Utopian Fiction: The Little Old Lady in the Floppy Hat by Carey Smith

In retrospect, it seemed like we should have seen it coming.  We had been reading news reports of the economy failing and our ecosystem going haywire for years.  Many people, especially young people, felt that there should be a different way of living that made more sense.  However, we were all stuck in this system, stuck in a life in which we were fed and housed only if we worked for corporations that were hell-bent on guiding humanity on a path of destruction.  A lot of us hadn’t realized our slavery until we broke free.

It was a little old lady in a flowery dress and a floppy hat that provided the spark.  She brought her grampa’s old shotgun with her one day to meet the president when he was in town, and the rest is history.  It seemed like our nation had survived assassinations before, but perhaps we had never been in
such desperate straits.  We had previously been at the top of the world, with more wealth and natural resources than we knew what to do with.  With
decades of corporate rape, we became a third-world country without hope of regaining what we once had, including our innocence.  We, as a nation, had never been so estranged from our elected representatives.  We knew our government was not for, by, and of us, but for, by and of corporate puppets.

No one seemed to care who took over.  Their power over us, largely symbolic anyway, was a trance that had at last been broken.  Tea partiers and ecofeminists met in the streets, throwing cobblestones at riot cops, who, once their paychecks stopped coming, seemed to realize what side they were on.  The transition was quick.  In a matter of weeks, many people felt free enough to begin neighborhood meetings to decide issues which were relevant and
made sense for them, instead of furthering the enrichment of corporations and the subsequent destruction of ecosystems.

We were living in a condo/apartment community at the time, one of lower-middle class folks and students.  Fortunately, it was early enough in the spring that we were able to begin to convert the massive green lawns into massive gardens.  At our community meeting, we emphasized that whoever wanted to share in the harvest should share in the work.  I don’t think we would have turned anyone away who was hungry who hadn’t worked, but at the time we had no idea what was ahead of us.  I was thankful that I had saved seeds for years and had enough to plant dozens of gardens.  Of course, we shared our extras, and we were thankful for all the gardeners who shared not only their seeds but their experiences.  I was surprised at the numbers of folks who came out to help.   For many who were not in school or work for the first time in their lives, gardening was play, not work.  We all helped feed us all.

We were thankful for the engineers among us, who rigged up diy water catchment systems.  We dug swales around our gardens to soak in the spring rains, so we could use the water we caught for our own drinking and sanitary needs.  The municipal water system worked for a few months, providing a gentle transition, during which we ripped out our toilets and put in humanure composters in the form of 5-gallon buckets.  We realized we smelled like humans, and we were okay with that.  We purified the rainwater with a passive solar system, but soon realized that without factories pumping massive amounts
of toxins into the air, the rainwater was pure enough to drink.  We banded together and took turns digging wells for our community.  I never gathered so much food in my life, but we made sure everyone who worked hard ate well.

We built rocket stoves and solar ovens to cook food, though we ate plenty of raw foods that summer.  We all wondered about what winter would bring.  We worked on gathering large piles of sticks to feed our rocket stoves, and those with wood stoves made plenty of friends.  The summer provided us with a lot of time to get to know and make friends with the people in our community, something we had never taken the time to do.

The kids, home from school to stay, formed autonomous kid packs, bringing home buckets upon buckets of mulberries and other foodstuffs.  My daughter also herded our goats.  Back in the first few weeks of the change, when money still meant something to some people, we traded a good portion of it along with some homemade wine for a couple of goats.  She and the other herders took the goats and mowed what was formerly lawns.  As long as the kids were careful to keep them from garden plants, it was a symbiotic relationship that worked fine, using absolutely no fossil fuels to turn grass into milk that nourished us.  It was amazing how responsible and mature the kids became, so quickly, when given the opportunity to do so.

We appreciated the milk the goats gave us, and looked forward to the day when our flocks became big enough to eat the surplus.  We also had a lot of chickens, and were thankful for this protein that kept us alive.  Personally, I was thankful for the opportunity for “meat” to transition back into my life as an
animal I cared for and knew before I took its sacred life and ate its flesh to continue my own life.  It felt a lot better to me spiritually than picking up five pounds of ground beef, made from countless cows who were raised in a life of torture in mega-industrial factory farms.

The kids spent their time out of school forging relationships and experiencing life.   They learned the names of edible plants and trees, of insects and constellations.  They learned about weather patterns and what streams were safe to drink from.  They learned to dance and sing, and to celebrate the turning of the seasons.  We all learned these things.  The kids were integrated back into a living ecosystem, as were we all.

I had previously planned to give birth in a hospital, as fall transitioned into winter.  By that time, however, hospitals functioned largely as places to rummage for supplies.  I’m not sure to where the doctors retreated, perhaps their gated communities, but we saw them not.  Our own medical needs were met by those largely self-taught in the healing arts, underground herbalists among them.  As experience grew, so did knowledge, making community health care something that benefitted our community.

Instead, I gave birth in my home, heated by the bodies of my partner and friends, all of whom welcomed my son into this world.  I was thankful that this was the world into which he was being born–a world in which we were responsible for ourselves as free people.  I could scarcely believe the changes that had taken place from his conception to his birth.  I held my child in my arms, and gave thanks for the opportunity to regain the knowledge and experience of birth that humans have had throughout our millions of years of evolving as such.  I was thankful to be surrounded by peace and love as my child transitioned from the loving warmth of my womb to the loving warmth of our community.

The first winter was a challenge, but it was not hard in the way that continuing to work at a dreaded job had been.  We were sometimes cold, sometimes hungry, but never angry or sad at our lack of choices and opportunities.  I don’t know of anyone who would rather trade our lives of our own desires for corporate slavery and the physical comforts it purported to bring.

We partitioned off our small living spaces so that our rocket stoves could keep us warm.  We conserved our energy by telling stories and singing songs instead of toiling for corporations.  We invited each other over to play so as to alleviate boredom.  We dreamed of spring.  We sewed, carved, repaired
tools, and caught up on all the small chores that we did not have time to do during the growing season.  Before we knew it, it was maple syrup time.  The
sap rising in the trees got our own blood going, and when we ate the first dandelion leaves of spring, we knew how blessed we were.

Not everyone made it the first year.  Almost everyone whose life was being kept alive by civilization’s technology (those who could afford it, anyway) died.  It was sad, and we wished it were not so.  However, we realized the blessing in civilization’s passing, as our children were destined to grow up with diets free of high fructose corn syrup, Red No. 40, pesticides, and preservatives.  The air, land, and water were getting healthier, reflecting humanity’s integral part in our ecosystem.  We realized that by poisoning the land that provides for us, we were poisoning ourselves.  By doing what we could to provide abundance
for the land that provides for us, we could provide abundance for ourselves.

Most of the 40,000 college students who made up a large portion of our twin cities each year left and did not return, providing an abundance of housing.  We invited our friends from other places to share in our communities that worked, and many of them came, bringing with them even more friends and loved ones.  Others came because they heard that our way of life worked well, and they wanted that for their families.  It was our habit to tell people that a place was set at our table for them.  We knew that sharing our wealth, which was largely in the form of our relationships, was to provide abundance for us
all.  It was the best insurance ever.

The years passed on, and our low-tech helping and sharing way of life flourished.  Since there was no actual wealth to possess, we were rarely bothered by those who still thrived on greed.  My child born in the fall of the first year could scarcely believe our stories of the not so good old days.  He could not understand why anyone would, for any reason, work for someone else for an abstraction such as money, instead of working for their own daily needs.

Really, we didn’t understand it either.  The only way we could explain the actions of our previous lives was to say that almost everyone on our planet was under a trance.  As some of us woke up, we tried to wake others, but it took a long time.  Our lives were so enmeshed in a culture of destruction that we could scarcely find our ways out.  Not having been raised in a culture of innate understanding of how to live without ultimately destroying ourselves, we had to learn everything by trial and error, by intuition, experiment, and observation.

Life is not easy in the way of driving to a grocery store and buying whatever our whims dictate.  I must admit, the thought of coffee still stirs my heart, even after all of these years.  But life is easy in the way that my mind is at peace with the choices I make in my daily life.  I am not a consumer, but a producer.  I am not passive, but active.  I am a creator.  I am abundance incarnate.  I live a life of my own choosing, one based on my desires, and that is the way in which life is easy.  I am thankful for realizing my blessings.

And I am thankful to a little old lady in a floppy hat and flowery dress that may be real or may be a figment of my imagination.  She was the psychopomp that ushered our dying civilization into what we have now:  a newborn life worth the effort of living.

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