Here are some wandering wondrous willets I saw at the La Jolla Ecological Preserve. The beach I clean is a dedicated Marine Sanctuary area. There is a reason that the shorebirds only come from Crystal Pier and north, and the more north you go away from the commercial district and into the more wild areas where the kelp are allowed to remain and the insects flourish – there are more birds. I’ve seen snowy plovers, marbeled godwits, black turncoats, black phoebes, curlews, snowy egrets and now for the first time in a long while – I saw a flock of willets. They feed on insects, small crustaceans, mollusks and worms.
I don’t get out to the beach to “plog” as often as I had before. I think healing my heart and my mind in other sustainable ways has been important. I eat plant-based, reduce food waste, reuse what I can, minimize our consumptive lives and I think and write more than I’ve ever done before. I sleep. But the plogging trips are balms to my soul for sure. I always learn something about myself and the world, when I’m there.
In my environmental journey, the importance has been the quiet details. The butterflies, the shorebirds, and the little bits of plastics. It’s only my noticing the details than I can understand the big picture.
And dear reader, let your mind wander during the weekends. It’s only by letting your mind wander and explore and play, that you can laser focus on your goals and “your why” and help recreate the world that we want.
Thank you for being here with me as I let my mind wander in the mornings.
Yesterday I had two baby monarch catepillars that my mother-in-law mistakenly thought were pests. I came home after clinic and she said there was a slug eating up all the little plants I had asked her to grow from seeds I brought home. She had painstakenly grown those plants, and they were native milkweed from Nurse Lan’s garden. He had given me seeds. And we had just 6 little plants that were not more than 2 inches tall. Two catepillars had eaten them all up. My mother-in-law brought them for me to see, and they were floating in water. They were monarch catepillars and those milkweed plants were meant for them.
My mother-in-law did not know, and I knew how hard she had worked to grow these seeds I had brought home. We started the seeds late this season, and there are not enough for two hungry monarch catepillars. I read on the internet that sometimes zuchinnis or pumpkin or some kind of squashes will do, but to be careful of the pesticides even in “organic” squash. We had a small pumpkin, the first of the summer squash crop that is organic and grown from our own yard. So I did what the internet said, and placed them in a chopstick for the catepillars and also threw in a few of the remaining milkweed leaves. I’ll bring them into clinic if they are still alive today, and see if Nurse Lan can’t give them a home in his garden.
I created a little seating area on the 2nd floor balcony off the game room. It’s a balcony that overlooks our backyard and I can see the amazing container garden and outside living area we’ve created on the concrete parking pad that used to house the Honda Odyssey Minivan. Selling the minivan was overall positive for our financial bottom line because it was an extra car we did not need and helped avert some carbon emissions, but it ended up having a cascading effect in our lives that we never imagined.
I got through the day yesterday. I was definitely dragging during morning clinic. My sleep schedule was off due to blogging at 2am rather than at 4am, and then after finishing a blogpost – I went to sleep on the couch. Obviously I was not able to finish an entire sleep cycle. Therefore I woke up groggy and not in my best form. But I dragged by eco-avatar middle aged body through the morning routine and was able to make it into work. I forgot my phone at home which ended up being a blessing in disguise. An entire day of phone detox is a good thing. I sent an email out to the department to let them know I had no phone, and just to call if there were issues. There were no issues that I was aware of. There are many of us in leadership that were available via instant text, so my being in my office just an actual email away – was okay.
We have kind of a big decision to make in SDPCA. I can’t elaborate right now but it really challenges me to question this journey I have been on these last two years. Has it been about me? Or has it been about the earth? I thought it was about the earth, but there has been a miraculous amount of self-discovery and growth. And fundamentally I am a pediatrician, and I identify as such. But just like I know we can’t save the earth with just the liberal left, we need our conservative family as well (which is 40% of this country). I also know not just pediatricians can save the earth. We need all specialties. So I will think and talk to my friends and let nature lead the way. I believe the ocean will tell me what to do.
I had a good nights sleep last night. The puppy was barking at Mr. Plastic Picker and he was again working. I told my husband that he really needs to find a hobby, and that your brain works better if you have something non-work related to meander to as well. But I took our puppy, who likes to sit and bark at my husband as she is his little annoying super-fan, and I carried her little 12-lb furry warm body up onto our roofdeck. It had rained yestserday and the air was crisp and the concrete of the roofdeck was wet. Ascending the spiral metal steps up to the roofdeck is like entering a different world.
I had turned on the outdoor lights, that are low to the ground but gives one enough illumination to tread safely. When we reached the top, our puppy sniffed the plants cautiously. I’ve planted a blueberry bush, coastal rosemary (which I learned afterwards is not edible and not a rosemary! LOL), clementine dwarf tree, orange dwarf tree, juniper pine, many succulents, Dr. Jill Gustafson’sa actual rosemary I’m trying to propogate, and three small pretty pots of strawberries with onions. I added a lavender container late yesterday afternoon. Then there are the tray of baby succulents I’m working on.
But we were up there together, and it was quiet. She sniffed everywhere including the artifical turf from my brother’s house that I salvaged. It is now a small square area for her to hang out when we are up there together. It’s the first time she has seen in, and let’s just say she “inaugurated” it. But after cleaning up her mess with a plastic bag I had handy up there, I picked her up and held her to the top of the conrete wall that keeps us from tumbling down three stories. We overlook all of mission bay and can see right to the lights of Sea World and Mission Bay and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. She loves to close her eyes and feel the wind on her doggy face. I think it’s probably because scents are also carried on the wind. I wonder what our fur baby thinks about?
It’s nice to have that little retreat. We’ve had this area for years since our house was built, but it was really never used. But I’m up there often now. I planted most of those things really to combat the urban heat island effect, and to grow food. I am trying to change the micro-climate but without buying too much “new” things.
But after our puppy and I had our moment last night, I did just a few yoga moves. Then both of us relaxed, I picked her up and we returned to the 2nd floor. Mr. Plastic Picker was returned a calm puppy that was minus some poop and also some canine anxiety, I’m sure. She layed at his feet for most of the night and was less her usualy annoying self.
As for me, I wondered downstairs to check on our human children and chatted with our teen son. I checked the pantry and kind of mentally prepared for tomorrow’s meals. And then I went back upstairs and did 20 minutes of Yoga by Andrienne and was feeling very relaxed. And then I put my phone away somewhere out of arms reach and had a good sleep. As I was falling asleep, I do what I do more often these days – I visualize soil and compost and microorganisms recreating an entire ecosystem in the places that I’ve planted.
Gardening, composting, and farming have been around since before we were who we are – but I’ve only as a physician recently noticed it’s importance. I’ve had gardeners around my whole life, but I never fully realized what was happening to create the nutritious food I’ve always had or the shaded and wooded areas that always have made where I live – more comfortable than others.
But now I am becoming aware and growing in my knowledge. I really love composting and making dirt. I love trying new gardening projects and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. And when I can’t sleep, I visualize soil and it regenerating and sequestering all the carbon that we need to sequester.
The Black Phoebe is my favorite bird. You could say she is my spirit animal, in a non-religious way. The Black Phoebe belongs to the order of birds Passeriformes, which means in Latin sparrow – like. Can you tell I’m reading Wikipedia? These are usually songbirds and perching birds, that have 3 toes pointing forward and one toe pointing backwads. Half of all birds belong to this family. Most passeri are smaller than other birds.
The Black Phoebe is part of the Tyrant-Flycatcher family. This bird’s range is from southern california to Oregon, and does venture to central and south america. Usually the Black Phoebe stays within it’s range and doesn’t really migrate. She is a songbird, and eats mostly insects. From Wikipedia, “The phoebe can be recognized by a characteristic “tail-wagging” motion, in which the tail is lowered and the tail’s feathers fanned out. It accomplishes almost all locomotion by flight, which is direct, with steady wing beats.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_phoebe
Anyway, I love the Black Phoebe. I see her a lot. She’s a pretty little black bird. Now that we have our composter which is working well in the corner of our backyard, I think the Black Phoebe is visiting more as there are little insects that are the natural part of the decomposition process. One was perched on my mother-in-laws fig tree the other day, sallying forth eating some unknown insect in our new container garden and bird habitat.
I also made this beautiful upcycled succulent planter basket, in between my chores yesterday. Most of the components of the upcycled succulent basket was going into the landfill. But because I always have cactus/succulent potting mix, I created something I think is lovely. I made it myself.
It’s ready in the back of my plug-in hybrid, and I will put it on one of the outside employee lunch tables at work. I need to spruce up our outside work space. Plus, I think it will bring people joy. They’ll look at it and think a little bit. If someone takes it home, that is okay. Maybe they needed a bit of joy. I hope it can stay and grow though, and provide happiness to my fellow co-workers who are sitting outside and eating lunch.
I have nothing TO DO this weekend. I will probably DO a lot, but I have nothing TO DO. I even put my work text messages on BUSY. Not DO NOT DISTURB just BUSY. I will finish Fridays charts this weekend, and probably do a couple of patient follow up calls. But even with the climate work, I don’t have anything TO DO. Last week we gave UCSD Family Practice Grand Rounds and submitted an abstract to the Journal of Applied Research in Children. So a lot happened.
And it is Saturday morning and even the kids don’t have anywhere to be because it is quarantine still. Last night I came home late from clinic on the later side, but not as late as the Friday night before. Our daughter had a Girl Scout meeting at 630pm and their father picked up sushi with lots of plastic packaging, as the kids requested sushi. I guess the carbon footprint from sushi isn’t that much because at most it’s little bits of fish. So we had sushi while our daughter was listening to her Girl Scout meeting and I went to bed early. Even with a normal full clinic day, work is tiring. Dr. Dear Friend had a very irate parent and multiple child protection issue cases, and she had a harder clinic day than I did. But it’s hard these days at work because of all the saddness when our families come in. COVID-19 has particularly hit the hispanic and southbay communities more, and this is where I practice. This is where I grew up.
It wasn’t enough to make an entire dish, but I grew it. I grew it all myself. The shallots were from the store but I saved the ends and just stuck them in some water. I chopped them up, and put the bulbs in my container garden. The radishes and beet greens I planted from seed in my container garden. I did it myself. I sold our Honda Odyssey Minivan https://drplasticpicker.com/the-road-to-fise-let-it-go-the-2006-honda-minivan/, turned our backyard concrete parking pad into a minicontainer garden. This took learning how to sell the Minivan myself and filling out the DMV paperwork. Then after selling the minivan, taking multiple trips with Mr. Plastic Picker to Home Depot to buy the containers and soil. I had to clean the entire area. I moved an old outside rug that had been upstairs on the roofdeck for over a year, and very dusty. I vaccumed the rug and carried the heavy thing downstairs myself. Then I moved the patio furniture around, and a chair over to my mini-container garden area. Suddenly a small wicker end table appeared, my mother-in-law brought it out from their stash. I bought seed packets of radishes and beet greens. I bought them because I want to start eating them more, and I read that they are almost impossible to mess up. And then I started gardening. It’s been a multi-month process. The parsley I tried got riddled with these unknown bugs and I have no idea what they are. But finally, yesterday – it was time to harvest.
It’s so important to plant things. I need to set a good example. I was standing at the local taco shop across from our clinic, and Dr. Dear Friend and Dr. MM and I were buying lunch. Then Jupiter Ascending was playing on the screen. That movie is a closet vampire movie about this god-awful sci-fi fantasy about people harvesting souls. It’s horrible and now a cult classic. I want to be a creator of life and I don’t want to live forever young. I am happy being middle-aged and wise (but with lucious hair from my new HiBar shampoo bar!). So I am trying to plant a garden myself for my children and myself, and to set a good example for my patients and the world. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. Succulents that people have gifted to me in the past have died in my office.
I have been on a cleaning rampage since last night and early this morning. There will be no beach cleanup this morning because I had to clean up my own house. Mr. Plastic Picker heard it, for sure. Blending families is always difficult, and even after 20 years the fundamental truth is my family is more preoccupied with cleanliness than his. Perhaps that is why I’m Dr. Plastic Picker? I’m trying to clean up the world’s oceans. But last night and this morning, I had to do a more mundane task – clean up my own house.