We are honored to share some of the wisdom, love, hope, and creativity that flow from our recent Award-Winning books. Each book below expresses an aspect of the theme, Living Lightly, Deeply. We will share some excerpts from other 2017 Award-Winners throughout the year, each time with a different theme.
If you wish to get a copy of any of these books, we encourage you to ask your local bookstore or library to order a copy!
Living Lightly, Deeply - July 2018
Andy Couturier captures the texture of sustainable lives well lived in these ten profiles of ordinary – yet exceptional – men and women who left behind mainstream existences in urban Japan to live surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, friends, delicious food, and an abundance of time… This intimate and evocative book tells of their fulfilling lives as artists, philosophers, and farmers who rely on themselves for happiness and sustenance. By inviting readers to enter into the essence of these individuals’ days, Couturier shows us how we too can bring more meaning and richness to our own lives. (Back Cover)
"... It is easy to see the benefits of modern production techniques: convenience, access to an incredible range of goods and services, getting a lot done in a very short amount of time. Machines give us an incredible leverage. What is more difficult to see is what we have lost. Although I had read a lot about the alienation that often accompanies “progress”, it wasn’t until I met the craftsman Osamu Nakamura that I could experience how his “simple” life and his palpable contact with the physical world is actually so much richer than the hamster-wheel lives that many of us have become accustomed to. By using his hands to provide for his needs, he has found a richness of heart and a sensitivity of perception that so many of us long for." (p. 39)
Andy: "I'm a bit embarrassed to be asking such a student-to-teacher kind of question to my friend Murata, but I do anyway. 'One of the things in the world I spend a lot of money on is books. Now you go to the library, and you borrow the books, and return them. But I just somehow want to actually have those books around, just so that in case, if I want to read it again someday, I have it nearby.' Deciding to get serious with me, even though there's mirth still in his voice, he looks directly at me, his eyes wide, 'What do you really need? What is the thing that is absolutely a necessity for you?' 'Well', I'm embarrassed again, 'love... '
" 'It's not a camera, is it? And it's probably not that book either, is it? Maybe love... I think it's love.' Sayaka at the sink, watching us talk, starts laughing to herself. Murata continues, 'The fewer things you have, the better. Reduce your baggage as much as you possibly can. When you get rid of your things, you get easier in yourself, and you decrease your suffering more and more. But 'I want, I want...' -- that's the beginning of suffering.' Andy: I look up at the sky turning pink, high in the mountains of Japan, and think, what does Murata "have"? The sound of the flute, disappearing, no more than vibrating air; the seasons changing; his time with his family; the life cycles of rice. I remember a line from a New Year's card I got from him once: 'Blue sky, white peaks, snow fields, it's a perfect winter these days! And a nice warm wood stove.' Is he deprived at all? He doesn't look it. ... We move into the adjoining room, and listen to Murata play several songs on the flute. Then, contemplatively, he tells me about searching for 'the true sound.' Although he says he's never heard it, he believes it exists, and that looking for it is the real work of the bamboo flute player. (p.141)
Andy: "The moment we step in the door, the ambience changes completely, and we are surrounded by the smells of spices, the quiet tones of a sitar, tasteful Indian decor, and the tactful waitstaff of a relatively upscale Tokyo establishment. From rustic peasant artist in the big city, Ito morphs in one breath into the distinguished and gracious gentleman with impeccable manners who makes one feel entirely at ease with oneself... His weathered farm garments remind us, however, that we are with someone from an utterly different world. I think back to his exhibition at the gallery. On the blue walls in the low and quiet lighting hang Ito's many paintings illustrating the life of a Japanese man of letters living in the mountains, and the forest plants and creatures in the circle of life around him there. On several tables he had displayed copies of his richly colored children's books, a single-edition book of watercolor paintings of wildflowers... But of all the quite different works at the exhibition, the most moving for me was the smallest: a hand-sewn volume that fit into a box about the size of two packs of cards. The book, a loving documentation of traditional Nepali paper making processes, displays Ito's affection for the ways of life of traditional rural peoples. 'I made this,' he told me at the gallery, 'as a way to support their way of life at the time that industrially produced paper was coming into Nepal from factories in other parts of the world. I had been doing research on handcrafts in the Himalayas in the 1970s, and I devised this project as a way to introduce Nepali methods to Japanese craftspeople, artists, and collectors.' By gathering funds from 'subscribers' in Japan, Ito hired Nepali artisans to make the paper, carve the woodblocks, produce the prints page by page, and sew the pages together to produce a boxed edition of several hundred copies." (p.180-181)
"The paper itself is baby soft, and so pleasing to the touch that I felt myself relaxing just holding it in my hands... Like the meshed fibers of the supple paper, the people in the images seem completely woven into the energy of the landscape. In this book I can feel what Ito cherishes. The pictures are of the peasant life of Nepal, yet the influence of Japanese folk art is evident as well... Bringing his skills as an illustrator, a writer, and a book designer, and being the son of a traditional craftsman himself, Ito manages to have the book 'say' (without saying) that in these mountain villages of Nepal, the daily life of the people, their artisanal craftwork, the specific local culture, and the entire life-world are enmeshed into one single fabric. I think to myself that the project of this book is such a creative and nourishing way to accomplish actual cultural preservation and save traditions from extinction: financially supporting craftspeople so that they can continue to do their work, while at the same time both documenting the craft for posterity and introducing it to people in another country. It revitalizes both parties." (p.181-182)
'Doing better than our parents' generation.' These mantras have been spoken into our ears since before we knew their true implications. Society values achievement. While this view of the purpose of life is reinforced at every turn, when we adopt that view, what do we lose? How does the collective trance of our society cause us to make choices we're not even aware of making? And if we do choose a different path than the culture surrounding us, how does that affect the next generation, the children in our house? Spending time with Asha Amemiya and watching how she raises her three girls, I saw how enriching it might be to have a lot more 'good enough' in my life.
"When Amemiya says 'It's good enough as it is,' she really means it. She's prepared to let things be, just as they are. Her house, for example. It's an old house, and it has in no way been gussied up. You'd never find it in some coffee-table book of rural chic. It serves its purpose: it keeps out the rain, there are some bedrooms, a workroom, a kitchen, bathroom, and a toilet. When I arrived, her middle daughter, Shanti, was repairing the shoji screen doors. One (or several) of the cats had torn the paper, jumping after the shadow of a moth at night. (p.151)... "We're just finishing lunch: cooked cucumbers in a creamy broth. I would never have thought of something like this, but it's fantastic. In a nation of exquisite food, Amemiya's cooking is not only delectable, it's really unique. She's made do with what's in season, minus what they weren't able to grow successfully this year... Almost all the corn was eaten by crows and there was a blight on the tomatoes. 'So what vegetables do you have?' I ask. 'Cucumbers, green onions, carrots, green peppers, leeks, potatoes,' she says. 'And the eggplants are coming in a week or two!' I ask, 'Don't you sometimes have the desire to just go by the store and pick up some eggplants? I saw them on the way here in big bags, and cheap.'
'That would be bad-mannered!' she exclaims. Then more softly, 'There are flowers on the eggplant bush,' the delight of seeing those pretty light-purple flowers audible in her voice, 'and soon we'll have eggplants. It would be rude to the eggplant bushes - just ugly - to go out and buy them, don't you think?' I laugh out loud. It's funny, but she also does mean it. They're part of her community; she feels the relations of common courtesy toward them... Later in the afternoon, as I am looking through my notes, I glance across the room and Amemiya is stretched out on the floor reading a book, occasionally looking out the open door at the green... To my eyes, she seems utterly content. I don't see such faces in the massive and glamorous department stores, fourteen stories high and crammed with every sort of possible stimulus that offers -- no, promises -- to slake our thirsts."
"Sometimes it's just simple silence: the lack of any sound at all, or rather it is the lack of any machine sound. I think about how much humming, buzzing, roaring, accelerating, revving, and beeping I have slowly gotten used to in Japan without even noticing. In the late afternoon, the weather changes and the soft sound of a summer rain comforts my ears. I feel the intimacy of the sounds as the rain and light wind rustle in the trees, and the old house settles under the impact of the weather, with the susurrating downpour enveloping us all around." (p.167-168) //
Matter & Desire: An Erotic Ecology
Gold Award in Ecology & Environment
Author: Andreas Weber
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
"It was a special evening because in its solemn stillness I heard the nightingale sing again for the first time. The nightingale, that magical being of transformation whose voice can enchant the whole world, as though everything were suddenly transformed into some new material, as though things were made of chiming glass and the air of red velvet cloth beneath an immense bell. The nightingale, oh! that wonderful bird, which I could write a whole new book about every spring. The nightingale, that tiny creature weighing just a few grams, practically immaterial, purely voice. On that evening, its world-altering power overwhelmed me with a feeling of wonder and gratitude. I also felt melancholy for the already certain transience of our encounter...
"My heart pounded and as I grasped how much I loved this little bird, how much my soul was attached to it, how much my feeling was changed by the touch of its tones. And my heart beat faster as I understood that all emotional encounters inevitably transform us. All relationships are transformations that leave both me and world changed by one another, encounters in which one penetrates the other and leaves it altogether different than it was before." (p. 79-80)
"A line of cranes divides the sky. Their fluting calls sink through the empty whiteness above the pine fronds. I stroke the burst, cracked trunk of the oak and ask myself what it feels when my skin touches it --could it express it in words? I feel warmth, restrained and velvety hardness, finely delineated structure, calm, symmetry. And then, startled, I perceive the tenderness with which something, someone gives me their attention when I lend my attention to them. And I am flooded with the joyous feeling that every encounter is a communion, an exchange of gifts, a feast...
"The world differentiates itself only in the presence of countless bodies, cells, eyes, buds, wings, and lips, when individuals reciprocally bestow reality upon one another in relationships. This is interbeing: generously enabling existence in a web that has been created by all. 'If... we and the beings of the natural world reciprocally create our perceptual capacities through our entwinement with one another,' says the psychologist Shierry Weber Nicholson, 'then this co-creation is a reciprocal gift giving.' (p.192) "The ecology of the gift enables a practice of love. Love as a practice demands that one carry on and thereby understand the act of creative giving, by constantly producing oneself anew as part of this living fabric. The ecological side of this understanding includes my ability to understand that by existing with my senses in constant relationship, by not judging, by not concealing my needs, I already carry the entire creative biosphere within myself. Because of this experience, Richard Rohr says, 'your life is not about you, but you are about Life.' " (p.196)
"What researchers have been calling cognition for a long time -- thinking and perception within the natural world -- is, in fact, poetic expression. And this expression is no idyll. It includes everything. In the natural world, aliveness appears as the poetic principle, and this includes birth and death, growth and decay, ecstasy and grief. The natural world is a home, not a site of salvation, though many people still make it into that nowadays. I can understand this nostalgia. But what draws us to the natural world is the fact that it encompasses the whole of aliveness, all of the jubilation and torment -- the fact that it is the embodied side of the yearning to be and to come into form, the poetic space from which everything comes and to which everything returns. (p.201)
"In our cores we perceive nothing less than that: pure aliveness, unspoken, beyond words, aliveness from within, which can respond to the traces of aliveness among other things we encounter. This is what heals us when we are despairing, what streams toward us as power from the natural world. Life heals life. Nowadays, some troubled patients are treated with 'animal-assisted therapy': An assistant places an animal on their bed, maybe a young chick, or a gentle but boisterous puppy. The patients' medicine consists of nothing more than a high dose of pure aliveness, undiluted." (p.202) //
Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution
Silver Award in Green Living & Sustainability
Author: Peter Kalmus
Publisher: New Society Publishers
“Such changes don’t require sacrifice so much as exchange, swapping daily actions that aren’t satisfying for ones that are. In this way my everyday life has gradually come into harmony with my beliefs. My experience has been that congruence between outer and inner life is the key to happiness. I’m no good at fooling myself. I also came to see how deeply I had been influenced by the subconscious whisper of culture, and how completely I accepted the illusion that the way things are is the only way they could be. My old mindset is separation; my emerging mindset is connection. I’m learning that acceptance and detached observation of my own mind is the basis of compassion. I’m learning how to become sustainable, internally. (p.8)
" How can we go to that [new] story? It's possible to come out of wanting, but it's not easy. In Chapter 11, I describe a simple meditation practice for developing awareness of and gradually coming out of the habit of wanting. There are other practices in this book which can support this journey, such as opting out of the consumer economy, but meditation is the most direct path I know. Meditation has allowed me to begin to see how my own wanting works.
" How long will it take us to get there? I don't know. I see people around me waking up and helping others to wake up, but it's a long and gradual process; and I see many others who aren't taking even the first step. I have faith that beings living on this planet will get there eventually, but I don't know if it will take 50 years, 50,000 years, or 50,000,000 years." What can we do in the meantime? ... My own experience informs me that as we change ourselves for the better, we become more able to change the world for the better --at least our corner of the world. But the main reason to begin walking is that this path is a richly satisfying one, and well worth walking on for this reason alone." (p.124)
" Food. Your individual emissions from food production naturally depend on your diet -- what you eat, how much you eat, and how your food gets to your plate. Producing the food for typical meat, vegetarian, and vegan diets emits about 3,000, 1,500, and 1,000 kg CO2e per year, respectively. The average American diet emits 2,900 kg CO2e per year, slightly less than the average meat diet, since 3% of Americans are vegetarian (about half of whom are vegan)... In 2012, I stopped eating meat primarily to avoid harming animals, and I personally prefer vegetarianism. In addition, it reduced my emissions by about 1,500 kg CO2e per year. Over the next few years, I began growing food, trading surpluses with neighbors, and rescuing supermarket discards (freeganism). Most of my food now comes from these sources. I estimate that freeganism alone reduces my food emissions by an additional 1,000 kg CO2e per year." (p.156) " The average US person spends a little over $6,000 per year on new stuff. (Remarkably, 1/3 of this goes toward new cars, another measure of the automobile's dominance in our lives.) Therefore, average emissions are something like 3,000 kg CO2e. My wife and I both prefer not having much stuff; our four-person household spends about $4,000 per year on goods (clothes, books, hardware, stuff from Target, etc.). My portion of these emissions is 500 kg CO2e. (p.157)
" Waste. When we send our stuff to the landfill, the organics -- food waste, yard waste, paper, and textiles -- decompose anaerobically (without oxygen), producing methane. US landfills emit 1,300 kg CO2e per person per year. Let this sink in for a moment: our society has reached a point where even one person's trash, taken by itself, generates more CO2e than the average Bangladeshi generates for everything... This analysis highlights the needs for change at the systems level: as a society, we should never, ever put organic material into landfills. It also highlights the interconnection between our food and waste system, which I've begun thinking of as one integrated system. For example, two-thirds of food waste occur before the supermarket checkout line; as an individual, you have no control over that methane-emitting waste except by opting out of the industrial food system (see Chapter 13). (p.158)
" Stillness and silence. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of meditation, let's take a moment to consider stillness. People in our society are always running, anxiously putting out fires in their lives. They keep running, mentally if not physically, right up to their last breath. But without stillness, it's impossible to know who we are and what we want out of life. If we don't know those things, we're just running pointlessly... Since we're always running like this, when we do get an opportunity to sit in stillness, it's disconcerting. We want to get up and start running again. The stillness can be frightening to us, because when we're still, we may come face-to-face with our suffering. Being still, at first, is like riding a bucking bronco. But to come out of the suffering, we need to face it. And to face it, we need to be still. Stillness takes courage. (p.193)
" Gardening practices. When I first started, gardening felt like too much work. It seemed that critters and pests were out to get me, and that nothing would grow for me. Eventually I developed soil appreciation. I've also become less attached to getting a crop. Plants come, and plants go. Sometimes they yield a good crop, sometimes they don't... I've also developed patience for the hungry critters. This is their land as much as mine. They don't mean anything personal by eating "my" avocados or digging in "my" garden beds. Like me, they're just trying to make a living. Squirrels enjoy taking one bite out of every avocado, but I don't mind. I just cut the bite-scarred area away as I peel the ripe fruits. -- I've noticed that if I feel frustrated by critters, I suffer and they seem to do more damage. But when I feel compassion toward them, I don't suffer, and they seem to do less damage. (p.211)
" Biospherism and the law. Consumer society has its preferred way of doing things; opting out of these preferred ways can bump against the legal system. Backyard beekeeping is illegal in Altadena [CA], (although this may soon change). War-tax resistance is illegal. So is growing food in my front yard; growing food in vacant lots; using WVO as fuel; composting humanure; keeping chickens in my backyard; saving seeds; and using greywater from the washing machine...
" But love is greater than law. Laws change and reflect the priorities of the dominant social group. And legal systems have been used as tools of the utmost violence and oppression. Indeed, the very foundations of the US were built on the legal genocide of native peoples, and the legal institution of slavery. Whenever love and the law are at odds, I'll choose love. Still, despite this moral clarity, exploring mindful biospherism can be scary. In addition to occasionally pushing against the legal system, it pushes against social norms. I've faced ostracism from friends who don't want to think about global warming, and neighbors who want me to have a tidy green lawn. I've been on the 'wrong' side of the police line at Occupy Los Angeles... In my opinion, this risk is all quite tame considering the stakes. (p.256)
" This story can change. Indeed, I think we’re already starting to change it. The key is for you and me to decide to live this way, and then to practice living this way. It takes work! But when others see us living according to a new story, that story will spread. The more I live like this, the happier I am; so I’ll keep doing it in any case, whether or not it catches on. Whatever you choose to do, do it in a spirit of dance: lightly, gracefully, with a smile, knowing well that this song will soon end, and a new song will start. The universe is your partner. The lizard in the woodpile is your partner. Enjoy it, and realize through your own experience that it's constantly changing." (p. 300) //
“Trees change through the seasons – springing to life, bearing fruit, and losing their leaves before they rest for the winter. They clean the air we breathe, provide homes for creatures, and offer shade to everyone equally. Trees are constant, patiently learning to grow and flourish wherever they might be. (Back Cover)
There is much we can learn from the trees that surround us.
Guidelines for Entering
The recent Nautilus Season was open for Entries Postmarked from Sept. 21, 2017 through Feb. 10, 2018. Award Winning Books from the 2017 Season have now been announced to the Nautilus mailing list, and Bookcovers of all the Winners are posted on our webpages, 2017 Grand/Gold Winners and 2017 Silver Winners (see navigation bar at left).
For the upcoming 2018 Season: Entry packages postmarked from Sept. 21 through Oct. 31, 2018 will benefit from Early Entry Fees. Entries postmarked Nov. 1- Dec. 31 will have Regular Entry Fees. And Entries postmarked from Jan. 1- Feb. 8, 2019 will have Final Entry Fees. See our Guidelines for Entering webpage for details.