I’m sitting by the Ompompanoosuc River and I can feel my nervous system relaxing just by listening to the flow of water over rocks and watching an otter swimming nearby. And I’m thinking about all of you. I’m guessing a lot of us are feeling unsettled these days in our new roller coaster of a world.
I’m writing to update you on my life and work, since it has changed significantly in the last few years, and to give you some opportunities to join me in some exciting upcoming events.
I often think of Christmas as the time to pray and ponder about how to give birth to a revolution, and how to nurture one, once it has been born.
The birth of Christ was a revolution of love. We are ready for another one, as we are each year at this time, and this year calls on us in so many ways. For me, in particular I want a revolution in how we love and respect the quiet life of the land--which we all depend on in so many hidden and obvious ways, for abundant clean water in particular--but also for our food, health, protection from flood, drought, heatwaves, wildfires; for our economies and for peace and safe havens on every continent.
Our misunderstandings about the holy power of photosynthesis, transpiration, and the work of microbes, pollinators, and grazing animals have toppled many a civilization as their living soils fail, and fail to provide all the gifts that God offers us freely. I expect us to learn to work together with people who are different than we are to allow these gifts to flourish again. We know how to do it.
An audacious goal can unify people in unexpected ways. Rehydrate California, Oklahoma, Mexico, Alberta, Africa, and Syria, anyone? Who will join me in my audacious goal?
The Great Post Election Listening Roadtrip: Here's how it all started...
I woke up in the dark on the morning after the election, having had only 3 hours of sleep, and it was time to get up and go to Oklahoma. "I want to cancel this trip... " I groaned into the darkness, where Peter was lying beside me, "...or I wish you were going with me. I don't want to go to Oklahoma the day after the election."
I felt, like so many people, unsafe in the new world.
I've spent the last few days in Oklahoma working with and hanging out with Clay Pope of the USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub. Clay is one of the few people I've ever met who is even more of a moving target than I am-- in terms of the challenge of clarifying who he is, what he does, where he's traveling to next, and how many people any one human being can possibly network with at once.
His brain is as full of good ideas as his schedule is full of meetings to get those ideas off the ground. (I've only just begun to get to know his wife Sarah, but my sense is that she and Clay are quite the soil carbon team. She was the person in charge of soil carbon credits for the state when she and Clay met, and she and I are meeting with the EPA and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts on Monday.)
Judith D. Schwartz (author of Cows Save the Planet, and the new book Water in Plain Sight) introduced Clay and I many months ago in an email, and we quickly figured out that we were working on similar goals: to get soil health principles and systems-based land management into school curriculum nationally--and we agreed, somewhat surprisingly, that it's really all about water. He asked if I would be willing to start with developing a soil health supplemental curriculum for the 350 high schools with FFA Ag elective programs in Oklahoma. I said YES!!! and we were off and running--with or without funding.
We spent months of Tuesday mornings on the phone with each other from Oklahoma to Vermont, plotting and planning, and now we finally got to meet and start some of the on the ground work together.
I was a little nervous about meeting him, having only ever seen pictures of him in a dark suit looking like a politician (being a congressional aide and chairman of the state senate ag committee are just two of the many things on his resume). But as soon as I actually met him, a slightly scruffy, friendly guy carrying boxes of donuts, racing back and forth between hanging out with his 4 kids, getting soaked while doing rainfall simulation demos, and sharing "lamb fries" (um...yes, that would be deep fried testicles...), coconut cream pie, and post election theories with me at the Cattleman's steakhouse, (while Sarah reminded him not to talk with his mouth full) I knew we'd get along just fine...and that it probably didn't matter which clothes I'd brought along.