Forest | Arboreality
Mid-winter I enjoy reviewing my previous year and setting goals for the months ahead. Here’s a peek at what I’m up to, plus juicy links for you to sample:
Culture, Food & South Seattle Neighborhoods
My favorite projects of 2011 include writing for South Seattle neighborhoods like White Center and South Park. The best perks of these projects are a) eating good food on my lunch breaks, b) working with awesome people, and c) meeting Seattle merchants and hearing their stories. I use what I learn from each merchant interview to write business profiles, feature articles, and other collateral. Content I write is used for print and web promotions offered throughout the neighborhood and the greater Seattle area.
In White Center I help grocers spread the word about fresh, healthy food available within walking distance. With more than 30,000 residents speaking 50+ languages, White Center boasts many delicious globally-inspired local eats, as well as specialty grocery markets where folks can find ingredients for Southeast Asian, East African, Indian, Latin American, and Eastern European cuisines. (Learn more about activities in White Center neighborhood at the White Center Community Development Association.)
Just a few minutes’ ride from White Center is South Park, an old Seattle neighborhood with a uniquely urban-industrial heritage. Our goal with Catch the Culture is to attract customers to the 30+ retail stores and restaurants along 14th and Cloverdale. These businesses are feeling the squeeze from the closure of the South Park Bridge in 2010, which typically brings some 20,000 vehicles of customers per day to the neighborhood. South Park is a square-mile oasis of nearly 4,000 residents with a school, a farm, community centers, family homes, hundreds of unique businesses, and a pretty stretch of shoreline along Seattle City’s only river, the formidable Duwamish River (we’ll get back to the Duwamish another day – there’s more to say about this river than one paragraph will allow).
PS – That fabulous South Park logo (as well as the Brainripples logo) are the work of graphic designer Kathi “george” Wheeler at Noise w/o Sound. Whether you need design work for print, web, signage, whatever, george is the genius you want. Unless you want something boring and plain–in that case you’re looking for someone else.
Stories, Poetry & Midnight Madness
Whenever I get busy, I write poetry. A work-weary brain can be conducive to the weaving (and mis-weaving) of words. Each year I like to use January through March to mine poems from the previous year’s journals, and select usable pieces for revision and submission. I think I have about eight candidates worth looking at this month.
I may have forgotten to share here that my poem “Shore” won the Spring 2011 poetry contest for issue 3 of Line Zero (“Springtide” also appears in this issue). I’m grateful for the publication in a new indie arts journal, and I’m even more grateful to have discovered the Line Zero community. As my writer friend James Buescher used to remind me, I’m “not a joiner.” But joiner or no, I feel like I’m in good company in the Line Zero pages.
Last summer I made time (read: skipped sleep) to participate in another Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest hosted by Jason Evans (which, by the way, is a lot of fun for writers at every level). I’ve since taken my flash piece Solarrivum and rewritten it as a complete short story, which is now in its final stages of editing and actually kinda pleases me (which in turn makes me suspicious that it still needs drastic work). Soon I’ll begin the joy of submissions; I have my eye on a couple speculative fiction/slipstream journals. Speaking of which, feel free to join me sending good vibes for the speedy revival of GUD Magazine.
In January I started my latest fiction-in-progress, a story set in a Twilight-Zone-worthy cityscape. I have the basic structure and cast, and I’ve sketched the main character to get a sense for his needs. For this story I’d like to write a few cutthroat characters, so among my winter reading is Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet – an excellent choice I recommend to anyone seeking good examples of strong character voices.
Rot, Mud & Other Good Dirt
2011 left me with almost no time for garden and forest romping (as evidenced by a severe lack of blogging here at Brainripples). While I did get out into the wilderness for occasional recess, I didn’t even plant my cold frames last spring. That’s about to change. Greens, radishes, onions, and carrots are my usual pre-spring starters in the ground, and I’ll need to get a jump on corn and squash in the cold frames for transplanting to the hills once the warm weather returns in May/June. With any luck I will also find the time (and the necessary bandwidth) to blog from the garden in 2012.
Speaking of nature blogging, The Festival of the Trees has sprouted adventitious roots in the rich loam of the home blog. No longer a roving blog carnival, the Festival of the Trees accepts all tree, forest, and wood related submissions for consideration at treeblogging.com. Poet/Editor/Brainiac-at-Large Dave Bonta is diligently keeping the Festival alive, and he’s found some really cool stuff in recent weeks. Case in point: Goths up trees. Nuff said. (No, one more thing – if you want to see another cool project of Dave’s, check out Qarrtsiluni literary journal where he and Beth Adams are Managing Editors).
Which brings us to other good dirt. The compost pile I started moving in 2010 never made a complete relocation, but I did plenty of relocating to make up for it. After a busy 2010 I started 2011 renting the upstairs of a farmhouse in Hobart, where I stayed for six months to be closer to Seattle work. Making time to care for my health continues to be a priority, and I seem to be relearning how good health enables good writing (somehow the rhythm of writing hypnotizes and the mind can forget the needs of the body, like when I continue writing even though I had to pee some 90 minutes ago). It may seem as if an unwavering diet of persistence and sleep deprivation is a recipe for great writing, but to take that path the writer must gamble finished work against impending burnout, and these days I aim for finished work as often as possible (a habit I attribute to the sound recommendations of Seattle storyteller Anita Marie Moscoso). Finished work requires persistence and steady pacing, even if sleep deprivation is still on the docket.
Recently I read an older article in the Guardian about Philip Roth, yet another accomplished author of whose work I have not read enough. Among the best ideas I gathered from the article are Roth’s habits of writing while standing at a lectern (I’ve considered this for months now but have yet to try), and walking one-half mile for every page he writes. This winter I think I’ll count “bring in and stack the wood” in lieu of my half-mile, although if I apply that math retroactively to my current WIPs I’d have to say, there’s a lot of wood to bring in yet (especially if I want to get ahead of the next good snow storm).
Wanna help me shape my spring reading list? Share what’s good on your bookshelf this season, or tell me where I can read/view your latest work.
Here’s to a most excellent 2012 for all!
Get a healthy dose of tree-time with this month’s Festival of the Trees issue #65, now online at local ecologist courtesy of Dr. Georgia Silvera Seamans.
Behold, the colors of survival! This Japanese maple is making its best showing of fall colors in 10 years.
This tree’s early life included the combined challenges of multiple transplantings, puppy root-chewing, a stint of neglect during the Pennsylvania years, and finally a major hack job following a strange infection. Much healthier now, this tree reveals this season’s wonderfully slow autumn in the Pacific Northwest.
I love birds. They are an important part of my daily life: I listen for robins and towhees when I wake up on Spring mornings. I watch for night hawks at dusk in the summer. Juncos nitter and nest in my strawberries and thyme. The sweep of raven’s wings overhead seems to follow me year-round.
Birds also keep my gardens alive and interesting (thank you to all the birds whose purple poops have borne new volunteers to my flower beds). Wherever I live or travel, I discover new birds whose calls and silhouettes are inseparable from my favorite memories.
Today I’d like to draw your attention to one of the longest-living blog carnivals, which celebrates the ornithological: I and the Bird. Blog readers and writers alike share a true friend in blog carnivals. These online periodicals consist of collections of links to many different articles, photos, videos, podcasts, and other online media, all of which illuminate a single, special topic (such as trees, plants, or invertebrates).
If you enjoy the company of feathered friends and have a few hours to spare this summer, Mike of 10,000 Birds welcomes you to volunteer as a host for a future issue. You don’t have to be a birder or keep a birding blog in order to participate – just a desire to look up, listen, and share what you learn.
Even if you don’t have time to volunteer, you can help keep I and the Bird alive and soaring with three easy steps:
1) blog about birds
2) send in the link
3) spread the word
In this spirit I share the following images of the Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) at Big Beef and Seabeck Bay, as seen last Wednesday. I might have a diligent amateur’s success with tree photography, but I’m hopeless when it comes to birds (or anything else that doesn’t stand perfectly still for a photo shoot). Luckily for me, these herons were hunting for breakfast, and were not planning to move until the perfect catch swam by.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to sport a great, sweeping beard like this one?
Or to have the endurance to stand still for hours in the chill water beneath these mountains, waiting for lunch?
And herons aren’t the only birds dining in the estuaries…
Click here to read the latest issue of I and the Bird: “A few of my favorite wings” now online at Madras Ramblings, or submit your links today for the upcoming issue to be hosted at Twin Cities Naturalist.
Mike over at the Pacific Northwest Slugyard has some nice photos of nesting Great blue herons.
Know a better (or more interesting) resource? Tell us in the comments.
November 2010 was marked by our first road trip through the Great Basin region of Utah and Nevada. For the Thanksgiving holiday we rented a vacation home in the Pinyon-Juniper woodlands outside of Cedar City, Utah.
The home offers dog-friendly trails among cedars (Juniperus osteosperma) and piñons (Pinus edulis), which we enjoyed with a fresh, cold snowfall at our elevation of 6,000+ feet.
These two tree species and their companion shrubs form low, wind-twisted, sun-hardened canopies, and grow in what sometimes appears to be 90% rock.
Shaggy-barked Utah juniper is known locally as a cedar, and is the namesake of Cedar City in southwest Utah. The bright blue-red berries are in fact the fibrous cones and an important food source for local wildlife. A fresh lick of white snow makes blues, reds, and greens shine bright against the sky.
Piñon, as I learned from locals, are harvested for pine nuts by members of the community to be sold on the commercial market. (How often have you thought about the effort that goes into that little packet of pine nuts from the grocery?)
There is a bit of plant lore available for cedars here, and piñon here. I would like to know more of the local stories about these trees, and I plan to do additional reading. (Future blog posts will include a list of the books which I collected at info stops during the road trip.) If you have a resource suggestion for southwest Utah plant lore, I invite you to share in the comments.
The cedar-piñon canopy is low and somewhat fragmented, which makes for a fun tree-fort-like forest. Clumps of trees form dense, shady stands which you’d have to belly-crawl to explore beneath. At the highest point on the trail lives the queen of the hill:
She presides over 360-degree views of the Great Basin rhythm where mountain follows valley in successive, colorful symphonies. The more time I spent in this region, the more I felt a growing (and welcome) sense of quiet. The Great Basin is a good setting to empty oneself and prepare to be receptive to new thoughts or projects.
We saw a lot of snow and drove a lot of ice during this trip, including a “blizzard-like” event in Cedar City, complete with blowing, swirling snow. Morning snow track reports revealed the nightly comings and goings of jackrabbit, deer, elk, raccoon, and a feline, although I doubt I was lucky enough to be tracking a lynx. (Note to self: must improve track identification skills).
I caught a few glimpses of jackrabbits which makes me believe that the locals were the black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus Californicus), but I cannot be sure. In fact, had I known at the time that many hares turn white in winter, I might have had better luck spotting them! (The hawks clearly knew what was what, as we saw many hunting from the highway, plus one dino-sized bird, the identity of which remains a mystery).
Blog about trees and send your links for the next issue of the Festival of the Trees, hosted by Rebecca in the Woods. We’re looking for hosts from June forward. Got a blog and an interest in trees? Volunteer to host an issue of the Festival and grow a graft to your community of bloggers. Hosts from all disciplines and persuasions are welcome, as are fresh takes on trees and forests.
Plant geeks, high thee hence for botanical bounties à la Berry Go Round 37, courtesy of returning host The Phytophactor. (PS – Berry Go Round has open slots for hosts in 2011 as well. Volunteer your blog and your plant prowess!)
Forthcoming at Brainripples: more Utah road trip reports in coming weeks, some look backs at the 2010 garden, and satisfying book recommendations.