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More Light

December 22, 2009

On the day after the Southern Solstice, I’m seeing a little light shed on a life that had become dark, obscured by shadows. It’s always bright somewhere—the darkness we live in, in winter, is nothing less than the shadow cast by the earth in her incline. Darkness can make one sad for biological reasons, but it is also a source of anxiety for deep psychological reasons—and as skeptical as I am of evolutionary psychology’s framework and conjectures, it just makes sense that we become anxious in dark times because we cannot see very well in the dark, and throughout most of our evolution as a species darkness has therefore represented vulnerability and even life-threatening danger.

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No Impact Week: Prep

October 17, 2009

I decided last week I would participate in the No Impact Week Experiment. I’ll keep a record of my adventures here, instead of using Ning (which I don’t like).

So far my impression of the project is that in a few areas, I won’t have far to go—transportation, for instance, isn’t a big problem for me because I walk or take public transportation pretty much everywhere I go. On the other hand, my diet is still higher in meat than I’d like, and I still buy things new too often. I also use far too much electricity. So in many areas I can stand to improve, and I hope participating in this project will help me. It sounds fun, and it also sounds like if enough people do it (and over 2000 are participating in this round) the momentum will build and possibly tip a few more people into the radically-sustainable column.

Tomorrow is consumption day, and also the day we keep track of all our trash to assess how much we’re throwing away. Tonight, I made a list of all the things I think I “need” to buy this week—starring vinegar, baking soda, shaving cream, fabric and dowels (for a yet-to-be-disclosed project), energy bars, a gift for my uncle’s retirement party, and a few more trivial items. After some reflection, I’ve decided I don’t need any of it. I have a plant I can give my uncle, the project can wait (it may be rendered unnecessary anyway), I have been meaning to switch to shaving with soap anyway, and the vinegar and baking soda can wait a week, unless I have another drain slowdown.

Tomorrow is also the day when I’ll collect all the trash I produce for the day so I can figure out where I can cut back on my waste on Monday.

What I like about the No Impact Week project is that it’s entirely guilt free. No one’s making you feel bad about your impact. We’re all coming at this at different levels, and we all have the same goals—to have a better, more fun, more sexy, more enjoyable life that is less dependent on the destruction of the ecosystems that make our lives fun, sexy, and enjoyable. But because we’re all at different places, the No Impact Project doesn’t recommend one set of rules for everyone; it aims to allow you to make reductions where you can and in the ways that make sense for your life. If you’re interested in joining in, you can still sign up here!

First Storm

October 13, 2009

It’s not really a seasonal rainstorm, but fragments of Typhoon Melor blown across the Pacific. Still, it’s giving me a good chance to take a look at what my outdoor kitchen and living room might be like for the rest of the rainy season. Read more…

Squirrel Wars

October 11, 2009

There has been a squirrel digging in my plants since I moved here. Last week, I built a squirrel cage around my most vulnerable plants, and so far it has worked; he doesn’t seem to be able to squeeze through the sides to get in and dig at them. Needless to say, after the failure of countless other efforts ranging from mulching to putting nails sticking up in the soil to eating meat and then pissing around them, I was most pleased with myself.

I told my housemate yesterday how pleased I was with my success, and we talked about the house’s history with this particular squirrel a bit; apparently he is very bold and a little aggressive (which I had noticed, since he kept coming up to me while I was building the cage with a kind of “what do you think you’re doing to my plants, human” posture).

While we were talking, we both heard a crash-tinkle as of glass breaking. We looked at each other. I went outside. The squirrel was running along my countertop knocking over my orchids, my glass jars, and miscellaneous other things, which he had not previously bothered. The crash was my orchid pot breaking. I grabbed for a broom like a maddened, bearded housewife, but he vanished into the vines to cuss at me.

You have had your day, squirrel. Now–it is war.

Recipe: Simple Satisfying Spicy Acorn Squash

October 9, 2009


1 small acorn squash, or half a large one

1 small red onion

Spices: Turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper, fresh ground black pepper, salt. (No spice measurements, sorry; I season to nose.)

Cut up the onion, and cut, peel, deseed, and cube the squash. Save the seeds for roasting later.

Oil a deepish skillet and heat it medium hot, below the smoke point of your oil. I used cast iron even though it darkened my onions a little.

Add the onions and stir. Sprinkle with some salt, some turmeric, and some black pepper. Stir more until they soften.

Add the squash. Season with some more salt and turmeric, and with a generous amount of cumin and a careful amount of cayenne. Stir to coat evenly and cover for a couple of minutes to roast. When the cubes of squash are sticking to the pan just a bit, add a cup of water to the hot pan to deglaze the caramelized squash, stir briefly, and cover. Cook undisturbed for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Then eat it up.

Main dish for one with some left over for later, or side dish for two.

National Coming Out Day

October 8, 2009

In honor of the upcoming National Coming Out Day, I want to disclose something that I feel a little bit embarrassed about. I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but our culture is so fond of heaping shame onto us for our personal choices that it’s hard to avoid accumulating some of it.

Recently, I made a big change in my lifestyle. Over the last few months, I’ve embarked on a new way of living, indeed even a whole new identity for myself, that has had an incalculable positive impact on my life. Ever since, I’ve been simultaneously wanting to share the news of my discovery and afraid to reveal my secret. You see, I’ve become a bidet user.

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New Year’s Resolutions

September 20, 2009

Eid Mubarak, and L’Shanah Tovah, for my Muslim and Jewish friends celebrating holidays. I’ve been quite busy preparing for the Yom Tov at work, and in my pagan community I’m also preparing for one of our High Holy Days, Samhain, coming up at the end of October. Like the Jewish High Holy Days it’s a time to reflect on the past year, honor our Beloved Dead, and make reparations for past wrongs and resolve to do better in the future. It’s one of the days when pagans of the past have marked the turning of the wheel of the year from the old year to the new—although in times past people of all faiths have been less concerned with separating one year from another at an arbitrary date. Both pagans and Jews recognize a “new year” in the fall and a “new year” in early spring, when the sap starts running in the trees and the first little shoots come up. For pagans, the spring “new year” is at Imbolc, falling on or around February 1, and Reclaiming-style modern pagans dedicate new year’s resolutions then, symbolized by the planting of new seeds in the still-cold earth. Come Samhain, we’re said to have “harvested” the benefits of our work through the spring and summer, and Samhain is the time to take stock of what we’ve reaped and begin to learn the lessons we’ll put into practice next spring. Thinking ahead to Samhain compliments celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days, when we recognize the New Year (which started Friday evening) and also have ten days between the New Year and Yom Kippur to make atonement for our mistakes of the past year and to resolve to do better. I’m grateful to be a part of a Jewish spiritual community where the emphasis is not on guilt and recriminations, but on celebrating the process of learning to be better friends to ourselves, the Holy, and one another. And I’m grateful to have seen some Muslim friends in services with us yesterday and had the chance to wish them greetings for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Ramadan fast and a time to gather and celebrate with friends and family, enjoy good food, and, often, to give to charity. Charitable giving is also practiced at Yom Kippur by Jews, and it’s a tradition I wish I saw emphasized more in my pagan community. I don’t think I know any pagans who don’t give to charity, but we don’t do it communally or visibly the same way, and I worry we won’t instill the values of generosity and mutual support in younger pagans if we don’t make it a part of pagan identity the way it’s a part of Jewish and Muslim identity.

There have been a few things I’ve felt badly about this summer. For one thing, I’ve been growing away from my Jewish community as I’ve felt less joyful about my work for my synagogue. I’ve come to see the diminishing of joy in my work there as related to a shift in priorities and a desire to pursue work that feeds values that I hold more deeply than I value organized religion. So I can’t regret those feelings. But I do regret that I’ve allowed them to harm the quality of my work and my relationships with my community.

In general, I’ve been making some improvements in my tendency to procrastinate and avoid work I feel negative about. But I’ve also become more acutely aware of how strong those tendencies are, and how pervasive they are, so it’s hard for me to feel as good about my incremental improvements as I otherwise might.

I’ve also been rather irresponsible with money this year. I’m making a commitment to cut my spending and save money so that I can have more freedom to do work that supports my values, rather than simply doing whatever will pay enough for me to live on (and eat out as often as I want, and buy things occasionally because I feel like it and not because I need to).

But on the up side, I’ve simplified my life quite a bit through getting rid of a lot of unnecessary things. I’m living smaller, and that should help me save money. I’ve made some decisions that I feel very good about, and I’m looking forward to putting them into action in the coming year. Now as we start to leave summer behind—by my reckoning autumn started at Lammas, around August 1, and winter begins at Samhain—the pace of life will start to slow down a little, and I’ll have more time for reflection, relaxation, and inner work before the next season of growth.