Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Three weeks ago today 20 little children, their teachers and a long-suffering mother were senselessly gunned down by a seemingly mentally ill young man with assault weapons.

The entire nation watched in horror.  We wrung our hands.  We tsk-tsk-ed.  We said some prayers that day.  We wrote angry rants on Facebook.  Some of us wrote our congresspeople.

Then it was Christmas, a fiscal cliff, a new  year, new stories.  We turned our attention elsewhere.

We must NOT abandon those kids and their families or the families of the brave schoolteachers.

We must NOT just tsk-tsk.

The NRA works every day of the year to ensure guns are plentiful.  What are WE doing?

Did you know that there are over 80 guns for every 100 people in America?

Can you think of one good reason why anyone, anywhere, at any time needs an assault weapon?

Please join me in REGULARLY writing our president, your two senators and your one representative to demand an end to assault weapons, to demand a tightening of gun control measures and to demand better funding and accessibility for mental health programs.

Will this prevent another Newtown, Connecticut?  Perhaps not.  But when the more civilized nations of the world have banned assault weapons or instituted gun control their mass shootings have disappeared.

We can make a difference.  We owe it to those small children to act on their behalf.

I pledge to contact my representatives at least once/month for a minimum of 26 months to demand positive change.  I plan to do it on the 14th of each month.

Will you join me?

Do not abandon those kids

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Driving home from the movies last night, my friend and I were admiring the Christmas lights that have sprung up in my town like daffodils in the spring.  Festive, cheerful, sentimental (bringing back such fond memories of childhood) they are a harbinger of the coming winter holidays – for many of us, Christmas.

I’ve noticed how many religious traditions have holidays at this time of year that celebrate brining in the light.  Which, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, makes a lot of sense as we move inexorably towards Winter Solstice, this longest night of the year.

We bring in the light.  We reassure  ourselves that really, don’t worry about it, the Sun will return! (and interestingly, Christians talk about the birth of the S-O-N, as we all re-welcome the rebirth of the S-U-N).

For me, having Christmas trees is a similar remembrance – the fecundity of the earth is not GONE, it’s just sleeping.

I so enjoy these aspects of “the holidays” and enjoy the music (well, at first – after the one hundredth time I hear “The First Noel” it DOES grate…).  The sense of festivity, of conviviality, of warmth – all those beckon me in, invitingly.

What I don’t enjoy is the way our desire to love and please one another – to connect, to see and be seen – has been perverted into a frenzy of often mindless materialism.  I am particularly put off by “Black Friday” and the attendant hysteria around getting deals.

When my friend Becky died after a 111 day bout of cancer, at the age of 46, I very viscerally got that the race between time and money is truly a no-contest race – time trumps money every time.  Because, despite gloomy economists and a sagging economy, I will tell you  that you CAN get more money.  Time?  not so much.

That’s why time is one of my two favorite gifts to both give and receive (for the other see the third bullet point below).  What do I want?  Quality time with people I love.  The chance to laugh and love and talk and sing.  Just that.  Maybe a drawing from the wee children in my life, or a poem.  In fact – you can write me a poem too – that would be delightful.

Oh, I’m not a curmudgeon (at least not on this score).  I am a believer in buying “stuff” for little kids (though I don’t do it at Christmas when they gorge themselves on stuff, preferring to send surprise gifts throughout the year).

Here’s my list of things to consider in celebrating this season:

  • Create memorable holiday traditions with your family and friends and focus on the experience.  My family decorated our tree on Christmas Eve when I was a kid and we always had walnuts and tangerines while doing so – just putting those out at this time of the year brings me a flood of happy memories.
  • Consider doing donations as gifts.  My wonderful friends and neighbors, Pete and Julie, do that with their adult siblings – all band together and do a group donation to a favorite charity.
  • Some charities make it easy to be specific – I love Heifer, International where you can pick a specific animal. My dad grew up on a farm – we have given him a cow for Father’s Day or his birthday – honoring him, but changing the lives of other people.
  • If you’re not a fan of what you consider to be “handouts” then invest in someone’s dreams on behalf of your loved one with an interest paying loan to Kiva (“Change a life for $25”) or Kickstarter (“Fund and follow creativity”).
  • Consider an outing to a cultural place together – and then go out for hot chocolate afterwards to discuss your adventure.  Museums, plays – if you are in or near a big city the possibilities are endless – but I bet you have such choices wherever you live.
  • Or, celebrate winter (if you live in the Northern Hemisphere) by being IN it – go ice skating, sledding, take a walk in the woods, sit outside by a firepit – be with those you love in the bracing outdoors (and then that hot chocolate or hot toddy will be especially welcomed!)
  • Cook together.  Instead of stressing on the performance art of pulling off a feast – or the expense of catering one – invite your friends to make a cozy winter brunch or simple dinner – the laughter and happy talk as you  prepare the food will infuse it with even more love.
  • Do something crafty together.  Similarly, decorating can feel like an Olympic competition – but it doesn’t have to.  How about having a “let’s make our holiday decor party” with your women friends (I’m just not picturing guys enjoying this – but if they do, invite ’em!)
  • For many of us, this is still a spiritual or religious holiday.  Whatever tradition you celebrate – Diwali a little while ago, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – “remember the reason for the season” and find ways to deepen your spiritual connection to God as you understand God.
  • Finally, find a way to be generous to those in need.  One of the happiest Christmas’s I have spent was one in my twenties when I baked cookies for the firemen in the firehouse down the street and then went and volunteered to help at a dinner that the local Catholic Church put on for the homeless and those in need on Christmas Day.  While I was serving turkey and mashed potatoes, a lady, probably in her 40s, with Down’s syndrome came up to me squealing “Look! I got a watch! I got a Mickey Mouse watch!” – her exultation with her gift totally made my day and all these years later still makes me smile.

My plans, still unfolding, contain many elements of what I’ve listed above.  How about you?  In what ways do you find deep meaning in this season?  Have you found a way to keep it both simple and meaningful?  As always, I’d really like to know!

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Like the rest of America (and the world) I am mourning the horrific shootings Friday in Aurora, Colorado.  And while there are many factors that likely contributed to this nightmare, two things stood out for me:

  • It occurred at the premiere of a violent movie. 
  • It occurred in a country in which assault weapons are “legal”

What shocks me is that so much of the country acts as if these two facts are totally unrelated to this tragedy and the many before it (and the many that will continue unless we change our ways).

To my mind, if you go to violent movies, watch violent television, read violent books or play violent computer games you are contributing to the epidemic of violence in America.  Worse yet, if you allow impressionable children to do any of these things you may be raising a kid like James Holmes. 

Why do we pretend that the violent images we put into our brains – or worse the developing brains of children and adolescents – have no effect?

For the same reason we believe that the junk food and poisons (including carcinogens like sugar) we put into our body are “treats”, not the cause of most illness.

As Al Gore would say, these are “inconvenient” truths.

Inconvenient in that facing them would make us as individuals, and America as a country, have to change our ways.

Let’s not forget what the Second Amendment REALLY says:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Well-regulated.  Milita.

NOT assault weapons and 6,000 rounds of ammunition for a lone individual.

What did we think would happen when we broadened this definition? (And hey, thanks, Supreme Court, thanks a lot…)

Similarly, you can read news stories on the epidemic of obesity and the “health care crisis”.  People give young children non-stop sugar, sugary drinks and fast food.  Which is exactly what they feed themselves.  Really, what do they think will happen?

I asked my friend Kay when she was working as a nurse in a hospital what percentage of patients were there due to either accidents or genetic disease and what percentage were there due to lifestyle.  She said at least 75% lifestyle.  My reading on the topic says that that is the low end.  It’s more likely 85% or more. 

But we pretend that taking our kids to see Batman or taking them to McDonalds are “treats” and not the genesis of thinking violence is okay and lifelong health problems.

In my mind, the most important question to ask in situations like Aurora, Colorado or the national obesity/disease epidemic is “Who benefits?”

Who benefits by lax gun laws in America?  The NRA and the politicians they support.  Not you and me.

Who benefits by the obesity/disease epidemic (they are one and the same):  Big Food; Big Pharma; Insurance companies and the medical industry.  Not you and me.

I’m sad about Aurora.  But I’m also mad as hell. And I’m mad that Americans let themselves be duped by rich lobbyists and industries over and over again.  It’s time to wake up and take back your lives. Protect your children.  Or — expect more cause and effect.  Because, if you ask me, it’s NOT unintended consequences.  It’s basic cause and effect.  Violence in equals violence out.  Junk food in equals disease and death.

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Old boots

When I was a young woman, oh, about 10 minutes ago, my now-brother-in-law was a hippie artist Princeton student.  He had the coolest old boots.  I had boot envy – wanted old boots like Arthur’s.  But I was probably 24 years old and “old” would have been, at best maybe 6 years old.

Then I got my own hippie life.  Like all of my contemporaries, we thought we were making the world a-new.  And it would NOT – no, no, no, never, no more – be like our parents dreary lives.  One of the things we re-invented was food and cooking.  No TV dinners for us! Tsk! Tsk!  We discovered wooden spoons – an implement never seen in our parents kitchens.  And cast iron frying pans.

How I envied  old, seasoned, well used black cast iron frying pans.  The one I bought at an Ace Hardware on Clark Street in Chicago just didn’t have the look I wanted.  You know – old.

We’re also the generation that solemnly proclaimed “never trust anyone over 30” and raucously sang along with the Who “Hope I die before I’m old.” Which, a lot of us did.  And if life were fair I would have been amongst them. Thankfully, life is often random and some of us have diligent angels.

The seeming disparity between my lust for old boots and old pans and concomitant disdain for old people was not, I believe unique to me or even to my self-indulgent generation of Boomers.  I  do believe it’s somewhat endemic to American culture and our emphasis on ‘style’ over substance. Thus, the patina of age is desired without what it takes to get there.

Last year, in March, two things happened in the same month.  I got my first pension check from my long-ago employer (it was the first month after I turned 62) and I bought a motorcycle.

I’m not real materialistic but the motorcycle opened up a world of potential materialism to me.  Jackets! Boots! Chrome everything! Yahoo!

But I’m also part Scottish and part Dutch so I settled down and realized I could turn my old Red Wing boots, which I so proudly bought in my hippie days – into my motorcycle boots.  I’m pretty sure I bought those boots in 1978 and probably since about 1985 they’ve mostly sat in my closet unless I had to do something that involved climbing extension ladders or some such.

It’s given me great pleasure to have my old friends, the Red Wings, part of my life again. I am remembering many a path we’ve been on together. You can see a little white moon of paint – from before I had the house sided and I used to paint my house – needed the boots for all that ladder work.   They’re worn in so they really fit my feet ‘just so’.  Look as macho as they did when I bought them ‘back in the day’.  And they really are quite practical for the motorcycle.

Yesterday I found an old classmate from high school on another classmates Facebook page.  Carol and I became Facebook friends.  I was looking at her pictures – marvelling at how beautiful she looked, how accomplished she was.  Remembering her in high school – the kinda nerdy super-smart girl.  Cute then, memorable now.  Seasons.

And each season has its joys, its sorrows, its unique zeitgeist.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “…those interested in perpetuating present conditions are always in tears about the marvelous past that is about to disappear, without having so much as a smile for the young future.”

I think I was smiling at that young future when I was in my early 20s – wanting old boots, old frying pans.  Settledness. And sureness. A stability that doesn’t belong to youth (and would only slow it down).  Hello, old boots!  Hello, old pan!  Hello, old Diane!  Be with this now and see what tomorrow brings.

How about you?  Was Simone de Beauvoir right?  And how about our goofy culture with its glorification of youth?  What’s your take?  As always, I really want to know!

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We are collectively waiting.  Corporations wait with huge coffers of cash (Apple, for instance, is sitting on $98 BILLION).  The unemployment rate, officially, around 8.3% in February 2012, doesn’t include the long-term unemployed – we can guess that 10-15% of working-age people are sitting on the sidelines.  Entire industries (construction, finance, and to some degree manufacturing) have a lot of sidelines going on – in terms of workers, production, etc.  11 % of US homes are vacant – and that number seems to be increasing.  Then there is the tsunami of Baby Boomers starting to cascade into retirement – and the sidelines.

So what is “the sidelines”?  In this sense it is “a sphere of little or no participation or activity.”  However, I think there’s a sense of impending and previous participation implicit – so to me it’s more like limbo “an intermediate or transitional place or state.”

I think of the sidelines as a resting place.  The coach has pulled me out of the game – but temporarily.  I am watching the action on the field, maybe drinking some Gatorade, catching my breath – and beginning to plan my next moves.

I believe any sentient being can see that we are on the brink of – and to some degree, amidst – great, sweeping change.  The old order is very rapidly dying away and yet the new one is yet to be born.  It is a gestational, liminal time, to be sure.

What then, shall we do?  I wrote about one such solution in this post – Power to the People! Let’s Turn this Country Around.  I wrote this post right after my beloved friend was diagnosed with what turned out to be terminal liver cancer – so I got distracted.  It may be time to revisit implementing some of these ideas.

I’m also participating in The 99% Spring and plan to be involved in that.

There is so much abundance – time, energy, talents and money – sitting in abeyance while people are hungry, lonely, angry and tired.  Isn’t it time to change that.

Please join me in the 99% Spring.  And if you are interested in beginning dialogue on the ideas I laid out in Power to the People, let’s dialogue about how we can begin.  Margaret Mead was right:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I’m in.  You?


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Lessons from “The Artist”

I’m not totally sure why I almost never go to movies – once someone drags me to one, I typically enjoy it – but it’s just not something I do.  I can’t remember when I last watched a movie at home – and the last movie I had been to ‘at the show’ was “This is It”.  I know – weird, right?

So when my friend Kay wanted to take me to see “The Artist” for my recent birthday – and then told me it was a SILENT movie – I was curious.

We went to see it at the Catlow Theater here in Barrington, which dates back to the original silent movies – a perfect venue for the movie.

I was totally entranced by the film!  Amazed by how deep, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching it was.  As you might have noticed, I am the woman in love with words.  So I was shocked that a movie in which there weren’t even many written parts – thus, no words could be so evocative.

I saw the movie the night after my birthday.  I’m in the “Wait! how did I get to be this OLD??” stage of life. So that night, my thoughts were that it was about being washed up, past your prime, a has-been.

But as I reflected further I saw a few other themes that really resonated with me.

The importance of change

To me this was probably the primary message of the film.  Life is constantly in flux and thus fame and fortune are almost always ephemeral.  And regardless of the ‘fame and fortune’ part (though that was central to this movie) our lives become stale, dull and predictable without change.  “Change or die” – it’s true. Though, as you might have noticed, many of the dead are walking around. Perhaps you’re working with one, or – worse – married to someone whose soul has died, but whose body is trudging along.  Or worst of all – maybe it’s YOU!  Doesn’t have to be – take a lesson from this movie and find a way to go with the flow, change with the times, and be flexible.

The dangers of hubris

A related lesson was that pride really DOES go before a fall.  Need another such lesson?  Kodak.  In my film-camera days I could not have imagined Kodak going bankrupt.  Just because you are the ‘king of the hill’ now doesn’t mean you will always be (didya hear that Apple?)

Remember those who got you here

There was a powerful lesson in the movie in honoring those who have helped you succeed.  Need another such lesson?  Bonnie Raitt.  She routinely thanks and helps the (largely African-American) blueswomen who preceded her and from whose well she drew

The love of animals is one of life’s greatest gifts

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you if you’ve not seen it, so I haven’t been giving specifics – but if you’ve seen even a TINY preview or read anything about the movie you’ll know that an adorable Jack Russell terrier plays a significant role in the movie.  If there was a hero in this movie, it was Uggie, for sure.  And when the movie felt bleak, Uggie provided love and hope.

I really loved this movie a lot.  Did you see it? What did you think?



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What I love about America

Happy Independence Day!

I heard an interview yesterday with a progressive, left-wing documentary filmmaker who did a documentary on naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states, highlighting what’s right about immigration (1 million new citizens per year!) and what’s right about America in the eyes of our new immigrants (everything from freedom of speech to public displays of affection and hot dogs).  One of the things she said that made me think was that while there was plenty to find ‘wrong’ with our immigration policies she wanted to make a movie that focused only on what was right (without being schmaltzy).

I thought that was a great idea.

So today I’m going to focus on just some of the things I truly love about this great country. Because, despite all our flaws, it IS a great country.  People have risked and lost their lives both to defend this country and to get here.  So for those of us lucky enough to have been born here, it’s a good thing to appreciate all that’s right – the big things (the Bill of Rights and the Constitution) and the little things (Starbucks, Wi-Fi and bratwurst would make my list).

Here’s a few without any caveats (though caveats there may be):

  • Our Constitution
  • Our 3-tiered government – checks and balances built in
  • The Bill of Rights (my favorite governmental document)
  • Our Founding Fathers – the more I learn about them the more impressed I am (and as an aside – did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 – 50 years to the day after the birth of this nation – amazing, right?)
  • Our continued focus on independence – being able to say what you need to say, be who you are
  • The melting pot.  I was in Europe once when America was behaving badly and said something to that effect to the German couple with whom Sue and I were conversing (we were in Scotland) and they told me we should be very proud of America’s diversity – that they had seen people from more nations in one weekend in Los Angeles than they had encountered in their whole lives in Germany.  This is one of my favorite parts of America.  Because not only do we get an influx of new ideas and new energy, but at a very quotidian level we get all that great food!
  • And some of America’s “American food” is just fantastic – the menus for Thanksgiving and 4th of July come to mind.  I haven’t eaten a hot dog in probably 30 years but I don’t think I could do summer without bratwurst with strong mustard.  Watermelon? Bring it on!  Good coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans – don’t call me twice, I’ve already got my fork out.  And while I don’t eat pastries anymore, I still remember the cherry pies my mama would make from our cherry tree (or my sister’s over the top pies) – yum!
  • Freedom of the press.  This may be the hardest one for me not to say “but…” with – but I’ll just say – NPR, PBS, the Internet, Huffington Post – even the polemic talk show guys (on both sides) – we’re lucky to get to “say what you have to say” without being thrown in jail or censored.  Really we are.
  • The stunning, stand-out physical beauty of this country.  I mean really, do we live in a gorgeous land or what?!  I think people naturally think of the Rockies or the California coast or the rugged coast of Maine, but every state in this country has some stunningly beautiful parts.  For my readers who consider my beloved Midwest “flyover territory” I would say come to my great jewel of a city (Chicago) or check out the rugged Upper Peninsula of Michigan or the Mississippi river between Minnesota and Wisconsin.  We have a beautiful country – all of it.
  • Our flag.  On Friday afternoon I was walking to the train at Oglivie Transportation Center where I catch my commuter train and saw a HUGE flag hanging in the train station and found myself choking up a bit. 
  • “America the Beautiful” – if you want my two cents THIS should have been our national anthem, not the one about bombs.  I LOVE this song and again am surprised that I often choke up when I hear it. 
  • “This Land is Your Land” – similarly, Woody Guthrie’s “people’s anthem” really stirs the heart – this land IS my land – from California to the New York Island
  • Baseball.  I was a fanatic as a child, and whilst I can’t truly claim to be much of a good fan anymore (I will say – it IS discouraging to be a Cubs fan) I love our national pastime and how American it seems.
  • Country music and bluegrass.  Not for everyone, I know, but I love how country music tells stories. And bluegrass, born, as I was, from Celtic stock, always puts a spring in my step
  • The many heroes this country has produced. Too many to name, but let me call out a few :  the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, FDR, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Emma Goldman, Babe Ruth, and my two favorite American heroes, Bobby Kennedy and George R. Scholten.  This country has birthed GREAT people!

And I’ve saved the best for last:

  • 3.  Our right to dissent.  We were born as a nation “speaking our piece” and that right continues – to me, one of our most precious rights
  • 2.  Freedom of religion. And the fact that we have so many.  I embrace and welcome them all and remind us all that this was the exact cause on which this country was founded – religious freedom.  Long may it prevail!
  • 1.  the people!  What a great bunch of people.  Like any family we have our characters, but I believe Americans as a people are really good people.  Whilst I may not always be proud of our policies or actions, I am proud of what we stand for and proud to join myself with the PEOPLE of America

And on this Independence Day I am grateful for all who have served this country heartfully – not just our military, but all who have done public service for the greater good.  The librarians, the guy who cuts the grass at public parks, the school board presidents – all who have, from their hearts, worked to make America better.

And I thank too all who have, from their hearts, spoken out, started initiatives, spearheaded campaigns for change – who have put their beliefs into action.

Special tip of the hat today to the Founding Fathers – they built a pretty darned good house overall. 

Happy Birthday, America!  Despite our little spats, I truly do love you!


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My friend Lisa and I stumbled upon a presentation a few weeks ago that promised information about beekeeping, canning, soapmaking and all sorts of “back to the land” and simple living skills.  It was presented at the Unitarian Universalist Church in rural/hip Woodstock, Il.  I didn’t pay much attention at first as to WHO the organizers were – only that the day seemed to fit in with a sustainable way of living that Lisa and her family and I were interested in. 

It was a fascinating day.  And really, the tip of the iceberg, as it was my introduction to a movement afoot called “Transition Towns.”

Wikipedia says “Transition Towns (also known as Transition network or Transition Movement) is a brand for environmental and social movements “founded (in part) upon the principles of permaculture”  based originally on Bill Mollison’s seminal Permaculture, a Designers Manual published in 1988.  Following its start in Kinsale, Ireland it then spread to Totnes, England where Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande developed the concept during 2005 and 2006. The aim of this community project is to equip communities for the dual challenges of climate change and peak oil. The Transition Towns movement is an example of socioeconomic localisation.”

They showed us a little video amidst the beekeeping, soapmaking and make your own solar panels presentations.  I found the whole concept of transition towns fascinating –  working to set up YOUR community to be more sustainable as the changes we’re amidst start to kick in earnestly.  Though created in Ireland and England, the movement is now truly global, with the broadest reach being in Western Europe and North America.

There are 3 “official” transition towns in my state of Illinois with several others in “mullers’ status (ie., mulling it over, forming), one of which was the one I attended – Transition Town McHenry County.  Though I joined the McHenry County forum and got online with them, it didn’t occur to me til I sat down to write tonight to check online for the broader organization – there’s a US site, a global site, and articles aplenty about the movement.

I’m both a doer and a thinker – and once I see that we’re in harms way I am very programmed to jump into action.  I think the triple whammy of Peak Oil, Global Warming and Economic Meltdown qualify as “harms way” so I am eager to find out, “how then shall we live?”

I also like that the tenor I’m seeing is “start where you are” – so if you’re reading this post and saying “Diane, what are you, nuts? Soapmaking?  With my 50 hour workweek, husband and 2 kids, when exactly do I do THAT?” – well, you start where you are – with things like recycling, figuring out how to drive less, etc. – and leave the soapmaking til after you’re entered more of the Transition Town or Plenitude lifestye.  Or never.  You just may not be the soapmaking type, after all.

I’ve been thinking lately, as I hear people bemoaning the state of the world, “Gosh, who has time to kvetch about the old order fading away?  I’m too busy working on building the new world to complain that the old one will soon be gone.”

That is, if we can keep ourselves alive long enough to get there.  But if more and more of us decide “none for me, thanks” about the current plutocratic, global-warming, war-crazed lunatic world we seem to be in and instead turn towards a world of sustainability, kindness, concern for life (that means the planet and ALL its inhabitants) – you know, “plenitude”, then I think we MIGHT just make it. 

the guy who started the McHenry chapter asked me if I’d be interested in starting a Transition Town in my hometown – and I’m thinking I just may.  Have a look at the sites I linked to. Then — how about starting one in YOUR town?  Or joining one that exists.  I think it’s pretty urgent that we switch gears – and do it quickly.

One way I think about it is thinking about my grandnieces and grandnephews.  I’d rather envision them saying “Auntie Di, tell us again how you banded with others to help keep this old world alive.” or “Auntie Di is it REALLY true all the crazy stories I hear about the waste of resources and the killing to get oil and the ‘bad old days’?” then to hear “Auntie Di, how could you let this happen to us?” or worse yet —- silence. Because none of us would be here anymore.

I do think we’re at a turning point.  You can keep on with what Judith Schor refers to as “Business as Usual” – or you can make a difference.  Maybe even, you know, save the world.

What are YOU choosing? And why?

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Here comes the sun

Friday/Saturday is Everything day here at Taking It to the Streets – a potpourri of topics.

“Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter.
Little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been clear.
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And I say
It’s alright.” …. George Harrison

Years ago, when someone was saying how nice it was that my cousin Bob was stationed in North Carolina in his years in the Navy, my Grandma (who lived in a very blustery part of northwest Iowa) said “I don’t know how anyone who hasn’t been through the winter can really appreciate the spring.”

Well, I’m in Asheville, North Carolina right now myself, and after “a long, cold, lonely winter” I gotta say – HERE COMES THE SUN! And it’s alright!

I’m thinking tonight about how a change of perspective, a change of venue, different companions – all can help us to wake up (which, according to Buddha is sort of the whole point of our earthly existence).  And how when one has endured sorrow, grief, hardship or woes, the simplest of pleasures can seem like a carnival of sensory delights.

So after my winter of 5 deaths in 14 weeks, and the huge heartbreak associated with a few of those deaths, when my best friend suggested a weekend in Asheville, NC where we’ve talked of forming a cohousing community with my best guy friend and then assorted of our other beloved friends/family – well, I jumped all over that idea. 

Flew in today and it felt like stepping into a different reality – in a really, really good way.  Going from hospitals and funerals to a street show dedicated to art, passion, creativity, music and LIFE!  Wow!

Tonight there was some young-people band playing at the Asheville Civic Auditorium. The streets were filled with young people (teens, early 20s) in exceptionally festive attired – fairy wings, painted faces, boas.  We ended up in a lively pub for a late dinner and there was festivity and delight in the air.  Bluegrass band warming up to play.  Waitresses in funky, sexy outfits, crazy-good fish tacos and curry-festooned coleslaw.  My friend’s, friend’s friend (yes, you got that right) lent us her astonishingly beautiful home filled with art within walking distance to the funky, artsy downtown (drumming circles on the town square on Friday nights – my kind of town to be sure!).

Someone once said to me “hunger is the best appetizer.” I know I would have loved Asheville anyway, but as George Harrison so aptly put it – after a “long, cold, lonely winter” when the sun comes, well, “it’s alright!!!”

More on cohousing (fwiw, the phrase most Googled to get people to this blog) after Sue and I do more poking around.

So friends – how about you?  Are life’s many joys more palpable after hardship?  What’s your experience been?

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Just finished reading “The Celts: A Very Short Introduction” by Barry Cunliffe.  I’m remembering some of why I didn’t like history in school (though I love learning, non-fiction and people – so it would seem like something I’d like, yes?) – all the battles and turf-wars.  Back in Nouveau Feminism we reclaimed that word – herstory – her story – and I DO think it is different from the “Touchdown! We won” of his-story.

But I digress.

Once I got past the Battle of This and the Turf of That I was struck by a few things.

One was how true ethnic stereotypes can be.  “Fighting Irish” isn’t just a football team – it’s a characteristic of the Celts going WAYYYYYYY back!  Also “the love of wine” and great passion, courage and valor.  Substitute beer for wine and I can admit to all of the above!

The other thing that struck me was how we all long to belong to a tribe.  To belong to a winning tribe if possible (and may I interject? – Go Bears!), but to know where we stand in the great stream of life.  We know who we are by the company we keep and the stories we tell about our peeps.

It was interesting? validating? amusing? to me to see how strongly those of us who can claim Celtic heritage cling to that.  And truth to be told – a great lot more of the world can claim that than my fellow Irishmen and Scots.   I’ve often been bemused by my insistence on calling myself “Irish-American” when in fact I’m just as “Dutch-American” or “Norwegian-American” or “Scottish-American” as I am “Irish-American.”  But it’s a clan that involves a great deal of clannishness, I guess.

How about you?  Do you feel part of an ethnicity?  In an age where 2 generations down from me my oh-so-proud Irish background is diluted to 1/16th does it matter one bit? 

Or are there other tribes and clans which you claim as MORE your own than your ethnicity.  Perhaps  its religion or sexual orientation or maybe even your profession?  When you claim your people, your tribe, your ‘peeps’ what comes first?

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