17 June 2008

A Rainbow of Thankfulness

Chris Guillebeau, who writes at The Art of Nonconformity, was the guest blogger at Zen Habits recently. He wrote about living a life of gratitude, and challenged others to build a habit of gratitude.

Anyone who’s heard me lecture knows I’m big on gratitude, too. Principle #9 of my 12 Basic Principles of Being Organized is “Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude.” My usual rap is that much of our clutter comes from holding on “just in case,” from scarcity thinking, and that the opposite of scarcity is abundance and the quickest way to abundance is gratitude. By practicing gratitude every day, we build new neural pathways in our brain, much like curling weights builds biceps, or like water wears a new course over time. Daily gratitude becomes a habit, our default way of viewing the world, and teaches us that we are indeed blessed. In turn, we are better able to let go of the unnecessary in our lives, to simplify.

Anyway, that’s the rap. Today’s practice finds expression in color. There’s a line from a James Taylor song that runs through my head: “Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose.” Yes. Especially greens. Especially the greens of leaves, the warm young green of the underside of Big Leaf Maples as they’re lit by streaming sunlight from above, and the darker greens of firs and cedars and spruce in the forest behind. And the green of moss on river-wet stones.

Blue skies, of course, are always welcome here on the Pacific Northwest. Today brought the blue of the Pacific, too. After a leisurely late brunch in Trinidad, we went walking at Elk Head, eventually finding a niche along the cliff that provided some wind protection and a view of the ocean, with its two tones of blue – shallow turquoise meeting the deeper and darker, more true blue.

White gulls rode the thermals. As I lay in the warm sand, snuggled against Ronnie, I watched them glide by. One was having fun soaring backwards.

Of course, black ravens rode those same thermals.

Walking along the path we found native lilies just beginning to bloom, an almost pumpkin orange with brown spots. Red columbine with 5 bright yellow tubes in its center draped gracefully. Wild iris in varying shades of purple – from pale creamy with light purple striations to deep purple with yellow markings – brightened the trail. And cheery yellow buttercups (which are actually an invasive weed, but they’re so pretty!) decorated the open area by the parking lot.

On the way home, I noticed that the golden fields of mown pasture grass were now dotted with bales of hay. There’s something so pleasing about seeing acres of hay bales lined outside my kitchen window, extending clear across the valley.

Once we got home, I unpacked my wicker basket of produce that we’d bought at Farmer’s Market earlier in the day. Laid out on my fruit table are my favorite color -- three plates of red: raspberries, strawberries, and cherries. Oh my god do I love summer!!! For these fruits I am truly grateful…

And now, 10 o’clock at night, I look out my office window on a round white moon rising above the wooded hills.

Life is good.

16 June 2008

Recycling My Food

And I thought I was being so innovative…

You know that little piece of green onion that you cut off, along with the roots, when chopping up green onions? A while back, I decided that, instead of tossing them into my compost, I’d spoon them into the soil in my herb bed (a long planter box that Anthony built for me and that lives on my deck, right out my front door). Sure enough, those little darlings grew into brand-new (sorta) green onions. The ultimate in recycling and being “green,” eh?

Of course, I plant the garlic bulbs that have begun to sprout, too – and am happily harvesting fresh garlic as a result.

And a client recently gave me a bag of Warren Creek organic potatoes – Russets, Yukon Gold, Red Creamers, and Peruvian Purples – that had grown a tangle of roots in her ignored potato drawer. Those are now in the ground, covered with rice straw. A bit of luck and they’ll shoot out leaves, then, eventually, potatoes.

Turns out my recycling techniques are old hat, though. In this week’s North Coast Journal, Amy Stewart wrote a cute piece entitled “Eat Your Trash.” In it, she discusses the re-issue of Deborah Peterson’s Don’t Throw It, Grow It! 59 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps. To quote Amy: “There’s hardly a scrap of produce on your cutting board that can’t be given a second life, according to the authors. Carrot tops, garbanzo beans, peanuts, jicama, lemongrass, ginger – they can all be made to grow again. Spices and nuts can be sprouted as seeds, fruits and vegetables will grow from cuttings, and beans and peas will turn into climbing vines in a jiffy.”

You mean I can be recycling my carrots, too?

Of course, a lot of plants won’t produce here. Too much wind, not enough heat days. Rules out the possibility of ginger or lemongrass (both of which I like to cook with). And I think I read that growing beans is tricky. But maybe I can let some of my peas go all the way to seed, and then start new plants from them. (Duh – isn’t this the basis of seed saving? It’s a good thing I’m not dependent on my gardening to feed me. There’s so much I don’t know!)

What have you had success at re-growing?

12 June 2008

Redwoods and Rivers

I first lusted after the Trinity river 10 years ago, when traveling around the country, trying to decide where I wanted to spend my life. Driving along Highway 299, I looked up at the redwoods and firs and pines on the hills banking the river, then gazed down at the clear water and the run-able rapids, and thought, “I want in that water! Maybe I can get a job cooking for a river-running outfit.”

And then, Fourth of July weekend, 1999, I met the river-running outfit that would take me down the Trinity – as well as the Klamath, and the Rogue, and the Smith, and a bit of the Salmon. Michael Charlton, owner (with his wife, Wanda) of Redwoods and Rivers Rafting, had a booth at the Arcata Fourth of July festival. I signed up for a trip then and there.

My maiden voyage with Michael was the Pigeon Point run down the Trinity. I was so impressed by Michael (who has become a good friend over the years) that I refuse to even consider rafting with anyone else.

Why impressed? To begin with, I always feel safe. Rapids are fun, but I don’t run them for the thrill. I raft for the beauty and serenity of being on the water – for the mergansers with their ducklings scurrying upstream, the bald eagle swooping in for a fish and then carrying it back to the trees to eat, the endless Vs of green mountains when I look back upstream, the turtles basking on sun-baked rocks, the smell of white water. Michael and his guides (he runs a guide-training school, too) understand the beauty, are environmentally responsible, and are informative naturalists. They’re also gracious – rafting guests are always well fed and cared for.

Tuesday we spent a couple of hours on the Trinity. The water was running at about 2800 cfs (cubic feet per second). Shane, our guide, explained the flow as standing on the bank, looking across the river, and watching 2800 basketballs go by EACH SECOND. That’s a lot of basketballs. The powers that be are currently releasing enough water to keep the flow high; they are trying to mimic the natural spring flush of an undammed river. (For an interesting editorial on the politics of dammed rivers and diverting water to central and southern California for agricultural purposes – in this case, cotton – and the more sensible idea of keeping the water in the rivers so that they can heal – and even thrive! – see My Word by Aldaron Laird in the Times-Standard.)

I like Laird’s idea: “Perhaps the water in the Trinity should be used to recover and raise a bountiful crop of salmon on the North Coast, not cotton in the Westlands desert.” I’ve never quite understood the logic of perpetuating an economy that doesn’t fit its environment, such as raising water-dependent crops in areas that require importing water. Seems we’d all be better off if we work with what’s naturally available.

Which brings me to Michael and Wanda’s home. They purchased a number of acres along the Trinity, in Del Loma, a few years back. After rafting, Ronnie and I went back to their place for lunch, and to stay the night. I couldn’t get over how Wanda’s been landscaping the property! She’s collected river stones and built gardens everywhere: whimsical rock gardens studded with blue glass bottles and random objects; a small lawn bordered by a short rock wall and giant lavender bushes; and numerous rock-bordered flower gardens, one with a windmill. The tomato “cages” in the veggie garden are a cross-hatch of madrone branches, and the beans’ tipi is made of five long madrone limbs held together at the top with a rusted metal ring notched into them. Everything is made from resources found there on the property, or from scavenged items (“found art”).

Best of all, though, is Wanda’s version of a hammock. She’s hung a couple of old iron bed frames from the sturdy branches of yet another madrone, and thrown mattresses on them. We spent the night rocked to sleep beneath the madrone leaves, and woke in the early morning (thank you, Mr. rooster!) to the cheap-cheap-cheap of baby robins in their nest – almost directly above our bed – being fed by their robin parents.