Keynote Address - 13th Annual Affordable

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Perry Bigelow - Spirituality of Sustainability Given at the 13th Annual Affordable Comfort Conference, April 21, 1999

I am really delighted to be here today.

They say that a prophet is without honor in his own city.

You know that an expert is a person with a briefcase a 1000 miles from home.

Since Chicago is my home, I'm not quite sure what to make of this.

I'm either really brilliant, or Affordable Comfort is really cheap!

I guess you know which is most likely.

I was born in Michigan. We moved to Florida when I was five.

We spent 5 - 6 months in Michigan every summer. We stayed on Uncle Jim's farm in a trailer - we were so far from town that we went toward town to go hunting.

Uncle Jim's family was quite well off, they had a classic 2 holer, - although I don't ever remember more than one hole being used at a time.

I don't remember being too young to ride my bike down the gravel road to my sister's house 1 mile away. I often stopped at the woods to chase squirrels or at the creek to catch tadpoles or a frog but you had to hold the frog a certain way, because if he peed on you, you'd get a wart like on Aunt Mable's forehead.(For some reason we never thought to ask how a frog had peed on Aunt Mable's forehead!)

When I was 9, Dad bought a haybaling machine. Do you know what determined the year he bought the haybaler? It was the summer Dad thought I could safely and skillfully drive a tractor. So at 9 I drove a tractor pulling a haybaler down the back roads of Tuscola County. It was a bit scary crossing the state highway.

As a 9-year-old I had a lot of range - a lot of freedom - a lot of responsibility.

Clayton lived a half mile down the road, many evenings we built castles and tunnels in his barn with bales of straw - big - king sized blocks.

When I was 12 dad and mom bought an old house in town. It was a classic "L" shaped farmhouse with a big wrap around porch. I can't tell you how many afternoons I spent on that porch - playing games with my friends or watching and listening to the rain.

Fairgrove was a classic rural town with a state highway that turned right at the 4 way stop in the middle of town. The only heavy industry we had was a 300# Avon lady.

Dad was an incentivizing entrepreneur. He paid my brother and me by the hour -plus we got a half penny a bale. In addition to that if a farmer was short of help, Dad allowed me to load bales for the farmer then I was making money 3 ways.

By the time I was 12, dad no longer followed me in the car.

He'd take care of business while I moved from one farm to the next. Now I really had range - and freedom.

Believe it or not these vignettes of my childhood have something to do with Affordable Comfort and the sustainable communities we now build.

In the 70's we had an oil crisis.

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