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Green Revolution 18/12/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Hellenistic, History.
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Twin Cities ephemera: After a full week of much-above-normal temperatures, rain and slushy snow, the temperature has dropped to an appropriate degree and skies have cleared this evening to reveal a bright even-half Moon.

Alas, the gloom has failed to inspire me photographically–in the sense of motivating me to get self with camera outdoors. So I have contented myself with leafing through the oversize book of sumptuous photographs of ominous storms by Mitch Dobrowner

The view out the front shows the deep leaf mulch under the birch and spruce trees, and among the canes of black raspberry. With no snow cover–still, amazingly and alarmingly, in mid-December–the contrast with all the neighbors’ yards of green grass and neatly-edged hostas is striking. 

I feel exposed, yet also purposeful, in allowing a more natural state to evolve. And I feel a bit of satisfaction, and personal sense of harmony, in knowing I have not done some things in accordance with an agreement little noted or remembered within my neighborhood: the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

That’s right: NOT doing. A greater degree of harmony and attunement seems more a matter of not doing than doing.

(There is one bit of doing–or, more accurately: observing–that I did advocate at a small gathering last weekend that was billed as “embodied astrology”–not so much experiential as presentational. When the presenter began referring to the current planetary configuration, there was an immediate buzz about apps that would show that on their gizmos; I countered with the notion of cultivating a direct relationship with the planets in the sky. “There’s been a remarkable grouping of Venus, Mars and Jupiter in the predawn sky this fall.” Pointing toward the southwest during this late-afternoon event, I said: “The Sun is in Sagittarius and [through the cloud cover] it’s right about there, and the Moon in Capricorn is about there.” But it didn’t seem likely that anyone was about to be any less dependent on their small screens for a sense of where the planets are.(I seem to be sounding a bit like the late Doug Tompkins here.))

The bare ground here promotes contemplation of the stages of the experiment I’ve been conducting over the past decade plus.

There was a “gliding” period when this spot was essentially no different from all the others within sight and walking: a spot with grass wanting mowing, some shade trees, and a few pretty perennials (what I now think of as “perfunctory plantings”). There was no vision guiding action–or inaction.

The back yard was dominated by a huge elm tree, one so contorted that when I first saw it, bare in late fall, I didn’t recognize it as an elm. Though its summer shade was not dense, its bulk dominated the vicinity.

So I enjoyed its shade over the deck, and dutifully mowed around it. I was never inclined to bag up the leaves in the fall–it seemed a preposterous practice–so I simply ran the mower through the leaves, returning the organic matter to the soil.

Unknowingly, I had taken my first step toward a natural way of building–or at least maintaining–soil and assisting the growing of healthy vegetation. I was not yet thinking of growing anything to eat.

Once that was one object, I put a lot of effort into it: setting up a big compost bin and collecting leaves from around the neighborhood, constructing a raised bed, turning over the soil (but not roto-tilling), digging trenches along the periphery and practicing my own form of “hugelkultur”: burying small and medium-sized branches from a silver maple tree that I had mistakenly allowed to get big.

It was a lot of work. But as I put in and nurtured fruit trees, began an herb garden and cultivated vegetables, I also let a lot of volunteer plants just be–at least until they began to reveal their natures and intentions. Eradicating what was not consciously desired seemed senseless. Besides, I wanted to see what this bit of land wanted to be.

So, it comes to this: observing, (at first) facilitating, noticing but declining to act on impulses to control what happens–and eventually, trusting.

And that is essentially what Masanobu Fukuoka, over decades in the mid-twentieth century, learned and taught.

Who, you say? Well, his was a big name in the late 1970s and into the ’80s, when the first shocks of petroleum availability and affordability rattled the industrialized economies and fueled the nascent back-to-the-land and appropriate technology movements. In 1978, his book The One-Straw Revolution was published, detailing his experience with what he termed natural farming.

Now a new book on his life and philosophy has been published, one which usefully compares Fukuoka’s practices with those of indigenous ways, traditional Japanese agriculture (which sustained those islands through centuries of isolation), organic farming and design-intensive permaculture. 

For anyone questioning the future or the basis of agriculture, it offers much food for thought. For now, I’ll merely leave you with the four principles of natural farming: no tilling, no herbicides or pesticides, no weeding, and no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost.

Yep, it’s radical, and “radical” means going to the root.

As for Masanobu Fukuoka’s roots in his life pattern, his astrological chart originates on 2 February 1913 at Matsuyama on the fourth-largest Japanese island, Shikoku, facing the Inland Sea. He was raised in a small village where his ancestral family had lived for hundreds of years, and where, as a youth, he worked in the fields and citrus orchard of his family’s farm.

But, like much of Japanese society of the time, he initially got caught up in the process of industrialization: He enrolled in an agricultural college, specializing in plant pathology. He studied the diseases and insect pests found on imported produce. In a way, perhaps he was preparing to study and critique the industrial disease then being imported nearly without question: a disease that led Japan into an imperial era that resulted in utter ruin as it sought to secure overseas resources.

Several years into his career, he contracted acute pneumonia and nearly died. Early in the period of his “new life” he experienced a revelation which informed everything that followed. Dozing at dawn against a tree trunk above the busy port of Yokohama, he saw “the eternal form of nature.” The date was 15 Maya 1937: Fukuoka was twenty-four years old.

Knowing that the thrust of his life was to question and move counter to the then-established pattern of his society, Aquarius as rising zoidion seems a reasonable supposition. And his natal Sun, Mercury and Uranus in that zoidion added vital force and intellectual energy to his personality.

Masanobu Fukuoka

(I suspect that Fukuoka’s nature was diurnal, guided by the predominating significance of the Sun above the horizon, guided furthermore by the meanings and experiences represented by the in-sect planets Jupiter and Saturn.)

Next to consider is the placement of Saturn, planetary lord of Aquarius within the systems of traditional and Hellenistic astrology. Appropriately, Saturn was in Taurus–earthiest of the earth zoidia–and within the fourth sector of the chart, relating to land and heritage. Saturn represents the organic sensibility, and gradual and patient approach to life, that enabled him to recognize the natural principles he embraced.

Jupiter is in Capricorn, where Saturn is lord (as well as in Aquarius), and in the twelfth chart sector–symbolizing his capacity to recognize the limitations of the economic growth model that his culture was embracing.

The cultural factors–the overshoot of the base of natural resources and the productive capabilities of the traditional system of small landholdings–were central to his understanding and philosophy.

As for the moment when he “saw the light,” it seems Fukuoka was under a barrage of major, once-in-a-lifetime combination of planetary energies: Jupiter, after the second return to its natal position, was in late Capricorn and exactly opposite Pluto, with both planets having lately aligned with natal Neptune. This combination symbolized the arrival of a guiding vision from out of the depths of serious illness. And appropriately, as the Sun was upon the horizon as he lay under his variety of bodhi tree that morning, the Moon–that mysterious orb that sometimes acts to translate the currents of the collective unconscious into images recognizable to personal consciousness–was exactly on the zodiacal place of natal Neptune and closing in on the axis of Jupiter-Pluto.

The insight and experimental practices and observation that followed would show a path for, eventually, burgeoning numbers of individuals to tread. It would take many decades–many centuries, really–for nature, with some human assistance, to rectify the damage wrought by the ignorance of the industrial mindset, itself rooted in the conceits of control that have characterized agriculture since earliest recorded time.

Let Earth be reborn.

-<zoidion>-

[ In examining the birthcharts of individuals, I follow the traditional and Hellenistic astrological practices that emphasize the dichotomy of diurnality / nocturnality, the luminaries of Sun and Moon, and the visible planets. I do not study the placements of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto: recognized only in the modern era. I include the latter here because they have relevant significance to a frame of reference far beyond the individual. ]

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Comments»

1. Mary Louise Turner - 28/12/2015

Sorry I’m finally reading your newsletter, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as usual. It was so earthy this time. I love how you shared your connection with the earth. I hear the love, peace, joy and contentedness it brings you. Sounds like you found a profound gift and the blessing it brings you. Awesome!

2. zoidion - 28/12/2015

Thanks for letting me know you appreciated it. The piece was a joy, and quick, to write — once I got past the first few hesitant attempts.
Reflecting on the thoughtful / philosophical Fukuoka and his (eventual) approach to farming, which might be characterized as “lazy,” it’s instructive to note that his Sun / Mercury / Uranus / (Ascendant) in airy Aquarius are all “lorded” by Saturn in earthy Taurus.
I too started out trying to apply a fair amount of design elements — and maybe some are at least helpful / not harmful, if not necessary — and they involved a lot of heavy labor. Now I want to take it easier, and see what’s showing up: for example, the bees congregating on the anise hyssop, or, at this time of year, a pair of cardinals taking shelter among the branches of a cedar outside my kitchen window.
It seems they like it here.


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