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Happy (Oil) Independence Day!

I had an amazing fourth of July, a truly outstanding American experience. I feel fortunate to live where I do, in a place where I can retreat from the broader cares of the world and have a happy day. And here’s a dirty little secret: I didn’t burn an ounce of oil while doing it. You could call it a steady state celebration.

CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, OregonCoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, Oregon

The day’s events centered around community, family, friends, music and merrymaking. It all started on the central pathway of our cohousing community, CoHo Ecovillage in Corvallis, Oregon. A gathering of bikes formed a little before ten in the morning. My mom is visiting from out of town, and she doesn’t ride a bike anymore, so I piloted a pedicab that a neighbor has bequeathed to the community. That’s certainly one of the perks of our community – the ability to share tools and other useful items that would be impractical for one person or one family to own. The pedicab was also perfect for toting a guitar, my instrument of choice for the CoHo marching band’s performance in The All American Everyone-Can-Join Fabulous Fantastic 4th of July Parade.

From five years old to fifty-five years old, our peloton pedaled the pleasant path to the endpoint of the parade route at the confluence of the Marys and Willamette Rivers. From there we walked the rest of the way to the kickoff point alongside Central Park, a satisfying stroll on a sun-saturated street.

As the parade got underway, we began our medley of You’re a Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doodle, and When Johnny Comes Marching Home. The kids cruised along carrying outsized flags, and our band pumped up the crowd lining the parade route. With a trumpet, a flute, a fiddle, two guitars, a snare drum, a mid tom from a drum kit, cymbals, a tambourine, and a vuvuzela, we made some noise! I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way. Maybe next year we can add some homemade bagpipes and a chorus of kazoos.

During the parade we passed by a street fair that ran for several blocks. The kids were keen to hit that scene after we finished marching, so we headed back up the parade route. Some of us split off from the main group for a few minutes to stash our musical instruments. On our way back from dropping them at a secure location, we were walking past Block 15, one of the best local brew pubs in the world. Perhaps pangs of patriotism could be blamed, but some unseen spirit overtook us and guided us to the outdoor tables that flank the pub. We plopped down to enjoy some tasty local ales (and a fun round of juvenile conversation among friends) before rejoining the rest of our troop.

At the street fair we met our local police officers and paramedics. We sampled a selection of fair foods and listened to the Irish band hammering away on the stage. We wound down by the fountain park that overlooks the Willamette River. This is the spot where you can always find happy kids splashing about during the Corvallis farmer’s market on summer Saturdays. From there, we hiked back to our bikes and pedaled home.

The United States is an incredibly diverse nation, and we the people celebrate our independence in incredibly diverse ways. We watch fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We barbeque in the backyard with Uncle Cletus and Aunt Mae. We eat melons and cherries from fantastic farms. We reminisce about the good old days with our buddies on the beach. I am certain that Americans know how to throw a party. And I’m equally certain that we can have our fun without a mess of spillover effects. In fact, we can lead happy and fulfilling lives without burning fossil fuels. We can live our values (liberty and justice for all) and conserve the features of this great nation (spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, and fruited plains). We just have to decide on it. We have to arrange our communities, our towns, our lives, and our economies to meet our needs sustainably.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grab my guitar, find some friends, and arrange an impromptu beer and music meeting.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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