The good life


I used to be poor, when my kids were little. My kids tell me now they never knew we were poor because we had a great quality of life. My husband’s annual income was about $9,000 and there were  5 of us.  I was a stay-at-home mom, so we had a garden, and access to our neighbors’ goats and chickens. We heated with wood, and drank fresh spring water.  I cooked almost everything from scratch, canned things from the garden, and made my own yogurt, bread, and maple syrup.  I made Christmas presents throughout the year and made many of my kids’ clothes, sometimes to their own specifications. My kids didn’t need many toys because they had the woods outside to play in. They made great forts and tree houses and they learned how to run and climb and swim. They learned to think and plan, and prepare. They learned how to survive in nature, in all kinds of weather. And they learned social skills, like how to get along with different kinds of kids, of all different ages. The big kids learned how to take care of the little ones, and helped them develop skills like how to balance on a fallen log over the creek, or which branches to trust as they climbed a tree.  The big kids also learned to set a good example for the little ones.  When you’re 10 and trying out new things, like swearing or smoking, all it takes is one look at your 7 year old sister to realize that this is not behavior you want to model.  My kids learned how to organize their own teams, and write their own rules, and get themselves to the playing field using an ancient,  eco-friendly transportation system called walking.  They learned how to take care of each other. They learned self-confidence and respect for each other and all living things. They learned to be thankful for the little things.  It turns out the little things really are the big things—love and community and respect and self-reliance.  Looking back, I realize that this quality of life was only possible because our environment was the natural world. The earth kept us safe, gave us food and water and even beauty that we could never have purchased. Nature gave my kids a playground, and that playground taught them more than any school ever could. This is our birthright as children of this planet. Nature sustains us, and we sustain her. And none of it cost us a penny.  Nature is not only free—nature is the antithesis of money.  The more we pursue money, the further we move away from Nature and from life.


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