Things to Read - A simple life

the simple life

So as of late I've become a little obsessed with living off the grid. This interest was moderately roused about a year ago, when I watched Food Inc and read Michael Pollan's FABULOUS book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Both of which lead me (and millions of other people) to question many things about the food we buy in grocery stores - where it comes from, how it gets here, etc.

But the real off-the-grid obsession didn't actually kick in until I read the Jane Smiley novellas, Ordinary Love and Good Will, which are, by far, the best fictional accounts I've ever read on the topic of parenting. The first story deals with a mother's guilt over how an affair she had years ago still may effect her grown children's lives. The "may" is really what makes the story great, because you never really know how your mistakes effect your children as you can never witness how things would have turned out otherwise. Sort of like the whole lightness/heaviness dilema presented in the first few pages of The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel but with less of a philosophical bent.

The second story, Good Will, focuses on a family trying to raise their only son COMPLETELY off the grid (they even make their own fabric, from a loom), with tragic consequences. I found it impossible not to empathize with the father's desire to seek out a completely different life for himself and his family. And, even though it was fictional, it provoked my interest in such a way of life.

Which lead me to this book - Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream, sort of a modern-day Walden (I've actually never read the real Walden, so I can't really compare the two). I found the writer a tad bit self-important at times, but all in all the story is insightful. Especially learning about a real-life woman named Jackie, who lives completely off the grid in a 12x12 cabin in North Carolina (plus, the fact that it's actually illegal to live in NC without electricity, so she is, in fact, breaking the law). Definitely worth checking out.

Another great book that deals with simple living and appreciating the world around us is Rick Bass's The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana. In writing that can only be characterized as poetic, Bass takes the reader through a year, month by month, in the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana. I actually haven't finished the book yet, but so far it is a beautiful read. Plus, Rick Bass's short story collection, In the Loyal Mountains, is one of my favorite books of all time, so I'm sure that the Wild Marsh won't disappoint.

Regarding myself, I obviously live NOWHERE close to off the grid. And I love modern day heating, plumbing, electricity and my iphone. and blogging. but that doesn't mean i shouldn't appreciate these things or understand where they come from. not like i'm anywhere near an expert, but I'm trying. With that in mind, I have one more recommendation, The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents. My yoga instructor told me about this book when I was pregnant with number three and now I keep it on my desk and read it routinely. It makes me calm down and appreciate life, as is.

How about everyone else? Any interesting book recommendations? I'd love to hear them.

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