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.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thought for Thursday

"After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings."
- Richard Dawkins

Pinecrest Lake in Winter

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Long Time No See!

Now that I finally have a break from school and will soon be on a break from work, I figured I should update the blogosphere about what I've been up to and share some snapshots of the past few months. I am going to try to post weekly green tips again, even if they are brief, especially during the next month since I am now on break from school.

The first environmental news from my life that I have to share with you is that this quarter, I got a job working in the UCSC Sustainability Office! I am the Internship Coordinator Assistant, which means I process timesheets, create lots of instructional Google Documents for the office, update the office calendar, and compile and send out the office's monthly newsletter, Greening UCSC. I am loving this job, especially all of the opportunities it has opened for me in the sustainability community on campus. This quarter I also became a voting committee member on the Carbon Fund Committee (whose staff members work in the Sustainability Office), which gives out money to qualified applicants seeking to put on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus and in the Santa Cruz community. I may post more about this later, but we just had our Fall Funding round, and it was amazing see to see how many different ideas are out there that students have for making our campus a more sustainable institution.

Also this quarter, I've been a more active member of Path to a Greener Stevenson (PTAGS), the environmental organization in my college. I am the photographer for the group, as well as a representative for PTAGS both on the Carbon Fund Committee and the Sustainabiliteam, a newly-formed team of representatives for all the sustainability organizations on campus.

Additionally, I've continued to work toward certification in the Experiential Leadership Program through the Recreation Department. I took the Fall Seminar course, a course on Risk Management, and I now update the ELP Facebook page with news and reminders for others working toward certification.

It's been a busy quarter to say the least.

Add to that three classes with plenty of reading and papers, and it's no wonder I haven't updated since August. But I do hope to change that, as I mentioned. Even if it's just a photograph of life at UCSC, I am going to try to post at least once a week.

For now, here are some photographs from the quarter.

Mushroom Foraging: North Coast

Everything in this basket is edible.

Walking back to my dorm from work in November:

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Seems fitting to use this quote, one of my all-time favorites, after this quarter:
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
-- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, August 12, 2011

End of CYES 2011 Barbecue & Final Counts

I got paid to eat spicy ice cream today. And I didn't have to pay for the two scoops, either.

It was spicy because it was peach habanero flavor, and it was free and I got paid for it because of Rising Sun Energy Center and California Youth Energy Services.

I'll rewind. Today was my last day of working for California Youth Energy Services for Summer 2011. All twelve cities celebrated the successful summer of changing lightbulbs and showerheads, among many other things, in a park in Berkeley.
Buddy, the CYES mascot

I played soccer for the first time in years, remembering after a few minutes why I hadn't played in so long. (I'm quite scared of getting kicked in the shins or having a ball knock the air out of my lungs, so I only kicked the ball when no one else was trying to gain possession of it. I stepped out of the game at the first opportunity, but I did have fun!) I also ate delicious food and had lunch for one final time with my awesome team of fellow Energy Specialists and my two wonderful managers. I performed a skit with them, as well, and cheered for all of them, including my favorite Leader in Field Training, Jasmin, when each of us received recognition for attendance, service and completion of the program, which is considered a training and employment program.

This was the first year the program was in my city, but that didn't stop us from placing 3rd in the program-wide challenge (hence the money for free ice cream...also, the barbecue ended early, so we went out for ice cream in Berkeley before heading home, and we get paid until 6:00 PM...sooo that's how I was getting paid to eat ice cream!). We visited 274 homes, changed 3,365 lightbulbs, replaced 44 showerheads and 244 aerators, and swapped out 60 halogen lamps (dangerous fire hazard and huge waste of energy) for energy efficient 55-watt CFL torchieres for free in the past six weeks.

We passed many of our goals, especially for 15-watt flood lights. Not only did we numerically pass our goals, it certainly felt fulfilling each day to come back to the office knowing we had educated members of our community on energy and water conservation and provided personalized suggestions for them.

We had a referrals race throughout the six-week program within our site. Without these referrals, we never would have fulfilled our house calls goal. We weren't allowed to canvass door-to-door in our city, as other sites were. We relied on word of mouth, advertisements in the newspaper, visits to public places like the farmer's market and the senior center by our outreach manager, news articles, and client and team referrals.I had such a great summer working for CYES and getting to know my awesome team, and I really hope I get an opportunity to return to CYES next year :-)

Here are some more pictures from the barbecue and ice cream today in Berkeley:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cross-Country Bike Ride, and End of CYES

Thomas Fullam, who works for the City of Pleasanton, and two friends are riding their bikes from Oregon to Virginia, updating a blog about their travels along the way. They leave today, and plan to cycle into Yorktown, Virginia, on October 10.

Read the full article that I wrote about the trip on Pleasanton.Patch.com here.

Check back this weekend for a blog post about my experience working for California Youth Energy Services. Today was our last day of Green House Calls, and tomorrow we find out our totals and attend a barbecue to celebrate with all twelve sites. It has certainly been a fulfilling summer.

To read more about CYES, click here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Helping the Planet, One House at a Time

Did you know that for the many uses we have for freshwater, and for the billions of people living on Earth, that we can only use 0.01% of all the water on Earth? Are you aware that the leaky toilet in your bathroom might be wasting 200 gallons of water daily? How about this: Energy Star rated CFL lightbulbs (the curly ones) use 75% less energy than incandescent lightbulbs because rather than produce heat to make light, they rely on a chemical reaction that takes far less energy to create.

No, I didn't look these startling facts up online. I learned them today, among dozens of others, during training as an Energy Specialist for California Youth Energy Services, a program of the non-profit organization Rising Sun Energy Center. CYES provides free home energy & water consultations (Green House Calls) to increase the energy and water efficiency of homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, thus saving residents money on their utility bills.

Founded in 2000, California Youth Energy Services has 12 sites in the Bay Area this summer. Over the past eleven years, it has trained more than 550 young people and served over 12,000 homes. CYES provides this free service to PG&E customers who are interested in doing their part for the earth and saving money on utility bills. The program employs youth from the community and trains them on conducting green energy audits and replacing lightbulbs and showerheads with energy-efficient ones, among other basic services, all for free!

This if the first year that CYES has come to my city, and I'm so excited to be part of it! I'm being trained this week on how to replace showerheads and faucet aerators; how to install a retractable clothesline; how to insulate water heater pipes; and how to assess a person's home on its energy efficiency, offer homeowners and renters suggestions for further energy and water saving solutions, and be able to educate residents in my city on climate change, why this program is valuable not only to the earth, but also to their wallets, and why being conscious of environmental impact behaviors is important. I definitely have to say that this job is the most fitting job for Green Gal that could ever exist! I especially like the fact that this job isn't furthering the consumeristic, "buy-buy-buy" mindset that is plaguing our society. In fact, it's in some ways trying to reverse this by beginning with at-home resource conservation and efficiency behaviors, which can lead to more eco-educated and conscious consumers and citizens.

If you happen to live in the Bay Area and want to learn more or sign up for a Green House Call, please visit the Rising Sun Energy website here: http://www.risingsunenergy.org/content/greencall.html.

(Just a note: The opinions represented in this post and throughout the Green Gal blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of California Youth Energy Services or Rising Sun Energy Center. I'm not representing CYES or Rising Sun Energy Center in this post, just sharing information and hoping to spread the word about this awesome program!)

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal


"Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race."
-- James Joyce

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recycling, and Social Change

Need another reason to recycle? Sometimes it's easier to just toss a recyclable into a nearby trashcan than to wait until you find a recycling bin, but here's a good reason to wait and dispose of it properly:

"Paper takes up 40-50 percent of the volume in American landfills. Despite the growing commitment to local recycling programs, the amount of paper is steadily rising--up from 35 percent in 1970. The rest of a landfill consists of in descending order of volume, construction/demolition debris, metals, plastics, other materials, food and yard waste, and glass."

That quote is from my Archaeology textbook, Archaeology: Down to Earth by Robert L. Kelly and David Hurst Thomas (4th edition, published 2011 by Wadsworth CENGAGE Learning). A lot of the stuff listed there is recyclable and shouldn't even be in the landfill. We could save a whole lot of space for actual garbage by recycling things that are recyclable--especially paper!

On another note, in core class today, two local activists (a skate shop owner and a Santa Cruz mother with a culinary degree) spoke to the class about the volunteer activism groups they've started. In our class, we've read Gandhi, Malcolm X, MLK, Thoreau, and other thinkers who have enlightened us to various methods of enacting social change. The purpose of having real people come talk to us about how they are enacting social change was to make it clear that we aren't just reading these books so we can fill our minds with cool ideas; we're supposed to use this knowledge and these ideas to do something in the world. As Analicia Cube, founder of Take Back Santa Cruz, put it: "Take those ideas. Then go do something with it." She saw an issue in her community--gang activity, criminal activity, violence--and decided she'd had enough. She saw that the acts of violence and the criminal activity in Santa Cruz were degrading society, making Santa Cruz an unsafe place. People get angry every time something violent happened, but then the anger dissipates with time. Cube has a culinary degree, so it's no surprise that she likened the issue she sees to how a frog will jump out of an already-boiling pot of water, but if you put him in the pot and slowly cook him, he will sit there and cook. It wasn't enough to sit back and let the police deal with the gangs; she needed to do something.

She began her organization through Facebook, gaining membership by standing on a corner with a sign on Halloween and returning home to find 1,000 new members on her Facebook page. Her description of the methods enacted by her group reminded us all of Gandhi: non-violent protest. One of the things Take Back Santa Cruz has done is stand at the corner of Laurel and Pacific downtown where drug dealings take place. They get a big group together, peacefully resisting the illegal activity going on. Cube recounted an incident when a drug dealer approached her and asked her what was up. She said "Well, you certainly aren't dealing drugs this evening, that's what's up." Her passion for safety in her community is evident, and she certainly has attitude.

I really liked her message about positivity. She told us there's a reason they don't have signs and they aren't screaming in protest. That's a negative way to enact change, and she's all about positivity. In responding to a question about her relationship with local government and the city council, she said that though there are issues on which she disagrees with the members of city council, she chooses to live in the sliver of agreement that she's managed to find in each of them. She doesn't live in the place of disagreement, but finds a common ground in order to develop a relationship with each member. "The police, the fire department, the city council are all tools of society," she said. "Society has to employ them, though. They aren't going to go out and solve all the issues." Rather than resist the assets available to her as a leader for change, she chooses to utilize them and cooperate with them.

The other speaker, Danny Keith, agreed that it's important to be positive. Keith owns Santa Cruz Skate and Surf Shop and he began an organization called Grind Out Hunger. From the website:

Grind Out Hunger was created through the vision of skateboarders helping kids overcome hunger. Santa Cruz Skate and Surf Shop founded Grind Out Hunger with the one goal of inspiring kids to help kids; Danny Keith mentions “by going directly to the schools and talking with the kids, it has a huge impact.” Grind Out Hunger is an educational piece challenging local elementary, middle and high schools to raise food and money for hungry children in the community.... Keith continues “The collaboration between students and Grind Out Hunger has been very successful raising over 500,000 pounds together”.

Here's a video from the Grind Out Hunger website: Click here.

Keith remarked that though skateboarders tend to be anarchists and that he doesn't believe he really needs the government/city council or any other organizations to help Grind Out Hunger be successful, he agrees that they are tools that can be helpful in the process of helping others. It was clear from his presentation that his biggest concern is feeding kids, since they are put in the circumstance of poverty. Their poverty isn't typically because of any decisions or mistakes they've made, but because they were born into it. Both Keith and Cube said that at points in their lives, they've looked at themselves in the mirror every morning to reinforce a positive, you-can-do-it mindset. "You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will," Keith remarked.

It was interesting to listen to individuals who are actively participating in causes they are passionate about. It was cool to see the ideas we've been reading manifested in real people. It isn't as though they necessarily read the texts we've been studying and decided to go out and live them; they have just found similar paths to enacting change. Getting an education means being exposed to these ideas, being able to put them into action, and recognizing their use in other contexts, which can help us determine which have been effective for others. Cube told us to constantly be curious and to discover what we're passionate about so we can do something with this education we're fortunate enough to be receiving. Needless to say, it was a very inspiring day in core class!

So, lessons learned today: Recycle everything recyclable, and don't let society be the frog that is unknowingly boiling in the pot. Wake up the frog/society and figure out how to turn off the stove/solve an issue you see taking place.

Have a fantastic weekend!
--Green Gal

P.S. I can see the white angry tsunami waves from campus...usually I can't see any white indicating a wave. I'm avoiding the beach for sure. At least Santa Cruz is a "city on a hill" so I won't be swallowed up by ocean. I feel so sad for the people of Japan. I can't imagine how terrifying that must be for everyone there and for everyone who has family or friends there. Japan and everyone affected in some way by the tsunami are in my prayers.

During a walk after class with my teacher, a student pointed out that while in Japan people's lives and livelihoods were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami, in Santa Cruz, some boats sunk and the piers were mangled, and everyone's freaking out. The news this morning on TV, or at least the channel I was watching, was all about the boats. My teacher remarked, referencing the fact that we read Marx earlier this quarter, "Oh no! The bourgeoisie's yachts have been destroyed! How terrible!" Yes, the people who lost their boats in Santa Cruz and throughout California are in my prayers, too, particularly those whose boats are how they make a living. But I do wonder why the news this morning spent so much time talking about Santa Cruz, tsunami-wave-riding-surfers, and the tide here when that time could have been spent reminding us of the real tragedies across the Pacific and what is being done and can be done to help them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hello, Spring?

You know those days that just feel like a particular season? They have some quality that reminds you of the typical feeling you get during that season? Well this morning it feels like Spring outside. When I woke up this morning, I opened up my shades and saw sunlight in the redwoods, and just now as I walked back from the dining hall, I could hear myriad birds chirping. It's a homework day, but it would be nice to explore the forest. As I walked back into my house, I saw a group of students in hiking boots and shorts gathering to leave for a hike. Unfortunately, I have to sit in front of my laptop today and listen to the lectures that I didn't attend for Archaeology class. But I'll keep the shades open and maybe venture out to the Stevenson Knoll for some sun later...

I'll leave you with a poem by Rabindranath Tagore:

Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single
streak of gold from yonder clouds.
Open your doors and look abroad.

From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before.
In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring
morning, sending its glad voice across an hundred years.
-- "The Gardener 85," Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow, Salamanders and Sinkholes

At nine o'clock this morning, I put a pair of binoculars around my neck and stuffed a small red notebook into my pocket before setting off with a group of four other UCSC students led by UCSC Museum of Natural History curator Chris Lay. I had signed up for this Natural History of the UCSC Campus one-day class last quarter, but it had been cancelled due to rain. Today, even with the threat of snow, the class was still on. It was chilly but fortunately not raining as we set off from the UCSC Recreation Department toward the East Field.

After introductions, Chris asked if there was anything we particularly wanted to see. An environmental studies major named Shannon, who I talked with throughout the hike, said "any mammals other than deer and ground squirrels." We all laughed because moments before we had seen about 25 ground squirrels on the hill by Stevenson College, and deer are ubiquitous throughout the campus. Chris said he hoped today's hike would take us places we'd never before explored on campus; it turned out I hadn't been to the majority of the places we walked to.

The first natural history sighting we had was a Say's phoebe on a fence post (my handheld camera is broken, so I wasn't able to take any pictures from today's hike, hence the photos from other sources. Each photo is linked to its source.)

Chris told us that this bird is a fly-catcher, venturing from its perch to catch flies and bugs with its wide, pointy bill and then returning to its perch. It has a dark head and a yellow-brown underside, and its call can be described as "whiney." Chris remarked that they are often found in open areas, like the meadow east of East Field where we spotted it. The "binos" (birding lingo for binoculars) were a necessity on the hike. Without them, most of the creatures we saw would have been distant dots. My eyes are definitely not trained for spotting birds in the distance, so it always took me a few seconds to determine where to look.

In the same meadow, we also spotted a male Anna's hummingbird performing an intimidation display. It flies straight up, really high, and then dives down in a j-curve. A "zoop" noise at the end of the dive is created by its tail. This hummingbird, one of two found on the UCSC campus, lives here year-round.

Our next sighting was flora. Non-native, weedy wild radish, of the mustard family. Interestingly, this plant's flowers have four petals and six stamen, unique to its family. It has purple, yellow or white flowers and tastes a little like cauliflower.
We continued down the meadow until we came to a gash in the ground, where it looked like the earth was sinking into itself. It was, actually, because it was a sinkhole, one of many found on campus. We ventured into it. It just looks like a depression in the ground, but upon closer inspection, a hole covered with rocks can be seen, no bottom in sight. Sinkholes are not common in most topography. When it rains in a normal valley, the water drains down through the valley by creek or river. In a sinkhole, however, the water just goes through a hole in the ground, like a bathtub drain. There's limestone underneath the whole campus, which was created in the ocean a looooong time ago from the buildup of dead organisms. The San Andreas Fault line, about 10 miles east of us, is bent, and so there is sliding and pushing; because the two sides of the fault are of the same density, this fault created the Santa Cruz Mountains. The limestone under the campus contains calcium carbonate, which is dissolved when water runs over it. When it rains, the water dissolves the limestone and carries it away toward the ocean. Some rocks that had been piled into the sinkhole were put there because, as Chris said, "they don't want it to eat the East Remote Parking lot."

There are sinkholes all over campus, creating a honeycombed rock layer under the soil. When Chris brings a geologist out to this sinkhole with his 2-unit Natural History of the UCSC campus class, the geologist says that he doesn't walk over sinkholes because of their potential instability.

Chris talked about the various sinkholes and caverns around campus that most students don't know about. McHenry Library has been worked on for years; it's supposed to reopen this summer. One reason for this prolonged construction is that when they went to reinforce a corner of the building, they found that there was nothing to reinforce it with: the earth had sunk away from the building. Science and Engineering Library is bridged across a cavern. J Baskin Engineering was built on stilts because of its proximity to a sinkhole. This topography also accounts for the many caves on campus, including the well-known Porter Cave, which I ventured into my first evening on campus.

As we traversed meadows in lower campus, I silently was thankful that I'd chosen UC Santa Cruz over another school like Davis. UC Santa Cruz has the coolest natural history! So many things to discover and so much biological diversity. I'm definitely signing up for Chris's 2-unit Natural History of UCSC winter course next year.

While standing in East Meadow, Chris mentioned how California grasslands have been infiltrated with non-native species over time, due to the introduction of cattle in the 1850s and exotic grasses. I had pointed out plantain to Shannon earlier, and we'd each tasted a leaf. She asked if plantain was native, and Chris said no.

We crossed the road and wandered near the Village and the Farm. The Village is located in an old quarry. The campus grounds had many uses before UCSC was established; originally, of course, it was the home of the Ohlone (I'm hesitant to use this name because I've been researching local Native American tribes for a research paper I'm writing on missionization, anthropology and the effects of colonization of this area on the ability of local tribes to become federally-recognized, and Ohlone was a word created by anthropologists...it's better than "Costanoan," and it is generally acceptable by the local tribes, but I still feel a little iffy using it to generalize the original inhabitants of this land). Seventy-five to 100 years ago, limestone quarries were created on the campus grounds. The limestone was burned to extract the lime, which was used in concrete and other things. To burn the limestone, they clearcutted the redwoods for fuel. The trees reforested themselves, but in the large meadows on campus, stumps were removed for grazing. (The Ohlone used to burn meadows in order to clear out brush for easier hunting and so that native plants would grow with the fertile soil.)

We passed a bay tree and each of us grabbed a leaf and crushed it in our hands. Chris told us that bay tree leaves are related to the bay used in cooking, but that they are much stronger and shouldn't be used in that way. Bay tree leaves are particularly pungent, and something about them causes extreme reactions in certain people.

Up in the sky, we noticed a white-tailed kite, which was kiting, or stopping midair by flapping its wings to look down on its prey (think of a kite standing still in the air). Other birds can kite, as well, but kites don't need the stiff wind others need because of its unique shoulder joints. It's related to the hawk.
Near the Village, Chris pointed out a patch of wild radish. Beside it were some native grasses, then a patch of mud and then another layer of native grasses. On the mud patch were a bunch of little piles of dirt. He cautioned us not to walk over the mud, for it was home to, he estimated, a few 1000 bees. The bees had been hibernating all winter and had come out to get some radish pollen and lay eggs in holes in the mud. After they mate, dig holes, lay their eggs and seal the holes off from rain, the bees die and the babies are born next year. With all the rain we've had, the bees have had to dig themselves out of the dirt, hence the piles. We looked closely and noticed a bunch of bees laying on the surface, unmoving. Chris picked one up. It didn't look like a bee, no yellow and black stripes. It was a solitary bee, meaning these bees are not part of a colony with a queen. The bee wasn't dead, but it was too cold to move around much or fly. To tell the difference between a solitary bee and a fly is that bees have two sets of wings, and flies only have one. The bee has two eyes on the side of its head, as well as three "microeyes" on the top. The bee lay in Chris's hand for awhile and then the sun came out, it warmed up, and it flew away.

We walked through the Great Meadow. I spotted a brush rabbit by a wood pile. It's the only rabbit found around UCSC, and it's a cottontail rabbit, with the white bushy tail. We came across a little alligator lizard under a piece of wood (who was cold and docile until he warmed up), as well as a slender salamander in the defensive posture.

I should really start working on homework, so I will have to shorten my description of the day. On the rest of the hike, we saw: some fungi, a newt carcass, a red-tailed hawk, chickweed, jimson weed, a baby roughskinned newt (which I held! it's cute little hands were fumbling along like a crawling infant), an awesome green Pacific chorus frog, a brown Pacific chorus frog, the mima meadow where crazy, rare mima mounds are found (read about them here!), a coyote, Fremont star lily, a bell-shaped mushroom, Johnny jump up flower, soap root, California buttercups, suncups, and SNOW! It snowed on us as we entered Cave Gulch. The snow was more like snowy hail, but it was incredible! I never thought I'd be wandering campus in the snow at UC Santa Cruz! It was a little chilly, and Shannon remarked when the sun shone through some clouds at one point, "I feel like those bees and lizards when the sun came out!"

By that point, it was already past 12pm, which was when the class was supposed to end. We made our way back to the east side of campus. My notebook is now filled with 9 pages of natural history, and I've learned to identify a variety of different plants and animals. Great way to start off my Saturday!

-- Green Gal

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Passionate anxious freedom toward death.

I'm writing an essay right now. Okay, well not right this minute, but I'm in the process of writing an essay. Topic: Basic tenets of Malcolm X's philosophy compared with Martin Luther King Jr. Supposed to be 4-5 pages. Almost at 5, and I've still got a few more paragraphs about Malcolm X to write. Greeeeat! So I thought I'd share some pictures I just took in my room since that's definitely going to help me reduce my paper length. Enjoy!

Why, yes, those are Egyptian hieroglyphs! My boyfriend is taking a class in hieroglyphics, so he wrote my name for me!

My desk, where I am about to continue writing my essay. (BTW, that white thing next to my Malcolm X book is this awesome tool that keeps your book propped open so you can eat, transcribe or hands-free read your book! You should get one!)

The quote on my white board. My Stevenson Core class teacher, Mr. Schafer, spoke about Heidegger on Friday. I'm enjoying every minute of my finite journey toward death! Yeah life!

Happy Tuesday!
-- Green Gal

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

I just returned from the dining hall after eating a delicious omelet scramble. My large brown bear mug is filled with the rich, suprisingly well-made coffee the dining hall serves, and it's sitting here on my desk, wafting wonderful scents into the room. When I got back to my house, I checked on the laundry I'd put in the wash right before leaving for breakfast, and my timing was perfect: the laundry was finished washing just as I walked in. Don't you just love when things work out like that?

After I post this, I will return to my reading assignment that is supposed to be completed by noon today for my Native American studies lecture. We're reading Native Features: Indigenous Films from Around the World by Houston Wood. I have to read to chapter 9, and then I'll move on to Archaeology homework. This book on films is quite interesting, as it describes many of the central themes found in indigenous films, as well as analyzes the issues with stereotype found in films about indigenous people made by non-indigenous people. We've watched some of the movies in class, including Rabbit-Proof Fence and Smoke Signals. I've never taken a class that analyzes film, so it's been a different experience for me to do so in the context of Native American studies. The class isn't only about film, but learning to decode popular media and recognize the dominant discourse and challenge it is definitely a central part of the class. We're learning to see the portrayal of Native American peoples in a different way, to question the accepted notions we have of the "Indian," and to understand why the stereotypes, mascots and iconic depictions are detrimental to Native American people. If Santa Cruz had a Native American studies major, I'd almost definitely be working toward it. The closest major Santa Cruz offers is American Studies with a concentration in Native American studies. I'm leaning toward that over Anthropology at this point, but I don't have to declare any majors until the end of next quarter. I'm also still considering Literature as a possible major. Next quarter, I'm planning on taking another American Studies class (my Native American studies class is American Studies 80E), as well as a Literature class, so I can make a decision about what major I'd like to declare. I could always change it. There are just so many wonderful options to choose from!

But, I should probably get back to my schoolwork. I spent the weekend snow camping in Yosemite, and as a result, I am a little behind in my reading. I went with a group from the UCSC Recreation Department, and we camped about a mile from Badger Pass, on the way to Dewey Point. It was an excellent, challenging, chilly trip. Perhaps I'll post about it on a future blog post.

The weather here in Santa Cruz today is typical...it's the kind of weather students here love. Overcast, but not too chilly. I've got my turtleneck sweater on and my down jacket handy (I definitely learned how to stay warm on my snow camping trip, and I've already put that knowledge to use on campus). My coffee and my reading assignment are waiting for me...

How is your day going? Post in the comments!

Happy Tuesday!
Isn't life awesome?

- Green Gal


Breathe in experience. Muriel Rukeyser

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Slug is Taking a Midterm

Ok, so this slug isn't taking a midterm, but this slug (as in ME!) is taking a midterm, at 12pm today! It's a Native American studies class, so I'm actually a little excited since that's one of my favorite topics. Of course, I'd rather take a hike and come across some fellow Banana Slugs, but I am in college to learn, after all.

Have a good one.
- Green Gal

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inspired Babbling!

It's Friday! I wish I could express fully how stoked off life I am right now...and maybe that's the double shot caramel soy latte I had before class that's talking, but my neighbors are playing some cool music that is making me all the more enthused. I wanna get up and dance.

Here's a quick bit about my day, and then I'm off to eat delicious organic salad with a really wonderful person.

I just had a fantastic Core class discussion out on the Stevenson knoll in the sun about Gandhi, his letter to Hitler, and Nietzsche. After the discussion, my instructor Mr. Schafer asked us all to take a moment to be grateful for the beautiful view and the fact that we go to UCSC. Shouts of joy rose into the sky from our circle.

After class, myself and three other students wandered around Cowell and Stevenson colleges with Mr. Schafer, talking about inspiring books and learning a little bit about one another. I talked about the wonders of Thoreau's Walden and mentioned how Thoreau takes a chapter to describe an ant battle and how I wish I had the free time to observe life in such detail. One student mentioned that she's reading The Grapes of Wrath. I got really excited and told her to look for Biblical allusions, and then revealed the book nerd in me and told them how I wrote a research paper on the book in high school. But really, how could you not love Steinbeck? Inspiring book of your life topic came up. Of course I said Into the Wild. Mr. Schafer told us that he decided to start a new life in California after reading Into the Wild and subsequently reading Call of the Wild. I already thought Mr. Schafer was an awesomely enthusiastic teacher, but now that I know he was inspired by Into the Wild, I cannot wait to have more discussions with him. I am definitely going to ask for some book recommendations from him and I plan on wandering around campus with him on Fridays in the future. He calls it "Grove of Academia" and it's a chance to walk and talk about our thoughts, either thoughts on what we're talking about in class or about what's happening in our lives in general. This is the first time I've gone, and it definitely brightened my day. I love talking about books. Other titles and authors that were discussed: The Great Gatsby, Eat, Pray, Love, Vonnegut, and The Year of Magical Thinking. There were others that I wish I'd written down in the Moleskine notebook Mr. Schafer gave me. He has on many occasions in class pulled out his Moleskine to share something he'd written down in it. I sometimes carry a notebook and write down poems or little thoughts, but the notebook that Mr. Schafer uses fits into the pocket on your jeans which my notebooks don't do, so I'm really glad and full of thanks that he gave me his extra notebook. It's small, paperback, red, and simple and I cannot WAIT to fill it with thoughts. Ok enough writing about my day. I have to go live it, and I should probably go to the dining hall now...

Life is pretty rewarding today. I see meaning, I am inspired to read more authors, I am inspired to reread and explore deeper the books I have read, I am looking forward to spending some time with my friend M tomorrow at a cafe downtown, I'm hiking all morning tomorrow with some fun people, and life just keeps on being beautiful. Plus, it's sunny and January and I live in Santa Cruz. Basically couldn't ask for anything more right now.

I'll try to post more often. If I don't, it just means I'm living too fully to take time to write it down ;)

-- Green Gal

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