Friday, July 24, 2015

Looking to the Future




According to the National Association of Home Builders (Housing Facts, Figures, and Trends for March 2006) the average square-footage of a single family home in the U.S. increased from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to 2,349 sq. ft. in 2004. In my research for my master's thesis (on Sustainability), in 2002, I found that in 1940 the average was 750 sq. ft. By 1970, the average was only 1500 sq. ft., so the Baby Boomer generation grew up in homes that averaged between 750 and 1500 sq. ft.

According to Emma Johnson, (Forbes The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits), "In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, that figure is 30 outfits — one for every day of the month."

Obviously, I am thinking about these things, in part, because of the issue that I mentioned last time I posted - downsizing. However, it is also due to the greater issue of our impact on the earth. In yesterday's news, there was a report of the finding of a possible second "earth," that may have life on it. This is the first time anything like it has been located in our space exploration, and it is 1400 light years away. (In other words, if we could travel at the speed of light, it would take 1400 years to reach it.) Yet, I heard, to my horror, a newscaster suggest we might be able to move there when we can no longer live here. My belief is that we need, instead, to figure out how we can live on the planet we have.

The other night, PBS aired a program called Humanity from Space. It chronicles the development of man, the technologies that have changed the world and how we interact with one another, and explores our potential challenges to survival.

All of this took me back to the message of Pope Francis about limiting our needs that I mentioned in my post Living in Harmony. We would solve a lot of our problems with that simple prescription. One of the current advocates of this lifestyle is Joshua Becker, who has a blog called "Becoming Minimalist." His self-identified Most Popular Posts are a good place to start in determining how to go about doing so and why.

I hope that you will explore these ideas and see how they would impact your life.

Until next time, wishing you peace and all good.

(Note: I provide links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply affiliation by me with any site.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Thinking of Space

Last week there was a segment on the news about the buying patterns of new home buyers that suggested people are going back to the pattern prominent prior to the recession. That is, the report said people are buying homes that are quite large. When I looked at the information available on the Census website Characteristics of New Housing - 2014, I found that the average size of new single-family homes has been increasing without any apparent impact from the recession. The site gives the average square footage of homes from 1978 through 2014. Over that time, they increased from 1650 to 2506 square feet.


As someone who grew up in a house that was approximately 2500 - 2900 square feet with ten people around the dining room table every night, I can attest to the fact that one can live comfortably in 250 to 300 square feet per person. I never felt I could not find a place to be alone if I wanted it nor did I feel lonely if I wanted to be with people.

Part of the reason I have been thinking so much about this has to do with my intention of downsizing in the next few years. Another is my sense that we, as a country, need to think about our use of energy and materials. Someone pointed out to me recently that "Mother Earth" will be fine no matter what we humans do about climate change, but we humans won't be so lucky. Along the way, we are also taking other species with us.

There is another movement in the country, and apparently, around the world, towards building homes that are minimal. According to many of the people in the Small_house_movementtiny-house-nation: the-tiny-house-movementTiny House Talk and Tiny House Community, tiny houses are 400 square feet or smaller. The majority of these appear to be movable, since many communities have restrictions on house size. Many of the articles I have seen on these homes indicate that the exterior views play a large part in making the homes feel comfortable, while the inhabitants have also scaled down the majority of their possessions to fit the space.

While I cannot see myself moving into a "tiny house," in part because I anticipate moving as a couple and also because I do entertain my family several times a year, I can see the logic in downsizing to a space that is significantly smaller than the 1760 square feet we now occupy. It will require rethinking what I actually need to have available to me and how much space to allow for every activity.

How much space do you feel you need? Why?

Until next time, I wish you peace.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Living in Harmony

My break from the studio was punctuated by a flurry of activity in visiting, and our granddaughter providing a reminder that she had been here:


We got the chance to have several days together, sharing meals, stories, reconnecting with old friends, and getting lots of hugs. After they left, I was able to return to the studio and begin working, again, on the quilt. Some of the pieces are now up on the design wall:


Last week, the Vatican released  Pope Francis's latest encyclical: Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. While it is a long document, it is worth taking time to read. In it, he addresses the impacts of continued disregard of the evidence of climate change, as well as suggesting how one can make a difference. Since he considers not only lifestyle changes but political and community actions, it presents a variety of ways one can influence the state of the entire world for years to come.

I found several sections especially interesting. For example, on lifestyle changes:

“211. . . . . A person who could afford to spend and consume more but regularly uses less heating and wears warmer clothes, shows the kind of convictions and attitudes which help to protect the environ­ment. There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions, and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle. Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.”

“212. We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.” 

As well as:

“222. Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures.
“223. Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full. In reality, those who enjoy more and live better each moment are those who have given up dipping here and there, always on the look-out for what they do not have. They experience what it means to appreciate each person and each thing, learning familiarity with the simplest things and how to enjoy them. So they are able to shed unsatisfied needs, reducing their obsessiveness and weariness. Even living on little, they can live a lot, above all when they cultivate other pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing their gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer.”

And on community work vs. political action:

“232. Not everyone is called to engage directly in political life. Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban. Some, for example, show concern for a public place (a building, a fountain, an abandoned monument, a landscape, a square), and strive to protect, restore, improve or beautify it as something belonging to everyone. Around these community actions, relationships develop or are recovered and a new social fabric emerges. Thus, a community can break out of the indifference induced by consumerism.”

The press conference at which the encyclical was launched produced a document that is also worth looking at. Vatican Press Conference - Presentation of "Laudato Si - On Care of Our Common Home" -June 18, 2015. (To read it in English, one needs to scroll down.) I found the section on the science extremely informative.

My own preferences for action tend towards lifestyle changes and spreading the word to others. In that light, I wanted to suggest a few other sites to check out. These businesses present a variety of ways in which materials can be fully used and ways to provide jobs and income.

Reuseworks is a non-profit that conducts worker training and uses waste and discarded materials for its products.

Rpreservedcom is a business providing upcycled and vintage items.

The Knittin' Kitten is a shop in Portland, Oregon that buys previously owned but not used craft supplies from estates and people who are downsizing and sells them both in their shop and on Etsy. They also create some art and craft pieces for sale.

I am sure that there must be a variety of other businesses and community activities addressing these ideas. I invite you to add any of which you are aware to the comments.




Friday, June 12, 2015

A Break from the Studio

Our elder son and his family have come in for a visit, which means we get to spend some time with the grandchildren, too. Since we hadn't seen them in person for two years, it was wonderful to get those first hugs and experience the excitement of bouncing five-year-olds. Though it can wreck havoc when they are swinging things around - even soft stuffed animals.


Since our son has missed the family Christmas parties for the last four years, we are also having a summer family get-together. Most of the people will not be able to make it, but there should still be between 25 and 30 of us. There will also be other little ones, potentially even the newest baby. I expect it will be a wonderful day.

Preparations and logistics associated with their visit have meant that I have not had much time to do anything creative, but the break is definitely worth it. There will be time after they have gone to get back to the studio.

I wish you wonderful days, and 

Peace

Friday, May 29, 2015

Playing the Blues

We took some time out earlier this week to go on a boat trip on Lake Michigan. It was an exhausting day, but made for some great memories and pictures.

I didn't know cormorants hung out around Lake Michigan.
The weather gave us some unusual cloud formations.
The combination of the boat wake and sky introduced us to yet another variety of blues.
By the end of the day, only one cormorant was hanging out with a flock of seagulls.

The experience also gives new meaning to the term "blue planet."

I hope you have had a relaxing experience this week. Until next time, as usual, I wish you peace.



Friday, May 15, 2015

Spring Activities

The last couple of weeks have been very full. One of the things I took time out to do, however, was to watch the documentary Chasing Ice. James Balog, an award winning photographer, and his team filmed what happened to glaciers in the northern hemisphere from 2005 to about 2008 or 2009. You can find more information about it at the link above and on the Chasing Ice Facebook Page. It is an incredible film with stunning photography. They have been doing the same thing in the southern hemisphere since 2012.

I also had the opportunity to photograph some unusual visitors to my landscape.


Baltimore Orioles

I apologize for the blurriness of this one, but we were also visited by

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak

These visits are, of course, signs that the weather is turning warmer, though it hasn't felt quite like that recently around here. The vegetation has also made it clear, though it went through the flowering stage very quickly. We have, so far, avoided severe weather. Unfortunately, other areas of the country have not been so lucky. Between heat and storms, it has been a tumultuous spring.

Another thing I've been considering lately is our garden. I would love to be able to plant more and my hubby appears willing to do a lot of the work (since we're not sure how my allergies will react). I decided to check out this article: Planting your spring garden? Consider climate’s ‘new normal’ (You have to scroll down to the specific link.) As the article states: 

"Climate normals can help people understand what conditions they can expect wherever they may live… and plant. A previous article on Climate.gov explored the implications of the new climate normals for gardeners and landscapers. Not only can plants can generally survive farther north than they used to, but the fire season is longer and pests are able to thrive and spread in forests and other natural landscapes. Pollination patterns may also be changing."

For me, this is yet another reason to pay attention to the impact of our activities on the world around us. I hope that you will, too.

Until next time, I wish you peace and all good.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Limits and Possibilities

There is a lot going on in my life right now. One of my nieces just had a baby boy. A nephew is getting married next week. One of my sons has a birthday next week and so do the grandchildren. I've been slowly working on the quilt I mentioned last time, and have chosen a gift to make for another nephew who is getting married in the fall.

House and gold finches on thistle feeder

At the same time, I have been enjoying the brilliant colors of the birds in their spring plumage, listening to birdsong, learning new things (like yoga), and trying to get out more. In that last context, I have been finding out more about my limits. As much as I would like to think otherwise, apparently, there was a reason my doctor told me not to push myself. So, I am having to learn what that means in real terms and content myself with building up activities slowly. Obviously, this has an impact on what I can do, overall, like working on the business.

A few weeks ago, I came across a quiz I had taken earlier about finding one's life purpose. The question that hit me was what you would do if you knew you were going to die in a year. My response had been that I would finish as many of my works in progress as possible. That is what prompted me to look, again, at the quilt I'd put aside because of the pattern I had been trying to use. The new pattern is simpler and goes together more quickly, which makes it much easier to handle.

What does this mean for building up the business? At this point, that is unclear. I continue to gather ideas and work on techniques, but have not been pushing myself to get product ready. I am rather hoping to have a breakthrough on that front this summer, but am resigned to the idea that it depends more on incremental progress. In the meantime, I will continue to view each day as open to new possibilities and enjoy what I can.

I wish you good weather, happy relationships, and enjoyable experiences.