Orion Magazine recently published an article by Rebecca Solnit entitled “The Most Radical Thing You Can Do: Staying home as a necessity and as a right”. In the article, Solnit quotes poet and bioregionalist Gary Snyder: “The most radical thing you can do,” he said, “is stay at home.” The words were spoken in the 1970s, in a time when traveling back to the land and being a conscientious consumer were tasks that started to make sense to everyone, as they began to compare their ways of living and consuming to the lay of the land, and the way of the world. Now, even more than then, as we take stock of the many battles the earth has been left to fight, the most radical thing we can do is stay home. To steady our busy hands, calm our busy minds, and stop our always moving bodies.
Staying near home always seems like a less important thing to be doing, doesn’t it? I often wonder why we feel that way, when our home is where our roots are. A plant cannot survive without its roots. To what, exactly, are we so eager to get away? If I’m being honest with myself, I’m going away to consume, to busy myself, to participate in an activity or indulge an interest – an interest for which society has already laid a narrow, limited framework. Sometimes, I wonder if I even like spending my time on those things; there’s not much to like because there’s not much of a choice. If I leave my will to my city’s one-dimensional culture, I can get ripped off, and help to rip off a long chain of my fellow men at Walmart. I could see a movie, sit in a supermarket-like bookstore and read a book from someone else’s bestseller list, then pull into the drive-thru. Looking blankly at the spin-cycle that is our must-have, must-do way of life, I ask myself, where is the quality of life? What steadies us, calms us, stops us? What fills us with wonder and not predictability?
A new cardboard box “building” will go up where a cardboard box once stood, and the cycle will continue both now and forever, even in this fragile economic climate. But our homes, our backyards and nearby natural spaces, neighbors, niches and communities, all have worth. When we come closer to these things, and closer to others, we more easily see needs. We’ll want to learn what gusto it actually takes to manage at home, and that staying home is no less desirable. We’ll recognize our need for nourishment and plant food that is sustainable both to us and the earth. We’ll notice neighbors, people we’ve long ignored, face them for the first time, and help them.
Staying home will, of course, help the earth; as Solnit put it, “[there will be] fewer container ships and refrigerated trucks zooming across the planet.” But staying home will also help us, personally. Once we desire to stay at home more often, we’ll eventually realize how painful it’s been to be cut off from our roots. We’ll want to be reconnected, or feel the connection for the first time – to be firmly planted as aware beings, conscious of those living beside us, those within our walls, the crops outside our doors, and the nature beyond them.