Floor and Blog Update

The kitchen floor is done and looks spectacular. The floor installers were detail oriented and did a much better job than I did fifteen years ago. Kelly and I will be spending the next few days patching, plastering and painting the kitchen walls. I’ll post pictures as soon as I can which leads to the next programming note. The computer from which these blog missives concretize has passed this veil of tears. Burnt offerings will be put forward later today before the Apple store alter in an attempt to resurrect my ancient iMac and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Practical, Positive and Peaceable

I have a rule about Root Simple content that I call the three “Ps:” keep all posts practical, positive and peaceable (by peaceable I mean non-divisive). This is not to say that I think that we should all put our heads in the sand and ignore the important issue of our time. But if you want strife and conflict there’s plenty of options, especially on the web, and I don’t need to add my voice to the din.

So, ironically, I spent many hours over the past few days writing a cranky blog post that violated all of the “Ps.” In it I railed against Facebook, Elon “Rocket Man” Musk’s techno-utopianism and the horrible day LA politicians and film industry lobbyists stole the green bike lanes on Spring street. While these issues are significant, my post didn’t have anything new to say. I fell into the knee-jerk belligerence trap that Charles Eisenstein said we have to get past in a prescient lecture at St. James Church in London back in 2016. I listened to that lecture again last night and I suggest you listen too if you haven’t already (this is the second time I’ve posted it). In the lecture, Eisenstein articulates a new narrative outside of the old story of “separation.” Eisenstein says,

But on the other hand, we do know what to do. And often what we need to do are precisely those things that seem irrelevant. The heart says yes to them, but the mind says how could that possibly help? How could it possibly help to spend ten years trying to free one orca from captivity? How could it possibly help to spend ten years taking care of one old woman with Alzheimer’s? The things that draw us, our world story does not have a place for them, so they seem impractical, they seem unrealistic or naïve. But when we understand the deep root of the crisis, which is the totality of the story of separation that surrounds us, then we see that yeah, these are actually essential, because they change the foundation of the world-destroying machine . . .

On a personal level, it’s almost a cliché, but bringing more love into the world. And also on a community level, also through what you devote your life energy toward. If it doesn’t fit into the story of separation, if it’s dedicated to bringing beauty, love compassion…..this is not news to anybody, right? But I guess the reason I’m saying it is to illuminate the political dimension of it. And maybe that’s what the song is. To listen to what is beautiful, to what calls to your heart. Maybe that’s the organ that listens to the song, that guides you to do things that the mind, which is still lost in the maze, may not recognize as relevant, but which is actually our path to that more beautiful world that we remember and recognize and carry with us.

In between working on that unsuccessful and angry blog post I was finishing the dovetailed drawers I had constructed over the holidays. Rather than wasting time trying to fight Facebook I could have been writing up a post about those drawers. As Eisenstein suggests, perhaps its time to do the things that don’t make sense and that don’t seem important: pursue beauty, grow something, build something. Stay tuned for a post on those dovetails . . .

2017 the Year in Review

A Dahlia at the National Heirloom Exposition in September.

This was not an easy year. Just months after Kelly’s Thanksgiving of 2016 aortic dissection and open heart surgery, my mom fell ill. After a painful struggle my mom passed in April.

These reminders of our mortality inspired the most prevalent theme themes on the blog this year: impermanence, the nature of stuff and the need to declutter. I reread Marie Kondo and fell deep into the words of Arts and Crafts movement luminaries John Ruskin, William Morris and Gustav Stickley. These folks had a lot to say about consumer culture, beauty and utility and they have inspired a top to bottom remodeling of our old house and garden that will continue into the coming year.

As to the garden, it fell into such a state of disrepair that we’ve decided to hire someone to help us clean things up and come up with plan. We’ll blog about the process and, if all goes well, have some before and after photos to share.

On a lighter note, we added a dog, Ivan, to our menagerie of household critters. A friend of ours, April, noted that he looks a lot like 70s prog-rocker Todd Rundgren.

In the fall I took some woodworking classes and created a workshop in one half of our garage. My workshop has become a sort of analog safe space, a place to escape the technological claws of the Silicon Valley tech bros who rob our time and track our every movement.

Lastly, some well deserved thanks go out to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for successfully cancelling the urban homestead trademark this year and freeing that phrase for all to use. I’d also like to thank Eric Rochow of Garden Fork for his ongoing support for our blog and podcast. There were many times this year when I did not feel like writing or putting together the podcast. Eric served both as an emergency guest and as an encouraging voice. And, of course, thank you all for reading our blog and listening to our podcast and for your many kind comments and emails.

A Spidery Christmas

Ukrainian Christmas ornament. Image: Wikipedia

Monday’s spider post prompted Root Simple pal and patron Michael W. to tip me off to a the unlikely Ukrainian combination of spiders and Christmas. In an article in the Ukrainian Weekly Orysia Paszczak Tracz explains,

The spider-web-covered “yalynka” (Christmas tree) is now a standard Ukrainian Christmas story. It comes in many versions, and has appeared in a number of contemporary children’s books. Basically, a poor family has nothing with which to decorate their yalynka and, hearing this, a spider overnight spins its web all over the tree, making the spiderweb sparkle and glitter in the morning sunlight. This explains the tradition of tinsel on the Christmas tree.

The various embellishments of the story depend upon the teller and the tale. Another version has the Holy Family hiding in a cave during their flight to Egypt. The benevolent spiders spin webs and cover the whole entrance to the cave. When Herod’s soldiers pass by, they do not bother searching the cave, because obviously it has not been disturbed in a long time – and the Holy Family is safe.

Now, a few things need to be clarified. First of all, the custom of the Christmas tree arrived in Ukraine from Germany in the 19th century. It became a supplement to the Ukrainian “didukh,” the sheaf of wheat and other best grains, which symbolizes Ukrainian Christmas. The spirits of the ancestors come into the home in the didukh for the holy days. They had lived in the fields in the grain helping the bountiful harvest. The didukh is symbolic, the yalynka is decorative.

Here’s what a didukh looks like:

Image: Wikipedia

Being both a fan of spiders and wheat I can only hope that Ukrainian Christmas traditions will make their way west.