Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Gang's All Here

I'll admit that there are a number of things that I am not fond of about where I live. Viewing wildlife, however, is not one of them. We do live with a very beautiful pond just out our back door and look who was just hanging out yesterday: an ibis (smaller white bird on left), a great egret (tall, white bird in the middle), a roseate spoonbill (on the right), two moorhens (the small, black birds), and one fish crow (the small, black bird just in front of the spoonbill - you can see its tail). When I took this photo I thought, "The gang's all here!"

The pond and its creatures (even the alligators that slide through every now and then) have soothed my soul an uncountable number of times when I have been sorely homesick or simply discontent with... things.

One of the things that bothers me about where I live is that, being in a suburb, everything is - and continues to be - built around a model that serves automobiles rather than people. On Sara's blog, she recently posted about walking and how close she lives to a great number of places within walking distance of her home. If we ever move again, I do think that is going to be a priority for me - especially since our planet continues to heat up.

I have been thinking about further ways that my family can lower our carbon emmissions and I have been thinking about setting a resonable goal for myself cutting back the days we drive places. After Easter, as many of you know from my previous blog, I will not be attending church any more for the time being. My faith is rock-solid as ever, but for various reasons, attending the institutionalized church has left me feeling sad and lonely... and I don't believe those are the desired outcomes!

Anyway, I will not be needing to make that 15 minute drive twice a week. I have also recently found out that 4 1/2 miles from where I live, a new farmer's market has started. I am very excited to think that this may be a source for me to shop locally and I plan to ride my bike. I've also begun thinking about making smaller grocery runs on my bike to the nearby grocery store. I do this from time to time anyway, but only if I need a few things. I am wondering if I can plan a weeks' worth of meals and get only those things I need. The girls can ride with me and we'll all get some good exercise. We'll be taking our cloth bags, of course! Have you started shopping with these yet? It's SO easy! Just throw a bunch into your car or trunk and you're always ready!

My mom bought me a Sam's Club membership last year and I'm going to let it drop instead of renewing in May. Nuts were the best deal around there, but ugh... 1) it's SO big and impersonal and just a chore to go 2) while I may "save" money, the actual cost of the food is higher, in my mind, when I consider the low wages paid to farm workers in other countries, as well as the shipping and fuel costs to get the product here

You know, my neighborhood used to be the very end of development east of the Gulf here in Bradenton. Our house was built in 1986. Now, of course, there is development way beyond ours and big box stores and chains are springing up left and right. The saddest thing to me about this, is not only that small businesses have a terrible time competing, but there are no small businesses of some sorts out here at all. For example, if I would like to shop at a local, small hardware store, there simply are none. There is only Home Depot and Lowe's to choose from. I cannot think of any place to purchase art or craft supplies around here. The nearest place for that would be Wal-Mart (a 10 minute drive) and the next place would be Michael's (a 20 minute drive). I think they have an art store somewhere in Sarasota, which would be more like a 40 minute drive. Or should I just skip the brick-and-mortar store altogether and just order online from my Dick Blick catalog. How do I shop locally when the big-box stores have already succeeded in doing the thing that the small-business owners have tried shouting about for so many years? I am doing what I can, I suppose. I wonder - I really wonder what it would mean for me to stay away from Wal-Mart... and even, gulp, Target for a year? I think that would pose itself as a huge challenge given where I live... but I'm thinking about that too.

Are you trying to live more sustainably? Have you asked yourself what that might mean for you and your family? Have you already made changes? Do you feel challenged at all by the events happening in the world to alter some of your habits? Would you rather be seen as a citizen as opposed to a consumer? Do you ever think about what might happen if China and/or India achieved our level of consumption status? Ar you happy with the stuff you have? How do you define success or your level of happiness? Do you feel you have to surpass your parents' level of financial or material accumulation - or your friends' - to feel happy?... at peace... content?

These are things I think about a lot. And the new choices and changes I make never fail to leave me feeling more whole and better about myself and my place on the planet. Because the gang really is all here: the egrets and spoonbills, the Chinese and Indians, the polar bears and butterflies. And we all need to share this space. There is no other home for us. Can we share gently with one another, like we teach our children or are we going to behave like a big bully among the nations? I hope and pray for our childrens' sakes that we all learn how to behave with more maturity and responsibility with a concern and compassion for them and the future.
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