The smell of rain

Here in Cañon del Chicamocha, the rain tends to come up the valley from the south. Quite often, we can see the lightning, hear the thunder in the distance, and see it further down the valley.

If there is lightning, thunder, and the visuals, it doesn’t always come all the way here. But if I smell it, it seems more likely to arrive. I guess it’s because the smell means that the wind is towards us and stronger.

Last night, I smelled the rain in the evening and it arrived around 3 am.

I love that I can smell the rain before it comes. I love the smell of rain (petrichor). I love learning about and experiencing these patterns in nature.

The photo is of the rain further down the valley seen from this area, taken a couple of years ago when we stayed at the house of friends.

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Water in Barichara

Barichara has wet and dry seasons. The dry season is usually December-April, with two or three good rains within that period. Some years, it rains a lot through the year. In other years, the dry seasons last longer.

We are in the dry season and just had a very welcome early morning rain here. I measured it, and it was around 5cm. I imagine many beings are very happy for it – people, animals, birds, insects, and plants.

The roof of our small house is about 100m2. 1mm of rain on one square meter gives 1 liter of water. 1mm of rain on this roof is 100 liters. This rain gave 5,000 liters of water from the roof. That’s quite a lot.

There is no lack of water here, and it is important to manage it well.

FINCA MILAGROS

We collect water from town in one large and one smaller tank. That means we have water for a while even if the water from town doesn’t flow.

We will install a several-step water filtration system (from sand filter through eventually UV light) for clean drinking water. The alternative is water from large plastic bottles, which is terrible due to all the microplastic particles in the water (200,000 in small plastic water bottles from a recent study).

We will soon start collecting rainwater from the roofs here. I am not sure how big the tanks will be, and we may expand. For now, we are thinking of 2×15,000 liters for the larger house that’s being built (220m2 roof surface) and one 15,000-liter tank for our small house. These tanks will be filled up quickly with some good rains, and we will use the water to water plants. (Perhaps also for showering etc., not sure yet.)

Finca Milagros has one large pond and 3-4 smaller ones. We want to channel rainwater better into these ponds, and make them deeper, so they can hold more water. This is important for the birds, animals, and insects relying on that water, it helps the vegetation and life in the areas around the ponds, and it also helps to replenish the groundwater.

The land here has been grazed so only the area around the big pond has a more mature forest. The rest is various degrees of young forest and arid land. Vegetation helps slow down the flow of water and helps the water absorb into the ground, so that’s one of many reasons we are planning to reforest the area with native trees and bushes.

Bare soil is eroded when it rains. That’s why we are planting cactus and succulents there, mostly native. We are also planting hardy native trees there, mostly boca ratón right now. And we are doing some simple landscaping, mostly with rocks, to reduce erosion.

There is a dry river going through Milagros. It’s dry because of deforestation. Forests bring water into the ground (slows the water flow and makes the ground more porous) and reduce evaporation, both of which give water to the river. With reforestation, there is a chance we can bring the water back into the river, especially if we are also able to help reforest the land higher up.

BARICHARA

As far as I know, there are no groundwater regulations here. That’s enormously important. We need to prevent too much use and contamination of groundwater. (Many houses here use septic fields that leach blackwater into the groundwater.) Depleting the groundwater reserves has a huge impact on the ecosystem. Both depleting and contaminating it has serious and devastating consequences for the very long term. Protecting the groundwater is hugely important.

The water that comes from the municipality (aqueduct) is contaminated. That’s another important thing to work on since not everyone can afford good purification systems or to buy drinking water separately. It’s a vital public health issue.

Reforestation is also hugely important. Forests hold humidity and create rain. The other side of Cañon del Chicamocha has more forests and there are always clouds there. I assume they also receive more rain. They (partially) create rain for themselves.

The photo is of the other side of Cañon del Chicamocha at sunset

agua, barichara, santander, agua subterránea, protección del agua

A day at Finca Milagros

This is a record of a relatively typical day at Finca Milagros:

I slept in the hammock under the trees and the stars, woke up at sunrise, and had breakfast. (Hot chocolate and oatmeal with fruits and local jam.)

Two people who have a rain gutter business came around 6:30am, looked at the roof, talked with us, and we made an agreement for what type of gutter and the price. They’ll have it ready by mid-February.

We will also install one or two tanks to collect the rainwater. The roof is a little less than 100m2 which means that each millimeter of rain will give us 100 liters of water. A good rain may give us 5cm which means 5,000 liters of water1. We may have at least one 15,000-liter tank to collect the water, maybe more.

Just after 7am, José brought Spanish plum trees from his farm and planted them here for us. (Arbol de cocotas / jocota / Spanish plum / Jamaican plum / spondias purpurea.) He showed us how to plant them at an angle so they shade themselves from the sun. He is one of the workers on Roberto’s house up the hill (the father of my wife) and has helped us with a few other projects.

At 9am, Moncho the carpenter came. (Who we already know since this is a small community.) He looked at the doors and windows, and we made a list of several things for him to fix and improve. He’ll come next week to do the work.

Later in the morning, we planted a diversity of seeds and seedlings in a couple of areas close to the house. We added a lot of mulch to help keep the moisture in the ground. I also put some spiny branches on the stone fence so the neighbor’s cows won’t get to a papaya plant growing too close to the fence.

I contacted several neighbors for advice about the size of the rainwater tanks. I also contacted several people about sources for native flowering bushes and trees since we want more of those close to the house. (The local nurseries don’t have many native plants.)

I was in conversation with the architect about the rainwater collection for Roberto’s house (Ale’s father). We’ll likely use two tanks and place them close to the swimming pool. The roof area is a little over 200m2 which means that 1mm of rain gives 200 liters of water. That also means that a couple of days of good rain will give at least 20,000 liters of water. We may use two tanks of at least 15,000 liters each to collect the water. I am thinking that we actually need more since we need to store water for the dry season.

We also talked about the possible swimming pool, and especially the size. We decided on 11×2.5 meters for now, although it may change. (I wonder if we just need a cooling pool and can use the local public swimming pool for actual swimming. It seems a better use of resources, but I don’t know and I am not the only one making the decisions here.)

I called a friend of mine for her birthday. I know her from Oregon and she is now in Sweden at a weawing school.

I took a nap (siesta) in the afternoon with Merlina, who also takes a nap in the early afternoon.

At 5pm, my wife’s uncle and aunt came to visit. They went for a short walk to look at Roberto’s house that’s being built up the hill and see the sunset over the canyon. We then had a delicious dinner with wine outside.

I should mention that it sounds like I am doing a lot here. That’s not the case. I had all the info ready for the rain gutter people and the carpenter so they knew the situation and what to do. The online communications were brief and to the point. The seed planting took only a few minutes. I left the sunset walk to my wife and her uncle and aunt. I rested throughout and most of the day. I would love to do a lot more and have a long list of things I want to do, but I have to limit my activities to the essentials and rest most of the time for health reasons.

(1) I updated the calculations a few days later based on a good rain that gave us 5cm of water. I initially used a lower estimate.

The image is the view from the hammock during the day. At night, the sky is filled with stars.

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A scrub tanager and a vermilion flycatcher (photos)

Just a few photos of a visiting vermilion flycatcher (red) and a scrub tanager, both in bushes and trees next to the house. We hope that the number and diversity of birds and other beings here will increase as the regeneration project progresses over the years. (We are still in a very early phase.)

Talking with the ants

Here at Finca Milagros, we have a lot of ants.

It’s wonderful. There are several different species of different sizes, from big to tiny, and they are a very important part of this ecosystem. They clean up dead animals and dead and dying plant parts. They bring nutrients into the soil. They are essential to clean-up and soil health, which is vital for the whole ecosystem.

When we first moved in here, we had ants in the house. They loved to clean up every little crumb or tiny piece of food they could find. We aimed to keep everything clean and put all food away in sealed containers, but they still found enough to stay interested. (To mention a couple of recent examples of what they discover: an delicious bar of lotion wrapped in paper, and a caramel in the wallet in my mochilla.)

This lasted until I communicated with them. I tuned into them and told them they had plenty of food outside the house, and that the whole outside area is completely available to them. Our area is inside the house, and they need to stay out. If not, it would not be good for them. We can easily and happily co-exist if we only have that agreement.

Almost immediately, they vanished from inside the house and they stayed outside.

This summer and fall, we were away for several months and someone else stayed in the house. When we returned a few weeks ago, the house was overrun with ants, far worse than it had ever been. Again, we did the common-sense things. We kept everything clean. We sprayed with citronella. And it didn’t work that well.

Four days ago, I sat down to communicate with them again. I proposed the same deal as before, and I could sense it was sinking in. Since then, we have hardly seen any ants inside the house. We’ll see how it goes.

This is not anything I would normally mention here or to anyone in person, but something has shifted. If I cannot feel free to write about what’s happening in my life, what’s the point? It feels better to just put it out there. Some will resonate with it. To some, it may be important and support their own process. Others will think it’s weird. And all of that is OK.

On the topic of ants, I should mention that we had some problems in the beginning with ants eating what we planted outside. They like new and weak plants. As soon as these plants got stronger, we didn’t have any problems anymore.

Note: My wife mentioned this to some friends here, and they said: “Yes, of course. We have a local man talking with the ants for us and it works.” (Paraphrased)

Image by me and Midjourney

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Working with the flow

We are starting to develop a garden with native trees, bushes, and flowers, food plants for us and the animals and birds, and a few non-native plants that serve a function.

I have intentionally left paths to develop on their own. We walk through the garden where it’s natural to walk, and that creates the paths.

It’s not until today, several months after we moved in here, that we are solidifying these paths created naturally by us walking where it makes sense to walk.

This is something I aim to do in life in general. I would rather support and guide what’s here and what naturally happens than try to work against it.

It makes sense to work against something sometimes if it seems destructive. But most of the time, it makes more sense to join and guide.

Instead of fighting with impulses or needs that seem a bit immature, I prefer to explore what’s really going on. What’s the essential need behind it? I find it’s something essential and universal like love, safety, being seen, and so on. Is there another way I can find that? Can I give it to myself? Can I find it in the world in another way?

To take another gardening and regeneration example: We have invasive grass in some areas, and we could remove it. It would require a lot of work, it opens up for erosion, and it’s futile since the grass grows back. The alternative is to plant and support native trees which, in a few years, creates an environment that’s too shady for the grass. That way, the grass holds the soil in place for a while and then goes away when the forest starts to regrow.

Of course, it’s not always straightforward in real life. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to do. In those cases, I prefer to slow down and wait and let life guide me if I can. (This often involves gathering more information and talking with more people, exploring options, and also connecting with my inner knowing and guidance.) Sometimes, a scared and wounded part of me is triggered and it wants a quick solution that lacks nuance. In that case, I prefer to slow down and wait until the storm has passed.

Image by me and Midjourney

A typical day these days – a visiting bird, meetings, insect bites, delicious lunch

Yesterday was a more-or-less typical day these days, and slightly crazy in mostly a good way. We have these days and then fortunately more quiet days mixed in.

In the morning, we discovered that our car had a flat tire. We got it replaced with the emergency tire and got the original tire fixed this morning.

The guacharaca resting in the brush outside the house

We also discovered a guacharaca outside that seemed tame and followed my wife around. We realized it was likely the guacharaca from our neighbor to the west. They adopted her last year as a young orphan and she has lived with them since. A phone call confirmed that theirs was missing. She had gone on an adventure with some hens, got lost, and had been missing for a couple of days.

I gave her pieces of a ripe banana to eat. Our cat was very interested and started stalking her, so I had to keep an eye on both of them to make sure they didn’t get into trouble. The guacharaca spent the morning variously in a tree next to the house and eating small pieces of banana.

At this point, my wife got bitten twice by an (invisible) insect. The bites were strong and she developed a strong allergic reaction.

I received an email from Anthony, one of the Vortex Healing teachers. He responded to a question I had about my lungs and what I can do to make it easier for me to do pranic breathing, which is necessary for some things in Vortex Healing. My system tends to react strongly to that type of breathing – it may release trauma – so I have minimized it. (I also don’t need to do it for regular healing sessions, I need it mostly for future EarthWorks classes.) What he said makes a lot of sense to me, including the need for extra integration and catch-ups after the sessions.

I communicated briefly on Whatsapp about visiting a regeneration project on the other side of town (postponed because of the flat tire) and a meeting here on Saturday for garden design. The garden design will focus on supporting a vibrant and diverse native ecosystem which will provide a habitat for the local fauna. We will also focus on soil regeneration and long-term planning for where to plant larger native trees.)

A few of the sample photos from Maria, the architect, showing options for the house. Personally, I like a balance between the refined and the rustic, and I would like it to be slightly more rustic than these photos since this is a house in rugged nature and for a bull of a man who is both refined and rustic. The second photo shows the stone walls that will be used in some areas, the third a door detail, the fourth shows how the wood columns can be cone-shaped at the bottom with a metal casing, and the fifth is a lighting option for the outside walls. Everything is traditional except the columns ending in a metal cone, which I love since it’s good to include one or two unusual and slightly eccentric things.

At 9am, we had a Zoom meeting with the architect to decide on materials for my wife’s father’s house that will be built soon. The materials and techniques are all local and traditional. (Rammed earth, reclaimed wood, locally made tiles, and so on.) We had the usual connection problems but were able to get through it to the satisfaction (mostly) of everyone. This meeting lasted at least three hours, including interruptions for technical reasons.

During the meeting, I had to keep an eye on our visitor and cat and prevent possible trouble. We also noticed that our cat seemed jealous and complained if we paid attention to or fed the guaracha.

We made a delicious lunch together. This consisted of sausages, scrambled eggs, and a salad. The sausages are made by a woman in town and are possibly the best either of us has ever tasted. The eggs are fresh and local. The salad was made of greens and herbs from our garden mixed with olive oil, local organic cherry tomatoes, pieces of oranges from our neighbor Francisco, and more. I cooked the sausages in water in a cast iron pan and then let them brown after the water evaporated, and also made the scrambled eggs. She made the salad.

One of the filtration engineers with the guacharaca

As we finished the lunch, two young engineers arrived. We talked about the different options for water purification systems, both for our small house and for the coming two or three houses here. The guacharaca fell in love with one of them and spent the meeting with him. It seemed that she wanted company and affection. This meeting lasted a couple of hours.

The guacharaca making herself at home

As they left, the guacharaca was flying around, knocking over a few things and breaking a plate. (Which is fine, it was just a generic plate and we can get handmade local ones that we like more.) She then followed my wife around for a bit, flew up in a tree, and then sat on the roof for a while. Eventually, she ended up in the storage room. I tried to help her out of that room but she seemed happy to be there.

Our neighbors came at dusk to get her. I assume they were all happy to be reunited, as we were on their behalf. It was fun to have her here, but also a bit challenging.

At this point, my wife’s insect bites had gotten hot, big, and inflamed. She had fear come up since her body sometimes has strong allergic reactions to these types of bites. We debated whether we should take her to the hospital, and we probably would if the car didn’t have a flat tire. We called a local taxi but they didn’t answer. We decided to wait and see how things unfolded. This morning, the red area was bigger but less inflamed. I encouraged her to see an allergy specialist so she can be better prepared for the next time something like this happens, including with medications and possibly an Epipen. These types of strong allergic reactions can suddenly get worse, and it’s best to be prepared.

After being away for some months, the house has a lot of ants exploring and looking for food. There seem to be three types of ants – a tiny one (1mm), a big one (7-10mm), and a medium (3-4mm). I sprayed some non-toxic locally made mosquito repellent in these areas to discourage them. It doesn’t hurt them but they don’t like it, and they are mostly gone this morning. We love ants. They have a very important function in this ecosystem and are valuable partners in regenerating the soil and land. We just don’t need them in the house, and they don’t need to be here either. They have plenty of food outside.

In the evening, I felt fried and cooked. Some of that may be the healing Anthony had done for me earlier in the day. It had that feeling.

The sunset yesterday seen from the terrace

I fell asleep quickly and briefly woke up a few times, noticing some old trauma surfacing in my system. (Survival fear, sadness, grief, and so on.) Because of a long day yesterday, I slept longer than usual and didn’t wake up for real until 6 or 7am.

Merlina sleeping next to me in the early morning a couple of days ago

Our cat is often very loving in the mornings and was especially so this morning. She slept close to me and on top of me most of the early morning.

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Adapting to climate: Warm weather construction and lifestyle

We live in a warm climate (dry tropical forest) where day temperatures typically are between 25 and 30 degrees.

So what do we do to stay comfortable?

We built using rammed earth (tapia pisada) construction, which is traditional here. The thick walls evens out the temperatures and cools down the house during the day.

We built among trees which provide shade. We are also planting a lot around the house and in layers to lower the temperature further.

We have ceiling fans.

We can open up large sections of the wall (AKA large doors) on both sides of the house to create an easy flow of air and wind through the house if we wish.

We have an outdoor shower so we can cool down that way if necessary. (We may also construct a small swimming pool in the future.)

I drink a lot of liquids. During the day, it’s mostly water with hydration salts (electrolytes). In the morning and evening, often herbal teas.

I also find that I take on more of a crepuscular lifestyle here. I typically get up around dawn and am active for a few hours. During the hot time of day, from around mid-day to mid-afternoon, I rest. In the late afternoon, I am more active again until I go to bed early. If we have meetings or activities, we usually schedule them for early morning or late afternoon. It’s not uncommon for me to go to bed around 8pm and get up at 4 or 5am, and then rest from 11am or noon to 3 or 4pm.

None of this is new or something I came up with. The house construction is traditional here because it works well in this climate. The stores close from noon to 3pm because that’s the hot time of day and it makes sense to rest during that time. The locals get up at dawn just like me.

The image shows the thickness of the rammed earth wall (about 50cm), and also how we have used reclaimed and natural wood.

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Why I love vultures

A few days ago, I saw a dead dove near our house on Finca Milagros. It had been there for some hours and the vultures likely wouldn’t touch since it was too close to people. I moved the dove up the hill and put up a wildlife camera, and the vultures came after half an hour for their meal.

WHY DO VULTURES (SOMETIMES) HAVE A BAD REPUTATION?

Why do vultures have a bad reputation in some cultures?

I suspect it serves a function. Vultures are connected with dead animals and rotting meat. We are built differently and rotting meat tends to make us sick. So it makes sense, to some extent, for cultures to instill a revulsion against scavengers in general, including vultures.

The downside is that it can make us blind to their right to life just like us and how they serve us and nature in general.

I LOVE VULTURES

Why do I love vultures?

Vultures serve important functions in the ecosystem. They clean up rotting meat which benefits us, other animals, and the ecosystem as a whole.

As mentioned above, they sometimes have a bad reputation. Where we are in the Andes mountains, farmers sometimes put out poisoned meat to kill them. (This seems oddly self-defeating. It puts poison into the food chain which is bad for all of us, and the presence of vultures in our ecosystem directly helps us. Vultures are on our side.) I have a personality that tends to support and defend underdogs. I want to stand up for them and give them a voice.

They are likely consciousness like me. To themselves, they are very likely consciousness, and just like me, they function through a body. The only difference is the type of body. (They are pure consciousness, and the form it takes depends on the bodymind, the particular senses, the nervous system, and so on.)

They are living beings like me. Like me, they wish to avoid suffering and find (their form of) happiness.

They are expressions of this living planet, just like me. They are part of the same seamless living planet.

They are expressions of the universe, just like me. They too are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. They are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

VULTURES ARE NOT SACRED?

I posted a vulture video from my wildlife camera on social media, and received this story:

The Parsis of India depend on vultures to dispose of the dead. Soil is sacred so they can’t defile it by burying a corpse. Fire is sacred so they don’t cremate. Water is sacred so they don’t put bodies in water. Air is sacred so they don’t leave bodies to rot. The vultures are the ultimate recyclers.

Of course, this likely has a practical function as well. It obviously makes sense to not put dead bodies in water. As for the rest, I am not sure. Perhaps they didn’t want to use valuable food-producing land for cemeteries. Perhaps they wanted to use valuable firewood for the living. Offering dead bodies to vultures makes sense, it’s a good practical solution.

At the same time, the traditional explanation above doesn’t quite make sense. Is a dead body not sacred? Are vultures not sacred? I imagine there are annoying people in their culture pointing that out.

The video is from the wildlife camera I set up with a view to the dead dove

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things – vol. 47

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be made into a regular article in time.

COMMUNICATING WITH NATURE SPIRITS

When we first saw Finca Milagros (then Santa Lucia), we were both stunned by the magic and beauty of the place, and we felt deeply that this land wanted us here to protect and support it. It was as if the divine and the nature spirit(s) of this land clearly communicated with us. I have not had that experience anywhere else before or since.

I felt strongly that we were meant to be here, but it seemed impossible to buy the land for a few different reasons. It seemed too big for us and it had no car access. We were able to find more financial help, and we were able to buy access with the help of a friend. All of it seemed like a miracle.

I have never experienced this particular connection with a land before, and I experience it all the time when I am here.

This morning, I sprinkled water on the land around the house to energetically clear the ground. (We channel into the water, and then sprinkle it.) This too felt like a clear guidance from the divine and the nature spirit(s) here, and when I walked around with the water, I was guided as to where to sprinkle and if some areas needed more. It feels like the divine and the nature spirit(s) here wanted me to do it so they could do their work through the water. My wife senses the same.

I also communicate with the nature spirit(s) here. I tell it our intention and plans. I ask for support and guidance. And there is a clear sense of two-way communication.

I know all of this can seem a bit weird, especially in our culture, and perhaps also for a well-educated science-oriented guy like me. For me, it’s so clear that I cannot ignore it.

Also, it fits with a more general sensing and communication. I can sense, to some extent, what’s going on in the system of others at a distance, and when I check, it’s accurate. I can see energies around people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. I can see the level of awakening in someone’s system. I can invite in healing at a distance, and it often works well. And so on. Communicating with nature spirits is just a part of this general experience.

Why do I write nature spirit(s)? It’s because I sense the spirit of this land as one and many. It’s both at the same time, and it’s connected to the spirit of the larger region and of this living planet as a whole. It’s also an expression of the divine as anything else.

This is one of the things I don’t talk much about unless I meet someone else who also lives it.

WHEN IT BECOMES VISCERAL

It’s not uncommon for something to start as a mental understanding or a glimpse or taste, and then become more visceral as we get more familiar with it.

So also with our nature recognizing itself. Sometimes, it takes time. It takes time for it to explore itself and especially to explore how to have this human self live from and as it.

For instance, my world is happening within and as what I am. My world is created by my mind. It’s processing and interpreting everything and creating a more-or-less coherent world out of it. That’s a view aligned with mainstream psychology and neuroscience. (And common sense.)

In a more phenomenological sense, I can say that to myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as consciousness. It’s happening within the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into any and all experience, into the world as it appears to me. In a very real way, it is me.

We can get this in different ways. We can get the idea of it, through mental representations. We can notice it when we look and things are not too triggered in us. And we can get it more viscerally and in more areas of life and daily life situations, even when something is triggered in us. There is a deepening here over time and with noticing and experience.

Also, at times, our system can shift into a state where this is strongly in the foreground and everything else is in the background, which helps us recognize it and become familiar with it. When these states fade, we may need to work more intentionally to notice and live from it, and deepen into it.

In this example, the noticing doesn’t necessarily change the experience itself. It changes the context of the experience. That can change how our human self relates to it, and the more viscerally we get it at a human level, the more it influences how our human self responds and relates.

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Regeneration update – Nov. 2023

We have started a regeneration partnership with Fundación Guayacanal. They are doing amazing work and seem to have a very good approach to regeneration – pragmatic, informed, grounded, and effective. Milagros is part of a larger initiative in the area that involves several properties.

It’s a ten-year project where they will be responsible for the planting and maintenance of the plants. Each tree will need three years of follow-up. As I write this, we are in the design and planning phase and they will do the first plantings in a couple of weeks. This first phase is in the most degraded areas and will consist of nearly one thousand (!) trees. The second phase will be adding diversity to less degraded areas.

The main focus is on planting a native forest, with a couple of additions. We have a main path going through the land – from the big pond along the ridge to the peak and down to Camino Real. That may be made into a kind of food forest corridor, and we will plant flowering bushes along it as well. It may eventually be part of an ecotourism experience, for instance, a self-guided tour along different ecosystems at different levels of regeneration with information and viewpoints along the way.

Receiving this kind of expert help feels like a miracle. It will transform the land over the coming years. As mentioned above, their focus is on naive tree planting, with some food-producing trees and flowering perennials. That will provide an amazing context for us to add plants here and there. I would love to add to the food forest with nut-producing bushes and more, and add more flowering plants.

We obviously won’t recreate the original natural ecosystem here (1). That’s gone. But we will help the land back to a diverse and vibrant state, and it will hopefully become an even better habitat for a large number of insects, birds, and animals. The second phase of plantings will include currently grassy areas, and as the trees grow and create shade, the grass will hopefully mostly go away.

I have used the terms regeneration and rewilding to talk about this before and I’ll probably differentiate a bit more going forward. What we are doing now is regeneration, helping bring the land back to a more vibrant and healthy state. That includes a natural rewilding since it will bring back more insects, birds, and animals. I also love the term rewilding to refer to our own internal rewilding. And, who knows, perhaps we’ll do some actual rewilding in the future and bring back some animals. For now, I’ll probably use regeneration mostly when talking about this project.

I am very aware that this neighborhood will change over the coming years. Already, they are building a large hotel down the hillside and on the other side of the main road. I suspect many more people will move here, gradually displacing the local farmers who have lived here for generations. (This is sad and has its own problems and downsides, and we very much are part of that dynamic – we bought from a family that had owned the land for generations.) Hopefully, we’ll also see more neighbors engaging in regeneration projects.

Images: [1-3] The three first are from a survey of the more degraded areas. The people from FG geolocated the boundaries of these areas and calculated how many trees to plant there in the first phase. [4] Then a view of Cañon del Chicamocha from one of the viewpoints. [5] A large tree by the main pond, and [6] a giant cactus close to the house. [7-8] Two examples of erosion from the more degraded areas. [9] A hat. And [10] silvery leaves found on the ground. Nature made these, maybe through some kind of chemical reaction? Click on any image for a larger version.

(1) There are many reasons for that. It would be difficult to know what time period we are trying to recreate, and even how it looked back then. What was is gone, always. It would also be very difficult to try to recreate something from the past and impossible to actually do. So it’s much better to focus on supporting a vibrant ecosystem that includes mostly native plants and some non-natives already here that fit well into the ecosystem.

Finca Milagros - view

A rich and simple life: going to evolution for clues

How do we live a life that we experience as rich, fulfilling, and meaningful?

I often go to evolution for clues to these kinds of questions.

CHECKING IN WITH OUR EVOLUTIONARY PAST

How did we evolve? It obviously depends on the time and location, but in general… We evolved in small communities with close ties between the members. We evolved mostly in nature, with all our senses naturally engaged. We evolved interacting with nature in different ways, including foraging, planting, and tending to animals. We evolved working with our hands: Climbing, digging, throwing, planting, weeding, cooking, sowing, making simple pottery, and so on. We evolved being relatively active physically, doing daily tasks. We evolved helping others and our community. (And receiving help from them.)

We are made for that type of life. So it’s a good guess that something similar is what we will experience as natural, fulfilling, and even meaningful.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH A RICH LIFE

That’s how it is for me. During times when I am in nature and doing these kinds of tasks and activities, I feel naturally fulfilled and connected. This happens when I am at the cabin, which is in a forest and by a lake, without (much) electricity, where the heat comes from a fireplace, and where I need to chop wood and carry water. (If I am there by myself, I start missing people after one or two weeks.) It also happened when I lived in the countryside in Wisconsin (Mt Horeb), in an old farmhouse with a vegetable garden, where I got much of our food from working at a neighboring CSA farm one morning a week, and where just about all the food (vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat) came from neighbors I personally knew. (During this time, I was also involved in many meaningful community projects.)

Now, at Finca Milagros, this is even deeper in some ways. The house is mostly open to the elements. (The climate allows and encourages it.) We are planting a lot of food plants and other plants. We get more of our food from the local community and people we know. (And will get more as we make more connections.) We are engaging with the land and the local ecosystem in an even deeper way: we are supporting it to regenerate and rewild. There is a deeper sense of partnership with the land and nature there. And it’s also deeply fulfilling to know that this work will, hopefully, create the conditions for a better life for literally millions of beings.

When I have this kind of life, I find I don’t need very much. I mostly need the basics: shelter, water, food, and connections with a few people. (And for the latter, I appreciate the internet which is a kind of essential these days, even if I obviously could get by without it.)

When I don’t, during the times when I feel more disconnected from nature and people, I don’t feel very fulfilled. And that’s when things like compulsions, distractions, and consumerism come in.

THERE IS MORE GOING ON

Of course, this is very simplified. A sense of deficiency and lack also has a belief, identity, and emotional component. And not everyone is drawn to this type of life. But I would guess that the essence of this applies to most or all of us. We feel more fulfilled the more we are connected – to ourselves, others, and nature. And many of us feel more fulfilled when we are physically active and do and make things with our hands. (Which could take the form of yoga practice or a pottery class Thursday nights.)

THE QUESTION

The question then is: How can I bring more of this into my life now? How would my ideal (connected, engaged, meaningful) life look? And can I make a change in that direction?

These can be small steps: Take up yoga or tai chi. Grow some plants in the kitchen or on the balcony. Do a form of gentle mindfulness to connect with the body. Go for walks. Start up a book club with your neighbors. Adopt a cat. (Which is huge for the cat.) Join a pottery class. Learn about native edibles and wild foraging.

See below for more.

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Dream: Finding eight minerals on the land and their essence

I am at Finca Milagros with several people at different ages. We participate in a kind of challenge or game, and our task is to find eight types of minerals on the land. We will identify and collect a sample of each, and purify them through a chemical reaction. The process is slightly different for each mineral, and will bring out its essence. We can work individually or as a team, and we are initially somewhat disorganized. I take charge of the process to help us all work together and get it done in an easier and more efficient way.

I see a couple of themes here. One is to extract the essence, in this case of something from the land. Another is to support a group in getting organized and doing the task in a more easy and efficient way.

Why Finca Milagros? I am not sure. I experience a deep connection with this magical land, and from the first second I saw and stepped on it, I sensed (?) it wanted me there to protect it. (That’s something I have not experienced before or since.)

Why disorganized and then take charge? I assume this mirrors being internally slightly disorganized and finding some order by taking charge.

Why extract the essence? In the topics I explore here, I like finding the essence and simplifying. (While also knowing there is value in the complexity and in each of the different layers.)

Why minerals? I love the minerals at Finca Milagros. They are beautiful and diverse and include fossils and crystals. I have collected a few special ones.

Why eight? Again, I am not sure. When I return to the dream, what comes up is that there are four cardinal directions, and eight may be the cardinal directions plus the four in between. My sense is that it has to do with fullness.

I’ll stay with this dream and see what more comes up.

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Dream: I am black

I am at Finca Milagros and have been here for a long time. (Playing my small role in supporting the land to become more vibrant and diverse.) As I pass a mirror, I see my face and am surprised. My face – and likely my whole body – is black and sinevy. I am surprised that people recognize me since I almost don’t recognize myself. The transformation is completely fine with me. It’s just what happens naturally by being here.

The sun in Finca Milagros is strong and regular, and it did recently go through my mind that I would get a lot darker by spending time here. I also sense that I will be thoroughly transformed by this land, just as I am supporting the land in transforming.

The dream may reflect this, and perhaps a knowing in me that it may or will happen. And it’s completely OK with me. A part of me is even enjoying it and wants it. It’s what happens by being here. The land transforms me.

I help the land regenerate and rewild, and the land may help me in a similar way. There is a mutuality here.

The beauty in the imperfect

Due to erosion, a large cactus fell over on our land and broke into several pieces. This is one of those broken pieces, and we decide to plant it at the entrance to the house.

Why? Most people wouldn’t plant a broken piece of cactus in such a prominent place.

For me, the answer is simple.

There is beauty in the imperfect. And there is beauty in new life coming from what’s broken.

It may not be what you see in Home & Garden magazines, but this is something that has character, history, and a lived life, and I find that far more beautiful and interesting.

Photos: Beautiful vultures

A couple of beautiful neighbors, captured from our tiny house.

I love vultures. They are majestic animals. They serve a very important function in the ecosystem. (Cleaning up and making use of carcasses.) And they likely wish to have a good life and avoid suffering, just like me.

I also know they sometimes have a bad reputation. (The locals here inexplicably poison them.)

Why? I am not sure.

Here is one guess: We have an instinctual aversion to anything rotten, put in place through natural selection. (The ones who didn’t have that aversion were more likely to not survive long enough to bring up children.) Maybe some associate vultures with something rotten, and transfer their aversion to the vultures? If so, it doesn’t make much logical sense. (Which is not unusual.) It would be more appropriate to thank and praise them for removing rotting flesh from the landscape.

Our inherent wisdom in scary situations

Adventure cat

When we moved to our tiny house about a month ago, our cat Merlina came with us. Our backyard is 15 hectares of semi-wilderness.

She has been in the countryside before and is always careful at first, but is more careful this time. Likely because there are smells and sounds of many wild animals here. These include Jaguarundis – cats related to cougars and cheetahs, porcupines, marsupials, and other species unfamiliar to her.

It makes sense to be cautious until she is more familiar with this place and its animals.

She spends a lot of time in the house sleeping, and also listening to and smelling what’s outside. When she goes out, she stays close to the house and expands out slowly in small widening circles. She also likes to go out with us since that makes her feel safer, and I like going out with her.

This is all very wise, and it’s a reminder of the wisdom we all have in us.

When in a new place, get to know the place. Take time. Don’t push yourself.

And when you go into scary places, or fear is triggered in you, take it easy. Here also, don’t push yourself. Go into it gently and for only short periods so it’s not overwhelming.

We humans, with our more complex mental constructions and tendency to make identities out of them, often do it differently. We may push aside the fear and pretend it’s not here. We may push ourselves into fear and feel overwhelmed and maybe even traumatized. Or we may get stuck in the safe zone without exploring and opening our world.

Animals remind us of our inherent wisdom, the wisdom that’s here when we are less distracted by our mental constructions.

This is very important in trauma work. If you are going to explore traumas, it makes sense to work with someone you trust, and someone who won’t push you. It makes sense to go slowly and gradually. It makes sense to go into it for short periods of time (seconds, minutes) and then retreat so you don’t get overwhelmed. It makes sense to work primarily with the body and not go into the stories around it so much. (At least, at first.)

Dream: My inner fire

A firefox (kitsune) from Japanese mythology, envisioned by me and Midjourney (AI-generated image). This one has cat-like features since that’s what Merlina transformed into in the dream.

I find myself in London and in the place my (waking life) partner and cat live. They have both transformed and live on their own. The cat is larger and fully orange, almost like a mythological fox-cat being. My parter has bright orange hair and is younger. My partner is angry at me. She has to do something, and I go for a walk. I realize I forgot to make a note of the address, and get somewhat lost in the streets of London. I receive help from a few men who feel like friends. I remember I have my phone and that my partner’s phone number and address may in the contacts.

This feels like an especially important dream.

Being lost and disoriented has been a theme in my dreams for a while now. It comes from the dark night I have been through and feeling shattered and disoriented as if hit by a bus. Further back, it has its roots in leaving my inner guidance on a major life decision (when I got married the first time). And it may go even further back, to my childhood and not feeling completely grounded in love and acceptance.

I was initially a bit confused about this dream, although found something through active imagination. (A technique from depth psychology where I go back into the visuals of the dream, interact with the different elements, and ask questions and listen for the answers.)

Using active imagination, Merlina (the cat) said she was my inner fire, my animal fire. Similarly, my partner said she was my feminine fire. And London, to me and in this context, represents creative passion and fire.

My fiery part is angry at me for having given up on it. I had a lot of passion and fire in my teens and twenties, and it served me and my life well. Then, when I got married for the first time, and abandoned my inner guidance on major life issues, I gradually started losing contact with that passion and fire. And it’s been difficult to refind and embrace it as fully as I know I can and to the extent that feels right to me.

Now, that I finally have my own house and land and an amazing project (rewilding 14 hectares), I feel I have the stability to refind my passion and fire.

I told my waking-life partner about the dream. And went back into the dream images to ask my partner why she is angry at me. She said it is because I have given up on the fire and abandoned it. I am identified with being lost. That identification keeps me separate from the fire and passion that’s here.

When I then asked my waking-life partner the same question, and she gave the same answer. She said the anger is because I am identified with the dark night and the characteristics of the dark night. (Which includes feeling lost.)

I now also realize that the mythological creature our cat transformed into is a firefox, Kitsune from Japanese mythology.

This theme of refining my connection with my inner fire feels like a major theme in my life, something I continue to explore, and something very much on the horizon.

My recent explorations into AI-imagery is a part of this, as is continuing work on the house and rewilding project. All of this has to do with my inner passion and fire.

And I want to keep exploring my identification with the “lost” identity. What does it tell me? How does it play out in my life? What are the reversals, and the truth in them? How would it be to be free of this particular identification?

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An additional theme for this website: Rewilding

The focus for the articles on this website has always centered on healing and awakening, with occasional articles on culture, society, sustainability, art, and other topics I find interesting.

From now on, I will also include more articles on rewilding and regeneration.

It’s not a new interest to me. I have been fascinated by and passionate about nature and sustainability since I was little, and that includes what’s covered by rewilding and regeneration.

On this winter solstice (2022), we moved into our tiny house with a large backyard on Finca Milagros. This backyard is fifteen hectares in Cañon del Chicamocha. And I wish to devote a good part of my life to supporting this land to become a more thriving and diverse habitat for plants, insects, birds, and animals.

That will, by necessity, be reflected here since I tend to write about what I am interested in and what I am currently exploring and living.

The rewilding posts will be a kind of chronicle of what we are doing here, and they may be interesting to or useful for others.

And, yes, I know that rewilding is a problematic term. It cannot be done in a literal and complete way, and it’s not possible (or even desirable) to bring this ecosystem back to how it was in precolonial times or even before humans came here. When I use the term rewilding, it’s in a much more loose sense. For me, it’s about supporting the ecosystem to thrive, become more diverse, and become a good habitat for the insects, birds, and animals that are here. I wish to support it in becoming wilder.

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Finca Milagros: A dry river

A small river goes through Finca Milagros but it’s mostly dry.

This may be because neighbors higher up divert the water. If so, then returning the water to the river is a longer-term project that involves finding better water solutions for the neighbors. If we can help them find sufficient water from other sources, they won’t need to divert the river and it can again flow. That small river will again provide water for innumerable beings and the local ecosystems.

And yes, I am aware that there are more factors. There may be other reasons for the dry river than uphill neighbors. And if they play a role, then their decisions are not always rational. Sometimes culture, resentment, neighbor feuds, and so on play a role.

Still, it’s a good start to get to know the neighbors and those upstream, identify the problem, and see if we can find solutions that benefit everyone.

I’ll occasionally write short updates about the Finca Milagros rewilding project here, partly as documentation and partly because some of it may be helpful to others.

Rewilding and cultural differences

In our very early rewilding project, there has been one big challenge so far: We have very different ideas about how to do things than the locals.

CLEARING A PATH VS A WHOLE AREA

Last year, we asked workers to clear a walking path through an area of the land just big enough for one person to walk through.

Without our knowing, they spent two days clearing a whole hectare of everything except the largest trees. They cut down all of the valuable pioneer species that bring nutrients into the soil, improve the soil structure, provide shade, give protection for other species to come in, and prevented the grass from taking over. Most of these plants were thorny bushes and trees that can grow relatively large and are very beautiful. They cut down trees with 10-20 cm diameter just because they had thorns.

When we complained, the response was: “These are just weeds, it’s good to get rid of them, they have no value, and they’ll grow back”. In reality, what has happened is just what I expected. The area is now completely overgrown with invasive grass. It went from an area with lots of shade and no grass to being covered in tall invasive grass that it’s very difficult to get rid of.

Why did this happen? We were naive and thought that our instructions were clear and understood: Make a path through here that one person can walk through, nothing more. What they heard was: Clear the whole area. Why? Because that’s what people here do. They clear huge areas of land of everything but the largest trees. Why? Because that’s what has made sense of them traditionally since they use the land for grazing. They remove the thorny bushes and trees so cows and goats can more easily graze, and they plant invasive grass that takes over whole areas to provide food for their animals.

What is the lesson? Make sure the instructions are well understood. Show them physically what to do and how to do it. Be there while they do the work, unless you know from experience that they understand.

EDUCATION IN ECOLOGICAL THINKING

We will work with locals helping us with the rewilding project, and it’s essential to educate them.

For instance, what they think of as “weeds” are often pioneer plants. They come into an area after it has been degraded by grazing, food growing, or erosion. They put nutrients into the soil, improve the structure of the soil, create the condition for other plants to come into the area, and many of them here have thorns that also help protect the land. They are pioneers and protectors of the land. They have immense value from an ecological perspective, and in the context of supporting the land having a thriving and diverse ecosystem.

Also, if we need to create a path or open up a view, it’s often more than sufficient to do a little pruning. There is no need to go nuclear.

PLANTING TREES VS ECOSYSTEM APPROACH

I have also noticed a peculiar mindset among many here interested in helping the land.

Some seem to think it’s mainly about reforesting and planting trees, and that planting trees is sufficient.

For me, that doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.

Just planting trees can easily become a monoculture just like any other monoculture. It can create a kind of desert. It doesn’t necessarily create an ecosystem full of life.

A vibrant and healthy ecosystem needs diversity. It needs a variety of plants and animals of all kinds. It needs layers.

And each degraded land needs specific help. For instance, we have areas with erosion. Trees won’t help much there. It’s far more effective to plant smaller native plants that keep the soil in place. When the soil is stabilized, we can start thinking about the next step which could include trees. But to start with trees don’t necessarily make much sense.

A brief regeneration update – Dec 2022

We had the first meeting today with one of the people (JL) who will help Finca Milagros rewild, and it makes me happy to finally take this step in helping the land return to a diverse and vibrant state. It feels good to talk with someone who is knowledgeable, pragmatic, and has both a vision and a grounded approach.

Here are some thoughts and plans so far:

We need to educate and closely follow up anyone doing work on the land. These are local people with a very different mindset from an ecological one. For instance, they see any thorny plants as a weed to remove, while they in reality are essential for helping the land recover. These pioneers provide the conditions for other plants to grow and thrive.

It’s much better to do some minimal pruning than to remove plants completely. Pruning can support the plants, in some cases.

We can use plants to clear up the water in a large pond on the land. For instance, these can be on a raft and can be removed when they have done their work. (These are non-native non-invasive plants.)

We need to prevent further erosion in some areas of land severely impacted by grazing. We can do this with rocks and plants.

A natural and healthy ecosystem is diverse. It is layered with large and smaller trees, bushes, and even smaller plants. These layers help keep the water in the local ecosystem. (If all trees are the same height, which they often are if planted, the water evaporates more quickly.)

Focusing only on tree planting, which many do here, is not enough and can be a bit misguided. A planted forest can be a monoculture just like any other monoculture. It’s important to focus on the diversity of the whole ecosystem which includes many other types plants, each serving important functions.

There are several engaged species here (we saw a red-light bird after a few minutes by the pond), so one priority is to protect their habitat and create more of the habitat they need.

We have a dry river going through the land. Neighbors higher up are likely taking the water. We need to identify the problem, and possible get to know the neighbors and see if we can find a solution that works for everyone. This is a longer term project.

I knew or suspected what’s listed above since I have been passionate about sustainability and ecology for decades. And it is a blessing to meet and be guided by someone far more knowledgeable than me, and someone who knows this particular ecosystem and has experience with rewilding and regeneration here.

The land is 15 hectares. One or two hectares are closer to the road and perfect for building and food production, and the rest will be wild and mostly left to itself with a few smaller interventions here and there. And we will move slowly and get to know the land, connect with more people in the area working on similar projects, and learn as we go.

Our first project was a tiny house where we will live while we get to know the land better. It’s good to go slowly, be informed, allow possibilities and visions to mature, and think through things thoroughly before doing anything more that impacts the land.

I wish to create wildlife gardens around this and future buildings. Gardens with native plants feeding and attractibg local wildlife, and especially insects and birds.

Priorities & our ecological crisis

We all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not.

And our life and actions show us our priorities, whether they match what we think they are or not.

OUR COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

At a collective level, it’s clear that our priority is business as usual. We collectively behave as if nothing unusual is happening. We collectively behave as if we are not in the middle of a human-created ecological crisis of enormous consequences. We collectively behave as if the messages from scientists have little to no weight or importance.

Why is that? It may be for many reasons. Most people prioritize day-to-day activities and tasks. Most have a political identity and are reluctant to switch their vote to politicians that take ecological crisis more seriously. We see that others don’t prioritize it, so we assume the situation is not very serious and follow their example. Politicians typically operate within a timeframe of just a few years, not decades and centuries. Many people don’t take things very seriously unless they feel it in their own lives. Some may think we still have enough time, that we are adaptable and will manage. Some also go into denial, dismiss the collective warnings from scientists, and rationalize their dismissal.

WHAT MOTIVATES US TO CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES?

At both individual and collective levels, we continually clarify our priorities, reprioritize, and reorganize our life to align with these new priorities. It happens all the time and mostly in small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Major reprioritizing usually happens first when we viscerally get it as absolutely necessary. It may happen when faced with a serious crisis. When life shows us our situation has dramatically changed, or that we need to face a reality we previously ignored or downplayed.

It happens when life shakes us out of our habitual patterns and priorities.

A MORE REALISTIC SET OF COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

If we would take our ecological situation seriously, how would that change our priorities? What would a more realistic set of collective priorities look like?

Here is just one example, as it comes to me:

Take a long view on our situation and in politics. Plan for decades and centuries ahead. Make policies where we take into account the interests of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children.

Include the interests of all beings when we make decisions. Our fate is intimately connected, so this is in our own interest. Implement policies that take the interest of all life into account.

Future generations and non-human life are voiceless, so we need to speak for them. Not only for their sake, but for our own. Their fate is intertwined with our own.

If these giving voice to the voiceless was our real priority, it would in itself change a lot and put us on our path to a more sustainable civilization. Taking the big picture in terms of time and ecosystems does a lot. It would ripple into all areas of society, including the economy, philosophy, education, production, transportation, and everything else.

For instance, it would likely lead to assigning advocates for those without a voice – future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems. To give them real power in political and business decisions. To make the rights of future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems law.

It would transform our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Our current economic thinking is a fantasyland where nature is seen as only a resource for humans and a place to put waste, and it assumes an unlimited capacity for both. That fantasy is reflected in our current economic system. These new priorities, if taken seriously, would transform our thinking about the economy and our economic systems to be more grounded in reality, which is something we all would benefit from.

WHAT I AM DOING IN MY LIFE

What I am doing in my own life about this?

I look at my life to see my actual priorities. How do I spend my time? What does that say about my priorities? I take a sober look at this and try to be kind with myself. Being realistic about my real priorities, as reflected in my life and how I spend my time, is the first step and can in itself lead to changes and reprioritization.

I am also in a fortunate situation. I was able to buy a sizeable piece of land in the Andes mountains, and. we are now exploring how to use a small part of it for buildings and food production, and support the rest to rewild and return to a more vibrant and diverse state benefitting innumerable beings.

We are also exploring ways to be a little more self-reliant with the essentials. We are looking into solar energy. We are taking steps to collect and store rainwater and use this for our own use and food production. We may gradually expand food production over time. (In a social crisis, which will likely come as a consequence of the ecological crisis, being more self-reliant will alleviate the burden on the local government and it may also be that they won’t be able to reliably provide basic services to everyone.)

Our local community is our greatest resource, so we are also connecting and creating ties with neighbors. And especially those who are like-minded and those who grow food and know how to make and fix things. Self-reliance and resilience mainly happen at a local and regional community level.

We are preparing for a future where our ecological crisis, and all the social consequences of it, is far more acute and severe. And we are learning and plan on sharing what we learn with anyone interested.

We are also considering creating a small eco-community on the land. We’ll see. We need to get to know the land better first.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take these kinds of steps, so we are also keeping in mind supporting those less fortunate, in whatever small ways we can.

And this is not because we are very noble. We are very flawed human beings.

This is because we are aware that this is in our own self-interest. It’s in our self-interest to live in a more sustainable way and create ties with our neighbors. It’s in our own interest to support those less fortunate, in the small ways we can, since we all live in the same society.

And in terms of ecology, we all – all beings – share the same collective fate. We are all impacted by the thriving or deterioration of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

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A shift to the Andes mountains

When I was four or five (?) years old, I had a strong dream. I was in the jungle with a black jaguar (black panther). We lived together, did everything together, communicated closely, and the black jaguar was my best friend, mentor, and guide.

In a Vortex Healing class some years ago, we did one session for shifting where we internally live in the sister realm – in the realm of nature. We were told that we all live in a particular location, and it may not be optimal for our health and life, so this session was a transmission to shift to a more optimal location and environment. In this session, I experienced a shift from the damp jungle and the jaguar to the drier and higher Andes mountains and the condors. I experienced – and still experience – a deep connection with the condor. (The hairs all over my body stand on end when I am reminded of them.)

At the time, I had no idea that this would not only mean an inner shift but also an outer one.

A couple of years after this, I met the woman who is now my wife. She is from Latin America, and we bought land in the Andes mountains – up the wall of one of the largest canyons in the world. This is the land I was shifted into in that VH class session, and it’s the land of the condors.

I experience a strong draw to bring the condors back to this land. Everything in me resonates with it.

As it turns out, my wife has close friends in Argentina working on bringing the condors back and protecting them, and we are invited to visit.

And who knows what will unfold. I would love if it includes playing a small part in bringing the condors back here. It would be the greatest honor for me.

Image: A condor created by me and Midjourney

The school from my dream decades back

This is a long story I’ll try to make short.

During the initial awakening period in my teens, I had some strong dreams that seemed to show me scenes from my future.

OREGON

In one dream, I saw myself in the Pacific Northwest in the US, in nature and a community of people with a shared interest in healing and sustainability. When I woke up, I looked at the map and saw it was in western Oregon. At the time, I lived in Norway and had no interest in going to the US. I strongly disliked the US for political reasons and saw no reason to go there. The thought of living there seemed even further removed.

Forward six or seven years, and I am studying psychology at the University of Oslo. A friend of mine had discovered a scholarship we both qualified for that would allow us to study psychology in some countries abroad, and he happened to have connections in Salt Lake City. We had very little time to explore possibilities, and I saw that University of Utah had courses in environmental psychology, health psychology, and a systems orientations to psychology, which were all topics I were interested in.

We went there, I found Kanzeon Zen Center and moved in there, and later got married.

And even some years later, more than fifteen years after the Oregon dream, I found myself in Oregon in just the situation described in the dream. I didn’t plan to move there for its own sake. We moved there because the university there had the best program for the topic I wanted to study.

LATIN AMERICA

I had a similar dream during the same time in my teens.

In this dream, I saw myself in Northern South America, with a partner from there. I was at a small local school and had a role there. Not exactly as a teacher but as someone deeply involved and supporting the school and children. Here too, I saw the location on a map. When I woke up and looked in an atlas, it looked like Northern Brasil or somewhere in that general area.

Fast forward thirty years, and I meet a woman from Colombia. We get married, explore parts of Colombia, and buy land in the Andes Mountains. We accidentally meet a longtime friend of my wife who has a house in the same neighborhood in the countryside, and we end up living in that house for three months while they were away.

On the small road to that house, very close to our land, is a small school. And it’s the school from my dream. The hairs on my body stood up when I saw it, and do so again when I write this. It’s the same school.

The only difference is that in my dream, there were three buildings, and in reality – now – there is only one.

So we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll get involved with that school somehow. Maybe we’ll build two more buildings. It certainly needs help, and I cannot imagine anything better than helping children get a good education and more opportunities in life.

A brief update

I thought I would write a brief update.

Although I have put down a lot of ideas for articles, I have only written and published a few. That’s mainly because I have been busy with traveling, classes, moving, the new land and house, and resting and taking care of my health.

CLASSES

I finished a Vortex Healing class (Awakening to Divinity) a couple of weeks ago. Combined with receiving a couple of healing sessions, it seems to have shifted things in me.

I mainly notice that I experience sensing and channeling differently.

When I sense into someone’s system, I sense space with just a few bits of ethereal pieces floating around here and there. I suspect I need to get used to this new way of sensing, and my sensing will likely keep unfolding and revealing more things. (Previously, I could sense the physicality more and I would also get more images providing information.)

My sense of channeling has also changed. I used to sense the energy in my own system quite clearly, maybe because it would run up against things in my own system. Now, there is mainly a sense of space. Perhaps my system has more capacity now? And I am no longer experiencing the friction?

When I do distance healing, there is also much more of a direct and visceral sense of it happening from void and oneness. It’s happening within and as whatever I am doing healing for. It seems to be happening from the inside-out of what I intend healing for.

And that’s not really the right language. It’s all happening within and as the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as all of this and the way this process – and everything – is unfolding.

LAND

We are stewards of 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, and it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I feel a deep connection with it and I am very grateful to have it in my life. It’s a lifelong dream I wasn’t even that conscious of coming alive, at least for now.

We finalized the payment for the big piece two weeks ago and will finalize the payment for the small piece in a few days. And the first tiny house is almost finished.

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Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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A regeneration synchronicity

Last fall and winter, my wife and I were looking for a small piece of land to build a house on in the Andes mountains. After some dead ends, we were shown land that was way beyond what we were looking for in size, and immediately fell in love with it. And through a series of amazing events, we were able to become stewards of that land. We both felt the land chose us, as much as we chose it.

Although the land has forests and a diversity of ecosystems, most of it is impacted by centuries of grazing so we wish to help bring it back to a more vibrant state (rewilding) and be a haven for insects, birds, and other animals.

As part of this longer-term project, I contacted a local guy (originally from the US) who specializes in rewilding. We chatted on Whatsapp and agree to meet later. For me, this is an important and perhaps vital contact for our rewilding project.

Immediately after talking to him, I called up a friend in Oregon. And without me mentioning any of this, apart from being in the Andes mountains and buying land here, he started talking about a rewilding guy in the Andes mountains he has been following for a while. It turns out this guy was the one I had chatted with minutes before.

On the one hand, it’s not entirely unlikely. My friend in Oregon is interested in anything progressive, including rewilding it turns out. (I had mainly talked with him about spirituality and integral approaches before.) Unbeknownst to me, the local guy I had contacted does have an organization with an international reach. And my friend in Oregon did know that my wife and I had been looking for land in the Andes mountains.

On the other hand, it was quite an amazing synchronicity, especially in terms of geography and timing. What were the chances that the guy he knew about was the same local guy I had talked to? Latin America is a big place. What were the chances that my friend would bring it up minutes after I had chatted with the rewilding guy?

A synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence. This was certainly, in my experience, an amazing coincidence. And it was certainly meaningful to me. I feel a deep call to support this land in rewilding itself, and this coincidence only reinforced that wish.

Finca Milagros - view

Condors and childhood fascinations

As a child, I was fascinated by nature and nature documentaries and dreamt of working with wild animals when I grew up.

My life took a different course, and instead I had some years as an artist, studied psychology for several years, and later worked with sustainability and then as a therapist.

Now, this childhood dream is again surfacing. Becoming a steward of the land in the Andes comes with the wish to help the land regenerate and rewild and become a refuge for a wide range of beings.

And with this comes another dream: bringing the condors back to this beautiful canyon in the Andes mountains.

Others have done it in other places. They have experience they can share with me. And the land seems good for this project. So why not?

It’s more than a dream. It feels like a calling. It’s something that came and stayed rather than being consciously created.

If it is at all possible, I imagine it will require a lot of time and engagement: Learning about the process. Setting up a local non-profit organization. Finding local allies and people who can join the project. Working with the local government and organizations. Educating the locals and, when possible, getting them onboard to whatever extent they are interested. Finding local bird specialists who can consult. Getting required permits (?). Getting and releasing the condors. Follow-up. And perhaps repeating with a new batch. It may be a decades-long project for all I know.

I don’t know if this will happen. It may not be possible. It may be that the canyon doesn’t provide the right habitat, due to human activity. (Just one poisoned carcass could kill them all.) And the ones who care for the few condors available may have better habitats in mind. If this project is possible, a lot of things still will have to fall in place. And if it does fall into place, it will likely involve far more than I imagine.

Why do I write about this?

Because our childhood fascinations are important. They never go away. When we follow them, it can take any number of outward forms. And you never know when an opportunity comes up to engage in these fascinations and bring them to life in new projects.

For me, engaging in my childhood fascination in this way feels deeply meaningful and aligned with the depth of who I am.

In general, following my fascinations seem important. It’s what brought me on this journey of exploring who and what I am. It’s what brought me into art and then psychology. It’s what gave me the opportunity to work on sustainability with a group of amazing people. It’s what brought me to the zen center many years ago, and the community there. Following my fascinations brings aliveness, meaning, and a sense of deep alignment.

In this case, this dream connects me with my childhood fascination. It may be that this particular project doesn’t come to fruition, but the reconnection in me may lead to something else.

Note: During a kind of shamanic journey some years ago, in a Vortex Healing class, I saw myself in the Andes mountains with condors. They seemed to be my guides. It was an experience that resonated deeply with me. This was a while before I met my now-wife and had any plans of going to Latin America, let alone buying land in the Andes mountains.

Finca Milagros - view

Regeneration and culture

My wife and I became stewards of some beautiful land in the Andes mountains. It’s been heavily grazed in some areas, so we wish to help the land return to a flourishing and vibrant state. And that includes allowing a natural succession of native plants until – over some decades – the ecosystem reaches more maturity.

We hired some locals to clear existing paths through the land and gave them very clear instructions to only clear walking paths, wide enough for one person to pass. What they instead did was to clear one large area of all vegetation including smaller bushes and trees, leaving only the more mature trees. This is apparently what the locals do, and our instructions probably didn’t make much sense to them.

For us, it meant that the process of succession was set back one or two years (?) in that area. The vegetation they removed was the pioneer species that provide the shelter and environment for other plants to follow.

Although it was a slightly painful lesson, we also learned that we need to be present to oversee these kinds of projects. We need to find local people to work with who understand what we wish to do with the land, and also educate the ones we work with and make sure they understand. (This happened back in February or March this year.)

The photo is from the land, but another area than the one that was “cleaned”.

Rafael

We said goodbye to Rafael today. 

We met him in a mall in the countryside in the Andes. Someone had abandoned him and put a superman scarf on him, and we adopted him. He was old, sick, and almost blind and needed us, and I think we needed him. After treatment for cancer, he did much better. He had a lot of energy and vitality, although he also got tired after walks. And he got much more attached to us and we to him. 

Last night, his health took a dramatic turn, and we learned that his abdomen was full of cancer. 

We had three good months together. He experienced a lot of love and we experienced his love in return. And he likely had a good life before we met him, judging from his personality. 

And I also notice some of the questions and regrets that many experiences when someone close to us dies. Could we have done more for him? Maybe we could have made his last three months even better? (We would have done more of his favorite things if we had known we only would have three months with him.) And I also know we did what made sense and it was pretty good. We gave him cancer treatment. We spent a lot of time with him. We cuddled with him and gave him attention and love. We took him for walks. My partner sang for him. We gave him the best food, although we would have given him more of his favorite food if we had known.

It was heartbreaking and beautiful to spend the last minutes with him. I am deeply grateful for having known him. 

And it also brings up the question of what happens after death? Will something move on? Will what we are, at some level between the physical and absolute, meet what he is again? I don’t know and am at peace with not knowing. There is beauty there. 

And I also notice the beauty in grief. Grief is what happens when we love someone and they are lost to us. Grief is an expression of love. Grief and tears come and go and live their own life, just like any other experience. 

Update a few days later: As with any strong experience, a lot more has been going on.

I experienced a deepened empathy with all life. We are all going to die. We all essentially wish for the same – happiness, contentment, connection, love, safety, freedom from suffering.

It’s a reminder that we’ll all die. Death is necessary for new life. It creates the space and conditions for new life. The death of stars creates elements used in new solar systems and life. The death of a species allows space for other species. The death of an individual creates space for new individuals. Remembering this makes it a little easier to relate to the death of those close to us.

His death made me look at how we treated him when he was with us. Could I have done more? What would I have done differently if I had known we would have such a short time together? How does this apply to how I live my life and treat the ones in my life now? Knowing we all have a short time together, what do I wish to do differently?

I have experienced the presence of Rafael waxing and waning at different times, and this corresponds with what my partner has reported.

For the first five or six hours after he died, he seemed far away which was a bit surprising to me. Then, his presence was very strong and he seemed happy. I wondered if he had spent those hours with his initial family, which he may have lived with for eight or nine years so it makes sense if his bond with them was (and is?) stronger. 

Now, a few days after, it’s as if he is everywhere, which I know is a common experience when someone close to you dies. Why is this? One explanation is that he is with me in my own mind, so to me he seems to be everywhere – in the sky, the room, and so on. 

Finca Milagros - view

Finca Milagros

I thought I would include some posts about one of the current projects in my life.

My wife and I find ourselves as the stewards of several hectares in the Andes mountains. Although most of it is forested, the land has been impacted by centuries of small-scale farming and grazing. So in addition to building a small house there – using local materials and traditional building techniques – we want to help the land. We want to help bring it to a vibrant state which will be the home to innumerable living beings — microorganisms, plants, insects, birds, and four-legged creatures.

I’ll post a few updates here, using the “finca milagros” tag “finca brisa” tag which is the preliminary name for the land. See also “rewilding” and “regeneration”.

These photos are from a meeting with some of our design and building team. This is the first meeting where we had plans for the house.

Happy because he doesn’t have thoughts saying blindness and cancer is wrong

This is Rafael. He is a sweet old dog we adopted last month.

A few weeks ago, he was abandoned in a shopping center in a nearby town, perhaps because he is old, mostly blind, and has cancer. We happened to be there, saw him at the information booth, and decided to adopt him if nobody came for him. The first few days after he came to us, he seemed sad and mostly rested.

And now, he is now doing much better. He has received successful treatments for cancer, he is happy to be with us and have a new home, and he has much more energy.

HAPPY BECAUSE HE DOESN’T HAVE THOUGHTS SAYING IT’S WRONG

One thing that’s very obvious is that even if he is mostly blind, he is still very happy and friendly. And he is very excited to go for walks, even if he bumps into things occasionally.

He is happy because he doesn’t know anything is wrong.

I shouldn’t be blind. I should see. I am worse off than others who can see.

He is incapable to have those thoughts. They don’t exist for him. So he is happy.

OUR OPTION: FIND WHAT’S HONESTLY MORE TRUE

We are capable to have those types of thoughts, and most of us do. So what can we do?

We cannot choose to not have them. But we can choose to investigate them thoroughly and sincerely and find what’s honestly more true for us. And here, there is a similar peace.

If we are incapable of having a stressful thought, it’s peace. If we are capable of having it, and do, and hold it as true, there is stress. And if we investigate and find what’s more true for us, there is again peace.

And for most of us, that investigation continues throughout our life. We have adopted a large number of stressful thoughts from our culture and society so new ones may crop up. And it does become easier over time. The weight of thoughts lightens, we become familiar with more categories and types of thoughts and recognize them when they come up, and we are more familiar with how to investigate the news ones that surface.

CLARITY OPENS FOR KIND ACTION

One of the stressful thoughts we may have adopted from society is:

If I am OK with what’s happening, I won’t do anything to change it.

If we pretend we are OK with what’s happening without actually being OK with it, then that may be the case. We may use ideologies and shoulds to pretend we are OK with something when we are not, and we may misguidedly go into inaction.

Clarity is different. In my experience, when I find more clarity, I am more at peace with what is, and I am more available for kind action. I am more receptive to what the situation calls for.

In this case, I am OK with Rafael having cancer and being blind. It’s how life plays itself out in that case. At the same time, I take him to treatment for cancer every week and follow the instructions from the veterinarian. And when that’s done, we’ll take him to an eye doctor to see what can be done for his eyes.

He is OK with being blind. We are OK with him being blind. And wouldn’t it be amazing if he could see again?

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Regeneration: putting energy into something that’s temporary

I am about to embark on a relatively large and long-term regeneration project. And I notice one small voice in me saying: Why do it when it may all be temporary? As soon as you are no longer in charge of this land, someone else will take it over and that person may make it all into farmland or housing development.

Yes, that’s true. And yet, all is temporary. Everything I put energy into is temporary. This universe and everything it makes itself into – including all beings and all human culture and achievements – is temporary.

This is no different.

If I was not to put energy into something that’s temporary, I would end up putting energy into nothing at all.

I prefer to play the game. To put energy into something that’s temporary, including this regeneration and rewilding project.

It feels deeply right. The land is calling to me. I cannot find any good reason to not do it. So why not do it? Why not enjoy the project – with all the challenges and joys that come with it?

In this case, at the very least, it will benefit the many beings that live and will live on this land for the coming years. That, in itself, makes it more than worth it.