Give and take

May 24, 2004

As a boy, I was told: “It is better to give than to receive”. This, hopefully, was to move my young, egocentric, acquisitive behavioural patterns into a more generous and compassionate way of being.

The hidden message, though, in “better to give”, than receive is that it sets up “receiving” as the inferior of giving. And, with all the other complex shadows that hide within one’s psyche, this can compound into a feeling that something is not quite right in the taking.

Might it be more instructive to say: “Giving and receiving are both acts of love”.

And that each should be practised with copious amounts of gratitude.

ancestral stonesThe small sculpture ‘Five Ancestral Stones’ is being donated to an art auction to raise money for the Tasmanian Greens. I first carved it last September and then left it outside to weather for eight months before spending another week reworking it. My donation is but one small example of expressing a deep appreciation to a political party that represents such inspired integrity and hope for the earth and humanity.

mischeThe white truck parked behind my friend, Mische Marion, has served me well, but with 350,000 kilometers, is nearing retirement and I have only been driving it because I do not have the means to get a better vehicle.

In front of Mische, however, all grey and beautiful like the Ancestral Stones, is the Subaru that she has recently given to me out of her love for Windgrove and its visions for peace.

A great gift. And, I love receiving it.

This reciprocal give and take; these circular dances of exchange; this breathing in and out of beautiful acts……

…are they not wondrous?


With a little help

September 18, 2003

Since first moving the Peace Bus onto the property, Windgrove, in 1992, I have planted one tree for every day that I have lived here. What I call my Earth Tithing.

tree bags

Each year the accumulated debt is accounted for in the month of September when the winter rains have softened the soil and the moist earth takes in the young trees more easily. With this year being the eleventh year completed, the total should have risen to 4,015 trees.

I say “should have” because the expenses ($3,500) associated with organising the Parliament House Vigil last month wiped out the remaining credit on my credit card. With no money currently in the bank and no way to charge seedling she-oaks and blackwoods on plastic, I have been hard on myself these past few weeks as I ponder whether or not I did the right thing in financing a vigil to stop the cutting down of Tasmania’s old growth forests instead of putting money into planting this year’s trees here at Windgrove.

Once Pastor Bob’s bench arrives in America the remaining money owed will simply go to paying off the cash advance for the vigil’s advertisements in the newspaper and elsewhere. Having taken a vow of simple living, I don’t mind not having a closet of fashionable clothes and have learned to coddle a 16 year old truck with slack steering, but I do mind that the hill behind me is remaining barren simply because of a lack of money.

Let me quote from David James Duncan’s book “My Story as told by Water”:

“What is a modern-day spirit offering? I’d say that now, as ever, it is anything we truly value.

Our energy, our focus, the hours of our days. Anything we respect so much that, as we pour it out on the finned, feathered, and four-legged peoples’ behalf, we kind of hate to see it go. Maybe single-malt scotches from the literalists among us. Prayers and mantras from the mystics. Money, time, and trouble from the capitalists and activists….

The big blockade to change is lack of passion. And the birth-house of passion is the heart. A spirit offering, then, is anything we can offer with a whole heart — any song, dance, phone call, plea, letter, insight, gift, or prayer that helps determine the way we, and other humans, continue to create our world, rivers, hills, and forests.”

So, dear readers, offer up your version of a spirit offering to Windgrove so that the healing of this particular land can continue. Prayers of abundance are definitely welcomed. As well, slip ten dollars (or a new pair of thick socks, size twelve) into an envelope and mail to: Windgrove Centre, Roaring Beach, Nubeena, Tasmania 7184, Australia.

I’m reaching out for help. We all need the trees.


Sacred work

May 20, 2003

A week or so ago I received from America a small, yet potent gift of Kentucky bourbon fudge made by the Gethsemani Trappist monks. The side of the box offered this insight: “The monks of Gethsemani are called to a balanced life of prayer, sacred reading and work”.


I pondered and mulled over this for a few days and, in the end, decided that my life wasn’t too much different than that of the monks (even to the point of being celibate for nearly two years). Nothing was intentional. It just evolved into this pattern. And (mostly), I gracefully accept it.

My prayers happen throughout the day. Some occur during the daily rituals of sitting at the Peace Fire and surfing. Others, when I am carving or simply staring into the treed hill side.

Sacred readings are eclectic; anything from Rilke’s ‘Book of Hours’ to Michael Pollan’s ‘The Botany of Desire’ and David Suzuki’s edited collection ‘When the wild comes leaping up’.

But what is my work?

The poet Mary Oliver, when writing about her future death, says: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

She wants to be the bride married to amazement. She wants to be the bridegroom taking the world into her arms. She wants to have made of her life something particular and real.

Her work, therefore, is to insure that this happens.

Likewise, for me.


Stone soup parable

April 25, 2003

NoLong Now glasses, this isn’t a story about having better eye sight as a result of drinking wine. It is about how small gifts are as coloured ribbons of celebration, gratitude and thanks.

Pinned to an activist’s life, they lighten the burden of making oneself publicly vulnerable while defending the earth.

Today, I received my new eye glasses. The old glasses were several years old, scratched and bent beyond their prescription use by date. It was time to get new ones.

While checking me out, the optometrist Finian MacCana asked what I had been up to. When I mentioned that I was doing some environmental activist work while also trying to set up Windgrove as a refuge for art and ecology, he said that he knew this because he had been reading about me in the newspapers.

When it came time to pay my $500 bill, Finian said, “No charge. This is my way of helping the cause.”

The wine just arrived from Italy. Cristina and Giorgio Pelissero read about ‘Generational Flow/an altar to the Long Now’ (see March 8) and wanted to share their vineyard’s wine, also called the Long Now.

As Cristina wrote: “Is really wonderful to discover that at the other part of the world some people are working following the same philosophy and feeling in the same way. Hopeful!”

My gross income last financial year from the sale of my sculpture was just under $30,000 (US$18,000). Take away expenses for materials, tools and freight and there isn’t much left.

But somehow $2000 is found to maintain the Peace Fire, $3000 for tree planting, $1,500 on forestry protest signs, $600 on public events and $500 for donations to environmental causes. Plus ongoing construction to build the Windgrove Centre.

Doesn’t add up, does it? Yes, I am always scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet, and my friends always wonder how I manage to survive.

However, like the Stone Soup parable, when friends and visitors continuously contribute bits and pieces to the pot, board by board, nail by nail, Windgrove gets built and I am fed.

First the bus with candles and a dream, now a 2000 square foot centre accommodating Artist’s-in-Residence.

Windgrove’s success is a ten dollar donation from a tourist from Germany, a larger check in the mail from America or England, a web master who gives his time freely, neighbours who cook me dinners or someone else offering an offering. It all adds up to a Life on the Edge where I dont fall over the edge.

I am thankful. Very thankful.

And tonight, I’ll be having a glass of wine while clearly reading the label on the bottle.