I am my own Breakfast Club.

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

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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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In and Out in 2012

I’m finally catching up on some of my favorite blogs (and should note that I have an insane 69 blogs in my Google Reader feed, though they don’t all post frequently, and some of them ever anymore), and came across this great piece from Transition Voice on what’s really in and out for 2012.  A few highlights:

Out: Jobs.  In: Free Time.
Out: Lawns.  In: Edible Landscaping.
Out: Seth Godin.  In: Wendell Berry.
Out: Wii.  In: Climbing Trees.

A few I’d add for my own life, some of them reframed from items in the article’s list:

Out: Cell phones.  In: Handwritten letters.
Out: Screen time.  In: Garden time.
Out: Worrying.  In: Creating.

Whether 2012 brings the apocalypse, a dreadful natural disaster, even more political upheaval, or nothing negative of substance at all, I want to live it heartily, in real time, doing what I love and spending time with the many marvelous people I am lucky enough to call kindred spirits.

The Life List.

I find myself in a ‘what is my greater purpose?’ sort of funk (see page 8).  And I recently watched The Bucket List.  So, thanks to the inspiration of Cartoons and Creative Writing, I’m drafting my own.  Bucket list that is, but I’m going to call it my Life List because several things last longer than a one time experience.

1. Visit all seven continents in a meaningful way (ie more than just one city for one conference like I did for South America).
2. Write something worth sharing with the world, and maybe get it published.
3. Raise chickens or ducks.  And bees.
4. Eat locally for a year, a la The 100 Mile Diet.  Afterward, continue the practice as much as possible.
5. Live in a spiritual community (like Plum Village) for a time.  Discover practices that I can bring back to my daily life.
6. See the Northern Lights.
7. Never own a car.
8. Go winter camping.
9. Hike the Appalachian Trail.
10. Bike the Mississippi River Trail.
11. Learn a craft like wood or metal working, and create something beautiful and useful to pass on to the next generation.
12. Find a mentor.  And eventually, be a mentor.
13. Live off the grid, whether it is by building a generator to produce my own power in the city or by eventually living in a rural community that creates its own power.
14. Figure out what kind of diet makes me feel good (ie not eating dairy and/or gluten, more greens, less caffeine, etc), and actually follow it.
15. Write a letter a week to a friend, relative, or person I admire.
16. Climb a mountain.  A big one, like Kilimanjaro or K2.
17. Love deeply and unreservedly.

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?

Creating a Life is a Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day, one of many holidays that I often accidentally ignore because I’ve never had any particular reason to deeply consider why I had the day off from school/work/whatever.  But thanks to the wonders of Facebook and several great postings from my friends and organizations, I find myself actually considering Labor Day and how we might celebrate such a proletariat holiday in our present world.

Work can be beautiful.  I am a huge proponent of creating with one’s hands, sweating, connecting, building something for the future.  I even wrote a paper for a Communication Studies class in college on  Benedictine monks and their order’s philosophy of prayer through work.  Work can be a meaningful and even spiritual act of love for the world.

However, with a tanking economy, environment, job market, etc etc, it should be obvious that we need to revise the world of labor, to rethink what a job is and how it fits into our lives.  The definition of work cannot be limited to a conventional job, and how much more work do we need in our lives anyway?

On this nearly five day weekend (I don’t work on Fridays, Saturdays, or Tuesdays, and only worked five hours this past Sunday) I have found myself emmeshed in guilt at my extensive amount of leisure time.  I have spent hours reading, conversing with friends, eating delicious food, biking about the Cities, volunteering at a marvelous local brewery (and drinking beer all the while) and just generally enjoying myself while doing almost nothing that is conventionally viewed as ‘productive’.  But why should leisure feel like a guilty pleasure?

One’s primary work should be creating a life worth living, and the relationship building and vocational exploration that comes along with it.  Leisure and work should not be mutually exclusive, and should in fact be deeply intertwined.  Our standard of living should adapt to the true needs and wants of humanity, and our ‘work week’ should adjust accordingly.

Today let us celebrate those who labor, paid and unpaid, official and otherwise.  And let us also redefine what work is valuable and how it might fit into a holistic, beautiful, connected life.

Recycling project: wedding cards.

Finally going through our wedding cards, and as much as I appreciate the sentiments, it’s really very silly to keep a bunch of cards that Ben and I are never going to read again.  Thus, it’s DECONSTRUCTION TIME!

We kept the bits that have writings from people, along with the leaves we had available for little notes at the reception.

The fronts of the cards will find a new life in future recycled cards and other craft projects.

Grand total from the collection:

  • 3 butterfly
  • 4 bird
  • 3 other animals (dogs, bear, wildcat kitten)
  • 4 bicycle
  • 9 flower
  • 5 religious
  • 6 what I would call ‘traditional wedding type card’
  • at least 9 art or local artist made
  • 2 poem
  • and, what I would argue is the very best of the bunch, two recycled, in very different ways at that:

This is from my dear friend Breanna, one of the craftiest people I know.  I aspire to her level of aesthetic appeal in my future recycled cards.

This gem is from Ben’s friend Dan.  He and his wife just had a baby, and rather than buy a new card for our wedding, they ‘rewrote’ one they received.

It’s crazy how easily the Hallmark message transcends any particular meaningful event, and props to Dan and Jill for being able to see the silliness of mass produced greeting cards.

May you all be empowered to recycle all the cards you’ve received over the years!

Inspiration from friends and strangers.

With the often glorious and occasionally sauna-like ridiculous weather lately I have oft neglected the many wonderful blogs I follow through Google Reader.  However, the tidbits I have gleaned in the few blog-reading moments I have found have been great, and I find myself inspired to create, brainstorm, and dream more than ever before.

The Style Rookie is one of my very favorite blogs for a certain kind of eye candy, fashion, and decadence.  I absolutely wish I had been as fabulous as Tavi is as a freshman in high school, but alas, now I can only aspire to reconcile my adult life with the often mediocre quirkiness of my adolescence.  Tavi’s shrines are some of my favorite inspirations for creating random things- I don’t have a shrine yet, and possibly won’t ever, but collecting and repurposing random trinkets has always been a hobby of mine.

I have long had a Seven Wanders of My World post in my saved post drafts list, and hopefully will get to it soon (maybe a rainy day when exploring my present geography is not nearly as pleasant as dreaming about future expeditions?).  The Adventure Cycling blog is particularly stellar for living vicariously through bicyclists having adventures all over the country and world, and brainstorming such trips for one’s self.

In addition to following the adventures of world-wide bicyclers, I love My Hyggelig for occasional photos of places I know in the Cities and lovely prose poetry about the ordinary joys of these days we live in and so often let pass by unnoticed.  Her latest post led to dreams of my planned vacations for this summer, and to visions of the tres exciting trip Ben and I will hopefully take next autumn: bicycling the Mississippi River Trail.

Summer in Minnesota is always a strange mix of lazy days filled with sunlight, iced tea, and naps, and a frenzy of activity- music festivals, art shows, vacations, bicycling, unending visits with friends, trying to live every day as fully as possible doing and making and experiencing because you know there are only so many of them.

How do you spend your summer?