Thesis:  a beginning proposition called a thesis,

Antithesis: (2) a negation of that thesis called the antithesis,

Synthesis: (3) a synthesis whereby the two conflicting ideas are reconciled to form a new proposition.

Bear with me while I attempt to scratch out some of these philosophical approaches to reconciliation.

Thesis: An Industrial Revolution: A proposition that promises wealth for all, options and choices forever, individual autonomy, no boundaries or limits, constant and continual progress on a linear trajectory guided by the invisible hand of  ‘the market’.

The antithesis: a negation of an insincere proposition. The negation of a thesis which hides behind secular illusions of eternal progress based upon unlimited resources forever.  The antithesis proposes the decline in resources will produce; hard limits, regression into poverty, decline, suffering, ill health and lack.

Synthesis, a Dance of reconciliation.

Come dance with me; for the simple act of dancing is joyous. Discover with me; the discord between rhythms of thesis and antithesis can give rise to a new vital cultural dance. We can regain our balance in a Dance of reconciliation – a synthesis of two seemingly opposing rhythms.

Orchard 2010

Dancing: awareness of self, place, time, and relationship. For me; my first positive and proactive step needed to address antithesis by embracing the bounty of LESS: less energy, stimulation, and stuff. When I realized the mess we had wandered into as a nation, I used my remembrance of the 12 steps to begin to heal from the thesis of our predicament; I am powerless over my addictions to energy, stimulation and stuff and my life has become unmanageable.

Orchard 2017

Since then (my first five years) I called out the second step frequently, as a reassurance. Dignified recovery is possible in the face of impending calamity and we can find another way to live. It has to do with letting go. It has to do with being honest. ‘I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity’. This, for me, implies the existence of a powerful relationship outside the human centrifuge of self absorbed addictions encouraged by our industrial civilization.

My dance floor is sixty square feet of forty year old linoleum and I’m ready to synthesize. I light the wood stove and reflect on something I’ve read in the past. “Draw back the curtain, follow the tireless motion of cogs and wheels back to its source, and you will find the engine driving our civilization: the myth of progress.”

Let’s dance.

Cold steel and iron, meet paper and match, old house and a fading civilization, meet wood and axe. Together we’ll make a fire. *

Grab those buckets of potatoes pulled fresh from the earth, knees soiled to prove it, and scrub them with hands and brush. These thousand generations of tubers, who have traveled the world to arrive in this shrub steppe place – are as alien an immigrant as I.  This is not our land, but for the moment, through grace and dumb luck; this is our place. One step, rinse in a bowl full of water, lift and into a colander, fifteen paces, fling the door wide and let the dirty water escape the bowl over the deck. Clean water travels through the pipes to the willows, dirt travels back to the soil. Now peel and cut the wounded parts and give those over to the worm bin, cut the sweet flesh and feed it to the black iron skillet already oiled, three steps and into the waiting oven. Stop, give Dora a kiss, turn and we’re back to the sink. One more skillet waits, same choreography, and the oven is full.

Straighten. Turn. Glide past the window and the crystalline violet fog. It’s cold outside and cold inside too. Crouch, pry the freezer door open and reach for the bags of celery and onions – exploits of a past meal’s mise en place – the parts you don’t want to eat in a salad. Rise from the magical freezer – powered by a magical grid once imagined, now in place, only to recede back into the darkness sometime up ahead. Quick snap, hand gesture, release celery and onion into the soup pot, half turn and down 12 steps to the basement, reach, hold and 12 steps back up with a bag of ripened tomatoes. Their genetic journey has been as long, and like the potatoes they are returning to their original hemisphere; this western one. They join celery and onions in a union and, after three days of cooking on the wood stove their rubenesque presence will be stock.

The savory African Pumpkin stew beckons the perfect pumpkin in the next room, but the Palouse Valley Chick peas are still unfinished. That’s the next step. Half turn between sink and counter, reach out, lead the pan by the handle to the sink and drain the water from the soaking peas. Refill and five steps back on the wood stove. Now kettle, soup pot and pan are together and singing. Keep a close watch, let none burn.

Now it’s time to rest. The turquoise cup begs for more coffee and is rewarded. I look out the window and think trees are smart. They woo the icy vapors to their branches.

A temporary partnership bound to end later in the day when the sun comes home. That’s when the surprise of warmth in this desert land causes the trees to dump their icy clusters to the ground in a perfect circle in the exact location of roots under their canopies – where they need the water the most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is it about an environment; free of the present civilizational myths that makes me feel energized at one turn and self-conscious in another? No matter how independent I imagine my life’s direction, I am, after all, a social primate. I had no way of knowing when I started out on this disciplined journey six years ago where my dance steps of curiosity would land me or how well the final choreography of information would sit with others. Sometimes it’s hard. I remind myself I’m not the message – only a messenger among countless others dotted across the western industrial landscapes.

The information walks me to the last act but the details are fuzzy. If it’s not true; our collective envisioning of a glorious line dance ever expanding to the tunes of unending resources and wealth, then how can I demonstrate a different dance that evidences as much love, dignity and deep satisfaction without all the usual lights, props and costumes?

To soothe my lack of self-confidence I play music; Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong – their voices fill the kitchen. A remembrance of a different time when syncopated vocal civility smoothed the jagged edges of differences and each secretly hoped the rising tide of vast resources would raise all boats. La Vie en rose   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaTuJEFPxDs

We live in an extraordinary time with these turning tides and I’m attempting; with very deep humility, to continue dancing even though I now see the bottom of the boats are made of glass. So very fragile.

 

Fragility

Eggs – Beautiful, alive, multicolored Easter eggs. It’s Easter here all year long. Three steps to the fridge, the arm swings the door open, carton out, flip the top open and count out twelve. This is the number for twelve loaves of bread. With each break of an egg, a flip of the right arm, the shells land in the sink. They wait on the sidelines until I’m ready to return and when I do it’s water on, rinse the half shells out, one careful movement onto a plate and five steps to rest the plate on the wood stove warmer. Here they rest again until I whisk them away, drop them into a recycled mayonnaise jar and the final move is to crush them with an old potato masher into tiny bits. Now they’re ready for their journey back to the hens, who will eat them, to be fully reincarnated as new egg shells. The cycle is complete. When my paper egg containers have reached their terminus, they too are reincarnated as paper into fire igniting the wood in the stove.

I’m not the only one dancing here.

Soil is building outside while I dance the kitchen rhythms inside. Yesterday’s food scraps, having been fed to the worms are involved in a duet under thick blankets of old free straw. Last month’s duet of kitchen scraps surprised me with an avocado tree. This year the soil and errant seeds surprised me with volunteers; parsnips, carrots, squash, pumpkin, Swiss chard, and beets.

Water and sodium phosphate -free Soap partner with the dirty dishes and when the song is over they leave the dishes clean and travel hundreds of feet to feed the trees who appreciate their new partners. Birds get in on the act and leave their gifts too; nitrogen, phosphorus, and micro nutrients, and ranging wild mammals contribute more than they take.

Now I remember to stop and stretch between dance numbers. Resting and re-balancing nourishes mental clarity in preparation for the next set of enthusiastic dance steps. We can side-step injuries and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Bread baking, I’m told it’s an art. That may be so but I suspect its ‘complexity’ is trumped up like everything else the American society gets its hands on. The only bread recipe made in my kitchen is incepted from Afghanistan, a place, quite possibly, that birthed the first agrarian villages on the planet. Carrots after all made their way around the world from just such a village, although the purple and black, yellow and white carrots were pushed aside by the ubiquitous orange carrot in homage to the Dutch Royal Court some three centuries ago.

Bread baking from my amateur perspective is a meditation. Four cups of Central Milling company flour, 2 eggs, ¼ cup of oil, 1 ½ cup of warm water, 1 T active yeast, 1 T salt, 1 T sugar. Not complicated. Offered from the hearts of women, Practical, Dignified, Flexible; use 1 egg instead of two, leave out the yeast when none is available, add any herbs, seeds, or grains you want. Raised dough or flat bread – makes no difference – they’re both nutritional. The dance partnerships are rich; Parsley and sun dried tomatoes, Afghanistan capers and flax seed, onion & poppy seed, oats and sesame, Parmesan, rosemary, and oregano complete the sets.

For now the bread is baked in the electric oven (the only time it’s used) in a line dance of its own; four loaves baking while two large lumps of dough are proofing, when done, the four come out and the two become four and in they go until all twelve loaves are done. One day, when the electricity comes less often, I’ll use the wood stove or the rocket stove we have in development. I’m learning the dance; step down, step back, step down, step back. It’s the dance of using less energy to mirror the largess; energy per capita is in decline and nothing will alter that fact.

I think the bridge from Thesis to antithesis is the hardest to cross because of the effect on the psyche. Every defense mechanism the brain has – is put to use.  I’ve heard them all, inside my own gray matter, and the denial by others copiously inured by the mass messages all around us.

Drinking the Kool Aid

It’s much better on the other side of the bridge where we are free to dance. The freedom to join in an exogenous change of dance steps in partnership with LESS, and the power to create and innovate based upon those premises. Synthesizing the two, gives us the freedom to be accountable for our own energy use – all of it.  The prescience of understanding that what we are seeing belongs to the symptoms of the decline wrapped up in a fading myth of progress.

I guess I can end this post by stating everything is a cycle, fractals of fractals, revolving emergence’s and dissolution’s and if we can accept that on some level we are free to dance.

sheila