“We can reclaim biodiversity and habitats within human landscapes.”
– Thomas Rainer
That scaly fellow swaying from our coast rosemary (Westringia) is a San Diego Alligator lizard. He was kicking it in the bush midday, most likely on the hunt for the airborne critters visiting the purple flowers that bloom winter through spring. It’s been cold here for LA, and I suspect food is tricky to come by. The sighting was a victory of sorts. One year ago, our yard was a dirt hole. Now, there’s a lot of things like that lizard creeping, crawling and flying around here. The yard is alive, and I don’t mind saying, I’m proud of that fact. Turning our property into habitat has been a dream since the day we set eyes on the place. I feel strongly about this. In fact, if I could, I’d make it a law: Anyone lucky enough to own a home with any amount of land should be required to make 50% of that property habitat for the local flora and fauna. That’s right, a law, punishable by death…or…no internet access.
New York’s radical greening is becoming world famous, from the High Line to an overall, pollinator-friendly park’s initiative that is making all 5 boroughs more beautiful and more environmentally sound. Taking environmentally smart design to a whole new level, here’s an interview @ InHabit.Com with Ate Atema Architects about a bio-design idea that could radically impact water quality, CO2 emissions, and biodiversity, all in one, not-so-simple but very elegant living machine for the people of New York City.
A little while back, I wrote about the decimation of the Monarch butterfly population in my garden at the hands of a Chinese Mantis. Well, behold the lady in question, all three inches of her. With huge spiked claws 1/3 her body length and wide-set eyes with a binocular field of vision, this non-native, invasive lady is built to kill.
And so, as much as I hate her for her impact on the already struggling Monarch migration, I must admit, she’s terrifyingly cool to stare at…especially given the hair raising way she stares back.
I have been accused of being earnest and an idealist. The implication being I’m some sort of shiny-eyed optimist who believes we can mitigate humanities ravages of the planet by making everyone plant milkweed for butterflies. But I promise, get a few beers in me and I’ll happily launch into a dark rant about the genocidal and suicidal leanings of humanity. No animal on earth is better built for self-destruction than us. But, focusing on oblivion is not a healthy use of this sensitive Pisces’ time. And now, with Niko in the mix, it would be downright selfish. Seriously, only an asshole would bring a kid into the world without focusing on, and trying to create, tools for a sustainable tomorrow. Because I own a home in environmentally challenged Los Angeles, I tend to focus large and small scale projects that have the ability to radically impact our overall quality of life, promote biodiversity and rebuild greenspace wherever possilible. So logically, I’m thinking of Staten Island…
My wife writes on a TV show that shoots in New York City. Twice a year or so, she needs to be on set for about 3 weeks. Up until Niko was born, this meant I got to wander Manhattan and Brooklyn, eat a lot of food, and meet old friends for drinks. Post-Niko, I can’t wheel around so freely. Luckily, the 26th street entrance to the High Line Park is three blocks away from where we stay, and I’ve taken to walking the length of it daily. I’m not alone. The staggering success of this post-industrial eyesore turned iconic city park is renowned world-wide, and evident from the throngs of locals and visitors alike wandering it’s 1.5 mile length, cameras pressed to faces, shooting in all directions, rain or shine.
Floating above Chelsea, The High Line sublimely removes you from, and gives you a richer context for, the city you are in. It reminds me of the utopian designs imagined by Buckminster Fuller, of a city living in balance and harmony, saved by smart, conscious design. From its forested start at Gansevoort Street all the way to wild weeds of 31st Street, The High Line has a singular ability to constantly reframe Manhattan historically, architecturally and, most important from my perspective, naturally. Among all that the High Line is, an often overlooked thing is plant and animal habitat on a scale I didn’t think was possible in Manhattan. From spring into fall, the flowering plants of the High Line are vibrating with pollinators like honey bees, wasps, Monarch butterflies and Swallowtail butterflies, to name a few.
Electronic music prodigy, (no pun intended) Moby, landed in LA a few years back, moved into the hills, and, after a swarm of honey bees took up residency, became a de-facto bee keeper. He has since taken up the fight to save the bees. Cool little video. The message: Create pollinator habitat.
Charles and Charles flew the nest today. Both Monarchs hatched this morning, between 7 am and 10 am. We let them take a few hours to fill out their wings before releasing them. Needless to say, a pretty cool thing to watch them fly off. Aniko, in true Aniko form, expressed her delight by nearly pinching them to death, but Sian successfully intervened, and no butterflies were handicapped in the making of this post.
So, that’s a total of three Monarch’s returned to the migration. We hope. It’s a tough journey for those critters under the best of circumstances, and these days, circumstances aren’t their best. Don’t forget, next year, plant milkweed and raise Monarch’s. Keep the flowers flowering and the fruit fruity.
In the months leading up to the birth of our daughter, Sian and I attended a birth class. One night, the instructor, Kathy, told the class to write down their list of essential “Must Do’s” prior to the birth of their child. It was important, she stressed, that we were clear about what we needed accomplished BEFORE the birth. Without skipping a beat, I jotted down my top priority. One by one, we went around the room, reading our lists. Everyone had pretty similar “Must Do’s”: “install car-seat”, “purchase breast pump” or “build nursery”. I looked down at my paper. The only thing I’d written was, “Plant the Butterfly Garden”. Embarrassed, I tried to bury my paper in my pocket. But before I could, Sian raised her hand and, with mock innocence, asked, “So, Kathy, would planting a butterfly garden be something you’d categorize as ‘essential’?” Everyone laughed.
Look, all my life I’ve geeked out over animals. And one thing I always assumed I’d do is get to see the Monarch butterfly’s legendary migration. But then I began reading stories about the steep decline of the Monarch and a profound feeling took over took me: This can’t happen. I want to go see this with my kid someday. But what can I do? I’m not a powerful person. I don’t have much money, and I don’t have political office. My sphere of influence, as a great teacher once called it, is not that impressive. And so, I got this butterfly garden in my head. Continue reading The Charles’s Project→
At the age of 42, I was a single guy who’d lived in the same apartment for two decades, riding around in a 1984 Land Cruiser wagon with his 6o pound mutt, Burt. I had no ambition to own a house, no intention of having kids, and lived only to make enough money to load up my truck, go hiking in the mountains, surfing in the ocean, ride my mountain bike and take pictures. And serial date women. I was an LA based, Peter Pan who tolerated protracted and ridiculous battles with his land-lady in order to enjoy doing whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I eschewed commitment like a dog avoids a cattle grate. Then I met my soon-to-be wife, Sian. The gig was up three hours into our first date. Continue reading Enter, Aniko…→