Paradise Undone

My Dad was part of a small group of people who together owned 130 acres of
a wonderful mixture of hardwood forest, meadows, hillside and creek bottom.
I have meandered that part of Mother Earth since I was old enough to trek
out on my own, probably around age 10. We called this woods “the Rock Creek
woods”.

A big part of the majesty of the woods on the steepest hillside was the
mixture of many thousands of oaks and hemlocks in various stages of
maturity, including some old, grandfather trees. These two tree species
seemed to enjoy each others company, and grew in patches of their own kind
as well as a random oak or hemlock growing side by side.

Because the woods had not been logged in many generations, there were old,
decaying trees lying here and there on the forest floor, becoming nurse
logs for other various emerging scrub and young trees of all sorts. Beech
and hickory could also be found here, and a generous sprinkling of maples
rounded out the majority of the trees to be found.

If one were to traverse this hillside from top to bottom, no doubt with at
least a few episodes of feet slipping out from under due to the steepness,
you would every 50 yards or so come to a place of leveling out for perhaps
50 or 75 feet. These “shelves” as I came to know them provided texture to
the landscape, as well as convenient resting places. Standing or sitting on
the shelves gave the greatest view left or right, as they ran as far as the
eye could see, that is until various trees blocked that view.

I spent hundres of hours in this woods. More than once I had encounters
with other beings there that impacted me and have stayed with me for life.
One such time, I was standing still next to a large hemlock, gazing out
over a shelf, looking left and right. Quietly, with no evidence of
approach, a great horned owl landed on a branch of that tree about eye
level, maybe 6 feet from where I stood. Another time I was up in a tree and
a mother black bear and two cubs walked by me about 15 feet away, never
having any awareness of my presence.

There came a time when the owners of the property were approached by a
logger. He was interested in harvesting the mature timber. Because of taxes
and other ongoing expenses, the owners decided to sell the trees to this
logger. I knew that this even would change what I had come to view as my
own personal cathedral forest. I had no idea.

The next time I entered the woods, I am sure my mouth dropped open in
amazement and sadness at what my eyes saw. The steep hillside was carved up
and down, this way and that with newly created logging “spurs”, a means for
the bulldozers to haul out the newly cut logs to a staging area. These new
spurs were cut deeply into the earth, exposing raw soil and combined with
the steepness of the hillside, allowing for rain to wash out many channels
and much topsoil in the process.

The ”useless” tops of the harveste trees lay all over, discarded like
carcasses, obscuring the ability to see any distance and making walking
through the woods a serious challenge. All of the mature trees had been cut
down and their valuable sawlogs removed, leaving weeping stumps and broken
neighboring trees as casualties.

The feelings of grief that welled up in me in those first days was nearly
overwhelming. I had recently read Lord of the Rings, and I could not help
but think of Mordor. My cathedral woods had been turned into a deeply
wounded part of the back of Mother Earth. There was a part of me that
clearly felt my own grief in a way I had never known. I know now that this
grief went well beyond my own personal grief. My lifelong, deep connection
to the trees and especially to this particular piece of the earth revealed
to me that these relatives, too, were grieving. I could literally feel the
loss of something immeasurable, something beyond words, a loss that was
shared by far more beings than just me. The owl would need to find other
areas to hunt and lite. Momma bear would not find the same kind of shelter
here that she had in the past. My continuing forays into this woods
revealed that the foxes and the deer and the coyotes and the grouse cared
less for this woods now that it was changed.

It has probably been about 10 years now since I walked that particular
woods. I did spend a lot of time there even after the logging took place.
Each time I did so, my grief was renewed again, though perhaps slightly
less so. I still had similar (but different) nearby woods to trek, and this
soothed to some degree. Still, the loss of Rock Creek woods as I knew it,
as it was in my growing up years, my teens, my twenties and into my
thirties, is real. I’ve not seen a woodcock since the woods was logged.
I’ve not seen a silver fox, nor had a pileated woodpecker visit me from 2
feet away, sharing in a short staring contest. My grief continues. I
sometimes wonder how the grief of the trees, the four leggeds, the winged
ones, the Earth in that place is healing. I suspect that for some of our
relatives from that place, the grief is ongoing.

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The Journey

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The Journey

Several times throughout the Course, we mention that collapse acceptance is not a “one and done” event in life. Rather, for most of us, it is a lifelong journey. Sure, there are some folks who become collapse aware and quickly move solidly and completely into acceptance. Alas, for the vast majority, it is a longer journey and more heart wringing than that.

I spent my twenties in the decade of the 1970’s. Although I was married with a couple of youngsters, and was largely focused on doing my best to provide for them in that era of exploding consumerism, I also had some awareness growing within me. I was too young and uneducated at that point to really put my finger firmly on the nagging itch within me. But I was  also aware enough to look around and see that things just could not continue forever to grow the way I was witnessing it. Some good things were happening, like the Clean Water Act, and I was seeing positive results from that and other positive steps. Still, I sensed that we could not continue to dig up vast mineral deposits, drill many thousands of oil wells, pump huge amounts of water from one location to another, and continue to expand dumps and landfills forever. But, hey, what did I know? I was a wet behind the ears kid making my way in the world.

Over decades of living and watching changes around the globe and close to home, there was a slowly building fire growing hotter and more brilliant within me. Just as it takes time and patience to make a wood fire, the flames within me took some time to fully catch and grow into actual fire. One cannot start with logs to make a fire. Tiny tinder, placed under slightly larger kindling, with finger size branches and pieces of wood will always produce the desired results.

So, too, with my own collapse awareness, growing into collapse acceptance. Now in my 70’s, I have had the benefit of years of watching wise elders, smart authors, in more recent years sharp video makers who have, layer by layer, fed my knowledge and understanding of acceptance. It’s not necessarily an easy concept to wrap my head around. Some days, I sense that I “have arrived”, that I am finally in that place of collapse acceptance, yay, I made it! The reality is, that I am so indoctrinated in the culture in which I was raised and lived my entire life that I find it challenging to stay in that place of acceptance. Always, there seems to be some invisible force which pulls me back into “but what if”, or “maybe it won’t be so bad” mode, like a retracting rubber band.

What I do know for sure is that I have found great solace and comfort in community. I am blessed to have discovered a number of containers where it is safe to talk about my fears, uncertainties, thoughts and feelings. It seems there is not a day that goes by that I don’t witness one more thing which confirms the depth of the predicament that we find ourselves in. And then, I am blessed with an opportunity. It is the opportunity to inch closer to that space of acceptance, and recognize that, okay, here we are. Now, what is mine to do? How do I want to spend what time remains? Who do I want to be with? What act of love might I be present to today?

The journey continues.

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Acceptance and Serenity

Acceptance and Serenity

Having walked the journey of sobriety for several decades, I have been
blessed with the gift of the serenity prayer: Grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and
wisdom to know the difference.

It was a longing for serenity around the Great Unraveling that I had been
witnessing that nudged me towards wanting to take greater steps towards
discovering how I might apply acceptance to the predicament of collapse.
Coming together with two great friends and with the guidance of Spirit, the
R&A course was the result of that journey.

I learned early in my recovery the value of being of service. Although I
had a strong longing for some measure of acceptance of collapse, and what I
expected would also include serenity, I really didn’t know how to get
there. The journey of assembling the course would reveal a mountain of
wisdom and insight. The very act of working (it really was and is a labor
of love) to put together something that made sense to us, and hopefully
would hold value for others on this often confusing journey became a
grounding and rewarding path forward.

Now, a year and a half into the journey of the R&A course, I continue to
find that keeping the course fresh and relevant is what is mine to do.
Being of service by paying attention to my Original Instructions (2 years
ago, I had not yet become aware of this part of my Instructions) keeps me
in the act of being of service. It also allows me to be in that “hollow
bone” space, a place of being open to what comes my way, and of using
my/our good mind to discern what might be added to the course, or where it
might be tweaked to offer even more.

Michael Dowd would often say after espousing the benefits of collapse
acceptance that the next step is trust. It took me some time to wrap my
mind around what he meant by that. I understand now that it really goes
back to The Theme of Detachment: ‘Whoever is present are the right people
to be there; whenever we start, it’s always the right time; what happens is
the only thing that could have happened; when it’s over, it’s over.’

As Harrison Owen says in his book “Leadership Is”: “Underlying each of
these premises, whether we agree with them or not, is the principle of
acceptance rather than resignation. Can we accept the experience as it is
and then be creative with it, rather than be resigned or fatalistic about
it? Acceptance is an important part of detachment. The feeling of
resignation is always a sign of the presence of attachment.”

My personal journey of discovering and understanding acceptance is clearly
lifelong and will continue to be influenced by the wisdom of the Dowds and
Owens of the world. Still, it is my journey, just as yours is for you to
walk. If I am to find and hold onto some measure of serenity that might
accompany acceptance, I must put in my “dirt time”, to be willing to talk
and think, to write and read, to be open to Spirit and to walk this path of
discovery that is open to all of us.

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Acceptance: The Key to Cultivating Inner Resilience 

In the midst of our global predicament that has no solutions but begs more for wise responses, embracing acceptance may be our most vital and wisest response of all. Acceptance, often misunderstood as resignation, is far from giving up. It is, in fact, the very cornerstone of our resilience and our pathway to living authentically in the world we find ourselves in today.
Acceptance begins by acknowledging the truth of our predicament: that despite our best efforts and noble intentions, the world we know is undergoing rapid and widespread disruption. This acceptance doesn’t signify defeat but serves as our starting point for meaningful action.
By accepting our current reality, we lay the foundation for harmonious relationships. We connect not only with ourselves but also with others, the ecosystems that surround us, the more-than-human beings, and the Earth itself. We come to understand that we are not isolated entities; we are interconnected, forming a global community. We are in the midst of relatives, not resources.
From this place of acceptance, we transcend the limiting narratives, stories, beliefs, and paradigms that have led us to this crossroads. We recognize that change is not synonymous with loss, but rather an opportunity for growth and evolution.
Acceptance is not a passive state; it’s a conscious choice to confront our challenges with clarity and determination. It empowers us to forge a new path forward, one that respects the interconnectedness of all life and aligns with our deeper values. In acceptance, we discover the strength to reclaim what matters most, reconnect with Self, others, and the natural world, and act because it nourishes our souls and serves the Community of Life.

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