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Grass, stars, a tin can in the gutter

August 26, 2005

After baking you for weeks, that day comes when the first edge of fall slips into the Valley, scaring you with the menace of winter, thrilling you with the promise of that sharp, rich, sad energy of things dying &

and the summer dying.

We take the Lithia Park tour, which is equivalent to a New Yorker taking the Statue of Liberty tour &

so familiar, but if you don&

t get a guide to tell you about all the trees, floods, statues, history, how the Tree of Heaven got there (Chinese cook for Abel Helman brought it from homeland), then you&

ll just never know.

The Lithia water, for instance, piped in 80 years ago from four miles south of town, to fountains in the Plaza and park gazebo &

tour guide Dan Kraft yarns at length: hey, it may taste like the sulfurs of hell, but he&

s got friends who swear it got rid of liver, stomach and throat problems, migraine, even arthritis and depression. But do you know anyone who bothers to fill a jug and keep it in the fridge?

Up the Greensprings on a story at Tub Springs, another place to fill many jugs of water, we sit at the picnic tables, under the old growth fir and watch car after car pull up and leave with what&

s reputed to be the purest natural water in Oregon, gushing out of three stone tubs. We pause to drink this fluid so loved by the Applegate Trail pioneers who slogged through here. It practically tastes like wine. You realize you&

ve never tasted water with nothing in it but the taste of water.

At the Grower&

s Market, my assignment is to find out what are the real power vegetables. They all say the same thing: kale. All veggies are good, but kale and the other dark, leafy greens have the juju&

s these human bodies evolved on &

iron, scads of minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, all the goodies that prevent cancer, make hearts healthy and enable optimal brain chemistry. I call Christy, my dietitian informer in Medford, for the science.

Think hunter-gatherer, she says. That&

s what we were for 99 percent of our existence on earth. We ate a range of 200 veggies, most of them closely resembling kale. When we ate meat, it was from animals who were breast-fed and ate grasses and kale-like veggies, just like we did. We and all the animals were packed full of omega-3 acids. We don&

t have that now. We avoid sharp-tasting veggies like kale. Animals aren&

t breast feed. They live in feed lots the last three months of their lives, eating grains, not greens, so their omegas are depleted. Is there lots of cancer, inexplicably happening among all ages? Yes. Cause-effect relationship? You decide.

Ah, nature. I&

m up in Eric Alan&

s backyard on Strawberry Hill and he&

s telling me about nature-as-sacred, something we&

ve all heard about, but Eric, after a life-menacing bout of cancer a dozen years ago (mid-thirties), got a chance to recuperate at his mom&

s beside a big woods, so he got to really get it and wrote a book about it &

&

Wild Grace.&

You&

d expect him to say nature is a religious experience and man-made cities and stuff are not, but Eric&

s gone beyond that and in his seminars and talks, he says, hey, there is no man-made stuff. It&

s all nature and it&

s all sacred. I say what about a vast interstate cloverleaf in L.A., where you grew up? He won&

t use the word God &

&

it&

s got too much baggage&

&

but whatever people mean by that word, it&

s there too.

He&

s becoming kind of a guru of this, an unwilling guru, as he won&

t take that title and mantle. He wants people to wake up and smell the beauty on their own. We all have this and are this and are immersed in this sacredness, which you can see if you study the square foot of dirt and grass in front of you or the stars or a tin can in the gutter.

Yeah, but ... but ... we sip our mango-ginger tea and watch the sun kiss its way over the Grizz foothills ... what is God, where do we go when we die, why are we here? Eric won&

t touch those questions. I don&

t know. What we have is right here, right now. It&

s big, it&

s got endless layers of mystery for you to learn from and wherever you&

re going, if you give yourself half a chance, you might realize you&

re already there.

He hugs me bye. I crunch down his gravel driveway. All the streets on this hill used to be gravel, nice to walk on. Now it&

s all pretty curb-and-gutter. Homes here used to be $25,000. Nothing under $800,000 now. That&

s sacred too, isn&

t it? Well, said Eric, a lot of species play rough, like what locusts do to a field. Maybe not the prettiest thing you ever saw, but if they get too dominant, nature prunes &

145;em back. Gonna happen to us? Oh ya, says Eric. Nature bats last? Eric chuckles. Nature owns the whole stadium and invented the game.