June is the season of the verdant garden, when vegetables grow by leaps and bounds. Bright red beets and leafy Swiss chard punctuate the greenery, as do the yellow blooms of zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers, and blossoms on tomato vines. Wildflowers include white and yellow yarrow, black-eyed Susans, wild geranium, and first appearance of wild chicory. The countryside is ablaze in color and filled with summer scents. It is June apples, sour cherries and crimson mulberries, rows of hand-high corn, fields of green soybeans, and the scent of new mown hay and fragrant Japanese honeysuckle. Springtime's freshness is starting to recede in the heated glare of June's weather, which is sometimes punctuated with rumbling, erupting thunderstorms. June is bittersweet, with gnats and mosquitoes; pause and sweeten it with a cool drink of lemonade.
Hardy noble-standing fruit tree yielding summer's exquisite taste; you were made by God's loving hand to become my spirit creature.
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Rosa satigera, native Kentucky rose species. (*photo credit)
June 1, 2017Earthhealing and the Need for Planning
Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell, and what a fall it had! (Matthew 7:27)
The message that Jesus tells us is to build our structures on solid ground, whether they be our own individual spiritual edifices or those involving development in a broader community. From his teachings we know that global planning to save and heal our Earth is worthy of solid and realistic discernment. Are we aware that rain will come again and again? We will have floods and gales and hurricanes, and expect more extreme weather with climate change. Such is a belief in being serious about the future and is a very different from a frivolous eating, drinking and being merry for we will soon be gone. It is a firm belief that we must share the good qualities of our fragile but amply providing planet with those who will live and struggle after we are gone. Our concern is focused on continuing to furnish a high quality of life for future folks.
We are called to heal our wounded Earth, which has been harmed by the lack of planning and by chaotic "claiming" by some. They are the ones who waste resources, squander funds that should go to building habitats for the poor, attempt to purchase "rights to pollute" with a certain blessing from so-called environmentalists, and who are motivated by excessive desire for profit. Only half of our environmental reflection planning should focus on faulty activity; the other half must be on constructive alternatives. Rather we must not concentrate only on those who build a structure on sandy soil, but also on those who construct on solid rock foundations. We need to gather excess food for the hungry, use funds wisely for the needs of the poor, confront polluters of our air and stop their unsafe practices.
An example. Worse than non-planned activities, are planned but inhuman ones. An abomination (ab + homine = away from man) is an inhuman action derived through deliberate planning with the silent assent of a permissive people. We know that abominations such as concentration camps or killing fields cry to heaven and test God's mercy. So do so-called "environmental practices" that are fundamentally socially unjust. Such a one is the construction of a pipeline to carry ethanol from the traditional breadbasket of the Midwest to the Northeast to be used in ethanol-guzzling vehicle. In an age of rapidly rising food prices and food riots in Haiti and parts of Africa this is effectively removing lower-priced food from the tables of the poor so that the affluent can have a more plentiful supply of biofuel. Yes, an abomination -- all in the name of ecological progress.
Prayer: Oh Creator of all, we are given a mandate to protect and use the resources at our disposal properly and to leave our Earth a better place. At times we are distracted through being drawn to material comforts and concerns. Bring us back to proper discernment, for our window of time for planning is closing.
Grains of sand accumulated on sun-warmed skin.
June 2, 2017Now Is the Time to Think Smaller
During the last half century, people's demands for space have increased greatly. In fact, Americans now want about double the amount of space per person as inhabitants used a half century ago; this applies to living, vehicle parking, worship, educational, recreational and commercial space.
The size of the average American household dropped steadily from 3.67 persons in 1960 to 3.17 in 2015. During that time, the average house size increased from 1,100 square feet in the 1940s and 1950s to 2,150 square feet in 1997 and 2,600 in 2015 -- from 290 square feet per person to 820 today. Other features of homes have also increased in size and number. In 1967, 48% of homes had a garage for two or more cars and this has increased to 79% in 1997. In 1975, 20% of homes had two or more bathrooms. Now over 50% do. And the expansion in size continues in virtually every area from television screens to central air conditioning. Nothing manifests this trend to increased space more plainly than educational institutions that tear down a building after a few decades to build an ever bigger one to meet the demands of more affluent clientele.
Some are having second thoughts about space "needs." The escalation of size has its limits and some say, "Wait a minute; why is bigger better?" Sprawling new shopping centers with their Walmarts are now less expected than the abandonment of such malls; digital shopping is rapidly making the trip to the suburban sprawling marketplace less appealing. Even Walmart is having second thoughts. Some of the abandoned central city spaces have been given new uses when the digital fingers are doing the walking and driving. The suburban escapes are now finding central residential bases a way of avoiding the congested commuting of a few years ago. Energy conservation is starting to become a factor in housing whether existing or new ones.
Spacial expansion is a detriment of environmental impact. People who use their gas-guzzler to recycle a bag of metal cans now count fuel costs. Do we have to be bigger in order to be better? The increased interior physical space not only took precious materials to build, but it places a heavy demand on world resources in heating and cooling as well as maintenance. The practice of expanding space then becomes the number one cause of increase in resource use in our so-called developed world today -- and the toll has been enormous. Unfortunately the drive to expand spatial needs by the affluent is reaching China and India where more and more of the affluent want to be like Americans and Europeans. We pass like two ships in the night. Mother Earth is large enough for all our needs, but certainly not all our wants. Hopefully the world policymakers will awake to the philosophy that smaller is more beautiful. We are happy to downsize for the sake of the planet.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to know our physical limits, to be considerate of the needs of others, and to share our resources.
This is National Trails Day and an appropriate occasion to celebrate the trails and rivers of our nation. In fact, in earlier times the rivers were the major trailways of Native Americans and early explorers and settlers of America always blessed with a vast network of navigable streams. All rivers are worth preserving in a pristine condition and all are worth celebrating no matter what condition, for they are the natural highways of our land. We know the blue Danube, ole man Mississippi, the wide Missouri, the wonderful Shenandoah, the beckoning Red River, and on and on. Rivers have frightened us, lulled us, mesmerized us, opened vistas for easy transportation, turned our water wheels, formed our boundaries, acted as barriers in times of flood, and given us the silt needed to grow crops. Rivers have given quality to this troubled Earth and to our lives.
Trails are either made by animals or people who naturally follow already existing passageways. However, these can be either naturally maintained or allowed to be widened into roadways and highways of immense imprint on the landscape. While continued to be maintained as natural trails they can become the haunts that lure off-road vehicle enthusiasts, who have ravaged the stream beds and rip up the land. In our area, unpoliced riders override river banks, which support some of the finest and rarest orchids and wildflowers in America -- making these beautiful but delicate plants all the more endangered. Preserving all scenic rivers becomes a concern for many residents and nature lovers.
Recreation can be a major benefit derived from presence of trails and use of rivers in scenic parts of America. Sightseeing is always the number one form of recreation. Hikers, canoeists and fishers find trails and river corridors of delight, and so can those who swim or wade or select sites for baptism. The river lures wildlife -- beaver, deer, mink, blue heron, geese, duck, wild turkey, copperhead snakes, a dozen types of fish and a variety of rare and endangered mussels. Perhaps the sights of rivers appeal most strongly, though the taste, feel and smell of rivers add to a river's ambiance. Rushing water draws people in as do the scenic trails that wind through our land. Living water has its own particular sound, one that can hardly be described in words; as though a chorus, the gurgling river is accentuated by the coyote bark and the whippoorwill. All must be preserved for others.
Though tens of thousands of years old, restless rivers are always moving and carving landscape. Their movements seem to inspire us to act as well. Living water energizes us, calling out that it should not be caged or tamed by dams, but rather allowed to flow free to the sea. If rivers were to speak, they would call for freedom, protection and loving care. And they smile when people celebrate their presence on a continued basis.
Prayer: Lord, Source of living water, inspire us to care for and celebrate the gifts of nature laced with trails and rivers.
Letter to American Church Leaders
A deliberate effort by the Trump Administration is to destroy an effective environmental movement in order to prolong the fossil fuel economy at the behest of wealthy corporate interests. Solid scientific evidence indicates that doing this risks the vitality of the planet. Those of us who are pro-life see a moral danger here that church leaders remain silent at the cost of their own leadership in these urgent times. Our common Earth is at stake and this Administration's policies must be exposed and the action of abandoning the global agreement be publicly condemned.
The Trump Administration has undertaken the following in its first four months of existence through executive decrees that reverse previous environmental regulations:
* Approved the Dakota Access Pipeline;
* Revoked a rule that prevented coal mining companies from dumping debris into local streams;
* Cancelled a requirement for reporting methane emissions;
* Approved the Keystone XL Pipeline without due process;
* Lifted the freeze on new coal leases on public lands;
* Withdrew guidance for federal agencies to include greenhouse emissions in environmental reviews;
* Reopened a review of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks;
* Ordered "immediate re-evaluation" of the Clean Power Plan;
* Ordered review of rule limiting methane emissions at new oil and gas drilling sites;
* Ordered review of offshore drilling policies and regulations;
* Withdrew a rule that would help consumers buy more fuel-efficient tires; and
* Delayed rules increasing energy efficiency standards for some appliances and some federal buildings.
Now on top of these punishing and unreasonable actions is added one of a truly destructive nature, namely, the withdrawal of the United States indorsement of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. This action is harmful because the U.S. is the second highest energy user and a model for many other nations. Ours is perhaps the nation best able to take a leadership role in halting the advance of climate change. We must speak against irretrievable damage to Earth and suffering and loss of homes and wellbeing to hundreds of millions of the world's poor. Condemnation is needed. Will leaders remain silent through fear of anger from the extremely wealthy, who profit from fossil fuel continued use in the face of global environmental threats? "The poor and the earth are crying out" Laudato Si. It is time to speak out.
And something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire. (Acts 2:3)
Today is Pentecost, one of the three great Christian feasts. Really this is the turning point after our celebration of Christ's coming, birth, presentation, journey of faith, suffering, death and resurrection. Often candles, new fire and lamps are paramount in the symbols we use in that portion of the year that deals with the coming and ascending of Christ. Now we enter the second half of the church year and focus on our being other christs who bring light to a darkened world. The flames and tongues of fire are now becoming prominent with the enlightening we bring to others.
A tongue of fire rests on each, inspiring the person to go forth and spread the Word. Each of us is inflamed but not in exactly the same way. The Spirit works with each of us according to our unique personality and gifts. Each of our personal fires has its own intensity, color, consistency and warmth depending on how we shine in the firmament of the inspired. We radiate the immense variation in divine light, for that is part of Divine Mystery.
God, Creator of light, Your presence broke the bonds of darkness, A quantum, which struck as spark, Proceeded to photosensitize the world.
A burning bush, a leading star, A fiery sword You gave To lead the sinful world.
To him, Light of the world, a burning Word Whose illumination is the first of Faith, Whose death sparked a darkened world With a heavenly splendor.
You are the resurrection and the life.
O Spirit who touched the Apostles With the Pentecostal tongue, Photosynthesize us to become a lighthouse To the wayward, to the material world.
Consume us in the fire of charity, O God, three in one, Help us to consume the world With Your eternal blazing fire.
On World Environment Day we ought to review the areas where our commons arenas have been co-opted by powerful economic forces and where we need to reclaim these commons:
1. Essential stocks of food and other basic resources must be distributed as needed by the hungry and homeless;
2. Air commons is not to be auctioned off as though the corporate polluters have some ownership rights to that air;
3. Water commons is not to be privatized as a non-public utility that is then sold back to the thirsty;
4. Maritime commons is not a vast ocean frontier that can be exploited at will by the technically powerful and without regard to the impoverished who need to benefit from those resources;
5. Wilderness is fragile and to be protected from development pressures, and productive land is to be shared with the landless;
6. Forest commons is a global treasure that helps modify the planet's climate, and so deforestation is to be avoided;
7. Wildlife commons is the many animals and plants, which ought to be protected from forms of endangerment;
8. Space commons, the "out there," which seems too vast to be harmed or junked actually can be polluted, and thus must be preserved in a pristine condition;
9. Intellectual commons is the knowledge and wisdom of the centuries that must not be reserved for the benefit of the few; rather this treasure must be open to access by all who want to learn;
10. Cultural commons is our collective heritage and not to be grasped, retained or privatized by the privileged few;
11. Common means of communication such as the Internet should be accessible to all and under a freedom of information exchange; 12. Commons of silent space respects the right of people to be free from extraneous noises that disturb their piece of mind;
13. Common access to health services and information is so limited on this Earth and yet is so essential for the well being of all inhabitants that this access must be aggressively protected and extended to all in need;
14. Common access to housing is utterly needed by people who desire to build or acquire their own habitation;
15. Common aspirations for peace and security are part of the deepest movements of the soul; yet physical conditions do not currently allow for the thriving of peace and security;
16. Movement of people must under certain restrictions be part of a global environment though more efforts should be made to encourage people to remain in their own homelands; and
movement of goods means that commerce among peoples is good and praiseworthy in a healthy environment.
See -- Reclaiming the Commons
Prayer: Lord, all belongs to you and yet you give us many gifts as commons. Help us to radically share these gifts and not to allow those who feel privileged to continue in their own ways to exclude the less fortunate from the common benefits due all.
It is fitting that D-Day comes so soon after Memorial Day. Both tell of supreme sacrifices. Many died on Normandy's beaches. They sacrificed to liberate a captive Europe. The military operation on D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion in human history; we prayed while realizing that success was not automatic.
Of all the days of World War II with its rationing and notices of causalities, long awaited D-day or June 6, 1944 was one of the most memorable. On that bright sunny day we were at a school picnic at Pat and Martha Comer's large estate on the Fleming Road about three miles from my home. Instead of going back to Maysville by bus (six miles away) and then back out to home for another four miles, I preferred (at age ten) to hike home on my own. My folks were out in the field "setting" (planting) tobacco, but I stopped at the house to listen to the radio and discovered D-Day was occurring in Europe. Cousin Bernard Perraut was helping for the afternoon, and he and Daddy were engaged in animated conversation. I broke in announcing that D-Day was most likely happening.
Though only in the third grade in December 1941, I followed that war by radio and newspaper from its inception. My reading abilities were expanded by piecing together news accounts and marking army locations on large wall maps hanging in the house. With an uncle in the Marines, and other relatives in the various services, we were committed to the war effort. Rubber, gasoline, sugar, meat and shoes were rationed. Hemp was being grown again by neighbors since the loss of the source in the Philippines. We kids gathered milkweed pods for the war effort -- but they proved a poor silk substitute and were never utilized.
War challenged us to love more and hate less; we struggled to make a distinction between Germans and Nazism. I remember the arrival of the German prisoners of war who came to work on the tobacco fields in order to furnish smokes for our fighters in other lands -- a patriotic effort. Those war prisoners liked it here, far from the bombs and shells, and with a pleasant countryside and people who held little animosity because they were all presumed not to be Nazis. We would go and watch them play soccer in their confined barbed wire quarters on the Wald Baseball field. And we waved them goodbye after harvest time when their truck convey left.
To sacrifice meant to make holy, and the lives of service members wounded and killed made us realize what they did even in times of horrible strife; they sacrificed for others. Wars, even distant ones, came closer to home with actual funerals of fallen service personnel, grieving relatives, and worry about those in harm's way. In the 1940s we observed the small banners with the gold, silver and blue stars that began to appear frequently on front doors and windows telling us that someone had been killed, wounded or captured. People were hurting that D-Day.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to pray for peace, always for peace.
Cisterns (containers that hold rainwater or spring water) have been used for millennia to store plentiful water supplies for times of scarcity. Cisterns, if built properly, both save precious rain or spring water and offer a safe source for both drinking water and other domestic water uses, especially for a non-chlorinated water source for garden plants. For drinking purposes, use of small purifying units at the cistern's domestic intake is advisable. Cisterns are effective where aquifers (the source of alternative well water) are contaminated by human waste disposal practices, lack of proper landfill containment, or excessive land disturbance.
Cisterns are usually installed underground to save room or to allow the bermed earth to furnish lower cost wall support or keep from freezing. However, some cisterns are above ground or partially buried. Water can be withdrawn manually, mechanically or by use of gravity from a cistern, making use of a distribution system that duplicates those used for other water sources. Cisterns have a proven track record going back long before Jeremiah the Prophet was thrown into one. Some American cisterns have continued to serve homes and farms long after their installation. Others have had to be abandoned because they were not properly maintained or sealed at top or sides. Consequently, the worry about safety has caused cisterns to lose favor among government water management and environmental officials. However, this unpopularity stems more from lack of proper maintenance that from some defect in cistern design in general.
Cistern advantages: They are --
* able to be built at a low cost per unit and thus to eliminate the need for municipal water systems in rural areas;
* far less risky as to cost than well-drilling;
* a source of water lacking groundwater contamination by excess salt, iron or other materials;
* able to provide high quality water, which is near-at-hand
(no transporting from a distance);
* under the sole control of the homeowner;
* not in need of chlorination treatment, though it may be locally required if the water is considered potable;
* inexpensive to maintain;
* able to eliminate water bills; and
* beneficial in collecting shower runoff in times of drought.
Note If a cistern is improperly sealed, contamination from the outside may occur. Cistern water is potable, if the catchment area is cleaned by washing off the first rain portion before water is allowed into the cistern, and if the cistern is properly sealed. Newly built cisterns ought to be disinfected. If in doubt, test for bacteriological or chemical contamination. Current "acid rain" when highly acidic can erode metal catchments (roofs).
Prayer: Teach us Lord, to conserve the precious gift of water.
We need to combine environmental awareness and social justice. Reductions in arable land surface, other use of food, and growing human populations result in rising food prices, increasing demand for more resource-intensive food, and emerging global food shortages. Due to land shortages, solely ornamental landscaping is outdated, for land can be both beautiful and useful at the same time. Most of Earth's people lack the luxury of an ornamental lawn. By "edible landscape" we don't mean that we literally eat landscape, but that we (humans, birds and other wildlife) can eat products of the land. Successful edible landscapes take planning, well directed work, tender loving care, and an awareness of an ultimate impact on (or maybe opposition from) neighbors. Some neighbors may resist the anticipated sight, and oppose plans to a neighborhood zoning committee. You are bold enough to challenge the status quo: a uniform manicured lawn without which property values may be depressed. This becomes an opportunity to educate others to the process of edible landscaping:
1) Make a landscape plan. Before obtaining new landscape policy, it is important to ask: What are the major current uses of the land? What ultimate scenic creation is expected? How much time will be required to prepare land? What type of produce for humans or wildlife consumption is expected from this land?
2) Start off gradually. Overwhelming yourself with a massive project will cause burn out. Making a few initial changes around the greenspace will give workers a chance to experiment, find out what's favored, what grows well, and how to care for new seedlings.
3) Make the work enjoyable. Keep in mind that edible landscaping is supposed to be fun in addition to being beautiful and useful. Try not to make this more work than necessary. To reduce the time for maintenance without reducing the yard's beauty or productivity, try the following: select fruits and vegetables that are extremely low-maintenance, e.g., alpine strawberries or blueberries; use miniaturized versions of your favorite fruit or nut trees for easier harvesting; plant more perennials (productive for more than one year) than annuals.
4) Incorporate succession planting and vegetation. Unlike grass lawns, edible landscaping incorporates the realities of the broader growing and blooming seasons. The landscape will not look the same at all parts of the growing season, but rather will reflect the changes in various plant life throughout the year. The edible landscape becomes mobile, adding new color and variety each day of the growing season.
Prayer: Lord, you created the beauty and utility of the land on which we live and thrive. Help us who are the designers and improvers of edible landscape to consider the land's potential beauty and yields as we work the soil.
Al Fritsch interviews Ralph Conlee, survivor of Coaral Sea and Midway Battles. Watch on Youtube.
June 9, 2017 Oral and Video History
On Senior Citizens Day let's challenge the notion that all people have plenty of time left to record significant things. While attending a conference in India in 1988, I asked an 89-year-old Jesuit missionary bishop if he had recorded his many colorful stories that he was so quick to tell visitors. "No," he said, "there's plenty of time." He died shortly after -- his stories apparently unrecorded. Wonderful past experiences can be easily lost and never recovered when people pass on. We mortals are not permanent fixtures, and we need to be convinced that recording experiences is salutary, for our store of personal knowledge is often quite unique and of value to future generations.
Conservation of resources includes preserving the experiences of elders and past movers and shakers, for the existence of their resources is tenuous with the aging of the resource holders. Memories lapse; people pass on. Treasures of sacred memory have been transmitted at camp fires and the hearth for generations, yielding a living history for storytellers who share their treasures. Now we lack such hearth gatherings and the time to sit and listen to elders, but we have technical ways of recording and budding talented storytellers. To pass on a tradition it takes two, one to tell, and one to listen and record. The teller is the focal point of the potentially transmitted story. Certain people tell their stories in matter of fact fashion. Others like to use poetic license. No tale is without some embellishment, some degree of change and modification, and some nuance that is characteristic of the story teller. What is left out? What is added? Modern methods can capture these nuances fairly well, provided the recording equipment is not lost in storage or the records made useless through constant change in recording materials or media. Older recordings are now virtually lost because current equipment cannot download them.
Certain people are especially gifted in collecting these tales from old and frail members in a narrowing window of recording time. Regard this exercise of recording the sacred memories as a responsible and needed part of our ongoing growth in environmental consciousness. Recording is a public service. Good recording people can make people feel comfortable in conversation and quickly create a relaxed atmosphere; they are good listeners. Though videotapes are more treasured than audiotapes, the extra talent it takes to do a good video interview may make audio taping preferable. In the actual recording session one should take along a person who has the confidence of the interviewee. Offer a present or fee for giving the time and effort. Give a copy of the recording so the person can check his or her recording. Seek out the next of kin of interviewees to ensure that they have a copy of the recording, which may be treasured. Donate a copy (with interviewee permission) to the nearby historic records library.
Prayer: Lord, give to us the gift to treasure and record the memories of those who go before us; they deserve our respect.
Special note from Fr. Al Fritsch: Many thanks to all to all who gave good wishes on his 50th Ordination anniversary!
Quince, in flower; fruit will follow.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
June 10, 2017 Bird Sanctuaries
To some a "sanctuary" is a place of escape and to seek protection from others. Each of us can establish our own bird sanctuary, a piece of greenspace where birds can come and find food, water and relatively safe nesting and habitat. We must do something because our modern practices are destroying traditional bird habitat. Song birds have been decimated through loss of habitat and need to be welcomed by providing winter feeding areas, nest locations and bird baths. Some purists oppose bird attractions, but if our human activity has threatened birds through habitat destruction, then we ought to take steps to protect them. See Sally Roth, Attracting Birds to Your Backyard: 536 Ways to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Haven for Your Favorite Birds (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1998).
Select plant varieties that provide birds with materials and habitat they need to survive winter, successfully rear young, and hide from predators (the worst of which is the domestic cat). An "Edible landscape" (see June 8th) doesn't just refer to furnishing human food, but can be designed to provide birds with berries such as the fruit of the cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum). Planting such tree species as mulberry might bring welcome change of pace from the more typical battle to keep birds away from ripening domestic fruits. Edible plant species should not be exotic invasive species such as bush honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, or autumn or Russian olive.
Landscaping for birds includes encouraging them to come nearer, especially so shut-ins can see them. Evergreen cover creates a micro-climate of warmth and wind shelter ideal for winter-residing birds. Leave shrubs unpruned at ground level; select ornamental flowers that attract wildlife by doubling as food sources. Garden sunflower are good additions to cultivated areas, which produce homegrown bird seed. Hummingbirds love the beautiful red flower called bee balm, also known as Oswego tea; they are attracted to tube-shaped (mainly red) flowers as preferred food sources. Choose berry varieties that are small enough for songbirds to eat, such as serviceberry and elderberry. Leave dead snags and fallen trees as a source of food for woodpeckers and cavity-nesting creatures.
A public notice of a formal bird sanctuary continues the Church tradition of offering sanctuary to people sought after by the law. Today, we need to speak for birds by providing them a hospitable habitat -- a sanctuary. Work with local conservation groups, enlist volunteers, assist with scientific inventories, and identify local birds and their food and nesting needs. The nearer land approximates the original conditions, the more attractive such places are for the return of birds. Contact: National Audubon Society, Website: <http://www.audubon.org>. Thomas G. Barnes, Gardening for the Birds, (The University Press of Kentucky, 1999).
Prayer: Lord, since not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your consent, help us to protect all threatened birds.
Standing Up to the Power of Big Oil
The anti-renewable energy policy of the Trump Administration shows no sign of yielding as of yet -- if it will. Our opposition needs to remain relentless. Let’s review some needed actions:
* Let's not allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be completed. Resist at all costs (when plans go forward) and focus on helping Nebraskans resist routes plotted through their state.
* Champion solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy in whatever way possible. Install panels or encourage others to solarize their homes and institutions. Churches and schools have a major part to play at this time, so do not forget them as well.
* Deniers of climate change still exist and must be met with charity and determination. Show that evidence-based facts take precedence over fallacious arguments developed by Big Oil's merchants of doubt. Everyone needs to know that 99% of climate experts say it is present and it is humanly caused. The arguments of the deniers are meant to prolong the period before firm laws are put into place to hasten the renewable economy.
* Excusers seem very determined to avoid this complex issue and thus do not perform their citizen's role of pestering elected officials to legislate proper regulations and come to fair taxes on the privileged few billionaires. No one should be excused from the tasks before us; people of every political stripe must strive to defend Mother Earth.
* Escapists see the climate change problem and yet do not have the stamina or temperament to engage in the struggle to save our Earth. However, these deserve encouragement to take part in some way. Do not let them off easily, but prod them to accept their civic responsibility.
* Know the story of how current national policy hurts. Early this year at the G-7 Meeting (of rich nations) the U.S. delegation refused to allow an endorsement of the Paris Climate Change Conference Agreement and instead tried to promote coal and nuclear power -- to the rejection of all the other member nations. Enough is enough! Don't fail to bring this matter up in polite society.
* Continue to conserve at a personal level and get others to do the same. Our wastefulness as a nation (40% of its food that is considered outdated or left on the plate) cries out in times of famine. We each must reexamine our food habits at the beginning of this growing season. If possible, raise tomatoes and other produce to show an interest in expanding local fresh food capabilities.
* Recall relentlessly: we cannot become a green nation and world without tackling the inequality which is caused by unjust profits retains by Big Oil executives. Keep struggling!
It takes two to make a pair but three to make a community. The Trinity is the primary community that all creatures are drawn to imitate.
Creation springs from a community of love -- and all creation has exhibited community in the most elementary fashion ever since the beginning words, "Let us make...". The Spirit hovers over the waters; the Wisdom of God takes on a more personal character. All comes about in the visible spoken word of creation and all is good. The movement of the universe is from oneness, and back to unity. The vestiges of the Creator show plainly in the world to those with eyes to see God's ever-present love. The pods and flocks and herds and schools all point to the very communal characteristics of our world, the manner in which some socialize with others of their kind, and how this is built into the pattern of interdependent endeavors. The communities of termites and ants say something profound about the cooperative structure of nature; in the same way the arrangements of atoms constituting a molecule show the nature of the Creator in a very elementary manner.
Human beings have emerged as a trumpet blast of creative power and freedom. From a theological perspective, we know human beings do not always actualize the fullness of their calling for they sometimes miss the mark, but, for better or worse, they act freely. Human wrongdoing divides person from person and community from community. Wars and conflicts arise, but all the while human suffering points to a more global human family. Individuals and families strive to overcome the barriers and to cooperate and look after weaker members. The core family itself has a special commitment to purpose and, hopefully, to loving relationships. This familial striving for community also manifests the beckoning of the Holy Spirit at work, the presence of the Lamb of God who walks the journey with us, who shows the immensity of love, the effects of hate, and the profundity of sacrifice out of love.
All of us struggle to attain some sign of grouping, bonding, interconnecting in the ways that will allow a community to form. All of us, whether the human village in the same locality, a research team, a committed and intentional grouping, or the participants in an occasional festival or homecoming, are drawn together and seek to assist each other. This power of attracting others is God's work in the world -- the coming together at Pentecost, after the dispersal of Babel. Where that family and community love is stronger, the imitation becomes more visible, and God shines out to all in human visibility. "See how they love one another." The Church as loving community now stands as a sign or foreshadowing of what the world is striving to become -- a community in the image of the Trinity.
Prayer: O Holy Trinity, on this great feast, make us more community-minded, looking to You as model of what the world is to become.
Crow awaits human interaction on farm fence.
June 12, 2017 Spirit Creatures: Animal and Plant
Native Americans often give people honorary names because their virtues resemble th ose of some creature (eagles, badgers, foxes, etc.) with which all are familiar. We all have natural relationships with creatures, due to similar qualities and we come to admire those qualities in other creatures. Sometimes the relationships endure a lifetime and sometimes we change our spirit creature with change of attitudes or focus.
Livestock like horses or chickens often serve as our spirit creatures. Some regard their spirit creature as a private matter (maybe through embarrassment and a private matter of trust). I always have had a special relationship with bovines, whether cows, calves or bulls, even bison and buffaloes. Once when jogging in northern California, I came upon a bison ranch and the one across the fence seemed so close that I desired to touch and pet it.
Wildlife are perhaps the major source of animal spirit creatures. Many are charmed by larger mammals such as tigers or elephants or even whales; they vacillate as to whether to cage the creature, which may desperately seek freedom (beavers, for instance). Even the caging of rather tame wildlife is open to question. Some wildlife choices are within a vicinity (deer, rabbits, certain birds, etc.) and can be observed from our grounds or window in their "natural" state moving about freely. Others are exotic creatures that we cannot allow to roam loose; we don't have tigers in our backyard. Be satisfied to celebrate your tiger spirit creatures in zoological park areas or in virtual trips to Africa through observation in movies, TV or Internet -- or choose a native tame spirit creature.
Pet "possession" allows a relationship to intensify with proximity and direct contact. However, should we mix spirit creatures (co-equally) with pets (often considered as subservient to a master)? Some pets assist us (Seeing Eye dogs, guard dogs for security, companions for elderly or youth, etc.); some have economic benefit as miniature horses; and others assist in securing the mental balance of the pet "owner." Dogs and cats express more feelings than goldfish or most caged birds.
Plant spirit creatures involve a kinship with special plants that beautify our exterior and interior environs. They can be chosen as creatures of personal need. Everyone needs the opportunity to touch the soil and commune with vital forces of growth within Earth. For people who are unable to get outside due to infirmity, houseplants can substitute. People may be concerned that caring for a plant will be a bother --but it is not nearly as worrisome as caring for animals. In many ways the plants we care for most can become friendly companions. The plant may also provide for our nourishment such as fruits, nuts or herbs without removing the plant itself in the process.
Prayer: Lord, help us to befriend special animals and plants.
Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, native Kentucky mint species.
June 13, 2017Create Herbal Teas
The only local civic organization I belong to is The Garden Thyme Herb Club, which meets monthly in our church hall and has about forty in average attendance. Over time my love for herbs has grown and so I grow and use over a dozen at present. We have had some memorable presentations over the years and I recall one in 2007 by Laura Poulette on "herbal tea." The club proceeded to prepare and package a number of her suggested varieties such as Shakespeare Tea (The Winter's Tale IV, 4). With Laura's permission I reproduce some of her high points and strongly suggest that readers become acquainted with her basic sources: Body and Soul Magazine, Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses, & <wikipedia.org>.
Laura explains that what we commonly call herbal teas are actually herbal infusions or tisanes. An infusion is prepared by pouring boiling water over an herb, covering, and allowing the herb to steep for ten minutes; the result is an herbal remedy, not necessarily a pleasing beverage. In contrast, a tisane is an infusion made with an aromatic herb, which is meant to be something tasty to drink (ptisan was originally a drink made by boiling down barley and water). On the other hand, to be technically correct, a "tea" refers to a tisane made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis and is known to be of the green or black Asiatic tea variety. However, we Americans accept the term "herbal tea" as commonly used in our country and mix a variety of dried leaves that people collect over time.
Club members tasted the cool iced varieties Laura offered at the meeting: Chamomile Cooler made by steeping any lemony herb -- lemon balm, lemon thyme, or lemon basil; Lavender Lemonade made by squeezing four lemons and adding a half cup dried lavender and a half cup of honey. The lavender should be added after bringing the "zest" to a boil and adding in the lavender. This recipe makes four tall glasses. Honestly, the pink drink is a wonderful crowd pleaser. A third drink that is meant for hot days is the Licorice MintIce Tea that is made by combining licorice root, cinnamon stick and a combination of various mints in much the same fashion as the previous two drinks. A suggested general tonic is Anti-Allergy Tea, made from equal parts of dry nettle, peppermint, red clover, and goldenrod, plus half a portion of licorice root.
We learned how to successfully dry harvested herbs (in a cool, dry place). My previous efforts generally resulted in moldy mint leaves because the leaves were not thoroughly dried before bottling. Making herbal teas from green leaves is only possible during the growing season, or as long as the watered sprigs keep. However, resorting to dried leaves allows a variety of mixtures, about as many varieties of herbal teas as the creative mind can consider -- "the jazz of culinary arts," and encourage our newly created varieties. Preparing local herbs is economic as well.
Prayer: Lord, show us ways to be creative in food and drinks using local produce that we grow ourselves.
A flag flying on Flag Day, central Kentucky farm.
June 14, 2017 Honoring Flag Day
In many modest homes throughout this land one can observe on the mantle a triangular-shaped, folded flag that once draped the casket of a loved one who has passed on. For survivors that flag brings back precious memories. Flags have been used for thousands of years as signs of a certain allegiance. People marched to them, sang as they were unfurled, protected them, surrendered them, fought for them, strived to hang them high. And in this country flags come in various shapes, colors and designs. In parts of America, we see various sized American flags hanging in the front of homes, offices and institutional buildings. These displayed pieces of cloth tell the message of the people who live or work within. After the 9-11 disaster in 2001 the display of the American flag took on increasing popularity.
Since the statehood of Hawaii and Alaska a half century ago, we have lived with a flag of fifty stars, for these two stars completed the current design. Changes over a two-century period plotted the journey from the original colonies-turned-states’ thirteen through thirty-seven additions to where the United States is today. Even this change of design told its own story, for our flag is an integral part of Americana. Many fly the Star Spangled Banner, especially at national and international events such as the Olympics, and citizens wave these banners furiously when the triumph of our country is in the forefront.
Our national anthem tells us that the flag withstood the bomb blasts of the British attacking Baltimore. The pledge of allegiance is given each day by students before the flag. The honor guard ushers in the flag for sporting events. Through flying at half-mast, the flag tells of the death of a great personage or the occurrence of a national event. We are a people of the flag, waving the little ones in parades, hoisting the colors on ships, or filling flagpoles with massive flags. Most of us, whether tourists or military, are moved by Ole Glory on returning to the "States."
FLY IT PROUDLY Too much blood has been shed by patriots who gave all, with their lives, their limbs, their peace of mind. Many returned to home soil, flag draped, taps in the background, a sob, a word, and then to dust.
For their sakes we fly this flag with pride. We may not need a constitutional amendment to act, but free citizens treat this emblem with respect, not burning, not desecrating it through commercial greed.
Respect calls for not leaving a flag flying overnight in the dark. Thus we suggest and install a solar spotlight, with daylight -- renewable energy -- stored and transformed, so that the sun never sets on Ole Glory.
In resource conservation month consider the following:
1. Basic Attitudes. All that God creates is good. We human beings create waste. We take what is essentially valuable and "good" and, through thoughtless practice (waste as a verb), we make it non-recoverable junk (waste as a noun).
2. Use Properly or Give in to Waste. To say the Lord allows us to waste is to take the Lord's Name in vain, for it makes God the author of wasteful practice. In mockery, one says, "The Lord is soon coming, so let's use up resources, our entitlement."
3. Consecration, not Desecration. The land is a holy place and to be respected. Wasteful practice desecrates that place. It is our most sacred duty to develop ways to keep Earth holy and remember that the Lord has given us care of this Earth.
4. Respect and Don't Litter. Honor your parent, your Earth. Beautify and enhance her life-giving qualities. Littering is a thoughtless disregard for the respect we must show our parent. Instead, we must recycle and continually return life for life.
5. Life or Death. To sustain life is our mandate. However, we are able to kill through the slow destruction of our eco-systems through air and water pollution. Incineration of waste materials gives off toxic gases, which can do harm to living creatures.
6. Conserving or Using up Virgin Materials. A form of rape of Earth is using new materials when recycling is possible. Recycled paper reduces the need for pulpwood and trees; recycled aluminum requires less energy to process than virgin material.
7. Good Use or Misuse of Materials. Do not steal from the limited resources of Earth. To take a precious resource and squander it on desolate living is to steal from the world's powerless, or from future generations.
8. Sharing Responsibility or NIMBY (Not in my Backyard). To accuse the poor of being unwilling to accept our waste due to their selfishness is to bear false witness to what they are really saying, namely, "Each of us must be responsible for our own actions and wasteful practices."
9. Careful or Excessive Consumerism. Coveting other people's careless consumption practices is the first step to becoming despoilers of Earth; such practices lead to deceptive advertising, child labor in making goods, panic buying, and a throwaway culture.
10. Durable or Disposable Goods. Coveting cosmetic packaging, disposable items, luxury goods, and planned obsolescence only adds to an atmosphere of addictive use and high consumption practices.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be responsible for our resources.
Honeybees, with a language of their own, beyond words.
June 16, 2017 Preserve Languages
Every time the last native speaker of a language falls silent ... we lose one more distinctive way of saying, one more set of insights about living in a place, says Scott Russell Sanders, Hunting for Hope, p. 106. On January 21, 2008, Marie Smith, the last speaker of the Eyak language in Alaska died. A last-of-a-language death occurs over twice per month. The UN reports that half the world's 7,000 languages will die out during this century.
Youth in pockets of receding culture prefer to speak the major surrounding language; they are often embarrassed about their parents' tongue. Young people in Appalachia have abandoned the local dialects for "televisionese" English; only an old cousin of mine spoke Alsatian in France in her household until she passed in 2013; the rest communicated and responded in French. When I mentioned the threatened-language problem to a Latinist, he said "Maybe they need to die out." I wondered whether one who sees his beloved Latin die, can be so uncaring? Pawnee, once the language of a Great Plains nation, is reduced to one surviving speaker -- but the language is taught at the local community college. National Geographic, "A World Loses Its Tongues" (October, 2007), has a map showing thirteen major hot spots of this disappearance of human knowledge and history: Northwestern U.S./Canada, Southwestern Oklahoma, Northern Central and Southern South America, Southern and Eastern Africa, Northern Australia, Western Melanesia, Taiwan-Philippines, Southeastern Asia, Eastern Siberia and Central Siberia. The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages is working with a National Geographic project.
Languages pass unnoticed and unlamented, extinction of a species. Maybe not. Hebrew is now revived as the official language of Israel with five million speakers. Some strive to save the Celtic languages of the British Isles, and they are making an effort to preserve Welsh, Gaelic, and the Scottish tongue as well as Manx that was spoken on the Isle of Man. Any threatened language can be saved, if records remain and there is a strong will to preserve and learn the tongue. The longer the time since the death of last native speakers, the harder to relearn pronunciation or the nuances of language. Simply put, when a language is lost, it is difficult to reintroduce it within a willing former culture.
Globalization and Internet use have led many people to neglect their ancestral tongues for the language of the dominant culture. Language communicates so much more than practical aspects of living; art and culture are contained in the language, along with unique insights which are so easily overlooked. If there are thirty words for snow in one Eskimo language, then those of us who can't distinguish more than five snow words (slush, sleet, etc.) have lost something by that tongue's death. Native art, poetry, and song are lost forever in a language's demise.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to preserve past treasures including threatened languages, for each has cultural value.
The harvest is great but the laborers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest. (Matthew 9:37)
Tomorrow is Father's Day and we are to reflect on the role fathers play in allowing us to continue our work ethic and our cultural values as a people. Like all others called to the mission of bringing Christ to the world, fathers can make a major contribution. Their success in fostering that new life demands prayers for theirs is a difficult task in these troubled times. Fatherhood together with motherhood must be regarded as both a calling and a special gift. You received without charge; give without charge. (Matthew 10:8)
Conscientious fathers take their calling and duties seriously. Like the apostles who are sent, fathers must be self-sacrificing in order to help create a loving home for their families. This self-sacrifice involves denying what is an inclination to free time; many fathers generously spend periods with the family; they give up sleep when an offspring is sick; they give up good things so that others in the family will have more than bare essentials. They become suffering servants for loved ones.
But looking only at the duties of fatherhood is somewhat unrealistic and harsh. Life includes the lighter moments, the times when life is more than the sweaty harvest of making a living. In the act of helping create a home, this expansive fatherhood resembles the Creator of all things. As God rested on the Sabbath, so fathers on special occasions find rest and enjoyment with their families. Though some think otherwise, being paternal does not mean being paternalistic, that is, ruling in an authoritarian and heavy handed manner. Paternal fathers are always watchful to permit the freedom of the growing brood while requiring that rules be kept for the family's order and stability.
A combination of sacrifice and gratitude makes a perfect dad -- and mom as well. Such a one realizes a duty to sacrifice for his or her children and also to transfer that sense of thankfulness to them as educator as well as breadwinner. It's a challenge today. Providing but not asking sacrifices on the part of the offspring risks bringing up the ungrateful, who constantly see the father as provider of goodies. On the other hand, if the providing father is too harsh, it turns family life into a stressful situation for youngsters and spouse as well. The key is to unveil a fertile ground for spiritual growth, a source of joy, an atmosphere of freedom where gratitude is cultivated; and a sincere "thank you" to God is given for the gift of sons and daughters.
Prayer:Father, keep in your name those you have given me, that they may be one as we are one, says the Lord. Allow the fathers of this world to be willing to sacrifice and at the same time to be thankful for the holy mission they have undertaken with the offspring they have helped bring into the world.
United States Climate Alliance
For the past twenty weeks our Earthhealing website has focused on pertinent energy and environmental issues and how they have been pillaged by the new Trump Administration. This twenty-first essay in the series moves away from disastrous Trump decisions: instead this emphasizes positive alternative state actions taken in place of currently paralyzed federal ones. Americans as a conscientious people can continue to influence global environmental policy and bypass "America First" isolationist approaches. In fact, alternative state/global practices could make America great again. An alliance of states can counter the so-called renegotiation of 198-nation voluntary agreement on climate change -- a rather immature and impractical Trump suggestion.
Within twenty four hours of the June 1st Trump withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, Governor Jerry Brown of California stated, "If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up." Perhaps we must revert back from the United States to these United States. As of this writing, besides California, at least eight other states have done exactly that: Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. Others will follow if we readers apply pressure for our respective states to join the Alliance.
Already most states, both red and blue, have programs to move to a sizeable renewable energy economy at a reasonable pace, generally by the 2030s. Much of the pessimism reflected in the June first Trump speech is not based on actual fact (high financial outlays and loss of employment). The energy-based economy is not shrinking; the amount of funds to help nations that did not substantially cause the current pollution have been relatively modest; and the national indebtedness is not due to adherence to the Paris accord but to shortsightedness of not taxing super rich individuals and large corporations. The President was talking to his political power base; his scare tactics have absolutely no realistic foundation. The actual picture is rapid growth of renewable energy, far in excess of what federal agencies predicted; growth in solar and wind exceed total coal and oil employment.
The Alliance has a bright future provided more join and work together for the advent of a renewable economy. A will to change is emerging and desperately needs proper political direction. What a pity that our federal officials don't imitate state leaders. Even market forces are at work furnishing a bright environmental future that is different from Big Oil's immediate challenges -- but still, some alert fossil fuel corporations are actually in favor of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. How sad that the President did not follow up his promise to the Pope and read "Laudato Si." Good spirituality is knowing our imperfect actions and resolving to do better in the future. With this in mind we could still save our threatened planet Earth. Support the Climate Alliance.
Cross-shaped flowers of the pink stonecrop, Sedum pulchellum.
June 18, 2017 Corpus Christi
The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf. (I Corinthians 10:17)
On this feast of Corpus Christi we commemorate the sacramental presence of the Lord in our midst. Truly we have consecrated bread and wine, which were made by human hands. All too often we undervalue the works of our own hands in favor of those works springing from our head. But today our hands have a special place along with those of people who through hard work and craft produce the works of their hands for the benefit of all. We are all contributing members of the mystical Body of Christ -- and this requires cooperating hands as well as heads and hearts.
The Passover of the Lord and the protection given to the wandering people of Israel are ingrained in our collective memory. God takes care of the people of faith. God feeds the people with manna and provides water in that vast and terrible desert. That journey of faith is history (Deuteronomy 8) and foreshadows our own journey of faith, and the need to trust in God to give us nourishment in times of need. Thus we gather and eat together, but we cannot go and do so when some of our brothers' and sisters' people have overabundance and others are starving or without the basics of life. We are called to share radically and to do so in remembrance of the goodness of the Lord.
We are part of the body of Christ. Just as from Adam's side came forth Eve, mother of the living; so from the side of the dying Christ comes forth blood and water and this is the sacramental sign of Eucharist and Baptism, our spiritual life springing from his wounded side. We are part of the mystical Body of Christ, the living body bringing forth the Word to all the world. However, we know that the act of being participants in the Body takes faith. What if we do not think we can make any unique offering because we have little or nothing to offer? Faith in the Body of Christ is believing that he is present, that we are present with him, and that we can extend his body throughout the world.
Do we thank God for gifts given? The sin of over-affluence is a gross insensitivity, ignoring that these are gifts of God and should be treated as such. Gifts are not meant to be hoarded, but to be shared in a radical way. Abundance of gifts should open the door to ample sharing with a wider world in need. Through word we announce the gifts that are given; through action we help in the distribution. Thus faith involves seeing a gift as such, as well as the possible benefits resulting from sharing this gift with those who are in need. We show gratitude in extending the body of Christ, and this we do both through word and deed.
Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us; Jesu, of your love befriend us; you refresh us, you defend us; your eternal goodness send us, in the land of life to see. Sequence of Corpus Christi
Composting or the natural way of recycling organic matter seems to be a given, like motherhood and apple pie, but is it? In many urban areas, battles ensue between the defenders of orderly lawns and the person who risks putting in a composting bin in his or her backyard. Some more vocal "clean is perfect" promoters seek to institute community and neighborhood regulations to forbid the compost bin even though they know full well that the valuable material would be sent to a land fill if the ordinary garbage system were utilized for organic materials. Some from a distance imagine "unsightly" containers must have a smell but no maintained one ever does. Some criticism comes from those who know they ought to do something about their own wastes, but find composting either embarrassing or downright inconvenient. It is easier to trash materials and recyclables all in one garbage bag.
The argument may extend to the types of homesteading people who tend to compost. These folks are regarded as messy and their composting material and use of compost in their growing areas are not as orderly as manicured lawn. While disarray is a normal part of construction of any sort, such is short-lived. When writing a book, there are materials and other papers scattered all about for quick reference, but the writer's disorder is within a building. On the other hand composting is like clothes lines; it appears there to stay -- and for the orderly non-composting neighbor it ought to be forbidden. David Kennedy, an accomplished gardener and director of "Leaf for Life" at Berea, Kentucky, says he prefers a relaxed garden where the turtles, herbs, bees, snakes, etc., try to sort it with each other. He says a pretty good garden is what we should aim for. "A perfect garden is an antique vase on a kitchen table waiting for a Little League team to show up with pizza." Reference: David Kennedy, Where the Garden Path Leads, (Big Hill, Kentucky, 1998), p. 45.
A neighborhood education may be needed for the overly orderly folks. Composting is nature's creative way of recycling the cast-offs into something more productive. Yard wastes (grass, tree leaves and trimmings) as well as non-meat and non-fatty kitchen wastes can be composted through the joyful labor of earthworms and friendly bacteria. All earthworms are looking for waste materials along with some moisture and air and some undisturbed peace. The amount of time required to turn the waste products into humus for the garden will vary with the season and the degree of turning of the composting pile to give some air to the little critters. A balance of carbon and nitrogen must also be maintained. Under suitable conditions, animal manures and the wastes from dry composting toilets can also be added to the garden as compost. Neighbors will be more accepting, if the composting agent makes the compost bin attractive and places it in a proper shady location.
Get them to compost as well.
Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to enter into the natural cycles of this world and patiently to bring our neighbors along.
Chlosyne nycteis. (*photo by Sally Ramsdell)
June 20, 2017 Support the Global Village
For better or worse, we inhabitants of this planet need to learn to live in peaceful, caring communities. Green advocates profess the power of the grassroots and state that a peaceful world must be patterned after an elemental unit called the eco-village, where nature and sustainable human habitat meet. The "village" as a human cooperative habitation has been operative down through the centuries. Primitive people established such settlements so that the group could mutually defend each other, provide food, and care for the more helpless members of the community.
Some villages evolved into more sophisticated systems, and included market places, worship space, recreational grounds, and educational buildings for youth. The settlement united with adjacent villages and these with more distant ones, eventually becoming clusters, tribes, colonies, states and nations. Historically speaking the village is at the grassroots. Today, larger congested settlements called cities are most popular and seem to overwhelm the village concept, but these larger places of inhabitation can be more polluted even with modern advantages.
The global village is an extension of the primitive village; theoretically it embraces the entire planet with its expanding concept of brother- and sisterhood. Various diverse cultures are striving to come together and form regional communities. Even with much effort, elemental endeavors at community-building are not automatically successful. Perhaps one reason is that such systems require much selfless sacrifice, practices that self-centered people do not find popular today. Forming communities demands some prior commitment, and this is especially true of those who desire to live in splendid self-satisfying isolation. History is replete with the ruins of intentional communities that arose, stayed awhile and then died out. A global community seems distant.
Common commitment holds married partners together and keeps families in a loving relationship; such commitment strives to bind corporations and groups in cooperative relationships. The global village demands an extended public commitment that transcends cultures and individual aspirations; it will only be as successful as the generosity of individual members. This is why religious commitments can be such powerful models for a world seeking stability, but often tempted by creature comforts. The stability of secular eco-villages that give little consideration to common commitment is quite problematic, especially in a capitalistic society with its individual profit motivation that overshadows self sacrifice for others. Are villagers willing to make long-term commitments and have common goals? Will they see a global village as a vision that is grand but worth strong commitment?
Prayer: Lord, inspire us to come together in a mutual helping manner so that the more vulnerable may be assisted and all can grow in love and fellowship. Help those who advocate the global village see the value of long-term personal and religious commitment.
Grasshopper on eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) berries.
June 21, 2017Resource Conservation Gardening Techniques
On this Summer Solstice it is an ideal time to review techniques for gardening in such a way that space, water and other natural resources are conserved. Here are some ways beyond merely mulching that have already been discussed.
* Raised-Bed Gardening -- This technique requires human effort to construct the beds, but has the advantages of saving growing space, producing more per unit of garden area than with conventional techniques, and allowing excess water to drain away after heavy rains. The moist, but not soggy, soil is tilled far more quickly than non-raised-bed areas. Raised-beds permit more aeration of the produce; and raised-beds do not require as much bending over by us senior gardeners. Raised-beds may be built by bringing in additional top soil, or by sinking paths around designated bed areas and piling the dirt onto the growing area. Larger vegetables and herbs (peppers, basil, etc.) can overhang the paths that are not cultivated and thus save growing area. The moisture from rain striking the path can be covered with chips, straw or by a clover covering.
* Double-Dug Plots -- Another high yielding but initially labor intensive domestic garden technique involves digging down and loosening a lower soil layer below the one foot of topsoil with a multi-pronged fork. This allows for enhanced root growth, and adds aeration to the lower level of the soil. Over time double-digging saves on annual hand tilling, and the looser soil encourages still more earthworms. On the whole, loosened soil increases yields and thus is a space-saver along with raised-bed gardening for people with limited gardening space and the willingness to exert energy.
* Natural Pest Control Agents -- Interplanting with some types of flowers (e.g., marigolds) and herbs attracts both bees and other pollinating insects and birds, and these plants discourage certain types of pests.
* Interplanting of Vegetables -- A great space-saver is to plant an early-harvested crop (e.g. radishes) and, while this is growing, to plant a second later-maturing crop within the same area. For instance, I interplant tomatoes in mid- to late spring amid the onion, lettuce or spinach rows, and when these early crops mature, the foot-high tomatoes will accelerate growth to cover the area for late summer and early autumn. I have found that cucumbers and peppers can be interplanted, and that the harvest of cucumbers in mid-summer occurs when the peppers are just climbing in height. By September and later, these peppers will produce, while the now dying cucumber vine serves as ground cover. Much has been written by other gardeners on friendly vegetable combinations, but I find that most vegetables and herbs grow well together. However, fennel does appear to be really incompatible with many vegetables.
Prayer: Lord, we are often limited in our resources. Help us to accept the challenge to conserve and use them well.
We tend to get things backwards when it comes to self-evaluation, whether on an individual level or on a family or community one. We often prefer to look to outsiders to monitor our own personal behavior and to tell us what steps should or should not be taken to improve our lot. Actually, we have consciences, and these are our internal lights, well-equipped to do some monitoring (actual internal accounting) versus assessing (external review of practice or policy). But surrendering our internal monitoring process to others and refusing to accept personal accountability for our behavior is quite popular today.
Internal monitoring includes an examination of conscience, something we all can benefit by on an individual level. Spiritual direction includes listening to another and giving encouragement when needed. People who confess very frequently may have to be informed that much of their monitoring task is really an individual's responsibility, not that of a confessor. Monitoring helps us find our recurring faults and moves us to beg God for forgiveness and to move on from there. Spiritual advice is needed as well, but it is more an overall assessing role; it is a looking over how we are doing through a time period and a reflection on the fundamental path of one's journey of faith. Daily review is our personal duty; periodic review requires external assistance.
Monitoring and assessing do not stop at the individual level, but a similar pattern of activities exists on the local or intentional community level as well as with larger and more comprehensive communities -- even perhaps the global community with God as external assessor. Monitoring of activities includes reviewing budgets and goals and how well they are being carried out as well as discovering weaknesses that need to be addressed. Assessing of communities on a periodic basis involves an external review of what is being done and of the resources to be tapped to meet intended goals.
Earthhealing's Environmental Resource Assessment Service (ERAS) has found the primary task when visiting a non-profit property is really long-term assessing and not some sort of monitoring work. An ongoing audit of energy or land use or parking space is a necessity for the best environmental accountability of resources, but that is more efficiently done by experienced internal staff. Assessment is different: it should be the joint work of outside persons skilled in the process of objectively identifying environmental resources and examining the use, misuse or failure to use them. Outsiders bring objectivity to resource assessments that is necessary for a clear picture of an environment and how to adjust improvements to resources at hand. Property monitoring is ongoing; property assessments are rare occurrences.
Prayer: Help us Lord to know the difference between what we must do on our own and where we need help from others; give us the prudence to include both in their appropriate order.
My own peace I give you... (John 14:27a)
Today we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the immense love that God gives us in the gift of the Prince of Peace. The love of the Christ-gift motivates us, stirs us to respond and leads us to also become peace-makers to others. Conflicts and terror overwhelm us. Is it even possible to talk about peace when taxpayers support the largest military/industrial complex the world has ever known? We say "peace," but we act as though war is inevitable and ever waging. Let us search our hearts and find the discontinuity in what we profess to believe and what we actually do as Americans.
If the heart of Christ is the source of peace, and if we as loving members of the body of Christ constitute that heart in the world around us, then we are moved to render that inner peace to all the world. The present external conditions disturb us and move us to deeper inner searching. A radical sense of peacemaking comes from a radical sense of love. When we seek to imitate Jesus, the source of peace, we are reminded of his command to love as he loves. Current conflicts involve brothers and sisters on every side; these folks need our love and care even when in their desperation they sometimes exude threats and rage.
Love is shown in a million ways and so peacemaking is to be expressed in many ways as well. Love is that gift from God that must be freely received and welcomed. Likewise the peace within when we allow that love to penetrate is also God's gift. But we cannot contain or enclose it to the exclusion of others. The love of God radiates peace and that is what Jesus tells us in his farewell address (John 14). The new commandment is to love as he has loved us. The peace that radically springs from that love is the all consuming fire of Jesus love. It is contagious; it passes from one to another. In showing gratitude for this love we discover inner peace that becomes the foundation for peacemaking. Peace is not something we fashion through our separate efforts; rather peace is what is already within breaking forth as we open ourselves to the unfolding mystery of divine life.
Public image: If our homes are to be loving and peaceful, it is important that we have pictures of the Sacred Heart (depicting the personal love of God for us) enthroned in them. Obtain a Sacred Heart picture and have this enthroned in your home. Jesus promised to St. Margaret Mary that whoever places this picture in a prominent place and honors it will have a peaceful home.
Reparations: Beg others, especially retirees, to pray at least weekly for all our Earthhealing efforts; let this be in reparation for damage done to our fragile Earth and to inspire all to treat Earth in a healing fashion.
Prayer: Sacred Heart, teach us to love with all our hearts and in doing so to be peacemakers in this troubled world.
The symmetry of our year is seen in the three month intervals revolving around Christmas: Annunciation on March 25, Birth of John on this day, and Maternity of Mary on September 25. Such is part of nine-month gestation -- at least liturgically speaking.
John (Luke 1: 5-17) comes before Christ and announces him, and today's feast tells with solemnity about John's own birth. His mother is childless in old age, much like Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Hannah. And yet John is conceived and is active even before his birth, for he dances with joy at Mary's approach bearing the yet unborn Jesus. Zachariah, John's father, is struck speechless at the impending event, but he regains his voice in the naming of this new-born son. We know little of John's early life except that he is driven by the Spirit into the desert; there he lives on natural things in a very harsh environment, eating locusts and wild honey. John is not a wild man, only the natural is profoundly involved in his preparation to serve the Lord.
John is the last of the great individual prophets coming at the crossroads between the Old and New Covenant. He prepares the way for the coming of the Messiah. While in the wilderness, he still draws crowds to hear him and disciples to follow him.
He walks the lonely road that his cousin will take as a solitary witness when he cleans the temple, speaks openly to the leaders of the country, and takes the cross up to Calvary. John tells King Herod about the king's faults, and for this has his head delivered to a belly dancer's mother. As Jesus says, none born of woman is greater than John. Such is life!
Such a life as John the Baptist's is hard to imitate or at least it appears so. At times we must go out and take a more simple stance and lifestyle though not imitating John to the extreme. At certain times we must stand alone and discover that our voice is of one crying in the wilderness of a noisy world. We are also called to a mission, even a unique one, just as John was. Through the waters of baptism we too share in the prophetic mission, the public message or our lives more than even our words. We too live to present Christ to others as one who announces the Good News. What we sow, others reap; what we start, others finish. We must be humble for, like John, we do not see the final outcome.
But we should not glory in another's uniqueness alone, but in the fidelity of living up to the gifts given and the mission called forth. John stands out as a living example of what God expects of an individual; to announce even if it hurts. We should not retreat into the crowd even though tempted. Just as in John's day, our fidelity means remaining committed even under the pressure of a secular materialistic culture bent on convenience/comfort.
Prayer: Lord, call us and keep us in that calling, just as you did with John the Baptist. Uniqueness was written all over his being -- and ours as well, if we but stop and see ourselves.
Aster of roadsides and disturbed land across central Kentucky, Tragopogon dubius.
June 25, 2017 Fear Not, the Lord Is with Us
Why every hair of your head is numbered. So there is no need to be afraid... (Matthew 10:30-31a)
At various times in our lives we come on hard times and we need friends and companions along with assurances that we are not alone in this difficult journey of life. As part of the body of believers we are reassured that the Lord is with us -- always at our side in our individual challenges. Perhaps fear stalks us, but we hesitate to express it openly. Often we are afraid of many things real or imagined that seem to come in our individual paths. As believers, we are mindful that we can overcome such fear, for a merciful and loving God is with us. This is not a cold, harsh, unfriendly trip to an abrupt end; rather our journey involves a constant companion on the road to a New Heaven and New Earth.
The admonition to "fear not" goes beyond our individual journeys of life; they also apply to our Earth's journey and our past record for threatening the life on this fragile planet.
Some find it self-satisfying to become the authorities of horrors and speak of a few decades hence when millions will be forced from flooded homelands, other millions starving in drought-stricken land, and still other millions being choked on polluted air. Certainly the creation of such possible scenarios will draw attention in this age of threatening climate change, but is it spiritually healthy? Some fire and brimstone messages awaken us, but they can also paralyze us to such a degree that some hearers turn to denial, excuse, or escape. If we are people of action, the temptations to omission of duty occur as raw reality.
Good ecology implies a host of practices that are not green but harmful to the environment. These must be balanced by the willingness to take corrective measures -- and both fault and corrective need to be communicated at virtually the same time. Otherwise, the hearers of the message of doom and gloom may lose heart. Thus, part of the accompaniment by the Lord is that there is a divine providence that overshadows all of our actions whether on the individual or global level. We are called to be God's companions in the struggle to bring faith to a troubled and unbelieving world; we walk with others who fear and encourage them to act properly. We look back to historic figures who sacrificed themselves for others and showed signs of hope; a happy outcome will ultimately result -- but to hold this takes faith in a future for our planet. Part of overcoming fear involves breaking out of the faithlessness of our materialistic world of which we are immersed. We can make a difference with God at our side; we can contribute to what is an ultimate success story.
Prayer: Lord, let your words to "fear not" sink within our hearts both as individuals and as a global community. If we grow in courage to perform the tasks of healing our wounded Earth, we can extend that courage -- with your help -- to others who falter on their journeys. Help us to be fearless and to embolden others.
As we immerse in the growing year we consider the harvest season ahead and prepare to gather those seeds that come from successful crops of vegetables and herbs. Seed saving time is now approaching. The practice is as old as agriculture, and yet it is now being threatened by corporations, which demand that their own genetically engineered (GE) seed be purchased each year -- from them. A few years back in the western prairies of Canada, farmers, who tried to continue to save their own seed, refused to buy genetically engineered seed. However, the pollen from neighboring GE fields contaminated their own crop. The seed company took it on themselves to bomb the fields of the hold-out farmers with herbicide and found that the product being harvested was truly GE seed, because it withstood the attack. They demanded that a fee be paid for being contaminated by the neighbor's GE seed, because of unintended benefits. Unfair? Yes, but more such tales are emerging. The globalization of seed production makes the farmer totally dependent on and in the service of the "Big Brother" seed company, as though George Orwell's 1984 is coming true.
In so many ways we are to be good stewards of our heritage, whether that be cultural, spiritual, ecological or agricultural. Living matter is worth conserving, for the underlying thrust of all living creatures is to survive and continue through generations. Survival becomes imperative, especially when corporate interests seek uniformity to their own profit-making advantage. If farming people save their own seed, what corporate profit is in that? Must they be denied such practices for the good of the privileged few?
Over time, many different seed varieties have developed in isolated places. These have adapted cultivars to particular climates and soils. They acquire resistance to certain insects and diseases and can withstand harsh weather conditions. These types of crop plants have their own flavors and ripening times. With the advent of agribusiness techniques of the past few decades, the pressure has grown for uniformity of produce, sturdiness under shipping conditions, and attractiveness in marketing appearance. Only a selected few of the cultivars have become widely used commercially. This has worried many ecologically-minded horticulturists, because it restricts the genetic pool, especially when some heritage cultivars are being lost through neglect.
Seed banks and exchanges are springing up in order to save and propagate these endangered and varied cultivars. However, to list global, national and regional seed-saving groups reduces the localized orientation of this essay. A global bank in Norway has its merits, but we advocate having local seed banks also. Thus, the locally adapted seeds can be shared within and beyond the community and become more adapted with time. Let's exchange our favorite seeds, especially at the grassroots level.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to value and promote our heritage and that includes the special seeds from our gardens.
Emerging flowers of the wild petunia, Ruellia strepens.
June 27, 2017 Stewardship and Our Earth
We are often told that caring for our planet is at the heart of good stewardship, and some take this for granted. In looking deeper, we find that stewardship is based on two aspects: gift -- Earth is a gift from God and not of our making; and mortality -- our time for caring for this gift has a limited duration.
Earth is a fragile gift. The greatness of the Giver is reflected in the beauty and magnificence of the planet. From primitive times we have regarded this differently by fearing, loving, exploiting, or showing contempt for Earth herself. With the current climate change catastrophe hanging over us, we ought to review our attitudes so that we might become more involved as stewards. Though Mother Earth is magnificent, it is also fragile and can be hurt by us. This vulnerability to human activity is a phenomenon that was unknown until recently. The vulnerability of Earth means we do not see this precious planet as a domineering mother, but as an aging being who deserves our care and protection. We have received a gift to be able to live, flourish and survive on this uniquely treasured but fragile planet; we are responsible.
Earth is worth our special concern. A gift does not have to be set on a mantel to be displayed, but can be developed for our benefit. With so many of us human beings on this planet, it is impossible that even more than a small number can be hunters and gatherers on one extreme or super-rich on the other end of the lifestyle spectrum. Rather we need to utilize Earth's resources for the betterment of all people through radical sharing of resources. Our Earth is our particular treasure, our center of view, our bearing, our home place, our base of connections with other inhabitants. Psychologically, we know our home place locally before we know about a planet. For many primitive peoples the two concepts (homeland and earth) are interchangeable. For them, their homeland is the whole Earth; for us, our specific locality is the starting point of our reflection on this entire planet.
Earth is the ground under our journey of faith. Since we are of dust, and thus of the land, our bodies are destined to return to this dust -- but we are destined to live eternally. We have our moment in the sweep of events -- and our native land fits into our personal history in many civic and cultural expressions. We spring forth like flowers, we flourish and we pass on, and so Earth testifies to our mortality -- a testimony to the first of a two act play. Some of us testify that Earth is a redeemed component in the coming New Heaven and New Earth. Our stewardship of enhancement comes as an urgency because we have only a window of time to individually help save and beautify our threatened Earth. We seek to budget our time due to ebbing personal energy. We are called to hasten the day of the coming of the Lord and thus our attitudes about stewardship have profound future implications.
Prayer: Father in heaven, give us a proper attitude about Mother Earth and how it enters into our journey of faith.
June 28, 2017 Observe -- Don't Make-- Fireworks Displays
Independence Day weekend is soon upon us and we see tents, which sell many types of fireworks in the supermarket parking lots. The tents state the wisdom of using certain safeguards as to storage and sale, and raise for us a warning signal as to the danger of fireworks. Some other countries have their fireworks as well, with fewer safeguards and more mishaps. A Chinese school, which made fireworks to finance its operation, went up in a bang earlier this century killing a number of youth. When I visited India, the fireworks were loud and ubiquitous during the Dewali holiday; New Delhi was a battlefield -- with some injuries.
Participating in sports is preferred over being a mere spectator -- most of the time. This rule has an exception, namely observe setting off fireworks and don't do it yourself unless you are an expert. Fireworks are too dangerous for average people, and that is especially true with youth who naturally gravitate to fireworks. Nearby Tennessee allows the sale of an array of noisemakers and pyrotechnic devices. However, an increasing number of cities and states are restricting the sale of fireworks. Legislators are now inclined to favor health and safety.
Bang! Bang! Fireworks are part of a holiday of relaxation and frivolity, when attention is short and safety is often overlooked. Children dart about; adults are distracted; pranksters are out in force. Accidents can occur. Performing the entertainment can best be left to the professionals. Take the kids for an evening out and watch the displays from a safe distance. Experts have fewer accidents, but expertise decreases dangers.
Fireworks displays have many advantages: they are beautiful and worth occasional demonstration; they give a special highlight to a public holiday with its patriotic flavor; the fireworks are set off at a central location and thus can be enjoyed by a large number of people; this display can be the grand finale of a day's entertainment and concentrates noise to one time and place only; the single performance is less disturbing to neighborhoods; and the handling of fireworks by professionals reduces the number of pranks. As kids, we hid at the roadside and threw firecrackers at passing trucks -- a shock and a possible cause for an accident or extra worry; it is now regretted. Putting fireworks under the control of careful experts curbs such acts. One might argue that fireworks, like guns, should be available to all, and the right to bear arms includes fireworks. Here again restrictions of supposed rights are needed for the well being of a total society. Changing from individual to group firework displays is more in keeping with Independence Day, when our collective freedom was won by a cooperative performance of a uniting set of colonies -- who kept much ammo in a common arsenal. The Second Amendment is communal.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to work together and to enjoy things as one uniting people -- and to avoid what is too dangerous for us.
June 29, 2017 Sts. Peter and Paul: Together But Different
Their message goes out through all the Earth. (Psalm 19)
The Church celebrates the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, those grand apostles whose personalities are so different yet their goals are completely in harmony. Both apostles have histories of weakness: denial of the Lord by Peter and acceptance of the killing of Stephen as first martyr by Paul.
Peter is the rock. Jesus gives a special command to Peter, a person of different personality from that of Paul. He is a rugged man, one who comes to know his weaknesses and yet is called by God to lead others. He is a natural leader, one capable of immense love and kindness, a lighthouse to which others look. Peter struggles to go beyond his Jewish culture, but being open to the Lord, he accepts the expanded mission of the Church.
Paul is the runner of the race. Paul is different from Peter but each contributes to the total mission of the Church. Paul is highly educated, refined, a Roman citizen, capable of complete dedication, gifted with words, alert, far-reaching. Paul is on the move, a mobile person in a Church that both stands in the middle of the storm and yet also goes out to the rest of the world. Paul influences the early Church in the greatest decision ever made -- to go out to the gentile world. Paul's mobility leads to the image of an athlete: I have finished the race. (II Timothy 4).
Peter and Paul are complementary models. Petrine stability and Pauline mobility are both gifts needed for a living instrument of divine enlightenment; neither is really greater: in respect to leadership Peter is first and yet Paul furnishes dynamic energy. Today we are a community of persons some who are on our far-ranging journey of life and some who like to stay closer to home. At times we all possess the two different tendencies -- to rest in a place or to move out to another; to live in a settled condition or to move on to eternity. Part of our calling is to recognize God's gift at a given moment; another is to use that gift fully and leave the place a better one.
In our calling as disciples, followers, and learners we are chosen to be disciples. The task before us is immense and humbling just as it was for Peter and Paul. We see God as our stable anchor and rock; and the Spirit is a moving wind. We are called to take a leadership role like St. Peter -- to be role models for others who are drifting around in their zigzag journeys of life, confused and anchorless. Likewise we must be alert to changes that are needed and, even when not in a policymaking role, we must speak out boldly and be willing to carry the message to the public in the manner of St. Paul, for believers must be immersed in a world undergoing immense change due to climate change.
Prayer: Lord, may the apostles who strengthened the faith of the infant Church help us on our way to salvation.
As the first half of 2017 draws to a close, we look back and try to see how food and fuel fluctuations have affected our budget. In some ways, the calendar may trigger an ideal time to talk about the somewhat unpleasant task of budget review. We endure sport years, liturgical years, academic years, crop-growing years, fiscal years, and so forth, each having its own beginning, which is generally at the first of a particular month.
Know the budget. Set aside time to budget income and expenses. Unless we are unusual, budgets are not in the forefront of our minds, with two exceptions: we may be hard up for money; or we may be spending beyond our means and become alarmed. Small comfort, but that is better than not recognizing either situation. If budgets are part of goal setting and conservation of resources, they fit well in the global theme of reducing effects of climate change. Making the budget controllable is often another matter, and mere knowledge of where we are right now may not be sufficient to bring about those controls.
Assess the budget. An assessment is an overview, a judgment after taking into consideration pertinent facts in the data gathering process. While we monitor our spending, the ideal is to have someone else help with the assessment, for it gives an added dimension of objectivity. How well did we fare in the last half-year? Maybe we would be too optimistic or pessimistic -- the glass half-filled, or half-empty. Were things far better than expected or far worse? The current down-turn speaks volumes. Can the belt be tightened more? Are there overlooked categories of savings?
Revise the budget. One solution when we can influence our own budget formation is to construct a low (pessimistic), medium (realistic), and high (optimistic) budget. Make the low budget the level of survival, the medium that of normal operation, and the high, one of possible capital expansion. Revision shows a sense of control and an openness that allows us to be creative within the realms of emerging resource possibilities. For the pessimist, revision is a burden; for the realist, the practice of budget revision is a challenge; for the optimist, we have an opportunity to be creative and find new ways to use resources properly. Revision cannot be mere line-item readjustments or putting off to consider at another time. A certain freedom may be demanded in revising budgets for, otherwise, we will be enslaved to numbers established before the current financial situation.
Live with the Budget. Many do not use a budget, and adjusting existing ones may seem a strange mathematical exercise. However, the day of reckoning is hard on the unbudgeted. Seek advice. Budgeting is time well spent whether for domestic, corporate or personal spiritual life. Confronting limitations is part of life.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to know our limits and live within them, especially during anticipated troubling times.