Today is Earth Day and I wanted to post something.  This blog is seriously lacking in terms of posts, and I suppose with three jobs and a baby, it’s easy (and understandable) to devise reasons to dedicate my time elsewhere.  But I could make the time as I am today, so no excuses here.

Some Background: “The Pale Blue Dot” is a photograph of Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft.  It was none other than Carl Sagan, science popularizer himself, who requested that NASA turn Voyager’s camera around as it left our solar system after it’s primary mission had been completed.  The photograph of Earth was taken from 3.77 billion miles away – a distance hardly comprehensible to our human minds, yet explicit in its profoundness.  This unique perspective of our tiny world demands poetic reflection.  One such reflection was provided by Carl Sagan and provides a fitting Earth Day tribute.

So here it is.  One of my all-time favorite YouTube videos: Carl Sagan’s reflections on “The Pale Blue Dot,” set to the ambient musical stylings of Scottish post-rockers, Mogwai, and clips of recognizable hollywood-favorites and modern history.

The text if read silently on its own struggles to live up to the profoundness of the photograph.  But this is less a comment on Sagan’s talent with the pen, and more a recognition that perhaps in this case, a picture really is worth more than a thousand words.  Sagan’s voice and cadence makes up for some of this by providing a professorial yet fatherly tone – something between a soft, intimate conversation around a campfire and the on-edge dialog of The Matrix’s Agent Smith.

Mogwai provides the background canvass for Sagan’s vocal air-brush with their song: “Stop Coming To My House.”  It would be difficult to select a more fitting piece of music to go with Sagan’s reading.  The song seems to bring the epicness of the photo into almost conceivable expressions.  Whatever it was that Sagan lacked in word and voice, it is somehow made up by the textured echoes and slow arpeggiated riffs.  Through the song we begin to feel in a deeper sense the meaning for the photograph.  This complimentary nature between word and melody obviously isn’t new, but it is here that we have a prime example of why poetry is supposed to be heard out loud and how music (if it fits the poem!) can enhance the experience.

While the pastiche of movie clips often feels contrived and is at times distracting, for the most part I think it captures the poetry and meaning of the work as a whole.  In many of the clips, having seen the movie and recalling the emotions invoked from them assists in the overall experience.

In regards to the text, I absolutely love the raw, awe-inspired emotion.  However I think he gets it wrong when he says things like “On a scale of worlds, humans are inconsequential” and “Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”  I don’t necessarily think he gets it wrong, it’s the logic behind it that I have a problem with.

I disagree with the notion that simply because we are so small and are in no way physically “central” to the Universe that we are “inconsequential” or “not important”.  Maybe we are those things, but it seems irrational to use size and centrality to make that argument.  There are plenty of things in this Universe that are incomprehensibly small, like electrons, but as it turns out, are quite important and meaningful indeed.

I think the photograph does make us ponder those things and perhaps it does challenge those notions, I just think it’s a mistake to equate size and position with importance and significance.  I have the same sort of problem with an argument on the other side: I have major problems with those who espouse the anthropocentric worldview simply because we are smarter and otherwise more capable of control than all other species on the planet.  Intelligence isn’t a justifiable argument for the view that we are the most important beings on this planet.  And size (all jokes regarding the male anatomy aside) isn’t a justifiable argument for significance.

Everything else I completely agree with.  I can think of no clearer way to put what the photograph means to me than by Sagan’s final lines: “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.  It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known: the pale blue dot.”

Happy Earth Day, 2011

Read the rest of this entry »

 

 

Holiday Message 2010 – Unabridged

What a year it has been!  New beginnings galore!  New baby.  New jobs.  New opportunities.  I graduated from Boise State last December with a degree in business management and I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in terms of a profession, much less have any clue what I wanted to be when I “grew up”.  I wanted to keep my options open with a business degree but at the same time my passions lead me down different academic roads – hence my minors in history and philosophy.  In my last semester I fussed passion with practicality and realized the potential benefits of an education geared toward business while still pursuing the kind of life I wanted to live: a simple life, connected to the community, and close to the Earth.

I became interested in the local, organic food movement a few years ago for many reasons – concern for the environment andbenefits to personal health the chief among them.  My interest quickly grew deeper than that of a consumer, and I felt the call to pursue a life of organic farming.  I want to grow food not just for people, but for people I know and interact with.  I want to be in a profession where I know that I am leaving the land healthier than it was the year before.  I want to work for a movement that strives to make communities truly sustainable (environmentally, socially, and economically) and resilient enough to absorb shocks to the system.  I want to be apart of a community of farms, eaters, and restaurants that operate under a new paradigm of cooperation, openness, and concern for quality and people (as opposed to cost and the bottom line).

So I looked around for apprenticeship opportunities in the area, and Mary’s farm stood out immediately as the ideal place.  Being as new as I was to even the idea of farming, I thought it would be a positive experience to learn from somebody who had started out as I was, fresh to the field.  I also knew that Mary is an integral part of the Boise local food movement, and training under someone so connected would be extremely beneficial.  I loved how the farm raises ducks.  I lovedthe vision the farm enacted of an holistic system, striving for minimal off-farm inputs.  It’s easy to see Mary’s profound dedication to the health of the animals, to the land, and to the people who make her farm possible.  So I applied and I was, gratefully, accepted.

The apprenticeship was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  I had the unique and fortunate experience of being the only apprentice.  So, while I felt like a regular green-horn, I was treated like an integral part of the farm from very early on.  Every thing from the farm, to the crew, to the members that support us made it such an unbelievable experience.  I consider myself unbelievably blessed to have the opportunity to continue to grow (pun intended) at Morning Owl.  I can’t think of a better farmer, teacher, and friend to learn under than Mary, nor can I imagine a more passionate group of people to grow food with.  I would also be hard pressed to find a better community to grow food for.  I am pumped, monumentally pumped, for the future and for the movement.

 

During the summer I also became a father!  Just before graduating my wife and I discovered we would be having a child.  It was not unexpected, but we were surprised by the… ease of the sowing.  The pregnancy went swimmingly.

Kolbie was amazing and very much ready by the 14th of August (a few days past due) to have the baby.  Finally, at around 3:00 in the AM on August 15th, 2010, after a slow 16 hours of labor, the womb reached critical mass and launch was imminent.  At 3:16am we had our little girl, Danika Elizabeth Meyer.  She weighed 8 pounds 3 ounces.

There is an endless list of cliches regarding the birth of a child; most of them true, many of them incomprehensible, all of them devoid of the proper poetry to describe such a thing.  It is a fierce love.  A lovewe felt very early on in her pregnancy, and one that has only tightened its grip on our hearts just as Danika tightens her little hands around our fingers.  And, just like her, the love grows with every passing day, with every moment, with every soiled diaper, with every three-second smile, with every ambiguous cry, with every new face, with every new sound, with every self-discovery, with every flash from her pale blue eyes – it grows.  What fun.  What a challenge.  What a joy.

It can be a difficult thing to recognize the best times in one’s life while they are in the midsts of happening.  That’s not surprising.  It is in our nature, it is to our advantage, and it is the deepest and most powerful way to live our lives, fully in the present moment; not to be bogged down with yesterday, and not to be preoccupied with tomorrow.  But every once in a while it is not the slow rolling passage of time that is required for perspective and understanding, but a kind of present moment so power, so defined and crystalized in clarity, that full awareness of its significance in the great timeline of our life is not only inevitable, but profoundly imprinted on our character.  2010 was filled with these moments.

Here’s to 2010.  As it fades into memory, may it usher in a new chapter of growth and learning for 2011.

Entry #10 – 12/27/10

The following is an excerpt from my Morning Owl Farm Apprenticeship Application.

5. Describe an experience that changed your life

Buying a 1969 VW Bus on eBay.  The bus was in Vancouver, Canada, so after winning the auction, I hitched a ride with Kolbie’s brother who lived in Seattle, and I made the day-trip up I5, then drove the bus back to Boise.  I learned two things from this experience: 1) When you really truly want something and you pursue it with your whole being and don’t let up, it will either happen or you will realize (with full understanding) that it was not meant to be.  2) Personally, I need to consider more carefully what I chose to “pursue with my whole being” – as I am certain there are more important and beautiful things than cool vehicles and material possessions that merit such pursuit (things like a life of organic farming).  I sold the bus in the summer of 2009 with no regrets and lessons learned.

Other life changing experiences:

  • Watching the movie Mind Walk.
  • Reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
Entry #9 – 10/10/10

The Big Bad Wolf Makes Good: The Yellowstone Success Story and Those Who Want to Kill It

By Chip Ward

This article hit Truthout.org and some other alternative news outlets the other day and I wanted to share it.  It begins by exploring both the biological and intrinsic value of wolves in the West and goes on to talk about some of the political discussions regarding their reintroduction to the region.  The article ends with a call for a shift in thinking, a new paradigm.  I have included some excerpts from the article:

Here’s the piece we still don’t get: when we exterminated wolves from Yellowstone in the early 1900s, killing every last one, we de-watered the land. That’s right — no wolves eventually meant fewer streams, creeks, marshes, and springs across western landscapes like Yellowstone where wolves had once thrived.

The chain of effects went roughly like this: no wolves meant that many more elk crowded onto inviting river and stream banks where the grass is green and the livin’ easy. A growing population of fat elk, in no danger of being turned into prey, gnawed down willow and aspen seedlings before they could mature. Willows are both food and building material for beavers. As the willows declined, so did beaver populations. When beavers build dams and ponds, they create wetland habitats for countless bugs, amphibians, fish, birds, and plants, as well as slowing the flow of water and distributing it over broad areas. The consequences of their decline rippled across the land.

Meanwhile, as the land dried up, Yellowstone’s overgrazed riverbanks eroded. Life-giving river water receded, leaving those banks barren. Spawning beds for fish were silted over. Amphibians lost precious shade where they could have sheltered and hidden. Yellowstone’s web of life was fraying and becoming threadbare.

The unexpected relationship between absent wolves and absent water is just one example of how big, scary predators like grizzlies and mountain lions, often called “charismatic carnivores,” regulate their ecosystems from the top down. The results are especially relevant in an era of historic droughts and global warming, both of which are stressing already arid Western lands. Wolf reintroduction wasn’t a scheme designed to undermine vacationing elk hunters or harass ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands. It wasn’t done to please some cabal of elitist, urban environmentalists eager to show rural rednecks who’s the boss, though out here in the West that interpretation’s held sway at many public meetings called to discuss wolf reintroduction.

Let’s be clear then: the decision to put wolves back in Yellowstone was a bold experiment backed by the best conservation science available to restore a cherished American ecosystem that was coming apart at the seams.

Wolf predation accounts for only about 1% of livestock deaths across the northern Rockies, but those deaths generate disproportionate resentment and fear.

On one side is a historic/traditional resource management paradigm that sees our Western lands as a storehouse of timber, minerals, and fresh water; on the other side, a new biocentric orientation driven by conservation biologists who see landscapes as whole ecosystems and all species as having intrinsic value. At one end of the spectrum lie strip-mining coal companies; at the other, deep ecologists.

citizens generally won’t take [polluters] on until they grasp that the deepest link they have to their environment is their own bloodstreams. Once they understand the pathways from a smokestack or a poisoned watershed to the tumors growing in their children’s bodies, they can become a powerful force.

Today, a rancher who expects to do business in a predator-free landscape is no more reasonable than yesterday’s industrialist who expected to use the nearest river as a sewer.

We now understand far better the many ways in which nature’s living communities are astonishingly connected and reciprocal. If we could only find the courage to trust their self-organizing powers to heal the wounds we have inflicted, we might become as resilient as those Yellowstone wolves.

Entry #8 – 9/30/2010

 

 

 

Born: 08/15/2010
At: 3:16am
8lbs 3oz

So beautiful.

A Cradle Song

Sweet dreams form a shade,
O’er my lovely infants head.
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams,
By happy silent moony beams

Sweet sleep with soft down.
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep Angel mild,
Hover o’er my happy child.

Sweet smiles in the night,
Hover over my delight.
Sweet smiles Mothers smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes,
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.

Sleep sleep happy child,
All creation slept and smil’d.
Sleep sleep, happy sleep.
While o’er thee thy mother weep

Sweet babe in thy face,
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe once like thee.
Thy maker lay and wept for me

Wept for me for thee for all,
When he was an infant small.
Thou his image ever see.
Heavenly face that smiles on thee,

Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are His own smiles,
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.

– William Blake

Entry #7 – 8/15/2010

A poem by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Entry #6 – 7/26/2010

This has been a strange season.  I have heard experienced farmers (some who have been farming for decades) say they’ve never seen anything like this.  Though no Spring will blossom like another, there are of course extremes that standout from time to time to confound us, to baffle us, and to remind us just how little control (if any) we have of some things.  It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to be in a line of work that is so at the mercy of the seasons, the weather and their innumerable, unpredictable variations.   It is unbelievably freeing but at the same time, madly frustrating.

It started, at least for my part, with an unusually warm late-winter.  It seems to be tradition in Boise that in late February or early March, people, drunk off the first warm rays of sun, ruffle through their dresser drawers, trading out their winter coats for light sweatshirts and short-sleeves.  They stumble out of their air-tight homes in a squinting stupor, soaking up the still-low sun to the South and somehow convince themselves that Spring has sprung.  This little tease, this … ruse of Mother Nature’s, usually lasts a day or two before the reality of the true season comes back like a cold hand on the neck and a short-lived conviction is revealed as nothing more than a whisper of a wish, shivered out through tiny hairs on the arm.  The exception for this past winter was that the ruse lasted a couple weeks and the biting cold that so often characterizes Boise in the first few months of the new year, had no teeth.  Spring attempted to make up for this in two ways; by staying cooler for longer and copious amounts precipitation in its various forms.  As spring slowly arrived without any real transition it was unpredictable, wet, and indiscernible.  Summer, thus far has been wearing different shoes as well, stable and well-meaning, but dragging her feet.

We were in the green house for most of the early Spring but when it came time to get stuff in the boxes and in fields we quickly and quietly got about three weeks behind schedule, mostly due to poor weather.  Despite the early setbacks in the planting schedule, the cold crops or ‘the greens’ (lettuce, spinach, kale, boc-choy, broccoli, etc.) were absolutely beautiful this year, thanks to continuously cool temperatures and lots of Spring rain (even into June).  For other crops such as peppers, tomatoes, and squash that need the heat, the weather hasn’t been so welcome.  Temperatures have remained relatively cool throughout Spring and into Summer (there was snow in May, hail in June, and the high yesterday on the 14th of July was 83) and there has, thus far, been only one day in the triple digits.  At Morning Owl Farm, in the six years it has been in operation, never has it snowed after getting tomatoes in the ground – this year it did (and they were even late getting in).  Hail has been a factor, effectively throwing a layer of ice on crops that would rather be basking is hundred-degree sun.  Boise even saw a tornado on a cold windy day in early June and though the tornado didn’t touch the farm, the wind left its mark by taking out a portion of a fence in the upper garden.  The result of the late planting and this “interesting” weather has been that most crops have been slow to come on.  As of today, peppers actually seem to be doing alright; smaller than they should be, but tasty, tomatoes are small and green when they should be harvestable, squash started to pop after a short heat spell but have since slowed with cooler weather.

For this strange weather, Matt blames the Icelandic volcano, I blame climate change, and Mary says it is what it is.  For all practical purposes, I like Mary’s answer best, but, as with most things, it is probably a combination of all these things and more.  For me – being the newb that I am – I guess it truly just is what it is, but in a way I can sense that things are a little off.  It is not good or bad, just off.

In a particularly raw and personal weekly news letter sent to M.O.F. members on June 21st – the summer solstice; a day marked by the sun’s zenith, the longest day, and the passing of a season that wasn’t necessarily kind to local farmers – Mary described her frustration:

“…I thought of the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round. Indeed they do. I want to curse the season we just gave up. It seemed to never end. It seemed to never have an identity all its own, too influenced by a winter with no real backbone of its own. I wanted to separate the two, insist that spring wear its own clothes and stop trying to be something it ought not be…”

Mary’s strength and wisdom that flowed from that news letter came not only from her ability to speak honestly to herself and to others about what she thinks and feels but also from her continued passion for learning.  She goes on to talk about what she has learned this season.  She doesn’t talk of it like the lessons are silver-linings, or that bad things bring about good things, or that bad things are just something we are made to suffer.  She doesn’t go digging for the lessons either, making something out nothing.  She simply recognizes that it’s a real, beautiful part of life and learns from it.  Learning takes effort, it takes humility, it takes dedication.  It is also a never-ending process.  Here, today, it is learning to live with the land, instead of against it.  It is learning to see and appreciate the necessary connection between sun and peach, water and tomato, dirt and potato, shit and food, death and life.  It is understanding those bonds that bind us as a community of life and hold us together as community of people.  It is learning to embrace ambiguity, struggle, and even your own angry feelings – not in order to appreciate their opposites – but to realize that this is a beautiful part of what it means to be alive.

Mary put it best:

“…if I don’t learn from farming and its relationship to the seasons that life is not to be cursed, it’s to be savored and enjoyed one bite at a time, that if I don’t grasp that it’s to make and hold and cherish memories, that it’s for planning and scheming and failing and feeling and for being grateful when someone else makes lunch and makes a miracle of the mundane, that if I don’t learn that, REALLY learn that, then I will never be a good farmer. Less fighting, less competing, more appreciating more cooperating. Why do any of this at all if not for appreciating the connections we make and hold and that make and hold us?”

Entry #5 – 7/14/2010

 

 

 

 

The following is an excerpt from the Morning Owl Farm Apprenticeship Application I filled out in January or February of this year.

Application Questions:

1. Why do you want to apprentice on an organic farm?

I graduated from Boise State University in December 2009 with a degree in Business Management.  Despite the fact that I also double minored in history and philosophy – two subjects I love but can’t “do much with” (aside from teach) – I was plagued with regret by my “safe” decision to study business and “keep my options open.”  Initially I chose this path of business – a road overly traveled – because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I realized very quickly that a career in the corporate world wasn’t for me, but I still didn’t know what to do.  My schooling experience became increasingly characterized and dominated by contradiction and contention between what I was studying and who I was becoming as an individual, as a member of society, and as a being on this planet.  By the time I found my passions I was in my last years of school and just needed to be done.  Today, I find myself in a better place where I’ve realized the potential benefits of an education geared toward business while still resolving to live a life I can be at peace with.

So what about the question?  Why do I want to apprentice on an organic farm?

The philosophical and lofty version: An apprenticeship on an organic farm opens up opportunities for me to live the kind of life I’m passionate about – a life close to the earth, connected to the community, and working towards a new paradigm.

The practical version:  Though I’ve always had a love for things that grow, I have zero background in farming (aside from the typical backyard garden).  I simply need hands-on experience.

Entry #4 – 7/13/2010

Currently Reading:

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer
By Joel Salatin

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
by Eliot Coleman

The New Organic Grower
By Eliot Coleman

Recently Read:

Eaarth - Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
by Bill McKibben

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
by Lierre Keith

The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
by Ben Hewitt

Anthill: A Novel
by E. O. Wilson

Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests
by Jensen, Draffan

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