Welcome!

Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Photograph Friday

This bird sure looks angry...Look at those eyes! He should listen to Pierre Bezukhov. Photograph taken outside Starbucks in downtown Santa Cruz.


“If there is a God and a future life, here is truth and there is goodness, and a man’s highest happiness consists in striving to attain them. We must live, we must love, and we must believe not only that we live today on this scrap of earth, but that we have lived and shall live forever, there, in the whole,” said Pierre Bezukhov, pointing to the sky. (Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace)

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Have a wonderful Friday!
Green Gal

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"The oak sleeps in the acorn..."

My best friend Alexys has this quote on her Facebook wall, and I feel like sharing it with the world. The imagery makes it wonderful, and the message is inspiring.

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.
-- James Allen


May your dreams be nourished with rain, warmth and listening to your soul's inclinations. The acorn could never believe that within it a great oak tree would grow. Foster the oak tree within your heart. Dream, and act.

--

Some pictures from last Saturday's herb walk:

Chadwick Garden

Madrone tree

Edible Madrone berries


Happy Sunday!
Green Gal

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Shave November

The free and wild spirit of UC Santa Cruz draws many different sorts of people to its forest of learning. This spirit can be contagious to those who are already inclined toward living a little on the wild side; after all, the campus is surrounded by trees and deer, and this makes it difficult not to be aware of one's place in the natural world. I feel comfortable with being myself here, wearing what I want and dancing around when I want. I feel like I can be more naturally human, instead of abiding by certain social constraints that frown on violating arbitrary rules, like the idea that women should shave their legs and that men should have short hair.
The foggy, wild forest of UCSC

It's not strange or appalling to see girls who don't shave their legs here, and I would guess many of those same girls don't shave their armpits. Hair is just part of being human, and many people here embrace this, with beards and mustaches of all sorts, long hair on both guys and girls, and many participants in No Shave November. I'm not sure where this annual tradition originated, but I've been aware of No Shave November for a few years. It's directed toward guys, who opt not to shave their faces for the entire month of November. My boyfriend is participating, and I didn't see why I shouldn't get to participate, too. So I am.
Dumbledore definitely participates in No Shave November.

Eleven days of staying away from my razor has made me aware of how much easier life is without shaving. Here are some "green" benefits of not shaving:
- Shaving can use up a lot of shower water, depending on whether you leave the water on or off. In either case, and for guys, too, not shaving saves some water and time.
- Not shaving means not having to buy the supplies. Saving money is always green!
- Not purchasing supplies means reducing consumption of resources (over time, purchasing and using up shaving cream cans and razors wastes a lot of materials).
- Not shaving and not purchasing materials to shave means one is not dependent on an external source for their lifestyle, which leads to more self-reliance. It's always exciting for me to find new ways to do things without having to rely on someone or something else.
- Not shaving gives people the chance to experience their body in its natural state. I feel like by not shaving, I'm testing myself to see how comfortable I am with the natural state of my body. I'm definitely not used to having hairy legs or underarms, but I'm finding it to be a unique opportunity to embrace nature. Seeing other girls on campus who don't shave definitely made me feel like there was no reason I couldn't participate. I probably never would have participated in high school, however. The easy-going, open UC Santa Cruz setting was definitely a factor in my decision.

I would recommend trying it out if you've never lived for more than a week without shaving. It's easy to hide hairy legs in the fall and winter, but I have worn shorts a few times and haven't felt self-conscious about it. Being completely natural every once in a while--or all the time, if it works for you--is good for your humanity. Be free and embrace your natural self!

Thanks for reading,
Green Gal

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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free Land


In my many years of encounters with the performing arts, I had never experienced hip-hop theater before Sunday night when I attended a performance at The 418 Project on Mission Street in downtown Santa Cruz. The theatrical performance, entitled FreeLand, took place during the second half of a benefit evening for Black Mesa/Big Mountain Dine (Navajo) Native residents in northeastern Arizona.

I'm hesitant to write about the Black Mesa situation, as I know very little about it. Essentially, the United States has been trying to relocate the Dine people for thirty or so years in order to access coal deposits under their homes. It's highly controversial, and these people have refused to leave their land. A group of people working with the Black Mesa Indigenous Support group is caravanning to the Black Mesa/Big Mountain reservation this month to provide support to the people who live there. I'm going to research the situation so I have a better understanding of what happened and what is currently happening, but if you know anything certain about the situation, please share it in the comments or by email and include the source of your information.

While I won't delve into the details of the Black Mesa situation, I would like to write about the FreeLand performance. Ariel Luckey, who grew up in Oakland, California, created this performance after researching the history of his grandfather's homestead in Wyoming. He discovered that the land had been wiped clean of Native Americans and then given for free to white settlers under the Homestead Act, passed by Lincoln in 1862. On a slide presentation after his performance, Ariel told us that each parcel of land contained 160 acres, and, in total, 270 million acres (10% of the entire United States) were distributed for free. One in five white Americans have at least one ancestor who homesteaded. The passing and implementation of this act largely influenced our nation's history by changing the histories of many individual families, tying them to a bloody history of genocide of the Native peoples who lived here.

The Ohlone mural in the Santa Cruz Natural History museum exhibit. The culture of the Ohlone people fascinates me.


Ariel only performed three segments of his 90 minute show for us last night, and said before he began that he uses "art to start a conversation." I definitely identified with the first section that he performed, which focused on his search for cultural "color" as a white person with no distinct culture. Perhaps part of the reason that I'm drawn to learning about Native American culture is because I have very little culture myself. I'm descended from a variety of European ethnicities: French, German, Irish, British. The only ethnicity that my family celebrates culturally is Irish, but even that is quite subdued. We celebrate St. Patrick's Day and eat a lot of potatoes, but I know very little else about Irish culture, or about any of the other cultures related to my ancestry. I'm American, which has its own culture, but which is more globalized and less rich or unique. Ariel's performance suggested that it's as if the price of being American and blending into this nation's culture is to lose all cultural color and become culturally "white" or colorless. Of course, this is not true for all Americans; many who identify themselves as Americans maintain their cultural richness. However, for many Americans--mostly European Americans whose families arrived here a long time ago--distinct culture and roots to the past have been lost. In his poetric rap, Ariel mentioned a "hunger for spirituality and tradition," which made sense to me. "If you don't have roots, then how can you grow?" he asked at one point. His performance made me wonder about my cultural roots, and how I can regain a sense of the places and cultural settings my ancestors lived in.

He also shared the history of his family's land in Wyoming, and with movement, lyrics, vocal sounds, and music, told the story of a battle that took place near his grandfather's homestead before most of the Native peoples were eradicated. After the first section of performance, he asked everyone to talk to those around them about how they were feeling, since his performance is more than just a theatrical experience. It has a depth that can be emotional and difficult to hear.

Something interesting that he pointed out is how little our educated society really knows about Native Americans. We learn about them in various history classes, but the textbooks barely touch on that part of our past because it's so terrible. These people lived here for thousands of years, right where we live now, and sadly, they are given very little space in our society's generally-known history. Ariel observed that when we have specificity in our learning about something, especially history, it makes it more interesting. If teachers encouraged students to find out about their own past and to find connections to themselves that relate to the topics taught in history classes, students would be more engaged and more easily learn the material and remember it because of that personal connection. I know for myself, when I'm learning about something in a history class that relates to Native American culture or the gold rush--two topics I find fascinating and things I have some prior knowledge of--I learn the new information much easier than historical information related to topics I have no personal interest in, such as the many dynasties of China.

Ariel posed a question before he began his second performance: How has your family's stories been changed by this history of land theft and genocide of Native Americans? It definitely made me wonder. It also made me think about how UCSC is on stolen land, sacred land, that was once a place of great importance to the Ohlone people. Upper campus was a sacred bead making site. The former magical Elfland existed in the same places that years and years before, the Ohlone had felt a sacredness. Something about upper campus is special. For the Ohlone, the circles of redwood trees were considered sacred because the circle in their culture is important. It is interesting to me that students felt something magical in those same woods years later. Development in upper campus has been highly controversial, especially when Elfland was destroyed to build colleges 9 and 10. I've been to upper campus and explored the redwood circles of trees. I hope to spend more time there during my time living here.

The second segment that he performed related to the Ohlone people, who lived in Santa Cruz as well as Pleasanton, where I'm from, and Oakland, where Ariel is from. He talked about the shellmounds (large piles of disposed shells from the Ohlone who subsisted on tons of shellfish over the years, in which the deceased were buried with cultural objects) and the various references one sees to Native culture in the street signs and park names in the places where the Ohlone used to live: Ohlone Way and Shellmound Way, for example. In this section, he repeated "digging down" and the motion of digging into the earth with a shovel to represent a shift back in time, digging deeper into this area's history. To build the Emoryville Bay Street Mall, construction crews tore open and removed the shellmounds located there, destroying burial sites and cultural artifacts of the Ohlone people. Burial sites are incredibly sacred to Native peoples. Disturbing or digging up gravesites is a terrible offense. The removal of the shellmounds to build a mall must have been gut-wrenching to the descendants of the people who were buried there. Ariel went back in time, touching on instances of disregard for Ohlone culture. At some point, Oakland and Berkeley streets were paved with bones from shellmounds. He mentioned Shellmound Park in Emeryville, where in a dance pavilion located right on top of the shellmound, people were "literally dancing on [the Ohlone peoples'] graves." Back in time, to 1769 when Junipero Serra and the missions arrived and enslaved the Ohlone, converting them to Christianity to "save" their souls. One last dig deeper in time, and Ariel portrayed life pre-contact, when the Ohlone survived alongside a "complex ecology of land and water," and enjoyed an abundance of food. He described it as "a civilization too subtle for European eyes," which I found to be a beautiful way to phrase the ignorance of the European colonial mindset.

"This country is hella haunted," he said at the end. We have many ghosts in our past from various injustices. But we cannot go back in time, so Ariel discussed what our responsibilities are today. In saying that we cannot be silent and simply ignore the past, Ariel said we "can't be neutral on a moving train." Some things he identified as our responsibilities were sacred site protection, appropriate mascots, environmental conservation, energy extraction, and sovereignty and human rights. We have to be honest about the past and the truth, he said, but we are not responsible for our ancestors' actions. The final question he posed to us was, "What can we do to heal from the past, transform the present and create a better future?" He ended with a song about hope and freedom, and Free Land.
An example of an inappropriate mascot. Why, you ask? Read this and then research it further if you're still not convinced it's offensive.


I'm thankful for the opportunity to have seen a small portion of his performance, and I may purchase the DVD of his entire performance, or perhaps buy one of his poetry books. His lyrics were creative, informative and well-written, and I'd love to hear them again. Whenever I attend presentations or come across something related to what I'm interested in studying, it helps focus or add to my vision of what it is I want to do with the knowledge I acquire. Seeing his performance about awareness of where our land came from, who it was taken from, and the stories, lives and people who once lived here reinforced my desire to teach what I learn, however that may manifest itself. Having worked with a city naturalist who taught about the Ohlone through school programs and classes open to the public, the future job I have in mind now for myself is based on that. I want to work in a park setting, surrounded by nature, teaching about how Native peoples survived on the same land where we now live in a completely different way. I want my work to bring awareness to Native American culture and help it get the attention it deserves in history books and in our society's awareness. I also want to know today's Native Americans, and get to know people within the Native community. There's such a fine line an anthropologist has to walk when studying a culture that is still alive. I don't want to offend anyone in my studying and work, so I hope to meet Native people and learn from them directly about their culture so I can present their history in a respectful way. Like I said in my last post, it's all about taking those opportunities that come up and being aware of the universe placing things in front of us. My tragedy class TA told me about this performance and strongly encouraged us to attend, so I made sure I went because I knew it would be something valuable and interesting. I'm so glad I went.

To view some clips from his performance, click here. To see some of the script of his show, click here. More information can be found at the show's website at http://www.freelandproject.com/index.html.

Thanks for reading,
Green Gal

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Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.
--Bill Vaughn

(Or in that same vein, America is where developers bulldoze Native American history, then name the streets after them.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Santa Cruz Natural History Museum

It's raining in Santa Cruz this morning. Outside is foggy and wet, while I'm nice and warm in my dorm room. Perfect for story time!


Last Wednesday, I received an email from a woman who works with the Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz. I had learned about the museum while searching online, and was planning on riding my bike there on Thursday anyway, so her timing was perfect. She'd come across my blog and thought I'd be interested in volunteering and helping with a project. She wrote,

You might want to consider volunteering with us. We are going to be creating an Ohlone garden with CA native plants that grow locally and were used for food, dye, basketry, medicine. So we need to make a list of such plants and their uses. Any help you might give us would be appreciated. Let me know if you would like to work on such a list.

Of course, I told her I'm interested, so I met with her on Thursday when I visited. She gave me a tour of the Ohlone exhibit in the museum, which is beautiful and informative and has a large detailed mural on one wall. The museum brings third grade classes into the exhibit to teach and show them Ohlone culture. She showed me the boxes of materials they use to teach, including antlers and a fur covering to represent how the Ohlone disguised themselves as the animals they were hunting; various native plants that were used for different things; musical instruments; fire drills; and other cultural items to give the children a visual sense of the culture of the people who used to live here.

Outside, we looked at the gardens already in place on the site. There's an ecology/native plant garden, a hummingbird garden, and a butterfly garden. Also outside is a large statue of a Native man wearing a bear disguise. It evokes a sense that the man and the bear are one. A man was cleaning up the statue and fixing a part of the statue that had been vandalized. We said hello to him and learned that he was Daniel O. Stolpe, the sculptor who had made the statue in 1986. We spoke with him for a few minutes. He creates Native American artwork and has some of his work on exhibit in the McHenry Library. We told him about the Ohlone native plant garden and he told us a few things about the Ohlone. He gave me his business card, and I hope to visit his gallery on Mission Street sometime soon.

Lately, I've been aware of how everything happens for a reason; life provides so many opportunities for new discoveries and connections if you're paying attention. Visiting the museum on that particular day meant I was able to meet Mr. Stolpe and find out about his artwork. Because of my blog, I was asked to help with the Native plant garden, and now I have a place to volunteer, similar to the Alviso Adobe Community Park. Earlier this year, I was asked to write for Pleasanton.Patch.com because my editor came across my blog. Everything we do creates potential opportunities, and if we pay attention, we realize that so many things that appear to be obstacles are really just new paths for us to take. One example in my recent experience was last Saturday, when I had to walk twenty minutes in the misting rain to get to my Herbology class because I hadn't realized there wouldn't be a bus. At first I was frustrated, but once I started walking, I realized that life had just handed me a magnificiently rainy morning, with fog and open pastures to enjoy as I got some nice and easy exercise before class. I felt rejuevenated and started the day with beauty. If I hadn't been open to letting the experience be more than just an obstacle, I probably would have arrived at class feeling miserable and cold. Instead, it made my whole day bright.

I will keep this blog updated on my work with the Natural History Museum. I didn't take any pictures while I was there, so to add some color to this blog post, I'll share some pictures I took yesterday while exploring the UCSC Farm & Garden with my friends.






Thanks for reading. Happy Sunday!

Green Gal

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Regret is the worst emotion. If you took another road, you might have fallen off a cliff.
-- William Shatner

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Herbology 101

Lower Campus this morning


Earlier this quarter, I was looking through the Recreation guide for interesting classes or workshops to register for and I came across an Herbology class through the Holistic Health Program. I am fascinated by ethnobotany--how different cultures use or have used plants, both medicinally and in general--so this class appealed to me immensely. My family and I have been utilizing holistic medicine (homeopathy, accupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine) since I was a child, so the class appealed to me as something I'm familiar with. I signed up for the three-day class and looked forward to learning about herbology in a more detailed and formal way than I had ever before.

Thursday was the first day of the class, and I took about 15 pages of notes in my small green notebook from 6-9 PM about a bunch of different plants and their uses, the history of herbology, what the difference between food, herbs and pharmaceuticals is, and what questions to ask when identifying or getting to know an herb (Name, Actions, Habitat/Origin, Temperature, Tropism, and Dosage). We sipped delicious, naturally-sweetened tea of licorice and lemon verbena while we learned about the incredible world of herbalism.

A few interesting facts I learned:

- The word "drug" has the root "droga," which means dried plant. Originally, drugs were dried medicinal plants.

- There are five flavors in Chinese traditional medicine, each associated with parts of the body and different actions/types of herbs. They are
* bitter (heart; drains & clears, stimulates digestion),
* sour (liver; astringent)
* sweet (digestive system; soothes, nourishes, tonifies--but not when consumed in excess amounts, as we often do)
* spicy (lungs; moves energy, expands, aromatics, mint)
* salty (kidneys; softens)

-Characteristically "warm" herbs--aromatics like cinammon and cloves--make the body warm. Use of them over time in teas or consumed with food can gradually make a person "warmer." The same is true with "cooler" herbs, like mint. Someone who is cold often or eats cold foods (vegetarians, raw foodists) should avoid "cool" herb teas on a regular basis, and should instead opt for "warmer" herb teas and spices.

The Herbology teacher, Darren Huckle, has a wealth of knowledge about plants and their uses. He has his own herbal medicine practice in town, and can talk for hours about plants. On Thursday evening, his final message was that it's important to always thank the plants we harvest. When a friend gives you a gift, you thank them. The same is true with plants. We must thank them for the gifts they provide--health, good flavors and beauty.

Yesterday, Ari and I collected yerba buena (which we thought was mint) on campus and made tea. It was really tasty, and so easy. The only time I've ever made tea like that was when I made pine needle tea in Twain Harte a few years ago.
Ari crushing up the yerba buena leaves for tea


This morning was the second day of the class. We arrived at 10 AM, and Darren told us that we were making tinctures. Of three "theme" options for our tinctures, I chose "De-Stress," which included lemon verbena, rosemary, lavender, and skullcap. After choosing our tincture themes, we set off for the UCSC Farm and Garden.

As we walked, Darren pointed out various herbs along the path and in the garden. We stopped to listen to him share their properties and uses, and we always took a small nibble of leaf or flower before going on. Some plants we collected for our tinctures. My pockets were brimming with fennel, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and rosemary. When we came across fruit-bearing trees, we could eat only those that had fallen to the ground. I had my first pineapple guava today and enjoyed a crisp apple as I learned how to tell the difference between hemlock and fennel.
Pineapple guava

Lavender


We returned to the little house where the class takes place and began crushing up our plants to make our tinctures. We filled 8 oz masen jars with herbs and then added vodka as a preservative. We used the blender to grind up the herbs better and extract their essences out into the mixture. I ended up adding fennel, lemon balm and sage to the list of herbs Darren had recommended for "De-Stress." I now wait two weeks, strain the tincture, and place it in a dropper bottle for use whenever I feel stressed. The best part is, it's completely natural and safe--and it smells delicious!
My black bag of herbs, my notebook, the jar filled with my tincture herbs, and an interesting Chinese tea that Darren made for us in my unicorn mug.


We also each got a jar of salve, which has many actions, including protection against infection and healing. It can be applied to burns, cuts, dry skin and rashes. I will probably end up using it mostly as lip balm, but if the need arises, I will definiely use it in other ways. It has a base of olive oil, and it smells really nice.

I have learned so much in these two classes--and I still have one more this Thursday!--and it makes me feel a lot more comfortable with making my own teas or learning about herbs and their uses. One thing I definitely learned is how to learn about these plants: tasting, smelling and visualizing the plants really helps solidify their uses in my memory.

Today, Darren ended class with a message about his view of what medicine is. He said that while medicine is something that benefits the health of an individual, it should also be something that is healthful to the environment. Pharmaceuticals pollute waterways with chemicals and hormones. Herbal medicine, on the other hand, puts only natural substances into the waterways and can be obtained directly from nature, rather than created in a lab with chemicals. In this, of course, is the recognition of the damage herbalists and plant collectors can have when they overharvest a particular plant or a particular area. Darren's message was clear: make decisions that cause the least harm and be conscious of your impacts, both in everyday life, but particular when harvesting those delightful little sprouts of health called herbs.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Halloween!
Green Gal

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rain!


It's been quite rainy here in Santa Cruz this past week, and tonight's rain has been quite talkative...whispering drip-drops and pitter-patters all over the ground for hours. In a world devoid of concrete, the noises rain makes would be quite different. Living in a small dwelling like an Ohlone tule hut would bring you right into the middle of the rain. We live in houses with hard, thick surfaces that create drumming noises and separate us from the world of rain. A tule home would muffle the falling drops' noises, and the damp earth all around would cushion the rain's landing. The smells would be so pungent. Imagine falling asleep in warm deerskin and furs, hearing and smelling the rain as it falls right outside the thin walls of your tule home. Many years ago, before students dwelled on this forested hill, people lived like this, closer to the rain and in some ways, more in tune with that cycle of rain, nourishment and growth. Many people see the rain for its wetness, for its inconvenience. See it for what it provides to the living beings of the soil, the living beings who grow from and live in the soil: the plants, the banana slugs, the worms. Reach down and touch the damp earth with your fingertips, smell the rain and stop what you are doing, stop thinking about our human world, and be in the world of our universe, of our planet, of the complex web of life that connects us to all things, all things that feel the rain on their skin or drink its sweet nourishment. Sometimes, you have to stop everything for a minute and find that primordial human being within yourself, within the being that you've created, before you can let yourself return to the strange, complicated world we've made (and when you return, ask yourself for what or whom have you created this other being, the one you breathe through most days and face society with).

Allow yourself to breathe, take a moment to feel, to see, and to simply be. It feels more natural to me to do this when it's raining.

Yesterday, while leaving my theater class, I smelled and felt the recently-fallen rain. I smiled to myself at my private ecstatic joy of being alive and walked down a hill, stepping upon the leaf-strewn earth. I started getting that poetry feeling in my mind that starts nagging me with phrases until I either let them play out in my brain and forget them, or grab my notebook and start scribbling. I dropped my backpack on the wet ground and pulled my notebook and a pen from its depths. Here are the human words I wrote to try and describe the natural wonderfulness that I beheld:

"Rain"
Damp earth
fed by rain
yielding to the touch
to new life

dripping trees
magic patterns
of drip here
drop there
patter on my head
pitter patter

gray sky
lets the trees and grasses
dominate the color palette
new sprouts fed
the magically sweet rain

that drops on their head
on the damp earth
on the verdant painted trees
from the canvas sky.


"Puddles"
something about the rain
sky
and its reflection in puddles

and the scents that reach
my human senses

makes me pause
to collect my feelings
into thoughts
and scribble them on paper
never giving justice to what's here

striving hard to preserve
these senses and this reality
which tomorrow will be
inkily blotted
like the rain drops on the
poem
that I write.




Thank you kindly for reading!
Green Gal

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Right Now

I am on a high right now for two reasons, from the coffee I had two hours ago, as well as (and more importantly) from the amazing evening I've been enjoying with my friend Tanya. We have History: The World to 1500 together and she lives two floors above me, so I've gotten to know her through early morning breakfast and time spent in the House. Every time we talk, we get into something REAL, and I gain insight into her perspective. Talking with her this evening, I realized how much I need to be involved in something with Native American cultural studies. It is my driving force; I am called to study the California Native culture, and I know I need to do something with that passion so I can benefit others. I went to a film screening of The Canary Effect last night, a film about the genocidal policies the United States government has had toward the indigenous people of this land. It hit home for me that Native American culture is not only the culture that developed before contact with Europeans, which is what I find so incredibly fascinating, but also the culture that exists right now and the issues that the Native peoples face because of oppression and injustice. I thought about how I want to teach what I learn about the Native culture to other people, and I've always thought it might be in a regional, state or national park setting, but why not in the Native American reservation setting? Why not teach it to the children whose ancestors I'm teaching about? I know right now that I need to study and learn as much as I can about the California Native cultures, and that at some point the right position will present itself. I believe that life opens doors when they should be opened, and it's up to us to walk through them and take those opportunities. I have so many opportunities on this campus to do things that I enjoy, but I need to find the ones that I feel most passionate about, and I need to leave time for myself to discover things on my own and read and draw and explore the natural world around me. Spending hours talking, listening to music and building friendships is so much more valuable to me than spending hours taking history notes. The history notes will get done when I have the pressure that I have to get them done, but opportunities of friendship like tonight don't happen every day, so when they present themselves I take them.

Earlier, Tanya introduced me to the quotations of Chuck Palahniuk. I love the quotes we read, and I'm interested in reading his work. Here are some that I found particularly worthwhile.

"All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring."
— Chuck Palahniuk


^ Do not be boring. Noted :)

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will."
— Chuck Palahniuk


^ TOTALLY reminds me of Gilgamesh.

"Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known."
— Chuck Palahniuk (Invisible Monsters)


"The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That's the only lasting thing you can create."
— Chuck Palahniuk (Choke)


Tanya just shared her blog with me, and I am in shock! She is very talented, even in the blog's most raw form without any editing or revision. I am definitely jealous. I need to write more, blog more, write poetry more, spend time with friends more. I love this evening and this life and being alive.

I feel the need to go do something outside, under the sky, barefooted, with no constraints or concerns. Beautiful, confusing, complex, happy life!

Green Gal

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sustainable UCSC, PTAGS & Gilgamesh

Knowing me and my crazy involvement in clubs last year, it's no surprise that I joined the sustainbility club through Stevenson College, PTAGS (Path To A Greener Stevenson). Tonight was our second meeting of the year, and I have realized that I come back from the meetings with lots of great energy to be sustainable and spread my passion for nature to all the world!

I have homework I should be doing, so if this blog seems poorly-written, it's because I'm rushing! I felt a great need to write a post since I am bursting with so many awesome experiences.

I want to share with you some of the things UCSC does to be sustainable--it's truly a way of life for many students at this campus, which is an inspiring change from the peer group I had in high school. Here's a list of some things that I learned from a handout from the Sustainbility Office...and I added some of my own from my observations:

- All new and remodeled buildings on campus meet LEED criteria
- There's a zipcar program on campus
- The entire campus is one big hiking trail, really, so walking is encouraged
- Students have access to free public transit in Santa Cruz county, and there is a shuttle system on campus to get you from class to class (I try to walk whenever I can...great exercise with all these hills!)
- Native and draught tolerant plants and very few lawns
- Low flow faucets, toilets and shower heads
- No dining hall trays--conserves water and students get less food when they're browsing, so there's less waste at the end of their meal
- Lots and lots of recycling bins
- Organic, local food in the dining halls--I get salad at every single meal, and College 9/10 dining hall has the most delicious guacamole...I eat there every night.
- Compost of food scraps in the dining halls and signs encouraging diners to get only what they'll eat to reduce food waste
- I would imagine it feels worse to litter in a forest than it does to litter in a city. I never litter, but I feel like litterers would feel extra guilty in a forest...

Go UC Santa Cruz!

At our PTAGS meeting at 7 PM, we talked about the garden we're going to be building on the Stevenson Knoll, which overlooks the bay. I can't wait to get my hands dirty with Earth! In springtime, I'll be able to take a class that will work on the garden :-) I was just informed at the meeting that UCSC has a Natural History Club...three hours of exploring the campus with Environmental Studies majors, learning about plants and animals on campus? I'm definitely joining! I will be sure to update the blog with pictures and information from my adventures with that club.

In other news, I'm currently writing an essay on The Epic of Gilgamesh (the oldest literary text known to exist, set in the Sumerian city-state of Uruk in 2700 B.C.E.), which I am excited to say has an interesting message about humanity and nature! I had three different prompt choices and actually wrote one essay yesterday, analyzing the epic and the characters from a Jean-Paul Sartre existentialism perspective. I didn't like what I wrote, however, and decided to address one of the other prompts: if the story is relevant to today and, if so, how. Here's an excerpt from the new essay I'm writing:

In today’s overpopulated, urban, consumer-centric world where mankind rules nature and exploits the land for profit, we face consequences of a much greater degree than any other time in humanity’s past. We’ve always been exploiters, changing the land for our benefit and needs. As we’ve developed more and more technologies that require immense resources, and as we grow and spread our species into every corner of our planet, we’ve almost reached our limit of exploitation. It seems that if we continue at this pace of consumption, we may topple into an existence that is toxic, ugly and detrimental to life on Earth.

Living in this world on the potential brink of irreversible environmental destruction, it’s hard to remember that we emerged as a species from the womb of nature. Humans and our hominid ancestors lived similarly to animals for thousands of years before sedentary societies began to develop and technologies allowed us to live more removed from animals and nature. Realizing that we come from nature and that there will always be some part of that nature within us (perhaps both biologically and psychologically), is key, even if we no longer experience Mother Nature as intimately as we once did. When people feel that they are part of something larger, they tend to respect it because it becomes a part of who they are. Their connection makes them want to protect it; for in protecting it, they protect themselves. But once they lose that connection, the lack of emotional attachment to the larger whole removes the sense of respect and need to preserve it. This is what has happened to human society’s relationship to nature, when examined as a whole.

Our relationship with Mother Nature is represented by the character Enkidu in the Gilgamesh epic. When he is created, he exists as a man among animals. In an almost Sartrean existential way, he is awoken to his humanity after sleeping with a harlot from the temple of Ishtar, and he becomes self-aware, leaving behind his prior existence of animal consciousness for the human consciousness which allows him to make decisions toward his future, and create for himself a human essence. He enters civilization, the other side of the spectrum of human existence, which was a relatively newer form of existence at the time the epic was being told. Humans had been surviving in the wilderness and as nomadic peoples in a natural setting for thousands of years before civilizations emerged. Mesopotamian society was just beyond the edge of this transition, and Enkidu represents this. Civilization changes him, removes the wild from him. He and Gilgamesh go on their adventure to destroy “evil,” and end up destroying nature. Like a child betraying a parent, Enkidu destroys Mother Earth when he cuts down the cedar tree, which symbolizes the Tree of Life, with Gilgamesh. Humbaba is guardian of the forest, protector of nature, and Enkidu encourages Gilgamesh to kill him. Humanity has taken away his respect for what he was once a part of, and that says something about the human condition. We exploit; it’s something we inherently do. Sartre would argue that there is no human condition and that Enkidu cannot blame civilization for his actions. Enkidu initially does blame civilization, by blaming the harlot, but then he realizes that he is the one to blame. He dies because of his actions, his betrayal of nature. Almost five thousand years ago, people were aware of this problem. The poet of this epic is warning us of our own issue of exploiting nature from the most ancient literary past that we have access to. That is relevant, and even more so when one considers how long this exploiting has been going on. This is a human problem being addressed in the distant past, and it still follows us today, especially today. It couldn’t be more pertinent to our current environmental problem. Enkidu’s death could be the fate of humanity if we don’t pay attention to the Gilgamesh epic.

This is a very rough draft of the first point of my essay. It will end up being much shorter and probably better written by Monday when I turn it in.

Now that I've used up a good half an hour of homework time, I'll post a picture that I took this morning on my way to breakfast and then say adios.



College so far has been the best experience of my life, and I am SO excited to continue learning inside and outside of the classroom.
Thank you for reading!
Green Gal

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Kickin' ice plant bootay!"

On Saturday, UCSC students who'd participated in Wilderness Orientation (and their friends and roommates) took vans down to
Younger Lagoon Reserve in Santa Cruz to volunteer. It was day one of WICKED Work Days, an annual tradition after WO. It was a day full of hard work, dirt, mice, and deliciously fresh sandwiches.

We met at 9 AM in Quarry Plaza on campus and had bagels, which brought me right back to Wilderness Orientation, during which I'd consumed many bagels. The dining halls weren't open yet, so I didn't have any coffee. I was concerned I'd get a headache, since I drink that delicious black goodness every morning. I had a drop of coffee left in my reusable mug, so I drank it and prayed that it would be enough.

Ari hiding his face from the camera in the early morning at Quarry Plaza


The vans drove us down toward the water to Younger Lagoon Reserve, which is used by UCSC for research. As UCSC students, we have open access to the reserve. After a brief introduction to the area, our group split into two.
Will giving an introduction to the Lagoon


My group headed over to a large patch of ice plant, which is an invasive plant originally planted to help with erosion along the coast. It grows very tightly and holds the soil in place, but it doesn't allow other plants, like natives, to grow there. It's also very heavy, which actually causes erosion. Ice plant = bad. We each grabbed a pair of gloves and started ripping those bad boys out of the soil. It was tough work, and I was covered in dirt and sweat within fifteen minutes. It was quite rewarding when you got a hugely long-rooted one and could just keep uprooting it until it broke. Mice living in the ice plant scurried away from us, though some students tried to catch them. The piles of ice plant behind us grew larger and larger. After a few hours, we'd mostly cleared the patch of ice plant, which was awesome! (And fortunately, I never got a headache!)
The plant covering the ground behind Will is ice plant. We ripped out most of it!



It may have been because we were starving from hard work, but the lunch they served us was so refreshing and tasty! Sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, mustards, lettuce, and for those who eat it, cheeses and various meats. The oranges we peeled after stuffing our faces smelled and tasted amazing.


After eating, I saw a lovely yellow flower near the picnic tables and asked a guy who works at the reserve what it was. He said it's called Hiker's primrose, and he told me the scientific name, but I didn't write it down. (Today, I purchased a UCSC natural history guide and cannot wait to start learning more about the plants on and around campus!)


The day ended with a tour of the Seymour Marine Center. We saw the research dolphins that they have in captivity, and I instantly thought of The Cove. At the end of the tour, we all stood inside the Blue whale skeleton's mouth. That whale is enormous, like 60-something feet long!


It was a strenuous but rewarding day. We sure kicked some iceplant "bootay," as Ari put it. Quite, WICKED, indeed.

Now I'm off to do the homework I should have been doing while I wrote this post!
Green Gal

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life is AWESOME!

Ok, so it's definitely been way too long since my last post. Since August 5, my last time writing on Green Gal, I went backpacking, learned things about myself that will help me find balance during the new school year, made new friends, moved into my new home in the forest of UC Santa Cruz, learned how to become comfortable with co-ed bathrooms, and officially became a college student! No wonder I haven't posted for so long!

I just put my first load of laundry into the washing machine in my house's bathroom. Actually, it's my first load of laundry that I've ever done by myself (ok, so my roommate Monica helped me, but next time, I'll do it solo!). Since I have half an hour before it's finished, I figured I'd pass the time by updating the blogosphere on my life and happenings.

It's fairly well known that UC Santa Cruz is a pretty "green" place. Recycling and reducing and all that good stuff is really prevalent. Living in a forest helps maintain the respectful mentality, at least for most people. We have wildlife living among us--I see deer every day, raccoons most evenings, and squirrels are everywhere. We can also see Monterey Bay from many places on campus. I can walk for less than 5 minutes from my dorm room and see either the ocean or be completely surrounded by trees. Being that close to natural beauty is a good reminder of what we should aim to protect and keep wholesome. The other morning, my friend and I hiked into upper campus and explored the trails. The next day, we met at 5am on the Stevenson Knoll to watch the sunrise--the weather was awful, so we just sat in the cold for a few hours. But the ocean was right there in front of us and the forest was behind us. I live on the best campus ever!
Exploring upper campus


In late August, I went on Wilderness Orientation through UC Santa Cruz. The trip was hugely important in my realization of things about myself that will help me with college so I don't become overburdened with any one aspect of life. Balance, balance, balance. On the trip, I made some really awesome friends. It's so fun to see other kids from Wilderness Orientation around campus. We all have t-shirts from the trip and everytime I see one I'm tempted to shout "WO!"

Yesterday was OPERS Fest, the Office of Physical Education, Recreation & Sports festival. Various organizations from all over campus had booths with sign up sheets and free stuff (which is ALWAYS super wasteful, unfortunately). There was an entire tent area devoted to the environmental groups on campus. I had already signed up for many of their email lists, but picked up fliers and looked around. I hope to find one that I really enjoy, so I can become involved in the environmental effort on campus. My college, Stevenson, has its own environmental group, and it's starting a garden, which I may become involved with. Instead of dining hall food for dinner, the festival served local, sometimes organic vegetables, fruits and bread. I had some delicious tomatoes, and lots of strawberries. Yum!

Classes start tomorrow, which is terrifying and exciting. I'm looking forward to getting into a routine because this past week has consisted of a lot of little events scattered throughout the week and tons of wandering around trying to figure out something to do. Welcome Week has been fun, but it does feel like it's time for work to get done.

Yesterday my boyfriend Ari, whom I met on WO, trimmed my hair because it was getting too long and I refused to go to the barber. He did a nice job, and I didn't have to go to the salon and waste all that time and money and water. (At salons, they always wash your hair and use up shampoo and then waste energy drying it. Just find a nice boy with a pair of scissors!)

Last night, they closed the Boardwalk to the public and the whole place was filled with UCSC students. I hadn't been on rollercoasters in about a year, and it was definitely a thrill to get thrown around and up and down. Afterwards, I put my bare feet in the ocean and looked at the large moon resting in the cloud-blanketed sky. As the water pulled at my ankles and sunk me into the sand, I thought about how lucky I am to have places of solace where I can retreat when classes get stressful and I need to unwind.

Well, my laundry is probably just about finished washing. I hope to get back on track with posting to Green Gal, so I will try to make an effort to post at least once a week. Thank you for reading :)

Happy Fall!
Green Gal

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blogger on Break

I have been spending time reconnecting with old friends and getting to know newer friends better this summer. As a result, I have less time to spend blogging. I've decided to take a break from Green Gal until I have more time. School starts in September and many of my friends go to school in mid-t0-late August, so I may return sometime in between.

I will be back, though!
Happy August!

Green Gal

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Orientation and Camping/Backpacking Trip!

Yesterday, I attened Orientation at UC Santa Cruz! I met some cool people, learned a lot about classes and the school, and signed up for as many environmental group emails as I could find! I also signed up for classes and got a tour of my college, Stevenson. I originally signed up for Chicano Teatro and History 2A: The World to 1500, but today I decided to drop Chicano Teatro and add Theater 61-B: Tragedy. The Tragedy class is part of the theater minor requirement, so I decided to take it in case I decide to minor in theater arts! :) Unfortunately, the Anthropology 1 class I was hoping to take it supposedly very challenging and not worth taking first quarter freshman year. That's fine with me to not take a super hard class, and after reading on RateMyProfessor.com about the history professor I'll have, I can't wait to begin classes!

Tomorrow, I'm leaving for the mountains to go camping and then on Friday I'm heading into the wilderness for some backpacking with my dad! I've never been backpacking before, and I'm really excited for my first experience! Adios amigos!

Green Gal

Friday, July 16, 2010

Murphys

Last Friday while on vacation in the mountains, my family took a day trip to the town of Murphys. We make the drive from Tuolumne to Calaveras county almost every year when we're up there. Though historic like its neighboring towns, Murphys is a little more upscale. It's a big wine-tasting place: in the Sierra Nevada Adventure Co., I saw a shirt that said "Save the Earth. It's the only planet with grapes."


After lunch at Firewood, my family sat in the shade by Murphys creek, which runs through a park behind the main street. My sister and I waded in its waters, and we read our various books at a picnic table. The library is right across the creek from the park, so my dad and I ventured in, since we'd never been in before. They had the same Miwok book that my friend Alexys's grandmother let me borrow. It was printed at Columbia Junior College and can't be found online.



We spent some time in Sustenance Books, on the main road in Murphys. It's a delightful little new and used bookstore with aisles of books and encouraging environmental bumper stickers. When I told the owner that I didn't need a bag, she said "there should be more people like you." She had an adorable yellow lab puppy named Foster, who kept trying to unravel the rug with his teeth. My sister PawPrint had eyes only for the dog; she didn't even approach the bookshelves.


I bought two books at the store: It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Acorn Preparation by Beverly R. Ortiz, as told by Julia F. Parker, and Yosemite Valley, California (Images of America series) by Leroy Radanovich. I haven't begun reading the acorn preparation book, but I have looked through all the photographs of the Native Americans in the Yosemite Valley book. I've seen many of the pictures in my research of the Sierra Nevada tribes, but it's nice to have them all in one place.

Murphys has a wall called "Wall of Comparative Ovations." The entire wall is lined with plaques, pictures and descriptions, of various "clampers." I took pictures of people I recognized or interesting/funny plaques. The wall is maintained by members of the E Clampus Vitus of Murphys. (Click the photographs to enlarge them.)















Our real reason for coming to Murphys was to attend Murphys Creek Theater's production of A Midsummer Nights Dream that evening. After picking up some picnic food at Sierra Hills Market, we drove down the winding road into the little valley that contains Albeno Munari Vineyard and Winery (formerly Stevenot). On the grounds of the winery is a grassy area with a tiered ground. A stage sits level with the lowest tier, and the knoll is surrounded by trees. Most years we attend a performance here, arriving early to enjoy a picnic.



This production of Midsummer was creatively set in 19th century Murphys. The Athenians were Murphys townspeople. The fairies were Native Americans. Of the many performances and settings I've seen of this play, I have to say, this setting was by far my favorite--and not just because I'm interested in Native American culture. It completely worked with the play, especially having fairies as Native Americans since they live in the woods. Oberon, King of the Fairies, wore a replica feather headband, a traditional piece of Miwok dance regalia. The girl fairies wore the somewhat stereotypical Native American "deerskin" dresses, but it worked for the sake of simplicity. The one thing that bothered me was that one of the fairy girls had a bow and arrow. Women weren't allowed to touch or use weapons like that in traditional Native American culture, at least not in the native Miwok culture. Other than that, I found it worked quite well. The acting, directing and set were awesome! The familiar script came alive with allusions that took on new meaning with unique direction, and the director silently added new movement to the show, like a gun-twirling stand-off between Lysander and Demetrius. And as always with Murphys Creek Theater productions, the stars were twinkling at intermission and the cool night air was delightful throughout the performance!


Oberon and Puck

Titania with Bottom and the fairies

The Athenians Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena asleep on the forest floor. The fairies helping Titania and Bottom get to sleep. Notice the conical bark homes, considered traditional of the Miwok and Ahwahneechee. (However, they may not have been traditional before easy access to cedar when the white man came to the area. Traditionally, brush homes were built. Though less durable, they were easier to make and the materials were more readily available.)

If by random chance you're in the Murphys area today or tomorrow, I highly recommend seeing the show. You can buy tickets here.

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

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