Dia De Los Muertos in Tacoma

Dia De Los Muertos, translates to Day of the Dead.

Once a little known (to us) observance celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, it has become more prevalent in our society, the predominant culture of which is taught to fear death and the dead.

The closest festival that those of us with Northern European/Gaelic/Celtic ancestry once had is Samhain, which was eventually assimilated by our culture and turned into the modern Halloween which has nothing to do with honoring our ancestors and departed loved ones and everything to do with commercial profit.

Sadly, this is beginning to happen to Dia De Los Muertos as is evidenced by incredibly tacky Halloween costumes on sale, and other misappropriations.

Make no mistake, Dia De Los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween” just like Cinco De Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day” (it commemorates the battle of Pueblo and achieving victory over French forces against all odds, but that’s a conversation for another day) nor is it about drinking tequila until you puke.

This Huffington Post article speaks to appropriation and misrepresentation of the observance, so rather than wax poetic from upon my soapbox, I shall link it here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cubias/dia-de-los-muertos-is-not_b_6056734.html

While appropriation and colonization are very real and serious issues based in devaluing and disrespecting other cultures, the United States has always been known as the “Great American Melting Pot” in which many generations of immigrants from different cultures brought some of their own traditions.

We can learn a lot from other cultures and regain some of the connections to the earth and our ancestors we lost when we all melded into a homogenous culture if we approach it with respect and a desire to learn.

This short video explains the basics of the observance…

The Day of the Dead – A Lot More Than Skulls and Candy

It's definitely not the “Mexican Halloween.”

Posted by AJ+ on Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today, an example of respectful learning and celebration occurred at the Tacoma Art Museum for Dia De Los Muertos.

A colorful event that included education, entertainment, music, activities for children and sacred spaces created for departed loves ones drew people from all over Tacoma and beyond in the spirit of community.

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Offerendas (altars built to honor departed loves ones and ancestors) lined hallways on multiple levels of the museum. Filled with photographs, decorations, memorabilia and often, written explanations about the symbolism and people involved were lovingly built by individuals, families and community groups who took workshops to understand their significance so that they could be created out of love and respect.

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I spoke with a Latina woman who was laying out a lovely offerenda she was decorating with feather headdresses, photographs and items of significance or that were favorite things of her departed loved ones. She told me about her father who had passed only one year ago, and her grandmother and aunt. She sadly told of how quickly “the cancer” took one of her relatives and smiled sharing fond memories others.

I then spoke with a Chinese American woman who wanted to take my photograph since I was in costume and we shared stories of observances in our own pre-United States cultures (in my case, Irish) that were similar to Dia De Los Muertos,

I saw people of all ages, classes, cultures and ethnicities come together to learn, share and remember their departed loves one who live in our hearts and stories. I watched people of diverse political leanings learn about another culture at a deeper and more personal level than before. I witnessed healing.

If you didn’t make it this year, you need to put it on your calendar for next year. I certainly hope that the museum will continue to provide this amazing, free event to the community.

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There is still time to “get your dead on”. Tonight, on 6th Avenue there is a Dia De Los Muertos

Doors will open at the Studio 6 Ballroom Event space, 2610 6th Avenue, at 4:00 PM for face painting, creating and local vendor setup.

At 6:00 PM a procession will move down 6th Ave, many participants carrying paper mache figures they created in workshops.

At 7:00 PM, there will be live music, celebration and activities back at the event space lasting until 9:00 PM.

Come join your community and departed loves ones, for death is not to be feared, it is part of life and the end, is just the beginning.

I leave you with a charming short film showing a little girl discovering Dia De Los Muertos

Guerrilla Urban Farming

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It’s taken almost exactly three years (closed escrow on this place on May 18th 2010) but I finally got rid of all the lawn.

Something that most folks don’t know is that lawn is bad for the environment, just like street and sidewalk, a well manicured lawn on compacted soil is an impervious surface, meaning that water won’t filter through the earth and percolate down to recharge aquifers, it just overwhelms the storm drain system carrying fertilizer, pesticides and dog poop (along with gas/oil/antifreeze and whatever else is on the street) with it out to the Puget Sound via Commencement Bay.

Over the years I’ve been in this house, I’ve been slowly converting lawn in to more useful area; a nice pervious gravel bed under my grape arbor, a fairy garden, adjacent to a small orchard of mixed fruit and one hazelnut tree, and a huge garden area. The only place out back where I now allow grass to grow is in the chicken area so that they can eat fresh greens when free ranging.

I converted the (very small) front yard slope into flower garden the first year I was here, but was left with a huge parking strip full of the offending green stuff. This parking strip is 15 feet deep (measured from the sidewalk to the street) and runs the length of the property.

A neighbor, one bock over on the other side of the street has a wonderful little guerrilla urban farm that I have been admiring since I moved here. It’s hilarious at peak squash season, as the vines go insane and sometimes encroach in to the street. Since the legality of taking over what is essentially city property (but we are required to maintain) for urban farming/gardening in the front, where people can actually [gasp] see it is somewhat questionable, I like the slightly “naughty” feeling… [raises dirt covered fist in the air and yells]…”POWER TO THE PEOPLE! SQUASH IN THE STREET!”

THIS is what I am aspiring to… (you can see my house in the background)

this is not my garden... this is a neighbor one block over (you can see my house in the background) who I aspire to be like

But first, I had to get rid of the stupid lawn…

I was pretty happy to have this be my LAST mow.

gardening - 2013

I didn’t want to dig out the sod or rent a sod cutter (sod this old doesn’t come out easily anyway) and really didn’t want to have to mass apply herbicide, so I decided to use the same technique I used for my actual front yard and garden beds out back, which has worked fabulously.

I raided my basement, then the Safeway down the street for cardboard boxes which I laid out over the lawn. Once weighted down with topsoil, mulch, or in my case Tagro, it will kill the grass with no cutting, digging or chemicals and then the cardboard and grass will decompose and amend the soil, no tilling required.

That big pile there is 3 cubic yards (that’s 4,800 pounds, over two tons) of Tagro

Gardening - Spring 2013

as it turns out, 3 cubic yards wasn’t quite enough to do it as thick as I wanted…

Gardening - Spring 2013

so I got another 3 cubic yards…

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

over the course of one afternoon and the following morning, I shoveled 9,600 pounds (oh so close to five tons) of Tagro, thus re-confirming my status as “crazy lady no one wants to mess with” on my block.

It sure felt good when it was all done. (Ibuprofen was my friend that night)

Gardening - Spring 2013

So just like that, I reclaimed 535 square feet of prime, sun filled garden space…

As I was shoveling and shoveling, I fielded a lot of questions from neighbors young and old. “Are you crazy?” and “Can I feel your biceps?” comments aside, they were interested in the process, my reasons for it and what I was going to put there.

I have been thinking about putting up some signs talking about urban farming and what is growing there due to all the interest the project has received thus far.

Anyone who knows me, figures out pretty quickly that I am a very serious and dedicated anti-Monsanto/Big Agra and pro local, healthy, sustainable, non-GMO food activist.

Of course, it was going to be food.

“What!? You’re going to grow food out here where people could steal it?”

If someone is hungry and wants fresh vegetables, they are welcome to them. I have way more than I need from my huge garden out back.

Last summer, my friend Jack, like many in this area had a bumper crop of plums. He harvested all of them, laid them out on a sheet with a sign that said “free”. He even provided plastic bags to carry them home in.

What if everyone who could, grew some of their own food. What if they made the excess available to neighbors who didn’t have the land/skill to do so? What if we taught people how and shared our plant starts and seeds with them, and they in turn did so as well?

Can you imagine how much healthier, happier and more connected our communities would be?

While I’m happy to share food, vandalism and waste would make me very sad , so I am keeping “high temptation” things that could be vandalized out back, such as red tomatoes and corn (the neighbors down the street had some issues with kids picking their corn and throwing it some time back) A neighbor grows his really weird looking, off color tomatoes such as yellow and green zebra out front with no trouble.

I didn’t get my seeds started in time this year, so it was off to my farmers’ market and Gardensphere for as many organic/non gmo starts as I could get…

Gardening - Spring 2013

What I can’t grow from organic starts, will at least be heirloom and open pollinated (those are non-GMO) so that I can save seed.

One of the many scary things about Monsanto’s monopoly and GMO is the loss of genetic diversity. At the rate we are going, the only way to save these wonderful, much tastier and safe heirloom fruits and veggies is to save uncontaminated seed from season to season (you know, like farmers used to be able to do)

Seed saving is vital to the future of our food supply.

I have planted the front garden with broccoli, brussels sprouts, beets, carrots (from seed), radishes (from seed), red onions, walla walla onions, artichokes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, butternut squash, kentucky wonder pole beans and snap peas

I roped the area off in order to keep the tender young plants from being tromped on and just to make it pretty, planted double knockout roses in two whiskey barrels I recently acquired. If all goes well, I will be picking up some landscape timbers in the next few days which will help keep the neighbor’s grass out, and keep the dirt in the bed and off the street/sidewalk.

Now I just need everything to grow baby grow…

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Of course, the back yard is getting some new plant action as well…

As a matter of fact, I’m sure that yesterday’s wind and freezing rain storm, and today’s hailstorm are directly related to the fact that I planted tomatoes on Friday. (well, the crappy weather on Saturday is mostly due to the law of nature that says it has to be cold and nasty on Daffodil Parade day)

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

Gardening - Spring 2013

and don’t forget…

Gardening - Spring 2013

The apples, cherries, plum, peaches, pears and blueberries are blooming.

It’s so amazing out there that I don’t even mind the copious amounts of pollen attacking my sinuses.

More photos of this year’s garden work and things in bloom can be seen by clicking on this link new photos will be added to this set as they are taken.

~L



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One Year Ago Today – The Evolution of a Hilltop Home

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In the interest of providing a bit of background, this is a blog entry from April 17tn 2010

I can’t rant today.

I can only Do the Happy Dance!!!

I am approved for a modest home loan to buy a modest house in a gritty Tacoma neighborhood.

Ideally, it will be a cute little craftsman fixer upper.

I will have a garden and a greenhouse again.

I will have bird feeders so that BadKitty (an indoor cat) will again be able to watch birds (her favorite activity), chatter and run around like a maniac. (maybe she’ll drop some of her “small apartment pudge”)

I will have a guest room so my friends can have a comfortable place to sleep when they come visit.

I will have a real dining room in which to serve my (day after) Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve meals to friends.

I will have a hot tub and a BBQ grill (I have budgeted for these)

I will no longer share walls (or ceilings or floors) with people not of my choosing.

At this time last year, I could not even imagine this.

I am going house shopping today after work.

One year ago today, the plan dream I laid out here came true (and then some).

One year ago today, I closed escrow on my gritty little house on Tacoma’s hilltop.

Not only do I have the old house with the original wood floors, dining room for entertaining, fabulous garden and a kitty who is happy, healthy and fit, I have found a wonderful community up here.

Words can’t do the last year justice, so I put it to music in a slide show…

In a weak attempt at words, I wrote this last June

house

This old house has stood for nearly 100 years
It was occupied by Italian immigrants in 1917
It housed families during the great depression
It has seen troops return from two world wars

This old house was built from the forests of the Pacific Northwest
Its beams are thick and sturdy
Its floors are old growth Douglas Fir
Its roof grows moss if not well maintained

This old house is in a historic neighborhood
It has been the home of the Crips gang
It has fallen into disrepair
It has been lovingly restored

This old house is guarded by lion statues in the front
Its old Bay Laurel tree in the back is home to a nest of crows
It is in a vibrant, revitalized community
It is surrounded by friendly, caring, proactive neighbors

This old house will be warm and welcoming
it will host many holiday gatherings
it will offer hospitality to friends, family and neighbors
it will be filled with love

This old house is flawed
This old house is beautiful
This house is a work in progress
This old house is loved

If only this old house could talk

~L

Mood: Happy



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First Halloween on the Hilltop

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Last night was pretty awesome.

It was my first Halloween on the Hilltop.

Eight years ago, I fled my home to escape an abusive marriage and lived in a crappy apartment owned by slum lords in a place where we didn’t get trick or treaters; it was an old house converted to apartments which had a locked front door-and no kids in the five apartment building. It was in the Stadium District so folks brought their kids to the community event then went home.

It’s just not Halloween without decorating and having fun giving candy to the kidlets.

This year was finally my year to haunt the house again. I used to go over to my friend Molly’s to haunt her house on Halloween, but it wasn’t the same. In addition to not being my house, she lives in a Mormon neighborhood so there are very few trick or treaters, virtually none when Halloween falls on a Sunday.

I had a blast decorating the house; I put even more out on the actual day than I previous posted pictures of…

The Spider and the Rat worked out perfectly and I had a fog machine hooked up. I had a remote inside the house, so when I’d hear kids come up on the porch, I’d fire it up.

I had to take the video of the house before it was fully dark because once it got dark, the streets were full of cute, happy costumed kiddies and I was busy busy busy. It was awesome.

I bought candy for 100 after having been told by neighbors to expect 80 or so.

Apparently, I was a victim of my own success. I’ve had the house lit up for a couple of weeks and people who had been driving by made a point to come back so I got more trick or treaters than my neighbors.

104 trick or treaters cleaned me out by 8:35 PM. I gave my last Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup to a cute little bug) I was sad to have to turn the lights out then, but it worked out OK because that was about the time that it started to rain so the streets cleared out pretty quickly.

Next year, I’ll buy more candy.

It was AWESOME!!!

And since I’m already on YouTube I had to share a funny Halloween Appropriate video that was making the rounds yesterday.

And some cute video of our tiger cubs at Pt Defiance playing with their Halloween pumpkins.

Happy Halloween all; I can’t wait for next year…

Of course, now I’m planning my infamous “day after Thanksgiving feast/anti-Black Friday protest, Christmas Eve dinner, and Wine Hog which are all open to anyone who would like an invite.

I <3 the Holiday Season and I adore my hood. ~L Mood: Happy Halloween



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