All the Water Is One Water, #4

In honor of World Water Day, I am sharing the fourth part of my chapter, “All the Water Is One Water,” from Finding Our Way Home.

Some Indigenous stories of North America say we are like a younger sibling on this earth. The other beings and species are more acclimated to their purpose and their relationship to the whole. And so, when we are feeling overwhelmed by the ecological messes we have created, we might turn to our older relatives on the earth to find wisdom for our journey. Permaculture follows this practice by using the wisdom developed by millions of years of evolution, to find solutions for the problems we are facing today.

Water is such a teacher. According to my friend, gkisedtanamoogk, the Wampanoag people consider water a Manito, a mysterious life force that has its own life. His people know fresh water as Nipinapizek, and regard her as a grandmother. He wrote to me, “i think that we humans only exist because there is a significant number of people who remember to Give Thanks to all Those Ones who are the Keepers of Life, one of Those being, NIPINAPIZEK. May we continue to Give Thanks….”

When I was growing up Catholic, we used to bless ourselves by touching our fingers in holy water. I associated it with purifying ourselves because we were in some way unclean. But now, the blessing of water feels more like remembering our heritage. We come from water. All water is holy, and we are holy too. We are washed by water, we are restored by water, we are nourished by water.

Each of us faces a choice. Will we approach water as a commodity to be bought and sold, or as a blessing, a teacher to be honored and protected? Water is the mother of all life. There is no life without water. Whether we view it scientifically or spiritually, water is the womb from which all living beings have been born. We are made of water and we need the constant flowing through of water to remain alive in this world. Thankfulness can be the beginning of restoring our relationship with water. If I can remember to be thankful to water, then I have the capacity to take action on its behalf as well. I can join with the many other people who are working for water as a human right, or who work to restore the flow of rivers or clean up pollution in the sea.

Meandering BrookThe path forward will not be a straight line. I find hope in that. A river or stream meanders on its way to the sea. [Thank you Starhawk for teaching me about this!]  Because of the friction of the river bed, the water on the bottom of the river moves more slowly than the water on the top. So it creates a spiraling current that wears down one bank and deposits sediment on the other, and then vice versa, as it moves around and around in sweeping curves. Just so, our journey into a new relationship with all life on earth will meander—I imagine in this case, there is more movement at the bottom of our culture, while the top is going much slower. But since we are all connected, movement in any segment has a ripple effect on the whole.

We must keep taking steps, even small steps, in the direction of living in balance with the rest of our interdependent web. We must work our magic and offer thanks and take action in practical and political ways. We must meander in the direction of wholeness, of earth community. Each creative step forward will ripple out into a spiral momentum toward greater balance.

PRACTICE

When I made the conscious choice to regard water as a blessing, I decided to stop using plastic bottled water as much as possible. I like to carry water with me, so now I carry tap water in a special reusable metal or glass bottle. Anytime I drink water, I am reminded to offer thanks for the blessing. I invite you to give up plastic bottled water, and to start carrying water in a reusable container. Each time you fill or drink from the container, give thanks to Water for giving us life.

 

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Business Is Funny

title-pageMy book, Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community is now available for $17.99 through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and via special order at your local bookstore through Ingram, as well as directly from lulu.com.  You can follow the links, or search using my name.  It may ask you, Did you mean “Mike Johnson”?  Say, no, “Myke Johnson.”

A funny thing.  If I go to its listing  at Amazon.com, it also says there are “2 used and 11 new copies” available from other sellers. But obviously, there are no used copies in existence yet–this is a print-on-demand book that was just released.  But there are all kinds of discount booksellers who list it at prices varying from $14.52 to $24.44 plus shipping.

From the business side of things, it is still better for me (financially) when folks order it directly from lulu.com or get a copy from me in person.  This is because other sellers take over half the list price, so I receive about a third of what I would receive if someone ordered it directly from lulu.com.  On the other hand, if someone orders it from their local bookstore, it helps to support local booksellers, which is fabulous. And I myself use Amazon.com for its convenience and speed, and its free shipping when I accumulate a few titles. Plus, you can look “inside” the book on their website.  So all in all, it feels good to have it listed out there in multiple venues, so folks can get a copy in the easiest way.

It has been illuminating to learn more about the business side of book publishing.  I don’t expect to make a lot of money from this adventure in publishing, but I do want to get the message out to wherever it might be welcome.  It is up to me to do the promotion and marketing for the book.  But it won’t really work without some help from my friends. Thanks very much to those who have already purchased a copy!

And thanks very much to some wonderful members of my congregation who are hosting a book launch party this weekend.  If you are near Portland, Maine it is from 12-2 at the Allen Avenue UU Church on Saturday, January 14th.  There will be copies of the book to buy, a reading of selections from the book, music, refreshments and I will sign your copy. Everyone is invited.

Other ways you can help:  If you read the book and appreciate its message, tell your friends about it or give it as a gift.  Share it on Facebook.  You can also help promote it by writing a review under its listing at lulu.comAmazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com and then sharing it via Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you in advance!

Summer Lessons to Remember

Screen TentMaybe this land on which we newly live can become a sacred center of learning earth spirituality, with a fire circle, a water pond, bird songs in the air.

Your journey on this small piece of land is valuable, not for some other purpose, but for this purpose–to restore your broken off heart to the land.

You have all the time you need.

This spiritual work is your work–writing about it, yes, teaching it, yes, but doing it, most important of all. Even if you do nothing else in your life, do this work.

Each step of the journey is holy. Remember the deer who appeared in the yard. Come outside. Dawn is the best time. “Vacation” really means “spiritual restoration” time.

Your calling now is to do the spiritual journey into Earth Community. That partially corresponds to your ministry at your congregation, and partially lies outside of that. (All congregations must go through transitions in this time.)  

Teach a class this year on the Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community, based on the latest version of the book (Finding Our Way Home: A Spiritual Journey Into Earth Community).

Begin to explore self-publishing the book.

For health–rest, dance, walk, water, herbs, be outside.

Come outside, come outside, come outside.

There is no rush at all, just love, follow your deep passions.

The spirits are with you. Brokenness hurts–turn to the cardinals, the sun, weeping, diving into water.

Enjoy the beauty of each day. It is not all about goals and purpose and accomplishments–even green ones. See the beauty now. Feel the connections now. Be still.

Listen to your body.

You can find your joy and beauty when you sit outside in the morning and write–you know how to move into Presence. Write this down.

There is still more transformation that is possible. Your heart is in the universe and the universe is in your heart. I put my hand on your heart.

Think of how you get up each day in a world that is broken and anguished and live in a society that is divided and hurting. Think of how you feel the new sun and the songs of the birds.  You are learning to feel the land slowly, so the grief doesn’t overwhelm you, so you can find the source of strength, the many ancestors.

Keep dancing.

Today is a day, not a preparation for something else–a beautiful, painful, blessing-laden day. Let your heart’s pain be awash in this day.  

You are not an orphan. You are in the land where ancestor relatives were buried, the dawn places. Don’t panic. Don’t try to take the pain to someone else. Everyone is broken. Remember gratitude. Remember to honor the pain. Remember to see with new eyes.

Remember the magic. Breathe. Remember that a day may bring a beautiful surprise. Follow the Spirits’ lead. Flow with the River of Life.

Helpers!

Our moving date is Feb 26.  Yesterday we began packing in earnest.  I rarely take the Monday holidays off work, but I was able to this time. Surveying the situation felt overwhelming, until two wonderful helpers came over and started putting books and record albums into boxes.Empty bookcase

Their energy gave us energy, and between the four of us, we packed over 35 boxes!  Today I am back to ministry work, but next week I will be taking unused vacation days from February 23rd to March 2nd in order to do the final packing push.  Other folks have offered to help us during the three day packing spree before the movers arrive.

This help is such a marvelous thing!  There are so many moments when we feel overwhelmed by the weight of all we have to box up and carry to a new home.  We did a fair amount of sorting and recycling and giving away, but at a certain point–and I think we have reached it–we just have to put things in boxes and not worry about the de-cluttering project until we arrive at our new place. We will have a few weeks overlap, so we can leave some things here that we want to go through more carefully, or give away.

Painted closetMeanwhile, at the new place, Margy has been painting the closets and cupboards, so that they’ll be ready for us to fill with our clothes and dishes. (She took this picture after her work on one closet.)

AND we still have more radon mitigation work to do in our old basement.  The tests came back too high, so we renegotiated with the buyers, and we are paying an air quality company to come this week to expand the current radon mitigation system.

Our realtor also made an important discovery. Our boiler has a barometric damper, and he noticed it was in the wide open position, even when the boiler wasn’t running. This means it would have been constantly drawing air from the basement up into the chimney, creating negative pressure that could literally be sucking radon into the space.  He also noticed that the weights were positioned incorrectly for the type of damper, so we shifted the weights, and adjusted them so that it closes when the furnace is off and opens a small amount when it is on. At some point, we may have someone come out to calibrate it more exactly, but for now, we hope this will help with radon mitigation. We have heard that the buyers are planning to replace the heating system, so it doesn’t make sense to put a lot into it now. It is a bit of a catch-22.  If we can’t get the radon levels down to acceptable numbers, the sale of the house won’t go through.  So, fingers crossed.

A colleague who has moved a lot suggested I might think of moving as a spiritual practice. There are so many ways that this makes sense.  There is so much outside of our control.  And yet there is so much work that we have to do to make it happen.  This balancing act between vulnerability and effort is such a metaphor for all of what is important in life.

I come back to Gratitude for the helpers who enter our lives, and enable us to keep on this journey.  Some of the helpers are those we enlist professionally for a fee.  But most are kindhearted souls who we are privileged to know, who make such a difference.

Celebration!

CelebrationWe have a contract to sell our old house!  We got an offer yesterday evening, and today we talked about it and made a counter offer and then they countered with a price we could feel good about, and now we are signing the paperwork. We read somewhere that the planet Mercury went direct on January 25 after being retrograde for a few weeks… according to astrologers now is the time to sign contracts and go forward with plans. I don’t know if that helped, or if it was the grace of the spirits who are guiding us through this search for greener housing.  But I do know that I want to say thanks to everyone who was praying for our house sale to go well!  We still have to go through inspections, and such, and the closing of the deal is tentatively scheduled for March.  But tonight we feel such relief and joy.  Now we can turn our attention to packing and getting ready to move.

Abundance

Equals the gift of free food? Margy and I went to Winslow Park beach yesterday and visited our favorite apple tree.  It was surrounded by ripe apples on the ground.

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We have gathered apples from this tree in some other years–but in November.  And never so big or abundant as these.    DSC03061

Our friend Bob made delicious applesauce at our house that November.  The best applesauce ever!  (Well, recently, our friend Susan gave us a gift of homemade applesauce that might compete for that title of best ever.)

We scooped up a couple dozen apples, and carried them in our pockets back to our car, and then to our house.

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Back home, we turned on some music (Eliza Gilkyson’s Beautiful World), put parmesan chicken in the oven (Johnson family recipe), sat at the island counter in our kitchen, and cut and cored the apples. We cooked them in a pot with just a bit of water.  Nothing else needed. Then we sat down to Christmas dinner, with hearts full of gratitude.

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Projections from the Shadow Side of History

Turkeys DSC02379Thanksgiving is a holiday that always fills me with mixed feelings. Gratitude is wonderful, and getting together with family and friends can be a blessing. But I know that the stories we celebrate are white-washed versions of a history that has brought devastation to so many. I always remember that many Indigenous people call this the Day of Mourning.

The only time that foreign immigrants actually brought disease and destruction to this continent was when the English, Spanish, and French came to settle on its shores. Millions of Indigenous peoples died from diseases to which they had no resistance, or were killed in ongoing campaigns by the newcomers to destroy them and their way of life.

So while I give many thanks for my life, it feels sacrilegious to give thanks for prosperity that was built on the suffering and death of so many others. But it does illuminate for me, in a social psychological way, the possible roots of our American fear and hatred of foreign immigrants. I wonder if perhaps these feelings are a form of projection from this unacknowledged shadow side of American history. People imagine that new immigrants will bring destruction because the first settlers were the immigrants who did bring destruction.

This fear of the foreigner never proved realistic with later immigrants—with the Irish, the Italian, the Chinese, the German, the Jewish, the Puerto Rican, and so many others. Despite being hated and derided, they eventually became a part of the fabric of American life. Perhaps there is a link between facing more honestly our own shadowed and genocidal history, and letting go of our fear of the other.

Hard thoughts for a quiet holiday at home. But so many are cold and hungry and desperately seeking a safe harbor. And the tide of xenophobia and racism in our country seems to be rising out of control. Let’s help our friends and neighbors to keep their heads about them. I believe that when we are lucky enough to have shelter and food and clothing and safety, we are responsible for sharing what we can with those who are in need. To me, that is what thanksgiving should be all about.