20 January 2008

Feeling Crabby

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Mercury’s been retrograde. Seems everything’s falling apart recently. In the past two weeks, I’ve had to replace the toilet and the washing machine. Which has put me through the environmental-ethics wringer.

It appears that Mr. Rooter does not recycle the toilets, even though Kernen Construction takes porcelain fixtures – for free – crushes them, and re-uses them for road base. He doesn’t want to “drive all the way up there” (about 10 to 15 miles); it isn’t worth his time and expense. Sigh. (Otherwise, he's a nice guy and provides great customer support.) Had I known that Kernen Construction recycled toilets, and had I had more time before committing to the old one being replaced, I would have searched out a plumber who took the old fixture in to Kernen. Instead, I’ve contributed unnecessarily to the landfill.

Anthony and I hauled the old washing machine, which would cost almost $200 more to repair than to replace new, to the recycling center and paid the $17 recycling fee. It, at least, will not go to the dump. But I bought a brand-new washer instead of a refurbished one, which means I am consuming considerably more “embodied energy.” It’s just that, when it comes to machines, I want the assurance that it won’t die on me prematurely. Somehow, buying new feels like a safer bet.

But now I feel like a failure as an environmentally-conscious consumer. Okay, the toilet is a low-flow that’s actually designed to work with 1.5 gallons per flush, and the washer is an Energy Star front loader, so it uses minimal water and electricity. Still, I feel like I failed. I should have recycled the toilet, should have bought used instead of new… Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Perhaps this is where I need to remember that old Al-Anon wisdom of “progress, not perfection.” Overall I have a reasonable eco-footprint (other than the fact that, because I live in the country, I am car dependent). My usual garbage amounts to maybe a quarter of a brown grocery bag per week – everything else is composted or recycled. I buy primarily organic, from small local farmers when possible. I clean with eco-groovy cleaners (mostly Bon Ami and elbow grease), have a small (fully insulated) house.

Or am I justifying away my guilt?

My mom (Franci Gallegos) was proud of being named environmentalist of the year in Sonoma County. She bravely battled the lumber barons (as she called them), fighting to preserve her local watershed. Yet I remember being disgusted by what I deemed her hypocrisy, i.e., the lack of environmental awareness and behavior in her own home. Never mind that she smoked and her whole house reeked something awful (the cat boxes didn’t help); her cupboards were filled with toxic cleaning solutions and unhealthy food. A true “Sierra-Club environmentalist” – that was my mom.

Granted, my life is a hell of a lot cleaner than hers. Still, I wonder if there’s a voice somewhere in my head that says I’m being “just like her.” (And God knows we don’t want to be like our mothers! Isn’t that our great fear, to look in the mirror and see Mom?) Maybe, somewhere inside, I am equally disgusted with my own apparent hypocrisy, which is how I judge my imperfection, and how I project that others will judge me.

Dang. All I wanted was a working toilet and washing machine. How did life get so complicated?


On a completely different note, here’s the recipe for tonight’s dinner.

Thai-Inspired Crab Cakes

1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)
2 green onions, cut thinly (plant the root ends that you cut off – they’ll re-grow!)
1 stalk lemongrass, finely minced
about ½ cup of chopped fresh cilantro
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated (a small thumb, that is)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar

Let this sit for a little while so that the flavors can intermingle. When ready to cook the cakes, mix in:
1 egg
Panko crumbs (between ½ cup and 1 cup, just enough to hold everything together)

Then gently fold in:
¼ to 1/3 pound of fresh crab (Dungeness)
6 small prawns, shelled, de-veined, and chopped (optional)

Heat your skillet, add oil (I use organic canola) and fry up the crab cakes over a medium-low heat.

Makes about 16 “slightly flattened golf-ball” sized cakes. (This is how Anthony described the shape and size when I asked him about them.)


Jeri Dansky said...

Claire, I'd guess that most of us look at you and see a loving human being, a talented writer, an environmentalist who does her best.

I imagine we're all too busy doing the best we can with our own challenges (with much imperfection along the way) to worry about judging you!

Claire Josefine said...

Thanks, Jeri.

It's really more about my projections of judgment than actual judgment by others (unless we're talking about my dad...).

I had an interesting dream this week. The essence was that I had helped a client get organized and was ecstatic with their progress, but realized more had to be done. I began by picking up a broken piece of mirror from the floor.

I love how dreams speak in metaphor. Yes, I have come a long way from my dysfunctional beginnings, have made huge progress and getting rid of the psychological and emotional clutter. Yet I must still deal with my broken self image...

Ah, the challenges of healing spirit and soul.