Saturday, May 29, 2010


My last post was about transformation, the transformation of the space we live in by cleaning and music. Perhaps it’s the spring air and almost-summer heat, but as the flowers leap into bloom and the garden comes to full life, another life-pattern transformation has happened.

It’s a pretty trite and ordinary “passage” for many people, this one, but it feels happily momentous to me: I bought a car. You’ve had cars before, I can imagine you saying, so what’s the big deal? Well it’s the transition from no car to wheels that is big. The feeling of autonomy that you have when you own a car is so wonderful and somehow life-giving, but it’s not much noticed by car-owners. Once you have them, “wheels” become normal, you take them for granted. So, as with many things in life, I can appreciate having a car much more fully now that I have spent time without. Being car-less means being unable to offer a lift to a friend in need, or unable to at the last minute leap up the road to Grey County for a shape-note sing, or unable to take a load of discarded books or clothing to Goodwill, or... just fill in the blanks.

I feel like I’m back in business. And yet before deciding to do this, I had hesitated: money concerns, waste generally, I can’t even tell you exactly all that made me reluctant. Mostly though I had lost track of just how empowering it is to own a car. I had adapted to not-having, as one does, just like a cold makes you adapt to not-health and an ugly dorm room in residence makes you adapt to not-attractive, etc. The transition back to mobility, health, and attractive surroundings is a fabulous one. We see and feel freshly; we learn from deprivation to appreciate what we have...

The agenda for this car is a little different. Neither Dom nor Tashi has a driver’s licence, as many city-raised kids do not. They have been raised in the centre of a city which they can navigate on foot as well as by subway and streetcar. To learn to drive as a resident of this city (Toronto), just like in New York, you have to really want to. The guys never have felt the need, except in an abstract “it’s an idea, sometime...” kind of way. Enter the new car, which is not new, but used. I'm hoping it will seem so easy to drive that they will get really launched on getting a licence. I would love them to have that autonomy, and also of course self-interest is at work here: when I am old and decrepit, I'd like them to be able to drive me around occasionally!!

I bought the car with a friend and neighbour, who also wants the autonomy of owning wheels, while keeping money expenses, and consumption of other resources too, to a manageable level. We’ll share the cost of the car and of the insurance. It all feels like a sustainable way of engaging with car-ownership.

What did we get? A used Honda Fit, a 2007. It’s a small hatchback with great visibility, an automatic, unfortunately (because of the kids and my co-owner’s preference too), and a great gas mileage record. Let’s call it an environmental compromise, this shared used small car. But today, in the exhilaration of having checked Consumer Reports (thanks, Art!), test-driven a Rabbit/Golf,and several Fits, and then finally made a decision out there at the Honda dealership on the Danforth, and plunked down some money, I think of it as transformation. Welcome autonomy! Welcome mobility! Yeah!!

Oh, and I forgot to say, the car is red.

POSTSCRIPT: I'll be away for a week or so, leaving Dom in charge at the house, and the red car with my co-owner to get house-broken. I keep thinking of it as a puppy; next thing you know it will have a name!

I'm driving to Grand Manan for a few days with a friend who owns a small house there. Grand Manan is a large remarkable island in the Bay of Fundy, where New Brunswick and Maine and the Atlantic all meet. We're going there to see whether it's feasible to have a small "immersethrough" session there, hopefully this September, for three days. We'd base it around food, but instead of Thai markets etc, the side-interests and immersion would be in exploring tide pools, checking out the phenomenal French bakery on the island and the dulse industry, and just getting acquainted with a place where survival in a spectacular environment has shaped a distinctive local culture. Please keep an eye on the immersethrough site for updates.

An for those of you worrying about the Burma recipes, they are going really well. I am so pleased. A small part of me is reluctant to get pulled away from my engagement with them, even though Grand Manan is a place I've wanted to visit for a long time. So I'll be back and building up the repertoire soon enough! For now, just remember to pick those dandelion greens, as long as they are unsprayed. Wash them in a large basinful of water, or maybe do that twice, to make sure all grit has gone, and then chop them and stir-fry them with garlic and shallots or onions (which will sweeten them a little) and whatever other flavorings you choose. Endless green deliciousness from the plant so many still revile. How crazy is that?


Stephen said...

We are very fond of our Fit - when we first got it we were forever demonstrating all the seat configurations.
And dulse: last year when we travelled from Nova Scotia to visit relatives in Arizona we took some dulse. The rancher relatives were willing to sample it and tried to categorize it. When a new comer asked what they were eating, the slow drawlled answer was, seaweed jerky. To my mind a great marketing concept for dulse.

naomi said...

So interesting about the dulse! and reassuring about the Honda Fit. Many thanks for writing, Stephen.

kerrdelune said...

Ah.... we are long time fans of dandelion greens (along with wild leeks and morels), and luckily our wild acres in the Lanark Highlands have a veritable abundance of such things. Loe your blog by the way and have added it to my lsit of favorites.

Anonymous said...


Though, nom, I think I may do my driver s ed. with Ian. No offense, but Im not afraid of him.



Stephen said...

And also on the subject of duluse: Slow Food Nova Scotia has nominated Fundy dulse to be included in the International Ark of Taste. This happened at a recent Slow Food Canada meeting in Nova Scotia. Also nominated was Tancook sauerkraut.