PHOTOS: JESSE LIEMAN-SIFRY
PHOTOS: JESSE LIEMAN-SIFRY
PHOTOS: JESSE LIEMAN-SIFRY
WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER
Excited to share a few snapshots from my recent camping trip. It was such a treasure to sleep in a redwood grove and walk across coastal trails papered in wildflowers and sink my teeth into garlicky oysters harvested by hand from the Tomales Bay. And although there's so much to say about the sweetness of sleeping under the stars every night for a week and spending time with family and friends, I've struggled to write this travel essay since returning home. Maybe because all I want to say—to do, really—is to give thanks.
So thank you tall trees. Thank you ocean breezes. Thank you flowering farmsteads by the side of the road and golden sunsets dipping across the Pacific. Thank you to my Dad and thank you to the land, for making magic out of soil and stardust.
When despair for the world grows on me, and I wake in the night at the least sound, in fear of what my life or my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the still water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things, who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. I feel above me the day blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER
I'm writing this from my little balcony overlooking the creek. I'm moving soon, to a new home with an overgrown backyard, and I'm excited for the beauty that will bring. But I'll miss my mornings watching the water ripple past. I'll miss sitting in the shade and sipping my tea and writing in my linen bound journal and reading from my luscious stack of library books.
This "mundane" morning ritual is how I rest in the grace of the world. And I've needed that lately. Overwhelmed by doomsday news, hot summer days, and a perpetual thirst for rain, I've struggled to be still. The fear that runs through my head, persistent as a ticker on a TV news channel, is that because of climate change, if I'm not living my best life right now, I'll never have the chance. I've talked about this strange sense of despair before—the fear that I don't have time to wonder or figure stuff out or mess up because things are falling apart. I've talked about how that anxiety makes me impatient with my own becoming and shortsighted with others. When I'm wrapped up in that reptilian fear, I look at my life—working a part-time job, living in a little city, writing my book—and wonder is this the absolute best it can be? Shouldn't I be doing more? Traveling the world? Falling in love? I'm no longer happy with the everyday graces of my own life because I'm lost in the infinitely frustrating world of hypotheticals.
At some point during your journey as a steward of the earth, you have to choose whether you are going to live in suffering or in joy. I've been suffering so much lately. I grieve deeply for everything we are losing, fear hugely for my own life and that of the younger kids in my life. I carry my sadness with me as I get groceries and break bread with friends and because of that, my blueness has grown into its own kind of comfort. It's so familiar to me I think of it as inevitable.
My antidote to the climate crisis is to find moments that make me come alive. I've had it in my head that the only way to truly feel that sense of wild, luscious, rampant living is to dive into an adventure abroad before climate change irrevocably changes the places I've always dreamed of visiting. But by fastening my joy to only one path, I'm sustaining my suffering.
And I want that to change. Something about moving homes has reawakened in me a desire to shake up my life, to be disciplined about creating joy and cultivating moments of connection. I want to celebrate the everyday adventures. I might not have a car that makes treks to the wilderness easy but there is wild right where I am. There are birds building nests by my balcony, trees stretching their branches. What about suffering do I think will bring me closer to the truth? I've learned from experience that giving myself permission to delight in the simple things helps me feel most at home in my body, most alive in the world.
So here's to the everyday adventures. To falling in love with my morning walks along the creek path, to enjoying my bike ride home from work when the sun is starting to set and the foothills are wrapped in an amber gold glow. Here's to the perfection of walking through a field of wildflowers with my friends, of going to the farmers' market and delighting in the beauty of abundant barrels of squash, eggplant, watermelon. Here's to spending most of my life biking within a five mile radius of my house and still finding moments of aliveness in the beauty of a verdant side garden or the sweetness of a birdcall or the tender grace of watching the storm clouds transform into a healing rain.
I'm so tired of suffering. Of wishing everything were different and of thinking if it was, then, only then, I could be happy. I want to be wildly in love with my life right now. And lucky for me, it's a choice I can make as I sit on my balcony and listen to the water rushing past and rest in the grace of the world.
WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER
I recently returned from a short and sweet Artist-in-Residency at Woodland Keep, a creative space on the luscious Lopez Island that's run by the rad Demetria Provatas. I spent several days working on my book, Hope Embodied, and hiking my way through the wildflower fields, dense woods, and moon bright beaches that map the island.
For most of us, space to just be is rare. It wasn't easy for me. I thought I was good at being alone but every night, I'd find myself gravitating toward my phone to check in with friends. I loved the space to truly dig into my book but I also worried if it was selfish for me to do so. I wouldn't be doing what I do if I didn't believe deep in my bones that Loam is growing some good in this world. And yet, having this magical space to think in, dream in, and write in was such a luxury I wrestled with a sense of guilt. My favorite thing about Loam is the opportunities it brings to collaborate with world-building artists and activists. Was it okay for me to be taking the space to work on something that was just for me in this moment?
The answer is yes—it's important to always remember that any experience that nourishes us has the capacity to nourish others as well. I'm sharing this struggle only because I think that these are the kinds of questions that many of us are grappling with as movers and makers. With the world plunged into sociopolitical and climate crisis, we know that our art is especially vital. But giving ourselves permission to fully explore our music or writing or painting—whatever it is that moves us—can feel like an indulgence. Even though I write about arts as activism every week on Loam, It's hard for me to accept that my art can be activism. I have many friends who are feeling this same way.
Reflecting on my residency makes me thankful for the daily graces that Woodland Keep gifted me. Herewith, a few treasures I am taking home from my time at Woodland Keep. I hope one of these small steps will inspire you to cultivate heart-healing practices in your every day too.
MAKE A MANDALA
One of my favorite hikes on the island took me through a dense cluster of woods toward a beautiful beach. I loved walking through a pathway latticed in shadows and into a beautiful stretch of driftwood and sand and shells. Everywhere I went, I kept finding these gorgeous purple shells that reminded me of moons.
Later, when I was curled up at Woodland Keep writing, I would take a break and make a mandala. There was a little altar at the Residency, mapped by offerings from past Residents, and I would gather these offerings, my shells, and a few sticks and make a beautiful mandala. Then I'd put everything back where it belonged and return to work. Making daily mandalas reminds me that the process is beautiful and nothing is permanent and that's a mantra I truly need as an activist.
WAKE UP IN NATURE
During the weekend I took a news detox. Instead of waking up and scrolling through the NY Times as I do most mornings, I went for a walk outside. The joy those morning strolls brought me deepened my resilience throughout the day. I've realized that even on those days when I do delve into the news, my very first step should be waking up and walking through the natural world. I so often hike at the end of the day, as if it's something earned. But a hike is a gift I want to bookend my day with.
SIT WITH DISCOMFORT
Working on a project you are passionate about can be uncomfortable. There's so much risk! And realizing your reliance on technology can be unsettling. I can go days without a phone but not if I'm on my own.
As uncomfortable as encountering these truths about myself were, this instability is essential to my growth. My mission is to learn how to sit with discomfort—and not to run from her—to find out what I can learn from my own shortcomings.
EMBRACE YOUR ART
As I mapped out the first few chapters of Hope Embodied, I felt myself coming closer to a deeper understanding of where I want to take Loam this year and how I can work with our incredible community to continue to inspire tangible climate action. I felt true pride in my work. And that's something we all should seek! Embrace your art, give yourself permission to pursue your passions. And know that you will always have the Loam community to support you.
WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER
I recently wrapped up a two-week Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course. It was the kind of life changing experience that I'm still absorbing. I loved learning about holistic land management and greywater systems. I loved finding a crew of people who are as passionate as they are playful. I loved exploring strategies to really do what I dream; to build, bit by bit, a world that heals and not harms. And I loved the mornings when I'd walk with my friend to the icy cold pond and watch the sun slowly light the trees.
As our incredible network of contributors explores in Loam: Permaculture in Practice, permaculture is tense territory. Mainstream permaculture teachers routinely credit Bill Mollison and David Holmgren (two white men) as the co-creators of permaculture. This invisibilization of the indigenous communities who have shaped permaculture across centuries is an act of incredible social and ecological injustice. As practitioners of permaculture, it's vital that we work to challenge the colonization of indigenous wisdom.
In some ways, my course confronted these tensions. We listened to an incredible lecture from Carla Perez of Movement Generation whose words revolutionized my world (as Perez argues, if it's the right thing to do, we have every right to do it). And in some ways, my course didn't. The vast majority of our teachers were white and we didn't have dedicated class time to digging deep into the problematization of permaculture.
I wrestled with these contradictions throughout the course and continue to! But I think the gift that these dissonances gave me is an understanding of what it's like to exist at the intersection of a great rift and still find opportunities to regenerate and renew. My PDC course granted me the opportunity to inhabit imperfect action; to recognize the struggles in this movement, search for the possibilities in permaculture, and cultivate the capacity to decolonize my way of thinking and change my way of living. I am so enormously grateful to the many teachers—animal, vegetables, and minerals—who made my PDC a rich foray into reimagining the world I'm in.
The most tender moments throughout my stay were in nature. Soaking up a starry night sky. Rubbing a soft leaf of lambs ear against my cheek. Digging into a bowl of edible flowers mapped by blue borage and golden calendula. Diving stark naked into the pond with friends and coming up for air in a sudden swoop, electrified and shivering and laughing. I grew up steeped in the outdoors but my life has been localized more and more in relationship to screens. It felt soul-nourishing to be far from that blue light, to be where I always dream I am during restless workdays.
Leaving the course was so hard. I didn't want to say goodbye to learning something wild and wondrous every hour of the day. I knew I would miss my new friends, whose passions—for tracking, homesteading, gardening, and art—filled me with such hope for humans. I loved walking through the North Garden in the sweet spring rain and watching the buds transform into blooms. I cherished the nights we spent gathered around the fire, listening to music and laughing; and the nights when we partied in the big barn, silly dancing and sipping on wine. I'm lucky to live in a city alive with trees and sprawling parks and thriving community gardens. But it was so special to not hear cars chasing pavement when I went to sleep.
Now that I am home, nestled in my bed, surrounded by my plant babies, I am searching for opportunities to sustain this energy and sense of resilience. On our last day of class, we talked about small steps we could take to ease our transition. Mine was to repot my snake plant Bianca. I haven't done that yet, but I did buy a set of watercolors from my favorite local art supply so I could paint the places and plants that give me life.
I still don't know where I want to take this sweet fireball in my soul. But I do know the questions that will guide me: How can I live in a way that restores interconnected ecosystems? What tangible actions can I take, every damn day, to sustain the natural beauty that fills my heart whole? How can I work with others to transform our destructive narrative toward a story of regeneration? It is so easy to fall apart at the tragedies that flood through our world every day. But paralysis is a luxury. And so long as I have this present moment, I want to do everything I can to make the systems that shape our world more just and compassionate and abundant.
WORDS & IMAGES: RACHEL FRY
If I had to choose two words to describe the March on Washington and the people walking the streets of Washington D.C. that day, I would choose the words kind and fierce. There was not a single arrest in Washington D.C. on January 21, 2017 and I can’t help but think that largely attributed to the event being executed by women. I was continually taken aback by the kindness I experienced from others at the March. Whether it was someone accidentally bumping into me and immediately apologizing, or a stranger giving me his extra metro pass when mine had run dry of money. People were kind. But they were also laser focused on their mission. I saw this fierceness throughout the crowd all from behind my lens. The emotions were pouring from people’s faces. They were angry, upset, hurt, but nevertheless they showed up. They were there with their signs and their pink pussy hats. I often looked into the crowd and would make eye contact with individual faces. We would lock eyes and in that short exchange we shared an unspoken conversation, one where we said that this is not OK and that we are not going to stand for this. It was the most connected I’ve ever felt with complete strangers in an event of that magnitude.
This was also my first protest. I went with family friends who used to protest during the Vietnam War days. They said they had never seen that many people at a single protest ever. One of the most impactful exchanges I had that day was when I was waiting in line at the bathroom of the pizza place we dined in after our legs could no longer move. A guy standing in line wearing a pink pussy hat turned to me and said “Thank you for coming to the March today”. I was completely surprised by his comment and replied, “No, thank you for coming”. I told him that it was inspiring to see so many men at the protest. His response was simply “It’s our duty to be here”.
I am proud to have been a part of that epic day in history. Fine Art Prints from the March on Washington are available through the link below. All proceeds are being donated to ACLU.
IMAGES: LIZZY ELLIOTT
WORDS: KATE WEINER
Nestled in Sonoma County, the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) is an oasis rich in inspiration for building a better world. The 80-acre research, education, and advocacy center is mapped by a thriving plant nursery, lush garden, seed saving bank, and a network of tiny homes powered by solar energy. And it's entirely water self-sufficient in a state that's been plagued by drought for nearly a decade. Pretty damn amazing.
When I first visited OAEC, I was filled with excitement at their pioneering sustainability projects as well as a profound sense of coming home. So many of the dreams that I've harbored for how to live in this world are at play in this community of creatives, farmers, ecologists, and herbalists. Over the course of the day, I joined the volunteer crew to uproot beds for new beginnings in the spring and giddily checked out California's first permitted compost toilet in Sonoma County. I visited the yurts where students at OAEC sleep during crisp Northern Californian nights and savored a local lunch in the shade of an oak. These fleeting moments of communion and co-creation sustained me for days after.
OAEC will be featured in our next issue of Loam (you can pre-order a lovely copy of your very own here). But we wanted to share a filament of their story with you because this game changing community center will be guiding three Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) courses this year. These two week-long certification courses are an immersive foray into how to live in a way that truly heals our earth. In the face of global climate change, learning the skills to not only survive but to thrive will be essential.
As OAEC writes:
Permaculture is a design process – based in observation and systems thinking – that enables people to create ecologically sustainable and socially just human settlements based in natural patterns and processes. At OAEC, we apply permaculture as a community-based endeavor in which groups craft their own regenerative living systems beneficial to themselves and the particular ecological and cultural systems in which they are nested.
So if you are searching for a way to embody hope this year—to back up your vision for a better world with concrete tools for change—consider investing in a PDC course. It's on opportunity to enrich yourself, your community, and our earth.
SPRING PDC March 18th-31st
SUMMER PDC July 15th-28th
FALL PDC September 23rd-October 6th