We’re home from the Thanksgiving Exodus, as I took to calling it, and settling back down. It was a very nice visit – we stayed with my in-laws, and I got to visit with my mom as well. I finally got to spend some time with my sister in-law, and also got to meet my mother in-law’s family, who are all amazing people – every one of them is fascinating and creative. All in all, it was a fantastic vacation, and we even got to take time to go see an old friend of Andy’s in PA. Well worth the fourteen hours of plane travel to the east coast!
I’m finding, however, that distance from my life here did two things for me. Firstly, it made me very very thankful for the life I have in a small town in Alaska. Driving the Virginia interstates had a lot to do with that, as did a couple trips to the Walmart-Plex in the town near my in-laws.
I cannot argue that Walmart (Fred Meyers, K-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco, even good ol’ Target) provide a convenience without which much of modern life would seem difficult at best. After a full work day, and often a long commute, most people don’t have the time to shop at three or four different stores to get things they need. But the sickening problem I see when I drive the east coast highways now is the full-on homoginization that seems to be a result of these chain stores. It is difficult to tell one town from another when they merge into an endless stream of Walmarts, Applebees, Kohls, and McDonalds. I’m not targeting (no pun) any one of these stores as “evil,” and dog knows I’ve lived in several towns where I “relied” on them daily.
But here in sweet little Homer, Alaska, I’m nearly two hours from a super-store, and my daily life is far from lacking. In fact, my life feel richer for knowing Becky, the owner of the local toy store, for meeting the owner of Kachemak Whole Foods grocery and hearing how he finds the best deals for his shop. I like stopping in at the little shops to collect various things on shopping day, and even at Safeway, the single large chain-store here, all the faces are familiar and most of the clerks know the girls and me by name, despite the fact we’ve lived here less than two years. We’re all people who interact, not nameless, blank-faced units moving through space with as little direct contact as possible.
It really sounds harsh, and I’d never noticed or even minded this aspect of life back east, in a city with an interstate running through where I grew up. But then I moved to the Outer Banks of NC, and lived there for nearly five years on a tiny island, where a trip “up-island” to Walmart and Food Lion was an all day event requiring over an hour of driving and a 40 minute ferry ride, each way. It became normal, and the “trouble” involved was not so much; monthly shopping became mini road-trips shared with friends. Moving to Homer was, in comparison, stepping into Big Town Life, and though I certainly don’t mind having a grocery store five minutes down the hill, I am ever so aware that I’ve become spoiled. I walk into suburban strip malls and become instantly shell-shocked, Little Country Mouse who can’t wait to get home. I’ve found, on this vacation more than ever, that I like being semi-isolated, I like visiting the Styron’s Stores and Ulmer’s and Gear Sheds and Up Your Alley’s of the world, and I’m frightened when I see them shut out by rows of shops that all look the same and all stock the exact same things.
Perhaps this is part of why spinning and knitting hold so much meaning to me. I can create, with just my two hands, something unique, un-homoginized, wholly mine and personal. Which brings me to the second “gift” I acquired from the trip Away.
I’m feeling a push to move even more in that direction, to simplify my life and cull through things so I have enough, not all I want. Does that mean an impending Yarn Diet? Most likely. More handspun? Definitely. More home-made, more creative, less cluttered and commercial? I hope so. Andy and I talked a bit about it when we got home, and though his initial words on the subject were more blunt and coarse than I could first be open to (What do you mean my wool room looks “busy” and “cluttered?!”) I think we’re coming from the same place in our hearts and minds. A place for everything and everything in its place, with time to stop and smell the roses.
So what’s the point of this ranting? Well, I had to get it off my chest, and since it’s a subject I’m particularly sensitive to right now, I guess I wanted to put it out there for other people to think about. My Thanksgiving turned into being thankful for the things I don’t have, and for the simple appreciation that brings to my life.
That said, it seems a bit ironic to focus on Things… but I have to say Thank You again to my Secret Pal Jen. When I got home, I found a package she had sent for the trip, which, though too late for the Exodus, was so appreciated! She sewed a beautiful project bag for me, and included a carabiner with essential knitting tools attached: tape measure, airline-safe yarn cutter, stitch markers, and a small note-pad. She also included a couple of small books for the girls, with hand-written games inside. (Those will definitely come in handy on the next trip!) It’s all perfect, though unfortunately Blogger is not letting me post a photo; I’ll do so at a later date. Until then…