“The future with less oil could be better than the present, but only if we engage in designing this Transition with creativity and imagination. “
–Rob Hopkins, co-founder,
Transition Network movement
Here’s a dream that Don had, which I’ve embellished a bit with thoughts running through my head because I once had a dream like this too…
The time isn’t now, but it may not be too far from now, and I’m walking through the Valley. Something’s changed. It’s not in the houses, though they’re very different; or in the roads, which lack autos; or in the air, which just feels easier to breathe; or in the sometimes silent, reverent hush that falls over everything. It’s in the people I’m going to visit.
They’re planning on re-developing a piece of land we all know about — a real wreck of a neighborhood that was lost in a quake or abandoned by its tenants or burned in a fire that got out of control. One of the old places that hasn’t been re-done because our time was spent in other places that equally needed attention.
The first thing they talk about is the Boundary; there’s one between all of the neighborhoods now. Food Forests, wild zones which provide various sustenance needs and offer corridors for animals to pass through without having to concern themselves with us. Boundaries take a long time and a lot of space to grow out properly so it’s only right we discuss it first.
Then the plan for the neighborhood is brought up and I realize that I’ve missed something in the dialogue, something very important. Something amazing. “Short-term” means a single lifetime. Anything less than “short-term” isn’t really worth discussing in council. Centuries are more their speed. The designs they’re talking about — they are planning for generations.
Houses are crafted into the landscape, long mounds like squat hills, covered in grass and flowers, “shrubs” poking out of the “roof” that turn out to be the tops of trees, the trunks resting in a center square of the house. Whole mountainsides are in the process of being re-shaped; swales cut to channel the rare rainwaters and bring them down into covered rivers for storage. Dwellings, well into the ”long-term” phase, have rooftops shaped out of living wood which have been persuaded to grow together until their limbs interlock as tight as any planned roof. Living buildings, elegant and invisible, exist in a beautiful landscape that is shaped as much as celebrated.
All their major projects are planned to take several generations to complete; everyone is involved in completing projects their distant ancestors had started or working on projects that their distant descendants will complete.
But here’s the strangest part, to me, especially in the busy world we live in today. Since the projects involved long stretches of time — and everyone knew it — the amount of effort required during any given day by any one project was modest. There’s time for family, for connections, for courting, for creating, for dreaming and for considering. It’s not that we “have” more time. We take it — we recognize it — as a precious commodity, not squandered or lost but celebrated moment by moment. The grand plans — the living house, covered rivers, shifted landscape — these plans could take a few decades or more because that’s what the environment taught us. The important things take time. These are the Long Moments and rushing them isn’t going to get it done any better. The short moments — these are in a child’s laugh, a friend’s call, the simple work we do — these are time-sensitive, time-short and that’s why we make sure to remove ourselves from the long-time to openly respect the present.
That’s all of it, for now, except for one last note. This wasn’t a dream of some faraway place, of some strange utopia that could never come true. It was a dream of here, the Valley. And what a wonderful feeling that is.