1001 influences, and counting

I’ve been meaning to write the second half of this post for a while, about both my research influences and why I felt compelled to do this sabbatical (even before I visited Twin Oaks). I kept putting it off and I wasn’t sure why until my first day in community, walking about the ecovillage where I stayed: there are so many things that connect my life and experience to this project. The more I thought about it, the more came out of the woodwork! So much that I almost cannot imagine all of the pieces of my life that led me to this place.

I’ll try a list anyway. But I’ll keep adding.

I have to start with my dad’s interest in unusual architecture, passive solar, berm houses, tiny homes (before that was trendy), Frank Lloyd Wright and Usonian houses, and his building of my own childhood home from scratch. In the ecovillage, the houses are quite unlike and unusual, often made with an adobe-like material called “cob,” and thatched roofs. Dad would love it.

Survivalist stuff. Family films about people going off into the wilderness to get away from the rat race, back to nature, and eaten by a bear. My favorite hippy dolls from the seventies that came with DIY instructions for clothing and furniture. They even had their own craft van! How much I loved building forts and tree houses which were my own tiny houses. Reading books like the Little House series with all of its “how tos” for a farm life. A childhood interest in missionaries going to far away villages and living more rural, simple lives. My fascination with Louisa May Alcott and then learning that her father, Bronson Alcott, had started a commune with the family (Fruitlands, which failed miserably) while she was a teen. A love of hiking and camping instilled early on.

Slightly later in life literary choices: Marge Piercy’s Woman in the Edge of Time, first read in 1990 because a friend in grad school told me it was the best book he ever read; read and reread countless times since. A long, long interest in all things futurist and sci fi, fueling the new sociologist’s attention to community and social structure. Alternative futures, Utopias, Starhawk’s Fifth Sacred Thing, apocalyptic films, zombies. The way that everything has to start from scratch when we run out of oil, annihilate most everyone, or whatever: “Testament,” “Mad Max,” The Stand, “Waterworld,” “The Fire Next Time,” The Postman, “Walking Dead.”

My interest in midwifery, which been in my head at least since I read about Ina May Gaskin in Our Bodies, Ourselves and Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions, and then birthed my own first kid. Driving that is figuring out a sustainable career if there is no longer an academia option, finding a basic skill that can use when things fall apart. Even off the grid, people will still have babies. Ten years at least I’ve been thinking on this, once I started getting interested in peak oil and “when do we run out?”

Central is my reading several years ago a number of books about “the simple life” and how to get there. I am sure I read about intentional communities when I did that, but it didn’t sink in right away. Visiting Walden and Alcotts’ home when I went to Concord. The desire to build for Habitat for Humanity. Seeking more radical environmental changes one could make at home, looking into investment in solar panels or the waterless toilet. Recycling, saving everything, making things from that stuff (I even did this as a kid) trying to use up everything. Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, plant-based diets, slow food and locavore movements, wanting to grow and can as much of my own organic food as possible, farmer’s markets and food cooperatives. All of the different ways of making the planet better. When I first came to MWC I toyed with the idea of a day care co-op, suggested by one of my students when my son was a toddler. I guess that means I’ve had that interest for almost 18 years!

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