a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for July, 2009

The Goat Patrol Cleans Up Carrboro Parks

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro

Remember my post about The Goat Patrol – the greener weed eaters? Well, I had the chance to see them up close and personal this morning! They have been hired by the Carrboro Parks system to take care of the brush, weeds and vines invading some tree areas, and I stumbled upon them this morning during my morning dog walk.

I didn’t get a picture, but here’s one from the website. Just imagine a group of blissed-out, medium-sized, multi-colored goats reaching and chewing and reaching and chewing. They only paused from their mission to bleat loudly when their owner and guardian, Alex, would wander too far away – they obviously were happily attached to her.

Alex says that by the end of the day, their bellies are nice and round but they come back lean each morning. They are contained by simple movable fencing that changes location each day. She added that they seemed a bit sleepy yet this morning but would soon kick in to high gear.

Nice that Carrboro “gets it”. Every town needs a Goat Patrol – entrepreneurs, pay attention!

Prayer Flags across cultures

Monday, July 27th, 2009

When I was in VT, I noticed an abundance of prayer flags. They were in both urban and rural areas, strung across houses, trees and barns. I heard there are also strung across the waterfront in Burlington – quite a distance from where I saw them in Brattleboro. Some I came upon were still brightly colored, others were faded and tattered. I wondered if this was a Buddhist message or perhaps the new VT state flag?! Ok, I knew the latter was unlikely, but I was curious enough to do some research.

Wikipedia says: “A prayer flag is a colorful panel or rectangular cloth often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside or for other purposes. Unknown in other branches of Buddhism, prayer flags are believed to…predate Buddhism in Tibet.”

There are two kinds of traditional flags, one translates as Wind Horse – an aspect of the divine -  thought to carry blessings depicted by the images and mantras on the flag to all beings and that the air is purified and santified as it passes over the flags.Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags blowing in the wind are believed to spread the good will and compassion to all.

The colors of the flag represent the Five Elements of Sky/Space, Air/Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth. In Tibetan belief, the 5 Elements promote Health and Harmony to both people and nature. I think of this, now each time I look at the prayer flags that I brought home with me.

Ah-ha. It all comes back to the union of Nature and ourselves. And when we can look to and care for all our Elements, we will have the freedom to find the path to our true selves.

ps. I looked up the VT State Motto, which is, “Freedom and Unity”

Listen to Woody – Don’t Be a Dickhead

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of Woody Harrelson…celebrity or not, this guy is green inside and out. He’s stepped back from his Hollywood career and life to find a more “right livelihood” and he’s not shy about spreading the news of what he’s learned and experienced. If you don’t yet know Woody, here’s a good place to start.

He lives in a sustainably-minded community on the island of Maui, where they get all of their energy from the sun and grow much of their own food. He believes in particpation in the global community. He co-founded a website with his wife (and involving 5 other committed people) called, “VOICE YOURSELF” where they hope to “promote and inspire individual action to create global momentum towards simple organic living and to restore balance and harmony to our planet.” For years, or perhaps decades, he has been involved in many green initiatives besides his recent venture with Alanis Morrisette.

In fact, I stumbled upon (as an ’employee pick’ at our local video store) this socio-political documentary, “GO FURTHER”, filmed by Ron Mann. Made in 2001, it is probably even more important to watch today, as Woody and a group of friends set out on a bicylce tour (deemed the SOL – Simple Organic Living – Tour) of the West Coast, followed by a bus fueled with hemp seed oil.Their mission? To raise awareness about sustainable living and a wide range of topics, such as organic food, alternative energy and political activism. The travelers included a yoga-teacher, a hemp-activist, a junk-food addict, a raw food chef and a college student who was persuaded to join them. A lot happens along the way – this film will draw you in both mentally and emotionally.

Woody believes we have time to clean up our lives and the planet if we can simply, “Stop Being Dickheads.” I’m willing if you are. Watch this film, visit the site. Be inspired.

Welcome Home

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’m back in my Carrboro ‘hood and the first thing I wanted to do was hike on my usual trail with the dogs. I drive to a trailhead just a mile away. There are just a few public parking spaces, so occasionally I end up parking on the street in front of someone’s house. Today I did that and when I returned from my hike, I saw a note laying across my steering wheel. oh-oh, I thought, now I’ve messed with someone’s space. In fact, I thought, they were so mad that they went inside my car! I sort of cringed when I turned it over, but this is what it said:

“I had gotten used to knowing what time it is in the morning by the presence of your Prius, so its long absence has been quite noticeable. Hope all is well with you and I’m glad to know what time it is again.”

Wow. I smiled all day.

The Green “Caffeine”

Friday, July 17th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, post-Brattleboro, VT

I sometimes enjoy good coffee, but I’m not a caffeine addict. I love the IDEA of coffee – the smell, the ritual of the morning brew, the little cup that espresso is served in, the foam on capuccino, the taste of a soy latte. And I LOVE that coffee drinkers can support the hard-working coffee farmers by purchasing through a Fair Trade network.

I enjoy the buzz, too, but not in that “I gotta have it” way. I drink caffeine occasionally enough that it takes only a small amount to get my recreational “high” and I use it and like it that way.

For my daily “energize me” boost, I rely on GREEN stuff. Although I don’t savor it like I would a cup a joe, I look forward to my daily drink of powdered green vegetables. I eat it real and raw whenever possible, but drinking the supplemental version every day is the way I know I’m getting enough of the good stuff. I’ve used many varieties over the years. Right now, my favorite is Perfect Food by Garden of Life.

On my second day driving back from VT, I was succumbing to that scary-sleepy feeling that you sometimes get behind the wheel. I stopped and walked the dogs around, but that only helped temporarily. I heard that “i need coffee” voice in my head, but instead, I pulled out a few stalks of the Vermont kale that I bought the day before.

I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I admit I was when it seemed to work quickly. I chomped away, and 15 minutes later, I felt wide awake and energized. My belly felt good. My mouth felt clean. I felt hydrated.

As the miles rolled on, I started thinking about how often we turn to not so healthy substances and/or drugs to feel how we want to, or need to feel, without stopping to consider the obvious health benefits of clean, real food. The human body is amazingly capable of functioning, healing and regaining balance – even after we’ve used and abused it. Although natural foods like coffee and chocolate are one of the pleasures of life in moderation, before you reach into the medicine chest, honestly and courageously consider these questions:

Are you eating in a truly healthy way – with only occasional indulgences?
Are you exercising and destressing all parts of your body daily – muscles, spine, organs and brain?
Are you open, curious and loving in your relationships?
Are you engaged in a purpose outside of yourself?

Reco jeans – Woody and Alanis hook up to do it cheap and used

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

By Tao Oliveto

In the developed world, blue jeans are part of our common language. Most of us want them and wear them. They may change shapes from time to time, but there is still a sort of jean “code” out there. Little do we know (or care), blue jeans are not the most eco-friendly garment in the fashion industry. Besides being made of pesticide-ridden cotton, the dyeing, distressing and other treatments use chemicals we really prefer not to think about…

I get a lot of my jeans at the thrift stores where I live, but the most fashionable styles are not always available there. So, I gave in to buying two pairs of “skinnys” at Urban Outfitters recently. Guilty as charged, but I have to say that I love to wear these – they are super-comfortable and don’t get caught in my bicycle chain. I had searched for some organic cotton alternatives, but did not find much out there and when I did – they were priced around $200.

Alas, little did I know that there’s the something exciting happening in the world of denim. Woody Harrelson and Alanis Morissette are partnering to create Reco Jeans – a line of eco-friendly jeans made from recycled denim, “A fabric so interesting it is currently being studied by a prestigious university as an option to aid change for the environment and eliminate waste within the garment industry.” Even the tags are made from recycled paper, they reuse all scraps and excess threads in the manufacturing process and they are working on making every step, including dyeing, more sustainable and eco-friendly,

This is Woody and Alanis we’re talking about, so as I suspected, these jeans are fashion-competitive and there will soon be a wide variety of styles available. The styles, in true Woody aloha style, will be named after endangered plants and flowers.

The price? This part is probably most cool. The retail price is being determined through a “Dutch Auction” process where bids are collected (without an asking price) online for a month and the average bid – what the public is willing to pay for awesome, eco-friendly jeans – will become the retail price. If you want to get in on the bidding, go here – it closes this Saturday, July 18th.

Food. Sun. People. Poems.

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Saturday morning in Brattleboro, VT. It’s brightly sunny and blue and green. I’m still amazed daily at the natural vibrancy here. A community meal is being served outside the local food co-op. $5/plate for local burger, vegie kabob, potato salad, watermelon, chips, beverage and ice cream, all the same local goodness you get inside. Proceeds go to the local food shelter. A band plays a Jamaican beat and dogs wander around with their owners. I’ve been by twice today and the food keeps coming and the people keep talking.

In the middle of the festivities, a young man sits cross-legged on a bench, punching typewriter keys. Who uses a typewriter anymore?? I have to know more, so I move closer and then I see his small, faint sign that says, “POEMS. NAME YOUR TOPIC. NAME YOUR PRICE.

This is irresistible, right? So, i introduce myself, and ask for a $5 poem about ‘creative destruction’. He smiles largely, repeating the phrase thoughtfully and replies, “That’s right up my alley.” Of course, I knew that, somehow, and I tell him so. He instructs me to return in 10 minutes. I’m impressed already since I’ve never written anything worthwhile in less than 20.

When I come back, I ask him to read the poem to me, which he does happily. (Have I mentioned yet how happy people seem around here?).

I don’t know if I’m as much impressed as I am just happy about the whole experience and what it says to me. He gets it. All of us are starting to get it, right? I give him another $5, completely certain this is a $10 poem…and that there’s a lot to be happy about.

Here’s the poem —-

topic: creative destruction    by: michael hayden   July 11, 2009, 11:35am

the beauty of a thing is in its unknown, its underside,
its unmaking…

for instance, the song, as shown recently by rock and roll
and also jazz, even baroque…
themes build and establish pillar of harmony.
tension is incarnated and embellished.

themes returned, anew and revisited.

and then….
moments of sublime chaos, disaster, struggle for breath
it is then, the memory of melody grapples with
the inevitable decay of all,
train wheels crushing pennies
in joy, houses falling on mud cliffs

then, when nature of decay meets urges of order
in this there is a dance, of travesty and love.
and sometimes triumph, as song returns
transformed by the waterfalls, fires
and frenzies of time.

Less IS More.

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I’m still watching and being here in a Vermont town of about 9,000 people. And, I’m more and more struck by the happiness I find in simpler living, smaller and more aware choices of what we think we need to have and buy, both on a daily basis and in the bigger picture of life.

This article, in the Miami Herald, is yet another testament to what you can find as an individual and/or as a family when you wake and look beyond the supposed “American Dream”. Read it and Reap.

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