What a rush. Wayland’s 2013 Earth Day Weekend, organized by Transition Wayland and the Wayland Green Team (both of which I am an active member), is over. It was a two-day community extravaganza of open houses all over town: people showing their retrofitted or super insulated houses, gardens, solar PV and Hot Water systems, heat pumps, geothermal systems, compost, chickens, bees, rain water catchment and much more.
I ran from one house to the next, trying to go to all of them, which was impossible, of course. But as the organizer I felt (1) that it was only right to shake each host’s hand and wish them good luck and (2) that I should get the maximum of enjoyment out of this event. Last year, when we put up a big fair on the Town Building grounds (400 visitors), all I did was help set up booths, put out fires, and worry that the tents would fly off on us. In any case, I was gone from 9 am till 10:30 pm on Saturday and from 10 am to 6 om on Sunday. But I had a blast and was very heartened.
First of all, we managed to do what Transition is supposed to do and what, having done it, is the right thing: we “gave it away”. Hosts prepared and ran their own events. All we did was come up with the concept and the promotion: a flier, a website, lawn signs. Giving it away was very powerful, both for our initiating group, for the hosts, and for the visitors. Everyone I spoke with loved the formula.
And there were plenty of visitors. At a first guess (we’re still counting), the open houses attracted about 500 visits (not visitors, as it’s impossible to tell who visited which houses). One of the houses, our town’s famous LEED Gold Toaster House, got over 150 (they were open for 12 hours, 9-9). The screening of the documentary Chasing Ice on Friday evening, got over 50 viewers.
Our own open house – the first time we show off Robin Hill Gardens – attracted about 30 people. Amie had a lemonade stand and though the lemons cost $11.50 and she made $4.50 we were all psyched, she most of all, because each cup was, in the end, only a quarter. She was so happy to finally be part of Earth Day after having missed Mama for the whole weekend. DH shared much of the work: I showed the garden, compost, rain water catchment, bees and chickens, he showed the solar PV and Hot Water systems. It was nerve wrecking and fun to do and I felt good about it. Only…
Only, the ultimate goal had been to attract the neighbors. ”If only your five immediate neighbors come, it’s a success!’ is what we had said. Only one set of neighbors came to mine. True, I had a difficult slot, it was the second-last event. But they had seen my sign, got the brochures in their kids’ backpacks, and I had talked to them about it. Even my next door neighbors, who were home and biking around and whom I had invited by personal email, didn’t come. I’m not whining or accusing, just wondering why? Was it timing, messaging? Were there barriers that neighbors felt they couldn’t cross while total strangers could?
Here’s another thought. On Friday we showed Chasing Ice at the High School, and on Saturday one of the hosts, also an active member of Transition Wayland, showed Green Fire, about Aldo Leopold, in her living room. Both movies elicited fantastic conversations. The first (about 30 stayed for the conversation), more intellectual, abstract and contentious (in a good way). The second (7 of us) so much more personal, with childhood stories and emotions gently surfacing. I realized I like the second approach better and am thinking of taking both movies “on the road” in Wayland, showing it in living rooms and talk, talk, talk, get to know each other. For instance, a friend of mine who came to Green Fire was a different person than I usually see (mom of kids who are friends with my kid – those are our usual roles). I loved hearing that intelligent, articulate woman share her amazing experiences so confidently. We need that culture in our town: conversations, not presentations; friendships, not memberships. We must get to know each other, get strong together, before we get to know the facts and start to act.
Lots to think about as we take Transition Wayland to the next stage (giving all of it away), trying to discern and influence the complex fabric of a community. Today I am writing a Letter of Thanks for our local media, watering my garden, and reading Aldo Leopold:
All ethics evolved so far rest upon a single premise:
that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts
The work is always only just begun.