Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Body of Water

I am sitting on the porch-swing out front, enjoying the evening as the heat and humidity of the day start to wane, the cool breeze moves in, and the sky begins it's reliable show of splendor. I can now report from experience that Texas in the late summer is HOTHOTHOT, but that luckily the nights are beginning to cool off, enough to use a blanket when sleeping.

Just a couple of weeks ago at this time in the evening, I was sitting inside by the window enjoying the soothing sound and loamy smell of rain falling down, bringing much needed saturation to such a dry land. Tropical storm Hermina sent amazing downpours inland, the first real rain we had seen in this area in months. When I had returned to Texas at the beginning of August, temperatures were in the high 90's-low 100's, the garden was dried to a crisp, the yards were brown and scraggly, and the earth was pale and cracking into micro-canyons. Restrictions had been placed on outdoor water use in the area, burn-bans were in effect, and the only relief from the weather was found in swimming in the rivers or staying in the AC.

Despite my negative feelings towards the endless rains of Oregon, and despite it being a destructive storm in parts, Hermina's rain was so much appreciated and enjoyed. For a couple of days, it poured and poured, we didn't need to use the AC, and soups were cooked every night. And now the rivers are gushing onto the banks and covering footpaths, the yards are greening again, bushes are re-flowering, chard and basil are magically reappearing in the garden, and we once again feel surrounded by living things. It is amazing what a couple of inches of rain-water can do.

It is said that all of the water that exists today is the same water that existed when the dinosaurs lived. If this is true, and if our bodies are composed of 2/3 water, then we are literally made of the substance of our ancestors and the ancestors of our enemies, the same substance that has supported, and made possible, all of life, ever. Our children's children will be made of this same water, as well as the grandchildren of our enemies, and all living things that will ever exist. The water we drink becomes us. We pass it on for the same water to become the next living thing. Through water, we are given life and are connected to all of life. May we remember this when we drink a glass of water, wishing for health and sustenance for ourselves and for all of life, friends and foes alike.

Water. It is such an easy thing to not fully appreciate when it is in seemingly endless abundance: We turn on the tap, and there it is, as much as we *think* we need to use. During those stormy rainy days, I read the April 2010 issue of National Geographic which is wholly devoted to the subject of water and why we need to re-think how it is used. I recommend reading that issue. If you haven't read it, or would rather not, I have summarized some of it's most interesting and powerful points below for you to read instead. For I agree, it is time to not only re-think our water use, it is time to change our water use.

Leading climate change scientists have been warning us that because of human activities and high standards of living in industrialized countries, our resources, including clean water, are being depleted at a rate that calls into question whether these resources will be available for the entire life of the current generation being born. I was taught by my parents to leave a place I have visited in the same, if not better, condition than when I arrived. And so, I believe that we are responsible for ensuring that future generations have the joy and ease of living on a beautiful and bountiful earth, with easy access to clean water, air, and soil. Our children, our grandchildren, our selves.

"We have been slow to give up on the myth of Earth's infinite generosity. Rather grandly, we have overdrained our accounts." (Barbara Kingsolver) Yes, water will always exist, but will it be in a form available to us, will it be clean enough to consume, will we have access to it, what will we be able to use it for?


* 97% of water on earth is salt water, 2% is fresh water in the form of snow and ice, and the remaining 1% is available to us in the form of surface and ground water.

* Of this 1% available water, 2/3 is used to grow food.

* Worldwide, water aquifers are being drained from human consumption faster than they are being replenished. Droughts (which are increasing due to human induced climate change)and deforestation draw the water tables lower still.

* On average, each U.S. citizen uses 100 gallons of water/day at home (this does not include hidden water use due to agricultural and industrial consumption).

* By contrast, millions of people in developing countries use less than 5 gallons of water/day.

* Water is more expensive to provide to those who are the least able to pay for it.

* 46% of people worldwide do not have plumbing in their homes. 900 million have no access to clean water. 2.5 billion have no safe way to dispose of human waste, a public health crisis that accounts for 3.3 million deaths per year, mostly of children under the age of 5.

* Washing hands can cut diahrreal disease by 45%. But when you live on 5 gallons of water a day which took you 8 hours to collect, you may only spare enough water to wash your hands once a day, and to wash your clothes once a year.

* In developing countries, women and children walk an average of 3.7 miles to get "fresh" water(most often this water is brackish, bitter, and unfit to drink), with this distance increasing. In the NW Peruvian desert, women walk 8 hours a day to bring enough water home for their families. In N. Kenya, women walk 5 hours a day for water, carrying it in 5 gallon (50 pounds) containers on their backs.

* In Delhi, India, demand for water exceeds the available supply by over 300 million gallons a day. In a slum of 16 million people, there are only a few functioning water taps which run for only 1 hour a day. Cutting in line may lead to serious and sometimes deadly brawls.

* Dirty drinking water is due to chemicals used in agricultural and industrial activities, human and animal defecation, sediment, and salt.

* Imagine what a community could accomplish if their members didn't have to spend hours a day walking or standing in line for water: They could grow more food, raise livestock, start a buisness, maintain their health, have a full education, and have leisure time to enjoy life.

* By 2025, with an annual population increase of 83 million, nearly 2 billion people will live where water is extremely scarce.

* To supply our growing population, the efficiency of our water use needs to double in the next 20 years.

* 1/3 of the world's population, living in 12 countries, depend on rivers fed by snow and ice melt for their water. Because of climate change, the ice and snow are melting at a much faster rate than these resources are being replenished. In these other countries, we are seeing the direct effects of industrialized nations' emissions on climate change: a 1.3 degree F average increase in global temperature has led to a dramatic increase in the rate of ice melt, which in turn has led to swollen rivers swirling with sediment (making the water unfit to drink), flooding, landslides, erosion of topsoil, the displacement of people, decreased food production, and the eventual depletion of rivers.

* Conflicts are already arising between countries over competition for water access. In areas where ice melt is increasing, countries upstream are damming rivers to preserve their access to this quickly dwindling resource, while countries downstream are suffering from less access to what water is left. In the West Bank, Palestinians are prevented from digging their own wells. As their existing wells and natural springs run dry, they are forced to buy water from Israel, water that is literally pumped from the aquifer that runs under the West Bank land.

*In California, 70% of the water supply is in the northern part of the state, while 80% of the usage is in the southern part of the state. 70% of residential water use in southern CA is used outside of the home for lawns and pools, etc. In California, already many lakes and rivers have dried up, many wetlands and fish populations have been seriously harmed, from the state's water use. With a 2000 mile complex piping system of providing the state with water, another major earthquake could leave millions of Californians without water and could devastate food production in the state.

* 2 billion gallons of water are used every day to irrigate golf courses in the U.S. In Florida, an average of 3000 gallons are used for irrigation for every golf game played.

* 150 billion gallons of water are lost to evaporation from swimming pools in the U.S. every year.

* It takes 6 gallons of water to flush a conventional toilet, 37 gallons to fill a bathtub, and 15-25 gallons to take a shower.

* It takes 60% more water to support a meat based diet than a vegetarian diet. During the 3 year life of a cow, 816,600 gallons are used to support it's life. This will yield 440 pounds of boneless beef. 1,857 gallons are used to produce 1 pound of beef. In contrast, 43 gallons are used to produce 1 pound of beans.

* 2,900 gallons of water are used to manufacture 1 pair of jeans, 2,800 gallons for 1 cotton bedsheet, and 766 gallons for 1 cotton t-shirt.


1. Ask your municipality to reuse wastewater as irrigation in parks and other public green spaces.

2. If you golf in coastal areas, request that your golf club returf with Paspalum turf, which tolerates droughts and can be watered with saltwater from the sea. The salt will kill weeds, decreasing the need of pesticides while decreasing the use of our fresh water supply.

3. Disconnect your downspouts and recycle rainwater: Direct your gutters to flow to the base of trees or shrubs, or into a rainbarrel to use later for watering your garden. This will conserve water, decrease your water bill, and save energy and chemicals used in water treatment plants.

4. Remember that where you spend your money is a powerful tool. Supply will respond to demand. Support industries and dietary pathways that use less water, that make serious efforts to decrease their emissions, and that use less chemicals.

5. Eat less meat. Choose organic and chemical free produce, dairy, and meat. Eat locally grown food that is in season. This is all better for you, better for the farmers, and better for the health of the water, air, and soil that we depend on.

6. Support legislation and politicians that are working for emissions controls, clean renewable energy, and water conservation.

7. Donate money to organizations such as Wateraid,, CARE, Potters for Peace, and A Glimmer of Hope. Donate every month, donate once a year at Christmastime. These organizations depend on donations to be able to help those who depend on charity. Among many other awesome things, their projects include developing sanitary systems of human waste disposal, handwashing stations, hygiene education, community involvement and empowerment, and bringing clean water to the people via permanent plumbing infastructure and filtration systems.

8. Plant drought resistant plants in your yard. Decrease the amount of lawn you have to water, or stop watering your lawn. If you water your lawn and garden, water early in the morning or in the evening, not during peak heat of the day. Use drip irrigation, which uses less water because all water goes directly towards the roots of plants.

9. Save your dish water to water your plants, save your shower water to flush the toilet.

10. Install low-flow water saving fixtures on your shower head and other faucets, and in your toilet: purchase here and read more water saving tips.

11. When buying new appliances, buy energy star, low water use appliances.

12. Don't buy bottled water. Buy a stainless steel water bottle and fill it with filtered water from your tap. Carry this bottle with you everywhere. Not only will you save plastic and decrease your exposure to the chemicals leeched into the water from the plastic, you will help prevent water from becoming a commercialized commodity. And anyway, a lot of water is used to create each plastic bottle of water.

13. Educate yourself. Educate others. Teach through your examples.

14. Volunteer with a local environmental or water conservation organization with their clean-up projects. Or go for a walk next to a local river or lake and pick up any trash you see next to or in the water.

15. Leave comments on this blog posting with other suggestions of things we can all do to help with water quality and access.

16. Join me in my Reader Invitation, which is detailed below.


This is where reader participation is invited. For the next week, I invite, and challenge, you to change one of your water use habits. For one week, while you are showering turn the water off while you are sudsing up. This means that you turn the water on only when you are first getting wet and when you are rinsing off.

For those of you who already do this, choose another water saving challenge for yourself to do for the next week.

Everyone, please, if you are going to accept my invitation, please leave a comment on this blog posting to let me and other readers know. This is a community effort, after all. In a week, or sooner if you would like, we can all repost in the comment section to check in with each other, share our experiences and thoughts, and support and learn from each other. SO, give it a go! And invite other friends or family to join us in this positive challenge. A week is not really that long, and think of all the water you will be saving so that someday someone will have enough water to drink.

For myself, this challenge actually began when I was living at the orphanage in Mexico this spring. We didn't have hot water, so the showers were refreshingly cold (I would wait till the hot of the afternoon to take my shower). Since I have been back from Mexico, I have maintained that habit of turning the water off in the shower other than when I am rinsing. I take showers every other day. And I shave my legs with a little bit of water in the bathroom sink. Since I have already been doing this for quite awhile, I will give myself the task of saving my dish water to water plants with for this coming week. Woo-hoo!

Thank you for reading and for participating!!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

As Summertime Wanes In Texas

I have been back in Texas for a little over a month now. Life is returning to a quiet pace, yet is still rich with wonder and adventure. In brief, this is what I have been up to:

I finally made it to Austin for the first time, where we swam in the refreshing 68 degree water at Barton Springs on a 105 degree day, as well as to the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk:

There have been lots of trips to swim in the nearby rivers:

I have been honing my new skills of hula-hooping, wall texturing, and rock painting:

It should be noted that I have also acquired a bag of clay, and have big plans for a few projects! I am so excited to return to one of my passions!

I spent a little time working with a family while they searched for someone who could make a more long term committment than I am able to. They are a family with a 20 year old autistic son, a 14 year old very independent and musically talented son, and a 3month old baby boy, who they just adopted. It was fun to learn a little about autism, and lovely to hold a sweet little baby, falling asleep in my arms, once again. I have also been working at Lucas' dad's house for a little extra cash. Louis is in the Peace Corps in Panama, and while he is away, we are doing some remodeling for him. So far my tasks have included painting trim, picking out paint colors for the rooms, peeling ancient wallpaper and paint, and texturing walls, my newest skill to enjoy.

Lucas and I have been daydreaming about our Healing Arts Bed and Breakfast Retreat Center. We found the perfect location: An entire island in the caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua is for sale for a mere $575,000. There is already a house built on the beautiful tropical island, fruit trees growing, and enough room to build individual bungalows and other outbuildings. If you feel inspired to throw down for us, by all means, we would love to realize this dream and share the island with you! ;)

Speaking of Lucas, here is an amazing picture that my sweet man took:

Several of Lucas' family members have been visiting Kerrville this summer. It has been great to get to know the family better, and to be a part of their fun times together. They are a wonderful group of people, and having them around gives us all the social excuse to sample good wines and beers and eat amazing homecooked and Mexican restaurant meals.

Yes, I love to eat well! I have been doing lots of experimenting in the kitchen, myself. I have been making my own yogurt from raw milk that we get direct from a farmer, dehydrated raw crackers and cookies, baba ganoush, and lots of random yummies. The following are my newest recipes for a delicious asian-style meal:

* 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
* 3/4 inch chunck ginger, peeled and finely grated
* 2 tsp. sesame seeds
* 1/8 cup lemon juice
* 1/8 cup water
* 2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
* 1 Tbsp. agave syrup
* 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
* 8 oz. tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
* fresh cilantro, chopped, as garnish

Combine first 7 ingredients. Mix well. Add tempeh, mixing enough to coat all chunks with the sauce. Marinate tempeh for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Saute tempeh and sauce over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice, topped with cilantro. Serve with my delicious Eggplant-Miso soup.

* 3 cups eggplant, skinned and chopped
* 4 shitake mushrooms, chopped
* 2 small carrots, chopped
* 1/4 red onion, chopped
* 1 stick burdock root, chopped
* 3 Tbsp. coconut or olive oil
* 4-5 cups water
* 1/4 cup miso paste
* salt
* 1/2 sheet nori, torn into inch pieces

Saute all chopped veggies in oil for 5 minutes. Add water, salt, and nori. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add miso. Blend. Serve up and enjoy!! Mmmmmm.

Despite all of my healthy eating, I somehow happened upon a nasty food-poisoning incident that knocked me off my feet for almost 4 full days. I am so glad that is over! I recovered enough to catch the tail-end of the Kerrville Wine and Music Festival ("Little Folk," as compared to the "Big Folk" festival that I wrote about in May/June). Performers included the amazingly talented 21 year old John Fullbright (who I also saw at a house concert last night), Kevin Welch, The Trishas, and Snarky Puppy. An awesome night of music! Soon I will be seeing one of my favorite musicians, Michael Franti, in Austin! Woo-hoo! Read about him on his website, for not only is he a good artist, he also uses his music as a vehicle for charity work and raising awareness of social issues. He is an inspiration.

Well folks, other than all that, I have been doing lots of writing. I am already working on my next blog post. It will be carrying a different tone than most of my posts, as it will focus on the subject of water use, rather than on me, and things we can all do to help preserve healthy water for not only future generations, but for our own future as well. This is increasingly becoming a very very important issue. So, please please.....Stay tuned! In my next post, reader participation will be invited!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summertime Rolls Along, On and On

Oregon. My second Home. The place where I fell in love with the forest, where I found a second family in a circle of friends, where I spent nearly a third of my life learning and growing and becoming a fuller more confident version of my authentic self, where I let myself sink my roots deep down, and where I finally chose to lift those roots up. Living in Portland was a wonderful chapter in my life, mostly because of the people I shared it with. And ending this chapter was a hard process, one that literally lasted for years as I slowly reconciled leaving my community in order to separate from the city-life and climate that no longer suited me. And so, my month long return visit to Portland this summer was a mix of delights and of confirmations that I made the right choice in moving away. The highlights were many, and I am so grateful for them.

Immediately after arrival in Portland, I was swept away to the Oregon Country Fair, one of my favorite events of the year, and where I was reunited with many good friends.

Returning to the Fair after a year away is much like seeing good friends or family, after so much time apart; no matter how much time has passed, it feels like we haven't been separated, that no time has gone by since we last hung out, nor since the last time I walked the paths through the Fair grounds. It feels like the day after we were last together, like we are picking up right where we left off. Maybe it is the familiarity and comfort, maybe it is the proof that real friendships never die, maybe it is that part of me is always with the people and the places I love.

So, of course the Fair was filled with the usual inspiring and wacky costumes, beautiful artisan wares, fabulous music, delicious food and drinks, late night dance parties, and the typically unusual 3a.m. adventures on dimly lit pathways with friends and interesting strangers.

My musical highlights this year included: The Vita Girls, Alice DiMicele, my friend Cassandra Robertson, Jaya Lakshmi, Ras Gabriel, Ondrej Smeykal, and these two fellas playing the Hang Drums on the pathway:

Called The Oregon Renaissance Faire from it's beginning in 1969 until 1977 when it became it's present name, The Oregon Country Fair is held on the previous gathering site of the Kalapuya tribe along the Tom Long River outside of Eugene, Oregon. Giant puppets, stilt walkers, parades, fire-dancing, vaudeville and daredevil acts, pathside buskers, and much more help to create the magic that is this annual event.

OCF draws an average of 45,000 people every year during the 3 days that it is open to the public from 11-7. The volunteers total around 4,000 and have the added privledge of staying in the Fair grounds overnight for additional entertainment and extravagence. Once one has been able to stay in overnight, one rarely wants to go back to being just a day-time participant. But these special passes are a hot commodity, often hard to come by. I have been lucky to have a regular pass for 5 years now with a vendor booth (of which there are 350) which sells didgeridoos (a traditional wind instrument from Australia) and handpainted Native American drums.

I work on the didgeridoo side of the booth, for the artist and renowned teacher Allan Shockley.

It is such a great group of people who run this booth, I feel so lucky. And after so many years of working at this booth, I am finally learning a little bit about how to play this ancient instrument.

Other trips outside of the Portland proper include: A wonderful day-hike with Sarah in the Columbia River Gorge at Wahkeenah Falls:

A hike to swim at the Sandy River followed by a night of camping on a friend of a friend's property in Corbett:

And a delicously relaxing and revitalizing overnight trip to Breitenbush Hot Springs with Christine. Here we soaked, ate amazing food, star-gazed, dipped in the ice-cold snow melt river, and unexpetedly ran into other friends. Chetana led us on a hike and facilitated an intorductory workshop about Byron Katie's "The Work." Yes, Breitenbush is one of my favorite places on Earth:

Other than these little trips, I didn't leave Portland during the rest of my visit. I actually wasn't very mobile while in Portland, because I had the fabulously freeing exerience of selling my car! For this month stay in the city, I relied heavily on the moderately accessible bus system, my feet, and the good will of friends who gave me rides or let me borrow their cars. (THANK YOU!!) It was certainly a different way to exerience the city...slower, grimier, and much more sustainable. And it definitly helped me to see and experience the culturally diverse side of Portland, which is easy to miss when you transport by car. This felt great, like being the minority as I was in Mexico!

It would take me ages to write about all of the people I got to spend time with in Portland. And unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of all the people and events. There were so many wonderful homecooked meals and outings to favorite restaurants with friends. Picnics at parks to celebrate the birthdays of all the Leo's and to hear live music. Tuesday nights at the Press Club for half-off wine. Walks along the river downtown. Sleepovers. Late night teas. A baby shower/Blessingway for the midwife I trained with. And lots of just hanging out.

I enjoyed going to classes at my favorite yoga studio, The Bhaktishop, every week, spending time in my old neighborhood, and relishing in the cool summertime weather in Portland, though it was far cooler than normal for this time of year. I did quite a bit of house/pet sitting while in Portland, for a few different friends.

And I got to spend nice times with the kids I used to work with. Willa and Lily's family had me over to dinner one night, with Esti, the girl who was part of the nanny-share. We all immediately fell back into our old story-times and games, a morphed version of Mom/Kid, Harry Potter, and Witch, yet this time a more mature version and easier for all to particiate. Oh, it was so good to squeeze them all!

I also had the joy of staying with Charlotte for 2 nights while her parents had a much needed getaway. It was awesome to see how Charlotte has grown, all of the big developmental shifts she has happily accomplished, and all of the ones she is so determined to reach soon. It was a gift to have this time bonding with her again. She is such a love, and so inspiring in her sweet determination and joy-filled manner. It was an extra treat to go to her cranio-sacral and physical therapy appointments.

My beautiful and delightful God-daughter Zia celebrated her 2nd year of life. It was awesome to spend time with her and her parents, play with her, pick blackberries, and see her glowing in a social buzz at her birthday party.

Ah yes, the children. All of the children in my life are so special to me! If nothing else, they are what help me mark the passage of time. While things in Portland seemed to still be going on as usual since my February departure, the children had all grown and changed so much! They were what helped me feel how long I had been gone, how much had occured since I left. All of my friends children and the girls I nannied for are becoming their own little vibrant independent beings, bright fabulous loving souls brought up by beautiful people. And Hannah, Sarah's daughter, who I have known since she was 4 or 5, is now 15 and radiating a graceful strength and confidence that is refreshing and charged. At different gatherings, I saw many of my former midwifery and childbirth-ed clients with their children who I helped usher into the world. These children are not babies as I last saw them, but 3 or 4 year olds! How amazing!

A last high-light of my time in Portland was a 2 day introductory workshop I took on Craniosacral therapy, a field I plan on doing further trainings in. Taught by Carol Gray, this workshop was fabulous and so inspiring to me. It raised my confidence that this is work I can do, and helped me to confirm the direction I want to take on my path of working with children. In addition to more craniosacral trainings, I plan on learning other modalities like infant massage and reflexology, combining these all to do physically and emotionally therapuetic work with infants and toddlers. This really excites me, and I would like to thank Charlotte and her therapists for being my inspiration.

As I said before, my time in Portland was a mixed bag. Although it was full of so many awesome experiences, there were a few challenges that affirmed for me that moving was a good choice. The traffic, the city smells and commute times, the busy pace of life, the unavoidable need to spend lots of money, the feeling of not seeing friends often even though I am surrounded by them, and the climate. There is something about the climate of Portland, even in the summer, that has an ill effect on me. In my short time there this summer, my psoriasis got worse, my comlextion got worse, plantar warts returned, and the arthritis I had with my Lyme's disease 4 years ago started to return (all of these conditions have improved or disappeared since once again being back in Texas :). My body was telling me to go back to the warm dry sun of Texas, and my soul was telling me that the quiet slow life in Texas is more suited to my personality and the ways of my soul. And I was ready to return. Ready to be back with Lucas, ready to be still for awhile, find employment, get grounded and focused, and be in the land that is more reflective of the makings of my being.

Thank you Portland. Thank you dear friends. Thank you family. I am grateful for such a wonderful summer!