Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Winter Rose Garden

Yes, it is winter in Portland, but the flowers are still beautiful.  

We walk for seven blocks through the city and suddenly we are on the edge of Washington Park, a 40 acre park we walk through to get to the Rose Garden.  

Today we hiked up the 220 steps to the top of a big hill on the way to the gardens.  The walk through the woods is so peaceful.  

It is hard to believe we just crossed Burnside Street in heavy traffic to get here.



We march up and across to the gardens, where things go from wild and natural to beautifully formal.  





The city looms in the distance.  

We take a few minutes to look at some of the flowers up close, then head on home.  It is roughly a one mile trek, and worth every minute.  



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Concentric Circles Discovery Program

Since we arrived in Portland we have been working on a Concentric Circles Discovery Program.  We start from our home with the closest possible restaurants, parks, stores, and places to visit and then slowly work our way outwards, in a circular fashion.
Less than a mile from our place we have discovered the Rose Gardens which are absolutely beautiful.  We walk there almost every day.  It is uphill all the way  and offers us the possibility, if we wish, to take a short cut that includes marching up 220 steps to the top of a hill before reaching the rose gardens.  If we are not in the mood for taking all those steps, there is a road we take instead that zigs and zags its way more humanely to the top.
We have also visited the Japanese Gardens which are 350 feet farther than the Rose Gardens.  They, too, are absolutely beautiful.  However, there is a fee for visiting the Japanese Gardens, while on the other hand, the Rose Gardens are freely entered.
This week, we discovered Pittock Mansion which is  about 2.1 miles walking distance, from our place.  We drove up there on Saturday, and this was the view (see below).  One sees downtown Portland, Oregon and Mt. Hood  in the background looking so powerful and beautiful.




 Today we visited Pittock Mansion again, but this time we walked through town and then zig-zagged up to the top,  a very good aerobic work out.

On the way down, to reward ourselves for the walk up, we stopped at Basta's for happy hour where we had the best pizza and lasagna to go with a glass of wine and a glass of beer.

This is really too much fun.

At this rate of speed, we will be busy walking in concentric circles to interesting sites for years to come.  




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Unfinished business

Compatible with my life style of being a complicated person who choses to live simply, I have now initiated a companion blog to address the things I want to do but have not yet done.There are pieces I want to write, but have not written. There are things I want to address which are not yet addressed. There are places I want to go where I have not yet gone.

The purpose of this new blog is to have fun while deciding to do something about this unfinished business, or not.  Either decision requires some effort.
For those interested in following along, please see Things I Forgot to Do...Until Now




















Thursday, August 21, 2014

Simplify your garden: Go wild!

Before we downsized and sold our suburban home, we kept formal gardens and they were wonderful.  But the care of our gardens took hours and days and weeks of work to keep them organized and flourishing.  The result was marvelous. But the time involved was not. At our new location, our little cottage, we are now experimenting with smaller, more informal gardens that largely depend upon native plants for their blooms and color.
Formal Garden
In our more informal setting, we let the native plants and flowers mingle with the grasses and plants that just pop up and join in for the fun, with the exception of invasives and poison ivy, which we remove by digging up  We added a few colorful flowers and bushes, mostly native to our North East area, that mingle next to the wilder plants.  We tell our plants in our garden to have fun, make room for everybody, move over, if necessary We wish them luck and tell them we hope that it rains so that they get some water. Surprise us, we say, with your arrangements. The end result is very joyful.

We mow a small amount of our yard to make the wild and wooly chaos of our plants look organized.  On one side of our yard, the middle is wilded and on the other side of the yard, the edges are wilded.  A stone path runs through the middle.
Informal Garden
Keeping large parts of the yard wilded is making a buffer, slowing down the flow of rainwater into the lake, thus reducing erosion.  The end result of simplifying our yard is that we only need to mow small portions of the lawn once a month, just to keep walking paths around the garden.  Birds and butterflies enjoy their newly found meadows.

The time we spent before pulling weeds is now spent swimming, kayaking, talking walks, researching and writing.
Wilded with flowers
Naturalized yard
When it comes to gardens, I say go wild.









Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is the World Over Populated? Or Who Ate my Toast?

A friend just asked me whether I thought that the world was really overpopulated.

"Overpopulated for what?"  I asked.

He replied, "Oh, you know what I mean.  Our whole life we were debating whether the world had too many people, whether we were going to run out of food."

"That's true," I said, "but have you noticed that the longer that we debate this, the bigger our population gets and the more food we have to eat?   What's the problem?"

"But," he protested, "Don't you remember the warnings of  Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring? She tried to show us that there are repercussions to all those pesticides we were using to finesse our food supplies.  What about the arguments of Robert Malthus about overpopulation?"

"Oh yeah, I get what you mean, now" I said.  "You're talking about those hysterics who told us we had too many people on earth.  Way back when the US was a quarter of its current population size, people argued that we should reduce our population growth to zero, work toward a stable population.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we quadrupled our population, increased our GDP,  our food production went through the ceiling and we added a minimum of 20 to 30 extra pounds just around our waists, without even estimating what we added to our legs and our behinds.  Is that what you are talking about?"

"Yeah, something like that".

"Well, I never believed in overpopulation." I said, "Not even for a minute.  We are not overpopulated. 'The more, the merrier', that's my motto  More people means more growth.  That is what keeps our economy chugging. "  

"But what about all these people I keep running into, right when I don't need them" he protested. "I get stuck in traffic every single day, at least twice.  Once on my way to work, and once on the way back.  Isn't that overpopulation?  Wouldn't it be easier if there were fewer people to contend with on the highways?"

"Heck, no" I replied. "That's because we don't have a mass transit system!  What are we doing all riding around in cars?  What happened to bikes, to walking, to public transit?"

"So, you don't think its as simple as slowing down on population growth?  Listen", he said. "When I was born in 1940's, the United States had 130 million people. In 2046 , when I am 100 years old, we will have around 400 million.  I'm just guessing, of course, that I will make it to the ripe old age of 100, now that we have these newly improved life expectancies.  Don't you think that all these people will negatively affect our public spaces, our national parks, our school systems and waiting times in doctor's offices?  How many people does it take before we are overcrowded?"  

"Try to be alone!" he added, woefully. "Just try to find a place outdoors where you can sit there for an hour and not see anybody.  Just try it.  See what happens.  It is clear to me that we have taken over all the habitats on earth,  plants and animals, ours and theirs.  There is no place left to hide!" he exclaimed.

"Sounds pretty boring to me."  I replied.  "Why would we want to be that isolated from people?  I love people."

"Well, you might feel differently if you were a bird or other animal," he said..  "How often can an animal  find a spot where they can sit down in a quiet place and munch peacefully on a carcass or take a drink from a stream without running into one of us?  They must have permanent indigestion from all our commotion."

I replied to him, "That's not because of overpopulation.  We don't have to spread out like that.  We could cluster our living arrangements more densely, like bees or ants, and take less land from other animals, give them more space.  Blame that experience on our spreading suburbs.  That's not overpopulation."

"Okay, then, help me out here." he said. "If every time I bring up an example of overpopulation, you make it sound like the problem is something else.  Is there, then, no such thing as overpopulation?  Shouldn't we slow down population growth?"

"Nope," I said. "We could keep growing forever. Relax! Let things happen naturally.  It doesn't have to be orchestrated.  There's no need to overreact. Nature knows how to take care of things, just you wait and see.  One untreatable infectious disease brings down our population size a whole lot faster than any slow, complicated policy change.  All it takes is a couple of unexpected food and energy shortages to do the trick without any need for intelligent action on our part.  And I haven't even brought up the important impact of the inevitable war yet."  

And with that, I walked away, fully confident of my position in this argument.




Addendum:
The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See  was produced several years ago by Greg Craven.  I find his video very compelling and pertinent to this discussion. 











Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When a blog languishes

What an irritating thing to do.  Just stop blogging?  Why?

Suppose there are friends out there wondering what happened.
For example, is she still alive?

Did she commit a serious crime?
If so, when will she be getting out of prison?

Has she lost her voice?
That shouldn't stop anybody from typing.

Did a bear eat her after mistaking her for a bird feeder?
How is the bear feeling?

It may be simpler to get back to blogging
than it is to come up witha litany of flimsy excuses.










Monday, January 13, 2014

Did I tell you That It's Always Raining in Portland, Oregon?


Just about everybody plans to move to Portland Oregon, so it seems.  But I must tell you something up front, from the beginning. Carefully think about this before you start packing.  Remember that it is always raining in Portland, Oregon.

We recently moved there ourselves, into our newly acquired 100 year old condo in North West Portland, walking distance to just about everything. We don't own a car, but instead use public transportation or our bicycles. Because we are “Honored Citizens” meaning we are older than 65 it costs us $1.00 to take the Max train to the airport.  Streets are well marked for bicycles and we can safely use them to go shopping, to the library, the hardware store.  Buses are well managed and comfortable.  The streetcar runs around the downtown area and is very dependable.On those very unusual times when we want a car, we just rent.

People in Portland are young at heart, eclectic and tend to be environmentally sensitive. There is a lot of creativity and a great number of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and who are designing and running very interesting small businesses.  They are easy to meet and tend to remember your name the next time that they see you.

I expected to have so many young people dismiss us from the conversation because of our age, but thus far, this is not what has happened.  We join conversations that are lively and interesting, and have made friends from the age of 30 and upward thus far into the 70s, with ease.  People see and greet you.  Cars stop for EVERYBODY to cross the street, and not just when there is a red light.  When we first arrived, we just stood there in disbelief at a street corner when cars stopped to let us cross even when there was no STOP sign.    My husband and I have decided that when we go back to the East Coast, our biggest danger is that we will forget that cars don’t stop for pedestrians and are likely to be hit.

Oregonians converse about many things with a calmness that just amazes me.  They have a habit of allowing people to finish their sentences before replying.  In indoor environments, they speak in relatively quiet voices.  I have a favorite coffee shop that I visit and enjoy sitting there listening to calm low toned voices speaking with each other, avoiding shouting and sharp, disruptive tones.   It reminds me of places like cafes in Paris and small shops in Sweden.  Stores and restaurants in Portland still have excellent service, much like the US had in the late 1950’s.  Clerks come up and ask us if we need any help, and actually provide assistance when asked for it.  Waiters check to ensure that we got what we ordered before taking off to the kitchen.  This is happening so consistently that we have finally decided that we are not confronting aberrations, but truly a different culture.

It is not without its problems, of course.  Homeless persons are found here, as they are across America.  Poverty is a problem especially in our newly formed 1% economy.  Food lines for hungry people can be long.  There are numerous opportunities to volunteer and help out.  Volunteerism is strong out here.

I hope that this delightful place where the trees are hundreds of years old and have enormous diversity of leafage, even on city streets, survives the ongoing transition we witness. We see cranes and new development everywhere.  Urban housing boards are arguing with developers over how high buildings can be, and how close to the road, how sustainable the building should be, debating building construction environmental definitions and classifications.   It is not clear to me how long Portland can survive this onslaught of construction and new development, but time will tell.

Some of the new developments that transitioned old industrial areas to new living and shopping arrangements are truly marvelous.  They are architecturally pretty and have used old structures to the max.  Newly designed buildings fit beautifully with the old, and blend well into very lovely neighborhoods with good character.  Excellent restaurants abound. The food is very fresh, organic and delicious.

By the way, did I tell you that it is always raining in Portland?