*don’t tell me to buy a lawnmower either, shirley

 
Kerry Clare recently wrote a piece about the prospect of not necessarily coveting a house or even lamenting the impossibility of owning one in Toronto any time soon. She wrote about being a happy renter in her city of choice, about living close enough for her husband to stroll to work, close enough to walk the kids to and from school and how everybody’s home at the same time to have dinner together.

You wouldn’t think this would inspire negative comments, but then you’d be silly. Because, it seems, everything inspires negative comments.

It’s actually stunning to watch, anthropologically, this need humans apparently have to take things personally. How almost anything can be interpreted as a slight against something else. In this case the fact that she’s coming out as a contented renter is really pissing off a lot of people who own, which begs the question why?  If you’re happy in your world why does it trouble you that others are happy in their different  worlds?

This isn’t about lawns or renting or owning, it’s much bigger. Sadly, the emotions triggered by the small stuff may suggest an intolerance also to the bigger stuff… race, class, gender, religion, age, and all those other isms.

So what is it? Are we wired to create divisions? How else to explain this constant sorting of them  from us. And why don’t we get that there is no them? There’s only  an us. Some of us like lawns. Others of us don’t. Some of us like bubble gum flavoured ice cream and others of us have taste. (Ah, see that? That’s exactly how easy it is…)

Also, don’t we get tired of it all? The sides, the I’m right you’re wrong, no I’m right you’re wrong, no me, no me…  the incessant, uninformed griping about The Other. Do we ever get beyond it, smarter, more broad-minded? Or does our brain function max out at self-righteous smugness?

For the record, Shirley, (tho’ I doubt this makes us kindred spirits) I live in a house probably similar to yours. I didn’t always. For more than a decade I lived in Toronto in various apartments similar to Clare’s. I also lived in a council flat in Oxford, a pretty house on a hill in the Caribbean, an impossibly tiny bachelor in an Edmonton basement. Had you asked, while I was living in any of these spaces, I’d have told you I was content with my world, not just the structure of where I lived, but the lifestyle it allowed me to live.

Because that’s what it comes down to: are you happy with your life/style?

The point, Shirley, is that I would love it if we all stopped categorizing everyone. We are all of us ever-changing bits of various things based on where we’ve been and where we happen to be at the moment. Today’s renters are tomorrows owners. Or not. And vice versa. Who cares. We deal as best we can. And if someone’s managed to make their own version of lemonade (or bubble gum ice cream) then maybe we can celebrate that instead of telling them iced tea (or vanilla, obvs) is the way to go…

Finally, Shirley (are you still there?), I think it’s important you know that not everyone who lives in a house needs a lawnmower. And that you surely, Shirley, do not speak for me.

* The title for this post is a riff on Kerry Clare’s response to one of the comments her piece inspired and it amused me no end.

 

 

 

 

 

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words

dsc07819On this traditionally wordless day at Matilda, may I suggest that today we use our words. And use them kindly.

Forget the anger. It buys nothing worth having.

No stamping of feet, no pointing of fingers… no giving the anger-mongers more fuel.

dsc07814Instead, let’s think of what we can do as individuals, as communities—let’s come together, even as the anger-mongers continue to flail about.

dsc07780-copy-copyThe bottom of the barrel isn’t always the worst thing… it’s often a necessary place to be so that we wake up, say enough, and begin to create the change we want to see. To be  that proverbial change we want to see.

dsc07835So despite the forever angry-ness of some… and maybe because  of the barrel’s bottom in our faces… let’s move forward rather than be discouraged… and let’s do it with the simplicity of kindness as our guide and our goal.

That’s all, just kindness. Pockets of kindness in the giant madness.

If only so we can breathe.

dsc07838It’s a novel idea, I know. Sappy and impossible some will say.

Still.

What can it hurt?

It’s a start.

dsc07809Kindness.

Spread the word.

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Elizabeth Yeoman

this is not a review: ‘what milly did’, by elise moser

 
Milly Zantow falls into the category of People You’ve Never Heard of Who Have Changed the World. In this case, the world of recycling. Because Milly Zantow is the person who created a tiny thing called the global recycling standard for plastic,  more commonly known as the-numbers-inside-those-little-triangles-on-your-water-bottles-and-stuff.

It’s what made plastic recycling possible.

But it’s the HOW this all came about that’s jaw dropping. What Milly Did  (a childrens’ book for all ages, including adults in my opinion) by Elise Moser, is an extraordinary story about a woman who, at age sixty or so, decides to do something about the growing problem of plastic in landfills.

9781554988938_1024x1024Turns out that plastic wasn’t recycled because no one thought it could be done.

Enter Milly, an ordinary woman, raised on a farm, who has no experience in anything even remotely related to anything to do with recycling but who just really believes that something can be done.

So she says pfffft  to the naysayers and starts reading about plastic; she studies it, takes courses, learns everything she can then cashes in her life insurance policy, buys a gigantic grinding machine and opens a company called E-Z Recycling where she and a few others do much of the grunt work by hand, seven days a week.

“She called the Borden Dairy Company in Milwaukee and asked them how they manufactured their plastic milk jugs. What did they do when they made a mistake? she asked. They told her they just melted the deformed jug down and reblew it. That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for Milly.”

Moser captures Milly’s spirit as a woman who is in no way ego driven. Nor is becoming rich her motivation; she simply wants to make sense of trash and to that end she does whatever she can to help people recycle, including establishing programs in nearby towns.

Eventually her vision catches on. Various community groups form, tipping fees for landfill sites are established and in 1988 her system for grading plastic is adopted by the Society of Plastics Industry, which means a standardized recycling practice across North America.

The story, of course, isn’t quite that simple. There are many hurdles along the way, people who laugh, who say that what she’s proposing is impossible, and then there are the times themselves, the 1970’s and early 80’s, which aren’t overly receptive, or even friendly, to the idea of recycling. Moser has done an excellent job of telling Milly’s story against this back drop of time and place.

A clever addition to the story are sidebars throughout the book, telling about bridges and boats made of plastic bottles, stats on current plastic usage and where it all goes, yo-yo trivia!, the ABCs of modern recycling, innovations in biodegradable plastic… all bite-sized, very readable for any age, and all to the accompaniment of sweet b&w illustrations by Scott Ritchie.

That this is such an unknown story is mind-boggling. I’m grateful to Elise Moser for telling it. It needs to be shared. I hope the book will find its ways to schools and to homes, not only as an eye-opener to an important piece of history, but to open at least two kinds of conversation… One,  about the problem of a planet full of garbage and, two, the power we have as individuals  to make the world better.

Finally, what maybe I love most about this story is what Milly didn’t  do… she didn’t complain, blame, whinge or whine or suggest that this problem to solve was someone else’s job… 

Or that the difficulties she faced were someone else’s fault.

She just got on with it.

The world could use more Milly.

peace. and love. pass it on.

DSC06001You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by

And so, become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye
DSC06002Teach your children well
Their father’s hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by
DSC06004Don’t you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you
DSC06008Teach your parents well
Their children’s hell will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by
DSC06007Don’t you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry

So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you

 

ways to bee nice and messy

DSC05896
Don’t fret if you don’t see honey bees in your yard.
DSC05897
According to this piece by Eric Atkins, there are dozens of other kinds.

All are important. All are pollinators.
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And they want to live in the messy bits of your garden.
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So make sure you have a few messy bits.

DSC05913Piles of rocks and sticks.

Also a fairie beach does not go amiss…
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General rule of thumb appears to be this:  don’t over-rake, over-prune or anally tidy every last bit of the outdoors.

DSC05912
If you must be anal, you can always go inside and clean your house.
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As for those honeybees…seems we ought not to become amateur bee keepers as we risk doing more harm than good in spreading disease and parasites.
DSC05893
In other words: leave beekeeping to the pros.
DSC05900
And create friendly environments instead  for all those OTHER bees, i.e. leafcutters, bumblebees, sweaters and miners.

Bonus:  because the natural world is naturally diverse, to allow a bit of the ‘natural’ will result in fewer bad bug infestations.

DSC05899Also,

DSC05901
—when buying plants and seeds, check with the grower  or nursery about use of neonicotinoids. More and more growers are choosing not to use them, but only because more and more people are asking questions and raising a fuss.
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Ask questions.

Raise a fuss.
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The bees will thank you.
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And we’ll continue thanking the bees.
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As we should.

DSC05904
Without them we’re pretty much landscaped toast.