19 Sep

A full-circle tangents blog on Crawdads, Cities and Swamps.

You’ve likely heard the phrase by Ghandi “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  It’s a popular phrase for good reason.

We are in control.

In my talks I dive into the many facets of happiness and the focus is always on our ability to be in control of our brain chemistry, our words, our interactions with others and our community.  Choosing to change your brain chemistry takes 21 days of repetition and in the grand scheme of things that habit flip is as easy as a Sunday morning.  Choosing to change our communication patterns is more challenging and takes consistent effort to develop new habits.  Changing our community – either your work community or where you live – by either moving to your “right community” or being the change in your existing community is a much larger task.  Nonetheless, you’re in control of those decisions.

Tangent: Oddly, crayfish (AKA crawdads) have found their way into my life lately and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy not one but TWO low country boils this summer.  Wheeee! The latest boil was in Annapolis at the home a longtime friend from my time in Barbados eons ago when dinosaurs roamed the Caribbean.  My work this week sent me to the Annapolis area to present at the Transportation Association of Maryland conference and afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with “Susie” and her family.  We assembled around a table on their porch and feasted on shrimp, corn, sausage and potatoes and in “local style” we dabbed our munchies into the little anthills of Old Bay on the newspaper in front of each of us. Damn good!

Susie has worked on the Chesapeake Bay for a few decades now and is a top-notch scientist and first rate nerd. I call her a nerd lovingly and when we spoke of Colorado’s crawfish (more on that in a minute) she said they thrive in clean water.  Clean water and Colorado is a wonderful thing and clean water in the Chesapeake Bay has been the focus of Susie’s career and she’s thrilled with the progress made in the Bay.  By the way, she hates being called Susie probably as much as I dislike being called Tony and so I honor her with this…..

Tangent: My current read is “Where the Crawdads Sing” and it’s a stunning book by Delia Owens appealing to me both for her elegant writing and poetic description of swamps, marshes and oceans of North Carolina.  So many times while reading her beautiful story of Kaya – a girl  who turns woman in the North Carolina swamps in the 1950s and 60s – I often put the book down mid-page and utter “Ugh.” Realizing that even in this fictional story that destitution, suffering and loneliness was and is a real thing.  Poverty sucks, I’ve lived it as a child.  Kaya struggles with the deep desire to want to bond with others and how navigating society “ain’t” easy.  We are social creatures and connecting with others is hard wired into us for the purpose of survival and procreation (Google it) even if it is extremely challenging at times.

Full-Circle: Instead of “being the change” how about “being the spark”?  A catalyst expedites chemical reactions and the term is used in non-scientific settings as well.  In the book “For the Love of Cities” author Peter Kageyama calls catalytic community members “Cocreators” and suggests we lean in to support them.  Cocreators create from a place of love and their love is expressed in murals, events, gatherings and projects that create the culture of community.

My first low country boil of the summer was back in August and this guy we’ll call Andrew, because that’s his name, has organized the crawfish gathering and boil for 4 years now and it was AMAZING!  Andrew loves New Orleans culture and has all the crawfish pots, buys the supplies and cooks the meal with a grin the entire time. I was surprised to learn that the mountain-water-fed reservoir in my County has plenty of crawdads and I took a small part in the harvest.  Thirty or so people enjoyed the feast at no charge and many, like me, learned how to “open” a crawdad and suck the head.  Cocreator Andrew was the change and brought something people rave about to our little community.  His contribution to Rocky Mountain Cajun Culture extends beyond that and he’s organized a Mardi Gras parade in Crested Butte for two decades now.

Those events take energy, money and time and our way to honor and encourage these cocreators is to lean in, have fun and engage. And…throw them a little $ from time-to-time which reminds me I owe Andrew some cash for the Andouille sausage and the rest of the boil supplies.

So what does it take to change your community?  Action. You’re in control. I can help.

Anthony Poponi is an energetic presenter, a jokester from birth, and self-admitted lover of downtowns as much as wild spaces. He specializes in putting joy in our workplaces and in our communities through workshops and keynotes that leave his audiences buzzing. Being a hard act to follow on stage is always his goal.

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