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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

July 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Al Fritsch

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Flower of the Eastern prickly pear, Opuntia humifusa, native Kentucky plant.
(photo: Janet Powell)

July Reflections, 2010

      In my youth July went too fast, for I loved the summertime when there was no school.  Freedom reigned in the months we wore less clothes and no shoes.  However, in my imagination I wanted time to stand still but it wouldn't no matter how hard I tried. Crickets chirped, flies buzzed, birds sang -- but it would not last;  summer moved on.  Now all months move so utterly fast, and my ringing ears make me imagine that my house is full of crickets year round.  July was punctuated by the special gifts of peaches and tomatoes, of fireworks and picnics, of construction work and of frosted lemonade, of home-made ice cream and day lilies, of long days and short nights, of a passing time that we could not control. 

      This July we are aware of living in a world of haves and have nots, of an effort to regain economic momentum, of an endless set of wars, and of terrorist bombings on every side.  We are all one global family, and we are inclined to celebrate the summer of our delights together, not with some in dire need and others in the forgetful luxury of their speeding boats and cars and planes.  The more we appreciate July, the more we are driven to share natural gifts with others so that all can enjoy the season. 





A fallow field, Mercer Co., Kentucky.
(*photo credit)

July 1, 2010      Refrain from Optimistic Budgets

     For many folks, today is the start of a new budget year -- but not for everyone.  Some of us construct a half-year update on where the budget has fit into the past six months.  One thing seems certain in these troubled times: optimists should never be allowed to construct budgets, for they have a way of expecting revenue when it may not be present;  also they expect expenses to be far less than they will be.  We suffer all too often at the federal budgetary level because all too often optimists are elected to office and now see all money sources and expenditures through rose-colored glasses.  They shun those of us who say, "In reality we are heading towards bankruptcy UNLESS changes are made."  We place great emphasis on the "unless" because we see the urgency of changing our current policies.  Will the optimists do the best job?  Face it, in twenty years, at present rates, social entitlement funds will consume 40% of our GNP.  Yes, that is unsustainability.

     Budget-makers ought to be deeply realistic and, if need be, compose a pessimistic and an optimistic budget;  we ought always to look in both directions at the budgetary "stop sign."  At times the government optimists seem to start up and hope nothing is coming.  If citizens had their domestic house in order, they could talk meaningfully about national and global budget policy.  On the home front and at local community levels we need to distinguish the difference between needs and wants;  some find this hard because over time the "wants" grow into essential needs.  Our grandparents hardly knew what electricity was and yet some talk about the essential right to electricity or at least low-priced stuff.   

      National wants have a way of becoming needs.  We hardly had a major navy of any sort 150 years ago, and yet we accept having our global bases and the title of "policemen the world."  It cannot continue.  Realists know this;  others must learn it.  We have to say NO to some expenditures, to adjust retirement ages, to global tax havens for the super-rich (put the military to work to overcome these havens), to large banking bonuses, and to rampant military spending even beyond Pentagon requests.   

      For many of us, budgets are like going to the dentist -- a necessary but painful experience.  However we seldom talk about the pain of not knowing where we are going without a budget.  Unfortunately, much of the tea party frustration is related to uncontrolled governmental spending with no clear understanding of who has the power to protect their riches from becoming revenues.  Once this nation undertook prohibition because the revenues were suddenly coming from income taxes and not alcohol;  it seemed so easy, but after-effects were dramatic with organized crime as a side effect.  Budget-making is difficult, for optimal conditions are scarce.  We need clear vision and a sense of proper needs.  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to play real budget games wherein we know how much we have, realize those who are truly in need, and re-allocate resources according to essential requirements. 






Pondering her next move... or, not.
(*photo credit)

July 2, 2010      Make a Mid-Year Review in July

      We are starting the second half of 2010.  Where has the first half of the year gone?  We realize that we can't walk backward in history, but rather we journey into the future.  New beginnings always give us hope and July is a time for that. Yes, we can look ahead but not too far ahead at the horizon lest we stumble on the rocks in our path.  We need two perspectives, affairs close at hand and distant goals, and we question the current condition: 

      * Information overload -- Do I watch too much television or engage too heavily in the Internet?  Do I read enough? 

     * Consumer pressure -- Do I cave in to I-phones or other such devices simply in the panic to keep up with my peers? 

      * Fidelity to goals -- Do I make monthly and weekly plans and live with them?          

     * Psychological balance -- Do I get enough rest each day and involve myself in leisure activities? 

     * Physical health -- Am I faithful to physical exercise especially during bad weather? 

      * Personal disposition -- Has summer increased my enthusiasm and positive outlook on life?  

      * Peace of mind -- Do I let things that I cannot handle or change get me down?  Am I willing to admit that this world is not perfect and we have to ride with the tide? 

      * Spiritual life -- Does hot weather have a way of interfering with my time to meditate and pray?

      * Social life -- Do I make excuses for not meeting and joining others in projects that require cooperation? 

      * Civic life -- Do I make the excuse that I cannot be bothered with the local community, and thus sink into inaction and silence? What about my response to national legislation pending right now? 

     * Pervasive attitude -- Am I thankful for all good gifts and is this all the more proper in this productive part of the year? 

      * Self-knowledge and planning -- Do I end each day with a quick review of what has happened that day and ask pardon, give thanks and resolve to make tomorrow a better day?

     Prayer:  Lord help me to prepare for the promises of tomorrow by observing honestly where I am right now.  Give me the strength to forgive myself for past indiscretions and to resolve to make the rest of the year a better one, as the second half of 2010 starts at noon today. 






Meditation garden, Frank Llyod Wright's Rosenbaum home.
(*photo credit)

July 3, 2010     Bring Good News

    At that time the Lord appointed seventy two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.

                               (Luke 10:1)                             

    We accompany the disciples through our call to spread Good News.  We are to help in the healing of our wounded neighbors and Earth herself.  We must not forget that success has already been achieved in little and often overlooked ways.  A power is at work within us that is outside of us.  Yes, we are among the scarce laborers in the vineyard of the Lord and yet we have the power to move and bring something to others.  God provides courage and yet at times we are tempted to enter the shadows of doubt.  We need the reminder that stumbling blocks may lurk but vision will persist.  Our sacraments are the Lord's reminders to us.       

      Our mandate is to extend peace, not destructive fear.  Our mission is to bring the God-given peace of heart and mind to others, and that is truly Good News.  Enough stories and rumors and gossip exist to disturb people, but that is not God's way; these belong to imperfect human beings and must be taken with a grain of salt.  Others including the media want us to dwell on wars and destruction and abuse and neglect.  Yes, hunger has been our special topic and rightly so in this world of plenty.  We cannot forget that homelessness still plagues the victims of the Haitian earthquake. However, amid an easily constructed world of gloom, the Good News is that God loves us and can brighten our lives.  Yes, solutions are possible if we but listen and discover them. 

      Live simply, not elaborately.  Jesus instructs his disciples to stay at one place and take what is provided.  If we have to cart in all of our supposed needs, then we are not living simply, but act like outsider visitors who refuse local fare.  To live simply is to obey God's will to be among those who receive the Good News.  We don't have to imitate John the Baptist and live on grasshoppers and honey, but we ought to make do with local resources. 

      Don't stay when not welcome.  This is an amazing admission of the evangelistic message, but is a major operative principle.  Find out if people want what we have to offer;  if not, go on to another place.  Some of the problem today with use of church resources is that we spend too much time with petty issues and so-called "needs," and not enough to discover those really in need.

      Don't take pride in success.  This is a final but equally important admonition.  God's power is at work, not our own.  We all need to repeat this, including this writer.  Tell me again!  A certain measure of success is needed by those of us who are weak and need encouragement; however, we must not take credit for what comes from our God-enabled actions.  Bearing Good News is a privilege, but let God be the ultimate judge of success.

      Prayer:  Help us, Lord, be worthy bearers of Good News. 










Sunset: nature's own fireworks on display.
(*photo credit)

July 4, 2010      Free Speech for People Amendment 

      It is most fitting on July Fourth to consider an area where our democracy is most threatened -- namely the use of vast corporate financing for the election of people to office in this nation.  A variety of strategies are now being proposed to answer a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.  One of these presented on the Public Citizen website is worthy of careful consideration: 

     Whereas, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was designed to protect the free speech rights of people, not corporations; 

      Whereas, for the past three decades, a divided United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate democratically-enacted reforms; 

      Whereas, the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC overturned longstanding precedent prohibiting corporations from spending their general treasury funds in our elections; 

      Whereas, this corporate takeover of the First Amendment has reached its extreme conclusion in the United States's recent ruling in Citizens United v. FEC; 

      Whereas, the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC will now unleash a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in United States history; 

      Whereas, the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC presents a serious and direct threat to our democracy; 

      Whereas, the people of the United States have previously used the constitutional amendment process to correct those egregiously wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court that go to the heart of our democracy and self-government;   

      Now hereby be it resolved that we the undersigned voters of the United States call upon the United States Congress to pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people. 






Sustainable forest management nourished biodiversity
on private landowner forest. Washington Co., Kentucky.
(*photo credit)

July 5, 2010     Enhance American Independence through Sustainability 

     Today, the world is becoming more interdependent; in some ways this is a good thing, and in some ways bad.  The unsustainable luxury demands of wealthier nations lead to a dependence on the unequal resources we demand.  These sources can only be sustained through financial and military power. In fact, sustaining our unsustainable practices is an oxymoron, and the affluent are without insight. 

      Unsustainable individual conditions affect many, for they include substance abuse and living beyond one's means.  The stumbling souls are certainly dependent on the good graces of others to get them out of the financial ditch -- a persistent  dysfunctionality.  However, upon closer inspection we note others who through no fault of their own, still must endure similar financial conditions.  They chafe under the calloused critics' comments, "Let them go bankrupt and accept consequences."  Many individuals who face home foreclosure this year did not deliberately choose unsustainable personal practices;  quite often illnesses and lack of employment led to them to where they are now. 

      Unsustainable group or national policies are often harder to detect, acknowledge and remedy, and yet these have more far-reaching consequences.  Culpability extends to the whole citizenry.  Who wants to imagine the bankruptcy of a health insurance system or a retirement fund?  Even such threats are regarded as unthinkable, and yet our general American lifestyle practices are unsustainable -- and who welcomes looming long-term problems.  The fiction-laden mentality of many Americans defers longer-term problems to tomorrow, "after I am gone," "after my political term expires," or "after my loved ones are in the grave."  Why bother me?   

      Unsustainable global environmental practices unfortunately are being imitated today at ever-increasing rates by over one billion people (mainly Asians) who have joined the middle class since the 1990s.  We face emerging unsustainable global practices;  small efforts at recycling or curbing of wastes do not diminish (only retard) the increasing pollution and resource depletion of our world.  As others strive to imitate our nation, they accept similar unsustainable practices and cause dire global consequences. 

   Sustainable lifestyles and national and global policies can still enhance a proper interdependence in our world, for those living an ordered lifestyle and according to means are able to apportion excess resources and credit to others who are striving to make ends meet. However, without a New World Order a return to global sustainability will not occur.  Such an Order makes us willing and able to share with materially-dependent folks who are victims of natural disaster, and thus we can attain a just resource interdependence, far better than an affluent "independence." 

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to live ordered and sustainable lives; make us more willing to do so on this Independence Day.







Close-up of tender young flower bud.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 6, 2010      Announce that America's Renewables Are Here Now

     Renewable energy has proven itself to be a solid investment --
growing rapidly and nipping at the heels of the stagnant nuclear power
                                          Ken Bossong, Executive Director of SUN DAY

      The traditional energy companies would like to have us embrace the message that renewables are in the distance, and their message is that practicality calls for reaffirming past practices: "dig, baby, dig;"  "drill, baby, drill;"  "insure the new nukes."  In order to get some sort of legislative bipartisanship the exploitation of oil and coal is in fashion -- but ought it after the Deepwater Horizon and the West Virginia coal disasters?  For a number of years the Sun Day Campaign has reminded us of renewable's potential without unsustainable reliance on coal and oil. 

      Renewables are here, not coming.  The final 2009 records from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that U.S. renewable energy sources increased from 9.44% in 2007 to 10.10% in 2008 to 10.66% of the total energy consumption in 2009.  Thus the renewable field (biofuels, biomass, geothermal, solar, wind and hydropower) provided 7,833 quadrillion Btus in 2009.  This is a 5.5% increase over the previous year and 15.8% over two years before.  Unfortunately, much of the increase (51% total energy) is in biofuels, a sizeable portion of which are derived from corn that could be used for global food stocks.  Hydropower is at 34.2%, wind at 8.9%, geothermal at 4.7% and solar at 1.2% of the total renewable picture right now.   

      Traditional sources are sinking, not being maintained.  Smaller renewable sources have very high development potential -- provided that this country adopts an option for renewable buildup.  Placing limited financial resources in off-shore drilling, "clean coal," and loans to new, expensive, and still insecure nuclear powerplants is wrongheaded.  Total renewables now almost equal nuclear (11.33% of total energy) and the nuclear total percentage has declined for the past two years -- 1.2% from the 2008 level and 1.5% from 2007 level.

     Wind power is expanding, not limping along.  In 2009, hydropower provided 6.89% of U.S.-generated electricity and the other renewables contributed 3.57%; the combined total of renewables was 10.46% of total.  In 2009 non-hydro renewables grew by 11.81% over 2008 and 34.09% over 2007 with wind now accounting for over half (50.14%) of the electrical generation from non-hydro renewable energy sources; other sources were biomass (38.50%), geothermal (10.78%) and solar (0.58%).  Wind is the fastest growing energy source in America today and it ought to be receiving a major share of national energy financial resources.  It is safe; it is plentiful in much of America; it is rapidly becoming cheaper than nuclear power; and it can be brought on line quickly. Source: www.eia.doc.gov/emeu/mer/overview.html

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to renew our ways through renewables.







Solar panel at the Mary E. Fritsch Nature Center, ASPI.
(*photo credit)

July 7, 2010      Consider Solar Photovoltaics 

     Monday's review of renewable energy advances makes us acutely aware that solar energy is last on the renewable list, and yet it could contribute significantly to a future national energy mix.  The International Energy Agency predicts that solar will go from 0.5% of current world supply to 2.3% of world's power by 2020 and 8.8% by 2030.  By the agency's estimates photovoltaics and concentrated solar power could provide 11% of electricity by 2050. 

      For decades, photovoltaic "solar cells" have been known to generate electricity directly when exposed to sunlight.  The first generation of solar units were a single-crystal silicon variety.  The second and later generations will be chemical coatings, which cost far less and are more versatile.  Coatings and roofing tiles have been developed, which can be applied directly on new construction or retrofitted on existing buildings.  In recent years we have observed shiny multi-colored arrays of silicon cells on roofs of buildings.  Solar-produced electricity reduces the need for fossil-fueled powerplants and all the accompanying pollution and land disturbance in extracting the fuel.  Useful energy can be generated on location, and stored in batteries for nights and rainy days.  This saves energy transmission losses and expanded lines. 

    For years the federal government's Million Solar Roof Program  recognized that this energy delivery system need not be a major technological monopoly for power generators alone.  Smaller decentralized efficient solar units are possible with proven solar technology.  It is just that the devices are still expensive due to lack of mass production and tax incentives.  These solar systems light homes, roads and paths, power appliances, charge solar electric cars, operate traffic signals (especially in remote places), pump water, and run ventilation fans.  

      In July, when the sun shines down upon us, the heat loads cause air conditioners to work overtime.  However, this means that the fossil-fueled powerplants are often working at peak capacity risking rolling brownouts or blackouts.  That is precisely when solar energy makes its maximum contribution to the utility mix of fuel sources.  All the while, any solar application makes us aware that we need to conserve our resources even when they are directly from the sun -- for equipment is costly and application comes at a cost of effort.  On these days, solar-powered photovoltaics generate plentiful energy to feed back into the system.  This is why we need to expand integrated utility systems with "net metering" for solar systems.  Your solar home system will not only have enough energy for local demands, but will run your meter in reverse when having a surplus.  Utilities prefer to buy this back at wholesale rather than retail rates, and so some adjustment is being made by state utility commissions to help reach a fair return for all parties.

      Prayer:  Lord, encourage us to support solar sources of energy for, like water, light is essential for our wellbeing and life.   







Daisies and stone.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 8, 2010      Confront Wage Theft As a Global Problem

      A little while back, someone came and told me that he had worked as an associate for a private contractor who kept promising to pay for the time spent subbing -- but he never did beyond an introductory fee.  When it came time for payment, the person kept putting this trusting soul off and off and off, all the while extracting more and more labor from him.  The owed money mounted into the thousands of dollars, before the victim realized he was dealing with a clever thief.  The parties had no written agreement and so there was little legal ground on which to force "blood from a turnip" who had already spent the victim's wages. 

      Only when I read "Faith Works," the newsletter of Interfaith Worker Justice, did I realize that what I regarded as an isolated instance perpetrated on timid people too embarrassed to complain, is a practice that is widespread.  The theft occurs both in large and small operations, both in this country and abroad.  This appears to be a common practice in China where workers are often denied wages for a variety of excuses.  Furthermore, this is more than an American and Chinese phenomenon; it is global.  People work and then they are given a small return or are denied any reimbursement for time spent.  The injustice is so utterly cruel because it becomes the profit for those powerful enough to get away with it, and encourages a crime wave that no one talks about -- and that victims are too powerless to confront successfully.  

      Last November 19th there was a National Day of Action to Stop Wage Theft in forty locations throughout the United States.  Among the many injustices exposed was that of four Polish workers in Chicago, each owed over $10,000 from a single contractor.  Some say that the lack of regulations and legal means to prosecute infringements on wage payments allows some to extract sizeable amounts of service from temporary workers -- and then move on to selecting others within a massive unemployed labor force.   

      The U.S. Labor Department's  Wage and Hour Division is cracking down on wage thieves and is focusing on protecting the rights of workers to their earned wages.  In fact, the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, states that the agency is hiring hundreds of new investigators and making aggressive efforts to combat wage theft.  Maybe these worker rights ought to be coupled with the right of ALL the unemployed to regard our government as the employer of last resort, something we have long sought.  For further information, please check out Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago or on the Internet at the website www.iwj.org.  You may want to purchase "A Worker Justice Reader" published this year by Orbis Books.

      Prayer:  Lord, help us to stand up for workers who deserve a just return for their labors, and to expose those who steal the just wages from those honest victims who deserve the daily bread for their families.   









Valley Pike covered bridge, Mason Co., KY.
(*photo credit)

 July 9, 2010     Travel the Local Back Roads 

      Occasionally I take off some time and hike the hills behind my house on the macadamized public roads that are near Cottage Furnace and the other sites within the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Some prefer more challenging back country hiking trails, but for those who need modified local hiking the back roads prove satisfactory enough.  Are you bogged down by summer heat?  At least plan the occasional hike during a cooler part of the day.   

      Hikers like to tell their own experiences.  Jonathan Kandell (Smithsonian, May, 2010, pp. 52-59) describes traversing 216 miles of Vermont Route 100 by vehicle, and includes in the article some wonderful photographs that make a delightful virtual trip for readers.  For hikers on foot, Kandell describes the parallel 160-mile "Long Trail," which merges with the Appalachian Trail in southern Vermont. 

      People within the U.S. Department of Transportation are seriously introducing the concept of constructing national biking and hiking networks.  On a smaller scale these networks would be similar to the Eisenhower era national Interstate Highway System.  No wonder today 90% of all travel to work is done by automobile.  Had the same effort been made for public rail and high speed transport, the auto culture would not have been so overwhelming.  No one is permitted to walk along, bike along or hitchhike on the sacrosanct Interstates.  Fairness is long due, and biking and hiking networks are possible at far lower costs than the current road system. 

      Making these hiking/biking networks happen may take additional time and effort -- and the lobby resources are far more scarce.  In the meanwhile, let us use the back roads for both shorter-ranging bike trips and hikes -- even though speeding vehicles on these routes can be dangerous.  With that extra care one can cite a number of advantages of choosing local routes: 

      * Smaller carbon footprint by not having to travel great distances to get to the starting points;

      * Ease at getting or keeping connected to relatives and friends, if hiking or biking locally;

      * A lesson in geography, history and local culture;

      * Opportunity to keep tourist dollars in the local area; and

      * Less stress on travelers who are in familiar areas.

      Some oppose this "stay at home" attitude and promote the benefits to longer distance travel:  increased knowledge about the world; talking points about adventures elsewhere; and the chance to get far away from business as usual for a period of time.  Such are true but ought such travel be done only on very rare occasions?  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to love our local environment, but how can we do this without immersing ourselves in the vicinity to every degree possible? 









Geode toll structure, Route 68, near Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY.
(*photo credit)

July 10, 2010     Try Route 68: The Main Street of Kentucky

      Somewhere between meandering travel on America's local back roads (as mentioned in yesterday's reflection) and travel at high speeds on the Interstate is traveling by private vehicle on the medium-sized highways or the U.S. Highway (not Interstate) System -- the principal mode of auto travel a half century ago.  These "U.S." numbered routes networked the entire lower 48 states when only 48 existed; their major cross-country routes often ran parallel to the newer U.S. Interstate System.  However, the non-parallel routes have some very pleasant surprises for travelers. 

      This middle routing is possible on such routes as U.S. Highway 68 (see Daily Reflections for September 30, 2008, on Road Safety).  No doubt I am partial to this route having traveled on it to school for twelve years.  Route 68 was formerly a buffalo trace, the gullies of which are still apparent;  the animals migrated each year to the salt-rich Blue Licks area.  The route was later used for centuries by Indian hunting parties.  Later still, the route became the "Maysville Pike" (first called Zanes Trace) that competed with the Wilderness Trail through Cumberland Gap in bringing pioneer settlers westward.  In fact, during school days we passed a road marker installed in the 1830s with mileage to Zanesville, Ohio, listed as the northern end and that to Florence, Alabama as the southern terminus.  In fact, this route became the focal point of Andrew Jackson's veto of the "Maysville Road Bill" with which political scientists are familiar.  The route used tollgates until the 1890s;  I remember grandpa speaking of driving cattle down that toll road as a farm boy. 

      Some call Route 68 the "Main Street of the Midwest."  Along this route is old Washington, the first town so named, with many quaint features (see Ecotourism in Appalachia).  The highway travels past Blue Licks Battlefield (last battle of the Revolutionary War), through scenic Paris, and through the heart of historic Lexington, though quiet beauty has been sacrificed by broadening the highway due to mounting traffic congestion.   

      Past Lexington the "Harrodsburg Pike" descends into and rises from the Kentucky River gorge with its own charm, and then it runs past Shakertown, a major tourist attraction.  Route 68 trisects the heart of Kentucky and passes Lebanon and Campbellsville allowing short side excursions to Gethsemane Monastery at New Haven, Lincoln's birthplace at Hodgenville, and the Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green.  The highway itself moves on through Russellville and past the birthplace of Jefferson Davis at Fairview; then it traverses the Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky and then on to Paducah on the Ohio River.  If you travel the highway as a sightseer, you are on "main street."  It is a good relaxing summer vacation diversion.  

      Prayer:  Lord, allow us to relax by traveling and sightseeing through significant local places, and to do so to be nice to our limited energy and to be increasingly "green" at the same time. 







Tall thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana.
(*photo credit)

 July 11, 2010      Reflect on Being Good Samaritans

           And who is my neighbor?  (Luke 10: 29-37)

   Global Internet makes a global neighborhood.  This year's earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, and Mexico shake and harm  victims and shake those of us on firmer ground as well.  We hear the lawyer ask Jesus a searching question about commandments, after showing himself to be well versed in the law; the lawyer uses Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (loving God above all) and Leviticus 19:18 (loving our neighbor as ourselves).  We ask that question as well: who is our neighbor?  We may be prone to become like the passersby and overlook foreigners, drunks, distant people.  However, we think of Haiti and realize that a neighbor is not only one in the locality; neighbors are those we hear about anywhere on this planet.  Modern communication networks (Internet and television) allow them to come easily into our hearing and viewing zones.

      The good Samaritan confronts a critical situation head-on.  Jesus tells the inquiring lawyer about a victim who is waylaid and neglected by the passing priest and Levite and then assisted by a Samaritan who, although part of a despised sect, gives attention, binds up wounds, and takes the victim to an inn.  A "neighbor" does not hate or show bias or pre-judge another; a neighbor does not seek the causes of the accident, whether the robbers are still present, or whether he will be made unclean if the victim touches him in any way.  A neighbor gets involved, and this attending takes time, ingenuity, and resources (bringing to an inn and paying for the upkeep).  Samaritans "suffer with" and show compassion.

    Parables apply to individuals and to communities.  Americans are often richly endowed but are tempted to deny victims' situations such as world hunger or disease;  we are tempted to excuse ourselves from our share in global climate change; we distance ourselves (escape) from unpleasant situations by busying ourselves with unnecessary tasks and allurements.  Our affluence tends to desensitize us to disturbing global conditions.  Rather than radically sharing with those terrorized by not having food for this coming meal, we look into other problems and turn our corn into biofuel for joy-riding.  We tend to forget that a world of 850 million hungry that was supposed to be halved in this decade has grown to 1,050 million hungry people.

      Have we forgotten that attaining our own salvation involves seeing, coming to, and assisting the needy?  Can we any longer tolerate excesses and luxuries when others lack necessities?  The Good Samaritan makes us painfully aware of how our omissions (by  ignoring, excusing, or denying passersby) damage the concept of global neighborhood.  Active concern trumps blatant disregard for victims.  Jesus' words in St. Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 25) haunt us: For I was hungry and you never gave me food  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see those in need and to know when to go out to others and become involved in their situations. 








A winding road through Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming.
(*photo credit)

July 12, 2010      Make July a Good Retreat Time

      We each need reasons for an annual retreat.  July reasons may be used in other months in creative ways as well. 

      * July is new beginnings, for it is the start up of the financial and budget year for many groups with which we are associated.  It is the ideal time to take stock; or, for those of us on a January startup, to prepare for the rest of the year. 

      * July is dog days, a time to lay off excess physical activity, and stay in the shade -- a good time for retreating. 

      * July is daylight month in the Northern Hemisphere (along with June).  This is the time to experience in visual form the many vistas of God's creation from early morning to late evening.

      * July is "down time" or vacation and thus one is less concerned about being contacted by associates to assist with one or other project.  The rest of the world in the northern temperate zone calls this vacation time and so less work is expected. 

      * July is children's time for parents, for vacation time is the opportunity to bond.   

      * July is freedom, for we do not need those excessive cooler- climate, restrictive clothes.  We can relax and get into informal gear, a better way to consider our stance before God who is all merciful and willing to see us as we are.   

      * This is wildlife quiet zone, but a good period to observe animals and come closer to them.  Somehow many animals know they are being enjoyed by non-threatening admirers. 

     * July is outdoor season, at least most of the time.  Weather allows for outdoor exercise and movement while reflecting.  The great outdoors in full leafy "raiment" conveys a sense of productivity and future fulfillment.  

      * July is nature's fruitful period -- when a host of berries and natural products can be harvested directly in the wild and without the processing that ruins tastes and complicates the eating process through overuse of sugar, salt and fat.  What better time to turn our minds more to the Creator of all good gifts? 

      * July is my retreat time -- the best reason.  For committed  retreat centers, any time is good for retreatants, for their goals are to keep beds warm and staff working.  Full occupancy means success for the retreat-giving enterprise with the hope that potential retreatants will like different seasons.  Ideally, for the person reserving space, quality time is what is important, not just exactly "when" it occurs.   

      Prayer -- Lord, move us to decide when it is best to retreat.








Reflections of a summer sky.
(*photo credit)

July 13, 2010    Thank God for July's Blessings

     July is nearing the heart of the growing season and there are many things to be thankful for in years of plentiful sun and rain.

We sometimes forget that beyond the discomfort of heat in mid-day is a world of goodness that is worth a morning or evening reflection.  Thus this small list is a few of many gifts -- 

      * For juicy fruits of mid-summer such as peaches, plums and cantaloupes.  

      * For farmers markets and people willing to take the time to give each of us gardening hints to improve our own skills. 

      * For picnics and holidays and the enjoyment these bring. 

      * For patriotism in its most proper form of balanced civic pride and criticism where that is due. 

      * For summer garden veggies such as early cucumbers, tomatoes, early corn, squash, beans, beets, early potatoes, and late peas.  

      * For a good sense of balance that allows us to stay indoors in hot hours and to move about in the cooler portions of the day. 

      * For the long days of sunlight that allow for less stress in morning and evening driving. 

      * For the peacemakers who constantly remind us that we could have a more perfect world, if we spend more time on authentic development and less on military exercises. 

      * For rest time in whatever way we are free to exercise it during days, weeks or even the annual vacation. 

      * For wild blackberries, blueberries, dewberries, wineberries, raspberries, and a multitude of other berries with local and wider-known names. 

      * For caring friends who see when stresses become too great for us and are willing to help in gentle ways. 

      * For good literature that has been saved through the year for this July reading period. 

      * For those who remain enthusiastic even through July, especially youth at the seashore and elders in conversation. 

      * For Mountain Moments, a blessing in a thousand ways.

      Prayer:  Lord help us endure the heat of July and still keep a smile on our faces. 








Nature's bouquet on the grounds of Pere Marquette Mission Memorial.
(*photo credit)

July 14, 2010     Entitle Jacques Marquette "Premier Franco-American" 

      On this Bastille Day those of us of French ancestry seek persons who stand out the most in exemplifying our close connection to the "Old Country" and France's very special relationship to our continent.  Hopefully, later this year we will see published a little book entitled Water Sounds: Reminiscences of North American Jesuit Missionary/Naturalist, Jacques Marquette (Marquette University Press).  See June Fourth, "How Many Sounds of Water Can You Distinguish?"  Perhaps the candidacy of Pere Marquette as the "premier Franco-American" is most fitting;  this is certainly not because as a Frenchman he liked wine or fine foods, for he lived a spartan life. Rather he was a --

     * Missionary/Pastor -- He literally gave his whole self and even his life for his people and ministry; he took great pride in his work and worked diligently even against great odds for his people; 

      * Explorer -- He was the associate on the Mississippi River Expedition, and it was his materials that became the basis of knowledge about the watershed (especially after Joliet's spill and near drowning as he and a companion approached Montreal); 

      * Linguist -- His ministry was to a wide array of early Native American tribes, and he devoted his linguistic skills to learning their languages for purposes of communication;    

      * Continental map-maker -- He created some of the first maps of the Great Lakes Region, which incorporated his knowledge of parts of what is now Canada as well as the United States; 

      * Naturalist -- Marquette's description of certain fish, birds and mammals shows his keen sense of observation and skill in recording (he was the first to describe the tidal changes in the Great Lakes and his hydrology was essentially correct); 

      * Faithful citizen -- He loved his French cultural background, his king, and the impact that his spreading what is French had on its budding empire.  He was to live before the United States came into existence, but three of his family would come to these shores and fight (and two die) for America in the Revolutionary War; 

      * Humble worker --  Marquette was not really recognized in his own lifetime and seemed to have been overlooked in some of the important events in New France; however this did not bother him.  God's power made Marquette known after his death; and 

      * Lone Witness -- He is the icon of all French service in North America and is buried alone in a travel center of the Great Lakes region at the Straits of Mackinac. 

      Prayer:  Lord help us to spread the Good News about the work of your faithful servant, Jacques Marquette. 









Enjoying a July field.
(*photo credit)

July 15, 2010      Realize Drug Ubiquity

      They are everywhere;  they are in the home, in the school, in the work place and in the recreation areas.  Yes, drugs have found their way into all parts of our land -- and they are even finding their way into our waterways as well.  Through the testing of our water some indications can be found as to sources.  Thus the nature of rural drug problems, which have long been suspected, can now be quantified to some degree.  Many regard drugs as an urban problem and often rural areas have been overlooked;  yet meth and prescription opiates are a major problem in rural Appalachia.

      Americans today are using many manufactured drugs (legal or otherwise) in sizeable amounts -- and some of these are spilled or pass unaltered through our water purification systems. Drugs remain after water purification; male fish become pregnant;  people are getting ill from water pollution; estrogens affect the unsuspecting.  It only takes minute doses to affect a variety of creatures.  Standard testing methods used by drug epidemiologists have been biased in favor of urban areas.  The "DAWN Program" monitors drug-related visits to hospital emergency rooms and drug-related deaths reported (or underreported) by medical examiners;  a second method is a voluntary survey and urinalysis of arrestees.  Both methods give greater significance to urban America.

      One novel approach is to measure society's drug use by analyzing sewage.  A recent Oregon study tested untreated wastewater for three drugs (a metabolite of Cocaine, Meth and Ecstasy) in order to spatially map drug prevalence.  The drug "index load data" provided information for all people in the community and are potentially applicable to a much larger proportion of the total population than existing methods.  Reference: CJ Banta-Green et al.,"The spatial epidemiology of cocaine, methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) use: a demonstration using a population measure of community drug load derived from municipal wastewater,"  Addiction, Nov. 2009 104(11):1874-80.

      No current general water analysis can trace the particular drug back to individuals or to certain races or genders or age groups.  Critics state that using such analyses to cast suspicion on individuals within communities would be a poor application of information.  A proper conclusion of the cited study is that drug use is quite widespread.  "So it's really up to everyone to engage about it."  Attempts to launch an expose on overdosing in Appalachia arouse criticism.  Merely telling about the drug problem arouses limited popular attention.  The ultimate solution to drug ubiquity is better work opportunities for people frozen out from a limited job market along with better drug regulation.  Enforcement of existing laws can help as well, but remember drug use is both an urban and a rural problem. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us realize the ubiquity of the drug problem and discover effective ways to tackle it. 







Breathtaking view of the Appalachian Mountains.
(*photo by Warren Brunner, from book Mountain Moments)

July 16, 2010      Recite Creation's Eighth Day

      We sometimes forget that the forces of nature are at work and that Earth herself is undergoing a process that did not end aeons ago but rather is still ongoing.  Earthquakes and volcanoes remind us of this continual process.  Sometimes people are forgetful or take risks and thus get in the way of and are hurt in just being too close to the powerful forces at work.  Furthermore, the process can be affected by human activity and this places an urgent demand on our part to protect our fragile but powerful planet. 

       These words are found among the texts of the recently released book by Warren Brunner (photographs) and Al Fritsch (texts) entitled Mountain Moments, Acclaim Press, 2010.  See links for purchasing details. 

                     Creation's Eighth Day

              Look out! Grinding rocks, drifting sands,

               earthquakes, seawaves, aftershocked lands,

              creeping, calving blue glacier dies,

               icebergs form at our very eyes,

              avalanches of roaring snow,

               upturned trees in tornado's tow,

              muddy debris on flooded plain,

               seashore pounded by hurricane,

              sleet-covered trees at bough-lost price,

               boulders split by expanding ice,

              rivulets on an eroding Earth --

               yes, ever-yearning, giving birth.


Gladiolus with dew drops.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 17, 2010   Accept Collective Blame: Don't Point Fingers

      "God made people who became sinners;  God is to blame" 

     We do not like this quote from an unnamed cynic.  Something is wrong, for why blame God for what the free-willed creatures do?  Maybe there is something more than discomforting about pointing fingers whether by atheists, who point them at beings who they do not believe exist, or by angry believers who appear to be directionless or in a state of great distress.  Let's question the practice of finger pointing.   Is it distracting to say the least?  Is it something that betrays self-righteousness, a bombastic character, or masochistic tendencies (through inward pointing)?  Could it be a way of deflecting blame from the pointing person? 

      They are to blame.  This is the safest form of finger pointing and is done by everyone from liberals to conservatives, Monday- morning quarterbacks to film critics, politicians to voters.  However, although safest it still has the potential power to get results, for the "they" are almost always outside of earshot and eyesight.  The posturing by pointers is an appeal for support. 

     You are to blame.  Some find accusing others to be part of their calling, and even derive pleasure, especially if the "other" is incapable of fighting back.  Obviously the one of whom the finger is pointed finds it uncomfortable.  The "you" can define this as a hot seat or an electric chair but it can be definitive. 

      I am to blame.  In much the same way, I find it difficult when others point fingers at me and in their own self-righteous ways want to deflect their own weaknesses by turning the civic, religious, academic, or community vultures on me.  What is my response, for it is hard to ask others to share that blame?

     We are to blame -- if there is blame to be distributed.  Yes, we are part of an imperfect world.  We say this with a wave of a hand with fingers held together.  Pointing is exclusive; waving is inclusive.  Accepting a collective guilt is better than saying you or I or they are guiltless or totally innocent or totally to blame.  Jesus, the sinless one, took on the sins of the world when he suffered and died for us.  Even though blameless he became sin for us.  This redemptive act of saving our world can be achieved by imitating Jesus.  The sinless Jesus enters the fray; so ought we.

      We must accept the collective role of burdening ourselves for that is an act of redemptive love and mercy.  Finger pointing is to distance oneself from others.  A waving hand brings us all together even when we do not deny the wrongdoing.  Yes, we must stop the misdeed from continuing to occur, but it is the "we" and not just a few who must do this.  What we accept is the power of forgiveness for past deeds so we can work to curb such action. 

      Prayer:  Lord, help us understand that to point fingers is to deny taking a social responsibility for the misdeeds done. 






Wild grape vine embraces Eastern redcedar.
(*photo credit)

July 18, 2010      Be Satisfied in Being a Martha   

           Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.     (Luke 10:38-42) 

      "Marthahood" is seeing the utter importance of our work to such a degree that we belittle others in what they are doing. On the other hand, there may be a doubt about the importance of or envy of the role of another in contrast to our own.  The short story of Martha and Mary inviting Jesus for a meal is one such example of conflict in roles.  It is Martha who extends the hospitality and elsewhere in Scripture shows herself to be the more forward of the two sisters.  Her hospitality demands planning and attention.  However, Mary is also a person who is doing another hospitable act. 

     Martha typifies a phase in our service to and for others.  We are hard pressed as was Martha in preparing for the coming of the Lord and preparing the world for this great event.  We work very hard and expect others to be doing the same things that we are doing.  However, they engage in other callings since their personalities are different.  In some instances they are merely called to celebrate what is already present;  Mary is moved to merely entertain and converse and be present with the guest and to see that this more contemplative action is enough.  Jesus calls it the greater portion and we must be willing to say that celebration of his presence without our ongoing healing action is a form of healing.  Perhaps for the activist this is hard to justify.   

      We need to reduce the anxiety of reaching our goals with the lock step of others in our community.  Some of them take another and often less-activist approach (offering their daily actions for the success of others or simply doing studies for future work).  Accepting others and the importance of their work creates an openness on our part that enhances our own work.  However, there are degrees of acceptance.  We may have to point out that their work  is ineffective, an excuse for not acting, or only pretending. 

      Presence of those with a higher calling and accepting this is part of a more humble role, and thus a more realistic approach to our mission.  We do not abandon what we are doing in order to take a more illustrious role.  We simply accept our calling to do a service that is less regarded.  The hospitality of a meal is still needed to support the guest;  it is not the thing to do to abandon the backup service, for feeding another is also important. Accepting the necessity of taking minor roles leads to the success of the total performance.  Marthahood involves growth in understanding of our mission -- even when others do not regard it as important or worthy of continued effort.  Consistency is seeing the need for the lesser role, a continual challenge, especially when our activism is misunderstood or relegated to a minor status.  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to be of service, even when our part is somewhat hidden or forgotten or taken for granted. 






Campanula americana.
(*photo credit)

July 19, 2010     Celebrate Space Week:  Tidy-up Outer Space 

      Space Week is a fitting time to talk about our "spatial commons."  The vastness of the unimaginable outer reaches of the universe should not fool us, for space is capable of being junked to a dangerous degree.  We already know space hurdles: space exploration and ventures are costly and require large financial outlays;  space observation is increasingly difficult due to light pollution that affects many urban areas; many do not have the immediate contact with the darkened sky and twinkling stars.  Now you say that adding to these emerging financial and observational difficulties is space junk.   

      Tucson, Arizona, a major academic observatory site, has taken steps to reduce light pollution through dimming and curbing street lights; reflection shields direct lighting downward where the pedestrian and driver can benefit.  Some of these urban community steps for improving the quality of our viewing the heavens could be taken in other cities as well.   

      No other commons challenges us to think in financial terms to avoid unneeded luxury versus necessities.  What about practical aspects of exploration?  The useful resources from other heavenly bodies? The demand for no-gravity conditions for certain experiments?  The dangers of approaching space objects?  Space telescopes?  Improvement of our modern communications systems?  Orbiting communications satellites are key to rapid exchange of global information and such business ventures can be complex and costly.  Launching, regulating, fee-collecting, monitoring and terminating such satellites are global concerns and demand a "Global Space Agency." Atmospheric scientific research using satellites and other information sources is quite necessary for the fuller understanding of climatic changes but could involve billion-dollar bills.  Scientific space probes, telescopes, space laboratories and international space programs are expensive, and the cost should be borne on a cooperative basis by the wealthier industrialized nations. 

      The current space program has many international cooperative features (e.g., International Space Station).  These global space programs are more than just expensive;  they can be highly risky as well.  Serious accidents such as the destruction of the returning Challenger space shuttle in February, 2003, mean that safety is always a major consideration -- and calls for more unmanned missions.  The 2007 shooting down of a spent space satellite by the Chinese (the U.S. and Russia have carried out comparable exploits) has resulted in dangerous space junk -- even a paint chip can be dangerous.  In 2009 two satellites collided and showered debris about.  "Solar sails" on satellites have been proposed in order to drop junk into the lower atmosphere where it can burn up. The Economist, "Sweeping the Skies,"  April 3, 2010, p. 83.

      Prayer:  Lord teach us to praise you in the spatial commons. 






Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 20, 2010      Decide When Numbers Count 

      Twice in this series of reflections I have spoken of numbers:  what significance these have for other people in past history (October 25, 2007); and my compulsion that still exists for counting (November 29, 2006) in the present  (daily temperature range, rowing exercise strokes, or hours working on different issues).  Here we take another stance and look at how numbers in the near or distant future will affect us individually, locally or at broader national and international levels. 

     Individually, my mobility will decrease or come to a halt if hips or knees or back give out.  Weight changes and PSA and other health numbers will limit activity and mobility.  So will the pounds of garden produce harvested this year as well as the number of books sold for Tobacco Days, Mountain Moments and Water Sounds. Each of our activities includes projected statistics that will change  future plans and practices.  

      Locally, we seek to know the numbers of people who are employed and unemployed and the number of home foreclosures and housing starts.  Local statistics tell us much about the economic viability of our community or region.  Church and civic growth can be indicated by those coming and going and membership statistics, donations, and number of cars at church parking lots.  

      Nationally, the 2010 census being compiled will be used for apportionment of Federal funds according to total people in a given area.  The representation will be rearranged according to gain or loss of population whether at the national or state level.  Emphasis on policies directed to transportation networks and renewable energy projects will depend on these population statistics to some degree.  Even the continuation of our Ethnic Atlas Project will be based on the Census now being counted.  However, Dow Jones market reports are given undue importance in a nation swimming in economics stats.  These reports are meant to support the present order but don't represent most investors. 

      Internationally, much rides on the ability  of countries to repay debts.  A few months back Greece was issued a "junk bond" status and Portugal's credit rating was lowered.  We look at data being collected on potential oil reserves and wind installations, on exports and imports, on expenditures on military hardware and satellites in space and on changes in GDP.  The world's outlook is quantified and that may be needed in part for environmental policy.  

      Current and projected statistics tell something but not the total story, and that is why more in-depth study is always needed.  We can be fooled by limited statistics into making or overlooking future plans.  Yes, stats indicate but are not the full story;  numbers are aggregated and are not flesh and blood.  We need more.  

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to count properly, compile accurately, and use our numbers to help save our wounded planet. 







Appalachian barn in fog.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 21, 2010      Observe the American Barn: An Endangered Species 

      Barns are a major component of the American landscape and they tend to typify the countryside.  In my rural area here in Appalachia, I live a short distance from a dilapidated barn barely standing though hidden in a grove of woods.  I asked the owner why he allowed it to stand, since wandering children could be endangered if it were to collapse while they are trespassing.  He admitted it was sentimental and that currently the does and fawns like to winter in it.  Such is a final service of dying farm barns now often replaced by metal sheds or simply torn down.  See "Barns: Environmental Weather Vanes" (November 20, 2006).  The condition of these noble structures is getting more precarious with age. 

      I spent an estimated 5,000 hours of my lifetime in our barns;  those hours consisted mainly by milking cows and putting in hay, silage, and tobacco, and taking out manure from wintering cattle.  As little kids we spent time playing in the barn as well, for it was a friendly place  -- a description of the major structure is found in Tobacco Days: A Personal Journey.  Like all mid-twentieth century farming families, we made the barn as much a center of our lives as was our residence.  The last time we painted our major barn red became a family affair.  Braver souls painted the high gables and younger family members painted nearer the ground.  In fact, the barn was part of the "home" much in the sense of the old rural European house/barn combination -- even though our American barns are physically at a distance from dwellings. 

     All too often family farms are under stress, and barn maintenance is one of the casualties of rural financial troubles.  Regional barns are of distinct architecture depending on crops grown, climate conditions and ethnic composition of the given locality.  Some were built for hay or grain or livestock or tobacco or tool storage or combinations of the above.  However, farm methods have changed and barns are being abandoned.  Iowa is estimated to be losing one thousand barns each year and most likely the American agricultural census in 2012 will indicate the fate of many more farm structures.  Barns are subject to loss of value when farms are consolidated;  farm numbers decreased from 6.5 million in 1920 to about 2.1 million today. 

      Can the family farm barn be saved?  Attitudinal change from "new is better" to "reuse the old" is occurring.  New uses include:  shops, storerooms, museums, theaters, and even residences.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a program initiated in 1987 entitled "Barn Again!"  This is concerned with the heritage of picturesque barns that are too hard to maintain as family heirlooms.  The program seeks to encourage about 700 barn owners each year in barn maintenance and reuse for cost-effective purposes;  it gives annual awards and steers owners to tax credits. 

      Prayer:  Help us Lord, who see our landscape as a beautified creation in which we participate; encourage us to assist others in  preserving historic artifacts that add to that beauty. 










Vibrant color of the Rudbeckia triloba.
(*photo credit)

July 22, 2010    Create Your Own Autumn Garden 

     Over the years we strive for a monthly garden message; in July it is always to plan, prepare for, and plant the autumn garden.  Over time it has become evident that our autumn gardens evolve in siting, type of veggies, protective covering and spacing (bed or row style sowing).  The autumn planning message itself evolves.   Much depends on seeds available in July;  the simple fact is that our seed outlets generally do not have much demand for the autumn garden for the garden is a "spring thing."  Thus the best answer is to plan far ahead and not just make obtaining seed a July concern.  

      A second consideration is that less summer preservation is needed if the autumn and extended garden proves productive throughout much of the year.  In 2009-10 I harvested every month of the year (turnips were the winter mainstay). In order to have a twelve-part salad on December 31st it will take some long-term thinking ahead along with the timing of seed sowing and planting.  We need favorites that survive cold weather, often with a little added protection of Reemay, temporary plastic cold frame, greenhouse, sun room or leaves. 

      I intend to sow:  kale, mustard, dandelions, collards (hardy throughout winter), spinach, arugula, endive, Swiss chard, turnips, radishes, broccoli, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts, with a dash of parsley from indoors.  Add to this carrots that can stay in the ground for many extra months; the same can be said for well-hilled celery.  One can have some autumn peas but forget autumn beans, tomatoes, squash or peppers; dry, store, freeze and perhaps can the surplus from the summer produce along with many herbs including dill -- the herb of the year.  You may provide for fresh fall onions and garlic as well. 

     Placement of the vegetable varieties is utterly important, since severe weather will dry out and freeze the crop.  With the effects of climate change beginning to be noticed, one may need to water more, and so plan more row rather than area sowing of seed -- rows take less water.   Some veggies can be protected by others. For instance, the broccoli or collards can be planted so that the foliage can protect spinach and arugula.  Look up cold weather veggies and add some not mentioned that may prove your local champions. 

      The flower lovers among us who interplant the colorful delights of spring through frost may have a harder time; I am not experienced enough to make helpful suggestions.  Flowers are a real challenge for the year-round gardener.  Keep us posted on cold-weather flower suggestions, that is more than mums and surviving marigolds.  Whatever your creative skills, now is truly the time to think ahead -- for time flies for those having fun gardening. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to think ahead; and, if we are successfully challenged in little matters such as autumn gardening, we may be able to tackle the bigger ones such as Earth herself. 











Portable solar camp shower.
(*photo credit)

July 23, 2010     Promote Solar Hot Water Systems 

     July is a solar month and a time to recall that no application has greater versatility and economy than solar hot water systems.  Photos of the 1904 San Francisco Earthquake show damaged house roofs equipped with these solar water devices a hundred years ago. 

      About one-tenth of an average household's energy budget is expended on heating water for showers and kitchen uses.  The cheapest way to heat domestic water is by the sun, and this is the most cost-effective solar application outside of growing produce on the land using the sun's rays.  Some solar water heating systems are "active" varieties (heating with the sun an enclosed liquid which transfers heat to adjacent water pipes).  These active systems are more expensive, but more efficient and improving with time.  Homemade "passive" systems (which heat the water directly in black glass-lined metal tanks enclosed in insulated boxes) are also to be recommended.  The latter have no pumps or extra gadgets except a pressure release valve.     

      Solar heaters need to be of a size adequate for your water needs.  Much depends on the amount of water used, but conservation should always accompany solar energy use.  Shower lengths and volumes are critical.  With this in mind, install water-conserving showerheads and initiate a practice of "army" style showers (wet down, soap up without water running, and rinse off).  The heater design should be visibly pleasing and in harmony with the exterior of your building.  The site should be near where water is used, and yet accessible to those who wish to inspect the unit closely.  The ideal situation in areas of severe winters is to have a non-solar back-up system that is also energy-efficient and of low environmental impact.  Instant heating back-up systems work well enough, if the domestic water demand is low and the water pressure sufficient to allow the water flow to move with suitable force.

      Many prefer to save money and do their own construction.  A homemade solar water heater is quite simple to construct and can be built by enclosing a used water tank hooked to a gravity-fed water system.  Water is collected in a solar absorbing water tank that is painted black.  The enclosure resembles a glass-covered open-sided snug-fitting insulated coffin (made with weather-protected wood).  Six-inch Fiberglas insulation batts are covered with aluminum flashing to preserve the solar-heated water for use after dark. 

Homemade solar hot water heaters may be mounted at selected locations and angled toward the sun.  Slightly southeast directions are sometimes found to be adequate.  An insulated door placed over the opening in the glass can be inserted to close at night, but it may prove inconvenient to close and open in order to retain the heated water longer.  If properly insulated in an average year, the solar heaters will furnish 100 degree F water for about two-thirds of the year.  However, non-protected devices should be drained in winter and used only in warmer periods.  

      Prayer:  Lord, teach us to use the sun's rays to our benefit. 











Shafts of sunlight reach tall understory wildflowers.
(*photo credit)

July 24, 2010       Share with the Hungry and Forsaken  

    O Lord,  teach us to say sincerely:

      "Give us this day our daily bread." 

    You have allowed us to call you Father,

       and to see all the human family as brothers and sisters. 

    So the "us" means all of us here on Earth:

       the consumers of prime beef and junk food;

       those who resort to pet food and accept it;

       those in Bihar and Ethiopia and Paris and Washington. 

    You tell us to give also.

       You tell us that when we sow bountifully,

               so shall we reap. 

    You say that when we harvest and overlook a sheaf

        not to go back,

        for that is for the alien, the orphan, the widow. 

    You say that when we knock down the fruit from the olive

        not to go over the branches a second time;

        the same applies when we pick grapes. 

    -- for we were once slaves to allurements. -- 

    You have given us daily bread,

        and we, who have eaten our fill,

        tend to be unmindful of others. 

    We are insensitive to the cries of the poor,

        and we turn our eyes from the famished,

        for they are not pleasant to behold. 

    You who fill the lowly with good things,

        assist them in communicating with us,

        and let us seek to become lowly in return. 

    Help us to see and be moved,

        to demand justice that all receive their due,

        and that justice includes our sharing deeds. 

   Help us to share our daily bread with all

        in justice and not charity,

        for our bread belongs to all. 

   We are spiritually hungry and blinded,

        for we know how to take

        but lack knowing how to give and share.   

   We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.  Amen

                       (September 24, 1974) 










Fruiting bodies of moss adorn a tree branch in the deep summer forest.
(*photo credit)

July 25, 2010      Recite a Green "Our Father" 

    The "Our Father" is a prayer that is more than one said to MY Father.  God is father to all people, our global brothers and sisters;  our Father is creator of all things in the universe -- and thus father to all creation.  More popular individualized spiritualities allow many of us to minimize OUR community needs and concerns; however, healing our wounded Earth is a community enterprise.  I cannot change the world alone.  We can. 

    Our Father, who art in heaven -- takes into consideration the God who directs and guides our family, who created this vast universe and who is a loving God who wants us to help usher in the kingdom of peace and justice. 

    Hallowed be thy name --  The holy name is given not only in and among people, but also among all the plants and animals of creation.  Acknowledging what is already holy is our prayer. 

    Thy Kingdom come --  The New Heavens and the New Earth are connected, and are already beginning to appear in a glory to be revealed.  We are called to halt Earth's deterioration, to help heal the wounded, and to hasten the coming of God's kingdom. 

    Thy will be done --  The coming of the will of God expressed in the Scriptures will include a human component that strives for sharing resources and enhancing a proper quality of life for all. 

    Give us our daily bread --  So many of the world (current estimates at over one billion) are without resources to meet the needs for the day.  Can we worthily receive communion, if so many are without the necessities of life?  Can we solve ecological problems without addressing all social justice issues? 

    Forgive us our debts --  We need to ask forgiveness for the debts we have incurred due to our use of world resources.  This becomes an awesome moment, for we come to terms with ourselves and our ability to forgive.  We discover that here is the grace of forgiveness that awaits our individual and collective acknowledgment and that we must reexamine our consumer patterns. 

    Lead us not into temptation -- Most of us are tempted by the addictive consumer products all around us.  We are tempted to take the easy way and become wanton consumers in this world of scarcity -- and the culture offends our collective sense of togetherness by making us think and act selfishly and forget to share with all.

    But deliver us from evil -- The deterioration of Earth is the result of the greedy in power -- the personification of pervasive evil in the world around us.  We need God's help at this time to be free, to halt the destruction of the environment and to encourage all people.  We must be able to confront and overcome the evil in our midst and to do so by an agenda of doing good. 






Black-eyed susans in late July garden.
(*photo credit)

July 26, 2010       Learn Spanish? 

      Buenas Dias!  A variation on this theme was written six years ago when in the flush of more youthful hope I set a goal of conversing in Spanish.  Granted a two-week morning course was not sufficient, and neither at the end were a few unused phrases, since I do not live near those who speak Spanish.  One who had courses in Latin should find Spanish a piece of cake.  However, we monolinguists do not find any language easy, especially when we get older.  Those who are willing to play Spanish records over and over should be able to succeed.  Some of us do not find time. 

      A good national resolution ought to be that everyone in grade school should learn Spanish since, with the influx of Mexicans and others from Latin America, it has de facto become our second U.S. language.  We find the dual English/Spanish language on road and hospital directions, in governmental buildings, on census forms and in airports.  Church pamphlets and commercial instructions are in both.  More and more citizens agree that bilingualism has many benefits for our culture, our minds and our international relations -- but must we apply this to us in the older generations?  While  champions of requiring more subject materials for the younger folks, we elders do call for exemptions.  

      Is this exemption approach proper?  I have never proposed such in any of the other 1668 Daily Reflections on the Internet.  Do I personally fit into an exception being dyslexic -- and finding even reading English a past hurdle in youth.  I would rather say Manana to initiating the burdensome process of learning Spanish.  I get my major homilies translated into Spanish for the prison work but must admit that knowing only English is a handicap for the time left in this ministry.  The local, much younger pastor to the two federal prisons I minister, is getting his nerve up to the point where he is taking off a few weeks to learn more Spanish this summer.  Thank heaven!

     Again, this phenomenon of emerging Hispanic presence is for our betterment in America.  These hard-working, family-loving people are the bedrock of many communities.  In theory, hospitality means that we are to learn basic Spanish so as to improve commerce and civic interaction.  Multilingual skills are valuable.  We as a nation are being shaken from our monolingualism and starting to join the rest of the world.  Should we not help those of other tongues learn English by speaking in a basic set of words (Globish), rather than in a language using various words with the same meaning?  English pronunciation and spelling hurdles are hard  enough.  My resolution remains: when time and energy permit I WILL learn Spanish -- manana.  Many of those we serve are  poor migrants, work hard, send money back to families, and need support and counseling in their lives while they are here.  Yes, it would help to speak more directly with them. 

      Prayer:   Lord teach me to use every skill for better communication with my Hispanic brothers and sisters.  








Butterfly nestles amid lush summer vegetation.
(*photo credit)

July 27, 2010      Repair Lead-Painted Houses with Caution 

      Those of us, including this author, who live in old homes with previous coatings of lead-based paint have got to be cautious.  The lead paint is most likely simply coated over, and any repair may allow it to be loosened.  Over and over, cautions are given for such residences in which infants are present -- and the warnings are most needed since infants put just about anything into their mouths including paint chips.  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (USHUD) has a pamphlet saying, "Caution: Lead Paint  Handle with Care."  The handling goes beyond the infant and includes all of us. 

     We who believe in recycling like to make valuable older buildings more comfortable.  We cut, attach, detach and rearrange both interiors and exteriors at various times either through do-it-yourself projects or by use of outside contractors or volunteers.  The cautions below are meant for do-it-yourselfers along with parents of infants. 

      * Use the right tools:

            Use vacuum cleaners and power tools with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters;

            If you use a power sander or grinder, be sure it has a HEPA
            filter as well as a hood to trap dust;

           Never power-wash or sandblast painted surfaces;

           Never use tools that create dust chips, high heat or fumes;

            Never use open flame torches or heat guns at temperatures above 1100 degree F; and

            Never use paint strippers that contain methylene chloride. 

      * Work safely and clean up lead dust:

            Fix water damage that can make paint peel;

            Wet down the paint before you sand or scrape to control lead dust;

            Use heavy plastic bags to remove dust and trash; and   

            After the job, wash floors and other surfaces with soap and water and rinse with fresh water.

      Many old homes were constructed using good workmanship and materials and deserve to be known as heritage places.  But we must remember that higher quality paints of a half century or more ago contained lead bases, and the painted surfaces remain in so many places.  When left unattended, these will weather and peel; when removed the result is often an even greater risk to safety.  Federal law requires contractors to provide a brochure, "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home," to owners and occupants before starting jobs that involve lead paint.  Call the National Lead Information Center ( 1-800-424-5323) for free copies.  

      Prayer:  Lord teach us to be cautious in all matters and to see our good intentions matched with awareness of dangers. 







Spider depends upon the flowers of Philadelphia fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, for support.
(*photo credit)

July 28, 2010     Proclaim a Floral Ode to Joy? 

     Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. (Mark 16:16)

  We sing while we work, and there is no better place to sing than among growing plants, which join in silent but joyful ways to show gratitude for being alive.  Our song announces that the Good News goes out to all creation.  When we sing, we add melodious words to our emotional feelings;  we gladden our immediate environment; we allow the vibrations of joy to extend to others in the vicinity and to more distant living beings.  Joy is contagious and thus we, as messengers, are a source of Good News to all. 

      For the contagion to work successfully we need to go out.  Sure, sing to houseplants but that is within the confines of a building.  Unfortunately barriers exist dividing inside from outside.  To go out to all the world means we must exit buildings and enter gardens, the "launching pad" of Good News to all of creation.  The lowly garden of creation (Eden), and the re-creation (the garden of Joseph of Arimathaea) from which Jesus rose, were the sources of news of sorrow and news of joy.  Gardens have a special place for they are made for human benefit and by human hands. 

      Vibrations of joy extending in creation become Good News, for if these beings bring us joy, we, in turn, extend that joy outward to all around us.  This ripple effect of Good News allows for the receptivity of a sense of thanksgiving among those who can articulate the feelings in the heart.  All creation basks in the joy of a thankful soul.  In this manner, while sin abounds and does harm, joyful thanksgiving has the opposite effect of building up the crescendo of joy. 

      Prayer:  O God, fill our eyes and hearts with the beauty that flowers give when intertwined with growing produce.  Let the sheer delight of colorful, fragrant and tasty plants uplift us high above the everyday world, scarred by human-made ugliness and uniformity.  Although we cannot repair all wounds, we can still beautify a small part of our surroundings.  Give us insight into what this scarred planet can become.  Let today's local delights be wordless praise to you and inspire us to raise collective voices to you in an ever-swelling chorus.  Touch and cultivate the gardens of our hearts, filling them with grandeur, and allowing them to grow in the love that is within each.  Let our garden work and song be the foreshadowing of eternal delight.  Joyfully, joyfully, we extol you!  

       Let the heavens be glad, let earth rejoice,

        let the sea thunder and all that it holds,

        let the fields exult and all that is in them,

        let all the woodland trees cry out for joy.

                              (Psalm 96:11-12 










Bee on flower of St. John's wort.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

July 29, 2010     Expose the Limited "Creation-Centered Spirituality"  

      These days creation-centered spirituality is quite popular among the spiritually-inclined.  While the movement bears some enticing elements such as love for nature and all creation, still it is not complete, and can lead to neglect of the redemptive aspects of earthhealing so often emphasized in these Daily Reflections.  I have been somewhat restrained (not in style with my confrontational personality); I do not name names, for my loyalty to personal friends who are creation-centered is still operative.  This circumspection has caused confusion on the part of others. I hold a resurrection-centered spirituality containing a strong redemptive element that must be championed and not ignored.

I do not critique creation-centeredness as such, for I affirm some principles; a creation reflection initiates the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and is needed today.  However, the approach has severe limits that are answered in a broader spirituality.   

      * A false humility as though we are so much a part of the whole chain of being that we lack special characteristics as free beings with immortal souls.  Rather I approach this from the Virgin Mary's perspective, for we are humbled by what God calls us to be, namely, like Christ, servants of all.  In our case we serve the flora and fauna as well as people.  We must never lord over or oppress creatures; we are their brothers and sisters and must treat them with respect. 

      * An excessive speculative spirituality must be tempered and balanced with a serving one that sees some creatures as worth saving through confrontational and direct practical work -- thus a need to wash feet and clean up the environment.  Saving our wounded Earth is part of the historic reality of Holy Week, namely that Jesus serves us all by taking on our imperfections, suffering, dying and rising for us.   

      * A bland interfaith spirituality that de-emphasizes the role of the Christian redemptive perspective.  Is creation-centered spirituality popular, because it does not require a priestly (male-oriented) role of presider over the Eucharist?  Is this found in the "Cosmic Christ" or Cosmic Eucharist?  Does this "cosmic" insight do away with a consecrated priesthood that has apostolic succession and is at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration and the rendering of Calvary present in space and time?  An authentic Cosmic Christ must include the real flesh and blood, for our work is too difficult to undertake without the nourishment of Divine Food.  If you are unfamiliar with these differences, see Spirituality through the Seasons on this website.

      * A passive creation-centered approach  de-emphasizes the radical need to change our world order.  It acts as a palliative for the pained, rather than an energizing spirituality of action.

      Prayer:  St. Martha, on this your feast, ask the Lord to help us understand our humble role as healers of our wounded Earth. 









Droplets of morning dew on Eastern white pine, Pinus strobus.
(*photo credit)

July 30, 2010     Consider Ignatian Principles and the Environment

  The challenge is present for one who is a Jesuit and who is Ignatian in spirituality (Ignatius' feastday is tomorrow); we seek to discover the distinctive elements in Ignatian spirituality as it applies to healing our wounded Earth.  St. Francis has a grand ecological outlook;  St. Benedict has a sustainable community model;  the Ignatian contribution applies to the individual and to the community working as a service team for saving our wounded planet -- and that puts it into personal reflection on one's way of acting.  There are at least five aspects to this healing service: 

      1. Discerning the good and bad movements is alluded to by many in the environmental movement but not in a prayerful and systematic manner.  Ignatius' contribution of distinguishing the movements of the spirit is needed today because the motivation of many healers is imperfect.  They seek, albeit limited but unsustainable, material profits and thus damage Earth while trying to preserve her.  In counterdistinction we ought to develop a process, and Earth Healing will offer this as a new blogging site, "Gray Matter in the Green," a first for this website.  

      2. Thanking God for the gifts of Earth herself is part of Ignatius' "Greater Glory of God."   Our Special Issues tries to address this need for extending blessings and thanks throughout all creation,  A Ministry of Gratitude: One Thousand Things to Be Thankful for.  We are all called to be thankful and to help create a renewed environment with this attitude in mind.  Seeing all as divine gift allows us to extend our perspective to many works that we would normally overlook and bless those who have been called to work in these fields.  

      3. Focusing on the major issues means following the "Principle and Foundation" that Ignatius laid down at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises.  A good treatment of this theme is a recent book by fellow Jesuits Joe Bracken and Bob Sears -- Self-Emptying Love in a Global Context:  The Spiritual Exercise and the Environment, published by Cascade Books (2006).   

      4. Reflecting on the "Three Degrees of Humility" (see Daily Reflections, May 10-12, 2010).  The calling to each of us is to ever deeper involvement with kindred-spirits and that means the poor.  We experience degrees of this involvement and find in the Spiritual Exercises a pattern that is called for among earth-healers, namely being for the poor, being with the poor and finally opting for being poor.

      5. Taking action is the ultimate Ignatian spiritual thrust and this involves actual service for those who are in need whether the unlearned or the refugee.  We must work for the betterment of all. 

      Prayer:  Through the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola may we ever be refining our earthhealing service for the sake of our wounded Earth. 







Busy ants transport precious cargo.
(*photo credit)

July 31, 2010  Launch a "Gray Matter in the Green" Conversation

     Tomorrow we had planned to launch a blog site that would have questioned the current global economic and political system.  We wanted to begin this interactive service on our website.  However, we have had some second thoughts, for "blogging" would not be an adequate manner of handling some difficult and haunting questions before us.  Thus we are in the process of inviting a period of further comments to see whether another Internet interactive venue would be better suited for the task at hand.  Our hope has been that using the Internet could avoid physical conferencing via air travel with its heavy carbon footprint, or the distractingly simplistic approach of pop experts giving comforting environmental talks that skirt the major issues.  Instead, we seek more input on the following basic issues and questions:

    1. Basic Justice Issue:  Must nations implement regulation to prevent destruction of our fragile planet through self-serving consumption of Earth's resources by the world of "haves" (with many luxury wants) taking what, in justice, must be shared with the "have-nots" (with essential needs such as food and housing)?

    Note -- Between 1900 and 2005 over one billion people (mainly Asians) joined about 800 million in the consuming middle class in the West.  During the same period the number of the world's hungry, which through UN millennial goals was supposed to be halved by 2010, increased from 850 million to over one billion.  Progress?  In the same period the number of the world's billionaires went from dozens to well over one thousand.  The 14 trillion dollars now in global tax havens could give every person on this planet a decent house, waste system and domestic renewable energy.  Do not the resources belong to all, especially the needy?

     2. Basic Spiritual Issue:  Why not follow the Ignatian principle of the Third Degree of Humility?  Why not share with the poor, and thus become enriched by spiritual (not material) profit motivation?  Are we willing to abandon the hidden materialistic values so often found in our educational philosophy?  Can we not limit individual wealth?  How about workers owning the work place?

     3. Basic Economic Issue:  Are we willing to reclaim the commons for ALL people, and to do so through viable global  regulations and fair taxation of the super-rich?

     4. Basic Emotional Issue:  Why aren't we righteously angry?  Is it because our capitalistic funders won't allow us to be?

     5. Basic Environmental Issue:  Can we be concerned environmentalists without questioning the capitalistic system?

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to sponsor interactive conversation that involves discerning the possibility of a world order that will address current global justice and related issues.

Copyright © 2010 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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