Ideas from a late night conversation about the revolutionary teachings and blueberry pancakes of our dear friend, Heather Peterson Curtis.
1. Redefining “Organic”
Imagine, your clothes are covered in baby vomit, a little dog is napping at your feet, another dog is barking at something down the hall. Little kids are running around. Food smells are wafting through the house. Imagine the little old woman who lived in a tree. This is what’s meant by “organic.” The birds nest.
Remember things that are round instead of square, messy instead of antiseptic. Be in places where there are little kids and old people instead of only adults – these are the things that define life. You don’t have to sell yourself.
Reject the home / work dichotomy. Choose systems over rules. You don’t have to “go to work” – you don’t have to participate in the other system. You don’t like it. Stop telling yourself, “but I’ve got to.” Everything can be domestic. Everything can be organic. It can all flow. And if it would flow, it would be sustainable and happy and healthy.
This is real. It’s indescribable. It’s messy and it’s challenging and it’s raw. But it’s not ticky tacky. It’s not kitsch. You can feel it. It’s an irrational thing. It’s an irrational number. It just feels good. It’s vibrant. It’s this really beautiful nest.
I really like messy things. I find that I thrive in those situations. When I’m there, I just don’t “do anything.”
I look up, and it’s like four in the afternoon, and I haven’t done anything. Lots of things have happened. The baby’s vomited on me. I’ve eaten some food. What else is important?
Nothing else is important.
Practice not getting exhausted when you’re around other people for like ten hours at at time.
Because it is exhausting. Life is hard. Shit happens. Deal with other people. Push yourself out of this safe reclusive green zone.
Self care is necessary. Rest is important. But there’s just something to be said for pushing through the exhaustion of five kids and being awesome full time. There’s second wind, and third wind and fourth wind, but like, my god,
How beautiful is that when you finally fall asleep?
It isn’t proximity to other people that creates the kind of organic domesticity that’s so nice. It’s being a family.
Fold the laundry, do the dishes, don’t eat all the food. Bring things over for dinner. Enable systems to continue and not get clogged just because you’re there.
Care for the nest and respect what’s happening there and the people that are there. They live there. Be a good guest. Be a good community member. Believe in hospitality. Be like family.
Get your feelings out with somebody, and have somebody who you can be like, if it all goes to hell, I’m going to be there for you. That’s what families are for.
There’s just so much beautiful energy floating around.
Decolonize your mind.
Encourage people to do what they want and don’t apologize for it. Learn to pick out and pick up people who are good people and want to be responsible and care about other people, that genuinely love the people that are around them and that recognize who takes care of them and want to work on that reciprocity and sometimes don’t know how.
Encourage them to be good, not by lecturing them, but by showing them. Laundry’s important. All of a sudden there’s dirty clothes and dirty dishes laying around, and you’re like I’m going to pick that up.
Cultivate your garden. Take care of your family. Build a space that’s home for you. If it gets too far away from that then it’s hard for things not to become bullshit. They stop being real.
Retreat to the things that are real.
I remember in ninth grade biology class we got these plants, and they weren’t in great shape. They had lots of dead leaves, and they needed care. So the first thing we did was pull off all the dead leaves and cut the plant back to what was healthy, so it could grow back strong.
In the labor movement, in the environmental movement, there’s a lot that’s bullshit. We need to trim it back to what’s real. There’s a lot of pruning that needs to be done.
Qualify what is real and what is not by how it feels. Know who feeds you. Know who takes care of you. Know who loves you. That’s what’s real.
Don’t clear cut the woods and grow manicured lawns. That doesn’t actually solve anything. It just creates a lot more problems. Understand life well enough to cut off the things that are actually dead.
Prune to help things heal.
Etymologically, to “own” is inseparable from to “owe” and to “agonize.”
Be vocal about what you want. Even when you aren’t able to vocalize it or don’t know what it is, be really vocal about that process and be really present in untangling it all. Know your power thoroughly.
Come into yourself.
The idea that “everybody’s welcome” doesn’t make any sense. Other people are not necessarily worth your time. Being exclusive is healthy.
In the real world, lots of people make you uncomfortable. Admit that you aren’t comfortable. Sit in that and get stronger. You can push through that. You expand.
Shake off some of your preconceived notions about things and people that you don’t know. Admit when you don’t know what’s appropriate. That’s okay. It is uncomfortable, and it is weird, and that’s something to be processed and laughed about and worked on. You can’t welcome people if you don’t know how to welcome them.
It doesn’t have to be this whole big scary anxiety-ridden, oh my god, we’re going to offend someone kind of thing – it can be like, this is new and uncomfortable, and I’m willing to sit in that and I’m willing to work on it.
We bring our discomfort to the table so that we can get down to the things that we need to talk about. Relationships built on falsity are going to fall apart. You can’t be in solidarity if you aren’t solid. You can’t build bridges if you aren’t on the ground.
Everybody eats. Most people love their kids.
In fourth grade, we had Multicultural Day in school. All these little kids were supposed to bring something and be like, this is “my” culture.
I’m a fourth generation Jew of Eastern European descent. My parents are American – postwar children raised in professional class suburbs. Most of my grandparents grew up in New York ghettos during the Depression, Russian and Polish Jews, poor, but ethnic. Maybe the last to have something we could really call our own. So, I came to school with a tray of little finger sandwiches – pastrami on rye with New York mustard.
Many years later, I was on a bus going into Denver on a visit to a friend who was going to school down there, looking through my iPod trying to find something to listen to and realized, none of this music is, like, mine.
I can listen to Jay-Z, but that’s not my music. I have it. I got it on the iTunes store or a torrent. Maybe in a used record store.
We are strangers in a strange land with nothing to call our own.