Day Three of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Fun, Fun, Fun

If your upbringing and experiences have been anything like mine, then you were probably a pretty serious little kid who struck your elders as “wise beyond your years”. But that apparent wisdom—authentic as it was—could sometimes mask a holding back, a way of putting life off, of not exploring “the game”, much less getting into it.

When I was a junior in high school, I used to ask a friend, “What is the meaning of life?” (I used to think there was just one, overarching meaning.) She would turn the question on me. Usually, I’d end up with this: We’re here to make the biggest and best impact we can on others.pip_why-are-you-taking-my-photo

Impact—or influence—can be a lot of fun. Many of our greatest visionaries who touched people’s hearts and moved their minds into better, less-fearful or fear-free spaces appeared to have fun. But can we ever truly gauge our impact or influence?

Fun was often foreign—opportunities for it saved for the low times when I would dance to achieve it, which made the dancing less fun than when it was spontaneous, or those rare times I’d go to Busch Gardens in Tampa and ride the roller coasters. It has got to be one of my life’s ironies that denying myself fun has been akin to stepping on a metaphorical and physiological/autonomic roller coaster. Because the essence of life is fun and trying to keep fun at bay led me into big swings and deep drops.

But no longer.

When I wrote on Day One about the “strange confluence”, the desire for fun is part of that. But what does it look like? What does it feel like?

My ideas don’t necessarily line up with what many think of as being fun. Mood-altering substances…not fun. Rant-talking politics or religion…not fun. Rushing around out of some misplaced sense of obligation…not fun.

My list of fun activities: spending time with loved ones; hooking (using colored strips of wool pulled through a linen backing to create fiber paintings); taking care of plants; hanging out with dogs (most anyone’s, really); watching little kids have fun; walking; doing tai chi; learning new languages; meditating; reading; cooking; singing; dancing; hiking; traveling; sleeping; dreaming; and definitely, talking with angels. The Divine has a beyond-cosmic-sized sense of humor that often catches me off guard and segues into chuckles or laughter.

After figuring out what is fun, the next biggest challenge for me is being open to fun and not putting it off for some other day. Life constantly beckons us to have fun. When it does, we best go along. If life finds us not receptive, we will see the results of our choice as a closing down—mirrored in our health, in our relationships, in our work, in our flow (or lack of flow) of abundance.

This is where the feeling sense comes in. When we are keyed up for fun and enjoying whatever we are doing, time seems to stop. Who could not use more fun to stop time?

This is why I believe we are all privileged to be here, in this place, right now, because we have such a wealth of people, activities, and places to enjoy. I hope in five years—or sooner—“cutting loose” won’t feel like an activity separate from everything else, but will have become part of my DNA.

What’s something you think of as fun, legal and nonharmful to you or others that you’ve always wanted to do? Try it the first chance you have.


Pip Closes In. (This dog’s sense of fun knows no bounds. Just ask my mother!)




2014: New Growth on the Horizon

Every autumn when I assess my feelings around what I’ve been doing, I often come to the conclusion that whatever I’ve been doing is “never enough.” Seldom have I felt that wherever I am is exactly where I am supposed to be. Is this feeling of “never enough” a particular—and peculiar—artifact of Western culture or, more specifically, American culture?

Not 2010! Not as much snow...yet, but lots of growth predicted.

Not 2010! Not as much snow…yet, but lots of growth predicted.

In my life, I have found it difficult to step outside of the existing culture, but more and more, I know I need to. The culture at-large does not tend to support anyone who feels content with their life.

Living outside Washington, D.C., I am ever-cognizant of the hustle-bustle involved in “the American way of life,” in which discontentment plays a starring role. I used to participate more fully in that way of life, having had a decent-paying job, having spent about a third of what I earned on rent (many people spend much more than a third). When I moved to Annapolis, I then spent a minimum of an hour, often more, commuting to that job in Virginia. I did not enjoy driving; it seemed like a colossal waste of time, and yet, I felt I had to. I felt caught in a bind and as the months of commuting went on, I grew angrier.

That said, as long as I was learning something new, I enjoyed the work. And I enjoyed other benefits: having money to hear live jazz, money to take whatever classes I wanted to take, paid vacation, money for a painting now and then.

I’ve experienced a see-saw effect between that life and the one I now live: It’s as if when I had more money, I had larger holes to fill and I filled them with incessant activity or spending on things I thought could fill the holes. Now, I work to examine the holes, be with them, shift my patterns into viewing myself as whole and healed—as the way God or Creator sees us humans.

Sandhill cranes...and other animals just are. How can we two-leggeds just be?

Sandhill cranes…and other animals just are. How can we two-leggeds just be?

This is not easy work, but it is the most important. If I still had that job and that commute, I probably wouldn’t be doing this inner work and, moreover, I would not be attempting to find or do work that I enjoy.

Life to me is a continual cracking-open of our hearts, which is meant to soften our hard edges, make us more vulnerable so they we can experience greater intimacy, with ourselves and in turn, with others and with Spirit. The cracking-open happens through our experiencing our own difficulties as well as those of others. It comes through pain and suffering, and yet we, especially Americans, I think, have quite a dualistic view of suffering: It’s horrible or it’s great. Seldom is there a middle way when it comes to suffering. We don’t want to suffer and we don’t want to see others suffer. Or, in some intellectual way, we know we need to suffer, but it remains an exercise of the mind while the heart goes untouched, because we are still protective of our hearts.

At this time, for me, everything is up in the air. It’s like the dry snow outside, swirling on eddies of wind large and small. Lately, I’ve explored a little of farming, something I’ve wanted to do since I was very young. I’ve learned that cheesemaking doesn’t necessarily resonate with me, at least on a commercial scale. I know I’d like to learn more about greenhouses and chickens. I know from what I’ve seen and the stories of friends who farm that it is especially difficult to make any kind of living that way and, maybe even worse for those who concern themselves with inner work as I do, there’s little time. So, I don’t know what will happen in that arena.

When I set out to be an herbalist, I had this idea that I just wanted to practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. They call it a practice because the practitioner never knows everything, everything that can help herself or her clients, but you practice, so you constantly learn. I thought it would be practical enough to build a business around herbalism.joe_pye_composite_icon_final_Web

But what I discovered is that many people don’t necessarily know what an herbalist is or what an herbalist does. Perhaps they believe that we have a particular “plant of choice,” such as marijuana—which, at least for this herbalist, could not be further from the truth. I like weeds—nettles, dandelion, plantain, plants accessible to most everyone, if they know what to look for.

I finish 2013 unsure how I can best help to educate people as to what herbalists do, I guess because for me, herbalism is akin to ecology and akin to permaculture; it’s a way of looking at life and at health, of looking at death and illness, of trying to understand how best to support oneself and others in the most healthful way possible, the most whole/holy way possible.

How can I help people get interested in making their own medicine—especially if the kind of medicine I’m talking about may not have anything at all to do with dandelion root, and everything to do with having an intimate conversation with a friend or family member?

How should I market what I do? How should I charge for it? What I do is energy-intensive, because it’s my goal with every client to be present to that person, to give her or him my full presence. Can anyone put a price on that kind of energy?

As I said, at this time, everything is up in the air. I’ve long viewed my business as an extension of all of the work that I do—the work on myself, the work in the garden, the work with family and friends. In 2014, I’d like to spread the word about herbalism, about the permaculture principles of Earth care/people care/fair share. I want to increase my sense of community where I live—to find people with whom I can garden and wildcraft. I have some new health and plant-medicine activities that I’ll share in the coming weeks. I expect that I’ll write more about health. I am open to what comes. I know whatever comes will be an adventure and, ultimately, fun.

Sometimes medicine is experienced just by being with a plant, such as castor.

Sometimes medicine is experienced just by being with a plant, such as castor, a pet, a place, or a person.

If you live in the Annapolis, Md., area and want to learn more about herbalism or want to focus on what your health means for you, please send me a note by e-mail at If you’d like to hear more about the activities of Art of Earth, you can join my e-mail list. I don’t bombard anyone with e-mail, though I do send out more e-mail if there’s a scheduled event. If you find it’s not for you, you can opt-out anytime.

I wish you a happy, healthy, soulfully prosperous 2014. Most of all, I wish you love and peace.