Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
“Just for today I will take five minutes to think about how I can increase the Happiness Factor in my life.”
Cold and sunny.
Mornings at Blue Rock Station are the best, even when there’s no hot water for a proper cup of tea. Jay and I settle into our rocking chairs to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) on the hand crank radio, and wait for the water to heat. Both of us seem to find ourselves arguing with different news reports, especially the stock market report.
In fact, it’s the stock market report that got us thinking about creating an annual THANKS FOR NOTHING Month.
One winter day, as Jay and I were driving along Highway 60 into town, I was once again arguing with the radio about how silly the Stock Market Report seemed to be. It simply has nothing to do with our everyday lives. In fact, I would argue, it has nothing to do with anyone’s life. What difference do the numbers going up and down really make - unless you were one of the incredibly small number that were just about to sell or buy a stock - and then I don’t think you would rely on NPR for your up-to-the-minute information.
“Wouldn’t it be grand if we could hear a Happiness Factor Report on our own community?” one of us said (I don’t recall which one of us had this brilliant idea). “The Happiness Factor in Ohio went up 13 points yesterday because the Cleveland Browns finally won a game ...” or something to that effect. Seems to make more sense than “The Dow Jones fell 45 points on profit taking and fear of the Fed easing on monetary blah, blah, blah.”
I'm sure it was Jay who then suggested that we should try to spend some time living without money. I instantly wanted to try.
At some point we decided on the month of January for our experiment. January is a slow month for us, with snow and cold winds … a time to “hunker down.”
In October 2011, I included our “THANKS FOR NOTHING” (the name we gave our January time) announcement in our regular Blue Rock Station newsletter to let folks know what we were thinking. Almost immediately I had a note from Nans Thomassey, one of our former French engineering student interns. He wanted to participate.
Nans and I had a grand time sharing ideas about how he and his partner Fanny could live without money, and then he suggested we should include energy in the formula. He wanted to focus on living with the rhythms of the earth and making sure that the lights would be out at sundown. That conversation helped us to begin to create a format for the month that was going to “push” each of us to examine many things in our lives...I could never have imagined the outcome.
After our planning session I began to feel a little “pinched” by the thought of not using energy, and that made me realize that I was about to be on an amazing journey that would turn me at least 90 degrees and re-shape a portion of my life.
How was I going to cook? Do Laundry? Get to Jeanette’s party (I’d promised the year before that I’d be there)? And, more importantly, how was Jay going to get by without his daily shower?
Fast forward to January 2014 and THANKS FOR NOTHING Month #3. It seems like we find new ways to challenge ourselves each January, and 2014 is no exception. We find now that we look forward to January - an excuse to slow down a bit - take a breath.
And with the frigid weather drifting down from the Arctic, it is strange to find that the electricity might go out - and we will not notice. There will be no pipes bursting and no plants dying or no mad rush into the harsh winds, bundling pets into the car to go in search of a place where coal burned miles away helps keep us from freezing at night.
It will simply be another night. Minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside, 68 degrees inside. The cats and dogs sleeping in front of the wood stove. Us humans will be feeling very sleepy by 8 pm because it has been dark for nearly three hours. We will blow out the kerosene lantern and head to bed, warm under the comforters. And give thanks for the nothing ... that is everything.
Fresh fruit with greek yogurt
Fresh baked oat bread (gluten free)
Fried white fish