Interning on Zaytuna Farm

Over the past three plus weeks myself and 15 other cohorts have been fully engaged in farm life. And, although there are several aspects of this lifestyle that you might expect out of a typical farm experience (i.e. milking goats, turning compost, planting veggies, etc…) this is far from a typical farm!

The Growing Abundance of Moloka`i

Several, all but empty, gift shops line the main drag here in the small town of Kaunakakai, Moloka`i. Two meager grocers dominate the square’s activity. On the edge of town, which is really only about a block wide, there sits a quant old natural food store that reminds me of more than one ol’ town co-op on the mainland.

A doddering old codger directs me around the store and points out all the things grown on the island without every having to leave his seat behind the counter.

“This is the stuff Robin brought by yesterday” he explains to another customer, pointing to a box of produce just over the counter from where he sat.

Robin, that’s who I’m supposed to meet up with later. She’s coming into town to meet me discuss possible camping accommodations. What are the chances this store clerk is talking about the same Robin you ask? Well, on Moloka`i, as I would soon find out, the chances are pretty darn good.

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Sting of the vana

Sitting atop the magnificence of the vast pacific ocean, waves gently lapping under the nose of my Aunt’s standup paddle board, it’s rare that I’ve felt so immersed in the abundance of the universe. Letting the cacophony of sensations flow through… no attachment, no aversion – simple presence.

Suddenly my awareness shifted as I realized that the gentle lapping of waves had ratcheted up several notches in volume and intensity. Lifting my head and looking around I found I had drifted close to shore where the surf was crashing against the jagged black lava rocks only a few feet ahead. Attaching to my board I now needed my skills in aversion to steer clear of a rather painful incident. So much for my meditation!

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Island life…

It’s so stunningly beautiful here that I’ve forgotten several times today that it’s my birthday. I can hardly believe this place exists!

It’s not just the natural beauty, the cool ocean breeze, the enchanting chorus of so many songbirds, or even the fact that I can see several mangos ripening on the tree just a few yards in front of me. The real allure is in the eyes of so many beautiful people here. Even in the big city of Honolulu everyone seems to have a soft contentment in their eyes.

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Spirit of community…

Sitting on the floor of the Seattle airport. Fortunately, the only airport that had decent internet access was also the one I have the longest layover. In a little under an hour from now I’ll be boarding a plane to Honolulu.

I’m still having a hard time processing it all. Setting the intention to make this leap a over a year ago now… I would have never even considered how amazing my life would become even before officially embarking.
My heart swims with a profusion of emotion. For the first time in my life, I’ve discovered something that seems to elude the vast majority of our society (at least the majority of American society). Community is an enigmatic thing. I’m sure I could wax at length (in fact, I think I have) about various explanations and ways to define the word without ever touching on what it actually means to be apart of one.
Fact of the matter is, I could have never expected that the experience would be so visceral. A family so loving and dedicated not just to themselves and each other but to all of humanity. We want to change the world and we realized that none of us have what it takes to do that alone. We’re going to need to get everyone on board if we hope to have any significant impact.

Without community the whole thing is a wash. Without supporting each other we will get very little accomplished. Only when we act selflessly do we find security. That is not an easy thing to recognize for most of us. Selfless action appears painful… only the true ascetic would bring such things upon himself.

The reality is quite surprisingly opposite. The more you give of yourself, the more is given to you… ultimately allowing you to give even more! The more you open yourself to these channels of energy the more fulfilling you find your life becomes. This is what is meant by “becoming a conduit”.

As your giving and your capacity for giving grow you find that more and more people gravitate toward you and, recognizing you as a conduit, are more inclined to share their gifts with you. As they share and open up they too can discover the power of this positive feedback loop of selflessness. Before you know it, a whole community is loving and sharing and supporting each other (and you) while the stock of the of individual security increases exponentially.

Need a place to stay? I know 30 people that would love to take in a generous and loving soul. Looking for a helping hand with a project? I’ll pick up a shovel with you because I know it’s going to help feed a poor household.

This is only a small sliver of what it’s like to experience real community. And now, after all the things I ever wanted from life started to surface out of these realizations… I’m taking that leap forward and leaving the family I just met to make more family on the other side of the world.

When I have a family reunion… I want 7 billion people celebrating with me! And I want our celebration to not only be about the discovery of this human family… but the discovery that by working together, we can heal all wounds, lift all debt, alleviate every bit of suffering and cultivate a world of peace, love and abundance for all.

What’s burning in East Texas?

Just east of the Davy Crockett National Forest lies a little patch of red dirt I might one day call home. Douglass, Texas… crazy as it sounds, this place has a lot to offer. Pine trees, rich soils, natural springs, loving family and some of the most beautiful land in Texas are just a few of pleasures I have the good fortune to enjoy before my adventures ahead.

But is is all pleasure, the drought has hit this land particularly hard. Ponds and creeks are almost entirely dried up. Livestock and wildlife are struggling, not just to stay hydrated but to stay fed. Typical pastureland does not weather these arid extremes well… in fact, typical pastureland does not weather any extremes very well.

The vegetation is all but missing from the landscape this year. What is left hardly appeals to the ranging cattle. Many ranchers have sold off their herds early and those who haven’t have had to invest a lot in imported feed to keep them going. Either way, conditions like these make ranching a costly venture.

To make an already bleak situation worse, it seems when the high-pressure front that has hovered over most of Texas all summer, and prevented many a storm front from quenching this parched landscape, has at last moved on, it does so not with much needed rain but rather with raging winds.

As I write this, there are evacuations just minutes up the road from where I sit. The smell of smoke hangs in the air and an orange glow lights up the sky to the North West. All that lies between my parents sapped land and a devastating inferno is a pine forest (tinderbox) and a small band of dedicated firefighters.

For us, fortunately, we will be spared this evening. The winds are in our favor and the flames are unlikely to make it this far tonight. Here’s to hoping the winds don’t shift!

Other’s have not been so lucky. Continuing to add insult to injury, this summer will not subside without great losses to land, livestock, homes and wildlife. The thousands of acres ablaze across Bastrop and all throughout Texas today is an unfortunate example.

There are no easy solutions to the situation we are witness to this year. And, with the continual degradation of our landscape through deforestation, ecological neglect and agricultural misunderstandings there is a good chance the situation will get worse before it improves.

Not only is this trend held in place by many causes, it also doesn’t seem to be localized to just Texas. All across the world, deserts are expanding while natural forests decline at alarming rates.

Despite the obvious challenges, there is a lot that we can do to turn this trend around… but it’s going to take quite a shift from our current practices of land management. What we need is a holistic approach. Building on systems such as Holistic Land Management, Permaculture and reforestation efforts we can begin to rebuild our soils, buffer damage from natural disasters, recharge our springs, aquifers and rivers, and even increase precipitation.

These changes are going to require a great deal of cooperative effort on our part. Only by working together are we going to be able to have any substantial recuperative impact on our environment.

Plans beginning to take shape

Time is compressing down on this long awaited adventure. Only a matter of mere months now. It’s challenging to even relate all the little details. So many moving pieces, so many beautiful new connections, so many inspiring new inspirations. With all that’s happening, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain focus on all the ducks that I’m trying to corral into neat little rows.

Over the course of the next three and a half months I’ll be handing my role as Stocking Supervisor at Wheatsville Co-op over to a new set of hands. With any luck, this new person will be able to take the position (and the co-op) to places I’ve not even considered. Already the position is rapidly evolving into one that will be much more effective for my predecessor. I’ve taken a lot of pride in my work there and it’s important for me to continue to see it progress and improve, even when I’m not at the helm. 
Even as I’m planning an effective exit strategy at Wheatsville, I’m working to insure Community Cultivators has a solid foundation and leadership to continue growing and making a difference. The variables involved in those two things alone are enough to take up all my energy and then some. Somehow, I’ve still managed to make time to enjoy my life. In fact, I think I enjoy it now more than ever!
I’m not sure how exactly I’ve found the time to maintain two blogs in the midst of all this, either. One thing I do know is that I’ve hardly seen my house in weeks!! It’s mostly a place were I go to sleep at night and brush my teeth in the morning. why I’m spending so much money on something I could get at a free camp site I’ll never know.
Once the next three and a half months are up, I’ll have only a month and a half to get my stuff together before I embark on this crazy adventure. During that final month and a half there are several things that still need to happen. A trip to Douglas, Texas to visit my folks and store the few personal affects I’d like to retain is not least among them. A tour through Dallas and Houston will surely also be in the works for that short time.
On September 14th, two short days before my 31st birthday, I will board a plane to Honolulu, Hawaii. While there, I will spend much valuable time catching up with my cousin and aunt who I’ve not seen in several years. This is where I hope this blog will really start to take shape. The plan is to travel across the islands meeting new people and exploring the beautiful beaches of Hawaii. 
Oahu, Molokai, and the big island are all definite destinations for this leg of my journey. My aunt lives on the big island, in Kailua-Kona. I’m looking forward to checking out the lava fields and other sites I’ve been hearing about there. In Oahu, my cousin has a beautiful home (I’ve only seen in pictures) in Honolulu. The surf calls to me and, with any luck, you’ll see a picture or two of me riding the waves and climbing the mountains of Oahu.
My adventures in Hawaii will conclude, most appropriately, with a trip to the island of Molokai where I hope to meet up with Malia Akutagawa who heads up the Sust`aina ble Molokai network. Recently, Sust`aina ble Molokai Partnered with Permaculture Research Institute USA to develop a Molokai Permaculture Education Initiative. Check out this video that came out as a result of their hard work:
It’s a highly inspirational piece that I’m very excited to get the opportunity to visit first hand. I’ll do my best to document the progress their work has made on the landscape and share that with you here. 
Of course, there are plenty of things I’d like to get to do while I’m in Hawaii, and I’m sure there will be plenty of adventures of the spontaneous variety, but my time will be limited and the things I’ve listed here are about the only things important enough to me to have scripted.
After almost 20 days of island fun I start the grueling 22 hour flight that will take me to Brisbane, Australia. From there, I travel 3 hours inland to start my internship on Zaytuna Farm with the esteemed Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. 
The internship is a 10 week intensive that traverses five weeks of course work interspersed between five weeks of hands-on application. After completion of the internship, the real fun begins… and this is where I begin to show what your generous donations can do. 
After the internship I will venture into unknown territory. Although I am trying to establish some idea of where I’ll end up… I’m also hoping to leave this end of my trip somewhat open-ended. I’m sure opportunities will arise while I’m in Australia that are too appealing to pass up. The book is open and the pages yet to be written. Your generosity will help to carry me into unexplored lands. And, through this blog, you’ll have the opportunity to see the powerful influence a small donation can have on the lives of people who have very little.
Imagine, you could provide generations worth of food security to a whole community abroad with very little effort of your own accord. In return, I’ll show you techniques and methods to achieve the same thing in your own back yard!
Thanks to all those who have donated already. It’s been very inspiring to witness the generosity of my family and friends!
My deepest appreciations,
Theron