Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Instead of the post

Oy, the posts, they percolate, but I have papers due this week and next, so they will have to wait.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes, the cabbage, marshmallow, calendula, shiso, and borage have sprouted in their snug little newspaper nests. Still waiting (and waiting) for valerian, sage, celeriac, and broccoli (a late addition) and I can't remember what else without walking upstairs.

And the Suburubian home has new west windows, low-e and lovely, to replace the cast aluminum louvered lot. I sort of miss the louvers. They reminded me of 1940s lake houses.

Next week, the Raised Bed. If you have thoughts on Bonhoeffer, please communicate.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Simple living and poverty

There is an interesting discussion going on over at the New American Dream about whether the "simplicity" movement is essentially a pipe dream of the privileged class. Clearly there is some basis for making that claim, when the gurus of simplicity (Joe Dominguez, Jim Merkel) are touting retiring from their Wall Street or Department of Defense contract jobs in order to do volunteer work, or getting rid of clutter as a spiritual practice, or when a member of my simplicity circle wonders if he is truly welcome if he can't afford to buy organic vegetables.

But as someone who lived in a substandard trailer without running water for five years in involuntary simplicity, I think I can say that on both the practical and the ethical level, simplicity so-called is not just for jaded trust fund yuppies. I have difficulty with the counterclaim that simplicity is essentially about frugality too, but at least that claim is on some level about living in the real world of labor and material objects. And in terms of the crunchy spiritual goodness inherent in each bite, when I was poor, much poorer than I am now, I was no less beset by images of people in nice clothes in front of handsome Craftsman houses with roofs that didn't leak. Logically enough, the material necessities I dreamed of were not generic but imbued just the same with messages from the culture.

One of my hopes for this blog is to limn that hazy line that separates simplicity as an aesthetic practice from simplicity as an ethical practice. I mean to do this from my perspective as one now firmly entrenched in the middle class who hasn't always had the luxury of deciding whether to use my station wagon less frequently to be nicer to the Earth.

Just for the record

I can obsess perfectly well over things that don't run on internal combustion engines. I now have 70 little seeded containers and a bizarre plan to grow strawberries here in Suburubia. All I have to do is drive to my nearest nursery and pick up a baker's dozen 18" concrete paving stones. Progeny is anxious to have strawberries--I think he thinks that we will no sooner water them but we will have fruit to eat. Too many Harry Potter books or something.

Meanwhile, I am going to get rid of the comment moderation, because I can't seem to remember to check for comments (d'oh), and, although I have paid to offset my carbon for the year, I still see the humor in this.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Getting serious

Weigh in: 144,933. Miles so far this year: 1,290. Miles left in my budget: 6,310.

This is a serious crisis. Now admittedly, there was some out of the ordinary driving in January (just a little matter of a church trial), but 1300 miles represents a serious abrogation of the driving diet. I am having to consider the equivalent of gastric bypass surgery (e.g., buying a new used Hyundai) in order to bring my fossil fuel consumption under control.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I have 20 little newspaper pots seeded with herbs in preparation for my first attempt at Southern Raised Bed Gardening. My fantasy is that in a few years, I can stop driving to the grocery store altogether.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

In which she begins to speak

You're already asking yourself "How can someone desperately seek simplicity? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?"

Yes. But if I had already achieved simplicity, I wouldn't be desperate, now, would I?

This blog begins because I foolishly pledged, at the beginning of January, that I would drive my car only half as much this year as I did last year. Now for a multitude of reasons, mostly economic, I and my Progeny live in a first-ring suburb despite the fact that he and I both attend school intown. We also go to church intown, recreate intown, and see our friends intown. We spend a lot of time in our suburb-mobile, which is, logically enough, a Suburu. It's not an SUV but it's not a Prius either. In fact, last year, we spent the national average of 15,000 miles in that car, which included a couple of side trips to Mountain Region and Beach Area, but no cross-country roadtrip movie adventures.

So skinnying down to 7,500 miles this year will be no small feat. There is some public transportation available in my neighborhood (it's a little less than a mile to the bus stop), but although it is now February, we have ridden public transportation a grand total of once. Yes, that's right. Once.

With any luck, dear reader, I will also be able to regale you with my more successful attempts at being a responsible global citizen: eating more local, less processed foods; installing new, more efficient windows on the west side of our house; and so on. But given that it's mid-February and I'm still a drivin' fool, you can expect to see most of the blog drama here taking place behind the wheel.