Just for interest's sake, since it's too late to be of any use to the people who actually do their shopping ahead of time, here are some items from my wish list. I started this post over two weeks ago but got mad because the pictures didn't go where I wanted them - they're still in the wrong spots but if I don't just get this up I'll have to change it into a what I got for Christmas list.
Partial donations, used, homemade and regifted items are welcome unless it's food...
- $$ towards a hockey camp I'd like to go to next August
- wines, cheeses and dark earthy breads
- hanging/wall mounted wine rack for up to 6 bottles (the wooden one is great, I threw the fancy one in for fun)
- stove top kettle with whistle so I don't forget it as often
- oxfam unwrapped presents
The Buy Nothing Christmas campaign makes me proud to be of Mennonite heritage but I fell short of the mark again this year. It's so hard to get off the gifting train when that seems like the way to show people you love them at this time of year. No matter how often we emphasize that it's not about the presents I feel like a schmuck not giving at least something to those I love, especially since they're all sending something my way. We're working on weaning ourselves off the cycle but for the time being I'm switching to largely home made or gently used items. Oh and yes, I'm not so enlightened that I don't like receiving stuff on occasion!
This is kind of turning into a basic journal type theme but it feels better than waiting for that "perfect" topic to write about. Who is it I imagine is policing my blog to see if it is sticking to the stated topic? Too many years of school in me...
Woo hoo, sunshine! It was sunny most of the day on Sunday and it was heavenly - so good for the spirit. After lounging around and soaking in the rays through the windows we toured out to a new coffee shop in Penticton and checked out the Cannery building. I don't even know how to describe the place. It's an old warehouse that was being used as a low budget mall of sorts with a discount bakery (yikes), small engine repair shop and a locksmith all anchored by a local brewery - appropriately named Cannery Brewing. Someone had the vision to put a small theatre in the other end and now there are more artsy things going in like a traditional dance studio, bellydance/yoga studio, pottery shop, karate and gymnastics. Jeremy took some bizarre pictures and has posted them here.
The strangest part of this all was that a bellydance dvd was being shot in the building as we were there. Imagine walking down a deserted and kind of ugly hall lined with vintage videogames and suddenly you see several belly dancers in full costume casually strolling out of their studio and into the theatre, then you hear live middle eastern music start up. Very surreal. The costumes are amazing with their colours and jingles. It made me really, really want to continue learning belly dancing. I took a super basic community centre type course two years ago and loved it but didn't pursue it further at the time.
I could be a belly dancing hockey player. That would be quite something.
Despite the general whining and grim tone of my last post, life is actually really good and I'm looking forward to Summerland's "Festival of Lights" on Friday night. It sounds glamorous but essentially the town blocks off main street for walking & vendors and then plugs in the Christmas lights at 7pm. They have piped music in the background and later on some local talent takes the stage. It's got that cheesy/gotta love it Canadian small town vibe where you bump into almost everyone you know and sit on the curb to drink your hot chocolate when you get chilly (and then spill it all over leaving you colder and sticky). Last year we enjoyed the fireworks from the warm comfort of our living room window and might just do it again.
WE'RE ON A MISSION.
Environmental Defence protects the
environment and human health. We
research. We educate. We go to court
when we have to. All in order to
ensure clean air, safe food and thriving
Nice to know someone is trying to do it. Might also be nice if the government stepped in too or, crazy as this sounds, maybe we take some responsibility ourselves for what we introduce into our homes and yards. Here's an excerpt from a CTV article on a recent report done by the Environment Defence.
The report, entitled Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians finds that, no matter where Canadians live, how old they are or what they do for a living, they are contaminated with measurable levels of chemicals that can cause cancer, disrupt hormones, affect reproduction, cause respiratory problems or impair neurological development.
Does anyone wonder if some of that cancer research money would be well spent trying to get some of this crap from getting into people in the first place so that at least our kids have a chance? I guess it's inevitable for large numbers of us to get cancer from what's already in our systems so we're naturally focussed on finding a cure. I'm finding it hard to stay positive about the whole scenario, particularly since so much of it seems out of my control. Some days I wish I could stop caring and head off into ignorant bliss. Even the "back to the land" dream is a myth as the highest concentrations of toxins are often found up North, far away from their places of origin.
I'm hoping to come up with a bright spot to end this off on but I can't muster one. A good night of sleep (assuming I can get one) often brings a new perspective in the morning. Sunrise, birth of a new day and all that.
update: Here's a list of "Less Toxic Products" from Nova Scotia that you may want to keep in mind next time you shop.
- The concept of the more you are engaged in something, the more you energy you have has come up a few times lately with both my parents and with Jeremy. I just proved the theory for myself last week. It seems that I haven't been doing a lot of things on my own lately (my choice, nobody's fault) and I found that when I suddenly had a lot more work on my plate than usual I was making the time to do more interesting things and having all kinds of energetic ideas. That's on top of getting a lot of work done by the way. What's up with that?
- There were a lot more juicy tidbits I was saving to share but they must have gotten lost in the shuffle this week, along with my wallet. I am still hoping to find the wallet in the house so maybe the thoughts will come back as well.
I made one of those no-brainer self discoveries in my favorite spot for such things, The Beanery. I've been immersing myself in Christopher Alexander's work again and have tackled a heavy tome with the lofty title of "The Nature of Order, Book 3 - A Vision of a Living World". Let's be honest, I'm looking at the pictures and skimming the text when it looks compelling. The discovery part is that I connect to the world through colours the same way lots of people I know feel music. I don't know how to articulate it but I can look at a particular combination of colours and light infused with life and want to cry at the beauty of it, just like a haunting song. Maybe most people are like this but don't know how to express it either. The picture above is the closest thing to it I could find online at this late hour.
I think I've dissociated myself from the way colours and buildings/rooms affect people because it smacks of the consumer oriented home reno madness. Like so many good ideas, it's been commercialized. Why shouldn't we be paying careful attention to the boxes we call houses so that they actual take on the characteristics of a home and meet our needs rather than worrying about resale values?
Anyone who has ever seen me obsess over a quilt and enjoy throwing intensely coloured fabrics all over the floor in various combinations should enjoy a good chuckle over my little "discovery". I've clearly always loved colours but want to learn to just enjoy it for what it is and be comfortable with it being an emotional or even spiritual experience for me. Now it's starting to sound kind of like a self help book. Probably time for bed.
I'm thrilled when something I really love to do coincides with a healthy lifestyle. Playing hockey encouraged me to eat something healthy when I got home (it helped that Jeremy had the food ready) and got me thinking about heading to the gym to work on some muscle conditioning this fall. Another recent occurrence of that type of synergy was learning how much I enjoyed growing plants in summer - can't think of a better way to eat than picking things out of the tiny garden as I need them.
My little Ella Pearl turned two today. Not sure why that's so exciting except it more formally puts those baby years behind us. In the past month I've had the delight of ditching the crib, high chair and yes, diapers. I get the feeling I've written that somewhere already but it bears repeating as it dramatically affects my quality of life. I've taken on more work this month than usual and have even toyed with the concept of getting some kind of regular employment. The idea of any kind of full time job is terrifying and I have no intentions of that but Jeremy and I have always wanted a more eqitable distribution of work (inside/outside the home) and it seems like a reasonable time to start exploring that. The potential for growth and change is exciting even though I'm quite enjoying my role at home with the girls.
Jason, this post was inspired by you. I was mortified to learn that you check for a new post every day and decided I'd better come up with something fast.
See a few Ella birthday pictures here.
Maybe I should write my own article for this little newsletter and see if it flies. That's an exciting challenge I think I may take up.
My summer reading mostly consisted of gardens, plants and permaculture. It's something I discovered as a holistic concept back in March and it's really stuck with me. I have reached a point with my reading that is unfamiliar to me - some sort of overload paralysis. I walked into the library one night with the usual anticipation and as I browsed my favorite sections I got more and more agitated. I'm so sick of reading exciting things and then not doing them. I feel like I have enough knowledge and ideas for a lifetime of experimenting but lack the time, money, energy or just plain grit to get into it. Maybe all four or maybe only the last, after all it is much easier to talk about the dream than do it and I have a very well developed fear of failure.
In an effort not to beat myself up too badly I'd better note that I have done some small things. I'm committed to only growing plants that have at least two purposes (possible purposes include: edible, beautiful, medicinal, insect attracting, hedge, windbreak etc.). Aside from a section of select edibles they must all be drought tolerant. My dad helped us clear out a section of mostly dead and ugly junipers in June and we finally got around to putting some plants in despite the strata president's desire to turn everything everywhere into lawn. While we're on the topic of lawn, my opinion of it is that it's generally useless, water hungry and high maintenance. A small patch of high use and more drought tolerant grass for actual living and playing is great. Ornamental strips that are a pain to mow and nobody uses are an abombination.
Back to my little patch - we put in a native vine maple, saskatoon, blueberry and lavender. I transplanted some very hardy chrysanthemums in there as well and we'll see how they do. Once we get the extra topsoil/compost/mulch thing going on I'll put in some bulbs and echinacea and hopefully get a picture. Hmm, the bubs and chrysanthemums are apparently only for beauty and don't meet my criteria. They were cheap and plentiful in my own garden, maybe that should be another factor! It's a far cry from the "guilds" I read about in Gaia's Garden ( I love almost everything that Chelsea Green has published, as an aside) but it's a lot better than more lawn.
Underlying all this planning for plants and more ecologically sound living is general angst about committing to living in this spot. I simultaneously want to literally put down roots and stick around to see them mature at the same time as dreaming of a more "ideal" place to do it (um, could there be a more ideal place that where I actually am?) or more exciting would be to travel to various places to learn more and help others do it. I'm making it a goal to have visited the Kootenay Permaculture Institute by the end of next summer to get a sense of what that scene is like.
The building was a lot like I expected and hoped it would be. The deep sills and thick walls delighted me most and the cool temperature on a smoking hot Okanagan day was impressive too. I still don't know if I would react to spending a lot of time in a strawbale building, as I'm so incredibly allergic to straw dust. The few minutes I was in the tasting room were fine but the doors were open and there was good airflow. The only thing about the whole scene that worried me was what I felt was a lingering smell of damp concrete (which incidentally, nobody else could smell). I think the building was only completed this year so perhaps it needs more time to cure? Also if the building was heated with wood in any way it would likely end up being on the dry side in short order.
My next stop on the strawbale circuit will be a strawbale fruitstand near Okanagan Falls...can't find a website but this one has a picture.
If I feel dramatically inspired I may add a post but it will definitely continue to be very light until fall at which point I'll reassess the whole thing.
I stumbled on a website that captured my recent sentiments lately, it's called self sufficient 'ish'. The solo style home steader sounds romantic and all, but I'm not up for the isolation (or back breaking work to be honest). Some of the recipes on the page look tasty, the simple veggie burger is one. I'm glad to see the tips for those who rent dwellings and and don't have the ability and/or desire to go off grid and out of town. It applies equally well to many of us in a strata or condo situation as well. Too bad it's UK focussed and not all transferrable information.
I am getting carried away by the could have/should haves in the way our society is running. The real challenge is to define what it is I feel is missing and find a way to do something about it. My first step is to take care of the ground we have a stake in, by which I mean our common strata yard. It's all lawn and weeds. No bushes, trees or garden plots. It's not even useful for the kids to play on as all the lawn slopes toward a busy street. Guess where the soccer ball ends up? The next question is whether to run it through the proper channels or just start guerilla planting and see how long it takes for anyone to notice or care. A third option is to sanction and pay myself to do it since I'm strata treasurer. Probably some bylaw against it. Or criminal law for that matter....
It's delightful to find that someone else has gone to the effort of writing up something that I would have liked to put together some day. Saves a lot of time. Some of it is a bit wordy to duplicate so I've edited or paraphrased in brackets.
-Evoke whole system sensitivity: (pay attention to whole cycles, not reduce everything to parts)
-Model ecologically-appropriate lifestyles for others to learn and mimic
-Cultivate wise diets: food systems greatly influence the health and welfare of people, place, and planet--as we are what we eat, be sure to carefully consider the origins and impacts of food choices;
-Use knowledge with humility: the more you learn, the less you will know -Practice inclusivity: embrace, affirm, and advance calls of justice for all human and more-than-human species--at once;
-Integrate competence, confidence, and consciousness: begin with what you know, learn as you go--devote time to reflect on how your actions rightly do more good than harm (all things considered);
-Most importantly--have fun: life is too short for boredom, burn-out,tedium, and the like--be sure to enjoy all of what you learn and do--a healthy mind, body, and spirit (and relationships) can then be enjoyed as well. Help to design and grow healthy organizations, communities, and institutions accordingly.
What? Have fun as a guiding principle? Sweet. Here's a beauty from the permaculture perspective
-Maximum effect for minimum effort: go slow and hone observation skills (enlist all senses) for keen theories and interpretations of system states--Mollison & Holmgren: "apply thoughtful and protracted observation, not thoughtless and protracted labour"
Here is the Summerland Citizen's site.
More to follow as I delve deeper into the book.
The US Green Building Coucil (who knew?) has come up with a formula for assessing the relative impact a house or building project has on the environment. This blog post is a short summary of a discussion the author heard on the topic a few days ago. I love the anecdote about people putting more thought into the design of their doghouse than the one they live in. I suppose you are forced to take real factors like sun exposure into account if the doghouse won't have electricity...
Many of the social and environmental problems associated with the unsustainable patterns of production and consumption of modern society are manifested on the community level. Communities are where we live and work, and therefore where the impacts of our collective decisions about matters that affect our land, air and water become most obvious.
It's not a broad brush anti-development agenda and I really appreciate that because growth does happen. Canmore and Whistler are already on board and those are both resort towns that are growing. I checked the local library for one of the primers on The Natural Step program and was pleased to find that two of three district copies were already in the Summerland branch - there is hope!
I was both delighted and infinitely depressed to find out how far ahead communities are in Sweden. Can you imagine government inspired experiments in "green" and affordable housing? Subsidized alternative energy plants? A focus on making the towns pedestrian and bicycle oriented? I'm still more authority oriented than I would like to be, so to see a federal level government taking this seriously secretly affirms for me that I'm not some random deluded voice in the wilderness (even though I already know I'm not...).
So I wonder what it takes to run for council? ha.
The last two paragraphs of Peter Levine's post on the press and social programs comments on the perceived divergence between the quantity of bloggers with strong leftish viewpoints on issues and the lack of people taking actual steps to do something active about it. Perhaps the ones that are really active aren't using their spare time to sit at a computer and blog?
"Urban improvement plans which don't address differences of race, class, and culture are, essentially, suburban enrichment dressed up in urban language.
The idea ties in nicely for me with Jane Jacobs' vision of creating healthy cities by fostering the things and places that are already there.
Both Jane Jacobs' perspective and the post remind me of my ongoing internal conversation about the benefits of living right in the heart of a city or the peace of being closer to the trees and quiet that I need to stay sane. I think if I found or was able to help initiate my ideal vision of an urban community I would love it as much as I enjoy the quiet I have right now. It might look like the City Farmer's effort (along with the city of Vancouver) to return some asphalt into a "country lane".