RESOURCES FOR RESILIENCY

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.

REBECCA SOLNIT

I'm so sensitive to my surroundings that every eerily warm day sends me into a deep spiral. I used to dream of my future, relish in the vision of myself as a mama and grandmama. But now I am so afraid of going into the next year and the year after that given the uncertainty of climate change. I want time to move slowly. I don't want to get old. I don't want to ever know the loss of seasons or the hunger for rain. 

These fears consume me before bed each night. The last year has been nightmarish—from the Trump administration's efforts to prioritize short-term profit for the fossil fuel plutocracy to the devastating wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes that have ravaged ecosystems and exacerbated social injustice throughout the world. It can be so very hard to not get tangled in the murky depths of despair when destruction is a constant. To find the will to act, love, give, and grow takes bravery and resiliency and hope. 

My suffering isn't sustainable. And given that the world needs my "whole, hurting, and hopeful self" right now (shoutout to artist Molly Costello for that gem) cultivating resiliency feels like the sweetest form of self-care. Climate chaos is our new norm. But it doesn't have to be the world we inherit. We can choose to nourish our stores of resiliency so that when faced with crisis, we continue to find the opportunity to heal, rebuild, and protect. And we can choose to act in the belief that our passion, our persistence, and our radical commitment to regeneration can and WILL make a difference. 

Herewith, books to read, nonprofits to contribute to, and experiences to savor that are helping cultivate social & ecological resiliency. I want to continue to grow this list in collaboration with the Loam community so please do share your own resources for resiliency in the comments. We are living through unprecedented times and I believe deeply in turning to one another to find the power to build a livable future. 

 

BOOKS

BRAIDING SWEETGRASS by ROBIN WALL KIMMERER

This book has changed my life and the lives of many people that I know. In this soul-satiating read, Kimmerer interweaves indigenous wisdom, plant botany, and her experience as a teacher to create a blueprint for building a world that is rooted in reciprocity and reverence. Get this book now.

HOPE IN THE DARK by REBECCA SOLNIT

Solnit's book is a potent antidote to the "easy despair" so many of us are grappling with during these stormy days. By combing through history to offer us evidence of radical change against all odds, Solnit provides a dynamic body of proof that a just revolution is within reach. 

DRAWDOWN edited by PAUL HAWKEN

This inspiring read shares "realistic and bold solutions to climate change" from a diverse international coalition of researchers, climate scientists, and earth advocates. It's an informative, accessible, and engaging read that will give you hope in the power of crisis to spur real change. 

 

NON-PROFITS

THE LEAP

Inspired by the Leap Manifesto, The Leap works in the U.S. and Canada to coordinate actions, organize climate movements, and tell stories that inspire a regenerative relationship with the land. The Leap is working toward a RADICAL revolution in the systems that shape our political, social, and ecological culture and I'm so energized by their grounded-in-research vision for a livable future. Donate today or find a local Leap group in your community. 

MOVEMENT GENERATION

Through resilience-based organizing, the "Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project inspires and engages in transformative action towards the liberation and restoration of land, labor, and culture. We are rooted in vibrant social movements led by low-income communities and communities of color committed to a Just Transition away from profit and pollution and towards healthy, resilient and life-affirming local economies." To learn more about how you can bring the principles of resilience-based organizing to life in your own community, read here

THE COASTAL MARINE RESOURCE CENTER

Through projects such as Resilient Power Puerto Rico, CMRC works at the intersection of social and ecological justice to support climate-vulnerable coastal communities. I'm deeply inspired by their work and will will be donating 20% of profits from Permaculture in Practice thru November 24th to this vital initiative. 

 

EXPERIENCES

MAKE ART EVERYDAY

Art is an integral part of cultivating resiliency. Walk through the sweet world and gather fallen leaves to make a mandala. Play music with a friend. Cook up a meal that is almost too beautiful to eat. Create something everyday because it's our collective, combustive creativity that sustains the soul and feeds the resistance.

GROW A GARDEN

Even if all you have is a little windowsill to dedicate to a pot of herbs, do it! Growing a garden teaches us so much about the spirit of resiliency interwoven into the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that heal us. Plant something, watch it grow, talk with it, and learn from it.

LUNAR ADVENTURE

Take a full moon meander with each lunar cycle. Use it as an opportunity to pay attention to what's growing right where you are—the grass in between cracks in the sidewalk, the bugs crawling across plants. Resiliency is rooted in our willingness to dive into experiences that ask us to embrace the world wholeheartedly when it feels so much safer to be numb. A night walk always restores my spirit because it's a delicious break from routine. I get to hold and be held by the world from a new perspective and that truly shapes how I approach my work. 

BUILD WITH LOVE

WORDS & IMAGE: ERICA NEAL

Hello beautiful people.  I have truly enjoyed sharing inspiration and encouragement for building sufficiency and making hopeful progress.  Yet, even in the midst of all the positive outpouring, I have not been immune to the tumult and turbulence filling the newsfeeds on a daily (hourly?) basis.  Our family is not inoculated against the hectic fluster of summer’s-end trips, visits, and back to school preparations.  In short, this post almost didn’t get written because … life.  What do I mean by that?  Well, things haven’t felt very “homesteady” around here.  Late July and August in central Texas is the off-season for growing.  So the garden is fairly dormant.  We’ve been balancing budgets, making repairs and finishing home improvement projects, hosting family from out of town, visiting family out of town, crossing off lists, etc.  In all of this mundanity and hustle, thoughts of cultivating a homestead vibe have been beyond back-of-mind.  

However, there was a moment of pause when I realized that if we took all of our routines – the errands, the toddler soothing, the bread-breaking, wall patching and garden resting – and added more mason jar accessories, vintage lighting and a pastoral setting, it would all look and feel like homesteading.  And it hit me; that nagging mental hurdle of the romantic imagery vs. reality of sustainable living.  From time to time, that lush, dreamy and limiting version of homesteading in town or country hems up my enthusiasm and whispers doubts in my ear.  “You’re not living authentically enough.” “Buying plastic freezer bags and conventional produce? Shame!” “Four containers isn’t really a garden.” “Your effort isn’t enough to make a difference...why bother?”... Cue the defeated moping.  Why bother indeed?  

Fortunately, that last question rolled around in my head long enough that I decided to answer it and learn from it.  The simple fact is, we bother to live compassionately and consciously because we care.  We care about the impact our choices make beyond our home and our lifetime.  We care about the perspective that we instill in our kids.  We care about striving for generosity and rich community, about off-setting our consumption with contribution.  The list goes on.  And I think most of us can share that simple truth.  We care.  We didn’t decide to pursue this way of living because of social media feeds or home accessories.  Even if we aspire to greener pastures,  the heart of building sufficiency is living out our values in the everyday and adding more quality to our quality of life.  Establishing a level of sufficiency means finding ways to lessen our dependence on and participation in the disposable/ instant gratification culture.  It’s gathering more skills, forging more connections and making best use of whatever resources and abilities we have.  Most of all, it is a reflection of our love in the truest sense of the verb.  

All of our small, seemingly mundane choices and tasks are our love in action.


All of those small, seemingly mundane choices and tasks are our love in action. It is what we do, and how we engage with others, based on our values; not our feelings.  It takes the form of commitment, humility, compassion, patience, service, and ingenuity.  It means showing up whether the load is light or heavy with an offering of our selves.  And when we live out our values – choosing to care in a sea of apathy –  sometimes it’s bound to look like struggle and feel like defeat.  But don’t you dare believe that lie.  Your life, intentions, work and heart are a gift to the world; especially now.  If we ball up under the whispers of doubt because our lives fall short of an aesthetic, or imaginary measurement, we’re putting our light under a bowl in shadowy times.

So what’s the alternative? Breath deep, stretch out, and start by taking stock with gratitude.  If need be, take a break from digital space, and acknowledge all of the beauty in your immediate, real space without the distraction of comparison.  Pull out that personal narrative, journal, or any other documentation of your journey so far.  Be inspired by your progress or motivated to press on toward those goals.  Recognize and respect that the areas of interest, gifts and contributions to our brighter future will be as unique as every individual participating.  Make something beautiful, delicious, or both and share it with someone you love (even a faithful critter companion). Plant something literal or metaphorical and nurture it.  Most importantly, continue to cultivate the resolve to keep doing it, even when you’re not feeling it.  If we can put these principles into practice, one day we might look up and be surprised to see a mountain of progress that was built with love.   
 

ALL TOGETHER NOW

WORDS & IMAGES: ERICA NEAL

One of my favorite quotes about self-sufficiency is from plant breeder and author, Carol Deppe.  In her book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, she addresses the conundrum of human nature and the goal of self-sufficiency.  The conundrum is that humanity thrives in community but pursuing sufficiency can sometimes push people to extremes of striving for independence from community.  As a healthier alternative, Carol proposes interdependence:

In ordinary and good times, we don’t really seek true independence, but rather enough knowledge and skills so the we can build and hold up our end of honorable interdependence. … [W]e need the kinds of skills that allow us to be valuable  and contributing participants in honorable interdependence in both good and bad times.

  
The beautiful thing about this goal of mutual reliance is that it requires differentiation.  In the sufficiency movement, we often find comfort and strength in communities of like-minded individuals. However, in our most immediate communities – our partners, roommates, and families – we can’t always bank on equally shared passion.  While that might seem like an obstacle, I think it could be fertile ground for cultivating resilience.

My immediate community is a family of five.  Myself, husband, and three boys, age 6.5 and younger.  I could paint an image of my entire family sitting around the dinner table, enjoying completely organic meals, having thoughtful discussions about our sustainability efforts.  I could tell you that we so profoundly influence our boys' ideas, that they are growing into little conservationist clones of us.  But that would be a fat lie, and of no use to anyone.  In reality, our kids – even the toddler – are already so distinctly themselves, and they assert that individuality on a daily basis. They have favorite things, preferred pastimes and particular dislikes. Most of our meals are spent negotiating vegetable consumption and trying not to laugh while reminding them that we don’t tell potty jokes at the table. They are the riotous rhythm of our family.

My partner and husband is also a part of this circus.  And while we’re in this together, we do not have equal investment in every aspect of sufficiency.  He is a city boy through and through, loves technology, and thinks in pixels.  I’ve always had one foot in the woods, loved books and think in a tangle of stories about the past and future.  Admittedly, the idea of connectedness with nature, urban homesteading or building resilience was mine before it was his.  However, we found our common ground in compassion, a desire to be good stewards, and a conviction to place value in creating good things vs. constant consumption.  Once we agreed on the heart of our mission, we made space to learn together.  As simple as it sounds, communication, listening and openly accepting each other’s differences is what enables us to build.

What has evolved from this open and patient exchange, is interest-based involvement.  Rather than trying to get all of us on the same page at the same pace, we explore the entire book of opportunities and hone in on our favorite chapters.  I’m passionate about food, natural wellness, and building.  Mr. Pixels is fascinated by beekeeping, finding ways to reduce waste, and the potential for critters.  Big Brother doesn’t love dirt; but he’s our captain of water conservation and recycling.  Little Brother is my garden helper.  He loves checking on the plants, watering and almost anything involving cooking.  As for Baby Brother, we’re just happy that the he eats more vegetables than he tears out of the ground.  At this stage of life, this is our honorable interdependence – flexible and unifying. 

Could your work or journey benefit from more inclusion and latitude; more minds and helping hands?  For those of us who are used to getting things done on our own, who’ve gotten where we are because of our determined independence, it can be difficult to trust others with our vision.  A vision is its own kind of baby.  While they’re still in infancy, we guard them closely.  Though at some point, if we want to see them growing out in the world, we will have to rely on the help and wisdom of others.  At some point, we all need the village.  

In the work of building resilience and sufficiency, this principle of necessary connection and valued differentiation eliminates the sense that we and our households need to be completely self-sustaining.  Everyone isn’t going to be able to keep livestock or grow all of their groceries (and everyone shouldn’t).  No single person or micro-community will possess all of the knowledge and experience needed to be entirely self-sufficient.  So the only true means to achieve resilience in our homes and communities is to do it together – with a mutual respect for our strengths, patience with our weaknesses and supportive reminders that we’re all working towards a shared goal.  

With the elements of open communication, interest-based involvement, flexibility, and staying centered on the heart of the mission, we can all lay the groundwork for a stronger, resilient network of interdependent individuals, families, organizations etc..  We can engage younger generations in ways that foster their unique skills and inspire their own conviction. We can reach out to older generations with their wealth of knowledge and experience.  We can collaborate with our peers in ways that makes room for differing life paths and scheduling conflicts. A simple tweak in the language – inter- vs. in- – suddenly alleviates the pressure and the weight of complete self-reliance.  There’s nothing to prove by doing it alone and everything to gain by including others.  The best way forward is all together.   

EMBRACING PROCESS

WORDS & IMAGE: ERICA NEAL

By seeing our dream as a sum of smaller goals, our joy isn’t hinging on one sweeping lifechange.  This perspective nurtures the agility required to make progress in spite of uncertainty.  

 Either the most fulfilling or the most frustrating thing about pursuing passion is that it’s a journey without an ultimate end. Even when we finally accomplish what we set out to do, we have to figure out how to keep that thing going. And just to make life more interesting, our original goal might branch out into several unexpected, new ideas along the way. So we set our intentions. We craft a vivid narrative to inspire us. And then life comes along with its change-ups, demanding flexibility. How wonderful, and how exhausting it is to be on a path hewn by passion.  But romantic language aside, when our main focus is walking from arrival to outcomes, the exhaustion can easily outweigh the wonder. Fulfillment is often overshadowed by frustration.  I doubt anyone would willingly give up opportunities for wonder and fulfillment; but we do whenever we don’t recognize all the ways we arrive, before ever reaching our intended destination. That is the gift of embracing the process.

So much of our culture orients us towards celebrating outcomes.  Process has become a subject that’s meaningful in the context of a beautiful, dramatic, or inspiring success.  It's the “How did they do it?” question that we eagerly ask those who are where we aspire to be. And there’s value in that. We learn from the processes of those who have done what we hope to do.  However, there is also value in extending that same awe and curiosity to our own lives.  How have you gotten this far? What new habits or perspectives have you developed? What have you read and/or learned? This is your process. Pay attention to it.  Be grateful for all of the elements that have worked well, and all the ones that haven’t. When we learn from our own lives, it keeps us from being consumed by comparison.  

I know this because my family is not in the place or in the midst of circumstances that reflect our ultimate desire. We also deal with the temptation to measure our success and progress against others gardens, fields and charming low-impact lives.  However, when we consider our journey with gratitude, we realize that (setting and chickens aside) we are already living more of our dream than not.  We’ve been building sufficiency right alongside life’s surprises and challenges.  With that knowledge, a peace settles in that allows us to keep moving forward rather than getting stuck on the perception of lack or failure.  By seeing our dream as a sum of smaller goals, our joy isn’t hinging on one sweeping lifechange.  This perspective nurtures the agility required to make progress in spite of uncertainty.    

For example, in our first attempt at growing food, the greatest success was the bevy of ways I managed to kill plants. But by understanding that gardening was a skill that we would learn over time, the endeavor became about the learning process rather than a boast-worthy harvest.  This shift in perception is what kept us replanting again and again.  If we gave too much weight to the poor outcomes of our first season, we may have decided that growing food wasn’t really our thing, and quit.  The same is true for sewing, making a sourdough starter, or sketching house plans.  Multiple iterations, trials, and experiments … an immersion in process is what produced a fruitful second season,  delicious, crusty bread and shirts with restored buttons.  When we lessen the focus on outcomes, and dig into the details of the work we’re passionate about, we make more progress and are happier along the way. 

One of the most effective ways to foster all of this gratitude, shift in perspective, love for the details and process is to document our journeys.  Whether it’s a public feed, a private journal, a collection of artifacts, or a combination of multiple means, creating a record of our beginnings, lessons learned, the beauty and the struggle is like banking encouragement.  The truth is, most of us are forgetful while en route to a dream.  When the present confronts us head-on with disappointment or unintended results, we forget all of the good that preceded it. On the other hand, when we experience those moments that make us feel like champions, we forget all of the failures that came before the win.  Being able to recall our growth and story up to that point – good and/or bad – keeps the heart balanced.  There’s less room for crippling discouragement or the follies of pride, and more space for continued learning and growth.

Now, at some point we do want to actualize our dreams.  The practice of embracing process isn’t about consoling ourselves into complacency or justifying procrastination.  What it does is remove the angst that comes with being dissatisfied until we get everything aligned with our vision.  Embracing the process with gratitude sustains our pace. It channels our passion into persistence and productivity. It swaps our frustration and exhaustion for wonder and fulfillment.  And we have to move in that current; because the work, causes, and projects we’ve chosen will continue to grow.  As long as we care about creating magnificent resistance, that sense of destination will recede into the pursuit of more goodness. So let’s give ourselves the best odds for a joyful pursuit.              

A SUSTAINABLE NARRATIVE

WORDS & IMAGES: ERICA NEAL

Starting today, Erica Neal of Yellow Swing Garden will be sharing a four-part series on suburban homesteading, cultivating community, and nourishing sustainability. Erica's compassionate and experimental approach to living lightly on this earth—by caring for herself, her family, and her home—has truly inspired me. Herewith, Erica's first column. 

Life is wrapped in story—history, fiction, social media—it’s all a form of narrative. From cave paintings to films, humanity has used words and images to capture, communicate, and inspire life for millennia. On a personal scale, we aim to live lives that offer good stories in our golden years.  Whether grand or modest, we are creatures that crave a plotline.  
 
You might be wondering what this has to do with homesteading or environmental stewardship.  When you or I think about our passions and the good work we hope to accomplish, even that is a form of storymaking. Romance, resistance, reconciliation; regardless of the motivation, something sparks a desire within. However we set out to pursue that goal is the story. Yet we don’t typically think of our desires and decisions from the perspective of being a personal narrative. In the moment, we don’t always consider that our choices are writing our stories every day. And we should; because a powerful thing happens when we do.
 
When we set out to accomplish a goal with story in mind, we set intentions. We envision progress and challenges along the way to a stunning destination. We generate or gather imagery and language that invokes passion.  And most importantly, we create a space in our memory that can recall these vivid dreams when our hope needs help. Even a dream as simple as sustainable living deserves the support of a vibrant, intentional story.  
 
This is where our family started—looking forward, and imagining a story about our future. Before we had any idea of what reality would actually look like, we painted the broad strokes of the life we hoped for.  It was the talk that bubbled up over coffee on a Sunday afternoon, or drifted across the table during a casual evening out. In those loose, non-plans, there were seeds of conviction, beauty, and bigger-than-us ideas. I’m sure you know these types of conversations. Listen to yourself. Hear your friends. The things we discuss in those moments—be they joyful or conflicted—deserve our attention. That’s our heart speaking. That’s our protagonist quest.  
 
Our story was inspired by a passion for food quality and equity, green space, creativity, and family. Those were the adventures that called us; and we nearly had to draw our own map.  In 2007—2008, one in our immediate circle was talking about homesteading, sustainable food culture or pursuing a slower pace of life. We were all in our mid-twenties, battling burnout and working to establish ourselves in one field or another. So we had to find other sources of information, support, and ways to do fulfilling work. I left a toxic career for creative nonprofit work, moved into an even smaller studio apartment, and started scouring the internet for blogs or articles about sustainable living. We stepped outside of our immediate circle to find volunteer opportunities and reconsidered our buying and eating habits.  Each of those choices—the life changing and the lunch changing—were the growth of earlier ideas, the product of our personal narrative.
 
Even today, with the widespread knowledge of threats to our environment and communities, organizations dedicated to each of them, and the connective power of social media, it’s possible to find yourself without an immediate support system. Your family and friends might think of building sufficiency, or living lighter as completely backwards, or just a passing trend. You too may need to draw your own map and step outside of familiar environments to find the way forward. In 2017 that first step might be curating your social media feed(s), and being more mindful of the content you consume on a daily basis. Make new connections within and beyond our physical communities. Whatever the means, establish influences and outlets that feed your goals.  
 

The next elements are patience and adaptability. Living is a creative process, not a “To Do” list.  Therefore, we’re not likely to move along a path, reaching each checkpoint free of obstruction.  So brace for interruptions and breathe in patience. Patience makes it possible to persist when life demands immediate responses in place of our story-driven choices. And while that waiting time may feel like a pause or lack of progress, it’s actually a point in the journey that creates space for reflection or new ideas. Allow yourself to be frustrated. Then adapt, edit, edit and get moving again. We can repeat this process as many times as necessary, as long as we don’t give up.
 
Finally, we set intentions, craft visions of beautiful futures, and keep moving forward. Take full advantage of the present.  It can be tempting to go from story as inspiration to story as trap.  “When I get to X place, I’ll do Y.  When we have Y, we can do Z.” There are too many pathways on the way to sufficiency to ever truly be stuck. If you don’t have space to grow your own food, learn to preserve, ferment, or bake from scratch. If you can’t build a tiny house just yet, cultivate skill through volunteer construction opportunities. Support an organization you believe in until you can start your own.
 
One of the most revolutionary components of building sufficiency and living sustainably is that no one can actually stop us. No regulation, setback, HOA, or government administration can completely stop us from making choices that will create positive impact in our lives and the world.  The only thing that can stop us, is us. And risk of quitting increases without an established mission and motivation… without a powerful story.   

 

LOAM IS LIVE

LOAM IS LIVE!

From interviews with revolutionary agroecologists to immersive herbalism guides, Loam: Permaculture in Practice is both a celebration of sustainable living and a call to radical action. Searching for strategies to embody hope? Want to learn how to eco dye? Eager to build a thriving garden? Consider this luscious issue of Loam a vital resource in your pursuit of love-filled and world-building experiences. 

We are SO excited to share this gorgeous issue with you all, loamy loves! Flipping thru this work of art brings me wild hope and joy. Our contributors—from Adriana Moreno of Moonshadow Goods to Saqib, Jocelyn, and Sita of People's Kitchen Collective to ceramic artist SiouxBean—have helped give life to a truly special guide to arts as activism.

Snag a copy today to support artists and activists making waves in the environmental movement(s). There is so much power in the people. 

PRE-ORDER LOAM: PERMACULTURE IN PRACTICE

We are so excited to share that the latest issue of Loam is now available for pre-order. We're exceptionally proud of this magazine, and in awe of the many activists, artists, makers, and movers who have contributed their fiery spirit, radical art, and ideas for building a better world to Permaculture in Practice

This issue of Loam is particularly rich in stories of resilience, herbal how-tos, and strategies for sustainable living. From exclusive content from the folks at The Tiny Mess to an interview with local food advocate (and professional surfer) Cyrus Sutton to a vibrant photoessay on the People's Kitchen Collective, our magazine truly is a toolkit for radical change in the guise of a work of art. We hope that this baby "book" will be something you can treasure for years to come, as we work together to cultivate a resilient environment and heal our precious earth. 

PROJECT RELENTLESS JOY

WORDS & COLLAGE: KATE WEINER

Joy doesn't betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.

Rebecca Solnit

Rad author and activist Rebecca Solnit is inspiring to me for a million and one reasons. But I'm especially grateful to her because reading her words from Hope in the Dark gave life to my mantra for 2017: relentless joy.

Like many of you, I'm wracked with anxiety about our planet and our politics in the coming year. The last few weeks, I've felt afraid to celebrate, to adventure, to embrace, because it's too damn sad to be wildly in love in this world when I'm so worried about losing her. I know, I know—it's stupid. But lately my turbulent heart has craved mindless distraction. 

Reading Rebecca Solnit's words reminded me that existing numb and neutral to the world isn't where it's at. I can't fight Trump, can't do the good work that needs to be done to heal our earth, if I'm spending my evenings curled up inside. I want to be a body in this world, baby! I want to be full of joy and daring and dreaming.

So my mission for the new year is to fearlessly pursue happiness. I'm going to throw a feast for friends for my birthday next week and travel to snow-kissed hot springs with my beloveds and plan an epic hike on Inauguration Day to counteract all that sadness with relentless joy. This isn't a call to pledge blind allegiance to happiness because it's healthy—hell, it's necessary—to experience anger, frustration, and sorrow too. Rather, it's an opportunity to give myself permission to celebrate the thousand and one beautiful things that are growing gorgeous in this world even in spite (or maybe because of) all the shittiness. 

Relentless joy is a radical act right now. How are you, sweet creature, going to party?