Launching a Lifeboat

It’s a sad day, week, and month. We’re selling our beloved house in our beloved neighborhood. We know and like all the neighbors, and we have the spectacular Sonoran Desert in our back yard. We get to walk the dog through that desert off-leash twice a day (more, when she gets her way).

It’s the only house we’ve ever owned, and we’ve lived in it for the last 18 years. During those years, I’ve seen two promotions, falling from untenured assistant professor to radical tenured full professor. And two sabbatical leaves, one to Berkeley, the other to a spectacular property owned by The Nature Conservancy adjacent to the mud hut. And a leave of absence to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, where I worked for The Nature Conservancy. And a few junkets to foreign lands. And 18 of our 24 years of marriage, more than half our adult lives. And the death of our beloved first dog, and the deaths of a few family members. And the many simple joys of living in the Sonoran Desert, from curve-billed thrashers in the backyard palo verde tree to a handful of hummingbirds feeding on the nearby flowers, from frost on the creosote to sunsets and starry nights.

We cried half the night. And swore the other half.

Most people wouldn’t even like the house, much less appreciate it. They certainly wouldn’t live in it on purpose, if they had our combined incomes. It’s strictly stick-and-stucco, emblematic of the poor architectural design for which the region is infamous. And it’s a 1,000-square-foot house on a 4,000-square-foot lot on the edge of the city, too small for the gargantuan tastes of the average, over-indulged American. It’s all one level, and incredibly low-maintenance, purposely planned for two people to grow old in. That was the plan: To grow old together, in the house we love, in the neighborhood we love, enjoying our lot in life and the opportunity for occasional travel to remote lands.

Time for Plan B.

If civilization doesn’t fall apart within the next couple years, I’m in real trouble with my partner. As if she hasn’t had enough grief in her life lately, given the deaths of her mother, father, and uncle.

If civilization does fall apart within the next couple years, we’re all in real trouble. And not just with my partner, either.

Seems I’ve backed myself into a lose-lose situation. You’d think I’d be accustomed to that by now, but I still hate it when it happens.

I suppose Bill Clinton was right: People like change in general, but not in particular. This is particular change, and I don’t like it.

Living in two worlds is great in theory. But having to choose one world over the other is very, very difficult, especially when the choice runs counter to the status quo.

It’s time to push away from the shore, to let the winds of change catch the sails of our leaky boat. It’s time to trust in ourselves, our new neighbors, and the Earth that sustains us all. Painful though it might be, it’s time to abandon the ship of empire in exchange for a lifeboat.
After all, the time to dig a well is not when you’re thirsty.

According to the Buddha, “life is suffering.” And suffering is better than the alternative, at least for now. May we all find solace in our suffering in the months and years ahead.

Comments 11

  • You are very courageous. I hope you continue writing here to en-courage the rest of us.

  • quo vadis, professor?

  • Peter — Literally, to the mud hut, as referenced in prior entries. It’s a rural area within a tank of gas populated by friends. Intellectually and emotionally, to a lifeboat. It’s a chance to live close to the Earth, and to our friends. Call it boomers’ last chance, in the sense of Richard Heinberg. –Guy

  • Wow, I loved your house, too. Give it a kiss goodbye for us, too. It was sure a good house for you during all the good times…I remember fondly many Easter cakes, carving pumpkins, and people gathering in your yard and around your table…

  • I have been feeling a great sense of sadness and nostalgia for a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.I am 61, grew up in the golden age of America’s global dominance and limitless use of oil and coal, as if it was our due. We are falling fast and while I might be ready for the new age of doing with less,growing my owm, living within a 25 mile radius I feel a sadness because I know many will perish before we get back to a sustainable number of us on the planet. Maybe this is why Greed is one of the cardinal sins.

  • Life is certainly full of ups and downs. I’m sorry you had to get rid of your house. This might, however, be something that the two of you can use to grow closer and stronger. It looks like the economy is coming back around so maybe the bad news will be less.

  • Life can smack you down sometimes. One of my friends recently came to me saying that she was depressed because she thinks she has focused so much on her career that she doesn’t have any love life and is without prospects. She’s so busy she doesn’t know if she’ll have time for anyone. What she really wants to do, she said, is start dating and then be a house wife. So remember to be happy that you have someone to love even in this uncomfortable time.

  • Long sad story to share..

  • It’s really heartbreaking when we have to leave what has already been a part of us.
    But never forget that “when a door closes, a window opens”.

  • Sad story but look ahead to the future im sure there will be brighter day