The final trip
Today, I visited two of the strongest New England networks of Independent Businesses...Seacoast Local & Portland Buy Local. These groups have hundreds of members each, are organizers and connecters in their community and, like many other places around the country, are gaining momentum. At the end, a trip filled with metaphors ended with a flurry of them. I finished my last interview in Portsmouth with the battery in the video camera running out.
Then, I couldn't find my ATM card, and scraped together 5 tattered singles from the absolute mess which is my car to buy some gas to make it home. After the last toll, I had one extremely ragged dollar left in the car...I think it'll stay there along with my signed $2 bill from Danny Cottrell.
As I coasted on fumes (gas, energy...pretty much everything) into a parking spot outside my home, I spoke to Stacy Mitchell, noted researcher and author, from Portland. We spoke of how we might work to build even more communication and collaboration between this amazing grassroots network of community builders.
At Armsby Abbey the other day, talking to Alec & Sherry over slow food and local beer, I came up with an analogy to describe what I thought the climate was like around the country. In part because I think its a good analogy, and in part because its an easy way to finish this post, I'm going to share it with you now.
I'm starting to think of our movement as a pine forest and the economic climate as the apex of a long drought...one that began long ago. We, the organizers, are the pine needles who have abandoned the trees, and we're collecting in a massive inter-connected web, sheltering the moisture on the forest floor. All the time, our programs and initiatives are trying to throw sparks on the mesh of networks and organizers and one day, a spark will catch. That program might be the 10% Shift, it might be $2 bills, it might be the transformative work happening in Hardwick around food and agriculture, it might be this project, or it might be something someone hasn't even thought of yet.
But every day, that web grows more interwoven. And every time there's a story about the existing economic system failing the people yet again, we pine needles become all the more ready to ignite. And one day soon, one of those sparks is going to catch, and we're going to go up like wildfire.
Now, a wildfire like this has a destructive tone for some, which is why I'm not sure this is the right analogy. But, in telling this story, I've been told that fire can actually be a healthy thing for a forest. In nature, there are periodic brush fires that actually serve to keep an ecosystem in balance and a forest healthy and strong for the long term. This is one such blaze....and its coming. I'm not Polyanna and though I am an optimist, I'm not a blind optimist. This is truly what I see coming....and not a moment too soon.