Finding Peace (& Power) in the Overwhelm
by Jennifer Radtke
For me, politics and the war in 2003 were too overwhelming. Climate change was overwhelming. Were we all going to die in some world-wide disaster? I already carried the grief of the world in my heart – that got activated every time I saw someone suffering.
I was seriously considering moving to the country. City life in the San Francisco Bay Area was overwhelming me as well -- too many people doing crazy things, all the concrete. Then I read an article by permaculturist Toby Hemenway about moving to the country and the meth lab next door and how he decided to move back to the city. My problem with moving to the country was that I would have to drive all the time to get anywhere. Here in the city you can bike, walk, and take public transit. And live near where you work.
In a last ditch effort to stay in the city, I moved in with a couple that had just bought a house and were doing urban farming. I had grown up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a big vegetable garden and a compost-- a compost we used to walk across deep winter snow to use. At the homestead in Oakland, we had chickens and ducks, planted fruit trees and a huge vegetable garden, and not only composted but did humanure. (Read Farm City by my friend Novella Carpenter for an entertaining account of urban farming in Oakland.)
At the same time I had just paid off my student loans and quit my nonprofit job to start a business. The war over petroleum and climate change was too overwhelming for me. I needed to focus on something local and something I could do myself that was positive. I couldn’t protest or fight against things anymore, I just needed to focus on myself and living sustainably as best I could. I needed to find my power instead of feel powerless to change what the greed of huge corporations had created.
In 2003 I started the BioFuel Oasis with another woman. It was a biodiesel station in Berkeley which eventually evolved into an urban farm store too, where we sell organic chicken feed, beekeeping equipment, and fermentation supplies. In reality it saved my life. It gave me something positive to focus on in the midst of the world seemingly falling apart. It gave me a way to be independent from fossil fuels and use fuel made in a 200 mile radius from recycled vegetable oil. Every day it gives me a new reality of a strong community of people trying to do the right thing in a crazy world tilting out of control.
Instead of moving to the country, I started a tradition in the summer of 2003 of going up to theCalifornia School of Herbal Studies garden which is on 26 acres of land in the country. It has been a vision quest of sorts for me every summer for 1-3 weeks to return here, connect to nature and the land, and connect deeply to the desires of my soul and spirit. That summer I focused on visioning the new business and my new life. I also read in my journal that I was fascinated by bees, bees, bees there and wanted to study them, which foreshadows the deep connection with beekeeping and bee medicine I now have.
Take a tiny step in your life – from riding your bike, planting a garden/trees, working from home one day/week, having backyard chickens. Take it with other people supporting you, so you follow through and it will keep blossoming and growing. Find ways to connect deeply with the land and nature you live in (even in the city – it’s there!). When you feel overwhelmed by the big picture, focus on you, your family, your backyard, and what you CAN do. You will feel powerful instead of helpless and it will give you hope.
I'm not sure I see a big revolution. I see more and more people slowly turning away from big corporations and focusing locally – on their own lives, on local businesses, on their communities, on nature and the land. We are creating a new beautiful world and the world of the big corporations, ignored, will slowly die away in it’s alternate reality, that like financial derivatives and such, never really existed in the physical world anyway.
Jennifer Radtke lives in Oakland, California, where she has 4 beehives and a small garden. She is co-founder of the BioFuel Oasis Cooperative and teaches classes on beekeeping, bee medicine/healing, and bee shamanism. You can receive one of her Bee Essences or a Bee Healing by contributing to ONE!