Goin Camping…

There is something about my daily life that is unsatisfying to me. Something missing. I often feel like I need a vacation or that I would be happier somewhere else. I feel bogged down by stuff, maintaining stuff, tripping over stuff, washing and putting away more stuff. Even though I feel like this, I also often feel strongly compelled to buy more stuff! It’s insanity. I mean, what is going on???

The best times in my life have been when I was camping. Minimalist freedom. Another time that I have had that similar feeling was during a move to a new house, having only moved in the first, most important items. Gradually as the house fills up with the other posessions, the space feels cluttered and the feeling of spaciousness and freedom fades.

I had the idea that moving to Mexico would feel like camping. That freedom and lightness that comes with being in nature without a ton of stuff. Well that is not the feeling I have. Not at all. I, unfortunately, have realized that I am doing the same thing here as in the US. I am filling up all the available space with stuff. Inside and out. I think “gosh, as soon as we make this retaining wall, life will be good. As soon as we finish the concrete patio, or that fence… As soon as we take away more nature and add more civilization…” When the truth is, I would be quite happier living in a hut made of sticks below an ancient tree! All of the money I am throwing at these improvements is starting to feel counterproductive. As we build more, my longing for wild increases, as my feeling of spaciousness fades. I am feeling disillusioned.

I know that all of these things will make a huge difference during the rainy season. But I also know that the more projects we complete, the more projects pop up that urgently need completing. Its as though with each improvement, the ugliness of the half done chaos becomes even more glaringly obvious. I would have thought that as we checked items off the “to do” list, that the list would get shorter, but infact, it is getting longer! The momentum of progress drives more progress, creating the need for even more progress. Faster and faster, as fast as the money can go!

Now what would happen if it all of a sudden just stopped? What if I reached a level of satisfaction, an okness with things as they are? Is that even possible? Is there an end to all of this making and creating and building… Or is that end only eventually found in death? Is it simply human nature propelling this seemingly endless train of improvements or is it some other deep, unquenchable desire for an unobtainable sense of rightness… I can only speculate. In any case, there appears to be no end in sight. We have indeed accomplished a great deal in this first year, but still have a long way to go. And then again… Maybe we should just go camping.

Scarcity consciousness

Scarcity consciousness

Where I live now there is never enough of anything except work. Not the kind of work that you get paid for, the kind of work you need to do to survive. It’s been this way for so long now, that even when there is enough, the people don’t believe it and talk about it as if it weren’t really true. This scarcity consciousness runs deep.

Imagine you didn’t have access to information. Imagine that everything you know is based on something someone said, who you think you believe, but have no way to research or varify. Your world is based on myth, hearsay and very limited personal experience. You never leave your small town and have no idea what exists beyond these hills. You don’t know how the body works, or about healthcare or nutrition. When something happens and the answers are outside your capacity to understand, you blame witchcraft, the evil eye or God. You never look any further. You never seek ways to better your life. You believe all the advertisements because you really don’t know any better. You can’t read the small print, in fact, you can’t read at all.

Now imagine that you work your fingers to the bone everyday. Your back hurts, your hands are cracking and your feet are black. You carry water, chop wood and walk. You haul giant loads of grass on your back to feed your animals. You breathe black smoke as you do the cooking and burn your fingers as you flip the tortillas. You have many children that need food, clothes and shoes, and these things all cost money. You can swing a machete, clearing the brush below avocado trees in the scorching hot sun, earning $150 pesos from morning to dinner time. That’s enough to buy one pair of shoes, half of a school uniform or one kilo of meat. Many children don’t go to school because they don’t have enough money, and they have earning potential by age eight. I see four year olds selling matches and candy in the city.

So life here is pretty rugged. You buy small quantities of everything and walk to town almost daily for supplies. You end up paying more, but you have no choice. You never have enough money for the big bag. In the US I used to buy in bulk about once a month. I started doing that here as well as soon as I learned the best places to buy. Sugar, oil, rice, beans, toilet paper, animal feed and soap… I can literally save $500-$800 pesos per month simply by buying the costal (big sack). I see people every day buying a handful of chicken food, one roll of toilet paper or three pesos worth of cumin (that’s about a teaspoon). All of this scrimping, making due and bone scraping really wears on a person. The cumulative effect of constantly sacrificing is an unbearable weight that is carried by an entire culture, including their young children.

Well it’s funny how the energy of a place seeps into you over time. Without awareness, I started hearing myself echo this poverty consciousness both in my words and actions. At first I didn’t even realize what was happening, I just felt tired. I could never get on top of the chores and started feeling like a victim. This did not feel good and I had to really think about where this energy was coming from and how to shift. Then I realized that this is how most people feel here. On the surface it looks like laziness, but it’s really more like a kind of depression. No wonder people don’t fix fences or pick up garbage. There is always too much to do and not enough money to do it with… So fuck it. Yeah. I could see their point. Except that this mentality has not taken hold of my mind enough to make me immovable. I still have creative problem solving skills and the ability to find information, making alternative solutions viable. I know that all of these things that need doing don’t necessarily need money, they need forward thinking and follow through.

When you lack resources and the mind becomes trapped, you get scarcity consciousness. The only way out is education and information. Not enough food? Plant a garden! Not enough money? Spend what you do have wisely- processed foods, pampers and baby formula are all costly and unnecessary. Drink natural water, it’s free! Examine your local resources; lemons, avocados, chiles, corn, peaches, chickens and sheep to name a few… All food sources and guaranteed money makers. The potential to live well is certainly here. Most people already own land. The growing season is lengthy. Renewable resources abound.

So why are so many families struggling? And what can we do to shift this? The energy is so stuck and folks so deeply believe in the struggle, that their only solution is to leave. Go to the USA where the money is. Nobody learns anything, nothing changes and when inevitable deportation becomes a reality and the free money stops flowing, no one is any better off then they were before.

I honestly don’t have any answers. As the eclectic foreigner, I am not widely listened to in these parts. You know what I am doing though? Planting my garden and giving away my organic produce. Making natural body care products and giving those away too. Drinking water, breastfeeding openly and using cloth diapers. Sewing, building and seeking information. Though I don’t communicate well in the native language, my actions speak louder than words. I see how poeple watch me. Young mothers talk about my cloth diapers. Women ask me about the herb tea I’m drinking and marvel on the nesting boxes I made for our chickens. Sometimes I think I am making some small difference… At least I hope I am, and that all this hard work will someday reap real benefits. Not only for my own family, for everyone.

Fast forward… Rewind?

Fast forward, rewind…?

Why am I doing this? That has been the burning question lately. What is my problem? Why can’t I just accept that I’m living in 2016, the age of information and technology, and just get on with it. Why do I feel the urgent need to revive and preserve something that everyone is trying hard to forget. I mean, does it really even matter? Lately I feel like I have been making life unnecessarily difficult for myself, and I wonder what, exactly, am I getting out of it.

I am not a person who believes in “the struggle”. I do not believe that life is inherently difficult or meant to be a series of hardships until you eventually die. I do believe you get out what you put in. I believe in working for what you want but not that you should keep a job you hate just because it pays the bills. I mean, you create your own reality, and if it doesn’t feel good, the energy isn’t right and you are not in alignment with your purpose.

Ok great. So that’s why I came to Mexico. I felt disconnected and not in alignment. I wanted to live a good life, close to the earth and the elements, in a tried and true way. I felt like there was too much information, too much choice and too much stuff, which left the people confused. However, this particular area in Mexico is even more out of sync in the time-space continuum than anywhere else I have ever been. In the span of one single generation, life became a synthetic, disposable, made in china, waste. What’s completely bizarre is that on the surface it all still looks ancient! Adobe houses, old women wearing rebozos selling things in baskets and cooking tortillas on fires, donkeys plowing the occasional field with a man in a wide brimmed straw hat. What you see when you look a little closer is perplexing. Those wholesome looking tortillas are really processed white flour, those beautiful brown babies are all Nido formula and pampers; and the battery of cheap, chemical laden body care and home products used daily here would give a lab rat cancer immediately. There is virtually no information, no choice and no one cares. Everything that I dutifully avoided in the states is quickly replacing everything I came here looking for. It’s as if the dollar store puked here.

If I wanted to be on the forefront of modern living, I would just go home. The people here are shunning the life they have always known in favor of modern progress, and sadly they are still light years behind the life I left. It’s stifling. I am shunning everything they are reaching for because I have seen the ugly underbelly of that life… What happens years later. They all just think I’m an idiot. I have no friends. Nobody to relate to. And nobody to teach me those old ways.

The people who came before me had people who came before them that taught them how to live. I learn from Google and YouTube. It’s no different here than it was in the states. There are no old ones that want their traditions passed on. Nope. They want to go to Wal-Mart and buy polyester and teflon. Because it’s easier.  So why am I doing this? Why am I intentionally struggling?  Because I think it’s better? Why not just buy a microwave and embrace the new modern age like everyone else? What the fuck is wrong with me? The environment is fucked anyway. We are all going to die eventually and my single, lonely attempt at being green and organic and healthy is nothing compared to all these pesticide happy, illiterate avocado farmers and the  hot dog cooking, coca-cola pouring baby mamas. It’s depressing. At least back in Bellingham people were on the conscious evolution train…I Here the people are running from it as fast as they can go. I feel like I’m wandering aimlessly through a tropical garbage dump. I don’t even know what to say…

So maybe I’ll just head on down to the Wal-Mart, buy myself a microwave and some Styrofoam plates, along with some hot dogs, kraft cheese singles and some tangerine flavored Jarritos, and LIVE IT UP!!! I mean, why not??? It would be easier wouldn’t it??!!

Why do I write?

Why do I write?

I write to survive.

Without warning, words ricochet through me. Semi-automatic shots

that need to escape the confines

of my mind. Like a bomb, this poetry decimates the physical, so loud, so raw, its impossible to ignore.

I write to ignite some insight in this ever changing tide. To offer meaning, to acknowledge truth and to untangle these crazy knots I create. I write because my heart is on fire. My soul is trying to find the balance between what was and what is and my art is the only bridge I know. I write to weave words and wisdom to wake you up, shake your core and make you remember. I write because we are so numb and live so fast that nothing really matters… In three minutes these words will disappear. I write to make myself real, to leave something tangible, because sometimes I feel like I don’t exist outside of the dreamspace. I write because it wakes ME up and makes ME remember. I write to reignite my own flame when it’s low, to see the beauty in this chaos and somehow hold a shred of holy… Even if only for a moment.

I write,

because if I didn’t,

I would die.

The search for spiritual sheep

The search for spiritual sheep

Early Sunday morning the sky was full of neon pink and orange wispy clouds. They resembled angels as they floated over the valley. The air was crisp as I took my first sips from a steaming cup. It felt like a good day to look for sheep.

Several months back, we met a man in the city selling wool blankets and ponchos. He told us that they were made in a town called Macho de Agua, where they still use the backstrap and foot pedal looms. This intrigued me immensely. So off we went in search of handicrafts and a nice family that would be willing to sell us a few sheep.

We headed north and east, on a long, winding road with trees on both sides. It felt like the route we used to take to go camping when we were kids. We arrived in the tiny village of Macho de Agua around ten AM and began asking where the wool market was. People looked at us strangely and nobody seemed to know what we were talking about! After talking to several people, we saw a small cardboard sign that read “borregos se benden”. We asked a woman standing nearby where the señor lived who sells sheep. She pointed to a small house across a large field and said we should take the foot path around the side.

After walking for ten minutes or so beneath the glaring Mexican highland sun, we came to one of two small houses. Immediately a dog began barking and ran towards us from where it had been sleeping under some bushes. Seconds later three more mangy looking dogs sprang out towards us, barking and snarling. V grabbed a big stick as I looked around for the owner. Not a person in sight. The sound of the dogs going crazy alerted the dogs at the neighbouring home. Seconds later we were surrounded by a dozen large, angry dogs. Snapping, jumping, growling, frothing, kicking up tons of dust and not backing down, V started swinging the stick as I held the three kids as close to me as I could. I began wondering what I was doing there and why I felt like I needed special wool sheep in the first place? Borregos de los Indios. Spiritual sheep that would somehow energetically tie me to the lineage of ancient weavers that have lived in these mountains since the beginning of time. Why I couldn’t just settle for the ordinary mixed breed meat sheep that could be easily purchased in our town…? All of these thoughts collided with the ravenous gnashing fangs of starving muts as they defended their bones. They very well could have eaten us! After what felt like an eternity, a man came out of the house and called off the dogs. Relieved, we asked him about the sheep for sale and he pointed to the next house, the one the large dogs had just run back to. Once my heart stopped pounding, I took a deep breath and started off towards the  house.

A young girl with a very long braid came out right away. The dogs were nowhere to be seen as she led us around the back to an old man and two fat sheep. As soon as the kids saw the animals, they ran over and chimbed the rickety fence to get a better look. The top two boards fell  off right away and the frightened children nearly landed in the muddy corral. We spoke to the man for several minutes while he lazily looked at his broken fence, and then noticed a young black sheep in the next field. We all wandered that way hoping that the Señora would come out and talk to us, but she didn’t appear to be home. We thanked the man and headed back across the big dusty field to the truck.

After driving up the main road for only a few minutes, we stopped at a small store for cold drinks. The lady pointed to a skinny, winding side street that led up a steep hill to a low spot between two mountains. One of the first thing that I had noticed upon arriving in this village, was that it was not set up in a typical grid pattern like most other towns, with a plaza in the center. This town was curved, splitting off in every direction and twisted around the abundance of water that was flowing everywhere. It was built into the side of the mountain. In this way it was very beautiful to me.

We drove up the small dirt road that the shop keeper had indicated, until it became an impassable river. We parked the truck and started walking. People who were outside doing their morning chores stopped to stare at us. V began asking for a man named Epiphaniano. We followed a trail of sheep poop towards an old man and a large empty fence, hopping over the small rivulets that had long ago taken over the road. Before we reached the man, we passed by one black sheep with golden eyes that was staked to a low post eating grass. When I saw this sheep, I had a strong sense of deja vú, and suddenly remembered a dream I had recently about a sheep that looked just like this one.

We approached the man and spoke for several minutes. He pointed to a trail that followed a river and said the man we were looking for had taken his flock to graze several hours ago. He said that sometimes he walks slow and we might be able to catch up with him if we hurry. So off we went crossing the snaking streams on slippery rocks as quickly as we could.

The sun was overpowering and the trail soon became steep. We kept following the sheep signs (poop and hair) until the kids got tired. Epiphaniano was long gone and so were his sheep. We sat to rest a few minutes and headed back down the mountain. Arriving in the pueblo, the black sheep with the golden eyes began baaaing at me frantically, pacing back and forth. V and the kids were already far ahead and had stopped to talk to an old woman who was sweeping her threshold with a branch. I stopped and watched this sheep and understood that I was clearly on the right path. I felt like I should wait there, but soon V and the kids began calling me. Reluctantly, I joined them, climbed into the truck and drove away.

Following the advice of the old woman sweeping, we drove to the next town. V was moving slowly and kept saying that he wasn’t sure that we were on the right road. It is strange to me that someone would continue down a path that was so clearly full of doubt and hesitation. Not being in the drivers seat, I let it go and watched the scenery out the window. As we were driving through the town, we passed a church that was in the middle of some kind of religious ceremony. There was singing, a lot of smoke and many women dancing holding large flower arrangements. This was an interesting sight to see and made the small detour seem worthwhile.

Well we were indeed in the town the old woman was talking about, and there were many flocks of sheep here. We stopped to ask a woman selling chickens about the sheep in the next field. She sized us up and happily led us to a gate that opened up to many avocado trees. Inside, there were two dozen healthy looking sheep; black, white, brown, gray, mamas, babies and rams. V and the woman began negotiating. She outrageously told him that she wanted three times the going rate of similar sheep! They talked for a while, but her price was firm. Once again, we left with no sheep.

By now it was well past lunch time and we were all getting hot and hungry and were tired of driving around. We decided it was time to head back home. As we were driving we spotted a man walking with a large flock of sheep along the side of the road. V turned off the engine and asked him if any of his sheep were for sale. He explained that we had been looking all morning with no luck. But he was not selling any of his sheep at this time. Then, to my surprise, the old man told us that we should go find a man named Epiphaniano in Macho de Agua, that he would have the sheep we were looking for! I noted the synchronicity and remembered again the dream about the black sheep. We thanked him and continued on towards home. V and the kids had had enough. I would have loved to go back, eat lunch in Macho de Agua and wait for Epiphaniano to return with his flock in the evening.

Perhaps another day…

Are you listening…?

I am one of two white Americans living in a small mountain village in central Mexico. My first language is not recognized here. Though I understand enough spanish to do my shopping, order in a restaurant and acquire basic necessities, I do not speak well enough to hold a conversation with a local. They try to listen to what I’m struggling to say, but eventually their eyes glaze and my words begin to echo in my head. They are no longer listening.

 

I am often alone in our mountain home with three children who are younger than five. I have a cell phone that works when the sky is clear and the wind is blowing just right. Though my children speak and understand my language, they rarely listen when I talk. Like every mother who has ever had children, I repeat myself so that the words swim around the space in front of me, never reaching the ears of the little ones who have long since tuned me out.

 

I have a man who is Native. Indigenous. His small build, strong features and brown skin belong to this land. His mind still belongs to el otro lado. After ten years living the American dream, it is hard to come back. There is no money here. Money is everything to modern men. Though he understands the english language, my words are often hollowed before they leave my lips. He does not comprehend the depth of what I say. Not for the language barrier as much for the differences between men and women. There is a wide canyon that neither can cross.

 

Diminished, wasted words steal  intentions and dilute potency, returning nothing. The energy behind these dreams seeps into the void and disappears.

 

Well one day I decided that I would just stop talking. Waiting to see what would happen, I set about doing my morning chores in silence. I made a fire, fed the chickens and sorted beans. When one of the children needed something, I either did it or I didn’t. I did not talk about it. When someone was doing something they shouldn’t be, I stopped what I was doing, went to them and quietly removed them from the bad thing. This sounds like it would require a lot of extra effort, but the truth is, it didn’t. I quickly decided that it was impossible to react or redirect every little thing, so I only chose those that were the most important. I did not yell. I instead chose to let natural consequences rule. Even if that meant getting hurt. By the end of the first day, I realized that I had accomplished more than usual and was not exhausted. I clearly saw exactly how much energy comes out of my mouth!

 

The second day continued on much like the first, with one small difference. I allowed myself to speak only when absolutely necessary, and  using very limited vocabulary. The first thing I noticed was that each and every time I spoke, the person I was addressing heard me, listened and responded. This was a welcome change that lasted throughout the following days. By the end of the third day, I noticed that my internal method of processing stimuli began to shift. Things that would have caused a heightened stress response (or a fight) were simply noted and discarded instead of reacting and intensifying the problem. By limiting my external responses, I was actually regulating my internal responses. This was interesting.

 

I should note, as well, that I chose to stay close to home during this time. There is so much to do here each day, that I felt as though I was spreading myself thin with each jaunt into the outside world. When we needed groceries or supplies, I made a simple, concise list and handed it over along with enough money to purchase said items. V could go to town at his leisure, I got what I needed. No fuss, no drama. Likewise, when food was hot and ready, I made it known. They could choose to come and eat or wait until it was cold. Thats it.

 

At some point my other sensory perceptions began to increase. Like a good old fashioned acid trip, I became hyper sensitive and much more aware. Sounds that used to be background noises rang out with new resonance. The birds chirping, crickets at night and the sound the fridge made when the motor kicks on. Closed spaces suffocated. The droning sound of far off bass provoked heart palpitations. I could suddenly hear every living thing. Every sound that I made seemed louder, I was even sewing loudly and found a new way to do so without making so much noise. The sound vibrations in my throat felt strange and the slightest disturbance in other peoples energy stabbed at me like needles. Just because I was clearing my own space didn’t mean anyone else was. When the energy of those around me felt disorganized or scattered, my first inclination was to offer food. This worked most of the time. Sometimes though, in silence and stillness, all I could do was walk away. So I did, as often as I needed to, even if I only went as far as the porch.

 

These strange new occurrences not only strengthened my resolve to seek silence but also made me think. When I stopped making so much noise I was really able to listen. What else was I missing by bumbling around, routinely  unaware, as I moved throughout each day? What began as an outrageous response to the fighting and chaos that was plaguing our household turned in to a very valuable lesson. It was a way to end the awfulness of never being heard and the dissolve the feeling of non-importance. It was a way of screaming out FUCKING FUCK THIS SHIT without the backlash. I was tired of constant drama and bickering and dischord, and it appeared that I was the only one that could call up such a profound shift. In creating peace and banishing struggle, the ball was definitely in my court. Like Randall said in that double row meeting that time, Just Don’t. So I didn’t. And I’m not. Thanks Randall! It’s really that simple.

 

I do not feel stifled, I feel liberated. I feel like I’m holding my seat in a good way. I am not giving my power away. I’m not perpetuating struggle and hardship. I’m allowing space for my intentions to take root and blossom. It’s amazing where human potential can take you if you simply let go and allow.

 

So as it went, I lived quietly for four days before I started speaking again. If that doesn’t sound like very long, try it some time. In the days following this experiment, I found myself much more aware of my thoughts and sounds. I was choosing my words wisely and that felt very good. I have continued responding only when necessary with the kids and let natural consequences do most of the work. Some people in the states would call this approach lazy or irresponsible; I call it primal. Take a lesson from our animal relatives. This is working.

 

Some things that stood out to me this week… Actions speak louder than words. Repeating yourself  is never worth it. Neither is yelling at someone across a distance. If you want something done, do it yourself. If you dont want to do it yourself, it probably isn’t that important. Live for yourself and never compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to perceived work load, intelligence or financial status. And never ever think you know, because you probably don’t. Speaking aggressively causes stress, even “yell-whispering”. And finally, it’s crucial to know when to call it; whether it’s food time, bed time or time to go home… Jump before the ship sinks and you all die.