Change of plans! This poem will not be our friend’s birthday poem after all.

So it is going out to someone else, with the following ink and water color painting by Pinka Das, from Kolkata, India.

The inkling

Some things just must be said

Some things just say themselves

If only for a mouth

I just need to sit here and watch the fire

And know it

That it works and has worked for all time

That it is showing itself

And I would be an oracle for it

Is that what we are

The ones who can say it poetically

And once we have said it

Are we done here?

Most of my seedy order arrived last week. After a lot of dawdling, I finally tidied up the basement so I can start growing. Two years ago, when I was really on top of the garden, I had already started.

I am also thinking about getting a garden plot at our Community Gardens. I’ll put something less care intensive in it, because it’s quite a drive or bike ride away from my house, but I think it will be good to go there once in a while to chat with the other gardeners in town.

Meanwhile, in this garden, I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened:

We’ve had these composters for four years now, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I guess some critters got really hungry, given the near absence of acorns last Fall. I’m thinking of plugging the hole with something.

Inside, we are enjoying stove warmth and dried apples.

I wrote this poem sitting in the reading room in the  Weston library, where a friend brought me after a brisk walk in the fresh February air. It is to go with an illustration by DH and Amie and will be a birthday present for a dear friend.

The inkling

Some things just must be said

Some things just say themselves

If only for a mouth

I just need to sit here and watch the fire

And know it

That it works and has worked for all time

That it is showing itself

And I would be an oracle for it

Is that what we are

The ones who can say it poetically

And once we have said it

Are we done here?

I’m, uhm, a little behind on my magazine subscriptions. I subscribe to only two: YES! magazine (quarterly) and Orion magazine (6/year), and still I can’t keep up. But today I finally got a chance to pick up the Spring 2011 issue of YES!

And there I read the column by Colin Beavan, aka, No Impact Man, about “accidental activism”. You can read the full version here.  Now, I doubt that Colin’s No Impact Project was as “accidental” as he makes it out to be, but I do recognize and admire his analysis of regular-guy-activism.

So many of us have good ideas for helping the world. But we tuck our ideas away. I did. I’d tell myself that if the idea were any good someone else would have already done it. That I’m not capable of making a difference. I’d sit on my ideas, get on with my “life,” and then feel angry at the world because the problems I cared about didn’t get solved.

I had that fear of going first.

~

The fear of looking foolish (I recommend this video) is bound up tightly with the more fundamental fear of being ineffectual.  For the majority it is an unacknowledged fear, too easily rationalized and covered up (which makes this happen). For “accidental activists” it can become the source of heart-wrenching self-doubt and paralysis.

I see this in myself and in our initiating group. I’m not talking about measures taken individually, like turning down one’s thermostat or not buying bottled water. Though those are activism too, and – speaking for myself – just as important, and though all of the below does apply to it, there are complicating matters that I’ll go into some other time. Here I’m talking about speaking up and speaking out, into the community: activism.

In our group we address these issues of futility in often fiery conversations, and I was saddened to hear that many struggle with it. It can chafe to spend so much time and energy organizing energy efficiency and nature-connecting events while right next door someone’s erecting a McMansion, or when in other parts of the world veritable carbon-bombs are exploding.

There are many factors at play here. I, for one, will not judge the McMansion builder next door, because who knows that house is more energy efficient than mine, and who knows why they are building it that way – there is just not enough information for me to judge. So I see them as a challenge, someone to get to know, to learn from. Still, though I had made up my mind about the judging others issue long ago, I did still struggle with the hopelessness of my making so small a difference, and of so much of that being negated by other people’s actions.

I wrote did…

~

I clearly remember my own turning point in this matter. In October last year several of us went to listen to Wendell Berry speak on civil disobedience in the Cambridge Forum. At one point during the Q&A, Berry said that, had he had success as his goal all these decades of fighting mountain-top removal, he’d have quit. “No,” he said, in his Southern drawl,

You do it out of common decency, because it is only right.

I brought that home with me. It is simple but I just had to hear someone say it. Should we doubt what we do because it doesn’t seem to make a difference globally or even locally? I say no.  I still need to do what is right, even if others are spoiling the broth. I *need* to because my conscience demands it.

Beavan writes:

The question is not whether you can make a difference. The question is, do you want to be the person who tries?

I now see that I’ve written about this before, in 2009. Obviously, realizations, like medicine, lose their efficacy after a while, and one needs to realize it over and over again.

~

This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to or need to make a difference. Like one of our group immediately added:

given how grave the risks are, and how much is at stake — my/our children’s future — I not only need to do these things because they’re “right,” I also feel a moral obligation to win.

Yes, of course, but first, I would argue, we need the strength of our convictions behind us, in our back, shoving us along, muttering “just keep on going,” to sustain us as we fight that good, hard fight.

Berry, who knows this, wrote the poem The Hard Work:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

This is the Riot for the month of January 2012 for the three of us. My summary of the first three years is here. Edson fixed the calculator: all go tither to crunch those numbers!

Gasoline.  Calculated per person. Our bugbear again. DH’s shuttle to work wasn’t running because of the holidays, so he had to drive in. I’ve also been doing a lot of driving around town for events, etc. I’ve been trying not to be too hard on myself, but that hasn’t stopped us from investigating alternatives for at least one of our cars: an electric  or a solar car (the affordable ones are low speed), a hybrid (a bit beyond our price range)… But, in the meantime, for January:

13.51 gallons per person

32.9% of the US National Average

Electricity. This is reckoned per household, not per person. As the sun climbs in the sky, our solar harvest climbs too. According to our solar meter, we produced 1816 kWh since the system was turned on, and 237 kWh in January (compared to 176 kWh in grey December).  (You can follow our solar harvest live here). So in January we consumed:

237 (solar) + 139 (wind) =   379kWh

16.9% of the US National Average

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person. We did badly this month. I am the fire keeper in the household and I’ve not been on top of it, at all. We ran out of firewood stacked on the porch at the beginning of the month, and it was so cold and DH was traveling for work, I didn’t manage to replenish it from our ample wood pile in the back. Keeping the fire also requires attention throughout the day, and I don’t like leaving the house when the stove is going. I’ve been on the road a lot with meetings and events for Transition, so I often fell back on the oil to warm the house. At the end of the month we all fell sick and on top of not having the energy to get the wood, we also upped the thermostat (from 59 to 63F) to feel more comfortable.  Excuses, excuses, but there you have the result:

44.85  gallons of oil

72.8% of the US National Average

Ouch!

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

6 lbs. pp per month

4.4% of the US National Average

Water. This is calculated per person. We used up very little water this month. We took less showers, I think. I couldn’t account for it otherwise. I’ll take it!

246.76 gallons pp.

8.2% of the US National Average