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The theme of this issue of Seeds is “rebirth/regeneration” and features a variety of pieces from the usual biographical sketch, to narrative, reflective, and informative articles, to poetry. The writers offer a multitude of approaches to the theme: the move to a new home, lifestyle, and purpose; the birth of a new mission in life; physical journeys leading to deeper encounters with people and nature; spiritual and physical transformations; the renewal of the natural world; preservation of the natural world with its cycles of rebirth and renewal.
Thanks to all the writers who shared their reflections and experiences. I think it is fair to say to readers that anyone who reads through all of the contributions will discover new insights into their own lives, life directions, and purposes.
The next issue will be an all-school issue on the theme of “resilience”—featuring the hard work, creativity, and sacrifice required to pull off a full year of in-person school, both at the Friends’ School and Creativa. Students, teachers, volunteers, and parents may send submissions to the Seeds gmail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. They can take the form of essays, poetry, interviews, artwork, multi-author discussions, etc. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with the community of readers.
Table of Contents
- Almost Heaven: Introducing Renae Skordas and Victor Miele
- Anastasia Means “Rebirth” by Anastasia Shown
- Reflection by Mary Newswanger
- Adaptation and Reinvention by Oscar Zuccaro
- Jerome’s House by Jeff White
- Purple Lamium by Tim Lietzke
- The Camino Less Traveled by Tim Sales
- Credo by Kenna Creer Manos
- If a Tree Falls in the Forest by Tom Cox
- To Classmates on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Our High School Graduation by Tim Lietzke
- Community Resilience and Permaculture by Paula Vargas
Almost Heaven: Introducing Renae Skordas and Victor Miele
By Renae Skordas
Almost heaven, Monteverde. The Tilaran mountains, the Quecha and Guacimal and Abangares and other rivers, the cloud forest and more biodiversity than I’ve ever experienced in any one year of my life. The first time I explored the cloud forest of Monteverde, I felt a giddiness that gave way to calm; I had the sense that if everyone in the world could experience a slow walk through the cloud forest, peace on earth could manifest in one collective deep breath. For someone like me who hails from the high desert of Utah in the United States, the cloud forest is pure magic. The undulating green density of trees and mosses and epiphytes sparkling with droplets of water from the cloud they both depend upon and which they generate. My partner, Victor, was raised in the temperate rainforests of southern Oregon, also in the United States. For him, Montverde is like coming home.
Victor’s first trip to Monteverde was in 2016 when the word Quaker caught his eye in the index of a guidebook to the country. Having grown up as a Quaker in Oregon, he was curious to come to Monteverde to see how Quakers in Costa Rica lived. He contacted the Friends’ School and did a homestay with a local family and attended meeting on Sundays. I was staying in Quepos with my parents and siblings when Victor eventually met up with us. He reported that Monteverde was definitely a place he wanted to visit again; perhaps even a home in which to live and raise our kids because of the Quaker community, the high quality of education provided by the Friends’ School and, of course, its proximity to nature.
Fast forward to 2021, our daughter, Naomi, had turned three and our son, Sebastian, was nine months. Our family trip to Argentina, where Victor was hoping to also do some mountaineering with a group of friends, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never one to let an adventure pass him by, Victor changed our flights from Argentina to Costa Rica. We arrived at the end of January and stayed in the country for nearly five weeks. We spent most of that time here in Monteverde. When I first experienced the cloud forest, I was in awe. I yearned to know more about the symbiotic mysteries between the soil and the trees, leaf cutter ants and their gardens of fungi. It felt as though the cloud forest was the center of the earth’s life force. As I said before, it is pure magic.
Even with such happy magic, when Victor suggested that we move to Monteverde, I hesitated. I hesitated because it was the unknown. I have my own longing for adventure, but caring for two young children will change anyone’s relationship to inviting more unpredictability into life. With the help of a friend from Monteverde’s Quaker meeting, Victor found a place for us to rent for a year. We saw the house before we left Monteverde and by the time we left Costa Rica a few days later, I was excited to announce to our friends and family that we would be moving here in June. My hesitation about the unknown was assuaged by the opportunity for our kids to live in the cloud forest every day (some of Sebastian’s first twenty words included tree and araña and hongo), to experience the kindness of a small community of happy people, less screen time, more outside and open-ended play, and an incredible bilingual education for our now four-year-old daughter at the Cloud Forest School. Perhaps most importantly, I realized that the biggest unknown is how the cloud forest itself will change during the lifetimes of my children.
Climate change caused by human activity, both on the individual and industrial scale, specifically the amount of carbon introduced to the atmosphere, is the cumulative effect of an infinite number of choices. Always in mental conflict over the weight of my personal choices on the global scale, I can see all too well the irony of living in the cloud forest during one of the major extinctions of earth’s history. Maybe it’s a convenient excuse, but I like to believe that things are working out exactly as they are supposed to, and I am in exactly the place I am supposed to be at exactly the right moment. Maybe this is faith. Either way, I realize how fortunate my family and I are to have the option to live here now.
Last July, Victor had the unique opportunity to hike the Tapir Trail from Arenal to Monteverde with members of the Guindon family. The trail had become overgrown by the lack of use during the first year and a half of the pandemic. During their hike, it rained every day and Victor was soaked even before they set up camp the first night. Still, Victor remembers that hike with fondness. He truly appreciates the kindness of the family to include him on such a challenging adventure when he was nearly a stranger. He was also impressed by the strength and speed exhibited by the family as they completed the hike in three days of hiking while breaking up the trail’s congestion with machetes. Upon returning home, Victor immediately purchased waterproof socks and a machete.
Living in Monteverde has also provided us with the opportunity to live more simply. The radius of our daily activities has been reduced to a handful of kilometers, making the places we need to be and want to be accessible by our electric bikes. Being on a bicycle lends itself more easily to becoming part of the place one lives. I know well when it is hot or cold or raining. It is okay to be hot; it is okay to be cold; it is okay to be wet (as long as I have a hot shower and clean, dry clothes when I get home). In fact, my biggest discomforts from the environment have been the road dust cutting into my eyes as well as inhaling the exhaust from vehicles passing us on the roads. I remember a short conversation I had with Margaret Adelman, a long-time resident of Monteverde. She recalled that when she first came here there was only one car in the whole village. I wonder what that was like. Perhaps I fantasize about it.
The world has changed since Margaret first came to Monteverde. There are more cars, but there is also more forest. Conservation efforts are normalizing reforestation in this country, a new reality for a generation of young people who, we all hope, will inspire a global trend. For the year that my family will live in Monteverde, the cloud forest is a nursery for my children. A nursery because Victor and I both believe that to have profound love for nature, kids need to grow up interacting with it. I believe this can help a child grow into a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose. From my perspective, providing the kids with the opportunity to come to their senses in nature is infinitely more valuable than nearly any other educational experience I can imagine. Our year will wrap up this May when we will return to Salt Lake City, Utah. Victor and I are looking to the future, as we are expecting our third child in September. As we look to bringing our third child back here one day, we hope there will be more trees and, as we collectively come up with solutions to climate, perhaps there will also be fewer fossil-fuel-powered cars in Monteverde. I know we will remain rooted in the cloud forest as we journey through life, and we will always remember what is possible.
Anastasia Means “Rebirth”
By Anastasia Shown
Anastasia wasn’t a popular name when I was born in the U.S. state of Indiana in 1980. It was weird and exotic. On the other side of the world, in Russia and Eastern Europe, Anastasia had been the most common girl’s name for decades. It is still in the top ten. It is commonly given to girls born around Easter or Christmas. In Greek, it means “resurrection” or “rebirth.” The name symbolizes the rebirth of nature at the end of winter and the welcoming of springtime.
There is a Saint Anastasia in the first century, and although her history is largely unknown, she is also called “Anastasia the Healer” because she was known to heal people from the effects of poisons and spells. She was a young widow who never remarried and secretly dedicated her time to the poor and those in prison. She was persecuted and martyred by the Roman Empire for her beliefs and her remains have been stolen more than once. It is rumored they are now in Croatia, Turkey, or Greece.
Perhaps the most famous Anastasia is the Russian grand duchess, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. According to lore, her remains were not found among the Romanov family when they were executed together by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918. Many books and movies have explored the idea that she somehow survived execution and miraculously reemerged to live a secret life in Europe.
I lean into the history and meaning of my name, using it as a symbol of hope when I go through tough times. I have been given many opportunities to start over and regenerate. Moving to Monteverde with my family has been a wonderful rebirth of sorts. Regeneration is the natural process of replacing or restoring damaged or missing parts. Currently, I am working through grief after losing my mother and, more recently, healing from a broken leg. I have faith that these damaged parts of my body and spirit will be restored. I have many more lives to live and “Anastasia” stories to leave behind.
By Mary Newswanger
I was sitting on the porch with my eyes closed in a quiet meditation when a small brown leaf wafted down into my open hand. It made me laugh! Such a thing has never happened to me before and I kept it. It reminds me that when we turn over a new leaf, first, the old leaf gently, quietly drops away, and there is always a period of time while the new leaf is quietly forming before it eventually emerges.
Adaptation and Reinvention
By Oscar Zuccaro
On March 11, 2018, I left my home and family in Venezuela due to the political and economic situation there and set off for Costa Rica with a suitcase and sixty dollars in my pocket. In Costa Rica, I tried to make a living at several jobs: making empanadas, becoming a barista in a coffee shop at Playa del Coco, preparing hamburgers in San Jose, and selling coffee at exhibitions.
Finally, in January 2019, after sending out many resumes, I was hired by a coffee company in Monteverde. I worked for this company as an advisor, which gave me the opportunity to become familiar with Monteverde. After nine months, my contract ended, and I decided to start my own business in this beautiful town.
There was no time to waste, however. I had no savings and my expenses were piling up. I was able to rent a comfortable place to live in central Monteverde, and on December 10, 2019, we opened Café Zuccaro in Monteverde. The joy of having our own business once again filled the whole family with purpose. We worked hard with the few tools and the little equipment we owned. As the business began to grow, we were able to pay our expenses. Our dreams and expectations soared.
Three months later, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and by April 2020, everything changed—tourism decreased, residents no longer went out to eat, and a sense of desolation seemed to take over Monteverde. Eventually, most businesses had closed by decree, as no one was traveling anymore.
Resilience is something Venezuelans have had to learn over the past twenty years as corrupt totalitarian governments produced great political and economic instability. Many of us have had to constantly adapt, change, and reinvent ourselves to survive. I suppose that, for people like us, the prospect of starting over may not be quite as imposing as it is to others. It is simply a fact of life.
For our new business to survive, we had to come up with a way to continue generating income, so we focused on our best-selling item: bread. During the pandemic, bakeries were allowed to continue operating as bread was considered a “staple product,” so we were able to remain open by baking. It was not easy. Even selling bread was only able to provide for our groceries, and we continued to accumulate debt for services and rent. A few weeks later, we had the opportunity to open a second store in Santa Elena, an ideal location that had been abandoned due to the pandemic. We quickly accepted the challenge and, in August 2020, we opened our second location thanks to the financial help of some friends who believed in our project.
It was a financial risk and an uphill battle to sustain both stores. We continued to work through our difficulties and struggled to move forward until, in November of that year, COVID entered our home and our company. That was our most difficult challenge yet as we had to completely cease operations for twenty-five days. Somehow, we survived.
I feel a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the hard work and difficult decisions that have brought us to where we are today. We have continually worked to build, adapt, and reinvent ourselves to make our dream successful. Every day, I live with gratefulness for the opportunities we have in Monteverde. Through hard work and determination, that path continues. It feels like we have barely begun.
If you were to ask me if all our struggle and effort has been worth it, my answer would be: “Yes! I would do it all again, without hesitation.” And it is very likely, I will have to do so again.
By Jeff White
The house sits on the north side of Santa Elena, between the triangle and the soccer field. It is dilapidated, windowless, covered with graffiti, and has been used by squatters as a drug house. To me, it seemed perfect—a proper metaphor for broken, wounded, and empty lives in need of healing and a restoration of purpose. More practically, it is centrally located near downtown and accessible to anyone in need.
I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person but I do have faith in a spiritual essence that has carried me through some dark times. My father was a banker who eventually became addicted and homeless. I was raised in an environment in which it was normalized to self-medicate to deal with your pain. I first achieved sobriety when I was just a twenty-one-year-old musician in a band and, as all addicts know, it has been my lifelong struggle ever since. After getting sober, I got a biology degree from the University of Texas, became an Austin fireman, got married, and had a son, Buddy. By this time, my old bandmates were already in jail for dealing drugs, but for me, having a job and a son kept me sober. My wife and I eventually divorced when she became addicted to Oxycontin after a traffic accident and refused to get sober. I made many attempts to help her get clean so she could be in Buddy’s life, but she never even made an attempt. After a fatal shooting in her home killed Buddy’s cousin while he was with me, I gained full custody. Eventually, however, spending more than twenty years as a city fireman took its toll and I began having a hard time with work-related trauma. Retiring from the fire department and moving with Buddy to Costa Rica four years ago probably saved my life. But the struggle is never over.
After my dad died last May, I fell into a deep hole. I was angry about things in life I could not control. I was drinking heavily again and borderline suicidal. I knew that if my life did not change, things were not going to end well for me. A friend suggested that I try praying first thing each morning. Before doing anything else, I should roll out of bed, hit my knees, and talk to the spiritual realm. When I began doing this it wasn’t long before I began to hear the voice of my dad. The old man said, “Stop drinking and start being of service. Buy that old, dilapidated house and create a space where people like us have a place to go to find help.” I stopped drinking that day and began to search for the owner of that house.
Several folks were quick to tell me that the owners would never sell it. One day, I ran into Jerome. We shared the same disease. He was one of the homeless alcoholics of Santa Elena most people avoid. We talked about the fact that there was little support in Monteverde for addicts. I told him of my dream to create a place with regular AA meetings and other services for people like us. Jerome knew who owned the building and told me where they lived. I knocked on their door and shared my vision of creating a community health center in their building. They agreed to sell it to me! A few weeks later, the deal was done, and I began to clean out the old house.
Unfortunately, on September 5, Jerome died from complications due to alcoholism before my dream could help him. He was only forty-two years old. He was a handsome, brilliant guy who was adored by all who knew him. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
We must do better for people like Jerome and me. We will do better.
There have been a few bumps in the road with the municipality, but they are being worked out. Today, although the building is far from complete, informal AA meetings have begun to meet. The vision I have for the house goes beyond just AA and NA meetings. I foresee other services for those who need a helping hand: English classes for Ticos, job training, sex education and prenatal advice from women for women, free breakfasts for kids. The possibilities are endless.
The miracles have started happening already. I recently saw Juan sitting on a bench across from Supermercado Vargas. He was drinking from a bottle of guaro and didn’t look good. I had met him seven months before. It was the last time I got “sick-drunk.” I went home that night and thought I was going to die. I haven’t had a drink since. Seven months sober.
When I saw him again, drinking on that bench, I told him about our meeting and that he was welcome to join us. He got sober the next day. He now has a job working for Amazon. Last week, we went back to see his family in Atenas, where he got to hang out with his kids. His parents are talking to him again. It’s been amazing to see Juan turn his life around. He comes to all the meetings. He even chairs a meeting. When I saw him at our meeting this past Wednesday, it hit me that it has all been worth it. Juan is doing so well. He has been sober for two months now.
I am so grateful every day I spend here in Costa Rica. I have a little farm in the woods (another resurrection project) that I share with my girlfriend Elli. Buddy is thriving here and working at the Pension Santa Elena. I have never been happier and consider each day a gift.
In sobriety, the twelfth step is about service—carrying the message to people who still suffer in their addictions. I feel like I have been given this amazing life and a lot of breaks from the angels or God, and I feel that I need to give back. So, I have this place that I call Jerome’s House, or Casa Jerome. Miracles are happening there. My friend will not be forgotten.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction, we hold AA meetings every Wednesday at noon, Saturdays at 3pm, and Sundays at noon. It is for Ticos, tourists, and expats—all are welcome.
By Tim Lietzke (from the prison poems)
As the sun bent low o’er morning fields
I crouched to purple lamium
nestled round drooping Veronicas, nascent
like hooded monks
with palms outstretched, stigmata impressed
invoking the peace of breaking bread
for thousands on the dole, hungry and seeking.
Indefectible sight! Of bread and blood
Commingled in the hand
Of toil and pain and savage arrest.
Again and again the same
as if no end to it,
the sacrament of the plodding remnant
run the gauntlet—
beaten, jabbed, pierced, mangled,
laid out in mock review
after which to be picked up out of the stupor
by an unseen hand.
Such love, yes, such love in those eyes
to bear the weight of a single grief
let alone a myriad’s myriad more
fanning the parched and trammeled earth.
Lord, my unbelief help.
Such love, such love in palms outstretched
As the sun bent low o’er morning fields.
The Camino Less Traveled
By Tim Sales
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), considered one of the world’s great walks, has always called to me. At the same time, it has always repelled me as well. After all, what introvert wants to walk with those crowds? Then, when COVID happened, it seemed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do the Camino without the huge crowds.
In spring 2021, Spain was reopening to vaccinated travelers but tourism was still very low. Perfect! I had barely mentioned it to my son, Jackson, and he was on it. “I can get three weeks off if we start July 1,” he told me. “I have two Spanish friends who want to join us for the first week. Is that okay? You pick the route and we’ll be there.”
It turns out that there are several physical Caminos, including six well-established routes: Camino Frances (the French Way), Camino Portugués (the Portuguese Way), Camino del Norte (the Northern Way), Camino Primitivo (the Original Way), Via de la Plata (the Silver Way), and Camino Inglés (the English Way). Additionally, many people extend the walk by adding the 100-km Spanish extension from Santiago to Finisterre, the westernmost point in Europe once thought to be the end of the world. But everyone’s path is considered the Camino, so there are as many Caminos as there are people walking it.
I love a good walk, especially when it is combined with interesting culture. We all have mental maps of our world and I have spent my life filling out mine—banishing the monsters, if you will. When I was young, I spent many summers doing long mountain treks carrying heavy packs for weeks that included food, tents, books, and climbing gear. I learned then that hiking, like anything physical, is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. For me, the Camino was going to test that premise. I have a neuromuscular condition that has been slowly weakening my legs. My calves basically don’t work. Walking four hundred kilometers, even with a light pack, would be a good challenge. Because these Caminos have been traveled by so many for so long, one can walk them in Spain carrying almost nothing. Perfect! Jackson is always up for an adventure, especially if it is challenging. No doubt he also wanted to be there to help me if needed
We chose the Camino Primitivo for many reasons. At 400 km, including the extension to Finisterre, we could complete it in three weeks. It is known to be the hardest route due to the mountainous terrain, but it is also known to be the most scenic. Jackson and I are both very visual, so that was an important factor. And this route is indeed “the road less traveled.” According to 2019 statistics, only 4 percent of pilgrims who walked to Santiago chose the Primitive Way. Again, perfect! As it turned out, we took what I call the “highlights route.” At the 250 km point, where the Primitive Way meets the more popular French Way, we saw the crowds and the flat terrain ahead and hopped on a bus to the coast, where we did the final 100 km to Finisterre on a beautiful coastal trail—the Camino Los Faros (the Lighthouse Way). How can it be that you can walk for days along an incredibly scenic coast in a place where people have lived forever and not see a soul?
We met up with Alejandro (Gango) and his brother Alfonso (Alfie) in a cafe in Oviedo. Gango was Jackson’s housemate in college and now works in the fashion industry in Paris. Alfie is a software guy who attended college in the US and worked for a while in New York City before moving back to Valencia, their family home. When I asked what languages they spoke, the answer, it seemed, was, “All of them!” Gango walked with us for the first five days, constantly clowning around and narrating our progress in Old English. It was a bit like hiking with Sir Robin, Sir Galahad, and the Black Knight from Monty Python, all rolled into one. He and Jackson obviously have a long history of real-time improvisational comedy. It was great entertainment for Alfie and me, the quiet ones. We tended to hang back and share techie talk, which was also great.
Alfie had less time and longer legs, so, after the first week, he forged ahead at a faster pace. Our days ranged from fifteen to thirty-five kilometers. On a typical day, we’d be up and walking at sunrise. We’d find a quick breakfast of coffee and pinchos or tostada (toast with savory tomato marmalade. Yum!) along the way and then keep walking. We quickly learned that, at least for us, it made the most sense to arrive at our destination early enough to get lunch before many places closed at 2 pm for the afternoon. Letting hunger set in after a long day’s walk was not good for anybody. Lunch on the Camino is an event. The multi-course daily menu served by small bars and restaurants was well-earned and much appreciated. We spent a lot of calories on the Camino but I’m pretty sure we came out net positive, weight-wise. So much good food!
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, but it is hard to put my finger on why that was. There were no big epiphanies except for the fact that I realized I need to spend more time in this part of Spain. I had been to Spain about twenty-five years before but had only explored the southern part of the country by car. I was left with the impression that Spain was a dry country with not-so-great food. At that time, I spoke no Spanish and had a two-year-old in the back seat, so perhaps it was not the optimal way to experience the country. I probably need to give southern Spain another look.
The states of Asturias and Galicia where we walked were a real eye-opener—lush, green, mountainous countryside filled with picturesque stone villages and farms, and a rugged seacoast of beaches and rocky headlands. Walking was the best and sometimes the only way to see things. I appreciate architecture, especially in rural settings. I also love seeing how people who have lived in a place for thousands of years solved their day-to-day challenges. How did they get water from here to there? What did they grow? How did they store it? What did they eat? How did they build houses and barns using local materials? The past is still alive in rural places. Details matter and many can only be seen and noticed up-close and slow.
Spending time with Jackson doing something we both enjoy was a gift. Lots of our time was spent walking and talking but there were also times spent walking in silence. Jackson and I are both people who appreciate a good silence, especially in nature. I proved to myself that I can still keep pace, albeit with a light pack and high-tech leg braces. There is something seductive about the routine of the Camino: wake up, walk, eat, sleep, do it again. There are not many big decisions to be made.
Reentry into non-Camino life was, in some ways, harder than the walk itself. There is definitely a part of me that just wants to keep walking.
I will be going back.
By Kenna Creer Manos
When the clamour is gone,
when the insistences of flesh
lie down to quiet ease;
when truth is no longer
a territory to be staked,
and malice is palmed
before being spent.
When convictions are sanctioned
that faith without smile
can be as much a prison
as laughter without faith.
When the heart asks no more
than it has room to honour without force:
then what remains is mindfulness
informed by grace,
as simple and redemptive
as the curve
of an embrace.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest
By Tom Cox
She stood straight and tall, an elder of the bosque for who-knows-how-many decades. Because she towered head and shoulders above her neighbors, her sparse branches were a favorite for the bell birds and toucans who prefer unobstructed vistas. Monkeys in search of water loved to bury their heads in the epiphytes that grew up high in layers of soil deposited on her limbs over time by Afro-Caribbean trade winds that explode over our mountain.
From the moment we arrived in Monteverde, her hulking presence was an instant focal point as our eyes tracked the rising slopes behind our house. She was an arboreal North Star for those of us who live beside the Monteverde Institute. I loved to photograph the birds on her boughs, the moon peeking over the continental divide behind her. In fact, I shot the misty January full moon shining through her frame just a few days before.
This mighty queen toppled down without warning or fanfare. I had been somewhat aware that the amount of foliage on her upper branches had diminished in the six months I have been here. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing. Maybe she’s dormant. As it turns out, her demise was not due to wind or rain or the tools of mankind’s deforestation. Her fate was sealed by the infestation of termites that consumed her root structure and left her without strong foundation. It was extremely fortunate that this behemoth only brought down a few power lines and part of a gate. She barely missed the corner of a home and spared the hikers, motorcycles, and cars that often use the gravel road onto which she fell.
We were out of town when it happened, but unlike the famous saying of a tree falling in the forest, there were people who heard the mighty crash. When we returned, her absence was not immediately obvious. There was just a feeling that something was missing, that the view of the rainforest was somewhat diminished. Our neighbor Sandra informed us of the event in mournful tones, as if sharing the passing of a loved one—which is exactly what she was doing.
That’s not possible, I thought. She seemed so strong. I was with her just a few days ago. She gave no indication anything was wrong!
We humans don’t always react well to change. We cling to the static and stable. Our brains grasp on to memories of the past, often subtly enhanced and exaggerated. We pine for the halcyon days and complain that “things were just better back then.” But many of the great spiritual leaders and gurus tell us that this is illusion. Past and future are simply movies that play over and over in our minds. In reality, all we have is “now.” It’s all we’ve ever had and all we ever will have—and it is enough.
In many ways, nature is my guru. She models the cycles of birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth. She doesn’t complain about condition or circumstance. She doesn’t live in the past nor pine for the future. Each morning, she rejoices in today. She reminds me that change is life. And life, as our Creator once said, is “very good.”
I miss my friend, but I have noticed some new friends that have emerged from behind the place where she once stood. Perhaps they are not quite as dramatic or as stately, but the birds now perch on their branches without complaint. I never had a clear view of them before. Now I do. We are getting to know each other. And life is very good.
To Classmates on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Our High School Graduation
By Tim Lietzke
But I, I will soar to other realms,
there to rejoice for a season in the beauty, joy,
peace experienced here and, yes,
also in the pain that I sometimes shun now,
the pain of letting go, of breaking shells of isolation, of infirmities of the flesh,
the pain that has helped to bring me to this spiritual state.
And I will sing Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika with Nelson and Steve and Isabel if she’s passed that way,
And I, too, will swoon to hear Liszt play Chopin’s ballades,
nod my thanks to George Frideric and glimpse once more
the strike of awe and well of tears,
And I will give Alice Paul a loving hug and tell
of thousands bringing her sowing to fruit one day,
Friend Gandhi and I will peer through cherry blossoms
at the starry firmament and ponder freedom in a prison cell,
And I will ask Olive’s John if he already knew or only realized in the retelling
that the only human tale has a sequel
and Mary how her broken-open heart managed not to break apart
those few days
and my Quaker twin John if we are indeed brothers, but of course we are,
And I will rest in the eyes of Jesus and feel the wind in his touch
and know that we all are one,
And I will know that we all are one.
Community Resilience and Permaculture
By Paula Vargas
Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple. —Bill Mollison
The Monteverde Community Garden is located in the old bull ring in Cerro Plano, Monteverde. It aims to benefit the students of the Cerro Plano Public School and the community of which they are a part by engaging them in a permaculture project that uses regenerative agriculture as a platform to promote education, food security, a sense of community, physical and mental health, safety, sustainable practices, and resilience. In turn, reactivating a space that had long been without use.
The project also responds to the situation that was presented by the global pandemic of COVID–19 and its repercussions in the area, which has been economically dependent on tourism for years. This situation has brought to light the importance of resilience in the community.
So, how can people use permaculture to help communities become more resilient to external shocks such as the global economy, climate change, and energy issues? The objective of implementing permaculture in designs should be resilience: the capacity of a system to hold together and preserve its ability to operate in the face of change and shocks from the outside. A resilient community can swiftly recover from abrupt environmental or economic changes.
Permaculture design is a methodology that aims to create stable and productive systems that provide for human needs while harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants. Although originally focused on creating sustainable agricultural systems, permaculture is now used for designing human systems of economy, social organization, urban environments, and more.
In the 1970s, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren invented the term “permaculture” to express the concept of “permanent agriculture,” because there was no phrase for it at the time. As culture and agriculture reflected one other, it grew into the concept of “permanent culture.” To put it another way, how can we as a species indefinitely sustain ourselves and cater to our own needs as well as the requirements of the environment?
Permaculture arose from a recognition of the ecological situation. It inspires people to break free from the dying system by using the land surrounding their houses to meet their fundamental needs. The more productive the regions surrounding people’s homes grow, the easier it will be to save the remaining natural forests and other wild places from degradation.
Permaculture Ethics: Earth Care … People Care… Fair Share… Future Care
Permaculture combines traditional ancestral wisdom with current science and technology. It provides people with solutions to satisfy their basic needs. Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share, and Future Care are its basic ethical ideals. It is a tool that everyone can use to become more resilient and assist in the face of the major issues we face today. It has a universal perspective that believes issues can be solved and that people have the personal and communal capacity to do so.
Permaculture’s ethical foundation is based on caring for the environment—ensuring that all life systems survive and proliferate, including human, domestic animal, and wildlife access to resources required for their survival as opposed to the acquisition of riches, power, or territory beyond their needs. A permaculture motto says, “Give away surplus.” It also favors collaboration and acknowledgement of each person’s unique contributions over uniformity and competitiveness, following the general rule of nature, which says that cooperative species and associations of self-supporting species produce healthy communities.
The process of establishing a permaculture ecosystem is slow and long-term. The execution of a design requires correct sequencing and flexibility so that modifications may be made when new knowledge is gained through observation and experience.
Despite its roots in horticulture and agriculture, permaculture is much more than just organic farming. It is an effective design technique for resilience that relies on a variety of fields, including ecology, technology, design, and development, among others.
Permaculture is a holistic approach to future planning that encompasses smart growth, low-impact construction, habitat conservation, complete streets, and other efforts that are frequently thought of as separate entities. Permaculture takes a more holistic approach to these and other principles, resulting in an integrated system.
Patterns found in nature inspire permaculture designs. They merge all these parts into a holistic and mutually beneficial design that integrates buildings and their environments. To enhance productivity, each element is studied to ensure that it fulfills numerous roles and is put in a strong connection with the other parts in the system. It also incorporates both traditional and modern practices and ideas, such as indigenous land use and food systems; natural construction materials such as earth, straw, stone, and bamboo; and sustainable energy systems.
Permaculture Principles and Ethics
Permaculture principles are a style of design thinking that allow people to create highly productive spaces that meet their requirements for food, energy, housing, and other material and non-material necessities. These principles are established through the study of natural patterns and may be applied to many climates and civilizations.
Permaculture’s primary mandate is that we accept responsibility for our own and our children’s survival. Our job is to keep energy from escaping before the system’s basic demands are met. This includes environmental stewardship, human stewardship, surplus distribution, and population and consumption restrictions. Cooperation, not competition, is the only way for existing life systems to survive in the future.
Holmgren Permaculture Principles
- OBSERVE AND INTERACT: By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- CATCH AND STORE ENERGY: By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, they can be used in times of need.
- OBTAIN A YIELD: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work you are doing.
- APPLY SELF-REGULATION AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems continue to function well.
- USE AND VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND SERVICES: Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on nonrenewable resources.
- PRODUCE NO WASTE: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS: These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them and they begin to support each other.
- USE SMALL AND SLOW SOLUTIONS: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- USE AND VALUE DIVERSITY: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- USE EDGES AND VALUE THE MARGINAL: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse, and productive elements in the system.
- CREATIVELY USE AND RESPOND TO CHANGE: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.
The ethics and principles that permaculture is based upon may be applied for a project of any size. It may be used on a small or large scale, in both rural and urban settings, and in any part of the world. Permaculture methods and practices may be used on a variety of sizes, including backyard gardens, city blocks, farms, villages, towns, and entire countries.
The Permaculture Flower:
Starting with ethics and principles focused on the critical domain of land and nature stewardship, permaculture is evolving by progressive application of principles to the integration of all seven domains necessary to sustain humanity through energy descent.
We need to think of our communities as ecosystems and evaluate how their many elements may be interconnected. Communities need a simple yet long-term solution that everyone can apply, on a personal basis, to the issues posed by climate change. Permaculture is a framework that may be used on a local scale to address the critical interactions and interdependence between nature and humans. It has the potential to bring about solutions to safeguard our planet’s future. Organizations and community projects working on food security, such as the Monteverde Community Garden, can help local residents practice and adapt techniques in their homes that contribute to a more resilient community. Enabling and incentivizing projects that help our communities become more resilient is key and will support our local economy and ecosystems while also building local capacity.