Reimagining American Community
Jan
01
Grant Wood, Spring

Grant Wood, Spring

I

‘m guessing there’s at least one person reading this that doesn’t already know me.  Given that assumption, I’d like to make it clear that I’m talking to you, dear unknown reader.  Those that know the particulars–thanks for stopping by, but there’s no news here–come back next week.

But for the rest of you it might surprise you to discover that an on-line writer is a serious Luddite (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite), or perhaps the irony just makes you giggle.  Either way I still use a rotary phone, handwrite personal letters in cursive and type business letters.  My children have to learn Latin.  I prefer to hand sew (only use the treadle machine if I have serious straight sewing to do–making diapers for example). I make cloth diapers for my infants for heaven’s sake! Why, you might ask, is this woman, this homemaker and gardener, communicating with you via computer screen?  What catastrophic event has brought about such…blasphemy?

In a phrase, it’s reckoning time.  You may have noticed that things around you are strange; that our political system isn’t working, and not just not working well but not working at all.  Perhaps you’re not as successful as your parents were at your age.  Perhaps you’re in the same place in your career as your parents were but somehow, you’re just not as secure, without many assets.  Maybe you’re not able to give your kids the kinds of experiences you’d like, at least not without going into debt.  Maybe you’ve been avoiding having children…

Perhaps you made a significant investment in an education, and now cannot find work to pay for that education.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that people are really concerned about food and where it comes from, and are turning an eye towards self sufficiency and survivalism.  Maybe you’ve had a hard time finding American and locally made goods for sale in locally owned stores.  Maybe you lost a manufacturing job.  Maybe you owe more on your house than it is currently worth.  Perhaps you’re afraid of the severe urban decay in your closest large city.  Maybe you’ve heard of something called “The Great Recession”.  You long, desperately, for community but you’re not quite sure what that would look like.

Dear reader, these things are not normal.

It’s not you.  You’re not crazy (at least not about this).  Things are not as they should be.    If we look around us and add up what’s going on, we have to recognize that American society is coming unmoored, with people floating along, barely treading life’s waters.  And while I have my convictions about technology–and frankly, that means avoiding most of it, most of the time–I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone and do something about all this madness.  Not much, mind you, but something; just what I can, where I am, with what I have. I’ve developed a little Facebook habit.  Now I’m doing this Solidarity Hall thing.  Mainly, the thing I hope to do out here–outside my comfort zone–is to connect with people and to affirm to one another, that things are indeed very strange–and that we can do something about it.

Here at the Garden Party, mostly I’d like to chat about the things I know well–children and homemaking, kitchens and soil, food and eating. We can also talk about the things I really don’t know so well, but find great hope in–faith and community, permaculture and the Transition Movement, local food policy, and local politics.  Together, we might even be able to get a handle on what ‘normal’ should look like.  And not to get too ambitious, but maybe, we could figure out how to make normal the norm again.  Worst case scenario, we can take hope in knowing that we are not alone–we can move forward in solidarity, wherever the path may lead us.  I invite you to join this conversation.  There’s quite a lot for us to talk about.

About the Author
Grace Potts is a Roman Catholic wife and mother of five children. She and her family live in an Art & Crafts era stucco cottage on 1/3 of an acre in Saginaw, MI. Homeschooling the kids (Montessori style), gardening the third of an acre (community style), and building community (Catholic Worker style), absorbs the majority of her time. However, she's usually happy to chat for a bit on Facebook, sometimes she gets something written for the Distributist Review, and at least once a month, she folds laundry. Politically, you might describe her as so conservative that she's progressive; or so progressive she's conservative? No matter - you probably get the idea. Oh, and don't leave her voicemail. She stopped checking her voicemail in 1998.