Saturday, November 28, 2009

the calm after the storm

as my raft revolves slowly in the dappled sunlight,
and the small white butterflies, cruzan snow, play tag in the treetops
drunk with the scent of flowers
and carried away by the breeze,
my mind floats outward,
following the ripples in the water
thoughts drift, collide, create, connect.
my heart sinks deep into the water, to rest their in the cold dark mud.
oh to live afloat!
to sway with the winds gentle, persuasive meanderings,
to bathe in the cool water at noon
and to lay my body out for the sun to dry.
here i can throw my worries overboard,
put all my hopes into a jar of flowers and a basket of mangoes,
and listen to the eternal heartsong of my neighbors,
the frogs and the birds, the crickets and the beatles,
and the swaying and rustling of the trees.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


i give thanks for this driving rain, pounding down on the roof above us, playing its music
i give thanks for the roof that keeps us dry, and for the company of other light beings, beautiful souls who warm my heart
i give thanks for deep and meaningful conversation, for connection and intimacy
i give thanks to my family, for their constant love and support in all my adventures
i give thanks to my mother, who has always showered me with love, tucked me in safe at night, sang to me and worried about me and provided for me. i give thanks for my mother.
i give thanks for my father, for his strength, for teaching me that men have emotions, that feelings are precious and true. i give thanks for my father.
i give thanks for my brother, my constant companion, such a bright light in a dark world. i give thanks for his spirit, his generosity, and his sharp and critical understanding.
i give thanks for my beautiful grandmothers, that their love and support is still with me, that they are open and interested in understanding and supporting my journey.
i give thanks for the love and wisdom that has come down to me through my grandfathers, and through their fathers and mothers, and through all the elders and ancestors that have taught me.
i give thanks for the love and support of my extended family, for all of my cousins and uncles and aunts, for all the love and laughter and enjoyment we have shared. i give thanks to have had such a close knit family in my life.
i give thanks for learning, for new growth, for challenges and for lessons.
i give thanks for the sea urchin spines in my feet, for reminding me to take care of myself from the bottom up.
i give thanks to the ocean, for calming and holding and rejuvenating me.
i give thanks for my beautiful, loving, committed, honest, intelligent, creative, excited, articulate, fascinating, silly, partner, for all of her love and support, and for her excitement to be taking on this journey with me.
i give thanks for the trees that live here, breathing and creating oxygen, providing homes for countless beings.
i give thanks for all the cockroaches and flies and millipedes and crazy ants that live in this sacred place, for doing their jobs in this ecosystem, and for teaching us all patience.
i give thanks for cooking, for getting together to share food and to give thanks.
i give thanks for music, for sound, for the ability to sing with the universe and hear the universe sing with me.
i give thanks for the mentors that have come to me, and those that will come in the future, for guiding me on this path through life.
i give thanks for tools, for structures and ideas that help organize and design life.
i give thanks for mindfulness, for the wonder and joy with which i have been blessed
i give thanks for rainbows.
i give thanks for challenges, for internal confusion and doubt and fear, and for the lessons that they bring into my life.
i give thanks for the world, in all its fucked up glory, for being the ultimate testing ground of the power of love.
i give thanks to every being, every particular miracle of existence in the entire universe. we are all eternally in this together, and im glad youre in it with me.
i give thanks for sex positive role models and writers, who have helped me to enjoy my body and my pleasure free of shame.
i give thanks for sex.
i give thanks for touch, of all kinds, loving and freindly and supportive and healing and vital to life.
i give thanks for all the people who are working so hard to create a better world.
i give thanks to the children, for carrying the light with which they were born.
i give thanks to my childrens childrens childrens childrens childrens children, for giving me a reason to work for a better world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

workin hard

after a relaxing and fun weekend of hanging out at the beach, snorkeling, and a lot of well needed sleep, i am diving into the second phase of my time here at visfi. this week i am working on the farm as a volunteer, helping out in whatever areas need me most. the hours are great (five a day gets me great home grown food and beautiful living spot), and the work is hard. working on a farm is just about the hardest work you can imagine. i spent my morning today perched on top of a bohio, an ancient taino structure used for living space and ceremony, thatching the roof with big palm leaves. it was great work, really satisfying. i would chop each leaf and put it in a pile, then carry the pile up a ladder to the outside of the bohio. sitting on the slats of the roof, i would twist each leaf in with the one next to it, creating a ring of overlapping leaves. from my perch i could look out over a large section of the farm, and see how incredibly beautiful it looks from above. when Ben Jones started farming here seven years ago, this was grassland, former cattle pasture, with barely any trees. now it looks more like a forest, with green everywhere and most of it producing food. when i first got here, since i didnt know what was what, it didnt strike me as much, but looking at it from above today it was really inspirational, the abundance that is created here. after lunch, with my five hours done, i took a great nap, and then a shower. since i did laundry yesterday, i am clean and in clean clothes for the first time in two weeks, and it feels so beautiful. i am really happy here. the last two days have been really wonderful as well. i am growing closer and closer to a lot of the people here, and i have had some really fantastic conversations with folks. there is a young man named patrick who is so sweet, and such a good listener. we did a trade, where one night he told me his life story, whatever he wanted to tell me about himself, and i simply listened, without commenting, through the whole thing. then, a couple of nights ago, we switched. i had some processes that i was really in need of sharing, and he listened to those really well and was very supportive. i am so glad to have friends like that in my life, and to recognize that they come into my life everywhere i go, that i attract people like that and am able to create the situations in which these kinds of conversations happen. another amazing conversation that i had recently was with a woman named katherine who lives here on the farm. since i have been on the farm, i have been struggling with meeting my need for intimacy and physical affection. the development of trust that leads to freely flowing physical affection and reassurance always takes time, and when i am in a new situation, with new people who i love and want to be close with, it can be difficult for me to be patient with this process. so when katherine and i had a really great hug the other night, i quickly latched onto her as a person i could be affectionate with. over the next day or so, i noticed myself constantly wanting to be close to her, looking for that affection in an indirect way. so i told her about this pattern, and my need for affection, and it led us into an incredibly honest and upfront conversation about what both of our needs were and how we could help support each other in fulfilling those needs. it was so clear and transparent, such a great way to create intimacy very quickly. since then i have noticed that no miracle occurred, its not like we are now totally ready to touch and show love and affection for each other, but it is a little bit easier, because there is that conversation to fall back on and to help guide me. its a very powerful process. when you meet a new person, it would be great if the first thing you asked them was what are some things that you need and how can i support you in fulfilling those needs?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the end of the beginning

today i graduate from the permaculture design certification course. henceforward i shall be a certified permaculture designer, a member of an international community of earth regeneration crusaders, participants in creating a sustainable community of human beings on this earth, living in harmony with all life. i am now certified to teach this course, in theory although i have a lot more to learn before i get to that point. this course has completely changed my life. it has realigned my career goals (i know envision starting a permaculture design consulting business in some form), it has given me a whole new support community, and, perhaps most importantly, the philosophy of permaculture as well as an incredibly powerful session on financial permaculture have given me a path towards negotiating a new relationship with money and finances. for a long time now, i have been really resentful of money and its effects in the modern world. i see so clearly the damage and destruction wrought by international corporate capitalism, and i carry a lot of anger and pain because of it. this has caused me to reject money, and business, to the point where i hate keeping track of my bank records, i never looked at the stocks my grandmother bought me, and i have always resented the necessity of getting a job. as silly as these things may sound, they are very real, and are experienced by a lot of people my age, highly conscious people who see the reality of the evil created by capitalism. permaculture, however, teaches us that the problem is the solution, and this provides a brilliant way out of this dilemna. money, after all, is not evil, its misuse, its concentration and stagnation is evil. Bill mollison, the originator of permaculture, describes money as being similar to shit. if all the shit is concentrated in one place and left there, not composted and redistributed throughout the land but accumulated and unused, then it is a health hazard, a breeding ground for disease, but if it is properly use then it revitalizes and regenerates the landscape. our challenge, then, is not to get away from money altogether, but to find ways to redistribute it to help it flow, and to act as conduits through which to flow money to earth regeneration activities throughout the world. there are tons of exciting tools we can use to do this, such as local currencies, mutual credit systems, and micro loans. if youre interested, go to and from these two weeks, i have an enormous amount of information that i would like to share with all my loved ones, friends and family. i will set up an event to do that when i get back. till then, so much love, i cant wait to be with you in person. stay healthy and happy and send me your love.

Monday, November 16, 2009


hello my beautiful loved ones, thank you so much for being alive, for being in my life, for being yourselves. i am doing well, still learning intensely and passionately inspired by everything. as the excitement of week one wears off however, im starting to miss home. i miss having the security with people that can only come from time. no matter how much i love my new friends here, ive known all of them for only one week. i find myself wanting to be close and intimate immediately, and jealous of their intimacy with each other. its not realistic of course, intimacy takes time, and work, and i just got here. still, it hurts a little not to have that comfort. its also a little frightening to be readjusting, reorganizing, and rethinking my life so radically. i think i may be a farmer, a designer, an earth doctor. this may be my lifes work. but that seems so disconnected to the rest of my life, such a big jump. where am i? where am i going? big questions, lots of answers. i send all of you my love, so much of it, all the time, and i know youre sending me yours as well. thank you for everything, stay blessed, stay safe, take care of each other.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

compost rap

aight, yall,
so i was sittin in class this morning, and my man ethan was spittin some heavy shit about soils, some really deep stuff, and i thought to myself, damn, this is important shit, people need to know this, ya know. so i said, aight, i gotta write some rhymes, let the town know whats goin down down in the earth. so this is for yall, i wish i could kick it for you live, but i guess youll have to make do. much love, jah bless.

soil, dirty subject,
weve got to protect
that thin skin wrapped around the earth
a living being, womb giving birth
not a dead, harsh cold, and static ground,
but a breathing growing changing place where life abounds.
a billion living beings in a teaspoon of ground,
50 million kinds of fungi holdin it down.

feed soil
build it
help it grow
ponds swales and ditches dont let it flow,
away prevent erosion
to leave it for the children of our children's children's, children's children.

let me tell you a story about farmer joe,
wakes up one morning says its time to sow
a thousand acres of soy, try to hustle some dough.
first thing ill do is to till the ground,
move all of that good topsoil around,
make it easy for me to plant my beds,
but he doesn't know that that means his soil is dead.
so he plants his field in long straight rows,
all the same seed he bought cheap from monsanto.
he wants to grow big quick, throws down npk
but that mineral salt sucks all the water away.
but the plants seem to love it, on the outside at least,
nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium feast.
all that soy looks good to inects flying about
they come from miles around to check it out.
damn these pests, says farmer joe,
ive put too much in this crop to let it go,
im gonna kill all these insects with insecticide,
doesnt leave a single bug alive
once again, he doesnt know that not all bugs are bad
didnt know how to make use of what he already had,
so hes just killed the bugs when the fungi come in,
start eating soy leaves, and so he begins
with the fungicide spray, kill the fungus away,
destroys his mycorihzal network in a single day.
now his soils got no structure, no resistance to erosion,
nothing holds it together so itll soon be gone

and thats why weve got to
feed soil
build it
help it grow
ponds swales and ditches dont let it flow,
away, prevent erosion
to leave it for the children of our children's children's, children's children.

now momma nature knows how to heal herself when shes bleeding,
medicine is waiting beneath the soil to be needed,
every weed has a function, ready to repair,
damaged ground, left dry, compacted, and bare.
so the weeds come in quick in farmer joe's fields,
damage, danger, disaster, its time to heal,
but farmer joe doesnt know, wont let them grow
too much invested for his crop to fail
so herbicide completes his biocide cocktail
a vicious cycle of death and destruction
robs his soil of its ability to serve its function
his soy looks green, but its sadly malnourished
hes made a swath of death where their could have been a forest.
here to save the day comes compost man
with his earth healing, soil creating plan
with compost we can easily make dirt,
humble humans make humus to heal the earth
berklee method eighteen days, hot pile of shit
nice dirt quick, thermophillic
just get the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen,
25 to one, bacteria will thrive again,
one part green, one part brown,
plants living and dead grown from the ground,
one part manure, or other stinky stuff,
and a little bit of water, just enough,
that you squeeze a handful and you get one drop
four days later, time to flip flop
turn that pile upside down
and let all those living things mix around
bacteria orgy, its a party in there
turn it every two days to let in air
in eighteen days life has done its job,
nothing in there is as it was,
just beautiful, life giving, healthy dirt,
to put on your ground and regenerate the earth.

thats how we
feed soil
build it
help it grow
ponds swales and ditches dont let it flow,
away, prevent erosion
to leave it for the children of our children's children's, children's children.

so what about farmer joe, why do we care?
well the thing is that this happens everywhere.
this is how we grow almost everything we eat,
and if we keep on doing it the future looks bleak.
were destroying the soil, poisoning the land,
and you and me and all of us have got to take a stand,
if humans on this planet are gonna pull through,
then i think that you know what were gonna have to do,

weve got to
feed soil
build it
help it grow
ponds swales and ditches dont let it flow,
away, prevent erosion
to leave it for the children of our children's children's, children's children.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

on designing your life

i am in the process of learning to design in a holistic way, a way that mimics the systems of nature in order to use energy efficiently, to get the most reward from the least effort, and to put all elements in a system in beneficial relationships with each other. i am learning to identify patterns and apply them to specific situations. i am learning to observe and to plan and to set goals articulately and clearly. all these are factors of permaculture design, the design of healthy regenerative ecosystems that yeild abundance for all the people involved, human, plant, animal, water, earth. and, these are tools that can be used in the internal realm as well. the mind is an ecosystem, a system built up over time of many interconnected parts that interact according to patterns. i feel that i have different organisms living within my mind, different selves, and that in designing my life it is my goal to put these organisms and elements into beneficial relationships with one another. a monoculture of dreams will quickly suck up resources, and does not provide a closed loop system, and a monoculture of skepticism, reason, and groundedness does not provide me with nourishment. how can i arrange and design these elements to my advantage? where do i put my self-critical voice? how do i water my inner child? what is the climate like in here? how is the land shaped? where is my source of water? and then, in the external realm, i can design how that whole self, synergistically much more than the sum of all those parts, an abundant, holistic, self perpetuating system, interacts with other selves, systems larger than itself. i can design my relationships, my experience, always leaving plenty of room for uncertainty, change, and growth. this is my journey here.

on big waves, clear nights, and life on the edge

the stars are beautiful here. its a perfectly clear night, after a rainy day, the air is clean and clear. the trees are gently dripping today's water down into the ground, where it will be absorbed into the soil. we caught a lot of water off the roof of the community center today, and all the other buildings, all pumped into the big cisterns underneath the community center. we checked out a swale today, a big ditch carved on a contour of the hillside that collects water in a heavy rain and gives it a chance to soak back into the soil, irrigating all the trees and crops downhill. i decided to move my tent from its beautiful location at the bottom of a river valley, that incredible cave of trees and vines with its mysterious and busy insect life, to a more strategic location in the bamboo uphill a ways. i sat on the pond on a little raft and watched the tiny white butterflies fly from flower to flower, floating gently on the wind. around here they call them cruzan snow, because thats as close to snow as it ever gets around here. they are quite beautiful, but theyve got nothing on the real thing. ive been playing the flute a lot, and its really fascinating to me. just breath and melody, all the notes you can make, the subtleties in the vibrations. i love feeling the vibration in my fingers. i really like to just play one note, as long as i can, and play with the subtleties of it, change the intensity, the tone. ive been playing it to give thanks to the trees and the animals, playing a song to a particular place or tree, giving it as a gift in gratitude for their presence, the work they do here on the land. everything gardens, as they say in permaculture. ive also been enjoying the exotic tropical fruits. the passion fruit packs a deliciously sour punch, and is a great burst of energy midday. mangos are always great, especially when they grow in abundance in your backyard, although were coming to the end of their season here. starfruit is another good one, kind of jelly like in texture and very sweet. noni is supposed to be a very powerful medicine, anti-carcinogenic and all kinds of things, but it smells absolutely awful and i have yet to taste it. the fruit looks like the egg sac of some strange alien, ready to burst open and divulge hundreds of small face sucking creatures. its very popular on island as a general health tonic.
yesterday was by far the most adventurous, hands on learning weve had so far. we went down to the annalee tide pools, a very sacred spot where maroons, slaves who had chosen to leave their captivity and live in the bush, gathered and created permanent communities that may have existed for over a hundred years without being discovered. when we got to the beach, it began to rain pretty hard. the beach is amazing, right at the bottom of a little valley, with big steep hills going up on either side. its made of dark, smoothly polished rocks, of many sizes and colors. the waves there have polished these hard stones until they look like jewels, very beautiful. we all tried to crowd in a little shelter of palm thatch and a tarp that someone had built up in the rock a bit, but it was no use. we all got soaked, and most of us decieded to make our way to the tidepool, where the water would be warmer. the waves were quite large, and i was skeptical about the safety of the journey, but our guides seemed to think it was safe, so i followed. it turned out not to be that difficult, and well worth the effort. this tidepool is tucked in behind a ridge of rocks, completely enclosed by this circle of rocks. inside, the water is warm, heated by the sun all day, much warmer than the rain outside. it was so nice to be in that warm water after being soaked and cold in the rain. its deep too, and you can swim and dive and look at fish and all kinds of life that cant live anywhere else but in that protected spot on the edge of the ocean and the land. its really quite an epic edge there, because the island of st croix is really the tip of an enormous undersea mountain, 20,000 ft tall. the water is 3 miles deep 3 miles out, which is the deepest water closest to land on earth. in this powerful spot, at this powerful time, momma ocean was giving us a glorious display of the kind of turmoil and turbulence that occurs on such an extreme edge between two systems. every few minutes, a set of big waves would come crashing over the wall of rocks, a rare event according to our guides. the first time it did, we were all caught totally by surprise. i can remember the looks on everyones face as this huge wall of water comes down on them, just totally dumbfounded. no one was hurt, because the water was deep enough that you had plenty of room to fall over without hitting any rocks, and we could get back far enough where the waves wouldnt even reach us. after the first wave hit, we all came out of the water laughing our heads off. it was such an adrenaline rush, to be inside that incredible event. we had class in that tidepool, a lesson about the power of the edge and the importance of creating edges in your design where elements can interact and create change and growth. it was amazing, to be learning in that kind of environment, really experiencing the lesson with our whole bodies while we heard the explanation, which was interrupted periodically by gigantic waves crashing over the edge. we all managed to get out safely, and got in the trucks for the long ride home to lunch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

todays adventures

today in class, i decide to take my notes in the form of drawings, with no words, and then to reconstruct the teachings that those drawings represented later. this way, i would be forced to rephrase the teachings, and then i would retain the information much better than if i had just read it off a page. heres what i learned today. we started the day with definitions and examples of some of the principles of permaculture. some of those principles are using location to take advantage of beneficial relationships, meeting every need in a variety of ways, taking advantage of all the multiple functions of any one element, and functional interconnectedness. i drew a picture for functional interconnectedness with a circle of blue dots surrounded by a circle of orange dots. each orange dot is connected to several other blue dots, and each vice versa. the two colors represent elements and needs, meaning that every element supplies several different needs, and every need is met by several different elements. in this kind of system, all the parts are interconnected, and if one is lost the others are still able to be sustained because their needs are met in other ways. all the principles we learned today really boil down to this idea, that what we are designing is a system where all the elements form an interconnected web, just like in nature where a tree grows and provides shade for animals and the shade keeps the moisture in the ground so ground covers can grow and the ground cover is food for the animals who provide manure for the plants and everything gives and recieves and supports each other. i am quickly seeing what ethan was talking about, that there is far more collaboration in nature than there is competition. we have been looking for competition, and so we found it, because it is there, but we didnt see all the wonderful collaboration. all the plants collaborate to make the soil, they feed the animals which fertilized the soil, aerate, each organism meeting its needs and providing elements needed by other organisms. our goal is to design that kind of complex, resilient, interconnected system.
my next drawing represents the concept of zones of use. this is a really useful design tool. i represented it with a set of concentric circles in rainbow colors. the first circle, which is black, is zone 0 and represents the home, the dwelling place, the center from which you live, the place you spend most of your time. the next circle out, close to the home, is zone 2. this is the zone where you would put ecosystems that require extensive care and that will get very frequent use. this is where you would put your cooking herbs, perhaps some small fruit trees. nothing big, and no loud animals. you might keep rabbits in this zone, but not chickens for example. if you kept some dwarf fruit trees, you might graft a few varieties onto one tree to extend the period when you have ripe fruit. in zone 3 a little farther out, you place elements that need some management, but not as much, or get used somewhat less. this might be your vegetable garden, a pond, or a food forest. all these things will get visited frequently so you want them close, but they need more space than in zone 1. in zone 3, you would put elements that need infrequent management, such as pastures for animals, fruit orchards, or stable crops. all these things will only need care once a week or so, so they can be a little farther out. in zone 4, you have your elements that need very infrequent care. this is a good place for agroforestry, where you can plant trees and leave them and only need to come back to harvest. you could plant fruit trees, nut trees, or bamboo and trees for lumber. zone 5 is the untouched natural world, a vital element of the design that is used for inspiration, for connecting to nature, to replenish and regenerate and to get ideas for designs. it is important to have natural areas to observe so that you can mimic those natural systems. this tool does not only apply to farms. you could use it to design a kitchen, thinking what gets used the most, where the center is, and what should be left on the periphery. i was thinking about how to use this tool to organize my goals for my education also. what goals are most central to my life's plan? what is going to require the most care and management? which things can i start and then leave to take care of themselves/ these are fascinating questions to think about.
my next drawing describes the process of succession, in which bare earth is slowly taken over by organic matter, soil created, and a forest grows. the process starts with small grasses and weeds. this covering keeps some sun sun off the bare ground, so it can retain a little moisture. when these plants start to die, they decompose and make a layer of soil, which holds more moisture. over time these grasses become taller, providing more shade and allowing other species to grow. the soil gets thicker and wetter, the shade is thicker, temperatures decrease and moisture collects. eventually small shrubs and trees grow, first very densely, and then as the trees get taller and larger start to thin out. as the trees get tall and there is space, small plants begin to grow and an understory is created. the trees continue to get bigger and the vegetation thicker, creating homes for animals and insects and all kinds of organisms. ethan told us that there is no limit to this process, that although ecologists used to think that there was a natural ceiling past which succession would level off, studies have shown that theoretically, the process can continue indefinitely.
my last drawing is a representation of a design process. the first picture is a brain, representing the stage in which you formulate your goals. what do i want to get out of this project? the next picture is an eye, representing the phase of site evaluation and resource evaluation. this is where we see what we have to work with, what materials are available, and what space we are working with. we would also observe other factors of the environment, such as weather and soil quality. the next picture is a drawing plan, representing the design phase. in this phase, we integrate the goals and the assesment of the site to design a plan that will use the site and the available resources to meet those goals. the next picture is a hand, representing the implementation of the design. in this phase, you do the work to bring the design out into the world. the next picture is a question mark, representing the phase of evaluation. in this phase, we look at the project and say did that meet the goals? how well? what could have been done better? what was succesfull? the process makes a circle, because you can then go back create new goals based on your evaluation of your design. this process can be applied, and basically is applied to everything you do in life. ethan described how this process is used in making a sandwhich. my goal is to feed myself, so i asess whats in the refrigerator. i then design my sandwich and implement it. as im eating it, i evaluate, and ask whether it met my goals. if im still hungry, ill design a smoothie. if not, maybe im tired, and then i'll design and implement a nice long nap.
all this stuff was really fascinating, and its really only a fraction of everything i learned today. i learned a lot from watching, from watching and listening to nature, from observing ethan and dyami to see how they teach (both of them are really wonderful teachers) from observing all the other people in the course and on the farm, by talking to people and learning about their lives. i think that this trip will be the most packed learning experience ive ever had, and im very very excited. i have so many ideas buzzing through my head about all the amazing permaculture projects i could design. i want to design my parents yard at home, i want to fill the rose garden with edibles, im seriously considering doing this as a career. this is really revolutionary stuff. its really a big piece of the puzzle, and its making really big change. we saw a slideshow today that was absolutely amazing. there was a huge refugee camp in macedonia, fifty thousand kosovo refugees, and to create it they bulldozed a huge section of forest and set up tents. when the camp was abondoned, the land was ruined, totally trashed.some permaculturists were working there with the refugees and managed to get a lot of funding to do a project on site, they taught a course to the local townspeople, including some refugees who had stayed, the same course that i am taking now. in the course of this course, they designed a project for this huge site.with the help of their teachers and lot of grant funding, they built their design plan, carving huge swales into the hillside and planting diverse food forests on them. they built strawbale buildings, a community center, a peace camp for kids, and others. the site is now an extensive and beautiful permaculture garden, which in its first year was able to produce 3.5 tons of tomatoes, which were sold at market, starting to create economic sustainability for the people. this was so inspirational to me. that is revolution, giving people the tools they need to be self sufficient in the long term, helping them to resist corporate globalization and to provide for their own needs. i highly encourage everyone to consider taking this course, even if you have no interest in farming. it is so important for the world that as many people as possible learn these things.
as always, i want to send my love to all my loved ones. i think of you frequently and fondly and i wish you all the best in your beautiful lives. may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live a life of ease and joy. namaste

Monday, November 9, 2009

a vision of a better world

today we began our initiation into the world of permaculture. it was an incredibly powerful experience. we began with a sacred fire being lit in the ancient way, with a bow and sticks and tinder. into this sacred fire we sent an invocation to our ancestors, to all the people who have come before us and paved the way to be here. we were reminded that the teachings we are here to learn, although they have only been taught in this format for twenty five years, are actually ancient wisdom, widely known by ancient societies all over the world, and just now being put together into one complete philosophical framework for creating a healthy human relationship with the earth. after this invocation, we went to our beautiful outdoor classroom to begin our learning. as our teachers spoke, i was struck by how familiar their teachings were to me, how closely they aligned with my feelings and my internal sense of what is right. i realized today that although ive never worked the land before, although i know very little about plants and animals, the real essence of permaculture, what it means to live in harmony with the earth, is something i know a lot about. we learned a lot of distressing facts today, and also some very hopeful ones. we learned that there are 22,000 known species of edible plant on this planet, and that of all of those, we currently cultivate about 1,500 for 99.9% of our calorie intake, with 90% coming from only ten or twelve species. we learned that the soil in the american midwest was measured in yards when the europeans started farming there, often three or four yards deep, and that now it is scarcely a few inches thick due to soil erosion. we covered the long list of environmental crises facing our planet, and recognized that in reality they are one set of interelated problems, all connected. this is why permaculture is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to live on this planet. we must begin now to regenerate the earth. using permaculture design, it is possible to improve the health of an ecosystem far beyond what it could acheive naturally, especially in ecosystems that have been extensively damaged by human actions. our teacher told us that if we employed permaculture on all land currently being farmed, we could grow the caloric equivalent of all the food we grow now on 1.5% of the land, and it would be far more nutritious and far more diverse. we could restore lost biodiversity and create ecosystems that fully support human life and animal life and plant life and microbial life all together, all flourishing in abundance. its not even that hard. the principles of permaculture design are simple and easy to learn. the possible effects are literally changing the face of the planet, and the future we leave for our descendants.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

some things that happened

it is nighttime, just after sunset on my first full day in the virgin islands. it is so fascinating to be in this new climate, this whole new bioregion, where all of the plants and many of the other living things are totally new to me. right now, the forest is a symphony of insects, tree frogs, maybe birds. my tent is down in the forest in a dry creekbed. the trees and the vines cover the spot and make a lovely little home, very sheltered and safe. the forest is crowded with vines and branches, and its hard to walk anywhere without getting caught up. last night, we were blessed with a six course farm cooked meal served by the farm staff. they were having an event called a slow down dinner, a fund raiser they do for the farm, and they had extra space so they invited me and two other permaculture students who had arrived early to join in at the table. that was really lucky, because the food was amazing. all very creative, lots of greens and fruits that i had never heard of cooked in high gourmet style. today, we went to the beach, which was wonderful, sun and sand and coral and perfect blue water. i collected a couple of sponges, and listened to great reggae music. island culture is fascinating everybody knows everybody, and on sunday, they all go out to the beach and hang out. its a great scene, lots of families playing together in the water. i really hope i get to learn more about this island, its people and its history while im here. im very excited about starting the course tomorrow. both of my teachers told me that they became instructors very quickly after taking their first course, within a couple of years. it is going to be a totally life changing experience. as we were driving to the beach in the back of the pickup truck, ethan, one of the instructors, was staring out at the forest with such a wonderful expression of curiosity and wonder. we kept stopping to look at trees, and ben, the owner of the farm, would explain about that tree, what it was called in the local language, what it was used for, and so on. that attitude of curiosity about the natural world was so great to see. i feel inspired and hopeful.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

my love

if youre reading this, i love you. i love you so much and i thank you for everything youve given me. ive said it before, and ill say it again, thank you thank you thank you, i love you i love you i love you. take care and send me your thoughts, psychically or electronically, whichever works better for you.

flight of fancy

its really happening now. i know because i am on the plane. what i still dont know is what its going to be like when i get there. will i get a taxi easily? do people speak english? will i like the people i'm working with?what will the farm be like? i imagine a round common building with a pitched roof, warm and inviting, with rough wooden beams and colorful decorations. i imagine my campsite, underneath a big tree on an east facing hill, with a view of the sunrise over the ocean.i can see all the friendly, excited people, caring for the earth, working the land. i can feel the dirt in my hands, but its elusive. this is no redwood forest, there is no redwood duff here, no redwood dirt. this is the rainforest. what is the dirt like here? wetter, i imagine, black and wet and fresh and full of life, teeming with life. what wonders will spring forth from this rich black dirt? a whole new world of colors and sounds and smells awaits me. i can hear and see and smell it, but its all vague, like a half remembered dream. all the people there are living their lives right now, the human people running around frantically, most of them, trying to make a living, working hard to barely survive, while the animal people just live, working hard of course, but never knowing it. and in a few short hours, my life, my universe will collide with theirs, and all of our lives will be changed forever.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

a brief thought about learning

what is learning? what is education?
to learn is to change the self. to learn is to forge new neural pathways, build new muscles, new tissues in the body and new possibilities in the mind. this process is happening all the time, with everything we experience, feel, and think. education is conscious, focused learning. to learn consciously is to be conscious of ones experience, to forge new pathways and possibilities with direction and intention, and to bring awareness to the constant learning process that takes place in every moment of your life.

some past writings

heres some stuff ive written. enjoy.

casual conversation
The stage is empty except for two non-descript chairs center stage, facing away from each other at an angle, each towards its respective bottom stage corner. A man in a business suit enters, coughs loudly several times, breathes heavily, puts his hands on his knees to catch his breath, recovers and sits down. He unfolds a newspaper and begins to read, coughing periodically, getting progressively worse. A second man in a suit enters, checks his watch briefly, and sits down in the other chair. He begins to speak to the other man, but without looking at him, always facing straight forward. The entire time he is speaking, he pretends as if the other man were replying to him, and does not react strongly to anything. He keeps his cool, remaining mostly neutral throughout. His talk is idle banter, the weather, sports, the economic situation, the recent election, his experience at the dry cleaners, etc. He asks only yes or no questions and always responds as though the answer were yes. As he talks, the first man's condition progressively worsens. His coughing gets louder, he spits up phlegm. After returning to his newspaper several times, he puts it down, unfolded, and coughs and hacks incessantly, bent double. He pants and groans, clutching his chest. He begins to choke, making no noise, but convulsing. He begins to seize violently, falling out of his chair and onto the ground, preferably knocking the chair over in the process. Finally, he stiffens and lies motionless. The second man continues to talk, now telling a story. A doctor enters, black bag in hand, and sees the dead man on the ground. He does not react, but remains neutral while he takes out his stethoscope and checks his pulse. He stands up, turns toward the audience, and announces, loudly and without emotion "He is dead". The second man stops talking, turns to look, looks mildly surprised, and says "Oh dear. Well, it wasn't a very good story anyway." He checks his watch, and taps his foot for a short time. Curtain.

Gay marriage
Several people run on stage, screaming and shouting, and running everywhere. Two men run into each other center stage, stop, look into each others eyes. They hold each other tenderly, caress each others faces. Slowly, they come together and kiss. The moment their lips touch, everyone else freezes and is silent. The two men kiss long and deep. Everyone watches them in disgust and horror. The kiss ends and they stand together and look tenderly into one another's eyes, very happy. The bystanders slowly exit, not speaking, transfixed by the sight, keeping their eyes on the couple, as if sneaking away from the scene of a murder. After the last bystander exits, a little girl comes in in some distress. She sees the couple and is immediately relieved, and runs to them happily. The two men welcome her into their arms, pick her up, and exit, overjoyed.

Childs play
[Several grown up looking people are playfully passing a ball back and forth. A man in a diaper enters, is greeted, and joins them. The next time he gets the ball, he clutches it to his chest and sits in a corner of the stage and plays with it in his lap. One of the original players approaches him and speaks to him in a preschool teacher voice, as one would speak to a very young child. Johnny speaks like a dignified adult, but his body language is that of a defiant child.]
johnny, can we share the ball? we were all having so much fun playing together.
No! its my ball
its not your ball johnny, its everybody's ball. can you please share it with us so we can all have fun?
no its mine.
johnny, i really like playing with you but its not very fun if you wont share with us.
why are you talking to me in that silly voice. i don't like it when you talk like that. im not a child. im a grown man, with responsibilities. ive been working all day and i just want to play with my ball.
[johhny sucks thumb and pouts. group shrugs, starts talking among themselves, exits. Johhny looks around, plays with ball in a lonely but defiantly cheerful way, until he loses it into the audience. He then cries loudly until the curtain closes.]

[a man and a woman are at a bus stop. the man looks at the woman until she looks at him, then quickly looks at his shoes. after some deliberation, he turns to her and speaks]
i love your jacket
no you dont, you just want to get in my pants
all right fine. It is a nice jacket though. How did you know?
lucky guess, i guess. should we get a room, or would you like to fuck here on the street?
thats a little forward, dont you think? i mean, we hardly know each other.
it was your idea, unless im much mistaken.
i suppose it was. still, id like to at least get to know you a little. do you live around here?
im bored. goodbye.
[she exits. he starts to cry quietly. curtain]

economic collapse
A businessman in a suit with a sign on him that says "financial institutions" is building a sandcastle. another figure enters with a sign that says "reality" and destroys it.

a family sits down to dinner. while eating in unison, every movement choreographed, they all talk at the same time as though they were speaking to each other. they pretend their questions are answered and respond to questions they imagine are asked of them. when everyone is finished eating, they slowly stop talking one by one. when the last person finishes talking, they all look around, noticing each other, become quite uncomfortable, then exit.

peg line plays
[lines must be spoken in this order, by these characters. Anything may be spoken or danced in between each line, and the lines can be addressed to anyone.]

Oedipus remix
I say that with those you love best you live in foulest shame unconsciously and do not see where you are in calamity
what is the rite of purification? how shall it be done?
the clue is in this land;
that which is sought is found;
the unheeded thing escapes.
stand still and listen. you will agree that I have rights here.

1: where do you stand?
2: i stand high, above the crowd.
1: a dangerous place, a terrible fall, if you should fall
2: i will not fall
3: everything returns to earth in time
1: where do you come from?
2: i've walked a long road.
3: but do you know where you've been?
4: you are fools
2: you are ignorant
3: i deny nothing
2: i will be right in the end. you'll see.
4: it is all a waste of time. nothing will come of it.
4: why don't we all just shoot ourselves?
2: i am happy.
3: happiness is possible, but you are not happy.
2: look, a spider
4: its all a web of lies, illusions. the wind will carry it away
2: life is worth living. life is a great adventure. life is life, and you cant beat that. i don't want to live depressed, bored, tired. id rather be called an arrogant fool than an apathetic asshole.
1: tomorrow, tomorrow.


suspiciously happy

life is great
life is beautiful
beautiful people
beautiful world
i smile because im awake, because im alive
i smile because everywhere i look, there is life
i smile because i have been given the extraordinary gift of consciousness
i smile because i can
i understand your suspicion, however
with all the constant reminders
that cameras are no guarantee against criminal activity on the bart system
that your life and those of everyone around you depends on your suspicion
how could you not be scared?
the question is, what are you scared of?
or the possibility that you, too, could be happy?

I refuse to live in fear
I refuse to see the people around me as a possible threat, a bunch of maniacs
I refuse to assume that a smile is not genuine, that no ones motives are pure
I refuse to sit quietly and let my life pass me by
I refuse to hide myself in a cocoon
i refuse to stay quiet for fear of saying something worth hearing
I refuse to live in fear
each and every day, we are surrounded by fellow human beings
each with their own story to tell, a never ending library of lessons, of experience, of pleasure and pain, of what it means to live in this world in this time.
we have so much to talk about, and yet, most of the time, so many of us sit silently and wait
for our stop
or for our food to come
we wait for our next paycheck, our next vacation
we wait for someone to start something
for a new tv show or a sale at macy's or a raise or a new phone
waiting, desperately hoping our lives get better
feeling alone in the midst of a crowd
unwilling or unable to reach out our hand and touch somebody
i refuse to wait
i am going to be here, now
and id really like for you to be here with me
i want to know who you are
what makes you laugh
what makes you hurt
what makes you do the things you do
what are you afraid of
what are you afraid of?
and what are you going to do about it?
are you going to sit there and let life heap shit on you, let yourself get buried by paperwork and shopping lists? are you going to keep on numbing the pain, pretending you have no feelings?
or are you going to say fuck that shit, take off your masks and your clothes and come dancing naked in this crazy hailstorm were all pretending to ignore?
are you going to go on living a comfortable lie?
or are you going to shed your armor, drop your shield, and let life hurt you, let it hurt you so bad that it knocks you to the floor, let it tear you apart until you realize that pain is human
that it means that you are alive
that the place that hurts is the place in you that loves
that cries out for someone to hold close
and that if you choose love
if you choose to live your life in full consciousness of your truth
and in love with everyone
only then can your pain be truly healed

rodeado por el cielo

mi alma esta sospenida por la luz
el sol me levante y me difunde
ya estoy distribuido por el mundo
los ojos en los arboles
los pies en el barro en el fondo del agua
y el corazon en los nubes
rodeado por el cielo

surrounded by the sky

my soul is suspended by the light
the sun lifts me and diffuses me
already i am distributed throughout the world
my eyes in the trees
my feet in the mud at the bottom of the water
and my heart in the clouds
surrounded by the sky
authority and discipline: True power vs. the illusion of power

All force is illusion. Every "i must", "they made me", and "i have to" is a lie. There is only choice. When you say to someone "do this", you are giving that person a choice. They can either comply, or refuse. Every order, then, is really a question. If you have true authority, you will never order anyone to do anything. Those with true authority ask, and allow those who they are asking the freedom to refuse if they choose to do so. The illusion of force is a crutch for those too weak or too afraid to allow others freedom of choice. Unfortunately, we have degraded our relationships with ourselves and each other to the point where we must rely on this false authority to maintain the structure of our society. We teach our children obedience in school. This, in fact, is the main function of our educational system, to indoctrinate children into believing that authority comes from position, that orders must be followed, that in many situations, they have no choice. Without this education, our hierarchical political and economic systems could not survive. Our leaders have lost the ability to truly lead, because they have lost the courage to ask instead of demanding.
In a park there is a football field with signs around the edge reading "field closed". This is a blatant and obvious lie. The field is not closed. It is wide open to anybody who wants to walk on it. What the sign makers where trying to say was "we would like to keep the field clear right now for thus and such a reason, could you please not walk on it?". But they did not have the courage to do so, they were afraid that their request would not be respected, and so they made it into an order, a demand, and a sham. Were they right to fear that no one would comply if they phrased their question as such? Absolutely. In a society where we have been taught to respect "authority" rather than respecting our own freedom of choice and the requests of others, no one will listen to a reasonable request.
When obedience is taught, self-respect and consideration for others are necessarily pushed out. What we need to be teaching our children is that they always have a choice, that if they want something from someone else they should ask for it, and that if someone else asks something of them they should choose mindfully whether they want to do it or not. Only by fully respecting everyone's freedom of choice can we live together in harmony.
But what about catastrophe, emergency, deadlines? In some situations, there is no time for choice. Someone must take charge, make decisions, make things happen. Very true, sometimes a decision must be made, but even in this situation, the illusion of force is nothing but a stumbling block and a creator of ill will. In an emergency, a reasonable request is even more likely to be accepted by a caring individual who has learned freedom of choice. Someone will make a decision, they will ask others to help them or do what they have decided must be done, and those others will decide, quickly, to do it or not to do it. In a true emergency, where everyone involved realizes the gravity of the situation, they will surely choose to be helpful. If not, their non-participation is probably more helpful than their reluctant and unwilling involvement.


welcome, and thank you for being.
before i begin, i'd like to catch you up a little bit. my name is Gabriel Joaquim Vieira. I was born in Oakland, California to wonderful, caring parents, and raised with love and affection and support. as a baby, i was fond of staring in wonder at falling leaves, or the light streaming in the window, or pretty much anything else, for hours on end. i know this to be true, because my parents filmed me doing it, also for hours, fascinated by my simple joy and wonder. i imagine that behind the camera, they were looking at me in much the same way that i was looking at the world, filled with love and admiration. this combination of my natural delight and wonder at the world around me and the loving support of my parents has led me to where i am today, following my dreams, enjoying every moment of my life as much as i possibly can, knowing always that i am loved and that i am full of love.
it was not always easy to be a lover of the world. human society has gone so far astray, so out of rythm and harmony with the earth, ourselves, and each other, that the simple acts of wonder, imagination, playfulness and self-confidence, are deemed strange, even threatening. from what i can remember of my early childhood, which is not a great deal, i did not fit in well with other children, nor did i particularly care. i wore my rainboots on the wrong feet every day of elementary school until the fourth grade. although there have been times in my life when i thought that i wanted to fit in, to be like other kids, i have never wanted it enough to be able to really change myself to fit in. i have always stayed more or less true to myself, even when i didnt want to. i knew deep down that if i could just be myself, fully and truly, that i would be loved. i realize more and more that i knew this because my parents told me, and showed me, that it was true.
i have come now to a place of deep self love, of clarity and strength and focus, of an ever deepening awareness of my own power. i have come to realize that i am an angel, a magical creative being incarnate into this physical body in order to guide others to this same awareness in themselves. it is from this place that i embark on my journey to the virgin islands. in two days i will begin a long awaited process of personal transformation. i will step onto a path of learning and growth that i will build for myself, laying every stone before i step on it. i have built, with a lot of help, a strong foundation for my life, and now i will learn to build a house. i have laid out the plots in my garden, built the fences and structures, tilled the land, and now it is time to plant the seeds. Gaia calls their degree a bachelors degree in integrative ecosocial design. i call my program a bachelors degree in love, with minor concentrations in the healing arts, childhood education, and human/earth relations.
i would be honored if you would like to follow me as i begin this journey. if you are reading this, there is an excellent chance that i love you very deeply, and i am very grateful to you for all your affection, support, and encouragement. may you be blessed always, and may we meet again in love and celebration.


P.S. if you happen to have given birth to me, or been involved in my conception, i would like to extend you a special thanks. thank you so much for everything, for all the love and support, and for all the opportunities. you have bothed worked so hard to bring me where i am today, and i am eternally grateful. thank you for buying my food, giving me a house to live in, sending me to college twice, thank you for playing with me and reading to me and giving me hugs and kisses. thank you for being there for me when i needed someone to talk to. thank you for sending me to circus classes, and camp winnarainbow. thank you for pushing me, for worrying about me, for criticizing and teaching and guiding me. thank you for loving and accepting me. thank you thank you thank you. i love you always.