Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog

Windows of Clarity

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, September 04, 2011

Addicts of all types who eventually enter recovery know the phrase "window of clarity". Through the haze of drugs or booze, people have a poignant stroke of thought. People realize their addiction is deadly; it is collapsing their personal world. So, too, a cheap energy addict (like me) knows these moments. Every so often, I look at some object in my hand and see the unrecoverable petroleum that actually produced it. I drive 1-94 to see my parents and remember only 130 years ago this journey was harrowing, it took a month by ox cart or more in some seasons. Before that, people walked and working dogs dragged along their portable houses. In that window of clarity my car, all of our cars, which we take for granted, are magic carpets.    


One such moment of clarity occurred this summer in Belcourt, North Dakota, on my home reservation where I went with my mother. I bought an apple in the grocery store. It was labeled Holland. The apple wasn't really from Holland, but it might as well have been. This apple appeared near the central Canadian Border in June -- it came from somewhere very, very far away. There are few places so remote that they do not get shipments of pesticide (petroleum) laced produce, fertilized (petroleum), harvested (petroleum) and shipped (petroleum) from a place equally mysterious and remote. The apple in my hand might as well have been tossed to the Turtle Mountains by a genie -- one created of a fabulously powerful substance accompanied by a deadly curse.

At our last bookstore meeting we talked as a group about what would make our work at Birchbark Books more meaningful. One of us said it would be great to enlarge our mission to include transitional thinking about how to strengthen local economies. The word "transitional" clicked with me. My windows of clarity, interspersed with bouts of magical thinking, included dread. Nobody likes to linger too long in a moment of clarity about climate change because it always ends in dread. Year by year I've tried to recycle, reduce, reuse. Still, the dread. And the word Collapse is enough to stop most thought. But the word Transition somehow pulled me out. Transition is not about dread, survivalist fear, a life of paranoia, hoarding guns and money and vacuum packed plastic barrels of grain. It is about producing our own energy and food, but in a joyous and meaningful way.


My mother's family gardened and canned and hunted all the food they ate only a generation ago, right there in the Turtle Mountains. My mother and father could still survive from their garden and orchard if they had too, even though they give most of what they grow away.

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins, is a great place to start reading. I recommend it as a positive beginning -- I have worked my way backward into Lester R. Brown's World On The Edge, and John Michael Greer's The Wealth of Nature, and Original Instructions, edited by Melissa K. Nelson, all excellent. As soon as I read The Transition Handbook, however, I realized that in Minneapolis we have the makings of a great transition city. Here are signs:


One year ago our bookstore faced a sheet of asphalt. Kenwood School was paved to the foundation. Last year that asphalt (petroleum) was torn out and replaced with a garden as miraculous as that apple in the Turtle Mountains. It was planted by (genies) the parents of schoolchildren, tended by the children (naturally produced) as well as more (eternal motion machines) parents, teachers, and now is being harvested. At the start of school barbeque, parents took home produce, marveling at the freshness, exchanging recipes. One boy looked at the top of a carrot showing in the dirt and asked, shyly, "can I pull it out?"  He did, and walked away brushing his face dreamily with the soft carrot leaves.  "I never knew they had tops" he murmured.

A moment of clarity for that boy, maybe, and for me a reason to enlarge our bookstore's offerings to include a section on Green Thinking, Urban Homesteading, Climate Change, The Commons, Indigenous Gardening -- all of the topics that I'd love to deny but can't.  If we look over the sides of our magic carpets, we'll realize we're floating on thin air.  If it's all the same, I'd rather coast down or "power down" than drop.  But that requires living in that clarity, more reading, and taking action. 

Thanks to all of our supporters who keep Birchbark Books going here on 21st Street. Watch for Diane Wilson reading from Beloved Child. She not only writes beautifully, but she is the director of Dream of Wild Health, an Indigenous gardening project and an original partner of Birchbark Books.

Louise 




Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Tags

Tree Houses show your love Women and Trees Easter Island Minneapolis green Philip Roth local economy Remarkable Trees trees Minnesota Bill Moyers Journal Dogs Greenland E.L. Doctorow north dakota Chitra Divakaruni birchbark house series Birchbark Books Peak Oil Magers and Quinn Native People Alice Munro Ojibwe Wolf Hall Bohumil Hrabal health care reform Population The Farmer's Daughter Milkweed Press cafe Aubrey/Maturin Video adventure Brown Dog Nemesis Roberto Bolano Louise Patrick O'Brian Victory Gardens support British Navy post holiday National Book Award Dartmouth Mankato Powwow Hilary Mantel Mohamed's Ghosts tree books Alan Weisman france Beth Dooley china incarnation The Resilient Gardener Anishinabemowin Too Loud A Solitude germany Tar Sands spring friends Let's Take the Long Way Home euphoria Botany William Trevor Michael Jackson S.C. Gwynne gratitude Hillary Clinton Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Aza graphix NACDI:All My Relations italy Makoons Too Much Happiness State Troopers bill mckibben Ojibwemowin Interview sweden pilgrims Anton Treuer the most romantic city in the world The Birchbark House devoted customers boarding school knowledge anniversary Green Team Education buffalo leaves and snow post holiday reads ependent peculiar touches of green and gold cafe closing More Remarkable Trees monkey in a dryer Kabul thank you friends Peak Water favorite tree neighborhood 2666 Gary Clement ireland Catalyst book and dinner club joy Kate DiCamillo This Green World The Wealth of Nature mississippi President Obama Up Late Again twins Ha Jin Nero Wendy Makoons Geniusz Light in August Gryphon Press Gail Caldwell The Royal Prussian Library Wastepaper Keystone XL The Blue Sky Poetry Native Arts Love Book Review Keepers of the Trees Czech Writer The Porcupine Year Stephen Salisbury Empire of the Summer Moon School Gardens Small Bookstores as Commons Crushing Books The Transition Handbook Canada Ice photography Jim Harrison gardens Bleak House ptsd language revitalization how good looking you are Fireworks aquifer favorite dog Unnatural Disasters Emily Johnson 350.org coyote Rare Books fresh water Zombies customers Kenwood Gardens favorite book H2Oil Pembina Collective Denial World on the Edge The Ojibwe japan Afghanistan Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge Chickadee plants Islam Vic Glover The Game of Silence solstice, Thomas King thanks city of books Anishinabe Climate Change

Archive