A Bioregional Seminar — The Fourth Letter

The Fourth Letter
(April 1989)

As we near the end of this seminar, and prompted by Joyce’s dream, I want to share some of my growing edges as I try to bring the bioregional question more clearly into focus in my daily life. What follows are some of the outer or lifestyle concerns. Next month I’ll attempt to touch the inner challenges.

Transportation We have no car. Pay a friend mileage for occasional use. A well-rooted dependency here, despite the awareness of high financial and environmental cost. We keep asking, “Is this trip really necessary?” Deeper needs and issues are clearly at work just below the surface–freedom, mobility, independence. A car can easily serve as a surrogate for these underlying needs.

Fuel We heat with wood and use photovoltaics for electricity, trying to lessen our contribution to high-power lines, acid rain and nuclear waste. Yet smoke from wood stoves can be a significant pollutant, and all the new DC gadgetry can sure be alluring. Current challenges include keeping a rein on how many amps we “need”; burning only dry, well-aged wood; improving our insulation; and incorporating more passive solar technology as a heat source.

Entertainment We seldom make the long trip to town and have no TV. The alternatives are rich and traditional, yet slow to develop–storytelling, dream-sharing, the almost lost art of conversation, massage, homemade music, visiting neighbors.

Income We try to minimize our need for income, thereby lessening our dependence on the cash economy. This enables us to turn more directly to one another and to the Earth for our needs. Learning to simplify, and to generate a small but adequate income at home, is what we’re currently working toward.

Parenting A strenuous and illuminating struggle. Constantly wrestling with the tendency to try to control my children in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Direct parallels to the repression of women, minorities, third world countries, Gaia herself. It goes deeper than exploitation. A hidden, archetypal fear of intimacy, of spontaneity. Strange how what I most deeply fear is what I most deeply desire. Children bring the challenge home.

Waste We have no indoor plumbing, but haven’t yet converted our outhouses to solar composters. Likewise, we turn our kitchen waste into compost, and do some other recycling, but need to do more. The county landfill is filling up, and the alternatives aren’t appealing. Composting is a marvelous dream or sacrament–an outward and visible sign of an inward and interpersonal process. How do we transmute our mental and emotional excrement into nutrients?

Education As Lauren approaches traditional school age, the question of home schooling looms large. Many of the values, objectives and root assumptions of public education feel deeply inappropriate, given the world in which she’s going to be living. Yet the time, energy, clarity, empathy and consistency needed for home education is daunting. Underneath all the problems, however, I sense a wonderful opportunity.

Health This one gets scary at times, as when difficult decisions to forego immunizations or medical insurance come up against a case of whooping cough or the appearance of a breast lump. Basically (and while trying to claim the dream), we mistrust orthodox medicine’s divorce of the human body from the human heart and soul, and its subsequent pre-occupation with the treatment of symptoms. Exploring the healing virtues of local plants, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and learning to listen to the quiet wisdom of the body as it speaks through our dreams and intuitions, offers an indigenous, if not anxiety-free alternative.

Food Our community diet is vegetarian. We grow close to 50% of the food we consume. The desire to make our diet even more indigenous comes from health considerations; from the ethical uneasiness of being tied to modern agricultural practices; and from wanting a more direct connection with the Earth. The resistance comes from the appalling amount of time and energy it takes to grow one’s own food; from our conditioned appetites; and from our misuse of food as a surrogate for affection. Living in community makes these issues more complex, but the goal more attainable.

Time to plant some carrots and potatoes. Warm spring greetings to you all.