July 14, 2011
i’m forcing myself to write something, because more than a week of staring at a blank page is scaring me; writing is, to be dramatic and pretentious for a bit, what i do. not like childless writers do it, with hours and hours to devote to it and still hours left over to devote to their day jobs (if any) and then still hours to devote to their social (or non-social) drinking and their TV or Charles Dickens or Isabel Allende habits and maybe even a few hours for sleep… no, writing is yet another thing i do like a mother, and if i stay up late nine nights in a row and try to write and come away empty handed and empty minded, and have to get up in the morning and do the dishes i neglected, preferring to trust that i would write something if i sat long enough, i feel lost.
who am i when i have nothing i can manage to say? surely i am still a mother, but i want to be a mother to my children and a mother to the stories that are on the tips of my tongue and my fingers… my novel languishes, my ‘zine is a receding memory, and this blog is another page i break away from at 3 AM, leaving it unchanged.
my littlest has turned five, and he wants very much to have friends the way his now nine year old brother has friends: friends whose house we visit every other week or so, and who come here, too. i know he will find these friends; he is so sweet, polite, and kind in introducing himself to kids at the park, and in the fall our homeschooling co-op will start again and he will be old enough for a great many more classes and clubs than last year, and perhaps, too, there will be more kids his age now that he is “school age” and more parents of his peers are likely realizing they want to homeschool.
my oldest has become interested in basketball, and we’ve been watching videos of basketball games i watched as a child. i’m from chicago, so various championship games from the 90’s featuring Michael Jordan, John Paxson, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, and BJ Armstrong, but i’m also a fierce lady so we’ve also been watching WNBA games from the first two seasons, which I used to watch as a baby dyke whenever they were on TV. he and i have also been playing basketball… mostly he wins and i’m actually trying reasonably hard. I’m not a jock and I never was into sports (i think it would’ve been hard to ignore the Chicago Bulls in the 90s living in Chicago as a kid, even as a totally flaming queer trans girl), but i am very supportive, of course, of my kids exploring every bit of this life they find themselves in, so i’m excited for him to be trying out something new! i want to find him some other pals to play with, or for us to play with together.
my girlfriend and i and our five kids, as well as her kids’ dad, went to the Rainbow Gathering in rural Washington. I am not very into hippie culture for a host of reason, but i found myself surprisingly won over during our day there (although i am still not very into hippie culture;), and i think it was a really good experience for the kids. the idea is that a temporary intentional community of family is formed in a wilderness, and a week (or more) is spent sharing food and brotherly/sisterly love. there’s a Kid’s Village camp which was pretty exciting… so many charming feral and semi-feral kids (i mean that in the best sense) running around! all of our kids brought their own trading cloths and lots of stuff to lay out on them to trade at the Trading Circle, thanks to lots of help from my girlfriend. there were some good trades made, as well as some seemingly poor/regrettable trades, but that, too, is something from which to learn. the kids were all impressed that, when a fire broke out at one of the kitchens, relative calm was maintained and a bucket brigade started, averting what could have been a really big disaster.
my house is a little bit disordered but i am focusing on having great times with my family and friends and figuring i’ll catch up this weekend. i’d rather have a somewhat disordered house than be unavailable for our summertime adventures and our needed snuggly downtime post-adventure!
i am now going to see if forcing around 800 words of blog post out has freed up my writing flow for my novel.
hopefully next time i will have a post for you that reads a little more coherently and effortlessly. 😉
June 1, 2011
some things can only be said with paper + gluesticks, things that start with heavy hearts and cold hands and hopefully end with light hearts and sweaty palms, mine pressed against yours… there is safety in numbers, in person and through the postal service.
there was a time when i could scam copies from a thousand places and mail my zine for one stamp and lose so little money on it that i called it sustainable. back then you did a zine, too, and when i got it in the mail i squealed with excitement and my children, helping me get the mail at the end of our long, dusty, rural driveway, knew that mailboxes were magic, that they contained connection even when we were so far from anyone, and half the time you sent something for them: shells from the beach near your house, a little comic, a letter about playing the drums without “learning how” first in a punk band my son loved when i told you he wanted to play the drums, too, coins from around the world: there was plenty of wonder for all of us.
you taught me i could draw even though i “couldn’t.” i meant to tell you that, meant to write you a letter and send my zine, but i was always a little bashful about it, wondering if, with a zine-turned-book as popular as yours, you would still squeal with excitement out there in Ohio… that was silly, but everyone gets to be silly sometimes. maybe i’ll send you that letter now.
i read about the death of your grandfather and cried with you. you spent a whole issue bowling back home in Chicago and i wanted to visit and go bowling and listen to polka.
this moment in time is so hard, and in some ways the least of that is that we can’t afford to copy our ‘zines: we struggle for food, to make rent, to find a place to rent, to keep the water and electricity on in any given month, to keep our heads not just above water but held up with pride… but your solidarity and companionship helped with that last.
and i wonder if you walk out to your mailbox sometimes and wonder what magic it will bring, and if, like me, too many days have gone by with it empty. i would mail you this love letter if i had your address. can we pretend that i did? and, since i don’t really know how to work a scanner, let’s pretend that next there’s a little drawing of my kids and me with a bow in my hair and we are riding our bikes to the post office to mail you cookies. mwah! ❤ ❤ ❤
May 20, 2011
John Michael Greer has written an excellent post, The Tyranny of the Temporary, over at his blog, the Archdruid Report, on a topic i’ve struggled with a lot myself, in terms of decisions i make around parenting and decisions about where to live, especially, as well as everything from how the kids and i travel to where we get out food.
my initial response to reading his post was to question why i even bother blogging about things other than cute-things-my-children-have-said, since there are so many very talented, intelligent bloggers writing smart posts about a lot of the “serious” topics about which i spend my time thinking, but then i remembered how easy it is to write a post about cute-things-my-children-have-said-which-relate-to-the-topic-of-the-collapse-of-civilization and decided to write something anyway. 😉
as i’ve hashed out repeatedly on this blog, i have, through a complicated calculus involving balancing of long term risks and short term economic strengths (i.e.-not needing to use a car) and a little bit of hopefulness (i have decided to believe our civilization has some chance to collapse slowly enough that some sort of life may be possible for us in the city for the next 10 years or more, and that the odds of that chance coming to fruition are greatly increased by people like me staying put in the city and trying to live as “sustainably” as we can here rather than spreading out into the countryside (i make an exception for those with both a calling to and skills for farming)), decided that the kids and i belong in the city. but i do sometimes think about what of our city life is temporary and on what time scale it is liable to fritz out on us.
i have made a bet, in effect, that the ability of people like me to afford to live a car-focused life will be among the earliest parts of our civilization to go, both due to costs associated with car maintenance and fuel in a severely downturned economy that, as events along the Mississippi River (flooding) and in Japan (tsunami, nuclear catastrophe, and limited electrical capacity) and in the midwest (tornadoes) hint, seems unlikely to arrest its decline and due to what i hope will be political pressure to limit all sorts of fossil fuel use due to the fact that intense climate change is already rearing its head in the form of melting sea ice, collapsing ice sheets, and generally chaotic weather, decades earlier than previously anticipated by most, and we need to actually reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere now, not participate in or tolerate increasing it. i would be happiest to see this happen in the form of rationing (i believe it is the fairest way to limit overall usage), but a gas tax seems more likely (of course, neither seems at all likely at the moment).
in a situation where i can’t afford, either economically or morally, to drive a car, living in the city makes sense. and in a situation where most people can’t afford, either economically or morally, to drive cars, living in a city sounds great. i’d be seeing you all on the streets, walking/rolling/jumping in the rain and having fun. except that it really depends what else has such a brief half-life, and if everyone suddenly couldn’t afford to use their cars, a lot more might be temporary than would be safe/healthy… the city doesn’t sound as great if large-scale sanitation services are short-term temporary and not everyone figures out about composting toilets or can manage to install them (streets as open sewers are as dangerous as they are yucky, yes?). it doesn’t sound so wonderful if the grid is short- or medium-term temporary (i.e.-institutional uses like treating/pumping water, hospitals, refrigerating perishable food in stores); although it still sounds preferable to me if personal, household level electricity for the non-rich is short-term temporary.
also, historically, during recessions, depressions, and even famines, being in cities and towns in times of moderately strong government has been, excuse me as an anarchist for saying so, a positive thing in terms of accessing what services are available from said government… bread lines happen in cities and towns, not on your own personal slice of isolated rural heaven. if you, like me, do a lot of prepping (i.e.-storing food, having medical supplies and some level of knowhow, having a way to purify water, having a way to cook), you may feel you won’t need access to the bread lines or medical services a city or town will offer in these kinds of situations, but subsistence rural living leaves you very vulnerable to the ever-more-frequent crop failures due to bizarre weather (or just normal inclement weather), not to mention sickness or injury. although, not, of course, very vulnerable (if you are truly isolated) to the classic survivalist scenario of urban looting, although this is not something that has shown up historically in times of disaster (of course, you may make the argument that we are living in unique times and i will feel somewhat obliged to agree, as i think our current civilization is especially vulnerable around issues of long-term food and water disruptions… most people aren’t even prepared for three days without someone else providing these things to them, although, again, looting hasn’t shown up as a big issue even in areas where people have been without supplies for several days (after Katrina, for example)).
beyond these community size issues, i wonder about the proper way to raise my children during these times. there are some things that i feel a moral imperative about, like limiting our car usage and buying local food, that i also think are good for children and their communities anyway, and i would do them even if i didn’t think climate change and resource depletion were pushing our culture(s) towards the edge of a cliff. i do not discuss them with my kids in those terms, because i believe kids need to feel a greater measure of safety than a blunt description of our dilemma allows. i choose to focus on the positive aspects, like that all the walking we do leads us into adventures and interactions with people and helps maintain the health and develop the strength of our bodies. when we do discuss climate change or urban sprawl or other problems, i try to focus on the people who are battling these problems, either strictly in their personal lives or in a more overtly political sense. the kids make comparisons between these people and Harry Potter, among other heroic epic fantasy heroes. they want very much to grow into people doing right by the rest of their world. i worry a bit about the moment when the wool is pulled from their eyes, either by age (and independent inquiry into these issues or, as age appropriate, family discussions that delve deeper) or by circumstance. i can’t know for sure that the knocking of disaster on the doors of our communities won’t get too loud to keep from them. i worry that they will misunderstand my motivations for sheltering them in this way (or perhaps see them all too clearly?) if they come to believe, as i do, that industrial civilization is killing the planet as i focus inward on my family and our personal impacts and our future security… i worry about them asking me what i was doing when all of this was going on… just having us walk places and buy local food? visualizing world peace?
which character was i in this version of star wars? :
i don’t have a good answer for this one if they should ever ask it, and i’m not likely to have one.
i am fairly happy where we are, and feel confident that, for most short and medium term emergencies (so… not Yellowstone going kaboom) that could arise here in Portland, my kids and i are relatively safe. it is when i think about the ways the routine can change over time that i get more concerned. i don’t know what Portland will be like five years from now, what things will have already proven themselves temporary and how many people will have clung to them until the last possible second and then been left scrambling for stop gap solutions. i hope it’s a peaceful, walkable place filled with gardens and the laughter, playfulness, and hard work of all ages of folks who have the time and inclination to enjoy and benefit from each other’s company. i hope my kids and i are here, too, sharing all that with our friends and neighbors.
the one thing i don’t want to be temporary is a living planet for my kids to grow into adults on and on which they can raise children of their own, who know and feel that our planet is alive, alive with them and all sorts of other creatures.
(are you looking for the cute things my kids said? umm… i tricked you. i mean… it was a joke? not laughing? okay… just a few days ago my little one looked out at the grey, cloudy western Oregon sky and said, “mama, why do people paint the sky blue when it’s never really blue?” now if that isn’t cute, i don’t know what is! what? you want it to relate to the collapse of civilization?! and be cute? sorry!)
April 11, 2011
i can’t sleep! i know i should blame my computer (or, rather, my own tendency to take it to bed with me… darn you, laptop! if you weren’t so energy efficient, i’d have a desktop!), but lately i’ve been feeling more positively about the time i spend on the Internet (i make sure that no more than half my post-bedtime-for-the-kids reading is online, though; there’s so much good information out there, and reading the blogs of other families with similar interests is incredibly inspiring/comforting to me.
tonight i’m awake and i followed a link that led me to the blog of some old acquaintances who happen to live on a boat. they’ve dreamed about traveling the world with their kids for a long time and i’m really excited for them that they are doing it! reading their posts about their family adventure, and following the links to other traveling families (in RVs or on bikes or however;) has me feeling decidedly provincial. i’ve lived in Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and here in Portland. i’ve travelled to a small handful of other places, mostly near Chicago or near Portland.
usually this is fine with me; i value roots, a local life, long-term commitments (at least in theory… we’ve been here 2.5 years and haven’t really lived in another city for much longer before); i want my kids to have a sense of Home.
…i feel a sense of wanderlust, as i often seem to in the spring, and as i have more often since becoming a single mama…
there’s been talk of a summertime trip to Colorado with my girlfriend and her kids, and i’ve been hoping to visit San Diego when my mother does sometime also in the summer… part of me wishes, though, for the freedom to keep going, to see more places, make new acquaintances, visit old friends, feel unlimited (oh, no, i’m infected with classic American lack-of-connection-and-committment-phobia-romanticization!)…
maybe this is also a late night brain fever, brought on by those self-same roots i asked for here in Portland, OR, the weight of which, when combined with gravity and inertia and beloved friends, family, and my kids’ other parent all living here has me feeling a little cleithrophobic (that’s irrationally afraid of being locked in an enclosed space, for those keeping score at home).
i need to breathe. i need to breathe and sleep and dream. i must remember that tomorrow there will be plenty of adventure within the few miles around our house in which we are planning to wander. breathe.