It is the music of the rain-stick. When you tilt a rain-stick, back and forth, its small beans pour from side to side, creating music in the hollow of its wood.
For hours it envelops me.
Only after the rainclouds travel on does sleep reclaim me.
It’s not something I ever thought to celebrate. At least not for the last thirty nine years. Somehow forty years is such a milestone number, it’s worth celebrating!
And sharing some reflections.
1974. A lot happened that summer. After my 14th birthday I moved to Laguna Beach with dad. Our second floor apartment rose above the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sixty stairs and I was on the beach.
Laguna was a small town of 12,000 people, the majority of whom were artists, hippies, or both. Soon I discovered the best part of all—everyone was vegetarian! (well-almost)
The “Love Animals Don’t Eat Them” movement was in full swing. Posters, bumper stickers, and buttons were everywhere. All the cool hippies and artists I spent time with had given up eating meat out of concern for the animals and the future of the planet.
I didn’t require much convincing, I just needed to know what to eat. Half a block away Sunshine Smoothies solved my dilemma. Fresh juices, avocado sandwiches, and sprout salads became my daily fare. Two blocks away, The Stand served another assortment of vegetarian meals. Vegetarian friends invited me to dine with them. The transition to becoming a committed vegetarian happened in one day!
I attended a small parochial school through eighth grade, and enjoyed learning. Now only one semester into public high school and I was so, so bored. Then my English teacher let me in on a secret. She and a colleague were starting an alternative school at Laguna High, named Creative and Vocational Education (C.A.V.E.). She encouraged me to apply.
My Sophomore year of High School began in a huge classroom allocated to C.A.V.E., with couches and reclining chairs, desk stations, and a kitchen. We had no bells, no useless homework, and no discipline problems. Instead of shifting our focus every 50 minutes, our dynamic, interactive classes met twice a week for 3 hours. Group decisions were democratic. We voted — on everything.
We were also encouraged, and our schedules adjusted, to take college classes, apprenticeships, and volunteer in careers we wanted to explore.
Now I spent my days, nights and weekends with mentors and peers who expected us to be independent thinkers, outspoken activists, artists, and writers. School trips included wilderness survival in the Sierra mountains, living in tepees and pueblos in Arizona and New Mexico to learn from Native American elders, and journeying to the Channel Islands for a week of research with Marine Biologists.
And for daily communing with nature, outside our classroom was a green house, organic garden, and hiking trails.
About half of the fifty students attending C.A.V.E. and one of our teachers were vegetarian. Every school outing we had a vote to determine the group meals: veg or non-veg. The veg meals won most every time.
Job at Sunshine’s
That summer I got a job at Sunshine’s. Minimum wage was a whopping $1.65 an hour back then. But beyond the wage, there were two major perks. 1. Our boss gave us permission to eat to our full satisfaction before, during and after our shifts (veg teenagers are known to eat obscene amounts of food!) and 2. I met and befriended almost every vegetarian in town.
Some of our regular smoothie customers were Krishna folk from the nearby temple. They were famous for their vegetarian cuisine, and all the festivals and feasts they provided to the public, free of charge. I received many friendly invites to visit the Krishna house two blocks away for an evening of singing, dancing, and feasting.
I had reservations. There were stories about them. And accusations of brainwashing. I didn’t believe the brainwashing bit, but I didn’t feel all that comfortable going alone. One of my friends from school invited me to go with her, and I readily agreed.
My first time at the Krishna house was magical. I loved the singing and dancing, the thought-provoking class, and the dinner. Oh my gosh— I had never eaten that much food in my life! There must have been twelve dishes, from hot and spicy to sweet and crunchy. Flavors and spices and textures I didn’t know existed. I ate two heaping plates of food, and brought a third home to enjoy for breakfast.
Between Sunshine’s, the Krishna temple, and my veg friends at school and around town, I had a fantastic support system that made it easy for me, a young teenager on my own, to become a committed vegetarian.
Over the past forty years my community of vegan and vegetarian friends expanded around the world. To each and every friend I’ve shared a meal and a good laugh with, please accept my gratitude.
Thank you to all the authors, researchers, doctors, celebrities, activists, and journalists who have educated the world on the validity of a plant-based diet: for ourselves, for the animals, and for the earth.
Please join me in my celebration— 40 years Veg and counting!Read More
“Can you come? It would mean so much to the children,” Helen asked. “They wanted me to call and invite you when they found out you live in Gainesville.”Read More
his powerful wind rushing at me, subduing me,
Sand sinking beneath each footstep over and over again,
as I reclaim my communion with the beach, with the seaRead More
As the sun began its rise in the East, this beautiful verse from a Bengali prayer floated through my mind
“With every rising and setting of the sun,
a day passes and is lost.
Why do you remain idle and not
serve the lord of the heart?”*
Reflecting on the preciousness of each day, of each moment, was likely spurred by a friend’s letter I read late last night. My friend is recovering from a second cancer surgery, and shared with me, “Every moment is a gift. That’s how I’m seeing my life now.”Read More