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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Share the Story logoDecember 5th marks the United Nation’s International Volunteer Day – a day where people and communities worldwide come together in service. I agreed to join a group of volunteers from Meridian International Center (you might remember them from Week 36) who were going to plant trees with Washington Parks and People.

On the bus ride over to Oxon Run Park in the Southeast part of our nation’s capital my mind drifted back to the turn of the 19th century to images of Johnny Appleseed leisurely spreading seeds from a small leather pouch as he headed to the new frontier of the Midwest. Well not only is my mental version of Johnny Appleseed historically inaccurate, it couldn’t have been further from the reality that lay ahead.

Along the trickling banks of the stream bearing the park’s name, we were put into small groups and assigned about a half-dozen trees to plant in the lonely green clearing. That’s right, no seeds but 100+ pound baby trees. Each team was led by a graduate of the DC Green Corps – a city-wide program developed by Washington Parks and People that introduces participants to more than 50 different careers in urban forestry through an intensive three-month course.
I am not sure which part is more difficult. Digging the whole to put the trees in or schlepping the trees around. The next morning my forearms hurt so bad from shoveling…that movement that you make to leverage the shovel against the earth burdens muscles that I apparently never use.

DSC_0078.jpgWhen the day was over we had planted 61 trees according to the design plan that the Washington Parks and People staff architected. It took into account aesthetics and purpose – the trees would help keep soil in tact and reduce erosion and excessive runoff that causes flooding during heavy rains. The American sweetgums (liquidambar styraciflua) that I helped plant that day are native to the region and will dazzle local residents with its deep glossy green foliage which give way to beautiful purplish hues in the fall.

Before we left several volunteers named and hugged their trees. Despite being a self-proclaimed treehugger, I didn’t wrap my tired arms around any of my trees. Instead I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of our labor that day and firmly record the new landscape in my mind. I think I will make a pilgrimage to the area each year to find refuge from Washington’s sweltering summer heat and have a picnic in the cool shadows of the sweetgums five-pointed star-shaped leaves.

DSC_0159.jpgPlease consider volunteering with Washington Parks and People and DC Green Corps. You can also make donations to help support their incredible work.

Click here for more photographs from this event.

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Dane fishing in the waters of Valley Creek in Pennsylvania. (Photo: Reed)

While I was visiting my friends up in Pennsylvania we decided to go for a hike in Valley Forge.

Along the hike I spotted Dane doing some fishing in the Valley Creek.  I couldn’t resist trying to give my $10 to a guy wading knee-deep in the water.  I yelled over to him and he made his way to the shore and I handed him the money.  I’ll chalk that up for a first: Gave $10 to person in the middle of a creek!

I honestly thought there was a 50/50 chance that I was going to fall in the creek, because to be able to get close enough to Dane to give him the $10 I had to maneuver down part of the bank where I placed one of me feet on a branch and the other on a rock that jutted out from the bank.

Me photographing Dane along the banks of Valley Creek. (photo: K. Kanelakis)

I asked him how the fishing was.  “I haven’t caught anything today,” he told me.  I realized that if I didn’t scare the fish away when I yelled over to him that my friends two boys were taking care of it as they proudly dumped as many rocks as they could into the creek.  When Dane is not fishing, he is looking for work in journalism.  A graduate from UNC, he hopes to find work in Sports Radio.

Here is a little bit of our conversation…

Later that evening Dane was heading to game six of the National League playoffs.  Sorry the Phillies lost Dane.  I was impressed that four or five hours before they threw out the first pitch Dane was chilling in creek doing a little fishing.  

He said he was going to use my $10 get some Mountain Dew.

If anyone can help Dane find a job…leave a message!

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I am still struggling with my computer issues, but trying to push forward.  Thanks for all the kind emails.   

Elijah Alfred Nature Boy Alexander (Photo: Reed)

 

The man that I am going to introduce you to today is someone that I had seen on Day 124 when I went for a run.  I was jogging through Lafayette Park which is just in front of the White House when I ran by a shirtless black man with matted cotton white hair sitting on a bench holding a wooden staff.  I thought to myself…when I get home I’m going to get my $10 and go down there and give it to this guy!  Well, as it turned out when I got back there I couldn’t find him.  Fast forward 61 days and I was walking through Lafayette Park with a reporter and a photo-journalist (Jon from Day 184!) from Street Sense when I saw the same man.  Unfortunately he was talking to someone so we sat down and waited to see if the other gentleman would leave so I could go and speak with the man I soon found out goes by the name Elijah Alfred Nature Boy Alexander Junior.  

Elijah was very friendly when I approached him and graciously accepted my invitation to sit and talk for a while.  The only item of clothing he was wearing was a pair of jeans that had been cut all the way up the sides like a loincloth.  It’s been years since he stopped wearing shirts and shoes.   

Originally from a place called Grambling in northern Louisiana, Elijah gave up his job at Southwestern Bell in Dallas, TX at the age of 31 and began wandering North America as an objective observer.  He has been married twice and has fathered six children with five women.  He shares a lot of information about himself on his website.  I spent hours reading through different parts of his site and his Facebook Page.  I thought I would share one of his many poems he has written and posted online.    

About the Author, The Poem  

By a midwife in a Mount Olive Community in 1945 was born
Elijah Alfred Alexander, Jr., as he has always been known,
to Elijah, Senior, daddy, and Annie Brooks (Gaulden) mother,
with two sisters older and sandwiched by an older and younger brother.  

December ’63 he finished his high schooling, a year and a half late,
while working also, and by the next year’s end had a military date.
He was married the next spring to one Camala Louise Taylor, by name, who mothered Karn Marshell, a girl, and a boy the third of the same.  

Vietnam was in full swing and took him twice to the east
where he, by one, helped the population to increase.
As an aircraft mechanic he finally got orders for Japan
only to have a medical discharge return him stateside again
where he, by another boy’s wife, increased the population,
totaling six (two in sixty five before the marriage relation).  

In ’72 he divorced, and in ’74 married again,
Dellie Mae Bolton, and before three months was a preacher man.
In August of ’76 he gave up being a telephone maintenance man,
to obey the messianic call to “judge not, go into all the land,
observe all things though you’ll have no place for your head.”
Traveling by foot his comforts got heavy so the extras he shed.  

Living like animals and not judging he used the art of reason,
saw all things relative and put all things of man into a season
and became mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially free.
He believes its how all christs, titled Christians, are called to be.  

                                            - Elijah Alfred Nature Boy Alexander Junior  

Photo: Reed

 

He now divides his time between two residences in DC where he does some house sitting.  This past winter he was the “fire guard” for the wood burning stove at one of the homes he stays at so he was not at the park as often.  Given his choice to not use a lot of clothes, I asked him how he gets by in the winter.  “I shovel snow,” he said with a smirk.  

Elijah has traveled extensively through North America, all by foot unless offered a ride.  He tells me stories about the 5 Canadian provinces, 44 continental US states, 11 Mexican states that he has visited.  He then remembers that he even made it to Belize.  “How could I forget Belize!  I spent nine months there!  Three and a half months of which I was in a mental institution there because they thought I was crazy and then four and a half months locked up in jail.”  That is not the only place he has had accommodations behind bars.  He has made visits to several jails around North America for indecent exposure; 32 visits in Louisiana alone, a place where he says the jails are usually quite nice and the people treat you pretty well.  Elijah tells me about being arrested for taking an avocado from a fruit stand.  “I was told by a higher power to get a piece of fruit, so I got it.”   According to Elijah there is an old law on the books that allows the poor to enter grocery stores and take fruit without paying for it.  I haven’t been able to find that law yet.  

I could go on and on talking about how interesting I found my chat with Elijah, but I want to encourage you to visit his website and get to know him for yourself.  Elijah is someone who reminds us not to judge others by the clothes that they wear (or don’t wear).  

As for my $10, he said he would use it to get some fruit, this time he said he will pay cash for it.  He learned his lesson about taking fruit and not paying for it a long time ago!  

Notes: Elijah holds office hours in Lafayette Park from roughly 10-5:00 every day.  I bet he would love to meet you.  You can see other photos of my visit with Elijah in this week’s Street Sense!  Go buy a copy and help a vendor out!  

References:  

Elijah’s website  

Elijah’s Facebook Page

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