Another Adventure

Al and I bought a house on Beacon Hill in Seattle in November of 1973. Soon thereafter, we bought the lot behind our house. The properties on both sides of our new lot were completely overrun with blackberry vines; but our lot, thanks to the people who had lived there since sometime in the 1930’s, was well maintained. It was terraced and had several fruit trees. We added vegetable gardens and did our best to keep the property free of blackberry vines and weeds.

After we divorced in the 80’s, I sold the lot; there was no way for me to keep it up and I needed the income. At that point, the blackberry and ivy vines began to invade the property. The person I sold it to, sold it to someone else and that person sold it to the city when they were buying property to create the Seattle Greenbelt.

In 2014 and 2015, I attempted to remove some of the blackberry and ivy vines, particularly around big cedar tree and a big alder tree. Sometimes I enlisted a friend to help, but we barely made a dent in the invasive vines.

In March of 2015, I saw some yellow down by the alder tree and was intrigued; I wanted to see what it was. I picked up my shears and made my way through the dried blackberry vines. It was not easy to get to the yellow, which turned out to be daffodils, but I eventually made it.

The daffodils were beautiful and when I looked inside one of them, I was surprised to see a spider.

If you would like to read more about that 2015 adventure go to: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize)

In fall of 2016, GreenFriends members joined with Green Seattle Partnership in restoring this section of the Greenbelt. Our site not only included the lot I had once owned but three other lots as well.

A few days ago, I was looking out my kitchen window and saw yellow in the distance. I knew immediately what it was. I took a photo from the kitchen. Look at the photo below and see if you can see any hint of yellow.

Then I took a closeup photo, still from the kitchen window. Can you see the yellow in the distance now? Don’t worry if you can’t; you will be able to see it soon!

The next day, I decided to get as close as I could to the flowers. This time my journey would not be hampered by blackberry vines but it might be halted by my physical mobility issues (poor balance and dizziness). I decided the safest way for me to get to them was to walk down the Hanford Stairs, because those stairs have a handrail. I would also bring my cane.

Once I arrived at the entrance to the lower path, I left the stairs and entered the Greenbelt. There was so much new growth on the site. This unfolding fern was one of the first things that caught my eye.

Next, I noticed that several of the wild ginger plants we had planted in 2017 were now dwarfed by fringecup volunteers (volunteers in this case are plants that sprout on their own, i.e. we hadn’t planted them). In the photo below the wild ginger is peeking out from under the fringecup. Both are native plants.

As I came close to the main part of the site, I saw a flowering tree in the distance. What in the world was that?

Before I turned the corner into the clearing, I passed a planting area and saw that horsetails were coming up en force! I knew from experience, that before long we won’t be able to see anything other than horsetails in the lower areas of the site!

When I entered the clearing, the flowering tree mystery was solved; the blooms were on the top part of the big tree that had fallen during the first week in March.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

From this area, I was able to get a view of the fallen tree from a different perspective than I had before. There was still no way to capture all of the tree in one photograph.

Soon, I continued my journey to the daffodils. They were on a slope, so I didn’t feel safe to get close to them but I did take some closeup photos from the path.

Then I looked at the nearby planting areas.

I decided to return to my house using the stairs behind my house since I am much more stable going up stairs than down them. On the way back, I saw how much the pearly everlasting shoots have grown. And there are so many of them. If you would like to read my previous update about those plants go to: Pearly Everlasting Shrubs pp. 24-27.

The next day, I decided to see if I could get a little closer to the daffodils. I noticed that if I walked towards them from the south side, the ground was almost flat. I knew I still couldn’t take ground level photos like I did in 2015 but I was very happy to get a closer shot…

… and to have completed another adventure!

Nimo: Prayer Music Video

Nimo Patel from Empty Hands Music just released a new music video, so I, as usual, am sending it out right away.

This was the message that went with it:

These are unprecedented times for all of us. We need to act now: to serve, to support the collective and to help those in need. We also need to pray. Most of us cannot leave home, but we can send positive vibrations into the world, the air, our ears, our hearts, and our minds. We need to pray to change the energy field. Prayer can be anything your heart yearns for. Share your love and prayers everyday for all of humanity and all of Planet Earth. We need it and we can all do that wherever we are. In isolation or in community. Love you all.

Beauty in My Backyard-Spring 2020

Since I’m not working in the Greenbelt, I (hopefully) will be able to focus on my own yard again. I say hopefully because I’m not able to get up and down well at this point. Regardless of what the future holds, there is plenty of beauty there already.

When you feel like darkness has you bound…

My daughter Chaitanya and my son Sreejit (now Br. Sattvamrita Chaitanya) live at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in Kerala, India. People from all religions come to Amma, and all religions are respected.

For ten years, my son and daughter were very instrumental in creating the Christmas play that was performed on Christmas Eve. My daughter wrote and directed the plays and Sattvamrita and his friends composed most of the tunes. The plays were performed in the style of Broadway musicals.

One of my favorite musicals was the one in December, 2012. It was titled God is Able. The setting was a Southern style Gospel church. Sattvamrita was the preacher! The story line included the stories of Moses leading the Jews to the promised land, Rachael being healed by touching Jesus’ garment, and a fictional account of the heart of an angry store keeper being healed.

I will never forget the moment in the play when the stage doors opened and the sparkling “Gospel Choir” became visible. It seemed like everyone in the auditorium did a collective gasp. Part of the reason I remember the gasp and the thunderous applause and shouts that followed the song so well is that I was part of the choir!!!

Choir

Two or three days ago, I noticed that someone had visited my blog and found a post I had written about that play. The post contained the song our choir had sung; it was titled Dear God. The tune was written by Sattvamrita and the lyrics by Chaitanya. 

I found the post and pressed the Dear God play button. As soon as the song began, I burst into tears; the deepest tears I have felt in many years. I think the tears were particularly sparked by hearing my son’s voice. It is stressful being on the other side of the world from my “kids” during the pandemic even though all of us are doing fine.

I’m still crying each time I play the song. In addition to hearing Sattvamrita’s voice, my tears may be from the message that the song holds, from the beauty of the music, and/or from reliving the memories of that magical night.

The mp3 recording and the lyrics are below.  I hope you enjoy it.

When you feel like darkness has you bound
And you can’t see any way to get out
There’s a power which surrounds us all
Through God anything is possible

Never fear
Never let your doubts draw near
With courage face all that comes
Put your trust into God’s arms
He’ll protect you from all harm
His love will carry you on through

Dear God, hold us tight never let us leave thy sight
Dear God, fill our soul with your love make us whole

Sattvamrita singing above the choir:

God is able to calm the wild storm
God is able to make the weak strong
God is able to bring change within
God is able to do all things

Greenbelt Restoration Work Parties: February 26 and March 4, 2020

When we held the February 26 and March 4 work parties none of us knew that they would be the last work parties of the quarter. The remaining ones would be canceled due to the pandemic.

February 26

When I went outside to make last minute preparations for the work party, I got a big surprise. A big tree had fallen not far from our toolbox. I hadn’t been to that part of the site for several days, so I didn’t know when it fell but guessed it was during or soon after the big wind and rain storm that had occurred the previous weekend.

The tree had fallen from the top path, over the old house foundation that is on the property, and partially over the planting area that is below the foundation. I hadn’t realized how big the tree was until it fell; it must have been at least 80 feet tall. The photos in this post are primarily from the tree’s bottom and top so in no way do they show its magnitude. 

(To enlarge the photos click on any of the galleries.)

The side-lying rootball is about 8 feet long and 12 feet high! 

The tree fell between two drying racks. It touched both of the racks but didn’t damage either of them. Even though it had fallen over numerous planting areas, none of our native plants were significantly harmed; in fact only one branch on a bald hip rose shrub and one on a pacific ninebark shrub was damaged. Once again, against incredible odds, Mother Nature had protected the plants.

The tree had fallen from the top path, over the old house foundation that is on the property, and partially over the planting area that is below the foundation. We hadn’t realized how big the tree was until it fell; it must have been at least 80 feet tall. The photos in this post are primarily from the tree’s bottom and top so in no way do they show its full magnitude. 

Soon after I discovered the fallen tree, I called my supervisor at the Seattle Parks Department to inform him that the tree had fallen. He told me it would probably be left on the ground to provide habitat for birds and insects. 

So, after all of us spent some time looking at the exposed tree roots, we began the planned activities for the day. Most of the students started removing weeds, wood chips and leaves from around all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we had planted on the site since 2017. Having bare ground around each plant helps water reach the plant roots when it rains. The UW Capstone interns were team leaders for the UW service-learning students during this work party.

An intern found some snail or slug eggs as she was working.

A student that loves to dig out invasive blue bell bulbs did that instead of clearing the areas around the plants. The photo of her shovel shows how wet the soil was that day.

While all of this activity was occurring, Antje, one of our regular team leaders, cut back bamboo shoots.

Later, one of the student teams removed some of the smaller fallen tree branches that were near the native plants.

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While those students removed branches, the other team finished clearing the areas around the plants on the site and then picked up litter. Sorry, no photos of that work!

March 4

During what turned out to be our last work party, the interns took the service-learning students back to the area along Cheasty Boulevard that they had started to clear several weeks before. Weeds were already growing through the wood chip mulch they had spread at that time. On March 4th, they dug out those weeds and cleared more of the area, and then spread more wood chips over all of the cleared area. I don’t have photos of the work but I do have photos of the results!

The fallen tree covered all but one of our Greenbelt paths. While the students worked, Antje identified and marked new ways to get around the lower part of the site without walking through the planted areas.

I feel so grateful to all of the students who chose to work on our site for their service-learning or internship this quarter. I also feel grateful for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.

Only in America?

When I went to my blog’s stats page yesterday, I noticed that six people had read a post I had written in July of 2015. How had they found it? The “referrers” and “search engine terms” sections of the stats page didn’t give me a clue.

It was interesting for me to read the post again. In the last two weeks there have been many stories on the news about the run on toilet paper. Since then, the store shelves where the toilet paper once resided have been empty every time I’ve been to the grocery store. Some stores are putting a limit on how much toilet paper people can buy as a way to prevent the hoarding.

I’m thankful that I had bought some toilet paper just before the run on it began. I’m even more thankful for the 30+ years I’ve been going to India. Especially in the early years, there was generally no toilet paper available. I know I would survive even if I had to live without it.

It seems a fitting time for me to repost this 2015 article.

***

When I went to the supermarket yesterday, these displays caught my eye.

The three displays were next to each other and all were devoted to the sale of toilet paper!

A few minutes later I found another display directly across from the check out counter:

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Yes, it was more toilet paper!  I wonder if any other country in the world would devote this much supermarket space to toilet paper.  I doubt it.

This morning, I decided to go back to the store and take a look at the packaging.  I thought it might be interesting to read the advertising comments and it was! These words and phrases were used:

  • Clean Care
  • Ultra Soft
  • Mega Roll
  • A Soft Clean
  • Septic Safe
  • Ultra Strong
  • Cleans Better
  • More Absorbing
  • Plus Absorbent
  • Soft and Strong
  • Silky Comfort
  • Soft Layers
  • Strong and Absorbent
  • Gentle Care
  • Removes More
  • Angel Soft
  • Extra Soft
  • Quilting
  • Clean Stretch
  • Confident Clean
  • Softness and Strength
  • Long Lasting Value
  • 3x Stronger plus Resistant
  • Soft and Affordable
  • Soft on Nature, Soft on You
  • Soft and Absorbent

I have to wonder how toilet paper can have clean stretch or long lasting value!

I wish I had counted how many different types of toilet paper there were.  I know one company made three or four types, on a scale from Basic to Ultra!

I don’t know what kind of summary statement to make about this post.  I think I will let the information speak for itself and look forward to hearing your reactions.  Does toilet paper receive this much attention where you live?

A Time of Letting Go

As I mentioned in my posts from India, I have been having trouble with balance. It started about two years ago but has been getting worse. With my doctor’s support, I had dealt with it by working with a personal trainer at a gym and doing physical therapy. Both have been valuable, but it was while I was coping with uneven ground in India that I realized how much worse my balance had gotten in the last year. And I also noticed that the balance problem was often accompanied by a sense of wooziness and exhaustion. The India heat and jet lag made those symptoms even worse. It was towards the end of the trip that it first occurred to me that I should stop leading work parties in the Greenbelt. I let that thought percolate in the back of my mind.

Seeing that the symptoms were getting worse, and that strength building at the gym and physical therapy weren’t sufficient for dealing with the physical problems, once I returned to Seattle, I started getting medical tests to rule out underlying causes. (Some of those tests have been delayed because of the pandemic.)

Around the same time, it occurred to me that my physical problems might also be due to overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed. After all, from the time I started working in the Greenbelt, I had thought and even dreamed about the restoration work incessantly.

Overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed and exhausted have been life patterns for me. There were times in my life when I felt as if my mind was like a computer that was about to explode. My present-day physical symptoms were eerily similar to those experiences. My old pattern was to keep doing all of those behaviors until I got so sick that I couldn’t do the work anymore. I believe that was why I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the mid 80’s and in the 2000’s developed high blood pressure.

Having these insights felt very helpful, but what was to be done with them? Since August of 2016, my life had been primarily focused on the Greenbelt restoration project. I had loved working on the land as well as working with the team leaders and the many hundreds of volunteers who had helped. I had treasured watching the land transform from space overrun with blackberries, ivy and bindweed to land filled with native trees, shrubs and ground covers. But the joy had been accompanied by hardship. The ground is sloped and uneven and I had tripped and fallen many times, once even breaking my wrist. It had taken a tremendous amount of effort to find volunteers to help with the work parties. All of the planning and administrative work had practically turned into a full- time job.  And everything had gotten more difficult for me to do as the balance problems and wooziness worsened.

I realized that almost all of my overthinking, overdoing and stress was related to my Greenbelt restoration work. I knew myself well enough to know that cutting back was not an option; I wouldn’t be able to stop the overthinking with that approach. I knew I needed to stop doing the restoration work as soon as possible. In addition, I needed to accept the fact that I am 71 years old now and have limitations that go with aging.

But I would not make the change immediately. If at all possible, it was important to me to finish Winter Quarter activities since I had University of Washington Service-Learning students as well as Capstone interns from the UW School of the Environment. Even though it was difficult, I was able to complete that commitment!

I have never questioned my decision to stop my involvement in the restoration project, but I knew that I would feel devastated if the land reverted to its 2016 state. I felt relieved when the Green Seattle Partnership staff told me that they were committed to finding another Forest Steward to continue the project.

Several friends and family members told me that my replacement would be revealed. One day, our newest team leader came into my mind. She knows so much and has so much energy. And she had participated in almost all of the student work parties this quarter. I contacted her and asked if she had ever thought about becoming a Forest Steward. I was astounded when she told me she already was one, she had taken the Forest Steward training in 2014. And she was interested in the position!

She prefers to work in a team, so hopefully one or more of our other team leaders will take the training when it is offered in October. But the fact that she is already a Forest Steward means the project can continue now. The saying “what you need will be provided” has certainly come true.

I will miss leading the project but know that I can potentially help in the future. And since the site borders my property, I can still watch the new plants grow and take nature photos. What I am primarily experiencing is a sense of relief.

Just before I sat down to write this post, the title of a book I used to recommend came to mind.

Life is Goodbye,
Life is Hello
Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss

I know I am saying both goodbye and hello in my life and realize that I may experience a myriad of feelings as I continue this process of living, learning and letting go.

***

I’m not the only one letting go. While I am feeling a lot of relief about my decision about my own life, I’m much more excited about another person’s transformation. Have any of you wondered why you no longer can find my son’s blog, The Seeker’s Dungeon?

Sreejit deleted The Seeker’s Dungeon when he found out he was going to receive the yellow robes of a brahmachari. (To learn more about brahmacharis and brahmacharya click here.)

The decision to delete his blog was part of letting go of his Sreejit identity as he moves into the next stage of his life.

His name is now Brahmachari (Br.) Sattvamrita Chaitanya. Chaitanya is like a last name for all brahmacharis so would only be said in a formal setting. Most of the time he will be called Sattvamrita. The phonetic spelling is sut VAAM ri tu.  The u’s are like the short u in hut, the aa is long like the a in psalm or alms, and the i is like the i in knit. The capitalized letters are for the syllable that is emphasized. 

I have loved seeing him so excited and happy.

Here are a few photos of Sattvamrita. Cutting off his hair and beard was part of the initiation process.

His sister is so happy for him too. (BTW The sleeves on Sattvamrita’s shirt will be hemmed at a later time! 😁)

A person standing in front of a store

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You’re Being Called…..

My daughter sent me a quote a few days ago that made me laugh, but it also made me think. I have found it helpful and so have some of the people to whom I have sent it. I tried to track down the author but have been unsuccessful in that endeavor.

I’ve also noticed that the quote comes in several forms. I have decided to share it even though I don’t know who wrote it…. because of the importance of the message. I am using the form that I was sent and that I like the best.

Your grandparents were called to war.

You’re being called to sit on your couch.

You can do this.