The painted ladies

On my way home today, I stopped to say hello to the mountains.

Image credit: allposters.com

But while I originally had pulled over to say hello to the mountains, I also got to say hello to the painted ladies – the butterflies.

There are hundreds of thousands of them, all passing through and I’m lucky enough to live along their migration path.

No one knows exactly why they choose to come here, but I’m happy they do.

I heard they are headed west. Maybe they’re chasing the sun.

So, as I sat alone outside my car, I blew kisses to the mountains, to thank them for being so magnificent.

Image credit: travelandleisure.com

I blew kisses to the butterflies as they flew by, to wish them good luck on their journey.

It’s days like these when I know I wouldn’t be able to live in a place where the sun seldom shines.

There wouldn’t be nearly enough mountains that compare to Ojai mountains and there definitely wouldn’t be enough painted ladies.

I hope they all reach their destinations.

And if they really are chasing the sun, I hope they catch it.

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The story of kale, tangerines, and the realizations I made.

I ate a piece of kale the other day.

It was growing in a garden box at school, so I pulled a leaf off of the plant and ate it.

It was a nice, sturdy piece of kale. It tasted pretty good. I continued munching on it as I walked over to the baseball field.

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Kale can be a nice snack, if you’re into dark leafy greens. But, as many experienced plant-eaters know, raw kale is quite tough to chew.

My jaws were getting a little bit tired, so I switched over to eating a different leaf that I had also picked from the garden box. I’m not sure what plant this was, but it was softer and sweeter than the kale.

As I was chewing, I twirled the piece between my thumb and my pointer finger.

I started to study the leaves. The kale was dark and rough. It was much more aggressively textured than the other leaf.

It was at that moment when I stopped chewing, for I noticed dozens of very tiny, white bugs all along the sides of the leaves.

I swallowed my bite, then tossed the remnants of my half-eaten leaves aside. I decided not to dwell on it too much, because I didn’t want the thought of the bugs to take away from the otherwise positive experience I had eating them.

(I would like to apologize to the innocent lives I took that day. I didn’t thoroughly inspect the leaves before eating them, and that was selfish of me. To the bugs that once inhabited the kale: I am sorry.)

On a completely unrelated note, this morning my parents and I went out to our tangerine trees. It was time to prune them. After about an hour of picking fruit and chopping branches, my dad said to me: “This is a chore that very few other people your age have to do, but you have to remember that it just makes you more cosmopolitan.”

Though I didn’t really enjoy being outside when it was 40 degrees, I did find comfort in the fact that our work would provide more fruit for us next season.

I never realized it before, but I am so thankful that I know how to take care of citrus trees.

I live in a place where I am fortunate enough to grow my own food. I take that for granted.

I hope that I will always have this luxury, bugs and all.

Home

Photo Credit: outsidevan.com

I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, but I’ve never realized how beautiful it is until recently.

Maybe I just didn’t notice it before or I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it, but lately I catch myself staring up at the mountains.

It has been raining a lot lately. On my drive home, I noticed that the north-facing slopes are so much greener than the south-facing ones.

But Dad says this isn’t supposed to happen. South and west-facing slopes are usually the greenest, at least where we are, because of sunlight and rainwater, he explained. The south-facing Topa Topas are just dry because of their rocky terrain.

I’m not sure why even still I think of the fire when I’m admiring the mountains. Maybe it made me appreciate them more.

The trees still seem like skeletons to me. They are black and withered and don’t really fit in with the bright grass that’s growing in. They used to be so much greener. But at least they are still standing. I’m thankful for that.

There isn’t really much to do in this sleepy town, especially after having been here for sixteen years. But despite that, I can’t think of a better place to have grown up.

Making an Impact by Reducing It

I saw this tweet a few days ago and I think it is something we all need to be more concerned with.

And, it’s not just about climate change, it’s about everything involving the environment. We’ve done a lot of damage. When it comes to bettering our environment, it’s too late for preventative measures. We’re just playing catch up now.

Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing. We’re so used to living the way that we do, it’s not always easy to put the planet first.

If you want to reduce your impact or help the planet but don’t know how, here are a few things you can try implementing into your routine:

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  • Say no to plastic. The next time you eat out, tell your server you don’t need straws. Especially, if it’s fast food. There is no reason for you to take a lid and a straw for your drink. Buy glass bottles instead of plastic ones – they’re easier to recycle. If you’re planning on eating out, bring reusable containers to take left overs home.
  • Be mindful of product packaging. For example, buy bar soap instead of liquid soap. This can include shampoos and conditioners; there are plenty of eco-friendly options that don’t use plastic packaging. Don’t buy anything with excessive packaging. Cardboard or paper packages are the best options. Buy in bulk as much as you can.
  • Buy second hand. I understand that, from time to time, it’s nice to treat yourself to a new item and that’s fine. But, for the most part, you can find everything you need at thrift stores and you’ll save money too. There are also plenty of websites where you can buy used items (for those of you who like online shopping).
  • Keep it local. Shop at farmer’s markets and support local businesses. Buy produce that is in season. This reduces the distances that items need to be transported and causes less fuel emissions.
  • Don’t waste food. Shop for groceries using a list and only buy what you need. Don’t cook more food than you can eat. It is better to have no leftovers at all, but, if you do, try to actually eat them later.

If you’re looking for more ways to reduce your impact, do some research. There is so much information out there that can help us be better.

I’m not perfect. I try my best to be conscious of everything I do and the impact it will have, but I still have a lot of ways in which I could be better.

To some people, conservation might seem like a hopeless cause. But as long as we’re trying, if each day we do one more thing that reduces our impact, then, there is still hope.

Breaking News

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The icecaps are melting. Human green house gas emissions have grown 80% since 1970. On average, annually, a women makes eleven thousand dollars and men make twenty-one thousand. A headless chicken named Mike lived for eighteen months after its head was cut off. Toilet paper kills 27,000 trees daily.  By 2050, one million species of animals will be extinct.  But, the problem dominating the internet (not), bringing major social uprising (sarcasm), and (said ironically) causing riots around the world: non-dairy drinks being called milk. *GASP*

Dairy farms protest dairy alternatives such as soy, almond, cashew, and coconut being called milk.  This issue has been taken to congress and brought up with the FDA. It is rumored that the FDA will ban the use of “milk” in the title of non-dairy beverages.

Let’s be real here. There are MUCH bigger problems facing our earth today. People, sit down, pour a nice big glass of almond milk, and email congress or the FDA to say “START DOING SOMETHING NECESSARY WITH YOUR AUTHORITY!”

Refuse

Photo credit: zmescience.com

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

The three words we have all (hopefully) heard since our early childhoods. Anytime you go to throw something away, they spin in a constant loop in your mind reminding you what to do with plastic and waste.

Unfortunately, these words have lost their meaning. I like to think that we are starting to become more environmentally aware, but the truth is that not much is changing; or at least, change isn’t happening quickly enough.

Here’s the thing: while we might all be aware of our incredible impact on the environment, we’re not actually doing anything about it.

After watching a TEDx Talk about this subject, I learned some frightening facts.

  • It is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.
  • For many manufacturers in the world, the United States especially, it is less expensive to use new plastic to produce items than it is to use recycled plastic. In 2012, only 9 percent of post-consumer plastic was recycled. The remaining plastic was discarded.
  • “Without a profitable market in which to sell used plastic, many recyclers export it, in a process known as outsourcing waste. In 2011, America’s primary export to China was used plastic.”
  • Plastic does not biodegrade. Over time, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called micro-plastic. These microscopic pieces of plastic are eaten by organisms, which are then eaten by tiny fish, which then are eaten by bigger fish, and so on. Eventually, the plastics that have been eaten by marine life will work their way up the food chain to humans. Even though we might not be physically eating it, the chemicals from plastic have been shown to be linked to obesity and cancer.

While it might not be our fault that the oceans are filling up with plastic, it is our responsibility as human beings to resolve this problem.

Photo credit: plasticsoupnews.blogspot.com

Oftentimes we are desensitized to the harsh reality of just how damaged the planet is becoming. Sure, we know that we’re not treating the environment as well as we could be, but maybe we think that it won’t really become a problem until we’re not around anymore. Maybe that’s right, maybe we won’t start seeing the real effects until our generation is long gone.

But if we don’t correct past mistakes, there will come a time when there is no land on Earth that is untouched by plastic. There will come a time when there is no more fresh water available, or when it is impossible to stay outside for longer than three minutes without being sunburned due to the ozone layer dissolving. There will come a time when our planet’s resources have all been used up so that it will no longer be able to sustain human life.

Photo credit: Ticotimes.net

So we have to start now. There are so many simple things that we can implement in our daily lives that can contribute to bettering the environment. The next time you get a drink at a restaurant, don’t take a plastic lid and spoon. Pack your lunch in a bandana or reusable containers instead of in a paper or plastic bag. Do everything in your power to end single-use and stop using unnecessary plastics.

Simply put, we need to stop teaching our children the words “reduce, reuse, recycle,” because they just aren’t working anymore.

We need only teach them one word: Refuse.

homeless

i don’t get how everything i’ve built could be so fragile. just when you think your foundation’s set, an earthquake comes and shakes it. next a huge rainstorm. then a forest fire. or a tsunami. each disaster shakes the very thing you thought was solid. now my house is starting to crumble on contact. the walls a little less sturdy. the ground with a few cracks. but that’s why they call them natural disasters, because they have to happen. except they shouldn’t have to. you were a fire that didn’t naturally arise. you sparked something in me. i thought you were the soft ember in the fire-place, warming the whole house in a crisp, cold night. but you crept and crawled out, until the polished hardwood floor became singed beyond belief.

Photo Credit: chriscrespo.com

you burned everything. engulfed the second floor, filled with broken-down cribs and pictures lining the walls.  you exploded in the kitchen, where everything was black and it wasn’t bad cooking. you burnt the living room, even all the memories made there, the many late nights, turned to dust. you left the backyard, full of brand-new spring blooms, dead. except it wasn’t all you. my house wasn’t fireproof. my foundation wasn’t concrete, it was loose pebbles. my walls were made of rotting wood. you barely made a scratch on my already damaged surface. so, while you sleep in your warm sheets in your warm bed, I’ll be shivering under my army blanket in a foreign homeless shelter, because you destroyed my only home.