Saturday, August 02, 2008

wings and local things

You’ve heard maybe of the 2000 Watt Society? Where communities (so far, mainly Swiss) attempt to stay within that limit of energy consumption without necessarily lowering their standard of living? Just so you know, Americans on the average use six times that amount (Europeans, at 6000 -- three times the goal).

Almost inadvertently, I’m a successful greenie. The things I like don’t require fuel. I hardly ever drive, I like to bike and use public transportation, I hate air conditioning and I live in a unit that is small and so energy efficient, that I can barely tell a winter gas bill from a summer one. I eat market foods, minimally cooked. I don’t really acquire things. I mean, I astonish myself as to how green I am, given that I don’t really try.

Except in one area: I am an awful user of airplanes. A trip to Europe adds Watts to your tally in such heavy doses that traveling by rail and on foot once there hardly helps. And, since rail service in this country is so poor, I use planes to visit daughters out east all the time.

So on balance, I climb back up to the level of the average European. But I swear, the day they launch that first high speed train between the Midwest and the East coast, I’ll be down there with the Swiss purists, hiking shoes and all.

I thought about all this yesterday, as I spent a good part of the day inside, working on things and wishing that I had a nice solid trip before me. I don’t. Not for a while anyway. I sighed a deeply green sigh and looked for other distractions.

And wouldn’t you know it – the afternoon teased me with a dazzling array of wings. Not of the airplane type, but of the more fragile ones that require flapping rather than fuel.

Here, take a look at this guy. Watching me (or a mouse; I couldn't really tell). Just down the block from my condo.

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Inspired, Ed and I set out for the Olbrich Gardens. To see the butterflies.

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Purchase photo 1939

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Purchase photo 1938

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Purchase photo 1937

We stay until the conservatory shuts down for the day. At the tail end, empty of visitors, the place takes on an eerie, steamy quiet. So that you find yourself listening for butterfly wings.

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Purchase photo 1936

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Purchase photo 1935

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Purchase photo 1934

Eventually, we head out for a quick stroll in the outdoor gardens. For the bees.

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Purchase photo 1933

Finally, we spin towards Ed’s shed. To feed his cats. I’m on the motorbike now, talking to my daughter on the cell and I look up to see this pair… (I consider it a photographic feat worthy of a circus act: cell held to the ear by helmet, one hand on Ed’s hip, the other – clicking away, trying to catch the herons in flight.)

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Purchase photo 1932

…and on the final stretch, we pass the wetlands. Home to mosquitoes, sure. Home to these as well:

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Purchase photo 1931

It was a good afternoon.

And this morning, I am again at my local Westside Community Market. I stock up on tomatoes, beets, potatoes, garlic, onions, lettuce, milk, cucumbers, carrots, corn, blueberries and… mint (in a jug with water and slices of lemon – my summer drink of choice). I decide to pass on an invitation to attend the Experimental Aircraft Association hoopla thing in Oshkosh. I don’t know if it adds Watts to your tally to simply watch planes fly, but I may as well have one pure month of green saintliness before my itch to visit places that are way too far away gets to be too strong to ignore.

But for today, I'll leave you with three very local, very seasonal vendors, standing at the market almost side by side: Blue Moon, Primrose and Morningwood:

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Purchase photo 1930

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Purchase photo 1929

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Purchase photo 1928