August 22, 2022

I want to live in a place like This.

Am I missing anything here? Comment—I’ll add it in. ~ WHL

I want to move somewhere where the sound of summer isn’t leaf blowers, cutting down trees, weed whackers, mowers, construction, and destruction.

Where you can hear the crickets, appreciate the bees and the wildflowers, trees are allowed to grow and flourish, meadows and gardens and diverse toxic-chemical-free farms prosper, but lawns and cement parking lots do not.

But I don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere, exactly. I want to live somewhere where I can hop on my bike, or kayak, and roll to a cafe. If I’m too far away for that, I want to create community where I am, and bring people out, to enjoy the rich nothing of the country with me. I want to live where the shade is thick, the sun is dappled, the winter long and autumn cheerfully orange, red, gold, green and maroon.

I like people. I like community. I like people and community who like historic preservation, and affordable housing, both. Who like greeting each other whether we know one another, or not. Who love their dogs, and cats, and goldfish…but love the pigs, cows, calves and chicks and chickens, too. We don’t torture, steal from, or kill those we love.

Every bike is one less car? It’s also a lot less noise, and pollution.

Every meadow is one less mower, weed whacker, and so-called arborist hacking tree limbs off.

I want to move to a place where yellow flags don’t dot yards, but yellow dandelions do (they make good food for bees and yummy free lawn salads, too). Where walking while instagramming or texting while driving is shameful, and meditating in public is no big deal. Where veterans are treated with dignity, but wars are understood to be hell-making, not glorious.

Better than moving away, I would like to live in a place where I can help it become such. We must heal here more often than we zillow away to our best life, there.

I want to live in a place where the city council debates about more protected bike lanes, not wider highways and parking spot requirements and tearing down lovely old buildings and replacing them with, yes, more luxury condos.

I want to live in a place that deprioritizes social media, and subscribes instead to their local paper, and good journalism, and prioritizes saying “good morning” to strangers and new friends, and listening and learning and nuanced debates, even when disagreeing with one’s own “side,” and whose museums and public signs offer indigenous language along with our colonialist ones.

I want to live in a place where live music, filling the spaces between trees and courtyards, is more common…than recorded music filling the space while we drive from one place to another. Where children and coffee and the Sunday New York Times and dogs sniffing and napping and a couple dancing and a family sitting around drawing on the stairs above the band appreciate that cheerful music every Sunday morning.

I want to live in a place where everyone takes off their shoes before walking in to my home, or your home.

I want to live in a place where equality is just the starting point, where police walk and bike and know our community because they’re a part of it and have their camera on. A place where political rhetoric is honest and respectful, and we bother to vote and display our “I voted” stickers proudly for far longer than makes sense, and where we bother to read honest books and educate ourselves and create a kinder world with every election season.

I want to live in a place where the elderly aren’t shunted aside into plastic-encased-beige-food-filled beige-boring TV-blaring windowless homes, and the sick aren’t shunted away, and the homeless aren’t shunted aside from sidewalk to underpass, and the poor aren’t pushed aside in the rat-race to the top of a life ill-used, and our indigenous friends aren’t shunted aside into reservations and history books (at best), and people of color, and women, and developmentally disabled aren’t shunted aside, and our heroes are heroes for all of us, not heroes merely for how loud they can be or how much they can get for themselves.

I want to live in a place that invests in our health starting from zero, every day, every month, and year, and thus saves money long term in that we’re healthy, and happy, and active, and give to society our best, instead of hobbling best we can through the years with bad eyes, bad teeth, joint pain and injuries inside and outside that never heal right.

I want to live in a place that detests gas-powered leaf blowers.

I want to live in a place where plastic-lined bleached to-go cups, like the ones at Starbucks, are seen as immoral.

I want to live in a place where tourists respect the land they’re walking into, and buy local craft, not Made in China plastic geegaws; and dine and drink at local haunts, not cookie cutter chains.

We are tired of concrete covering everything except spindly little trees, set in grates, that aren’t allowed to mature. Where trees are invested in, just as homeowners invest in their homes. Where it’s okay to be middle class and work hard for your dreams but where it’s also okay to be poor and work hard for your dreams or middle class or poor and focus on one’s art or living or contributing, and less on work for hours for money. Where being richer than rich is seen as unseemly, unless it came from a good place, and one is actively giving it away. I want to live in the pages of a children’s book—not an idealized homogenized Disney fantasy—but one where there’s community and caring and ethics and the every day is more important than “getting mine.” You know, maybe a Richard Scarry book, or a Norman Rockwell illustration (he painted real issues, empathy, and the smallest of big moments, you know). I was promised that world and still want to live that promise. Instead I am an adult in a world where Elon Musk’s whines and self-importance and might and money makes right.

I want to live in a place where the buses are quietly electric, not noisily belching gas. I want to live in a place where vans don’t idle, and delivery via waving, friendly cargo e-bicyclist is commonplace.

I want to live in a place where students don’t leave trash bins overflowing with plastic-foam-filled practically new furniture every six months, instead giving to thrift shops. Where students dare to study what they love, what they want to learn, instead of what will make them money while making the rest of us and our earth more poor. Where students party with waxed paper cups, or thrift shop glass, not forever-toxic plastic red cups; and study late into the nights laughing occasionally together at our friendly local cafes, and leave university without heaps of debt.

Where “crime” is too-noisy motorcycles and tricked-out cars or fog rolling, and ballet and book readings and art openings are what evenings are about, not the latest megasequel moneygrab from TVland.

Where the homeless sisters and brothers are offered a way home, if they want it, through services and training and housing. It’s no good spending our days ignoring or running past those in rough situations, and it’s not safe for most of us who are homeless, either.

Where adopting puppies isn’t about “me,” but about them: training, exercise, affection. Where butterflies and insects and squirrels tired birds have plenty of places to rest and snack or sip nurturing flowers.

I want to live in a place that is actively pushing against meat and dairy, not “merely” out of compassion, out of the notion that we shouldn’t torture our animal friends, steal their children, then kill them…but because we want to live in a place that won’t flood, sink, burn, drown in smoke, heat to dangerous levels.

I want to live in a place where teachers make more money than day traders, investment bankers, and oil riggers. Where farmers make more money than developers, fast food joints, and fast fashion pushers. I want to live in a place where Bezos is the last place people shop, where local and eco and ethical is the first, and where witty twitter insults and “likes” and selfies are embarrassing, not sources of pride. I want to live in a place where farmers markets are about shopping for groceries, CSAs, and fun…not merely tourism and plastic packaged goods. I want to live in a place where waste is seen as unattractive, and we turn our lights off and everything we own that lights up is set on power cords. I want to live in a place where dating is about tenderness and what we want to do with our lives, not game-playing and pushy lust. I want to live in a place that is fiercely supportive of dancing in public.

I want to live in a slow place, a place where the biggest worries and most memorable moments are tiny things, everyday things, homely, homey things. Should I bike to the zero waste grocery with all my jars today, or tomorrow? Do I know how to darn a hole in my jeans? Which book should I read next? Is my ebike charged? When did we last make love—if we have to ask, let’s do it now! When did I last water my plants?

I want to live in a place where it’s not uncommon, or hard, to jump in the water twice a day, in the hot months. Where there’s fierce competition for the bathroom and an hour of two of phone-free bath with epsom salts and New Yorker time in the cold months. Where we know all our neighbors, and how they’re doing, and they help us out where we need it, and we help them out where they need it, and it makes a real difference in both our lives.

I want to live in a place where public transport is free, so everyone figures it out. Where bikes are quicker, and cheaper, and healthier, and easier to park, and more fun, and safe. Where trains run on time, and buses are clean, and frequent. Where cars are a last resort, and when we have them, we share them, or they’re dusty with disuse, and they start up with a quiet hum, not a roar, and if you listen closely, you can still hear those birds and crickets.

Where strangers share shaded tables with one another on hot bright late summer days, and friends don’t often need to make plans because they so often run into one another on the street, and families biking down hills and avenues don’t get tailgated and where they still hang bike thieves, as the old Wyoming bumper sticker goes, but not really. But almost. I want to live in a place where children are treated like little adults and adults laugh and hide and treat one another with childlike playfulness.

It’s not hard, none of this is easy, but it’s easier than the alternative, which we’re living now: a noisy dusty low-level stressful world that’s anxious and mean and conflicty and shadows the real simple good that’s just below all the noise and bullshit.

I want to live in a place that cares.

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