Confessions of a Tree Hugger

I just finished reading Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses and am in awe of the author’s candor, and vulnerability by sharing the intimate details of her life.  I think revealing yourself on the page is one of the bravest things you can do, and it is why I can’t imagine ever writing a memoir.

There is so much I can relate to about the quest to understand yoga and have an authentic practice, adapting to motherhood and the flux of relationships. However, I can’t relate to being ruled by goodness. Dederer writes, “Goodness ruled me…All the moms I knew, at least the ones who were my age and lived in my zip code, lived by this set of rules…We wanted a kind of moral cleanliness to touch our lives. This was symbolized by the cleanliness we sought in the world: We wanted the oceans denuded of mercury and the soil divested of arsenic; we even wanted the coal-plant smokestacks scrubbed. We eschewed Formula 409 and discovered the wonders of vinegar. We avoided preservatives and bought organic soda pop.  We wanted to be clean inside and out so we could be worthy of our children. (p. 20)” In other parts of the book, when she mentions organic baby food, wooden toys, and the conundrum of eating local, it is in the context of social mores rather than expounding on their virtues.

If choosing organic food, natural cleaners, and non-toxic toys is about trying to be good or deserving, impressing people, or fitting in, no wonder some people want to throw up their hands when they hear about “going green.”

For me, sending my kids to school with their laptop lunches, filled with (mostly) organic food is not about feeling morally superior. That facade -if it ever existed in the first place – was shattered when my son gleefully repeated expletives at preschool, which he probably heard in a merge lane on I85. Not to mention where I live, unlike Seattle, fitting in is more about driving SUVs, spraying your lawn with chemicals so you can match all the other perfect lawns in the neighborhood, and cooking Bubba burgers out on the grill. Needless to say I stick out like a sore thumb as I trek off to yoga in my Birkenstocks.

This is why I take “tree hugger” as a compliment, even when it is said with a sneer:

  1. I wholeheartedly believe in the wisdom of Chief Seattle, “Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life; We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the Web, We do to ourselves.” This karmic web makes perfect sense to me. There is a direct cause and effect to our actions. I think it is completely foolish of us to poison our water with chemicals – so my grass has weeds and my whites are bright because of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
  2. I can’t stand the fact that our economy is built on maximizing profits, externalizing the costs (i.e. passing the buck), and that prices do not reflect the true cost of products and services. You can’t have unlimited growth with finite resources and you can’t expect the Corporatocracy to take responsibility when they are rewarded for passing off their costs onto society and the environment in the form of pollution and destruction of resources. It is all built on a house of cards, the mortgage crisis being one little window into the fragility of an unsustainable system. You think that recession was bad? Imagine what it will be like if we don’t seriously invest in alternative energy soon so that we have viable alternatives to foreign oil. Every time I invest in, or buy from companies that consider People, Planet and Profits I am giving the middle finger to the corporations who greedily put profits over the long term health of people and the environment. For an enlightening talk about how greed prevails over the concern for public health in our food system, I highly recommend Robyn O’Brien’s talk at Tedx Austin.
  3. I think that one day generations will look back at us and say, “You mean to tell me that you KNEW that more energy hits the earth from the sun in one hour that the whole world uses all year, yet you STILL blew the tops off of mountains for coal, and went to war over oil? What do you mean that your food travelled 1500 miles to get to you? You did WHAT to the groundwater, soil, and pollinators? You are really lucky that there small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens that changed the world.” And when my relatives go on Who Do You Think You Are, I want them to learn that I was not blindly following the more is better mantra of our era, rather I was trying to be the change I wanted to see in the world.
  4. Most importantly, I make the majority of my decisions from a place of love. I am so grateful for the beauty and wonder in this world, that it feels like a privilege – not a burden – to know that my choices – no matter how seemingly mundane – have strengthened my strand in the web.

Whatever your reason for choosing to make more eco-friendly choices, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. My yoga poses will never win me a spot on the cover of Yoga Journal, but they have taught me how important it is to be in alignment – not only on the mat – but also in the world.

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