misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Environment

Gratitude for Trees

By on September 17, 2019

The living creatures of the Earth – trees, shrubs, flowers, water, rock, soil, insects, and bugs – they came before us and will likely be here long after we have departed. Today as I practiced walking meditation in my yard, there was an abundance of Butterflies. The lifecycle of these beautiful creatures is wonderful to observe. As the Caterpillar’s crawl around the yard and on the fence, they find a place to cocoon before allowing the Butterfly to spring forth. They then nurture the plants and bushes. They bring joy to those who observe. Their playful flight, to-and-fro, without seemingly needing anywhere to go or anything to do. Such a delight! And for 56 million years they have been practicing this dance.

Native Plants and Butterfly
© Kenley Neufeld

As a young teen, I delivered the local newspaper in the early mornings. I lived in a place with dense fog on many winter mornings. This being caused by a relationship between the earth and the sky. They touch each other and interact together. These early mornings brought dew to the Sycamore trees lining the streets. The density of the quiet. Each drop could be heard as it moved from the fog, to the tree, and then to the dry leaves upon the ground. This sound. This feeling. It still penetrates into my consciousness 40-years later. There is a sadness for me that the current generation of young people have not experienced this fog. The newspaper is now delivered by adults in cars. The land has heated and dried up so there is not so much winter rain to soak the ground that brings forth the fog. I do hope for its return. Fortunately, the Sycamore remains standing today. But it disappeared from Europe; will it suffer the same fate in North America? 

Source: maxpixel.net

Today I saw an Oak tree with one limb torn from its trunk. It was a 20-foot tear from this lovely creature. These majestic trees can live over 100 years and few saplings are produced. The California landscape is still blessed with these trees despite harsh summers and dry winters. The shifting climate will cause these trees to suffer as new trees are slow to take root and old trees fall or lose limbs. They are a part of the shifting landscape that isn’t only about the Oak, but also the bugs, insects, soil, and Chaparral that rely on the Oak for protection and food.

In the last month, I read The Overstory, by Richard Powers and Braiding Sweetgrassby Robin Wall Kimmerer. The first being a novel and the latter exploring indigenous wisdom alongside scientific inquiry. Both books look toward nature and plants as a source of wisdom, a source of inquiry, and a source for us to take a bold step forward. Kimmerer writes,

If we use a plant respectfully it will stay with us and flourish. If we ignore it, it will go away. If you don’t give it respect it will leave us.

It is from these books I draw inspiration for writing and shifting my attitude and actions. 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. That is where we can begin our healing with the Earth. To see, to recognize, to give thanks for the offering. The trees that bring us life. Air to breathe. The Bees that pollinate so that we might eat the fruit. Like the tree is connected to the soil, we are connected to the tree and subsequently the Bee. As we begin each day and arrive in each moment, look to your surroundings and cultivate a sense of gratitude. That floor you walk upon was once a tree, cut by a person and delivered to your community by a vehicle. Can you see the tree within the floor? Within the walls? Were these created with respect and thanksgiving? What respect for nature can you bring forth today? Just saying thank you and offering to do better may be enough in the moment. 

Then gaze from your window. Do you see something alive in the world? Wonder about it. The rocks are no less important than the soil, or the insect, or the tree. We may all have the opportunity to see the sky, that which keeps us grounded to the earth and is part of the lifecycle of water, wind, and air. Each of us can do this! 

If you are one whom capitalist economics have destroyed your environment, your home, and your community then you too can begin with this practice of gratitude. Let your awareness of the damage be a catalyst to rise up in voice and action. We all need to hear your voice. I hear your voice. I see your suffering. It calls for justice! 

To be an environmentalist is to allow yourself this exercise of gratitude. To see and love nature, even when it has been destroyed. It is a place from which we can advocate for those creatures without voices – trees, shrubs, flowers, water, rock, soil, insects, and bugs. Then coming from a place of love and compassion, we can extend this love and compassion to our advocacy for environmental justice.  

One Bowl and One Spoon

The “One Bowl and One Spoon” metaphor, written about in Braiding Sweetgrass, speaks to my heart. If we can see all the Earth provides is contained within one bowl and is served with only one spoon, then perhaps we can take the step toward greater ecological compassion. Stewardship. Reciprocity. Reparations. We can take care of her and learn to share all the wealth the Earth offers, for she remains abundant. In doing so she can begin to heal. And from this healing we can live better in relationship to her and all the creatures of the land. To recover the inequities brought forth over the centuries so we can embody the Earth’s life-giving offerings more equally.

Pictures from a Commute – After a Fire

By on February 24, 2018

As many of you know, the Ojai Valley and areas toward Ventura and Santa Barbara experienced the largest wild fire (The Thomas Fire) in California history during December, 2017. For those who didn’t lose everything, life has mostly returned to normal and we are the lucky ones. Although things feel more normal, I am reminded on a daily basis of the fire thanks to my commute from Ojai to Santa Barbara. More recently, with just the one rainfall in January, some green and plant-life has returned. Nature is certainly a wonder! I offer this pictures as a reminder to everyone and to show a little snapshot into what I see on my way to/from work. We begin with a short time-lapse followed by stills. All photos taken along Highway 150 between Ojai and Carpinteria near Lake Casitas. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by Kenley Neufeld.

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Love Letter to the Earth

By on March 9, 2014

nasa-earth-wallpaper-1920x1080_731987765Dear Mother Earth,

I feel you under my feet. The gravity holding me close to you. You are alive with the energy of soil, water, and minerals. I see your children all around – the birds, the snails, the flies, the hens, the coyote, the rat, the orange blossom, the trees, and the mountains. Dear Mother Earth, you are a true wonder. When I look up to the sky, there is the atmosphere protecting us from the dark vastness of space from which you originally came. How is it that you came to be the most beautiful planet in our solar system? The intimacy of our relationship to the atmosphere and the mighty sun is beyond belief. There would be no life here without the atmosphere and the sun.

I recognize that you came from stardust all those billions of years ago and that every single cell and atom arose from you and that one day all will return to you and continue. There is no birth and no death. Even the scientist can see this. There is an interconnection to everything on this planet that goes well beyond any religious belief, political boundary, economic status, or race and gender.

Dear Mother Earth, you have lived so many millions of years without the human, the animal, and the tree. Your cycles do not rely on my being here in this form and that you’re strength and solidity will continue long after I am gone. This body of mine will join with you. And so, we are one body and today in this age we rely upon each other. Interbeing! I am you, dear Mother Earth. The connection has a deep and long history from the beginningless time. There is little difference between your well being and my well being. Taking care of you dear Mother Earth is taking care of me.

Dear Mother Earth, I have not always been so skillful. I have been careless with our resources believing that I will always have everything I need. There are times when I don’t see our deep interconnection, out of ease and convenience, and that to take care of you is to take care of me. Please help me to see beyond my microcosm of the world into the richness of this country, this continent, this hemisphere, this planet. Help me also to see into the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds so that I might take better care of you dear Mother Earth.

Beyond the sun and atmosphere, water is one of our most precious gifts. Water sustains our lives – animal, plant, and mineral. And it is truly a miracle when I turn on the tap in my house and the water flows. This water comes from deep inside you Mother Earth and arrives to help sustain life. The water we have is good and necessarily. Please help me to see this miracle every day. I vow to take care of this precious gift.

Thank you dear Mother Earth.

I love you.

Google Apps and Nonprofits

By on April 8, 2011

I recently came across the Google for Nonprofits program and thought it might fit the need for a local nonprofit called Ojai Valley Green Coalition. At my 7pm appointment with their Executive Director and another volunteer, we had a great time talking about utilizing Google Apps for the organization. Originally, they came to me with a need to integrate document sharing, conversation, and calendaring. One of their biggest challenges as an organization is communication – making it sophisticated enough to be practical and easy enough for most people to use. Many things have been tried over the years. With the Google Apps option, this organization can integrate it all under their domain name and provide organization accounts to the key players. The added components for nonprofits are a bonus.

Based on past experience with Apps, I thought setting up the Google for Nonprofits would be a breeze. Though it was very simple to complete the application (contact information needed only), we then discovered we’d have to wait up to 30-days before it was reviewed and approved. This was only 5-minutes into our scheduled meeting! Fortunately, not all was lost, we discovered we could move forward by setting up a regular Google Apps account and later link it with the nonprofit component.

It took about an hour, but we setup and configured our domain to be hosted on Google Apps with a handful of users. Explaining as we went along, the two members seemed to understand the options provided by Google. Possibly the most challenging piece we’ve yet to resolve is that they are using .com for email right now but everything else is on .org – I think they should transition the email to .org to keep it all consistent (and then redirect).

Two key steps remain:

  1. Editing the CNAME and MX records for the custom URLs and the mail.
  2. Explore the Sites component to build an integrated environment for the organization’s committees – this is what they asked! Here’s an example of what it might look like. I’ve actually never used Sites, but I’m optimistic about this type of solution.

I had a great time teaching and learning more about these free tools. We have a month to tinker while we have Google review our nonprofit status. A fun Friday evening.

 

Writing an Introduction for 3k People

By on March 30, 2011

How do you write a 5-minute introduction for an award winning author and scholar for ACRL 2011? To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement, though I’ve done my homework.

I’ve known for several months about this introduction, and tomorrow is the big day to introduce Raj Patel. I read his most recent book, watched some video interviews, read a few book reviews, communicated with him via email, had a conference call with him to discuss themes, and made a few notes here and there. Despite this effort over a period of months it comes down to the night before and I’m actually giving the introduction some form.

I must work better under pressure. In my experience, when it’s real and the times up, then the creativity is released.

I loved the book. I love the themes. I’m a radical with socialist leanings. I’m deeply committed to equality, the environment, reducing consumption, and generosity. As a Buddhist, it’s easier to understand and embrace his solutions. Radical democracy, with full engagement of the population, is what we need and what is being proposed by the author.

Here’s the challenge. He’s speaking (and I’m introducing) in front of 3,000 academic librarians. Certainly a more liberal bunch than the average American but not uniformly so. I’m aware of this potentially more “general” audience and yet perhaps this isn’t necessary? Maybe I let it be what it is without any sugarcoating? After all, a few years ago we had John Waters give the keynote. It’s a librarian audience but the author has something to offer us that can be applied to scholarship and the dissemination of information.

I’m very excited. The introduction is written. I’ve rehearsed and will rehearse again few more times. Now I’d like to find a good iPad teleprompter app to scroll the intro.

I Am Not A Gadget: A Buddhist’s iPad Dilemma

By on February 20, 2010

Apple iPadNext month the iPad will be unleashed on the world and I want one. First question, how can I justify the cost against a household with a fixed budget. Second, balancing the desire to reduce consumption and the need to stay current with technology. Third, the balance of ubiquitous computing and family harmony. Finally, the environmental cost of technology.

When is enough enough?

Though I definitely don’t own a great deal of gadget technology compared to many others, it still feels like quite a bit. Specifically, I own a 2004 iPod Click Wheel, a 2008 iPhone 3G, a 2009 Flip HD, and a 2009 MacBook Pro. What does adding an iPad to the mix create?

Each piece of technology comes with its own environmental impact in the production, ongoing use, and ultimate disposal. Aware that I am only one consumer, collectively we consume and waste a great deal. It seems that we often consume without thought or awareness and we easily succumb to desire through marketing and possibly an underlying unhappiness. (more…)