Category Archives: summer time and the livin is easy

WoLP #30-32: everywhere but here

So, the summer schedule continues in high gear, and I feel as though I’ve been everywhere but here–not complaining, it’s been a most lovely summer, but I do miss my Lincoln Park.

This past weekend they had runs and events that either started or finished in the park, leading me to wonder if last year’s genius idea of spray painting arrows and such on trees would be repeated this year. I’m so so so happy to report: as far as I can see after one walk through, it has not.

In fact, a run along the waterfront was bolstered with lots of arrows and encouraging words in CHALK on the asphalt–well done! That’ll wash off easily, no harm, and lots of enthusiasm shared.

A few new permanent signs in the park include arrows and the universal swim-unit giving info on how to get to the Colman pool, easy path, harder path. I had mixed feelings about them cuz I sorta like the pool’s uneasy access, but hey, people do get lost looking for it now and then.

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It was a lovely walk through the park, we are so lucky to live near such a beautiful place–the madrones, the huge maples and towering pines and cedars, gorgeous sunsets and salt scented air.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long romance with the Gem of West Seattle. PS, I think I have the weeks off and we’re actually at week 32 or 33 but hey, what’s a week or two amongst good friends. Enjoy!

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Days 246-251: MLwC and the wild fear of no exit

Whoa–this blog got away from me for a few days. Like a LOT of days. I’m not sure where I’ve been….

I’ve been thinking a lot about the insight I had the other day which I described in 64 miles to mindfulness. Of course, the idea of No Exit has been around in various forms for a long, long time, from Sartre to Pema Chodron. It seems that for a lot of us, the idea of No Escape or No Exit drives us to extremes in behavior and thinking, and I’ve been aware of that in my own jungle-mind since that experience in traffic the other day.

Cars give us the feeling that there is always an escape: we can just hop in our cars and away we go! But it’s not true. The expectation, the hope of that ideal gets us in the car, but the reality is quite different and the jarring difference between the two may be at the bottom of everything from mild irritation and a buzzing disappointment in your brain, to road rage and worse. Cars promise escape, but they can’t deliver–not with all of us driving on the same roads, going in much the same direction.

Perhaps that’s why buses have the sort of stigma they do. They represent the opposite: you’re just going where you’re going. There’s no ideal of Escape. No glamor of hopping in the convertible and heading down the road, all care-free abandon. Could be.

Anyway, I’ve been watching myself and these back-of-the-mind thoughts about Exits and Escapes.

thelma-and-louise.jpg

The other issue I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks is a definite change in car usage, and a definite reason why. In summer, the activities are outdoors, you can walk to the beach, hang out at the pool, run in the park, read a book out in the hammock on a summer afternoon. But as the days draw shorter and the temp drops, my activities tend to be more involved with others, in their homes–dinners, game nights, stuff like that. We move indoors and I, anyway, find I’m driving a lot more. Hmmm.

Daily Stats: (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 21 miles (dozens of tasks and activities)
Bike: 18 miles
Ped: 5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 200 – 202: MLwC and the New Continent of Synthetics

 

Over at Strange Maps, there’s a new map for the Continent of Synthetics. It’s quite intriguing, a geography of artificially created materials with poetic, if not sort of nightmarish descriptions:

• “Petrolia is the land of the new synthetic rubbers.”
• “Cellulose is a great state, something like Texas, with many counties, all of which grew out of old Nitrocellulose (Celluloid).”
• “Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”
• “Vinyl-land, a fast-growing new country of safety-glass (…) and rubbery plastics, will probably subdivide soon.”

All of which makes me think of farm fresh food. As our local Tomato Wars continue (turns out Neighbor Susan isn’t all that much ahead of our harvest of tomatoes), we find ourselves swamped with a vertible cornucopia of fresh tomatoes which we are busy turning into fresh sauce for this winter. We lightly bake them with fresh basil and oregano and then freeze the resulting gumbo in dinner size plastic bags for a deep January taste bud extravaganza reminding us that spring and summer are around the corner. You don’t find tomatoes like this in Petrolia!

But how I got on this topic…I read an article in The Grist about local vs. long distance food resources. This article was based on an article in the NY Times by James McWilliams debunking the idea that local food is better for all concerned and easier on the environment in general. He slices and dices the data and presents some interesting ways of looking at the issue…but I come down squarely on the side of The Grist:

Purchasing locally grown food, as Maiser observes, “is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.” Buying local builds relationships, almost organically forcing the consumer to become aware of the plight of the producer and the producer to become familiar with the needs of the consumer.

Author David Morris then explores issues of equity to small farmers who depend on foreign buyers of their goods, etc. All good points. There’s undoubtedly a middle ground here where local is the best path for many reasons including community, relationships, importance of story and connectedness–those might seem like “soft” arguments but they’re important to me. And then there are other markets globally that depend on foreign participation to stay afloat. What I’m not thrilled about participating in is the global agri-business that puts local-everything out of business and has little to no accountability, not to mention “story” or community.

Cherry tree

That said, neighbor Susan and I had a discussion the other day about buying local and here’s the rub: I’m such a fruit freak. I mean, if there were such a thing as a fruit gourmet, I might qualify. AND I live in Seattle, Washington. I mean, in the winter, there’s not a lot of fruit. Apples, apples, apples. And then Apples. Come Spring and Summer, things open up a bit, but I would do back-flips to get some of the fruit I grew up with in Southern California, and baby, that stuff ain’t local. So, if push came to shove, I guess I’d move. I’d move to a place that grows good (I mean Good) watermelons, for example, and Santa Rosa plums.

So, anyway. It’s the harvest time of the year. I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of the season!

Daily Stats: (Monday, Tues, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

Days 161-165: MLwC and Hybrid SUVs

Whoa–lost a chunk of time there, it seems. We went over to Sandpoint, Idaho to visit our friends Diana, Shannon and the young man Henry over the weekend. It’s not an easy spot to get to, but it sure is pretty. We flew into Spokane and drove a rented car from there to Sandpoint.

They have an annual Music festival which this year featured Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (it’s not Big, it’s Large). They also have a number of races and outdoor events; my partner swam the Longbridge event (1 3/4 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes), while our friend Di did the Olympic triathalon in 1 hour, 34 minutes–both beating their own estimates by quite a little bit. Yeeha!

While there, we got into a discussion about Hybrid SUVs. When the time comes, they’d like to get an SUV for traveling around the countryside of Idaho with their growing family; for their in-town commute, maybe they’ll stick with their smaller car. So, they wondered about the Hybrid SUVs on the market. I wasn’t much help; I follow it a little, but my schtick is really learning how to live with very little car-activity at all.

Just so happens that EcoChic has a very recent article on her blog about a test drive of the GM Yukon and Tahoe SUVs. Alas, the story isn’t altogether a pleasant read for those considering hybrid SUVs–she found the whole experience of driving such a large hunk of metal embarrassing and uncomfortable.

She was invited to test drive the car by GM itself and was accompanied by a spokesperson for the car company. That individual expounded on the fact that these cars are very much in demand by women, due to safety concerns. EcoChic counter-expounds that SUVs themselves mean almost certain death for regular car drivers involved in SUV/car accidents. So, safety for these consumers is a one-sided issue it would seem.

But she does note that in-city driving get 40% better gas mileage and highway driving gets 25%. That’s something, even if the benchmark for improvement starts at 14-15 mpg in-city driving.

She accurately bemoans our government’s failure to pass fuel economy standards, particularly the one in 1991 which would now be saving us a million gallons of gas a day. Who put the kibosh on the deal? Ford and GM, who else?

All in all, she said she would wait for the Chevy Volt–a car more to her liking.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)

Car: 5 miles (2 tasks, 1 person)
Bike: 8 miles
Ped: lots and lots and lots
Bus: 0
Air: approx 1300

Day 160: MLwC and when making things easy makes things worse

In the USA, making things easier and then selling tons of those easy things is the basis of our entire economy and consumer culture. It’s human nature: easy is good, difficult is bad. But as with all good things, there is a tipping point where good goes bad.

In the world of “easy things,” that tipping point is often related to over-consumption. At this time of year, I think of all the garden watering contraptions that have been invented–to take the trouble out of the task of watering. Most of them rely heavily on a broadcast spray functionality that could not–really!–could not be more wasteful. On an 80 degree day, spraying water into the air guarantees losing about half of what you’re pumping out.

Sierra Club blog had a good quote a few months back that comes to mind:

“The greenest ballpark in the country may be Fenway Park, because only an idiot would try driving and parking there.” (Sports Illustrated, March 2007)

And over at Confessions of a Green Girl Wannabe Marguerite, who is in Paris right now, notes that:

There is some advantage to not having access to the comfort of modern appliances. In our Paris appartment, I still have not figured out how to use the wash machine. The dryer appears to be even more of a mystery. One [interesting] consequence has been how little dirty laundry we have generated as a result.

Fast food is easy–so easy, we eat too much of it. Driving is easy–so easy, we forget other forms of transportation, or even forget how nice it might be to hang closer to home. Getting a double tall split shot cappuccino is ridiculously easy–and our landfills are overflowing with plastic and paper cups to prove it.

I rarely drive downtown anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did, and I would not have predicted that a year ago. I resonate with the Fenway park quote above: driving downtown is so hard anymore that I’ve learned a hundred other ways to get there–all smarter and less impacting than driving.

What other things might be better if they were just a wee bit more difficult? And how on earth could we possibly sell such an idea to an entire culture that bases its choices on “easy livin'”?

Daily Stats: (Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0
internet: all day long.

Day 139: MLwC and the long, hot days of summer

In Seattle, unlike a lot of places, we don’t usually get a whole lot of really, really hot summer weather. I grew up in S. California and know (and have missed) truly long hot summer days.

But the last few years, it does seem that we’re getting more of those long, hot summer days and often, even though it’s cold and rainy for much of the year and people go a little cabin-crazy around February, you hear a lot of grumbling among natives about when the rain and clouds will return. Can’t please everyone, it seems.

This last winter was, well, treacherous. Mind you, for the most part all we usually deal with is lots of rain and Seasonal Affect Disorder. Last winter we had record breaking amounts of rain and wind like you wouldn’t believe–this is not hurricane country by any stretch and yet we had hurricane force storms roll through large swaths of the region. The biggest storm is now known as The Hanukkah Hurricane, for its timing right on the holiday.

Why do I mention this? Because a lot of trees fell during that storm, which was bad enough–I mean, a LOT of trees. Power was out for a couple of weeks in many areas, roads were blocked. This is an area with a lot of urban trees…though less than we used to have.

Because a lot of trees fell and did a lot of property damage, the following months were marked by the daily cacophony of chain saws and chippers. Not just to handle the fallen trees, but to take down the remaining trees around houses. There are several houses just in our neighborhood with huge (I mean huge) trunks in the lots where once were mighty and beautiful evergreens and pines.

Now, when the hot weather has hit, these houses no longer have any shade at all and the sun is hitting full force, causing the house and gardens to heat up. Result: much more dependence on air conditioning and watering to maintain the status quo. (I’m not even going to get into the loss of habitat resulting from the urban clear-cutting).

wilsons_warbler pic

Do I blame people for being nervous about trees around their house? No, I don’t. I’m a little nervous myself–our house is surrounded on all sides by madronas, cedars, pines and we watch them with real trepidation when the winds hit–which interestingly is much more than ever before. I recall reading in The Weather Makers that one of the impacts of global climate change will be an increase in extremes–bigger winds, bigger droughts, bigger rains–in all the places that used to have “normal” amount of same.

The point is, we live in a systems based world. You do one thing and it has an impact over here, over there, and in places you can’t even predict. Because of that, yes, our choices matter.

Trees have always been a source of natural air conditioning and protection for homes. Sometimes that protection can turn into a liability. Many of the more knowledgeable people I’ve talked to have suggested that hard-core pruning, thinning out of volunteers and the like will make the existing trees stronger and less likely to fall. Degradation of soil, lack of care, removal of necessary understory brush will cause the trees to be weakened. We sort of live in a magic world where all things– trees, animals, weather, people– are seen as objects to be used as we wish, rather than as a healthy systemic environment requires.

So, here’s to a long, cool drink this afternoon in the hammock. Shade–sure, it’s old fashioned, but it works.

Daily stats: (Tuesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Ped: 0
It was a lot-of-deskwork-day.

Day 133: MLwC, food and the 4th

Here’s what the 4th of July looks, smells and sounds like in my neck of the woods:

seattle fireworks pic

Wall-to-wall people camped out at the beach from early morning on in order to have a good spot to watch the fireworks over Elliott Bay and Queen Anne.

Traffic backed up from the bridge all the way to and from the beach all day and until the very early morning hours.

The twin smells of barbecue and wood fires, combined later with sulpher from the fireworks themselves.

Boom boxes blaring, kids running around laughing, squealing, adults talking over too much beer and sun…but all having a pretty good holiday.

And food. Chips, hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, take-out chicken, store-bought cherry pie…a cornucopia of processed american food.

Which brings me to the Slow Food, an international organization with over 80,000 members started in 1986 as a reaction to McDonald’s and other american fast food enterprises. They focus on the intersection of community, farming, food production, taste, health, and the pure enjoyment of real, unprocessed food. Their mission statement:

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Anyone who gets their food at a local farmer’s market is part of the slow food movement, whether they realize it or not. Anyone who takes the time to prepare their meals, who cares about what goes in their body, or who enjoys real, unprocessed food, or prefers restaurants that use local fresh and organic produce is part of the slow food movement. Because in our culture, it is much easier to just buy a bag of chips, pick up some hot dogs or burgers, grab a mass-produced pizza and knock back a six pack of fast-brewed beer.

We have come to expect so little from our food. In a fast food world, it’s all about quantity, not quality. In a slow food world, those values are reversed.

So, anyway, I spent the day with pals (so great to hang with your girl gang, Di!) and had lunch at the Pike Place Market. Later I rode home to spend the evening with some more friends; we had slow cooked spicy black beans, rice, guacamole, corn tortillas, salad, and a fresh fruit crisp with cherries from our own pie-cherry tree in the backyard…and man, was it good! How was your 4th?

Daily stats: (Wednesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 15 miles
Bus: 1.5 miles
Water taxi: 2 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 127 thru 131: MLwC –somethin’s goin on

Ever find yourself in the middle of a project, right in the middle where the end seems far away and you can’t remember how it all started and suddenly you just feel like f*ckit, who cares? I’m sort of, but not entirely, in that place with MLwC…and I don’t know why. I mean, I like all the new habits I’m carving out for myself. I’m perfectly happy–no, I’m happier!–taking the bus downtown and am going downtown more often and enjoy it more. So, what’s up?

I think it might be all the summer tasks to tend to, the garden stuff, the out of town visitors, the trips, the fun-in-the-sun…all combined with a lot of work travel lately and I guess I’m feeling like the whole MLwC thing is too much to think about. Or maybe I feel guilty for driving when I do–which still isn’t very often so I don’t know why it’s such a big deal in my mind.

But somehow, it is. Somehow I’ve become a little fascist in my own mind. A fundie about driving. How the heck did that happen?

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To be continued…..

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 0
Bike: 14.4 miles
Ped: approx 10 miles
Bus: approx 10 miles
water taxi: 2 miles