The Cumberland River
2009 Participating in National River Cleanup Week?
cleaning is a responsibility of all homemakers. Cleaning up our
study desks and work spaces in order to function efficiently is a
mandate for all laborers. What about the natural surroundings that
we do not individually own but are part of the commons? An ideal
principle (some would say a "rationalized statement to justify
inactivity") is that those responsible for dirtying should be
made responsible for cleaning. That raises the question whether
the concerned and tidy citizen should clean up rivers. And on a
broader perspective, should a citizenry that seldom catches
litterers be responsible for what they do?
hiking, I occasionally pick up trash and carry it back to dispose of
properly, but it does make me upset. We do not like picking up
after others who, if caught, would be fined $500 for littering.
This applies to trashing rivers as well as roadsides. For a long
time in our part of America and unfortunately elsewhere, rivers
became a sort of sewer system with "dilution being the solution to
pollution." "Out of sight is out of mind." Since carelessness
applied to both liquid and solid wastes, it obviously didn't take
long to see what kind of toll raw sewage and litter could exact upon
our wounded Earth. Such deliberate junking of the water or land
environment opens the door to still further destruction; it renders
landscape unsightly, discourages tourism, depresses the spirits of
residents, erodes the sense of community and affects wildlife.
rivers are treasures worth preserving in a natural state. However,
pristine rivers need tender loving care just like hills and forests,
a lesson learned by all volunteer cleaning crews. The junk cars and
appliances are too hard to pull out without heavy equipment, but the
tires and beer cans, the garbage bags and diapers can be retrieved
-- though it is tough and potentially dangerous work. Cleaning a
river harmed by carelessness makes us angry to the point of throwing
up our hands in disgust. A redoubling of efforts to find the
culprits and sentence them to become part of mandatory clean-up
crews is what would be best, for it would be a great learning
experience for them and us as well.
Hopefully, future river damage will be less as total garbage pickup
or accountability becomes mandatory. Learning responsibility takes
time and effort on the part of all whether local or distant cleaning
crews. Preservation programs depend on the local cooperation of all
citizens, since constant policing of isolated areas is out of the
question. If volunteer cleanup crews feel incensed, they may be
drawn into helping create long-term solutions. The one who throws
the litter needs to be responsible for cleaning it up; wrongdoers
are to be detected, reported and made to clean up the mess they
created. However, others are willing to help while we await the day
of greater responsibility.
Prayer: If cleanliness is next to godliness, then Lord teach us to approach
your character by exciting all to protect our rivers.
Farmer's Market. Berea, KY
(photo by Laura Heller, Creative Commons)
2009 Patronizing Tailgate or Farmers' Markets
your own gardening is our mantra and yet some cannot garden due
to physical disabilities or other circumstances. Thus the sources
of fresh produce may be limited to them, and here small-scale local
farmers can help fill a niche. Today, most folks want to supplement
their income, to grow produce, and to help distribute surpluses.
Marketing opportunities present themselves where one can meet
consumers, sell fresh materials at a reasonable price, share
gardening experience, and avoid the shipping cost and carbon imprint
of sending foods half way around the world often through large
corporate mechanisms. Behold, the rationale of the farmers'
marketing can be a win-win situation. Locally grown food is picked
quickly and sold fresh; selling it directly within the community
enhances the local economy; and purchasing consumers can have
firsthand knowledge of the produce's origin. Once the bare
structure of time, place and conditions has been established, the
producer is relieved of part of the promotion burden and direct
producer/consumer interchange eliminates the costly middle person.
and consumer can split the difference between wholesale and retail
prices for quality produce. The atmosphere can be friendly with
socializing opportunities: this is an easy way to discover what
customers want and to teach consumers how to prepare less familiar
vegetables and herbs such as kohlrabi and cilantro.
Appalachia, the numerous individual roadside sellers offer some real
bargains. However, a gathering of sellers in a designated market
area can have advantages such as proper parking and a wider
selection. The ideal market location is crucial, for customers may
get confused in trying to reach unfamiliar places. Marketing site
selection is paramount: choose a location that is easily reached by
the most people, that is safe, has convenient parking, and where
people feel at ease in making purchases. School or church parking
lots can serve as marketing locations, especially when marketing
during vacation periods. Some localities require specific licenses
and market regulations; they limit participants to regular local
farmers and exclude opportunists wishing to unload surpluses.
Producers' time is valuable and thus limited sales periods permit
more field work. Quite often farmers' markets offer lower prices
than supermarkets with comparable quality produce. Ideal markets
are available to those with limited fresh market opportunities.
Some consumers prefer programs that are subscription type purchases
of produce known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs); there a
consumer signs up to receive from a producer, bags full of seasonal
vegetables and herbs delivered to a preset place at specific times.
This service is preferred to tailgating because it cuts marketing
time on the part of the producer and consumer. The farmer comes,
delivers, and is back home for a day's work. However, contracted
amounts of produce may be hard to deliver during droughts.
Prayer: Lord help all of us food producers to find ways of feeding the nearby
and distant hungry and malnourished.
High school environmental education course
(photo by Tristan Brand, Creative Commons)
2009 Teaching Good Environmental Practice
visited a first grade class in Milwaukee where the heroic teacher
had persuaded all the students to grow beans in their individual
pots at the classroom windows. This sense of doing things with
one's hands was a low-resource way of training youth to the
importance of making each person's environment better in itself.
last few years our American environmental consciousness has been on
a fast learning curve: renewable energy will replace the strong
carbon footprint of past practices; families and communities need to
conserve resources and to live more simply; all strive to waste
less food; and grandparents are recalling the bad old Depression
times when everything was reused until it was worn out. Today, a
growing sense of outdoor gardening and exercise is opening doors to
engage in more wilderness hikes and vacations. Some who are linked
to agrarian roots see opportunities for urban youth to milk cows and
pick fruit. Urban and suburban families learn as groups through
growing gardens and harvesting the fresh produce.
Teachers, parents and guardians, together with youth, all are able
to learn together. Today's youths have a greater awareness of
environmental damage and need for improvement than we did over a
half century ago -- and they can even assist elders in learning.
Joint opportunities, such as cleaning up public areas, planting
trees, using local materials for construction projects, and
maintaining trails, abound. Nevertheless, unless steps are taken,
exemplary school projects can become abandoned during summer
months. On-going green practices are more challenging for schools
than in homes because of shut-downs during critical months. Still
teachers can give personal testimony to environmental practices
(vehicles, foods, and entertainment choices); they can organize
nature excursions, science fairs, and on-site demonstration
projects. Coordinating the teaching with nature center visits can
render a more holistic ecological experience.
and guardians become true role models when they spend extra time
talking about the local and global environment, initiate recycling
and resource conservation (water and energy) in the home, utilize
all domestic space well, drive energy efficient vehicles, engage in
gardening and edible landscaping, adjust the diet of all family
members, guide youth to green forms of recreation, take eco-tours,
watch constructive and educational environmental programs together
on television, and plan family vacations that become learning
experiences for all. Cooperative family and teacher programs may
include joint weekend projects with parents and guardians serving as
chaperons for extended tours -- and these learn as much as the young
folks. In fact, participating together is learning together.
Prayer:: We praise you Lord, our patient teacher. Help us to learn still more
while teaching others so that all of us can become part of an
expanding community of Earthhealers.
Bracken fern near trail, St. Ignace, MI
2009 Promoting National Trails Day
walking and hiking are satisfying for a wide range of people from
toddlers to the elderly, even though pacing and time may differ and
allowances may need to be made for those who cannot negotiate
difficult routes. Folks in top condition target the Appalachian
Trail or Pacific Crest Trail; others settle for shorter local paths
that give shorter-term exercise and recreation. Whatever the trails
chosen, all farsighted hiking enthusiasts see the need for a
national trail system somewhat analogous to the national highway and
interstate system. In this age of job-creation through federal
stimulus packages, let's not forget about a national trail system.
trail-making and maintenance left to the volunteer clubs and
non-profit organizations when such work is really in the national
interest? We can possibly imitate our Native American cultural
ancestors who conducted visits to distant tribes and carried on
commerce over a rather refined and extensive trail system, the
traces of which are still visible. Commerce is done elsewhere but
some visiting is still possible over trails. Yes, how about taking
vacations starting near home? A trail system can allow convenient
access to relatively distant places without the risk of using
dangerous highways; the trail use would have low carbon imprint, be
quite refreshing, and be far less expensive if trails are punctuated
with low-cost camping locations. Certainly those calling for
enhanced physical exercise ought to be pleased, for the chance to
participate in outdoor activity in natural settings would be
multiplied. Furthermore, trail vacations would be far less stressful
and dangerous than using the busy highways.
for a National Trail Network has come. Let's now convince state
legislatures and the federal Congress, which are fixated with such
weighty matters as health funding and continued employment for those
making advanced military weapons and luxury items. A well-developed
national trail system would allow people to have shorter or
longer-term nature experiences in a less costly manner than parks
and indoor recreational facilities. A national system would be
fairer than a planned rapid rail system (in its present format),
which only benefits the heavily populated corridor states. Still
trail networks have economic ramifications; they can benefit
outfitters, restaurant operators, and lodging managers.
American Hiking Society (AHS) is already acting; its volunteer
trail workers and maintenance crews are developing a mini-network.
The Southeast AHS office at Chattanooga, Tennessee, has developed a
detailed wall map of that region's existing and planned trails;
ambitious hiking-trail network programs are using railroad
right-of-ways for shorter trail systems in much of the country.
National Trails Day makes us want to take the spirit of our pioneer
and Native American roots and blaze a network. Scenic trails are
awaiting your coming. Please visit <www.AmericanHiking.org>.
Prayer: Jesus, who journeyed from Galilee to Judea and back on the trails of
the Holy Land, be with us as we promote trails today.
Litter at US Forest Service campground
2009 Camping Smart
World Environment Day we could talk about the global impact of
our unsustainable living and expand our discussion to all areas of
environmental practice where our carbon imprint is strong.
Moreover, curbing past practices requires encouraging words about
simpler though equally or more enjoyable recreational methods.
proper equipment. Nothing is worse than shivering with too
light sleeping gear. A tent should be able to endure bad weather to
some degree -- but no tent is perfect. The mattress is important,
even more so as we get older and seem to need more padding to permit
a comfortable rest. Sufficient clothing is always helpful for
protection both against the cold and against too much sun. A trusty
flashlight comes in handy as does extra rope to hang backpacks in
trees out of the range of night-stealing varmints.
Choose sites well. I have had a number of uncomfortable
experiences, one notably in Washington state when, upon waking after
a rain storm, I discovered that the tent was on the only dry island
in a flooded low-lying camp site. Ensure the site is level so as to
prevent downhill slippage; inspect the tent site well to get rid of
stubble or rocks that can disturb rest. If possible, camp away from
the crowd. Try to give yourself quality time and get to know the
place upon arrival while it is daylight. Secure access to water and
toilet facilities even though camping encourages modified routines.
the evening. Camp fires are nice at night but many places are
not allowing them due to pollution or fire dangers. Replace the
old-fashioned camp fire with a camp stove or a bright light to read
by in the late evening. Or maybe it is time to savor the darkness
and listen to frogs, crickets and the night critters.
simple things. If you are inclined to prepare meals at a
campsite, nothing is more frustrating than trying to cook a dish
only to find ingredients lacking. A far better approach is to bring
the basic ingredients partly prepared before coming or to create
very simple meals such as pancakes or macaroni, and to leave
culinary expertise for your more furnished kitchen.
respectful of fellow campers. Nothing is more disturbing than
campers staying up late, being loud, and forgetting that others are
trying to distance themselves from urban noise. I confess to having
been a past disturber and now regret it. Challenge noise makers
earlier rather than later, and ask them to go elsewhere.
Prepare for insects. If you camp in mosquito country, bring
netting and repellents. Keep the tent closed except when entering
and leaving. My only desire to return to smoking is when gnats get
in my eyes while I am hiking and camping, for smoke is a good
deterrent. But all in all, insects are part of camping -- and tend
to keep unhappy campers away. Experience insect-free camping.
Lord, inspire us to enjoy the outdoors in many ways.
Full moon, faintly visible behind clouds
Berry, well known eco-spirituality writer, passed to the Lord this
May he rest in peace."
Observing Strawberry Moon
is a full moon, Strawberry Moon, a regional name for a
favorite fruit of the early growing season -- delicious and eagerly
welcomed. Strawberries are meant to be eaten fresh or with cream or
cereal, or in pies, jellies and jams, ice cream and flavored
drinks. Although its taste is so long relished and enjoyed, the
humble strawberry triggers both good and bad memories for some of
strawberries was fun for awhile. My mother had a strawberry
patch for obtaining "pin" money during the Depression years. Being
from a family that included accomplished gardeners, she enjoyed
growing many things and especially strawberries. We were recruited
to assist with berry-picking though in a very busy late- spring
farming season. At first the pickings would go well -- five berries
to the pail and one down the gullet. In a short while my back ached
and my belly began having enough of that wonderful fruit. Physical
pain was complicated by family friction as well. Daddy disliked
Mama's taking us from the fields to the strawberry patch at one of
the busiest seasons of the farm year (haying and tobacco-setting) --
and each spring this required a certain resolving.
Strawberries involve other problems.
First their freshness is quite
temperamental. Their span of freshness is limited and so the period
of picking (they only last a few days ripe on the vine itself),
packing and delivery is quite time sensitive. Even with
refrigeration strawberries must move quickly to avoid spoilage.
Besides, commercial berries are often covered with pesticides used
for completing the process of bringing large, red, ripe strawberries
to your table with nice appearance -- and that means using chemicals
to help do the job. Furthermore, migrant strawberry pickers accept
this back-breaking labor; they must work gingerly in order not to
bruise delicate berries. For small farmers, picking is infrequent
and unpleasant but also temporary. For the migrant farmers such
work, if they are lucky to get any, goes for weeks on end -- and the
pay is not great either.
local strawberries while in season.
Since so many enjoy strawberries, some people seek to have them when
out of local season -- but is this a green practice? Certainly
local seasons can be extended by growing varieties that bear longer
or at different times. The purchase of air-freighted berries from
Latin America or other parts of the world, forgetting about the
carbon print of such extravagances, is certainly not ecological.
Being green means using local and seasonal food -- and most of us
live where strawberries can be grown only at certain times. Accept
the fact that fresh, organic and local strawberries taste better and
become a treat for this time of year.
Prayer: Lord allow us to observe each full moon that comes, to appreciate the
season that it ushers in, and to live fully in the enjoyment of that
season to the fullest.
Violet wood-sorrel, Oxalis violacea
June 7, 2009
Radiating the Trinity
You did not receive a
spirit of slavery leading you back into fear, but a spirit of
adoption through which we cry out, "Abba!" (that is, "Father").
On Trinity Sunday we often
hold back: how can we enter into this Mystery from our humble
station in life? However, we must be reminded that through our
baptism we are part of the divine family. We are to radiate
wholeness in a harmony of hands, head and heart that reflects the
harmony of the Trinity. Our hands gather in and mold the clay of
our surroundings; we seek to use them better, and in doing so we
express satisfaction in words from the mouth. The products of our
hands and head are not meant for us alone; through loving hearts we
share our works and experiences with others.
Action, reflection, and
application are like the Trinitarian "procession." The more our
inner lives are in harmony, the better we are able to radiate the
God, Who is within. Earthhealing enters the Trinitarian mystery;
through the work of our hands we re-create a damaged Earth; through
our rationale we strive to halt deterioration of our environment and
initiate restoration; through heart-felt efforts we apply known and
proven results for the betterment of other creatures and especially
Do natural non-human
creatures radiate the Trinity? Yes, all do and what is more
important is that it takes an effort for us to observe and be
influenced by their trinitarian imprint through a vision of faith.
We admire the beauty of other creatures; we interact with them and
this makes us better in so doing; we begin to see the power of the
Creator working through their unique characteristics; we feel a
sense of belonging to a community and this gives us a sense of new
life, a sense of God working in and through us; respect for all of
creation allows us to overcome our troubles and gives us hope that
healing of wounds can occur; we experience the depth of
participating in the divine family; we are more able to observe,
love and extend our love and respect to others.
Prayer: All Good
and Holy One, You establish balance and harmony on this Earth and
invite us to protect and enhance it. Teach us to become caretakers
of your creation. Allow us to spread the Good News, to work without
losing heart, and to be good homemakers for a healthier Earth.
Teach us to care for all things -- the trees, the wildlife and the
garden seedlings. Inspire us to participate enthusiastically in the
Earth's regenerative process by turning waste into resources for new
life and to halt the squandering of precious resources that really
belong to all. Finally, help us experience your creative Presence
in the spring season now coming to full maturity.
Fort McPherson, Nebraska, old mobile home reused
as office for tent
campground, decorated with neatly potted flowers
June 8, 2009
Today, three of us are
beginning a sightseeing and fact-finding trip to follow the route
that Pere Marquette, Louis Joliet and companions took on their
expedition of discovery of the Mississippi River system in 1673.
Why such an auto trip? We are limited on the amount of time we can
spend; this auto trip is being made by three, not a single driver;
the trip involves achieving several goals at one time including a
meeting I must attend. Furthermore, how can we know what flora and
fauna were observed by Marquette without really repeating part of
the same scenic path at this precise time of year when he made his
expedition? Should all sightseeing be justified?
First, sightseeing has
unique advantages: it expands the mind through new experiences; it
liberates us temporarily from our mental and emotional ruts; it is
relatively low-priced compared with other forms of entertainment
(except for the fuel involved); and it produces less stress, if not
trying to cram too much in too short a time. When sightseeing
through walking, hiking, jogging, biking or canoeing certainly the
fuel costs will be eliminated except the travel to get to some
launching or pick-up points.
Some sightseeing can be
done on public transport and can thus minimize non-renewable energy
use. A bus or train heading to the desired location can be a good
place to sit back and look at the countryside -- provided we choose
to travel light and comfortably. Nothing will irritate the
sightseer more than the little worries about baggage. Don't travel
too light, for wearing uncomfortable shoes in place of those we left
at home can also be irritating.
Sightseers must be
refreshed. Settle details with companions before the trip starts.
Discuss the journey in order that all know what to expect. Some may
enjoy sitting at a cafe and watching crowds; others want to move
on. Balance resting and moving. One may rest while another may
chose a leisurely walk -- golden sightseeing opportunities as well.
Reduce stress by avoiding crowded situations. Start very early in
the day before everyone else stirs. If driving, road time may need
to be limited so that drivers do not become excessively tired, for
that can be dangerous. Another difficulty is that sometimes the
sight itself may be distracting in a good sense; Interstate flower
plots may attract and distract the driver.
Choose fewer locations so
as not to crowd the itinerary. Forget about seeing everything.
Spend quality time at a given place and see it very well. I never
saw everything in Rome; however for a day in 1972 I accompanied the
late Jesuit classicist, Ed Miller, who was doing academic research
in Rome on the only visit I ever made to the Eternal City. Ed
invited me to go with him as he took pictures and notes on a limited
stretch of memorials along the Appian Way. We didn't go far, but
the day stands out in my memory, for I saw a small part of Rome in
very great depth.
Help us, Lord, to balance the
need to move about with the need to use all things including our
travel resources wisely.
Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)
June 9, 2009
On this Senior
Citizen's Day we recognize those who have moved through the
prime of life and are now part of the ever expanding community of
the very elderly. Their status is accepted either as a vengeance or
a blessing. Sufficient age teaches all of us to live with the
diminishment of mobility and agility and to do less strenuous
exercise. We elders must undergo drivers' retesting hurdles; we are
reminded that we are forgetful; we simply do not hear or see as
much. However material blessings include discounts and senior
menus, deference to the elders, and occasional compliments.
The senior does not panic
as much because of past experience; citizenship remains an
ever-expanding responsibility; freedom to be plain spoken exists
along with a sense of history to back up claims; we have less to
lose when there is so little time to gain more. Recalled past
mistakes become opportunities for exercising better judgment. The
youthful universe actually increases as a higher proportion of the
population becomes younger. Also the opposite becomes more
diminished. When I was ten, our eighty-some year-old neighbor (see
Joe Davis, story on this website) was ancient; today only the
ninety and hundred year olds seem ancient.
We are told that those who
want to live to be one hundred years live longer. In the inverse,
those who do not care to live will give up more readily, and this
shortens lives. Practicing a ministry of gratitude allows the
elderly to enjoy life no matter how long our allotment of earthly
time. Longevity is not always the result of our own doings, a fact
that is evident when we meet younger people who struggle with cancer
or heart disease, or attend a young auto-accident victim's funeral.
Life is fragile, unpredictable, relatively short, and a gift to
thank God for.
In this modern age we
observe public health and lifestyle improvements that give rise to a
rapidly expanding crop of seniors in the United States. That is not
true in some countries such as sub-Saharan Africa or Russia, ravaged
by AIDS or other diseases and now experiencing life span declines.
With growing numbers of senior citizens, priorities tend to change
and education issues take a back seat to health concerns. Seniors
can imitate the same self-centeredness as younger eager folks by
focusing on maturity issues of health care, housing, and retirement
benefits. We need to be reminded that citizenship extends to the
entire community, not just to the wants of a particular generation.
Centenarians are a
blessing and grateful ones a double blessing; their way of living is
worth imitating; their observations are generally insightful; their
mile-markers deserve public celebration. Most cultures treasure
their elders and ours must do the same. American seniors vote
frequently, clamor for benefits, and break the silence; centenarians
sometimes do the same.
Lord, a hundred years are as a day to You, but not to us. Help us
see the value of the time given to us as gift.
Native Kentucky rose, Rosa satigera
June 10, 2009
Separating Church and State
We Americans take our
separation of church and state seriously. We do not want an
established church with privileges and we respect the rights of
citizens to worship as they deem best without state interference.
Church and state do meet and even clash on occasion. I have offered
prayers at the Kentucky House of Representatives on a number of
occasions. Church institutions accept state fire codes and building
regulations and comply with norms for the common good. To allow
workers to have one day off, it would be more cooperative if "blue
laws" requiring one free day a week were imposed as in former
times. However, how far should cooperation go? Should we install
illegal devices to deactivate cell phones in the interior of
church? Should we shelter or should we expose illegal aliens?
Should church- related snake handling be outlawed? Should we
denounce the materialism of a consumer culture?
All said and done, we
generally approve of those who protect our separation of church and
state provided they do not harbor hidden biases that seek to deflate
the moral power of the Church to speak on matters of faith and
morals. On the other hand, church speakers who imply that those who
vote for or against certain candidates have improper intent and
ought to be cut off from a church community may transgress the
delicate separation boundaries. The deliberate targeting of
religious places as partisan political stations is where the
separation seems to get mixed up -- though the Church must speak out
on moral issues that have political implications and the state must
defend the rights of all citizens. The abortion, embryonic stem
cells and same-sex marriage issues involve different degrees of
legislative, judicial and executive activity as well as
church-related demonstrations and pressure. We recall the
nineteenth- century anti-slavery movements, which were
church-inspired, and recall the support of the American Revolution
by church communities.
Separation of church and
state takes on a new dimension in the twenty-first century with
Moslem groups demanding certain restraints on people in the press,
or the freedom (in France) to wear head scarfs and religious symbols
in secular schools. Sikhs want waivers on American military dress
codes to allow bearded soldiers to wear turbans. Federal prisoners
report that Christians are not allowed to wear rosaries, although
others can exhibit their religious symbols. Each case deserves a
sense of fairness. The current federal Faith Initiative also tests
the walls of church and state by asking who is employed at the
subsidized organizations. Religious school vouchers are allowed in
some places and denied in others; certainly it seems fair for
student safety that proper transportation, health benefits, and
protection be provided. What is interesting in all these issues is
that church/state separation is a dynamic process, not a stationary
wall that never needs reexamination and modification.
Over and over we are aware that
the political and the spiritual are always near at hand.
Lord, help us to recognize the principle of separation of church and
state and encourage a process of improved cooperation.
Yellow salsify, Tragopogon dubius
June 11, 2009
Returning Phoenix: Nuclear Power
Proponents of nuclear
power continue to dangle the promises and enticements of nuclear
energy before the general public. Why? The answer rests in the
inability of the nuclear industry to make a "profit" without heavy
governmental subsidy of technical development, construction,
insurance and ultimate disposal of waste materials. When $50
billion in funding is sought from the federal government we should
look carefully at this taxpayer waste and national security
problem. Nuclear power must cease because--
* Nuclear power is
expensive -- Far from early claims that this source would be too
cheap to meter, this would be an expensive source if all costs were
borne by the industry itself. Government subsidies make nuclear
power competitive with other fuel sources;
Nuclear power is not
needed -- Sure, we need non-carbon emitting fuels, but solar
and wind with equal subsidies can easily replace any demand for
risky, costly and technically sophisticated new nuclear
powerplants. Let us not forget that a serious effort at energy
conservation would save this country any need for new powerplants
for at least a decade - the precious reprieve needed to move over to
a truly renewable energy economy;
Nuclear power is risky
-- The safety guarantee is not perfect no matter how much
improved the engineering. The waste materials still have to be
disposed of properly and that problem has not yet been solved. The
threat of terrorist attack is always present;
Nuclear power requires
fossil fuels -- Don't kid yourself with wanting to reduce the
carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power has actually demanded
fossil fuel energy sources in order to dig the uranium ore, process
the material (one of the heaviest users of electricity generated
from coal has been the Paducah enrichment facility), transport the
materials to plants, and eventually dispose of the waste. To
present this as an absolute alternative to coal is fallacious and
Nuclear plants are
potential sources of bomb materials -- With all the recent
controversy over North Korea and its bomb-making capability, we must
realize that civilian nuclear facilities have and will continue to
be sources of weapons-grade materials. We can hardly approve a
double program of nuclear energy production and retention of weapons
by some nations and forbid it to other nations. We must examine our
Wind, the fastest growing
energy source, has no emissions problems and does not have nuclear
risks. The only thing windy about nuclear power is its claims, and
these are insufficient to allow more of such multi-billion dollar
plants along with their cost overruns.
Lord, give us the courage to tell things as they are, and to
continue the practice of opposing nuclear power facilities that we
undertook some forty years ago.
Tender young buds of Ruellia strepens
June 12, 2009
Juggling and Multitasking
Jugglers gain our
admiration and applause, for they do things many of us find
extremely difficult. I admit I can't juggle one object well, much
less many. My only unique ability is to balance the end of a garden
hoe by my little finger and walk a fair distance. So much for
unusual skills, but perhaps we sell ourselves short. Napoleon would
simultaneously engage a half dozen writing assistants by walking
around to each and dictating six different letters as fast as each
could write; he was a mental juggler.
On second thought we all do
some juggling and yet either we do not recognize the skill or are to
embarrassed to brag about it. We may not flip objects into the air
and catch them before admiring onlookers. Our juggling may be more
serious and requires another type of dexterity. My mother, as
housewife, cook, food canner, chicken raiser, vegetable and flower
grower, cow milker, entertainer, tobacco growing assistant, berry
picker, euchre player, and listener, could out-juggle anyone I've
ever seen. With a food turner, she could chop up already boiled
potatoes for frying in a hot skillet while talking or listening to
others -- and do other things at the same time. Now that was
juggling. She never hesitated to rise early and also at any time of
night, if anyone needed help.
We all inherit some
multitasking skills from home life or school work. We may work on
several ideas or books or special projects all in the course of the
same day and never regard this as juggling. Some of us have more
than one job and that takes juggling schedules; others will drive
and eat and listen to the radio and maybe even talk on the cell
phone all on the same jaunt to or from work -- these feats should
perhaps be outlawed; others of us will meditate and do routine
exercise at the same time or read and eat a meal at the same time --
better than doing them as a driver in congested traffic.
Looked at in this broader
sense, we juggle but do we do so efficiently? We may hide the
practice from others because they expect greater demands from us in
one or other area of our work. Certainly multitasking while
attempting to study or to concentrate on a needed task is virtually
impossible. Teachers and employers may rightly expect more. Does
our spiritual life get proper attention when we juggle the cares of
life throughout the day and night? Do we take time off and rest and
simply abandon the juggling act so as to give time to God? Juggling
can be entertaining, challenging, demanding, and skillful, but it
can also distract us from issues requiring greater concentration.
We can certainly highlight moms and dads of young families, but
shouldn't we think twice about imitating them. It is far better to
evaluate our use of time and ask about whether we have a healthy
balance in activities. We need time just to drive, rest, read,
study, or pray. Hear the porch sitter: "Sometimes I sits and
thinks; sometimes I just sits."
Lord give us insight into when to rest and when to act, and help us
to devote enough time to each in its own turn.
Flag day celebration, closeup
(photo by Matt McGee)
June 13, 2009
Celebrating Flag Day
Though I do not fly flags
or banners, I like to see them flying from neighbors front porches
and entrances. Certain fluttering cloths are quite colorful, are
adapted to the seasons, and give a sense of cheer to the entire
domicile. The home flags tell about the resident's willingness to
communicate with others. Thus these home flags become distinctive
symbols of the owner's individual personality. Quite a few
commercial and other institutions afford the flag a prominent place
on their own grounds. Often this demonstrates a type of patriotism,
saying, "I'm a true patriot; are you?" Over the years many in the
military have died or suffered injuries from keeping the flag flying
in fierce battle; others returned in a flag-wrapped coffin; still
others had their hearts stirred when they saw the flag flying after
calamity. We say much with our national flag during this current
longest American War.
Some commercial businesses
fly some of the largest American flags imaginable with massive flag
poles to keep them flapping in the breeze. It is their mark of
solidarity in this time of national conflict and financial
recession. Since the custom of taking flags down at dusk has
lapsed, current proper etiquette says that these flags ought to be
flown with a light beaming on them. This is not always the case but
it ought to be done.
In 1976 I lived in
Washington, DC, on the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of
Independence; I observed a flagman on the roof of the Capitol
building running flags up and down the pole. Undoubtedly a number
of people wanted a "flag" that flew over the Capitol on July 4th,
1976, but what did one second of flying mean? Sometimes our flag
waving has about as much significance as that hyperactive flagman's
work. We want to be seen with a flag, but spend little time
regarding the significance of flying it. Yes, we should show the
flag, if we want our land to be free and our outreach as a nation to
be caring for democratic aspirations and the well-being of all
Let's celebrate flag day
by asking some searching questions: is the Patriot Act truly
patriotic? Are the causes we fight for true causes or mere
subterfuges for those who want to make profits out of our land? Are
we truly expressing freedom in what we do as a nation? One of the
best ways of celebrating this day would be to read John Perkins'
book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (Berrett-Koehler,
2004). This tells about how others -- bankers, business persons and
governmental workers -- wrap themselves in Ole Glory and yet
undermine the welfare of the poor and indebted nations of the
world. We need to see how our lack of regulations has led to
situations that only cause more misery to some of the most indebted
lands. In 2009 let's celebrate Flag Day differently; let's reflect
on how we allow threatening financial situations to arise and
continue in our current economic and political situation. Don't we
need a Third Way?
Lord, teach us to avoid empty forms of national symbolic actions,
and still see that we as a people have a proper role to play in
healing our troubled world.
Rainbow over Anderson Co., KY
June 14, 2009
Building Up the
Body of Christ
Let our praise be full
and resounding and our soul's rejoicing full of delight and beauty,
for this is the festival day to commemorate the first institution of
this table... And so we, in accordance with his holy directions,
consecrate bread and wine to be salvation's victim.
(from Sequence of the Feast of Corpus Christi)
Today, we celebrate the
feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. For a majority of
Christians this is something to celebrate, because this is the heart
of our community worship, the center of our focus, the sacramental
presence of the Lord in our midst. We worship together and in doing
so we are building up the Body of Christ; we are becoming a people
bringing Jesus to others.
The Exodus account tells
the story of how Moses sacrificed young bulls as a peace offering to
the Lord; he sprinkled part of the blood on the altar and another
part on the people saying, This is the blood of the covenant
which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all the words of
his. Sacrifice is at the heart of the mystery of the Old
Covenant and of the New as well. Now we accept and enter into the
sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary in an event that becomes eternal
through its extension in space and time.
We gather together and
celebrate, but that can not possibly be a building up process when
some have an oversupply of goods and others are denied the basics of
life (a crime against humanity). We are resolved to do better.
Within our holy and liturgical gathering we are called to share with
each other in a spirit of gratitude or "Eucharist" and to remember
the saving works of Christ. This commemorative act becomes a
precious moment when past remembrance of sacrifice in sacred
history and future anticipation of new life meet together in one
time and place -- the NOW of our Christian lives. The Host (spacial
unity) and the Liturgy (temporal unity) merge into a single oneness
wherein we become united in the Body of Christ.
Furthermore, this table of
divine and human meeting is the foreshadowing of our sharing at a
world level when the past (history of human struggle) and the future
(a more perfect Earth and future eternal life) come together at a
present moment. Our gratitude is for gifts given in the past; our
thanksgiving is expressed in "Eucharist," words opening up to
saving deeds of which we are parties. We do not rest with merely
saying "Thank you," but in going out and living the life we are
committed to renew and improve. Our gratitude is expressed in
future deeds, and the nourishment to do this comes in the Bread
from Heaven. Thus our celebration is for actions to be undertaken
in union with the Lord and in building up the Body of Christ.
Teach us Lord about the mystery in which we participate and inspire
us to give the respect that is due for the gifts given and in
gratitude for the power to change a troubled world for the better.
You make us builders of the future and give us the nourishment to do so.
Fresh flowers from the tobacco plant. Pin
Oak Farm. Woodford Co., KY
June 15, 2009
Engineering Pharmaceuticals from Crops
through use of plants as substrates is a hope for many who are
determined to reduce medical prices in an age of sky-rocketing
medical costs. In this twenty-first century, attention has been
drawn to commonly grown plant sources. Some researchers have turned
to corn, soybeans, and other food crops to produce drugs, vaccines
and industrial chemicals. However concern arises that these
"pharma" plant products could be inadvertently allowed into the food
stream, and the enzymes, hormones or diagnostic compounds could
reach the wrong people. Cost reduction is important; side effects
of different forms of genetic engineering are equally so. Although
commercial uses are in the future, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) has granted about two hundred permits for field
testing. The question that is raised is whether a flow of pollen
from one crop to another could contaminate the vast farming belt of
a hundred million cultivated acres in America's Midlands.
It is ironic that
innovative processes meant for healing could contaminate our food
supply. This is likely since three quarters of the pharma crop
field permits from 1992 to 2004 were for those two mainstays -- corn
and soybeans. Also permits have been granted for use of rice,
barley, alfalfa, rapeseed, safflower, wheat, sugarcane and tomato,
all foodstuffs or plants from which food is derived. Contamination
could enter the food chain in many ways through this variety of
products. Several years ago the Union of Concerned Scientists asked
the USDA to halt the outdoor production of genetically engineered
pharma crops immediately, until a system could be put in place to
protect the U.S. food system and food industry. ("A growing
concern," Catalyst, Spring, 2005, p.5, available at:
<http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment>). This issue is still
being discussed and awaits detailed regulation.
Using tobacco as a
pharmaceutical source is a far safer approach. The third highest
number of permits given by the USDA is for use with tobacco. People
don't eat tobacco. Unlike pharma-corn, the tobacco is not
specifically genetically engineered. The subject of the engineering
is rather a tobacco mosaic virus, which uses the tobacco plant as a
host. Testing is done in areas removed from food cropland and under
specific controlled conditions such as greenhouses and isolated
fields. The engineered virus produces Aprotinin in the
tobacco plant infected with the virus, whereas Aprotinin can be
produced directly in a corn plant seemingly stuck in a sea of
cornlands. A key to leaving food crops alone is to use tobacco, to
the delight of the few remaining tobacco growers. However, the
pharmaceutical industry often favors corn and other food crops
because they are raised by experienced farmers, they are inexpensive
to grow, the genes are easily manipulated, and the dried seeds or
kernels can be stored without breakdown of the engineered
chemicals. However, such farmers live amid other food-growing
farmers and so contamination is highly possible and has occurred in
past genetic engineering endeavors. Let's keep our food safe!
Lord, teach us to treat all creation with respect.
A grandma, working in her garden at age 90
June 16, 2009
Sometime in June, after
all the summer plants (tomatoes, peppers and squash) are growing and
spreading their foliage, we realize that little room remains for any
late additions. We have to garden more intensively by reusing for
summer cucumbers and tomatoes the space that spring radish, onion,
lettuce and spinach areas occupied. A few boast that a
one-hundred-square-foot area per person could yield sufficient
vegetables and herbs for a year. I doubt this, even in the best of
conditions including season-extending gardening, heavy composting,
proper water conditions and of course intensive cropping. I
attempt to raise half of my needs on three times that space (300
square feet) and feel quite satisfied if and when that is achieved.
Some of my intensive gardening suggestions include:
* Give time to proper
planning and design whether that be a container garden on a patio or
roof or a vacant lot or backyard. Plan for when particular plants
will reach full maturity and even consider autumn crops to be
planted in summer months;
* Walking or working space
can be covered by the natural spread of the growing vegetables since
it is more needed in planting and in the initial stages of growth.
Just walk among them with care. The mature plants' growing space
must always be anticipated and so put squash at the edge so the
final plants overhang untilled space. An onion grows vertically;
its companions may take more spreading space.
* The amount of sunlight
during different seasons and the amount of shade from nearby trees
and buildings affect what is grown;
* Plant closely so that
all space will be covered by adult plants without crowding out
the next generation of plants;
* When space is at a
premium, choose crops that require less (e.g. leafy greens versus
green corn). Trellises allow cucumbers, beans and peas to grow more
vertically, thus freeing up space for lower-growing varieties.
Plant taller plants at the north side;
* Allow plants to thrive
in well tilled, organic soil with earthworms to enrich soil through
greater penetration of air and moisture. Natural fertilizing and
soil enrichment require composted materials, nitrogen materials such
as diluted urine, light applications of wood ash, and mulching.
* Many gardeners like to
introduce mulch of various types in order to smother weeds and
reduce tilling demands. I agree, and prefer either straw or living
mulch such as hairy vetch or the growing plants themselves;
* Utilize raised garden
beds for better drainage and aeration as well as ease at working the
Lord, give us the sense to respect the growing limited space available for the hungry
world and to use our land wisely.
A collection of common household chemicals
June 17, 2009 Dealing
Outdoor poisons exist and
people frequently come in contact with them during summertime
vacations and other ventures. The chance meeting happens quite
often unexpectedly and yet we must act promptly to assist the victim
who ate a poisonous mushroom or had an insect bite that causes a
severe reaction. In some cases the mishap will occur far removed
from emergency medical assistance, and so the first aid may even be
a matter of life and death if not severe discomfort.
In nature we find more
than the rash of poison ivy, which can be quite irritating to some.
Certain poisonous mushrooms and other plants like laurel are around
us at times and so, "natural plant tasters, beware!" Don't ingest
what you don't know. I was known to taste plants, and an Israeli
guide came up and told me, "I saw you taste wild fennel in Judea
but, remember all green plants here in the Negav are
Whether outdoors or
indoors some people get poisoned with some commercial substance
either intentionally or accidentally ingested or touched. Clues
must be recognized quickly: the condition of the victim as to what
he or she responds to whether happened or is now occurring is
important (not possible with the very young); the presence of poison
or container or the chemical odor; or some of the aftereffects such
as dilated pupils or vomiting. The focus centers on what we
non-professionals do immediately. Yes, call 911. They tell us that
if victims are conscious, get them to drink water or milk. Don't
give oils. I once saved my poisoned dog by forcing her to drink a
mixture of egg and milk. Save poison container and vomited material
for analysis, and do not contaminate contents. For those becoming
unconscious, keep airways open and give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary. Do not give
fluids in this condition; position the head of the victim so that
vomit drains away. If the person is in convulsions, position the
victim to prevent injury; don't try forceful restraint. Physicians
advise us not to force hard objects or even fingers between teeth.
If no medical help is around or one cannot contact an expert by
phone, and if the overdose is a medicine, the best advice from the
American Red Cross is to induce vomiting.
We add the normally
advertized caution -- keep poisons out of reach of children,
and yet we know the ability of the youngsters to "reach" is beyond
our imagination. Some may advise storing anti-poison substances,
but, except for epsom salts (a laxative), they would be of little
use. However, that is not advised after ingesting a strong acid,
alkali or petroleum product. Commercial chemicals and unknown
plants can prove harmful and even fatal. Respect more than just
plants with white berries. Get rid of commercial poisonous
substances -- this is good reason to practice organic gardening (no
pesticides are around). Practice caution with all chemicals.
Lord, You have made us
stewards of creation, which must be treated with respect and care;
help us always do so.
Enjoying a pasty on a picnic in the Upper
June 18, 2009
Enjoying International Picnic Day
With all our troubles how
can we take time to encourage, much less enjoy, International
Picnic Day? That is a good question when we regard our troubles
in a very narrow and biased manner. When we see that others of our
brothers and sisters throughout the world are also troubled, then
maybe our extended family relations cause us to look more closely as
to how a picnic may be a way out -- a sign that we can overcome
adversity within a world family context and not through some
brilliant theory or enlightened leader.
Local picnics have
potential for being pleasant and bonding. We say this even with
memories of past uninviting weather or insects or disagreeable
remarks. Yes, our entire collection of past picnics includes some
very pleasant memories. One I remember quite well took place in
Alsace on my 69th birthday in the little wine-famed town of
Hunawihr, Haut Rhin (France). My brother Frank, sister-in-law Mary
and I had cheese, fruit, French bread, sausage, and of course wine
in a public gathering place; we observed kids jumping off a low shed
nearby with squeals of delight; we were accompanied by wine
gatherers washing out their vessels in the late September twilight.
We remember certain picnics particularly well, including the place,
food and peoples, because we thoroughly enjoyed these memorable
International Picnic Day
becomes an opportunity to gather those who are of an international
community in one place and to celebrate our cultural differences and
how these enrich us by their presence. The informal picnic table at
park pavilion or the cloth spread on lawn, beach or woodland floor
becomes a more perfect form of togetherness much like Christ telling
all to sit down and enjoy the multiplication of the loaves. The
"International" aspect of a picnic can give it a special flavor.
New residents will find the picnic a perfect way of breaking the ice
and coming to know neighbors. Cultural dishes can be shared and the
ingredients noted and discussed. Barriers of difference evaporate,
and the fellowship extended to the fearful and shy. A well-designed
picnic gives a chance for added mobility for the restless, and an
opportunity to get to know an expanding community. It does not
require formal attire or a rigid schedule, for too much planning can
be counter-productive. However, picnics are not utterly spontaneous
for they require some promotion and even additional contact to
ensure that the reluctant are willing to come.
Picnics can be successful
far beyond expectations. We can have the chance to break out of
our troubles and to circulate, move about, allow children to play
together, and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine of the last of
spring. Tree foliage, possibly berries and nearby wildlife can add
a little flavor. Let's make picnics memorable occasions. Perhaps
one on this coming Father's Day would work quite well.
Lord, give us opportunities to meet, promote and have picnics to
which various groups come and enjoy themselves. Let these be
precursors to events that enhance world brother- and sisterhood.
A summer view, water's edge. Hematite Lake (Land
Between the Lakes)
June 19, 2009 Saving
the Climate at Low Cost
Most of us consider the
cost of halting and reversing the trends towards climate change as
being very high in times of financial crisis and rising health care
costs. How can we pay to address the global warming and other
climate change problems? Some say that we do not have to pay a
high economic cost. A recent study by McKinsey and Company as
reported in Acid News (No. 1, March, 2009, p. 13)
demonstrates that global warming can be kept below the critical 20
C rise at a cost of well below one percent of the global gross
domestic product (GDP). However the action must be done now.
Every year of delay
adds to the challenge, not only because emissions will continue to
grow during that year, but also because it will lock the economy
into high-carbon infrastructure.
About two hundred
opportunities are listed across ten sectors and twenty-one
geographic regions. Implementing these recommendations would result
in reductions in carbon dioxide level by 40% of 1990 values by 2030
(a 70% reduction from "business-as-usual" levels). This is a
reduction level necessary to stave off the worst scenarios (higher
temperatures, rising oceans, and more storms) of anticipated climatic change.
Three relatively low-cost
factors would be given attention:
a) Sustainable renewable
energy (wind, solar, etc.) could provide one-third of global energy
b) Energy efficiency could
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter; and
c) Deforestation (a major
driver of climate change) in developing countries would be almost
James Laepe of the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF) says, "The McKinsey study shows once and for all
that taking action on climate change is both urgent and
affordable.... The figures show clearly that not only can we move to
a low-carbon economy, but that the costs are manageable. Adopting
these measures will be a major step towards avoiding the worst
effects of climate change."
"Pathways to a Low Carbon
Economy" can be downloaded: http://globalghgcostcurve.bymckinsey.com
Two things worth noting in
such a discussion: employment costs occurring in curbing
non-renewable energy applications could be but are not necessarily
recovered by renewable energy jobs; costs in current energy
practices do not reflect the damage done to the environment through
pollution -- and this is a high current cost.
Teach us Lord to be reasonable in all our practices, to be
conservative in use of resources and to count costs properly.
A skyward view
June 20, 2009
Preparing for the Summer Solstice
Tomorrow will be the
longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For all who
cherish sunlight this is the apogee of outdoor activity whether
gardening or driving or hiking (or playtime, if young). Thus it is
truly a day northern naturalists of all ages celebrate.
Cancer is the
fourth sign of the zodiac, which is entered by the sun on this day.
Many of us are unmindful of astrology or the position of Leo,
Gemini, or the constellations. But the word "cancer" strikes us for
another reason, for the illness elicits fear in all and becomes a
life struggle for so many. This form of human misfortune comes in
many forms, and thus we feel relieved when declared free through
annual checkups. Thank God! Can we believe that physicians of a
century ago did not know what lung cancer was -- even though 400,000
will die from smoking related diseases this year alone in our
country (not all lung cancer).
All crave the sun's rays
to some degree, for we all need sufficient Vitamin D -- and sunlight
triggers its production. Some people are naturally better protected
than others, with skin pigment that will allow them to darken easily
and not be too affected by the direct sun's rays. Others are fairer
skinned and need additional protection from the summer rays. None
of us like to hear that too much ultraviolet light could affect the
skin, cause it to age and wrinkle, and even trigger skin cancer
which takes its toll. In this country skin cancer is a surprising
killer of thousands each year.
Get to know about actinic
keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma
(SCC) and malignant melanoma from literature developed by the
American Academy of Dermatology <www.aad.org>.
The amount of damage
caused by direct sunlight is sometimes disputed. Less debated are
the ill effects of tanning salons that are used by people who
generally want a winter tan. We don't want to take the trade away
from small business people, but some services are questionable.
Customers are misguided into thinking that this protective tan will
give them a sense of well-being and prepare them for beach and
boating activity in the summer season. Instead, it can have
devastating and irreversible effects on human skin. If one needs a
tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product.
The Golden Rule says, "Do
to others whatever you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12).
In the golden season of sunlight we could resolve to share concerns
about skin cancer. Let us each resolve this summer to generously
apply sunscreen, wear protective clothing, seek shade, use extra
caution near water, snow and sand and protect children from excess
sun rays. Turning one person away from the effects of a tanning
salon before it is too late is a worthwhile undertaking this
summer. And welcome the Summer Solstice.
Oh God, You give us our brother the sun to give us light and warmth
and to help things grow. May we respect this fellow creature and
protect ourselves from overexposure to sunlight.
Sunet at the end of a hot summer's day
June 21, 2009
Recognizing God's Power Without and Within
Who can this be that
the wind and the sea obey him. (Mark 4:41)
By now in life most of us
have experienced severe weather and we take precautions when the
sirens sound and the tornados approach. When we were children
growing up, my mother would light a blessed candle when the
electricity went out, the hail battered the roof with a terrible
sound, and the wind howled. I recall a terrible interior silence we
experienced as a family when considering our crops being battered
and our livelihood fading before the onslaught. We were so
powerless and totally dependent on God, our protector and strength.
That sense of
powerlessness and dependence comes to us when caught in a flimsy
boat on a choppy lake or when seeking to escape from a wildfire or
rising flood waters. We may also recall making our own sort of "May
Day" under our "perfect storm" circumstances. Perhaps our reading a
gripping story or experiencing a movie where others are seeking to
cope with such conditions is sufficient for us to get the message.
We turn now to today's
Gospel story (Mark 4:35-41), and the disciples awakening Jesus who
commands the storm, "Quiet! Be still!" And he adds a question to
his disciples after this powerful rebuke to the storm, "Why are you
lacking in faith?" Perhaps the storms of life that we all
experience are worthy of comparison. Do we have faith to weather
storms? Are we able to look beyond the present financial recession
and change our own habits? Do we believe that God will guide us
through the so-called "war on terrorism," the challenge from global
warming, the threatening foreclosures in our community, and the
health care mess that Americans experience? Do we reaffirm that the
Lord expects us to have faith in times of trouble?
Even in stormy times like
these we can be thankful for many things: the ability to avoid the
storms and seek relative safety; the calmness and courage that we
can exude to relatives and neighbors; the sure knowledge that there
is eternal life after the storm; the confidence that God is our rock
of refuge and is with us through it all; and the power that comes in
admitting our own powerlessness and yet spiritual empowerment
through God's grace.
During troubled times
others look to us to observe our faith in the future -- and so we
find storms are perfect opportunities to give witness to our faith.
We discover that those dying of fatal diseases and injuries can
manifest extraordinary courage that becomes some of the most
valuable lessons in life; these souls who weather the storms of
their own lives approach the judgment seat of God with open arms and
eager anticipation. Why? Because they do not fear dying and what
that entails. They gently say, "Fear not, you of little faith."
Yes, there is power in their words and deeds -- and this is divine
Teach us Lord to see our powerlessness in storms and your power within us to assist
others in weathering these troubles.
Odd insect (Family Reduviidae - Assassin Bug) on thin-leaved
coneflower, Rudbeckia triloba
June 22, 2009
Stinging Summer Insects
Among the unpleasantries
of summer, many list all sorts of biting and stinging things. For
the most part a good principle is Leave them alone and they will
not hurt you -- but how do you tell others who are scared by
insects? I find that many stinging insects apart from mosquitoes
have to be threatened before directing their venom on hapless
individuals. Maybe people should respect insects and not try to
swat them or duck and scramble about to avoid them. Stay cool for
they do not want to harm you. They sting to fight back, though some
wasps and others seem more aggressive at times.
While director of the ASPI
Nature Center, I took semi-annual tours on the frequently used paths
and among scattered buildings to remove wasp or hornet nests before
the human traffic began in late spring. This was our record that we
had made an effort to remove any possible causes of sudden troubles,
should an allergic visitor be stung by a wasp while walking around
the grounds. Our hope was, "Don't get hurt and don't harm the
wildlife -- and that includes the hornets." Actually the stinging
insect that bothered me most was the autumn yellow-jacket that
seemed to want all the food one would have at a picnic table.
Likewise, stepping inadvertently on one of their nests could make
them quite angry. Mud daubers are often mistaken for wasps and
eliminated although they are really among our non-stinging friends.
Honey and bumble bees will not harm us, if we don't get in their way
or threaten them. They are busy and we are not their pollen-bearing
targets. Just get out of their way.
Sometimes we have to deal
with stinging insects directly. In the past, my utter respect for
hornets too near buildings would make me launch an early morning
raid on their nest with a flaming torch, because they can quickly
strike back when aroused. Wasp nests were removed by dousing them
with diesel fuel or kerosene, far superior to commercial pesticides
(and less toxic) and far less costly. When hit by a kerosene squirt
or moisture cloud, most of these winged insects will fall straight
down. When the application is quickly delivered to the nest, the
colony is disposed of in a concise manner.
Some people may be highly
allergic to these bites and should have Benadryl or other
safeguards at hand. Highly susceptible visitors to nature settings
should carry these remedies in backpacks when on hikes and leave
some within easy reach of companions. We had one scare during my
quarter of a century in nature work when the wife of a worker
visited and had to be taken to the local hospital due to a wasp
bite. People differ in how they react to these stinging insects;
however, in some cases the allergy or difficulty is said to arrive
without any prior experience by the victim. Mainly stay clear of
possible nests. Don't be so stupid as to attempt to smell a flower
in which a bee is working. A bumble bee bite on the nose can be
Lord, teach us to respect all of nature, and especially insects that
could hurt us, if we meet them in the wrong manner or the wrong time or place.
Shinleaf, Pyrola elliptica
June 23, 2009 Staying
Alert to Environmental Sleepers
problems have been addressed with a certain amount of success:
airborne sulfur oxides, mercury in water, and lead from gasoline
near roadways (now banished). However, other areas are overlooked
and these include greenhouse gases that involve problems confronting
us today. Overlooked problems include:
Space expansion --
The overbuilding of interior commercial, educational, worship, and
domestic space in the past two decades has resulted in immense
increases in resource demands for heating, cooling, construction and
Exotic Species --
The purchase of and the introduction in other ways of exotic flora
and fauna have opened the way to introducing often uncontrollable
(invasive) pests, which can threaten the native species. This
introduction is regarded by some as the most serious environmental
problem of the twenty-first century and is the product of
carelessness and greed by commercial interests.
More home gadgets
-- In the kitchen an old refrigerator is replaced by a highly
efficient one using half of the energy; the old frig is relegated to
the garage as a beer storage unit. Did appliance energy expenditure
go down? No, it increased 50%.
-- The prowling cat can take down many birds over the course of its
lifetime; millions of wild animals are lost to the loose felines and
canines in our urban and suburban areas.
Nuclear power --
The most prominent reemerging and overlooked problem is
nuclear power (June 11). Several environmental writers have broken
with tradition and have come to favor nuclear power to counter
global warming by carbon-containing fuels. The proponents include
James Lovelock, developer of the Gaia Theory, StewarT Brand, founder
of Whole Earth Catalog, and the late Hugh Montefiore, who was
a trustee of Friends of the Earth. These became convinced that
nuclear energy's record is improved. Brand says that the problems
such as waste storage, accidents, high construction costs, and the
danger of weapons-grade material falling into the wrong hands are
surmountable -- as though a non-cooperating environmental movement
is what causes them to persist. They have said that Three Mile
Island and Chernobyl will not happen again. Really?
Resource and energy
conservation, better regulations and renewable energy alternatives
are better ways to go for reasons so often mentioned. Supporters
know nuclear power reemergence needs government support for tax
breaks, hastening the licensing process, insuring against
calamities, helping to pay for the enrichment processes, guarding
the transportation of wastes, and providing for disposal/storing of
wastes for generations to come. It is simply not able to exist on
its own without taxpayer support.
Lord make us alert to how we
can address existing and reemerging environmental problems.
"Veggie" burgers, over hot coals
June 24, 2009
In writings several
decades ago the phrase Follow dietary guidelines gave the
impression that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had the last word
in diet. However, the food pyramid of that period has been put to
rest and a more complex system installed in its place. That is
described in many current information outlets. Rather, let us
attend to diets based on the following "eating right" factors:
access to nutritious affordable food; food preferences and tastes;
seasonal availability; age and current amount of physical exercise;
proximity to cooking facilities or prepared food; sufficient time
for food preparation; and personal needs related to allergies, blood
pressure, illness and cholesterol levels.
Some of the older
guidelines such as the USDA pyramid of several decades ago still
apply in general: eat a variety of foods including selections of
fruit, vegetables, etc.; maintain an ideal weight since over half of
us fall into the category of overweight and beyond; avoid too much
fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol (fried foods); get adequate
fiber (whole grains, vegetables and fruits); avoid too much sugar in
the many commercial products that appear so tempting; avoid too much
sodium; and finally "if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation."
* Consider the doctor's
advice and treat yourself to a more healthy menu on all occasions.
We do not want to engage in a debate over the various well known
weight reduction diets. If we keep the weight under control, the
debate is moot. But must Americans suffer from a plentiful supply
of lower priced food and must eat what they can afford. Others
seldom cook and avail themselves of fast food restaurants with
tempting menus, a host of smorgasbords, buffets and all you can eat
* Admit that we change
food diets over the years due to new varieties and loss of appetite
for certain foods. Now is the time to consider reducing red meat,
saturated fat, excessive salt, and refined-sugar foods. Think twice
before we buy the snack food.
* Admit that as we get
older we do not have the heavy carbohydrate requirements of youth --
the quick energy fixes. Avoid the impulse to eat what the crowd
* Eat what you grow and
grow plenty of healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs. The brassicas
are full of needed nutrients and so grow cabbage, broccoli, Brussels
sprouts, kale, collards, kohlrabi and cauliflower. Much depends on
the creative ways we fix our home-grown produce so that it is
appetizing for all.
* Snack less and then
only on more nutritious food: not beer, sugared soda and chips but
plain popcorn, peanuts, fruit and vegetables.
Lord, food means so much to all of us; help us get the right items
and consume them in moderation.
Wildflowers of Montana
June 25, 2009
Learning from Custer's Last Stand
I visited the site of
Custer's last stand on the 110th anniversary of that tragic event
and was filled with sorrow, shame and desolation. The Montana
landscape appeared peaceful enough in the rolling treeless hills.
The locations of each fallen soldier brought back in imagination the
gun smoke, waves of warriors, battle flags, and shouts and curses
all in one. For all these reasons the peace-filled atmosphere gave
way to thoughts about senseless conflicts that could have been
resolved peacefully. There was much tragedy to the event that took
place in Crow reservation territory 133 years ago today. General
Custer and his military groups were in the process of subjugating
the Native Americans of the Great Plains. He had a career with some
success in Civil War campaigns, but he overestimated his ability to
bring all these native people under governmental control. The
events on that fateful day were due to his lack of understanding of
the forces allied against his small unit.
That massacre was not the
only tragedy; a second greater one was that the United States was
slow at learning lessons near the one-hundredth anniversary of the
Declaration of Independence. The Civil War had been won only a
decade before, and the aftereffects were being played out throughout
the South. Military solutions were regarded as sure solutions to
all social and cultural problems. Self-righteousness and a growing
sense of progress were intermingled. New inventions such as the
telephone and new land acquisitions (Alaska) made the rising
American star seem unblemished even in the squabbles with the
Indians. The haughty campaign of subjugation of a native people
hardly paused, for, in a matter of weeks after the Custer defeat,
veteran field-tested military companies were brought in and the
conquest continued with greater intensity. Forgotten was respect
for the Native Americans' rights to land and independence. Had a
peaceful solution been tried, the fighters at Little Big Horn would
not have died in conflict.
Equally tragic is that the
Little Big Horn coalition of Native Americans that had successfully
withstood Custer was not sustained. Rather it crumbled before the
American military might and the Great Plains Native Americans
essentially lost their livelihood, their lands, and their sense of
military prowess, which had just been gained in battle. Henceforth
the Native American power would retire before the onslaught of the
American army. Can anyone celebrate Little Big Horn? Can we learn
national lessons from past behavior? Was the event on June 25,
1876, repeated in Vietnam and is it again being repeated in the
Middle East? Is the military approach in Iraq or Afghanistan the
way to proceed, and does history teach us anything? The Custer's
approach was not satisfying then and it is not likely to be
successful today either. Diplomacy is always better than conflict
and citizens ought to speak up for -- No more war!
Lord, teach us Americans to learn lessons from history and to be
fair and willing to settle all our differences diplomatically.
Exploring the wilds of Medicine Bow National
June 26, 2009
Presenting the Gift of Peace
Although the Iraq conflict
is winding down after six and a half years, the warfare in
Afghanistan is still being waged. When will we again be at peace,
or do we relegate this set of affairs to a volunteer army and the
military alone? As a nation we say "peace," but do we really? Is
peace possible with our approval and support of our overarching
military/industrial complex? Do we distance ourselves from the fray
and blame the war on others?
Peace is our hope, for it
is an anticipated gift for individuals and a nation as a whole. We,
as individuals and communities, yearn for peace and seem to call for
it. However, do we question the profit-motivation that includes
sending arms south of the border to arm the drug cartel warriors in
Mexico? Do we look at the multitude of automatic weapons in this
country? Perhaps we Americans think we have a constitutional right
to bear arms and so should we only allow muzzle-loaders that the
framers of our constitution considered to be "arms?" Today, we
would witness far less gun violence if the only arms that citizens
could possess were these muzzle-loaders. Remove the other guns and
the ammo associated with them; certainly Congress would have to
contend with a powerful weapons production and marketing lobby along
with the National Rifle Association.
Peace is a process
requiring patience, ingenuity, and cooperative effort. That is not
a totally human undertaking for these qualities that constitute
authentic peacemaking are gifts from the Holy Spirit. To be
peacemakers does require our active participation, but we act in an
enlightened fashion -- and must acknowledge the divine source of
that enlightenment. Our individual peace begins in the soul and
moves out to external expressions, and that fundamental peace that
the world cannot give on its own is from God. We find peace with
the Lord in the totality of our faith experience, and in an
atmosphere of journeying together with others seeking peace. If we
are disquieted and our souls are in flux with many anxieties, we are
hardly able to initiate and maintain the peacemaking process. God's
gift of grace can permeate our stony hearts and turn them to
World peace is fragile and
easily swept away by violence, selfishness and greed. It takes an
enduring love of our fellow human beings to break through the clouds
of despair, anxiety and doubt. In order for this world peace to be
permanent, we must use some of the one and a half trillion dollars
consumed each year in defense and military use. Beating swords into
plowshares means: feeding the hungry, giving employment to those
not working, treating the ones suffering from diseases, and
protecting the innocent. The song to "give peace a chance" is more
than a mournful plea. Military planning does not ensure true peace
and avoids dealing with the causes of conflict. Military action on
its own is just a pause before the next battle. From non-violence
springs true peace.
Prayer: Lord, let
us hear once more, "Peace is my gift to you." Help us to present and
popularize viable alternatives to warfare.
Enjoying the sensation of warm sand along the
shore of Lake Superior
June 27, 2009
Remembering Helen Keller
Helen Keller, born on this
day in 1880, overcame her difficulties in a spectacular manner. She
was sightless and soundless and yet overcame these immense barriers
to traditional education through diligence, enthusiasm, courage and
hard work, and the assistance of good patient mentors. We are
impressed by people who accept their conditions and can live fairly
normal lives, get advanced degrees, go to and from work on busy
subways, and act as independent agents even though they are
physically challenged in various ways. We hear about handless
people who write, play musical instruments and use their computers
with their feet. A neighbor near were I grew up lost limbs while in
the military and yet came back to civilian life and raised a family
and farmed in a rather routine fashion. He gained our deepest
admiration and I was privileged to conduct the ceremony at his
The Helen Kellers of the
world make us aware of the gifts we have with limbs and seeing eyes
and hearing ears. We can appreciate gifts of sight and mobility
given by God, through those who lack some of the normal means of
carrying on -- and Jesus said, "He (the blind man) was born so that
the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3). The blind
and immobile often have a deeper sense of gratitude than those with
full use of normal organs and limbs. We need to consider these
folks as mentors; they encourage us to overcome minor handicaps,
though we often hide, ignore or deny that these handicaps exist.
Watching people overcome major hurdles inspires us to tackle our
personal problems with a renewed vigor. If Helen Keller could make
it through a high quality life, so can we. She became a role model
for us all, and we hold her high when some seem discouraged by
speech, hearing, learning or social defects.
We tend to blame people as
though in blaming them we are excused from doing anything for them.
Though the challenged people do not always seek our assistance, we
can still be sensitive to their needs and willing to give assistance
on occasion. We have much to learn, even how to interact with
people who are blind or forced to use wheelchairs or walkers.
Also on Helen Keller's
birthday we note the great strides being made to secure physical
aids for physically, mentally, emotionally and socially challenged
individuals. These technical devices range from computerized word
recognition programs to motorized mobile chairs, and from seeing eye
dogs to better hearing aids and eye care. A major industry has
developed and engineers have come up with some ingenious
inventions. The attention given, in modern design and construction,
to handicapped lifts, entrances, restroom facilities and pavements
is a result of the American Disabilities Act legislation and
implementation. We are more aware of others and we are drawn to
assist them through better doorways and elevators.
Lord teach us to see in others
who lack physical gifts that seem so ordinary that these functions
are your gifts to us for which we need to be constantly growing in
A best friend for life!
June 28, 2009
Improving the 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 from the dead. 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 raising the
little girl to life (Mark 5) 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 find 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
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 our good graces and effort 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 importance 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 the mother tempted to terminate a pregnancy,
to the desperately poor, 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.
Blackberry pie, made from fresh berries
June 29, 2009
Picking Early Blackberries
The early bird and the
early blackberry picker have much in common, for the early specimen
always tastes better. Those of us who have our favorite briar
patches know that in different places berries will ripen at
different times; the blackberry-bearing span can be as long as six
weeks -- if we know all the right locations. I find the earliest
just before the end of June about the time of the end of the wild
raspberry ("black cap") season. Appalachian Trail hikers note that
elevation changes have much to do with the ripe berry season, which
can extend over several summer months.
Let's use the term "taste
berries," because as we age we find picking many berries to be a
chore. That practice borders on hard work, even though when young
in the Second World War period we could get a whole quarter for a
gallon and a dollar for a bucket of berries. At that time in life
the monetary incentives always made the thorns, thickets, scratches,
sweat, ticks, and occasional black snakes a little easier to
endure. Berries were best right off the vine but the picked ones
had value as well. I had a dog that liked blackberries, provided I
picked them for her -- though her offspring had no use for them.
She would be fed from my left hand while I would gather for human
consumption with the right hand.
Blackberries take such an
effort in older age that we appreciate those who make the effort to
pick berries for others -- a most generous gift. Berries in smaller
amounts freshen the breakfast cereal bowl or serve as topping on ice
cream. In more plentiful quantities, berries can be transformed
into a blackberry pie or cobbler; and in still larger amounts they
may be turned into homemade jam or jelly. My mother would preserve
blackberries whole and these were a delight in the middle of winter,
a long time after the growing season. Now these berries can be
easily put into a freezer and the juice can be thickened and turned
into a syrup which can add zing to pancakes.
Blackberries are so common
in much of temperate America that we take them for granted. They
are often the first to populate and give a sense of productivity to
barren landscapes and cleared land under utility lines.
Blackberries are dependable but flourish best in years with adequate
moisture. Blackberries are hearty and when we tramp down the briars
to get to the ripe fruit, the new briars seem to thrive with the
added space for next year's crop. The taste of blackberries varies,
depending on the portion of the season and the land on which they
grow. They are tolerant of both shade and sun. Furthermore, when
blooming in May or hanging heavily on the canes, blackberries give
beauty to the countryside and a sense of well-being to even the
Thank You, Lord for the gift of blackberries, for these humble
creatures teach us how we ought to discover our place in the
universe -- people with a distinctive inherent richness, who can
beautify barren places, and who can offer refreshment to others at
certain periods in our lives.
An evening drive by africultural fields, Ft.
June 30, 2009
Mandating a World Grain Reserve
A crime against humanity
occurs each time a human being dies from lack of proper food and
nourishment. Thus the reason for the strong word "mandate" in the
title of this reflection. Each day some three thousand unfortunate
human beings have their lives cut short because of lack of food --
and all the while many live in utter luxury and do not think twice
about wasting food and other resources. God forgive us! In the
past year food prices spiked both because of higher fuel costs and
because one-fifth of our American corn crop was converted to ethanol
to help run our gasoline guzzling vehicles. God forgive us! Just a
single wintery year (these have occurred occasionally in the past)
without a major grain harvest would be horrifying for this world's
poor. Golden fields of grain are the sign that well-being will be
with our world for another year, but the Earth's people live with a
slim food surplus.
What is one way to address
the current malnourished in Africa and parts of Asia and Latin
America? Ideally the best way is to furnish the malnourished with
nutritious, locally grown food. However, in many places drought,
war and disruptions cause the need for food to exceed the ability of
local farmers to provide sufficient quantities. In such cases (and
they occur unfortunately with regularity) the need for immediately
available food is urgent. We all would starve waiting for a crop to
mature. We must have our daily bread today. To prepare for such
cases of urgency, an emergency grain reserve must be available. In
1981, through the efforts of "Bread for the World" and other groups,
the United States set aside a supply of grain exclusively to be used
to avert famine around the world. That reserve still exists but is
not stored in extensively dispersed areas of the poorer nations
where need could or does suddenly arise (Sudan, the Horn of Africa,
Storage depots do not
come without a price, for they must be built and maintained.
Reserves may be a boon to traditional grain producing nations and
still harm local producers in the parts of the world targeted for
distribution unless a broad-based procurement program is
instituted. Filling storage areas with locally-produced grain is
ideal but is not always possible. The malnourished can be targeted
through special feeding in health clinics, churches, and school
lunch programs. The UN World Food Programme and associated groups
should maintain such facilities with the cooperation of the host
nations. Where possible we should support local food production and
discourage one-crop corporate farming in food-production regions.
Storage should include
more than grain: namely dried beans and other legumes, cooking oil
and powdered milk. Gathering, storing, and replenishing as well as
distribution in time of need all require proper supervision and
protection. Natural and human-produced calamities occur all too
often. Short- and long-term food needs exist and satisfying them
takes a major effort on the part of many.
Lord teach us to cooperate with You by giving to all access to their