As many of you know we have been on a quest to find a place to live for many years now. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago which outlined all the things we have been looking for and the big push for a more sustainable lifestyle. I can honestly it has been a lot of work, we looked at all of the possibilities (from building our own structure, east coast, west coast, Canada, US, etc.) We have literally been all over the map looking for something that would satisfy the whole family’s needs and give us a low overhead (something I have always needed given that you never know how your career will be doing a year from now). I learned that I am not at my core “a renter”, preferring to own a space that I can change and alter whenever I wish. The west coast proved much too expensive for our wish of a low overhead. And truth be told we had a hard time with “the rain” in the Pacific Northwest, (though I’m told you do adapt to it if you stay for a few years, and I do know people who are totally fine with it). Our friends and family have been amazed and dumbfounded at the moving around that we have done in the last seven years, and our almost neurotic quest to find “the place” where we finally settle.
And so I am happy to announce that we have indeed bought a house in (drumroll please)…Northampton MA!
It is an interesting story, which I will save the long version for later, but suffice to say this house found us/came to us. The current owner has a radio show and wrote me years ago to do an interview. We wrote back and forth trying to arrange a time, but I was in the midst of going to teach in Vancouver and it never worked out until last year when we went for a visit. We fell in love with the Pioneer Valley and eventually bought his house!
I believe it will satisfy all of our current lifestyle needs. If you look at our list for the Plan for Change.
1. Northampton is extremely bicycle friendly with a large network of bikepaths that take you everywhere you need to go. This will allow us to phase out the car use over time. The town is so bike happy they even collect garbage on bicycles!
2. There is a huge locavore infrastructure, in a variety of areas.
3. We are going to try to eliminate as much packaging as possible.
4. (Eat and buy local). See point number two.
5. (Phase out car use). See point number one.
6. The house is fairly small if you count that it includes two work spaces for both me and my husband. And it allows us to have a low overhead!
7. No need to buy land, we have enough space to put in a couple of raised beds. I read a quote once that said, “The greenest house is one that is already built.” This one is dated around 1900.
8. I am saving up for one of these grow domes which will allow us to grow all year, (and also satisfy my Buckminster Fuller obsession.)
9. We will be composting as much as possible.
10. We are installing some rainwater barrels at the new house.
11. As soon as finances allow we are going to be looking into solar panels, which a lot of people in the area are already using.
We have come to understand that there is no perfect place, every place we looked at had positive and negative aspects, and we learned there are always negatives, from cost of real estate, to toxic waste, harsh weather, access to big cities (or lack of), political problems, and cost of living. The main thing became finding a balance of what we wanted and what was affordable. Northampton has some air quality issues as we learned, though they are working on making it better. But we are very excited and feel confident that it is a good place for us (everyone we have talked to really loves living there!)
Now we are wanting one of these to get us around town, except we spent all of our money on the down payment for the house (sigh). I am devising a plan to turn it into an art piece so that I can justify raising funds for it. Coming soon to a town near you, the Society for Exploratory Research’s Mobile Unit.
I was nominated to be a New Revolutionist (by Sally East), a portrait project featuring women in America who are making their marks in their corners of America (created by the talented Laura Burhenn). This is a very cool project, you can read more about it here.
p.s. Wreck this Journal hit a national bestseller list in Canada! I have waited a long time to be recognized in my own country so it is a momentous day. I am also proud to be listed in the Quill & Quire, which I used to sell when I worked at W.H.Smith.
I don’t think there is a way for those who work in service to the earth — for environmentalists, ecologists — to really woo our culture back into a reciprocal or sustainable relation with the land until we draw folds back to our senses, because our sensing bodies are our direct contact with the rest of the natural world. It is not by being abstract intellects that we are going to fall in love again with the rest of nature. It’s by beginning to honor and value our direct sensory experience: the tastes and smells in the air, the feel of the wind as it caresses the skin, the feel of the ground under our feet as we walk upon it. And how much easier it is to feel that ground if you allow yourself to sense that the ground itself is feeling your steps as you walk upon it.
-David Abram, fr. The Spell of the Sensuous
These words greatly impacted my work when I read them several years ago.
Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trimtab.
It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trimtab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.
So I said, call me Trimtab.