Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weather's shifting. May the winds begin to blow.

A moment of silence. Oh John and Sarah! May your raft drift off shore far from rescue and further drilling. May all who care for the planet and care for us all, make a mighty wind to set adrift their crumbling craft.
May they land on some distant unknown island, to be kept together safely, away from further dragging the globe toward head on catastrophe.

And as the weeks esued, the breeze did began to stir. From all sides people began to look around themselves as if a turning point was forming.
Here, afternoons and evenings, first 20, 40, 80 giant prehistoic turkey buzzards kite and twirl; more each day. They are Raven clan I believe.
Else where, walls are crumbling. Nervous people, hedging on large concerns, whimper nights about a shakey furure they helped create.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Like Frogs In A Pot. It's Getting Warmer: A laundry list

Traditionally, the Tlingit Indians of S.E. Alaska packed for hundreds of miles annually to trade with the people from the interior. They paddled and sailed the water ways to harvest from forested islands, mammoth rivers, and the saw toothed mountains. Giant dug out canoes transported generations of villagers for potlatch up and down the sea coast. This industrious, highly successful, mobile, BUSY society opened the gateway, allowing contemporary culture it's toe hold into Southeast Alaska and the Chilkat Valley.
Today, in the communities of Klukwan and Haines, there is a growing number of those who walk, share rides, hitchhike, boat or use bicycles for transportation and to better their health. Even though the extra mile in scrappy weather is often hard to come by, there is growing momentum to do so. Especially at today's fuel prices.
There, many practice the three R's faithfully. Generally under crazy climatic conditions. Crazier of late. Pack it in, pack it out is reaching a whole different level of commitment as our extended winters continue into summer.
Up the highway, near the US/Can border where we live, thirty three feet of snow in one season recently accumulated. The berms grew so high they deserved geographic designation.
Snow management is a sizable task even for us minimalists. The winter of '06 -'07, I was determined to clear our parking area with a push scoop. My husband was away that winter and I wanted to see if it could be done without killing myself. I'd practiced for several winters on a few big dumps and knew it was possible.
We live, most of a mile in all directions, from our nearest and oldest friends. They are each old-school generous, and mechanically well endowed. I'm certain they thought I'd cracked. I really did appreciate their periodic widening of the area. In Alaska we help each other out. It's the code. So is self reliance.
I stuck with it and after a record breaking year, toward the middle of May, the gravel in the parking lot finally emerged. My daughter and I felt defiantly stronger and more capable; olympiads. Thanks in part to one hell of a winter, and a scoop and shovel.
Last winter, my husband went back to the snow blower. Unlike myself, he can keep our vintage Honda blower running. He's a damned good mechanic and being a newly retired teacher I think the effort helps as classroom replacement.
Is all this ummmpff and carbon use crucial? Kinda. For 27 years, we've walked in to the house on snowshoe packed trails. Age old wisdom: go over the snow. As rural Alaskans, we embrace impracticality with a certain relish. In truth, clearing the parking lot allows Joanie to deliver the mail six days a week. It also gives us the choice to drive 39 miles to town. Don't forget to haul the recycling and put a big piece of hemlock on the fire. Bank the stove down tight. We'll be gone awhile.
Alaskans annually run enough small gas engines that I'm sure we compete with the commercial mow, blow and go gardeners, so abundant here in S.Calif. Although we value well built, smaller sized homes and under utilize heating fuel and electricity, most use outboards, chain saws, generators, water pumps, and rototillers for our subsistence lifestyles. Lot's of aging boomer and neo - homesteaders heat with wood. For some, this requires Bob Cats, log splitters, pickups, and cargo snow machines, plus state timber sales or roadside cutting.
Public utilities offer electricity from giant diesel generators that are subsidized by hydro produced power. Again, adding to our sticky carbon footprint. Not to mention the cost. Though not as prevalent now as a few short years ago, there are some who still generate their own electricity or do without. I suspect many more will return to trickle charged solar or wind power systems and incorporate new innovations. Or do with out. Reflected snowlight is awesome.
Our busy roads system includes the Alaskan Marine Highway a system we dearly love when we aren't rabid about awkward scheduling.
Charter and commercial fishing boats and airplanes, Alaska Airlines, tugboats and barges for food, mail, and cargo; all of this bumps against a blooming tourist industry much of which is based on copious amounts of fossil fuel consumption. We are an incredibly busy species where ever we are. In Alaska, gratefully, for now, there are fewer of us.
Being in S.Cal these last few months, I'm startled to find how brand new the conversation around carbon calories and global climate change is.
Bako is a typical motor city. Generally one person per rig, most often several rigs per family. BUSY! Similar to Anchorage, Bakersfield is a smaller city, by today's standards. Desert country. Hotter than hell and gritty through open windows most which remain closed to accommodate A.C. in vehicles, workplace, shopping areas, schools and homes.
This summer has been one of the coldest on record in Alaska. Younger Dryas brewing? And we're here to witness it. Cool indeed!
In Kern, back in April, an unmeasurable amount of rain fell. That's been it. It's now late August.
Flying in from the north this month, I was dazzled by the highly baked surrounding region, vast and lovely in it's brutal dryness. Ravaged, tawny scrub-lands give way to industrialized agriculture, factory animal farms, and giant oilfields; razor fencing at the entrance of the Emerald City. Inside, the irrigated green oasis supports an astonishing array of imports and transplants. Every species imaginable. Predominantly upright and two-legged.
This morning screeching flocks of wild parrots follow their leader from block to block. Up from distant climates, they've naturalized and multiply, yeast like, in the oldest downtown park.
It's 8 AM and 93 degrees. I sit, watching the morning parade from my mother's stoop.
The neighborhood push pedal sno-cone fella just intersected with the third gift UPS or Fed-X delivery this week. Let's see what she got today. A fruit of the month box from Harry and David.
...The enclosed note says unseasonable weather in the growing region has damaged much of their Royal Velvet Plum crop. Instead they've sent us Exotic Honey Mangos. Look yummy. But what about those locally grown sno-cones? And, where's the snow come from?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Croneish Wisdom

I've been echoing through the halls of our ancestors to the present moment, now pinging toward the generations yet to come with cautioary tales. Croneish time traveler tricks. Goes something like this:
In remembering both my biological grandmothers and other fine elders I've had close involvement with, each who remained physically active up through their later years, most had signifigant loss of balance toward the end of their lives (as have many mid-life friends). Many became recliner, bed, or wheelchair bound from the initial fear of falling and the resulting inactivity or injury.
For my mother this year, a near decade of dealing with a general loss of balance resulted in a broken hip and eighteen hours plus on the kitchen floor. Akin to having birthed six kids including a set of twins but at 82!. Coupled with fear and the resulting inertia there has been several months of being wheelchair and bed bound and terrific head scratching (could it be vascular dementia i.e. stoke damage from TIA's resulting in Ataxia? ya ditty, ya ditty, ya ditty ya...gratefully, each ruled out). Once the anesthesia cloud finally began to lift and healing gained a toehold, good old confidence building at home and some outpatient OT are beginning to make tiny incremental gains. Mostly, by helping her to gently stretch her hamstrings and build a growing awareness of her center of gravity via her pelvic tilt and use of core strength.
She's frail but healthy; no meds, a life history of good diet and work related activity, and an uber- keen use of her mind for eighty two years. If we can get past this hurdle she may just pass her 89 year old mother. Down the hall and to the present.
Here's my pitch: trying to stay fit while housebound, i.e. caring for Ma. I'm using the Strongwomen program introduced to me last year via the Wisewoman program of SEARHC, our regional health consortium. I witnessed and experienced astounding results having already been fairly fit. A dear friend, having suffered a balance related broken leg claims she healed quickly and never felt better while useing this simple regemen twice weekly (love you Margaret!).
So, with the Strong women reps (wonderfully described on their site) coupled with a yoga ball and related exercises, I'm intending to return to my Alaskan lifestyle able to pick up where I left off. In peak Crone form. Oh yeah, fellas can be Crones too. Old Cronie? Codger? Guys, make it happen in your chosen fashion and let me know. We all be elders in training.
I've done a little cutting here from the Strong Women Web site and added links under Keepin The Gears Greased. Aw go on, check it out.
" Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, is one of the Tufts University scientists who developed this remarkably successful exercise program. Her research created news worldwide when the results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Now Dr. Nelson has written Strong Women Stay Young, to translate her laboratory findings into a safe, simple and effective program that any woman can follow at home.
"My study followed 40 postmenopausal women for a year. All were healthy, but sedentary; none was taking hormones. Half the volunteers - the control group - simply maintained their usual lifestyle. The others came to the Tufts University laboratories twice a week and lifted weights.
Most women begin to lose bone and muscle mass at about age 40; in part because of this, they start to slow down. And that's exactly what happened to the women who didn't exercise. One sedentary year later, their muscles and bones had aged, and they were even less active than before.
The women who lifted weights changed too - but in the opposite direction. After one year of strength training, their bodies were 15 to 20 years more youthful.
They became stronger - often even stronger than when they were younger. (Ade will attest to this)
Without drugs, they regained bone, helping to prevent osteoporosis.
Their balance and flexibility improved.
They were leaner and trimmer, though eating as much as ever.
The women were so energized, they became 27 percent more active.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lil- as in air Lili- as in spirit

Ma and I perch at the kitchen table, near the open windows. She is dozing and reading, both lifelong disciplines. A heat powered breeze passes through the wind chimes which hang from the ancient, elegant pecan tree out back. The wisp enters the large airy room, then twirls through the blades of a little table top fan nearby and exits, conditioned air. Conditioned to many seasons of entering my mother's home. Since she finished raising her six kids and a carreer as a welfare social worker, she's lived exactly as she pleases. Even the over heated air, bold enough to enter, knows the law here: live and let live. Outside, spawned by triple digit dog days, the heat lays itself heavily upon the old, downtown neighborhood; drowsy, dopey, and surprisingly quiet, in a cityish sort of way.
I sit nearby. I'm attempting to ignore the screaming impulses that rage with in me. "Get up, move about, work your body, and soul, outside preferably, on every imaginable project requiring large motor skills and endurance. Now!"
This has been my daily discipline of thirty plus years.
When I'm home, I use spontanious outbursts of dance and scat-style-jazz-chant to refuel my tired muscles. This allows me to go on working somewhat endlessly, exploring and tending to a large piece of wild land, home, and family way up north where the air is always cool and moist if not frigid and possessed.
My husband and youngest adult daughter, like her grandma, have always been able to inhale extensive hunks of each day, sitting, chapter after quiet chapter. Like my mother, I dearly loved reading aloud while homeschooling our three kids. My own private reading is now better absorbed this way, but I've learned this is generally suited best for places beyond chairs, windows and doors and the quiet spaces of others.
When I was kid, to sit quietly and focus on purely intellectual activity alway's seemed an art better suited to other family members. The really smart ones. Those who's specialized talents started showing up in very early childhood. They happened also to be the ones who learned not to bug Ma on her days off. Seemed as though they were able to sit while actively engaged with their individual interest and barely notice the heat or their appetites or the yen to move. Satisfied by small bowls of dried cereal and artfully cut fruit, they taught themselves to stay put for hours. And damned if they didn't become shining independent stars academically, artistically, with business savvy and success.
My children are similarly wired. Our twenty by twenty foot cabin required octopus like management skills from me to assure their elementary level skills were piqued and their academic and artistic hungers equally triggered. I absolutely loved every step of the way but secretly their mamma still lived daily for recess, primarily so she could get out and play.
Like my mother, I have, for several years now been able to live exactly as it suits me. Wild distant explores on snow shoes all winter give way to hip waders up river in the spring. Gardening, fishing, and packing with goats, sheep and dog in the high country follows in the summer and fall. A book and art supplies always come with. I've even learned to weave while my flock pauses to graze on something particularly yummy. Granted, with all my reading aloud they are becoming a particularly bright and talented bunch. They are born dancing and singing.
I am at present temporarily disengaged from my own lusty pleasures as I care for my housebound elder mom. Far from the catabolic winds and mountain breezes, I am once again up against tackling the art of sitting, quietly, while productively engaged.
The last hour while focused on learning to edit these words on a machine I barely understand, the breeze has lost intrest in entering our open windows. A slow salty trickle is winding it's way down my achy spine. Mama, in her wheelchair, chin on her chest, I think may be dreaming of tap dancing with Fred Astaire. Her lips suck and puff little wisps of wild, unconditioned, warm air while the pages of her book flutter gently.
OOOh, hoala! Up comes a strong West wind.The fig tree next door is twirling ecstatically. Hey! Come in my love. Welcome. Please, do come in.

Friday, August 15, 2008

POEM BY: Brother Matthew

Oleander Haiku

The morning’s silence,
broken by birds.
Dogs barking.

Breakfast in bed.
Coffee’s not drunk.
Newspaper’s read.

Warmth shines through,
Stained glass curtains.
Fans on high.

Mother to six,
watches her world.
Sidewalk parade.

Pages in books,
second time read.
To clarify.

Her child is here,
helping her day.

Afternoon Sol,
heat of the day.
Nap time.

Evening’s approach.
The calendar turns.
Fiery sunset.

Nighttime descends.
Lunar relief.
Crickets chirp.

Words read by lamp.
Midnight’s sweet hush.

Six children here,
in time of need.

Our turns are next.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Sister Melody's Art

Since very early childhood, Melody has had the focus necessary to move toward the outstanding artist she is today. Raised in a household with six children, our parents found ways to engage their children's interests generally with what was at hand. Gravitating toward what was in her mindseye, be it a miniature locomotive (her Papa,"see all that copper wire coil from the old radio your brother took apart? It'll make a beautiful locomotive."), or the after dinner bird nest from toothpicks and paper napkins. The marvel of shaping and reshaping the same colorless, lumps of clay into marvelous forms meshed with the steady input of being out of doors, pretending and adventuring with the tribe of siblings. Evenings were spent listening to Mama reading aloud while stitching, picking, snuggling and general nesting practices coupled with Melody drawing images from the day's events and her own responses and imaginings.
As the kids grew older and began to diversify, Melody was generally occupied with nurturing baby animals, family pets, or wild foundlings and drawing their portraits. Dubbed "the dreamy one" she honed her skills with sketch book, color and the ability to stay focused emerging as one of the most accomplished multi-medium artists of wildlife and fantasy.
I've included a link to her web sites under Art is.... Spend time browsing and learn about the special projects that she's engaged with these days.

Adjusting The Lens

Most mornings I wake up to sticky fibers of resistance woven together. On one of those endlessly stretchy patches outside of time I sink into a struggle with myself about my surroundings.
It's five AM in Bakersfield, Ca. The so called crush of humanity is still more akin to snowbanks in late May. There is activity. A steady thawing. In my struggle I confuse the flow of distant freeway noises with the sounds of the Klehini River tumbling out from under the glacier. The river, a wild, constant source of renewal adjacent to our homestead, freshens the entire valley with cool moisture flowing south east toward the salt water of the Inland Passage. Odd the similiarity in a semi doze. A freeway is certainly a mighty river after all.
Through perpetually open windows countering desert heat, the sound scape this morning is comprised of mostly the garbage truck. Its deep diesel, is raucously punctuated by the squeak of hydraulic brakes and mechanical arm, audible from blocks away. Rumble, air, squeal, squeak, air, rumble, air, squeak, rumble, squeal. First one side of the street, car length, by car length, until almost beyond the range of hearing then to return. Down the alley, cart by cart. Then up the other side of each and every street in this old grid style neighborhood. Mom's particular area takes about forty minutes before the truck sounds have been diminished.
By now the early yard and park guys are out trying to beat the heat. Lawn mowers and blowers add drones and screaming quite unlike any small engine noise I've known. Each yard's automated sprinklers add odd staccato: tic,tic,tic,tic,tic,tic, woooosh, and... tic,tic,tic,tic,tic,tic,woooosh. The grassy, watery smell is somewhat familiar. Thirsty hard baked clay made wet is wondrous.
Each household has now begun their daily routines. Their cars load up and pull away from the curb, merging with the larger tributary, picking up in volume moving toward highways and thoroughfares.
By this time, the desire for quiet and my struggle with location have each subsided. Instead, acceptance and affectionate family devotion have welled up. My body responds with the intentionally held image of flower strewn river flat, white capped peaks, and archtypal glacierial caves. My regular haunts and psychic shelter I'll return to often through out the day.
A deep stretch pushes out from my core and then the desire to fill my lungs. I hesitate on the intake. I know the prolific greenery of mature landscaping act as larger lungs. But it's kinda like being really, really hungry at a bus station and the chicken sandwich that you just spent the last of your change on, bird, bread, iceberg lettuce and all, look a little suspect.
Hey, Gotta eat. Gotta breathe. Right.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Slow Train

An all time favorite author of my mom, sister and now myself, Barbara Kingsolver, has a beautiful new book Animal, Vegtable, Miracle that is destined to become a pivotal piece for all who care about life on Earth. I can't thank my sister Mic enough for such a great gift. What a joy it is to find this growing movement taking on our planet's painful degradation with style, courage, humor and delicious valor. May there be many more efforts adding up to (key words here) small locavore societies thriving where ever people subsist. I've included a link that will take you to their wonderful and useful site.

Bedside Meanders

In a state of suspended animation, the passage of time would be imperceptable. As a kid watching old time- lapse photography scenes from 1950's-60's science films, I recall thinking that the speeded up version is the way contemporary people experience life. The growth of a plant, the passage of a season, our individual lives. Perception shaped by our sleep/ wake cycles and relative only to our eyeblink lifespans can't help but affect how our species does everything.
I spend a lot of time with mountains. Mountains, like arctic seal hunters of old understand deep time. Looking into outer space on a cold clear night or sitting near a dozing elder holds the same mindful expansiveness. Suspending animation, key to reaching the space between moments. The space where time is malleable. Where dream, memories, and the present moment meld and fold strata upon strata.