beautiful glacial deposits in the serra de estrela region

Hello Penamacor!

We went on our road trip and saw some beautiful places… Serra de Estrela park is so lovely, we all fell in love with the area. The small villages, the narrow roads, the beautiful majestic glacier melts…

downtown penamacor

Emilia’s request was that we send her to an English speaking school, where she has a chance to learn Portuguese, and then eventually we could enroll her in a native public school. We made an appointment to visit a small experimental school in Penamacor, our next stop on our road trip.

The school is based on the Sudbury model, which relies on children to be active participants and instigators in their own learning and happiness. It’s exciting to consider Emilia getting a parallel experience of personal responsibility for her own sense of place and integration as we explore alongside her, with intention towards how we want to live.

We agreed to try the town and school out for a month, and the peaceful, simple rural life appealed to all of us. No traffic, the town is very clean, and they are actively recruiting foreigners into the community. Meeting people who speak English is nice, as we learn the language we are still craving connection.

rural farmlands we’re surrounded by

We’re starting the process of settling into Penamacor, a small town of 5,682. We’ve found a lovely campground and are quite happy there. It’s got everything you need: a river, a small cafe, lovely camping spots, ping pong, a pool, showers and a place to hand wash dishes and clothes. I love the simplicity of it- and though I’m excited to get my hands in the dirt and start planting, I’m grateful for the slowness of life that is right now. I’m grateful for this moment, and the gentle ease into life in a new place, with a low level of commitment and a high level of curiosity and engagement…

our home here at our campground

Paper or plastic, big or small, bus or car?

We’ve been in Portugal about 10 days, and it’s been an intense emotional ride… gratitude, sadness, deep grief, surprise, more gratitude, deep prayer and connection.  When I reflect on our journey, I’m so overwhelmed by the support we are receiving, by the human compassion and kindness, and for this I am thankful.

We left our sweet home and community with some goals, one of which was to live without a car.  Our land in Horse Shoe was remote and peaceful, and involved lots of driving, mostly transporting our daughter to and from school (13 minutes to get to the main road, and then another 13 or so minutes to get to school) to get to the farmers market, co-op, anywhere we were going.  So many aspects of our life were sustainable and yet we were still relying every single day on gasoline and driving to meet our basic needs.  This journey is a pilgrimage toward deep sustainability…

Hopefully we won’t be driving a car too much for too long..

We’ve been staying in Porto with my sister, who has been living her for 12 years.  She’s helped us so much to get paperwork taken care of that allows us to live here, to buy a car, and get on the road.  Isn’t that ironic, though? We left to be free from gas and bought a car- and while it’s a temporary fix, so we can figure out where we’re going to land, I can’t help but taste the salt… this irony of our modern day pilgrimage that has compromise tucked in to soften the journey for our traveling family unit…

Plastic reigns king in the bigger supermarket…

As a vegans, I’ve been surprised by the amount of meat and cheese in ready to eat foods.  Our conscious community and surroundings in WNC was a place where gluten free and vegan were hip and easy to eat (not dominant, just available). Yet in WNC, there were so many cars that just guzzled gas (fashionable hummers, SUVs…), here tax incentives encourage smaller and more  fuel efficient cars… in the US, at the co-op I can shop completely without plastic, here this can be done in grocery stores and markets with very selective shopping, and I have some room for improvement.  I haven’t found the bulk grains , soaps, and oils yet… The vegetable market produce is not packaged, and I can bring my own jar for the olives,  bulk legumes…

Plastic bags are easy to use, but you can plan ahead and bring your own bags…

At the market it’s really easy to shop local and bring your own bags…

I watch people reuse egg cartons like crazy.  My sister uses cloth bags to purchase her bread in… pastries from the bakery come in paper boxes.  As usual the big grocery stores seem like the place where plastic reigns… we bought sunflower oil and it came in a plastic container.  I missed my co-op where I used to fill the oil in a jar… As we journey in prayer to a life of less waste, I am in deep prayer for the shift from plastic to other more sustainable carrying vessels, from driving to walking and biking.  I do plan to sew a variety of bags that I can keep reusing, as well as build my collection of jars again… and it’s our first week and I tried to create a small demand and less waste…  I miss my besties, my auntie, my animals, the beautiful mountains, lush forests, and the delicious sweet water of WNC… you are a part of me like flesh and blood.

Tomorrow we start our road trip… more soon….

water is life

As we’re getting ready and packing up, everyone is so curious about what we’re putting in those suitcases.  Pressing this reset button and keeping only small things that fit in suitcases makes you realize how tied down we can be… and the gifts of water and place.  These mountains of North Carolina are so abundant and rich in biodiversity, with yummy water all around.

The other day I was filling up a quart jar, and had a moment of grief for the good clean water we are leaving behind.  This land’s water tastes so sweet,  has been such a healing force in my life and is part of my daily gratitude.

Did you know one positive word can change water’s structure? Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto, proved that both positive and negative words can have an influence on water’s structure by changing water’s crystals. During his study of water, Emoto came to some fascinating revelations. He came to a belief that water was the so-called ‘’blueprint of our reality’’ and our emotional energy and vibrations can change the physical structure of water. Emoto’s tests mostly consisted of putting water in glasses and then exposing it to different words, pictures, and music and then freezing it and analyzing how water crystals look. And through his research and analysis, he came to the conclusion that if we “influence” water with positive words, pictures, or music that water crystals will be nicely formed. On the other hand, if one puts water near negative influences, such as saying negative words, or if you turn on some loud heavy metal music then the results would be the total opposite. Those water crystals will be distorted and formed in an ugly and negative formation.

With such abundance of water around us, we can tap into our kinnection with water as a way of birthing world peace and change.  Each time we interact with water is an opportunity for gratitude, reverence, and and expanded awareness.  I pray for the water to have good boundaries, to keep itself pure and flowing into the hearts and bodies of our relations, carrying our prayers as tools of transformation. It takes 9 years for water to circulate the planet and come back around… Water is Life!

Here at Laurel Nest we use compost toilets and flush with mulch, saving over 3,000 gallons of water a year.  This has been a source of joy to me over the last many years, at the gift of working in harmony with mother nature and taking care of my shit in a good way (literally), while honoring the  water in a good way.

Another way we honor the earth and the waters is by being vegan.  Animal agriculture (milk and meat) uses so much water; growing feed for livestock consumes over half of the USA’s water… Imagine living in a place where we had to fetch water for the animals that are eaten… In developing nations women and

Drinking the last sweet water before going through airport security…

girls are primarily responsible for collecting water; on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task.  Collectively, South African women and children walk a daily distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water.

Mi Wiconi.

Water is life.

Those are my words…


sacred change

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
You’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
You’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,

You’ll head straight out of town.

It’s opener there
In the wide open air.   
Dr. Seuss

Dearest friends and supporters…

Here is the beginning of a storytelling journey. In less than 3 weeks, Hal, Emilia, and I will board a plane with one way tickets to Portugal.  We don’t have a plan… just a vision for a life with a gentler walk, where we can live in greater balance with all of our relations.

Today, I’ll share a little of where we are… moving and packing everyday, slowly and surely purging most of our belongings into the hands of willing friends, charitable organizations, and the Hendersonville county dump…

Our parcel of land is 4 acres, and we’ve transformed it from a wild pine, laurel, sourwood, rhododendron forest into terraces, shade gardens, small orchard, and various trails and walking paths… it’s been an 11 year journey of service to this land, and we’ve learned so much.  We live in yurts, closer to mother nature, walking barefoot most of the year and living with the cycles of weather and earthsongs…  so tucked away, and only a 15 minute drive to town.  It’s been wonderful to live here, tucked into this fairy forest, and spirit asked us to sing another song…

We want to be free of fossil fuels, free of driving our cars and live in a place where we have more sun, and can grow our food all year… we want to participate in a place where the government uses our taxes to support the balance of our relations… so we’re going on a journey to live in a simpler and more peaceful way…

This blog is our storyteller… the words and pictures of what we’ll meet…