Monday, June 9, 2014

cultural safari

Dear Tereza,
Your residency photos look really interesting so far.
Can't wait to hear more...

I just got back from a 5-day trip/wedding in North Carolina.
1750 miles there and back, in car with bambino. What a great traveler!

I thought of the trip as a cultural safari with a wedding in the middle of it. It was so interesting to see all the changes of topography, foliage, clouds, etc along the way...and also to notice the tendency towards homogeny by way of box stores, gas stations, road widths and sizes, and cars. I also realized, very early on, that when I moved out of NYC, I moved to America. Most of what I saw looked and felt familiar: country life, agriculture, stand-alone housing (for the most part).

It was interesting to correlate seemingly disparate aspects of nature in relation to one another. Two aspects of the same thing in the same space! And to notice when one really did NOT relate to the other. I found Pennsylvania very depressing: we drove past Mechanicsville, Carbon County, and Fracktown. Everyone we saw looked a bit grey. But the Blue Ridge Parkway was fantastic: we stopped for lunch on the side of the road at an apple orchard, and there was a country music band playing for Sunday brunch. Some older couples were dancing as couples, and looked very happy. We ate overlooking the Smoky Mountains. 

It was like the big arteries of road were very much the same along the way, but once we got onto back roads, in the capillaries of the country, the houses were more individual, largely blue collar, and seemed- at least to me - more honest: a little more rough around the edges, no shiny coats of paint or perfectly manicured lawns; the roads were a little more unkept, there was a little more mystery behind each turn. Grass was long along the roadsides, and we could see miles of wildflowers growing like carpet. However, on the highways, the grass was cut super short, and the dividers were mostly made of concrete; Walmarts and BP Gas stations were numerous, as were Hampton Inns, and Econo Lodges. And God. Crosses everywhere, Bible verses on billboards, and God on the radio. 

But it's all our own choice - as humans, I mean. We choose to support Walmart, we choose to live in Carbon County, as much as we choose to support the Blue Ridge Highway system and eat organic produce. I find it pretty fascinating, sometimes pretty underwhelming, often depressing, but sometimes also uplifting and hopeful...under the larger umbrella of Earth and our role in the Universe. 

Why do we make these decisions? Can prevailing thoughts that create the box store mentality be shifted towards a more holistic approach to integrating with nature rather than ignoring its value? I have so many questions like this...why don't we choose to see ourselves as the same as not only each other, but as nature? What will have to happen to suture, to transform the separation within ourselves? What are we as a people so afraid of?

And even though it was nice to go on a road trip, it's amazing to be home!  It's lovely and just right. I loved seeing our garden again, and our unmowed grass, my leaky studio and our dusty bedroom. I appreciate the luxury of having my own space that is cultivating food for my family, sheltering us from weather, and affording us the peace and relative quiet of country life. Sad to see a handful of bees in the catmint rather than hundreds, but perhaps I will start raising bees next summer to compensate...?


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