This week thephoto challenge is about the countryside and/or small towns.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere;
and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself” –author unknown
Here in the Midwest, small towns are often found along the shores of the numerous lakes.
Ephraim, Door County, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan
Bayfield, Wisconsin on Lake Superior
Sometimes you will find a really BIG town on the shores of these lakes, too!
Chicago, Illinois on Lake Michigan
Being from a small town is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if the town’s name is Embarrass…
French fur traders found it difficult to float logs down the meandering river that runs by this town. They would create log jams, hindering the flow of timber to its destination. “Embarrass” in French means “block or hinder”. The Embarrass River and the town of Embarrass is not hiding a dark scandal, after all.
School bus stop, Woodman, Wisconsin
Small towns that can sustain their small populations are wonderful models of the future, not simply relics of the past. Putting humans on the landscape while paying close attention to scale and carrying capacity is a challenge that must be addressed if our species is to survive much longer on this planet.
“There’s nothing out there! It’s a barren landscape. Why would you want to go there? Why should we preserve that useless place?”
Nothing out there, eh? Well, if that’s Nothing, it’s pretty spectacular. It’s vast, for one thing. Stretching in all directions, as far as the eye can see and further. And it’s limited, encased in a single droplet from a juniper berry, sweet and pungent in my mouth, yet powerful enough to stimulate a rush from my salivary glands and wet my parched throat. You could live on Nothing. Many have, and left their artwork in symbols on the rocks. Yes, they had time for Art in ‘subsistence living’. Do you have time for Art in your life? It is barren of some things. There are no strip malls. There are no straight lines. There is a meandering curve of vegetation down there. It’s a lot more narrow than it used to be. The air is warming. The climate is changing. Fecundity is fighting the curse that foists barrenness upon it. The energy of life will not give up easily. And that’s why I want to go there. To learn. We must preserve it in order to let it teach us. We are ignorant. We ignore the wilderness and call it Nothing. There is a story there. A Myth. One day we may get wise.
I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food. Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eatinghas led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food. Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat? Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed? And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it? I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market. I think about it now.
And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years. I didn’t lead the way.
Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space. My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested. The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off. In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place. What a mess! But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards. He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces. He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden. You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years. So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden. They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures. They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden. I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds. The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction. Let’s just hope many of them choose to!
The Griessler House
The back porch
The bathroom tile looks great even if the photo doesn’t
As a core team member of The Bardo Group, I have been invited, encouraged, challenged to participate in the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event. For more information about this event, and to be stirred and prodded in you own artistic lethargy, click here.
I yearn to be a poet, an artist, a musician. I often find a piece that seems so right, so seemingly effortless, so fitting that I think it can’t be hard to craft a work like that…it simply lays over its theme like a glove. Not so. Listening to music on my way to work yesterday, I heard a poet’s frustration: “I don’t know why I spend my time / Writing songs I can’t believe / With words that tear and strain to rhyme.” (Paul Simon: Kathy’s Song.)
I feel this theme of Peace and Justice coursing through my life, my thoughts, my work, my hopes, and I wonder how hard it would be to write a poem about it. I talked to a young man half my age who has studied forensic justice and just interviewed for a position as a mentor, a parole partner, someone who will help perpetrators and victims get together and talk, face to face. I thought it was a great idea, for both parties, for all parties. Here’s my attempt to let that idea percolate:
Let’s Face It
Behind the veil, the dirty shroud, the black burka, the white Klan sheet,
the knit ski mask, the heavy gas mask, the transparent oxygen mask, the impenetrable death mask,
the dense fur, the redwood bark, the shiny scales, the matted feathers,
the protective shield, the official badge, the repeated slogan,
Yesterday, Steve & I stopped in at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop for lunch. The guacamole and sprouts on their veggie sandwich remind me of my 15 years living in California and call to me sometimes, especially when I’ve had too much cholesterol-rich Midwestern holiday food. So, I ordered my #5 No Mayo favorite. Then I watched in horror as the guy gutted the sub roll of its soft, white, doughy insides and flung them in the trash bin. I thought of the ducks I visited on Christmas afternoon, swimming toward us in eager anticipation of bread bits. I thought of the two bread pudding cookbooks we have in the dining room just begging to be explored. “Why did you just throw that away?” I asked. “Oh, we do that in order to make more room for the fillings and so they don’t squish out when you bite into the sandwich.” Well, that explains why they take it out, but it doesn’t explain why they throw it out. Driving away, I imagined pithy slogans I could print on a poster to protest this practice. “Don’t hate your guts” or “Cast your bread upon the waters, not upon the landfill” or something like that.
Looking for crumbs
At home, I looked up some statistics about food waste in restaurants. How depressing! I am one of those moms who felt compelled to finish what my kids left on their plates just so I wouldn’t have to throw it out. It hurts me to see food go to waste. All that work, all that water, all that petrol, all that went into getting that food to the table is someone’s life to give life to another. It’s sacred, in my opinion. Tossing it out is disrespectful to humanity. Something must be done.
Taking it up on a local level is probably the first line of attack. I wonder if that sandwich shop would save the bread cores for me to cart away. How often would I have to make a pick-up in order for that to be an attractive option to them? I’m sure they don’t want an overflowing bread bucket kicking around. How much bread would that be? What would I do with it all? Could I get someone to help me? What if I suggested they offer a bread pudding on their menu so that they would use the bits and make some return on their effort? Would they take that seriously? What if they donated their scraps to a community compost project? Do we have a community compost project? When I visited family in San Francisco and Oregon, I was impressed at the compost recycling programs they had. I have gotten tips from my daughter and her boyfriend about how to start a worm bucket of my own, which I could keep in the basement of this duplex, even over the winter months. My landlord who lives in the other half of this house doesn’t recycle anything. His bins stay on his side porch all year and never venture out to the curb. Would he support my effort to compost and add the products to his garden? He’s had the property assessed twice this year and may be putting it up for sale. Do I want to go to the trouble of enriching soil that I may not get a chance to use?
I hate the feeling of going from “Something must be done” to “I want someone else to take this responsibility”. What responsibility will I take? New Year’s resolutions are popping up all over this week. How many of us are really going to work on being responsible for cutting down on the waste of resources in this world? More to the point, what am I really willing to do about it? Do I have the integrity to take up the challenges I pose? Do I have the guts? I hope so. Stay tuned and remind me.