New Beginnings: Back to the Land

Where do I begin? 

I’ve laid back on writing here for a while. Life has been incredibly full, replete with cross-country travels, moves, work & fun, land purchases, puppy acquisition!, and the overall beginning of New (though longstanding) Dreams.

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How could I be more excited? Probably couldn’t. 

What’s so exciting?

We are now the caretakers, lovers of an 18 acre parcel of land in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri. The land search went alright. Finally, it came down to me forgoing getting realtor help in actually finding the land and just picking through the MLS search religiously… Narrowing it down… Literally visiting dozens of properties. It was a good experience, though of course bearing the expected strains at times. After it was over I even wondered if I would get my realtor license to keep a tab on land for sale in order to help other permie/likeminded people who want to move to the region. Could happen. A lot of the land for sale is done through word of mouth and never even gets listed.

 

The first land we went to purchase actually felt through- due to hyper radical Christian preppers who befuddled the title by putting it in a “pure trust” (which doesn’t work to safeguard -from anyone- the property anyway, be forewarned). We got back to the search and opened it up to an area that for some reason we had deemed not worthy of our search. Early on people had said it was really rednecky. But, it’s not too rednecky for us… Not after living there for a couple of months, meeting the so-called rednecks and learning that most of them are actually really cool, generous, down to earth people with loads of information to learn from. Plus, barter culture is already in the mix around here. In fact, I have reason to believe it never ceased. Carry on wonderful hillbillie nation in your incredible trading culture! I am happy to join you.

 

Back to the land:

The 18 acres is slightly sloped (south facing) with 16 of the acres in mature forest (so gorgeous and peaceful in there! Definitely some good treees for TREE FORTS!!! ((Forever Dream Since Childhood))). Mixed conifers (Pine, cedar, etc); Deciduous (lots of varieties of Oak, maple, hickory, black walnut, persimmons, ironwood, cherry, dogwood, etc). There is incredible diversity. From what we’ve heard about the history of the land, it has changed hands many times over the last 30 years, but no one has done anything on it except grade a 14 ft road and add a bit of gravel here and there & they’ve cleared/bushhogged the same ~2 acre patch at the apex of the property. So this area has a lot of poision ivy, a few incredibly old and gorgeous oaks that were left, and general pioneer species. It was probably last done at least a few years back so it is overgrown a bit, but will for sure be the easiest place to begin putting in gardens, structures, and mobile fencing for animals like sheep, a few goats, etc.

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The western edge of the property is a 1/4 mile of a creek that is spring fed and which has its spring (hundreds of thousands of gallons of water/day– read more here about the other mind boggling springs in the area) origin in the nearby Caney Mountain Conservation Area. This protected place offers thousands of acres of hiking trails, CAVES, gorgeous views of the Ozarks and free camping for anyone coming through. Our entire watershed, in fact, is in an incredibly protected area, much of the Eastern edge being Mark Twain National Forest. And as we learned when we went to the annual Ozark Area Community Congress (incredible -and one of the first- bioregional congresses; created in the 70s I believe) gathering in October, many of the properties which back to the landers started caretaking in the 70s have been recently put into Land Trusts (I will probably write an article on this in the near future). That’s thousands of acres of land trusts, all within our watershed. I feel very good about that. Lots of gratitude!

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This is our watershed region. We are not far from the town of Dawt. A lot of Green Space, eh?! Much of it is conservation land.

We are also a few miles from Bryant Creek, which is a beautiful natural river, more for fishing, bird watching, canoeing, paddling and less mechanical forms of recreation. And less than 10 miles from the North Fork River which boasts incredible trout (rainbow & brown) fishing for flyfisher people (we went there and fished; it is a gorgeous place out of time) as well as (so we’ve heard) a large population of rafting tourists from St. Louis and Kansas City, et al. We already got commissioned by a local fly shop to make flies – on the to do list as we cuddle up for winter.

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Our spring. It comes out at a pretty good speed from beneath some rocks up a ways there, is edged by watercress, and continues to join the Caney Creek.

And just how will we cuddle up, you may be asking? 

Well, last year we paid around $4000 to live in an old two bedroom adobe in Taos, NM for a few months. This winter we’re buying a 5 year old 15 ft yurt (from Laurel Nest Yurts) in WV for that amount (complete with repurposed poplar barn wood floor, base, insulation,  and stove). We are so stoked!  Eventually this place will likely turn into a guest house/library/yoga/meditation space as we build the gazebo, sauna, and eventually the “main house”, which will probably be a straw/cob/local stone and wood combination.

All of this news I’m sharing brings seriously delicious joy to my heart. These desires have been burning for a quite a while inside of Ini and me. So so so thankful it is this stage of their unfolding .. where we can see some tangible results. Goddessa knows there is a lot of intention, visioning, traveling to others’ like-minded/hearted places going into this.

So, so thankful.

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Our western border of the Caney Creek; a clear, spring fed perennial wild water way! And yes, that incredible rock outcropping is present nearly the entire stretch of our western border. A cliff edge!

 

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photojourney A~gust twothousandfifteen *Ozarks

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In the Ozarks, there is plenty of water. Springs are especially !Magical! places full of wondrous entities invisible to the eye. And the water is delicious.

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There are a plethora of old buildings ready to come down with readily usable materials. Here is an old barn that Ini is salvaging from. It’s quite possible most of the tin roof for our tiny strawbale home will come from this effort.

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Aerial view of the property we’re most likely going to make a bid on this week. It’s mostly surrounded by forest (which we love), 100s of acres of which are inhabited by an ancient (70s) lesbian commune called DragonWagon. That’s Beaver Creek winding to the West. We have met the neighbors and while they are a slightly different brand of Crazy than we are (let me tell you my salvation story!), they seem to be generous, kind, and down-to-earth people (like most of the Missourians we’ve met!).

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And of course, la araña… weaving her web

everything vibrates out from the center
sacred language prevails

in the midst of our violent economies, going back to the earth, where we take care of ourselves as if we are the earth *which we are

…….

I believe this is the only way.

This Year’s Travels Across the US: History, Herstory, the Land’s Story

rainbow above the grand canyon

rainbow above the grand canyon

As we make our way throughout the United States of America, I am reflective on the use and ownership of land- of the rigorous, insane (literally etymologically, unhealthy, unwhole) and whole sale theft and disrespect (can’t really find a fitting word strong enough for what actually took place) on the part of the pioneering and enterprising Europeans to the native groups of this land. Nearly everywhere we go there is the sorry story of some native group pillaged and removed from their homeland.

I feel a sense of loss for their vibrant and wise indigenous (of the land, of a place) cultures. Poignantly do I feel the absence of my own generational land-based heritage. Instead of being something intimately known and loved, land is a commodity, something to own.

There are two songs here that reflect well some thoughts/feelings I have journeying through this land, reflective on history. I want to share them here:

The Nightwatchman – Take Away My Name
and
Diane Cluck – Sylvania

Medicine for the People – My Country

2014, for us, started in Peru, in South America, which is, indigenously speaking, very related and in kinship with ancient native trade routes, customs and beliefs stretching all the way up to what is today North America. I cried many times then feeling the connection the people have with the land, with pachamama. In March, Ini and I went out to Massachusetts to pick up this veggie oil car we love and use so well. I distinctly recall sitting on the Boston Commons watching a squirrel scramble up trees, Unafraid of people or heights. The commemorative placeholders and memorials in that region are largely Patriarchal in heritage and remembrance. A very clearly delineated His-tory.

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Then, an image of homesteading on an Appalachian mountainside. Fresh, cool mountain stream. Generations of people “eeking out a living” in this fertile land. At the local library, I read accounts from ancestors of people who neighbor the land we’re on who say, “Wake up, it’s time to hoe. After lunch, more hoeing. When I close my eyes I see corn and beans.” Their descendants now have a garden, yes with corn and beans, yet also with a motion-controlled radio to scare away deer. Living on the land is tough, they all seem to say. After a few months of dipping my hand in these waters, though refreshed by the mountain spring water, I realize I’m not quite ready to go “back to the land” in such a vigorous -or isolated- way quite yet.

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So back to Indiana, my place of birth and raising. Will I follow the footsteps of my forebearers? Start a business, get a 9-5 working for the Man? I am not quite ready to start a large-scale alternative project to What Is. But we gotta eat, after all. Can’t live on idealism. Yet, the inner drive wants nothing to do with the machinations of my father. We do not see eye to eye; we hardly see the same world at all. Again, jumping the nest after touching base with the karma of birth, we are freebirds once again, taken by the travel.

Boulder, Colorado it is. Yet when we get there to meet some teachers who drew our attention, we find the land far commercialized from the initial hippy hay-day we heard it once was. No fodder for us, we continue on the travel. Well out of vegetable oil fuel for the car, we are now running mostly on the dinosaur bone and ancient fern slop that dictates the actions of so much of our warring and exploitive governmental system. It’s against our internal compass, but it’s “the way things are now.” We continue along on the highways, occasionally off-roading it, like so many others channeled and funneled along the main stream.

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Yet we are not mainstream. For the first time in my life, I catch people stopping to stare at me, whispering about our rig (the car is full!) or possibly about me. I’m not really sure, but I feel the difference. And I continue to feel how far I’ve strayed from being a good daughter of the Patriarchy.

I am not loyal to my government or the mores of the cultures of this land. So much of it ain’t sitting pretty with me.

We continue on through the ancient dwellings of the Southwest, reaping inspiration each step of the way. Pueblos stretching across miles of desert aligned to star and moon, equinox and solstice. These people were in rhythm with the earth. Give me some of that old time living! And the living ancestors of the people of Canyon de Chelly, still farming and shepherding amid the deep canyon walls near the ancient petroglyphs of old. (And even these Navajos were originally removed from the canyon only to be allowed to return a few years later, most of them dead or ill, spirits sick.) So many times I catch wind of what the native peoples did (and at times still do) and I think, “That’s the way I want to live! How to do it this day in age of rentals and bills and impossibly expensive land?”

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As Thoreau once said, perhaps the person who seems out of sync with the dominant culture is just marching to the beat of their own, privately heard drum. In the old days, this internal que could be called someone’s daemon, or creative spirit. Now the church, as in so many cases, has skewed the meanings of old words and daemon is too close to the evil in demon to be commonly employed, Yet it is this creative force which leads me into the future, into the bright realm of possibility, the unforeseen.

Now we are in California and I already, in some ways, feel “at home” again (though Ini and I have established a pretty good home on the road). The freedoms in the air of this most western point on the map are historical as well as current. Diversity is rich, as are alternative lifestyles and natural beauty.

I still don’t know where we’ll land for now; I remain curious about that. Until then, we continue following the trans-migrational rhythms of cyclical nomadics or seasonal workers from coast to coast.

So much of this country is in dire need of soul. And chances are it’s not going to be found on the TV. It’s so important that we can still see our night sky. It connects us Ineffably and magically with so much of what it means to be human. Spend more time outside. Breathe in the winds. Go hug a tree, really. Give thanks for water. Cities and waters are too often polluted. We need to start caring about the places we live, it’s our only way forward if we will pass on any beauty to our future generations. This is a message we so desperately need to hear, and the indigenous cultures, among other uprisings, have it.

mission statement

what did you come here to do?

i came here to remind them of earth beauty. 

high alpine lake in peru, so high you can drink out of it,lapping like a dog

high alpine lake in peru, so high you can drink out of it,lapping like a dog

cordillera blanca trek, central peru

cordillera blanca trek, central peru

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farmed terraces on the island of amantani on lake titicaca, South America

hummingbird hope

hummingbird, there is hope in your persistent hum

there is redemption in how you wiggle that tail of yours
(which reminds me of a silverfish flapping in sunlight)

there is healing promise in your long tongue
the way it fits the thin jutting flowers of the bee balm perfectly

there is hope because you exist

real hope that
connection with earth still lives

Respect is a Yes! beforehand

lately i’ve been searching the web to uncover more about what it means to be an herbalisti’ve been watching youtube videos, reading articles, looking at schools and perusing mentor profiles and specialties to see what’s out there. if you know me at all, you know i love plants! and i am enamored with the healing potential of plants in their relationship with humans. i’ve been pursuing this path (even unknowingly) for the last 5 years. as i am searching the web, of course i stumble upon the wise woman university website and start perusing the mentor offerings.

i follow my intuition in life; that mysterious inner guiding principle available to us all trusting that it will take me where i need to go. growing it stronger through practice. today i felt attracted to one woman’s offerings so i started to read her poetry. this one in particular touched me (found here),

“DID SHE SAY YES?

And did you ask her permission
As you poured thick slabs of concrete
Upon her fertile belly, kissed by the sun for aeons?
And did she answer, “Yes, of course I don’t mind, do as you will”

And did you ask, “May I?”
As you ripped ancient trees from her deep forests
Tearing their roots from her abundant womb
Where they long gathered sustenance from her underworld realm

And did you ask, “Is it alright if we pollute your sparkling rivers,
The flowing veins shining between your loins?”
And did she answer, “Yes, go ahead, I don’t care
I don’t need them”

And did you ask her permission
To trespass upon this sacred home of your belonging
Your beloved Earth
Who gives you so much?

And did you say, “Thank you!”
Falling to your knees in gratitude
Upon her verdant grass,
Her rich moist soil?

And did you say, “Sorry!”
For all you have taken
From this Mother Earth
Whose loving strength is your support?

And did you ask so gently
If you could touch her body,
The body of the Earth
In this way?

And did she open, yielding so softly, so sweetly to your axes,
Your bulldozers, your chainsaws, your bombs?
And did she surrender generously, without choice or complaint
To your greed, your plunder, your ignorance, your force?

And did she say, “Yes!””

~Roslyne Sophia Breillat © 2010


i see so much environmental disrespect as i travel through life. all of this that she brings up, i have seen. i have seen this happen to women’s bodies, too. i have felt the repercussions of this entitlement toward exploitation, toward possession: this thing is here for me, i should take it no matter the cost.

consent is an oft-used word these days. consent is an enthusiastic YES! in sex & relationship in the place of silence, or even at times NO! consent is changing how people communicate about sexuality & sharing themselves; how they relate to one another. i hope we can extend this conversation about consent to our relationship with our Mother Earth for we’ve been taking advantage of her body far too long without asking her first- is it okay if i take this from here? is it okay if i build this here? she is a living entity and deserves the same respect people do. time for a huge #paradigm shift. 

the way i treasure my body: a tribute

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.

Lately, I’ve been indulging in these daily prompts. As I reflected on this one, I immediately thought, “My most prized possession? I don’t think I have one!” Then, after a moment’s thinking outside of the box, I knew what my most prized possession is: my body.


my body

tending a garden using my body

tending a garden using my body

when i was a young girl i used my body to climb trees. i was like a little monkey then, scrambling and scuffling amid branches, up and down trunks. sometimes i’d stay in trees for hours pretending i was a mother monkey. one christmas i got a set of “babies” that fit in a snug fanny-pack carrying case. i was SO excited to receive those triplets because what i most wanted to do with them was scuttle up that tree & pretend we were all sitting up there. and then i was so content just to sit up there pretending with my children. thinking back on it now, that was the peak of my satisfaction then, climbing a tree as a mother monkey, babies in tow.

some things have changed since those days. though these things remain: i still love to climb trees, i still have no children of my own, and i still love to use my body in all manner of ways. when i think of my most prized possession, in fact, it is my body which comes to the fore. recently my partner and i moved to the appalachians where we have been experimenting living on an old homestead. we’ve planted potatoes (sweet & not), herbs for tea & medicine & kitchen, carrots, tomatoes, arugula & flowers. we’ve worked on the old shack we’ve been staying in- putting boards, rat wire & steel wool up to keep mice out. we’ve looked into running a pipe from the stream to our shack, which is off the grid, to have easier access at doing dishes, getting water for cooking, drinking & bathing. we’ve met the neighbors & put down some roots. we’ve traveled to the nearby mountain during a festival and sold some hats we got in Peru. all in all, we’ve been settling in and wondering if this could be a place that we eventually build a house & put further homesteading dreams on the ground.

last night, however, many of our dreams finally came crumbling to the ground – maybe they were even aflame and burning down! you see, my partner’s parent’s best friends recently lost one of their tribe to the hantavirus, a virus carried by deer mice (also known as field mice). this has made us cautious from the start about the horrible end-game possibilities of living with mice. and there are deer mice all over our shack; pooping in corners, on our food bins & counters and scurrying about as the dawn breaks or shortly after we retire for bed. it’s all too much! we’ve been putting so much effort into living in this place (and mouse-proofing it!) and really hoped it could be a place we could settle our dreams in, but health is more important.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

our current shack sure is cute & we love it, but the problems with the mice have proved to be too much.

in the end, my body is more important. because this is the vehicle that gets me through life. my breathing is my primary contact with this earth. respiration in and out of my lungs, taking in the earth, letting it feed me down to my cells, and exhaling back into the greater whole. where would i be without my body? i cannot allow molds, funguses, air-borne viruses or any other silent, lurking, invisible slow “killers” to find a home in my primary home, my body!

it feels sad to choose to leave this place. i am grieving today as i tie up loose threads around the property & carry things to again be wisely placed into our car. and while i am feeling this sadness & grief in my body, i am also breathing in my body, and feeling thankful for this opportunity, for the chance to experiment in this way on this beautiful appalachian homestead with its cool sweet mountain fresh spring water, drinkable straight from the source; for its wild delightful mountain air; for its trees & people. for it really is a lovely place. but, in the final count, i need my body, my sacred temple which allows me to interface so freely & jubilantly with the world outside of myself.

for you see, i would be a much different person if i didn’t have my body. being active has always been a part of my life. from taking 6 weeks to ride my bike up the west coast from LA to BC, Canada (you can read more about that awesome journey here: ourdailyride.wordpress.com); playing D1 college soccer; taking innumerable bike rides all over Indiana, Maine, Missouri, California, & Oregon; being a massage therapist for a time; being an outdoor guide & climbing mountains, rock climbing, hiking for days; trekking with my beloved recently in Peru… i use my body for so many things in my life. and i have been with it through sicknesses and challenges and anemia & weak adrenals. when this happens, i feed it what it needs; take proper medications, and i always eat so well.

i have gone through high school in my body, when it looked different than it does now. i have learned to cut the hair of my own body (and shaved my head twice!). i’ve made love with my body, and pushed myself to run faster with my body; two activities which leave me feeling relieved, but in drastically different ways. i have taken pictures of my nude body and posed my body for group shots, for fancy events, family photos, outings with friends & art projects. i’ve felt water in oceans, bathtubs, showers, rivers, cenotes, streams, ponds & puddles caress and careen my body. i’ve grown food via my body & eaten tons of it! i’ve put clothes on my body, gone without clothes & i’ve rubbed mud all over my body,

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

see! happily rubbing mud all over my awesome body

 

i’ve done so many things with/via my body! my body is my primary focal point as i live. through body-based therapies i’ve learned to listen to my body to find out where emotions are speaking from, and through doing this, i’ve gotten more in touch with my body & emotions. i’ve learned how to use my body to help free my mind. and i love using my body to pleasure myself and others of my choosing. this vehicle through which i travel this globe is my most important possession. i choose to possess and carry it with as much wisdom as i have in any given moment. and if i see that i’ve been making choices that are unwise for my body, i will change those things so that i can live in greater alignment with health and well-being. because my body is an awesome gift & i want to use it the best way i possibly can for many more years to come!!!