A Garbage Post [Happy Earth Day]

Each year I celebrate Earth Day by going on a plog. For those unfamiliar with the term, know that Thomas was as well until his edification three years ago:

This text conversation is probably more embarrassing for me than it is for him, as it speaks volumes to what he thinks I’m doing in my spare time.

In previous years I visited some combination of my favorite parks nearby our house in San Francisco: Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, Sutro, Glen Canyon, Billy Goat Hill, Kite Hill, Corona Heights, and/or Bernal Heights (there were so many amazing parks in walking distance! I love you, San Francisco!). Today, on my first Berkeley/East Bay plog, I jogged with my bag of accumulating trash through Strawberry Canyon and Claremont Canyon. It’s a common theme in the Bay Area that if you want to explore the local parks you have to be willing to climb a lot of hills, but luckily I’ve lived here long enough that the thought of a flat jog is intimidating.

By the end of my jog I’d filled and emptied four bags of trash, not to mention stopped for a few selfies and tree appreciation moments. (Imagine living in the beautiful, magical land that is Northern California and not wanting to save our planet!)

Here is a list of the most common trash items I found:

  1. Masks. This one sucks so much. Not only do we have a pandemic on our hands, but masks are creating additional litter! Wear your mask…but dispose of it properly, please!
  2. Bags of dog poop. As the sign (pictured above) courtesy of Untrash.it says: “This is trash too! Please pack out your dog waste.”
  3. Napkins. In particular: those rough, brown napkins they keep in large dispensers on tables at fast casual restaurants and college cafeterias. Either people are using them as toilet paper on the trails (use a leaf! or air dry!) or they’re eating a lot of trail snacks that require napkins, but either way it was sad how many of them were crumpled up on the side of the trails.
  4. A half-eaten burrito. Ok, fine – this was not a common item of trash. But the fact that I found a half-eaten, foiled-wrapped burrito in the middle of some wood chips in the park was mind-blowing! Not only did this person litter, they also wasted most of a perfectly good burrito! Food waste + litter = double whammy.

More importantly: thank you to organizations like Untrash East Bay who are working to keep our beautiful parks and earth clean. When group activities are back up and running I plan to join them on their weekly group trash pick-ups. I was also thinking that for my next birthday I should invite friends to one of my favorite parks for a trash cleanup partt…prizes for the person who picks up the most trash!

As for other personal Earth-related initiatives, I found this tweet I posted on Earth Day two years ago (from a pre-pandemic world in which and we still commuted to an office for work):

I am sharing this because I have always been passionate about improving access to bikes, buses, and trains as means of both work and personal transport. If you live in San Francisco, I suggest joining and/or supporting the San Francisco Bike Coalition who works to improve bike accessibility and safety in the city. Even more importantly, I recently read this incredible article written about the lack of representation low-income riders have when it comes to safe cycling and transportation planning. While I have become a more avid cyclist over the past few years, I am continually frustrated by perceptions of the cycling community, and the inclusivity of the community itself. The lower-income folks who rely on bikes as their primary mode of transportation are overlooked when planning and accessibility decisions are made, and the cycling community doesn’t always do the best job of advocating for them. The article provides a great overview of why it’s important to support lower-income cyclists and I am thinking of ways to be a better advocate in my own community.

I’ll end with a post from one of my favorite Instagram accounts @intersectionalenvironmentalist:

Little Things / March 2021

1.

In a brief moment of culinary inspiration last weekend I decided I wanted to bake some scones. I’d just had my morning coffee – so the possibilities for my day were seemingly endless and I dreamt my biggest, most wild dreams – and seen an inspiring photo of local produce from Berkeley Bowl.

“What flavor scones should I make?” I asked myself as I sat on the couch, already envisioning the Samin Nosrat I was about to become. I had the essential ingredients in my pantry – flour, butter, heavy cream, sugar – and decided on lemon poppyseed: a classic, hard-to-mess-up flavor that would only require buying a lemon or two from the grocery store. And then – of course, as usual – the moment of inspiration passed before I even made it to the store.

I went for a walk through the neighborhood later that afternoon. I had spent most of the day attempting to read, but mostly ruminating, and sought fresh air to clear my mind. A few blocks from my house I came across a plastic dog bowl placed on the sidewalk with a paper sign taped to the rim that read “FREE” in black Sharpie. Inside the bowl were three large, bright yellow lemons that a neighbor had picked from the ripening tree in their yard. I smiled, picked one up, and put it in my fanny pack (yes, I was wearing a fanny pack).

Lemon x fanny pack

As I walked home with the lemon displayed proudly in the pocket of my fanny pack I felt so blessed. A lemon in a bowl on the sidewalk. It was such a small thing and yet it felt like a huge gift, to have this thing that I’d been “needing,” but hadn’t been able to give myself, brought to me with no strings attached. It was as if someone, somewhere had known that if I were presented with a lemon it might have the capacity to turn my day around.

At home that evening I stood at the counter zesting the lemon over a glass bowl. I grated the frozen butter, mixed in heavy cream and flour, and added just the right amount of poppy seeds. I’m not much of a baker but every time I bake or cook I notice how wonderful it feels to make something from scratch, to shape and create it with my own hands. When the scones came out of the oven looking and smelling just as I’d hoped, I thanked the world for the gift of a lemon that reminded and inspired me to create.

2.

The wildflowers are in bloom!

On Sunday afternoon I sat on a bench by a field of poppies and reread one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry:

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and goes, 
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

3.

Ben Howard released a new album that I (shockingly!!!!!) have not been able to take off repeat: https://open.spotify.com/album/09P40BHcaue9iF4QasXMTK?si=hVrCF0tbRQOcOkeRzxl6Og. Every time I listen to his music I think about what a gift musicians are to the world; how talented artists have the ability to make us feel and experience the world more deeply.

I read an interview he gave with Flood Magazine after the album release and one particular quote resonated with me:

“I think I’m always just looking for a little flash of inspiration rather than working on some great orchestral piece, and that kind of became what the record was—it was little fragments. I hate to use the word “vignette,” but these songs are little glimpses of life and of musical ideas. They didn’t even need to be completely finished—as long as the essence is there, it counts.”

Sometimes that’s how I feel about this blog (I am not, by the way, attempting to compare myself to a musical genius!): it’s a place where I can capture my flashes of inspiration – a poem, a wildflower, a lemon on the sidewalk – rather than trying to produce something cohesive or complete.

I’ll leave you with something else he said in the interview that I thought he articulated beautifully:

“I think that’s why I’m always reluctant to spell out every single element of a song, because feelings are supposed to change. It’s supposed to change with interpretation, and that’s one of the most interesting aspects of it all. Meaning can be quite an elusive thing. And actually, the most incredible moment is when you get presented with an image that you can’t get out of your brain, but you don’t know why.”

Happy spring, everyone! May it bring lots of wildflowers and hope.

Nowhere to Be

Nowhere to Be (a “poem” I wrote typed on my phone while on a walk)

What a privilege it is to have nowhere to be
this morning, outdoors, with the cold wind on my face.
I pass the construction workers on the main street nearby
as the sun rises
and I yell “good morning” and they yell “good morning” back
“Have a wonderful day!” we say.
They are working
and soon I will be, too, but for now
I have nowhere to be
but here, outdoors, with the sun shining on my face.


I love walks. I’m thinking of all the wonderful walks I’ve been on over the past few months. Coronavirus sucks a lot a lot a lot but I am thankful for the time it has given me to walk. Yesterday I watched a Sierra Club livestream about post-election work for environmental justice and Leslie Fields (fucking badass, by the way) said it beautifully: “One of the few silver linings about this syndemic…is that people have really gotten outdoors. People have really explored their local parks, they’ve explored their national parks, they’ve just explored their neighborhood better and gotten to know their neighborhoods. How do we bottle these feelings of connectivity and make sure it lasts when we get through this terrible time?”

Actually, the parenthetical appreciation for Leslie is not enough: WHAT A F*CKIN BADASS!!!!!! If you’re interested in the wisdom she has to share about environmental justice and the work we can do together, you can watch the recording here (22:15 onward is where she makes some of my favorite comments).

And as usual, a blog post that started about something (walking) ended up with me ranting about something else (badass women doing incredible work for environmental justice). That’s the point of writing – or any kind of critical thinking, really – though, right? To make connections between things? To find relations and intersections between everything we read and experience and consume?


Some of my favorite walking memories & photos from the past month:

With Dana along the coast in Half Moon Bay as the sun set. Golden hour with a golden gal, if you will:

With Thomas along the Tuolumne River on my birthday weekend. We sat along the edge of the river on the most wonderful, peaceful morning:

By myself through our new neighborhood. Moving from San Francisco to Berkeley has given me an entirely new 5-block radius to explore:

I brought home one of the pineapple guavas pictured above because I hadn’t seen any since Thomas and I did a hike along the Nā Pali Coast on our honeymoon. We hiked the full Kalalau Trail and had enough food for the round trip journey, but we (naïvely) underestimated the Hawaiian summer heat and humidity and ran out of water halfway through. On the trail home we picked pineapple guavas from surrounding trees and sucked their juices for hydration. I guess it worked, considering we made it back alive. And here’s a fun fact: the pineapple guavas are actually an invasive species and pose an ecological threat to the endemic flora and fauna in Hawaii.

A little thank you, then, to the random house in Berkeley who reminded me of our honeymoon adventure. (Thomas wouldn’t eat the guava, though, which was disappointing.)

Respite in the Redwoods

Last Thursday morning I went for a bike ride. The best kind of bike ride, in my opinion: one on which I take more pictures than I ride miles.

It was the first day that week the smoke had cleared enough to get outside and I can’t remember ever breathing in the morning air so heavily.

Since then, the smoke has returned, and – maybe related, I’m not sure (so many confounding factors these days!!!!) – I’ve been feeling exhausted and sad.

I’m too tired to write anything of my own but I have spent the past week doing a lot of reading. So, in appreciation for the healing powers of both nature and art, I thought I’d share some of my favorite redwood-related poems and excerpts with you all:

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

OPTIMISM
by Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.


Woods are not like other spaces… They make you feel small.. like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie and you know you are in a big space. Stand in a woods and you only sense it. They are a vast featureless nowhere. And they are alive.”

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods