30 October 2009

Dissolving Gender

Waking up from a dream transgender ant, conversations with Noelle conjuring up old memories of my own childhood questioning, wondering over the divisions of gender in society, trying to imagine a different world-view…

What if when babies were born, no one examined between our legs and no one proclaimed us more one way or another. We could just be babies awakening into this world. In childhood we could play in the games of imagination, trying out the interests towards which we were most inclined, the hair lengths and clothing most comfortable, without adults always clucking out their expectations, without categorizing our actions. And when we reached an age of sexual awareness, we would not be divided by our physical bodies, we would not have to leave behind any part of our us in order to conform to a two-gender system. No one would ask us: Boy or Girl? Nurturers would keep expanding their nurturing, organizers their organizing, all artists would explore their artistry, what you had to share would be shared: inherent talents defining your path, your contribution, your focus in your community, your place in society.

What kind of world would we then live in? What kind of harmony, an inner calm, could replace those anxious years of conformity and failure, self-doubt and depression that now so plagues the Western concept of adolescence? If we could somehow remove the guilt and shame of being divided and defined by our visible/invisible sexual organs, not lose all those years in repression of self-expression trying to fulfill limited roles deemed acceptable by society, what kind of beauty could we collectively dream into being, each and every one of us giving the best part of themselves?

No one would fall through the cracks. We could find and nurture and let blossom the creative aspect imbedded within each and every one of us: our true birthright, the power of our divine imaginations. Our relationships between lovers, friends, families would be richly diverse, satisfying our spectrum of needs from platonic to sexual based on connection, on energy, on the universal spark without the overarching opinion of society interfering, limiting, confining, defining. Remove the concept of Man and Woman and we can return to being Human, like the Smurfs before Smurfette or like the Care Bears where emotions and feelings and natural talents defined their roles.

Give a child Love and Space and watch them shine. We have forgotten the art of observation, we are losing our intuition, so defined and pre-ordered have we made modern life, there is no wonder that we find the chaos and strife of human suffering so present. How many children are growing up today already feeling like failures at such a young age, categorized as misfits, in the endless competition to be the Alpha Male or Female; roles of which there are by definition only a limited number, non-inclusive by expectation. We Humans are many-faceted, diversely talented, uniquely created and our defining characteristics and roles should reflect these aspects. Value and worth can only be embraced, not compared.

Why do we waste so much time and energy in false rules, planned disappointments, absurd expectations in propagating a clearly failing Western gender model? We have convinced ourselves that there is actually an archetypal Male and Female, have built science and religion and politics around this concept, and then spend the rest of existence being surprised by and attempting to categorize the continual flood of anomalies; the current, popular catch-all being Gay or Queer. No more labels, no more definitions. Let experience and our stories, our unique emotional paths and propensities guide us. If we can open our hearts and minds to Love’s many forms, the human experience can be an explosion of creative expression, connection and joy from which no one need be left out or behind.

A doodling of human transformation in my journalHuman Transformation comes from reaching beyond our personal fog, through the think cloud cover societal fears place between us and the stars. We center our focus, become the superheroes of our dreams. Through peace, through love, our ever-present connection to the Sun we recognize our True Selves; unravel the myth and enter. Our imaginations individual and collective are limitless and so shall be the boundaries of our experience.

25 October 2009

All Hail the Heirloom Hen

Wilma with Pebbles and Guavaberry enjoying afternoon sun in their hatchling nursery We let our first broody hen sit on two of her fertilized eggs as an experiment. And we were pleasantly blessed with a miracle of life as our first two chicks, Guavaberry and Pebbles, hatched a little over a week ago after being incubated naturally for exactly 21 days by their mother hen Wilma, whom has been diligently caring for her small brood ever since, teaching them all they need to know to find food and drink, keeping them warm and safe from harm. All hail the heirloom chicken breeds that not only still know how to care for their own, but that do so completely independently of, and really in spite of, human intervention!

The majority of poultry in the world, raised for commercial purposes, have been so regressively bred from their ancestors that their very survival as a species, their instinct to mate, to lay, to incubate, to hatch and to raise their young has been almost completely bred out of them. The majority of commercial poultry are extremely dependent on the intervention of humans for feeding, the treatment of illnesses, insemination, and electrical incubation so that even though they remain biological beings, commercial poultry have been transformed into little more than commodities in a system of food production. The widespread prevalence of these human-dependent breeds makes small-scale poultry raising difficult and expensive in costs, time and energy. But through the internet and special interest community groups, stocks of heirloom breeds are becoming more and more available to all aspiring self-sustainers the world over.

Thankfully, finding and raising fairly self-sufficient heirloom breeds of chickens or other domesticated farm animals and seeds is still the norm in southern Chile, which has made our forays into the raising of poultry one more of observation rather than aggressive intervention. We receive an egg a day from each of our hens all year round with our only feeding being a little handful of grain in the morning and again before sundown. They graze on grass and insects and their egg yokes are a deep orange from the natural diet. With a rooster at the lead, our few hens graze freely among the forest undergrowth under watchful protection and come home every night to roost in their coop. This is the way chickens were raised in all those old idioms repeated down from our great-grandparents, where the animals on a farm lived in a rather cooperative exchange with humans, at least more so than can be found on the modern, large-scale industrial farm. Come Spring, any visit to the farmer’s market in Valdivia is a colorful display of heirloom eggs for sale, blues and greens, every shade of brown and cream laid by hens of a whole range of colors and patterns. It leaves much to aspire to. In the meantime, a toast to our dear Wilma and her beautiful instinct toward motherhood and the raising of two healthy chicks!

13 October 2009

The Solar Revolution in Los Brujos

We started experimenting with solar energy passively in Los Brujos. Our second year in the forest (February 2008) began with the installation of a passive hot water system on our roof; really just running some water through a few giant coils of black tubing in the sun. Although the temperature of the water was divinely hot, the gravity dependent pressure of the system was sometimes barely a trickle and when water resources became scarce towards late summer, the roof system would not even refill and eventually we abandoned the passive solar heat for the more controlled system of summer bathing by heating water over campfire and then pouring the water over ourselves with a tin cup rather than actually showering. But the Sun had our attention and we knew that our roof received plenty of direct solar rays….

Fast forward to the beginning of this year, our third year in the forest when we installed a single solar panel (putting out 1500milliAmps) under peak summer sun and suddenly we were able to charge our and our guests’ cell phones, mp3-players, and other small electronic devices like camera batteries. Unfortunately, the laptop battery proved too much for the single solar panel and visions of connecting to the internet through mobile wi-fi and amplifying speakers for spontaneous dance parties were placed on hold. But we kept observing and monitoring the solar panel’s ability to charge our small electronics, and it did so flawlessly even through the Winter Solstice as the sun’s rays grew weaker, the days grew shorter, the rain clouds swarmed in an impenetrable fog. The three Sunsei panels installed in series on the roofThrough cloud cover and planet tilts, the solar panel gave us electricity and we knew that we could safely invest in more of the same technology. The Universe granted us an extra bonus for our patience and put a free-shipping sale on our Sunsei brand solar panels so we ordered two, which my in-laws graciously brought down to us during their recent visit, a secret goal of which was to bring us into the 21st century. And so they have. Thank you, Gray especially for your persistence and encouragement.

And so I now type alongside my wood-burning stove where I could once only scribble thoughts, hoping to recapture a moment of inspiration to send during my next visit to a cyber café in town. The final investment in our electric system was a deep cycle battery to store charge for non-solar moments and it glows green even with the laptop plugged-in and the panels under partial cloud-cover. Such successes in alternative energy really do leave one wondering, if it can work in a Valdivian temperate rainforest, where else could the options be tested? Here’s to joining the revolution!

10 October 2009

The Year of Harvests

I heard somewhere that the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac calendar is a year of harvest. Through labor and dedication, the Ox helps the land bear fruit. This second year in the 12 year Chinese cycle, our third year in the forest, has pushed us toward the harvesting of various resources in Los Brujos: drinking water from our stream at the end of January, honey from our bees in March, the first eggs from our chickens in April, and now in the budding spring of October, enough solar energy to recharge a computer to connect our patch of forest to the digital age. It may seem odd to place basic water and food achievements on equal footing with something so seemingly mundane as internet communication, but if we can not share our journey, how can we inspire others to dream and seek and imagine into being their own adventures?

We have spent so much time and energy in just establishing our presence and ensuring our comfortable survival in Los Brujos over the past two years that communicating the experience, demonstrating the transformation in words and images and dialogue has been an afterthought or something scribbled in the night into a journal and not shared beyond the forest’s borders. It is my hope the our launching some of the stories from Los Brujos into the ethers of the digital internet will reconnect us, will help to inspire us and expand our dreams as well as those of others. I have come to understand in my few years of technological hiatus that the worldwide web is exactly that: a channeling of a modern consciousness, training wheels for a telepathic mind. It is that imaginative inspiration I next wish to harvest…. But in the meantime, a special note about how we harvested our drinking water:

Our home-made Atlas Ram Pump in Los Brujos enjoying some winter water flowThe Atlas Ram Pump is an ingenious invention which pumps water without the use of external energy sources, only the kinetic energy of falling water. We used the design outlined by Don Wilson in his book All About Hydraulic Ram Pumps and have had amazing success, even through a severe summer drought which limited our water pumping to only an hour a day. Nearly all visitors to Los Brujos at the end of January this year actively helped assemble our system, whether by hauling water tanks, gathering stones and running pipe, or by building platforms and piecing together the pump itself, altered check-valves and tightened fittings. All the pieces are common items found in any hardware store (the pressure tank is actually just a bicycle tire inflated inside a confining PVC tube) and can be assembled without the use of power tools. It is an ideal way to pump water from a stream or spring source, using gentle slopes to create the funnel of pressure necessary to run the pump, and best of all, by assembling it ourselves we know exactly how to maintain or trouble-shoot the system. Our Atlas system utilizes a 1000 liter cistern that collects the water from our spring source through a filter and then water falling about 3 meters from the cistern through a 15 meter drive pipe to the Atlas pump is pumped vertically 30 meters over the distance of approximately 100 meters to the water tank above our cabins, supplying fresh drinking water to our home. The Atlas is only about 10-15% efficient in pumping water since most of the water that descends the drive pipe is used as kinetic energy to make the pump function so that, in our case, we pump approximately 100 liters in an hour. This sounds like very little, but it really adds up, especially since the past two years of water trials have ingrained in us a new appreciation for water scarcity. We are very conscious of our water use and needs and regularly consume our harvested rainwater for whatever cleaning or flushing or watering needs as appropriate and available. I hope to build a second Atlas pump further down our stream where we have greater water flow; animal and forest traffic may not warrant this water useful for drinking purposes, but it's a perfect source for agricultural water needs in the summer months. May the harvest continue.