Sunday, May 22, 2016

#154 Onion dreams

Dear all,
    It seems like there's more stress and scarcity in my life than usual these days--nagging little health issues, various systems resisting repair or resolution, urgent to-do lists, illness and death in the community. 
    Then I go to the garden and am reminded of another reality.  Mary gifts us with vegetable starts that she grew in the greenhouse.  Karen is glad to share her stunning deep purple irises so I can plant some in the front flower bed.  Sue asks if I'd like a bouquet of her lovely pink roses.  I'm delighted to offer Denora some currants that I propagated last fall so she can plant them in the neighborhood.  I'm surrounded by wholesome abundance and sharing, and I breathe more deeply.
    I wish that experience of grace and abundance for all of us.

Onion dreams

How to invite a three year old fully into the joys of the garden in spring?  I want him to love it—and I also want the little vegetable plants to survive.  Having wooden walkways helps, but it’s hard to remember, hard to always be careful.  So one day in the back yard I mention that he doesn’t have to be careful in the mint.  It is strong and sturdy and will bounce back.  His eyes light up. He checks to make sure he understood, then steps into the mint bed and proceeds to walk around.  This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but I know that mint is indeed incredibly resilient, and not in short supply, so I hold my tongue.

At our community garden the next week, he helps with planting and watering new strawberry plants, then plays while I transplant tomatoes and peppers.  I keep pointing out the plants he’s almost stepping on (trying to keep the urgency out of my voice) and reminding him of the wooden plank paths.

At one point he asks if the winter onions will grow back.  When I say they will, he takes a deliberate step into the bed.  I consider—there are more than I need, the season is almost over, they do bounce back—and I don’t warn him away. He proceeds to walk in the bed, to stomp in it, delighted to be in the middle of a winter onion jungle.  Then it occurs to him that he could lie down in this green and growing bed.  He lies down happily and announces that he is sleeping on a winter onion pillow.  He is so pleased that I have to smile.  “Are you having onion dreams?” I ask.  More delight.  “I’m having onion dreams.”

Back home, as he’s telling his parents about our garden adventures, I know I made the right choice—to relax my protective instincts and sacrifice a few onions in order to invite him all the way into the joys of the garden.  “I lay down in the winter onion bed,” he says.  “I had onion dreams.”


At my house
dandelions were not allowed.
You could find
mold in the fridge
dustballs in the corners
stacks on the surfaces
But dandelions were dug out
every year, one by one.
A lawn, after all,
is no place for a weed.

We picked them in meadows
slit and curled the long stems
braided flower crowns
blew on those irresistible
fragile spheres
but that was different.

Learning they were valued once
as earliest greens of spring
created dissonance.

My first salad
of dandelion greens
with hot bacon dressing
specialty of the Pennsylvania Dutch
was a surprise and a delight.
Yet I dug them steadily
from yard and garden
habits strong
virtue and vigilance combined.

A country relative
brings a dandelion green
salad for Easter.
Weeding his garden
he found so many
he couldn’t resist.
It was a labor of love, he said
all that washing.

As I savor
the sharp taste
I give thanks
for this love of a weed.

Imagine:  A new economy is possible!
Participatory budgeting

The Brazilian city of Porto Alegre started the first full participatory budgeting process in 1989. In Porto Alegre, as many as 50,000 people have participated each year, to decide as much as 20% of the city budget. Since then, participatory budgeting has spread to over 1,500 cities in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. In the US and Canada, it has been used in Toronto, Montreal, Guelph, Chicago, New York City, and Vallejo (California).

While participatory budgeting doesn’t change economic structures, it facilitates grassroots democratic decision-making, over the design of the budgeting process; what proposals go on the ballot; and what gets funded.  It changes how government works and how people can engage in democracy, by crafting processes that build individuals’ skills and knowledge; bringing neighbors together across divides; and connecting residents, experts, and officials, to make better decisions together.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently

A small town in western Pennsylvania that has legalized civil disobedience in its fight against fracking.

The new Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who ran a campaign on bread and butter issues and working together, and beat a candidate who tried to raise fears of Muslim extremism.

Black farmers, from farms in the south to cities in the north and everywhere in between, who are reclaiming the positive values of their connection to the land.   (See  video on Soul Fire Farm at, or check out this Facebook page: )

The recent White Privilege Conference, held in Philadelphia, where 2000 people wrestled with hard issues and didn’t give up.

More resources

Resource from my friend Daniel Hunter, Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow; An Organizing Guide.

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.
Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.

Pamela Haines

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.