Windows on the World, My Backyard, and the Future

Window on the World (with a nod to Microsoft’s Windows 10)
Email to cousin Andy in Tokyo: Hey, Andy, hope I caught you before you went to bed. I told you I’d finish the copy of our new collaboration before end of business today, your day that is, not mine. I’ve dropped in a box in each spot where your artwork will go. I’m happy with the layout. I thought you’d like to enter your work and then do the final proofing. We can have it up for sale on Amazon by the weekend if you can turn it around tomorrow. I’m thinking we price it at $14.99 paperback, $9.99 Kindle. What say you?

At this point, a movement out of the corner of my eye catches my attention.

Window on My Backyard
It’s a fledgling prairie falcon….furry little critter at this stage. He’s pecking in the grass, intent on some insect. Yesterday he and his siblings were after bigger prey. Three of them were practicing being ferocious hunters. A bunny was grazing peacefully when the three of them swooped in, surrounding the intended victim, aka breakfast. One would charge furiously, wings flapping wildly in an attempt at intimidation. The bunny darted ten feet to his left, barely interrupting his meal. The fledglings would regroup, then another charge. Same result, a ten foot relocation of the bunny’s breakfast table. This went on for a good five minutes. No fur nor flesh nor blood was drawn in this theater. Eventually the falcons flew off. I was left thinking that they’d better up their game before winter sets in. I’m confident they will. When those guys are grown they are the avian version of a stealth aircraft fighter. Amazing to watch in action. And lethal.

Back to business.

Window on the World
Time for a little buying and selling. First I’ll post a Leon Alva painting for sale on eBay. We bought it in Cancun in the late 80s. Leon had a kiosk in a mall there. He was one laid back merchant. He bought us two margaritas out of the proceeds of his sale. Our walls are full now, our tastes have changed, and someone new will get to enjoy his “Sensual Ice Cream.”

Then I need to order that squash blossom necklace for Jan’s birthday. I want a vintage Navajo piece, something from the late 1800s if I can find one and afford it.

Hot damn… here’s one on eBay. Hit “Buy it Now,” and it’ll be here by early next week.

The economic calculation… I’m out $650 for the necklace. If the Alva sells I’ll be money ahead. If not….. I’d best finish the draft of the rural development project proposal for Lee County, Virginia. That’s one contract I’d be willing to travel for. Give me a chance to do a little on-the-ground research into the in-laws Melungeon background. You probably haven’t heard that word before… Melungeon. I hadn’t either until Aaron’s father-in-law told me his family story at the wedding reception. Look it up. You’ll be amazed at the things that’re left to be learned.

Maybe a cup of coffee before putting the finishing touches on that proposal.

And, of course, the obligatory glance out the window to see what the neighbors are up to.

Back to Window on My Backyard
Six whitetail are ambling out of the draw from the south. They are a wary bunch, always on alert for the slightest sound, smell, movement. Heads up and swiveling, ears erect. Clearly their DNA tells them their lives and livelihood depend on it. I wonder what it would be like to live like that. And then I think, it’s not quite so immediate with us two-leggeds, but our lives and livelihoods depend on a similar attention to our environment. That’s the basis of the proposal I’m writing for the Virginia folks. Paying attention to changing environment. Looking at the resources available to work with. Organizing to create a future that works.

I barely get that thought pondered when a flock of turkeys exit the cedar-covered draw from the north.

Is that what a bunch of turkeys is called? Or is there a fancier words for such an assemblage? I suppose I could ask my on-demand assistant in Windows 10 that question, but right now other things are more interesting. On their current courses those two groups are going to intersect in a couple of minutes.

DSCN0556

And they do. I’m trying to read the conversation. One of the younger deer is the most inquisitive. He approaches cautiously, nose down, sniffing, poised to beat a hasty retreat should anything move quickly. Nothing does. The turkeys are nonchalant about the whole event. Heads bobbing on pencil-thin necks, they’re more interested in eating than visiting. It seems like the other deer are trying to tell Junior to break off the engagement and “let’s roll.” There’s definitely a higher fear quotient in their DNA than in the turkeys. Finally that’s what happens. Deer head west, down what we call Sumac Trail, named after the brush that lines both sides of the path, and that turns fiery red for a few glorious days in the fall. The turkeys blend into the cedars, pecking at any edible….. bug, seed or pebble … until it’s time to fly into evening roost.

Excitement over for the moment, I decide to get back to business. But not before replaying the notion that the four-leggeds and the feathereds and the creepy crawlies have their own little successful world…everything they need. Food (although the eaters are sometimes also the eatens), shelter (above the ground, on the ground, under the ground), community, education, as in mama falcon eventually teaching the youngsters how to actually turn a bunny into a meal. It works. It’s in balance. Depending on how much risk I decide to take in the Virginia proposal, I may draw the analogy to what I might suggest as their goal, although in 21st century America, it might be hard to imagine anything as simple as “Enough.”

Backyard and World Collide
We have an intersection here. I’m on the Amazon page now, doing some preliminary work on the marketing magic that will make Critter Condo a sure-fire best seller. The publishing world has disintermediated to the point that, once written, I can design, lay out and have a book available for sale on Amazon at no cost and within a matter of two or three days (with no intermediaries). Think about that. You’ve always wanted to write a book? Now you can reach Amazon’s 300 million plus active customer base, in a matter of days, no publishing or printing cost, no garage filled with boxes of unsold books. They don’t have any unsold inventory either. It’s a print-on-demand world. Someone orders a book. They print it and ship it that day. Once they created that system, I uploaded all the books I have written. Now if someone wants one, I direct them to Amazon who handles production, fulfillment, shipping and billing. My take ends up automatically in my checking account. Cha-ching! Small world meets big world.

The overlap between the two windows? Critter Condo is a children’s book I’m writing (not the cousin Andy collaboration), inspired by photos taken by my game camera. I noticed a burrow in a draw near the house. Too big for a bunny. I set up the camera, retreated for a few days, then returned to gather the harvest. It’s always like unwrapping a Christmas present when I download the camera…you never know what you might capture, but it might be thrilling. This time it was. The first image I caught was this:

D65IR_V076.D00037.068__FG=1000,FT=9646,NIR=1,GM=41,EV=27,PY=27,DY=64,GB=0x80,SG=0x0,EL=179,AEY=249,AEM=1,AEB=0

Aha, says I . I knew it was too big for a bunny. Hoping I might catch him/her awake, I trolled on through the file. More phox photos, you bet. But more. Much more. A skunk, nosing into den. Then a raccoon. Next a possum. Then four deer sniffing around. Then a tom turkey. Critter Condo was born. My imagination took over and the rest, they say is, or will soon be, history. I’ve written several books based on the results of the game camera, the Merry Crittermas Chronicles. They are on Amazon as we speak. Critter Condo? You’ll have to wait for that one until the weather drives me inside and into writing mode.

Window on the Future
One of the nice things about living in a quiet place…..it gives you time and space to think without expectation of actionable results. Reminds me of a cute line I saw once: “Sometimes I like to sit and think. Other times I just sit.”

I was also remembering a teacup I once had. I think one of the kids has it now. The inscription….”Enough is as good as a feast.” Words to live by, I thought.

I was thinking about the sustainable economy of my backyard ….everything they need, enough. And I was overlaying that with the opportunities made possible by the technology that lets me access people and information anywhere in the world with little cost or effort. And the irony that the technology that requires us to change is the same technology that allows us to change. And that got me to thinking about how that might apply to my community. We have enough for some, but not for everybody. Not enough for some of the folks who have been displaced by the changes of the evolving economy. Not enough for the folks who don’t have the education or skills to compete. Maybe not enough for folks who have left the community in search of bigger and better, and who now might want to return to smaller and better….enough. These are, and are going to be, hard times, visited upon us by the globalization of the world economy. We need to have our heads up and aswivel (sometimes I make up words, inspired by demonic crossword puzzle creators), our ears alert, our minds asking ‘what’s going on that will affect me, and what do I need to do about it?’

Now the community developer mentality kicks in….you know the old line about “ask a carpenter how to solve a problem and the answer will have a hammer in it?” So to with community developers.

I start with my particular interest…enough. I’d like to spend some time and effort on the question of what can we do so that more of us have enough. You can insert your own particular interest or goal here. The process that follows is the same.

Assemble a group of associates, folks with similar interests. Name the issue you are focused on. Describe the future you want…what does it look like when you’re where you want to be. Schumacher called it ‘a viable future, visible in the present.’ Identify the assets you have to work with. What are the barriers to getting where you want to be? Develop the action plan to overcome the liabilities and build on the assets. Who is going to do what, when, how? When you lay it out like that it sounds simple. And you know what? It is. Once the fog of what seems like an insurmountable problem is replaced by the focused effort of specific actions towards a clear goal, things move in the right direction.

Putting this down on paper (or maybe some digital form) has me thinking, not just sitting. We have a new community college under construction that will offer a number of the educational opportunities we will need to build that future. It’s adjacent to, and cooperating with, a new high school which will do the same. Those two institutions are adjacent to our new locally controlled, doctor-driven hospital which in less than a year and a half of opening has created employment for over 500 skilled professionals….an example of vision translated into reality. Seems like those are assets that a community can build on. I have some preliminary thoughts on pieces of the solution …. an entrepreneurship support component, maybe a market research support piece. But those are things for a taskforce to chew on.

Tomorrow I’m going to make some calls, see who might be interested in creating a future with enough for more of our neighbors. Today I’m just going to sit, look out the window and see how the furreds and feathereds are dealing with the cold mist breezing its way south. Might be inspiration for another best seller out there.

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