In the late afternoon yesterday, a tremendous spring thunderstorm rolled in, as all my greenhouse plants were outside, basking in the heat of the day. At first, as the rain fell, I could see them coming to fuller life within minutes, and I was so glad to see them being rained on.
But then, the hail arrived.
I yelled “move!” to Ian, and we ran to rescue them and bring them back under the shelter of their greenhouse. Around 500 plants, some of which are now large pots with tomatoes and greens, had to be carried in as hail balls pelted us and the rain fell.
All plants were saved.
This time of year on a farm offers so much contact with weather and with life. And with the vulnerability of life. It keeps me on my toes. If we hadn’t moved fast, we would have lost months of effort, and also would have wondered where the food was going to come from in the winter.
Today, in the midst of lots of time with my children, I was able to offer nearly a combined two hours to my medicinal, edible, perennial bed. As my hands worked in the soil, touching worms, and feeling the satisfaction of having started so many perennials from seed, I found myself singing some of the music from my (currently on pause) Hildegard von Bingen album.
"I welcome all the creatures of the world with grace."
"You were planted in my heart at daybreak, on the first day of creation."
"God is the good, and all things which proceed from God, are good."
I would certainly call those revelations!
I have known for a long time that God needs to be bigger than our current (and future) cosmology, and correspondingly, that our level of defensiveness ought to shrink, (and our humility ought to grow), in proportion to how vast the mystery of universe is, as it unfolds to us.
But there is also something to be said about our connection and comprehension to the microscopic universe, which takes place in our bodies, our soil, through the communication of trees, fungi, and the systems that support life all around us.
We’ve focused so much on God needing to be big enough, that we’ve often failed to see how small God also needs to be, if we claim incarnation as one of our foundational beliefs. One raindrop. One blade of grass. One microorganism among billions, in one handful of healthy soil. One act of photosynthesis. A single compulsion of pelvic muscles, merged with will and passion, holding steady, or thrusting, to match the power of a birth contraction.
I haven’t visited The General Dance in awhile and thought it would be a good exercise to listen to it with the microscopic in our hearts.
In this piece, James Finley reads one of the finest excerpts contributed to Christian literature in the 20th Century, (from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation).
My personal intention for this piece was to celebrate true embodiment… my own body… your own body… all the way out to the inspirited nature of the universe... and then back again, into the inner and outer connectedness of each created thing. Our thin, but precious outlines of particularity, (offering mutuality), that get to express in concert, the whole manifest nature of our great Lover.
The glorious and painful music of life itself.
I long to know what it might feel like to be infinitely free, even in this body. Especially in this body.
I long to fail and to fall into the Infinite Arms... and laugh, as I comprehend what James Finley calls the "infinite irrelevance of attainment and nonattainment". Because let's face it, at least half the time, I struggle deeply to "throw my awful solemnity to the wind."
Any of the brief glimpses of that freedom I have had, are what I try to hold a fidelity to, in the midst of all my failings. And remembering another great line from James Finley helps me to laugh at myself... again...
"the poverty of the practice, is the richness of the practice."
Shucks. So much for my awful solemnity.
Until the next moment, when it returns.
As you listen to this song, try and not only imagine the "out there", but remember the small. The medial. The ordinary. And imagine all of it dancing, by God!
Lew Welch's words come to mind:
Step out onto the planet.
Draw a circle a hundred feet round.
Inside the circle are 300 things nobody understands,
and maybe nobody's ever really seen.
How many can you find?
Last week was spent saving our cow, Lady Susan’s life. Around the clock, under the full moon, she and I toiled and bonded to bring life back into her.
This week, she lost her wee beautiful heifer, who we called Rosie, and buried near our garden. It was a tender experience.
Lady Susan is doing well. Her vitality increases by the hour, and now that we have all the foreign debris out of her (that she no doubt ate as a young curious heifer on the large dairy farm she was born on), she has a new lease on life. I love to see her saucy spunk back.
We are putting in the garden this weekend… enough food to feed our family for the long winter. A massive, but very satisfying job.
As we approach Pentecost... just two weeks away, I wonder what is being made new amidst the upheaval and confusion. What is the Mystery up to, even as it "suffers with"?
In the meantime, I want you to hear an unmastered portion of my version of If It Be Your Will by Leonard Cohen, which will be on the new album, Hymns From the Icons.
I was hoping for a May 27th release, but what is interesting about new models taking shape in lieu of the way “things have always been done”, is that: you are on this journey with me, and I am on this journey with you, and because my beautiful Jersey milk cow was sick, I couldn’t record music at the same time. There’s something organic and beautiful about how this is unfolding … not constantly basing all that we make on “efficiency” and “productivity”.
I know what it feels like to be a “product”. To walk on stage with a horrible cold, perhaps even mourning the death of someone, or in a state of forsakenness, and trying to pour myself out, so ticket buyers don’t feel cheated.
We are so accustomed to impersonal connections when it comes to exchange that we tend to speak or write in short and demanding ways, especially when it comes to customer service. In the wake of the covid-19 shutdown in India, millions of people who sat in dire conditions receiving our phone calls for customer support, left in a mass exodus from New Delhi and other cities, for their small towns. Mostly on foot. Some of them were sprayed with bleach as they were walking. Many of these people already suffered the brunt of Western entitlement over the phone as we demanded a refund, or they stitched an article of clothing for us, as we demanded it to be cheap. As though someone with an accent is an automation or a sewing machine. And don't get me started about why these people had to leave their village in the first place.
So, normally, I stress out and experience Western shame when I don’t reach my set deadlines, but what if Life is mysteriously at work inside of this creation? And although I have to “package” it for it to reach your ears, maybe what is happening is that this album is becoming a creation, instead of a product. And maybe I am continuing to evolve out of the trauma of being an object, and morphing into a being, who shows up for the work at hand, and is continuing to be sculpted with Sensual Hands, into an ever-opening channel of life.
My prayer is that you sense yourself as a surrendered channel of organic occurrences that draws our awareness nearer to the great One Life.
"Achieving energy" is so valued in our culture, but often at the cost of really ever being.
It’s a very long story filled with very smelly, intense, "too much information", but this week our Jersey cow, Lady Susan, nearly died due to a condition called frothy bloat. The vet did a procedure called a rumenotomy, and I have just spent 4 days and nights doing things I never would have dreamed of... including finding foreign debris that I slowly but surely was able to pull out of the area the vet made in her rumen.
She was born on a 7000+ dairy lot in North Dakota, and eventually made it to a nice little dairy farm near here. But when cows are young, they’re very curious, just like children. If they can find it, they may put it in their mouth. I pulled out long, large, clear plastic bags, webbed and knotted ropes of twine, more plastic, rubber coated copper wire, and two very acidified, hard things that I could tell were leather gloves. During this time, she was given very good pain medication, so although it was traumatizing, her pain was minimized.
Ever since we got her, we tried to put weight on her and baby her with organic hay and treats. Nothing worked. Four days ago, it was looking like we may need to euthanize and try to save her calf. I went deep ... sort of became a Pelagian witch doctor ... did healing energy work and prayer... and released any possession of her that I felt, surrendering her to the great One Life... and then told her stories of how good her body will feel now if she could get up... and... eventually she got up! She’s eating and her whole system is working. I’m still at it, giving her mixtures if molasses, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, spruce tip tea, and water. She’s eating delicious hay and drinking water and all of it is moving through her.
She’s still low energy after all the trauma, but we’re hopeful that this member of the family and of our burgeoning ecosystem is on the mend.
I was already a locavore before this happened, but as I massaged her in the middle of the night, and talked to her, and loved her, a very profound awareness of being a participant in the great circle, came to me. No pyramids... but a circle of humility and life... and that none of the food we eat, should be just "a product". There is more to all of this than spread sheets of functioning, or not so functioning. That we ourselves should not be a product or a cog, but a wild participant in this beautiful, uncontrollable Life. And that if I am at all able, when I die, my wish is to be composted on this land, so the herds that graze here in the future can eat the grass my body sustains, as it becomes soil.
We are like the grass.
I feel the presence of Angels... and plant me here.
It was Gary Snyder's 90th birthday yesterday, so I'll leave some quotes of his here in honour of him and his work, and my burgeoning, inner curmudgeon ...
"Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility."
"As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth... the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalanced and ignorance of our times."
"Nature is not a place to visit. It is home."
"The other side of the sacred is the sight of your beloved in the underworld, dripping with maggots."
(The photo above was taken this morning!)
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.