As the days slowly become shorter and cooler, our family house gets cosier. Pacha and Yani snuggle on the rug in the morning as the sun comes in from the north. It’s comfortable sitting on Ollie’s warm bare back, riding in the forest, not needing hats to protect us from the sun. We start to collect some firewood for the few days that it gets cold enough to light up our pot-belly stove, cooking soup and toasting marshmallows over the embers).
Building projects have slowed down a little, and the garden needs attention. The possums and wallabies have taken a liking to all the greenery - with the sweet potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes and capsicum eaten up over two nights. Luckily they can't reach the big bunch of bananas, that I have protected from the hungry fruit bats! I must build an enclosure to protect our vegie garden food source!
Recently our good friends visited us for a couple of days. I first met Karen in Kanazawa, Japan, where she had started a café/bar: 'Offshore'. She was a young Australian woman, not speaking any Japanese, who didn’t pay much attention to the people who said it was ‘impossible’ to do what she was doing. She managed to find a way to make it work - bringing a little ray of Australian warmth and sunshine into Kanazawa. Sometimes I would sing at her café/bar and once I even looked after the cafe while she was away for a week – a totally new experience! While Karen is not what you would normally call an activist – I think we have a lot in common in our general attitude to life; anything is possible if you put your mind/heart to it and stay positive. Experiences, relationships and finding meaning in life is more important than the accumulation of wealth – and that approach is something she shares with her family as well.
Now Karen lives in a ‘Heidi’ village in the Austrian Alps with her husband and children, in the house his Father built with his own hands from the trees carefully harvested from the mountain. It is a small, traditional community with age-old customs and habits, formed from watching and learning from the environment they live in. It seems to be a very Slow life, self-sufficient in many ways, but under threat from outside pressures. It is the ‘thinking’ that is changing – short-term ‘now’ culture rather than long term care to ensure the children and their children will be able to maintain this lifestyle and care for the environment that has sustained them. Land that was held as a collective for the whole community, is now beginning to be cut up and sold off. Traditional houses are left to disintegrate through neglect, while people look for modern convenience. It reminds me a great deal of ‘inaka’ in Japan. Karen and her husband plan to ‘rescue’ one of these old houses and restore it, redesigning it to become more energy efficient and sustainable, rather than tearing it down to build something new.
What seems to be the greatest challenge for me right now, is introducing new ideas without threatening other people’s established routines and systems. I am coming across entrenched, conformist views embedded in the school system and struggle to find ways to gently, positively and safely promote more earth friendly ways of thinking and behaving. The only way I feel I can send my children to a conventional, public school, is if I am involved and supporting the children in new ways of thinking. Now my friend Tina and I have taken on the school choir, along with the school food gardens, because if we didn’t do this, these activities wouldn’t be available for the kids.
Sometimes it seems like too much – but if not me: who? If not now: when?