Minimalism Update #1

Two months ago, I wrote about a challenge I gave myself:   1. to minimize the number of throw-away cups (and those single-use plastic covers they come with) when I buy coffee and   2. to maximize the use of re-usable cloth shopping bags.

This is what happened during the last two months:

I used throw-away cups on only two occasions, once because I forgot to bring my travel mug along, the other time for sheer convenience.

I went on a long 1,100-mile car trip and was away from home for two weeks. During that time, my travel mug was my constant companion.  By now, it has become a habit for me to carry my travel mug along.  So this is not a challenge anymore.

During the last two months, I forgot to take my re-usable shopping bags a few times, but basically it, too, has become a habit to bring my fabric bags and a cooler bag that keeps perishables cold.

I am ready to move on to a bigger challenge:  to reduce our household’s throw-away garbage by 50 percent over the next 4 months.  At this point, we are filling a large trash can over a period of about two months (I used to fill a similar-size trash can during a single week while living in the suburbs of DC).  I noticed that we are mostly throwing away plastics that cannot be recycled.  Everything else either gets recycled, up-cycled, or burned in the wood stove.  All food wastes either go to the chickens, dogs, and cats, or end up in the compost pile.  When I was away on my trip, it felt very strange to throw food wastes into a plastic bag along with other trash.  It just didn’t belong there, in my mind.

Some of you may know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre in the Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of the state of Texas, or the country of France.  This gyre accumulates trash from all the countries that border the Pacific ocean, both in the East and the West.  The most troublesome aspect of this phenomenon is the fact that plastics have broken down into smaller and smaller pieces and have turned the ocean into a plastics soup.  Fish and sea birds consume these plastic fragments mistaking them for food.  Many die of the plastic waste in their stomachs.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Researchers have found that the plastic molecules the animals consume end up in their blood stream.  When we consume fish and other seafood, the plastics then end up in our own bodies and cause an endless array of problems that we are only beginning to correlate with plastic consumption.  For example, plastics in our bodies function as hormonal disruptors and speed up the growth of cancer cells.

So, throwing anything into a garbage bin is not a very responsible solution.  Even when the plastics end up in a landfill (and not our waterways and then the big ocean), they can still leach into the soil and groundwater, and ultimately end up in our bodies.  There is no more “away.”  Our throw-away habits are not only poisoning our environment and the animals, but, ultimately, our own bodies.  Everything is interconnected.

The only way to change this ugly travesty is to reduce our plastic consumption in the first place.  Don’t buy it, if you can avoid it.  Ask for less or no packaging, and products in glass bottles instead of plastic bottles.  Bring your own containers.

If you want to see what we have created with our consumption and throw-away patterns, you can watch this short video or a longer documentary.  It is truly mind-boggling.

While there are beginning efforts to clean up the oceans (see Eco Element’s blogpost on an invention by a creative young man), we each have to make an effort to stop poisoning ourselves and the world we live in.

Some people manage to produce virtually no trash.  Check out this young woman in New York City  or the book by Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home.  Bea has done a tremendous amount of research and has drastically reduced the amount of waste in her 4-person household.

My goal is to be part of the solution by creating awareness within myself and others, and taking action where I do have  choices in my consumption patterns.  Even though we are already creating much less waste than the average American household, I want to cut back to a bare minimum.  It will be an interesting journey, I am sure.

To the next seven generations who surely will want to swim in a clean ocean.

Coincidentally (?), Anarette just published a post sharing her experience of swimming with whales.  She also mentions the gigantic garbage patch the oceans have become threatening the very survival of these magnificent animals (along with all the others who depend on the oceans).

Posted in Healing Ourselves and the Planet | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Treasure Hunt

Not so long ago, a mother and her daughter took a morning walk along the beach.

shadows in the sand

walking along the beachThey saw something washing up on the beach but getting sucked back into the sea.  They watched for a while wondering whether the waves would deliver.  But the sea kept them waiting and didn’t want to release its possession just yet. It was so close and, yet, just out of arm’s reach.

something in the water

Bored with waiting around, the daughter wandered off to find some helpful implements.

found somethingFull with youthful hope, she returns with her tools.

returning with some toolsI’ll get it now, watch me!

trying hard

She keeps reaching for the treasure with her sticks, but the sea teasingly pulls it away from her just when she thought she had a hold of it.  The waves keep rolling in forcing her to jump back at the last moment to avoid getting her shoes wet.



almost got it







This is not working so well.  I’ll have to go in the water; let me take my shoes off.

taking her shoes and socks offHere we go….I can do this…

wind in her hairThe water is so cold, she screams.  Then she grabs her treasure and gleefully wrestles it away from the sea.

Her prize:  a piece of seaweed (or was it a sponge?), wet and sandy, satisfying as a ripe piece of fruit picked from high up in the tree.

celebratingTime to celebrate….

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Wind Energy

Did you know that the Wind is a great and energetic sculptor?

Wind draws zen-like lines across the landscape, using snow and landscape features as sculpting media:

Snow drift

Snow drift

Wind decorates a stonewall with a white flowing skirt of textured snow:

Snow against stone wall

Snow against stone wall

Wind carves a perfect semi-circle around a corner post, using dried grass for a mixed media effect:

Semi-circular snow formation

Semi-circular snow formation

Wind decorates entire landscapes with endless rolls of (entirely recyclable) quilted tissue paper:

Two snow textures

Two snow textures

Wind works tirelessly, equipped with rakes and chisels, and seemingly endless energy:

Snow pattern around tree

Snow pattern around tree

For more interpretations of “Energy”, take a look at Ailsa’s Where is My Backpack?

Posted in Adventure, Appalachia, Travel Theme Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Blue Light

There is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in…

Leonard Cohen

Posted in Artistic Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments


Here is a mystery photo:

neural network

It reminded me of neural networks in the brain, a diagram of computer networks, a disorganized spider web of city streets.

This was the original picture:

original picture

A shot of ice crystals on a storm door, with my car as a backdrop.

The temperature on my porch was -5 F (-22 C). This is what -5 F will do to your creative brain :-)

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Transformation.

Posted in Artistic Inspiration, Travel Theme Challenge | Tagged , , , | 18 Comments