Self-Care: Step One; Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Self-care. It’s not easy for some. That’s why the next few articles I’ll be posting are going to be on just that. But looking at self-care through a slightly different refrain.

Self-care starts with the self but it always extends beyond the boundaries of our personal borders. For instance how we treat ourselves directly affects how we interact with others and our immediate environments. If you think you’re not worth the time and effort you are going to overlook your effect of your actions on your immediate environment. If you treat your apartment like a giant trash bin you will also most likely treat your green spaces the same way. And more than likely you won’t find time to fulfill some basic responsibilities we all need to get after in order to heal the world we live in. Like recycling and composting or shopping sustainably.

So with these ideas in mind I’m going to be writing articles steeped in these values as I explore the boundaries between care of the self and where the self really ends or begins. And what to do to mend, heal and engage more fully in the care of ourselves and our world. Start small, act big.

The goal is to create a list of areas and corresponding actionable items to execute to further the care of ourselves, our spaces and our communities. The more we work together the greater the network of care-giving becomes. And hopefully we will all benefit from our change of perspective to a kinder, more forgiving and accepting nature.

These are some lofty goals. And I’m not trying to imply that there is some magic bullet that will cure all persons particular outlook of self and how we interact with the world. But it sure starts with taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions. And hopefully this exploration of self-care will give those looking the jolt of a confidence boost. To start the process in taking themselves into account and becoming part of the solution instead of adding to the unrest. The disquiet that has currently taken hold of so many in our constant growth, consumer driven economy and power structures.

The outline of the articles will focus on specific areas and actions taken in these areas to obtain a more whole concept of self. And how this concept translates into a physical action. Also how it impacts our immediate environments and communities. The areas of focus will include, Physical, Psychological, Emotional, Spiritual, Personal, and Professional.

Using the above areas as a starting point, I will cover everything from where to buy clothing to our roles in cleaning up the streets in our neighborhoods and towns. Getting involved in healthy eating habits by starting, or joining a community garden and how to transform unused community space into a bee refuge and public gardens to feed the homeless.

So here is the part of the post where I write a call to action. Something like, together we can make a difference. And that’s true. Together we really can make a difference towards the loving and understanding that’s strong enough to bolster a community rich in interconnected ties. One that is steeped in values that provide acceptance and understanding. But it starts here. Within each of us. Some of us have more internal cleaning to do. In fact it may look like a complete renovation. But it’s possible. Not only is it possible, but we can have fun along the way as well.

That being said it may not be an easy row to hoe, but it will yield gratifying fruits. And don’t forget, you’re not alone!

Grow Your Veg! How Growing your own Food Could Help You Live Zero Waste

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing in my father’s vegetable gardens. My love for gardening and veg at large started for me while I was a child in the 80’s. Watching episodes of “The Victory Garden” on PBS and helping my dad in his little garden. I remember lazy summer evenings running around the grounds of an old mansion turned public land/park and reservation. The sun just setting  leaving a soft ambient light floating in and among the dragonflies and fireflies, while Van Morrison, ever so faintly in the background, plays his album, “Astral Weeks” front to back 😉

Okay so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the gardens were beautiful. A mosaic of lovingly molded parcels of patchwork land thatched together and yielding fruit and veg of all kinds. It was no Monticello but it had charm. So when I was old enough to have my own garden, a small community plot 15’x15′, I couldn’t wait to revisit some of my fondest childhood memories.

At the time I think I grew tomatoes, scarlet runner beans, spinach, lettuce and broccoli. I added hops when I started brewing my own beer. Cascade I think and there were more to be sure but it was constantly growing and changing. And some of the more gratifying aspects of the garden was when I would harvest fresh veg for dinner or for the next few days.

I was a bit different back then. I’m mostly vegan now and I eat dairy on occasion. Then I was a ravenous meat eater. I’m an advocate for recycling, composting and renewable energy sources, all kinds now. Then I could care less about the state of our planet and its resources. Though one thing hasn’t changed and that’s my love of high quality foods. And there’s not much better than freshly grown vegetables from your own garden.

The benefits of growing your own veggies are numerous. The cost of growing veg is considerably less to comparable buys at the grocery store. You have control over how your food is grown and who you choose to support when purchasing your seeds. You can’t beat the shelf life and you can grow varieties you can’t find at your local store. Also reduced waste by avoiding shipping and packaging. This last reason is one that is priority for me.

If you’ve read my blog post, “No New Clothes, Well Maybe” then you’ll know one of my goals is to live a life as zero waste as possible. This is no easy feat. Especially at the grocery store where everything has been encased in plastic. And I’d like to say that plastic isn’t necessarily the issue. It’s how much we produce and rely on it in almost everything we make. Also the amount of plastic that doesn’t get recycled in some way.

Growing your own veggies is a great way to reduce the food miles from farm to table. Because in most cases the “farm” will be in your backyard. Little to no processing required. Just a quick rinse in the sink and it’ll be ready to eat, cook or store. There’s a great book  called “The Backyard Homestead” that goes over ways to produce your own food in short space and helps you through the process from garden planning and seedlings to harvest and storing your crops.

They cover a lot of ground so it could be a bit overwhelming to delve into a book that is literally teaching you how to live off the land. But the essential bones of planning and planting are covered and who knows what may spark your interest. You may read a chapter on foraging for dandelion greens and develop a passion for making dandelion wine! As long as you know your limits and don’t bite off more than you can chew, books like these are a good resource for discovering new ways to produce more with what you already have and are already doing. Because the more you make the less you have to buy. That means more waste you avoid producing.

Feel as though you are short on space in your current location? If you have a lawn you can do what my dad did and rip up the yard and replace it with topsoil. He has all sorts of usable growing space now. And the garden looks much better in full bloom than the lawn ever did any time of year. Plus,lawns take an awful lot of resources to keep up with and maintain. And with very little return. Half of the resources that go into care and upkeep of a lawn could grow a lot of produce and put a serious dent in your food budget for the growing season.

Of course this idea isn’t for everybody. Some folks love and use their lawns frequently. And if that’s the case by all means, enjoy your lawns. But it seems as though home ownership and lawns go hand in hand and I’m just suggesting that maybe we question the wisdom of this perennial knowledge. See if it’s right for us.

Community gardens are a great alternative resource for those who don’t have the space for their own garden. Maybe you rent or own a condo. Or are in an apartment with no useable green space. In any case community gardens will help you to put fresh veggies on your table. It’s also a good chance to get to know your neighbors. When I had my my plot I would swap gardening tips and get new ideas for planting next season and share some of my harvest as well.

And the location was phenomenal! It was in a small park right on the harbor. A 15 minute walk from the neighborhood where I lived in. Working on hot summer days with a cool breeze coming off the water was a privilege. I looked forward to days when I would go down to the garden and arrange the plot to fit in all the seedlings I had prepared or bought.

If you’re looking for a place in your community to garden this post on finding a community garden near you is a good resource. As well as a quick google search with your city or town’s name and community gardens, should yield some results. The people who organize these gardens are usually pretty excited to get the word out too. So asking around your local shops or even at your library should help to connect you with a plot.

Living zero waste is no easy task. And one that will take a lot of different initiatives to cobble something together that will produce a greener, healthier lifestyle. I’m not even sure this is an obtainable goal. But it’s one that’s worth trying for. I feel that no matter how small the change, every little bit helps. Hopefully more people will get behind this goal and the more people that try, the more solutions we will find.  And hopefully the easier it will be. I’ll share what I find along the way and if you come along I hope you’ll throw your two cents in as well 🙂 So eat your veg, it’s good for us!

“6175 Vegetable Garden at Monticello” by lcm1863 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Socio-eco-Blah-Blah-Blah

Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara
Example of a Yrt, “Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara” by jonl1973 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

For some reason I got it in me that I needed to start throwing pottery. So I walked to a pottery studio that is about a mile and a half from where I live. The studio was beautiful. It was in an old brick factory of some sort, built at the turn of the nineteenth century. Four floors filled with artist’s studios and kinetic energies of all kinds. The vibes were indeed good.

While on my walk home I took a different route from the one that got me there. And where the studio itself was inspiring, brick laiden with pieces of ceramics in various stages of completeness crafted by the earthy hands of Carhartt robed artisans, it was the homes on my way back that struck a chord with my creativity. What was most striking to me was the driveway of the apartment buildings in the outskirts of a small urban city that borders where I live.

What was so interesting about these driveways was that they were adorned with tents. Like carports only used as a gathering space instead of, well carports. And with the yards and driveways so packed together they almost carried an air of being gypsy like. Or possibly the ways that the nomadic cultures of Mongolia use yrts as moveable structures to follow the herds to greener pastures. Either metaphor falls short of the surreal feeling of a temporary community popping up in and around the more permanent apartment buildings. In the sea of tiered concrete and single-family homes that they were cohabitating with it seemed strange indeed.

The possibility seemed so whimsical, but the idea really didn’t begin to unfold for me until on my walk home. Walking through a different section of town where I saw the more creative uses of gardening spaces in driveways. And the spaces between the sidewalk and the street where sometimes you will see a small strip of green space.

I thought, what if you could take these two ideas, the temporary feel and nature of the tents and mix that with the creative gardening and rich texture of the yrt?” I imagine you’d create community. Each tier would be a different level of connection, comfort and ease mixed with vibrancy. A place where friends, neighbors and Family could gather and cook out or play games. What’s stopping us from creating something so beautiful? Perceived socioeconomic class boundaries.

The main idea of success in America is usually wealth based. How much money, land, cars, stuff can we accumulate to make our lives more prestigious and comfortable? Enviable of our neighbors, friends and social circles. How are we being ranked in the eyes of those we want to be seen as being successful. This is an old story for sure. I’m not blowing any minds so far but it’s a yolk that seems to regenerate itself each generation.

The sixties for example. Free love wasn’t just some catch phrase to sell a product or to get people to do drugs. It was about actually giving love freely to one another. Instead of, to borrow a line from Bens Fold Five, being so “selfless cold and composed.” But the part of us that fears egalitarianism because we feel it devalues our self-worth the more we raise the worth of another, took the feelings of love and freedom and turned it into a fashion trend. And that’s not a knock on fashion either.

Fashion is usually the entryway into self-discovery, getting to know who we are as feeling beings. It only becomes a problem when somebody else wants to put their name on our underwear and claim us as a victim of their fashion war. I’m looking at you Vicky. Full disclosure, I am wearing Lucky Brand underwear but I usually just buy whatever is on sale at Marshell’s.

So if wealth and status have been the markers of success in our society then packing ourselves together to share a space that is warm and filled with a caring community of friends, family and neighbors, would sound crazy in the eyes of those who have achieved success or those aspirants to the “successful life”. More to the point I imagine if it became popular to create outdoor shared spaces of community those same minded successful would create it, then put a fence around it and control whom could and could not come into their space. This creates homogeneity and reinforces the same sort of class warfare conditions that separates “us from them”. The key ingredient to creating a community of freely flowing ideas found by bringing together a diverse battery of individuals.

When my father and step-mother watch T.V. they mute the commercials and read a book or talk about something that is relevant to their day’s or to what they’re watching. This may not be the answer to how we create more community but it’s a start for sure. Instead of being driven and influenced by what we see advertised or what we hear our friends and family talk about wanting, why not be driven by authentic connection and knowing what it is that opens that space of connection between us and those we love? For example, I know my father puts cinnamon in his coffee every morning before brewing. So for Christmas I’m looking for an especially tasty type of organic ceylon cinnamon. As a special treat for their morning coffee.

This is the type of connection mixed with action that creates community. Thoughtful and inquisitive but also with some follow through and to have “the ability to let that which does not matter, truly slide”-Tyler Durden. A.k.a. all the latest trends or anything that is preventing us from connecting to our authentic selves and getting to know each other in an authentic way.

So it is in this vein that I suggest we build and create a space of comfort and community. A space of enough, being together in nature in the rustic. But also the urban or suburban and create something beautiful that we can all use as a catalyst in getting to know one another in authentic and loving ways. Regardless of how someone may try to privities or patent it :]

No fights were started, nor credit card companies destroyed in the writing of this article. Nor does the author condone the use of violence toward achieving any end.

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