Friday, March 14, 2008

Phone Home

One warm winter day, I pushed our reel mower back and forth across the lawn, listening to the birds' chatter and not disturbing a cat that dozed nearby. An elderly gentleman walking along the sidewalk stopped to gape. "Wow!" He gasped. "I didn't know people still used those things." Yes sirree, they do.

In the midst of devouring Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic, a friendly acquaintance stops by to invite you out for some "retail therapy." You make up an excuse and finish reading your book.

A neighbor asks, in wonderment, whether that is Swiss Chard growing in your front yard flower beds. Yup. And that's lettuce in the window boxes and cover crop on our planting strip. Yee haw!

Your son's teacher asks, incredulously, whether you hang your clothes on a clothesline. She confides that the teachers thought your son was making it up but he swore it was the truth. You'd like to respond with something snappy like:

My boy ain't a liar.
Keep using that dryer
Gonna drive the temperatures higher.

Instead you mumble "yes" and vow to remind your five-year old that silence is golden.

Ever feel like you don't quite fit it in? Like the world is spinning around without you? Like you're some sort of extra-terrestrial or eco-freak? I do. Apparently Arduous and Beany do too.

While the masses are coming to terms with concepts like recycling, CFL bulbs and hybrid cars, us eco-freaks have long since plucked the low hanging fruit. Heck, we've moved quite a way up the tree, perched determinedly on a borrowed ladder. You can find us in the kitchen canning home grown fruit or in our front yard planting a victory garden and muttering about Peak Oil and the dwindling food supply. Our families, dressed in thrift store chic, cart around cloth napkins, coffee mugs and broken lunch boxes. We stop in the middle of the street to retrieve an errant plastic bottle cap tossed out of someone's window or dropped from a stroller. Hey, we've read Plastic Ocean! Do you have any idea where that plastic will end up?

Yeah, we do all that stuff and we fervently believe we're doing the right thing. "All that stuff" though leaves us a bit out of touch. I pray more people will wake up to the realities of our changing climate but, truth be told, I'm surrounded by SUVs, disposable Starbucks cups and shopping trips to Neiman's. My greenness is an oddity and I'm not quite sure how to connect - both in terms of convincing others to live more lightly and building relationships not punctuated with "do you really make your own X?"

When I lament to my husband that no one else seems to be living more lightly, he kindly tells me that it is because I am the "vanguard." I can't see the changes being made, he assures, because everyone else is behind me. I hope he's right. I do see occasional rays of light - like the public thank you I received on a local mother's club board after drumming up opposition to aerial pesticide spraying in our area. That was awesome.

For the most part, though, I still feel like E.T. - except in the realm of the green blogosphere. Here, I am far from freakish. This world is saturated with eco-nuts, Crunchy Chickens, kooky vegetables, fishy folk and more Little House on the Prairie references than a Laura Ingalls Wilder biography. This world is home and just like that cute little alien, I inhabit one world, but, to stay healthy, I sometimes need to phone home. Thank you, green blogosphere.


Crunchy Chicken said...

Damn, woman, if you're an eco-freak what does that say about me?

Actually, I think I'm normal until I have a conversation with people at work and they look at me like I'm a total kook. And these are professional environmentalists! I'm just a lowly programmer. Maybe I have higher expectations for people in the "green" industry. Which is a little scary - you think they'd be the vanguard.

Oh well, keep shocking the crap out of your friends and neighbors. Sometimes that's the only way to wake people up!

Chile said...

I'd rather be an eco-freak than a clueless regular person.

And, Crunchy, I found that to be the case when I worked in the environmental field, too. Heck, one of my past co-workers chomped her way through massive quantities of beef jerky. I've been tempted to anonymously ship her some of the new vegan jerky.

CindyW said...

I have not line-dried our clothes. That alone stops me short from being an eco-nut. My strategy is wash less - kids have to wear their outfits 3 times before I wash them; husband has to wear his as many times as possible before putting into the laundry hamper. When I work from home (most days), I pretty much wear the same thing over and over for a week. Well, how dirty do I get sitting in front of my computer all day long?! One day, a teacher at my kids' school noticed and mentioned it to me. The nerve!!! So now I throw on a different jacket every so often to confuse her.

I am not an eco-nut. I am a dirty piggy mama leading a couple of dirty little piglets :)

N. & J. said...

Do I get credit for covering every available surface and hanging spot in my apartment to dry my clothes instead of using the dryer?

My fiance and I are new to the eco-nut game but I know that we wouldn't have made all the changes we have if it wasn't for the inspiration we received from reading blogs.

Yes it may seem like most people are completely oblivious but awareness is growing and sites like this help it along.


onestraw said...

I hear you GB. It can get hard and frustrating. At work (Fortune 500 land) I have embraced my eco eccentricities, and keep it light. In the lulls in the Sports Talk I will intentional drop ackward facts and my peers are kept up to date on the running tallies of the garden harvest or my Inisght's mileage, or the UN council of Scientists. Heck if I have to listen to their innane prattle about the Big Ten, they can at least be polite enough to listen to something that matters.

Outside of work it is harder -it can get so damn frustrating to see people blatantly not caring. I have joined several local Sustainability groups and the relief to spend several hours a month surrounded by like minded people.

Returning to work after one of the first meetings, I was regaling a co worker with how good it felt to be around others with similar world views, values, and interests. Their reply was priceless "Yeah, Rob ... most people call them friends." That's it isn't it -when you are pat of a fringe (vanguard if you will) there is a smaller group to draw from. Finding a peer group has helped me, I hope you find a safe place as well!

Green Bean said...

CC: You, my dear, are definitely an eco-freak. ;-) Frankly, though, most of us writing or reading these blogs qualify.

Chile, Rob and N&J: I don't mean to sound down in the dumps. I'm more shocked, when I come up for air, that the rest of the world is just happily marching toward oblivion. Are people really so unaware that a clothesline seems freakish? Apparently so.

I do agree that the movement is growing and, while I've yet to find more than one person who is as invested as I am in living lightly, I have hope and continue to look for ways to reach out to, umm, I think you called them friends or something strange, Rob?

CindyW: Hate to break it to you girl but, even without the clothesline, you qualify if for the fact that you have virtually no trash if nothing else. Oink.

Shannon Hodgins said...

Oh, too funny. I relate! I'm not even remotely as crunchy as you (yet!) and folks think I'm mighty green. I'm inspired by you guys.....and thanks! Shannon

Donna said...

Last fall at my church we had an evening class on "Serve God, Save the Planet," or something like that. Out of a church of 4000, we had about 16, and half of them were dragged there by their spouses. But for the 8 of us who did the dragging, it sure was wonderful to not feel like a freak for even caring about this stuff!

Great post.

Anonymous said...

GB, you and many of your other green bloggers here keep me moving along daily in my own little path here in florida. i can so relate to the discouraging world outside, but with my "calls home" i too feel strengthened to go on following the path less travelled. about your little bean speaking up on the might want to look at it this way..."out of the mouths of babes". sometimes, their little comments and actions do more to sway someone's thinking than we might guess!

Kate said...

Gosh. Is it really that unusual to hang clothes outside? Even my aunties who spray any creature that moves and drive everywhere hang their clothes outside. Only people in really new and tiny apartments have no clothesline here. I've got three clothes 'horses' for inside on days when it's either too hot or too cold or wet. I hung toys on the bottom when my son was tiny for him to look at when he was lying on the floor.

My Nanna had two rotary clotheslines (she had ten children) and my brother and I used to swing on one each. Can't get that kinda entertainment from a dryer.

gregra&gar said...

Thanks back atcha. Do you really make your own X? Maybe that's why you feel like an alien, you're just too damned happy in a field of grumps. ;o)

Joyce said...

I think there are more and more of us-although I have yet to mention the worm-bin at work!

Raw Food Diva said...

I have really enjoyed reading all the comments.
The bug spray they want to slather all over the bay area has me a bit freaked out too! I am moving back and am very concerned about this and intent to make it my cause celebre when I move back.

Melinda said...

Yesterday I was thinking that I was Edward Scissorhands, and maybe I should go back up to my eerie house and leave all these normal folk alone... yeah, it was a bad day. ; ) But ET works better I think.

I think the "green" movement is growing and I'm really glad. But it's going to be a long time before it reaches a critical mass in our neighborhoods, isn't it? We have to keep riding that balance between leading by example and being a little too publicly freakish to become 'those weirdos down the block'... So an eco-freak, but a really, really nice and respected one...

Melinda said...

P.S. We're all hoping up here that you guys keep the spraying from happening, as we'll probably be next in line. Thank you for working on it!!! It's awesome. Meant to respond to your comment on my post about pesticides.... there are 33 amazing comments and yet I get chocked up every time I try to respond... ugh, I'm worthless this week.

Burbanmom said...

GB.. I love the blogosphere... If for no other reason than all the best freaks are here!

I just convinced a "real world" friend to start buying organic and begin composting. When I first started talking about this stuff, she thought I was a kook. Now, she's a kook too! :-)

kale for sale said...

Thank you green bean. I've been away from the blogs for over a week and reading this it feels good to be back and to be inspired about new places where I can be conscientious.

ruralaspirations said...

As an attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, cosleeping, unschooling, Simple Living parent I am used to the concept of being "out on the fringes". But I deliberately surround myself with like-minded people so that sometimes I forget I'm considered a freak by most of society. It's much more fun that way!

Gift of Green said...

Here here! Although I have a HUGE way to go. And I feel badly for those folks living in places where their homeowners association does not allow for clotheslines. I guess I'd be hanging my clothes out at night - kind of defeats the purpose though, I suppose. :)

Beany said...

I think I come across as very "normal" in public. Strangers usually think my husband is a weirdo for a variety of reasons (one being he doesn't give a crap about how he looks or dresses - he often wears a motorcycle helmet when riding a bicycle).

I like to think I'm inspiring our neighbors (who listen to really bad rap, really loud) as I see them riding bicycles now. We're know as the bike couple on our block and people seem to appreciate the fact that we pick up the random trash on our block.

More than plastic or trash I am really vocal about food, especially when I'm drunk. I think friends are getting tired of me bitching about how crappy restaurant food is. I feel that if I'm paying money for food that is non-organic/non-local I want some extra effort put into it.

spelled with a K said...

While my granola side is apparent from 100 yards away (I'm told) my wife is reluctant to let her inner whole grains show. Its a fine line we must walk between urgency and approachability. Few people are willing to accept all the hard facts at once. Or at least in the massive doses I want to dole out.

Anonymous said...

I have a long way to go but have made great strides in living green. I know I have made at least a small difference when My 23 year old daughter takes her own cloth bags to stores and called the other day and asked " Is #1 and #2 recyclable ?" I love it.


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