Musings on Habitat
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
10Trip End Aug 02, 2008
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I've moved on from Daniel Quinn's thought-provoking but glibly general Beyond Civilization to reading Jared Diamond's Collapse, which blows some of Quinn's ideas out of the water by giving reams of research on what really happened to the earlier civilizations that Quinn claims its people "just walked away from, because they realized the tribal life worked better." (I am paraphrasing, by the way, since I've already returned that book to the library.) Well, no, Daniel
Lest you think I am making some pronouncement about the future of our own civilization - well, I can say that I've suspected such an end for awhile now. On the other hand, I don't want it any more than you do. I hear that later in the book Diamond profiles cultures that were able to survive and eventually thrive in marginal ecological conditions (often human-inflicted, at least in part). I'm looking forward to learning from that part.
The peacefulness of the two beautiful bucks across the park, though - and the peaceful attitudes of so many of Missoula's residents - is almost assuredly a function of the abundant natural resources around here. We like to think that humans can be kinder and gentler if we just inspire them, or mediate, or something. But the fact is that every animal social group, from birds to chimps to deer to us, is capable of a wide range of behaviors ranging from openly hostile to deeply nurturing
Here in Missoula, even the poorest get most of their needs met most of the time, and they are not violent, except occasionally with one another on the courthouse lawn where they bed down. (I'm told many vagrants come to Missoula on purpose, enjoying the summers here.) Maybe this, more than anything else, is what makes life good here - though as Diamond points out in his first chapter (focused on the valley just south of here, the Bitterroot, and its often-hidden environmental and economic woes), things may be more fragile than they seem.
And me? Well, right now I'm feeling about as peaceful as those two deer. There's no question that coming to a place we love, with abundant (apparently at least) resources and abundant fun, has made life less stressful for our family
On the other hand, traveling - even staying in one place for awhile, as we are - is expensive in many ways. We visited friends in Billings over the weekend (more on that coming), and the kids were, as they say, happy as pigs in you-know-what to have so many toys to play with there. In this house they get bored, scream, make unreasonable demands. Plus, if we are simply tallying Calories or their modern stand-in, dollars, we're coming out way behind. Never mind even the BTUs we spent to get here and back - how about the money? And now that we're here, we're still spending lots more than we would at home. We're missing our community supported agriculture share ($640 for a whole summer and fall's worth of veggies) and have managed to rack up over $1000 in grocery bills. Dining out, which we are more inspired to do than at home, has added another $300. We're still paying bills back home, plus paying twice as much in rent than our housesitters turn over to us. (I know, we're very lucky they pay anything!) Renting a car for a few days tops $300, plus gas, The list goes on. It hurts less since my teacher's salary is in 26 increments - every 2 weeks, a paycheck pops itself into our checking account without me having lifted a finger. But just imagine the number of hours of work Joe and I had to put in to pay for this trip.
Hard as it is to admit, the ecological and economical thing is to stay in our own habitat - and leave this park to its resident deer.