Any Job Can Be A Nature-Led Job: An Essay – Part 1

I’ve always been a bit “extra”, but people assure me time and again that it’s a good thing. I regularly get what feels like a backhanded compliment; “You’re weird, but in a good way.” I’ve never really known what to make of this. I’ve been me my whole life. I don’t know any other way to be, although I do admit I can be a little weird in comparison to other people, but I’ve also met people weirder than me! On a scale of 1-10, with ten being the weirdest, I’m a solid 8. I talk to animals, and I have a curio full of gargoyles and Japanese teacups. Sometimes I opt for “passing” normal. This is when you keep your mouth shut, speak only when spoken to and only respond with the briefest of answers like “Yes” or “No.”

My first official job that required a W-2 form was at a Marie Calendars restaurant as a Hostess. I was 16, going to high school during the day and working 3-11pm at the restaurant. I quickly became the Senior Hostess, or the “Hostess with the Mostess” as people liked to joke. I was one of the first people in Spokane, WA to learn how to operate an espresso machine. I had a few customers so loyal they wouldn’t even allow anyone else to make their drinks. I had to make the bank runs every day at the start of my shift because my manager thought the bank tellers were “scary” people, so she made me do it instead.

I liked doing it because it gave me the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air while crossing the street and I didn’t have a problem with the bank tellers. There was one that was extra frosty, but I thawed her out when I discovered she liked peppermint candy. The restaurant provided free complimentary peppermint candies at the Hostess station, so why not use a few to bribe a little goodwill out of her? It worked.

One Saturday night moments before closing two big guys in jean overalls and white, ribbed tank tops and two boys around the age of nine came in and sat in the smoking section. The men were loud and crude when the waitress went over to take their order. They told her to give them hot, regular coffee in their own foul personal coffee cups and if she tried to wash the cups first, they would beat her. Several other patrons decided they were done with their meals and ready to skedaddle (leave). As the waitress came back to the main serving station to pour the coffees I went over and stood beside her. She was so nervous her hands were shaking. I was furious. She was sweet, hardworking and in her late fifties working a low wage job with no health insurance. I put my hand on hers and said I would take the coffee to them.

I walked over to the men and said, “Here’s your coffees, on the house, because you’re taking them to go.” In a slur of profanities, they asked me who I thought I was and demanded to place food orders. I calmly stood there and said, “No, you need to leave.” The boys were looking up at me in awe, they’d clearly never seen a woman, certainly not a young woman, stand up to these men before. The men stood up cussing at me, threatening to kill in a variety of ways. “I will make you leave.” I said in a low growl. The men laughed at me then said, “Oh yeah, you and what army?”

This is when the entire restaurant staff came to stand behind me, the servers, the cooks, the dishwasher, and some old guy in a Navy Veteran hat that had hung around to see what would happen. The men left. My coworkers nicknamed me “Brass balls” after that, or “Brass” for short.

This was back in 1990 when a lot of people, especially in the restaurant business, smoked cigarettes. I didn’t smoke and since I didn’t smoke, I wasn’t getting any breaks during my shift, because I didn’t *need* a smoke break. So, I stated taking non-smoking smoke breaks. Sometimes I’d hang out back by the dumpsters with the smokers and chat, but more often than not I’d just go for a quick walk around the block.

When summer came and school was out, I took a second job at the restaurant as a Prep cook and quickly became the head prep cook after the guy who had been the head prep cook spent a night in jail for drinking and driving. Being Senior Hostess was easy, but now I was seventeen and supervising men in their late 20s/early 30s. The incident with the two guys had already become legend and because turnover in the restaurant industry is high, the guys in the kitchen started to question whether it had really happened. A couple of them decided to test whether I was “worthy” of my nickname. One line cook threw a plate back into the prep area. It hit the wall and shattered barely missing me and another prep cook. We had to toss the chicken we’d been portioning into the garbage because we could risk it being contaminated with sharp ceramic bits from the plate. This same line cook then had the audacity to bark at me to get him a carafe of water. I served him a carafe of distilled white vinegar. He took one big chug of it and freaked out trying to figure out where to spit or throw up. He leaned over one of my back sinks coughing and trying to drink water from the faucet. I give him a moment to recovery, then grab him by an ear forcing him to look me eye to eye. I was two feet shorter, so it was pretty awkward for him to maintain his balance, let alone his composure.

The whole kitchen staff: line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers and a handful of servers were all watching. I made it crystal clear to him and everyone standing there how unacceptable it was to threaten the safety of the food, the reputation of the restaurant that employs us or to harass another staff member. If anyone had a problem with me, they could take it up with me directly. I ended by saying, “You’re on notice. You mess up one more time and you’re fired! You don’t have to like me, just do your flippin’ job!” Because the restaurant had no Chef, I was the only kitchen staff in a supervisory position. We had a day and a night manager, but they were hardly ever there and loathe to do their jobs, so they left it to me. In fact, the male manager was there when I yelled at the line cook and all he did was hide in his office and lock the door. So, then they started calling me “Brass knuckles”, again “Brass” for short because they knew then, I don’t back down.

I eventually went to work a variety of hospitality and restaurant jobs and then for something completely different hired on to be a security guard.

Stay Tuned for Part II: The Nature-Led Security Guard.

Nature-Led Lessons:

Don’t back down; know your value, know your strengths.

Take the breaks you are legally owed to avoid burn out.

Take walks outside, away from the work chaos to clear your head. No one said you have to take up smoking or doom scrolling on your phone to catch a break.

A Day of Thanks, A Day of Remembrance

Alder Leaf

Small Maple Leaf

I don’t have much to say about Thanksgiving in the United States. I find it a rather awkward holiday. So, let’s move on. This is a Nature blog, not a holiday blog after all!

I’m planning to do two posts for the month of December.

Right now, I’m doing some “not so light reading” in preparation for my next high-level post. Its rather depressing, but you know once it passes through me, I’ll make it much more enjoyable for you to read! I’ll also share a funny personal story about how to make ANY job a “Nature-Led” job.

Until then……

Pull your weeds after the rain.

Go for a walk in Nature.

Stay true to yourself.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

A Nature-Led Halloween

Flowers and pumpkins

In the U.S. we celebrate Halloween on October 31st every year. Oddly enough, when I searched “Which countries celebrate Halloween?” I found a listing of the “Top 14” countries (Wait, 14? Yep.) and the U.S. wasn’t even included on the list! Well I suppose we can’t be first of everything, all the time. At least IRELAND, the birthplace of All Hallows Eve made the list at number 10. Who made this list? Author unknown. Let’s take this ordered ranking with a pinch of salt because no one saw fit to attach their name or justification for it.

One of these years I would love to visit our neighbors to the south, aka Mexico, to experience Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.) What a wonderful cultural tradition to feast with the spirits of deceased family members in a day of love and remembrance. Everything about it is visual eye candy from the sugar skulls, painted faces, beautiful dresses and black suits.

Here in the U.S. kids run around in the dark going door to door yelling “Trick or Treat” and receiving candy. We pretty much just ignore the “Trick” part of the equation. If you’re considered mean, or if the kids are just mean, you might get eggs thrown at your house, but that’s not very common. If you don’t want to give out candy just keep your porchlight off and the little gremlins will ignore your house like moths looking for the next porchlight to gather around.

I’ve always enjoyed Halloween, myself. I think its fun to dress up and be something different for a night.

Last year, I was sad to think the kids wouldn’t get to celebrate Halloween as usual and while we did have to do things a little differently, many of us still had a lot of fun. I took my son and many people left candy out, so that it felt more like a scavenger hunt. A few neighbors dressed warmly and tossed candy up and over for the kids to catch like pop-up flyballs at the baseball stadium.

This is what I did: We had our window blinds open and waved at the kids as they came to grab a bag off the line. Normally we get eight or nine trick or treaters with a bunch of candy leftover, but last year we got at least 20! I have no idea what to expect this year.

Pandemic Halloween 2020

I’ll be doing this same “Clothesline candy system” again this year.

The vaccine was just approved for children 2-11 years old this week. They’ll be receiving 1/3 of the adult dose. Hopefully many kids can start getting vaccinated by Thanksgiving (November 25th.)

What is Cultural Appropriation? Dressing up to mimic a person of another race in a stereotypical or satirical way. Hollywood was guilty of this for a number of years, often trying to generate comedic value from it. Look no further than Micky Rooney’s character Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961). I don’t think we need to ban everything with offensive content in it. Put a notice on it calling it out for what it is and lets do better to eliminate these prejudices moving forward. Indigenous people’s regalia (headdresses and dress) are not Halloween costumes. They are religious and cultural artifacts. It’s good to admire people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, but don’t attempt to change your skin tone in the name of some misplaced attempt at authenticity. It’s offensive. If you weren’t born Black, don’t put on a “Black face.” When in doubt, go as a tree, or a dog, or some other non-human being. They have no idea what this craziness is all about and aren’t likely to get upset about it. The family dog would love it if you dressed up as soft and fluffy as they are for some couch loafing time.

When I was a kid I alternated between two costumes that I loved from grades 2nd to 6th grade, Generic Princess and the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz. My nose kept falling off so I guess I was really just a kid in green face paint. I’ve also been a pirate and Cleopatra. My last “costume” was as a tired mom. It was really cold that year so I threw on my fuzzy bathrobe over my overcoat and walked around with a thermos full of coffee. Somewhere around the eighth house visited I got some Kahlua poured into it. That was nice.

How to make it a Nature-Led Halloween:

Re-use decorations for as long as you can year after year. (Simple is best in my opinion. It takes me 15 minutes to put up/put away Halloween each year and I’ve had these things for at least ten years now.)

Be mindful about the decorations you put outside. Is it secure from the elements like rain and wind? Does it have the potential to trip or tangle up people or animals? Do not use fake spiderwebs or netting outdoors. These have been known to harm and kill owls, bats, and small birds.

Use natural decorations like pumpkins that can last for weeks, often times all the way to Thanksgiving. Then compost them when they get moldy or if its an edible pumpkin or gourd, eat it before it has a chance to go bad.

Use natural elements from around your yard to spruce up a display or flower container. You can use dried leaves on a length of twine to create a banner.

Prices are getting quite high these days for a lot of items. I really wanted some flowers, so I bought the most inexpensive ones I could find and added some fern fronds from the yard to give the arrangement more height and variation. I like how it turned out. What do you think?

Simple Flower Arrangement parts
Simple Flower Arrangement

A “brief” list of countries that celebrate Halloween: https://thecountriesof.com/what-countries-celebrate-halloween-around-the-world/#:~:text=What%20Countries%20Celebrate%20Halloween%20Around%20the%20World%201,Kong.%20…%2010%20Ireland.%20…%20More%20items…%20

Do you celebrate Halloween?

What do you do to celebrate?