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February 2009

A Farm Story

Or the importance of Land.
Today I am posting a story about land which has touched hearts at and Facebook. The response the story is evoking speaks of how important our connection to the Land is, and how lonely we are for this connection. Grandfather Joseph speaks about this often. Doing ceremony on the land feeds our spirits and it feeds the Land too. So while this is not a story about the Peace Chamber or a ceremony, it tells about why I am here, and feel the call to hold ceremony. I hope the story touches you too.

A Farm Story

November 1, 2007, I returned to my ancestral home in Gibson County, Tennessee to bury my mother. On the way to the funeral, my son and I drove down Sanders Bluff Road, where I grew up on a cotton and pig farm. The road didn’t look too different from what I remembered.  A few new brick houses dotted the cow pastures and cotton fields. This was still small farm country, until we got to my farm.

Where the broad gravel driveway once gave access to a garage and a tractor shed, was a massive brick and iron gate. Winchester Estates the sign read. The farmhouse and the great barn built by my father, uncles, and grandfather had been bulldozed, and replaced by 30 brick ranch houses, stretching from the strawberry patch to my grandmother’s house on the hill, now owned by strangers. Where once cotton, corn, soybeans and winter wheat had grown in rotation, concrete driveways and above ground pools sprouted. The field was surrounded with a 10 foot high iron fence. What are these people afraid of? And who is Winchester? Only Sanders have lived here for 15 generations.

My family left the farm and moved to East Tennesssee in 1970, driven off by the upside down economics of agribusiness expense and farm policy applied to a small scale farm production. At that time my father could have sold the land to a developer, but he wouldn’t. He took an economic hit and sold it back into the family, where it stayed in farm production until 2004. That was the year he died. When Daddy was buried, the barn still stood. There were no gates or fences.

That land is gone now and shall never be reclaimed.

Now I live on nine acres of rock and woods in Maine. The land was once part of a large dairy farm and orchard--the Mervin Hobbs place. That farm is broken up into smaller orchards, house, and wood lots now, but it is still rural and spacious. I have the old house and spring. The owners before me kept sheep. I grow an organic garden, but I am not a farmer. My dream is to invite a farmer onto the land. As I read about permaculture, I understand how bony land like this can produce food in a way that integrates with nature’s patterns of soil, water, and woodlands.

Meanwhile, I grow my garden because I love it. I was born of the earth on that farm in Tennessee, and I must have my hands in dirt at least four months of the year.

But I count on the farmers of Maine to feed me. I love buying food that has been loved by the people growing and handling it.  I trust food when I know the grower, and I prefer buying directly from the grower when I can. The closer to the earth my diet becomes the better my health. I am blessed to live in a state that supports organic farming and hand grown food as much as it does. 

I am heartened to see so many young families selling their farm produce at the farmers markets. I am happy to spend my food money with these young farmers who are keeping land in cultivation and open space, while keeping farm skills flourishing. Across the nation, the diversified family farm is the vortex of food security, environmental and physical health, and the creative, sustainable economy.

On my drive to Tennessee to visit Mother in October 2007, I stopped at Sweet Providence Farm Market and Bakery in Floyd County, Virginia. I bought an organic free range chicken that the Houstons raised on their farm nearby. It had been killed that morning. Next day I roasted it for Mother. I didn’t know at the time, but it was the last meal I ever cooked for her. I am happy that it was likely the best chicken she had eaten since she was a girl on the farm, and she and her sisters caught and killed the chicken for her mama to cook for Sunday dinner.

(note: we did not have chickens on our farm, but that is another story. See “Chicken Snakes!”)

Whales Dreams for the Peace Chamber

Bluefeedmural For a couple of weeks, I have been in Loreto, Mexico, on the East Coast of Baja California. I am donating a mural to the new Visitors Center of the Grupo Ecologista Antares, the ecology organization that helped create the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park. This area of the Sea of Cortes is winter home to Blue whales, humpback whales, Fin whales, Orcas, and many species of Dolphin, Sea Turtle, Sea Lion and Birds. I have visited the Blue whales, and the Gray whales on the Pacific side.

Last night, on February 7th, I held a fire ceremony for the oceans and the whales and dolphins on a sand bar where the arroyo empties into the bay. The moon was nearly full, and birds chattered softly in the darkness nearby. I wore my baseball cap, as Grandfather Joseph recommends, and asked King Oceanus blessings.

My friend John Gardner in Atlanta sent me this dream and Ted Andrew's information about whale medicine. He gives permission for me to share it with you. Hope Peace Chamber is gathering support from the whales and oceans.

John's Whale Dream

Well - I keep dreaming of these whales and the Hope Peace Chamber.  There is definitely this huge connection, and a huge connection with the ocean and water.  There is something to do with the "flow" that water brings, and also relates to much of organic life being made up of water.  There whales have been courting you, as a chief, swimming around and in the Peace Chamber.  One of the dreams a particular whale was pushing up from the underground and spewing and the most brilliant crystal light was surrounding the Peace Chamber.  I think it has something to do with the support that the whales and King Oceanus are providing for the birth of the chamber. As I write this now, I feel the rush of the water and the gentle Ohming of the whales (in the way they do it).  I'd say, stay if you can, and court these gentle creatures, our brothers and sisters in this form.  Make love to them - from love comes HOPE and PEACE.  Watch them and stay awake.  Also, and I almost forgot this, they were singing in the Peace Chamber so there is something to do with sound and song.

The Whale as a totem represents: intelligence, self-expression, intuition, creativity
I'm typing this directly out of the Ted Andrew's book:

KEYNOTE: Creation, Power of Song, Awakening Inner Depths
CYCLE OF POWER: Year-round
The whale is the world's largest mammal. Whales from part of a large group of warm blooded mammals adapted to life in the sea. Many myths speak of how all life upon the planet, especially human, sprang from the seas. Because of this and other reasons we will discuss, the whale is an ancient symbol for creation - be it of the body or our world.
The people of the Arctic are often considered the most careful observers of Nature, for only this would enable them to survive the most unforgiving of climates. The Inuit (Inupriaq) had a special relationship with the bowhead whale, and one of their legends tell how it was the most magnificent creation that the Great Spirit had made.
Bluewhaleapproach There are ninety or so different species of cetaceans or whales - including dolphins and porpoises. There are sperm whales, killer whales, pilot whales, narwhals, humpback whales, and the largest mammals on the planet,
blue whales
. All whales have blowholes by which they exhale. Imitating the spouting breath of whales can aid in freeing your own creative energies. All whales have blubber which serves to insulate and store energy for the whales. The whale can help teach you how to insulate yourself and use your own creative energies more conservatively. All whales also conserve oxygen under water by decreasing the blood flow to areas of the body where it is non-essential. Whales have an ancient knowledge of how to use the creative force of breath for a variety of purposes.
Most whales are divided into one of two groups, toothed and baleen.  Toothed whales have sharp teeth by which they catch and eat fish and other marine animals. This group includes sperm whales, pilot whales, dolphins, and such. Most eat fish, squid, and other marine animals. They usually are found in herds or pods. Toothed whales have demonstrated great reasoning capabilities and even creative thinking at times. They can stimulate this in those with them as a totem.
Baleen whales do not have teeth. Their mouths are lines with bony plates made of hardened keratin. They strain sea water through these plates, feeding on the plankton or sea life within it. The baleen whales are the largest.
The humpback member of the baleen family is most noted for its wonderful song. The beautiful sounds are sung by the males, and each breeding season brings with it corresponding song changes. This reflects the ability of the whale to teach us how to create through sound and song, adjusting it to the time and place and individual. By drawing upon your own creative instincts, you can sing forth your own song.
Whales also have a form of sonar or echo-location. This sensitivity to sound again links the whale to the primal creative sounds of life. Sound is the creative force of life. Directing it and responding to its feedback is part of what the whale teaches. This can be used to tap hidden levels of your own mind or even to accelerate the manifestation of goals.
Whales at one time were also symbols of containment, concealment, and even resurrection. The Biblical story of Jonah and the whale is the prime example. For three days, Jonah lived within the belly of the whale before he came forth. He was given a second birth. He was resurrected. When we learn to go deep within ourselves, the creativity that we awaken can resurrect our lives - if we bring it out and apply it.
Whales will occasionally breach - coming completely out of the water. Whale people are very creative, but they have to come out of those creative waters. They must stay in contact with the real world. Are you becoming lost in your own creative imagination? Are you not taking it and using it in your outer life? Are you keeping everything inside and afraid to let it out? If so, it is time to breach. Show the magnificence and power of your own creativity. Do no hold back.
If whales are showing up in your life, you should examine your use - or lack of use - of your own creativity. Are you not simply mimicking what others have done or are you building upon it in new and dynamic ways? Are you applying your own creative intuition to old processes and life formulas? This and this alone is what imbues them with power and magic.
Remember that the whale was a gift of the Great Spirit to the Inuit people. It was what enabled them to survive. It was the most beautiful of all beasts but it had practical uses as well. Creativity for the sake of creativity is not what whale teaches. It awakens great depths of creative inspiration, but so it can add color and life to your outer life to make it more wondrous.”