. . . . what it’s like to be a nature mystic stuck in an urban apartment? I take pictures of the beautiful Texas sunrises over the skyline of downtown Austin out my bedroom window. I grow some plants on my balcony and watch the clouds and the birds in my little patch of sky over the courtyard of the apartment house I live in. It’s a nice place as urban apartments go and I know I’m lucky. But I really miss the night sky far away from cities where the stars come down to the horizon and touch the earth and you can hear the soft wind and the early morning bird song.
I’ve been grounded by environmental illness. My respiratory system has been so damaged by environmental toxins that I am unable to live without supplemental oxygen and filtered, climate-controlled air. I also have chemical sensitivities to the point where I can’t be around any fragrances, VOCs, pesticides, cleaning agents, smoke, fumes – you name it, I react to it. There’s more and more of us these days as toxins in the environment accumulate and people’s immune systems go haywire under the stress.
Right now, my apartment is my “bubble.” I can’t even go out on my balcony most of the time because of the urban air quality. A lot of people with chemical sensitivities have portable bubbles. They have customized RVs or live as far away from civilization as they can get, sometimes in Airstream trailers which, because they are made with quality, non-toxic materials, are very popular. Having an Airstream and living where I can be closer to the natural world again is my dream.
I have been blessed in my life to live in some really beautiful, remote places. As anyone who has done this knows, it was accompanied by plenty of exercise, otherwise known as chopping wood, carrying water. And, for me, growing food, learning a craft and living a subsistence/barter lifestyle. I’ve also been able to write things and publish things and travel a lot. I’ve baked bread and sold it, was a partner in a cafe/gallery for awhile, worked in one of the most wonderful little bookstores you could ever find – and met all kinds of amazing people.
From 1995 until 2001 I traveled with my partner, Woodstock, on our bus, Even Further, back and forth and all around the country and now I’m writing a book, “The Bus People,” and putting in my two cents worth with this blog. I read a lot and I try to pass on things that I think might be helpful.
I get my news from a broad range of sources. On the internet I read the New York Times and occasionally other newspapers like the St. Petersburg Tribune, the Boston Globe, the LA Times and the Washington Post. I also read the Norway Post, Upside Down (Central and South America), a newsletter from Canada called rabble and the China Dialogue. I watch the News Hour on PBS and other PBS news programs like Washington Week, Frontline, Now and Bill Moyers. Through my email I get Grist magazine, Common Dreams, TomPaine and AlterNet. I also read online Orion the beautiful magazine of nature writing and activism, the European magazine Ode which features real life stories about positive change and the Ecologist to see what the folks in the UK are doing. I read The Bear Deluxe, the dynamic little magazine out of Portland, Oregon, that “explores environmental issues through the creative arts” and occassionally publishes something from me.
I get newsletters and participate in forums on environmental issues, disability rights, environmental illness support groups, progressive politics, civil and first amendment rights organizations, nature writing and radical poetry. I try to distill and pass on from these sources and my own experience what I think might be helpful. I know most people don’t have time to do all this reading so I hope to make my blog a place where people can come for some useful ideas, some inspiration, some connections.
When my friends and I started our first alternative newspaper 35 years ago we decided that there would be no anonymous, pseudo-objective reporting. The corporate media will tell you what a few faceless shareholders want you to know. It was understood that we had to be for real; we had to say who we were and where we were coming from and that’s what I love about the grassroots media; it’s just us.
I believe we can get rid of corrupt politicians, end the war and stop global warming. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take awhile but it’s possible. Will we do it? Will we do it in time? If it’s just us, who else will do it?
I would love to find a big old live oak tree and an Airstream trailer and hang out with my grandchildren, tell them all my stories and teach them everything I can to help them build a better world. . . . . and keep writing about it. And I’d love to hear from you wherever you are.