Working on the basics

As I was standing in the garden yesterday morning, a flight of wild geese flew over the treeline, not all that far above my head. There were about twenty of them, honking to each other in a leisurely conversation, on their way somewhere…

As it turned out, I was in the garden quite a lot. Two sessions of zhan zhuang: one early afternoon, with the sun warm (for once!) on my face, the other approaching midnight, with a full-ish moon and the stars clear and bright. I also spent a while planting herbs on the bank of the garden; once they’ve taken, I should be able to do my meditations and standing practice with their scent in the fresh air… I remember vividly what it was like to stand in zhan zhuang when I visited Qingbiankou in Hebei Province, with the herb-scented breeze flowing down from the hills… Quite an experience… Finally, I lifted the first of my potatoes… A rather disappointing crop so far, but I bet they’ll taste nice this evening…

Not what you’re expecting from a martial arts blog, perhaps… But wait…

There was a car boot sale behind the town hall yesterday morning, and I strolled down to take a look. I ended up buying a bunch of books, and four chili pepper plants. I’m not sure what type they are, but the peppers look as if they’ll be rather small, which suggests they’ll be hot! (Oh, and I ordered some sichuan pepper bushes from an online garden supplier; give it a year or two, and I’ll be able to prepare my own ma la mix with entirely home-grown ingredients!). Anyway, as I walked down, I found myself being greeted by shopkeepers standing in their doorways and passersby… People I went to school with, or I regularly shop with, or who drink in the same local pub as me, or even just are faces I see regularly… It was a good feeling.

What’s this got to do with anything, you may be asking. Well, it’s been a crazy week, world-wide, hasn’t it? The US downgraded; even so, things will get worse there, because there’s no money left. As I’ve mentioned several times before, in the US, government at every level is broke, and will have to stop its operations. In Euroland, there’s no respite as governments try to find a solution to sovereign debt – but they won’t, because there is no good solution. And, in London, the cracks started to show, as the streets burned, and the police barely held the line. It’s all quiet again now, but the problems are not going away.

Behind all this lies resource scarcity. Oil, food, water, minerals, whatever. It’s all costing more than it did, and that’s only going to get worse. In London, Minnesota, the Middle East, Africa, China… those who have nothing are finding it hard to cope as the costs of living rise… Those who have something will become ever more desperate to hang on to it…

So, it’s a good time to go back to examine basics. The targets I set myself, and described on this blog, a year or so back are proving to be sound ones. I’m re-establishing myself in a strong community, where people know and look out for each other. I’m getting familiar with how the garden works; reading my books to learn about the medicinal values of herbs and spices, so that I can decide which to plant… And working on the martial arts and meditation, to build mental and physical resilience…

At the top, the photo is of London Sikhs, who gathered to protect their gurdwara from the mob; standing on the steps with swords, axes, and sticks. Perhaps that kind of thing will become more common.

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