Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose

I love this theme! The mission of getting stuff out of the garbage system and back into useful circulation is part of the vision of Scholar & Poet Books, our home business. We don’t sell just used books but lots of other things we’ve picked up at estate sales and other places along the way. Valuing these castaways goes along with having an endless curiosity and a passion for treading lightly on the planet. You might say that we look at these things as artifacts, the world as a huge museum. 

But for clever, I have to defer to my daughter. She and her husband are proud nerds and bibliophiles. She decided to make some of the flowers for their wedding decor and bouquets out of the pages of well-used books that had lost their covers. 

paper rose

The overall effect was perfect, and perfectly suited to them. 

Remember: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-purpose, Refuse! (for more great information about reducing waste, see The Story of Stuff Project).

Repurpose

All That Matters

(this is a featured article in this month’s issue of The Be Zine. Click here to see the whole thing.)

Once upon a time, there were a bunch of Big Brains who decided that living things (which they rarely called ‘living beings’) needed to be neatly organized. Grouping things together based on similarity was important to them for some reason. So they made up categories and named them Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, in succession from broad to specific. Then they had to remember these categories, so they memorized “Kindly Professors Cannot Often Fail Good Students” – apropos of nothing much. (Personally, I think “Kindly People Courageously Offer Fauna/Flora General Sympathy” might make better sense.)

 Meanwhile, some other Big Brains decided that everything in the Universe was made by one Creator and that He gave humans dominion over all the other animal species on Earth and gave every plant for human use. That made them feel they were Most Important among the creatures on the planet. They felt very comfortable with that and valued themselves, and those that looked and acted most like them, very highly. 

As for those creatures who were terribly different from them, well, they were kind of “icky”.

 Well, these Big Brains were very clever. They prospered and multiplied (and divided and conjugated and came up with quantum physics). They learned how to make a Big Impact on the Earth, making things they liked out of the raw materials Earth had. And every year, there were more of them. They liked to be comfortable, so they tried to eliminate things that bothered them. Like locusts. grasshopperAnd dandelions. Dandelion

They liked to be powerful, so they claimed victories over other living things that had power. Like lions. StoryAnd giant sequoias. 

Sequoia sempervirens

Gradually, they noticed that some of the other living things (or Living Beings) were disappearing completely. buffalo Some people thought that was a shame, especially if the thing was useful or furry or had a face. badger Others noticed that when one type of thing was gone, things began to change for the rest as well. bee happy A few Big Brains began to ask some really Tough Questions about why things on the Earth were changing so quickly and whether the Big Impact of humans had anything to do with it.

I can’t tell you the ending of this story. Perhaps the Big Brains will disappear like so many other Living Beings did, scale 2 and Earth will go on without them. intricate 2 Perhaps the Big Brains will become less numerous, less dominant, and Earth will go on with them. horse and rider Perhaps something altogether different will happen. It doesn’t really matter how I tell the story.

What does matter?

Well, here on Earth, ‘matter’ can also mean every Living Being boxy frown and every non-Living Thing.

What we Big Brains decide to do with all matter will matter and will help tell the end of the story. migration stop

© 2016, essay and all photographs by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved


Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken is not Finished

This week’s challenge is perfect for the photos I took yesterday at Hippie Tom’s Serendipity Farm – an antique/junque pickers’ and gleaners’ mecca in Southeastern Wisconsin.  Steve and I were out for a ramble through a wildlife area and stumbled upon the road signs advertizing his sale.  The parking area was bustling, TV cameras were rolling, and Hippie Tom was in full swing for Spring.  It seems that his farm is only open twice a year for the public to browse and discover treasure in his vast complex of old out-buildings.  It’s a jungle of old and semi-new, broken and mostly intact, recyclable and re-purposeable stuff.  And we do create a lot of stuff, us humans.  It makes no sense to simply throw it on a trash heap, polluting the land with it.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse.  Broken is not finished.  There is purpose and life even during brokenness.  If there weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to type with my left pinkie right now.  (Broke it in high school.  It’s distinctly crooked, but usable.  Yup, I play keyboards and sometimes guitar with it…not expertly, but ‘proficiently’.)


Broken

80 Years in Eight Days — Day Number Six: Ten Administrative Aids

My mother’s birthday is but 2 days away now.  I’ve told you a bit about her specific talents in music, cooking and parenting, but she also possesses a general talent for being organized and efficient.  She is a Domestic Engineer, by her own reckoning.  She comes by it honestly, for her much-admired father was a professional electrical engineer.  Her administrative skills are well-developed and have been applied to a multitude of volunteer positions, from Girl Scout leader to chamber concert coordinator to clerk of the Vestry to museum archivist.  She has raised money, written newsletters, cataloged artifacts, designed living and office space, kept detailed financial records, chronicled events, communicated, consulted, collaborated, and carried on for so many organizations that I could never recall them all.  To my knowledge, she has not received any remuneration since graduating from college.  Nevertheless, she is highly professional and knows how to get a job done.  Because of her, my awareness of basic functional habits goes back to my early childhood.  Here are 10 of her specific instructions.

1) Write it down.  Whatever it is, a shopping list or a line of poetry, if you want to remember and refer to it, write it down.  My mother’s tiny notes could be found in any number of spiral bound flip pads in our house.  She’s not so untidy as to leave them on single Post-Its or envelopes.  I now carry Moleskine pads in my hiking backpack because even on the trail, my thoughts are harmonized with the echo of my mother’s admonition: write it down. 

2) Use double-entry bookkeeping for your finances.  With numbers, it’s better to write it down twice.  (Sorry, Mom.  I stopped doing this a long time ago, and I also don’t balance my checkbook anymore.  Online debit records are all I’ve got now.  Don’t worry; it’ll do.)

3) Label it.  Remember those label-making guns that punched letters one by one onto a plastic strip?  That was a bit much for Mom, but her laundry marking pen, white cotton bias tape and adhesive tape were always on hand.  With four girls in the house and summer camp every year, you can bet she was keen to keep everything straight.  Even our dolls were marked at the nape of the neck with our initials.  Why else would my doll be called ‘P Baby’?

1965

4) Never go upstairs empty-handed.  (You’d laugh, Mom, at how many times I have said this to Steve as he’s moving books up and down from the attic.)  I went so far as to purchase stair baskets when I had 4 kids and a big house.  Making every effort efficient was my mother’s goal, within the house and in the broad world.  So…

5) Plan your errands well in advance.  For most of their marriage, my parents shared one car.  On the one or two days in the week when she had a vehicle, her route was specifically engineered to save time and gas.  There was no “running out to pick up something” at odd times of the day.  Everything — bank, library, dry-cleaners, grocery store, filling station, school, church office — was expertly orchestrated in one trip.  I have internalized this mode.  I do not “shop” or browse or dilly-dally when going to procure something.  Even a Christmas tree.  (ask Susan)  This trait drives Steve nuts sometimes.   It’s not spontaneous; it’s not in the moment; it’s not an interesting way to travel.  I have to turn off the “get the job done” mentality deliberately when our purpose is experience.

6) Clip coupons and keep them organized.  This is part of planning your errands and shopping trips.  Mom’s library scissors were always in the center drawer of her desk.  When Dad was done with reading the paper, she’d get to work.  It’s a habit that can get out of hand, though.  I always kept a card file box full of coupons, most of which had expired long ago, in my kitchen.  Finally, when I moved, I pitched it, but not without hesitation.   I now keep just a handful under a magnet on my fridge.

7) Waste not.  This is deep in Mom’s blood and deep in mine, Scottish heritage and all.  Keep those bones for soup stock.  Keep that packing material for your next mailing.  Keep those worn jeans for shorts and patches. And you can bet that with 4 girls, the youngest (me) was always in hand-me-downs!  I think most Americans have lost this value long ago, much to the disadvantage of the planet. 

the couch

8) Recycle.  Mom was doing this before it was convenient.  There was no curb-side recycling in the 60s, but along with her other errands, she’d visit the recycling center with paper sacks of old newspapers, boxes of aluminum cans, and glass bottles separated by color.  There was no plastic recycling then. 

9) Load your appliances correctly.  Dishwashers and washing machines and dryers take lots of energy…your own as well as the power company’s.  Learn to pack them well.  My mother was always able to get more into the dishwasher after I’d loaded it.  I’ve gone back to washing dishes by hand, but I’m always trying to figure out how to use less water and fit more on the drying rack.  It’s a good practice. 

10) Put the kitchen to bed before you retire.  A clean kitchen in the morning is a lot nicer to wake up to.  A clean house is nicer to come home to after a vacation.  I think of the ending scenes in PBS programs like “Upstairs, Downstairs” and The Boston Pops concerts: the char woman cleaning up before the lights go out, and the stage is ready for the next installment.  It gives me a very settled feeling to follow this example.  Of course, tidy endings aren’t always attainable.  That’s life.  I do my best. 

photo by Steve

photo by Steve

Happy Earth Day!

Where were you in 1970 when Earth Day was first celebrated?  I was 7 years old.  My particular corner of Earth was a suburb of Chicago where I played in a Forest Preserve across the street from my house.  I learned to recognize wild flowers like violets and Jack-in-the Pulpit and animals like squirrels and blue jays.  I picked up litter that motorists had thrown out their windows or that picnickers had left in the woods.  I’d often find broken beer or Boones Farm Strawberry Hill bottles near the concrete structure off the trail, within the circle of the remains of a campfire.  I could never understand why people would just leave their trash behind.  My parents would not tolerate that kind of disrespectful behavior in me, and I was incredulous that adults could get away with it.  I would come home and tell my mother (a Girl Scout leader) that I’d found evidence of people not “leaving the place cleaner than they found it”.  I can still feel my girlish outrage.  When I was in 6th grade, I joined an Eco Club and volunteered to help pick up trash in the playground after school.  I think I was the only one.  I remember being alone with a big trash bag, meandering the grounds and talking to myself.  I was very happy feeling that I was contributing to the Ecology Movement.  Now that I’m 50, the scope of my awareness has outgrown the patch of land I call my neighborhood.  I still feel outrage; I still hope to be part of the solution but on a more grown-up scale.  How to do that as an individual is perplexing.  There is not one easy button to push to do it.  It is a network of decisions, with threads crisscrossing from recycling to teaching to voting.  To stay engaged, to keep up the effort, to put energy into learning and practicing responsibility is the way of Earth friendliness.  How is your friendship with Earth going today?

Earth Day© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Scholar and Poet Books – Announcing Our E-Bay Store!

sbp3

Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally!  Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing.  Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days.  Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!  Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles.  Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me.  He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII.  He was in his original box and in excellent condition.  We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many!  Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany.  It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home!  We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.

P1060543

This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years.  In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well.  He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online.  I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits.  That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured.  I tell you, I’m learning a LOT!  Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes.  There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating. 

So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity.  There’s much more to come!  Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Steve and I donated our hair to Locks of Love yesterday.  Ten inches each.  A wonderful way to re-purpose hair if you don’t have your own compost pile.  We got our cuts for free and were left with enough to still pull into a ponytail so that hair care on our camping trip will be a bit easier.  Thanks to MaeLyn and Megan at Azana Spa in Brookfield, we are now ready to roll down the road a bit freer and easier!  Here’s a gallery of shots of the event: