Ode to Home(s), the Book Launch and yet another Moral Dilemma

We are in Providence and this feeling of being truly home? I wallow in it. I want to hold it, somehow, so that time won’t pass and change everything. This is how I used to feel coming home from boarding school–decades ago!–being home, clinging, heart bleeding because I knew I would have to leave it again and so each moment is precious, fleeting.

P1040412IMG_4099Is it merely the cherry floors of this house, rather than the light ash floors of Darwin’s View, that leave me feeling so friable, yet held and cozy? Or, perhaps, it is the outside view? Rather than a great and demanding expanse of land still in need of tender loving recovery time and dotted with just planted, puny saplings, this house is surrounded by established trees that are budding (and full of pollen, achoo! achoo!) The huge magnolia is in bloom. The daffodils up. The peonies, garlics, strawberries are all stretching up to meet the sun and (one of these days) warmth.

I, too, stretch. My office has room to stretch because it is the size of Darwin’s View’s dining and living rooms put together. I can roll out my yoga mat and reach up and up to the sky and over to the walls that I cannot touch at the same time, east and west, because they are so far apart.P1040414 And the wood stove. I get to stoke the wood stove and thereby be warm while working because Carl prefers to keep the house at the absolutely frigid temperature of sixty-six degrees and, being more Yankee than I had any idea about, so do I. In New Hampshire, I call my office the Arctic because it so far from the wood stove’s heat. I wear my Carhartt sweatshirt and keep a heating pad on my lap, then on my feet and back to my lap again. Whereas here, the wood stove keeps my office at the balmy temperature of seventy-five and it doesn’t add to our fuel bill.

Speaking of Yankee . . . chariness, I realized how Yankee-esque I can be when our site guy was at Darwin’s View last week. He was filling up the beautiful hole he had dug last fall. It was going to be our underground greenhouse. But our plans have progressed to a Bus Stop greenhouse with a gray water treatment system, and the walls of the beaut of a hole were caving in, and so our site guy told us he had a load of dirt he would pick up and bring over. From another work site. They didn’t want their dirt. . . .

Imagine that! I thought, hm. And said the most natural thing one would say to free dirt: We’ll take it. All of it. Bring it on!

Ah, the things we could do with free dirt. Fill in the gaps of the chicken run and coop floors. Build up “Tier 1” so it would be flat instead of sloped, supporting the dirt with a stone wall, and then, ba-da-bing, we could proceed with my fantasy garden that right now looks remarkably the same as it did when we moved in. Minus the Hay Chalet.

I have stared out at Tier One for fifteen months now. It is sloped. The dirt is cracked because wind blown dry. The Hay Chalet had given some form to it but now the Chalet has been moved and morphed into Chicken Paradise on the other side of the driveway, Tier One is a big empty space and I am not a landscape designer. I only have big dreams. The symptom of those dreams being I ordered more seeds. I already had thirty packets but now I have approximately fifty packages of seeds, and am overwhelmed to the point of ossification. Though I did manage to dump a few seeds into seeding soil last week. Miraculously, the red cabbages and cauliflowers were poking out of the brown dirt yesterday just as we were leaving. Both Carl and I were frazzled as we left; there is so much to do there.

Not least, keeping up with the chicken dramas. Big Red is still picking fights with Carl, which does not bode well for his future (Big Red’s, not Carl’s; really, I do have my priorities straight.) The girls are rocketing up and down the pecking order. Cheeks, of all hens, is on occasion, Big Red’s Favorite. Panda, I suspect, is going broody again. Had I paid attention last year, I would know for sure but, like an old married couple, Red and Panda were clucking and scratching around as if knowing that Panda will absent herself for three weeks, then cheep, cheep, cheep the month of care-taking of the chicks, ending, full circle with Big Red and Panda’s rocky reconciliation.

This, of course, isn’t going to happen. I will not endure another three cockerel experience. The only way Panda will be allowed to go broody is . . . if we adopt previously sexed chicks and stick them under her late one night. But we know how dependable that is, given Big Red’s mis-sexification. The heightened stress level at even the idea leaves me speechless. For the same reason, I have refused to go to Wilton Farm where there are sixty . . . SIXTY piglets. However great the temptation to window shop, yet I know the heartbreak of seeing those oinkers, so cute and squiggly, fully sentient and smart, all destined for some breakfast plate or other. I’d have to adopt them all and then where would we be?

Not in Providence.

We would be at Darwin’s View and have I mentioned the glory of the view at Darwin’s View? The call of the wind and the space? The slight sense of pride . . . okay sanctimony, having the privilege of creating a place off-grid and, perhaps, the ability to grow our own food? A vast, alien and inspiring potential is up there. We are here. Thus, this split. These two precious places and I haven’t even mentioned the very special people who populate each. Between great sadness and great joy, I take a deep breath. I feel grateful to be torn between two such homes.

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Enough with that sturm und dram! My book launch is next week! A bit anti-climatic, perhaps, given it is already available on Amazon or–better–at your local bookstore. But the young woman on the cover, stretching to reach east and west, open to the world and its potential will take her leap on May 6. To support her, I will be on the Molly Bean Radio show sometime between 8AM-10AM. WZBC 90.3. (I will put up the link if you can’t catch it live.) On Friday, May 9th, I have the official Launch Reading and Signing at Books on the Square in Providence. Other readings and events can be found at the Calendar of my website. Please spread the word!

Speaking of bookstores, a moral dilemma. Upon a friend’s suggestion, Carl and I watched a movie that we had missed back in 1998. “You’ve Got Mail.” Remember the old tones and voices of email in those days? The fellow’s bright voice, bearing the good news of mail. It’s a sweet movie. With Hollywood’s footprints all over it. Woman has an independent business that is threatened by man with big business. Woman loses business to man but it’s okay because she gets to fall in love. Man, meanwhile, wins hands down, both business and woman. By being ever so slightly manipulative. Duping the woman even though he does come clean in the end.

Now, I was happy to go along with the romantic, cute quality of the movie. In fact, I was kind of irritated when Carl took the bit in his mouth and started a rant about how typical that the man gets what he wants. That big business wins. That the woman’s main ba-da-bing in the movie is her joy in riding off into the sunset with her guy. But Carl was right to question these basic premises of the movie. The more I thought about it, the less innocuous the movie became, with its promotion of Big Business is Better and the stereotyping of men’s and women’s roles. Thus this morning, I am picking up Carl’s banner with a moral dilemma based on the “bigger is better lesson” in the movie; the woman and her knight in shining armor, I will leave for another day. As do our congress people who still haven’t managed to ratify the ERA. I am WAITING, and nothing.

Moral dilemma: A small business owner–let’s call her Meg Ryan–wants her sustainable, local food-based, future-oriented business to hold an event but the speaker if very expensive. Meg hasn’t been able to raise sufficient funds. People have suggested she go to the Big Business called Walmart.

Hold please: to avoid any hint of heresy or liable, let’s call it Tom Hanks.

Meg is perplexed. By going to Tom for the money . . . wouldn’t it be blood money? Wouldn’t it taint her small business event? Would, somehow, Tom end up owning Meg?

In the movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” Tom points out this is business, not personal. Meg points out that, on the contrary, this is personal.

From page 72 of Wenoha’ Hauter’s book Foodopoly–excellent book, by the way:

“In 2005, during a low point in the company’s public image, Walmart suddenly announced it was “going green” . . . Former CEO Lee Scott noted that the rationale for these initiatives was purely economic, stating, ‘What Wal-Mart has done is approach this from a business standpoint and not from a point of altruism.'”


DUH! Walmart . .  I mean, TOM HANKS is a business. Tom Hanks is a Big Business guy. It’s about the bottom-line. It’s not personal.

The problem being, it is, it should be, it must be. In the good old days, we could vote and have it matter. Now that voting, for the time being, is a seeming exercise in futility–of which more in future posts–with Big Business’s money winning because people are giving up and not paying attention or voting, we have, instead, to vote with our pocketbooks and our feet. Our personal choices are more important than ever. If it’s about the bottom-line, we have to change those businesses bottom-lines and thereby have an effect.

Which still begs the question about those Walmart . .  I mean Tom Hanks grants. Do they, perhaps, represent the heart of Tom? Sure, the money might be blood money, earned on the backs of Wal-Tom slaves . . . excuse me, I meant to type employees who are kept in poverty and without health insurance that Tom would have to pay for. But why not, at least, put some of Tom’s profit to good purpose?

Or is this is Tom’s way of avoiding taxes? Are these grants actually charitable gifting and thereby Walmart pays less taxes?

Granted, they already do. According to an Americans for Tax Fairness report, Walmart and the Waltons TOM get $7.8 billion tax breaks and subsides a year.  (See MakingChangeatWalmart.org)

In the www.Civileats.com article “Fighting Hunger or Causing Hunger: A Mid-term Look at Wal-Mart’s $2 billion commitment,” we see that, though Tom might be donating what sounds like a lot of money, yet they profit from that giving.

“How much is Wal-Mart’s $2 billion commitment actually costing them? After discounting tax deductions, reduced garbage pickup fees, and inflation, they are undoubtedly saving hundreds of millions of dollars.”

AND that giving does nothing to solve the problem of hunger. Their grants are what is known as “strategic philanthropy”.

“Their anti-hunger initiative appears to exist solely to serve the company’s business interests. Instead of being philanthropy, its $2 billion commitment is nothing less than public relations, influence buying, and greasing the skids to reduce opposition to their entrance into urban markets.” (Also quoted from “Fighting Hunger or Causing Hunger: A Mid-term Look at Wal-Mart’s $2 billion commitment.”)

It’s a rock and a hard place for Meg. Take blood money, or don’t have the event. It’s a personal decision. What would you do? If she decides to go for it, I hope she reads the fine print on the grant very, very carefully.

One might ask how did I get here from a meditation on home and my book launch!? Because it’s hard to be on track with Bittersweet Manor when I have this other book percolating. Fortunately, there is a tie. The book Bittersweet Manor is about privilege’s effects. Emma and her family history are rife with questions about money and the expectations that come with it. The benefits, choices and challenges and their results. Example: It is a luxury whine to write of being torn between two homes, isn’t it?



Tomorrow, May 1, is the anniversary of the Barn Raising. Two years ago tomorrow, Carl and I were up at Darwin’s View. It was a cold and rainy day. We watched the timbers of the house go up.

Since then, what changes have been wrought! What choices have been made! Would I change any of it if I could?

Would Emma, in Bittersweet Manor? Her grandmother, Gussie? We all make choices in our lives. Some more privileged than others. All are choices to live with, grow by, be grateful for.

Until next week!

Don’t forget The Molly Bean Radio Show! And if you choose to buy Bittersweet Manor, I hope you gain something from it!

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