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A PUBLIC INSTITUTION USING PUBLIC FUNDS TO POISON THE PUBLIC

environment, pesticides, UWM

Arms and legs bare, the two coeds sat directly on UWM grass and smiled at each other as they chatted. I slowed my bike. Would they glare at me or thank me if I said something? I kept going. The usual Pesticide Application Keep Off the Grass signs were posted, block after nauseating block, and one stood not far from the girls.

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AMAZED TO STILL BE GOING STRONG

climate, Earth Poets & Musicians, environment, events, global warming, open mic, performance


When the Coffee House invited eco-poet Jeff Poniewaz to perform there in April 1988, Jeff expanded the invitation. He brought along approximately nine more environmental activist poets, and called our group The Earth Poets.

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THE BUT OF A BAD JOKE

climate, climate change, environment, global warming, poem

For a week I have to admit
Each morning I awaken, blink, sit
and sing, “Welcome sweet springtime we greet thee in song”
BUT wait, no, we haven’t had winter yet, I guess I’m wrong
BUT, BUT, it’s February
Already?
What about December? Collards still edible,
Broccoli and lettuce, felt incredible
January? oh gawd, January thaw
Maybe nature changed her law
Spring does start, in March, as I remember
Should never never begin in November
BUT BUT BUT I know
we’re gonna have ice, gonna have snow
temp surely will drop to sub-zero
down down down to thirty below
OK, I heard, winter starts tomorrow
will last two days, then spring for a day, winter for three,
then spring back, to tease me
All this is just
Gaia telling us
Global warming does exist, does exist
Earth’s not simply sunkissed
We’re gonna be sunburned
Put in the oven, cooked to a turn
Extreme is the beam that crisps our skin
Extreme is the beam that’s doing us in
Extreme ice, shakes, quakes, flood
Tsunamis, hurricanes, sliding mud
Our climate’s under a magnifier
Sometimes wetter, sometimes dryer
Records set for droughts, forest fires,
So why are there more and more climate deniers?
Gaia’s fracking angry, frack frack frack
It’s we who should shake as Gaia pays us back
Frack frack frack pays us back BUT why?
It’s because we gobble too much of the pie,
It’s because we gobble too much of the pie,
 

I WOOD IF I COULD

art, Earth Poets & Musicians, environment, events, exhibits, family, poem, Rosenblatt Gallery, paintings, drawings

The weeping willow dances in the breeze, and so do I.
But the willow has a different choreographer, though sometimes I give it a try,                                                try to choreograph the trees with my brush or pen,
and they dance according to my whim.
And sometimes the trees choreograph me,
not from just their outside appearance, from their in.
For when I paint on wood, I let the grain below
my brush tell it where to go.

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STUFF STUFF

climate change, environment, poem, stuff

We dipped into spring for a while before churches chimed midnight on 12/31/10. Spring didn’t lead into summer, instead lead to midwinter mutters, though it wasn’t midwinter. Yes, 2011 began with howls of wind.

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STRANGERS AND STRANGERS

environment, pesticides, incident

There’s a corner house a block from ours, and every time I pass, I inspect the lawn. I want to be sure there are dandelion leaves.

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WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

corporations, environment, health, cancer

I thought you might like to have a direct link to the May, 2010, report issued by the President's Cancer Panel. It's on the National Institute of Health's web site, and experts expected it to make a big impact. But it hasn’t received the kind of publicity it deserved.
 

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PREAMBLING AROUND

bottom line, environment, corporations

When I was in high school we learned that people form corporations in order to avoid personal responsibility. So if corporations are people, as the supreme court has discovered, then people must be corporations, and have no personal responsibility!

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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

bottom line, environment, health, pesticides

After a dinner that included puns, poems, and good food, five of us settled into the car for the ride back to Shorewood. Gloria couldn’t find her seat belt, and our designated driver said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll drive carefully.”

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YOU'VE GOT TO BE TAUGHT TO HATE

art, drawings, environment, pesticides

Kids love dandelions. When the flowers bloom they gather bouquets, and later on in the season they blow feathery spores and watch them float away. Fifty years ago no one questioned this. Things have changed, not for kids, they still love their bouquets, but for adults, some adults. I heard one recently rave, “I hate dandelions, I hate dandelions, I HATE dandelions!”

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OFF WITH THEIR HEADS

environment, health, pesticides, Shorewood

You don't like your dandelions? Take a scissors, take a mower, cut off their heads! It's a lot safer than poisoning them.

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AN EXCUSE FOR EARTH

climate change, environment

Last Wednesday my bed woke me up just before 4 AM. It's really moving, isn't it! The weather report was for wind and snow overnight. Maybe it's the wind.

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THE UPSIDE OF DOWN

climate change, Earth Poets &, environment, events, global warming, performance, poem

Should I feel guilty about my delight as I survey my garden? My arugula, collards, lettuce, onion greens, hyacinth greens, all are still alive. My puny broccoli plants have fresh florets. And it’s November 23rd! Ironic. I fight for years to increase awareness of global warming’s dangers, then I revel in the extended growing season.

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WHERE ARE WE NOW?

environment, events, philosophy, climate change

It’s fascinating to grow old in the early 21st century. When I was young, we didn’t have a refrigerator, we had an icebox, cooled by a chunk of ice delivered to our kitchen. When I picked up the phone receiver, the operator said, “Number please.” We had to wind up our Victrola in order to listen to records (78s). A Model T Ford was stored in our back yard by a friend fighting in World War II. I was 11 when I first saw a television set.

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HOMAGE TO FORAGE

salon, Earth Poets &, environment

It’s calming to weed the garden. Anyway, it used to be, before this month’s Second Sunday Soup and Salad Salon! Harvey Taylor, one of my fellow Earth Poets, and Susie Krause led the discussion: foraging in our own back yards. And their contribution to the potluck was a tasty salad made up of about twenty-five different ingredients foraged from their yard.

The next day as I weeded my garden, each time I pulled up lambs’ quarter, plantain, dandelion, curly dock, or Virginia waterleaf, I had to stop and ask myself: should I use this as salad or as mulch between the rows? I’d been craving organic greens, and here was a free feast of them at my fingertips. Yet I hesitated to pull up all those “weeds” and sauté them or throw them into my salad. Finally I grabbed a lambs’ quarter and broke us in gradually, mixed it with the onion and garlic greens and cilantro that come up in spring without my help. In a couple of hours lamb’s quarter became an indiscernible part of a very green and delicious egg-white omelet.

We began the discussion outside, in back yards and alleyways. Harvey mentioned that today’s weeds are not native. Immigrants from Europe intentionally brought them along on the voyage here, for their nutritional value. In fact the word dandelion, Harvey told us, comes from the French dent de lion, lion’s tooth, in deference to the jagged edges of dandelion leaves. In modern French it’s pissenlit (lit means bed)!

I just googled dandelion recipes and got 123,000 results in 0.11 seconds! I knew there are websites full of recipes, but didn’t realize they were quite so popular, given the passionate hatred (of dandelions) I’ve occasionally run into in Shorewood. The greens are particularly healthful and versatile, and expensive if you buy them in the grocery store. Children instinctively pick bouquets of the flowers. Even today.

Here’s Harvey’s outline for the discussion:
‘Full-Spectrum Nutrition,’ for Peggy’s Salon, June 14, ‘09
Susie & Harvey, facilitators…happy to share our ongoing adventures

Gardening background, 35 yrs…….gradual shift from ‘weeding’ to ‘eating’ to:
Foraging….common ’weeds’ have been imported (non-native); dandelions as prime example: nutritional potency, hardiness; other common foragables include lamb’s quarters, violets, plantain, purslane, comfrey (the variety with purple flowers), Virginia waterleaf, hostas; ‘weeds’ jump out of the ground in Spring long before much can be harvested from the garden, & they can be preserved in a dehydrator for winter use
•    Uses: omelets (frittata), salads, soups, infusions (‘elixir’), green smoothies
*   Elixir: put plant materials in gallon-size glass jar, fill with boiling water, add stevia if desired,
for sweetening, infuse all day, strain, drink, excess can be frozen; recycle plant mass in compost
*    Green Smoothies: put plant materials (foraged/garden cultivars/sprouts etc, plus some fruit for flavor)
into blender, add water; see ‘Green For Life’ (book/youtube, below)
*    Camping trips: you’d be surprised what can be added to the oatmeal or soup, after being gathered
on a hike                
•    Sprouting: ‘kitchen gardening’, makes 4-season home food-production a natural; super-nutritious;
doesn’t require fancy equipment; wide-mouth glass jars (or plastic) & any fine mesh (old stockings etc);
wheatgrass can be grown on window-shelves, and added to smoothies
•    Health concerns etc as motivator: Susie’s osteopenia, Harvey’s ‘pre-diabetic’ concerns; self-reliance in economic hard times…resistance to corporate domination…and a very poetic activity (contemplation,
garden- yoga, garden-tai chi)
•    Indispensable Websites: Susun Weed’s Wise Women’s Herbal Ezine: www.susunweed.com
•    Books: Green For Life, Victoria Boutenko (also demos on youtube); Forager’s Harvest, Samuel
Thayer; Common Herbs for Natural Health, Juliette Levy; Sprouts, The Miracle Food, Steve
Meyerowitz; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver, My Weeds, A Gardener’s Botany,   
Sara Stein; Edible Wild Plants, A Field Guide, Elias & Dykeman; all of Michael Pollan, etc, etc, etc
 

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DOES MY LEFT BRAIN KNOW WHAT MY RIGHT BRAIN'S DOING?

Musicians, art, creativity, environment, events, exhibits, performance

Our family has two events this weekend, and in a funny way they're related. They're both rooted in the basic human instinct of creative play. The event on May 8th, which I wrote about in my last blog (and which I'll update here) is a display of creativity in several of its many forms, dance, music, acrobatics, and visual art. The second event, on May 10th, is a discussion of the process of creating by Adolph and me at the Urban Ecology Center. The title is "Does my left brain know what my right brain's doing?" And a follow-up question might be: Do I WANT it to know?

Adolph and I have different approaches to talking about creativity, though basically our process is the same. I can't merely say to my left brain, "Stop monitoring, let the dream side take over." It might not cooperate! So I'll discuss how I go about getting into the creative flow. And how that flow has gone about changing me.

Adolph, on the other hand, who's always right-brained, in fact was born that way, will talk about what his thoughts are when he works. He's focused on what is happening, about his relationship to his subject. Whether it's a person, a house, a tree, or a cow, he wants to capture its spirit.

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TEMP US FUGIT

Earth Poets & Musicians, environment, events, performance

At 4:30 this morning it struck me that TEMPUS breaks down into TEMP, short for temporary, and US. Temporary us. Temp us.

I'd awakened about an hour earlier with the phrase TEMPUS FUGIT bouncing around in my mind as I contemplated the speed of time: the twenty-second annual performances of the Earth Poets and Musicians will take place on April 24th & 25th. Twenty-second annual! It makes me, temporarily, feel not quite so temporary. In fact I feel con-temporary, as concern for Earth becomes more and more mainstream (we can’t twice step into the same mainstream!).

I’ve participated in every Earth Poet performance, once even skipped a New York bat mitzvah and another time left my own art opening to do the gig. After all, being an Earth Poet changed my life. It made me more environmentally aware, forced me to write eco-poems every year, gave me innumerable opportunities to perform, and provided me with a special community of friends, critics, and collaborators.

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A CARBON COPY OF MY SOLE

art, buses, environment


This bus stopped in front of Pick ’n Save at 12:17 on the dot, got to Capitol Drive at 12:19. Amazing punctuality. Now I have to figure out what to do as I ride downtown. Too many choices. Should I write, should I draw, should I people-watch, look out the window? We’re cruising along Oakland Avenue, fresh mail stuffed into every single mailbox, hangs out over the tops, and it’s not because people are suddenly writing and receiving letters. If it’s like MY mail, it’ll all go directly into the recycle bin.

That’s tragic. We cut down forests to make paper for flyers, catalogues, donation solicitations, annual reports, on and on, and no one opens anything. We toss it all into containers that may or may not be for recycling. And beyond the loss of trees, what energy is used to make the paper and ink, print the info, send the never-to-be-read mail, then recycle the paper or truck it to the landfill?

I recently read that it takes over 100 million trees to produce all the junk mail that arrives in American mailboxes each year. Let’s see, US population, 300 million, number of trees used, 100 million, that’s a third of a tree per year for every person in the USA, just for junk mail! Then think of all the paper towel, paper plates, tissues, toilet paper, packaging, Americans use. Maybe there’s another two-thirds tree per person beyond the junk mail.

I guess I’ll draw the other passengers instead of contemplating loss of forests. Or is that a waste of paper, too? At least I work very small these days. And I can take solace in the idea that the arts is what distinguishes us from other species. Anyway I try to use as little of the earth’s resources as possible, as I walk, bike, bus, reuse, recycle. If they could walk a carbon copy of my sole, I suspect most Americans would leave much smaller carbon footprints than they do now. So I might as well draw.
 

BYE BYE OH TA TA

environment, philosophy, poem


The Fitness Center was full on December 31. I was glad I came then and not January 1, when the resolution-makers would be working out en masse. I’m not the resolution type. I’d rather not postpone solutions to problems until a New Year shows up on the calendar.

Anyway most resolutions pertain to health, stop smoking drinking eating so much, cut out sweets sat fat junk food, exercise regularly. That’s already part of my everyday life, or, given my family history, I’d probably have had a heart attack or stroke by now. New Years Day can be a time to analyze the past year and decide what changes we ought to make. That’s what resolutions are all about. But shouldn’t that be an on-going mental exercise?

My attitude has a philosophical element: If I’m lucky enough to start out with a more or less healthy body, I’d better take care of it as well as possible, or I don’t deserve to have it. And won’t have it very long. That applies to everything, including man’s relationship to Earth. We’re born on a planet of breathtaking beauty and balance, and if we don’t take care of it, we don’t deserve it. And neither we nor the planet as we know it will last.

My life changed at a New Years Eve party. I met Adolph on New Years Eve in New York City, in 1959. That’s 49 years ago, and that was a resolution, to the question, in my mind at least, of whom I’d marry. Though I had no idea at the time.

It’s nine years since experts were frantic about the Y2K bug. They expected computers worldwide to crash at midnight when 1999 turned into 2000. Most computer didn’t crash, thanks to massive preventive action. I wrote a poem about Y2K, which did crash at midnight. I’ll resurrect it for a moment in honor of the New Year, and in the hope that many more of my poems will become obsolete now that we’ll have a new administration.

I too, you too, we too, they too
Are we bugged by Y2K
That pesky bug that
Pesti-cides can never spray away
Hidden in the Binary
That ordinary minds can't be-
Gin to comprehend
A bug that was created by extraordinary men
Who understood beginnings and ignored the end

Other  brilliant scientists
say they can
Drastically increase
our life span
Elongate our youth
yet can’t shorten our senility
And up to now
our distinctive ability
Has been to wipe out species by the dozens,
Flora, fauna, even our primate cousins

Is expansion a feasible enterprise?
Can we live longer while all else dies?
Can rainforests burn for cattle to graze
And vehicles cruise, turning pure air to haze?
Bye bye biota, adios to frogs
Ta ta to redwoods, man prefers  logs
Bye bye, biota, biota ta ta,
Bye bye, biota ta ta
Bye bye, oh, ta ta
Bye bye, oh, ta ta
Bye bye, biota ta ta

What can I, what can I, what can I say?
They extend the life of fruit flies, and can't get rid of Y2K
Y2K bug, oh buggabuggabuggabugga Boo
We kill our biota, but can't get rid of you

Are we biota, yes yes, we are,
Bye bye, biota, biota ta ta,
Bye bye, oh, ta ta
Bye bye, oh, ta ta
Bye bye, biota
Ta ta
 

SHOREWOOD VERSUS WHEREVER

drawings, environment, events, philosophy, salon, Shorewood

 

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SOME THINGS ARE WONDROUS, SOME MAKE ME WONDER

Atwater, environment, Estabrook, lake, pesticides, philosophy, river

It’s Wednesday, 2:45 PM, and the eastern sun gleams through purple New England asters on Atwater Bluff, through fluffy grass-tips on the bluff-top. There’s always beauty around us for those with time to look, or for those who make time, which is what I’m doing.

And now it’s Thursday, I’m here again, drawing asters and wondering why more people don’t come to the bluff and the beach to balance out hectic lives. Tiny Shorewood has no shortage of parkland. It’s a village caught between a lake and a river, between At-water and Esta-brook.

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THE FATE OF THE NATIVES

environment, pesticides

Three weeks ago Spence Tepper and I videotaped the magic of sun glowing through native plants on the bluff in Big Bay Park. And this morning I received an unbelievable message from Ney Collier:

Dear Suzanne,
For twenty years I have been working on Big Bay Park which is adjacent to Buckley Park. When I started it consisted of a forest of Burdock,  Garlic Mustard, Reed Canary Grass and Canada Thistle all of which are on the DNR's list of invasives.
   
Gradually I removed the invasives by hand, and the native plants such as Nodding Onions, Milkweed, Dwarf Sumac, Cup Plants, Woodland Sunflowers, Zig Zag Goldenrod, New England Asters and many others were able to flourish in all their glory.  With them came butterflies and bees.
   
On Wednesday 27th August and Thursday 28th August three large stands of native plants were mowed down.  The Cup Plants were in full bloom and were being visited by Monarchs and other insects.  People were horrified to see the plants chopped down. In addition pesticides were sprayed.  Spraying pesticides as well as chopping down plants not only removed nectar, but probably killed butterflies.
   
On the warning signs is written "For additional information on this application or any future applications call Village of Whitefish Bay 962 6690." I am trying to mobilize as many people as possible to call:
1.  Village of Whitefish Bay 962 6690 (Call after Labor Day, or you'll just get the police!)
2. Sue Black at 257 7275
3.  DNR at 1 800 847 9367 (This is the hot line number for reporting violations.  Cutting down stands of native sunflowers and spraying them with pesticides is a violation of Lake Michigan, the plants, and the children who play and swim in that area).
Regards,
Ney Collier  
 

NOAH, OUR ARK RIVAL

environment

We don’t have to travel between poles these days for polar extremes; we can just stay in one spot almost anywhere on Earth. Certainly this winter was a swinger, with thaws and freezes, and the spring keeps swinging, too. I keep thinking how hard it is to be a farmer. I can’t even get my garden planted.

We spent June 7 in Shorewood. In the morning we stood for an hour under skin-burning sun as we waited for our turn at the Police Department’s annual bike sale. Yet the day was no scorcher. After we bought bikes for two of our grandkids, I gardened, did chores, ran errands, then the phone rang.
“Grandma, are you still taking us to St. Roberts Fair?”
 “Well, there’s a tornado warning, severe storm warning, thunder, lightening, and it’s already raining. Are you sure you want to go?”
“Yes.”
It wasn't raining hard, and the tornado warning sirens were no longer wailing, so I grabbed a couple of ponchos and ran to visit the grandkids and try to change their minds.

At the fair the tents were closed, and fair-goers were gathered in the gym, several of them watching the weather report on TV. Inside the gym were cakes, candies, crafts, and used books, games, and videos; outside was the deluge.

We bought some books, then had a choice: waiting or wading. The children just wanted to get home, so we picked wading, and slogged through the streams on the sidewalks and in the streets. “Grandma, do you think there’ll be a flood?”

And that brings me to Noah. We can’t build arks and float our way out of this one. We may merely bail out our basements today. Bailing ourselves out of the mess humans have created on the planet will require drastic lifestyle changes. Worldwide. We’d better believe it.
 

A LETTER TO EDITORS

environment, Grass Roots, Shorewood: pesticides

When I think of a pun, it’s so much fun, that I don’t let go. Following my last post, JUST SAY MOW, which seemed to me quite apropos, for mowing’s cheap to do. Or UWM could get a cow, then I’d call this JUST SAY MOO. Well, I know UWM can’t have a cow. A neighbor of mine once wanted a goat grazing on her grass, and the Village of Shorewood just said no.  

I sent an Email, UWM Sprayed Again, to my Grass Roots list, and poets Susan Firer (Milwaukee Poet Laureate) and Jim Hazard sent this letter to Kate Nelson at UWM. They also plan to edit it to distribute to their neighbors. If some of you have neighbors who spray, perhaps you, too, would like to edit and use it!

Dear Kate Nelson,
I heard on WUWM today UWM bragging about its Green Ethic.  However, the recent spraying of the campus by TruGreen has no place in anyone's Green Ethic. Reliable studies have linked pesticides to a six-fold increase in childhood leukemia (Journal of the National Cancer Institute and American Journal of Public Health), have shown that dogs exposed to lawn pesticides are 4 to 7 times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association), and have demonstrated the link between long-term exposure to pesticides and neuron damage that triggers Parkinson's disease (UCLA study reported in Chicago Tribune).

This glaring contradiction between public relations statements and university actions is a very serious matter, affecting anyone who sets foot on the campus grounds and the surrounding community.  Its effects extend beyond the immediate locale since the run off of pesticides and fertilizers does great harm to Lake Michigan's water quality and contributed to the dangerous presence of E. coli on area beaches: a strange policy given the information to that effect UWM's Great Lakes Water Institute has researched and published.

I hope the university will reconsider this irresponsible social behavior, change its policy toward harmful lawn treatment chemicals, and assume community leadership in this serious public health matter.
Susan Firer and Jim Hazard
 

JUST SAY MOW!

environment, pesticides

One of the advantages to living in Shorewood is our proximity to UWM. This is self-evident, so I won't try to elaborate! There's also a downside to living near the university: when UWM sprays, the whole neighborhood is forced to inhale!

Last Saturday the fumes were so strong I felt nauseous when I tried to bike past, yet people sat in the TruGreen grass right next to the little white signs. They clearly felt that the university sets an example and practices safe lawn care. I called John Krezoski in the Safety and Assurances Dept at UWM (414.229-5265) and left him a message expressing my disappointment.

I'd been told he's the person to call since this is a safety issue. It IS definitely a safety issue, especially when the fumes are sickening and the lawn care company is TruGreen. One place out of many to get additional info on TruGreen is on the Refuse To Use Chemlawn web site

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EARTH POETS & MUSICIANS

environment, performance, poem

Since I'm one of the original members of the Earth Poets, and our twentieth anniversary performances take place this Friday and Saturday, I thought I'd post our press release, and a poem.

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THE SEVENTH SENSE

environment, philosophy, Shorewood

If the sixth sense is intuition, then the seventh must be the sense of adventure. After all, everything we do is one, if we choose to look at it that way. When I walk out of our front door, and I do it frequently, I don’t know what will happen next, even whether or not I’ll ever walk back through it again!

Well, that’s the way I was feeling most of this winter, due to the ice crisis. I walked several miles a day despite the fact that I was terrified of falling. Last week I thought it was spring and decided not to dwell on fallen fellow Midwesterners, but on the residents, incidents, surprises, I come upon as I meander, or rush (more likely rush), through the day.

When I started to blog in June, 2006, I figured I’d write about the many interesting people I run into on a daily basis, get the character of Shorewood by showing the characters in Shorewood. After all, that is an adventure! Then I modified the concept, not wanting to name names, and blogged more about incidents than about particular people. Last year I wrote LOCKED OUT AND LOCKED IN  when I found one of my grandsons locked out of his house early in the morning and later that same day had to call 911 for a lady who’d been trapped in her garage for an hour and a half. And I blogged about the speeding car that killed a dog last month, INCIDENT AT AN INTERSECTION

Several days after I posted that blog, someone asked me, as I walked along Maryland Avenue, “Are you the lady who wrote the article about the dog? I had the same thing happen to me. I saw a car hit a dog and speed away, except the dog was a puppy, and the dog-walker was a little boy!”

This past January as I walked along Oakland, a woman standing alone across the street shouted to no one in particular, “Doesn’t anyone have a cell phone?” Why did she want one? Then I saw a man peering under his car’s hood, smoke billowing into his face. He slammed the hood closed, screamed a stream of unbloggable words, and the woman yelled, “Someone call 911!” I did. And I moved as far as possible from that car. About thirty years ago, Connie Wypp, one of Adolph’s art students at UWM, parked her VW Beetle across the street from our house in Bill Nichols’ driveway, leapt out of the car, and within seconds the car was in flames.

That didn’t happen this time. Even before my 911 call went through, the rescue squad arrived. Two brave men lifted the hood and put out the fire, while the combustible VW Beetle burned in my mind.

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WHITEWATER ISN'T ALWAYS SNOW

environment, exhibits, performance

The older I get, the smaller my artwork. Some reasons: I can carry a tiny drawing pad without needing a big purse.  I can capture fleeting passers-by more quickly and unobtrusively. Anyway, less is often more. Here's another advantage: In the Roberta Avonn Fiskum Art Gallery at UW-Whitewater I can fit several small works into my quarter of the "Phenomenal Women" show. The opening reception is Wednesday, February 27, 4:30-6:00. Marie Mellott and I will perform at 5:00, "Three Ladies in Their Eighties" plus some of our poems. Marie will become her 101-year-old grandmother, I'll do my global warming poem, which you can see on YouTube  if you won't be in the Whitewater area.

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WHAT SOME PEOPLE DIE FOR

bikes, environment, Grass Roots, pesticides, Shorewood

Last Monday the grass was green where snow had melted, and the streets looked clear, except for the cloud of fog that hugged the East Side. I figured I should bike to Trader Joe’s while the snow and ice were water. As I put on my helmet, I had to admit I was afraid, of ice patches, of drivers on cell phones, of predicted thunder storms, of being too old to bike.

I pedaled along Maryland Avenue, avoided a friend who stepped off the curb without looking, too busy listening to his iPod, he said. Despite my loud pink jacket, I felt invisible, mists never more than a few feet away. The fog wasn’t pea soup, wrong color, more like vichyssoise without the leeks. I started to think of new blogs, wished I had a little tape recorder. Passers-by would think I’m on my cell phone. I smiled, relaxed, soon was coasting down Hampton, and I knew why I was biking. It’s more than a matter of getting to Trader Joe’s; it’s being out in the world, not enclosed, cruising through outdoor air.

I walked down the aisle, skipped the bulky produce, zeroed in on cereal, tofu, polenta, thinking that’s what’s cheap at Trader Joe’s, most health food I get at Outpost, better to shop there, shop  local, calculating what would fit on my bike. Then a voice said, “Suzanne! How did you get here?”
“Oh, Ruth, hi! I biked.” “You certainly can’t carry everything on your bike. You’ll have to let me drive it back for you.”

I mention this not because Ruth drove my groceries home for me, though she did, but because she told me about her recent mammogram at Bayshore. She had asked her technician about the incidence of breast cancer in the area. The technician replied that it’s unusually high on the North Shore. I’ve heard that several times recently, haven’t read it anywhere.

The following day at the Fitness Center a friend told me that some of the young women who live near her have breast cancer, and one died, leaving behind two young children. Then she added, “So many of my neighbors use pesticides, I’m thinking of moving out of Shorewood.”

I guess some people are dying to have no dandelions.
 

LOCATION, LOCATION, POPULATION

diversity, environment, Shorewood

When I got back from New York last week, I found a message in my inbox that made me muse on what qualities make a village a great place to live, at least for me. There’s location, of course: trees, flowers, gardens, parks, maybe even a lake or river, breathable air, livable homes, convenient shopping, nearby cultural events. Walkability. Bike-ability. Bus-ability.

Then there’s the people factor: diversity in every sense, ethnic, racial, economic, religious, age, a community of people who care about the arts, education, social justice, the environment, of people who are informed. I could continue, but I want to return to the inbox message, which concerned the possible development by Sunrise Senior Living of land along the river. So I googled Sunrise Senior Living and found articles in The New York Times, The Business Journal, and The Washington Post, just for starters.

After I wrote this, I saw that Dave Tatarowics had already posted the same message, from Tim Vargo, on December 17. But in case you haven’t read it, I’ll repost it so you can read it now and ask yourself: Is this really where we want to go? Will this improve the quality of life here? Will it help Shorewood become a prototype of a green community?

Dear Shorewood friends,
Some of you may have heard about a proposal to tear down the Riverbrook Restaurant and the Sherburn place apartments (where I live) to put in a senior living center.
 
As a resident of the apartments and a professional in the field of research and environmental education,  I find SO MANY problems with the development from just about every angle.
1) The developers are not considering any green design.  They are tearing down perfectly good buildings and bringing in all new materials.
2) The developer when asked about green building showed no interest and gave misinformation to the zoning committee. Specifically, she said LEED Certification, (the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability) meant nothing more than slapping a green roof on the building.
3) Green design is not only environmentally friendly, but it is functional and considers the use of the building and the residents that live there.
 4 ) The developer is advertising river views from the upper floors but assured me through some magic of landscaping that you won't see the building from the river
 5 ) It's a HUGE 4-story, cookie-cutter box  building from a national chain of senior living centers in which the owners are facing lawsuits for fraud and neglect  (Sunrise Senior Living) .   This is so against what I feel are the strengths of Shorewood - walkable neighborhoods with locally owned businesses.  If senior living is truly needed, it would be easier to swallow this change if this were the future of sustainable design in senior living, designed by Kubala-Washatko, something Shorewood could be proud of.  This is a valuable piece of real estate, and the change they create will be around for a long time.  (And I think the building is hideous)
 
6) We will lose one of the only pockets of diversity in Shorewood where there is relatively affordable living (Sherburn Apartments) and sit-down dining (Riverbrook).  I ate brunch at the Riverbrook on Saturday and was floored by how packed the place was and by the degree of diversity I observed.
 
7) There are currently 50 people at Sherburn apartments, including families, some elderly, and people that have lived there almost thirty years.  At any time these people could get 30 days notice to leave according to the owner who has had terrible communication (virtually none) with the residents or even the building manager.
 
The truth is, for me this will be an inconvenience - I've moved around a lot.  For others this will be a life upheaval.
 
The project is still in its preliminary stages, but if nothing is done, it will undoubtedly move forward.  Please forward this to friends or anyone else who you feel may have an interest in this project.  These are elected officials making this decision and it's up to us to make sure they represent their constituents over an outside developer.
Thank you for your support!
Tim Vargo

 

SIMPLICITY NOT MADE SIMPLE

environment, Grass Roots, poem, salon

If intention were action, I’d post a blog every day. I always write one. In my head. Sometimes I write down the first paragraph, in fact don’t yet know whether this will be merely another first paragraph. I find almost everything interesting, but can’t find time to write about it. And if intention were action, I’d post a blog after every Second Sunday Soup and Salad Salon. First we share our food, after that our thoughts on a specific topic. We examine the issues that affect our lives, philosophical, environmental, cultural, political.

This month I resolved to write beyond paragraph one, maybe because our topic was voluntary simplicity, which covers every aspect of how we live. Simplicity enforced by poverty was not the topic, nor the simplicity that will be imposed on us as climate change progresses, but simplicity chosen by those who are lucky enough to have that choice. What is it, what does it require of the individual, where are each of us now? What is the media’s impact on this? Why do so many people buy into the importance of THINGS?

We touched on the range of complexity entailed in simplicity and how each of us deals with it. People mentioned personal quirks they were trying to work on, like the man with more shoes than Imelda, or the woman trying to get rid of her excess so her children won’t be stuck with it.

My view: to live simply we have to examine our lives, know our priorities, know what makes us content, recognize that things are merely things. Here are a few things I do, or avoid doing:
I don’t drive, but rather bike, walk, or bus
Grow my own vegetables, but what about all those trees that make the crop smaller each year?
Make sure my grandkids know how wonderful it is to eat food you yourself have grown
Use fresh produce, preferably organic, preferably local
Avoid processed foods, red meat, farmed salmon
Minimize eating out
Use organic products for cleaning and lawn care, avoiding pesticides and other poisons
Recycle, and that includes buying, when possible, at rummage sales
Keep the thermostat low and wear sweaters and long underwear in winter
Minimize water use, hard when I have a vegetable garden
Remind myself to let go, of things that don’t really matter, of the things I want to do and don’t have time for, of things I own but don’t need.
Use whatever talents I have to make people contemplate their own impact on their surroundings. That’s why I’m writing this!

There’s more I do, and much more I should do. One thing I want to say: every single item on my list enriches my life rather than depleting it.

Yvette wrote this to me after last Sunday’s salon: “I realized that my life has been simplified over the last 5 months due to a change in my eating.  I've become a vegan (by default) to help reduce the tinnitus (ringing in my ears).  I've reduced the amount of food I consume.  I cook more and eat out less.  I buy most of my veggies from local farmers markets and have taken the time to nurture myself in this way.  It has been a worthwhile journey.  Change your eating, change your world!...One point that we didn't discuss:  Rhythms can greatly simplify our life.  We create a harmonic rhythm to the day and it flows as we flow with it.  We can also create a beautiful rhythm to tasks that come on a routine basis.  It requires conscious thought and aware alignment, but ultimately as we align ourselves with the rhythm of the universe, we find flow and peace in voluntary simplicity.”

I wrote Glow Ball Worming for our Earth Poets and Musician performances last April. It plays around more poetically with my ideas on voluntary simplicity and ecological living, which are intertwined. I hope you’ll add any thoughts you might have.
 

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