Saturday, July 11, 2015

30th birthday reflection

I feel pretty good about turning 30. It marks some important milestones in my life, as well as excites me for the next series of life stages. My twenties were not easy for me personally. Despite that, I accomplished a whole lot. By my 30th birthday, I travelled to over 30 countries on my own babysitting-earned dime and nearly every U.S. state. I earned a CDL Class A driver’s license. I lived in Rome, San Francisco, near Yosemite National Park, Tuscany, in Chicago, Eastern and Western Washington. I got engaged in a cloud forest in Costa Rica and I got married! Patrick and I bought and own outright nine acres of gorgeous, productive land in an entirely different hemisphere. I had a baby and raised her into a beautiful, charming 2-year old. I earned my master’s degree in a field I had never before studied, and am about a year away from my PhD.

I herded goats in the Chianti Valley of Italy. I made wine in Montalcino. I swam in the blue grotto in Capri. I snorkeled the second greatest barrier reef in the world in Belize. I learned how to scuba dive in the Indian Ocean west of Thailand. I then dove deep into the Red Sea. All over the world I swam with so many unbelievably beautiful fish, living coral reefs, sting rays, sea turtles, an octopus, and eels. I escaped a sinking sailboat in the Caribbean Sea. I witnessed Bengal tigers and a cheetah in the wild in India, an Asian elephant in Thailand, so many species of monkey in Costa Rica. I swear I heard a jaguar in the cloud forest there.  I fed a rescued baby gibbon with a bottle in Thailand. I saw melting glaciers in Montana.  I saw sights that may not exist for my children to see; only in my stories and photos and books.

 I travelled overland from China to India, from Turkey to Morocco to Sweden, from Mexico to Guatemala, and from Egypt to Jordan. I saw the ruins of ancient civilizations in Ankor, Tikal, Greece, Italy, Thailand, India, Israel, Jordan. I studied the buildings that were slowly returning to the Earth, and asked, “What went wrong here?” and “How can I, as an individual, avoid societal collapse?” I learned how most people in the world live: simply and without much. But they’re happy. I learned why: deep community, exposure to nature, enjoying limited pleasures. I learned how little I need to survive: a warm bath, dry sheets, clean clothes and food. I learned how to bake bread from scratch, how to make beer and wine at home, how to cook food from around the world. I learned how to give birth to a gigantic baby with no drugs, how to feed her with my body, and what kind of parent I want to be.

I learned what kind of life I don’t want for myself and my family, and am pursuing the one I do want. My twenties were spent asking questions. My thirties will be pursuing the life that comes with the answers I found.  I feel much more secure now in myself and my own goals. Gone are the days when I am hurt by disapproving comments. I care less and less what others think about my life. Despite that, I am more open than ever to people and what I can learn from them. The chip on my shoulder is being worn away with time. I am overcoming barriers in order to share a laugh, an insight, a beer.  

In my thirties I plan to accomplish even more than my twenties - especially considering the restricted freedom that comes with settling in one place and having children. I hope to complete my PhD, to write and publish a book, to have a few more children, to build a house in Uruguay entirely without a mortgage.  I want to learn how to use a compost blackwater system and a greywater system. I want to be off the grid, to learn how to raise bees, pigs, goats and cows and truly husband them. To teach my children (and myself) how to notice the cycles of plants, water, energy and animals and how to care for it all as it cares for us. I need to take my big city upbringing and live off the land with very few incoming resources.  Jesus, I will learn to live my life in Spanish in an entirely different culture! 

More than all of that, I want to begin to leave a legacy in my thirties. I want to create a field school in order to expose a network of people (as well as my own children and family) to this particular life choice. I want our home to be a place where those travelers, life hackers, or searchers can come and be and learn. Like a monastery, or a refuge. I want to have a library and extra food and a warm place to bathe and sleep for these adventurers, so they can feel loved and cared for during their time passing through our home. And I want them to stay or go as their lives move them. But if they go, I want them to take a piece of us with them, so that they may see that they can live simply and promote healthy biological and social diversity wherever they choose to settle, as this is the mission we plan to promote. This world is too vulnerable without all kinds of diversity, and we hope to strengthen it by the work we do to make our corner of the world more diverse in terms of: plant and animal life, language, culture, agriculture, ideas, food production and so much more. 

It’s not so bad to turn 30. I feel so proud of my accomplishments and very driven to accomplish so much more in the decades to come. Plus, Patrick says women are the most attractive in their 30s. ;) It’s nice to think that some of my life’s most beautiful days – ones filled with the laughter of children, community, nature, and abundance – are the ones to come.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Michael Pollan on Psychadelics

Amazing article. What if you could take medicine one time that would permanently alter you for the better? Making you calmer, more at peace, addiction-free. There's some evidence that those drugs already exist, if we just open our minds to the benefits they provide.

I miss the village

I came across this article today, and love how it's written. Except, I envision this future where it's not just women, but the men, the boys, the old folks who live in the village together. Maybe we can find a way to make this work in Uruguay? Have some cabins and a common space where the kids run free on the farm and the adults work and play and laugh together all day. Having a child made me much more keenly aware of the isolation of the way our current society is set up. The single-family home and no one knows their neighbors. Ugh. It is many years away a lots of work in the making, but I think we can re-make the village. I know we can. I agree with the author that this is what we all actually want, but we don't know how to get there. I'm going to try.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bars and Babies -- or Isolation, part two

I've been starting to get into the groove of motherhood. I usually know what Isa wants, I'm getting a sense of my own mothering style, and I am starting to know how to get on with my adult life with Isa in tow. But this past Tuesday I hit a major road block, one that really infuriated me and made me feel inferior again.

A friend of ours is leaving Pullman for good and moving back home to the Bay Area. He invited a bunch of people out to have a celebratory meal and drinks with him -- so we all decided on a bar that serves tacos, burgers, etc. to meet up. We came to this bar before when Isa was a little baby in the Summer when most of the students were out of town. They have a really good burger and a beer special, so we came for that. We ate and drank without incident over the Summer when the bar was mostly empty.

On Tuesday, we got to the door at 7 pm, and the bar had a decent amount of people in it, but everyone was mostly sitting and eating at tables (it's Taco Tuesday). The bouncer comes to the door and tells us, as if to chastise us, "You can't bring your baby in here. No." I asked, "Even if we're just coming to eat?"

"No, you can't come in here."

The large group had to scramble for ideas. I suggested just going home with Isa and letting Patrick stay out and about with the group. Everyone decided that we'd just go somewhere else without a problem. And we did, we went to a restaurant and everyone got to eat and drink there, but of course drinks were much more expensive at a restaurant, which I'm sure most people weren't happy about.

This whole experience left me feeling like I am inappropriate, a bad mother, or irresponsible in some way. Why would I ever want to bring my child to a bar? What was wrong with me?

I don't understand why having a child, in this society, makes you isolated from adult activities. Why, in this culture, is there such a puritan attitude toward drinking that children should not be allowed to see adults in this hedonistic state? In most of the UK, pubs (or public houses, called that way for a reason), let in children and you can even order a pint for your child as long as they're over 14 years old. What does this breed? An attitude toward drinking that is MODERATE instead of this idea that drinking is always something to be hidden from the view of children.

I am finding that it seems to be that the reason so many mothers experience depression is the intense isolation they experience once they have children. There are only so many places you're allowed to go with children, and they mostly suck (McDonald's Playplace? Mommy groups? 'family' restaurants?). Why can't children be a part of larger society and go where their parents go? Ugh. I've got to get out of this place.

loneliness, addiction and getting out

the real cause of addiction

the age of loneliness is killing us

I ran across a couple of articles today that impacted me. Ever since I began studying sociology, and even before, I have come to realize the power society and social institutions have over individuals. We are not the masters of our own universes, and are (mostly) not to blame for many of our individual problems. C. Wright Mills calls this having a sociological imagination. It is the ability to decipher between personal problems and public issues. It is the main message of the Sociology 101 course I teach.

However, this lesson is difficult for many of us to grasp, as is it so ingrained in us to think so much of what we experience is our individual problem. I keep on learning this lesson for different parts of life, and the two articles above continue to teach this same lesson.

The first makes the claim that addiction is not an individual's problem, and it's not even the problem of chemical impact on the brain. If you look, for example, at gambling addiction, it surely can't only be chemicals causing addiction. The author argues that it is in fact our loneliness and isolation (among other aspects of our society) that drives so many to addiction. And the solution to all this isn't to isolate addicts, but to love them and provide them with healthy relationships.

The second article is a treatise on the current century, calling it the Age of Loneliness. The statistics are dire. We are a lonely people and it is killing us.

These two articles are connected (the first cites the second) in that it is really the structure of our society that causes so much of what we think of as individual problems. Are you lonely because no one wants to be your friend or because no one sees each other anymore? Are you addicted (even to caffeine or alcohol or television) because you're lonely? Well, you're lonely because of how our society is set up.

I am reminded of something one of my favorite authors once said. He was attempting to live happily in American society and was finding it difficult. He told himself to simply be "a lotus in a cesspool." That is, even if the society is unhealthy, he could attempt to rise above it and be happy despite his surroundings. What he found, he says, is that he just ended up being "a dirty lotus" ( I like this anecdote because it captures the essence of the above articles and sociology in general. You cannot rise above your environment. Your environment makes you up. So, if you want to be different (or you don't want to become who this unhealthy society will make you up to be), then you have to find a place that you think aligns better with who you want to be, and move there. And this is not just the U.S. As the article states, it is at least in the U.K. and probably many other industrialized societies. Get out. Before you die of loneliness or addiction or both.