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Showing posts from 2013

Cranksgiving: An Alleycat to Support the Santa Cruz Community

Today I participated in my first bike race, totaling 18 miles in 2.5 hours around Santa Cruz, Soquel, and Aptos. Unlike you might be imagining, there were no fans lining the streets, no blocked off or set course of direction, and most people who saw me pedaling up Soquel Avenue with a huge backpack probably had no idea I was racing from grocery store to grocery store, gathering food based on a list I'd been handed at noon. The ride was an alleycat ride called Cranksgiving , organized by Santa Cruz Bike Polo and Clutch Couriers. I had been invited by my friend and fellow bike generating enthusiast Jonny. He helps out with the Student Environmental Center's bike-powered energy generator at events, and he invited me to join his team a few weeks ago. All I knew was that I was supposed to show up with some money and that I would be racing around the Santa Cruz area picking up food that would be donated to families in need for the holidays. Jonny stoked for the race before

Look What Arrived in the Mail!

My life has been pretty bike-centric lately, with numerous bike rides around and down and up to campus each day/week and the biggest bummers in my day-to-day life being bike lights that don't work when you need them. I've been reading countless articles about transportation and bikes, and I'm working on a longer blog post about my transportation history that is proving more difficult to articulate clearly than I originally thought. Transportation is a complex topic, far more complex than you might think. In my stumblings through millions of open web browser tabs of bike articles and blogs, I came across a book titled Bikenomics by Elly Blue . It was posted on a blog called Taking the Lane , which I have since spent some time reading and have greatly enjoyed. Many of the larger issues like civil rights and women's rights that have been floating around in my mind lately as I bike and find obstacles to feeling safe on my bike are presented in clear, poignant ways on thi

UCSC Strike Leads to Philosophical Reflections on Automobile/Bus-Free Roadways

Imagine the UC Santa Cruz campus without cars or buses circling its horse-shoe shape. No cars driving up behind the sea of pedestrians on Steinhart Way, cramming people off the road or forcing people on bikes to give room to the large metal isolation machines (commonly known as cars) that keep people separate from their fellow slugs. Think of the roads that could become walkways and bikeways (as Steinhart really is and should be since only authorized vehicles are allowed through), people reclaiming space and not having to stop and let cars and buses pass when crossing guards are directing traffic. No bus pollution right in your lungs as you bike up Hagar behind a Metro or loop bus. Walking and dancing in the street, more people walking through forest paths instead of busing around campus, bikes zooming around instead of rusting in a sideyard. Healthier people, healthier air, more human powered transportation. Today, while biking through rain and fog up the bike path and around Por

Camp Creations

Tule rope braided at camp. The white rope is made solely from the interior fibers of the tule plant, and the green ones are from the outside part of the plant. Experimentation in rope-making during lunch! Valley oak gall toys. The one on the left is a deer, made by Green Gal. The one on the right is a turtle, which was tragically abandoned by a camper at the end of the day. I rescued it and put them on my shelf, next to the tule rope. The native people of this area used to make toy animals out of Valley oak tree galls, like these pictured. The kids had a blast at camp making helicopter toys, hats, snowmen, and fun animals with their oak galls. What do you make from nature's arts and crafts supply?

Friday Facts: Pets, Venom, and Backpack Precautions

Here is an assortment of random facts and thoughts on nature that I've learned so far this summer at camp: Capturing Animals as Pets You never want to capture and take home with you an animal or insect or fish from nature to make your pet. Each has its own role in that habitat, so to remove it makes it harder for that ecosystem to thrive and harms the animal you're removing. If you want a pet spider or snake, look for captive-bred animals, not live-bred animals because this means the animal you're getting was not taken from its natural environment but was raised in captivity from birth. Another thing to realize is that putting sticks and leaves in a jar does not recreate a habitat. Ecosystems are diverse and full of organisms big and small that animals and insects depend upon. Observe and learn from animals in their habitats, but leave them be. If you really love them, leave them. Baby Snakes are More Poisonous than Adults Fortunately, I didn't learn this from e

"We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone."

"Our True Heritage" by Thich Nhat Hanh The cosmos is filled with precious gems. I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning. Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining through and containing earth and sky, water and clouds. It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed. Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and the marvelous look of your beloved. You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child. Come back and claim your heritage. We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone. Cherish this very moment. Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms. -- Thank you to my friend Collette for sharing this. Collette has a wonderful blog about Deep Nature Connection at . For more inspiration, visit her site!

Wordless Wednesday: The Preserve

Soundscape ecology and what listening can teach us about nature

This is a remarkable video  about how scientists can use sound to diagnose the health of ecosystems. I highly encourage you to watch it, full screen, with no other windows open to distract you. Listen to what he's saying--it's quite incredible. July 18 was World Listening Day , and lately I have come across a number of sound-related articles , activities , and experiences that have made my ears more attuned to the world around me. Yesterday at camp, we did an activity called Graveyard, which can also be called Sit Spot. Each child and counselor found a space around a pond where they could stay silent and observe. We sat for twenty minutes, using our eyes and ears to become attuned to the pond. Our silence and immobility allowed birds, dragonflies, and frogs to return to the pond as though we weren't there. One camper told me a frog had hopped onto her arm as she sat silently observing its journey around the pond. Dragonflies helicoptered their ways across the water.

Wildflowers in the sidewalk: How to make the best of being stranded

Our backpacks were full of dehydrated food, trail mix bars, warm clothes, and all the fixins for a weekend away on Mount Tamalpais. We already had our hiking clothes on, and we were looking forward to spending the evening outdoors and falling asleep in my new backpacking tent. We didn't have a campsite reservation, but we figured it would all work out. The weekend was ahead of us in all its unknown adventures. After driving for about an hour, we got onto Highway 101, excitement setting in because we had just had our first glimpse of Mt. Tam. A few minutes after getting on the highway, though, Green Guy tells me the car has stopped working. It felt unreal to me--we were so close we could see the mountain! We pulled off to the shoulder and Green Guy checked under the hood. Unsure of what it was that had happened, he got back in the car and started it back up, driving us safely to the next exit. You could feel it as the car died on the off-ramp. Using gravity, we rolled into a nic

Musings on Children, Nature, and You!

It's only the second day of nature camp, and as a counselor I have already spent many hours of my free time after work studying things that I have missed so much during the past school year of papers and assigned readings... Last night, I studied Ohlone culture for an hour or two, taking notes for a lesson that I am facilitating on Friday about technology (mortar and pestle, bow and arrow, nets, snares, hot rocks, etc.), the natural landscape as it was 200 years ago in my hometown and surrounding area, and medicinal and useful plants. These are topics I avidly studied in high school on my own, back when I had more free time. Once I create the lesson plan for Friday, perhaps I'll post it here so others can use it, too. Tonight, I spent some time re-reading the biography of Opal Whiteley, an inspiring American nature enthusiast and writer who at the age of 5 began writing a nature diary in the woods near her home in Oregon. She was a remarkable person, and I remember being ve

UC Santa Cruz Bike to Work & School Day Adventures

On a typical Thursday, I wake up around 9 AM and make my way by bike or leg power to work in the Sustainability Office on campus. But today was no typical Thursday morning. Today is Bike to Work & School Day , which meant that my day began at 6 AM when my phone alarm went a-buzzin'. I hopped out of bed around 6:15 AM, ready to zoom down the hill to the base of campus. UC Santa Cruz is a pretty cool place to be a cyclist. You get a real challenge on the way up to campus and such a fantastically speedy and beautiful ride down after the day is done. Since I live on campus and I was volunteering at the base of campus to serve breakfast to cyclists, my morning began with that awesome ride, the bay in view and the flowery meadows in my peripheral vision. The view from the UC Santa Cruz bike path on a typical afternoon. Glorious!   It was great to connect with fellow students and community members who were also helping out at the breakfast station. At UCSC today, there were

My 21st B-Earth Day

  Yesterday, Monday, April 22, was my 21st b-earth day, and at 6:30 AM my phone buzzed with a text message from my aunt and uncle wishing me a happy birthday. Normally, I would respond thank you and then fall back to sleep for another couple hours. But something about knowing that it was Earth Day and my birthday made me think twice about closing my eyes. Ultimately, the morning mystery of early sunlight that I could see through my window got me up and out of bed and out the door into the morning. I walked to a garden near where I live and spent some time observing the little lettuces and other plants growing there. The view of the bay from the garden was stunning, and I felt so blessed and grateful for the morning and the place where I live. As I walked back, I noticed a sqaushed plastic water bottle by the grass, so I picked it up to recycle it. I kept walking and saw cigarette butts on the ground near some benches, so I picked them up and put them into the little ash tray bu

Alviso Adobe Community Park: My Experiences

I have been visiting the Alviso Adobe Community Park in Pleasanton, CA, since it opened in 2008. This video documents my amazing journey of learning experiences there, and it also serves as a way to share about the park's history and beauty. I have written a lot on this blog about my experiences at the park. Please click here to view those posts.

Hiking: A Social Cure for a Disconnected World

In addition to being great exercise and a way to get to really awesome places in the world, hiking is also one of my favorite social activities. Since the time I was old enough to hike around Pinecrest Lake, I was making the trek with my family, trying to keep up with uncles and cousins in my little hiking boots and sunhat. I've always been a hiker, and I continue to be one, especially since I live in a hilly forest off the coast of the Pacific Ocean. How can you not be a hiker when you live two minutes from hiking trails and views of the ocean? Given this interest in hiking and the opportunities for social engagement and community building that it offers, this past fall, a fellow student sustainability leader at UC Santa Cruz and I organized a hike into the Upper Campus trails that meander through forest and meadow above our university home. The goal was to bring together students, staff, faculty, community members interested in sustainability at UC Santa Cruz for a day hike to

My Family of Writers, and Why You Should Visit Jeune Gal's Blog

Before I introduce my younger sister, who last night began a blog of her own ( Jeune Gal ), I want to provide some background about my family. I come from a family of writers, each of us with a unique style and method of sharing our hearts and thoughts with the world. I have so much gratitude for the way I was brought up, always being read to and encouraged to write. My father recited Shakespeare to me when I was a really little kid, and perhaps the nectar of Shakespeare's language flowed into my developing brain and planted a seed that continues to grow each time a line of poetry or a storyline comes into my head. When I was seven, I applied to be a poet laureate in my hometown at the suggestion of my father, who later did become the poet laureate. Though I knew I wouldn't be selected, going through the process of submitting poetry and receiving a personal letter of encouragement from the committee was an empowering process that no doubt contributed to my continued insp

Why Fruit is Sustainably Fantastic

Have you ever realized that the most sustainably packaged, healthy, and portable snack out there is fruit? It comes with its own wrapper (its skin), it's good for your health and your soul (as my boyfriend always reminds me, fruit is designed by nature to be attractive and taste good... I say that anything whose sole intention is to make you feel good is good for the soul), and you can take fruit with you without hassle. Apples, bananas, oranges, peaches, and other hand-held fruits are especially portable, but strawberries, berries, and other smaller fruits are easy enough to carry in hand or in a basket. Can we all just take a moment to be grateful and exhilarated by the beauty that is fruit? Mmm, peaches at a local farm. Juicy and delicious and portable and not wasteful! Gorgeous, too!   Organic strawberries at the local farmers' market  

Philosophy of Teaching Statement

Effective teachers, educators, and mentors learn with their students, and they never stop seeing themselves as students. They are my third grade teacher who was actively involved in her community and took the time to learn about our families, to bring our families into the classroom, and to bring our class into her family’s home at the end of the school year. They are the college instructor who admitted his own philosophical questionings right there with us, giving the floor to students who were inspired by what they knew, empowering students to share and engage in class by acknowledging the value of their thoughts and passions. Even outside the classroom, every individual we meet—whether younger or older, student or teacher—has something to teach us, an ability to open up our perspective on the world so that we can make a connection and learn. Being open to listen to others’ teachings and the opportunities they bring to nourish the lives of those around them is what it means to live i