The Day I Became a Train Hopper

Today, I was telling a friend about this post. It is one I wrote in 2014. Since I’m not writing new posts until my wrist heals, I thought I would reblog this one. Enjoy!

Living, Learning and Letting Go

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I didn’t start that January 2014 day planning on becoming a train hopper.  Far from it.  My intention was to accompany my daughter, Chaitanya, to her dentist appointment.  Since her appointment was at Amma’s multi-speciality hospital in Kochi (India), several hours away from her ashram in Amritapuri where Chaitanya lives, it was bound to be an adventure, but train hopping was not supposed to be part of it.

Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS)

Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) began in 1998 as a 100 bed hospital and has grown into a 1400 bed tertiary care center with a campus that includes a School of Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Dentistry, School of Pharmacy, and a Center for Nano-sciences and Molecular Medicine.

I have wanted to see AIMS for a long time, but once I arrive at the ashram on my yearly India…

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Out of Commission

I won’t be writing posts for a while. On Thursday, I wasn’t careful enough and stepped into a place where my feet got tangled in downed branches and vines in the Greenbelt.  I fell hard and broke my right wrist. I’m doing well, considering, but writing posts with my non-dominant hand seems unrealistic. Since I’m writing this, however, maybe I will be back sooner than I think!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 9

It seems like I think every work party we have is the best. That was true on this day too. Eight students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, one student from Garfield High School, one neighbor and three GreenFriends members came together to do restoration work in the Greenbelt.

We cut blackberry vines, dug out blackberry root balls and bindweed (morning glory vines)

(click on any of the galleries if you want to enlarge the photos)

…. picked up trash

…. freed ferns

…. carried wood chips from a pile near 25th Avenue S and S Hanford, down the Hanford stairs, into the Greenbelt and scattered them in an area that will be used for a 250 square foot cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers when we start to plant in the fall. Having the wood chips there will facilitate decomposition of the burlap bags that are under it and help to build the soil by creating mulch.

…. and moved debris to the rack zone to dry.

Vandya, Ellen, John and I organized the work party and led work groups. Vandya and I also took photos. At one point, we snapped pictures of each other taking photos!

During the three hour work party we cleared a lot of land. The next step will be to spread burlap bags to prevent erosion and weed growth.

One group dug out the biggest root ball we’ve found!

Needless to say, our July 9 work party was a big success.

Daily Prompt: Grit

Twelve days ago, I fell doing Greenbelt restoration work. I fell hard. The result: bruised ribs. When I first read today’s Daily Prompt: Grit, I took grit to mean the quality of doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal, not letting any roadblock stand in the way. When I looked up the word in Wikipedia, I found this definition:

Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.

Since I fell, the amount of time I work in the Greenbelt has reduced dramatically, and what I do there has shifted. I may slowly place a few burlap bags over a cleared area; spend time laying out a design for a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers that will be planted the end of October; or I may wander around looking at the squirrels, birds and the occasional butterfly. Thankfully, I can still use my organizational abilities to lead work parties so the work is advancing; it just isn’t me holding the shovel.

Yesterday, I read that it takes bruised ribs 4-12 weeks to heal, and that the older you are, the longer it may take. I can tell that I am getting better. There is evidence of that daily. Healing just isn’t occurring on my preferred time table.

While I am frustrated by not being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, I know that I am being given lessons in patience and accepting what is. It doesn’t mean I have to stop advancing towards my goal, but it does mean that I can’t do the level of physical labor that I want to be doing. It is important for me to realize that developing patience and learning to accept what is are also lessons in my life’s curriculum and that those qualities are as important as grit in achieving my life goals.

I have grit, and I am learning behaviors that will support that grit.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridge

When the tsunami hit Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, Kerala, India in 2004, everyone in the village and the ashram had to be transported to the mainland by canoe. Over the next two years, Amma built a walking bridge that connected the peninsula to the mainland, so that everybody could be evacuated quickly should the need ever arise again. Last January, I took this photo of that bridge from a canoe.

And I took these when I was walking from the mainland to the ashram in December 2016.

The view from both sides of the bridge is so beautiful.

Bridge

Greenbelt Restoration Project: July 2 Work Party

Seattle Parks Department cut down a new area of blackberries on our site mid-June. Since that time, my neighbor John has put in a tremendous amount of time raking up the debris and digging up the blackberry root balls. Last weekend, 9 volunteers picked up trash, laid  burlap on the areas that had been cleared (to minimize new weed growth), and dug out root balls. It is amazing how much can be accomplished in a short period of time when we all work together.

This work party was particularly exciting because three members of our newly formed AYUDH chapter participated. Some of their parents came too.

AYUDH is an international youth movement established by Amma. Members are 15-30 years of age.The acronym stands for Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara which means “….the youth which perpetuates the wheel of dharma (righteousness).” The organization “seeks to empower the youth to integrate universal values into their daily lives. Starting with themselves, AYUDH helps establish a future of hope, peace and social engagement while maintaining an awareness of spiritual principles.”

This month we are holding work parties on July 2, 9, 16 and 23. There are already 13 people signed up for the 9th! I believe that six of them are students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class.

Who Would Have Thought That I Would Be…..

The Seattle Parks Department gave our Greenbelt Restoration Project a job box that contains the tools we need to clear the land in our Greenbelt restoration site. That box is chained to one of the large cedar trees on the property.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that an animal was defecating near the base of that tree. Over the week, the pile grew. I wondered if a cat was using that spot for its personal litter box. I thought about cleaning it up but didn’t.

One day, another forest steward noticed the pile and commented. She thought it had been left by something bigger than a cat and wondered if it was droppings from a deer. Earlier in the week, someone had asked me if we had ever seen deer on the site. I said “No.” I loved the idea but wonder if deer could live in the inner city and stay safe.

After this interaction, it occurred to me that not only was the poop pile unsightly, it was also disrespectful to the tree. I cleaned it up and buried the feces. The next morning, there were two more piles. One had an unusual consistency and I wondered if the animal had diarrhea. (The two photos below were taken a day later so the feces were no longer fresh.)

Aside from being irritated that my effort to clean the area hadn’t done any good, I was curious. I wanted to find out what animal was leaving these droppings. It was time to investigate.

I found a Scat ID section on the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (ICWDM) website. ICWDM is “a non-profit, grant-funded site that provides research-based information on how to handle wildlife damage problems responsibly.” (The next series of photos were used with ICWDM’s permission.)

Black bear
Rabbit droppings.
Deer (winter)
Deer
Raccoon

The description offered by the ICWDM said:

Raccoon (Procyon lotor): Droppings are 2 to 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. You often can identify what a raccoon recently has been eating. Corn kernels or fruit may be visible, for example. Droppings frequently are found in piles, called latrines, on roofs, in attics, in sandboxes, or open areas. Raccoons defecate in the same location.

Ah ha….. I hadn’t noticed anything peculiar about the first droppings but the last set were full of seeds/pits. Since there are big cherry trees on the property, and the cherry’s are ripe and falling, the animal had more than likely been eating cherries. My conclusion was that the pile was probably left by a raccoon, possibly a raccoon with diarrhea from eating too many cherries!

Realizing that the animal may have been a raccoon brought back memories; memories of standing on the land that is now Greenbelt, holding Sreejit as an infant, with a raccoon chasing our dog around and around me; memories of coming out to the tree-house that I had slept in April to October for five years only to find two big raccoons standing on their hind legs between me and it (that was the end of my sleeping in the tree house); memories of four raccoons, which are usually nocturnal, crossing my yard in broad daylight.

I haven’t seen a raccoon in this area for a decade. I like the idea of them, along with other wildlife, returning to the Greenbelt, but I hope that their activity is at night. And I’m glad that this land has mostly been cleared so it is likely they would choose a less visible site to sleep. Regardless, I am clearly being presented with the opportunity to work on my past fear.

Back to the story at hand…. scat, feces, poop, defecation, droppings…

Who would have thought that I would ever be investigating and blogging about “poop.” My life has taken an interesting turn… and I love it!

My Echinacea Plant is Thriving

Last summer, I purchased my first echinacea plants. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching this one grow. It gets more sun than the other two and the difference is remarkable. One attribute that I find fascinating is that it has blossoms in so many stages of development at the same time. I am also enjoying the fact that the plant has at least four times the number of flowers-in-the-making than it did last year.

None of these flowers are fully developed yet. I look forward to showing you what it becomes. I also am anticipating looking at the flowers under the microscope. The shots I took last year were spectacular.