One of the most pleasing activities I've ever enjoyed is sitting on the porch, wine glass in hand, tunes squawking from the tiny iPod amplifier, and simply watching the fire in the chiminea. It seems to be a bit old fashioned, but it is relaxing. And, depending on your age, this activity may seem anachronistic to the point of laughter, but many of the people I know, the artists, the writers, the musicians who are shaping local communities with local ideas are being seen more and more on each other's porches, playing music, talking softly about their day and all mostly under the age of forty and many in their thirties and twenties. Ironically, the ones who seem to see this as stodgy are in fact the older generations of the nineteen sixties and seventies.
Yes, the vast majority of Americans shift from theme bar to theme bar, ever seeking the best pre-packaged experience that money can buy, eyeing the fifty flat screens filled with generic sports, cheering for cheering's sake, going to movies showing the retread techno-triumphilist de jour, and then home to the local weather guy and his corny hand-off to the anchor team.
But that is going to change with the upcoming energy shortage. I have a feeling that the country will quickly become a nation of porch sitters. We will grudgingly leave the dark caves of our homes, the info-packed flickering screens forgotten as we find ourselves forging new relationships with our neighbors in light of fewer jobs, less money, more time on our hands, and an oppressive, cable/internet bill.
Hot summer days will be mitigated in the porch's shade and breeze because running the A/C will be far too expensive. Maybe the cooling unit will be turned on for the occasional party, an expensive treat for one's guests, or ran as a single window unit in the highly insulated bedroom during the sweltering nights. Maybe the sleeping porch will come back into fashion.
Perhaps the neighbors will stop by with baskets of eggs, pickles, tomatoes, jerked rabbit meat, or some of their famous blackberry jam, seeking a trade for your time, expertise, tools, leather scraps, or singing skills. As a node in the informal economy, the porch may prove extremely useful.
Security will also be part of the porch's domain. Every pair of eyes on the street means fewer strangers able to get into mischief. With a sinking economy, crime is likely to rise. People who can no longer fulfill their fake dreams of plastic riches through a growing economy, may try to keep the dream alive through ransacking their neighbors homes. As relationships and trust grow in the neighborhood, so will the sense of possibility. Fear will decrease as people come to believe that their neighbors have their best interests in mind. And, with that trust, a sense of an extended world will emerge, the sense that your land does not end at your property line but is connected by air, wind, and water, meaning that your pollution will not be spilled onto your neighbors' land or your own land, not because you, he, or she owns it and want to keep it pristine, but because any insult to a particular part of the land will be an insult to all of the land. The land is indivisible.
In this blog, I intend to talk about many things, but I wish above all to convey the sense that despite all that is coming down the pike, right smack at us, that localism must feel like the answer. We know it is the answer. We must feel it is the answer.