I have little patience with most "green" folks nowadays: they seem to miss the mark in so many ways, I can't begin to talk about it. It's not a life sentence, it's not work, it's not shaming or blaming.
Part of this is that being "green" has become one of the New Status Symbols: while my grandparents Maybelle and George lavished their spare funds on silver, china and fine glass, as well as other objects d'art and virtu in the '30's through the 60's, Jason and Jenny boast that their flooring comes from renewable bamboo and they not only recycle, but compost. They contribute to Greenpeace, are passionate orthorexics, and have a stunning display of Amsel Adams posters in their artfully spare great room. Their home has solar heating, and is powered by that wind farm...we don't know where, while we use what we have to put our precious genetic investments through college....
A nature lover, when I was growing up, was someone who could tell you what bird that was and knew where black birches (with their tasty twigs) were to be found. Their eyes could spot crusts of coral on the drab rocks, and could tell you what the drab rocks were, too. Their hearts were uplifted by double rainbows, not on unicorn posters, but in Summer skies, of rings round the moon, and the austere beauty of a former factory yard become a home to thickets of eglantines on a Winter afternoon. They could kill if necessary, but never hurt for pleasure. They knew the Conservation List by heart, but felt free to eat blackberries and pickle milkweed buds without fear. They could spend hours, just doing nothing.
Part of it was being raised by a hunter and several Garden Club ladies, all of whom were registered Republicans. Another was being landed on a borderline-sprawl suburban house near a small market garden, several substantial woodlots, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, without many female friends of my age around, and a mother whose general directive was "Go out and play, and leave me alone." I read Rabbit Hill, and fed wildlife. At Grandmom's (Mayme's) I tended a perennial border, and got in close and personal with several trees. (Great trees, in New England, aren't sprouted, but actively pruned, fertilized, and, if you want them to survive a harsh winter or a hurricane season, as pampered as pets.) I raised a racoon, and several cats. I ate a Jack-in-the-Pulpit root, and lived (spiniest mouth in my life, for a few hours). I got chummy with several snakes of the garter, black, python and garden varieties, and still think of them, not as Satan, but as friends.
Mr. Stripes (a cat) may have had the mind of an eighteen-month-old child, but he had at least five years experience doing it, when I first encountered him, and he taught me manners, if nothing else (I remember showing off my scratches every night...and the only childhood scar I have is from chicken pox). A raccoon, to a seven year old, is a pal: you like swimming, she likes swimming. You sleep, she sleeps. (My mother treasured the memory she had, with me lying on my back, posed like a mummy -- I had an Egyptian fetish-- and Robin--as in Batman-- lying next to me, doing much the same.) Hearing the winds singing in the windbreak: that's just something you get from someone else...
Look, you don't have to do much to reach a Thoreauesque state of mind: simplicity isn't something you buy from Pottery Barn, it's loving what you own already. I know, easy for me to say, my relatives bequeathed me (or were supposed to) stuff most other people would want to have. But you don't have to sell it to get what you love, start loving it. Explain to your kids what it means to have a toy you played with: tell it her name, what her past is, and what stories you told about her. I remember hearing a woman talk about the kids' books I owned: "Hey, you could sell them, and get a lot of money!"
I said "And to buy?"
"Anything you want!"
"I want those books I grew up with."
"So, great, with that money you can buy it!"
Anyone understand the irony?
Turn off the Discovery Channel. And the Animal Channel. If I can find wild spinach growing in a planter on Houston St. and chide the keepers of Washington Square for killing off the violets (now feral) that were planted to commemorate the Civil War, you can find wild food. Stop thinking of "weeds and vermin" and set your own limits: maybe you don't like mice, but love 'coons and 'possums. (I long to raise a baby possum, just once!) Feed them. Think of raising quail in your greenhouse. If you can't do a garden, raise flowers in pots, and if you can't do that, sprout! If you have a yard, or access to a park, take your shoes off and chase yourself around it, some fine late Spring morn.
Lord, I may transgress a thousand times, but why do I love it so?
--attributed to George Patton.