Monthly Archives: May 2009

In Praise of Mary Oliver

We  heard poet Mary Oliver read from her works at Benaroya Hall here in Seattle last night.  The collection of poems she read spanned her entire oeuvre–an excellent selection.  She read for an hour; it was such a delight to hear her work read in her own voice.  Also a delight was her sense of humor, her humble good grace, her great heart.

Her relationship with the natural world, with the beauty and gift of nature itself, made me feel utterly sane.  I’m not sure what I mean by that, just that I felt at ease and sane by the end of the reading.  Perhaps her call to presence when breathing the sweet air of the morning, or hearing an owl at night, made me feel that there is great sanity in loving the loveliness of this planet we share.  That all the flat screen tvs and  ipods in the world can’t  compete with the  feel of the sun on your skin on a summer day.

Yes, I think that might be it.

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Wysteria–series of shots

wysteria 6, originally uploaded by seacat.

Loving the wysteria we put in a couple of years ago–it’s in absolute full luscious bloom now.

Plastic Disturbia

The other day I was paddle boarding around the bay in West Seattle. At this time of year, we have extreme low and high tides, and the slack tide in between tends to be the collection point for a lot of garbage in the water. Even as the day was lovely, the paddling exquisite, I kept coming across a disturbing pattern: big globs of muck that were built out a tangled mess of fishing line, 6-pack ring, seaweed, plastic bags, algae, bungee cords, dead fish, feathers, plastic bottles, unidentified gunk and plastic food containers. The common ingredient: plastic. And there were a lot of these little floating islands.

plastic in our oceans

These congealed half-bio-half-plastic masses are very quickly becoming ubiquitous in our oceans. If the only damage were that of the scenery, I could almost but not quite shrug it off.

The damage is much, much worse. In fact, you could say that what I was seeing off Lincoln Park was just the barest tip of an iceberg.

Sierra Magazine has an article this month entitled “Message in a Bottle” and it’s worth a few minutes to read. Gird yourself, you may not be prepared for the story:

  • There is an area off the coast of Japan known as The Garbage Patch, three times the size of Texas and a seeming doldrums where the world’s plastics collect and degrade.
  • Don’t kid yourself: plastic doesn’t ever entirely degrade like things in the organic world. Plastic simply breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Those pieces at some point become indistinguishable from krill and other food sources in the ocean
  • This plastic broth is making its way into the food chain; the bellies of baby fish are gorged with the stuff and yet they die of starvation. Adult birds and fish are ingesting it. It’s real, it’s happening.
  • One of the main culprits is a thing called plastic nurdles--manufactured plastic molded into small nuggets for easy shipment to manufacturing plants all around the world to make things like that handy blue plastic water bottle, that shovel and bucket your kids play with at the beach, the parts in your car, the caps on your soda, the packing in that new TV (not to mention the TV itself), the plastic wrapper on the grapes you brought to the picnic, the cap on your latte-to-go, your flip-flops, and that bobble-head toy you got at the ballpark. The massive ships carrying these nurdles sometimes lose their cargo, sometimes they accidentally dump large quantities of the stuff, sometimes it just gets loose.

The thing I can’t get out of my head, the thing that haunts me is how much plastic there is. We really don’t even think about plastic as plastic anymore, we think of it as normal. Diamonds may not be forever, after all they are organic structures, but plastic really IS forever. Where will all of this stuff go, this stuff that really IS forever?

In my own little life, we have upped our efforts to decrease the amount of plastic in our lives, but it’s an uphill battle. We reuse our plastic bags and buy in bulk as much as possible, we forego the plastic cap on the latte, we avoid the over-architected containers.

And we have to content ourselves with that. It’s not enough, but it’s something we can do.

The clean-up on this mess will be monstrous; if we started today, we could have 100% employment for decades. The one upside to this is it’s undeniable: the massive three-times-the-size-of-Texas floating islands of garbage are real. You could go there today and be blown away by the iceberg-depth and island-breadth of the mess.

plastic ocean 2

Did anyone else notice how the misty rain looked on plants this morning?



rain mist 2, originally uploaded by seacat.

It looked beautiful.

The amazing tree climbing pink and purple clematis



clematis 1, originally uploaded by seacat.

I love the three stages of these clematis blossoms. This clematis simply could not be happpier than it is growing up into an old cherry tree that is now a natural support for both it and an arching wisteria to the north of it. Enjoy!

Running after 50: working within limits

Sure, I’d like to think I have no limits, it’s exhilarating. It reminds me of the Fool card in the tarot deck. Don’t get me wrong: the Fool is a good card. Mostly. It indicates the potential of doing things that are ill advised but coming out richer for it–richer in experience, knowledge, wisdom and sometimes just plain richer, you never know. So understand: the Fool is a good thing.

The Fool: it's a good thing with the potential for bad.

The Fool: it's a good thing with the potential for trouble.

See–the guy is just about to step off the cliff. Not so good, even the dog is yapping “Look where you step, you…Fool!” But the idea is no venture, no gain.

So, why do I bring this up? I’m not in a limitless place in my running. I made a decision a little while ago to postpone my half marathon plans for a while because stand-up paddle season is here, as is the annual garden-and-ibuprofin two month festival and what I’m finding is I just can’t cram it all in…my poor bod complains too mightily, especially these fasciitis prone feet. And as I’ve said before: I’m in this for the long haul, which means taking care now so I can keep running for a long time. Boring, I know.

But it’s pure math. Training for the half-m would take more than the 18 to 22 miles I run weekly now.  It would take recovery time between runs, if I do it right.  And it’s right in that space between runs where things get messed up.  If the weather is gorgeous, I’m going out on that board, come hell or high water.  And I’ve already experienced what happens when I board and run back to back.

A dear friend of mine was surprised to hear I had forestalled my half-m plans, and not happily so, I could tell. It made me feel a little bad for a while. Also, I just came out of a couple of weeks of feeling bad, post-decision. Turns out a lofty goal for a newbie runner such as a half-m offers is a very motivating thing–gives you this energized identity, this get-up-and-get-out-there motivation and conversation piece that builds energy at every turn. It’s a rush. Exhilarating.

Well, I’ve come out of that funk, and am enjoying my running as much as ever, if not more. The pressure is off, the funk is gone, it’s just me out there running, trying new routes, digging my tunes, loving the blustery weather–being a body in motion. The really great thing that the half-m push did was get me to 7 mile runs and beyond. I love and look forward to them on the weekend. Adding hills and new routes during the week keeps me working on my speed, the weekend runs keep my mind geared towards a longer run and all that it entails.

I still have it in the back of my mind to do a half-m next January or February, leaving me plenty of time for recovery before the paddle surfing season comes around.

Send in the clowns: Parrot Tulips

Parrot Tulips, originally uploaded by seacat.

I’m really into capturing spring this year in our garden. This tulip is a favorite, always makes a late and dramatic entry. It’s almost tough to shoot because they’re a bit on the garish side. Enjoy!

Song sparrow singing his heart out

I’ve snapped some good spring birds this year; this song sparrow is among the faves for sure.