It is Day 5 of my Living Deliberately Blog. I wrote at the end of yesterday’s blog that Ken and I had moved to rural Warren County hoping to “dig deep roots together and to live simply, wisely, and deliberately” in the spirit that Thoreau had lived at Walden. I also said that our hopes had become realities far different than we had anticipated.
There was so much that Ken and I didn’t know when we chose to move to our cabin in the woods of the Afton community of Warren County, North Carolina and to get teaching jobs in the area. We knew that we loved the privacy conducive to our interests in reading, writing, and painting; we knew we loved the humble, rustic, natural beauty of the place and that we wanted to become more self-reliant, including growing a garden and heating with wood. We knew that we had friends who welcomed us as family.
What Ken and I did not know was that the year after our move to Warren County our privacy would be obliterated, and our lives would become public; that our peace of mind would be shattered and our time and personal resources consumed as community leaders in a political battle over a toxic PCB landfill that would span decades and become epic. We did not know that Afton would be targeted as a toxic waste sacrifice zone and that we would be calling on the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and of Dr. Martin Luther King to guide us in a four-year, non-violent campaign that ended with six-weeks of civil disobedience and that become known for launching the environmental justice movement and for “transforming environmentalism.”
Ken and I did not know that we would become environmental educators, waste disposal experts, and regulatory and policy analysts and that a decade later we would speaking out against failed, EPA-approved, dry-tomb landfills; soldiering as community leaders through a fraudulent, politicized, tortuous PCB landfill cleanup process while raising our children, Uri and Kyra, and that battle fatigue was probably one of the main contributing factors to our eventual separation and divorce. Nor did we know when we built next to the cabin our chapel house as a place for environmental activists to gather, that it would become Ken’s home, that the cabin would become mine, and that we would continue our work together as environmental educators and activists even as we both have significant others in our lives.
Mom used to point out that it’s usually fortunate that we can’t see the future, and from the trajectory of Ken’s and my lives, I can see why for us this is true. We would have become paralyzed. It’s a good thing that Ken and I couldn’t have seen what lay ahead — the sacrifice, the exhaustion, the frustration, that defending our county and all targeted communities would require. Otherwise, we likely would not have made the choices we made.
As sad as the outcome of these choices has been at times, I can honestly say that I don’t regret most of them, minus the fact that Ken’s and my nearly thirty-year marriage fell apart and that the pain of it cost our children. I don’t regret fighting for environmental justice and pollution prevention. I don’t regret the hours, the days, the pro bono years of my life that Ken and I served as grassroots leaders; that we poured over difficult technical and legal documents; that we attended important meetings and hearings which were both excruciatingly boring and terribly contentious; that we laboriously wrote years of letters to the editors and letters to the Governor and other public officials; that we met, debated with, and politically stood up to local, state, and EPA officials; that we implored the ecumenical community to act in behalf of justice; that we went door-to-door and conducted community organizing phone campaigns, and I don’t regret that we marched, protested, and were arrested as a part of living deliberately.
In tomorrow’s blog, I intend to share a synopsis for a book that I have written about the seminal Warren County, North Carolina PCB landfill history. I am presently looking at my best publishing options, including submitting the manuscript to publishers interested in expose histories written in first-person narrative. My synopsis will help those reading this blog to see why I am compelled to blog with the public and to share my thoughts about living deliberately, especially relating to our how we live with toxic, hazardous, and radioactive aggression.