Taking stock of our resources

by N.  Logsdon Mandelkorn

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the first stop on my way out of town for a long weekend. But when I went outside to get my car, I discovered that it had been towed.  What better incident to ignite panic, frustration and rage could there be?

First, I’d have to pay a cab to drive me to the lot. Once there, I would have to scrape $110 out of my account to reclaim my vehicle.  Also in the mix was the realization that my optimal hour of departure to avoid traffic hell was fast slipping away and the day promised to be a scorcher.

I admit to feeling a moment of find-somebody-to-blame rage. But when I considered my plans for the lovely weekend which was unfolding at that very moment, I chose to channel gratitude.  Why pour my energy into futile rage and frustration? The cab driver remarked that I was the only person he’d ever driven to pick up a towed car who was laughing and happy.

“They can tow my car and pick my pocket, but I refuse to let them take my peace of mind,” I told him.  After all, this day was the beginning of a few precious days with friends and family.  I wasn’t going to let a predatory towing policy ruin it.

Having the presence of mind to choose how we respond to stressful situations is a skill well worth cultivating. When we think about energy conservation, it makes sense to include our personal  energy.  Anyway, after a few deep breaths, choosing equanimity worked for me.

My rocky start didn’t dampen the weekend. Over the next few days, I went from one wonderful reunion with friends and family to the next. It was a movable feast of love filled with friends saying, “Remember when…” as we laughed and reminisced.

Seeing old friends isn’t the only thing that has brought community into sharper focus for me. I also listened to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “Year of the Flood” on my eight-hour drive. The story is told from the points of view of two women who are members of God’s Gardeners, a community of people who subsist outside the corporate economic system and, through an oral tradition, blend science, religion and nature into their guiding philosophy.

Of course it’s only a story, but the community of Gardeners that Atwood envisioned working together to care for the Earth was a glimpse of a possible future for the human race.  Through her characters, Atwood suggests that if we are adept at working with Nature and with each other, we’ll have a stronger chance of  surviving a major catastrophe.

I like the admonition to “grow food,  not lawns” that is popping up everywhere. As resources become scarce, we need our communities now more than ever.  Our ability to make different choices about how we live and what we consume is key to our survival, personally and as a species. Following the basic permaculture concepts is fundamental for our survival.

On the Permaculture Institute’s website,  permaculture is defined as “an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.”

Many urban dwellers are beginning to plant gardens, raise chickens, catch rain water and patronize Farmer’s Markets. The desire to  “get off the grid” is growing. Instead of sitting in front of the TV watching a reality survival show, we should be experiencing the reality of filling a compost bin and planting potatoes.

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