the heart of it

remember the trees

This is not the post I imagined I would write this week, but the truth is, I am overwhelmed. It’s only temporary, I know, but as I try to make a gentle living, tend the still ripening garden and the rest of life, and slowly put together this movement…it’s all swirling. While I wait for it all to settle out a bit, here is a post I wrote for Wisteria & Sunshine almost eight months ago (I called it “small ways, large ways”) when I was trying to get to same message I have today…when you don’t know where to turn, or where to begin-to simply think of the trees-in all that we do-might be the best first step. I’ll add some new thoughts at the end…

Small Ways have been a part of Wisteria & Sunshine from the very beginning. In fact, the page where I introduced them was created a month before I opened the doors here, in January of 2012. They will always be valuable and integral to what I see as a life of wild simplicity & deep domesticity

“with less plastic, less thrown away, less to care for and store, less time spent consuming and more time enjoying the beauty and tactile pleasure of more traditional and earthy things and ways.”

These ways bring peace, influence others and do make a difference. But when I wrote about Small Ways nine years ago, we didn’t realize how dire the climate crisis was…how imperiled the plants and seas and creatures of all sorts-including us-truly are. And all that the zero-waste practitioners and other conscious folk have been doing isn’t changing the shops and chains and corporations as quickly as we might have hoped when these approaches began…or as they continue on.

And I wonder if, like me, you have found some of these approaches very difficult to live out, at least, without it taking more time and money than can be spared? Or at the cost of bodily energy and mental health? That sounds a bit dramatic, but depending on one’s circumstances (and local) it can become a complicated, unsustainable practice. All the times I have started a conversation in the stores I frequent, asking about how the loose, organic apples arrive at the store and where they come from…what they do with packaging afterwards…then weighing that against the more affordable organic apples in the plastic bag. Just one tiny example.

Lately, with all I have been hearing and learning, I’ve decided it is important-imperative, in my opinion-to add some Large Ways to our lives. Discouragement is probably what has most moved me in this direction, along with all that scientists are finding and sharing. I am just not confident that enough people, companies and governments will begin to care for the planet (in the ways it needs and deserves) quickly enough. As much as love and honor Mary Reynold’s new movement that is her response to the urgency, I see how difficult it will be to gather momentum. So much more understanding is needed…even within my own household! So.

While we go on finding and deepening with all of the Small Ways we care for the earth, some Large Ways may help keep her going (and us) while all of the individual, personal caring takes root. And it seems to me, to focus on trees is a simple, worthwhile path. If carbon emissions aren’t going to be lowered as quickly as they ought to be, let’s protect all of the trees that exist now and plant more and more and more. They will reduce emissions for us, lovely beings that they are.

I already give monthly to treesisters.org, in Wisteria & Sunshine’s name, but will be giving monthly to conservation.org so they can plant and protect even more than they do already. Have you taken the carbon footprint quiz there, that I linked to in our ebook? It is illuminating. My carbon footprint is equal to what 237 trees can offset, annually. I didn’t include Doug’s driving (with a Prius, thank goodness, but still…) because I don’t have those numbers yet. All of the helpful tips at the end of the calculator, I already do, but they may motivate you if you haven’t thought about or acted upon meat-eating or travel and many other facets of life.

Listening to Robin Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass as I tried to fall asleep last night, she spoke about the basketmaking by the local tribe and the respectful practices they use from the felling of the ash tree (or not, if they don’t perceive permission) to the weaving. She spoke of our almost total disregard for paper and what went into the making of it, and I was in tears to think how little progress has been made in this way of caring for the earth. The trees, again. Agriculture and all it’s terrible impacts (and hope for turning things around if it can become regenerative and circular again) are destroying forests…all of the needless construction that goes on…the logging…and the trees that are dying across the planet because of acidic rain and chemicals. We owe so much to these wise and wonderful beings and if it makes the Large ways simpler to approach to have one focus, perhaps this should be the one.

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.

Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.

-Braiding Sweetgrass

In honor of our focus on caring this month, it would be encouraging if you would share your thoughts on Small Ways and Large Ways…if you’ve chosen a Small Ways focus this year?…what is challenging and what is rewarding with all that we are called to do…

And in October, I am thinking that to remember the trees, in all we do might look like…

-giving as much as you can, as often as you can to groups whose mission is to protect and grow the forests of the world. I gave links to two in this post. Please share any others that you know are doing this!

-being more thoughtful about your use of paper (for home office use, for crafting, for the bathroom, for the kitchen, and so on.) This is a longtime focus and passion of mine. Use what you have, for a start, then when you need more, buy only tree-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper or use alternatives.

-stop buying new magazines and books. In the U.S. alone, more than 30 million trees are cut down a year to make printed books. Add magazines and newspapers and it is mind-boggling. So much waste. And there is no excuse for it as there are wonderful completely recycled papers out there especially made for this. If there are magazines you feel you can’t live without (I used to feel this way!) contact the makers and demand they change. This is the sort of large way (going beyond our own households) that I am working on to share here, to make it easier and more impactful.

-honor, appreciate and protect any tree you come in contact with. Express your love and gratitude for all that they give. Learn more about them (there are so many books available at the moment-at your library!-about the lives of trees. They are so much more like us than we ever knew and it is my secret hope that all they do for us will end up saving us, if only we would let them more of them live and thrive.)

That’s what I’ve got for now. I need to get to work in my studio, designing some more tree-free alternatives for calendars, planners and stationery. : )

 

the amazon or amazon.com

“The world is too much with us, late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

~Wordsworth

I shared this quotation in the very first blog post I ever wrote in 2006…and that was when shopping online mostly meant buying books occasionally, for our home-school. Thirteen years later, shopping online has become “normal”-for almost anything you can imagine. And thirteen years later, I understand we’ve given away more than our hearts…we’ve given away the earth, our home. And given it to mostly to corporations, who care more for making money than anything else.

In the next few posts here, as briefly as I can, I want to share about a few essential, foundational shifts it seems to me we need to make, to have a hope of making a difference. After these posts, I would like to begin a Make Do & Mend the Earth film festival, sort of like a book club, where we watch something and then come here to have a conversation about it. We will begin with the first episode of Wartime Kitchen & Garden. There is just so much in these shows that sparks both the way of thinking and the ways of living that need to become our new normal, and they deserve our attention. These will be another sort of foundation for to focus upon while the rest settles into place.

ONLINE SHOPPING & AMAZON.COM IN PARTICULAR

The most difficult aspects of living out in the countryside as we do are the very things that have taught me about some realities that you miss out on if you live elsewhere…the fields drenched with chemicals for growing animal feed for factory farmed animals, the mining of clay for kitty litter, the countless acres of trees logged all the year round for cardboard boxes.

Each time I drive into town, the halfway point is a very small town on the river, dominated by a factory that makes cardboard. It was never a joy to pass it and see the piles of dead trees awaiting processing, but in the past several years, it has become such a heaviness…as the piles have quadrupled, joined by mountains of wood chips, and the factory itself has been expanded. All as a result of the many-times-more-than-quadrupling of our online shopping. The roads between this factory and my home are now always populated with tractor trailer trucks delivering logs and chips all day long. We have to be much more careful with so many of these huge, unwieldy mammoths driving along our small roads. I’m sure people have lost their lives to them, as I know they have from the tractor-trailer trucks that deliver trash to a landfill aways down another road near us. It’s the sort of thing you might never think of if you live elsewhere, but it is something we are all a part of, awareness or not…

…if we buy things that are not made locally

…if we create trash

…if we order online…especially with quick delivery…especially if we order from Amazon.com

Tho’ my head and heart had been making the connections between the trees, the factory and the trucks and me, it took my body to show me all I was ignoring. My hands, one day, told me how tired they were of pulling tape off cardboard boxes, and stuffing that plastic tape in the trash, knowing there was no place for it but a landfill (“landfill”…what a terrible word for what it is!) They told me through their reluctance in the adding of styrofoam peanuts or those air-filled plastic pillows to the big bag in the basement, the big bag that we took to the packaging store in the hopes they would reuse them. And they told me of their weariness of trying to decide whether to keep, reuse or recycle the only once-used cardboard…and of the folding…and of the taking to the recycling place.

In 2017, I gave up ordering from Amazon.com entirely. Since then, I’ve reduced my online ordering to necessities that I can’t get locally…mostly the tree-free paper for my business. Very occasionally I buy something used online, if it can’t be had locally, and I always request (and often receive) used cardboard packaging with little or no plastic.

Amazon.com is my particular focus because it is symbolic of so much that is wrong with the way the world works and needs to stop being supported, needs to stop growing. Once you break this habit, it makes the others easier. Go cold turkey and you will find you feel only warmth and restfulness and resourcefulness at the ready, to lead you back towards a more peaceful, uncluttered life.

Here is some of what I know about Amazon.com…

…Amazon.com cares very little about their impact on the earth. They have promised to make a few shifts recently when more than a thousand employees in their headquarters threatened to walk out if they didn’t. But if you delve into the company or its founder even a little, you will find that it is mostly only interested in making huge profits, that it gets out of paying taxes on, and in making people as dependent upon it as possible.

…Amazon.com (and those who support it) are responsible for the demise of local shops, especially bookshops and have twisted the book publishing business into a soulless thing.

…Amazon.com is intent on worming its way into our homes and lives and culture in whatever ways it may, with devices made with precious metals mined in poor countries around the world that are merely toys of “convenience” (yes, Alexa and its ilk…I won’t call that plastic bundle of AI and listening capabilities a “her”) and with their focus on urgency and enticement with quick deliveries and  a psychologically-manipulative website…

…The man behind it all is the richest man on the planet. He could do more than anyone else to fund the mending of the earth, the saving of the real Amazon, the righting of the ship that is our consuming-obsessed society…yet he doesn’t. He does very, very little in the way of mending or helping or even taking responsibility for what he has created.

…I could go on and on, as there it little good to say about Amazon.com and so much that is bad, destructive and depressing. But there is a new-to-me aspect that overwhelms all of the others that I first learned about on the Sept. 18th episode here, that I followed up learning about in this article…

The High Price of Fast Delivery

For days after hearing about this (those connections, again) I felt sickened that a sweet nine-month-old baby, an elderly grandmother and so many others have been killed because Jeff Bezos has created (and the world has bought into) the “need” for things fast and cheap. If you feel tentative about ending your relationship with Amazon, please read and listen at those links…people’s lives depend upon it. The quality of your life depends upon it. And the reality of keeping all our lives from becoming something like the movies we used to think were about a faraway future with drones delivering packages and retina scans instead of shopkeepers who recognize us, depends upon it.

As easily as I began my relationship with Amazon.com, I ended it. It hasn’t been difficult at all. Just the opposite, it has been only a relief. The UPS man is rarely seen coming up our driveway. I spend much less money and time and-especially-precious energy searching and making decisions (and dealing with the problematic aftermath of packaging and regret.) Not shopping online, or shopping only with those people and companies who honor the earth, honor life, honor slow…is not a hardship. It is a perfect example of the goodness of Making Do. It’s surprising how quickly most of us were lured into the shift towards online shopping, and perhaps equally surprising how easy it is to shift back. It wasn’t all that long ago that we didn’t live this way. We just need to remember. And remember that our work now is to wake up to all the ways there are to Mend the Earth (and ourselves…)

~How to let Amazon.com know when you stop supporting them…that is the ingredient that we need to figure out. And how to gently respond to all of the times someone in conversation (in real life or online) points others to Amazon.com to buy something or mentions “Oh, I got that on Amazon.”  Any ideas?~