Burying the dead in the beginning

Adult raven photograph by Ron Hanna via https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-raven#photo3

Studying Jewish folklore brings one around many old testament stories, and with that, the source of many cultural idioms and expressions: “the writing on the wall”, the value of atonement, among much else.

Something new to me is a source of wisdom on burying one’s dead. I did not realize advice about it for Jews goes back to beresheit:

After Hevel [aka Abel] was slain, he was lying in a field, his blood spattered over sticks and stones. The dog who had been guarding Hevel’s flock now also guarded Hevel’s corpse from the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky.

Adam and his mate came and sat by the corpse, weeping and mourning for him, but they did not know what to do with Hevel’s body.

A raven whose companion had just died said: I will teach Adam what to do. The raven took his dead companion, dug up the earth before the eyes of Adam and his mate, and buried him in it.

Adam said: We will do as the raven. At once he took Hevel’s corpse and buried it in the ground.

Commentary on the fourth reading of the first torah cycle, via https://headcoverings-by-devorah.com/MidrashBereishit3.html, with image via https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-raven#photo3

Willows Edge – First Casita Campout – April 2021

Pursuing study and projects oriented toward alchemy and ecology, I have had the privileged opportunity to start a land project at Willows Edge Agroforest. This project is intended to make space for ecological mutualism and for a mother tree nursery that can be used to start a variety of tree nurseries. There’s lots of updates I’d like to share about that, but even with the work done and the photos taken, it takes time to report out about it.

Here’s a gallery to share a big weekend at Willows Edge. This was the an eventful occasion: the weekend of my ‘golden’ birthday, my first time camping out in the workshop-cabin now referred to as the casita (Spanish for ‘little house’), the completion of finding permanent homes for the hundreds of trees I began from seed in Fall 2019, and first sight of the organic farm starting on a lease of 2/3rds of this area. A great five days with friends and allies, human and otherwise, shared with much thanks.

To view the album, please visit the Alchemecology page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=Alchemecology&set=a.3744731438982390

Tracking agroforest tree plantings and farm features using QGIS

Here is a response I want to share from a question about how tree crop enthusiasts are keeping track of plantings and related info:

Metal tree tags on locust stakes are low-tech and work reliably. For a more advanced, digital approach, I use QGIS. It offers the benefits described in a comment above about ArcMap, but it is free and open-source software. It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it is a very powerful tool and it can interface with other geospatial technology including GPS, Google Earth, and iNaturalist. If you try this route, I recommend focusing on the following steps to begin with.

  • Install (and if you can, make a contribution to) QGIS https://www.qgis.org/en/site/.
  • Find and download raster files (.jpg, .tif) for overhead views of your Area of Interest (AOI). These files are referred to as aerial imagery or orthoimagery, and in the U.S. you can get them from county GIS websites or from https://nationalmap.gov.
  • Follow a basic tutorial about raster vs. vector file types, and creating shapefiles.
  • Create a polygon shapefile for your AOI boundary- Create a point shapefile for your individual plants.
  • Add new attribute fields to your ‘plant points’ shapefile to describe characteristics you want to keep track of. Here’s some fields I use (+ examples/explanation):
    • species (corylus spp.),
    • planted_date (fall 2019),
    • permanent (y/n in case it is to be transplanted),
    • measured (y/n to indicate if its location is precise or estimated),
    • source (to keep track of cultivars, purchases, etc),
    • updated (date for when this entry was last updated, since inevitably the records can get out of date; update this every time you update any other field for this data row)
    • notes (misc info that doesn’t fit cleanly in other fields, try to use this sparingly as it is better to have distinct fields in case later on you want to select or analyze plants based on some attribute)
Screenshot of QGIS in use for agroforestry mapping
Here’s what QGIS looks like in regular use for me. You can add shapes as points, lines, or polygons, which can represent individuals, linear plantings, or orchard blocks. This screenshot shows an individual tree point selected, with the kind of info I described above and more displayed on the right-side ‘attribute table’.

At this stage, you will have a powerful, interactive map of your AOI, with individual points or polygons to depict features of interest on your property, and those features can have a miniature (or massive) database of characteristics associated with them. You can have as many or as few fields as you’d like, and you can even associate fields (e.g. feature_ID) with other datasets, such as yield records or amendment history for an orchard block.

A basic tutorial about Coordinate Reference Systems (CRS) and about Georeferencing would be helpful to get ahead of GIS software’s more confusing aspects. Using an appropriate and consistent CRS is especially important for making accurate spatial measurements. You can also go to https://gis.stackexchange.com with questions.

Example map from QGIS
Here’s a finished map from QGIS. It is not as easy to make proper maps in QGIS but it is possible – a tutorial will save you a ton of time vs. winging it.

We are all in this together

Importantly, the universe being a simulation does not imply solopsism.

I have seen a few cases of solopsism and similar philosophies taken as a given, based on the ‘universe is a simulation’ press circulating. Eventually news will spread that theoretical physicists think of mind as a substrate of reality.

It is important to remember that in any of these metaphysical views, it can still be true (and perhaps much more-so) that we are all in it together.
Perhaps I am just an ant, or just dust, or just digital. And so, I know how much an ant, or dust, or digital bits, can suffer, aspire, inspire, and love.

May peace be upon you!

Storied Pasts


“If I died in a month would I be satisfied with my life, and the answer was ‘no’.”

“I don’t have to be a reincarnation. It’s not the most important thing. If my existence has meaning, it’s because I’m doing good in this world—I’m helping people. I don’t have to be a tulku in order to do that.”

“We don’t need all those complications,” he says. “We’re all humans. We’re all struggling. We’re all learning from each other.”

“Yesterday, I was talking to one of my tulku friends who is in New York, happily driving for Uber.”

Storied Selves

Highlights generously provided by a YT commenter:

– We are all unreliable narrators of our own lives.
– To tell a story is inescapably to take a moral stance.
– Stories are the way we make sense of our lives.
– The way we narrate our lives shapes what they become.
– Change, even really positive change, involves a surprising amount of loss.
– What would happen if you looked at your story and wrote it from another person’s point of view?
– Life is about choosing which stories to listen to, and which ones need an edit.
– There’s nothing more important to the quality of our lives than the stories we tell ourselves about them.

O Sol, InsPHIre I

Sunday: It is all about our unique individuality and what we do with it.

“All that survives of these solar hymns are an altered version of Proclus’ Hymn to the Sun, and the 9th hymn in the Nomoi … the Sun is ruler of the other planets, and with them governs all terrestrial things. …The theory of prayer with which Pletho introduces his hymn is remarkably like the theory of magic behind Ficino’s astrological music; Pletho addresses the gods thus:

‘May we carry out these rites in your honor in the most fitting manner, knowing that you have no need of anything whatever from us. But we are molding and stamping our own imagination and that part of us which is more akin to the divine, allowing it both to enjoy the godly and the beautiful and making our imagination tractable and obedient to that which is divine in us.’

Pletho’s hymns and rites, like Ficino’s do not aim at any objective effect on the deity addressed, but only at a subjective transformation of the worshiper, particularly his imagination.” -(p.61)

Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella by D.P. Walker

via Mark Stavish of the Institute for Hermetic Studies

Co-op’ing Ways of Thinking

In a conference webinar session about cooperatives (as a business model), we discussed how what we are taught about economics is not cooperative.

The myths of our capitalist culture tell us the commons is tragic, despite the authors of that myth (tragedy of the commons) building their arguments on shaky foundations, and having that myth refuted by a high quality scientist who won a Nobel prize for that refutation and clarification of managed commons.

In this discussion, someone made the great point about one reason we all benefit from passing leadership to indigenous and black leaders:

“I feel that that is one reason we need to lean into Indigenous Values and have BIPOC leaders in building Coops– because they have been holding it down for so long….and they know how to lead from a different reference point of conditioning and community resourcing…”

What will come of this?

Year 2222
200 winters away
How many generations will have passed?
What will I&I enjoy in life? What of one's own ways will continue?
What lessons will I&I have learned?
What challenges will I&I face?

What will I&I have of the essential gifts to sustain oneself? Wood, water, air, soil, energy?

#TreesAreTheAnswer #WeAlreadyKnow #Hózhó