My neighbor down the block has a tree strung with ribbons and, spinning at the end of each ribbon is a laminated New Yorker cartoon. They switch them out often. Someone told me the house is owned by a librarian and the neatness of every punched hole and addition of weights to keep them from spinning into knots–that’s the detail of a librarian. It’s the ultimate destination for an evening stroll.
Down in front of my house, I’ve been working on some neighbor engagement of my own…though I’ll be the first to say that vegan activism is significantly less enticing than comics.
I live across the street from a grocery store and the foot traffic in the summer is immense. Inspired by the #VeganChalkChallenge, I put chalk to sidewalk, but so far, I haven’t been too impressed with my artistic abilities. It looks like the work of a precocious yet passionate child (though as far as activism goes, perhaps that’s a good marketing angle…?).
However, I’ve been encouraged by the people who’ve stopped to read my messages. I peek joyfully at them from behind the curtains and hiss at my husband, “I’ve got someone!” Some seem thoughtful and read all of the messages, panel to panel.
I even had a nice interaction with an older couple as I was working on one iteration of it. Sweating in the evening sun and covered in chalk, I apologized meekly for my activism and they waved it away, smiling. Then the man read aloud, “‘Chickens dream.’ Huh,” and I’ll admit it…my eyes (and heart) welled up. But to be clear: I understand politeness–especially from neighbors. Who knows what they really thought? I do think putting a kinda face to the colorful insanity can only help.
But the people who stopped to read–even my childish scrawling–it encouraged me.
I’ve decided to branch out into something that’s more my speed–writing. I’m adding a weather-resistant brochure holder to my picket fence where I’ll share info. Like a poetry box, but a vegan resource box. I’m already excited about what will go into it–recipes, Portland vegan restaurant guides, resources, fact sheets, these pamphlets I ordered from Mercy For Animals…
And similar to my neighbor’s cartoon tree, I’m considering creating pennant bunting along my cute little picket fence. From the distance, it would look festive! Not crazy at all! But up close, each flag would carry a different animal agriculture fact and cite its source. (For starters? All this surprising environmental info from the [poorly named, IMHO] documentary, Cowspiracy.
The physical aspect of the task seems somewhat daunting (do I print it? Do I hand write it? How do I cut the triangle flags? What makes me look less crazy?). I’ve never been very neat and presentation here matters as much as the message. But as a writer and researcher, I’m SO amped up to jump in and organize my ideas and the facts and lay things out. Maybe I’ll make an editorial calendar for my fence.
I’m not crazy. I’m inspired.
I’ve already ordered the brochure box. I’ve got the paper for the bunting…and here’s the first note that will go in the box, to set the stage.
WHAT IS ALL THIS?
Q: HOW CAN YOU TELL IF SOMEONE IS VEGAN?
A: DON’T WORRY—THEY’LL TELL YOU!
Hi! I’m vegan. Of course I would tell you. But I wasn’t always vegan. In fact, I never thought I’d be vegan. Who goes vegan? Weirdos. People with too much time. Hippies. Yuppies. Soft-hearted, soft-headed, and woo-woo people.
But the thing is, I’m not any of those things, really. I’m a Central Oregonian. I grew up fishing, shooting guns, riding horses, and enjoying the heck out of locally butchered elk-pepperoni. Now I’m a writer and 2 years ago, I watched the wrong PETA video. I spent weeks doing the research to try to disprove it. I’ve been vegan ever since.
So the reason I tell people I’m vegan? It’s because my only regret about being vegan is not doing it sooner. (Turns out, that’s the most common vegan regret.)
I know that people who choose local, free-range, grass-fed, cage-free, farmer’s market animal products truly want to choose a better life—and death—for animals. But many haven’t made the connection between these labels and what they look like in reality. I know—I spent years buying cage-free eggs from the same local farmer…but never once thought about the eggs in I ate in baked goods, processed foods, or at restaurants. (I also never considered what it takes to keep a cow producing milk–i.e. babies. I feel like an idiot.)
I know that if more people were confronted by the impact of their food choices, if they were asked to defend them, if they did a small amount of research, they too would discover that their morals, their love for animals, and their want for a better planet do not align with the options on their dinner table.
I want to share that something can be done. That a plant-based diet is healthy, practical, doable, and tasty—especially in Portland, one of the vegan capitals of the U.S.
So please pardon me and my activism here. I can’t help myself. I feel compelled to share. I’m inspired every day by how far my husband and I have come. I’m inspired by the potential of the already enormous hearts of Portlanders. We all have the chance to change the world for the kinder, if only we had a little more information. And that’s what “all this” is: Information.
Please feel free to drop me an email to let me know what you think, ask questions, or to get resources on how to add more vegan foods to your plate. And, if you’re at all interested, I shared my vegan journey here: http://bit.ly/AccidentallyVegan
Cheers from your
P.S. Despite what it seems, this isn’t about “perfection.” It’s about doing what’s possible for you. Whatever your pace, even if you just change one meal a day, or one day a week, it matters! (Confession: It took me 6 years–eek!) Slowly, though, you may realize you don’t need cheese as much as you thought you did–especially as you discover new foods. Also note: We buy 85% of everything we eat at [supermarket name]. It’s not out of reach!