“Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song…”
I’ve had Shel Silverstein’s poem Whatif memorized since I was about 8. The Whatifs were there before I ever read the poem, but I didn’t know what to call them. Shel gave me a name, and a way to cope – if this awesome guy who writes the best poems ever and draws really cool pictures gets attacked by Whatifs and lives to tell about it, then I can, too.
So the Whatifs have been visiting with some regularity most of my life. They’ve found some new things to wonder about since I started this venture, and I’m sorting through them, trying to turn doubt and fear into action.
See, I’ve been focused on keeping everything vegan, even though I’m not even a vegetarian. I’m an apologetic omnivore, but I am a careful eater – most of the time. Jay and I have been able to eat even more conscientiously and locally since we left South Florida, and I’m considering the options I have at my disposal now.
I could continue to try and formulate soaps and lotions with only vegan ingredients, which has limitations – there is no natural alternative to lanolin, for example, nothing that mimics the properties that this byproduct of boiled sheep’s wool provides. I’m frustrated by the quality of the items I’ve been able to make, although at this stage in my education, it’s hard to tell whether the fault lies with the creations or the creator.
However, I could choose to support local friends and farmers who are able to provide me with ingredients such as humanely raised goat milk and locally harvested beeswax for my products. I understand the vegan ethos and admire the do-no-harm aspect, but we pose the biggest threat to each other – the human animal – if we deny our connectedness.
As a consumer, I’m more motivated by actions that will do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Sustainable is key. “Local” means more to me than “organic,” since local often is organic by default, if not by USDA rubber stamp. Plenty of supermarket milk is certified organic, but you’d have to pry the Happy Cow Creamery milk from my cold, dead hands if you want me to switch.
As a producer, I’m even more aware of my ability to influence my small part of the world in a good way. Williamsburg County lost about 3,000 people between the 2000 and the 2010 census. It’s a good bet that many of those people left to find jobs. My goal as a small business owner is to provide jobs, to bring revenue into my county, to give people a reason to stay.
I’ll keep formulating, keep experimenting, but I’m going to allow myself to expand beyond the confines of one ideology. Because how can using local beeswax not be a better option for my community and the planet than shipping in candelilla wax from Washington state?