You never know where Open Roads will take you…

The Quantum Quorner

As promised, we’re offering our brand of continuing education on the specific subject of Quantum Physics. Our frequent contributor, Matthew Bain, shall be heretofore known as “The Subatomic Professor,” when holding forth on these matters. Ed.

In the interest of setting the stage for a clear and accessible conversation about the physics of the subatomic scale and how it affects us here on the superatomic scale, it seems a glossary is a helpful resource to have on hand before we delve into concepts. This glossary is very limited in its scope, handling only the most basic terms that will likely be brought into the discussion. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please send us a note!

Quantum Glossary

Phenomenon: a fact or occurrence that can be observed. (plural: phenomena)

Subatomic: on a scale smaller than the atom, or involving phenomena at this level.

Superatomic: on a scale larger than the atom, or involving phenomena at this level.

Energy: The property of matter and radiation that is manifest as a capacity to perform work (such as causing motion or the interaction of molecules.)

 Matter: That which occupies space, especially as distinct from energy. The substance that composes bodies which are perceptible to the senses.

 Gravity: The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass.

Physics: The branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of physics, distinguished from that of chemistry and biology, which includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms. For our purposes, we’ll begin with defining two branches of physics.

Quantum: [plural: quanta] a discrete (separate), indivisible quantity of energy proportional in magnitude (size) to the frequency of the energy it represents. Also used to describe the branch of applied mathematics dealing with motion and the forces producing motion.

Classical Physics: The branch of physics that is based on the assumption of Classical mechanics and excludes relativity and quantum mechanics.

Quantum Physics: The branch of physics that deals with discrete indivisible units of energy called quanta. See quantum mechanics.

Mechanics: The branch of applied mathematics dealing with motion and the forces producing motion.

Classical Mechanics: Mechanics based on Newton’s laws of motion and other concepts and theories, which preceded the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Quantum Mechanics: The modern theory of matter, of electromagnetic radiation, and of the interaction between matter and radiation; it differs from classical physics mainly in the realm of atomic and subatomic phenomena. The branch of mechanics that deals with the mathematical description of the motion and interaction of subatomic particles. Also known as quantum theory, quantum physics.

Quantum Theory:  see Quantum Mechanics.

Observer effect: Refers to changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.

Uncertainty Principle: This is based on the precept, or rule, that accurate measurement of an observable quantity must produce uncertainties in one’s knowledge of the values of other observables; no matter how hard you try you cannot obtain a precise measurement for both velocity and position. Also known as Heisenberg uncertainty principle; indeterminacy principle.

Moving Right Along

Dear Readers,

I want to share with you some thoughts I’ve been having about a subject near and dear to my heart. Quantum Physics. Yes, this from she who made it okay through biology and algebra in high school but got totally lost in chemistry and geometry, never even daring to attempt physics and trigonometry. Over the years my forays into matters of Spirit have led me to surprising encounters with matters of mathematics and science. My reading about and studies of New Thought and New Age philosophies and theosophies have been fraught with quotes from both scientists and ancient mystics. “Hmmmmm…” I thought, whenever that happened.

The single thread that keeps pulling me forward in any direction in my life is the call to conscious evolution and the evolution of consciousness—the same, yet different. Everywhere I look these days I see evidence both are happening. I’m also intensely aware that many people not only don’t hold this perspective, but believe it’s wrong and dangerous. This, I believe, accounts for the extreme resistance to change. I also think the way this plays out in the world is in the collapse of systems that no longer are sustainable as we evolve beyond the consciousness that put them into place. And that begats apocalyptic predictions about the future—widespread destruction and disaster, which sometimes engenders self-fulfilling prophecies.

You’ve heard me say it here before and I’ll say it again; what if the demise is clearing the way for a world that we’ve only heretofore dreamed of? What if all that yakety-schmack about love and peace and joy and abundance is what’s real and lasting, and it takes the falling away of all that isn’t in alignment with that before we can experience it? What if humanity is just having growing pains and from an evolutionary stand-point, we’re about to take the next leap, comparable to when we walked out of the muck on two feet—only this leap won’t take millions or even thousands or even hundreds or even tens of years?

If you can look around this world and be anything less than amazed, inspired, and in total awe, you’re not paying attention. Never has mankind been this close to fulfilling his potential as creator of his own experience here in the Garden of Eden. Never have we been this close to understanding our true nature and power as divine beings having a human experience. Never has the veil been so thin that we could experience ourselves as connected, unique parts of the greater whole. Science fiction? Maybe. So, a hundred years ago, were those crazy flying machines and futurist ships that could sail underwater and rocket ships that went to the moon. ESP and spoon-bending, the Bionic Man, Star Trek Enterprise’s holodeck where reality was a computer simulation—all once were considered fantasy and magic.

I really get that all this changing and shifting makes some people want to hunker down and hold on for dear life to what’s familiar. Just like you can’t put a brick on your kid’s head to keep her from growing up, you can’t stem the evolutionary rising tide of shifting consciousness. The good news is that there are things we can do to make the ride less scary and more engaging.

This brings us full circle to quantum physics (you thought I forgot, didn’t you?) I’ve found the more I learn from quantum physics, the more the changes going on around me make sense. And equally, perhaps even more important from my point of view is seeing quantum physics as the place where science and spirituality dovetail, each enhancing the meaning of the other. In my world, that understanding empowers me to move with confidence that all is well in the Universe, allowing me to engage more fully with every aspect of my life, inspiring a sense of adventure and excitement that infuses life with an exquisite preciousness.

To that end, we’re going to begin having a regular quantum physics column. We’ll start with the basics and go from there. If you have specific questions we’ll do our best to find answers. If not, let’s just travel together into the 21st Century!




A collaborative effort by Becky Allen, Brenda Sistrom, and Matthew Bain

 The evolution of our consciousness and our culture is an awe-inspiring task, but I believe it is possible for anyone who cares deeply enough about it. Those of us who feel compelled by the evolutionary impulse must be willing to embrace the dramatic scale at which the life-process is operating. When we awaken to the fact that we are part of a fourteen-billion-year process that is going somewhere, we begin to see our own day-to-day, moment-to-moment choices in a literally cosmic context. We see our own presence here on earth in relationship to the evolution of the cosmos itself. —Andrew Cohen


     Even if you haven’t read this publication very often, chances are good you’ve encountered my personal bias towards the school of thought that says:

A)  We’re all in this together

B)  An evolutionary shift in individual and collective consciousness into that awareness is where we’re headed

C)  It is from that consciousness that we create a world in which “all men are created equal.”

Truly equal. As in, the world becomes a place where our spiritual DNA—peace, love, and joy expresses as abundance, acceptance, and freedom.

     We’re outgrowing the old models based on the idea that the mind—knowledge, intelligence, and reason are the keys to the kingdom. Please hear me; I’m not advocating for ignorance, stupidity, and irrationality. I’m saying that the mind is a tool used by consciousness and every outcome (idea, invention, work of art, scientific discovery, piece of technology) of the mind derives its value from the consciousness it serves.

     The ego lays claim to the mind and uses it mercilessly to push its agenda of conflict, judgment, blame, separation, fear, and lack. Mystics through the ages have understood that the path to peace begins with seeing the ego for what it is; the short-sighted, self-serving, defensive, isolated little “i.”

     All of the world’s major religions have a mystical sect based in the recognition that our true nature is divine. Though we may appear separate to the physical senses, we are more that that—as individuations of Divine Creative Source, we are all connected. We are, quite literally, ONE. Just as a wave can’t be separated from the ocean, nor a sunbeam separated from the sun, our divinity is inherent and can’t be stripped from us. The more aware, or conscious, we become of this truth, the more possible it is to use the mind to serve the agenda of the heart, which is ALWAYS love.

     Regardless of what one thinks about Jesus, for the last couple thousand years, He’s been recognized as the foremost authority on love. His teachings on the subject all lead to a consciousness of unity, Christ-consciousness, if you will. The principles, when practiced, center us in the heart. When we learn to “think” with our hearts (and perhaps “feel” with our minds) we can begin to truly understand our connection with all things.

     On my personal journey of awakening fully into Oneness consciousness, I’m continually brought back to whatever is my highest understanding at the moment. I use the word highest, though it may be more accurate to speak in terms of the broadest points or “biggest picture” perception. Every time I reach what feels like a limit, I’ve learned there’s always more. That’s the nature of divine love energy; increase and creation are its assurance.

     All this is preface to sharing about a story that’s unfolding in the far-away land of Florida, where my sister lives, and the considered response of a man with a profound understanding of the power of consciousness and a flair for cogent, concise analysis. Though the man lives here in Central Virginia, he eloquently identifies the universal nature of the impact of the practices described in the story.


     Here’s the short version of the Florida story: a Canadian-based businessman, Frank Stronach, who recently sold his interest in a car parts company (for a purported 1 billion dollars) is buying up a bunch of Florida farmland. How much, you ask? More than 60,000 acres in two counties (he now owns 29,000 acres in Marion County, making him the largest landowner in the county—a chunk of land larger than Walt Disney World, which sits on 24,000 acres.) Fred Hiers, staff writer for writes, “Behind the land grab are plans for a sprawling cattle ranch with tens of thousands of grass-feed, hormone-free cattle for beef production…the price tag for the land in both counties and beef processing operation: $80 million.” Oh, and then there’s the ‘world-class 420-acre golf course.’ There will be 120 homes on one-acre lots clustered throughout the links, as well as another 800 acres adjacent to the north for more home development.”

And, oh by the way, Stronach will be needing permission to “pump as much as 13.27 million gallons of water per day [from the St. John’s Water Management District] to irrigate his fields, cool his proposed power plant and operate his 61,000-square-foot beef processing operation. But most of that water will be used to grow grass, especially in the drier winter months, “to feed cattle,” according to Rick Moyer, who oversees Stronach’s Marion county operation. Never mind that the residents in the St. John’s Water Management District, which is responsible for managing ground and surface water supplies in all or part of 19 counties in northeast and east-central Florida are being restricted to once-a-week watering of their lawns due to drought.

The other talking points of the article include County Commissioner’s assessment of the economic impact; the creation of new jobs at the meat processing plant as well as other “indirect” jobs—lumber, transportation, sales, etc. If you want to read the article, I’ll post the link on the Open Roads website ( and you can just click on it.

So…that’s the story. My sister expressed her concerns to Matthew Bain (regular Open Roads contributor), aware of his interest in identifying the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which we are complicit in maintaining a status quo that best serves, shall we say, the now infamous 1% while raising awareness of alternatives that best serve the 100%.

Their interchange was as follows:

B: Matthew, I’m forwarding to you since you’re [one of] the people I best know connected with the “eating real food/locavore” movement. It makes me ill to see how this is planned to play out, yet so typical of business as usual in Florida. I want to file a comment w/the governing board of the water district (the same water district as mine).

Any suggestions as to what might be effective appreciated. Even posting on your Facebook page might be helpful, I don’t know. In any case, give us a blessing!

M: I’m not sure what would be effective to say, Brennie, as really it is the consciousness of people which must change in order for change to arrive in the external. And that is, as you indubitably know, typically an inside job.

This is an interesting story to me because it shines light on the way consciousness comes into play with issues. Here we have a man who wants to raise grass-fed beef. What could be bad about that, right? That is the healthy thing to feed cows, after all. This is a parallel example to why “organic” is a term with no substantive meaning.  Or, more correctly, the substance of the meaning of the term “organic,” just like the term “grass-fed,” is that the term has become a tool that allows producers, distributors, and consumers to continue in their conspiracy to maintain their own lacks of consciousness together.

“Organic” is the kool-aid of the food world. If it’s labeled organic I don’t need to worry about where it’s from. Just like if I recycle my newspapers and glass bottles and plastic containers, I’ve done my part to “save the planet.” And if I buy something labeled “grass-fed beef,” I’m actually ahead of the curve –I can educate my friends on how important it is to feed cows grass instead of corn. Of course, all of this is pure cowshit.

Local trumps organic AND grass-fed. Consciousness trumps unconsciousness. Grass-fed beef is only valuable if I buy it from a farmer I know, one whose farming practices are transparent and known to me. In that way I am taking responsibility for the way the land is used to raise my food. If I go to Whole Foods Market and buy “grass-fed beef” (which in Charlottesville is far more likely to be from Florida than Virginia, even though there are half a dozen small, independent, healthy, environmentally responsible operations within 75 miles of the C’vil Whole Foods Mart) then I am supporting business as usual. I am supporting the existing model which invests in maintaining market share by maintaining a flow of product uninterrupted by anything resembling consciousness. People in C’vil shop at WFM because they have established in their minds that WFM is a responsible retailer (not unlike Starbucks coffee establishing themselves as serving strong coffee, never mind it be on the backs and at the expense of small farmers the world around).

My path with this is guided once again by the Buckminster Fuller maxim that remains my email signature by no coincidence: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  This path is also informed by the 12Step program’s Eleventh Tradition concept of “attraction rather than promotion” as I consider change to be an inside job.

So I am at work rendering the existing model obsolete by participating in the building of the new model, arising from new paradigm consciousness, heart based living in place of the traditional western rational mentalism. I am at work growing my own food, processing my own food, eating more and more consciously every day, meeting and developing relationships with the producers in my area, sourcing more and more food more and more locally, shifting my spending from nonlocal chains to local, independent businesses who are also building relationships with local producers.

I am finding that the most powerful action I can take is to produce. When we all become producers, the FDA is outnumbered. And these days the FDA is the biggest teacher that producers and thus consumers have in the realm of food. Food is the primary medicine, and my food bill long ago replaced my financial support for the health insurance industry and the unconscious practices and culture it supports.

But I am also very open and vocal about what I am doing on all of these fronts. Education is highly important, but I really find the program model to be the most suitable for how I go about this. I want to help others who are unconsciously imbibing the toxins of the food industry, and that also helps me in my own process, but attraction is far more effective than promotion.

Promotion is also old paradigm whereas attraction is new. Attraction demonstrates my faith in all things and in divine right timing. I know all is well right now everywhere. And I know it’s getting better and stands to be much, much better than it is. Crisis is, for many, the path to the light. Food allergies, environmental toxins, and autism in progeny is becoming as populated a path to higher consciousness as addiction has been for others. I see these all as parallel.

Your water board may lack the consciousness to hear anything meaningful you have to say, but feel free to use my words if they resonate. And often it is worth saying these things as you might be the first one to vocalize what others are feeling already. Perhaps something will shift.  Sometimes this is how it happens. Sometimes being the sober, dispassionate voice of superior reason is the most powerful path.

Thanks for passing on the article – I’m going to post it on Facebook because it is an excellent illustration of why local food is important. As a small time farmer friend of mine in Berryville, VA (who feeds his cows grass) said, and I paraphrase, “people always ask why local food is so expensive. But they never ask the more important question:  why is all the other cheap, nationally distributed processed food so cheap?” In fact, that food is not cheap, not even monetarily. It’s just that the cost has been hidden in subsidies and the like. And that’s just the production of it. There are also the costs of health care for everyone who gets sick eating that food. There are the environmental costs of transporting it, processing it, even producing it – like you are seeing with this proposed farming endeavor.

Local food is supportive of life, ecology, health, community, local economy; agribusiness, even disguised as “organic” is destructive of these same things, especially on the local level. But it takes a certain consciousness to recognize this. Mostly people are stuck in unconscious patterns. This is why crisis is so valuable – it forces people out of patterns.

Whether you believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket or that we’ll not only survive, but be better for it, the reality is that we’re at the “something’s gotta give” point. This is one story about one man’s intentions and practices unfolding 800 miles and 4 states away, but it represents the prevailing consciousness that underlies similar stories unfolding all over our own state, our country, continent, and planet. By contrast, there is a growing shift in consciousness; there are people (again—close by and far away) who are conceiving of and implementing alternative systems that support the well-being of everyone, including our Mother Earth. From unity consciousness springs new models for living and working together. When I hear someone yell “socialism” I hear the ego’s fearful interpretation of how we treat each other when we understand that this planet and everything on it is one living, breathing entity, part of an ever larger unified field. Then we behave as if all life matters. Then we begin (to repeat the Buckminster Fuller idea) to stop fighting to change the existing reality and begin creating new models that make the old ones obsolete. The good news is that this becomes do-able when we’re working together.

This cosmic orientation is essential if we are to succeed in taking the next evolutionary step. If our orientation is not that big, we are always going to fall short. Our habitual ways of thinking are just too small-minded, petty, and personal. In order for authentic, profound, and meaningful transformation to occur, we have to make the effort to see all of our choices in this cosmic context. And that, in itself, is evolution. That’s what our next step is: awakening to a cosmic orientation to being a human being, here on earth, right now. —Andrew Cohen

“Ortho-Bionomy® as a healing modality is an indirect method. You help the person change their relationship to the situation; you do not change the situation.”Richard Valasek, Advanced Instructor of Ortho-Bionomy®

Sometime around 1995 I developed hip and low back pain so debilitating that I was afraid I had either severely damaged something in that area or I had bone cancer. X-rays showed neither of these to be true and, with a metaphoric shrug, the orthopedic physician said the best he could offer was a prescription for medication to alleviate pain and a suggestion to take it easy while I waited for it to get better. I spent the next several years trying to find the fix for whatever was causing this pain and unwittingly launched myself on a wondrous journey of self-discovery. An integral piece of this journey has been my involvement with a type of bodywork called Ortho-Bionomy®..When I first began studying the modality, I had difficulty in talking about what O-B is. I knew it as a therapy modality that helped my pain in ways nothing else had been able to. As I began taking classes to learn more about how I might use it for self-care, I discovered some central ideas: that, as in homeopathy, less is more; that the body is always seeking homeostasis (balance), and by exaggerating a misperception or misalignment, natural self-correcting reflexes in the body will be stimulated to bring things back into balance; that observation and attention alone, without force, can bring about shifts or changes.

Ortho-Bionomy® makes use of the physical body’s proprioceptors to cue through gentle movement, compression, and positioning of the body (proprioception is the “sense of self” we have through joint angle, muscle length, and tension. It tells us where our limbs are in space). Because the body is always seeking homeostasis (balance) and is self-corrective, when something is perceived as unbalanced or out of alignment, these self-corrective reflexes will kick in to bring things back into equilibrium and stability. And this shift into new alignment reverberates throughout the system, like ripples on a pond. O-B can effect profound change with a very small input.

My instructors talked of how the practitioner is really a facilitator for a conversation—literally between “neighborhoods” within the body, and also, on a more subtle level, helping the client become aware of how one’s internal landscape is connecting with the external environment. We don’t attempt to fix something. We are more educators. We use resistance only in the context of reeducation, perhaps an isometric or isotonic movement with follow-through to allow dissipation of built-up energy. Resistance in this context also allows both practitioner and client insight as to where a force originates, in which direction it’s moving, and with what intensity. This helps to see the pattern so it may be changed to offer more functionality and then be strengthened. Much bodywork uses “anti”—if a muscle is tight, stretch; if a lesion creates a pull in one direction, pull the opposite way to force the body “out” of the dysfunctional pattern. In Ortho-Bionomy®, we observe, we allow, we follow without judgment or attachment to outcomes, giving the body a chance to see for itself where the pattern is and how things might shift and realign into an easier (more functional) expression. We may offer different options for ease, allowing the body to choose for itself. Each shift provides the platform for another, etc, etc, until the entire system shifts into new relationship w/Self—ever evolving.

“Ortho-Bionomy is a gentle, non-invasive, system of healing that reminds the body of its natural ability to restore balance. It is based on a simple and profound philosophy: allow the body to correct itself. The hallmark of Ortho-Bionomy is pain relief.

The founder, British-trained Osteopath Arthur Lincoln Pauls, discovered how to gently stimulate the body’s reflexes for self-correction in a way that supports a person’s own healing mechanisms. The body is stimulated using gentle movements, comfortable positioning, brief compression and subtle contact. The result is seemingly effortless pain and tension relief, natural re-alignment, relaxation and a deep sense of well-being. The individual is empowered to participate in their own recovery, and through the process can begin to rediscover the ability to heal and restore comfort, ease and balance back into their body. ” (

This description taken directly from the Society of Ortho-Bionomys website gives an overview of the philosophy and principles behind Ortho-Bionomy®  as bodywork, but it only hints at the profound level of self-awareness that opened to me through its doors.

From my first session as a client in 2005 through today, in my role as a licensed massage therapist who offers the work to my own clients, after hundreds of hours of training, practicing, and giving and receiving Ortho-Bionomy®, I continue to deepen both the practice and understanding of what the Ancients and the New Age call Grounding—of linking my mind and spirit with a physical construct—the body that I live in. As Arthur Pauls intended, I have discovered that the principles behind this lovely, gentle and effective form of bodywork are the very principles that govern my larger existence. When I live my life with a non-judgmental attitude in openness and curiosity, when I allow the forces of life to flow around and through me, trying and choosing the paths and patterns that suit me, when I give myself permission to explore different possibilities for self-expression, adopting those that bring me into my best self as I am at this moment, then I am in harmony and alignment. This is the sweet spot, the place where I’m most fully functional on all levels and living in the fullness and joy of being, easily immersed in the flow of the All.

(Brenda Sistrom is a licensed massage therapist and Associate Practitioner of Ortho-Bionomy® who lives in Gainesville, FL.She continues to expand her understanding and experience of how she can live in and from her body in the fullest, clearest, and healthiest way, ever finding that sweet spot where she’s literally and figuratively comfortable in her own skin. Her practice is dedicated to helping others find the same.

Virginia Food Heritage Project, Interview with Tanya Denckla Cobb
By Becky Allen

I heard about the Virginia Food Heritage Project from my friend, Patty Wallens, who knows about seed-saving and such things. I was intrigued by this idea of “Knowing our past—Growing our future,” and Patty put me in touch with Tanya Denckla Cobb, a UVa professor who teaches food system planning at the School of Architecture and is an environmental mediator in the University’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation. This project was born when co-teacher Tim Beatley introduced Tanya to the idea of food heritage as a topic worthy of study. As far as I know, this is a prototype project, singular to Virginia in general, and Central Virginia, specifically.

Talking with Tanya about the project excited me; here’s an undertaking that creates a win/win for all involved. Thank you, Tanya, for sharing your story with our “Open Roads” family.

“The project started several years ago when I was co-teaching a course on food system planning with Tim Beatley, a professor at UVa. For the semester project, we asked students to do video interviews about food heritage with people at the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA). Tim introduced me to this idea of food heritage and its importance. He also introduced me to Gary Nabhan, who is a food heritage guru in theUnited States.Garyteaches at theUniversityofArizonaand is involved with Slow FoodUSAat the national level. He set up a program called RAFT—Renewing America’s Food Traditions.Gary’s very latest publication is on Appalachia, drawing mostly from interviews and work inNorth Carolina; this has everyone very excited as it explores the food heritage of a region close to us.

“Garyheavily influenced me, personally, in understanding the power of heritage food, and helping us to build a local food system using place-based foods, which creates a sense of uniqueness. This is something planners everywhere are trying to fight for; what I mean is planners are trying to retain – or rebuild – a sense of place or uniqueness in their community, to counter the momentum of sameness that has overtaken our country.

“So, I started looking at some of Gary’s publications and we had him come and speak to our class. Then I thought, why don’t we pull together a committee of community stakeholders who might be interested in seeing if there’s a viable future for something like this, even though I wasn’t sure what ’this‘ was. It was a fishing expedition, if you want to know the truth. I called a number of key people from the community and we started having meetings and talking about capturing food heritage histories and about the possibility of creating a food heritage story corps, similar to NPR’s StoryCorps. We had a lot of different ideas, which led me to write a small grant proposal that I submitted to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. We were awarded $2,000 to seed the project. At that time Gary Nabhan came to speak to my class and to meet with this planning committee we’d pulled together. He really fired people up. He’s on fire himself about food heritage. He also gave a public talk that was attended by 100-150 people; he talked about heritage food in the context of climate change, explaining why heritage food and retaining biodiversity in food crops is even more important as a kind of insurance to protect our future food supply. That’s the backdrop for the project.

“Since then the community stakeholder committee has grown; more people have gotten involved and we’ve become more focused in our goals. So this project now has three or four key elements to it. The first is documenting what our food heritage is—that’s always the beginning point. When Gary Nabhan has gone into communities in different places in the nation, he always tries to identify what he calls threatened, endangered, or even extinct heritage foods. They develop these long lists of cultivars of fruits, nuts, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms, fish, fowl, —it includes all types of foods. This is the starting point.

“So our committee wants to first identify our place-based food heritage. We’re calling it the Virginia Food Heritage Project because we envision someday that this will be a project for all ofVirginia. Our current focus is on the central Piedmont region, specifically the 5-county region of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which includesAlbemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Nelson, and Louisa counties, plus the City of Charlottesville. We’re seeing this as a pilot project for what we envision could be a larger project where each area of Virginia would someday undertake the same effort. We know, for example, that the Eastern Shore is going to have a very different food heritage from central Piedmont and very different fromSouthwest Virginia, etc. We know there will be very distinct regional food heritage.

  1. Let’s identify the place-based food heritage. Let me say that we’re not necessarily going to focus only on the threatened/endangered/extinct. We’re not sure we can be as rigorous as Gary Nabhan was—unless we get more funding, and that would be Phase Two. So our identification of place-based food heritage will be fairly broadly construed.
  2. We want to map it. We went to two events, the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticelloand Old Farm Day in Fluvanna. We had the maps of each county there and we created a map key, if you will, or a code for different types of things that people could identify. People told us about special places, special farms, canneries, production places, granaries and we mapped them. We might have some special heritage food restaurants. We were told about and recorded some heritage foods, so we started that process. We’ll make these maps available online as the basis, we hope, for some form of agri-tourism. We have a heritage music trail in the southwest; wouldn’t it be cool if we had a heritage food trail? We know that in other places, likeArizona, once they’ve identified a heritage food, it enables people to revive that food. For example, mesquite was a heritage food that had been lost. The first step was to provide farmers with the seed for mesquite. So farmers started growing mesquite. Next, they needed a mill, and they got money for that. Then they had the grain which could be made into food. It took a number of years, but, now mesquite has been integrated into restaurants, and other places that sell heritage foods now sell mesquite flour. That’s a longer term process, but it will not only be for agri-tourism; we’ll actually see some revival of these foods in other entrepreneurial ways.
  3. We want to capture the stories of food heritage, so we’ll be doing interviews. We hope to interview people who are knowledgeable, especially those whose knowledge may soon be lost. We know there are elderly people whose stories we definitely want to capture. We want to record them with video, but we also want to write up the stories. The committee thought this work could be done by students, so I’m creating a brand new class around food heritage and one of the things the students will do is conduct the interviews, create short YouTube videos, and write up the heritage food stories. I applied for and received an internal UVa Academic Community Engagement grant for the class and I’m now in the throes of developing the syllabus. In the spring, we’ll hold the first Food Heritage Planning class at the UVa School of Architecture.

“One of the arguments made in favor of creating the class was that this project could be a bridge between young and old, getting students out of the classroom and into the community. It would help them develop video skills, an increasingly important tool in today’s world and also give them experience with story telling in a non—academic way.”

This project has potentially far-reaching affects. Anytime we honor that call to connection—with each other, ourselves, the earth, we’re better able to find creative, collaborative solutions to challenges. As we look into the future, we can also look to the past for traditions that not only continue to have relevance, but can work as solutions to some of the challenges we face today. And what bigger challenge do we humans face than figuring out how to provide for our most basic need—healthy food that’s abundantly available? What sweeter way to meet any challenge than holding hands and walking together, metaphorically as well as literally, in community formed by bridging the gap between generations? What better tools do we have than the wisdom and experience that comes with age coupled with the enthusiasm and vigor of youth? In this waning age of mass produced food, this idea takes on even greater significance. Ed.

If you’re interested learning more about the project, check in at, where you can find their contact information:

phone: 434-924-1970

Creating a New Food System: Community, Conscious Choice and Local Farms

By Marilyn Noble

Our systems are broken. You can ask almost anyone and get the same answer. The financial system, the political system, the healthcare system, the food system – all in a state of disarray and dysfunction that benefits only the powerful, wealthy, elite few and leaves the rest of us falling farther behind, getting poorer and sicker with each passing day. And we’re powerless to fix it because “they” hold all the cards. It’s a pretty bleak picture.

But what if we step away from the victim mentality for a few minutes and look at the situation with new eyes. Consider this:  What if this seeming collapse of our systems is nothing more than a transition to a new way of living and being human? What if these are all signs not of coming apocalypse, but of evolving consciousness? What if “they” are just as unnerved and afraid as the rest of us? What if the solutions to our problems don’t really rely on “them” getting it (whether “them” is the government, Wall Street or major corporations), but reside within each of us? What if we’re the ones with the power?

Let’s look at the food system. Monsanto is shoving genetically modified organisms at us and suing farmers who find their fields have been cross-pollinated with the unwelcome new hybrids. A handful of huge corporations control most of the meat processing in the country and treat the animals and workers as cheap commodities. Massive farms pour petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides on monocrops that end up pervading most of the food we eat and even fuel the vehicles we drive. One-third of our children are obese, and diabetes is approaching epidemic proportions. How can we possibly fix the mess?

While all of this is going on, there’s another movement springing to life, and it’s one that each of us can join. Small farms and ranches, after thirty-plus years of decline, are coming back. The number of farmers markets doubled between 1998 and 2009 and they happen every day of the week in huge urban centers and small towns across the country. According to the USDA, the local foods market experienced sales of almost five billion dollars in 2008, much of that to grocery stores and restaurants. And since that time, hospitals, prisons and school districts across the country have instituted buying programs that include more local food as part of their menus. Is it a drop in the bucket compared to total agricultural sales? Absolutely. But is there plenty of room for growth? You bet.

Big agriculture and big food are starting to not only pay attention, but to worry. The National Farm and Ranch Alliance, a marketing collaboration of agriculture associations and their corporate partners including Monsanto, DuPont and Archer Daniels Midland, among others, is trying to drive the dialogue about how food is raised in this country, substituting the organic, local, sustainable message with one about enhancing public trust in agriculture. The Sensible Food Policy Coalition, an organization made up of major food processors, fast food corporations and the media, is lobbying Congress to avoid enacting voluntary guidelines that would reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in foods marketed to children. Their worry? That kids will eat more fruit and vegetables and quit eating the processed junk that gets pushed at them in the commercials bombarding them when they watch Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob.

The fact that these organizations are starting to fret is good news for the rest of us. It means that we, the people, are having an impact. And it’s one more sign that the revolution/evolution is happening as we speak. So how do we play an active part and take charge of our own destinies?

Become a conscious consumer. Ignore the incessant buzz of the industrial media complex and pay attention instead to what’s happening in your own community. Learn about how food is produced, about eating seasonally, about how animals are raised. Ask questions. Educate yourself and share your knowledge with others. Make conscious choices.

Plenty of on-line resources exist to help you learn. Animal Welfare Approved ( just released Food Labeling for Dummies, a guide to food labels and what they really mean. The American Grassfed Association ( is a resource for finding ranchers who raise grassfed and pastured meats in a humane and environmentally healthy way. Civil Eats ( is a resource for news about the world of agriculture and food and provides links to dozens of other organizations that promote sustainable and healthy eating. Slow Food USA (, along with local chapters across the country, is part of an international, grassroots movement toward good, clean and fair food.

Build your own food community. Get to know your neighbors and start a community garden or form a cooking co-op. Shop at the farmers market. Visit a local farm or two and build relationships with the people who feed you. Most farmers are happy to share their stories with their customers and friends. Community is the key – learning to share time, knowledge, produce and even money with the people around us makes us all stronger.

Learn to cook and teach your kids. You don’t have to get a culinary degree from the Cordon Bleu – just learn a few basics like how to use a knife and how to make an omelet or a pot of soup. Buy fresh, local food and avoid the processed Frankenfoods that line the shelves at the local grocery. Cooking doesn’t need to be a chore – it can be an opportunity to slow down at the end of the day and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones. Making dinner can be a family affair, and if you don’t have time during the week, spend a Saturday afternoon making easy dishes you can heat and serve all week. Mark Bittman’s classic book, How to Cook Everything is a must-have for anyone who wants to learn the basics and then expand on them.

Grow your own (and teach your kids). There’s nothing like a radish right out of the ground or a tomato fresh off the vine. Gardening is a fun family activity that, like cooking, helps reconnect you to your source.

Even if you live in an apartment, you can still be an active gardener. Britta Riley was frustrated by the non-existent outdoor space in her Manhattanapartment, so she developed a vertical, hydroponic window farm system, which she shares on her web site, The idea took off, and now Riley has an open-source community of more than twenty-three thousand window farmers from around the world who share their ideas and knowledge. She calls is R&D-I-Y, or Research and Develop It Yourself.

Start where you are, but start. If you’ve never cooked before, don’t think you have to prepare every meal this week. If you’ve never grown so much as a geranium, don’t plan to dig up your yard and plant a half-acre garden. Learn. Take baby steps. If you’re already making conscious choices about your food, what else can you do? Could you share what you know with others by teaching a class? In addition to cooking, could you start canning and preserving? There’s always one more step on the path.

Turn loose of excuses. It’s easy to get caught in the “I don’t haves.” Does this take time? Yes. Will you spend a little more money? Yes, possibly. You may have to give up some quality tv-watching time or a couple of the daily lattes every week. It’s all about priorities. But changing the world doesn’t come without a commitment of time and money.

Give up the guilt. Do as much as you can and don’t worry about the rest. If you feed your kids some fast food once in a while, the world won’t end. Just be sure it’s a conscious choice and not a slip back into old habits.

Strong communities of local farms and conscious eaters are one way we can all work to fix our broken food system. And as we create a new paradigm for food, solutions for the other broken systems will begin to evolve too. It really is up to us, each of us, to make a difference. Power to the people.

Marilyn Noble is a freelance writer, editor and food activist. Her latest book, Southwest Comfort Food: Slow and Savory is available at bookstores everywhere.

And Freedom For All

As with every other aspect of our human consciousness, the ideas we have about freedom are up for review. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately—in no small part because July is imprinted deeply in our American psyche as the month for our National Birthday Party. It’s the official celebration of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, which happened when we, as is the case with children, had grown and matured to the point we were ready to strike out on our own and take care of ourselves. Mamma didn’t like it; her little rebels, realizing she really didn’t have their best interest at heart, got uppity, so she sent Daddy over to whup us back into shape. But we’d been living on our own long enough to get a good taste of freedom. We had made a family of our own and we liked meeting the challenges on our own terms. We were younger, stronger, and more invested.

I don’t think the underlying desire for/attraction to freedom has ever changed. When those infamous words were written, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” they were concepts that struck the chord of Truth so deeply and strongly they became the bedrock upon which an entire nation was founded. That’s what I see as the Hand of the Divine moving through the fringe thinkers of that age. But recall, even as the words “liberty and justice for all” rang across the land, there were many for whom those unalienable rights were not only not recognized, but were vehemently denied.

Let us remember that, because these were new ideas they seemed radical at the time, and we were at the beginning of the learning curve in terms of how to implement them. That said, it didn’t seem at all contradictory that we would fight to the death to protect this right to claim our freedom while continuing to hold some people in actual, physical slavery. How did we square that? By believing them to be different/other—not even human, in fact. Yet we grew in consciousness and, in another hundred years some new fringe thinkers came along. They expressed what were again radical thoughts that resonated as Truth deeply and strongly enough to compel some to fight to the death in order to bring those same disenfranchised people under the umbrella of freedom.

In all ages, people have found justification for (mis)treatment of others. In the philosophical words of Kris Kristofferson, “everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on; who they can be better than at anytime they please—someone doin’ something dirty decent folks can frown on…” (from Jesus Was A Capricorn.) Yet because that’s how it’s always been done doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it that way. We can alter the pattern. Just as we’ve made advances in technology that freed up time and energy for us, there have been spiritual advances that free us up emotionally and psychically. In fact, that’s what Jesus/Buddha/Allah/Mohammad were all about; modeling for us a different way of seeing and being while in this world.

The long view of evolution illustrates many periods in history when humans struggled to find and live up to their best selves. There have always been individuals whose perspective was out of synch with conventional wisdom. Sometimes they were revered and sometimes they were stoned to death. Either way, it was their out-of-synch-ness that opened the way to seeing things differently, which is the precursor to change. There have always been those who walk among us who’ve shared their advanced understandings; in some cases, their teachings have been codified and held up as “The Way.” The problems haven’t been so much with the teachings as with our interpretations of them. One can assume a position on anything and amass data to support it. Facts just are; it’s the context and interpretation that gives them meaning.

People have forever taken pieces of information (sometimes accurate and sometimes not) to make a case for denying freedom to individuals and groups. It ain’t the facts, but the consciousness with which people use the facts that allows us to mistreat each other and our Mother Earth—consciousness comprised of beliefs in the illusion of separateness. And this is where the whole evolution/new information/change thing comes in. There are fringe thinkers among us now who tell us there IS no “other.” New science and ancient spirituality are finally merging into ONE understanding. Whether you choose to look from the lens of science or spirituality, what’s at the end of the lens is the same: oneness, a unified field of matter and not-matter. Science shows us how we’re interconnected through basic components of matter while spirituality shows how we’re connected through our hearts.

As information continues to pour in attesting to our interconnectedness, perhaps it’s time to revisit the ideas we have about freedom; you know, do an inventory—keep what’s still pertinent in light of new information and discard that which no longer fits with a larger view. As much as I’ve loved and oft quoted Kris Kristofferson, I’m ready to take a different tack on his idea that “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” I’m tossing “freedom has a price” along with any notion that one can “fight for freedom” as well as “your freedom ends where mine begins.” These beliefs, as fundamental as they were to one part of the evolutionary process, are rooted in fear consciousness that always equates “other” with “threat.” When I overlay the idea that we’re all connected, inside and out, those beliefs just don’t work.

The consciousness of love sees unique individuations of Divine Source rather than “other/threat.” In that light, the seeming paradox of how we can be both “different” and “the same” is reconciled. Each of my fingers are different but are part of the same hand. (Well…except they’re different from the ones on my other hand, which, like the first hand, is part of the same body; you see where we’re going with this.) As unique individuations of Divine Source, each is moving—whether willingly or with resistance—awakening to the recognition that, indeed, all are created equal and endowed with certain divine characteristics–spiritual DNA, if you will. We ARE peace expressing as abundance, love expressing as acceptance, and joy expressing as freedom. The only thing that ever gets in the way of that understanding is our old, habitual fear-based consciousness.

Holding the recognition that, at this moment on our evolutionary path we are shifting in consciousness from fear to love better equips us for the changes we think are happening “to” us. That information, in fact, frees us to choose to move with the energy (the easier path) or resist the inevitable (harder.) In the end, the power of conscious choice is the seat upon which freedom rests; real freedom—that unalienable right endowed by our Creator. We can keep looking with the eyes of fear and see only threats and mayhem, or we can look with eyes of love and see an emergent consciousness capable of creating a sustainable world supporting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Really. All.

“When you look back on what you consider to be your history, you will note, with rare exceptions, that the human race has been consistent, across the barriers of culture, in denouncing their fellow men for their differences. It is presumed that if one is correct in one’s perceptions and thus knows them to be truth, the differing perceptions of another being therefore constitutes falsehood. It has only begun to dawn on the collective consciousness that the countless differences in perspective amongst you are not evidence of a world of falsehood, but rather are proof of the infinite levels of Divine truth, personified by the presence of each of you.” Oneness by Rasha

Well, what are we supposed to make of THAT? We grow up being told, in no uncertain terms, there is RIGHT and there is WRONG. “Who says?” we ask as kids, “who decides what’s RIGHT and what’s WRONG?” Depending on what your parents were taught, chances are you got their party line, whatever that is: religion, science, a political party, the justice system, moral philosophers, ethicists. But from whence did they draw their conclusions?


Perception (per·cep·tion noun /pərˈsepSHən/)

perceptions, plural:

–The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses(e.g., the normal limits to human perception).

–The state of being or process of becoming aware of something in such a way(e.g.,the perception of pain).

–A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression (e.g.,Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public;  we need to challenge many popular perceptions of old age).

–Intuitive understanding and insight(e.g.,“He wouldn’t have accepted,” said my mother with unusual perception).

–The neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli

What if a new paradigm is emerging in which RIGHT /WRONG, GOOD /BAD, TRUE /FALSE are understood to be value judgments based in perception? What if the conclusions of the collective consciousness about RIGHT and WRONG are now more of a hindrance than a help in guiding our efforts to make our world a safe, peaceful, joyful and abundant place to live? What if the moral absolutes we dogmatically serve actually confine and constrain our evolution as spiritual beings? What if those “absolutes” are nothing more than beliefs?

 Okay, that’s just crazy talk, RIGHT? Maybe not. Belief is the basis for perception. Maybe if we understand why we believe the things we believe, we can start examining how those beliefs may be hurting rather than helping us, both individually and collectively.

The secret to making that examination effective is objectivity. Objectivity is the result of stepping out of emotion. The trick is identifying when a belief holds strong emotion for us and being willing to, for a moment, release the emotional attachment to that belief.

I’m not suggesting we stop feeling. The emotional component of our humanness gives our lives texture and depth; it’s the elemental aspect of a sense of meaning and profound experience. I am, however, suggesting that for the purpose of this exercise, we learn to recognize when a strong emotion is clouding our objectivity and become willing to set aside the feeling in order to open the mind to other possibilities. Thinking a new thought will not kill you. But it can raise enough fear to make you believe it can.

And there’s the rub. All of the beliefs that support unloving thoughts and behaviors are based in fear. Fear shapes perception. So does love. Fear screams RIGHT or WRONG, GOOD or EVIL, WINNER or LOSER, LIFE or DEATH! Love asks, peace or conflict, abundance or lack, joy or pain, inclusive or exclusive, whole or separate? Again, it’s our nature to evaluate and discern; in fact, this is a great place to use those skills to examine, objectively, the beliefs that shape our perception. In the conscious evolution process, using those skills from a loving perspective yields a very different result from using them from a fearful perspective.

Fear would have us believe that our safety lies somewhere outside of ourselves (and then, interestingly enough, tells us we can’t trust anyone else), that to be safe we must lock things down/up. It whispers that if we can just keep things under our control, everything will be fine. Love says everything IS fine, it’s only the belief/perception that it isn’t that causes conflict.

I hear the protests, “Wait. How can you say everything is fine when there’s a world of evidence to the contrary? And don’t give me that ‘there’s no RIGHT and WRONG’ crap; without a set of rules based in RIGHT and WRONG, everything falls apart! What about the murderers, rapists, thieves, destroyers of the earth—aren’t they WRONG?”

What if there were circumstances or conditions under which each of those acts could be viewed from a different perspective? Not as justification, but simply from the recognition that people/places/things/events just ARE—it’s how we think about them that gives us the experience. We assign value and judgment, based on, as one of the above definitions of perception offers, “The neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli.”

As the evolution of human consciousness moves us all forward into territory previously reserved for the Enlightened Masters, we can go kicking and screaming or we can relax, open to new possibilities and ride the wave joyfully, awake and excited as we choose the fulfillment of human potential. Either way, we’re set to experience the limitation inherent in fear-based consciousness and the limitlessness inherent in love-based consciousness. If you don’t believe it, look around the world and get clear about where fear is running the show and where love is running the show. Don’t be deceived by the use of the words; simply note what’s falling apart and what’s staying together. Note where holding a party line to the bitter end has resulted in pain and suffering and where flexibility and the willingness to do something different has resulted in solutions that are beneficial and support our Family of Man.

For the first time in human history (that we know of…) there’s a merging of science and spirituality that reflects the shift in consciousness towards the recognition of the inter-connectedness of all life. Quantum physics has opened the door to explanations supporting what mystics through the ages have known; there’s only One of us here. With that perception, every challenge we face in human form can be met and answered from infinite possibilities that become identifiable.

As we mature spiritually (read become willing to embrace our connection), the incredible technology that already exits and that which is on the horizon become the tools for building “a new earth.” We can inhabit this Garden of Eden as it was given to us, with no strings attached, for the sheer joy and fulfillment as the creative beings we ARE!

 (Note: ONENESSThe Divinity we all share.)


From Open Roads May, 2010

I may have said in this very paper that my second earliest memory (my first being bustin’ out of my playpen) is this: It’s 1956. I see my great-grandfather, hands folded on his chest, eyes closed, lying peacefully in his casket in my grandparents’ front bedroom. Streams of visitors, family and friends, come by, speaking softly to my grandparents and then quietly move to the bedroom to look at Granddaddy Dan as he lays there. I’m two years old, and I want to climb in and lie down with him in the midst of vibrant bouquets of flowers. I don’t really understand all the unusual activity, but I know that it’s important and that, somehow, it seems to help people not be so sad at Granddaddy’s passing.

I’m a southerner, and this is what we do in the face of death; we send our loved-ones home on the wings of angels, trumpets sounding, tears of grief mingling with tears of joy for knowing they’re in a better place. Sometimes the send-off is a grand production, sometimes it’s small and simple. Though customs have changed over the years, the underlying principle of respecting your dead people hasn’t. Which brings me to Memorial Day.

 Officially this holiday and women who died in military service. Thanks to the 1968 Uniform Holidays Bill that moved President’s Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day to Monday, making a three-day weekend, we celebrate Memorial Day the last Monday in May. Though the first recorded account of the name “Memorial Day” was in 1886, it didn’t really come into popular usage until after WWII. We know that in 1967 it was declared by this name in Federal law.

Prior to then, it was known as Decoration Day. There are many accounts of how, when, where, and by whom it all began. As I was noodling around on the internet, I began to get a sense that what were being identified as acts of respect for dead soldiers were simply Southerners being Southerners, doing what they’ve always done—honoring their dead people. What stood out at the end of the Civil War was the fact that they were extending the same honor to their enemies. Another form of Southern hospitality, if you will.

This is from the article GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: FINE SOUTHERN TRADITION OF DECORATION DAY INSPIRED MEMORIAL DAY (by Jay Grelen, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 2005): “As with all traditions, stories about its origins abound, but the genesis of Decoration Day is clear to folklorist Alan Jabbour, retired director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center.  Jabbour, Philip E. “Ted” Coyle, an associate professor of anthropology in North Carolina, and Paul Webb have recently completed a federally commissioned study of Decoration Day in North Carolina.  No question, he says, it’s a Southern thing for which the North takes credit.  Jabbour and his colleagues became experts on the tradition in a round-about way.  Their study was necessary because residents near Fontana Dam in western North Carolina wanted to build a road to 27 cemeteries rendered inaccessible in the 1940s by construction of a dam and a lake. The cemeteries now are part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and environmentalists fear a road will damage the park.

As a stopgap, the National Park Service transports people by boat during the Decoration Day season. Before the government decides to build a road, there has to be an environmental impact study. So the trio produced one, which will be released for public review in the fall. One result of the study is the finding that the tradition of Decoration Day remains strong.”

The story of the origins of Decoration Day, and how it has become confused with Memorial Day, involves a Union general, representative of the federal government in the Civil War, the war that led to the need for a Memorial Day in the first place. Official recognition of the day in the United States, whether you call it Memorial or Decoration, dates to the mid-1860s when the wife of Union Gen. John A. Logan reported to her husband the decorating of graves at a church cemetery inPetersburg, Va.  The general, who was commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization of Union veterans, liked the idea.  So in 1868, Logan proclaimed that the 30th day of May would be set aside to remember the war dead, which eventually led to the national Memorial Day.

Thus many credit Logan, the North and the federal government with the idea. But hold your horses. ”The North has always controlled the words,“ says Jabbour, a native of Jacksonville, Fla. ”If you read the encyclopedias, the North gets credit. Here’s what I think: What came first was an Upland South folk tradition for all the people in the community.  It wasn’t just for the fallen in battle.  It’s like a spring version of the Day of the Dead [in Mexico], communing with the dead. That’s the old tradition.”

So the South’s Decoration Day is probably the inspiration for Memorial Day, he says, not the other way around.  ”That custom was enforced by Gen. Logan through the Union Army,“ Jabbour says. ”The South was already doing it. I’m inclined to think this is kind of an early American tradition, a flower of the early frontier. The tradition seems to have migrated west from Virginia and the Carolinas as far as Arkansas and may remain the strongest in that belt. Recognition of the day extends in both directions from the government-sanctioned Memorial Day. (Some folks argue the federal government ruined it in 1971 by switching the day from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create another three-day holiday weekend). You could accurately refer to May and June as Decoration Day Season.”

There’s no reason to be adversarial—it’s not a contest, and it doesn’t have anything to do with North vs. South. It’s just the way things are done here.

I grew up in a time and place where many of my people (as we say in the South) were interred in family graveyards. When I was a child, we made a pilgrimage every summer toForkMountainfor the Fitzgerald reunion. My grandmother’s oldest brother, who lived in D.C., was the last family member to own the property. It was not far off Rt. 56 where the currentMontebellopost office is located and was still a working farm in that my uncle raised cattle on the several acres of mountain meadowland and kept one of the two houses on the farm set up for his visits. He would come down to host the reunion, when the extended family would gather at the top of a hill by the old family graveyard for food, fellowship and family business.

Like most of the attendees, we’d turn into the lane that eased across the neighbor’s land, honking to announce we were coming through. There was a gate we had to open to gain entrance to “our” land. Tradition mandated a stop at the spring for a drink of pure mountain water before crawling the last half mile of rutted, dirt road. We’d pass the old house—a log cabin—and be reminded of what growing up there was like for my grandmother and her six brothers and sisters.

Depending on road conditions and how the car was packed, kids might be off-loaded before the last stretch up to the cemetery to keep car bottoms from scraping on the rocks. Once there, we spread blankets, set up our lawn chairs, and loaded our food onto the picnic tables beside the fenced graveyard. My older sister would drag me through the little graveyard gate into the past, where she read to me and we memorized names and relationships of the dead to kinfolk sitting outside the fence, and thus, to us.

It was impossible not to feel absorbed into a vast family matrix, not to feel the deep, strong roots of an enormous family tree. Standing among those headstones, I was as close to the past as I was to the present. There I found (literal) concrete proof of oral history—how I’d been named after my great-great grandmother Rebecca. There was this sense of permanence and continuity, comforting me that the safety-net of family ties was somehow impervious to time and even to death.

After we ate, my grandmother’s oldest brother called the business meeting to order and youngsters scattered in all directions to escape boring grown-up talk. At some point, though, when I was old enough to pick up on the content of those meetings, I realized they were mostly about maintaining the graveyard. One year the cattle had broken through the fence and knocked over some of the headstones, cracking a few, breaking others. I remember feeling violated, as if juvenile delinquent cattle had deliberately vandalized this beloved place. I also remember feeling a certain sadness as the years passed and my grandmother’s generation aged and died. Attendance at the reunions diminished and so did interest in the graveyard. We lost the connecting generation—those ones who had actually known the people at rest there, who could bring them to life with stories and anecdotes.

My Uncle William, chairman of the business meetings and owner of the land, wasn’t much older than I am now when he undertook the responsibility of seeing that the final resting place of our ancestors was kept in good order. He died in 1985 and, to my knowledge, was the last one buried in that graveyard.

     As Ruth Teaford Baker said, “Regardless of sentiments, there is a mighty exodus from other states into the South during the month of May. The tone has changed somewhat from the past, but the basis of the tradition is strong family ties that transcend time and space. People return to their roots as surely as the birds return year after year to their territories.”

Though many non-southerners think it morbid, we know it’s about family ties. I’m grateful for my understanding, born of experience, of how this holiday came into being. This Memorial Day, as I pay my respects to those men and women who died in military service, I’ll also remember the longer-standing traditions rooted in my southern family heritage.

For more on the subject, here’s an op/ed piece from today’s New York Times:

Peace, Baby

From the April issue:

Let’s talk a little about peace; not the peace-means-not-war peace, but the peace that passes understanding. If we continue to think/believe/act like peace can be forced, or enforced by the threat of violence, any un-war state achieved will be unstable and temporary. The idea that peace is contingent upon conditions is as unreal as the idea that a tree falling in a forest devoid of humans makes no noise. The energy movement, the vibration, occurs whether or not a human is on hand to identify it, interpret it, or take credit for it, as humans are wont to do.

Peace is a state of consciousness; it just is. It’s always there, awaiting our awareness. Though we may be able to make peaceful conditions, we don’t have to make peace. We only have to identify and then let go of the thoughts/beliefs/actions that keep us from experiencing the natural state of peace that exists whether we take advantage of it or not.

At this point in our evolution, we’re capable of doing that. We’re completely capable of changing our minds—our thoughts, and therefore beliefs. After all, a belief is only a thought we think over and over until it becomes a well-worn groove in the brain.

Building on the understanding that we are all connected, the time is here and now for us to think differently, making decisions and choices based on that understanding. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to the demise of institutions—financial, political, corporate, military—as the the old power structure paradigm of “us vs. them crumbles.” It just doesn’t work any more, folks. If it did, we wouldn’t have upheaval all over the globe as outdated approaches create problems rather than solving them.

So, if we can’t pull a gun, aim missiles, threaten nuclear annihilation, or buy them off to make people get peaceful, what do we do? The answer is simple; we claim peace for ourselves. Simple, yes—easy, not so much.

It is incumbent upon every one of us to become aware of the thoughts and beliefs we hold that allow us to justify the acts of violence we perpetrate on each other all the time because we believe there’s an “us” and a “them.” I’m talking about every unloving word we utter or act we in which we engage. And to take it all the way, the very thoughts we think. Which of course, is the substance of consciousness. Everything begins with a thought—every word, every act, every emotion. We may not be “conscious” of the connection, but it’s there. And we’re responsible for it. If it’s unconscious, we’re responsible to become willing to start paying attention and become conscious. Even our cherished justice system tells us ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The book Oneness by Rasha offers these thoughts:

“To truly create ‘peace’ on a global scale, it is necessary to step back from the overview of global conflict and to perceive the interactions that precipitate it as what they truly are—manifestations of energy (thoughts). To shift an environment in which discord reigns supreme and is unyielding, it is a futile effort to enter into a duel where bravado collides head-on with bravado. Hostility met with hostility simply breeds escalated hostility and reinforces the vibrational building blocks (thoughts of dominance) of the situation into ones that will continue to manifest more of the same.

To shift the energy (thoughts, consciousness) underlying these ongoing global situations, it is necessary to address the energy (thoughts, consciousness) that comprises them. Each participant, regardless of how inconsequential the involvement, adds a piece to the energetic equation. A mind-set of dominance-at-all-costs, breeds as its ongoing manifestation, the vibration of separation (us vs. them…) The key to moving the stagnant energies of the global conflict lies in the recognition of the need to shift the energies of the interpersonal dynamics of all participants.

In truth, all are responsible, energetically, for co-creating global conflict. And all are capable of making a measurable difference in the efforts toward world peace, by taking responsibility for the energy projected in every encounter with every fellow being with whom one shares this adventure known as ‘life.’”

So, the bad news is, we can no longer count on the president or congress or the military or the education system or corporations or banks or the UN to make peace—it’s up to me and it’s up to you. The good news is, we no longer have to count on the president or congress or the military or the education system or corporations or banks to make peace, I can do it and you can do it. Those institutions can then take their rightful place as support for and enhancement of a peaceful world.

Furthering world peace isn’t just for beauty pageant contestants and Nobel Prize winners anymore. As the Baby Boomers sang, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” You CAN change the world!