I'm not much of a structure-oriented person but I do like fresh starts. I like the first of the month, the beginning of a new year, the transition between seasons. I like CHANGE! And I regularly implement newness into my life.
For 2011, I am pursuing a focus on "Local Living." What does this mean?
First, I am researching and planning visits to local farms. I am excited to talk to the farmers, tour their land, meet their animals, and enter into some relationship between my family and what we eat. I love food, and I believe that my body is sensitive, in a good and natural way, to the quality of what I feed it. For example, I have never been able to stomach fast food, soda pop, or sweets (other than chocolate, of course). But over the last couple years, I have had more interest in examining food labels, understanding how food is made, and researching how food gets from field to table. I am currently reading three excellent books on this topic: Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (a NY Times Book Review Top Ten books of 2010), as well as his Food Rules, and Barbara Kingsolver's autobiographical Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I have been inspired and convinced that the closer I can get to the actual place where my food is raised, the better it is for me, for the individual animal or plant, and for the entire natural world.
What really resonated with me is the fact that the majority of people who argue for a more local, environmentally- and animal-friendly food production are not God-fearing people. They make an ethical argument from a biological and evolutionary standpoint. If someone who does not believe in a creator can find moral conviction to care for land, animals, and their own bodies, then how much more so should I be doing likewise? When I claim to follow a God who designed every species of plant and animal, who created these things for the good of the humans he also knit together, who created a world where we should all co-exist and mutually benefit one another -- how can I not find moral cause to take care with what I eat?
In addition to local farms, I am planning a BIG garden of my own for produce and researching local grocery stores to determine where I can find the freshest, local-est, selection of non- or minimally-processed foods.
But living locally goes beyond food. I am also challenging myself to walk or ride (bikes or public transit) as often as possible. One major reason I love living in the city is the ease and speed with which I can commute to every place I need. Within 1 mile of my home is a library, 4 grocery stores, 2 post offices, 2 liquor stores, Target, my bank, Savers, lots of friends!, bus stops, and the light rail. Yet I am such an incredible wimp during the long Minnesota winters that I neglect to take advantage of city living.
My 2-year-old daughter has actually been the primary inspiration behind this change. She loves being outside and taking walks; riding public transportation is an adventure for her. She has no plans, no place she has to be, no sense of time. So I am praying that I can take baby steps, along with her, to using my own two legs, getting some fresh air, and stepping onto public transit when necessary. I think this will (a) allow me to feel more connected to the city and the people in it, (b) give me good exercise, (c) challenge me to buy only what I need (since I will have to carry it home by hand), and (d) provide ample quality time with Maren.
As I said, I like change, and the challenge to live locally will certainly require effort on my part. I am excited to see what benefits come from it - and I would love to hear your stories or research of local living!