By Rudy Serra

Q: My son returned from a visit with his cousin, and now he wants to install neon lights on the under-carriage if his car. Are those even legal? What about interior neon lights? What else should he know about tricking out his car?

Answer: The Dream Cruise is only a few months away. Welcome to convertible season and Daylights Savings Time. The law says you cannot install lights on a motor vehicle unless “expressly required or permitted” by the motor vehicle code. Otherwise, the law requires that such lights “are both covered and unlit.” Who wants to buy lights they have to keep both unlit and covered?

Neon undercarriage lights are not required. They are not mentioned in the motor vehicle code. Although they are not expressly forbidden, they are also not expressly permitted. This means that you can install neon under-carriage lights, but you cannot use them at any time that the car is on a public street. You cannot drive with such lights on. Your son can display the lights only while parked.

The law is also very specific about what color lights can be used in or on a car, and what direction they can be seen from. The only color lights that may be visible from the front of a vehicle are white or amber. If you can look through the windshield and see blue, red, green or other lights in the passenger compartment, it is a violation. Interior neon lights, therefore, would be subject to the same rules as exterior. You would need to be parked.

The only colors that may be visible from the rear of a vehicle are red or amber. On the sides of your vehicle in back, you can display only amber or red. On the sides of the front, anything other than white or amber is a violation.

According to the Michigan State Police: “No other colors are allowed and if any permitted color lamp is visible from any direction that is not allowed then it cannot be equipped that way. If the lighting causes a visual impairment for the driver or is potentially distracting, then such lighting is unlawful. Finally, like exterior neon lighting, there is no provision within the Michigan Vehicle Code that allows the use of interior neon lighting. Ultimately, it will be a matter for the courts to decide.”

Even neon license plate frames are regulated. They must be covered and unlit any time the vehicle is being driven, and they cannot obscure any information on the plate.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. This ¨ask the lawyer¨ format column welcomes questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to rudy.serra@sbcglobal.net. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

I’m writing to share the current real estate market conditions in the Metro Detroit area. Our inventory of available homes is at a critical low right now; and with the threat of interest rates continuing to rise, this is a big problem for buyers. It should also be a clear message to homeowners considering selling their homes.

I listed a home last week on Wednesday at 9:00 A.M. It was a typical 1200 sq. ft, bungalow located in the Woodward corridor. By 12:00 P.M., there were over 50 confirmed showings. I called for “highest and best” after receiving two offers. On Friday at 5:00 P.M., I had 19 offers for my client to review and 17 were over asking price. Great news for the seller, but bad news for the 18 buyers who did not get the home.

I want everyone in the Metro Detroit area to know this is the time to sell!! If interest rates continue to rise, the pool of buyers will shrink, and home sales will be affected. As inventory rises, this will change the market to benefit buyers, and home values will drop. If you’re thinking of selling, waiting could be devastating to your bottom line. It could also be damaging to the market as a whole. If inventories rise at the same time as interest rates, it could create the atmosphere for another real estate “bubble,” and we all know how damaging that can be to the housing market.

For those who think waiting until summer to sell will help your bottom line, I’d ask you to reconsider your rationale. Do you think you will profit from waiting until the time when others are more likely to put their homes on the market? Not likely! The time to put your home on the market is now, while supply is low. Cash in now!

Sincerely, Eric Blaine
Real Estate One, 26236 Woodward Ave Royal Oak, MI 48067
Cell: 248-808-4758.

By Rose Carver

Ferndale has a parking problem. Looking for a parking spot during the weekends or for downtown events is beyond a hassle. Residents and officials have been debating solutions for years, to little or no avail. Last year, the widely-publicized 360 Project, which would have built two parking structures with office and retail space on either side of Woodward, was ultimately rejected. Now, similar plans are beginning to form.

The Ferndale City Council selected a parking lot at the corner of West Troy Street and Allen Street to house a new parking structure. However, there are conflicting ideas of how the space should be used. City Council is setting their sights on mixed-use space again – a parking garage with residential, office, and commercial space built in. With the large opposition of the 360 Project last year, this new plan is coming as a surprise to many residents.

The Council’s vision is a parking structure with office and retail space on the ground floor, with the possibility of an office cap on the top floor rather than rooftop parking. After spending the last year researching available lots in Ferndale, Council voted unanimously to select the location at West Troy Street and Allen Street as the best option due to its size and location. Council is including the mixed-use space idea to promote the city’s walkability and to expand the downtown area, as well as bringing more daytime traffic to the area.

The Park Ferndale web site says the project goals include the following:
●    Meeting the parking supply needs for our downtown businesses
●    Minimizing business disruption during construction
●    Minimizing the impact of the parking deck height on residents
●    Creating a sense of place for the public
●    Providing a buffer for the residents adjacent to the parking lot
●    Creating a vibrant street, active with complementary retailers

Despite this positive mission statement, there are still concerns for neighbors of the lot. Local business owners worry about the traffic and delays that will be caused by the construction of the building. A simple parking structure can be put up in a matter of months. The addition of plumbing and electricity to accommodate the mixed-use space will delay the completion date by months or years. This is very concerning.

“Losing a lot we depend on for two years will be devastating for business,” says local Sensei Jaye Spiro, owner of Mejishi Martial Arts on Nine Mile Road. As an all-ages teacher, Jaye worries that the loss of this space will make it difficult for students to be picked up or dropped off from the building.

While Council has offered to accommodate a shuttle from Credit Union One to the plaza, the businesses fear this is a complicated, even if temporary, fix.

Jaye is united with neighboring business owners who think a simple parking structure would be best for the city’s needs. Jaye cites a parking platform recently built in Rochester, a simple three-level brick parking garage, as a preferable outcome. The project took less than a year to build and added nearly 300 spots to Rochester’s downtown area, all while finishing ahead of schedule and under budget by over a million dollars.
The height of the structure is also a repeated concern. A 2014 parking survey determined that 250 more parking spots are needed in the downtown area. The Public Meeting Summary notes that the Troy lot is zoned for buildings of 70 feet, or six to seven stories tall. The committee says even a parking-only structure would require four stories to reach 250 spaces. Worry is resonating that a new structure will shadow over the historic downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

The planning is currently in a public outreach stage. Council has held two public meetings and sent out a survey to 300 residents and business owners asking for their opinion on the plans for the mixed-use space. Seventy-four responses were received, most of which were from residents or business owners in the direct vicinity. Many of the comments and questions had similar themes; that parking is a more pressing need than the mixed-use components, that more information needs to be provided for the project, that the proposal could negatively impact residents and businesses, and that residents deserve adequate communication throughout the progress of the project.

Many suggested that traffic on Troy and Allen should be rerouted, that Troy become one-way or a dead end to cut down on an already congested traffic spot. Some responses seem hesitant; “In my opinion, Troy Street is not the place for ‘mixed-use.’ We simply need more parking for the existing businesses. Creating more business simply creates more demand on parking. I say, be progressive, build the ‘deck parking’ and let existing businesses grow.”

Some sound angrier: “How much revenue can possibly come from rental space in a ‘mixed-use’ parking deck that ultimately consumes the very spots it’s providing. A tiered deck for Troy St. is what we need immediately. Not mixed with potential store fronts or restaurants… and that this survey is specifically for thoughts on ‘mixed-use’ only seems to me we are right back to the last 360 disaster…why hasn’t Ferndale learned from our neighboring cities mistakes?” and “How would you feel if you got to wake up each morning and look out your kitchen window to see a giant, ugly cement structure instead of the bright morning sky?? How about barbequing in your backyard under… a cement structure? Your kids swinging… under a cement structure! Love it? No? Neither do I.”

Within all the concern for the mixed-use structure is a repeated overture; the downtown area has such a draw throughout metro-Detroit for its unique spirit; the beautiful historical buildings and interesting businesses are incomparable to other cities. As one survey responder so eloquently phrased it; “We are turning Ferndale into Royal JOAK.”

To learn more about the project, surveys and previous meetings or to find out about future meetings, go to www.ferndaleparking.com.

Photo Dawn Henry

As Barack Obama prepared to relinquish the Presidency to the man who received the second-most votes in the November election, he warned in his January 10 farewell address, “We’re the losers now, so it behooves us to break out of that bubble more.”

“For too many of us,” he said, “it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles.” He cautioned against sequestering ourselves with those “who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”

This advice from a man, who had he not run up against Republican revenge against the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, would be sitting in the White House today beginning his third term. However, let’s look deeper at his advice.

Who is really in a bubble?
Those of us who live in the Woodward Corridor communities and ones to the east and west of the Motor City’s main street, exhibit the characteristics of a diverse, multi-cultural America.

Sorry for presenting a laundry list of all of us, but it needs to be said because the “we” in We the People are a group with many definitions. Women and men, white, black, brown, yellow, and red. Straight, and LGBT with more appended initials to encompass the whole range of sexuality. A vibrant youth culture alongside seniors. All co-existing in our cities which feature a surfeit of music of many styles, clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals, and theatres for all tastes in entertainment and food.

We live in communities where you can fly the American flag or a rainbow flag on your porch, or both, without ear. On Nine Mile Road, Affirmations, the community center for the LGBT community, feels safe enough there to provide a safe space for those who elsewhere would be under threat. And, those who aren’t, often are allies and are proud of having such a center in our area.

Is this a bubble we need to step out of or away from? Are we the ones who should be challenging our assumptions?

Hillary Clinton did not lose the election because we were too insular. She lost because of voter suppression, Russian interference, FBI malfeasance, decades-long demonization of her, and an Electoral College which performed the function it was established for—to assure the domination of the Southern states. And, I say this without being a supporter of Clinton. As it is, she garnered more votes than any candidate in the history of the nation.

Also, Democratic candidates received five million more votes for the U.S. House of Representatives than their opponents, but because of redistricting, the Republicans have a huge majority. This is not what democracy looks like.

Obama’s bubble admonition also doesn’t take into account that all of the myriad groups mentioned above (and I know I left some out) all vote for each other—whites vote for blacks in our bubble; blacks vote for whites; gays for straights, and the reverse. The only rock solid identity politics, with no variation, being practiced in America is that of white identify politics, which is the bedrock of the Republican Party. White people have voted in the majority for Republican presidential candidates since 1968. They viewed Barack Obama as the final triumph of who they consider The Other.

We do not have a concept of The Other. Everyone sits at our table together, each bringing something unique and delicious to our communal meal which is our lives and the communities in which we live.

The 2016 election was little about ObamaCare or even jobs. It essentially was a referendum on what would be the dominant social narrative, mostly, do black lives matter? The majority of whites voted, no. It’s like they’re living in late 1970’s Rhodesia, a white colonial nation based on dreams of an imagined greatness that never was.

But the majority of us by at least three million (which doesn’t count the millions purposely excluded from voting) understand that rather than our communities being a bubble, they are a reflection of this country and a model of the way it should be. The way to support our communities of diversity, solidarity, tolerance, and love is by example.

We saw that with the November 20, 1200-person, originally named Ferndale Trumps Hate march, in reaction to the Trump electoral victory. The event was renamed Ferndale Love and despite charges of that being too touchy-feely, it most accurately defined what our communities are all about.

And, the unbelievable January 21 Women’s March that saw almost four million women and men marching to defending the equality and rights that have been won over the last two generations.

We are not in a bubble; We Are The World as it should be!

Publishers  Note: We are proud to welcome Peter Werbe to the Ferndale Friends editorial team. Werbe, a Detroit-area activist, has influenced many tens of thousands of people in our area as host, until recently, of WRIF’s long-running phone-in talk show, “Nightcall.” He is also an editor of the legendary publication, Fifth Estate (www.FifthEstate.org). Werbe represents a left/liberal view and so, for balance, we seek a columnist of a similar stature to represent the conservative viewpoint.

Jack D. Arlan

What will happen if the President/Congress/Supreme Court acts to (fill in the blank)?” “Will they really do (this or that)?”

We’ve all heard these questions over the past few months.

People are asking these questions at the kitchen table, on their job, at their place of worship and on the street. Few are untouched by concern, and their concerns are many. One illustration is Medicare, the primary source of medical coverage for the elderly: What’s the effect on you, your parents or grandparents if it is changed, eliminated or privatized?

What can ordinary citizens like you and I do in a time of change and transition? How can we be heard in a time when federal policies and programs may dramatically impact many of us directly? People – young and old, a populace of varying color, religion, orientation and political persuasion -want and should have an influential voice.

Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg, Angel Padilla and a few dozen other former congressional staffers recently published a guide for citizen-participation called Indivisible. It showed up on the web last December, and has been received by the public with enthusiasm. It’s a handbook for those who want to make their stance known on issues and hold their representatives in Washington accountable. Much of the advice is based on the successful tactics of the Tea Party. There is an overt anti-Trump tone, but the information is useful to people of all political positions. It may be found easily via Google or go directly to www.indivisibleguide.com.
Congressional staffers know how your Senators and Representatives think. They have seen how small groups of constituents can have an enormous impact on what our lawmakers do.

Your congressional representative and two United States senators want you to believe they care about you, share your values and are working hard on your behalf. Senators run for reelection every six years, Congressmen every two; they are always in a position of running for reelection or getting ready to do so. Even those in a “safe” seat care about threats in the next primary.

Your senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, need to be responsive to the people of Michigan; they don’t worry as much about someone in Kentucky or Alaska. Your Congressman (for those in Ferndale, that’s Sandy Levin of the Ninth District) doesn’t lose too much sleep over those in Traverse City or Saginaw; he values his constituents first.

All of your members of Congress have web pages, showing their Washington DC and local offices, contact information and much about them and their work. Remember that independent checks are easily accessible, via the web, for voting history, your congressman in the news, etc.

How do your Congressional members feel about issues you’re concerned about? Are they speaking up? Are they attempting to support or oppose relevant policies or programs? There are four key areas where a handful of local constituents have the opportunity to make an impact:

1.    Townhall meetings. Public, in-district events are regularly held.
2.    Non-town hall events. These are ribbon-cutting ceremonies, parades, etc.
3.    District office(s). Your member of Congress has one or more local offices that he or she is at on a regular basis. It’s open for visits and meetings.
4.    Coordinated emails and telephone calls.

Indivisible is chock-full of detail about how these areas may be effectively utilized. It deals with the ways to ask questions and get answers, create public awareness as to responsiveness (or the lack thereof) and utilization of things like signs and other indications of support. There’s also a wealth of information about the formation and makeup of groups, which can be effective even starting out with a handful of like-minded folk.

Keep two things in mind: First, the authors recommend you concentrate on one issue at a time; your representatives don’t want to hear or address a bushel of issues in a single interaction. Second, focus on matters that have a current legislative priority; your influence is greatest with matters in the public eye now.
Also note that positive reinforcement can be important even if your member of Congress is already speaking and acting in accordance with your views. He or she, and their staff, can be energized by knowing their constituents believe they’re doing a good job; opponents notice.


By Rebecca Hammond

I’m reading a book called Nature’s God, by Matthew Stewart. Subtitled The Heretical Roots of the American Revolution, it’s the story of our nation’s beginnings combined with a history of philosophy that links to the birth of the American liberal movement, long ago. It’s a great read.

Stewart points out that opposite of “radical” isn’t necessarily “moderate,” it can be “common.” Yet radical voices commonly surround us. Do you read Mother Earth News at the Ferndale Library? A pe-rusal of MEN does not need to reveal anything specificallyuseful, the valuable part being reminded that there are a multitude of ways to live. There are radical choices we can make. The advertised way is, in fact, usually the most boring, always being the way to get the task over with the soonest. Has the idea of getting necessary tasks over with quickly so as to free up time for enjoyable or creative ideas worked? I doubt it. There’s a resurgence of doing things slowly even if that costs more, knitting being one example. It now costs more to buy yarn and knit a sweater or socks than it does to buy the finished garment, but even so, knitting is again extremely popular.

It’s common to discard worn clothing, so just re-pairing it is radical. Leather patches on elbows might be professorial, but they were once merely practical, keeping elbows intact. But a commonly-radical mom wouldn’t have tossed a sweater with holey elbows anyway – she’d have ripped off sleeves above the holes and re-knit them.

Same with socks. I used to wonder why old-fashioned socks had contrasting heels and toes until I knit a few dozen pairs myself. A woman fixing socks wouldn’t necessarily have still had the same color yarn the socks were originally made of. Not only that, if the heels and toes are a different color, they’re easier to remove and replace, even multiple times. If you knit your own socks, you know that the feet are fairly fun to knit, the ribbed ankle cuff more tedious. An entire worn-out sock foot can be cut off, the cuff stitches picked up, and the foot re-knit. This can even be done with commercial socks. What if you don’t want to buy this pricey yarn, period? Thrift stores are full of nice sweaters made of high-quality yarn that can be dismantled in an evening. You’ll find every kind of wool including merino and cash-mere, and cottons and fun synthetics. The only thing to watch for is the seams. A serged or overlocked seam (see the photo; the serged seam is on the left) means the sweater pieces were cut from large bolts of knit fabric, and if you try to reuse that yarn, every row will be a separate piece. Look for seams that look like the sweater was handmade (like on the right). Remove the seam thread, clip the yarn at the very bottom, and start raveling. I used to bother winding the yarn in a ball, even blocking the kinks out of it, but no longer. A piece of knit fabric is easier to handle than a ball of yarn, and it feels pretty radical to rip a row or two off a former sweater and instantly turn it into a sock or a mitten. The kinkiness of already-knitted yarn is not noticeable as you work. You can make a lot of socks or mittens from a $2 dollar sweater. Almost-free wool socks are radical.

Knitting was socially important and radical recently, when women spent weeks knitting pink hats for a January 21st march that included hundreds of marches worldwide, huge ones in places like London and Chicago and LA, tiny ones in places like Copper Harbor and Kodiak Island. The hats were a mere symbol, but one that kept women united for weeks, some churning out dozens for non-knitters. Keeping one’s hands busy with repetitive work is soothing and mind-freeing, so the benefits outweighed the warmth of the hats, the obvious solidarity they symbolized, and the sea of pink that make the marches unmistakable in photos. It was a modern version of a quilting bee, an online version that created unity before the marchers ever gathered.

These marches were important. Watch the documentary, Requiem for the American Dream. As interviewee, Noam Chomsky, leads through the steps that led to our current situation in America, he describes how important and nation–changing large movements have been in our past. Marches matter.

If you prefer knitting to be even more radical, check out a new Ferndale group called The Ladies Knitting Circle and Resistance League on Facebook. We bump mere social knitting up a notch or 12, chipping in for groups like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. No, you don’t even have to knit.

Rebecca Hammond learned to knit about 52 years ago, when her Mom went to knitting classes at church and came home to teach her daughters.

By: Rudy Serra

Q: I WAS A CONTRACT WORKER for 24 years for one of the Big Three. Can I file a lawsuit saying that I was really an employee because of the time involved? I had a company business card and a company employee badge.
Answer: Strictly speaking, when you ask “can I file a lawsuit,” the answer is almost always yes. The real issue is whether you’re likely to win. Without knowing a lot more, the advice I can give is limited. You may want to consult an attorney who specializes in employment law. If you are no longer on the job, it is important for your attorney to under-stand exactly what you’re trying to do. Do you want to obtain employee benefits, or are you trying to be compensated for unemployment or some injury?

The difference between an employee and an independent contractor has been the subject of many cases. Generally, the law says that a court will look at the contract involved, and will apply certain standards and tests. In some cases the courts will apply a reality test. The court will look at the real-life facts, and will consider a variety of factors. These include things like; which party [employer or contractor] decides when the work has to be done? Which party provides the tools? Is the worker supervised or independent? Does the employer require the work to be done at a particular place?

Before you get to looking at such factors, you may have to get past the language of the actual contract you signed. The terms of your employment agreement will be treated as enforceable unless you can show some reason to look past them, such as fraud or duress or mistake.

Some of the things you mentioned would probably be considered as evidence that you really had an employment relationship. Other facts might support the claim that you were merely a contractor.  When a company gives you a card that authorizes you to rep-resent yourself as an agent of the company, for ex-ample, an agency relationship is indisputable. Not all agents are employees, but all employees are agents. The long period of time you were working would also probably weigh in your favor.

An attorney will probably want to see a copy of your contract. Michigan courts generally favor strict enforcement of contracts. It can be difficult to get a court to look beyond the terms of a written contract and consider the nature of your employment relation-ship. Based on the factors you mentioned, though, it may be worth looking into further.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. This ¨ask the lawyer¨ format column welcomes questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to rudy.serra@sbcglobal.net. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

By Jeannie Davis

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO GO into the Holiday Season without reflecting on things past. Happy times with our families around us. Children’s faces, unwrapping gifts, the faces of old friends and relatives, kitchen smells, and of course, the happy chatter of a full house. Of course, not all memories are happy. Some are dramatic and life-changing, as the birth of a child, marriage proposal, men home from the war. Some are incidental, as your husband struggling with an oversize tree, the flushed face of your mom coming in from the cold air, a secret glance across a room. Some are sad: the first Christmas without a loved one, the pain of Christmas in an unhappy home, being alone during this happy time.

This is all well and good as memories go. But, we know that as human beings, we have many many more memories, which do not fit into any of the above categories, and it could possibly be that we enjoy these even more than traditional ones. Casual outings and trivial chats which don’t seem memorable, yet, we find ourselves looking back with fondness. These are the memories we should indeed treasure, not the obvious staged Norman Rockwell images.

We need more of these. We need to create and store more of these unintentional happenings. After all, they say that our memories form a large part of who we are. They provide the coloring and flavor of our personalities, and strongly influence our outlooks.

But, what if our memories are unhappy? What if our childhoods were more Grinch than Norman Rockwell?What then? Simply make more! Create new happy times. Focus on positive friends, and even make new ones, interact eagerly with others, try new ventures.

That is not to suggest that we feverishly run about at-tending every event, talk to each person who crosses our path, or open our doors to the world. We need to be in the middle. Be open without being frantic. Let’s face it, some of us can get out and do things more than oth-ers. This limits our chances of having new experiences, or making new friends. What to do about this? Then we focus on what we can do and not what we can’t do.

Focus! That may be the key to those small, unplanned memories. I have discovered that by paying close attention to what is happening in the moment, observing everything around me at the time, listening, hearing, and even smelling. I stay in the moment. I don’t let my mind stray to what I have to do later, what happened that morning, or any other distraction. Stay in the conversation, not planning on what you are going to say, listen. Focus on the sights around you, decorations, how people are dressed, soak it in. Think about it, you will never be here in this moment again.

I find that by completely absorbing everything in front of me, my memories are fuller, and more frequent. Recently, Joyce, Virginia, and myself attended a gallery showing and lecture at the DIA, no big deal, just a pleasurable afternoon. In the gift store, I watched Joyce happily examine each article as she marveled at it. From a distance in the gallery, I noticed Virginia studying the costly tea and coffee services, and shake her head. At lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion on what we had just seen.  All the way home, we chatted happily about the afternoon. I know that this will be a warm memory. And I am so happy I focused on every detail. So, let’s go out and make new memories. Pay attention to all the lovely things around you, all the people, and engage. Merry Christmas.

By Rebecca Hammond

SIGH: Michigan has been discovered, alas. While I’m continually amazed that I can keep finding new and enjoyable trails, towns, rivers in Michigan, I’m not happy that we keep making this-or-that list of national wonderfulness. The latest? Nikon has ranked Michigan the number-one spot in America for fall photography. (What took them so long?) Years ago I was driving to Ohio and was pleased to hear that NPR was doing an entire hour on Marquette, which was continually winning a spot on “Ten Best Places . . .” lists. At the end was an interview with the owner of a downtown business, who was maybe the grandson of its founder. His last words? “Don’t move here.” I now understand. A friend who lives in Marquette said that the last two summers were off-the-charts busy with tourists, and that even Munising had times with not enough hotel rooms or restaurants. Perhaps Musising will be to Marquette what Ferndale once was to Royal Oak.

RETRO FESTIVE: Darwin’s Home Evolution on the west side of Woodward north of Nine Mile has windows so
full of retro holiday wares, I defy you to take a look and not feel nostalgic. They sell housewares, furniture, jewelry, books, and games. Darwin’s will have a Christmas Party, date not yet selected, but check their Facebook page or website. They have treats at all times, a free drawing every week, and since items are only in the store for three months, there’s something new constantly. Check out their after-Christmas sale. Used gifts are green gifts. Regift and degift.

NATURE, A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP: A praying mantis set up housekeeping on our porch for about two weeks this summer. The Number One sign you might be a nature lover: finding yourself with tweezers, picking spider webs off the back of a mantis. We humans seem to think wild things want the relationship with us that we desire with them. Just as I can wishfully-think that wild creatures enjoy relating to me, I can also think that they get into spider webs accidentally, instead of en-joying a free source of food they didn’t have to bother catching.
When you see the rather putrid fungi that pops up all over Ferndale in late summer, the red stems with slimy brown tops that are often crawling with flies, do you also wonder why you’re a nature lover to begin with? Nature can be disgusting. On the other hand, this was a marvelous year for fungi in the woods. When you see groups of spherical inch-wide brown fungi, each with a small hole on top, give one a press. A cloud of fine spores will puff out of that little hole.

PIPELINES: The Dakota Access Pipeline remains in the news and remains a concern for members of our community. NPR reported yesterday that in below freezing temperatures, police sprayed protesters with water cannons. And police complained that they had been hit with rocks and wood. President Obama may be considering rerouting this pipeline. While this would make most of us happy for the Standing Rock Sioux, the pipeline, which is heading for Illinois and consumers, will then become someone else’s battle. As of yet, no environmental groups that oppose the pipeline mention our demand for oil.

RANDOM GREEN THOUGHTS: I notice that any life activity becomes a learning experience if continued long enough. Hiking might be my favorite activity. Michigan is a hiker’s dream. We recently hiked the Highbanks Trail along the Au Sable Valley east of Os-coda, happy that we waited till mid-October. All memories of this day are glowingly positive, although many moments of the hike were not. Traffic was heavy along nearby River Road, parts of the seven-mile trail were “crowded” with hikers, and as always, my feet hurt. Some of this hike is along power-line rights-of-way. Gorgeous valley views are interspersed with dull second-growth woods. When you commit to a certain activity as way of life,moments of like and dislike do not end up mattering. When they seem to (my feet can really hurt!And there are bugs, sweat, cold), a mental reminder that even badly sore feet can’t wreck a hike overall is warranted. This is freedom, something to be nurtured and valued.

I read once that Grand Canyon river guides have a high rate of off-season depression, nothing else life offers being as exciting and absorbing as running rapids. Coming and going from the natural world can end up more complicated than reason would have it. Transitions even to a beloved place or state of being can seem like jarring oneself out of a rut that is simply comfortable. It’s easier to keep doing anything than it is to stop and start it. A hiker in motion tends to stay in motion.

Maybe all discipline is the realization that deciding a course of action ahead of time and sticking to it is better and easier than going with the whims and moods of particular moments. I’ve known musicians to keep going through all the “-itises”: bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis; I myself once pulled the top off a music stand and right into my upper lip, sending me from a rehearsal straight to the ER, and still played an oboe concerto two days later. Most things are doable if you made up your mind ahead of time they’re worthwhile.

Conversely, things that are worthwhile will end up avoided if each mood is weighed for validity. If the forest calls you, go. If that particular experience isn’t wonderful, you went anyway. You smelled the forest and the water and heard the wind (and maybe pressed a fungi).

Sooner or later you accumulate enough wonderful excursions that the occasional mediocre or even lousy one can be laughed off. You’ll have faith that good times are plentiful enough to count on.

Rebecca Hammond lives in Ferndale where she continues to struggle with putting her things away when done with them. Life is a journey.