Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest – Claire Leschen-Hoar
Going on a Walk Could Change the World – Hannah Engelkamp
Microhousing takes off in some cities – Claire Thompson, High Country News
Mind blowing beach art – ViralNova
Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest – Claire Leschen-Hoar
Going on a Walk Could Change the World – Hannah Engelkamp
Microhousing takes off in some cities – Claire Thompson, High Country News
Mind blowing beach art – ViralNova
This is a guest post by my sister, Columbine Quillen. Last week she lost her white German Shepard Sierra, who was a sweet, happy, loveable member of our family for twelve years. Here she recounts some of their adventures and reflects on life’s big questions. (Plus, everyone loves a good bear story, right?) I hope you enjoy it.
I’m shocked by my melancholy. Perhaps this loss is hitting me so hard because Sierra was such a fixture in our lives — not only a friend and a companion, but a part of the house. A part of the neighborhood. She was often the first face I saw each day poking her head into the bedroom.
I met Sierra because she was (my future husband) Brad’s dog, and Brad had a crush on me the summer of 2002. I was living with my parents in Colorado and running races. I often ran 10 to 15 hard miles in the mountains in the morning and then mountain biked another 20 miles in the afternoon. Sierra had as much energy as I did, so Brad often asked me to take her with me. I didn’t always want to, because Sierra was a bundle of energy who had sharp teeth and didn’t understand acceptable play. But my mom didn’t like me being alone in the backcountry, so I always agreed.
That was the beginning of many miles spent alone with Sierra in the wilderness. One time we climbed a peak in the Sangre de Christos, some of the remotest of the Colorado Rockies, and we went down the wrong drainage. We must have bushwhacked two to three miles of 2,000-3,000 feet of decent. When we were above timberline I could see where we were and which way to go, but when we dropped into the trees I felt scared and exhausted. Sierra seemed to know the way, though, and I kept with her. Eventually we found a small creek which turned out to be a tributary to a creek that was on the hiking trail. Sierra was a phenomenal athlete and sure-footed backcountry mate. I always felt safer when she was with me — except once.
When she was still young, we were running on a steep trail near my hometown. At the top of the climb where the trail levels out, Sierra wandered off into the woods and rustled up a bear! Talk about motivation to run! Sierra looked at me with the most gleeful look, like “Yeah! Look what I just did!” We got out of there as fast as we could, although I don’t think the bear had much interest in us. Some old ranchers told me that bears don’t like people or domesticated dogs, so if they know you are coming they will get out of the way. “Make your dog noisy,” they advised. So I put jingle bobbles on her collar, and we never saw another bear or house cat again.
When I met Sierra, she did not swim. She would only wade out to her knees. This drove Brad crazy. He gave up his promising career at Hewlett Packard to live his dream of creating the greatest database of whitewater river runs in the nation. He had traveled all over the country running whitewater. Being on a river was the most important thing to him, and his dog would not swim! Brad tried to get her to swim by taking her out on a pier on a lake and dropping her off. However, that made her even more timid around water and made Brad seem like a real jerk every time he told the story.
In the summer of 2003 Brad decided to teach me how to whitewater paddle, which to this day is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. We would go out to a lake so that I could practice my strokes and roll. Sierra was not happy when both of us were out in the water. She’d pace the shore barking a pitiful bark that made it sound like we were poking her with hot coals. We kept calling out to her, and finally one day she came in. It was the cutest thing in the world. She was so stressed out, holding her head up high. She swam to our boats and then swam circles around us like a shark. Later, when Brad was teaching me how to surf in a kayaking hole, Sierra became a beautiful river swimmer, using the current to propel her across the water. It was amazing to watch.
The last few years have been challenging. Law school has a special way of beating up and tearing apart the human soul. My father passed away from a heart attack in the middle of the night. My grandmother died. My long-time colleague who I also enjoyed paddling with died of cancer. Another friend who appeared to be perfect health died for no explicable reason at the age of 27.
When these tragedies struck, I was not surrounded by a community of support and nourishment. We had moved to a town away from everyone we knew so I could go to law school. I was taking an over-loaded course schedule while working and couldn’t lean on my friends at school, since they also had no free time and were trying not to buckle under the enormous pressure. Every day I got up and forced myself out the door. But I was depleted by the end of the day. I’d trudge through the door, and Sierra would bound up to greet me. A rock in times of hardship. The greatest listener who ever existed. A place of warmth and reassurance.
Sierra had the gift to make those around her smile and feel good. A few months ago Brad left his bike at the train station, and he asked me if I could pick it up. It’s a couple of miles over to the train station, so Sierra and I walked there. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, and all of the trees were full with golden and fiery red leaves. On the way back I rode Brad’s bike, and Sierra trotted behind me. Everyone who passed beamed at me, but I knew their smiles weren’t for me. When I glanced behind me, there was Sierra smiling the brightest smile, her ears back, running her old dog teeter totter trot with her jingle bobbles swaying back and forth with each step. The sun beamed down on her, golden leaves raining in the background. What a magical sight to behold.
With all of the loss I’ve experienced in the last few years, I can’t help but ponder life’s big questions. Every culture has stories to explain why we’re here, what we’re supposed to be working toward, and what happens to us when we die. I don’t know which story is right. But I do know that everyone who I’ve been close to has qualities that amaze me. And maybe if I can incorporate more of those qualities into my life on a day to day basis, a little bit of that person can live on.
My father was an amazing storyteller who was gifted at building community. My colleague was an amazing whitewater boater who never said no to a paddle. My 27-year-old friend had a gorgeous smile that she gave away continuously without ever expecting anything in return. Sierra was always ready to go. She had a great vigor for life. She lived life to its fullest and always found something to enjoy, no matter the circumstances. Certainly all of my friends, and my dad, gave more to the world than these simple qualities, but these are some of the things I hope I can embrace in my life and keep shining onto the world because of their inspiration.
To Sierra: Rest in peace. You made me a better person, and for that I will always be thankful.
Columbine Quillen wrote this essay for New Urban Habitat. She and her husband Brad live in Portland, Oregon, and she will graduate from law school this spring. Photos by Columbine Quillen.
Photos by Columbine Quillen.
(Note to readers: I’ll be reviewing more books that I think may interest you. Check out my review policy, if you’re interested. The short of it is – I’ll always give you my honest opinion. I’ll normally review books for adults, although my first review is of a children’s book set. I’m always up for book suggestions!)
Home Grown Books sent me their new Adventuring Set to review. My boys were thrilled when the box set of seven small paperback books arrived in the mail, and we immediately read all of them several times.
From a mom’s perspective, they are simple, beautiful books, and it’s obvious the writer, artist, and publisher put great care into every detail. Home Grown Books is a small, green company in Brooklyn started by Kyla Ryman, a mom and early reading specialist, and it’s exactly the kind of company I like to support with my dollars.
From their web site:
We are committed to keeping our eco-footprint as small as possible for your family and for the planet we share. Our entire printing process is green. We use wind power, recycled paper, and no-VOC vegetable inks to make our books. You can take comfort in knowing that our products are always safe for your family and never harmful to the environment.”
Every Home Grown Books product is crafted by skilled artisans who are active in building sustainable, diverse communites. We strive to keep our production process as community oriented as possible through working with small, local businesses in the United States and fair trade collectives abroad.
I thought the set may appeal more to two-year-old Ira than five-year-old Ezra, because they are short and the language is simple – one book has just one word per page. But Ezra is crazy about maps and mazes, and he couldn’t get enough of the map and game books. Plus, I imagine they will be perfect soon when he starts sounding out words and reading on his own. It can be challenging to find books, toys, or games that engage both boys at the same time at this point, and these did the trick.
Even better, I found them interesting and engaging. The books may be short and simple, but many of them are also almost deceptively intelligent. For instance “Submarine” challenges you to look at things from different perspectives, by showing the same scene from different creatures’ points of view, and “What Comes Next” makes you think about perspective by scanning out further and further from a scene.
I recently read Before Happiness by Shawn Achor, where he suggests that studying paintings can teach adults to look at things from different vantage points and even improve performance in a variety of fields (including medicine). Since then, I’ve been taking more time to study the illustrations in the many picture books I read to the boys. And I particularly enjoyed the unusual, whimsical watercolor paintings by Case Jernigan, as well as his artist’s notes at the end of each book. (You can see a short video featuring him and some of his art here.)
The set retails for $29.95, which seems like a fair price for a set of seven books made with such care from a responsible company. I think they’d make a great gift for a three to six year old, especially one who loves maps and mazes. Home Grown Books has three other sets on city and country, the environment, and play. If you have or know a young reader, it’s definitely worth taking a look at their catalog.
Here’s my article about Portland’s food cart revolution, from the current issue of YES! Magazine. We’ve had a week straight of ice-cold fog, and these photos, taken last July, are making me delirious with summer longing (not to mention hungry).
Portland’s Food Truck Heaven: How a New Kind of Fast Food Brings Jobs, Flavor, and Walkability
Immigrants and other restaurant workers get a way to rise in local economies. Communities get the best fast food they’ve ever had.
by Abby Quillen
At noon on a sunny day in Portland, Ore., in what not long ago was a vacant lot, customers roam past brightly painted food carts perusing menus for vegan barbeque, Southern food, Korean-Mexican fusion, and freshly squeezed juice.
The smell of fried food and the tent-covered seating bring to mind a carnival, but a number of Portland’s food carts take a healthy approach to street food. The Big Egg, for instance, serves sandwiches and wraps made with organic farm-fresh eggs, balsamic caramelized onions, and arugula. Their to-go containers are compostable, and next to the order window is a list of local farms where they source their ingredients.
“We don’t have a can opener. We make everything ourselves, so it’s very time-consuming. And that’s the way we want it,” says Gail Buchanan, who runs The Big Egg with her partner, Emily D. Morehead.
The Big Egg usually sells out, says Buchanan as she hands a customer the last sandwich of the day, one made with savory portobello mushrooms. And on weekends, customers form a line down the block, willing to wait up to 45 minutes for their food.
Buchanan and Morehead dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. They had food service experience, saved money, and spent their free time developing menu items. “Then 2008 happened,” says Buchanan. Difficulty getting business loans after the recession convinced them to downsize their dream to a custom-designed food cart. When a developer announced he was opening a new food cart lot, Buchanan and Morehead jumped in.
Portland’s permissive land-use regulations allow vendors to open on private lots—food cart “pods”—like the one that hosts The Big Egg. Local newspaper Willamette Week estimates there are about 440 food carts in the metro area.
The food cart scene has taken off in Portland in a way it hasn’t in other cities—transforming vacant lots into community spaces and making neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly and livable.
Recent features in Sunset, Bon Appétit, Saveur, and on the Food Network have pointed to Portland’s food cart pods as tourist destinations. There are even food cart walking tours.
Despite their success, Buchanan and Morehead have found that running a food cart isn’t easy money. They both work 70 hours a week, most of it prepping menu items—their fire-roasted poblano salsa alone takes three hours to prepare. But they’re grateful for the experience. They plan on opening a restaurant soon, like a growing number of he city’s most popular vendors.
Many of those vendors are first-generation immigrants who’ve found a way to make a living by sharing food traditions.
A few blocks from The Big Egg, Wolf and Bear’s serves Israeli cuisine from Jeremy Garb’s homeland. But it’s Israeli cuisine with a Portland influence, says his co-owner, Tanna TenHoopen Dolinsky. “It’s inspired by food in Israel, but we sprout our chickpeas and grill everything and don’t use a deep fryer.”
Wolf and Bear’s has grown to two locations and employs 12 people, and Garb and Dolinsky are considering opening a restaurant. “There’s a feeling of opportunity in Portland, and I think the rise of cart culture is representative of that,” says Dolinsky.
Nong Poonsukwattana has made the most of that opportunity with her food cart, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, famous for her signature rice and chicken dish. She describes hers as the best kind of fast food: “Fast service but not fast cooked. It’s fresh. I serve happiness.”
Poonsukwattana arrived from Bangkok, Thailand, in 2003 with $70. She waitressed at five different restaurants, working every day and night of the week, before buying her own downtown food cart in 2009.
Now she has two carts and a brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and employs 10 people. Recently she started bottling and selling her own sauce.
Poonsukwattana likes the sense of community in the food cart pods, “even though competition is fierce,” but especially the cultural exchange with customers, many of whom she knows by name.
“I think it’s always good to support local business, mom-and-pop shops, or small businesses with different ideas. It’s beautiful to see people fight for a better future for themselves.”
Abby Quillen wrote this article for How To Live Like Our Lives Depend On It, the Winter 2014 issue of YES! Magazine.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
Full confession: I like fast. I like to move fast, work fast, learn fast. My dad used to tease me about how quickly I walk. “That’s not walking; that’s sprinting.” I love running and zipping across town on my bike. I like page-turners.
But I’m embracing the power of slow.
Anat Baniel, a clinical psychologist and dancer, teaches people how to overcome limitations and find joy in their lives. She guides people through deceptively simple, gentle movements, which she says rewire the brain to learn. She’s had amazing success helping children with severe disabilities learn to walk and live full lives. One of the nine essentials in her method is slow.
“Fast, we can only do what we already know,” she writes. “That is how the brain works. To learn and master new skills and overcome limitation, the first thing to do is slow way down. Slow actually gets the brain’s attention and stimulates the formation of rich new neural patterns. Slow gets us out of the automatic mode in our movements, speech, thoughts and social interactions.”
I was reminded of the power of slow recently when I learned to code eBooks and revamp my websites. Frustration dissolved when I let go of hurrying and simply allowed myself the time and space to learn. The process became fun.
I’m astonished at how quickly problems evaporate when I simply ease my foot off the gas pedal, whether it’s a toddler tantrum or a disagreement with my husband or a piece of writing that’s not coming together. And slowing down transformed the way I cook and eat.
But I’m the most amazed by how slowing down can instantly transform the way I see the world. The moment comes bursting into life. My senses turn on. Everything is rich and vibrant and alive.
I still like fast. I just realize that it has its place. Fast is best when we’ve taken the time to learn something and already mastered it. “When we do something fast, and without tension, it can be both exhilarating to do and exciting to witness. Our brains are built to turn slow into fast,” Baniel writes.
But to grow and change and to really experience our lives, we must harness the power of slow.
I am fortunate to live with true experts in slow. When a walk turns into an opportunity to inspect a blade of grass or watch a snail inch across the sidewalk, I’m usually tempted to hurry my boys along. But when I crouch to inspect a pile of rocks or listen to two crows calling to each other, I am nearly always grateful to have such brilliant teachers in the art of slow.
Have you learned to embrace the power of slow? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
“When I was thirty five, I looked up one day and realized that I hadn’t had a life. … I had a hint of what I’d been missing. Laundry. And not just laundry, but what laundry gives us: an honest encounter with ourselves before we’re freshened and fluffed and sanitized. Before we have ourselves put together again.” – Karen Maezen Miller
When I quit my job to work at home, I was perplexed by the chores that swelled up to fill my every waking moment. “I can be on my feet every second, never stopping, and still the house is a disaster,” another mom lamented to me. I nodded. My boys are gifted at making messes. Recently, when I left the room for thirty seconds, they managed to cover every inch of the living room with a couple of board games — tiny tokens and piles of cards and fake money strewn everywhere. When I first started at this mothering thing, it was tempting to dream about hiring a housekeeper or paring down our wardrobes to two pairs each or replacing all of the dishes with disposables. But soon I realized that the chores were like any other problem. What they needed was my attention.
My feelings about the daily chores have transformed remarkably over the years. They’re messy and monotonous and always there like a gnat buzzing around your head. But as Karen Maezen Miller so beautifully points out in Hand Wash Cold, they are life. And they are incredible life coaches. It would be silly to trek across the world in search of the meaning of it all or to hire an expensive life coach when we can likely find all of the answers we need right here in the dishes and laundry. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned from the daily chores:
It’s impossible to do anything well if you can’t focus on one thing at a time.
I used to do a few dishes and then wander over to the washing machine and start filling it and then start making a bed and then head back to the dishes for a few minutes and on and on like that all morning long. Then I realized that I felt distracted and frenzied, and nothing at all actually got done.
So I started making a simple checklist. I forced myself to do one thing all the way until the end, crossed it out, and began the next thing. Sometimes this was not easy. Everything in me told me to walk away from the sink. But I stayed. I washed every single dish. I put them away. And then I moved on to laundry. The chores whipped my distracted mind into shape. I probably don’t have to tell you that this focus and discipline transformed my work and every other aspect of my life.
It’s therapeutic to work with your hands.
I like doing the dishes. There, I said it. I do them after every meal and every snack. It’s easier to stay caught up. But in the winter, when the house is cold, I also gravitate toward the warm, sudsy water. Combined with the meditative work of dish washing, it feels, well, healing. My two year old seems to know this. He can spend all day perched at the sink “washing dishes”.
In Lifting Depression, Dr. Kelly Lambert says that when we use our hands and see tangible results from our efforts, our brains are bathed in fell-good chemicals. In this way, all of the daily chores can be as therapeutic as the dishes – making beds, sweeping, folding laundry. We’re using our own two hands to transform our world and make it more beautiful. There’s power in that.
It feels good to do things for other people.
My husband and I used to never fold each other’s laundry. I’d fold and put away my own and the kids’ and leave my husband’s in a basket for him. He said he preferred it that way. Then he got really behind for quite a few weeks, so I folded and put away his laundry for him and discovered something surprising. It made me happy. I felt great to help my husband. He works hard for our family, and here was something I could do to make his life easier.
It probably shouldn’t have surprised me. Helping people makes us happy. A number of studies show that people who give time, money, or support to others are themselves happier and more satisfied. Chores are an act of giving and serving each other. And oh how grateful I am when my husband makes dinner and does countless other chores every day.
Happiness is not something we find, it’s something we make.
There’s no doubt, the chores can be miserable. I’ve spent enough resentment-packed afternoons cleaning the house to know that. But they can also be a lot of fun. When I was a kid, I regularly ate breakfast at my best friend’s house. Her parents made hearty, delicious breakfasts, but what I loved was what happened after breakfast. They turned on music and the entire family cleaned up together. We had a blast talking, singing, dancing and cleaning together, and by the time we left for school, the entire house was spotless. That’s when I realized how magical chores can be. My boys aren’t quite old enough to be real helpers yet. But music or a good podcast are wonderful at transforming the chores into something I look forward to. After all, it’s up to me to make the chores into something that adds to my life.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to life.
Housework may seem innocuous and unassuming, but just beneath it lurks a minefield of gender politics. Many an online forum and a kitchen table have exploded over who should take care of the children and do the housework. And most of us probably carry around scars and baggage from those feuds.
But the chores have to get done. We have to figure out what works, not for politicians or activists, but for us, for our marriages, for our kids, and for our families. And in doing that hard work, the chores can offer us a profound lesson in looking inward and negotiating the sort of lives we want.
What lessons have you learned from the daily chores? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.