Magick

Olentangy 1_5_15I’ve been reading about people making new year’s resolutions to meditate on three things they are thankful for daily. Some people are writing the words on slips of paper and filling up their “gratitude jar” or using some type of system to track all the things they are grateful for so they can stay positive. I’m planning on doing something similar and hoping to post some of the items on this blog throughout this year. The items are more than just things I’m thankful for (cuz I’m thankful for pretty much everything that doesn’t bite or kill me) – they are items that hold some type of magick or sacredness for me, whether it be the timing of when they appear, or the energy I draw from them or give back.

This morning I walked along the banks of the Olentangy River in the chilly winter air. My thermostat said it was 12 degrees, but I felt warmer today than I did yesterday evening when it was rainy and wet, a chilly 30-something degrees. I went to the river with intent – I wanted to gather my thoughts for 2015. There were several magick items that appeared to me on this journey and the first one appeared as I took my first few steps into the woods. It came from a friend’s son, Robert, who suddenly passed away on a family vacation about 2 years ago. My friend sent me a text that buzzed as soon as I took my first steps.

Robert

 

What a way to start out this intentional hike, huh? The image she sent even shows a person going through a tunnel, similar to a bridge tunnel that I was about to hike through. So my friend and I exchanged a few texts and then I was left in my own head to ponder this message from him.

Later, I saw several squirrels, including a fatty-boom-balatty red squirrel, all plump, either from his winter fat or from his fur puffed out. He crossed the path just a few feet in front of me, sort of showing off, and as I called out to him, he ignored me until he got to the end of a log laying about 20 feet from the path. He stopped suddenly and then went into his squirrel pose – you know the one, with his tail curved and him sitting on his back haunches?

eastern_fox_squirrel_by_andehdulac-d5w30n0

 

He wasn’t directly facing me, like this one in the photo, but rather looking in another direction but I know he was looking at me peripherally. And that is why he made this post – I love that animals are sneaky like that. You just know they think they are being all nonchalant but there’s some type of energy that usually gives them away if you pay close enough attention.

The final magick was on my way back, only about 100 yards from my car. A sycamore seed pod, containing thousands of seeds or achenes, that are disbursed by floating with the wind appeared right in the middle of the trail and it had a distinctive white dot on it. Probably bird poop, but I took it as a sign that it was the one – for better or worse, that’s what popped into my head when I saw it.

Sycamore

 

During this hour long hike, I kept singing the lyrics to Iggy Azalea’s Fancy which really weren’t appropriate. “Trash the hotel, let’s get drunk on the mini-bar” didn’t fit in at all with what my intentions were, but it was one of those songs that even when I pushed it out of my mind for a few minutes, it crept back in when I was least expecting it. Maybe my NY’s resolution should be to get some musical taste.

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A Jerkwater Town

cropped distant silos

Jerkwater [jurk-waw-ter, -wot-er] 1. a branch-line train, so called because its small boiler had to be refilled often, requiring train crews to “jerk” or draw water from streams. 2. of or associated with small, remote, and insignificant rural settlements: She’s from some jerkwater town.

Unlike most rivers, the flow of the Cuyahoga River is neither north nor south – it is both. The switch to the north is best observed where it meets the Little Cuyahoga tributary at mile 42 of its total 88.4 miles, on the west side of the bottom of its jaunty u-shaped path. Just 30 miles west of its headwaters, it meets Lake Erie, where it becomes the Cleveland harbor, an area that is consistently dredged to a depth of 27 feet, to allow for freight barges. This crooked river, or “Cuyahoga”, a term derived from several Native American languages, formed during the last glacial retreat, 10,000-12,000 years ago, and its direction changed when the Wisconsin glacier receded 7,000 years ago, forever altering the drainage patterns of the area.

I was born in an era when rivers still burned, but by the time I was old enough to explore the banks of the Cuyahoga, urban environmentalism had already taken hold in Ohio and was spreading across the country via the Clean Water Act of 1972. My earliest visions of this river were not tainted by its fires – images that catapulted this river into infamy when it appeared on Time Magazine’s cover in 1968, but rather, the visions were fixated on a large sandstone tea table rock, known as Standing Rock, that sat squarely in the middle of the river, just a short bike ride through the town’s cemetery from my childhood home.

Tea table rocks are formed by eroding layers of softer rock wrapped around harder composite rock. In this case, waters of what would eventually become known as the Cuyahoga River gradually revealed the Pennsylvanian-age Sharon sandstone that remains. Geologists have traced this rock found in northeast Ohio from the Canadian Shield, making it a part of the initial North American region that became permanently uplifted above sea level. Ancient rock, indeed.

Standing Rock measures 20 feet across and 20 feet high, making it an ideal backdrop for folklore tales of Native Americans who battled the likes of legendary Captain Samuel Brady, a frontier scout of the area. These heroic tales of bloodshed illuminated the summers of my childhood, spent just a few miles down the road from the bloodshed of a newer kind. With each passing summer, my ride through the cemetery to the river grew larger than life, spurred on by imagined flying arrows whizzing past me as I fled to the river, preparing for the scramble to the top of Standing Rock, where I declared myself to be victorious – over whom, I’m not exactly sure.

Standing_Rock

The community of Kent, like many small towns of America, found itself to be anachronistic sentinel anchored in a river of eroding morals in the late 1960s. Situated upstream from the heavy industrial towns of Akron and Cleveland, it lacked their gritty sophistication, but it also missed out on the Norman Rockwellistic charm of neighboring small towns that dotted the snowbelt of Northeast Ohio. The white silos of the Williams Brothers flour mill, reminiscent of a time when the city of Kent was known as the village of Franklin Mills, towered over the two-story buildings located in the heart of downtown. The street names of Water, River, Lock, and Portage pay homage to the river that powered the mills of the 19th century in this area.

Stuck somewhere between rural and quaint, Kent was just the right blend of comfort for parents of hopeful college bound children who visited Kent State University, the largest employer of the city. It seemed an unlikely place of adhesion for the counterculture ideals that were spreading throughout the United States in the late 1960s.

However, campuses across the nation became fertile ground for anti-war sentiments as the Viet Nam war escalated and draft numbers were called in. Sparked by President Nixon’s announcement on April 30, 1970 to invade Cambodia, protests grew in frequency and intensity. On May 1, Kent State students buried the U.S. Constitution in a symbolic act, claiming it had been murdered. Over the next few days, mobs of students rioted downtown, breaking store windows and setting fire to the Army ROTC building on campus. Nine hundred National Guardsmen were called in to maintain order.

News traveled slowly in a pre-internet, pre-cell phone world. For almost a full hour in the early afternoon of May 4, 1970, the sunlight that stretched down Main Street heading west past the string of used car lots, past the drive-up hamburger stand where young waitresses waited on traveling salesmen in long-hooded Detroit cars, into the neighborhood where my mother had just put me down for a nap, carried with it no sense of tragedy.

A dream sequence memory of hearing ice cream truck chimes wakes me from a nap and I climb out of my crib, through a sliding glass door cracked open, searching for the truck decorated with images of sweet treats and a smiling man inside the awning-framed window.

The chimes give way to the scream of a panicked mother discovering an empty crib, the vibration of approaching helicopters circling from a distance and getting closer with each minute. Found in a neighbor’s yard and whisked back into the house, the hunt for ice cream cut short. Plopped in front of a black and white rabbit-eared tv and given a Fisher-Price toy to play with, I paid no mind to my mother as she spoke with neighbors in tones that varied from hushed to hysteria.

The doors locked up tight, the sidewalks emptied, and finally the streets emptied too, as the city entered lockdown mode and officials blocked traffic from crossing the municipal limits. The evening edition of the Akron Beacon Journal headline read “4 Dead, 11 Wounded in New KSU Trouble”. My father walked 4 miles from the edge of town to get home that evening. He never said much about the incident other than it was a very long walk.

photo

Coming of Age in the Plague Years

fredblog

It was 1985 and I was too young to realize that the lead singer of Queen was gay. I guess at some level, I knew his energy was different than other lead singers I had crushed on, but the possibility that a gay man would front a loud and bawdy rock n’ roll band had not entered my realm of reality yet, and as time would tell, neither had it entered the minds of many in mainstream America.

I was not naíve when it came to the gay scene, especially as it related to music. I had several friends who I attended concerts and gay clubs with frequently, but the gay performers we saw did not have the boldness and masculinity of Freddie. The likes of Morrissey, Erasure, and Simply Red shaped my reality of what gay musicians should act like and this misperception followed me longer than I’d care to admit.

The video Bohemian Rhapsody was playing on MTV (yes, it was a hit before the movie Wayne’s World) and I was watching it with one of my first boyfriends one winter afternoon. Following the video, an image of Tipper Gore appeared. Kurt Loder, the MTV news reporter told us that she, along with the U.S. government, was promoting the adoption of a mandatory system for all record labels, similar to a movie ratings system, to be used for song lyrics. My boyfriend, who was a few years older and much more conservative than I was even at the tender age of 16, took her side on this topic much to my surprise at the time. My mother, who was also in the room, sided with Tipper Gore as well.

I had not yet mastered the art of debate or anything close to it, so my argument for First Amendment rights was translated through my Valley-Girl-from-Ohio-dialect into something resembling “I hate her. She’s soooo stupid. Like what does she know about good song lyrics? She probably listens to Barry Manilow.” My mother and boyfriend shamed me for not understanding the benefit that a ratings system would bring to the youth of the 80s while I grew hotter and more frustrated. Years later, as I look back at this incident, I wonder how and why I formed my opinions and how happy I am that I held onto them despite the opinions of those closest to me while growing up.

At the time of this argument, I was falling in love with techno and rock music and anything else that alleviated my boredom with a vanilla-flavored upbringing in small town Ohio. Not only did the music and dancing at gay clubs draw me in, but so did the boys. I reveled in the fact that I could hang out boys who liked big hair and makeup as much as I did. Not having any brothers growing up, I knew nothing about boys and this was the safest way I learned what they think about, what they talk about and what they were like, without having the confusing dynamics of teenage sex drives overshadowing me.

A few short years prior to my introduction to the club scene, I had received the soundtrack to the Muppet Movie and the Rolling Stone’s Tattoo You from my parents for my birthday. Upon opening my locker door for my parents during my high schools parents’ open house evening, a hooved foot in a high heel shoe proudly revealed itself to my mother, who couldn’t hide her shock in front of my Biology teacher. It was a clear indicator that my musical tastes had grown up, leaving the world of Muppets far behind. The look on my mother’s face was forever impressed in my memory as I was just beginning to find my grounding in the coveted art of teenage rebellion.

Rolling Stones Tattoo You

One day, while combing through my much anticipated monthly issue of Rolling Stone, I came across David Black’s The Plague Years. Although we never spoke about it, I’m quite certain that not only me, but my friends as well, read that article many times over in the quiet solitude of our innocent teenager bedrooms, not sure what to make of it. The darkened shrouded human figure with its buttocks scrawled on (shown below) is still burned into my memory as a symbol for the “gay plague” as it was dubbed by the media at the time.

1985_AIDS

Misconceptions and rumors ran rampant during this time and my friends and I even believed that sipping from the same glass as someone with AIDS would result in catching the disease. We were very careful to hold on to our drinks at the clubs and not accidentally pick up someone else’s.

I was prompted to write this post, a deviation from my typical environmentally related theme by recently watching the movie The Dallas Buyers Club. The character portrayed contracted AIDS in 1985, the year Tipper Gore was pushing lyric censorship through government control. A year when men and women were contracting a death-sentencing disease because the FDA refused to allow drug distribution to them. A year when many Americans, including our leaders, were more concerned about keeping children safe from hearing vulgar language and topics than they were about the deaths of many, mostly because AIDS was still considered to be a “gay disease”. A year when Freddie Mercury, couldn’t publicize his homosexuality for fear of being ostracized by his mainstream fans.

Although my fondness for the 80s will always be a part of me, this is one part that I’d like to rewind and get a “do-over” for. I wish I had the knowledge I have today and perhaps, instead of arguing about a censorship campaign against vulgar lyrics in songs (which I have to admit seems petty and inconsequential as Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” song gets overplayed on the radio), I would have chosen to argue instead about why we didn’t know Freddie Mercury was gay until he was dead. A much stronger argument for self-expression, indeed.

Rolling Stones Tattoo You

Of Germs and Worms

Germaphobia gripped my mother like an iron glove when I was in pre-school. I was born in the era when companies like Nestlé began aggressively marketing to mothers that it’s baby formula was more nutritional than mother’s breast milk, so when I began to frequently get sick with different viruses and colds as an infant and when I first entered public school, I was sick more often than I was well. My mother thought she had failed me. At the first sign of a sniffle, she would cart me off to the pediatrician where I was promptly given a lengthy dosage of antibiotics.

lactogen baby formula

I was raised on baby formula that was held in esteem by many in the scientific community, and perhaps this was the very thing that caused me to be so frequently sick once I went to public school. I remember missing my Valentine’s Day party several years in a row due to my annual bout of strep throat and tonsillitis, typically occurring back-to-back. I thank my stars that sanitizer had not yet been invented, or my household would have been using quantities of it enough to give the manufacturer’s shareholders a big smile and a fat wallet. As it were, the big pharmaceutical companies made plenty per capita in my household, as I took many bouts of antibiotics to get over many illnesses as a child.

My father’s views on dirt and germs were formed on his family farm where he grew up. Living on a family farm in the 1930s and 40s was no picnic when it came to disease and illness. Prior to antibiotics, when a farm animal got sick, it was typically put down quickly to avoid further loss to the family’s food supply rather than be treated with antibiotics. In the family photos of my father as a little boy, he is often shown wearing nothing but overhauls, covered in mud and probably a few other things that would make mothers a few decades later uneasy.

Today, scientists are just beginning to understand how the human immune system is triggered and how it responds to its environment. Allergy sufferers have applied pressure to scientists to take a closer look at helminthic therapy, otherwise known as “worm therapy”. This approach is based on the theory that inhabitants of 1st world countries have heightened immune systems due to the elimination of certain parasitic organisms that have existed for thousands, perhaps millions of years within the human body. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, asthma, hay fever, and food and environmental allergies include ailments that have been pegged as symptomatic of heightened immune systems. Scientific studies have shown that the introduction of hook worms into the intestines of people who have these symptoms alleviates and often, eradicates the occurrence of these symptoms and often improves other health issues such as fatigue.

I had first heard about helminthic therapy on Ira Glass’ radio program aired on NPR, This American Life in 2010. An update to the program informed listeners that Jason Lawrence, the allergy sufferer whose told his story to Ira, was forced to shut down his business by the FDA for selling his parasites in the United States. The last I heard he had moved to Mexico so he could continue to offer this treatment to those willing to experiment with it. But the story hasn’t stopped there.

Fueled by research conducted by Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts-New England Medical Center, the mainstream press has covered the story of helminthic therapy for several years.

Fast forward to today and I’m encouraged by the research showing up on the internet focused on this approach for treating the symptoms of a heightened immune system. A Facebook and a yahoo group has formed and several websites promote the therapy, one offering an online interview, the first step to gain access to the worms in a pill form.

Perhaps the lessons of the recent antibiotic era have opened people’s eyes to options other than chemicals. Any attempt to eradicate germs has proven to be impossible and only results in throwing out the baby with the bath water. The lesson of working with nature, rather than against it, has taken a long time to take hold, but perhaps it’s not too late. I feel very lucky not to have any allergies that I know of. The New York Times reported on a study in 2004 supporting the link between people who had high fevers as infants and their low likelihood for developing allergies later in life. So perhaps my childhood illnesses did pay off later in life and maybe old Mom knew what she was doing all along!

Speaking in Squirrels

Kitchenaid Mixer
Almost every day this week, my Accu weather app tells me “This is a poor day for Outdoor Fitness”. Yes indeedy, it is. This is a week of seeking warmth, any way it comes, especially through your stomach.

To accompany the traditional sauerkraut and pork dish for New Year’s this past week, I used my mother’s white KitchenAid mixer pictured here in all its vintage glory to make mashed potatoes. In an era when the media told women they needed to save time and money by adopting convenient shortcuts to cooking, my mother fully embraced the concept of cooking most meals from a box. However, she always insisted on making mashed potatoes from scratch. Fluffy, but hearty, and very, very buttery, perfect on a day like today when the wind chill is in the single digits.

As the wire whip of the mixer blended the warm milk into the buttery potato creamed concoction, a New Year’s day story from my childhood begged to be jostled from my memory bank.

Traditionally my family spent New Years day at my grandparents’ house in NE Ohio cooking and eating comfort food in between watching college football on a large console color television set. As an only child, I especially looked forward to this day as I got to spend it with my cousins, who were slightly older than me, and taught me things that only older relatives can, aka things my parents did not want me to know about. The year was 1977 and the most “edgy” show on television was Welcome Back Kotter, which my mother deemed inappropriate for a girl of 9 to watch due to its modeling of “sweat hog” behavior. Later that year, my father’s sense of humor won out over my mother’s rule and since he thought the show was funny, I got to watch it too. But by being around my older cousins, I learned much more than watching the Sweat Hogs.

An annual highlight of New Years day was a phone call from my aunt who had moved to Rhode Island following college. My grandparents’ avocado-colored phone was passed through each family member as we wished our good-lucks and got caught up with her life on the East Coast. The phone was plugged into an outlet in my grandfather’s office, but the cord, extending almost 30 feet, was able to reach the television set so the talker wouldn’t miss an extremely good play.

This particular New Year’s day was extremely cold and my grandfather had lit the season’s first fire in the fireplace earlier in the day, but it had caused so much smoke in the living room that he let it extinguish before we all arrived. Everyone had taken their turns talking to my aunt, except for my grandfather, who was sitting at his desk, with his back to the boisterous football fans down the hall.

Perhaps I was growing a little bored of the football game so I wasn’t quite as intent on the t.v. as the others. Out of my peripheral vision, I caught a small furry object drop out of the chimney and climb up and out of screen enclosure of the fireplace. I poked my cousin in the arm and got no reaction. I poked him again, harder this time. “OW! Stop it. I don’t want to miss this play!” The furry object I had seen was a squirrel that was now skip-hopping at a quick pace down the hallway, intent on my grandfather, obliviously chatting away with my aunt. I poked another cousin and he simply poked me back, but much harder. I stole a quick look down the hall and at this point the squirrel was about ten feet from my grandfather, standing on its hind legs. “Grandma, look!”, I yelled, pointing at the squirrel that was now in a full-clip charge aiming directly for my grandfather’s head.

“Oh my God! Ted, Ted, Ted!!!” she yelled. The whole family quickly turned and started yelling, but not one of us stepped into the scene that surely would have made the best of “When Animals Attack” if video cams had been affordable at the time. My grandfather, assuming we were yelling about the game, held up an index finger in our direction, letting us know he would be off the phone in just a bit.

That’s all the squirrel needed to see in order to motivate its quest for human blood. One flying leap into the air and it landed on my grandfather’s shoulder, sinking its teeth deep into his finger. “YOWWWWWW!!!” he yelled, tossing the phone up in the air and jumping up just like the squirrel did. He started swinging the squirrel in a circular motion over his head, the squirrel hanging on for dear life only by its teeth still firmly planted deep into the tissue of his finger, limbs and tail outstretched, a picture perfect model of Rocky the flying squirrel, of Bullwinkle fame. We all dove behind the furniture as my grandfather lurched down the hallway, running towards the front door. Screaming ensued but not because of a football play. We scattered in different directions as my grandfather barreled through the door, squirrel still in tow.

Once we felt it was safe to come out from our hiding places, we hovered around the window, watching as the squirrel was flung up into the air about 20 feet. It grabbed onto a branch of a maple tree and quickly disappeared into the tree canopy.

My grandfather hired an animal trapper to do rabies testing on the advise of the doctor who stitched the wound with sutures later that day. Unfortunately, because the trapper was skilled, the squirrel population in and around my grandparents neighborhood dropped considerably that winter, but rabies was never detected.

The prevailing theory for why the squirrel attacked my grandfather was that the fire lit in the chimney earlier in the day had burned up the squirrel’s nest and the squirrel somehow knew my grandfather was the responsible party. I guess we’ll never know. I do remember the sadness I felt knowing many squirrels’ lives were lost due to this incident and had we all paid better attention to the nesting habits of our non-human friends, this story would have a happier ending for the squirrel.

rocky flying squirrel

Hibernation and Epigenetics

flames

There’s an ancient visceral memory that surfaces and calls to me every year shortly after the winter solstice. This memory runs deeper than any conscious memory, deeper than anything I can pinpoint in my lifetime. It starts with the first night I wake up to the flickering of flames after dozing off while reading or writing. Once that happens, I’m hooked. For the remaining nights of winter, and as often as my 45-year old back will allow me to, I sleep on the futon located about 10 feet away from the warmth of a wood stove’s firebox. As I doze off on a cold winter’s night, a blanket of orange glow soothes me into a deep slumber, permeating the knowledge that no matter how wicked the Ohio winter weather is that night, I’ll be safe and sound. I feel this security in my bones and my cats and dog feel it too. They, like me, barely stir all night long, even as the yips and howls of Mount Air’s coyotes wake us up momentarily.

Sleeping within close proximity of a fire at night meant the difference between life and death for much of our ancestral history. Not only did a communal fire give the warmth needed during cold weather, but it also fended off wild predators. The fear of fire is displayed in most all wild animals and according to scientists, chimpanzees are the one exception to this. Once an animal is able to control their fear of fire, they are one step closer to controlling fire, which brings them one step closer to creating it, a defining milestone in species development.

A 2009 study by anthropologist Dr. Jill Preutz from Iowa State University in West Africa revealed that male chimpanzees performed a ritualistic “fire dance”, similar to the rain dance first observed by primatologist Jane Goodall. Like the rain dance that consists of slow swaying movements by the chimps when thunderstorms approach, the fire dance is aimed at the direction of the fire and also includes exaggerated dance movements. The chimps bark a unique call as a part of the ritual. Additionally, Dr. Pruetz observed that the chimps remained calm when facing the fire at close proximity and were able to predict the fires’ movement far better than she could, even when surrounded on three sides of their encampment.

These observations of chimps in West Africa offer compelling support to a 2012 discovery of charred remains in a South African massive cave called Wonderwerk Cave, located near the edge of the Kalahari desert. The date of the remains has been estimated at 1 million years ago, giving evidence that our human ancestors, Homo Erectus, were capable of controlling and using fire to their benefit. This discovery has caused scientists to change their current estimation of when our ancestors first assumed the control of fire, pushing it back 300,000 years. Adding this many years into an activity that was no doubt repeated each and every day would seem to have the ability to make an imprint into our DNA in ways that we don’t yet understand. If chimps have evolved to not fear fire, it is completely plausible that ancestral humans were in control of fire 1 million years ago.

The topic of whether our genes contain information that is expressed as memory is controversial. However, the field of Epigenetics studies how the human genome reacts to environmental factors. For example, an orphaned child that experiences stress due to the lack of maternal care has a higher level of a chemical than children with attentive mothers. It is likely that this chemical will bind to that child’s DNA, causing the offspring of that child’s genes to express “turned off” or minimized maternal care. And so the offspring lacks a strong maternal “instinct”. Likewise, another set of chemicals that bind to the DNA can allow the protein of the DNA to be more easily picked up during reproduction, resulting in the maximization of that gene expression.

Growing up in a home without outdoor-enthusiastic parents, this information is intriguing to me, as an adoptee who recently initiated a relationship with my birth mother. She and I have had numerous conversations about our love for the outdoors and wildlife, including specifics about how we have spent hours splitting and chopping wood, and heated our homes with it.

So perhaps finding comfort in my orange glow-filled winter “cave” isn’t a direct DNA inheritance from my Homo Erectus ancestors, but it seems plausible that my propensity to sleep near a fire on a cold winter’s night was passed down through my ancestry in some manner. Knowing that I can hibernate safely and soundly on a cold winter’s night is one of my favorite pleasures of life.

Hopeful Discourse

Hopeful Discourse.
Planting seeds
Two guys walk into a bar on a Friday night in August. What do they debate? The upcoming Bucks’ season? Nope. The summer concert line-up? Nope. The best tasting summer ale? Nope, nope, and nope. It turns out they talk about whether charity is necessary in a society that is truly equitable. At least this was the topic being debated between the two guys I eavesdropped in on this past Friday.

Pretty heavy stuff for two guys at the bar, you might think. On a Friday night. In Columbus, Ohio. Debating the necessity of charity in society. What’s going on? I have my theories, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Prior to walking into the bar, I had participated in an event focused on Slow Money. I, along with several other community activists run the local chapter that supports a national movement focused on grass-roots community investing for farming and food-based businesses.

Our event brought in two authors from North Carolina. Carol Pepe Hewitt, author of Financing our Foodshed: Growing Local Food with Slow Money, is the national organization’s model for making Slow Money happen. In just a few years Carol has been the catalyst in over 80 peer-to-peer Slow Money inspired loans for small businesses in North Carolina. Her book tour co-pilot, Lyle Estill, is the author of Small Stories – Big Changes, Agents of Change on the Frontlines of Sustainability. The stories Lyle tells are inspirational and often heart-breaking. Each story exemplifies the will not just to survive, but to sustain. The challenges of our culture and society make this path a rough one that only the bravest endure.

Along with hearing stories from all over, we told stories of our own. Thirty some people gathered to listen to stories of farming in Ohio. What would having a few cold frames do to extend the growing season for a local organic farmer? What does having new distribution channels from farms to neighborhoods, school organizations, and employee wellness participants do to the supply chain? How does a family farm focused on heritage livestock breeds and heirloom vegetable varieties get saved from the auction block?

These questions and others were asked and sometimes answered, but sometimes the answers eluded even the experts in the group who live and breathe in the local food arena. One question in particular stood out – What are we hoping to accomplish – what will success for our Slow Money organization look like?

So we return to the two guys in the bar debating about the necessity of charity in a truly equitable society. Just the simple fact that this was the topic being discussed gave me hope that we are a society that is changing. Sure, perhaps I just happened to stumble upon two poli-sci majors and everyone else at the bar was discussing the latest episode of Honey Boo-Boo. But I’d like to think not.

I’d like to think that transformative organizations like Slow Money, Forge Columbus, SBB (Small Business Beanstalk), and Evolver Columbus are making a difference. The fog from the decade of decadence – my generation, the 1980s, is still lifting. I have friends of my generation who are still focused on creating a financial cocoon that a nuclear explosion couldn’t penetrate. Maybe it’s due to leftover angst from all those music videos portraying glamorous wealth projected against a backdrop of Russian Soviets. (Think Little Red Corvette followed by 99 LuftBallons.) Maybe it’s been instilled through stories of financial ruin passed down through generations. Whatever the cause, the time for these cocoons has passed.

I’d like to think that someday debates about charity, investing in our community, our social structure and sustainability become commonplace among all members of society. The two guys at the bar on Friday were an affirmation that a change is happening. If two guys on a Friday night are debating a topic as deep as this, think of the potential for meaningful conversations at community cook-outs, coffee shops, or other gatherings across the state.

The central Ohio Slow Money group is in its infancy – we’ve only been meeting on a regular basis since early 2012. We’ve made a couple loans as a group and inspired several others. We are taking steps to redefine capitalism and are filling a need for supporting small businesses in a way that our systems and institutions do not.

Our vision for success is still being defined, but I do know that whatever it becomes, the world will be a better place for it.