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Spring Equinox 2008

I am pleased to wish you a happy Spring Equinox! At 12:48 AM CDT, the sun crossed directly over the equator. From this point forward, our days will be longer than our nights, and the flowers and buds of Spring will be flowering and budding all around us. This is a time for new life, new hope, deep healing, and reawakening passions and pleasures. HOORAY FOR SPRING!

On a sadder note, I am dramatically less pleased to announce that today is also the 5th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. About 4,000 U.S. troops — our family, friends, and neighbors — have died in this war, and many thousands more have been wounded, permanently disabled, or otherwise harmed. I would cite how many Iraqis have been killed or wounded, but as the illustrious General Tommy Franks said, “We don’t do body counts.” The number of Iraqis killed and wounded, though, is many times higher than our own losses.

So take a moment, if you will, to bear witness to the horrors of war that have been unleashed and sustained by certain heartless men in Washington DC and their accomplices across the nation. Take a moment to mourn for the fallen, and take a moment to act in some way to ensure that this occupation will end, the killing will stop, and our family, friends, and neighbors will come home.

But once you’ve taken your moment to bear witness, and to mourn, and to act, remember that today is the Spring Equinox — a day of new life, new hope, deep healing, and reawakening passions and pleasures. Remember to be joyful on this day, because after all that the war mongers have already done, we must not let them take the joyful celebration of Spring away from us. This is not their day; this is our day, and this is the Earth’s day. Go outside, enjoy the warmth and the sunshine, and celebrate the fact that even with all of the troubles in the world, the land is still teeming with the exuberance and excitement of Spring.

Seize the Day! Spend time with the ones you love, explore the great outdoors, and enjoy all that life has to offer! This is our moment in the sun, and we should enjoy it while it lasts…

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Sunrise at Woodhenge (Cahokia): Sunrise at Woodhenge (Cahokia, near Collinsville, IL). Photo Copyright © 2005 Elizabeth A. Kassly. http://www.naturealmanac.com/archive/cahokia/equinox.htmlSpring is upon us! The days are longer; the snow is melting; the sun is shining; the temperature’s rising; and it looks like the worst of the winter weather has finally broken. As the sun and the warmth return to the land, I find my energy returning. My heart is filled with a new sense of hope, and my goals and visions and plans are returning to the forefront of my attention with a renewed sense of urgency.

Some of this rising inspiration is of a deeply personal nature. With spring in the air, my two most powerful personal drives right now are to run wild through the woods and to find a woman to join me in my search for a life filled with love and passion. But this ecstatic experience of life’s inherent beauty is also driving me forward in my visions for social, economic, and political action.

After all — if the people and the land have enough beauty and inherent worth to inspire me to poetic spiritual ecstasy, is it any wonder that they also inspire me to struggle passionately in their defense and service?

There are many ugly, terrible, horrific, almost unspeakable things in this world. But there are also many things of beauty, of wonder, of value, and of hope. At times, I let myself be stunned into despair or inaction by the former. But now, with the energy of the sun rising above me and the energy of the land rising beneath me, I feel like I’m riding on a tidal wave of passion and power, inspired by my sense of wonder to do whatever it takes to defend that which I hold dear.

Therefore, as Spring Equinox approaches, I feel inspired to issue a Call to Action.

Do you appreciate the beauty of the natural world? When you look into the eyes of your fellow human beings, do you see the potential, buried though it may be, for great freedom, great vision, great community, great harmony, great beauty? When you look out into your community, do you see the potential for people to open their minds and their hearts to the possibilities of a life of true freedom, true democracy, true harmony with each other and the land?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I call on you to join me in taking strategic non-violent direct action in the service of creating a better life for yourself, your community, and your world. In particular, I call on you to join me in seeking out what Gandhi and others have called the Constructive Program — the effort to further the goals of nonviolence, social justice, ecological integrity, etc. by creating communities and societies that actively embody and promote these principles.

I know that this may sound like a lot of work. And really, to be perfectly honest, some of it may involve the most difficult personal and social challenges that you’ll ever experience. But think of the sense of joy, the sense of wonder, the sense of excitement, the sense of personal growth and fulfillment you’ll experience when you’re finally living your life for something more than “just getting by”! Think of the tragedies that will befall us all if we take no action on issues such as war, oppression, climate change, and dependence on fossil fuels! Think of the rewards that will be ours if we really do manage to create dramatic changes in our lives, our communities, and our world!

If you don’t feel that there’s any hope left, or if you don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with the society that you live in, then you are welcome to continue with your usual routine. But if you feel that something’s gone terribly wrong with our social/economical/political/ecological relationships, and you feel that the problems can indeed be solved, and you feel that this world is indeed a place worth fighting for, then I urge you to join me in taking strategic non-violent direct action in pursuit of a more free, more democratic, more ecological, more peaceful, more liberated world.

I know I’m not alone in what I see and what I feel. I know that there are plenty of other people right now looking for some sort of positive change. And what I’m hoping for — what I’m calling for, and struggling for — is nothing less than a Surge of citizen action in the service of this change for the better.

If we don’t act now, the moment will be lost, and the old patterns of apathy, conformity, consumerism, and complicity will reassert themselves. But if we as citizens organize in the service of our shared social, economic, political, and ecological values, then we all have a shot at creating lasting change for the better. Therefore, I’m calling on everyone, myself included, to take part in a Surge of renewed inspiration and action while the light is at its brightest this year: from the Spring Equinox (March 19-20) to the Fall Equinox (September 22), a time when days are longer than nights and most people’s energy is at its peak.

So, where do we start?

I talk a lot about high-falutin’ ideals and visions and principles. And that’s all well and good when we’re looking for inspiration and direction. But when it comes time for action, we must start where we’re at — in this moment, in our current life circumstances, in our communities as they exist today, in the world that we have inherited from our parents and their parents. So, rather than try to outline my ideals of what a perfect society might look like, I’m going to mention a few specific projects or groups that I consider to have tremendous potential for creating positive change.

Your own way to create change for the better will be unique to you and will depend on your personal circumstances, beliefs, desires, dreams, skills, and so on. But the following list will show you where I’ve been looking to for inspiration and action, and where you may want to look for a starting point in your search for ways to make a difference. Even if you only devote an hour or two a week to one of these efforts, you will be a part of the Surge — and together, we can create a better world.

  • Free Soil. This is the latest incarnation of a project that I’ve wanted to jump start for several years now. I’ve talked it over with numerous people, but currently there is no set working group. The basic premise is to create an “ecovillage” or “intentional community” here in Southern Illinois. This community will contain a small number of long-term members (about 4 to 15) who live and/or work together on a regular basis; a significant number of people (10 to 20) who play a fairly active role in leading workshops, doing community service projects, etc; and a large number of people (20 or more) who stay in touch with each other to a degree and occasionally show up for events such as potlucks, workshops, games, parties, movie showings, field trips, etc. The goal of this project would be to gather social and economic resources together into a community of like-minded individuals where people could support each other in finding the inspiration, information, skills, and resources they need to create change in their lives and their community.
  • Project X. I’m working with two other people on a project that will combine computer technology with social activism in order to create a specific type of online resource that will be fun, dynamic, interactive, social, creative, and supportive of various social and ecological causes. This is currently a private project, though, until we get a bit further along with the details, at which point we’ll be looking for many people to participate. If you’d like to know more, let me know, and I’ll talk to my partners about it and see what I can do… 🙂 In the meantime, know that if I’m spending time on the computer rather than participating in an event, this may (or may not) be the reason why.
  • Student Environmental Center. SEC here at SIUC is doing some very important and exciting work right now. Among other things, they’re struggling to implement an ecological sustainability project called Eco-Dawgs on the SIUC campus. They’re also working on other issues such as addressing global climate change, exposing the myths of “clean coal,” and expanding the Saluki Cycles program. Perhaps most importantly of all, they are learning (and teaching) the basics principles and practices of strategic action that will ensure that their efforts are as effective as possible. This is a good group to work with right now, especially if you’re an SIUC student.
  • Gaia House. University Christian Ministries (UCM), the group that runs the Interfaith Center, has come up with the most innovative, promising, and inspiring eco-social project that I have ever seen in Southern Illinois. They are planning on creating “an environmentally sustainable living-learning community that is intentional, spiritually based, wholistically health oriented, globally multicultural, and fully supportive of academic and personal development.” Contact them to find out how you can get involved.
  • Southern Sustainability is a group that works on sustainability issues in Carbondale and Southern Illinois. Among other things, they are the hosts of the regional Heartland Bioneers conference. I am a member of their board, and I encourage anyone in Southern Illinois with an interest in ecological issues to check them out and see how they may be inspired to get involved.
  • Beyond the Heartland. If you don’t live in Southern Illinois, you may be wondering what places in your region are hubs of social and ecological activism. Well, to be honest, I really don’t know much of the political landscape beyond Southern Illinois. But luckily, there are plenty of ways that a resourceful person such as yourself can find these groups and projects. For example, try doing an internet search for any of the following terms that catch your eye, adding the name of your city, state, or region if you’d like to narrow it down a bit: permaculture, bioneers, nonviolence, renewable energy, independent media, direct democracy, feminism, reproductive justice, GLBT, co-op, intentional community, ecovillage, forest defense, culture jamming, cohousing.
  • There’s a lot of apathy, suffering, and oppression in this world that will fill us with doubt, despair, and defeatism if we let it get to us. But remember — action is the antidote to despair. And whether you are the wealthiest person in the world with infinite free time or an exhausted poor person on the verge of collapse, there is always some action you can take, big or small, that will improve your lot in life and help others to do the same.

    So, I encourage you — nay, urge you — to do what I did today. Go outside, take in the warmth and the light for a few moments, talk to someone who you love and respect, and use these positive outward experiences to rekindle and reawaken the inner spark that fills you with renewed inspiration and vision. No matter how good or bad you think you have it, once you reconnect with this inner spark, you will slowly but surely feel a shift in your life and find yourself awakening to the dawning of a new day.

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    Making a Comeback

    Spring Faerie by Ruth Sanderson. Available at StaticMoon.comI’ve been noticing once again that the themes of my spiritual life really do tend to fall into synch with the themes of the seasonal holidays. These past few months of harsh, cold winter have been like a trip into the underworld — and the coming of Imbolc has been like the return of my inner sun, rising to meet the springtime sun on the horizon.

    First, I’d like to say a bit about the winter.

    Those of you who don’t know me personally probably didn’t noticed much of a difference in me over the past few months. When I’m around other people, especially people I don’t know well, I tend to keep my troubles to myself and bring what good cheer I have to the forefront. So at most, you may have noticed that I wasn’t being as actively cheerful as usual.

    Really, though, my troubles went far beyond a lapse in my good cheer. I don’t know which came first — the chronic fatigue flare-up, or the low spirits — but often the two go hand in hand.

    I found myself less energetic, more achy, more prone to related symptoms such as irregular sleep patterns, light-headedness, moodiness, and an inability to focus. This, in turn, diminished my ability to work at my “day job,” much less the independent projects I hold dear.

    Going to work would exhaust me thoroughly, even on a slow day, and I would spend most of my free time recovering and resting. Then, just when I was starting to get back enough energy to work on the projects closest to my heart, it was time to go back to work again. This lead to a vicious downward spiral of frustration, depression, and despair — which do not mix well with the significant physical discomfort associated with an increase in chronic fatigue symptoms.

    So, for a while there, I lost myself in frustration and self-pity. I was still more than happy to cheer other people up, because helping other people to see the bright side in life is always a pleasure for me. But aside from scattered moments of joy that I found with the help of my friends and my spiritual path, my life took on a very despondent, almost desperate tone.

    I was tired, I was sore, I wasn’t making progress toward my goals, and I felt like I was a victim of a society that didn’t care enough to let a poor man rest for just a month or two while he catches his breath.

    But you know what? I have friends who respect and love me, and I have a spiritual path that inspires, educates, and transforms me. If I didn’t have any friends, and if I didn’t have the Goddess and God to guide me, I might have just stayed in that desperate place, believing that my life had spiraled beyond my control on a fast track toward failure. Instead, when Imbolc rolled around, bringing its lessons of the return of the light and the power of the inner sun, I felt something shift inside of me.

    And what a shift it was! The shift that took place in my inner landscape over the course of February was even more dramatic than the shift in the weather. When I awoke to a beautiful frozen Carbondale on a cold Tuesday morning, it was as though I had woken up in another world. The foot of solid ice prevented me from going to work, giving me an unexpected four day weekend with which to rest my ailing body and search my ailing soul. It also gave me a very visible and powerful outward opponent to struggle against, challenging me to summon a strength and courage from within that had all but died down to cold embers over the course of the winter.

    Now, as the ice thaws and the weather shows the first possible signs of spring, I too am thawing and shining. But I still have my work cut out for me.

    My renewed enthusiasm and attitude is already improving my health dramatically, but since I do have a serious chronic condition, it will take more than just enthusiasm and attitude to restore myself to full health. I will have to adjust my habits and channel that enthusiasm into the right balance of exercise and rest required to improve my health and fitness. Opinions on chronic fatigue / adrenal syndrome are mixed, but I feel that with time and the proper attitude and action on my part, I will be restored to full health. I’m already healthy enough to hike, to dance, and to ride a bike, so that’s a good start!

    My enthusiasm has also given me all sorts of renewed inspiration for the projects that I have lined up for the spring and summer. But first, I need to finish catching up with my “day job,” and I need to decide what projects I will work on in what order to make sure that this welcome flame of enthusiasm doesn’t burn me out again.

    So, there are still many challenges ahead. In fact, I might say that I have more challenges ahead of me now than I did during those long and difficult months when I contented myself with wallowing in my own misery and defeatism. But the good news is that I love a good challenge, and I can feel myself rising to meet this one.

    When I was feeling downtrodden and desperate, I kept looking for some sort of “deus ex machina” — the arrival of some unexpected opportunity or some guardian angel that would swoop down into my life and save me from the exhaustion, the poverty, the stagnation, and the despair. But instead, what I received was a quiet, simple, humble voice reminding me of the closing lines of the Charge of the Goddess:

    “If that which you seek,
    you find not within yourself,
    you will never find it without.

    “For behold,
    I have been with you from the beginning,
    and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.”

    In other words… look within yourself for the strength and inspiration that you need to succeed in your life’s journey. You are a divine being, and the magic that you’re searching for — the power to change your life and change the world for the better — is already deep within you. All that remains is for you to find that inner sun and let it shine.

    That was good advice when I first read it, and it’s still good advice today. I’ll have more to share soon… in the meantime, though, I’ve got to get going, because I feel inspired to go out into the world and shine.

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    My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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