The more I read on blog sites like The Archdruid Report and The Tiny Ouroboros, the more I think about the world my son is going to inherit.  There is little doubt in my mind that Peak Oil is coming, if not here, and that the time I have right now is damned precious.  It’s time I am using to develop some basic skills on how to grow and, when we have our take from the garden this year, how to process that food for long-term storage.  I have an herb garden of my own that my folks have let me set up in their space, which is now sharing space with my Dad’s tomato plant and Mom’s rhubarb.  Dad keeps looking at different designs for solar and wind options.  I’m looking at investing the extra loan money I’ll be receiving from school (and/or any job money I get) into training with the Earthship project.  I look at all of these things as investments because the hope is that there will be a future payoff from the time and energy I put into them now.

Learning to live off-grid and sustainably, as I see it, is not just in alignment with my spiritual values, but with survival long-term for myself, my son, his loved ones, and any children he might have.  The plan is at some point to live off the land as much as possible.  Sure, it might seem like a long shot right now, but if a trained architect has survived in the middle of New Mexico for the last 30 some-odd years on ingenuity and trial-and-error, why would I not benefit from his and his fellow experimenters’ successes?  Why would I not embrace a more mindful mindset, one that asks “What does it do?  How well does it do it?” and the recently-added thought from someone I met at Paganfest, “Does it have multiple uses?  If it doesn’t, does it do one thing so well that it is necessary to have?” when the people who have used these mindsets have survived austere conditions I will probably never have to face?  The idea I have here is not to go so minimalist as to be body-denying or goods-abhorring, but to strike a real balance between the consumerism I have been raised in, and what I realistically need.

Do I need this computer?  No, but it does in many ways make my life a lot easier to live in and is such a convenience that I would rather not be parted from it.  What does it do?  It does complex tasks, houses several games and programs of creative expression, but on the other hand it houses a fine number of time killers.  Those time killers can be a good method of stress relief and relaxation, but taken to excess, will take away time from doing things I need to.  The computer allows me to post here without having to burn gas to travel to the library, do assignments without having to do them by hand, and talk to like-minded people an hour or so away from me, to clear around the world.  This computer is what is helping me put together calls for submissions for the Ancestor Anthology I am putting together, and when the 31st deadline is up, will help me edit them. How well does it do it?  It does these things better than most other mediums by virtue of time saved, by data backup, and by access to news and the world at large whenever I use the web browser.  It allows me to write more and faster than I can by hand without cramping, allows me to back up tons of books that I would otherwise have to find homes for in already-packed bookcases, and helps me to explore the many options I would never have thought about in terms of sustainable living.  The downsides of the computer I can resist by discipline.

Discipline.  That, to me, is one of the skills that is absolutely vital, both to my life and to my son’s future.  It is something I’m still learning to balance.  One way of doing that is I make it a point to get out and see the garden at least once a day to check on the herbs and plants I’m taking care of.  On the other hand, I probably could play World of Warcraft less, read more, or at least find better uses of my time.  I tried to write and keep a horarium, but I grew to understand it was too rigid, expecting too much.  That’s the balance I need to find, really.  Time between the things that deeply matter to me, and the things that I do to relax and enjoy myself, although a few things are one in the same for those two categories.  Living with diabetes is about living with discipline.  It’s being able to tell myself “That’s enough” or “stop eating the damned Nestle morsels” and do it.  It’s being able to tell myself “I don’t need to buy this here when I can find it at a thrift store” or “I don’t need this at all” and put something down without impulse buying.  It’s about doing the right thing and the things that will help myself and my son to survive while allowing myself to have the time to relax, and really getting my life back to an ebb and flow that works with itself, the schedule I need to keep, and the life I lead.  I don’t look at discipline as some over-the-top self-denying vehicle, nor as some ideal that cannot be achieved.  Discipline is realistic, to me, if nothing else.  It asks hard things at times, but not unrealistic things.  That’s more along the lines of self-defeat and a waste of time.  Figuring out when to be hard and gentle with myself is an ongoing process, and the same could be said in how I am passing that along to my son.

A lot of how I am helping to raise my son is based in helping him figure out his limits, and what he will do, and what he can do.  Part of the discipline I’m raising him with is his schedule, but its also how he talks to other people, treats other people, and how he looks at and treats himself.  Whenever we go out and do things together I have to reign myself in at times not to do things for him.  “It won’t help him if I do it for him” is a mantra I’ve memorized.  I’m especially trying to help him learn when to ask for help, such as when he is trying to open a door that is too heavy for him.  I’ve stood there for a few minutes, waiting for him to ask for help as he struggles to open a door again and again, straining and getting frustrated with it.  Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do, to have the patience to sit there and wait for him to look up at you and ask “Daddy, can you help me?”  It doesn’t give me a sick kick to do this, though sometimes it is damned funny with how angry he gets at the door, talking to it and trying to convince it to open for him.  What it does do, when he finally gets to asking me to help, or when I remind him that he can ask for help, is that gives him confidence that he will be helped by people who love him when he needs it.  He’s gotten better about asking for help and asking for things in general the more I’ve done this with him.  In the future, having the courage to ask for help might save him some trouble I’ve had to go through to learn.

In raising my son I’ve had to teach myself.  I curse a lot less than I used to, sure, but I’ve also learned to take a longer look at where things may lead me in life, from my education to where I might settle down.  I’ve learned to look at the places where I hope to live, to work, to raise my son with the future in mind, and also with a critical eye to what things are actually ‘of value’.  My idea of ‘value’ has changed quite a bit the last four years that I’ve been unemployed (not for lack of trying mind you) so that I’m taking a hard look at the ‘basics’ and the long-term, as much if not more so as the short-term gains.  I say all this in the abstract in consideration with my son for two reasons: 1) I’m not sure yet where I’m going to end up, from where I might live in the future to what employability I will have in the future, and 2) His mother has physical custody and I’m not going to speak for her, but with her.  It is my hope that some day I end up with physical custody of my son, but I’m also willing to say that may or may not be the best thing for him.  Right now, it’s better for him to stay where he is, as much as it pains me to admit that.  Part of my learning discipline has been acknowledging harsh truths, and abiding by them.

I am relearning how to be an outdoor person.  When I was younger the trailer park I lived in had a good stretch of woods behind it my friends and I used to explore.  When I was younger I was part of the local baseball, and soccer teams at varying times in my life, and took 7 years in Choi Kwang Do.  I was a lot more active, and I’ve been trying to get back to that.  My son is helping me to reconnect with this and relearn this because he loves the outdoors, especially ‘talking to the tree spirits’.  So we walk around outside and visit Dad’s oak tree, or head out to a local park and wander around the woods.  Sure, I work with the landvaettir of my home, but I need to get out more.  In his own ways, my son is teaching me how to connect to the world around me without distractions, and just to soak in the world.  His happiness when he finds a flower or says “Hi” happily to a tree, with all meaning behind it, is teaching me how to appreciate the world around me in new ways.  He is taking in talking with friendly spirits as something natural where it is something I had to learn, and something I had a lot of doubt in.  He approaches it with natural ease.  It’s my hope that a sustainable future is something I can give to him similarly, to where he and I may have to learn it, but perhaps he, his loved ones, and children, if he has any, will come to sustainability naturally and without a lot of the struggle we may have.

In looking to the future, I’m looking at how useful my skills as a counselor will be in such a future…and I have to say, I still find them damned useful.  Whether looking at the professional or personal applications of what counseling is supposed to teach me, there will still be a need in the future for people like me.  That said, I’ve got a lot of other skills I feel I should learn, whether that comes from learning to grow my own food (animals included), or the many things I am hoping I learn from the Earthship project.  When I look at Peak Oil, I see that counselors as they exist right now are possible because of abundant cheap energy.  Counselors prior to the rise of professional counseling tended to be clergy, and while it may be that’s what counselors become once again, I see the role of counselors changing depending on the kinds of counseling needed.  I’m thinking especially of social work, addiction, and personal counseling becoming premiums as people face stresses that they probably never had to before.  In the same blow, there’s also the risk that the counselor role, rather than making itself a force for the future, may cut itself off at the knees, and this will probably play out by dint of how a community values the counselors they have, and how the counselors themselves place themselves in their communities.  It may also matter as to what other skills the counselor has, whether labor or education-based, to provide more reasons for the counselor to have a place and use in the new paradigms that may develop from climate change and peak oil.

I’m counting on the idea that regardless of how I counsel, my services in one shape or another will be useful in helping my fellow community members not just survive, but thrive.  Part of that is having the necessary skills, myself, to live at the levels that may be forced on us as cheap energy completely evaporates.  I’m starting to see reports that gas, at least in my area, my rise as high as $5/gallon by July 4th.  If speculation and peak oil keep working the way they do, the future may come sooner rather than later, and I’ll be happy to have developed the necessary skills to rise to the challenge.  So, I’m getting what training I can afford to ASAP, and developing what skills I may need.  Part of this is realizing that I don’t need to know everything, that books are definitely useful, and that relying on people isn’t just something that is nice, but the concept and set up of right relationships, of Gebo  with others in mind may become a matter of survival, or at the least a damn sight better in terms of quality of life, because not everyone can master every skill.  Setting up these relationships, getting this training, and aligning my life now is in the hopes that it saves my son struggles, and streamlines his life into working and living with the planet better.  He may not choose to live in an Earthship at some point in his life; hell, I may not depending on my experiences and likelihood that I could make it work.  Yet the ideas I am going forward with, that of sustainability, survivability, self-sustenance, regardless of avenue, are skills I am hoping to give to my son so that his inheritance makes his quality of life as good as it can be with the skills to sustain it.

  1. June 7, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Very good article. I think that we, as a culture, need to be prepared physically, emotionally and spiritually for the coming trying times, which are inevitable. I am quite thankful to live in a rural area, in the middle of the woods. The only inhabitants around us are my parents-in-laws on the property, trees, and plenty of animals! You learn to be self-sufficient. Honestly, this is the most important thing we can pass on to our children…knowledge for the coming days.

    • June 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you. That preparation, and embracing of a sustainable lifestyle, to me, is helpful even if hard times aren’t coming in the foreseeable future. It’s important for survival, sure, but it also means knowing how things work on a very basic level, and being able to provide for you and yours without having to rely on a shaking structure. Something that the Archdruid Report recently pointed out is how fragile our power systems really are; the electricity is the first thing to go in a disaster.

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