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The Roots:  Principles & Practices

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Fire & Flood: Finding Balance

by Kiva Rose
http://animacenter.org

FloodWatersEvery afternoon the clouds roll in, and every evening the smoke fills the air. It's a thick haze that smells like charred Juniper and melted Pine sap, and turns the sunset a rusty gold. There are fires burning fiercely a hundred miles away in several different directions, and the late afternoon winds bring us a visceral reminder of how close one hundred miles really is. The rains may come any day, and the old people in the village anxiously scan the skies every so often, praying the clouds thicker and darker. Willing rain to wet the dusty ground.

Welcome to New Mexico: land of enchantment and wellspring of both fire and flood. There's no gentle in between here, no "it's all good" drone of mediocrity or absent minded mercy from place or people. The SW is renowned for its magic and spirit, and with all that personality comes a harsh intensity. The rural inhabitants of the area reflect this in their way and manner, often being both crusty and sweet, deeply private and hugely giving. To live here in this place and with these people requires a certain stubbornness, a good wild streak and a whole lot of perseverance.

To keep my little weedpatch going in the dry, windy weather I haul several buckets of water each morning to the garden. To get the dishes washed I haul another couple of buckets to the kitchen, and then back to chiseling out caulk out of the large broken window. Loba chops wood, getting a good store of wood built up in the shed before the rains come and drench every broken stick so wet they'll never light. Wolf uses the small chainsaw to cut the wood down to a splittable size. Rain barrels get washed out and re-arranged beneath the roof spouts in preparation for the coming water. With no refrigeration, food has to be watched and processed carefully in this heat. Fresh killed meat must be dealt with immediately and cooked right away while veggies have to be wrapped and stored in the coolest possible place where critters won't get at them (hopefully).

Homesteading is both idyllic and hard, time consuming and ultimately freeing. Visitors sometimes wonder what we do all day, since we don't go to typical 8-5 jobs and some even imagine we spend much of our time just hanging out in the shade or idling by the river. This always gives us a good hearty laugh, since our work hours are more like 7-11, with Loba often getting up at about 5:30 to get the wood stove going and breakfast started and with Wolf and I sometimes working till midnight on projects, student curriculum and emails. Even Rhiannon works much of the day, dividing her time between outdoor work, kitchen help, school (year round) and exuberant bouts of playing in between. And when we grownups do take time out to play, it's still intense and focused on concentrated nourishment. Of course, because our work is what we love, it all feels rewarding and fun even when we're exhausted at the end of the day. Indoor work is accompanied by great music and outdoor music is accompanied by birdsong and wind.

It's the balance to it all -- the hard and the fun, the intensity and the bliss, the work and the play, the smoke in the air and the river washing its scent from our skin. One doesn't come without the other, as life never comes without death, and it's up to us to notice and take it in. To give each aspect its due respect and ceremony while integrating the whole of the experience into our beings and selves, continually becoming more connected and more ourselves.

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Life in the Body

by Kiva Rose
http://animacenter.org

RhiDancing1Life is sensually, intensely physical. There's nothing to transcend or float away to, there's just the incredibly deep magic of life in all its myriad manifestations. There's beauty and power in the way we feel and move in every moment, and there's beauty and power in the dirt we become when we die. Rhiannon says she hopes her dirt makes a Cherry tree, that she would love to be a part of a tree's life, and give herself to the fragrant, white flowers, and sour-sweet fruits.

You know that old saying about a universe in a flower? Well, it's true. The massive amounts of bacteria, fungi, symbiotic plant relationships, decaying matter and vibrant life force that come together to transform into a single flower is a miracle. An everyday miracle that is all itself profound, and also serves as a mirror for the miraculousness of each of us, of our lives becoming conscious art and breathed poetry.

Our intelligence and self and live is in every cell. We are our bodies just as we are the dirt beneath our bare feet. We are not ethereal, we are sensory/sensual beings that live through our fingertips, hearts, words, tongues and dreams.

Understanding how our body IS ourself is very important to grasping how we act and perceive as healers.

Dream the earth, and wake up here -- fully in your body and alive in everything.

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Medicine of Pain and Bliss

by Kiva Rose
http://animacenter.org

fouroclockpinkLaying flat on my back under the Cottonwoods I squint up through leaves, sunlight and white, wispy clouds to the blue, blue sky at the top of it all. The sand is cold and leaf-littered, and I can hear every little step the squirrels and rabbits take on their rapid journeys from bush to bush. I close my eyes, and when I open them, a great, gold leaf is tumbling towards me. I almost reach up to catch it before it lands, but at the last minute let it settle on my face, slide and tangle into my hair. Beside me, the river is singing her song, my song, the chant that creates the core of the world. Ever-changing, constant and flowing. The leaves and sand and water seem like my skin, like the part of me that connects me to me through all the names, lives, ecstasies and trauma I've been through in the last twenty-seven years.

Someone said, maybe it was the Buddha, that life is suffering. I grew up in a religion that also said that life was suffering, that we were just waiting to die to get to the good part. I say both are equally full of shit. You can quote me on that.

I don't come at this from a pleasant, suburban backyard of normalcy where discomfort or wounds were on the other side of the city or something only seen on TV. Nah, I come from a lifetime of physical abuse so bad that my teeth are still loose and my skin marred by scars that will never disappear. From years of addiction, prostitution, self-mutilation, semi-starvation and a deep, abiding rage. I know what suffering is, I've seen it in the eyes of a woman as she died from gunshot wounds, in the twisted mouth of a boy kicking his dog to death, in the shaking hands of my best friend as she paid her last bit of food money for a fix, and in the mirror as I miscarried my baby at sixteen. I held onto it with fierce attachment even as life tried to loosen my grip and give me love.

Pain is a part of life. A part that hopefully teaches us something and opens us up for a deeper, fuller appreciation of bliss and joy. Suffering is a place we put ourselves, a choice. It's to be subjected to something, to allow something. To suffer is to give up our power, and our participation in the process of co-creating life.

I've known bliss too. Swinging for hours beneath a maple tree, laughing out loud while I swung my little sister by her hands, swimming so deep into the ocean that it was black and cold and full of invisible life. The exhilaration of a flat out run in a forest I know by heart, the sweet surrender to a cold winter river and love that makes me shiver with the depth of it. Sometimes bliss comes rushing into me on the stem of a leaf fluttering down to my face. Bliss is not just the endless pursuit of happiness or something outside of us we have to find and possess but rather a quality we embody and become.

Life is simple, complex, outrageous, miraculous, tortuous, agonizing, gorgeous, ecstatic and ever so strange. It's the pulse beneath our skin, the medicine in our touch and the wisdom of the world we are rooted in. Wake up, and drink in the medicine of pain and bliss. Let the leaves slide over your skin.

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