Do any of us really know in advance the best course for our individual evolution of learning and understanding? Working with nature is a commitment to uncertainty. It’s a surrender to the vast mystery of existence, allowing the architects and builders of form to assist in one’s evolution.
Rather than choosing ‘I want’ one learns to accept what comes. Granted, there may be resistance to the new. This is simply a measure of unresolved negativity and fear. Fear of the unknown.
But how can there be growth without letting go of the known and allowing in the new? The salmon spawns upstream and its young flow with the current down watercourses they’ve never navigated before. To resist that flow would be to resist completely their reason for being.
The human desire for security is valid only if it doesn’t prevent our going with the flow of the stream of growth and evolution.
In a sense, my willingness to reconnect with nature represented my soul’s yearning to grow and fully utilize the human experience.
The fourth spring at Rainbow Buffalo I could get no spinach or lettuce to germinate, let alone grow. I can’t explain for certain the mechanics of this. Perhaps the seed was old and hence had a reduced rate of germination. The ‘why’ of the situation is less important than our response to it.
In the wild areas I’d mulched with hay on the fringes of the garden grew a profusion of edible weeds and it was to these weeds we turned for our spring and early summer salads in 1993. I like to think the denizens of nature had something to do with this because ever since that time a significant portion of Lucia’s and my daily salads have come from wild and semi-wild greens.
That spring, for the first time, we feasted on Fat Hen (Chenopodium album), which in my opinion is one of the tastiest lettuces available. This plant had been food for our European ancestors for centuries if not millennia and is one of nature’s richest sources of minerals, better than the spinach and cultivated lettuce it was replacing.. Its other common name is Lamb’s Quarter lettuce. This delicious plant was by no means our only salad green. We augmented it with purslane, another mineral-dense green, dandelions, two kinds of amaranth (which is especially delicious), juvenile Tumbleweed, dock and clover. We supplemented this wild supply with perennial and biennial greens from the garden such as sorrel, nasturtiums, borage,
Salad Burnett and lemon balm. Once the weather warmed sufficiently I planted a bed of buckwheat. Buckwheat is such a delicious plant.
Tumbleweeds are not indigenous to America. They came with the railroads, on burlap bags from Russia. Tumbleweeds won’t grow where other plants are already growing. They’re ‘primary growth,’ meaning they will be one of the first things to grow where the ground has been disturbed, plowed or scraped. It was a revelation for us in the spring of ’93 that baby Tumbleweeds were a nice edible addition to our salads.
Red Amaranth Leaves
It took a little longer to gather enough greens for a salad because most of the leaves were small. But it forced Lucia and me to make a daily connection with diverse areas in and around the garden. I see this as an important role for a gardener—making a conscious connection of love with the diverse species of the garden. And being thankful for everything being harvested.
We also benefited from the intense concentrations of minerals found in the wild and semi-wild plants we ate. It takes some time for the taste buds to adjust to salads made in this way. But once the adjustment has been made ordinary salads seem bland by comparison. Our ‘natural’ bodies sense and crave the goodness in these wild greens just as animals today will choose organic vegetables over commercially grown and genetically modified ones every time.
There’s a part of us that knows what is best. And we give that part an opportunity to speak once we eliminate enough processed and cooked foods from our diets. Our bodies then express natural cravings for natural foods rather than for the adulterated products masquerading as foods on the supermarket shelves today.
I see that fourth and last spring at Rainbow Buffalo as a watermark of sorts. It represented the time when we graduated from the processed and somewhat degraded diet of civilized man to the natural diet of our somewhat nomadic ancestors. It marked a step back to the days of gathering that came before cultivated crops and settlement of tribes.
I was interviewing a friend the other day and he came up with the following question (paraphrased here):
Would you buy the fancy car, house or whatever if there was no one around to look at it? Now here’s a question to help us see our real motivation in purchasing something. Is it something we really want or is it just another part of the image we present to the world?
The following article arrived in my inbox this morning. We all know water is becoming an increasingly important issue. In some places it’s already more expensive than wine. I referenced it in another blog recently.
Rising populations, improving lifestyles and changes to the global climate are all increasing the pressure on the planet’s water resources, says conservation expert Brian Richter. In this week’s Green Room, he explains why there is an urgent need for the world to embrace new ways in which it uses water.
While most governments have proven themselves incapable or unwilling to manage water sustainably, a group of non-governmental and professional water organisations is stepping up to lead the way
More than one billion people lack access to safe, clean drinking water and more than half of the hospital beds in the world are occupied by people afflicted with water-borne diseases.
More than 800 million are malnourished, primarily because there isn’t enough water to grow their food.
Fish and other freshwater species are among the most imperiled on the planet, in large part because of the ways that we have polluted and exploited their habitats.
The theme of this year’s World Water Week, currently underway in Stockholm, is therefore quite fitting: Responding to Global Changes: Accessing Water for the Common Good.
What global changes, you might ask? Let us start with our global population, expected to rise from nearly seven billion to nine billion in just a few decades. That is why more than half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030.
At the same time, in populous nations such as China and India, improvements in living standards and personal incomes are linked to greater consumption of clothing, meat, and water.
It takes 140 litres of water to produce one cup of coffee; 3,000 litres to make a hamburger; and 8,000 litres to create a pair of leather shoes. All of these processes require a vast amount of water to grow crops, feed cows, or produce leather.
On top of that, climate change will bring less rain to many regions, and cause it to evaporate more quickly almost everywhere.
Accordingly, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that “the proportion of the planet in extreme drought at any time will likely increase”.
These are the nightmares that keep me awake at night.
Just the tonic
These global forecasts wouldn’t look so daunting if we were doing a great job of managing water today. But over-extraction of water for farms and cities is already causing even large rivers such as the Yellow, the Ganges and the Rio Grande to repeatedly run completely dry.
More than 80% of cities do not treat their waste water, a study suggests
Remarkably, we also continue to foul our preciously scarce water supplies with too much human waste. More than 200 million tonnes of it each year go directly into our rivers and lakes without treatment.
So yes, the challenges we face are vast, but there’s something brewing in Stockholm that is helping me sleep a little better.
While most governments have proven themselves incapable or unwilling to manage water sustainably, a group of non-governmental and professional water organisations is stepping up to lead the way.
You may have heard of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that certifies sustainably-harvested wood products, or the Fair Trade movement for consumer products, yet no such scheme yet exists for water.
At World Water Week, a group of leading business, social development and conservation organisations will gather as the “Alliance for Water Stewardship” to advance a new voluntary global water certification program that will recognize and reward responsible corporations, farming operations, cities, and other water users for their sustainable use of water resources.
By developing best practice standards for managing water in a way that enables economic development in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner, the Alliance aims to certify “water users” who are taking major steps to minimise their water footprint and protect healthy watersheds.
Participants, otherwise known as “water users”, can range from large international companies to local water utilities to agricultural industries.
The Alliance will bring together the largest water players from around the world in Stockholm to launch a “global water roundtable”, a two-year dialogue among global water interests to seek agreement about the problems created by unsustainable water use, and to build consensus around the best-practice standards that will underpin the certification programme.
Changes in rainfall patterns could affect our ability to grow food
It is a huge undertaking, but the water crisis is urgent, and we desperately need a new, transparent rulebook for managing our water resources more sustainably.
So why would a large company or city to want to play by these new rules? A rapidly growing number of consumers are buying goods from companies with environmental and social credentials, giving certified products ranging from produce to beverages to clothing a competitive edge in the marketplace.
In this increasingly water-scarce world, companies are also becoming painfully aware of their vulnerabilities to water shortages, not just in their own business operations but throughout their supply chains. If barley farmers in northern China run out of water, breweries and beer drinkers throughout Asia will feel the pain.
Many companies are realising that if they can save water in their manufacturing or growing processes, they can save a lot of money, making them more profitable.
Similarly, cities save costs for water treatment when the watersheds that supply their residents are maintained in a healthy condition.
Interestingly, investors are increasingly screening loan requests from cities and companies on the basis of their sustainability scores, because behaving in an environmentally and socially responsible manner translates into reduced investment risk.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the simple fact that we have no other choice but to move toward a new paradigm for water.
The maths simply do not add up any other way. We have only the same amount of water on this planet now as when life began. We cannot support seven billion, let alone nine billion, if we continue to waste and foul such a substantial portion of what we have.
Certification isn’t likely to solve all the world’s water problems, but it very well could set us onto a sustainability trajectory that could give my nightmare a happy ending.
Brian Richter is director of the Global Freshwater Program at The Nature Conservancy, a US non-governmental organisation
The following is a condensed version of the third chapter of In Search of Simplicity. It describes my experience of spinal meningitis in Norway in 1986, the second time I’d encountered the deadly disease.
London, May, 1986.
“Can you tell me where I might find the Russia-Scandinavia tour bus?” asked the blonde stranger.
After a restless night spent in one of London’s crowded traveler hostels I had been searching in vain for the bus that would take me on my next adventure, a six week camping tour of Scandinavia and the Eastern European communist states. The 8.30 am departure time was rapidly approaching.
“Do you know where the tour bus is?” asked the young man again. I was more than a little surprised to have this absolute stranger voice the very question that was on my lips.
“Funny you should ask. I’m looking for the same bus,” I responded, smiling back at this man. “Let’s look for it together. It can’t be far away.”
So it was that I met Dean, the shy, muscular Cape Town native who was taking time out from construction work in London.
We found that bus around the next corner. We were the last to arrive. We quickly discovered that aside from a couple of Canadian girls in their late teens, we were the only travelers on the tour who were not from Australia or New Zealand. There is something divinely ‘right’ about two lost people meeting each other. Perhaps it happens more often than most of us realize.
The bus took a ferry across to Belgium and we spent the first night of the tour in Amsterdam. Over the next week we carried on up to Denmark and we were soon enjoying the beautiful fiords north of Oslo.
We were driving along a road cut through snow banks the height of the bus. I leaned over to Dean and said, “I feel horrible.” I was beginning to feel sick to my stomach and had the faint onset of a headache.
“Perhaps you’ve got a touch of food poisoning, John,” said Stan, the red haired Kiwi whom both Dean and I had befriended.
“Maybe I do,” I groaned, lying down on the seat. In a matter of minutes I had a whopping headache. It felt like my cranium was beginning to swell and my neck was stiff and throbbing.
A few minutes later I called out, “I think I’m going to die!” I had never voiced these words before and I wasn’t sure where they were coming from now. I was terrified. I must have been delirious.
“John, take a couple of aspirins,” interjected Maree, a petite Australian friend. It was rare for me to use any medicine but I was grateful for this offer now.
I lay down again and dozed off.
I was incredibly grateful when the bus stopped and our travel was over for the day. I was doubly grateful that this was to be our first stay in quite comfortable cabins, after night after night of camping. The thought of a tent was not an appealing idea. Dean and Stan helped me to a lower bunk.
I had excruciating pain in my head, which now felt as if it was swollen like a balloon.
“My neck is too stiff to bend. Can you guys help to get my shoes off?” Dean and Stan were happy to oblige. They helped me get under the covers.
That night passed by in a blur of repeated somnolent trips to the toilet to vomit. Despite evacuating my stomach throughout the night I felt even worse in the morning. My head felt as if a herd of Norwegian reindeer had stamped on it all night. Stan and Dean supported me as I stumbled out to the bus. That is all that I remember. At this point I slipped into a coma.
I heard later that our tour leader became very concerned. They stopped at the next village and consulted with a doctor. When the doctor observed my comatose form and noted the other symptoms, which now included spots all over my arms, he diagnosed spinal meningitis and prepared to give me a massive injection of penicillin.
I awoke abruptly from the coma to find that I was lying on my back. I saw a doctor above me holding a large needle before my eyes. The doctor was flanked by two nurses on one side and three female friends from my trip.
Maree looked at me in surprise. “Oh, hello John. You’re awake. Are you allergic to penicillin?”
“Yes,” I replied and slipped immediately back into the coma. That memory is still etched indelibly in my mind over twenty years later.
The next day, twenty seven hours after I initially went into a coma, I returned to consciousness with a splitting headache, in what appeared to be a small, private hospital room. I was being drip fed on intravenous.
After a short time, a nurse, with a cloth over her mouth and nose, looking like a bank robber in white, quietly entered the room.
“Oh, hello. Good to see you back with us. You’re a lucky young man,” she exclaimed.
“Where am I?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
“You have spinal meningitis. You are in the hospital in Molde, a small town in Norway. The doctor will explain more to you later.” She checked the intravenous and some monitoring devices and then left the room as quietly as she’d entered. My impression of her now was more of a talking ghost than of a bank robber.
A few hours later the doctor visited me.
“Hello John,” he said. “How are you feeling?”
“My head aches and it feels like I could sleep for a week,” I responded, remaining prone in bed.
He looked at me understandingly. “That’s not unusual. You will be with us for a while. We are all happy to see you out of the coma. Do you have any questions?”
“How did I get this, meningitis, that is?” I asked.
“For some unknown reason we have a few cases of it in this part of Norway at this time every year. A teenage boy died last week here in the hospital. Meningitis is highly contagious and it usually attacks children or young people who are fit and healthy. It is a mystery why one person gets it and another doesn’t.
“As for your headache we have you on morphine through the intravenous for now. If you have difficulty sleeping we can give you some sleeping pills.”
He left, presumably to continue his rounds. I promptly fell asleep.
For close to two weeks I remained in that room, isolated from other patients and most of the nurses save for the friendly, talking ghost.
Despite steady improvement in my condition, there were a few little complications. The veins in my forearms became rigid and made it increasingly difficult for the nurses to rig up the intravenous for me there. They decided to use a vein on the left side of my neck. This worked well until I developed a huge herpes in that location.
Each time the doctor came by I would ask the same question, “Can I go home yet?” His response was always the same, “Not yet.” This made for rather tiresome conversations.
Finally, after nearly two weeks the doctor said, “We’re going to give you a spinal injection tomorrow to see if your cerebrospinal white blood cell count is low enough for you to leave.”
This should have been good news. But I lay in bed and wondered, What if the white blood cell count is too high for me to go home? What if they make a mistake with the needle? I don’t like the idea of someone jabbing me in the spine with a needle. I still remembered vividly having spinal injections when in the hospital with meningitis at the age of four. This current experience seemed to trigger deeply buried fears from that time of illness as a child.
The next day I was wheeled down to the belly of the hospital for my shot. All went well and there were no complications. I had to wait all afternoon for the results. I felt like a prisoner who had been on death row when the capital punishment law was revoked. I was waiting for the decision of the prison warden to see if I had served enough time.
Early in the evening, in the eerie light of a northern summer day, the doctor came to visit me. The smile on his face said it all. “The white blood cell count is low enough. You can go home tomorrow. Congratulations.”
“That’s great. Thanks,” I said, a wave of relief pouring through me.
“No thanks are needed,” said the doctor. “You have healed well.”
I started to get out of the bed.
“What are you doing?” asked the physician.
“I thought I’d pack my things. Isn’t my backpack in that closet beside the bed?”
“John, please stay in bed and rest until you are discharged tomorrow. This has been a serious illness. You have only just survived. Do you know how close to dying you were?”
“No,” I said a little sheepishly, getting back under the covers.
“John, you have to rest for at least another five to seven weeks before you can resume an ordinary, active life. If you don’t rest enough you could have a headache for the rest of your life.” The doctor seemed to be coming on strong but, in fairness, he could see that I was not inclined to remain idle for long. I took his words seriously. After all, I continued to have a raging headache that had hardly abated in two weeks. I was anxious to leave and get on with my life. I felt that this hospital and its mostly unsmiling faces was no longer a healing environment for me. Modern care and allopathic medicine, together with ‘angelic’ intervention (at the time of the nearly fatal penicillin injection), had saved my life. What I craved now was that greatest of healing forces, love, and I could think of nothing better than to fly home to Canada and stay with my parents until I was healthy enough to resume my travels.
I spent the next three weeks with my parents in their home on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It was just what I needed: frequent walks in the lakeside air, the sound of birds, the summer warmth, my parents’ love and practical care. I recovered quickly, gaining some of the weight I’d lost in Norway. The headache waned and then, one day, it was gone.
My mother and I took another walk through the long grass beside the lake. The killdeers were nesting and singing the distinctive melody that gives them their name. Mom said softly, “We were so concerned when we went to pick you up from the airport. We thought you might be blind or partially deaf. We were so relieved to see you in a remarkably good, if weak, condition.”
I made a trip to the library to research meningitis. In a medical text I read that in seventy percent of the cases in which the patient is not treated within 24 hours, death follows. Of the thirty percent that survive many have mental difficulties, blindness or associated long-lasting debilitations. I was a lucky man. Twice in my life I’d had spinal meningitis. Twice I’d fully recovered and I’ve rarely had a headache in all the years since.
As my health steadily improved I looked into resuming my world tour. But I could see that the nature of my journey had dramatically changed. Rather than seeking adventure and the discovery of new places, I was now in search of meaning, in search of answers to the deepest questions in life. I was now in search of truth and simplicity.
This experience had transformed me. I wanted to know what or who had woken me from the coma at precisely the right time to save my life. I wanted to know why I was allowed to live and what I was to do with the rest of my life.
I was fired with a burning desire to understand the deeper issues of life. Finished with floating on the surface, I wanted to dive beneath the froth and make some sense of the mystery that lay below the waves.
Perhaps most importantly, I knew now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was being guided on my path and that I was never alone.
Russell and Gina Garcia in 2002 with Oscar Peterson
This Voices from the North interview was recorded with Russ and Gina Garcia in 2007. At the time this amazing couple had been married for 54 years. Russ is a world renowned composer, arranger and conductor who has worked with the likes of Fred Astaire and Louis Armstrong. Today, at 93 he is still working (although Russ hastens to say it isn’t work for him). Gina, is a professional singer, author and lyricist. Together Russ and Gina still do human values work with students in three Bay of Islands schools each week. Talk about tireless and inspirational servants of humanity.
Russ and Gina speak of leaving the Hollywood life for their six year odyssey on the Dawn Breaker that eventually brought them to New Zealand. They speak of their Baha’i life and the wisdom they’ve gleaned and shared in full, joyful lives dedicated to creating a peaceful world for ALL humans. The underlying theme is the strength of their relationship, out of which has flowed the love they share with everyone they meet.
I mentioned in a recent post that I had the pleasure of interviewing Alanna Moore on my Voices From the North program. Alannahas been a dowser/geomancer for 25 years and has specialised in making ‘Power Towers’ across Australia over the last ten years. She travels the world sharing her knowledge.
In the course of the interview Alanna passed on a few gems of interest and value that I’d like to share with you now:
She was first introduced to dousing while in London as a young woman. She had a three month old child who was quite unwell with congestion, upset tummy etc. As Alanna was a long way from the guidance and support of family and friends in Australia, she had to find a way on her own to help her son. She knew from fellow dousers that geopathic stress, especially in the sleeping location, could adversely affect health. She moved her son’s bed and he became well almost overnight.
Alanna teaches of the value of rock dust made of basalt (or dolerite) in reinvigorating mineral depleted soils. She also recommends little bags of rock dust on your person when in places of strong electromagnetic fields. Supposedly the rock dust attracts the electro-pollution to it, saving your body from many of the detrimental effects. So when sitting at your computer consider her advice.
She spoke of how some creatures, like bees, actually benefit from strong earth energies (geopathics) that would be harmful to humans. She mentioned a New Zealand beekeeper who always placed his hives over earth energy (ley line) crossings, thereby nearly doubling his yields of honey. He also found that the Varroa Mite that is decimating hives in New Zealand and abroad, does not grow in places placed directly over earth energy. This is anecdotal information, but any beekeepers would be advised to try it.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I recently interviewed Alanna Moore.
I’m now delighted to provide her interview for your listening enjoyment and education. Alanna Moore has been a dowser/geomancer for 25 years and has specialised in making ‘Power Towers’ across Australia over the last ten years, as well as divining for devic energy fields. She likes to focus on practical applications for healing Mother Earth. She is well known amongst the international dowsing fraternity for her magazine articles, books and films. Here’s the show. It’s an inspiring one:
Alanna explains what dousing is and how it can be used for good health in humans and in gardens. In a nutshell, dousing is an extension of our natural faculties and a tool to improve intuition. She described a study in Austria that linked behavioural and performance problems in school children to geopathic stress in the classroom or at home. Alanna suggested that beekeepers intent on having healthy hives and maximizing honey production would be best to emulate nature when choosing locations for bee hives. She tells a story of how a renowned douser outside of Belfast moved rocks around to balance energy in the area. The long awaited peace agreement was signed just after this.
Alanna’s book, Stone Age Farming, came out of research she did on ancient stone towers in Ireland. She describes permaculture and how it runs counter to the status quo together with it’s great recent success in Cuba encouraging food production within the cities. Some of Alanna’s other books include The Wisdom of Water and Back Yard Poultry Farming.
“In Search of Simplicity is a unique and awe-inspiring way to re-visit and even answer some of the gnawing questions we all intrinsically have about the meaning of life and our true, individual purpose on the planet. I love this book.”
Here John Haines describes having and recovering from spinal meningitis twice in his life—at the ages of four and twenty-eight. He goes on to speak of how his second encounter with this serious illness changed his perspective and his subsequent travels.
This is the beginning of a talk given by John Haines for the Mangonui Lions in New Zealand August 20, 2009 and includes a humorous Grizzly Bear story. At the end of this clip John asks of his audience, “Is life a random walk or is there a thread of meaning and synchronicity woven through our existence?”
Tune in to Synchronicity, Talk Radio for Your Mind, Body and Soul, the #1 Spirituality and Wellness Radio Show, when Marie Bernard interviews me on September 11th (yes, that’s the day) at 11:00 AM PST.
This show would appear to be a great fit since In Search of Simplicity is all about a five year synchronistic ride that took me all over the world, into the heart of life and ultimately to New Mexico to a place I’d never been to begin a life of practical self-sufficiency with Lucia, my wife-to-be.
The adventures in New Mexico and beyond are the subject of the sequel to In Search of Simplicity which is being completed now.