Monday night I spent eight hours with a wonderful woman, Adjowah, on the left above. After 21 years we talked and talked about the person that continues to mean so much in each of our lives, my deceased daughter Angela. Adjowah and Angela were best friends in New York City from 1985-1989, until Angela's death. Those few years meant more to Adjowah than I ever imagined.

I don't mean to exclude my son. He too loved hearing about those years and it helped him remember aspects of his sister he'd forgotten - like her humor and her role as a leader. In his father's home she had always remained quiet and reserved compared to the person she was in her Manhattan life. We all marveled at the difference between recollections among adults opposed to experiences as a teenager is living them in real time - with all of the confusion, questioning and fogginess of the moment. 

Adjowah found him on facebook the week of Angela's birthday. This year both he and I struggled with sadness, and it made that the contact even more poignant. She decided then to drive from a craft show in LA, where she sold her work, to our neck of the woods in Southern California. We ate Thai food and hung out at my newly painted, remodeled space. It was so good we are planning on meeting again. She said that she comes south from her home in Oakland 3 or 4 times a year. It is like a reunion with family and I am very pleased.

BTW, the picture came from Adjowah the week or so after she spoke to M. She had gotten it from Angela's other friend, Emily, on the right. (I called this gang the vowel girls, Angela, Adjowah, Emily and Onika.) It was taken in our building's back yard, which was a part of my 175 sf apartment's allocated outdoor space. Pretty awful quality but I love it because I'd totally forgotten that M. had spray painted the message on the wall - his loving thought for me. Too bad he misspelled it.

How long did you say?

I hate to admit to procrastination, but I had to clear away cobwebs to paint around my new windows. It was five weeks ago I proclaimed that I was 'almost there' and then I had a meltdown from a combination of construction, school gardens, school politics etc. I stopped everything for 2 weeks - even the pretense of trying to cook at my living room/kitchen set up. Not only did I not prepare for my friend's arrival, I stayed with her at her motel and abandoned my home.

Following that hiatus I found the task of pulling it all together insurmountable. The construction men had been so critical of my work on the home - the all too familiar diminishing comments, expressions and huddled laughter . . . followed by attitude that says, "no, really, we're just kidding. . . .“ I am already facing the loss of strength, agility and energy from age and sedentary lifestyle. At the school I struggle with the imperative of volunteer labor, so impossibly hard to rely on or even to recruit. This loss of confidence that I can charge into a project and pull it together is dying. Too harsh. Let me say it is changing. I much prefer the drama of a complete project push. It is exhilarating and an adrenaline buzz. Now I find I dread even mounting the energy to begin as I know my energy will stall before I am sufficiently finished. Then I get into a nasty loop of self disgust bringing disincentive to charge back into the work.

Yet again I dance around the middle way. I’d be really disappointed if I were trying to be a Buddhist. Seriously, I have rebelled against all things mid, middle or moderate in favor of all or nothing. These days I keep veering towards nothing. When it comes to purging, non-consuming, light footprint and other minimalist goals I excel. When it comes to putting all my attention or focus on something, I do just fine. But, shit howdy, the physical aspects loom large in my daily life. Though I deeply grateful I don’t suffer with pain like millions, I feel miserable about my lack of physical ‘preparedness’ or follow through. Eventually, I get things done. Like now.

I cleared the cobwebs and painted the last two evenings. I have gotten three loads of clothes, bedding and curtains washed before 8 am and have a week-end do list to pull my home together at last. Today is an anniversary as I got approved for this home renovation grant exactly ONE YEAR ago today. Now that is some slow moving change, my friends. Since it took so long, I am trying to mount a weekend cleanathon to have my drama finish. See, there is a special guest coming to visit on Monday. More on that later, so wish me good energy.

Update: While looking for something else I read a post I wrote at this time in April 2008 and I'll be damned if it couldn't have been written today.  It was called Priorities and Patterns.  I guess this may be a seasonal affect - spring overload or something. I hit upon the workaholic nature. Hmmm . . .

Kindergarten Registration

Recently the principal of the grade school suggested I attend a kindergarten registration to promote the garden and recruit parent volunteers. So, I decided to make a little sign for the table to encourage parents to pick up a garden bulletin and sign up on the list posted. I write a garden bulletin each month and April's was filled with photographs like I showed here.

This morning I raced to get the April garden bulletin's Spanish translation text into the newsletter format in time for the kindergarten registration. The woman who translates for the school sent it last night at 10:30 pm. She works full time and does translations, so I'm grateful she can turn it around within the week. I sure hope I can learn more Spanish by simply copying and pasting for this bulletin.

I got to the school and I'd forgotten to include the Spanish version .pdf attachment. I had to walk back home and send it. Finally, I got it sent and the school staff printed it. Well, I visited with the community resource staff person and a spanish-speaking woman (there for translations?) and learned where I just might be able to find chayote plants. We definately need some volunteers from the Hispanic community to bring cultural diversity to the garden beds.

I just remembered that the principal told me that there is great fear in this community. Nobody needs to wonder why after hearing the hate-filled nonsense coming out of Arizona's legilature and cowboy law enforcement. Hell, even found our own rethuglican congressional representative, Brian Bilbray (R-pulsive,CA) spewed this in response to the AZ profiling,
Discussing Arizona's pending profiling bill on "Hardball," Chris Matthews challenged Bilbray to cite a "non-ethnic aspect" by which law enforcement agents could identify illegal immigrants. "They will look at the kind of dress you wear, there is different type of attire, there is different type of -- right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes," Bilbray replied.

*headdesk* It's not surprising that registering a child for school is threatening to this community. So is answering a census worker's knock on the door and countless other tasks people of privilege never need consider, not for an instant. Even volunteering for a school garden could feel like too much exposure. Even so, I hope we can develop this relationship. The existing PTA is pretty dense-packed with white middle class women fixated on fund raising, grant writing, corporate crumbs and general silliness. (Now that last is just mean, but I just have to acknowledge I feel so much of the energy is devoted to fluff and nonsense). It is like having a mono-crop garden or all bluegrass landscape. Too vulnerable to disease and pests, besides depleting the nutrients. Diversity is key.

Quote of the Day

Capitalism is synonymous with starvation, capitalism is synonymous with inequality, it is synonymous with destruction of mother earth. Capitalism dies, or the Earth dies. Evo Morales

Bolivia is host to the most important environmental decsions being made on this day. Check out Democracy Now all week for complete reporting as USofA media (global north) will not be providing news.
Cochabamba, the Water Wars and Climate Change

Thousands of climate justice activists have arrived here in Bolivia for the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth. Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the gathering to give the poor and the Global South an opportunity to respond to the failed climate talks in Copenhagen. Ten years ago this month, the host city for the summit, Cochabamba, was at the center of an epic fight over the most vital of natural resources: its own water.

Garden Respite Begins Now

I am so happy to report the garden festival, tour were a big success. The school campus was transformed within the last week - since the mountains of dirt of the last post. I am going to be keeping a really low profile this upcoming week. I have so much to do at my own home. Some pictures of the school gardens follow. Now I am listening to a soft rain fall. Perfect.

Maybe I should look for the book Becky recommends . . . Derrick Jensen's How Shall I Live My Life?

Making Mountains out of Mole [Gopher] Hills

Today I am again going to try and make a beautiful garden plan come to life. The image is a portion of a garden a parent volunteer at the elementary school drew for an expanded garden area. It was her first attempt at putting a plan to paper and I was mightily impressed. The fruit trees in the plan were intended to be atop raised portions and surrounded by berms and swales down to the path level.

Well, I started this week with feeling I was single-handedly going to save this plan because I secured as much free fill dirt as we could want right outside the school gate. I don't call this soil because I don't think of it as vital, alive medium. But, in truth it really is soil. Let me back up. I left off a month ago writing about how exhausted I was. I also wrote about how I was so stressed with the lack of parent volunteer involvement. Just three weeks ago I showed up for a work day I'd planned through the PTA and only 3 others showed. Two had to leave within the first 2 hours. The third was a wonderful volunteer who wanted to take over this garden plan and rent the equipment, haul the dirt and make it happen. I introduced the plan creator and this enthusiastic working mom. I asked them to take the lead as I was getting out of town company. Didn't happen. This mom was called in the last several weeks to her job over the weekend. Without equipment or fill dirt to create the rolling hills - nothing could be done.

Then school was off for spring break and the streets all around my trailer park were torn apart with heavy equipment beeping all day every day. It seems that the sidewalks planned for years to address safety issues for kids walking to school were finally being created. One day I approached the earth moving supervisor and asked if they might simply haul the fill dirt up to the garden area where we want this new expanded garden. It took a day and my writing out a receipt, but we got a personable young man all to ourselves (Chief Treehugger and I, the only constants in the school garden program) to dump dirt. I had raced around with CT marking coordinate points, based on the above plan. We marked these points with stakes, connected them with caution tape planted tall colored stakes where the trees would be planted at the apex of each mound and watched the dirt pile up. A note on scale. The turquoise fence is 6' at the height of the curve. Yes, these are mountains.

This was a week ago and each day I opened the gate and then spent most of the day waiting for the young man in the Bobcat TM because I refused to push the dirt around with a shovel. CT and the garden plan creator both worked really hard for several days shoveling dirt. I watched and did minor tasks.  I was bound and determined not to exhaust myself past the point again. It just wouldn't make sense for me to injure myself or again become bone weary.  Besides, that little fossil fuel fired machine works miracles!

Oh, and CT and I raced around and placed wet cardboard over the grass and straw down along a strip beside another building. This zone will be for our sunflower planting project. This modified sheet mulching experiement was my quick decision to utilize more of the free dirt. I admit it - I got dirt greed.  This is why we now have too much dirt and not enough shaped beds.

Let me put another perspective on this big, dramatic garden building. In just 6 days the school will be visited by 1,000's of visitors for the annual garden tour. Hells, bells. It is essentially CT and I to do all the prep work. The plan's creator will be involved and work hard. But, she has little kids and a husband.

My observation these last nine months is that women are way, way over-extended and over-scheduled. I know this old woman ends up doing too much of the physical work. Where is the muscle? (I'll admit that CT breaks the mold as a man giving unstintingly. He is a very rare bird.) Yesterday I watched more than a dozen men devote themselves to drilling little boys in how to win at baseball. I ached to approach these guys and beg them to each donate a half hour, one wheel barrel load, whatever . . . I wanted to confront them with this example they set for these little boys. Games rule. All free time is for entertainment.

Not one of the 15 or more men stopped and even asked what these women were doing with these mountains. I take that back. One dad ranted at seeing the dirt being dropped at the garden. He was outraged that the gopher holes dot the field and that is where the dirt should be hauled - because they spend (big dollar amount) to use the field. He was pissed. Another dad simply tossed orange peels on the pile. I did approach him. I pointed out the compost bin and asked the sons if they remember me from collecting their lunch scraps. The man looked at me like I was dog shit.
Oh, and the relocated pile of compost we'd asked the man on the Bobcat to move hit a sprinkler head and tore up the lawn. The compost pile blew apart like a volcano. Yikes. This will bring out the ire of the school district's facility staff. Whoops. Oh, and the capital project, the monster sidewalk, street, parking lot construction will not be done in time for school reopening. Whoops.

So, school starts tomorrow and it is also going to rain tomorrow. Kids will doubtless return filled with vacation freedom and need extra supervisory energy to get back into the routines. Heavy equipment will be blocking the hundreds of cars in long lines sitting, idling motors to drop each pupil at the front door. Kids will feel the tension, the anger of the parents and teachers. And here are these deliciously huge piles of dirt to charge. Ugh. I will hang out today at the farmers market and do some shoveling, but I am weary before I even start.

Next Saturday the tour will happen, I will speak at the formal presentation and I will lead groups around the campus. The reality will be that I'll be leading envisioning exercises, apirational descriptions and optimistic concepts for future development. It will be what it will be. I've decided my goal is 17 years from this tiring weekend. The school's centennial is in 2027. Maybe the school as a garden will be a reality by then.

P.S. Just read something that gave me a great fantasy . .. Wouldn't it be great today if a flash mob showed up and hundreds started dancing, singing, shoveling, stomping and shaping the great garden bed? That image might make me smile every now and then today. I'll have to come up with what tune might best suit. (Pink Floyd's "We don't need no education" - from "The Wall"?)