Thursday, May 8, 2008

Go Forth and Prosper

I shut the back cover of Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle and slid it into my library bag. It was an interesting read: more affirming than eye opening, more a map than a book. Throughout Simple Prosperity, David Wann directs us along a road toward a more meaningful life - one that we build instead of buy. He points out the pitfalls, jots down directions to the scenic back roads and promises a worthwhile destination - a well lived life.

Wann's path is neither unknown nor unmarked, however. What was once overgrown and erased by autumn's brown leaves and winter's snow is now well worn and easy to maneuver. Every day, I see more people biking to work or to errands. The thrift stores and farmers' markets bustle with new clientele. Lawns are left to die slowly as vegetable patches and native flower beds spring up. Indeed, so many people are moving toward a simpler, more honest existence - one based on meaning rather than material - that this generation has been newly labeled the YAWNs - young and wealthy (though many are not) but normal. The YAWNs live beneath their means, buying little, donating to charity, shopping local, making their own, doing without and living a fuller life. In describing this movement, Marilyn Ferguson metaphorically noted that “sometimes a people move en masse because scouts and travelers carry tales of a distant land that is fruitful and temperate.”

As I sat down to write this post, I realized that we are those scouts and travelers. I have encountered our tales as they've spread across the blogosphere - in posts and in comments.

After buying nothing new for nine months, Arduous brings stories of being blessed with less, of finding that true joy can be found only with people, places and experiences - not things.

Cindy at Organic Picks sends back notes of treasure discovered by getting out of the car and traveling a different way home.

And Jennifer offers the simple wealth of a full bird nest.

I too have traveled to that distant world. It is better there. The journey is peaceful, exhilarating and muscle-building all at once. The rewards are limitless. There is beauty in clothes hung out to dry and wonder at dirt caked hands that pick the season's first fava beans. There is abundance in the squirrel nest in the back tree and treasure in larva slowly morphing into ladybugs. The fruits are sweeter, the vegetables more bountiful.

The stories we travelers bring home are not myths. They are not tall tales based on fiction or daydreams. Rather, they are our experience of a more fulfilling life - one that lets our children find a lost marble and call it treasure, open the refrigerator and scream in delight that cherries are in season, revel in a picnic along a river.

If you are reading this post, chances are you too have been to that distant land. You have your own tales to tell of its riches and wonder. Please, share your stories and then go forth and prosper.


ruralaspirations said...

Lovely post. I'm a new visitor to this land, and having come here I feel like I'm coming home. The good news does seem to be spreading, doesn't it?

Joyce said...

I welcome you all to my native land.

Sue in the Western Great Basin said...

Good thing I'm a cat-lover, as my acronym makes a distinctively feline sound: MARWNN... that's Middle Aged (or almost) and Relatively Wealthy (on a global scale at least) but definitely NOT NORMAL! Funny how there's no word in the acronym that actually signifies the "living below one's means" part. Maybe we should be called VoLFs -- Voluntarily living with a Lower Footprint... :)

Wendy said...

Lovely post! I feel like not a traveler, but rather someone who has (finally) come home after years of wandering aimlessly and looking for ... something. I don't know what. And I finally found it right under my nose, right where I was. So, I planted some roots (both literally and figuratively), and now, I'm here to stay.

I don't know if I'd call myself a YAWN, because while I feel young, I guess 40 isn't so much, and I'm not wealthy, but we make a good living, and I've tried to convince myself that I'm just an "average, normal" person, but more and more I realize, not so much ;).

Green Bean said...

RI: I do think it's spreading and not in the contagious, I don't want that way. :)

Joyce: I have always thought of you as a native, truth be told.

Sue: Hmm, MARWNN that applies to me too. VoLFs isn't bad either. I see a future for you in acronyms.

Wendy: I know what you mean. I find myself here and wonder what I was looking for all those years. And, btw, the article classifies young and this generation as 20s, 30s, 40s so thank God, I can fit in that!

Jennifer said...

Not wealthy in money here (say the school teacher and the musician), but we have lots of wealth in other ways... I suppose that counts. And we want for nothing. Definitely not normal... :)

I can't wait to have children to bring them along the path I have discovered... (though that is several years away)

spelled with a K said...

Call it coincidence if you will but I prefer synchronicity. Around the same time I was posting on the same article and asking the same thing.

We are no longer the odd ones out. After a false start decades ago, the idea of living closer to the pulse of the earth may yet catch on. A perfect storm of catastrophe is brewing with oil, global warming, overpopulation. The answer was waiting for millenia. We will remember now, because we have no other choice. e can continue to be paralyzed by our anxieties (as I was) or we can begin to be the change (as I, and I suspect the rest of you) are becoming.

For the first time in a long time, I don't feel pessimistic. Literally and figuratively, the sun is shining today.

Theresa said...

Good things are happening. I'm becoming less afraid of doing things differently than I'm used to, as I realize that it is those very things that are the aberration, not the norm. The view from here is spectacular, once I got the courage to open my eyes.

arduous said...

I had never heard of yawns! That's pretty cool, but um, couldn't they have picked something more fun than ... YAWN. I'm not a yawn, am I??

How about HEP- Hip Eco Person?

I like that one better.

Green Bean said...

Jennifer: You are one of the richest people I don't actually know. :)

Spelled with a K: I am with you (obviously, as we're writing about the same thing on the same day!). It is finally happening. People are starting to wake up and a movement is beginning. It is beyond exciting.

Theresa: It is a beautiful view! So much for the appelation, eco-freak!

Arduous: Yawwwnn. Actually, I'm just glad they are calling us something but your contest for a neater nickname is inspired. Who wants to join a movement headed by a group of YAWNS!

Beany said...

Free association alert!

This past weekend I bought alot of produce at the farmers' market. After I got home I googled one of the farmers and spent several hours reading anything I could find about him. One of the reason I was especially interested in him was because he grows several hundred varieties of heirloom vegetables on 5 acres and his farm appears to be a one man operation. I then found out that he was as old as me: 27.

That made me pause.

Learning that someone my age was now growing the food I am eating really sunk in the fact that my generation is now actually out there doing things. That quite a few of us do care and are doing something about it. Not all of us are busy spending hours on myspace with our iphones and drowning in debt.

When I think of people my age I imagine them through the years...when I was 5, they were 5 doing the same things I did. When I was 15, they were 15 thinking and worrying about similar things. This sounds corny....but I feel like I have arrived! I feel inspired and positive that actions I am doing is making some sort of difference somewhere.

Usually I try to buy something (except ready made foods) from all the stands at the farmers' market. Yesterday I I bought $19.50 worth of produce from this 27 year old farmer and I felt like in a way he had worked much more harder than me for that amount. Its roughly the amount I make in an hour just sitting down looking at my computer screen. He had woken up before dawn and picked the veggies in the dark and then driven down to the city so I could taste fresh produce for $19.50 that he spent several hours doing. It seemed a bit unfair.

I don't know where I am going with this comment...its already gotten long. But really....I would like to die in a world where farmers are make more money/hour than a paper shuffler like myself.


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