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The Wonder of Fine Print

I've just landed in San Francisco. It's late at night, I'm staying in a collective living/hosting home in the Haight, and despite fatigue, this city always puts a pep in my step.

At the crossroads: Haight and Clayton

Long periods of travel, especially being stuck on tarmacs or in TSA lines, tend to wear me out. Cities, also, tend to wear me out. I am nourished by periods in nature, so urban excitements don't thrill me the way they did in my youth.

Today is a bit of an exception because I'm attending the Global Climate Action Summit related events. With over 4000 delegates from all over the world sharing actions and innovations that are restoring earth's environment, there is a lot to be excited about.

Anyway, as I stand outside waiting for a bus, I look up to discover this little sign-on-sign that says so much about seeing. In case you can't read the fine print, it says, "In such ugly times the only true protest is beauty." This is something so strong in me. After the events related to 9-11, after the death of a loved one, after business disappointments and personal trials, I could always do something: fluff a pillow. Draw a human. Render a pastel of a tree. Make a collage from an old magazine. Pinch some clay, or season a curry. Light a candle.

Small simply gestures of love are my way of creating a ballast against the cultural bias towards big, muscular and loud. I like people to feel warmed by my expressions, not wowed.

So much of our professional and personal time is eaten up by less inspiring forms of "fine print:" - endless forms for our kids' sporting teams, medical records, dental plans, insurance claims, 'terms of use' contracts, travel docs, etc. Not paying attention can be expensive, but paying too much attention can also drain our systems. It's no wonder that our nation is having an energy crisis, with burnout and anxiety reaching record levels. Too much choice, too much information, and too much focus on profit and rightness have brought us to dizzying heights of illusory power we are ill-equipped to live with. Our cultural emphasis on profits needs a revision, and fast.

I'm staying at a place called the "Red Victorian," a for-benefit cooperative that also hosts guests. On the wall I see this wry nod to our American excess. A tiny sign posted next to a bathroom in this rabbit warren-cum-hotel.

I'm just a normal person, I don't profess to have the answers, I am living the question, how, then, shall we live? I've spent some time with Mexican and Amazonian peoples to explore their way of relating to nature that feels odd and yet so inviting. I've gone a few times to sacred places like Glastonbury, UK, and to the Amazon headwaters, exploring ways to reinspire our waters. At first I felt crazy, but after I took the leap, I felt crazy good. Gave myself a herbal medicine bath to celebrate, and everything.

I spent part of an afternoon walking with a humble guide who told me, if you just ask respectfully, Mother Nature will unfurl every treasure you need. The Earth, she is so abundant. And I wonder, when I jet back to modern life full of malls and theatres (which i also enjoy), how can I open a door for others to feel more connected to this wondrous life carrying us on her back? How do i get myself, and everyone i know, to look up and step outside? Even outside isn't enough, because in the United States, we live in regions that are over-paved, where the fabric of living nature cannot reach through the cement mesh we've set up.

So tonight, as I approach these special events, I am feeling grateful to have seen this tiny reminder of beauty and its power to move us in the right direction. More from the Summit in the Days to come!

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