ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Living Well

 are a series of growing awareness of the fact that we are not alone or isolated on Starship Earth, but full partners, owners, if you will, whose stake in leaving behind places that are better than when we found them is as great as every other human on the planet. Virtually every despoiled landscape, decapitated building and waste area has a story to tell. Most often the stories are about someone trying to make a quick buck and either looking the other way as they extracted the resources or poured their lives into the place only to fall on hard times and end up neglecting the responsibility that comes with "owning" property.

I heartily urge everyone to read one of the book on the ECO-Tours library shelf. It is called How To Shit In The Woods. It considers at appropriate length many of the common mistakes that can be made and accurately describes the reasons why etiquette around toileting has served humans and the environment so well over the years. In fact, when the rules were lax, people died, simple. Once you learn the details that govern the process, and find the perfect spot, prepared for it and learned a bit about the hows and whys, you will definitely feel more confident and aware of your surroundings. I have heard many people say that they draw the line at pooping outdoors, but until you have tried learning how to do it right, then tried it, you have no idea how wonderful the experience can be!

ECO-Tours is preparing to start offering a much greater variety of experiences. We realize that many potential visitors would like to do things other than plant trees. We teach classes on a variety of topics as well. Many of our visitors have loved the tours of our "scorched air" solar panel, our permaculture beds and the canoe/ hiking, and bike trails. Let us know if you are planning to be in Northeast Wisconsin, we will develop a specialized trip just for you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

When I was a young man, I had the delightful pleasure of reading a book called a Wrinkle in Time. I had not lived long enough to know that the course of time is somewhat malleable. As a child, all time seemed to creep slowly and painfully forward. Much of the craziness that went on around me served as "proof" that I would probably never make it past thirty so any conception of time that was different than the brutal indifference that time seemed to hold, for me, was a welcome relief. Luckily, I have continued to learn about this facet of our existence and welcomed the changing nature of my own conceptions about this oddly misunderstood part of our lives. Reflecting on just a few aspects of this concept has the power to change, not only the time we have spent, but the time we have left and the very nature of our existence. I am just coming to realize that "tree time" is very similar to "insect time", although the scope of tree time may expand to many hundreds of years and insects may be lucky to get a month out of life, the time signature is both remarkably different, but yet exactly the same.

As one of the most famous song of my youth said it, we've all got time enough to cry. In the natural world, time is both understood to be malleable and because of this, the telling of time loses much of it's value. Codified segments and linear progression are nearly useless and circular time, the progression of the seasons and of the equinoxes gain relative importance and simultaneously today, yesterday and tomorrow fade in importance. I am always amazed at datebooks that sub-divide days into hourly segments. On the one hand, the appointment book is crucial to our modern life, guiding the progression of our days as much as practicable. However, doing whatever we do, as part of a micro-managed dance of hours or half-hours has always seemed to be a bit ridiculous. Often, what we find when significant events happen in our lives, time can both stand still and fly by at will, making our plans and schedules moot.

A pair of friends and I were discussing the nature of time, how it has affected us, and the serious changes that have occurred for each of us regarding this poorly understood aspect of our lives. What made the most sense to me is the idea of the scope of time unfolding, not like a line, but more like that of a double helix that we most often recognize as DNA. Like with DNA, we build, discreet element upon discreet element. Moment by moment. Often when we choose to relay messages or tell stories we are uncoiling the strands, share half, allow others to fill in their own portion (half) and when we have shared fully, we may have changed forever the development of the organism. As we become more experienced and deft, we find that it is possible to reach out, across the helix, expand it like a Slinky or crush it down end to end to compress time experience the past and step out of the time signature of our normal waking life.

Something like this happened to me this past week. One of our neighbors has three children. As soon as the weather turned nice, the windows opened and the youngsters started playing in the yard. I typically live and let live, but there was a distinct unpleasant relationship that developed quickly between us. The two youngest ones, a boy and a girl seemed to always relate to one another with callous indifference and the only attraction they seemed to have for one another is to attack, steal toys from one another and basically be as selfish as possible, leading their sibling to feel offended. This would nearly always be punctuated with screams. Not just "Hey Mom, he, or she, is doing it again!" type screams, No, blood curdling, I've lost a limb-type screams. My moments of abject terror slowly waned and my ire started to build, but then I got an idea...I wondered if anyone had shared with them the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I took it upon myself to spend some time, telling a story over their back fence.

The uncoiling of the endless cycles of time took place within the space of about fifteen minutes. I cannot truly say exactly how long it took because polychronic time is resistant to scientific study, but as long as it takes to get children interested, utilize the power of four repetitions and bring the story to a logical conclusion. This shared time has had an amazing effect. I have not heard a single scream from the little rug rats. My yard work, rather than being punctuated with surges of adrenaline, has become much more placid and refreshing. I would go as far as to say, healing. The unfolding of the summer season has taken on a much more happy air and I look forward to opening my windows to let the breezes and sounds in. It did take an investment of a little time, but the value of spending that time is truly incalculable. The results speak for themselves. Perhaps that integral part of my own understanding made the jump into the next generation, perhaps they just changed their ways because they don't want me coming back and telling them more stories again. Either way, as the wisdom of the ages passed over my lips, I felt my being active in both the ages past and future. Thorough a simple story I had the power to wrinkle time, step across her vast flowing and powerful tides, and produce a pearl, pertinent and useful to that moment, but which also has the power to change the unfolding of time beyond infinity.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Forests

Now, more than ever, we need to stand up for what our ancestors fought and died for. Our Land, Our Country, Our way of life, all depend on the lives sent to fight, in our names. Like it or not, and I definitely do not, innocent blood has been spilled over arbitrary lines, drawn in the sand, global economic empire and even to simply divide the people and wishes of entire regions amongst competitive factions who may have otherwise become friends. On this day, my own memorial observances involve not only the loss of those who died needlessly in war, but to their families who endured an even longer sacrifice, bearing testament to the frivolity of political antics that benefit no one more than the one percent (1%) We the People was never meant to include corporate entities or the money they spend on tailoring the arguments that get made politically. The generations of souls, who gave all, as well as the ones who gave some would spin in their graves if they saw the erosion of freedom that has gone on during the last ten years.

In America, terrorists could have never have guessed how lasting the homage we pay them, gyrating as if the whole social structure was a whirling dervish of police and police-like entities, people watchers have multiplied, while threats remain infinitesimally small. We are each far more likely to encounter a drunken driver and die at his/her hands than to be threatened by terrorists. The biggest threat in America today is, by far, the texting driver. They have the power to kill and it is set to randomly strike. In many ways, much more difficult to stop than someone who has a plan and is working out how to make it happen. Sadly, the events that took place in Colorado this past week prove the inability of big government to stop individual psychopaths from creating mayhem in our midst. There was no treatise or diatribe offered, no outcome desired other than to create pain and suffering for as many innocent victims as possible.

Those who have died on the battlefield and those who have served often have the most lucid comments about why war needs to be abolished. Just last week, My wife Nancy and I were reminded again of the long hand of war on our society. We were parking the car in Madison, Wisconsin and were approached by a man who  had been a Lieutenant in, I believe, the Marines. He saw in our eyes compassion and support for him, not an image of a warrior tacked up on a wall at a recruitment office. A real human being worthy of love. This man's Vietnam era question remains, Why? He cried with us, and we cried a bit with him. There are no parades that make up for the daily assault we feel from our government, our "leaders" or the media outlets that skew the numbers and spin every issue in terms of maligned hatred with undertones of psycho-sexual dysfunction. This man still carries an unbearable burden, having held brothers in arms as they bled out and having seen the eyes of the innocent young men whose lives he snuffed our for no good reason. Why?

When one takes the time to slow down enough to talk about issues, virtually everyone is in agreement. The giant chasm between the Left and Right is completely made up and although there are a few single issue voters, the vast majority are trying to vote for the lesser of two evils. There is probably not a voter in America who has not wondered why there is no one in politics who wants to tell us the truth about the issues that we face, because the stark reality is far more untenable than the public has been led to believe. When there is a pragmatic candidate, interests far more powerful than the voting box are threatened and the corporate machine grinds that poor fellow into a moderate mix of mush and pablum. The few candidates who cling to their foundational beliefs are ground to dust beneath the wheel of our military industrial complex. This train is so massive and powerful that even when it goes off the tracks, it continues to bulldoze through anything in it's way.

We need to demand the chance to get what we want. Representation free from the contamination and slant of big money campaigns, free from corporate influence, corporate welfare and free from the repression of the public will for change. Those who lost their lives, the majority of whom perished in far off lands, would not consent to have died for EXXON or GM, WELLS FARGO or Monsanto. they took an oath to our country, not the way of life of the 1%. Our way of life is far more than the sum total of our economic activity just as the lives of those touched by war will never be the same again. To the walking wounded, the mothers who lost sons, or daughters, to the families forever broken because of war, single mothers whose children are fatherless because of our rush to war, my hat goes off to you. I bow low to honor your service. I will continue to fight for the land that we come from, the earth on which we were born and the same sacred soil that we have laid to rest countless thousands in service to a dream. The American Dream that I believe in is not possible as long as people are sent around the world to kill in my name. My relationship with the planet demands that I respect all organisms, to be a true patriot in my eyes is to honor Mother Earth and work toward equitable distribution of resources worldwide, at lowest possible cost. Peace has never flowed from the end of a gun and it never will.

One facet of our approach to ecotours is that, the way we present our ECO-Tours, they reflect more about where we are spiritually than where we are geographically. Like the walkabout or pilgrimage that we may know of from practices of Aborigines or Catholics, breaking from routine, accepting the challenge, being willing to be humble amongst our fellow beings, all have their own rewards, if we are willing to listen. Quiet awake phase is when young mothers are encouraged to teach their new-borne babies to nurse. So too, our most open moments are in the quiet awake phase as well. Stillness, rhythm, repetitive ritualized motion, awareness, all enhance the trans-formative power of the environment. Our ECO-Tours have always sought to sanctify the landscape of which we are a part. Healing the scars made by "modern" man and his destructive ways unleashes a powerful sense of purpose in other areas of our lives. It is patriotic to plant a tree for a service person that you know. The powerful statement of hope that planting a tree is may be but a mere shadow of the sacrifice our service members have endured for us, but there have been whole forests of men cut down in the prime of their lives to give us this land. The least we can do for them is to recognize them with a memorial tree. Make it so!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tree Prejudice

I ran into two ladies this week who seemed normal in every way. We were talking about issues of prosperity and how we might judge our own wealth and abundance. We spoke of taking time to be playful and to some extent, how our dreams and reality are part of our wealth and lives. When I told them of my own curiosity, my desire to know just what 100,000 maple tree seeds looks like, as well as my urge to plant them, rather than being glad for my own happiness, they instantly questioned, "What kind of maples?" What they did and said next made me realize that there are tree bigots everywhere and their judgements often stifle their enjoyment of the world around them. They both sat more rigidly upright and their eyes widened. When I told them that most of the tree seeds were red maple, they were okay with that, but when the words, "some silver maples too", came next. It looked as if I was in big trouble. "No!" they exclaimed, not silver maples! One woman called them "weed trees", useless and not to be planted. as anyone might, I asked, "Why?" Supposedly, they said, the way they fork makes them weak and prone to splitting or losing branches. Well, you and I both know that this sort of prejudice is not only short sighted, but just plain wrong. If nature ever made a survivor, it would have to be the silver maple. Aside from regular periodic burning, or regular mowing, there really is no way to keep this plant at bay.

My grandmother had a silver maple in her yard in Springfield, Illinois for as long as I can remember. On her deathbed, for some reason, she wanted it trimmed. Grandpa, always the miser got the cheapest fellow he could find to cut that tree, never wanting to have to do it again, he told him to take everything but the trunk down. It was sinful, what that man did to The Maple. Other than three or four branches with tiny tufts near the top, it looked much like a Q-tip. The wounds all wept that year, just as the rest of the family did. However, when I came back for my grandfather's funeral a dozen years later, unless you knew where to look, you might never have noticed the fateful pruning incident. There stood an even more massive testament to the power and tenacity of nature. The glorious shade had returned and the rustling of the leaves in the wind that I had heard since childhood soothed my very soul. The part of me that loved to climb that tree, the boy inside me that remembered grandma's dog, buried in the shade under that tree, the young adult who never saw a single branch snap from the massive trunk, even in the strongest winds, cannot fathom why anyone would hold a grudge against the entire species!

I cannot say for certain what led these ladies to take such a rigid stand against the silver maple, but for my part I just said, "Rabbits need some branches to fall, for cover."
To which one woman replied, "If you think rabbits need help, come out by me, Luxemburg has plenty of rabbits!"
Perhaps she was speaking with authority, I don't know, but my guess is that they dine a little to frequently on the trees and bushes, perhaps even the flowers that this woman deems more important than the silver maple. In any case, I'm sure that she has not consulted the rabbits about their numbers and certainly has not taken the time to play in the shade under a silver maple during the hottest part of the day. she probably has never created a microcosmic world, nestled into the roots and sod clumps around the base of a massive silver maple. She may even have heard what she knows about them from a reputable nurseryman, but as I explained, the places I plant are not meant to be manicured lawns anyway. Any tree is better than no tree, especially native trees that have the power to reforest the landscape long after I have shirked this mortal coil. I would be planting sugar maples in the hopes of creating a grove some day, but the sugar maples that I have planted are not producing seeds yet.

Whatever caused these women to take such a harsh stance against a specific type of tree may forever remain shrouded in mystery. I can't help but think that somewhere along their path, they decided that their ideas of beauty, functionality and our relationship with Mother Earth should be that of dominance and submission rather than the give and take that has grown to stand in the forest of my ideas about such things. It certainly brought into sharp focus for me, the tragic cost of hatred and misunderstanding. I feel a bit sad that i neglected to ask about what trees they would rather I plant, but as it happened, we didn't spend much time on the subject of tree planting. We both had "more important" things to do. The more I think about the conversation, the more I want to plant more trees. I'm not as picky as some and I would rather plant the "wrong" tree somewhere and begin a process of building a forest for the future than remain stifled, waiting for the right tree to shed seeds into my lap. I'm not a fan of the horse chestnut, but if someone would choose to plant one, I wouldn't fly into a tizzy. I have cleaned up their seeds and prickly hulls for five decades, but in spite of not liking the extra work that they create for people living under them, I enjoy the smell of their flowers, I admire their ability to find their way into my garden, along my foundation and even into the flower beds that resist invasion by nearly everything else. One really has to admire the ability of a tree to use squirrels to help it procreate.

We all have our foibles and quirks. Why should trees be any different? I'm not really sure why, but I am driven to plant trees. Of course I select for what will have the best chance of growing at each site that I work to reforest. Other than that, I try not to place my own limitations on the process. each of the 100,000 maple seeds that I planted received my blessing and best wishes on it's journey. Even the swirling spirals that they took to their new homes were amazing to me. In their dispersal, they taught me a little bit more about fluid dynamics, energy capture and finding peace amongst competing forces that surround us all the time. Perhaps, they even taught me how to deal with prejudice with a bit of grace.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When I used to have a tipi in the back yard, we had several gatherings of a dozen or so people. One particularly odd night was when we tried to have thirteen for a sleep over in a sixteen foot tipi. all I can say is that we found it to be one too many. This blog, twenty-five years later has had about 100 guests since January 17th of this year. All told, we can never really know how well we are able to transmit ideas, we are limited by language after all, nor can we say with certainty that we posses a rudimentary understanding and perceptual ability to make sense of what we think we "see". To one of us, ideas or understandings may seem to be entirely self-evident while another would prefer to have "Nothing but the facts.", never heard of it, or simply never had a word for the idea presented to them before. We each have what amounts to a box of different tubes of paint, our experiences often open up the container, adding color and a depth of perceptual palette in a new range or hue.

Those who have had, or believe that they have had the same experience as you, often desire to form cadres, tribes and associations that benefit the members of the group in specific and certain ways. Since my childhood, the term bro' has been uttered. many actually meant the whole complex of relations that those three letters demanded. Brothers, or bro's are tribally linked. as such they may confront them directly about "bad"  behavior, but to outsiders, or in the bro's absence, no negativity could, or should be associated with  their name. In my conceptualization, it was both a term of endearment and one that allowed total freedom coupled with infinite responsibility. brothers always busted one an-others chops face to face, but in their absence, no ill was ever spoken by a true bro'. along the way, the term got hijacked by folks who were not brought up right. Pretty soon, there were unsavory hippies (that's the folks I knew best) and probably beatniks before them who hid from the world behind the props associated with their generation, partially or even completely at odds with the social change advocates who were their brothers and sisters.

I take you to this place only to explain that there will always be both those who cannot hear as well as those who do not want to listen, communication with them fails for other reasons. However, if we are to begin a new the quest for a better life, intimately part of the world around us and beneficiaries of mother Earth and father Sun's abundant blessing, then we need to develop this sense of being in a much more pure way, brothers and sisters to one another. Once understood, everyone will accept the fact that there are worlds of difference between free love and cheap sex, but if you have spilled the color from neither of those tubes, it may be much more difficult to explain. The reason that I want to write on this topic is that as we pass, on the high seas of modern life, we all need to be sensitive to the meaning behind the Buckminster Fuller Quote: There are no passengers on Starship Earth, only crew. we may not always share the same experiences or words for what moves us, but we can all respect the fact that we are each trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with.

This year I have already had the equivalent of seven tipi events, sharing stories and learning as ideas are put into words. I look forward to more reciprocation from readers. I have tried to respond to as many comments as possible. When I rode my bicycle around the Great Lakes, I shared ideas and recipes for living better with less negative impact on the planet. Over seven million souls got to hear those messages. What made the biggest impact on me was a solitary homeless man who asked me what I was doing, then after I told him, he said that he had two children down in Tennessee. He said that he was going to go back there and do whatever it takes to be a part of their lives again. He said that if I was willing to go through all that it must take to bike around The Lakes, he could surely commit himself to making a better life for those two children. We were both speaking languages that the other only vaguely understood, but the message of being true to a purpose translates across many varied languages. He may not have had the same reds on his palette, but he had ones that were his own to be sure, just as the blues and greens that he had experienced, had only been hinted at for me back then. we paint the meaning into words quite literally.

When we explore the language we find so many artifacts, each one a nugget of data that excites the cultural anthropologist. Idiom, axiom, twist of phrase, proverbs and quotations are tiny packets of rich meaning for those willing to unpack them. Sometimes we can even break the seal on a new color that we were formerly unaware of. Here at ECO-Tours, we seek to enhance our guests' ability to see into the landscape, witness first hand some of the interactions that characterize all life on this planet and how we can begin to emulate it in the ways we live our lives. Many have helped to plant the many thousands of trees that we have planted over the years, even more have come just to tour our facilities, see solar space heating in action or make a solar food dehydrator. Living lightly on the planet can require a bit of creativity, but no matter how one attempts to reduce their carbon footprint, or toxic footprint is a matter of choice. In our philosophical approach, we cannot place blame on the ignorant, but as we teach, the gifted students will take to heart that which they learn and attain higher summits of awareness than we ever could. That is the nature of the the teacher's dilemma. We are always trying to catch up to our brightest and most active learners.

We were able to plant about 100,000 red maple seeds, it took several days, a half dozen hours of concerted effort and a couple trips to the country. All told, to scatter 100,000 seeds it took about one gallon of diesel. If you have ever scattered maple seeds, you know that it is great fun, each one helicoptering in on an independent trajectory, amazing to watch. Sheer joy in that it helps one to see the clouds of air around us always, bending and stretching as they caress the globe and her obstacles and inhabitants, their wakes and their energy fields. Again, I find myself writing about the fact that there may be dozens or hundreds of energies and "spirits" that surround and have the power to enrich us, but no instrument to detect them. I cannot claim that just because no device has been calibrated but one person's mind, that the person is wrong or that no such force exists. Even if, in time we realize, there really is something to it, will it not be too late? For anyone who has been told, "You are crazy." I'm with you bro'. I grew up on a steady diet of that shit. I can't rightly say that I have yet to know all the forces that act on me or that I have dominion over. I'm still rummaging around for unopened tubes of pain, if you will forgive the reference. To help put in perspective, the tiny seeded red maple tree seeds that I spread were about eighty pounds, (40 kilos) I tried to get them in areas much like where the trees were growing that the seed came from. With luck, at least 1% might make it, still enough trees to reforest over three acres! Since I spread seeds over far more than twenty acres, the trees would be rather spread out, leaving room for oaks, walnut, hazel, mulberry, or other species.

Trees are very much like people, they like being around others and always do best with some diversity. Hopefully, in the landcapes of the mind, I can put a few seeds in places where they will grow and bring forth new life. Long after my days are numbered, these works will live on, inspiring those who might read them with the wizened perspective of a grandpama. a friend developed the word to fill the niche created when we learn the term Great Mother Father God, the truth of the Lord and Lady. These forces are not part of duality, but a living whole, active, complimentary and infinitely creative. As we emulate the richness of both, and reflect them through grace, our paths are lit by both Sun and moon in ways that were not perceptible, again, until we opened that tube of paint.
We have to learn the art of living together, well on less fossil fuel mediated experiences. To that end, I am going to try to put together a larger battery bank for running my computer, one that is charged by solar. When I figure it out, I'll post a how-to video.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

This is what happens when prevailing winds try to push against the side of an invisible mountain, the high pressure ridge that exists over urbanized corridors.

The forest fires that spewed countless tons of soot and ash into the upper atmosphere are believed to be responsible, in part, for the darkening of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The darker surface absorbs much more solar radiation and has led to higher pressures and clear skies over the island as well. These factors are combining to accelerate the melting of the ice sheet. The natural world may seem to be independent of our actions, because we may believe that fires of this kind were common before humans began to interact with the ecology of the front ranges of the rocky mountains. In fact, the domino effects that we see today are the result of fifty to one hundred years of exploitation. Even in the most remote areas, the hand of man can be seen on the landscape. We may never connect all the dots, yet we can see the results of our actions all around us.

Please take the time to listen to  the planetary cries for change.

Under A Neon Sky

Tonight, towering over my head is a vertical contrail, not produced by a jet, but thunderstorms that have been forced up into the edge of the stratosphere. Vertical stratus clouds, channeling light down through ice crystals. there are no shadows, because the light is all around us!
As the minutes turn to twenty, the sun cuts low, beneath the cloud bases making them gleam in back-light. Like a giant TV set, the world around is lit with the most infinitely large and softest source imaginable, then to top it off, highlights for definition and depth. This light may only occur on a few dozen brief moments each year, tonight it has lasted nearly half and hour. Colors of sunset are creeping in and as the time stills, even the birds seem to be watching.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

100,000 Maple Tree Seeds

It has been a bumper crop year for maple tree seeds. If you have ever wondered how much space 100,000 maple tree seeds look like, imagine a feed sack, bulging at the seams. Of course they are light, but the bag would tip the scale at nearly twenty five pounds. Spring came early, and we had plenty of moisture for a change this year. As a result, the rain gutters filled and the sidewalks were coated with tiny helicopters, each bearing a single seed. Today I filled a seed bag with the seeds and spread them across several acres in the newest county park, near where I live. It took several hours to collect the seed and just a tiny part of an hour to spread them with the help of a stiff wind. With a bit of luck and some timely rain, there will be thousands of sprouts coming up in the not too distant future. The idea of helping Mother Nature rather than hurting her is new to some, but the work I have done for the last several decades has revolved around another type of life. This past week we had the great chance to hear a woman on Wisconsin Public Radio who has been studying what we used to call living better for less. for a time, the term green living was used to try to get folks to change their ways, but now the word for it is sustainability. trees know nothing of these words. When times are great, or when they are reaching the end of their lives, they produce many more seeds than can possibly grow in one area. Much like the rest of nature, the boom and bust cycle is more common than we might believe.

Working with the changes that we see around us requires commitment to the cycles of growth, birth and death that are reflected in everything from worms to the birds and trees around us. I know that the maples in my neighborhood are doomed to never procreate. If there is not paved land beneath them, there are garden beds and lawns that get mowed often enough to eliminate the possibility of new trees growing up there. Instead, I picked up as many as I could and transferred them to an area that is being reforested by both our organization and several others. It is a powerful moment in time that we have arrived at. for many on planet Earth, our needs are met in less time than ever, we are realizing the futility of mindless consumerism and the time for feeding ever larger appetites has begun to take a toll on both our lifestyles and the globe. Factors that were once never even considered have begun to be studied and questioned, in some cases, understood and in time we will all become aware of how much it really costs to continue raping and pillaging the land, the landscape and the ecosphere that we will all have to use to meet our needs over time. As Buckminster Fuller said more thasn two decades ago, there are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are all crew. finding ourselves at the helm, or pulling the lines that harness the winds of change that are blowing strong, we need to set a course for times when catch phrases are no longer needed to specify ecological sustainability. In time, there will be no cliquishness, no trendy marketing strategies that belie doing the right thing. We will need to adapt or surely perish from an utter lack of spirit.

There may never be a recreation of Eden, but with a more humane approach to how we live on the planet, we can all live a higher standard of living while we use less material, extract less resources, produce less waste and contaminate less air and water. I will continue to share the ways that i have learned about to do just that over the next few years, planting seeds of change as it were, not only across the landscape but in the minds of folks who choose to read this. I do encourage each and every one of my readers to consider donating whatever an hour of your time is worth to you. my employer considers my time to be worth nearly twenty dollars per hour and I feel that I am worth far more than that. Each of my entries takes about an hour to produce and asking for you to pay for something that is actually free may seem like supreme silliness, but for me to donate so many hours to the process of changing our world-wide culture for the better is actually priceless. Even those who think my ideas are useless may find a nugget or two of truth in them and the value of hearing the truth just once is beyond the ability of most of us to calculate.

Some of the first steps that I took to get myself a little clarity about what is important was to study nutrition. when I realized that much of what passes as "food" is actually devoid of nutrients, it changed the way I ate for the better. As our society has developed, most of us have been exposed to more and more non-food products and as we have gotten busier and busier, the time spent preparing, enjoying and understanding what foods are healthy and which are bad for us has dwindled. Imagine a car that was continuously driven faster and faster, being put under more and more stress and that is also never maintained or given fuel to use for energy. Our bodies are very much the same. The food that we need is often far away or expensive, so I taught myself about growing healthy food in a food desert right in the middle of town. Quickly, I learned that there was an extreme shortage of organic matter, so all of my food scraps and organic waste became a crucial resource. I turned to my hobby of keeping fish to help offset my protein requirements and also found that the fish waste that was produced by the fish made an excellent organic fertilizer. When my compost became riddled with bugs and worms, they produced extra food for the fish and reduced the cost of purchased nutrients for the fish. This was the beginning of a cycle that produced more than I could use. when I had too much nutrient rich water from cleaning the tanks, I would pour that "waste" water on the street trees that grew outside my apartment. Today, those trees are 30% larger, greener and healthier than the ones that never got the surplus from my tank cleaning. My trash smelled less, I never had flies indoors, the back porch grew more food than I could eat by myself and the give-away continued.

Even if not a single maple tree seed that I scattered grows, I got to spend time in the out of doors, walk for a little while and I kept sixty pounds of seeds from washing into the gutters and the local stream. All in all, there will be benefits that stand separate and alone. If a single tree grows, perhaps in five or ten years, there will be a little more shade, a tiny bit of flood reduction and a place for a bird to perch and perhaps even nest. If we continue to give of our own abundant resources, there is a chance that the redistribution will lead to everyone being better off.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Starting Our Walkabout

It has been twenty-five years since our founder, yours truly Tony C. Saladino, rode my bicycle around the five Great Lakes. my intention back then was to spread the word about living a higher quality of life while reducing the negative impacts that we have on Mother Earth. This is the same message that I share in my writing and on ECO-Tours today. After twenty-five years, one would think that we would have advanced further than we have, but the tide is turning and the change that we might see in the next twenty-five years could be exactly what I had hoped for in the late eighties. When I was preparing for the Great Lakes Tour, I researched and documented hundreds of environmental catastrophes that had unfolded during the previous hundred years or so. Oddly enough, as I traveled, many of the citizens in each location knew little, if anything, about the contamination that poisoned their particular neighborhood. In the cases of well-documented or extreme contamination, they might be more likely to know about the threat, but would also, far too often, believe that the problems were either too big to be dealt with, that everything possible had already been done, or that the remediation had rendered the contamination to be non-threatening. In one particular case, a local resident told me that "Everything has been cleaned up." The next day, as I rode out of town, I saw what they really meant. The contaminated river that had once been in the center of town had once again become "pure" only by pumping the industrial waste over to the next watershed to the east. Many of the same problems are confronting us today. How we define them, what we choose to do to remedy them and what our options are for the most part remain the same but how we see ourselves in relationship to the planet is changing and this has the power to open up new opportunities that have not existed in the past.

Whether we know it or not...
 We are wrapped in a swirling matrix of intention, affection, electro-magnetic forces and relationship AT ALL TIMES!
Those who have heard the term walkabout, may not be completely aware of both the finality and rebirth or "newness", that is produced by such an activity. When we discern the fact that what we have always thought defined any aspect of experience can be utterly vanquished with a new level of understanding, so too, the sense we have of who we are can only grow through the process of letting our old definition of self fall away like the exoskeleton of an insect. From the moment that the staff is thrust into the soil, an act of centering, there can be no real returning without the loss of the prior self, or at least the perception of who we thought we were. Rites of passage to new awareness have been documented from the earliest days, although their meaning is more essential for the person who experiences them rather than those who have the events explained to them. What takes place is a spiritual realignment to our higher selves, the compassionate, creator, our maker, or a host of other linguistic techniques that seek to codify that which transcends description. I, for instance, knew not the term mercabic event, the state of being the mercaba, when I first experienced it. On the walkabout, we seek something that we cannot name for the pure sake of be-ing it. I have heard a lame attempt using English to attempt to describe the state of trance that pilgrimage can provide us is "enjoying the ride", or that travel is more about the trip than the destination.

When I designed this paisley, it invoked trance. I was on a journey of self without walking a step.

Just as when I planted my first tree, when I realized that this tiny root was to be the center of its own universe, standing like a giant umbus, connecting Earth and Sky, night and day and season after season a testament to my passing, liberated me and thrust upon me, imbibed me, as with saltwater taffy, folded back and in upon its stretching self to infinity, to become an agent of their desire, speak for them, create a world that has space for them, perhaps one even that honors them, not as products of one man or one organization, but of humankind. We can find precious few places that the hand of man has not had terrible consequences for. in the case of a tree planted, it is evidence that a human has chosen the path of hope and trusted that later on, their efforts would bear fruit. We may never understand that the power of befriending a single bird, who may use your newly planted tree as a perch will have down the linear timeline that duality would have us believe in. Just as likely, the spiral of time is like a giant slinky, bending and flexing as we change our ability to imagine. In my mind, the wisdom of my own ancestors can be followed back centuries and my responsibilities attend to only seven generations because at fifty, I'm barely able to fathom seven sevens and not sure whether it is even within my grasp to "go bigger". What would be the point? We are either in tune with the eternal chord, or sadly out of time, or tragically out of step with the Universe. planting each tree is a centering device that brings us back after our flights of selflessness, a waypoint in common parlance today. The route back to what we have left behind, a portal back to our former selves, without the baggage of preconception and habit.

Our efforts to transform our lives spill out into the vastness of the world, perhaps even, the universe.

This too had been a hurdle for my limited vocabulary. I was taught to realize that the Universe is unfolding as it should, yet who would want to stagnate in bad old habits and ignorance-land? Is there a value to ignorance? Of course, for many, who have not had credible rites of passage or who never took the time to break from old patterns, accepting new vision and responsibility, there is a streak in our culture that revels in that. The longevity of wise phrases like "old habits die hard." tell of a long, unbroken cultural habit, our comfortable way of going through life. The journey, as it happens, is only as meaningful as we are willing to invest in the process. As we go, we perhaps use the skeleton key to kill of parts of our ego-induced sense of self. The more we sanctify each moment, every blessed step along the way, the more profound our realizations. Often, those with no map of the spirit realm, the experience can be disorienting. Remembering that awareness itself is on a continuum, and that we can never have the right vocabulary to relate to everyone, is an essential first step to realizing that the only story that really matters is our own. Only one person on earth has the power or responsibility for your growth. The rest of  the world has been geared to enhance duality. My learning, study, awareness and path have led me to humbly accept the wisdom of others and share what I can, not as a recipe for enlightenment, but as a beacon of hope that you too will find your own way back to a sense of self that is more fulfilling, more rewarding and more rewarding to ever greater numbers of organisms than you were able to be in your former self. I am enriched if only one individual takes this to heart and grows, even just a little because within a few generations of that event, the world will be miraculously changed for good.

We are at once individual and part of a hive of humanity that numbers many billions. Changing one tiny aspect of  our lives can now happen nearly instantly, worldwide. I submit that we are poised on the threshold of  the Age of Aquarius with all the tools and ideas available, we just need to get on about our own unique walkabout and make the development of a sustainable culture rather than one based on exploitation and rape of the planet a priority. World production of oil has begun to shrink and through conservation we can forestall the inevitable skyrocketing price, but before we can ask others to live efficiently and less materialistically, we need to be able to do those same things for ourselves. I have owned six homes and each in turn had 1/3 to 1/2 the energy requirements when they were sold as when I bought them. Most of the people who bought those homes were unconcerned about the energy they were saving. Some probably never questioned why they had lower than average bills. Human beings generally have a hard time linking causes and effects that are not closely paired in time, so the burning of a light, all night that you only have to pay for next month will never make the connection for some, but as energy prices rise, and they are doing so worldwide, increasing attention gets paid to things that escalate in price. A friend once told me that he had a home, similar in size and similarly placed within walking distance to downtown that had escalated to five times what he paid for it because the price of fuel tripled. The wealthiest people want to move to town when they find that they could pay themselves that much more if they just got rid of one car. creating liveable cities will occur when we all learn to become mostly self-sufficient and learn to utilize local resources in ways that minimize our reliance on foreign fuel, faraway production and extractive processes that yield more waste and less useful resources. The same problems will exist and compound themselves the longer we try to ignore them. like the dripping faucet that is not attended to, the leaks only increase over time. to have a chance at reclaiming the planet, we need to stem the flow of toxic compounds into the environment, we need to begin fixing carbon, and sanctifying the planet that is our life support system here on Starship Earth.

Just as our ECO-Tours allow individuals to center themselves, undertake a pilgrimage and proceed without a specific goal in mind, so too, many of the rites of passage are designed to enlist dreamtime for the betterment of our entire culture. In theory, the closer we each become to reflecting our true self, the better off we will all be. My sister put it succinctly when she asked, "Whom do you serve?"
The eventual realization of sustainability requires that we will no longer use the term green, or necessarily sustainable either, they will just be the only game in town. The very thought of operating outside the sustainable system will become alien. I have never made a single significant ecological act because it was green or sustainable. I did them because they were the right thing to do. In these posts, I hope to bring people from around the world into a place that allows them to understand who they really are, what an amazing part of the environment they are and how they can utilize their brief time on  the planet to leave a lasting legacy of peace, security and hope for future generations. I want to be the cheerleader for those events in the future when they say "We are standing on the shoulders of giants...", but they will be including us in their reference. None of this work is meant to self- aggrandize, or build myself up, but to spread a foundation for future growth if and when the conditions are right for it. In a perfect world, each and every one of us would find our niche, thrive, flourish, procreate and nourish the environment for another generation of life. just a few generations ago, it was still common to do just that, time has come for us to rediscover how that was done. we may never document every way that was done, but with our superior communication technology, we now have the power to be a worldwide tribe, each capable of cross pollinating social and cultural domains without limit. A tiny impetus toward change multiplied by billions is the equivalent of a cultural tsunami that has never before been seen on our planet. Whatever location we choose to thrust our staff into, it will only serve us if we come back to it at some point, just for reference. If not to find our way back to the shadow of our former selves, at least to let us know what direction we were facing before we left.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3rd Walkabout

Today, I walked and rode bike half a dozen miles. Right out of the gate, I found the evidence of some vandals. They had pulled the earth anchor and chain out of the ground that secured a park bench and tossed the bench, the anchor and the chain into the river between our house and the first stre,et that I had to cross. I was carrying several gallons of liquid in a backpack, two dozen eggs and a box of spring clamps. i put everything down so that I could rescue the bench, ripped a large, dead and forked branch from a tree that overhangs the bank there and fished the bench out. Later, I came back, moved the bench fifty feet closer to our house, so that it would be easier to monitor, and re-buried the earth anchor and nearly two feet of chain. With luck the young toughs will get the picture. I suppose with the cost of the steel, the welding equipment down at the city garage and the thirty dollars or so of plastic lumber, plus painting, assembly and annual collection and dispersal, or installation costs, I probably saved the city over 160 dollars.

The rest of my walk was somewhat less productive, but I did learn a lot about my neighborhood and those to the northeast, up toward Oak Grove. Fer fewer homes are for sale there, but I did see one where I knew the older woman who assisted the person living there. it had been condemned. I also found two delightful little alleys that I had not been on in a while. Walking gave me the chance to absorb some delightful lilac and crab apple blossom scents, let my own breath nourish the trees that are just leafing out and to reclaim a bit of vitality, partly from the fresh air and partly from the rain that fell along my path as I walked. There is a quality of light that occurs on overcast days filled with periods of rain that livens up even the pastel colors of Spring.

Funny, how a walk, to deliver some left-over food, or what amounts to overabundance in our house could benefit the old ladies who routinely walk the trail along the river and appreciate a comfortable place to sit in the shade with a nice view of the river. I had to laugh because the three gallon jugs were first purchased for use in Appleton, over half of the excess was given away to someone who lives within walking distance and another person who lives even further away from the point of purchase.I wanted to walk it over to make sure it also had the furthest distance transported by human power as a way of greening it up. The reward was a slow enough pace to also find time to rescue a bench. Actual, factual proof positive that living lightly on the planet has benefits far beyond what anyone can possibly imagine.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

These are some of the first trees that ECO-Tours planted. Donations continue to allow us to plant more trees!

This is about three acres of woods. It lies to the West of the house and in summer they cast shade on the house to help keep it cool inside. The old brick farmhouse used to get baked in the afternoon sun! Wind out on The Ledge, as locals call it, wind too is a huge issue and having a thick hedge of woods as protection against prevailing winds also helps make life just that much sweeter! On these three acres, we started with about three hundred trees and have added several hundred more over time as the first ones took off. We have planted over two hundred acres and continue to plant in areas that have impact on local water quality, live-ability and as the forests grow, we are fixing carbon in the form of tons and tons of new tree each year! If the US would reimburse ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. for every ton of carbon we sequester in our trees, we could plant tens of thousands of trees more as the forests regenerate. With the help of individuals from around the world, we have planted well over 100,000 trees.
ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc.                                      1445 Porlier street Green Bay, WI    USA 54301