Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Campus Crossroads

I’m standing in a busy crossroads on campus, bewildered. Which way to go to find my classroom? People stream by me with purpose, laughing, reading. They all know where they’re going. I wrack my brain and cannot for the life of me remember how to get there. Which path should I take? 

Is that the building? I know it’s late. In the sudden awareness that I’m going to miss class, I also realize I haven’t studied for today’s test. The onrush of anxiety jolts me awake and I realize I’m 48, newly divorced, with no job and two small children to support. 

The anxiety clenching my heart is the fear that I won’t find my direction and land on my feet. That I won’t be able to successfully navigate this new adult experience. And I feel 18 again, putting my life together for the first time. 

But unlike my 18-year-old nightmare, I can draw on my experience and take a breath. Remind myself, I don’t have to know all the answers right now. My new life will emerge one step at a time.

Higher Elevation

I was doing my 2.8-mile power walk around Greenlake yesterday when I overheard a mother pushing a jogging stroller saying she'll be taking her clients to Katmandu. "How high up is the base camp?" says her friend. Another mother at school, recently left her husband for her rock climbing instructor – seems she fell in love while scaling the heights.

What is it about mothers and the attraction of higher elevations? I, for one, started taking my 6- and 8-year-old children hiking in the Cascades this summer. Just a 30 minute drive and a mere 800 foot descent get us far away from any trace of city life. On the way up, as we pause for a water break, we breathe in the verdant terrain. Earth, ferns, salal and fir fill our senses. A flight of bushtits zoom by seeking food on the next branch.

As we get into the groove of climbing, our hearts' pounding and accelerated breathing sing out "we are alive, we are alive" with every step. And if we spy a vole scurry across our path or two slugs mating, time is suspended as we stop to watch with a pure, focused attention that connects us indelibly to our surroundings. A grounding in sight and sound and awareness that rivals any nirvana achieved through silent mediation.

On the drive back home from my walk, I'm just 25 feet above sea level. The mountains float in the fog, layers of misty pinks and slate grays. My mind reaches out and flies across the distance to sit next to a rocky trail and listen to the hush of the forest and the calling of the Stellar Jay. For a moment I reconnect with a higher elevation, before I pull back to the daily routine of all that's necessary to raise happy, healthy children. When I get home, I'll get out my hiking guidebook, perhaps we can get one more day trip in before the snows fly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ballard Crab Legs

This morning I popped by my neighborhood grocery, the Ballard Market, to pick up a few basic items (salt, eggs, butter, and cheese) and I see Alaskan King Crab legs are in season. Once you've had fresh crab legs, it's hard to ever eat frozen ones again. Still, at $25 a pound, one leg is so big it cost $12. I'm eating by myself tonight, so I splurged. What's $12 when it would cost me far more than that to dine on them in a restaurant? The great thing is they are so easy to prepare, you don't have to make a gourmet recipe to love them. Just sauté in a little butter with some pear/spinach salad on the side. Yum.

There's been a lot of talk lately about knowing where your food comes from. So I asked the fishmonger, "Who caught this crab?" 

Turns out it was a Ballard fisherman who moors his boat at Fisherman's Terminal, just across the Ballard Bridge. It was fun to discover, as well, that the boat is featured on the Discovery Channel's show, The Deadliest Catch

I'm not only eating crab that supports local fisherman, but I'm also eating celebrity crab! Makes that $12 seem so affordable, I'm tempted to go out and buy another leg. I can taste it now, crab quiche, crab cake, crab crepe, crab salad. Next stop!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Poetry instead of prose

I'd love to have something terribly interesting to say today. But I don't. Instead I'll let Denise Levertov do the talking:

To the Reader

As you read, a white bear leisurely
pees, dyeing the snow

and as you read, many gods
lie among lianas: eyes of obsidian
are watching the generations of leaves,

and as you read
the sea is turning its dark pages,
its dark pages.

-- Denise Levertov

Monday, October 22, 2007

Energy Diet

Last year I put our house on an energy diet. I wanted to see if a few simple changes in electricity usage could really add up to tangible savings.

I grew up in a house run by depression-era parents. "Turn off the light," was the refrain every time you left a room. "But I'm coming right back," I'd say. "Those pennies saved add up," Dad would respond, echoing the sentiments of Ben Franklin. But pennies to me didn't seem to add up to much when a candy bar is 75 cents. I'd stopped picking them up. What did it matter if I left a light on in an empty room for an hour or so?

But the press to change our habits to combat global warming kept nagging me. I read in a fashion magazine an astounding statistic that if everyone just changed one light bulb in their house to florescent, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and save more than $600 million in annual energy costs.(1) That's 60 billion pennies! Perhaps I could get me a few of those.

I started a one-woman experiment to see how much would be saved if I just started turning off the electricity not in active use. I did not nag my family to participate. Just me, quietly taking this on.

I followed my children around like a shadow, turning off lights when they left a room. I made sure every dark winter morning their bedroom lights were turned off when they ran out the door to school. That 25 watt nightlight bulb could not shine all day long because I forgot to reach under the dresser to turn it off. Those friendly lights we leave on in the house to make ourselves feel welcome when we come back into the room, off. Cell phone charger, unplugged. Printer, off. Laundry, out of the drier the first time the all-done buzzer sounds. When bringing water to a boil, I put a lid on the pot. The first time a bulb in the kitchen or family room ceiling burned out, I left it out. No need to replace that bulb when there are seven others still working.

What I didn't do was put in a single florescent light bulb. I know what you're thinking, that's the easiest way to save energy. But I hate the light they give off and I'd already replaced our porch light, garage light and workroom lights with florescent bulbs several years ago.

So how much did that really save? Well our electric bill wasn't that big to begin with. Only $600 per year. So you can imagine my surprise when I ended up saving $?? simply by focusing on not wasting electricity.

I think I'll see how much money I can save next year by getting my children involved. I might even put in another florescent bulb and watch those pennies add up.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Made in China

This summer I told my daughter she couldn't suck on toys that were made in China. I tried to explain about lead poisoning – "they have paint that makes you stupid." We also discussed a little bit about the global economic implications of wages, supply and demand.
I never dreamed she'd turn it into a Made in China Scavenger Hunt. She goes around the house on a whim chanting: made in china, made in china. And starts reading the labels of everything. Toys, basically all of them. Her bathroom drinking cup, yes. My Monet Water Lilies umbrella, check. Her lunch box, the Monopoly game, her bedside lamp, yep. Wait a minute, my bra is made in Tunisia!
Perhaps it's because she's an emerging reader that she gets such glee in seeing the recognizable slogan in so many places. But it's given me pause, since I never see Made in the US on anything. Do you?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Muddled Herb Cocktail with Hail on the Side

The hail was pounding the window so hard I moved the laptop to safety.
Jewel-like marbles of ice cover the street and yard.
Mesmerized I watched it hurl past my window in the bracing wind.
A flock of pigeons flies by struggling to find safety.
An angry deluge punctuated by lightning flashes and deep embracing thunder.
When it stops I race around readying myself to burst outside to photograph the oddity.
My mind is practicing headlines to share: I've never seen hail this large before.
Better bring a glass to scoop up a sample to share with the kids after they get home from school.
Where is the charged battery for the camera?
But the minute I step out the door the smell of my garden brings all thought to a halt.
Unexpected. Lavender, oregano, thyme, mint,
muddled by the hail into a glorious herbal draught of a dramatic storm.