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Walking with TQ through Crane Canyon Regional Park. And more poppies.

Walking with TQ through Crane Canyon Regional Park. And more poppies.

There’s not much that I like more than a really good walk.  I cancelled my gym membership  not just to save money, but because, these days, walking outdoors is my preferred form of exercise. It’s simple, it’s easy and I can load the baby into her stroller and take her along with me without much fuss. I walk every day, almost without fail, sometimes just around the block, sometimes a few miles.

It’s rare that I don’t have a destination in mind – usually landing in spot where treats can be had – but  yesterday G and I headed out to the stationary store downtown and ended up halfway across town at Luther Burbank Gardens, where we got to see poppies upon poppies in full bloom followed by a chat with the gift shop volunteer about Santa Rosa plums and how Burbank married a woman 40 years his junior (!) A great afternoon came out of the impulse to walk left instead of right, which would have taken us directly home.

I got to thinking about walking after my friend Autumn (one of the best writers and thinkers I know) posted a link to this piece on  BBC News, The slow death of purposeless walking.  William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf – all were daily walkers who walked aimlessly, thinking and observing along the way, according to the piece. Woolf’s Street Haunting: A London Adventure captures the meandering, creative sparks inhabited during a really good walk.

How's this for a walking outfit?

How’s this for a walking outfit?

It’s often assumed that there’s a a luxury or a privilege in having the time to walk. I just don’t have the time to walk there. I have to work and earn money and make a living and survive! Sure, we’re all busy. But our minds need that time of movement without stress, of stimuli without the pressure to consume, of passing by the same spots in the neighborhood over and over to see how things have changed. What does the creek look like today? How much has the neighbor’s garden grown since last week? What motley crew is hanging at the local park at two in the afternoon?

I’ll be writing more about walking in the coming months. Obviously, it’s one of my obsessions. For now, I’ll leave you with some tips from the BBC piece:

Boil down the books on walking and you’re left with some key tips:

  • Walk further and with no fixed route

  • Stop texting and mapping

  • Don’t soundtrack your walks

  • Go alone

  • Find walkable places

  • Walk mindfully

And a link to one of my favorite books on walking, Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit.

 

 

Photo credit: L.A. Arboretum

Photo credit: L.A. Arboretum

My grandma, who was born in 1919, grew up in Los Angeles. East Los Angeles, to be precise. Back then, the city was booming and busy, but still held pockets of rural flavor in places like Maravilla, the unincorporated part of town where my grandma lived with her family. One of my favorite tales centers on grandma at the tender age of nine, lounging in a field of wildflowers with her best friend, sneaking Sensations (these pastel-colored cigarettes they’d gotten an older man to buy for them) and staring up at a blue sky without a care in the world.

“We thought we were so so-phis-ti-cated,” Grandma always says with a laugh.

What I’ve always loved most about this image, aside from the rebellious camaraderie, was the idea of this bygone city that had existed not so long before I was born. A city where there were more flowers than pavement, where the sky was still blue, and where green things still thrived.

It was hard to imagine in 1980′s Los Angeles. The sky was gray more often than it was blue and freeways outnumbered flowers by a significant percentage. And as a kid, all I craved was wildflowers. Get me out in nature (luckily my mom knew the value of a good hike) and I’d pick wildflowers like crazy, coming home with droopy little bouquets that made my heart sing. Looking back, it probably had to do with the hole left from our abrupt departure from Kauai for a busy, smoggy city.

Because of my wildflower obsession, I was stoked to come across ‘How an Artist Blanketed Los Angeles in Wildflowers’ on Gizmodo. I always wished I could live in the East Los Angeles of my grandma’s youth. I love the idea of the slow return of a place to its natural ecological state. A field of wildflowers is infinitely more soothing to the soul than an empty lot or a lawn.

Love me some California poppies.

Love me some California poppies.

On the growing tip, I wrote last week about anxiety. This past month, my number one solution to feeling anxious has been to go outside and stick my hands in some dirt. I always thought gardening was for people with a lot of time on their hands (privilege) but am now shifting to viewing interactions with plants as essential to my well-being. It’s leaning further and further towards being a non-negotiable aspect of my day-to-day life.  If I have time to dick around on Facebook, then I have time to stick some (drought-resistant) plants in a container and watch them grow. It feels damn good to get out there in the little container garden;  the satisfaction of sitting amongst the lavender and oregano and sage, watching fat Carpenter bees work away at the flowers, is simple but effective.

Any gardening tips for a newbie like me? How does your garden grow? Or has anyone seen the Wildflowering L.A. project in real life? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Spending time with a rad dog can also ease anxiety. Just ask Ari Up.

Spending time with a rad dog can also ease anxiety. Just ask Ari Up.

I’ve struggled with anxiety since high school. It got really bad in my early twenties, when I began to have major panic attacks – the kind that left me feeling like my outer layer of skin had been removed and I was left to face the world raw, red and bare. It got so bad that I once spent two days laying in my mom’s room, unable to get up or go out into the world for fear that I would die or be killed. I got through that, and by my thirties, with the help of anti-depressants and a (relatively) healthier lifestyle, the panic attacks subsided.

But the anxiety has remained. Healers that I trust have mentioned the connection between all the time spent in my head – because I’m a writer and that’s what we do – and the anxiety. It’s like all the energy just gets trapped up there and has no where to go. This week, instead of just dwelling in the anxiousness, I made a couple of different choices.

On Tuesday, I attended an introduction to anxiety class through my medical provider. I went in thinking, I’m not anxious! I dealt with that shit along time ago. I came out realizing that, yes, I haven’t quite kicked anxiety to the curb like I thought. At the beginning of May, I begin a four-week session that uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to address anxiety and its root causes, so writing about that experience is definitely forthcoming.

That same day, my roommate generously offered to take the baby out for the afternoon. Normally, I would have spent that precious two hours reading depressing news on the internet, doing (another) load of dishes, sweeping the (always dirty) floor or knocking out work emails and other random freelance tasks. But that day, I spent twenty minutes with long-haired yoga master Rodney Yee.  It felt great. Then I boiled some water and spent the next half hour in the heaven of a Ayurvedic steam inhalation.

Mmmm, lavender and lemon balm smell so damn good

Mmmm, lavender and lemon balm smell so damn good

I’ve been lucky because one of my oldest friends  is studying to be an Ayurvedic practitioner; she’s taken me on has one of her clients as she completes her studies. Admittedly, I’ve spent the last few weeks meaning to do the things she’s recommended, while remaining firmly entrenched in my regular habits. But not this week.

First, I went out to the garden and picked a few stems of lavender and lemon balm. Then I placed the herbs into the hot water and watched the fragrant steam rise.  Then, I placed a clean towel over my head and  the pot of hot water. The point is to to create a kind of “tent” around your head and to let the herby steam rise up onto your face for as long as you can stand it. I challenged myself to sit there for longer and longer periods of time.

The feeling afterwards is nothing short of wonderful. It’s like going to a spa, without the drive or the cost.  With each steam inhalation, my head felt clearer, less heavy, like the energy was moving around instead of just sitting there trapped, a feeling akin to sitting in a cave filled with old dirt.

Post steam inhalation bliss

Post steam inhalation stoke

I did this for about half an hour. Then I took a hot shower, followed by a walk with Acorn around the neighborhood. Amazingly, the anxiety had lifted. I felt refreshed, grounded and centered.  All from a hot pot of water and a few fresh herbs.

What DIY methods help you stave off anxiety and get grounded again?

Write On Mamas

“A lot of writing about motherhood is still considered ‘mommy memoir’ or ‘mommy blogging’ and isn’t seen as serious memoir,” says Kovac. “Even the word ‘mother’ is so loaded. There are some in publishing that are just like, ‘We don’t want motherhood stories.’”

Kovac adds that whatever literary space there is for moms tends to be taken up by well-known writers like Anne Lamott and Ayelet Waldeman. The stigma has led to an ongoing conversation among the Write On Mamas about whether or not “Mamas” should stay in the name.

The answer is always a resounding yes, says Kovac.

“Isn’t this how we take it back?” asks Kovac. “We’re writing, and we take it seriously; we’re parents, and we take it seriously.”

 

 

 

Restorative Justice

“True justice has to come from a place of love,” Sanchez says. “If it comes from a place of vengeance, there’s no true healing. There’s very little you get out of asking for vengeance. I truly believe it has to come from a place of love, especially for youth, who pick up these subtle messages. When you tell them, ‘Get out of here, we don’t want you in our schools anymore,’ the youth think, ‘These schools hate me, my teachers hate me, everybody’s out to get me.’ But when you remind them, ‘No, we love you and we need you here,’ it speaks volumes.”