EcoSikh

I was feeling a little blue today about the state of the world, so I sought solace in The Good News Network. It always reminds me that not all news has to leave me feeling hopeless. That’s how I came across this uplifting article entitled Sikhs Are Celebrating the Birth of Their Beloved Founder by Planting 1 Million Trees in 2019.

There’s a large community of Sikhs in my town, and I have a great deal of respect for them, because they’ve always treated me with respect. Isn’t that how all human beings should treat one another? You’d think that would be obvious.

Unfortunately, since 2016, hate has been ramping up in America, to the point where one Sikh man in my town was in his driveway, working on his car and minding his own business, when a man approached him and said, “Go back to your own country,” and shot him in the arm. (Read the Seattle Times article here.) That’s scary.

My instinct in these situations is to try to learn more about people, not remain ignorant. Ignorance is where hate resides. So whenever I see anything about the Sikh culture, I read it with great interest.

After reading the above-mentioned article, I was drawn to the EcoSikh website, and yes indeed, 1 million trees is the goal, and Sikh communities the world over are taking part in it. Since the majority of Sikhs live in Punjab, India, every village there is dedicating themselves to planting 550 trees. Can you imagine? New forests are being planted! And Sikhs in Australia, England, Kenya, Canada and the US are on board as well.  And each group is making an effort to only plant trees native to their area. I find this really exciting.

Any group that has such a love for our planet is alright by me. May they succeed in their mission. I have planted a tree or three in my lifetime, so on this Earth Day, and indeed every other day, I stand with the Sikhs.

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There Are Dreams and Then There Are Dreams

I pass by this plaque every time I visit the post office in Kent, Washington.

Plaque

I have very mixed emotions about it.

Of course I’m happy that coworkers cared enough about Douglas J Hansen to memorialize him after his death. I do like the quote, “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.” But the older I get, the more I realize that there are dreams, and then there are dreams.

Doug Hansen was 46 years old when he died. No one should die at 46. My life was only just beginning at that age, and I’ve had so many amazing experiences since then. Life is priceless.

He died after having climbed to the top of Mt. Everest. That’s a formidable achievement, especially when you consider the fact that it was his second attempt. He died on the way back down the mountain.

Normally I’d say good for him. He had a dream. He went for it. And he reached his goal before he died.

But the story is a little more complicated than that. According to Wikipedia, a storm was headed toward the mountain, and everyone knew it. They just didn’t realize how severe it would be. As it increased in intensity, one of the most experienced Sherpas on the mountain that day encountered Hansen and ordered him to descend. Hansen shook his head and continued upward.

He took too long. By the time he reached the summit and started his descent, in a raging storm with depleted oxygen reserves, it was too late. He paid for it with his life. A total of 8 people died on that mountain that day. Ignore experts at your peril.

I understand why Hansen would be reluctant to give up. After all, it was his dream, and he’d already failed once. Also, climbing Mt. Everest isn’t cheap. On average, it costs $70,000 to $100,000. It must be frustrating to shell out that kind of money twice only to fail twice. Obviously, he was very determined.

But was it worth his life, or that of the guide who stayed with him? I’m thinking no. I say, live to dream another day.

Do I think we should all huddle on our couches, afraid to take risks, devoid of aspiration? No. But you should do a thorough cost/benefit analysis before putting your life on the line. I think it’s foolhardy to give up everything, absolutely everything, especially when you have no idea what your future holds.

Life is full of possibilities. But instead of exploring those possibilities, Doug Hansen’s body has never been found. It’s frozen stiff somewhere on Mt. Everest, and there’s nothing but a tombstone for him in the same graveyard in Renton, Washington where Jimi Hendrix is buried, and a memorial plaque outside a post office in Kent. That seems like a poor trade off to me.

What do you think?

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A Barn Razing

For 100 years, this barn looked over a field in Kent, Washington.

The barn.jpg

It was a proud barn, a working barn, for much of its life. Before its retirement, it was home to two horses, lovingly referred to as “Mr. Ed” and “Mr. Red”, along with a crazy four-horned Jacob Sheep (“Jake”), a small goat named “Billy”, and an aggressive goat called “Beavis” (because “Butt-Head” seemed too rude.) The barn kept them warm, and sheltered them from storms.

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And then, one day, just like that, the farmer and his animals went away. The land was sold to the city with the stipulation that it remain an undeveloped public park, and the barn stood alone and abandoned for the next 9 years. But its neighbors still loved it, despite the meter-high mounds of pigeon poop that had accumulated inside over time.

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The city was not nearly as in love with the barn as its residents. They feared squatters and arsonists. They feared liability if anyone were to break in and get hurt. So they scheduled it for demolition.

As the clock wound down toward its demise, someone removed the upper barn door. For many months the barn looked as if it was cold, wounded and crying out. Save me. I don’t want to go.

Barn Door Missing.jpg

Winter barn with no door

Soon, some of the wood on the side was stolen, and graffiti artists moved in. It was an undignified end for such a grand structure. Some people have no respect, and no sense of history.

Barn graffiti

And then, on the thirteenth day of March, 2019, it happened. The barn was torn down, piece by piece. Here’s a time lapse of it.

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It was a sad day. It was strange to see how quickly it all ended after such a long-standing legacy. Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

The one bright light in all of this is that the wood and the rusty metal roof were salvaged and will be used to build yet another barn somewhere in Eastern Washington. So in a way, our beloved barn lives on. There will be animals for it to shelter once again.

Some day, years from now, people will walk their dogs across this field and not even realize what came before. But some of us will always see this as the place where a beautiful barn once proudly stood. And, oh, it will be missed.

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Coyotes

I was standing in a big, dirty parking lot in the industrial part of town. Think concrete and gas fumes. It would be difficult to find a less natural setting. And it was raining, causing rivulets of polluted snowmelt to criss cross the pavement as far as the eye could see.

That’s when I spotted her. A coyote, running down the sidewalk as semi trucks blasted past. She looked mangy and emaciated. I’ve never seen anything that looked so feral in my life.

I was fascinated, but also glad that she hadn’t come too close. There was something surreal about seeing her there. It was almost like she was floating in outer space. This should not be her environment.

She was focused on her mission, whatever that may have been. She didn’t acknowledge me, although I’m sure she was acutely aware of my presence. Nothing was going to get in her way, not even an 18 wheeler. And she was quiet. If I hadn’t been looking that direction, I’d have never known she was there.

I had never come face to face with a coyote before. I know they’re around. I sometimes hear them howling in the park behind our house. It always gives me a frisson. And it makes me worry for my Dachshund.

But to see one is something else again. It’s like being confronted by the raw power of nature. Even in her weakened state, I had no doubt that she was stronger than me, and much more capable of surviving.

At the same time, I felt sorry for her, living on the ugliest, dirtiest fringes of human civilization. We have done this. We have encroached. She shouldn’t have to live like this.

None of us should have to live like this.

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Hanscom Voter Syndrome. A Disease Worth Avoiding.

Election day has come and gone here in King County, Washington State. We had less than a 26 percent turnout. That astounds me. The state of Washington makes it so easy to vote that it seems like pure heaven to this Florida girl.

In Florida, you had to wait for hours in the hot sun, sometimes only to be turned away. And you had to do your own homework to figure out who to vote for. Here, you vote by mail, and at least a week before the election you get a nice thick magazine that gives you information about every single candidate and issue so you can make an informed choice. If you don’t want to pay for the stamp to mail your ballot, there are free election drop boxes in many convenient locations. I’m surprised they don’t send a personal courier to your home, such is the ease of voting around here. And yet people still don’t vote. Stunning. Shameful.

But then there are some people who vote who clearly don’t take it seriously, either. It seems that some will vote for any clown who tumbles out of the political clown car, regardless of his fitness for duty. (Yeah, yeah, we learned this when Trump got elected, but silly me, I thought that would be all the lesson we would need. Apparently not.)

Case in point: Here’s the personal statement of Russell L. Hanscom, who ran for City of Kent Council Position No. 6. This isn’t a joke. It actually came from our voter’s magazine.

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So, here’s a guy who’s coming right out and saying he isn’t sure he wants the job, and that if he gets it, odds are good that he won’t be effective. One wonders why he bothered to run at all. He actually said in a television interview that he was just being honest, and yet he expected it to be a tight race.

Personally, I couldn’t vote for or against him, as I don’t reside in the City of Kent. I would have LOVED voting against him, though. It seems like a no-brainer to me. The only thing that would have made me more certain was if someone had gotten him on tape bragging that he liked to grab pussies. (No. I’m not saying he did that. That was our president.) But apparently even that wouldn’t slow the voting public down.

Fortunately, the race wasn’t close at all. He got less than 28 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Brenda Fincher, got the rest. Yay!

But here’s what freaks me out: He got 3,616 votes. Seriously. 3,616 people read his statement, and apparently thought that commitment and effective representation were not qualities that they find to be particularly important in their city council, so they voted for Russell. Or maybe they didn’t bother reading his statement at all. Maybe they just didn’t want to vote for his opponent, an African American woman. That thought is equally scary to me, especially after reading her personal statement and getting the sense that she actually gives a damn about her city, and has worked quite hard for it.

Was Russell’s statement honest? Yeah. He definitely told it like it is. But he’s telling you that he’s going to be indifferent and a waste of human flesh, people! You think that’s funny? You think that’s admirable? Why?

Trump disease is still alive and well in this country. I will now think of it as HVS: Hanscom Voter Syndrome. And it makes me weep for those of us who have to live with the results. This time we got off easy. (If you think having one’s time wasted in any election is easy.)

At a bare minimum, Hanscom’s statement is insulting to those of us who take the process seriously. Please explain why we are setting the bar so low. I just don’t get it.

Congratulations, Brenda Fincher! Score one for the good guys! For a change.

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