My heart is heavy. I am feeling hopeless and helpless tonight. Darkness has pulled me into its cold embrace. I look around me and see just how dependent we have become on the things that are literally killing us. It seems that a day cannot go by when we are not forced to consume plastic in some way...and thereby contribute more of it to the landfills that are encroaching rapidly upon the places and spaces we call home. Or we send it out to sea where the very animals we indirectly depend upon for our survival have grown accustomed to consuming it as a regular part of their diet.
Who can’t marvel at just how far we have come as a civilization?! We have created modern conveniences that were unthinkable to our ancestors...even just a short generation or two ago. Yet how much good have these done for us? Do we stop to think about our dependence? Do we stop and sit in the discomfort that our “need and greed” has inflicted upon others around the globe if not in the very places we live. It sickens me inside. I feel a raging fire in my belly growing to be a part of the solution yet wrestle beneath my own skin in recognition of just how much a part of the problem I have been.
To gain more awareness for our collective impact, my family committed to tracking our carbon footprint for one month. I can’t say we have come very far in our daily discipline of that task. What I can say though is that the very intention of it has seeped somewhere deep inside and I feel a growing unrest for all the ways I have been indoctrinated into and even pursued a carbon dependent lifestyle.
In my late twenties after traveling by bicycle for 6 months to raise environmental awareness in Argentina, I told myself I would never own more than what could fit in or attached to my VW Cabriolet. I lived in the city and road my bike everywhere I possibly could. In my early to mid-thirties I lived in a spiritual community where I shared most of my belongings with my housemates. After I got married, my accumulation of stuff quickly outgrew my car, but I was able to justify it because my husband and I hosted part of the community in our own home. When we left that life, we got rid of much of our stuff, headed west with our 2 young daughters and downsized to two laundry baskets full of goods from a thrift store.
Eventually we pursued life on a rented farm property and then purchased a small plot of land of our own. In addition to learning the art of homesteading and sharing this lifestyle with our growing daughters, our intention was to share our home with guests who are eager to learn what it really takes to get our food from the farm to the table...and just how deliciously wholesome it tastes when it is grown that way. But the longer we are here, the more I question if we are doing the right thing.
With a goal of reducing my carbon footprint yanking me at my core, I see all the ways this choice to be here runs counter to that value and pursuit. Getting to just about anywhere necessitates a 30-45 minute car ride. I tell myself that when our space is fully ready, people will come and it will all make sense. I am eager to transform this old farmhouse into a green travel destination so folks in MKE can have another option for an experiential culinary outing or a mini-vacation closer to home. It gives me great solace to be here and I know it does the same for our guests. Is that a worthy enough reason for staying the course? Does coming to rest for a while in a quieter place do something worthwhile for a restless soul? My own life experience tells me yes but through my spiritual practice I have also come to know that “quiet” exists within the space of sitting still and taking the time to look within. Treks to distant lands and retreats to remote spaces are heroic endeavors for the spiritual practitioner who is too restless to submit to the practice of sitting still.
What adds to my unrest is the awareness that the mono-culture farmlands our home was built on replaced a more more biologically diverse virgin landscape that was native to this part of the world. Indigenous peoples lived in harmony with these lands prior to the European settlers who tilled the earth and drove stakes into the ground. I have known pristine wilderness areas, but in our modern world it is a rarity. It weighs heavily on me that we don’t talk openly about these losses and our resource-laden habits that are the underlying cause. We don’t openly grieve and mourn the loss of our biologically diverse habitats and wild spaces. It sickens me to my core that sport’s games, social media advances, and the latest clothing trends seem to garner more air time and public discourse than the shit that really matters. Our very future hangs in the balance and we don’t have the bloody balls to talk about it!
We watched a Ken Burns documentary last night called “The West”. It was an older PBS series about our identity as a nation to pursue what is just beyond, what is around the bend or just out of reach. But in our pursuit of the final frontier we have tainted most everything we have touched. Like the dogs we have come to own as pets, we humans have a deep need to leave our mark and claim our turf wherever we go.
I am just as guilty as the next and it is leaving me feeling rather nauseated. Please don’t take this from me. Don’t try to make me feel better. I don’t want to feel better! This is my karma and I want to feel the full depth of my own negative impact so that change can arouse from an equally deep place within. I beg of you to do the same. Let us bear this burden together and then we can roll up our sleeves together and work toward solutions!
I wish that I could be hopeful tonight. I don’t feel that way. What I do feel though is a lightening of my spirit as I share my remorse and sadness for some of my part in this mess. Writing about it helps. Talking about it with others helps. Strategizing solutions helps. Community activism helps! So that is where I will channel my efforts. I will not sulk or wallow in depression as that only adds to the problem but I will have the guts to feel the pain. If I cannot bring myself to feel it and get inspired to act from it, our kids and grandkids are going to suffer a whole lot more.
I came across this quote today while reading Jim Merkel’s book Radical Simplicity: small footprints on a finite earth. I will leave you with it to lift you up after this horribly heavy post!
“Wait a minute! We already have enough darkness! Adding more has no effect. Ahhh… to light a candle… let this be your life.” - K. Viswanathan, founder of Mitraniketan, a center for rural self-reliance in Vellanad, Kerala state in South India.
My social media sabbatical has been a game changer! It has gifted me with focus, clarity, insight and TIME! It has launched me in a whole new direction. I set out to clear my head in prep to write a book and lay the foundation for my coaching practice. While I have made serious headway with both, the course I am charting is looking much different than I anticipated!
When the idea of a book came up, I thought it was going to be a memoir for my daughters...to give them a way to know a bit of my past and theirs and to share some of the lessons I gleaned along the way. Then along came Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate change activist from Sweden! She has rocked my world and for that I am deeply grateful! She has awoken in me the young environmental activist that side stepped a life of passionate but frenzied, anxious activism in pursuit of peace and purposeful service in a world that seemed to be screaming out for so much help. It was this fiery quality in me that propelled me to mountaintops taller than I ever imagined my skinny legs could carry me and to spiritual heights that were equally as profound. It was this same urge that inspired our move to the Pacific Northwest to reconnect with our love of land...and then again to rural Wisconsin to try our hand at some regenerative farming practices in hopes of passing these along to our daughters and bringing healing to our little corner of the world.
While the book will still be a memoir of sorts, the intended audience has changed significantly. I am writing for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the climate crisis and is desperate to find their place and purpose in all of it...and I am writing for the person who is stuck to their couch, their job, their specific life circumstances because the weight of it all feels just too overwhelming but the desire to do something lays just beneath all that weight. I WANT TO BLOW FIRE ON THAT DESIRE AND IGNITE ACTION! The world needs all of us to live full out right now!!
Our kids are screaming out for us to do something NOW so they can do something, anything!, later. They want things we have foolishly taken for granted...clean air, clean water, cool winters and warm summers, seasons they can count on! They want the chance to pursue their dreams too and they deserve that chance!
I have pursued the road less traveled and have thrown myself all in when it made absolutely no sense whatsoever to many standing in observance. I have learned what it takes to pursue a difficult course and make radical changes. I want to use these well-honed skills to help people change their lives in a way that I can only hope and pray might play a small part in slowing the phenomena we have come to know as 'climate change'. Greta's voice helped me to see what has been driving me at my core through all of these crazy maneuvers through life. She and all of the young activists around our beautiful and aching planet have unleashed the flames within my heart! I am on fire to inspire and have no time to lose! Won't you join me?
Oh, in case you were sensing it too, 'slowandsimpleliving' might have served its purpose. I have loved the name and what it has given to me but it may well be time to move on to something a little more fitting for the things I feel inclined to write about! Stay tuned!
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.