05 December 2015

Love, life and annihilation

My favorite poem, by Tom Clark:

Like musical instruments
Abandoned in a field
The parts of your feelings

Are starting to know a quiet
The pure conversion of your
Life into art seems destined

Never to occur

You don’t mind
You feel spiritual and alert

As the air must feel
Turning into sky aloft and blue
You feel like

You’ll never feel like touching anything or anyone
And then you do


To experience deep romantic Love, you have to be willing to risk annihilation. It takes a hero (heroine) to truly trust somebody. No risk means no Love, ever.
And if they annihilate you, you realize that in all of those pieces, scattered around the floor, lie millions of tiny jewels that had been hidden deep inside of yourself.
You pick them up, cradle them in your hands. They are beautiful, and they are yours. 
Now go and build something with them. Something magnificent. 
Then do it all again. Risk it. Annihilate yourself. More jewels, infinite treasure for a lifetime of trying and loving and learning.
And then, eventually, death. 
I would rather die trying than die running. I would rather die building than die tearing apart somebody else's carefully constructed masterpiece. I will never give up, and my fingers in the soil, the seeds in my hand, they are the jewels I will always have, a never ending abundance for all the world to share.
Photo by Miri Stebivka

23 November 2015

Expanding and the journey continues...

Several days in the forest and I feel healed. I dreamt of barn owls and rattlesnakes, slept in the back of my truck in a grove of white oak and manzanita. So many things to think about, so many ways to grow. 
I wove a basket from willow and usnea. Made earrings from buffalo teeth, turquoise, deerskin and bone. I gathered madrone berries and strung them like a rosary to give to someone I love. 
But can I learn to love without any fear whatsoever? 
To be present instead of patient?
To say yes to all forms of love, rather than rejecting that which does not fit into my heart-shaped box?
Can I expand without breaking, stretch without giving up? 
How do you know when you are loving someone in the very best way for both of you? How do you love someone all the way through, past the judgment and expectations, past the ill-fated fantasies about who you want them to be?
Tomorrow I head South and then East, probably passing through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas on my way to Louisiana. NOLA, I'm coming for you! 

Decolonizing Permaculture: Bridging the Gap Between Privilege and Oppression

 Bridging the Gap Between Privilege and Oppression; 
Navigating an Uneven Terrain

As Published in issue #98 of Permaculture Design Magazine

First of all, I want to say that I do not represent anyone but myself, and though I have vetted this article with several peers and mentors, I do not presume to know the needs and desires of anyone else. However, it seems to me that there are ripples of injustice coursing through the permaculture community, manifesting as a pattern of landowners and/or self-proclaimed leaders doing things that hurt, offend, oppress, and devalue others. These behaviors discredit the permaculture movement at large, and unless we can overcome them, our ultimate goal of sharing a true and authentic sustainability will remain far out of reach.

We can whisper the names of the beasts: racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, misogyny, hate, fear, anger... we all experience these things from time to time, and we see the resulting backlash and judgmental attitudes. Perhaps it is the willingness to play the superior that is the root of the problem? Self-righteousness is certainly not a principle of permaculture, and yet we divide ourselves so easily, bickering over the details and competing for resources.

I recognize that these issues need to be studied and dealt with through an intersectional lens. Nothing is separate from the other. But for me, the central problem that divides the permaculture community is class. It seems to me that the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity, while often connected to the other -isms, is at the core of many of the bad (poorly designed) dynamics in our community. Not to say that racism, sexism, ageism and other -isms don’t cause problems, but ultimately it is the control and ownership of money and property that allows people to abuse their other privileges.

15 November 2015

Gratitude = Survival

Been crying all day. 
For my own fragile heart. 
For Paris. 
For Beirut and Mississippi and Africa and Mexico and Portland and everyone else who keeps getting hurt by all the rage and inequality and sorrow that seems to thrive in this beautifully flawed world. 
I have been crying all day today and all day yesterday. Somebody broke my heart. 
I'll get over it. 
Somebody broke your heart too, I bet. And together brokenhearted we have to try and cry again. 
Does peace = death? Probably. I don't mind. 
Does gratitude = survival? 
Tomorrow, we will try again. 

23 October 2015

Permaculture, sustainability, activist, community, and other words we hide behind...

I'm gonna stop using the words "permaculture," "sustainability," "liberal," "activist," "community," "movement," etc. 
So much rhetoric, so little time. I feel like I have used these words in the past to obscure the raw fact that I need to be loved. Not in a sexual way (ok that too!) but LOVED in that myriad of other ways.
Yesterday I was hanging out with a dear friend and her three year old son, Oliver. He was trying to make a point to us and said "Well I NEED a Mommy and a Daddy!" I was struck by his unabashed willingness to declare that he NEEDED people to help take care of him. I was like: Heck Yes Ollie! I NEED that TOO!! 
I call myself a feminist, and to me that means I have sovereignty over my own life. It means that I get to choose what I do, how I think, what I feel, and who I spend my time with. It also means that I have a responsibility to make those choices with care, intention, and the knowledge that, while a choice may seem like the perfect opportunity at one moment, later it might reveal itself as a hard lesson in disguise. 
I'm going back to using words like Home, Food, People, Friends, Family. Love. Need. Hunger. Help. 
I am going back to feeling comfortable being vulnerable. I love you. I need you. It's simple, human, honest. I think it's gorgeous.
What are the words that you hide behind? More so:
What have you got to lose by being vulnerable? Do we all have to be so tough all the time? Can you need me? Can we be hopeful in the world together, gardening and sharing stories, because we both need and enjoy that experience, rather than because we think we have to save somebody or fix something?
Can now be enough?

06 October 2015

Women, Gossip and Solidarity

When I was in my 20's, I had a lot of strong women friends. We had a sort of solidarity but there was always the subtle competition, backstabbing and gossip, and sometimes even to an extreme.

It hurt.

I perpetrated it myself, and I was also victim to it.

And then I started studying Flamenco with Martita Santiago​. The class was always full of women who were so devastatingly beautiful. And Martita insisted that we love each other. She had no tolerance for gossip or catty behavior.

She said, "when a more beautiful girl walks into the room, that's HER moment. You shine your light on her, give her your power so she can shine too. Your moment will come soon enough." And so there we all were, everyone thinking the other was more beautiful, shining our lights at each other all night long.

Over time, I learned to embody that love and solidarity.

Now, 15 years later, I see something magical happening between myself and the other fabulous women I know. We ENCOURAGE each other to be more beautiful, more powerful, more successful than ourselves. We lift each other up. It's just GORGEOUS to feel that authentic solidarity, to participate in it, and to forgive myself for being such an asshole when I was a kid.

This one goes out to the women I have known for years, who have somehow stuck it out with me, no matter what. And to the women I have more recently met, who don't care which of us is younger or hotter or smarter, because we all know that our strength is in the perseverance of our unconditional love for ourselves and each other. RRRAAAR!

(photo by Lauren Howland​)

16 February 2015

Grief, Self-Love, and Healing Emotional Trauma with Food, Yoga and Art.

By Heather Jo Flores
February 2015

For many years of my life, I thought I had depression. I would spend days at a time crying, eating, sleeping and hating myself for having no control over the process. I sabotaged relationships and hated my family and the world for what had been done to me. I tried different kinds of therapy but held a general disdain for it. I never tried pharmaceuticals, but I dabbled in many forms of self medication.

Grief, by Heather Jo Flores. Oil on canvas.
And then a few years ago, I did some reading about Complex PTSD and a lot of what I read lined up with what I had experienced. I realized that I wasn't suffering because of a chemical imbalance in my brain, I was creating the chemical imbalance through denial, negative thought patterns, self-abuse (weed, binge-eating, bad boys). And when I finally identified the cause, deeply rooted in a failure to properly grieve several traumatic losses…I was able to begin a healing process.

A big part of that process was about learning how to grieve. My grief wasn't associated with the death of a loved one. It was associated with the loss of other things:
  • My opportunity for a peaceful childhood (absent father, negligent mother, you know the story.)
  • My wasted time spent screwing things up for myself as a young adult.
  • My failed relationships with lovers and friends.
These things, compounded by my years spent as an envrionmental activist and the pain that comes from witnessing firsthand the devastation of the planet, had sent me into a downward spiral of grief, and I had never taken the time to really deal with it.

And so, since I had just started grad school when these realizatons occurred, I focused most of my MFA on using art, music and movement to overcome trauma associated with loss. I learned a lot of amazing stuff. If you can relate to my story, perhaps these suggestions will help you. I will just give you a handful of ideas so please, don't give yourself any excuses not to try them!

15 January 2015

Food Not Lawns book excerpt: Make Time for What You Love


The ancient Mayan calendar followed the cycles of Venus, the first and brightest star in the sky. Our modern clock and calendar system is based on the movements of the Earth and her moon. However, these heavenly bodies never return to the exact same place twice. They rotate, they orbit, they speed up and slow down, but they do not do these things the same way every time. Because of this, the tools we use to document the passage of time must fudge the truth into predictable, repeating cycles, which are programmed into machines and printed out years ahead. 

Billions of people organize their lives around this little ruse, and see the passage of time as a straight line from birth to death. Any little quiver, any bump on this long and narrow road is seen as a perversion, an unlikely superstition best reserved for mad scientists and acid heads. But nothing in nature moves in a straight line, and time is no exception.