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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



Help to keep Earth Healing Daily Reflections online


August 2006

August calendar Earth Healing

Copyright © 2006 by Al Fritsch


Indian Pipe monotropa uniflora Earth Healing

Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora
Photo: Janet Powell


August comes as always with a certain ambivalence. It contains all the beauty of summer's growth in its fullness; however, the foreboding of autumn's inevitable decline is also present for the first time. July's heat and climatic conditions seem to carry over but August has some subtle differences; days are growing shorter and the sun that is so merciless has a milder early morning and late afternoon touch. Many of the wildlife detect these seasonal differences better than we. Cobwebs appear in number; bees seem busier than ever; the migratory birds are starting to gather but not yet to flock as in September. The autumn colors of gold and purple appear with goldenrod and bush phlox. Fields are laden with their largess; the corn and soybeans are greenest; peaches bend down the tree; watermelons populate the lowland patches; and bushels of red tomatoes appear at reasonable prices at roadside stands. There we also find muskmelons, plums, apricots, cucumbers, the first of the autumn apples, mountains of zucchini, and heaps of green beans. It is the time when nature gives so much: papaw, wild cherries and plums, the last of the blackberries, and the beautiful clusters on the pokeberry plant. August comes but once a year, so let's make the best of it.






August 1, 2006 Ever Better or Good Enough?

When it comes to doing things, there are two ways to look at
the world:

     1. "It is the best I can do;" or

     2. "Good, better, best; never let it rest,
     until the good is better and the better is best."

I personally like the first of these sayings, especially when
it comes to the end of a project and all effort has been made.
Maybe the talent was only so much, the resources were limited, the
time was short, and the exercise utterly exhausting. Others may
have desired that I do still better or projected their own visions
on what constituted success, but I was satisfied and simply felt it
was the only way to remove extra stress and feel comfortable. It
was the reason I never looked at evaluations for I did the best I
could. All through Theology School I never asked for or looked at
grades, for if they were good, I would feel complacent and, if bad,
I would have been disturbed at the teacher. Just do the best and
let it rest.

The second position is one of excellence. "Tap all the native
intelligence and talents you can," say the high achievers. People
desire to equal some model or have an impulsive goal of acquiring
money, fame or some measurable quantity. For them, the striving
for improvement leads to a great person -- at least in the pursuing
folks and their cheering family and friends. Certainly there seems
to be more to this dictum as to length of time. While at the end
of a given specific race, the resolution may be made to do better,
it is length of time that makes the two dictums compatible and not
necessarily contradictory. Improvement may occur over a length of
time and thus include a resolution and determination to institute
a practice that will lead to the "better" and the "best." All
things considered, the second dictum demands the stamina, energy,
resources and encouragement to see it come true.

In our opting for doing the best in all circumstances (the
first dictum), the critics, who may or may not do better
themselves, would have us change the circumstances and thus improve
to meet their own objective goal (a score, race time, degree,
measure of wealth, etc.). In their eyes, we could have reached
their goal by their suggested way of doing things. But their ways
are not our ways. They may lack the sensitivity to accept the
journey taken by an individual.

The great consolation is that an all-merciful God may just see
us more or less through our own eyes. Hopefully, at the end of
life we can say that we have done the best we can considering time,
place, temperament and other conditions. Lord, it is our best
considering who we are. We hope our expenditure of effort will be
regarded as grace-filled and measured by the love shown by us
rather than by the objective goals of others. And besides, does
doing our best with love need improvement?







August 2, 2006 Breastfeeding Week

Most of these reflections are based on some personal
observation or participation. Well I was breastfed, but I do not
recall the experience. We read from scientific evidence that many
healthy effects result from the practice of breast rather than
bottle-feeding, but commercial interests press infant formula for
more than just the cases of absolute necessity. Infant formula
products have always been moneymakers and commercial interests know
it. We hear from infant health advocates that natural
breastfeeding practices are curtailed through promotional pressures
to use these infant formula products. Apparently breastfeeding
went out of favor in post-World War II America, and the practice
dropped to as low as one-quarter of all new-borns being breastfed.
By the 1960s the formula makers aggressively promoted their
products to other industrialized nations and to the so-called
"Third World" as well. This resulted in deterioration of infant
health due to contaminated water being mixed with the formula and
other factors. The result was in a global anti-formula crusade --
the Nestle Boycott of 1977.

Infant formula has been used in such cases as when mothers are
unable to breastfeed through lack of milk or being on medication,
or when the baby is adopted. The infant formula ingredients are
regulated by government and appear adequate from many scientific
standards. However the bottle-fed techniques do not allow for the
successful bonding of mother with infant as through natural
processes. It is far better to furnish nutritious food to the
mother (instead of costly infant formula) and thus allow her to
produce the proper mother's milk for the growing infant. Some
researchers show that the breast milk changes slightly in its
natural formulation to respond to the infant's advances in growth
and maturity. Furthermore, the infant formulas lack the hormones,
enzymes and growth factors found in mother's milk; needed
immunoglobulins help her infant fight infectious diseases. All in
all, medical research shows that the mother is a far better
provider than is the formula industry.

Breastfeeding is coming back into favor. We recall when
people apologized because it was time to become more private and
breast feed the child away from the public. Less is seen of this
reluctance today, for the feeding of the infant is as natural as
eating and breathing. However, the popularity of the bottle is
still very strong both in our country and in the less affluent
parts of the world. Scientific studies admit that infant formula
may be a serviceable substitute under certain trying conditions,
but it is inferior to breastmilk for protecting against disease and
infection both at the time and even later in life. Defending the
virtues of breastfeeding is as important today as forty or more
years ago with the advent of infant formula popularity. That is
what makes this a special week, not just for expectant mothers but
for the entire population that assists mothers to bring their
infants to maturity. Let's popularize breast-feeding; science and
nature testify to its long-term benefits.







August 3, 2006 Summer Biking in the Mountains

I will never forget biking in 1976 on an unimproved logging
road in British Columbia and hearing an approaching truck. I
pulled over as close to the shoulder as I could, and the heavy logs
went right past my chin. Another of the numerous misses in life.
But I would never bike on that stretch today being older, wiser,
and less agile on a bike. Neither should others.

A bike-loving critic says we are too hard on this sport in our
upcoming book on "Appropriate Technology in Appalachia." However,
we defend our position. Most mountain roads are simply not made
for fast and heavy traffic and bikes at the same time -- nor built
for buggies and walkers who can hardly compete as well. Our good
colleague, Russell Parmes, was killed a decade ago while riding on
a narrow-shouldered U.S. highway (25) in our part of Appalachia.
Many of our mountains, especially in coal mining and logging
regions, are too heavily traveled by trucks that are difficult
enough to maneuver without a vulnerable biker in the same lane.

Biking was fun in youth on our slightly used rural roads.
Biking was and is good exercise, uses no fuel except the energy
within the human body, does not require exotic instrumentation, is
not noisy or threatening, furnishes time for reflection and yet a
certain focus that is different; biking gives one some great
opportunities for fresh air and full spectrum sunlight, is slow
enough to allow one to see the countryside, and has many other
advantages which anyone interested in body fitness cannot deny.
But bikes must have their own lanes, routes, and pathways or else
the spill can be fatal or terribly injurious. Bikers need to be
given just a little consideration when allotting the vast federal
and state financial resources going to the motorized transportation
system. Bikes need their space and the biker should not be
penalized for being so countercultural. Rather culture needs to
catch up

What about the biker who wants to go cross country and spend
time seeing our broad and varied nation? We should not fault the
brave souls who make these cross country pilgrimages. They seek an
adventure, time off from their work, and they deserve encouragement
-- but maybe also need some cautions. Don't plan a trip that
involves narrow congested roads; take along compatible companions;
pack the right things and select the proper equipment; talk over
the possible course with those who have gone before, for they have
a wealth of experience worth sharing.

We certainly need routes that are not congested and thus the
essay on Rails-to-Trails (Dec. 29, 2004). There is a time for biking
when the weather is seasonable; there is a space for biking in
this grand land. In fact, a network of trails for hikers could
also be extended to trails for bikers. In the age of global
warming and suggested curtailments of motorized vehicles, added
good words must be said for stalwart bikers. Give them a chance!
Let's not push them off of the extensive transportation network.






August 4, 2006 Black Bears

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is truly North American for
its traditional range has been over much of Canada except the polar
regions as well as almost all of the United States except parts of
the desert Southwest. And the bear's range extended into Mexico as
well. However over time, through overhunting, development, and
fragmentation of habitat, that range has been reduced considerably,
and the black bear is now found only in forty states.

Rehabilitation has been a major concern among conservation and
wildlife biologists and wildlife managers, for the black bear is
not prolific in reproduction and the return to former numbers is
difficult. Further difficulty occurs with census of the black bear
for it is a rather secretive animal and avoids being counted.

Many of us like black bears. I recall my first encounters in
Yellowstone National Park over a half century ago. As with many
Americans, we are both frightened and intrigued by the bears, for
somehow we seem to be drawn to them and especially to the young
cubs -- though that could trigger parental irritation. People make
mistakes in attempting to feed bears and do not realize that the
bears poor eyesight could lead to bodily harm to the food giver.
Feeding bears makes them dependent on human beings and encourages
them to come around camping sites and places of human habitation
where pet, livestock, and human food is left outside. With this
lack of discipline among inhabitants and visitors, the result can
be more frequent encounters with bears, and in rare cases the human
being is harmed in the process.

We now hear that black bears are being seen in our parts of
Appalachia after a long absence. It's good to welcome them back,
but this becomes our opportunity to exercise common sense. These
bears are not aggressive and need to be given their space to live,
feed, reproduce, raise their young, and hibernate in winter. Don't
bother them! With proper care and space, people and bear can
create a symbiotic relationship that allows all to prosper. What
is somewhat divisive is the desire of hunters to use tracking
devices and modern weaponry to hunt and kill the bears, to orphan
the young, and to retard the rehabilitation process now underway in
our country. Certain bear parts such as the gall bladder have been
prized by Asiatic and other people -- and this leads to some
illegal poaching practices.

Friends of the black bear abound and they support research on
bear attitudes, wildlife education, and reintroduction measures as
well as protection of existing bear habitats. The Appalachian Bear
Center at Townsend, Tennessee, has as one of its goals the
rehabilitation of orphaned and injured bears for release back into
the wild. As of this writing they have done so for seventy-one
black bears. Other groups such as the Black Bear Rehabilitation
and Release Center attempt to do similar things but all have their
work cut out for them. They all must counter the pressure by bear
hunters both legal and illegal, as well as the inclination for
continued fragmentation of traditional bear habitat.







August 5, 2006 Forest Fires

Forest fires are matters of concern for all who seek to
preserve our natural environment. We treated this subject a number
of times (see October 10, 2005) and mentioned ways to prevent fires
in general or particular. However, fires appear to be more
frequent, more serious and more widespread in recent years. Why is
this so? Here are factors that enhance the seriousness:

Residences in fire-prone areas. The numbers of fires has
increased both in this country and in other lands and that is not
merely due to better reporting. Attention in the media focuses on
the threats to human habitation, for people in this country tend to
build luxury housing in exotic areas which are more prone to forest
fires. When fires are detected, air tankers, fire fighters from
distant states and every means possible are put into containing the
blazes for fear of both human and property loss. Complaints are
heard from forced evacuees that they did not have enough time to
collect valuables. May we suggest that the lack of common sense
that induced them to stick their residences in such fragile zones
is what caused them to neglect having an evacuation plan when the
fires occur in their areas.

Global warming. Scientific studies find that longer and
hotter summers of the past two decades have been drying out the
forests and making them all the more combustible whether from
natural lightning strikes or from careless human practices. In
turn, these more frequent and widespread fires contribute to the
global warming through the additional release of carbon dioxide and
the destruction of the forest cover that would convert the
available carbon dioxide back into organic matter.

Tree dieback. Injury and destruction of a variety of tree
species occur through invasive pests (pine beetle, etc.) as well as
through the weakening of the native immune systems of the trees;
this reduces the tree's ability to withstand natural pests.
Dieback has led to added tinder and combustible material in many
forests -- just inviting major conflagrations to occur.

Droughts. Cyclic dry conditions combining with the recent hot
weather and the increased combustible material again adds to the
ideal conditions for major forest fires.

Arsonists and other humans. In this age of terrorism the
possibility of a major fire is viewed by some as a challenge worth
acting on. It only takes one little match when others are not
looking and an entire forest will go up in a matter of a short
time. Often the arsonist may even want to fight the fire, and
remembering a past thrill may lead to the instigation of the
illegal act. Many visitors have no idea how easily fires can start
and get out of control. They are often the ones who pay no
attention to the posted fire hazard warnings. I once had to
extinguish a fire that a drunk started by allowing his cigarette to
fall from his hand; I stopped the fire in the nick of time.

      queen anne's lace

     Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota
    Sunrise Ridge, Stanton Kentucky

     (Photo: Marge Para)

August 6, 2006 Transfiguration and Future Glory

His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than any earthly
bleacher could make them.
(Mark 9:3)

The Transfiguration is the visible sign for the disciples that
Jesus is the Father's beloved Son, who is greater than Moses or
Elijah. But in this period before the passion and death of the
Lord there is a special significance -- the future will be brighter
after the darkness that is just ahead. Thus Jesus' Transfiguration
is an affirmation of the present, the NOW in the life of Jesus of
Nazareth, and is a foreshadowing of future glory. Perceiving this
requires more than mere observation of a glorious event; as other
christs, we are called to enter a process of glorification that
will not be culminated until the definitive coming of the Kingdom
of God in its fullness.

Thus we need to do more than accompany the spectators Peter,
James and John. We must accompany Jesus to the summit and stand
beside him in his Transfiguration. But how? It has always baffled
me as to what the comparable event in our world today to that
original Transfiguration event 2000 years ago is. The answer may
be somewhat complex. The full event for us is yet to come, but the
process of transfiguration has been initiated and we are part of
it. Our current actions help glorify the cosmos in preparation for
the coming of the Lord. But are we not more often struck by
earthly damage and not glory, for let's not forget that today is
also Hiroshima Day.

The challenge to those with eyes of faith is to perceive glory
emerging from suffering, not to overlook the suffering but to look
into it for its fullest meaning. In one sense the caution that
Jesus gives his disciples on coming down from the mountain applies
to us as well. Let's not rest in our consolation in seeing the
glory of God shining from the surface of this Earth. Accept the
consolation as invigorating and penetrating our souls, but we are
not to stop and rest; we need to redouble our efforts to assist
others. We are energized to know both our limitations and God's
promises of better times ahead. The added encouragement is for the
greater community who are not yet experiencing the Lord's
transfigured glory.

The NOW in our lives contains the known limits of past
experience and the infinite possibilities of future promise. Both
our past experiences and future hopes touch at this instant called
NOW, something that leads us to become ever more active in our
apostolic ministries. We do not walk backward looking at past
events, nor do we trip over present sufferers walking on the clouds
of future glory. We need to live fully and thus we hasten to join
Jesus in his Transfiguration. We do not seek to escape our own
dying that is ahead. Rather we have the enthusiasm to look beyond
our immediate futures to an eternal glory and that makes us all the
more enthusiastic about inviting others to enter our journey of
communal faith. We journey together to a dazzling future.






August 7, 2006 Emergency Evacuation Plans

Recently, National Public Radio reported that someone was
asked to evacuate on a two-minute notice and complained that he was
not given twenty minutes to gather his valuables. This raises the
question of what to take in such emergencies. That is of special
importance in case of a house or forest fire, flood, hurricane, or
in the case where I live down wind from a chemical weapons storage
facility. Of course, the more time the better so that one can
recollect thoughts and take all the needed items. But in case few
precious moments are available, a workable plan to follow after
evacuating all inhabitants as the obvious first priority is useful.

Most necessary items (2-minute notice):
* Keys to escape vehicle, hopefully with adequate fuel
* Shoes and minimal clothing
* Glasses and personal aids
* Wallet with personal identification and money
* Evacuation route
* Cell phone if one is owned

Next priority items (5-minute notice):
* Medicines for all family members
* Change of clothes and personal toiletries
(I keep a pack of these in the car)
* Pets, if transportable (some would put above)
* Address book
* Prime computer disks or flash memory
* Flashlight and batteries (keep in car)
* Turn off utilities

Next priority items (10-minute notice):
* Favorite pictures of family and friends
* Financial records
* Computer if portable
* Water supply (bottle plus gallon jug)
* Box of canned food and can opener
* Sleeping bags, pad and towels

Last priorities (20-minute):
* Bag of clothes for longer stay
* Books for reading
* Bag or cans of pet food
* Pillows and blankets including "crash" blanket
* Tent and camp burner
* Box of perishable foods
* Children's toys (if young ones are in party)

Some may want to equip the car with a battery radio with
handcrank, emergency maps, and other items just in case. When not
having private means of travel only the first two sets may be
possible. What is important is to construct one's own list and
have it ready just in case such an emergency should arise. And we
hope it never will.






August 8, 2006 A Land of Victory Gardens

A shrinking minority (less than 10% of us) remember the Second
World War -- the last all-out conflict, which really may only also
include the Revolutionary, Civil an First World Wars. In this time
of war on terror, we old-timers regret that our entire country is
not called upon to make extra efforts. How about creating one's
own heating and cooling "comfort zone" (see November 3, 2005) and
living by it? An added word on our most frequent reflection topic
(gardening) is to popularize the World War Two "victory garden."
This was a national success with over 30 million growers with an
ability to produce immense amounts of food; they freed overworked
farmers and reduced transportation needs. Let's not retell the
history of that 1940s enterprise so much as its importance for
today in encouraging mutual sacrifice by all our citizens.

Victory gardens involve citizens. At the beginning of this
War on Terror, President Bush encouraged a continuation of our
consumer practices to bolster our economy, hardly a proper war
mentality. Making victory gardens citizen contributions to
reductions in non-renewable energy used to transport, process and
store food could change American lifestyle practices.

Victory gardens secure produce. Should the war on terror
extend to the food production arena (heaven forbid!), millions of
small producers would be more able than large-scale growers to
guarantee non-poisoned food and thus ensure the health and well-
being of a large portion of the population. Decentralization of
the food production sources could improve and assure safety for the
entire food system.

Victory gardens use resources well. The wasteful gas guzzler
is exposed as a poor inspiration for safeguarding oil sources
thousands of miles from our shores through service personnel in
harm's way. The garden is a resource conservation method that
should be a catalyst encouraging people to enter into other ways of
saving resources, from water to oil.

Victory gardens brighten our collective psyche. One need not
look far to see that this Iraq conflict depresses our national
outlook. When one goes outside in full spectrum sunlight and in
fresh air and works in the garden, these stressful human conditions
recede into the background. More of our people need to be uplifted
in their spirits for the current struggle could be long, and
victory at a long distance away if even possible militarily.

Victory gardens produce healthy food. This last benefit must
never be minimized or overlooked. America's backyards could be
productive areas where local flavorful and even organic food could
be grown in great abundance. Furthermore, when people see that
they can grow their own food again, they are more inclined to take
on greater and nobler tasks in life. Their determination to make
major changes in the world is enhanced when furnishing some of
their food needs through their own gardening efforts.


   rural rockcastle county kentucky ky garden corn

    Small-town garden in August, southeastern Kentucky
   (photo: Janet Powell)

August 9, 2006 Total across the Board Abolition

On Nagasaki Day it is fitting to talk about nuclear
proliferation. The offer by the industrial powers (United States,
United Kingdom, France, Russia and China along with non-nuclear
Germany) to give civilian nuclear materials and expertise to an
aspiring member of the nuclear club (Iran) as a payoff for not
building bombs is not wise; it could be the grounds for further
nuclear proliferation. It is a continuation of picking the fruit
from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To enter into the
civilian nuclear energy club is a hidden temptation to proceed
further into the more select nuclear weapons grouping. Aspiring
nations with aggressive ambitions are sorely tempted to be one of
the "gods and guardians" of the atom.

To vacillate on this nuclear choice issue spells disaster in
the long run. People who perceive this impending disaster come
from two directions: an anti-nuclear powerplant or safe energy
position and a pacifist world peace position. Today the two
stances cannot remain separated. We must unite our forces and call
for removal of nuclear weapons from the global arsenal and for the
removal of nuclear power plants from the global energy strategy.
The only tolerated radioactive materials should be the relatively
small amounts needed for operations in radiology and other medical
treatments -- and hopefully even these may be replaced by less
harsh methods in the future.

Will we succeed in our goal to rid the world of nuclear
materials? We must. There are really no two long-lasting options,
for we as a world community are currently playing with fire --
radioactive fire. The burden rests upon our collective shoulders:
to rid the world of radioactive materials, to protect our fragile
world, and to heal the wounds of the Earth. How did our country
and others in the nuclear club become so arrogant as to think that
they possess a certain grace to care for such unmanageable weaponry
in a rational fashion, especially since its only use has been
against civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

We must have faith that this abolition can and will occur, but
it will not be through some miraculous means. We have to make a
united effort at bringing this about in the coming years. Today,
some who called themselves environmentalists have joined the
nuclear energy club, but their defection should not hinder us. The
best defense is an offense -- and we are here launching just such
an offensive in conjunction with the vast numbers of people of good
will in both movements. We are laying down an ultimatum for
ourselves -- a moral blueprint, a practical outline, a justified
issue. We need all the support we can get on every front to extend
this crusade to people of good will in every land. For this reason
we address this message globally to all involved in promoting
conservation and renewable energy and to all who work for peace.
This is truly the critical hour for decision and action; thus we
advocate an across the board abolition of nuclear materials.






August 10, 2006 Kentucky's Natural Bridge

In Kentucky and within my Stanton Parish boundaries is the
Kentucky natural bridge (other states have others). It has a
rugged beauty when experienced up close; really it can't be
observed from a distance in summer except from a helicopter or
airplane. That is because it is located at the top of a hill and
there are no distant highland observation points on which one can
view it in its true grandeur. In winter when the leaves are gone
there are some distant surface shots. But from a naturalist
standpoint, how about experiencing the rock formation after a
quarter-mile hike up the hill, or take a cable ride?

Once you approach the final few steps to get atop the natural
bridge, you must go through a rather narrow alleyway between two
massive boulders; as a youth on my first visit I wondered whether
any exceptionally obese person got wedged in this yard-wide
passageway. Once on top, the experience is thrilling. The narrow
walkway on top of the bridge makes those with height difficulties
somewhat scared because it is a hundred foot drop in either
direction. There is a nice covered viewing pavilion where one can
rest and prepare for the descent and just look out over the tree
tops and the distant hills.

I have often visited Natural Bridge State Park in which this
natural bridge is located, and even performed several of my annual
retreats in the primitive camping area along the brook below. I
love to pick the wineberries in mid-July and watch the wild ducks
as they glide through the pooled waters of the creek. I even have
the distinction of having performed a funeral burial for James King
right smack dab in the middle of the park in the only small
cemetery still in private hands. That burial bonded me to the park
in a special way for I like the setting, the management, the access
roads on which I have jogged, and the general facilities for eating
and camping. Even most visitors have a sense of respect for the
place. Many youngsters are captivated by the recreation programs
and nature tours that occur during the summer months.

Kentucky is quite proud of its state park system for the
individual parks are accessible, quite scenic, generally moderately
attended, well-policed, and equipped with adequate and clean
facilities. Trails are well marked and crossing points have
adequate safeguards to reduce accidents that can still happen. I
avoid the popular weekends such as the Fourth of July or Labor Day
when these parks are more heavily attended. After the kids go back
to school in August, the attendance drops off and the parks again
become popular for the retirees and older folks.

One added feature of Natural Bridge is that there are several
rock-climbing locations nearby, which attract another type of
clientele who patronize some good local eating places, motels and
outfitting stores. Added tourist attractions allow for a varied
group of visitors. Come and see Natural Bridge when in this part
of the country.





August 11, 2006 Twelve Ways to Reduce Grocery Bills

It is always good to review the economics of simple living.
Some find all prices rising, and rising prices are an increasing
burden on the moderately-incomed as well as on those on food
stamps. Here are some hints to help everyone:

* Buy off-brands and generic brands if the quality equals or
nearly equals the better-known, higher-priced name brands. This
holds for everything from breakfast cereals to canned vegetables,
from soap to tooth paste;

* Patronize stores with bulk items, wholesale pricing, fewer
choices, and that omit the frills of the larger grocery chains;

* Purchase in bulk everything from hot sauce to pickles, from
dried beans to vinegar. Ensure that price is less per ounce than
smaller ones;

* Prefer seasonal foods, for these cost far less than the same
product purchased out of season and shipped from long distances and
foreign countries. The locally grown products may cost much at the
start of the season but the prices go down when the season occurs;

* Consider doing more of your own baking and cooking and less
and less purchasing of prepared foods that are often high in salt,
fat and sugar;

* Make your own herbal tea and other beverages and thus avoid
the bottled junk drinks that are always overpriced;

* Follow the sales and purchase canned goods and other items
that can be stored easily. When seasonal foods such as cucumbers
and tomatoes are on sale, they can often be preserved through
canning, pickling, drying, and deep freezing;

* Make a shopping list and avoid impulsive buying when at the

* Create your own salad dressings and avoid the small units of
prepared dressings;

* Limit the fluffy packaged snack foods such as chips and
puffs, which take up space and are expensive to transport as well
as often too fatty and salty. In place of these make carrots and
other fresh vegetables as well as unpopped popcorn and unsalted
peanuts the snacks of choice;

* Make your own soup using homegrown vegetables and leftovers
and do this in a creative manner. Avoid commercially prepared
soups; and

* Grow organic salad greens either in pots or greenhouse in
winter or on the garden space during spring through autumn.





August 12, 2006 Viewing the Tobacco Patch

Recently I drove past a fine field of tobacco in which the
plants had been topped and were spreading to their full girth just
before "housing" or harvesting. The plants were well watered and
maturing rapidly. The rows were quite well laid out and the
symmetry perfect as only a tobacco farmer can appreciate. The
patch was nestled amid some hardwoods in an idyllic valley with a
small tobacco barn in the distance. For one brief moment the good
scenes of youth returned, for I loved to harvest tobacco in August.

However, these daydreams are of past innocence amid the
familiar sounds of crickets and crows in youthful August. Do we
also hear the hacking, coughing and gasping human tobacco consumers
-- the ones who are addicted to the products of our field work,
namely by smoking the cured and processed "leaf" with all those
deep breaths that fill their lungs and cause the satisfying
sensations that are so hard to describe. What about the sixty-four
actual smokers somewhere out there who had their lives shortened by
the tobacco that I assisted in growing over the seasons?

The tobacco field is still beautiful if seen in itself
unattached to human aftereffects. It is much like a field of
Afghanistan poppies, when divorced from the heroin and opium
addicts who will use the processed sap from the plants. I know too
much now! When young, the horrors of smoking were not known and,
in fact, the best of the doctors advised their own particular
brands of cigarettes for health fitness. At that time we were
cooperating in furnishing cigarettes for the fighting men in Europe
and the Pacific; all were contented: farmers, merchants, tobacco
product manufacturers, the government with all that tax revenue,
and even the health professionals. But that was to change during
the ensuing decades.

Tobacco was our major money crop; it paid for our clothes and
shoes and even our college tuition. Tobacco is a beautiful plant;
it has a fragrant pink and white tubular blossom that attracts
hummingbirds; the tobacco patch minus pesticides is the home of
the preying mantis, which preys on tobacco worms at this time of
year. The fields are pale green to slight yellow as the plant
ripens for the cutting -- and mid-August is the climax of the
agricultural season.

I can only hope again as always that the tobacco plant --
innocent enough in itself -- may be redeemed by the better uses
that human beings can make of this quite amazing plant. It can be
the source of new pharmaceuticals. A budding industry can use the
plant as a medicinal cultivar for making cheaper prescription drugs
and preparations for ill folks. This could be promoted even though
the number of tobacco patches will be reduced and subject to
corporate controls under which the specified tobacco must be grown.
If I live so long, the tobacco patch will again be attractive in
scent, sight and as a producer of beneficial substances. It is my
hope that the tobacco story will have a happy ending.

    Earth Healing flower bouquet

     Summer bouquet
    (Photo: Marge Para)

August 13, 2006 The Bread of Eternal Life

I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. Anyone
who eats this bread will live for ever.
(John 6:51a)

Jesus amazes his hearers by saying he has come down from
heaven and only he has access to eternal life. For the critical
audience this is a contradiction for they know his human family.

The Eucharistic mystery: "At the Last Supper on the night
before he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic
sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to
perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he
should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the
Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection, a sacrament of
love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet 'in
which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a
pledge of future glory is given to us.'" Vatican II (Sacrosanctum

The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith -- "Our way
of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn
confirms our way of thinking." (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres)
The eucharist is all the following:

* Act of thanksgiving -- for God's works of creation,
redemption and sanctification.
* Mystery of faith; Heart of the Church's mystery
(Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II)
* Breaking of the bread (Acts 2: 42),(Luke 24:21)
* Memorial of the Lord's passion and resurrection
* Holy Sacrifice -- The Eucharist is a sacrifice, Christ
giving himself to the Father and then to all of us.
* Sacrament of love -- St. Ephrem wrote that Jesus filled the
Eucharist with His Spirit. Augustine wrote
-- O sacrament of devotion!
-- O sign of unity!
-- O bond of charity!
"As the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the
Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." (John 6: 57)
"Abide in me and I in you." (John 15:4)
* Paschal banquet -- Bread of life; Cup of eternal salvation
* Gift par excellence -- Christ's person and his saving work.
* Cosmic Act -- "uniting heaven and earth and permeating all
creation." (John Paul II Letter on the Eucharist # 8)
* Pledge of eternal glory -- Eucharistic devotion goes beyond
being a memorial of the Passover, for through our communion at the
altar we are filled with heavenly blessing and grace. Now the
Eucharist is an anticipation of the heavenly glory.
* Promise of Christ's return -- Marana tha! Come Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 1:4, 22:20)
* Divine Liturgy (Mass) -- "The work of the people" under
divine guidance. This is entry into the Heavenly liturgy where God
will be all in all. (I Corinthians 15:28)




August 14, 2006 Working towards Holiness

The saints have been people of a wide variety of gifts and
personalities. It gives us heart to see some who happen to make
the grade, for we are aware of our own limitations and how far we
are from the mark of holiness. However, we do perceive a host of
good qualities that seem present in most holy people. They --

* Have a basic joy and enthusiasm in their lot in life;
* See others as better than themselves;
* Understand the meaning of forgiveness;
* Are calm even amid the storms of life;
* Present a countercultural stance before the world and do not
yield to peer pressure easily;
* Leave judgments to the Lord and do not idolize others but
accept the imperfections of those around them;
* Seek out ways to motivate others and to overcome trying
* Bear their own problems knowingly and willingly as part of
their own sufferings and shortcomings;
* Use all things in moderation and know how to avoid the
dangerous allurements of life;
* Possess a more catholic attitude towards other people and do
not discriminate in any fashion;
* Accept the attacks of others with equanimity and never appear
overly defensive;
* Demonstrate self-discipline in their many undertakings;
* Exude an atmosphere of eager learning, curiosity and wanting
to share with others;
* Are slow to cast blame and willing to admit failure and
weakness when this is called to be expressed;
* Generally maintain a high energy level for long periods of
* Become good listeners with time and express this through
attention given and sensitivity to those most in need;
* Are willing to see the shortness of their life on Earth and
strive to make the best of this limited time;
* Tend to be mentally healthy, but when their minds fail they
still have a sense of well-being and graciousness;
* Can easily laugh and especially at themselves but not at
* Know when others are hurt and how they can be helped in some
* Spend some time talking to others but little or no time
talking about others;
* Express a sense of honesty about the present conditions and
where they are precisely on their journey of life;
* Love all of God's creation, especially the members of the
plant and animal kingdoms, and often receive approval from the
humble creatures loved in remarkable ways;
* Show gratitude for favors given by others; and
* Constantly thank God for all the many good gifts given and
convey this sense of appreciation in their conversation and






August 15, 2006 Mary at the Hour of Our Death

"When the course of her earthly life was finished," the
Blessed Virgin Mary "was taken up body and soul into the glory of
Pius XII, 1950.

The most important moment in all of our lives is the hour of
our death. All our activities culminate in the one grand review
and exit from this mortal stage. All must undergo this passage,
even the privileged Virgin Mary (Rev. 11:19, 12:1-6, 10)-- and
today we commemorate her special and unusual passage, a total entry
into the Resurrection of the Lord (I Cor. 15:20-27). The
Assumption is a very ancient feast in the Christian world. Through
the many Hail Marys offered each day, the faithful petitioners beg
that we be remembered "now and at the hour of our death."
Amazingly that petition is often answered as there is testimony to
the happy death of many faithful and prayed over people. By just
arriving with the final sacraments at the right time, I have
witnessed numerous instances of this in my own ministry.

Why is Mary so anxious to assist each of us at this phase of
life? We are not chosen by God in the same privileged manner as
she; we are not prepared to be bearers of God; we are not given
the announcement by an angel; we do not make a monumental choice;
we do not witness his departure, public ministry and dying on the
cross; we are not assumed body and soul into heaven. Certainly,
these are not part of our domain as it has been for Mary. However,
through Mary's intercession we see our own life in comparison to
hers. We are chosen by God from eternity to do what we are
supposed to do; through baptism we are immaculately ushered into
the Church as a member of Christ's body; we hear the divine call
in a special and unique manner; we are bearers of the Lord at
Communion time; we encounter her Son in our journey of faith, which
involves public ministry and ultimate sacrifice; we die to self
and rise with Christ; we await the rising of the body on the last
day. Our journey is not the same but it does have some
resemblances to that of Mary who was also born, lived, and died.

Our journey of faith has certain high points as does Mary's.
The analogy is more heavily focused on how we live and how we die
with the Lord. How do we experience God in our everyday lives as
preparation for how we experience God when we die? We live for
that final moment of life when fear of what is to come and even the
anxiety about what is to happen to our mortal remains coalesce at
one conscious moment (for those who are conscious). It is the
trying moment when we need the companionship of Jesus and his
family, when the angels hover over and the final curtain is being
drawn. It is a wonderful feeling to know that being in the divine
family gives us have companions on that final journey.

This is the feast of the Dormition ("falling asleep") of Mary
in the Orthodox world and the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary in
the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the USA, and in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.





August 16, 2006 Mixed Mesophytic Forest

The forest here where I reside is known in biological terms as
the "Mixed Mesophytic Forest," which stretches from southwestern
Pennsylvania to northern Alabama and covers a strip of the
Appalachian mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. The name was
given by a noted botanist and ecologist, Lucy Braun (1889-1917),
who knew this region well and amassed some 12,000 plant species in
the course of her lifetime.

A treasure. The "mixed" part of the terminology refers to the
30 some canopy trees that appear in predominate patterns in various
places and are thus called oak-hickory, beech-maple, oak-pine, etc.
On the ASPI nature grounds near here, forest expert Paul Kalisz
labeled over one hundred different native tree and woody species
and that does not count the American chestnut, which has been
recently reintroduced. The number of these species in any one
temperate (not a tropical) forest is mind-boggling. This forest is
regarded as the relic of the ancient mesic forests that once
covered much of the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
Thus this forest that escaped the last ice age is regarded as the
oldest and most varied temperate forest in the world.

Biological wealth. Not only is this forested area noted for
its many tree varieties but the wooded land contains rich
understories of fungi, ferns, small trees and shrubs, herbaceous
plants, a multitude of wild flowers, and a variety of animal
wildlife species. For millennia the region has abounded in elk,
deer, bear, wolf, fox, snakes, opossum, raccoon, beaver, rabbit,
turkey, and some two hundred species of migratory or resident
birds. The creeks have teemed with mussels of many varieties along
with fish and crayfish, frogs and salamanders. The number goes on
and on, and yet some species are now threatened.

Underestimated. This biological wealth needs to be recognized
and then protected through somewhat aggressive means. The reason
is that the people of the region (even native non-science
educators) do not appreciate the uniqueness and fragility of the
biological diversity. In a rather perverse and systematic way,
Appalachian people have been taught that the wealth of the region
is in the coal and lumber resources -- and the biological wealth
has been underplayed and neglected. For if people would realize
this wealth they might be more moved to halt the destruction of the
land by the extractive industries (coal, oil, gas and wood).

What is said here about protection applies to all forest areas
and fragments throughout the world. One difference here, however,
is that the systematic damage is being done in this region that is
highly researched and recognized by the academic community.
Furthermore, our nation has the scientific know-how and financial
resources to halt the damage and allow this forest to once again
thrive. Nature centers can show the wealth; teachers and students
can learn; and those in the public interest must press for the
safeguards for the health of this unique "mixed mesophytic forest."

    red river gorge

    The Red River Gorge, mixed mesophytic forest
(photo: Janet Powell)


August 17, 2006 Further Primitive Camping Tips

Camping is an interesting form of recreation for we never
cease learning more and more from the experience. My camping
season is about over, but it has been a modified year of being
closer to home and cancelling a longer trip due both to gasoline
consumption and prices and because the longer distances are
somewhat more tiring for old folks. Here are some tips additional
to those mentioned (June 1, 2005), which embraced proper equipment,
site choice, evening enjoyment, simple cooking, insect protection
and respect for fellow campers. Perhaps the motorized camper
population will not need or heed these suggestions -- but theirs is
not necessarily an environmental experience after lugging their gas
hoggish mobile homes over distances.

Camp closer to home. The travel over long distances makes the
primitive experience suitable only for the most hearty of folks.
One needs some rest after traveling on congested roads, and the
stress will ruin the camping outing.

Consider camping under the stars. Often the weather permits
a truly outdoor experience. On this birthday of Davy Crockett, the
frontier spirit should be kept alive by curling up under the stars
and enjoying the fullness of nature's surroundings that even the
trusty tent excludes to some degree.

Compare prices beforehand. Tent or primitive camping (not
using motorized campers) used to be moderately-priced. Being
charged $27 in June of this year for an overnight in Delaware was
shocking -- and the site was certainly not overly private either.
That was the cost of adding still another state to my camp list
(now 44 states). Kentucky's local Natural Bridge State Park is
still $10.80 for senior citizens in primitive camping areas.

New tents. Much engineering has gone into modern tents and
this has resulted in better materials to withstand storms, a more
rigid frame structure, a lighter weight overall, and a simpler
manner of assembling and taking down the tent. For those starting
to engage in this form of recreation, try to get a good used tent
and when committed to camping splurge and purchase one of these
newer varieties. I continue to use my older type that has held
good for two decades, but must make extra certain the water runs
away from the tent in case of storm.

A distant scenic view. The camping location makes the trip
memorable, but the view is not always something that comes with the
grounds. If camping after hiking in the wilderness, the view in
the morning may be the high point of the trip. But there are other
ways. I enjoy a good view for a daily meditation but it does not
have to be at the camp site. In fact, it may be found after the
tent has been struck and when one is moving on. The view where one
stops for the meditation may be associated with the camping date or
region but still a distance from the camping location. Thus
greater flexibility in choosing sites is possible.




August 18, 2006 The "Walmartization" of America

Have I coined a word? If so, it needs little explanation
because readers know what "walmartization" is all about. Each of
us knows about local businesses that simply cannot compete in
prices when the monstrous Walmart is situated in the community. I
know of a business of three generations located in the center of
Mount Vernon, the county seat, the owner of which says it is only
a matter of time before Walmart dries him out. His hardware is
excellent and the tools never bend at the first stroke. True, they
are higher priced but of good and dependable quality. But we all
know that there are many modern Americans who prefer to do one stop
shopping -- for clothes, toys, gifts, school supplies, kitchenware,
sports wear, groceries, hardware, furnishings, personal items,
lunch, tires, gasoline, and even eyeglasses. Battle the crowds to
get there but then get it all under one roof -- even cheap stuff.

For some it sounds too good to be true, but it is not all good
news. On the plus side are plentiful supplies of low-priced items
which look good at least while on the shelf. But there are some
problems with the entire process. First, the store's wages are not
high for these non-unionized clerks, and there are always other
folks out there to take their place if they leave. And employees
do not have the benefits of better paying jobs either. And the
merchandise is often from other countries and deliberately priced
to undersell the local competitors.

Then there is what happens to the town itself when the Walmart
comes. Business suddenly drifts in the direction of the Walmart
and the traditional commercial district dries up. At least those
who scramble to locate near to the Walmart to attract some of the
spill over may be saved by the size of the gathering. But the more
distant stores often wither up and die. Walmart decides the life
and death of towns that have thrived for centuries and this victory
is generally achieved through development of previous greenspace
for acres of new parking and store roof.

The profits do not stay in the community as they did when
individual local people ran the shops selling the various types of
merchandise. Occasionally Walmart tries to show its "good
neighbor" policy and support a local enterprise or operation -- but
that is not a consistent policy, nor does it really allow the store
administration to involve itself in local affairs. Walmart is a
slick outside operation that comes in and reaps the local people's
money and that is why so many of the Walmart family are
billionaires. Money goes elsewhere and that is also true of other
chains that operate in one's hometown. Where is the civic support?

One final aspect of walmartization is part of the unfinished
essay. What will happen a little while down the road when Walmart
and a handful of other such supermarts take over the nation totally
and there is no room left for the small business person with
creative ideas and new concepts? Is not a uniformity that lacks
creativity and spirit taking over our culture?






August 19, 2006 Herding Cattle

Cowboys make it seem so easy with lassos and horses. They
know the instincts of cattle, how they will act, and which way they
will turn. What those unfamiliar with cattle ways do not realize
is that cowboys -- and girls -- have acquired a learned experience,
that is, "they are thinking like a cow." I never herded cattle
from a horse but in our more limited pasturelands we did have to
gather cattle in for milking, for medical treatment, for new
watering opportunities, or due to weather conditions. We in
Kentucky have a major cattle enterprise, which comprises large
numbers of cattle on relatively small areas of grassland. Yet few
in our state brand cattle, for our fences are good enough and our
neighbors are trusted not to steal.

To the neutral observer handling livestock seems easier than
what it really is. The term "herding" applies not only to those
who execute a successful lassoing of an energetic steer, but also
to those of us who herded on foot or with a motorized vehicle. One
must induce the animal to move where intended, and most often
cattle have their own desire to continue in their current grazing
pattern. The animals are basically conservative and do not like
change, even when they somehow know it is inevitable. The
reluctance of cows to move away makes it difficult to execute a
successful herding operation.

However, ordinary bovine instincts are far more predictable
than inexperienced people might surmise. For the initiated herder,
which way the cow will turn, is not a total mystery, though young
heifers are less predictable. Only on rare occasions will a cow
make an unexpected turn to break away. Driving them does not
necessarily take a large number of herders. The tendency of cattle
or bison (these present a more difficult herding problem) is to
stick together and stay near their natural leaders; this reduces
the field of possible movements to a predicted few. Sometimes the
leader cow of the herd decides that it is in her best interests to
break loose and escape -- and here the herder faces an extra
challenge. The object is to anticipate her moves and block her
before she executes them. Timing is crucial in successful herding
and I guess this is at the heart of "farm" experience, that is,
know beforehand which way the cow is going to turn.

The purpose of the herding varies. Quite often herding is
towards a nightly shelter or a food or water source that will be an
added enticement for the animals who somehow know the result will
be greater comfort even when they prefer to stay put. However,
when the herding is for cattle sale and shipment, the intentions of
the herder are communicated in somewhat mysterious ways to the
animals. They know that there is trouble afoot and this creates a
special type of alarm. Needless to say, beef cattle are raised for
beef -- and that means shipment to market. Then the final herding
takes extra skill. We who herded cattle for ordinary daily milking
know the differences. It was as though we had to think like
cattle, but somehow cattle would think like us as well.

   okra flower hibiscus
   Flower of the delicious okra (Hibiscus esculentus)
   August vegetable garden, southern Kentucky
   (photo: Janet Powell)

August 20, 2006 Nourishment for Our Mission

The Lord Jesus is always present in his Church, especially
in the liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of
the Mass, not only in the person of the minister, but especially
under the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the
sacraments, so that when one baptizes it is really Christ who
baptizes. He is present in his word, since it is he himself who
speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. He is
present finally when the Church prays and sings, for he promised:
Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in
the midst of them
(Matthew 18:20). Reference: Vatican II
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

Presence. We acknowledge the Real Presence of the Lord in a
number of external gestures: through bowing and/or genuflection
depending on culture and physical condition of the person. The
Presence of the Lord is shown by a burning sanctuary light and by
our respect in the Presence of the reserved Eucharist. We need
Emmanuel, God with us, on our Journey of faith. As we move this
month through Chapter Six of St. John (here verses 51-58), we seek
the nourishment that Jesus offers on our journey of life. Too
often people refuse to see the need of this constant nourishment
and try to struggle on their own.

Frequent Communion: Today, our calling is more demanding than
those of other ages, for our Earth is harmed and we are responsible
for caring for it. This effort requires extra energy and more
frequent visits to the banquet table of the Lord. Through the
Eucharist we are united with Christ, who makes us sharers in his
Body and Blood to form a single body of believers in the "communion
of saints." For a long period of Church history, the Eucharist was
more frequently adored than taken as food by ordinary lay persons;
these received their First Communion later in life and only on
major occasions after confession. Current devotion involves
frequent reception of Communion even by younger church members.

Glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem -- This final title of
the Eucharist tells of our own mission to help transform the Earth;
our daily commitment is to bring about the Christian vision of "a
new heaven and a new earth (Revelations 21:1). The Mass of All
as recorded by St. Justin in the second century includes the
following: a continuity with the Old Testament past; the sacrificed
lamb now Jesus himself; the bread and wine becoming his body and
blood; the solemn memorial of God's gift to the people as a
memorial of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection; and the
disciples assembled as one body.

We participate in the banquet by grinding wheat, crushing
grapes, baking bread, fermenting wine -- "the work of human hands."
Processed wheat and grapes (not natural products as such) are
transformed into the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the Lord by
the words of consecration. The nobility of our work in cosmic
transformation becomes the glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem.





August 21, 2006 Bald Eagle Days

This week includes "bald eagle days." The American bald eagle
(Haliaetus leucocephalus) and not Franklin's suggested wild turkey
has become our national bird, the symbol of our country. The eagle
is truly majestic with its white-feathered head and neck. There is
a fierceness to its look, a vigilance to its stance, and strength
in the swooping onto a prey. We can understand why Roman soldiers
marched behind the eagle standards, why the double eagle was so
prominent for the Russian czars' insignias, and why eagles are
favorites for athletic team names.

These powerful raptors enjoy a wide menu of live and dead
animal species and they are known to attain flying speeds of thirty
miles per hour and diving speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The
adult males can weigh nine pounds and the adult females twelve to
thirteen pounds. The wingspan of adult eagles can reach seven
feet. Through keen eyesight the eagle can spot fish a mile away
and capture those up to five pounds. Eagles are known to paddle to
shore with heavy fish that they cannot lift by their wings, and in
some cases they drown in trying to transport larger fish. Eagles
can live to be thirty-five years old in the wild and a decade or so
more in captivity. They acquire the characteristic white feathered
head and neck as part of maturation and wear it proudly in their
many conquests.

For a period of time immediately after the Second World War
when chemical pesticides came into prominent use, the egg shells of
eagles and other birds were so weakened by the pervasive pollution
that many eaglets did not hatch and far fewer young ones survived
to maturity. Eagle populations plummeted and the American bird was
placed on the list of endangered species in 1978. Alarm was raised
across the country and conservationists raised a rallying cry to
save the bald eagle. The endangered listing was later changed to
"threatened" on August 11, 1995, and the bird is still protected by
the Endangered Species Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act and the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Today the bald eagle story is somewhat improving. The bald
eagle is now appearing in numerous locations throughout the country
and sightings are commonplace. I never forget the thrill I had in
seeing one for the first time when in southern Louisiana a few
decades back. Since then many sightings have occurred in our part
of the country and the eagle is again here to stay. Endangered
Species regulations do work and reintroduction programs are healthy
and well -- once the use of DDT and related pesticides were
severely curtained. Our American raptors truly fill a niche in the
environment and are not just caged in zoological gardens or stuffed
on museum shelves.

For further information and for membership contact: American
Bald Eagle Foundation, P.O. Box 49, Haines, AK 99827




August 22, 2006 Nutrition and School Children

Good news is rare but must be emphasized when it occurs. We
in Kentucky have something to be quite proud of: The Center for
Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a group I co-founded, has
released a report that graded the various states on nutrition in
public schools. According to this report, "Kentucky has the
strongest nutrition policy in the land" with a rating of A+. It
must be noted that all do not get high ratings and, in fact,
twenty-three states are rated "F."

A good nutrition rating is particularly good news because our
state is often at the bottom of such listings. Unfortunately we
have had high ranking on everything from obesity to lung cancer,
from diabetes to other smoker-related ailments. Youth often follow
the same patterns as their adult mentors and also have obesity
problems and omit proper outdoor exercise; they are also subject
to the ravages of junk food containing excess fat, sugar and salt.

We have spoken of these conditions in previous reflections,
but now the way is opening both in this state and elsewhere to
assist parents in better nutrition for the young folks. No longer
are the soda machines selling the teeth-rotting, empty-caloried
soft drinks; and menus for school lunches are improving. In fact,
these improvements in schools are part of young people's current
education, and this is counter to the plague of advertisements
targeted at them on television, radio, billboards, and even the
Internet. Nutrition improvement is more than textbook subject
matter; lunchroom menus are part of the academic course work.

We cannot rest on laurels. All our nation's schools need more
comprehensive food choices in lunch room programs. In many places
school cafeterias are offering at least two fruits and/or two non-
fried vegetables each day. At least youth are being acquainted
with some good nutrition. Hopefully it is not too late. Some
predict a dire condition -- 21st century youth will be less healthy
than 20th century young people. However, more than school policy
must be addressed. Parents and guardians must realize that obesity
is the result of habits transmitted from elders to youth.

Most school children eat only five of twenty-one meals per
week in school (and then for only nine or ten months of the year),
so the entire young person's diet could potentially involve the
non-nutritious. But on a more optimistic note, good nutrition
practice can carry over beyond the educational institution to the
home and to recreational practice. However, most youth are caught
in the busy world of hurry up and go, and that leads to fast food
visits. Weekend celebrations occur in places where the enticements
of deep-fried "everything" are available. Parents do not do favors
by allowing this to occur, even when they themselves also succumb
to the junk food allurements. Good school nutrition policy can
only go so far; it must be integrated with good home nutrition
policy -- and here the crusade has still more work to do even in
states that have high academic marks.

    yellow fringed orchid
    Yellow-fringed orchid, Habenaria ciliaris
    An infrequent and beautiful sighting
    Sunrise Ridge, Stanton Kentucky
     (Photo by: Marge Para)

August 23, 2006 Veterans History Project

Earlier this summer I secured a camera person (Mark Spencer)
and we went out to two Korean War veterans, one from each of my two
parishes. I feel somewhat related to them for had I not been in
the college ROTC program at the very time I would have been
slugging with them through the mud on the way to the Yalu River.
Both of these veterans are struggling with personal health issues
and fortunately both have good use of their mental faculties. We
made two half-hour interviews, one on the thirteen-month feat that
involved Bud meriting the Silver Star along with numerous other
medals for his army career in combat action. Likewise, Russell, a
young marine, who suddenly became an adult in combat, managed to
survive his similar thirteen-month tour when many of his buddies
did not. He notes that he did not remove his boots for six months.
Russell tells in a matter-of-fact manner how he was near an
exploding shell. Shrapnel broke the stock of his gun and blew off
his helmet, and one piece (he has it as a souvenir) embedded itself
in his prayerbook that was in his shirt pocket over his heart. For
Russell this was the moment of conversion to faith for he regards
it as a miracle.

These two sets of exploits, told with some emotion, are being
presented to the Library of Congress's Veteran's Project that had
over 40,000 contributions at the time of the videotaping. Both men
have given generously for the service of their country and they see
these recordings as service to the future generations of Americans.
I am deeply inspired by their courage and good will and find the
narrations as fresh as at the time they occurred. In the case of
Bud, his hospice workers were standing by and seemed pleasantly
amazed at how much he was enlivened by telling his story. My only
regret when we concluded each interview and packed away the camera
was that we did not record their continuing conversations with
still more stories. Their messages can never be exhausted.

This and similar projects are worthy of recording, not only
for relatives and close friends, but for an entire up and coming
generation. War is not pretty and these veterans are the first to
admit it. War leaves scars that are deep and they can testify that
they last a lifetime. The messages of veterans contain the burden
of living with unpleasant memories and making the best of them.
The foot soldiers and marines do more than notable leaders in
making real history -- and yet are given little recognition. And
these veterans are deeply hurt by the unpleasant stories of current
atrocities of war, thus showing that the war damage continues far
from the battlefield itself. The veterans live through the current
Gulf War in ways different from the non-fighters. They seek to
justify what is not always justifiable -- and this adds to their
burden. If interested, please contact the --

Veterans History Project,
American Folklife Center, U.S. Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20540-4615






August 24, 2006 Thomas More: Man for All Seasons

Our short 500-word daily reflections can hardly do justice to
certain people and one of these is the Englishman, lawyer, author
of Utopia, husband, father, widower, member of parliament, ascetic,
speaker of the House of Commons, naturalist, confident of kings,
chancellor of the realm, and martyr -- Thomas More (1478-1535).
The many grand contrasts in his life could indicate why Robert Bold
entitled his splendid play The Man for All Seasons (1966) and why
a subsequent movie was given the same name. Here are some of the

We call him "Sir" in relation to the secular work and title
given by King Henry VIII and "Saint," in part due to the same king
condemning him to death and his martyrdom. The different seasons
were the summer of Henry VIII's favor and the winter of disfavor.

Thomas was an affluent person in the early part of life with
a father who was a prominent lawyer and judge, his own renowned
education, his intermingling with influential people of the times,
and his command of the language that allowed for an early writing
success with Utopia. Thomas and his family were cast into poverty
by the king's disfavor and when he died he was uncertain how his
wife and children would continue without property or means.

Thomas was a man of wit and humor and yet cast into some
dreadful times when the Church he loved was deprived of its
organization and leaders. He observed Bishop John Fisher being led
to martyrdom and beheaded with his head hung on London Bridge.
Though Thomas' own head would be so placed a few days later, he
kept his humor in even his last remarks. The clouds of a crumbling
church structure did not destroy his peace of soul.

Thomas was able to write under a variety of circumstances,
first when in communication with other Renaissance personages, and
later while isolated in the Tower of London the Treatise on the
Passion of Christ
and the Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation.

Thomas was strictly disciplined in the practice of his faith,
with wearing a hair shirt and daily recitation of certain
liturgical prayers with his family. He was not a vowed religious
person but rather a married man raising a family while he indulged
in these daily practices -- a circumstance rarely observed in
everyday life then or now.

Probably the most surprising contrast is that even though he
was canonized by the Catholic church in 1935 and shares a feast
with John Fisher on June 22nd, he is also honored by the Church of
England on July 6th. Furthermore, famous portraits of Thomas (by
Hans Holbein) hang in the Royal collection at Windsor as well as in
the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Frick Collection in
New York, even though his head hung on London Bridge.






August 25, 2006 Shared Caving Experiences

When I was young, our family went to visit Carter Caves, and
we enjoyed the thrill of venturing underground in the dark and cool
state park caverns. This site was only fifty miles from home and
within reach of our limited Sunday excursions, between Church in
the morning and evening cow milking. This trip was a preliminary
taste of the delicate and interesting karst terrain of Kentucky.
Later when studying philosophy in southern Indiana, three of us on
free days explored the quite rugged private caves of that region.
In these sub-terrain areas the spelunker often had to walk in four
feet of water in the underground river network. In fact, around
that time several other college students drowned in that very Lost
River cave complex when caught during a heavy rainstorm.

Caving demands a sense of direction, coolness when underground
in the dark, sufficient equipment (especially lighting), an ability
to work as a team, and a certain love of the unknown. In fact,
caving opens the world beneath our feet with all its unique rock
formations, cave creatures, and mysteries as to formation in the
geological past. What we did not realize at the time of these
early explorations was that the terrain is so very fragile and can
easily be damaged by pollution and carelessness on the part of
adventurers. In the Great Saltpeter Cave in Rockcastle County one
finds relics of saltpeter mining operations from the War of 1812
when the nitrogen contents were prized as a key component of
gunpowder. The mining activities of almost two centuries ago are
quite visible today. Contact Great Saltpetre Preserve, P.O. Box
1402, Mt. Vernon, KY 40456 <gsp@caves.org>.

The Earth has stored within itself a hidden treasure of
underground space. The natural phenomena of caverns and caves need
to be preserved for all to enjoy. The private cave domains (as are
so numerous in Rockcastle County, Kentucky) are good outlets for
adventure but also lend themselves to becoming abused by careless
explorers. That is why the Mammoth Cave National Park in western
Kentucky has been better protected than some of the publicly known
private caves. However, public caves are not immune from damage
for they are also threatened by overhead development and polluted
water that seeps down from contaminated sources; private caves are
often found by highly motivated spelunkers and the word soon gets
around as to how to slip underground when others are not looking.
This can easily lead to further environmental damage.

Healing a damaged cave is not an easy matter. Closing off
such complexes is one way; another is to actually clean up trash
and to police the caves through properly conducted tours and proper
barriers. Some caving groups do a praiseworthy job of protecting
these fragile environments. The promoters believe in substantial
barriers, proper celebrations of caves, and thorough lectures as to
preservation techniques. We ought not to totally restrict cave
access; a far better practice is proper environmental action so
that all can have the thrill we first experienced when young. With
proper care caves can be simultaneously shared and preserved.






August 26, 2006 Women's Equality Day

After 968 reflections do I really want to tackle the woman's
equality issue? Maybe it is risky but still we need to face a
major issue of this time, namely women's rights and voice in the
world around us. Certainly the feminine agenda has made great
strides in the past hundred years, from suffrage to elected office
in both our country and other parts of the world. Just less than
two months ago in Kuwait women voted for the first time, even
though in separate booths and with no victors. Maybe voting rights
will gradually move forward even in the conservative Moslem world.

Granted, American women can own property, have an equal voice
in civic affairs, practice as physicians and dentists, study along
side male engineers, serve as American secretary of state, and
become corporate executives. Equality is being fulfilled in the
civic arena. In church-related areas, tradition has made a divide
among religious denominations on matters of women holding certain
offices and functions, with Catholics, Orthodox, Moslems and more
conservative Jews pitted against liberal Protestants and Jews.
From early times Christian groups upheld the traditional male role
in ministry along with the social sacraments (Holy Orders and
Matrimony) demanding assent of the entire community. Total assent
is not forthcoming at this time on questions of certain ministries
within some traditions. That is said even when some denominations
accept women pastors, priests and bishops. However, one must note
that many (diocesan, parish, health, academic and committee)
administrative positions, even in churches that distinguish between
male and female church roles are filled by both men and women.

Is it possible to consider equality different from exact
functionality? Are males and females equal, if they can only
father or mother another, and not do both functions
interchangeably? Having co-equal roles would broaden the cultural
debate provided that mothering, nurturing and healing are
considered as co-equal to administrative or sacramental roles held
by ordained males -- traditional fathering roles.

What seems urgently needed today is to emphasize the unique
female contributive roles of initiating the healing process,
something that males find so very difficult to do. Thus I venture
even further out on the limb of this discussion by proposing (after
the empirical experience of 200 environmental resource assessments)
that women have a unique role in earthhealing as initiators of the
process -- a key ingredient to environmental action. The fact is
that this unique healing role cannot be easily initiated by the
male and thus the long-term task can only be completed along side
a recognized feminine initiating role. Again, I suggest this as a
discussion point. I am convinced that "earth healing" is a process
that has not been fully developed and yet is urgently needed due to
the damage to the planet Earth. Equality may demand that the
unique female role in healing the Earth be given greater attention
at this time. That is something that males cannot do. Maybe this
invitation might advance women's equality today.




August 27, 2006 Multitudes or Remnants

After this many of his disciples left him and stop going with
(John 6:66)

All of us can be mesmerized by numbers. I certainly can and
perhaps you as well. We are results-oriented and like to hear of
ever growing numbers of believers and donations and the size of
structures. Then we come to the readings of the past few weeks on
the Eucharist and read in the final portion of John 6 where many
left Jesus after hearing the discourse on the Eucharist. How can
he give us his flesh to eat? Is the entire solemn donation of God
to us openly rejected by a great number of hearers? Surely, if the
teaching is divine the multitudes would be willing to accept the
message. But they do not. The Eucharistic story is one of solemn
depth and yet it is rejected by many of the listeners. At this
sublime moment of Good News comes this departure of the unbelieving
people. This bears out Mother Teresa's words that "it is better to
be faithful than to be successful." And this holds for the
faithful who come to believe in the Eucharist as well.

Statistics can fool us. As a hobby I try to make sense of
religious statistics. About 55% of Christians are Catholics of the
various rites (Latin, Chaldean, Maronite, etc.) or about 1.1
billion people. Just how many of these, or of the remaining 900
billion Christians, are nominal and how many sincere believers is
uncertain. How many truly believe in Christ and how many of the
Catholics and Orthodox believe in the Real Presence of the
Eucharist? What we do know from Scripture is that only a remnant
of those who were physically present and heard Christ's message
believed. Down through the centuries people have reflected on
whether faith is for the multitudes or for the remnant faithful
few. Many of the small sects operate as remnants on their belief
that their fidelity is more important than their numbers.

Is a remnant theology still before us? Whatever the answer we
ought to be prepared that many could fall away and only a few
remain, or we may expect that the decline in attendance in Europe
could be the harbinger of falling away in attendance in other parts
of the world. Christianity has been buoyed up by the massive
growth in Africa and smaller increases in Asia and Oceania as well
as Latin America. But what lies ahead? Certain passages of
Scripture may give us clues. When Christ returns will he find
faith? Does this question cause us to engage in idle speculation
or to redouble our efforts at coming closer to the Lord?

The Eucharist calls forth the faith of the innocent child not
of the sophisticated cynic who may doubt. We are called to believe
in Christ through a rationally-based faith and yet this is grounded
in the simple trust of the innocent child -- the one whom Jesus
encourages us to imitate on our journey of faith. The Eucharist is
the Lord's gift, his presence, his sign of future glory, his offer
of eternity to us. Our response to "Do you want to leave me too?"
is with Peter's question "Lord, to whom shall we go?"




August 28, 2006 Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but
rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by
.      Mother Teresa

Each of us remembers when we encountered a special person; I
heard Mother Teresa (1910-2002) in June, 1976. The small Albanian
nun and Indian missionary came to the gathering at the United
Nations Habitat Conference at Vancouver in a jam-packed conference
room. I remember well that I had a floor spot with my feet
dangling over a balcony for all fixed seats were filled. Her
message was surprisingly simple as were her manner and dress; we
need to house the homeless and do so as part of the dignity that
must be shown to other human beings. It is not right that people
continue in sub-standard housing. The message was not preachy or
overly dramatic but it did touch the hearts of the people present.

Over the years in many ways Mother Teresa and her
Missionaries of Charity have touched the hearts of many more people
as they have expanded so rapidly throughout the world -- even
though other religious communities have far smaller growth rates or
are diminishing. Somehow there is a message that reaches deeply
when someone caresses a dying beggar or a malnourished child. She
found the most unwanted and neglected and gave them some special
care, and she taught her communities of sisters and brothers to do
the same. Through deeds more than words she told us that these
poorest of the poor need our help. We generally hope that some
other good souls will be called to take special care for those
most in need -- and we hope there are many more to follow in her
footsteps. Mother Teresa did not first ask the suffering people
about their religious practice; she instantly loved them for who
they were and were to become. Her instant love gave to each of
these forgotten souls a sense of dignity and future hope, and her
simple message went out to all the world that such human
abandonment must not continue.

At times I desire to press for the needs of governmental
agencies to take up the slack and attack the destitution that
Mother Teresa addressed in a non-political manner. However, an
activist agenda needs to be coupled with that of direct service
when and where that service is needed to immediately attack the
suffering and abandonment of others. It is not an either/or but a
both/and. Direct service becomes the moral conscience of the
world, and social justice is catalyzed and encouraged by what some
are doing in the charitable realms. The direct service says here
and now; the social action says in the immediate future on a
structural basis. It is not right that all become Mother Teresas
through direct service, but it is good that some do and that they
tell us that we must do much more then just cheer them on. The
direct service people are our inspiration to move forward and
address the problem of haves in a world of ever increasing have
nots. This condition cannot continue; we say it with words, but
Mother Teresa and her companions say it more eloquently with deeds.





August 29, 2006 Whistleblowers Can Be Martyrs

We reflected before (June 24, 2004) on the unique mission of
John the Baptist. We did not focus on his witnessing to the truth
which led to the King's displeasure. John's violent death is a
horror story in itself. The circumstances leading up to his death
(Salome requested his head on a dish, Matthew 14:8) do not really
compare to the bravery of John's forthright language in confronting
the royal family with their irregular life. He was a primitive
whistleblower, one who reveals what all know and few dare to say.

Witness to truth through whistleblowing is needed in every age
and yet it has always been a rare practice for it may lead to dire
results. It may mean the loss of a job, threats to one's status in
the community, and even possibly one's death. But speaking out is
an important thing to do and all pray that those who are moved to
do so have the courage to follow through with their own
convictions. Will they go beyond the confines of their small
community or family group? What about the brave souls who dare
teach young girls in Afghanistan; these must endure the threat of
facial disfigurement or loss of home by the Taliban? What about
soldiers who must interrogate prisoners and are encouraged to do so
through methods of torture and yet refuse? What about workers in
factories or research centers who see illegal acts being performed
against their fellow human beings? The Earth is full of cases of
wrongdoing that go unreported.

Here one needs a word of caution. Those who are moved to
become dramatic must seriously examine whether they are doing so
for a proper motive or to cover the leaving of a job they do not
want, or to expose a person one does not like. All of us are
called to witness in much less dramatic ways than did John the
Baptist, and some rise to the occasion and others do not. We have
to speak up for the truth on numerous occasions even when it hurts.
We become the minor witnesses to lifestyle ways, to responding to
sincere requests, to entering into the private lives of relatives
and friends. Minor witnessing is a form of martyrdom that is never
classed as such, but it can have dramatic long-term effects that
can change the way people act and interrelate.

Environmental issues can be occasions of our whistleblowing.
Ill-treated land or resources deserve proper monitoring and
reporting. Companies that pollute in hidden ways must be exposed.
Products with harmful side effects need to be publicized. Wasteful
practices should be brought to the attention of the proper
authorities. All are forms of whistleblowing, of witnessing and
possibly of martyrdom. Dignity involves giving solemn witness to
the truth and such testimony is fertilizer that allows the earth
healing to commence. Jesus gives an immense complement to his
cousin John after his death for in one sense none was greater.
Today, we need prophetic voices to call attention to the everyday
practices that continue to plague our wounded Earth. Today, we
must confront our ill-placed financial, social and political
policies on all levels. Become a modern day John the Baptist.






August 30, 2006 Making Sorghum

September is sorghum-making time and at this late part of
August the sorghum makers are preparing for this festive event,
something quite distinctive in the Appalachian region.

I grew up in traditional American cane or "river" cane
country. The "canebrakes" were a mile from our house and were
originally almost impenetrable thickets of plant growth. This
cane grows on fertile soil so the thickets disappeared when the
pioneers converted the areas into farmland. Furthermore the
species became threatened through overgrazing by livestock that ate
the sugary shoots during all seasons of the year.

However, sorghum or sugar cane is not this native species, and
has been cultivated and favored globally due to having more sap and
sugar content. At home, we grew sorghum cane for silage for the
cattle, but only later in life did I experience the toil associated
with extracting sorghum as an Appalachian culinary delight.
Most likely sorghum-making went out of fashion because it was
difficult work or "slave labor." That is particularly true of the
elementary operation of cutting the cane in the absence of some
mechanical cutting implement; the painstaking labor involves using
a "corn knife" or machete for cutting each stalk and piling the
stalks in an orderly fashion for hauling to the sorghum making
location. Here the cane is crushed and the sap squeezed. In older
times the squeezing was done by a press that was powered by a mule
(a long pole device for torque shown more often in sorghum-making

The squeezed sap is boiled down to the right consistency by a
"master" sorghum maker, who is experienced in turning out good
amber-colored sorghum with the right color, smell and taste. The
boiling operation requires removing and skimming off any green pulp
that would spoil or discolor the final syrup. The boiling requires
feeding a wood fire under a long trough or pan, through which the
syrup flows as it thickens to its proper consistency. The foaming
material, "joy foam," that naturally is on top of the cooling syrup
is taken up by youthful spectators onto cane cuttings and eaten
much like cotton candy at the fair. It is all part of the
festivities associated with "makin' sorghum."

The final product that is flowing slowly at the end of the
trough or pan is caught in wide-mouth jars and stored for use later
in the year as a sweetening agent. A good grade of sorghum could
store indefinitely and could be used for cakes, candies, and
topping for pancakes and many cooked dishes. In fact, for many
earlier Appalachians, this sorghum syrup became the main sweetening
agent along with honey. Perhaps what discouraged the festivities
of community sorghum making during the last century was the work
involved, the expertise needed for making a good syrup, and the low
price of crystalline sugar. Many prefer sorghum's own particular
flavor for household use but, owing to the care and work involved,
it is higher priced than many other sweeteners on the market.





  sandstone visitors center new river gorge west virginia

   Flower garden, Sandstone Visitor Center
   (photo: Mark Spencer)

August 31, 2006 Sandstone Visitor Center

Each month we focus on an organization that is trying in some
way to heal the Earth. We have dealt with a variety of private
non-profit groups but never a governmental organization as such.
The focus here is on a visitor's center in central West Virginia
immediately off Interstate-64 and overlooking the New River Gorge -
- an unusually scenic Appalachian treasure. The Sandstone Visitor
Center is operated by the National Park Service of the U.S.
Department of Interior.

The Visitor Center impresses one due to both its "green" or
environmental design and its use of native plants in the immediate
environs of the structure. The brochure from the Center tells that
these native plants require less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
The site of the structure is a former quarry and school and thus
permits undeveloped park lands to remain in natural areas. Storm
water runoff is caught in planted islands and depressions where it
is filtered and then seeps into the ground as natural irrigation.
The low wattage outside lighting fixtures are downward pointing and
thus reduce light pollution of the night sky.

The building is quite energy efficient and uses about 60% less
energy than the current industry standard. Its features include
the following: south-facing construction to allow for maximum
daylight and heating by the winter sun; local construction
materials including the sandstone; the light-colored roof to
reflect sunlight and eliminate the need to cool hot air that would
be absorbed through a dark-colored roof; insulation in the walls
made from ground up newspaper and other recycled cellulose; a
geothermal system, which circulates water underground to reach the
Earth's constant temperature, then returns the water to the Visitor
Center to heat and cool the building; lighting within the Center
that is controlled by sun sensors that dim interior lights on
bright sunny days to reduce the amount of electricity used;
recycled plastic in the carpet; upper wooden wall panels made from
aspen trees, which are rapidly growing renewable resources; and
elsewhere, certified wood from trees removed in a manner that does
not destroy the forest.

The Center is really an education center; it has a
substantial collection of interactive displays for youth as well as
adults. An introductory film interprets the rich resources of the
watershed as well as discusses human impacts on the region and
simple ways to lessen these impacts. This 11,800 square-foot
complex opened in 2003. Should you visit the facility, take some
time to drive to the nearby Grandview Overlook of the scenic New
River Gorge. This overlook is 2,500 feet above sea level and 1,440
feet above the river.

For more information write to New River Gorge National River,
P.O. Box 246, Glen Jean, WV 25846. Phone: (304) 465-0508.




Copyright © 2007 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Davis, Editor

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