By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I’ve taken part in three plant/land events this last week. The photo is of me wearing my White Center Spring Clean tee-shirt and Trust for Public Land hat.

Friday, May 11, I worked for the Washington Native Plant Society to prepare for the spring native plant sale at the Bellevue Botanical Garden on Saturday, May 12. Tuesday, I attended the 12th Annual Conservation Awards Breakfast sponsored by the Cascade Land Conservancy, and this weekend I volunteered at the 4th Annual White Center Spring Clean, organized by the White Center Community Development Association.

I’m always glad to see the labels at the WNPS sales. The sales, held in the spring and the fall, raise money for Plant Society activities such as native restorations and educational outreach. But the labels, tidily affixed to a pot containing only one native species, provide a much-needed refresher course in plant identification for me, so much easier than trying to pick them out amongst the jumble of nature-gone-wild in the forest. It’s like any other skill, use it or lose it, and since my native plant stewardship training in 2001, I haven’t used it enough to remember all of Washington’s native plants.

Then I had breakfast with the governor (along with 1800 others). Gov. Christine Gregoire said she couldn’t bring all of the Land Conservancy supporters to Olympia, so she brought Olympia to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle. There she signed the Transfer of Development Rights into law. Frankly, I don’t entirely understand the bill, must do more research. In addition to recognizing those who’ve contributed to the conservation of lands, the breakfast was a fundraiser. According to the thank you I received in the mail the very day after the breakfast (how did they do that?), $653,705 were raised. That should help save a few trees.

At the Saturday White Center Spring Clean Up, I grubbed Himalayan blackberries Rubus discolor at Lakewood Park. If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, you probably don’t know that this species of blackberry is extremely invasive. The Washington native trailing blackberry Rubus ursinus looks quite a bit like the Himalayan variety. Ideally, you eradicate the invasive while leaving the native in place.

A large contingent of Seattle Pacific University students volunteered for the Clean Up. Working with them was a delight. One young woman I talked with was born in the Ukraine. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was only eight months old, but they continued to speak Ukrainian in her home, so she’s bilingual. This summer she’s going back for the first time. She’ll be working in an orphanage.

A group of young men made the time-consuming, hard physical labor of digging up blackberry roots pass more quickly by inventing stories. One student would start a fantasy, and the next one would pick it up and elaborate. Since I’m a writer (you can read about my work at, I was thrilled at their choice of entertainment. The stories were pretty good, too.

When the Spring Clean was over, I returned home tired, with scratched wrists (must remember to wear my gauntlet gloves next time) but content. Volunteering. It makes me happy.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Best Neighbor Award

I live in a great neighborhood. On our block you find a myriad mix of ethnicity, life style and personality.

A middle-aged couple who were born in the Philippines live next door to me. They regularly extend invitations to their grandsons’ birthday parties where lumpia, pancit and adobo are served.

The rhodies in the photo above are grown by an elderly Vietnamese couple who live across the street from me. Theirs is a multigenerational home, but the old folks do the gardening. One of their relatives is a Catholic priest who frequently holds prayer groups at their house.

An Ethiopian family live next to the Vietnamese. The wife is a nurse. The husband has a degree in theology and recently sold his import shop. The oldest daughter is studying journalism at the University of Missouri in my home state.

We have Hispanics, Tongans, blacks and whites. A gay couple, artists, musicians and mechanics.

One of our neighbors is a woman who owns an art installation business. If you see a new art exhibition at the Frye Art Museum or one of the large downtown Seattle corporations, chances are it was set up by the woman who lives on our block. I intended to include a picture of her art car, but she’s not at home, and I’m too impatient to wait for her return to get the shot.

But the person I especially want to write about today is a man who was originally from Kansas. He survived a deadly tornado there as a child and went on to become a machinist and cook in the Navy. A large man, he’s married to a tiny Japanese woman. Now he’s retired and takes care of everybody on our block. He put up the support structure for the grapes in my garden. He fixed the lights in my home’s entryway. He drives my husband and me to the airport whenever we travel and picks us up when we return.

Saturday, we visited him in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with colon and stomach cancer. Friday, the surgeons removed a big section of his colon. Chemotherapy for the stomach cancer comes next. But in spite of the anxiety and fear he must be experiencing, two days before his surgery he changed the oil and sharpened the blade on my lawnmower. In the hospital one day after a major procedure, he cracked jokes and played the role of genial host. You could never find a better neighbor, and I’m sending all good wishes for his full recovery.

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