About us
Daily Reflections
Special Issues

Mailing list
Bookmark this site

Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



Help to keep Earth Healing Daily Reflections online


Read current month's Daily Reflections
Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

May 2009


Copyright 2009 by Al Fritsch

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) in full bloom
(Photo by Janet Powell)

  How could anyone fail to enjoy the month of May? It is still mosquito-less; the weather is generally mild and not too cold or hot; the floral colors and fragrances are all about -- from peony to lilac, from bridal wreath to lily-of-the-valley, from ox-eyed daisy to red clover, from black locust bloom to apple blossom. We hear May sounds -- buzzing busy bumble bees, chirping hungry robin nestlings, gurgling streams, and frogs though a little diminished in number. May is full of celebration -- the month of Mary and Mother's Day, of the Kentucky Derby and other races, of graduations and weddings, of school year completions and vacations, of strawberries and rhubarb, of green onions and spinach, of corn planting and haying, of Memorial Day and cemetery visitations, of camping and boating, of first sunburn and lengthening days, of cool spring showers and first summer heat, of mockingbirds and whippoorwills, of fresh green forests and pasturelands, and of the joy of just being alive. May is the year's finest display, a month we simply can't be without. Let's not become totally distracted by financial and environmental crises, and for one moment each day thank God for the month of May.





Skygazing at the park, waiting for the night to fall
*photo credit)

May 1, 2009        International Year of Astronomy

     Besides being Astronomy Day today is part of the International Year of Astronomy.  This month astronauts are to take a new camera and other instruments to the 20-year-old Hubble space telescope.  The Guardian Weekly (February 6, 2009) called this "A New Golden Age of Stargazing."  However, that could be questionable when we pity the inability of urban youth handicapped by light pollution from viewing the Milky Way.  Nevertheless, the youthful wonder may still occur when first peering into a telescope and viewing the vast world out there.  That space is measured in light years -- distance light travels in a single year (5,880,000,000,000 miles). 

     Two months ago the space telescope Kepler was launched as part of a $600 million NASA program and it is starting to probe the mysteries of 100,000 stars for the little twinkles of light in very distant stars in our galaxy that show the periodic passage of orbiting planets.  With further probing in the future the astronomers will be able to determine whether these planets are placed in a habitable zone or orbit where liquid water can exist in a state capable of supporting life.

     Amateurs may identify the North Star or Orion or Venus but the millions of heavenly bodies boggle our minds.  Furthermore, we marvel at the experience, skills and diligence of ancient observers with far cruder instrumentation;  they were able to determine the Solstices, to sight orbiting bodies, and to perform their sea travels guided by the stars.  The grandeur and magnitude of creation made them and makes us seem so small.  We marvel at the more recent astronomers who figured precisely when a comet would return, the composition of a star or planet, the shape and size of the Milky Way, and the complexities of the cosmos.  Astronomers are true pioneers, going far ahead of us in finding God's grandeur and yet at times being made to suffer by those who do not understand what they are revealing.  Religious practices are often nature-based, depending on information about moon phases, equinoxes, length of the year, and Earth's place in the universe.  From the second century A.D. our ancestors in the faith struggled with the dates for Easter and later the readjustments of the Julian calendar.  Those discussions continue as people argue for fixed or flexible dates for celebrating Easter today ecumenically.

     On occasion we look down to the microcosm and the almost infinite variety of creation below our feet.  Then we look up at the equal marvel of the heavens and become aware of our own finitude.  With competing financial demands for basics of life on this planet, how can we expend funds on Kepler and other spatial undertakings?  In one sense it seems a waste but in another we need to look beyond our present needs.  I have changed my thinking on this subject in the last few years;  maybe the space program is necessary given the questing human spirit.

    Prayer:  I look up at Your heavens, made by Your fingers, at the moon and stars You set in place.




Preparing for the big race
*photo credit)

May 2, 2009           Derby Day Celebration

      Derby Day this year is far more subdued, with no free breakfast at the Kentucky Capitol grounds for all who come by for a handout.  My world is not too taken up with this Derby tradition though I do like to listen with a sense of nostalgia to the playing of "My Old Kentucky Home" at the start of this brief annual race.  When asked once about having horses at the homeplace  by a very wealthy person who heard I was from Kentucky, I had to admit that my family had four horses, all work -- not race -- horses. 

     What is Derby Day and why celebrate it?   This is in part a continuation of Old England in America and has much to do with nobility, music and fancy dress.  In some ways Kentucky wanted to continue the privileges of the past, with black folks serving mint juleps to white folks, who were the upper crust -- at least that is how they thought of themselves.  So much for annual displays of charm by certain ethnic groups.  We were latecomers for my folks only arrived in the Bluegrass one hundred and thirty years ago. 

     For most people today Derby day is a tradition worth celebrating once a year;  they place money on one or other quaintly named horse, most of which will quickly recede into distant memory for all but the most confirmed racing enthusiast.  Fun, mint juleps, cheers and hopes the winner will move on to a Triple Crown.  Derby Day takes our minds momentarily off pressing problems at home or abroad.  Granted, some few make a living buying, selling, training and grooming horses for these once-in-a-while four-minute events.  The horse business goes back to pioneer days; they raced the thoroughbreds down muddy roads in the village of Lexington or other emerging towns. Then, as the Revolutionary War receded, horse folks fancied that they were heirs to English nobility and so the Derby took on an added air of privilege. 

     What has amazed many of us is the immense prices paid throughout American history for good racing horses -- in the thousands of dollars in the 1850s.  The white-fenced horse farms that ring Lexington today disappear one by one as rapidly spreading suburbs replace the bluegrass turf.  I guess I should be more upset about this "destruction" of valuable farmland, except that the very fertile land was never used for a useful purpose except to pasture mares, colts, studs, and even geldings.  On second thought, it is greenspace.  It is a recreation industry for better or worse and attracts tourists to come and see the state that will host the world equestrian games next year.  It makes the horse people nervous if you linger at the roadside so go to the Kentucky Horse Park if you want to come and learn more about racing.

     Derby Day is tradition and is somewhat harmless.  We need to have celebrations as part of life, and these are all the more important in time of crises.  Yes, celebrate with gusto for this gives the energy to take on bigger issues next week.

Prayer:  Teach us, Lord, to enjoy a free day once in a while.







Chives, in bloom
*photo credit)

May 3, 2009       Shepherding in Times of Crises

The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. 
    (John 10:11)

     On this Good Shepherd Sunday our reflection pertains to shepherding, but the above title omitted the word "good."  That is because we have not yet earned the Christ title of being good and much depends on how we act here and now.  As Christians immersed in a turbulent sea of materialism, we are to manifest loyalty, concern, and the total dedication of the shepherd to the welfare of others.  However, with millions dying each year from health and nutrition issues there is plenty of blame to go around to those of us who are better off.  A good shepherd cannot afford to dwell on passing blame provided our silence allows culprits the opportunity to repeat their misdeeds.  Most likely, the deeds springing from poor credit, falsified records, misdirected mortgages, and toxic assets are being successfully challenged.  Do these corrective measures extend to the captains of the banking  industry and the mega-investors who act in an unregulated manner?

     Loyalty to our calling means that we must not be permissive.  Today the return of capital as bonuses to bungling executives (rather than demoting them) is frightening.  The very ones who messed things up are to continue in their carefree practices by the use of tax-payer funds.  On the other hand, loyalty ought to mean accepting our civic responsibility as citizens within a democratic society.  We are voters, guardians of the liberties of our people, and responsible for the most needy among us.  Responsibility includes adequate food, affordable housing and a comprehensive health care program for all (especially the 40 million Americans not covered by health insurance).  Demote the bankers.

     Personal Concern.  We all are called to become concerned about the welfare of others especially the unemployed and those who have lost retirement benefits.  To say "good bye and good luck" to  these is not Christian.  As people who care, we look at the folks who are unemployed or evicted and remember that they are in need more than we.  They are our brothers and sisters and we are shepherds, not sheep.  Our concern is for the poor, our neighbors.

     Total Dedication.  As Christians we are to speak up: the current economic system could spell doom to our Earth and condemn hundreds of millions to lives of continued poverty.  Christians cannot allow this to happen for we are dedicated to our Earth and our people as potential good shepherds.  Do we have the nerve to call for radical change (see Reclaiming the Commons on this website)?  A consumption-driven economy of the past overtaxes the ability of Earth to sustain herself and does not address long-term poverty.  Bringing about change is a dedicated and focused mission, much like that of the Good Shepherd guarding his sheep.

     Prayer:  Lord give us the courage to assist in the difficult role of Christian shepherding at this time of environmental and financial crises.




Phlox divaricata, common blue phlox
(*photo credit)

May 4, 2009         The Gift of Wildflowers

     Wildflowers are God's special gift in spring whether on our roadsides on in distant deserts and mountains.  On this website we strive to show their beauty through Janet Powell's many photos, and their presentation enhances our ecological messages.  In springtime Janet is quite busy taking photos of the many varieties that she knows or discovers. In our moderate Kentucky climate zone, tree foliage blossoms forth fully this week -- thus the window of opportunity for annual spring forest wildflowers is short.  They bloom briefly in all their glory in unhindered sunlight, and then they're gone with the foliage cover.  When the sunshine blazes hotter, the Texas blue bonnets and Indian paintbrushes wither and the wild geranium is soon gone.  Fortunately, in the temperate and rainy East we have spring wildflowers virtually every year and for slightly longer lengths of time than in arid and hotter places.

     When hiking, consider taking along a wildflower book and learn the native species in forests and pastures.  It is amazing how many native species bloom in part of or throughout the growing season.  Needless to say, don't pick the wildflowers unless they are the exotic species -- wild chicory, ox-eyed daisies, dandelions, sunflowers, Queen Anne's lace and others that thrive along roadways.  Pick an adequate number of these, but leave the natives in place for they often find it hard to compete and survive.

     Consider a wildflower patch in your own yard.  We tried one using both native and exotic wildflowers at our Rockcastle nature center;  for the first year it was a spring and summer explosion of color but the crabgrass smothered out many of the plants in the second and more so in the third year.  We learned that wildflower patches require tending on a yearly basis.  Wildflowers do not necessarily come back with the same intensity, if soil conditions are not right.  There is a gray area between wild and cultivated flowers, and so hard and fast guidelines are difficult.  For instance, cosmos is a favorite in "wildflower" patches on the Interstate and state highway right-of-ways; it is also popular in domestic gardens.  The only difficulty with roadside beautification projects is that highway drivers are distracted by the proliferation of color and it divides their road driving attention.

     Gardeners tell about carefully designed wildflower patches composed of wildflower species of different colors, designed to bloom successively throughout the growing season -- a succession of color on a nature plot.  From the early yellow daffodil to the late autumn purple asters, one could observe a changing palette of vegetative artistic delight.  One added bit of care is the autumn seed harvesting at frost time;  this could prove a cost savings for wildflower seed is expensive.  Consider a new wildflower in the garden for these add color and delight to your gardening -- and are good companions to the vegetables, herbs and domestic flowers.

     Prayer:  Lord, we thank you for the beauty of the world around us and the gift of wildflowers to delight us here and now. 







T.J. "el Jefe," zoning out for a nap, at age 19 - a devoted pet
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

May 5, 2009                Animal Care

     I was not always kind to all animals when I was young -- and on occasion I recall such acts of youthful misdeeds.   If a bull was fenced in, we might tease it, or scare a dozing cat, or target practice over the head of our pet dog.  I've done all of these and yet have lived to regret such acts.  Most of us learn kindness quite slowly with time and strive to teach others so they don't repeat our mistakes.  Kindness comes naturally to some and is acquired by the more mean-spirited through painful experience.  Here are some ways to learn and practice being kind to animals:

     * Give your pet an extra treat;

     * Add bird seed to the bird feeder or prepare a bird bath;

     * Speak gently to the chained or fenced-in dog down the street;

     * Support legislation to expand wildlife refuges and sanctuaries;

     * Take children on a nature walk to observe wildlife, or to a petting zoo, or read to them about animals while talking with them about the need for kindness to all creatures;

     * Reexamine attitudes about personal hunting practices (only hunting if you or others will eat the killed game and in order to control proliferating populations of wildlife);

     * Encourage friends and neighbors to be kinder to their pets, and never play videogames that express cruelty to animals;

     * Stop patronizing restaurants that get meat from corporate beef, pork or chicken farms;

     * Become familiar with wildlife conservation;

     * Have stray animals collected and placed in an animal shelter -- and support that shelter with donations;

     * Participate in programs to control the numbers of game or other proliferating species such as geese, turkeys, and deer;

     * Support wildlife reintroduction programs in your area;

     * Report those who abuse animals in any manner; and

     * Regard all animals as friends even though some will have to be left unbothered for their own welfare and tranquility.

     Prayer:  Lord, You created the order of our universe from which has evolved the wonderful variety of animal life.  We are better for their presence and, in gratitude, we show kindness.








Exploring an abandoned mansion on University of
Kentucky agricultural research farm

(*photo credit)

May 6, 2009               Lead Contamination

     Lead, as an environmental pollutant, never seems to go away.  In the past few years sizeable quantities of toys manufactured in China were found to contain various amounts of lead paint.  This again has caused alarm as did lead pollution stories of the 1970s.

     History tells us that lead contamination helped bring about the demise of an ancient upper Roman class who drank from leaded cups.  In 1970, lead was one of the first toxic materials I focused upon at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  At that time the most worrisome source of toxic lead was tetraethyl lead inserted as an additive to raise octane levels in gasoline.  Even after this practice was halted through prodding by some of us, additional toxic sources of lead remained from contaminated soil, road dust, paint chips, old leaded water pipes, older pottery and crystal glassware, and an assortment of antique leaded objects around the home.  Even old printed matter had lead in inks.

     Even in the twenty first century, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one out of twenty-two American children has high levels of blood lead either due to the child's own present environment or through the passing of lead from a contaminated pregnant mother.  These higher lead levels can lead to decreased growth, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and possible brain damage.  Through simple blood testing the young person who was possibly exposed to lead poisoning can be checked and the testing results easily interpreted.  Prevention includes keeping infants and youth away from lead contaminated soil or peeling paint.  Because so much toxic lead lingers in the environment, it is best to be safe:  provide clean dust-free places where infants can play;  keep toys, pacifiers and bottles clean; and ensure that children wash hands before taking food or drink.  If your home was built before 1960, the chances are high that older paint coatings contain lead.  Keep peeling chips away from infants.

     Most of these preventive measures seem reasonable enough.  Beyond getting rid of leaded objects, should homemakers attempt to remove the old paint as a do-it-yourself project?  Perish the thought!  Dust that is kicked up through this paint stripping operation could poison not only the person doing the project but other residents as well.  Through a free state or county test one can find out whether leaded paint is present.  Through a decontaminating specialist the lead paint problem can be corrected with occupants vacating the property during the operation.   If you suspect that your drinking water is contaminated by old lead plumbing, get help from the local utility or county health office.

The USEPA suggests a further lead preventive measure.  A child who gets enough iron (eggs, lean red meat and beans) and calcium (dairy products) will absorb less lead.  Good nutrition is protection.  For further information see <www.epa.gov/lead>.

     Prayer:  Lord, help us make this world a better place by taking measures to reduce environmental dangers that threaten us.





Jacobsís Ladder, Polemonium reptans
(*photo credit)

May 7, 2009       2009 National Day of Prayer                 

     We thank You, our God, for the gift of the Church, the gathered community  of believers, who are fashioned into Your visible body called to worship You.  Assist the community of believers in establishing peace and justice throughout the world.  We thank You for the freedom of religion that allows us worshippers to assemble without fear, to express ourselves in prayer and adoration without harassment, and freely to give assistance to those most in need. 

     We praise You for the guidance You have given us down through the centuries, which has allowed us to show forth Your marvelous deeds to all the nations.

     We beg Your pardon for our offenses both as individuals within the Church and for church communities.  We ask pardon in a public    manner --

     * for failing to live up to our individual and collective vocations;

     * for being silent about the many injustices in our world and about the waging of unjust conflicts;

     * for not speaking up about the need to radically share our plentiful resources with the world's hungry and homeless;

     * and for condoning the excessive militarism of our country and the entire world.

       We beg You with thankful, praising  and contrite hearts --

      * to give all in the Church, especially leaders, the grace to spend some time with You each day in private prayer;

      * to mold Your church into a glorious unity so as to be a more fitting instrument in a very troubled world;

      * to help heal wounds that divide our communities of faith;

      * to give us the grace to convert church properties into environmental models for others to imitate;

     * to keep us from being court chaplains to the powerful;

     * and to help us to give special attention to the poor and the voiceless of our country and world -- the unborn, the young, the elderly, the endangered plants and animals. 

       We beg You to purge us of any self-righteousness and conceit, to humble us as a united people, and to make us ever more sensitive to the needs of all who yearn for the basic essentials of life.  We pray, especially, for our Church leaders: give them the backbone to speak out about internal difficulties and about social problems in our vicinities, country and world.  Make them fearless and courageous people in these last of times. 

    Prayer: Teach us, Lord, as Church, to open our minds to Your presence and to soften our hearts with Your love.   Mold us as Your people into a fitting instrument to do Your work, so that Your Church will speak out to all the world about the Good News of Your loving and saving power.                               







Cultivated pink dogwood, Cornus florida rubra
(*photo credit)

May 8, 2009              Democracy 101

     Those of us old enough to remember that first V-E Day (Victory in Europe) in 1945 recall seeing this as a triumph for democracy over Nazism.  However, the fruits of struggle do not endure forever but need replenishing.  Today new crises threaten that democracy in more subtle ways: exploitation of the poor, lack of freedom of expression, terrorism in many forms, unequal distribution of wealth, the global warming crises, and lack of food and health care on the part of many.  A refresher course in democracy is in order:

     * Every citizen has a right to life and liberty, not just a selected few, and these rights extend to food, health care, proper education and freedom of expression;

     * Democracy is when all adult citizens have the opportunity to vote and are able to elect honest people to public office;

     * Democracy is making food and food-producing land available for those who are hungry and need a local supply source;

     * Democracy is giving citizen-workers the right to organize, and unemployed citizens the right to a livelihood with the obligation of finding work as part of a proper government's function as employer of last resort;

     * Democracy means that greed is a vice, not a virtue;

     * Democracy does not recognize the nobility of the privileged rich who are answerable through taxes for furnishing the resources to be reapportioned among those in need; democratic process protects the rich from their own self-destruction;

     * Democracy does not recognize corporations as "persons" with certain rights;  rather, as intended in the founding of this American democracy, corporations are creatures of the state and subject to its laws and regulations;

     * Democracy demands that all have a right to earn a living and the state must guarantee that right for its citizens;

     * Democracy permits no tax havens in postage stamp islands and principalities where the super-rich get away with no taxes, but rather it creates international mechanisms to discover who takes the loot and sequesters it within these tax havens;

     * Democracy encourages the surrender of sovereignty for the sake of the larger numbers of people throughout the world;

     * Democracy is eternal vigilance and ongoing questioning as to whether modern practices restrict the rights of people.

     Prayer:  Lord, give us courage to act the way we must.







Geode station near Shakertown, KY, crumbling target of vandals. No historical marker at this spot, nor action taken to preserve it by owners
(*photo credit)

May 9, 2009        Historic Preservation Week

       Tomorrow starts Historic Preservation Week.  We like to preserve our past, which contains weaknesses mixed with successes.  I grew up near Washington, Kentucky, the third oldest incorporated town in our Commonwealth.  It is now part of historic Maysville which has its own history.  Washington takes pride in its history and its record of historic preservation.  The local community has renovated many of the early log cabins and brick buildings, nearby grounds, and an herb garden.  Washington was the site of the state's first municipal water system, the first Post Office serving the Northwest Territory (1789), the first bank "West of the Alleghenies,"  the birthplace (1810) of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston of Shiloh fame, the Marshall Key House (1807) where Harriet Beecher Stowe observed the sale of a slave and wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and "Federal Hill" built by Thomas Marshall, brother of Chief Justice John Marshall.  My dad's carving of pioneer Simon Kenton is in the shrine bearing Kenton's name.

     However Washington has its imperfect history.  The town was the home of prominent citizens who went over the Ohio River in a posse to recover slaves who escaped from Kentucky and rounded up others who were residents and not escapees; these Washingtonians were armed with weapons and federal laws that permitted their ventures.  Captured Afro-Americans were then taken back across the river to Washington and jailed; these acts were featured in Ann Hagedorn's book Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad.  The entire book came as a shock to me for I had always been proud of my home town and generally passed over its relationship to the "peculiar institution" as slavery was called -- even though slavery ceased to exist a decade or so before my forbearers' arrival.  The jail has been long gone, but one local resident said she possessed the lock and key, which will end up in one or other of the town's museums.  History contains wrinkles. 

     Gradually more and more former residents come back to see their past.  So do an increasing number of tourists from other parts of Kentucky, neighboring Ohio, and points beyond.  Visitors enjoy taking a walking tour;  they inspect the buildings and gardens, the old waterwells, and the "Medfort's Fort" cabin (1787) built with planks from the flatboat that brought some of the earliest pioneers down the Ohio River.  Visitors are also attracted to a given number of special events such as a Chocolate Festival, Simon Kenton Festival, Civil War Days, and Frontier Christmas.  They are also impressed by the local folks; their work in part inspired our book Ecotourism in Appalachia.  Washington had no Rockefeller sugar daddy as did Williamsburg, Virginia, or any federal grants.  The preservation work was performed by local people at their expense and volunteer time, a truly homesteading and pioneer venture.  Even though its history was imperfect, Old Washington stands out as a model of local citizen achievement.

     Prayer:  Help us Lord see the worth of the past whether things to be proud of or experience that we now resolve not to repeat.






Grown from a great-grandmother's stock, the plum granny melon, Cucumis melo
(*photo credit)

May 10, 2009        Joined to the Vine

     Whoever remain in me and I in them will bear much fruit.
                                        (John 15: 1-8)

     Many people experience a deep sense of isolation even amid all the glory of the communications age (Internet, cell phones, i-pods, etc.).  All the while people have a passion to have continual connectedness; they walk about, sit, and drive while continuing to chatter on the phone as busy and important people.  The modern phenomenon of isolation and over-connectedness may have similar or identical roots in depression, disgust, fear of silence, anger or over-protectiveness of a loved one.  Whatever the roots, it is important that we enhance our connectedness to God -- and Jesus' discussion of the vine and branches are worth pondering.  Neither isolation nor compulsive chattering are good things; we need a divine-inspired balance of rest and action.

     Vines connect roots with branches and plants quickly wilt in the mid-spring sun if not connected to the roots.  So we need the graces or sap of God's lifeline in order to carry on through life.  Jesus gives us this lifeline in the sacramental life.  First we are not isolated, for God is with us;  we can spend time with the Lord in the silence of prayer and do not have to be either left in a state of isolated depression, nor have to be moved to constantly find companionship in a worldly sense.  The balance of rest/action in itself is beneficial for our journey in life.  At times, we need to be pruned and thus the two prunings of the grape-growing year:  the first in late winter rids the vine of deadwood; the second in summer before fruitfulness rids the vine of unneeded green vegetation so the fruit may mature.  Through being connected to the Lord we are also pruned for better fruitfulness.

     The analogy of plants to the relationship between Christ and us includes:  plants need moisture and we need Christ's grace; plants need minerals and nutrients; we need sacraments; plants must keep erect during storms; we need protection from the temptations of the world; plants are in communities of fruit bearers; we are bearers of fruit in a community of believers; plants produce seed for future plants; we seek to extend the community through the seed of the Good News; plants are beautiful to behold;  so are we as a community of faith, the vineyard of the Lord.  The long history of our Church is one of connectedness.  The marks of one, holy, catholic and apostolic mean we are connected.  We are only three or four persons away from our Pope.  I know someone who knows someone, who knows the Pope, Christ's visible representative.  At confirmation I'm touched by someone touched by another and another back to the Apostles and to Christ.  We are connected in space (all over the world) and in time (for 2,000 years).

     Prayer:  Lord, help us to see the connectedness that we need to have with mothers, with Mary the mother of us all, and with the Lord, the fruit of her womb.  Let our sharing of the vine be our connectedness to the Divine Family from which we reach out to others.








The berry patch
(*photo credit)

May 11,  2009   Converting from American to Global Measurements

      We may come across those quaint English expressions that designate measurement for they are many.  What about a brace of wildlife (hunted as game)?  Every February my family gets together to make homemade Alsatian sausage and we use "hog casings" (intestines) and find they are sold by the hank, which is an old English measurement for yarn.  Strange words and yet our language and culture have many strange types of measurements, some retired after centuries and some still in use by more traditional Americans -- hands for horse traders, jewels for gem folks, sticks and rails for tobacco harvesters, and pecks and bushels for fruit- and grain- growers.  We prefer to be monolingual, but should that extend to our measuring system?  We differ from most other countries in that we have a dual system, one that we would like to abandon (the English measuring systems), and the metric system, used by most and the international scientific community.

     Americans grew up using pints, quarts, and gallons for liquid volume; ounces, pounds, and tons for weight; and inches, feet, yards, and miles for linear distance.  This is not the same as the liters, grams, and meters of other lands -- but the units are convertible though not in easily remembered whole numbers.  In fact, there was some common sense to the English system even though it was quite complex and involved perhaps up to 150 different sub-systems.  A pound is about a pint of water and there are about two per quart and eight per gallon.  Even for certain nuts there was a special system of measurement, and the origins are interesting.

The ounce would be one 1/12 of a pound troy (5,760 grains) or 1/16 of a pound avoirdupois (7,000 grains).  Confusing?  But a "grain" is only 0.0648 grams. Troy weight was used from medieval times as a measure of gold, silver and precious stones.  What becomes evident is that in medieval times measurements were often based on the substance, not on some standardized system for all substances.

     One critic wondered why our public interest center did not spend more time stressing the conversion to the metric system.  That criticism had some merit, but was not our reason for existence.  Personally, I like the American system because I had a sense of the pound, the length of the miles and the area (from a small field on our farm) of an acre (the metric folks use hectare).  Temperatures are now being given in both Fahrenheit (American) and Centigrade (global) and we are adjusting painfully.  Through scientific measurements we soon learn to estimate a gram or a meter.  Americans are slowly changing to the entire metric system though our volumes are measured in liters today.  However, we still use an "eight penny" nail.  Distances are still in miles on the Interstate even though an occasional sign helps us to convert to kilometers.     Should we convert?  Of course, with time and energy.  We will have to change our thinking to kilometers instead of miles and kilograms instead of pounds of coffee.  Americans need time.

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us that conversion is always needed so we can communicate with and serve others better.






Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides
(*photo credit)

May 12, 2009           Simplify Lawn Care

     The grass is growing with these spring showers and warming sun, and that brings out the familiar droning sound of lawn mowers.  The old fashioned hand or human-powered mower is almost a museum piece.  As a youngster I pushed an antique lawn mover over a half acre of grassy space -- a real job.  Today, most people prefer to follow or sit upon a gasoline-powered mower and move about their lawn with grace and a desire to soak up sunshine rays and suck in fresh air.  In a reflection written last year (May 27, 2008), I listed eight reasons for reducing the size of lawns among which are the bother of the loud, polluting gasoline-powered lawn mower.

      Gasoline-powered lawn mowers may include benefits:  one can mow and do so more easily than with the hand-pushed varieties;  the smell of new-mown lawns is a pleasant experience for a period after the weekly or biweekly ritual; youngsters find mowing a way of making money from senior, busy, or disabled neighbors.  But the last two are also available to the push mower people along with some physical exercise of which most of us could use more.  In a more modified manner the power mowers are improving.  New USEPA regulations, which have taken effect in the past decade, have increased overall efficiency and reduced hydrocarbon emissions by one-third nationwide through mower replacements.  California with its strict garden tool regulations has an even better record with at least a fifty percent improvement.

      Amid everything the power-mower disadvantages are obvious:  neighborhood noise is a problem even with community regulations limiting lawn care by power devices to specific days and times; one hundred million mowers take precious petroleum fuel, which becomes ever more scarce; power mowers (along with leaf blowers and weed eaters), even the more efficient varieties, still pollute the air and contribute about one-twentieth of the pollution of an average urban area.  Furthermore, power mowers are costly, require added time for maintenance (tune ups), take up storage space, and involve spilled gasoline from refueling operations.

      An electric alternative to gasoline-powered mowers comes in cordless and rechargeable varieties, requires low maintenance and emits no fuel fumes.  However even efficient electric mowers often (though not necessarily) take non-renewable fuel to generate and transport electricity -- and so air pollution occurs though at a distance from the lawn.  In this simplified age the preference is the reduced or eliminated lawn.  Certainly the better engineered human-powered lawn mower, which is easier to maneuver and stays sharper is one alternative.  Still if the lawn were wildscape or converted vegetable garden, you could put away lawn mowers, powered or otherwise, and convert the monotonous manicured lawn to an alternative landscape, even an ornamental low-growing native ground cover that avoids constant clipping.

     Prayer:  Lord, direct our hearts and minds to simpler things even when it comes to our individual lawns and landscapes.





Eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum
(*photo credit)

May 13, 2009           Contrasting Financial Views

     During this time of financial turmoil and distress we find contrasting views, and ask ourselves which ones we hold.  Here is a series of those contrasts worth pondering today:

     * Greed is a virtue; versus Sharing is a virtue.

     * Profits should be unregulated and undisclosed; versus

             Profits are to be regulated, disclosed and taxed

     * Free market and free trade are articles of faith; versus

          The market is not free and all trade must be fair.

     * Charity is a concern and decision of the privileged; versus

           Charity comes in different styles and some can be a

                       form of power control.

     * Consumers will be materially profit-motivated; versus
                 All should aspire to be spiritually-motivated contrasumers.

     * Millionaires have a right to become billionaires; versus

           Billionaires should be taxed down to thousandaires.

     * Governments are generally bad and should be limited and all                   properties privatized; versus

           Good government on all levels can act fairly.

     * The world's poor are a problem and are to be kept docile, hidden and well beyond the pale of concern; versus

           The poor have the key to rising and saving our Earth.

     * Financial problems are solved solely by secular and  technical procedures; versus

           Our troubles stem from a lack of faith in the future.

     * Democracy means complete and unaltered free choice by the

              innovative individual; versus

          Democracy is harmed by excessive wealth.

     * The privileged know best no matter what kind of a mess the  world is in; versus 

          The Privileged are those who are able to serve others.

     * Overseas tax havens serve a good purpose; versus

          Overseas tax havens ought to be abolished.

     * Taxes are unfairly levied on all and should be reduced; versus

                 The rich get away with taxes
that are far to low.

     * The times are bad; versus These are opportune times.

     Prayer:  Lord, guide us to choose wisely and well.





Unidentified fungus
(*photo credit)

May 14, 2009  Shock or Disaster Capitalism and Environmentalism

     Shock can focus attention quite quickly, whether for an individual, an economy or an ecological habitat.  We experience electric shocks at unsuspecting moments.  The 1997-98 Asian recession, the fall of the USSR, the Tiananmen Square massacre, 9-11 and other political and economic upheavals were triggers for massive capitalistic privatization programs (following the philosophy of unbridled capitalism as espoused by Milton Friedman) with resulting billionaires and massive profits.  See Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Metropolitan Books, 2007).  Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the massive tsunami in December, 2004 also gave rise to changes that led to large scale privatization schemes on the ruined properties of small landholding victims.

     This brings us to slower but lightning shocks with respect to geologic time -- the deforestation of rainforests, melting glaciers, extinction of species, and loss of wildlife habitat.  How do we keep these ecological shocks from feeding into the agenda of the large scale capitalistic tycoons whether, Russian, Chinese, American or Indian?  I have preferred to focus on positive rebuilding of a wounded Earth rather than on shocking narratives of a planet going to its ruin, but can they be ignored?  Certainly a steady diet of negativism can lead to paralysis, utter distress or denial of the issue.  Positive approaches can also be ignored and so the best way is to balance and give equal weight to the two approaches: try to shock and encourage people at times.

     Positive financial and ecological solutions are at time sparse and difficult to elaborate because it will take a concerted effort to actualize them.  Financially positive responses to a prevailing large-scale capitalism are not yet fully developed and suffer from knee-jerk derision by a for-profit media.  Defending environmental alternatives also have their difficult moments; critics are quick to point to inconveniences and overlook the many advantages of a simpler and higher quality life.  However, positive alternatives (our books, Reclaiming the Commons and 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle) strive to give hope while accepting the need for hard work and the dedication required for healing our wounded Earth.

      Interestingly enough, any apocalyptic tale (financial and ecological) can be positive if delivered in the right spirit.  A faith in the future is needed for the survival of our society and world.  The Book of Revelations (or The Apocalypse) actually combines negative calamity and disaster (persecution) with future glory that comes through fidelity to God and community with neighbor.  This book gives us here in the twenty-first century the spiritual resilience to survive shocking circumstances and to come out the better for it.  Godless capitalism can be overcome; our Earth can be healed and made into a better place. 

     Prayer:  Lord, help us pass through the shocking situations that beset us and look forward in confidence to long-term victory. 








A young Eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus
(*photo credit)

May 15, 2009            Wisdom Is in Short Supply

       A multitude of dumb things have happened to put us in this financial crisis and enough blame exists for all.  Few anticipated the depths of the fall, and few know exactly how to get out of the mess.  Where is wisdom when the world's top bankers will deal in billions of dollars and yet admit they are bedeviled by what is happening within their own companies through stock options and hedge funds?  No one knows how the debts got so big nor how much they have affected so many people.  All one seems to know is the size of a personal bonus. Truly wisdom is in short supply! 

     Wise people crop up in unexpected places;  they may lack prestigious degrees or not be world renowned experts in one corner of knowledge;  they may be overlooked though they have life experiences that make them truly wise.  As we notice folks younger than ourselves in obituaries, we recognize shortness of life, the beginning of wisdom.  Reflecting on Psalm 900 reminds us:

      * Older age is an advantage because we will not need to endure what we do not like too much longer.  The time ahead is shorter than the mortal time behind, and yet the eternal time ahead looms before us and inspires us to do the best with what remains.

     * Older age brings less fear with time.  Certainly there are normal fears about living and dying, but we do not have to fear achieving unrealistic dreams, or failing to impress others.  We come to appreciate the good Lord's mercy and that is welcoming.

      * Older age accepts limitations on who we are.  We are better able to understand that some things will not be completed in this short life.  On the other hand, we have an eternity in which to fulfill that understanding.  Nor can we do everything, and so we accept that we can do only so much -- but with a generous heart.

     * Experience teaches us to pace ourselves, to fill our time well, and yet to regard periods of rest as meaningful in the ever shortening earthly sojourn.  We know that resting is part of the rhythm of everyday living.  Resting makes us aware that God is the Author of life and Giver of time, both of which are gifts to us.

     *  "Always be prepared."  We heard that when we were scouts and it still applies years later.  The wise of heart can find opportunities, which seem to arise so unexpectedly, and these prove to be moments of joy when we are ever more aware of fleeting time.

     Hope burns in our hearts through the Spirit's inspiration.  We take time to recognize and confront our distracting addictive behaviors, to acknowledge past mistakes, but to feel the warmth of forgiveness.  Life is constantly restored and thus our wisdom grows, increases and shines forth to brighten the lives of others.

     Prayer:  Teach us to count how few days we have and so gain wisdom of heart.   (Psalm 90:12)








Washington Co. sighting catured by "game cam" motion-sensing wildlife camera,
Northern river otter (Lontra canadensis), making a comeback in Kentucky

(*photo credit)

May 16, 2009          Endangered Species Day

      We should deeply feel the loss of any plant or animal species for the richness of our planet has been diminished by the loss.  When that loss is due to human greed and thoughtlessness, grief should turn to remorse.  But we should resolve to do something positive all the while, lest other species follow in rapid succession as some experts actually predict they will:

     *  Know and recognize the various flora and fauna in your own backyard.  Come to love the threatened bird species that lighten our day.  The whippoorwill has its grand melody in early morning and at dusk; the woodpeckers have distinct sounds, shapes and colors; the owls are haunting and give flavor to the place;  colorful cerulean warblers come but far less frequently.  In May the migratory birds come north and their great variety is experienced during this period.  Invest in a good birdbook.

     * Support the strengthening of the Endangered Species Act so that more habitat will be protected.    

     * Encourage others like shut-ins to observe birds, especially when they have an unhindered view of a birdfeeder; get them to tally the order of frequency of each of the feeding birds.    

     * Read and teach others about how some specific extinctions have occurred such as that of the passenger pigeon in the Cincinnati zoo in 1915.  Even the estimates of species extinction rates vary wildly.  Some species are pronounced gone forever and suddenly an individual crops up in the recesses of a forested area.  However, expert opinions do converge on the fact that we are in a period of steep decline of both plant and animal species.  How do we control the insatiable appetite for forest products in areas of greatest plant diversity -- the tropical forest?  How do we keep human intruders and pollution (carbon dioxide increases cause greater ocean acidity and reef destruction) away from the planet's spectacular coral reefs, which are virtually all in danger?  How do we preserve bird habitats and migratory resting places? 

     * Insist that the movement to curb the use of animal parts, e.g., eagle feathers, elephant ivory, tiger parts, and furs from many threatened small mammals is in need of support whether related to elephants of Africa or ocean whales.  Support the efforts to halt the killing of whales by Japan for supposed scientific research -- a coverup for commercial whaling.

     *  Advocate for endangered species through letter writing, talks, and articles.  Consider joining the Endangered Species Coalition <www.stopextinction.org>.

     Prayer:  God, in the marvels of Your creative genius, You anticipated the evolving of all the wonders that inhabit our Earth.  Help us to be good protectors of these treasures of creation.






Finding a place in the world
(*photo credit)

May 17,  2009       Holy Land: One-State Solution?

     The following is an emerging conviction that came from reading Jimmy Carter's recent book We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land:  A Plan that will Work (Simon and Schuster, 2009).  Carter does not advocate a one-state solution but only alludes to it; he quotes a September, 2008, New York Times analysis that confirmed a strong change in preference among moderate Palestinians toward a single state as the only way to resolve the prolonged deadlock in peace negotiations.

     The Holy Land, God's chosen place, is to be a place of peace for all the people.  This ancient home of three great religious traditions, composing over half the human race, ought not to be divided into separate states one of which is fragmented and broken into non-contiguous parcels.  This small land is ONE and we should not have misguided leaders shuffling back and forth among some pampered and some suffering folk demanding sovereignty.  The concept of oneness is not just from a cultural tradition;  it is also ecological.  I discovered the Holy Land ecology when a guest in 1992 of the state of Israel and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; the Holy Land economy demands that all inhabitants show respect, for its incredible flora and fauna suffers so much from militaristic posturing; this applies to the dwarf cherry trees on Mount Herman, to the animals of the Negev, to the seashores at Ashdod.  The Holy Land craves peace with nature.

     Rabbi Michael Lerner reacted to my one-state thesis by emailing and reminding me that Yugoslavia did not succeed in a united condition.  My response is that a better analogy may not be multi-cultural Yugoslavia with Serbia under its dominance; rather consider divided Bosnia, which ought to be a single state today instead of two including the unsustainably strung out small Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska (RS) scattered around the north and west side of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Neither the RS nor Palestine have much hope of full statehood and it is not the inhabitants' faults.

     My hope has been stated elsewhere in these essays:  that all three billion people of the Book could at least once in their lifetimes have an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  That means about one million people per week -- an influx that would demand restaurants, lodging and stores that would bring prosperity to all the people of the Holy Land.  What a blessing and it would not demand a competition for the scraps of land or living space where someone else is living right now.  In reality some might say this dream is unreal because of current conditions.  Right, but the so-called two-state solution is also unreal with  increased boundary disputes, check points, terrorism and other distractions that hinders pilgrims' progress -- and pilgrimage is a benefit to all concerned!  

     Prayer: Lord, help us work for the day when our Holy Land will be culturally, religiously, ecologically and socially sound and then we will all come to visit without fear.






Dobsonfly (Megaloptera:Corydalidae), biological indicator of water quality
(*photo credit)

May 18, 2009     Sustainability and Environment

      One of those choice words among environmentalists is "sustainability," or the ability of a system to continue in existence through its own mechanisms.  A non-sustainable system would be one that needs to draw on more resources than it can furnish;  it becomes indebted to other systems for its functioning.  Fair enough, for someone who pays for all purchases with a credit card may do so for a little while, and then the house of cards collapses.  Such things must change; water aquifers must be allowed to be replenished and forests permitted to be restored. 

    To sustain means to keep something going.  Here the term can be so often misused because what is kept going may not be a perfect practice as far as the environment is concerned.  A corporation may be making hefty profits by not paying fully for the resources extracted or not contributing to the clean-up costs for pollution rendered.  Part of its defined self-sustaining practice is profiting at the expense of the environment, an expense that is not compensated for by the industry that is withdrawing resources or polluting the air or water.  But the so-called "sustainability" defined by the specific polluting industry does not refer to long-term sustainability, only to a short-term economic advantage lasting as long as the conditions exist to continue polluting practices through a lax regulatory environment.

      Our modern economy has been based on a certain quality of life that is ultimately detrimental to the planet as a whole due to the extraordinary demand for resources.  It can achieve its limited goals through a focus on "consumption" of goods and the industry and commerce required to keep this going.  But is this really sustainable over the long-term?  An SUV has rotated on the dais of the auto showroom;  people come to see and to investigate it, to observe its class and appearance, and to seek security in its interior;  however, in driving this gas guzzler the purchaser is consuming a limited and vanishing petroleum reserve meant for the generations.  Many of these American buyers live for the moment, for tomorrow they will be gone. 

     Some paint a religious veneer over our fast-fading resources as did a former Secretary of Interior who preached that these resources ought to be consumed for the world's end was near -- and there would be no future need of them.  Living beyond our means is never sustainable;  using up before another greedy individual or corporate person gets to it is the utter road to unsustainability.  Our current financial situation is an opportunity to rethink our goals, to ask whether what we have been doing is sustainable, and if not how are we to improve.  Are we able to convert from a culture of consumption to one of service for others?  Can we regulate those who squandered resources or who mortgaged beyond their means?  Do we still have the time to act sustainably?

     Prayer:  Lord, sustain us with Your mercy so we can act accordingly.







Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in bloom,
against backdrop of stormy sky

(*photo credit)

May 19, 2009     Equal Green Energy Practices for All?

     Just how green are we is something each individual citizens is starting to ask?  Most are able to define "green energy" as energy produced from renewable energy sources (wind, sun, biomass, geothermal and several others -- but not nuclear energy).  In a growing number of states, legislation mandates a mix of these alternative sources to be a specific percentage of the total energy or "generating portfolio."  So far so good, except that it is far easer to fulfill the requirements in some state blessed with abundant wind and solar and geothermal (say, Nevada or North Dakota) than it is in others such as Kentucky or Alabama.

     One solution is to look deeper in the green energy bag and discover waste wood sources or biomass from certain cellulosic weeds or agricultural wastes.  What about methane gas "naturally" produced from landfills, which are not really natural?  The argument that the methane gas would leak into the atmosphere and increase global warming or that it would be wasted through flaring is cogent;  this limited quantity of gas must undergo costly processing in order to be of sufficient quality to pipe to homes.  Maybe more river dams could be tapped for hydropower -- a renewable energy source.  However, there are environmental limitations associated with blocking more waterways, which are natural habitats of marine life and result in flooded lands.  How about generous incentives for domestic-generated solar energy and feeding excess back into the utility grid through net metering?

     We should not forget energy conservation.  This is another way to regard greenness -- not just in terms of energy source but also energy saved.  If we are in a state with heavy use of coal like Kentucky let us feel far more comfortably green if we cut more deeply into domestic energy use (install compact fluorescents, replace inefficient appliances, turn off unused devices and cool naturally with more trees, etc.).  Yes, conservation is greener than renewables!  Let us be proud of incentives to acquire a stronger conservation ethic.  A host of educational and incentive programs will be of greater moment than hunting frantically for an equivalent to what a breezy state with their "high seven" wind ratings can do with wind turbines. 

     Instead of single states competing with others as green energy sources, a sounder national policy would be to develop still more efficient transmission technologies on a grander scale than is provided for in the current stimulus package.  Another approach is more efficient use of coal and other non-renewable energy sources and thus wasting less when using this interim non-renewable fuel.  A third approach should be the use of heat pumps in domestic heating and cooling.

    Prayer:  Lord, teach us to see enlightened energy use practices as not a sophomoric competition but a good faith effort on the part of all Americans according to resources at hand.






Ladies' tresses, Spiranthes diluvialis
(*photo credit)

May 20, 2009    Rainforests: The Planet's Lungs

      A forested green belt stretches around the world from South and Central America across the Atlantic to Africa and on to Asia and Indonesia and New Guinea.  This is a forest that has been millions of years in the making, acts as a pair of lungs for our planet, is nurtured by large amounts of rain and warm weather, and is home for a sizeable portion of the world's planets and animals.  Often environmentally-minded people stress the many pharmaceutical drugs and other useful products such as rubber, chicle, bananas, and coffee that originated or continue to be produced in the rainforests.  However, these forests also have natural climatic effects for they help absorb water like a sponge, cool the landscape, and enhance precipitation.  On the other hand, overharvesting and the burning of these forests have occurred in the past few decades increasing global warming.  Furthermore, the resulting deforestation leads to changing rainfall patterns that can affect the forests and surrounding environments.

    The threats to these very valuable forested regions of many and varied species of plants and animals are from several sources.  Some of the damage is due to heavier harvesting of fuel wood by native populations that are expanding in many of these lands.  But before we absolve ourselves as distant observers, let's remember that two very serious threats are due to influences by our American consumer culture.  First, wood from the rainforests is highly prized for its use in furnishings and building materials in the West, and this drives timbering outfits to devastate the rainforests at a shocking rate.  Much of this damage could be repaired, but not without a long healing period.  The second threat is also consumer driven, and that is the cheaper beef from the cattle raised on lands that were formerly rainforests.  Increased beef exports from Central American countries and elsewhere go to make the relatively cheap burgers we consume in fast food outlets.  Often these lands have inhabitants who are protein deficient.

     Three decades ago Norman Myers wrote The Primary Source:  Tropical Forests and Our Future with a forward by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.  The book was an urgent plea for people to see the immense and often unknown value of tropical forests, and to help begin a crusade to save them from utter destruction.  Myers estimated that this ultimate destruction could occur within one hundred years at present rates of impact.  Only recently and partly because of the current economic turndown has the destructive pace slackened.  Learn about the value of the rain forests and encourage others to do the same.  Avail ourselves of chances to support groups who work in rain forest projects and who have non-exploitative forest products for sale such as shade-grown coffee; they direct some of the sales to socially just and environmentally sound native programs (e.g., The Rainforest Alliance, Guayaki, or the CRS Fair Trade Project <jdecarlo@CRS.org>).

     Prayer:  God, Creator of all things, help us extend the deepest respect for the gift of the fragile rainforests.









Tulip poplar flower and leaf, Liriodendron tulipifera
(*photo credit)

May 21, 2009        Resource Consciousness in 2009

     Every act of love is a work of peace, no matter how small.
Mother Teresa

     In financially hard times we need to look about at what we can do with love.  Loving acts for others (a smile, a visit to the forgotten, or a donation to the poor) are all understood as being part of what is needed to love;  what is somewhat more remote is conserving resources for future generations.  This also is an act of love and a peaceworking practice provided we do not let it consume all of our attention and time.

     Space savings -- Excessively large amounts of space are a major resource expenditure in materials, heating and cooling and ultimately maintenance.  How do we convince others that reducing the space we occupy is as important as using energy-saving techniques no matter what the size of the building?  Are we willing and able to help older couples whose children have flown the coop to down size -- and what stops us from doing so ourselves?

     Oil savings -- We can speak of driving less, more carefully and engaging in carpooling and other sharing techniques.  Do these work well in a time of multiple activities and distance demands?  Do they apply to everyone or are some exempted?

     Reusable items -- Often the time and effort to take partly worn items and reuse them is not worthwhile.  Are there criteria on what to take and what to avoid?  Some people like to acquire junk and other unnecessary items.  Is frequenting yard sales detrimental to a true resource consciousness?

     Paper savings --  We may reuse blank sides of paper and share newspapers, books, and periodicals.  But should we stop buying newspapers, especially Sunday editions, because of paper waste?  This issue is difficult and worthy of discussion.

      Air savings -- We hear how we can help keep the air clean by having fewer open fires or burning less plastic material.  How do we get the concept of commons to people steeped in personal goods?

     Food savings -- One of our local people whom we buried earlier this year said that during the Great Depression her mother would collect all the uneaten food after the meal and have her kids take it to the neighbor because that large family did not have sufficient food for the day.  Never did her family waste food!  Is such a time revisiting us, without using the big "D" word again?

      Water savings --  Over time we have listed numerous resource saving techniques that are quite effective, e.g., during drought.  Should people who apparently have plenty of water still conserve water as part of their own personal ethic?

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to look about and question our everyday practices so that we may use things better.








(*photo credit)

May 22, 2009        A Global Maritime Corps 

      On Maritime Day we could well afford to consider what is needed today: a global policing organization that would address problems on the high seas that are not being met, namely piracy, drug traffic, ocean vehicle safety, whaling, and toxic substance disposal on the oceans.  Piracy has resurfaced as a current problem especially off the coasts of Somalia, an African failed state.  A large oil tanker was hijacked and the crew and ship held for sizeable ransom.  Note that foreign factory ships have taken three times the fish off of the Somali coast in one year as to what fishermen turned pirates have obtained in ransoms.  The thousands of ships that use the waters off of the Africa Horn make it virtually impossible for the participating navies to offer protection for each ship making the journey.  A UN mandated Corps composed of trained regional navies (Kenya, Tanzania, etc.) devoted to specific problem areas could pursue perpetrators.

     The time has come to consider the maritime commons of our Earth covering eighty percent of the surface area as a joint responsibility of the entire global community, not just of the nations adjoining shipping routes.  One can hardly expect Kenya to bear the total responsibility for the seas beyond their shores.  The same applies to the critical international waterways such as the Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz (between Iran and Oman), Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, and the Panama Canal.  We are reaching a time of emerging collective responsibility in certain key areas such as polar regions, outer space and fragile global cultural sites.  However, one of the greatest of these responsibilities for the commons is our oceans, which needs its own police corps.

     Improper toxic substance disposal occurs in our oceans for people want to send wastes away:  "Out of sight, out of mind,"  "Not in my backyard,"  and the oceans are ideal candidate disposal areas.  All too often the resting place is a poorer country, the national leaders of which may turn a blind eye or extend a hand for rewards for toxic dumping -- as happened in West Africa (near residential zones).  Medical and nuclear waste materials are worrisome, and so the oceans are truly vast and beyond the watchful eye of costly home disposal regulations.

     Could a "Global Maritime Corps" be a naval counterpart to the UN Peacekeepers with costs met in part by global shipping registration fees?  Currently, not all ships registered in individual countries (Panama and Liberia have large registration programs) are forced to meet the safeguards that safety and worker-conscious EU countries impose on ships carrying cargo on the high seas.  A world shipping registry may meet opposition from some shipping companies, but maritime workers need standardized protection.  Ships should adhere to international standards for the environment, whaling and commercial fishing operations.

     Prayer:  Lord help us to learn and bear responsibility for protecting our oceans for the benefit of all parties.







Apple in bloom
(*photo credit)

May 23, 2009          Justice and Charity

     When I feed the poor they call me a saint;  when I ask why they are poor they call me a communist.   Dom Helder Camara

     Why are there poor folks when there are billionaires?  I have never in my life understood this -- once the questions about millionaires.  Why unjust systems?  No doubt when people are hungry we do not stand around asking questions.  When they knock at my door and ask for food (quite a number this year), I do not ask why they are hungry unless I expect them to give the obvious "because I have no food."  Can we give food as an act of mercy and still all the while work on changing the unjust systems that cause the hunger?  Furthermore, can we not be doing saintly things by either handing out food or challenging legislators to act for the poor, by exposing unjust institutions that thrive on the unjust conditions of poorer lands and people, and by marshalling people to demonstrate or confront vested interests?   Which is right?

     How do we confront persistent injustices?  We may donate food and receive the thanks of the hungry and the smiles of the neighbors.  However, we could do more and ask searching questions about the system that brought about the hunger.  I find that it is easier to get funds to hand out food parcels than to get funding to continue the work on "Reclaiming the Commons."  Is it because charity is so immediately rewarding and allows us to remain comfortable?  Is there not a hidden power in charity that forgets that the surplus was not "ours" but must be shared with others?

     A belly needs to be filled today and yet we know the same hungry person will be back tomorrow; immediate solutions to hunger in a world of plenty are temporary.  If food becomes more available at lower prices will this make a difference?  The rising global food prices along with lack of employment are throwing 65 million people into the poverty columns this year alone. One billion people go to bed hungry tonight.  Direct charity is short term; a more just system that encourages small-time farmers with land and assistance and gives work to all the people is a longer-term solution to hunger. Social analysis and implementation take time.

     Scripture tells us we are to give to those in need.  When living in an unjust situation that we cannot change, giving in charity is the only way we can show compassion.  But we are a democratic society!  Our failure to act in the face of injustice is a mark against us.  We could pressure our own government though the act of bringing justice is the harder thing to do.  Jesus fed the hungry and cured the sick; Jesus also drove money changers from the temple, confronted the power establishment, called the king a fox, prepared his disciples to operate for the betterment of all under threats, and accepted suffering and death for a systemic change that continues to this day.  What do we do?

     Prayer:  Charity in these trying times is hard enough but questioning and confronting the unjust system is doubly so.






Overlook near Copper Harbor, MI
(*photo credit)

May 24, 2009      Ascension: Why look to the Sky?    

     Why are you standing there looking at the Sky? (Acts 1)

     The feast of the Ascension has been transferred from the traditional Thursday forty days after Easter to the following Sunday.  Our celebration occurs in the full glory of springtime, when weather cooperates and we feel the surging energy of new life.  Questions come to mind and we continue to wonder as occurred when I was a youth, "Why did he leave us?"  "Couldn't he walk our Earth now as a 2000-year-old?"  On second thought, the presence of someone so quaint would invoke fear not faith.  God sees things differently and invites us to see things in a divine way.  Christ comes among us; he teaches, and he suffers, dies, and rises for us;  he blesses us and ascends beyond our sight.  He reminds us that if he does not ascend the Spirit will not come at Pentecost.  We are startled by the mystery of his departure, and doubly puzzled by what it means to be like Jesus; we are called to be more than observers;  we become other christs.

     The Lord goes ahead of us in time;  we are invited to follow.  This involves entering into the Divine family, participating in bringing the Good News to others through the inspiration of the Spirit and preparing for his Second Coming at the end of time.  In my more energetic environmental assessment days I met a California adobe-maker at the Franciscan mission at San Luis Rey at Oceanside; with tears in his eyes he said I was the first visitor who showed a deep interest in the details of his craft.  I indicated that his narrative should be videotaped, but I neglected to follow through.  In some way his acquired skill was lost with his death without his expertise having been documented.  He was an overlooked "earth healer" who deserved to have his expertise recorded and used in preparation for the Day of the Lord.  The Ascension mystery involves our work of preparation, for we are not to be idle while Jesus is away.  We help prepare "A New Heaven and a New Earth."

      God does not abandon us for we are now enlivened and guided by the Holy Spirit.  We find God present when we pray, in the creative act of the world around us, and in Christ's Sacramental Presence.  But we are torn as a believing community.  Jesus has ascended and the departure is bittersweet;  we hate to see him go, and yet he must so that the Spirit may come and be here.  Now we enter the picture as "other Christs,"  we are empowered by the spirit to move towards the glory of Jesus, to help glorify the world.  We are a people who experience Pentecost, are energized, take the Good News to others and invite them to join in finishing the tasks yet to be done.  Even on the Mount of the Ascension the Apostles asked again whether the Messiah would still come -- as a political leader.  Looking up to heaven is not enough;  we must be on with the tasks ahead.  "Go out to the Whole World" and spread the Good News.  Ascension is the launching pad of humble service. 

     Prayer:  Lord, give us confidence in knowing that You are with us always, and help us bring Your presence to others.






Little Wood Satyr Butterfly, Megisto cymela
(*photo credit)

May 25, 2009       Memorial Day and Senior Moments                      

     I believe I am the author of these senior moments but I am not fully sure of that either.

     Senior times and moments have arrived when --

     * I think they've already been here for a long time;

     * All the work and hand tools we used on the farm are now displayed in museums;

     * Well over half of the people on the obituary list are younger than I, as are most of the world's leaders;

     * The "war" means either the Civil War or the Second World War;

     * Strenuous exercise consists of taking a walk up a slight incline;

     * I forget which of the three medicines I still have to take;

     * Youngsters include those from 7 to 75;

     * The journey from is far longer than the journey to;

     * Distant memories appear clearer than yesterday's;

     * I start realizing how important it is to speak well of those who have passed on to the Lord, for my time will be coming soon enough;

     *  Time no longer seems to stand still but quickens its pace with each year, for Christmases and birthdays are always here;

     * Prayers become simpler and more direct;

     * Kind words and deeds are appreciated though we can't remember who gives them;

     * Though formerly I checked to see whether the pants were presentable and the shoe laces tied; now I check to see if I have pants and shoes on;

     * It is worth repeating Melville's words in Moby Dick,  "I am a man running out of time;"

     * Past worries seem quite insignificant with time;

     * We are surprised to be able to start a new day alive and in relatively good health;  and in prayer --

     * We thank God for being able to remember Memorial Day.   





Fresh dewberry blossom
(*photo credit)

 May 26, 2009    Coping with Higher Gasoline Prices

     This time last year Americans saw $4.00 a gallon gasoline.  While the prices dropped in a half a year to $1.50, they are moving up again.  Will fuel return to European prices of a dollar or so a liter?  The $50-a-barrel fuel (less than $10 a few years ago) actually reached almost three times that amount at one period in 2008 and could return through an unforeseen blockage or conflict.  The demands by emerging consuming nations such as China and India, as well as our own U.S. appetite, are making it more difficult for the world's oil pumps to meet demand.  One thing is almost certain: expanding demand will soon outstrip limited supply.

     Anticipated scarcity is helping to raise prices.  oil-poor so-called "developing" nations are starting to bear the brunt of this twenty-first century condition.  These lands simply can no longer afford the gasoline which in places has cost less than bottled water.  We Americans engage in unsustainable use of cheap fuel partly through subsidies to the oil companies and hidden benefits for all non-renewable fuel sources.  Thus unsustainable SUV driving, ATV joy-riding, speedboat racing, and power lawn mowing will continue while we are wealthier than those poorer global neighbors.  Don't forget, Ireland, in the midst of the 1840s potato famine, exported grain to England.  Scarcity hurts the poor.

     Paul Roberts' "The End of Oil:  On the Edge of a Perilous New World" is a book that was meant to bring us back to reality.  How long will it take to wean us from our oil addiction (a term President Bush used, and we discussed on September 22, 2008)?  Will we continue to divert our resources to securing the Middle East and other oil-producing lands for national security reasons -- even when the current administration seeks disengagement from Iraq?  Even moving to a proven wind and solar economy will take some petroleum resources under existing conditions (to produce components for wind turbines, etc).

      Americans have a way of waking up during crises, and higher priced fuel is a wake up call.  We are triggered to ask haunting questions pertaining to petroleum use:  Why such a large and unnecessarily powerful vehicle?  Why not drive less, combine trips and consider carpooling?  Why not take public transportation for longer trips?  Why not live closer to work?  How about an electric or hybrid vehicle?  Why not spend more on car checks and upkeep?  Why get kicks from motorized recreational activity?  Why do you take your home with you on a summer vacation?  Why not walking and biking to the store?  Except in rare cases, we will not embrace the simple life -- not if there is a way to avoid the consequences.  Our selfishness could do us in, and that could take a variety of forms.  An effective energy tax that would reduce American demand has less chance than a snowball in hell -- at this moment.

     Prayer:  Lord teach us to know our addictions and turn from them both as individual consumers and as a responsible people who can anticipate and compensate for shortages.






Carolina wren young, nest made in bundle of recycled
newspaper insulation materials

(*photo credit)

 May 27, 2009         Rachel Carson's Birthday

     The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and the convenience of man.
                                     Rachel Carson

     Today is the birthday of Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964), that very special American naturalist and science writer;  she observed the deteriorating environment around her and penned her observations in the books, Silent Spring, in the 1960s.  This book and her other writings were a prophetic call for the public to start giving attention to our fragile land, air and water.  Her message was shocking and we can only endure so many shocks.  Her mention of the silence of spring refers to the demise of birds brought about by the overuse of pesticides which impact these and other wildlife in very significant ways.  The shells of raptor eggs were so weakened by DDT that they would break, and this phenomenon  drastically reduced the numbers of offspring.  With each reduction of bird life the joy of spring felt for millennia through twitter and song is reduced.  Sometimes silence is golden, but not when the native birds are expected to be singing in springtime.

     Rachel Carson recalls us to the nature that is alive and joyful;  she shows us how human activity in thoughtless ways can harm that world which has taken so long to evolve into its present form.  The Carson compassion extends to the delicate Earth which can be damaged in such a very short period of time.  Her eloquent writing aroused a generation of serious readers, who had not given thought to what had been considered part of the brave new technological world of the post Second World War era.

     Perhaps the fullness in Rachel Carson's life could be found in a book published after her death called The Sense of Wonder" (Harper & Row, 1970), where she leads a little child out to the great outdoors; there the child discovers butterflies and seashores and wooded lanes with Rachel as guide.  What is so telling in this book of photographs is that our own love of Earth needs to be transmitted to be fruitful.  So much can be done through the written word of which Silent Spring is one of the major success stories.  But equally, much has to be done in the wonder we transmit to other individual persons so that what we experience deep within ourselves can have expression and continuation.

This book of photographs is a record of carrying on a tradition of love and thus of healing Earth and in a most modest but telling manner.   Not all of us are writers of the caliber of Rachel Carson, but many can take a person out to see the world around us and to appreciate the treasure found there.  This is a necessity, if earthhealing is to flourish on our troubled planet.

     The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.        Rachel Carson

     Prayer:  Lord, teach us to honor those who respect nature.







Peony hybrid, in bloom
(*photo credit)

May 28, 2009   Prophetic Response to Poverty

      Some regard hearing voices as mentally imbalanced.  It may be true but not in every case.  Hearing the often faint discordant sounds of the planet may be spiritually healthy, especially when the unsustainable practices of our own people trigger anguish from disturbed creatures -- and we listen and the cries penetrate our souls.  These painful sounds of Earth include both suffering human beings and the endangered and threatened species of this planet.  People who close off these urgent pleas include the overly affluent, those who are plagued by substance abuse and denial, and the self-centered who wander aimlessly through life.  Those blessed through the spiritual graces of Pentecost to listen and hear should perceive the prophetic calling in its many facets:

      *  We may differ from one another in gifts, but share in a community of prophetic witnessing, including first listening to what is being said.  Prophetic witness is not an solitary vocation as in the days of the Old Testament, but is something we all share through our Baptism/Confirmation.

      * Failure to hear the call of the poor will weaken the fabric of our society; thus our prophetic witness is closely connected to the renewing of Earth herself, our nation and our local community.  To miss the opportunity to do so is to threaten and endanger our Earth, our nation, and our communal relations.

      *  We must distinguish the calls of the authentic sufferers from those of commercial and entertainment interests that may be loud and overbearing in our noise-filled world; the cries of the poor are unnerving and demand an ever deepening spirituality.

      *  We must give priority to genuine needs because our own energy and time are limited.  Giving priority means we must struggle to come to know what is the right thing to do and when to do it.  We discern through our ongoing spiritual/religious life.

      *  We do not know what the future will bring, but we have a certitude that, if the present continues in its current path, a catastrophe will happen -- the conditions for true prophetic action.  Part of our mandate is to make the future, not to predict it.  This is a call to change what will inevitably follow if action is not taken.

      *  Our efforts rest in the hands of God.  We will do our very best, and that is all that can be expected; we know that something must be done, and we know God calls us in our imperfect  condition to be agents of change in this threatened world.  Will we live up to the noble call and truly be a prophetic people?

     Prayer:  Lord, encourage us to listen, to hear, to distinguish and to respond to the cry of the poor and thus to be prophetic people who have much to consider during the Pentecost season.








Bleeding heart, Dicentra Spectabilis
(photo by Sally Ramsdell)

May 29, 2009       Being Faithful is a Success Story

     Was it Mother Teresa who said it is better to be faithful than successful?  She certainly attained both fidelity and success in her long life.  This priority of fidelity sums up our stance before our Creator, but it is quite demanding and filled with risks. Fidelity means keeping focused on our original calling and commitments at all cost.  The disturbances and noise of daily living can and do make us easily forget.  Thus we need to be called back time and again to see the road ahead of us, a recall that takes an ever-deepening spirituality.  Fiction seems more inviting than the strain of the really hard road ahead.  Reality is so difficult because it demands a faithfulness to original commitments and goals even at the risk of being unsuccessful, belittled, and irrelevant. 

     Success-driven ventures multiply in the secular world around us but, even though tempting, we must be faithful to our calling without fully seeing the ultimate outcome of our efforts.  We learn ever so slowly to discount the costs of the consequences;  however, this does not mean that success is incidental.  We would like to see the efforts succeed but they may be so long-term that we will not live to see them.  With generous hearts we seek to see the work achieved, but it begins to emerge that others may get credit and that the world is never fair to those omitted from being credited with a given success.  We need to be satisfied to be mere sowers, catalysts, or initiators; we may not be the reaping type and yet we must be faithful to our calling -- for sowers are very important.

      False success tempts us to become sensational?  Another Chicken Little?  Should we announce that a nuclear powerplant will experience a meltdown tomorrow or that the New Madrid earthquake will be repeated in a year?  This will be sensational for a moment, but it will undermine the teller's credibility, when the event does not occur.  We cannot pretend to have powers beyond ourselves, and prediction is fraught with disappointment when it betrays the hunger for success.  A true prophetic stance does not foretell what will happen but rather what could surely happen if we continue our current course.  Few if any of the mass media foretold the economic crisis that we are now experiencing.  Prophecy is seeing the present for what it really is rather than forecasting the future. The "if" is that if we change our ways, the future will be better.     

    Beginnings do not always lead to success.  Fidelity may be lacking -- but it could also mean lack of energy or time or other resources.  Still, satisfaction comes in doing just what we can do well.  "I'll do my best" is far better than "I dare not try."  I need to be humble for I cannot do it all.  Faithfulness to the mission carries an internal reward that means more to the person than most anticipated successes; we are at peace with ourselves.

    The fruit of Silence is Prayer; The fruit of Prayer is Faith;

    The fruit of Faith is Love; The fruit of Love is Service;

    The fruit of Service is Peace.  Mother Teresa's "Business Card"







A lovely flower on hand-spun bowl by Marge Para. Stanton, KY

May 30, 2009   Internet and Spreading the Good News

     In the course of our Earthhealing "Daily Reflections" for the past seven years I must admit changes in my own estimation of the Internet.  It went from being a curiosity that deserved a certain respect to becoming a serious peril to the careless user and an immense promise to those who wish to bring Good News to others.

     The peril is found in the misuse of any gift and dates back to misuse of gifts in the Garden of Eden.  The Internet is an instrument that can be obtained quite easily by many and more easily with the broad band expansion and more available computers at lower prices.  It presents tempting opportunities to use it for pornography, for stealing others' works, for demeaning and destroying the name of others, for spenting more time at game play than outdoors in nature, and for losing private information such as credit cards.  The temptations are great and require ever greater self-restraint in Internet use.

     The promise is in the form of easy access to information and of ease of communication with others especially those living on the other side of the planet.  On the Internet we are only seconds away from the latest weather, or an exact route with roads and mileage from my humble abode to any road-side location in America, or the ability to communicate at very low cost on websites and email.  For five years (1971-76) I lived two blocks from the Library of Congress (LC), the largest repository of information in the world.  Yet right now, while living in what some term as "nowhere," I have at my fingertips more information than I could easily have gathered by going to the LC.  Obviously, the serious researcher will find it more gratifying than "googling" but search engines do inform us.

     The glory of the Internet is that through proper contact we can now make a matter known to otherwise-unavailable interested parties.  Sharing in specialty information was quite difficult in the past, but today services are available to put into digital reading format material easily accessible at low cost.  This does not require trips to book stores or haphazard and chance findings.  The global communications tool allows the Good News to be spread abroad -- and now lowly folks enter the audience on equal terms.

     But all good things are mixed.  The good graces of a responsible keeper of the website have given me the blessings of fewer SPAM messages than others. I have never yet been hit by a virus at this location and anti-virus programs and firewalls will preserve my computer from that.  However, a major temptation is to spend more time on this electronic medium than is required for a fast entry and exit twice a day.  We appreciate the nature of the temptations to get more and more involved in chat rooms and other diversions.  It is all out there at virtually no cost and without anyone looking over the shoulder.  Good tools must be kept ready and in good repair.

Prayer:  Lord send out Your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.







Purplerocket, Iodanthus pinnatifidus
(*photo credit)

May 31, 2009         Pentecost: The Restless Wind

    Today the Pentecost season begins -- the long span of almost half of a year given to reflect on the gift of the Spirit in our lives.  Today is the birthday of the Church; it is almost 2000 years old and a divinely guided institution.  It is the living Body of Christ of which we are privileged to be members.  We are Church, and so we pray for the power of the Spirit to help enliven others.

Pentecost contains a number of points worth reflecting upon:

     The Spirit first unlocks the closed doors of our hearts and penetrates within our fearful beings.

     The great wind speaks in power and suddenness of profound change wrought by the Spirit in our lives.  It is a restless wind which is beyond our prediction, and leads where the Spirit wills.

     The tongues of fire descend on each person present, and that shows the uniqueness of the gifts bestowed on each individual by the Spirit.  Each of us is touched and expected to be ourselves but also united in helping to form one community.

     The public noise is heard by confused onlookers.  Those who received the Spirit are impelled to go out and communicate with the crowd with each listener hearing in his or her native language.

     The gift of communication to the larger public, rather than gifts to the individual witness or speaker, is primary.  Pentecost reverses the Tower of Babel where human beings through self-interest divided and then spoke different tongues.

     The mighty acts of God are shown here as the image of a living being, the Church.  The Church is coming into being through a power of God; Pentecost is like the slap on the back, which begins the breathing process for each new-born who emerges from the womb.  We begin to inhale -- take in the Spirit as in Church;  we then exhale by going out to others and bearing witness to the Spirit.  But this is not a one-time affair.  Periodically, we need to come together as a small inner community and inhale;  we need to find new ways of expressing ourselves and exhale; this involves giving witness to the Spirit outside of our community liturgies.

      I once saw a tornado from a distance near St. Charles, Illinois;  I did not recognize its power, its suddenness, its ability to do $20 million damage in a few minutes.  The Spirit at Pentecost is far more powerful, inspiring us to perform uniquely forceful deeds.  However, the impulse is part of a community, the Church, from which we take the message out and to which we bring the good news of outside listeners back to refresh and enliven the community.  Each truth professed in word is also to be expressed in deed.  We show our loyalty, our confidence and our enthusiasm (our God within) that sustains us through the long Pentecost season.

     Prayer:  Holy Spirit, inspire us during this Pentecost season.


Copyright © 2009 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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

[Privacy statement |  [Accessibility Pledge]

Use FreeTranslation.com to translate this page into