Digital Sabbath

Yesterday, Thursday, was “Digital Sabbath” in our home. Recognizing how much we were on our computers every day, we wanted to experiment with “unplugging” for a day a week. To avoid temptations, we just don’t turn on the modem in the morning. We’ve already had a morning routine of eating breakfast together and reading poetry aloud, hoping to start our day more grounded in the spirit. So, this was a next step on that journey.

Those first few Thursdays I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. There were so many times during the day that either Louis or I, being curious people, wanted to know the derivation of a word, or some geographic piece of knowledge, or something as mundane as who starred in a particular movie. It was strange not to have that information at our fingertips. And if we thought it was important, we knew we had to write down our question, because we’d sure as heck forget we asked the darn question.

Another phenomenon was that it seemed something important that I expected was emailed on a Thursday. This happened several times. But I did survive not receiving the information until Friday.

We both noticed that we had so much more time for reading, taking a walk, or just generally relaxing. Some Thursdays when the weather kept me indoors, I’ve read a whole book, if it was a novel! As the last three months have passed, I’ve looked forward to Thursdays. I set my “vacation responder” on my email so people don’t get all uptight because I don’t reply right away.

Our rules are: no email and no internet. We do speak on the phone and I do reply to texts with a text. Maybe our rules will change. But we’re taking this Thursday by Thursday. We recognize that we are on a spiritual search for a way to live more simply and more grounded. Maybe we’ll add another day each week. It’s an experiment in living. I encourage you to try it.

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Easter morning

As I sit reading and listening to Chopin this morning, I’m so aware of the changes in the earth cycle. The sun now rises farther south than it had at winter solstice. We have a clear view of the Green Mountains to our east and so can follow the track of the sun throughout the year. That sun is shining on my face, the temperature outside being only 37 degrees fahrenheit yet my face is warm from the sun and the coziness in my home.

The onions, planted as seeds only weeks ago, are straining for that sun, their stalks bending to the southern windows in the sunroom. I turn them around each day to help them grow tall and strong. I cut their tops as though they were grass, which strengthens them even more. Soon we’ll have the grow lights all set and will begin to plant the remaining seeds.

It’s such a time of growth and rebirth! I revel in the beauty of the earth and its rhythms. Yet a part of me holds the sadness of the suffering that abounds. The fear and sadness from the destruction in Syria and Belgium in this last week are very much on my mind. The planned fracked-gas pipeline planted in the ground not far from where I live is a constant reminder that we continue to make decisions with a short-term view. It’s what has gotten us in trouble all along. And Bill McKibben’s recent article in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/article/global-warming-terrifying-new-chemistry/) confirms that fracking is bringing about even more destruction than earlier thought possible.

Yet our very human nature allows us to find joy in what is immediately around us, our grandchildren, our loving partners, our friends and neighbors, and Earth’s great green beauty. And I continue to have hope that we can turn the tide. The Transition Movement provides proof that there are so many people around the world who really care and are willing to give their time and love to make a difference.

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Back connecting to everyone

I’ve been busy this last year or so writing a book. It’s now with the publisher and will be available by June 2016. Many of you are in my book. So many voices from the many places I visited in 2011 and after are included. The title is “Rising to the Challenge: The Transition Movement and People of Faith.”

I am so committed to the process that is offered through the Transition Movement. I have seen how communities, neighborhoods, streets, and more have been strengthened by creating a Transition Initiative where everyone is invited to participate. I’ve learned of the tremendous efforts to make Transition more inclusive. I’m inspired by the creativity and hope shared by so many people who are involved.

So I will now continue to share what I learn and share the experiences of my own Transition Initiative. I’m hoping to write about once a week and welcome your comments.

In the volatile climate of the political primary season here in the U.S.A., we are needing even more the connection with our neighbors to allow for time to eat together, laugh, and share our visions for a better world. In the volatile climate of the surge in refugees entering the E.U. we need the same connections and to find ways to be welcoming (and we need to do that in the U.S.A.).

Mitigating and adapting to climate change and the ensuing climate disruption has to be a priority. And we in the Transition Movement know the power and solution of local efforts. And we must be working to promote climate justice. We who have the luck to be well fed and properly housed need to look at our own complicity in our daily choices that give rise to climate change and the injustices to the poor as a result. Transition offers a positive approach to all of us to make a difference without resorting to despair.

I want to hear your stories. How has Transition made a difference in your lives?

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Preparing for winter

Ah, the temperature is dropping, there’s a fire in the wood stove, the leaves have almost all fallen, and when the sun shines it’s bright and sparkly. I love this time of year. I’m full of anticipation of a winter of writing and quilt-making. This quilt will be done by May of 2016 for a granddaughter’s college graduation. Two have already received theirs. It’s a labor of love which I do all by hand.

An exciting development in my life is the book I’m co-authoring with Steve Chase of Transition Putney, Vermont. It’s title is Building Beloved Communities in an Unsustainable World: A Transition Town Primer for People of Faith. We hope it will be completed and in circulation by summer 2015. It will be published by Quaker Institute for the Future (QIF), but will have a multi-faith focus. I’ll keep you posted.

Now to throwing a few logs on the fire, and back to writing.


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Transition Town Charlotte, Vermont, USA

Our Transition Town had a fun dinner, making plans for the coming year. We are involved in two edible gardens, one at the local library and one at the Congregational Church in town. We oversee the collection of electronic waste once a year. We have an email list which includes more that 200 people (we live in a small town). We have a directory of people’s skills to share. We work with the town Energy Committee which is attempting to get the town buildings retrofitted to net-zero-energy buildings. We have composting at our local school and gardens there too. And we have hosted a number of movie nights and speakers over the last couple of years.

One effort that I’m involved in is to create a community pub/meeting place. Our town doesn’t have such a place and we think such a place would help foster community.

So, we’re busy and we’re having fun while we work.

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Back writing again

It has been some time since I’ve written, but I’ll be back regularly. You’ll see from below that we’ve had some chaos in our lives.

One might not call our lives “quiet” by outward standards, but throughout our married life we have had many hours of evening quiet—reading, playing word games, or watching a movie. Louis and I met in June, 1994 at a Quaker Earthcare Witness[1] (QEW) meeting in Massachusetts. It was my first time attending a QEW Steering Committee meeting, though Louis had been attending since 1989 and was a member of the Steering Committee.

 

It wasn’t love at first sight, but I had been reading Louis’s articles in the BeFriending Creation newsletter (BFC) and admired his writing skills and insights. I enjoyed meeting Louis and we do remember doing cleanup and washing dishes together one evening. I was very taken with his chromatic harmonica playing. It was filled with tenderness and was really quite wonderful. But other than a few interactions over meals we didn’t have much opportunity to get to know one another.

 

My time at the meeting was a bit frenetic. After registering to attend, and prior to the meeting, I had submitted my application to be the sole employee of QEW. So, while at the meeting the search committee decided to interview me since I might get on the short list of applicants. It was a joyous and fun interview over breakfast, everyone dressed in shorts and by the next meeting in October I was announced as the new General Secretary and Business Manager.

 

Over the coming months I had many opportunities to interact with Louis about publications matters via internet and at a March Steering Committee meeting, where we went grocery shopping for supplies for the meeting, so that by the time June rolled around in 1995, we felt we knew each other quite well. In short, one starry night we took a walk and our lives were changed forever. Since Louis lived in Missouri and I in Vermont it took six months to untangle relationships and possessions and by December 1995 we were living together in the woods of Vermont in an off-grid, home-built house.

 

Since my three children were already adults and Louis had chosen not to have children (due mainly to the issue of over-population of humans on Earth), it was just the two of us unless the children and grandchildren descended on us for a visit. So you can picture the kind of life we developed in our cozy nest, finding out what we jointly liked to do and finding the rhythm to our joint life.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that we lived quiet lives. We were, and still are, both actively involved in the life of Burlington Friends Meeting (Quaker). We also are involved in the life of our community. We care about the fate of the earth and want very much to help create a healthy and sane world, so working on environmental issues in Charlotte, our town, seemed a natural match. Since I worked for QEW and Louis eventually became the QEW Publications Coordinator, we were active on a national (and sometimes international) campaign to help people deepen their relationship with Earth and lower their ecological and carbon footprints. This took us to many parts of North America, Central America, Cuba, and England.

 

Our personal work evolved into a real strong focus on where we lived, helping spawn the “localvore” movement (eating and focusing on local foods), and, several years ago, co-founding Transition Town Charlotte.[2] We’ve also been very involved in our local Quaker Meeting, serving in a variety of capacities and on many different committees. We’ve been a terrific team, with complementing skills and with lots of mutual appreciation.

Image

 This photo is what our home looked like before our lives radically changed.

Over our years together we’ve increased our vegetable gardens to include many fruits as well and have grown enough to “put up” for the winter plenty of food to keep the sun in our lives through the dark days of winter. And during those dark winter months a typical evening would find us sharing our time by Louis reading aloud to me while I worked on a quilt.

 

So, why would we have been open to be approached by our son and daughter-in-law, Rich and Jenny, with the idea to move in with us with two of their school-age children? And why would they want to move from sunny Southern California to the winters of Vermont? Read on to learn of our reasons, goals, and experiences as we joined lives. And also read, in their own words, what each family member’s hopes, vision, and experience has been.

 

(This  was written in the midst of our home construction site with no one having a completed space of their own and with a new dog on the scene who wasn’t cat-friendly, (and a cat who didn’t understand why the dog was so aggressive) so chaos had descended on the little Toad Road homestead.)

 

 


[1] When QEW was founded it was called Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN) and although it’s name wasn’t changed until 2004 it’s easier for me to just use the current name throughout this book.

 

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Review of The Transition Companion

The Transition Companion—Making Your Community More Resilient in Uncertain Times. Rob Hopkins, 2011, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont
What if the best responses to peak oil and climate change don’t come from government, but from you and me and the people around us?—Rob Hopkins
MAYBE YOU’VE already read Rob Hopkins’s first book, The Transition Handbook. Maybe you’re involved in a Transition initiative in your community. Or maybe you’re just curious and just want to learn more about the fast-growing international Transition movement. In any case, you’ll be in for a great treat reading his new book, The Transition Companion.
The original book was published about five years ago, when the movement was very new, as a beginner’s guide to starting, encouraging, and participating in a Transition Initiative. Key elements of Transition work were described in terms of re-skilling for resilience (e.g., canning, tool care, home health care), nurturing local communities, and supporting local economies.
While the original handbook analyzed the successes of just a few pioneering Transition initiatives, the new book is able to share hundreds of examples out of the thousands of Transition initiatives world-wide, ranging from diverse towns and cities to islands, universities, and even neighborhoods.
Since Part Three (the final part) of The Transition Companion” has a “starting out” section titled, “How the Transition movement does what it does—ingredients for success,” you could just read the new book and learn most of what was included in the first book. The remaining sections in Part Three are “Deepening,” “Connecting,” “Building,” and “Daring to Dream.”
Part Two, “Why Transition Initiatives Do What They Do,” begins with this important observation about diversity within the Transition movement:
“People get involved in their local Transition initiatives for a range of reasons. Although when Transition started it was framed very much as a response to peak oil and climate change, as time has passed and the idea has taken root in more and more places, it has been fascinating to see the wide range of reasons why people get involved.”
It moves on to the varied, delightful reasons that people get involved in Transition, including, “because it feels way more fun than not doing it” and “because of wanting a fairer world.” Along with all the descriptions of great tools and strategies used by various Transition initiatives are wonderful color photos of real people making a difference where they live.
Hopkins doesn’t guarantee what the outcome will be. In fact the movement’s publications always include this “cheerful disclaimer:”
“Transition is not a known quantity. We truly don’t know whether Transition will work. It is a social experiment on a massive scale. What we are convinced of is this:
v If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too late.
v If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little.
v But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”
THIS BOOK IS FUN, informative, inspirational, and very helpful for our very necessary transition to a warmer, post-petroleum world. The book helped me better understand the next steps my local Transition initiative needs to take to make us truly relevant to our community. If you want to learn more about Quakers involved in the Transition movement, go to http://www.quakersintransition.wordpress.com

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