On Choosing – A Hyperlocavore Responds to Catastrophe

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has
genius, power and magic in it!”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Please note: a discussion with the community at ongoing on The Oil Drum in their Campfire section. Please participate.

One of the most useful things I have ever learned in my life is that the most effective way to deal with worry and anxiety is to act on those things in your life that you can control, and leave the rest up to the Universe. Some call it the “Serenity Prayer.” Whatever you believe in or do not believe in, knowing just what you can control in your life and what you cannot is the key to your joy. This much I know.

Everyday we are presented with immense, rolling, overlapping catastrophes; environmental devastation, [swineflu!?] societal malaise and violence, and running out of the stuff that, we are told, underpins our every creature comfort – oil. All of these things are true. That hand basket you’ve heard so much about, we’re riding in it!

How do we “carry on”, as the Brits used to say? Well, I’m not at all interested in “carrying on” actually. Nose down, joy in check, plodding and miserable. I want to thrive. I was raised with mighty high expectations of what this life can be, and I’m not giving those expectations up. I want to reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I want to love and live well. And I want to eat REALLY well. I got used to that in the 1990’s.

Well, first I would like to suggest some humility, for many on the planet, this rolling crisis has been their daily experience for as long as they have lived. It is nothing new. Check in with yourself. What are you grateful for? What have you been given in life by your community, your family, your beloveds, your friends and your neighbors, by this Earth? You can read this. There must be someone who taught you to read. Take a moment. Sit with your gratitude.

That’s where I began when I starting building hyperlocavore.com – a free yard sharing community, sitting with my gratitude. I had just been laid off. It was April. I had been a tech strategy person at a 35 year old sustainability non-profit that had been fighting the good fight as long as I had been on the planet. I took an inventory…

OK. Stop.

Honestly? I can’t lie. First, I felt terror. Then, blind rage with a dollop of total panic. Boiling blood, fist shaking, laying curses on all who had done me wrong – all that. That lasted for a few months, if I tell the truth. Then there was a substantial period of pouting and just feeling so sad for myself, my poor pitiful sorry self. I bore easily. And I got bored with myself behaving that way, pretty quickly.

When I moved on, it was via gratitude. Sitting with and contemplating all that I was and am grateful for, after all the crying, bargaining and bemoaning had subsided. What did I have, well, besides the sweatpants I had been wearing for a few weeks? I am literate and reasonably intelligent, if broke. I have knowledge that people can band together and build amazing fantastical giant things, cities even, because I’ve been part of a community that does that every year now for much more than a decade. I speak of the Burning Man festival and year round astounding creative beautiful community made of doers. I believe I write well enough.

And I have a good idea that has been bugging me since I was about 5. I used to look at the inside of city blocks in San Francisco and wonder, why the heck were the yards all fenced off, in the middle and mostly unused. Why not, I thought way back then, tear those fences down and build a garden full of fruit trees, nut trees and veggie patches? Why don’t people grow food there?

I am grateful that I grew up in the Silicon Valley, a place that fed my voracious curiosity and kept me tinkering. I am grateful for growing up in the Bay Area, a place absolutely crammed with practical minded revolutionaries and doing daring dreamers. The rest of the country seems to think the only thing we gave them was tie-dye and 4 foot bongs, but they would be mistaken. The Bay Area is a place that teaches everyone “Why Not?” A society of people that does not let you just talk about a good idea without telling you, in chorus, to “DO IT!” It is tough to get away with a lot moaning and jaw flapping in a place like that.

Yard sharing is all about being grateful for what you have, not anxious about what you don’t. It’s about responding practically to chaos, to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Never in all my life did I think I would quote Donald Rumsfeld but, there you are. These are strange days, indeed!

You do know these things for sure. You know you need healthy food and you know you need it cheap. So do all your friends and neighbors, the members of your faith communities, so does your slacker posse. So does your family. Doing for yourself, deepening your food security and your community resilience is the most direct thing you can do to bring your rational and general anxiety down to a manageable size. Sit down to a meal that you grew yourself from seeds which you saved, bread you baked, eggs you gathered, and you will know in your bones that you and yours will be alright.

We get new people signing up to the social network every single day, practical people looking to get down to business. I built the site because a lot of us don’t have all resources or skills we need to grow our own. Some of us lack time, some lack space, some have physical limitations, or lack certain tools. Some have so little experience growing things that the task seems overwhelming. Where do we start? All of these issues can be minimized in a well gathered and tended yard sharing group, a healthy community.

Some folks are linking up yards and creating mini suburban farm/CSAs, like Kipp Nash in Boulder, Colorado. Each family gets a weekly box of the freshest produce and the rest he sells at the farmers market. If this looks like the job for you, come on by the site and find some farm clients and yards to tend! Kipp’s got eight yards he is farming. Will you ever look at a lawn again in the same way? When I see a sad lone Honey-Doer on a loud riding mower all I see is wasted space, wasted water and meaningless work.

Look at the world with this skew and green thumbs will appear and share the secrets of plant whispering, food waste will be gathered from multiple households and make a formidable sweet smelling compost pile. Friends will band together to buy 3 year old apple trees, for a lifetime of apples. Abuelitas will pass on magic recipes and kids will coax worms to party in warm living soil. Their curiosity will catch fire! Streets will become neighborhoods, neighbors will become friends. No one will feel alone, frozen or powerless, because no one will be alone, frozen or powerless. Potlucks will abound! All will eat better.

This is the future we see, we hyperlocavores. We know it’s coming, because we’re building it right now. Who has time to fret? Pass the cornbread and fresh salsa. Look someone brought the boom box! Start building, now.

Our great, great grandparents used to have victory gardens but, they also had rent parties. Londoners danced in underground tunnels as fire came down from the sky. They stayed put. They raised rent, barns and kids together. They didn’t just survive, many of them thrived. I hope we will all use this compound crisis as a reminder that the hard times are very often the very best of times. Take note of what you have, be grateful for your loved ones. Take note of those around you who may feel alone. They are not and you are not, alone.

We, each of us every moment of the day, will choose our responses to what’s happening. Some will choose to go numb, watch more TV, play more video games, surf mindlessly. Some will chose hate, rage, to nurse grievances or will choose take their pain out on the people around them, in most cases it will be the people they love most in this world. Look around. Is that what you want for your beloveds?

Will you choose another day of fear, of distrust, anger or powerlessness, of envy, isolation …complaining or will you choose the plentiful garden, the neighborhood, real community, real food and pleasure?

Yes.
Pleasure.

“There’s only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love and homegrown
tomatoes
!”

- Guy Clark

I would add ‘real community’ to that list of things money can’t buy.

I choose real community, dancing in the chaos, pleasure, delectable
food and the edible and musical neighborhood.

Happy Digging!
LizM – connector/maker/digger
twitter me @hyperlocavore


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On Choosing – A Hyperlocavore Responds to
Catastrophe by Liz McLellan is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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Based on a work at hyperlocavore.wordpress.com.

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14 thoughts on “On Choosing – A Hyperlocavore Responds to Catastrophe

  1. Hi Liz–I found your blog on Fight Back Friday. This is a beautifully written and inspiring post. I just lost my father last week and your hopeful words are so helpful.

    I know you have a great future ahead! Sometimes a job loss is a kick in the pants to get you moving toward what you really need to be doing with your life. Sounds like you are on your way!

    Kimberly

  2. Hey Kimberly,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement. I’m sorry to hear about your families loss. I have two elderly parents and every day with them is precious to me. It shocks me how time passes! Why just the other day we were all playing on the beach, my little brother was three and I was 6 and chasing seagulls.

  3. Great, love post and wow, I personally relate to this! I also grew up in the Bay Area and San Francisco always befuddled me – one of the most (the most?) beautiful and wonderful cities in the world but a bit of a concrete jungle. From the Waldo tunnel it looks like a sparkling white gem.

    The other thing we have in common is starting an entrepreneurial journey. After licking the wounds post layoff I took something that had long frustrated me – the fact that the taste of beef tasted different every week – and combined it with something that made me mad – poor animal husbandry, doped up food… – and discovered an opportunity to make a difference.

    Now, I’m off to see if you have anyone signed up in my neighborhood. The only spot in my yard that might possibly get enough exposure to grow food is a 15 ft. section of fence.

  4. Hey Carrie!

    Thanks for checking in! I didn’t realize we both grew up there.
    I think you are really on to something with what you are doing.

    As for finding folks in your area, join in any case, we have new folks every day. We can help.

  5. great post. sorry about your losses. my blog is redemptivetobacco.wordpress.com. i try to find God’s redeeming work in all situations. i’ll pray for your fam. great to tweet… @mike_little

  6. What an informative and heartfelt post. I love it. Years ago, I knew a man who wrote a book called Turning Into Community (if I recall correctly). In it, he, too recommend tearing down the fences and building community gardens, play areas and walkways. I just makes sense!

    Thanks for your inspiration. Much appreciated.

  7. Pingback: The Twitter FAQ on @hyperlocavore or How I Tweet « Hyperlocavore

  8. Pingback: Top 10 Posts – 2009 – Best and Worst Year Ever « Hyperlocavore

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