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If These Walls Could Talk

Creating a Simple Ecologically Responsible Home - Part 1

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06/01/2010 - Build your castles in the air, then put foundations under them--- dream, then make it happen. Understand that your brother may just be marching to the beat of a different drummer, for each man is an individual. These two thoughts have been so often quoted and paraphrased they can seem rather cliche. I hadn't known where they originated until recently rereading Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Thoreau's writing became the guidebook of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970's. Independence, simplicity, individualism, and hands-on self provision were the goals of these idealists. A few of them actually made it work. The majority, like in Thoreau's own two year experiment, had but a brief affair with mother earth.

Henry David wrote convincingly against the dehumanizing progress and technology of the modern world. Again his well-stated thoughts are oft repeated. At least some part of everyone sighs in agreement. It was with amusement therefore that I read the specific conveniences he objected to. His biggest objection was to the railroad hurtling along like a comet at the breakneck speed of 30 miles per hour. On an individual level, he felt only snobs would want a new-style Rumsford fireplace, or a copper pump that brought cold water directly into the house.

That brought me flipping to the front of the book to find the original publication date--- 1847. This wasn't just before telephones, electricity, and gasoline motors. This was before the Civil war. During his stay at Walden Pond, Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay taxes because he "did not recognize the authority of the state which buys and sells men, women, and children like cattle at the door of its' senate-house". Civil disobedience too--- no wonder he was one of the heroes of the 1960's and 70's.

Reading Thoreau now, I ask myself again how exactly I really do wish to live. What are the important things in life that make a home a home? How can we avoid being sucked into show and pretense, and becoming slaves to our houses?

Thoreau wrote beautiful poetic words, but he lost me on no indoor plumbing. After all, he sent his laundry home to his mother.

Progress, or the lack thereof is always a two-sided coin. Finding the balance in my own home has become my personal goal. Solar and wind-generated power--- I love them. Dust collecting nick-knacks and dry clean only fabrics--- I hate them. Yet I hope that petroleum products never totally dissapear in my lifetime. I don't want to give up plastic Tupperware and synthetic fibers. Trade in my Goretex raingear for old oilskin? Not willingly. Is the cup of the modern world half full or half empty. I say half full. Let's use common sense to fill up the rest.

There are keys to creating an ecologically friendly home that serves the homeowner rather than enslaving him. if we truly think through our choices instead of being driven by the advertising of the marketplace, we can indeed have the best of both worlds. Even in the center of an urban area a homeowner can be largely self-sufficient. in the next few articles we'll look at some of the options and ways that new technology enhances a simple down-to-earth lifestyle.

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