Monday, October 11, 2010

Not Feeling It Anymore

We all know that money, don't buy you love
You just get a job and somewhere to live
You have to look for happiness, within yourself
And don't go chasin' thinkin' that it is somewhere else
-Van Morrison

Here's what I'm not feeling anymore:
my job
spending my life energy
supporting Coal
the burning of coal
the mining of coal
sure, we fund research that finds ways
to burn it cleaner
but seriously

I would GLADLY give up
half of the electricity I use
in exchange for
the END of COAL Mining and COAL Burning

I would LOVE to need to light the candles
as the sun goes down
tell stories, make our own music,
or hey, Go To Bed
I would LOVE to be forced
to hang clothes and sheets and towels
out in the open air to dry
To Do with Less
to make soup on the wood stove
(of course, this would require that we have a wood stove we can cook on)
to be forced to repair that antique treadle sewing machine
in order to make coal-free clothes

I would love to do all of this
no more mountains were being destroyed
no more miners were being killed
no more lungs were suffering
for the energy that goes into my industry

But as long as I am expected
to Keep Up the Pace
I can't find enough time in each day
to do these things by choice

So... today... upon discovering this Van Morrison song
on a cd that I ordered
(I wanted disc two and accidently ordered disc 1)
playing it on my coal-fired stereo
while my coal-fired lights were burning
drinking my coal-fired coffee
I realized that I need to make the life I want
(yes, again)

here I am:
I will write the books that are waiting to be born
I will create the cool community science center

It will take me a few years
maybe ten
(not 200)
but I will leave coal behind

Laird is going to build us an off the grid house
it will have a tiny tiny house surrounded by trees
where I will write
encouraging words
and create events to help people
be scientifically literate
because that is what I do

and I swear
I will
make dresses
on that treadle machine

copyright Barbara L. Walker
Morgantown WV October 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Next Generation

Gives me Hope!

My daughter, Tegan, is raising funds for her semester abroad in Costa Rica.

My nephew, Jake, is raising funds to launch his company which creates game applications for mobile phones that encourage recycling and teach users about environmental issues.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Our Energy Plan: Just Add Umph

Here is a list of our family's efforts to use less of the fossil fuel(s): (1) We are still without a dryer since it broke three or so months ago... the "solar dryer" (aka clothesline) is working fine even with six people in our house. I usually wash one load in the evening, hang it out in the morning, take it down in the evening. (2) We try to ride our bikes when we go downtown, especially if it's just for fun. (3) Eating more local food. We go to market (on bikes if we can swing it) and get as much as we can from local farmers. We get eggs, tomatoes, greens, mushrooms, trout, and goat cheese. (4) Laird is driving a funkydoodle eco-modded 1998 Suzuki Metro and getting 48 miles to the gallon. This is when he doesn't need his truck, which gets about 16 mpg. Our family van gets about 25 mpg. (5) Laird is telecommuting. I telecommuted today after running around in my van doing errands.... one of which was recycling!!! (6) Recycling saves energy and so does composting. Laird made a compost bin for me out of a big blue barrel he found at the Port Authority and about $25 worth of supplies. The going rate on the kind of bin he made is $150 plus shipping. The fact that we didn't have to have it shipped here saved energy, too. It's amazing how much less garbage we make because we are throwing all our food waste into a bin. That saves the energy it takes to truck that garbage to a landfill and to maintain the landfill. (7) I yell at Laird whenever he doesn't take the reusable bags along to the grocery store. Not really, but I do remind him that we have the technology to keep petro-plastic out of our house and out of the landfill. (8) We retro-fitted the house for night-time whole house ventilation in place of air conditioning. We also insulated our attic to save lots of energy. (9) Instead of moving to a bigger house, we stayed here in our little bungalow. Mostly, that was a financial decision, but part of it was the amount of energy it would take to heat a big house. The hardest part of staying in our house is having such a tiny kitchen, so we plan to expand it, and when we do, we'll get get the most energy efficient appliances for it. (10) Laird installed a high efficiency wood stove insert into our fireplace. This allows us to use wood we find lying around on roadsides and buy from folks who are harvesting dead wood from the forest to heat the house and save on fossil fuels. It also allows us to heat the house when the electricity goes out... which may be happening more often in the future as the grid gets more and more congested. (11) We switched to CFLs long ago. I was blessed with a dad who habitually turned off everything not in use, so this is another thing I keep reminding people in our house... turn off the lights! (12) We hand wash our dishes, though I'm not sure this actually saves energy or water. Anybody have any conclusive evidence either way? We need to know before we expand the kitchen. The others in this house are lobbying hard for a dishwasher, and I just can't wrap my mind around having a noisy machine doing work that is just not that hard. (13) And horrors, we only have one TV, and it is not HUGE. (14) We haven't mowed our yard yet this summer. Well, maybe once. I can't remember. We are slowly replacing grass with plants like berry bushes and fruit trees. And the dog yard is actually more pleasant with the weed jungle.

As you can see, my Home Energy Plan truly depends on my incredible husband, who knows how to build and fix EVERYthing. (Plus, he adores me, and that saves LOTS of energy.) Thing is, it took no small amount of money to do some of these things. And it does take our own time and energy to do all of these things that decrease our family's dependence on fossil fuels and dirty power plants and drill baby drill. Living in a small house forces us to "live with people" more than living in a big house. The flip side of that is it forces us to live with people!!! Yes, we actually need to solve more conflicts and use our words and share and tolerate more than if we had a big house. But, that leads to real closeness, and some really great skills for our growing kids. The thing about drying our clothes on the line... it takes time and extra planning to depend on the sun. The flip side of that is 15 minutes of time outside in the morning hearing the birds sing. It takes a little extra umph to get on the bike rather than hop in the car. The flip side of that is Fun and Moving the Body and less time sitting in the machine in traffic.

What it takes to conserve energy in my personal life: commitment to all the little steps. That's all.

Our next energy saving goal is: a Vespa for me to ride to work!!!! No, not really. But yes, electric transportation... scooter and car. That's our biggest use of energy, so why not have it be coal-powered instead of petroleum-powered??? Seriously, it is still a smaller carbon footprint. And cheaper. Sometimes I forget how much we do to conserve energy, and the main reason I forget is because I spend SO MUCH TIME sitting in the big machine in traffic, thinking of the exhaust and the drilling that happens just because I am in that machine. It's gotta be the biggest part of our energy and waste footprints. But making changes there is hampered by this town's (and this nation's) energy and transportation infrastructure. Which leads me to looking at what I can do about THAT.

I did call my Senators about Clean Energy and asked them to cap carbon emissions. I need to do more of this communicating with our leaders. It occurred to me the other night after watching Jon Stewart show the video clips of the last eight presidents all saying the same old thing about clean energy future... how depressing was that?!... anyway it occurred to me that what we need is for the American PEOPLE to change our ways. There is no way one person (the President), or even 595 people, can make the changes necessary. It is up to all of us. So, what's YOUR FAMILY'S PLAN for a clean energy future? What's your next step to using less? What's your next step to inspiring and empowering others to use less?

Image from Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

miles 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9

we skied to the Holy
Church of the Snowy Woods
sang Hallelujah to the sky
found redemption

Saturday, February 27, 2010

we interrupt this poem to bring you this important message

Food, Inc. on POV

mile 4

breaking trail
through three feet of powder
after hours of driving
snow drifted roads
including helping out an oil-thirsty Volvo

we skied one mile

of course, we could have driven a mere 15 minutes
to ski for three hours at the amazingly snowy Cooper's Rock
but by golly we had planned for a day at Whitegrass
with dear friends up from North Carolina
and we were going to get our full van there

until the roads closed
the ski resorts closed
and the National Guard was called in

change of plans change of plans
now we have some new friends
and huge smiles

yes, the thirsty Volvo had an Obama sticker
another that said War leaves all children behind
inside were two engaging people
crazy as we are to go climb a mountain in the blizzard
new friends
laugh and be amazed
as we left their cabin in the woods
the children said "we will miss you!"

worth the drive
I say
worth the drive

Thursday, February 25, 2010

mile 2 and mile 3

mile 2

I walk away from work on the trail
beyond the place where the snow plow stopped
fenced in on government property
with lots of trees
just up the hill from the river
across which is the mouth of a coal mine
oh industry

it's not quiet
but I am still

animal tracks in the snow
to and from
my commitment to comfortable shoes
pays off

for the first time in months
it seems
I feel the pound of my heart
in my head

I don't want to go back

mile 3

meetings going too long
missed a walk with Fran
then later missed another
in the hopes of getting one item
off my desk
so I can send the request
for permission to take a day
to use my earned leave time
spend a day
having fun

a truck blocking the way to the gym
the kids insisted
it's not far! let's walk!
in the snow, falling on the ice
we laugh, we slide our way

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

poem in progress

40 miles for Lent

g-d said
don’t give up
anything for me
girl, you need to give in
give in to you
give to you
I want you to walk
40 miles not for me
for you
walk 40 miles for you
remember who you are

mile 1

almost a week after Ash Wednesday
I am a slug
for five days I have been intending
excusing myself from myself
justifying my sluggy ways
with the noblest of justifications
work children sleep food

true, I have been eating less
I have been refusing seconds
I have thought briefly about ending
my torrid love affair with white sugar
revised the brief thought
consider simply reducing white sugar
to a bit part
knowing chocolate is mostly sugar
knowing my daily coffees are mostly about sugar
knowing my sugar love affair is really an
that gets me through my perform!do!give!do! day
after day after day

today, I walked a mile with Fran
I would not have gone if not for her
love for motion and acceptance of slugs
a break at work
on a trail half plowed
three quarters into it
I finally saw the trees
the bluebirds

took a deep breath

it is February not yet Spring
I begin

copyright Barbara L. Walker 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Got a new haircut. Well, actually, I did it. I took the buzzers, and I went at it. Then Laird helped. And it is not pretty. But, it was free. And fast. And easy. And it is real. Picture later.

Which leads me to Becky's post. Read it.

And after that, go read the one about the party she and Brandy had where everyone wore wedding dresses or bride's maid dresses. The plan some kinda real, fun party for your friends. Because life is short. And real sucky sometimes.

(Whoops, I'm going to have to pay someone 25 cents for saying that. The word "sucks" has been pre-emptively banned in our house.)