The wind roars in the trees around my house. The light is beginning to dim; its orange glaze covering only the tops of the pines and maples now. Earlier, as I sat bundled up with William Powers’ book 12×12, I found myself reflecting on this place I have begun to settle into. I know the patterns of the day now–the sun hits my chair in the living room from about 2:45-3:15pm, and then it drifts behind the neighboring buildings and fades to a golden-orange. I have come to understand the crows’ migration from north to west to east throughout the day. I am deeply paying attention because I have the space to do so. I don’t hear much traffic here. I am aware of the chickadees communicating with one another in the front bushes. I hear the sound of my own breath as part of the sound of the world breathing. This quiet is liberating. Powers talks about this in his book–how settling into a 12×12 house in the midst of a permaculture landscape brought him closer to silence, closer to being able to truly see what mattered. While I am not anywhere near this way of living, I am much closer than I have been since growing up in western Pennsylvania.
I talked to my mom today about energy independence, about the frustration of being tied to the grid and how difficult it is to find good solutions for cooking in a blizzard without power. She described how this had always been a struggle for them, living in a house built in the 1970s, far away from others. She has dreams of solar panels, windmills, and new ways of generating power too. I told her that we bought a solar oven, and she said, “oh, like the ones we made in girl scouts?” It’s funny how much of this training I already have in my bones, in my blood, and yet all my years of city-living have helped to obscure the knowledge that was gifted to me by my family growing up in rural Pennsylvania, living close to the land.
I finally feel that I have the space and energy to imagine a world different from the consumer-driven model we are fed from every direction. I have found a community of people who are thinking about resilience and local structures, and I am starting to believe that the life I have always wanted is possible. I am beginning to think about what I can do to move away from living in isolated city dwellings and into a sense of connected well-designed community. I am doing small things to shift my orientation in the world–I am studying herbalism; I am reading about permaculture design, and am signed up to take a short course in February; I am learning to see what I do have to offer the world, instead of focusing on what skills I lack; I am dreaming of a new future.
As I paused in writing, I looked out the window to watch hundreds of crows move toward the southeast, their wings catching the last bits of sunlight from the west.
I have many moments like this these days, and I feel gratitude for all of the times I am able to stop and notice what is happening.
I feel incredibly lucky to have ended up in this community, where there is a real positive intention toward finding ways through collective struggle. I regularly meet healers and gardeners, thinkers and writers, who are working toward creating the change we crave. In this time of transition and massive global unrest, I find myself feeling hopeful for the first time. I know that change is challenging, scary, and sometimes downright earth-shattering, but I am finding my own sense of resilience as I wrap up one of the most massively transformative years of my life.
I am really looking forward to hearing William Powers’ talk tomorrow night at USM, beginning at 6:30 pm:
What’s your 12 x12? an evening with William Powers
Lee Hall in the Wishcamper Center at USM Portland
34 Bedford Street
Portland ME 04101