awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice

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For Activism and Against Campaigns

This is not my most subtle or eloquent piece of writing, but I feel strongly that it needs to be said. I think there are many people who feel the same way about wanting to help solve problems in their community and their country but find few and unsatisfying responses from local and national organizations. This is true of political and completely apolitical organizations.

For Activism and Against Campaigns

I’ve been inspired by the terrible and exceptional events of the past election year to renew my search for a way to be involved in a cause. I want to relieve my sense of powerlessness and support education and activism. However, when I search the websites of many well respected organizations, I look under “ways to help” or “become involved” and there is a very short list.

The only options for activism seem to be:

1) Donating money or fundraising

2) Wearing a specific colored ribbon or T-Shirt or wristband etc.

3) Volunteering to do mailings or calls (see #1)

4) Working to elect a politician (see #1 and #3)

5) Occasionally waving signs to a) #1 or b) #4

I don’t have a lot of money to donate to an ever more chasm-like pot, so I am not interested in donating or fundraising. The practice of fundraising seems to me like the snake eating its own tail. The snake never seems to get anything and is always hungry for more. Similarly, at many organizations fundraising just pays for more fundraising, or some squishy notion of “awareness”. People become aware for the moment they see your red/pink/purple/yellow ribbon and then they walk away, go home and forget. We went beyond the age of awareness with the expansion of the Internet more than a decade ago, two decades ago. It’s time we moved on from awareness to action.

Protests are a common next step and they do galvanize people and gather us together. However, we still end up relying on making political demands and campaigns to carry out the work. I want to actually do something, not increase the number of votes for someone else to maybe do something. Besides, candidates are only elected every four to six years, but people are living with problems every single day, problems which we may have solutions to in our own humble hands and hearts and minds. Why does any activist with a passion for a cause want to put more effort into elections anyway? More fundraising means more campaign spending means more media coverage. Full stop. Campaigns do not actually do anything. All that money and all that effort would be better spent on solving problems.

In the case of bigger problems like universal health care and climate change, isn’t there some research and information gathering required for that? Are all these organizations suggesting that none of their volunteers have the intelligence or skills to support research efforts or the many other skills for work that needs to be done to actually DO something? With issues which are more complex and not localized, we can refuse any work that doesn’t lead towards a direct solution.

We are all fed up with politics as usual and I think this is where people who voted red, blue, green or not all can find common ground. Let’s move on to solving issues instead of politicizing them. Instead of blaming elected officials or lobbying them to be the ones who will make a difference, we can make a difference. I am college educated, have some decent writing skills, plenty of time, and a willingness to share my time and skills for free. I would bet there are thousands of people like me. Let’s stop campaigning for candidates or for a cause and start doing something.

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It’s time we have this conversation

Maybe you have not seen the “Access Hollywood” video and maybe your children are not talking about what was said in it by a U.S. Presidential nominee. Maybe you talk with your friends about how it affects women when someone yells obscene words on the street or talks about their body parts as if there were not a face and an intelligent dynamic person attached to them. Maybe you talk to your parents or your spouse or the police if someone looked at you or followed you or made you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, even if you feel compelled to minimize it by saying “it was so weird, it happened so fast, or I’m not sure what happened,” even though you know it was something wrong. Maybe the young people in this country are educated about how to intervene if they hear or see someone being sexually harassed. Maybe your family knows that they will always be listened to if they report sexual harassment or assault. Maybe no one will try to say that it was less horrible than it was or too difficult to prove. Maybe everyone has an equal chance of having a judge rule on the side of truth and give an appropriate sentence that fits the crime of sexual violence.

Maybe you understand what sexual assault is and maybe everyone understands that it is not about sexual desire. Maybe we do.

But if we don’t, isn’t it time we had this conversation?

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A thief in the garden

I have detected a thief in the garden. At first it was merely a suspicion combined with a generous amount of honest carefree forgetfulness. Did I have another few ears of corn on those plants? Was there another watermelon in that patch? I must have miscounted the amount of butternut squash.

Then I began to see empty patches where a watermelon had once lain. From the beginning I knew this was no squirrel or other standard variety furry garden bandit. Nor had I discovered a vegetable vanishing virus, although the thought crossed my mind. I just couldn’t conceive of an entire zucchini dissolving into mush without a trace in one day.

No, I have a human thief, rather educated as to the ripeness of things, and quite stealthy except for the small yet distinctly muddy trampled area their footprints leave behind. This human cuts with a knife and was slowly snatching away my delightfully colorful sugar pumpkins until I feared I would have none at all. I had to bring them all in, the corn, the pumpkins, the butternut, the not quite ripe watermelon.

I have been giving food away this year, a basket of lettuce to the food bank, to the neighbors, to people walking by, I even put a sign out for a day for free organic lettuce (with only 1 taker as far as I could tell). We gave away cucumbers and beets, daikon and tomatoes, and much more. But I knew I was donating these things, gifting them to friends and neighbors in need. I gave away what I had to give, what was ready, what was abundant, what was unmanageably plentiful.

So why do I feel so bothered and angry about a few missing pieces of produce in this prolific year? Why do I want to keep watch at night and set trip wires and sling shot traps of rotten tomatoes? Do I have that much attachment to my pumpkins? Am I struggling with the act of giving to those who may be questionably deserving?

A messier thief would have just been a nuisance. A drunken tromp over the zucchini could have been forgiven. A thief connoisseur, however, has me caught up in their web of treachery and I am plotting rows of cellophane covered paint, cayenne pepper bombs and even layers of thistle barbed diversions. I check my traps often. I anticipate the yelp of revelation as the thief becomes caught in my ambush. I wait no longer thief. I will not sit quietly as you steal my precious produce.

I don’t care who the thief is. I don’t care much about the watermelon. I probably have enough pumpkin and even butternut squash, although a few more would help through the winter. I reason that perhaps it is my larger security that is in question, and most of all, my victim hood. I don’t want to be the prey of anyone. An easy target for garden thievery might make me an easy target for a home break in and my idleness may communicate a vulnerability I do not wish to have broadcast. I don’t really relish the idea of a thistle stung and limping thief covered in rotting tomato flesh, but I do want to be able to stop looking over my shoulder to count my blessings.


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A Passion for Plants

It may sound odd, but I think my passion for gardening touches on the sanctity of life, extended to the plant world. 

This spring I nursed kale seedlings so ragged and leggy that only a mother could love them. In June I wrapped cardboard casts around wind bent sunflower stems (and one who had a scrape with the hoe) until they were strong enough to stand tall. So, it should have been no surprise to me that when early blight struck my most productive tomato plants I felt the panic and frustration of a young emergency physician working triage.

It took me a while to realize that word, triage, could explain my feelings of the past few weeks. When my mind stumbled upon it as I was cutting up tomatoes into tiny fragments, sloughing off sections of brown mush, I immediately felt a burden lifted from me. Before then I had been in a state of plant emergency that my husband could not understand. When he asked for me for some potatoes, I looked at him as if he had said something absurd. Potato, a plant so obviously fine to be left in the ground a while longer, was last on my priority list. Harvesting a potato at that time would have been a kind of luxurious wastefulness that I associate with the likes of Donald Trump. There were beets growing overlong, lettuce going to seed, kale waiting in the cool sides of the garden like an elderly person at a bus stop, but most of all it was the 50 kilos of green tomatoes turning to deeper and deeper states of mush by the minute that made me most outraged by his request. I had to save the tomatoes. They were my patient in dire need,

and most able to be saved despite their disease.       IMG_0476

I have had similar outbursts of feeling about plants before; the unexpectedly loud shout to garden visitors about not stepping on plants, my dark thoughts about killing squirrels, the rush outdoors to cover some seedlings from rain or frost, tucking them in to say goodnight.  In this instance finding the right word was enough to make me feel less like I needed to control the situation and I could go about my task, still urgent, but unburdened by the weight of emotion.

How many times in our lives has finding the right word released us from its encumbrance?

The the power of a word revealed my passion for plants. Then I could harvest some potatoes for my husband, after all, he just wanted to make a dish with green tomatoes and potatoes. It was delicious.

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Garden Yoga Elaboration

For those unfamiliar with the garden yoga poses previously posted I will elaborate. It took me so long to find a way to be able to post those figures that I thought I might actually achieve nirvana first. I am not the most savvy with online posting, so I intuited my way into thinking in pictures. I found PNG, whatever that is, but it is not a ping, which may be something like sending the bees from my garden over to yours, and not to be confused with pinterest- a path to exponential self-imitating replication. Or maybe I have those backwards. Ultimately, I manifested all my creative powers and finally a few stick figures could appear in multiple virtual realities.

Back to the yoga.

yoga 1

Vegetable salutations– self-explanatory for any conscientious gardener. Salutations and their accompanying inspections are conducted on a regular basis and involve gazing at all vegetable matter from far and then close-up, then far again. We don’t know exactly what we are looking for, but we will know it when we see it. Entire mornings can pass by in this meditative asana. Breathe normally, eyes focused on the green things. Chant: hmmm.


yoga 2

Reaching into blackberries warrior 3– Using all the thigh strength you can muster, balance danger and potential rewards, stretching mentally and physically. Long deep breathing. Eyes are focused on the berries and the thorny branches centimeters from your face. Chant- I think I can, I think I can.


yoga  3

Weeding squats– Move down your garden rows stooping and crawling crab-like while yanking at stubborn green things you have decided you don’t want, even though they grow stronger through your intentional neglect and inner anger.
Chant: laugh at yourself occasionally to confirm to the neighbors that you are crazy.
Breath: don’t stop breathing, even when you are pulling really hard. When your fingers cramp up, move on.

yoga 4

Training pole bean vine pose– Sometimes confused with caging tomato pose, however, caging tomato pose has the arms spread wide in disbelief.

For training pole bean vine pose (aka training pea pose) find your balance while taking shallow breaths of hope and wonder as you gently twist string or string thick shoots that will later hold a five pound plant vertically suspended for 3 months.

And, exhale.

If you succeed, your kundalini has awakened.


yoga 5-1

Distributing compost kriya– one of the best full body work-outs (fetching compost not pictured, but is certainly part of the exercise). Position your body as a scalene triangle (so as not to disturb the plants of course) while scratching in the dirt and depositing handfuls of dark rich matter that is neither chocolate nor coffee, but nonetheless makes you deliriously happy. Eyes- everywhere, the weeds, the plants, the compost, but place your awareness on the coffee waiting for you when you finish.

yoga 6

Removing Japanese Beetle series– can be combined with vegetable salutations.

An obscure series of positions that few outside of garden yoga understand. Removing Japanese Beetle series begins with forward bends, then twists the neck under and around leaves, followed by a powerful exhale as you squash or step on small insects whose zen-like consciousness endows them with the ability to distinguish between the plants you call weeds as sour and distasteful, and the plants you want as delicious and in need of some filigree work. Bless them for they are just trying to help you realize the principle of non-attachment. Listen to the Japanese beetles chant “Let it Be”.


Please comment and add your favorite poses. Really. It’s just me and the plants.

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Garden Yoga

yoga 1      Vegetable salutations


yoga 2Reaching into blackberries warrior 3


yoga  3                           Weeding squats

yoga 4                          Training pole bean vine pose


yoga 5-1                     Distributing compost kriya


yoga 6         Removing Japanese Beetle series