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Self-justifications evolve continuously. Here's a current snapshot of mine.

One can interpret the question of "Why Arkansas?" to mean "Why did you go to Arkansas?" Originally, we came here on the promise of free family land upon which to build and on the promise of free baby-sitting. The family land angle turned out to present many difficulties, so we just went ahead and got a piece of dirt to which we have an unambiguous claim. The free baby-sitting has come thru as promised.

"Why Arkansas?" can also mean, "Why are you staying in Arkansas." The following self-justificatory story, having taken shape in the weeks since we arrived here, speaks more to this second take on the question.

I got email today from a long-time friend of mine. He wrote:

[Subject line: Why Arkansas?]
Maybe I missed something, but why Arkansas. Is it the low cost of living? The highly educated locals? What? I originally thought you might have inherited the family farm, but all of your posts on LJ seem to contradict that.

It seems your family is there and soon you'll be neighboors with the Scarecrow & the Pumpkin [My friend refers to his mother as "the Pumpkin" and her husband as "the Scarecrow." -KMO] That's right, my folks are selling my inheritance...er childhood home and moving to the sticks. (kinda like the Beverly Hillbillies only backwards and with less loot)

I'm not certain where in AR, but it sounded alot like where you are. Where are you exactly?

To which I responded:

Hey There,

Several people have asked me that, so I'll type it out once more and this time post it to my LiveJournal as well as sending it off into the electronic ether.

1) Family: My grandparents, mother, brother, uncle and several cousins now live here in Berryville.

1a) My grandparents won't be around for that much longer, and I'd like to absorb as much of their life experiences as possible in the time remaining. The world that they knew is mostly gone now, and with such a cultural-media mania for the present moving into the future, for wealth and status, for celebrity, I think I would only enrich my life by listening to them and getting into their heads to whatever extent my own mental conditioning will allow. My grandparents, neither of whom finished high school (or even elementary school in my grandmother's case) managed to send all four of their children to university. Unlike most of the people I know, they have maintained a life-long closeness to their children. One of my uncles lives here in Berryville and sees his parents every day. My mother and her sister and other brother make regular trips back to Berryville in order to stay connected to their parents lives. My aunt Eva Mae lives in NYC and still manages to get back here several times a year. I would rather cultivate that kind of relationship with my son than emulate the father-son interaction I experienced when I was in the "son" role.

1b) Parenting Help: It's hard to raise a child. It's easier with the help of female family members who have mothering and grandmothering experience.

2) Money: We've just about burned thru the Amazon.com windfall. It's time for me to start making money, and I really don't want to get another corporate job -- ever. Here, demand for organic produce outstrips the supply, which presents me with a beautiful opportunity.

3) Quality of life: It turns out that time spent outside working hard and interacting with living systems yields a higher quality of life than time spent at a computer or even at a drawing board.

4) Insulation from the vicissitudes of urban existence: I can think of several fairly likely scenarios in which life in major population centers gets very ugly very quickly. In such scenarios, I'd very much like to be living at the end of a very long gravel road in a largely self-sufficient arrangement many many miles from the nearest population center. We'll get our water from a well on our property, heat and cool our house without the need for an external power supply, and harness the power of the sun for an increasing portion of our electricity needs.

Berryville is Northwest Arkansas about 10 miles from the Missouri border.

I think you meant "styx" rather than "sticks."

Arkansas, particularly this area, is no more hickish than Washington State or Colorado. Get outside of King County, and you'll find that Washington consists of little more than high desert and farmland. Get outside of Boulder, and Colorado doesn't exactly set the gold standard for progressive thought.

Patrice, my gardening mentor, left a high-paying job in corporate finance in Los Angeles in order to live here and work the earth. He makes yearly trips to his family home in France. He and his family do not fit the mental image I suspect you hold of Arkansans. He's by no means unique around here.

When I read the way you phrased your question, I imagined that you held a condescending attitude toward the people who live here, and I felt more distant from you when I made that judgment.

Take care.



There are forces friendly to our struggle to birth ourselves as an intelligent species. But they are quiet and shy; they are to be sought, not in the arrival of alien star fleets in the skies of Earth, but nearby, in wilderness solitude, in the ambience of waterfalls, and yes, in the grasslands and pastures now too rarely beneath our feet.

-Terence McKenna




( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 22nd, 2003 12:36 pm (UTC)
Elf Huts
though I wonder...do you plan on setting out those tiny 'elf-huts'?...he he..or have you already?

Actually, yes. I do plan to put up some elf-huts. I haven't yet. The sale closes this Friday, and thereafter I'll start making the place my own.
Jul. 22nd, 2003 12:04 pm (UTC)
a friend of ours just got a HUGE cheque from his parents who sold their property to...get this...an oil company because they found oil!...now ..when i am typing this..i cant recall if it was arkansas or kentucky..ahh..well..
Jul. 22nd, 2003 06:24 pm (UTC)
Black Gold
I read your comment to Lara, and she said that the possible scenario of finding oil on our land posed an intersting moral dilemma.

I said it wouldn't be any sort of dilemma for me. I'd sell the land in a heartbeat and take my oil money and go buy a different patch of dirt on which to set up my self-sufficient, organic/biodynamic, homestead.
Jul. 22nd, 2003 01:04 pm (UTC)
Big city meltdown
I really liked your response to the question "why Arkansas!?!". It has seemed like a wise choice to me for a while now to try and move somewhere that would provide me a better opportunity to be more self sufficient and away from what could turn out to be a very nasty situation in large urban areas in the fairly near future. I wonder if there's such a perpetuated stigma against living out in the "sticks" because more people making the move to a more self sustaining lifestyle closer to the natural world would put a big kink in the push for massive urbanization of the world. It seems so sad to me sometimes that my big dream is to move somewhere that I can provide for myself in the cheapest, least damaging way possible when that's how so many people still lived in the U.S. only a hundered and fifty years ago. I guess it shows how times have changed. Bravo on your current life choices :)
Jul. 22nd, 2003 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Big city meltdown
I wonder if there's such a perpetuated stigma against living out in the "sticks" because more people making the move to a more self sustaining lifestyle closer to the natural world would put a big kink in the push for massive urbanization of the world.

Well, I can tell you that the friend whose email I quoted is no advocate of "massive urbanization." He has an inactive LiveJournal, and in his user profile he lists "anti-globalization" among his interests. He's very active physically and a lover of camping and outdoor adventure.

We both grew up in the mid-west, and I think that he succumbs to the temptation to disparage rural people who lack a certain kind of sophistication because, like me, his family roots connect him with rural people who hold "traditional values." Some of those values, e.g. racism and homophobia, offend him (and me), and he is anxious to distance himself from them and possibly confused as to why I don't make the same sorts of associations and accompanying value judgments with regard to rural people that he does. That's the story I make up, anyway.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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