Relief from reality

I have to admit, sometimes writing this column gets depressing. Used to be, if I saw a problem, I imagined the solution had to be fairly clear. These days, I do a lot more research, and this leads me to realize that some of our problems are pretty entrenched. Like the way it would take two sessions of the legislature—or four years—to change our tax structure. That’s just a bummer.

So I really appreciate the episodes that give me real hope for this community. I got a double dose of that after attending two recent community events—Transition Reno and the Electric Auto Association of Northern Nevada’s sustainable art show on Friday and River School’s Artisan fair on Sunday. (Full disclosure: I was a juror and panelist for the sustainable art show).

The River School fair was one of many public events hosted by Tom Stille at his farm/cohousing/picnic ground out at the Strawberry Bridge bend in the Truckee River. It really is a lovely place—full of apple trees, winding paths and stone amphitheatres overlooking a beautiful S-curve in the river. On a hot summer evening, the breezes lift off the river to cool everything down. On Sunday, there was music, a dozen or so local craftspeople selling everything from glass earrings to pottery, mosaics, and henna tattoos. Buckbean sold beer, bluegrass wafted from the stage, little kids chased miniature goats around.

The July 9 event in the city council chambers was the culminating event of a juried art show that was the brainchild of Bob Tregilus of FIT4NV and the electric vehicle association and Ken Henry of Transition Reno. The two collaborated with Artown to solicit pieces from local artists to create their vision of a sustainable future for Reno. Bob asked me to be a juror for the exhibit, and as my first experiences, as such, I was very impressed by the range of vision and media, as well as the fact that several pieces came from local high school and TMCC students. The works ranged from full-sized paintings and multimedia installations by professional artists to architectural renderings and performance pieces.

What did the future of Reno look like in the hands of these creative genii? A city full of fruit trees and a gleaning project to get the fruit in the hands of hungry people. A community of people who reject fear-mongering in favor of the potentialist drive within. A network of interlinked community hubs, each with its own renewable power source, local food market, public transportation center, recycling and reclamation center, gathering places and live/work housing structures. Geothermally-heated Moana pool becomes a hydroponic nursery supplying local restaurants with gourmet microgreens year-round. A shimmering, colorful downtown twilight street filled with colorfully-dressed people on their way to some festive occasion.

Viewing these works, I was reminded of a recent article on the importance of beauty to sustainability by Sandra Lubarsky: “If we endeavor to mould a civilization in which wholeness, coherence, relationality, and feeling are central concerns,” she writes, then beauty must be embraced as a guiding principle.” It’s a new thought and a very old one. It’s a thought that rejects much of the relativity and superficiality that has governed our modern ideas of beauty for a more ancient principle, one that finds beauty in the harmony of nature and spirituality—like the beauty of the summer sun’s last rays striking the sandstone bluffs above the River School, or the beauty of fresh-picked, homegrown peas and a high school student’s vision of a healthy, hope-filled future.