Month: May 2014

Native Plants & Fire

“Fire. Man’s oldest foe. Insatiable, remorseless, unquenchable.” – Kent Brockman.

Reporter for Springfield’s Channel 6 news (on The Simpsons), Kent Brockman isn’t quite right about fire, though I’m sure it seems like it when the flames are threatening your house. I’ve been watching the coverage of the fires in San Diego County. I grew up in Oceanside, a city currently surrounded by the brush fires in Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido, and Camp Pendleton. The house where I once lived is in no immediate danger, and neither are the few family friends still living on that street, but many others in the area are not so lucky.

Fire is a necessity to certain ecosystems, including Southern California. The chapparal that commonly grows there is easily burned and the smoke assists germination. And up north, the giant sequoia needs fire to clear the understory and heat for its pinecones to open and disperse seeds.

NBC7 in San Diego posted a list of fire resistant plants, including a subset of native plants. Ideally, those would be the only ones people would use, since using non-native plants introduces other potential problems. All in all, it seems like a smart strategy to me to use these native plants as a line of defense against fires that will certainly come.

For more about how fire and smoke affect the germination of seeds, see the following articles in Native Plants Journal:

Thomas D Landis. “Where there’s smoke… There’s Germination?” (1.1)

Michele J Laskowski, Chelsea C Dicksion, Brianna Schaefer, and Betty Young. “Examining smoke water as a potential germination-enhancing technique to aid the recovery of the endangered Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana Eastw. [Ericaceae])” (14.1)

To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, Stay safe, San Diego.

-Jason Gray, Journals Manager

 

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Stefanie Zweig, Author Who Fled Nazis to Kenya, Dies at 81

Stefanie Zweig

From the NYT obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/01/books/stefanie-zweig-author-who-fled-nazis-to-kenya-dies-at-81.html?_r=0
 

Stefanie Zweig, the author of Nowhere in Africa, a best-selling autobiographical novel about the life of a Jewish family in Kenya after their escape from Nazi Germany and the inspiration for an Oscar-winning film, died on Friday in Frankfurt. She was 81.

Her publisher in the United States, the University of Wisconsin Press, confirmed her death.

Nowhere in Africa, published in 1995, hewed closely to the story of her parents’ escape from Frankfurt with their 6-year-old daughter in 1938, and the family’s adjustment to life as farmers in British colonial Africa. The parents endured grinding work and bouts of depression. Stefanie, who had been withdrawn, blossomed into a venturesome, Swahili-speaking teenager.

The novel, the first of a dozen by Ms. Zweig, sold about 5 million copies. A German film adaptation with the same title, directed by Caroline Link, won the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2003. Ms. Zweig and Ms. Link wrote the screenplay.

In a sequel novel, Somewhere in Germany, published in 1996, Ms. Zweig described the reverse adjustment the family had to make when, in 1947, her father, a lawyer, was appointed a judge in Frankfurt. As her father explained it to her at the time, she wrote, his credentials as a German lawyer with no Nazi affiliations made him one of the few people qualified for such a position after World War II.

In fact, she wrote, he missed “the sounds and memories of home,” which everyone except her oddly naïve father seemed to know were beyond recovery.

Returning to bombed-out Frankfurt in 1947, the family joined a hungry, traumatized population in rebuilding the country. Scores of their German relatives were missing. None had been heard from since the start of the war in 1939, except a grandmother, who got a letter out in 1941 with the help of the Red Cross.

“They were only allowed to write 20 words,” Ms. Zweig told an interviewer in 2003. “My grandmother wrote — ‘We are very excited. We are going to Poland tomorrow.’ ” Reading that, she continued, “my father said Poland meant Auschwitz.”

But her father cautioned her against indiscriminate hatred, she wrote in an essay in The Guardian in 2003. As a child she was not allowed to hate all Germans, she said, “only the Nazis.”

For a year after returning to Frankfurt, the family lived in one room at the city’s former Jewish hospital. She wrote, “We spent our days hunting for food and our evenings wondering why nearly every German we talked to told us that they had always hated Hitler and had felt pity for the persecuted Jews.”

Stefanie Zweig was born on Sept. 19, 1932, in Leobschütz, a German-speaking town in disputed territory belonging to Germany at the time and to Poland since the end of the war. Her family moved to Frankfurt when she was a toddler. After a decade of speaking English (and some Swahili) in Kenya, she had to relearn German on returning to Frankfurt at 15, she wrote.

Ms. Zweig was for many years the arts editor and film reviewer for a Frankfurt newspaper, Abendpost Nachtausgabe. She wrote children’s books in her spare time and began writing novels only after the newspaper closed in 1988. She lived for many years with a companion, Wolfgang Hafele, who died in 2013. She had no known survivors.

Ms. Zweig wrote Nowhere in Africa in German, as she did all her books, but admitted to remaining unsure throughout her life whether English or German was her true native language.

“I count in English, adore Alice in Wonderland, am best friends with Winnie-the-Pooh,” she wrote in her Guardian essay, “and I am still hunting for the humor in German jokes.”

A version of this article appears in print on May 1, 2014, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: “Stefanie Zweig, 81, Author Who Fled Nazis to Kenya.”

 

A writer’s quest for balance in a spinning world – literally.

By Floyd Skloot, author of Revertigo.
 

In 2009, out of nowhere, I had an attack of unrelenting vertigo. It began on the morning of March 27, 2009, and ended 138 days later on the evening of August 12, 2009, as suddenly as it had begun.

There was no explanation. Or rather, there were several explanations, none of which turned out to be correct. I was first diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), small deposits of calcium carbonate in the inner ear. It’s the most common cause of vertigo. But I didn’t have BPPV and ten weeks later I was diagnosed with endolymphatic hydrops, a fluid imbalance in the inner ear, which I also didn’t have. After the vertigo vanished, my neurologist retroactively diagnosed me with intracranial hypertension, a buildup of pressure inside the skull. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have that either.

Eight months post-vertigo I began to think I was going to be all right. I was walking fine. No cane anymore, no stumbling or grabbing onto stationary objects for balance, no neck-and-shoulder-locked gait. Very little swooning. Swooning only occurred when–as happens to many people–I did something like look up at the clouds while walking. Yes, I was back to almost normal. Except there were maybe a few oddities, such as getting dizzy when I merely thought about riding on Portland’s aerial tram, swaying as it rises five hundred feet during its three-minute trip from the south waterfront up to Oregon Health and Science University’s main campus. Or when I saw a still photograph of lions veering in pursuit of a zebra. Or that one time when a light bulb flickered. Odd, okay, but truly I was back in balance. Recovered. No longer vertiginous.

So it never crossed my mind to worry about going to look at riverfront condo units that were set for auction in early April. Beverly and I had decided to sell our home, abandon stairs and roof maintenance and yard work and tree trimming, all the things I’d be unable to do again if vertigo recurred. Simplify, keep level.

The first building we were looking at was a thirty-one story, elliptical-shaped glass tower looming 325 feet above the Willamette River. This was going to be great. And it was, as we got off the elevator on the twenty-seventh floor and entered the unit being used as a temporary auction office. Then I encountered the view and began reeling, trying to brace myself against a desk, a kitchen island, an interior wall. I seemed more like a lush than a prospective buyer.

It took us a subsequent month to determine that I was all right, was comfortable and stable, only up to the sixth floor of a condo. Provided I didn’t go outside on the balcony. As long as I held on to something when I stood against the interior glass walls and looked down. So now we live on the sixth floor of a twenty-one story building at the river’s edge, and I can sit by the window and watch boats, even speedboats, race by. I’m post-vertigo, except when I’m not, for three years, six months, and twenty-three days.

Floyd Skloot is the recipient of many awards, including three Pushcart Prizes and the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction. He is the author of Revertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir, and will be speaking at Barnes & Noble West (7433 Mineral Point Rd, Madison, WI) on Thursday, May 8th at 7:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public; hope to see you there!