I am my own Breakfast Club.

The Rebel.  The Jock.  The Recluse.  The Beauty.  The Geek.

Image

I am not necessarily these precise beings.  Rebel, yes, by default really, considering I am a volatile creature of passion.  Jock not so much; I’ll have to get over my completely illogical fear of the lifting machines at the YWCA first.  Recluse from time to time.  Beauty, meh.  Geek, absolutely.  I want to be a graphic novel character for Halloween.  Seriously.

My breakfast club is more specific, more particular, and its denizens were determined until recent days to exclude each other out of seeming necessity.  But no more.

We have the Intellectual, a studious and introverted creature who is insatiably curious.  It is she who is leading my research project on intentional community as well as my return to volunteering at the library.  For a long time the Intellectual disdained the Lush, an ostentatious partier, dancer, and pursuer of substances and good times of all sorts.  While still not anything resembling friends, the Intellectual and the Lush are willing to be in the same room at long last, eying each other warily across the way over a book and a drink respectively.

Then there’s the Homesteader, a nesting type who is happiest when quilting, cooking with local veggies, or making homemade bug repellant from vodka and essential oils.  She desires rootedness and connection, a place that is shared and beloved.  The Explorer craves connection too, but of a different sort, the variety that is much more transitory and serendipitous.  A campsite river view at sunrise.  Friends of friends of friends in a city at midnight.  The Explorer and the Homesteader have learned how to share the baton, however, and that meaning is built both in spontaneity and in months and years of hard work.

Finally, both above and within and inside the other four breakfasters, there’s the Dreamer and the Skeptic.  As you’d imagine, they’re still at odds much of the time.  The Dreamer sees possibility and opportunity everywhere she turns, while the Skeptic is quite convinced that it’s all to no avail, in the end.  The Dreamer wants nothing more than to create, because what else can she do when the world is so beautiful.  The Skeptic scoffs, because it is almost certain that anything the Dreamer creates will be forgotten.  But they are beginning to coexist.

The Intellectual.  The Lush.  The Homesteader.  The Explorer.  The Dreamer.  The Skeptic.  A motley crew, to be sure.  Yet they’re finally discovering how to learn from each other.

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An Internal Audit of Sorts

MayDay sloth
One of the floats at the MayDay parade, a perfect reminder.

It’s been high time I examine what I’m doing with myself and why, for weeks now really.  I spend my time on what sometimes seems like an unreasonable number of things, and manage to both get carried away by the tide of time and activity and constantly question what and why and how and when.  So I did a bit of an internal audit, a review of my life and passions at present, in hopes that I will better discern my path.  The whole thing is very ‘I’ centric, something I try to avoid but of course cannot when examining my motivations for action and persistence.

What I’m wondering is this: What am I doing with my life right now?  Why am I doing it?  What do I want to be doing more of?  Less of?

I have a handful of blurbs to answer these questions, and rather than post an absurdly lengthy single piece, will share it with the cloud over the next week or so.  Following is the first.  Any insight from readers on what you hear underneath what I am saying about how I should be spending my energies would be much appreciated, critical or otherwise.

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I’m working at the Community Council.  I spend a lot of time at the computer, on email, sitting and typing and just generally being remarkably sedentary.  I want to do less of this.  However, I also spend a good amount of time in meetings.  I enjoy the smaller meetings, the informal ones where I get to catch up and connect and problem solve.  I really like biking to various things, working with the Transition Town group, and doing the interviews with people for the Energy Resilience Group eblast.  I’ve also enjoyed learn about and having an effect on zoning and development in the neighborhood- it’s crazy work to be doing considering the fact that I’m not at all educated in planning, but it’s interesting and important and I feel like my role as community organizer matters in processing information from the city for the neighborhood to get people involved in more complicated things that are actually really important.

Desert Island Albums

Over the last year and a half, Ben and I have amassed quite the album collection, thanks to a number of fantastic used record stories scattered across the Twin Cities.  Though no one album was more than a few dollars (and many were in the 50 cent section in fact), the entire collection is probably several hundreds of dollars at this point.  When we were talking about buying a house, a turntable and speakers were very nearly furniture item number one on our list of necessities, beating out a couch and likely a dining room table even.  Good tunes are essential!

This morning, lazily examining the selection for good morning music, I asked Ben what three records he would choose from the collection if it meant he couldn’t listen to any others for eternity (sort of a desert island assembly if you will).  Choosing merely three proved to be enormously difficult- how can one pick Rush in lieu of T Rex, Emerson, Lake and Palmer in lieu of Zappa?  But a selection of five seemed reasonable.

So here, for your judgement, in listening order (rather than ranked), are our choices of Five Desert Albums from our collection.

Ben’s selection:
Bob Dylan- Highway 61 Revisited
Frank Zappa- Apostrophe
Rush- Caress of Steel
REO Speedwagon- Hi Infidelity
Emerson, Lake and Palmer- Tarkus

My selection:
Kansas- Masque
Boston- Boston
Allman Brothers- Brothers and Sisters
The Guess Who- The Best of The Guess Who
Earth, Wind and Fire- All ‘n All

The most obvious choices were Zappa for Ben and Boston for me, though they actually weren’t the first records we pulled off the shelf.  Most amusing would be REO Speedwagon for Ben for sure (I still cannot for the life of me understand why he likes them so much), and probably Earth, Wind and Fire for me.

Any other Desert Island Album lists out there?

Visions of sugarplums, or sugar beets more like.

Giving up is easy.  Becoming jaded, disillusioned, very nearly bored with the relentless march of our screwed up systems toward self-annihilation, it’s easy.  Persisting in change, however, is not.  Remaining optimistic, idealistic, dare I say HOPEFUL, is not so easy.  But to persist is to live, and those who provide a reason to persist, particularly without intending to do so, are valuable beyond recognition.

So you can imagine my heart’s gladness when I read my dear friend Caleb’s thoughts on Occupy and my being responded with a resounding YES.  YES I want to create.  YES I want to grow.  YES I want to be part of imagining and building a newbettermoresustainableandjoyful world.

His whole piece resonated with me, and many of the system criticisms, from food to politics to banks, are questions I myself have asked, wondering at how there is a person left on the planet that feels like things are going well.  Our systems aren’t working!  Capitalism is failing the majority of citizens!  We don’t have accountability, for corporations or politicians, and yet we give an inordinate amount of power to both of these sectors!  As Jess Zimmerman writes for Grist, “combating climate change will mean overhauling the free market economy and contracting the corporate sector, and people whose livelihoods depend on big business have a reason to be afraid.”  Those who have managed to suppress their conscience enough to make their way to the top of this inherently unstable and immoral food chain (an incredibly disproportionate number of straight white males, to boot) should expect to be challenged, and eventually to relinquish their stranglehold over the livelihood of the populace.

But it is not the criticisms that really got me going.  It was Caleb’s vision of the future, a co-created, human scale future.  A future of community and beauty, where work is play and we have not given up on our own lives.  Where the world is Our World, a place where we have stopped artificially segmenting our lives, our relationships, our homes from our workplaces from our parks from our play places.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Wonder is essential in this future vision, a wonder that manifests itself in curiosity, and eventually a drive to create something magnificent.  It is not duty or responsibility alone that will create the new.  It is through longing for a better world coupled with a sharp vision of how we might get there that we will persist, that we will truly live.

To not give up, that is the first challenge.  And to illumine our place in the vision, that is the second.  In the last few weeks Ben and I have committed to finding and purchasing a house without succumbing to the system, instead remaining true to our values of simplicity and human and earth sustainability.  We will find our home through building relationships, through moving into opportunity as it comes while practically examining our personal realities.  I have also personally committed to examine my work, my vocation, and to do the best where I am while honing in on where my passions meet the world’s need.

More concretely: we will have self-declared hours of creativity, to write or play music or paint or cook or whatever.  Once we have a house we will have a garden of food, medicinal herbs, and native plants to support bees; a bike building and maintenance area; monthly potlucks and intellectual salons; safe space for both conversation and quiet; a root cellar in the basement and crafting space in the attic.  Most importantly, we will invite others to join us.

I am idealistic, I know.  I have been berated for it at times, celebrated for it at others.  But what better way to live in the world than in hope, a critical hope that opts out of that which is failing and builds something better?

I would ride 100 miles and I would ride about 10 more.

I finally did it.  This Saturday, after two solid years of life and adventures sans car, I finally bicycled a century.  106 miles to be exact.

Ben and I set off about 8:30am, fueled by homemade bread, plums, and a few sips of coffee.  We met up with our friend Tiffany and headed North along the good old Mississippi River.  Newly paved trail and clear signage (what a concept!) awaited us, and the first hour and a half of riding up to the Coon Rapids Dam passed in a flash.  Tiffany turned back so that she could make the State Fair that afternoon, so Benjamin and I continued alone.

We lunched in Rogers, by way of Elm Creek Park Reserve, at the lovely Minne’s Diner.  Benjamin highly enjoyed his kraut laced burger, and I was surprised to find several tantalizing vegetarian choices on the menu (I decided on a veggie pita in the end).

With perfectly full bellies and snacks for later down the road, we took to the county highways, aiming toward the Lake Rebecca Park Reserve and the lovely little town of Delano.  Possessing a proper map was enormously helpful on this entire endeavor- on previous adventures both Ben and I somehow neglected to bring a map, making trail-finding and spontaneous route-planning nearly impossible.

Our map was not the only useful tool on this most excellent of century rides; helpful signage from the Three Rivers Park system helped too:

After a brief misdirection in Delano we continued southwest to Watertown, ‘Heart of the Luce Line’, and town that saved a very hungry and tired Lauren on the bike trip out to the Garlic Festival in Hutchinson last summer.  We paused briefly, the threat of rain nearly over, and then took to the east, with the promise of home, shower, and food.

A couple of hours of riding later, relieved that we don’t live in the ‘burbs and happy to have discovered the recently finished Dakota Rail Trail, Ben and I arrived home, tired, happy, and ready for a friend’s birthday picnic.

Now, I’m pretty proud of myself for riding a century.  106 miles is kind of a big deal.  But more than posting for the sake of self-glorification, I hope that at least one reader realizes how possible it is.  I went from never having ridden more than five miles in one go in my entire life to riding a century just in the course of two years.  So can you!  Rah rah rah!

So get out on your bike, just a bit every day, week, or even month if that’s all you can commit to for starters.  Ride to the store, to a friend’s house, to a movie.  And even more importantly, start to change your idea of what’s possible, and moreover, what’s enjoyable.  A bike is cheap, the roads and paths are just as much yours as anyone else’s, air is free, and your body will love you for it.

Week of Joy: Introduction

I’ve been in a bit of an unseasonable, irrational funk lately.  Nothing serious, and I won’t go into it here (that’s what a personal journal is for- moanings, groanings, and excessive emotion of all sorts).  What I do want to share publicly is my recently decided upon strategy for emerging from said funk and generally living with even more zest for life: the Week of Joy.

Innumerable things make me happy.  In fact, at several point in life various friends and I have created ‘happy lists’.  Over time and with experience, a few of those list items have risen to the level of joy-giving, activities and ideas that uplift my soul and balance my restless spirit.  So this week as a funk-busting exercise I will focus on one joyful activity per day, sharing the following:

  • why this particular thing gives me joy
  • a reflection on a past joyous experience
  • specific ways to have more of this joyous thing in my life, or practice it more intentionally to increase and spread the joy

And without further ado, here are my seven joyous things for the week, in no particular order (I’ll pick one spontaneously to write about each day):

  • bicycling (alright, there’s a bit of an order because I’m writing about this one today so it only feels fair it should be listed first)
  • birds
  • growing things
  • connecting with strangers
  • poetry
  • cooking
  • yoga

Feel absolutely free to borrow this idea.  Whether you’re in a funk or not, one can always use more joy.

“Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”
-Shakespeare

Two Challenges

I’m still in the midst of my year of reading books by non-straight white men, but in response to recent life changes want to add a couple more challenges to my plate.

First, an exercise in financial discipline.  I’m not buying anything for a week (today is Day 1) other than groceries this Friday, because it feels like money has been falling out of my pockets and account as of late.  It’s not for lack of disposable income (which, come to think of it, is a very strange phrase…are we insinuating that purchases other than basic needs are inherently garbage?) but between Craft Beer Week, Art-a-Whirl, and my general penchant for the multitudes of amazing restaurants in the Twin Cities, my weekly spending has risen substantially.  So- no cookies, coffeeshops, restaurants or thrift stores this week.

The second challenge: figuring out what to do with my non-working hours.  Due to the summer return of a couple coworkers, I now pretty much work three days a week, with four off.  Wonderful, right?  Only if I can actually DO something meaningful with that time.

  • Fridays and Saturdays will still be my weekend, for shows and friends and fun, and over the summer almost all of my weekends are committed to trips of various sorts.
  • Tuesdays are generally my get-stuff-done-around-the-house day while Benjamin is at work.  They also used to be for journalling/letter writing, a practice that went by the wayside in the midst of wedding planning but deserves revival.
  • Sundays are the new free day, a day of promise, a day I want to claim as something before too many submit to lethargy or menial chores.  Possibilities: herbal medicine collection/creation, spiritual reflection time and/or meditation, more focused writing time, long walks.  What else might one do with newly freed up Sundays?