Flagstaff, Arizona, USA…Part 1

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View of downtown Flagstaff on U.S. Route 66 wi...

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I’m from Flagstaff, Arizona.  I was born and raised here and have lived most of my life here.  I have lived in other places, but here I am again.  There are times I wish I weren’t, when I am feeling a little restless, but it’s hard to leave.  And for those of you looking to move here, the cost of living is a challenge.  It pays to be frugal here.  Jobs and pay are at a premium.  Home prices and rent are high in comparison to salaries.  All other things are reasonably priced.  Comparably priced, I guess I should say, with other places.

But it’s amazing in so many ways that matter.  The climate is ideal.  Unless you love the rain, or you love the snow, or you love the heat or the humidity.  We aren’t any of those to the extreme.  Technically, we are in a high desert.  7000 ft. in elevation.  We receive something like 25 inches of precipitation per year.  Last winter we received 5 feet of snow over a handful of days, and we hosted the weather channel to document its progression.  This month we were greeted by tornadoes, eight of them confirmed, at last count; two of them did significant damage to the small community of Bellemont, 5 miles west of town, which is home to the National Weather Service for northern Arizona.  But those are aberrations.  We average about 100 inches of snow each winter, and our summer wet season comes in July and August, but it is a happy wet, not a flooding wet.

Post Equinoxal Happiness

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Official seal of City of Flagstaff

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First day of frost, on average, in Flagstaff, is right around the equinox.  As a precaution, I brought in my plants one day a couple of weeks ago.  I’m growing a few plants in containers this year.  It has been a challenging year, and I decided I wouldn’t plant directly into the ground.  I’m growing some basil and some grape tomatoes, as well as some more spinach.  The spinach didn’t do so well during the summer months, and I planted some more about a week ago.  They’ve already started to germinate.  I only have to deal with covering them at night until harvest.  We just recently had a few days of October storms which were a welcome arrival.  Looking out at the gray skies as the backdrop to the deciduous trees as they turn, and the pine trees with their darkly covered bark from being rained upon, were a pleasant sight at this time of year.  It makes me extremely happy to have a beautiful summer give way to a little autumn storm before we dry out a bit before winter.  It makes me equally happy when the weather generally turns in October and the trees along with it.  To see all the colors and to experience the sound of leaves falling off trees, and stepping on and crunching them when out for a walk.  To know that winter is near but perhaps not near enough.  Post equinoxal happiness!!!

Make It Yourself

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The percent of the human population working in...

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I’m not advocating for a complete return to an agrarian life.  It just isn’t for everyone, I understand.  Besides, it’s fascist and just plain boring.  And how can we possibly pry all the technology out of the fingers of its adherents for more than a few minutes anyway.  I guess we really cannot in some cases.   

But if we want to keep disease in check and curb the obesity problem in the developed world, we obviously need to make some significant changes.  None of these changes are easy and I realize it isn’t all going to happen overnight.  I’m in a coffee shop writing this paragraph and there is one person behind me talking on the phone, and another texting in front of me.  Were I to ask them these simple questions, they’d probably look at me like I just fell off the nearest psychiatrist’s couch; the questions are simple, the answers are dreadful to many, I suppose.  Such as supporting regional (preferably local) agriculture; organically produced agriculture.  Demanding it.  Genetically altering food-producing plants, and then spraying them with pesticides is no longer acceptable.      

If we all contributed modestly to the solution, it probably wouldn’t seem insurmountable.  It could be extremely difficult, but nothing worth having is worth ease of possession, I believe.   

But with convenience food on virtually every street corner, how do you convince people to start along the different road?  And with patience at a seemingly all time low, how do you even get people to listen.  I know there are times when I myself try hard to extricate myself from a conversation that is sapping me of my time and energy.  Perhaps for me, blogging is that starting point.  People can listen at their own convenience, and perhaps have some say in their own smaller circle of influence.One of the solutions:  Make It Yourself 

For example, try making food one day a week. Pick something easy, and that you really love to eat, and make it completely from scratch. Once a week, every week.  Maybe you’ll enjoy doing it, and cook more regularly, and will reach a higher level of sustainability and health.  Don’t go out and grow all your food at first. If you are so inclined, grow a little of your food, buy organic, and in some cases just do without. If you want a somewhat more inspiring invitation to change, read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle.    In it, Kingsolver and her family decide to live off the land.  I’ll let you make your own judgments about their efforts.

If what you like is spaghetti, for example, try growing a small amount of virtually everything in the recipe. If you are including meatballs, you probably don’t want to raise a cow if that is cost and space prohibitive. But you can grow (and can or freeze) the tomatoes and the spices to make a sauce. You probably won’t grow the wheat for making pasta. But you can try making the pasta yourself. Doing all of this will slow you down enough to appreciate the process, and since all the food is fresh, you will truly appreciate it.   

It seems, however, that we have  become slaves to what the media marketing circus is selling that we consume fast food ad nauseum, prescription drugs until we are drowning in them, and clothing and technology and other affectations to sell us as pointedly attractive. 

Please give it a try.  Let’s take back the world from those who have chosen to do us harm.

Lamenting the End of Summer

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In Flagstaff, you can count on distinct seasons.  Sure, we have only had about a handful of substantial snowfall winters in about the past score of years.  But usually it is still fairly cold.  I guess you kind of can’t help it, since the sun is only out and about for so long each day.  Spring doesn’t so much come in each year with warmer temperatures as it does with all the wind.  When the earth starts tilting more quickly on its way toward the solstice, I guess that is its consequence.  But the crocus and daffodil and tulips reappear, along with the crabapple and cherry blossoms.  Even though the last frost is in mid June, we have a decent growing season, if you want it to be; if you plan a little.  First frost averages right around the autumnal equinox.  It used to be that almost without fail, turning the page on the calendar to October really signalled fall.  Now that’s usually a bit later as well.  Global Warming, perhaps.  Or not.  I don’t make the planet spin, nor do I regulate its chemistry in its totality.  I’m just here as an observer; and hopefully an inspiration to some.  As the seasons here in Flagstaff inspire me.  I know it’s a little early for summer to end, but I’m lamenting its end because summer signals the shift in wind patterns which brings in the “Monsoon.”  August is typically the wettest month on average, and we do some years continue to receive rain into September, but since we are at August 19th, our rainy season is quite possibly about to finish.  And then there is usually a little indian summer before fall returns.  But when fall returns, I will be happy for it to arrive, and then sad to see it end.  But that’s life.  I think I appreciate more all that is good during those moments when I am sad, and remember what is important and inspirational.

All Things in Moderation

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If you realize that not a single “thing” can sustain you by itself, then it is easy to see that having most things in moderation is healthy.  When I hear somebody use the word need in place of want/like/desire, I see this all over again.  I don’t at all take for granted that which I “need.”  That which sustains me: air, water, food, shelter, in that order, as well as relationships, which are for other posts.  Anything beyond that certainly qualifies as somewhat of a luxury or a privilege.  There is nothing wrong with any of it so long as it doesn’t ruin my quality of living.  Even the last two in the needs list can move to the wants list.  That said, one thing I like to do is watch the food network.  I like to be as knowledgeable as possible about what I am putting into my body.  I don’t watch enough to qualify it as an addiction, by any stretch of the imagination.  I understand that feeding the temple doesn’t require intricate, expensive or unsustainable preparation.  Feeding the craving can.  And occasionally I like to indulge.  I probably will put some recipes on my blog in the future.  They won’t be anything that I just copy out of a book, but those that I have changed to suit my taste or its ease of preparation.  Example:  banana bread.  I have never been a huge fan of many banana bread recipes I have tried.  Over the years, I tinkered with the recipe to suit me.  Because I have changed the recipe many times, I may post that recipe first.  Banana bread certainly doesn’t qualify as something which sustains me.  Nor as sustainable.  For many, wheat for the creation of flour is not a local commodity.  Bananas don’t grow in North America.  Sugar, along with the wheat, are highly refined products.  But I like banana bread, and so I make it on occasion.

Twinkies Don’t Grow on Trees

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I have used this expression for years.  It is my way of saying that which has been processed to the extreme isn’t going to sustain you.  I was prompted to write this when I read an article on extreme saving on Yahoo!  The obvious changes one can make when needing to trim a budget is get rid of the car in favor of walking, biking, or taking public transportation; downsizing your home or taking in a border; using coupons.  My problem with using coupons is that many products you purchase with coupons are highly processed.  I do eat some processed food, so I don’t want to come across as trying to preach.  But making the effort to eat less processed food will not only save you more money than using coupons (unless you are related to extreme users of coupons who make money to shop in the grocery store), but your body will thank you for eating healthier, especially if you also avoid eating out too often or eating large portions of meat at every conceivable meal.  A friend of mine likes to call these processed foods “whites,” as in white sugar, white flour.  These foods, when eaten in large quantities, are to me like a sedative.  I have more energy when I eat healthier, and thus more time to do all the things I love, and to show the people I love how much they matter to me.  Twinkies don’t grow on trees, but to quote somebody other than myself, “An apple a day helps keep the doctor away.”  To your health!

The Ocean

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It has been nearly 21 years that I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.  If I could afford to return, I would do so in a hot second.  But I regress.  The thing I miss most about living there is being so near the ocean.  How can you not feel what I consider an innate connection?  This is true of other things as well:  mountain ranges, secluded areas where star gazing is really possible, and others which I may write about in future posts.  It’s a healthy fear of something that in some way can cause physical or emotional distress that I attach to being near to the ocean.  It can kill you in no time flat without a thought to having ever done so.  If you managed to survive such an encounter, it might scar you in ways that possibly you would never know.  The ocean is mighty, beautiful, life sustaining, inspirational, and practical, with other adjectives used over the years by billions of people.  And whether you are actively praising an almighty being for it and other so-attributed acts of creation, or not, how can one believe that we, human beings, are on this planet at this time, sometimes arguing whether creation is our reality or not, are an accident.  That the ocean, and its myriad wonders of sustainability, is an accident.  Scientists are inevitably correct, in my estimation, in many presumptions about the planet’s past, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of a creator.

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