|Midwestern Dhamma Refuge
grounded in contemplative practice
for a peaceful, just, & sustainable society
Greetings from Liberation Park and Norwalk, WI where we head into a hotter than usual end of summer after a wet June & July. We're hard at work on various projects and glad for the drier days promised. We hope to make progress soon on the portions of work that require dry, solid ground. Today, the afternoon heat provides an excuse to retire inside and compose an update on happenings here.
In last December's newsletter this section focused on folks residing at Liberation Park during 2009 and we neglected to welcome Arete Metta Lindo who was born on August 1 of 2009 to Eric and Alefiyah Abid-Lindo of La Grange Illinois. Welcome Arete, and happy 1st Birthday already!
We bade farewell this Spring to Frank Braje of Three Rivers Michigan (formerly of Oak Park, IL) who died at home in a very inspiring meditative environment facilitated by his wife Christina Cusumano and many of their friends. We will miss you, Frank.
Liberation Park extends a heartfelt thank you to the Chicagoland folks who organized the spring retreat at La Salle Manor near Chicago taught by Leigh Brasington and Santikaro. Thank you to Jennifer Malin, Ann Leeds and Eric Lindo for all their organizational work. Thank you to Mike Zieve as well for his work organizing a series of ongoing Saturday teachings. Thank you to all the Sanghas Santikaro has the privilege of visiting, for your dedication to creating environments of Dhamma investigation for all of us.
We continue our primary 2010 project of making the first and main cabin habitable and putting in the infrastructure for community facilities here at our little refuge in process. Santikaro and many friends are making steady, slow progress. We currently await the services of a handful of tradespeople to embark on the utility infrastructure: septic, electric, indoor & outdoor pipes, excavation, and concrete.
As part of this stage of work we will construct the first portion of the future community building: a root cellar for food storage, which will also house the permanent pressure tank from which all future water lines will flow. The root cellar will provide a no-freeze environment for the pressure tank without the need for energy intensive heating in the winter.
The jury is still out on sufficiency of funds to complete this entire complex of work at once, but we are moving ahead with fingers crossed and hoping to close out this stage of construction without adding more debt to the existing mortgage. Because of the need for hired tradespeople, and the need for all the pieces to be coordinated at once, it is a significant expense relative to our usual outlay for building projects. Thank you to all whose generosity has made possible our leap of faith in moving forward. Thank you to all who continue to offer their labor and expertise during all phases of our learning and building curves! Thank you particularly to Carlo Giombi who recently completed close to a month here providing us with not only good company but invaluable building assistance
We eagerly look forward to having the cabin and infrastructure, if not finished, at least habitable. In addition to allowing Santikaro and Jo Marie to live permanently on site, the finished kitchen and bathroom will be a significant improvement to existing facilities for retreatants. With the basic infrastructure in place we can then begin formulating plans for a full community building with kitchen, dining, shower/utility space, extra sleeping space, and maybe even an office!
An ongoing inspiration for us are the friends who come to share their labor, expertise, and sweat. This is also an interesting way to explore Dhamma, as we deal with uncertainties, surprises, and helpful suggestions. If you'd like to pitch in, please see the following for work weekend dates: http://www.liberationpark.org/dev/workends.htm or contact us at your convenience to arrange a visit at another time.
The vegetation here in the valley has become somewhat fantastic and Dr. Seuss-ish with this year's abundant moisture and a third summer of rest from the cattle grazing. The luxuriant growth highlights the impending need for some version of “management,” since our modern age lacks the proper balance of fire, grazers, and predators. In 2011 we will be taking a break from the construction of buildings to 1) replenish savings and 2) move on to the next stage of environmental revitalization. We’ll be putting small scale mowing and burning into practice as a way to manage certain invasives and promote the growth of grasses, wildflowers and habitat for birds and animals. We have also begun monitoring stream health parameters and will continue to do so through the changing seasons to track the impact on surface water of both surrounding agriculture and our own human and domestic animal activity.
The domestic animals at Liberation Park increased by two species this year when a poultry barn was constructed beside the main barn, and a small flock of ducks and geese were reared. They are a motley and colorful group who seem to endlessly and sometimes loudly entertain themselves trooping about the pasture and stream. They have not yet begun to lay, but we expect eggs in about six weeks. Their success at tick and fly control (their intended livelihood) is as yet undocumented - we will keep you posted! Thank you to Jo's Dad for the roofing help in impossible heat, and to StepMom Pam for the provision of cool refreshing drinks!
Liberation Park hosted two young foster horses in need of homes this spring. After two months in our care, each filly found a good "forever" home. Though recent years have been difficult for humans, animal companions have been hit extremely hard as well. We hope to be of some small service to those furred and feathered among us in need of refuge as we are able to accommodate them. Here is more information on the animals at Liberation Park.
Another and maybe most important phase of refuge building will be the construction of more substantial hermitages than our current canvas and pole structures of tents and tipi. We don’t yet know exact locations, building materials, size or number but we do know the LP vision remains rustic, small, simple and sustainable. We want to use great care placing and building these structures to impact the natural environment as little as possible, and to allow privacy for retreatants. We are looking for input from those who have spent time here and will begin next year to formulate a more substantial plan for hermitage construction.
As more regional Sanghas become involved with the refuge at Liberation Park it is our hope that groups may be interested in sponsoring individual hermitages and commit themselves to assisting in their building and upkeep. Please contact us if you or your group have a wish to be involved in the construction of a hermitage. More info.
We have been brokenhearted this spring and summer over the ongoing devastation of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the suffering of so many beings in its wake. Daily we monitor the terrible news from other fronts: wars and threats of more to come, unprecedented natural disasters, tormenting images of unmet basic needs of so many, an earth running out of places and sustenance for its burgeoning species. We struggle to formulate a response. We practice. We brace for more to come and then we remember to breathe.
In our local community we visit friends and hear of their efforts right here and now to build a different life, to live as if there were widespread justice, compassion, and sustainable technologies. We see them improbably building these things from the ground up. Some are older and call on a lifetime of wisdom. Some are youngsters just starting out and call on their sense of the possible, the necessary. We applaud them all and hope to join our voices with theirs.
Maybe there is cause for optimism; maybe for pessimism, but where is the next breath, what is the next appropriate response of wisdom? We hope to keep reaching humbly for both. We are grateful for our widespread Sangha and your accompaniment in these times.
In Dhamma, With Metta,
Santikaro & Jo Marie
Santikaro's Blog of cabin progress and other events.
To view more photos.