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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Community Garden Project Grows Produce, Community, One Plant At A Time

Above: The Tacoma Narrows Rotary provides integral support at University Place Community Garden. All photos copyright 2012 by Mizu M. Sugimura.

How do you build a community? If Tacoma-Pierce County's two-year old Community Garden Project is any example you can do it with tomato plants. Don't like tomatoes? How about bonding over a bag of bush beans? Chatting up the new neighbors over cauliflower, crisp stalks of collards or by sharing the full bounty of the harvest with wheelbarrows brimming with colorful striped gourds, ripening pumpkins and delectible summer squash?

Over a week prior ago I answered an online blurb at this newspaper that caught my eye that reservations were being taken for a FREE  four-hour bus tour aboard the Art Bus to visit locations along the 2012 Community Garden Harvest Tour on Saturday, September 15!

Above: Each garden as each neighborhood and community has its own individual  personality and charm.Handpainted sign and handpainted rock creatures greet visitors at the beautiful Dometop Community Garden.

Owing to circumstances that will be familiar to many of my fellow residents,  any free entertainment is immediately an engaging offer, one in this case that I couldn't refuse so I immediately made a reservation for two by phone. Pre-event publicity stated that while seats aboard the bus were limited to space on hand residents had the option to choose taking a self-guided tour by car or bicycle.

Above: Keeping an eye on the Galluci Learning Garden at the intersection of South 14th & G Streets, this exotic visitor and non-native species member catches a few more warm summer rays.

Despite my early commitment, it is almost embarassing to share that I almost completely missed taking this delightful tour when not one but two of my more experienced garden-oriented friends had to bail out on the tour due to unexpected commitments, leaving me with no choice but to cancel or go it - gasp, alone. Happily I decided to place myself in the hands of Fate and I'm sooo glad that I did!

First and foremost, had I not I would not have been treated to the warm and generous hospitality offered by gardeners at several locations to those of us who had registered to ride on the Art Bus including a taste of some of this year's crop and coffee, cake and cookies at a garden manned by volunteers at the University Place Community Garden many of whom belong to the Tacoma Narrows Rotary.

Above: Touring the new Lakewood Community Garden.

Secondly, I would not have been able to be impressed by the work gardeners have wrought for example in the Dometop Community Garden here in Tacoma at Rogers Park by not only by transforming an area formerly considered a local eyesore, but banding together and bonding over plants to raise money and a crew of hardworking area residents to replace a much needed playground space after previous equipment dilapidated by wear, tear and neglect was removed by bulldozers from the city as a  neighborhood hazard.

Thirdly, by missing the tour I would not have enjoyed the delightful company of some other thirty-something other area men, women and children some of whom were gardeners directly from the Community Garden programs as well as the bright, refreshing and entertaining commentary by Art Bus "Celebrity Tour Guide for the Day", the veteran newspaperwoman and recently retired TNT staff writer, Kathleen Merryman.

Above: Two handsome and comfortable benches at McCarver School/Zinna Linnik Memorial Community Garden are dedicated in the memory of the school-age Linnik and an older, much loved community garden volunteer. They provide a place for gardeners to briefly rest and or take-in full the fruit of their labors.

In addition to Merryman, bus tour guests were accompanied by the personable Angela Jossy, Art Bus owner,  and Kristen McIvor, coordinator, Tacoma-Pierce County Community Gardens, who were also on hand during to provide additional program information and answer individual questions.

Other community gardens included on the tour were: Swan Creek Community Garden in Salishan, Lakewood Community Garden, , the McCarver School/Zinna Linnik Memorial Community Garden on Hilltop, and Charlotte's Blueberry Farm owned by Metro Parks.

Above: A small slice of just what's growing in the Salishan neighboorhood.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fife Historical Society Is Looking for World War II Memorabilia With Local Connections

World War II memorabilia is being sought by a local museum in connection with an upcoming exhibit on how residents of Fife, WA coped with the war on the homefront and overseas during the 1940's according to a posting on the organization's page September 5, 2012 on the social network Facebook.

Above: In addition to objects and artifacts, the museum displays documents, books and newspaper clippings from Fife's past to inform, educate and entertain visitors and community members of all ages.

The Fife History Museum is located a few miles south of the Pierce-King County line off I-5 at the 54th Street Exit in the northwestern corner of Pierce County. The museum is located directly across the street from Columbia Junior High School and inside the former residence of Louis Dacca, a member of the original Fife City Council, at 2820 54th Avenue East.  It is run and operated by volunteers from the Fife Historical Society, a local non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Above: Early area residents hailed from several major ethnic communities including Swiss, Italian, Japanese and Scandinavian communities.

The Dacca family home was renovated to serve as a history museum. and was acquired by the City of Fife along with an adjoining parcel in 2000. Its mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, publish and exhibit materials about Fife and ensure that the history of Fife and the surrounding area is accessible and kept alive providing  for present and future generations a valuable record of the various histories of its people.

Above: Early occupations pursued by Fife residents included logging, dairy farming and other forms of agriculture.

Current exhibits include Logging in Western Washington, Cultures of Fife and the Little Fife Schoolhouse.  Museum hours are Wednesday from 12:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. and Friday through Sundays from 12:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

While the mission of a history museum is rooted in the past, society volunteers actively engage modern methods of marketing and communication to assist ardent fans of local history and first-time visitors alike to offer direct and personal access to a rich legacy of history that they share with other members of the greater Fife community.

Follow this link to the website of the Fife Historical Society. For more information on guided museum tours please call Louise Hospenthal at (253) 896-2593.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Washington State Wants You!

Washington State is looking for our help to gather statistics on ticks…by gathering ticks to get statistics on. The state wishes to put together a tick distribution map and check said ticks for infections, such as Lyme.  This is something the Lyme community in Washington has wanted for a long time, excited about the education it will bring.  When my daughter was first showing the symptoms of Lyme, almost fourteen years ago now, we were constantly told by physicians that Lyme did not exist in this state.  Today, you will still be told that Lyme is extremely rare here, most cases coming from out of state, by most physicians you see.  As we searched for another doctor for Anna, the ignorance and panic was palpable in so many who rejected her as a patient.  One doc, hands in the air, said, “I don’t know anything about Lyme’s disease!” (that’s Lyme disease, folks, not Lyme’s!) “I don’t want to learn!”

Residents of Washington are being asked to submit any ticks we find to its tick identification program in Olympia. Use the online tick identification submission form at

If you find a tick, follow these steps:

1. Keep the tick alive, if possible.

2. Use one or two blades of grass, or you can moisten a small piece of tissue paper with one or two drops of water. Place the grass blades or moistened tissue, with the tick, into a small plastic or metal container (an empty pill bottle works well). Close tightly.

3. Put the container holding the tick into a sealed plastic bag. Place the bag into a padded envelope for mailing.  That’s pill container, plastic bag, and padded envelope, around the wee bugger!

4. Provide the location and county where the tick was collected and mail it with your tick to:

WA Tick Identification

Zoonotic Disease Program

P.O. Box 47825

Olympia, WA 98504-7825

If you wish to be notified as to what kind of tick was submitted, provide your telephone number and/or email address.

Getting statistics is so important in this fight…however…should that tick be found after attaching to you, or a loved one, my advice remains the same as it has ever been.  That tick should be packaged and sent to one of the country’s best labs for tick-borne infections, like Igenex, Frye, or Clongen labs.  Your health is the statistic to be most concerned about.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tacoma Youth Theatre nurtures strong, vibrant community links on and off the stage

One of my best memories of 2012 will have been as a member of the audience the summer Tacoma Youth Theatre (TYT) opened their doors in a space shared with Dukesbay Productions at First Congregational Church, 918 Division Avenue, in the heart of Tacoma across from Wright Park.

Both organizations represent something wonderful in any vibrant, growing arts community - local theater. The added fact that both have more or less been launched during the long shadow of the still struggling economy of the past few years, is both an act of faith and a regional gift more wonderful than ever.

Tacoma Youth Theatre, created by the award-winning duo of Maggie Knott and Scott Campbell, burst upon my personal radar this summer at the beginning of August, when I happened to see a copy of a news release distributed lauding the enthusiastic turnout this summer showcasing their birth,  two open enrollment children's theatre camps and their first line-up of shows"Peter Pan" and "Alice In Wonderland".

Alluding to the success of their initial foray, Artistic Director Maggie Knott was quoted that the second round of performances would allow for an opportunity to hold open auditions, which in turn would make it easier to create the kind of cast dynamics that would allow these young artists to be even more successful.

If  "A Little Princess" and "The Importance of Being Earnest"  were any indication, I am certain that the very capable and talented cast of both productions will be part of the rich harvest of future performers who will bring years of entertainment, enjoyment and possible fame and fortune to South Sound audiences of several different generations.

However, even should these very same TYT graduates choose on their own to make careers other than those to be found in the theatre a lifetime pursuit, they will surely comprise the ranks of discerning and discriminating audiences whose rich perspectives will be reaped rewards in offices and organizations miles away from the stage where they were first discovered and nurtured.

My own lamp in regards to community theatre was lit during post-college days when I was introduced in Seattle to plays featuring stories from my own and other Asian-American communities at performances of the Northwest Asian American Theatre. How much I had enjoyed live theatre in the days prior to NWAAT, were multiplied when for the first time minority actors and actresses who looked the same as I did from childhood performed legitimate theatre on the stage in front of me.

Having grown up in a world and age when 99.9 percent of the important stories and performers who played them were Caucasian and noting too often that apparently people like myself had no stories and worse no talent or credibility in the eyes of hard-boiled veteran casting directors eyes to boot (save then rare and usually occasional storylines about exotic foriegners of the female gender ,who needed to be rescued by white folk) it was positively magic and likewise compelled me in fact to note that unbenownest to myself, I had missed this and the tears I shed when a NWAAT curtain came down  were taken to be proof positive they ministered to a need I had not even then been quite able to articulate to myself.

Both Tacoma Youth Theatre and Dukesbay Productions are examples of heroes in the South Sound's creative community who bless us all by taking the time and personal effort to offer training and a supporting hand to the professionals of tomorrow. What TYT does with youth, Dukesbay, spearheaded by veteran local thespians Randy and Aya Clark,  has modeled by teaming emerging theatre professionals with some of the most popular and established theatrical heavyweights in the region.

Perhaps more importantly, the Clark's have offered players and a stage to several local playwrights - perhaps the next national and regional literary giants such as John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams and Thornton Wilder.

If such artistic endeavors were to be supported by mainstream society with as much enthusiasm  as professional sport teams at all levels in the days not far from the present, our country in my personal opinion would be flowing with an overabundance of creative vibrancy at every level of society. It is what has been sadly and tragically missing  from the halls of government, social enterprise, business and other levels of the economy as a whole.

Perspectives honed in the arts such as local theatre offer individuals daily demonstrations power of diligence and working daily together to create something bigger and more beautiful -  but more clearly,dramatically and emphatically foster a stronger sense of a "win, win" teamwork and cooperation far more tangible than for example efforts by previously enshrined and elevated professional sporting teams during the past few decades who unfortunately equally polished an opposite which is that when all's said and done the world is full of losers, the most winning est teams and a handful of so-called perfect stars.

By quietly building the all-around individuals, gifted and generous citizens at all levels local theatre will serve to spread the talents and gifts of their performers far beyond the original floor and stage lights in the basements of spaces such as the First Congregational Church and so define the essence of what it really means to become a community.