Fate Foretold by A Fortune Cookie…

…at least as it pertains to the next few weeks.  Last night I was handed this fortune cookie, it could have gone to anyone else but it came to me:

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Turns out I am travelling to “many exotic places” with the specific intent of looking within.  In less than a week I’ll be jetting my way to the island country of Sri Lanka, where I will spend a week in remote lodge in the mountains near Kandy.  It will take me close to 48 hrs to get to my destination, a very very long journey…to a place very very far away.  The lodge I chose comes very highly rated (by complete strangers on travelocity) but it’s not the Hilton (which is the point of choosing it).  I’m looking forward to getting to the know that family that runs the lodge, wandering around the nearby village, spotting monkeys and birds and visiting a nearby elephant orphanage.

This from the lodge’s website:

“The jungle is filled with wildlife that include 61 different species of birds of  which 16 are endemic. Monkeys, barking deer and  the giant squirrel roam about during the day while wildboar, owls, flying squirrels  and bats appear at night.”

I’m still sorting out what gadgets I will need to take.  After Sri Lanka I’ll be heading to India for work so I will be lugging along my laptop, but given the power situation at the lodge, I don’t expect I’ll have much use for it in Sri Lanka.  Which is fine, my plan is to go as electronic free as I can.  I will have my kindle so I can read some books, my new awesome DSLR camera (this will be its debut trip), and my phone for emergencies.  Otherwise, I want to disconnect.  I won’t pretend that this “disconnect” plan doesn’t make me a little anxious…I travel quite a bit for work…and do so alone…but this feels different.  When I travel for work I stay connected to the world, I have a clear focus on what I want to achieve and when, and even though I may do a tourist side-trip here and there, I never really get out of work mode or take any real time for myself.

But – This trip is about letting my mind completely unwind, to completely let go go of my routines, my obligations, and my expectations.  This trip is about waking up each day and allowing it unfold exactly as it will, without an agenda or anyone else’s influence.  This trip is about leaving large empty spaces (physical and mental) for new experiences.

Sri Lanka Animals

Gratitude Moment: A Child’s First Seed

Just when I thought gardening could not bring me more pleasure…insert child!  Ok, maybe not ANY child, but it’s certainly true of gardening with my niece.  I had a little taste of this last year when my neighbor’s little girl “helped me” with the bamboo extraction project….which elevated the experience from pure drudgery to something more as she laughed with joy as she repeatedly climbed and slipped down a pile of dirt.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to introduce my niece to gardening.  I’m not sure how much she really understood but you could see the wonder and excitement in her eyes as we gathered our tools, seed packets, and pots and started playing the dirt.

SFS1The first project was to fill her pot with dirt. After she chose her seeds she soon realized she needed a bigger pot, which was even more exiting because she got to select another pot and move more dirt!

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Then she used her brownie pan as her square foot garden guide.  Given the size of the seeds she was actually placing 1 or 2 seeds per slot was impossible…which really wasn’t the point…it was fun just trying ( a perfect lesson of enjoying the process over results).

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With the seeds placed and the pot watered she chose the perfect spot and placed her label.  Then we put away our tools and started our clean-up (of course while singing the “clean-up” song).

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I can’t tell you how good it felt to introduce my niece to gardening and to show her how to plant her first seeds.  The gift for me was seeing life revealed through her new eyes.  Everything became magical…from picking the tools from the wonderous array of options hanging in the potting bench area, picking the seeds from the pile of colorful options in the seed box, to the amazement of just moving gravel with Aunt Cathy’s rake.

It can’t be said enough how much we can learn from children.  I am so lucky to be exposed to these lessons through my nieces.  When life becomes overwhelming, when work becomes stressful, when I start to “worry” about the future instead of “experiencing” the present moment – all I need to do is visit my nieces –  and pay attention.  If I do this with the open heart and mind of a child, I always come away with a different perspective and a renewed love of life.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

– Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

Tar2Trees Turns 1 Today!

Just a quick note to acknowledge that today marks the end of my first year, and more importantly, the beginning of my second year, writing this blog.  I thought I would celebrate by sharing with you some yummy red velvet cake pops (imagination required).

tar2trees turns 1!

I stared this blog with the intent of exploring a rather obtuse sounding concept called biophilia (see 1st Entry!).  I began to sense a need for a change when I wrote Wrapping Up 2012, and formalized the new direction last month by writing My Conscious Living Wake-Up Plan.

Over the last month I’ve updated my blog by editing and consolidating my blog categories and tags to more accurately reflect the content I intend to write about, I’ve updated the site’s “tag line” from “My Journey into Biophilic Design” to “My Journey into Conscious Living”, and I’ve updated the About Me page.  All of these seemingly mundane tasks have helped me because they are “actions”, however small, towards expanding my thoughts.

The change in direction feels right.  Zooming out from the details and specifics of biophilia and biophilic design has freed (and fired!) me up to write about a broader set of subjects.  I feel more more creative and I have a nice queue of projects, and associated blog entries, in the pipeline!

Thank you for reading and supporting my blog, the connection this blog provides with people like you, has been truly inspiring.  I look forward to the next year together!

Wrapping up 2012

After my post Accepting Life Unconditionally back in September, I had a short burst of posting activity and then fell off again…2012 has been a tough year…major ups and major downs.  As 2012 draws to a close my goal for January is to update folks on all of the major projects I started last year and to start planning for 2013.

I began this blog with the intent of documenting my journey into Biophillic Design, the “understanding the human-nature connection and designing with that in mind“.  My focus has been on my immediate surroundings, my house, and neighborhood, and my community.

Given the massive personal changes that occurred in my life during the last 9 months, my journey has been more inwardly focused than I expected it would have been when I started this in March. The turn of the new year offers a fresh start, if even just a calendar event, it gives us the opportunity to review the last year, appreciate and show gratitude for the happy events, accept the hardships and take the lessons offered from both into the next year.

When I look at the last year at the highest level I have definitely begun to shape my physical surroundings to be more in sync with Nature – which will be the focus of my upcoming posts. But the biggest lesson for me from last year is to live in sync with the Natural Rhythms of life. Birth, Death, Love, Loss, Gratitude and Acceptance.

Accepting Life Unconditionally

It’s been 3 months since my last post and I can honestly say nothing in my life right now is as it was 3 months ago – and I could not have envisioned where I am today.  A very good friend, and a fantastic blogger/life coach, posted today about Accepting Life Unconditionally.  There was much about this post that hit home for me today, particularly this:

“Accepting life unconditionally is allowing yourself to be where you are on your life journey, and recognizing that where you are isn’t static. Life is ever changing and each experience has value. And each experience is changing your perspective and Who you are. This gives you a new vantage point and opportunity to make new decisions.”

Author:  Hanna Goss

I had high hopes for my blog when I started it in March and got off to a great start but then “Life Happened”.  My personal relationships changed dramatically, I was laid off and hired back by the same company – I now have a completely different job.  Through all of that I still made steady progress on the yard/house but did not have the motivation to share…I turned inwards and felt like I was using all my energy on more urgent matters.   I’ve been away from blogging for so long that it’s been hard for me to start again.  But I want to share all the progress that I’ve made with The Projects, and put myself back out there in a way that only blogging seems to accomplish.

So here I am 3 months later, with a new vantage point and an opportunity to make new decisions.  Stay tuned…you will not BELIEVE what I’ve done to the house….

“P2P” Points to Ponder: “Don’t Look at the Rock!” and “Don’t Carp!”

A very long time ago, in a place not so far away (here actually), I used to river kayak.  One spring I took a series of  lessons and by that summer I was cruising down class 3 rapids – mostly upright.  There were 2 main instructions that were drilled into me that summer:

  1. Don’t look at the rock!
  2. Dont Carp! (Carping is defined as gasping for air while trying to roll yourself upright once you’ve capsized, your head comes out of the water for a brief moment…you gasp…and then you fall right back to your upside position.)

These two instructions sound simple enough…sure…but to actually put them into practice you must ignore your initial instincts and trust that if you do the opposite, things will work out perfectly.

1.  Don’t look at the rock!

Here is how it works…when you are cruising down the river and there is a obstabcle (usually a rock) right in front you, your instinct may be to look a the rock, focus on it intently, and as you approach the rock you may lean away from it because you don’t want to hit it.  Well, a couple of things happen very quickly when doing this in a boat on water.  When you look at the rock you are pointing your head at the rock, in kayaking your head determines where you body/boat are going to go, so by looking at the rock, you are pointing your boat directly at the rock!  As you get closer and try to lean away from the rock, your boat edge will catch on the current coming downstream and flip you over. Exactly the WRONG outcome!

What you are supposed to do; locate the rock but LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, focus on the path of raging water right beside the rock and your boat will head that direction.  As you do come closer to the rock you actually lean towards the rock, the water coming downstream will slip harmlessly below your boat edge as you effortlessly pivot around the rock.

Easy Peasy right?  Wrong…this was a hard leaned lesson for me…often times I ended up tipping over at the 1st big rock and taking the rest of the rapids upside down or “sans boat”.

Which leads me to the next lesson….

2.  Don’t Carp!

Ok, so you’ve tipped over, no big deal right?  You’ve trained for this and can roll back up in pool practice with no problemo.  But, rolling back up in raging water, while you are spinning around hitting things is a slightly different scenario.  You are also “trapped” in your boat by your spray skirt, and there is that pesky little issue of being under water and not being able to breathe – which sometimes can cause a wee pit of panic.

All your instincts are telling you to get your head out of the water – fast – but that is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Your head should be the last thing that comes out of the water.  I won’t go into all the physics involved…but you basically need to trust that if you focus on rolling your hips out of the water first the momentum of your lower body will carry the rest of you right side up, with your head coming out last.

I don’t river kayak any longer, but I do think of these 2 instructions often when dealing with the everyday obstacles in my life and when I find myself focusing on the obstacles instead of the paths around the obstacle.  Also, when I feel like I’ve been capsized and I’m desperately looking for air, and I keep trying the same old move over and over and not getting the desired outcome.

Life Lessons:

  1. Sometimes it’s best to ignore your initial instincts and rely on training to achieve a different outcome and lean new instincts
  2. Look where you want to go
  3. Sometimes, when dealing with a sticky situation,  your head needs to comes first…sometimes your head needs to come last

Gratitude Moment: My Body and 10 Tons

I live in the Pacific Northwest (USA), and despite what anyone might tell you (they say we lie about the rain to keep peole from moving here), it rains here ALL THE TIME.  The weather has afforded me a rain induced break from my outside activities for which my body is grateful.  As I’m documenting this journey via this blog I can more easily reflect on the last few weeks and marvel at how my body has kept up with my demands.

I broke my toe (yes it’s a toe – but I really broke it – in a couple of places and where it attach to the rest of my foot) back in February. I broke my toe a week before a trip to Spain for work, bad timing to be sure.  But even though it was very painful, my body stepped up to the challenge and helped me navigate that trip and the next few months.  I’m also just outside the grasp of  THE PLAGUE, which knocked me down for a good 3 weeks.  I started this spring project after being inactive for the better part of 3 months.

These last 2 weeks in the yard have been slower than usual due to The Toe and The Plague, but my body has come through and then some.  Instead of getting down on my body for being sick or slower, I truly appreciate what I’ve been able to accomplish.   Things that normally would have overwhelmed me, I’ve taken bit by bit, and the reward has been well worth it.  After the 1st day of clearing I thought that I wouldn’t be able to move the next day (or maybe ever), my arms and legs were shaking with muscle fatigue.  I literally collapsed.  I woke up the next day a little stiff but I actually felt fine and was able to do even more.

Between Clearing, Irrigation, and Raised Bed Building – I’ve moved over 20,000 pounds of “stuff” in the last 2 weeks (really over about 5 days).  That’s pretty stunning to me – 10 tons!  Bricks and dirt for the irrigation were at least 6 tons.  I calculate the wood for the beds to be about 2000 pounds total and I’ve moved that wood at least 4 times – which is another 4 tons.  During the clearing I moved 100 sq. ft of wet plants, I have no idea what they weighed (a lot).

Needless to say, it’s a remarkable number to me when I add it all up.   Also, most of the work has called for deep knee bends to save my back (lots of crouching), which has asked a great deal from my knees.  My back and my knees are doing great and ready for more!

I want to take this moment to thank my body for always being there for me…for better or for worse…despite my abuse and neglect…