Black Friday Ruminations

posted via radio. Cleaned-up links, and some pretty pictures of our Thanksgiving anchorage, when we get online… might be this weekend. Might not.

If I could pick a detestable day of the year, this would be it. More than April 15, more than the most darkest day of winter. It’s is making me think more about the very positive experience of doing less with less, and our own glass house.

My friend Laureen recently reviewed the book A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk. I hadn’t heard of Sharon but the book sounded interesting, so I went poking around her blog. The first post I read covered a World Bank paper that made simple math of the meaningful impact of individual behavior on overall ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions- and questioned why people don’t make changes even when they are faced with the obvious. Her prior post ruminated on her own family’s choices to try and live sustainably. I’m hooked already:

“.the most important (and least photogenic) thing that we do to fulfill our goal of using vastly less energy than most Americans is to choose not to do things that most people do. It isn’t sexy. It doesn’t look good in pictures. But it is a tool available to all of us, and it is often overlooked in our race for substitutions and replacements.”

It’s nice to feel good about where we are now, how our consumption has changed and our footprint has shrunk. How smug we could be, satisfying our power needs directly from the sun and wind, living simply, orienting our daily priorities around family togetherness, and fundamental needs a la Maslow instead of pop culture driven, artificial wants.

Great. Good for us. How very nice and neo-hippy. But could we have made the tough choices to meaningfully affect our consumption if we hadn’t literally sailed away? Could we have avoided the popular pressure to fall in line and do what we’re “supposed” to do- burning fuel to cart the kids to soccer practices and swimming lessons, buying wardrobes to meet unspoken work standards, expending power to run all the machines that make life “easier” and allow us to cram in more things that we don’t need?

I wonder. I really don’t know, but I’m not optimistic. It’s a whole lot easier to do the things that seem sustainable on the surface, but actually involve more consumption and more stuff. One-upsmanship, even, just Boho style. Like Sharon points out, sustainability often doesn’t look good in pictures, and our culture swings hard in support of the photogenic.

Sharon’s thoughts are probably sticking with me because we’re thinking lately about what happens in another 18-24 months, when our cruising kitty gets lean and we have to make some tough choices about what’s next in our lives. Where to live, how we’ll support ourselves, how to find a path that feels right. A perfect U-turn to walk in our old footsteps doesn’t seem possible.

I look at the things our children are learning, the priorities being set now that I hope form a lifetime groove, and can’t imagine doing anything differently. Contemplating change is hard, but finding a voice like Sharon’s at least helps it feel possible somehow. And meanwhile, it just makes me which I could click my heels together three times and make the crush of people racing for a bigger, cheaper, flat screen TV today stop in their tracks, and contemplate what hole they are trying to fill.

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6 Responses to Black Friday Ruminations

  1. Jim and Heather on Meerkat November 28, 2009 at 1:12 am #

    Once you cruise you can never go back to “that life”. Done it twice now and it is so hard. My 20 year old ex-assistant just had to have a BMW, but couldn’t afford the gas to put in it. I just don’t get it…
    “Happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want”… and you have your 3 incredible kids out there experiencing, living, learning and loving it.

  2. Ana November 28, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    Behan: I agree with Meerkat. Once you have cruised and “return” you will crave the ocean and peacefulness of it all. Your kids will crave it and it will always be a huge part of them. It is difficult to meld back into society when your heart wants something different! Just enjoy today!

  3. Seven C's November 28, 2009 at 2:54 am #

    We can’t agree more completely with the thoughts and feelings here, Behan! We intentionally planned on not leaving the house today for just that reason. We think of all the people who are racing for the store to get the absolutely best deal on the latest, greatest gizmo (they they probably don’t really need anyway) and can only think, “Why?”
    It is possible to cut back and do things more simply with a land based life, but I certainly believe that it is more conducive to it living on the sailboat and cruising. You are giving your family something I only dream of right now!
    As you see from our photo gallery, we continually are going back to simplifying our lives. Little by little.
    We are so much looking forward to visiting with you and your family in March!

  4. Doug and Carla Scott November 28, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    It is a good life we cruisers live. Not an easy path, but well worth the challenges.

    Looking forward to more of the unexpected and hanging with Totem!

  5. boatbaby November 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm #

    Thank you for the wise words to ponder. And I am putting the read on the top of my list. One of the reasons we stayed aboard from the first time we cruised waiting until the next time was b/c we couldn’t “go back” fully. And even though dock life is more fast track than I’d like, it’s still a snail’s pace compared to the norm. I wish we all had a little island somewhere where we could all meet and discuss such things while the children have a wild rumpus. Cheers Behan

  6. Laureen November 30, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    Thanks for the HT, Behan. I spent Black Friday putting homemade candied lemon peel (from an organic lemon tree in Oakland) in pretty glass jars I’ve been saving all year, and putting them in little bags I’ve had for ages. Simple. Really simple. And yet seeing the insanity of the shop-o-rama…

    We aren’t cruising yet, you know, and you’d think that with the economy and everything going nuts that other folks would be scaling back… but they aren’t. Rome is burning, and all I hear is fiddles…

    I am so dying to get going, and now held to the dock by only two of three things. =( But once gone, I can’t imagine coming back. There’s got to be a way…

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