Editorial – Issue 25, Finding our own way

I have been truly inspired by reading some of the books discussed in this issue, notably Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes (Interview, page 8), In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré (Going Slow, page 29) and Biodynamics in Practice by Tom Petherick (reviewed on page 18).

These books have encouraged me to re-evaluate my priorities and have given me the confidence to pursue what I already instinctively felt was right for me and our family.

This issue features many people who have made alternative life choices that suit their families – Alice Griffin lives on a narrow boat, Paula Cleary has found the courage to make her own parenting decisions, and Sue Willis discovered a different approach to reducing her family’s carbon footprint.

Having the strength to make your own decisions and stand out from the norm is an admirable trait. Putting together this issue I realised I’d unwittingly featured many aspects of the life my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Daphne Coward, led. They were organic farmers (when it was ridiculed rather than admired); Grandad carved toys and furniture and made fantastic wine; Granny knitted socks and nightcaps for Grandad and home schooled local children; they made their own bread and were inspired by the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. For their day, they were definitely Radical Homemakers.

They died when I was a teenager and I wish they were alive today so that I could discuss what I’m learning through JUNO. I was too young to appreciate their idiosyncrasies, but looking back I realise how much their independent thought has influenced who I am today.

They made decisions about what was right for them and their lifestyle, regardless of what others thought. Some people may think that ideas discussed in this issue are crazy when our modern world has developed technology to solve problems or reduce work – why wash your sanitary pads when disposables have been designed?

But that, for me, misses the point. In Honoré’s book, Bruna Sibille, deputy mayor of Bra, Italy says “being a Slow City does not mean stopping everything and turning back the clock… we want to strike a balance between the modern and the traditional that promotes good living.”

For me, this is the key to technology, a complex issue that I plan to discuss in future issues. If we can take the good bits of technology and use them to make our lives more fulfilled and sustainable, so much the better. But it’s not always the case that the modern way is best.

There is much we can learn from the past to improve the future. Thirty years ago, my grandfather was full of wise words that I ignored as a child but live by today. I try to maintain the courage to make decisions that work for our family, even if they may be derided for being “old-fashioned” or traditional. I believe that it is through traditions that society thrives and communities are strengthened. I thank my grandparents for what they taught me by their example, even if I was not aware of it at the time.