Empty Desk, Empty Mind…

Empty desk empty mind. It is uncommon for someone interested in feng shui to advocate clutter, but I do. If you make your clutter work for you, it is your work, not your clutter. It must flow. Do not abandon it. Check in with all your projects regularly, and celebrate your beautiful multi-tasking mind!

I recently cleared part of my desk in advance of tax season and a move, and I was so proud I had to print out a copy of Einstein’s desk to keep myself humble. I hope you can see it–it is stacked, and so are his bookshelves.

Don’t be fooled by the lure of the attractive empty workspace, whether it is in your kitchen or your office. Those magazine photos are curated the way models are photo-shopped. And in terms of feng shui, they scream, “I care more about the way things look than how they work.” Be equitable, be hardworking, be humble, be kind–save being glamorous and photo-shopped for special occasions. It is ok to sweep it all under the rug for a big party, for example, just as it is ok to wear tons of makeup and Spanx to a big party. But do not be fooled.

How to Plant a Rare Oak Acorn…

In the mixed evergreen plant community of the central California coast!

Acorns have dropped from the Shreve Oak on my street! Variously reported as quite rare and slightly less rare, it definitely does not sprout without some help, making it an excellent candidate for a paleo-crop plant. The nuts are elegantly striped and fat, and look full of fat when you crack them. They mature every three years. There are zero seedlings from this tree, compared to hundreds of Coast Live Oak seedlings per year. The power company wants to cut the Shreve Oaks near us down (in addition to millions of other trees, details at the end of the post.) If you live nearby, please snag a few acorns next time you see me and plant them!

They do need a little coddling. I learned this when I tried to sprout Valley Oaks two years ago. Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) like water, and grow best near streams or in little basins. They will also grow on a slope, and when they do, they generally mean water in the form of underground streams–very shallowly underground. This is where I inform you that botany is essential to feng shui, because you can’t find underground water without it (or at least I can’t. Kudos to the dowsers out there.) So I have such a place in mind, I collect the fattest Valley Oak acorns I can find, I pot them up and nurture them to lovely little yearlings, but when I plant them, they all fry in the heat of August. Ergo:

The first thing to do is to protect your acorn from animals–I like to pot them up in mulch and garden soil for a year and keep them on my deck. I have to put rocks around the top of the pots so the squirrels don’t dig them out when they get hungry in February. But you can also plant directly in the ground if you put rocks down–use smallish ones that the tree can grow around, but that a squirrel won’t want to move. Plant them now so they don’t dry out.

Next put up a small fence if you have deer, or a shade screen if you don’t. It should guard the south of the sapling when it comes up, and can be as simple as woven sticks on a frame of three sticks stuck in the ground. A deer-proof one should stack all around with dry sticks, and cover over with a woven lattice.

Valley Oaks and Shreve Oaks (Quercus parvula var. shrevei) will grow in some shade, but should have some sun. Shreve oaks do not need water, but should have a very thorough oak leaf mulch, as they can’t tolerate any grass on their feet whatsoever. When mature, the Shreve oak should have a canopy that reaches the ground, with nothing underneath it, approximately 30m in diameter. They are highly fire resistant. I don’t know how long they take to mature, but oaks are slow growers. Valley oaks have a more open canopy and like to associate with native water-loving shrubs. They bear at 10 years and can live to 500 years.

When European agriculture was introduced to California, native agriculture began to die, resulting in a disordered environment–severely decreased water table, extinct or nearly extinct food plants and animals, proliferating nuisance plants, increasingly dangerous fire seasons, and drier/windier/hotter weather. Each little plant does its part, and it doesn’t seem like much, but across the whole state the effects are enormous. We will have a desert on our hands soon if we are not careful. Do your part! Plant a tree!

This post is inspired by my ongoing dismay with the recent decision of PG&E to limit their liability by clearcutting underneath their power lines, subsequent to their culpability for last year’s bad fires in Santa Rosa. I’m unfamiliar with the topography and botanical succession in Santa Rosa, but this policy will increase fires in my area, by removing fire-resistant mature trees and encouraging the growth of highly flammable resinous invasive plants. Some people have supposed that wires will not catch on fire if they are not hit by a falling branch or tree–this is true, but it will not help to clear-cut to 12′ from the wires when the trees are 250′ tall. It also doesn’t explain the numerous exploding transformers, which are due to aging equipment. It also doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is the lack of devices which shut off the power at the pole nearest to the wire that is down, preventing the problem entirely whether it is due to trees, wind, or car accidents. Additionally, they are doing this clearcutting in a very steep sandstone and sand-based coastal mountain valley. Our main road to town was washed out two years ago in a rainstorm, and one lane remained closed until last month. It cost roughly $6 million dollars. Fortunately no one was hurt, but all our roads are held up on one side by trees and air. In addition to exacerbating fires, cutting down trees seems to invite landslides and silting in of rivers.

The Anatomical Third Eye and Why Ghosts are Transparent

Almost raining again greetings!!! As a person who had acclimated to the Pacific Northwest, I greet the coming rain after central California’s long, long, long dry summer with much enthusiasm. I do have great sympathy for the southern California people who are living here and dreading it–my time to dread summer is the spring, a more optimistic season than fall generally. It is good to remember that everyone has a different perspective.

I’m taking a small detour from feng shui, which is far from the only foolishness I am engaged in studying. In honor of the season I would like to discuss ghosts and how to see them. There is a reason they are depicted as transparent and it has to do with the third eye.

Many cultures have stories about the third eye, either a real or a symbolic eye or function of the brain, which “sees” things we don’t see with the usual two, usually ghosts or the future. My sense is that these various superstitious and mythological traditions evolved from descriptions of the brain’s ability to construct 3-D rendered images from the two static camera which are your eyes, known as stereo-optic vision. The space you see between things in the depth dimension is imagined, painted onto the images from the light reaching each eye. This takes an enormous amount of processing power, much like the visual card in your computer if you are a gamer. The part of your brain that conducts this processing is like a third eye.

Except I don’t have one. Many people have a minor strabismus, where each eye focuses in a slightly different direction, creating a variety of vision problems. Most are not serious, but do result in a lack of depth perception. When coupled with astigmatism it can make for some very poor vision, but in and of itself, depth perception is only one of 15-20 depth cues. I have no difficulty, as an adult, with my body or any other objects in space–knowing where they are or how they are moving… except balls. Balls are round and small and uniform in color and usually flying through the air with no interceding layers to give depth cues and therefore it is very easy to hit me in the face with a ball, and I cannot catch. Ping pong is right out. My aim is excellent but that is a story for another time.

Children with strabismus (and no other weird complications) do not suppress the vision in either eye–they have double vision with equally opaque images. As they grow they favor one eye and eventually suppress the vision in the weaker of the two. Before it disappears entirely, or if they are in vision therapy, the image from the weaker eye remains, slightly off-center, and transparent. When other kids ask my little one why his eyes are funny I have instructed him to tell them with confidence that he has a special eye for seeing the future and ghosts.

Seeing the future is true. When one sense is diminished the others are strengthened. One of our glories as a species is neuroplasticity, and I am happy to have all that hard drive space to devote to other things (enjoy your ping pong and your basketball, people who can see!) It isn’t exactly seeing the future, but the altered cognition so many people with strabismus have is useful in whatever field they apply it (check portraits of your favorite tech CEOs and famous lawyers, musicians, artists, ne’er-do-wells… having talents doesn’t mean we use them for good all the time.)

The ghosts thing… I hope it isn’t true. I’m scared of ghosts. Maybe that is why I’ve never seen one. I do get the creepiness, though, so its possible I’m more sensitive, even if I can’t see images. Remember our bodies can sense the magnetic field of the earth, the tide, the phase of the moon, and many other things we don’t consciously track or experience. There is a spot in your brain that is like, yup, the tide just turned, time to tweak these two chemical ratios–but you will never feel it or see it or taste it or smell it. So don’t be so sure, people.

If you want to exercise your third eye vision, consider closing one eye–but not for too long or your vision might change. If you don’t have 3-D vision and you’d like to try, look up vision therapy. It’s a lot of work but it is fascinating. Here’s to seeing things in a new light, the change of weather, and rain!

Quiet Trouble
Chilly Hillside
Rainboots are Ready

Astrology and the Turn of the Seasons

As we head into fall, the arc of the sun is lower in the sky and the days become noticeably shorter. As we round the steep corner of the analemma the sun rises noticeably later. This year we are experiencing a full moon at the fall equinox. I know I just ranted to you about the dangers of fortune telling, but bear with me while I try to explain why astrology can be different.

Astrology describes a system of magical thinking based on observations–really good observations–of the earth’s motion, the moon, the planets, the seasons, and the effect of the seasons on animals, plants, and weather. The models we build from scientifically measured data are often but randomly less accurate than predictions made by these old methods, think of the Farmer’s Almanac. Science says confirmation bias, but really science, no reason to pick on kettles when you live in a glass ceiling.

The various historical explanations are funny–the sun being pulled by a chariot, etc., but the observations are full of useful true information. (Our ancestors spent a lot more time outside.) Our task is find it, then use it–not to tell the future but to tell the present. There are many different ways to understand things.

Fire and Metal people go a little silly in Fall

Metal is traditionally considered to be the element associated with Fall, however in Asian folklore there are five rather than four seasons. The extra season is called “late summer,” its element is Earth and it corresponds to the harvest of squashes and fall foods. Earth season energy may linger long past the equinox in your part of the world–it is the case in much of the United States. But it is due to the heat and local wind patterns. The analemma is still happening, so there is metal energy, too.

Fire people have a lot of fire in their birth chart, which includes time of day and season, and also place in a 60 day cycle and a 12 year cycle. It is highly possible that being born at a certain time of the year affects your personality and epigenetics. The change in vitamin D levels through the year has profound physiological effects, and personality is chemistry. I can conjecture other chemistries for the three other cycles, but letting it stand for now, certain elemental types are traditionally considered to have an easier time during different seasons.

Fire, Metal, and Wood energy people can all be out of balance in the fall. Wood people are never silly of course, but they can feel unsupported (can you guess Quiet Trouble’s element?) Fire people, being very spirited, may go a little overboard, as fire is dispersing and concentrated metal energy is abundant. Metal people are unique in their tendency to struggle through their own season. Their energy is a distilling process, and in fall they are cooking salt. They can suffer from overly rigid thinking and despair. Wood people have spring energy, and in fall they can feel stopped, cut down, and frustrated. According to tradition they express themselves with anger at these times, but I’m sure they have a good reason.

Fall’s effects on these types can also be more severe in fire places (plains and steep canyons deserts,) metal places (large cities, hills, and lakes,) and wood places (forests and downtown areas.)

Earth people are still in their element in fall, especially where fall foods last and linger through until winter. Don’t let everyone else lean on you all the time, earth people, or you will feel depleted.

Water element people are coming out of a long hot dry spell of magical weather and will be recovering their strength. Enjoy it and don’t let the rest of us get you down!

Fall in the evergreen forest in a fire country

The redwood forest on the coast of California is a dark place in the winter. The coastal mountain valleys are steep and the trees are tall. This makes the fall analemma curvature very bad for people with vitamin D deficiency. Many of these people come to California for the sun–it is very healing when you do not have enough fish, fresh cream, and organ meats in your diet. And so, as opposed to the deciduous forests of the cold northeast, or the warmer sunnier forests of the southeast, and the dark forests of the northwest where people presumably know what they are getting into, many people who move to the forest here feel very nervous and unhappy about the trees. Around this time every year people begin cutting them down right and left, hoping for a bit more sun. The fear of fire is often trotted out–fire attacks metal in elemental terms, and it is a serious threat due to the abysmal land use practices of US culture. It is mismanaged understory and deadfall that makes the danger, however, not thickness of trees. A thick wooded canopy is protective in terms of fire, but it can be terrifying to the souls of metal and fire people. Traveling can help, especially for metal people, and exercise in the sun can help, especially for fire people. Supporting metal and earth energy in their homes and lives would help, too.

I’m offering free readings for people with fall birthdays living in the forest until the winter solstice. Good luck to everyone and look out for mid-october, when the fall metal energy mellows a bit.

Quiet Trouble
Previously Wooded Lot
Full Moon Fall Equinox

Feng Shui is on Reuters!

After a long dusty time on the self-help shelf at the thrift store, feng shui is back in the news! Chinese people with a touch of the nostalgic are consulting the masters about their financial interests, according to this article.

Unromantic and rational critics of this industry in China, including the government, conclude that fortune telling is no way to make investments, although the article points out that it might be as good a way as any to divine the plans of a certain mercurial head of state who is vexing China with trade negotiations at the moment.

Originally employed to determine the best placement for one’s ancestral gravesite, feng shui can also be used to tell the future, as well as where to best situate your furniture. I don’t believe it is a good idea to make decisions about the future based on predictions this way, though. The future is too slippery and too clever.

Consider Mercury retrograde, a well-known European astrological phenomenon. Say you decide to avoid all traveling during Mercury retrograde, in an effort to avoid its bad luck, and you turn down an opportunity to go away for the weekend. Then you get a speeding ticket. Did it help to make that decision? Could it have been worse? Or did you just trade a speeding ticket in your home town for one in another city? There is no way to tell, and many ancient fables and folk tales warn us against trying.

Using the stars to inform your decision making isn’t a bad idea, but affecting the future should be your goal, not predicting it and outsmarting it. If you get a speeding ticket during Mercury retrograde, you should 1) pay it before you lose it (unlucky for paperwork then too,) and 2) put your New Year’s resolution to drive slower right up there on your dashboard and reform yourself properly! Be considerate people. Your actions determine your future at least as much as the stars, and it is more honest. The universe knows when you are trying to be clever.

Believe me,
Quiet Trouble
In the echo of Mars 
turning direct

Quiet Trouble is Like a Lightning Rod

Hi Friends! For my first post I’d like to discuss probability.

Have you ever felt like a danger magnet? Accident prone? Why do these things keep happening to me? Coincidences are things you notice that seem to stand out, statistics would dictate otherwise. It could be the weather–astrological weather varies quite a bit. You could have a lemon–some cars are more durable and some bodies step on toes while dancing. Or it could be a message–as animals we have a symbol-based code and repetition gets attention. I advise you to look into each possibility when trouble shooting.

For me, I’ve always attracted scary authoritarians. I’m scared of authoritarians, so it didn’t seem fair. I tried a lot of sensible things, therapy, vision quests, hiding. I tried a lot of crazy stuff–this is how I became interested in feng shui and Chinese elemental metaphysics, after all.

One of the things I tried was crystals, and it made things much worse.  Many earth and wood types will admit to themselves here secretly (you don’t have to raise your hand if you don’t want to) that they have a collection of pretty rocks somewhere–they followed me home! But using crystals intentionally is an art, an art which I knew nothing about. So I bought a pretty black tourmaline point and wore it for three weeks before it cracked. Then I bought another one, and it cracked. The third one also cracked, and by then I was up to my ears in difficulties, so I buried them in the yard and said an apology.

After doing some reading I began to think that as black tourmaline is used for grounding out negative energy (a very safe place for it), perhaps my problem lay in being already too conductive for the stuff. I’m sensitive to EMFs–my fingertip gets burned when I use my phone for anything–surely…

I have some jet but I’m afraid to wear it. It’s black volcanic glass, so theorhetically it will be bouncing negativity off and all over the place if I do. Other possibilities include:

Diamonds, expensive but light passes right through–please send some if you need me to try this out for you.

Amber, not a rock but it is insulating. On the other hand it also collects charge.

Sandstone or limestone: permeable to water, purifying it. Going to be difficult to wear.

What are the chances a simple choice of materials will affect something as complex as a running joke on your life? I hope those physicists among you are thinking about the spin on electrons changing when you look at them. I don’t like it when people tell me what to do either!

Very truly,
Quiet Trouble
Sleeping Redwood Forest