Friday, November 16, 2012

Walking our way to a better future

I love walking.  It didn't start with Medusa - and even though Reggie Duncan is an inspiration, his walking isn't really the root of my own compulsion to walk.  I've been taking the slow road for a long time.

I like to joke with folks that our carbon footprint has diminished substantially, even though we just purchased an aged conversion van. We are only about a mile from the store and we've been getting there most days via foot.  Sometimes my kids bike - and Perin rides in a stroller and the babies ride on me - but we are always blessed with the satisfying sameness of the majestic Catskill range.

It strikes me that this is not only a metaphor for life - we are struggling on this path one step at a time - but it is also enormously practical.  It is meditative, and deeply healthful, and doesn't emit a damn thing.

Why not make this one of our first calls to action?  And it's a call that nearly anyone can answer.  Walk or bike.  To Medusa.  I know some of you aren't close, but lots of you are - I have a friend who visits us from Altamont via bike. And another from Glenmont. We have an event coming up - of course you know, since I've been beating you up on every social media site imaginable, reminding you.  Small Business Saturday is on the 24th, right after Thanksgiving and horrendous black Friday.  Bike or walk here for Small Business Saturday, as a celebration of your commitment to spend less, and spend local.

We are celebrating, I think, something as special as Thanksgiving itself on Saturday, the 24th.  If we are planning to make progress towards building the types of self-reliant communities that can weather real and proverbial storms, it is pretty crucial that folks support we small independents.

That day you'll have the opportunity to chat with some of your local farmers and artisans, all of whom are your neighbors.  They, too, are taking the slow road, but are producing quality and beauty of unimaginable value - from home spun wool to sweetly tended chickens, from homegrown and kitchen canned produce to fresh baked breads, these neighbors of yours are on the forefront of a passionate movement to re-provision their community with the best foods and products in life.

You should walk down to Medusa for another reason, as well.  In our infamous "back building" we're hosting a street art workshop on the 24th.  Here in Medusa, we just started a local chapter of and are anxious to make some street art that exhibits our passion for localism, for building self-reliant communities, and for stopping the near-ceaseless assault on the planet.  You bring some blank t-shirts and catchy slogans and we'll supply the paint and the cardboard.  And then spread the message to the world, one homemade road sign at a time.

How could this not catch on?  And if you meet me at my house, we can walk down together.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gas shortages and community building

So we're all a little worried.  There are still some of you we haven't heard from - those friends of the store and of Medusa who make their primary homes in the city or on Long Island.  And tonight, as I try to type quietly so as not to wake the sleeping babies lying next to me, I continue to worry.

This morning an old childhood friend (we wish you lived closer, Dan Ryan!) posted on Facebook that Kingston was running out of gas.  Honestly, I thought that was a little strange, but didn't think much of it.  At the store today, a friend, one of those who works during the week in New York, chatted with me a bit about our decision to sell the store - and we laughed a little about how there isn't a better place to create a home than here.  Medusa is as safe as life gets, I think.  We are also blessed with more than our fair share of brilliant, creative, amazing people.  My family doesn't have any plans to leave, I told him.  And I was glad he'd made it out of the city and back to Medusa, because, after all, we have plenty of gasoline. 

But later, we started having more folks calling to inquire whether we had gas - frankly, as we do run out every so often, this wasn't immediately worrisome.  But then news started trickling in that local stations - Greenville, for example - were beginning to run out of gas.  How can this be - with all of our technology, we must have modelled the supply chain problems that could occur after facing a crisis like a hurricane hitting the upper East Coast, right?  And why isn't there more on the web about the gas shortages that are spreading this far north?  Could this affect our deliveries - could we have food shortages because of our reliance on diesel-fuel-driven truck transportation, we wondered?

Even more concerning, now a google search turns up articles that suggest that the hospitals in the city are closing and moving patients.  That the emergency rooms are facing complete chaos, understaffed and running on generators.  Apparently attempts by the governors of NY and NJ to provide gasoline to folks backfired completely, and they rescinded plans, at least in NY, to provide places where residents could get gas.

I am starting to feel like I've watched one too many Walking Dead episodes, honestly.  And I think some of you are probably reading and waiting for the punch line, but there is none, this time.  The fact that, thanks to a hurricane hitting Manhattan, climate change and peak oil are phrases that have suddenly come back into vogue is little consolation as I wonder what I would do if I had a sick or injured child and no where to go for help.

But if there is a silver lining, and I am one of those annoying, Pollyanna-esque types, I think that we may be witnessing one of the brightest moments ever in our struggle to turn our ship towards greater sustainability.  And, as I discussed with a friend today, if that term is not clear enough - let's figure out exactly what we should call it.  We need to develop a plan, right here and right now, about how we become energy independent.  We need to take Carol's lead, up at Heather Ridge, and start implementing energy alternatives.  We need to start getting more local food - all year round - on shelves here at our store - and folks must begin acknowledging that they need to participate in supporting that.  Mostly, I think, we need to work much harder to develop the sort of community that can weather storms - either literally in the form of Irene, or more indirectly, as we experience the effects of supply chain problems that can ripple outward for months.  A strong, cohesive community is capable, I think, of facing any challenge, no matter how insurmountable it may at first appear.

So I am inviting you to take the first step with me.  And I'm not even sure how, exactly.  But even if we start by putting up a big bulletin board at the store where you can post your ideas about how we, as deciding members of this community, can move towards becoming more resilient, more prepared, more immune to these types of crises, that would be better than simply watching and waiting.  We must make a point of finding each other more often, talking, figuring out what the way forward looks like - we need to stop waiting for someone else to do it.
It’s time we all make the decision to participate, because, from my vantage point, it seems like we no longer have much of a choice.