Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Year Outside The Box

Dear Reader:

It is the end of March, and even here in chilly Maine, spring is peeking up and taking  a look around.  Every day the snow recedes a little more from the edges, revealing the copper-colored beech leaves I didn’t get a chance to rake before the first snowfall in November.   Syrup buckets still hang on the sugar maples here and there, testimony to the cold nights and warm days of sugaring season.  Two fat, gray, spotted mourning doves waddled around the front yard yesterday morning, and today a lone Canadian goose honked as she flew south over my house.  The dirt road is rutted with potholes but not soggy with mud–at least, not yet.  Soon the grass will green up, the daffodils will bloom, and the trees will bud out in delicate pinks and greens.  It is the season of renewal, rebirth, and new hope.  Finally.

It’s been a long winter for my community, your community, and communities all across our country.  People are worried about their jobs, their security, their future, and the future of their children.  Nobody seems to be able to agree on how we got into such a mess, let alone on how to fix it.  It’s tempting to blame the preceding Republican administration, but  the causes of our current distress were probably in place long before 2001.  In fact, the ideologies of both the Left and the Right seem weak and worn-out–unable to answer the challenges of the societal forces we have unleashed on ourselves out of ignorance or greed or short-sightedness. 

We embraced globalism, pitching our manufacturing sector overboard so we could ride high on the waves of cheap labor, low costs, and the promise of white-collar “information society” jobs that somehow didn’t materialize.  We turned a blind eye to deregulation of the financial system, happy to be piling up the debt on our credit cards and buying houses we couldn’t afford.  We sacrificed community life in favor of video games, internet social networks, big-box retail stores, chain restaurants, and trips to Disney.  Self-restraint became an out-of-fashion concept.  We wanted everything bigger, faster, newer, shinier, with add-ons galore and a hyped-up 24/7 mentality that left no room for slowing down, savoring the moment, or enjoying what you had. 

But it just isn’t working for us anymore.   Why?

It’s my deep-down, gut-level belief that every area of our society has grown too big.  Big government.  Big school systems.  Big banks.  Big agriculture.  Big oil.  Big churches.  Big corporations.  Big league sports.  Big houses.  Big highways.  We’ve lost the human scale in just about everything.  We feel disconnected and helpless to affect change, to make our lives meaningful, to have a say in important political, social, and economic decisions. 

There is another way, however.  People are discovering–or rediscovering–a way of life that is more manageable, more sustainable, and I believe ultimately more enjoyable.  If not yet a social movement, it is a social ripple that is moving outward in ever-larger circles.   It is neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal or conservative.  It is called localism.

While I’m really more excited about figuring out “what works” as opposed to endorsing and following a particular  ideology, localism is a convenient term to describe the way we can strengthen our communities and feel more connected and empowered.  In general, localism eschews the global and embraces the local.   A localist believes in the local production and consumption of goods and services as well as unique, local culture and arts.  Count me in!

This year, I’m going to experiment with living outside the box, both figuratively and literally.   I’m going to try to stay out of the big box stores and the chain coffee shops.  I’m going to seek out locally-owned bookstores.  I will patronize my local grocery, and I will grow my own yummy produce and haunt the farmer’s markets and roadside stands.  I will freeze and can vegetables for next winter.  I will sew my own clothes.  Whenever possible, I will chose local over regional.  Regional over national.  National over multinational. 

My husband and daughter are not actively participating in my experiment in local living.  They think I’m a little nutty to try.  However, since I do most of the family shopping, they may end up being guinea pigs without even knowing it.  They’ll  eat my homemade wheat loaf made from flour bought from the local co-op.  I’ll find them sneakers at Mardens or Reny’s — two Maine-owned discount retail stores.  I’ve already dragged them with me to Maple Sunday at a local sugarhouse last weekend where I bought my year’s supply of syrup, and my daughter loves the creamy, raw milk purchased from a local farmer . . . 

I have my ways. 

So, if you are interested in following my adventures in local living, drop in often.  I’ll be here . . . Outside The Box.