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