Earth Day, California. Changing the focus.

New tactic. I’m plugging my ears. I’ve reached saturation point and can’t absorb one more apocalyptic message warning Californians that water tables are dangerously low and the economy will implode, slightly before or after we turn on the taps and nothing comes out.

Droughts are synonymous with California, and although I personally believe that climate change is contributing additional havoc with strange weather patterns fueling drought conditions, our water problems, and certainly our water management issues are not new. Not new at all. I’ve written before about the California Water Wars and the issues are so old that it boggles my mind that anyone is surprised we have a problem.

So to breathe lighter while sharing an Earth Day conversation from drought-plagued California, I’m peppering the post with favorite photos of some of the places around the state that offer peace and tranquility. It hasn’t dried up yet!

Santa Ynez Valley

I am committed to conservation measures and think waste is deplorable. I also think ecological responsibility is for good times as well as under mega-drought conditions. I probably wouldn’t object to scare tactics if I thought they worked!

Lompoc, California

The late Native American activist and first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, is quoted as saying, “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.”

When is the last time you saw that principle in action?

San Clemente Beach

Traveling through the center of the state in rich agricultural areas you’ll see “Stop the Congress Created Dust Bowl.” Sometimes the messages are on a slickly produced billboard but more often they’re crudely spray painted by a farmer forced to let crops and orchards die because of water shortages. Water allotments are not equally available. Often it’s the smaller enterprises negatively affected and it’s hard to see those signs and think of families and livelihoods.  It’s also hard to see dead trees and vines.

I was in the fifth or sixth grade when we started learning facts about the Dust Bowl.  I didn’t understand the magnitude of the  worst environmental disaster in American history, and what did a child living in the middle of suburban Los Angeles understand about Roosevelt’s Tennessee Valley Authority Act, crop rotation, terracing and other beneficial farming practices?

California Wildflowers

Nevertheless, I won an essay contest about environmental responsibility, although that would not have been the language of the mid-60’s. I had also been chosen to participate in a special program of classes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and I was slowly introduced to an age-appropriate knowledge of the importance of creating a healthy balance between water, soil and sunlight for optimum plant health. I was learning to care about “the environment,” even though I didn’t yet know all that word encompassed.

Earth Day officially took stage as a grass-roots effort in 1970, and although school children today, much like I experienced in the 1960’s, are given cheerful and hopeful projects that imply we are all naturally committed as good stewards of the earth, reality is that one of the most polarizing dinner party hot topics is environmentalism.  I know.

Coneflowers

Californians will need to have many difficult, often uncomfortable conversations, but I would like to see a huge shift from finger-pointing to a concerted effort at changing the way we relate to water usage in the first place.

I’m disheartened to see particular farmers targeted as though removal of their water-thirsty crops will greatly improve the circumstances.

Almond farmers are currently taking a lot of heat as Californians learn, probably for the first time, that it takes a gallon of precious water to produce one single almond. If you want to read more on this politically complex web, THIS is a great article from Mother Jones.

 

Oak Groves

Frankly, I don’t think we need to be the almond growers for the world, but I would like an equal serving of sincere scrutiny in other areas. I don’t hear an honest challenge to the environmental costs of animal agriculture. Want to start a small war? Start with this fact: Crops, although indeed water intensive, use a fraction of the water consumed on California’s factory farms

California grows over 200 different crops, some grown nowhere else in the nation.  Your guess is as good as mine as to the future of these crops. But what I can say is that “crop demonizing,” currently very popular, isn’t going to address any of the major issues. Change will come because people see the need to adapt to our climate conditions, and significant changes in habits will be slow for those who didn’t see this coming.

I’m naturally drawn to people who do make a difference and take bold action in their own lives.

Split rock Silent Valley

We can all use a little inspiration.

This Earth Day I would like to recommend you visit a beautifully sensitive writer at “Through the Luminary Lens.” Bruce and his wife, Francis, live in an off-grid home on Vancouver Island. His topics interconnect conservation, renewable energy and social ecology with a variety of other interests he weaves in so well. I’ve included the LINK to a favorite post that seems particularly satisfying to me for Earth Day.

I’d also enjoy sharing an award-winning short documentary that shows what one family has done with their city lot. The Dervaes family lives very close to my home, and what they’ve done with 1/10th of an acre is nothing short of impressive–maybe in my mind miraculous. To learn more about their family operation, you can see “Homegrown Revolution,” HERE. 

People in action always inspire me. Many of YOU inspire me. What are your Earth Day thoughts? I’m listening.

 

Exploring the open spaces in Los Angeles–always a surprise!

No surprise to anyone living in Los Angeles, I’m certain, but  a Traffic Index report released by GPS manufacturer TomTom,  has declared L.A. the most congested city in the United States. I didn’t bother to investigate the exact boundaries they researched, since as far as I’m concerned, they may as well be speaking about all of Southern California.

Last weekend we bravely faced a 3 1/2 hour 90-mile journey to visit with friends in North San Diego County, and perhaps odd to hear, we were ebullient when the return trip only took two hours–woo-hoo! But you do the math! 5 1/2 hours!

I won’t pretend it doesn’t frustrate me, but complaining about “life in the fast lane going slow” doesn’t help me breathe lighter.

But this does!

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A familiar theme in my life revolves around finding ways to ameliorate the stress that comes from living in a high population density region, so for my birthday in March I bought a pair of high quality hiking boots and latched on to patient friends with hiking experience.

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Destination? Parker Mesa Overlook on the west side of Topanga State Park, the world’s largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city.

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The cliffs and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

 

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The morning fog shrouded the view a bit, but kept the approximately 5 mile hike a little more comfortable.

In addition to views of the Pacific Ocean, Topanga State Park features 36 miles of trails through open grassland, with oak groves, native shrub and flowers and an opportunity to leave the stress of city chaos for a quiet bit of solitude.

 

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I huffed and puffed up the very steep incline towards the Parker Mesa Overlook thrilled to enjoy the natural beauty.

I encouraged my more experienced (and in better shape) hiking partners to go on ahead and let me  do my best.  At a certain point my only focus was on breathing, so I am sure I missed many of the numerous geologic formations, including earthquake faults, marine fossils, and volcanic intrusions. Maybe next time!

 

Parker Mesa Overlook

From an elevation of 1,525 feet, Parker Mesa Overlook offers a great view of the Pacific Ocean, but the coastal fog had not lifted much and was still quite dense. I didn’t care. I was just so happy that I made it to the top!

My small group of hiking friends waited for me and greeted me with a round of applause. Good thing it wasn’t a timed race!

I do believe the best antidote to the stress of traffic congestion is getting out in the open air–and well above it.

I wonder where my new hiking boots will take me next time! Any suggestions?

 

 

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Tempus Fugit

In my daily experience there are few time-related mysteries. I don’t need to question where time goes, I know where I spend the precious commodity. But I do believe time flies.

A few of you have very kindly contacted me to find out if I’m still planning to continue blogging. I didn’t at first realize so much time had passed since I last left you with tales from our whale watching experience.

I really hope you enjoyed some of what I was able to share from our wedding trip to Kauai, because I have more to share at some point.

Our son and daughter-in-law have been married six weeks and it’s been that long since we  returned from Kauai, but the festivities continued into this past weekend.

Jay and I were amused to note that January’s island charm, seclusion and beauty stood in dramatic contrast to the boisterous family and friend post-wedding reception at the Ace Hotel, Los Angeles.

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The Ace is definitely a “happening” place. In fact, young people congregate at the rooftop bar in intimidating numbers. I wandered up that way to see for myself, and commented upon returning to the rest of our party that I’m sure the poolside revelers were quite impressed I was getting along so well without my walker! I was more than a little out of my element.

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Other facets of the hotel were very interesting to me. The Ace was built inside the 1927 United Artists Theater building. The decor is starkly urban with few, if any, “soft and plushy” seating areas and the use of concrete and hard surfaces suit the neighborhood environment. The urban modern complements the original vaulted ceilings and detailed plaster and metalwork, also sensitive to its location in Los Angeles’ historic core.

The guest rooms are industrial, modern, functional and spare, but the reception area was warm and beautifully transformed to reflect the couple’s wish to create intimate and personal space. I found the dinner and overall ambiance to be delightful, but that isn’t what I’ll be talking about in years to come.

What most impressed me was the warmth and life brought to the occasion by a gathering of friends and family.  How special it was to see our children’s old friends, now mature professionals, enjoying the occasion along with children of their own. What a hopeful combination of family history and toasts for the future shared among close friends. Each person represented a distinctly unique relationship to the bride and groom.

I suppose it is true that the curtain has come down on this special wedding season, but as we move on to new seasons in our lives I think  the memories that were made during the last several weeks will continue to infuse us with a deep joy.

And I also predict that I will experience a little reclaimed time and energy that might be devoted to contributing more frequently to this blog. I have quite a backlog of story possibilities. Maybe next time you’d like to hear how I experienced the midnight “club scene” at the Ace Hotel?

That was a first! It’s a wonder I still have my hearing. But that’s a story for another time.

I’m glad you didn’t forget about me in my absence, and thank you for stopping by and reminding me how much I enjoy hearing from each of you!