Best Kept Secrets

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I seem to have stumbled upon two of the Seattle area’s best kept secrets. The first is the neighborhood where I just bought my house. It’s a hidden little hamlet that most people do not even realize exists. Therein lies its charm. We don’t get a lot of visitors. The hubbub is kept to a bare minimum. It’s the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, and you feel like you can keep your doors unlocked. (But I resist that urge, in case you’re wondering.)

When I get within a quarter mile of home, it’s like I’ve entered an oasis after having spent weeks in a desert, and I’m about to plunge into a crystal blue spring. It feels good to scrub off the dust of the trail, figuratively speaking. Bliss.

The second is a public park within walking distance of my house. I never see many people there, and once you’re about a block off the highway, even though we’re not that far from the bustle of Seattle, it’s as if you’ve plunged into a forest primeval. Nature just runs right up to you and cradles you in its arms.

It is a place where you can soak your feet in a cool mountain stream on a hot summer’s day, or lie in a field, gazing up, up, up at old growth forest. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to have a getaway like this, practically in my own back yard. It takes my breath away. I can’t wait to see how it changes with the seasons!

And if you think for one second that I’m going to tell you where these gems are, you are out of your mind. Finding serenity and peace in this area is as rare as hen’s teeth. If you have a place like this, guard it with your life.

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Food Forests

God, how I love living in Seattle! These people know how to think outside the box. They’ll do crazy things that, once done, make absolute perfect sense, and you’ll say to yourself, “Why isn’t anyone else doing this?”

Case in point: the Beacon Food Forest. On a 7 acre patch of Urban Seattle, they are in the process of developing a forest of fruit, nuts, and berries and will encourage the public to freely forage therefrom. Now, how cool is that?

This place will provide education about healthy eating, and provide the resources to do so for those who desperately need or want them. It will also provide community garden space for families at a cost of only 10 dollars a year in a city where land is at a premium. There is absolutely no downside to this idea.

I have often seen homeless people in public parks and thought that if the trees in those parks only bore fruit, it would help their situation considerably. And that’s something that wouldn’t be particularly hard to do. And now Seattle has gone and done it. Amazing.

Once this space is completely developed, according to NPR’s The Salt, this will be the largest urban food forest on public land in the United States. I couldn’t be more proud of this community.

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How the Food Forest will look when complete.

[Image credit: beaconfoodforest.org]

Exploring Seattle — Part Four

One of the things that charms me most about this area is the abrupt transitions. Each neighborhood has its own style, and when you cross the boundary from one to the other, BAM! You are in it, man, and no apologies.

That was especially true today. I only traveled 3 miles from my front door and I was transported to a completely different world. The change was so sudden it was actually kind of unsettling. But then it fascinated me and filled me with joy.

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I turned the corner into Carkeek Park and was plunged into a dense forest. I half expected to see Hobbits making their way warily through the underbrush. The hills and switchbacks and lush greenery reminded me of vacations I used to take from Florida to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but that was a 7 hour trek. This only took me a few minutes. As I always do in this type of environment, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in ages. There’s something about that combination of moss and rocks and moist underbrush that says home to me. It always has. Maybe I was a snail in another life. Either way, I would never have guessed I was still within city limits if I had been transported here while sleeping.

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And then, even within the park itself, BAM! Another transition. Suddenly I was afforded a fishy smell and a sweeping view of Puget Sound, complete with a driftwood scattered beach. (Florida waterways don’t smell fishy. But I’m getting used to it and attaching it in my mind to beautiful landscapes, just as one does with the smell of cows in farmland after a while. “Fresh country air!” my mother used to say.)

The sign says that baby seals often rest on this beach from July to early September, so I’m going to have to come back and check that out. Today, though, I simply sat on a bench and took in the view while eating a grinder that I had purchased at a local sandwich shop. (Grinders, for the edification of my Southern friends, are what the locals call Subs. I’m starting to learn the lingo.)

As I ate, one by one I was surrounded by ravens. That was kind of creepy. Shades of Alfred Hitchcock. But they merely stared at me, willing me to drop some food on the sidewalk. I didn’t, though. It was too yummy.

After my selfish little meal, I took a walk on some of the hiking trails, and was treated to the sound of a babbling brook with crystal clear water. Yeah, it probably wasn’t as clean as it looked, because it is city runoff after all, but I enjoyed the fantasy. For a little while I forgot there was anyone else for miles.

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Another cool thing about this park is that there’s quirky art scattered near all the parking areas. It makes it fun and adds a sense of humor to the place without really encroaching on the landscape. I love how the citizens incorporate art without invading around here.

I plan to explore this park during the various seasons, because I suspect it will reveal many different personalities to me. I love knowing that this place is just 3 miles away. If I need a getaway and have no money or little time, this will be where I go.

Nifty Websites that Junk Mailers Do NOT Want You to Know About

It seems these days that the US Postal Service is mainly a purveyor of junk mail. When’s the last time you got an actual letter from Aunt Mabel? I miss those. What I won’t miss are the catalogs, flyers, credit card offers and magazines that I never asked for and do not want. With the holidays coming up, it will only get worse.

According to rainforestmaker.org, more than 4 million tons, or at least 62 billion pieces of junk mail are printed yearly. And 40 percent of that junk never even gets opened. Imagine how much more rain forest we’d have right now if each one of us stood up and said no to all this crap?

Well, you can do that. And it only takes a few minutes. Please visit this website and opt OUT of all this stuff today! It won’t cost you a dime. https://www.dmachoice.org/

And while you’re at it, opt out of getting phone books, too! Who uses phone books anymore anyway? https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/

For countries other that the United states, if you have similar websites, please print the links in the comment section below. And if your country does not provide you with the ability to do this, ask them why not!

I may not be the Lorax, but I think I can speak for the trees on this one. Thank you.

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Contemplating Trees

Today is Arbor Day. I bet a distressingly small number of people are even aware of that. It is a day to plant trees and appreciate those trees that already exist. Today I’m thinking about the forest and our relationship to it.

Many rears ago, I used to vacation in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. I’d rent a cabin for two weeks, take my dogs and a whole bunch of books and groceries, and just go. I wouldn’t see another human being the entire time. I’d have no telephone and no television, and this was before the internet, so being on line wasn’t even a concern. I’d sit on the porch and read. I’d take a nap. I’d cook something and eat. But mostly what I’d do is watch the wind in the trees. Pure heaven.

My coworkers thought I was crazy. “Weren’t you scared?” they would say. But to be honest I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Not even for a second. Not even at night. It’s humans that are scary, if you ask me. No tree has ever done me harm. And there were no humans for miles. If a serial killer were persistent enough to find me, let alone kill me, then he would deserve to succeed after all that work. No, I am much more fearful in the big city than I am in the deep forest.

But forests show up in our myths and scary movies for a reason. When you are surrounded by pure nature, as far as the eye can see, you sense life. It’s easy to feel paranoid. Normally we place walls between ourselves and this type of life, so when you make the effort to surround yourself by a thick blanket of it, just you and nature, it can be overpowering.

I don’t look at forests that way. I don’t view them as malevolent. I feel the celebration of life. I see the beauty of creation. I feel embraced and at peace. I feel like I’ve come home.

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The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

As an extra treat, I give you this link. It’s a radio interview with David George Haskell, a biologist who spent a year studying just one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. He’d go there every single day and just observe. And he has some profound things to say about what he learned. “We find wonder in the world by giving the world our attention, not by running around the world to find the most wonderful place, but to look at our homes, look at the places where we are in a new light, and that light is the light of our focus and concentration. And by doing that, whether it’s in a square meter of forest or a particular trail through an urban neighborhood, or a tree in a park, as we focus in, we see more and more, and the riches unfold in front of us.” It’s a fascinating interview. Check it out.

Happy Arbor Day. Hug a tree, people!