Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
In my on-going “life as a song lyric” series, where I live vicariously through music, I was recently taken back to my suburban life. It was one of those “angry Cam” days when a whole series of things had me in a pissy mood… climate change/idiots & morons/May weather in March exposing my garlic plants too early/cynical politicians… the list can be endless.
I used to watch and love the TV show called “Northern Exposure” which had an ensemble cast of eccentrics and was set in a small town in Alaska. I wanted to go there and be part of that community. My musical taste often tended to tunes that reinforced this idyllic view of the country that I had. I'm not much of a reader of poetry, but I love listening to the lyrics, which are just a form of poetry. I once read that Leonard Cohen had been desperate to be a poet, but no one paid any attention to him until he started putting his poetry to music.
In 1991 a Canadian band called “The Crash Test Dummies” came on the scene with “Superman’s Song” in which they talked about just how committed Superman really was to crime fighting. They suggested that he could have broken into any bank he wanted and yet just worked as a humble newspaper reporter to pay his rent.
Michelle loved The Crash Test Dummies because leader singer Brad Roberts has this unbelievably deep, baritone voice. I did get my diploma in radio broadcasting from Loyalist College, but even first thing in the morning I can’t compete with him. I would need a lifetime of cigarette smoking and whiskey drinking to even be in his league.
There’s another song on the album called “The Country Life” in which Brad considers how great it would be great to live in the country:
“We would spend so many lovely days
We’d have chickens and cows and corn and whatever it is farmers raise
At breakfast each morning we’d fry up our own hand-picked eggs
We could be happy in the country”
As our desire to leave suburbia grew I found this song entering my psyche more and more. And now that we have chickens I’ve got to say, there is simply no greater luxury than cooking up eggs from the happy chickens that wander outside our back door.
Brad had a wee bit of an idyllic view of country life, which is always helpful when you are working to get there. He sings:
“We’ll just sit right back and watch while our crops grow.”
My experience is that farmers with tractors who plant 200 acres of one crop might be able to just sit back and watch while it grows. But if it doesn’t rain, they sweat the outcome of their investment. In my world, planting my crops is the easy job. Watering and weeding and tending them is a full time job. The best full time job you could ask for. Oh I often walk through those rows and absorb the positive energy that my plants give off, but they are high maintenance.
Their second album “God Shuffled His Feet” has a song “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” with a lot of humming that I think caught on in the U.S. The second song from this CD is called “Afternoons & Coffee spoons.”
“Someday I’ll have a disappearing hairline
Someday I’ll wear pajamas in the daytime
Afternoons will be measured out
Measured out, measured with
Coffee spoons and T.S. Eliot”
Well so far I’ve kept my hair, but with how grey it’s getting I try and keep it as short as possible. And I get dressed pretty early but there is the odd day when Michelle might still be in her jammies past the typical 9 a.m. business world start. We do have one coffee in the morning, but if we’re both working on books and websites on computers for the day, our afternoons are more likely to be measured out in teaspoons, since we switch to tea for the rest of the day.
I have never read T.S. Eliot. He was a poet and even though I like lyrics, I don’t think that I’m likely to read his poetry. But at least I now CAN read T.S. Eliot in the afternoon. I have that option. I don’t do it often, but reading is the afternoon is an option that’s always there. I have traded that 9 to 5 city work mentality for a country farming mentality. I can work whenever I want. I can sit and read whenever I want. I will never have that retirement option of just sitting around reading fulltime but I know too many people who seem miserable in their retirement.
The downside to this chosen life is that I don’t get away for holidays. I work long weekends. And I won’t retire. I’ll just keep cutting firewood and growing food for as long as I possibly can.
But these songs remind me of the days when I dreamed of living in the country. And now I’m living the dream, and it’s pretty awesome. And after a few minutes with these songs taking me back to being miserable in suburbia, my pissy mood starts to dissolve away. Splitting firewood with the axe helps too.
And now I’m going to take a break from this computer. I’m going to walk into the house, take the kettle off the woodstove heated with wood that I cut, make us some tea and have some lemon cranberry loaf that Michelle baked in our solar-powered toaster oven. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
For more information about Cam or his books, please visit www.cammather.com