Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Meditation

"What day is it?" asked Pooh.
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.
– A.A. Milne

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Happy Weekend!

It's Saturday!  Here's hoping you get outside and enjoy some well deserved R&R.  Cheers!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Springtime in the Grand Canyon!

Me in the Grand Canyon 1979
I’m planning a spring break trip with my family, a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon, descending the New Hance Trail to the Colorado River then climbing back to the South Rim on the Grandview Trail.

This is my first time taking my kids to the Grand Canyon.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with them—and I’m looking forward to remembering what a great experience it was for me when my parents ventured into the canyon with me as a kid.

I remember my first impression of the canyon.  It appeared that a huge chunk of the familiar Earth I knew had been cut away, and the scarred chasm left behind had been covered with veneer from some strange and faraway planet, Mars perhaps, but more likely some unknown word from a galaxy deep in the unexplored cosmos.  In other words, it was an outlandish place that blew my mind!  And as we descending into the canyon, walking into the reddened, stratigraphic pages of prehistory, tripping over stones that may have once been mud pies made by dinosaur babies, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the colossal and the diminutive—the almost indigestible hugeness of the canyon set against the intricate wonders it contained—lizards, pinyon jays, barrel cactus, a thousand million really cool rocks...  Of course when I was seven years old I wouldn’t have explained it to you with the word juxtaposition.  I would have simply shouted, “This is cool!”  And I would have been right.

This spring, I hope those words once again echo off the canyon’s ancient walls.  “This is cool!”  I hope the magnificent chasm blows my kids' minds as thoroughly it once blew mine (I know it’s going to blow mine all over again).

When we return I’ll post pictures and highlights from our trip.  In the meantime, I’m wishing you a spring full of happy trails and muddy feet!  Cheers!

Jason Kapchinske is the author of Coyote Summer.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Meditation

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Vacant Lot (a.k.a. The Wonderful Urban Armpit)

Last weekend my son Kai and I had an hour to kill between a basketball game and band practice.  We weren’t really sure what to do with ourselves.  If we went home we’d have just enough time to turn around and leave again.  We’d already eaten lunch.  It was sunny outside, the air fresh after a couple days of rain…

“Hey, you want to go see a vernal pool?” I asked.

“A what?”

“It’s like a big puddle.”

He looked skeptical.

“There might be tiny shrimp in it.  And frogs,” I added.

“Sure.”  Kai loves frogs.

Large parts of our home town, San Diego, are built atop mesas.  And once upon a time those mesa tops were littered with countless seasonal wetlands called vernal pools.  Mud puddles really.  Super cool mud puddles… to those who stop and really look at them.

These pools form because rainwater perches atop a clay layer in the soil, unable to percolate.  And in years when we get enough rain, these pools come magically to life in the winter and spring—filled with plants you don’t find anywhere else, giving life to tiny fairy shrimp, hopping with frogs, providing habitat for birds.

Sadly, most of these pools, which once stretched across acres and acres of raw land that my great grandparents knew, have been plowed under, paved and converted to strip malls or corporate headquarters.  In fact the pool Kai and I went to see last weekend sits in the middle of a vacant lot adjacent to the office complex where I work, a weedy patch of land surrounded on all sides by offices, parking lots and industry.  But for those of us who’ve nurtured a childish curiosity (not to mention an unsuppressed habit of climbing fences and venturing where we’re not supposed to go) this vacant lot provides a glimpse into the complex web—the wet, green, crawling, rotting, flowering, reproducing, frenzy of biology that makes life—our lives—possible.

Kai and I parked at my office, pushed our way through a cluster of scratchy shrubs, climbed a rusty fence, dodged the stinging nettle and walked through the weeds, picking stickers out of our socks and watching for snakes.  Vernal pools don’t really look like much at first glance, some slightly stagnant water with weeds poking out, and when I announced our arrival Kai just kind of stood there and stared at first.  But then we crouched, scooted closer so that our shoes got muddy, and really looked.  And the more we looked, the more interesting this little patch of world became, the more curious and childish our minds grew, the more we smiled, the more discoveries we exclaimed out loud to each other—fairy shrimp, tadpoles, frogs, frog eggs… even two pairs of mallard ducks.

We spent thirty happy minutes exploring this mud puddle, this urban armpit of a vacant lot, fenced off from the rat race of a community we call home, a little patch of earth explored and known by very few.  And when we left, life felt even better than when we’d arrived (and we’d already been having a good day).  There was a spark in Kai’s eye, like he’d been let in on some sort of secret, like he now knew the funky handshake that would allow him to get past stupid fences and become a member of San Diego’s secret frog society.

I hope he always remembers that funky handshake.  I hope he never stops climbing fences and getting his shoes muddy.  I hope he never stops stopping, never stops looking, never stops wondering… never stops caring.

There are wonderful urban armpits in your community too.  I know it.  So please take your kids out there, climb the fences, sit in the mud, and watch the world happen.

To learn more about San Diego’s vernal pools check out the California Chaparral Institute’s website.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Meditation

“But from boyhood through manhood it has been my experience that trying to grasp an insight, a deep mystery, a transrational experience, or any act of love via reason alone is rather like trying to play a guitar with one’s butt.”
— David James Duncan

Friday, March 6, 2015

Southern California Gardening – March

“Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I am not a master gardener… but someday I will be.  Last year I planted a small vegetable garden in our yard, and one of my goals for 2015 is to learn more about gardening in my region (Southern California).  So these monthly blog posts on gardening are kind of like my homework…  Have fun reading my homework!  And please share tips, comments, corrections and any other thoughts in the comments section below.  My garden, like this blog, is definitely a work in progress, and I always appreciate learning from you!  Cheers!

Things to plant in March
Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kohlrabi, spinach, turnips, chard, potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, green beans, corn, cucumber, squash, basil, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme.  This is also a good time of year to plant citrus and avocado trees.

March To-Do List
Feed avocado and citrus trees.
Harvest seed from your cool season vegetables and store them.
Pull weeds while the ground is soft.

Beneficial Insect Habitat
Attract beneficial insects to your garden!  Attracting beneficial insects to your garden will help keep the pesky ones away.  Try planting some of these beneficial species:  butterfly weed, clover, coriander, cosmos, dandelion, dill, English lavender, fennel, parsley, phacelia, spearmint, yarrow and zinnia.

Don’t walk on garden soil when it is wet (this will compact your soil).
Don’t dig is soil when it is wet enough to make dirt balls in your fist.
Have fun!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Meditation

“Kindness to children, love for children, goodness to children—these are the only investments that never fail.”
― Henry David Thoreau