Tag Archives: nature

Happy Earth Day! …Unless You Like Greek Yogurt

22 Apr

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Happy Earth Day! …Unless, like me, you love Greek yogurt.

I just found out it takes 90 GALLONS of water to produce one teeny tiny container of Greek yogurt.

But if you are looking for a few Greek yogurt recipes, try these delicious recipes I made:

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Allen Ginsberg’s William Blake Vision

3 Apr

 Blake_Roses_Sun-Flower_LillyWilliam Blake’s illustrated “Ah! Sun-Flower”

I’m kicking off this National Poetry Month series with William Blake for reasons that will soon become obvious. In 1948, when he was in his early twenties, Allen Ginsberg experience a supernatural vision. He was alone in his Harlem apartment, reading William Blake, when the Romantic poet appeared to him. Ginsberg said he wasn’t high at the time but was having some … um, personal alone time. Wink, wink. He looked out his Harlem window at the bright blue sky and realized that the sky had been created, that the sky did the creating, and found God. In later years, Ginsberg experimented with drugs to try to recapture that feeling.

One of the poems that Ginsberg heard Blake read in his vision was “Ah! Sun-flower,” published in his 1974 poetry collection Songs of Experience. Blake illustrated the poem (see above). Here is the poem in its entirety:

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Close to a decade after his Blake vision, while in Berkeley in 1955, Ginsberg composed his own sunflower poem, “Sunflower Sutra.” I’m inclined to say it’s my favorite poem. You can read it here.

You may also like these posts:

And of course you can read more about Allen Ginsberg in the book I coauthored, Burning Furiously Beautiful.

Happy 155th Birthday, Theodore Roosevelt!

27 Oct

HuntingTheGrisly

Ten years ago — wow, time flies! — I had the pleasure of penning an introduction to Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt’s adventure memoir Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches. As part of my research, I toured his birthplace, a gorgeous brownstone right here in New York City. I loved hearing the inspirational story of how he was a sickly child whose love for reading and nature led to him becoming an advocate for conservation. Just like Jack Kerouac later would, Roosevelt read Leo Tolstoy and dime-store westerns, traveled America, dreamed of ranching (Roosevelt actually did ranch; Kerouac was a lot of talk), became associated with hyper-masculinity, and created a legend out of himself through his writing.

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt’s birth.

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!

Clip: One Subject Many Ways: The Sunflower

6 Aug

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I’m currently enjoying art critic Martin Gayford‘s The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles. Published in 2009 by Hachette, the well-researched book tells the story of how the artists ended up living in a house together in the south of France and how their time together influenced their work. It’s a great read for anyone interested in artists’ collaborations.

Both Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin painted sunflowers, but today we remember van Gogh’s still lifes better. It got me thinking about how even though van Gogh’s name seems synonymous with sunflowers, so many other artists throughout history have also painted this captivating flower.

Read more and see painting selections at Burnside Writers Collective.

John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Jack Kerouac Write about Nature

23 Apr

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“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

~ John Muir

It was conservationist John Muir‘s birthday over the weekend and yesterday was Earth Day. A few years ago, I had the great pleasure of editing a reissue (not the one pictured above) of his My First Summer in the Sierra and writing the flap copy, and I quickly became absorbed in the poetic language he used to described the beauty of the earth. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might have caught on that even though I absolutely love the glittering sidewalks and Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City, I am just as comfortable out in nature. (It’s the suburbs I can’t stand!)

Muir was an early advocate of nature preservation and founded the Sierra Club. He used to hang out with Teddy Roosevelt, whom I’ve also written about, and they’d go off exploring Yosemite. Can you imagine any of our recent presidents going off into the woods with someone we’d today probably label a hippie? It was this very friendship between Roosevelt and Muir that led to America’s natural beauty being preserved. Interestingly enough, Muir and Roosevelt were both rather talented writers, and their works are travelogues through nature.

Jack Kerouac referenced John Muir in The Dharma Bums, a novel that makes you want to drop everything and go sit in the woods for a great long while. He also wrote about Muir in an essay entitled “The Vanishing American Hobo“:

John Muir was a hobo who went off into the mountains with a pocketful of dried bread, which he soaked in creeks.

Kerouac was incredibly well read and would often read history books about America before or during his road trips. As “The Vanishing American Hobo” indicates, Kerouac saw the landscape and economy of America changing before his eyes as he traveled. The era he lived in was the beginning of the great highway system, and he saw why Muir’s conservation efforts were so important.

We tend to associate road tripper Jack Kerouac with cars and bars, but he actually loved nature. On the Road is essentially a glowing account of America’s landscape, the melon patches, the sun-drenched sky, the ragged mountains. In Big Sur, we see him sit out and just stare at the ocean, absorbed in nature. His obsession with animals gives us a poignant insight into his psyche.

We often put labels on people, and to see literature through critics’ lenses. What if we read John Muir’s work as literature instead of viewing it as nature writing? What if we read Jack Kerouac’s work as nature writing instead of counter-cultural novel?

What if we saw a story in a blade of grass? What if we listened really hard to the call of a bird?

You might also be interested in this article I wrote a few years about John Muir for Burnside Writers Collective:

And in this clip of me reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful about Jack Kerouac’s empathy toward animals.

Where Is Knowledge Inherent?

28 Nov

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of the earth….”

~ Luther Standing Bear, Lakota tribe

I read this quote in The Sacred Wisdom of the American Indians by Larry J. Zimmerman and thought it was just lovely.

Election 2012: Hunting with the President

7 Nov

 

Hunting the Grisly:

One of the nation’s most beloved presidents, Theodore Roosevelt’s connection to nature continues to be seen today: 150 national forests, five national parks, and fifty-one wildlife refuges are a result of his conservation efforts.

I wrote an introduction to this Nook book.  It was interesting following the topics relating to the environment during the election debates.  Considering the plight of our wildlife and natural resources, I’d say we have more work to do.

Election 2012: The White House Landscape Artists

6 Nov

In honor of the upcoming election, here’s a bit of trivia:::

The grounds at the White House in Washington, D.C., were designed by Calvert Vaux and Andrew Jackson Downing.  While Downing was American, Vaux was British.  After Downing was killed in a steamboat accident (I kid you not), Vaux went on to work with Frederick Law Olmsted.  Together they designed Central Park and Morningside Park in Manhattan and Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  Is it any wonder that he cited the Transcendentalist author of “Nature,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, as one of his influences?

I took a group Church Hopping to the Church of the Intercession in Washington Heights, part of New York City, where Calvert Vaux was commissioned to to do landscape work on the cemetery grounds.  You can read about it here.

Prepping for Hurricane Sandy

28 Oct

 

Just got word that the MTA is shutting down at 7 tonight for Hurricane Sandy.  Doesn’t make much difference to me.  I’ve been stuck sick in bed for two days.  Yesterday, started out well enough.  I went to Barnes & Noble and got a Pumpkin Spice latte and Dutch Apple cheesecake and then braved the grocery store.  Grocery shopping in New York City is always a nightmare with too many people and tight aisles, but yesterday was nuts as people were preparing for the storm.  It was like trying to shop the day before Thanksgiving.  I bought ingredients to make broccoli soup from a recipe out of one of the cookbooks I edited and fortunately made it before I got to feeling too sick so now I don’t have to cook at all.  I can just sit in bed and watch a million episodes of Color Splash, my favorite interior decorating show, and dream up my perfect home.

Are you prepared for Hurricane Sandy?

If you’re like me and totally unprepared for any sort of emergency and don’t own a flashlight, shame on you!  By now, all the flashlights are gone.  Even finding candles in the drugstores is getting hard.  Get creative.  Barnes & Noble* sells a wide variety of battery-operated reading lights.  Just because it’s for reading, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to find your can opener if the lights go out.

While you’re there, pick up the Barnes & Noble* ereader the nook if you don’t already have one.  Charge it up pronto and download some books.  If the power is out for a long time, you’ll have plenty of reading material.  My book recommendation is Jack Kerouac’s Dr. Sax perfect for Halloween.

It’s still a good idea to have some candles on hand.  If you can’t find any at the drugstore or grocery store, that’s okay.  Class it up with some scented candles from Bath & Body Works.  I picked up the Cranberry Woods and Lemon ones during their 2-for-1 sale.

Speaking of scents, if we don’t have access to water that means you won’t be able to shower.  I suggest some perfume or body splash to keep you smelling fresh.  I’ve got Bath & Body Works‘ Plumeria body splash (which always makes me think of my Hawaiian friend from undergrad).

Now you may not be able to wash your hair but you can use an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.  I’ve used the TRESemme dry shampoo with mixed results.  That said, I do favor their regular shampoo and condition.  And, they don’t test on animals.

Another great animal- and eco-friendly company is The Body Shop, where I’ve been shopping since middle school.  I love the Tea Tree Oil line, and today stocked up on their cleansing wipes in case I won’t have access to water to wash my face.

While at The Body Shop, I also picked up anti-bacterial hand sanitzers in my most favorite scents satsuma and pink grapefruit.  I normally advise against these sorts of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers because I fear using it will lead to the creation of a resistant super-bug, but hey, you’ve got to have clean hands somehow if there isn’t good old-fashioned soap and water.  Plus these ones smell amazing, unlike some brands that smell like rubbing alcohol.

If you wear contacts, keep your stylish glasses in an easy to locate place.  In fact, make a to-go bag of all your critical necessities (medication, keys, cash, etc.).

Now in terms of food, non-perishables does not have to mean SPAM!  There are lots of great foods that are either non-perishable or that don’t require cooking.  Go Greek with canned domathes, Kalamata olive spread, raw almonds, honey on bread, and sesame candies.

How are you staying storm stylin’?

 

*I work for a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.

Road Trip: Lone Cyprus Tree

25 Oct

We stopped real quick to see the Lone Cyprus Tree as we took a road trip along the famous 17-Mile Drive on the California Coast.  It’s such a beautiful symbol, a tree enjoying the salty ocean air.

Here’s a little bit about the Lone Cyprus Tree from Wikipedia:

Chief among the scenic attractions is the Lone Cypress Tree (36.568738°N 121.965321°W), a salt-pruned Monterey cypress (macrocarpa) tree which is the official symbol of Pebble Beach and a frequent fixture of television broadcasts from this area. In 1990 the Monterey Journal reported that Pebble Beach’s lawyer, Kerry C. Smith, said “The image of the tree has been trademarked by us,” and that it intended to control any display of the cypress for commercial purposes. The company had warned photographers that “they cannot even use existing pictures of the tree for commercial purposes.”[3] Other legal commentators have questioned the Pebble Beach Company’s ability to invoke intellectual property laws to restrict others’ use of such images.[4]

 

 

We also passed the Ghost Tree, which is a cyprus that’s turned completely white, but I missed it as we drove by too quickly.