Thursday, November 30, 2006


"Changes fill my time . . . and that's all right with me
In the midst, I think of you, and how it used to be" -- Led Zeppelin

People around me are dying this year at an unprecedented rate. Some suddenly, some after much suffering. I seem to have habituated to all this mortality around me, because this latest death has only left me numb.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ranting Against the Machine

I can’t remember if it was the end of spring or the beginning of summer, but one night I looked out the window and I saw a man sitting in a black car smoking. He was parked across the street and one house down, a house that was recently vacated and put on the market. I had a weird feeling, so I kept monitoring his behavior. Yes, I get obsessive and paranoid. And I guess part of my likes to play the spy vs. spy bit. Unless he had night vision goggles, I’m pretty sure he couldn’t see me watching him. I’m careful like that.

Well, he sat out there until at least 11:00 at night. I ended up giving up and going to bed, but not before calling my mother and giving her the license plate # and general description of his vehicle. I felt somewhat comforted that the information had been passed on, in case anything came of it.

Ideas raced through my mind about why he was there and who he was exactly. I wondered if my neighbors were under surveillance for selling drugs or if the guy was indeed watching our house. But why? It did come to mind that earlier that day my husband had withdrawn $1,200 in cash from the bank , in order to purchase a motorcycle. So part of me considered that it might be a government spook.

Time passed and I pretty much forgot about the incident and gave up justifying the “visit,” until yesterday when I came upon the following article.

In the words of Kurt Cobain, “Just because you’re paranoid . . . don’t mean they’re not after you!”

Basically the banks are now in cahoots with the government. They are monitoring the financial activities of US citizens, so that if you use your money in any way that is atypical of your general behavior, you will be reported and possibly watched by the FBI.

Well, I hope they enjoyed their time “visiting” with us, because I can tell you we lead rather dull lives. [YAWN]

But think about the wasted resources. Think about the inappropriate surveillance. Think about what would happen if millions of US citizens decided to play unusual games with their money all of a sudden. Would they be more selective about the people they tracked or would they have to hire more goons? If they hired more goons, would the job market improve or would we just be increasing the national debt?

And in other matters, what is with all the telephone political surveys? I’m a firm believer that if someone wants me to answer a personal question for survey purposes that I will answer IF I remain an anonymous respondent. But when they call with a political survey they always ask for you by name. Since when are we supposed to share with anyone our voting preferences, not to mention a stranger over the phone? Do they expect our chests to puff up with pride as we announce the lesser-of-two-evils candidate we may have settled for? I understand the need to collect data, but that can be done in a manner that respects the privacy of the respondent. I have to wonder what sort of data bases exist out there with all of our collected information. Especially with the advent of the American Community Survey, which – surprise, surprise – recently had a lapse of security. Gee, I couldn’t see that one coming (NOT).

Once you fit into a box, you are easily crushed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Indian Summer

Clover Report -- Week 1

The clover seedlings have been enjoying the sunshine and the rainwater that I drizzle them with every day. I probably collected about 80 gallons of rainwater in my system of rainbarrels from the rain we got about a week ago. Between my typical usage of rainwater and my clover planting, the rainwater stores are going fast.

It looks like I got good enough germination to require some thinning in the near future.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hamma Hamma

Hamma Hamma is a Native American term, meaning stinky, which is used to describe the smell of rotting salmon carcasses.

Every year I try to make a pilgrimage to a local salmon spawning stream. Last year I was a little late to see many live fish, but the trip wasn’t a total waste because I did come across a black bear – the first black bear I’ve ever seen outside of captivity.

This year my visit was fairly tame. I found quite a few large and very much alive salmon thrashing their way upstream. These Chinook salmon are pretty well camouflaged against the pebbly stream bottom, so they are difficult to photograph with a no-frills digital camera.

There is something comforting in seeing the cycle of life and death play out. To see the fish carry nutrients back to the forest and the forest dwelling creatures. It is refreshing.

What I find disturbing is the method used to count the returning salmon. A fence is placed across the stream and seemingly* no fish are allowed to pass upstream until someone takes the time to come out and count and then let the fish past the barricade. Meanwhile, the fish try over and over again to jump up stream. Some die trying. Some have just given up and deposited their eggs in the pool below the barricade. It makes me sad that we feel we must control nature to such an extreme, when we could instead be counting for specific time periods and using statistics to extrapolate the full number of returning salmon. With minds brilliant enough to comprehend calculus, we still resort to brute force.

* I didn’t observe any way for the larger fish to pass upstream through an electronic counting device.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a Yang Thang

Rain is considered Yang. It is the active phase of the hydrologic cycle. After three very dry months of pernicious yin evaporation, the rains have finally returned. I have been freed from endless watering chores, as the plants breathe a collective sigh of relief. Only nature can truly refresh the garden. I am only a triage nurse, at best. And with the return of the rains, now is the time for serious planting in the Pacific Northwest.

My project here is to add function (as well as form) to half of the yin yang symbol that my husband and I laid out in our backyard as one of our very first new homeowner plans. That was [gasp] 8 years ago. The yang half is the sunny half. The yin half is shaded. Over the years our ideas have changed about how best to use the yang space. For a while there we were seriously considering laying down brick for a patio where we could have a potted vegetable garden. Then we thought about using red gravel. Now I’m determined to grow crimson clover. I haven’t decided if the clover should stay permanently, to attract beneficial insects and enrichen the soil, or if we should dig it up and plant veggies. I figure there is time to make that call.

As of mid-August, I dumped a layer of straw and then a layer of compost on top of the lawn, in order to give the grass some time to die. Then I waited for the rains to return. So there I was with rain on the forecast, and a bed of compost already laid -- what could I do, but dash out in the rain and sprinkle a few seeds around. Never having broadcast seed before, I enjoyed the activity, but wondered if all the birds in the neighborhood were gathering in the tree tops considering the tasty snack I was spreading about.

While it is not considered proper to plant directly in pure compost, I have done it before and with decent results. I used the same straw and compost on top of turf method this year to grow a few pumpkins. I just did not have any space in my garden for them, so I had no other choice. It worked better than I expected, considering I did not dig at all and did not even allow time for the grass to die. I can totally dig the no-dig method of gardening, although I suspect the results are somewhat inferior to traditional (tilling) methods, as the roots will experience more resistance in their quest for nutrients.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Stairway to Heaven

It wasn't easy, but it was certainly breezy (at the top).

Best defined as "pitchy."

The views were worth the toil. Below you see Mt. Olympus peeking out from behind the surrounding peaks. You might have to click on the photo to enlarge it, since my camera has a rather wide angle lens.

To get there? I chose to mountain bike 5.5 miles up a forest road that is closed to vehicles. Other people choose to backpack. Then hike 6.7 miles, at least one mile of which has a grade of about 1,500 ft altitude gain in 1 mile. That was the point during which I questioned my sanity. But once I stumbled out of the clutches of the forest and saw the hills towering above me, it didn't seem quite so formidable. Once up top, with only the pleasantly warm sunshine, light breeze, shy marmots, and silent stone cairns I began to rejoice in the solitude. That is, until I saw the guy who had just climbed up from the opposite side of the hill. Funny thing about hiking. You may be the only person on the trail that day, but it is rare to hit a summit mid-day without encountering at least one other group. Fortunately, the people you meet in such places tend to be good company. It is from this man that I have gained an appreciation for the succinct assonance of the word "pitchy."

In other matters, it was apparent how our record drought this summer has affected the watershed:

Do you believe that there were a multitude of tadpoles in this small body of water? Along the muddy edge, evidence of not just a bear, but at least one cub.

To me this is not just a good dose of exercise, but food for the soul. I don't eat much out there. I really don't feel the need. I have everything I need by just being out there. I did sit in a lush meadow on my way out, next to a brook, and enjoyed some bow-tie pasta I had brought. It seemed frivilous enough to make me laugh (out loud). For the last long hike that I did I brought granola and blackberries. Bow tie shaped pasta seemed an artifice.

Olympic Music Festival

I spent Sunday September 10th at the Olympic Music Festival. My primary motivation was to observe the auction, as I was donating a painting and was therefore curious of the proceedings. But I quickly discovered that I wouldn't really need an excuse to be convinced to return.

The auction was fun to participate in (as a bidder) and it was informative to see how well my art fared -- for those of you who are curious there was significant interest and it sold for as much as it would have in a gallery. But all that was a diversion from the more valuable experiences at hand:

Absorbing the early fall sunshine in the gardens . . .

Seranaded by the music drifting out of the barn . . .

Enjoying the company of like-minded souls.

I can't say I've been that relaxed, away from my own home, in a very long time. Yes, I think that means I probably need a vacation. But don't let that diminish my previous statement.

If you are ever in the Seattle area, with time on your hands, consider packing a gourmet picnic, grabbing a blanket and spending the afternoon steeped in a mixture of culture and simple farm life. The Olympic Music Festival runs from late June through early September -- it is unfortunately now over for the 2006 season.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dose of Reality

"We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not-knowing is part of the adventure. It's also what makes us afraid." -- Pema Chodron Comfortable with Uncertainty