My summer odyssey - 19 days of traveling the West Coast, visiting friends and family, working and playing -- is almost at an end. I am excited to get home, relax, sleep in my own bed and pet my cat. However, it has been a wonderful journey.
One of the things that has been best about this trip has been getting to spend time in nature. I make my best effort to get outdoors in Houston, but during the humid summer months I do most of my exercising indoors. The lovely weather in Portland and Northern California has allowed me many opportunities to examine the flowers, look up at the redwoods, and see a pod of dolphins jumping playfully in the ocean.
I've also enjoyed the ease with which a greener lifestyle is available in many parts of the West Coast (as someone who grew up in more rural areas of the West, I know it's certainly not available everywhere).
In Portland, my friends Caitlin and Connie, along with niece Carys, walked over to the amazing New Seasons Market in the Concordia neighborhood. I love grocery stores, and this one tops my list -- locally-owned, staffed by friendly people and offering lots of local and organic foods. We filled our small shopping list, then wandered the aisles pointing out different items and trading recipes, looking at the quirky selection of books about urban homesteading and DIY, and generally enjoying ourselves.
A VERY rainy spring resulted in profusions of flowers bursting out in Portland's yards.
Portland is known as a mecca for greenies. In fact, Popular Science named it America's greenest city in 2008, and it regularly shows up on other lists. As you walk the streets, you see sidewalk medians decked with mini-gardens and the city is a cyclist's paradise. It also contains Washington Park, a 400-acre oasis in the middle of town with hiking trails, Japanese garden, rose garden, zoo, and Arboretum. In Portland, you're never far from reminders of our dependence upon the natural world.
After Portland I headed south to the Bay Area, to stay with my friends Ron and Sara and "nephew" Desmond, and to attend a team retreat for work. The Bay Area is also crunchy, although as a large urban area, it has lots of challenges to green living -- for example, public transportation can be almost prohibitively expensive here and the cost of living means many folks are forced to drive from distant suburbs to their jobs.
It is, however, easier to reduce household waste here. I'm actually fairly happy with the city recycling program in Houston -- and it's improving through a pilot program which will add glass to the items we can recycle. However, in much of the Bay Area (including the small town of Aptos, where we had our retreat), compost materials are also collected. This is true in many parts of the West Coast and America's larger urban areas, but it's still far from the norm.
We saw a pod of dolphins just off the beach in Aptos. It reminded all of us how we need to protect the oceans.
(No really, it did. We even talked about it.)
In Aptos, we got to enjoy one of the West Coast's particular brands of grandeur -- ocean and mountains in close proximity. I firmly believe that spending time outdoors is good for the soul and helps ground one in the necessity of living life in balance with the earth (hippie talk is done now). Hiking, walking on the beach, and just sitting outside, we were refreshed and ready to face the less-tranquil parts of life.