Welcome!

Green Gal Home

Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

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

---

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

---

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

---

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

Popular Posts