02 June 2011

Back to the Earth?

My brother Emeric thinks I'm a hippie.  The other evening, after washing his hands in our kitchen, he asked where the paper towels were.  We don't have any.  Mid-thought, though, he checked himself, and, drying his hands on the kitchen towel I have hanging by the sink, recalled, "Oh yeah.  You're a hippie."

We aren't that weird.  At least I don't think so.  But then, it tricky to gauge one's level of "hippieness" when most of those folks are my parents' age.  The only hippies I've known seem to have missed the boat somewhere and ended up thirty years late in my high school years - they had toothpaste-induced dred locks, wore hemp necklaces and baggy corduroy pants, and played hackey sack, so they looked like hippies, but there seemed to have been some of the philosophy missing.  They seemed disestablishmentarianist, but then, they still came to school.

I recall at the time admiring them for their search for open-mindedness, but unfortunately, much of it went up in smoke with their weed.  So I picked the lesser of two evils and hung out with the stoners and "alternative" kids, even though it mixed me up in that drug culture by name (thankfully, never by deed).  My other choice involved enduring the kids who were looking to impress with clothes and appearance and studying to the test, but spent much of their energy on that, rather than real thought.  Unfortunately, it seemed that all the heart- and brain-power of those teenage years was spent in maintaining some sort of image, rather than delving into the mysteries of life.  So I was sort of stuck in the middle, not having the money to buy into really any image-group, and not having enough of the peers to really explore anything interesting in mind-land.

Boo, consumerism.

Now, living in the city, I buy organic food and wear old ratty jeans, but I don't really think I'm a hippie.  I'm still in between those city-ites who have electronic nail files and those truly granola friends who compost their nail clippings.  In the city, it's easy to get caught up in the tide of ease and convenience - I must admit I've eaten out more in these past few years than in all my previous years combined - the pace of life is much faster and it's tricky, even if you choose a slower pace, to actually maintain regular home rhythms.  For instance, how can you have a vegetable garden if you live in a third-floor walk-up?  There a people who do, through roof-top gardens and potted tomatoes, but then again, most of those people don't have small children and a roof access that involves a potential 40-foot drop.  There is no way I'm taking my kids up on the roof of our rickety building.

Which is why I'm excited about our upcoming move.  The more I live here, the more I appreciate the potentialities of a "country" life.  It's an interesting shift - in high school, I couldn't wait to get out of my little town.  So I moved to the city.  But, just like those friends in high school, so much energy was being spent on one extreme or the other that there was very little balance to be found in either place.  In the "country," there was limited mind, but in the city, there was limited heart.  Where can we find the middle way?

After a life-long education in both the rural and urban environments, I'm looking forward to a brief respite in the country.  I've had my fill of city life and culture, and need a break and a garden.  I think that is where the balance can be struck - through education.  Each environment must appreciate the value of the other.  The city friends must appreciate the work of the farmers whose lifeblood goes into growing the food conveniently bought at the grocery store - that is, they must understand all of the people and steps that it took to bring that head of lettuce from farm to table.  And the country friends must appreciate the value of culture and thought and diversity so vibrantly created in the city - the beauty of art and dance, of a well-formed insight, of a garden rich in world hues, only available where many people of varying backgrounds meet.

Ideally, every apartment will have it's garden plot, and every farm girl will go to college, but that's not for a while yet.  We won't find that out until we've maxed out the amount of people we can fit in a high-rise or the amount of water we can waste in the desert.  Silly us.  We're so enmeshed in trying to perfect our image that we've lost the root of our being - the ability to think and dream and connect to the Divine.  We're like little boats without rudders, and sooner or later we're going to hit a rock and spring a leak.  Some of us already have.  But, fear not - there will be those who are ready, with a life-boat:  vegetable gardens full of tomatoes and houses full of love and thought.  If you want, stop on by, and we can have a good talk - and a good meal.  We won't get back to the earth - we'll realize we're already there.


Be+Longing said...

This is so well-written Liz. And I could so totally relate to just about 95% of it.

Plus, those "alternative" kids just tended to be a really warm bunch.

Anonymous said...

Can you please write and publish a book? The world needs it.
(Yes I'm going through your old blog posts; I started with "Eggs" and couldn't stop working my way backwards.)
I miss you and your beautiful family, Liz! Please keep writing!
-Carmel in China.