Thursday, March 27, 2008

of travel cynicism and leading a simpler life

so, i wandered for an hour or so around oslo this evening after i left work. i was looking for bookbinders design, a swedish store where they sell the most beautiful fabric-covered journals, to which i am wholeheartedly addicted after stumbling upon them in singapore a couple of years ago. they're lovely, like this one, which is incidentally my favorite color, tho' i managed to make myself buy other colors this evening:

my one that's this blue color, which is called the aptly poetic duo emerald, is almost full and i will soon need a new one, especially since i seem to be drawing in them these days. so i stocked up-in green and reddish rusty orange.

anyway, my point was actually totally different, got a little carried away there with the pretty blank books of unlined(!) point was that i felt rather giddy with happiness to be walking around the streets of oslo. i think i'm falling in love with it. which, strangely, disturbs me a bit. i'm the CYNICAL traveler. the one who says, "singapore--it's like disneyland with nationhood." or "thailand is so seedy, i hope i don't have to go back there, there seems to be a glowering menace underneath all that bowing and politeness." or "thank god i haven't had to go back to india since the bull attacked us on the beach in goa--it's been so long my visa has thankfully expired."

so, how can i be so enchanted by oslo? is it the fjord? the mountains? the snow? the fact that it's not copenhagen, which has, after all, lost its charm for me in its level of familiarity? is it just that residual, long-buried american inner voice that thinks, "hey, it's cool to say, i work in oslo." much cooler than the rest of my working life, which has just been in denmark, apparently. again, familiarity breeds contempt, right? and that's kind of silly, because there are many good things about denmark and who i am to crave mountains, having grown up on the prairie? but anyway, perhaps i shouldn't over-analyze and should just appreciate it! perhaps it's a sign of my healing after my last job, which surely drove me to that level of cynicism in my travel. and, if i'm honest, there are many places i love. manila is one of my favorite places on earth, followed closely by cape town and moscow--i'm totally a moscow person. i liked palanga/klaipeda in lithuania (admittedly, maybe i just like SAYING palanga). it was a lovely little tucked away corner of europe that was extravagantly undiscovered by other tourists and therefore wonderful. so perhaps i'm not as cynical as i think. maybe i just don't really like singapore. or thailand. and they can pretty much keep india. which i'm actually sure they're quite happy to do.

so, i'll stop dwelling on that and get to my other point...paring down and living a simpler life. this has been on my mind for awhile, but thoughts of it have been provoked again this week by the discovery of this wonderful blog and several comment conversations with the writer of the blog. (totally strange that i feel that i know her and yet so totally do not--but that's a whole 'nother posting, isn't it and another of my many digressions). anyway, back to the point. so as i dined alone, i thought about what aspects of my material existence i would be willing to give up. and sadly, they are few. i would give up the t.v. and the car. i'm already not one for prada shoes or gucci bags, tho' you would be hard-pressed to separate me from my zebra bag. look at it, it's fantastic (and this is really my very bag in the picture from the african gameskin website)

oh, please, don't be shocked. zebras are NOT endangered. he was going to die anyway and he may as well have been made into something lovely that i truly enjoy every day, rather than being devoured by a lion. but AGAIN, i DIGRESS!

i want my writing house and the sauna in the garden (and the environmentally-friendly materials are all ordered--oak beams and not a bit of treated wood in sight). i can do without all of the plastic junk that comes into our house thanks to having a 7-year-old who adores things like Bratz and Littlest Pet Shop. but that would be HER doing without, not me, wouldn't it? actually, if i'm honest, hand the kid a stick and some pretty rocks and she's happy. tho' admittedly spoiled as all hell--example: on our last flight to manila, "mom, why are we in monkey?"(a statement of which i am perhaps perversely proud--but again a whole 'nother post)--but perhaps she could do without all the plastic toys. those Bratz have a seriously trashy way of dressing anyway--that can't be good for her psyche.

but, i want lovely fabrics and yarn in my life. things which i can make something out of with my own two hands (if i ever learn to knit--which i will). do i have to do without things like that? they can't be that bad, can they? i would like to limit the chemicals in my home. i would like to use natural products. i buy organic food unless i'm absolutely desperate--the store is closing and the only milk they have left is the regular stuff. i try to buy locally-produced whenever there is a choice and i do without (on occasion) if there's not. i've taken to buying wines produced from organically-grown grapes. i'm concerned about pesticides and gene-manipulated foodstuffs. i'm concerned about the world we're going to leave to sabin--what will she have to deal with?

i love owning books. my books make me happy. when i sit in the room next to the book shelf, it calms me. it makes me happy, just being there, among the books. but i SHOULD visit the library more. i don't need to own them all. just the ones i want to write in. which is, if i'm honest, most of them.

perhaps what i should think about is which of the things i have that make me happy. and then focus on those. because in this world, sadly, it's about stuff. and stuff does, in the case of great books or yarn or blank fabric-covered books in jewel tones or that zebra purse, have the capacity to make me happy. but it would also make me happy to be more CONSCIOUS (and conscientious) about what we consume as a family. and i am doing that more and more all the time. not only keeping the food journal, but selecting things wisely and from an energy-conscious standpoint. or from a humanist standpoint.

for example, i haven't set foot in a wal-mart since 2003. and it's not only that i live where there isn't one. even if i still lived in the US, i wouldn't go there. i object to how they treat their employees and the conditions in the factories where their things are produced. tho' i have on occasion, on this very blog, complained about the danes being insufficiently capitalist--there is a limit to how capitalist one should be. and wal-mart is WAY too capitalist. i don't care if i can shop for my cleaning products at 3 a.m. (which i used to love, before i became more conscientious). it's simply wrong how they do business and how they treat their employees and the communities in which they do business. and i'm so proud of my dad, who writes a little anti-wal-mart nugget in his column every week and who is 74 and has never set foot in a wal-mart. now THAT'S commitment.

but i do so want a mac. i just got a new dell laptop from my new job. if i were really a good person, i would have refused it since michael dell was one of bush's biggest campaign contributors and let's face it, bush isn't really going to go down in history as the greatest president ever (again with the digression). i am a mac person on the inside (and was one until i started to work for microsoft, where, funnily enough, they're not that into macs). i mean macs are vibrant and creative and there are even OLD guys (in nice suits, i'll grant you) in the business lounges at the world's airports with MACS!!! and PCs are stodgy and middle-aged and lumpy. and i'm definitely none of those things....right? ok, maybe a little middle-aged and probably more than a little lumpy, but definitely not stodgy. and totally creative. for sure. and trying to be a better, more conscientious consumer, in little ways for now, working up to the bigger ones as i gain strength. that's all one really can ask, isn't it?

1 comment:

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

"got a little carried away there with the pretty blank books of unlined(!) paper..."
Oh, don't get me started on obsessions :) Books, books, books. And writing material. Pens. Paper.
Oslo sounds marvellous. I'm glad you found a place you enjoy so much.
I love mountains too. It often feels familiar when reading your words.
I am certain there ought to be a happy medium between capitalist and...something else. Something less greedy but productive.
It sounds already like you are doing wonderful things, like buying local produce and so forth.
I could read you for hours and hours...
You're very kind to refer to me in your posts. I'm sure I haven't deserved it; I shamefacedly admit I shop in Walmart.
Excellent post, as always.