Tinges of Local Color


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Sometimes at night, just before bed, I’ll tune in the BBC to hear the distant and vaguely romantic sound of a British radio voice announcing the pre-dawn GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) before the broadcast turns to a spirited dissection of their beloved soccer. As it’s lights out here, I like knowing that their talk will accompany the sun’s silent progression across the Atlantic.

Come morning, the airwaves conversation continues with words from other corners of the world neighborhood. Recently, the voice on my car radio was that of a woman in Chile’s rural Patagonia, a lady who stood to lose the home where she had lived for all of her 49 years. Her small piece of the planet was, listeners learned, a pastoral place with a thicket of raspberry bushes, peonies, chickens, no television, no telephone, and one rooftop solar panel that powered a single light bulb in the kitchen.

A flood of water from a dam proposed for power generation may drown her rustic way of life, one that sounds appealingly basic to those of us pinned down and cornered by the demands of an energy-sapping way of life.

Her plight was just the sort of scenario that inspired a Bloomfield Township couple to construct a contemporary-style, environmentally sensitive home with a small electrical footprint. They set out to achieve a Platinum-level LEED-certified home after viewing South America’s clear-cut swaths of jungle and receding glaciers.

Voices and situations from far away made the couple want to have a house built with materials found close to home.

Recycled, local, and handmade goods aren’t new trends, but they’re gaining wider appreciation. Maybe, in part, it’s a longing for physical connection in response to the detachment of computer communication. When we lack face-to-face contact, we want something touched by hands.

We prowl estate sales in part because the goods have a human story. It’s the personal that makes a home interesting.

Domestic interiors, like the voices carried on radio waves, are most interesting when they reflect regional character. A farmer in Yazoo County, Miss., being interviewed this spring about the weather and the impending threat of the river breaching its banks, referred to the “bluebird sky.”

In conversation and in home décor, it’s local color that remains true blue.


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