Of Coffee & Pride

June Musings

Yesterday I attended a remarkable program at the Bainbridge Island Art Museum, part of their DogEar Festival, a celebration of artists’ books and printmaking. This particular event was Queer Writers Read, with a stellar lineup of readers. Two young female-identified readers especially caught my interest because both included multiple references to God and sacrament, rite and ritual. I chatted with them after the reading and asked about that, since such views are very unfashionable and rather bold these days. Both laughed cheerfully and replied that in their view, God is definitely transgender, gender-fluid, and/or probably pre- and maybe post-gender, or all of the above.

Earlier that morning, I had attended the local UCC church to hear a compelling and powerful sermon delivered by a gay pastor, who noted that the UCC (United Church of Christ) was formed in 1957 by melding four similarly congregationalist denominations, all run on ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’ lines, in direct response to the Civil Right Movement. Mark’s sermon wove local civil rights history with national history, reminding us that June is Pride Month because of the Stonewall Uprising, which occurred on June 28, 1969, when long-abused gay people stood up to brutal attacks from NYPD officers who had been harassing, beating, and jailing gay people for years simply for being gay. He talked about the courage and fear, loneliness and loss, pride and strength of the queer community. I found myself remembering how Jesus hung out with outcasts and poor people, not the proper and prosperous.

June Is For Uprising

Mark reminded us that this local Bainbridge Island UCC had been the focal point for civil rights actions, including during the removal of our local Japanese American citizens to internment camps during WWI, and through multiple rights movements. He talked about social justice movements and necessary uprisings, about growing up gay and afraid, ashamed and lonely, about fearing that if he was openly out as a gay man, he would not be ordained. This refreshing frankness made me realize that THIS is the church I’m hungry for; a church where social justice is not just an intellectual concept but a lively, living, daily way to live.

So many of the sermon’s themes were echoed in the Queer Writers’ readings; isolation and fear, loneliness and rejection, shame and humiliation, finding community and acceptance, learning to take pride. All this made me think about the many ways in which marginalized people are often especially kind and accepting, encouraging and supportive. About fifty years ago, inspired by Saint Francis and Saint Claire, I studied (briefly) with a Jesuit teacher, longing to become a Poor Claire nun. It didn’t go well, but I never lost the desire for being part of an accepting, nurturing community. How rich, then, to discover that that’s exactly where my life has brought me. I’m finally seeing that such communities may not be ready-made, but they are for us to weave together, here and now.

Coffee For Coughing

During the reading at the museum, I inadvertently sat near someone wearing perfume, which triggered an allergy attack. Coughing convulsively, I slipped out into the lobby-cafe, where a kind barista handed me a cup of fresh coffee. She said as an asthmatic, she had learned that a few sips of coffee will stop the coughing in moments and she was right. A few sips of hot black coffee and shazam! The kind barista said she’d heard that the tannins in coffee can disrupt coughing spasms, and though I don’t keep coffee on hand, after walking home through gusts of wind-blown pollen, I brewed myself a cup of coffee leaf tea. Sure enough, when the cough started up again, a few sips of the coffee leaf tea shut it down. Yay for another good home remedy!

I’m very fond of coffee leaf tea, which I find both refreshing and mildly sweet, with none of the bitterness of brewed coffee no matter how long it’s steeped. The flavor is gentle yet distinctive, with a warm, almost nut-like quality reminiscent of green teas. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, coffee leaf tea is a traditional anti-inflammatory with about half the caffeine of a cup of black tea.

Coffee Leaf Tea

Every few weeks, I’ve been plucking a few leaves from my sturdy young coffee plant and drying them on a wire mesh cooling rack. Once I’ve got a cupful or so, I briefly dry-toast them in a cast iron skillet, then oven-roast them at 200 degrees F. for 20 minutes to dry completely. Stored in a tightly sealed jar out of direct light, the leaves last for months. I make my coffee leaf tea by putting two teaspoons of crumbled dried leaves in a mesh tea brewing basket and covering them with simmering water. Steeped for anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours, the tea is lovely warm or cold for a refreshing summer iced drink.

Posted in Care & Feeding, Health & Wellbeing, Recipes, Social Justice, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Remembering And Looking Ahead

Welcome starts at home

There Is A Crack In Everything

So far, this is the most heartbreaking Memorial Day of my lifetime. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. There’s so much loss to remember, and it’s so hard to ignore. Growing up, Memorial Day felt like a fun holiday weekend, the start of summer, time for picnics and play. Now, it feels like it should be a National Day of Atonement, a day to grieve and a day to decide what we are willing and able to do about the state of our country and the world. In high school, I learned that after the American Civil War, the last Monday in May was declared Decoration Day, a day set aside for families to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of their beloved lost. It was a solemn time of remembrance and grief for a country deeply, brutally divided, both politically and socioeconomically. Sound familiar?

A generation later, the day morphed into a celebration of ancestors, with families gathering at cemeteries with picnics, weeding and tidying up grave plots, planting bulbs and shrubs. Family graves were decorated with flowers, while those of military men and women were honored with American flags, reminders that their lives had been given for our country. Over time, it changed again, becoming just another day off for most people. This year, it’s painfully clear that our country is as divided as it has ever been, and the national response or lack thereof to the pandemic, to the mass murder of elders and school children, to the ongoing stonewalling of 50 senators is driving us further apart instead of pulling us together. What on earth are we going to do to make us change?

Rootless & Lost

Part of the underlying problem is the unraveling of the traditional ties that bind. We’ve become such a mobile society that decorating ancestral graves isn’t so easy anymore. We may live hundreds or thousands of miles from family, let alone family graves, and many families are more loosely connected than in the past. Though honoring ancestors remains a significant tradition in many cultures in American and around the world, many Americans have lost the rootedness that made decorating family graves, remembering and honoring family, a natural and comforting event. Instead, we watch in isolation as bullies and bigots and kleptocrats mouth empty platitudes about honoring murdered people, then snubbing or berating anyone who points out their hypocrisy.

We have too damn many lost people to even grieve. It’s too much for any of us to bear. For starters, well over a million Americans have died from Covid19. Since 2020, gunmen (not guns) have become the largest cause of death for American children. Over 90% of children murdered by gunmen were killed in the United States. Four times more Black children are killed by gunmen than white children. A friend was wondering why media calls murders shooters, saying isn’t that what we call soccer scorers? Does shooting a child count like scoring a goal? Why do reporters shy away from calling out the gunmen kill, not guns, acknowledging the person pulling the trigger? I read that in an experiment, a thirteen year old was sent to try to buy various things. Cigarettes? Not allowed. Alcohol? No way. When the teen went to a gun show, however, within 15 minutes, he walked away with a gun, purchased with cash. no questions asked.

Lost & Lonely

Whether we know it or not, I think we’re all grieving the losses of connection and community that give structure to human lives. The more we value privacy and individual rights, the less interest we have in promoting connection or participating in community. Just as habitat destruction can lead to pandemics, the erosion of community cultures opens gateways to addictions and violence, both based in deep fear. Many studies show that addictions and social terrorism are rooted in the lack of connection and community that’s made worse by trauma and major losses. When we are in dire need of connection, we are most likely to end up in a hospital or mental facility, usually with a constantly changing cast of caregivers.

When local parents called for the formation of a proactive, protective group of men to nurture and mentor and support local troubled male teens here there was a lot of pushback, with dismissive people pointing out that we have agencies to handle “all that.” It’s great that there are agencies in place, but there clearly aren’t enough, or their outreach isn’t stretching far enough, or perhaps they simply don’t go far enough to connect with suffering teens. Even here on this privileged, prosperous island, there are kids couch surfing (often unbeknownst to parents), sleeping in cars, camping in the woods. All of them are sad, some are angry, and some are desperate for kind acceptance and loving connection.

Stretching Past Our Comfort Zone

Humans need to be in community. It’s as basic a need as air and food and water. It’s right up there with shelter, as community is a form of shelter for those of us who are accepted. If we aren’t, if there’s no room for us, no warmth for us, then we begin to starve emotionally and often intellectually as well. We are all so hungry for the comfort of community! A few days ago, a group of high school students put on a panel called Young & Queer On The Rock (the rock is a nickname for our island). The students ranged from painfully shy to remarkably articulate and confident, and it was heartening to see the way they all supported each other, with a smile, a glance, a light touch.

One common theme that emerged was that despite increasing outward social acceptance, queer young people often feel isolated and not accepted or welcomed by “the straights.” They spoke about the hard work of teaching their teachers how to be more respectful of queer student, of losing friendships when they came out, and how finding community was a lifeline for them. One audience member challenged this and said, “Shouldn’t you be educating your peers as well as your teachers?” This made me think of BIPOC friends expressing exhaustion with always having to explain. “White people need to do their own work,” one woman said. Yes, and straight people have to do their own work too.

How The Light Gets In

One silver lining of the pandemic social isolation is that when we do connect, the conversation often feels deeper and richer than usual. We are learning how to pay attention in new ways, how to listen to what is and isn’t being said. I’m definitely finding myself listening better these days, inviting insights, feelings, and ideas that emerge more freely in slow, unhurried conversations than in quick check-in chats. I’m having deeply rewarding conversations with my fellow Trans-parents, the kind where we hesitate and fumble for words, laugh and cry and laugh again, feeling nourished by recognition and strengthened by understanding. I’m finding peace and comfort in remembering that we are all broken, that humans have always been broken, and that sharing brokenness can bring us closer together. I can hear Leonard Cohen right now, singing one of my favorite songs, Anthem; “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” So let there be light.



Posted in Care & Feeding, Health & Wellbeing, Social Justice, Sustainable Living | 5 Comments

Eating For Change

Fabulous Food For Climate Change

Live Like A Climaterian

A few years ago, I was introduced to Climates, a now-global social network that began in the UK. It initially serves to connect people who want to reduce their personal contributions to climate change. As we get connected, Climates offers amazing resources for people who are experimenting with and sharing carbon footprint-reducing ideas. Because it’s a global network, there are ideas and solutions of all sizes and degrees of complexity, including many that are practical for anyone anywhere.


The casual comforts of first-world living generally buffer us from drastic climate change events, though increasingly powerful storms and 100 year weather events now affect everyone all over the world. I live on a small island, and my community has been researching rising sea level models and slooowwllyy moving towards action plans as climate change starts to feel real, even to the privileged. Given the current state of world affairs, all of us are becoming aware of the vulnerability of the global supply chain. We aren’t just worried about toilet paper these days, as power sourcing and food availability are increasingly impacted. Is having unlimited gas and electricity at the flip of a switch a fading illusion? As transportation costs and availability shift, will our future be bereft of bananas? If we aren’t world leaders, what can we do? Once we’ve dusted off ours bicycle and changed our lightbulbs to LEDs, started growing as much food as possible, and made all the other simple fixes, it’s time to go several steps further.

Meatless Meals Mitigate Climate Change

Those of us in first world countries enjoy unprecedented choice and abundance, yet the uncomfortable truth is, the more abundance we enjoy and the more we spend, the greater our carbon footprint. Today, the average footprint for people in United States is over 15 metric tons. The average for those in industrial nations is about 6 metric tons. The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 5 metric tons.

Want more details? Check it out: http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=8

Wherever we live on that sliding scale, the quickest way to shrink our carbon footprint is to make a climaterian change of diet. If all meat eaters simply switched from beef and lamb to pork and poultry, each person would shrink a ton a year off their footprint. Food production creates up to a third of all greenhouse gasses, and the bulk of that comes from raising beef. Over half of crops grown worldwide are used for meat animal feed, again mostly for beef. If you’ve seen the film made by Leonard DiCaprio about beef raising practices and global impacts, you may already have sworn off beef. If not, see what you think:

Tapering Off Meat

Meat is often considered to be the heart of any meal, so tapering meat eating is often easier on the family than going cold turkey (as it were). Choosing lower-impact meats and reducing the amount of beef and lamb each family eats is a good way to start. For the novelty-averse, quietly substitute pork and poultry in recipes where you might ordinarily use beef, such as meatloaf, burgers, and pasta sauce. Use your usual beef-based recipe but substitute a less-damaging alternative and don’t say anything about it unless somebody asks.

Serve sustainably harvested fish several times a week, perhaps starting with salmon burgers (once you put enough ketchup on the bun, the burger flavor is less obvious). Fish and chips, grilled salmon, fish tacos, and smoked trout can all nudge the family meal pattern away from meat. The next step is to make meatless meals, again not billing them as such if you tend to get pushback. Mac and cheese is an obvious starting place, served with salad and fruit to round out the meal. If you need inspiration, there are zillions of awesome cookbooks out now, including my favorite


Start With Deliciousness

Changing slowly over to an increasingly vegetarian diet can shrink your carbon footprint by half. Short of not using a car, few other changes we can make offer as much positive impact. If you already eat a weekly meatless meal, try a meatless day. If you get resistance, instead of announcing the new trend, just do it. For real change, research the tastiest, most intriguing vegetarian recipes and simply serve them without comment. (It’s fascinating to see how many people won’t notice there’s no meat in something delicious.)  Small changes are easier to make than huge ones, but many small shifts can add up to large and positive results. Here’s a family favorite vegan recipe to inspire you to create your own taste sensations:

Tastiest Tacos

Chewy, organic yellow corn tortillas make this simple dish especially toothsome. For the most intriguing texture, fry the tortillas on both until they bubble, using just a slick of avocado oil. Add your favorite cheese and salsa to make this high-satiety meal even more satisfying. Have all ingredients prepped so you can serve (or eat) these amazing treats straight from the pan.

Avocado Cashew Tacos

8 6-inch tortillas
1-2 teaspoons avocado oil (or any high-temp oil)
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup cashew butter
1/2 cup halved and sliced red onion
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1/2 cup stemmed cilantro
2 ripe avocados, sliced
Pinch of basil salt or kosher salt
1 organic lime, cut in 8 wedges

Brush a heavy frying pan with oil and place over medium high heat for 1 minute. Cook each tortilla quickly on both sides, then spoon a dollop of salsa on half and cashew butter on the other half. Put some raw onion and peppers on the salsa side and cilantro on the cheese side, then add avocado slices to the salsa side and sprinkle with salt. Squeeze lime juice generously over it all, fold in half and eat at once. Serves at least one.

More resources:





Posted in Care & Feeding, Health & Wellbeing, Nutrition, Recipes, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Vegan Recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Reincarnation For Plastic Plant Pots

Plant pots offer years of useful service

Zero Waste Says Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

This weekend we held an Ice Cream Social at the Senior Center. Sadly, the day was rainy and cold but happily, lots of people showed up anyway, some with youngsters in tow. I was sitting near the door with a friend who was facilitating the trash/compost/recycle bins. She had set up clever signs with clothespins to hold specific examples of what could and could not be recycled at this specific event. The display was charming and very clear yet she had to keep jumping up to guide people’s decision making. I wondered if she really needed to be so hands-on, but as I watched the interplay, it was startling to see how many people ignored the large, obvious signs attached to the various bins and just tossed without looking.

It was especially heartening to notice that the kids, from little ones to highschool students, all took a moment to look or ask for help deciding what was recyclable and what was trash. Moms were also careful to comply, and so were most of the older women. Sorry, guys, but men were definitely less apt to pay attention to where they tossed what or even look at the signs. Sigh. My friend belongs to Zero Waste, a movement that began in the mid 1980s , when Bea Johnson, living in Berkeley, where a recycling business called Urban Ore had begun the salvage-and-reuse movement that morphed into Total Recyling, a credo that spread to various other countries without really catching on in the US. In the early 2000s, Bea Johnson, a French Canadian woman living in Berkeley, started her blog, Zero Waste Home, and kicked off a domestic movement largely embraced by moms and kids (clearly still a thing!).


What Does That Even Mean?

Zero Waste may not be truly achievable, but we can all take steps to reduce our impact on this weary world. The five main ideas are: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot and Recycle. Refuse is about not buying a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, rejecting items that are unsustainably made and/or with excessive packaging, and refusing to buy fast fashion toss-away clothing and single use plastics, among other things.

Reduce asks us to be creative and tireless in creating less waste in our households and lifestyles, from eliminating unnecessary purchases to consolidating errands and making fewer car trips and limiting discretionary travel. It also includes things like replacing old lightbulbs with LEDs and unplugging devices and chargers when not in use, etc.

“Waste is man-made. Nature produces no waste; whatever is consumed is returned to the whole in a reusable form. Man fails to utilize appropriately the bounty of nature.”
George Washington Carver, botanist and inventor

Reuse is one of my favorites, including make-and-mend techniques like sewing on a button instead of tossing out a shirt, sharptening knives, mending broken furniture, and reinventing outdated or outgrown clothing, and upcycling, finding new uses for what would otherwise become trash.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”
Annoying New England mantra (I love it)

Rot is all about composting, either making it yourself or using whatever local green waste recycling option is available to you. Every gardener knows the value of compost and many communities are also providing more and better green waste recycling options. If yours doesn’t, try rounding up a bunch of gardeners and putting some pressure on your local officials.

Recycle is at the bottom of the list because at this point, most North American communities have a long way to go to achieve significant recycling efforts. In my region, recycling rules change often, which can be very confusing, but they aren’t arbitrary, they’re based on what materials can actually be reused, which depends on local/regional technology. Be aware that many items, especially food packaging and products in single use plastics, that claim to be recyclable are actually not. That’s because lots of companies practice “greenwashing”, pretending to be much greener than they are and offering vague and unsubstantiated claims for redemptive practices that are intended to offset their continue use of plastics.

Nursery Pots Abound

Every spring, we gardeners go wild, bringing home carloads of lovely plants and finding space for them. Though the planting is pleasant, dealing with empty plant pots can be challenging, especially since most nursery plastics are not recyclable in many communities. Fortunately, there are quite a few good ways to put them back into use and keep them out of the garbage stream. As-is uses abound, from twine holders and button sorters to hanging planters for homegrown green walls. I keep a pair of round quart pots around for spreading baking soda on mossy walkways (stack two pots of similar size so the bottom holes don’t quite line up. Fill with baking soda and shake over the moss to get nice, even coverage).

Since I’m involved with many plant projects, I try to keep a few hundred 4-inchers around. That way, I can pass them along with packets of seeds when inviting both kids and adults to help with keeping local play parks and other public places full of edibles and flowers. Early in the year, I visit each group, explain the project in detail, then ask for their help in growing seedlings and planting them in public places. Such groups might include 4-H, scouts, school classes, garden clubs, the Senior Center, or the local affordable housing community. When planting time rolls around, arrange for a planting session in a park, at the library, the new community housing site, or wherever the need is.

Large scale projects can result in a plethora of pots in many sizes, none of which are recyclable. If clean and sorted according to color, type and size, some nurseries will take back 1- and 2-gallon pots, though more often they’ll accept 3- and 5-gallon pots and tree pots. Nursery flats are also happily received at most nurseries, since they generally pay the growers a fee for them. This can be as much as a dollar per flat, so do your local nursery a kindness and return any plastic or wooden flats you may find in the shed. (Clean them out first, please.) Local specialty nursery plant growers may be interested in reusing 4-inchers, quarts, and 1- and 2-gallon pots, especially in early spring.

I often take a bag filled with clean, sorted pots to the local farmer’s market where some venders are happy to take them. Garden clubs, Master Gardener groups, and grassroots nonprofits such as land trusts and native plant societies often run seasonal plant sales as fund raisers and willingly take clean pots. If you finally run out of options, take your (clean, sorted) pots to the nearest Lowe’s and ask where they keep their empties. In my area, local Lowe’s stores have a big outdoor swap bin where gardeners can leave and take home plastic pots. If yours doesn’t, ask if they might consider starting such a service. I’m told by store staff that the pots come and go quickly and only broken ones end up being tossed. Onward, right?

Posted in composting, Gardening With Children, Health & Wellbeing, Planting & Transplanting, Recycling Nursery Plastics, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Teaching Gardening | Tagged , , | 1 Comment