In the midst of the move, I came across books I had forgotten about. One of them was Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered by Bill Devall and George Sessions. It was one of Sarah's books from her undergrad days at University of Wisconsin. It contains excerpts from many sources, each offering a different perspective on the human relationship to environment. There is a "test" in one of the sections that intrigued me when I first read it called "Where You At?" It intrigued me because not only could I not answer several of the questions, but it hadn't occurred to me to ask them. It caused me to reevaluate my entire relationship to where I live, to perk up and pay attention to different things. And even if I still don't know some of the answers, I am now more aware of my ignorance--which is a step.
Here is the test. See how many questions you can answer about where you live.
1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
2. How many days until the moon is full (plus or minus a couple of days)?
3. Describe the soil around your home.
4. What were the primary subsistence techniques of the culture(s) that lived in your area before you?
5. Name five native edible plants in your bioregion and their season(s) of availability.
6. From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?
7. Where does your garbage go?
8. How long is the growing season where you live?
9. On what day of the year are the shadows the shortest where you live?
10. Name five trees in your area. Are any of them native? If you can't name names, describe them.
11. Name five resident and any migratory birds in your area.
12. What is the land use history by humans in your bioregion during the past century?
13. What primary geological event/process influenced the land form where you live?
14. What species have become extinct in your area?
15. What are the major plant associations in your region?
16. From where you are while reading this, point north.
17. What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you live?
18. What kinds of rocks and minerals are found in your bioregion?
19. Were the stars out last night?
20. Name some beings (nonhuman) which share your place.
21. Do you celebrate the turning of the summer and winter solstice? If so, how do you celebrate?
22. How many people live next door to you? What are their names?
23. How much gasoline do you use a week, on the average?
24. What energy costs you the most money? What kind of energy is it?
25. What developed and potential energy resources are in your area?
26. What plans are there for massive development of energy or mineral resources in your bioregion?
27. What is the largest wilderness area in your bioregion?
We had a terrible ice storm in my bioregion about three years ago. Trees were down, roads were closed and electricity was out for weeks across a large swath of the Midwest. John and I went to the grocery store and I was shocked to see the shelves so sparse, the produce picked over, the refrigerated items absent. I felt, for the first time, how dependant I am on an unseen (by me) network. I have no control over my food and heat and water. I take its easy presence for granted.
I am slowly becoming more aware of the systems that keep me alive and healthy. It isn't always fun or easy to learn about them. We put in a composting toilet in the new house. It is a remote system--the composting bin is in a basement of sorts. We have a composting toilet by the same company in an outhouse that John built up by the cabin and have had no trouble with it. Not so, this new system. It vents through a pipe that goes up through the roof and when the winds are right (or wrong), you can, um, smell it. John, dear man, has gone down to the basement to check on things and all I can say is, thank god, because I'm never gonna do that. We're working out the kinks (I won't go into details) and haven't given up yet on this "green" technology, but there is a part of me that just wants it to go away.
Like I want my garbage to go away. Like I want my food to appear on the shelves. Like I want my water to come through the pipes, clean and ready to drink. Like I want to drive my car wherever I want, whenever I want.
Sometimes I feel like a petulant child, arms crossed, and pouting when I'm asked to confront responsibility for my human presence on the planet. But, you know, the time is here. I'm going to work on answering some of those questions in "Where You At," and I'm not going to let a little bit of crap scare me. It happens, right?