Sightings from an afternoon garden stroll.
July 1, 2018 Improving Quality of Life
I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me. (Psalm 30)
God is the giver of all life and we are all partakers in that physical precious miracle of life. God's generosity is proclaimed all the more now that we have been offered the promise of new and eternal life through the resurrection of Christ. To proclaim new life means that we understand what the Book of Wisdom says; God does not make death nor rejoice in the destruction of the living (Wisdom 1:13-15). The sacred writer has in mind the spiritual death due to sin, but we see life and death in their entirety -- physical and spiritual. God formed us to be imperishable and that means having an eternal fullness of life; through baptism Jesus now invites us into the divine family and that includes eternal life.
The story of Jesus raising the little girl to life starts with a desperate father (Jairus) who believes in Jesus' healing powers; he begs him to come because his little daughter is critically ill. On their way another healing occurs, which delays Jesus. Then a messenger arrives to tell Jairus that the little girl is dead. Jesus tells Jairus that fear is useless, a message he gives often in the Gospels. "What is needed is trust," and that is what is needed to gain a higher quality of life. Upon entering the house, the arriving party finds professional wailers are at work, and they ridicule Jesus when he says the little girl is only sleeping. He enters her room and tells her to get up, and she does so immediately. Little girl, I tell you to get up. (Mark 5:41). At the conclusion of the miracle Jesus tells the parents to give the little girl something to eat -- for Jesus is sensitive to her needs. To satisfy hunger is to enhance the quality of life.
We profess a fullness of life through sharing. This comes by doing what St. Paul begs the Corinthians to do and giving attention to the needy. We must always share our livelihood through charity with those who are lacking in physical necessities; we share by assisting in democratic ways those who require necessities.
We do not have the power to raise people from the dead, but we can help offer them a fuller quality of life even while they suffer. All of us must endure physical death, a fact that grows in awareness with age. We help improve the quality of life, when we encourage the critically ill to offer their sufferings with Christ on Calvary, an eternal event made ever present in the daily Mass. The end of life can be life-giving, especially at the moment of mortal departure. "Life is the childhood of our immortality," Goethe says. We affirm life to the dying, to those on death row, to a mother tempted to terminate a pregnancy, and to sufferers from substance abuse. We can live fully; we can die joyfully.
Prayer: Lord we are hungry for the Bread of life, for in order to help bring fuller life to others, we ask you to help improve the quality of our own lives.
Sightings from an afternoon garden stroll.
July 2, 2018 Cultivating Anglo-American Friendship
Canadians have been long-term U.S. friends, and we owe them gratitude on this, Canada Day. Without their help we could never have healed our discord with the United Kingdom (UK) motherland. The Canadians remained faithful to their mother country, honoring their queen, accommodating the French-Canadian culture, and helping all North Americans to bury old hatchets and join together within the world community. Maybe it was better that the United States and Canada went their separate ways, and that the larger land mass to our North saw fit not to merge with us as one nation. As individual Canadians journey south each winter, the "snow birds" make us U.S. citizens aware that we are related and yet still persist in having distinct nations.
Viewed over a span of time, it may be historically more accurate to say that there is an "Anglo-American Empire" (including the United States); this "empire" started with the Norman Conquest in 1066 and continued in modified form until today. We could regard the American Revolutionary War as a separation, but not a total divorce. We share the same language and culture, and have come to the estranged motherland's aid during two 20th-century wars. Ever since the 19th century the United States has had close ties with the United Kingdom -- if we ever really lost them. It is amazing in reading American history to see how soon full relations resumed after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Winston Churchill's mother was an American and he felt the kinship between our countries keenly. In turn, Americans came to respect him, especially in Britain's finest hour during the bleak days of the Second World War. President Roosevelt (FDR) solidified those bonds by bending over backwards to see to it that a number of American mothballed destroyers were furnished to embattled Britain. The country stood almost alone after the fall of France in June, 1940, and before the Soviet Union entered the fray in 1941. Britain was assisted by Commonwealth members, which included Canada, but it needed much more to counter Hitler's conquering legions, and accepted Ike as Supreme Commander. FDR knew that we had to cooperate with UK over American isolationists objections.
The United Kingdom has seen its power wane dramatically within our lifetime. The once largest navy in the world no longer rules the waves. If the sun never sets on the Union Jack, it is because the few remaining islands are so scattered that a faded Empire is always in daylight. Well over 90% of the former UK colonies are now members of the United Nations -- though most all still cling to a Commonwealth association with the mother country. Through it all the US/UK relationship has grown stronger thanks in to Canada acting as the go-between. For better or worse, we are culturally Anglo-Saxon.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to learn along with our neighbor Canada and mother England how to bridge differences among struggling groups to become truly one world.
Enjoying the dog days of summer.
July 3, 2018 Learning to Endure Summer's Heat
We are preparing for July Fourth and associate vacation day, and there are many loose ends to tie; let's not overdo preparations. People must learn to take it easy in order to survive summer's heat. Some hints include:
* Adjust timing and lower outdoor demands. Plan less exercise outdoors in the heat of the day. Rise earlier to garden, hike, jog, bike or shoot hoops. If you must pick berries, do it in the morning or evening before the sun is hot or just when it goes down.
* Drink plenty of water and keep cool. This is a must in hot weather for each of us, along with all flora and fauna, needs proper moisture.
* Eat lightly and relax more. It's hard to digest heavy meals. Light cold soups and salads are perfect for the season. Give more time to soft music and reading; listening comes easy.
* Reduce energy consumption by natural cooling without Air conditioning (AC). Large trees are efficient coolers and can reduce temperatures by 25 degrees. Plant annuals or perennials (such as sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes) outside windows act as natural sun screens. Window boxes of flowers, including morning glory growing on lattices can reduce temperatures as well.
* Curb AC and be more healthy, for it is shocking to go from a super-cooled building to torrid summer heat. My only summer in Texas, in 1969, involved travelling several times a day from a super-cooled laboratory building at the University of Texas's Austin campus to a computer center several blocks away. I think I got pneumonia out of that exercise but never had it diagnosed. Open windows at night and allow breezes to flow through. Turbine ventilators on the roof and ceiling fans can help.
Recall that building design adds to natural cooling. Those structures built with adobe or heavy masonry or those that are earth shelters are naturally cooled. Higher ceilings in older houses are helpful. Porches (my old residence has porches on three sides) certainly help keep the place cool; so does roofs covered with light colored materials. Increased insulation can help retain the night cooling during the heat of day. Awnings are helpful as are curtains and window shading devices. Some new window sun-screening covers are highly effective, either free-standing or as films attached to window panes on the sunny sides of houses.
* Air condition with moderation. I do not use this device, but some must because of their health condition. If so, how about just installing AC for a single room or two?
Prayer: Teach us, Lord, to find comfort in simple ways. Help us avoid resource intensive equipment that can be substituted for by practices or devices that are more environmentally friendly.
Prairie dog (Cynomys), North Dakota.
July 4, 2018 Reflecting on the Declaration of Independence
Let's reflect upon the sacred word and incorporate them into our lives:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them
with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence,
indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly
all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to
suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by
abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing
invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their
future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these
Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to
alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the
present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let
Facts be submitted to a candid world:
* He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and
necessary for the public good.
* He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and
pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his
Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly
neglected to attend to them.
* He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of
large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish
the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right
inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
* He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public
Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance
with his measures.
* He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
* He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to
cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers,
incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large
for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed
to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions
* He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States;
for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of
Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their
migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new
Appropriations of Lands.
* He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing
his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
* He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of
their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
* He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither
swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their
* He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies,
without the Consent of our legislatures.
* He has affected to render the Military independent of and
superior to the Civil power.
* He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction
foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;
giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these
States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us
in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting
us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses: For
abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and
enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example
and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into
these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our
most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our
Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases
* He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his
Protection and waging War against us.
* He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our people.
* He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign
Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and
tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy
scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally
unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
* He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the
high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the
executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall
themselves by their Hands.
* He has excited, domestic insurrections amongst us, and has
endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an
undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have
been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character
is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit
to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably
interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have
been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We
must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces
our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the
Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,
do, in the Name and by Authority of the good People of these
Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United
Colonies are and of Right ought to be free and independent
states, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the
British Crown, and that all political connection between
them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be
totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES,
they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract
Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and
Things which Independent states may of right do. AND for the
support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each
other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
John Hancock et al
A quiet pond provides refreshment from summer's heat.
July 5, 2018 Liberating from Credit and Debt
Indebtedness is modern slavery that is deliberately imposed by financial institutions with the connivance of governments and cushioned by the silence of moral and religious leaders. I can never forget when I asked a person aspiring to open a non-profit organization how he was to fund the operation -- and he raised his credit card.
* Must you have credit cards? Resolve not to have any new credit cards, to get rid of older ones, and to refrain from using them if carried as your Linus blanket. Consider being "credit card free," even if you are convinced you must carry a debit card.
* Reduce existing debts. Last year private indebtedness in American reached 13 trillion dollars. Plan to pay off debt and not to acquire a new one -- not always possible. Get proper financial advice on how to become debt-free -- a liberation. For some that is a distant hope -- but still it is worth working for.
* Eliminate unnecessary and impulse purchases of quickly outmoded stuff that clutters people's homes and yards. Remove the unneeded items and give them away, sell them, or recycle them. Take time to unclutter the place though this takes special will power and deliberate resolve.
* Live a lower level lifestyle and be proud of it. We don't have to live like the "Jones," and purchase the bigger house, the motor home, the boat and the extra car. Refuse offered stuff that is expensive to maintain.
* Join in community yard sales and promote fewer purchases of new items such as furnishings, utensils, dishes, tools, and lawn equipment. Unfortunately, the problem with material swaps is that you simply exchange one pile of junk for another. Useless items are costly and take up space. Share seldom-used items such as lawn mowers, hedge clippers, and ladders. Learn from pioneer recyclers how to reuse materials. Recycle unneeded gifts and save the wrappings for reuse; a good gift to you is equally so to another.
* Eat less prepared food. Eat lower on the food chain to reduce costs and the carbon imprint of animal products. Reduce or eliminate meat consumption.
* Keep healthy, for indebtedness is often related to paying for medical treatments. Stop smoking and engaging in substance abuse of any sort. That may be easier said than done.
* Ask education-related questions. Can bills be cut by changing schools and get less costly but high quality education?
Prayer: Help us, Lord, see the onus of debt enslavement as a cause for liberation; this may not be possible without assistance of other like-minded people and no major health bills.
The Revolutionary Spirit
In celebrating Independence Day we are reminded again of the spirit that enabled our American founders to persevere against immense odds and still find a democracy that has endured through these two plus centuries. Does that spirit need reactivating, especially since at least one of the founders (Ben Franklin) wanted limits on wealth as well as limits on King George III's power? In fact, these limits OUGHT to be part of what we are advocating today in liberating the financial resources needed for our national infrastructure.
By revisiting the American Revolution's success, we are invited to feel the rage of the participants and the need to work together with all citizens for a successful sharing of resources. Amazingly, the 1776 document was directed ad hominem against the person of the English monarch; today we need goals that are directed against the privileged few citizens, and to do so with the boldness of Thomas Jefferson and associated drafters. Charitable language means getting to the point, and the acts of the wealthy today are perhaps more willful than those of King George in the eighteenth century.
In this July fourth week our fidelity to the spirit of revolution demands that we face threats as great or greater than those in that 18th century. Vast inequality in wealth is putting our democracy at risk, for these wealth-laden individuals have their minds set on who receives their largesse; legislators who they finance and keep in power to help guarantee them of lower taxes. The wealthy know that political campaigns to sustain their influence and power are more expensive. The 99% without that power of wealth demand a new Declaration of Independence to save our nation's democracy and to confront climate change deniers.
We look up and discover a new nobility bereft of any sense of duty and responsibility and bent on its own glory and power. This has proved equal to or greater than autocratic practices of the past. In continuing to pursue their goals of control through the status quo, the wealthy sap the vitality of our planet as well as threaten the democratic expression of our people. An economic system that champions such abuse of power must be challenged and the accompanying insensitivity and privilege must be proven unfit for the democracy demanded today. We seek to unite with other citizens on this planet to expose and condemn such practices, and we continue to warn citizens of threat to their democratic principles and their need to take corrective action. We need a Second Declaration of Independence.
Inviting meadow near the Snowy Range, WY.
July 6, 2018 Recalling the "Jogger's Lament"
Lord, what makes people jog,
in sunshine, wind, sleet and fog,
spending time in shoes that clog,
dodging cars, potholes, excited dog?
Why do they endure such pain,
weary legs, muscle strain,
raw groins, ankle sprain,
and yet they seldom complain?
What makes them run the extra mile,
to pass another with a fleeting smile,
or dress just right to be in style,
with the social grace of the rank and file?
How can they keep the furious pace,
turning every day into a prize race,
or heading out to a meeting place,
or just establishing breathing space?
When will they stop -- in their old age,
or when falls make them turn a safer page,
or when they don't need the center stage,
or begin to earn a steady wage?
Don't jogging questions need reply,
like running gear that one must buy,
when preparing for that runner's high,
that natural way to reach the sky.
Count the steps, meditate;
observe the scene, contemplate;
reach the wall, hallucinate;
call it fun, rejuvenate.
Now good Christians please step aside,
keep the competitor from breaking stride,
and come right up to the finish tide,
step back and overcome perverse pride.
It's time now to call it a day,
when one is unsure of the step or way,
may younger ones continue the play,
fun while it lasted; okay okay, Ole!
Prayer: Lord, allow those of us who are barely mobile to recall the gift of being able to jog in our past, and to be grateful for what we enjoyed, while anticipating a time for eternal jogging that is yet to come.
Opening in forest canopy, Red River Gorge, KY.
July 7, 2018 Realizing the Extent of Opioid Overdosing
Official reports of 50,000 annual overdose drug deaths per year are perhaps under-reported. A decade ago I rode in the hearse carrying a parishioner to a family cemetery (within the KY Natural Bridge State Park); on that weekend the undertaker mentioned that this was the seventh funeral that week and only one NOT a drug overdose. My efforts to verify the epidemic's intensity were stonewalled by funeral directors' reluctance to reveal real death causes. Was this problem regional or national? True, one of my parish boundaries (Estill County) is third among KY's 120 counties in per capita overdose deaths. I've been hesitant to discuss overdosing due to an inability to influence the local situation.
Once a suffering homemaker told me "Father, on the couch where you are sitting my daughter died of an overdose -- and her loss constantly pains me." What struck me then and now is that the pain afflicted on such humble folks losing young and promising loved ones; that is immense pain too, more than opioid prescription pain killers and starting point of over half of current drug addictions. And Americans take 80% of the world's opioids, which after subsequent addiction will not be pain killers for the takers but killers inflicting pain to survivors. Pharmaceutical propaganda to physicians and caregivers is laden with 'more drugs are better.' For many Americans questions subtly shifted from "why take a medicine?" to "which medicine must I take?" We are a drugged culture driven by corporate greed and permissiveness.
Big Pharma has hooked at least two million on their products and then regard victims as engaged in criminal activity. Lest we forget, the majority of folks become hooked on legal opioids and then on fentanyl and even stronger chemicals, all starting with legal prescription drugs. It's a uniquely American problem, not just an Appalachian one. There is much and many to blame. But why does our country allow the advertizing of medicines? Why does it allow exorbitant profits to drug companies, especially when much medicinal research has been government-funded in the first place? Why talk so much about opioid pain killers when these become killers inflicting many times more pain on victims' families?
Consoling victims and their loved ones is hard for pastors; to stop the epidemic by working in the public interest is far more difficult. There's no magic solution: non-medicinal pain management exists; we need better employment opportunities and accessible health care. This remains a national emergency. Stop opioids as prescription drugs; stop advertizing drugs on TV; stop allowing exorbitant drug profits; and stop pretending that the problem is localized. Even the non-addicted take too many drugs; Think people first, not profits; and let's start training caregivers in non-medicinal approaches to palliative care. Let's acknowledge that WE and not a few have a major problem. Working for a variety of solutions at the same time is a better approach.
Prayer: Lord, let us see the light to drug overdosing causes.
Magnificence of an evening thunderstorm.
July 8, 2018 Challenged to Be Prophetic
... and when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.
(II Cor. 12:10)
All too often people, even those closest, want to break off conversation on some issue. Today, the subject of simplifying our lifestyles is a difficult one to broach with those who have made a deliberate effort to live affluent lives. They have enjoyed being consumers; they regard it as a patriotic duty; they find comfort with modern ways and commercial hype; they want to go with the fashions; and they may even find simple living folks irritating. For them, moral and religious leaders are meant to make them feel comfortable. They may ask us the unsettling question: "What are we paying you for, to make us feel uncomfortable?"
This attitude just expressed is far more common than we would like to admit. The doubly unsettling question for us may be: is the prophetic word to be comforting or disturbing? Is the entire modus vivendi of this period to maximize comfort levels or to arouse some to change their ways? Is what is needed at a given time the mark of a true or false prophet? In times of troubles we need to weigh alternatives paths, and this is one of those times.
Bad prophesying allows listeners to continue in current ways. This says what is being done is fine and those who want to shake the boat are disturbers of the peace. The status quo is good and must be defended by such stalwarts of traditional ways. The privileges currently enjoyed may be seen as gifts to good stewards who are called by God to do proper things with them. Part of this optimistic comfort picture is a future that does not include any sign of gloom and doom. Should others call attention to our current practices or to oppose them? For the affluent one must resist efforts to change ways or upset the apple cart. The bad prophet teaches listeners to refrain from major changes in life.
Good prophesying addresses current questions forthrightly. The current consumer lifestyle is not sustainable. To continue to defend it only encourages the aspiring emerging economies to follow our example and consume as well -- thus dooming the world through sheer numbers of consumers, to accelerating pollution and rapid climate change, resource depletion and waste, and a growing disparity between the rich and poor. While some live in comfort, others suffer from lack of basic food and health care -- and this real situation is not comforting even for those in short-term privileged comfort. If we do not change, we will surely die. The good prophesy rests in the word "if" for contained in the message is the real possibility that change is possible and can lead to benefits to the greater numbers. On the other hand, the discouraged must be shown compassion, for it takes effort to undergo the necessary changes in lifestyle --- but it is better.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be prophetic and to remember the mission before us; let us not forget that Jesus said what had to be said -- and he was crucified for doing so.
Morning fog seen during meadow stroll.
July 9, 2018 Savoring Summer Hikes
For ex-joggers, hiking may be a substitute. Its acceptability depends on a number of factors: convenience, comfort, satisfaction of health and exercise demands. When properly undertaken, hiking gives us needed exercise, fresh air and a wider view of the world than the auto-bound sightseer is able to experience. I can remember certain hikes vividly, including those on the Appalachian Trail, on the Kabob Trail in the Grand Canyon, in British Columbia, in Puerto Rico and in the hills of Alsace. Hiking indelibly imprints something on our memory, and we recall trail features and the flora and fauna we encountered years later. Part of this implanting requires advanced planning for a hike:
Carry necessities, but only those. For my last hiking venture I forgot a hat and sun screen, but remembered the water and walking stick. Every ounce counts. In day hikes in the Daniel Boone National Forest, I have left my water bottle after a good swig at about the half-way mark, so I won't have to lug it the entire distance; I retrieve it on the way back. Longer hikes require more items such as food and camping gear. Pack dry fruits, nuts, nutrition bars. Eat bulky stuff before launching. Travel lite!
Know where you are and where you are going. I remember we got lost by misinterpreting a trail in the Blue Lakes region of southeastern Colorado and did not find the right path until after a night lost in the woods. While such an experience is an adventure, a proper interpretation of maps and maybe a compass or GPS device would help when unfamiliar with the territory.
Provide sufficient time. Hiking needs a certain leisure atmosphere in order to be enjoyable, for it is to relieve and not create more stress. Somewhere, and I don't recall exactly where, I wanted to say that I hiked a trail and so I jogged the walking trail for a piece since time was short. While leisurely walks remain in memory, I can't recall where that quick one occurred.
Prepare for eventualities. Day hikes can be easily overdone, since we don't normally need to bring along snake kits, cell phones and ponchos, if we know the territory and expected weather conditions. The walking stick, water, good shoes, adequate clothes, and the food snacks are sufficient. If mosquitoes are possible, put on repellant before starting. If hiking alone, carry identification just in case.
Record if you like. Some hikers carry cameras; others prefer just to take in the scenes with the eye and limited memory. Spring flowers and autumn leaves are missing on July walks, but those with an eye can discover many summer subjects. Describing the hike afterwards in written format can be a valuable future reference.
Prayer: Teach us, Lord, that summer hiking resembles our faith journey through life. The unforeseen can happen, even with all our preparations. Allow us to both plan and trust.
Marigolds as colorful, natural pest control agents.
July 10, 2018 Discouraging Pests through Interplanting
In July, plant growth continues and insects look for plant hosts. For the organic gardener the challenge of discouraging these unwelcome pesty visitors becomes greater. We search for effective substitutes for the commercial and guaranteed pesticides that kill; these pesticides leave their unhealthy ingredients around to contaminate garden produce, cling to soil, and harm wildlife for a long period of time. However, on searching about we discover that certain mulches, herbs, flowers and other plants can kill or repel pests effectively. By interplanting these, we obtain the additional benefit of beauty, for variety of plants adds to the garden's growing artistic mosaic that changes by the day:
Helpful plants Insects repelled
*Castor bean -- plant lice and also vole and mole
Eggplant -- varieties of potato bug
Flax -- Colorado potato beetle, potato bug
Garlic -- weevil, aphid
Green beans -- Colorado potato beetle
Horseradish -- potato bug
Lavender -- moth
Legumes -- mosquito
Marigold -- many insects if densely planted
Mint -- black flea beetle, cabbage worm butterfly, moth
Nasturtium -- aphid, squash bug
Oak leaf mulch -- cutworm, slug, June bug grub
Pennyroyal -- ant, plant lice
Potato -- Mexican bean beetle
Radish -- striped cucumber beetle
Rosemary -- malaria mosquito, cabbage worm butterfly
Rue -- common fly
Sage -- moth
Spearmint -- ant, aphid
Stinging nettle -- black fly, aphid, moth
Tansy -- ant, common fly
Thyme -- cabbage worm butterfly
White Geranium -- Japanese beetle
Wormwood -- black flea beetle, common fly, mosquito
Interplanting the herbs just mentioned proves more effective than planting a cluster of these herbs at a distance from the insect target area. However, we do like our herbal garden.
* The castor or mole bean, familiar in American and European gardens, produces beautiful green and red foliage and stalks in summer and autumn. However, the bean cluster is highly poisonous; if you choose to use this effective pest retardant, the castor bean should be kept out of the reach of livestock and children.
Prayer: Lord, help us to create our own balanced environment where natural plants assist in keeping the grounds pest-free.
Ladybug beetle on weathered garden fence.
July 11, 2018 Battling Pests with Friendly Insects and Wildlife
Since the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, in the 1960s more attention has been given to commercial pesticides that harm wildlife. When I first wrote on this subject four decades ago, two of the ten rare peregrine falcons known in Alberta province, Canada, had the egg shells of their offspring broken; the thin-walled shells resulted from small amounts of DDT along with the degradation product DDE in the mother. With reduced use of this highly toxic pesticide, in recent years fewer bird losses have been observed. In fact, we are having increased sightings of nesting bald eagles in this part of America.
We human animals can move through our gardens and manually pick and destroy the culprits. I killed thousands of tobacco (or horned-tomato) worms in my youth. Also when gardening I have found that by interplanting evening primrose in the garden, I can attract the Japanese beetles to that plant first before they eat any veggies. With ease, the gardener can collect the day's beetle cohort by shaking the stalks over a wide mouth jar. Certain insect pest traps can be more effective than others. Attracting and drowning slugs in beer has always sounded quite expensive to me, but gardeners say it works. However, many sex attractants simply invite more of the insects from the surrounding countryside; some of the increased numbers are caught, but more are now present, exhibiting various appetites. Ringing pest-targeted trees with a sticky ribbon can help as well.
Certain fauna can assist us as garden protectors. One favorite is the ladybug, an insect that lately has become almost invasive; ladybugs feast heavily on aphids in gardens and greenhouses. The praying mantis (named for the way it holds its claws) can devour a number of pesty insects. Various wasps and the non-threatening mud daubers should be tolerated as much as possible. Spiders are also friends to us and enemies to many pests. Among less well known friends are ground beetles, aphid lions, assassin bugs, centipedes, ant lions, and dragon flies.
Don't forget friendly crickets that I invite inside my house.
The larger pest-reducing animals include birds, which generally avoid chemical pesticide-laden lawns and gardens. The Cherokee Indians invited purple martins through the use of nests made from gourds hung at strategic locations; they recognized that these martins could keep a human living space essentially mosquito-free. Bats have the ability to do much the same and should also be encouraged. Frogs, toads and lizards have an appetite for many of the garden insect pests, and should always be tolerated and encouraged. Snakes can remove varmints that might hurt the garden. Non-poisonous snakes should be encouraged and respected. The list of friendly animals also includes skunks, shrews and weasels, but these are not always welcomed by neighbors.
Prayer: Lord, who gives us protection in all matters, help us to find and encourage the protectors of our own quality of life.
Summer "volunteer" squash.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
July 12, 2018 Remembering to Water Garden Plants
According to an English tale, if it rains on St. Swithun's Day (this coming Sunday), it will do so for forty consecutive days. We want enough rain to break a drought and never too much to harm growing plants. Delivering just enough moisture to plants in some summer months becomes a challenge.
* The best preparation is to expect that garden plants will need watering and to prepare a good rainwater source, if that is possible -- for it avoids local restrictions on use of municipal water. Periodic water shortages and restrictions call for some sort of water catchment, whether it is a water barrel or a cistern.
* Even in dry times, application of waste water to growing plants is not prohibited. Save the dish or wash water and use on the plants that will tolerate such detergent-laden water.
* Water in the evening after the sun has receded or, if not then, early in the morning before the sun beats down. The moisture is more effective in the evenings, for the thirsty plants have a longer opportunity to benefit before daytime evaporation occurs.
* Practice a form of medical "triage" by which wounded soldiers during battles get more or less attention depending on their condition. In the garden "triage," the highest attention is given to newly planted vegetables and tomatoes even though all garden plants should be mulched to save moisture. The second level includes plants needing more water such as cucumbers, melons, greens, celery, and many herbs. Among those at the lowest level are sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, and drought-tolerant okra, garlic, onions, and mint, and what remains of the brassica family.
* Water with larger amounts on fewer days, rather than with smaller amounts on a daily basis. The amount of water applied depends to some degree on the actual water supply. Simply keeping a crop from dying until the next big rain takes far less than actually irrigating a growing crop from start to harvest.
* When watering, try to direct the water stream at the base of the plant rather than scattering water over a general growing area. Crops sowed in rows rather than over areas lend themselves to efficient irrigation techniques. Trickle methods of irrigation are highly effective, but are hardly worth it for small garden plots where intercropping is practiced.
* Diluted urine (one part to four parts water) can be used on tender fall greens. If the July drought is prolonged, concentrate on the summer moisture-sensitive vegetables and delay starting a fall garden until the rains come. For late melons and cucumbers, soak the seeds before planting. For autumn vegetables, rows are preferable over area sowing, because watering can be concentrated.
Prayer: Lord, you are Living Water needed for spiritual life.
Second Declaration of Independence
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for citizens to attack the inequality that causes a privileged class to exist and flourish, and to assume among themselves the entitlement that the Almighty gave them as human beings, a decent respect for the human family impels them to come together and be united as one people in order to control the privileged few and their corporations that have established positions of power within and beyond the control of a citizenry; these have usurped the control of a society, which ought to be free and participative in nature.
We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We hold that the wealth of this world is limited, at least in the means of extraction at a given time. Thus, in a sense of prudence and priority, we hold that the use of this limited wealth is first for the procurement of basic materials and essential services for all people, not for the profit and benefit of individuals or their constructed corporations.
That to secure these rights for all peoples of the Earth, a global government (the United Nations) has been instituted, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed. When national governments become paralyzed by other organizations either internal or external and when military and corporate powers take over those governments, it is the right of the people to alter their powers and transfer more control to a global government for the benefit, safety and happiness of all the people. Whenever any form or controlling power becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience have shown, that human beings are more disposed to suffer than to challenge the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when the limitations of such traditional systems hinder obtaining basic means of livelihood for major portions of the population, this amounts to a form of servitude that must not be tolerated by free people. It is thus the right and duty of all to throw off such irresponsible controlling human-contrived organizations and to provide a new system for authentic future security and welfare. Such has been the patient sufferance of these citizens, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter the former systems of government.
Our history of repeated injuries and usurpations have as a direct object the establishment of privilege on the part of the affluent superrich and continued ignoring the destitution on the part of oppressed peoples who deserve this wealth resource for basics: food, clean water, adequate housing, accessible education and health. Facts speak for themselves:
1. The privileged and undertaxed wealthy have usurped the commons that belong to all peoples and allowed their own influence and self-interest to become the basis for political policy in our nation and world to the detriment of the common good.
2. They lobby and influence candidates and elected officials to pass laws to their own benefit and without regard to the basic needs of all inhabitants, especially those in needy circumstances.
3. They help install an Administration that consistently reduces the amount of money needed for health and welfare of the general public and, instead, constantly allows military budgets to expand and consume ever greater percentages of the discretionary budget. Consequently, they support a military-industrial complex that endangers our liberties or democracy.
4. They strive to own and control the means of information so that a biased form of reporting is available to the general public. They prefer an Internet that is not neutral but biased in speed and accessibility for larger corporations that are controlled by colleagues. In reality, social and informational networks are a public utility that ought to be owned in common.
5. They overlook the free right of every human being to earn a livelihood on this planet and, instead, uphold that governments under their influence defends the so-called privileged right to determine economics, leaving unrepresented the poor and under- or unemployed who demand an inalienable right to life.
6. They support an Administration that seeks to criminalize the desires of people who are refugees who seek to enter our nation in order to make an honest and fair living not available in their own land of origin.
7. They obstruct the administration of justice by supporting and exempting this superpower from joining and abiding by the courts of international justice.
8. They promoted and use tax havens and move financial resources from one country to another at great ease, and without regard to the proper and just laws of fair economic systems.
9. They pretend to give in "charity" while in reality spread influence permitting them to decide on who is eligible for support; implicitly this limits largesse to those who favor their protected status quo. They forget that their undertaxed resources are utterly needed to maintain and improve the infrastructure that allows for proper travel and commerce.
10. They endorse a Supreme Court's Citizen's United judgment that allows corporations to pretend to be citizens with the "right" to expend vast financial resources on candidates that enhance corporate powers; they forget that these corporations exist at the will of the people and are tools and not sacred persons.
11. They have in the name of material profit plundered our seas, ravaged our wildlands, overharvested our forests, and damaged and destroyed the lives of our people. They minimize or deny dangers that are evident to all through scientific reference to changing climates, melting icecaps, raising ocean levels, and taking the planet itself on a dangerous course to the point where planetary vitality is under threat.
12. They maximize dependence of our world on non-renewable resources (petroleum, coal, natural gas, nuclear fuel), which are forms of servitude and addiction; they ignore the efforts at conservation of resources and concerted campaigns to move our world to a renewable energy economy of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. They support candidates for office who are climate change deniers and who promote outdated fossil fuel development.
13. They promote a consumer culture that wastes precious resources and encourages a rising middle class in the rest of the world to do the same through a gross materialism, which is bent on waste of world resources for the comfort of privileged ones.
14. They render the taking of military action removed from constitutional procedures and subject to the whelms of a military without congressional oversight. They encourage transport of large armies of domestic and foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of civilized nations.
15. They encourage settlement of conflicts among nations through military counter measures. They permit the setting up of prisons and holding camps in areas removed from national jurisdictions and proceed to make a mockery of international codes of procedure. They accept systems of imprisonment that take accused from one nation, transport them to another, and hold summary trials not in accordance with the laws of that respective nation or the common laws of the world's people.
16. They champion an Administration that encourages totalitarian regimes to trample on the rights of their own people and subject neighboring nations to indiscriminate use of force against private citizens who are too powerless to fight back.
Therefore we affirm our union with all peoples of the Earth, that we are not to be subject to the jurisdiction of these hidden powers. We demand that governance be transparent and be subject to proper oversight by elected officials chosen by free and unbiased elections in which all the people participate. We the people of the world appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Blackberry cobbler with homemande pawpaw and chocolate chip ice cream.
July 13, 2018 Celebrating National Ice Cream Day
The third Sunday of July is a special Ice Cream Day. Celebrating is part of life, and we Americans like to celebrate with ice cream as has been the custom in our country for well over a century. When ice became readily available (either from ice storage houses or ice-making machines), the creating of different flavored ice creams became a national treat -- that soon spread globally. Don't let guilt hold us back, for those who need to be more watchful about foods have choices of sugar-free ices and ice creams. For those watching fattening foods, how about fat-free ice cream or taking off a few calories through some extra exercise today? Remember that a little ice cream well savored is worth more than a massive bowl; a little of good things is okay; a lot is not.
During youth, half the treat was making the ice cream. When I was a kid, we did not have ice cream except on Sundays. After church, we would go to the ice plant and buy a block of ice for a dime; we took it home, and put the ice block into a gunny sack and beat it into crushed ice with the flat side of an old axe. A one-and a half gallon metal container of ice cream ingredients into which was inserted a long paddle/stirrer was placed in a wooden ice cream freezer or maker; then the crushed ice was packed round the cylinder along with salt to lower the temperature so that the cream and flavor ingredients would freeze after ample churning. A turning device was attached to the protruding end of the stirrer and the "fun" began -- but it did take energy to churn.
The turning of the lever to stir the slurry gradually required more effort as the ice cream thickened and became a frozen slurry. Finally we turners judged that the ice cream was ready and begged Mama to let us test the results. We removed the metal lid and there it was -- a site to behold! One and a half gallons of Ice Cream, and the stirring paddle dripping with ice cream "firsts" for the turners to clean off. Then the whole family was alerted to taste the Sunday homemade treat, that welcoming treat. Too much of a good thing does not taste as good -- and can be unhealthy also. Our family ice cream treats were flavored by the fruit of the season (cherry, strawberry, peach) or standard flavors (vanilla, pineapple, butterscotch, banana, and chocolate). In winter we made a Christmas treat called "tooty fruity," which had dried candied fruits along with a touch of bourbon to give flavor, but not enough to prevent the mixture from freezing.
Ice cream is almost universally liked, and it can become the occasion for a social event. We may have an opportunity this coming Sunday to take out someone and treat those who are financially strapped; they may not get a chance to have ice cream very often. They may require a low-carb substitution or frozen yogurt or a soya substitute for cream. Whatever the special needs, ice cream under any form is still a wonderful celebratory treat.
Prayer: Lord, increase our enjoyment of life's good things, and help us share them with others.
Purple milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens.
July 14, 2018 Looking to France as a Model Nation
On Bastille Day it is fitting to consider France, our first and primary U.S. ally. If England is our American Anglo-Saxon relative, in more ways France is the godmother, for without her support we could not had become a nation. We can learn from the salient aspects of French culture and grow in our mutual understanding of the democratic spirit that binds us together. Allow me as a Franco-American the opportunity to highlight a few:
The French know how to rest and enjoy themselves. On Sundays they take off from work and have a weekly sabbatical -- and we can only hope they don't follow our example in having 24-7 stores (though small stores are open on Sunday morning). They believe in holiday periods when much of work life ceases, and people take time off and even enjoy their high speed rail system.
The French have an understanding of being a cultured people, who enjoy good food and spend time at a meal for the betterment of all concerned. They eat fresh young vegetables and grow as much as they can in local circumstances. They enjoy food variety with good salads and soups along with meat and dairy dishes, appetizers and desserts (however, young French folks now begun to favor fast food). The French extend that taste for variety and freshness to flowers and houseplants and to gardens and parks.
The French are coming to face the need to preserve their religious and artistic culture as a living heritage. In the last decade the French put a major part of a 26 billion euro stimulus package into a thousand projects such as repairing their ancient gothic cathedrals and museums. On one visit several decades ago I was shocked to see how the Chartres Cathedral's facade had eroded due to air pollution. The French are aware of the toll of time, pollution and neglect and are now doing something about.
The French consumers do not bear nearly the debts of average Anglo-Saxons; they save more, and the household debt load as a share of the GDP is less than half that of the United States or United Kingdom.
The French see a need to assist poorer nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to become stable. Most French are patriotic almost to a point of sentimentality. This has a good side; however it can foster a radical nationalistic reaction involving fear of language loss, or the replacement of church bells and organ music by the mullahs calling the faithful to prayer. While the French take their democratic spirit seriously on Bastille Day, the nation does have problems: greater demands per worker, high jobless rates, heavy taxes, dependence on nuclear powerplants, and a growing body of unprotected short-term employees (temps and interns). Amid it all we Americans hope to continue looking to France as model.
Prayer: Lord, let us neither be overly enamored nor neglectful of the qualities of different cultures.
Calypso bulbosa, Calypso orchid.
July 15, 2018 Ministering Lightly
He instructed them to take nothing on the journey but a walking stick. (Mark 6:8)
We speak about travelling lightly on ordinary trips, though never as lightly as Jesus did in his instructions to the ministering disciples. Not quibbling over whether to take a second tunic (no) or sandals (yes), let us see value to spreading the Good News in a light or "low overhead" fashion. Are there advantages?
Urgency and mobility: First, we are more able to act with spontaneity, for we do not have to wait until we have the backup resources assembled to start acting. Sometimes speed is of the essence, and those who assemble too many things are caught up in the assembling details. Baggage needs special attention, and more baggage takes extra time. Furthermore, if we bring too much, we find it more difficult to abandon one project and go to another.
Lowly are able to be leaders: The poor are the ones who are to take a lead in bringing Good News; they are the ones simply unable to furnish a lot of background materials. Simple equipment allows the poor to have an opportunity to move forward in ways to which they are better accustomed. Today, the Internet allows low-cost travel of ideas and words to all parts of the world -- the equivalent of St. Paul's being blessed by the excellent Roman order and road system in his day. Internet can bring Good News today.
Cultural handicaps avoided: Too much baggage indicates cultural differences and personal and distracting needs that cannot be furnished by the end destination, and thus ties one back too tightly to the place of origin. On the other hand, the lightly traveling one is accepted and integrates more rapidly into the receiving community.
Jesus as an example: he worked in simple ways and so ought we. Our imitation of him is of the essence. He could have come in the world as the head of a massive army and with regal pomp, but God does not work that way. Jesus had a simple power to attract those who want to hear the Word and follow it. Through the power of prayer and grace we can be like him in serving others.
Divine energy: Light travel manifests the wonder of God working within us. We think that gimmicks and other gadgets, sound boxes and slide shows are going to turn people on. Such catering to the demands of materialistic people obscures the spiritual message that is energizing through its source and content -- and is meant for those seeking faith.
Single-mindedness: The Good News involves simple and spiritually-motivated delivery as well as content. The message is given more directly when lightly packaged.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to travel ever more lightly.
July 16, 2018 Broadening the Scope of "Captive Nations Week"
Weathered barbed wire.
Is this designated week, which once had such pertinence during the pre-1989 USSR-era, outmoded? Hardly. Certainly, numerous nations such as the Baltic and Eastern European states and Central Asian nations are now independent along with dozens of nations that were part of pre-Second World War colonial empires. Still some nations remain captive to tyrannical rulers, to extreme poverty or to the condition of a "failed state" that does not allow for maximized freedom of its citizens, e.g., North Korea, Zimbabwe and Somalia. What about those who are captive within an existing state such as the people of Tibet, or the Kurdish minorities in Turkey and Iran, or the residents of the Gaza strip?
However, our view of captivity is a condition that is outside of us, in a distant captive land. We tend to overlook the subtle ways "captivity" can envelop us all. Yes, we can be captive or captors while failing to see subtle forms of enslavement. Our creative spirit is restricted by peer pressures; our freedom of movement is hindered by over-regulation; our voice in speaking out is muffled by the tendency to conform to the hidden wishes of rich benefactors; our powers to concentrate are weakened by the instantaneous distractions that crop up all about; our struggle to pursue spiritual pursuits is broken by gimmicks and allurements; our weakened human condition allows us to be taken prisoner by a host of enticing materialistic substances.
Captivity can come in what appears to be legitimate ways. We are always finding comfort from pain and distress with a host of over-the-counter and prescribed pills and medicines, advertisement for which bombard us on television (See July 7). Credit cards along with the pervasive cell phones and cable networks have all taken their toll and left us with overwhelming indebtedness and growing dependencies. Even the effort to escape by better education has ended with substantial debts for many. Add to this car payments and home mortgages, and soon we are enslaved and totally at the mercy of credit agencies and bank collectors. Trillions of dollars owed become chains that wrap around our necks bowing us down for lifetimes and our children for decades to come.
Can we realize and break these bonds of enslavement, or is the condition one of a lifetime? Does this week witness to the liberation of some people from Soviet imperialism, and yet neglect the imprisoning nature of western materialism? Is our democracy a false front, a facade imposed by a capitalistic financial system? In one way or other, most people are captive people and all need redemption. In acknowledging this we become receptive to receiving the Good News that all are being liberated; however, we must be convinced that liberation can be achieved though our effort with God's help. Only in such an acknowledgment can there be true solidarity among all captive people and a movement to liberation.
Prayer: Lord, you come to bring liberation to captives and to overthrow the bonds that chain us. Help us become truly free.
July 17, 2018 Introducing Mortality in Endless July
Beach plants, Lake Huron.
Most youngsters who enjoy summer vacation (as I once did) fantasize that summer will never end. The locust and cricket songs together with the burning rays of the summer sun seem to be unchanging. Freedom from school ran through my bones. This is generally not a mood conjured up in fresh busy June when the previous year's academic activities are closing down; nor is it an August phenomenon when the summer vacation ends and school starts up with fresh expectations and frenzied activities. Rather, time's seeming endlessness arises in the July of youth but can continue under different guises long into middle age. Why do good things I now experience have to end? Why don't they last forever?
We use world resources as though an endless July. This fiction extends to all ages, even to elders whose mortal life spans shorten at ever quickening speed with each passing day. The middle-aged and the healthy retirees think vacations will remain, good health will last, and their life situations will endure. Haven't the recent changes due to climate change with extreme weather conditions caused any rude awakening? Or does reality make a difference in a land of fiction TV and novels? Good times are here to stay, but are they? However, isn't there a spiritual aspect to this dream -- a longing for what will endure in eternity, a vague hope for endlessness, and a glimpse at the coming future?
This daydreaming atmosphere is entertained but somewhat haunting for folks of all ages. The realities of school ahead, of an upcoming medical report, or of a home crisis this evening brings us back to our senses. Rather, the hope for present endlessness is a temptation not to regard this life span as it really is -- terminal. But is that persistent dream of endlessness so very foolish? Is the caution, "Don't even think about such things" on target? Are people correct in the admonition, "Don't talk about death, but rather about the unfortunate person's 'passing'"? How many times at a wake have we heard visitors say how much the corpse seems to be asleep? On the other hand, have you ever gone into the funeral parlor and in viewing the coffin for a fleeting second wondered if you are in the right place?
When we hear that a terminally ill person goes to pick out the coffin, we regard it as heroic. It resembles life insurance, something that must be though the task of acquisition is distasteful. Unforeseen accidents occur, and that causes much consternation to loved one saddled with grief and a host of funeral details. I occasionally update my own funeral arrangements folder, even though it is a chore; some regard this as weird -- but is it? July will end as will our current status in life. As surely as we live in July, August will follow. So will endless life follow this mortal one. The wise person knows this, and finds July a reminder.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the shortness of life and thus gain wisdom of heart. Help us see endlessness is a deep desire if not placed on temporary and passing things.
Canis latrans, a mother coyote, Washington Co., KY farm.
July 18, 2018 Implementing Wildlife Controls
In dry hot July, various wildlife members survey our gardens. The phenomenon is widespread as exemplified by a friend, "You talk about wildlife protection, but we are inundated with deer and rabbits and groundhogs; what about lawn and shrub protection?" Yes, wildlife control is a major urban, suburban and rural problem. It was not enough to simply plead that increasing wildlife populations (deer, geese, rabbits, and wild turkeys) lack sufficient numbers of predator species for natural wildlife control. Most likely, excess wildlife will be controlled to some degree by the coyote's U.S. advance and its filling the absent predator's niche; these coyotes have an appetite for smaller wildlife, and if foxes and wildcats were to expand in number they would also devour the shrub and veggie eaters.
But coyotes cannot act alone; we have to reach beyond them. In the past I have protected my garden produce by fences, hot pepper spray and keeping dogs near the area where sensitive beans are grown, and more recently through growing specific plants that wildlife avoid. Much of our current wildlife problem has been the result of the deliberate introduction of game species such as deer and wild turkeys, which invade areas in search of foliage. Better game control would reduce this problem. Double fencing to keep out deer has been highly effective, but many do not want to construct two expensive parallel fences just to prove that other wildlife controls are not sufficiently effective.
Wildlife is selective in what it eats. I have learned to grow crops that local wildlife dislike, adjusting my human tastes to wildlife tastes. Obviously, this has its drawbacks, and so one finds that certain vegetables liked by wildlife can be interplanted and hidden within a larger garden. By putting garlic and mustard greens around the border you can dissuade rabbits from searching beyond the outer boundary to find what they would like beyond. Hot pepper solutions applied to plants in some semi-permanent soap or emulsion form can be quite effective against rabbits and deer, but rains can wash them away and demand reapplication often.
The critics say that the deer population in America is out of control; we have more deer than when the first white settlers came to these shores. When performing environmental resource assessments, we encouraged all who eat meat to consider eating their local produce -- and that includes nutritious and organic venison -- and perhaps their geese and turkeys as well. That is one ultimate control that should be considered in a world that should not be patronizing corporate cattle, chicken and hog operations. Think locally; think deer sausage. This culling operation replaces livestock-raising that has a heavy carbon footprint, and helps control wildlife. For those who can't do this, enjoy sharing gardens and ornamental bushes -- and smile.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to protect and help live with the treasure of the wildlife that surrounds us.
Southwestern prickly poppy, Argemone pleiacantha.
July 19, 2018 Restricting Salt Intake
During summer months we take extra salt when exercising and sweating. We know that salt is needed for proper bodily functions (maintaining blood volume and cellular osmotic pressure and transmitting nerve impulses). In older times salt was a precious and expensive commodity but that is not the case now, and so we can get too much of a good thing. This may occur in processed food and even over-the-counter medicines like antacids, as well as with softened drinking water; excess salt causes high blood pressure, hypertension, and strokes. While most frozen vegetables are processed without salt, some starchy ones (peas and lima beans) are frequently soaked in brine before freezing. Some fruit and tomatoes are dipped in sodium hydroxide to assist peeling -- thus increasing sodium levels. Canned and bottled citrus drinks are sometimes buffered with sodium citrate. Sodium ion exchange is used in processing some wines to reduce sediment and clarify the product. The high sodium content of all these ingested substances concerns people on salt-restricted diets -- and should concern all.
The National Academy of Science estimates that our need (as healthy adults) is from 1,100 to 3,300 milligrams of sodium per day. It may be best for those concerned about excess salt to drink bottled water with no sodium content. The following table is a selection from “The Sodium Content of Your Food," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 1981.
Food Portion Sodium (milligrams)
Smoked herring 3 oz. 5,234
Dried chipped beef 1 oz. 1,219
Cured ham 3 oz. 1,114
Frankfurter 1 639
Reg. chili con carne with beans 1 cup 1,194
Frozen meat loaf 1 dinner 1,304
Canned goulash 8 oz. 1,032
Stuffed peppers 8 oz. 1,001
Swedish meatballs 8 oz. 1,880
Corned beef hash 1 cup 1,520
Chicken and dumplings 12 oz. 1,506
Frozen chicken dinner 1 dinner 1,153
Fast food chicken dinner 1 portion 2,243
Canned Spanish rice without meat 1 cup 1,370
Tomato sauce 1 cup 1,498
Potatoes au gratin 1 cup 1,095
Vegetable juice cocktail 1 cup 887
Baking soda 1 Tsp 821
Salt 1 Tsp 1,938
onion salt 1,620
garlic salt 1,850
Soy sauce 1 Tbsp 1,029
Prayer: Lord, remind us that we are the salt of the Earth.
Windlas Hill sod house, pioneer homestead in Nebraska.
July 20, 2018 Building with Green Methods and Materials
Many people today want to build green, but they hardly know what it means beyond using more insulation or installing energy efficient windows. Certainly these are good starters. A major consideration in either hot or cold climates is to save the domestic air whether heated or cooled. The heat and cooling sources are of prime importance for long-term resource savings and carbon imprint. Building green is not only a matter of the materials as of the size of the structure. An oversized structure tarnishes the luster of the entire project, even if it is made of the greenest of materials. Non-toxic building materials are obviously desired, but in contrast to structure size and location they are not the sole factors determining "greenness."
Know the site. The primary green determining factor is where the structure is or is to be located. A desert site would favor certain construction materials differing from those used on a wooded mountain side or a north country valley or seashore urban home. The degree of heating or cooling required calls for different construction, and wind or water protection techniques for winter or summer should determine structural materials. The specific site may be well or poorly protected, and some berming or shade-tree planting may be in order. The way the structure faces and where windows are located are part of this primary green planning phase. A Florida design is not meant for the Alaskan landscape. Most of all, the site may be near some local building materials, for easy and lower-cost access.
Know what is available. The builder may look about and talk to commercial outlets about standard building materials. The owners may soon feel quite limited due to differences in prices between asphalt or metal roofs and tile roofs, or between wood and brick siding. They may hear about non-traditional building materials such as cob walls or straw bales (see Special Issues at this website for the latter). Still the bold do-it-yourselver may want to use cordwood or field stone or pressed earth for the walls. While these materials help define the type of structure, the building materials are generally only a quarter of total home cost.
Know recycled possibilities. The green builder needs to know that recycled or "deconstructed" materials of quite high quality and at bargain prices abound in many places -- for there are four million unoccupied homes in America, some of them awaiting deconstruction. A first-time builder is cautioned that scavenging these materials without proper assistance can be dangerous work. However, demolition materials are abundant and of high quality; builders can get bargains in the quality of older framing, flooring, logs, brick, block, plumbing, windows, doors and even trim. If building with virgin materials, hunt locally for stone, rough-cut timber, cordwood or locally produced brick.
Prayer: Lord, give us right judgment so as to properly plan, and not attempt to build a "green" structure on sand.
Finding Opportunity for Change
We must make major changes in order to confront the inequality of our society. The challenge is whether we can see an opportunity presenting itself to accomplish this necessary action. In what fashion will this opportunity be perceived as forthcoming? For some of us, a cynical streak says we will overlook it even if it stares us in the face. For others, the need is for an emergency situation that suddenly arises. But isn't this cynicism a lack of faith in the future? As to expecting a grand emergency to spring forth out of the blue, isn't this an unfavorable time, since most attention in emergencies are to an individual and family basic issues such as food and lodging? What if there's a new financial crash and the Dodd/Frank legislation that would stave off the "too big to fail" does not succeed, and major banks will again demand an infusion of taxpayer money?
Awaiting an ideal opportunity for change might be a major mistake, for we cannot anticipate how people will react to it. A more solid approach is to review the awareness of the serious situation we are experiencing as to current growing economic inequality. The longer-term opportunity exists today here and now with dramatic climate change, but many of our neighbors are unwilling to see it. Part of this is due to the diet of computer gadgets and fictional writing that keeps people away from raw reality, the perception of which requires a deeper spirituality. Let's open our eyes and see what is before us. To await something new is to postpone indefinitely actions that are urgent right now, if we but face the reality of the present moment.
One hidden difficulty is that we confuse hope with optimism; we say that things are improving; we have to give a little more time to make some expected changes so we can improve the situation together. But then we reconsider the present moment: individual and national indebtedness is growing; 43% of our people find it hard to meet daily living expenses; assault weapons are too often in the hands of crazies; renewable energy sources are coming, but ever too slowly; inequality grows as the rich enhance their influence with unfair tax advantages; and opioids are ever too plentiful to those prone to addiction.
Let's not kid ourselves. We do have problems and many of us are convinced the present Congress and Administration in Washington are too consumed by swamp vapor and Twitter feeds to think clearly about immediate action. I have given no written space to the Russian interference investigation because the outcome has been too problematic. We need to act with what we know right now, and thus take part in prayer and civic political activities to encourage agents of change to act courageously. Our hope is that this can happen within this calendar year 2018, but a few activists cannot do this alone; the close collaboration by a critical mass of the American citizenry is necessary.
Triggers. Even saying that 2018 is the time to act is not the only matter that counts, for we still need the specific events and news items, which lead people to act. Already we have the excessive cost of living, opioid epidemics and climate change equal to the "Stamp Act" and "taxation without representation" of the 1770s -- some remote triggers. Do we have a "Boston Tea Party" or a Lexington/Concord march that becomes an immediate catalyst for change? Perhaps the answer is that with instant communication today we have daily crises that can make us immune to latching on to any one of these as the actual trigger that can gel us to collective action.
Perhaps this becomes part of an added problem, namely, a nation divided in viewpoint and awareness; we are hit by fake news, by a series of spams and scams, and by supposed leadership that is unclear in how to govern. As a people we are somewhat wary of collective action. Are we really any different than our Colonist forbearers who were also rugged individualists and who did not tolerate the pressures by outside autocratic influence? In some way, we are profoundly different: autocratic threats are from within, not from a foreign power. The inequality that divides our people is from a class to which most Americans are highly ambivalent: many needy people like the spunk and luck of the wealthy, and would love to have a gambling break to be like them.
As promoters of change and imbued with a desire to improve all people and the whole of each individual -- not just his or her individual material welfare -- we must constantly bring a sense of spiritual hope and trust to the completion of the work that must be done. We are certainly concerned about health and food security; we are also concerned that cynicism and despair could drown out the voice of those who say it can be done. We must believe that we can improve the economic system in a meaningful way so that all, and not just a few, prosper.
Certainly problems are multiple and they are present; they must not prove to be a hindrance, but rather a catalyst to our actions as citizens. We the believers in our future must affirm that God is present and accompanying us on this road. To omit this, for fear that the secular world will not unite with us, is a mistaken understanding of our role. We are not to become secular in order to bring about change. We will work with all who have a faith in the future, and only a portion of these are classed as secular. The present difficult conditions can be seen as stimulating, not paralyzing, for they manifest urgency on the part of those willing to act to trust in the God who draws us forward. We can succeed with God's help.
Vivid colors of the garden aster.
July 21, 2018 Discovering Pollution Effects of Fracking
In the past decade extracting gas and oil by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from shale formations has opened the door to a massive increase in America's petroleum and gas output. The U.S. is now becoming an energy exporting nation. The boom in such far-flung fields as in Texas, North Dakota and even Middle Atlantic Pennsylvania and West Virginia seems to be a bonanza for those whose property is leased for such operations. Natural gas has become cheaper and surpasses polluting coal as a fossil fuel of choice in electricity generation. One may think this is a win-win situation until we look a little deeper and the optimism fades.
Fracking slows the transition to a renewable energy economy.
While renewables such as solar and wind are dropping rapidly in price, so is the price of natural gas through fracking. Thus this fossil fuel remains a contender as a major fuel of choice with its own associated pollution problems. While the fact of coal being highly polluting is well known, that of natural gas is often overlooked. However, the amount of escaped natural gas (amounts not fully determined because the EPA research program has been suppressed) in drilling, processing and delivery may be considerable. And one must note that escaping methane (main component of natural gas) is over two dozen times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (see March 10, 2016).
Environmentalists point out that there are environmental problems associated with fracking that have not received sufficient attention. Hydraulic fracking means that immense amounts of water along with other substances are involved in the operation. Between 2005 and 2014 a Duke University study found that 250 billion gallons of water was needed for fracking that resulted in 210 billion gallons of a briny, chemical-laden flowback mixture that had to go somewhere (surface pools, landfills, some water treatment, unregulated streams or injected underground).
Unfortunately, fracking has generated added equal amounts of waste water in the last five year. Pools are leaking; fresh water streams have been contaminated; injection into underground strata has induced earthquakes in AR, CO, KS, NM, OH, OK, and TX, many of these states having little previous earthquake experience. Tons of liquid waste has been pushed off to unregulated and unsuspecting places. Contamination of the Blue Ridge Landfill site in our Estill County caused the ire of local people; the 1000 cubic yards of out-of-state wastes contain radioactive materials and was dumped only a mile from our local middle/high school complex. Kentucky does not allow such out of state waste disposal and has fined the dumpers; West Virginia allows some landfills to take unlimited amounts; other fracking states have not yet specified disposal methods. In an atmosphere of reduced regs, the USEPA has essentially done nothing and is not willing to act. The fracking problem grows.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be realistic in the exploitation of resources and to handle such matters with prudent caution.
Stone sheep, Ovis dalli stonei, Fort Nelson, Canada.
July 22, 2018 Striving to Lead the Floundering
He pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them at great length. (Mark 6:34)
Just before we take up the discussion of the Eucharist in the coming weeks, let us develop a context, a setting in which we search for and find the Lord's words of advice and guidance. What Jesus says and does is what we are to say and do in our own lives.
He has compassion for the crowds, and thus is willing to spend time teaching them even at the expense of his private time; his heart and energy goes out to those who need his direction.
To expend time and resources on those in need demands a sacrifice. We do need to take sufficient care of ourselves, so we can be good instruments as other christs to our fellow human beings. Still we must be open to human needs and adaptable in order to curb some of our private time in order to be of greater service. Jesus shows sensitivity for those who are his followers and students, those who can become exhausted through the work before them. "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little." While Jesus is solicitous of the disciples, he is also aware of the needs of the crowds who keep coming and seeking him. He is sensitive to the disciples need for rest, and yet Jesus sacrifices his limited time for others. Are we able to balance personal needs with those of others to whom we minister?
Remotely, we are to become other christs, taking on a leadership role and yet be balanced. We must acquire a sense of solidarity in order to perceive authentic needs; we need a prayer life in order to discover what we individually need in order to be good ministers to others and maintain a sense of enthusiasm; and we need to be able at times to say we are not God but only human instruments. Taking on any difficult task requires preparation and pacing in order to avoid over-exertion and burn-out. Resting is part of pacing, and we may need others' advice to help attain that balance. We find in the passage that the disciples report back to Jesus their successes with enthusiasm, but somewhat exhausted.
Today the shepherdless stand out in our world of allurements. Many ordinary consumers are at a crossroads; for years they have been badgered by advertising, peer pressure and a national policy to borrow, buy, and consume -- and are drowning in materialism. This unsustainable lifestyle practice is ultimately destructive to the planet and individual inhabitants -- and exacerbating the climate change condition. Our culture regards consumption as a patriotic duty. The consumer's ship is sinking all too often in a sea of red ink. It is unchristian to abandon these wandering souls and expect them to fend for themselves. Instead leadership means speaking out for moderation in all things; we must reflect on how to use our limited energy properly to produce the greatest good.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be shepherds to wandering and indebted consumers who are our neighbors and friends.
Emerging flower of the musk thistle, Carduus nuttans.
July 23, 2018 Giving Appreciation to Volunteers
Sharing is a two way-street: the services given by a generous volunteer and the reception given by hospitable people who can use assistance. The prophet Elisha receives hospitality in a very simple and sensitive manner from a couple who are really of modest means. He is invited to come and stay at their house -- just as many volunteers come into a welcoming community and are thus encouraged to give of themselves. The "prophet's reward," spoken of in Matthew's Gospel, is what this hospitable couple receives -- the promise of a child to come within a year. Generosity given and promised reward received.
Jesus teaches his disciples how to be persons on a mission -- how to best spread the Good News to others in the world. He requires a dedication that goes beyond family devotion. He also says he expects the hearers of the Word to return generosity as well. The generosity given by the disciple is similar to the generosity that is returned in hospitality. Both are needed so that the Word can grow and increase in the world. The paradigm shift after Vatican II is that the giving of the Word is not the totality, but the giver must grow from God's gifts already present in the hearers, so that Good News can be a sharing. The missionary tells of the gift of Scripture and Sacraments; the other expresses a receptivity coming from human and cultural values already present. Thus two gifts are communicated through the agency of the Church -- the Word of God and presence of God in the world and culture. Thus the missionary is a bridge between the new members and the already existing community.
As volunteers you have shown that you have dared to give to others; upon reflection you find that you have received as much as you have given if not more. All areas of poverty have great needs, and yet in fulfilling these needs we find a great wealth amid the poverty. I find this; you find this. As volunteers you became the messengers who bring the Good News and suddenly find out that you receive the Good News. For too long, Appalachians have suffered from a stereotype of being poor mountain people. You have been able to dispel those misinformed impressions. What you found in coming here is that the supposed dull and poor people were quite bright and possessed a spiritual wealth to share with others who need to grow in faith. These people have a smartness to survive in poverty and skills to get by on far less than others could realize.
Again, Appalachia remains open to all volunteers. What you came to give is what you found as a gift -- people willing to share of their own spiritual depth. As residents and volunteer receivers, we again welcome you and remind you that you are always welcome back. As people growing in experience, the volunteer becomes a sensitive person willing to go out from whatever circumstances and share with others in need.
(Homily at a Christian Appalachian Project volunteer anniversary)
Prayer: Lord, remind us to be grateful to those who volunteer.
Convolvulus blue morning glory.
July 24, 2018 Assisting the Landless
At the time the draft of this was written Pope Francis was visiting Columbia a year after a terrible long-lived conflict was ended with FARC rebels. He begged for a sense of forgiveness. But there is more to the picture. Part of the reason for the conflict was that two-thirds of the productive land was held by 0.4% of the people -- (estates of 500 + hectares. Will promised land redistribution succeed? We need space to live, reside, recreate, and grow crops on a plot or farm. Our physical and psychic well-being demands a chance to contact soil and space to move and rest.
Population pressures deny some folks the space essential for a higher quality of life. Landless folks do not have the privileges of their ancestors to purchase low-cost farmland on the Great Plains for one dollar an acre. While many suburbanites have space, half the American people do not. Maine's two thousand miles of coastland are privatized so that only a small fraction of shore can be enjoyed by the landless citizens. This privatized condition extends beyond beach rights to vast tracts of interior lands. The Earth contains over fifty million square miles of surface land (36.8 billion acres or about five acres per person). A sizeable portion of this land is uninhabitable, but only a relatively small amount is needed for supplying basic human needs. Unfortunately, productive land is often used for livestock raising, golf courses, and lawns, or is cluttered by urban development.
Human beings have a right to land, to the commons in order to meet basic needs. In many primitive cultures, land is communal and is distributed or utilized through community consensus and tradition. Land is meant for all and some programs may help:
* Encouraging urban homesteading of unused, mismanaged and abandoned lots, buildings and open space;
* Turning over of excess private, religious and non-profit landholdings for the use of the neighborhood for community gardens and recreational space;
* Making state and national forestlands available for meeting non-destructive recreational needs, and forbidding the logging or exploiting of such lands by special interest groups;
* Regulating foreign agricultural land investment by food- importing countries like China and South Korea, and guaranteeing that local growers are not driven off of their farms, but are party to investment projects;
* Helping support Third World redistribution projects and assistance with tools and basic supplies for pioneer families as well as small-scale growers;
* Encouraging backyard gardens and use of available public free space for urban gardening projects; and
* Limiting the amount of private land that can be held by an individual or corporation, so that more can be shared by the landless of a given region or nation.
Prayer: Lord, help us to reclaim the commons for the landless.
Tall bellflower, Campanulastrum americanum.
July 25, 2018 Emphasizing Harmony as Both Means and Goal
In the book Eisenhower in War and Peace, Jean Edward Smith constantly emphasizes that the greatest talent that Ike had was his ability to get along with a diverse group of people; he was certainly not perfect and yet he had a gift of harmonizing with others. As a mark of leadership a variety of those with strong opinions were able to be satisfied that their views were heard and that Ike was trying to see that their views were taken seriously.
Our book on Resonance attempts to show the foundation for harmony in the Triune God and the demand on Christian people to bring this mystery of the Holy Spirit into the lives of those with whom we live and work. Perhaps the method of approach through theory does not befriend itself to the average people today living on quick sound bites, but it must be said for those who are serious about the need for our people to live in harmony. That is more needed today than ever in the arena of global leadership in this age of threatening terrorism and advancing climate change.
For the last two years the immediate mystery to me has been how to make the need for this harmonizing a ministry for all people to look to and popularize. Too often it is accepted as a vague given without reflecting on its importance. To overly emphasize differences of opinion does not get many results; to shout at the other side and expend anger runs the risk of only entrenching the opponents in their strong position and the risk of demonizing them. Open opposition manifests differences, but it does not resolve them.
Actually, there are some points of contention that must be clearly exposed and that could create a temporary disharmony so that a long-term harmony will ultimately result. Areas of disharmony can be resolved to benefit all. Resolving the point of Confederate symbols as celebrated by some and condemned by many, including people of color, can be resolved by removing symbols from public view that still have historic or artistic value.
Certainly, major areas of disharmony can only be resolved through working together in fairness and trust. The inequality in our world of super-rich and destitution is not resolved by hope to continue the status quo. Fundamental existing disharmony must be pointed out and the ultimate harmony of all living better lives would bring about a redistribution of wealth and growing trust. A disharmony exists where rich have luxury and poor desperation. Harmony is NOT to continue the status quo and expect the poor to swallow their condition and offer it up. Here harmony will only be established through redistribution and showing that reduction of inequality works to benefit all parties. Ultimate sharing of the commons is a goal that can be harmonized to the benefit of needs fulfilled and a sense of meaningful sharing by the former privileged few. Removing divisions becomes a common goal.
Prayer: Lord, help us to promote an ultimate sense of harmony as the oxygen needed to resolve the problems of our world.
Water droplets on jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) give the appearance of jewels after a rain.
July 26, 2018 Learning about Medicinal Herbs
Many rural Americans grew up knowing the benefits of certain native plants, and especially culinary and medicinal herbs. Over the years many of those knowledgeable about these varieties and remedies are passing from the scene without transmitting their expertise to others. Modern sufferers prefer to run to the pharmacy or the caregiver with a medicinal prescription that is not necessarily better. We often forget that the origins of many modern medicines such as aspirin are traditional herbal treatments. At this time of year, when garlic is harvested, we remember that many of the world's people highly favor it and tout its medicinal effects, many of which actually work. Elderly people have a common love for garlic -- and everyone in the household has to love it also, in order for peace to endure. Garlic is one of many medical herbs used by Appalachians. Others include:
* Black cohosh -- used for hot flashes;
* Comfrey -- used as an overall cure, and as tea for coughing and for wounds, burns and ulcers. Overuse causes complications;
* Damask rose -- brewed and used as a mild astringent tonic;
* Dill -- brewed to relieve flatulence, colic and hiccups;
* Elderberry -- juice taken for flu and colds;
* Fennel -- same as dill for flatulence;
* Ginseng -- root and leaves taken whole or as teas for a wide variety of treatments;
* Horseradish -- simmer roots with sugar water for allergies;
* Jewelweed -- bruised leaves or extract in oil for relief of rashes and irritated skin;
* Mullein - well cooked leaves used as cough drops;
* Parsley -- bruised fresh leaves for relief from insect bites and for improvement of mental powers;
* Pokeberry -- swallowed whole for arthritis/rheumatism;
* Rosemary -- brewed alone or with other herbs for relief of colds, colic and nerves;
* Sage -- brewed to relieve coughs and cold symptoms;
* Salad burnet -- leaves for diarrhea and hemorrhage;
* Sassafras -- brewed with damask rose for relief of inflammation of the eyes;
* Sweet basil -- brewed as tea to relieve vomiting;
* Tansy -- rubbed on the body or hung in the room to repel flies, mosquitoes and ants; leaves are used for inflammations.
This listing is intended to be informational, rather than to present recommendations -- even though I use jewelweed ointment and pokeberry (see our YouTube video). By the testimony of users many of these mentioned herbs are quite effective, but all ought to be used only in moderation. They can save money, and are not as dangerous as some chemical medicines. Talk herbal practices over with your primary health care provider. Non-professional self-diagnosis just might be faulty and mask more serious ailments.
Prayer: Lord, give us the patience and ability to listen to the wisdom of the past and to accept it in a balanced manner.
Creating Opportunities for Change
Let's extend our reflections on the need to have economic change to discovering or even creating opportunities through active awareness and willingness to act. I risk being a hypocrite, for even if we fully discover a hidden opportunity, the point arises as to whether we would have the courage and energy to see this through to completion. Granted, we need the change and are willing to cooperate when the proper opportunity arises, but the deeper question is, are we willing to make it arise?
Primary agents of change. Gifted people are expected to take leadership roles in times of change. In fact, these are to have the charism and talent needed to help effect the change itself and help initiate it and bring it to fruition. The ideal agent of change is discussed elsewhere, and few if any are able to make a perfect score except the person of Jesus Christ. Others can do their best and can be appreciated for their efforts. The anticipated change from a non-renewable or fossil fuel economy to a renewable one will take numerous people of talent, each in his or her own way to bring about the expected changes in a short span of time in order to avoid a catastrophe in the making, due to current climate change.
Secondary agents of change. Primary agents do not stand alone but must be part of a community seeking desired goals through collaboration. Some additional people behind the scene (spouses, relatives, colleagues or just good friends) are needed to encourage and furnish advice to primary agents of change, and are of equal or in some cases of greater importance than the primary agents. This is important because some are not slated through personality or lack of charism to express themselves to be primary agents. However, the secondary agent may be equally devoted to change and willing to stay out of the spotlight, and yet work diligently all the same. These serve as a behind the scenes support rather than on the lighted stage of public view.
Time to act. The movement to act means that agents must act when the time is right -- "strike when the iron is hot." The short span of hot iron for anyone who has attempted blacksmithing and the need to act at that time demands a willingness not to waste time, for urgency is of the utmost. In previous reflections on inequality we have seen the discouragement that comes to those feeling powerless by their situation as part of the majority, when less than one percent of citizens own much of the wealth and the increase in income of the entire system. The majority knows that this "upper class" is committed to the status quo fossil fuel economy with their unfair tax advantages. Failure to act could bring in a climate change within of two or three decades that could promise to be a catastrophe of untold proportions. Thus, a delay in addressing the problems of this current economic situation is opting to be party to an upcoming disaster.
Affirm duty to act. I'm too old to even aspire to be a primary agent of change, and most of my readers agree. However, being a secondary agent of change does not have the requirements for public success. We are morally required to be committed to an issue if catastrophic consequences could follow inaction, but the level of participation may depend on a number of factors including health, energy, and ability to act publicly. Not all are called to be leaders in the public eye. Leading roles need support services and those are important as well, even though the adulation is not forthcoming, and even the gratitude will most likely be overlooked.
Search for creativity. Discovering the opportunity to act demands a clear vision that those in leading positions may not have immediate awareness due to distractions brought on by prominence and limited attention span. The one who sees opportunity may most likely be a secondary agent of change, and yet it requires creativity all the same. Its effectiveness is of equal weight no matter who the discoverer. Certainly the primary agent of change must welcome the dash of creativity in others and will hopefully be honest enough to recognize this coming from others with full credit due. The likelihood is that one dedicated to service to a leader may have a clearer view of this being an opportunity. At this stage, the secondary agent's ability to persuade and give encouraging support is of prime importance. Perhaps the original idea did not come from this person but from an acquaintance or source brought to the attention of the associate.
Make the opportunity. The time to act does not mean the stage is perfect for the performance, for that depends on primary and secondary agents. Is an opportunity ready for the taking, or one that becomes the creation of potential actors and actresses when the circumstances or "location of the planets" are all in order? Forget astrology. Pray for openness for what is to follow -- and it is of interest that this openness does not necessarily have specific preconditions. The Spirit moves one to act, for the Spirit is free as the breeze. Primary agents do not have to be the creative originators as such, even though in a longer run they may receive that credit. Their leadership in part depends on knowing the moment has come to act, and to seize that moment.
Pray for insight. The time may be now with its countless everyday actions demanding adherence to ordinary life. True, but we must see and affirm that special moment among many. Let's consider ourselves as secondary agents of change with some communication with those recognized as "leaders." Let's be receptive to the Spirit who can touch us if we are open. The moments are before us; the need to find or make the opportunity is ours to discover or create. Are we willing to act when the Spirit speaks?
Wolf spider, hidden among rocks and lumps of coal.
July 27, 2018 Recognizing Light Pollution at Buck Moon
And then the moon, always punctual, to mark the months and make division of time;
the moon it is that signals the feasts, a luminary that wanes after her full.
The month derives its name from hers, she waxes wonderfully in her phases, banner of the hosts on high, shining in the vault of heaven. (Ecclesiasicus 43: 6-9)
Again we approach a full moon (Buck Moon) and reflect on our nearest heavenly body with special attention. We know that the moon shines brightly in most places this evening, but that is not the case everywhere on the Earth, especially in polluted urban areas. I once camped in Montana's "Big Sky Country," and was amazed at the expanse and clarity of the sky; it rivaled only another sight I had the privilege to observe in the Peru/Bolivia border regions on a clear night in the southern hemisphere with virtually no electricity to create a glare or "light pollution."
Weather conditions affect visibility on any particular night. However, in populated modern urban areas the glare of street, business and residential lighting along with vehicular lights makes the heavenly bodies fade into a misty distance. The clarity of the brilliant outer space and the Milky Way is not visible to many nature-starved urban residents, who would love to see the heavenly glory known to ancestors of old. The ancient Greeks and primitive tribes had a scenic vista that is denied to many people today.
Light pollution is a major problem in areas such as Tucson, Arizona, where urban telescopes and observatories are located -- and that city is trying to take steps to reduce light pollution. The problem extends to observational equipment in many other metropolitan centers as well. These areas are lit well, too well, as we can observe when flying; the lights of a distant city send a glow that is seen for miles from an airliner. This lighting was highly restricted during war, as in the famous blackouts during the Second World War, when drivers drove about with dimmed lights, street lighting was curbed, and windows were blackened.
Can light pollution be restricted without blackouts? Reflection shields can direct light rays downward. Unnecessary lighting, especially on highways, could be reduced, though some drivers may complain. We have come a long way from the old street lamps of the 19th century, and some expect night lighting of sufficient illumination to allow them to read a book outdoors at night. In order to reduce crime, the trend is for increased lighting of streets, parking areas, practice fields, and campuses. One university plant manager said during an environmental resource assessment that I was the first to complain to him about too much lighting; he said most parents and students want more lighting.
Prayer: Lord, you are the light of the world. Help us to bring this light to others in a fashion to be easily observed.
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa.
July 28, 2018 Traveling by Air: Not All Benefits
I have given up traveling by air; yes, I once found this form of travel quite exciting. Now when getting older and more difficult getting around, I find air travel worrisome. Granted using small airports is nice, but generally one or other terminus is in a big city, where the rush and bustle of hoping flights stay to schedule and standing in line for ticket clearance prove disconcerting. Seasoned travelers are more accustomed to taking off shoes and sending everything through the x-ray machine -- and they don't crack jokes with the inspectors either. I certainly was becoming more accustomed to those inspections, but they still demanded severe concentration on keeping all belongings together.
Some of us feel a lack of control in flying when we depend on the skills of others. Check-in or parking delays, plane delays in boarding or departure, or delays in arrival and deplaning at the terminal gate could be immensely frustrating, especially if the time span from one operation to the next is limited. After some flying, we are supposed to get used to the unexpected, but I found surprises more intolerable with age. I prefer to travel by car to a destination of less than five hundred miles and can arrive just as fast, far more conveniently, and actually using about the same amount of fuel. It takes me longer to travel to an airport (60 miles away), go through ticketing, waiting, boarding, flying, disembarking, getting transportation and arriving at the final destination than to drive 500 miles. Carrying with several auto passengers allows for still more savings per person-- but maybe it is less comfortable. Traveling by train and bus uses a still greener mode of transportation.
Besides the air travelers can be quite annoying -- as I'm sure we all are for others. Maybe it's their looks or gestures or way of acting or talking. The cell phone user next to you will cut loose in a loud voice and continue the generally innocuous conversation right in your face. Or maybe it's that difficult moment when the fellow in front decides to lean his seat back into your own limited space. Or it is that last arrival with far more packages than can ever be placed in the already filled overhead rack. Maybe it is the anticipated difficulties clearing or just thinking about clearing customs. Frustrations in scheduling changes are balanced by reaching a destination rapidly.
Some travel hints are worth remembering: travel light, super light; limit the number of loose items, for you only have two hands; know the terminals by studying the particular layout found in available airline magazines; wear identification tags around your neck instead of fingering into pocket or purse or billfold each time; attempt to use automatic ticket machines for convenience; carry snacks in your pack; take good reading material; and smile even when it takes a special effort.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be satisfied to stay at home and communicate electronically or through other means.
Kentucky native plant purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.
July 29, 2018 Multiplying Loaves
Jesus has compassion for the hungry and does something about it. Today's reading (John 6: 1-15) parallels that of the other Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17). These passages have common elements: the basic trust in Jesus and in what he says; distrust by disciples and followers as to whether there is enough food; a miracle of either physical multiplication of the food or opening of personal food supplies to share with others (a miracle of charity); the gracious God giving us well above what is needed to feed the hungry; the ultimate satisfaction on the part of believers; and the need not to waste the gifts given.
A story is told about a concentration camp in the Second World War, where a Jewish lady was given a vial by a priest on the way to his death. The lady was asked to distribute these bread fragments to all who asked her, and she observed that the vial never went empty, though she did not recognize the importance and the miracle at the time. Truly, it was a miracle, but it was only years later that another priest explained the significance to her. The vial never went empty; it contained the Bread of Life, the Lord's presence to a suffering people.
On our journey of faith we need energy to sustain us for we are spiritually hungry. Without nourishment we will lose heart, for the tasks ahead of us are immense, and only God's presence can sustain us. Certainly the world's poor understand the pangs of hunger, and they can vividly picture the kingdom of heaven where there will be no want, only plenty. However, the spiritual hunger is just as deep and real. We may ask whether we would ill feel comfortable in any banquet, when we overlook the hungry just outside the doors. We are blessed to satisfy our spiritual hunger, and doubly blessed to share concern and compassion for those who are so often forgotten and neglected.
The Eucharistic Feast is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Thus we extend thanks to God for the gift given, the time to partake, and the energy to respond and assist us in being of service to others. The disciples gathered the fragments left over so there would be no waste, and these filled twelve wicker baskets -- one for each apostle, an over-abundance from the hand of God. We resolve to waste less time and fewer opportunities, talents and resources. Leftovers show the plentitude of God and must be recycled and shared with the needy. Partaking in the Eucharist is connecting ourselves with the sacrifice of Jesus and with the great mass of suffering humanity around us.
Some will not understand and will even ridicule our faith in the Body of Christ. Others will believe for a moment and then fall away, for the saying is too hard; and still others will allow the great mystery to grow and then they will enter into the Lord's sacrifice. Multiplication of the loaves continues.
Prayer: Lord, help us to show our faith through deeds.
Colorful garden visitor, Blue-tailed skink, Cryptoblepharus egeriae.
July 30, 2018 Fighting Hunger in America in 2018
It is approaching the end of July, and the hungry at our door increases. Many have expended their food stamps and their shelves are empty. Insufficient food stamp allotments, poor budgeting and minimal food preparation cause them to lack today's food. Our parishes hand out canned food and commodities to tide people over until the next month, but this is more than a charity problem. Some have not budgeted their allotted stamps properly, while others did their best and still did not have enough funds or stamps.
Cooking school: In Our Lady of the Mountains in Stanton, Kentucky, Sister Mary Jane Kreidler, our parish life director, has initiated a "cooking kitchen" program. She has gathered seven or so, mostly eager mothers, with limited food preparation and purchase skills, and moved them patiently through a process of astute buying and cooking. The class plans a menu; they go together to the grocery store and purchase basic nutritious food ingredients; and then return and split the food into two portions: one they use for their own prepared lunch according to a traditional recipe; the other portion is allotted in individual sub-portions according to the number in each household. After finishing lunch and conversing, these homemakers return home and prepare supper in the same fashion as the shared lunch.
Supplementing by gardening: Along with cooking, we encourage folks to raise their own produce, which many of my neighbors do. It does not take much space (flowerbeds and pots can do, along with backyard garden plots). Gardening adds otherwise costly fresh and nutritious vegetables to the dinner table during the growing portion of the year -- and this addition can be organically grown and of known quality. From April to October I have a garden salad meal, with brassicas in spring, cucumbers, tomatoes and beans in summer and the leafy vegetables in autumn. By using seasonal extenders vegetables can last to the year's end.
Food gathering: A supplemental approach is to find produce within the natural world around us. This is more easily done in rural areas than in urban ones, for the practice includes both gathering flora and hunting fauna to supplement diets. For those of us near forestland, it includes gathering spring greens, summer berries, autumn fruit and nuts, and winter roots. We are pestered by a host of wildlife (see July 18). Thrifty hunters turn the deer into venison sausage, which can also be shared with others; the gathered foodstuffs are low-cost and high in nutrition.
Charity as a stop gap: Our churches do not give market cards, for fear the cards will be used for junk food or tobacco. Yes, we must not and will not let the hungry go in this land of plenty. Unfortunately limited food stamps due to uncounted dependent grandchildren is a problem we must help address today.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to eat simply, locally, and nutritionally and to encourage others to do the same.
Introduced flower commonly seen in summer, oxeye daisy, Leucanthemum vulgare.
July 31, 2018 Staying Cool through Summer's Second Half
For emphasis, let's reconsider some reflection points of early July in order to continue to live comfortably past mid-summer and to stay healthy and fit.
Eat cool stuff. Besides providing seasonal iced drinks and desserts, how about creating cold soups, fashioning chilled salads and selecting cold cuts for summer menus? Reserve the cooking to the non-growing season -- especially those dishes using hot sauces and needing to be served steaming hot. If summer cooking is needed, do it in larger batches and utilize the leftovers on succeeding days; this reduces kitchen cooking time, which naturally cuts interior heat generation and saves energy as well.
Wear light clothes around the house, at exercise, to bed and on special occasions. It may come as a surprise, but some folks will wear the same things in winter as in summer and never realize that their heating and cooling bills often reflect this desire to have the same clothes habits year-round. Wearing light colored clothing outdoors will be helpful as well. Don't hesitate to take a cold shower or go for a swim when the records break in August.
Use appliances less in summer and then only in the cooler parts of the day. This contributes to reduced energy overloads and ultimately the need for more powerplants. Clothes washing (and mechanical drying) in the hotter parts of the day add to the humidity and heat load of the residence. Consider exterior drying. Keeping computers and recording equipment on standby is unnecessary. Remember, converting to LEDs light bulbs saves on energy, not only in the lighting itself, but also in the lessened heat load of the house, an added incentive for AC and fan users.
Maintain comfort zones. This is a longer range suggestion. Americans often tolerate cooler summer temperatures inside air conditioned (AC) space than they tolerate in heated space in winter. Incredible? Hardly, for I have personally found this phenomenon occurring throughout our country during numerous environmental resource assessments. A building will be cooled to 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and the same space heated to 75 degrees in winter. The difference between what is tolerated in summer (62), if allowed in winter, and the 75 degrees, if allowed in summer, could save close to one-third of many heating/cooling bills. One can argue for personal psychological tolerance, and try to get dwellers to accept, as "natural," 75 degree interior space in summer and 62 degree space in winter -- and heating and cooling saving will accrue. Insist that room residents become familiar with thermometer readings and personal comfort zones. Withstanding moderately higher summer temperatures and moderately lower winter temperatures is healthier and reduces colds compared to over-heating in winter and over-cooling in summer.
Prayer: Lord, direct us to practices that make life more pleasant for all and are less demanding on our environment.