Sunday, 30 September 2012


News from the Common Ground Country Fair and the rich harvest from a good summer brings me spinning back to New England this morning. - It is October there and everything has changed, the chimneys blow smoke into the salt air and the leaves blow past. It is also October here but the place seems hardly to have noticed. - There is no morning chill, no smell of pumpkin pie, no cold hands digging the potatoes from the damp and frosted morning soil. Yet somehow we can all still feel the October-ness on our sunburned skin. - In the swell of the passion fruit and the bounty of the rice harvest.

Here is Robert Frost's poem October:

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Crossing the Mekong and Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem'

When we look up the river we can see patches in the mountains, now new upland rice fields or seedlings for rubber or teak. The river bubbles and rages below our little cracked long boat. - The engine sputters and chokes.
We look downstream at the tall forests and the healthy green mountains and we hope that the engine will keep running - and we hope that the forests will remain - and we hope that the people will find a way to be full and healthy here.

Meanwhile, as researchers we try to grasp all the complexities of the situation and try to wrap our minds around the dynamics of it.
How can we know what is happening or why? - We are taking out boddhisatva vows to try and find some solutions in an endless sea of delusion and confusion. We attempt draw out some possible answers from the chaos of information and complex human and nature interactions. - Never saying we are certain and attempting to prove that we are wrong before saying anything.

This song came to mind as I was sorting through all the data:

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Buddhism meets Animism

The elders of a small village here were having troubles with illegal logging and over-harvesting in the communal forests - they took direct action to save the trees.

They organized a Bo Ton Mai ceremony and ordained all the trees as monks. The local pagoda and the most famous monks from the region came along with all the villagers and nearby people. The offenders who had been cutting trees and damaging the forests even took part in the ceremony and acknowledged the sacredness of the forest and the trees.

The problems with forest mis-use did not continue.

Read Susan Darlington's story about Buddhist Ecology in Thailand:

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rain and Janis Joplin's Deepest Heart

It is the rainy season here and I am sitting in the rain in the nostalgic early morning. - Thinking about a quiet saturday afternoon in the late summer. My father and I had just gone for a long walk in the forest and were rained out and made it back to his wood paneled ford station wagon. It smelled of woodworking and cigarettes.
He put on this tape by Janis Joplin and we listened to her speech a few times through while we sat in the dryness of the car with the rain drawing a curtain between us and the rest of the world. Just my Dad and me and Janis Joplin totally hopped up on some kind of crazy drugs and energy and sharing her heart.
Here is the poem that she shared on stage in the middle of a song. It might be titled 'You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow'

I don't understand how come you're gone
I don't understand why half the world is still crying
when the other half of the world is still crying too, man
and it can't get it together.

I mean,
if you got a cat for one day
I mean, if you, say, say...
maybe you want a cat for 365 days, right?
You ain't got him for 365 days
you got him for one day, man.
Well I tell you that one day, better be your life.
Because, you know
you can say, oh man
you can cry about the other 364
but you're gonna lose that one day,
and that's all you've got.
You gotta call that love, man.

That's what it is, man.

If you got it today you don't want it tomorrow, man,
'cause you don't need it,
'cause as a matter of fact, as we discovered on the train, tomorrow never happens, man.
It's all the same fucking day, man.

The Peace Of Wild Things

Sitting now in the breezy cool quiet after a storm in Luang Prabang. - All my colleagues are busily working on making maps and carefully preparing to present our research ideas tomorrow.

- Presenting the research idea to them all day was enough work for me so I am reading poems and eating bananas.
I'll sneak out for a beer now and look at the Mekong and the forests.

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Monday, 3 September 2012

"I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world"

I'm now on the rooftop of the Mekong Region in Luang Prabang Province about to head off into the wilderness to work for Hmong and Khmu ethnic minority groups. I am lucky enough to be traveling with three incredibly hard-working and dedicated environmentalists and permaculturalists who are acting as translators and sounding boards for ideas about how to test the hypothesis - that utilization leads to conservation: all within the new model of Bio-Human Ecology (unpublished) by my boss and the Founder of the Social Policy and Ecology Research Institute (SPERI): Ms. Tranh Thi Lanh.

Life is exceedingly good and full of adventure mixed with hard work and laughter.

Here is a poem by Walt Whitman I am revisiting this morning:

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."