Grafted (3 Chicks with Sticks)

We double tooled and took a short trek to Chapel Street.

The explanation and demonstration made sense. Using the tools on-hand made sense.

I like sense. I like adaptation, too.

Teams spread down the sidewalks searching for X marks and O marks, and root-bagged trees that weren’t rejectedly rolled into the street.

There we were; three chicks with sticks staring at an off-center X over a shallow-welled median with a spade and a square, a spade and a rake, a spade and a pick-ax, a tree and a plan.

Fresh from a mini tutorial, feeling feisty, we set about it.

We measured and consulted, measured some more, got a rhythm going.

After a while, there two piles of dirt, a pile of skimmed grass, and a hole.

The hole wasn’t exactly round. We fixed that.

The hole was a little too deep. We fixed that.

The ball was a little too heavy for advised two rollers, so we used three to get it going and in.

We eyeball straightened our charge (assumed a tulip tree by the botanical tag “tulipifera”) from three directions.

Lacking a knife to break the binds, we waited, short-shoveling handfuls of soft soil in and around to perfect stance while assuring our homeowner we were enjoying ourselves, and it wasn’t as hard as it seemed.

Root bag ripped, unrecyclables corralled, wires de-bent, we ran into a problem. Everything was fine, until exposure. Then, suddenly, it might be all wrong, or it might still be right.

Lopsided, rooted more heavily on one side than the other, not knowing which three-fingers-below measure was true.

There were two knuckles; one previously hidden in burlap garb, angled slight degrees from the one we had been focused on.

Stem straight, angled roots uneven in a way that wouldn’t promote stability. Rocking the sapling in favor of rooting, the stem was oddly askew.

That’s when we learned something new. The tree and the root were established together post graft. Combining the best of both, strong roots, tall tree, for immediate success and future longevity.

Consultants called. Though our true root was a slight inch higher than preferred, no retraction was required. Adaptation meant lightly packed stability soil up a little higher, and cautiously tamping air-pocket caverns where water could possibly pool and encourage rot.

We raised our berm a little higher, for better protection, and watered away from the roots. When we were finished, it passed muster, earning a blue sleeve of advertorial protection.

And that was it; about three hours later, including stand-up breakfast pastries and coffee, finding the right Zone assignment, name tags, gift bags, tool toting, street scouring, instruction, demonstration and the command to go to it. We’d done what we’d set out to do, added our imprint as one group of three in a group of One Brick Volunteers planting one tree among 120 goaled.

My best guess is that it took nearly 200 people from many different community groups, instructors teaching, volunteers planting, and forestry-minded reviewing to reach that goal.

While that might seem impressive, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 500,000 trees lost during a three decade Dutch Elm blight from 1950-1980.

Since 1989, The Greening of Detroit has orchestrated placement and replacement of 85,000 trees. Mathematically, that’s still a significant environmental shortage.

There are still at least dozen upcoming The Greening of Detroit events, and there’s room for you, too.

It all adds up. Make a difference in Detroit.

Quote for the Week:

It doesn’t have to be one or the other  04 14 2015

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links: 

The Greening of Detroit: http://www.greeningofdetroit.com/get-involved/volunteer/

Urban Forests: https://www.americanforests.org/conservation-programs/urban-forests/

Top 22 benefits of trees: https://www.treepeople.org/resources/tree-benefits

On Twitter:

#OneBrickDetroit    @GreeningDetroit    #SocialForestry

Better, Pickles

While most people are wrapping up presents, wrapping up the year, I have found myself a good way off-cycle. Having already started my new start in October, I missed the thankfulness kick-off. With Christmas racing up, I’m far-behind in spiritual matters.

Charity in passing has been this season’s theme. My regular yearly list is lacking check boxes, but I’ve been catching opportunities here and there. Food Gatherers were in the right place at the right time last Saturday. A $10.00 donation seemed just about right. I planned to get cash at check-out, but as I walked the aisles with my coupons and sales flyer, I decided to get personal.

I’m not actually sure how the organization prefers to receive their donations, but I choose to shop. I shopped as budget-follower, as if I were shopping for my own holiday table. I shopped as if I were the one who longed to set a celebration table, as if I would be beaming at the gathered, providing the feast.

$10.00 wasn’t going to make that happen. Doubled, there was possibility. There are foods that always speak to me of holidays. They’re not the normal ones, or the big ones; they’re the indulgent ones. Mini gherkins, black olives, pickled beets, marinated mushrooms; specialties passed over in favor of basics. I settled on smaller versions of olives and pickles, at 99 cents and $1.50. Per placard, the cost-per-ounce for less was more. It did not make economic sense, but spending less meant buying more.

The canned vegetable aisle required study. Each brand featured a special; none of them seemed to be the same kind. Fiesta corn, red beans, sweet peas with pearl onions, green beans made it into my cart. $7.00 in, around the corner pasta and tuna were pulled. 2 bags of macaroni at 50 cents each and one can at $1.00. Tomato sauce was 1.75. Just under $10.00, I had nothing like a feast.

Pre-made, shelf-stable pie crust and a can of fruit filling won over dough mixes and pumpkin, which would have required eggs and oil, milk and spices. I chose cherry for its festive red. Those two items took up as nearly much of my budget as the first ten, but I wasn’t going to put them back.

Packaged potatoes, the just-add-water type were a compromise. Fresh fruits and vegetables spoil. It’s as simple as that. One envelope seemed so small, so I started to reach for a second. A different brand’s ‘buy two, get one free’ caught my eye. I took in three traditionally butter flavored packets at $2.00 total.

$1.63 shy of my budget, I realize I was off-cycle again. Meat and poultry, fresh or frozen, are also a short-lived, requiring refrigeration. Ham in a can would do. Don’t think for a second that I was able to find a $1.63 ham in a can. The smallest and lowest priced was $5.49. I scanned the package knowing the ingredient list would be the same as the other higher priced offerings. Debating with my self is practically a sport, these days. I pulled out my contractor estimate philosophy, and decided a ham is a ham much as a fuse box is a fuse box. Don’t need the fanciest, just need it to perform.

$3.86 over budget. I could have re-shelved the un-holiday-like tuna, one bag of pasta, and the fiesta corn. I could have slid the gherkins back into the display. But, I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I grabbed another can of indulgent olives, thinking, “why not?” Closer to $25.00 isn’t going to break me any more than $20.00.

I imagine the volunteer sorter wondering what kind of person buys frivolities for a food pantry. It’s one who doesn’t think giving involves only basics; one who believes special is important, too. I realize the likelihood of my festive planning unit materializing in one home as a romanticized Norman Rockwell feast is slim.

I just hope that little-bitty jar of pickles makes someone really smile.

Quote for the Week:

To call it charity 12 09 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

1 Carrot Way: http://www.foodgatherers.org/

Pickle Timeline: http://www.nyfoodmuseum.org/_ptime.htm

Giving is Good, and Good for you: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you

Amazon Platform

I may have mentioned this once or twice, or a few times more than that.

That’s how it goes when I get excited, entrenched, enthusiastic. I’ve found an organization that needs me, even when I can’t get to many of the many events scheduled during the dark months of Michigan winter.

Activated in October 2011, One Brick Detroit is part of a larger, nation-wide 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. In June 2014, I made a long-term commitment to an organization that doesn’t require one.

Listing over 229 calendar events since 2011, One Brick Detroit has been successfully serving Detroit and the Metropolitan Area by scheduling an average of 6 events per month.

One Brick provides support to local non-profit and community organizations by creating a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for those interested in making a concrete difference in the community. We enable people to get involved, have an impact and have fun, without the requirements of individual long-term commitments.

‘Commitment-free volunteering’ allows One Brick members to choose when to volunteer, rather than having to make commitments for a certain number of volunteer hours, or agreeing to be available every week at a specific time.

We create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering, and after each volunteer event — which typically lasts only 3 to 4 hours — we invite volunteers to gather at a local restaurant or café where they can get to know one another in a relaxed social setting.

One Brick chapters are 100% volunteer-run! We have no employees…we don’t even maintain offices! But we do have a lot of dedicated volunteers who make it all happen. We’re very proud of that and thankful for the wonderful, caring individuals who arrive at each One Brick Detroit event ready to step-up to whatever tasks are needed.

Having been given the creative freedom to be the representative voice behind the One Brick Detroit weekly newsletter, a contributor to the One Brick Detroit Facebook page, and as Marketing and Publicity Director for One Brick Detroit, I’d like to point out the one little thing that makes what I am going to suggest matter.

Southeastern Michigan is not much different than the rest of the country. We’ve had hard times, we’ve had large needs. The thing is, need is always there. Before the holidays, during the holidays, after the holidays, One Brick Detroit will be helping.

As we enter the giving season, giving thanks and gifts, there is simple way to help us do what we love to do: volunteer, help others, meet like-minded people, and make our little corner of the world a friendlier place.

So, here it is: my first blog platform pitch:

Amazon Loves One Brick!  When you shop using our special link Amazon donates 7% of the total to support our work.

Please bookmark this link: onebrick.org/amazon, and use it each time you shop.

Click here for more details.

_________________________________________________________________

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Visit my chapter, and see for yourself what’s so awesome about One Brick and One Brick Detroit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/One-Brick-Detroit/108983815861413?fref=photo

Website: http://detroit.onebrick.org/

If you don’t usually shop Amazon on line, there is another easy donation avenue open: http://www.onebrick.org/IL1B

Quote for the Week:

It’s so much easier to commit 11 25 2014

Evolution, Part 5: Wind + Down

I wouldn’t say I was feeling down. I couldn’t call it disappointment, either.

It was a very good day. It just wasn’t the day I had imagined.

I was pleased to have kept my commitment; pleased to have made a small difference.

The spiritual service moved me to tears. I managed to hold back most of the lonely decompression that follows the end of a mission.

Community disengagement is a let-down; leaving, returning to steady, known apathy.

The short-set mingling morphed into tired walking; across the street to cars, and rest rooms and t-shirt purchases.

 

I cannot tell you it was a well-thought out thought; it wasn’t.

I cannot tell you why I said what I said, feeling the way I did.

I cannot tell you I knew the person just a step behind me.

I cannot tell you I recognized them; not from work, not from lunch, not from praise.

I just skipped a step, falling back a foot, turned and said, “This may have been one of my best birthdays, ever.”

I didn’t realize we’d stopped walking; we were talking.

Quickly: about birthdays and kites, tulips and art, a fight two sisters had in their mother’s hospital room.

The leaving chill evaporated; son-powered enthusiasm soaked in.

Suddenly we were last in line, thanking GOD and Jesus for a beautiful day.

Followed by a question with the only possible answer: Yes.

 

We sat down there, in a day-safe neighborhood, in the dwindling late afternoon, deep in portfolio.

A simple medium; graphite and recycled paper = pencils and abandoned pages.

I’ve never mastered the achievement of negative space in any medium.

Pencil, pen, crayon, watercolor – all take foresight. A clear tear is not easily added to a pencil portrait.

Devils that didn’t look like devils, doorways to the wrong place, wallpaper with eyes, a gang logo, a sister, a mourner, a life; questionable looks from passersby.

 

I stopped when I saw her, speaking to me of loss and prayer and grief and release; echoing loneliness caught by loneliness.

I didn’t ask who she was; simply served a compliment.

A few pages later, the counterbalance caught me. Separated, two portraits sharing one instance, one hand on each shoulder.

I knew they belonged together. When offered, I cried.

I knew they belonged together. Speechless to the insistence, I cried a little harder.

 

“If it’s going to make you sad, make you cry, I won’t ask you to take it. If it will bring you joy, please…”

 

I looked up from the shadows, buildings by setting sun; patience was waiting, not signaling time to go.

But we knew it was, so carefully, the gift was rolled; secured, presented.

We hugged and hugged again, and when my breath came, I grasped for more –

With nothing to offer, except for this; “I hope to see you again, someday.”

To which was replied; “It’s all up to Him. GOD’s will be done.”

 

So, I fought the breeze, and crossed the street, and wiped the wind tears away;

I could not, then, and still cannot answer; “Whom was ministering to whom?”

 

Quote for the week:

Sometimes we must plan in advance barry curry art oct 1 2014

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Beginning Charcoal:  http://www.artinstructionblog.com/charcoal-drawing-basics-techniques-for-beginners

Detailed: Interpretation of Art; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/36433/art-philosophy-of/36256/The-interpretation-of-art

Art as Therapy: http://medicalarttherapy.com/using-art-as-an-outlet/

Evolution, Part 4: Horchata + Quakers

Dinner was another adventure. Taqueria Mi Pueblo on Dix greeted us with a huge cement chicken (rooster, whatever) silhouetted against a summer blue sky. We had an adventurous group at our end of the long table. Gorditas, Tostadas, Gringas, Rellenos were all ordered with enthusiasm. I don’t think anyone ordered the same meal. I also discovered a new treat. Actually, I overheard it requested by a young lady as her beverage, so I asked about it. The best way I can describe the taste would be liquefied, drinkable rice pudding. Perfectly spiced, watery, yet creamy, Horchata is rice milk made by steeping white rice for 24 hours, adding vanilla, nutmeg and lime, among other variations. I checked the recipe. It’s labor intensive due to straining, but still easy enough to conquer on a snow bound winter day. In Michigan, we save stuff like this anticipating days when we’ll need something to prevent all the cold whiteness from freezing our brains.

Three more surprises came along. First, our meal was paid for by our youth group hosts and hostesses. Next a sweet surprise (and yummy) piece of Tres Leches arrived with fanfare, requested by my sweet friend. The third surprise was the hat. Actually, it was a sombrero: a big, heavy, red velvet, silver embellished festivity designed for someone with a much bigger head than mine. Truth is almost everyone’s head is bigger than mine, except for most children. Truth. Most of my hat buying most occurs in their kiddie section of department stores. In any case, the singing waitresses and the cake triggered additional surprise among my day-long companions. “How did we not know it was your birthday?” one asked. The fault there was mine. I did not advertise my predicament. Ok, predicament may not be the correct term to use for the routine occurrence of growing older. It was a mindful choice for me to be there on that particular day. It’s how I chose to spend it; doing something that I love – volunteering.

Post dinner, back at Cass, we headed back into the warehouse for Wednesday Praise. We weren’t the first to arrive and we weren’t the last, either. But, we were required to split up, taking seats wherever we found one. I found one at the end of a row or two of boisterously happy strangers. Their joking and laughter was contagious, even throughout the message. The Ambassadors entertained in a way that defies entertainment. Their inspiration was contagious; their song choices uplifting and inspirational. A few 1960’s songs even took on a different meaning for me that afternoon. Something amazing happens when mainstream is turned into praise. “You’ve Got a Friend” was one in particular. There was a brief introduction of the many groups that had volunteered that day. Again, I was surprised, but this time it was to learn that I was sitting with visiting, volunteering Quakers. Proving, once again, stereotypes are rarely ever accurate.

The end of praise left me teary. Not surprising really.

Regular days are exercises in emotional containment.

Special days stretch the limits.

That’s when everything changed….

 

Quote of the Week:

 stereotypes all roosters crow at daybreak taqueria rooster july 23 2014

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Mexican Cuisine: http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/mexicanfoodglossary/

Defining Praise: http://www.wadetaylor.org/William/2014/2PraiseinEverydayLifebyWilliamTaylor.pdf

Quakers – introduced with a bit of Humor: http://quakerinfo.org/index

 

 

Evolution, Part 3: Cut + Weave

There are many shades of innovation. Some are brighter than others.

There are two engaging and admirable industries within Cass Social Services. Both use recycled/reclaimed materials. Sheet glass becomes handmade coasters packaged in boxes hewn from reclaimed wood. Trashed tires become mud mats, and flip-flops.

Riding around Detroit picking up discarded tires for reuse brings tire recycling to a higher level. Repurposing illegally released rubber into colorful mud mats and trendy flip-flops is out-of-the-box inspiring; a home run from Detroit for Detroit. Even the big “D” logo shows up and adds pride to the sandals. How cool is it to tread on treads? Very. Freaking. Cool.

Rotating through various work stations in smaller groups was also engaging. At each interactive stop, we met mentors, ranging from self-conscious to confident, reserved to animated, a bit distrusting to upright happy. All had story to tell: who they were, who they are, who they are trying to be, a timeline of weary challenges and personal successes.

I tried my hand at glass cutting, after almost everyone else had. The basics: run the blade along the ruler at a 45° angle using firm, even pressure. Since all the kids were doing it, I denied my initial reluctance, carefully applying caution and draw. My instinctive “pass” was reinforced when my efforts failed to split evenly. A portion of the jagged piece I created would be salvageable, just not by me.

Our final afternoon assignment wasn’t about footwear, but an underfoot of another kind: mud mats.

Our two-person team’s teacher was reluctant. His nervousness was recognizable; his mannerisms familiar. You know the feeling you get when the last twist of the Rubik Cube nets the results you’ve been struggling with? You know the contented click of slipping in the last puzzle piece? You know the charge you get when you know you can succeed? With 30+ years of personality variation patience building behind me, I knew what to do. This was my right-place useful moment, although, that might not have been his initial impression

I know we were frustrating. Switching back and forth between thick and thin strips of sliced tire creating an unclear pattern while keeping track of non-repetitive rainbow colors was a bit like Suduko, which has never been a strong point of mine. Rework would be required a number of times.

I understand there is a color version of the game. That may indeed be manageable for me. Shapes might work, too. I’ve never viewed the solution as the need to create a single sum on each line. Too busy trying to figure out what doesn’t go to seemingly no purpose. But a puzzle is just that – an exercise in solving a problem. We all solve problems on a daily basis. Some of them are monumental and some of them are minute. All can be resolved; review, reanalyze, rework.

I know we eventually made him a little more comfortable. I know we made him shake his head in bemusement, and later amusement. I know he didn’t understand how we could not understand. Perhaps too bold, I want to believe our failure, could have proved positive self-worth. He was the teacher, doing something we could not. We left him with a smile, and to my great happiness, he smiled back.

Quote for the Week:

ALL can be resolved Sep 16 2014

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Flip-Flops: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip-flops

Flip-Flops, Mud Mats, Coasters: http://cass-community-store.myshopify.com/

Flip-Flop: sound, reversal, circuit, sandal: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flip-flop

 

 

Evolution, Part 2: Work + Welcome

Maybe angry isn’t exact; anger is a flash. This was more of a deep resentful annoyance over unaccountability and team members who chose not to participate. Had I been in charge, I would have required everyone contribute to the outcome. Admittedly, this stands as solid evidence as to why I shouldn’t ever be in charge.

There was work to be done. Retrospectively, I can attribute unintentional engagement; works in progress. Still, the split bothered me.  Eventually, even the committed became distracted by their uncommitted peers, gathering in small groups around a pool table, a punching bag, and a ping-pong table. The pool players played with others outside our group. There was a proper punching bag technique demonstration by two also outside our group. As for the teens playing ping-pong without paddles, tosses became wilder, volleys less controlled, and soon the game bore no resemblance to a game, at all.  This make-it-up-as-you-go-along ball flinging frenzy didn’t sit well with me. Despite the interpretation, this wasn’t intentional downtime.

At least not being in charge leant me some perspective. If someone lacks a volunteer heart, no amount of pushing will mold it into one. I was honestly just let down; bummed. Unfortunately that disappointment turned into high-energy annoyance when one of the players laughed loudly and shouted, “Is this what being homeless is like?”

I understand youth are youth. I also understand the weak correlation. No paddles, doing without, making the best of things, finding another way to play. I don’t understand how those words left anyone’s mouth while in the presence of more than one homeless unfortunate. I don’t understand the lack of impress; how do you not know where you are and why you are there? No one else seemed to notice or react. Without discussion or direction it is probable that ignorance and impropriety would remain ignorance and impropriety.

Loosely congealed, we wandered into the lunch line. I didn’t completely understand. Due to short shifts, I had never been fed as a Cass volunteer. I had never stood on a lunch line. I conjured up the expectation of cold sandwiches and chips. I imagined meeting and eating with other volunteers. What I imagined was segregation. I never even considered sharing the same meal in the same space with the women and children and men standing patiently between gaps in volunteers, waiting for the gift of a good, solid meal for themselves or their children. I never expected to feel as if I were unworthy of receiving. I knew I was as welcome as anyone. I also knew I had a granola bar in my pocket that would hold me.

I thought of stepping out; stepping away with a lavatory excuse. I labored with this until it was my turn to follow through. At that point, there was no way to bow-out without having to explain. Instead of creating a fuss, I accepted a plate, requesting smaller portions than were offered to those before me, skipping items. The only beverage offered was fruit punch. Allergy wise, my history with fruit punch isn’t positive, so I made do with chewing ice, and eating slowly to match the cadence of my table mates. I still didn’t eat slowly enough to avoid sitting with an empty plate, hands folded. I occasionally made what I thought might be a friendly or cute comment with not much response. Mostly, I was just awkward, caught between age groups, layers of unexpected feelings and thirst.

Really, I just wanted to work.

Quote for the Week:

Expecting to be treated differently than others better than or worse than

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Conquer Frustration: http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/conquer-frustration/

Not Everybody Should Lead: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2013/01/23/why-youre-not-a-leader/

Statistics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_States