“Birth, life, and death—each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.” Toni Morrison
Welcome to issue 21 and thank you to all new subscribers and to all paid subscribers for supporting my work. This is the season of leaves and the first story is all about the wisdom to be found in a leaf. Then, in my ongoing quest to be an ever informed consumer, you will learn about a very common home product that has been in the news lately…On a different note, don’t you love reading news about how a community has come up with solutions to challenging problems. I feel strongly that we can and must learn from each other’s communities no matter where we live in the world by sharing each other’s challenges and solutions. This is a topic that is of great interest to me and has been for a long time. Did you know how much Toni Morrison loved nature? This piece about her writing is SO interesting and a great read. The closing story is a video that I found so beautiful which shows a group of women working together to build this stunning dwelling in just 3 days. Incredible! Read on and enjoy!
#1- Seven Lessons Learned from Leaves
-unexpected wisdom found in leaves, that can be applied to our own lives-
1. Leaves feel stress, just like we do.
If we look clearly, we see that everyone and everything around us — yes, even a leaf on a tree — suffers in some way. This is why everyone and everything we encounter deserves compassion.
2. Leaves are flexible and resilient.
Although leaves are relatively fragile and are easily bent or torn, their flexibility helps them endure. When strong winds whip the tree, leaves hang on by going with the flow. Leaves will actually adjust their configurations in high winds to reduce surface exposure and minimize potential damage. In some trees, the leaves curl into a tightening cone to minimize wind drag. In another species, the leaves swing inward and lie flat against the branch.
3. Leaves know what’s good for them.
They require energy from sunlight in order to produce food. So that’s where they orient themselves: toward sunlight. Through the process of phototropism, the cells on the shady side of leaves and stems grow faster, triggering a deliberate asymmetrical growth. This allows plants to bend naturally toward sunlight.
Be like a leaf by bending toward the light, and being drawn to things that nourish us.
4. Leaves are constantly changing.
When a leaf changes colors in the fall, those reds, yellows and other vivid hues were actually inside the leaf all along. The green color we observed during spring and summer is caused by chlorophyll, which is the dominant pigment in the leaf. When fall arrives, the chlorophyl breaks down and the other color-creating pigments have an opportunity to reveal themselves.
All of the raw material we need for positive growth and change is, and always has been, right within us. Our challenge in life is to find a way to bring these qualities to the forefront
5. Leaves know how to work together.
On the one hand, leaves are highly individualistic. Each one is unique, and each one has an instinct for its survival embedded at a cellular level. At the same time, leaves understand that their survival and wellbeing are deeply connected to the survival and wellbeing of the entire tree. If the tree thrives, the leaves can flourish. If the tree gets sick and dies, every leaf perishes with it. That’s why leaves work to convert sunlight into food, not just for their own private domain at the end of a stem, but for the whole tree.
6. Leaves are humble.
From their lofty branches where they look down upon the trunk and roots, leaves fall to the ground and are trampled underfoot. By lowering itself, a leaf becomes mulch. The decomposing mulch in turn enriches the soil and helps the tree grow stronger and taller.
7. Leaves know when it’s time to go.
If you slice open a leaf’s stem and observe it under a microscope, you’ll see a tiny dome-shaped structure called the meristem. This little miracle of life functions as a production control center, telling the tree when it’s time to grow … and when it’s time to stop. Before the onset of winter, specialized cells will cut the leaves off from the tree, causing them to fall. And then a marvelous thing happens. A small bud is formed on the tree where the leaf used to be, covered with scales to protect itself from the cold. Like the moon in a dewdrop, all of the leaves and flowers for the next spring’s growth are contained in that little bud.
This is why Rumi advised us to “Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”
Excerpted from a longer piece. Read it all here
One more thing about leaves…As our gardens, and lawns are being covered with leaves, and so as garden expert Margaret Roach said “in the name of greater environmental good, simulate what would be happening on the forest floor and leave the leaves where they have fallen”. Leaves provide a home for overwintering beneficial insects. Once spring arrives, the insects will have moved on and the leaves can be added to a compost pile.
Read more about what you can do with the leaves here
#2-The Brands of Toilet Paper that contain PFAs
-be an informed consumer-
These 4 brands of toilet paper contain PFAs:
Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper — 13 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
Seventh Generation 100% Recycled Bath Tissue — 35 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
Tushy Bamboo Toilet Paper — 10 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
Who Gives a Crap Bamboo Toilet Paper — 11 parts per million (ppm) organic fluorine
The levels found are low, which is an indication that the ‘forever chemicals’ are not added to the toilet paper on purpose, rather, inadvertently through manufacturing or packaging.
Potential Health Impacts of Exposure to PFAS “Forever Chemicals” in Toilet Paper
PFAS “forever chemicals” are problematic to human health and the environment. They are considered ubiquitous, persistent, and toxic. Many can last for years in our bodies. Therefore, it’s imperative to reduce the amount of PFAS you are exposed to from food and water and personal care products such as toilet paper. No one knows the direct impact of using toilet paper with indications of PFAS, but that doesn’t mean there is no danger.
Interested in learning more about PFAS. Read here
The good news is that there are plenty of other choices when buying toilet paper. The following is a list of better and best choices.
Better toilet paper:
Angel Soft 230+ Sheets Double Roll Toilet Paper (made with Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified fiber)– non-detect organic fluorine
Cottonelle Mega Ultra Comfort Care — non-detect organic fluorine
Kirkland (Costco) Bath Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine [updated on 10/22]
Presto (Amazon) Ultra-Soft Septic Safe Toilet Paper — non-detect organic fluorine [updated on 10/22]
Scott 1000 Sheets Per Roll Toilet Paper (made with FSC Certified fiber)– non-detect organic fluorine
Signature Select (Albertsons) Mega Ultra Premium Bath Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Trader Joes Super Soft Bath Tissue The Big Roll — non-detect organic fluorine [updated on 10/22]
Quilted Northern Ultra Plush Soft & Strong Premium Comfort Toilet Paper (made with FSC certified fiber) — non-detect organic fluorine
Value Corner (Safeway) Bathroom Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Best Toilet paper:
Caboo Tree-Free Bamboo Bath Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Cheeky Panda Eco-Friendly Natural Bamboo Toilet Paper — non-detect organic fluorine [updated on 10/22]
Cloud Paper Bamboo Toilet Paper — non-detect organic fluorine [updated on 10/22]
ECOS Treeless Bamboo & Sugarcane Bathroom Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Nature Z Way Bamboo Bath Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Open Nature 100% Recycled Paper Bathroom Tissue — non-detect organic fluorine
Public Goods Toilet Paper (Bamboo & Cane Sugar) — non-detect organic fluorine
Seedling by Grove Tree-Free Toilet Paper (made with FSC certified bamboo)– non-detect organic fluorine
Sprouts 100% Recycled Toilet Paper — non-detect organic fluorine
Source of this story
-one of the largest Louisiana glass recyclers is helping to rebuild a vanishing coastline-
The Louisiana coastline has undergone significant erosion in the last century, and one method of restoration involves rebuilding landforms and protecting areas with sand. Unfortunately, the world is simultaneously experiencing a massive shortage of the material—it’s the most-extracted and second most-used resource in the world (who knew?) —so it’s essential to find new, innovative methods of procuring the substance.
Glass Half Full is one of the largest recyclers of the material in Louisiana, and is working toward this goal by turning bottles and other waste back into their original, granular form.
Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz, who co-founded the organization while in college, have a facility that processes an astounding 16 metric tons of glass per week.
Franziska Trautmann featured in their facility
The substance is crushed and sorted into gravel-sized chunks, a fine powdery material, and a coarse grind, the latter of which is shipped to wetlands and habitats for use in restoration efforts.
Thanks to a National Science Foundation, Glass Half Full even collaborated with Tulane University scientists to ensure that the reused material doesn’t leach harmful chemicals into the water and can sustain plant life.
Another article about Glass Half Full’s work
Learn more about Glass Half Full
Source of the story
#4-Three Ecological Lessons From Toni Morrison
-the Nobel winner had a keen eye for the natural world-
Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Toni Morrison is not typically thought of as a nature writer. But embedded in her works are profound lessons about the natural world. Morrison was a prolific gardener and birder. "I must confess, though, that I sometimes lose interest in the characters and get much more interested in the trees and animals. I think I exercise tremendous restraint in this, but my editor says, ‘Would you stop this beauty business.’ And I say, ‘Wait, wait until I tell you about these ants.’"
Her attention to the ecology of race and place—and how the two are deeply intertwined—are teeming with insights. Here are a few of them.
Nature is alive with its own memory
Morrison doesn’t just describe the natural world; she makes it a central character with a memory and will of its own.. In Sula, she alludes to how ecological memory builds on emerging research that proves ecosystems do store knowledge about earlier conditions in the form of “material and information legacies.” Material legacies exist in the form of living elements like seeds, seedlings, and microbes as well as nonliving features like logs and leaf litter. When these materials survive after a disturbance, they become sites for the growth of vital microbes and other organisms as the ecosystem recovers.
"Information legacies" are the genetic adaptations that allow organisms to survive a disturbance—like trees in fire-prone regions that evolve to have thicker bark. Together, this “memory” helps an ecosystem bounce back after events like wildfires or flooding and shapes the ecosystem’s response to future events.
In her 1996 essay “The Site of Memory,” Morrison remarked, “You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for horses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. ‘Floods' is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering.” She adds, “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
The fate of humanity is closely tied to that of the earth
Nowhere are natural elements more apparent than in Morrison’s celebrated novel The Bluest Eye, where Morrison asserted that bodies are not closed systems but deeply impacted by the broader environment. Dirt is a recurring theme in The Bluest Eye and brings to mind a teaching from Wendell Berry: “What we do to the land, we do to ourselves.”
Understanding nature connects us with our truest selves
In Home, Morrison’s 10th novel, Frank Money, a Korean War veteran, returns home to Lotus, Georgia, to rescue his sister, Cee, from abuse. Throughout the novel, the siblings return to a particular tree for shade and comfort. “When he found himself on the bank of Wretched, the sometimes stream, sometimes creek, other times a bed of mud, he squatted beneath the sweet bay tree.”
The siblings leave restored, not just because of the natural treatments they received but because they’ve observed a kind of resilience in the landscape around them that is also present in themselves. Morrison eschews trite metaphors equating nature with healing, to instead position nature as instructive for the self.
As Morrison wrote in Sula, “Birth, life, and death—each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.” The environmental threads in her work illustrate what lessons we might derive from earthly systems if we’re quiet enough to listen, and patient enough to notice.
Excerpted from a longer piece. Read it here
#5-House of a Thousand Knots
-a short film to watch-
This is a previously undiscovered African house, from east Kenya. It is almost on the edge of extinction, with the tradition being preserved by one remarkable young woman, Ramadan. The tiny home, a beautiful example of organic architecture, is constructed by around twenty women builders over three days, usually just before a marriage. The house is unusually high, with a raised up bed, and this is to protect the occupants from the occasional flooding of the river Tana. All the natural materials are gathered from within a few kilometers of the village. Essentially it is a bentwood frame lashed together into a gridshell. The whole structure is strong as it is a natural parabolic dome. The area is undergoing rapid change as modern materials and electricity are being brought in, so we were very fortunate to be able to record this building before it disappears completely.
My instagram account PriscillaWoolworth has been hacked. Hopefully, it will be reactivated soon. If not, I’ll launch a new account where I will continue to keep in touch and share news. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, you can follow news on Instagram @therabbitholehvny, where I will be posting about my tiny “destination” store, and the latest products I add to it. Some will also be available in my online store www.priscillawoolworth.com
Also, don’t forget to vote, on or before November 8th!
Be well in all ways, as well as your loved ones,