If you recall, we took down a beautiful mimosa tree that we thought had died over the harsh winter; but it hadn’t died, we discovered afterwards.
Or maybe it had. Not sure. A local horticulturist told me about ten days ago that none of the local mimosa trees had leafed out this spring.
Oops! Then, two evenings ago, I decided that, as a co-founder of the Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage, I would attend an evening potluck for another local intentional community initiative, Bloomington Co-housing, to celebrate passage of their project by the City Council. And while there I discovered that a mimosa on their property had leafed out. Granted, it was in a very protected area. But. . . Okay. Back to “feeling guilty” for having murdered, or at least too-hastily cut down, our precious mimosa.
Speaking of yucky feelings, that same afternoon, Danny the co-founder of Dandelion, the third (and final, so far) (all of them still “forming”) cooperative living initiative within Bloomington, rode up on his bike. I invited him in for a cup of tea. Like our envisioned neighborhood-turned-ecovillage, Danny told me of the struggles Dandelion has been having. We talked about the importance of absorbing and integrating all the shadow-stuff that comes up when manifesting visionary community projects like ours. Those clear and strong visions — as they interact with both squirrely (especially idealistic young) people, and entrenched attitudes (of especially older people), plus the sometimes seemingly nonsensical vagaries of city and cultural codes — tend to get cloudy. Some visions even fade away in the mists of might-have-been. And then we are tempted to turn cynical. And pretend that “nothing ever changes,” when we know full well that another more caring, cooperative, sharing world is possible. We’ve seen it; we can taste it. It’s there, in front of us. All we have to do is reach — and keep reaching, no matter what.
At the co-housing event that evening, while talking with one prospective member of their community, I exclaimed in a strong, low tone that in my long history of experimentation with various cultural and political edges, I’ve learned that the three most important qualities needed to affect social change in the long run are vision, determination, and flexibility.
Oh! I didn’t even realize that I thought this, until I said it.
And now, on reflection I’d say yes, all three, and I would add, equally.
I mention this encounter because just today a situation developed here which required all three in me in order not to get “discouraged,” and in fact, not only that, but in order to process a feeling of “shame.”
Hmmm. Shame? Why that? For that is what I noticed in myself, after an encounter on the phone with the man, a contractor who is replacing a “tear down” house about four blocks away in this neighborhood. I had walked by the job with puppy Shadow one morning, and expressed interest in the dirt they had excavated for the new basement. Told him about the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden, and how we were making a large new hugelkulture bed —
— about four blocks from his construction site. He seemed very friendly, and told me he would make sure that I got some dirt.
A week ago or so, he called and said he had the excavator there and could bring me one large scoopfull. Unfortunately, I had to say that we weren’t ready yet, that our chain saw to cut the wood was being repaired. Asked him about Monday or Tuesday this week. Said we’d be ready by then. “I’ll make sure you get some,” he replied.
So. In anticipation of the coming dirt, over the weekend and yesterday we cut up the wood and piled it next to the old stump in my front yard.
Here’s the photo of the stump as “eyesore” from an earlier post.
And here’s the result now, including the cut up mimosa tree, and chunks of another tree that had hovered too close to the new solar array on the other house of this two-house combo. (We will rebuild the low rock wall on the left now scattered on the grass.)
Here it is, closer-up, from my porch steps. See the trunk still peeking up?
At this point, some might call it even a greater “eyesore” now than before. Kind of looks like we’re ready to set a large bonfire, eh?
Just prior to getting dirt on it, we’ll fill up holes with office paper and newspapers, maybe some cardboard. Were we to do that now, it would look really gross. And while I don’t care, I know some neighbors might. After all, we are doing this urban farmstead in town, where different aesthetics prevail — so far. And we do try to be sensitive to others.
Given how the barenaked hugelkulture log pile now looks, needless to say, I was anxious to get that dirt, which we were going to use as a bottom layer, then put composted soil and manure on top of that. To get a large shovelful was such a great idea, because it could just be dumped on top and spread down equally.
So, this afternoon I called his cell phone, and told him, quite excitedly, that we were ready for him. “Oh that? He replied. “The excavator is gone.”
Click! He actually hung up on me. I was astonished. He had seemed so nice, and accommodating, and it was so great to be working with a contractor in the neighborhood to help out our garden project.
But what interests me here is the feeling of “shame” that overcame me. I’ve often noticed this, how a person whom another person treats badly is the one who feels the shame rather than the person who did the deed and should be ashamed of themselves!
It’s really strange how that happens, how the “victim” takes on the feeling that should be the other person’s! So often I’ve seen this, especially in domestic violence situations.
Okay, so here I was, in that same position, feeling not only victimized but shamed! Not that I “blame” him for what he did. I sense that he just didn’t know how to deal with my disappointment, and so he did what he does when he wants to get rid of a situation, he just clicked off. Unskillful action and attitude, dontchathink? And yet, how often have I done the same thing, or something similar?
As I sat here, noticing the feeling of shame take me over, from the inside out, starting in the stomach. This behavior was something I just “couldn’t stomach;” yet my emotional reaction to it was inside me, and I could feel it creep up to my face as a hot red embarrassment.
Weird. there was no one here to see me, to notice how I had been treated, by this voice on the phone; no one to commiserate with me or else nod their head with an “I told you so, men are evil” or “people can’t be trusted” kind of remark.
Yep! I didn’t even need a witness to feel embarrassed! That’s how deeply ingrained in me is the cultural attitude that attends this kind of unskillful give and take between two people, strangers admittedly, but who have struck up a kind of temporary alliance.
This small incident illustrates the kind of obstacle that we face in doing any long-term visionary project. A tiny obstacle, admittedly, but one that, if I didn’t consciously notice how “it made me feel,” I might have used to stop myself in my tracks, give up the project as unworkable: “nothing will ever change; people are assholes.”
No way. People are not assholes. Not most of them. Though they — correction, we — are unskillful much of the time. It’s up to us to change that, by becoming aware of both our interactions and our internal visceral responses when things don’t go as expected, or even when, as here, we receive what feels like a “slap in the face.”
Now what. Obviously, the third quality mentioned above must come into play here. Not just vision, and determination, but flexibility. How shall we obtain this needed fill dirt to get our large hugelkulture bed to the next step in its journey to become a beautiful spiralling herb garden?
I open to the universe and await her reply.