Sunday, December 14, 2008

this makes me want to create my own mythic walking shoes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

from khalil gibran's the prophet

"When you work, you fulfill a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born."

These words paint a picture to me of a baby being born. The earth and its people community say, here is a child. To this child, we entrust the safeguarding of this dream.

And so that child has a dream, a commitment, an obligation, to bring something unique, special to this planet, that only she or he ever could.

I wish that our jobs felt like this for us. I know that almost everyone I know does not experience this in their employment.

Currently I earn money by helping students to understand math. I like to help people overcome hurdles that are between them and what they would like to achieve. I like explaining math to minds that are curious. I like giving the underprivileged an advantage so that they can live up to their potential as humans. I like showing people that math is understandable and accessible.

But there are times when my student doesn't care about anything except passing, with minimal effort. When their cellphones go off and they try to hide that they are looking at them. When they want me to do all the work and thinking for them.

There are other times when the student is earnest and hard-working, but the skills that they are expected to master are so unbelievably silly, convoluted, and irrelevant to their life. I can see that the only way they are going to learn to do the math is to stifle the voice that says "why, what is the point?" "I would so much rather be learning something I am interested in!"

Why shouldn't they learn what they care about? Why has the curriculum of so many students been pre-determined? Why can't each child learn to follow their curiosity?

I think this brings me back to the quotation at the top. If a student has had to silence their true voice in order to get by, is it any wonder that when they turn 18, when they graduate and face an unbelievable array of choices of "careers"...that they are unable to know who they are, what they are supposed to do?

I am learning that each of us is unique, with a purpose, with special skills, gifts for our families, our communities, and our world. And I'm learning that children, even while quite young, need to be nurtured to discover their own uniqueness. Not in a spirit of arrogance, but as future contributors, as givers, caretakers, creators. In a spirit of generosity.

And what about my gift to the world? I think I have more to give than explaining math, although it can be fun. I would like to become wise, to learn to live at peace with myself, with others, and with God, my Father. I would like to learn how to live wisely and gently on this beautiful earth. I would like to give kindness and love to my family and my friends.

The amazing thing is that so much has been given to me by others who lived the truth of the prophet's statement. And I am grateful for that. The books that I read are gifts from writers who worked to express the wisdom they had gained in their short lives. People who do not write have taught me to live.

I guess it is a cycle of giving. Sort of like the cycles in nature, where nothing is ever wasted.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

books i've been reading lately

I'm not too far into it, but the first 3 anecdotes are vivid, unforgettable examples of how the global industrialization of food threatens the loss of so much wisdom and uniqueness and nutrition worldwide. More positively, this book promises to tell of many who are working to combat the trend of making food the same everywhere.

This book tells about traditions lost, that we thankfully can revive in order to regain health. It's a great resource. I'm reading about sprouting grains and soaking them.

An early Christmas present. I'm enjoying reading about Fukuoka's journey in trying to put his beliefs into practice, and after 30 years of trial and error and struggle, finally having remarkable success. It's encouraging for anyone who wants to change how they live. Never stop trying new ideas.

Maya Angelou's shares what she has learned with her spiritual daughters.

An inspiring book of photographs of traditional homes all over the world, primarily made of earth, thatch, and some wood and stone. It makes me happy to think that all that is required is ingenuity and work, because the materials are there already. And many of these homes can be built by women as well as men.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

excerpts from "one straw revolution" by masanobu fukuoka

The usual way to go about developing a method is to ask "How about trying this?" or "How about trying that?" bringing in a variety of techniques one upon the other. This is modern agriculture and it only results in making the farmer busier.

My way was opposite. I was aiming at a pleasant, natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder. "How about not doing this? How about not doing that?"--that was my way of thinking. I ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to plow, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, no need to use insecticide. When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary.

Fukuoka is quite the radical. Yet I think I agree with the foundation of his views. We've created such a headache of anxiety and complexity in the name of improving our lives and the world. But the truth is that by attempting to regain some of the natural balance, we can reduce our struggling, and simply rest in the perfect way that things were created.

A return to the natural way of things cannot happen overnight. It must come gradually, as one by one, we subtract the "improvements" that actually aren't helping at all.

Unnatural solutions always create new problems. If each successive round of problems caused by these unnatural solutions is again approached by fighting against, rather than working with, nature--the complexity and anxiety will be endless. On the other hand, if we take a step back and really see the root of the problems, we can re-examine our philosophy, simplify our lives, and solve problems by aligning ourselves with the way things were meant to be: simple, healthy, beautiful, peaceful.

Each of us can find our own way to prove that this is true.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


from "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Jose Arcadio Buendia was completely ignorant of the geography of the region. He knew that to the east there lay in impenetrable mountain chain.... To the south lay the swamps, covered with an eternal vegetable scum, and the whole vast universe of the great swamp, which, according to what the gypsies said, had no limits. The great swamp in the west mingled with a boundless extension of water where there were soft skinned cetaceans.... According to Jose Arcadio Buendia's calculations, the only possibility of contact with civilization lay along the northern route....

He threw his directional instruments and his maps into a knapsack, and he undertook the reckless adventure.


I peer in my knapsack to see what maps and instruments I am relying on. Because I am largely ignorant of the geography of my life, and yet something compells me, calls me, into the adventure. A sense of purpose, of impending discovery, beckons to me, and yet sometimes I feel like I lack the recklessness to step forth.

"I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings..."
--from The Harbormaster, by Frank O'Hara

from another book:

"The life of the spirit is not an assumption. It is a struggle. And the proof of its existence is not faith, but longing."

--Patricia Hampl

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

what an incredible day. i'm so thankful for such an amazing leader.
i am glad i voted.

Friday, October 31, 2008


..flinging your heart open to offer the best thing you could possibly give to the world.

imagine making that your passionate life's work.

i feel a hope blooming within me. this evening's light glows in the golden leaves outside. inside my chest, a different glow, with love for my husband who lights up my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

reading about masanobu fukuoka inspires me to write a lot of things

Masanobu Fukuoka was a pioneer of a very different type of farming. He advocated no-till farming, and i'm super excited to have gotten an electronic copy of his book from a holistic agriculture library at

I have to share a quote i picked up on wikipedia:

...if modern agriculture continues to follow the path it's on now, it's finished. The food-growing situation may seem to be in good shape today, but that's just an illusion based on the current availability of petroleum fuels. All the wheat, corn, and other crops that are produced on big American farms may be alive and growing, but they're not products of real nature or real agriculture. They're manufactured rather than grown. The earth isn't producing those things... petroleum is!
Masanobu Fukuoka, Mother Earth News interview, 1982

I don't know if petroleum alone is the source of fertilizers and pesticides, but it is at least partially what they are manufactured from. Maybe he is also referring to fuels needed to run tractors on?

The statement reminds me of something stated in the Corporation movie. Someone made the analogy between modern capitalism and an attempt at flight. An aviation pioneer had taken a plane off of a very high cliff and the air was blowing by. He believed he was flying, but it was only an illusion because the cliff was so high. Capitalism, too, appears to be working because the resources of this planet are so vast. But thinking that capitalism in its current form works is a false illusion. It is fundamentally unsustainable, and if it continues to be practiced, will lead to a disastrous end. I believe that disastrous effects are already seen everywhere, in many forms, whether it's food shortages, global warming, loss of biodiversity, and the loss of fundamental humanness and creativity and kindness to each other.

At any rate, if there is to be an end to this disastrous decline, it must come from a return to sanity. I know that my aversion to technological advances isn't completely right, but I feel that the vast majority of inventions, of scientific discoveries have hurt us more than helping us. For every new invention, accompanying problems are soon discovered. We think we have improved on nature by air-conditioning our dwellings, and yet we soon discover that power grids are in peril and our air is polluted by coal-burning power plants.

I even think that new green technology (solar power) will eventually be found to have some serious problems, whether it is in the products and energy used to manufacture them, or in the electromagnetic radiation they might produce, or something. Even though they're considered green (and I would certainly choose them over a nuclear plant or a coal burning plant) they are unnatural on some level. In the end I think the best solution would be yes, let's do wind and solar energy. But let's also stop using appliances that suck far too much energy. I guess another good research project for myself would be looking into the usage of different appliances. Creating heat from electricity tends to be very energy intensive, so dryers, toasters, electric stoves, hot water heaters, electric kettles, and space heaters take up a lot of electricity. Are there lower-energy alternatives? Clotheslines are easy. Toasters? I don't know a good alternative. Solar water heaters work--I don't know how expensive they are but they save a LOT of energy. I think low-tech models have been made by resourceful individuals. Perhaps my husband will invent one for us one day.

Speaking of energy efficiency, I live in an apartment that is incredibly warm all winter, where we can't control the heat. Well, except by opening the windows. Terrible energy use. So it's not like I am scolding. It's hard to make these things better.

I think I am going to continue my ramble just a little further.

From my own experience, the greatest obstacle to being kinder to our planet is the fact that we are all in such a hurry all the time. At my job, we throw away plastics rather than recycle--probably because we don't have the time to sort. Just a little time is needed, but we are so busy we don't take that time. (At least some Canadians recycle their fast food trash.) Another example--I live in a great little town that is probably 10 blocks wide each way. But how often am I in too big of a rush to walk to the store, the library, so i drive instead?

Many of us don't have time to grow vegetables, which would benefit us, our communities, our environment, and the planet. I wish we could just slow down enough to hang our clothes on the line, tend our vegetables, cook our meals, walk instead of drive somewhere. It would be an eco-revolution of peaceful, mindful choices, of less, and maybe somewhere in our slowed-down life we'd find more time to be gentle and concerned about our neighbors.

The faster, more stressed out our lives are, the more the corporations have us just where they want us, with no time to thoughtfully make the best choices for ourselves and the planet. We are just trying to survive from day to day.

The thing that really excites me about these thoughts is that while rushing is the exact thing that is wrong with our society, it is also amazing that the benefits to slowing down go far beyond the ecological.

Going more slowly allows us to experience God, our families, nature, and our selves. It allows us to experience life as we were intended to experience it. The rushing life of hyper-consumerism is one that will destroy our humanness, our relationships with old people, children, friends and spouses. But choosing to take the slow path is a way to return to truth, peace, awareness, beauty, and enriched relationships.

The price we pay is convenience, but I think that for the most part convenience is a lie sold to us by companies desperate for us to spend money on gadgets.

To return to Masanobu Fukuoka. This man died August 18 of this year, not long after I discovered him, via a blog post by keri smith. I feel like he reaffirms my growing belief that many things that are too hard and too complicated and too expensive are hard and complicated and expensive because they involve us fighting against nature, against the perfect way God created the world to function.

"Natural farming is not just for growing crops, it is for the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

I am looking forward to learning from this book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

i've been wanting to write here, but i've been thinking about such a broad range of interconnected subjects, that it's all rather daunting.

the way the stock market has been tanking lately, wondering if a crash would really be a bad thing. couldn't it rather be the death of a bad thing? and wondering how to life a way that is free as much as possible of being owned by corporations.

but yet as our government is increasingly owned by the mega-corporations, and works to protect them more than its citizens now, free living may not be possible, while we are within the borders of this nation, and under its jurisdiction. which i guess leads to thinking of civil disobedience (the title of a book by Thoreau).

the vision of a life i'd like to lead becomes clearer to me...we talk often of oregon. gardens, apple trees, vines, trellises, a handmade dwelling.

i think about education--as i tutor for a living, and i really enjoy working with individuals, getting to know them, seeing their brains engaging with the subject matter. conveying to them abstract ideas, expressing to them (sometimes) how i feel about algebra. sometimes i love it. tonight i was tutoring someone who clearly had a searching mind, and somehow it makes the subject matter more interesting. maybe any subject is more interesting to a mind that is curious towards it. i wonder what type of education i'd want to give my children. what has been my mode of learning and exploring the world? many things about american public school education are a terrible waste. but can i think of a better alternative? how is it that a mind best develops, remains excited about learning, discovers the world, finds passion and purpose?

i feel like what i've opened my eyes to in the last few years has really changed me. my desire for increased simplicity, honesty, my disenchantment with my teaching job. the desire to live in a handmade dwelling. learning about building houses, energy efficient methods, beautiful dwellings. how do you pick between the inherent yuckiness of a material like styrofoam or fiberglass, and the fact that it's an excellent insulator?

then becoming interested in the politics, the ecology, the ethics, and of course the health implications of food choices. and in reading about this, coming more fully aware of how, repeatedly, our government has chosen the interests of mega-farms and massive food companies over the bests interests of its citizens. whether it's the environmental devastation wreaked by these mono-cultures, the artificial pesiticides and fertilizers (some of which are petroleum by-products, and so are linked with our war-mongering, too). or the pollution caused by transporting foods many hundreds of miles before its eaten. or the health effects of insanely over-processed foods, which are then fortified with the fad-nutrient of the day, and which when finally packaged (in too much plastic, cardboard, wrap, much of which never is recycled) and placed on a shelf at a price many, many times higher than that which the farmer was paid to produce it.

so the farmer loses, the land loses, the consumer loses. who wins? all those huge food companies, whose only interest is more money, increasing its stock value. not providing truly good food, not protecting our planet, not fair pricing.

what a depressing picture! and then i pick up a book like this, and inspiration overcomes me. there is hope. and i want to be a part of it. i want to help bring hope, beauty, good food, simple living, to this world, in some small way.

i feel like until this year, i forgot all about seeds. remember? how there are seeds inside apples? they aren't just part of what we spit out, we throw away. they are promises that this apple needn't be our last.

the cherry tomato plants i grew this year came from seeds from grocery store tomatoes. so did the peppers. they did really well. in front of me on the table are four seeds from an organic apple, a jonagold, that was so delicious and flavorful that we were astounded at every bite. maybe an apple will come again from those seeds.

it seems like a tiny lesson to me that our needs are not so impossible to fill. God gives us what we need. we don't need so much money to be living well. look! fresh air, breezes. we can grow things from the soil. sunshine is free. rain falls.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

entering in

what is the secret to a truly magical life? how do we find fulfillment, happiness, the satisfaction we dream of but often can't lay our hands on on this particular day?

i've heard lots of answers. i've seen people exuding magic, radiating something as they live.

there is a recognition, when i'm close. but often i am far from that path.

"slowness. that is the key to happiness..." said monsieur ibrahim in the movie of the same name.

there are so many other ways i've collected in my 'research'. but i forget, i indulge my sorrows, nurse wounds or resentments. i hurry, and want others to be more efficient. or i focus on the future rather than the present.

Matthew 18:3 "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

The only way to get in is this: childlike simplicity, being present, appreciative, unhurried, unworried.


Today, I am off work early. Maybe there's time for a little soak in a hot tub before I run off and tutor a new student in some Calculus.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

objects, things, posessions

there is this undeniable connection we have with our things.

i struggle with the fact that i want to be free and unweighted down. and yet many objects are so helpful, or filled with memories, or part of a hobby or interest, or a useful craft.

yesterday we emptied out the garage unit i'd been renting since march. many of the things we threw away were found for free in roadside discards. yet, i felt bad that i hadn't made the things i knew i could make from them. then i consoled myself that if i did make more furniture, we'd just have more to take when we make our next move.

the tables, crates, and bench i made are great, and all but one can be taken apart and transported in pieces.

but the things! the other things we'd intended to sell at a garage sale and then i had to work that day, and it rained, and we didn't do it. we ended up moving the things into the basement of an adjoining building in our complex. and sort of laughing to ourselves that maybe we'd just leave them there forever.

today we discovered that someone had helped themselves to some books and adam's old atari he'd planned to try to sell. and we sort of didn't care.

i guess part of it for me is not wanting to put things in the garbage, and yet there is this old man here that when you leave things BY the dumpster for others to help themselves to...he obsessively throws them into the dumpster right away.

so putting things into the basement turns out to be the perfect solution--we don't feel bad about throwing them away, and someone might steal them, and if they don't, we can go back and get them any time.

so often i just wish i could be free of all these objects that take up so much time and energy. but my woodworking tools, old pieces of cloth waiting to be sewn, photoalbums, mugs i made in the ceramics phase, most of them i can't part with yet. and until i'm ready to, i won't.

maybe one day we'll have a place on some land and we won't be thinking that a move is in the future, and we'll hang on to scraps of cloth, pieces of wood, miscellaneous hinges and screws and nails, bottles. and everything will be useful, someday...and i will get over my need to purge and be lightweight.

i think that time is closer than ever.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

still here

after a month and a half without a computer or internet connection in our home, i feel like i gained a freedom from web use that i really cherish...although it's been really aggravating not having google and email at our disposal.

new developments in life here:

married life
a new apartment
a used laptop
making homemade: salsa, tortillas, pear pie, bookshelves
growing on the balcony: cherry tomatoes, basil, peppers, rosemary, lettuce & greens

also--a lot of wondering about my future occupation or contribution to society. i read a lot, and feel that after a period of obsession and research into housing and carpentry, i am now moving into an interest in food, gardening, agriculture, the food industry, and the problems in our American society (greed, constant hurry, large corporations, a loss of touch with the truly important things in life).

i think writing here is important for me. it's a space to organize my thoughts, to practice writing, and to chronicle my journey. so i think i'll get back to posting, maybe weekly. if anyone is still reading, i'm glad! see you next time!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

i usually write almost weekly. it's been almost a month.

in that time i started a new job at a coffee shop. i've been learning a lot, and enjoying it. it's totally different from tutoring math, which is how i've been supporting myself since i bailed on my contractor boss back in february.

i am still tutoring students, so it's busy.

summer is hot here. my tomato plants look sad almost every day, until i water them, but show no signs of producing fruit. however, the salad greens and rosemary have made delicious additions to many meals.

i haven't had time to work with wood for some time now. i hope to get back in there really soon to finish up some projects and maybe launch that dream rustic farmhouse dining table.

i guess that's all for now. i'm not sure what my purpose is with this blog lately. i guess we will see if it drops off naturally or regains momentum again. maybe i will want to share ideas here again when life is less hectic.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

july, then august. it's hot. i sold my air conditioner last summer, and while i don't regret it, i sorely need my daily shower about this time every day.

i'm not in love with summer, but then, there are farmer's markets, open windows, and swimming pools. better yet: those desperately needed evening thunderstorms, when the sky gets dark, and a cool breeze says: "relief--soon!" taking a walk and getting wet feels great. getting drenched is even better.

tonight, the sky is clear. no sign of a rain.

Monday, June 30, 2008

thank you...

Life's been a little hectic lately. Instead of packing my brain with information from the various books stacked by my bed, I pull out Mary Oliver's wonderful volume, and choose one poem. The last lines inspire me to greater simplicity and contentment.


And the waves

gush pearls

from their snowy throats

as they come


over the moss-green,


glass-green roughage ---

as they crumble

on the incline


whatever they carry

in their invisible

and motherly





icy and plump

with waled shells,


for the gatherers

who come flying

on their long white wings---

who comes walking,

who comes muttering:

thank you,

old dainties,

dark wreckage,

coins of the sea

in my pockets

and plenty for the gulls

and the wind still pounding

and the sea still streaming in like a mother wild with gifts---

in this world I am as rich

as I need to be.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I really don't know what I am doing with these plants, but I ate my first tomato the other day, and it was delicious.

Regarding the last post...feeling guilty never does me any good. It just paralyzes and depresses. I'd rather focus on small steps that feel right.

1. Borrow and loan things among like-minded friends. (This saves a lot of money, and it creates an attitude of sharing that I think is very rich.)
2. Buy used. (The thrill of the treasure hunt, for the gem among the junk.)
3. Invent a solution rather than buying a solution (this starts the creative juices flowing).
3 1/2. Remake something you already own.
4. Fix broken things, if possible. See the charm in mended, stitched, re-glued objects. This can be so satisfying...the mended handle on my cherished peruvian basket gives me double pleasure because i was so heartbroken when it came apart.
5. Rescue other people's discards (think of it as adoption). Believe that you can find things when you need them.
6. When you don't want something, give it away, or sell it, instead of throwing it away.

Even if you only do this sometimes, it makes a difference. It takes more time, but the result is posessions that that you have a personal investment in. Objects have have character and history. It's fun! How's that for a more positive spin on the "stuff dilemma"?

Monday, June 16, 2008

the story of stuff

Click here to watch this (it takes a while to load, but it's mind-altering).

It's imperative for us as humans to think about where things come from and where they go. And it's important for us to realize that the price we pay for a purchase is not its true cost to us...that there are impacts that are completely disregarded in the price tag.

It makes me feel sick that people in third world countries are losing their homes, moving to slums because giant corporations that we support are buying the land rights out from under them.

And it is hard to know what to do about it. I simplify my life, I try to buy as little as possible, and recycle as much as I can. But the sheer volume of destruction of natural resources, and then the trashing of the products whose creation necessitated that destruction, and the filling up of landfills...oh us. Of course, we see so little of what we are doing to ourselves, because if we could see...we'd come to a screeching halt, and really question.

And what do we really need, besides food, shelter, some clothes, and love?

Why are we ruining the air and the water and the land in order to have so many silly things?

"The love of money is a root of all evil."

And at what point do we stop worrying about being preachy and just start speaking out about what is happening, and the insanity of this hyperconsumerism?

And what will it take for us to see that we are slaves to the big companies--they employ us, and they pay for advertising to convince us to consume their products, and after we go shopping, we have to work more.

Forgive me for this rant. I just watched the video and got overwhelmed.

Monday, June 02, 2008

next project--dining room table

can you see the similarities between all the tables in these pictures?

i find these pictures online and save them. i try to title the files with the photographers names, but not every time. hans zeegers is responsible for the last two.

i have an idea in my head for this table. and sure enough, i find pictures in my inspiration folder that are almost exactly what i envision (only better).

my project has been to slowly but surely replace much of the furniture in my place with handmade, real wood versions. so far: 2 tables, 1 chair, a bookshelf, a bench.

as far as the kitchen table, it worked out well. it is sturdy, and the linseed (which is actually flaxseed) oil has given in a nice finish. the plastic chairs around the old table have been replaced by roadside finds which i've changed, repaired, and cleaned up.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

lawns & learning

turning grassy lawns into vegetable gardens seems like such an obvious solution to the rising food prices.

but many people who are burdened with heavy mortgages are too busy working to tend a garden. they need a low-maintenance yard. sometimes, they spray chemicals on their lawns to keep them weed free. these pesticides become part of our environment, running into the drains and the rivers. these perfect looking lawns aren't really that friendly for rabbits. i imagine that the baby bunny prefers clover.

mowing lawns: noisy, violent, polluting. expensive, too (gas & mower maintenance). i know it's easy for me to talk: i have no lawn.

(i don't want to be a judgemental eco-fanatic. i am just trying to find the way of peaceful co-existence and enjoyment, rather than fighting against the natural world. i am seeking that lifestyle that is slower, easier, more beautiful, and less expensive.)

in order to get my hands into soil, i haul dirt up the stairs in heavy buckets and crates, and plant seeds. a growing collection of containers is appearing on the ledge out a window.

maybe there is a way that people with more free time could exchange work for a share in a yard of a too-busy person who owns land but can't find the time to grow food? in a progressive town like this, i imagine someone wouldn't mind the idea.

it makes me crazy how illogical our society has become. fertile soil under our noses, but we drive to the store to buy food that has been driven all the way from california, or shipped from south america.

of course i'm a fan of italian olive oil and colombian coffee, but maybe we could at least shift towards more growing it near home.

it also makes me crazy how much education i've had and that i know so little about gardening. there was such a long time that i thought it was uninteresting. but it's crucial. how useful is a master's in math, really? i'd rather know so many other things, but maybe until now i just wasn't ready to appreciate what is really useful.

i'm so glad that i've left the job where my life's work was teaching algebra...such a useless suffering inflicted upon uninterested minds. it has its place, but i certainly would not say that it should be a requirement for any college graduate. what a waste to spend 20 years of my life teaching kids to factor, how to find the vertex of a parabola, how to interpret the slope and y-intercept of a line. Even calculus! the product rule, the derivative of the sine. Why??? i am glad i know it, and it's nice to pull out some trigonometry when drawing up plans for a bench. but if i look back at my years of education and list what i learned that really mattered, it would probably really be shocking.

if i ever return to teaching, i want to teach something that really matters. and in order to do that, i must learn what really matters. i think that is the stage i am in now. learning.

it continues to amaze me how my views keep changing. i am interested in ideas and lifestyles that i used to scoff at. i'm more open to natural medicine. i've stopped eating meat, and am questioning the ethics of eating the eggs of chickens raised in miserable conditions (does an organic dozen represent less suffering than a conventional dozen?). rather than racing around busily, i want to do less, be more centered, more at peace with myself. i want to shift steadily in the direction of a contemplative. if i slow down enough, maybe i will find God in my sprouting carrot seedlings, in the grain of wood that i sand, in the woodchuck that watches me warily.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

making things

a bouquet of buttercups

a crate

a tv stand/buffet/seating bench (disregard dust, please)

Friday, May 23, 2008

simple & delicious

plain whole milk yogurt with drizzled honey and grated nutmeg on top

2 eggs fried/steamed with chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. buttered toast on the side.

lightly sauteed & steamed carrots and kale, with eggs scrambled in at the end. grate parmesan cheese over it, cover, and let it melt.

wouldn't a photo be nice? but my camera batteries need to be re-charged every day, and i don't have the patience for it. i just eat.


two crates made yesterday. except for cutting handle-holes, which i need a different saw for. the kitchen table is done, too, but i need to acquire the right finish for it, so that the surface is protected and can be wiped off. i'm looking for tung oil.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


i am setting out to learn how to make crates. i bought 4 back when i was in college from a fruit stand. they're so versatile: they've been nightstand, coffee table, bookshelves, a plant stand, and seating. and when i had to pack for a move they were super heavy, but useful--filled with books.

i want to make a set of at least six crates. it's adam's idea, but instead of making bookshelves, i can just stack these crates (just two or three high, for safety). while sketching ideas today it came to me that i could make them in such a way that they could also be drawers.
i love multipurpose objects. the best other example is my set of wide-mouth mason jars that are both drinking glasses and an alternative to tupperware. their lids are handy for covering a cup of coffee that would otherwise get cold.

i regret that i cannot give photocredits for these beautiful images that are not mine.

Friday, May 02, 2008

the urge to garden has never been so strong. there is no logic to this, since i don't even have a balcony to put my plants on, but the call to have plants growing, to eat what the earth can is compelling and i WILL find a way.


the first tomato

i sprinkled some yellow pepper seeds in this pot and covered them with soil. here they are...although since they are from a grocery store pepper (that could be a hybrid) there's no way to know if they will produce fruit.

i also planted carrots, apple seeds (from an apple), cherry tomato seeds, and am planning to plant the garlic bulbs that have sprouted. basil and cilantro would be wonderful.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

my first table

this is my first. very basic. the leg closest is wood found on the beach. we found the two pieces that form the table top in a dumpster and sanded them off. the fact that it is rough & unfinished suits adam fine--he doesn't have to worry about paint drips.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

expenses, food, and the global hunger crisis

In the past few years, I began to make decisions to radically decrease my living expenses. My ability to now live on about half of what I used to make has given me considerable freedom, and the luxury to slow my life down to a contemplative pace.

One big thing was to move into a two-bedroom apartment and share with a roommate. But there have been other things as well. I don't really shop for clothes except when i need a specific item. I cut my own hair. I get movies at the library instead of the video store. I curbed my addiction to buying books. I stopped going out to eat, except very rarely. And lately, Adam & I stop each other from buying things because we can lend or give each other things we already own (well, mostly he stops me).

I also found ways to reduce my grocery costs. I started to think about all foods in terms of their cost per pound, and quickly saw that meat and cheese are much higher than vegetables, grains, and legumes.
-eat less meat (I now eat no meat, and barely miss it.)
-eat foods made from basic ingredients
-eat more vegetables and legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils)
-make my own bread (often just biscuits because they're easier)
-cut out fruit juice, boxed cereals, and insta-meals because they're expensive
-cut out processed foods (also because they are full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients)
-buy rice in bulk (I can get a 20 lb bag of whole grain rice for $11)

In case this sounds like I am living in a state of deprivation, I should emphasize that the meals prepared with these foods are so much more delicious than I have ever made. I've learned to use good oils (peanut, olive, sesame), and a variety of seasonings. Simple eating can be the best kind of eating.

There are items that i now spend more on than i used to. Cage free eggs (some of the time), organic milk, and some organic produce. When the farmers' market comes back to town, I'll be happy to spend a little more to support local agriculture. I think I still end up spending less than I used to.

But our recession (whether it's official or not) isn't really the biggest news on the planet. Other parts of the world are suffering from severe food shortages. I don't know enough to say what the causes are, but I clicked here to urge our government to send aid. You can read more about the crisis here.

i can't remember being hungry and not having the resources to get food to fill my stomach. maybe i've come home late to an empty fridge and been too tired to cook, but i always have something that i could eat.

I seem to always have those Pachacutec slums in my mind. Maybe one day I'll learn something useful to help them to live better, healthier lives on the dunes outside of Lima, Peru.

This interview on NPR today inspired me. I want to know more. "Paul Polak, Tackling Global Poverty His Own Way" Maybe I'll read his book.

This man is trying to find low-tech solutions to help small farmers (less than 5 acres) to improve their yields. This speaks to me, on so many levels. Maybe I'll write more after I read the book.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

people who've inspired me

these are people who've had a significant impact on my outlook.

+madeleine l'engle. she is a writer of children's fiction as well as reflective memoir style non-fiction (and poetry). in her books i found an idealized world of intellectuals who had faith and who thought about the world, science, nature, and responsibility. i think she helped me to start seeing my belief in God from a different angle, which was helpful for that critical time in high school.

+mark strand. for this one poem, which touched me when i needed to hear it.

+robin lee graham. he sailed around the world alone as a teenager. this book opened up to me the world of adventure, travel & exploration, which i read a great deal about for some time. it always seemed like a world that wasn't really available to me. even though i grew up in bolivia, my life wasn't one of rock climbing, sailing, or exploring the wilderness, like i wanted to. as an adult, however, i've taken some amazing road trips, snorkeled in the bahamas, climbed on rocks, camped in the back country, had a bear encounter (more than one actually), and taken sailing lessons. of course, it is never enough.

+dan price. the author of a little book called radical simplicity, he tells with wonderful sketches about all the ways he's lived a non-traditional life, breaking free of the mortgage trap and living in a series of huts, tents, yurts and hobbit dwellings. reading this book started me truly knowing that i could and had to live in a weird house i built with my own hands. (this one's for you, bethany).

+mom and dad. even though we have our struggles, my parents are heroes to me. they have chosen to live meaningful lives, helping others and doing things that matter. i have started to see ways in which my choices mirror theirs. mom's legacy is amazing--painting, playing the piano, speaking 7 languages, being a nurse & midwife, living in the jungle in a bamboo hut on stilts in malaysia when she was 23, marrying late and having 4 children by c-section in bolivia starting at age 39. she is my heroic wild woman. now she gardens and talks to the cats, the flowers, the bees, the birds. she composes music and revels in scripture and travels and continues to inspire me.

dad is generous, always opening his heart to those in need, in prison, immigrants, outsiders. he loves to read, he is an idealist, he believes in Truth and that it will not fail us. he invented popcorn & games and the rowdy hide and seek game that thrilled and scared us to death and made mom nervous. now he's travelling more than ever, racking up millions (literally) of miles on airlines and driving all over the place.

+m. scott peck. The Road Less Travelled changed my life. I guess it's corny, since it's a self-help book, but I took it seriously. When I moved out here to NJ it came into my life from a friend's bookshelf. Over the course of months I read it and it shaped my thinking about my life habits, taking responsibility and being more disciplined. It also was a turning point because it opened me to the wisdom of eastern thought as supplementing, rather than threatening, my Christian faith.

+c. s. lewis. His writing took everything I knew about my faith and made me see it in a different light, from a different perspective. "This is a myth that is true." I feel like I still have much to discover and learn from him. I want to think and read more about world myths, the story of the Christ, Jungian archetypes, Lord of the Rings (written by his friend Tolkien). It's all connected.

+adam, my boyfriend. i respect his art, which is an embodiment of his sensitivity and honesty. having adam in my life has challenged me to be more honest. i look forward to more adventures and discoveries and to making things together.

there are so many more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


“There is usually one small step we can take in the direction of a dream. When we do the universe often takes several more.”
-Julia Cameron


from a book review here:

"Emotion follows action, not the other way around. Act, then feel good. Do not wait to feel good before acting."

My life doesn't have an externally imposed structure right now, outside of appointments I set with tutoring clients. So I have to motivate myself to get out to the workshop, and create. Later, I feel good.

Friday, April 11, 2008

here is my new bench/table. it's dimensions were dictated by the (salvaged) wood i had available, but it works nicely in my room as a place to stack blankets and stuff that otherwise would get piled on a chair somewhere. the top is 18 by 40 inches, and it's about 26 inches high.

i'm pretty happy with the look overall. i found pictures in various interior design books at barnes & noble and made sketches in my journal of antique style country furniture that appealed to me. (sometimes the lines and dimensions of a particular table would resonate so strongly with me that i would just stare at the picture and feel an intense pleasure, as if some part of me were being fed.) that is how i came up with the general design of this table, and it's one that i'm likely to repeat.

the image above shows how i notched out the leg to support the cross-piece. This strengthens the piece structurally, and is a step up from the very simple joinery on adam's painting table (which i'd like to post pictures of soon).


yesterday and today i've been working on organizing my workshop to make it more livable. the idea is to be as productive as possible with the idyllic life that i currently am blessed with.

ideas for the next project:

a longish bench for seating or even a coffee table
a long shaker-inspired pegboard
various kinds of stools
re-finishing some salvaged furniture (i've been procrastinating that)
fixing some chairs i found

i think my passion for now is tables and benches.
kind of like when i was doing ceramics i only wanted to make bowls and mugs.
super functional, very basic, handmade, imperfect

Friday, April 04, 2008

i made this planner/notebook/address book recently, and i love how it turned out.

here's what i did. i decided on a 4 1/2 by 5 3/4 inch size for the covers (cardboard), and made the pages slightly smaller (about 4 by 5 1/2). i went through my paper collection, old envelopes, graph paper, old yellowed paper, magazine pages and made a big pile of pages ripped to size.

i also drew up the calendar pages by hand, which resulted in a nice looking imperfect grid of days. there are tabbed dividers made from a blue 2 pocket folder from a conference a while ago.

with a little help from adam, i held the pile of pages tightly together in their desired arrangement, and he drilled through the pile three times with my drill. then, three hinged metal rings (that open and close) completed the binding. for some reason i decided on tomatoes for the front cover, which is a little odd, but maybe it is a portent of gardening in my future.

some other images of this little project are here.

adam's art work--an update

adam has been painting and posting photos of his latest work here.

he has a set of watercolors that i love, including this one and this one.

i also love the large canvas he started recently. (in this picture, you catch a glimpse of the table we put together for him.)

my camera is either dead or uncooperative, so i don't have any new pictures to share, but hopefully that will change soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

i've spent a lot of time being annoyed at irrational behavior.

just recently, a new thought came to me. (i think it was while i was sitting at the kitchen table, watching out the window as people walked by two stories below.)

it's precisely our irrational behaviors that make us human. does any other animal behave irrationally?

well, actually...i know this cat...

but really, i think that choosing illogically, having weird quirks of behavior, liking things for no particular reason...this is our prerogative as humans, isn't it?
free will?

this is not a complete thought, just a new one, for me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

the trouble with perfect

that lovely new dish gets chipped, there's a spot on the wall where the paint got can really get to you. a snag in a sweater, hole in your jeans, a scratch on the new leather shoes. a dent in your car, a stain on the bedspread.

the trouble with perfect is that we think we have to get a new one. or find a way to perfectly conceal the flaw.

but the flaw is a trace of our existence, our motion through life. our posessions are marked by our passage. and all things are in transition. all things will one day return to what they were made of. this is a natural process.


i am working on a table. it is a challenge to make a good table, and yet to be at peace with its imperfections.

there are scratches and stains on some of the pieces of wood. one board has paint drips on it, which i love. some of the smaller pieces had a former life as a dresser drawer before i claimed them.

i do want the table to rest solidly and quietly on its four legs. but the fact that it is a little bowlegged on one end because i carved a too-large chunk out of a leg...that is just part of its character now.


the difference between real wood and fake pressboard is in how it ages. real wood can look good even after 50 years. the weathering and scratches eventually give it real charm. but pressboard (like my ikea shelves) tends to end up on the side of the road after 5 years, and it doesn't have charm. it just looks bad. even if it looked perfect when you bought it.

i'll post a picture of the new table very soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

i definitely believe in picking a book by its cover. this one lived up to my expectations.

some excerpts:

"If you keep quiet, you die. If you speak, you die. So speak and die." -introduction

"How is it that some people always know what is best for others?" -p. 111

"His mother...was a refined woman--but not so refined that she couldn't eventually tell me so." p. 272

"Grandfather didn't have time to build anymore walls, he said that now everything was held together by factory cement, but if he ever built another wall he would do it his own way, and hold it together with what he called cunning." p. 41

"The worst burden in life is what others know about us. But maybe there is one burden even worse than this. It happens when they don't know about us, it is what they think about us when, in silence, they force us to be what they expect us to be. Even worse is how we become it, and I...had become it." p. 248

This isn't just a book about a gypsy life. It's about the life of a woman who suffers and wanders and sometimes speaks and sometimes keeps her own counsel.
do you see the wildness?

it sprouts, neglected, between
the rowhouses and the noisy tracks

in thick, tangled silence
it roars in another tongue

primal forest

it will never die, yet
it is caked with black exhaust
choked, choking
on the fumes of hurry and distraction.

hacked shackled shorn
taken bondage
an indomitable savage
with head held proudly.

do you see the wildness?

(this is the raw version. i'd like to work on it more.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

i am so excited and inspired that barack obama is possibly going to be our next president. everything i learn about him wins my respect, and even inspires me to try to be a better citizen.

you can view his speech "a more perfect union" on you tube here.

i sense that he is an intellectual with integrity. and his campaign seems more like a generous act of leadership than a grab for power. thank you for running for president! i want to tell him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

i've been dreaming of gardening this year. reading this and crossing my fingers about a plot in a community garden nearby.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

can you wear your mistakes with frankness, without shame?

i wanted bangs, i was convinced they were my path to hipness, the hipness i'd always been missing. i delayed and delayed...and then took the plunge, and... they look pretty bad. not everyone says this. but my dear honest sis says that they hark back to the awkward highschool era. especially when they get super fluffy. why can't my bangs lay flat like everyone else's?

i guess the good thing is that i gave bangs a shot. and i know they're not really for me (unless i can re-invent them in a more flattering configuration, or start using styling product--which i won't).

so the little barette is back, and i'm pinning the bangs to one side until they grow out...a testament to trying something and being ok with it not being what you thought it would be.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

i'm renting a space! it has no electricity or light, except daylight that comes in the garage door, but it's cheap and close to my place. i will find a way to make it work with hand tools and battery powered tools. after all, i'm always talking about going off the grid.

now--to move the piles of scavenged wood, discarded furniture, and driftwood.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

maybe this is a good project to start planning. my first table is now underway, with parts here and there waiting to be assembled. i'll get a picture together to post eventually.

i've been struggling with the lack of a proper workspace, and then the lack of a consistent income to pay for renting a workspace, which brings me to looking for a part-time job that can cover my needs. today i felt hopeful as i asked at a library and at a coffee shop. the responses were friendly and positive.

let's see where this goes. meanwhile, i'm off to visit my sis for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Six Tips for Happiness: Advice from Tal Ben-Shahar.

I'm always drawn to articles that proclaim to give secrets to a happy life. Maybe this one is incomplete but it contains great advice nontheless.

1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions -- such as fear, sadness, or anxiety -- as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.

2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.

3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?

4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.

5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do -- or don't do -- with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.

6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

Monday, February 25, 2008

i've been thinking a lot recently about poverty. the good side of it.

there is a bad side to poverty, too, i know. deep poverty is not being able to afford health care for a sick baby, nutritious food to keep your body healthy, not being able to be warm in the winter, not having shoes and socks to wear when it's cold out.

deep poverty exists in much of the world. it's a desperate existence, which breaks the spirit.

but i've been rolling over in my mind the lifestyles of people i grew up with. their homes were often 2 or 3 rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom or two. an outhouse in the back, and a faucet and sink somewhere in the courtyard. there would be a clothesline, and perhaps an orange tree and a mango tree growing in the yard, along with other tropical flowers.

instead of a living room, there were a few chairs in the yard, perhaps under a tree. on a rainy day, visitors can sit on the beds in the bedroom and chat, but usually they are outdoors. children run and play in the yard barefoot with a tattered and mended ball, sometimes one that has been re-stuffed with plastic bags.

as i try to pare my life back to its most fundamental essentials, these images come back to me vividly. what do i really need? and why should i work to pay for what i don't really want? couldn't that time be more well spent in contemplation, reading, with loved ones. then i could cook, garden, sew, make furniture. i could make what i need, instead of buying.

the desire for a home of my own is intense, but i wish i could own a home like those bolivian simple, so minimal, and so sufficient.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

from a journal entry last year:

oh, algebra, algebra, thou that killest the prophets
and crushest the creative spirits beneath endless equations
fain would i have replaced thee with an excel spreadsheet
or a qualitative graph
but they would not

behold your textbooks i leave to you, desolate
without the contributions of one of your daughters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2 movie recommendations

there are so many artsy movies that are truly disturbing, whether it's violence, infidelity, or mentally ill behavior that is being studied. i've decided that i don't need to expose myself to that stuff, but sometimes it's hard to find a good movie that is just warm, uplifting, and fun, while still being intelligent and a little different. here are two recently that definitely fit the bill.

both of these movies are library rentals...they might be a little obscure but definitely are heartwarming and eyeopening. both take a look at cultures that on the surface appear very different from ours, and as we get closer, we see that as fellow humans, we share so much, especially our sense of humor and desire for love.

La Grand Final (The Great Match)

This movie gives us a tour of soccer obsession rising to heights you'd never have imagined. There are lots of laughs and really honest moments.

Ten Canoes

Canoe-making, egg-hunting, story telling, and searching for a wife...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

i would love to make something like this someday.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

it was so warm here today. i sat by the open window and watched the breeze move the curtains.

some of my latest projects

adam alerted me to this, sitting by the road. i'm hoping to strip the paint off and then go from there. i love the simple shape.

on their little table, the plants were always in danger of getting knocked off. this gives them better sunlight. i did a super rustic job, and am rather pleased with how it looks. it functions, and i can roll the blinds down behind the shelf, which is perfect.

i have six of these boards which were varnished when a friend gave them to me. i'd like to strip off the varnish (sanding is too much work) and then use them in a table i've been dreaming of making for a long time.

this desk was given to me by my former roommate. the top surface and the fronts of each drawer are faced in a veneer. i finally realized that that is why i never really liked it.