Back in the early 1990s, right before I left Winnipeg and an advertising career, I went to see the movie Green Card, a romantic comedy set in New York City. Bronte (Andie MacDowell) is a horticulturist who volunteers with the Green Guerrillas, a group that gifts gardens to inner city communities. She has her eye on an apartment with a greenhouse. But there’s one hitch; she has to be married to get the apartment. Enter Georges (Gerard Depardieu), an illegal alien who needs a wife to get his green card. They agree to a marriage of convenience. And, well you can probably guess the ending.
So there I was back on the west coast, jobless and homeless, sleeping on a friend’s floor, still resonating with this movie. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, so I took to aimless wandering. One day in a bookstore, I picked up a magazine I’d never read before called the Utne Reader. And what’s the first article I open to? “Zen,Wheelbarrows, and Collard Greens.” The author, Dan Barker from Portland, Oregon, gave away gardens just like Bronte did in the movie. It’s real, I thought. Maybe I could do something like that.
The very next day I was wandering up a street I had walked many times before, when suddenly a sign jumped into my path: The Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden. And well, the rest is history.
A few years ago I went to India on a research trip for my second book. When I returned I plunged into the depths of despair. Although I’ve travelled in many developing countries, for some reason, India hit me hard. I understood at a very deep level how the global economic forces were designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. I wallowed for four months, until a friend sent me an article from Orion Magazine. It was called “Beyond Hope” by a guy named Derrick Jensen. It starts off with, “We’re f-ed.” You’d think that would have depressed me even more. Instead the light went back on.
These two magazines changed my life. Gave me new perspective at critical moments. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been transformed by the excellent and inspiring writers in both. They are the best of the alternative press. Think about giving these magazines to your family and friends this Christmas or supporting the mags with a donation.