“When I get stuck, I forget why I do any of the things that I do. I forget the sparkle in someone’s eye when they find out for the first time that they’re an intensive, or that food grows on trees. Or the softness of grass underfoot. Or the miracle of a waterfall. I forget what I know. I forget what I have to teach. I forget what I have to learn. I forget. What I’m thinking about today is lush abundance and the way it gets us out of stuckness.”
Rob Brezsny and his newsletter:
Transcript and notes:
Recorded 6 June 2023.
Hi, everyone, thanks for tuning in.
Every so often, I get stuck, like most intensives. By which I mean nothing will flow. Nothing. Getting up becomes hard. Eating food becomes uninspiring. Moving my body, my brain, my hands. All of it loses its luster, sparkle, shine. Curiosity all gone.
When I get stuck, I forget. When I get stuck, I forget how beautiful the world is. When I get stuck, I forget why I do any of the things that I do. I forget the sparkle in someone's eye when they find out for the first time that they're an intensive, or that food grows on trees. Or the softness of grass underfoot. Or the miracle of a waterfall.
I forget what I know. I forget what I have to teach. I forget what I have to learn. I forget. And then I read poems and I remember- and I have just now realized that this is why I continue to get newsletters.
If you don't send me poems in your newsletter, I'm probably not opening it. It doesn't have to look like poetry but it has to feel like it anyway. One of the newsletters I get is Rob Brezsny's. And he sent a poem in his most recent missive, he sends poems in most of his missives. I'm gonna read you a little piece of it:
"We are in love with color and sound. We are a throb of sun as it love cracks the horizon; we are a spoon of buttered light the moon scatters on the creek mud at low tide; and we are the parade of five fiddler crabs that worship the luminosity. We are black trumpet mushrooms feasting on dead oak and beech leaves, and we are flinging millions of spores out on the genius wind. We are grasshoppers bounding like dry shadows to devour a dead bee cotton unraveled spiderweb; we are silver haired bats careening out of our underworld cave and abandoned uranium mine. We are midnight in late summer echoing with the hilarious yells of coyotes gathered among the eucalyptus trees."
I don't know what the Fair Use rules are, so I won't read you the whole poem. But if you do not get Rob Brezsny's newsletter, and if you do not sift through it looking for the poems, I suggest you begin.
What I'm thinking about today is lush abundance and the way it gets us out of stuckness it is June it is the month of lushness. There's no way out of that. It just is. Everything is so much. So very much. So big, so grand. So everything. And everyone is busy being in and with the everything here where I live.
I know that on the other side of the planet, this is the down turning time, the quieting time. I know that soon everything will go quiet and still. There on the other side of the planet but not here. Here everything is glad to be alive and is hoping for water and sun. Is reaching. Is spreading. Is seeing how big it can get before the weather turns cold. How much fruit, how many flowers? How much glory? And I do and don't mean that in the religious sense. Of course I always mean everything in the religious sense but in my religious sense which is different from other people's religious sense.
So let me just say that you don't have to be religious to luxuriate in the lush abundance of early summer.
According to the calendar that I follow summer started at Beltane which is the beginning of May and also my birthday. And we are rapidly approaching mid summer which is at the solstice. After midsummer the days get shorter the year folds in half, to me around the 21st of June. Folds in half and on one side is the up and on the other side is the down.
They say at a full moon it's the time to think about things that you will want to reduce. Which never made sense to me because full moon, the fullness, the lushness, the richness, the wholeness of it. But the whole moon is the zenith. It's the top, it's the beginning of the down.
After you reach the peak of the mountain is the coming down off of the mountain. And that's all downhill and shaky thighs and sore knees and careful stepping so you don't land on the frog that's halfway into the mouth of the snake. Yes, that did happen. A long time ago.
I was living in New Hampshire and there are these two little mountains Monadnock and Pack Monadnock. They were so little that even I in my relatively out of shape state could climb up and down them. Even I who got dehydrated easily could climb up and down them in a day when I didn't have to be at work. And so I would go and climb them just for pleasure. No big deal, just a day pack and a bottle of water. And my pager. This is so long before cellphones were in every pocket.
Anyway, I would go and I would hike and one day I went and I hiked to the top and I was a little late and I was rushing a little bit to get back down because I had a 24 hour call period starting soon. And I had to, for my call period, be within a particular radius of the newspaper for which I was doing technical support. And the mountain was not in the radius. Coming down off the mountain was not included in the response time. Even if I did get the page I couldn't respond to it.
So I was hurrying and tripping down the mountain letting gravity do a lot of the work letting my then fairly young knees take some of the brunt of the work. And as I was falling, running, down the mountain, I almost landed with my foot on the head of a snake.
I didn't see it until the last possible second and somehow managed to reverse direction midair, which is extremely difficult. There's not much to push on. But I did it. And I landed a foot away from the head of the snake and the snake's mouth was very full. With this frog. All I could see was the back end of the frog. And it took me a minute to figure out what was happening. And to recognize the tragedy and the comedy and the miracle and everything that was happening in that one moment.
And then I finished coming down off the mountain, I didn't have a camera in my pocket. So there are no pictures, but that's Okay sometimes. Sometimes I just want to be in the moment. In fact, I forget to take selfies a lot. Because I just want to be in the moment. I just want to be with the person. I just want to be with the trees. I just want to connect with the flower, eat the strawberry.
And it's Okay that it's not documented forever and forever and forever. I will remember some pieces of it, I will forget some pieces of it. All of it will go into the stew that is me. All of it will come out somehow when it is useful or necessary or inspiring. Or just lovely. It will be a story.
Someday, twenty years down the road, I'll tell stories about sitting here at my desk in Oregon. As the sun comes up on a too-hot day. Someday, the stories will include me walking, listening to a book about the discovery of a city and the dangers of pandemics. That was written before the COVID pandemic. You can tell it was written before the COVID pandemic because the author closes with a warning that some day a pandemic is going to come. He finished the book just a few short years before the pandemic came. And now we all know how a pandemic will spread through the modern world under conditions of climate change.
And we all can have a begrudging respect for the absolute ingenuity, innovation, that comes from the right circumstances, the right hosts, the right evolution of a thing. Lush abundance isn't always good.
And that's one of the places where it causes us more challenges. I think my lush abundance of travel and cultural exposure has brought me to a place where I'm much more- I won't say resigned- adjusted to the idea of living with deadly diseases. I have never known a world where I wasn't aware of malaria. I've never thought about a world where I wasn't getting vaccines for everything. Everything that I could.
I came of age into the middle of the AIDS crisis. We still don't have a vaccine for HIV. So many more diseases now. What abundance. And yet, from a purely scientific point of view, you kind of have to admire them. There's so much innovation, there's so much possibility. It makes it clear to me personally, that there did not need to be any kind of intelligence involved in creating the world as we know it. Things just thing. The power, the magic, of life is unto itself.
And that's why I look at the cracked Earth in front of my house where there hasn't been regular watering, where even the deep rooted shrubs have been dying, where I'm watering now. And there are still dandelions popping up in the middle of the cracked Earth.
When the weather gets hot and dry and everything else is wilting, you know what thrives Japanese knotweed? Which evolved to grow on the sides of volcanoes. So I guess it's not surprising that it just says, "Hey, it's volcano weather. This is awesome." When I cut the knotweed back regularly, it changes from soft stems to woodied stems. Like the lemon tree that grew over the steps of my housemate's home.
She kept pruning it back to keep it off the stairs. And eventually, where it once had had leaves, it grew thorns. And I was surprised. I didn't think lemon trees did that. But I looked it up. And in fact, they can switch their gene to express in a more protective way if it needs to. Innovation is everywhere. Brilliance is everywhere.
When I was in eighth grade, I remember sitting in homeroom- we still had homeroom in my middle school. And the kid in front of me had been tracked, into the lowest level of academic challenge. Yeah, our school still did tracking. I was considered an honor student, and this kid in front of me was considered not capable of much.
And I was struggling, working on my Algebra homework. And he turned around and asked me what I was working on. And so I told him and tried to explain it the best I could. And he was like, oh, "so like this and like this and like this, and the answer is that?" He got it in like, two minutes of inexpert explanation, from someone who didn't really understand it myself. And he had the right answer.
That moment sticks with me, because it reminds me that our systems of knowing and our ways of adjudicating capability, capacity, intelligence, are so limited and so wrong. Somebody had decided that because of, I don't know what, he wasn't allowed access to the more challenging coursework. To the more advanced coursework, to the coursework that would have positioned him to be pushed ahead academically. But he was just as smart as I was.
Maybe the systems weren't working for him as well. Maybe he had quote, unquote, behavioral issues, I don't know. What I do know is that that moment, crystallized the injustice that I was already very aware of all around me.
But the lush abundance of knowledge and innovation will come to find you. It will come to find all of us. It is everywhere.
This is particularly useful when we are interacting with people who don't work the way we work, who don't think the way we think, who don't have the lives that we have or who don't share the values we share. Don't underestimate anyone. Did you not read any folktales? Every folktale is full of stories of people being underestimated at the peril of the people doing the underestimation. Sometimes the under estimator is in a position of power. And sometimes they're not, the less power they have, the more likely they are to be portrayed as not under estimating someone. As having the opportunity to do that and choosing not to.
And that is almost universally a wisdom. Instead of underestimating people, we get to explore what lash abundance they have, and how deeply we can appreciate it. How richly we can reach into it. How kindly and curiously, we can approach it. How invitationally we can wait and watch. Not because this is a transaction, and they're going to do something for us, although they might.
But because life is a mutual appreciation society. And by life, I mean all existence, even the existences that not all of us can hear or understand. The dirt and the trees and the rocks. Rocks are one of my personal stumbling blocks. I know that stones have voices and that some people can hear them but I don't. That's Okay. There are people who can do that, they don't all have to be me.
I don't have to be the best at everything because so much richness in this world. So much lushness in this world. And here in this place where I live, this is the season of that lushness. We are before the deep dryness we are before the smoke and the fires. For the moment. The sky is blue and clear. The leaves are everywhere. The leaves give us shade, the roots go down so deep they can still touch the water. All the animals and the plants are finding their ways to life.
I am sure that the slightly leaky faucet in the front of my house, that is slightly watering the shrubs that are very thirstily drinking it up, is also nourishing something else. Several somethings else: animals. Plants. Bugs. Microbes? All of the above. Softening the soil. Maybe making it possible for worms to make their way through. Certainly making it possible for those same dried and crusty shrubs to put out shiny new leaves. To participate in the glory and the joy of the season, this moment. This particular breath of fresh air. And that is not a metaphor.
As intensives and as leaders and as human beings on this very planet-y planet, It is part of our job, our responsibility, our opportunity, our invitation- to recognize all of this lushness. Not because we can then devour it, but because somewhere, somewhere in it, are the threads of an even deeper being in the world.
Thanks for tuning in. Talk with you soon.