The thoughts and dreams of Southwestern Oregon and our hopefully family farm sits in the back of my mind, and makes me so happy. There is not much for me to do right now. I’m sitting on our portion of the downpayment and ready to deploy whenever it’s time. The way some people love luxury purses, is the way I love real estate. It gives me this fuzzy and warm feeling, knowing it actually grows our networth if we do it the right way – but at the same time gives me so much enjoyment in other ways that actually doesn’t cost me any money.
There are school pictures of me from around the time I was going through a trauma. It’s of a little girl who had a smile that was not really a smile. Not comfortable with herself probably because of that trauma. It was brief and I have a loving family and loving set of parents who put a stop to it. I had forgotten completely about it, as young children are able to do. But I think it’s reflected in my smile from those school pictures. My mom has often mentioned my smile, how in that photo it’s a wonderful smile and in that photo it seems forced. In that I think the woman who created me in her womb and who tried the best that she could to protect and nurture me through my life, is right. I think if your mother is a true mother who loves and has tried to protect you, than that person is a good judge of whether that smile is a real smile.
I usually post a photo to go with each blog post. Indeed for me litter picking and trash art is a very visual process, and I’m often inspired by the photos. But today, I don’t need to show you the photo of the big smile I had. Maybe I should post it. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek. I’m proud of that photo because I took it with a friend I met for the first time who I’ve been working with for over a year. When you are in the company of good friends who know you and share a true and good purpose and are sharing good food, than that is when a smile of that magnitude comes out.
Everything is moving full forward with the purchase. Inspections. Insurance estimates, Well inspections, We are forgoing the septic tank pumping since it’s supposed to be every 10 years, and it’s only been 2. I’m the second day back from the whirlwind 48 hour trip to our hopefully family farm in southwest Oregon tucked in the lower elevations of the Cascades and I’m still in disbelief. Was the sky that blue? Was the air that clean? The earth there was healthy. I remember being up in the Andes in Peru, and the deforested area that had been replaced by non-native Eucaluptus and thought – this place is not healthy. These trees are not supposed to be here. Some places were, but some places the earth felt sick. As I looked out at the sky off a fancy house in the fanciest neighborhoods in our area, I just noticed the sky. The blue was not as blue. The air was not as clean. Despite the expense of the house and the real estate value, you can’t buy that clean air, the clean water, the elevation that will protect against unprecedented rising mean global temperatures.
The Colorado River for the first time in history is expected to have shortgages. Arizona may be receiving a rationed portion of the water. We are soon to reach briefly the tipping point and the next five years will see one of the hottest on record. 0.8 degrees to 1.8 degrees? How high will we go? We are fighting to keep global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees. Still life altering but not as catastrophic.
I’m still processing it all. It was a whirlwind 48 hours. Someone mentioned to me on a work committee call that I was able to make because I was at the airport on a layover flying home, “I hope you enjoy your vacation.” I’m not sure why, but that kind of took me aback. Vacation? This trip was not a vacation. There is never a vacation from being Dr. Plastic Picker. This particular person didn’t mean anything by it and we have a complicated history between us, but it just shows no one knows your journey as well as you know your journey and I certainly do not know this colleagues – and the challenge is how and if to articulate it to folks. I’m not particularly close with the person who made this innocuous comment and it was meant as a pleasantry, so I didn’t feel the need to explain it further. I just said it was not a vacation and moved on to the next topic of the committee meeting.
It’s been a world-wind two years, especially the last year. While everyone was holed up and quarantining at home, our department went to the office every single day. We worked the entire time. With more time at home though because the kids were home and the rest of the world shut down, I further dived into climate advocacy work. I am proud of that work. Wrote a paper, spoke at what seemed like a gazillion virtual conferences, picked up almost 500 bags of trash, and kept up the blogging and climate advocacy recruiting, But the world is opening up and I’m resting right now. I still have projects coming up. Next weekend we have a PHAC dinner and need to socialize with the beautiful people in the slide. I’m actually looking forward to it. Going to make Mr. Plastic Picker come as well. It will be good for him. Our fearless leader Dr. Bruce Bekkar gave us a big shout out at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health Conference, which I attended virtually with an HMO colleage. One of the UCSD medical students and the the two pharmacy student leaders from VCU Sustainable Pharmacay Project also attended. I didn’t check up on the three students, but I did nudge UCSD to pay for one’s registration and the other two students I paid for them to register. Technically we still have a day of meetings tonight. But I’ve lobbied already and there are enough people. At some point, you need to know as a climate advocate when you’ve done enough and let others help. Another pediatrician and the other premed student are going to help, as they’ve essentially planned and done everthing for the journal club on Clean Air that is upcoming. The social media ad that our premed intern made is really beautiful. I’m excited about that. Then there is the Eco-America training early June.
Yesterday was just a wonderful Saturday. Absolutely wonderful. I’m now looking at the trash art peice “Foxy Lady” that I made in the early morning, and she really looks how I feel. Eyes closed. Gliding through life. Wine cork limbs made from wine-corks friends sent me. But that is how I felt yesterday, how she looked. My mother said she was beautiful. Foxy Lady is body positive because her body does not conform to conventional ideals of beauty, yet her eyes are closed and she is looking inward. And that heart of hers and that soul or hers is happy, and deep down happiness is beautiful. She worked really hard to get back to that peace.
I’m sitting at 6am, later than my usual 3-4am blogging. I had ideas of several blog posts and as the readership knows, Dr. Plastic Picker is passionate about writing/blogging. But Mr. Plastic Picker had a hard day yesterday, and I decided to crawl back into bed with my lawfully wed husband and our 12-pound puppy and hug him and puppy. And I was blessed with another full sleep cycle. I woke up refreshed albeit a bit later than usual. I usually go to bed pretty early these days.
I’m here with the you. Not over in Oregon. I will be in Oregon on Tuesday. On Tuesday I will be in Oregon with my family member. But today this morning at 539AM I am here at home at my kitchen table. I will be on earth every day, for now. What I mean to say, is that I am present. I am fully present.
When we had been looking at the Big Island Property, it was the frentic dizzying journey up and down different Lava zones thinking about coffee farms, lychee orchards and all the different possibilities of agricultural farms we could have. Now that we are “Under Contract” and “Pending” on the 193.5 Acres (yes I forgot the 1/2 acre) in Southwestern Oregon, I feel a quiet sense of contentment and imagining what the real future of retirement will look like. But I’m not racing toward thinking about retirement. I’m planning, but I’m enjoying the wonderful present tense that is having two teenagers under my roof and a crazy 12 pound black poodle and two bunnies, a Mr. Plastic Picker that loves said children fiercely and still overworks, and the sense of rightness that I have now about life. Despite my dental issues, I think I’m on the right path albeit requires a bit more flossing and maybe calcium rich foods.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m still enjoying the whole process of Oregon. But I am still committed to work work and climate work. It’s just nice knowing that there is another place that will be home with lots of things to do that make me happy. And I think that is the key to life really. At least the key to our first world existence life where we are all prone to ennui. Have some sort of purpose, and hopefully a purpose that will help the world and your fellow earthlings.
It’s funny ennui, which is a wonderful word, I haven’t had that sense in two years. Truly. I used to get it all the time. That sense of aimlessly. What is my purpose in life? Where am I going? Is this is? Now I am just happy. And thank you everyone for laughing with me and listening to my crazy plans. I realized how lucky I am because I bother our pediatric nurses a lot with my laughter and climate musings. They are busy. Finally one of the nurses who usually listens all the time said, “Dr. P I do need to work.” Yes. I know. And I appreciate everyone listening. I did clean out the clinic fridge yesterday and took out all the old fruit and took it home to compost. Oh and we are having a party next week in clinic to celebrate our great two UCSD residents who we have really bonded with, and I need to remember to invite our new friend Mr. Tony the succulent artists from optometry. His creations are whimsical and thoughtful, and use of color is beautiful. We will need to include him in our party and our climate plans at work. Also Rosie, our friend we met on the top of the HMO parking lot. She is also planting in the dead planters, independent of Dr. Dear Friend and I. We’ve divided the top of the HMO parking lot up and we all for our planting plans for the spring. I just need to concentrate on topping the planters with compost.
I think the reason a certain family does not understand why another family member and I are in contract to buy an Oregon Ranch, is that he does not understand that Dr. Plastic Picker is an introvert. I could not understand why this senior family member did not approve of my joy in this property. But now being in my mid 40s and a student of human nature, I know that even I did not not truly know myself before embarking on this eco-avatar journey. The writing/blogging. The walks in nature. The time I’ve spent doing things because it felt right and I wanted something new. I know myself. I know what makes me happy. I know to listen to the earth. And mother earth told me to buy this 193 acre ranch on Southwestern Oregon https://drplasticpicker.com/i-found-it-193-acres-in-southwest-oregon/. I think mother nature gave me that cavity I mentioned yesterday that required the root canal that required me being incapacitated in bed, and then allowed me time to stumble upon this property searching on my iPhone. I’m totally serious.
I found the property when I was curled in bed in complete exhaustion and embarassment. I’m just trying to figure out life and had been drinking less milk to try to be more plant based, and I wonder if this resulted in my teeth being more weak? I think it must have been switching dental offices to the one that I had been at for over a decade and then to a new office that I didn’t quite mesh with. Now I realize why some people blame the doctor’s office. I’m blaming the dentist’s office. Anyway, I’m back with my own dentists office and I have some work that needs to be done and several visits. After a root canal and feeling very exhausted and tired like someone literally punched me on the side of the said root canal, I was in bed incapacitated. I was questioning all this plant based stuff, and realized that drinking some lactose free milk here and there would be OK. I’ve never been about absolutes. I’m going to try to eat yogurt more and honestly just need to floss better. I will try to eat soy based yogurt which I make at home.
Yesterday was another epic climate work day. If you were at the climate change and health meeting last night, I apologize if I sounded a bit manic. Tuesdays is my “admin day” and during my paying hours I stay true to my tasks that I am paid for. I had vaccine quality meeting, per diem physician meetings, sustainability emails, talking to schedulers and just trying to nudge the department on a forward path. It’s amazing how many time-booby traps are out there. Half of my job is to keep on scanning the HMO landscape of all the ways our department can go and yell “TURN TURN TURN” before we get sucked into the wrong direction. That can be the wrong physician, wrong project, wrong quality metric. For now, that is the role I play and I’m not shy about it. But it can be discombobulating at times. Right now I’m working on reorganizing this very large HMO committee into something functional and impactful. We will get there but there are a lot of politics and fine details that need to be worked out.
But then I had the climate work and it was indeed an epic day. To summarize what happened for the blog readership
HMO Green Team: I thought this one was in the bag but the upper upper management person emailed confirmed my interest and Dr. DN. I thought we had already told the upper upper management person that we were going to do it. But anyway, it’s official now and we will share the role which comes with no time and no pay. Figures. But we are going to make it great and save the earth via greening our little corner of the healthcare sector, and then the time and pay will come later. And even if it does not come, it’s the right thing to do. I pick up trash for free, and I’ll do this. In the end money is a proxy for time and efforts. But what is the value of money if we don’t prevent Planet Earth from becoming like Vulcan. Vulcans can live without water for days. I am rewatching the Star Trek Enterprise. But we humans have not evolved to that extent now. I think it’s easier to try to fight to keep global warming to less than 1.5 degrees centigrade than evolve to live without water for a week.
Gril Scout Troop Brownie Troop Outing/Trash Art Project: I became connected with a brownie troop in our area a few months ago and delivered a talk to them. They have our patches. The girls were so adorable I can’t begin to tell you. Trying to keep my circle of influence authentic and manageable, I offered to do a litter pick with them and a trash art project. We are in conversations right now. I have reached out more because I thought they were really fun, and it’s something I want to do. So I’ve saved the day for them.
Committee Meeting: Above is our climate change and health commitee. The actual committee is about 30 people, but these are the ones that showed up. It doesn’t seem like a lot of people, but they are all leading big efforts that we needed to catch up on and discuss. It was a very impactful 30 minutes and exchange of ideas. I am so grateful for each of them. Truly.
Climate Change and Health Rotation: We actually talked about this a bit yesterday at the committee meeting. Several offered to precept. We talked about strategizing it into a fellowship eventually. I’ve already begun to collate relevant articles. I have to learn not to rush things. Several of us are attending the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health this weekend, and it will be a natural time to text and flush out the rotation. There is nothing like that now in our area and I think 2 residents initially, one rotation in April and another in May would be good. We shall see. I think I need to sketch it out and hand it over to someone else to bring across the finish line. This is a manageable project for someone. I forget how much I’ve done in the past. The pediatric rotation that exists in our HMO was started by myself and an old mentor. I helped start that and I forgot all about it. So there is precedent. This rotation I’m more committed to and it will need my presence.
Healing Gardens: Sounds like our particular office is going to get approval for a healing garden. I hope they put in pollinators and make it a monarch habitat. It’s so easy. Then you can put a sign on up. I heard about this from another departmental leader. I really do think the butterfly kit project helped propel this idea a bit. But it will be so nice to have a place to walk and sit during lunch. I’m still trying to green the top of the parking structure, but those planters are really rough. The soil is coming back to life but I don’t know how many years it is going to take.
But rather than waiting for years for things to happen, I’ve realized that with all the above projects that I need to reach out. Find help. Sometimes the help comes from unexpected corners. I try not to force projects, just put my head down and keep plugging away. And sometimes I look up and I see a bird for inspiration or I see a beautiful face of a fellow pediatrician lending a hand. In the end this task of stopping climate change is monumental and existential. When I accepted that, that it when I learned to reach out and ask for help. And for everyone out there who shows up, whether it be at last nights meeting, or all the multitude of ways we can move the needle on climate change – just thank you. Thank you for showing up and getting to work. Hope is earned. Hope is earned through action.