Notes from the Hinterland
In my last post, I wrote about Clif’s birthday and our bike ride from Hallowell to Richmond and then back again, a trip of about 20 miles. We rode along the Kennebec River, which, as I have noted before, is not mighty but is beautiful nonetheless. I also included pictures.
In the comment section, our friend Kate wrote, “What a beautiful part of the world to live in and live in it, you and Clif do, with such honor and joy and love.”
What a wonderful comment! And it gave me the idea for this post, the notion of living in place, of being totally immersed in the area in which you live, and then loving that area, warts and all.
Naturally, qualifiers are in order. Some places are harder to love than other places—poor, war-torn countries where just getting through the day is a struggle; countries with repressive governments; countries with nonexistent social services; countries where education is not a right for all children. In such places, people often want to get out, and for good reason.
However, in the United States, a significant number of us are lucky enough to live in communities that are safe and at least have some social services. (Yes, I know that there are exceptions here as well, and I will get into this in a future post.) We have public education that is open to all children, not just the privileged few who can afford it. As for food…while food insecurity is an issue for some people, for many, many people, even those living on a modest income, the issue is not eating too much rather than not having enough to eat. Hence, our obesity epidemic.
My crystal ball is no more accurate than the next person’s, but in the upcoming years, we, as a country and as a planet, are likely to face some significant challenges as a result of climate change and energy costs. In Maine, gas for the car is nearly $4 a gallon, and I do think it’s safe to say that the days of cheap gas are over. At the same time, the world is getting warmer, climate change is here, and this means that even if we can afford higher gas prices, we should limit the driving we do. Everyone who owns a car, and I mean everyone—environmentalists do not get a pass on this—is part of the problem.
Now, staying close to home by choice does not sound like the most exiting way to live. We are a restless species. We like to see what’s around the next bend, so to speak, and there is no denying that travel can be very broadening. Yet in an increasing hot world with finite resources, staying close home is what most of us should do most of the time. Sorry, but barring a Mr. Fusion that runs on garbage and can be strapped to a car, that’s just the way it is. Another qualifier: Visiting with family and friends gets a pass, but even then, we should make every effort to visit them in as sustainable a way as possible.
So how do we make a rich, rewarding life for ourselves if we stay close to home most of the time? Here is where I return to Kate’s comment: By living in our communities with honor, love, and joy, by becoming immersed in where we live, by noticing all that is around us, by becoming involved in civic events, which even the smallest, most rural communities have. So many good things could happen to this country, to this world, if we began to cherish our communities—the people, the plants, the animals, the lakes, the rivers, the forests, the fields. If you live in an urban setting, this can even include the sidewalks and the pavement. I was born in a small city, and as a young child, I have a vivid memory of going to the market. Under a canopy, there were crates of fruit on the sidewalk. It had just rained, and the smell of wet pavement mingled with the smell of peaches and melons. For me, it was the smell of summer, and I loved that smell. In fact, I still do on the occasions that I am by a city market when it rains.
In my next post, I will write about my area—Winthrop, Augusta, and central Maine—and I hope these posts get you thinking about your area and ways that you can become immersed in it.