A recent sunset in the bay lands near my house. Did I ruin the experience by trying to capture it?  Photo by Neal Gorenflo.

A recent sunset in the bay lands near my house. Did I ruin the moment by trying to capture it? Photo by Neal Gorenflo.

It’s been too long since my last #LocalYear update. There are two reasons — one perhaps understandable, one somewhat unexpected. We’ve been shorthanded at Shareable for the last three months during a very busy and taxing period with crisis piled on crisis (pandemic, wildfire smog, my son’s school starting). I’ve weathered it pretty well overall, but my energy has suffered. By the end of these past work weeks, I’ve felt pretty tired if not exhausted. Sometimes I write on weekends, but I’ve needed them to recharge.   

The other reason is that I just haven’t felt like it. That’s because I’ve settled into my local life. There’s a part of me that just wants to live it and not have to write about it. This is problematic given I committed to blog my life experiment, not to mention that I am in the media business. This is my mission! That said, there’s a stubborn, conflicting impulse in me to take in what’s happening, be present, and fully enjoy it without having to think about how I’m going to present the experience to others.  

Maybe you’ve faced a similar situation. Say you’re watching a beautiful sunset. Do you just watch it, take it all in, and fully enjoy it? Or, because it’s so photogenic, do you decide to take a picture, or most likely a series of pictures to try to do it justice? You might also be thinking about how you’re going to share it online and how many likes it’ll get. 

If you do that latter, you might find that it disrupts up your ability to be fully present and take it in. You can say to yourself that you saw a beautiful sunset and hold that intellectually, but you might have missed the chance to let the moment sink in and experience awe, which scientists say contributes to well being. In other words, you may have ruined the moment. 

More and more, I’m in the former camp. I have my smartphone in my pocket, but I leave it there and just enjoy what I’m experiencing. I have thousands of pictures of beautiful moments that I never go back to, but I’ll only have this moment, this life, once. Plus, the photos never seem to do those moments justice.  

That’s been one of the big reminders of my local year — the pleasures and perhaps the necessity to function and feel well of being right there, right here, in the moment. I’m actually pretty bad at being perhaps the most local you can get. But when I’m able to be here now, to borrow a phrase, it’s magical and sometimes even transcendent. 

It’s in those awe-inspiring moments where my cares melt away, I feel fulfilled, and I experience a refreshing and expansive sense of gratitude. Being present is such a simple, yet profound gift to yourself and others. It’s enlivening and enlightening. 

Mystical musings aside, I have been busy with my local life. Just because I’ve left off writing about it for a bit doesn’t mean I’ve left off living it. Just the opposite. I’ve filled my life up with it. It’s become a habit and also a refuge in these trying times. Back in March, I committed to one hour a day of local activity among other things. I’m doing that and more. 

Often that consists of walking out my back door into our community’s common area to find something to fix or maintain. There’s always something. I have been doing several irrigation system repairs every week. I’ve expanded that to plant and tree care because the two are so intertwined. Both also require constant attention. This gets me out of the house and also in touch with my neighbors. 

Thinning brush in our common area. Photo by Neal Gorenflo.
Thinning brush in our common area. Photo by Neal Gorenflo.

A recent encounter is typical. A neighbor alerted me to an irrigation leak through our neighborhood Slack channel. His son found it and he passed on the information to me. Coincidentally, they came out while I was fixing the leak. We chatted for a bit while the son watched me work. In the process, the son pointed out yet another leak nearby. It took me about an hour to fix both. I messaged the dad afterward and asked him to tell his son, good job. 

Squirrels chew up our irrigation system. I had to replace this leaky swing arm, one of hundreds of repairs and adjustments over the last few months. Photo by Neal Gorenflo.
Squirrels chew up our community’s irrigation system. I had to replace this leaky swing arm, one of hundreds of repairs and adjustments I’ve made over the last few months. Photo by Neal Gorenflo.

This is just one snapshot of what I’m experiencing on a day to day basis. In my next posts, I’ll share more about what I’ve been up to. It’s a lot. Stay tuned.  


This post is part of Neal Gorenflo’s year-long experiment in living locally (#LocalYear). Follow his journey by reading other posts in the series.

Neal Gorenflo


Neal Gorenflo | |

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder and board president of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news, action network, and consultancy for the sharing transformation. An epiphany in 2004 inspired Neal to

Things I share: Time with friends and family, stories, laughs, books, tools, ideas, nature, resources, passions, my network.