Our balcony feels a little crowded right now, but we like it that way. We have flanked on each side a row of potted bean plants. Atop our discarded, poorly designed half of a bookshelf from Walmart sits our box of squash plants (which have begun to flower nicely). Basil grows tall and proud in our little containers. Two strings of twine cut our balcony into neat rows, our towels and pants hanging to dry. Two bags of potting soil sit in one corner while our mini-barbecue sits in the other.
As we sat at the dining room table right outside our balcony, my wife comments on how “urban” we’ve become. She can’t put her finger on it – she’s not sure why she feels so “urban” right now. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been thinning our material possessions out of necessity, or maybe it’s the fact that we’ve begun to maximize space (again out of necessity). Maybe it’s the balcony with clothes hanging out to dry and plants in pots – a very common urban sight. Or the fact that everything we like is pretty much a walk away. Or that the closest restaurants are not fast food chains, but mom-and-pop, we’ll-greet-you-at-the-door-by-name restaurants. Or it could be the fact that every two days or so, she walks out onto the balcony, picks a sprig of basil for the homemade pizza we’re making tonight, as well as a handful of green beans which she munches on without washing them because we don’t use pesticides and apparently she doesn’t care if a bug pooped on it. Either way, she likes it. We’re happy with where we’re at, which is good, since 90% of satisfaction in life is enjoying life in the present, rather than pining for the past or constantly projecting into the future.
We recently sold some books to Half-Price Books (we made, like, no money. Maybe a .1% return to what we originally paid for them). Despite our poor return on investment, this has whetted our appetite for culling our library even further. Video games we no longer play are sitting in a pile, waiting to be sold. Several movies and television shows also await their fate. And I’ve begun to re-examine how books play a role in my life; I admit I’ve become less of a book reader since most of my reading shifted over to the internet. I’m not entirely convinced that this is a Bad Thing like some people have told me. For some reason, that initial step freed us from the grip that even our most loved possessions can exercise over us. Some books we’ll keep forever, like the Lord of the Rings we purchased on our honeymoon (yes, we’re that nerdy) or my RLDS Book of Mormon from the 1950s, but do we really need five yoga books? Do I absolutely need to keep that book about mall culture or that giant literature textbook I got for free at a seminar over eight years ago? My friend uses Gamestop’s trade-in function to help buy new games. He buys it, devours it, then trades it in for the next best thing. Maybe we can start doing that with books. Or better yet, walk down to the Redmond City library (three blocks away) and check one out.
Either way, there’s something about this recession that makes simplicity and anti-consumerism trendy and chic. That’s not to say we’re completely satisfied – I’m borrowing a mike right now to record podcasts, but I’d really like my own. And we could always use a better computer (though our laptop is performing at its best since we’ve gotten it, so we’re happy). But for now, we’re pretty content. While we don’t want to romanticize true, debilitating poverty, at the same time, there’s something really quaint, even hipster about our refusal to buy smart phones, or an iPad, or even an iPod. There’s something to be said about staying inside on a weekend to listen to reruns of Radio Lab or Wiretap podcasts on the computer instead of paying money to go to the movies.
I don’t know if it’s “urban” life, but it’s something. And we like it.