Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gojira @ El Corazon

This year Amy bought me 2 tickets to see one of my favorite bands, Gojira (BEST. PRESENT. EVER.) They are a death metal band from France, but instead of lyrics fixated on gore, suffering, dismemberment, and other creepy stuff, they tend to write about environmental, spiritual, and social issues. I admit this sounds like a strange combination, but the energy, intricacy and intensity of metal actually makes the messages come through far more forcefully than if they were accompanied by a softly strummed acoustic guitar.

Their most recent album, The Way of All Flesh, is an exploration of life and death, but takes a surprisingly sophisticated perspective on mortality. The songs explore our connection to each other and to the planet where we evolved, the fear each of us feels when we contemplate the end of our existence, and what (if anything) awaits us when we die. The album came out just before my grandfather passed away, and I listened to it over and over during that time. Here is a passage from the title track that was particularly meaningful to me:

I find it hard to believe that this picture on the wall is everything
I do understand all the prayers, life is so sharp and hurts so bad
What does it mean to be dying, what if you take the guts and brain away
Is it this blood and heartbeat that you call life?

Every effort to ignore it is unavailing; we all have to die
Is it too late to dull the edges of the pain, I have to try
This is another dimension
You can scatter ashes to the winds and even buried in the ground I'm still here

Do not be afraid you are dying
and the four great elements of your body are collapsing one into the other
It feels as if you are being crushed by mountains
The light of this world has faded completely
But the light of the next world has not yet appeared

Your breath is now still, no warmth to your skin
Do not be afraid, there's no way that you can stay here
You are leaving this world
All lights are fading away now
Leave behind the loved ones and all you know
Do not be afraid and let yourself go

And another passage, this time from the song A Sight to Behold:

The way we all behave is not understandable
It is so sad to see the wealth of our planet fade away
We all behave like children, taking off the head of our teddy bear
to see what's inside, taking, not giving back
We drain the oceans and suck all the blood out of the soil
We spend the time we have left fighting and killing each other
Lust for comfort, entertainment becomes an obsession
And there is so much time to kill

The show was at El Corazon, a small venue across the street from the downtown REI. We were at the very front of the stage for the whole set, and it was an incredible performance. Excellent musicianship, fantastic stage presence (they actually smiled throughout the set!), and they thanked the Sea Shepherd Society for coming to the show to distribute information and spread the word about conserving marine life.

Best of all, Amy actually came to the show with me and I think she had a good time too!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kids, Gardens, Chickens, and Co-ops

Life has been extraordinarily busy in our household these past several weeks. The boys are doing well and growing like, ah, hop vines! (see below) Lochlan is three today and we had an exhilarating (but exhausting!) superhero training camp birthday party for him Saturday. Amy sewed a bunch of capes, and I drew templates for various superhero symbols--hammer, lightning bolt, cat, fire, etc so the kids could augment their own costumes. Some of the training activities included "speed" where I ran around the outside of the house until a swarm of caped anklebiters pulled me to the ground, flying on the swingset, fighting (punching bag), and agility (pinata).

Liam is finishing up at North Seattle 5s and will be attending KapKa next year--he attended his first 'orientation' day at the school on Friday and was so excited to meet the other kids and get his first KapKa t-shirt. Lochlan will continue attending Liam's 'alma mater' next year, Fremont Community School. We're a little nervous about paying tuition at two private schools, but we're getting some financial help from KapKa and we'll just find a way to make it all work.

We have spent just about every weekend this Spring working on expanding our garden--we rebuilt and/or expanded all of our raised beds and built three new beds, and installed a new flagstone path that runs about 180 linear feet from the entrance to our basement apartment to the front walk. That was a challenging project, but we are pleased with the end result. I also planted five new hop hills (three more Cascade, one each of Centennial and Chinook) and installed three new 16' poles with guy wires and twine to support the vines. The two hills I put in last year are growing exceptionally vigorously; in fact, one of them has already reached the top of the railing on our second story deck, about 15-16'. We should have enough cones for brewing a few batches this summer and fall, and next year I'm hoping for a bumper crop!

Elsewhere in the garden and yard, we've planted or sown broccoli, spinach, potatoes, kale, rainbow chard, lettuce, chives, carrots, peas, beans, thyme, cilantro, strawberries and 3 kinds of squash. We have enormous tomato and pepper starts, as well as a bunch of cukes and basil. Most of the tomatoes went in yesterday but it's been a cold cold May so I'm saving a handful as backups. We've also planted ten salmon berry bushes, a black currant, four raspberry canes, two kiwi vines, and one each of peach, apple and cherry trees. We bought some mason bees to help with pollination and it's been very gratifying to see those little critters working the cherry blossoms.

Our hens survived the amazingly cold winter in fine shape and didn't stop laying. I suspect this is due to the heat lamp we installed in their nest box; hens generally stop laying when daylight hours dip below ~12 hours. They are really enjoying the (relatively) warmer weather and we are getting 2-3 eggs every day.

The other big project we've been working on is the Seattle Urban Farms Cooperative. Actually, the vast majority has been Amy, my main contributiona thus far have been to design the logo and set up a skeletal website. It's been a huge effort, essentially starting a new business, and the response has been overwhelming. Since the first meeting on February 11, the co-op has grown to over 150 members and we'll receive our second shipment of bulk feed on Wednesday. We distributed the first one from our house, but that was pretty overwhelming so we've found another location that should work much better logistically. Ultimately we'll have a permanent site, or 'storefront.' Amy and I are both really energized by this project, because we feel it is so important to increase the amount of food grown within our city. To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, there are numerous "converging catastrophes" swirling around us right now and it's easy to feel powerless. We feel that by making it much easier for Seattleites to obtain inexpensive feed, seeds, supplies, and know-how, we can help our neighbors and fellow citizens take some measure of control. They can increase their food security, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, save money, get some exercise, and have a great time doing it.

Now that our 'crops' are in and the boys are winding down with school, I'm hoping to start posting here more regularly.