Starting Anew

(See the bottom of this post for an announcement about our special sale, now with free shipping!)

January is usually a productive month for me. As the year draws to a close, I begin reflecting, thinking ahead, and working to improve habits. As the new year dawns, I begin implementing new habits (or committing to the changes already in progress) and deciding where I want my focus to lie during the year. I do all this while enjoying the quiet first few days of January, doing lots of reading, and pulling myself away from the day-to-day distractions I far too often indulge.

This year I managed to make myself a fairly long list of goals, which may not be the wisest decision. As with many people, I have a habit of starting my resolutions strong and then fading down the stretch; even by spring, it’s not uncommon for me to have largely forgotten about any resolutions and to be slipping back into old habits. Still, typically some things stick and, of course, I find time to reflect and make changes and adjustments at other times throughout the year, not just at its beginning. And when that new year rolls around during each calendar, it’s not uncommon for me to make some resolution that is a variant on one I’ve made many times before. It’s something of a natural process: a slow learning that takes place over years, not all at once on January 1st.

My resolutions in 2018 span a spectrum of subjects and categories, and I won’t go into all of them for fear of boring you. However, I want to mention one, as I feel it is a resolution that relates directly to some of the themes of Into the Ruins. Where my wife and I live in the city, we are lucky enough to have a shared backyard with a small amount of space for gardening. Those of you who read my editorial introductions or have otherwise followed me over time likely well know that I spent a number of years working on a variety of farms, including organic vegetable farms, and that I garden each year–though with varying levels of success. Last year, I expanded our home gardening from a single garden bed into a partly fenced off area that used to serve as a chicken run, but that had been abandoned to weeds (and sadly, regular spraying with glyphosate) for a number of years. In 2016, we convinced the landlord to stop the lawn maintenance people from spraying and last year I started to redeem the long-abused, dead earth chicken run. I dug in a couple new beds, turned in compost and organic fertilizer, and planted tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, basil, and cucumbers.

I did this largely because I wanted more space in which to garden and wanted to grow more food, but I did it also with the desire to rehabilitate this small patch of ground that had been so abused over the years. Rather than a stretch of dirt lying mostly bare, dotted by scraggly weeds, I wanted to bring back a greater life to it. In my digging, I found that weed cloth had been laid down sometime back, so I pulled that up to get to the real earth beneath, turning the duff on top of the cloth into it and adding in compost. The ground was hard and packed, devoid of worms, a far cry from a picture of health. My hope is that my small work would do some good.

I have yet to dig back into that soil to see what is happening now, but the garden I planted there did very well for the most part, the tomatoes and squash thriving in particular. It heartened me to see that returned life, and I enjoyed the good eating we did over the course of the summer, even harvesting zucchini into late November.

I plan to once again plant in there this summer, but getting an earlier start this year. And that’s where my resolution comes in. Last year, I began the process of rehabilitating that small bit of land; this year, I want to do better. I hope to open up a bit more earth in there, but more importantly, I want to take a greater care in my gardening this year. My resolution here is to plant more flowers, for starters, to create both greater beauty and more pollinator habitat. I also would like to plant a greater diversity of crops, to get an earlier start, and to rotate more. Already, my wife and I have been looking through seed catalogs, scheming about what we want to grow and which flowers to plant.

At the end of the day, that small bit of soil is a small resolution, and my efforts to bring it back to life are a tiny mark in an incredibly large world. But as I argue time and again, we can only make the larger world into what we know it needs to be—healthy, vibrant, far less abused by us humans—by making changes at the individual level. That’s the only way that we can foster and implement changes at the larger level, and its the only way our leaders will realize they must reinforce and help facilitate those changes or risk losing their jobs. Without dedication, conviction, and persistence in our personal lives, cultural and societal changes will never happen by choice and will.

And so, I ask you readers for something small: a contribution to Into the Ruins that may help to inspire others. What do you resolve to do in the new year to help make the world a better place? How do you plan to help? What do your small (or big!) efforts look like? I asked this question last year and received some interesting answers; it seems to me that it’s worth making a tradition. I will ask it somewhat less specifically this year—your answers may be broad in the subjects they touch and small or large in the actions taken and they do not have to be specifically focused on conservation or mitigation. Let them fit the theme of Into the Ruins one way or another, but the changes we need to make are many, and they don’t have to be explicitly focused on sustainability, ecology, energy, the environment, or so on. They may be about kindness or community, for we will need that in the hard times ahead. They may be about learning or wisdom, for we’ll need that, too. Or they may just be about bringing one happiness in a world that too often seems to bring the opposite.

All letters will be considered for publication in future issues of Into the Ruins, unless otherwise noted. You can give your thoughts with a comment on this blog post, by emailing me directly at, or by mailing a real letter to Figuration Press / 3515 SE Clinton Street / Portland, OR 97202.

So let’s hear it: What are your plans for 2018? In what small way do you hope to help rehabilitate the world? Share your thoughts and help spread those small changes.

Back Issue Sale: Now with Free Shipping!

Help me clear some inventory! Our back issue sale just got even better: it now comes with free shipping. Until the end of January, all six back issues of Into the Ruins are on sale for just $10 and come with free shipping! Fill out your collection, grab some gifts, seed your hometown with randomly placed copies of the magazine–whatever you want!

And have you picked up the newest, Fall 2017 issue? If not, grab it today with free shipping! It’s an excellent issue, if I do say so myself. I don’t think you’ll want to miss it.