living well

Since sometime last fall, I’ve been struggling to not succumb to a kind of low-level, background malaise that is uncharacteristic for me. I’m usually sunny, or at least resilient and optimistic.

We all have those weeks when one problem becomes much more serious, and then something unexpected throws us off, and then just when we've navigated over or around those bumps, we hit one we didn't see at all and bam!--all four metaphorical tires go flat. And we holler some probably much-less-printable version of, "Why me, Universe?"

In the final Saturday panel at the Geography of Hope conference last weekend in Point Reyes Station, California, one speaker said something to the effect that "hope" was worthless in the face of the catastrophe of global climate change. That we couldn't sit around and simply hope things would get better, we needed to act in bold ways, to make radical changes, and we needed to act now. I agree that we need to act in bold ways and now.

I left Salida 12 days ago, headed for the Central California Coast, and returned last night after driving 3,300 miles through parts of five states, six Indian nations (I may have missed some--my apologies), five national parks, and seven bio-regions.

For all of us, becoming indigenous to a place means living as if your children’s future mattered, to take care of the land as if our lives, both material and spiritual, depended on it.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

Last week, a packet of seeds from Renee's Garden, my favorite supplier of easy-to-grow, delicious and beautiful garden seeds landed in my post box, my personal signal that spring is on the way.

At Kent Haruf's memorial service in Salida a few months ago, the Wyoming writer Mark Spragg told a story he had heard Kent tell that struck a chord with me. I recently found that story again in "The Making of a Writer," a memoir-essay Kent wrote for the magazine Granta.

I've been in a cooking and reading mood lately, perhaps because the view off my front deck has been white more often than usual. (The photo below is yesterday morning, after 10 inches of snow fell overnight, a lot of snow for my high-desert valley in February.)

Yesterday I drove halfway across the state of Colorado, or so it seemed, from Fort Collins on the northern Front Range south to Golden, and then up through the foothills and into the high country, across the wide and windy bowl of South Park, and then down into the Upper Arkansas Valley and home.

I own a power plant: my roof sprouts an array of photovoltaic panels that convert solar energy into electricity for my house and garage/studio. What I don't use (which turns out to be a bit under half of what I produce each month), feeds into the electric grid.

Today was road trip day: I drove to Colorado Springs to do city errands, including buying cartridges for my computer printer necessary to finishing my memoir. I've been putting this trip off for weeks; I didn't want to spend a day and the energy required to make the four-hour, 230-mile round-trip drive.

Being cheap is one way to practice financial sustainability. "Cheap" used to be a loaded word for me. But I've learned it can be positive too, in the sense of "worth more than its cost," and I've integrated that understanding into my life. Here are nine of my favorite ways to be cheap in a healthy way:

One of my New Year resolutions is to "live generously." Which to me means not just being generous with other humans, but doing my best to live in a way that is generous to "all my relations," as my Indian friends say, the multitudes of other beings with whom we share this glorious blue planet.

Gratitude (noun) The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. From the Latin, gratis, meaning, "pleasing," "thankful"

As one year transitions into the next, I like to stop and take time to appreciate the gifts of the year about to pass before I make my list of hopes, dreams and resolutions for the year to come. (If you can't stop and appreciate where you've been, you won't really be able to appreciate where you're going either.)

So here's my list of gratitudes from 2014:

Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes.... Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes....
Richard Cabe, 1950-2011, with one of his beloved "ambassadors of the earth." Richard Cabe, 1950-2011, with one of his beloved "ambassadors of the earth."
A selfie while driving--the road was straight, there was no other traffic, and right then there was no snow on the road.... A selfie while driving--the road was straight, there was no other traffic, and there was no snow on the road....