The transition book group last night was really good. We discussed the first chapter of Making Home by Sharon Astyk. There were about fifteen people there, many who were at the first meeting but a few who were not. The age range was also slightly broader than the first meeting, which was nice. As the discussion went on, I was really amazed at the wide range of experience people had. There was an astronomer in the group and another scientist who does environmental science of some kind. There is a minister as well and she lived with her partner and child in San Francisco for fifteen years serving a large homeless community. Another woman was an AIDS activist in the 1980s. There was a couple who had five kids and it sounded like they may have been foster parents as well. An older gentleman in the group who said he had always been different from other people just found out why a few years ago when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. The one thing we all had in common was our desire to live in a sustainable way and some of the things people do came out during the discussion.
The evening began with everyone having a chance to talk about what parts of the chapter resonated most for them. It was a bit different for everyone and managed to cover all the large and not so large points of the chapter. As that discussion wound down, the group leader leapt in. It is most excellent that there is a group leader. She came armed with a white board and a list of discussion questions. She also had a talking stick because at the first meeting a few people were concerned about everyone getting a chance to speak and no one person having an opportunity to monopolize the conversation. But everyone was so nice and considerate, the talking stick did not need to be used and just sat, ignored, on the table.
We talked a lot about what home was and of course it means different things to everyone. We also talked about what we would like to change about our homes. Lots of us said we would like less clutter and many were working on getting rid of stuff. One woman said she knew a Buddhist monk who only kept 99 things in his home. These things included eating utensils and clothes. She said you’d think his house would feel empty but that it was the calmest, most peaceful home she had ever been in.
There were a couple people struggling with the need to downsize but who didn’t want to leave the home in which they had created so many memories or worse, the community they have become so much a part of. Another woman was trying to figure out a way she could remain in her home as she ages. She is already having difficulties and fears for her safety but also does not want to leave the neighborhood and all the connections she has there for a sterile apartment somewhere else.
We all spoke of home as a special place but obviously it also comes with much work and many complications. Some of those complications have to do with the way we live in our homes. American culture tells us we should all want bigger, more expensive homes and that we should close the doors and keep to ourselves. But none of us wanted that. And none of us wanted to be filling up our homes with useless, meaningless stuff.
We talked about gardening and solar panels and our reliance on corporations, about farmers markets and public transportation. We talked about creating stories of alternatives ways of living that are satisfying and comfortable and not about giving things up and making do. And we talked about all sorts of other things as well. It was a good night and both Bookman and I are glad to be part of the group.
In two weeks we meet again to read chapter two out loud to each other.