Finding my #LocalYear rhythm

My son Jake in our community garden plot ready to plant some sunflowers. To his right are some just picked fava beans that our gardening neighbors in the background gave us.

In my last #LocalYear post, I reviewed my progress so far this year and revised three goals. One revised goal was around media use. I committed to no use of screens for solo entertainment and only one hour per weekday of social media use (no evening or weekend use).

So far, that has proven to be an effective way to limit my screen time and, more importantly, free up more time up for #LocalYear activities. And that gets at the real purpose of limiting screen time — shifting my time and attention to activities that are more aligned with my values, will lead to improved well being, and will add to my sense of control and coherence. The latter is especially important during this pandemic when so much is out of my control and there’s an overwhelming amount of information, much of it disturbing and/or conflicting.

While not the complete or perfect tonic, I’m experiencing a change that feels like I’m showing up more for myself, my family, and my neighbors. Being more present in the moment where I live is subtly, but deeply rewarding. The change feels adult in character — not revelatory, but noticeable and sure. It also feels like something that will grow over time as I rebuild my attention span and deepen my local relationships and practices. 

I’m experiencing a change that feels like I’m showing up more for myself, my family, and my neighbors. Being more present in the moment where I live is subtly, but deeply rewarding.

In other words, it feels real, which is pretty refreshing in a world run riot with memes, celebrities, conspiracy theories, scandals, crisis, outrage, concepts, stories, and high octane media all competing for my attention. My and others’ near total immersion in a symbolic world — and one often rigged against you as in the case of Facebook — can’t be healthy. I’ll happily take slow and steady progress, real progress, over what often felt like wheel spinning in my past.

What has that rhythm looked like in the last two weeks? Here’s a sample:

  • I co-lead our first action meeting for my neighborhood Cool Block project on the topic of energy resilient homes. These are normally in person meetings with neighbors, but we did it successfully over Zoom with nine households. During the meeting, the meeting leader and I helped others pick out actions to take to make their homes more energy resilient including having alternate power supplies, emergency lighting, and food and water in case of an emergency. There was also a great discussion about emergency preparedness with lots of tips exchanged, including some from veterans who had been through multiple earthquakes (we’re in California). It went well, but let’s see how we do as a group on completing the tasks. That’s where the rubber hits the road.
  • After this meeting, I got right to work on my Cool Block tasks. I created a five day cache of food, got our emergency lighting in order, and checked our camping stove. I still have a few more tasks to complete before our next meeting.
Finding my #LocalYear rhythm
Just one container of our family’s growing supply of emergency preparedness gear. Being prepared is being a good neighbor.
  • I’ve ramped up engagement in my neighborhood association. I attended a regularly scheduled board meeting and a meeting of a newly formed eco-friendly grounds committee last week. The board meeting was two hours long and covered many agenda items including finances, grounds, pest control, and more. It reminded me just how demanding it is to run a small community of 57 households. The grounds committee meeting was focused on one proposal — planting culinary herbs in the common areas for use by residents. There’s a bigger vision for more local, drought resistant plantings, even more edible plants (the beginnings of a food forest), and a tool sharing library. Now we’re talking! But we’re taking a one small step at a time approach, which is wise given how conservative (in action, not ideology) our association is. 
  • I co-organized a collection of food and toiletries among my neighbors for those in need. A neighbor put out the call and I collected and delivered the supplies. I also facilitated the donation of two bikes. Delivery has been a staple of my #LocalYear activities.
  • I gave a presentation to the all volunteer Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning about Shareable’s Sharing Cities work. I really enjoyed that. The latter part of the meeting was super interesting too. Four Google executives presented their latest office space development plans in Mountain View, their headquarters. The relationship between the city of Mountain View and Google, it’s largest employer and land owner, hasn’t been an easy one. This presentation was a direct plea for support during an upcoming city council meeting, but the group was not universally supportive despite the incredibly slick presentation (renderings, videos, maps, and more), LEED green building standard, and heavy staff presence. I was well aware of Google’s power in town, but I came away with a concrete experience of the resources they can deploy to get their way. I also wondered how volunteer efforts can stand up to highly experienced, full-time staff, world-class communication skills, and big lobbying budgets.
  • Jake, Andrea, and I got our plot in our community garden in order. This has been the best family effort in the garden since we got our plot over five years ago. We almost look like we know what we’re doing! In any case, it’s well ordered. I’d like to move to a permaculture-inspired model in our plot, but that’s going to require another big step up in effort and knowledge. We’ll get there.
  • I’ve been exercising more regularly. I’ve recently added “land paddling” to my jogs or bike rides alternating between the two. Land paddling is where you push yourself with a specialized pole (land paddle) while on a skateboard. It’s a great upper body workout and fun too. I get some props from passersby while doing it, but also some laughs. I’m sure it looks a bit ridiculous, though I like it for that reason too. I think everybody should feel free to move their bodies in public space however they’d like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.
  • The new schedule also has me helping around the house more too, especially during dinner prep. I’ve been the main dishwasher and an unreliable prep cook, but I’m doing more now.

All and all, it’s a more stable, easier to follow routine than before. It’s still early days, but it feels like I’m finding my #LocalYear rhythm.


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