The Material World

The other day I met my new neighbor.The people below us are the masters of simple living. They rent out their small off the grid cabin for six months every year when they spend the winter in Arizona. They are grown up hippies who live with a wood cookstove for cooking and heat .Refrigeration is a cold storage box of wire and wood outside the house.The rudimentary solar system is a couple panels for the inside lights, music on a sunny day only.Luckily for all of us living off the grid , the one luxury item , a propane fired tankless water heater ( these need no power source to run) for a hot bath. To me this life seems charmed and one that can be supported by a modest income.Plus it’s in a beautiful redwood grove with a pretty grassy meadow perched looking out towards the pacific ocean.

My new neighbor was at the coffee shop where you could get wireless internet.She had come to terms with living without a cell phone, internet being only available at shops approx. five miles away or else dial up .But here we were in the fourth day of rainy weather and no sun and she had no power. No music, no movies, no ability to do any project using power and reverting to the oil lamps for light at night. The material world she is used to was really dropping away. She has to live with silence and no distractions for these dark days. But at least she can take a hot bath and her cozy abode is warm.She wants a generator for Christmas.

I had a similar experience a while ago when I went to Santa Cruz to help my daughter move a bed.I was trying out a new place to stay airbnb where my dollars would support local economy not large corporate economy. I had not mapped the directions before I’d left home and was depending on my daughter and her laptop to look for it when we met up. In our quest to be farmers we are trying to get all our monthly expenses down to as little as they can be. Do you know how little you make as a farmer ?We had gotten rid of our cell phones .Much to my middle daughters tantrums , she would get up to 125 texts a day even though she only gets reception when she’s at school. They don’t work here anyway.But everywhere else in the world they do work and boy are we dependent on them. So my daughter was not where I had emailed her to be and I walked the streets with my aussie who had jumped in the truck knowing I was going somewhere and determined to come along. Finally hungry, we decided to look for where we were going to spend the night. I bought a map at the bookstore , but couldn;t read it , having turned fifty this year my perfect vision no longer can thread a needle or read small print.I drove around knowing the general vicinity and two cross streets, even asking directions.Couldn’t find it. I finally resolved to borrow a phone and almost in tears I stopped at a little Mom and Pop store.Walking towards it I saw three girls about my daughters age standing outside. I pleaded waving money to use a cell phone. They asked what I wanted and quickly mapped the address on their IPhones. I felt diminished not having what it took to succeed in this current time , no IPhone, no laptop.

I drove up to find my daughter’s car and the most welcoming home and people feeding me and pouring me wine. They even let my dog in and welcomed him as well.
What is really meaningful ? The warmth of humanity when everything seems to be in crisis.The material objects would have made things easier . But instead I interacted with people which was more meaningful.

3 Replies to “The Material World”

  1. That was beautiful. I’m sorry you felt so lost. That home was so beautiful. It’s amazing how we cling to the material life. Thinking that we haveto have those cute shoes, a cell phone, and ipod. Lately I’ve been so frustrated because I can’t access youtube. But does this excess really add to our life? How can it compare to a walk in the forrest, to the smell of the rain, or to plating a flower?

  2. Hey Katie, I work at Airbnb. We were all happy to read that you found your host and had a great experience. That kind of story gives us the warm fuzzies. And thanks for being a great steward of the environment, your ranch sounds amazing!

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