PROGRESS ON CONNECTING WITH OUR NEIGHBORS – increasing (our sense of) community

25 08 2013

(This post was written by both of us)

We recently attended a potluck with Transition Nashville on developing community in neighborhoods.   Mike Hodge of Nashville’s Neighborhood Resource Center gave an interactive program with our group. Mr. Hodge  asked each of us to share with the group our answers to some questions about our neighborhoods and relationships conducive to community.  We both said we had given up on our neighbors, and find our community  in Transition Nashville and other groups of people with whom we share interests.

Cindy:  In my thinking,  my neighborhood is not the same as my community. Some members of my community live within a few miles of me.  I don’t have “friends” on my street. I realized that I have some negative association with every nearby neighbor except the new ones who moved in a year ago whose property adjoins ours along two back property lines. (We can walk a half mile to their house, but have to drive about 5 miles to their house!)

There is the “home-place” next door, where  family members visit and occasionally spend hours doing target practice.  The same family burns their household garbage,  including plastic (we offered to take their plastic garbage to the local trash depot for them – they declined the offer).  There are the neighbors whose cigarette smoke  drifts over to my house;  the neighbor who completely dominates any conversation”;  the neighbors who probably called Codes on us several times; the drug dealing neighbors; the neighbors who let loggers rape their land; the neighbors with the (possibly illegal) C&D landfill; the neighbors with the dogs that bark all night; the neighbor with the “insecurity light” that glares in our eyes and destroys our dark night-time skies.

I realized that I need to make positive connections with our neighbors as best I can. That is up to me.  We have approached some of them and had positive interactions.  There have been a few good conversations over the years. I need to place more emphasis on the positive interactions than the things about the neighbors that annoy me (or worse).

This very moment, I am also dealing with one of our wildlife neighbors, a skunk, who just walked into the basement where I am writing this.  Sharing space with a skunk is definitely a challenge to one’s composure!  Read the rest of this entry »


17 07 2013

Involving help increases uncertainty. Reaching out to my community of friends, family, and members of Transition Nashville and Cumberland Greens has an aspect similar to going fishing.

“Going fishing” can mean both the exciting school carnival game or being out in nature. I don’t know who is going to be available for what. I just keep asking. Also, the tasks that appear the most important when someone arrives may be different from the ones at the “top of the list” when I made the request. I am gradually relaxing and coming to enjoy this relationship with community and surprising timing and manner of task accomplishment.

In demolition and construction, there has to be an specific sequence of some events. Thus, there is some definite goals. People with strategic skills may not come on the day we initially agree upon. But, I direct my efforts at making the necessary preparations for their arrival and work.

Recently, there was some work that needed to be done as preparation that I genuinely thought was beyond my capability to safely perform. I navigate my life with a tricky back. My spine has received multiple injuries during my childhood and young adulthood, leaving me with a 15 pound loading limit and aversion to bounces. You could say my spinal shock absorbers are deficient. Also, my individual spine members will easily go out of alignment, causing pain. This condition has contributed to my learning to be aware of body mechanics.

Fortunately, I have several good chiropractors. And my body does have great resilience. Read the rest of this entry »

Conscious and Unconscious Interdependence and Community

3 07 2013

 American Culture teaches us to be independent. More accurately, to think of ourselves (erroneously) as independent.

Here is a story based on a true account. Some indigenous people thought a white man who landed near their village in an air plane was very, very smart (or a god).  In a conversation with one of the villagers, the white man discovered that the villager had made his own housing, clothing and tools. The villager assumed that the white man had made his air plane and clothing too, and thus was a very great man since he made this fantastic flying machine.

In our culture, we rely on many unseen hands and minds to provide our housing, lighting, clothing, food, entertainment, ease of transportation and communication, etc. Thus, we Americans, thinking we are independent, are not.  We are highly unconscious of all the interdependence that makes our daily activities possible.  (There is also the biological level of unconscious interdependence that supports our bodies.)

In this culture, we begin to think of interdependence when we consider romantic partnerships, partnerships to raise families, maintain homes, or run businesses. We are more likely to think “interdependence” with people whose faces we recognize. I imagine villages and small towns had a sense of interdependence (Is being aware of interdependence necessary for conscious participation in community?) ( I am aware that maybe most people just go about their lives without contemplating the meaning of community, interdependence, independence, etc.)

In our situation (house fire recovery) Martin and I are  very aware of our dependence on community. 

Read the rest of this entry »


28 10 2012

One of the dirty open secrets about “the land of the free” is that, here in America, we have more people in our prison system than any other country in the world.  Here’s the numbers:  as of 2010, there were 2,267,000 people behind bars in America, with 4,934,000 additional Americans on probation and parole.  Fourteen million Americans are “former felons,” who will be handicapped for the rest of their lives with difficulties in being hired or receiving government assistance such as grants or loans for schooling, not to mention the shackles on their minds that all too often  from a stint in prison.

The good ol’ USA is way out in front of the number two imprisoner of human beings–Russia.  The US incarceration rate in 2009 was 743 per hundred thousand, fifty percent ahead of the Russians and Rwandans, both of which clock in at around 560 per hundred thou.  By contrast, only 71 out of every hundred thousand Norwegians is imprisoned.  In Holland, where legal marijuana sales should , according to the DEA, have precipitated a massive crime wave, the incarceration rate is 94 per thousand…hey, maybe they’re just too stoned to bother arresting people….or too high to go out and commit crimes?  And, when Republicans say they don’t want America to be like Europe, is this what they’re talking about?  Is this really a field in which we want America to be “number one”?

Ooh, but aren’t we keeping hordes of violent criminals off the streets?

No, not really.  About eight percent of the roughly two hundred thousand people in federal prison are there for violent crimes.  That’s about sixteen thousand people.  About half the roughly 1.3 million people in state prisons are in for violent crimes–that’s about 650,000 people.  And approximately a fifth of the three-quarter million individuals in local jails are there for violent crimes–that’s about a hundred and fifty thousand people.  When you add it all up, that’s slightly over a third of all prisoners locked up for violent crimes, about 816,000 out of roughly 2.25 million, with two-thirds of those in jail, about one and a half million people, locked up for non-violent, frequently “victimless,” crimes, at a cost to taxpayers–that’s you and  me–of around thirty-six billion dollars a year.

What’s a “victimless” crime?  About half of all federal prisoners are jailed for drug convictions of one kind or another–that’s a hundred thousand people.  A fifth of state prisoners have committed drug crimes–that’s about a quarter million people.  Statistics aren’t available for local jails, but that leaves us with a third of a million of the million and a half people in state and federal penitentiaries locked up for “drugs.” Read the rest of this entry »


29 02 2008

part 2 of an excellent interview by Carolyn Baker:

My top priority is to keep my mind open. And not to lose my sense of humor-in the grand sense. Our number one responsibility, I believe, is to come to grips with our psychological self, to take a good long look inside and find out who we really are, learn how to rid ourselves of greed, learn to how bridle ego and petty desire, learn how to share and to give and to live with less and more simply. At bottom, we must learn how to cooperate. To be member of a group or a team with no motivation other than enabling the whole. This is good advice regardless of the global situation.

Should the economy collapse or a catastrophic weather event decimate the region where you live, the coming out of it will occur through the spontaneous forming of community, either as an emergency enterprise or a long-term way of living. And this is best done when an individual has given up selfishness, shed vain materialism, and embraced the interconnectedness of all life and each other. I work on my attitude and humor more than anything else because it is my being and my mental health that will make me the most helpful to others if conditions are reduced to basic survival. In this, I am no better than a work in progress.

plus another, similar essay:

After 25 years of college teaching and administration, I left college as my primary work environment for agriculture in the early l990s. I sensed that many of humanity’s support systems and the natural capital that sustains us were breaking down. I wanted to learn more about the basics of food, water, plants, animals, the soil, climate, and the elements. I wanted to be able to feed myself and others with good, nourishing food during an uncertain future of diminishing natural resources and heightening conflicts.

After a search I decided to move to Sonoma County, remaining in the state of my birth. Whenever this native son tries to leave my home-state, California, my body goes where I direct it, but only for a while; then my feet take me back home. Sonoma has nearly 500,000 people and is within the creative San Francisco Bay Area. I bought land with berry vines, apple trees, oaks, redwoods and a tiny house in the uplands of the Cunningham Marsh near the small town of Sebastopol, where less than 8000 souls live.

Our community actively deals with issues such as making a transition to alternative energy sources and the increasingly chaotic global climate. We have active neighborhood groups and support each other to buy local and re-localize. Among the effective groups here are the Climate Protection Campaign and the Post-Carbon Institute. Sebastopol citizens regularly elect well-informed officials who seek to deal with the real issues. We welcome newcomers as we work together to build community during this transition to a post-carbon future.

and this one from the other side of the continent:

At a Barak Obama rally in Putney last week, his foreign policy advisor, Anthony Lake, said that an Obama presidency would help “America once again lead the world.”

O, Tony, that ship has passed, passed, passed. Thanks to GATT, NAFTA, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and torture, we’ve done what I used to think was impossible – we’ve turned America into a third-world nation. Obama might be able to clean up some of the mess, but we won’t be leading the world any time soon.

Yet here in Vermont, we’ve accepted the idea of peak oil. We talk about running our cars on fry grease, heating with wood, and, in general, doing the back-to-the-land thing, 2.0-style.

We talk about starting a barter economy and creating local “dollars” to trade for goods and services. We talk about growing our own vegetables, buying local foods and turning ourselves from omnivores into localvores. We talk about using rags for tampons and diapers. We talk about learning to be self-reliant and curbing our consumerism.

It’s like living in a different America. Outside, people are pretending the economy is chugging along, while we’re preparing ourselves to live after a fall which most Americans don’t believe is coming.

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