Winter Projects: Splicing Wire Rope

Colin splicing wire rope. #rigging #sailing #cruising #diy #boats

The time has come to replace the standing rigging on Mimi Rose. As Colin practices splices, we come upon this great quote. Brion Toss has a way of writing that adds levity to difficult tasks around the boat, and his words about fairing out a bumpy splice are pretty darn funny. From The Rigger’s Apprentice:

It is difficult to describe in print exactly how hard one should strike to fair different-sized wires, but the matter is important, so as an aid I will tell you a little story. A sailmaker and I once had a loft on the top floor of City Hall in Anacortes, Washington. Ours was the only unrenovated room in the old building–below, city employees typed and filed away in carpeted, fluorescent-lit comfort. Trying to work quietly, I discovered how little muscle was actually needed to fair a splice. Since gentleness is a good thing for wire, imagine, as you fair, a nest of bureaucrats below. For wire up to 5/16 inch in diameter, the noise will not bother them at all; pounding 3/8-inch wire is noticeable but reasonable; 7/16-inch can be tolerated anytime except first thing Monday morning; 1/2-inch should be done only during lunch or after hours; and 5/8-inch and up will drop plaster into the typewriters, so should be done in the parking lot.

 

Women Who Sail and Why We Work

WWS Members are from EVERYWHERE!

The WWS Interactive Map- One Pin Equals One Member!

I’m a member of a closed group on Facebook that plays a big role for me when it comes to sailing and living aboard. I was invited by my friend Sophi who has lived aboard for a few years now, and she was really excited to add me to the ranks of the amazing group of women known as “Women Who Sail.” When I was added, we were at about 700 members. As of now we’ve busted on through to 1185 members and counting.

The conversation is enlightening, detailed, technical, supportive, and inspiring. I can’t get enough of these people. I really feel as though they’re friends, and we meet up with each other in the real world when our paths cross.

What makes the group special is perhaps the spectrum of its participants. We are old and young; we are new and experienced. We are single-handers out on our own and timid sideline sitters whose partners carry the bulk of the boat tasks. Many well-known bloggers and book writers are among our ranks. Lin Pardey chimes in from time to time, as she’s a member, too.

A good number of the members are at the dream stage of the boating/cruising life, however, many conversations are driven by women live aboard in remote places and have many nautical miles under their belts. I’m in awe of them, I respect them, and they respect me.

As we add new members, most give an introductory post about themselves and comment on how refreshing it is to discuss boat matters in a forum and format so open and accepting. I think this says more about the environment outside of WWS than it does about us, and so for anyone who’s curious about what goes on in our little neck of the internet woods, I’m going to lay it out. Here’s why I think it works. I’m sharing this because I hope it inspires other people with like minds to build their own beautiful webs.

1. Our membership is vetted.

Not just by moderators, either. New folks who come to WWS are typically added after meeting in real life with people who are current members. Sophi is a friend from Portland, and she added me. I’ve invited women I met at potlucks and random anchorages all up and down the eastern seaboard of the US during my first trip on the ICW. This creates a membership that cares. There’s a real feeling that we have a stake in how great the group is and what its inherent value is. We all bring that to the group, not just any particular one of us.

2. Posts are monitored and discussion is moderated.

We have our moments where the moderators have had to remind people to curb their tone, but really, for being over 1000 people I’m going to boast that we’ve got some really peaceful, mindful, thoughtful folks here. I don’t think it’s because we’re women, I think it’s got something to do with the vetting AND with the clear guidelines about the purpose of the group. Some posts about electrical maintenance or ideal finishes for teak could potentially get heated. Ever read a post about the holy act of anchoring in other forums? I won’t name names, but I mean really, if you ask a question a certain way in certain places the sharks come out. I daresay WWS is proud to be shark-free.

3. Conversation flows freely from engine parts to lady parts, and it’s all good.

When it comes to living aboard, there are some serious questions from a broad swath of potential topics that most folks on a wide open forum would not be willing to post. I think that the fact that conversations float at the top of the page and then slowly sink down while new posts are created and discussed makes for fresh, lively back-and-forth banter, advice, and opinion.

Right now, just browsing the page quickly, our group is discussing internationally documented vessels and an anecdotal experience off the coast of California, optimizing a new iPad so the Active Captain app renders a chart properly, how to make your dinghy a little safer for your dog that loves to hang out right on the bow, and what we can do with beach trash if we’re in a remote place and want to do something about it. There have been many discussions about healthcare, remote family relationships, and how to report abusive partner behavior we see in anchorages. We’ve got this one conversation that has gone into the mental archives as the “bra rant.” We’ve got a handful woman who could solve pretty much ANY of your engine issues with just a couple of pictures and a description of the problem. Don’t even get me started about how crafty, creative, and self-sufficient these people are.

Other forums have big lists of topics and so many places to poke around and stick your head in, leave a comment, and then leave, maybe never to return. Facebook might have one up on the traditional forum approach when it comes to talking about big things that really matter, and that might be because the posts flow down from a spotlight position at the top of the page and they move down as things become resolved.

4. Like-minded individuals just might have the most productive conversations.

We’re all women and most of us live aboard or have dreams about living aboard. We’re coming in at a particular angle and have some pretty major things in common. Our politics, our backgrounds, our incomes and therefore our approach to cruising might be slightly different, but fundamentally, we’re coming at this with a lot to offer each other. For example, folks who daysail or go on short cruises have a very different opinions about using marinas or anchoring than we do- we have to anchor or this lifestyle isn’t possible for us, financially speaking. There are many kindreds in WWS.

***

So that’s about it. If you’re inspired to join Women Who Sail, please send a message- we’ll chat it up and I’ll see if I can get you in! Maybe you’re inspired to start a group of your own, you gents you, who seek to raise the level of conversation or who maybe want to stay in touch, easily, with people you meet or with acquaintances of acquaintances.

The Tally

Here are my classmates and all the great stuff we made! #diy #boat #canvaswork #woodenboat

Well, here we are. In the photo above you see various cushions, bags, handy tool holders, a dog bed, some repaired dodgers, and a couple o’ flags.

Not enough flags. DARNIT.

About midday today, even though I’m tired from a full week of focusing on this, I was really wishing we could have three more days of this class. I feel like I’ve only just started understanding all the mistakes I’ve been making with the machines so I can get more sewing done than fixing. Less ripped seams by the end of the week, less feelings of being out of control or that the sewing machine was going to eat my hand, or worse yet, eat my project. HA!

It’s one thing, and a good thing, to learn something on your own but classroom learning is the way for me. I envy the people who can read about knotwork and splicing rope and all that jazz who can learn straight from the book. That’s just not me. And like a lot of people who have been out of school for a while, I figured for a long time that if I couldn’t learn something on my own from a book, then maybe I just didn’t get it or wasn’t going to be good at it anyhow. I’ve changed my tune on that, thankfully.

I made canvas bags! #woodenboat #woodenboatschool #diy #salty

All in all I made a couple of salty-lookin’ canvas bags, a spirited pennant flag, a darn fancy cover for a flotation cushion, and I repaired the beat dodger, possibly giving it another season’s worth of oomph.

I also learned how to wield a seam-ripper like a champ, but then again, I’ve always said my epitaph will most likely be, “SHE WAS A GOOD SPORT.”

If you could take a class, what would it be?

WHAT HO! A Name Pennant!

Today's project I did at Woodenboat School- a pennant for the top of the mast! #sailing #boats #flags #diy

I have, in all seriousness, been thinking about making this one simple thing since about a year ago. A whole year of pulling in somewhere close to a boatyard and not even thinking of asking someone for some flag material and some insignia cloth. A whole year of excuses and procrastination, but I’m telling you, when I got the “MIMI” from MIMI ROSE onto this little shiny red thing that I sewed, I was in the corner of the sail loft, grinning at it. I was completely beaming right at this inanimate object.

I love flags and have a nice collection of them aboard. I love them because they invite conversation. Yacht club burgees say something about where you’re from or what you’re proud of. Our SSCA burgee says we’re proud to be a part of such a great organization and that we’d like to meet more members. Letter flags, spelling the name of a guest aboard, makes them feel so special. At the new year I hoisted up the four flags needed to proclaim “2013.”

They’re a moving decoration, alive with motion and bright in color. They’re attention-grabbers, and I suppose their land-based counterpart would be a brightly colored front door that says, “HELLO! YES PLEASE, WE’D LIKE TO SEE YOU, COME ON BY!

And that’s what this hot little number is. I made this at Woodenboat School and am so proud of it. Read more about Woodenboat here.

Holy Carp, I Made Something

That’s right, I made a cushion cover. Our old one was beat, but we still had the foam part which floats just fine. I picked a couple of cheerful colors and BAM! Jaunty new cushion cover. Of course, these photos are like the “magic of television” type cooking shows from the 80s that would leave out all the bad trial runs and the mistakes and give you a beautiful reveal at the end that’ll leave you thinking it was real easy. It totally wasn’t. It took me the better part of two days’ class time, which is embarrassing to say, but only a little bit.

I made a cushion cover with piping and everything! The first thing I've ever sewn. #sewing #beginner #woodenboatschool #diy

I’m really new at all this, and I’m enjoying that squirming, uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’re learning something new. There’s danger in it. There’s wasted time and wasted material. There’s seam-ripping and surprise. There are multiple attempts. There are slow starts.

Some people who really hate learning don’t relish that discomfort, and that’s probably the only thing between them and that thing they’d really like to do. But think of the stuff that could hold you up from doing! (How to speak a new language, how to play a new instrument, how to bake that complicated cake, how to navigate a new city.)

If I have only a couple of talents, they are these two things: I enjoy the discomfort of newness and I enjoy the journey as much as I enjoy the place I’m trying to get to. Are those talents or attitudes? Well, I’d hate to think that anyone would willingly adopt an attitude that would make them miserable most of the time, so let’s call them talents. Talents that could be learned.

Here are some photos of the process and our great space, but just a few.

Working on my piping.

My zipper panel and the cushion top, ready to attach.

Oh man, that thin is ready to turn right side out so I can see the magic!

James working in "the pit" with the machine named "Robin." #sailing #sailloft #diy #woodenboatschool

John at his beautiful old machine, Ann in the background working on her beautiful flowery cushions.

Oh heck, it’s Woodenboat School. One more photo. Here’s a picture of a wooden boat on campus.

ELATER out of the water for the season. #woodenboat #beetlecat #catboat #sailing

In the Sail Loft

I’m at Woodenboat this week, learning about Canvaswork. I hope these musings about taking classes to learn skills so I can do DIY projects around the boat are helpful, or at least fun.

These beautiful machines are a means to an end, but are beautiful in and of themselves. The heavy industrial sewing machines at Center Harbor Sails are imposing, heavy things that at first pulled the sunbrella material from my hands with such force and speed that it was as though it knew better than I did what to do with the stuff and that it was yanking it from my control.

A sewing machine in the sail loft.

The attitude was from my imagination, but the force and speed is no joke. As I was working with some scrap pieces of fabric, I was mostly concentrating on very basic things like finding a good way of holding my hands or where the pressure of my foot on the pedal was just the right amount of speed for me to keep control. Meanwhile, I really feel like pretty much all of my classmates already have a grasp on all this jive turkey. For the first time in any classroom experience I’ve ever had, I’m feeling a little behind. Sweet. I suppose that makes the tuition feel well-spent.

Singer Sewing Machine logo

Logo from a Singer sewing machine in my class at Woodenboat School/Center Harbor Sails. #design #font #vintage

It’s the access to both my instructor and to the entirety of the sail loft that makes taking this class special for me, but also, any week-long intensive class is an opportunity to focus on something as though it were your job. Focus is the operative word there, because otherwise, I’d be dabbling around, screwing up my sewing machine trying to figure a lot of this stuff out were I left to my own devices.

Spike walking around on SHENANIGANZ, a pretty catboat at Woodenboat. No pun intended, seriously. #cat #woodenboat #sailing

As a local, I’m lucky. I can only imagine what these classes mean to people who are from away- the jaw-dropping beauty of the place, the amazing hospitality and food of the school, and the access to tools and people like I mentioned above are the trifecta that draws people back multiple times to take more classes.

Woodenboat School, the Sunday Intro Dinner

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I’m taking a class at Woodenboat this week, and all of their classes start with a dinner on Sunday night. You meet your instructor and your classmates, you get a deluge of information about Brooklin and about the campus.

Oh, and you get a really kickin’ dinner.

The kitchen at the Woodenboat School always KILLS IT with their food. Tonight it was a choice of chowder or roasted tomato soup with salad. I had wasabi cucumber dressing on that. Then it was blueberry lemonade to drink and apple cake to round it all out. It’s like that every night of the week, too. Not fancy, but totally solid mainstays that are well-made and lovingly delivered. And there are always choices for vegetarians and gluten-sensitive types.

Normally I’m the sort of person who is ok with sitting with strangers, introducing myself, and whatnot. Today I decided to hang back in the room, to sit by myself, and to just take it all in while observing the other people in the room.

Eventually my instructor came in and chose to sit with me. A benefit of sitting alone, maybe? I should try that more often. It was nice to make chit chat about how we share the same first name, to let her in on what I wanted out of the class and where I’m coming from.

The class is Introduction to Canvasworking, and I’m in awe of the reputation this great lady has. It’ll be a good week, for sure, and I plan on sharing my projects and my experience with you throughout.

Salsa! Or, Alternatively: Abundance Demands Action

Salsa

Here’s a potluck item or a nice little crafty gift for people you meet. At the end, I’ll get to what I was doing there with the packaging.

There’s a great farm stand in Oriental, NC that’s a good bike ride away, a 5 minute drive, or a very long walk. We had the luck of meeting someone at this cafe who offered us a ride to Paul’s Produce stand, and when we got there, we picked out a bunch of stuff and all of it was very fairly priced.

“See that box over there?” said, I presume, Paul himself when we brought our things to the counter to pay. “You can take the whole thing off my hands for a dollar.”

So we did, and when he tallied our bill up it came to $7.50. Whoa. We walked out of there with two huge bags of produce and this box, that was mostly made up of long-in-the-tooth tomatoes.

“Does that sound fair to ya?” Yeah Paul, TOTALLY.

Paul's Produce

SALSA. That’ll use these up. We wouldn’t eat them all in time if it was just the two of us cooking with them. We were in Oriental, where every day you meet new people, other boaters, cruisers who are now living on land… I had salsa ready for every social occasion, including a great time aboard s/v C:\[esc]. This recipe goes out to Ellen!

Now, just like all the other recipes on this blog, I’m laying this out like a roadmap, not a set of directions. You can double this or back off on some of the flavors. However, to get this to taste like what we shared in Oriental or what you’ve had at one of my Dia de los Muertos parties, then you need the first 5 ingredients on this list. The rest is variation and you don’t necessarily need it.

2 tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups, yeah I know, tomatoes are all different sizes)

2 scallions, in nice small slices showing off their little ring shapes. Don’t just use the greens, cut right down into the whites where the flavor is. (Only have onions? COOL. Do a nice dice to 2-3 tbsp of them)

juice of 1 lime (No limes? Put a few dashes of apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar in there. about a tablespoon or so. Lime is key. If you think this should be more zesty, throw in more juice or vinegar. Too much? Balance it with the oil.)

salt to taste, start with a teaspoon

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (count that? we’re to 5 ingredients. BAM, simple salsa.)

about 2 tbsp cilantro (more if you love it!)

1 finely diced jalapeño, or a few tablespoons of diced poblano or anaheim peppers, or a chipotle pepper from one of those little cans of chipotle

a clove of fresh garlic (If you do this, have it pickle with everything overnight so the garlic isn’t so pungent. Garlic powder is also pretty good if you’re in more of a rush. More garlic tips below.)

mango, pineapple, black beans, corn, or somesuch fancy thing chopped and added. Adjust your dressing (you know, your citrus and oil and salt) to cover this extra stuff. But yes, this is is one way you could make any salsa you’d like, really.

I don’t think I need to write directions here, because you just mix these things and put them in a bowl so you can proceed to delight your guests. Having it chill or pickle in its juices for a little while is nice but not necessary.

When I made this in Oriental, I made a batch with cilantro, then ran out of cilantro, so to get a nice distinctive flavor I took the couple tablespoons of oil that I’d be using and put it in a pan first. On a low and slow temperature, I added a couple of cloves of minced garlic to sweat into the oil, then when I went to dress the salsa with it, I poured the garlicky oil in there. Boom. Garlic salsa.

Jars to Leave as Gifts

Above in the picture you can see that I made some labels for jars of the stuff.

I collect a couple of things that makes this easy. I always have magazines on hand that have colorful photos in them so I can make tags or wrap small gifts (these came from a diving magazine) and I always have glass jars saved for all kinds of uses around the boat. I pick a page that I think will work, with some space in the photo that gives an opportunity to put words in, and I fold the paper and bend it around the jar to approximate the lines where I’ll have to cut so it fits around the jar. A bit of tape at one end, pull the strip of paper around and neatly tape the other end, then write on it. Write on it ahead of time and you might trim some of the lettering off.

If you don’t process the cans give your gift receivers a heads up that it’s fresh salsa and not for the cupboard. It should be eaten within a week.

Also, don’t process salsa that’s made from tomatoes like the discount ones we got. Canning and preserving should be done, always, with the freshest ingredients for the best results and for your health.

Salsa is easy, do play with the flavors. It’s just enough work and it’s so nice and fresh that it’s always received with a lot of joy. Mix and taste, add dashes of what you think might be missing, and make it your own.

Tell me where you take it, I’d love to hear your salsa tips!

 

 

Postcards: New Rules & How to Build Yourself a Writing Kit

Fresh batch of cards went out yesterday! #postcard #travel #sailing

Joy. Absolute joy.

An object in the mail, there in your mailbox… Just because. Just a note of hello. And OH! To be the sender!!

When I talk to people who are also travelers, whether they’re cruisers or otherwise, they see me throwing a fist full of postcards into the mailbox and they intimate that they’ve always thought about sending some, but just don’t get around to it. When I dig more as to why, the following points come up and I’d like to address all of them and give some pointers for joy-slinging success.

You’ve already left the place where you bought the postcard. 

And you’re afraid that it’ll look like you were absent-minded and forgot to send it on time. On time? Hm. The other classic variation on this is that you’ll be home before the post card gets to its recipient. Question: Do YOU care? Like, have you ever checked the postmark on a piece of mail from a friend and scrutinized when it was sent? The answer is no, most likely. Heck, even if it was your birthday and you got a card a week later, you wouldn’t think anything bad of the friend who sent it, would you? I think that’s all a bit outdated now, for sure.

You never seem to have the right things on hand.

Set yourself up for success with a letter writing kit. If you’re the sort of person who really truly wants to send post cards, then here’s my method, the way I came to have a fairly good postcard practice. Firstly, addresses. Collect them. Think of five people who you know would adore getting a post card and ask them for their addresses. Get a notebook you’ll enjoy using, nothing fancy or particular like an address book unless that’s what you really want, and just start jotting them down. You’ll find you want more but my first few addresses were my grandmother’s, my parents of course, my penpal and soulmate Lori, my west coast Lori, my best friend Jo, and the list goes on. Once I started thinking of people with whom I had exchanged fun mail like valentines and stuff, it just kept rolling. I even send letters to the pubs I love.

Now that you have a list, get stamps. Now. Don’t wait to get cards. Postcard stamps are cheaper than regular stamps. Forever stamps are a good concept but who cares if the price goes up, now you can stamp on all kinds of neat tiny denomination stamps like this:

My latest batch of postcards going out.

Now you just need cards and words. When I get to my destination I look for cards that are either 4 for a buck or 3 for a buck, in that kind of price range. I also have blank note cards, just in case someone has a birthday. In the picture below, you can see that I found awesome vintage post cards. They were an unbelievable 25 cents a pop so I sent to my whole list and used them as Christmas cards. That was for about 50 recipients.

Found a treasure trove of vintage post cards, sending heaps of them out. #travel #watchout

Now that you’ve got your supplies, you might want to think about making them accessible so you can write on a whim. I have a little file-o-fax type box with sections and keep all my stuff in there. I have a section for stickers, note cards, stamps, envelopes, etc. I have a section for the cards I receive, and they serve as a reminder that I need to send a reply.

For on-the-go post card mailing, I also keep some stamps ready to go in my moleskine notebook that has a little pocket on the back cover.

But Anne, I really think I don’t have time to write cards.

Well, for this one, I’m going to have to say that you should just start by writing one or two at a time. When you start recounting your adventures via postcards, it becomes a really enjoyable activity and a meditation of sorts. In some towns, I only buy postcards that are really great or that specifically remind me of someone, so that cuts down how much I write sometimes. Plus, postcards have so little writing space that you can really only communicate a few little thoughts, so really, it’s not all that much of a time commitment. In the picture below, I’m stamping and writing while we were underway.

Stamping Post Cards While Under Way

Other Details

I like using sharpie extra fine tip markers instead of pens. They do well on both the papery and glossy backs of cards without smudging.

On the papery-type cards (not glossy), if you’re into doing water colors at all, consider not writing words but maybe just doing a nice painting in the writing space- maybe of a pelican or a monument that you liked or of a building you enjoyed. I’m not great with watercolors, so sometimes I just put hearts, trees, or pen drawings of the dog.

Traveling internationally? Consider buying just one post card and making the rest out of interesting paperboard packaging from things like cookies and snacks. You can trace the right size out, cut, and make something really interesting and cheap.

Interesting stamps: If you go to the post office and ask for stamps, start your inquiry by asking if they’ve got anything new and interesting in. Sometimes you can get really pretty stamps. In my opinion, getting the letter rate for a stamp is worth it even if you’re just sending the post card, the post office could use the extra 10 cents or so anyhow.

Stickers: I also keep, in my little writing-supply-file-thing, a section of stickers. Great for holidays, seasons, birthdays and congratulations, you can slap one of those on and it communicates extra words you can’t fit on a small post card.

If you’re on a long trip and intend to send cards in waves as you travel, consider putting the date and location where you’re writing the note. It gives some context to the writing. Like I said way at the beginning, don’t worry too much about sending it right away or about the date being a kind of expiration date. It’s just not true. Pop it in the mail when you can, and it’ll be loved all the same.

Well, that’s about it for now, I suppose. Have questions or ideas about this? Have other stumbling blocks or success stories? I’d love to hear about it!

Earth Day is Everyday

As I write this, the boat is rolling for its umpteenth hour since the wind started kicking up from the northeast here in Oriental, NC. It’s a little calmer now. Pelicans are having breakfast. The anchorage is pretty full, and we’re at the edge of it, getting the brunt of the occasional rumpus still coming in from the Neuse River.

Rachel-Carson

Rachel Carson, hero and scientist (photo from wikipedia)

I live outside. The tides, the wind, the animal life are all things that are a part of my daily life. If 11-year-old Anne could see 34-year-old Anne, she’d probably be gobsmacked. It was around 11 years old that I became enamored with Earth Day, which started in 1970 and by the time I came around to knowing about it, we had already forgotten about it for a long time (I feel like the 80s were more about serious consuming) and a new awareness had started gaining traction. Recycling came to our tiny New Hampshire town. A few people I knew even used their own shopping bags when they went shopping. Earth Day tee shirts were a big part of my wardrobe.

You don’t have to be a scientist to grasp or an activist to act on the concept that we only have so much and that there are so very many of us. Boats have brought me to places where I can see, first hand, the ways that we affect the planet. I’ve seen dead and dying coral not far from thriving tropical reefs, banks of dredging spoil made into angular, fake islands, remote beaches with plastic debris on them, evidence of animal bites on beach trash mistaken for food, high salinity water near desalination plants that choke out marine life, plumes of smoke outside of St Marys, GA and resulting ash on the windward side of Cumberland Island, and the fisheries of Maine on their knees for the lack of cod. I’ve also hiked a re-forested White Mountain National Forest after we laid off of her slopes for a while, I’ve seen a CFC ban slightly inconvenience some propellant manufacturers to everyone’s benefit, and it’s been a banner year for North Atlantic Right Whales.

Truth: we have an impact. We can make that impact good or bad.

It’s to our own benefit that we move about the world in a way that’s respectful of her carrying capacity. Cui bono? US.

John_Muir_1912

John Muir, whose birthday inspired the date of Earth Day and who stuck his neck out for the preservation of wild spaces (photo from wikipedia)

Dismissive, disrespectful people who would call me a tree hugger are out there. Watch out for those people, they either lack an understanding of the grave environmental situations we face OR they stand to profit from them financially. Hell, climate change deniers say all the time that the scientific community stands to gain financially for reporting the data they report.

To say that acting locally is thinking globally goes beyond a bumper sticker slogan, and I kindly ask any climate change denier to recognize and respect where I’m coming from.

Sustainable living asks that you look within yourself and scrutinize your practices. It’s not an easy thing to submit yourself to, so let’s talk about it. It takes a humble heart. It’s something only you can do, which is why people so often resist. To make real change, you’re going to have to do more than bring your own bags to the store, carpool to concerts, and faithfully carry the recycling bin to the curb every week.

You’re going to have to read and think. You’re going to have to participate, vote, and pay attention. In those moments where light bulbs start going off in your head, you’ll find out that you don’t need to “give up” anything if that’s what you’re thinking. It just doesn’t feel that way.

There’s a difference between religion and practice. A religion is an ideology not changed or tailored by or for participants, and maybe that’s what people react to when they resist the notion of living a life more attuned to ecological sustainability. This isn’t Lent, man. It’s also not a contest. You don’t have to give anything up for the sake of it and there’s no trophy awarded for it.

Ecological sustainability is a practice. A practice is something that YOU drive, and it should be fueled by your own ideas, actions, and visions. With awareness, it was easy for me to stop using plastic utensils, to build a compost pile, to carry my own coffee cup instead of using disposables, to kill a lawn and grow food instead. I still eat stuff and drink coffee, I just have a different practice now.

From clothing to food to transportation… once you figure out there are things you could change or take part in, it’s pretty easy. If you come into knowing that a change needs to happen and you choose not to take your place among the citizens of the world, then I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I’d say, “Stop being a poop.”

My main points here, I hope, are clear.

1. It’s not painful to live within our means, and in fact, there is comfort and ease to be found in consuming less. Beside actual involvement or activism, we can make a massive impact as consumers and consuming carefully is a good and easy start.

2. You don’t need to think of the oil-slicked birds at an oil spill or sad pictures of arctic animals losing habitat to spark yourself into action. Your local water source might be compromised by changes, a local farmer might be bullied by the USDA, or the price of your food might go up. YOU’RE the animal who will benefit from sustainable practices.

Cuss word warning but watch this if you like. It’s George Carlin and I can’t say it better but it’s got some language in it. To sum up: “The planet is fine, the people are f***ed… the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE… pack your shit folks, ’cause we’re going away… just another failed mutation. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.”

To Carlin’s chagrin I mention him on Earth Day and I celebrate Earth Day. But I do it with all my humanness, with love and hope and care for my neighbor. I don’t get it perfect but I do what I can because I do love this blue marble and all the things it gives me. I’m in awe of it. I can’t help it.