Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Closer to Home: the "hippie" lifestyle is examined

I live in a hippie commune. Oh, it's true.

Dating back to the early 1900's, this rambling old Victorian brags that it's been added on to over the years. My wood floors not only slope dangerously (visualize this: my television stand is propped up with cardboard under one leg, and yet it continues to lean awkwardly to the left), but nails pop up from my floorboards weekly - a definite hazard to the bare foot - and the cats have already disengaged several long, narrow strips of floor. The heavy windows, white paint peeling from years of use, require blocks of wood wedged firmly between window and ledge to stay open. Several kitchen cabinet doors, leftover remnants from the 70's, (no worries - they've been given a new lease on life with a coat of ivory paint) refuse to shut, instead wiling away the hours by cracking open invitingly to any bystander.

But perks abound among the pesky problems. Our apartment - tucked away at the back of the house with not one but THREE exterior walls - has fourteen windows. Fourteen windows! I know this about myself: I never want to live in a dark home. Dusty sunlight streams in through these old windows when I wake up in the morning and I see dusky blue mountains and a fading purple sky through my sun room in the evening. Even though the floors can be hazardous, I praise God that there isn't a shred of carpeting to be seen. Trixie sheds ten pounds of white fur daily. It would be pure hell to vacuum that mess. High ceilings, an airy floor plan, black & white checkered floors, and antique glass doorknobs all make me smile.

Last spring, a smiling neighbor approached me, a guy in his late 20's or early 30's (this place is chock full of us 20 and 30 something's), inviting me to stake my claim in the communal garden space. My rambling 'ole Victorian is extra special because it comes with a lot next door. This space is devoted to a large veggie/herb garden, a fire pit, an odd grill or two and the token roaster, and a large yard that has become The Croquet Field (no, I don't play).

Sure, why not? I thought to myself. I dutifully planted lettuce, green peppers, cilantro, and basil. And then I spent last summer trotting back and forth to the garden, getting my fill of fresh lettuce and tangy basil. It was wonderful! There's nothing better than the knowledge that your dinner is right outside the door, waiting to be picked. This year, I decided to step it up. I bought seeds for cat grass (which is literally growing 3 inches a day on my kitchen windowsill) and lupines. I planted basil in a pot indoors. My thinking was this: why not bring the produce as close to my butcher block as possible? The basil wants out however, so I may have to let it go wild. All of its three leaves are fusing stubbornly to the window and the sunlight it offers. Ah well. The two varieties of lettuce have been joined by bedfellows: purple cabbage, bok choy, and lavender. When it warms up a little, I'll be making another trip to the gardening store. Definitely rosemary, perhaps a red pepper plant or two, maybe some radishes and carrots?

We moved a rickety wooden television stand into our home, after observing its lonely vigil in the hallway. In return, we hauled an unwanted glass coffee table out to the hallway. A few days later, success! It had vanished into someone's apartment. There is an easy give-take relationship in this old house.

The landscaping seems to be the responsibility of a few tenants. I think I can dig in whenever - and wherever - I want. The phrase "careful cultivation" has no part in these guys' landscape design. In the early spring, beds are carved out around the croquet field and seeds scattered. By the end of the summer, pink, red, and purple flowers will stand about lazily, interspersed by gigantic sunflowers and shiny tomatoes (I've been told that the sun is better here than in the garden). The result is untidy, and yet visually pleasing. The narrow bamboo-lined path leads visitors through the garden and to the fire pit, where tiki lights burn brightly many a summer evening. The next morning, beer bottles will top the recycling box left on the picnic table.

I don't think most people my age call themselves hippies today. That's the outdated term meant for our parents, aunts, and uncles who were rocking it up in the 60's and 70's. But according to m-w.com, hippie is "a usually young person who rejects the mores of established society and advocates a nonviolent ethic." I feel that by rejecting the processed food of my generation, caring about what goes in my body, and trying to become more environmentally-friendly, I AM rejecting "the mores of established society." Of course, simply living in a place like Asheville brings that about too. ;)

Not only did I get a) my comfortably aged apartment and b) in a wonderfully eclectic part of town, but I got the hippie lifestyle to boot. I already wear Chaocs - check. But I've learned a few lessons this past year. I feel that living here has broadened my concept of community...and my realization of what LOCAL community truly is. In this house, we share our furniture, our produce, and our common space. Neighbors say hello and ask how I'm doing.

I guess to sum it up on one word, I'd say LOCAL has become my motto this year. Which *slyly added* also ties in to our embargo on all Chinese goods. Local garden, local produce, it's all good stuff.

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