August 22, 2017

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

Experiencing the sacredness of nature can cause feelings of blessedness, joy, ecstasy, and serenity.

Humans have not always seen the natural world as a soul-less void passively existing to serve our needs and wants. At one time we knew that everything was alive, and crackled with life, magic, and soul. Trees, rocks, mountains, birds - every thing was sacred.

One of the beautiful things about believing in the sacredness of the Earth is that you don't see yourself as separate from it, and therefore hesitate to harm any part of it. The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

In the 1800s, Chief Seattle explained his peoples' take on this. He said, "Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people". That is certainly my personal experience when I interact with natural surroundings.

"How can other people not see this, feel this?" I wonder to myself. For me it is powerful and unmistakable.

Being in touch with the power of nature can awaken us to the spiritual dimensions of our existence.
Take the "sacred" designation away and distinctly un-natural things happen. We think we can own it. We think it is all inferior, dead, and put there for the sole use of humans. Where did the sacredness go? How did we lose such an important part of ourselves?

In the book, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Ignorance, Swami B. V. Tripurari gives one possible explanation of how we arrived at seeing an essentially dead environment made for our own benefit.

"Our present environmental crisis is in essence a spiritual crisis", he says. "We need only to look back to medieval Europe and the psychic revolution that vaulted Christianity to victory over paganism to find the spirit of the environmental crisis. 
Inhibitions to the exploitation of nature vanished as the Church took the "spirits" out of the trees, mountains, and seas. Christianity's ghost-busting theology made it possible for man to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. 
It made nature man's monopoly. This materialist paradigm has dominated the modern world for last few centuries."

His solution? Put the sacred back into Nature. Give it the reverence it deserves, and see our selves as an integral part of the whole. Kind of like Chief Seattle was saying.

"The current deplorable environmental crisis demands a spiritual response", says Tripurari. "A fundamental reorientation of human consciousness, accompanied by action that is born out of inner commitment, is very much needed.”

Another special spot in my backyard woods. I look at the trees -  they look back at me. We are one.

Would you like to experience the sacred in nature more often and more powerfully? It is possible to learn to cultivate a relationship with nature that enhances our experiencing of the sacred. Such spiritual growth leads to positive change in our relationship with Earth. We feel powerful, connected, at peace.

Putting The Sacred Back Into Nature

1. Find a special place in nature. How? Usually, such locations are not simply chosen, and rather, are revealed to us after a bit of a search. You will feel drawn to such a place. Allow yourself to listen to the call. Let it lead you. You will know, you will feel, when you have arrived.

2. If you are fortunate enough to find such a place, go there regularly, when called, or when the occasion requires it. In any case, go to the places that call you, and be open to their influence.

3. Repeated visits to special places help develop your sense of connection to nature. A special place could be in your backyard, your garden, a nearby park, a special tree, stream, hill or mountaintop. Visit at all times of the day, and in all seasons.

4. Meditating on the ceaseless rhythms and cycles of nature opens the gateway to sacred time vs clock time. Nature meditations allow one to touch eternity, and feel touched by it in turn.

5. The sacred is most powerfully available to us during times of transition -- sunrise, sunset, midday, phases of the moon, equinoxes and solstices. Take advantage of these moments, whether through cultural celebrations, or immersing yourself in a special spot.

6. Be alone, and silent. Silence is the key to opening a gateway into solitude and communion with the divine. Psychologist Clark Moustakas studied loneliness, and found that, “In absolute solitary moments, humans experience truth, beauty, nature, reverence, and humanity.”

7. Don't rush, be calm. These things take time. Insights will come when one is ready.

When we are in intimate dialogue with nature, we can have powerful moments of insight and illumination. These moments are powerful confirmations of our faith in the possibility of integration and wholeness, a confirmation of the healing process by which one can restore one’s relation to the world. 

When we feel the sacredness in nature, the meaning of human existence is revealed, even if it’s only for a moment. In these glimpses, we are put in profound contact with our own basic humanity and the nature of Being. We experience being part of the whole of nature. Our individual being merges with the being of Earth. 

That will change everything. Our actions become ones which honour nature, rather than exploit it and use it to satisfy our own greedy desires. This is the change in human consciousness that needs to happen in order for us to save the environment, and ourselves.

August 17, 2017

Rumi In The Woods

There is an old cabin in the woods in my back yard. I have hiked, or snowshoed, to it many times, but on my last walk in the woods I looked at it differently. Is it possible it looked more tranquil and appealing than ever before? 

Who doesn't want to run away to a cabin in the woods? Maybe its me and my love of the simple life, but a cabin next to a small brook and surrounded by a vast forest sounds pretty good right now. 

I imagine myself living here from day to day, hauling water, cooking over a fire, tending a small garden. Meditating. Sleeping. Blissing out on Nature. And reading. 

I would definitely have some Jalalud’din Rumi in my sanctuary in the woods. This is a prefect setting for contemplating the deep insight of this 13th Century Persian Poet, better known simply as "Rumi". 

"My soul is from elsewhere - I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there.”

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world… today I am wise so I am changing Myself."

"When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near the truth."

"What you seek is seeking you."

Away from the madness of material culture, and surrounded by Nature, I deepen my own insight, and tap into a peaceful joy. 

August 14, 2017

Hugs Not Thugs

Hugs are a good way to say "I love you" without saying, or buying, anything.

"Let's have a war on hugs", said no one ever. Doesn't everyone love hugs? Problem is, not enough hugs, and too many thugs.

Here's the right idea - a "Bliss Mob Hug Parade". Yes, it is a real thing.

Our problems run deep. Hugs alone won't fix them.

But hugs will definitely make things better. So let's do this thing. Hugs all around. More hugs will decrease the incidence of thuggery. It will prevent the formation of new thugs.

Hugs before we start the hard work before us. Hugs during the hard work that we will do to create a better world. And lots of celebratory hugs when we see the joyous outcomes as we journey together.

August 11, 2017

Millennials Not Buying It

There is a major cultural shift taking place. Goodbye Boomers, Hello Millennials.

Hooray for Millennials. They are making money-makers mad. Many individuals born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s are going off script. They aren't playing the game, and a variety of industries and products are feeling the pain of being left on the shelf.

There has been a culture shift quietly taking place in the most nonconformist generation since the hippy movement of the 60s. I am loving these Millennials, or "The Cheapest Generation", as frustrated sellers of stuff call them.

But the system should take notice - I don't think that ridicule and name calling will work this time.

Back in 1918, Nicholas Klein, a trade unionist, stated "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you." If the Millennials continue their game changing ways, and don't start buying and doing what they are suppose to, expect the attacks against them to ramp up.

"The least useful generation in America" aren't buying the dismal consumerism life that has been offered up for decades now. They see where that got their parents - debt, stagnant pay, depression, and struggling to raise a family on two wages. They see what the system has done to our planet. They were raised in an era of perpetual war.

Consumerist capitalism has infected everything. We live in a excessively wasteful, throw-away world. Disposable income, disposable products, disposable people. Waste defines our grotesque wealth.

Understandably, many of the young are not big fans of capitalism, with 42 percent of Millennials favouring a more people-centered approach. No wonder the establishment is in a huff, hurling insults such as "lazy", "high on self-esteem", and "entitled" at this recalcitrant cohort.

Get used to it. This group wants experiences that are more authentic, and less reliant on the Big Corp/Big Government cabal. This cultural shift is another nail in the coffin of a way of life that has been unsustainable from the beginning.

Things Millennials Aren't Buying

- car and home ownership

- uninspiring wage-slave jobs

- ownership (why own something when you can rent it?)

- bosses that use fear as a management strategy

- golf

- TV

- Mainstream Beer

- Big box stores

- Children

- Anything their parents tell them to buy

This is the most hope I have had in a generation since the Gen X slackers gave the finger to the mainstream. Having grown up through the Great Recession, Millennials are "an entire generation with permanently changed spending habits." Excellent.

It is good news that this group doesn't spend as freely as previous generations. Nor should they, unless they want to keep the whole Ponzi scheme going. And they don't. Is it because of financial constraints, or is this the generation that will embrace more sensible DIY frugal simple lifestyles? Will there be monuments to Millennials in the future? Time will tell.

I do hope it is true that Millenials are"ready to fight—to do whatever it takes". I hope they are truly  "not afraid”, and that that they go down in history as the generation that restored some sanity to a consumer culture gone mad.

If not them, who? If not now, when?

August 9, 2017

Simple Living Advice

Think. Ask questions. Learn. Answers follow. Take action. Repeat.

A big thank you to everyone that responded to my last post with advise for NBA reader, Hagan, who is looking to break out of the 9 to 5 and live a more adventurous and free life on the road. It has turned out to be one of my favourite comment threads of all time on our blog.

The responses are great for anyone pursuing alternative ways of living, and who isn't these days? Following the comments, and thinking about Hagan's 23 year old thoughts, has me thinking a lot about my own path, 33 years advanced from his position.

Whenever I am pondering something, patterns become apparent, and information presents itself at precisely the right time. For example, I was reading at the Down To Earth blog. I find that we are often on the same page, and this time was no different.

On her most recent post Rhonda Jean wrote:

"I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life.
The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one and each day, small step by small step we move through life. 
There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled."

I thought of Hagan, because like the comments posted here, these are words to live by, words that I have lived by. It reminded me that there are no simple answers, no one size fits all response when it comes to thinking about how we should best live this precious, precious life we have been given.

Having said that, one can't go wrong by advising a life of simplicity centred on continuous learning and self-improvement. It seems that if one focuses on that, the rest will fall into place.

Again, thank you to NBA commenters that have shared their wise thoughts with us. I do hope that Hagan has seen your kind words.

You can read the post and comments here. And if you haven't already, do consider leaving a comment of your own.

August 2, 2017


Stick your finger in the map - it smells of the open road. 

Do you yearn for a life on the road? Or a simple life, anywhere? Does thinking about the 9 to 5 make you nauseous? Need more than a mainstream life of conformist mediocrity?

NBA reader Hagan is feeling the disappointment of mainstream life. Like many of us, he is not feeling spiritually enlightened by materialism and the work-shop-work cycle. He left a comment on our post called Rubber Tramping.

Hagan said,

I am feeling so conflicted. I have been spending the last almost 2 years, waiting, pacing back and forth. Figuratively speaking; I've been banging my head against a wall because I don't want to live a 9 to 5 lifestyle. 
I feel stuck. I feel decompressed and restricted. I am a decently talented artist/ musician who has lived the same place in Colorado my entire almost 23 years of life. And I don't think I will be able to just.. be. 
Ever. Not like this. 
I'm asking you all for advice. How do you make a living on the road.? I've talked with good friends about this topic and a lot say spanging, wire wraps, jewellery, all the way to selling dollar beers, and grilled cheeses at music festivals. 
Please give me insight if you could as I am in need of all the advice I can find.

I responded,

I have been thinking about your comment since you left it here. I, and many people that visit this blog, know how you feel. Your need for freedom is palpable, and it is serious. 
You must act. 
I don't know about making a living on the road, having never had to do it before. But I do know a bit about living with as little as possible so I can be as free as possible, both on the road, and off. 
Cut your expenses, and make the life you envision happen. It will be hard, and at times scary. But it absolutely can be done. And should be done. A life of conformist mediocrity is a hard row to hoe as well, so you might as well be free. 
Be free. Do whatever it takes. That is my only advise. And let us know how it goes.

That doesn't seem like much help to this young, suffering soul, but it is a complicated situation. Pretty much everything in our way of life is meant to stifle freedom, not augment it. You will work for us. You will give us your hard earned cash in exchange for trinkets and distractions.

Obey. Conform. Wanting a simpler life and more freedom seems like a natural reaction to an un-natural exploitive system. I think Hagan is on the right path.

My own quest for simplicity has been a decades long adventure. But I do remember feeling similar feelings when I was 23. There has never been a time in my life that I envisioned doing the same things as everyone else around me. I wanted to find, and take, the road less traveled.

Regular life is not for everyone. Maybe a life such as what we have for the masses today is not for anyone. Now seems like a great time to explore alternatives, on the road, or off the road. Anywhere.

Rubber tramping. Leather tramping. Tramping. Being free. Being.

Do you have any advice for Hagan, or others (young or old) looking to live more simply and with greater freedom? How does one get off the 9 to 5? How do we break free of the chains of mainstream culture and the consumer capitalist system?

July 30, 2017

Things Are Falling Into Place

Everything seems to be falling apart. Nothing is working the way it should, and the future looks bleak. But what if current conditions are necessary pre-cursors to the changes that we wish to see?

More than likely it will take something of the magnitude of a political Fukushima, like the threat of fascism or neo-feudalism, to shock citizens into much-needed action.

Therefore, the current most powerful man in the world might be an unpleasant, but necessary, bit of fire starter under the complacent tinder that has built up over the decades of inaction on the part of the people.

Even with the MSM trying to scrub the news of any real meaning, some truths manage to sneak through occasionally, and more and more people are starting to take notice. For those that are paying attention, it is evident that things are crumbling.

At the same time, things are falling into place.

Personally, locally, nationally and globally an awareness of the need for change is exploding. Don't look for government or corporate leadership here - this change, like all lasting change for good, comes from the people. And it is happening.

The citizens of Earth bear a terrific responsibility. Now is the time to accept it and move forward with passion and collective action.

Are things falling apart, or are things falling into place?

Time will tell.

July 27, 2017

Cathedrals of Consumerism Losing Their Congregations

Is this the beginning of the end of consumerism?

I never did like shopping malls much. Therefore, now that they are an endangered species, I am not mourning, despite having a twinge of nostalgia when I think about them.

"Corridor of nothing."

When I was a young dungaree-wearing hooligan, my friends and I would congregate at the new mall in my hometown for "something to do". But then, as now, I was not buying anything. It was more about the social aspect, and staying one step ahead of mall security.

 “Two million square feet of echo.”

Because malls were for shopping, not loitering. Not buying anything? Get out. What a difference a few decades make - now hardly anyone is buying anything at the mall.

Besides nostalgia, I find malls fascinating from a ghost town perspective. There is something to be learned from our futile failed experiments, including this one, that started with the first mall in the 1950s. I consider it a good thing that our cathedrals of consumerism are finally losing their congregations.

"Almost one-fifth of the nation’s enclosed malls have vacancy rates considered troubling by real estate experts — 10 percent or greater. Over 3 percent of malls are considered to be dying — with 40 percent vacancies or higher. That is up from less than 1 percent in 2006." - NYT 

I wish the demise of the mall was because we have decided that overconsumption is so, like, 80s, and we are moving on to a more ecologically aware way of living. Maybe it is. We are going through monumental changes right now when it comes to shopping and our relationship with materialism. We know that the priests of commerce lied, and that salvation can not be bought at the mall. Or anywhere else.

“There’s no customers, but they have a customer-service desk”

Are shopping malls endangered because their parents, consumerism and institutionalized greed, are themselves endangered species? Is humanity, dare I say, evolving into an eco-consciousness the likes of which we have not experienced for a very long time? Dream big, I say.

Goodbye, malls. I won't miss you, or any of that stuff that I didn't buy. Don't worry, it's not you, it's us.

A report issued by Credit Suisse in June predicted that 20 to 25 percent of the more than 1,000 existing enclosed malls in America will close in the next five years.

July 23, 2017


Warning: consumerism will not lead to enlightenment.

I am having a bit of a Zen moment lately here on NBA. My last post on Zen Kitties elicited this response from Sophie:

"I wish I had read this wonderful post BEFORE I cleaned the cats' litter box! This gave me a much-needed laugh today."

Reading Sophie's comment led me to think more about Zen and laughter.

Often Linda gives me cause to spontaneously erupt in a belly laugh. She is a very witty person with a wicked sense of humour, one reason I love her so. She is my laughter guru.

In these moments it feels like a window on the Infinite has been thrown open. A brief moment of enlightenment, ala Sosan, the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. He would "awaken" his students with unexpected loud noises, but it seems to me that anything jarring that surprises you could put one in a receptive state.

For me, that is stealth humour where I am caught unaware, and am laughing joyously before I even know I am laughing. In that space I am grounded, centred and present.

In that moment I am one with Linda, with humour, with my environment, and with a very delightful (and often funny) Universe. Even if only for a brief moment, it feels wonderful with all barriers and separations dissolved.

I hope this blog can keep Sophie, and all NBA readers, laughing from time to time with zingers that come out of nowhere.

Clang! There it is - en-laughter-ment.

Other things that I have found that lead me to moments of clarity include the practices of: love, compassion, humility, forgiveness, making music, helping others, and living simply. I wish to share those here as well.

And all the while laughter, as we progress together. Ha, ha, ha. Ho, ho, ho. Hee, hee, hee. You can not possibly have too much laughter.

July 19, 2017

Kitty Mandalas

“You suffer because things are impermanent and you think they are permanent.” 
- Thich Nhat Hanh

I will meditate on this, the next time I wipe my garden clean of kitty "art". Every experience can be seen as an opportunity for learning and growing, if only we are patient, compassionate, and open-minded.

I will call it, "Zen and The Art Of Garden Maintenance".

July 18, 2017

My Empire Of Rocky Soil Under Attack

Our first ever garlic is looking good.

This is it - my summer domain, my playpen, my 8X16 Empire of Rocky Soil. And, as it turns out, my giant litter box.

In the spring, while seeds of peas and beans and acorn squash and such were germinating, what I mostly harvested from my vast track of land, was kale from a second year plant (they are biannual), and cat poop.

Acorn squash flowers are big and bold.

Every morning I went out to collect some kale for a green smoothie (not a brown smoothie), I would also find a smelly gift from a neighbourhood feline. Maybe it was a bobcat, which are common in Nova Scotia, but rarely seen. Either way, poop is poop, and it does not belong where I am growing things to ingest.

While cat droppings contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash, which are all primary ingredients of organic fertilizers, they also contain organisms such as the toxoplasmosis protozoa, and that can make you sick. They are little toxic bombs, and they have to go.

Pole beans are climbing the tripod I made out of sticks from the forest.

I had to defend my borders. I crisscrossed sticks between the seedlings. I kept the soil wet. After reading that cats don't like strong smells where they do their business, I spread bits of orange peel. I didn't want to go to the nuclear option of sitting out all night with a spray bottle of ice cold water. Or giant cymbals.

It won't be long before fresh peas are on the menu.

The deposits dropped in number, but still continued, as did my ritual of cutting kale, then searching for land mines. What did work, in the end, was having the garden fill in. The cat (or cats) have been crowded out, and moved on to a better box somewhere else.

Beans are just flowering now.

Now I wait for the next interlopers, perhaps some hungry caterpillars, or cucumber beetles, or powdery mildew. While the cats have given me a chance to pause for a while, and let my defences down, I must stay alert in order to (organically) guard the food growing in my little rocky domain.

July 14, 2017

Frugal Living vs Extreme Frugal Living

Frugal living - making beans on the stove top. Extreme frugal living - making beans in a heatless cooker.

One search phrase that leads many readers to this blog is "extreme frugal living". I am not sure that is what I am doing here, but it is alright with me to be associated with such a concept. I am happy to have visitors that are looking to become more efficient in their use of Earth's gifts.

It is not surprising to me - everything has to be "extreme" these days in order to capture people's attention. The unwritten motto is, "Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the extreme". So you get extreme pretty much anything.

I am not sure what the exact difference is between frugal living and extreme frugal living, except the later must somehow be more frugal than the former. Maybe it is an ego/competition thing.

"I am frugaler than you are."

"No way, dude. I am the frugalist."

Frugality kind of seems like being pregnant. Either you are, or you aren't. However, it is hard to fault someone for wanting to continually improve their practice of living more lightly on this planet.

In trying to understand what separates the merely frugal from the more extreme variety, I share a few ideas that came to mind.

Frugal living is cutting your own hair.

Extreme frugal living is cutting your wife's hair.

Frugal living is buying discounted food.

Extreme frugal living is dumpster diving.

Frugal living is biking everywhere.

Extreme frugal living is walking everywhere (or deciding that there is nowhere to go because you are already where you need to be).

Frugal living is sleeping in a van.

Extreme frugal living is sleeping in a box car.

Frugal living is wearing the same clothes for a year.

Extreme frugal living is wearing the same cloths till they are threadbare, then making paper out of them.

Is it frugal living, or extreme frugal living? Or just being sensible? It depends on who you ask. Plus, what used to be the way we did things has become the new frugal as we adopt increasingly luxurious ways of living.

Darning socks? Once common, now frugal. Or even extremely frugal.

Either way, the more careful we are about spending money or using resources when not needed, the better it is for everyone.

July 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Henry David Thoreau

"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."   
- Henry David Thoreau

If you are interested in voluntary simplicity, chances are you have been influenced by, or at least know of, Henry David Thoreau. While he was born on this day 200 years ago, his anti-materialist/pro-nature philosophy is more important today than ever before.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."  - H.D.T.

Thoreau's writings inspired me at an important time of my life. As a young man just starting out, his liberating outlook encouraged me to explore alternative ways of living and being. In him I found a friend in the struggle to come to terms with a set of basic questions that no one else seemed that concerned about.

"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life." - H.D.T. 

While those around me thought they knew "what to do" in life, I thought the most important questions should be asked before deciding what direction one should take.

How best to earn a living? 

How much time should I spend at it? 

How much do I need to live well and to be free? 

Eventually, Thoreau's words moved me to actively search for my own version of the cabin, and lifestyle, of Walden Pond. He assured me that marching to my own drummer was the thing to do, and I have been dancing to that unique beat ever since. What a path it has lead me down.

"Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." 
- H.D.T.

Today, Linda and I have christened our new Nova Scotia home our "Cabin on Acacia Brook", even though it is neither a cabin, nor is it directly on the brook (which is across the field and down a forested slope).

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination." - H.D.T.

But it is as close as we have come yet to our ideal simple living arrangement where we can live out our most precious hopes and dreams.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." 
- H.D.T.

So, today I commemorate the powerful influence that Thoreau's words, ideas, and philosophy have had, and will continue to have, on the world, and in my own life. Thanks, Hank. I hear your drum beat.

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." - H.D.T.

July 10, 2017

10 Ways To Have A Shortened Lifespan

Can you tell me which one tried to kill you?

How long do you want to live? If things continue the way they are, we can expect the average life span to stop increasing as it has for the past few decades, and begin to contract.

For those that have no ambitions in the area of longevity I offer the following guidelines. I call it the "Here For a Good Time, Not a Long Time" plan, also known as the "Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away" school of thought. It seems that many people are following it.

  1. Don't be concerned with heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, or accidents. Most things in a modern lifestyle are potentially harmful, and you have to die from something.
  2. Work as much as possible, preferably more than 40 - 50 hours per week. Live to work instead of work to live.
  3. Eat a meat-based diet heavy on processed and fast foods, and eat extra calories every day. The guidelines of about 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day for men, and 1,600 to 2,400 calories for women, should be considered a starting point. Don't worry - animals don't feel any pain.
  4. Be busy all the time. Allow chronic psychological stress to dominate your life. Success doesn't come easy.
  5. Don't exercise. Who has time? Plus, no one likes to sweat.
  6. Drink alcohol  Life's a party!
  7. Cultivate a negative attitude. It's not pessimism, it's reality.
  8. Don't laugh. These are serious times.
  9. Don't spend time in nature - go shopping instead. Nature is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and often far from amenities. How can you buy anything there? It's all free.
  10. Be a rugged individual! Don't cultivate relationships. Do it all on your own.

I do hope that you ignore these guidelines, and are working toward having a long, happy and healthy life.

“Of the 3,142 counties in the US, McDowell County, West Virginia comes in at No 3,142 in terms of life expectancy. For men, that’s 64 years, a statistic that, as Bernie Sanders likes to point out, is the same for men in Namibia.” - Source

    July 5, 2017

    Plant A Garden

    Grow food, not lawn. We could use about 8 more raised beds in our yard.
    Thankfully, lawn care is included in our rent.

    If you are asking yourself if you should plant a garden, the answer is always, YES. There is much enjoyment, wisdom and food to gain, and nothing to lose. Anywhere, any time, the answer is always - go ahead and plant.

    Most years since Linda and I met, we have had a garden. We are by no means experts, and you will not read much in the way of gardening advice on our blog. But we will say, "Grow one!" without hesitation.

    Nature is an amazingly abundant and magical force, and when nurtured in an organized (or even semi-organized or totally chaotic) manner, wonderful things happen. And since plants are survivors, even temporary neglect can work out, just in case you are worried it will be too much work.

    This year we are growing plants new to us: garlic, cucumber, acorn squash, and onions from seed.

    One year we were gardening with a partner. In theory, what was supposed to happen was that we prepared and planted in the spring, and she would tend things through the summer while we were away.

    As it turned out, it was a case of "If you want the gods to laugh, make a plan". The fully planted garden was untended for several weeks, without additional watering, thinning, weeding and general tending.

    Garlic scapes are starting to grow.

    As it turned out, it didn't seem to matter that much - we still got wheelbarrow-fulls of food for us and our neighbours. Our garden partner was forgiven once we witnessed the out-of-control abundance that was created in that neglected patch of soil. Not the ideal situation, but not planting would have been a bigger mistake than our choice of garden buddy.

    The good things that occur when you grow your own food happen both in the garden, and in your life. You do not need to be an expert, or a work-a-holic. Your garden will evolve to suit you, your skills, and your needs. You aren't just growing plants, you are growing a whole way of living.

    Do as much, or as little as you wish, but by all means - plant a garden. Plant anything. Enjoy.

    July 3, 2017

    Turtles All The Way Down

    Turtle Crossing: Proceed With Caution

    Another bike ride into the wilderness, another amazing turtle encounter.

    My dad used to tell a story similar to the one Stephen Hawking shares below, so I often think of it when I visit with turtles. It is funny that a symbol of Mother Earth makes me think about my father.

    And my mother. And the mother we all share. Enjoy the turtle tale.

    A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.  
    At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."  
    The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"  
    "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady.  
    "But it's turtles all the way down!"

    - A Brief History of Time, Ch. 1. Our Picture of the Universe

    July 1, 2017

    Moth, Rust, and Mold

    Moth, rust, sub-prime mortgage crisis... and mold.

    The bible has a quote about material things that starts,“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy...". Hmm, nothing about mold (or the Great Recession). Probably because the authors were desert dwellers living in simple hand-built homes.

    Basically, no moisture, no mold. And no mortgage, no meltdown.

    For 9 years before moving to the Atlantic side of Canada, we lived 5 meters from the Pacific Ocean. It was more humid than any other place I lived previously, which includes being born in the semi-arid climate of the Palliser's Triangle of the northern Great Plains.

    On the prairies things dry up and blow away, so for many years I knew nothing of the power of molds. Now we live a few foggy kilometres away from the ocean, which surrounds our area.

    I am convinced mold is nature's way of making sure there aren't too many things sitting around unused.

    Mold spores are a common component of normal household dust. They are found everywhere, and can grow on almost any substance when moisture is present. These amazing life forms can grow in temperatures from 0 to 35 degrees Celsius (32 and 95 °F). Yes, they are persistent.

    In a high humidity climate, like on the coasts, things that aren't in use, and circulating in and out of storage, are in danger of molding. It is relentless. A rolling stone in coastal humidity of 96% may gather no moss, but it still molds.

    The worst thing is when something you don't need or want succumbs to one or more of the thousands of known mold types. I guess if it isn't being used, you deserve to have it broken down into its component parts and returned to nature.

    But really, how is it that even after downsizing to the point we fit everything we owned into a travel van, upon arriving here 6000 km away, we realize we still have things we don't want or need? How does that happen?

    I think it is the round leaf sundew stickiness of material things.

    Stuff is easy to acquire, and difficult from which to get unstuck. Almost three years later we are still finding things that are not doing any work for us. And if something starts to mold, it is creating work. Mold in a house is a bit of an emergency that must be dealt with immediately.

    Which makes me think, "How much time do we spend maintaining, storing, moving and shuffling our possessions? Or worrying about them? Or keeping them safe from theft, and dust, and breakage?"

    The answer to that is probably, "Too much time". They aren't possessions, they are possessing. Possessing us and our precious time. Things are so needy, always vying for our attention. When they are taking more than they give, it is time to get unstuck, and let them go.

    We are nearing the end of dealing with our current moldy mini-crisis, which turned out to be yet another wonderful opportunity to get rid of even more excess baggage. The Universe is telling us something, still.

    1. You can live more freely, joyfully, and less moldily, with fewer things, and

    2. Run a dehumidifier (we borrowed one from our landlord) to make sure the things you do need and want don't succumb to the whole moth, rust and mold routine.

    I am getting closer all the time to my ultimate goal of being able to fit all my possessions into a shoebox. Thanks, mold, for helping nudge me in that direction.

    June 28, 2017

    7 Dumpster Diving Tips

    Dumpster Diving Tip #5 - Use your instincts, and your nose,  to decide what to take and what to leave.
    (See more tips at bottom of post)

    Some call it dumpster diving. Others call it shopping for free food, or preventing perfectly good nutrients from going to waste. However you look at it, dumpster diving takes a certain commitment  to ameliorating the crimes of capitalism.

    It also takes a strong defiance towards the conventions of society. It is understood that paying full price for food (or anything) is better than buying it at a discount, or sourcing it free around back of the store after hours, or along the curb in your neighbourhood.

    One is for winners, the other for the desperately down and out poor. How could it be that spending hard earned cash is the preferred option? There is no price better than free.

    This weirdness is firmly in place even if the items being liberated are exactly the same as the stuff in the stores, which is often is. If you put items off the shelf next to those rescued from the garbage, most often you would not be able to tell the difference between them.

    This goes for anything of use found in the garbage, and in my experience, one can find just about everything you might need in garbage bins. Over the years I have freed food, clothing, furniture, building resources, and more, from garbages and dumps. All free, my favourite price for anything.

    If you can get food or other things cheaper, or for free, why wouldn't you?

    The only reason one would pay for something that they could get for free is to purchase convenience and/or to save themselves the social shaming should they get "caught" liberating non-garbage from the garbage.

    Garbage should consist only of bads, and never goods. Then the bads should be eliminated. It is possible to create a waste-free society. What if we took all the non-garbage, that does not belong in the dumpster in the first place, and took it instead to a Free Store?

    Until that happens, or something like it that facilitates the re-consumption of discarded useful food, clothes, furniture, building materials, etc., dumpster diving may be required.

    If you are considering liberating good, free stuff from behind your local restaurant, grocery distributor, or along the curb, here are some sensible tips that should help keep it safe and productive for all.

    Happy dumpster diving, binning, foraging, skipping, and free shopping. Personally, I find it much more preferable, fun, satisfying and adventurous (and way less expensive) than visiting the shopping mall.

    June 26, 2017

    Mother Earth Gives Us What We Need

    In June and July, Painted Turtles dig nests and lay eggs along roadsides or in cultivated fields, as well as in sand or gravel beaches.

    It is true that the Universe will provide you with what you need. Ask and you shall receive. You just have to ask for the right things at the right time, and have Earth-friendly expectations.

    Summer time is turtle time. Yesterday I again asked to see my shelled friends, and once again Nature delivered. It is always a thrill for me to share a moment with my wild relations in the local environment. It never fails to give me hope for the future in a time that hope for humanity is ebbing daily.

    The hatchlings may dig their way out in September/October of the same year. If the nest surface temperature becomes lower than the nest bottom temperature, overwintering is possible. Adults hibernate at the bottom of ponds.

    Call it prayer, or focused intent, but the result is the same. You can't always get what you want, but if you ask with all your heart, you just might find, you get what you need.

    Having said that, be careful of what you ask for - it may be provided in ways, or moments, you'd never expect, or with results that are unforeseen. Keep your needs simple, be patient, and you will get what you need.

    It is when we take too much that we run into problems. Turtle teaches the wisdom of aligning with the cyclic flow of life, and demonstrates that the fastest way is not necessarily the best, for it takes time for things to develop properly.

    Turtle is a powerful symbol of Mother Earth, and reminds us that it does not matter what situation you have created: ask for assistance, and abundance will follow.

    June 23, 2017

    Consumerism Feeds On Consumers

    There is a very interesting flower that I see while on my hikes and rides into the forest around my home. It is a rare carnivorous variety called the round leafed sundew. It is a plant that eats meat.

    "The plant feeds on insects, which are attracted to the glistening drops of mucilage, loaded with a sugary substance, covering its leaves. It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which is usually poor in nutrients or is so acidic that nutrient availability is severely decreased.  
    The plant uses enzymes to dissolve the insects – which become stuck to the glandular tentacles – and extract ammonia (from proteins) and other nutrients from their bodies. The ammonia replaces the nitrogen that other plants absorb from the soil, and plants that are placed in a high-nitrogen environment rely less upon nitrogen from captured insects."

    This amazing plant reminds me of another entity that sucks the life out of things leaving only piles of waste behind: consumerism. So with apologies to the round leafed sundew, I make my comparison.

    "The practice of consumerism feeds on consumers, which are attracted to loaded promises and glistening shiny things, heavy with cultural meaning and significance in a high stakes competitive environment. 
    It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which requires optimizing profit to the point that the well being of consumers not yet consumed by the system is severely decreased. 
    Consumerism uses billions of dollars worth of propaganda, plus intense social pressure, to dissolve its prey's innate drive to be frugal and thrifty in all things. The prey becomes stuck to this system's sucking tentacles at all turns, and funds are withdrawn from their accounts and credit cards to the point of poverty. 
    The drive for profits replaces all common sense, ethical considerations, and social/environmental rights, and companies that are placed in a high wealth environment rarely consider them at all.

    People! It eats people! And everything else it can fit in its gaping maw. Imagine a tree-sized round leafed sundew enticing you with its sticky sweet tentacles, waiting to dissolve you completely for your cash and ultimately your life and your planet.

    Consumerism has a voracious appetite for consumers, and resources, that can not be sated. This carnivore will eat everything you set in front of it until it pops from its own gluttonous behaviour.

    Don't feed this un-natural beast. Living simply is the best way to avoid entrapment.

    Once again, apologies to the round leafed sundew, which is just doing what comes naturally.

    June 20, 2017

    Summer Solstice

    Sable Island, Nova Scotia wild horses in Summer.

    What a light-drenched treat Summer Solstice is at the 45th parallel north of the Earth's equatorial plane, even if we haven't actually seen the Sun for almost a week of rainy, low-cloud weather.

    Here, halfway between the equator and the north pole, full darkness is vanquished for a short while before the Sun reverses and begins its slide back toward the equator. Right now a person staying up all night (something Linda and I like to do at least once a year) would, after sunset (9:12 PM), see twilight in the northern sky until the sun rises (5:38 AM) a short while later.

    Having four seasons is one of the things I love about living far from the equator. Summer and winter are so dramatically different in terms of amount of light alone, never mind the temperature extremes. Since the whole of our existence is solar powered, this time of year is to be celebrated and enjoyed before the darkness and cold visit again.

    Back and forth we go, through the seasons, throughout the years. Such cycles are my centre, my calendar, the yin and yang of my life.

    Now if the clouds would just part long enough to get some warming rays on my skin. Thank you for  your services watering my garden, but I can take it from here for a while.

    Happy Summer Solstice to our Northern Hemisphere readers (and Winter Solstice to those of you in the southern parts of our amazing planet). It's a fine balance, and a good reminder.

    June 18, 2017

    What is My Fair Share of the Planet's Resources?

    Some of us are taking more than our fair share.

    Take the number of people on the planet. Divide that ever-increasing number into the finite number of acres that represents Earth's total resources. We end up with the number of acres per person, which is about 4 acres, and that doesn't leave anything for all the other non-human planetary inhabitants.

    "It is only since the industrial revolution that resource use and consumption has skyrocketed. The US was built on foundations of frugality, yet today, North Americans are the world's greatest consumers. 
    If the world's people consumed as North Americans, we would need five Earths. The link between consumer habits and global warming, war, species extinction, and social injustice are often lost amidst fast paced advertising and a throw-away consciousness." 
    - Jim Merkel

    Human population

    - 7.4 billion

    Acres per person available today

    - 4.5 acres/person

    If we leave 75% wild for the 25 million other species on Earth

    - 1 acre/ person

    Average acres/person used by humans 

    Global average - 5.8 acres

    United States - 24 acres

    Canada - 22 acres

    United Kingdom - 13 acres

    Russia - 11 acres

    Afghanistan - 0.75 acres

    It is not a big stretch to conclude that ecological overshoot can not go on forever, and  that the sooner we do something about it, the better.

    If not everyone can live a modern consumer lifestyle, how do we decide who can and who can't? Can anyone, if it leads to ecological overshoot and collapse?

    June 14, 2017

    Ecological Intelligence And The High Cost of Low Prices

    Want to make buying things more ecologically and socially responsible? The answer, of course, depends who you ask. Big business would say, "No, that might affect our bottom line." I, on the other hand, am all for it, and I am sure many others are as well.

    A free exchange of information would empower the consumer and allow a more mindful participation in the process of consuming. It is all about information. Aren't we supposed to be living in the Information Age?

    What happened to the information?

    Presently the only thing most people base their purchases on is what is about the only thing that can bet known, and that is the price. Most people will vote for the lowest price possible.

    And people are voting, often for places like WalMart.

    "Supporters contend that the chain's legendary low prices have democratized consumption, allowing low-income households to afford flat-screen televisions and nine-layer lasagna. 
    Critics say those low prices have depressed domestic wages and exported manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, hurting Americans more than helping them." Source

    What if you want to know more about things like this? Corporations withhold the information we need, creating an unfair playing field. Until legislators and consumers demand it, this information will continue to be withheld to make sure that price remains the sole bit of information we base our purchases on, to the detriment of the environment and workers.

    Just buy it, and never mind the health impacts, or the social and environmental consequences. How can one consume freely otherwise?

    By withholding information about the ethical performance of producers, underachievers continue to be rewarded, and those that excel in responsibility do not get the recognition and encouragement they deserve.

    GoodGuide is one organization that uses extensive data to rate a variety of products on 3 categories including health, environmental and social impacts. The GoodGuide represents a growing group of people that are trying to uncork the information bottleneck so that the data consumers need flows to them.

    Because we are unable to be fully mindful of the life-cycle of our purchases, we can inadvertently cause the very damage we are trying to avoid. GoodGuide recognizes this when they note:

    "It is important that for many products and product categories there is a significant gap in public disclosure due to the lack of U.S regulation around many products commonly sold on U.S. store shelves. 
    This lack of transparency and disclosure make it extremely difficult to perform a comprehensive health, environmental and social issues evaluation of specific products and companies. The most extreme example of this problem is household cleaning products, where there is almost no disclosure of product ingredients."

    Daniel Goleman's book Ecological Intelligence shows how information about the hidden impacts of the things we buy can change our shopping habits, and instigate important Earth-friendlier changes.

    "Imagine what might happen if the knowledge now sequestered among specialists like industrial ecologists were made available to the rest of us: taught to kids in school, easily accessible on the Web, boiled down into evaluations of the things we buy and do and summarized as we were about to make a purchase."

    Lets kick start this so-called Information Age, and actually get information out there that really matters. Let consumers become aware of who and what they are supporting, and the effects of their purchases on people and the planet.

    Surely the majority of consumers are willing to do the right thing if only they had the information to make more responsible purchasing decisions. As Earthlings, we should all want to be ecologically intelligent because if we aren't, bad things happen.

    It is like having a User's Guide To The Planet.

    Until such information is broadly and easily available, I suggest doing the research yourself in places like the GoodGuide. But be forewarned - all that work, and the results of your investigation, will most certainly kill your desire to purchase most of what is on offer in the modern marketplace.

    Living simply could become an unintended consequence, albeit a good one.

    Interested in increasing your ecological intelligence quotient? See under "Web Resources" on our sidebar for more information. I have recently added more links for the ecologically curious.

    June 11, 2017

    The Long Commute

    The history of Europeans in North America is a history of mobility. From earliest times to the present, Americans have always been on the move. Today this often translates into long commutes to work.

    Canada's largest city has the longest commuting times of all cities in North America. At 80 minutes per round trip, Toronto commuters spend 24 minutes a day longer getting to and from work than people in Los Angeles, 12 minutes longer than New Yorkers, and 32 minutes longer than residents of Barcelona, Spain.

    As long as those commutes are, a flatboat pilot working on the Mississippi River in the 1800's would scoff at such rapid transit to and from the workplace.

    Using long poles, these men would float narrow, flat-bottomed boats filled with grains and other farm produce from farms on tributaries of the Mississippi with the current down to the coast. It was a difficult trip that could take several weeks of traveling through what was still pure wilderness.

    But that wasn't the hardest part.

    Once the flatboats reached New Orleans they sold their cargo, for further shipment to destinations far and wide. Since the boats were not designed to return upriver against the current, they were broken up and the wood sold off.

    Then the pilot and crew of four would... walk home. The flatboaters, after delivering their cargo, would often have to walk thousands of miles through the unbroken primal forest to return home.

    When I first read about this ultra-ultra-long commute, I laughed out loud. I considered that most North Americans won't even walk to the corner store these days.

    A round trip could take nine months. Now that is a commute. For the extra hearty. And brave.

    I don't want to belittle today's extended commutes - they are not efficient or sustainable, or enjoyable in most cases. But imagine your commute involving walking thousands of miles through untracked wilderness.

    That is the long commute. And carbon-free as well.

    June 7, 2017

    June 5, 2017

    Our Vision

    Not Buying Anything Blog Vision Statement

    Our vision is a world where simple, eco-sensitive and joyful lifestyles are the norm.

    Big corporations co-opt everything and anything that can turn them a profit. They have even managed to make simple living lifestyles into a commodity, creating a curious conundrum where one buys ones way into the simple life.

    So I decided to co-opt something from the corporate world - the concept of a vision statement. How could a succinct, helpful blurb not be useful anywhere, not just in profit-making ventures that push competitive shopping as a way of life?

    I am all about wandering, serendipity, and letting life flow unimpeded, and yet, sometimes it is necessary to have an idea of where you are headed. Coupled with focus and discipline, one can go anywhere, achieve anything.

    So it is that I share this blogs guiding vision. Along with our recently published manifesto (which is similar to a corporate mission statement, but with a nice anti-establishment ring), our vision statement helps to give our work (and play) focus and intention.

    Will we (and by 'we' I mean all of us that are part of this blog, and the simple living community) succeed, and create a simpler, more gentle Earth that provides for everybody, and all of life?

    Did Ray Crock think he would sell billions of hamburgers? What if we DID succeed in helping billions of people adopt a joyful alternative to unchecked consumption and the busy lifestyles that are required to support them? What if consumers turned en masse to voluntary simplicity? Before they were forced to by resource depletion and deteriorating environmental conditions?

    For one thing, unhealthy behemoth fast food burger chains wouldn't do as well as they do now. Saying sayonara to the corporate model, and hello to global cooperation, is definitely part of our vision.

    June 2, 2017

    Red Shift

    Rhubarb from our garden space. First fruit of the season.

    To borrow a term from astronomy, there is a red shift happening in my life right now. I can see it all around me as we shift from winter to spring, and from spring to summer.

    Astronomers use the concept of red shift to ascertain how far away an object in space is from Earth, and to tell whether that object is moving toward us, or away from us. Objects moving away from us shift toward the red end of the spectrum, therefore, red shift. It is like a visual Doppler effect.

    Red shift/blue shift.

    Right now winter is moving rapidly away from us, and thank goodness for that. Even spring is moving away from the land, although that shift is a little slower here than other parts of Canada.

    I can see this shift in slowly rising temperatures, and in the life that is returning as the cold and grey of winter recedes into distant memory.

    Trees are leafing out, seeds in the garden are germinating, and colour returns to the land. Some of that colour is red, indicating another kind of red shift.

    Rhubarb is an early spring plant, and one of the first to emerge in the garden. While everything else is slowly waking up, rhubarb bursts forth out of the ground to herald the shift in seasons. Before long its greenish-red stalks are holding up giant green leaves letting us know that the first fruit of the season is ready to harvest.

    Some of our summer neighbours enjoying our feeder.

    While that is going on another bit of red is flying into the scene. This year we got our hummingbird feeder out early to attract these beautifully red-throated visitors as soon as possible. And did they come. So far, the record is five hummers at the feeder at the same time.

    After months of a cold, grey and white landscape we can see winter red shifting away from us. As that happens colour returns, and red is one of the most beautiful, and tasty. Today I watch hummingbirds from my kitchen window as I bake up a stellar rhubarb raisin custard tart.

    I can see summer moving toward us (that would be blue shift), meaning heat and clear, blue skies.

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