Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Too much going on, as you know. We started off in SF on Friday for a medical appointment and great views from up on the 6th floor of a building on Parnassus. We left the city via the women workers collective of BioFuel Oasis which ended up last in this feed. The cost is $3.89 for a gallon of B-99 but it is worth it to support their efforts and to get a new bumpersticker, "Biodiesel- No War Required." On the way, past the delta, we came on a huge field of wind turbines spinning baby spinning.
Oh, if wishes were horses there would be a lot of us beggars riding!
So for Saturday and Sunday we skied above Caples Lake on the Kirkwood cross country trails. Neither of us had forked out money to go up into this country before and it was beautiful. The first day we were scambling up on progressive granite slab points and the second day it was open park land and great scenic vistas. Clear air, clearing spirit, no people.

We have hit 50,000 miles in the VV since we've owned it. Most of that has been on straight veggie oil, some on various blends of bio-diesel and far less on straight diesel.
The world welled up almost immediately. We came back down through Minden and caught the movie OCEANS. It let my grief swim right back in. Then the news from Guatemala of Pacaya spewing and Agatha sweeping death and suffering. Then the afront of the IDF invading the material aid convoy to Gaza and the shock of that and finally the slow thrum of crude oil spreading in the Gulf... A meditation for all these thoughts filling in the space, the space opening and providing more space all of it a big jumbo sized pain where the pain lives on and on... This is memorial day. The needless losses of war, of poverty, of inadequate attention to needs..

Peace to you in the darkness and in the light. Keep trying and we will too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


This is Naj Tunich, the little visited cave of the Mayan underworld. People still come here to make requests. The day we visited people were asking for a good planting, "sembrar." This really very amazing burial cave, extending some 2 miles beyond where tourists can go, is from the period 100-200 A.D. and is just a short way down the dirt road from Tanjoc, with the distant mountains of Belize visible just beyond.
The great rainforests of this part of the Peten have been decimated by slash and burn agriculture. The people of Tanjoc are trying to maintain forest land but poachers come and cut the trees. There is an effort underway to improve the lives of the people and for them to be able to live well and in harmony with what the earth can provide. The Pueblo Partisans group is helping as much as it can ( but decisions are in the hands of the community.
One of the adult ed projects the women wanted was a hammock making class so they would have something other than vegetables and eggs to sell. Here is part of the group concentrating hard and working together to learn this new skill.

This is a traditional building. I was glad to see fewer palm roofs and better construction of wood frame buildings. The road is better, there is electricity now (and a few TVs!) as well as the community well shown below (so less parasites and better health.) There are still dirt floors and animals in and out but the pigs are now contained and over-all the health and the happiness of the community seems much improved from five years ago when I first went there with the president of the Pueblo Partisans BOD to meet with their Directiva about how we might be able to work with them. The community is now two years from paying off their land debt... there is a greatly increased focus on education and a real sense of community spirit that was weak before.
A former student, who is now an MSN in Community Health Nursing and I went door to door to visit the women who were pregnant and breast feeding during our time in the community and were able to discuss with Q'eckchi interpretation by the teacher, Eva, or Francisco, the agronomist, how the women perceived the changes in the community in order to reflect what they said back to them. Their comments were very positive but we did have concerns about growing numbers of women with symptoms of untreated diabetes. There is access to midwifery services in the next community but access to a good standard of care may even be lacking in the regional center of Poptun. (Unlike Sister Sarah's clinic in the city there isn't the focus and knowledge about diabetes that needs to develop as rural people with genetic predisposition move away from plant based diets to more access to the empty calories we know so well--soda, chips, sweets...)

So, it was a good trip... lots of wonderful interaction with great people and opportunities to do health education but also there was the nagging and undeniable fact that the growing population and poor political infrastructure of the country mean that the problems will continue to outpace solutions. Even so, I love having the heart for Guatemala and feel it is one of my greatest blessings to be able to go there, participate and give what I can.

Guatemala, the first days

Sister Sarah, a Sister of Charity from the U.S., started the Clinica Comunitaria Daniel Comboni 15 years ago. This first photo is of the extension she is adding now with the help of her community of friends and family in Cincinnati and in Mixco. Behind her is the sewing room where women are learning marketable skills and below is where the diabetes clinic and the dental clinic will be moving. This part of the clinic will connect with the older building which faces the next street.

One of the activities to celebrate the clinic's 15 years of community building and health provision was a race, about 7k, in which about 90 people participated. This young woman shown here with her mom, sister and nephew was the first woman across the finish line.

This is a photo of Sister Sarah, one of the nicest, toughest, almost 73 year old women around. She's also a family nurse practitioner, administrator, and fearless driver in Guatemala City traffic.

This is one of the health promoters, named Irma, and her daughter... Irma is one of the few people who will grin for a photo. Most everyone else made a terribly serious face so it wasn't easy to show their easy going sides. Below though is the whole group of health promoters from the area in the hills around the Comboni Clinic in Mixco-- Vista Hermosa, Las Limas, San Francisco, San Juan Sacapetequez... Some also teach literacy. We did a three and a half hour all women's health topic taller (workshop) and even with my horrible Spanish it was lively and interesting and I think we all learned from one another.
There were also a couple of days of women's health exams at the clinic and nice time for hanging out with Sister Sarah but this time with the group was the best.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Michael's back; I leave

So what is this about? Two things. I did a nice loop to visit hospital based clinics in Chester, Quincy and Portola and was walking around Quincy town when I walked through a field of dandelions at dusk. I remembered this horrifying comercial on TV about this beautiful little yellow flower zapped by an herbicide. How can anybody hate a dandelion when they are so beautiful, especially their seed heads? I was mostly joyful about the tulips and lilacs in this earlier place on the spring continuum but this was the picture that wanted sharing.
Well, this sequence didn't work... Michael came home from the mountains yesterday (with great stories but no photos.) This morning we went out to Pine Creek, above. Yesterday I went walking in Bidwell Park with my friend Laurie and the hierba santa plant was blooming and the pipe vine swallowtails were loving it. This has been a wonderful year for flutterbys.

Then, Friday night there was a benefit for Mira's work in Guatemala in Weezie's garden. Mira works with preschool kids around Lake Atitlan and has been getting money for school classroom improvements. Marty's hair has nothing to do with Mira's work (she has her own important work in this world,) but that and the beetle tipped (are they?) irises were my favorite shots from the evening.

I leave Thursday for Guatemala. The way it looks now is three days of women's health hands-on at the Clinica Comunitaria Daniel Comboni in Mixco then up to Tanjoc in the Peten to visit the community there and bring up pre-natal vitamins and various school supplies. I'll get to see friends and hopefully make myself useful for about 10 days. I'll journal while I'm there and bring back a synopsis. I'm grateful to go. (check )
Happy Mothers of the World and Madre Tierra Day to all of you no matter your gestational status or chromosomal persuasion. Yes, I am flying with the awareness of what the plane uses and what it spews. Peace held within the dynamic of the contradictions.

Friday, May 7, 2010

earth's people

Our neighbor Bob Trausch came back fairly traumatized by his journey to Haiti. He showed us over 400 slides of tents, chalky cement, treeless and hopeless scenes and I dreamed of white roads lined with white rubble.. not about the people. It is almost impossible to put oneself in the shoes of a Haitian. Failed state. Failing state of mind about them yet they live, breath, smile, send their kids to tent schools looking very put together.
The countryside reminded me of Guatemala. Terraced up steep hills, planted and tended and almost treeless. It isn't all cities and desperation. Some people lead difficult but not impossible sustainable lives.
As a result of the natural disaster some creative solutions have shown up.. like this water reverse osmosis system.. far too small to be a solution and difficult to say how a complex system like this will hold up.

Despite the idyllic look of this classroom, the tents are broiling hot. Nothing is being done yet to rebuild Haiti despite the incredible outpouring of financial aid. The UN appears to be doing nothing.
I was thinking the people of Haiti should decide who they want to rebuild the country and the money, wherever the heck it is, should be accounted for and turned over to that entity.. a ballot should be prepared with all those entities able to do the job and the people should vote. Let the people decide who they want to hire...and get on with it. They will sicken and die in those tents, exposed to hurricanes, sewage, disease, violence and without nutrition to sustain them because there are no jobs to buy food with. The EMERGENCY continues and can't be ignored because of intervening emergencies.
A woman I hadn't met before sent me photos of the 7.2 earthquake in the Mexicali area of northern Mexico. It caused great destruction also--deep fissures and buckling of roadways, broken windows everywhere, destroyed shelves of products, structural damage, some collapsed buildings, like in Haiti. The differences were that most the buildings were built well to start, the society is well organized with emergency service providers local and on site and the people weren't starting from a place of abject poverty. Haiti is just staggering in how deep it's deprivation has gone like in the capital and cities hit by the quake.
So, it is a very hard thing to consider what small efforts can do and yet people like Bob, Guthrie, Emily, Katie, Mica, Trevor... to name a few friends who have gone there to try to help so far and continue to hold the needs of the resilient Haitian people in their hearts and will keep trying. The next event is a Music and Dance Extravaganza billed to "Get Haiti Rolling" at the CARD Center 545 Vallombrosa in Chico on May 16 4-10pm with a huge line up of local talent. If you want to give please send a check to Doroteia info at A small group of determined people is doing what they can. Let's not let the survivors down.
There is a big shipment of bicycles and tools waiting to be sent...ideas about gardens and a bike repair shop and ... more tents (but sturdy ones.) Thank you for your well meaning attempts at giving in the past and please consider giving again for this... what else can we do? They are our sisters and brothers.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

now mayday! mayday!

I hope you can read the type face on this sign from Dauphin Island, Alabama, a place I fell in love with and is now threatened by the oil spill. Like the shot below showing the devastated trees from one of the hurricanes of the last 10 years, Dauphin's housing stock was pretty damaged but nothing to compare with what is coming.
I think of the birds, from the peeps scooting along of their stubby legs to the pelicans and it's like a crude sludge in my chest. They eat it, they preen it and they freeze in it-- just like Prince William Sound, just like Santa Barbara 40 years ago. Nothing has come along to save them or their chicks in the nests.

The crabs, the mollusks... I never made my peace with crabs but the mollusks are different. Second only to insects in numbers of living species they include critters like clams, scallops, conch, octopi and squid. Their fleshy bodies have no bones so they often have shells and it's the sea shells, not their flesh that I have a great love for. After the oil kills them by the impossible numbers their seashells will also be tarred, along with the beaches, the swamps, the grasses...

I wish the crab people could pincher these BP guys, the politicians and the other corporate criminals like Exxon... that the humans who caused this may dream of it then if the crabs can't pull it off because they are dying. When is restorative justice going to serve the victims and when will the meek inherit the earth? The planet is lurching along without even a coherent human consensus on climate change. Why do we allow this suffering and destruction?
These photos are from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana... all now at the mercy of what belonged under the ground, under the Great Gulf. This MUST be a caution not only about off shore drilling but also on nuclear energy which is being touted as being safe. Over a million people have died as a result of the accident at Chernobyl and the land continues uninhabitable. Let's wake up and take responsibility for the future. Nothing May about it. We Must.

May Day (and mayday, mayday)

It's good to have bats in your Beltaine and that's what there were just now riding back from my last event of the day, a fundraiser for midwifery in Haiti. It's been a full day with the Relay for Life, the International Fair, and the Endangered Species Faire. Mira is visiting from Guatemala, raising $$ for early childhood education there. Here she is with Kathy Faith and I... what a gift the women in my life are!
As are the men. This is Jim Dwyer, librarian, poet, wildguy.
Speaking of wild guys, Michael called just before starting his long ski after some confusion about where to leave the truck (since the bus that was to be his shuttle wouldn't take Sasha without a muzzle on...)
Lisa Sun was her beautiful sunny self in the booth for the Chico Peace and Justice Center and selling Fair Trade items. I held down the fort for a short while and got to explain the difference between Fair and Free Trade. My only true International Workers of the World Day Action.

Susan Mason (right) is one of the stalwarts of our environmental community. She is the heart of Friends of Bidwell Park which, if I was writing the brochure for this town, I'd call the jewel of our area. Susan womanually volunteers for the health of the park and organizes others to join her in weeding but she also monitors and advises on issues like the disc golf course, which was an unfortunate battle we lost to enthusiasts... hard to explain why the whole continuum of the park is important to yahoos.
Which will bring me to the mayday, mayday post... next.