Category: Green Movement

Earth Day and The New Reality of April Showers

A few years ago, I wrote about April showers as a time for inspiration and poetry.  I even posted a reminder on face book this year to look up some favorite poets.  But sadly spring rains are now also a reminder of  climate change.  In my case, it is ground water that has risen faster this year than in the past because of a mild winter that produced regular rain storms, not snow,  as soon as February.

 

I remember growing up in northeast Detroit and heeding tornado sirens that warned us on occasion to wait for the all clear in the basement cellar;  luckily the storms always moved past the city – and I never remember running to the cellar during a rainstorm. Now almost any spring storm sends me to the basement to check water levels around my sump pump.  I realize that I remain lucky compared to the millions in the direct  path of tornadoes across the Midwest and south.  Still I miss the youthful innocence that loved the idea of spring showers and never felt threatened.

 

I watched Bill Nye, the Science Guy, appear on national television during Earth Day coverage this year to show us how global warming is really, really seriously damaging our oceans and lakes and threatening our future even beyond destructive storms.  I believe him and worry that our legislators don’t seem to believe in science.  Oh, for the days of Gene Kelly, dancing through the streets in a rainstorm,  rejoicing in the downpour!  Still,  I continue to love spring poems and even believe it’s not too late to reduce climate change!

 

My Rockefeller Spruce

Among the great things about my quiet Condo community are the trees.  There are many varieties, but  I  especially fell in love with a Colorado blue spruce.  It was near my back deck, standing tall and majestic, and I often marveled that it was beautiful enough to stand in Rockefeller Center.  I once read that the Center‘s head gardener scouts holiday trees from communities in the northeast and beyond – and often thought what a great honor that must be.

 

With that memory stuck in my mind, I nicknamed the spruce my Rockefeller tree, as a tribute to all the years I spent in New York City, most in Brooklyn,  and how I still adore visiting Rockefeller Center around the holidays.  Of course, it could never be donated because it belonged to the Condo Association, but that was a minor point.  It was nestled close to two other spruce trees and created a sheltering feeling.

 

In early March, a hundred year wind storm took down my beloved spruce – while sparing its partners. Yet in a small miracle, I found the spruce nestled against a bare ash tree on the other side of the fence,with its roots pulled up.  There was no collateral damage anywhere. The tree seemed at peace.   I will consider that final act  to be confirmation that it was indeed “magical,” protected by a neighboring tree even in its final days .

 

The crew cutting up the fallen spuce saved a round hunk of its trunk for me at my request.  I  was very sad that last morning,  but also finally accepting  such a sudden, spectacular ending.  I will miss my Rockefeller tree!

My “Small Town” Canadian Family

The series “The Gilmore Girls” was recently revived on Netflex – and GIs were interviewed  on the national news saying the series represented the kind of small town life they felt represented the best of America.  I recently drove to Brigden, Ontario Canada with my brother Bill for a family funeral – a town that in my memory felt like Stars Hollow.  (And yes, my mother’s Slovak parents had a farm near Vassar, Michigan that was also a small town haven, but that’s another blog!) My Aunt Mary Jane passed away at 93 in a London, Ont. long term care home and was my late father’s youngest sister – only one more older sister survives now in Florida.

Brigden is  less than a  two hour drive from the northern Detroit suburbs,  with the option to take the Bluewater ferry at Marine City or drive farther north to the Bluewater Bridge at Sarnia.  We lucked out and got to the ferry right before it left, then drove up the region’s pastoral roads. Continue reading

Celebrating Slower Traffic on the 4th of July

As we celebrate July 4th this year and the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  I’m focusing on small things going right in our land today.  And right now, it is so refreshing to see a neighborhood in the Midtown Detroit area slowing down and purposefully embracing bikes and pedestrians.

You see, I’ve been a longtime  fan of Jane Jacobs, the famous New York urban planning critic – and when I moved back to the metropolitan area I was delighted to see they were scheduling “Jane Walks”in her honor in the midtown area to show how neighborhoods were flourishing again.  In fact, my interest goes back to when I was a senior at Cass Technical high school and wrote my thesis on why Jacobs thought Detroit was ready for a big fall.  It mainly had to do with embracing all the erroneous urban planning doctrines then fashionable – including tearing up neighborhoods for freeways and defying the standards for encouraging healthy interactions and street life —  instead creating huge complexes that destroyed the small shops, trees, roads and walkways that brought people together.

I had noticed that Second Avenue on the Wayne State University campus had suddenly gone from one way to two way traffic a week ago and wondered why the sudden change.  Apparently the goal was a slower pace so the district could become pedestrian-friendly, according to journalist John Gallagher.

Gallagher cites advocates who maintain two-way streets produce benefits in many ways:  “By slowing down traffic speeds, two-way streets foster fewer accidents despite the presence of ongoing traffic.  Slower traffic makes life easier for pedestrians and bikers. That in turn makes neighborhoods more walkable, which draws new investment, reduces crime, and enhances prospects for economic development. “

Hope you’ll take a moment to read his article at http://on.freep.com/UYy1Ti

Have a happy, slower July 4th!

If it’s May, it’s Time for an Urban Walk in Honor of Jane Jacobs

I first heard about Jane Jacobs in high school when I read her seminal book on urban renewal, The Life and Death of Great American Cities http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_and_Life_of_Great_American_Cities.  My hometown of Detroit was profiled as one of the worst offenders in destroying livable neighborhoods with bad urban planning.  I wrote my senior thesis on Jacobs and my fears for my beloved hometown and when I got to college I supported the work of the legendary community activist Saul Alinsky in fighting the destruction of Wayne State University’s surrounding neighborhoods.

I recently learned from a friend that followers of Jane Jacobs have now organized international “walks” in her honor through vibrant urban neighborhoods http://www.janejacobswalk.org/. In Detroit, there were three Jane Jacobs walks scheduled the weekend of May 4-5th, one of them in the historic Cass Corridor, one of the areas threatened back in my college days with urban renewal http://preservationdetroit.org/2013/03/19/janes-walk-detroit-cass-corridor-sunday-55-noon/.  It was not the first time I had returned to the Wayne State University campus recently, but it was the first time I had returned to the Cass Corridor area covered in the walk.  During my stormy college years, these blocks included the staging area for groups opposed to the Vietnam War, as well as many of the artists.  Most of the original buildings date back to Detroit’s early days and have been restored to their former elegance.  Some newer structures blend in and old apartment houses are being converted into trendy condos.  New restaurants and shops are opening up throughout the area.  I was especially thrilled to learn about the Green Garage, a non-profit that is an incubator for green businesses.

The tour was led by historians Armando Delicato and Elias Khalil, who wrote Detroit’s Cass Corridor, a history of the area, and they are now in the process of opening the Cass Corridor Museum http://www.casscorridormuseum.org.  Jane’s Walks are an annual event the first week in May, in celebration of Jane Jacobs’ birthday (regrettably she died in 2006).  I hope anyone unfamiliar with the legacy of urban activist Jane Jacobs will take a moment to learn about her impact on vibrant city planning and then find – or start — a walk to celebrate what’s great in your community.

A Holiday Respite at Eastern Market, a Midwestern Institution

On a weekend when the nation was consumed by an act of unspeakable violence at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, I joined my cousin Linda in seeking consolation from the pain in a joyful community experience in the heart of Detroit.  The Eastern Market is notable as one of the most authentic urban adventures in the country – a local food district with more than 250 vendors and merchants.  And it dates back to 1891 at that location! http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/

On a weekend when the nation was consumed by an act of unspeakable violence at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, I joined my cousin Linda in seeking consolation from the pain in a joyful community experience in the heart of Detroit.  The Eastern Market is notable as one of the most authentic urban adventures in the country – a local food district with more than 250 vendors and merchants.  And it dates back to 1891 at that location!  http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/

It was an incredible experience to mingle with joyful families and food vendors in a holiday atmosphere, watching children’s faces light up as they sampled holiday specialties and listened to the live music.  A special van featured freshly cooked beignets, which always reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans – and it was an opportunity to introduce my cousin to this wonderful treat. We laughed that the company was based in Hamtramck, a Polish neighborhood, eliciting visions of beignets and kielbasa!  We also tasted spicy, warm Apple Cider, nibbled on delectable pears, and marveled at all the varieties of holiday baked goods.

I finally felt that I had found a local institution that could inspire the devotion I had for my beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, with its thriving Flatbush Food Coop in Ditmas Park, featuring locally grown produce, and a Sunday farmer’s market ( http://flatbushfood.coop/).

In fact, I can now add the Eastern Market to my list of favorite local farm produce experiences around the country.  In Los Angeles, I was part of a publicity team for the famous Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax and grew to love the uniqueness of its vendors and their histories (http://www.farmersmarketla.com/)

In San Francisco, the downtown farmers market was housed in the historic Ferry Building and you could spot famous local chefs like Alice Waters sampling the mouth-watering produce (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php).

Last Saturday evening reality returned as I watched the news unfold on the national tragedy and mourning.  I remain convinced it is the many healthy ways we express our sense of togetherness and community across this country that will ultimately heal us.

It was an incredible experience to mingle with joyful families and food vendors in a holiday atmosphere, watching children’s faces light up as they sampled holiday specialties and listened to the live music.  A special van featured freshly cooked beignets, which always reminds me of the French Quarter in New Orleans – and it was an opportunity to introduce my cousin to this wonderful treat. We laughed that the company was based in Hamtramck, a Polish neighborhood, eliciting visions of beignets and kielbasa!  We also tasted spicy, warm apple cider, nibbled on delectable pears, and marveled at all the varieties of holiday baked goods.

I finally felt that I had found a local institution that could inspire the devotion I had for my beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, with its thriving Flatbush Food Coop in Ditmas Park, featuring locally grown produce, and a Sunday farmer’s market ( http://flatbushfood.coop/).

In fact, I can now add the Eastern Market to my list of favorite local farm produce experiences around the country.  In Los Angeles, I was part of a publicity team for the famous Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax and grew to love the uniqueness of its vendors and their histories (http://www.farmersmarketla.com/).

In San Francisco, the downtown farmers market was housed in the historic Ferry Building and you could spot famous local chefs like Alice Waters sampling the mouth-watering produce (http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers_market.php).

Last Saturday evening reality returned as I watched the news unfold on the national tragedy and mourning.  I remain convinced it is the many healthy ways we express our sense of togetherness and community across this country that will ultimately heal us.