Walls vs. Coexistence

chinas-great-wallPhoto credit: Paul Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

A long time ago in a land far away, there once was an emperor who wanted a wall. It is always one grandiose scheme or another, and that one was defensive. The longest defensive barrier ever built to keep out invaders. Begun in the Qin Dynasty, and later rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall of China covered much of the northern border of China.

We all know how well that worked out. For over 2,000 years the nomadic Mongol tribe of the north regularly invaded and conquered the Chinese Empire.

Extending through all types of terrain including mountainous regions, the Great Wall itself took its toll on the Chinese. Thousands of workers died in the construction, and many are thought to be buried under the very wall they were assembling.

And what of the wildlife? On that continent: wild boars, oryx gazelle, and the Chinese monal pheasant. Red fox, Siberian Roe Deer, Hog badger, and African Hoopoe in forests. Whatever became of the wildlife with the wall?

As in China, the U.S./Mexican border runs through a delicate ecosystem. Traversing mountains, rivers, desert, and scrub brush, various species have been crossing it for billions of years. On this continent: mountain lions, bobcats, cougars, desert bighorn sheep, the endangered N.A. jaguar, and ocelot. Roadrunners and low flying birds such as the pygmy owl, as well as annual  migrations of Monarch butterflies.

“Border infrastructure not only blocks the movement of wildlife, but… destroys the habitats, fragments the habitats and the connectivity that these animals use to move from one place to another,” notes Sergio Avila-Villegas, at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson.

As it is, with approximately 40% of the U.S./ Mexico border presently fenced, desertification, erosion, pollution, groundwater depletion, and distressed animals are already evident. Construction of a wall would further disturb watersheds and waterways, resulting in possible flooding.

“For some species, the desert bighorn sheep, for example, you have decent populations on both sides of the border. But they depend on these movements for maintaining genetic diversity, for recolonizing habitat where they’ve suffered long extinctions,” states Dr. Clint Epps, a biologist at Oregon State University.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, world wildlife biodiversity is diminishing at an alarming rate. A complete divide along the US/Mexican border would isolate subpopulations of many animal species, hampering gene flow. Plants too are dependent on wind to spread their seeds. A wall would disrupt pollination and have effects on the ecosystem as a whole.

You have to remember, nature doesn’t know borders. A wall, any wall—one for defense, another to control immigration, can easily create more disorder than order.

In the words of Michael Crowther, CEO Indianapolis Zoological Society, we “… must recognize that we are a part of this world, and trying to become apart from the rest of it is not a viable solution in the long term. We must create a new focus on what our countries share in common—our biodiversity, our ecosystems and our planet—rather than what makes us different. Then, and only then, can we begin to have a meaningful dialogue around flexible solutions that benefit humans, ecosystems, and wildlife on both sides of the border.”

 

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The Mother of All Marches

16325750_10101777905954025_1220437753_oPhoto Credit: Ashley Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

In a circuitous route by way of Seattle, Boston and Rochester, New York, I made my way to Washington DC last weekend for The March. So if I was in the air for the Inauguration ceremony, I considered that a good thing. Well above the clouds, all I could think at that moment was “not my president.”

Alas, I had to land.

I was not the only one to arrive exclaiming about a “planeload of women.” Whether by air, bus, train, or car, we all had that experience. By the hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, we poured into the city for The Women’s March on Washington. And on Saturday our March would dwarf Friday’s Inaugural event down the same Pennsylvania Avenue for The Emperor Who Has No Clothes.

This is a story that can be told in garments. The army of women who poured into DC could be called The Comfortable Shoe Crowd. Dressed in jeans, parkas, and fleece, wearing running shoes or hiking boots, we had miles to go and mileage on our minds. From grandmothers to little girls, many donned pink knit “pussy hats.”

At the intersection of Inaugural Ball attendees and this army of women entering town on Friday evening, it looked just like what it was: a coup d’etat. I saw it in the outfits on the sidewalks, crosswalks, and in our restaurant. It was like Dior and Jessica McClintock meet Eddie Bauer and North Face.

Couples dressed to the nine’s, the women barely able to walk in stilettos and long lean gowns with slits, and tuxedoed men weaving and rolling about like a penguins on ice. They were far and few, whereas the women coming in for The March traveled in packs and were numerous. And from what I saw, all the camaraderie too was on our side.

DC was packed, as was the fabulous Greek/Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya. Fortunately we had reservations, occupying large round tables, sharing multiple small plates and wine with a great deal of noise and merriment. Among us in the restaurant were occasional couples at tables for two dressed for the Ball. But it was as if they had lost, for every time a pink pussy hatted client walked through the room, the crowd broke out in cheer.

They may have won the election, but the evening was counterintuitive. And the next day with The March on Washington, as well as all the marches that marched in solidarity around the country and the globe. And we will keep on marching until everyone sees it and shouts, “But the Emperor has no clothes.”

 

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A photographic tour of street art in Mexico City guided by Jenaro de Rosenzweig of Street Art Chilango, pictured here with his pup. In the second photograph, the writer attempts to get out of the way of her own post.

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This Moment Now

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Photo By Paul Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

I have been thinking a lot about endings lately.

Here we wake every morning only to remember that the country has been hijacked and the old pendulum clock has stopped swinging.

A second snowfall awaits me, so unusual where I sit. But nothing is usual anymore. I notice snowflakes growing larger, indicating the near end of the storm. As in symphonies and fireworks displays, they give it their all in the end.

The crescendo, the grand finale: this is what I think we’re living through now in this country.

And from my side of the aisle it is an extraordinary sight. Petitions are flying. There’s a great flourish of involvement in the constitutional process. The recount effort. Writing senators, calling senators. More petitions. Attempts to push back the Electoral College, perhaps even the Inauguration. Anything and everything to save the union. The Women’s March on Washington. The many of us who would like to start all over again. I’ve never seen anything like it.

God knows we’ve had a run of bad days but the crescendo, like the snowstorm, is beautiful at this moment.

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Thank You For Asking, But No, I Am Not Alright

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Photo By Paul Mayer

BY KIMBERLY A MAYER

I have my father on speed dial. He said to call any time I need to hear that our country, our world, will survive president-elect Trump. While the nation is going rogue, I am sitting on my island in the Salish Sea thinking this is not far enough away.

On election day, I wore ironed white linen in honor of the suffragettes. And Buddhist prayer beads around my neck for good measure. We were giddy then.

But I should have known. A Trump-sized migraine had preceded the election. His supporters were hiding in plain sight. Some were even hiding in my extended family.

Without ever having met, Donald Trump and I go way back.

My first husband was a narcissist, and I am here to tell you that nothing good can come of it. I don’t know how I survived, but imagine arriving in NYC in the 70’s after the storm of the marriage, arriving on my arse, so to speak. In an era when Donald Trump was the golden boy, or so he thought. Building golden towers, hideously gaudy to everyone else.

Even then I loathed him. I may have had conflicted feelings about my ex, but I was very clear on Donald J. Trump. I had a plan to walk out of any venue should he saunter in, or cross the street if I saw him coming—but of course he was always riding limos, then as now. And fortunately I was spared.

Over the years, after extensive analysis of these two men, I was able to define my feelings as a toxicity to narcissism. And so I stay away from those types. Now here it comes back to me, embodied in one of its original suits.

What to do? What to do? First I will write this. It’s as much for me, you understand, as it is a message-in-a- bottle to the world. I need to know that I can still write.

Then what? This is what it’s like after that election, when you don’t know if you can see straight, if you can find your feet, or get out of bed in the morning. It’s an awful lot like my divorce.

Next I’ll retrieve the piece that I had started to write before the election. On the Madrona Tree, and our shared DNA with trees. For someone is going to have to care a wit about the environment in this new era. Right?

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Filed under divorce, narcissism, the 2016 election, the environment

What an Old Growth Forest Knows

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photo by Paul Mayer

 

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

A few years back when we were living in the city, I came down to the kitchen one morning, turned on KUOW, Seattle’s public radio, ground my beans and made coffee. These gestures always seemed to happen simultaneously. The program on air was in the middle of an interview with a writer who was on book tour, and I thought, I know that voice.

And I did. The crisp Australian cadence of her voice. Years ago we were neighbors north of San Diego. I’ll call her Harriet. I didn’t know her well—both of our families had a fair amount of land with avocado groves to manage, young children to raise, and were pretty busy–but on the few occasions that we did get together, her voice enchanted me. And here it was now, playing away in my kitchen.

That night I attended Harriet’s reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest. And afterward, over lattes, caught up with the new life of my old neighbor. Both families had relocated. Her’s to Houston, while we obviously wound up in The Pacific Northwest.

Walking each other to the parking lot, I thought the evening had gone pleasantly enough until she gestured with a dismissive sweep of her arm at the dark green woods surrounding us.

“I don’t know how you can live here.,” she said. “If you’ve seen one pine tree, you’ve seen them all.”

And on that note, Harriet hopped in her vehicle and was gone.

I was stunned. My first thought was that they are not all pines, not by a long shot. It’s so much more complex than that. Richly complex.

The Old Growth Forests of The Pacific Northwest are essentially conifer forests, dominated by Douglas firs and Western hemlocks. Stretching from SE Alaska and SW British Columbia, through Western Washington and Western Oregon to the border of Northern California, and from the Pacific Ocean eastward to the crest of The Cascade Range. Sometimes referred to as Primary Forests, Virgin Forests, Primeval Forests, and my favorite, Ancient Woodlands (in Britain), an Old Growth Forest is defined by Wikipedia as a forest that has attained great age without significant disturbance, and thereby exhibits unique ecological features.

Walk through it with me, if you would, for we later left the city and moved north—onto San Juan Island. Into the wilderness, so to speak. We live in an Old Growth Forest at the foot of the sea, where Western red cedar thrives. Growing year round in our mild winters, these trees reach heights of 200 ft, and may be two or three centuries old. This is the tree with which I am most familiar now.

Mother Cedar. Distinguished by it’s fluted base and graceful, feathery branches. It’s fragrant, sweet smelling needles softly carpeting the forest floor and tracking into our home daily. The exterior of our home is shingled in cedar shakes, making it appear at one with the woods. A half dozen cedar Adirondack chairs sit upon a cedar deck, and another half dozen in a circle around an outdoor fire pit. We are all about cedar here. We probably smell like cedar.

An Old Growth Forest is comprised of large trees, standing dead trees (snags), and fallen trees. Water-repellent and rot-resistant, red cedar can last for hundreds of years on the forest floor. As such, logs and snags may foster more life after their death than they had before. Covered now with mushrooms and mosses, and nursing huckleberries, ferns, and salal. Over time, it may provide a substrate for seedling shrubs and trees.

Time is long here. While some trees reach upwards of 1,000 years of age, others are on their way back to decay. There is a mix of tree ages and of regeneration. An Old Growth Forest is a continuum.

An Old Growth Forest has remarkable resilience—to natural events. Recovering quickly from fires, windstorms, and disease, but not from human events such as clear-cut logging. At a time when the U.S. has lost 96% of its Old Growth Forests, what this Old Growth Forest Knows is immense.

That air you breathe, Houston. We put it there.

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Trouble in Paradise

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photo credit: Paul Mayer

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

You have to know, the island is my peaceful place, and Roche Harbor, my happy place on island. We found it first by boat, and later, we picked up our lives in the city and moved there.

Waiters informed us Roche Harbor had a microclimate of its own where the sun shines nearly every day, and now we know that to be true. It’s where everyone looks good in that light. Where children don’t whine, and babies don’t cry. Where children are capable kayakers or driving around in dinghies. And young ones are entertained with a net and a bucket on the docks until bedtime. A life jacket over their pajamas, rather than a computer in hand.

Where the Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel rings out beloved songs in bells. It’s where a parade of pets goes by daily: Goldens and Golden Doodles, Spaniels, Pugs and Poodles. A dog on nearly every boat, and the dogs look good in the light too. Hell, it looks like a Ralph Lauren ad.

We purchased a home to be near that light. And every day we circle through Roche Harbor in the course of our walks to pick up our mail, get groceries, stroll through the gardens, and generally enjoy the facilities, a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.

All that shattered for us last week at the dog park in Roche Harbor. How often it’s empty, I notice every time I cut through the woods. Normally we’d have no use for it, but our daughter was visiting and her Brittany pup needs to run and knows no bounds—so we chose the safety of a dog park. In we went accompanied with our other daughter’s Yellow Lab and our dog “Coco,” a small American Eskimo/poodle mix. The Brittany and Yellow Lab were fetching balls while Coco stood around not knowing what to do with herself, when the gate swung open and in walked a woman with a 90lb steel gray pit bull, off-leash. Her dog didn’t hesitate to lunge toward Coco. It was clearly in kill mode.

It is difficult to recount all that happened in the space of 15 or 20 endless seconds. The pit bull lunging, singularly focused. Coco yelping and leaping about to save herself, finally landing in my husband’s arms. Him covered with her blood. It took two people to hold back the pit bull. The mouthful of Coco’s fur in his jaws. Meanwhile in the woman’s automobile, another large aggressive dog, going nuts.

“Coco’s a lucky dog,” our vet said, pointing out punctures near her lungs. Any deeper… Incisor marks all over her left foreleg, right rear leg, belly, and rear end. They are called “weeping wounds.” Bandaged initially, uncovered now for better healing.  Coco sat still all day, with little thirst or hunger, having to be carried outside to a patch of grass for the first few days. Attended day and night by four people and two gentle, caring dogs, the Yellow Lab and Brittany who watched over her.

My question is: why would anyone have such aggressive animals? And why do they bring them around? It’s hard to believe this woman lives here, on island, near Roche Harbor as do I. She obviously doesn’t see things in the same light. The light that looks good on everyone and everything, the waiters, the food, children, babies, kayaks, dinghies, boats, and dogs. She can’t possibly see it.

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