I was asked to ‘judge’ a pitch session of students creating change making environmental projects. That’s how found myself listening to four twelve year old girls talk passionately about saving the ocean. They had powerpoint, video, a logo, and killer theme song. Their ideas were thoughtful and enthusiasm contagious.
At twelve I think I was stealing chocolate bars from Libby’s and smoking pot in the blackberry bushes behind the school.
We may have fucked things up, but I have a lot of confidence there are many kids coming up behind who will more than make things right. Michael Jackson had a point.
Over the morning six different groups talked about filtration gardens for rain water run off, reducing dependence on plastics, recipes for homemade safe laundry soap, and teaching even younger kids the importance of clean water and conscious choices. I was not only impressed, I was challenged.
There was a tone of urgency in their presentations, a ‘no time left’ theme woven through most of them. I felt like a perpetrator listening to a victim impact statement. Beyond bus riding, I’ve got plenty of unconscious habits that still fall back on the idea that it’s not really my problem or my fault. Like our Government refusing to sign environmental accords just because some other country isn’t doing it, I don’t have to change until everyone does.
None of them were pointing or wagging fingers. They were talking like this is what you do as a human being – you reach beyond yourself and your needs. It seemed almost reflexive. I am sure there are kids who are out for themselves and don’t really give a shit. However, the 24 that I met yesterday, really do.
When I was little, and scared, my mum would say “don’t worry, I put the monsters on the bus to North Vancouver”. It left a lasting impression about both public transit and North Van.
I like my car. It’s my own private space where I can listen to music too loud, talk to myself, or pick my nose. Sure I could do all that in the bathroom, but this way I get somewhere at the same time. Besides that, I don’t have to share space with strangers, or come up with exact change. Yes, car riding is a lovely, indulgent, incredibly selfish experience.
One of the last times I took the bus, I made sure I was doing everything right so I’d blend in. The driver asked me “so, your car in the shop?” Geez. Was I that obvious?
I’m sure I’ll be talking with my grandkids about my solo driving in a slightly embarrassed tone. It will likely fall into the same category as littering or smoking inside. “wait, you mean you each had your own gas burning car? And everyone was ok with that?”
I have a neighbour who rides his bike everyday – 20KM, each way, including a ferry and major bridge. Another friend, who is a top lawyer in Canada, buses into town. It’s not like they are pioneers or anything, but they are impressive role models for getting out of the driver’s seat.
I hesitate to commit in print to any change in behavior. Convenience is a damn hard habit to break. So, I think I’ll start by talking about it out loud. Of course, if I do end up on the bus, what about all the monsters?
My compost is at 50C, or 130F for those over 40. In other words – it’s hot. As I was turning the steaming pile of stuff, including a healthy helping of sour mash from a friend’s moonshine still, I realized I had a hobby.
I never made model planes as a kid, or built one of those crystal radio things. I had the chemistry set and the microscope – but lost interest pretty quickly. I don’t really collect anything and am pretty casual about sports. I guess I am easily distracted and have a rather short attention span.
But, this dirt thing has got a hold on me. I can talk carbon/nitrogen ratios with the best of them. I’ve been down at the beach collecting seaweed, gathering up the straw from the chicken coop, I even contemplated mowing the lawn in February just so I could use the clippings. It’s on the verge of an obsession. Some guys keep their fishing holes secret – well I’ve got a stash of manure that I don’t want too many to know about.
All that said, I think I should have picked something a bit more conversation worthy. I tend not to wow ‘em at the cocktail party. “horse is ok, but whatcha really want is cow shit, they got two stomachs see…” Um, how ‘bout them Canucks?
I realize that my messing around with garbage is no ship in a bottle, but digesting crap is a means to an end. Eight weeks from now, I’ll be sifting the finish product like I’m panning for gold.
There is a metaphor in the pile somewhere, but I’m happy to settle for some pretty darn good tomatoes and cucumbers come July. Now, if I could just get this smell off my hands…
“You’ve paid a lot of money to be there, so sit up front”. Wise words from my high school teacher talking about University. However, there were those afternoon classes where my nodding off didn’t do much to impress the Prof.
With the possible exceptions of the splash zone at the Aquarium or a night bus in Thailand, when doesn’t it make sense to head for the first row?
Last night we were at a concert, an amazing soul band from Alabama. We walked into the theatre and straight for the stage. An interesting community forms up against the rail. There is no apathy, no one’s there by accident. It’s instant camaraderie. Once the band starts, there’s all the head nodding and trading of “I can’t believe we’re here” smiles. It’s the best non-seat in the house.
My favorite theatre experiences are where the row one seats are at stage level – my feet on the same boards as the actors. Any closer and I’d be behind them.
In the action, or as near to it as possible, is where I like to be.
I teach a grad level course at a University. It’s an expensive program. I am amazed at the students who choose the back row – there is no way they are getting their tuition’s worth back there. I even start by encouraging people to move up, but last seat dwellers are pretty committed to decreasing their chances at learning.
In my experience, sucking the marrow out of life happens less often from the cheap seats. Word to the wise? Get there early, move up, head for the stage, go for the unencumbered view. Try not to let anyone stand between you and what you are there for. Happy Friday.
Day two of Lent. Minor vices of those bent toward the Christian tradition are abandoned to make space for contemplative thought these forty days prior to Easter. That is, once the coffee and chocolate withdrawal symptoms of have worn off.
In general, I’m not a good giver upper. I am more of an adder. I mean, I could if I wanted to, I just don’t want to.
There are those stories of the gluten, alcohol, dairy, meat free folk who swear they have better mental acuity, are happier and full of renewed energy. Ok, but they are also depriving themselves of porcetta sandwiches washed down with a craft IPA. It’s a trade off for sure.
It seems like giving up anything requires some kind of explanation or philosophical stand. While adding demands none of that. Order a second round and no one will bat an eye, but say off the top “I think I’ll stick with water” – and there is an onslaught of whys and how comes. One better have a pretty damn good reason for refusing that bran muffin.
I met a guy for coffee the other day and he ordered decaf. I know, weird right?
The thing is, anytime someone refuses something, it calls into question the rest of us who don’t. Do they know something I don’t? Are they better than me? Am I weak for still wanting the cinnamon bun? Should I turn it down too – in solidarity? ‘Hey brother I’m with you, make mine with almond milk as well’.
These are odd times. We are consuming like never before, but at the same time seeking ways to pare down and simplify. We’re stuck between an attitude of scarcity and a desire for abundance. Well, maybe pondering that dilemma is worth going without salted caramel ice cream for a few weeks.
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