Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Living in Tacoma

In the early chapters of No Impact Man, Beavan talks about how, despite one of his goals being to try to find greater happiness by living more sustainably, he found himself making other people miserable. His wife, for one, who was struggling to walk 1.5 hours a day to and from work. (Like me, the thought of biking in the city freaked her out). Like his mother and sister, when he told them he couldn't travel to visit for Thanksgiving, given his no-carbon creation rule. Like himself, on occasion, when he started resenting the things he couldn't have because they would create trash or emissions or something. So in the early stages of his experiment, he had to do a lot of soul-searching about the point of the project.

Reflecting on my own happiness, I think I'm just coming to terms with how difficult it has been to move out here, and how much I miss Boston. The weather depresses me. While I don't miss the cold and snow of Boston winters, I loved three out of four seasons there. Here, I only love one of the four seasons: summer. The rest of the year is cold, wet and dreary. Boston had its dreary days, but not weeks on end. I've also learned that rates of multiples sclerosis and cancer are higher here than elsewhere in the U.S., and one suspected cause is Vitamin D deficiency caused by lack of sunliight.

I also really hate living where we're living. As I've mentioned, we are living in the home of relatives who are overseas for three years with the U.S. Army. The house is beautiful and has a gorgeous view of Puget Sound, but I miss being able to walk outside my house and hop on a bus or train to wherever I want to go. Or being able to walk to the store or the park. I hate having to be so car-dependent.

The lack of sidewalks and streetlights, not atypical of suburbia, also drive me crazy. Recently, I was driving my daughter to daycare at about 7:15 in the morning, and it was still pitch-black out. Suddenly I saw a kid walking in front of me. His clothing was dark, he was in the street (no sidewalks) and no streetlights meant nothing illuminated him. I'm sure he was walking to school. Beavan points out in NIM that U.S. auto manufacturers made concerted efforts to fight against public transportation and encourage sprawl in order to increase sales. So what are we left with? Communities where you can't walk anywhere, or if you do, you're at risk like the kid walking to school in the street, in the dark.

My other big challenge is that I don't make friends easily. My husband never met a stranger, and my daughter thankfully has her father's gregariousness, so it's been easier for them. (Although my daughter does frequently ask when we're moving back home, mostly because she misses her cousins).

In the meantime, we are making friends with some other "orphans" (folks like us who are transplants to the Northwest, with no other family around), and having a yard has helped me garden. Having stores around like Value Village and Super Supplements have helped my sustainable journey, since I can buy so much second-hand and can purchase the ingredients for my skin and hair products inexpensively. So there are some good points. But I have a way to go in finding happiness and contentment out here.

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