Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nectarine juice

You must let the juice drip down your chin at least once. It is quite therapeutic, I think. I find myself neatening up, frustrated when I drop a berry on the floor... 'argh, gotta wipe that up!', and when I am busy, that dust that builds up in so short a time and must be sucked up and away to keep a keen house is just another source of angst.

Today, I was in the middle of a project, but hungry, and saw the nectarines on the counter watching me work. I reached over and grabbed the softer of them, and took a bite. I was doused with sweet juice, my beard now sticky and the window where it squirted eyeing me, waiting for my reaction.

It was a learning experience, a life lesson, and I smiled to myself and to the walls and thought, 'hey baby, let the juice flow.' If you've read my 'other stuff', you are probably wondering what I am on about, but soon you'll nod and know.

Last week I was out returning home from a midweek appointment and decided to take the shortcut past the local orchard and farm store. I needed eggs and milk, so I decided to see if they had both. They did. Both top quality and local. Since I am making a big effort to eliminate plastic from my life - that is, any future plastic, I bought my milk that day in the glass quart bottle, like it used to arrive on our doorstep when I was a child, except this one had a plastic top (grrrrr). I bought eggs in a paper carton, local too, free range, natural ingredient fed (not organic) eggs. And I bought a little paper container of nectarines, yes, one of which doused me only a short while ago.

I went to the counter to pay, and the teenage cashier looked at me and said, "you realize there is a $2.00 deposit on the bottle?" I said I did, and proceeded to get my wallet out. I looked at her and asked, "do people freak out about that?" to which she responded, "Oh yeah, you have no idea!" She was right, I did have no idea. I couldn't imagine people having a problem with paying $2.00 to be sure they brought a bottle back to be reused. And they would either get the $2.00 back or take another bottle away without paying again. But that was the naive me talking - any outlay of money upsets some people, which brings me to sadness 2. Why does the good food have to cost more than the bad food? We all know why - economies of scale and subsidies, but the irony is that huge profits go to corporate leaders who produce that subsidized substitute for good food, while local farms struggle to stay in business producing actual healthy food.

Lately I've been reaping the rewards of my own garden, and of local farmers. I went to The farmer's market, you know, the one Michelle Obama spurred to growth near the Whitehouse, a couple blocks from my office. The peaches I got there a week earlier were perfect, and some had true character.
This guy was yelling from the vendors booth for me to come and get him. I know it's a he... I can just tell. And so he and four others came home with me and I enjoyed them all, then the chipmonk outside enjoyed the pip of one of them as well, the pip I had just planted to see if I could get a whole tree of these beauties some day! Ah well, I'll put a cage around it next time.

So you see, I've been 'working' to buy more local foods, and spent more time preparing my own garden this year too so that I'd have my own food. I have a dozen or more cukes in the fridge ready to pickle one night this week, and I've not bought greens in a month now for all I have in the garden. I made blackberry wine a couple weeks ago, blackberry infused vinegar too, and some simple juice of blackberries that I canned to use at a later date as well. Wild blackberries.

I'm happy because I feel good about being able to support farmers and to grow some of my own food. I want to grow more, want to grow it all, want to be on the land, responsible for it, because it supports me. I'm usually so far removed from all the stuff I eat, that it is dispassionate consumption, a hollow sustenance. This last week, the juice, the fresh produce, the smart and good milk and the determination I've gained have all brought new light to my living, and I encourage you all to give it a try. Hit the brakes (rationally) next time you see a local farm stand. Wash whatever you buy, because even if local, it is usually also sprayed, but it is fresh, and there is nothing better than local and fresh produce.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Easy peasy, saving the world

One bite at a time, I'm saving the planet. In a past blog, I noted some of the rather mundane things I do to save/conserve energy, most of which are just plain old energy saving common sense. Like hanging clothes out. When I can't, I dry them with air - it's the heating element that really soaks up the energy, so put it on low/off and dry with cool air. It works!

This is me gearing up to hang clothes.

I have a 50 gallon drum under one gutter downspout, and the other night, in a single night of combined storms and light rain, it filled that bucket to the brim and overflowed. Today, I dipped a bucket in and watered all my gardens with that water.

Which brings me to my favorite environmental trick. Gardening - not necessarily for show, but for food. With pretty minimal purchases (some organic garden soil) I managed to raise enough lettuce and arugula to have fresh salad whenever I want, while also able to give some away. Cukes started coming two days ago, I've had five picked so far with many to come. Beans didn't do well this year - I ended up with a single string bean plant growing. And today I harvested it's 6 beans, but they were fantastic. There are hundreds of tomatoes ripening, from small through giant, and I hope to be eating those in a week as the first have just begun to blush.
Then there are the wild blackberries on the west side of my yard and the cultivated raspberries and the herbs, dill, basil, oregano, a couple kinds of mints.

This year I have lots of mulch (not the bagged kind) and weeper hoses buried in the mulch to keep the ground wet without above ground evaporation. I plan to install a water tank at some point to store water in the future too, and eventually hope to waste very little water. It is an evolving exercise in practicality, and a bit of fun and hard work too.

So you see, it's easy to save the world!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The next blush

It's upon us, the next series of blushes, nature ripening another round of fruits, flower, vegetable...

The tomatoes are showing the first color, the wild blackberries are ripening one at a time, but there are thousands. Look closely, there are large diagonal raindrops in this picture.
The peach lily is blooming as if aroused to a new height this year, perfect weather, rain, sun, balance.

This is one of my favorite flowers of all time, and now, I wait each year for them to bloom. This year they are welcoming July again, right on time.

The cucumbers are coming alive too, dozens of flowers, a few cukes ready for the weekend.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stepping into the sea

Today I dipped my toes in the Atlantic, at a favorite beach on the National Seashore, Assateague, where the (formerly) wild ponies roam. They're pretty tame, lollygagging around all day, with token jobs. It s a great beach, because you can go there, park, walk to the water's edge, then turn right and walk another 10 miles. About two miles on, there are few people, though they do drive on the sand there, and party and fish too.

I was nearby, picking up a scooter I bought - a 1966 Honda CM91 - it's a fortunate find, as I've been watching Vespas, old Hondas and other brands for a while. Most are either basket-cases, titleless, or too expensive. This one came in with everything I need, except the motorcycle license, and it should get about 60mpg -we'll see. I'm considering converting it to electric... we'll see about that too.

So, I drove the extra 15 minutes to see the ocean that I haven't seen in a while, and it was still there, still beautiful, still drawing me to it. I dipped my toes in.

And as I often do, I discovered something new. Because of where I live, I don't see the little prickly cacti too often. Today, I happened on one in flower, and it's a beautiful flower, and I was happy to have been there to see it.

It was a good day, a long day, a lot of driving today, but I soaked up some of that power of the sea, and brought it home with me, to savor... as long as possible. I'm not likely to vacuum the car for a while, just to have that sand on board a little longer.

And, if you need proof that I was there...and that my beard needs a trim...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Social action

I've been a vegetarian for about 20 years now, and the reasons are the unnatural conditions that meats are raised in, and because I was tired of scrubbing chicken grease off of pans.

Food, Inc. was on my 'never watched, but should' list, and so I watched it last evening.

Yes, I should have watched it by now - produced in 2007, it's old now. But the facts within, are way older. They extend back way before I became a vegetarian, and it seems the cheapening of our food sources has been progressing for decades with little challenge, but a lot of progress. I recently learned that many of the brands I handled as a food coop coordinator are now owned by the likes of Coca Cola and Kraft. I've heard theories that this is a good thing, that the behemoths want into the organic movement, but I disagree that it is good. This type of acquisition still lands control of our food in few hands and even fewer pockets. So far, many of the products don't appear to have been cheapened by their ownership, but I am skeptical that this will last. I am certain that part of the motive of the large companies is to still control the entire industry.

The film moved me. It moved me to consider how I can make my own difference. I've not supported these industries for over 20 years, and I give my opinion openly when asked, and I support legislation that maintains quality standards for all. I'm also growing some of my own food, and have made concerted efforts recently to reduce plastics, so far practically impossible.

I want to note to anyone who reads this that there are two kinds of people on this planet. The first are those like myself, who are willing and able to change. We understand that openness is the only way that problems will be recognized and reversed. The second type of person is the one who believes in a system that includes one's right to capitalize by any legal means. These are the people who trust the government, who believe in status quo, who support the system that often harms them.

Today, it was announced that between 1 of 2 and 1 of 3 children (depending on poverty level) will end up with child-onset diabetes. There is only one reason for this, and it isn't the diabetes, it's the diet. And yet, we react to the diabetes, not the food causing it. We provide medication before changing diet. Coca cola (and other sodas) were once treats. Today they are beverages of choice for unsupervised kids and poor families. Soda is cheaper than the alternatives, including water if bottled. This is an example of a failed system. Our regulatory agencies, our medical profession, our government has failed to respond to a serious nutrition crisis, because it involves many of the largest corporations in the world and their ability to make profits.

In my mind, it is factual to say that our epidemics, our health crises, our debt are all related to poor choices. We have grown the healthcare response to such a proportion as to dwarf nutrition. We treat illness caused by poor nutrition rather than improving nutrition. Period. The treatment develops at a much higher rate than the nutrition, because huge companies sell the drugs and treatments. They don't want people to be healthier, because they need to continue making profits.

Critical thinking.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The other kind of 'green'

Most people, once they get to know me, know I'm a little nuts about some pretty practical daily tasks. I realized that I have only written incidentally about my 'ways', and thought that they might be both thought provoking and informative for those bent on saving energy and, of course, the planet. I am guessing, outside of 'off the grid' homesteaders and the like, that I am perhaps the greenest person you know. But that doesn't mean I own all the trappings, it just means I think about all my actions and minimize my impact in plain, and yes, old fashioned ways.

A few rules that I live by:
Rule number one - Some things exist, and rather than exorcise the house of all the plastic demons and incorrect products, I simply use them over and over and over until they are quite unsightly and unusable, and then I recycle them. I have yogurt quarts from the 90's that are still holding nails that I salvaged from a box someone was throwing out.

Rule number two - If I don't need it, I don't buy it. Even if I think I need it, I don't buy it, because I am fully aware that my thoughts are not always my own. (this is where the crazy part comes in). A long time ago, I submitted to the fact that advertising and merchandising works, and I know, that I sometimes believe I need something that I simply don't.

Rule number three - Shut it off. It's simple - if it isn't charging the phone, it's unplugged. If it has an LED light, it is unplugged. I leave a single LED night light running in my house in case I need to get out in a panic... which I never do. I know my house well, so I rarely turn lights on even to go to the kitchen - I mean, I KNOW my house well. This gets a bit philosophical, but it works the same way that hammering nails does for me. As long as I know I will hit the head of the nail, I can read the paper and hammer nails at the same time. As soon as I worry about hitting my thumb (or hitting a wall), I usually do.

Rule number four - If I don't need to use the electric 'fill in the blank', I don't. I take stairs rather than an elevator. Sadly, I can't get onto my floor at work using stairs, but I can get out on the stairs, and so I do. When I come into the building, I don't use the two power assist accessibility doors for two reasons - they use electricity, and they both open at the same time, meaning that they let a mass of air in or out depending on the season. Entering with the manual doors enables the airlock of the entry way to save some energy. When the workers leave the vacant suite next to ours (again, at work), they often leave the lights on - I mean, they're not paying for them, after all... I turn them off. There are two, sometimes three men on my floor, and so I turn the bathroom lights off when I leave. I figure I save an average of 6x32w for 7 hours of the day, five days per week for about 210 days of the year. That means I save 282,240 watt-hours. While my finger is still working, I'll flip the 20 year old switch.

Rule number five - I buy as much in glass or non-fancy packaging as I can. I use those super thin bags when I need to buy bulk (most stores don't allow your own containers still), and I buy larger quantities when I can't get something in glass - pound for pound, less plastic than your average consumer... by far.

Rule number six - I never drink anything from aluminum or plastic containers. Period. My beer is in glass, I don't drink soda, and when I treat myself to mineral water, it's Gerolsteiner... in glass. Glass can go back to the earth without poisoning it, and though it takes energy to produce, I use those bottles over and over again before recycling them.

Rule number seven: I don't use 'products' that solve simple problems. Did you ever notice that many products are regular old things with lipstick and high heels? Yeah, that's right. New and improved is rarely 'better'. We've just simply gotten used to there being new products all the time, and it's got to stop. This encourages waste. We are being lied to regularly by our product manufacturers/packagers/advertisers. If anything has eroded the moral fiber of the nation, it is labeling and packaging which is a constant source of bent truths.

Rule number eight - I don't eat meat. I don't foist my ways on people, but I know for a fact that consuming meat is like throwing the windows open and turning the heat up - it takes a lot more energy to get me fed with meat than it does with all kinds of other delectable delights. By extension, I also buy locally, and organic when I can. Think of it this way. When a company offers you a particular brand of clean air, and you decide you want to make your own clean air, and they sue you for subverting the patent on their air, branded 'clean'. Well, this is happening with food on a daily basis. Did you know that there are very few farmers using their own farm seeds? Because they get sued if they do. We need food, air, water and shelter to survive. So far, shelter, water and food have all been commodified. If you don't know about this, look it up - there is lots of information, but strangely the general public doesn't seem aware.

I'm done with the rules, but among other things I do are to use revolving doors where available, to air the house out naturally with cross breezes at night, to wash clothes when they are dirty, not because I wore them for two hours, to hang my laundry out to dry as often as possible (I've used my dryer twice since March), I am growing lettuce, cukes, arugula, tomatoes, berries and hopefully some peas to offset some of the store bought food and to assure that I am getting the freshest stuff... I also have an herb garden, garlic, wild onions and other ingredients just out my door, and my favorite is the mint bush that I infuse with water for a wonderful summer drink. Other tricks? I keep bottles full of water in any empty spaces in both fridge and freezer which help to stabilize the temperature and save energy by not having to cool the whole space back down every time I open the door. I also bought a high efficiency hybrid water heater which uses heat that is naturally in the air to heat my water, supplemented by electric. I use cloth to clean up and have bought two rolls of paper towels in the last three years. I cover exterior windows that are not used (basement for example. I'm still wearing shirts that my dad wore in the 80's, and they're back in style too. I ride the bus/metro to work, turn computer monitors off and unused computers off when not in use, have no television and have mostly compact fluorescent lightbulbs throughout the house, including exterior floods - of course, I rarely turn them on, so I suspect they'll last for 20 years rather than 10. Lastly, there is the coffee grinder from somewhere around late 1930's. It has a crank, and does a wonderful job - I have old things that work, usually better and longer than newly bought and designed to break products. I have a 50 year old toaster that even looks great! The clock on my wall is a wind up with a pleasant chime - circa 1950's.

Lest you conclude that I am a Luddite, fear not. I have an IPod (that I rarely use), I have dual monitors (LED/low power) on my big computer and have both a lightweight and a heavyweight laptop for my work. I have a dishwasher (that I never use) and I have air conditioning, that I do use until I can get the extra insulation in my attic space. Work is progressing.

So you see, I hope there are a few ideas here not just to save energy, but to impress how much energy we have gotten used to using (electric doors and elevators for example).

I feel good being conscientious in this way, and hope that others do to. There is an ethic in simplicity that allows me to live with a clean conscience. I never thought I deserved excess, and I feel happier than the average bear about that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sparkling portent of summer and balance.

It's like being in a fairy world, looking out on my back yard. The fireflies are a-bloom, just in time for the start of Summer. This actually used to be the middle of summer, but lopsided seasons irked the orderly, so we ended up with it being summer-like, but not official until the Summer Solstice, which is June 21st this year and the 20th next.

Earlier, I had a moment to think about the incredible balance that we all live with - consciously or not - on a daily basis. What brought it to mind today were the three ticks I removed from my body as they made their way to juicier pastures to graze in. None of the three made it, but I found it disconcerting that they essentially make me want to hide indoors. Between the diseases and the sheer gruesomeness of their methods, they are pretty creepy, even for a guy like me who lets spiders crawl around my hands while I talk to them.

Then, of course, I looked out just after dark and saw the aforementioned fairy world of fireflies that make me just want to get back out there and be among them. The night and in particular my big maple tree are truly sparkling with them. It's humid, not hot, but muggy and they seem to like that.

Balance, though, is not so apparent and seems to be this lark calling, but rarely heard. Every day I see people wasting - gunning their cars, throwing shit out their windows, buying plastic crap that won't last a season and generally buying into the whole destructive consumer trance. Even people who espouse their environmental ways, often wear only the green paint and have little commitment.

The fulcrum on which this all balances is far too low slung - who am I kidding? There is no balance. I think of the Material World book and corresponding NOVA show when I think of our lifestyle assumptions that for some reason, we deserve more, more, in fact than we need, more than we can often handle, more than we can keep track of, more, because we can't sustain our current state without producing at equal or greater rates. We're screwed then, because we either have to lose wealth, or keep wrecking all the stuff that keeps us alive.

The resolve with which our grandparents and great grandparents survived the depression is needed now, to kick the habit. If you have not watched Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff I urge you to watch it... with an open mind, depending on where you stand politically. It's common truth to some, and socialist propaganda for others.

The beauty I noted earlier is not so balanced for all the people experiencing the 'worst of' storm events in the last decade. We've had a lot of 'largest, worst, most powerful's', and I believe we should be paying slightly more attention to them.

Balance has become a trend, yoga, products, a whole lexicon of ways to be more green, but there is not much out there helping people to rise up together, to create the wave that will force meaningful change. Greenness has spawned more products, not fewer. They are more mindfully produced, but no less unnecessary than the plastic widgets we've been discarding for the last several decades. It's mostly trash.

The fireflies are stunning. They are the grand canyon experience in my back yard. I stare at them, watch in amazement that all this biology and time has created something so beautiful, but they also remind me that the world is fragile, delicate, prone. The beauty can be small while taking one's breath away, and that is worth fighting for.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Berries and the better life

Today was the inaugural day of berry picking season - I have a patch of cultivated and organically grown berries (though not organic in origin) that were given me by a special friend. You know it's a special friend, when she gives you a 24 berry plants.

I picked one a few days ago, and it was good. I picked one yesterday, and it was good. Today I picked eight, and they were luscious. It's their second year, and so they should bear nicely.

Afternoon crept by today. It felt like Friday all day, and when it's Thursday, but feels like Friday, it's a slow day and week and it's time for it to end. The sky was blanketed lightly by deep clouds and rain has been imminent most of the day, while it also appeared that the sun would be let through intermittently. It was, but overall remained gray.

The bus dropped me in the rain and I enjoyed the wet grass on my toes during the fifty-yard walk to the house. Rain was gurgling in the gutters and so I changed the buckets under them to be sure and capture as much as I could to water with next time it's dry.

It is 72°F right now, and after a couple weeks never dipping below 80 during the day and topping out at about 103, it feels like a reversion into spring, the season that is surprisingly still with us. I wasn't going to check the berries, but I saw a gleaming red one from afar, then looking closer and deeper, saw more, and found that carefully pulling back the large shading leaves that I had eight ripe ones on two of the five varieties in this patch. The reds were ripe, but a little translucent pink still - good enough for me. The two ripe golden ones were... well, golden, but with a slight pink blush to them, which is how I know they are ready.

It is important that I distinguish between these berries and the one's I've managed to choke down all winter. Any of you who regularly buy berries in Holy Foods or other such fine stores will know that, though they are tasty treats in contrast to the snow outside, they are no comparison to berries picked, oh, 45 seconds earlier. Or even a day earlier. Fresh, bush ripened berries are unequivocally one portion of the recipe of a better life.

My family has been enamored of wild New England blueberries ever since I was too young to pick them, but expected to nevertheless. In New England, we don't mess with them, doing the the equivalent of injecting botox to satisfy Texans, like is done with Chevy Suburbans. No, we're pretty well satisfied with a 5/16th inch berry that tastes astounding. We picked them from a friends farm where he did not cultivate per se, but simply provided pretty nice conditions and a good occasional fire to get them started again as well as protection from bears and birds. They were low bush too, and we could pick with modified cranberry scoops. We found ourselves with about 20lbs in a box in about 20 minutes, into which, perhaps were I older, I would certainly have bathed. But I was young and naive.

Berries of all kinds - 'duda' (in Romanian) or шелковицы (in Russian)- mulberries - are delightfully plentiful, so much so that they stain the roads under the trees, and yet we don't harvest them. I lived near several trees and used to pick a few on my way home from work during the season. There were red, black and white ones on my trip, so I had a colorful treat and a new experience.

I have wild strawberries growing in my yard, but they are truly wild, growing like weeds, and sadly, they have no taste. It's odd that when I have occasionally picked a tasty looking one, how revolting it is to find it has no taste. Some people don't like mulberries for the same reason, but they do have a light, sugary flavor, though anemic compared to raspberries and blueberries.

The better life that I am so fond of pursuing, includes berries, berries grown near by, berries that grow wild, berries that I can crush for color and juice as well as the treat they are on my morning oats.

I hope everyone is inspired to pull off the road and get some... carefully please.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Global warming and society

Platitudinous, yes, but global warming is a truth. It is a truth aside from politics, aside from persuasions, religion, academics. The earth has been proven to be warmer now than ever before in our discernible history, and so be it.

It's troubling that while all the discussion is going on about whether humans caused it, and while we sit back with our feet up and a pint in hand having a great debate over it, while we waste valuable time, the earth is warming further, and the issues that cause warming are getting more pronounced and regulations are going away, and business is getting the upper hand again.

I learned the other day that part of the reason that global warming is not as important a topic for US'ns is because it is not as frequently in the news. This really frightened me, because with all the effort people make to show themselves as independent thinkers -- you know, tattoos, piercings, fancy cars, symbols of success, expensive glasses, witticisms -- this would indicate that people are sheep, and the media is the sheepdog, and I needn't explain that further.

Troubling to think that we can be influenced into thinking that global warming is either more or less serious than it is. Today I noted an interview on CNN with a man who plans to row to the north pole. When asked why, instead of give the reason why, he chose to mention his mother and her inspiration that made him do everything 110%. He attempted later in the few-minute long interview to explain that part of the reason he is doing it is because he can, which he said briefly is a really big problem. He should not be able to row to the North Pole, and the interviewer moved on and did not pursue the frightening fact that he can get there in open water during the summer.

Richard Rood noted on To The Point (radio program) about global warming that one of the problems with global warming is the ability of those who profit from the industries that cause it to demonstrate the controversy over whether it is real or not. The reason that this is possible, he posited, is because scientists spend so much time controverting each other on the subject, and so the 'deniers' have an easy time of pitting those scientists against each other in campaigns designed to encourage disunity in the effort to stop global warming.

In reality, most - and by 'most', I mean at least 80% - (but more often quoted numbers in the 97% range are probably more accurate) - of scientists agree that global warming is real. Richard Rood suggested that those 97% should be concentrating on one thing, making the public aware that global warming is here and that no matter what they believe about the cause, they agree that it exists and is heading us into a perilous journey into deep water.

Another wonderfully poignant point that was made in this program was simply that the environment is one thing. There is no climate without global warming versus the climate we actually live in. There is one climate, the one in which global warming is a fact. This might help to unify scientists and to bring the issue into a clearer fact of current life. The question was put to another guest on the show, Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker asking why it is so difficult to attribute increased major weather events to global warming. She answered in essence that statistics indicate that storms are getting worse, floods and droughts have gotten worse, melting is increasing, but no scientist has the ability to directly attribute one particular storm to Global Warming. This would be the equivalent to attributing the incorrect tightening of a bolt during manufacture of a car to an accident 10 years later. The bolt might have loosened on it's own (whether it should or not), or it might have loosened because of originally being tightened incorrectly. It is difficult or impossible to determine either case, yet the result of the bolt coming loose may have caused the accident. While it is clear that the accumulated severity of weather in the last decade is clearly explained by global warming, honest scientists can't attribute individual storms to global warming and can only suggest that they are likely caused by increased moisture in the warmer air. There is no direct and obvious cause and effect.

Lastly, the suggestion by the guests on Olney's show is that the evidence that the earth is warming is incontrovertible. However, they attribute the lack of action to a combination of bickering, distraction, a coordinated effort to deny global warming, and a powerful business interest in the status quo. In essence, some of the most powerful companies on the planet are not interested in either selling less oil, or in spending money to clean up emissions or to increase efficiency. It is against their purpose of making money, while sadly also against the interests of humans and the planet.

I can't urge people enough to remain involved and vocal about the fact of global warming, and to remain vigilant in doing all you can in any way to save energy, to eliminate waste and to encourage increased regulation of energy use.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Flowers are coming and going like the Johns in a whore house, eager and alluring at first, bursting into fervor, all showy the next minute, then faded, dejected, deflated and gone until next year. These are the Crocus, Daffodils, Irises, Peonies, Liriope, Lilac... all early, fast bloomers. This year, they seemed especially quick and the biggest disappointment was the Lilac with one anemic blossom cluster for the entire season.

I stepped out of the office building today and met the linden bloom head on - it's distinct, sweet, and when you look off in the distance at whatever tree or trees are causing it, you see the lighter green tongues hanging down. Beautiful, and they're good for tea.

This season leads to the abundant bugs, skulking everywhere, under every upturned log, every paper bag, rock shovel... a bug skitters off when moved. I've seen my snake this year, and the purple finches are contentedly disturbed enough to have built 2 feet from my main entrance door. I don't know what birds are thinking, but the Phoebes used to do this too - and all that they get is tension flitting away every time I come and go. I've heard the babes peeping like mad as parents return home with the bacon. Whatever that is for finches.

I love the season, but it tires me, mowing more than once a week just to manage the lawn, but not enough time to change the lawn to something needing no management. It's not quite a half acre... so a lot to mow. The tomatoes are doing splendidly - 6 in the ground, four ready to go in the ground. I expect to be making sauce end of season this year, and perhaps will throw a sauce and pasta party in the winter. Won't you join?

And so out the other end of the accelerated growth spurt of spring, who knows what follows, drought? More severe storms? We shall see.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Around some corners, there are edens, not of the bible, nor from lore of any kind. My little edens are reminders of the best I can live, and though part imaginary, part real, part future and part past, they are my most natural state of being.

Walking beside me, silent, radiant, a thoughtful smile dimpling her cheeks, we experienced the most natural peace. We glided when together. I turned to her one evening, having rolled in the grass like children, delivered, and though I didn't know it at first, shared her first bottle of wine after crossing the age barrier, and I told her I was crazy about her. We had looked deep into each other's eyes, wary of a hint of trouble, a crack that didn't already belong, but there was no trouble, no crack. She stopped and looked at me with love, smiling, and explained that she was flattered, but also had been voted the class flirt in High School. I smiled, and we both walked on as before. This little eden is one of few in my life not tainted by questions. I had no questions, no anxieties, and she wasn't waiting for me to speak, nor I for her. It was 1996 and needn't be qualified further.

Corners are hard not to meet with anticipation since then. I recognized the few before, and recognize those since, that have become memories of moments of my own bliss. Compartmentalization has come along now, regular hours, patterns, practical concerns that frustrate and scuttle the nature of my edens. There's no time to share, no reason, no space, because nature and truth are not allotted for - they're not decisions - they just are.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The letter arrived at my office, the address several degrees off horizontal, written in careful, straight, but shaky, small block letters. It explained that the writer's husband had passed away recently, but had enjoyed receiving the publications we'd been sending him for years as an emeritus member of our organization. I wasn't sure anyone read the publications until this note arrived, which told me in the briefest terms, that her husband loved what he did, even after giving up his practice, continuing to keep up with the literature of his life. "He was 90" she wrote, and the letter I read told a much longer story.

I recently watched the film Александра (Aleksandra), again, about age, wisdom - and the Russian conflict with Chechnya. Aleksandra visits her grandson at his barracks. He is a soldier on the Chechnyan border, and she has not seen him in seven years. He's being what he is, a soldier, and she a grandmother, freed from the bonds of her marriage, wizened by the end of her life, when she complains of her body giving out when her soul is ready for another entire life. After all that she has been through.

The starkness of the fact of so many lives in demoralizing situations - persevering, and the fact of how quickly privilege squeezes life from us, makes me wince a little when I think of the inconvenience I sometimes feel when going to work. Most of the people on this planet feel fortunate to have a sustenance, while I might be brazen enough to have my own guru, to dwell on a good life, to deign to be anything I choose, to believe I can choose. Were I prone to excuse making, I'd call it a natural balance, but there is nothing natural about oppression, nothing. There is a vast chasm between what I need to live and what an average Afghan can ever expect, and it is hard to understand why and difficult to imagine anyone belongs in a 21 room mansion when elsewhere 4 families live in two small rooms with a well a mile away.

Nature balances herself with growth, death, cycles, but never with willful oppression. This is another call to take an example from nature, to be grateful for what we do have, to take only what we need.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Does SIze Matter?

I was walking in the woods a while ago, and found myself admiring the stout oaks in their second century, and wondering what it is about - age, size, greatness of any kind, that moves people, that moves me? I could philosophize, quote the greats, point to the brilliantly exposed paradoxes of others, but then, there I go again. Greatness, grandness. There is the myth of wisdom from antiquity, the idea that what we don't know is something more than what we do, that what once was, was more true than what is, when all it is, is suspicion, and the passing on of experience from a rock to a feather, the belief in common that the extrusion of both is the paradox of sameness and difference, that the contrast, the conundrum, the magic born of them is a higher wisdom, or a grain of sand. I think perhaps that is what draws me to trees - the idea that they have watched over the history of my time, silently. And they 'know' stuff, that no one of us does, and so I know not what color their leaves were, and they needn't ever tell.

It's so easy for me to believe more in something I know less about, as easy as fingering facts to prove a point. What is a 'fact'? There are few not called into question. The Cartesian proof of my existence, that I write this all down, the so often and obvious, that is pointed out as bald wisdom, the mysteries hidden just out of sight on their grand pyres or in the depth of our hopeful or needing hearts, alluring, like any disappointment, never come to fruit.

There is magic in a story, the untold, the imagined lay and textures, colors all conjured by mere words, but only a faith in now is real, if also rare. At times I look at the trees and see them as a breathing slice of time, pulsing right there in their subtly substantial surroundings, and I know that they are my ancestors like the dirt in my yard, and I am moved, but stilled by what I know.

Those grand oaks live patiently, watching the young, often of others, rising up at their feet, and they wait to become the dirt at their own feet. When I compare that knowledge to the mire my mind finds itself slogging through for answers, I know how little I know, how small life is, how far off a path I would tend to go to experience a mystery, how difficult it is to face the simplest facts, how untrue it is to adopt a path not my own, how easily I might tend to assume a path, an understanding as foreign to me as space, some other's tradition, and I'm no better for convincing myself of a higher knowledge, in fact I've strayed further in so doing. How the vale has been cast ever heavier blotting out the time when I had nothing to do but exist inside the womb of the forests.

My achievements pale, my accounts fade, the exotic melds into the mundane, and the trees remain.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

American in Paradise


Dreaming, longing, a first freedom to imagine the objects of my desire, and opulence, ostentations, outrageous objects at my finger tips. Lamborghinis, ski chalets, Barbie-like future wives, yachts, dream and glamor-jobs as a designer of clever boxes, even cleverer buildings, of a life in harmony with luxury. I knew nothing, which was everything, a desire dissonant against the reality of all the struggling people around me, who, likely had dreamt too, who, likely had come to a realization somewhere along the path that they had to bed down for the night, to stop pining for each mystery around each subsequent corner.

He thought for a while, then declared, "I'll be a garbage man", for which he was teased incessantly for an age-appropriate amount of time. But what they failed to understand was that he knew that garbage men were paid well, union wages, that they rode around on the bumper of a truck all day, and got to see all of the trash, yes, but also the treasures thoughtlessly discarded each day. And so, he was a young dealer in dreams of treasures panned from the leftovers of careless consumers, not so different from his life today.

Many people have learned what, exactly, to say. I've found though, that what I've learned is perhaps not real, that what I have learned is simply what someone else has learned, or what someone else wants me to know, so that I will believe - in a product, in a belief, a god, a way of life that benefits some, belittles some, bemoans and besmirches my own freedom to choose. I no longer see the point in believing, and so I try to simply be.

Rustic acres, food, clean water, health, fun, simplicity - so simple, that truth is woven effortlessly into this dream... 'woven' is too much effort, the dream is true. Little house on the prairie it is not. It is the ability to go far enough to be a stimulated human, not so far as to be destroyed by it. Everything for which there is no concrete reason falls by the wayside, and feeling the pleasure of being is the quotidian. The dream simply is. It is naked, pure, unafraid.

To judge another's dream is not anyone's place. To judge one's own is a diversion; to live a dream, a futile effort to focus; and to describe a dream, the wrong words seem to come out. The effort to put words to a vision, like the victims of a disaster saying, "it's so... I just don't know what to say...", helps to push the vision a step further from realization. Only by letting go, do these words flow, and often silence speaks more eloquently my thoughts.

Remove loaded logic, expectations, understandings, ethics, truth... by knowing that every word is surrounded by a history of intent, and knowing this may leave you silent, it may leave you clinging to a wall, distrusting the existence of the particles supporting you, it may make you wonder what is in the empty box that you can't see, and what you know is there, that you don't know is there, and that will be your opportunity, as it is mine, to understand your dream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Realizing, ... Really?

I realized (for lack of a better word) today, that I spend a bit of time thinking so that I may 'realize', and thinking about that has brought me to the realization that i can spend too much time doing so.

As I ponder purposes and the ability some have to live in a stark room and write, I also notice myself having stuff, whether projects or objects, and that keeps me anchored. I have heard people say that about their children, that children become your life, and that is interesting, because I've always thought if I had children that I'd feel them to be branches. I heard a writer speaking, and he said that after a rocky point in his relationship with his wife, he realized that if he didn't have children with her, that he would have nothing to say.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ages of innocence

The moon again, hanging out on the way in, the way out of work. Not much to say that hasn't been said many many times, except that it's splendiferous. Some might ask why I would even think to mention the cliche'd moon, but that is the point. I don't think to mention it, I simply do.

I've been traveling, working, dealing - finding that some people still believe in cruelty, in toughening up the kid with tough love and all that. It's not necessary, it's cruel, and adults are playing the game, and it's unseemly, tired.

Reading a blog just a few minutes ago, reading, "baby steps", I realize again, how tough 'normal' life is for some, how scars are reminders, how a pursuit so many take for granted and in stride, might be difficult for others. There is always the 'general', but also always the individual.

Thinking can be unhealthy, but it is also healthy. Some could think more, some less. When I think, sometimes I am thinking to avoid concluding. Concluding seems so final, but thinking is a meditative process. I've now reached a place where thinking is about thinking, which is as near to silence as I've ever been.

Lately, I've noticed that good intentions are suspect far too often. Too few people are comfortable with a compliment, with an offer for help. It seems to be written in some script that interest means Interest and that offers of kindness must be paid back. It seems some days that it is even difficult to help another person without motives being suspect.


Friday, February 4, 2011

More trees

People have been milling around me all week, while I tend table at an education fair. It's interesting stuff, technology that is truly amazing, more in materials than gadgets, but there are plenty of both.

The sun is setting behind the Carson Range, the Toiyabe National Forest, and to the east is the Virginia Range. These mountains are beautiful in a stark, bare, but warm, toasted way. The Carson Range has some serious peaks - about 10,000 feet, most in the 6-8,000 range. It's different, stark, beautiful. This is the state of Death Valley too, but it's a ways away. Lake Tahoe is only about 20 miles, the largest alpine lake in the US.

My tour is over, but I just wanted to mention the beauty here, to drop a picture, your view through my eyes. Enjoy.

Truth and absolution

It's a low budget, small but big casino hotel outside Reno, smoke and iceberg lettuce staples here. "The Nugget" is her name, complete with gold scales in the lobby, charming family run operation, and every minute confirms it's not for me. The non-smoking rooms have smoke coming in their bathroom vents, but curiously, the windows open.

It's perfectly imperfect, and I guess fun for some, a real charmer as the painting (not a real painting) in the bath proves. It's screwed to the wall, exactly as you see it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Are words important? I noted to a fellow bus rider today that, though we were at the end of a two hour journey that normally takes one, that we were, nevertheless, getting home. I had heard the complaints, grunts, curses from people claiming the metro people didn't care, the declarations that they didn't know what they were doing, the suggestions that the metro was always late. I told my fellow rider that it was sometimes difficult to not absorb some of the negativity around me, but that no matter the length of the trip, I do always get home. He nodded, seeming to be in agreement.

We then talked about recycled building materials for our houses.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


When the wind howls, its mournful, wild, willful and dramatic at the same time. When it whistles in the eves, I hear music, sprites, play. It rattles my metal roof some nights, and recently, I've noticed that it's comforting, like the clock ticking down stairs, the sun rising in the morning. I like reminders that I am not alone, and that I am not lone. The poems written around me, in the sand, soil, shimmering water, leaves, wind, rain, snow, summer haze, are more real than the words I might use to conjure my own.

Wouldn't it be a good thing to keep balance, to stop pushing these so often gentle reminders of our coexistence to angrier and angrier expressions of stress? Snow is horizontal now, heavy, warm flakes falling fast, transforming again the already beautiful landscape, no inconvenience at all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's so easy

The same way a river flows, so to can love. A book I read many years ago is entitled, Don't Push the River (by Barry Stevens). I've forgotten how important that command is, and have been pushing the river now, for some time.

Writing this is how I organize realizations - it's how I know, what I do not need to 'know'.




Shining sharp, bright, cold, the comfort of the moon, a constant cycle keeping me from being too much day to day, and reminding me how short the lifespan of such drama can be. I see her every 2 weeks, waxing, waning or hanging full 'above'. As my day started last Wednesday, the moon's was setting in this hemisphere. She accompanied me to work, giving me more than the day ahead, the people snoozing around me on the bus, and my own fatigue, to ponder.

I've been pondering happiness, and how simple the pleasure of looking at the moon is. I found that one of the countries/regions in Asia claiming to be the inspiration behind Shangri-la, has been moving toward's happiness as a primary goal in governance. Bhutan's ruler was a monarch until a few years ago, and peacefully and willingly converted the country to a democracy. They are known to be the happiest people on the planet, and their happiness was planned. As I think about this, I find it terribly difficult, being the concerned citizen I am, being unconcerned with my self, to avoid identifying reasons that one country can mindfully pursue happiness, while another cannot. Materialism naturally pops into my mind as a potential culprit, and materialism came about because of the choices and the abundance we found 350 years ago in the 'new world'. For whatever reason, our system of living, even the 'pursuit of happiness' have become a euphemism for pursuit of wealth, which results in more unhappiness.

The value placed on materials is artificial. I've been thinking for years now about diamonds, and how they are so valuable, not because they're rare, but because they are artificially controlled AND beautiful objects. Diamonds are a prime example of misplaced pursuit. One does not need a diamond, and yet not long ago, they were ubiquitous expressions of love and success.

Every time I hear a value ascribed to an object now, I think of whether that object is part of a commodified happiness, or is it a need that facilitates happiness.

Onward, into the next moon cycle, our own diamond constant in the sky.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Book of the Living:


Crystal encasement, the dual beauty and hazard of ice, sheathing, magnifying, distorting, transporting everything to another place and time, a mummification of the beautiful bark and bud of our time. A look, perhaps a second look, out the door, window, and the landscape floods into me like the rush of fresh air taken when I've forgotten to breath. When I am open, it floods in, emotional and more real, perhaps, than the other drama, the conversations, the news, the tits and tats of moving through a day's routine, of schedules, of unmissables. And so, there are two dramas, the one defined in part by television, by necessity, by blind ambition, and there is this other one, the one that I must have presence enough to be absent enough to feel.

Today, in a conversation, I spoke of the heirlooms that define us (we're family), and voiced the question, 'what of them?' Even if I had children, what is that object that my grandmother's mother touched every day, what is the bear I had as a child, what is the portrait, but a look into eyes long dead, seeing a face with one half of one half of one half of one half of my mother in it, and yet I recognize my mother in her great grandmother, I recognize myself in that bear, feel home when touching that object my great grandmother touched every day. And so I live now and then at once.

For a while, I was vehemently anti-establishment, which meant effectively, that I thought I knew things I did not end up knowing. I thought it was someone else's fault. That 'it' was a fault at all, was wrong. But I was right too, because I was discovering passion and meaning in my life. I discovered, though may not have realized it, that I didn't have to have anything but what I have to be me. My teen dreams were brochures for a scheme, and I distinctly recall thinking that I wanted, or wanted to do many things that I don't feel a glimmer for anymore. We change, yes - but we also recognize. 'Our truths' are not others' truths. We recognize that we're alone in the world, and home is as great an adventure as Kathmandu, and for me, it is home, instinct. It is what I have, it is the answer, all the answers, and inside of it, I can do, be, swim and swarm and drink and love.

As I peered out into the cold shimmering icy wet morning, I realized that with all that seems missing to me, I yet have everything. What is to discover, but what is right there in front of me? I can dream of, and pursue magic elsewhere, in the mountains and mysterious mythologies, or I can have them in my own back yard in this prescient reality that is my life. I can ask questions, or I can live with questions. I can pursue depth, or I can enjoy it. I can marvel about water, or I can immerse myself in it, and feel it. Today, I could have disposed of everything, but I realized the amount of time it would have taken would have surmounted the gesture, yes, only a gesture. For every action, there is an equal and opposing action. This is true and is truly debatable. If we consider an action to be movement, then there might physically appear to have to be a counter-action. But stillness is action, and I wonder if the opposing force is a force at all, if it is also stillness.

Music was once a significant part of my life. Music spoke for me, the lyrics' clever and wonderful ways to say important things, like I love you. Music was again someone else's ideas adopted, adapted, co-opted by me, my publicity agent, a skill. And I've found new meaning in music now, only that which makes me move a little, not often a lot, that which tells me something about another, that I don't want, but that I like. I have now found that the music I enjoy most is the music that pulses along side my heart, that expresses despite the lyric, emotion, motion. Clever words and mystery no longer speak for me, my eyes speak for me, my heart speaks for me, and the music that beats with me, is me.