Action Learning Pathway




The two questions cut off at the bottom are “What do I want to contribute?” and “What am I going to do about it?” Followed by this website:

This Action Learning Pathway was an exercise that really challenged my whirlwind lifestyle. Anyone who knows me knows I’m constantly on the go, from coast to coast, and occasionally overseas. While I have general migration patterns, there are also plenty of spontaneous missions in between.

Coming back to the United States with permaculture on the brain made me wonder how to fold in the ethics and principles with my superhero-esque lifestyle. Throughout this Project 1 it’s been a cobble of figuring out how to meet the standard criteria set by the British Permaculture Association, which offers this diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, and how to continue growing in love and service.

I have now committed to these substantial 10-week chunks of time to produce detailed, quality projects to sharpen my skill as a designer and as a productive member of the permaculture network. I’ve also learned my preferred role in a group is that of supporter. I enjoy being able to jump into a project, and morph to whatever the needs of the project are.

My primary challenge was the unknown of where I’m going to be over the next two years. There are a LOT of variables.

My solution was to design themes of projects 2,3 and 4. When I’m not sure where I’ll be, I can fit these themes wherever I am. Project 2 was inspired by my smashing success with We The Trees in funding the repair of my bike for the superhero bike tour. Project 3 involves working with the Food is Free Project to learn how to build wicking beds out of recycled materials. Hopefully this knowledge will support later projects. Project 4 is delving into my blossoming enthusiasm for teaching.

Projects 5, 6, and 7 will be done in Chestertown, NY, where my mother’s side of the family originally comes from. I’ve spent the last three summers in Chestertown  and plan to spend summer 2013 supporting its initiative as a transition town. This year Chestertown launched its own farmer’s market, and I’ve just met some folks who have production gardens all over the area. I’m definitely looking forward to working with them. Project 8 is the 10 weeks leading up to my 26th birthday, when my health insurance runs out. Project 8 is dedicated to finding an alternate method of coverage, which may mean finding a “real job” or some other creative way of making sure if I get sick, I’ll have a way to heal that won’t put me in debt.

Projects 9 and 10 I’m leaving up to the mystery. I think they will rely heavily on what happens in Project 8, whether I get a job or go back to Asia or … I’ve had this idea in my mind that I’ll be in Brazil for 2014…

Cultural Context – Life Review FollowUp

Here are my attempts to directly answer Richard Perkins’ essential questions, after completing my Life Review assignment.




The story of my life is embedded in the cultural context of suburban America, a distillation of the once distinct Irish Catholic ethnic that peppers the stories of my ancestors.


I remember my mother telling us to stay out of the woods. There were ticks. And homeless people. I relished any time spent in nature, and was always looking for ways to get into the trees and the pond and the rivers. Spending time in the Adirondacks with my extended family, I could finally be in the woods without worrying. Our annual walk to the cave was a highlight in my year.


I was raised Catholic. My parents subscribed until we outgrew Sunday school, which I believe was mostly under pressure from my grandmother. I went every Sunday and I believed in God because I talked to a power greater than myself whenever I got sick or felt bad. I began to reject the stricter conventional notions of religion as I got older. I have since to respect the great force that moves through us all, and am wholly convinced of the divine nature of existence. I am still looking for was to broaden and deepen my own spiritual practice.


I have a crooked spine, but other than that, no longterm health problems, no allergies, I broke a few bones as a kid but I’ve mostly been healthy and energetic. Once in a while I get mysterious pains or am suddenly stricken with a dis-ease, but I’ve come to suspect that has less to do with my body than my mind. And it’s a humbling reminder that so many live with discomfort in their everyday lives, I’m so grateful to have an abundance of energy and wellness. I don’t even need coffee in the morning.


My parents started off as average middle class, and through decades of dedication to The Company, my parents are now in the top % of wage earners in this country. I’ve pretty much always had everything I needed, or at least that’s my impression. And this might sound insensitive and bold, but I am a pretty white female, so I don’t come across discrimination directed at me very often. I remember attending the Vagina Monologues in college, which finally helped me put being a woman into proper perspective, and that was an attitude of pride, not inadequency.


I told my story, without prompting, as a series of events that I hadn’t even considered the context, other than the astrological one. I am a child of the 1%. I am privileged. I have never been abused and the only once was in a situation in college that could have turned very ugly, but didn’t.


I was homeschooled, and lately I have a suspicion that this has placed me outside of many cultural norms. The people I grew up alongside were shapeshifters and lady knights, superheroes and gods and goddesses, flawed and beautiful people with strong voices that carried over centuries. Most of my best friends were in my head from pages and pages and chapters and volumes of reading.


When you ask about the most meaningful or valuable experience in life, the first things that comes to mind was my time with the Ojibwe. Not only did they shatter my expectations of indigenous life on this continent (and by extension, other continents), but they showed me the true essence of a culture built on the foundations of respect for environment, community, and self. Sweating in a lodge knocked me to the most core of my being, of humility, sadness, and a desperate passion to be alive.


It was with these values attached to my core that I have gone on these adventures through Texas and California and Thailand, partially for curiosity, partially for the mission of making life better for everyone in general. I have done everything I have ever done out of love, in some form or another.


I learned myself, and I unlearn myself. My homeschool experience taught me to be self-taught. And so I am. So I teach myself. And I unteach myself. And the cycle continues.


The pattern in the learning / unlearning is through my travels. Space affects how I think of things. So when I travel, it is a new reflection upon an old pattern. And when I return to a place after having traveled other places, through awareness I can see the differences and similarities to the me that was there previously.


The biggest, silliest pattern I’ve made to get me where I am today is usually wherever I go, I am following the impression of blossoming that seems to happen when I fall in love. The choices don’t necessarily lead me to being with my figure of affection, romantically or otherwise, but I am inspired by the essence of that person, which shapes me to make the choices I do, to move to a farm or to Texas or to pick up a ukelele.


My life is unfolding to my satisfaction because I feel relieved that I finally have something of value to offer to my community and the people around me. I have skills, insight, curiosity, energy, creativity, and joy.


Potentially some of the next best career directions will be in teaching. It seems like there is a need and an interest in living more holistic, fulfilling lives and I have several areas that I feel might enrich many folks’ daily paradigm were they to be made aware of the frame.


The sacred question that I live by is How? The Why reveals something about the asker, but the How reveals a truth in the universal truth of cycles. How can I make myself a better role model? How can I best contribute to my community? How am I living my ideals?


Life Review – The Essential Questions

Here are the essential life review questions from Richard Perkins which I of course did not read before embarking on my Life Review assignment.

Asking the right questions

Reflect on the context of your story before beginning this task

  • How is the story of your life embedded in a cultural context? What is that context?
  • How has your ecological context or lack of one shaped who you are? And who you are becoming?
  • What was your spiritual upbringing and what role did/does it play in your life?
  • How do you define your health and sense of wellbeing? How was/is that shaped?
  • What role have ism’s played in your life (sexism, racism, ageism, ableism, etc…)?
  • How might thinking contextually change how you tell your life story?
  • How can you share with others your major outcomes and (un)learnings in your own unique voice.



What are some of the essential questions the Life Review needs to answer:

  • What have been your most meaningful and powerful experiences in life?
  • How have they helped shape you?
  • How did you learn and unlearn?
  • Do you recognize any patterns in your un/learnings? What are they?
  • What decisions have you made in life to lead you to where you are today?
  • In what ways is your life unfolding to your satisfaction?
  • What might be some of your best next (career) directions, and why?
  • What are your questions? Do you have any (sacred) questions that you live by?

Story of My Life (Part 9) – Up Til Now

Up Til Now

And the past 12 months have been no less of a whirlwind. I spent the summer in Chestertown as a waitress at the high-class restaurant at the bottom of the hill. I made good money, shopped at the farmer’s market, taught myself guitar, practiced humility and patience, and started keeping a dream journal and practicing yoga.

I stayed through the end of September, and then joined my family for the first wedding of our generation, my cousin Thomas. My sister flew in from California, the first time she’d been back in several years. My grandmother cried when she saw her. The wedding itself was simple and beautiful, and we danced late into the night.

I flew back to California with my sister and helped her move into an apartment, before joining my soul-sister in Northern California for a few months. We had many adventures in the mountains and redwoods, but the vortex grew too strong, and I separated myself as emotional exhaustion set in. I spent two weeks by myself, then flew back to Austin on the first of December.

I remember vividly my first night back after all that had taken place. I was excited by an artifact that had told me itself, “You have no idea how to use this tool.” I hitchhiked to Awesome Hollow from the airport for their weekly Creation Flame ceremony. I was several hours early, and after depositing my artifact on the mantelpiece, spent some time meditating, stretching, hooping.

The other guests arrived, and meditation began, and ended with a profound and prolonged OHM. As Kirtan singing began, a fellow next to me offered a shoulder massage. As he touched me, and the music overwhelmed my heart, for the second time in a long time, I wept. As after the sweat lodge, all the tension and sadness flowed out of me, and I let my tears take them. I felt such a sense of relief and joy afterwards that I barely registered when, as I was leaving, my artifact, a glass pyramid from Mount Shasta, fell to the ground and shattered.

I spent three weeks in Austin in the bubble of bliss and merriment. Joy at seeing my friends, meeting new people, seeing how far the energy of the SHIRE had reached even in its dissolution, and the constantcy of activity and life and evolution filled my days, though I was puzzled and slightly disturbed by the unfolding of the Austin Occupy.

At this point, I have become aware of how little time I have spent describing my romantic engagements. This might be strange, as during the first draft of this life story I noticed the pattern that many of my major life choices were made because I had been, well, inspired is too weak of a word, but yes, inspired, by a handful of powerful, beautiful men. Soulfully intoxicated might be more appropriate. Over the years, with each soul friend, I was propelled to new heights of possibility and devotion and would undertake newer and grander adventures. My time in Austin again saw this pattern play out.

I’m not sure how much more I can say, because I’m not sure how much more I understand. I am still sorting through the many emotional memories that, on one hand, have given me a greater understanding of my own emotional spectrum, but on the other, have closed me off to any further romances. For fear? For shame? For attempting to establish my moral basis without compromising my basic human needs? I’m still not sure.

In January I flew to Thailand. I spent 5 months on a permaculture project in rural Isaan, taking my Permaculture Design Course, and spending time atoning for my previous community experience. This time was, thankfully, mundane. Cooking meals, attending meetings, digging trenches, washing dishes, all took on a quiet satisfaction. I was alone in myself, given time to think and not think, to play music and keep playing, to smile without expecting anything. I read books, doodled the flower of life, and designed a logo. I threw coins asking the I Ching various questions and inevitably it would always tell me to “Keep Still.”

I flew back to America at the end of May, satisfied, still, and wholly appreciative of the lessons of character and practicality I learned from the managers and fellow interns.

I’ve been home for a month now, I just threw Mom a 50th birthday party and paid off the rest of my student loans.

August 10th 2012 in Columbiaville, Michigan is the date and place for the next superhero ride.

I plan to be there.


Return to Project One

Story of My Life (Part 8) – Where Cape Meets Wheel

Where Cape Meets Wheel

Eventually, the inner emotional turmoil manifested itself in a week in April where many pieces of my physical identity left me. I lost my license, my cat disappeared, half a dozen cards from my tarot deck fell out, and my car was totaled by someone else. When Stardust invited me on the next superhero ride in June in Iowa, I was ready. I felt exhausted and helpless. I needed to leave. After Gracklefest, our major festival event, I packed my bicycle, rode to meet Stardust, and we hitchbiked a thousand miles to Superhero Headquarters: The Possibility Alliance.

It took us a week, both riding and hitching. I began to understand what was meant when hitchhikers are described as “roadside therapists.” It’s amazing how easily half of the cars we got into were willing to tell their life stories. And more than 2/3 had the same perception of danger: “What are you girls doing out here? Don’t you know that people are crazy?!”

We didn’t run into any trouble, and actually stayed at some beautiful places, camping by the river, staying in a family’s lakeside cabin, a widow’s extra bedroom, an old friend’s roommate’s floor. I wrote down the name and story of every ride we met. I was in awe of Stardust’s ability to connect to every person we got in a car with, without judgement, just a genuine curiosity. I told her that as we pried a can of beans open in the alcove of a college town, pressed up against the brick to stay out of the rain. I felt proud of myself for being able to express such a simple and direct sentiment.

We reached the Possibility Alliance, and I met the Zing, his wife Tigerlily, their daughter Butterfly Girl, Infinity Man, and several of the interns, some of whom planned to join us on the ride. We only stayed for the night, but the brief glimpse I saw of the electricity and petroleum free farm enlivened me to possibilities beyond technology. There are very few things that actually limit our imagination.

When I became a superhero, it was like finding an anchor to the true world. Like I had been living in a cabin of imagination, watching my life through the window, but having no way to activate or engage. When I stepped into the life of a superhero, I did it because it fit my paradigm of a magical world, and I loved comic books. What I found gave me a what I needed most: connection.

My cape was my bridge back to a shared world from the isolated shroud of sadness and shadow.

I spent two weeks riding with a dozen other heroes around Iowa. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. The superhero strivings suggested a way to live in line with compassion, acceptable, and vulnerability.

At the end, I became vulnerable in the worst way. I crashed my bike, and over the course of several days, the injury became worse until I was in debilitating pain. I took a Greyhound bus home the next day. As I called to tell Mom I was coming home, she had called in tears to tell me my sister was in the hospital because her boyfriend had tried to strangle her. And when I arrived home, my Dad told me he had been diagnosed that day with Type 1 Diabetes. Zing told me as I left, “A hero’s journey begins at home.” It felt like I had arrived just in time.

The end of June 2011. That was a year ago today.


Story of My Life – Part 9

Story of My Life (Part 7) – The Wood

The Wood

The Hundred Acre Wood was the site of the SHIRE experiment, and things did not go as expected. I quickly learned I had no real experience in project management and was coming up against many challenges that I had little support in solving. Everything from chores to tasks to projects felt difficult or uncomfortable. I remember specifically voting against emotional check-ins, which I now realize was probably the worst possible thing I could do. I wanted professionalism, I wanted results, and I wasn’t willing to face the human side of emotions and needs that my friends and collegues all had.

Despite the difficulties, we managed to put on a several workshops, ranging from mycoremediation, to biofuels, to natural building. One of our members organized an entire Monsanto protest in front of the capital. We held events and hosted volunteers from around the country. For how angry and helpless I felt in my personal life, the project was moving forward. Whatever we did, it kept growing and inspiring more people.

In December due to a freak occurrence, I was stuck at home in the Northeast. During that time I got a call from the Wood.

“Superheroes arrived.”


“Yeah, people in capes and costumes showed up on bikes and they’ve been doing all this work. Fixing our breaker box, clearing trails, digging holes. It’s awesome.”

A group called the Haul of Justice, costumed superheroes on bicycles riding around doing spontaneous service work, had shown up at the Wood to being their month-long spontaneous service ride across Texas. After their ride, Stardust, Raccoon, Wild Yeast, and Infinity Man rode back to Austin and stuck around to do some volunteer work on various farms as well as enjoy the amazingness of Austin. They changed my definition of possible.

I wasn’t working outside the Wood. All the money and energy I was expending was going directly to the SHIRE project. I took the lead on organizing one of our biggest outreach projects was a booth at the Pecan Street Festival, one of Austin’s oldest and largest downtown festivals. With help, I sold vendor space, organized our booth and workshops, and handed out themed “Eco-Steve” cards with little paradigm-raising messages on them like “Eco-Steve knows where his water comes from” and “Eco-Steve bikes to work.”




Story of My Life – Part 8

Story of My Life (Part 6) – The Road West

The Road West

So in May of 2010, I made the choice. I quit my job after saving up several thousand dollars, again packed what I could fit in my Honda Accord (which wasn’t much), only this time including my partner, and two other friends Nova and Zandor whom I knew through the sustainable habitat program called the SHIRE, and drove to California to attend a sustainability festival. We never made it.

Instead we drove up the coast to Northern California, stopping along the way to visit friends and beautiful views.

Zandor, the original driving force behind the formation of the SHIRE, expressed his displeasure with the project and the direction it was heading, and voiced his need to separate himself from it. In my naïve enthusiasm, I offered to take on his duties and responsibilities as President of the Board of Directors. He agreed, and sent an email the following week to the rest of the Board.

My first project as President was building a composting toilet on a friend’s land in California. They were having trouble with their septic system. Our traveling crew offered to build them a composting toilet. The structure was about 2 meters tall, an elevated throne that dropped down into a pit, where the humanure would decompose for two years, when it could then be used as fertilizer. As long as sawdust (or rice hulls or corn husks or what have you) covered each deposit, there is no offending smell. I oversaw the ground leveled, the primary structure put up from scraps we found laying around the property, and finally the walls enclosed using waddle & cob, woven sticks with a mud and straw mixture. It was a beautiful building when we were finished. I felt so proud of myself, and grateful still to have people around me who were competent builders.

Instead of returning to Texas, I opted out of the broiling heat and thought my time would be better spent back East, gathering myself together and preparing for my responsibilities as President. I returned to Chestertown and spent the remainder of the summer there, repainting several rooms of the house and doing general maintenance around the property. With my new lenses and excitement about the possibilities of living sustainably, I appealed to the three owners at the time, my grandmother and her two sisters, about the value of the property and how it could be turned into a productive space, instead of a one month a year rental property. I was rejected and, heartbroken, returned to Texas.

On the way back to Texas I picked up my best friend Ross, who had just graduated Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Fresh to freedom, we stopped in the Everglades, Florida, to visit our marine biologist friend Sara, who gave us a tour of the glades and the beaches. Our last stop before reaching Austin was two days in New Orleans, walking around the city and enjoying the delights of the South. At the end of September 2010, I was back in Austin and officially moved into the Hundred Acre Wood.


Story of My Life – Part 6


Story of My Life (Part 5) – The Road South

The Road South

I graduated in August 2009. I spent the last week and a half living out of my car, since my apartment lease ended before the graduation ceremony. Fortunately I spent the summer practicing Tai Chi, and was able to apply the calming effects of moving meditation on the otherwise stressful conclusion to my formal education career.

I moved to Austin, Texas within a month.

I packed my Honda Accord with everything I could fit, including my partner, and we drove South. And we drove South. And a little West. Making it to Texas was itself an accomplishment. Very little planning went beyond just getting there.

We were able to find a swanky apartment within a week, on the third floor of a brand new apartment building. With less than 20% occupancy, we were some of the only people in the building. The complex was located at a Metro stop, but the Metro train was several years behind schedule, and did not stop once during our 9 month lease.

My first job was as a community organizer. I spent 8 hours a day knocking on doors, gathering signatures, donations, and letters. I was terrified at first to talk to strangers in their own home, but by the third week, I was a pro. It became a joyous game to meet and talk to so many different people.

The campaign itself was focused on creating more responsible channels for e-waste – those old computers and tvs and printers filled with toxic metals and precious bits of elements that all end up seeping into our ground water when they’re thrown in landfills. I held that position for three months, until “I could donate money to you or buy presents for my kids for Christmas” overtook my ability to meet the nightly $150 standard, and I was let go.

Fortunately, I had been offered a job the previous week by one of the folks who signed my clipboard to cleanup the customer database of a telecom company. I proceeded to work in an office for six months, making good money but not developing the kind of skills I wanted to develop.

The saving grace was my weekends, which I would spend at a sustainable habitat outside the city. It was so clear being out there what I wanted to do (fulfilling work surrounded by nature and good people) and what I didn’t want to do (menial, meaningless work for a mediocre company).

It’s occurred to me at this point I’ve mentioned very little of my family. The whole story thus far has been a random assortment of events, without much emotional weight, that have just happened to me as my life floats along.

My parents both work for a pharmaseutical company, and I am wholly blessed to have both my biological parents still married, something I gather is quite a rarity in America these days. I have a younger brother in college, and a still younger sister who work for DirectTv in Frenso, CA. My mother’s side of the family I grew up visiting and vacationing with frequently, the only one I knew on my father’s side was one of his brothers, Uncle Jerry, who works as a librarian at Albany State University.

These are the people I share blood with, blood I learned recently goes all the way back to an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower. I guess exploring is in my blood. So is creativity, obstinance, rebellion, and (if I may be vain) beauty.

Story of my Life (Part 6) – The Road West