a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for July, 2009

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

by Tao, Brattleboro, VT

Now that we have the vibe down here in Brattleboro, I’m trying to feel the Tao of things here. One of the things I’m noticing here is that EVERYONE IS REALLY REALLY FRIENDLY. If someone bumps you in line at the coffee counter, they don’t just say, “‘cuse me” and look away, but they will most likely put their hand on your arm, look you in the eye and exclaim, “I bumped right into you – I’m so sorry!” Then you get to tell them how very much you didn’t mind that you were bumped and you both smile and say something about the good coffee that this place serves.

Yesterday, I stopped for gas at the edge of town and found what could very well be the last surviving full-service station. I was confused at first and had to make sure the attendant actually meant to pump my gas for me. Indeed, he did, and with a huge smile included. So, just because I could, I said, “Fill ‘er up, then!”. I watched as he gracefully moved from one car to another, smiling and filling tanks – it almost looked like a dance. I tried to go inside to pay by credit card, but he insisted he would take it in for me. When he returned, I asked him if I was supposed to tip him (this was all new to me, what can I say?) He gave me another smile and shrugged his shoulders. I laughed, dug in my bag and pulled out a few bucks. Who knew you could have so much fun at a gas station?

This same day, I was sitting outside the food co-op, having a rather intense phone conversation with a friend and carelessly had moved to a bench and left my bag on the ground. At least 20 minutes later, I discovered what I had done. The bag, holding my camera, among other things, was gone and I was pretty bummed. Not truly convinced there was much hope, I decided to ask inside the co-op if anyone had found my bag. The woman behind the counter pulled it out with a big smile and told me the person had tried calling the phone number on the camera. I expressed my relief and went outside to call the number to thank the finder profusely for both making my day and confirming my faith in people. He seemed to shrug it off as he told me he recognized my area code and that he once had a girlfriend from NC. We then had a pleasant conversation about where I lived and where she lived…and a few more things, like the weather, or something like that, before we wished each other well and hung up.

Then there’s this unusal intersection. It happens to be the busiest, most precarious area in downtown,   but for some reason, it has no stop or yeild signs of any kind. Instead, there just seems to be this strange, unspoken courtesy that carries everyone through safely. I’ve been in this spot often this week and it’s no longer scary at all – in fact, it feels simple and calm, despite the fact that almost no-one comes to a complete stop as they take turns crossing in all directions. I found the same, “I see you, or, here I come” attitude at a one-lane bridge I have to go across each day. It somehow works – and there’s lots of waving and smiling along the way.

Have a nice day! Tao

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 209 user reviews.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

From Tao, Brattleboro, VT

We, in our lastest guise as Creato-Destructo, a newly formed media production company, focusing on music videos, put up a poster around town last week. It went like this:




Well, it took only a couple days to hear from a band in town and after a brief conversation, we were invited to attend their rehearsal yesterday. Not surprisingly, we were led up a narrow staircase to an attic space above a garage with one window. There, amidst boxes, sleds and an old treadmill, I watched four guys quietly maneuver themselves and their numerous instruments in the cramped space.

FLABBERGHASTER doesn’t talk much. And, as it turns out, they don’t have to. Somewhat unexpectedly, my body and soul was blown away by what came next. They played 4 extended numbers, and it was only at the finish that I realized that despite the fact that I was standing directly between two drum sets, I had not moved.

Flabberghaster’s myspace page claims they are simply, a “bunch of dudes from Brattleboro who love playing music”, which belies their calm demeanor yet defies their huge soul-shaking sound. As a Fusion/Jungle/Funk/Jazz/Rock band, their musicianship includes a myriad of instruments – guitar, keyboard, percussion, Didj, trumpet, bass and saxophone – and they create a sound that I immediately called, pure “sex”. (A description later confirmed on their myspace page.)

We’ll start shooting tomorrow. Stay tuned up.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 242 user reviews.

Monday, July 6th, 2009

From Tao, Brattleboro, VT

Well, first, there’s rock and roll. Maybe not first, but definitely up there on the list. For a town to have a vibe, it’s gotta have soul and music is a big step in that direction. Here in Brattleboro, it wasn’t hard to stumble upon music clubs, record stores and outdoor street performances.

A town “center” is also helpful – a place that is mostly unspoken, but clearly inviting to everyone. It might be an obvious spot, like the one in Carrboro, which spotlights the lawn in front of the food co-op, or it might defy logic, like the one I’ve come to notice here in Brattleboro. Instead of happening in a one of those small, green park areas, it happens on a simple, unadorned sidewalk  – an almost street corner spot in front of Mocha Joe’s.

Then there’s the place where those ‘work from home’ types who can’t seem to make it work from home…go to do their work. Jerry and I immediately seek out those places, where we can both tune in and tune out. We found this (and great sandwiches) at The Blue Moose in Brattleboro.

Then, there’s the “Third Place“, where you go to catch up with people and stay tuned into the vibe that is what started this whole uptown shuffle in the first place. Here in Brat, I’ve found myself continuously drawn to the local food co-op, which sits at the town’s edge and provides not just nourishment, but some nice, communal wind-down energy at the day’s end. (Or, in some cases, you’ll see a drum circle in a parking lot…)

After a long day in a bustling city of any size, it’s nice to have a quiet retreat that you can wander to on foot. Here, you can walk from the busiest intersection in town, across the River to Wantastiquet Natural Area, where you’ll clear your head with the help of the sounds of the river running.

If that doesn’t work, there’s always a Circus School

What is it that makes your town sing?

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 239 user reviews.

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

From Tao, Brattleboro, VT

After what we heard have been many days of rain and clouds here, the sun and dry, clear air has arrived in SE Vermont. You could see and feel the thrill of it as we wandered about downtown’s Art Walk with music on the street and smiles on faces like these.

Every town has a energy or, “vibe” and I’m still taking in the one here. Brat is a relatively small town with a population around 8, 289. The median age is around 39, with females outnumbering males by about 10%. Almost half the population is betwen the ages of 25 – 54, with an equal 50% split of family vs non-family households. Surrounded by farms, woodlands and mountains, sitting above the Connecticut River, the town itself is surprisingly Urban for it’s size, a yet to be gentrified collection of small and large brick building – many empty – old, restored churches and small homes scattered around the perimeter of a loud, cement-covered, and bustling town center.

Overall, I sense a laid-back kind of attitude around town, but there’s also a kind of urgent energy to keep moving towards a better, healthier, greener, more real future. It’s becoming clear what people want in every town and city across the country….

Enjoy July 4th – stay away from those dangerous, noxious fireworks and enjoy the great outdoors instead. I’ll be with you again tomorrow.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 283 user reviews.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

From Tao, Brattleboro, VT

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my co-housing neighbors are tending the bee hives. It seems like such a small world, yet it is an exact science as well as a social order that rules our ecosystem’s food supply. I think we could learn alot from “the secret [but effective and efficient] life of bees”. Here’s the latest interesting update from one of our head bee-keepers.

June 30, 2009  Bee Update in Arcadia, by Elisabeth Curtis:
1. June 13 – We had an Orange County Beekeepers Association field day at Busy Bee Apiary’s queen yard, and learned all about rearing queens. In short, it requires painstaking record keeping, very good eyesight, and good luck in the weather conditions. During the course of the demonstration, our queen was selected, marked with green Testor’s paint (each year has a different color), and put into a queen cage with 7 escort worker bees. Susan and I brought her home and installed her in our south hive. Her little cage has a candy plug at one end, and over the course of a few days, her workers will nibble at it from their side and the workers from the hive will nibble at it from their side, and by the time they have eaten through it, everyone will be familiar with each other’s pheromones and the hive will accept their new queen. If you just dumped the queen in there without this initial “getting to know you” period, the hive workers would quickly kill the new queen.

2. June 17 – We look at the cage. It is empty, so the new queen is out and about, we hope doing her queenly duty. If she is, within a week or so we should see new brood.

3. June 26 – We check the south hive.  There is brood in all stages – eggs, larvae, and capped.  So the queen is active and all’s right with the hive. I learned at the field day that when a hive has an active queen doing all the things a good queen does, the hive is called “queen right.”

Here’s another thing I learned recently (thankfully not from personal experience): Sometimes when the hive decides that it’s time for the queen to go – either she is old, or not laying well, or something else about her has made them think she should be replaced, several thousand of them will surround her and press closer and closer and closer until she is asphyxiated. It’s called “balling the queen.” Yikes. But it’s the perfect method of assassination for a system that thinks always on the level of the hive. It’s a group decision, made at some deep level of group understanding that is way beyond mere human powers of comprehension.

So now once again we have two “queen right” hives. We were able to harvest some honey from the extra hive bodies, which are now back at the hives, being cleaned out by the bees, getting ready to be stored until they are needed again. And the north hive has started to cap the honey in its super, but most of the hives’ energies and resources will now go into building up their numbers again.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 252 user reviews.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

From Tao, Brattleboro, VT

Sorry posts have gone AWOL this week. I launched from Carrboro on Monday with everyone and everything in tow and landed in Brattleboro VT on Tuesday night and have been settling in. I’m going to be online less this month, but plan to keep you posted (pun intended) on my green wanderings.

My off-grid plans turned into a house/cat-sitting gig that I can’t deny being thrilled about. It then became a family affair – with Jerry and Shay deciding to accompany me and the dogs for the next few weeks. We’re staying just a couple miles outside of the surprisingly urban town of Brattleboro. The house itself is surrounded by a lush green quiet, with a heron that lives in the pond down the hill. It kind of rambles in all directions and is colorful and full of creative energy coming from its owners. They live, work and play here – a home to lots of activities, practitioners, patients and friends, where not an ounce of space feels wasted.

Still, perhaps I’m not completely willing to give up the cabin-like experience I was craving previously, since I’ve found myself drawn to a little space between the garage and front door – about 8×10 feet, with a small bed and lots of windows. I’m hanging and sleeping out here with the dogs and it feels just right. Here’s a photo of my bunkmates.

The local co-op hosts a farmer’s market twice/week and they are selling local milk which is even tastier than what I was getting from the CSA at home. I’m certainly not suffering and I’m not even roughing it, as planned, but I am staying in my usual travel green zone and I offset the miles to get here. Remember green travel tips? Review here.

None of us, including the dogs, are too good at simply “vacate-tioning”, so besides a lot of moving about the great outdoors, we’ve got some community projects planned and are preparing to tromp around the urban areas, with a video camera in hand…but more on that later.

I’ll leave you with two quotes today – they have stuck in my mind since arriving. They come from a physician in India, Dr. Aggrawal, who tells all his patients:

“Learn something new every day and be wiser today than yesterday.” and, “Resting is Rusting.”

Sounds like sage advice to me. I’m going to try to make the most of it this month. Stay tuned.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 300 user reviews.

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