Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guestblogger Midwife and Author Patricia Harman on 5 Sites to Help You Go Green

To the average reader this might seem silly, but we writers tend to obsess about publishing-- so should it be any suprise that what first caught my attention about Patricia Harman's books was that they are published by Beacon? For those of you don't know Beacon, it's one of the finest small literary presses in the U.S. (it also happens to be the publisher of my amiga Sara Mansfield Taber's splendid Bread of Three Rivers.) So I knew Patricia Harman's memoirs, based on her many years of caring for women as a lay-midwife and later, as a nurse-midwife, had to be something very special. Harman's first book, The Blue Cotton Gown, is about her patients; her second, the recently published Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey, tells the story of growing up during one of the most turbulent times in America and becoming an idealistic home-birth midwife.

From the dust jacket text:

Drawing heavily on her journals, Arms Wide Open goes back to a time of counter-culture idealism that the boomer generation remembers well. Patsy opens with stories of living in the wilds of Minnesota in a log cabin she and her lover build with their own hands, the only running water being the nearby streams. They set up beehives and give chase to a bear competing for the honey. Patsy gives birth and learns to help her friends deliver as naturally as possible.

Weary of the cold and isolation, Patsy moves to a commune in West Virginia, where she becomes a self-taught midwife delivering babies in cabins and homes. Her stories sparkle with drama and intensity, but she wants to help more women than healthy hippie homesteaders. After a ten-year sojourn for professional training, Patsy and her husband, Tom, return to Appalachia, as a nurse-midwife and physician, where they set up a women's-health practice. They deliver babies together, this time in hospitals; care for a wide variety of gyn patients; and live in a lakeside contemporary home--but their hearts are still firmly implanted in nature. The obstetrical climate is changing. The Harmans' family is changing. The earth is changing, but Patsy's arms remain wide open to life and all it offers.

Her memoir of living free and sustainably against all odds will be especially embraced by anyone who lived through the Vietnam War and commune era, and all those involved in the back-to-nature and natural-childbirth movements.

"There are more honest, revealing moments here than in many memoirs. Harman, whose prose is sparse but not simple, covers a span of decades, deftly revealing her own youthful struggles with identity through the children we witnessed her raising earlier in her book, revealing, in short, a full life." —Publishers Weekly

+ + + + +

Five Great Websites to Help You Go Green, A Little Bit at a Time
By Patricia Harman

Once, I confess, I was a total eco-freak. Forty years ago, I lived in a cabin without electricity and running water. We used hand tools because we didn’t want to waste non-renewable resources like oil and gas. We tilled the soil by hand, grew our own food organically, canned it in mason jars and stored it in a root cellar we dug into the side of the hill.

Looking back, I wonder at our extreme life, but at the time we were worried about pesticides like DDT killing the eagles and power plants polluting the air. We were looking for a way to live lightly and sustainably on the earth.

Then for thirty years, in the rush of raising kids, going back to school and working as a midwife 70 hours a week, I forgot all that. We moved up in the world, started our own OB-Gyn practice, got a house on the lake, two gas-guzzling vehicles and a jet ski. My youthful ideals receded to an amusing antidote about my past.

Lately, however, my conscience has bothered me. The world we face now seems so much more dangerous than in 1970s. With climate change, extreme weather, the disappearance of honey bees and wars in the Middle East fueled by competition for oil, my concerns about the environment have returned

Now, I’ll admit, I’m not interested in returning to a life without running water, electricity, or indoor plumbing, but I’m worried enough to begin altering my ways. Maybe it’s time, for all of us, to again consider how we can live more sustainably. Maybe it’s time we all think about what we can do to save Mother Earth. Maybe it’s time we all consider how we can be a little more green.

Here are some websites I’ve found helpful and inspiring on this, not so extreme, journey.

1. Natural Life Magazine
(35 years of inspiring articles about green family living.)

2. Mother Nature Network
(Recycling, home renovation, sustainable communities)

3. Mother Earth News
(Guide to Living Wisely, how to do it)

4. The Green Grandma
(Homey and witty)

5. Sustainable Communities
(The big picture…world view)

--- Patricia Harman CNM, midwife and author

+ + + + +

--> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blogs, click here.
Recent guest-bloggers include travel writer and reporter Gerry Hadden ; master gardener and spirituality reporter Mare Cromwell; and narrative arquitect and app designer Julia Sussner.