Posts Tagged 'Life'

This Side Up

If only instructions for life were this easy: This Place Now. This Job Up. All Arrows To The East.

People often make overarching statements about the cultural differences between the West and the East in the U.S. – and generally, they’re talking about New York versus Los Angeles: one big city pitted against another.

But it’s not so easy when you’re comparing mid-sized Virginia towns to tiny Ohio villages to medium-ish Colorado towns. Or when the small Colorado town is one of the most isolated liberal bubbles in the state. Kind of a cultural blip.

What I’ve missed about Eastern Appalachian and mid-Southern towns: The kindness. The total lack of pretension. Lower food prices. Lower rents. Lower cost of living. Black people. Being able to rely on community. Generosity. Good hosts. The way people have a real sympathy for other people, even if they’re only acquaintances. The way people are really aware of other people, even if they don’t have sympathy. Mixed-income populations. Obesity. Ugly gardens. Ugliness in general. Conservatives. Manners. Better drivers.

What I’m going to miss about Boulder: Sunshine every day. The total lack of self-consciousness. The beautiful gardens. The beautiful houses. Not living anywhere near a Wal-Mart. Or a CVS. Intentional living. The intellect. My favorite coffee shop from over the summer. Big skies. Being able to hike at a moment’s notice. The big forbidding metaphorical mountains.

Anyways, I’m going to on a train for the next few days, and then driving for another, so I won’t be posting until I get settled in on the other side.

Wish me luck!

On Resolutions, Goals, and Playing Cards

“We must imagine the possibility of a more just world before the world may become more just. That’s something that poets do well.”

- Martin Espada

In the progressive artsy sector of the internet, it seems pretty well-accepted that New Year’s Resolutions are over-simplifying things, at the very least. Even Oprah thinks that keeping a journal is a better method for self-improvement than making some spastic once-a-year goals (and I agree). I also like Stephanie’s (aka Biffybeans’) guidelines for making manifestations instead of resolutions.

There’s something about Boulder the United States the Holidays that leaves me exhausted. And maybe that’s why people find the idea of New Year’s Resolutions so refreshing, like a deep cleansing meditation after a bad hangover. But the general sentiment from friends and fellow bloggers is that a feeling of “stuck-ness” is more than a matter of internal motivation. Unfortunately, there really are external factors that affect your success – a shitty economy, for one. A highly motivated, optimistic, and qualified individual is not guaranteed a job, at least at the moment. In fact just such a friend of mine is currently on food stamps.

One of my big-picture goals has always been to bring these larger systems up in conversations, especially with people who believe that the individual is 100% responsible for his or her fate. Having tried to live as a low-income person in a high-income city for the past few months, I can tell you that positive attitudes and initiative can only take you so far. Chance has a lot to do with it, and so does the willingness of luckier people to reach out to you. There isn’t a lot of outreach here in Boulder, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for poor folks to mingle with the rich folks. Let alone different racial groups.

In 1994, the KKK held a rally in Boulder. When Boulder residents vehemently protested, a KKK leader gave a speech in which he identified Boulder as a model city for the KKK because (contrary to the image of being one of the most progressive cities in the nation) “it is impossible for a lower middle class family with multiple childeren to live here.” In fact, he congratulated Boulder on achieving 90% white demographics. It took a member of the KKK to give the city a wake-up call about privilege, to show them that no amount of Buddhist meditation groups and African dance lessons will create real diversity.

Having said that, I’m no fatalist when it comes to success and happiness, and I don’t think The Man can keep you down forever. Re-examine the cards you’ve been dealt: the privileges and the opportunities, the options and the limitations. There are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to save or invest money, and will never have the financial padding to move to a different city or switch professions. So heck, I feel real good about being able to miserably pinch pennies in order to move across the country (yet again). Miserable, sure, but lucky as hell.

I propose we think of the new year as reshuffling your deck. See if new patterns emerge, or if you’ve been trying to play the wrong hand for too long. (Is this metaphor still making sense?)

My Hand This Year

  1. Do whatever it takes to avoid being overwhelmed by job-searching. Take a day off to rest my brain, and ask for help if I need it. Indulge in self pity if necessary, but don’t be crippled by it.
  2. Fake the enthusiasm that I don’t always have. I know that my tendency is to curl up alone and read or paint, but that certainly isn’t going to make me friends or get a job.
  3. Spend money in ways that enhance my life. I will not feel guilty about going out to a restaurant if it helps me get closer to a new friend. And I will not feel guilty about ordering lunch, if it helps me bond with my co-workers. Sometimes not spending money can isolate you and prevent you from connecting with your workplace or hometown.
  4. Be strategic with the Great Flow of Information. Because damn, it’s easy to get lost in the internet. Instead of zoning out on forums and looking at infinite other artists, use that time to read tutorials on job-searching, or better yet – to actually paint something myself.
  5. Seriously consider whether graduate school will make me happier or more marketable. And if the answer is yes, get going on that.

Act III: The Departure

Have I mentioned that I’m moving across the country? I’m exchanging the Appalachian Mountains for the Rockies, and saying goodbye to everything I love about Appalachia and the American Southeast:

Me, 1989 or 1990

I started this blog when I was farming in the heartland of Virginia last summer. I wanted to reconcile my passion for place– that real, earthy spot where you stand –with the global networks of the internet. I posted about things like strawberry rhubarb crisps, eating disorders and farming, and handsome farmers (see #5). I wanted to post all my art in one place, and prove that “rural” doesn’t mean “lacking in culture.”

I admit that, during the school year, I forgot my focus on rural politics and got caught up in art supplies. But I still saw those things as connected: binding my own books connects me to generations of Appalachians who made their own clothing, furniture, and instruments. And even if I was no longer living next to the old plantation slave quarters, I still focused on race through my studies, posts, and in my life. Sure, I had some difficulty readjusting to a liberal arts school where most of my peers were from the urban centers on the coasts– but the main themes of my life (and of this blog) remained the same:

Self-Sufficiency (D-I-Y. Crafting. Creating. Energy independence. Independent women. Growing your own food.)

Rurality (Community. Music on porches. Real-life interactions).

Agriculture (Dirt. Dark soil. Sweaty bandanas. Staking tomatoes.)

Art and Design (Art supplies. Meditative safety. Blank pages. Flex nibs. Watercolor.)

Literature (Everywhere. All the time. The story of each life. The collective story of all lives.)

Politics (Being a woman. Being white. Being Southern. Being Appalachian. Being educated.)

Poetry (Powerful poets. Contemporary poets. Poetry saving lives.)

And So Now…

Here I am headed toward a new climate, a new altitude, a new landscape. But I don’t think it will be forever (what ever is?). I’ll be missing a lot about this part of the country. I’ll be back.



Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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