A Walk in the Woods, aka The Reset Button

If ever a political junkie needed to get clean and sober, now is the time.

I’m addicted to watching the tragi-comedy of the election cycle on CNN/FOX/MSNBC, and it’s taking its toll on my mental health. Sure, it has helped my exercise routine: the horror show helps me stay on the elliptical for an otherwise interminable 30 minutes. But last night I had to apologize to the lady on a recumbent bike next to me for my loud grunted outbursts while reading the closed captioning of Donald Trump’s “press conference” — where reporters aren’t miked, his “answers” are how much everyone loves him, how “amazing” everything is, and how much he loves everyone. BLARGHFF!!!

That stuff poisons my soul. It piles up in stress and disgust and unease. Today I recognized that my spirit needed a work-out that could not be found on a machine in front of a screen, a fix that only the calm of nature could provide.

I needed to take a walk.

“Go outside,” my baby group leader counseled us fifteen years ago, as we exhausted new mothers expressed bafflement with babies who couldn’t be consoled. “Stepping outside is like a reset button for a baby.” It worked. And it works for grown humans, too.

I needed mountains and trees. I needed to run, panting until my chest hurt. So I went to my local State Park. When my shoes touched dirt paths that were still drying out from a recent downpour, I felt my reset button pressed. So simple.

The outside worked its magic. It created space for me to feel gratitude.

Gratitude for purple flowers popping up in patches along the path.

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Gratitude for rotting logs with peeling bark.

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Gratitude for vines climbing a tree.

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Gratitude for a burst of yellow when the path emerged from shade into sun.

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Gratitude for the bend in the path, that concealed where it would lead.

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Gratitude, even, for the discomfort that had pushed me to get here. The reset let my mind roam. I thought about words I might write. Sights triggered happiness-boosting memories of earlier hikes here, playing hooky from pre-school, and leaf races in the creek.

When it was time to walk home, I came across something special and temporary – a “Yarn Bombing” in honor of Women’s History Month: a bold explosion of beauty, color, creativity, whimsy, fun, collaboration, generosity, education, history, values and remembrance, created by local artist/writer/actress/activist/mom/craft-goddess Michelle Villemaire. Each tree honors a different woman in history, from Sally Ride to Sacagawea. And each blanket will be donated to the Downtown Women’s Center when the installation is over.

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IMG_7947And who did I happen to see? Michelle herself, fastening a blanket around a “Little Free Library.” Community wrapped in community.

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Michelle Villemaire poses with the “Rose Gilbert” tree — honoring the late high school teacher Rose Gilbert, with roses knitted by Pali High students

All this goodness came from getting myself outside: out of my house and my car and my TV and my Facebook feed and my head.

But I’m not naive. I know things are not always as simple as “a walk makes everything better.” Problems get thorny. Days get dark.

But the premise holds true: there is always a reset button, there is always a clean slate to be had. It begins with a step outside, a deep inhale of fresh new air, a cleansing exhale, and another step forward. Maybe alone, maybe holding someone’s hand, maybe a little of both. One foot at a time, one step after the other. We can’t know how our journey will unfold, we can see just enough to take our next step. We walk forward, and sometimes beautiful surprises pop up to greet us on our way home.

Grandma Power: Electing Women and Protecting the Environment

This week is the Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign, brainchild of photojournalist Paola Gianturco and writer/inspirer Tara Mohr. The goal: to connect women to flex their power to change the world.

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Me and my grandmother, Lilli, on her (nn%&*st) birthday last year.

And why not? Grandfathers have run most countries and Fortune 500 companies. We could use more healing Grandma power, and Grandma strength. My kids are lucky to have two of the best.

In that spirit, today I bring you my mom, Fran Diamond, in her own words.

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Take it away, Mom!

My own Grandmothers, Rose and Sarah, gave me love, comfort and life lessons that are with me still. Grandma Rose enveloped me with pure love and endless admiration whether deserved or not. Baba Sarah loved me as much and set an example of humility and generosity. They set a high standard for being a grandparent.

Today my four grandchildren inspire me in so many ways, including the work that I do. Knowing that what I do affects them makes an enormous difference in the decisions that I make and how I look at things.

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For over forty years there have been two themes to my life’s work: Environmental activism and electing pro-choice, progressive women to public office.

In l968, I joined my husband and neighbors to fight against oil drilling along the coast of Los Angeles when it was threatened by Occidental Petroleum and Armand Hammer. After a twenty-year David vs. Goliath battle, “No Oil” won and the coast of Los Angeles is protected from off-shore oil drilling.

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Since l999, I have served on the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our mission is to restore and protect the surface and groundwater of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We have made tremendous improvements in water quality. Just looking at the Heal The Bay report card, you can see that many beaches that were given F, D, and C’s before are now A+ most of the time. When I see surfers in the water or families at the beach, and when my grandkids go boogie boarding, l know that my work is making a difference.

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That is what keeps me going, as hard as it is at times. When we are debating policy issues and scientific standards, I think what is best for those kids and the future. I see the beautiful, sweet faces of my grandchildren, and I know what I have to do.

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Even before I became an environmental activist, I worked to elect women to public office. In the early 1970’s there were no women in the U.S. Senate, or for that matter the California State Senate. Without women’s voices we don’t really have a representative democracy. Women bring a lot to the table that is different from men. I believe that women are more collaborative and naturally think of what’s best for children and families. It is my belief that when both candidates are equally qualified, we should vote for the woman until we are closer to parity in elective office. Right now there are only 20 women in the U.S. Senate out of l00. Next year we may have no women on the Los Angeles City Council or citywide office. That is shameful. That is not the world I want my granddaughters or grandsons to live in.

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That’s part of why I am working to elect Wendy Greuel to be the Mayor of Los Angeles. I have known and worked with both candidates for a long time. They are both good people. Wendy Greuel, however, is the most qualified and has the leadership skills to move L.A. forward. What I know about Wendy Greuel is that she listens to all sides, can make decisions and knows how to implement them. She knows how to get from A to Z. She is willing to tell people what they might not want to hear. She is tough, decisive and fair. Los Angeles has been a city for l63 years and we have never had a woman Mayor. Now it’s time. I know that both my granddaughters and my grandsons will benefit from having Wendy Greuel as Mayor.

This year I will turn 70. I have never been more inspired to achieve my goals. Maybe it is because of four amazing young people, Rebecca, Noa, Aaron and Emmett my adored grandchildren. Through them I can touch the future. And it is amazing.