Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Winter Again

January 8, 2015

Tags: Winter, sustainable, farming, Suquamish, Comprehensive Plan

Another winter, and those of us in the Northwest have turned inward, that pause when we clean our homes after a hectic season, and plan for the coming year.

It is very dark here in January, and I struggle to get out of bed even when the clock says it is time. Our vegetable gardens are sleeping, deep in dreams under a cover crop of clover or alfalfa, or like mine, under a layer of fresh soil I optimistically added in early November, hoping for a late fall crop. Instead, it froze early, taking out the last of my kale and some promising squash.

This year, social justice is much on my mind. The world has seen numerous instances of senseless violence, and seems awash in refugees. Low oil prices mean that we will delay taking any action to slow global warming. We are beginning to see the effects, with erratic weather patterns and increasing instances of marine animals carried farther and farther north with the currents. Last week, small birds were dying offshore.

Last night I reviewed the results of the most recent United Nations paper on climate change, issued last spring. This is painstaking work done by hundreds of scientists compiling all the data, then cross-checking each other’s work. All point to the same thing: irreversible global warming.

On the upside, geographic areas that were too cold to grow much food will now be arable, and we will be able to produce 2% more food each year. On the downside, the demand for foods that take more resources, like beef, are increasing.

Bainbridge will continue to be a highly desirable place to live, and the island has begun its regular update to the Washington State Comprehensive Plan that maps out designated areas of growth. As an island, Bainbridge must allow for the conservation of its fresh water. It would be great if we could build energy efficient residences in areas that can support them, reserve a watershed to replenish the aquifer, and educate our population about food resilience, meaning, if we take care of the land and water, it will take care of us.

More people will want to live with us, and we need to move over and make room. That’s what the Comprehensive Plan is all about. Many will bring their own knowledge of sustainable farming, water conservation, and preserving natural resources. We can learn from these newcomers. And we can share stories of how our island has worked for hundreds, thousands of years. That is, as long as we keep and honor those stories as told by the Suquamish, by geologists, biologists, historians, cooks, fishermen and agrarians. New spices, new languages, and new ways of viewing the world will come to us. As long as we can sustain a balance on our rock, we will survive.
With Cowichan Elder Hyamiciate, Della (Rice) Sylvester at the The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium


Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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