From the Upriver/Downriver newsletter Number 10, circa 1991…
“Things That Really Work”
by Gary Snyder
Without further rhetoric or utopian scheming, I have a simple suggestion that if followed would begin to bring wilderness, farmers, people, and the economies back. That is: don’t move. Stay still. Once you find a place that feels halfway right, and it seems time, settle down with a vow not to move any more. Then, take a look at one place on earth, one circle of people, on realm of beings over time, conviviality and maintenance will improve. School boards and planning commissions will have better people on them, and larger and more widely concerned audiences will be attending. Small environmental issues will be attended to. More voters will turn out, because local issues at least make a difference, can be won—and national scale politics too might improve, with enough folks getting out there. People begin to really notice the plants, birds, stars, when they see themselves as members of a place. Not only do they begin to work the soil, they go out hiking, explore the back country or the beach, get on the Freddies’ ass for mismanaging Peoples’ land, and doing that as locals counts! Early settlers, old folks, are valued and respected, we make an effort to learn their stories and pass it on to our children, who will live here too. We look deeply back in time to the original inhabitants, and far ahead to our own descendants, in the mind of knowing a context, with its own kind of tools, boots, songs. Mainstream thinkers have overlooked it: real people stay put. And when things are coasting along ok, they can also take off and travel, there’s no delight like swapping stories downstream. Don’t Move! I’d say this really works because here on our side of the Sierra, Yuba river country, we can begin to see some fruits of a mere fifteen years’ inhabitation, it looks good.
Gary Snyder: wikipedia
Well, I like this but I’m struggling with it. We did have the fortune to live in the Sierra/Yuba River area and we liked it mostly. We loved the area but found it almost impossible to be a young family and survive out there. No jobs and expensive real estate. I know what Synder is saying and it has depth and leads to a smaller carbon footprint too. Staying put in these economic times is hard if not impossible for some.
Agree with the above comment. Snyder’s words have deep wisdom, but say, for farmers in Mexico pushed off their land by NAFTA or people in the Midwest who lost their jobs from deindustrialization it may be impossible to stay put. Nonetheless many of us semi-young people move around because “X is a cooler city than Y.” Travel of course is awesome and teaches one a lot about the world. OTOH, We really don’t have a chance to institute desperately needed changes unless there is real community power. And guess what? To have community power, you need functioning communities.
Melissa and David – Sheesh. It’s a general idea.
Jay — And it is a beautiful one! Thank you for the post, Gary is one of my favorite writers and I’ve never read this before.
“stay together / learn the flowers / go light” – Gary Snyder
> real people stay put
Switch “people” with “americans” and we’ll have ourselves Palin’s next campaign speech.
> We look deeply back in time to the original
> inhabitants, and far ahead to our own descendants,
> in the mind of knowing a context, with its own kind
> of tools, boots, songs.
Funny, the last people I heard talking like this were a bunch of Swedish nationalists and Norwegian black metal nazis.
But on a serious note, I’m glad to see the sentiment of taking a stand shared more broadly. It’s a refreshing reversal from “California is fucked; get out while you can”.
Gary is a living legend. Thanks for the post.
I have tried to live by the words of Gary for last 10 years of my life and it has seemed to work for me. I believe that “staying put” once one has found fertile soil,( local community, good group of friends, refuge of mindful blogspace, etc) can literally become the sheltered groves for later generations.
Seeds scatter on the pavement till they find the cracks…