After spending three weeks at the cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in July and early August, I headed for my yearly sojourn in the Northwest: Seattle, Whidbey Island, and the northern Cascade mountains of Washington. An old friend from the Plainfield Symphony, Nancy Quickstad, greeted me and, after spending the night with her family, delivered me to Jon Pollack, my Himalayan climbing buddy. From there I visited with Beth Whitman, my peripatetic friend, who is right now in India, heading for Bhutan (http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/). On our walk we stumbled onto Seattle Tilth, a non-profit organic gardening and urban ecology center, which has classes, demonstration gardens, children’s program, and community events. (www.Seattletilth.org/) And it’s right in the middle of residential Seattle! I visited with Yana Viniko and Lee Compton, with whom I traveled in Myanmar two years ago, and talked with old friends, Joan Weisenbloom, and Betty Tisdale, who at 87 is still raising money for schools and orphanages in Asia and South America. Betty had just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she helped refurbish the School for Creative Abilities, for which she raised $20,000. She worked alongside Marni Gustafson, a women recently interviewed about this and other projects by Christiane Amanpour, the international journalist. Betty is high on my list of people in this world who make a difference. I recommend that you look at her website, and read about the organization, H.A.L.O (Helping and loving Orphans) which Betty started in 2000 to help children in Vietnam, Colombia, Afghanistan, and Mexico. (www.bettytisdale.com) In the spring Betty is returning to Vietnam and Afghanistan to continue her work.
Once I arrived on Whidbey Island and settled into my daughter, Cary Peterson’s rustic cabin, adjacent to the Talking Circle community, I began participating in the maintenance of the two gardens she has spearheaded, Good Cheer Garden (started in January on a huge parcel of unused land, which required a lot of work to make it arable) http://www.goodcheer.org/ and The Whidbey Institute Garden. I worked alongside several of the 250 volunteers that make these gardens so important to the welfare of South Whidbey. The aim is a hunger-free environment, and the Good Cheer Thrift Store in Langley, stocked from donations, supplies much of the funding. Many companies and a few retired farmers also donate a huge variety of products to the food bank. Good Cheer Food Bank is a grocery-style food bank based on points and open six days a week. It’s a cutting edge model for food banks throughout the country.
I experienced intense physical labor unlike anything I’ve done in recent years. Made me really appreciate the United Farm Workers! I also helped in sorting thousands of seed packets donated by the Ed Hume Seed Company for these gardens, which not only have lifted the spirits of so many people on the island, but also provide nutritious fresh produce for those below the poverty level or unemployed during these difficult times. On one morning Cary and I packaged and labeled over 80 bags of lettuce that were gone by the next day. Those who benefit from these gardens also volunteer and donate money once they are back at work and have no need for the service. Others, who are currently unemployed, use their free time to help in the garden while they are receiving a helping hand in return. It’s a win-win for everybody, and the spirit of cooperation, from the director of the Good Cheer Food Bank, Kathy McLaughlin, to the many volunteers of all ages throughout South Whidbey Island is palpable.
Let me touch, briefly, on the new Youth Work Crew Program, which deals with youth at risk. It is part of the Island County Department of Juvenile and Family Court Services whose purpose is to reduce juvenile delinquency. Here is an example of giving young people a chance to work, supervised, in a garden setting, as an alternative to serving in detention, and at the same time make a contribution to the life of their community. It gives them positive coping skills and a feeling of pride and accomplishment that does not come from meaningless clean-up jobs assigned to transgressors in the past. This is a new program, which Cary tells me is making a real difference in the lives of these young people.
A real plus to my visit to Whidbey Island was connecting with Robert and Lynn Rubright, old friends from St. Louis who were making a tour of the Northwest. We took in some of the natural wonders of the island, including several state parks, and treated ourselves to walks on the beach and the bluffs overlooking Puget Sound.
Other old friends I visited were Dale Reiger, who is still setting up hospitals in Honduras http://saludjuntos.org/ and Fred and Sharon Lundahl, who are presently traveling in Central Asia to replenish their stock of handsome carpets and textiles for their store in Langley, Music for the Eyes. It was in this beautiful store that I gave my slide show and book reading two years ago.
My next blog will have photos from the four days of climbing I enjoyed with Jon Pollack in the Mt. Baker National Forest. Please bear with me. As you can tell, I’m having trouble mounting these pictures. They don’t go where I tell them to, and sometimes they disappear completely (the mysteries of modern technology) and the text has nothing to do with the photos. Just pretend this is a puzzle. Try to fit the text together!
The children pictured on this blog are from local elementary schools, not the Youth at Risk program.