BOOK REVIEW: Digging Deep

I recently finished reading DIGGING DEEP: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening by Fran Sorin, a garden designer.

I loved this book because it was about gardening and creativity. As I mentioned in a previous post, the subject of creativity has been dear to my heart for 20+ years.

Digging Deep was divided into seven stages starting with Imagining and Envisioning then moving onto Planning and Taking Action. The last three stages were about Tending, Enjoying and Cycling Through the Seasons.

One of the chapters was on Trusting Your Instincts. Sorin said “we all have stories about times in our lives when we didn’t follow our instincts and lived to regret it” and went on to say that “when you make choices that are aligned with your instincts, you build self-confidence.” In relating it to gardening, she suggested that we trust our instincts when we have a sense of what will work in our garden and suggested that in a worst-case scenario, we would end up with something representing our current creative process that we could fix or camouflage later.

Near the end of the book, Sorin said the special secret about creativity is that it’s “a form of energy, and it follows the natural physical law that energy begets energy. You are not giving your ideas or creative products away so much as making room for new ones to arise. By keeping the energy in motion, your imagining and envisioning powers stay fresh and active, and your capacity to see more possibilities increases. To share the products of your authentic creation is to pass along your legacy. This is how a piece of us lives on, long after our time here has expired.”

You can read more about Sorin at fransorin.com or gardeninggonewild.com.

BOOK REVIEW – Radical Homemakers

I just finished reading Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes (2010). I wish the subtitle had been Reclaiming Self-Reliance from a Consumer Culture so that it would have been more than a women’s book.

Hayes asked who “the economy” is for and defined the economy of the last 5,000 years as an extractive economy – where corporate wealth is regarded as the foundation of economic health. In an extractive economy, we work to “make the rich richer” by agreeing with corporations that we should have a compulsion to strive in careers, pursue affluence and status, and consume. She points out that if we are reliant on a corporation to provide us with an income, and another corporation to produce the things we need, we have no independence. Worse yet, in such an economy, money is no longer a token of exchange and simple commerce. Rather, it has become a yardstick by which we measure each person’s value and our own self-worth. When our self-worth fails to measure up, our money goes to diversions and anesthetizations.

Our agreement to participate in an extractive economy keeps us from looking at the real questions, such as whether we are enjoying our lives, whether we are healthy, and whether our and our children’s emotional and intellectual needs are met. Distracted from the real issues, we become entirely dependent on entities outside ourselves, our families and our communities for determining our welfare.

Hayes suggests that a life-serving economy will generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few. In the life-serving economy, Radical Homemakers ask themselves who are they truly serving by going to a job every day and in doing so, just who was defining the parameters for their success and happiness? Who benefited from their daily labors away from home? More importantly, who benefited and who suffered from their family’s lack of self-reliance?

In answering those questions, the Radical Homemakers released themselves from attachments to employment, the status race, and denounced their role as “consumers.” They recognized two ways to make a living – working a job to obtain purchasing power or producing their own basic needs. To produce their own needs, they reclaimed lost skills and learned to grow vegetables, can, freeze, make wine, keep chickens, cows, goats and honey bees, make cheese, soap and cleaning supplies, collect rainwater, educate their children, fix their houses and cars, sew, knit, mend, etc. They also built security through relationships among family, neighbors and community, often working together to build or make the things needed in order to keep their money within the family rather than giving it to corporations. Thus money is not a critical need. It is simply a tool to draw upon when a direct exchange for something of actual value cannot be worked out.

Hayes makes the point that it is fundamentally satisfying to be involved in the daily needs of your life, whether it’s making food, music or soap. The pleasure is in the doing and in the doing, we find that we need less money.

At 352 pages, the book covers much more than consumerism and is well worth the time it takes to read. It galloped along at a brisk pace and, again, I don’t think this is a book strictly for women. It is a blueprint for self-reliance which we may all need given the politics of corporate rule.