Inciting Change through Intention: Prayers, Lovingkindness, Rituals, etc for the Gulf

MeetUsAtTheWaterHello friends, and welcome ’round the campfire.  Please pour yourself a long drought of water and drink deep.

I’ve tried not to follow news about the oil spill in the Gulf.  It’s too heartbreaking.  When, for example, @nprnews twittered “BP spill=months of sad animal photos ahead”, I just couldn’t click through.  The thing about this one is – even if you and I went all out, trucked down there and volunteered, it wouldn’t make it all better.  This isn’t a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, it’s a hole in the ocean.  But you know that.

Bill McKibbon recalls, “When a well started spewing oil off Santa Barbara in 1969, it spurred the first Earth Day, which in turn launched the environmental movement and a fundamental questioning of the balance between humans and the rest of nature. It turned out, in other words, to be a real Moment.”  Whether such a fundamental evaluation will happen in 2010 remains to be seen.

But I read over at Mrs. B‘s about the June 12th event you see in the vid below.  Divining Women has asked folks all over to go to water (a beach, lake, stream, or just a bowl of tap water) and pray, chant, perform a ritual, meditate, dedicate a yoga practice, or do whatever works for you to help heal this damage.  In short, perhaps, to incite a Moment.  Here’s hoping.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite for Sustainable Energy

Anne Johnson over at The Gods are Bored has had a rockin’ idea:  Let’s protest big oil and big coal by flying kites in support of solar and wind power.  Here’s to showing support for sustainable energy, adding beauty to the world, and having fun all at the same time!

Don’t have a kite?  Here are some DIY instructions from Squawkfox.  If you want something fancy or just already assembled, check out Into the Wind.

Now, I’m going to go dig my kite out from the back of my closet where the poor thing has been languishing all winter…

Book Review: Better Basics for the Home

This is the book that I use most often. Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond is a recipe book for everything from hair dye to car wax and sink scrubbers to under-eye cream. The vast majority of these recipes are simple and user-friendly; much cheaper than an off-the-shelf product; and use gentle, easy-to-find ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, salt, lavender oil, and aloe vera gel. With this book, making your own toiletries and household cleaners is a lot easier than worrying about what’s in the store-bought stuff – not to mention a helluva lot more fun!

Click on the cover image to buy this book from your local, independent bookseller. :)

Fair Trade Koko

A few years ago, I made friends with a Rhode Island Red named Koko. I had an ailing horse, and Koko was a resident at the same barn as my mare. Koko was a particularly well-socialized hen, and lonely because her brood-mates had all been carried off by a fox. I would sit in the door to my horse’s stall for hours, and Koko would take dust baths right next to me, let me pet her, and once brazenly climbed up my mother’s leg to request a sweet potato chip.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I lost my taste for conventional chicken and eggs. I know some of the stories about the meat industry are exaggerations (e.g. the explanation for Kentucky Fried Chicken’s name change to KFC). But I’ve seen first-hand that laying hens live out their lives in tiny, overcrowded cages – in effect treated as egg-production machines. Thinking of Koko – that sweet, social, quirky little bird – locked into a cage all her life makes my stomach turn.

I have to really talk myself into choosing the more expensive fair trade chocolate over the cheaper standard stuff. But all I have to do is think of my avian friend, and it comes naturally to choose the veggie dish over the chicken parm or the $4.50 free-range eggs over the $2.00 conventional. I guess that’s what comes of making it personal! (Maybe next I should visit a cocoa plantation…)

Small Steps for a Light Carbon Footprint

This year’s topic for Blog Action Day is climate change, bringing me to the subject of that all-important carbon footprint. I’d (genuinely) love to be offsetting mine by donating loads to Greenpeace or buying up acres of rainforest to preserve. But at this point, I’m at a small-step stage. In the pursuit of “first, do no harm,” here are a few of my fave strategies:

  1. Make the local farmers’ market your first stop for groceries: These farmers often use organic methods, plus you’re avoiding the environmental cost of groceries that have been shipped hundreds or thousands of miles.
  2. Buy food in its least processed form: This is generally best for both your health and the environment.
  3. Reuse containers: Large yogurt containers are great for freezing soup. Olive oil bottles are just right for chilling water. Bread loaf bags work well for packing sandwiches.
  4. Use the whole sheet of paper: Turn it over for scrap. (Quarter-sheets left by the phone are great for messages.) Recycle it when it’s done. Complete the cycle and buy recycled paper. While you’re at it, save some cash and buy refurbished (refilled) printer cartridges instead of the uber-expensive brand name ones.
  5. If you’re done with something (clothing, furniture, etc), sell it or give it away – don’t just toss it. (Craigslist is a great resource for this.)
  6. If you need something new, try a thrift shop first – even better if the shop’s proceeds go to charity.
  7. Adapt to the season: Eat lightly and wear loose light clothing in hot weather; pack in some comfort food and wear layers in cold weather.
  8. Walk to get places. If you can’t walk there, try to use mass transit. Try to live near where you work.
  9. Turn off/unplug appliances when not in use.
  10. Forget the chemicals: Most surfaces in your house can be cleaned effectively with vinegar and water or a baking soda-water paste.

As an added bonus, most of these steps make my life simpler and more affordable. It isn’t so difficult, many days, to be eco friendly. As I see it, we’ve evolved to be part of this environment, not to trample all over it. So with a little mindfulness and reassessing of habits, treading lightly can be the path of least resistance.

Nothin’ But the Best for Our Slugs

After noticing a few slugs on the basil and tomato plants, it seemed time to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and let the little fellows drink themselves to death. The only beer in the house was two thirds of a six-pack Wolaver’s organic India pale ale. Wolaver’s might be a little high class for slug-baiting, but since it’s been hanging around the pantry for a while, I figured it’d do. That’s taking organic to a whole new level!
Check out the cilantro seedling’s little coriander hat. (Coriander is the seed of the plant, cilantro the leaves. That’s my sort of two for one deal.)


Between the rising price of … everything … and an impending move to a big city where life promises to be more expensive (not to mention more toxic), I’ve been inspired. I am hereby eschewing brand names and making my own. So get ready for easy, cheap, eco-friendly events like sprouting beans, growing veggies, and make-it-yourself make-up.

Here, you can see three “square foot gardens” in progress. Our soil is better known as sand, so this is an apt technique. This morning I sprayed uber-strong garlic tea on some of the plants to fend off whatever little crawly has been nibbling on them. At least they’ll be safe from vampires!

Settling in to the Landscape

As a New Englander, I was raised in a fairly pristine environment. We have plenty of forests left wild, and fields full of brush and wildflowers. Parts of Ireland, on the other hand, have been divided over generations into small, fenced-off pastures. When I first saw Co. Clare from above, flying into Shannon Airport, I thought it would make me feel claustrophobic. I discovered anything but. The stone walls, constructed with stones from the fields they enclose, are beautiful, and vary in style from region to region. They seem so much more in tune with the landscape than wire or chain link fencing. Also, it’s common practice to hop the fences and walk right through the fields (assuming there’s no bull inside!)

Most older structures are also built of stone. I have a friend in Doolin who likes to point out his house from a distance, because it matches its environment so well. Unfortunately many of the newer houses are much like suburban American dwellings: larger than needed, built with little craftsmanship. They stick out like a sore thumb.

The roads in Ireland, also, seem to impose less on the landscape. The one pictured here is, in effect, one of Ireland’s major highways. Many roads are hardly wider than a bike path. And people drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to fit them.