A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Thursday, March 30, 2006

An Authentic Life

Liz has got me thinking about what really constitutes an authentic life. She is one of the bloggers I read and engage in conversation with about not only knitting, but where fiber fits in the rest of the lives we are trying to live, as organic gardeners, as people living in rural places, as concerned citizens watching the proliferation of war, loss of civil rights, and crash course past the point of peak oil, among other social issues.

Some of you might notice that I recently added a quote by Simone de Beauvoir to my header; this is a very good summation of how I view my role on the planet. In my heart and in the expression of my being, I am an artist: a knitter, a writer, a photographer.

These are all expressions of living in society, in the culture I was born into, not just "American society", but the portion unique to me - my Portuguese Catholic heritage, growing up in California, which was populated by adventurous spirits from around the world in a very rapid fashion 150 years ago, and where tolerance for diversity has often flourished more strongly. That could be part of why the "peace and love" movement taking place in Haight Ashbury as I was entering high school could spring up in California, and influence my young adulthood. We are each unique sums of the common culture, and its variations and sub-sets.

I am also trying hard to live a life that is more integrated, where nature, animals, gardening and creating can thrive. An authentic life for me would mean being able to skip driving to work, as I had meaningful wprk within walking or biking distance from home, that adequately compensated my needs and a few of my wants (this includes health care and a plan for if I became disabled or too old and tired to keep working full tilt). It would mean that my work also left enough time to contribute to the community and to pursue my creative activities (read: more time to knit and read and write). I would live where culture flourished on an intimate level, through dinners with other people a few times a week and cultural outlets that didn't involve lots of travel.

Am I living this life? Is it only an ideal? These are the questions that I grapple with regularly. I have meaningful work, but not necessarily the work that best uses my talents, training and abilities. I have to drive 24 miles each way to get there, but I do meet most of my needs... and am working on re-aligning my wants so that they are less driven by the materialistic, disposable-ethic, mainstream. I am always wanting more time with the animals, more time with friends, and more time to knit. The stack of books to read never really gets any smaller, as new ones get added even as some get finished... often it is a few feet tall, reflecting the difficulty in finding enough time for reading, which to me is essential to keeping my own mind active, and to keeping up with the culture.

I am grateful that blogging and the Internet allow me more opportunities to engage in this conversation with others. How do you feel? Are you trying to live your version of an authentic life, or have you thrown up your hands, daunted by the demands of daily life? Talk to me!


Blogger Cathy said...

My life undergoes changes in every decade. I am now living a life I couldn't wait to escape in my 20s. Hmmm. Makes me wonder what there is about "here now" which will drive me elsewhere in my 60s. Life style is ideal only in retrospect/future. At the times I am too busy living to notice how I am living. Need perspective. Tho I do find a quiet life necessary now that my child is grown, the previous marriage is way behind me and I am exploring a newness I didn't expect.

10:22 AM  
Blogger margene said...

Very good questions and thoughts on life. One reason I have the job I do is because I didn't want to drive very far to work. I could walk or ride a bike as it is only 3 miles from home. We live in a condo which doesn't offer the chance to garden and grow our own food but does make eficient use of land space. We try to buy local (food is difficult in during winter months) in all areas and patronize the smaller, home grown businesses as much as possible. We do love the travel (although we don't very often) and enjoy the natural world around us. I know we could do more and we often struggle with some of the contradictions in our lives.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Stacie said...

I love it! You are a beautiful, thoughtful person and I love to read your blog! My life has undergone such changes in the last 4 years, as I left city life, Chicago and before Oakland, CA, and the quasi-rock star life of struggling musician and moved to a rural midwestern town of 2000. I have an acre and a half and two giant gardens, I have found knitting, in Chicago, but more recently reinvigorated by the bolgesphere, and have two little boys filling my every waking moments! I relate to what you said about growing up in CA, as did I. Now I am trying to find ways to fit in to small town life, a new job at the paper, WRITTING! WOO HOO! and getting used to living in the gooey red filling of a blue state. Thank goodness for the blogs I love and read! YOU ROCK! Cheesey, but Live Simply so others may simply live!

6:48 PM  
Anonymous caroline said...

what a wonderful, thoughtful post, birdsong. Right now I am taking the first baby steps toward living that balanced life. I stepped away from almost 30 years in the corporate world and am right now focused on being and traveling and regaining my joy in day to day living and all my far-flung friends. I am deliberately not yet focusing on what comes next though my heart/mind does keep tugging at the corners (!) wanting to know what's behind the curtain.
I'm slowly remembering all the things I said I would do "if only I had the time" and am now going for them. it's been a much slower waking up process than I would ever have guessed. I read Liz's blog, too, and am inspired by her always. I just joined a Community Supported Agriculture program and will have lovely, fresh organic eggs in a few weeks and veggies from Nov. to April. Buying local is tough in South Florida since there are few organic farms here. Still, I try to buy from as close by as possible to the state. gardening will be next. thanks again for the pleasure of thinking about all this.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Carrie K said...

I'm with Cathy, the life I choose to live now is something that I would have died if I'd known that was going to happen, in my teens and twenties, but now I'm quite happy with it.

Every decade does bring about a change. There's a difference in what I want, what I expect, what I've lived through and long for.

I've been pretty much Northern California based my whole life but geography is only a part of it. I've been rural (very, very rural) suburban, city. Are they all authentic? What's an inauthentic life? If what floats your boat is the pursuit of what you think someone else has, does that make you any less authentic even though that would not be the choice I would make, admire or be interested in?

10:23 AM  
Blogger KnitNana said...

Dear Birdsong - stay strong to your goals and ideals? I've written an answer on my philosophical blog - Nana Sadie's Place. Let me know what you think?

12:57 PM  

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