By AMMI MIDSTOKKE
“Mom! I am going to be a TED talker!” I exclaimed, beside myself with the fantasies of future success, book deals, and perhaps an invitation to a New Year’s party at Elton John’s house.
“Ted who?” she asked.
It is good to live in a small town where we are comfortably isolated from the rapid advancement of technology, communication, and abbreviated language our brethren city folk embrace. It gives us a different perspective, a simple and humbling one. I am not going to be as famous as I think, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because all my mom wants to know is how it impacts my availability to share pulled pork recipes with her.
She’s onto something. A good pot of wood-stove cooked pulled pork is far more meaningful than a fleeting appearance on stage. Still…
Now if you don’t know what these little shindigs are, TED talks are brief lectures by humans considered to have ideas worth spreading.
My generation and those younger than myself treat these golden nuggets of information as if it were YouTube on a an ivy league college education. If the internet were a 1960s party in a New York loft of progressive thinkers, artists, and scientists, it would be at TED.com. The topics range everything from gardening to gender identity to the microbiome to how to be charming on a first date. I’m sure there’s a Berkley class on that too.
I thought I was pretty awesome until my electrician (who is Mormon, older than me, and wears a kilt) asked me to clarify: “Are you going to do a TED talk or just a TEDx talk?” (Thanks for that, Sparky. While I’m impressed that you are familiar with millennial methods of media, I may never forgive you this observation and intend on forever drinking coffee and beer when you’re about explaining how my solar panels work.)
Just so I don’t get ahead of myself and start looking for someone at Chanel to design my red carpet (or stage) outfit, let’s clarify that I’m only going to be a TEDx speaker, which is an independently organized subsection of TED hosted in Spokane.
Funnily enough, my speech is on exactly that. No, not being humble or the benefits of caffeine, but how and why we should create connections to the systems that support us.
This year, I did a veritably crazy thing and moved to ten acres of granite and trees (mostly granite) in an off-grid cabin just west of town. The learning curve, I might add, is steep. I did not even know how much stuff I didn’t know until I started a chimney fire, flooded my straw bale walls, and adopted several hundred orphan stink bugs as house pets.
But what I have been learning every day is that the connections I am creating to my environment have made me healthier and happier. Except for when I am actually physically connected to a stink bug.
I like observing how much power I gain and store from the sun on a clear day. I like conserving my power use and increasing my awareness of frivolous expenditures in lights, hair dryers, and plugged in charging devices. And I love wandering into my garden to pluck tomatoes for dinner, apples to make a cobbler, or clear ground squirrels from traps (their voracious appetites fuel my gardening frustrations).
I have found great joy and happiness in the experience of producing my own electricity, water, and food. Not surprisingly I have also found it rewarding that I am capable of learning entirely new things (like how an inverter works). The mental, emotional, and physical benefits of such relationships to the daily sustenance and shelter of my family is blatant.
It is also rather trendy and perhaps even commonplace in North Idaho. In 1985 my parents moved here and raised us off-grid. Every day I meet more people making their own power, fermenting their own food, or growing their own gardens.
The beauty of it is that the benefits can be achieved at every scale. And precisely this is the idea worth spreading that I will dive into on October 21st. Whoever you are, wherever you live, you can create more connection to your systems of vitality and improve your life and the health of the planet.
Many of you are already doing it: going to the farmer’s market, buying local, growing kitchen herb gardens, riding your bikes, recycling! Some of us just need a little encouragement. We might not exactly know how do to those things, but we are incredibly capable of learning. As far as I can tell, all one needs is a sense of humor and a little patience.
And maybe a fire extinguisher.
If you’d like to see Ammi speak or join the TEDx conference in Spokane on Saturday, October 21st, tickets are available at www.tedxspokane.com