Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unleash that Inner Lion!

I’m a proud, stubborn, arrogant (mostly in my head), defiant, brash Leo. I’ve had long moments of messianic complex and deep valleys of humiliation (also mostly in my head). But as I continue to struggle with these extremes of who I am, I was inspired by this horoscope for the new year for Leos of every stripe. It’s from my favorite weekly horoscope site and I wanted to share it. As an often generous Leo (although not in the typical and traditional sense of the idea) I urge everyone to take up a bit of the king of the jungle mantel and incorporate it into their 2009 undertakings.

Leo: How much of your animal essence is in captivity, and how much is running free? Is your inner lion able to wander at will through places where it feels at home, or is it trapped in a confined space it would never stay in if allowed to choose? Keep coming back to these questions during 2009. It will be an excellent time to spring the great cat in you from conditions that make it pace in neurotic circles. (

Love and Hugs!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow in the East Bay!

Well it won't let me freaking show you the picture, but it SNOWED IN BERKELEY LAST NIGHT!!!

Check out this picture and article in the San Francisco Chronicle of someone cross country skiing in Tilden State Park in the Berkeley Hills.

Who'd a thunk it!!

Love and hugs!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Connection and Intimacy

Occasionally I have to go to the Nature Conservancy’s office in Sacramento for a meeting and I happily take Amtrak to get there. Today was one of those days and as I boarded the train in Sacramento to come home I looked for a quiet space to ride the train home. I ended up in a compartment with an older looking white man, wiry, with a little something odd about him, but not threatening. As I sat down a few rows from him a young man came into our small area and saw the older man and asked if he could join him and the older man said sure and even moved into a set of seats facing the kid to talk better. The young kid was Asian with an accent and I could tell from his energy that he wanted to talk with someone.

My first reaction was happiness that the older guy was there so that I didn’t become the reluctant target of the young kid’s talkative energy. And then I was surprised that I felt a little envy at the ease in which these two complete strangers with surface appearances that betrayed no discernable commonalities could so readily begin chatting.

And it turned out that they were perfect conversationalists for each other.

They began talking about history, ranging from Genghis Khan to Marx’s dialectic of history. I didn’t listen too closely because it was a lot of lecturing to each other back and forth but these two men were really enjoying each other’s company, picking up conservation after one went to the snack car or the bathroom. I was quietly amazed.

I think part of my amazement stems from the fact that since packing up my life (and selling or giving away much of it) and moving to Berkeley 5 months ago, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships - to my family, friends, and lack of romantic ones – and my own pursuit of human contact and intimacy. I’m at a point where I question if I’d recognize intimacy if it bit me on the nose. I don’t seem to know how to discern if someone is romantically interested in me, just being polite or simply passing the time. With the new people that I meet at the kitchen I volunteering at, I’m just getting people’s initial surface story of who they are, where they’ve been and what brought them to the kitchen and it will take some effort to go deeper.

As I get older I realize people already have their intimate relationships – romantic and friends – and they’re not looking to expand. I can understand this as much as it frustrates me; people and intimacy take effort and time to build and develop. But as someone who feels like she’s starting over, I still find it really baffling that I’m halfway through life and I don’t know how to do this. I try not to dwell on how this happened and try and move forward with trusting that I do know how to do it, I’m just overanalyzing it. But it is a strange place to be in mentally. I’m hoping in sharing it with the blogosphere that I can let it go.

Love and hugs!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Homesick for the Prairie

I knew it was bound to happen, after all it happens in every relationship; the honeymoon is over with me and the East Bay. In short, I miss Minnesota, specifically Northfield.

Pictured above is the Cannon River as it bisects Northfield, and just to the right out of the frame of the photo is Just Food Co-op. Big sigh. I miss it terribly. Even though the current high and low temperatures are pretty freaking cold – 23 is the high, 10 is the low – I still miss the place. The small-town feel of it, the fact that I would recognize and know so many people coming into the co-op. The fact that everyone would be bundled up. And the even bigger fact that despite the cold and the bundling up, tomorrow night most of Northfield’s 17,000 residents will come out for the downtown celebration of “Winter Walk.”

Winter Walk is the annual downtown business association’s attempt to get people to shop the historic downtown for the holidays. Last year, Just Food participated and what that meant was that the Clydesdale Horse Drawn Hay Wagon ride stopped at the store and took on and let off passengers. We had a fire going in a grate outside the store and kids were getting their faces painted inside the store. There was about a foot of snow on the ground and it was very festive! I was dressed as an elf with a Santa cap and all, and several times I lead carol singing over the P.A. as shoppers joined in or just smiled in appreciation. It’s a wonderful memory.

So I’m missing all that – the security of a full time job, the knowledge of working for a good cause, and a sense of community. Here’s hoping that will be forthcoming in my new home!

Love and Hugs!

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is What a Real Pipeline Looks Like...

(Bill Richardson, Kathleen Sebelius, Tim Geithner, Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton)

Comparisons are inevitable in politics and news reporting, it makes for good drama and hence interesting news. Above are some of the people that Obama has supposedly selected for his cabinet (Commerce - Richardson, Agriculture - Sebelius, Treasury - Geithner, Homeland Security - Napolitano, Justice - Holder, Health and Human Services - Daschle, State - Clinton) even if he hasn't officially announced it yet. The media has made much about comparisons to Bill Clinton's transition time, specifically focusing on Clinton's desire to have more than just white men in his cabinet and in his supposed haste (and carelessness) nominating unknown people who were not properly vetted and whose nominations were hastily withdrawn (see Lani Guinier, Kimba Wood, Zoe Baird). The unfortunate fact that they were all women only made matters worse, as Clinton was derided for his "affirmative action" appointment attempts.

That was 1992, 16 years ago. Setting aside the differences between Bill Clinton and Barak Obama, look at how far the political scene has come.

Not only is Obama being lauded for his smart choices (politically and policy wise) but he is able to pick from an incredibly talented pool of top Democrats who aren't all white men. Janet Napolitano and Bill Richardson, both Latinos and governors; Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas is only one of 29 women to have been elected governor of a state; Hillary Clinton the first woman Senator of New York and only one of 35 women to ever have served in the U.S. Senate and the only woman to have had a serious chance of winning her party's nomination; and Eric Holder will be the first African American to hold the position of U.S. Attorney General, the top law enforcer in the country, including civil rights.

Step back and take that all in. We've come a long way, but this didn't just "happen." Building a pipeline of new talent takes mentoring, commitment of resources and taking risks by those in power to bring others along. Call it affirmative action, quotas, or preferential treatment, doesn't matter to me. What does matter is that creating a pool of qualified people not of the status quo doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen without tremendous effort.

So kudos to all the organizations and people who have made this possible. I'm so proud to see that work reflected in my current lifetime!

Love and Hugs!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drooling Over an Overstocked Pantry

When I’m bored, I think about food. Not necessarily eating food, but preparing it. But this isn’t your run of the mill fantasy of creating sumptuous dinner parties or baking sticky sweet treats. No, instead I perform what I think of as Depression Era inspired food fantasizing; I mentally raid my pantry and set myself a challenge to make a full meal for 6 diners from whatever is there. And if I’m really bored, I start to stock the pantry in my mind.

That doesn’t mean I go shopping like any ordinary person. Oh no. My fantasizing of the perfect pantry is on the scale of old-school MGM Musicals. Just to give you an idea of the scope, pretty soon I’ve envisioned all of the canned goods that would have come from my 50 by 50 foot vegetable garden, and the dried herbs and herbal teas from my large herb and flower garden. Of course we can’t forget the dairy items – yogurts and cheeses – and smoked meats that would have come from my cow and sows. Naturally my house would be surrounded by luscious wild fruit trees and bushes – raspberries, sour cheers, plums, apples and pears – so the dried, canned and frozen items would be plentiful as well.

When I lived in the Midwest, none of this was far-fetched, and indeed, I also could have grown my own wheat, rye, flax, spelt, and corn to make flours to turn into a variety of baked goods. Chickens providing eggs and meat are increasingly a part of many rural and urban homes and I would have had them as well. The big joke is that I’m single – no partner and mess of kids to cook for from this cornucopia of a pantry. But dreaming is the first step to making it a reality!
Love and Hugs!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Putting My Education to Good Use…

Schweitzer * Richardson * Ritter * Napolitano

Everyone has pet peeves, whether they recognize them as that or not. It might be as small as being left with the cardboard roll of empty toilet paper or an unmade bed, but we all have little dislikes that just needle us to no end. One of mine is the “I told you so” attitude. It drives me nuts when people say or imply it, regardless of whether it’s for a positive or negative thing (such as, “I told you that they love you and you’ll get that job!” or “I told you that you’d burn your tongue if you didn’t let the soup cool”). No matter how small or larger or positive or negative, the sentiment is all about being right as opposed to being kind or supportive or whatever, and what does one get for being right?

That said, I am about to be the person that I can’t stand. I’m going to say I told you so since I feel vindicated in what I’ve been saying for about three years to whoever would listen: we are finally witnessing the decline of the so called Southern Strategy for Democrats winning the Presidency and the rise of the independent West. For decades, democratic pundits and operators have said that candidates needed to be either from the South (LBJ, Carter, Clinton) or have a running mate from the South (hence Kerry’s pick of Edwards) to win southern votes and the presidency. Not only did I hate that sort of pandering to conservative aspects of the Democratic Party (read racist) but I also thought that it sold short many parts of the county.

Call it the resultant mix of my intuition, intimate knowledge of state legislators across 50 states, and many years of political science education, but I’m proud to say that I saw this coming, this being the slow rise of Democratic leaders and larger democratic voting blocks in the American West. Looking at the electoral map, it wasn’t simply that Obama won Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, which went to Bush in 2000 and 2004. But look at the vote in Montana, Nebraska, Arizona and North and South Dakota (!) which slid towards Obama in the last days of the election. Westerners have a specific regional culture that can appear quite contrary if you didn’t grow up with it. It is anti-establishment and anti-government but has a live and let live quality (see New Hampshire as the East Coast aberration). But there is also that pioneer, help thy neighbor, communal bent, which has often translated into social conservatism because of the role going to church and religion play in daily lives, but it can also come out as, we’re all in this together, so let’s get that barn built! While an increased latino vote in Colorado and New Mexico and a growing black vote in Nevada definitely helped Obama, those groups are still outnumbered by white folks, who also voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Before people elected Obama, they elected moderate democrats as governors – in Arizona (Janet Napolitano), New Mexico (Bill Richardson), Colorado (Bill Ritter), and Montana (Brian Schweitzer). While staunch progressive democrats may not see these moderates as victories, remember that most change, whether it’s from within or without, is incremental in nature.

So join me in continuing the post-election celebration and raise a glass to the bluing of the West, and if you’re feeling generous, an acknowledgement of my rightness!

Love and hugs!
P.S. Here's the map of the US that I looked at during the elections, and you can see the actual vote from the elections (notice Missouri still isn't final yet!) But what's even more interesting, is if you look on the right hand side of the page, you can click to see what the day looked like in 2004 and the difference is astounding!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trusting Strangers with My Life, Redux....

My loyal readers may recall my second post when I talked about using the local carpool system to get to work free, and with a lower carbon footprint. Well if I could, I would gladly bike to work, but the Bay Bridge does not accomodate bicycles. But in the post-election, President-Elect Obama glow, I believe in dreaming big. Reading about the proliferation of cities in Europe setting up easy bike commute programs made my heart sing. Take a gander and join me in the big dream!


Love and Hugs

Thursday, November 6, 2008

L'Chaim! To Life!

I am not sure how to explain it, but suddenly I am so interested in cooking again! I don't know if it's the fact that Obama is going to the White House and so some karmic release in the world has just occurred, but I created a fantastic dinner and new dish. I almost titled this post, "let's get shredded" because that was what it took to make my fancy-simple dinner, but I like the idea of toasting "Life," pure and simple.

It's an Asian (Thai perhaps) inspired grated coleslaw and I enjoyed it with slices of fresh avocado and chilled shrimp and it was divine! Sorry I don't have the camera to take pictures of the actual meal, but these pictures of the raw ingredients will have to do. If you try it, let me know what you think.

Grated Asian Slaw

1 celeriac, peeled
1 broccoli stalk
1 purple turnip
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Thai green chili, deseeded, minced
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 avocado, sliced (optional)
5 chilled shrimp (optional)

Grate each of the vegetables into a bowl. Add the lime juice to prevent the vegetables from discoloring and add half of the salt. Mix well. Add cabbage, cilantro and chili and mix well. Toss in the sesame oil and mix well. Add black pepper to taste.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy Obama Day!

I am FINALLY so proud to declare that I’m an American, that I live in a place that has finally done the right thing and not simply by electing an African American for President. But by electing a man who has all of the right political qualities that I admire – intellectually and street smart, politically savvy, not captured by the Beltway mentality – as well as the qualities of an outstanding human being – integrity, community focused, humble, and a loving, family, oriented man.

Oh Happy Day! I salute you, Mr. President and I can’t wait to see how you lead us into more history making moments!

Happy Obama Day!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Color Me Happy

I think it is fair to say that the dominant culture in America is not one that embraces color as something to which people should aspire. Most home decorators will include a "splash" of color and fashion/style designers would go with the same. Although there are pockets of minority cultures here that thrive on vibrant colors in their dress and home decor - think of the brilliant colors of women dressed in traditional Indian Saris or the rainbow of suits and hats on African American women at church on Sunday - but the majority of folks don't do color. I won't try to analyze why, it would all be just guessing.

For whatever reason, I am once again in love with color, trying to wear it and although I can't paint my house as I would like (some of my past abodes I painted such bright colors as rasberry sherbet pink, cantalope orange, and fresh spring green) I wanted to share this slide show and accompanying article of "outside" artist Anada McLauchlin whose work left me filled with joy and pure happiness.

This is the slideshow from the article:

Here's the article if you're so inclined, but definitely check out the art as well!

Love and hugs

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Local News to Crow About!

I am seriously considering creating a website that gathers information about local food and the various facets that involves. Until that happens, here are some more reports I've found, current and a bit dated.


1) "Let Them Eat Kale" in Chicago's School System

2) "Feeding the Locavores" in Southwest Virginia!

3) "Locavores Unite" Feeding North Carolinans Local Food

4) "Got Local? Farmers' Markets Draw Crowds" Even Canada is going local!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Locavores Across the Universe

So in lieu of always writing a lot, I'm also going to post news links to interesting food stories. Here's a Vermont School going local. While it is no longer "news" in that it is not completely new, I'm really excited that this practice is catching on in more and more places!

1)"Burlington Schools Celebrate Local Food and Local Farmers"

2) Go North Dakota!!! (Yes, you can eat locally in North Dakota, afterall, before Eisenhower's highway system existed to bring produce from Florida and California, local was all there was!)

"Local Foods Initiative Underway in North Dakota"

3) And in Montana...note that in this article the first farmer interviewed is from Big Sandy, which is where my favorite U.S. Senator (and organic farmer) Jon Tester is from.

"Agriculture, Local Food and Open Space at the New West Conference"

4) Wexford Ireland is no slouch either...

"Feeding Your Retail Habit"

5) And to round it out, here's a presidential like column on farming from Wisconsin.
(note all of these places are cold weather places, so it's not impossible!)

"McCain, Obama Should Pay Attention to Farmers"

Happy reading!

Love and hugs

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DIYers Win This Round

All of you who know me know I’m a sucker for feel good stories that involve farmers, community and food. Straight out of Vermont in today’s New York Times is a doozie and I just have to share.

The story is about several different purveyors of food products – vegetable farmers, cheese makers, restauranteur – who have banded together in a loose sort of cooperation to bolster each other’s economic success and it’s working. You’ve got the cheesemakers who expanded their cheese cave to allow others to age their cheeses and farmers who include livestock farmers’ products in their CSA shares.

It’s a win-win all around because everyone gets more business, increasing recognition of their product and improving the community’s economic viability. It’s not communism or socialism because it was all self-initiated. I’m sure some people (not readers of this blog!) will read the New York Times article and sniff at the Vermont Hippies since it could be classified as communal in nature. But I like to think of it is neighborly in nature, and plain ole smart. So let’s hear it for the DIYers who didn’t need the government or the ideologues to tell them how to leverage their resources to improve everyone’s success, not just their own.

Love and Hugs

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Genius is All Around

Whenever I was running out of money in graduate school I’d throw a dinner party. It wasn’t something conscious, it would just happen. These were not small and intimate, but for 8 or more people. They were multi-course meals and I would cook for hours prior to my guests arriving. And they would be fabulous dinner parties, including such menus as homemade vegetable tempura with four flavored green beans or handmade pumpkin ravioli with a balsamic cream sauce. I even made bread and dessert and let my guests provide the libations. Looking back, I think I understand my actions in two ways; one, I refused to let a lack of money dictate my happiness and two, it was a challenge to see if I could make a sumptuous meal for many on less than $15, mostly using what was in the pantry. Needless to say I have a fairly well stocked pantry and the meals were vegetarian, but the meals were gorgeous, and even the carnivores coveted return invitations.

So just as Wall Street is in shambles and business credit is non-existent I keep dreaming up new business ventures. One after another they keep tumbling out of my head, like clowns coming out of a cannon. They’re full grown, with marketing and business plans in hand. Their painted faces keep popping up in front of me saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” And while they’re interesting and fun to play with, I fear they’re a bit outlandish.

And just when I’ve dismissed them as too niche oriented or something that only I and a very select group of people would be interested in, I read an article in the New York Times about an urban, organic, black farmer, Will Allen, who just won a “genius” award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is – no joke – a gift of $500,000 ($100,000 a year for five years) to people who are considered genius in their field. They receive the money for simply being who they are. No grant writing, no application, no letters of recommendation. Just, hello, we think you’re doing amazing things, here’s half a million dollars, do whatever you want to do with it. Really.

So it turns out Will Allen founded and runs Green Power, which is one of these amazing nonprofits that has quietly been revolutionalizing farming, urban renewal, and sustainable food production. Green Power is located in one of the most economically distressed parts of Milwaukee, an area of town that doesn’t have real grocery stores, what people in the food movement refer to as urban “food deserts,” where the only access to food is corner grocery stories filled with beer, cigarettes and processed foods.

Green Power has been around for 16 years and now has a staff of about three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as volunteers. They grow about $500,000 worth of affordable produce, meat and fish in several locations across the city and on 40 acres in a nearby town. This project is very similar to an organization here in Oakland, the People’s Grocery, which was founded five years ago to create a real grocery store in a similar “food desert” neighborhood. Like Green Power, the People’s Grocery has gardens and a few acres of farmland to raise its own produce to make available to the lowest income people.

But what I find so amazing is that Will Allen started this in 1994!! I didn’t even know the word organic in 1994! I didn’t even hear about such a thing as organic farming until 1996. I am in awe of both the foresight to create such a project and the ability to sustain and grow it to its present capacity. As the creation of the People’s Grocery demonstrates, the impetus to grow and provide healthy, sustainably grown food even in the urban food desert is not an isolated desire. This is a prime example of how greatness can come from poor conditions.

I am so thrilled that my desire, as expressed in yesterday’s blog post, to find the good that can come from scarce times manifested this wonderful example of ingenuity and social good. So let this be the first of many to inspire all to build a better future.

(link to the article)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Facing the Storm

I don’t know if it is the paucity of metaphors or my lack of creativity, but over the past few days the same metaphors keep occurring to me no matter the topic of my thoughts; weathering a storm.

Yesterday, a New York Times article called September 29, 2008, Black Monday, and I wonder if it was hyperbole or is this really as bad as the first Black Monday in 1929. I know practically speaking, it isn’t as bad because we now have F.D.I.C. and government programs to protect (most) of the unemployed that F.D.R. created with the New Deal, not to mention the second wave of social supports that came with L.B.J.’s Great Society. But when you’re in the middle of a (insert your own adjective) storm does it feel like Hurricane force winds, or the eerie calm of the eye?

In the carpool ride into work this morning, I said I was very glad I didn’t live in New York City: the streets will be strewn with suits looking for work. That alone illustrates a difference between now and 1929 when that Crash sent blue-collar workers home with no jobs. But this morning both of the other people in the car – one is a headhunter with an executive search firm and the other works at a major environmental nonprofit – said they are both expecting layoffs to happen within the week or so.

So if the financial storm really is going to hit all of us (let the pundits call it a “deep recession” if that makes them feel better), how do people cope? Since I’m a problem solver by nature, I’m going to devote the next couple of postings to talking about what good things came out of the Depression Era and what lessons from that time apply to our current situation.

One thing that I know personally happens when you lose financially, is that your priorities suddenly become crystal clear. Not surprisingly, the same is true when an actual storm hits and destroys all of your possessions; at least the people you love are safe and alive. This brings me back to the storm metaphor.

One of my sweetest memories of the time just before my dad died was of my sisters, mom and I being in a community-produced musical, Carousel. I got to wear my favorite dress up dress – red with white polka dots and a white bib-like collar – and as a pre-adolescent 11 year old, although I was just on the cusp of feeling self-conscious about a love for old musicals, I didn’t yet reject them as uncool. One of the main songs from the movie is “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Thinking of the lyrics always brings at least a lump to my throat if not tears to my eyes, evoking such a happy time in my childhood. Similar to its use in the movie, I often sang it to myself after my dad had died when I needed comforting.

You’ll Never Walk Alone
When you walk through a storm
Hold your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.

Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

So this is my mantra of hope and faith, that there is good that will come of what so many are calling a catastrophe. I firmly believe that necessity is the mother of invention. I also believe that faith in learning from a situation will pull you through horrible times. I hope many others feel the same.

Love and hugs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Rose for the Barrell of your Gun?

I forgot I had found this poem recently by the great agriculture advocate Wendell Berry. It soothes me whenever I read it.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

You Say You Want a Revolution….

I do, I do, I do! I want a revolution. I want everyone to wake up to the false reality that is our current American way of life and start growing and making their own food! Gawking ignorantly at the financial mess that we’re in (and God knows if they’re even creating a good plan to get us out of it), thinking that $3.85 a gallon is cheap for gas (!!!!), and being bombarded by the increasing negative effects of climate change (um, I work at The Nature Conservancy!), how can I not feel panicked!

I, with my years and years of academic training know that I sound like a freaking Stalinist (and probably fascist depending on how you look at it) with, “my way or the highway” sentiments, but there is a little gnome inside of me jumping up and down, holding its breath and hoping that all of its effort will change people’s ways. The pragmatic, realistic side of me knows that’s no way to create a revolution, but that little gnome keeps jumping and not breathing and hoping just the same. So what’s a 21st century revolutionary to do?

I should preface all of this with a few qualifying notes. First of all, I really want a job in the food revolution and don’t yet have one. So it’s safe to say that that frustration is definitely fueling that little gnome’s gymnastics more than anything. Secondly, I just watched an Italian movie last night about two brothers growing up in the 1960s and how they each handled the political furor of that time. Of course one brother was a leftist radical whose political activities eventually force him underground as a fugitive from the law. The other brother starts out as a Fascist and then comes around to something more closely aligned with his economic interest as he literally watches his home crumble around the ears of his hard working mother and father (Mio Fratello Il Figlio Unico, My Brother the Only Son).

Needless to say all of this rekindled some very dormant revolutionary thoughts and impulses of my own. As I am not shy of reminding people, not only do I share a birthday with Fidel Castro and my birthday horoscope warns of “dictatorial and violent tendencies,” but I was fascinated and slightly infatuated with the leftist violent radicalism of the late 60’s that swept the world (Germany, Italy, Japan, Czechoslovakia, France, the U.S.). While W’s Operation Freedom and the Iraqi War have turned me into a fierce pacifist, I still burn with the fear that one day American life as we know it – politically, economically, and socially – will implode on itself. I hope when that happens that I’m living on a farm by then and can provide a refuge for all of my friends who are fleeing the barrenness that will be the vast majority of the U.S.

So where does this all leave me? Clearly, I’m sure some of you are thinking, she needs to get out more, exercise, enjoy life! True that my friend. But it also makes me wonder, how many times will “bubbles” happen before we realize that this system of bubbles and bursts doesn’t really seem to be working well? It works ok until we bandage it or let it subside – in the case of housing, financial markets, industry booms. But what about things that don’t go away or subside, like climate change?
So, my urban dwelling friends and loved ones, please help assuage my fears and grow one edible thing so that you can reawaken that part of your DNA memory that knows how to produce its own food. Even as we are leaving the supposed growing months of summer, it is still possible to grow things in a pot on a windowsill or even under the florescent lights of your bathroom! Whether it is herbs such as basil, oregano or thyme or fresh lettuce or tomatoes, please take that first step. After all, we all start out with baby steps and look at how far we’ve all come!

Love and hugs!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ruby-Throated Messengers

Saturday afternoon I received a visitor in my sun porch, a feathered friend who can move at the speed of 60 miles per hour. To my delight, a ruby throated, green-chested hummingbird flew in the door of sun porch to try and procure a meal from a pot of geraniums perched on the TV.

It was such a thrill to see him go from bloom to bloom but then my excitement turned to pure horror. Instead of exiting the room through the open door he headed towards the warm sunshine of the enclosed windows. He proceeded to bump against the windows frantically, buzzing up and down until he was forced to rest on the window sill to take a breather. I was so terrified that he’s wear himself out and I would then have a dead hummingbird on my hands. So I quickly grabbed a broom, and tried to “sweep” him out of the porch as I had done to countless bats in my old farmhouse in Cannon Falls, MN. After what felt like an eternity – for both of us I’m sure – he suddenly flew straight towards the open door and out into freedom. I quickly closed the door all but a crack and breathed a sigh of relief.

But this wasn’t the first time that I’ve come face to face with a hummingbird. On several times I have been out in the back yard and one will come zooming up to me and buzz around in front of my face. They spend 5-10 seconds hovering in front of me, no more than a foot or so away. I always talk to them, bidding them good day and wondering what they want from me. It’s not like I’m wearing something red and flower like (they are especially attracted to red flowers for nectar). I wish I could speak the secret life of hummingbirds, they must have such interesting adventures.

While I’m sure my experience with the ruby-throated hummingbirds is not unusual – they are extremely common in the area – I do wonder about our feathered friends and how they have become so bold. Did the prior occupants of the house put out a bird feeder especially for them and their hovering visits are their way of letting me know that they haven’t forgotten that human often feed them? Or do they simply see my hair as something nice for building their next nest? Whatever may be the reason, I’m just glad that I didn’t end up with my own taxidermilogical specimen as a result of the geranium in my sun porch!

Symbolically, hummingbirds are supposed to be harbingers of joy, of the miracle of the moment, which seems perfectly logical to me, since I smile whenever I see these little creatures with their long beaks zooming around or perched overhead on wires. Maybe they really are just reminding me to love life, giving each moment its due as it unfolds.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trusting Strangers with My Life, Again, and Again, and Again…

Every weekday morning I do the unthinkable: I get into an utter stranger’s car with another stranger and trust that they will not hurt, let alone kill me as we drive across the San Francisco Bay to work in the city. Essentially it’s legal hitchhiking but the more risk averse like to call it by a more innocuous name, rideshare.

Here in the Bay Area rideshare is the name of an informal carpool system that is a boon for both riders and drivers. Near my house, people line up along the boulevard next to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Station and appear to be waiting for a bus but in fact cars stop near the front of the line and people get into the cars and ride away.

The first time I actually participated in this bizarre ritual was when I was volunteering for the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden, which was located in front of San Francisco’s City Hall. When I found out that BART cost $7 roundtrip I decided to give this rideshare idea a chance.

At 8:15 am I arrived at the rideshare line armed with a few dollars for gas money, which I thought was the considerate thing to do. To my confusion, there were two lines so I had to reveal my ignorance and ask how it all worked. The woman in front of me gave me the scoop in a low voice.

“Two people at a time in a car. You don’t give gas money because carpools don’t have to pay the $4 bridge toll.” And then in providing her final instruction, she exaggerated her mouth and said, “You get in. Say hello. And then you Do Not Speak! That’s it!”

I was a little taken aback by the severity of my instructions, but nonetheless I was game. I put away my dollar bills and waited to get into a car. One pulled up, I got in the front seat (the least desirable spot), said hello to the driver who responded in kind, closed the door and put on my seatbelt and no one said another word for the next 25 minutes as we drove into the city. It was exactly as my guide in the line had said it would be.

And what do you suppose was my reaction to this odd little culture of agreed upon silence? Joy! Pure and utter joy! I wanted to sing, I wanted to laugh and hug and kiss every person and every tree. I wanted to stick my head out the window as we rode across the Bay Bridge and scream my love for the planet! It was bizarre, even to me, but I was so thrilled to find people so open to trusting strangers that it nearly moved me to tears.

Since finding a paid job, a temporary albeit long term stint, I happily utilize rideshare every morning. As with any routine, I no longer marvel at the fact that I trust random strangers with my life. I’ve learned that another rule of thumb is that NPR news will be on the radio and while reactions to the news (hrumps, snorts, guffaws and the like) are tolerated, they are not invitations to converse. Now and again I get an anxious driver who makes the commute more like a creaky carnival ride with slamming brakes and herky jerky speeds ups in an attempt to best traffic. But on those days, I just look at the Bay and breathe deeply, confident that I will not leave this world in a car wreck on the Bay Bridge.

My initial thought that rideshare was a uniquely Berkeley or Bay Area idea only betrays an innate bias towards my new home (it goes without saying that I’m ridiculously infatuated with this place). Now I vaguely remember that an informal carpool also exists in Virginia and probably many other metropolitan areas.

And while a small part of my Leo ego likes to cling to the idea that the Berkeley rideshare is unique, a larger part of me loves the idea that there are strangers all across this country, climbing into other stranger’s cars and routinely trusting them with their commute and their life. It makes me smile, and if I had a big doggy tail, it would be wagging wildly.

Love and Hugs

Watching the Financial Meltdown on Wall Street and Wondering Why My Heart is Beating so Fast?

In my maiden foray into the blogsphere (I have an incredible urge to shout out "HELLOOOOOOOO" since the "blogsphere" just screams out empty echo chamber) I am finding it quite curious that I am so fascinated and a little scared by the whole Wall Street meltdown. In some ways it feels the same as when metereologists try not to sound too gleeful when a huge storm is about to hit. We all know this is a terrible thing but oh how awesome (dude!) it is. Yet, it also reminds us of how small and insignificant we are.

And the truth is, for the vast majority of people living in America, the meltdown on Wall Street really doesn't touch us. Even if you own a home and have some stocks in a 401(k) or 403(b) your stocks may tumble, but they'll go back up again because the fundamental truth about Americans - despite the hippy movement and various small pockets of communalism - is that most of us secretly want to get rich quick, and stocks are the fairy tale path that we believe will do that. (There is legalized gambling like Powerball or Lotto, but the odds there are so crazy that it's a strange truth that those with the least amount to gamble are the ones supporting that game). But back to the gaping wounds of the financial titans whose bodies are littering Wall Street.

The reason why government and the macro-economists are most concerned about investment houses going bankrupt and the insurance giant AIG falling to their knees and begging for help is that these are the corporations that prop up the credit market. And their downfall worsens what is being called the "credit crunch," the growing scarcity of loans to businesses. This mainly affects large, multi-national corporations and their ability to expand and thus create jobs. However, when you consider that more than half of the people working in America work for an organization that has fewer than 500 employees, plus all of those those people working for the massive corporations and making less than $10 an hour (any fast food restaurant, Wal-Mart, KMart, etc), there are a large percentage of people who are not actually going to be affected by this "meltdown" because they don't have stocks nor does their employer seek large loans for expansion.

So why are the newspapers writing like this is almost as bad as the Great Depression? Maybe it is a need to sell news, and the fact that we're a culture that eats up sensationalization, no matter the content. But maybe it actually is the fact that having hope in what seems like an out of control and chaotic world appears naive and ignorant. But is the world really that out of control and chaotic in your corner of the world? Sure, you may have some doubts about the direction or your life or what the meaning of it all is, but fundamentally, you're probably doing ok. Because the truth is, if we didn't know about what was happening nearly 3,000 miles away (in my case) it actually wouldn't have that much of an impact. Since I'm officially a Californian (registered to vote, got the license plate and all!) I'm going to go with the idea that giving off positive energy, thoughts and feelings is the way to counter the madness.

(I'm pausing a moment here to let the peanut gallery finish jeering and hurling insults as I send them love.)

So this blog will be about all of the wonderful things that I see going on in the world, both on a broad scale as well as all of the small, neighborhood oriented things that people do to change their immediate world.

I'll close my first post by asking you to raise a glass of your favorite beverage (mine being homemade kombucha for now) and proclaiming, "love, hope and smiles to all" as I ride off into the blogsphere on my sparkling unicorn named Magic!

You're welcome to visit whenever you like and for those of you still offgassing pessimism and negativity, feel free to blow into the blackhole I've linked to (it's invisible and virtual as all good magic is!)

Thanks for reading and love and hugs!