Private Views of Public Lands: Who Do These People Think They Are? Oh. Heh. Us.

How do government workers stand it? All the democracy, I mean. All the dealing with people on whose behalf they are planning the roads or designing the curriculum…or, in this case, protecting the land.

This land. And this chocolate lily and this death camas.

The cover shot of this blog is part of the San Juan National Monument–which happens to be practically in my backyard. So I spend a lot of time out there–enough to feel a strong degree of ownership. “Yeah, yeah, public land…but they don’t know it and love it like I do.”

It’s not like the path is hard to find or anything.

Which is why it’s so hard, every year as Memorial Day approaches, watching the hordes of visitors begin to tromp my beloved paths. Or, often as not, tromp OFF them, into the meadows and over the fragile lichens, despite the signs asking them oh-so-politely not to…

Have you ever seen a sweeter, more polite sign from the feds? It even says Thank you!

despite the not-subtle blockages of routes…

C’mon, people…sticks mean no walkies!

and, oh yeah, this brand-new sign with the trails perfectly marked and the endangered wildflowers listed (the ones you’re tromping on now, you!!! Get back on the trail! (Easy, girl.)

Thanks, taxpayers! (You’re welcome.)

How do they DO it, those Bureau of Land Management folks who, charged with protecting this fragile landscape, hosted public meeting after public meeting with every possible stakeholder, striking the perfect compromise between use and misuse, the perfect language for every sign–including when NOT to place a sign at all? And then to see how many people deliberately breeze past your handiwork because they NEED to go climb that rock?

THIS rock…which has a perfectly good access if you’d just walk a little further up the trail!

I know, believe me. I’ve scoffed my share of laws–dog off leash for years (though I always leashed up if I saw another person), lichens crushed, flowers picked because I wanted to. But that was BEFORE someone asked me (politely) not to, and took the time to explain why.

Do we need to ask more politely? Explain more thoroughly? Or just resign ourselves to the fact that a certain percentage of people will always do exactly what they want no matter that–or even because–someone’s asking them not to?

I’m really bad at resignation. Guess there’s a reason I don’t work for the Bureau of Land Management. I have too much personal, private passion wrapped up in these lands…which aren’t private in the least.

Which is good. I happen to have neighbors who are equal parts wealthy, environmentally concerned, and generous. I walk and run on their paths as much as on the National Monument; they are contiguous, the same stunning stretch of coastline. And grateful as I am for their permission to drink in the private beauty, it feels weird to me that it IS private. That so few people have access…to wander off its trails, tromp its delicate meadows and lichens and…

Delicate lichens and red-leafed stonecrop that suddenly shows itself golden in the spring…

Oh dear. Here we go again. Guess I’ll just wrap it up this way: I love our democracy. I love the idea of public lands. And I appreciate the hell out of the folks who have to deal with the public ON the land, because…they sure are better at it than I am.

Sometimes All You Need is To Be Smacked Upside the Head by a Golden Eagle

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m a “mentor” of a little girl. Just after that post, I attended a meeting for mentors, where we were asked to share something we appreciated about our “mentee.” One fellow mentor said he loved that his kid “gets me out of my head.”

Anyone relate to that?

For those of us without small children or even pets around the house, getting out of our heads can become a strangely invisible challenge: we aren’t aware of how badly we needed to do it until something flies by and–aaahh…That’s better. Perspective restored.

Today I was running along my usual gorgeous route, which just happens to pass through the scenery depicted on this blog’s cover photo. No slouch, as scenery goes. But was I digging those craggy rocks, that deep blue ocean? Ha. Not a whit. I was stuck deeply in my own head.

Rehearsal schedule. Grocery planning. When am I going to get my garden going? Three pieces to edit–not including my own. Article to write. Need to catch up on sleep from three 3 a.m. bakery get-ups in a row. Time with Mate–when’s THAT supposed to happen? And am I going to have time to practice my subjunctive before the next Spanish class?

Then a golden eagle flew over my head. Followed by another golden eagle.

Imagine two. (orig. image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I’ll admit–several dozen bald eagles might’ve flown over, unnoticed, as I ran along–and good job, baldies, getting so common after nearly going extinct and all. But goldies? They stopped me in my tracks.

I’m sorry that’s what it took, but it did the job. Aaahh…That’s better. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. Perspective restored.

Care to share a similar getting-out-of-your-head experience? Child, animal, plant–or something not of nature? I would love to hear.

Good Pie, Good Pie, Until We Eat Again

What’s better than pie? Pie with a nod to Shakespeare.

I’m traveling now, back east for my annual Girlfriend Get-together. Which means that, before I left, my summer life was even more hectic than usual. This is how I spent Friday, my “day off”:

Good pie, good pie.

Good pie, good pie.

I don’t know the folks whose wedding I baked for, only that they were both men. I baked happily in my own kitchen, putting the extra sweetness of good wishes in with the blackberries and nectarines.

That crazy rush behind me, now I’m sitting in the airport thinking about extra sweetness. It’s easy to find; even easier to increase. In a jostling crowd of strangers (even weirder-feeling when you live on an island with a year-round population of 2,400), I look for the little details that bring me pleasure.

That TSA guy has awesome dreadlocks. (I tell him so; he smiles.) That young red-haired woman is reading To Kill a Mockingbird. (You go, young woman!) That large family appears to be heading to Mexico, maybe on a family visit; I love the way the younger kids seem to be reassuring their elders. That Samoan-looking woman smiles directly at me; maybe she’s doing the same thing I’m doing.

Wherever you are today, whether you’re having a mad-rush kind of day, or humdrum-dull, or peaceful , or sad, may you find some sweetness, or bring some to someone who needs it–or both.

I’ll be back in a week.

 

Love & Butter & Luck: Yes, Island Life Is Sweet–Just Not Always Equally So

Our beautiful island and its sweet bakery, Holly B’s, were featured last week on Seattle’s KING 5 Evening Magazine. Here we are, lookin’ smooth:

http://www.king5.com/mb/entertainment/television/programs/evening/at-lopez-holly-bs-the-love-and-butter-legacy-lives-on/170800955

Seeing this take on my life of Love & Butter, I am struck by a couple of facts:

  • I am blessed to adore my job, but I only need to work part-time. There are plenty of folks on Lopez who work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
  • I am blessed to be able to do the hard physical work my job requires. I know many folks who, through illness, injury, age, or some combination of those simply cannot work where I work, no matter how much they would like to.
  • I am blessed with wonderful, supportive, easygoing co-workers & boss. How many folks I know who cannot say that!
How we roll...(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

How we roll…(photo by Stephanie Smith, Boss Extraordinaire)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Love & Butter, yes–but also sheer, dumb luck. I try very hard not to take that for granted.

 

 

Need a Gardening Break? Try a Grandgarden!

Gardens are like children. Gardens ARE children. We fret over them, nourish them, exclaim and grieve and exult in them. We celebrate the way they enrich our lives. And we take lots of naps to recover from them.

I gardened vigorously for 20 years in our old life in Tacoma. When The Mate retired and we moved to this beautiful island to begin our new lives, I decided to let my fellow islanders do my gardening for me. They do it so well! And I feel good about supporting their work, which in turn gives me beautiful farmland to ride my bike through.

But. Come harvest time, when everyone is bragging and posting about their adorable new peas (fall) or tomatoes (summer) or apples (fall), I feel a twinge of nostalgia…and envy. More than a twinge.

Maybe next year I should think about putting in my own garden again…?

You said you weren’t going to tie yourself down to watering and weeding any more. You love your freedom, remember?

But I love baby arugula too.

Stay strong! Go to the Farmers Market!

But this year, I found the best answer to those inner promptings: the Grandgarden. Son Two took up residence nearby last spring, and asked “if it was OK” if he put in a garden in our unused garden space.

Gosh, lemme think about that…OK, done.

Son Two came and went throughout spring and summer. I occasionally, very occasionally, garden-sat–i.e., watered. I did NO weeding. But harvesting and eating? Plenty. Kale, beets, tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots, salad greens, potatoes, herbs. My Grandgarden’s tiny and fairly limited, but I don’t blame Son Two–I mean, he’s a single dad, after all, and new at this. I’m full of pride–and my fridge was full of veggies.

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Now in the darker months, even though my Grandgarden’s not getting much sun, it’s still doggedly producing Grandgreens. We even had a Grandsquash the other night! I forgot to take a picture of that, but here’s my Grandarugula:

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I know. She gets that tenderness from her grandpa.

But I doubt Son Two will be around next spring to produce a Grandsibling. So it may be up to me. Oh dear, here come those inner voices again…

Know Your Farmer

Do you believe that eating local will save the world? If yes, read on and cheer. If no, just read on…with thanks to my friend Iris for writing this wonderful post on Lopez Island’s Bounty Project.

Iris Graville

chevreMost Sundays after Quaker Meeting, I go shopping. That means walking a few yards from the house where we gather at Sunnyfield Farm to the self-serve refrigerator at the farm’s licensed goat dairy. There I pick up a tub of chèvre. A couple of weeks ago I also found jars of feta in the fridge and chose one of those as well. To “check out,” I note my purchases in a spiral-bound notebook that sits on a nearby table and deposit cash or a check in the payment box there.

Andre and Elizabeth Entermann of Sunnyfield are among the Lopez Island farmers I know and rely on for my household’s food. Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know more about twenty-eight local farms (like Sunnyfield) that are participating in BOUNTY – Lopez Island Farmers, Food, and Community.

bounty-poster-fall-2015v3This weekend, more of my fellow Lopezians…

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We Came, We Saw, We…Shramp? Shrump?

“Hey, want to come over for some shrimp? We went shrimping yesterday.” If you can “go shrimping,” then “shrimping” must be the gerund of the verb “to shrimp.” With me so far? Yes?

Alright then. What’s the past tense of shrimp? Don’t tell me “shrimped”–I’m just not buying it. At the moment I’m leaning toward “shramp,” but I thought I’d let Wing’s World weigh in on the question.

Back story: The Mate and I have a Kind Neighbor with a boat. Since one of my mantras is, “Don’t have a boat, have a friend with a boat,”* we were delighted when Kind Neighbor invited us to go shrimping with him last week, just off the rocky shore where I take my daily walks.

*incidentally, this mantra also applies to horses, airplanes, and puppies.

Off we went.

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Rough, yes–but what a gorgeous evening, and what a treat to get a new perspective on my usual (admittedly gorgeous) view!

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OK, time to get to work.

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Hello, dinner!

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Thanks, Kind Neighbor, and thanks, Mate, for doing all the work while I took photos. But I did my part, cooking those shrimp while they were still fresh enough to kick in the pan.

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We had a wonderful time shrimping. But we still don’t know what to call what we did. What do you think? Shramp? Shrump? Any other ideas?

Rain, Rain…Please Come (But Not Like in Texas)

Just a quick post (as summer is suddenly upon me and my bakery job is gobbling larger chunks of my life) to say…here is a picture of the happiest plant on my island right now:

Yes, there ARE cacti in the coastal northwest! But they shouldn't be this happy this time of year.

Yes, there ARE cacti in the coastal northwest! But they shouldn’t be this happy this time of year.

Something’s wrong with this picture. We’re supposed to be soggy this time of year, wiping our muddy boots, wondering whether today’s moisture will be morning, evening, or some of each.

Moisture? I hardly remember what that is. We’re in drought. Nothing like California, nothing even as bad as the eastern part of our state, Washington. But enough to remind me that our state name, The Evergreen State, is in danger. And enough for me to beg those of you who enjoy complaining about rain to please, just keep quiet for a little while.

Unless you live in Texas. Then you’re allowed to complain.

Hang in there, people! Mother Nature is definitely in charge. All we can do is help each other.

What’s the Wildflower Equivalent of a BirdNerd?

Birdwatchers call themselves Bird Nerds. What does that make someone like me–a Wildflower Wonk? Consider this a slang contest–best entry gets highlighted in the next Wing’s World post. 

Just so you know what you’re dealing with, imagine this conversation between us. I’m returning from my walk in the meadows and woods of my beloved isle. You’re…indoors. Doing whatever you want.

Me: The chocolate lilies are blooming!!!

You: Uh. Chocolate lilies sound special. Do they smell like chocolate?

Me: No. They’re uh, just, like, really rare.

You. Uh-huh. Are they outrageously gorgeous?

Me: No. Just kinda brownish. That’s why they’re called, you know, chocolate. But they’re rare! They’re special.

You: That’s nice.

Me: And did I mention the spotted coral root? It’s out, like, a month early!

You: When’s dinner?

lily

My Mate is not that bad–which is why I made you the other half of the conversation, not him. But you get the idea. I get so excited about rare wildflowers, I don’t care if they’re pretty or sweet-smelling or even mildly attractive. I am a total…

orchid

What? Who can do better than Wildflower Wonk? Let me hear your ideas.

Can’t Teal You How it Grebes Me Not to Duck My Latest Resolution

Don’t get me started on water-bird puns. At first they might be coot, but pretty soon they turn fowl.

Enough!

Let me just admit, then, to being enough of a nerd wannabe that, for a New Year’s resolution (one of ’em), I set the goal of identifying all our local winter waterfowl by the end of February.

Why, you ask? I wish I had an answer.

Um, I like knowing stuff? True, but who doesn’t? You don’t see too many people out for walks with their Mac’s Field Guide, even around here.

Studying the field guide is fun? Also true. (Fun fact: when Son One was, well, one, we used to delight ourselves by asking him to point out the blue jay, the junco, the cardinal, etc, on one of those Mac’s Field Guides. He was great at it, and the fact that his nickname was Mac–icing on the cake.)

I can’t say it’s the thrill of the chase of truth, because I haven’t gone Full Bird Nerd and started toting binoculars around, so 75% of the time I’m just guessing. But I do like thinking that, thanks to Mac (the field guide, not the son), it’s now EDUCATED guessing.

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“Western Grebe? I dunno, is the neck long enough? Maybe a loon, but they’re REALLY big–how far away is that guy?”

“Common Murre or Pigeon Guillamot? Winter plumage, so they look pretty much the same, but…aha…the back of the head is grey, not black–gonna go with Guillamot!”

“Look at those adorable little Buffleheads!” (Gotta love Buffleheads–they don’t look like anything else, and it’s a really fun word to say.)

[A disclaimer: all these babblings are (at least until now) inflicted on no one but myself. I do still have enough perspective to realize that my current mini-obsession is not widely shared.]

Western Grebe (courtesy Wikimedia)

Western Grebe (courtesy Wikimedia)

By my own very low standards, I’ve improved quite a bit in my past week. But a grebe is just as lovely even when I don’t know it’s a grebe. So I still haven’t answered the question: why do some of us like to be able to name things?

Anyone got a theory? Or a good bird-nerd story to share?