Sucking it up …

Dunno how much longer I can do this…. Nashville’s in my taillights, but at this rate it’s not clear that I’ll make Colorado.

Our little Embraer jet’s slamming through the sorts of clouds that eat airplanes. Somewhere over Oklahoma. Can only imagine the violence below.

This is the sort of day that makes one wonder if it’s worth it – this life of going down the road.

I’m tired. It’s been a grueling run. Then the plane was two hours late into Nashville cause storms wracked Chicago. Where I was two days ago. After New York and DC in the two days prior. I’ll be back in Chicago early next week. With Colorado and Seattle in Between. Book launches all.

Great people make it bearable. Ah, the myth of Southern hospitality never left Nashville. Add to that some really exciting work on sustainability: on city design, including spongy landscaping to absorb the increasingly violent storms and flooding – Nashville flooded badly a year or so back and now takes water management seriously. On creating sustainability programs at conservative religious schools. On smart transit planning – the Mayor rides the bus to work several days a week. On LEED certification of buildings – they kept pointing out LEED Platinum, Gold, Silver buildings. On local food production – we dined two nights ago at Tayst, an experience that rivals the finest in New York, San Francisco, London…anywhere. The chef, who sources 90% of the food locally, also volunteers to bring healthy nutrition to local public schools. Nashville also specializes mixed use, mixed race developments bringing neighborliness to once blighted sections of town – waiting for a table in the always popular Burger Up at 9:30 the night after my speech at Lipscomb University, a most scholarly African American gentleman joining his wife already inside regaled our group of students, professionals, and city officials about the history of the neighborhood.

But breakfast with the Mayor came way too early. I dodged the politicians at the head table to sit with my friend Tabatha Crawford, who it turned out, was getting a sustainability business leader award at the ceremony. Which meant that my host, Dr Dodd Gailbraith, who runs the Lipscomb Sustainability Institute had to bring the dignitaries over so’s I could shake all the proper hands. I keep forgetting I’m supposed to be on display at these gigs. My fault, I’d sat up entirely too late in the Commodore listening to rotations of songwriters – each singer and his or her guitar, playing for the talent scouts.

Breakfast over, I caught up with Chris Bowles, the very bright Sustainability Director for the city. He got excited as I described how we’ve pivoted away from the learning circle model that our prior California guy had sought to sell the city, returning to our non-profit roots that leaves more value in the community, and uses us to advantage, training people in the local community to spread capacity much more widely, and at a much more affordable price point. Chris listened, then returned shortly with the VP for Existing Business for the Chamber, so that we could explore ways that Natural Capitalism can help the city meet the Mayor’s ambitious goal of making Nashville the greenest city in the Southeast.

Meetings done, I toured the Green Living Fair that opened to the public the next day, greeting sustainability businesses from around the region, sharing ideas with green entrepreneurs working with the tea party communities to enhance genuine prosperity, resilience and quality of life. We agreed that politics become an impediment here, and that we need to be working with communities of faith, even with traditional enemies of progressive activists. Because these folk care just as much about streams that they can fish in, air they can breathe, good locally grown food, affordable housing, the ability to move around, and the sort of community in which they can raise healthy children.

I pedaled electric bicycles, wholly manufactured in Tennessee, and counseled students inspired by my quoting Kate Wolf (find what you really care about and life a life that shows it) seeking career advice.

Then Dodd filled the last of his chauffer duties and dropped me at the airport for the long slog home. I’d saved just enough energy to fall onto an airplane and collapse. So when the gate agent announced that it’d be another two hours…if we were lucky, it caught me hard.

It’s for times like this that the cowboy maxim of “Suck it up,” was spoken.

But writing between bounces and shudders, it’s clear that this trip has taken most of the stuffing out of me. I dimly remember DC, only a couple days ago. Who’d I speak to there…? Oh yeah, Noblis, the huge government research contractor. Then media interviews, supper with green builders, and the early morning run up to NY to speak at Columbia.

Then on to Chicago, then south. To Nashville’s rich mixture of the heart of honky tonks and major religious publishing houses. It’s different being prayed over at sustainability conferences then going drinking at Tootsies Orchid Lounge around the block from the holy mother church of country music (if you’re reading my Tweets you’ll recall that after my first supper with students, conference organizers, and local sustainability experts the night I got in, Dodd took me down to Music Row and we spent til late in the most famous of the Nashville bars, where the afterparties of the Grand Ole Oprey always take place. And where we learned the Tennessee salute: Holler, then swaller – which I obliged with some of Tennessee’s finest.) But I meant it when I told folks that I truly would enjoy an invitation to return to the banks of the Cumberland River.

If the storms ever spit out this fragile little bit of aluminum popcorn, I’ll be speaking my own gratitude for being able to walk on Colorado soil and sleep in my own bed tonight.

And now the air has smoothed, and we’re nosing down. That means that the Rockies are ahead, and the clear cold air of Colorado.

If you’re reading this, I made it home…:-)

 

*****

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