Sunday, May 5, 2013

Human Nature: Busyness

Ah, it strikes all of us from time to time, eh? Too much busyness...

My busyness is partially caused by my closing in on the final chapters of my next novel--which is loosely based on my experiences with Greenpeace (thanks for asking). But also because I'm hanging out my shingle as an editor at, specializing in editing novels for authors who intend to self-publish, or to send their best effort to agents or publishers. 

So this seems like a good time for a little hiatus from blogging, while my focus is elsewhere for a while. I'll keep visiting those of you who blog, and will pop up here again one of these lovely days.

Thanks for visiting!


by tpsdave

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Who dunnit?

During your rambles, you've probably seen these plastic sleeves surrounding tree seedlings, and I bet you know what they're for:
Oooh, nice red fishnet stockings!

Not only are those fishnet stockings glamorous, they also protect the young trees from small critters like rabbits and squirrels. 

But say you're walking along a trail and you come across these:

What do you suppose these big cages are guarding these big trees from? Sasquatch? 

This picture might give you a hint:

Or this one:

Have you ever seen the beasties who treat big trees like chew toys?

Thanks for the ramble, Randy & Bobert!

(These photos taken at Smith and Bybee Lakes wetland, Portland, Oregon.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday's Nature Quote

The entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to bacteria and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.

~ James E. Lovelock

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Saving Whales: Japan 3 (Greenpeace Days)

Head of a sperm whale
(Click to read part 1 and part 2)
While Bruce, Kevin, and I were on the water, Rusty had the difficult job of going into the shore station itself and handing out our leaflets there. We wanted to explain to these workers, too, why we were trying to end whaling, and Rusty walked into the stench and the gore to deliver our message. She later had to throw away the shoes she'd worn; they were saturated with the muck and blood of dead whales.

We had anticipated that Rusty and I
would be arrested for trespassing onto private property and we expected to be in jail for several months. Our plan was that she would teach me to tap-dance during that time. Given my two left feet and general lack of rhythm, it seemed like a good project to keep us occupied while we awaited trial and our opportunity to address the Japanese public.

Three hours after I'd boarded the whaler, it pulled into port and I was removed by police officers, and taken to the police station. They asked me to return the next day with my friends, for questioning, but refused to arrest me. Because they also wanted to question the captain of the whaler, the boat was further delayed from putting back out to sea--and the whaling season ended a few days later. 

Bruce, Rusty, and I returned to the police station as requested. The two of them were questioned for 8 hours; I was questioned for 11 hours. It was an experience that has given me empathy for anyone who confesses under interrogation to a crime he did not commit. After all, we'd anticipated being arrested, were fully cooperative (except in revealing names of helpful Japanese), and eagerly admitted our roles in trespassing and disrupting whaling operations--and still the interrogation process was grueling and exhausting and surprisingly emotionally draining

And for all that, they still refused to arrest us. I chalk this up to their experience with my dear friend Dexter Cate. The previous year Dexter had been arrested and held in jail for three months while awaiting trial. He had freed hundreds of dolphins intended for slaughter (like in the documentary "The Cove"), and the Japanese authorities had learned that the longer he was held in jail, the more international public opinion grew against them. They wisely decided not to charge Rusty or me.

Instead of having our day in court, Rusty and I rode our wave of publicity, traveling around Japan to talk to students, organizations, and any group who would have us, about our arguments for ending whaling--until my visa was up and I was unceremoniously booted out of Japan.

At the time we were dismayed by our lack of a trial and the publicity it would have brought to the cause. But Rusty and I spoke the other day and agreed that we were fortunate to avoid jail time ... still, I never did learn to tap dance.

The following year (1982), the International Whaling Commission voted to stop all commercial whaling, to go into effect four years later. Japan, by taking "exception" to this ruling, continued to whale commercially until 1988. Its current "scientific research" whaling is a sham and a thinly-disguised continuation of commercial whaling--but the number of whales they kill has been greatly reduced.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Saving Whales: Japan 2 (Greenpeace Days)

(Read part 1 here)

We stood on the beach watching the blood-red sun rise and I tried not to cry. We'd failed: we could see a dead whale in the station. The whalers had come in overnight, while we'd slept. 

What now? There is no instruction manual for saving whales, remember. You've got to figure it out as you go.

Okay, so let's launch the boats and get out on the water. We'd be ready if  another killer boat came in. From sea level, we would have a lousy view of any incoming ships, but Rusty could spot them for us on shore, and let us know via walkie-talkie.

Yeah, that floatation suit is a nice look. You
gotta wonder why it never caught on.
So we pumped up the little inflatable boats, and attached the engines. I donned my eye-popping neon-orange floatation suit and the yellow vest with "Greenpeace" on it that my sister had made for me. The floatation suit was just in case the whalers decided to throw me into the water. It'd help me float and be easier to spot. The vest was because my sister loves me (even if she might've wondered what a nice girl from Ohio was doing putting on a floatation suit in case someone threw her overboard). I linked one end of the 5-foot chain around my waist and locked it securely. The rest of the chain and another lock were in the little bag I buckled around my waist.

We launched through the surf, and then we waited. And waited some more, while I realized that the nice thing about waiting in the blue-tinted van was that it stayed on shore and didn't bob about aimlessly and turn me green. Finally the radio stopped speaking static and Rusty said, "I see a killer ship. This is it, folks." Bruce and Kevin restarted the engines, opened them up, and within a few minutes, we could also see the Ryuho Maru 10

Killer ships have a very distinctive look: a sharp bow, with the harpoon gun silhouetted at the very front, a long catwalk from the wheelhouse to the bow, which allows the gunner to quickly reach the harpoon when whales are spotted, and a low-slung stern. Low enough that when someone drives you up to it in a little inflatable boat, you can just reach up and grab ahold of the railing, climb over it, and step aboard a whaling ship. 

It's easy to do. The tricky part is walking the length of the ship up to the harpoon gun without being stopped. But the crew was busy with a dead whale on one side of the boat, so I walked up the other side. At the steps leading up to the harpoon, I encountered two whalers whose jaws dropped at the sight of me. How bizarre it must have been to encounter me: they hadn't seen me board, so I'd appeared out of nowhere, I was female, I was gaijin, I stood at least a head taller than either of them (the media would later call me a "giantess"), and I was dressed in a bulky screaming-orange-neon jumpsuit.

I smiled and said in Japanese, "Excuse me. Please read this." I handed them each a leaflet that explained why I was on their ship and why we wanted them to stop whaling. Stunned, they accepted the papers, and I went past them and climbed the steps to the harpoon gun.

We'd practiced for this moment, anticipating that I would have to struggle to reach the harpoon--my friends had harassed me, pushed and shoved as I practiced looping the chain around a stand-in for a harpoon gun base, and securing the lock. 

But now, at the harpoon gun itself, I was alone. The men hadn't followed me. I
easily wrapped the chain around the base, and closed the lock. And just like that, we'd done it. For the first time, Greenpeace was between the harpooner and the harpoon

When the men finally approached me, they offered me tea. I gave them Greenpeace buttons with whales on them--which the whalers immediately put on. One fellow pinned a button to his cap and called down to Kevin in his boat below, "Thank you!" Incredulous, Kevin called back to me, "What did he say?" "He said 'Thank you!'" I repeated. This was not the reception we'd anticipated.

I was so engaged in chatting in broken Spanish, Japanese, and English with the whalers that I didn't notice that we were motoring away from the shore station. I was surprised when Kevin called up to me, "Patty, I don't know what to do!" He had less than a half a tank left of gas and we'd traveled many miles from shore. Bruce's engine had broken down and he'd been left far behind. "You have to go back," I told Kevin. It was the only thing to do, and I was fine. Years later, Kevin would tell me the anguish he felt turning the inflatable back toward shore and leaving me on the whaling ship.

The whalers seemed puzzled by his leave-taking. "We are going to kill whales," one man said. "You want to kill whales?" Eventually they cut the chain and I was escorted to the captain in the wheelhouse, who also informed me that we were going to sea. We'd imagined various responses the whalers might have to my arrival on their ship, all of which ended in water or jail; that they would decide to take a foreign woman to sea was so absurd we'd never considered it.

The captain was a talkative fellow, and he told me about some of the whales he'd killed, and the seas he'd hunted in. He spoke matter-of-factly about taking calves and endangered species; these things were against international agreements. I asked questions, urged him on and filed all the information away to use in my coming trial. I would later learn that according to international inspectors, the Ryuho Maru 10 had taken more lactating mothers than any other Japanese whaler. 

Suddenly someone started yelling over the radio in Japanese, and a heated conversation ensued between the captain and whoever was on the other end. A new change of plans, I was informed. We were going into port after all.

TOMORROW: Saving Whales: Japan Part 3 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saving whales: Japan 1 (Greenpeace Days)

Hmmm. It doesn't seem that these party-ers are a likely
bunch to save whales, now does it?
Suppose you and a group of friends want to stop Japanese whaling. It's not like there's an instruction manual to follow. You'll have to figure this stuff out as you go along. 

Imagine the research (there are several coastal whaling towns--based on various factors, choose Wada Ura),  the strategizing (with no ship at your disposal to catch the harpoon boats as they ply the waters a hundred miles from shore, you'll have to wait and watch for a whaling boat to return to the shore station--and then try to stop it from going out again), the preparation (you'll need small inflatable boats, engines, gas tanks, walkie talkies, and a rental van to haul everything), the contacts to be made (Japanese people sympathetic to your cause, but who must be protected from arrest and prosecution). 
Whoops, no offense meant. Go ahead and try it, then.
But Kevin, how about uncovering your eyes before
you drive that inflatable boat...

It took many months to pull it all together. But somehow we did. Of the larger Greenpeace group that worked on this effort, there were four of us--Bruce, Kevin, Rusty, and me--who went to Wada Ura to wait for the whalers to come in. One little detail: we couldn't let ourselves be seen in Wada Ura. It was a whaling town, and any gaijin (non-Japanese) would immediately be recognized as Greenpeace. Tourists just didn't frequent the little town. If we had any hope of approaching a whaling ship unaware, no one in the town could see us.
Just your ordinary Japanese person driving to work.

So how to observe the whaling station in Wada Ura without being observed ourselves? We rigged the rental van with blue curtains behind the driver and across the windows. Now we had somewhere to hide. Rusty became our designated driver by virtue of being the appropriate height and least conspicuous. Even so, she had to wear a cap pulled over her curly hair, and one of the hygienic masks polite Japanese wear when they have a cold. 

We stayed many miles away in another, larger town, and Rusty drove us each day to a beach we'd scoped out, from which we could see the whaling station. The plan was to watch for an incoming whaling boat; when one was sighted on the horizon, we'd leap out to inflate our boats, install the engines, and zip out onto the water. (And if we were spotted by beachgoers and recognized as Greenpeace at that point? This was before cell phones, my friends. No worries that someone might call the authorities from a beach, for crying out loud.) 

Bruce & me, watching for whalers. They'll probably
 show up any minute now.
Once our two inflatables were launched, we'd drive flat-out for the whaler. Kevin's boat would hold the cameras; Bruce's boat would hold me, and a pouch around my waist would hold a 5-foot chain with a lock. I'd board the ship and chain myself to the harpoon gun. The crew would call the authorities, have me arrested and taken off. I'd get a trial that would give us the media attention needed to explain to the Japanese public that whales were endangered--and the whales would get a respite from the killer boat during the time it took to haul me away.

Boredom and/or a glint of madness in our eyes.
It was a pretty good plan, we figured. We hadn't figured, though, that we'd be captive in the blue-tinted confines of that tin can from 7 AM to 5 PM, for fifteen long, long, very loooong days. The whalers were not rolling in with the regularity they once enjoyed--they were having a difficult time finding whales, and were staying out far longer between visits to the shore station than they ever had. Did I mention we were hiding in there and waiting for fifteen (15) days? And you got the part about this being pre-cell phone, pre-tablet, pre-handheld games, right?

Somewhere in the middle of those days, I was eating an apple when Rusty rounded on me. The rhythm of my CRUNCH, munch munch munch swallow ... CRUNCH, munch munch munch swallow had become more than the poor woman could bear. 

In my defense, it was a very juicy apple.

But as the days went by, we wondered if the whalers had discovered that we were there; we wondered if they had moved their operations to another shore station. We wondered if we were failing the whales, while sitting stupidly in our tin can.

Then, before dusk on the fifteenth day, we noted a little activity at the station. We determined to arrive at daybreak the next morning, just in case...

TOMORROW: Saving Whales: Japan Part 2 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday's Nature Quote

If you wish your children to think deep thoughts, to know the holiest emotions, take them to the woods and hills, and give them the freedom of the meadows; the hills purify those who walk upon them.
~ Richard Jefferies