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helwen: (Tower)
These are the 42 Ideals of Ma'at. They are based on the 42 Laws of Ma'at and were written by the Temple of Isis. These are sometimes hard to achieve, but all are worth striving for.

My thanks to [livejournal.com profile] druidharper, who shared them on her LJ this morning!

I honor virtue
I benefit with gratitude
I am peaceful
I respect the property of others
I affirm that all life is sacred
I give offerings that are genuine
I live in truth
I regard all altars with respect
I speak with sincerity
I consume only my fair share
I offer words of good intent
I relate in peace
I honor animals with reverence
I can be trusted
I care for the earth
I keep my own council
I speak positively of others
I remain in balance with my emotions
I am trustful in my relationships
I hold purity in high esteem
I spread joy
I do the best I can
I communicate with compassion
I listen to opposing opinions
I create harmony
I invoke laughter
I am open to love in various forms
I am forgiving
I am kind
I act respectfully of others
I am accepting
I follow my inner guidance
I converse with awareness
I do good
I give blessings
I keep the waters pure
I speak with good intent
I praise the Goddesses and the Gods
I am humble
I achieve with integrity
I advance through my own abilities
I embrace the All

And I agree with [livejournal.com profile] druidharper that they're excellent meditation material.
helwen: (Tower)
Got aggravated reading something by Richard Heinberg, who writes and lectures about peak oil and stuff. He may be a baby boomer himself, but I still don't appreciate him making statement like "The peak generation — the baby boomers — have a lot to answer for. They are responsible for all the consuming." (btw, although I'm using peak oil and generations as examples, this is not specifically about those.)

Um, hello? Consumption of fossil fuels began way before the first boomers were born, thanks. We didn't invent trains, airplanes, or automobiles. We didn't invent and drop the first bombs, or start the usage of hydrogenated fats to increase the shelf life of foods, or any of a number of delightful "advances" in civilized living. We didn't invent the telegraph or the telephone, either.

People of the baby boomer generation (born ~1945-1965 time span) may or may not have been brought up by their parents to conserve resources. They may or may not have been exposed to the concept in the childhood or young adult years. Despite all their parents having lived through the Great Depression (at least the U.S.) or other pre-WWII loveliness in other parts of the world, not all parents believed in passing on their experiences in conserving and common sense living. Some were determined that their children would never have to experience rationing, which tended to lead to not learning to plan or have forethought in some cases... other folks were well enough off and insulated from the deprivations of those earlier times that they have no idea what people are talking about.

My mother has two friends who originally lived in Germany, before WWII. One adamantly refused to believe there was anything wrong with pre-war Germany, but she lived a sheltered life and left Germany at a younger age than the other person. Only recently has she come to realize and acknowledge that there were serious problems in her beloved home country (economy, not just Hitler coming to power). Proof that even at age 98, one can learn and grow.

What the boomer generation did do was build on what existed, making better (well sometimes), faster, technology. They and the previous generation did great things in the field of medicine too, and other fields like astronomy, psychology, physics, archeology, etc. Some of it's great, some of it's a waste of materials. With cheap fossil fuels, there was (seemingly) plenty of resources to spread around, exploring different fields of interest, whether they were useful or not.

And of course the next generations after, also grew up in this world of 'anything is possible', and acted accordingly.

People have tried to caution against reckless, thoughtless use of resources, and these people come from a wide span of generations, including the boomers. Still trying.

Reading on peak oil and similar topics, you get to read all sorts of interesting statements, like nuclear power will save us, technology will save us, no wait all technology is bad!, we have to go back to doing things by hand! Discussions and articles can get quite polarized, and generalizations and absolute statements abound.

Now, I happen to believe that nuclear power isn't one of the viable solutions, in large part because the cost of building them is huge and our economy isn't strong enough to support the additional debt of building those -- also, they do use quite a bit of fossil fuel to make power, there's the problem of disposal of materials, and of course they use huge amounts of water, and considering half the country is suffering from varying levels of drought, that just seems like a really stupid thing to do. But, I digress.

I realize that generalizations can be useful, but quite often they can be harmful, get in the way of whatever message a person is trying to communicate. And this doesn't apply just to discussing peak oil/climate change/technology/etc., it can apply to most anything people are involved in. For instance, there are children being raised to believe the WWII Holocaust never happened. In the U.S. No doubt other places too.

Most of the folks who read my LJ would probably agree that statements like "All white people are more privileged than any other people" or "All black people do drugs" or "All teenagers are no-good slackers who play video games all day" aren't true. But there are people in the world who do believe these things. And it's scarily easy, in a world where so much hyperbole is seen in writings and speeches, on- and off-line, to fall into the trap of making generalizations. Many folks like the certainty of a black-and-white statement. It's comfortable, safe.

For better or worse though, living in our world has never been safe, not now, not a hundred years ago, not a thousand years ago. Life isn't black and white, it isn't always safe and comfortable, and no matter how far ahead you try to see and plan, the unexpected can happen and upset your carefully designed applecart.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. After all, some surprises we don't want, like car accidents or cancer, but some we do, like winning a scholarship or falling in love. And sometimes even the bad things can lead to good things, one never knows. So, learn what you can, prepare for what you can, try to keep an open mind....

Me, I'm just thankful for being alive, which gives me the chance to try to do good, be good, and have fun doing it -- preferably with company :) I _think_ that's one thing I can safely generalize on!
helwen: (Tower)
Got this in email from a friend:

Enjoy the Hot Chocolate . . .

A group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired.

During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups -porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the hot chocolate.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said:

"Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each others cups.

Now consider this: Life is the hot chocolate; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided us.
God makes the hot chocolate, man chooses the cups. The happiest people don't have the best of everything.
They just make the best of everything that they have.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. And enjoy your hot chocolate.
helwen: (Default)
Randy Pausch web site
This is his web site, where he's provided links to the full lecture in English and apparently someone subtitled it for him in Chinese as well. I think I'm most of the way through the lecture, so I'll probably just continue watching the segments, myself.

As of yesterday, he's still alive (Feb.15 would have the 6 month date) -- while there's no cure, he's still going for every day he can get to be with his wife and kids -- they tried another drug in combo with his current regimen, and it seems to help, giving him a possible 2-4 more months.

Every person is different, and every cancer is different. But attitude can make a big difference, both in the quantity and quality of life. This is not the first time I've seen this very thing, myself -- the wife of my former boss in Hartford, was also a very positive person, who led an excellent life to the end.

Of course, the lecture isn't about dying, it's about living. So, on that note, attitude makes a big difference in what you can accomplish in any pursuit. See the world as it is, warts and all, figure out your place in it, and act. As simple and as hard as that :)

On Living

Mar. 1st, 2008 12:11 pm
helwen: (Default)
A friend on LJ posted a video of Randy Pausch, giving a lecture on Oprah -- I couldn't actually watch the whole thing at the link he gave -- apparently Stumbleupon doesn't like my pc or something, so I looked it up on Youtube: Randy Pausch on YouTube

Randy Pausch is a professor at Carnegie-Mellon, but the lecture is on living -- being given by a man who is dying. The lecture he gives on Oprah is extremely good and I highly recommend it, although I also recommend tissues or handkerchiefs. Funny, truthful, and poignant.

He did have to condense his lecture to fit into a tv segment however, so if you want the full lecture, which he gave originally at Carnegie-Mellon, check it out at YouTube. There are several segments, I think 10 of them. It's definitely worth it because he goes into more detail, more examples, and develops points he covers in the above presentation more fully.

Here are links to the first of them:

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, Part 0

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, Part 1

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, Part 2

This are the ones I've seen so far. Do still have to get some other things done today, but this man is very inspirational, on how to live life, no matter what's happening.

[EDIT: The full lecture is actually easier to watch in some ways, because Randy is a funny and intelligent guy, so a lot less tissue/handkerchiefs involved]
Work hard. Work harder. Life life. Help others. Experience is what happens when you don't get what you want.
helwen: (Default)
Finally got back into weaving over the past several days, on the small floor loom. Had a couple of glitches in the warp I had to fix first -- a few threads that were twisted around each other, preventing one from going up when it needed to (they were on separate harnesses), and one that broke. The first was mildly annoying, the second more so, as it meant I had to advance the warp, losing some of what I could have been weaving on. I'd given myself an extra yard on the warp length, but advancing nearly half that could make the weaving at the end a little more interesting than I'd like.

With some warp you can leave the knot in the playing field for a bit, but this is very heavy yarn, so the knot was getting caught in the beater. I tried moving the beater a couple of times, and broke the thread again. So, repair and advance.

Current projects are new Crane bags for me and L. Threading pattern is for 2-2 twill. Basically the weft (horizontal threads) alternates crossing over two warp threads and then under two, all the way across. The pattern is set so that as you raise and lower the different harnesses, this process gets bumped over one space, so that you create parallel diagonal lines across the fabric you're weaving. The warp shows through rather distinctively in 2-2 twill, both color-wise and texture-wise. In some weaves you don't really see the warp (called weft-face fabric), and the texture is that the lines alternate being higher and lower.

These are going to be pretty bold-looking bags, for sure. My shoulder strap is blue w/hints of purple and some of the red warp showing through, L's is red on red. For consistency the warp for the body of the bags is of the same rust red as was used for the straps. But in addition to being a 2-2 twill, I'm also using two colors for the weft, in a pattern of 2 rows of one color and one of the other. The effect is a predominance of one color alternating with diagonal stripes of the red warp, but with a hint of the other color as accent.

Now, originally the bags were only going to have two colors, and of course my life would have been much simpler. But during the move the weft yarns we'd bought went missing, and eventually we went and bought new -- and then I found the previous yarns. Which, as it turns out, were not the same as what we'd chosen before. L suggested mixing the two, and while I wouldn't do it on something made for sale (how many people would appreciate the increased difficulty and increased time spent?), for personal use I was willing to give it a go.

I wove mine first, figuring I'd work out the bugs on mine before doing L's. It might have been wiser to do it in the other order as it turns out :D My two weft yarns are close enough in tone/color that if I lost track of what I was doing, I didn't always know if I'd thrown the 1-row color once or twice. One is the same as the strap, blue w/hints of medium lavendar-purple. The other is blue with bits of green. The two blue parts blend quite nicely, thanks. L's is working out much more smoothly, as his two weft yarns are emerald/forest green, and navy.

Since one shuttle goes back and forth, it always ends up on the same side (except when you're introducing something fiddly into the pattern, which of course I did a few times), so overall one shuttle isn't much trouble. The other needs keeping track of.

Remember how the pattern moves over one, to create the diagonal? Well, the 1-row shuttle does the same thing to the number row in the pattern, as to which color is being used for that row.

It's a simple pattern:
1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

This is how it works with two colors:
1b, 2g, 3g, 4b, 1g, 2g, 3b, 4g, 1g, 2b, 3g, 4g

So, you go through the pattern three times before the blue weft end up back in the first row of the 4-row pattern.

The bags have a flap closure, so I had some fun with changing patterns. On the flap I do the straight 2-color 2-2 twill for a bit, then introduce a line of mustard or ochre yarn, then a bit of the first, then another line of the mustard, then back to the first pattern.

The mustard yarn is thinner than the other weft yarns but I wanted to bulk it out to be more prominent. If I'd had two cones of the color I could have wound two parallel/twisted onto the bobbins, but I don't. So I shot the yarn across, beat it down but left the shed open, looped it around one of the end warp threads and then shot it back and beat again. _Then_ I changed the shed to the next row in the pattern.

In the band I created on the flap with the two ochre lines I'll be doing some embroidery. I'll at least put in the Awen symbol, and maybe some other things... or not. This has been a rather fluid process in some respects ;) I had toyed with weaving in a pattern, but I really don't know much about picking, so decided against it.

I continued with the original pattern over the top and down the back and bottom of the body, then changed pattern for the front. Here, I've alternated going forward 3 repetitions of the pattern and then reversing for 3 reps. This creates a zigzag going up the front of the body. Just another accent to the piece :)

One challenge with using more than one color is that you don't cut off the ends of the weft each time you switch - this adds unnecessary bulk and wastes time. You just leave the shuttle waiting at one end until it's time to use it again. Sort of. See, there's little loops that form on the edge, if you let them. Also, because the direction the shuttle is coming from isn't always in complete accord with what the warp wants, you can end up with an end warp thread that has no weft on it -- this will also happen in any twill pattern in which you have to reverse the pattern, like a diamond twill, for instance. One way to avoid this is to have a selvage (and edge that's even weave). Another is to have floater warp threads on either side of the weaving. I've never had much use for selvages in general, and I can't stand the floaters, so I chose a third option. I loop the shuttle over/under (whichever's needed) the end warp thread that would be passed over in the pattern, and _then_ shoot the shuttle the rest of the way across.

That takes care of the warp thread problem, but not the two weft threads problem. For them, whenever both shuttle are on the same end of the weaving, I shuffle them around each other once, to intertwine them. They help to hold each other in place this way, quite nicely. It's a slightly fussy move at first, but then you get the hang of it. And it's only necessary for some rows, not all. Sometimes I can just place the one I was just using down but forward of the other and pick the other up, and this automatically twines them, just enough.

The motion is a bit like water travelling down a stream, or the tide coming in at the shore. People who haven't really looked at water in motion probably think that streams in particular only go in one direction. But of course there are obstacles -- rocks, a curved bank, sticks and leaves. Watch water sometime, when it comes against a stone. You'll see quite a bit of it curl under, down, and backward against the flow, before it can continue on its journey further along its watery path.

Life is like that too. Sometimes it seems that we're going backward even when we're actually trying to go forward. An obstacle to our personal progress, be it financial, physical, spiritual, or some combination thereof, looms in the path. Perhaps, like a stream, it may be needful to rest a while in an eddy. Take time to rest, to build up strength, to study and learn, to meditate and pray. Then insight lights the way to the path around or through the obstacle, or perhaps like a leaf the obstacle is simply no longer there. Sometimes it simply isn't time to move 'forward', or whatever one's every day perception of forward may be. And eventually, you get there.
helwen: (Tower)
Interesting Archdruid Report this week. And as usual I enjoyed reading the comments too. I always have to make sure I'm firing on all cylinders when I read it, because some rather highly educated people contribute to it from time to time, so the language can be a bit on the Academese side... As the articles have progressed from the more hypothetical and long view of things to the more immediate though, I'm finding more points that I can relate to personal experience. But having some of the previous articles as 'back story' isn't a bad thing.

I've found that many skills are useful to have in life, the better to handle situations that come up -- be those skills hands-on like gardening or soldering, or mental ones like research, management and planning, or emotional/psychological ones like meditation or humor. And of course adaptability, although I'm not sure that's a skill per se, as much as a personal characteristic... one can choose to hone it though so, hm... I'm not a great thinker, at least not in that way, so I'll leave that to other folks.

This week's A. Report talked in part about how it isn't possible to create the perfect plan for dealing with the eventual transition from fossil fuels to other forms of energy, and that instead there may be several plans, and that we will likely have to work things out as we go along. I couldn't agree more, not just about the subject matter, but about doing things in life in general.

thoughts continued behind the cut )
helwen: (Tower)
I planted the potatoes today and [livejournal.com profile] fitzw worked more on one of the driveway beds.

I did some weaving yesterday and more today. Things are moving along, although even now I have times when it seems like I can't weave worth a darn. Mostly, I can get a good rhythm, the edges are looking decent, etc. Then there are the times I lose track of what I'm doing and interesting things occur. On average I'm weaving 15" per hour, which I think is pretty good. With steady practice I'm sure it will pick up a bit more. In the meantime, I'm getting pretty good at spotting where I am in the pattern when I've lost my place. When I don't notice in time, I've gotten better at backtracking to where I went astray.

I've joked in the past with students that mastery in the arts is not when you can create masterpieces like the famous artists in history, but when you've learned to correct/cover up your mistakes. Of course a cover up in this case is things like covering a blot with a flower, scraping a wrong letter in the calligraphy, etc. Some things can't be repaired and you have to start over -- life is like that.

Making mistakes is part and parcel of being human. Every artist strives to do the best he or she can do, but sometimes things just don't work out. Mastery is attained in how you choose to deal with human error, and material and equipment failures. Creativity and adaptability are key. So are humility and honesty. Those last two are important in realizing that if you overreach yourself, you're likely to be frustrated quite often, and that it's okay to acknowledge human/personal limitations. Also a lot less stressful... which is not to say that I don't push myself to try to improve or to learn new things, but you can't keep doing things if you break yourself on a project.

In many traditions, perfection is _not_ sought. I don't remember if it's the Quakers or the Amish, but there's a tradition in quilting called the 'humility block'. This is a block that was included in a quilt that was deliberately mismatched to the rest of the quilt. The Japanese also have a tradition of introducing a small imperfection into a piece, and I'm sure there are other cultures with similar things. In these ways of thinking, perfection belongs to the Creator/God/Goddess. Personally, I have never worried about including a mistake on purpose... there's always at least one mistake in anything I've ever made :D

My junior high art teacher told me that sometimes you have to know when to stop and walk away from a piece, so that you didn't overwork it. That was a tough lesson, because I hated to stop working until I could understand the process. But I tried it anyway (she was a good teacher), and sometimes I'd come back to the piece and decide it was done, and other times I could see what I couldn't see before, and finish it. Rarely, I decided it wasn't worth working over and that I had to start over.

The garden this year has definitely been one of our more challenging projects, between limitations of amount of land, soil type, time available, physical capabilities, and of course the weather. I've planned and re-planned several times, accommodating to things beyond my or L's control. It isn't the garden I originally planned, and this early on I can't be sure of how much it will produce, but we'll do our best to help things along, and accept what we're given, both in food and learning experiences. And leave perfection to someone else.


Mar. 13th, 2007 12:52 pm
helwen: (Tower)
A friend of mine and I have had talks about performing in public, and the fear and anxiety that can happen. I thought it was worth posting here in my LJ.

What do people fear? We usually talk about specific things, but in the end, it is a fear of the unknown. Why should anyone try to overcome their fear of the unknown? Depending on the fear, because it may be holding you back from what you yearn to do. It may keep you from living life. It may save your life. It may save someone else's. The reasons to overcome your fears are as many as the number of fears themselves.

Talk about an unknown to fear though! When you're performing for someone(s) you don't know, you have no idea how they'll receive the music and/or story. How do you read a roomful of people? Will they appreciate what you're singing or playing for them, will the story you tell be one they're interested in hearing? Will your voice crack, will you hit the correct strings, keys, holes? Will you forget a line, a verse? Will you completely mess up on the tempo? And if you do make an error, will they notice, will you be able to correct, and will they forgive the error if they noticed it, or send you running out of the hall/off the stage in shame with their scorn and laughter?

If you share something dear to your heart, will they understand and share that love of what you hold dear?

There is a lot to fear, in performing in public.

Fear is indeed interesting, and so are people and how they deal with it. For instance, someone may have a fear of heights but be able to ride a roller coaster. They cannot, however, ride a ferris wheel -- too much time to think about where they are.

Myself, I can deal with heights, and depending on the situation, greatly enjoy it. But I hate rollercoasters -- can't stand the sudden drops, especially if I can't see where the track went. But I'd probably love being on a hang glider; they've always held a tremendous appeal. For me it's not so much the height as whether or not I have some kind of support structure, be it ladder or wings and harness. And I don't like going backwards-headfirst either, but that one I've actually worked on dealing with, because it's more likely I'll be in a situation where I have to/will go backwards, than that I'll ever be on something like a rollercoaster, in real life.

I know I've talked with my friend about this before, but I'll try to express my approach to performance again, and maybe I'll say something differently this time, that will be helpful, or something will click... I know the performance thing is important to my friend, so it's worth the try, right? And perhaps something here will be helpful to others, and that can only be a good thing.

For performance I almost never go solo -- except when making a little speech in court or when teaching. The first time I ever came close to that was a talent show in junior high -- I was on stage singing, and a friend of mine was playing the piano next to the stage. It was a difficult piece for me, but the one that she was learning to play, so there we were. Part way through I lost track of where I was in the song and started to lose it -- the only thing that saved me was the Home Ec teacher, Ms. Morel, who was running the talent show. She was just standing there smiling and encouraging, and I took strength from her confidence in me to find the words and the place in the music where I could start the next verse and finish the song. I didn't win the show of course, but I got a heckuva lot of respect from other kids through the weeks following, and the rest of the school year was a lot easier on me because of it.

Speaking in class or in a small group I have gained more ease in, but speaking in court is still difficult. And I have a strong desire still to want to be able to sing for others, because I want to share my love of music (I'd also like to be able to dance in public comfortably, but I can only do that in company as well, not solo).

I fear singing in public, which makes it harder to produce music well (throat tightening, etc.). I approach it the same way I approached leaving Quodata (computer software company) years ago to try to find my true path, the same way I approach speaking in court or teaching, or anything else that means I have to put myself out in front of people. It's probably hardest with music because it affects me so strongly, but my desire to share what I love, so that others can share in how wonderful it is, is also very strong, and so I have to keep trying.

What I do and have done, is to repeat to myself that I have to have faith. Faith that things will work out. Faith that they'll see and feel things as I do. Faith that a connection will be made. Faith that this is the right thing to do.

It can be a fearful thing when instinct and training tell you that you should run away, that it can't work, that something terrible will happen. Faith seems like a small, weak, and helpless thing. There were many times right after I left Quodata that I was so uncertain of what was going to happen, that I would literally speak my mantra "Have Faith" more like "havefaithhavefaithhavefaithhavefaithhavefaith..." Eventually you realize that you have lived for another day, that you are in fact accomplishing things. It may be slower or less grand than you thought it would be, but it is also more manageable and less fear-instilling than you thought it would be. My mantra is ongoing still, and likely always will be, if more internally than before. This also helps to keep things more manageable and hopeful as well, because it reminds me of my connection to others, to the world, and to whatever forces are out there that have miraculously aided me in my chosen path in life.

I still sing primarily with a group of people, but it's a small group and every voice is needed, to create the whole. Which is a wonderful thing in and of itself. I can sing solo if I have to now; not as well as I might like, but I can do it. In Concentus sometimes we each have to take turns holding down a part singly as well, and that I'm able to do well, I think in part because I am doing it to support my friends, and I will do a lot for my friends, even sing alone on a part -- and it feels good to be able to provide that support too :)

Music and dance are both a celebration and intrinsic part of creation. To sing, play, or dance, to tell a story or poem from your heart, whether to express happiness, love, sorrow, humor, or anger, is to touch creation. And that is a joyful and awesome thing. These things all celebrate our connection and place within creation. That is why it is worth overcoming fear, so that we can share that celebration of life.
helwen: (Tower)
We just ran through the last of the oil we prepaid last fall and likely there will be one or two more deliveries before summer. [livejournal.com profile] fitzw and I were wondering last night how soon other people had run through their prepaid oil, considering we're relatively frugal. The office oil is shut off at night now (and the door closed of course), to further minimize fossil fuel use. I'm determined to use even less next year somehow, without freezing to death. Plus we have the older kitty to consider. We'll be building some of those solar panels from builditsolar.com this year....

I'd like to both save us money and save oil for future use. Since it does seem like alternative fuels are not what they're cracked up to be -- most of them are more trouble than they're worth, and since it's taking a while for most everyday folks to be able to afford the fancy solar panels, wind power, etc., the only responsible thing to do is to not use so much of our resources.

Btw, now that we've had the passive energy users (microwave, tv, dvd player, stereo) on power strips for over a month, the latest electric bill is even lower! And of course being more mindful of not leaving lights on all over the place, which we've been working on for sometime... plus watching less tv, I suspect, and turning off computers at night... Our usage for this past month was 361 KWH --- one year ago it was 640 KWH! Woohoo! And I actually like having the stereo and stuff on the powerstrip -- easier than trying to get at the outlets to unplug them, which is quite difficult in some places in our house. Plus, I like having control over the power, not wondering if they're sucking extra energy during peak hours or something (important during a heat wave or when storms have downed a lot of lines and stations are overworked).

That's why I'm getting more into making some of our own clothing, and cooking from scratch -- hence the need to broaden my cooking horizons, for more variety. And for clothing, at my height I usually have to alter stuff anyway, so why not just make the whole thing?

When you buy premade meals, you get whatever they put in it. Granted, you can shop carefully and choose better prepared foods, but sometimes they just don't have what you want -- or need, if you have dietary concerns. If we do the cooking, we _know_ what's in our food. Even now, when we're still using more premade foods than I'd like, I think we're both feeling better, healthier. It's been a slow road the past year, but some things we stuck to really well, like having yogurt, oatmeal, cheese & eggs, or occasionally ham & eggs, for breakfast. Lunch has been the iffiest part, because sometimes [livejournal.com profile] fitzw really wants to get out of the house, so we'll go out to lunch. Now we're starting to have lunch here, then go out and do errands or go for a walk, to get away from things. Dinner has improved since I stopped working at the chiropractors office. And, I'm actually starting to get more interested in cooking again.

And a lot of this is happening for two reasons: 1) we want to be more environmentally responsible, and 2) we want to save money, pay down debts, and move to Ashfield.

You'll note that "health" wasn't listed as one of the reasons. We tried that, but it didn't have the staying power of the other two. It has been a nice side benefit of the other two -- walking or biking instead of driving, for instance.

Now, I'm not going to go crazy and raise 100% of our food. Just isn't going to happen. BUT -- again, I like the idea of knowing what's in my food. So, if I grow it, I know it doesn't have pesticides all over it. And if I get food from the farmers market, unless it's marked 'organic', I can't guarantee it's pesticide-free, but there's a good chance that it's still less than on veggies or fruit from a conglomerate farm, and around here, it isn't too hard to get organic, really. My father-in-law has a nice truck garden, not organic in that he doesn't buy organic seeds, but he doesn't spray it either (altho' apparently he dusts potatoes, but he hasn't grown those in a long time). So, lots of good places to get good food.

Confession: My mom got me started in gardening when I was a kid. Loved digging and planting, hated weeding. Then I discovered mulch :)

This year we'll be growing lettuces, tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots, maybe potatoes. Squash, zucchini, and cucumber we can get from the farm. Maybe beets, but I'm undecided. We already have onions and various herbs in the ground.

My first two choices for home grown veggies? Tomatoes and Lettuce. Why? Because they're easy, they're good in salads, sandwiches, and straight off the plant. I try to grow both large tomatoes (esp. for sandwiches and cooking), and grape or sweet cherry. For lettuce, having a bunch of different kinds is good. I took a class with [livejournal.com profile] bunnyjadwiga last spring in VT and it was terrific! There's nothing better than being able to grab some leaves and tomatoes from the yard, maybe a few sprigs of herbs too, and throw together your own personal salad.

Mmmm. Independence.
helwen: (Default)
A song I've been hearing bits of as I play the CD Gaia Consort: Gaia Circles, from time to time, caught more of my attention today, so I finally got the little CD booklet out of the case and looked at all the words.

Song: Secret of the Crossroads Devil

I have seen the Northern Lights
Looked out my window at just the right time
I'd been waiting for a sign
When green and golden, they filled the night sky.
Now this vision it was mine,
But which direction? - So much to ponder
I would take a little time
I've waited this long, why not longer?
And the nights are getting colder
Does this touch of grey really mean I'm getting this much older?
Coyote's getting bolder, laughing right outside the door.

But if you want to see the Northern Lights
You gotta lift up your head and
If you wanna have some kind of life
Decide you're not better off dead and
If you want to read the mystic story written in your future
You better start to write it now...

Who can tell the truth from lies?
What's a life without examination?
I would take a little time
I've waited this long, why not longer?
And the nights are getting colder
And yeah this touch of grey really means I'm getting this much older
Coyote's getting bolder, stealing stuff right out the door.

But if you want to see the Northern Lights....

I met the devil in a field
I said "Oh finally! did you bring my contract?"
And the secret he revealed
Was that he waits for no one, and he's never made a single deal.
Meanwhile the nights have gotten cold
Yeah, that shock of grey means man you're really getting old
Coyote's got so bold, you know he's sleeping on your floor.

But if you want to see the Northern Lights
You gotta lift up your head and
If you wanna have some kind of life
Decide you're not better off dead and
If you want to read the mystic story written in your future
You better start to write it now...
You better start to write it now...

*** end song***

It's too easy to be complacent, to be comfortable, to put things off to tomorrow. And chances are, for most things there will be many tomorrows. But tomorrow you could be in a car accident, fall down a flight of stairs, discover you have cancer. And maybe you'll survive, and maybe you won't. Either way, things will never be the same.

You can't assume things will always be the same, because they won't. Life is about change, some slower, some faster, but always happening. You can't assume someone will always be there, because sometimes or someday they won't. Or they may assume you'll always be there, and you know that isn't true. So you have to cherish each day, and not leave all the things you want to do or need to do to "someday".

I've been known to say to people, especially friends who are trying to get in better shape but who might be getting disheartened or say they don't have time for exercise, that people were made to move. We weren't designed to sit still for hours at a time. Not to say that a little standing or seated meditation isn't good for you too, but overall, we were meant to move, physically, mentally, emotionally.

Connect to the world around you, open your eyes, your ears, your heart. There will be no denying then, what you need to do. Don't wait; write it now.
helwen: (Tower)
[livejournal.com profile] thorsbaby posted that someone at work thought he had his act together, and his thought was that the person didn't know him very well. Then he wondered if other people who seemed to him to have their act together really did, or were faking it.

A number of folks responded to the effect that probably other folks were 'faking it', were lucky to be able to pull things out of thin air or out of "their ass", etc.

My response was to agree with a lot of what other folks said, and also this:

"A person who has a life that is completely orderly has stepped out of the stream of life.

The question is whether you are really 'faking it' when pulling something out of the ether or out of the nether regions? Planning and organizing is all well and good, and I highly recommend doing one's best in those endeavors; but the person who cannot adapt when life throws a curve ball, has no true mastery of life whatsoever."

We try to make some sense of our lives and how we fit into the whole picture of "life, the universe, and everything". There is in fact an order to everything in life; we see it all around us in the mountains and rivers, the formation of clouds, the way a tree grows.

We try our best to sort things out, to have a place for everything in our homes, our work, our play. It's very helpful as we try to focus on setting and accomplishing various goals. Take the event I just helped to put together for this past weekend, as an example. I inquired after teachers, got class descriptions and sorted times for them on a schedule, checked out the classroom spaces, etc. The event steward coordinated the cooks, registration, and where the merchants and other activities would be located. Did everything go as planned? Of course not! Teachers got sick or injured just days before the event, one merchant was ill the morning of the event and didn't make it, and sundry other things. We called on backup teachers, moved some folks around, dropped a class from the schedule, and made it work. Did the attendees have a problem with it? Not at all! When the worst general complaint is that there were too many good classes so that they had to choose between them, you know you've done well.

Ah, but I had backup teachers, you say! In previous years I didn't... The very first year we had a teacher not make it because of car troubles, which we found out about the day of the event. People _at the event_ stepped up to volunteer to teach! It was simply amazing to me, and I haven't really worried about it ever since.

There are currents within or between the patterns that we may or may not be aware of. This is being explored on many fronts, by the way -- weather prediction software has been slowly improving, as researchers become aware of how each weather system affects the others, how the temperature of the land and air and water affect each other, how the waters deep under the antarctic affect the snow on the surface far above them, and more.

These currents help to change existing patterns and form new ones. For those interested in learning more about patterns, a good word to do a search on is 'fractals'. Researchers discovered that the pattern of wave movement in fjords is affected by the shape of the coast, and that the coast's shape is affected by smaller and smaller outcroppings -> rocks -> pebbles -- each a reflection of the shape of the other, just at a different scale.

So too with people's actions and reactions. Those of us who are very good at pulling solutions out of 'thin air', may simply be more aware of these patterns, more able to read them and see what possibilities and probabilities there are. The truly gifted pick the solutions that will be of the greatest benefit to all, even if it may not be the one that is "easiest" or the one that the individual who's choosing would personally prefer -- or so I believe.

Some solutions are selfish or short-sighted. They may be chosen because of greed and a lack of respect for others. And even if you want to choose a solution that's more wholesome and complete, you may not be able to... Sometimes you have to choose the short-term okay solution over the long-term better solution because of limited time, means, or resources. Or for larger-scale issues, you may have to because people simply aren't prepared to make the leap to the best solution. Then you choose the answer that will help things forward.

No matter how organized we may wish to be, it is simply not possible to be prepared for everything. Life happens. It's happening all the time. And this is a good thing, seeing as the alternative is stagnation. Our attempts at regularity in our lives, in the way we eat, exercise, meditate, work and play, are all good and healthy things to do; they are part and parcel of the patterns in ours and the universe's cycle. But we also need to be able to respond to change. How we respond is up to each of us.
helwen: (Default)
It's been interesting learning new things in the past few months, and especially in the past few weeks. I sometimes found it a little difficult to feel a part of my usual activities when many of my dicussions with others of late have been about trying to be prepared for the future.

I finally managed to sort through the Christmas village stuff (I don't have much, but it does take up space during most of the year), and have managed to let go of two buildings, 1 covered bridge, and some small accessories. Also threw out some things that had gotten mildewy. I expect some craft supplies in the attic will be going in the new year - I may even bring some to the New Year's Eve party for people to take, if the hostess is willing.

It's time to sort through things and activities, decide which ones get to stay and which don't.

One of the traditions of Chinese New Year is to clean the house before the new year. Another is to pay off all debts before then. In this day and age of mortgages and revolving credit, I just try to make sure everything has been paid on time, but the housecleaning has become pretty important, even though I'm not terribly good at doing it on a daily basis. Over the years I've extended the tradition to trying to clean the house before the current world calendar new year as well.

My definition of cleaning has changed somewhat over time, to include mental, spiritual, and physical cleaning.

--What ideas can I get rid of, what toxins can I remove from my system and my environment? Consider all possible toxin sources: food, cleaners, objects, rooms (ex: a damp basement), and people.

--What activities are superfluous to my immediate, mid- and long-term goals?

--In regard to the house, what physical items belong to those superfluous activities, that can now be given away/thrown out?

Although we are far from being able to seriously consider it, if in fact I can cull enough things to clear a room, I'm thinking a boarder could be an option, as a small source of additional income. I think with time and determination I can create enough space, both physical and psychological, that this could be possible. In addition to the income we would be sharing some of our resources with another person. We have a large house, which is one of the reasons I like to hold workshops and small gatherings here, because many folks don't have the space and our space is just waiting to be used.

Meantime, I get to experiment on a very small scale with gardening, weaving, solar power, etc. We have a few years to do this in, which is a big relief :) I would hate to have to try to figure out how to grow enough of everything for a year, this coming spring! Instead I get to try out different types of plants, see what grows well in this region and what doesn't, improve my spinning skill, re-learn how to can, etc. I'm walking more often, doing my yoga stretches and other fitness-oriented activities, reading and learning. To learn is to live; to live, learn... while being aware that 'learning' isn't always from a book, or about how-to's or everyday 'facts' :D


helwen: (Default)

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