Riverview revisited.

picture taken from photographersdirect.com

picture taken from photographersdirect.com

It is amazing what transformations come during the spring. This walk could not be any more different from my first exploration of Riverview Park.

To begin with, the park now overflows with life. There are children playing on the green grass. And, yes, there is grass, and yes, it is green (I know I was surprised). Birds chirp in the woods this time, squirrels scamper at my feet, and things are growing everywhere. Flowers create spots of color speckling the view- a view tha tis no longer only muted grays and browns. The trees, once so threatening, are softened by spring colors. The river that used to rush angrily on, heedless of what was in its path, now lingers and stops to admire what spring has wrought. The sun beats softly down, banishing the bitter cold of winter that I remember.
This place does not bear any resemblance to the cold, dead park I visited only a few months ago. I finally understand why it is a park at all. It is small to be sure, but there is a sense of peace here.

The people I see here smile and nod as I pass bye. Children laugh and run up to me when I wave. I finally feel welcome in this park.

Easton is a unique place. It is not always warm or welcoming, but it transforms. It changes, and the people are a part of that. It is a great place to explore, and visit over and over again, because you never know what you will find.

50 Ways to Go Green on Campus

  1. In a residence hall with heating or air conditioning? Adjust your thermostat to use less energy.
  2. Avoid buying bottled water. Reuse your water bottle or buy Nalgene or SIGG. The school store sells them for under $20. Fill it from the tap or fountain. If you don’t like the taste of the tap water, buy a Brita Filer.
  3. In fact, reuse everything at least once, especially plastics.
  4. Buy in season fruits.
  5. Use fluorescent light bulbs. Fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) Use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer. Leap will trade your old light bulbs for fluorescent ones.
  6. Turn off lights and electronics when you leave the room. Unplug your cell phone charger from the wall when not using it. Turn off energy strips and surge protectors when not in use (especially overnight).
  7. Recycle your newspapers.
  8. Car pool home for breaks.
  9. Walk or ride a bike to class instead of driving around campus.
  10. Walk, jog, or run instead of going to Kirby Sports Center for the treadmill.
  11. Get books from Skillman instead of making the trip to Barnes and Nobels.
  12. At holidays and birthdays, give your family and friends the gift of saving the earth. Donate to their favorite environmental group, foundation, or organization.
  13. Get off junk mail lists. Look at catalogues online. GreenDimes (www.greendimes.com) can get you started. They’ll even plant a tree for you!
  14. Buy products that use recyclable materials whenever possible.
  15. Look sheets, rugs, and towels made from organic cotton, which grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment, or bamboo, one of the fastest growing plants on the planet.
  16. If you use plastic grocery bags, use them for small trashcan liners.
  17. Bring your own bags to the Giant, Wawa, or the school store. If given a choice between plastic and paper, opt for paper.
  18. Buy produce locally. Easton Farmers Market is the perfect opportunity.
  19. Consider organic cleaning products like vinegar, borax, and baking soda. They sell organic cleaning products in Nature’s Way downtown.
  20. Need to get a new car? Consider buying a fuel-efficient car or a hybrid.
  21. Go paperless. Consider reading your newspaper and magazine subscriptions online. Switch to electronic banking and credit card payment, too.
  22. Recycle your batteries! There is a drop off box in Residence Life.
  23. Turn your car off if you’re going to be idle for more than one minute.
  24. Do full loads of laundry and set the rinse cycle to “cold.”
  25. Recycle. There are recycling points in every residence hall and academic building.
  26. Reuse. Plastic food containers make good crayon and marker holders. Use padded envelops more than once. Buy your clothes Goodwill (www.goodwill.org) or the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org).
  27. Limit the length of your showers. Even better, take a “navy shower,” shutting off the water while soaping up and shampooing.
  28. Don’t run the water when brushing your teeth.
  29. Wash towels after several uses.
  30. Purchase one case of water and provide clean water (www.charityis.com) to 24 people (for over twenty years).
  31. Give away your goods and find new ones at FreeCycle (www.freecycle.com).
  32. Recycle your technology. Dell, Hewlett Packard, Apple, and IBM, among others, offer recycling programs.
  33. Go zero! Log on to the Conservation Fund’s Carbon Zero Calculator (www.conservationfund.org) and in less than five minutes, you can measure and then offset your carbon dioxide emissions by planting trees.
  34. Put your money where your mouth is–invest in green investments. Web sites like Co-op America’s National Green Pages TM can help.
  35. Learn about threats to ocean life and help Greenpeace (www.greenpeace.org) take action.
  36. Opt for eco-friendly and holistic health products. Nature’s Way has a great selection- and it is within walking distance!
  37. Good to the last drop. Switch to fair trade coffee.
  38. Go paperless at work. Distribute company information and post company material online.
  39. Shop smart. Choose eco-smart products
  40. Buy a bowls, plates, cups and utensils that you can wash and reuse. You’ll minimize the trash you create with paper products and save money because you won’t have to keep restocking paper goods.
  41. Recycle your magazines by giving them to the Sports Center.
  42. Cut your costs and your carbon footprint by using things until they wear out. Additionally, search eBay, freecycle, or craigslist to buy gently used things.
  43. Think about your purchases. Only buy what you need. It saves you money and helps the environment.
  44. Buy Recycled paper. Using recycled paper saves trees, energy, produces less pollution, uses less harmful chemicals, etc. It is also not hard to do- everyday stores like Office Max and Staples sell recycled paper. The benefit of helping the environment like this offsets the small cost of buying recycled.
  45. Go used for textbooks, and then resell them! Not only is it It’s good for the environment, and just as good for your budget, since new textbooks cost around $500 each term. Check your campus bookstore for used book options, as well as sites like Bookrenter, which gives students the option to rent textbooks instead of buying them.
  46. At the end of the year, pack up your stuff in recycled boxes and take them to a storage facility near your school. It will be more energy efficient than dragging them all home and back again when school resumes.
  47. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible: it will save energy and burn calories!
  48. Get involved with organizations on campus to make a difference (for example LEAP).
  49. Pick up trash when you are walking anywhere. Then make sure to recycle what you can.
  50. Know what is and is not recycleable. Check out our list of things you thought you could recycle but cannot.

(Adapted from http://www.justaskasa.com/wp/?p=1047 and http://climate.weather.com/)

Lucky, lucky. I’m so lucky.

People live so well in America. I forget about it sometimes. Recently, I was going through an old blog I made when I was in South Africa, and I found this:

On Wednesday we went to the Kennedy road community. It is a huge slum of over 7000 people living in standards the government had described as “not fit for human occupation”. It was really terrible to see the conditions that people were living in. They were described to us before hand, but you really don’t understand the reality of a situation like that until you go and witness it with your own eyes. The community is located on the side of the city dump. They have only 5 or 6 water pipers for a community of 7,000. There are only 6 portable toilets and a handful of other simple toilets (I do not believe they even have pluming) servicing the same community. Garbage is literally forming the ground that you walk on. There are no flat paths; they are all eroded. The stairs are formed by old car tires. People just throw their garbage out their window and onto the ground. There is no method of collection throughout the community so the garbage just piles up. There is no electricity within the entire community so there are no lights, no stoves, nothing. Because of this they have to use kerosene stoves and lamps, a highly flammable way of living that has resulted in a fire within the 5 days since the city has dug up, disconnected and removed all the electricity and cords. There was a small 5 month year old child who was killed the other day in that slum (or one like it) by a giant rat the size of a cat. The baby had been playing on the floor when the rat came in. It bit off the baby’s fingers and toes and broke into the brain cavity to get at the vital organs and brain fluid. When the mother found it she had to fight the rat off.

Here is a picture of the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement:

http://www.cohre.org/store/images/KennedyRoad_Durban.gif

http://www.cohre.org/store/images/KennedyRoad_Durban.gif

What kind of “environment” would we call that?

They live on the side of a dump, unfit for human occupation, where they use the waste of people more well-off then they in order to survive. I get to write about walking on the beach, and complain about the cold (See previous blog).

Why did I leave again?

From Lauren Wilson's Facebook

From Lauren Wilson's Facebook

As I walk down the beach in Clearwater, I begin surrounded by people. I keep a careful eye out for flying sports paraphernalia. Pier 60 is a popular beach, and it is filled with people of all sizes, shapes, ages, and levels of tan. I pass a little girl who more closely resembles a lobster, and wonder why she is not covered up in the shade. I spot her mother; she is a woman the color of an leather-bound antique book, and though probably no more than 40, she looks older. Seeing her rough, wrinkled skin, and her strange resemblance to coffee, I have a sudden urge to go reapply spf-70 sunscreen. I also pass those pre-pubescent girls I used to hate while I was one of them. They sit and preen, adjusting their bikinis for maximum cleavage and minimum coverage. They flip their (fake or real) blonde hair, slather themselves in oil, and laugh at anyone walking by who does not fit into a size 2 Abercrombie skirt. Ok, I hate them.

As I continue walking, I enter the private beaches. People become fewer and farther between, and I am grateful. There is something hectic about a crowded beach that defies the calming effect of the sun, sand, and sea. The dissonance between the chaos of the human interlopers and the peace of the beach itself becomes jarring after a while. So I walk away. Away. Farther away.

The Third Eye Blind song slips into my head.

I believe in the sand beneath my toes.

The sand slips under my feet. I feel my muscles working more than on a normal walk as my feel shift in the sand and I soldier on struggling to keep balance. The shells become more prevalent now. Before they were picked through by happy toursist looking to bring home a sovienier. Now large, perfect shells are everywhere. They crack under my weight as I crush a little masterpiece of nature. I don’t have to sort or try to find the perfect ones- they are everywhere. Little abandoned homes which will either get turned into the white sand of the beach or adorn some bathroom somewhere, gathering dust.

I feel the sun beating on my back. The sun is so powerful here, I can feel the rays pressing onto me. I have no desire to resemble a lobster or a leather-bound book, so I turn around. I slowly begin the treck that will take me over the sand, through the shells, and into the midst of bustling activity.

Spring Break OR An Ode to Clearwater, Florida

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/marfc/ivan_photos/easton_2.jpg

VS

http://www.2000floridatravel.com/clearwater/lodging/clearwater-index.jpg

http://www.2000floridatravel.com/clearwater/lodging/clearwater-index.jpg

The difference between Easton and Clearwater is amusing. I left Easton shivering and I arrived in Clearwater with temperature twice that of where I had been. The sky in Clearwater is bright blue. It is not the kind of sky that permits grey clouds heavy with snow. It is a sky that sends a constant message of warmth and summer.

In Easton, I anxiously check on the first flower of the year (see the post “Spring Springing”). It is all alone in a large bed. It is the only flower I have found. I hope it will not die, and that it will fight the bitter cold, the bitting frost, the freezing wind, and the sad, hidden sun. I hope that my one flower will one day bloom.

In Clearwater, there are flowers everywhere. They are every kind, color, shape and fragrence. They are gorgeous; a rainbow of color spotting trees, dotting grass, majestically leaning on tables. Blossoms dangle from trees and brush my face as I walk past them. I pick some with the knowledge that there are millions more.

In Easton, I run squeezed into layers upon layers of spandex. I bundle my hands, my feet, my body, and I am still freezing.

In Clearwater I run outside. I ran in shorts and a tee shirt. I was gloriously, gloriously hot while doing it. It is so warm that the heat seems to suck the energy out of you. Without being accoustomed to it, it makes running harder. However, a little heat is much better than having to run inside because of cold, ice, sleet, and snow.

I saw something funny today. I was in Barnes and Nobels and was flipping through a book with catchy, clever or snarky one-liners when I saw this one that caught my eye. It said:

Organic Food: What our grandparents called “food”.

It really had a good point. The whole artificial/preservatives/fakeness that is in our food lately is really a new thing. Yet now it is everywhere. Then, suddenly there is this pressure to eat organic- a part of the whole “go green” phenomenon. Like eating organic is something special. People this it is so difficult, expensive, inconvenient… but it is something everyone used to do by default. There was no other option but eating organic- because we had not yet become a slave to artificiality, mass consumption, pesticides, etc.

This post has no real purpose. I just thought it was interesting.

Spring Springing

http://www.dennisflood.com/photos/pow/2004-04/l-tulip-bud-5801.jpg

http://www.dennisflood.com/photos/pow/2004-04/l-tulip-bud-5801.jpg

I saw a flower today. The first flower of Spring. It was the first real warm day after the last vindictive bite of winter. I was running the same trail I run everyday when I saw it. Right next to the small park on Lafayette Street- there it was. It was so small, delicate. A small stem and a white bud. I have no idea what kind of flower it is, but it does not matter. This flower represents all flowers for me. This flower is all of the flowers of spring that are struggling to survive and bloom.

One more cold day and it wont survive. I am going to have to keep an eye on it in the future.

Now that we are springing forward in time, its nice to see spring springing out of the ground as well.

My Place

http://www.wowinsider.com/media/2007/12/aa1203.jpg

http://www.wowinsider.com/media/2007/12/aa1203.jpg

Everyone has a place that they go to when they are sad or when they want to get away from the world. For many of my friends, that place is their bed. In their bed, under their covers, they can hide from the world. They are safe.

For me, being inside is restrictive. I need to get out. So I have my place- the place I go to when I am home and upset. My town is safe, so I can walk there alone at night. So, when I am upset, I start walking. Five minutes down the road, and I cut through some woods and there I am.

My place is a golf course. During the day, golf courses seem fake and kind of abnormal. The amount of pesticides and chemicals used to keep it green and gorgeous are horrendous. The environmental impact of keeping that grass the way it looks is not-so-green and not-so-gorgeous.

But at night, the golf course is not as fake. The green is muted, and the environmental impact does not seem to matter when you are lying on the soft grass. You will never find grass as well kept and as soft as grass on a golf tee.

The course is surrounded by woods, and the grass allows a pathway of stars to shine through. Lying down, you are greeted by a glimpse of stars cutting its way out of the forest. A glimpse of heaven. Unlike in Easton, you can see the stars in all their thousands. The forest masks all light from nearby houses, and you lie alone with the grass and the stars.

I miss that place when I am at Lafayette. Easton doesn’t have anything like that for me.

Riverview Park

photo taken from colourblind

photo taken from Colourblind :http://colourblind.ca/images/20051221223337_dead%20trees%20path.jpg

Tuesday, February 9, 2009

Riverview Park is not a welcoming place on a February afternoon. Muted colors of browns and grays greet me as I enter. Everything seems dead and cold. The grass is less grass and more mud; it grabs at your feet as you walk on it, staining white sneakers to match the dreary surroundings. No squirrels scamper, no birds fly, no leaves adorn trees; I am all alone with my shadow.

Even on a particularly balmy day, the park seems colder than everywhere else. Perhaps the cold is a result of the wind. The wind whips across the open grass through all layers of clothing and flesh and chills to the bone; its force makes even the trees and bushes shiver.

At first, the only sound I hear in Riverview Park is squish. Compared to this sound, even the rustling trees and rushing river are muted. Squish as I step on the mud, then squish inside my shoes.

The river is the dark grayish-blue of winter storms, and it rushes on heedless of any obstruction. The cement path meanders next to it, broken and uneven. At times the path dips down, and water gathers there. Sometimes ice, sometimes a miniature lake, or perhaps slushy mixtures of both, these places are unavoidable. Hop! Skip! Jump! Crunch! Splash! Squish! Tread carefully on the ice, or add the thump of an ungraceful fall to the park’s sounds.

As I walk, my shadow merges with those of the bare, shaking trees. The shadows are almost menacing. They follow me, moving harshly, piercing my shadow till it is all but destroyed, and creating a new one of sharp quivering angles.

Riverview Park is not a welcoming place on a February afternoon. I do not stay long.