Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Sustainable Life

Creating a sustainable life means providing for yourself and your family in a way that is balanced, without the steadily impending doom of your resources. The garden is useful for this.

It's enlivening to be in nature and watch plants you've cultivated grow. Your efforts increase your resources instead of depleting them. I'd much rather spend time in the garden digging and growing food than sifting through a sale rack for an outfit designed to impress others. But then, maybe I'm just the outdoors type.

A couple of years ago I was writing a magazine article and was sent on a press junket to Alisal Guest Ranch near Santa Barbara. Down at the lake, the activities director gestured to the rippling waters surrounded by rolling hills. "This is my office," he said. " I love coming to work every day." A twinge shot through my system. I wanted it to be my office too. I'd spent countless years staring at a computer writing scripts or cooped up inside a studio.

Fortunately I enjoy my work... and admit, there've been perks. I've been flown first class around the world. Walked down the red carpet at the Academy Awards. Danced next to Robert Duvall at the Governor's Ball and listened to Barbara Streisand sing at her Malibu home.

George Burns performed an impromptu soft shoe in front of me at a party. Clint Eastwood teased me in a green room. I've worked with Betty White, John Ritter, and Bob Hope. Met Oprah, Ellen, Natalie Maines and Whoopi Goldberg. Interviewed celebrities like Paula Abdul and Glenn Close and rode TV's Black Stallion through the tree-lined trails of Paris.

I've sat in a dressing room backstage at the Hollywood Bowl opposite the iconic Liza Minelli. Watched Chuck Norris work out in his home gym in Texas, talked editing schedules with Quentin Tarantino at a Hollywood screening, chatted on the phone with Carol Burnett and pitched Lily Tomlin a series from the backseat of her Prius. I've written dialogue for the likes of Mickey Rooney, Helen Reddy, Shannon Tweed and Adrian Pasdar. And a live tiger strode past me on a chain while on location in Australia. In my career there have been thrills and chills. But as I look back on my highlight reel, nothing compares to the halcyon days of my youth, where I was truly at one with nature. Tubing carefree in a lake at the cottage, lying on dewy grass at midnight watching the aurora borealis roil overhead, or assisting a heifer into the world at my uncle's farm.

Those days were filled with corn roasts, hay rides and skating parties. We picked wild blueberries in the bush at Muskoka. Sang around blazing campfires and smeared clay dug out of quarries on our faces for spa masks. The simple. The easy going. The authentic.

Creativity is rewarding, but the pursuit of a glamorous life without substance is worthless. Most celebrities will attest to that. Why else is Brad Pitt building homes in the gulf, Sean Penn working in Haiti, Oprah erecting schools in Africa. They need more. This economic crisis has been a wake-up call for everyone. Priorities are shifting. We're getting real now. More than a few are starting to shun the drone of "what's in" and "what's out" to decide for themselves. Realizing that the "red carpet" is really just a smelly old wad of rug that is a publicity tool. It's not something to aspire to, in and of itself.

The clever are making strides toward sustainable lifestyles. The foolhardy continue down the consumer nightmare path: swiping credit cards and dodging calls from collection agencies. When I check in with myself, I realize I've experienced more thrills unearthing newborn potatoes from the soil than counting A-listers at a Hollywood party.

Something happens when you hit the mid-century mark. You deepen. If you're worth your salt, you cast aside the noise of the material and reconnect with the essential. What do you truly love? What's important? Who do you care about? What's it all mean? These are the questions. Meanwhile, gardening helps.

Sitting here at my desk now, I look down at the garden beckoning below. I should get back to that script, but--