Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hello Friends

by Troy Chapman

(published September 05)

I’m writing this in the early middle of August, the morning after a good thunderstorm that started early yesterday afternoon and didn't quit until late this morning. It's cooler than it has been and the seagulls — ever-present here in the summer — are screaming and bickering back and forth outside my window.

I've been in a personal retreat, gathering up my energies like strings then sitting with the tangled ball in front of me and trying to sort it all out without getting impatient and pulling on the knots — which only locks them in tighter. Some months ago I started talking to a spiritual counselor outside and she suggested that I take this time to look at the connection between my physical illness and the way I work. I have and to be honest, I still haven't reached any hard conclusions. Some things have become clearer though.

My work, which has always centered around love, has become much more focused on exploring this overlooked power and source of healing. I'm working on a longer piece of writing called “The Practice and Possibility of Love,” which I'll begin sharing with you soon. As usual, I invite comments, questions, and critique.

This is stuff I've been applying directly in my own life to get re-centered and deal with the changes of the past 12 months or so.

These include not only the shift of our focus from The Lifeful Way/Inspirit to my case and trying to get a commutation, but also changes in here when the government decided to add a fourth man to every cell. This increased the number on every floor from 72 to 96 so that everything is more constantly crowded. Most of all it took away the small area (about two feet in front of our bunks) that used to be "personal space." Now, with bunk beds, everything but the bunk itself has become communal. The dynamic is different and many small habits of living have had to be changed. Things as simple as sitting down on my top bunk or taking time to type have to be coordinated now.

The organic garden has been my meditation center throughout all these changes. I, my friend (and new bunkie) Bill, and my friend Rich are growing 350 tomato plants. The harvest will be donated to people in the community in need, shelters, the elderly, and church food banks. It will be a good harvest but as yet we haven't gotten a ripe tomato. We're pretty far north.

But the whole thing has been therapeutic. Last year I got sick about this time and wasn't able to get out there much. This year, I've been digging, planting, staking, tying, weeding, and watering — which we decided to do with wands rather than overhead sprinklers to control disease. The theory is that many diseases like leaf spot are caused by soil splashing up onto the leaves. We got some of it but relatively little considering we're not using any kind of fungicide or other chemicals.

All in all I'm trying to take more time to create things in my spirit before I try to create them in the world. It's always been part of my path to reach out and try to make connections, enter into community on deeper levels, but at times I have gotten more focused on that than on creating good spiritual community between myself and God. Both need to be done but the latter always needs to come first.

I must tell you in closing that I miss the e-mails many of us used to share. I wasn't always able to respond to all of you directly but your insights, encouragement, or just commentary were a great pleasure and connection for me. It informed my work and personal life like nothing else can. I know that's true for Maryann as well. So, if any of you are feeling ambitious, let us know what's happening in your worlds. We're still here.