Timely book recommendations

I’m joining a book discussion tomorrow that will be facilitated by activist, organizer, and educator Mariame Kaba as part of Project NIA. We’re reading The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. As I tweeted earlier today, “Lay didn’t try to “reform” slavery, but treated it as the absolute horror it was, calling out ALL who participated in the system. Inspiring! Solidified my stance on PIC abolition.”

I highly recommend reading this book about an extraordinary man who fought against slavery for 40 years (during the 1700s), “suffering endless persecution, ridicule, and repression, without a movement to support and sustain him.”

This book feels especially timely as we mourn Tortuguita (forest defender/climate justice warrior, and abolitionist) who was murdered by the police for defending against Cop City in Atlanta AND the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police (not going to link because don’t want to inadvertently include video). Also? This book is timely because in 2022, the police killed more people than ever (1,176) which is nearly 100 people killed every single month.

We cannot reform state sanctioned violence. We must defund the police. We must abolish the police. Then, all those billions of dollars must go to communities so that people are housed, fed, and receiving health care. Police do not keep us safe. We keep us safe.

Benjamin Lay pushed back against a system that many considered inevitable and here-to-stay. Back then, people thought it was futile to oppose slavery and we’re currently facing that same mindset regarding the police. Do you know how/why we have police in the United States? They started as slave patrols, men hired to hunt down enslaved people who ran away. Policing has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with protecting capital.

I’m tired and upset, and possibly not writing very eloquently, so if you’re interested in learning more about prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition, I highly recommend Mariame Kaba’s We Do This ‘Til We Free Us. She and the other contributors do a stellar job getting across their information and perspectives.

I’m currently working to find an agent to represent my middle grade novel about two kids in a small town divided over the presence of a for-profit prison, and was able to write the ending I wanted for that story. In the meanwhile, a whole lot of people are fighting for the creation of a safer reality in the here and now. Benjamin Lay would be proud.

Thankful Thursday: mystery solved

Yesterday I glanced out the window and saw a flock of birds in the distance. I grabbed the binoculars and watched as they descended into two treetops. Despite the added magnification, I couldn’t see well enough to identify them. But I kept watching them, hoping the image would miraculously sharpen. Alas, no miracles. However, at one point I thought I saw a little crest. Soon, the flock took off and I watched it wheel across the sky as the birds synchronized their movements. Tears filled my eyes as the mass of birds “shimmered” while it swooped low over the foothills and out of sight.

Later, I described the beautiful sighting to Zippy. I was so sad not to have identified the birds, but when I mentioned thinking I’d seen a crest when watching as they perched in the tree he suggested maybe they were waxwings. A ping went off in my head as I replied, “Maybe.”

Fast forward to this afternoon when I went for a run. Halfway up our street, I heard a commotion in trees on either side of the street. I stopped to observe and, sure enough, the birds had crests. Cedar Waxwings!

Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

Probably about fifty of them, flying back and forth between those two trees (one of which was covered in berries). Some were on the pavement, drinking puddled water from the melted snowbanks. A glorious sight and sound!

Image by Debra Foster from Pixabay

I got to see/hear them several times as I ran back and forth on that sunny stretch of street (it was cold with 20 mph winds!) and then they were gone. It was such a gift. I don’t think I’ve seen a waxwing since we lived in Anchorage and would see them (Bohemian Waxwings) flying drunk on fermented mountain ash berries, and I’m extremely grateful for the timing of my run. If I’d procrastinated going out into the cold and wind, I would’ve missed them.

All gratitude to those beautiful, social birds!

The more things change

I enjoy looking at photos from the same date in earlier years, just to see what I was about to at the time. Apparently, I’m very much a creature of habit.

Here’s what I was thinking about and photographing exactly one year ago today:

And here’s my photographic muse on January 21, 2020:

Clearly, I’ve got robins on the brain. And what about January 21, 2021? Well, I didn’t take any photos that day. However, tomorrow it’ll be exactly two years since I photographed this Cooper’s Hawk which, by the way, is staring quite intently in the direction of the bird bath.

How about you . . . do you check out your photos from earlier years? And if so, do you have a more diverse repertoire than me?

Barnraisers Project

This is last-minute, but I wanted to share this here. I’ve signed up with Barnraisers Project and thought maybe someone reading this might want to join in.

From  their site: “The Barnraisers Project coaches and trains white people to organize their friends, neighbors and colleagues for racial justice and the collective good. We’re nobody’s saviors, but we’re committed to doing our part to help build a better, more just world.”

Registration for the Winter/Spring Cohort closes tomorrow. Click here for information and participant commitments. In summary, there are five 90-minute virtual sessions, beginning the week of January 30th (so, one 90 minute class each on the weeks of January 30th, February 13th, February 27th, March 13th and March 27th).

Image by giografiche from Pixabay

There’s so much going wrong in the world (I just read that North Dakota is considering legislation that would imprison librarians up to 30 days if they don’t remove certain books from their libraries!) and it’s truly an all-hands-on-deck moment. I hope you can join the effort. Solidarity!

Good governors don’t frack their people

Today there was an anti-fracking rally at the capitol in Denver. As mentioned in this post, rallies are being held around the country this week in honor of climate warrior Joye Braun. Our local rally had lots of good speakers, with an emphasis on fracking in the state of Colorado. I learned that Colorado is now in the “top” four states for fracking and that despite Governor Polis’s talk about climate action, he’s okayed over 5,600 well permits since he took office in 2019 and rejected just one well permit. 

You can see his likeness in the upper center of the above image, smiling away while selling this state’s health and well-being to the oil and gas industry. (There’s talk of him running for president which some think is wonderful since he’s an openly gay Democrat with a husband and children. I’m here to disabuse you of that nonsense. Polis is bad news. He’s a Libertarian who threatens vetos on progressive legislation from the majority-held Colorado legislature. He’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars and paid nothing in federal income taxes from 2013 to 2015 and paid an effective rate of 8.2% from 2010 to 2018, substantially lower than the 19% paid by a taxpayer who made $45,000 in 2018. Trust me, we don’t need this rich guy playing with people’s lives on a national scale.)

But back to the rally. I also learned that despite the PR surrounding the oil and gas industry, it actually accounts for less than 1% of jobs in Colorado. This surprised me because I’d fallen for the fear-based propaganda about how oil and gas provides MANY jobs. The speaker mentioned there are ten Colorado counties in which the industry does account for many jobs and that there needs to be a concerted effort to provide a just transition to clean, renewable energy jobs.

Here I am clutching my signs with my no-grip mittens. I’m anti-incrementalism because we’re witnessing climate collapse and timid, half-measures aren’t going to cut it. Polis is very much into incremental steps which is really the same as being a climate denier.

One of the speakers led us in chants and it was fun imagining our voices disrupting Polis’s “State of the State” address inside the legislative chamber.  At the end, Micah from 350 Colorado led us in song. “Rise Up” was a staple during my time with Sunrise Movement and it filled my heart to sing with other activists again.

People power for the win!

Climate Movement Monday: MLK and environmental justice

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day which makes this Movement Monday post a no-brainer. Of course I must cite MLK who led the call for environmental justice. I can’t find the particulars surrounding this quote, but his words are powerful and still true today:

“Together we are approaching environmental justice just as what it is: It is a civil rights issue. By examining environmental requirements in conjunction with our civil rights laws, I am confident that we can do a better job of assuring fairness and advancing justice.”

By Trikosko, Marion S.

MLK recognized that people living in racially divided communities are exposed to higher rates of pollution and environmental hazards. These are frontline communities, typically BIPOC and poor people. For instance, the people of St. James Parish in Louisiana who are surrounded by petrochemical plants but scored a major victory when courts ruled against Formosa Plastics building a new plant. The people organized and fought for environmental justice.

In September, I highlighted the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, a predominantly Black community.  Guess what? Their water troubles continue. The people of Jackson are suffering their third water crisis in two years, this time due to pipes freezing and bursting.  They had no running water for Christmas. Last year, the EPA determined the Jackson water system has been in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As a white woman of privilege, I can’t fathom having to boil water before using it for cooking and bathing. I can’t imagine not having access to bottled water and, instead, using buckets to catch rainfall. As an elderly man quoted in that linked article said, “This is no way to live.”

In 1963, MLK led a civil rights march in Jackson following the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.  In honor of MLK’s leadership and the people of Jackson who continue to suffer justice, both civil and environmental, I invite you to check out mutual aid organization Cooperation Jackson and make a donation.

Solidarity! ✊🏽

Sunday Confessional: my theory doesn’t withstand scrutiny

I grew up in a big house my parents built out in the country and for much of my childhood, they wanted to sell the house (in part, I’d guess, because they couldn’t afford to heat it). As a result of their desire to move, I had to do even more cleaning than was already required by a mother who prioritized a clean house over most everything else. All that cleaning felt like a never-ending cycle of drudgery.

Dusting all the furniture, including every single chair rung. Vacuuming upstairs and downstairs plus two flights of carpeted stairs. Applying lemon oil to the paneling. Washing windows. Mopping the slate foyer. Cleaning bathrooms. Lather rinse repeat.

Oddly enough, as an adult I really dislike cleaning. 🙃 I married someone who isn’t much interested in it, either, and our various homes have always been messy. Part of that’s because we’ve always had dogs and cats which means hair gets everywhere. Today, Zippy and I did a thorough cleaning (there’s already animal hair on the floors!) which got me thinking about my friend Rebecca who I taught with in California.

Rebecca grew up in a household completely different from mine: her parents were more like Zippy and me, and their home was a bit on the chaotic side. That bugged the hell out of Rebecca who grew up to be an adult with a spotless home. And when she heard my tale of childhood woe, she suggested cleaning for me. Initially, I felt really uncomfortable on several levels, but she assured me that (a) she sincerely enjoyed cleaning and (b) I’d be doing her a favor because she needed to make more money.

So, Rebecca cleaned our house and, as far as I know, she never became enraged when the overstretched vacuum cord unplugged itself or the bag needed emptying or the handle came loose and slammed her in the leg. She never cried tears of frustration at the streaks on the window that would not go away, no matter how many times she washed and dried it. Rebecca whistled while she worked.

I thought about her today as I cleaned (without whistling although I was thrilled to NOT be pushing around the approximately 80-pound Kirby vacuum of my childhood) and remembered our theory about why we had such different outlooks on housekeeping. We both believed she became a clean freak because of her upbringing and that I’m a messy-mess because of mine. And then it hit me: while my two sons were required to do weekly cleaning, they were raised in an environment in which most every activity took priority over a clean house, and neither one of them is a clean freak. Not even close.

My theory doesn’t hold up.

Maybe I need more data. How about you? Are you neat and tidy or do you lean more to messy? What kind of upbringing did you have in regards to cleaning? It’s possible your experience will bolster my faltering theory but even if it doesn’t, I’d love to hear from you. Spill, please.

The face of a dog

I’m tiptoeing into a new project. And because I haven’t added anything to the draft in two days, I’m experiencing that panicked sensation of “what if the words don’t come today?”

What if I fail? What if today’s the day I’m exposed as the imposter I am?

Well, those feelings are exactly why I must get to work in order to disrupt that fear and show it to the door. To quote (in translation) Gabriel García Márquez:

“Necessity has the face of a dog.”

I must do what needs to be done. But, don’t worry, Emma. I’m fairly confident neither of us will be harmed during the writing of those words.

Climate Movement Monday: spark some Joye

Welcome back to Movement Mondays in which I share info about frontline communities that are enduring the worst of the climate crisis and the effects of fossil fuel infrastructure.

JOYE BRAUN DAY OF ACTION
Joye was a water protector and pipeline fighter who died in November 2022. Earlier in the year I attended several organizing calls in which Joye spoke and she was absolutely incredible. Joye was funny and knew how to fire up and empower activists. We’re all poorer without her here, but she’d certainly want us to continue the fight. Check out this link to find a climate justice/Indigenous rights action near you in honor of Joye’s work.

Note: Here in Colorado, rather than honoring Joye on January 20th, we’ll gather outside the capitol on the 17th when Governor Polis gives his State of the State address.

I’d love to hear what actions are happening near you so please drop a note in the comments. Solidarity! ✊🏽

Bee back soon

Our neighborhood streets are treacherous right now — icy ruts surrounded by berms of frozen snow. I’ve been wearing Yaktrax for our daily walks with Emma, but they’re uncomfortable when walking on clear pavement, so today I convinced myself there’d been enough meltage that they weren’t necessary.

Wrong. Just minutes from home and the end of our two-mile walk, I was suddenly on my butt in the street. And now I’m grumpy. My left knee is sore from being twisted and my neck and shoulders have that jammed-up feeling that comes from trying to break a fall.

So what’s the remedy? A little yoga plus a warm memory from last June:

I remember sitting next to the Lamb’s Ear that day, photographing the busy bees as they went about their pollinating business. Someday soon, I’ll be back in my happy place in the backyard. It’ll be me, the perennials, and a whole lot of bees.

But no ice.

Mourning Dove at rest

The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost upon either the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread. ~ John Burroughs

So long, 2022

It’s tempting to say this year was filled with nothing but loss — the deaths of my brother-in-law, my mother-in-law, and a friend/critique partner, plus parting ways with my agent. But that’s not the whole story.

I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago as I dealt with the resurfacing of a childhood trauma. I did a lot of work with my therapist in the first half of this year and am much stronger and more centered. That’s a huge win.

This past year I also took my first-ever solo camping trip which made me nervous to contemplate (see above), and ended up having a glorious time.

And while I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, I did want to continue my Hoop Dancing Challenge tradition. In 2021, I hoop-danced for just over 24 hours. And this year? Well, I logged 27 hours and 11 minutes!

Here I am this afternoon with my trusty hoop that brings me so much joy. I’m incredibly grateful to have this outlet, especially on days when it’s a struggle to get out of bed to face another day of our harsh reality. But music and movement kept me going. Hooray for funk!

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year! Don’t forget to dance in 2023!

Climate Movement Monday: share a climate victory!

On this final Monday of 2022, instead of asking you to make a phone call or send an email, I’d like you to join me in highlighting positive climate action around the world. The climate crisis can feel overwhelming, but good things are happening and it’s important to maintain hope for a livable future. So this week’s ask:

Share a climate victory in the comments. This can be something from your city or state, or news from another state or country. It can be a climate activist elected to office. If you don’t know of any specific climate victory, share a cool innovation you came across. Basically, I want to hype the endless possibilities for averting the worst effects of the climate crisis. 

I’ll go first.

 

In November, 70% of Denver voters approved the WASTE NO MORE ballot initiative. This will require Denver area construction sites to properly dispose of all waste and materials. It also requires businesses (restaurants, hospitals, apartment buildings, hotels, sporting arenas, festivals, etc.) to provide compost and recycling services.

This is very important because per the USDA “Food loss and waste also exacerbates the climate change crisis with its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Production, transportation, and handling of food generate significant Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions and when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.”

Per CBS Colorado, data from the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) and Eco-Cycle show that despite businesses in Denver generating about 55 percent of the city’s municipal waste, they weren’t required to recycle or compost. And now they are!

That’s one piece of good news here in Colorado!

What’s your good climate news? Please share in the comments to help expand perspectives on what’s possible when people work together for positive change.

#Caturday cattitude

Here’s Marcel on the coldest day of the year, tucked in between the venetian blinds and drafty window. Wouldn’t be me, on multiple counts. But I can’t fault anyone for following the sunshine.

Fortunately, we’re at a balmy 44 degrees right now. No sun, though, which might explain why Marcel is currently curled up asleep on the bed.

Happy #Caturday to all who observe!

Conjuring warm memories

It’s bitterly cold today and uppermost in my mind is that I’m exceedingly grateful for my warm home. We had to take our dog to the vet this morning and it was a slow fourteen mile drive. Many were equally cautious but, of course, there were those who treated the snowy-icy streets as their personal speedway. We had to detour on the way home to pick up something and by the time I was at the red light at the top of our exit ramp, I was looking forward to being off the road.

WHAM!

Rear-ended by someone who’d missed the memo that the streets were freaking slippery. The good news is there was no damage to the car (except the impact knocked the muffler tape loose and now our old Subaru is REALLY loud again). The bad news? The collision triggered my PTSD and I was weepy and shaky for a bit, not to mention suddenly feeling so much anger toward people. The unmasked and the fast drivers, aka the people who don’t seem to give a damn about anyone else’s health and well-being. Part of the issue is that I’ve been rear-ended a bunch of times over the years and I’m really, really sick of it.

But again, uppermost in my mind today as the temperatures dipped well below zero is that I’m exceedingly grateful for my warm home. In that spirit, here’s a beautiful Mourning Dove I photographed at the Chatfield Audubon Center last May. A much more soothing image than the puffed-out birds hunkered down in the trees today.

Peace until all of us.

Happy Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year and tomorrow we begin gaining daylight. Despite the incremental change at first, it’s still a huge boost to mental health. And we need it here in Colorado as we brace ourselves for an arctic blast. Tonight it will get down to -12 degrees F and tomorrow’s high will be a whopping -1 degree. And thanks to the climate crisis, we’re also smelling smoke from a wildfire in Boulder County (almost exactly one year after the Marshall Fire last December!) Cold enough to kill people and dry/windy enough to burn everything down. How’s that for messed up?

Anyway, this is some kind of hybrid dragonly/butterfly we found while clearing out my mother-in-law’s house. The six-inch by four-inch, bejeweled curiosity now hangs in my writing room window and I just photographed it as the foothills went dark. The bluish tinge is a result of the Arctic filter I applied, which felt appropriate.

Here’s to more hospitable days. Happy Solstice, everyone!

Climate Movement Mondays: Dirty Deal AGAIN

UPDATE 12.20.22: Manchin’s dirty permitting deal is NOT included in the omnibus spending bill. This is the power of collective action!!

Welcome back to Movement Mondays in which I share information about frontline communities enduring the worst effects of climate change and what we can do to help them. I started writing a post to celebrate the third defeat of Manchin’s dirty permitting deal last week and then found out (as expected), this zombie legislation hasn’t yet died. Now Manchin and Schumer want to add it to the omnibus spending bills this week.

One of my Denver zombie crawl images from years ago

PLEASE make some phone calls (or emails). Even if these senators aren’t from your state, it’s entirely okay to contact them. I say, “I am a climate constituent from Colorado where we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Marshall Fire that did over $2 billion in damages, and we cannot afford more fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” Unfortunately, you all have some climate crisis happening in your own state (drought, flooding, wind damage, etc). If completed, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will affect the climate for everyone, not only those in its path.

 

 

I’m looking forward to celebrating the fourth defeat of coal baron Manchin’s diry deal. Thank you in advance for standing with the people and planet. Solidarity! ✊🏽