Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Visiting My Hairy Relatives

(Gizmo and Tyler at Jungle Friends Sanctuary)

I know we are primates. I have always known it with my heart and mind, but not with my direct experience. I am always telling people that I am old for a primate. We should all be grateful if we live beyond 40 in this world. We humans forget we are primates. We think we are from a family separate from other animals. I think our lack of hair confuses us. We not only have almost no body hair compared to our non-human primate relatives, but we try to get rid of the little bit of hair we have left. We are grossed out by men having back hair, women having armpit or leg hair or facial hair and we definitely don't want a single hair showing up in our noses or ears.

This primate posting is not just out of the blue. I visited my hairy relatives and fell in love 120 times. I visited Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary here in Florida. It is only about a half hour from where we are staying. I hope my non-hairy relatives won't be insulted when I say that our hairy relatives: are much cuter, are much more aware of their bodies, are more in touch with their own and others nature, communicate more directly, are in better physical shape, make better food choices and show their emotions more genuinely than any of us.

This sanctuary is a haven for the monkeys there. It is not their full natural wild habitat, but it is a far cry from the abusive situations they lived in previously. Some of the monkeys there were previously used in research labs and were abused repeatedly in toxicity experiments. These monkeys flip out if more than two humans approach them at the same time.
(Caged monkeys in Asia awaiting shipment to medical laboratories.)
(Primate in toxicity experiment)

Others at the sanctuary came from homes where foolish humans thought they would make good "pets" and found out they actually need more than a windowless basement, barren cage, junk food and no attention. Many have diabetes from the junk food they were given for years.
(Confiscated "pet" monkey found in home with other exotic animals in a 2 ft x 2 ft cage.)

One of my favorites of the rescued monkeys at Jungle Friends has only one eye and almost no fur and a non working tail and was found wandering down the Eishenhower Expressway in Chicago with smoke in his lungs. One of the monkeys is partial to women and throws things at any male who comes along. He threw sticks, dirt and stones at JC and then jumped up and down in excitement when he hit his target. Another one is a male who is partial to males and flirts with all male visitors, but ignores all women and girls. This same gay monkey met a woman who visited there and was flirting with her. The staff at the sanctuary was baffled by it until they found out the woman was a transexual. Some of the monkeys came from situations where they were "service animals" in misguided greed filled programs like Helping Hands. These programs make millions selling service monkeys to people who do not have use of their arms. The monkey is supposed to help the human. The reality is that these monkeys end up being a burden for the person they are supposed to be helping and are usually surrendered to a sanctuary or killed because they become aggressive in the unnatural house/apartment environment.
One visit to this sanctuary would hopefully convince anyone that these relatives are indeed relatives and there should be no question that we should not be using them in experiments or stealing them from their habitat and families for our own pleasure/entertainment. I am not suggesting that we should do these things to any non-relatives, of course :) But, one look into the eyes of one of these monkeys or one of them reaching out his or her very human-like hand makes our connection to them undeniable. Each of the monkeys at the sanctuary has the opportunity to choose a partner they want to live with. Their preferences for a partner are as varied as any human I know. A quiet monkey at Jungle Friends chose another quiet monkey to live with and a hyper loud monkey chose another hyper loud monkey. Some change their minds and decide to switch partners after living together with one who doesn't strike their fancy as much as the new one. As much as we like to set ourselves apart from other animals and claim that we are other than animal, we are not vegetable or mineral. We are, indeed, animals. One slow walk through the big tree filled enclosures at this sanctuary will surely convince anyone but the most stubborn "animal separatist".
The visit to Jungle Friends reminded me, once again, about the power of these sanctuaries. Animal slaves used/abused as food, entertainment, and experimental subjects end up in these facilities if they are lucky. Sanctuaries cannot give them back a normal life in their habitat with their families, but they make life more comfortable for the beings who live there. These sanctuaries remind visitors that these beings are individuals, our relatives, who seek comfort and caring relationships and deserve the best we can give them.
Please support sanctuaries with donations and, if possible, visit them and feel even more empowered to help the individuals working there and living there.

Anna Claire at Jungle Friends

(visit the Jungle Friends website and view the videos there, including The Hundredth Monkey: A Perfect Gift for your fellow human primates this holiday season would be a donation to Jungle Friends or other sanctuary!

Friday, November 27, 2009


Just in case you don't have a stack of great books next to your bed....

The book I just finished and wished it would never end:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The book I haven't gotten my hands on yet that is hot off the press and I cannot wait to read:
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism
by Melanie Joy

see the fantastic book trailer here:

The book I am just finishing and loving:

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.
I am so glad that this book is generating a boatload of discussion about the cultural myth we have rarely questioned.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Drop the Dead Bird And The Fake Meat, Too!

Acorn Squash on the Vine
Where Every Turkey Wants to Be This Week!
(Above: Wild Turkey having a great Thanksgiving Holiday)

I hope its not too late. I hope you didn't already shop for Thanksgiving. I hope you are last minute people who will be in the crowded groceries today and tomorrow...or you will skip this holiday altogether or you will spend it serving people yummy vegetarian food at one of the more mindful/compassionate "feed the homeless" programs.

Considering one of those fake meat "turkeys"? It will most likely not make most people happy. Some people love them and others hate them. Better to not try to duplicate something that is unnecessary. Here is a main dish for this or any holiday that is a total crowd-pleaser. Put some mashed potatoes next to it and make PLENTY of the gravy because it will disappear. Have so much gravy there that people can have their food swimming in it! A big green salad and some fresh cranberry sauce (just cook fresh cranberries in orange juice..until it is all cooked down) and you have a delightful, delicious meal that did not support animal cruelty and makes everyone happy.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 acorn squash or 8 delicata squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
2 T margarine, melted
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp each dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package vegan cornbread stuffing
Chickenless gravy (see below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the inside of the squash with the melted margarine. Heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and apple for 8 minutes. Then add syrup, raisins, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well. Mix in stuffing and spoon into each squash half, cover with foil, bake about 40 minutes or until squash is tender. Serve with gravy.

Chickenless Gravy
2 cups boiling water
2 T vegetable oil
3 T nutritional yeast
1 veggie bouillon cube
1/2 cup diced mushrooms (any kind...I use Shitake..but regular button are yummy)
1/2 cup chopped onion
Onion salt to taste
Unbleached flour

In a large saucepan, simmer all the ingredients, except the flour, for 5 minutes. Slowly add the flour (tablespoon at a time, whisking with each addition) until desired thickness is reached.

Enjoy and then go outside together and have a peaceful grateful great-full day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Living With Limitations-Happily

Loving being in northern Florida....sweet walks to the river and the best piles of organic greens you have ever seen at the farmers market. I just got back from a fantastic visit to Rochester. The RAVS group (Rochester Area Vegetarian Society) group was receptive and warm and I loved doing the program for them.

I watched a service dog and his blind person as they got on the plane and sat in front of me. The huge golden retriever squished his body on the floor between the woman's feet. He did not move the entire flight. Then we all got off at our connection in Charlotte and the blind woman was in the bathroom stall next to mine and the dog just sat and waited for her. The woman got to relieve herself, but the dog didn't. They then got on another flight.

I don't know that much about service dogs, but I do know that this dog seemed to have a broken spirit. The woman did not touch the dog once in all the time on the plane or in the bathroom or between our flights. I have had enough dog experience to know that this dog was not necessarily miserable, but he sure was not happy. It made me think about the various forms of slavery we inflict on other beings. I would define slavery as owning a living being and forcing them to do what we want them to do for us, but with no choice on their part. Many people will think that this blog is unsympathetic towards the blind woman. I am not blind, but I do know that there are other choices for people wanting more mobility despite their physical limitations. It also seems that humans are accustomed to not having to be limited by physical conditions. Some authors have written about people with disabilities wanting access into wilderness areas and that this access has had an effect on the habitat of the wildlife in an area. Paved areas and roads going into a wild area change that habitat and often cause a species to move out of an area or to stop reproducing. We can learn to live with our limitations and enjoy the aspects of life still available to us. I hope I live to see the day that, as a society and as a species, we question the enslavement of other beings or destruction of wilderness for our own desires.

When I am addressing zoos in talks, the concept of our self-centeredness is at the core of what I discuss. Although most of us will never see these animals in the wild, we can accept this rather than enslaving them in unatural habitat in zoos. I recommend the book "The Pygmy in the Zoo" about a Pygmy man (Ota Benga) who was brought to the USA for display. The justification was "most people would never get to see a real live Pygmy if he weren't brought to the USA."
The Pygmy ended up committing suicide.
Ota Benga

The holidays are coming and I wanted to share one of my favorite pieces:

A Holiday Thought…

Aren’t humans amazing Animals? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised from Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates

Friday, November 13, 2009

It is REALLY a blog!

OK, so far I have not figured out how to publish a new blog posting and not have it go to everyone in my email address book! But, when it appears in your email inbox, it does not actually have the original format. I am going to figure it out, because I dont want people getting it in their email who are not subscribed as followers to the blog.

For those who want to continue to read the blog regularly,
you can sign up as a follower at the blog site:

Sorry you have all been getting the full blog, unrequested, in your inbox!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


WE GOT TO EAT AT THE GRIT FOUR TIMES THIS WEEK! Lemon Poppyseed Cake at The Grit in Athens Georgia (May every person who ever said you can't make wonderful vegan cakes eat at The Grit!) Grit Golden Bowl with Broccolli

Places get into our bones either by their geographical beauty and the non-human community or because of the humans we love and feel close to in an area. Or because there is great food there!

It is rare for people to have all three in the place they call home.

Athens, Georgia was our home for only a few years. The land, with its abused forests trying desperately to recuperate from being cotton fields at one point and the red clay turning to red mud during every rainfall is not endearing. The land and polluted rivers and creeks in that part of Georgia do not make me go “ahhhhh”. But in the past week of reuniting with friends there, I could feel how Athens got into my bones. It is the people....and the food. Pretty much everywhere I have lived it has been the people. ( In Maine, Massachusetts, Sweden and New Mexico I was lucky enough to have both the land and the people to love..but not always the food. )

In Athens, we were having dinner with friends, who, like me, love thinking about language and culture. It also just so happens that sitting at the same table were two friends who are guaranteed to make me laugh until my jaw hurts. One of them has been a doctor for years (I cannot say his name…doctor/friend confidentiality). He was telling stories about language in the south. When he first began practicing medicine in the south there were things that his colleagues needed to translate for him especially when patients over 80 came in.

One patient was telling his medical history and said he had “Smilin’ Mighty Jesus”. Our doctor buddy was, of course, confused by this…..until the nurse whispered in the doctor’s ear "That’s spinal meningitis).

Here is an abbreviated glossary of senior southerner medical terms, in case you need it in the future:

The “roaches of the liver” means cirrhosis of the liver.

“Fireballs of the Eucharist” means fibroids of the uterus.

“Technical shot” mean tetanus shot. the uterus looks like for those of you who have never seen it up close.

Being with these friends reminded me of how incredibly rich our life is. To be able to land in a town that you only lived in a few years and laugh for 5 hours with people who feel like family…it doesn’t get any better.

We worked our butts off sorting and holding a yard sale to try to lighten up what we have in storage in Athens. The bad news: It was a home football game weekend at UGA and almost no one came to our sale. The good news: we got a lot of exercise moving heavy boxes and furniture many times and we were able to donate a boatload of valuable goods to Project Safe Thrift Store (profits go to the domestic abuse shelter in Athens). I got a lesson in local ordinances when the ordinance enforcement patrol car pulled up to our sale and told us that we could not have our signs posted on any public property. I immediately told the officer, "How great that you noticed our signs!" (After all, they were hand painted and bright pink and orange and as big as 10 bread boxes).

Now we are back in High Springs, Florida. Greeted by 75 degree temps and a fantastic vegan meal created by our friend Chas. Time to get to work on my book and more Vegfund tasks. Fe River in High Springs...canoe and kayak heaven.....

We sure do have a lot of wonderful homes….wahoo…smilin’ mighty jesus!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How Does This Happen? Techno Magic Out of My Hands!

When I post to our blog and hit seems to go to everyone in my address book. I dont know how that is happening......
The blog site is:
If you want to follow it you can go there.
but, just so you know...I am not sending the blog out to all of you. I just hit share and it goes to the whole darn list. I never gave it direct orders to do that. So, if anyone knows how to control such things a little bit, let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canine Kayak Hood Ornament

Abandoned Pup with Mange

Two days ago I woke up grateful for not having to get in a car and drive to a job or sit in traffic or sit in a cubicle. I have had this freedom for most of my adult life, but finally realized how rare that is and had big gratitude. We are in South Carolina checking out the land that will be the future home of Bicycle City ( Our little home on wheels is parked on the edge of a 50 acre lake with no one else around. There is one vacant cabin here and two kayaks. It is one of three lakes/ponds on the Bicycle City land.

It is the rural there is everything that goes along with that. I have an obvious bias....Honestly, maybe it is just anywhere USA..not specific to the rural South. But, it sure seems to crop up a lot when we are here. Within 12 hours of getting here I was talking to animal control about a mange covered mother dog and one of her litter who were trapped in a barbed wire topped locked chain link fence area (abandoned factory). The puppy also had mange. I gave them water and food and tried not to be too judgemental (I did not succeed in this) of the person I was told "owned" her. I found a neighbor who told me about the dog's "owner" . When this neighbor suggested the idea of getting her "fixed" to her "owner", the "owner" said "The bitch just keep getting pregnant" and he laughed.

Short soapbox glossary: They are not our property and we are not their owners. We are their guardians, their family, their caregivers....As soon as we call them property, we can do whatever we want to matter how neglectful or violent. Men do not own women, no one owns children and no one owns any living being...not in a caring and awake world.
I told the neighbor that I wish that the dogs guardian understood what that responsibility entailed and that I wish the "owner's" parents had gotten "fixed" before they had him. This fella gave me that "uh oh, trouble maker who is about menopausal age and has out of state plates" look.
I could not get to the dogs in the fenced area.....they were stuck there in the hot sun on concrete. So began my relationship with the local animal control folks.

Other than the dog neglect, the atv noisely cruising through on the trails across the lake last night and the sound of the interstate during rush hour, this place is peaceful and sweet. Lots of great hiking trails for us and the dogs. This is just the ease we wanted after a hectic schedule of travel and leading programs. We have been kayaking here with the two dogs. Our preference would always be to leave them on the dock sitting peacefully and awaiting our return. That would be someone else's dogs. By now you know that we have one dog who is the Buddha (Tikvah) and one (Bean) who is the Anti-Buddha or the Devil as we call her for short. Even the Buddha Boy does not like being left on the dock and will howl like an ailing coyote until the kayaks bring us back to him. So he has to go with us. The Devil will swim miles after our boats, so even if we try to leave her behind, her little wet ass will show up and climb into the kayak. To make it all easier, we just take them. The Buddha, as you can see, just sits there or curls up and is content to just meditate on the scene around him.He is truly a dog you can take anywhere....well almost anywhere. He did roll in pig shit at the World Peace Yoga Conference and then slipped in the door of the largest group of Yoginis and got them all to pet him....But that was just his way of sharing.
The Devil, on the other hand, does not sit still and moves from the front of the kayak to the back. Here she is on the front being a hood ornament.

And here is how she gets from point A to point B:

And one of her more peaceful moments:
I can't help but compare the life of these two dogs to the dogs who have "owners"...people who treat them like property you can just ignore and let fall into total disrepair. My heart aches for these innocents who want nothing more than comfort. Some people tell me my dogs are spoiled. Some people tell me they would like to come back in their next life as my dog. These dogs of ours get Tofurky everyday with their veggie food. Tikvah eats up two whole heads of raw organic cabbage every week. Bean will not drink her favorite (unsweetened soymilk) unless one of us holds the bowl. She gets an organic dry mission fig everytime she just looks cute and we notice. They get hours of hiking everyday. They are never hungry for a minute and they are never too cold or too hot. JC will wrap Bean up in a blanket if she is cold...and she stretches out between us under the covers everynight. As my dear friend Lora says, "That is not spoiled, that is just having her needs met." Absolutely.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lives Connecting!

Seems natural for a community interested in compassion and wellness to gravitate toward Yoga, right? And seems natural for the Yoga community to embrace a path that embodies care for all beings and living lightly on the earth, right? I have been saying for years that if all the people who embrace compassion for all beings could come together we would be a loving force that could change the world. I did not know exactly how this “coming together” would look. I was looking for a model of this kind of connection, but not finding it. My yoga buddies did not quite understand my animal activism and vegan choice. Many of my vegan, animal activist buddies were not taking the time to care for themselves through a daily practice of yoga or other body/mind/spirit care. [16647_200279629072_746799072_3936391_2980338_s.jpg]

Then along comes the World Peace Yoga Conference (WPYC) and the two worlds meld into a perfect union. Imagine a place where those who care deeply about the environment sharing the stage with those who care deeply about all species and those who practice yoga and meditation. Mix in a little Non-violent Communication (NVC) for good measure. Imagine all this just outside of Cincinnati. Yep, plain old Cincinnati. Not California or Hawaii or Santa Fe. After JC and I led a program for Earthsave in Cincinnati, we ate a two thumbs up meal at the all vegan Loving CafĂ© (Don’t miss this place if you are in Cinti). Then to Grailville, 30 minutes outside of Cinti for the WPYC.

Harold Brown and Julia Butterfly Hill touched everyone’s hearts with their honest and open sessions. I loved Julia talking about how strange it is that non-violence is a double negative for something so positive. Jivamukti Yoga founders David and Sharron kicked our butts in tough love yoga with vegan teachings throughout. Will Tuttle inspired with teachings and piano. JC presented an abbreviated phytonutrient talk hoping that people would fall in love with this health powerhouse in plant foods (Hopefully those at the talk learned that they are not PhotoNutrients...that is the nourishment you get when you see a beautiful photo). Judy Carman brought her down to earth, easy to be with compassion. Elizabeth Farian, a vocal and energetic activist in her eighties (co-founder of the National Organization for Women) put fuel on our inner activist fires. Amy Ferguson delighted everyone with her caring, playful music. Doug Swenson had us laughing and sweating in our yoga postures. And Andrew Harvey gave us the fire and brimstone to send us out into the world electrified. I squeezed in other sessions when I could, but I was busy with tabling, dog walking and leading 5 sessions during the weekend. I had the pleasure of walking in on the end of Sheli Carpenters love fest on the last day….but missed so many of the wonderful speakers presentations. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, the speakers included:

Linda Bender

Arlene Bjork

Jeff Brown

Shelli Carpenter

Gabriel Cousens, MD

Elizabeth Farians

Anna Ferguson (Co-organizer of the conference)

Shanti Golds-Cousens

Yoga Dan Gottlieb

Harmony Gullette

Kamaniya and Keshavacharya Das

Jonny Kest

Dan Korman

Doug Kreitzer

Lila Lolling

Mercury Max

John Mooter-Great piano player!

Kali Ray

Katy Stahl

Mark Stroud (Co-organizer of the conference and creator of the best meals ever)

Madeleine Tuttle

Patrick Murphy Welage (Laughing guru)

Keep your eyes open for the second annual World Peace Yoga Conference 2010! (By then the name may change to World Peace Jubilee....stay tuned)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Seek or Not to Seek

Here it is...says it all....from my favorite cartoonist.
How many times to all of us come to this kind of crossroad in our day and not choose the path of truth, justice and wisdom? Even those of us who don't indulge in burgers often don't make choices that are in alignment with who and what we care about.
Looking at this cartoon made me think about wanting to slow life down and really think about it when I come to these diverging paths in my life.

We sat across from Tim today....we were all eating amazing quinoa and mushrooms made by Linda. Tim is a regular guy about 50 years old. Comes from your basic hunting/fishing Appalachian family. Tim has come to this crossroad more than once and chosen the unpopular route. He told about his family trying to get him to hunt. He shot a squirrel first time out and said it was a thrill until he actually hit the squirrel with the bullet and the squirrel fell out of the tree and landed on the ground. It was his first and last hunting experience. He also told us about having ducks and pigs on their land and how he tried to stop his family from killing them because he was so close with dogs for many other people. They killed them anyway and he refused to eat them.

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for a lot of people. It has no meaning for me, but I like to celebrate it with fellow vegans. I know it is hard for most families to understand why we can't just ignore that giant bird in the middle of the table. The only way I could explain it was like this:
Imagine you find yourself living in some part of the world where it is common to eat dogs (I show photos of these dogs stuffed in cages waiting to be slaughtered in another blog posting). Most Americans would not be able to just go to a big celebration and ignore the skinned stuffed cooked dog with candied yams and mashed potatoes on the side and little paper frilly booties stuck on his paws, baked and basted to perfection. They would avoid that event. It is the same once you have gotten to know a turkey, or any of the animals killed for food. It is pretty shocking to see them in the middle of the table. My friend Carrie tells a story about her favorite turkey friend growing up. His name was Gimpy because he had a bum leg. One Thanksgiving when the lid was opened on the roasting pan, she recognized Gimpy by his leg. She flipped out when she realized that one of her companions had been killed and cooked for dinner.

I think it is ok to just spend this holiday with folks who understand this and can celebrate this harvest time with the thousands of other foods that make a great feast without a dead bird on the table. Last year our Thanksliving celebration had 50 people who all brought the most amazing delicious beautiful food. There was a whole room for desserts! I made a gallon of shitake mushroom gravy to go on the mashed potatoes. It was gone in an hour. JC made luminaria (candles in paper bags with sand in the bottom) and created a path of them that led people to a fire circle in the far back of our lot. We started the meal with a giant circle and everyone shared one thing they were grateful for. It was heaven. A true celebration of LIFE.

This is how all holidays can be....we can re-create them in new traditions that celebrate life and health and abundance and that expands beyond our own blood family, community that expands beyond our own species.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Greed Eats Love

Outside wall of a local bakery in Ann Arbor

We are driving south in Ohio….At the same moment I am starting this blog posting called Greed Eats Love we pass exit 57 north of Dayton…the name of the road is Needmore. I hope the next exit is for a road called HaveEnough.

After 2 months in Ann Arbor, we pulled out of Adena’s driveway with our little home on wheels. We still haven’t named our home….so please send any ideas our way. It is our peacefull little home with everything we need…so a name related to that or something as simple as Sylvia or Ernie is fine. We will know when we hear the right name. For awhile we just called it HOME. But that got confusing when we were staying next to other people’s homes. We heard it was bad luck to not name a travel trailer. If this is bad luck, I can’t wait to see good luck. Must be from great to greater.

Ann Arbor was fantastic. If it had big wilderness and mountains nearby and more sunlight we would want to be there for part of every year. There is a big beautiful coop run by quirky people and a library I would like to find everywhere we go. I still think all libraries are the best human invention. It is a magical place where you can go and find any book (or get it through inter-library loan) and music and movies. When I got my Ann Arbor library card I announced to the person at the desk that it was a very special day…and she understood why I was so excited. OK, can I just say one more thing about that library: ULIMITED NUMBER OF DVDs that you can have for a week or renew on line! One of my Ann Arbor mantras “I LOVE my library.” (When I was living in Sweden I got teased for my 12 library cards…I wanted one for every library near where we lived) I know it sounds greedy…but I used them all. And library collecting is not the kind of greed that eats love.

Ann Arbor has a bunch of Fairy Doors ( Little doors around town that are at ground level. I took this last night while lying on the floor of the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore

I am starting to think that the utility poles in a community are a good indicator of how creative and loving a community is. Remember the blog about Yellow Springs Ohio and its knitted covers and peace messages on the utility poles? That is another community I could spend a lot of time in. Every day that I road my speedy bike up Miller St. in Ann Arbor, I rode by these two poles that say it all about that town

In our two short months there we got to be around some of the most open minded and kind people I have ever met. I will miss Aaron and his partner Dwayne, Ellen Livingston’s yoga class with raw foods treat at the end, M.A James the sock tester for Maggie’s Sox, and the many dogs and their people who have entertained us in the woods and schoolyard. We will miss the farmers at the farmers market who have kept us in greens and cabbage and corn. We will really miss Earthen Jar delicious Indian veg buffet with great food and terrible feng shui and dirty floors that make it authentic Indian. Most of all, we will miss Adena and Taylor and Crystal…but not for long. They will be leaving Michigan and joining our little caravan in three weeks!

We saw Michael Moore’s new movie last night, Capitolism, A Love Story. (Reminds me of a story I wrote a few years back called I Hate People, A Love Story..I love oxymoron titles.) The film was great. My favorite part was when he wrapped AIG, Citibank and other financial institutions run by criminals with bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape. I hope he continues his journey to expose those who get rich at the expense of others, the environment and all life on the planet. I cannot wait until he gets the animal agriculture piece. When he makes that film, I will be celebrating BIG.

About three weeks ago we saw the soon to be released Peaceable Kingdom. If greed eats love, then does love destroy greed? If so, this film will be at the top of the love warriors list. The people in the film exude love. It is one of the few films I have seen that expose the reality of our relationship with animals without making me hate people. That is no easy task.

Greed Eats Love, Love Eats Greed and Love Eats Hate…
Jimi Hendrix said it all:
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spring Rolls or Marine Mammals?

I am not a cookbook writing kind of person….but when I find a great, easy recipe, I am going to share it here.

This week we made spring rolls. I am including the rolling instructions. If you try to wing it, you may end up with the equivalent of small baby beluga’s with stuff oozing out each end.

Vegan Spring Rolls

Everybody knows that when you find a place that makes good spring rolls, you go back again and again. What most people don’t know is that they are one of the easiest and most fun dishes to prepare at home!

(You could use basil or mint or just about any fresh herb that you like instead of cilantro…shredded lettuce is great in them too)


  • 1/2 container firm or extra firm tofu, well pressed
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cup cooked bean thread noodles or rice vermicelli
  • one bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • spring roll wrappers
  • water


Slice the pressed tofu into thin strips. Heat the soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil and ginger in a skillet and saute the tofu for 5-7 minutes, until crispy.

In a large bowl, toss together the carrots and noodles.

Submerge 2-3 wrappers at a time in hot (not boiling) water until completely pliable, about 15 seconds. Wrappers will become fragile, so I recommend using your hands for this. Remove from water and lay one wrapper on a flat surface, setting others aside. If your wet wrappers have small holes in them, place the holes closest towards yourself on your flat surface. For larger holes, use a double layer of wrappers.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the veggie mixture in wrappers just below the middle. Place cilantro leaves and a strip of crispy tofu along the top of the filling.

Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling and gently press down. Fold in both of the sides of the wrapper and gently press to seal. Continue rolling the spring roll up towards the top of the wrapper. If your wrapper won’t seal closed, sprinkle the top with a bit of water or make a roux of one part water and one part arrowroot to use as a sealant.

Serve with a dipping sauce.

Easy Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce


  • 1/3 cup organic peanut butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt to taste


Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I believe in synchronicity. It happens all the time in my life. I probably notice it about 1% of the time…if that.

We left Ann Arbor with the camper and the dogs yesterday to find a little wild space to hang out in for a few days. Less than an hour from Adena’s place in Ann Arbor we found a state recreation area that is pretty much deserted because it is not a weekend. When we arrived, no one was camping here. We saw signs of the holiday weekend that just ended…beer bottles and other trash tossed on the ground at some sites. We found our sweet quiet place near the lake and JC leaped over the hand rails on the long pier to swim in the lake that had a NO SWIMMING sign. I love watching a 58 year old vegan guy run along the pier and shoot his whole body over the 3 foot railing.

Within an hour of being here, I could feel my mind clear and the stress I have been feeling melt away. Instead of our usual movie, we read books to the sound of crickets and geese or soft classical music on the stereo. The dogs hung out in the mud outside the door, happy for the freedom of no fence and all the possibilities out there.

In this kind of slow quiet, I can notice synchronicity.

In the evening a Westfalia van came driving through. The guy waived as he passed and camped on the far end of the loop where we cant hear or see each other.

After a quiet long night of sleep, the dogs and I walked to the outhouse and pump and met the Westfalia guy there. The only other person in the whole place and within 5 minutes we figured out we have mutual friends and familiar spots in Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico. Byron is a potter in Detroit and seems to be “our tribe”…our kind of people.

He started talking about a place for sale near Silver City in the Gila. Faywood Hotsprings. Hundreds of acres and a hot springs in the one area of New Mexico that both JC and I can get excited about. Here is where synchronicity enters. The chances of us being here: slim. There were lots of camping places we could have gone. The chances of Byron coming to the water pump right when I was going by it: slim. I had to have my morning poo at just the right time and it had to end at just the right time and Bean had to scratch on the door of the outhouse and delay me a bit because she wanted me to open the door so she could sit at my feet in the stinky outhouse. Byron had to sleep just the right amount of time and then decide to get water at just the right time.

Synchronicity works like this: I am going to research the possibility of Faywood Hot Springs being purchased by a group of people wanting to start Vegan Village. I may find out that it is not perfect for our needs, but in the process I may come across something else that is perfect for that or I may come across a place that would just be great for backpacking or who knows what else.

It is a bit like the “hint hunts” I used to have with the girls (Sanna and Saga) in Sweden when I lived there. I would write out clues on little slips of paper. One paper slip might say: “A place where they call a friend a mate”. They would then think of Australia and hopefully think to go to the next clue taped to the Australia drawing on the glass globe of the world.

That is how this synchronicity thing works. I trust that Byron has just given me a clue that will take me to the next clue. The trick is to trust and be present. In everyday life, a major clue can pass by unnoticed. I trust that I am supposed to research Faywood Hot Springs. It may be that the minute I sit down to research it, the next clue appears. Or I may have to wait until we go research New Mexico spots and then the next clue will appear as we head toward Faywood Hot Springs. It may be that we discover something on that outing that makes us both want to take Silver City off of our HOME radar or leads us to an even better option than Faywood. That is where the trust comes in. You cannot tell how the dots connect until you look back at a bunch of them. I think this is why I love movies like Sliding Doors or Happenstance or Run Lola Run. I love how life can take turns based on the smallest details and our noticing or not noticing them.

I also love how things that seem like negatives are part of the puzzle and end up being positives. The places or situations or people we want to get away from, take us to the next place. I thought that my feeling stressed in Ann Arbor the last few days was a negative. My wrists were hurting from too much computer work for Vegfund and I was tired of highway noise and endless tasks. Ideally, I would have just been happy to be there and accept it all, right? Like the book I am reading now “How to Want What You Have” (found at a garage sale in Ann Arbor)….I should just want things as they are, right? Well, yes and no. Things as they were a few days ago also included my body and mind yelling at me to get to a slower quieter place for a few days. Part of what I had was the situation I was in and part of what I had was the choice to be somewhere else….so why not go with the choice to be in quiet wild space. That is not the same as longing for what I don’t have when it was in fact an easy choice in front of me..

Maybe a year from now I will be living in a place and be able to look back to the day in Ann Arbor when I was stressed and wanted out of there and feel grateful for it because it pushed me here which opened up the possibility of talking with Byron, which led me to research a place which led me to another place and on and on for an entire year, until I ended up standing in Utah (who knows) wondering how a bad day in Michigan got me there.

It is this kind of synchronicity that got me to visit New Mexico for the first time in the early seventies. Years earlier I was in an international dance group and would drive to the weekly dances with the same couple every time. I cannot even tell you their names right now. On one of those short drives to the dance, the woman turned to me and said, “You would love Taos New Mexico.” I had never heard of Taos and had never thought of visiting New Mexico. Years later, when a relationship ended in disaster and I wanted to leave town, I could not think of where to go. Then I remembered what that woman had said to me. I packed my little rucksack and hitchhiked to Taos with my cat. When I got there it was 2 am. I slept in a field outside town. In the morning I woke up and walked into town and noticed a flier stuck on a utility pole for a dance class that morning at 10 am. I found the community center, set my rucksack in the corner, pulled out my sleeping bag and let the cat settle in there. After the dance class people made local announcements. The class had about 15 people. Two of the people made announcements that got me a place to live and a place to work within one hour of landing in town. Years earlier, one women turning around and telling me I would like a town led me to a place I will always call home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Otherwise Caring and Intelligent People....The Two Gap Theory

Can someone help me figure out the logic in why otherwise caring and intelligent people would buy purebred dogs from petshops or breeders when there are millions of homeless dogs languishing in shelters and waiting in rescue foster homes? And while you are at it can you also help me understand why people refuse to spay and neuter their companion animals?

I can understand why billions of people care about dogs and cats, but do not care about other beings when they are labeled as food. This is an agreed upon cultural violence norm that people can feel good about because it goes mostly unquestioned. But, dogs and cats and other companion animals? We LIVE with them. How can we not make the best choices for those we live with?

This photo is dogs waiting to be slaughtered for human consumption in Asia.

Many people find this difficult to see. (This is one of the easier photos to look at of this industry)

But, why is it not equally disturbing to see other species kept like this for eggs or other foods? Chickens, sheep, cows, pigs and other species feel pain, have relationships and can also connect with humans given the chance.

And why is it not equally disturbing to think of dogs and cats right here in North America being kept in cages for their entire lives so they can be breeding machines for a greedy industry?

I really do want to understand it. I am welcoming any feedback about this from my blog readers.

I have a two gap theory. There is one gap between what the reality of an industry is and what people know. There is a second gap between what people know and what they act on.
I don't know anyone who acts on what they know 100%. I sure don't. The gap between what we know and what we act on may be the one that is at the core of the purebred/overpopulation/breeder problem in the world.

I have been thinking about this issue more lately because I have been walking in a forest everyday here in Ann Arbor Michigan that is full of highly educated university people walking their dogs. There are lots of people walking rescue dogs, but there are also many people walking purebred dogs they got at breeders or pet stores and male dogs with intact balls and unspayed female dogs in heat.

So, here is what I want to know: Do people not know the horrors of the breeding facilites (even after Oprah highlighted it)? or Do people know about the suffering that goes on in these places but choose to ignore it?

I know that denial can run deep. I have been stubborn to act on some things that I know. (I act immediately on those things that are very little effort on my part. If something requires a major change in the way I do things, I can be a bit slower. But, adopting a companion animal from a shelter or rescue does NOT require a huge leap in daily lifestyle. It is one choice. A very easy choice. 9 out of 10 of these shelter animals is killed because of lack of homes. Many people choose to only support no-kill shelters, but these are just the feel good places. When those shelters are full, people are forced to take their animals to the shelters that euthanize or they dump them on the side of the road. All shelters will be no kill shelters when we stop supporting breeding of any kind. (I am talking about companion animal breeding here, we can talk about human breeding in another cheery blog).

I have a friend who is a graduate of Harvard Business school. He is not a stupid person. But all logic seems to escape him on the issue of spaying and neutering. He thinks that it is "unnatural" to spay and neuter. He thinks that we should just release all companion animals into the wild and let nature have her way with them. Hmmm, imagine the world with all companion animals released. If it were a movie, the title would be "War on Wildlife". Not to mention the billions who would simply starve or freeze. The current situation with companion animals is not "natural" and the solution is not going to be "natural". We created a situation that we need to take responsibility for.

There are times, like now, when I can feel no hope for the human race to wake up and take care of who and what is around us. Here I am, in my work, asking the humans to please consider that other species have feelings and deserve to live their lives fully. I am asking this of a species (humans) who are still unable to even accept that all people are deserving of this. We are still abusing children, other races, other cultures and ourselves. We knowingly make choices that destroy our own health and the planet. So, how do I expect a species who cannot even care for its own kind or its own home (earth) to see beyond the differences to embrace all other life? We assume we are the most intelligent species, when in fact, most other species are far beyond us in their ability to care for self and others. Take rats, for instance. They will always choose the healthiest foods when given a choice. They will pick fruits and veggies over junk "food" everytime. We have not even got those basics figured out.

OK, back to the dog and cat issue. I am asking people to be logical about this choice. Even if you are set on a particular "must have" breed, find a rescue group on line. Or, visit a local shelter where you will often find purebreds who, like their mutt shelter mates, are surrendered because the "intelligent" human who originally adopted them did not realize that this living being actually requires some attention.

Aside from all that, I am still hoping that someone can enlighten me on why this basic companion animal choice is so difficult for people. In terms of our awareness of other species and how our lifestyle choices affect them, the companion animal issues should be a no brainer. This is kindergarten in the school of animal welfare/rights. As I sit in this room at Adena's with four rescued dogs, I look around at their individual faces and the personalities that each one has. One of them was rescued from a facility that was about to sell him to a lab to be experimented on. He is looking at me right now. Those same eyes could have been pleading with a vivisector to please not do anymore painful experiments or to please give him something to ease the pain of the previous experiment. I do not want to put difficult images here on the blog. But for those willing to witness what we are doing to dogs in labs, go to this link:
I have been working on these issues for so long. Sometimes I just want to quit it all and go be in a beautiful place and do nothing but notice the stars or the sunrise or the wind on my face. And then I remember all I have seen and heard and smelled in the world of these voiceless beings who live in hellish conditions everyday of their lives. I have no choice but to speak up for them when I can.....
This is not such a cheery blog posting. Life's not always so cheery.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And Don't Forget the GRATITUDE!!!!

JC and Adena rode with me to the farmers market yesterday. We cannot resist stopping at every garage sale along the way. We are on the hunt for lightweight perfect storage for campers. And the occasional useless tchotchke (yiddish), knickknack (english), pootie nootie (swedish), kikorokoro (swahili).
I found the jiggling hula man for someone's dashboard.
He is already in the mail heading to my friend Wendy for her outdoor mosaic heavenly gardens.

At one sale, it seemed that everything in the house was up for grabs. When we pedaled up to the front porch, there were about 5 people (including a smiling dark haired man in his forties in a wheelchair) who greeted us. Inside the house was everything from decades of old Mother Earth News mags to canning and gardening supplies. The whole porch had great tools. Everything was perfectly organized. I asked a guy in the kitchen if the sale was a benefit for some organization. "Nope, it is actually our friend Steve's house and he had an accident and can't live here anymore. He fell down some stairs in February and is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life now. He was a great carpenter...and gardener..and cook. But there is no way to make this house accessible and he moved to an apartment." I started looking at everything through new eyes....I pictured the smiling man I had seen out on the lawn walking through the house and canning veggies and fixing up the place with those tools.
I didn't bother doing my usual haggling for the best prices. I just paid the asking price.
We stood next to the wheelchair, straddling our bikes and got to know Steve a little. 7 months after his accident, he was sitting in his tall wheelchair unable to use his arms or legs or open his hands. He proudly showed us the one finger he could move. He was so positive and warm. Even while telling us that he lost his job and had to leave his favorite house and gardens because of the accident, he was smiling and hopeful looking about what he might be able to do with some more time and work in physical therapy.
As the three of us said goodbye to him and lifted our healthy feet onto the pedals of our bikes, I was aware of every easy movement I usually take for granted. I cried as we left the yard sale. I wasn't crying because I felt sorry for Steve. I was crying because life can change on a dime. One minute you are running and the next minute you're horizontal and being told you will not walk again. And I wasn't even crying because of that. I was crying because I can forget to be grateful. Everyday I forget. Not all the time, but most of the time. I forget to be grateful for this healthy body, my loving partner, my loving friends and family, my unlimited choices, my lack of hardship. I actually think that I have hardship sometimes....but I don't. I have such ease. I have everything a sane person would want. I cried at the way I can be so blind to how lucky I am to be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk the dogs for hours or type these words on this machine or cook up great meals. I complain about this and that....the weather, the computer "taking my time", my fuzzy hair, my poofer belly, my wrinkles, and blah blah blah.....
All I can think right now as my fingers fly on this keyboard is "I am so fucking blessed. I hope I never forget it." And I know I will. And I know that some Steve or some other person or thing will end up right in front of me to remind me that I have EVERYTHING I need...and lots of pootie nootie I don't need.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Busy Bees with Vegfund.....

Here is an article in Vegnews Online about Vegfund.
check it out!
We are incredibly busy with this project.
Rewarding and wild.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Consistency Ahhhhhhhhhhh years my dogs were veg. I figured that it was crazy to care about them by causing suffering to the animals used for dogfood.
Then came a dog who did not want to eat that veggie food. Combine that with my Jewish upbringing and things definitely went in a backward direction. I am happiest when everyone is full and "wanting for nothing" as my family says. The idea that my dog or anyone in my life would go hungry for even an hour makes me sad. When my various dogs have had surgery and they say "no food after midnight on the day before the surgery, my heart sinks. I set the alarm and give them their "last supper" at five minutes to midnight. I do the same with myself. I am a chow hound. If I weren't a vegan who loves healthy food, I would weigh about 200 pounds.
OK, back to the dogfood issue. I slipped into feeding not just one, but both dogs, meat based dog food. I went into that sleepy denial that lets us forget about decades of knowing about, seeing and teaching about the horrors and violence in the animal agriculture industries. I turned my back on what I know to be true: The animals used for human and non-human food suffer in ways that would shock most consumers. If slaughterhouses, factory farms, trucking companies who ship animals, and stockyards all had glass walls, the meat industry would go belly up. It is amazing what we can deny. I have seen all the images. Not just a few times. Hundreds of times. I have shown the films and slide images of the violence in factory farming to children and adults in education programs for years. And yet, somehow, I pushed this information aside and went back to feeding meat to the dogs.
Then, just last week, JC and Adena and I went to see Food Inc.

We leafleted with the Vegan Outreach Compassionate Choices booklet before and after the film and everyone took one on the way out. This is not a vegan film by any means. It is a film about how our food is becoming less and less food and more and more product. The film did include footage of animal agriculture. Mostly footage I had seen before, but for some reason it grabbed me this time. It may be because is came on the heels of a discussion about what I feed the dogs. The three of us had this discussion. This makes realize the power of not only a well made film, but of a well timed, unthreatening, open discussion with friends and family.
After the film I announced that I would no longer buy animal products for the dogs. JC is delighted. He has been wanting this for three years. Bean and Tikvah were not happy at first. But they did not have to go hungry for long. They scarf down the veggie food almost as fast as they did the meat food. As a little side benefit, it seems to be changing Beans preferences and she is taking part in Tikvah's nightly raw cabbage feed in (his favorite treat).
Having this consistency back in my life feels wonderful.
I was feeling very hypocritical when leading programs on compassionate living and feeding my dogs tortured beings.
(Downed cow being dragged onto truck by chain-What we no longer support)

I am breathing a sigh of relief. We all are. Me, JC, Tikvah (who has been prone to tumors and should not be eating any meat), Bean (who is young and will hopefully be healthier with this way of eating), and the thousands of animals who will not be raised, trucked and slaughtered for any of us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Mint On the Pillow

(from left to right: Bean, Me, Taylor, Crystal)

We are with the whole pack. Adena and her two dogs, Taylor and Crystal.
They welcomed us with open arms and paws.
No mint on the pillow, but plenty of wet dog noses instead.
We will be here in Ann Arbor until Adena's house sale finalizes and we can finish helping her pack it all up.

Then Bean having an affair with Adena:

Jim and Lydia came to visit and have dinner.......we all laughed so hard we were getting "the look" from the other booths...hmmmm, was it our laughing or the ever present event happening on Lydia's head? She signs her email "big hugs, not big hair". I thought that the Vegetarian Summerfest should have put her hair on the schedule as an event.
Wherever she travels people ask to have their photo taken with her. This sweet little cross between a model, a chia pet and and cousin It also happens to be one of the best vegan bakers around.

Lydia has had an affinity for all creatures for her entire life. But when you combine this with her girly girl-ness, you get someone who, if you wrote a book about her, you would have to call it fiction because no one would believe it otherwise. As a teenager she took her pet boa to the vet because he was sick. The vet kept questioning her about what she was feeding the snake. She kept insisting she wasn't feeding the snake anything weird. The vet eventually figured out that the snake was swallowing bubbles during his regular bubble baths and told Lydia to stop bathing her snake. Crazy kid. Jim's claim to fame is the Vidalia onion and Yukon Gold potato.....they are on your grocer's shelf because of him.