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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


“Will you raise a garden?”

“A-h-h.  M-m-m.  U-h-h  h-u-h.”

“Pickles?  Canning?”

“O-w-w.  O-o-o.   N-n-n h-n-n.”

“How about animals?  Gonna’ raise chickens?”

“H-a-h.  H-o-h.  M-hm-hm-hm.”

And so it went yesterday as hygienist Rochelle stabbed between my bleeding gums.   Shame really that so many in the dental profession, like Rochelle, display the barber-knack for good questions.  Occasionally, as she exchanged one instrument of torture for another---and my desire to be heard became unbearable---I’d squeeze in a seven second reply. 

“My neighbors are organic vegetable farmers.  Why grow what they grow?” 

“The guy we get our milk from sells eggs and pork, all from well-treated animals.”

“We’re planting fruit trees and hazelnut bushes this spring.  We’ll share with our neighbors.”

Perhaps they get good at listening between the lines, because Rochelle totally got my encrypted message.  “Why do everything yourself when you can share the bounty?  I wish we could all grow less and share more.”

Four years ago we asked Architect Paul to design a house that does only two things.  1. Connect us to The Land.   2.  Welcome family and friends.  And our decision to go off-grid---contrary to the stereotypical self-reliant hermit---was all about that Welcoming Connection.   We have plenty of sun, root cellar space and land to grow and store everything we need.  But why when the community already provides?  We love sliding open the door to Lonnie and Sandy’s giant cooler, inhaling the earthy smell, then picking through the cloth-draped bins of potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes.  Not to mention the gossip session before and afterwards.  The same is true for my Monday milk run (and eggs and pork).  Except then I have the honor of intruding upon home school.  Of course the kids (and I!) hate that (wink, wink).    And when it came to designing a cover for my novel, I certainly could have hired a professional.  But the result---I’m talking the big, grand result of life---is already so much bigger for having “hired” my 14 year old nephew Thomas. 

Yet, wonderful as it is here, my mind can’t help but wander back to Minneapolis.  Back to 4140, where a walk around the block could take any hour, or the whole day if you stopped and talked to every one of our old neighbors.   And on any warm eve---after a hard day’s work---someone, somewhere had their patio chairs pulled out.  Ahh!  G&T.  Cheese and crackers.  We were indeed community-tied.

That’s it!  That’s what we are, or at least strive to be. 


I never really liked the term “off-grid”.  It says what we’re not, but not what we are.  Solar professionals use “grid-tied” to describe 99.9% of all solar applications, where the solar-generated electricity is fed back to the grid.  Conversely “off-grid” describes the remaining 0.1%, where electricity is not fed back to the grid.  I don’t mean to be harsh, but The Grid is not a community.  A community knows its members.  I’m not sure we deserve it either, but I’d like to strive for---perhaps earn one day---the title Community-Tied.

And so, today, I pledge to my community.  To cream gentian, asleep in the rooted deep.  To tree sparrow, bending low the Indian grass.  To Savanna the Wonder Dog, may her sweet spirit nose sniff forever.  To my dear neighbors on the hill, from young Gavin and Olivia to well…you know who you are?  To my family and friends.  To my darling Linda.  To each and every one of you---except of course the sun, who needs me much less than I need him---I pledge to encourage the tie.  The tie that binds.  The tie that shares.  The tie that laughs merely because we’re in each other’s company. 

Perhaps one day, as Gavin and Olivia reminisce, they will nod and laugh, “Say what you want about that old Mike, but you got to admit he was Community-Tied.”  Then I would indeed have lived (and loved) a good life.

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