Thursday, July 17, 2008

delerium and delight

I'm glad I'm not infatuated with Wal-Mart and driving. I'm glad I'm not dependent on a "real" job. I'm glad I don't always need more. I'm glad I'm comfortable with extreme temperatures and muscle fatigue and germs and physical discomfort. I'm glad I can walk, a long way, and climb stairs. I'm glad I have plump green tomatoes in the garden (more glad in a week or two when they're ripe. I am glad I know how to and am eager to eat weeds. I can adapt.

It's crazy reading this screen news, thinking about all the data coming in, floating around, and the so-called rational decisions and outlooks that can be extrapolated from the computer models that fluctuate rapidly, trying to predict even crazier feedback loops. It's hard trying to plan for the future. I mean, do we keep living here paying our mortgage, trying to piece together a li'l homestead in the hood, or should we abandon it, right now?!

I keep thinking that we will need access to land in the future, once we have put in permanent crops on this 1/4 acre., needing access to fruit and nut trees, and probably pasture of some sort. Of course, there are plenty of abandoned lots, and even at $600, are within our means, at least after tax time. What we need most of all are people, people who get it, and can act on it. The city provides some irritation with antiquated zoning laws, although in our blighted part of town, not really. If it wanted to be a giant pain, the city could be.

Which brings me to what I was thinking about, junk. I grew up solidly in white trash. I spent most of my childhood living with my grandparents, or near them, and most often we lived in formerly abandoned housing. My grandparents lived through the Depression, poor as can be, and were poor all their lives. The got electricity five years before I was born (in 1968).

Stuff was hard to come by, so when you came by it, you kept it, even if it wasn't something you could use any time soon. At the height of my grampa's collecting junk, we had nine barely working cars (never money to put gas in them), a little tin can camper, an old trailer workshop, two motorcycles, a truck with a camper shell (the good old days!), and piles and piles and piles of stuff. My grampa lived in a really old house with 5 or 6 bedrooms, and they were filled with junk. It was piled all up around the yard.

All entirely useful junk, to someone, sometime. Much different than this plastic stuff that breaks constantly. There were always spare parts for anyone, always starter cars, prom dresses, and baby clothes for the dozens of cousins and their friends. It was given without payment. Always stuff to trade for other, more immediately useful or highly sought-after stuff. It was treasured, from the thick 78's, to the national geographic books, to the horse blanket safety pins, the treadle sewing machine, the quilting frame, the organ and the piano, the furniture, the clothing. It was an adventure. Most of it eventually got pitched. It's probably still sitting in a landfill, everything that didn't sell at auction.

Which brings me to our neighborhood. We have useful stuff piled up in our yard, all waiting for additional hands, money or time. Our neighbors have stuff, especially if you get a glimpse of their back yards behind their fences or double wide garages that they never park in. I get the feeling that most of this stuff is cast-off, rescued from curbs & dumpsters (ours included). It's all useful, to someone, somehow.

It makes me think of the old days of the city dump, where garbage pickers went through each fresh haul, looking for repairable things, and things to recycle and reuse, like rags, bones, and food waste. (Food waste was boiled up and sold off for grease, fertilizer or hog food.) It may not sound like much, but it was more practical than the patented american method, of adding a bunch of toxins into products that are quickly thrown into landfills to leach into ground water, and take theoretically millions of years to biodegrade.

It seems like thinking things through a little better, challenging our known assumptions and our rational delusions, er, conclusions, might be at hand. It might be time to think of another kind of system we put into place with the actions of each day of our lives, one that does not involve mutually assured destruction (if not for us, then for our descendants). It might be time to look at our inputs and outputs, and be aware of the consequences of our actions.

It's hard being in this global dysfunctional relationship, and not being able to talk about it. It might be time to use our ginormous brains, our vivid imaginations, and our remarkable ability to adapt. It might be time to think about what is really important to us, our friends and families, our ability to enjoy ourselves and our surroundings. Nothing is nicer than laughing with your kid, hanging out with the plants you are about to consume (to literally incorporate!), to watch the clouds chase the sky on a breezy day, to see a woman give birth, to watch bees and bugs. This is everyday life, and it is delightful.



granola*girl* said...

I think hording excess stuff is disfunctional, hording comes from an attitude of lack, from an attitude of *not enough*... I believe we need to release stuff that we have to use for to have room for new things. BUT that being said, I have lots of excess stuff... which is why I am working on decluttering and donating my excess to the little thrift store down the road.

Freecycle is also good for getting rid of stuff, too.

vivir vino veritas said...

i am always eager to hear in what direction, out of the city or expanding within- your inclination goes. don't worry, granola*girl*, the Zomans aren't horders of stuff, unless you count interesting and useful ideas as stuff.

abby said...

It's really fun to release stuff and never have the need to replace it.