We’re taking a little break

cowboy erik baby 2Apologies for the lack of posts on here lately, but as our regular readers know, Erik’s mom, Marguerite, has been ill for some time and as of this week she has moved into hospice care. As a result, we’re taking a break from posting for a little while. These are sad times but they are full of good memories and lots of love. And speaking of good memories –I’ve been sifting through the Knutzen family albums and thought you might like to see one of Erik’s–or should I say the Sheriff’s?– baby pictures.

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City Nature Challenge 2017

Fence lizard, photo by Calibas - own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2967183

Western fence lizard (photo by Calibas)

Attention Citizen Scientists!

There’s a inter-city challenge taking place over April 14-18 which asks you to go out and document as much nature as you can over those days using smart phones and the iNaturalist app.

Participating cities include: Los Angeles (County) and San Francisco (and surrounding counties) include Austin, Boston, Chicago (Cook County), Dallas/Fort Worth, Duluth/Twin Ports, Houston, Miami (Miami-Dade County), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New York, Raleigh, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and the Washington, D.C., Metro Area. 

Which city has the best nature sleuths? Which will record the most species?

If your city isn’t on the list, tell them to get on it next year! Last year’s challenge was only between LA County and the Bay Area (LA won), so the competition is growing fast. And heck, even if your city isn’t participating this year, there’s nothing to stop you from getting together with your friends and doing an iNaturalist survey a bit of your hometown and see what you find.

Some linkages for more explanation:

What’s in the Dirt? by the Daily Breeze

City Nature Challenge via the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum website

Last year’s competition results via The California Academy of Sciences website

iNaturalist

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A Season of Light in Darkness

portrait of kelly and erik

Christmas morning in Los Angeles

Erik and I want to send you all gifts of love and light at this, the darkest time of year. Whatever you celebrate with your friends and family, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or Competitive Pie Gorging, we wish you all the very best.

I wanted to take this moment to thank you all for your love and prayers since my aortic dissection on November 25th. (It’s been a whole month already? Time flies when you’re on narcotics!)  I feel like I have been held aloft by love all this while, and have been humbled, amazed and moved to tears by the kindness shown to me by everyone, from complete strangers, from surprising quarters, from my nearest and dearest. My survival of this event is a miracle, flat out. And I don’t know how to process that, except to live forward in deep gratitude.

It is not easy for me to write yet–the brain moves slowly and protests at too much labor. I’ve wanted to tell my story here, because so many people want to know more about what happened to me, but I’ve realized it might be a while before I can write that much. However, I can talk, so Erik and I will be doing a podcast about our adventure very soon.

But I wanted to share one thing here and now, partly because I know many people don’t like to listen to podcasts, and partly because it is perhaps the most important lesson I learned in all this, and it seems particularly relevant during the holiday season, when we gather with our friends and relatives.

On Black Friday, in the emergency room, when they figured out what was going on with me, the atmosphere became suddenly very grim indeed. The surgeons told me I would be operated on as soon as they could prep the room, and that it was basically the most serious surgery that could be done and that I may not survive it. After they left, the sweet nurse in pink scrubs who’d been with me all night said to me, with tears in her eyes, “Honey, I’ve been a nurse for a long time and…well, you need to call your loved ones. Now.”

Okay, so imagine being in this position. Imagine having to call your mom and tell her, in roundabout terms, that you might be dying soon. You may not see her again. To be sure, many are not even granted that much grace before dying, but my point here is that there are no words. Words are simply inadequate in moments like this. I don’t know who can summon eloquence in a crisis, and “I love you”, however true, seems hollow and of cold comfort when you think it may be your last time saying it, and it must somehow hold the entire weight of your regard for that person.

So the lesson here is to live every day like you are dying, so no words are necessary when the end comes, and those you love will know very well that they were loved fiercely every day that you drew breath. Never let them doubt it.

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A Week Later

groupphoto

Photo courtesy of the ICSC

Yes, Erik and I have been pretty quiet since Election Day. We’ve been processing.

Under ordinary circumstances we try to keep our personal political and religious opinions off the blog because we like to think of Root Simple as a big tent where all sorts of people can come together around common ground. Also, partisan discussions online lead immediately to unproductive spates of bickering and trolling.

But this time, it’s different. This time, silence seems the greater crime.

This is a hard post to write. I keep ranting, then deleting.

Okay. New plan. Let me tell you a story.

Last Friday a small group of people from my church, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, stood outside the Islamic Center of Southern California and greeted the people arriving for their afternoon prayers with signs reading,”We Support Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters.”

As I stood there, I watched the same thing happen over and over again. As people approached the building they’d hesitate briefly at the sight of us, afraid of what was waiting on the steps of their mosque, but then they’d see our smiles, or read our signs, and realize we were friendly, that we were actually standing in solidarity with them. Then their faces would light up and they would smile big brilliant smiles. They came over and shook our hands and thanked us. Many wept. I wept. We touched our hearts and saluted one another. I am weeping again as I write this, just remembering.

The Islamic Center is a big place, and it serves people of many ages, colors, classes and ethnicities. I cannot count how many hands I shook, how many times I was blessed and I, in turn, blessed others. My heart is still buoyed on the love I felt that day.

And as we stood there, slowly, our group began to grow. A bunch of students and a couple of rabbis from the local Rabbinical school joined us. A woman who honked her support for us while driving by said to herself, “You know, if I spot a parking place, I will take that as a sign that I should do more than honk–I should stop and join them.” And lo! The parking place did materialize, and she came and stood by my side. She told me stories of protesting in the 60’s. A shy young woman arrived bearing a bowl of grapes and pomegranates. She had no idea what why we were all there–she’d just stopped by to give the mosque some fruit and a letter saying she was so very sorry for all the ugliness, but she joined us too. And so it went, and so our group swelled.

This being the modern world, after the handshakes and tears, we all took to social media to share the event with our friends. I have never been photographed so often! This little action may not have been a big splash in the news, but I know that our images went all over world. “Wave hello to England!” one man shouted as he took a video.

christians standing with muslims

Root Simple photo

As I stood there, I remembered a Christmas Eve night in San Diego many years ago, perhaps my favorite Christmas Eve ever. For some reason Erik and I had the night off–we weren’t traveling or at a relative’s house. We decided on the spur of the moment to join a candlelight vigil at the Mexican border. My memory is fuzzy now, but I’m pretty sure it was sponsored by The Catholic Worker. We carried stubs of candles and sang songs and heard recited all the names of those who had died trying to cross the border that year. But mostly we talked to the people on the other side of the fence. Or, because sometimes we could not speak, we touched hands through the bars, or just looked at one another–really looked, for a change. In one another we saw reflected our own sacred humanity, as we did at the mosque last week. And yes, we wept that night as well.

We need to do more weeping like that, weeping within the space of community, because it softens our hearts. We need to spend more time with people who are not like us in heart opening situations –because when we do, we realize that we are, in fact, very much alike in all the ways that matter, and our best state of being is that of being in love.

When we discuss spirit, the sacred, the holy, God, whatever you want to call it, oftentimes we make an upward gesture, as if all that is sacred hovers above us, just out of reach. This week I’ve realized it should be horizontal gesture. The sacred travels in a straight, horizontal line from heart to heart, from eye to eye. It is always with us. It binds us all together.

Peace to you all.

***

n.b.  I realize I should note that St. John’s did not descend on the Islamic Center out of the blue. We already have a good relationship with them, due in no small part to the efforts of the marvelous Guibord Center to promote interfaith friendship and understanding. If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in learning more about the great world faiths, including Islam, you should attend their free lectures. They also have collected notes and videos online for continued learning.

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How to kill your palm tree

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Erik and I have been enjoying Dr. Jerry Turney’s Tree Identification classes at the Los Angeles Arborteum. Talk about high tree geekery! The last one was all about palms, and though I know that most of our readers probably don’t live in palm-friendly climates, I’m putting this out there for those of you who do, and for all you random Googlers.

My take away from the talk is that most of the horticulture problems involving palms rise from poor practice and bad information. If a palm gets enough water, doesn’t freeze, and doesn’t get hacked up by us in misguided attempts to prune them, they are stately, beautiful, easy care trees.

So these are 4 good ways to try to kill your tree:

  1. Never Water It.  Palm trees grow in the desert, yes, but they are oasis plants. They grow by open water, or above underground water. They are tough, but tough is not the same as invincible, and they don’t show stress as clearly as other trees do, so you may not know that it is thirsty until it is too late. If it gets no water, one day your palm may just droop over, like a spent flower, and that is that. As the drought in Southern California continues, I’m beginning to worry about our iconic street palms. We tend to give them no thought whatsoever, but it may be time to start watering them if we want to keep them.
  2. Over Prune. If you imagine a clock face overlaid on the crown of a palm, never cut above 9 and 3 o’clock. And never, ever, opt for the heinous and misguided extreme pruning called the pineapple or hurricane or candle style cut, which leaves just a few fronds poking out at the top. Pruning a palm this way will only stress the palm and stands a good chance of killing it. Here’s a quick photo reference.
  3. Prune your palm with dirty tools. Diseases are carried on chainsaws and the like. Poor pruning hygiene has infected the stately 100 year old Canary Island Date palms in our local Elysian Park with deadly Fusarium wilt. Simple carelessness destroyed this beloved local landmark.
  4. Climb the palm with spikes. Those spikes leave holes which do not heal. They become portals for various sorts of fungal infections. These infections can be as dangerous to you as the plant, because if the crown rots from the middle, you may not notice it is even sick until the entire crown just falls off and plummeting down, all two tons of it. Falling palm crowns smash cars and kill people.

All in all, most of the problems palms suffer come from us pruning them. The simple solution is to leave them alone. Don’t prune it if you don’t have to. Don’t be fetishistic about tidyiness. Let the palm be its natural self. It knows how to grow, it knows where it wants its fronds and boots– after all, palms are much, much, much older than us as a species. They know what they’re doing. You’ll save money and the palm will thank you if you leave it alone. If you do prune your palm, hire a company that knows what they’re doing, or research the topic well before doing it yourself.

One final fascinating fact: you can read the history of a palm in its trunk.  When it undergoes stress from extreme drought or bad pruning, the trunk contracts. If you see a trunk which has pinched areas, you know that something bad happened at that time.

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