For the past three weeks, squished on the couch in what might be the hippie-est living room in all of Minneapolis (maybe even the whole Midwest), my world has been rocked. I haven’t DONE anything too significant… pulled weeds here and there, trimmed some trees, harvested garlic… But little by little, I’ve started getting my head around something I’ve come to believe is the absolute most important thing we can do in order to close the gap between how the world is and how it should be. And that is, empowering communities to transition to a fundamentally different way of living. It’s a lifestyle in which environmental impacts, both negative and positive, are experienced rather than displaced. It’s a lifestyle you would diagram as circles, one cycle feeding into the next. It’s a lifestyle to which you would apply words like “enduring,” “self-sufficient,” and “conscientious.” It’s a lifestyle where social capital is what makes you rich, organizing neighbors is what gives you power, and love is the most potent drug around.
There’s an awful lot of talk out there about the evils of capitalism, inequalities plaguing our education and healthcare systems, epidemics of obesity, peak oil, and a whole slue of other injustices I can’t pretend to fully understand. But over in Phillips on 17th avenue and 24th street, my world has been rocked because Lynne Mayo, a fiery woman with a plan, is doing something about it.
Lynne has taken what has become a quite devoted posse of Summer of Solutions participants under her wing. She’s made it her business to get to know us, insisting we take mug shots next to our names so that she can work on memorizing them. She’s taken time to sit with us, offering up homemade raspberry pie and asking us questions trying to get at what makes each of us tick. She’s shown us documentaries exposing the dangers of genetically engineered foods. She’s brought in neighbors to teach us about herbs. She taught us methods of bio-intensive gardening and let us have a go at it as we began preparing plots for fall planting. She introduced us to permaculture, helping us to understand the importance of caring for the earth, caring for people, and sharing the wealth. She adds a new book to her recommended reading list every day: James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren, Richard Heinberg’s Peak Everything, Atina Diffley’s Turn Here Sweet Corn, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States….If only I could read as quickly as Lynne can spew off titles.
What have I gotten out of my time with Lynne so far? Well, my “to read” list as multiplied 10 fold. My knowledge of weeds and plants has expanded. I can confidently tell you the difference between a pitchfork and a digging fork (don’t worry, Lynne, I wouldn’t dream of digging with a pitchfork). But the most important thing Lynne has given me in just our first few weeks is this feeling I can only possibly describe as exuberance. An exuberance that translates into insatiable energy because over on 17th Ave, things are moving… plants are growing, organics are composting, greenhouses are building, seeds are starting, and slowly but surely, peace and justice are coming.
-Hannah B. is a SOS Twin Cities 2012 participant