the heart of it

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?~

how the idea began…

Since the eighties when I became a vegetarian, planted my first organic garden and joined a food coop, I’ve been aware that there were gentler ways to live than the mainstream, conventional ways I was raised with. Since the turn of this century, living more earth-thoughtfully has been at the heart of my life and work, however imperfectly expressed. But I’ve recently felt an urgency about doing something different, something more wide-reaching than what I’ve so far managed to share the message of earth-thoughtfulness. Funnily enough, it was in the reading of a beloved novel that I saw a way in. And the idea has been growing and crystallizing in the weeks since we read The Shell Seekers (by Rosamunde Pilcher) at Wisteria & Sunshine (my long-time membership blog.) Below, I’ve shared what I wrote there in a few posts in late July after reading the chapter called “Richard.”

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You know how much I value older books (or books about older times) for what they can teach me-now-about living more intentionally, more thoughtfully, more simply. Well, most of these passages touch upon that, in both practical and emotional ways.

Reading about the war years in this chapter has been illuminating. I have no hope that the countries of the world might view the climate crisis in the same way as I would like to, but it would surely begin to untangle some of the daunting muddles we are facing, would it not? Imagine if we all felt as the British did during the war, ready and willing to face deprivation for the good of all that it would save and heal? Penelope and all those very real people she represents didn’t enjoy the lack of so many tasty things or the scratchy toilet paper, but it was a part of the huge effort it took to win the war. I wish we would be called on to do the same by some wise and powerful council with the systems to support it. That is what arose in me reading this chapter, a glimpse of some “big” ways with our Small Ways that feels somewhat visionary and hopeful…even if we can-mostly-only live it out with our individual efforts in our own domestic spheres.

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You may remember that a month or so ago we were reading the Shell Seekers and I shared about how moved I was by the scenes during the war years, making connections between the sacrifices made then and my thought that similar sacrifices now could be a part of healing our imperiled planet. I’ve been doing much research, and it turns out the quite a few folk have had the same thought. Some have even worked out an in-depth approach on the political/governmental level and are trying to get it some attention. Unfortunately, they’ve dubbed it The Climate Mobilization. I am all for it, and have contacted my representatives about it and will support it in any way I can, but…

…it’s one of those Big Ways that we sometimes have to wait a long time to see come to fruition and have too little control over. And after many wobbly months, I’ve come back ’round to finding my faith again in the Small Ways. Seeing them held within a new effort for the earth, based on a historical, domestic effort that has become familiar (and was successful) has given me this hope. So, in between the monarchs emerging, the moon-watching and the morning glories, I’ve been listening deeply for a name that is more inspiring and more fitting for our scale of effort than “climate mobilization.”

I watched some wartime shows, read some articles…jotting down notes, spent sleepless hours trying out possibilities, talked to a friend about it, perused old posters online and couldn’t come up with anything home-like and down-to-earth…until it came to me last night as I was watching Queer Eye (no connection, my ponderings had just finally sifted out : ) When I found that no one seems to have used it online or made a hashtag of it, I was overjoyed and am now settling in to the wondering of where to go from here.”

The morning I shared this at Wisteria & Sunshine, I quickly made this logo in Photoshop, needing to bring this idea more into being. It is very much a first draft, but captures the spirit of the movement I hope many of us may grow together…
At first I felt that “home front” might be too militaristic. But we are in a fight, and perhaps its time to be more forceful and clear, as well as gentle? Making do. It is the answer to so much. If enough of us Make Do, perhaps we can then Mend the Earth?
Are you in?

how to help it grow…

This is all brand new, so it is very much a work in progress. Just now, I am sharing the bud of the idea. On the personal level, this bud is part of a plant with deep roots…and you will find many ways to bloom with it all, as soon as your mind shifts and opens. Or so I have found.

For me, it was this reading of The Shell Seekers…steeping myself in a few new resources…which helped me to make more and more connections and ideas for making do…experimenting with these new ways…finding joy and peace in them…and eventually creating new habits and rhythms and ways of being. Then falling short, of course, and remembering again. But that is always the way.

This website will grow, as will its offerings and the project itself. I am picturing…

~the creation of beautiful, inspiring posters (as they had in WWI & II)

~it becoming a community project, with the community being worldwide. I wonder if it will help to think of it as a worldwide Women’s Institute? Without all of the cliques and tangles I see portrayed in my British shows. : )

~creating shareable online graphics to both spread the word and deepen the effect (some will be able to be sent to companies when we let them know why we won’t be supporting them any longer, for instance)

~finding other creative folk to create artwork with the message

…and we’ll see what else! Finding the ways to organize it all here and everywhere else it may spring up, will be a work of love to accomplish, but it will evolve, I am sure.

What feels so different and hopeful about this to me is that it doesn’t need any particular tools or purchases (you know how so many “green” lifestyles seem to be too much about buying things?)…that it is more inward than outward…more deep than surface…more interesting and hopeful than overwhelming…and is very satisfying.

Just a few steps along this journey and I am remembering much simpler ways and feel my vision and my creativity opening up to the possibilities…without needing to seek online much. The resources I did seek out (shared here) opened my eyes. From there, it has been a natural step to seeing fresh ways to make do in my everydays. I will write more about this when I get in a blogging rhythm here.

So, it will grow first and foremost by each of us learning to Make Do in our own homes and gardens. Other ways I’ve thought of for growing Making Do & Mending the Earth, beyond our domestic realms, you may find here.

AND DO “PIN” WITH ABANDON. It is an easy way to share and will lead folk right back here to learn more.

learning to make do…

Or, for now, what is helping me to learn. I will add more resources as I discover them or they are shared with me. What I am finding is that while I am taking in messages of Making Do, it is much easier to cultivate the practice. When I find myself back on the less-thoughtful, convenience or convention-directed path, I turn to these…

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Wise Child by Monica Furlong

Wartime Kitchen & Garden

Wartime Farm

WWI Posters

(I am learning to break out of my modern/convenience & comfort-loving ways by seeking these out.)

The Make Do & Mend the Earth Pinterest Board

More to come…