Tend

 
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Each morning I rise to ask, “What does it mean to live well in a place?” Daily, I notice the many ways in which our culture reinforces the ways in which we are separate and independent peoples. In what ways are we connected to one another? What splendor are we composed of, and where do we collectively go from here?

I see a long lineage of peoples. Warp thread moves as a long river and spills into a greater sea. This warp thread is our ancestors as they arrive to connect with us in the present breath of our time. This thread will continue beyond that of our own. What is the purpose of a single thread-- if not woven as part of a larger cloth? I think a line that is centered on itself is lost. When lines join with others, an image/ a grid/ a structure is formed.

I came across an old friend who shared his grief at transitioning out of a career. He shared that he did not know what to do as he would now become irrelevant in his field. Another man stood beside him, laughing, and said, “you don’t get it do you-- we’re all irrelevant!,” and together they laughed. I watched the two men and cried a soft quiet cry, and replied, “you don’t get it, do you-- we are all relevant, and we have a responsibility to tend.” This body is my home, and this land is the mother that nourishes me. I see that we are embedded within a reciprocal landscape. We are a vessel here to care for place. We are carriers of life, and a presence that can work to increase the fertility and renewal of the Earth. We are here to remember, to re-embrace our sacred duties.

And what of our ancestral memory? What have we forgotten in our minds, but remember in the cells, sinew and marrow of our bodies? Do we remember that we are water, stardust, our ancestors, and that we have survived hearty laughter and grief? When a culture is deprived of stillness, we cannot remember our whole selves. We forget where this sacred body came from, what animates us, with whom we are related, and where we will return. Without stillness, we cannot imagine a time beyond our own, or to rectify our behaviors for the healing work that is being called for at this time. I hear the static fibers laugh and sing, asking with joy-- How do we restore integrity to this large tapestry of life? What beings, seen and unseen, sustain our tenuous, fine thread lives? How do we reweave ourselves back into right relationship with each other and place?

How the Light Gets In

I recently partnered with Print. Organize. Protest., a network of independent artists and printers working together for radical social change. I contributed the print featured below titled, How the Light Gets In. As a seed keeper, I have witnessed many times the tremendous unraveling of seed coats as new life is initiated. I see that the tremendous pain of our times can also signal a collective wake-up call, and act as a catalyst for more expansive engagement and responsive compassion. Sometimes profound growth takes form following a time of great destruction.  

I have been reflecting on this poem by Jalaluddin Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks--

“I said: what about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.

I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.

I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

This earthly and mystic message has reverberated across time. Musician Leonard Cohen, who passed on recently, moved this message forward with his beautiful song, The Anthem.

"Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That's how the light gets in"

 
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This image is available for free download on the Print. Organize. Protest. website. 

A Study of the Relationship Between Our Cells and the Universe

I had the opportunity to take an intensive Human Anatomy course through a local community college this past summer. Studying the human body from a western scientific perspective was an interesting vantage point through which to understand what it means to be human. Despite the sophisticated individual names for all of the "parts," I see that they are inseparable and wholly linked. We are an elegant part of a much larger whole.

Here are some photographs that I captured through the microscope while studying various tissues of the human body. I spent hours in awe of the similarity this holds to looking through a telescope, or to macroscopic life in process and on land. I marvel that this brilliance is contained within. 

Epithelial (Skin) Tissue-- Topographic Layers, Coastal Cliffs and Erosion

Epithelial (Skin) Tissue-- Topographic Layers, Coastal Cliffs and Erosion

Cardiac Muscle-- Fibers of the Heart

Smooth Muscle with some Adipose (Fat) Cells that Flexibly Expand and Contract

The Sedimentary Layers of Skeletal Muscle Tissue

Osseous (Bone) Tissue Resembles Tree Rings and Sashiko Stitches

Hand-Bound Books for Local Author

I have long been in love with a book, A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance by Andy Couturier. What I love about this book is that it contains the stories of folks that, raised within the tumult of Japan's industrial powerhouse, have made the choice to diverge and lead simplified, sustainable lives of ongoing inquiry that are deeply fulfilling. This book contains the stories of eleven artists, activists, philosophers, educators, makers, farmers, and poets who reside deep in the mountains of rural Japan. Their lifestyles have been intentionally refined to include the depth and beauty of a life filled with art, nature, contemplation, nourishing food, and an abundance of time. I think this book offers a very relevant reflection for our times. It is a book that I read to recenter myself. It is one that I also share with my students within the classroom, as I think that the stories and voices of the individuals carried within express the much needed wisdom, beauty, and guidance that we need to survive and live meaningfully.

I was happy to learn that the author of this book is local to Santa Cruz, and had the pleasure of meeting him at one of our local Farmer's Markets. This connection led us totalking about possibly creating a limited edition of hand-bound copies of A Different Kind of Luxury to support future publication of this book.

To begin, I hand-bound two sample books with materials that I thought were suitable and supported the stories throughout the book. The hardcovers are bound in indigo dyed cave paper, as well as graphite cave paper made from (strong!) flax fiber. The books are sewn with waxed linen thread and given additional structural support with old redwood scraps prepared by my fella, artist and craftsman Vincent Waring. Here are some images of the completed books--

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The open mouth-- 

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To learn more about this book, which will soon be republished as The Abundance of Less, visit here