Learning to Look at the Sky Again
“Because you gave names to everything you found, and came up with logos for bad ideas, and woke up early for conference calls, and changed your car every two years, and it was no progress at all/just a shadow festival/because of that you will have to learn to look at the sky again, you will have to learn to eat food that grows where you live again, you will have to learn to touch what you make.”
Like most wonderful acts of synchronicity, this poem by Occupy poet Robert Montgomery presented itself when I needed it most, putting words to a feeling growing deep inside of me after several years working in politics in our nation’s capital. Following its advice—unplugging, slowing down, and taking time to really look at the moon and the sunset, to prepare food grown with love in my own garden, to learn how to repair rather than replace—I began to view the world around me with gratitude and wonder, discovering a sense of peace that comes with living simply, connected to a community and the Earth.
Soon after, I discovered Transition, and with it the potential to heal a broken society and a wounded planet, and to replace an unsustainable economic system. During my trip from Washington, DC to join the Transition US team in California, I was lucky enough to stop along the way to meet Transition leaders in Pittburgh, Columbus, Goshen, Madison, and Houston, and since then I've learned about the work of many more.
These folks are quiet revolutionaries. They are taking on Monsanto by building local food systems and starting their own seed libraries. They are combating urban decay and gentrification by creating green jobs and energy efficient, affordable housing. Some of them were with me in DC in February or at solidarity rallies across the country to protest the KXL pipeline—others are taking on fracking—but at the same time they are reducing their own energy consumption and learning how to finance community-owned renewables. They are developing strategies for their communities to not only survive but thrive in the face of peak oil and climate change. They welcomed me into their homes and gave me tremendous faith in humanity.
I finally made it to the Transition US national office (don't get any grand ideas—in true Transition style it's a cozy, rather makeshift setup perched like a tree house above a ballet studio and a mattress store), where our small team is working hard to support and unite the efforts of grassroots visionaries across the country. One thing we're particularly excited about is next month's Transition Challenge, where people across the country will take individual or community-level actions to move toward resilience—think planting or expanding a garden, making energy-efficiency home renovations, or moving your money to a local credit union. When these individual actions occur on a large scale, they energize and engage our communities and show the world what is possible.
In my own constant quest to stay balanced while spending my days at a computer, I am thrilled to be embracing the Transition Challenge with my friends and roommates: we're planting three gardens, hanging a clothesline, starting a compost system at a community health center, and organizing a neighborhood food and plant swap (in our backyard, which may or may not be illegal). We have work parties planned every free night and weekend for the foreseeable future, and it's incredibly empowering and rewarding to know we're taking steps toward building our own resilient community.
And every so often, I remember to pause for a moment and look at the way the moon casts a glow on the willow tree in our yard, knowing that if we are open to it, Nature shows us how to live in a bountiful, just, and sustainable world. I'm grateful to be joining a movement of wise people who knew this long before I did in reaching out to our neighbors, getting our hands dirty, and seeing where it takes us.
By Marissa Mommaerts, Transition US staff
*A huge thank you to Fred in Pittsburgh; Chuck, Sheila, Mary, and the whole Transition Central Ohio Hub team; Phil, Sarah, and the Transition Goshen team; Judy in Madison; Mark and Katherine in Houston; and Carolyne, Maggie, Asher and Trathen here in the North Bay for your guidance and warm welcome.*
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