Happy Halloween

I've never been all that into Halloween. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely into eating candy, but it's just not one of my favorite holidays. This might have something to do with growing up in a conservative Christian city where, for the most part, bobbing for apples at Church festivals is the extent of the celebration of Halloween. Growing up, we didn't talk too much about "the dark side." After all, it was the Christians who started All Saints Day, a day for celebrating saints and martyrs, a "holier" holiday than its predecessor, the pagan-rooted Samhain. Samhain, an ancient harvest festival with roots in Celtic paganism, marked the transition from the light time of year to the dark time of year. It was believed that the line between the living and dead worlds became thin on this day and that the spirits of the dead came to the living world on Samhain to destroy crops and spook the living. Well, we all know what Halloween is today, a 5 billion dollar (in the US alone) celebration of candy and costumes, the second highest grossing holiday after Christmas. Don't get me wrong, that's all well and good, but this year, I've been thinking about the roots of Halloween, the idea of light and dark and the fact that neither one can exist without the other. Though it's tempting to do so, I think it's dangerous to deny the dark side of humanity. It exists within us all. I don't believe that people are born inherently good or evil. That just seems unfair.

"Man is a demon. Man is a god. Both true."
(from Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love)

We are born with and live our whole lives with a heart that has equal potential to expand and to contract. This year, for me, Halloween is a time to reflect on that, to admit and accept it as Truth. For me, the beauty of THE GOOD IN YOU is that being Good, doing Good, is a choice, the way Love is a decision and an action. And now I'll leave it to a real writer, Barry Lopez, to say exactly what I mean:

"No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one's own culture but within oneself. It there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of a leaning into the light."

I love the way our houseplant friend, Lilydale
leans into the light.

And I love the way you all, my dear friends and family,
lean into the light, too.

But, enough about the good in you. What about your dark side? I had heaps of fun with Picnik's Halloween features turning some of my favorite people into frightening creatures of the dark. I would hereby like to issue my formal apology to the following people/dog for turning your beautiful faces into ugly ones. So, to Chrissy, Tara, Manders, Yuki, Jason, and Mom & Dad, I'm sorry.

from a not-so-lovely ME:


World Vegan Day or Eat a Kangaroo Day, You Decide.

Just wanted to inform/remind everybody that November 1st is World Vegan Day. And November is World Vegan Month. In response to this, Jason and I have decided to attempt to go vegan for the month of November, which is no easy quest given our love for cheese. I want to challenge you to do the same, if not for the whole month, then at least for the one day? And if not vegan, then maybe just vegetarian? Many of you already know the facts about the connection between factory farm production and the environment. But just in case you don't or you'd like to be reminded, and most of all because I'm trying to motivate myself to lay off the cheese, ( I mean dairy cows are fartin' up the atmosphere too, right?) here are some cold hard facts:

This snippet is taken from Good: http://www.good.is/post/meats_multiplier_effect/

Since 1961 the world’s total meat supply has quadrupled from 71 million tons to 284 tons, and per capita consumption has more than doubled—rising twice as fast in the developing world, according to The New York Times. While American consumption is steady (about eight ounces per day, roughly twice the global average), there is growing concern about the fact that we process—that is grow and kill—10 billion animals a year, accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total. The catch is this: Processing animals is connected to energy use, and reducing meat-eating by 20 percent would have the comparable effect of everyone switching from a standard sedan to a Prius. It all comes back to the carbon footprint, doesn’t it?

Speaking of Priuses and meat, you may have heard about Michael Pollan's comment at the Pop!Tech conference recently. He said, "“A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius.” This comment may be catchy, but it's not exactly true. Adam Pasick (http://blogs.reuters.com/adam-pasick/2009/10/26/crunching-the-numbers-on-a-vegan-in-a-hummer/ did some fact checking and it turns out, according to a published paper written by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago, which looked at the relative carbon footprints of plant-based and red-meat diets, that the difference between a heavy meat-eating diet and a vegan diet was about 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year. The difference between a Prius and an SUV (they used a Suburban, which gets about the same mileage as a Hummer) was 4.76 tons per year.

Here's another interesting fact: Did you know that the livestock population is expanding at a faster rate than the human population? According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock now outnumber people by more than 3 to 1. http://www.fao.org/ Given how overabundant the human population is, that's a scary thought. I mean I love cows and pigs just as much as the next guy, but I don't love them that much.

But this post is not all doom and gloom. If you think it would just be too hard to give up meat, have no fear! The Australians are here to save the day! Check this out from http://www.popsci.com.au/jaya-jiwatram/article/2008-10/ecological-leap:

Professor Ross Garnaut, a government adviser on climate change, is urging his fellow Aussies to serve kangaroo meat in place of beef or lamb, because the marsupials produce negligible amounts of environmentally damaging methane gas. On the other hand, cattle and sheep, according to Garnaut's 620-page study, produce a considerable amount of methane gas through belching and flatulence, and are among the millions of livestock responsible for approximately 67 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. In order to help the environment, he proposes that Australia, which is one of the world's largest per-capita producers of greenhouse gas emissions, should decrease its cattle and sheep populations by seven million and 36 million respectively, and increase its kangaroo numbers from 34 million to 240 million by 2020. The study cites other benefits, too: kangaroo meat is low in fat and high in protein levels, and the animals survive better in times of drought.

So, now that we all have the facts, the choice is yours: what's it going to be, kale or kangaroo? I'm going with the kale. For one, I've already committed to a vegetarian diet which I am quite satisfied with. In fact, I just had my 5 year Vegetarian anniversary! which I celebrated by eating a double patty burger topped with chili and bacon. No. I didn't.
And the other reason I'm going with Kale?

Why would I want to eat Skippy, the most bad-ass, crime fighting kangaroo of all time?
Not to mention Kanga or Roo!


No. It's a perfect day for a PEARfect day.

Not that anyone necessarily cares
but for what it's worth
I decided I like pears.

When I first met Jason, he did not particularly care for mushrooms. He didn't despise them or anything, but he really didn't like them either. But one day, shortly after we started dating, he announced to me that he was going to start liking mushrooms. And just like that, without making a big fuss about it, he did just that, he started liking mushrooms and has been happily eating them ever since. Now though I was probably already head over heels at that point, I fell in love with him even more that day. I am inspired by people who aren't afraid to challenge their own notions. Like my friend Sarahreed, who used to HATE running, but for whatever reason started running anyway and is now a dedicated runner who competes in marathons for crying out loud! That's a beautiful thing. Who we are is not set in stone. We have these amazing capacities for change, adaptation, evolution. But we don't always utilize these abilities. We form many opinions about things when we're young and then we rarely challenge those ideas again. Which leads me to pears. I have felt my whole life about pears the way Jason felt about mushrooms. I never thought they were totally disgusting, but simply that I'd rather not eat them, what with the texture being a little creepy and all. I tried them maybe a few times when I was young and didn't really like them, so, for the last however many years I've simply avoided them. But, when I stop and think about it, pears are beautiful things. I love their shape and color, and maybe most of all, their cute little freckles. They are rich in fiber, vitamin c, k and copper. Homer, in The Odyssey, referred to them as the gift of the gods. What's not to like, right? So, I decided the other day when Jason and I bought some pears, that I was going to like them. I've been anxiously waiting for them and my love for them to ripen. Well, I am happy to announce that not only did I just eat, but also ENJOYED! a delicious pear, and I'm pretty excited about it. It's exciting to open yourself up to new things. Last year, I started liking canteloupe, this year, it's pears. Next year, I think I'll tackle my disdain for watermelon. But I don't care what anyone says, I will never, not ever like lima beans. Not in a box, not with a fox, nor in a house or with a mouse! So, to anyone who reads this, I present a challenge: Renew your mind. Think of some thing, person, place or idea that you have negative energy towards and try to change that conception into something positive. Or maybe try something new you've always been closed off to. Maybe you'll find you do like green eggs and ham after all. And now, for a tribute to my newfound friend, THE PEAR! A picture and a poem:

poem by Linda Paston



Some days
(like yesterday
when I walked around the CBD
looking for HELP WANTED signs
on business windows and doors)
I feel like this:

and yet
some days
I feel like this:

wishing You
one of these


Trains are Awesome!

On Sunday, Jason and I experienced the infamous Puffing Billy, a century old narrow gauge heritage railway which meanders through the southern foothills of the Dandenong Ranges. This railway was originally one of four experimental lines used to develop rural areas in the early 1900's. The Puffing Billy is the only remaining line and is operated almost exclusively by volunteers of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society. We stopped over at Emerald Lake Park for a few pleasant hours before heading back to the city.

(Sunshine & fresh air + gorgeous views of smiling children & countryside = a very happy Tracy.)

Here are some pictures from the day set to a live version of Telephone & Rubber Band by Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

*At one of the stations we passed along the way they were having a special Meet Thomas & Friends event, so some of these pictures were taken especially for the one and only Abe Stoller! Wish you could have been there, buddy!

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On Sunday, Jason, our friend Dave, and I went to Shedfest, a wine festival highlighting some of the smaller vineyards in the Yarra Valley. After arriving in the area by train, a free shuttle service took us from vineyard to vineyard where we tasted some fantastic wine and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and scenery. It was one of those near-perfect days, the kind that makes you glad you're alive and well to experience such beauty and deliciousness in the world. We even managed to make a couple new friends.

I'm not sure if any of the wines we tried are available in the States, but just in case, if you see any from Ainsworth Estate, Elmswood Estate, Five Oaks Vineyard, or Whispering Hills, (all from the Yarra Valley) snatch them up cause each makes some damn fine wine.

Slideshow music provided by Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet, song: A Fuller Wine
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(taken from the Zenrin)

It's Spring now in Melbourne; we've sprung our clocks forward, little scattered bursts of color and light are springing forth, and on warm days the breeze carries with it the sound of children's laughter in the gardens. With all this springing! going on around me, I'm struggling to put some much needed springs in my own step. The experience of being here is strange. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a dream and I can't quite wake up to fully realize and experience what's going on around me. Those who know me well would argue, and I admittedly concur, that I'm sort of like that normally anyway, that I'm often in my own little world. Spacey Tracy. I'm sure everyone feels from time to time like they're on the outside looking in at the world. Or maybe on the inside looking out to someplace familiar but somehow out of reach. While I don't think there's anything wrong with changing one's perspective to get a different view, rather, I think that's important, I do think there is a danger in disassociating ourselves from one another and from the moment. I've been thinking, what would happen if we all just stopped to feel the fullness of everything, to make a faint memory of the island of isolation, the loneliness of self-pity, to finally experience our own life and the lives of others as whole within wholeness. Like the AH-HAH! moment you realize the keys you've been scouring the house for are in your hands, sometimes I think we exhaust ourselves in the tireless striving for something we already possess. In the months prior to coming here, I had a hard time thinking about anything besides Australia. I was consumed with thoughts of the future. And now that we are here, I am consumed with thoughts of the future, of being back in the States with friends and family whom I dearly miss and with my good friend familiarity (whom I dearly miss.) And it's just as easy to dwell in the past. There have been moments when Jason and I have looked at each other and said, "What were we thinking coming here?" We had the best little life in Takoma Park, MD, simple and sweet, with the most precious dog and cat in the entire world to love on and play with every day, the best job in the entire world, a few friends to hang out with, a car to get around in, a backyard to play in, etc, etc. I have to keep reminding myself that, not only is the present enough, but really, it's all I have. And if I'm not conscious enough to recognize the beauty inherent in my own life and in my own heart this very moment, I will always be looking for it someplace else. What I'm trying to say is, it's Spring, and it's wake-up time. Spring is my favorite season for that very reason. It's a time of growth and rebirth, the land long reposed under the winter cold, wakes up to see and make known it's beauty and worth in the form of exuberant color and light.

(Though where you are it's fall
Happy Spring to you all.)

A spooky (I'm getting in the Halloween spirit), but pertinent picture to say exactly what I mean...I like to think of it as my future ghost, coming back to tell me the meaning of it all:

(quote by Gensei)



I've already shown you a picture of the view from our deck, but now it's time for the rest of the story... When we look out of our enormous glass window which leads out to the deck, if we look a little to the left we see this: 

Awesome view, right? BUT, if we look straight ahead, we see this:

I would like to introduce you to our friend, Gary. Gary is the man who works in the office which is located directly across from our apartment and which we can clearly see into. We have no idea what business Gary is in or what "Gary's" actual name is, but we like Gary. He is a very diligent worker, hardly ever stopping from type type typing on that computer of his. We're pretty certain that he can see right into our apartment, but does he ever look over out of curiosity? No. What a gentleman. We, on the other hand, like to think of Gary as a sort of entertainment; it's like his office is our fish tank. We keep waiting for something exciting to happen. We're terrible people, we know. This is what life comes to when you find yourself in a foreign country with no friends, no pets, no job, and no television.

Now that you know the rest of the story, I would like to present Jason's latest painting, another in the "we're poor so we paint on cardboard" series, entitled, "Gary":

I love it. It combines two of my favorite things about Melbourne so far: 

Graffiti & Gary.

(Please don't press charges Gary. We love you.)



I recently had the pleasure of meeting this sweet face:

I am on a long walk. (I am often on a long walk.) I have no job, plus I like exploring the city. As I walk, camera dangling from my neck past a group of people hanging out on the sidewalk, I hear a man's voice behind me that says, "Hey, take my picture." This of course, is a dream come true for me because I love taking pictures of people, but usually have a lack of willing subjects.

 Now the others in the group are catching on, and they all start hollering at me, "Over here. Take my picture!!" Seriously, they are really into it. And they are a bunch of characters...

Also, most of them are pretty intoxicated and quite entertaining. There is a great sense of community about them and a look in each of their eyes that says they've seen a lot in their lives. I find the joy and resilience and brotherhood amongst them inspiring.

I am grateful for the experience of meeting them, people I normally would have walked right past. It's got me thinking about all the strangers who could be friends and thankful for friends, no longer strangers.

How precious is she?


Women Are Heroes

I love this project!
For Sarah, one of my personal heroes. Happy Birthday!


Bad Ass Building Projections

Hey Tara, these building projections put the ones we saw at the Cathedral to shame. 

I mean, this was cool:

But these are taking it to a whole 'nother level: