DIY Project: Reconnect with Nature

Painting by Caspar David Friedrich, Woman Before the Rising Sun, 1818-20

Caspar David Friedrich, Woman Before the Rising Sun, 1818-20, oil on canvas, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

This is called a Sit.

1) Take yourself somewhere away from noise and people. It is possible to do this in a garden, or even among your potted plants, but it is easier to do in a natural place. A quiet beach. In a meadow. By a lake. Up in the mountains. Go alone, or have your companion(s) leave you alone for a while.

2) Walk to a place that feels inviting. You’ll know it when you see it.

3) Sit. It’s best to sit on the ground if your body allows it, to be in direct bodily contact with the soil, leaves, sand, rock.  Actually, it’s even better sometimes to lay back on the ground so your whole spine is against the earth–as long as you don’t fall asleep! It’s also nice to lean against a tree. If you’ll be uncomfortable, though, bring a folding chair.

4) You’re going to sit for at least a half hour. A half hour is a good place to start. Longer sits are really nice, but don’t strain yourself in the beginning. It’s distracting to be wondering about time, so put away your time pieces. Turn off your phone. It is easy to lose track of time while Sitting, so if you’re worried about that, you can bring a kitchen timer, or set an alarm on your phone or watch. Then put those distractions somewhere you can’t see them.

5) Sitting, look around you. Sniff the air. Feel the ground under your fingers and toes. Feel the breeze on your skin.  Listen. What do you hear? Make a note of what you hear right off, because the sounds will change. By walking into a wild place, you alarm the birds and little creatures. They may make noises of challenge or warning as you take your place, or they might go silent. If you’re observant, you’ll notice their calls change as you relax–and they relax and accept you as part of the landscape.

6) There is no agenda. Just be. If your thoughts turn inward and you start thinking about work, lunch, or whatever, refocus on nature. Always come back to nature. It’s as easy as that. Be a big eye, seeing but not thinking. Look at the big vista around you. Look at the sky. Look at the small details. The ant on the grass blade. The hawk on the tall branch. Listening to the bird calls or the wind in the trees will help keep your thoughts quiet.

Remember, this is time for yourself. It’s important. We’re so trained to always be doing that it can seem wrong to do nothing. Tell yourself for the next half hour, Sitting is your job.

7) You should never Sit with expectations of what might/should happen. You must remain open, impressionable, soft. Listen with your heart as well as your ears. You may “hear” something. Feel something. Understand something. Let those impressions come. Do not dismiss them.

8) Re: animals.  It’s always a gift to see animals in nature. Your stillness might induce a wild animal to come into view, but wanting or expecting a wild animal to come into view is the surest way to drive it off.  If you really want to see an animal, pretend you’re a rock, or a bush or a tree. Really live it. For instance, if you’re a rock, feel how heavy and old you are. Feel the moss on your surface, the light scurrying feet of a lizard crawling across you. Think rock thoughts. If you can convince yourself, you may convince the animals. At any rate, you won’t be putting off anxious, predatory vibes.

9) Before you finish up, remind yourself that you belong there. You are not an intruder (whatever that angry chipmunk may say) or some sort of alien species born to sit in a cubicle and poke at glowing screens. You are part of the whole. You are related to everything around you, and everything around you is your relative.

10) When you rise, thank the place for hosting you. Say good bye to your relations. And walk peacefully back into the madness.

11) Repeat as often as possible.

We heal together

bees on a poppy

The bees in our back yard, glorying in poppy pollen

Thank you everyone who shared their feelings and ideas with us all yesterday. Thank you, too, to those of you who read and considered those words. Thank you to those of you who are silent, but with us.

I should be clear before I go on that this is a Kelly post. Erik is out tonight. I don’t know if he’ll disagree with anything I’m going to say–but we don’t agree on everything. His thoughts will come later.

There is a French term, egregore, which is used to describe the spirit of a meeting, that unique energy that arises when a group of people come together to eat, work, or talk. It is almost a thing in itself, if you see what I mean. It rises out of certain combinations of people coming together for a specific purpose. Surely you’ve felt it, at that amazing dinner party you still think about, or perhaps you’ve experienced it in some sort of club, or with a group of friends. Root Simple has always had an egregore, one which I’d describe as practical and light-hearted. These recent posts mark a turning point, the rising of a new egregore for this blog. One which has a deeper emotional resonance than the one before.

Get your hands of the unsubscribe button. This is not to say that we’re going to turn into a gloom and doom blog. I promise we’ll never be that. But it seems to me that we can’t just “return to our regular programming” at this point.

I know I can’t. There’s more to say, though I don’t quite know how to say it yet. I suspect it will come out in the weeks and months to come, mixed in with our more usual practical DIY postings, garden rants and pictures of cats.

Right now I can say was enormously touched by the things you all shared. I did not answer the comments individually. I didn’t want to turn the conversation in any particular direction–I wanted to leave the comment board as a blank slate. But as I read, I was saying, “Yes, yes” — yes to all of you, actually. Because my thoughts encompass all the thoughts I read, even if some thoughts contradicted each another. I’m full of contradictions. We all are.

My heart is tender today. My eyes welled with tears as I read some of the comments aloud to Erik. I’ve been reading far too much climate science since returning from the conference. This has had the effect of making me both angry and sad and very grateful for what we have now. The world is infinitely precious to me, all of the wonders and creatures in it, the hummingbirds in the sage, the chickens in their coop, you all and your families, scattered all around the world, reaching out to contact us here.

We’ve not spoken much of matters of the spirit on this blog. This is largely because we know our readers come from all sorts of backgrounds and belief systems and we didn’t want to alienate anyone. We’ve always believed what’s important is the work — not the whys behind the work. It all leads to the same good end, after all.

But at this point I’m seeing our various crises–this three headed hydra of doom, this ménage à trois of misery–as a spiritual crisis more than anything else–a crisis rooted in our culture’s deep alienation from nature. We are taught to see nature as something “out there”.  Perhaps as a collection of useful natural resources. Or something pretty to visit before we return to our toilets and hot showers. We see nature as something to manage or control. Even as an enemy. We’ve become schizophrenic. We are nature. Nature is us. Seems to me that keeping this thought close and forward in our consciousness is fundamental to both understanding and healing.

I’m going to share with you something which may make our more materialist readers uncomfortable, and I’m sorry if that is so, but I think it is important enough to share in a public forum.

In the wake of our lead crisis–when Erik and I had discovered that the soil in our yard was toxic–I was meditating in the back yard. I was imagining I had roots, and those roots were stretching out and touching other roots in the soil. And I was sending thoughts of love to the garden, because I’d been recoiling from its toxicity, and I realized I could not be in that sort of relationship with my own land. As I sat there with my mind clear and love in my heart, words appeared in my head. I’d swear they weren’t mine, but it doesn’t really matter if they were mine or not. The message is the same:

We heal together.

A Homemade Mattress?

Edmund_Dulac_-_Princess_and_pea

The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

This is the story of my life. I read about some old domestic technology or product that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps it is obsolete. Or perhaps it is only done/made in more enlightened countries. Nonetheless, I want it. So I have to make from scratch.

Yesterday we met a great couple, Renae and Dimitri. Renae mentioned she was thinking about making her own mattress. I was intrigued because just that morning I’d woken up with low back pain. Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: The ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb. The prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants–or opting for a less toxic but less comfortable futon.

So, when Renae said this, I was fascinated. I’d never considered making my own mattress.

Continue reading…

On Spam and Commenting

spam ad

Dear Root Simple Readers,

Our webmaster and designer, Roman is fighting a battle with spam. Thankfully, we have a good spam filter that catches almost all of it, so you don’t have to see the nasty stuff cluttering up the comments. However, the staggering number of incoming spam messages actually slows down the site. To combat this, we’ve been forced to add a CAPTCHA feature to protect the comments.

We know. It sucks. We wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have to. Let us know if you have any problems with it. This CAPTCHA filter asks you to do a simple math problem when you comment, in order to prove you’re not a spambot pushing prostate formulas or worse. Note that only unregistered commenters will need to use the CAPTCHA feature.

Server Troubles This Week

ibm_360_color

Just a note that we’re having unexplained issues with our server this week and are attempting to resolve the problem. Please excuse a larger number of typos as well as difficulty responding to your comments. Everything should be back in order next week. Special thanks to our designer Roman for helping us. And thanks to Kelly for constantly changing the tape drives.

Return of the Egg

Erik found 4 eggs in the hen house today. The ladies are back on the job after their winter break. Thank goodness!

I showed them to Phoebe, who delicately sampled the Eau d’ Hen Butt.

(Phoebe is doing very well, by the way.)

Two of the hens lay with speckled eggs, two lay solid. Their eggs are this unusual, olive drab sort of color, which is difficult to capture with the camera. Our hens are hybrids: a Barnavelder/Americauna cross. We call them WinnetekaVelders. The olive eggs must have something to do with the blending of green egg and brown egg genes.

Happy as I am about the eggs, their re-appearance means our too-short winter is closing fast, and that our fruit trees need to be pruned, asap.

When do hens start laying in your part of the world?

Saturday Linkages: Repair is Beautiful

DIY
Beauty of overwrought repair: http://boingboing.net/2013/01/14/beauty-of-overwrought-repair.html …

Custom Map Murals Make for Excellent Contextual Wall Decor | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/custom-map-murals-make-for-excellent-contextual-wall-decor/ …

Vintage DIY: Wired Staffers’ Favorite Classic Gear Manuals | Wired Design | http://Wired.com  http://www.wired.com/design/2013/01/owners-manuals/ …

Thoughtstylings
The Tribe of Teenager http://thetanglednest.com/2013/01/the-tribe-of-teenager/ …

What your New Year’s Resolutions tell us about the way you think – Boing Boing http://boingboing.net/2013/01/16/what-your-new-years-resoluti.html …

We’re all gonna die
Cheesecake Factory pasta on list of caloric “food porn” http://reut.rs/Wc85xI 

Get Your S**t Together: improve your life by planning for your death: http://boingboing.net/2013/01/17/get-your-shit-together-improe.html …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Did Kelly follow her 2012 resolutions?

I cringed when Erik said he’d be reviewing his resolutions today, which meant I’d have to take the walk of shame and review mine. Actually, I couldn’t even remember what I’d said I’d do, but at the same time, I was pretty sure I’d not done any of it. If 2012 had a theme, it would be “wheel-spinning” — or at least that’s how it felt to me.

Now that I’ve read over what I wrote last year, I find I actually did do some of it. Sorta. While I do think posting New Year’s resolutions on a blog just begs future embarrassment, I’ve realized that it is valuable to remember where your head was a year ago, and see if it’s still in the same place.

This will be a long, self-indulgent post, so the TL;DR version is that last year I knew I needed to work on my time management skills, and yet I did not improve in that area. This is the key lesson I’m taking from this exercise. The rest is small stuff, but procrastination has been and remains a big problem. Addressing that will be my challenge for 2o13.

Continue reading…

Is Cycling Too Dangerous?

Photo by Dru Marland.

I’ve been hit by cars twice cycling around Los Angeles. In the first accident a medical delivery driver made a left turn in front of me and I collided with the rear panel of his car. It was his fault but, initially, the driver’s employer tried to come after me for $900 worth of damage. Fortunately, their insurance company took my side in the matter and even replaced my bent fork. In the second accident, a motorist bumped me from the right. I’m not sure what happened, but I think he was merging out of a parking space and didn’t see me. Thankfully, they were minor collisions and I walked away from both without a scratch. But the cycling death of an acquaintance and the serious accidents of several friends has caused me to consider the risks of cycling, particularly in this less than bike friendly city.

An excellent blog post on the Guardian takes up the question of the costs and benefits of cycling. Author Peter Walker does the right thing, in my opinion, by seeking the opinion of public health experts. One, Dr. Harry Rutter, has this to say:

All activities carry a risk. For some reason there seems to be strong focus on the risk of injury associated with cycling. Clearly, when deaths do takes place that’s tragic, and we need to do all we can to avoid them. But I think there is a perception that cycling is much more dangerous than it really is.

This focus on the dangers of cycling is something to do with the visibility of them, and the attention it’s given. What we don’t notice is that if you were to spend an hour a day riding a bike rather than being sedentary and driving a car there’s a cost to that sedentary time. It’s silent, it doesn’t get noticed. What we’re talking about here is shifting the balance from that invisible danger of sitting still towards the positive health benefits of cycling.

Having volunteered on the board the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for a few years, I’m well aware of how hard it is to make our cities more bike and pedestrian friendly. Another expert Walker talks to compared the struggle for safer cycling and walking infrastructure to efforts to curb smoking, noting that the anti-tobacco struggle took 60 years to get going.

The article concludes with a provocative conclusion, “There are two interventions that we know increase walking and cycling: living in the Netherlands and living in Denmark.”

So what do you readers think? Is cycling worth the risk?

Saturday Linkages: Chicken Hot Dogs and Toilet Museums

DIY

Printing press made from IKEA drawers: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/05/printing-press-made-from-ikea.html …

How to Build a Gypsy Caravan from Recycled Materials… http://bit.ly/S8pABN

Gardening

Home Depot’s Leaf Bags and their Eco-Terrible “Tips” | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/12/home-depots-leaf-bags-and-their-eco-terrible-tips.html …

Design

High-Hanging Tea House Offers Suspended Getaway | Designs & Ideas on Dornob http://dornob.com/high-hanging-tea-house-offers-suspended-getaway/ …

???

South Korea’s toilet culture museum: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/03/south-koreas-toilet-museum.html …

Chicken hotdogs and garters for boys who want to be manly: http://boingboing.net/2012/12/03/chicken-hotdogs-and-garters-fo.html …

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter: