Category Archives: Venting

I’m Back.

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I stopped blogging. Not because I stopped crafting, but because I stopped dreaming. I got a big-time job making big-time bucks. I thought I had it all figured out–I’d have lots of money and no dreams. I could survive, right?

Wrong. The dreams kept creeping back in. They wouldn’t die. They turned into ghosts and followed me around. They reminded me, This isn’t who you are. This isn’t who you expected to be. Where are you going?¬†They snuck in like static on the radio until they drowned out the pretty fantasy world of things and status, and they nearly drowned me.

But I’m back. My worldview has cleared, and I can see again what is important to me. It’s not filing my life with objects to make up for the unfulfillment I feel by denying my essential self in exchange for a big paycheck. It’s about making things with my hands, and trying my damnedest to do that and only that and still survive. So I’ve got a plan–it’s a loose plan right now, but the goal is to get out of this rat race and take some time to figure shit out. Spend time learning how to take care of myself–how to cook and clean and stay warm and maybe even have fun, the important stuff that we seemed to be increasingly outsourcing–and maybe make some money off of it to save up for our next adventure.

I’m back to tell you about my struggle in “pursuit of a different nature,” and that title has even more meaning to me than it ever did. I suppose I’ll go into it later, but I’m ready to leave this hamster wheel of materiality and egoism¬†and willful divorce from the suffering that is life behind and start anew, away. This is my pursuit of that different nature.

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Nostalgia

My dad had a stock response whenever someone said they wished they had been born in 1450 or 1850: “If I was born then, I’d be dead by now.”

I always interpreted his response in two ways: one, a reference to the short life expectancy of those time, so that, at 55, he would in all probability have exceeded his time on earth; two, pointing out that it is only by living in the present time that we are able to nostalgically long for a different time–he’d be dead and unable to long for times gone by.

Ever notice that no one ever idealizes the present moment?

Plenty of people today will say that the fifties were a wonderful, simpler time, when everything made sense and things were just taken care of. But have you realized that most of the people who say those things were children in the 1950s? When you are a child, everything is wonderful, simple, and gets done for you. It reminds me of Sylvester Graham, one of America’s first health-nuts and professional nostalgists. In the 1850s, the first full-fledged phase of the Industrial Revolution, he advocated a return to the ways of the turn of the century, when the woman was the center of the home and bread was baked in the hearth (not purchased at a bakery). Of course, this was also the time when Graham was a child, and his idealized worldview could be said to reflect his displeasure over the fact that his vision of the world from his childhood days was gone.

I find that in a lot of the “homemade” “homestead” “back-to-the-land” rhetoric, there is a notion that there was once a time in America when everything was right, and we just have to get back to it. But I’ll wager that, if you were able to go back to any point in history, you wouldn’t find anyone who said that this is the right time. No, they’ll point you towards a still-earlier time. This is a theme propounded by Woody Allen’s recent, surprisingly popular Midnight in Paris. I believe we are, by nature, a forward-thinking and backwards-looking people. I won’t deny that I often succumb to the mentality that new is probably bad. If it was good enough for the elders, it was good enough for me. But we have to remember that just because people used to do it that way, doesn’t make it the best way. Maybe it’s wasteful, inefficient, illogical. I remember by grandfather in the mountains used to burn all the paper garbage in a steel drum in a stand of birch trees uphill from the house. I can still see him in my mind, thick yellow kid leather gloves pushing the magazines and paper bags into the roaring flames, then covering them with a sheet of steel and watching the smoke billow out among the branches. It was truly magical. Of course, now I know that this is a terrible way of disposing of your recyclables.

So this ramble was just a reminder to myself and others–to really change the world, we need to be mindful of the present, not dismissive of it. All our great historical figures were innovators–reversionist people like Sylvester Graham are remembered, when they are, as kooks reluctant to advance or anachronistic extremists (and as inventor of the graham cracker–ironically, intended to be produced in the home). It is fine to take lessons from the past, but realize we’re bringing them into the present, with all the things that entails.

Outlets

I live in a city. I exist in a state that can only come with living in a city: Fast, frenzied, anonymous, and self-conscious.

I take an underground train two blocks long under a river every day, and another one back, trying my hardest not to look anyone in the eye. I have become an expert at snap judgments based solely on shoes.

I shop at an upscale supermarket where the brands are all the same. The closest I come to knowing where my food comes from is peeking through the semi-transparent car wash streamers that separate the spotless laminate aisles from the dingier high-stocked shelves and dollies.

My parents came from suburban cities. Their parents fled countryside and coal mines for the suburban cities as soon as they came of age.

My clothes come from discount stores, made by small hands in small countries. My furniture comes from Ikea, my mother’s, or along the roadside on garbage day. I watch far too much internet television, and have far too few conversations. My only experience in animal husbandry is my tuxedo cat.

And yet I have a burning desire to pick up a shovel, a rake, a hoe, a trowel and dirty my fingernails tout suite. My hands cramp up without the clods of dirt they long to crumble. My back aches from the weight of too few stones to move and firewood to haul. There is a hole in my chest which I know can only be filled by a bundle of raw wool.

I have the affliction that has infected the hearts of urban-dwellers since urban lands first had dwellers: I want to return to the land.

This blog is my outlet, my memoir and manual as I attempt to rediscover what my grandparents wanted desperately to forget. It will contain my frustrations and my labors, my failures and my successes. Here’s hoping it’s a blog around for a while.