More Enviro-friendly Vermont

We moved to Vermont from Kansas.

The first thing we noticed when we moved here is we had to bring bags with us everytime we went shopping. Gone were the days of Walmart plastic bags. I no longer store a giant plastic bag of little Walmart bags at the house. It took a while but we got used to it. Humans are creatures of their environment. Set the conditions right for them and they will adapt.

Second, we no longer found the fountain drink stations at the local gas stations. Those were practically gone too. They were replaced by water or coffee. We noted people are generally skinnier here too. Perhaps this is correlated.

Not a lot of people throw trash outside their vehicles here either we noted gladly as we live on a country road now in the mountains.

We started recycling more too. Most folks here haul their own trash and recycling apparently to the dump and station on Saturdays. We weren’t that motivated yet. So we paid the extra for trash and recycling pickup. At first, we piled a lot into the recycling bin. The recycling company had to send us a flyer more than once to be more discerning on what we kept. I think I’m still learning on this cause my husband now sorts through what I put in the bin and corrects it. Adaptation can be slower for some creatures than others.

The state of Vermont pays grants for homeowners to go solar energy. Other than that, we noted folks around here like outdoor activities: fishing, hiking, kayaking, etc. There’s a real pretty lake 9 miles away that has a beach for swimming but gone are the recreational boats like pontoons and ski boats. They must have some environmental law against them or something.

There are a few places with windmills but nothing like the quantity we saw in Kansas. As far as I know, I didn’t see the use of nuclear energy plants up here either.

Overall Vermont is quiet and peaceful. There’s a general feeling when you move here of do not disturb this pristine place. Now I understand why Vermonters are not superfond of tourists and especially folks from Massachusetts for some odd reason. The only Mass folks they seem to like up here are the Afflecks and Matt Damon. Everyone else…not so much.

Generally folks here seem proud of Bernie Sanders. I noted there’s not a lot of political discussion or angst or ire towards one party or the other. People are polite about differing political views. Being from Kansas, my background gravitates towards more conservative on the spectrum but I do appreciate Sanders fervor and passion to protect the working class folks’ wages and his fight against rising pharmaceutical costs. Just this last week, I was told I had to pay 1,400 for a drug for my husband for 1 month’s supply just because our annual deductible rolled over. Fortunately we used Good Rx but it still cost 560 out of pocket which was awful. I’m 5 miles from Canada. I wish I could go there to get my meds.

Yes, the only real downside here is also the upside….if you work from home. The snow and snow storms make daily commutes a challenge. But if you are a remote worker, you might love it here. Vermont has remote worker grants now and they are increasing their internet access across the state. If you like the environment and the outdoors and work from home, this just might be the ideal place to live. You can get reimbursed up to 7500 dollars to move here if you work for a Vermont business or work from home. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Working with folks from Vermont is ok so far. The work ethic is a little different from Kansas. Maybe it’s just me but people seem more chatty and less nose to the grindstone which is good and bad. Work seems less organized and at times on the verge of chaotic. Maybe it’s just me. When I am home for the weekends, I absolutely love this place but when I return to work…I sorta miss the easy functionality of work operations in Kansas. There’s less oversight there for business, less regulations, less extra red tape and bureaucratic slowdown, and paperwork filing. Working here feels like trudging through snow uphill all the way…a little frustrating and exhausting.

That being said, the worker laws are better here. We have something called state guaranteed sick leave. You can’t do random drug testing on employees without giving them plenty of notice. There are more union activities. I guess that’s good. My sister works at a labor law firm in Kansas City. She says Kansas is the “wild west” “anything goes” in terms of employer rights vs. employee freedoms. I think she might be right based on what I’ve seen in comparison. You wouldn’t know it because it’s not broadcasted much but the region of Kansas I came from, southeast, has some of the poorest counties in the nation cause worker wages are so low there. I’m talking lower than even West Virginia.

My husband loves the snow here. He’s a remote worker. On his days off, he just sits inside on the lazy boy in the warmth and watches it fall like we live in a snow globe. Yesterday we tried cross country skiing and rented a snowmobile. He’s dropped 25 pounds since our move from the Midwest. Me, not so much, maybe 5 lbs. But we are starting to adapt more, slowly but surely…him faster than me but we’ll get there eventually.

New Little Book

A story from this blog called The Firefly’s Secret is now up on Amazon and doing well. It is #10 on Amazon in baby and toddler nursery rhyme books.

The little story is on kindle unlimited and selling on kindle for 1.99.

Thoughts on the Concept of Originality

I attended the PSU Bookstore Book Signing today for the book Searching for Fire. I am very grateful for all the hard work that was put into organizing the event. I had some great conversations today and one with a mechanical engineering student which left me pondering something philosophical. He asked, “How do you create a work that is original?”

I understand this perspective. As an avid Netflix fan, I am often going through trailer after trailer after trailer of shows that sometimes seem to have similar story lines or characters and ideas. It seems so repetitive, even tiring. Sometimes I wonder if originality in art is dying. All that has been done will be done again and it repeats over and over and over again. Sometimes I feel jaded and I think this seems meaningless or pointless. Sometimes I think maybe we should give up and not produce anymore art. It’s all been done or copyrighted. There’s nothing left to do or create or invent…..meaninglessness.

But then, I think of a world without art – without stories, without songs, without poems, without movies, without the very things that lift us up and entertain us and give us hope and make us think and feel deeply.

And I ask myself…..how does one become a true originator of art in this civilized world?

Originality of thinking – When one ponders these words, perhaps they consider an inventor such as Thomas Edison. 

Edison was born in the Midwest and did not attend much school.  There is a story on Facebook of a letter written to his mother when he was a child. 

Edison went on in life to invent many great things like the first industrial laboratory at Menlo Park, phenol chemical plants where he also produced other chemical products such as benzene, aniline dyes, xylene, shellac, pyrax, and salicylic acid used in making aspirin.  Using the Edison Ore Mining Company, he discovered ways to make cement.  Edison held the patent also for the first moving picture camera called a kinetoscope.  Edison owned a film studio that made over 1,000 short films.  Edison invented the stock ticker broadcast system and the two-way telegraph.  Many of his inventions were fundamental to the development of infrared and x ray technology as well.  His most famous inventions were probably the phonograph and his work in the field of electric light. 

Edison had many interesting notions on life including the idea that Nature is the Supreme Intelligence rather than a theological God. Edison also viewed this Nature as neither merciful, loving, nor kind but rather malevolent. Edison was a vegetarian as well due to his beliefs about “do the least harm to others.” Edison also believed that the United States needed monetary reform and he argued against the Gold Standard, debt-based money, and the Federal Reserve System.

Where did Edison get all these ideas? He is considered an original thinker, a pioneer of new ideas. I think the answer lies in this equation:

Education + Imagination = Originality

Edison was largely self-educated and spent all his time on jobs and at home reading science books, any books he could get his hands on. In fact, he got fired from a few jobs due to his over-focus on science and conducting experiments while at work.

The point is Edison is considered an original thinker but what he was doing, is what is mentioned in these quotes here:

All society, all thought, all idea…….everything civilized, every civilization is built on past constructions. There is no originality, in and of itself, without first knowledge of what has come before. And this continued progression of construction mixed with our own imagination based on our own life experience and knowledge is crucial in opposition to wild Nature which seeks to decompose the constructions of mankind.

Have you ever lived in the wilderness? In the country? I have worked on a farmhouse for two years and at first romanticized communing with nature as if I was on Walden Pond with Henry David Thoreau. I thought of nature as amazing and beautiful and benevolent. But I quickly realized the same conclusion Edison did that nature can be terrifying. Nature is constantly breaking down things we build and encroaching on our tamed and controlled lands. Animals that live in nature are survival of the fittest and nature’s realities of life and death are harsh and cruel lessons. While I do enjoy nature, I understand that life in the wilderness is a harder reality than I want for myself or my children. I prefer the companionship and security of human community.

The author of Ecclesiastes speaks of the opposition between man and nature when he says,

The quote speaks of wind. Wind is nature’s master of erosion, of decomposition. Wind is featured in the poem Ozymandias:

So, in conclusion, I think art is very important to this world. Art is a creation and with its presence more art grows and expands out into the world. Just like friendship, love, compassion…..these are man-made creations and as we work towards them, they expand infinitely in the face of Nature’s cruel decomposition. These types of human connection are essential to life and the advancement of civilization…..of peace, prosperity, and security for more and more humans.

So writers, painters, poets, sculptors…….roll up your sleeves and get to work. Don’t ponder whether your work is original enough. Ponder how you can create or build more human connection.

Pause and Look

I work at a frame shop for photography and artwork. You would not think an art house would be incredibly busy……..but it is. I work Monday to Friday and by the end of the week, I probably frame well over 750 pictures, some ranging as small as 4 x 4 all the way up to 20 x 30. I frame collages of high school photos, wedding pictures of smiling brides and grooms, lots of pictures of animals. People, by the way, at least a good portion of our customers absolutely adore their cats and dogs. There are pictures of famous people, pictures of politicians, business photos, boat photos, car photos, beautiful women in gowns, and occasionally some provocative images too. There are mostly funny and smiling photos and sometimes some sad and some that make you wonder……

Today, I framed a poem from Mary Oliver. I had often heard the quote about what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life. But this one was different. It made me pause and I guess that was the whole point of the poem…..to suddenly pause in this great hectic hustle and bustle of daily living and working and home life and community.

Here is the poem below. Perhaps you’ve seen it before. I liked it. And I hope you like it too.