[Seattle Sights] A Pleasant Post-Apocalyptic Walk Through Gas Works Park

Untitled

“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn’t exist. It’s that simple, and we can’t afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife–nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” 
― Alan Weisman, The World Without Us

Ever since moving to Seattle just a few weeks ago, it’s as if someone has toggled a switch in my personality; or maybe, it’s simply been unswitched. Much like a piece of electronics that you have to turn off to get working again, it feels as though my brain, soul and heart desperately needed the peace and quiet of Corvallis to get back into a roaring, working mode. After ten years of a go-go-go lifestyle in Los Angeles, it felt not just good – but necessary – to get back to basics; to remove the external noise and exorbitant amount of influences and return to my personal baseline. It’s a baseline that’s devoid of self-doubt and low-esteem, yet eager for adventure with an open mind and wide eyes, ready to swallow scenery and waft in wanderlust from each and every corner of this beautiful, new state – both figuratively and literally.

Untitled

After falling head over heels for the city during the week of new years eve, it took us less than two months to get a job in the city and find a new place to call home. And now after two weeks of living here, it truly feels like home. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the world around, and instead of fighting against the current we’re giving into the ride; so far, it’s been a beautiful one. The weather has been in our favor with the sun shining down and barely any clouds in the sky; it’s a brisk Spring, but it’s clear and lovely. Now that I’ve gotten to know the area a bit better, I’ve made a point of gallivanting around and exploring the greenery the city has to offer; one of my first stops – the post-apocalyptic looking Gas Works Park located in near the Fremont area, on the North Shore of Lake Union.

Image result for gas works park 10 things i hate about you

A former coal gasification plant from Seattle’s Gas Light Company from 1906-56, Gas Works Park has seen a splendid second life as a refurbished public play area – and is possibly best known as the location of the glorious paintball fight with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You (because, childhood). Both a Seattle and Washington State landmark, Gas Works Park spans well over 20 acres, the park boasts a stunning landscape featuring f rolling, green hills – culminating in Kite Hill, which – you guessed it – is great for flying kites, ample shoreline and a panoramic view of Downtown Seattle.

Untitled

Now that the coal aspect is defunct, the industrial pieces have been preserved, as well as “taken back”, by nature. Once you can look past the chain-link fence, pieces of metal that once roared into animate life all their own now feature vines, shrubs and trees weaving and winding their way through what’s left of the plant, and various amounts of graffiti art tagged around every corner. As the sunlight shifts and shines through the complex, the air breathes life into a scene that at one time was anything but truly living; making it easy to fathom that plenty of post-apocalyptic entertainment, ranging from TV shows like Incorporated and movies ranging from Divergent  to The Hunger Games, garnered their inspiration from scenes such as this. With ample room for roaming, running and recreation, Gas Works Park is a wonderful romp of urban decay sprawled in the midst of a booming tech economy.

Untitled

Though the water’s chemical makeup doesn’t bode well for swimmers, you can kayak or paddle board your way through Lake Union and take the area in, in all it’s splendor.

What are some of your favorite haunts in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below! For more on Gas Works Park, head to their website and socials:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

Untitled
Untitled

[Adulting 101] Stressless Guide to Moving States

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

The last year has been an exciting, invigorating – but trying year; there were a lot of changes, a lot of gives and takes – but most of all there was growth out of the little cocoon that I called my former life, giving birth to the butterfly of now. There were step backs and set backs, but they were all but beyond necessary for the growth I’ve incurred over the last few months. You see, a writer through and through – I’ve more or less bypassed writer’s block over the past two years and have gone straight into a mental cryogenic freeze. Sure, there’s output – but it’s been bland, boring, unsentimental and void of any emotional quality I possessed. All the while – in tandem – my husband and I have been seeking the unknown in search of a better life. Until recently, I honestly hadn’t paired the two together though I understand now they’re forever tied together – moving, changing, adapting, evolving, repeating. The more we’ve moved, the more I’ve caught us shedding the layers of our former selves as we get rid of our excess baggage, both figuratively and literally.

Until this year, and aside from moving to and away from college – I’ve only had the mental capacity to imagine a move within the same city. Fast forward to now, and over the last six months, we’ve moved states – twice; and to boot, we’ve done it with five cats in tow.

The why is equally interesting, but this is (mostly) about the how: how did we seamlessly transition from a big city, to a small town and then back into a big city; how did we stay on top of the bureaucracy of moving and updating the right sources; and how did we make sure we had all our ducks in a row? By keeping an organized, open mind about our future; by making lists and listening to our parents and peers.

The House Hunt

About once a day, if not more frequently, I catch myself praising the internet; I’ve never had to look for places to live without it, and I surely can’t imagine doing that now. Moving up to Oregon, we lucked out with a family friend and didn’t have to pay much thought to being on the housing grind; needless to say, our move to Seattle was quite different. Though incredibly similar, we were finding suitable digs on a bevvy of sites from Zillow to Trulia, Redfin and Apartments.com; and thanks to phone notifications, we were virtually checking out new places every other hour. The most useful of the above for us was Zillow – with ample metrics to search on, ways to draw your search area instead of using a zip code or the polygon method, and a beautifully ergonomic way of laying out their website.

Once you have a handful of winners handy, get your schedule out and make a day or two of it. While you’re there, find a restaurant or coffee shop in the neighborhoods you’re considering to eat at and muse to yourself on if you could see yourself being a regular, stride into a bar to grab a quick drink and soak up some local lore, or take a walk around a park or through the downtown area to really get a feel for living there. However, if you can’t make it in to see the area before you move – don’t throw yourself into a lease without loving it! Airbnb for Work offers a new way to acclimate to a new city, with pre-furnished locations that can be rented for extended periods of time; which gives you the mental space to find the right place to call home.

Caution: One thing we noticed while house hunting were some Craigslist Scams, with places we’d found on Zillow or Trulia for half the market price; and we learned that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You’ll get an email with a sob story or tale of altruism, either way it will feel so intimate that you also let your guard down. Then then’ll ask for the money via mail because they are ‘no longer‘ in the area; never ever ever ever send someone money without a formal lease and receiving your keys. Beyond paying for your background screening, money for rentals should never be exchanged until the final walk-through.

Pack It Up, Pack It In

Packing can seem overwhelming – but that’s because we can’t all be like Merlin from The Sword in the Stone. If I could just Higitus Figitus my belongings in under 3 minutes, I would have moved halfway across the world seven times by now; once again Disney is at it with the unrealistic expectations of life, but – I digress. However, with a step-mother who was a professional organizer and a childhood life that had me switching houses every week from the age of 3, one could say I’ve gotten pretty damn good at this part of the moving puzzle.

The first part is the easiest: snagging boxes. For most of your items, bankers boxes do just fine – and since lot of big box stores throw away the packaging, your can get a handful for free (but, make sure you ask!). For item specific, your local U-haul store has exactly what you need in any size you could imagine; glassware, dishware, TV boxes – you name it, they can protect it. As a general rule, the more boxes you have the easier this will be – you can prevent return trips to the store and trying to shove too much into a single box; plus, you can always return your boxes for cash, or donate them to U-haul’s free box bin. Along with the boxes, make sure you have the following: a few rolls of packing tape – it’s the brown one, and it’s twice as strong as the clear tape; a tape gun (you’re welcome); a handful of giant sharpies; and finally twine for when you’re keeping boxes in place once you’ve loaded the car / truck / whichever.

Image result for moving boxes

Now that we have the boxes, we’re on to my favorite part; I like to call this ‘The Purge’. Let’s start by marinating on this: not everything you currently have needs to be taken with you, and you don’t have to keep everything that you end up taking with you. Throw a little Marie Kondo into your chaotic life and use this as an excuse to downsize and minimize your belongings into things you need, use or love. If it doesn’t fit in those categories, or as Kondo would say – if it doesn’t inspire happiness – there’s three new categories you can put it in: donate, recycle or trash.

Once you’ve whittled down your wares, it’s time to quite literally pack your shit up. There’s a familiar old adage that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ – and that’s doubly true when it comes to packing up your personal belongings. For every box you pack, make sure to write in clearly and in big letters on each and every side of the box; that way, it doesn’t matter how you load it, you’ll know what’s on the inside by the outside. If you want to level up your organization even more, put an itemized list on top of each box so you know what’s in it when you open it, and keep a second copy of that list on you so you know which box is which as you’re unloading on the back end.

Image result for moving

Spread the News

Once you find that perfect pad – tell your family, tell your friends, and then you should tell the post office so you can set up your mail forwarding. It’s incredibly simple, and their website has everything you need to get it set up. Beyond USPS, you should also alert the following institutions and businesses to turn on, turn off, or transition your user information. Car Insurance varies from state to state depending on where you live, and each state has their own sales tax; to boot, some places like Oregon have no sales tax – while Washington state doesn’t have a state income tax.

Transfer or Forward Current Services to New Location:

  • USPS
  • Insurance: Car and Renters / Home Insurance
  • Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

Stop Service at Current Location, Start New Service at New Location:

  • Gas / Power / Electricity
  • Water / Sewer / Garbage
  • Internet: Did you know that most states won’t let you bring in equipment for other states? Moving to Washington, I didn’t – and had to do a little do-see-do with XFinity to return my Oregon modem and get a new Washington one.
  • Drivers License and Registration: educate yourself on the driving rules of your new location; though they aren’t going to completely change, it’s important to be up to date on what’s happening.
Image result for images new city

New Kid on the Block

So, now we’re here – wherever here is; but here isn’t there –  you left, uprooted yourself and have replanted yourself with grace, care, and probably a bit of ambient anxiety; because – what now?! You left creature comforts behind for broader, more colorful horizons; maybe you left family behind, a group or two of ambient friendships or maybe just a few amazing friends – either way, you spent your time investing in yourself in your last city and guess what, you developed friendships that made saying goodbye difficult. Good news, saying hello to new friendships and strangers is a lot easier than saying goodbye! Pick 3 to 5 things you enjoy doing, whether it’s going for hikes or finding craft breweries, a nightclub where you can shake that ass all night long to some groovy beats or a gym where you can join a zumba, spin or yoga class. The key is to be honest with yourself about your passions, and you’ll undoubtedly find others who share in them with you.

What are some of your tips and tricks for moving to a new state?

Let me know in the comments below!

[Self Discovery] Setting Intentions that Stick for the New Year

Image result for new year who dis

We’re two weeks into 2019 and I’m sure you’ve seen them popping up everywhere, from the blogosphere to your social media feeds; it’s a new year and everyone is reinventing themselves, so to speak. Though January 1st isn’t reserved for making personal changes, I’ve always found the temporal and physical shift into a new year brings the best intentions into action. Whether it’s physical fitness or mental dexterity, working your way through a list of books or forgoing your smart phone to be more present in the moment – this is the time to be the change you’ve been seeing; but let’s be honest – making those changes stick like glue, is a whole horse of a different color. The unfortunate reality of many resolutions and desired mercurial changes, are that they fall by the wayside if we don’t commit ourselves correctly; whether that’s lack of planning, laziness, apathy which all lead to a loss of vision and ultimately – incomplete intentions.

With the upcoming Total Lunar Eclipse in Leo falling on the first full moon of the year next Monday – this weekend posits to be an excellent time to shake old behavior patterns while putting paper to pen, prepping then putting mind, body and spirit on an actionable trajectory. It might trigger some middle school flashbacks, but vision boards are fantastic ways of making your dreams a tangible reality by transitioning them from your mental space and creating a physical representation of them.

Amanda-6

Putting your dreams, resolutions and desires into a roadmap helps on multiple levels, no matter how haphazard it might seem initially. First, the simple act of creating your board boosts your brain function, firmly implanting the intentions in both your short-term and long-term memory. Next up, putting your board in a place you see it every day places these memories from desire into habit through repetition. Last, but certainly not least, you attract the energy you expel – meaning that through repetition, small steps and dedication, you’ll find the things which you actively seek. Think of these as mental passion pushups that you can do every day and night.

Serenity in the Sequoias

Reading through The Net & The Butterfly last year, I had the epiphany that creating short term goals meant I could fight smaller battles for little moments of win, instead of the larger war. Goals don’t have to start grandiose, even the greatest Pyramids started from a single brick. All resolutions big or small are built on the blocks of self discipline and setting personal boundaries; discipline forms habit and habit transforms into action. I highly recommend keeping a journal, daily for those who can commit to it, but biweekly at best; and I’ve found that aligning with the Full and New Moons is a wonderful way to have a personal check in, whether you’re into astrology or not. For those that dabble with Tarot or Runes, it’s a keen time for a spread – one stone or card for a daily tarot, and more extensive pulls at a weekly or biweekly level. If you want to keep a journal but don’t want the daily commitment, the Instant Happy Journal is a great way to stay focused.

img_3052

When laying the groundwork for big picture goals, I’m a huge proponent of the Passion Planner. I know there are lots of wonderful resources popping up here and there, but for me this one truly has it all. Passion Planner helps align the head for an annual overview, and can become a written visionboard in a way. On the flip side, there’s ample space for monthly reflections and weekly goal setting – key building blocks to your overall success and a great method for incubating ideas and putting action plans behind them.

Whether they’re for the new year, or just a new you – how do you stick to your resolutions? Drop a line in the comments below!

[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge

Untitled

Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.

One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.

Untitled

Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.

Untitled

For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.

Untitled

Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.

Untitled
Untitled


Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian  arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.

For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!

What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!

Website | Friends of the WLF Refuge | Facebook | Twitter

Untitled

[Nature is Nurture] The Fundamentals of Foraging for Fungi

Moving to a new city, let alone a brand new state, can be a harrowing task to say the least.  A move of any magnitude is a great time to spring clean the mind, but when you’re adjusting to an entirely different location I think it’s important that you take up some hobbies, both new and old, to ease yourself into your new environment while it becomes your new home.  Your old hobbies will get you back to basics, back to the core of you – it’ll remind you that home is and always will be in the sacrament of the mind and the spirit of the soul; while your new hobbies will transform your mental state into being present, letting go of the past and who you used to be in order to become who you need to be, who you desire to be.   My hobbies back in Los Angeles which are currently filed as ‘something old‘ include writing, sketching, photography, and beadwork; essentially home-based creative activities I could file under “things to do with my hands when bored”.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 44361204_1846267782138017_436499132610248704_n.jpg

Post-move, I’ve realized I’m not in Kansas anymore…er…rather, California anymore; I’ve gone from enjoying a keen understanding of the geography, topography and landscape of world around me to having a childlike sense of wonder and amazement about this new natural world around me, and suffice it to say – there’s simply so much to learn about, from nature photography on any of the hundreds of local hikes, to hunting for rare minerals, geocaching and my newest favorite – foraging for fungi.

As you learn to leave and let go of unnecessary mental connections to where you were,  you begin to forge new networks, shedding pieces of the life you once had to create yourself anew – mushrooms are very similar; with growth as their only form of mobility, fungi straddle the perpetual edge of life and death, not to mention animal and plant, all the while communicating as one in the  mycelial network.  Ranging from neutrally colored and more natural, to delightfully vibrant and oddly formed, Fungi are the primary decomposers of earth’s ecosystem, and a wild menagerie of them at that!

Many have medicinal qualities, which indigenous tribes historically as well as presently still use for a variety of treatments. Some boost the immune system, while others increase levels of antioxidants, or destroy abnormal cells; some stimulate the libido or assist in nerve regeneration, while others open the mind and aid in treating depression and anxiety. Some have magical qualities, featuring various doses of psychedelic psilocybin, boasting immense psychological benefits which are finally being taken seriously by the FDA

False Turkey Tail
Photo by Daniel Leist

These types of mushrooms are championed by the likes of Terence McKenna, infamously quotable ethnobotanist who gave us the ‘Stoned Ape Theory‘, internationally renowned mycologist Paul Stamets and the indelible Joe Rogan. 

For anyone that’s watched the latest Star Trek Discovery series, you might note that their chief medical engineer shares the same name as well as the same mycelial ideologies of the earthborn Paul Stamets, and follows his book Mycelium Running very closely; anyways – the trekkie in me digresses. Last but certainly not least – a small handful are incredibly toxic, deadly toxic if you will, with several mimicking their benign cousins.  This makes it  incredibly important that you do your due diligence when researching, and save snagging them for your meals until you have a keen understanding of harmful versus helpful mushrooms. 

Turkey Tail


“Mushrooms are a natural source of energy, immunity, and longevity that’s been studied for centuries. They are so great, that they’ve even earned the title of ‘superfood’.”  


Terence McKenna

They’re not animals and they’re not vegetation – so what exactly are fungi?  Fungi can then be separated into three distinct groups based on how they get their nutrients.  Mycorrhizal Fungi, which are symbiotic fungi, live in harmony with the plants around them.  On the other hand, Saprophytic Fungi live on dead organic matter instead of assisting in its decay. Finally, Parasitic Fungi are the cause of vegetative decay, as well as the recipients of all the nutrients. Mushrooms are considered the fruiting body of a variety of fungi, other types of fruits are algae and molds – but for the most part, fungi exists at a microscopic level that goes unseen to the human eye.  Fungi are used as antibiotics, to ferment food and alcohol, and even as detergent; you might be surprised at how many everyday items you use that have been treated with some form of fungus.

“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”


Thomas Carlyle

So, how about mushrooms? As the spore bearing, fruiting fungus body – mushrooms occur in technicolor and can take a menagerie of different shapes.  Young mushrooms, often referred to as buttons, are primarily a cap and a preformed stalk under a universal veil.  Over time, the cap will expand in an umbrella like fashion with either spores, gills, teeth or veins to show for its work while the stalk simultaneously gets longer. Some mushrooms have a cup at the base of the stalk which is often deep in the dirt – so when foraging, remember: dig, don’t pick!

Morphological characteristics of the caps of mushrooms

If you weren’t already sold on mushrooms, here’s a few facts that make them even more amazing to me.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 44545021_1141989825956056_1419659220164280320_n.jpg

Foraging for Fungi

So, now that you’re more up on your mushroom game – let’s talk about the best tips and tricks for finding those fungi and hunting down some of the coolest creatures on our planet.  The best thing about this type of hunt? No weapons necessary – just some keenly attuned eyes and your roaming feet. 

  • Location, location, location
    • If you notice one visible mushroom, the fruiting body of the fungi, take a step back and see if you can notice any others.  Mushrooms populate in a line, or rather, a circle stemming from a fungal epicenter.
  • Timing is everything
    • The rain brings good things, including the proper climate for mushroom hunting.  Depending on where you live, California and Oregon see their season at the beginning of Fall and Winter (but really, it’s pretty year round in Oregon), while the East Coast has its best seasons around early Spring. A rule of thumb is to wait two weeks after two inches of rain have accumulated. 
    • As a side note, time of day is equally important as many fungi will only fruit once the temperature starts to drop
  • Let a little sunshine in
    • Though fungi notably prefers dimly lit or dark atmospheres, light will inspire fungi to produce mushrooms 
  • Check the soil
    • As natural decomposers, mushrooms enjoy disturbed dirt – so make note of the floor of whatever forest you’re lurking in
  • Learn the Flora and Fauna
    • Most mushrooms have affinities towards specific weather conditions, as well as specific types of trees.
    •  For example, king boletes enjoy spruce, pine, oak and birch treeschantrelles prefer conifers  and oyster mushrooms will defer to aspens.

Things to Bring

  • A picnic basket or a few paper bags to put your keep in
    • For those wanting to ID a variety of fungi, snag a small tackle box to keep each kind separate
    • For those going the picnic basket method, leave the bottom open for the mushrooms to spore as you travel so the next explorer can enjoy them as well!
  • A small hand shovel so you can get the whole mushroom
  • GPS kit or rope / yarn to mark you path so you don’t get lost
    • You don’t even want to know how many people get lost in the woods every year searching for mushrooms, so please don’t be part of the statistic.
    • The Gaia GPS app is an excellent resource if you’re willing to get the Pro version!
  • Put the fun in fungi and remember to enjoy yourself!

When you find your magical, mystical mushrooms – document that sucker! Take a few photos that accentuate the colors of the top, the bottom of the cap – to see what types of gill or pore the fungi boasts, and the stalk of the mushroom – then step back and get a photo of the scenery; if your phone doesn’t geocache your location for each image, or you don’t want it to – trust me I get it,  drop a pin in your map application with a note about what you found so you can come back and see how it’s grown. 

I can’t stress this point enough: even though many fungi are fun to spore on paper and there are a good amount that are both edible and tasty, like I mentioned earlier –  be very wary! Collect what you will and document it all, but not just are some fatally toxic, but others will give you awful indigestion and a good amount simply taste downright awful and you won’t want anything to do with them post-pick or post-pic.  

Resources for Mushroom Lovers

General Books

Redwood Coast / Oregon Specific Books

Apps

As this is the modern age and it’s a bit untoward to carry around dozens of nuanced encyclopedias – I’m accumulated a list of amazing smart phone apps to try while on the go.  Most seem to be bi-phonal, but I’ll make a note when certain ones are unavailable to either vertical.

Mycelial Networks

One things for sure, if foraging for fungi is fun alone – imagine how great it could be with the right company! From Facebook groups devoted to the Pacific Northwest to National groups, here’s some of my personal favorites.

What are some of the best tips and tricks you’ve learned for fungi foraging? Let me know in the comments below!

Mushroom, Fungi, Oregon, Nature

[‘Tis The Season] For New Holiday Traditions

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the impending Winter rush of familial holiday functions, the bombardment of imposed holiday cheer is here and ready to rear it’s seasonal head.  Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up splitting my holidays between two homes, or it could be that I wasn’t raised under any form of religious guise – but the holidays themselves essentially passed me over; the only thing I ever gathered from them was they were a great time to be with loved ones, reminisce about the year that was and postulate on what’s to come while not slipping into a glorious food coma with sports on (which, let’s admit, is still pretty damn fun). 

In the decade since I left college, I moved the opposite direction from home –  and spent half of that time living by myself re-establishing my baseline, and questioning much of the world around me, including the day to day moves we make and overarching traditions most of us have blindly followed for part, if not most of our lives.  Though my parents were raised Methodist and Jewish, they chose to raise me as as a scientist – to not accept the world at face value, and approach each situation with a childlike sense of wonder and an adult sense of amusement; where the world and nature were my church and the elders were my leaders. Now that I’ve moved up to a new state with my husband, we’re looking to make traditions of our own – which got me thinking.  

Though our schooling would have us believe a very different story, Thanksgiving was a construct of the pagans and the very first one was not at Plymouth Rock.  With Thanksgiving falling on a Full Moon for the first time in almost 71 years – I thought it was the  perfect time to explore the actual societal roots of the holiday. 

Unlike Easter and Christmas which are steeped in slightly more obvious Christian roots, stories and traditions with true roots in Pagan Holiday, Thanksgiving itself is one of the few secular holidays celebrated around the United States and it has an interesting, sorted Colonial history as well as a – you guessed it – Pagan based backstory.   

In 1621, the Pilgrims completed their voyage to the new shore – and after a tumultuous time at sea, and losing a menagerie of ship members, they gathered what they could in the cold month of November with the locals and had a winter’s feast; and so started Thanksgiving. 

Kinda.  That’s what we learn in school at least, and it’s basically completely wrong, starting with the erroneous fact claiming it was the “first” Thanksgiving.   Secondly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in the new world – but this isn’t that history lesson. 

Fast forward to our first President George Washington and the formulation of America – there was a suggestion among the constituents that as a new country, it would behoove them to create a nationally binding yet seemingly secular holiday.  So, in October of 1789, Washington issued a formal proclamation that designated November 26th as a national day of thanks. And now, 225 years later – we have Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Football to celebrate with us. So where did Thanksgiving actually stem from…?

Believe it or not, but having a “Day of Thanks” transmutes almost all cultural walls, and essentially time itself; you can find an ode to it in essentially every ancient culture.  The Egyptians celebrated Min while the Chinese held holiday for Chung Ch’ui; the Israelites celebrated Sukkot, the Babylonians worshiped Marduk and the Persians had Mirthas; the Romans had Cerelia while the Greeks honored Demeter and Celtic Pagans took to Mabon. Each of these civilizations had a day designated as a Fall Harvest Feast where they would tend to the end of their crop season, and enjoy the bounty in communal celebration. 

After the Romans invaded Nazareth, the cradle of Judaism, in the 3rd Century, their civilization and culture began to seep into Israelite texts and traditions – including Roman Fall Festival Cerelia, which worshiped Goddess of the Harvest Ceres.  As the global power of the time, this transmuted the Pagan celebration across any and every culture they touched…which was a lot

A few hundred years later, Roman rulership had reached England and Cerelia evolved into the Harvest Home Festival under the Church of England.  Between the 600’s and 1600’s, the tradition transformed over and over, for both secular and religious groups – but over time, and catalyzed by the separation of the Church of England from Roman rule, many groups within the church splintered off and chose to try for a new life in America; the rest is history – but apparently very poorly written and researched.

And since we’re here – traditional Thanksgiving fare and lore also have cultural roots that you might not expect.   That Cornucopia, known as the horn of plenty, full of festively fall items?  In Ancient Greece – Amathea the goat broke off his horn, presenting it to Zeus to earn his favor – in return, Amathea’s image became transfixed in the sky as Capricorn.  Not to mention, that other things like corn, the Harvest Queen and poppies are all odes to the Roman Goddess Ceres, which the holiday Cerelia celebrates.


This year, instead of giving into a tradition that has been incorrectly hardwired into our brains, try one of these one-offs for size – or even better, use this as an excuse to make your own festivites. 

Image result for thanksgiving images

Friendsgiving

Not only are the holidays a perfect time to reconnect and rekindle your relationships with those you hold dear – but they’re an equally excellent time to forge a bond over an amazing meal and delicious libations. For Friendsgiving, bring the whole squad with you – new neighborhood transplants that aren’t going back to their old stomping grounds, friends, coworkers and even their friends and coworkers.  Friendsgiving isn’t relegated to any particular part of the holiday season, but I definitely recommend that it’s on a Friday or Saturday so you can enjoy your food coma into a lovely, lounging Sunday where you can marinate in the memories of your family you chose for yourself just a little while longer. 

Green is the New Black

Raise your paws if you’re one of those people who has a timer on their phone for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.  Good, no one – and if you’re rocking with me, I honestly didn’t think so.  I always found it a bit untoward that one day we’re wrapped up in giving thanks, and then the next day we’re wrapped up in spending our money – it’s pretty anachronistic to me.  Anyways! A few years back, REI started their #OptOutside campaign – shutting down their storefronts, giving their employees the day off and encouraging them to enjoy the outdoors; I love the effect that it’s had on the world at large. Instead of giving into the urge to purchase, get off your cute little butts and get outside; not only is exercise one of the highest rated New Years resolutions, or most common Friday after Thanksgiving traditions – but it feels pretty damn good.  

Give Back

Altruism is by and large one of the best gifts you can give, because it really does keep giving.  If you don’t feel like having your own celebrations this year, or are looking for a way to make an impact in your community – find a local shelter to volunteer with, help in their soup kitchen for the holidays, donate your time to a senior center and spend the holidays with those who could use the support, or find an animal shelter to give our furry friends something to smile about. 

25 Days of Gratitude

Like I mentioned in the beginning, being thankful and gracious aren’t only applicable to the holidays, though they do allow a wonderful time for pause and reflection, as I’ve found a good memory is kindling to the fire of the heart – especially on a chilly winter’s night.   As a kid, I loved those little you games you got on Thanksgiving that counted down the days to Christmas with candy. 

This year, ditch that Advent Calendar, which may as well be called the Countdown to Capitalism as an incredibly Protestant Christian ideal that has been transmuted into the public arena without much thought, make your own ‘Gratitude Calendar’. Grab a notepad or old scratch paper, a few favorite pens and a jar – something you can decorate and want to look at.  Each day, instead of taking something out – write down one thing that you’re grateful for, date it, and toss it in.  When Christmas arrives, spill the jar out and read through each note one by one, you might even be surprised at how many presents you already have in your life. 


I have to admit that being in a new state for the Holiday, and married, I’m incredibly excited to start some new celebrations with my husband and my family.  With Thanksgiving falling on the Gemini Full Moon, I’m eager for the hearty conversation and lively company for the day.

Whatever you celebrate and whoever you celebrate it with, make it memorable – always

What new traditions are you excited to start this year?

Let me know in the comments below – I can’t wait to read how you’re spending the season.

[Oh, Snap!] Lensball: Playing With Perspective

Untitled
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” Frances Hodgson Burnett

From morning til night, each one of us is creating our own visual catalog of the day with our own distinctly unique perspective.  For each and every second of it, we’re consciously flooded with sensory stimulation from a 360 perspective; subconsciously, we’re processing patterns, unraveling narratives and unlocking clues to questions we’ve yet to ask.  To me, this is why photography is such a transformative art form – to be able to capture moments and make memories tangible; to hold onto our emotions and to those we care about in the present; to tell our own stories in our own way.  The power of photography has catalyzed my creativity from an early age; but after we adopted our Canon 6D, my love of the art has transformed completely.

In Alex Grey’s ‘The Mission of Art‘, he posits that the reason painting evolved was because of the introduction of photography.  For centuries, the best way to depict a landscape or scene was to do so as accurately as possible; to retain the original qualities of the subject.  However, with the advent of the camera – the need for replication started to dwindle, and be replaced with cubism, surrealism, expressionism, and the like.  Fast forward to now, where we all have a camera in our pockets and at least two (or more) forms of social media accounts to post photos on.  Those same driving factors that lead to abstract art are creating a shift into abstract photography; employing digital editing, prism lenses and other incredibly fun photo warping tools.
Untitled
Enter: Lensball.  By far, my personal favorite trippy little photography friend; Lensball is high grade crystal glass photography sphere, here to refresh your perspective and refresh your image skills.  Coming in two standard sizes, the Lensball Pocket is 60mm while the Pro version comes in a 80mm version.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand,  and Heaven in a Wild Flower,  Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour

First things first: everything is a toy if you play with it; so, play! Find fun lines and eye catching center pieces to flip and reverse; discover inventive ways of placing the glass to create your images beyond your hand; manipulate your subject matter into something magical.
Untitled
Our engagement photo, shot by the talented Juliana Bernstein (Get Tiny)
My only roadblock to conquer so far was how to get an in focus shot on a manual focus lens while flying solo – but with a little practice, I think I’ve finally mastered the art.
Untitled
One quick warning – because this is a glass orb, the Lensball behaves like a magnifying glass in the sun: it can burn your hand if you’re not careful how you hold it and prolonged exposure in bright light can even cause a fire, so be wary of where you point it and set it down. Catch my Lensball in action in my Flickr album, or Follow me on Instagram! If you’re interested in one of your own –  peep their website and social media pages for incredible amounts of inspiration; their photo ambassadors are unreal. Or, just cave in and snag one (or a couple!) already – you know you’re curious!

Lensball | Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

What are some of your favorite Lensball shots? What about best toys to create with??  I’m eager to ingest all this knowledge into my photography lexicon; let me know in the comments below!