Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This book hypothesizes how "civilized" humans became so divorced from the living world around us that many people can't fathom how its health matters to them at all. I've learned some really interesting things while read it. For example, Plato was one of the first humans to use the phonetic alphabet to write down his (and Socrates') ideas. Why didn't Socrates write things down himself? He was probably illiterate. At that point in time, the phonetic alphabet was new technology. Literally. Like all of the most influential new technologies, it changed the way we humans lived, even thought. All of those discussions about what truth, beauty and goodness are? This was the first time in history that those abstract concepts could be looked at and studied without referencing the specific circumstances they occurred under; the first time that you could go back to what you said the day (or week or month or year) before and refresh yourself and others on EXACTLY what you had spoken about.
Divorcing the abstract concept from the specific circumstances changed how we judged our actions and behaviors in very fundamental ways.
Being able to recite (read) the same story, in exactly the same words, day after day after year after year, concretized our experiences too. The stories became unchanging, compared to oral traditions where the filter of new experiences changes the stories every time they are told, even by the same storyteller. This, too, changed how we understood the world around us.
Starting with a research grant to study magic in indigenous cultures, Abram found that he lived in relationship with the surrounding environment differently when he was "home" in the United States than when he was overseas meeting and learning from other "less advanced" cultures, where ties were much closer to the natural world. He found that he missed the deep sense of connection that he felt in those other cultures, and so he set out to try to figure out what had changed in human society to cut us off from that sense of natural connection.
I certainly understand now why Abram was picked by Utne Reader as "[o]ne of the hundred visionaries who are changing the world." I've been interested in the environment and the human role within it for most of my life. This intriguing book literally has me changing my understanding of who and what I am, as well as changing my understanding of my relationship with the natural world around me. I truly can't think of too many books I've read in my life that I can say that about.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
This morning I awoke at 5 a.m., thinking the dawn was beginning because of the light coming in through the bedroom window. As I slowly gained more awareness, I realized that the light was the glow of the full moon, shining with a luminous aura through the dewdrops caught on the screen of the window....
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The first, The Feminine Mystique, is Betty Friedan's classic from the 1960's about "the housewife syndrome." In it, Friedan highlighted the isolation and stagnation that was occurring in the lives of housewives as their husbands and children spent increasing amounts of time away from home and they themselves became little more than tools of consumption for the marketplace. The solution, to Friedan (and to entire generations of women), was to get out of the house, preferably with a career.
The second book, Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes, has just recently been published. Hayes's premise is that the two career family has us chasing our tails, having (or wanting) to purchase more and more to make our lives more efficient and more "meaningful," then needing to work more and/or work harder to make more money to pay for our purchases. This leaves us stressed out and overtired, with no time to enjoy the myriad of expensive things we've bought...or to simply enjoy each other and our homes. With our standard of living based on two salaries, it also leaves us as vulnerable or more vulnerable to economic chaos from unexpected job loss. Her solution is to return the family household to a unit of production, rather than solely of consumption, which requires commitment from all adults in the household and involves building community and interrelatedness. She herself has pursued this path, and she has researched 20 other "radical homemakers" from among the many who replied to her solicitation for guinea pigs when she began writing this book.
I read The Feminine Mystique first. As I worked my way through it, I kept thinking two things to myself: 1) "Why didn't I read this in college or in my 20's? I can so relate to these 1950's housewives! How sad is this that I've been so far behind in understanding what was happening to me?" and 2) "Friedan doesn't address childrearing and caretaking. Who's going to raise the children? Who's going to care for family members, both when they are sick and when they are well? Isn't there more to life than working?"
In the new introduction for her book, written by Betty Friedan in 1997, Friedan herself shares deep concerns over the fact that "two generations later" careers, both male and female, are still based on the model of the 1950's male with a stay-at-home wife to care for the home and children. So both working men and women are getting overworked and stressed out. Meanwhile, women are still getting paid less than 75% of what men earn for the same job, so employers are letting more men go and keeping the "cheaper" women. This is causing increased anger and hostility in men, who blame women in the workplace, rather than their employers, for their loss of money and prestige. Meanwhile, the ultra rich are getting richer and richer and nobody is really paying attention to that. It's much too easy to blame each other.
As I read Radical Homemakers, I kept thinking to myself, "Yes, this is what Greg and I were thinking over the years when we tried to produce some of our own food, keep our wants to a dull roar, and avoid getting too caught up in consumerism!" Hayes keeps in mind the lessons from The Feminine Mystique, warning of the absolute importance of interconnectedness and community building to help stave off the feeling of isolation. To keep radical homemakers mentally growing, she notes the requirement for self-learning that this path requires, since so many of these small-scale production skills are almost lost. She also touches upon the need to pursue personal and community interests, especially after radical homemaker has become comfortable with their productivity level.
As to why I was relating so strongly to "the housewife syndrome"? I think it was because of Greg's and my mobile lifestyle. Moving so often kept us from being able to develop the interconnectedness and sense of deep community that both supports and is a gift of the lifestyle. With Greg's job requiring long hours away from home, it was all too easy for me to get relatively isolated and lonely.
I find the radical homemakers' lifestyle very appealing...at least in theory! I am reminded of Greg's grandparents' life during the Depression in Oklahoma: they spent 10 years on a farm during the Dust Bowl. They were "dirt poor", but they raised 5 children and kept everyone fed and clothed without anyone having a paid job or being responsible to an employer. It was obviously hard work, and they chose to leave the farm when World War II gave them other options (and their children began leaving home), but they survived. In fact, their son doesn't even remember feeling particularly poor during those Depression years - "There were a lot of others worse off than we were."
I do some of the lifestyle already - I garden and can, at least a little. I prefer shopping at local businesses, antique shops and thrift stores to buying from big box stores. I watch little TV and pay even less attention to the ads. At least in part, our cars were chosen for their mileage, and they are far from new. I am not known for keeping up with the fashion industry. :-) There's obviously a lot more I (we) could do, but for now I'm grateful to know there are others who value some of the same things we value.
Serendipity shines again!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The draw was especially active this morning. First of all I noticed a ruby-crowned kinglet, followed shortly by a yellow-rumped warbler and an orange-crowned warbler (or two or three). As I was following their fluttering from tree branch to tree branch, I noticed a big "something or other" fly in behind them - when I focused on the movement there, it turned out to be a pair of flickers.
Blue jays flew in and out several times, and I kept hearing cardinals peeping, but didn't actually see one until I was walking back to the house. Two other woodpeckers came by to say hello, a male red-bellied and a female downy. Several chickadees joined in the activity for a while...
...but the most interesting sighting was a hawk "doing lazy circles in the sky." As I watched it, I was positive that it was an accipiter - probably a Cooper's based on size - despite behavior that was unusual for the species. I looked for a white patch at the base of the tail and didn't see it, but I did note that the head seemed small in proportion to the body and the tail was fairly square with a wide terminal black band tipped with white and smaller bands towards the body.
Getting back to the kitchen and looking in my guidebook, I'm now thoroughly unsure of which of 3 species it was: the proportionate head size and tail shape was sharp-shinned hawk, the size and lack of white rump patch was Cooper's hawk, and the behavior and size was northern harrier. At this point, my best guess is harrier. Whatever it was, it was fun to watch, but I'll try not to pre-categorize next time!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
(Note: Although I have labeled them wheel bug 1, wheel bug 2, and wheel bug 3, I have no idea if these were the same individual or different individuals. It was during this time span, though, that I saw all 3 wheel bugs at one time on the same goldenrod plant.)
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Saturday, October 09, 2010
This guy (above) is a male, based on the black "toothed," rear margin of the upper surface on his hind wing.
Identifying some of these little babies is a real challenge, especially identifying them with photos only, rather than with dead specimens. That said, I'm not in the mood to do the whole "catch, kill, spread and pin, then identify and store" routine, so I'm going to do the best I can with the digital images.
First of all, along those lines, I have decided that the white aster growing in 10' wide colonies in this often wet swale is Panicled Aster, Symphyotrichum lanceolatum. Just so you and I both know what the flower is that we're seeing in all these photos....
I found one other butterfly, the orange sulfur (Colias eurytheme) feeding on the panicled asters. However, I took several photos of it that I want to share, so I think I'll make a separate post to talk about and share those images.