June 18, 2007

Hanging With Friendly Green Folk

Friendly Green Association is a young organization: our first conference was held in 1995. The first Friendly Green Conference I went to was in 1997, and I remember it well, a conference held on a campus high in the mountains of the northwest, with all kinds of amazing discussions and speakers, and wonderful field trips that included whitewater rafting. I met writers, scientists, activists, and scholars. I especially remember the gatherings we had in the evening, when Friendly Green Folk pulled out guitars and harmonicas and bottles of wine and played far into the night. Warm Bearded Writer says that after that conference he went home and said to his wife, "I've found my tribe."

And that pretty much captures how I feel about Friendly Green Folk. We aren't just an academic association, we are a community. Between conferences, we keep in touch with emails and phone calls. We send each other our writing and our ideas. We edit each other's stuff, we talk about our personal lives, we give each other support and affirmation. When I see a Friendly Green Folk at some other conference, it's like running into a cousin. And our biannual conference feel, more than anything else, like a family reunion, filled with hugs and smiles and laughter, with shared confidences in moments snatched between sessions, with meals that include so much banter and raucous behavior that one of the food service staff asked me, "Did y'all sneak in some beer or something?"

It's not that we all agree on things, or that we don't, as group, have our share of eccentric personalities. In fact, quite the opposite. I'd say we have an unusually high percentage of stubborn and opinionated individuals, and we come from different cultures. If you watch Friendly Green Folk arriving at the airport, you will see some folks wearing blazers and carrying laptops, while others sport tie-dye shirts and birkenstocks, with guitars slung over their shoulders. I have one friend who stayed at an upscale Bed & Breakfast place a mile from campus, and another who pitched his tent near the frat houses. And like any group of people who live in close quarters for a whole week, we have our share of emotional drama.

What we have in common, though, simply overrides cultural differences or personal tensions: we are a group of people passionately concerned about the way that our species is destroying the natural world.

The plenary speaker who opened the conference was one of my heroes, Writer Who Warned Us About Global Warming Years Ago. He's just a normal guy, like someone you'd run into in the grocery store, but he says things that make profound sense. Because of weather and some kind of issue with air traffic control, most of the planes in the northeast were grounded the afternoon he was travelling to the conference. He made his first flight, but then the plane just sat on the tarmac. He got off the plane and into a rental car, and called to tell the conference organizer that he was driving as fast as humanly possible. When he finally entered the big conference room at about 9:30 pm, we all cheered.

Our conferences are always held on a college campus, and this year, we were at a small college in the south. All week we wandered the campus and the town, and everywhere we went, we were treated with warmth and friendliness. Everyone seemed to recognize that the nametags marked us as kin to Warm Bearded Writer and Gorgeous Scientist, the two faculty members who were hosting the conference. And our reputation preceded us. The maintenance men who were fixing something in my building the first day came in to show me how to turn off the air conditioning and teased me the way they would a cousin or sister. "You're one of them tree huggers, right?"

One night, a certain carefree group of Friendly Green Folk, tempted by the warm night air, decided to go skinny dipping in one of the fountains. They'd stripped off clothes and were cavorting in the water when a campus security guard strolled by, and stopped to ask, a bit suspiciously, "What are y'all doin'?"

"We're from Friendly Green," one of the naked bathers said as way of explanation.

"Friendly Green?" he said. He relaxed his posture and waved his hand. "Ah, have fun."


How many bloggers can fit into a hammock?

Coming up next: how many bloggers can fit into a hammock?

22 comments:

JM said...

jealous now.

jo(e) said...

Hey, JM: Given the stuff you are writing about for your thesis, you ought to be part of the Friendly Green Association. Our next conference is going to be held in a really terrific place too -- I'll email you ....

JM said...

believe me, it's been on the list of things to do. :) please do email me b/c I was wondering where the next one was going to be!

jo(e) said...

And for any readers who might be wondering, the next gathering of Friendly Green Folk will be on Beautiful Island at the Southwest Edge of Country to the North.

The Simpleton said...

When I was an academic, I couldn't really rationalize being a member of Friendly Green because my research had nothing to do with it. Now that I have nothing to do with the academy (or little enough), I may pretend to be an "independent scholar." I suppose in a way I am very informally an independent scholar.

The Beautiful Island part is a big incentive too.

Linda said...

Now that sounds like an academic conference I could get into.

Were you among the carefree group that went skinny dipping? :)

jo(e) said...

Linda: What? Do I seem like someone who would strip off all my clothes and jump into a fountain?

Yankee T said...

Sounds like such fun.

Rana said...

Linda: What? Do I seem like someone who would strip off all my clothes and jump into a fountain?

Well, you are the nay-kehd blogger, after all...

*wink*

(Hopefully the phonetic spelling will ward off the search freaks.)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Beautiful Island is my Island! The next Friendly Green Conference is going to be on my campus! (Keri, the newly-minted Dandelion Diva, just gave me this news a couple of days ago, and I've been rejoicing ever since. Bloggers in my city!)

*dances about*

Hm. I'm going to have to make sure I'm not in Germany that summer. And I might try to find a way to sneak in, even though my research area has nothing to do with Friendly Greenness.

jo(e) said...

Queen of West Procrastination: Oh! How cool! I hadn't made the connection. I have never been there, and I am so excited about the location.

You will definitely have to come hang out with us Friendly Green Folk. Or ... I'll sneak away from the conference and go somewhere cool with you.

I wish we didn't have to wait two years.

jo(e) said...

Rana: After spending all week with you, I hear your voice now when you leave a comment.

listie said...

sounds like a great time

Kyla said...

jo(e), fun follows you where ever you go!

BerryBird said...

Small Green should host! Or maybe we are *too* small?

Lilian said...

You know... as if I didn't already had enough research interests (mine are varied and I'm passionate about most of them), I'm pretty sure that if I do become an academic, I'll find a way to sneak in "Greenness" into it. Then I'll be able to go to Friendly Green Association conferences too!! :) It does sound like a great, friendly, relevant conference, that's for sure!

jo(e) said...

Berrybird: I've thought of that, but it would mean working with Snowstorm University to get housing from them. About 500 people attend the conference, which would be a lot for our campus. I'm thinking that instead maybe some year we should have an off-year symposium at one of our properties in the mountains. The off-year symposiums involve smaller numbers so it would be easier to manage. I'd love for the Friendly Green Folk to see how beautiful this part of the country is.

Keri said...

I love the Friendly Green Association! Yay!

cieux autres said...

Ah jeeze. It's killing me not being there. I'm taking out my frustrations on the SUV's of the desert. There will be a lot of botched paint jobs tomorrow morning.

But I can almost guarantee I'll be there in two years.

Autumn Song said...

Hi Jo(e). I'm new to blogging and came across you recently (through September Blue at Victorianitas). Great Blog - I love your writing, and your photos. This conference sounds like fun - meetings of so many people from different walks of life with a common passion/interest are often the best kind!

Anonymous said...

This was both the most stimulating and the most relaxing week I've had in a long, long time. If this sounds paradoxical, it's not. These two states are supposed to be intertwined. It was a pleasure spending the week with this really wonderful community of people who just absolutely GET IT. I'll remember this week whenever I smell a magnolia, hear a mockingbird, or settle back and allow my body the luxury of a hammock.

AF

jo(e) said...

AF: Exactly.