Natural Resources

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I’m turning into a nature hippy. Case in point, this is me with a plastic bag on my head to contain the avocado/olive oil/honey paste I’ve massaged into my hair. I also have some on my face (but for obvious reasons I’ve limited the bag coverage—which supposedly helps with absorption—to my head).

I whipped up the hair mask not because I was trying to get back to basics but because the conditioner here is a thick gloop that sits heavy and leaves my hair pretty much the same as when I started. Combined with water that’s hyper chemically treated, my hair texture now hovers between antique doll and unwashed tween.

I have not historically been a terribly naturey kind of gal. Before my freshman year of college I signed up for something called Wilderness Reflections—a weeklong camping trek—with the hope of meeting some friends before the semester started. What I ended up with instead was a raging case of acne brought on by lack of access to zit cream.

The hair mask was born not of a need to commune with nature but instead out of desperation and Googling. The Internet described how to organically moisturize hair and I realized I actually had the ingredients. Avocados grow in my yard, I’d bought honey from the Maya ladies, and I keep olive oil in the cupboard.

I mixed the concoction, put it on, wrapped my head in this pretty bag and I sat. And I felt very, very humid, because this was in September when this part of Mexico is 90 degrees and the air is a solid with moisture.

And then I washed it off and my hair felt pretty darn good. And I started to wonder what else I could do with this nature stuff.

Since the avocado experiment I’ve used body scrub made from olive oil and dried coffee grounds (amazing) and another hair mask that includes aloe for de-stressing the scalp. I’ve grown very attached to aloe since it grows all over my yard. Shaving cut? Aloe. Mosquito bite? Aloe. Just feel like rubbing something soothing on your skin? Aloe! It’s nice.

What’s also nice is feeling like I’m using what’s here rather than constantly buying things. In New York, I was a buyer. I walked down the street and money flew out of my pocket—when I passed the Duane Read, the H&M, or the Bed Bath & Beyond. Wherever I was, I needed a thing.

Here there are relatively few things, they’re ludicrously expensive (compared to income), and like the hair conditioner they’re often terrible. Most of the clothing is thick polyester. My bike lock broke in two weeks. My desk chair is actually three cracked plastic chairs, stacked for stability. And the thing about shoddy crap is that it ends up in the trash and the trash here terrifies me.

There’s garbage pickup and as of recently there’s recycling. But there’s also trash on the streets, in the parks, and trapped in the tangle of the jungle floor, even when there are no houses for a miles.

Little kids at my school recently drew the sea, populated it with paper fish, and then peppered in black glitter. They explained to their teacher that the glitter was actually floating trash—they wanted the picture to be accurate.

In New York, I was mediocre about acting on my hypothetically environmental values and I balked at homeopathy. I would like to blame this on other Brooklynites—there’s only so much you can hear about DIY hacking projects and the health/eco benefits of someone’s burlap sack of beans before you barf. So am I saying I failed to commit to sustainable living because I was annoyed by the people who told me to? Kind of. Yes.

Now my motivators are fear, frugality and kids with black glitter freaking me out. This apparently was the inspiration I needed.

In my new nature hippy life, I wash and reuse my produce bags, use white vinegar both to clean and kill mold, and keep used kitchen matches for lighting the second burner on my kerosene stove. Because my drinking water comes in a giant plastic bottle with a pump, I rarely pour anything down the drain. I reuse my potato water to boil my pasta. I compost.

I have also continued my experiments with homeopathy, now driven less by desperation and more a desire to buy fewer plastic containers and ingest fewer chemicals. If my stomach bothers me I drink peppermint tea. If I have trouble sleeping I lie for 15 minutes with my legs up the wall. For constipation I take a tablespoon of olive oil. TMI? Tell me that next time you’re backed up.

A confession: I’m having hair conditioner imported from the States when my first visitors from home come through. It’s no longer avocado season, I haven’t found anything else that works and I’ve still got some vanity.

But I’ll continue scrubbing with coffee grounds, cleaning with vinegar and reusing my water. Because it’s pretty clear the earth is going to hell in handbasket and it feels better not to side with the SUV driving end-of-days welcomers. In spirit I’m aligning myself with my Brooklyn DIY brethren. But I’ll never join the CrossFitters. They just creep me out.

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