Bekka Palmer

Writing

Ending my relationship with impulse purchases

Writing, ConservationBekka Palmer
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I've spent the past year or so trying to reduce the amount of stuff coming into my life especially things that I don't really want or things that turn to waste quickly. I both wanted to save money, but also I am really sick of having to clean out my closet and house and just want less stuff period.

I am pretty careful about making big purchases and generally make them with a lot of thought and care, but my weakness lies in impulse purchases. It's fun, it feels good in the moment, I get that quick high of getting something new, and usually it's fairly low in price so it doesn't feel extravagant. But then, when I started adding up the cost of my impulse purchases I realized I could save hundreds of dollars a month if I learned to curb that impulse. Additionally, when I clean out my closet or kitchen or wherever, most of the stuff I want to get rid of started as an impulse buy.

Here's some prompts and questions I have learned to use when I am about to hit that checkout button.

1. Pause, take a deep breath. Sometimes this is the only thing I have to do to look at said item and think, okay I don't really need that, or I will just throw this away in six months.

2. Can I let it go? Meaning, if I walk away right now, how much longer will I continue wishing I had this item? Usually it goes away in about an hour.

3. Do you want this item long-term? If I am still thinking about a piece of clothing or decor the next day or two days later, then I think, is this something that will last me a year? Ten years? What's the lifespan of this item and can I responsibly dispose of it when it's time is up.

4. Will buying this thing cause me financial anxiety? Listen to your gut reaction when you answer this one. It's usually so obvious, but sometimes I make up a huge list of excuses to buy something, but generally, if it's going to stress me out to spend X money, then I need to walk away.

5. How long will this item be on the market? This question is great because usually it can buy you time before you click purchase. Like the perfect vintage shelves on ebay aren't going to last long, but certain slow fashion clothing brands are going to continue making those pants for another 10 years so just wait until you are ready to buy it. If something is fleeting, meaning that you have limited time to buy it, I always think that another thing will come into my mind to replace this desire so I can let it go.

6. Is there something else you want more than this? Pretty much always a yes for me, I have some clothes and jewelry that I am always saving up for, so when I look at something new or that I just learned about I can always say to myself, "Well, you want those Jesse Kamm overalls more than this t-shirt, so just let it go."

 

Joshua Tree

Getaways, Photography, WritingBekka Palmer

I had one terrible day in January: Inauguration day. I had been sick for weeks and the overwhelming anxiety of a new presidency finally became too much. I stayed in bed with a migraine all day. The following weeks became a blur of heartbreak and uneasiness. The news worsened each day. I needed to escape, at least for a moment.

One longish plane ride and a short car ride later, I was facing the outside of a geodesic dome. It came with the promise of interstellar travel, if you are just willing to open your mind. I walked through the door and closed my eyes.

It was transporting... sort of. I definitely went to another world, but maybe not an interstellar one. It's a place where the trees don't make sense. You know they are trees even though they don't really look like trees. A place with seemingly zero water supply, but somehow, against all odds, life has found a way. The plants are in abundance, just not the kind you see on a regular basis: cacti, Suessical trees, long grasses, succulents.

Clambering over rocks, we found a place to rest. Let our souls soak up the sun. It had been months since the sunlight hit my skin and warmed me from the outside in. My worries melted away and I found I really had traveled to another planet. One not so far from here, but also not easy to get to. The most difficult kind of travel doesn't involve turbulent flights or winding bus routes, but instead an open mind.

We were welcomed with open arms, but only briefly. We were discouraged from staying too long. The real world is still moving forward and it needs you to move with it.

To return, you have to go back through the door you came from. It seems futile walking into place so briefly and then backtracking your way home. While, physically, you end up right where you started, you never forget what you saw on the other side of that door, in a parallel universe.

I returned home to politics, bills, emails. After seeing the other side, the determination of life in the desert, regular life did not seem so insurmountable as before. I returned without complaint, and with a new set of eyes.

When it all seems so hopeless, I just close my eyes and think of the Suessical trees. How they found a way despite harsh conditions, and realize, we will make it too. We just have to find another way. Things aren't going to be as they were, but they certainly don't have to be so bad. It's time to put panic and complaint aside and do something positive for this world. Because as far as I know, it's the only one we have. There is no place for me on the other side, only this one.

Election 2016 Part I: Tuesday

Writing, PoliticsBekka Palmer

I walked down Clinton Street in Brooklyn Tuesday morning, confident that we would be making history that day. "This is a day I will never forget," I thought.

I spent the day answering questions from voters and reporting polling place incidents. The messages began to feel like a chant:

"Where do I vote?" 
"What should I bring?"
"Can I get a ride?" 

All of them answered with glee. "At least I am helping," I thought. Knowing that if she lost and I sat idly by, my guilt would be too much to handle.

There were hundreds of us there supporting the cause. Our day was punctuated by the tap tap of keyboards and the ding ding of the phones. 

I stayed until my vision became blurred. It was dark when I walked out of the campaign office. As I walked down the hall someone yelled, "You are a hero!" and I felt like it. It was still early and few states had reported. I walked back the way I came. Feeling a sense of pride and confidence that we had put in the work and now it was time to reap the rewards.

We went to dinner, my eyes were glued to my phone. Refresh, refresh, refresh. A large knot was forming in my stomach. By 11pm I knew our chances were slim, and I knew when it was over I didn't want to be at the bar. I crawled into bed with my laptop on my stomach and my phone in my hand. Refresh, refresh, refresh.

I woke up to darkness at 3am and looked at my phone. The race had been called. I sobbed for hours, Brian telling me, "It's going to be okay."  "It's not," I thought. I didn't sleep again that night, the knot in my stomach grew tighter.

As I rode my bike to work Wednesday morning, I looked at the children walking to school. I saw a Muslim girl. I felt as though we failed her. I failed her. "This is a day I will never forget," I thought. 

// Part II coming tomorrow plus a long list of things you can and should do now

Forward

Getaways, Writing, PhotographyBekka Palmer

It's only Monday and Saturday already feels like a distant dream.

We took another trip upstate. The trees were even more vivid than before. 

We slipped past the gate and walked for hours along a tree lined path. It was magical, like we walked through the wardrobe and into Narnia. I was seeing the world through new eyes.

I could feel the trees preparing for winter. I pulled on an extra layer and wool socks. "We are preparing too," I thought.

We stopped, we listened. The rain hit the carpet of leaves on the ground. I looked up enchanted by the rain falling on my face.

I looked at the trees still holding onto their leaves and I yelled at them, "It's time to let go. Let go of summer, it's time to move forward. Summer will be back next year." A message more for myself than for them.

I talked about what happens to trees now. On the outside they look barren, but on the inside, they are preparing. Getting ready, saving up for spring. They need time to recharge, they can't live forever in summer. 

We talked about our impending birthdays, a sure sign that life is moving along. I asked Brian what he wanted. He said, "You don't have to get me anything or do anything, you are enough."

We walked back the way we came. Retracing our steps and climbing back out of the wardrobe, out of Narnia, and into the real world. We walked out different people than when we entered.

But there was no wardrobe and no magic. We are just moving forward, and that is enough.

Head north for fall

Getaways, Photography, WritingBekka Palmer

Driving north felt like we were driving right into fall. In the city, most of the trees are still holding onto their green leaves.

As we slowly ascended the state, things started to turn yellow, then orange, then red. The temperature dropped, the sun dipped behind the clouds. It finally felt like fall.

We set up camp at Magic Forest Farm Camp near Albany. We built a huge fire in the fire pit and roasted hot dogs. Trying to keep it simple, those hot dogs and their buns were the only food we brought. We found a grill fork for $1 at a junk shop along the way and used it to cook them.

As the fire grew bigger, we thought out loud, it's not even that cold out here. Not realizing theit was the fire keeping us warm.

After burning through our allotment of wood, we watched the fire turn to coal. Mesmerized by the glow of the coals, we poked at the with sticks for the better part of an hour, still basking in its warmth.

We crawled in the tent and fell fast asleep. At some point in the night Brian finally felt the chill in the air. "Let me in," he said, referring to my sleeping bag. For the remaining hours we shared one sleeping bag. Without the fire to keep us warm, we only had each other, but it was enough.

We woke up to the glow of dawn. We emerged from the tent, each of us with camera in hand and started our day doing what we were meant to do.

We explored the property, met the horses, goats and the property owner. The property contains a small farm, she mentioned it's hard to make a living selling vegetables.

Leaving the property we pursued breakfast. We drove south for a while, stopping at a diner to eat classic eggs and bacon. We explored a creek nearby and soon realized we were going to be late dropping off the car.

As we sped home, it was like going back in time, back through the red, the orange, the yellow and finally back to green. New York City was as we left it. As we entered the city, the grey sky peeled away to reveal blue, and just like that we were exactly where we started.

// I found the campsite via HipCamp, you too can camp at the Magic Forest Farm Camp. See some video clips on Brian's instagram.

A hipcampout in Bodega Bay

Getaways, Photography, WritingBekka Palmer

"Watch out for the poison oak," someone said as we were hiking up the river bed to find a shady space to sit. 

We talked about salmon for over an hour in the shade, listening to Salmon Creek trickle by. The creek is nearly dry, just another indicator that California is currently parched. Coming from the lush, green east coast, the brown grasses and dried up plants were jarring. I seemed the most concerned of anyone about the lack of water. 

The heat was more than we had expected. Bodega Bay is near the shore and we thought for sure it would be breezy and cool. The sun was shining and it was nearly 90 degrees; a cool breeze would have been very welcome in the scorching sun.

Later, we sat in a circle and ate a pig that had roasted for two days. We talked of our short time here, both camping for the weekend and on this earth. We spoke of the state of the world and the repercussions of our consumerist ways of the past 100 years or so.

April said, "You can make a difference, even if it feels small." Pick up that piece of trash, make better decisions about what you eat and what you wear. Even so, it's hard to feel hopeful that the Earth isn't forever changed by our selfishness.

There was one baby camping with us. I looked at her and wondered what this world will look like when she is 30. Will California even be able to sustain life without water anymore?

The wind picked up, we continued to drink beers, but now that the sun had set the breeze was less welcome. Everyone pulled on jackets and caps and huddled closer and closer to the fire. Trying to stay warm, we all felt the impending end of our time here. 

I walked back to my tent alone, leaving the group around the fire listening to music. I crawled inside and closed my eyes. I felt the earth underneath me, heard the racket of the wind, and even made out the hopeful sound of water flowing down the river. 

// Hipcamp is a website where you can both list your private property for campers to rent, and find plots of land to host your tent! They are currently looking for property owners to host campers, so if you have a piece of land good for camping, sign up.

Special thanks to Charles for an ecology lesson and April and Tavish for teaching us about the salmon. In case you were wondering, you should be buying wild caught salmon, and avoiding farmed atlantic salmon.

Thanks to Hipcamp for inviting me to a Campout, and to Eddie Bauer for providing transportation. All views are my own.

Lazy Sunday

New York City, WritingBekka Palmer

I worked a kind of hectic week and was looking forward to a lazy Sunday, but at some point in the day I decided it felt wasteful to sleep all day. I was tired, but I wanted to pack my whole weekend into a single day.

Brian and I rode bikes to Red Hook. We popped into Pioneer Works for a few minutes to explore their current time capsule. It just made me feel hot and sweaty. 

Once we felt hungry we went to Hometown for the best barbecue in Brooklyn. Really our only plans for the day were to ride to Red Hook and eat lunch, and I made a request to watch the sunset, but the massive cloud cover had other plans for our evening.

We decided to get on to the next Water Taxi that showed up. Bonus: it is free on weekends. I could not have been happier than I was leaning over the railing to catch the cool breeze. The ferry landed at Pier 11 near Wall Street. After a frightful night in the city it felt good to be there facing fears. The streets were lined with police and firemen. 

We dozed on benches in Battery Park, using our backpacks as pillows. Occasionally I would awake to the sound of someone commenting, "Are those people sleeping?" Yes we were. Exhaustion is never convenient. 

In a last effort to see the sunset we boarded the Staten Island Ferry and once again felt the cool breeze. We stood at the back watching Manhattan shrink in the distance. Sometimes it is good to get a new perspective on the city.

My aunt texted, "You weren't anywhere near the bombs last night were you?" In fact, I was just a few blocks away when the first one went off. I felt and heard nothing at the time. When I rode home that night the city felt charged in a way I hadn't felt in months. I blamed the (almost) full moon. 

Once we arrived in Staten Island we immediately boarded the ferry back. This time sitting at the front to watch the Manhattan skyline swell in our vision. I watched the tourists on the ferry enchanted by the sight of it. They seemed completely unaffected by the events of the night before. 

It was time to join in their delight and feel nothing but genuine happiness about heading towards this city. Two feet back on the ground in Manhattan I felt a surge of unexpected energy and rode home with my regular sense of awe at the greatest city on Earth.

From one end to the other

New York City, Photography, WritingBekka Palmer

This Labor Day Weekend, I decided to stay in town and make it a real New York City weekend. It's a good weekend to go places that are normally busy because the city really empties out.

On Thursday night we had a little weekend preview by stopping at Prince St. Pizza for a pepperoni square and then going to a horror film at Williamsburg Cinema. Friday night we ate at Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook and then popped into Sunny's bar and Bait and Tackle for drinks. Saturday we had some emergency bike repairs then took a group ride to The Cloisters. We had beers in Harlem before eating burgers at Corner Bistro in the West Village. Sunday I had to work a little in the morning before heading to The Rockaways to watch the big waves roll in from tropical storm Hermine. We made a pit stop at Rippers for some beach joose, then went into Chinatown for dinner at 69 Bayard. Monday we returned to Chinatown for dim sum and then took the ferry to Governor's Island. We ended the day with a burrito picnic in Prospect Park. We hit all of my favorite kinds of food in four days and did a whole bunch of very New York things along the way. It was a good mix of old hits and first times. I would say it was 100% more fun than getting stuck in holiday weekend traffic.

A little Getaway from NYC

Getaways, WritingBekka Palmer

I've been in New York long enough to know that occasionally I need to leave. I used to be able to hop on a bus and end up at my sister's house in New Jersey in just forty minutes. Spending a night or the weekend there was restoring. Her kids make me laugh and she makes sensational dinner spreads. It was a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle here.

Now, I know that I still need those weekends away even though my sister lives very far from here, so I have to make them happen for myself. Last week, in the woods of the Catskills with friends I experienced my first tiny home. The drive up was idyllic, it smelled like the country and grass. Even though the house was tiny, it contained the space required to take a deep breath.

We hit four swimming holes, jumped off rocks, hiked to waterfalls and ate hot dogs for dinner every night. We discussed important things like what it means to roast a marshmallow to perfection, and the best front flip techniques. Our entire crew was comprised of photographers and filmmakers so our only rule was that you had to pull over if someone wanted to get a shot; it is camera club rule number one.

It was only a two day trip, but upon returning I felt like I had been gone for a month. Looking around on the drive back I was surprised that no significant changes had happened to the city, shouldn't it look different by now? All of the New Yorkers were going about business as usual, as if nothing special had happened.

That's when I realized it's never the city that changes, only me.

Video by Brian Chu.

// Thanks to Getaway for hosting us, see more at Werehaus.

 

5 years in New York

New York City, WritingBekka Palmer1 Comment
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It's been five years, I still remember the exact place I was standing the moment I decided to move here. I pass by that spot from time-to-time, almost always on accident, but I like to pause and take a moment to remember what it felt like that day. It was miserably hot, I remember feeling a sweaty armpit graze me on the subway, and I thought, "this is what it is like to be a New Yorker, and I want that."

New York is the place where I truly grew up. I learned to stand on my own, make mistakes, more mistakes, and also celebrate small successes. It is the place where I learned to say no, but also to say yes even when it doesn't fit in my best laid plans. 

It is a hard place to live. The weather is rarely ideal, it smells bad, there is traffic (both underground and above), it's too crowded, it's expensive, but I would still rather be here than anywhere else.

I was attracted to New York since my very first visit. I always knew I would move here; its magnetic force pulled me in. Ask anyone who lives here, and those who have merely visited, what it is about New York. Almost anyone will say, "I felt an energy there." All of the forces that make it tough to live here, make the people here that much better. New Yorkers have grit, and I like that.

This isn't the type of place that comforts you when things get tough. It trains you to roll with the punches; don't make too many plans, as they will surely get derailed. But, I think, the longer you stay the better you get at it, the less you take it personally when things go wrong. Once you accept the tough stuff as part of the deal, the good things are that much sweeter. 

So, here I am five years in, those years were the worst and best of my life so far. And now that I am finally starting to understand this place. Starting to understand that in order for it to give something to you, you have to give something to it. And I am ready for another five years, when I can finally call myself a New Yorker.

// photo from my first trip to NYC over 15 years ago, taken atop the World Trade Center in 2000.