Time flies and with it technology is soaring, taking us to new levels of communication and mechanical advancement that we have never seen before.
With an ever increasing pace we are leaping into an unknown future filled with computer programs, plastics aplenty and agriculture that breeds feed, rather than an aware culture that lovingly grows and tends to our nourishment.
Technology is exciting, but we need to know where to draw the line, lest we forget our very near and not so distant past where a home garden was the soil to grow bucketfuls of tomatoes, where children played outside (even after dark) and people actually talked to each other, face to face over a cup of coffee and a shared homemade pastry. Screen to screen conversation will never be a substitute for real emotions, yet technology is here to stay.
Change is inevitable, we must learn to adapt and mix a unique blend of the past with the present to move the future in quite another direction than where mainstream ignorantly directs it now.
Embracing self-reliance is an amazing and insightful way to incorporate traditional knowledge into a modern life. Gather the most important lessons of yesteryear and turn them into the best possible practices of today.
Since we tend to think with our bellies, keeping in tune with our innate thirst and hunger, it makes absolute sense to start growing our roots in the kitchen. Forget everything you know about processed foods and learn, or relearn, to cook in your own home, one meal at a time. Even if your parents or grandparents never taught you about meal preparation, there is no need to rush to the store for prepackaged convenience foods or dial for pizza – all one needs to do is plug into the internet, read and follow some traditional food blogs, watch videos and experiment at home. Work alongside children, raising health awareness while you learn to cook together.
Old recipes with refined sugar, corn syrup and canola oil can fly out the window in favor of gluten-free, paleo or vegetarian dishes. The knowledge of healthy food is at our fingertips, it is ours for the interest in taking, now if only we remembered where fresh food comes from!? Someone’s farm we suppose, but urban life is not quite favoring free range hens and raw milk warm from the A2 cow or goat. However, if we have access to a little bit of land (our own, shared or part of a CSA) then opportunities start to present themselves to help us reconnect with the cycle of growing food.
We can plant fruit or nut trees for ourselves and future generations, we can grow herbs in containers for culinary use and healing, we can absorb nature with our children and watch cucumbers, corn and sunflowers creep and soar. Little actions take us far in bridging the past with the future.
Satisfied tummies full of nutrient dense food can move us onto bigger and greater challenges, such as how to occupy young children all day without the use of television or electronic games. Toys made of natural materials hold a sense of connection, of belonging to the earth. Plastic has an almost opposite effect, often being emotionally cold or clumsy, brightly colored and once broken – nearly impossible to fix. Wood and cloth provide continuity and strength, not to mention random bits of nature (pinecones, seeds, leaves, rocks, shells, etc.) that can be counted, organized and used as decoration in the home.
Creativity is fostered where limits are unknown.
There is no wrong way to make a collage or to put on a puppet show, on the other hand video games and even plastic blocks can cause frustration if put together in an incorrect way, not to mention the aspect of encouraging competition rather than fostering a sense of cooperation.
Clothing that was once natural has been corrupted by every sense of the fashion industry. We take it for granted that shoes have plastic soles to keep our feet dry, which they do, but they also prevent us from feeling connected to the soil – a process of energy exchange known as grounding or earthing.
Due to chemical dyes our clothes come in more colors than a jungle full of butterflies, insects and amphibians, much to the dismay of fragile environments around the world. Our footprints are becoming larger as our awareness of what we buy, and from where, decreases.
A great disconnect is happening with the fibers that touch our sensitive skin and many of us are even unaware of how those natural fibers are grown and processed. Again, with the aid of technology we can tap into the past. We can learn to knit online through the use of tutorials, videos and books, then we can put our skills to use and join a knitting group in person to learn more from others and share the love of handwork with beginners and advanced beings alike. The same holds true for sewing, spinning, felting and weaving or any other handwork. Most old world crafts are not difficult to master with some level of proficiency, in fact most of them can be learned with a good dose of courage, trial and error and a keen interest-led learning experience.
Once you wear a hand-stitched garment you may never want to go back to factory-made again. There is emotion and thought in every stitch – the style is yours and yours alone, the natural (or plant dyed) color suits your personality and describes your landscape. When you choose organic fibers for your body you are acting on some of the same reasons that you would choose organically produced and locally grown food in your diet. Environmentally it makes sense to support small farmers and shepherds in doing what they do best, growing organic cotton, wool, flax and hemp and overall raising responsible fiber.
It may seem like a daunting task to exchange an entire conventional wardrobe to an all handmade, organic and compostable one, but if you craft your clothing one garment at a time, in combination with adopting a minimalist attitude towards life and covering up your body, then accomplished results will come sooner. Physically and emotionally it feels good to know where your clothes come from, after all they are something that you wear every day.
We must make steps, no matter how small, but the more the better, to show our support for local artisans and quality materials, because with big-box retailers cheapness has a price – and it’s much greater than the one on your receipt.
Washing clothes by hand is a humbling set of motions that we should all experience. Transcend to a time when your fingers got more of a workout than patting keys all day, where calluses formed as a result of repetition, not those acquired by a day volunteer on a farm. We should all toughen our hands to remember what it feels like to be physically exhausted at the end of a long day, we are better for it and the earth is relishing in little water loss when compared to a washing machine. Not to mention the detergents and soaps – if you don’t want to touch it by hand, do you imagine it is good to go out with the wastewater? Line drying is practical, effective and based on renewable resources, whereas machines are clumsy, noisy and resource intensive. Choose wisely.
Idle hands are connected to idle bodies and idle minds, yet at the same time we begin to live in a world where weight balance is a problem. Not accounting for genetics, general movement is one area where we lack as a society. Cars as transportation help us get to places faster, though I fear we are missing things along the way.
We are missing the roadside flowers in bloom that we no longer know how to call by name and the provocative mushrooms underfoot? Squashed for fear of being poisonous.
We are moving quick, yet we are often late because life is putting too much on our already full plates.
People are searching for happiness and looking in the wrong department. It really can’t be made more plain as day – enough is enough. Happy is different for everyone, but most of us are going to discover it in our daily lives, that is, when we make the time to see it. Perhaps it is our morning ritual or dinner with family and friends, an outing into the wilderness or a campfire in the dark. Happiness is in us and around us if only we take the time to listen, which brings us full circle to communication.
The ability to converse is a dying art. We have become so used to chatting and texting that meaningful conversations have fallen by the wayside. The good news is that technology still has an off button to be used in all those times when we need relaxation away from electronic vibrations and disturbance. Turn off the television, shut off the computer and find time to be outdoors walking, hiking, exploring, gardening, swimming, climbing, foraging, harvesting – share traditional skills with your children and other young ones, with anyone that is willing and interested to not only see, but to experience how life was lived well once before.
Take the best examples from the past and integrate them into a holistic future.
Embrace self-reliance even if it doesn’t fit the status quo. Leave harmful things untouched and accept technology as a teacher, taking nothing for granted.
How are you slowing down to appreciate the handwork of life?