Sunday, November 20, 2011

To the Twilight Fans

Grave Beauty
Innocent monster
Eternal, beatless heart--

Her blood is your sweet siren song,
Her body, the rocks--

How much hunger can you swallow
Without consummation?

Edward, your venom,
Her salvation--

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Modern Homestead, Part 2

I am beginning to formulate the idea that reinstituting the concept of the homestead could be one way to counter the malaise, obsession, and addiction that I attribute to our modern society's overuse of technology. My grandma made a very good point yesterday. She thinks the internet is trouble, because people will write something on Facebook or someone's blog that they would never say in person. A friend of mine says that's like blaming the gun rather than the person holding it. They are both right.

There's no doubt in my mind that we are too plugged in. TV is largely to blame for the fact that kids don't play outside much anymore, and both excessive TV watching and disassociation from nature lead to depression. Add the plugged in time of video games, cell phones, and internet use, and what have we become? People are notoriously too busy to get together in person, and I think they often make themselves busy on purpose. Real relationships and intimate, face to face, or even voice to voice, interactions are just something people have largely lost the ability to handle.

Just having a gun in the house presents a danger that would not exist otherwise. And it has been proven that TV and other technology easily become addictive. In our instant gratification society, blasting an online comment at someone without thinking it through (hello, attention span, where are you?) results in all kinds of drama. If you at least sit down and write a letter first and get your reactionary emotions out of your system, often times you get enough therapy in the process and don't even end up sending the letter. Or you take the time to revise it. With technology, it is too easy to forget that there is a living, breathing human being with feelings on the other side. Recently a family member half my age who lives across the country chastised my comment to another Facebook friend and told me what I should have written instead! I was posting on my own wall, and the subject had absolutely nothing to do with her. This is the risk with a social network.

So how can the homestead help? If you read the Little House on the Prairie books, you will know that pioneer people had no such time for idle gossip and the frittering away of hours upon hours of life that can never be retrieved (except maybe Mrs. Olsen!). Farmer Boy tells the story of Almanzo Wilder between the ages of 8 and 10. He helps sow and plow the fields, haul wood with his own team of oxen, shear sheep, make candles, cut ice from a pond, train his oxen, gets up in the middle of the night with his family to save a crop from freezing, and all manner of such hard work. He also sometimes goes to school, and after all of the other things I mentioned, he does his chores. I don't imagine anyone in his family was obese or nature deprived. Laziness was not an option. Getting up after the sun rises was not an option. And harrassing your sister was cause for a whipping.

Not everyone can be a farmer or even live out in the country, but homesteading is becoming popular even in urban areas. Gardens are grown on rooftops and abandoned parking lots. People grow food and raise chickens in very small yards. (Ironically, in my rural village, one cannot raise chickens inside the village limits!) Even if you live in an apartment and you don't have a yard, you can grow plants, flowers, and herbs in pots. Anyone can feed the birds and have a birdbath in the yard. Plant flowers that draw butterflies and hummingbirds to them. Encourage the livelihood of bees, without whom the planet would die. Live with a pet or two. Cook most of your own meals. Make contact with nature in some way a priority every day.

Ah, priorities. If television viewing is a priority, I believe such a person has largely lost sight of what is important. Please know I have been guilty of being too plugged in and zoned out. But we don't watch television in my home (but do watch video movies). I have no idea how anyone has time to watch TV now that I have not had it for over 4 years. I am going to take a sabbatical from the computer as of today, when I finish writing this, for more than a week. I need to detox. I challenge you to do the same!

If you center your day with the homestead idea in mind, you know what needs to be done. Feed your family and sit down together for meals. Plant seeds, weed the garden, harvest what you've grown. Water the flowers. Walk the dog. Spend time with your child, reading, playing board games, homeschooling, doing household tasks together. Invite a friend (by friend, I mean a real one, not the "friends" you have on Facebook who aren't actually friends) into your home. Visit your grandmother, write a friend a real letter in your own handwriting, donate things you no longer want or need to charity, learn a craft you can do with your hands, or to play an instrument or dance. Pray, meditate, read something edifying to your spirit. Write a poem or your memoirs. Dance with your daughter. Walk instead of driving your car. Bake cookies for the neighbor kids. Clean out your refrigerator, drawers, and closets. Pursue your passion! Oh my, where has the time gone? You are pleasantly exhausted from physical exertion and spending your day in meaningful activities, focusing on your priorities, and you haven't turned on the TV or your computer once! Now we are living, people, living our own lives, taking care of our own business, too sane to poke our noses where they don't belong.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blog Purpose and the Personal Essay

When I began Organic Mothering, my first post was basically a mission statement regarding the purpose of the blog and the topics that it would focus on, so readers can refer back to that entry if necessary. What I want to do now is to clarify my intentions for this space and the format in which it is written. First of all, I am a writer, and put simply, a writer must write, just as a dancer must dance and a painter must paint. Except for my poems, the literary format of my posts is the personal essay. What this means is that I write about a particular topic or theme as seen through the lens of my life. While I do quote outside sources to enhance or support my topics, my writing is primarily subjective. Objectivity is not a requirement of this literary genre.

The topics of a personal essay are typically those of great interest or passion to the author, and she shares her thoughts and opinions in light of personal experiences and real events. In this way the personal essay is a work of creative nonfiction. I rarely give the names of people, including my own, so as to keep a certain level of anonymity and to allow a broader range of expression. The element of telling a story is intrinsic to this format, so while the information is autobiographical, the real people are also characters in a story.

In a personal essay, the topic may be an issue such as a political or social concern, or a conflict of some kind. The point of the essay is to present the topic using personal stories and opinions and to end with a type of resolution--a point made, an insight gained, or a lesson learned. The events described may run the whole gamut of human emotions and experiences. The purpose of my blog is not to report events like a newspaper journalist. I do provide a great deal of information that is factual, but that is only a small aspect of what I write. Usually written in first person narrative, the personal essay is ultimately a conversation between the author and the reader.

While no one needs any special credentials to write a blog, I have a great deal of professional and educational experience that has honed my skills. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, and I did study poetry, informational, and magazine writing in college. I had poems published by The Ohio State University and the Jawbone Poetry Series of Kent, OH. I have been paid as a featured poet at a professional forum in Columbus, and I placed in a poetry contest through that forum. I worked as a freelance writer and editor for the McGraw-Hill publishing company and created marketing literature for a nationally known talent agency. Currently, I teach poetry classes through Keystone Co-op. I produce my blog with the highest integrity and excellence in writing that I am able.

I am grateful to all of my readers. I have always received the most help from other people's stories, and my hope is that readers will recognize their own feelings and experiences in mine. The personal essay extends to universal themes, and I want my blog to be a space for ideas, information, contemplation, artistic outlet, and entertainment. If I were to write in fear of possibly offending someone, I would not be able to be effective in this work. As my grandmother said, "Keep writing." As a writer, I have no choice. I must write.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Modern Homesteading, Part 1

Who would have thought that the first of November would be a sit-on-your-front-porch kind of day? Yet here it is, sunny and 60 degrees, with a mild breeze blowing. Sitting on the front porch is arguably an old-fashioned pastime. In some neighborhoods, the kind with strict rules and regulations, such behavior is even considered a detraction from the quality of the neighborhood!

An architect friend of mine, who used to live in New York City, told a story about how a person living in such a place was limited in the size of porch he could build onto his house so as to deter any temptation one might have to sit on it! "Do we want to see people sitting on porches here?" was the question. And an emphatic "No!" was the answer. Oh the horror of the idea of neighbors being able to see one another on porches! What if they smiled at each other? Worse yet, what if they talked to one another? What if they had barbeques and friends and relatives come to visit and they played music and horseshoes on the lawn? Yes, this is what America, sadly, is coming to.

What must be reclaimed, for this reason and a multitude of others, is the concept of the homestead. In his national best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv describes the modern phenomenon of Nature Deprivation Disorder, which stunts the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual development of children (and also has adverse effects on adults). Children are over-scheduled with organized programs, as well as the fact of being constantly "plugged in" to technology, leaving them no time to play freely outdoors. This disassociation with the natural world greatly contributes to the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

And front porches aren't the only casualties of snobbery and a profound disconnection from nature. In some communities, outdoor play is actually criminalized. Partially for fear of lawsuits, climbing trees is outlawed, and building a tree house is illegal on one's own property, lest a neighbor think it detracts from his view, or because it violates building codes. Thankfully, I live in just the sort of backwards, antiquated small town that allows porch living and tree climbing!

I do sometimes fantasize about living in the country and having a small family farm, which is definitely a lifestyle choice that is making a comeback. However, I love my historic 1908 home in town, and it is nice to be able to walk our dog and stop to chat with neighbors (who are outside on their porches, for heaven's sake, or doing dastardly deeds like gardening or yard work!). It is also convenient to walk to places such as the post office, grocery, drug store, church, gift shop, pharmacy, library, and bank, or to ride bikes to visit my grandparents. Less need to drive a car, so more sustainable than living in the country in that respect. I have been reading a lot lately about urban homesteading, so I will continue to write on this topic in a short series. In the meantime, turn off the TV and shove your kids outside to enjoy the last, glorious days of autumn. And you get out there too!!