Wednesday, March 26, 2008

runs to the river

Today began with a trip to mark the streets with a label that warns would be polluters: anything that goes in this drain goes directly into the Anacostia River! I have been very concerned about the environment for a while now and last year got very inspired by a guy who has a blog called No Impact Man where he chronicled his families life living in NYC trying very hard to have a zero carbon foot print for a whole year. I was so inspired by his drastic measures to make a point that I quickly started looking at my own life and my lazy ways of using resources without thinking. I began reading his posts every day and looking at the articles he referenced. One article he wrote and linked to was on plastic getting into the ocean. It freaked me out so much that I started for a time picking up every bit of plastic I found along the streets of my neighborhood to keep it out of the storm drains. You may go read this astonishing report in Best Life Magazine written by Susan Casey Plastic Ocean but I warn you it may make you think differently about using plastic and how you dispose of everything there after. I eventually got after my landlords about putting us on a recycle program which they had avoided for the previous 3 years and after about 6 months of excuses we now recycle. Plastic Ocean details how all that plastic people throw on the street goes wherever water flows and that means all the trash you see in the streets ends up in the drain, the creeks and then rivers and eventually an ocean. I saw that some storm drains in DC had marks on them telling where they emptied but on my walks I didn't see any in Brookland, my neighborhood of North East. We have a farmer's market twice a week but no drain markers showing where all those trash and bottles get dumped when left to float away. I found out when Keith and I attended the Green Festival last year that the District Department of the Environment has a volunteer program to mark the drains. I joined the project today alone to glue down a marker on the top of the drains to help people think about where their trash goes in Brookland. DDOE employee  Trinh Doan told me that in our Brookland area all the drains go directly from the street into the Anacostia river. None of the water is filtered or cleaned up at the big Blue Plains water treatment plant. She gave me a stack of plastic signs a wire brush, a caulk gun loaded with black glue, a orange vest and a map to mark all the corners where I put signs then showed me how to do it and sent me on alone. I did about 20 and was worn out but I want to do more. I am looking for other Brooklanders who want to help mark that drains next time they set up a date. It was fun but it would be more fun with some helpers to watch for the traffic and mark the map. 
Then I tried to find her and give back the map and tools but she wasn't around. Later I received a voice message she will be back. Then I happily strolled over to Dan Vera's house for a delicious coffee and some show and tell. 

Thursday, March 13, 2008

day light

This week we began with the clocks moved forward. My illness the common cold is long gone. My life is in a new phase with the addition of my Dad in a rehabilitation home across the river in Crystal City. I am now the family member closest to his new home. Since I am close to this home, I am going to visit as often as I can without drastically disrupting my normal life. I have not been feeling very upbeat because of what I have been seeing. My Dad is 77 and suffers from heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, glaucoma, and worst of all for me Alzheimer's and this isn't so noticeable when he is home in a controlled environment with few challenges besides eating and every day tasks which my mother helps to see him through.  In the rehabilitation center he is on a locked floor with many other patients who are also challenged mentally with unique dementia's and mental disorders. Going there to visit is a really upsetting experience. I have been going about every other day after the first week when I went every day. I realized he didn't remember if I was there or not and that I couldn't quite see clear to go so often and keep up my own mental health. 

Dad had a seizure which came on suddenly and sent him to the hospital for about 6 days and then once they had done all the tests they could to discover the cause of this seizure they decided he was ready to go to rehabilitation. No cause means no treatment except physical, speech and occupational therapies which he has needed even before the seizure. It is a struggle for me seeing him so down and coming back pretty fast and even now improving to watch the people around him and wonder what effect they have on his sense of well being. I can imagine that living with so many people who don't know what day it is and where they are or who they are ... or how to talk and make sense would, really throw your own reality off center. They certainly upset me when I am there among them by talking in funny languages or singing or yelling for no reason. They tend to notice that I am different and come up to me to make contact with one they think is from the outside world and others are lost in their own minds all together; staring or just watching what ever passes in their field of vision without comment. 
It is very sad to see these beautiful people so pained or lost or lonely. They have each other but need people who are not so off center to help them. Nurses and aids do what they can but some outside help has got to be a big boon for each one of them that can get it.  I have a great pen pal in Holland who does just this every week he goes and visits group of special friends he has been assigned at a retirement home. He acts as a good friend and does things like take them out for a coffee or a walk. He goes with a small group to a local swimming pool and helps supervise a days swimming. He now runs a painting group because he is an artist and knows that making art is uplifting and every one can paint a little. So Cor Windhouwer who has been my pen pal for about 5 years has been a great inspiration to me to visit my Dad and do the best I can to make each visit a fun experience to enrich his time in recovery. I am going today to visit for a while and I am thinking of taking some prints and a box of watercolors to fill them in with colors. I have a lovely vase of sunflowers copied from a Van Gogh painting that I plan to print and use for myself and since my Dad was an architect I will take him a castle to paint. 

This week was hard beginning with the new time and a lovely tour of the Whitehouse with Scott Brooks and Mike and Kim before dawn on Monday. My model sent email to say he was sick so I didn't find out until the last minute and had to cancel the drawing group that night. 
I had a blast visiting with Scott and Mike who just got home from a trip to Italy. They got to visit with Doug Kingsbury and Bob in Florence. Scott had a show in Rome with the low brow artists from Los Angles he is loosely part of  for a couple years. Check out Scott's web gallery and blog for great photos of his work and the trip to Italy. Scott's Blog
Yesterday after a trip to the 14th St. laundry mat with Keith and a visit to Whole Foods on P. street NW we came home and napped then went to our Brookland neighborhood poetry reading. Every month Dan Vera and Michael Gushue host a reading of local poets at a gallery down by the rail road tracks. Those trains rolling by add a lot of color to the evening's palette of back ground sound. The poems are by all sorts of poets and include work by the reading poets sometimes. Dan read a funny one about Elliot Spitzer's tragic news this week gleaned from a New York Times article he read. After the hour of poems we retired with Dan and his partner Peter to Brooks Tavern for a late supper and to catch up with our neighbors. 

This week we have light later in the evenings and after a meeting with my father's care takers on Tuesday I know that taking him out for fresh air and visiting him are important tasks for me to keep up. He is going to be in rehabilitation for another two or three weeks. I am excited to see him improve his physical strength and hope to challenge his mental fitness to improve his quality of life.