Early this morning I crawled out from under my toasty warm quilts and stood up in the chilly house. Brr! (Actually it wasn’t all that cold; maybe high 50s or low 60s. But under my blankets had been toasty warm, in the high 70s!)
Last night three friends and I had a gathering on their porch, but with the high winds and chilly temperatures, even with layers of clothing and the delicious food and drink and good company we didn’t stay out there long. I walked home and soon dove into bed, and I imagine they did too.
(Actually the temperature was fairly mild in objective terms — at 57 degrees Fahrenheit / 13.9 Celsius — but we all agreed it felt outright cold, probably a combo of the wind and humidity.)
This morning my house was chilly as expected. But when I walked outside I got a pleasant surprise. It was windy still, but warmer than inside the house! This is a phenomenon I’ve often noticed in winter and early spring: Sometimes you wake up to a chilly house but when you step outdoors, you notice it’s warmer outside than in.
It occurred to me that this is true of my own private mental cocoon also: Many times it’s warmer outside than in. Inside can feel cold and stale and isolated, unless I’m checking in regularly with other viewpoints. (The other viewpoints can be live or in writing.)
“Warmer outside than in” is something I am realizing is often true from an activist standpoint as well. As activists, we’re supposed to be working with other people and organizations to make change happen. But oftentimes even if we are connected with other people and groups, we can still feel isolated. At least I can, and others around me seem to fall into that also.
I’ve found I absolutely have to constantly keep reaching, reaching for connection with likeminded people and groups. They are out there! And many times all the “reaching” I have to do is to click on a post that shows up in my social media feed. Or even just have a receptive attitude, so that when some new person or group drops into my space, I’m open to them rather than shutting them out.
This happened a few weeks ago when an ad for something called The Nature of Cities conference popped up in my feed. (A friend, who obviously knows me well, texted me the link later that week, after I had already signed up for the conference!)
Why I’m mentioning TNOC is that this conference, which I had never even heard of, has been going on for years, and involves hundreds or even thousands of people from all over the world! (Update, just got the organizers’ welcome email; they say “This Festival is about 1500 people from 65 countries, from all corners of green urbanism.”)
A similar thing happened last spring, when I first became aware of an organization called 1,000 Friends of Florida, and started attending their webinars. An incredibly organized, professional group catalyzing change in landscaping methods, wildlife conservation, responsible development, and much more.
And there was my “discovery” of a pocket of fellow permaculturists called Transformative Adventures, who are teaching the best Permaculture Design Certificate course I have ever taken. (It’s via Zoom and is the best PDC I’ve taken so far, which is saying a lot, as I’ve previously taken four, and they were all outstanding.) Even though I have ties with permaculture people and groups all over the country and even the world, expanding my ties by connecting with this group has given a major boost to my work.
I could go on but you get the point. What I’m trying to suggest is that if I don’t constantly expand my horizons, it gets to feeling lonely and hopeless, because the problems of the world are huge, and if we only hang out with one small set of people (even really good ones), it can feel like being inside a cold hopeless little tin cylinder where nothing really changes. Maybe it’s the same for you too.
Oftentimes it really IS warmer outside than in! And then the warmth outside warms my core, so I then end up feeling warm inside as well.
In my house, my work room is like a tiny cell (albeit a tiny cell decorated with trinkets and memorabilia and pretty fabrics). I love having this tiny cell as my “Command Center.” It’s cozy in there, I know where all my stuff is and everything is in arm’s reach. Writing supplies, sewing supplies, art stuff. It’s easy to write or do other work without distractions. (This is also my sleeping room; I sleep on the floor on a lightweight mattress that I fold up and stash against the wall in the daytime.)
But if I stay cloistered in there too much, I miss out on sunsets, moonrises, neighborhood sights and sounds, and this warm light that coming through my south-facing big living-room window right now, where I am sitting on the sofa typing this. In the warmth of the sunny window, I can feel myself getting physically warm almost to the point of needing to take off a layer!
All of this is to say: If you’re feeling chilly, try stepping out of your house. It may be warmer outside than in! (Note, if you are in a place where it’s freezing outside, I encourage you to only take my advice metaphorically! Unless you get energized by stepping out into the cold, in which case have at it! Sometimes I enjoy that too.)
Be encouraged. No matter how outnumbered or isolated you might feel, someone out there is working for the same things you are. In all probability many someones; more someones than you can imagine. Reach out and find them. (And if you don’t seem to be finding them and would like some assistance, I will help you find them.)
• The Nature of Cities festival: “TNOC Festival pushes boundaries to radically imagine our cities for the future. A virtual festival that spans 5 days with programming across all regional time zones and provided in multiple languages. TNOC Festival offers us the ability to truly connect local place and ideas on a global scale for a much broader perspective and participation than any one physical meeting in any one city could ever have achieved. The TNOC festival will take place from 22-26 February 2021.” (It’s amazing so far! Note, the Chrome browser is needed in order to participate in the field trips and virtual networking room. I don’t have Chrome and cannot download it (incompatible with my computer or something), but am finding TNOC very worthwhile even just for the plenary sessions of which there have been two so far today. It’s definitely a nice complement to the Transformative Adventures PDC, as well as other excellent webinars I’ve attended over the past year. So many people all over the world are putting their hearts, brains, and muscles into healing the divide between humans and nature, repairing the damage we’ve done, and creating truly wonderful places. Go Team!! We are all in this together.)