide support or advice when asked. She never interfered. She never called attention to herself. She just showed up, day after day and offered herself to a world that unfortunately didn't show much interest in her.

Chani's ideas tended toward the radical, which is where ideas go when the truth is not only sought, but found. Chani sought community and I think she finally found some form of it through her writing and blogging and her sober support group. It was mostly web-based I'm afraid. Chani had recently found herself in another situation where she was doing all the work, providing all the emotional spine and I'm sure more than her fair-share of back-breaking work. Was she appreciated for it? Only by her "virtual" friends, many of whom now find themselves thinking of Chani with a bittersweet regret that we weren't able to know her better.

She was heading off to a better life; a life she had looked forward to creating for herself through many a lean and hard year. She really deserved that life. I'm so sorry she's no longer with us and I'm going to miss her a lot. If it weren't for Chani, I wouldn't be where I am in my sobriety or in my unflinching refusal to accept where American finds herself as a nation and the world as a community. Waking up is hard to do. Chani knew that. She also knew it was the only thing left to do. For until we awaken, we keep running the capitalist, consumer-driven rat-race that is quickly coming to an end. Chani could've helped a lot of people deal with the upcoming changes. Actually, I'm pretty sure she's doing that anyway. Good luck and happy trails, sweet lady. The candle is lit. The incense is burning and the seeds are sprouting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Red-Tail Reverie

Well, I have to say after my last post I was a little afraid to see the comments. My anger still gets the best of me sometimes. A blog is a great place to let that steam off without hurting anyone else. We're all going to need to find ways to let off the steam without injuring our surrounding environment, including the people in it. Like I should have to mention people, but have you noticed they seem to be the least valuable commodity in the spotlight these days? Right next to the great mother herself, our home, our paved-over, dried up, crippled, wailing, moaning Earth.

It was critter central at Blacktail yesterday. The sun came out for the first time in a week and the afternoon warmed to a gentle air-bath. The chipmunks and chickadees were feasting on the seed I put out; the robins were fat with their red puffed-out chests and then we got a very special visitor. Brent and I were sitting on the deck taking a few minutes to enjoy the sun before he got back to framing in the entrance and I got back to filing for bankruptcy. (FREQUENT breaks are required for that particular process!) Anyway, one of the largest red-tail hawks I've ever seen came flying our way (which they do often enough on the mountain), but this one really put on a show. He was playing on some thermals that were apparently right over our heads and he swooped, dipped, dropped and soared for at least 10 minutes. He was so close the patterns in his underwing were fully visible and lit from behind by the afternoon sun. He was gorgeous. We were blessed.

This afternoon it's expected to reach 70 degrees and we're going to take the kayaks out on their inaugural voyage. Tomorrow, too. One of my goals for next week is to get some of my pictures on a network I can access at the library so I can put photos up. I finally end up on a little piece of Montana heaven and haven't put any pictures on my blog! Crazy.

I'm doing a trememdous amount of reading on collapse, energy descent, peak oil, climate change, permaculture, responses and solutions. I'm not just fascinated; I'm compelled. Of course, some people will insist on calling it obsessed, but again I say: so what? Also next week I'll put up a list of what I'm reading and fill you in on ways I'm figuring out to compromise on what I 'd like to do (have a garden, chickens, root cellar, rain-catcher, compost, and a goat) and still make a difference. Of course, the campaign continues with Brent. I thought I had him talked into two chickens but he talked himself back out of it just as quickly. But we're doing great. This morning he told me I'm the perfect woman to be here with him. A lot of times I don't like the ways in which Brent is right. But I agree with him on this one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Partial Recovery

Wow. I can't believe it's taken me an entire week to post again. I didn't get the job I was interviewed for. The position was Assistant Manager at a retail clothing store at the mall. A very young retail clothing store which I am so relieved I won't be working in I can hardly believe it. Of course, I would've taken the job had it been offered; it would be insane not to. Wouldn't it? A good job. A decent salary. Benefits. 45-50 hours/week. The company seems to be doing incredibly well in this recession, but I have to wonder considering they just opened in a dying mall environment. And those words: "this recession. " People are calling it a recovery now. Does it seem like a recovery to you?

The irony of my possibly taking a job that is the icon of all that I've come to loathe about our society: false image, profit/profit/profit, youth unending, did not escape me I'll tell you. It actually stressed me out even considering taking the position and sent my anxiety back through the roof when it had at least settled into a rocking chair for awhile. Ever since I learned I didn't get the job I'm breathing a bit easier again although the pressure to get back to work is obviously mounting as my financial situation worsens. I am altering my search accordingly.

In my last post I posed the question of what it would look like for society to come out of denial about the state of our world, the dire straits we're in and how far along the road toward energy descent, climate change and I hate to use the word, but catastrophe, we are. My good friend, Kelly, answered with her usual optimistic sweetness and said that people would begin living more simply, learning more about their food security, etc. That's a great answer and it would be good if that's what happens when people come out of denial, but what happens first are the emotions. Shock, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Yes, the same ones a person goes through with grief. If you're not experiencing some of these you're not coming out of denial. Which is fine. Not everyone will. Not everyone can. Why? Because we're in recovery don't you know?

Now, I have another question. What if full recovery is never possible? And yes, I'm posing the question as it relates to addiction and collapse. What if partial recovery is the absolute best we can do? What if we have to learn to live with less; what if we begin to realize that we'll be damned lucky to live through it? I've been living in partial recovery for years. All the while society says, well, if you're not fully in recovery you're not in recovery at all. Not so, say I. It takes skill to recover at all.