To do what is right, not what you should. January 19, 2011

Park Avenue, New York City on the Eve of a blizzard, late Dec, 2010 photo: Lydia Pecker

“No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it.”–Albert Einstein

“We are writing our history on the skin of fish with the blood of bears.”–Margaret Atwood

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Floundering.  Swimming up stream?  Just plain wondering what I am doing?  This past year, striving in every possible way to use NO disposable plastic, I find that my eyes and heart are so accustomed to dodging this stuff that I cannot stop.  Or, put another way, I guess I do not want to.

A friend just sent me the Blue Hill Maine co-op newsletter.  The community had just watched the documentary “Bag It.”  Here is a startling fact learned from the newsletter, re the movie.  “We have created and used more single-use plastic in the last ten years than we did in the entire 20th century.”  Bag it, bottle it, seal it, cap it, cover it–keep it separate, keep it clean, drink it up, toss it away.  It seems we have just begun our consumption of single-use plastic here.

“To do what is right, not what you should.”  This is the message a friend of mine received in her very first fortune cookie of 2011.  As I sort through the memories of the past year, and all the plastic stuff I did not use, but needed to–stuff like glue and tape–stuff I did not use but really wanted to–stuff like crackers, I am wondering which of these things I am going to allow back into my life.  Most stuff, like any take-out plastic, plastic bags, straws, styrofoam of any sort, I am happy to continue not to use.

plastic inside the boxes of food eaten by me in captivity during the NYC blizzard of December 2010

I have been listening to a collection of tapes called the “Monticello Dialogues” by William McDonough.  These tapes were lent to me by a young man behind the cheese counter at my local Whole Foods who has been wrapping my cheese in paper this past year.  Like Thomas Jefferson and Buckminster Fuller, McDonough is a visionary.  He believes we can figure this out and make a better world.

McDonough reminds us of our “timeful mindlessness.”  We are all in a hurry….don’t have time to think about our choices–he suggests “mindful timelessness” instead.  In short, I think he is saying, give yourself the space and time in your life to do the things you can to care for the earth–recycle, bring your own bags, whatever this is for you…And because it is McDonough, he encourages you to see this earth as a place of vast abuundance, where a better and more balanced world is possible if we put our minds and hearts into it.

And by the way, did you hear the the COUNTRY of Italy has banned the single-use plastic bag.  Yes, I said THE COUNTRY OF ITALY!

These past few weeks as I work in my backyard studio and see the birds, Carolina wrens, cardinals, nuthatches and more, stuffing themselves with the seeds I am putting out, as I see the daylight lasting

one goldfinch, a nuthatch and a wren or two on my studio table

longer each afternoon, as the tips of the daffodils show themselves under the damp humus and melting snow, I know that spring is indeed on the way.  The earth has shifted and spring with its awakening is indeed coming again.  So, late in this January of 2011, I wish you all a Happy New Year.  I have changed the name of this blog to THE LAST STRAW: A Continued Quest for a Life Without Single-use Plastic.  I am still curious, and determined, and certainly I am not perfect in this.  I think the question of how we use the resources found in the earth for this new century is a big one.  How to provide for all of us all over the world.  Recently, I have been attending some neighborhood meetings sponsored by Clean Energy Durham, where we are learning to make our homes more energy efficient in simple direct pass-along ways.  This organization encourages us to learn and then share our knowledge with our neighbors.  It is a good model for community and for environmental awareness and empowerment.  I was telling my young hosts Chris and Irene about my commitment to use as little disposable plastic as possible.  Chris said, “You know, I have discovered that if I actually drive the speed limit then I save 4 miles per gallon.”  Wow.  It is these individual acts of paying attention that inspire me, keep me curious.  What will the new year bring?  For myself, I am hoping to figure out what is right for me, not acting righteously–(I SHOULD do this and SHOULD do that)–but acting from my core, doing the best I can to keep figuring out what I want to do, and doing it.

Meanwhile–while I was in New York this late December–I got to See Jomama Jones in her show “Radiate.” Jomama is a fabulous diva created by the playwright and actor Daniel Alexander Jones.  Jomama’s show was full of wonderful music from herself and her back-ups the Sweet Peaches.  She left us with these wishes for the New Year, which I am passing on to you:


by Sharon Bridgforth (for Jomama Jones in “Radiate”—Dec. 2010)

I wish you health and wholeness.  That all the Abundance that seeks you, finds you sweetly and without delay.

I wish you friends that make you laugh to tears.  Friends that treat you dear.

I wish you companionship that is adventurous, kind, compassionate, hott and sexy.

I wish old wounds heal.  That you offer your best self each moment of each day.

That generosity leads your actions and thoughts.

That you be gentle with yourself when you fall short.

I wish you Harmony and Alignment

Creativity and Inspiration.

I wish you quests of spirit that delight your Soul.

That gratitude and joy guide you.

That you Fully be yourself/always.

That Grace define you.

That you Shine.

That you be free.

I wish that you know we need you.

That your presence matters.

I wish you love.

Amy Kellum January 20th, 2011

Thank you, Bryant. I am reminded of the old Doobie Brothers album title,” What Once Were Vices Now Are Habits”. Well, you and many of your followers (I mean that in the loosest sense!) have released some vices that already were habits and have formed new earth-friendly habits!
Thanks, dear!
Amy xo

Bryant January 20th, 2011

Amy–thanks for your support–for sending me information that i needed to know, for reading what I have written and giving me feedback–hey for finding me my own metal washable straw!–Happy happy new year

Rebecca January 22nd, 2011

I have been reading your blog for the past year and you have been an inspiration to me for a long time. We met once when you spoke at the Folk Art Center in Asheville, and my daughter benefited from your vision when she was a student at the NC Math and Science school. Just wanted to thank you for your persistance and sharing all the inspiring messages and visions of how others in this world are living sustainably! Let’s hope this new year brings more awareness and effort from others!

Bryant January 22nd, 2011

thanks Rebecca–I appreciate your encouragement. Who knows what the new year will is very good to hear from you.

Natalie January 27th, 2011

Hi Ms. Holsenbeck, My name is Natalie. You came to my school and helped us do some butterfly weaving (loved it!). I am in the fourth grade. I love the way you clean the environment and make beautiful artwork out of the trash you pick up! THANKS!!!


Bryant January 27th, 2011

Thanks Natalie!

Bree Kalb March 26th, 2011

Bryant, I thought of you when I read this….the UN is starting an initiative to remove plastic from the ocean and prevent it from happening again. Comments are turned off at your current post, so I hope you eventually learn of this. As usual, thanks for your words and images.

Bryant March 26th, 2011

Thanks BRee–This will be a continuous and huge effort, but I am very glad it is being acknowledged. When I see so much plastic everywhere loose and know that much it will eventually end up in the ocean it feels overwhelming.

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