The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

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anna
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The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby anna » February 16th, 2008, 5:48 pm

After we completed the building of our house in the woods of Maine, and settled into it, our life became our own, entirely, and we committed what little money I earned doing art at a local commercial art factory, first to spiritual searching, and secondarily to the rest of life. The secondarily part was very frugal. We also sold a fair amount of my artwork, thanks to shows arranged by S, and news coverage, etc., to promote the art I did. I had a little following of sorts for a good number of years due to the promotional efforts by S, and because of some one-woman shows while in the Foreign Service, I had already cultivated some art lovers who appreciated my particular genre. In particular, medical doctors seemed to gravitate to my skyscapes, and purchased many for their offices. Indeed, I eventually earned the nickname The Cloudlady by local art fanciers, which has stuck with me ever since.

At the same time, the art factory was a course in humility, an essential component of any serious spiritual growth. I had to punch into a time clock, just like a factory, my time was monitored, my work observed in progress, and I was treated like chattel. All the artists they hired were fine artists, many with degrees, who came to Maine to pursue their art at any cost. This “art factory” exploited that circumstance, and used the artists to create far better paintings than an uninstructed artist might have. At the same time, this factory provided minimum wage pay so that the artist could pursue in his own free time his chosen vocation, but certainly in no way extravagantly. Not unimportantly, the owners, who were transplants from New York, were agreeable to my flexible and erratic hours, so both of us gained from our two apparently conflicting requirements. It was a great opportunity for me to learn compassion for the laborer, and anger at the bosses who exploit them.

As we were so poor in those early years, it also taught both of us humility and appreciation for the small things of life. We were so full of middle class values, the bourgeois attitude that almost inevitably buffers one against feeling, compassion, true affection, and which coincidentally, dims the light of the spirit. Those values normally interfere with the ability to feel life, to appreciate moments of both sadness and happiness, to live with essence. That middle class attitude is about externals, and accumulation, it does not encourage introspection and self-monitoring. We shed almost all of them by necessity. It was a great stripping away of layers and layers of nonsense.

However, despite the need to conserve our finances, we ate extremely well and intelligently, much of which came from our garden, and much of which was purchased through an organic cooperative that we joined with all the rest of the transplanted 70’s hippie type back-to-landers that had flooded into Maine at the same time as we had. Another coincidence. In addition, we naturally came to cease drinking hard liquor or smoking as we did in the Foreign Service. It just began to dwindle away. After all, when you work in the garden all day, working with plants, seeds, and the soil, the coming inside, tired and full of light and energy from being with nature, it just doesn’t seem appropriate to sit down to a martini and a smoke. Mind you, this was gradual, and took a couple of year’s time to unwind, but it did it almost by itself. It was a real teaching in addiction, as the smoking was the most difficult because it was a physiological one. The alcohol was easier, because the association with it, at cocktail parties, for example, was no longer there. Indeed, we made of point of avoiding invitations to such affairs when they did surface, however rarely. We had the innate sense to know that when you are giving up a conditioned addiction, you don’t put yourself in associative environments that will regenerate the craving. We had never read this, but it was a logical point. However, we did make our own wine, which was pretty good for amateurs and which we drank with every meal, and which we became pretty good at producing from apples, birch tree sap (makes a superb white wine), elderberries, and other wild fruits of the forest. Apple wine, made properly, makes every bit as good champagne as champagne grapes!

We had a flock of chickens, with one rooster that we managed to tame so that it would sit in our arms and purr, a supposedly impossible task, since roosters are supposed to be aggressive and not in the least gentle. Indeed, he came to respond to our call and leap up into our opened arms with delight! Just goes to show what expectations can achieve, and what disbelief in some kinds of country folklore can do! These hens produced eggs every morning for us, even throughout the dark days of winter. We bought fresh milk from a neighbor’s cow, and pasteurized it ourselves. We made our own cheese, our own soap, cider, butter, cream, ice cream, and maple syrup. It was an idyllic life, and some of the happiest moments in our life that we can remember. There is nothing that can compete with settling into the woods, and digging in the dirt, and living off the land. It creates stability, confidence, gratification, gratefulness and appreciation for its bounty, and respect. It builds a strong body, mind, and an open heart. It is, I believe, the way human kind is supposed to live. It is the closest one will come to freedom, other than spiritual freedom, in this life. Of course, spiritual freedom is freedom even from worldly freedom, and quite another thing.

Still, returning to the land, simplifying one’s life, and setting priorities and keeping to them all, to my mind, are extraordinary disciplines toward shedding conditionings and opening the heart and mind to more expansive horizons. It is essential if one is to narrow ones focus and attention to more inner accomplishments. In addition, the enforced poverty helped us tremendously in achieving this.

There was a short period when we decided to apply for food stamps. Now THAT was a lesson in humility and enormously liberating. We could no longer judge those who used governmental assistance, and we learned gratitude toward a government program that helped us during the early period of building the building, when neither of us was working and all our funds were spent toward the building. Again, this was a huge leap toward shedding those middle class values that might otherwise have taken years to achieve. Indeed, the representative that dealt with our application said as much – out of the words of each and every one of us comes pearls of wisdom if we have but ears to hear.

Having just enough money to get by also allowed us the luxury of not having to pay taxes as our level of income made us “impoverished”, and thus did not reach the level of income that required submitting tax forms. Looking back on those days, I am astonished how well we lived, and yet how little money we had to do so. We somehow had all the necessary things to meet our needs, and in some cases, more, and yet by all standards, we were poor. Of course, we were really rich in all things except hard currency, and it proves to my mind that money for and in itself is absolutely worthless. This is a lesson that any spiritual aspirant must grapple with, particularly in the west, because accumulation of money is considered admirable and a goal in itself worthy of spending one’s entire life pursuing. Even this early on in our journey we were aware that if you lean on God to provide, it will be done. While God was an amorphous, unnamed concept, and something with which we had just begun to be acquainted, it was still a power that we felt and invoked when times got tough, or we got frightened. I even had a dream during that time that the mother of the universe handed me her credit card and told me that it was mine. Of course, it is one thing to dream it, another to live by it, and it took me a long time to believe that it was actually true. Small tiny steps…..!

In the early days, I would spend as much free time as I could find wandering through the woods, and the open blueberry fields that surrounded our piece of land. I would spend hours simply strolling, watching, listening, breathing in nature, and frequently coming to tears over the beauty and comfort that nature provides all of us, if only we had the time and inclination to imbibe it. I learned all I could about mushrooms, and plants, and trees, and flowers, learning to name them, understand their function, discovering herbal secrets that had long been put aside in preference for laboratory prepared nostrums. Since I had a degree in Biology, I was well equipped to study the botany required to become an herbalist of sorts. I discovered that herbal remedies are every bit as effective as those drug company preparations, and perhaps even more effective. There was something correct, and magical, about using the products that the land prepares for us right there in front of us without the intervention of an intermediary. Indeed, we discovered a profound insight during those years and that was that we do not NEED the middleman, we can do all of it ourselves, if we just have the time and accumulate the necessary knowledge to do it. I recall coming one day to an astonishing realization that I had been duped all those many years into thinking I needed to pay someone to fix something. It simply was not true; I could fix anything, with enough study, knowledge, and motivation.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers........Wordsworth

jenjulian
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby jenjulian » February 16th, 2008, 8:59 pm

We had a flock of chickens, with one rooster that we managed to tame so that it would sit in our arms and purr, a supposedly impossible task, since roosters are supposed to be aggressive and not in the least gentle. Indeed, he came to respond to our call and leap up into our opened arms with delight! Just goes to show what expectations can achieve, and what disbelief in some kinds of country folklore can do!


While growing up, we spent much time on our grandparents farm. The warnings were- "Never go into the cow pen" for the bull was there.
Heck with the cow pen. That rooster was a terror, of the kind that gave a little girl nightmares! He especially hated my older brother, who was a bit of a cry baby whimp and would often chase him across the farm yard, running faster than I ever knew a chicken could, my brother screaming and diving for the house.
Your rooster really is a MIRACLE!!!
"I am what I am."--Popeye

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anna
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby anna » February 18th, 2008, 5:27 pm

How nice to know there is another who has encountered roosters! How we loved that rooster. I think the reason it was a miracle and behaved so beautifully was that we got him when he was young, not yet fully matured, and handled him daily as he grew up. The townsfolk could not get over the fact that there was a rooster which was docile, so it was a pretty unique situation. Indeed, they all treated this rooster with great respect, knowing that normally roosters behave just as you remember them to have behaved in your youth. Indeed, they can be dangerous, with the huge pointed spike on each foot, which, if riled, they will aim towards your eyes. Though he never did that to anyone, so he had learned somehow to consider humans a safe intruder.

In every other way he was a typical rooster, even taking on a fox and her young baby fox, to protect the flock of 12 hens which he spent every day herding about the front yard. This fox was teaching her baby fox how to hunt, and was coming up toward the flock, when this rooster, which we named Cantaciaro (Italian for Chanticleer, or "clear singer"), inserted himself between the hens and the fox, with his huge feet leaping up into the air, started running back and forth toward the fox, in an effort to fend off the fox, and I suppose, scare it away. We watched in disbelief, as he maintained his position between both foxes and his charge of hens. This went on for quite some time, until we let our dog out, to chase the fox away, but in that moment, the fox got hold of one of the hens and took off with her in his mouth. An hour went by, our dog returned empty handed, which, frankly, I was relieved to see, as all we wanted to do was scare away the foxes, and shortly thereafter the kidnapped hen waddled out of the forest, and promptly went up into her nest and laid an egg, still dripping blood from the hole in her side from the teeth of the fox. The rooster, in the meantime, once our dog took off in pursuit of the fox, fell to the ground as though dead, which we surmised may be the case, until picking him up from the ground, we found his heart still beating. We figured that the adrenaline had run out, and he collapsed from exhaustion, or relief. In a few minutes he raised his head, blinked a couple of times, squawked and leapt the ground, herding his hens back into their enclosure. Great animals. They were so clean and preened that when they sat in your lap, which they would all willingly do, you could pat them like kittens, and they smelled as sweet as kittens. Just goes to show that if you give animals room, and keep them properly, they are every bit as clean and sweet as any domestic pet. :D

The only problem, and it was a huge one, was what to do when the chickens got old, no longer laid eggs, etc. We had a friend who agreed to "murder for hire" as he called it, but it was so unsettling, that we finally gave up having chickens. The death side of farming is a great conundrum, and one which we never fully resolved. Our first group of animals, before the chickens, were ducks, and they, as ducklings, developed a virus, which we were advised, meant the eventual demise for all of them. So, how did we "put them down?" I had a friend who was a chemistry teacher, who obtained ether for me, and I put them each in a large bottle with a wad of ether, to put them to sleep. I have to laugh when I look back on that squeamishness in those days, but it was not any fun. Living with animals teaches one about death and dying in a way that is normal and profound. Yet it doesn't get any easier, despite its normalcy.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers........Wordsworth

jenjulian
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby jenjulian » February 19th, 2008, 1:59 am

I agree with the never getting use to death of animals. As a child, I learned quickly to keep quiet about my feelings for the animals, because no one around me seem to share this deep regard for them. I coped with the butchering time on the farm with sometimes a sleepless night before the pig or cow was to be killed with prayers said and sometimes sick to my stomach all day. How could everyone ignore this death I would think of my family! My father is a man of the land and his love was to trap and hunt. (your description of the wisdom of the locals reminds me of him. I recognized this zen like focus of simply living in him in the last few years, as I have changed.) When I was taken along for the 'hunt' I prayed feverishly for the animal to escape somehow, and when my dad started a fur business, we didn't speak for a few years!
I think if we would have honored the animals in some way before killing them, such as Joseph Campbell talks about how the indians did, it would have made a difference.

Clear singer---what a cool name.
"I am what I am."--Popeye

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W4TVQ
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby W4TVQ » February 19th, 2008, 7:18 pm

Inded, my grandmother kept chickens out in Land o' Lakes, FL, and had a rooster that had been trained in an Al Qaida camp somewhere in Afghanistan. One never dared to offend that bird!

I can relate to the days of poverty as well. Peg and I counted coins and wrapped them to pay for food at times, and sweated the rent each month. Being out at Kwajalein for two years made the difference, allowing us to "get ahead." And we have found, since, that so long as we tithe, we never have to fear lack: the result is not wealth, but provision with certainty. I think it is a principle built into the universe itself, that as one sows, so one reaps.

So many lessons, so little time... said the guy who just turned 70... :sad2:

Namaste
Art
"I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there." -- Loren Eiseley

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anna
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby anna » February 24th, 2008, 5:00 pm

Yes, tithing is a great principal. You realize of course that it is not the actual act of tithing that accomplishes this, although the practice does anchor it within consciousness, but it is the actual surrendering of something we each value inordinately, to God, and in this instance, is a microcosmic archetype of what the spiritual process is all about. In other words, it is the principal of giving away what you most want, and it is the resulting vacuum created in consciousness that is consequently filled to overflowing by virtue of the space created by that vacuum.("Nature abhors a vacuum.") Or, you can't fill a pot that is already filled! Indeed, taken to its ultimate end, if you want God, or the Self, you give away whatever is God to you, or the Self to you - which, when investigated, comes up "the great ME!", doesn't it? :frog: And that is, after all, the ultimate surrender.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers........Wordsworth

jenjulian
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby jenjulian » March 13th, 2008, 2:06 am

For some pictorial evidence of chickens in action scroll half way down this page and check out the moving avatar of the kid picking a fight with a chicken. (This is how we entertain ourselves in Kansas. ) :laughter:

http://forum.saljournal.com/viewtopic.p ... 99767e85d1
"I am what I am."--Popeye

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anna
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Re: The Simple, and Impoverished Life (02/16/08) First

Postby anna » March 16th, 2008, 1:49 pm

I went to the link, it is too amusing!!!! :lol: You can see how tough those little roosters are, taking on a big huge human being like that! Too much!
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers........Wordsworth


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