Révolution tranquille*

There is a conversation that I’ve had over and over since beginning life as a SAHM.  It takes on a number of variations but they generally boil down to the same sentiment.  I don’t know how you do it. I could never!  

I’ve had this conversation enough times with enough different people to give me the impression that I don’t quite struggle with this life the way that I’m supposed to. It’s not that I haven’t experienced firsthand the agony of never-ending days with young children.  It’s not that I don’t find some of the work to be repetitive, uninspiring and exhausting. Or that I’m not forced to recognize that sometimes I don’t actually know what I’m doing.  It’s not that I’m not sorry to be missing out on a long list of things because I simply don’t have the time. It’s not even that I am unaware of the nearly nonexistent opportunities for recognition or advancement.  But I have encountered every one of those frustrations in other jobs.  So what is it that makes this particular occupation so unique in so many people’s eyes?  Why is it that I see things differently?

The real reason that I’ve been able to spend several years of my life dedicated more or less exclusively to the running of my family without losing my mind entirely is that I place a high value on what I do.  I am fully aware that raising children falls clearly into the category of work that is not valued by our society.  But I happen to think that sometimes society is an ass hole.

The reasons that I value this work so highly go far beyond the importance of keeping the next generation alive and well or even the opportunity to enhance my children’s potential for “success”. In the workings of day-to-day family life I see the relationships and decisions that establish nothing less than the foundation of culture, the guiding force behind all human endeavors.   On the best of days, I see the work that I do to teach my children to respect other living beings as my greatest contribution to the building of a society built on those principles.   When the stars align, I can see in the simple acts of  watering carrot seeds or cooking dinner my contribution to developing a better food system.  In an hour freely given, I can see how the education of our children and the institutions that provide it rely heavily on the unpaid work of those who care about them.  And in the minor accounting of extra portions for an ill neighbor, I can be part of an alternative system of health care.

This is not an attempt to weigh in on the mommy wars.  It is an attempt to weigh in on the value of work that is too often overlooked.  In reality, I don’t think that any of it should be left to any one gender or individual, biology permitting.  G and I have never seen our arrangement during the past few years as ideal and I am glad that we are working toward a set-up that provides a better balance. But I am also convinced that one of the reasons that it is not easily achieved is that we belong to a culture that doesn’t quite see things the way we do.

And I think that one of the major factors behind this difference in opinion is the fact that the majority of this work takes place outside of the capitalist market system.  Promoting a workforce that both fails to receive a paycheck AND fails to consume a number of services by performing work that could be outsourced is a recipe for reducing growth and tax revenue.  Simply put, this “pink market”** is a problem for our economy.

And yet, I would argue, a system of labor that allows people to focus on the immediate needs of their families and communities is capable of promoting social goods that the market economy simply can’t take into consideration.  And it will tend to avoid many of those negative consequences that capital economies have no incentive to address. I wouldn’t advocate for the total demise of the capitalist system, even if I thought that were a viable possibility. But I do advocate for growth of an alternative system because I think the two can function in complement.

There is a notion that the ability to dedicate one’s time toward the well being of one’s community is selfish and decadent, a domain reserved only for the very wealthy.   This criticism is not unfounded, especially given the fact that it is by necessity subsidized by the market economy.  But it is also true that outsourcing of this work depends almost entirely on low wage labor, which is a major contributor to poverty in the first place.

I know that most people see absolutely nothing revolutionary in dedicating time to snack preparation and storytelling. But it may be exactly this concept that makes it so worthwhile to me.

Just don’t ask me to find anything of value in cleaning urine off the bathroom floor.

 

 

* My thanks to the Canadians for generously “lending” me this title.

**This term doesn’t actually exist in this context and doesn’t do me any good in terms of my goal to dissociate this work with women.  But I can’t deny that it has traditionally been a female domain and the black market is the only other alternative market that came to mind.

 

 

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A tribute to life as a family of four in 580 square feet

My parents are coming to visit in just a few weeks.  I generally look forward to this time, grateful for the chance to foster the inter generational relationship.  But family is a complicated matter and our interactions aren’t without their challenges.  The tension usually starts the moment my father steps foot into our apartment.  It took me a while to understand why he got so anxious and upset but it was easy to see that the longer the visit, the deeper his depression.

And then I finally understood.

My father comes from a very modest background and, growing up in a big city (Rome), space was not something he had in abundance.  He is proud of the life that he has built in the US, which includes a nice and spacious home.  And it makes him terribly sad to see his daughter return to the very place he came from, living in a small and modest apartment.

I, however, adore our apartment.

G and I moved here from a tiny studio just blocks away when g was an infant because we desperately wanted a separation – a barrier that would allow us the freedom to continue living and breathing inside even when the baby was (miraculously!) sleeping.  We wanted to stay in the neighborhood, close to public transportation and walking distance from all of our basic needs.  We didn’t want to spend too much money.  And we wanted a door.

This apartment met all of our criteria and more.  It even has a fabulous south-facing picture window, a mature lemon tree and is situated just across the street from a wonderful public park.  It is only 580 square feet but it didn’t feel too small to us.  It felt like enough.

And over time, though we’ve added a fourth human to the mix, I’ve come to appreciate it even more.  The low rent has allowed us to live comfortably on one small income (we don’t qualify for reduced school lunches in our community but we only barely miss the cut-off).  This apartment has granted me my time. It has also secured us access to all of the things that are important to us: great schools, wonderful parks and libraries, excellent fresh food and, most of all, a wonderful community of neighbors.  We never struggle to make it to the end of the month and never feel like we are unable to afford any of the things that we need. This little apartment has made us rich.

I did my best to explain this to my father on his last visit.  There is one very fundamental thing that separates us from the poverty that so upsets you, I told him, choice.  Our apartment is too large to qualify as “tiny” but, philosophically, we have a lot in common with the tiny house movement.  The concept is quite simple. By needing less you gain tremendously.  By living well within your means, you buy your freedom.

I am aware of the cultural implications of our choices.  Although I don’t place a high value on social status the way my father does, I know that most people don’t see things quite the way we do.  And, despite my awareness of the problems of over-consumption, I’m not on a mission to convert everyone to my way of life.  In writing this, I’m not attempting to make a statement about American greed or the excess of your McMansion.  I really only want to make a simple point, the same one that I think my father now understands.

You have a choice.

An argument in favor of elevating a little-known holiday

IMG_5459

Chances are that you didn’t even notice the passing of a minor federal holiday in the US a few weeks ago, unless it happened to affect you personally. Some people had the day off. Some schools were closed. There was no mail delivery.

Officially, October 12 is Columbus Day, a holiday commemorating the landing of Columbus in the new world. Since Columbus was Italian, Italian-Americans have seized the day as an opportunity to manifest pride of origin. Because G happens to work for the Italian Government, he has the day off every year.

g also had the day off. School, however, was not closed to celebrate the triumph of Columbus’ discovery of America but rather to mark Indigenous People’s Day, an effort to recognize the profound affects this event had on the indigenous peoples for whom this world was anything but ‘new’. As someone who spends more time than is healthy fretting about the exploitation of peoples and resources throughout the world, I truly appreciate the important message in this rebranding. But I think that we are missing something by simply reducing the discussion to historical winners and losers.
With a little help from my imagination I can imagine myself in Columbus’ shoes, peering out at the vast blue waters of the Mediterranean and contemplating an epic voyage into completely unknown territory, a few simple wooden vessels at the mercy of the winds – no fossil fuels, no satellite information or gps, no communication equipment or rescue helicopters, not even a stash of MREs. And I see myself high-tailing it back to Isabella to promptly return her money. Bad idea after all.

But Columbus set sail. I picture him as a kind of latter day Richard Branson, all bravado and oversized ambition, a testament to a deep human drive to explore and expand. And I have a difficult time setting aside my respect for this side of the human condition, even if it so often has negative consequences. I also have a hard time ignoring the fact that my community, the same one that first designated October 12 as Indigenous People’s Day, is characterized by a push toward new frontiers that bears a much stronger resemblance to Cristoforo than to the Indigenous Peoples he encountered.

I say this not to shame my neighbors but rather to hold all of us to a higher standard. In reality, the exploitation of peoples and resources continues unabated to this day, aided by ever greater use of fossil fuels and technological sophistication. But most of us living in the developed world occupy a hazy place in between, both exploiters and, increasing, exploited.
What I am proposing is that this day might serve as a very appropriate opportunity to recognize this uncomfortable position and therefore open it up to the kind of scrutiny that every day life doesn’t easily permit. If it sounds a bit unlikely that an official holiday in the world’s dominant power would be set aside to contemplate the pitfalls of dominance, I have to agree. But then again, I might find it rather unlikely that a small group of humans would navigate vast stretches of ocean inside simple wooden scaffolding with bedsheets.

L’isola che non c’è*

This article was an inspiration to me.  It’s subject is the Greek island of Ikaria, a designated Blue Zone where the inhabitants are surprisingly long-lived.  The narrative is constructed around the sensational tale of a Greek man who, living in the United States, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The story goes that instead of pursuing traditional treatment in the US, he chose to go back to his home on the island of Ikaria to die in peace.  Except that he didn’t die. And at the time of publication 3 years ago, was a cancer-free 97 year-old.

The article describes Ikaria as an isolated place where people live a spartan life focused on family and community, eating simple food, much of which they grow or forage themselves, getting around on foot, and routinely drinking, talking and dancing the night away.  In the subtext lies the pressing question of exactly which practice provides the magical elixir for longevity.

But the article’s impact on me was not a testament to my burning desire to live to be a healthy 100, though that would be nice.  In it’s description of Ikaria I found a clear image of the picture that I had been fumbling to illustrate.  There it was – the lifestyle that I was trying to convey with my silly blog moniker.  And not only did it exist, but it also offered what I consider to be superb proof of it’s own validity: long, healthy lives.

I realized that while so many people around me are admirably following their ambitions toward career success and economic advancement, I am aspiring to Ikaria.

I have never been to the island of Ikaria and yet I think that I know her.  Many of the images that I have of her come from our trips to other Greek islands.  But there are so many details about the Ikarian lifestyle that I think I’ve witnessed much closer to home.  Images that remind me of my paternal grandfather’s village in the Italian region of Ciocaria. Or G’s family town in Sicily.  And even, strange though it may sound, of my maternal grandparents enclave of Little Italy in Cleveland, a culture whose remnants filtered down to me growing up in the city.

It is, I suspect, what much of the Mediterranean looked like before the Industrial North conquered the globe, a cultural victory so sweeping and complete that it is impossible to imagine the world any other way.  Though Ikarians were heavily impacted by the war and the German occupation,  it’s likely that its notoriously rough waters played a decisive part in preserving it’s culture in the years that followed.

I think of her now as the Germans and Greeks skirmish over Greece’s place in the Eurozone, both justly questioning whether Greece can ever really learn to play the game nearly perfected by Europe’s economic engine.  And I sympathize deeply with her as hungry migrants, escaping the brutal chaos to the east, land on her rough shores.

And I think that I understand her as I make a batch of cheese in my tiny Bay Area kitchen, knowing that my own aspirations carry all the appeal that she engenders in her worn housecoat and woolly upper lip in the eyes of my own neighbors, bedecked in their sleek new portables and trendy messenger bags.

I know that this notion that maybe all those nonagenarians on Ikaria prove that cultivating health and social ties is the best way to move towards old-age is tinged with nostalgia.  And I can’t close my eyes to the countless ways that we all benefit from the success and prosperity of our technologically savvy neighbors every day.

Intelligent people know that sound investments and access to the latest technologies are the road to the good life.  And, if you play it right, you can vacation in Ikaria – as long as the wifi is reliable.  I understand the rules of the game.  But as I listen to the deafening sounds of the Dow going up and down in the background, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s worth playing.

*Translated from Italian.  Words and music by Edoardo Bennato

The island that isn’t

Second star to the right,
Points the way
And then head straight until morning
It’s a road that you must find for yourself
It takes you to the island that isn’t

This may sound strange to you
But perhaps reason has led you astray
And now you’re almost convinced that
there can’t really be an island that isn’t

And to think about it, what madness,
It’s a fairytale, a mere fantasy
And he who is wise, who is mature knows:
It couldn’t possibly exist in reality!

And I agree,
There can not be a place
Where there are neither heroes nor saints.
And if there are no thieves,
If there is no war,
It can only be an island that isn’t

But it’s not an invention,
Not a play on words,
To believe is enough
Then you’ll find the road yourself.

And I agree,
No thieves or police,
Then what kind of island is it?
No hate or violence
soldiers nor weapons,
Then it can only be the island
That’s isn’t.

Second star to the right,
Points the way
And then head straight until morning
You can’t make a mistake because
It takes you to the island that isn’t

And they will mock you
If you continue to look for it,
But don’t surrender
Because it’s possible that those who have already given in
And are laughing behind your back,
Are even crazier than you

The values of education

I remember listening to heated debates over public school curriculum when I was younger and failing to understand what the ruckus was all about.  Who were these people who thought that they could control what kids believe? Did anybody really think that lectures on the power of abstinence or sterile explanations of sperm meets egg forms zygote were going to have any effect on the adolescent urge to get into his classmate’s pants?  And didn’t those parent’s fighting for high quality sex ed know that the best place to learn about sex is, cough, outside the classroom? 

But now that I’ve moved from the ranks of smug teenager to concerned parent, I understand.  There is no better reflection of a person’s true values than the need to pass them on to the next generation.  Talk to anybody who is seriously searching for solutions to a human problem and they will tell you that their best hope lies in education. No less is at stake than our dreams for the future, the better world that we envision.  And this is determined entirely by how we happen to see the world in the present.

And it’s complicated.

I was a runny mess this time last year.  As g prepared to enter Kindergarten, I nourished all the usual fears.  Will he adapt?  Will he make friends?  Will they take care of him?  But there was more to it.  The memories that I have of my own education, though faded, tell conflicting stories of the joy of learning and the tyranny of institution. And yet I knew that unless I was ready to take over the job of schooling my children, I needed to support their schools.  I hoped I was up to the task.

In the end, g did just fine.  And I learned a lot about education from the perspective of the parent.  I learned that, as I had suspected, it is the community that drives the culture of the school.  And, for all it’s quirks, I have a lot of faith in my community.  When we moved into our current apartment, g was just barely crawling and yet I was immensely proud to be just down the street from this amazing place.  Last year as g’s teacher put tremendous work into introducing the kids to tough issues like race and non-conforming sexual identity, I understood what is meant by “it takes a village”.  I felt the deep comfort of knowing that I am not in this alone.

But this year, as g glides into his new first grade classroom, I feel uneasy.  I felt it just after the first drop-off, walking to my car with another mom, a recent transplant to the area.  She was talking openly about her hopes for the school year and, though she was as friendly as she was put together, her words stirred my concern.   As she pulled away in her new Mercedes SUV, I began to identify the source of my fears.

My community is changing fast.  The SF tech boom has exploded to surrounding areas. Homes only rarely sell for under 1 million dollars in my neighborhood. While discussions about these changes almost always focus on the economic aspects, I think that they are more symptom than cause.  This has truly been a place with the spirit and drive to “change the world”.   But the world, it appears, is changing it.

Values are shifting. If we are even still here in a few years, I doubt that I will have the influence to counter the shiny appeal of the new messages: technology, money, power.  I wonder who would actually listen to statements on the importance of simple living and soil stewardship  from a woman whose house is so small that she can’t even entertain playdates.  I imagine my wimpy arms giving their all in a cultural tug-of-war in the schoolyard.

And I see her, smug adolescent that she is, laughing her ass off.

You can find me in the garden

2009 was the year that I broke down.

Back to back pregnancies and losses had defeated me.  Fatigue from caring for a new infant had weakened me further. But I suspect that it was something specific that finally did me in. Initiation into the sometimes tragic nature of life is a one-way street. The terrible endings no longer belong to “other people”. And now you know, KNOW, that the 1 person in X,000 could actually be you.

Because it has.

My demon was anxiety, the overachieving cousin of the fear and worry that are such an integral part of parenthood. So ill-prepared was I to confront the adversity of mental illness that I failed to even recognize it until I had finally begun to emerge from it’s grip. But I haven’t forgotten the way that fears, both everyday and oversize, seize control of your body, forcing it into a sustained, exhausting, fight for survival against an enemy that never shows. Or the absurd way that your mind fails to regain control, even during those times when it can see the risk for what it truly is. I very nearly became a shut-in, in my illogical attempt to insulate myself and baby g from the dangers surrounding us.

But something changed one rainy day while g was taking one of his rare, long naps.  I remember staring out the window of our new apartment and noticing a small tangle of bermuda grass at the edge of our driveway.  It occurred to me then that I could dig it out. I thought about planting some herbs to the south and lettuce to the north.

That moment was a revelation.  At the time, my modest gardening aspirations were overshadowed by the victory represented in my intention to actually DO SOMETHING.  And several months later, after I did sprinkle those lettuce seeds onto a newly prepared patch of soil, I couldn’t bring myself to actually harvest them because I saw something in that dense mat of green and red that I had nearly lost sight of: hope.

As g began to assemble steps and sentences, I accumulated strawberries and salvia.  Eventually I got a plot in the community garden just around the corner. And I began to heal. Gardening has a way of restoring a healthy relationship to power.  It is, almost by necessity, a labor of mutual respect. You work to impose your will upon a space, provide me with peppers, and succeed only by allowing the space to impose it’s will on you, it isn’t warm enough here but I can give you kale.

Gardening can also teach you to appreciate dangers that are real.  There is no tiger at the gate after all, but global warming and drought are here.  Even better, gardening gives you something concrete to DO about them.  Though the actions may be small, you can decrease your waste stream and add carbon back to your soil.  You can provide food for pollinators and habitat for salamanders. Anxiety about the health consequences of high-fructose, partially hydrogenated glyphosate* disappears when eating from an organically-grown garden.

A little less than 2 years ago, as g was bravely conquering pre-school and Mr D was tugging at my pant legs, I convinced my then neighbors to park on the street and began to fill our parking spaces with pots and seedlings. Over time, what started as a patch of mixed lettuces has become a garden to me and our little apartment has become a lego and laughter-filled home.

I find myself returning over and over to a vision of these past 6 years as a time of rebuilding. Although neither my life nor any of my little gardens is anything exceptional, I am wholly convinced that we are all headed in the right direction.

patiobeforedriveway2015    *Glyphosate is the herbicide Round-up that is sprayed heavily on GMO corn and soybeans that make up a large share of the calories we in the US obtain from processed food.

It’s just laundry

I did the laundry today.  There is always laundry in some stage of it’s life cycle.  But today as I dropped the dinosaur underwear and moldy dish rags into the soapy water, my spirits followed.

It has everything to do with the new protocol.  My landlord recently blocked off the door that gave me direct access to our tiny laundry room, forcing me to lug our threads out the front door, down a few flights of stairs, into the garage with it’s master lock and hefty door and through an overflowing storage room, leaving a trail of smelly toddler socks along the way.

He apologized for the inconvenience, politely explaining that he had concluded that this was the best way to improve his living space, formerly an equal half of the 1950’s duplex that we share.  He is taking over a portion of our still unfinished first floor and wanted the stairs to himself.

I took the news in stride.  It’s just laundry, I told him.  And it is.  Prior to this apartment, I had yet to ever have onsite laundry during my decade+ living in California.  No more hoarding quarters or planning entire days around this chore.

But as I cruised the new route a seemingly endless number of times, I was forced to acknowledge something more.  I had no say in this change.  And I have no idea what changes may be coming or when.  Typically, my renter’s lament is centered around not being able to make modifications that appeal to me. I rarely stop to acknowledge just how far my lack of control stretches.  I would have no recourse if he decided that the rag tag collection of pots and planter boxes scattered across the driveway, a humble space that I affectionately refer to as my “garden”, has to go.  And we would be in real trouble if he were to decide to sell.

The truth is that while we get along perfectly fine with my landlord, he would like nothing more than to see us leave.  Since we moved in, rents in our area have nearly doubled and continue to climb.  A dizzying influx of cash is conspiring to paint fences and faces a brighter shade of white. And I feel like a passenger with no say in where we are going or how quickly we get there.  Gentrification is a reckless driver and the most meaningful decision we have is whether or not to get out of the car.

For now, we are lucky to have rent control legislation on our side.  For now, we still love our neighborhood, with a special fondness for the old hippies and odd characters that hang on for dear life. For now, we are lucky to have access to all the amazing benefits that prosperity brings, from wonderful trash to delightful little stores where you can buy a cargo bike or a kombucha scoby.

For now, it’s just laundry.

Homemaker

It was just a line on a fairly unimportant formal document but seeing it in print made me wince.  Occupation: homemaker.  I remembered the conversation – address? phone number? employment?  I had answered honestly. I’m not working right now.  Somehow in my head that couldn’t possibly translate into the archaic term printed before me.  Surely I had little in common with a relic from a time before the feminist revolution, a role that, like the word itself, belonged to my grandmother’s generation.  I think the term is stay-at-home-mom, I remember thinking.

g was not yet a year old at the time and I was awkward in my new identity.  I can laugh now at the memory of preferring to tell people that I was “unemployed”, rather than tackle the subject of how I had utterly failed to combine career and motherhood.  Surrounded by high-achieving parents on the playground, I was withdrawn and uneasy.

But mostly, I was busy.  Despite having only one child, I was working constantly to learn the new skills that I needed for the job.  I was, quite possibly, in over my head.  I learned. A lot. And over time I began to forget about old expectations and stop caring what people might think of my choices.  I took ownership of the decision to stay home and I began to see it as the right thing for us. I let go.

Even more, I began to see the value in my new life.  Beyond the dedication to my tiny son and his giant needs, I began to see how I could relieve pressure on my spouse who needed to work, sometimes long hours, to make rent and secure health insurance. I began to notice the importance of the food choices that I controlled and their impact not just on the health of my family but on our entire political and economic system. I began to recognize how more time at home translated into gradual improvements to our environment, mostly in ways that involved time and thought rather than money.  And I began to appreciate how getting to know our neighbors could have a genuine impact on both our lives and theirs. I discovered that self-reliance and community begin at home.

But I haven’t forgotten my beloved grandmother.  I will always remember her telling of how badly she wanted to work outside the home.  When a job opportunity came up, she brought the idea before my grandfather who agreed, hesitatingly, but warned that she could keep the job only as long as it didn’t interfere with her duties at home.  She kept the job and recounted that story with pride.  Across the distance of generations, I listened in absolute horror.

Power dynamics and gender politics still play an unfortunately large part in the discussion of domestic work. But, I honestly believe, they don’t have to.  There are so many benefits to taking back some portion of caring for our own needs.   Over reliance on convenience leads to a form of corporate paternalism that has enormous social and environmental costs. There is much to be gained at home.

It is ironic that I am compelled to write this now, just as I begin to take my first encouraging steps back into the world of paid work.  I can’t deny that the need for greater participation and a more tangible contribution to our household economy are important driving forces for me.  But I sincerely hope that I can avoid ever returning to 40+ hr work weeks.  Because these years have taught me something that I can never unlearn.  Despite the inherent injustice in my grandfather’s approach to household division of labor, it turns out that we fundamentally agree on one thing about the work that goes on inside the home: it’s truly important.

Why Slowmamma?

I stumbled into the world of blogging through the most unsuspecting of channels: the newspaper.   The introduction came by way of an article in the local paper announcing the arrival of the annual BlogHer conference. It was 2008 and, while I was generally aware of the existence of blogs, I was astounded to discover the delightful reality of a vibrant community of women bloggers.

Just weeks before, my world had been shattered by the loss of my first pregnancy at 19 weeks and I quickly found my way to a community of women who were sharing painful stories of infertility and loss.  At the time, I didn’t have the energy to even comment, let alone write, but those blogs provided much-needed sustenance.  I went on to become pregnant again, endure another loss, and then to blunder my transition into motherhood without so much as a hint of grace or ease.

Those years were nothing short of catastrophic. Thanks in part to crippling postpartum anxiety, I was  incapable of juggling work and motherhood and abruptly ended my career trajectory. And because so much of my community had revolved around my work life, I found myself painfully isolated during much of my first year of motherhood. When I finally found the strength to dig myself out of the rubble, I discovered a desire to blog.  To actively join the conversation. For me, it was about regaining control of my own story and believing quite literally in the power to write it.  I already knew the narrative: I had been gifted the opportunity to construct a different version of my life, this time according to a value system built around the things that I now knew to be most important to me: family, community and the joys that can be found in choosing a simpler, slower way of life.  My undoing was my admission to something better.  I simply needed to sort out a few details.

Life, it seems, refuses to be confined to a linear path.  Soon after I began this blog, I became unexpectedly pregnant with Mr D. and after a surprisingly uneventful (for me) pregnancy and birth, we reverted to basic survival mode for a few years.

The blog fell by the wayside but in many ways, I have been successful in guiding us in the direction that I envisioned. We do live simply, minimizing consumption and commitments and maximizing our time together.  With only one small income, we manage to thrive in a tiny rental apartment and are mostly happy to call the Bay Area our home.  While in a parallel universe I live a self reliant existence on a sustainable farm within a community of like-minded dreamers, in reality I do manage to grow some of our food and cook most of it, make my own compost and even barter for quite a few pasture-raised eggs, all despite the fact that we don’t even have a yard.

But I’ve discovered that there are many layers to creating a simple life.  And many challenges. It is both undesirable and impossible to inhabit our personal spheres without bumping up against the society that surrounds us.  And it is practically meaningless to change ourselves without changing the world. And that, I’m afraid, is no small task.

One of the greatest gifts of the internet is the opportunity to carve out our own reality from an unbounded space. We can consciously choose to “surround” ourselves with like minded people and filter out the naysayers.  Thanks mostly to other people’s blogs, I’ve come across an astounding amount of evidence for a very real momentum to change direction in a time of global climate change and cultural collapse.  And I’ve come to believe that the little choices that we make every day carry enormous power to affect that change, indeed that some of the smallest, most mundane actions may be the most revolutionary, especially when they come from a deep shift in our thinking.

Amidst all of the urgency, the thing that I appreciate most of all about the concept of slow living is the strong message that while we need to simplify because we want to save the very planet that sustains us, we feel compelled to change because we are drawn to what we believe is a better way of living, one that focuses on meaning and connection rather than accumulation and performance.

But first, we have to slow down.