Shared Vision Blog

February - Toree Hiebert

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:54 PM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?


Toree Hiebert says:

Life is an ever-evolving experience. What abundance means to me right now is very different than it did two years ago and for that matter two months ago. In this moment at this season in my life I have really been contemplating and pouring over the rich and abundant ecosystem that we call home. Much of this meditation on the rich abundance of our local region has been inspired by Gary Snyder’s book of essays called The Practice of the Wild. Isn’t it serendipitous when a book crosses your path at the exact moment your spirit is ready to accept the message it contains? Not only accept, but there is a knowing, like it is your own words and thoughts and you are just reading in agreement already!


In his book, Gary Snyder quotes the Japanese Zen Master Dogen “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs.” I have a tendency to get really depressed about living in an urban area. I am a country girl at heart. I like wild tangles of forest and open fields. So often as I make my way around this city full of poorly planned housing with a mobile home next to a mansion, a cute 40’s era home next to a run-down quick mart I start to feel trapped here like a fish out of water. Lately I have been realizing where I really am bio-regionally speaking and I have begun to take deep notice of the abundance around us.


We are a part of the great Columbia watershed and a beautiful territory. I have been meditating on an image of Clark County as seen with all the buildings and human clutter not blocking my view of the entire territory. Seeing it as all the interconnected creeks, rivers, streams, wetlands, mountains, hills, and canyons (yes, we have canyons in Clark County) the flora and fauna that make up this area. We really do live in abundance.


Gary Snyder quotes Dogen again, “The blue mountains are constantly walking”.

We have our own blue mountains to the east, the Cascade Mountains. After a long stretch of gray winter days when the weather clears enough to see the foothills and Mt. Hood and Mt. St Helens are you reminded, like I am, of their great presence in our lives? Along with the ocean to the east they guide our weather and make this area lush and green. They tell us when to plant (old timers say when the snow melts off Silver Star mountain) and hold wild places that inspire us and teach us.


So what do our mountains and wild abundance have to do with our urban landscape?   The blue mountains inspire us, beg us to recreate wild abundance. We oblige with yards of grass giving way to veggie plots, blank building walls graced with artful scenes and community gardens. We visit urban farmer’s markets, join gleaning guilds, and share harvests with those in need. We develop a camaraderie in feeding ourselves from the land.  As we do these things let’s take the blue mountains walking with us and remember the rich ecosystem we are all a part of.  Let’s plant natives, heal our watershed, restore the soil, gather stinging nettle by the creek in the spring, pick wild blackberries in summer and gather our neighbor’s apples in the fall.  Let’s be mindful of how all of our actions affect this great bioregion.   This land is the place where we are. It shapes our culture here. We are a part of it and as we eat of it’s bounty, it is quite literally part of us.


Toree Hiebert,

Environmental Educator

Dirt Worshipper

Lover of Wild Things

December - Patty Page

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:44 PM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?


Patty Page says:

Abundance is a gift given to us. Gratitude, appreciation for that abundance, is a gift we

give ourselves. I practice Gratitude by keeping a daily list. I’ve been surprised that the

gratitude that wells up in me most readily is for food.


There were farmers and good cooks in my extended family on both sides. So

memories of growing, preparing and savoring delicious food fill my mind and my

recipe box, capturing years of abundance in my urban/suburban life, from childhood to



Whether we were living in town or in the country, my father usually kept the biggest

garden he could fit in the backyard. I tended my own 4-H garden when I was thirteen.

But I didn’t touch another seed packet for decades. Then, my new mother-in-law Rhoda

reminded me of the blessing of growing one’s own. In the rich, loamy soil behind her

house on Y Street, she grew plentiful cucumbers, green beans, Jerusalem artichokes

and more.


Veggies in the front yard were taboo then, though I do recall the cherry tree in front of

one home, apple trees lining the driveway of another, the peach tree in the front corner

of my own first house. But times are changing. I believe that “urban abundance” is

finding expression now with humble but life-sustaining plants finding their way to the

front yard.


We’ve started keeping a cherry tomato near our front door, marked with an invitation

to “Help yourself!” When I’m coming or going, I pluck a few from the vine, cool and

bright-flavored in the morning, warm and sweet in the sunny afternoon. It’s good feng

shui, I’ve read, to welcome visitors with something edible on their way to your front door.


Every midsummer, we harvest blueberries from our front yard. I delight in sharing some

from the streetside bush with Sallie, when she’s walking her dog Lizzie. I’m not quite as

delighted sharing them with the birds, who take a peck and leave the berry to wither.

But an indispensable characteristic of urban abundance is restoring at least in some

small measure the wildlife habitat that we humans have commandeered for ourselves.


It’s easier to welcome the bumble bees buzzing on the madronas, the mason bees

quietly pollenating the apple trees, the honeybees going about their business. I enjoy

watching the lithe doe and her obstreperous fawns who browse our yard - until I notice

they’ve taken more than their fair share, by my accounting! I enjoy NOT AT ALL the

moles and slugs that take up residence here. I believe - but don’t always accept - that

all these creatures have their particular place in the interdependent web of all existence.

It takes a lot of prodding to remember that, when I see the red twig dogwoods’ new

growth - gone! -, the tulips topped, the marigolds munched and the lettuce nibbled to

nubbins. Even so, I know we are all vital to one another.


We’ve been watching Kirk and Allison’s garden taking shape on the corner at the top of

the hill for three years. It has raised beds and elegant trellis work, lots of mulch and lots

of dreams. We trade - some of our rhubarb for some of their cardoon. Life is good. Even

though Kirk added high net fencing this year. Oh dear, oh deer.


Don and Sallie’s black and copper trellis sits in a raised bed a few steps from our

mailbox. I was green with envy when the enormous tomatoes that hung from the vines

turned a savory red-orange, set off by creamy yellow dahlias. They shared until our crop



Two years’ running, Ben and Lelea’s prolific strawberry plants outgrew their allotted

space, begging for their babies to be foster-parented up and down the street.


Urban chicken have expanded the city farmers’ repertoire. I have enjoyed the sunshine

yellow omelets I’ve made with eggs from my neighbor Michael’s flock, or from the happy

hens who are blessed to live and work at the Golden Angel Chicken Ranch under the

care of my friend Marilyn in downtown Washougal.


Walking or driving around town, I see front yards cleared of their turf monoculture and

teaming with a variety of annuals and perennials: colorful, edible or both. Plus the

shrubs and trees that provide structure through bleak winters - and sometimes homes

or take-out lunch for birds and squirrels. The taboo is broken. I think think front yard

food represents an abundant future of living interdependently and joyfully with our all

neighbors, human and otherwise.

November - Shawn Morrill

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:40 PM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?


Shawn Morrill says:


For this post, I was asked to answer the question “What does abundance mean to you?”. While thinking about how to answer this, I kept coming back to a topic that has recently made quite an impact on my life. Sense of community. I believe that there is a strong connection between abundance and community. In fact, abundance may not exist without it.


When I accepted the position as the store manager of the co-op, I knew it would not be an easy job but it was the kind of challenge I had been looking for. Soon after starting, our board set out two priorities. One was to increase sales to a point that can sustain the business. The other was to create a sense of community.


For me, building the business seemed like the easy part. These were things I knew how to do: build scalable systems, create relationships with vendors, manage cash flow, and most importantly, listen to our customers. I was confident that if we did these things right and built a store they wanted, more customers would shop, sales would increase, and the business would soon be able to sustain itself.


Creating a sense of community on the other hand, was not so obvious for me. I had spent most of my career working alone and doing business with people who I didn't have any real connection to. So I stuck with what I knew and focused on building the business. Sales were increasing, new members were signing up, we were adding new products; we had momentum. As It turned out, the community part just happened. With every new relationship and conversation came connections that felt real and genuine. Our co-op community began to slowly build.


In August we found ourselves with four weeks to find a new location and get moved in. Members came forward with financial contributions. Volunteers banded together to prepare the new space. Customers began shopping more. The outpouring of support was amazing. What I had not realized until this point is that at their core, food co-op's are all about community. It's the thing that sets them apart from most grocery stores. Since our move, this sense in the store has continued to grow.


Last Friday was perfect example of this. There was never a moment where the store was not filled with conversations and connections. We had nine volunteers working in the store throughout the day. Joyce & Rusty building chalkboards for our walls, Jossalynn & Elise washing our new bulk bins, Stacy & Mike working on the bookkeeping, Kirk, Anni, and I were creating materials for our upcoming fundraising event, and Nancy was welcoming customers. All of these people were giving up so much of their free time to build this store for their community.


It was amazing to be a part of it. Maggie, a first time customer bought a membership while her husband Kevin offered to play music at our event. Tom, one of our existing members bought a share for his neighbor. Bill and Chris, owners of two downtown businesses used our store as a space to have a meeting. With all of this activity in one day, the store was alive.


All of this energy made me stop and think about what we are doing. It's one thing to read about people doing good and the community that builds around their initiatives but it's an incredible feeling to be a part of it. I went into this venture close to a year ago with the desire to get involved in the food movement. What I didn't expect was how profound an impact this experience would have on me. I did not know any of these people a year ago and now many of them are close friends. It's an awesome feeling to go to work every day truly inspired and to realize that it's only just begun.


So what does abundance mean to me? If I would have been asked this question six months ago, I would have gone on about food system issues, how important these are to fix and how creating abundance is a part of the solution. However, with what I’ve recently learned, my focus has changed. Community is where it all begins. For abundance would be lost without it. Simply put, abundance is the successful result of a community working together to provide for the needs of its members.


By Shawn Morrill

Vancouver Food Co-op

Store Manager

October - Sharing Visions - Christy Lochrie

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:37 PM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?


Christy Lochrie says:


It’s a chilly fall evening. Equinox has passed. We’re on the downhill slide to shortened days and never-ending nights. It already feels like the rain has evicted the sun. Outside, the glow of streetlights, fast food signs and headlights reflect off of wet asphalt in wavy ribbons of light. But away from the slickened streets, that rain is nurturing the last of summer’s spoils and the beginning of fall’s crops, all to make way for an eventual spring.


I kept a community garden for the third year in a row and the darned thing was prolific, weeds included. And that, along with the pattering rain, is what I think to when I think abundance, which is what Warren Neth asked me to meditate upon for this article.


Gardening, for me, started in the backyard when I was about 10. My Dad, a Marlboro smoking, back-to-basics man, wanted me to learn how to grow my own food. The thought was foreign to me, a newly transplanted California girl who found herself living with a GI father in Clovis, NM.


Dad bought bags of cow manure for the soil. And, for good measure, I dumped my hamster’s cage lining -- wood shavings and droppings -- into the soil, too. (Note: I wouldn’t advise the hamster droppings these days any more than I’d recommend the plumes of chemical dust we sprinkled to still roving bug mandibles. It was a different era in the early 1980s.) We shoveled the soil. We turned it. We mixed it. We made rows. We planted seeds. The backyard vegetable garden that Dad and I planted grew. Up sprouted radishes, Swiss chard, carrots, bush green beans, tomatoes, leftover hamster fare (think alfalfa and other sprouts) and marigolds. The marigolds we planted both for the golden beauty of their blooms and, because Dad had learned, garden-nibbling bugs found them about as tasty as most of us find a spoonful of gravel. It worked. And came with a lifelong side effect: I feel suddenly 10 in the company of marigold flowers, especially the giant, Cracker Jack varieties.


For a kid who was accustomed to finding fruit and vegetables in cans in a big-box grocery store and thought of fresh food as encased in plastic, the garden was a backyard mystery. These little seeds that I planted, watered and – mostly – weeded around, grew into something that could be harvested, cooked, served on a dinner plate. I was intrigued.


By the time I grew up and left home, by then in Yucaipa, Calif., Dad had cobbled together rocks to make permanent garden beds in his half-acre backyard. He grew pole beans, bush beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, artichokes and more --all holding court with a peach tree, kumquat tree (it’s something of a miniature orange) and pecan tree. The crows mostly swiped the pecan harvest, much to Dad’s chagrin.

During my visits home, Dad and I talked while he watered, showed off his latest project and fawned over his garden. We picked green beans or corn or whatever was in season for summertime suppers. And in the winter and early spring, he poured over seed catalogs and shared his gardening plans for the year. Seeds from the previous year’s garden, meanwhile, were dried, cataloged and stowed. And, on occasion, some of those seeds were bestowed to me.


I still have seeds from what Dad called Radar green beans, a sort of bush green bean with long, thin pods that are succulent when harvested early. I grow and save my own Radar bean seeds now. And when I harvest and eat those green beans, I still think of Dad, his blue jeans, his cowboy boots, the sweat beaded on his brow while he worked during those summer days. I think of his soft voice when he described the tiny white flowers that would surely emerge on the plants. I think of his instructions to keep the plants picked clean to encourage a season-long harvest. And I remember those dinner table meals at the picture window that overlooked Dad’s backyard.


Dad died a little over a year ago. On a July morning, a few days after Dad’s death, I strode barefooted in my nightgown across the dew-heavy grass in his backyard to the peach tree that he had planted years before. I caressed a peach. It gave slightly under its fuzz-covered skin. Within moments, I had an armload.

A present from Dad, I told my stepmom. We sliced. Added cream. A dollop of sugar.  And we ate the bounty. Remembering. The abundance.


by Christy Lochrie

September - Sharing Visions - Marcia "Sugar Moon" McReynolds

posted Mar 1, 2012, 12:35 PM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?


Marcia "Sugar Moon" McReynolds says:


My Vision of an Abundant Community: Full to the Meniscus


You fill a spoon with a thick golden liquid (call the liquid life), just to the point where the liquid lifts up, arching like a half moon above the spoon, poised in perfect equanimity. Full to the meniscus. It does not spill over, making a mess down your shirt, or the floor. None is wasted. You are grateful for having just enough and not a drop more.


This is abundance.


Abundance is the thing and the thanks all in one.

Abundance is gentle, deep, even breathing in. And out. And awareness of the spaces in between.

Abundance is the wow out of the first bite of an Envy apple before you pass it on to your friend to taste.

Abundance is watching a tree sway in the breeze just long enough to appreciate its graceful dance and power that moves it.

Abundance is that state of being pleasantly tipsy, but not drunk, reaching that moment when we feel “almost perfect” in our rosy view of the world, and stopping there.

Abundance is a delicate point of elegant, exhilarating balance.

The practice of abundance is an intention to be at peace with what comes, with what one has, with having enough, and sharing ones gifts and rewards with others.


A perfectly abundant community has just enough for everyone--enough food, time, passion, art, satisfaction, importance, involvement, place, meaning, work, reward, love--and not more than enough for any one or two.

An abundant-enough community comes about in time through the gradual process of more and more of its people practicing the way of abundance. An abundant community begins in the consciousness and daily intention of a few, and spreads organically, without much announcement, from moment to moment, person to person, exchange to exchange, personal decision to collective decision, to that day when, suddenly, we realize that things are coming together that, heck, Vancouver's not such a bad place to live after all, we might not have to move to Portland or elsewhere, that what we want is here and now, that we can just plant our tree, our ideas, our bones, our dreams here, and stay.

And what does our abundant Vancouver look like? Let's paint a picture:

Fat fruit trees arch over the streets. The air is empty of engine noise, since most vehicles are electric, or pedaled. People sit out on front porches, greeting those walking by, even in the drizzle. On wintry nights, candlelit dining room tables laden with local food are surrounded by folks of all ages and colors, laughing, and even those of different political persuasion slap each other on the back in friendly disagreement. People wearing happy old clothes (mended creatively) and old shoes with new soles walk down the road, thin and healthy like back in the 40's. Fences are down between backyards, creating a mews of old where the children run free within safe boundaries, everyone a friend or parent. Senior housing has turned into People housing where elders and youngers help each other out. The homeless have been given homes in our extra rooms and basements. The neighborhood or church gives them work to do that helps them belong again. People work part time for enough money, with time to follow a passion. On our way home from work every day, we stop by shops owned by locals for a chat and evening's supper. We have small refrigerators. Small houses. The big houses, the McMansions, are subdivided into smaller duplexes and triplexes with a common spaces for gathering and shared meals. Neighbors eat together once a week or month at rotating houses. An inventory of tools and loan list is posted to a central garage wall in each neighborhood. Coffee shops have back rooms for listening salons, where everyone has a place to get heard once a week. We have organized a rehab center for computer addicts of all ages, where we come learn to play again, to listen, to tell long convoluted stories and jokes, write, make and repair stuff, laugh again, a lot. Parks are full of people, colorful balls and Frisbees flying, kids running around, grandmas smiling. Main Street and the mall are big plazas with the cars parked outside and the people are in the middle. Clark College is cheap or free with classes that teach us how to live in an abundant, fragile world.


At the end of the day, we do a neighborly trundle down to the nearest western ridge to watch the liquid sun slip beyond our little place on the earth, the pinkorangeblue sky reflected in all the streets and river below. Then we walk home slowly, singing perhaps, and get into our warm beds, our soft animal bodies burrowing in early, so we are rested for the sweet round fullness of the next morning.


Marcia "Sugar Moon" McReynolds

My website:


August - Anni Becker

posted Sep 6, 2011, 8:55 PM by Rob Pollock

August Shared Vision Blog
Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?
What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?

Anni Becker says:

Have you ever walked by a neighbor's yard thinking they probably bit off more than they could chew?  Huge yard with several trees dripping with fruit, long grass, weeds everywhere...

 Sometimes life is like that.  People take on more than they can handle, and their figurative weeds get overgrown.  I can personally vouch for doing too much.  The quality of the work is just not the same when someone piles on project after project.   I am probably one of the worst offenders of this.  My addiction happens to be doing too much.  There are a couple of reasons why I have a hard time saying no to fundraising, event planning or pro bono photography work.  Sometimes it is to feel more connected to my community, therefore making me feel less alone in the world.  And sometimes I just love basking in the glow of love from the gratitude I receive.  It's a special feeling when you see the look in someone's eyes that you've helped in some way.  And then there are the times when these events become cumbersome and stressful because of the "too much" syndrome I've become accustomed to.  Or should I say, the world has become accustomed to. 

Everywhere you look there seems to be an overload of chores, errands and work.  Where is there time for life? 

With that being said, I've noticed that people are starting to understand the necessity of community sharing. 

John Fullerton, President and Founder of Capital Institute is quoted as saying, ‎"Our coming shift from quantity of consumption to quality of life is the great challenge of our generation—frightening at times, but ultimately freeing.”

Co-ops are a good example of this... child care, food, gardens, art studios... the list goes on and on.  In a world that is fast paced and full of so much "stuff", most of us need extra help.  Especially those with families to raise or elderly parents to care for.

I live in the heart of Uptown Village in the Hough Neighborhood of Vancouver.  When I moved into my house ten months ago, I was hesitant to share a house with three other adults and two children in the name of community sharing.  We were all in similar situations, needing a financially sensible living space.  It's had its challenges, but I feel very fortunate to live in a beautiful 100 year old house in a gorgeous neighborhood right down the street from local businesses and only about a mile from my work.

The first week we moved in, our neighbors brought over vegetables from their garden to share with us.  Since then, we've received pastry leftovers from the bakery down the street, art supplies (we are all creatively motivated), and even bags of clothes.  We've hosted community meals, art nights and movie nights.I've seen this occur throughout my neighborhood.  Outdoor movie nights, potlucks, clothing swaps, outdoor markets, vegetable bartering.  It's a growing trend that makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy.  Not only do these events and services make life easier, they create a sense of connection and ownership in the community.  I've seen people feel proud that they are actively contributing to the growth of the area they live without creating more "things".  It's more of a distribution of the leftovers, the extra.  Community sharing is a lot like gleaning.  Gleaning is an ancient practice that used to be done mostly by women.  Fruit or vegetables would be harvested for the year, and the leftovers would be left for the poor, mostly widows.    I just learned today that over 96 billion pounds of food are wasted each year according to the Department of Agriculture.  That makes me sick to my stomach. 

Thank goodness there are organizations like Urban Abundance.  Last year I volunteered to help glean fruit trees for Urban Abundance.  I picked fruit that would ultimately be benefiting those I thought as less fortunate than me.  And then I realized something.  The people I was picking fruit for were no different than I was.  They probably were even a little better off than me in ways.  Lately I haven't seen myself as poor or lacking because this frugality is a lifestyle I've chosen for myself.  I am not the only one choosing this life,  I see it everywhere I go in my town. And it makes me proud. 

Living with less is liberating, it frees space in the soul for truly experiencing an ecstatic life.  When we aren't distracted by doing too much or having too much stuff, what are we left with?  Life.  And that's what really matters.

Anni Becker
Director of Grace Project
Freelance Photographer
Keeper of books

July - Christopher Luna

posted Jul 29, 2011, 10:03 AM by Rob Pollock

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?
What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?

Christopher Luna says:

Things do not always go as planned. It can be frustrating, not knowing where the path will lead, and I confess to an occasional desire to see the script ahead of time. One can stew for years, blaming his misfortune on everyone, refusing to take responsibility for one’s own shortcomings and missteps. One can hold a grudge forever, waiting for an apology that may never come. Decades whoosh past, and opportunities are missed as the self righteous and self-pitying fool waits for vindication.

Fortunately, there is another choice. Open your eyes and acknowledge the beauty that surrounds you. Appreciate what you have, and express your gratitude to those whose mere presence improves your life. Begin to see that it is what you contribute rather than what you receive that matters.

When you’re stuck in a place that you did not choose, and forced to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, you have two choices: give up or imagine abundance. This is where I found myself when I first landed in the ‘Couve: broke, thousands of miles from family and friends, unable to gain any traction with an unprofessional and passive-aggressive journalism culture, homesick, and seriously pissed that I had agreed to move to what I saw as the wrong side of the country.

I had a great life in New York. I was working as an editor, in a job that had the potential to lead to bigger and better things. I had many connections who could help me succeed. Then the bottom dropped out. My wife informed me that she was moving to Washington State with our infant son, and that she would be going with or without me. I knew that this was a bad idea, but I loved her, and still saw us as a unit. Even though I was undermined and disrespected daily, I did not yet realize that she did not have my best interests at heart.

So I made the journey, and it was indeed disastrous. I was out of work for nearly five years, my marriage ended, and I found myself all alone in a strange place where people are averse to saying what they feel. What was I to do?

I focused on my son, whose laughter and wide eyed openness made my moping seem foolish. I needed to emerge from the fog of seeing my Plan laid waste in order to be a father, and in order to reclaim my agency. I needed to stop being angry and live my life. My son Angelo’s love saved me.

I also began doing my part to create a poetry scene in town. Over time this chauvinistic New Yorker came to see that Vancouver is a vibrant and exciting community of artists who do not need validation from the hipper city across the river. When I first arrived in 2003, Vancouver seemed boring. Over time the artists in town began talking to each other, and engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration, and this has made a huge difference. Vancouver residents no longer rely on Portland for their culture and entertainment. We have made a name for ourselves.

So many people have given me the strength to carry on, and inspired me to create: Leah Jackson, for her fierce aesthetic, and her tireless support for the arts; Mel Sanders, for providing poets with a venue, and devoting significant shelf space to local writers; Lori Loranger, for demonstrating that when one is brave enough to imagine an alternative to mainstream attitudes and behaviors, one’s children are better off for it; Anni Becker, for her desire to help others, and her singular photographic vision which so gorgeously documents the Vancouver scene; Jim Martin, for his gentle lessons on life and biology, and for showing us that it is never too late to give poetry a try; and finally, my life partner, Toni Partington, whose work bears witness to sociopolitical disaster and gives voice to the voiceless, and whose love, thoughtfulness, and selflessness have shown me that my dream of true partnership with a woman who willingly supports who I am and what I do was possible. I could go on.

After nearly a decade in Vancouver, how could I continue to believe that it’s all over for me, that there is nothing here for me? The town is like a perpetually blossoming flower, and I am fortunate to be among its residents, who are truly beautiful and unique individuals.

If you feel stuck, visualize the world as you would like it to be. Think of all those who love you and inspire you. Realize that if they believe in you, you could at least try believing in yourself. Express your appreciation to those who mean something to you. Turn away from naysayers and gossips. Resolve to walk away from the computer screen and go outside. Get hip to the beauty that surrounds you. Walk the streets of your sleepy little ghost town, and if you happen to see another human being, open your shy lips to address them.

Christopher Luna

Poet, Editor, Teacher

June - Lynn Krogseng

posted Oct 15, 2009, 8:02 AM by Rob Pollock   [ updated Jul 5, 2011, 2:32 PM ]

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?
What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?

Lynn Krogseng says:

When I think of abundance, my first mental images are of natural abundance: plants, trees, water, fishes, birds; I suppose that’s because many of my most joyful moments have been experienced in hiking or camping in the wild.  Even the second set of images that come to my mind as I ponder “abundance” are plant based or domestic crops.  The ubiquitous horn of plenty from elementary school Thanksgiving decorations is a related image.

Particularly, I think of abundance as “plenty” and without waste.  Abundance is, somehow, opportunity for abundance and gratitude for “plenty”.

Sadly, our culture has fostered an artificial sense of inadequacy because of various widely broadcast portrayals of atypical material wealth.  This has led to an idea that if our cities keep building, we’ll have more of the material evidence of success.  It has led to our elected officials sacrificing environment for “jobs” and promoting the pot of gold at the end of the big development projects at the expense of our farmlands.  Perversely, our foods have become more synonymous with ‘hipness’ than with nutrition and our food fights are less about access to healthy foods than ‘war on obesity’.

Throughout America, we have more physical wealth than we appreciate. Consider that the vast majority of us will lie down tonight on a bed, probably in a room that is not shared with more than one person, able to sleep through the night without real concern for our physical safety and we’ll rise tomorrow and have as much food for breakfast as we care to eat. 

As Americans, we have much to be grateful for.  Because we are living in this current era of technology, we have, most of us in the U.S., access to comforts unimagined in most of the rest of the world or in the whole of human history. Typically, we have ample food and fresh air, freedom of movement, access to healthy food, and virtually unlimited clean water - privileges many of us seldom stop to appreciate.

Here in Vancouver, our streets are reasonably safe and any of us can pretty safely move about at anytime.  This bounty of personal freedom is related to our food abundance.  People who are not hungry are generally pretty peaceful and content, no?  We have abundance in choice – the broad diversity of choices in food, clothing, entertainment, access to information, lifestyles.  Luckily, we have more young people choosing to be farmers and eschewing the corporate farming model, leading to more abundant food choices for consumers.

As the farmers bring their freshly harvested produce into my store, I am conscious of the abundance of harvest and the miracle the earth performs transforming sunlight, soil, and water into growing plants and those plants into food for our families and our animals.  I’m grateful that the farmers share this bounty.

In our region of the Pacific Northwest, we have an abundance of light (okay, maybe not this spring), water, arable lands, and rivers that were [formerly] sources of abundant fisheries.  Urban abundance, for me, means that we are protecting our urban farmlands and waters.  The restoration effort along Burnt Bridge Creek is an excellent example of urban abundance. Walk along there and experience abundant plant and bird life as well as a clean, apparently healthy stream even as traffic whizzes by on the overhead.

Restoration is important and preservation is too.  Protecting local farms is something the city has done right.  I love that we have places like Joe’s Place Farms and Bi-Zi Farms within our city boundaries.  These areas are under constant threat and I hope that we are able to hold off paving (development) of these sites. 

Looking around our urban landscape, I see more evidence of homeowners shunning the old ideals of monoculture and lawn.  Just about every neighborhood hosts some homes that have chosen abundance and diversity instead.  These examples of urban abundance are residential lawns that have been replaced by native plants and edible foods.  These spaces are lovely to look at and low maintenance for the landowners.  In our yard at home, we have raspberries, blueberries and currants growing in the front and side yards, nibbling away at the edges of the lawn.  Part of our front yard is also the kitchen herbs garden.  When the berries ripen, and I’m standing in my front yard snacking on raspberries, I do so with gratitude and a keen sense of abundance.  The native plants and ‘right plant right place’ newcomers, provide plant benefits with minimum maintenance or irrigation required.  These plants are the abundant sources of food for our native pollinators and browsing animals. For humans, the spreading conversion of lawns to food plants is a desirable move to abundance. 

As I look out my store windows, I see large street planters and wonder, “what it would be like if they were planted with edibles rather than day lilies?”  It would be like more urban abundance!

Lynn Krogseng

Neighbors Market Owner and Proprietor

May - C. Wess Daniels

posted Oct 15, 2009, 7:59 AM by Rob Pollock   [ updated Jul 5, 2011, 2:41 PM ]

Urban Abundance:

What does abundance mean to you?

What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?

C. Wess Daniels says:

Abundance surrounds us. It fills our closets, drawers, backpacks and our garbage cans. And for many of us who are connected to a wide variety of privileges our abundance often translates into waste.

A friend of mine recently made a documentary called Dive! It poignantly addresses the connection between garbage and hunger, excess and waste. The film tracks a number of young white urbanites who have a new found joy in ‘rescuing’ food from the dumpster. This joy is challenged as they become aware of other, less privileged folks, also coming to the dumpsters for food.  The majority of the film dives into the connection between what lays as waste in our dumpsters and the great disparity and hunger both in our own society and around the world.

The film was documented during the growing global food crisis of 2008 and covers well the impact that this had on many low-income families in the US. The contrast between the amount of food found in dumpsters like Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles and the growing lack of food at LA food banks shocked the filmmakers. Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert notes, “In the physical act of jumping in a dumpster and eating waste something happens, the reality strikes you of what is taking place.

And the reality is stark. Every year 96 billion pounds of food are thrown away in America, 11 million pounds a day, and a good majority of that food is fresh or days away from its expiration date. Recovering just some of this would make a huge difference. “The Department of Agriculture estimated in 1996 that recovering just 5 percent of the food that is wasted could feed four million people a day; recovering 25 percent would feed 20 million people. Today we recover less than 2.5 percent” (Dive Website).

The problem is not so much that we don’t have enough, but that some people have too much. Abundance is not the main issue at stake here, the abundance of the few is.

We live in a society of trash and are okay with this as long as it is our own excess we are throwing out. We forget that many in America (let alone other places in the world) do not have access to this excess. Thus, the poor among us end up eating our trash. The earth and all its creatures have for us become simply something to hoard, consume and then throw away. Excess and abundance counter our deep-seated fears of scarcity. As Abraham  Joshua Heschel said, “Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the universe becomes a market place for you.” To take this one step further, when we lose that sense of awe, we lose that sense of right sharing and just distribution and in doing so we lose our sense of responsibility to one another.

We then turn this question back on ourselves and consider the ways in which our own fears of scarcity and desire for abundance can actually create a vacuum of resources for others. While we may want to foster and nurture abundance, how are we participating, implicitly or explicitly, in a system of unjust distribution? Who is and is not showing up to eat what is available? Are there ways that we can get “abundance” into the right hands, into the hands of the people who need it? Abundance is excess unless it leads to just distribution.

In our day, the Bible has been misused to mark out a theology of waste and excess. Yet, I am constantly drawn back to Jesus’ radical prayer where he teaches his disciples to pray for “daily bread,” to “forgive debts” and to “rescue us from temptation” (Mt 6). In these petitions, there is a recognition of our constant temptation to take more than we need, to hoard and build up debt, and to focus in on abundance rather than right sharing. I think Jesus’ intentions were to help form a community of sharers rather than takers. This community is based on the conviction that God has given enough for all people and a rightly ordered community will live in a way that makes part of its mission to actually be givers of daily bread. It will be a community that seeks to cancel debts and live in a way that frees from temptation to take more than is needed so that there is enough to go around. Otherwise this community might become people who pray to God for daily bread on the one hand, while on the other hand they take in excess so that their neighbors go hungry.

In the Quaker tradition, of which I am part, we have worked to limit what we take out of  a desire to be better distributors or sharers. We recognize that greed and hoarding, or a desire for our own abundance, are actually at the heart of a lot of evil in the world. John Woolman, the Quaker abolitionist and 17th century advocate for human rights, wrote in his journal after visiting slaveholder’s homes to challenge them on their practice, “The love of ease and gain are the motives in general of keeping slaves.”

Some of the faces have changed (ever so slightly) but our own love of ease and gain still keeps our dumpsters full and many bellies hungry.

Questions for reflection:

●  How is our own love of ease and gain actually implicated in enslaving others?

●  What do we desire in excess? And how does this actually create a vacuum somewhere else, whether in our own lives or in the lives of others?

●  What forms of “abundance” do I participate in that may be coded in a way that I do not recognize that I am actually being a taker rather than a giver of daily bread?

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