A Purloined Letter from the Green Raven
'Twas the night before Christmas...
and in the hotel kitchenette, my partner David was cleaning out the coffee maker. After removing the (disposable) filter full of used grounds, he looked around and said, "Hey--where's the compost bucket?"
* * *
My family of 3 drove our little car to coastal South Carolina to visit my parents and brother and other relatives for the holidays. We're staying in a hotel with a lovely ocean view, lamenting the carbon fiesta that our vacation has already become.
When we are at home in the little hippie enclave of Takoma Park, I often feel that our "living out loud" gets drowned out by the din of our neighbors living their own inspiring lives. While we each have our unique areas of green expertise to share, all of us are more or less on the same path toward sustainability. But when we leave our little bubble of lefty activism, we are not always joined by a chorus of other greenies.
Here at my parents' home, my own life is getting a lot quieter. Living la vida fuerte is starting to get more complicated. I keep thinking about Green Bean's post. Am I guilty of leaving my cape behind in the phone booth right at the moment when these super-powers may be most needed? Am I asking my family to hide its green light under a bushel?
The heat is cranked up to 72 degrees. My brother brought rBGH milk and non-organic, unfairly-traded black tea home from the corporate convenience store--and brought it home in double-thick plastic bags. We're eating cage-raised eggs for breakfast. My mother throws glass bottles in the garbage. We're using gasoline like there is no tomorrow, speeding up and down the coast in multiple large cars.
We haven't completely abandonned our values. Everyone on our gift list is getting handknitted items to keep them warm. We give out our grown-up non-religious version of Christmas stockings: baskets of homegrown and home canned jams and pickles, local rice and grits, and handknitted dishcloths. We are using no wrapping paper, just reusable silk scarves. These are ways of living out loud--albeit very quietly.
We as a nation have a long way to travel to meet the goal of sustainability. Being with family--including folks we love very much who do not necessarily agree or even take kindly to our ideas--reminds me that the most imporant part of this journey is not arriving in a particular location but figuring out how to travel with our companions. Living out loud in our own homes can be noisy some times. When we are with others, we sometimes need to be more subtle.
With my family, I am often aware that while I may be the "greenest" in the family, I am not the only activist. I respect the fact that my loved ones have other concerns and that they work for necessary progressive change in arenas other than the environment. Their commitment to justice inspires me daily.
I keep hoping that I'll be able to find a more comfortable balance between living up to our green values and living up to our family values. For me, being in someone else's home means I sometimes choose to dampen my zeal to avoid insulting people. I want to inspire and support people on their journeys. I want to raise new questions. But I don't want to raise hackles and cause defensiveness.
The goal of this trip is not about creating a more sustainable world at this moment. It is about building a more sustainable family who can work together respectfully as we move into the changing future.
Happy holidays to you and yours.