Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Little Things

It's been a week of fits and starts and frustrations, and tonight, I'm feeling a bit sad about that. You know, when you had big plans to get a lot accomplished and... nada.

But instead of wallowing in it, I'm trying to take stock of the little things I've done this week that were, in their own small way, worth it.

For example, it's blueberry season. I went for my second picking session this week, and got absolutely soaked. If the phrase "catch your death" had any relevance, I would have caught it--it was that kind of chilly and rainy.

But that was okay. I pick a lot of berries every summer (in case you hadn't noticed) and I've come to expect that at least once, I'll get soaked to the bone and at least once, it'll be so hot that I'll think I'm going to pass out right there in the field, unable to get my berries in a basket (so to speak).

When I got home from berry picking, instead of getting down to work, the way I'd planned, I decided I'd better harvest the basil and make pesto. I was afraid the basil would bolt and go to seed, and although I didn't plant as much of it this year as I normally do, I still didn't want to lose any of it simply by not cutting it back in time.

The weather has been cool and rainy for the past couple of days, so it was the perfect opportunity to get these smaller harvesting tasks done.

It was also perfect weather for working on several of the many large knitting projects I have nearing completing. In particular, I'm finishing up an actual dress (yes, you read that right) that I spent months and months knitting.

If I can finish the pocket tonight (and I think I can), all I'll have left to do is one 3/4 length sleeve. Then it's block it, finish it (it will need a button or two) and... it will be done at long last, ready to wear next winter.

I'm also 3/4 of a sleeve (I sense a trend here) and a neckline away from finishing a sweater that would also be nice to have ready to wear next winter.

And then there are socks. Those are always little things that fill in the gaps between big knitting projects. And that work well in the summer, because let's face it, no one wants to sit with a big alpaca wool dress on their lap in the summer. They just don't.

I've been doing a bit of weight training this summer as well, and I added a little more weight to my bench press lifting--that may seem like a little thing, but when you try to lift it, you notice, trust me.

That's said, I'm happy because I'm now bench-pressing 70 lbs, whereas at the start of May, I could only lift the bar itself (45 lbs). My goal is to see if I can get to 100 lbs at some point--maybe by this fall? (Maybe not?)

I also read a little book, that I think is part of why I'm winding down my Saturday evening feeling a little sad. It's Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air (2017). Although it's good, and I recommend it, it's also quite sad.

Kalanithi died of cancer when he was only 37. He was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer around the age of 35, which is when he began writing his book. It describes his life up until his diagnosis, and then his illness itself.

He was unable to document much of his time during his illness because he was so sick. He died somewhat suddenly, after his aggressive cancer "flared" when chemotherapy no longer worked.

Obviously, this is probably not the kind of thing I needed to be reading, given that this is July and I'm rapidly approaching a couple of difficult anniversaries when I lost people close to me to cancer... but there it is. I read the book.

I think I sort of felt like I "needed" to read it now, because I have a funny feeling about this time of year--almost like I don't think it's right to be... too happy, maybe? I don't know how to explain it, except to say that, when you go through some really difficult times at a particular point in the year, I think you forever feel like that phase of the year is a bit of a memorial to that time.

It's not possible to not sense the memories in the air, if the weather changes and suddenly, it's the way it was that year, for example. It's like it's a time that you always carry with you, and even though you're on the other side of it now and can look back and marvel at what you endured, you still feel like it's with you, in a way.

It's a big thing, marked by memories of all the little things, that made you who you are today.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Freeing Myself

I really can't believe we're already over a week into July. Yes, I know there was the little holiday there right at the start of the month, but still.

My latest news is, I've pledged to participate in "Plastic Free July." If you don't know what this is, you can probably guess.

Based in Australia, "Plastic Free July" is designed to encourage people to reduce their use of single-use plastic items (straws, cups, water bottles, soda bottles, produce wrapping, etc. etc.). Basically, you pledge to try to help cut back on the use of all of that plastic out there that you're only using once and then throwing away.

Because once thrown away, it ends up in the landfills or the oceans. And that's just not good.

I confess, I don't do a lot of take-out coffee or food, so I'm not a big contributor on that front.

So, to do my part, I decided I would eliminate using plastic grocery bags.

In particular, I would no longer line my smaller trash cans with those little shopping bags. I took ALL of them (and ye gods, I had a lot) to the grocery store and stuffed them in their bin to be recycled (it was the best I could do!) and that was that.

I haven't been able to bring myself to not line my larger trash can with a plastic bag. They recommend using newspaper instead, but I don't really have any.

What I can tell you (okay, that was a little unintended pun with the word "can" there), is that I've significantly reduced my trash overall.  And I mean, significantly.

Yes, I'm only one person, but because pretty much all "wet" trash from food or eggs (everything minus meat or dairy) now goes into my compost, I'm emptying my actual garbage can every 2 weeks, at most, instead of weekly (or more than weekly).

This is something.

I'm giving reuseable beeswax food storage wraps a try, to help eliminate plastic wrap. So far, so good: I find that I prefer them to plastic wrap, which I was never a huge fan of, quite frankly.

I've also decided to really try to reduce--if not eliminate--my use of paper towels. (Yes, I know they're not plastic. I'm on a little roll, though. HA--I did it again with the pun.)

I'm using rags, whenever possible, and as it turns out, it really is often possible.

For the most part, it's been a question of adjusting my habits and catching myself not reaching for the easy solution offered by a single-use disposable items.

I'm planning, at some point, to make a trip to a local co-op to see about buying bulk foods. This is going to need a little bit of planning on my part, though, if I'm going to opt out of the plastic bags. I'll need new container options.

I've gotten so that I bring my own containers to the grocery store to put veggies in, after my friend mentioned that having them roll around the cart (which is what will happen if you no longer use those little baggies) was no fun.

I'm actually reusing the old plastic veggie containers I had from before-- I'm re-purposing them, in short, which is a good thing. (Just be sure to take the bar code off the base of them.)

As I've said before (almost four years to the day, in fact, in my post entitled "My Half-Life: A Pale Green Wrapper") make these kinds of adjustments works best if you find one thing you can commit to, and then build on that over time.

And if it doesn't work for you, it just doesn't. But you try and you gain awareness, and maybe you simply cut back--or you decide to make some other thing that will work for you.

If you're interested in Plastic Free July, they offer a really handy chart with suggestions for actions that you can take. It also shows the effect that any change you implement will have on the oceans, environment, and land-fills. It's available here, and I really hope you'll join in and give it a try!