AIR DRY

Line-drying creates a great social equalizer. Each one of us has to put in a good deal of work behind the scenes to pull off what we do in public. Catching a glimpse of this (and offering the glimpse yourself) creates a more comfortable vibe in your community.

This is also a great way to forge a relationship with non-human forces. Like any relationship, there's a learning process involved to optimize the situation. But there's not a whole lot of risk here. The risk -- still-wet clothes. The reward -- a more nuanced awareness (and appreciation?) of the ever-changing weather.


BAKE

Creating something from scratch allows you to know exactly what is in it because you put it in there. It is tricky to feel entirely comfortable with buying, for example, mass market bread after realizing that delicious bread can be made with five easily pronouncable and obtainable ingredients, not a paragraph of science-lab-speak.


BE EQUAL

The most evolved people are comfortable enough with themselves to not be threatened by other people's differences. 'Be equal' is an empowerment tool for those feeling down and a humility device for those feeling better than others. Seeing yourself as an equal makes it easier to see everyone else as equals.


BE THE MEDIA

The so-called 'mainstream media'  are both demonized and deified. We blame a lot on 'them' but we seem to also rely upon 'them' heavily to figure out the way the world works. Do what you can to tell it like it is and get the word out when necessary. Also, support those who provide access to unfiltered information.

 


CAN

Canning is ultra-subversive. If you are preserving food, you most likely know where your food comes from (because you either grew it yourself or bought it locally). You put in effort today for tomorrow. And you facilitate a moment of joy for your family when they might need it the most (e.g., in the throes of winter). 

 

 

 


COOK

If you know when something tastes good (most folks would fall into this category), you already possess most of what it takes to be a good cook. The only thing that takes a bit of practice (also known as "tasting") is knowing what to add if it's not quite up to snuff. I look for recipes that include ingredients I have heard of, and processes I can do using the basic cooking tools I have. I'll venture into the unknown every once in a while, which may require a new tool or trick. I add to my skills gradually and comfortably this way. 

 

 

 

 

 

DROP SEED

One quick, simple act can make all the difference. Planting a seed in the soil takes approximately five seconds. Watering and otherwise caring for that seed/plant requires roughly one minute per day. In the case of, say, a radish, you are looking at thirty minutes of your time (a.k.a. one episode of a TV show) to go from a dry seed to a deep red delicacy plucked from the garden, washed off at the faucet, and devoured by your one-year-old child (or something like that).

EAT REAL FOOD

When you stop and think about it, our food needs are pretty basic. Just like any other machine, the better the stuff you put in it, the better it runs. It's an unfortunate irony that we have to pay a premium for food that hasn't been messed with, but that seems to be the case at the moment. Cook from scratch whenever you can, and, for the most part, go for the apple instead of the Apple Jacks. 

FREE PLAY

There's quite a rush for kids to grow up. Parents are pretty stressed out about their child reaching certain milestones at particular times, and if that child does that thing earlier than anticipated, all the better. We want our kids to read as early as possible, to go to the potty the earlier the better, and learn to be quiet and well-mannered. All this stuff has a role in life, but so does just letting it all loose every now and again. There's no reason why parents shouldn't get wild and imaginative, too.

GROW YOUR OWN

The first time you grow some of your own food can be more empowering / life-enhancing / door-opening than any degree program or career enhancement exercise you might endure. The confidence you get from actually growing the actual spinach your friends are actually eating can be profound. Eating fresh produce that you grew reawakens your passion for food and greatly reduces your ability to waste it.

HUG A TREE

The degree to which we overlook our reliance upon natural systems is staggering. The natural world is more than a scenic backdrop for our adventures; more than a repository of supplies for our comfort. Give thanks for the air-cleaning trees, the cleansing flash flood, the clothes-drying breeze, the basil-stimulating sunshine.

KNOW THE SOURCE

The clearest way to know where our food comes from is to raise some of it ourselves. Caring for food-producing animals can teach us loads of valuable lessons and gives us the hands-on choice about how the animals we eat or that produce food for us are treated. It's not practical for most of us to have a farm in the backyard, but maybe you could create a nice little space for a chicken or two in that unused corner of your yard? If not, find someone who is doing this that you can support or collaborate with.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS

Many of us do not know who lives next door. It is often difficult to break through our constructed barriers of paranoia, distrust, and expectations of privacy. Knowing your neighbors is the most basic building block of creating a livable community. Don't get tripped up about how to best develop the relationship. It's easy to know when someone could use a hand. If your neighbor is using scissors to cut his grass, and you have a mower...just bring the mower over. He'll be watering your tomatoes while you're away before you know it. Plus, who knows what you'll learn in the process.

MAKE MUSIC

Life is too short to be a spectator all the time. Participate in something and get half-way decent at it. It doesn't have to be music - it could be painting or auto repair or knitting or cooking or ? - the important thing is to spend a little time expressing yourself. There is nothing wrong with watching professionals do their thing; just don't forget to develop your own talent(s) in between The Big Games.

NEED LESS

The empty hanger symbolizes being in a state of having more than you need, but turning the corner and thinning things out a bit. For good. We clutter our lives with a ridiculous amount of crap, most of which brings us no joy at all. Make a habit out of giving things away to folks who want them whenever you find yourself having a hard time finding things.

OWN YOUR IMPACT

Everything we do or choose not to do has some sort of impact. The effect of our action / inaction might be felt immediately, or four weeks later, or maybe not in our lifetime. Taking the time to think about the impacts of our lives can often motivate us to make adjustments to how we do things - perhaps adding to the positive and reducing the negative. It is too 'doom and gloom' to think everything we do is ruinous. It is demoralizing to attempt (or to expect others) to have no impact at all.

PROVE IT

It is very difficult to avoid our consumer society entirely. Most of us enjoy bits and pieces of this modern lifestyle (whether we admit it or not). Think about how you can affect positive change when you are wearing your 'consumer' hat. Take that hat off enough to remember it is only one of the many hats in your collection. Wear your 'citizen' hat as often as you can.

QUIET YOURSELF

Take a break for yourself every now and again. Zone out over the steam rising from your favorite cup of whatever. Now get back to work on the good things you do.

READ A BOOK

Sometimes it's hard to find the origin of things. Most news stories, for example, have been dripped through various filters before they reach our eyes / ears. There's nothing necessary evil about listening to people's opinions about events, but at some point you have to consider if perhaps your convictions are based on opinions of opinions. Go to the source and make up your own mind about a topic.

REPAIR

There is a certain kind of joy in taking care of what you've got. Buying things that can be repaired / maintained likely means they're of decent quality and built to last. Support quality craftsmanship when you can. Learning how to maintain the material possessions you do own can result in new relationships as you share advice with fellow caretakers. The added bonus is that this is a good mindset to get in as we figure out how to fix things in our world that are broken or breaking.

RIDE

Bikes rule because they are efficient and fun. Incorporating even a little non-car transport in your daily life makes a difference in your health, outlook, and community connection. Doing it fairly often can result in much less flab and much more money. You could scare yourself out of riding a bike - it's too dangerous, you'd get too sweaty, or it's too cold outside - but that's the stuff (within reason) that makes you remember you are alive.

SAVE

One of the most important decisions we can make is to limit our exposure. There are temptations everywhere to become something we're not via our consumer choices. Some decisions can be absorbed. Others, though, may affect us for the rest of our lives, limiting our ability to realize our dreams. Resist the 'buy now, pay later' approach when you can. Keep your overhead low. Take a look at your spending habits every so often to see where your money is going. Cut out the stuff that is costing you without giving you any measurable joy.

SEW

Every once in a while, do something the old fashioned way. Or at least watch someone do it. This way, you'll have some apprecation for all the bloody work involved in making your comfortable life possible.

STAY SMALL

If you're lucky, there is a magic moment in your life (it could last a day or two years) when you realize you have enough - enough work, enough food, enough house, enough meaningful relationships - to make you happy. It is essential to recognize this when it occurs and think very carefully about the best way to proceed. You might just decide that the sacrifices necessary to take it to the next level, as it were, to remain in the current of bigger, better, faster, are not worth it. Say 'enough is enough' and focus your energy on keeping and enjoying the things you have that you know make you happy. Resist the upgrade if it doesn't feel entirely right. That upgrade will cost you in one way or another and it's tricky to impossible to go back to your 'enough state' once you leave it behind.

STAY TOGETHER

It's very easy to end a relationship. It is socially acceptable, or even celebrated in some cases, to not honor the commitment you made to yourself and your partner (and your children?) when you said you would stick it out for the duration. Do your best to think through the significance of entering a long-term relationship before doing so. Once you know it's a fit, remove the 'D word' from the vocabulary of your bond.

TRUST (new!)

Description Coming Soon!

TV BOY

This is a self-portrait of sorts. A friend of mine loaned me a book of ancient Mexican symbols. Hidden among the animal and abstract forms was this little futuristic guy. I cocked his head a little to catch the particular moment when you see everything you know in a different light. No matter what changes you make because of that moment, however, you still retain certain elements of your former self. As you should, because it's what makes you YOU.

USE YOUR BODY

Looking to get/stay relatively fit? Drop the dreaded treadmill routine and get back to using the miracle of your body to do most of your day's tasks. Dig some dirt. Lift something. Bend over and check out that flower. Run after your child. Walk to the post office. Ride your bike to the grocery. You'll be amazed at the results.

USE YOUR VOICE

It's easy to forget that each one of us has the right to speak up whenever we want to. Whether it's to protest something you feel is unjust, speak up for someone in need, or to hoot in support for a job well done, go with your gut and exercise your ability and right to speak your mind.

VALUE YOUR TIME

Most things in life are fleeting, and it seems like the really good stuff is especially that way. Try to reconfigure your brain so you absorb every ounce of an experience when it is taking place. It will never occur exactly that way again. It's easy to fall into the rut of routine and forget that this too will change, and that the things you have come to expect might be the things you'll miss the most. Avoid distractions when your gut tells you something special is happening.

VOTE
Commit to at least the most basic level of involvement in the democratic process. Yes, This American Democracy is messy, frustrating, and often belittling, but giving up your ability to weigh in on things doesn't help. Vote in local elections, because more often than not, these are the representatives who are directly affecting your quality of life. In the little town where I live, officials are regularly elected/defeated by ten or twenty votes.

WALK

Slow your life down when you can to the pace we were designed to travel. Think about the really short driving trips you take and walk instead. You'll get some good breaths in, you'll perhaps have a helpful thought or two, and you might just meet a neighbor for the first time. Make yourself approachable by removing all that steel you would otherwise surround yourself with.

YIELD A BIT

I have a lot of respect for ardent activists who never stray from their position. However, I've found if I commit to something at this level, the joy of living starts to fade and I became a bit of an A Hole. In the end, a little bit of flexibility goes a long ways in doing good things without being miserable. Also, be open to other people's opinions on things. You never know who might change your mind on an issue for the better.