August 30, 2015

More Living, Less Bullshit

Here's to Annie, another reader of this blog that has decided to make some tough decisions to be able to live the life she wants to live. And she was kind enough to share the news with the rest of us in a comment on one of my recent posts.

Like many other people, she feels that time with family is more precious than working in a less than desirable situation. "I quit my job" she said. "8 days to go. Let the adventure begin!" I could sense the excitement, having been in that situation myself.

Annie added, "I don't think there is enough money to compensate for missing so many milestones", and Linda and I agree wholeheartedly. 15 years ago we quit our full time jobs in pursuit of the simple life, and we have never looked back.

In our case, Linda had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in a devastating turn in our lives together. We knew that while the clock was ticking for both of us (as it does for us all), it may be ticking a bit faster for her. What we needed was more time to do the things we wanted to do, and now.

After 5 years of good but slowly declining health we made our move to get the time we needed to do the things we wanted. We quit.

Since we made that decision we have fulfilled many of our simple living goals, including traveling for a full year with nothing but the packs on our backs. While we did not work full time again, we both worked casual, contract, and part-time jobs that we were interested in trying out.

Linda worked for a non-profit that provided services for housing co-operatives, and also enjoyed working in a public library. I worked several jobs such as driving a limousine, providing river rafting trips for school groups, and landscape gardening.

With lots of time for just living, we learned to cook a vegetarian diet. We learned to play guitar and sing better. We increased our time in nature. We spent a lot of time visiting friends and family. We learned to live more with less.

We fully support anyone choosing to live more simply. To live more along the lines of what feels right to them rather than what society tells them to do. Here is to Annie and her family, and all of you out there that may yearn for similar simple things.

May you all have more living, and less bullshit.


Good food.
Want to.


Mindless work.
Have to.

August 27, 2015

Behold The World

My heart is so small it's almost invisible. 
How can You place such big sorrows in it? 
"Look," He answered,"your eyes are even smaller, 
yet they behold the world".

- Rumi

August 25, 2015

Down To The Seaside

When I look out my window I can see heat waves shimmering over the now golden grasses and last flowers of the season that grow in the fields surrounding our house. Everything is sluggish with heat exhaustion, and even the flies are walking.

Our last home (until last August) on the west coast was right on the water so hot summer days were moderated considerably. It was possible, and sometimes quite necessary, to wear a sweater and wool hat year round.

Our new place up in the hills of south western Nova Scotia is a few kilometres off the water and its cooling influence. Up here it is hot and humid in a way that we still need to acclimatize to before it won't feel like we are a Dali clock melting in a sizzlingly surreal scene. 

While we don't drive much, yesterday it got so hot in the hood that we decided to go down to the seaside for some relief. We discovered a local park that surprised us with its beauty, and only a short drive from home.

Green energy projects like these wind generators on the hillside also take advantage of the steady ocean breezes. 

Immediately upon arrival we noted the cool breeze coming off the water. Ahh - nature's air conditioning. We stayed until we cooled and were solidifying once again.

This refrigerated reality will do quite nicely when heat regulation is required. Stay cool out there.

August 23, 2015

The Satirical Art of Steve Cutts

Warning: viewing these images may cause discomfort, ennui, and a deep desire to live simply.

Some people are able to highlight uncomfortable truths more effectively via visual art. Artist/illustrator/animator Steve Cutts is one such individual.

Steve's art doesn't hold anything back in his assessment of the state of the world infected by consumerism. Psychopathic billionaires, getting trapped in the rat race, phone zombies, office escapees, conspicuous consumers - they are all addressed in this painful portfolio.

The artist describes himself as a "self taught hermit who occasionally likes to make animation, illustration, sculpture and cake - mainly cake". You can see his short animated piece about the destructiveness of consumer culture here.

August 20, 2015

Resistance Is Not Futile

For many of us, the urge to be free is greater than the desire to have more. We resist the orders to "CONSUME" coming from the consumerist cabal in order to live life on our own terms. There are no harnesses or fetters in a life of simplicity, frugality and thrift.

When it comes to resisting the chaffing, restricting harness of consumer capitalism, any response is valid and useful. Active resistance, passive resistance - it doesn't matter. Both are effective means to throw off the constrictions and run free once again.

We are saying NO to the profiteers trying to shackle the planet and everyone on it for their own selfish purposes. We can make their billions in advertising attractive chains ineffective. Sadly for them, they just can't force us to adopt their selfish, greedy line of thinking.

The beautiful, freedom loving cat in the video shows us that resistance is not futile. Watch and learn. And laugh. Then run away really fast and enjoy your life the way you want to live.

August 18, 2015

Tons of Free Book/Audiobook Downloads

It is nice to own some books. But not too many books, if that is even possible. I guess it is because Linda and I have had a former stuff reduction in which we trucked boxes and boxes of books to sell at used book stores. It was kind of sad.

In the end we didn't mind unloading all that weight, and we made good money selling our little library. Now our minimalist collection could fit on half a small book shelf. Since our book purge we have been using public libraries extensively, and with joy.

In my recent post Free Knowledge I wrote about finding our new public library upon arrival at our new home. It generated an excellent discussion in the comments about accessing literature and other resources for free. Since then I came across a great addition to these suggestions.

I discovered a site that offers the post 100 Free Places To Download Literature. It includes resources like Project Gutenberg (49,000 free books) for classics, and Banned Books for writings someone thinks you shouldn't read.

Click here to see the other 98 free book sites that include places to access textbooks, mysteries, novels, and books on science, religion, philosophy and more.

There you will also find a post on 20 Sites to download free audiobooks.

It is nice to have a small collection of books. Any more than that and one can forget about buying anything and get the rest online or at the public library.

Happy free reading!

August 15, 2015

Content With Enough

We seem to have an inability to recognize when enough is enough. We think more will do the trick, even though it never does.

We always want more. People who don't aspire to have more are seen as dangerously unmotivated and potentially mentally ill.

But wanting more always leads to wanting more with contentment remaining frustratingly out of reach just ahead after the next purchase. We know this route is a dead end, but it doesn't stop most from pursuing it.

Kin Hubbard recognized the difficulty of it all when he said, "The hardest thing is to take less when you could take more."

We have disguised the consumer lie of more stuff equals fulfillment by calling the whole process "success".

I think real success is knowing when to stop and be content with enough.

August 13, 2015

Rural Living

Since last summer I have been living in a location new to me in many ways. Most important is that for the first time in my life I am not residing in civilization. It is true that world is a bike ride away from home, but my immediate surroundings are decidedly rural.

While I don't wake to the classic country sound of a rooster's call, I am more likely to hear birds than traffic noise. And then there are the long moments of deep silence, something I have not experienced living in the city.

Nova Scotia has the largest percentage of rural dwellers than any other province. Linda and I like that, and it was a consideration when deciding where to move after living on a west coast beach for almost a decade.

As civilization continues to show its innate tendency toward collapse in a well-documented cycle that we humans can't seem to break out of, we think that being in a rural area will have its advantages.

There is a lot to recommend being away from modernity. Not much happens in our immediate little community, and that is the way we like it. When things do happen it is stuff like the neighbour's kids riding a bright red, fully restored vintage tractor around the hay field.

The hay season itself was a celebration of the cycles of nature, exactly the thing that dominates out here in the country. Now that the hay has been cut, swathed, collected and bailed, the field is full of the white flowers of wild carrot.

So full is the field that it looks like snow, the next thing to come in the ever-repeating cycles of nature.

August 10, 2015

Free Knowledge

Your public library will buy and store books and other materials for you.
Illustration: Wendy Macnaughton

It has been a fascinating and challenging year since Linda and I packed up everything we owned into a travel van and moved from the west coast of Canada to the east coast of Canada.

One of the first things we did once we decided to stop driving and start looking for a home was locate the public library and apply for our (free) library cards. A short while later our shiny, fresh cards became the first mail we received at our new address.

They were the opposite of receiving a bill in the mail, a kind of anti-bill. A library card gives rather than takes. I can even figure out how much it gives measured in monetary terms.

Our new library has an online resource called the Library Value Calculator. It "lets you know how much it would cost if you had to purchase" the materials and services the user has accessed at their local branch.

I estimated our library usage over the past year using the calculator. I included fiction and non-fiction books, CDs, and videos. We also use the library for printing and photocopying. We don't need to think about bookcases, equipment or ink cartridges.

The total cash value of our library use came to about $1500 dollars. That is money freed up for other essential uses like food, or power, or heat in the winter.

Perhaps the money is the least important part. What is more important is all that freely accessible knowledge just waiting to be absorbed. I don't think I have personally ever entered a public library and not left a happier and more informed person.

Adjusting to our new home, the library has been an awesome hub from which to connect with, and learn about, our community and beyond.

Note on illustration: "Part of her ongoing "Meanwhile" series, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton spent a month at the San Francisco Public Library getting to know the visitors, staff, guards, and librarians, drawing the people she met and interviewing them. The result is the story of the library told through her drawings and the subjects own words. It's a moving meditation on the important and often unseen roles libraries play in the community, and how they serve the public way beyond books."

August 8, 2015

One Year Later

Life is a constant blossoming and unfolding of beauty, if only we take the time to see it happening.

June 1st of last year Linda and I set off on a cross country quest. A large part of our quest was to secure a wheelchair accessible home close to the Atlantic Ocean.

After a 2 month, 6600 km adventure in a van we bought a few days before we left Sooke, BC, we arrived in Digby, NS. The nice people at the local visitor's centre helped us locate an accessible room from which to base ourselves for the few days it would take to look for a more permanent home.

Before long our online search yielded just what we were looking for on an old potato farm in a rural area a few kilometres out of town. Our landlords live in a beautifully re-purposed potato barn.

We didn't know it when we moved in, but there is a wheelchair accessible forest trail along a brook that is basically in our back yard. Everything we need is close.

In future posts Linda and I would like to share how we have fared since our continent-spanning drive, finding a home, going into the hospital with a bad back, and recovering. When we arrived here everything we owned was in our van, and it wasn't very much.

Since then we have acquired a few things, but not too many. We think it is just enough to live the low impact life that we prefer. Those few things, coupled with an accessible home have allowed us to settle in nicely.

It is one year later and we are blossoming. Our simple life is turning into a thing of beauty.

August 5, 2015

Low Consumption - Low Waste

You always see the "horn of plenty", but never the"horn of waste" in its shadow.

High consumption lifestyles are high waste lifestyles. Overconsumption is laying waste to everything around us.

In 2008 the US produced 389.5 million tons of waste. If we didn't find places to hide it all we would be drowning in the flotsam and jetsam tossed off the exclusive cruise ship Consumer Paradise. That garbage represents an earthquake of consumption followed by a tsunami of waste.

69% of American garbage was hid in landfills, 24% was recycled and composted, and 7% vaporized in waste-to-energy projects. 

One thing I enjoy about a low consumption lifestyle is that it is also a low waste lifestyle.  Not much comes in, not much goes out. Surprisingly, nothing is lacking.

In my new home in Nova Scotia I am more able to get a feel for our household waste management than ever before. Since moving from British Columbia last summer we have enjoyed an excellent system even though we live in a rural area.

Now we have green waste pickup as well as recycling and garbage pick up. Since we don't currently have a garden and compost up and running, the green bin pickup is nice. It is a shame to see organics being landfilled where they won't break down for years while slowly releasing methane, or "landfill farts".

Now we have an opportunity to see exactly how much actual garbage we produce since it is separate from all the other waste streams. What we are discovering is that we produce a very small amount of garbage.

Our next goal is to get our own compost going so it does not need to be trucked away.

Nature does not waste. Neither should we. The best way to avoid high waste production is to refuse, cut consumption and enjoy a better life the planet might actually be able to support.

August 3, 2015

When The Going Gets Tough...

Nature has vital therapeutic effects. My favourite place in nature is the forest. Any forest. This is where I feel the best.

The Japanese enjoy an activity called forest bathing. Instigated in 1982 by their Forest Agency, it has become a recognized relaxation/stress management activity.

Studies have found that spending time in the forest creates a calming effect throughout the nervous system. Benefits of forest bathing include reductions in stress, anger, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness.

Being in nature is essential for human health. That is why when the going gets tough, the tough go to the forest.