category: book of the week
i ran across this book last weekend at the heath store in los angeles.
gorgeous story told only with images, no text. those of you that remember my and shinpei’s treeless book from way back know i’m a fan of this type of storytelling!
as i’m downsizing my living and working space considerably i chose not to buy the book, but thankfully a rep reading put these images online and gives us a nice book summary.
written by tove jansson, she of moomin fame. apparently she became a novelist later in life, which intrigues me. this understated story follows a few characters through a winter season in a small scandinavian village, including a hermit elderly well-to-do children’s book illustrator and her protagonist, a young woman without prospects determined to become her charge.
translated to english, the language and tone of the book is still very scandinavian. it was a good bedtime book to snuggle up with under the warm blankets in the dead of winter. there’s a fair amount of human-centered intrigue, but, no surprise, the nature-describing passages were my favorites:
“anna aemelin could render the ground in a forest so faithfully and in such minute detail that she missed not the tiniest needle. her watercolors were small and implacably naturalistic, and they were as pretty as the springy blanket of mosses and delicate plants that a person walks across in a dense forest but seldom really observes. anna aemelin made people see. they saw and recalled the essence of the forest, and, for a moment, experienced a vague yearning that felt pleasant and hopeful.”
“spring came closer. during the day, the soil under the trees steamed blue in the sun; the nights were ice cold and deep blue. it was a brilliantly beautiful time… one night, the wind began blowing in from the sea. katri lay listening, remembering the spring nights when she used to go down to the water to wait for the ice to break up. she’d been very young. and when it came time for the first seagulls, she used to go out and wait for them. they almost always came the same night every year. yes, they always came at night.”
i don’t read a lot of fiction, but i’d heard of this book several times and was intrigued by the premise of a teen girl living with her father in the large wooded park on the edge of portland. thankfully, it turned out to be so much more than just glorified reportage of true events.
the story is fictionalized and expanded upon the story that inspired it. all the predicaments the two characters find themselves seem believable and relatable from both the father and the daughter’s points of view. i ached with recognition of being in a perilous situation and having to rise above it to find a solution to survive it. this story expertly captures the ingenious tenacity of the human spirit. it will stick with you!
images from my autumn days here in portland interspersed with excerpts from the kickoff talk of the latest bioneers conference. ideas that are difficult and overwhelming to think about, yet constantly inspiring and ever more prescient every day. just like life.
the nature of nature is change, but sometimes it hurdles into fast forward tripping radical shifts. scientists call it “nature’s regime shift.” for the first time people are causing it on a planetary scale and it can be irreversible, at least on a human timeframe. when people talk about saving the earth, we would better frame it as saving ourselves.
every major empire over the past several hundred years has undergone a predictable cycle of collapse. the hallmarks are always the same: the financialization of the economy, moving from manufacturing to speculation, very high levels of debt, extreme economic inequality, and costly military over reaching.
every empire has had an idiosyncratic ability to exploit a particular energy source that propelled it’s rise to economic power. no empire has been able to manage the transition to the next energy source. the climate imperative today is to transition off of fossil fuels worldwide and it requires the most complex collaboration and urgent passage in the history of human civilization. nothing like it has ever been done.
as paul gilding writes in the great disruption, the science says we physically entered a period of great change, a synchronized yet related crash of the economy and the ecosystem. the great disruption will ultimately take society into a higher evolutionary state. we have the opportunity to build a society that represents our highest capacities, that works with rather than against nature. this crisis presents what may be a once-in-a-civilization opportunity. the severity of the crisis will drive a global response thats mammoth in scale and speed including the biggest economic and industrial transformation in history. the sooner we shift, the more options and the less pain we’ll have.
from chaos theory to the gaia hypothesis, a new cosmology is unfolding. in this paradigm the earth does not revolve around us… to move from breakdown to breakthrough we’re entering into the age of nature. this revolution from the heart of nature leads with a basic shift in our relationship with nature from resource and object to mentor, model and partner.
as janine benyus points out, “nature’s done everything we want to do without mining the past, polluting the planet, or mortgaging the future. the principles appear simple: nature runs on current sunlight, nature banks on diversity, nature rewards cooperation, nature builds from the bottom up, nature recycles everything, life creates conditions conducive to life.
nature also has a profound capacity for healing. the age of nature calls for a new social contract of interdependence. taking care of nature means taking care of people, taking care of people means taking care of nature.
when huge shocks transform the landscape, structures and institutions crumble releasing tremendous amounts of bound-up energy and resources for renewal and reorganization. novelty emerges. it’s a period of creativity, freedom and transformation. these times belong to those who learn, innovate and adapt. the name of the game is resilience… the heart of resilience is diversity. resilience teaches us. decentralized systems create backups and redundancy.
above is the start of an art piece i made especially for old faithful beach cottage, in exchange for my week’s stay there on the coast last week. do you have a west coast cabin on the coast or in the woods and would like some custom artwork for it’s walls? i’d love to do similar projects!
would you like to see the completed piece above, and experience old faithful yourself? maura, the cabin’s owner, welcomes guests on airbnb.com and is also interested in creative barters such as massages, artwork, etc.
last week while away, i also read voluntary simplicity by duane elgin. not as poetic as the practice of the wild, but just as informative. it was also a kick to read while immersed in a lovingly restored cabin with just the basics, 1950′s-era style. the kitchen above was my favorite room, and the one where i spent the most time. below are some quote from the first chapter of voluntary simplicity and old faithful’s awesome simple kitchen, and surrounds.
“voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. it means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, a well a avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. it means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. it involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another.” – richard gregg
some people tend to equate simple living with a life characterized by poverty, antagonism to progress, rural living, and the denial of beauty. it is important to acknowledge these misconceptions so that we can move beyond them.
an ecological approach to living invites us to continuously balance two aspects of life – maintaining ourselves [creating a workable existence], and surpassing ourselves [creating a meaningful existence].
the many expressions of simpler living, both inner and outer, indicate that this is much more than a superficial change in the *style* of life. a “style” change refers generally to an exterior change, such as a new fad or fashion. simplicity goes far deeper and involves a change in our *way* of life.
simpler ways of living in the ecological era will result in changes as great as the transition from the agrarian era to the industrial era. in an interdependent, ecologically conscious world every aspect of life will be touched and changed: consumption levels and patterns, living and working environments, political attitudes and processes, international ethics and relations, the uses of mass media, education and many more.
to live *peacefully*, we must live within a reasonable degree of *equity*, or fairness, for it is unrealistic to think that, in a communications-rich world, a billion or more persons will accept living in absolute poverty while another billion live in conspicuous excess. only with greater fairness in the consumption of the world’s resources can we love peacefully, and thereby live sustainably, as a human family. without a revolution in fairness, the world will find itself in chronic conflict over dwindling resources, and this in turn will make it impossible to achieve the level of cooperation necessary to solve problems.
the character of a whole society is the cumulative result of the countless small actions, ay in and day out, of millions of persons. small changes that may seem unimportant in isolation are of transformative significance when adopted by an entire society.
living and working in your local community? check. less mass consumer culture? check. diy? check. another great hand drawn video/ speech outlining the basic priciples in the book Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth. i’ve reserved this book at the library.
spent the week nursing miss lucy-the-dog after her surgery monday to remove a few more rotted teeth. today’s been my first day back in the studio, but i didn’t get much done on account of an afternoon mushroom cultivating workshop with my favorite hippies in portland. does that sound insincere? i assure you, it’s not! reminded me to dig out mycelium running, a book i purchased last year during the holiday rush on the advice of a great customer visiting my booth at a craft show.
i’ll take it camping with me next week and actually read it. yes! i’m going camping! a real vacation! but of course, me being me, i’ll bring along my guide books, pens, paper & camera and begin preliminary research for my new anima series & kickstarter project.
the kickstarter project funding is slow going, but even if it doesn’t completely fund it’s helped me secure some amazing places to visit and stay in the next two months! if there’s no funding available i’ll visit these places as I can afford to and work on the new anima series on my own between other jobs i’ll have to procure on top of the ones I already have in place. it will just be a much slower process, and there won’t be mass-printed posters or cards available for you to purchase when i’m finished!
maybe i’ll just keep the artwork to myself until i have enough pieces to publish a book, and then maybe you’d be interested in pre-paying for that via kickstarter? hm, that’s something to think about! although with the hamster wheel life i live at the moment – working a ton to pay for the health specialists that allow me to continue to work a ton so that i can pay the health specialists – that’s many years in the future!
inspired by the permaculture workshop i’ve been taking, and my general nerdy-ness about designing spaces i’ve been geeking out with these three books the past three weeks.
oh, this is one of those books that’s both a great read and an occasional eye-roller at the same time.
the basic premise is some north american white dude who’s tried to erase his white guilt by working on aid projects in south america goes to live in a former medical-doctor-now-activist’s 12′ x 12′ cabin on a permaculture plot of land in rural virginia and learns a lot of life lessons thinking about questions related to “how can humanity transition to gentler, more responsible ways of living by replacing attachment to things with deeper relationships to people, nature, self?”
i’m being snarky only because it amuses me, sorry! i really did enjoy it – see all those tabs in the pic above?!
some more quotes:
“slowing down was a radical act in the context of an overscheduled america… it occurred to me that themes when i slowed down were ironically the times when i got the most work done. creativity flows smoothly out of nonfiction, from deep wells of idleness. the creative self savors aimless wanderings where you slip into your own snug skin.”
“she lives in enough. she has abundant fresh food in her gardens, the music of a creek, a network of friends, neighbors and family. she and other wildcrafters throughout the rich world are choosing downward mobility – living well instead of forever striving to live better.”
” there’s a point where one’s material life is in balance: one has neither too much or too little. roughly one-fifth of humanity has too much and is overdeveloped; another fifth has too little and is underdeveloped. neither of these groups experiences general well-being. the former, with materialism caked on like a million barnacles, can rarely experience the simple joy of being. the latter are so destitute that they can’t sustain their physical bodies. fortunately, the third group – those with enough – is by far the largest. it is what i call “developed,” ranging from subsistence livelihoods like that of the maya of guatemala to the level of the average european circa 1990.
by this rough calculation, 60% of the world lives sustainably, in a global sense. in other words, if everyone lived as they did, one planet – the one we’re on right now – would suffice to feed, clothe, shelter and absorb the waste of everyone. [in contrast, if everyone loved at the level of the average american, we'd require the resources of 4 additional earth-sized planets.]”
written by a holistic japanese farmer in the 1970′s this book is part philosophy, part farming guide, and a great read for permaculture enthusiasts and/or holistic thinkers! so good that even though this is a library copy, i’ll be ordering one of my own soon. see all those tabs? good stuff!
here are some thoughts from the book:
“extravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into it’s present predicament. fast rather than slow, more rather than less – this flashy “development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse. it has only served to separate man from nature.”
“for human beings, a life of simplicity would b possible of one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. in such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
i’m taking a permaculture course for the next few months, so expect to see most of my reading permaculture based!