a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for August, 2008

Judaiasm on Death – and LIFE

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

The note below came from Phyllis Diehl, a loyal reader of the blog and you may recognize her from the many encouraging and insightful comments she leaves on this site. I’m lucky since I happen to have her in my family, too. Phyllis is a grandmother, but she is currently studying to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah. She has shared many wise and comforting throughts with me during my mother’s passing. Yesterday, she sent this:

Last year, my teacher last year spoke about the jewish perspective regarding death. When asked what Judiasm says of death, his response was, “NOT MUCH.”  After we got over the shock of his answer, he explained that G-D really wants us to concentrate on LIVING a life of responsiblity, purpose and acts
of kindness.

Later on, he went into more detail about going before G-D in death and seeking his judgement about the way you lived your life. Most of all, he wanted us to remember that LIFE IS THE IMPORTANT THING.

The Prophet. On Death and Dying.

Friday, August 29th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As my mom prepares to leave this earth behind, she has been magically free from pain and able to hear and speak and laugh with us. We have spent these last days sharing enduring memories and our continued hopes and dreams for each other. I will miss that laugh more than anything, but I know she’ll continue to send us messages of love always and I will be listening and watching. My heart reaches out to all who have lost loved ones. Remember that our tears create an ocean of love.

The wisdom of Kahlil Kibran shared through The Prophet, has been a place I’ve turned to for comfort and confirmation in times of both joy and sorrow as he addresses all parts of our human lives. Here is an excerpt on Death…

From The Prophet:

“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

Deep Desire and one-pointed focus

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Since I can’t think too straight for reasons I’ll try to discuss tomorrow, I’d like to share this story/parable I’ve seen over the years. This version comes from Rob Brezsny’s visonary and interactive book, Pronoia Is The Antidote for Paranoia. He calls it, “Drowning in Love”:

The sage and her student were standing by a pool discussing longing and ambition.

“What do you want more than anthing else?” the sage asked.

“To perfect my ability to love all of creation the way I love myself,” the young man replied.

At that moment, the sage tackled the student and shoved his head beneath the water. Accustomed to letting his teacher shape the unpredictable contours of his education, he did not resist.

One minute went by. Then another. The student began to struggle and kick. His teacher was strong.

Finally, she released her grip and the student surfaced, fighting for breath.

“What did you want more than anything else during these last few minutes?” the sage inquired.

“Nothing else was in my mind except the desire for air,” gasped the student.

“Excellent,” beamed the sage. “As soon as you are equally single-minded in your desire to perfect your ability to love all of creation the way you love yourself, you will achieve you goal.”

Maybe we need to find a way to focus our deepest desire to perfect our ability to be one with each other and to heal ourselves and the planet and then, we can achieve our goal. You in ?

Good Humans Make Lists

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Do you like lists? I do. A to-do list is like cliff notes to a good book, only the book is your life. Each time I look at my list, I’m reminded how much there is to do, to share and to be. Even if I don’t “do” everything on my list, the things that drop off most often lead me to another place, idea or action. Lists also help me remember the more mundane things that make up daily life, you know – chop wood, carry water – which is, of course, what brings balance to life and helps you stay humble.

And I like looking at other people’s lists, just in case there is something I haven’t thought of yet. (Ever found one in the street? You can’t help looking at it, right?)

I came across several lists today worth sharing. One is from my favorite eco-blogger, No Impact Man. He and I have both posted several green-minded lists over the last year – his new list of eco-steps is up to 40. He must like lists, too.

The other is a compilation of lists on Although this site is supposed to be known for being a family owned and operated leading retailer of environmentally responsible products, lists make up much of their site. They call their steps, “Guidelines” and cover every topic I could think of. Each section has a very long list since it is an interactive site where you can add your own, which is a cool idea since there’s always something someone hasn’t thought of yet. Or, maybe we have, but never wrote it down. Writing it down is always a good idea for humans like us because we tend to be not all that aware in the moment. I’ll tell you the topics so that you will be enticed to go visit soon:

Clothing, Education, Entertainment, Gardening, Government, Health, Household, Housing, Nature, Personal Finances, Pets, Relationships, Transportation, Travel. It’s interesting that the topic with the biggest list is “Relationships” – reaching 141 -  which must mean that the most important reminders we need are to be kind and realize that we are all in this together.

The lists don’t skip the obvious things, but I think it’s a good idea to write down things like, “Tip street performers, Let the cocktail waitress through the crowd, Wash and reuse the plastic cups after keg parties, and, Be nice all the time”, so that we remember that the little things really matter.

Skin Care and Wholeness – Dr. Hauschka, biodynamics and thou

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’m not really into many “bodycare” products. Perhaps it’s my overexposure over the years of employment at Whole Foods Markets, but if you haven’t noticed, it’s gotten crazy out there – the numerous brands and scents and specialty cleaners and creams and body washes – bottles and more plastic bottles – eek! Thanks anyway, but I’m happy with Dr. Bronner’s castille all-purpose liquid soap, a shampoo bar, my homemade tooth powder and some moisturizer to put on my face and hands.

But with all the choices, what is a good moisturizer? First and foremost, one without petroleum by-products and other chemical ingredients. Burts Bees is made with real food ingredients, so can’t go wrong there. But then I discovered Dr. Hauschka

Their philosophy of purity and ingredients grown and tended in harmony with nature (biodynamics) has been in place “long before the green trend began.” In fact, the company was founded in 1935 by Rudolf Hauschka, a Viennese chemist who developed natural remedies. It added skin care products in 1967. WALA, located in southern Germany, is the maker of Hauschka and is an acronym for Warmth and Ashes, Light and Ashes and based on Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy of anthroposophy, combining the spirtual world with human intellect.

The company is legally owned by the German public – a kind of co-operative – and cannot be sold. Profits support operations or go to the workers. (For more on Hauschka, see this NY Times article.)

I have to admit, there’s a magic to the products that I was skeptical about until I used them. I’m still not willing to line my shelf with bottles, but I can’t go a day without the moisturizer. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt in or on my skin before.

High Way on the Highway

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

My good, car-free friend (whom you’ve heard from occasionally on this blog), is continuing his work in Nutrition with a new job in Colorado. He is traveling with his longtime friend and roommate this week but plans to stay car-free once he arrives in Glenwood Springs. I received this from him yesterday and wanted to share his tried and true tips for more sustainable travel – even across the country. Here he is, Greg Gillette ~

As Connie and I depart for Glenwood Springs, Colorado, we are doing our part in smart, low impact travel.

Besides the diesel fuel that the moving truck will burn, we will be eating from our cooler, which is filled with local raw milk, local eggs, local peaches, local cheese and local bread. The avocados are not local, nor the plums, but they are organic. The only stops will be for fuel, bathroom and stretching breaks.

We have arranged to stay with friends in Clinton, AR, Lawrence, KS and Breckinridge, CO. Not only will we save money, but we will be staying with friends who share the type of lifestyle that we live. Plus, they can show us the cool hip eco-conscious parts of their towns.

Once we arrive in Glenwood Springs, we will be staying in the Glenwood Hostel for several days as we look for a place to rent.

Glenwood Springs boasts many commuter bike lanes, including a bike/pedestrian trail that goes all the way to Aspen, which is 40 miles south of Glenwood Springs. There are also several hiking trails that start from the town and go into the mountains.

The local bus service within Glenwood Springs is free and service is also available to Aspen and other towns and to the local ski resort, which is 15 miles from town. I plan on continuing to live free, without my own car.

We have already found a local source for raw milk, eggs, cheese, and cream and there is a local farmer’s market in town.

More to come from Glenwood Springs as we settle in to our new abode.

Eco Road Warriors

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I have a lot of cool neighbors in Arcadia, my co-housing community. But, the pair shown here, who live next door, are some of the coolest.

Giles and Ginger live off-grid, using solar energy for electricity and a wood stove for heat. Their back yard is a masterpiece of stone and wood sculptures, wildflowers and fruit trees – not a blade of grass to be found – Giles will be the first to tell you that he hates grass. Far beyond the typical idea of water conservation, they recently teamed up with the household next door and installed an underground cistern that holds LOTS of rainwater, harvested from two rooftops. (They’ll use it for irrigation and whatever else comes up in the next drought.)

Giles is a green Architect and a national leader in co-housing and sustainable design. He works downtown and before he teamed up with Ginger on this double-seater, he used to do a solo bicycle ride to work almost every day. I even remember when he added goggles and a rain/wind shield to his gear for the wet/cold weather – in fact, he is the one who inspired me to move beyond my own fair-weather riding habits last Winter (see this post).

Ginger also works downtown – a little longer ride and a LOT earlier start – she has to be there before the city buses run. So, they put their green heads (and helmets) together and came up with this plan involving a really unique bicycle built for two! Now, Ginger and Giles load up and are off to work together at 6:30am on this cool green machine. He drops Ginger off at work and then pedals on to breakfast at the co-op before landing at his office on Main Street. Ginger hops the bus to get home in the afternoons and then you’ll see Giles pedaling back in the evenings, his briefcase riding in the spare seat.

I usually hear them near dawn, giggling outside my window as they load up. Really – Ginger says she has so much fun getting to work this way that she can’t stop giggling. This morning I rushed out to get their photo before they took off down the road. Eco-heroes. Road Warriors. Happy People.

Grid-Free and Off The Beaten Path – a journey

Monday, August 18th, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

Trouble in Paradise…

I haven’t been intentionally misleading these last several blog entries, I have had a sort of awakening living in Crested Butte.  I’ve met some really amazing people, lived some moments of synchronicity and learned that people can step away from seemingly fundamental truths about how to live and think with relative ease if they are just shown the way.  I’ve been having some really happy times.  But while I’ve been having this time learning new things about myself and the so-called American Dream (stuff really isn’t everything, or even anything) other things in my life have been falling apart.

It led me to ask myself:  Why do things fall apart?  It led me to ask my friends:  What does it mean when things fall apart at the same time?

Followers of the Dalai Lama believe that when many things in your life start ‘breaking’ or going wrong at the same time, it is because something new is trying to become born into your life, and it needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.  A wise friend – who’s initials are TAO ;)  – told me that you can never know why bad things are happening until the smoke clears and you can look back on them.  I guess you have to go through the fire, if you want to become someone new.  The phoenix can’t rise from the ashes without one.  I am just saying, I hope we become newer and more perfect humans (oxymoron there, I know) after the trouble has passed.  I asked my Mom, who possesses the most grace and strength in times of adversity of anyone I know, and she said to me “sometimes it just pours.”

So even in Paradise, transition is hard, people are in and out of the emergency room, dogs are in and out of the veterinary ER, phones break, trucks break, people get flus and other bugs, couples end (and start again, and end again, and start again…) and the most loving and loved companions struggle to live.  All at the same time.  At least when I sigh here, I am surrounded by mountains that seem to sigh with me.

As for off the grid and off the beaten path, we might be moving to town to be on the beaten path.  We are talking to a man about renting a room from him in his solar home, so we will still be off the grid.  And we’ll have a hot tub in the middle of a green house where I can hopefully keep some veggies and herbs to use for cooking.  This place is a really great deal if we decide to go through with it.  Although we have only been camping for 3 months now, and I have really fallen in love with it, we are both working so much that we are using the truck a lot more now than we ever wanted.  This way at a 2 mile bike ride from town, we won’t need to use it AT ALL (that will be so fabulous!!) until it gets really cold.  Then we can ride into town and take the bus around.  This is sort of the time to grab rentals around here, and we don’t want to miss the window on places.  Or we may camp a little longer and find a different place, but it’s starting to get cold here.  Summer is close to officially over around this time.  People frown when you mention the cold.  I’ve been wearing my cords and sweatshirts around, especially in the morning and evenings.

When things slow down in a couple of weeks and I have a little more free time, I am going to start working on Nancy’s farm and getting paid with food.  I will work for food — especially organic, local, fresh food, grown by a friend.  Even when times are tough, there are always things to look forward to, great friends to have those long conversations with, family to check in on you and you realize just how truly blessed you are.

That’s all for now…  Love to all,


THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

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