Homage to the Majestic - Beautiful design in the Pacific Northwest

Bainbridge Island Residence by BUILD LLC, photo by Art Grice
In theory, modern architecture looks like a great idea, especially modern buildings that let natural light cascade in to the space from all sides in an otherwise gorgeous but mostly dreary landscape like the Pacific Northwest.  I pine for the area all too often, and dream of owning a home like the ones showcased on Build LLC's awesome modern architecture blog.  

But in practice, how do these spaces really work?  Don't you have to replace the textiles too often due to fading from all that light streaming in, and don't you want to close a blind every now and then? So many questions.  For now, I'll just enjoy the view and get ready for an overdue trip to Seattle and Vancouver next week, where I'm sure I'll see plenty of dream homes like these.  The following photos from here.
Bainbridge Island Residence by BUILD LLC, photo by Art Grice
Roddy/Bale Residence in Bellevue Washington by Miller | Hull, photo by James F. Housel
Gorton/Bounds Cabin on Decatur Island Washington by Miller | Hull, photo by Chris Eden

Wright Guest House in the Highlands Washington by James Cutler, photo by Peter Aaron



Saying goodbye to the family farm (October 2012)

Occasionally, and perhaps more often than I should during times of feeling down (usually brought on by the onset of stress or seasonal changes) I feel a pang of homesickness for the place where I grew up - specifically the house and land surrounding.  Part of this comes from a sense of feeling displaced that has lessened through the years but will never quite subside.  In fact, it only mostly subsides when all the factors needed for a low stress life are at work - good job with steady income, decent health coverage, good personal health and loving relationships, a safe and warm place to call home.  Like a healthy ecosystem, there are a number of factors that encompass happy life and when the balance tilts a bit off center, the effects are immediately noticeable.

Out of all all this chaos comes the notion that although change is inevitable, it is very hard.  For many years I have slowly followed a growing interest in science and in particular in ecology.  But how to get from point A to B after years of an economy going from bad to worse, two businesses closing and two lay-offs, and college loans from a first degree combined with a new job with low pay and higher stress. However cliche, the world is increasingly faster and louder, and the internet and smart phones makes it all the more hectic.  For someone who is always curious about how the world works, more technology can make daily existence overwhelming.  I recently read an article in which the author detailed her plan to sit down and get some "real" work done, only to go off track in to the depths of Google.  From one site to another - two hours later the author was back where she began with an unfinished project and a search engine history that defied logic.  

This happens to me a lot, but today the stars aligned and the unexpected culminated in a surprising twist.  It started with me forcing myself outside for a walk in the beautiful weather.  I felt sluggish and wanted to stay inside but out I went, and stopped by the bookstore on my way home.  I found a book titled Our Native Trees by Harriet L. Keeler during a search for the book Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets.  I've been watching some TEDTalks on Netflix and was really blown away by Paul Stamets' talk.  As I searched in vain for the other book I saw a coworker and we started chatting about various things, including a tree he and his fiance had been attempting to identify.  Back to the Nature section we went, and plucked the Tree Identification Book by George Symonds from the shelf.  "It wasn't a birch, it's a poplar!" we exclaimed, and on the conversation went - moving to the coworker's father's line of work and his status as Master Gardner.  "Someone can also be a Master Ecologist," he said and as we chatted away a woman reading a gardening book turned and said, "I'm sorry to interrupt but I could not help overhearing, it is actually called a Master Naturalist."  We all talked more and as it would happen she is an ecologist who works for the DNR.  We started to part ways and something made me stop and turn back to ask for her contact information to learn more about her profession and how she arrived to where she is today.  She was more than gracious and gave me her work email so that we could plan a time for an informational interview.  

I purchases Our Native Trees for $3.99 and crunched my way homeward through the leaves.  It was sunny and warm on the steps and I read a bit about Harriet L. Keeler in the Forward written by Anne Raver.  I was impressed by Anne's candidness to mention that she received a D in Biology in college as I also received a grade in that range.  Who was Anne Raver?  I had no idea.  Back to Google for some answers.  According to Google, Anne Raver is a writer for the New York Times and just last month she wrote an article titled "Saying Goodbye to the Family Farm" about selling the family land (granted it was only six acres but considering the postage stamp size plots people live on in the city I am sure it seems like much more).  I loved the beginning where Raver writes  "It would be easier to move than to ask permission to walk over fields that I know like the curve of my own hips. I know where the stream turns, where the otter lives."  

Even though I have not lived on the farm where I grew up for years I can tell you where there is a little patch of what I call tuft grass to the left of the driveway next to the stream above the culvert that is beside the field where the cows come to pasture for the summer.  I know what the grass smells like when it has just been cut, and how the few pine trees left by the house sound in the wind.

How do we deal with the loss of the land we love?  Is our collective consciousness feeling the pain of this loss as we spend days driving on pavement instead of walking on a grass covered path?  In The Idea of Wilderness author Max Oelschlaeger touches upon this very topic, describing the notion that we can only worship the idea of nature in hindsight since we now have the tools to minimize the impact weather and other living things have on us.  We can sit in our comfortable home with the fire ablaze while the winter wind tries its best to find a drafty window to blow through.  

Someday soon I too will want to ask permission to walk over the fields I once knew.  I will want to run my hand along the top of the different types of grasses, some sharp and some soft.  I will want to dig my hands in to the clay lined creek beds, and watch the water bugs dance.  Mostly, I will miss the sound of the wind rushing through the Austrian pines in front of the house.  It is a sound I will never forget.  For years I have rushed to stand beneath other tall trees with the hope of hearing the sound, only to understand that a certain stand of trees certainly stands in completely unique way, each group bending and blowing to and fro with purpose.  

p.s.  I would love to attach a sound recording of the wind in these particular trees, but blogger doesn't allow recordings to be uploaded sans video.  Someday I will finish making a little imovie that contains  video stills attached to the recording and post it here.    

Night Lines


Meltdowns Between Men and Tundra

On November 30, 2012 the BBC Newshour interviewed both Michael Mann, the current director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State.  Marc Morano was also interviewed.   Mr. Morano is a climate skeptic, the executive director of climatedepot.org, and a former producer for the Rush Limbaugh Television show according to desmogblog.com.

An argument ensued between the two men and it was quite heated.  Michael Mann described a number of incidents during which he had been harassed for his belief that climate change is indeed real and presently occurring.  Marc Morano stated that he too has been harassed and that Michael Mann should not be upset about these incidents as they come with the territory.

The recent argument between Mr. Morano and Mr. Mann has garnered little - if any - press attention but the larger issue is one of substance and fact.  One fact that cannot be refuted is that the arctic ice is melting at a fast rate.  A recent article on the PBS Newshour Science Thursday segment describes a documentarian's path towards understanding just how fast the ice is melting.



Train Dreams

It's a dream of mine to travel in far off lands by train, as if in a classic b&w film.  While I have traveled by train  in the U.S. and Canada, I would love to take a journey through Russia by train.  Finn-Olaf Jones recently wrote a beautiful piece for The New York Times about this very subject.

p.s. The title of my post is a nod to Denis Johnson's Train Dreams - a beautiful novella that I highly recommend reading


Earth Day (sending wishes in to the great wide open)

Happy Earth Day!  What a wonderful day.  I attended an annual event (zero waste!) in St. Paul called Wishes for the Sky with a dear friend and her two children.  An awesome event and my first time attending.  We had so much fun talking about our wishes, running up and down big hills, and flying kites - plus the rain held off during our entire outing.  I love the fact that previous year's wishes fly again the following year.  The Star Tribune interviewed us as well which was great but strange since I've never been interviewed at an event before.  Hoping some of our comments about climate change and reducing waste make it in to tomorrow's issue.


Food, Inc. (or how unappealing meat fillers can be)

I did something yesterday that I have been avoiding for quite some time.  I watched Food, Inc.  During my first year of college I grew quite obsessed with health, stopped eating meat, drinking soda, and eventually almost stopped eating altogether due to reading a bit too much about food safety, processing, etc.  Hence the aversion to viewing the film when it first came out.   I just didn't want a reminder, feeling cozy with my bowl of microwave popcorn and left over Valentine's conversation hearts.

I eventually ate meat again after a four year hiatus and slowly, as the years went by, slipped in to total complacency regarding processed food.  I mean, I didn't eat fast food every day or anything, but I'm not above microwaving my dinner in a pinch.

While Food, Inc. is far from perfect, it is a reminder to be vigilant (as vigilant as you can be considering there are not a lot of quick/easy options if you have a limited budget or don't live in a major metropolitan area).    What the hell is actually in the beef filler they use in something like 80% of hamburger (don't worry - keep your fingers crossed - these guys are pushing for 100%!)  Oh, well ammonia for starters.  Surprise!  No label required to show which meat contains a filler and which doesn't.  Evidently you actually have to ask the butcher at your local meat counter.

Reason number one for not watching this film while eating.

I also ended up feeling terrible for Moe Parr - the seed cleaner harassed to embarrassment and ruin for absolutely no reason.  Go ahead an Google Moe Parr - the first two sites that pop up are for none other than Monsanto!  Sickening.  Here's a brief article about the issue.

Unfortunately, like many others, I already knew a lot about the main points and issues in Food, Inc.  Despite our government's apparent attempt to poison us in the name of profit we all need to continue to stay vigilant and active.  Clearly, the FDA isn't helping.  You'd think they would want to keep us alive so we could pay taxes?  Evidently the plan now is to bankrupt us with healthcare debt due to our physical ailments brought on by things like meat fillers.