This weekend my friend Jamie from college came to visit from Ohio. We had not seen each other in over two years since her wedding and prior to that maybe once since living in Wilmington, NC. Jamie and I met the end of my freshman year of college at UNCW because she lived in the same apartment complex as one of my best friends. The first impression I had of Jamie was that she was ridiculously proud of being from Ohio (did you know that 8 of our presidents are from OH, it is the birthplace of the wright brothers, and that buckeyes are goodluck?), she loved sports (Go Buckeyes!), and she would say exactly what she was thinking (while laughing the whole time). What I loved about her was that even though we had completely different political views and many differing beliefs, she was always up for and adventure and you could count on her to be there when you needed her.
My sophomore year we ended up all living together in a neighborhood called Yesteroak, which was the beginning of what would be three years of being her roommate and many insane memories. There were a lot of cul-de-sac parties, late nights of playing nintendo, girl fights (sometimes involving nintendo), dance parties, dog chasing, broken hearts, pig-pickins, and growing pains.
When she arrived Friday night it was as though I had just seen her last week. There is something about having lived with someone for several years that creates a level of comfort similar to family. No matter what you have gone through or how long it has been you tend to fall back into your routine without any trouble.
Saturday while I worked the farmers market she went with Dan on the bike ride for Edwin and then biked to Marion square to meet up with me. Before she arrived I had gotten a call that there were some loose chickens in someone’s front yard (my boss told me I could add the title Chicken Wrangler to my resume if I could catch them). So when Jamie found me, we jumped in the truck and went on a chicken hunt. Next thing I know I have caught a hen and cannot find the rest of the flock. I peek over the fence and see the other six hanging out next door. As it turns out, they live at the neighbors house under the porch and are owned by a guy that obviously knows nothing about chickens (including that they fly, need water, and that roosters are illegal downtown). Needless to say, if they get loose again, I may not be returning them.
From there we headed home and then to Sullivan’s Island. We hung out under the cloud covered sky, watching storms roll past, and eventually got chased away by the tide. I realized that I need to spend way more time at the beach, especially in the late afternoon.
After beaching it, we stopped at a local bar to get a drink, at which point we decided we wanted to find a dock to sit on and enjoy the sunset. With our to-go drinks and Jamee’s fishing pole we headed out onto a small and unblocked private dock. We put our feet in the water, cast out the line, watched the sun melt into the water, and talked about the good ole days.
As if the moment could not get any better, dolphins broke the surface and began curiously investigating what our private dock party was all about. This same moment could have easily occurred 6 years ago except that now we talk about our careers, being in committed relationships, and considering a life with children.
Sunday after brunch we headed into downtown to walk King street, visit the market, explore some of my favorite spots, and visit Dan at work. We took a bike taxi to dinner, dodged the rain-drops, and finally headed home to go to bed. The weekend was nothing incredibly out of the ordinary but it was nice because for a few days I was able to enjoy the comfort of an old friend, share my world with someone that genuinely cared, and laugh until it hurt.
I know that in 6 more years we will look back nostalgically on weekends like this one and envy our freedom and youth… but I have no doubt that we continue to enjoy whatever it is we happen to be doing.
I promise my next post will be full of pictures, fun stories, and happy thoughts. For now I have to share some videos that support a lot of my thoughts from the last post. Please know that I do not necessarily agree with everything these people have to say but I like their overall messages.
Here is a video of a man doing what a lot of us wish we could in a way that I found ridiculously entertaining.
Then there is this music video for “Words I Never Said” by Lupe Fiasco that makes a pretty strong statement…
The last one is another Lupe Fiasco song that is a little more inspirational, especially for kids that are growing up in bad neighborhoods…my favorite verse is:
“So no matter what you been through
no matter what you into
no matter what you see when you look outside your window
brown grass or green grass
picket fence or barbed wire
Never ever put them down
you just lift your arms higher
raise em till’ your arms tired
Let em’ know you’re there
That you struggling and survivin’ that you gonna persevere
Yeah, ain’t no body leavin, no body goin’ home
even if they turn the lights out the show is goin’ on!”
Monday night was was the annual celebration of the day our country declared our independence… I spent the evening with friends, riding bikes, and being awed by the sound and sight of fireworks going off less a few hundred feet away. As the reverberations pounded my chest, I thought about how impressive it is that we have harnessed the power of chemical reactions to create something so beautiful. The visual spectacle was accompanied by iconic American music like the Top Gun soundtrack and Born in the USA, both of which brought a smile to my face along with a reminder that the essence of the 4th of July celebration has changed dramatically since 1776.
When the show concluded, we walked our bikes through the crowds planning our next stop. As we walked, a guy in front of me finished his tall-boy (beer), crushed it up and threw it into the bushes. Unable to contain myself, I blurted “Seriously?” to the back of his head. He cocked his head to the side and arrogantly grunted “Yeah”. To which I replied, “Proud to be an American.” His parting words of justification were, “Yeah, I do what I want.”
This basically sums ups my overall disappointment with the average American. Fly the stars and stripes, attend a baseball game, watch the fireworks, get drunk, and then carelessly live your life to your own comfort and convenience. This guy was just one more of the millions that seems to confuse independence for entitlement, freedom for free reign, and pride for ego. This situation deserves a poster in which fireworks are going off in the background and this red-white-and-blue patriot is littering next to a pristine marsh.. across the top it would simply say “FAIL”.
It seems the Land of the Free has given a little too much leeway in all the wrong places. Our consumer driven economy has skewed the values of our country so much that we have sold our principles and quality of life for a few more pennies. People have put their own privileges above the rights of others so that they can live cheap, easy, and convenient lifestyles full of instant gratification and self indulgence. I could go off on this tangent for weeks but I think you all get the point. Back to my iconic 4th of July…
After this less than inspiring run-in, we all headed back to the house and decided to play a board game. We settled on playing “Life”, since none of us had played since childhood. After a thorough briefing, we got rolling. You start with a mini-van, you must choose between going straight into a career or accruing $40k of debt for a degree, and then you take a spin. Along the way, you stop to get your career and salary, get married, have kids, win and lose money, buy a house, choose to purchase insurance, play the stock market, and make decisions that mirror those being made everyday. Of course the person with the most money and assets wins in the end. Within minutes of beginning we all realized that this game is a lot more entertaining when we were younger and these types of decisions were too far in the future to be taken seriously. We softened the blow of this reality with a few drinks, competing stories of financial woes, some upbeat music, and the occasionally self-depreciating joke.
Playing as a adult comes with a much different perspective and when your mini-van driving game piece ends up accruing debt, getting stuck with a low-paying job, and being left behind your peers on the board- it starts to feel a little too much like the real thing.
This brings me back again to the idea of what it means to be an American. There are so many movies, television shows, songs, commercials and games similar to “Life” that further reinforce the idea that there is a standard operating procedure for becoming a successful adult in the United States. It gives the impression that there is a “right way”, that you can win or lose, and that the winner is the one with all of the money. Yet this expectation and set of rules has resulted in the highest rate of divorce, bankruptcy, and suicide since the 1950s and more people are on mood and behavioral modifying medications than ever. It is this “right way” that pushed me to feel inadequate, left me doubting my decisions, and created a constant pressure for me to achieve traditional success that left me with stomach ulcers and debt.
I recently watched the documentary God Grew Tired of Us and it left me with the most bizarre mix of hope and disappointment on this same subject. It tells the story of the thousands of boys ages 3- 13 that fled their country of Sudan to avoid being killed or enslaved and spent almost a decade as refugees. Of these refugees, 3800 were selected to be re-settled in the United States. You watch them leave a refugee village that is small and lacking in supplies but full of brotherhood, friendship, and laughter with hope that the US holds the key to a better life. The young men must overcome the immense cultural and physical differences of coming to a new country and prepare to repay the debt that they have accrued for their travels. The story unfolds as they struggled to learn our customs, speak better English, and adjust to the American way of life.
Over the span of four years there is a transformation of these young men as they find jobs, send money home, try and stay connect with each other, and struggle to overcome their alienation of being immigrants. I cringed when I watched as they were harassed by police officers for traveling in groups, ignored by other pedestrians when they needed help, and mocked for their accents; this lack of compassion combined with the pressure resulted in the complete mental breakdown of one of the young men that had to be institutionalized. In many of the interviews they talk about they missed the sense of community, openness, and friendship that is such an integral part of their country. They felt a sense of disillusionment at how hard they had to work to gain so little, leaving them with no time for their family and a never ending sense of backsliding.
These young men had seen such unimaginable things, survived walking hundreds of miles carrying one another, lived through attacks from wild animals, and entered man-hood as orphaned refugees only to end up in America scraping for minimum wage and losing themselves in the isolation of our society. Towards the end it shows many of the young men gathering at a conference to re-connect with each other and in many cases and address the issues that many of them were facing and there was a glimmer of hope in their unfailing ambition.
I was inspired by the hearts and the strength of these young men that had endured so much pain and suffering and continued to work so hard in hopes of changing their lives. I then think about how many people grow-up in the United States surrounded by type of opportunities these boys crossed a desert and an ocean for and take it for granted. How many people their age are sleepwalking through life ungrateful, seeking instant gratification, never questioning anything, always trying to buy something bigger and better, and seeking out to the quickest and easiest way to die fat and happy.
Perhaps it is time we all stop and consider what it is to be an American and how we need to start re-defining that. To me being an American should mean that I respect the freedom so many have died for by using it to strengthen my community and my country. When I am successful, I should delight in the opportunity to share my time, experience, and bounty with those that are less fortunate. I will celebrate my independence by defending my right to make my own decisions about my life and my body. To ensure that the leaders of my country are strong I will use my voice to guide their decisions and vote for those that I believe in. I believe that every body of government, business, and corporation should operate in a way they can be proud of and hold policies of transparency with no fear of third party auditing. Although my funds are limited, I will use my money wisely and support the local economy that supports me by buying from local businesses, restaurants, and farmers. It is time that we demand that our country is shaped democratically by the voice of the people and not the corporations and groups with deep pockets. I am proud to be an American but I am not yet proud of many of my fellow Americans, something I hope will change with time.
I think it is time we start holding each other to a higher standard, to start exploring and supporting new and different ways of living, to learn from cultures much older than ours, to meet our neighbors, and to become a country of individuals that believes in something greater than ourselves.
Last weekend I was able to spend three glorious days traveling from one farm to the next with Daniel, starting in Conway, SC and ending somewhere outside of Greenville, SC. We toured eight farms total, spending around an hour and half on average at each farm. Needless to say, it was an awesome weekend full of great people, an abundance of vegetables, all kinds of animals, and beautiful places.
On Friday we visited Freewoods Farm, Thompson Farm, LW Paul Living Museum in conjunction with a Clemson program. We learned about the history around African American farmers, saw some interesting agri-tourism ideas, and got some hands-on experience at another living history farm. The LW Paul Living Museum was my favorite of the day because it included info on cane sugar, corn milling, timber sawing, tobacco cutting/stringing/curing, mule cultivation, potato storage and other fun historical building examples. I even got to try the plow behind the mule! Here are the pictures of all three:
Saturday we headed over to the Clemson Student farm, Barrioz Family Farm, and Baird Family Farm. At Clemson we were able to hear three phenomenal speakers talk about how to control pests organically including weeds, insects, and diseases. I also got to see an old friend from college which was great! Barrioz Family Farm was a nice example of a market garden that had some great terracing and a cute little tractor. Our final farm for the day was a little trickier to find and we ended up cutting through a private drive full of goats to get to our final destination (a bonus!). Baird Family Farm had a great set up that included bottom lands, a stream, forested hills, and upland fields. They let us walk in their stream, tour their fields, and feed their pig.
Sunday we headed to Bio-way farm and then onto Early Bird Worm Farm. Bio-way was utilizing some strategies in permaculture, which I cannot get enough of. He had some really neat forest plants that were edible and/or medicinal as well as mushroom logs and native flowers. Early Bird Worm Farm was hands down the best part of the tours. This farm makes its living raising and selling worms but also processes deer/chickens, raises rabbits, grows/sells vegetables, grows mushrooms, processes corn, and hosts a variety of critters including sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and dogs. We ended up staying at this farm talking to the farmer until it was dark and left with our car full of farm fresh goodies.
Here are the pictures:
In the end I managed to meet a lot of great people, learned a lot of new techniques for organic growing, scored a little tan, plowed a field, saw tobacco flowers, pet a pig, ate fresh veggies, discovered jam called FROG (figs, raspberries, oranges, and ginger), bought a plant that helps toothaches, and became even more inspired to homestead.
I think this quote pretty much sums up the trip:
“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.”
–Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Jay (Aug. 23, 1785)
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