Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Blessed Unrest

Thank you to my new friend who I met last night and shared this wisdom with me, and thank you Martha Graham: (and how did I get this far without ever hearing this before?)

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.... You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

~ Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama

I have a confession to make. I did not knock on any doors or make any phone calls on your behalf. When I received phone calls to volunteer for your campaign I politely declined. Instead I spent the last days of this election harvesting the remainder of this summer's crop on our small family farm, planting my winter garden, and caring for the livestock that promise meat, eggs, and milk for my family. You see, over the last eight years I have become so frustrated, disappointed, and angry with the direction of this country that I saw little reason to spend any more time holding signs, writing letters, and making phone calls.

After 9/11 my husband and I, with the support of our families, decided to move onto his father's 10 acre family farm and build a sustainable home. We were terribly concerned about the grossly unbalanced consumption of resources that occurs here in America, the effect that consumption has on our planet, and the future we were creating for our children. We hatched a plan to build our own energy efficient home of straw bales and earthen plaster, using recycled and reclaimed materials whenever possible. We planned to grow the majority of our own food without the use of harmful chemicals and fertilizers. We resolved to raise our own animals for meat, outdoors with plenty of space, and to slaughter them humanely. We installed solar panels instead of connecting to the electrical grid, choosing instead to be mindful of our energy consumption. We planned carefully to conserve water. We planted trees and berries, reclaimed pastures for sheep and cows, and learned how to grow and preserve our own food. This all took an enormous amount of work and sacrifice, and there were many times we wanted to give up. We didn't give up because we felt strongly that what we were doing was the right thing to do and it was our responsibility as citizens of this planet.

Meanwhile, all around us we saw further destruction of our planet and nation, abuse and pillage of our precious resources, more and bigger houses being built, larger and more consumptive cars on the roads, the illegal war that asked us to sacrifice our most precious resource of all, stolen elections, torture, and a government and a people who seemed unable, unwilling, or too distracted to do anything about it. We saw the price of fossil fuels, building materials, and food skyrocket, and we soon realized that what began as the right thing to do was becoming a matter of great financial importance to our family. We doubled our efforts and worked harder than ever to develop our homestead with a renewed sense of urgency. We became much more selfish with our time, choosing to put everything we had into our mission of sustainability. With any time we could spare we shared what we have learned with others. Rather than volunteer for campaigns, we strengthened our bonds with family, friends, and neighbors. In short, we moved away from politics and towards community building. We were no longer primarily motivated by what was the right thing to do. In fact, by the end of October 2008 we were motivated by sheer survival.

Yesterday we contributed to your campaign in the only way we felt we could spare. We voted. And something started to shift. Through all the disillusionment and cynicism I started to feel something strange welling up inside my chest. Was it, could it be.....hope? I hardly dared to believe it, but there it was. I felt hopeful that maybe we as a nation could change after all. I found myself glued to the television, watching the returns come in and reminding myself that I have been disappointed so many times before. I watched the disgust on our local news anchor's face as he announced a Democratic sweep of our state and marveled at how anyone could want things to stay the same. And when it was finally announced that you would be our next president I was overwhelmed with emotion. Seeing that crowd in Grant Park in my hometown of Chicago just blew me away. You have shown us that politics and community building can be one and the same. If nothing else, your election is evidence that we can change.

So I implore you now--please, please don't waste this opportunity. Unlike your predecessor, you seem to have the ability and the desire to understand the great problems that we face. Please don't let your party fall back into politics as usual. Please learn all you can about peak oil and our economy that is utterly dependent on cheap and abundant oil. Help those of us who are taking steps toward a new, local economy rather than helping big business try to obliterate us through unfair legislation that hurts small businesses and farms and gives breaks to the big ones. Unwind all the red tape that your party likes to entangle us in so that small farmers can sell their products directly to consumers in their neighborhoods. Make it easier for people to build their own homes out of alternative materials without fighting the building and zoning office. Restore the rail system in this country. Help us to rebuild our communities, our mom and pop stores, our local infrastructure, and ask us all to grow tomatoes on our balconies, shop at the farmer's market, or keep a few backyard chickens. Make it not only legal to do so but make that the new patriotism. Be a new kind of Democrat and a new kind of leader. Ask us to help. We are willing. I might even start writing letters to my representatives and knocking on doors again.