May 29, 2012

Sustained By Choices. ~ Eric Dieterle

A sustainable living inventory.

Spending the day inside staring at the computer is no substitute for a day out gazing at the landscape, but with one of my TweetDeck columns devoted to “enviro” it’s possible to maintain some connection with what’s going on out there.

Except that following threads in that category rarely brings me to a better place. Instead, I’m led to question my integrity, or at least dedication, in the matter of sustainable living.

Am I doing enough? And for the right reasons?

The self-accounting goes something like this: One vehicle, not two, for a family of three. A townhome, not a house. Repeated spasms of downsizing, first to move out of state, then to move again, then to settle into a space that is destined—by personal commitment, if not exhaustion—to be a “permanent” one. Less food in the fridge and even less bad food. Gargling with hydrogen peroxide and cleaning with baking soda.

I’d like to feel good about all this as I coast down Beaver Street on my 10-year-old Raleigh or squeeze into a seat on the Mountain Line bus, Route 2, hoping to beat the campus-bound Mountain Link to the transfer stop. I’d like to feel as if these are concessions and sacrifices made for a high moral purpose.

But my mind, socialized in the Boomer generation and irradiated with consumerism, commercialization, and competition won’t allow it without a fight.

My flinching inner voice tells me that this is my condition because something has gone awry. Two master’s degrees and three (four? five?) careers and a few environmental essays published here and there. Now living paycheck to paycheck, savings rate zero percent. Really?

This isn’t about sacrificing. It’s about mediocrity. No, failure.

My rational self tries to counter, this is about choices. I’m living humbly and purposefully in a place that speaks to my soul instead of my ambition. I car camp with my wife and son, the elk and coyotes serenading us at midnight. We walk and bike on urban trails. Our commitment to family—stay-at-home mom, 8-to-5 dad—invokes our commitment to sustainability and simplicity.

Maybe, I hold out, this is a deliberate life?

This current state, simple and modest, with little that is discretionary and disposable, may be more than just the accident of falling off the hamster wheel, or of never having gotten a good grip in the first place. Perhaps, after enough time, the underlying principles and traits that have motivated a lifetime of choices—even the inexplicable ones—begin to take shape as a lifestyle. Even if it took me five decades. And if all generally seems right, then it’s about time to stop carrying around my ready apology for how I live.

One less item for the “downsizing” list.


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Eric lives and works in Flagstaff, AZ. He has published essays in journals of environmental literature and is a guest blogger at Willows Wept Review http://willowswept.com/author/edieterle/.




Editor: Carolyn Gilligan


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