Monday, 10 November 2008

Sources of Optimism

I haven't had much to post about lately. I've got a bunch of things going on in my head, but nothing cohesive to write about, it seems.

I'm still in a bit of a pleasant daze after watching Barack Obama win the US election last week, and I've sort of just been mulling that whole thing over. I'm looking forward to January when President Obama will be in a position to start doing some things differently than they've been done before. I'm trying to strike a balance in my expectations and be hopeful, but realistic.

I was also happy to receive three new books in the mail last week. I went ahead and ordered these particular ones new, because I had a feeling they would be very hard to come by in the used book store. In nearly a year of looking, I hadn't found any of them yet.

The first one is Steve Solomon's Gardening When it Counts. I've only just read the first few pages of this book, but it strikes me as being a very practical book for those who need to make sure they grow enough food. This will be all of us pretty soon I think. It is written in a straightforward style, much like Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance, and I think I will like it very much.

The second book I bought is the Encyclopedia of Country Living, by Carla Emery. This huge tome seems to contain everything anyone would want to know about virtually all aspects of homesteading, be that rural or urban, mundane or emergent. Some topics include how to lay out the dead, how to make a chicken coop, how to avoid poisonous herbs, and everything in between. There are also some personal anecdotes included by the writer, some of which seem to be a bit overly religious for my taste, but obviously very important to the author and relevant to why she undertook writing such a huge book, now in it's 10th edition.

Last but not least, I couldn't resist picking up Thich Nhat Hanh's latest offering, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology. I'm only a few chapters into this one, and already I'm thinking about things differently. Somehow his writing in this book has already managed to quell some of my apocalyptic angst, and helped me to look forward to the coming changes with less fear and anxiety. As one example, he talks about meditating on the impermanence of all things, using waves in the water to illustrate the point: Focussing only on the waves, one sees that the wave exists one minute and is gone the next. But by focussing on the water, one no longer laments the passing of the wave, since it is still inherent in the water. In this way, we don't have to fear the passing away of one type of civilization, we can take comfort in the knowlege that the elements for a renewed one still remain. I'll definitely be writing a review of this book when I'm done!


kale for sale said...

Theresa - The visual of the waves and water is perfect. Thanks for the sneak preview. I look forward to the full review. I like TNH but I have to be in the right place inside myself to read him and I'm not there which has me appreciate your glimpse more. It good that we all don't have to do everything but each hold a different piece. I'm also very happy that Obama won. Very happy.

Anonymous said...

Theresa - It always amazes me when a person can read more than one book at a time.

I will put the gardening book on my list of books to purchase. I could use a little help with this.

The book on the Buddhist perspective also sounds interesting...I look forward to a review.

Anonymous said...

Theresa - I saw your note on Sharon's blog about wanting to learn how to use a chainsaw. Would a step-by-step tutorial help you?

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

There is a lot of hope here in the US with the election of Barack Obama. We have a lot of work to do here to make the promises and the future we hope for a reality in this country. I just hope the movement that got him elected stays strong and cohesive so they can prod him in the right direction once in office. I was so excited when he got elected - but over the past few days, reality has started to creep back in and I am trying to temper my enthusiasm with some realistic thinking.

I have heard of Thich Nhat Hanh but have never read any of his work. I don't know a whole lot about buddhism, but it seems that it isn't as dogmatic or indoctrinating as many other organized religions, and I would love to read something by this author. As someone who grew up with a religious but not practicing mother, and an atheist father, I had no experience with religion other than negative ones. Now, as I have gotten older, I never see myself becoming religious, but I have wanted to explore the concept of "spirituality" and see if I find anything that I can relate to. Would you say that Hahn would be a good place to start?

I LOVE getting new books, though I tend to rent them from the library or swap with other folks whenever possible. I myself had a little book binge a could of weeks ago. I have 3 new books (I've almost torn through an entire one already). I love books.

Amber said...

O.k. This is the third time in two days that I've come across references to the Encyclopedia of Country Living. And a friend of mine was just talking about his new book, Gardening When It Counts. I think I might have to add these to my wish list!
Looking forward to your review of Tich Nhat Hanh's book.

Theresa said...

Well dang, I just wrote a big long response to everyone and it got lost in cyberspace somewhere...

Theresa said...

Ok, I'm going to do this one response at a time, so I don't lose everything again. Who would have thought that blogging would come with lessons in non-attachment!

Kale - you're right, it is a relief to just have to hold a piece and not be responsible for everything. TNH also talks about writing 'love letters' to our elected representatives (instead of protest/complaint letters) - Mr. Obama is someone I could see actually writing a letter like that to, and know that it would be well-received instead of just derided. That is already a huge and welcome change, in my opinion.

Theresa said...

Artby - I get a bit giddy when I get some books, and usually delve into them all at once! Usually I have one main book on the go, and then some on the periphery, waiting their 'turn' to be the main book :)

About the chainsaw tutorial, I would like your input on this please! Gord can also show me what to do and not do, but I have this sense that females would/could have a different mindset when it comes to using a chainsaw, so your info is very welcome!

Theresa said...

Jennifer - Mr. Obama has a lot on his plate, for certain. As a Canadian it sometimes irks me that the president of one country has so much influence in a world of 200+ countries, but that's just how it is. So, I'm very very glad that a calm, thoughtful, careful and cosmopolitan person has been elected to that office. :)

About the religion/spirituality stuff, I was raised in the environment of a Dutch protestant denomination. It is a good and basic denomination, not too conservative as churches go, but still convinced of its overall rightness. Over time I just didn't have the same idea of God that the church has, that God is a separate, authoritarian entity. Then one day a few years ago I read the Tao Te Ching and thought, hey, this is actually what I've believed all along: That all things are connected and interwoven, that Tao/God is the source of the myriad things and all things are the manifestation of God/Tao/the Way. Taoism is the most basic of beliefs - no dogma, no prescribed practices, no proselytizing. That is my long way of saying that if you are looking for a place to start, you might want to read the Tao Te Ching. Derek Lin's interpretation/exposition is excellent ( and I also really like the modern interpretation by Ron Hogan (

I find that Buddhism and Taoism completment eachother well, in my limited understanding and experience. Buddhism seems to add 'flesh to the bones' of Taoism, so to speak, without overcomplicating matters. Apart from HRH The Dalai Lama himself, Thich Nhat Hanh is definitely a good place to start!

I must say that I have found a much deeper sense of the spiritual since learning more about Taoism and Buddhism. And, I've learned to appreciate more the good teachings of the church I grew up in too.

(That's not quite what I had written before, but it's close)

Theresa said...

Amber, I have just finished Thich Nhat Hanh's book, so that review should be coming up soon!

SoapBoxTech said...

I always have several books on the go too. It took me a year to get through The Secret History of the World, all the while I went through several other books.

On the go now are:

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Underworld by Graham Hancock

Nigger (The strange career of a troublesome word)

Who Wrote the New Testament

Gods of the New Millennium

I'd love to get a hold of a copy of Solviva too.

Theresa said...

There's nothing like knowing you have good books in store to read. Reading is one of my most comforting comforts :)

Apple Jack Creek said...

Hey Theresa,

I sent some of your book selections to The Reluctant Farmer as not-so-subtle gift suggestions. :) Thanks for the recommendations!

And, if you really and truly wanna learn to use a chainsaw, we have a small one and I have in fact used it successfully - not very often, but I have. It's not all that scary nor all that different from how the Big Guys do things. Email me from my website if you wanna come play with it some time - we have lots of wood to practice on, and we are not very far away from you. :)

Theresa said...

Thanks for the offer AJC! We actually have a chain saw, and lots of logs to practice on - I have just been too scared to try it so far. Gord is willing to show me - I just have to be willing to give it a go...

I wouldn't mind seeing your nice farm set-up though one of these days! You're right, we are not that far away from each other!

Apple Jack Creek said...

Oh, Theresa, don't be scared of the chainsaw! Healthy respect, yes, but fear, nah!

Since you've got someone who can show you the safety things, just put on your goggles (and the kevlar chaps if you have them, they are a good idea), steel toed boot are also a good plan ... and go to it.

Have the log placed at a comfortable working height for you (that would be the only likely difference from how a man might do it, they have more upper body strength and can lift the chainsaw higher and more easily). I like it just about mid-thigh off the ground, or higher but not lower - then just get the chainsaw going and go to it. It's much easier than you think!

Learn to do by doing, right? :)

Theresa said...

Ack! Kevlar chaps! My mind just opened up to yet a whole new set of unpleasant possibilities! You're right though, I just have to take reasonable precautions and then just do it.

Green Bean said...

I just got Gardening When It Counts. Book looks awesome! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the rec.

Theresa said...

It's good, hey? I've been delving in to that book this weekend myself and now I want to go and sharpen my shovels!