Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(No Impact Week - Day #3) Please Sir...May I Have More?

The focus for Day #3 of No Impact Week is food.  For us, food is also our main area of consumption in terms of where we actually spend money.  It is a matter of making choices and setting priorities.  I am still wearing sweaters from high school but I willingly pay more for organic and local food.

Today we will go to the market at the Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm that is within walking distance from our house.  Why is it called Brooklyn Grange when it is located in Long Island City, Queens?  Did they think it would have more cachet to put Brooklyn in the name?  Although there are few thing us Queenites like better than to roll our eyes at the faux hipster borough to the south, it seems there is a more prosaic reason for the name.  Here is their answer from the Frequently Asked Questions section of their website:
When we started our company in 2009, we thought we had a site in Brooklyn locked down. We were all living in Brooklyn and put together the plan there, so the name made sense. In spring of 2010 we had to look for a new site; subsequently, we found our current location on Northern Blvd in Queens. At that point, however, we had already established an LLC under the name “Brooklyn Grange,” had begun using the name in public at our fundraisers and events in the winter and didn’t want to confuse the folks who had been following our progress and supporting our efforts. We’ve kept our name as Brooklyn Grange, but we are thrilled with our new home in LIC, Queens and have really enjoyed meeting the community there.
So there you have it.  They aren't snobs, just victims of the vicissitudes of the New York City real estate market.  And who among us hasn't had that experience?

When we started this experiment, I decided to allow myself to use whatever I already have in the pantry and fridge.  The No Impact Week began immediately after I returned from sesshin and it is safe to say that I was pretty much unprepared for it so that rule seemed sensible if we actually wanted to eat anything.  It has forced, nay - encouraged, me to be creative with what was on hand.  Although I have heard a few complaints from certain parties who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Fin and Lucy, I think we have had some decent meals cobbled together from odds and ends.  I am noticing that we have almost nothing getting tossed out because it has gone by its edible stage.  Plus it is fun to be forced to be creative in this way - I feel like a participant on Chopped.

Do you know where your food comes from?  What non-local item could you give up?  Bananas?  Avocados?  Coffee?  Ouch - that's cutting close to the bone!  Fortunately I have a large store of coffee in our cupboard so the most drastic sacrifice has not needed to be made.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(No Impact Week - Day #2) Change and Change and Change

Here is some more 1970s idealism from my favourite TV show ever, Free to Be You and Me with Marlo Thomas.

Today's challenge, trash and transportation, is added to yesterday's focus on consumption.  In terms of trash, we do our best to recycle whatever New York City allows us to recycle (which isn't as much as you would think) and I compost our kitchen scraps.  Since I was raised with parents who grew up in the Depression era and steeped us in their "waste not, want not" attitude, being wasteful is not one of my issues.  Please be assured, I have many others but this is not really one of them.  We are ahead of the curve in eliminating unnecessary trash from our lives but I know we can do better.

Transportation is a little trickier.  Normally on a Tuesday, I would drive to Brooklyn for several errands, including the week's food shopping.  Since this week, I am trying to only buy at the farmer's markets, I don't need to drive today so I will take the subway.  It is a little over an hour each way into Brooklyn from Sunnyside - longer than driving - but not terrible.  And I can knit in air conditioned splendor!

Did you know that Rosie Grier is famous for his crochet work as well as his crying?  Maybe I will shed a couple of tears just for Rosie while I knit on the N train this afternoon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

(No Impact Week - Day #1) In Which I Make My Case for Idealism

I miss 1970s idealism.  Did you know that there was a time when people actually believed that peace, love and understanding would make a difference in the state of the world?  I think it is time to bring some of that back.

A friend gave me her collection of Growing Without Schooling magazines when she moved - she had almost the entire set from the very first one that John Holt wrote onwards.  You can read them online now - how exciting!  I love the optimism and, yes, the idealism of those early issues.  People were doing radical things like taking charge of their own children's education, which is to say not believing everything they were ever told about how children learn.  Some people did things that sound a little crazy, even to me, but the amount of trust in the children and their innate passion for learning that they had is so refreshing.  I particularly remember parents writing about how their 15 year old daughter went to Europe by herself, ended up working on a farm and stayed for a year.  What would happen if a parent did that today, I wonder?  I have a friend whose 15 year old daughter went to Japan on her own for a modeling assignment (she went with a group of models from a very well-known agency so she wasn't just wandering around on her own but maybe that would have been ok too).  The mother was strongly criticized in some quarters for "allowing" it to happen.

Trust.  If you know your child, then you know when to let them go and make their mistakes on their own and when to, perhaps, keep six or ten paces behind them just in case.  Trust also allows for children to not read until they are twelve if they are not interested in reading until then, or not take up math until it becomes clear (to them) that they need to know some math.  I know parents who have had this kind of trust and their children are not illiterate hillbillies but wonderful, functional people in the world.  Trusting is hard because we have to let go of our own expectations and our illusion of control.  Yet, if I don't trust my children then how will they learn to trust themselves?

Right now, Fin is growing at such a rate that he mostly sleeps and eats.  He is officially taller than me and, in the week I was away, I think he grew another inch, at least.  Part of me freaks out when he spends half the day in bed and the other half wandering between the kitchen and the couch, complaining about how tired he is.  The part of me that freaks out is the part of me that sets goals, is ambitious and striving, and wants to project all my own desires for success onto my children.  It is a rather big part of me.  But this big part of me has to - HAS TO - step back and take a chill pill.  I need to trust that the work Fin is doing now is valuable enough simply to allow him to do it in the way he needs to do it (which is, apparently, out cold in the sack).  It is scary - it feels like working without a net.  But think about the current state of the world and tell me if you think the safety net of schooling is producing the results you want for this world.  The truth is that it is all an experiment.  The only difference between myself and parents who send their children to school is that I have eliminated any opportunity to let myself lay blame on anyone else if things go to hell in a hand basket.  Truthfully, what would that look like exactly?

I think part of my version of resurrected 1970s idealism is to toss away what constitutes "success".  Many of the other people taking yoga teacher training with me are in their mid-20 to mid-30s with graduate degrees and many tens of thousands of dollars of student debt.  After all those years of schooling and now working in the nine-to-five world, they are taking yoga teacher training.  This is NOT a criticism of my fellow trainees (I love them!) but I point out their plight, for a plight is what it feels like it is, because it seems so completely insane.  They did everything they were expected to do - go to school, go to college, get an advanced degree, get a job - and they are very unhappy with the results.  Unhappy working in the corporate world and loaded up with debt.  What if someone along the way had advised them to take a year (or two) off.  Even if they traveled Europe for a year, it would have been cheaper than one year at a private university and imagine what they would learn about the world and about themselves.  It boggles the mind.

You know, maybe success doesn't look like one thing.  Maybe the fullness of life isn't measured in good grades, prestigious awards, or even money (gasp!).  Maybe peace, love and understanding isn't such a naive place to start after all.

Let's bring back some good ole 1970s idealism!  I am definitely in.

PS.  Day #1 of No Impact Week is focused on consumption.  I will be trying to eliminate unnecessary electrical energy sucking devices like chargers that remain plugged in all day and night - using power strips and then turning them off when not in use is a good solution to a lot of that kind of thing - and going to the green market in Union Square for the week's groceries.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

No Impact Project

Stepping away from the video camera, Vogue Magazine and my scissors, I want to let you know about an experiment I will be participating in in two weeks time.  It is called the No Impact Project.  It is the current incarnation of a project that began as an experiment of one man and his family - a guy named Colin Beavan, his wife and daughter - in New York City.  He decided to try to live in a way that made no environmental impact for a year.  I first read about him in an article in the New York Times and I followed the blog he kept (he still keeps it up now and then) while he began to transform his life.  The project turned into a book and then a movie and it continues to impact others (haha) as he takes what he learned and encourages groups and individuals to try their own experiments in reducing their footprint on this earth.  

His website will walk you through the process so you aren't left wondering where to begin.  It is fun to do with others in a group, so gather your buddies and consider taking up the challenge. 

As it turns out, we are already doing a lot of things that he recommends.  We (mostly) use public transportation, we don't have a clothes dryer, and I make a lot of our food from scratch.  Frankly, I rarely buy anything besides food, wool and books.  In fact, I vow to only buy things that have two consecutive O's in their name from now on.  They have served me so well so far.

My main goals for the week will be eliminate those food items that I have slipped into buying ready-made and to forego electric lights in the evening.  We once spent most of a month in a non-electric house in Newfoundland.  This house had propane lamps that were wonderful, although not quite enough light to read by in the evening.  We quickly became tuned into the rising and setting of the sun.  One night, we went to a bed and breakfast and we were thrilled to flick a switch to turn on lights...for a moment.  Once the lights went on, we realized that a true sacrifice had been made when we went over to the convenience of electric lights.  The quality of light was so crass compared to the gas lamps!  I am looking forward to our dim, quiet evenings.

Meanwhile, I am off to sesshin.  Oh yes, two in a row.  See you next week for some low impact blogging.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Being Mistaken for a Younger Woman

Exploring aging, illness and death through yoga, Bobby and Cissy and Vedic chants.

(PS.  Does it look really pixelated to you?  If anyone knows how to fix that, will you be in touch with me? Thanks!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Having Coffee with Mr. T

I had a long-winded Mother's Day post half-written about the false duality created by a conspiracy of rich, white men that is also known as The Mommy Wars, and how it is exemplified by the current cover of Time Magazine.  I didn't finish that post because it was a teacher training weekend and I was busy from morning 'til night all weekend.

Then, a friend posted this video on her Facebook page.

I am sure you will agree that this is much better.  Much better.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maurice Sendak (1928 − 2012)

"I don't care!"
Maurice Sendak died today.  Among children's book authors, Sendak's work was consistently a favourite for me as a child and then for my own children.

If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would be Pierre (A Cautionary Tale).  Please read it!

I also love A Hole is to Dig, a book by Ruth Krauss that Sendak illustrated.  Please read that too!

Thank you Maurice Sendak for everything.  The moral of the story is:  CARE!

ETA:  Thank you Erica!   Here is a delightful version of Pierre, sung by Carole King

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Little Link Love

As Lucy pulled another shirt of mine out of my closet, she said, "You used to wear nice clothes."  Then she gave me the once-over.  "But look at you now..."

Hey - I just returned from mysore practice!  Sheesh.

That is a Monday morning for you around here.

To bring the discourse up a notch, I want to share some words and images of others whose work I have been enjoying lately.  And, no doubt, they also are much better dressed than I am, too.

A new blog by a Zen practioner and priest, Koun Franz.  I find his words to be like the clear and sincere ringing of a bell.

The blog of artist, Altoon Sultan.  She makes paintings and hooks rugs as art - thoughtful, beautiful work. She also writes about her garden and other artist's work and posts lovely photographs.

Anne Dinan's blog.  Anne makes jewelry based on forms in nature - often electroforming natural objects.  I don't really understand her process - she only posts photographs - but the results are gorgeous and very intriguing.  Anne was one of my closest friends in high school.  We lost touch soon thereafter and only reconnected recently via Facebook.  Whenever I think about quitting Facebook, I think of Anne and how happy I am to be back in touch with her.

Photodocumentary blog by Les Stone.  Les is documenting the human and environmental cost of fracking.  It isn't pretty - in fact, it is horrible and tragic.  His photographs are poignant and beautiful even as they record the senseless, wasteful horror of this misguided practice.

And if you don't know what fracking is, check out this video made by some Irish teenagers.  They have created the clearest description of it (and how/why it is such a very bad idea) that I have seen to date.

As a side note, I would put links to those blogs on my sidebar over there but blogger rarely allows me to change my design for some reason.  If and when it does, I will add them.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Everyone Loves Pictures of Yarn and Kids

Yet another yarn for the shop!  This one is a two-ply, merino, lace weight skein.  Two hundred twenty yards of Widdershin beauty.  I plied the singles so the colour changes matched up (mostly).  The changes are long in a Noro-like manner.  I think it will make a stunning lacy project if you are up for it.

And speaking of stunning...

For my video project on aging, illness and death, I photographed some pictures from long, long ago.  I wonder where she is now.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Death is a Nectar-like Medicine

 If you reflect on death then there is nothing you will need. Always keep death in mind. Once the conviction that everything is impermanent, the recognition that existence is very fragile, and the awareness that death is an ever-present threat, once these things have truly taken root in your mind you will stop hankering after life's ordinary compulsions. But if you don't reflect deeply enough on death and impermanence your lack of perspective will make it difficult to rid yourself of life's more futile concerns. Your tendency always to want more than you need will continue. Even though you have enough to eat you will want ever more delicious food. Despite having enough clothes and an adequate place to live you will keep thinking about getting something better or more fashionable to wear and a bigger more comfortable house. Although you may already have a partner or lover you will be constantly on the lookout for someone better. These are all signs that you are not remembering how close death really is, all the time. Why would you invest all that energy on those plans for the future if you are not somehow blindly convinced that you are still sure to be in this world for a long time to come. The great practitioners of the past describe themselves as yogis with the thought of impermanence planted firmly in their hearts. They saw clearly the futility of ordinary pursuits. There minds were entirely turned towards the dharma. Their practice of the dharma was based upon a frugal life inspired by the thought of their own death which they knew would take place, somewhere in a deserted cave. All these great practitioners, of course, are now dead... Such a far-sighted and profound perspective can take hold within you. It is the result of being constantly mindful of death. Mindfulness of death is a nectar-like medicine that restores you to health and a sentinel that watches over the discipline of your practice, never letting it stray into distractions.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche