The day begins with the sun rising over the Sangre de Christo Mountains, which stretch from the distant southwest horizon clear to the northeast corner of the round bowl of our sagebrush mesa. Snow clouds gather, grey and heavy, draping a mist over the mountains as the light slides into the glass bottle walls of the earthship house. In this style of architecture, you live with the earth, breathing with the rising sun and wind, opening doors and windows at midday, closing them as the long shadows of sunset draw across the mesa.
My partner, Dariel, and I meditate after he drinks his coffee in the morning. The delicious and bitter aroma of the slow-drip coffee entwines with the scent of the slender stick Japanese aloeswood incense as we sit quietly in front of our altar. The aloeswood is an indulgence for me, an annual birthday or Christmas gift ordered from Japantown in San Francisco. I once modeled for a bronze sculptor and karate master who would light a few sticks to set the focus and intensity of creative concentration … the incense reminds me of the importance of discipline and dedication (rarely my strong suits).
After meditating, I prepare my gung-fu teaware, sit down in my writing corner on a small wool carpet, sharpen a number two pencil, pull out the stack of scratch paper (left over from proofediting the previous book), pour the first round of dark puerh tea, and empty my mind.
Then the stories come.
The emerging new novel is surprising me. Sometimes (as with Billionaire Buddha), I write a novel from the opening line to the closing line, with a few insertions of sections or deletion of chapters afterwards. This story unfolds non-linear, mysterious, revealing itself slowly and luxuriously, seducing me with its beauty, stunning me with its threads of metaphors and story lines. It sends me running to the Taos Public Library to thread my way through the stacks searching on intuition for subject matter pertinent to the themes of the book. Every novel and play I’ve written has sent me on many quests to the public library … I’m a fan of such places, and of the whole notion of a common source of information and inspiration. Library Books, a poem in Skylandia: Farm Poetry, tells the story of how my mother raised a cash-strapped family on weekly trips to our local library.
Breakfast becomes brunch (a luxury of semi-employed authors; we may eat beans and rice, but we have them on our own time!), a beautiful meal of rice, steamed vegetables, beans. Once, long ago, I began to eat vegan and have never looked back. The cow needs her muscles more than I do.
Today, we scurried around the yard gathering sagebrush kindling as the snow fell on the mountains over Taos. I brought in armloads of firewood for the small evening fire we occasionally light. (The earthship tends to maintain a comfortable temperature without any heating other than passive solar from the south facing wall of windows.) I cleared the graywater ditch of the summer’s accumulation of weeds and grasses, discovering that the wild plum trees and goji berry plant had grown two feet despite my utter neglect. I pulled the mullein plants out of the garden and washed off the dirt … mullein leaves (never the flower!) are good as a tea for winter coughs.
We’ve been canning applesauce and plum jam from fruit grown at Taos Pueblo. I boil the jars on my wind-powered, electric hot plate. The gas stove would be faster, but someone’s watershed would get fracked and that’s not a price I’m willing to pay for my convenience. Besides, the tempo of the afternoon rolls by at a gentle pace while I listen to the rattling of boiling jars and manage the social media accounts for Campaign Nonviolence, where I share resources and inspiration for making change through the tools of nonviolent action, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and so much more. Today’s daily inspiration in your inbox from Pace e Bene’s “This Nonviolent Life” quoted Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; but in the expert’s mind, there are few.” So, I applied my beginner’s mind to nonviolence and I also spent a few minutes signing up for the Metta Center’s new 8-week email course, Nonviolence for Beginners.
As cold rain began to fall across the desert, I took a few moments to write cards to accompany books and novels going out to readers around the world! In New Zealand, I wrote to one person, your season is turning toward summer, while we are nearing winter – how beautiful and astonishing this beloved Earth is! I try to send personal notes to anyone who orders books from my website … since I rail against corporate tyranny, isolation, and dehumanization in my social justice and activism work, writing real notes (in cursive) from one real human being to another is a small act of building a beautiful, humanity-loving and life enhancing world.
Nighttime arrives with a howl of coyotes who sing as darkness falls and at moon rise. These incredible silver-furred creatures live just down the ridge from us and remind me to pay attention to the beauty of an impermanent, ever-changing, interconnected world. They have been gentle neighbors, chasing the rabbits out of our garden and enjoying the compost pile treats (such as apple cores from the recent applesauce canning project). They serenade the arrival of night like a mindfulness bell ringing in a distant temple, calling me back to presence with this Earth.
For this, and every moment of this life, I am grateful.
Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Occupy Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is also the social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com