Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology
by Al Fritsch & Paul Gallimore
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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections
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January begins a new calendar year. Our life should be one of resolute determination to make 2005 the best year we have ever lived. New beginnings allow us to store the good things of 2004 as part of our sacred memory.
Adieu, whistles blew, noise grew, brew too;
Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform
January 1, 2005 Fresh Beginnings
A New Year's beginning is time for a fresh start. So often we
sink down into the ruts of life and need to pause, back up and
start all over again. That is what the beginnings of months can
do. We have beginnings of the church year, athletic year,
collegiate year, horticultural time, business plan, hurricane
season, governmental budget, fiscal accounting period, etc. and
these generally start at the first day of a particular month. How
seriously do we take January and the start of the calendar year?
Resolve to grow. To some folks January first may be just one
more short day of winter. But New Year's is what we make it. It
can be a prayerful general review of life and a time for
resolutions which do not fit into any of the above-mentioned
starting points. Let's resolve to make 2005 better than last year.
Isn't there any room for improvement? Maybe this involves a
challenge and a risk -- but isn't all of life challenging and
risky? Those tempted to remain as they were in 2004 may say "don't
you know you can't teach old dogs new tricks?" The answer to them
is that life is not a bag of tricks. With aging we should grow
ever wiser, not necessarily more clever or dexterous.
Transplanting. Too often the pot of life becomes too root-
bound. We lack mobility required for improvement. We fill our
life with junk trinkets, time-consuming rituals, worthless
entertainment, and meaningless schedules, all to which we won't
ever say no. These rooted patterns crowd out freedom to change for
the better, to ask God for guidance in choices, and to resolve to
seek assistance from others for overdue changes. We don't give
enough time to grow or to trim back the unnecessary roots that bind
us down. New Year's is a perfect time for repotting our lives.
Others can help. Plants do not transplant themselves even
though many send out rhizomes (runners and shoots) to enlarge their
territory. And potted plants can't do that. Why not ask others to
assist us improve our quality of life within our particular
confinements. Don't you think ... is a start of a question to a
friend. It may be to do something more or to change an attitude
about things, or to expand knowledge into a new area, or to give
attention to someone with whom we do not normally associate. The
wise opinion of another may be just the act of transplanting to a
fresh start within my particular "life pot."
Starting again is symbolic. Resolution is our recognition
that there's room for improvement. We affirm the value of new
beginnings which are possible up unto and including the day we die.
Our sense of hope is expressed through our willingness to always
look for a better way, a new deed, an expanding insight. It is the
refreshment experienced after a personal confession, and the
confidence that life will be better through the grace of God. We
all need these fresh beginnings -- and that applies to both
individuals and communities of all shapes and sizes. New Year's is
the perfect time to begin again.
January 2, 2005 Epiphany as Divine Manifestation
The glory of the Lord shines upon you. (Isaiah 60:1-6)
Universal Harmony & Peace. A million times the Christmas
story is told and retold in story format, sermon, homily and simple
prayer, and all have a uniqueness on the part of the teller and in
some sense the story itself. All audiences are different as well,
but each has a deep-down hunger to live the basic message of peace
and harmony at least with those near them and, hopefully, with ever
larger circles of people. The Pope calls for "World Peace Day" at
the beginning of each year; the head of the United Nations does the
same; the presidents of most countries do likewise as do numerous
world religious leaders in this first week of the year.
Epiphany means the manifestation or showing of God's glory.
This is best expressed in the peace that newborn infants bring to
those who come to see them, and to the world awaiting a new
manifestation of peace to Earth, now a holy land and holy place.
A Journey of Hope. The Magi travel from a distant land with
only an extraordinary phenomenon, a guiding brilliant star, which
scientists for centuries have tried to prove was a conjunction of
stars or planets. The Magi represented all of us, the non-dwellers
in Israel, who honestly seek after the peace and harmony which only
God will give. In some ways, the message may be different but we
are all on a journey to come to God's manifestation and light.
That epiphany is found in very special human beings who enter our
lives. The psychological situation now, as in Christ's time, is
that we sometimes ask direction, even from worldly and evil powers,
since we do not know the way. But God is with us.
Gifts to the Lord. Gold, frankincense and myrrh are brought
to the king of kings, and these three wise men take back home the
gift of Good News. A true exchange in which material things are
simply and lovingly given, and peace and harmony is received in
exchange. This becomes part of the grand missionary enterprise
going on to the end of time. The wise men were limited by means of
transport and distance as are we. All of us must select precious
gifts which are really simple but full of love, for our travel mode
is limited; we leave with only our love as final gift.
The Risk of Revealing Christ. The story of the Magi has two
parts which are interwoven themes. One is that of the jealousy of
Herod, and the cruelty that he inflicts to retain his power. The
other is the gentle coming of simple people to adore and to give
glory to God. The first seems more real and vivid, for it involves
changing plans, returning by another route, the killing of
innocents, and the fleeing by the Holy Family to Egypt. Evil
stands in stark contrast to the simple gift exchanged and yet both
occur here. The risk of taking a journey of faith is that we, like
the Magi, open ourselves to becoming vulnerable. We journey with
the poor, the migrant, the refugee and all seeking light at the
end. And we do this with a profound trust in God.
January 3, 2005 Plan An Annual Retreat
Tomorrow I will lead a mid-week retreat at Milford Ohio.
In preparing for this event I am more aware that our time is always
a precious limited resource; we must steward it well through proper
planning. It is wise to tithe our valuable time commodity so that
the other 90% is used well. Part of that tithing is daily, weekly
and monthly plans for use of time. An additional important part
should be a yearly period when we get away and look over how well
we have done in the past, and how much better we can do in the
future. How many changes would be needed now to use our time still
better for the good of all concerned?
Determine the need. It is difficult for some people to plan
ahead, whether for the family, for finances, for job security, or
for a host of other major decisions in life. A few are compulsive
planners, including this author. The good aspect is that
generally, one can stay focused and not get dissipated through lack
of planning. The negative side is that a compulsive planner may be
highly upset by the unforeseen which happens when we least expect
it. This can create unnecessary stress in one's life -- something
that the happy-go-lucky person does not have to contend.
Select the right place. Where is the best and most convenient
place to get away and make a retreat? I make annual retreats in
the woods and find this a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with
God's creation -- though I choose different places as moved by the
Spirit. Others will not want gnats and flies and so prefer a more
urbanized setting such as a retreat house. Avoid a formal program
that will distract you from what you need to do. You may want the
quiet and peace of minimal exterior activities.
Keep silent. Youth can have retreats which involve dialogue
with others. But this is often not the case of adults who
interchange with others throughout the year. Silence is golden for
creating a retreat atmosphere in which one can listen to the Lord.
Along with silence, do not prepare to do a variety of other things
like reading a specific book. Give the time to reflection.
Open to the Spirit. The retreat may help with overall
planning but it should not be overly planned as to what will occur.
Part of the rest that we all need in our life is that the Spirit is
to speak to us in the Spirit's way and good time. To open
ourselves through listening rather than activity will be affording
time for the Spirit to direct our life.
Seek another's assistance. At times we may want to talk
matters over with a spiritual director or retreat person. This
proves helpful for certain times in life when we are uncertain
whether we are on the right wave length with the Lord.
Optional: take notes. Some feel that the thoughts, results
and resolutions are more concretized when written down, whether
these notes are read later or not. You may be moved to do so.
January 4, 2005 Litany of the Earth
We take a walk in thee barren winter countryside, or is it
barren? What the absence of foliage does for us is to reveal the
fullness of the Earth underneath, the skeletal structure of the
trees in the woods, the rock outcroppings, the crystal clear
streams with ice at the edges, the sounds of the birds which
refused to hibernate and agree to stay with us during this season.
Winter is Emmanuel's season for God is truly with us. Yes,
winter lacks the color of the other three seasons but it also lacks
the distractions of the colors and the traffic of warmer times.
Winter makes us closer to our mother and mothering Earth itself --
and gives us the opportunity to reflect on the unique and fragile
nature of this living planet.
Earth, mother of the human race,
Repository of past civilizations and geologic ages,
Dust from which we came,
Cradle of our infancy,
Room for our romping feed and ever stretching hands,
Schoolyard of our intellect's quest,
Garment of our loves and yearnings,
Lap of our sorrows and joys,
Bearer of our transgressions:
Marked by our heavy footprints of time,
Eroded and scarred by highwalls of human greed
Crowned with pointed mountains and occasional rainbows,
Comforting, situating, directing us forward,
Welcoming new life of every form,
Giving all space to roam and find themselves,
Glorifying in their presence,
Recalling through quakes and shakes what is transitory,
Provider of the birds,
Nourisher of flowers and plants of every kind,
Supporter of the trees,
Reservation of wildlife
Dwelling place of the human race,
Economic commodity at desecrating hands,
Battleground and memorial of the warring,
Haven from sea storm and air flight,
Autumn's last bloom, telling of our end,
Urn of our bonds, grave of our people.
January 5, 2005 Peacemaking Activities
The beginning of a new year holds a certain challenge: how
can we become true peacemakers? Merely repeating "peace, peace"
is not enough. Words must give way to deeds. Now is the time to
start afresh, to reconcile, to build bridges, to dispose ourselves
through silence and meditation, to do peaceable acts at home and in
community, and to resolve to make peacemaking an acquired skill.
* Silence -- Lessen stress levels by establishing places of
silence where you can go and recover from the struggles of life.
It may be a place to walk or retreat to away from the rush of
everyday happenings. Within our living space we can do things as
well. Consider lowering the volume of electronic devices and limit
the time and place of running noisy appliances and equipment.
* Settle Quarrels -- Often things fester in the household or
within a neighborhood community. So often a facilitator can be
found who will listen carefully to both parties, first separately
and then together. Bring about a peaceful resolution.
* Rest -- Get sufficient sleep. Some say they can do without
sleep and then enter the ever-growing ranks of the sleep-deprived.
They nod off in an instant on train or plane, or while watching a
movie or listening to a sermon or lecture. Proper rest extends our
peace of soul, gives us a fresh outlook, and is physically and
mentally healthy. We are human and need that time to rebuild our
bodies. Resting is peacemaking.
* Gardening -- Through reflecting on gardening practices we
become conscious of the power of the garden -- the land acting as
peacemaking agent and haven of rest. The garden affords the room
to make our peace with nature, our fellow human beings, and our
Creator. One garden plot is like a healthy tree; a harmonious
world of interconnected gardens is like a healthy forest. Taking
from and returning to the soil is a harmony of place that can
extend outward to all parts of the planet. Mutual productivity is
the communication of gardener and garden, a giving and receiving in
a balanced manner. Gardens are the emerging new Eden where peace
will again reign on this planet.
Community and Social Activities: We can expand peacemaking by
joining others who try to extend peacemaking in small ways or on a
national or global level. You may wish to join peacemaking
organizations such as Pax Christi <www.paxchristiusa.org> or help
promote specific national peacemaking programs. A number of years
back, people like Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, former President of Notre
Dame, proposed a Peace Academy to research the causes of peace,
train leaders in conflict resolution and mediation techniques, and
serve as a clearinghouse to provide information to policymakers and
others. Making peace has as many ways as there are peacemakers.
January 6, 2005 Are Some Birds in Decline
Clusters of swallows and flocks of crows make us feel at times
inundated by the aviary populations all about. Some say that the
blue herons are thriving abundantly in regions of aquacultural
ponds. Others are deeply concerned about the multitudes of wild
geese and their plentiful poop. Wild turkeys are becoming
worrisome and even threaten the woodland understory. And a bird
expert who interned with us while back counted over 200 varieties
on our ASPI lands in the Rockcastle River Valley during one April
and May migration season. But is the large number of a single type
or the variety observed at times the true picture of bird health in
America? Or are there some species which are in trouble due to
environmental habitat degradation in wintering and nesting areas
caused by deforestation, development and forest fragmentation?
Declining species. The October 19, 2004 annual report of the
National Audubon Society estimated that some 30 percent of North
America's bird population is in sufficient decline. Some examples
that are most affected include the Northern Bobwhite, Eastern
Meadowlark, Northern Flicker, Cerulean Warbler, Black-crowned
Night Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, and the Purple Gallinule. The
Society estimates that some 70% of grassland species, 25% of
forestland, 13% of wetland, 36% of shrubland, and 23% of urban
species are in decline. Dramatic declines are reported in the
Southeastern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,
and Tennessee. What makes this a serious matter is that these are
the precise areas where so many birds winter and breed.
Birdwatching economics. About one quarter of all Americans
consider themselves as birdwatchers. These contribute by U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service estimates to the local economy in terms of
travel, food, lodging and equipment to the tune of $32 billion
dollars. That does not include state and federal taxes. Without
plentiful varieties of birds this economic sector would erode.
Programs to support the birds. Since birds are so heavily
impacted by the environment, I have advocated feeding them at all
times but especially for wintering ones in the non-growing portion
of the year. The opening of bird sanctuaries would also be helpful
along with control over free-ranging domestic cats -- a real bird
killer. Audubon suggests improved habitat protection, partnerships
with private landowners, backyard programs for homeowners and
institutional landscape, and stronger pollution controls
(pesticides almost extinguished the bald eagle at one point in the
A final note. Birds are good in being here. Their color and
beauty, song, and presence enliven us and help praise God. To see
this rich variety decline through human greed and thoughtlessness
is sad. Audubon Society started during a period of dramatic bird
decline due to gathering feathers for hats, but that is now out of
fashion. The current human bird threats are far more subtle.
January 7, 2005 Reasons for Living Simply
We each live as simply as we can and yet we do not often see
that it is this simplicity which gives us a special witness against
the common prevailing culture of consumerism surrounding us on
every side. Why live simply?
* Countercultural: Witness Value. Simple living is a
testimony to the right way of doing things. People who live a
complex and materialistic lifestyle take what rightfully belongs to
others and hoard for themselves. It is America gone riot and
stealing from future generations so as to satisfy this generation's
greed and desire for comfort.
* Solidarity with Poor. Simple living helps us be more like
the majority of believers in every land and place -- the vast
numbers of people who will never rise above a bare existence level.
* Practicality & Creativity. To live simply is to remove
extravagant excesses and unneeded consumer goods which much of the
rest of the world cannot possibly afford. We soon become far more
creative and practical in all aspects of daily living.
* Psychological: Wonder and Enthusiasm. The world of the
wealthy is soon buried in material things which require maintenance
and care. The wonder of simple joys, of butterflies and sunsets,
of fresh air and simple foods, is lost in this crushing move to
gain more and better things.
* Ecological: Communion with other Creatures. We speak of
sister moon and brother sun, of brother wolf and sister bird.
These members of an extended family live in simplicity, and our
nearness to them allows us to appreciate and reverence them as
fellow creatures in God's grand scheme of creation.
* Physical Health. It is far better to eat right and to
exercise, to live in a way that excess is not part of our lives.
Simple lifestyles include healthy food and balanced activities,
moderation in drink, only necessary drugs, and other safeguards.
* Environmental. To walk gently on the Earth means using less
materials which require resources to extract, fashion, and dispose
of. Complex lifestyles overload septic systems, require more
domestic water, and demand more electricity with its accompanying
air pollution from powerplants.
* Relational. Living simply and doing so with a purpose
allows us to become more neighborly and less self-centered. Thus
we are able to help others when in need, and to save ourselves in
the act of helping to save others.
* Liberation. To live simply requires much less time -- not
more. We can discover resources to be of assistance to our
neighbor, and to pursue our own intellectual and cultural growth.
January 8, 2005 Simple Living Techniques
A number of people think they are too old to change, and that
they have already made all the simple living adjustments of a
lifetime, but is that really the case?
Let's think "reuse." We are pressured by our culture to spend
and consume and yet we can be countercultural. John Paul II has
encouraged Third World people to reconsider the race to imitate
technologically wealthy but spiritually impoverished nations.
Don't buy unless necessary; use what you have; recycle what you
can't use. Throw away only as last resort.
Let's consider insulated window shades. Often older people
think they can do little. But people with good sewing skills can
make an immense difference in an area of sizeable heat loss in
winter by making quilted insulated window shades. These are simply
beautiful quilts on rollers with some backing material that is
easily gotten at a supply store. The backing and padding will allow
less heat to pass through, and the rolled down quilt at night or in
cold weather is a wonderful replacement for the frosted glass.
Let's create comfort zones. Many Americans do not realize
that they demand lower indoor temperatures in summer than they feel
comfortable with in winter. We argue that a single established
comfort zone whether high or low would save much space energy for
heating or cooling, if the resident would allow for five degrees
higher in summer and five degrees cooler in winter. Few suffer
from the cold at 60 some degrees Fahrenheit, if there are enough
blankets and warm clothing. Few suffer at 70 degrees F in summer,
if that is the comfort zone. This mostly applies where one can set
a room thermostat, but it could also apply in work space
selectively based on desired coolness or warmth.
Let's consider space as a resource. Too often people think of
space as a given, and do not see that unused space is expensive.
We need to have an annual audit of our space condition. Nothing
has expanded like the space demanded for residing, worshipping,
eating and just plain living. And this requires much energy to
heat, to cool, to build, and to maintain. Use less space.
Let's car pool when possible.
Let's simplify diets. Eating habits can change at all ages.
Some do not have full control over meal choice due to food service
policies where decisions are made by others. However, most
policies are flexible enough to allow for suggestions which could
be better honored in Lent or at special occasions. Consider
imitation meat products which are just as nutritious and are now
produced to taste like a real hamburger or hot dog. They are made
from soybeans and grain, resulting in no inherent waste in
conversion to animal protein. Resolve to eat less meat, more
vegetarian products, and especially organic grown fruits and
January 9, 2005 Baptism: Starting on the Road
This is my son, the beloved; my favour rests on him. (Matthew 3:17)
God solemnly pronounces the beginning of the Messianic
journey. The public ministry of Jesus is launched in a rather
simple setting at the banks of the rushing Jordan. John the
Baptist objects to performing such an awesome task and yet he is
reassured by Jesus to "leave it this for the time being." Thus is
the fulfillment of the divine plan of salvation, and John is
forerunner of each of us who are to enter with our own journey of
faith. The event follows that which was celebrated last Sunday,
the feast of the Epiphany (often on the 6th of January). This is
a manifestation of God's overflowing favor and allows us to enter
more fully into the mystery of the salvation of the world.
Attention to Jesus. The divine favor rests on the Chosen One
but that resting is a focusing, not a moment of motionlessness or
sole possession. Water is poured just as the Jordan is a fast
flowing stream at this point where Jesus was baptized. I observed
the Jordan in April, 1992 as the crystal clear water was snow melt
from Mount Hermon. This movement of water foreshadowed the
movement of the Lord to Jerusalem, the pouring forth of Pentecost,
and the passing of the mission on to others. At this moment in the
course of Salvation History we observe God's favor resting on One,
but the descent of the Holy Spirit would also occur on each of the
disciples and ultimately on each of us who follow Christ.
Growing awareness. Peter in Acts 10:34-38 comes to realize
that the Almighty does not have favorites but that "anybody of any
nationality who fears God and does what is right" is acceptable to
God. Peter, as vicar of Christ, becomes aware of the monumental
movements of God's favor involving not an exclusiveness to a few
favorites. All God-fearing persons are within the arena of God's
favor -- but we must do what is right to be included. The favor is
a gift of which we certainly did not merit or have it owed to us in
any way. But it is freely extended if we but accept it in the
manner in which Jesus went down to be baptized by John.
Response. Peter's continued testimony satisfied the faithful
listeners to his words. The responded "God can evidently grant
even the pagans the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11: 18)
Theirs is the universal response of all people of good will who, on
hearing the Good News, seek to glorify God. The Baptism event is
now continued in our lives; it removes the tarnished condition in
which we go to the water; it bestows a new life as we emerge by
which we can more fully follow and accompany Jesus on our journey
of faith. Baptism is a launching pad, the most important moment
between our birth and passing from this life. We do more than sit
back and brag that we are saved. We must do more than accept the
eventual significance with Peter and say "Amen" with his faithful
listeners. We now must respond in an individual manner through the
righteous living of our lives and performing good deeds. That is
what makes Baptism so important for all of us.
January 10, 2005 Salt Less This Winter
Salt is necessary for our lives. We use it so frequently but
we may overuse this good substance. That could occur on one of
these cold icy days when we look for the salt sack, and spread the
white crystals generously over the driveway and walks. It is so
easy to do and allows us a quick return to the warm room. We might
even hope that the salt trucks scatter still more salt on the
public roadways on which we must soon travel. All is well -- if we
imagine that the salt disappears immediately after the ice or snow
has melted. But that is not the case. The salt seeps into the
soil and sidewalk cracks and decreases the amount of soil moisture.
Yard plants may not be tolerant to either drought or to the salt
itself. Some of our favorite shade trees -- the beech, birch,
crabapple, ginkgo, hemlock, mulberry, sugar maple and white pine --
suffer from oversalting of the landscape. The brown leaf tips on
susceptible trees are sure signs of "leaf scorch" due to salting.
Salt alternatives. It is difficult to say "don't salt," but
that's a message worth considering. Common rock salt, sodium
chloride, is cheap in its mined and mostly unrefined state with
some impurities. Other types of materials which also can melt ice
to a solution (provided the temperature does not get too cold) are
available, if the application is rare and over a small surface.
The local hardware or general merchandise stores have sodium
chloride substitutes which are far better for the environment, but
they may cost two, three, even ten times as much as sodium
chloride. Some are inorganic non-sodium salts. Others are by-
products of the pulp industry, such as Bare Ground (one gallon at
about $20 protects a thousand square feet). Some products
advertise that they need only a single application per winter
season and they continue to work. Try these on a small-scale first
before widespread use. A cheap material to consider which is less
environmentally harmful, but less effective at times, is sand.
Another, though bothersome is cinders -- but we are left to contend
with the residue later.
Elbow Grease. Trying to melt or reduce the adherence of ice
to pavement is never as effective as simply going out after the
snow storm and cleaning the pavement off before others walk on it
and make the cleaning process far more difficult. The caution to
older or more sedentary folks is not to over-exert, for snow-
cleaning can be more strenuous than anticipated, and this is a
prime time for heart troubles to crop up. But cleaning the
pavement over and over again as the storm progresses becomes a good
opportunity for fresh air and exercise.
Moderation in All Thing is an axiom that holds well for winter
salting operations. Foreign chemicals come at costs both to the
pocketbook and to the environment. There is too much salted land
in many once fertile and irrigated parts of the world to allow us
to ignore this threat. The salt, once scattered, may both harm the
immediate surroundings and add to the run-off burden of the
surrounding neighborhood and places further downstream.
January 11, 2005 Plan Travel Carefully
With rising gasoline costs it is a wonderful opportunity to
reflect upon our domestic and foreign travel plans for 2005. The
following eight guidelines from Co-op America's Travel Links are
1. Travel in a spirit of humility and with genuine desire to
meet and talk with local people; travel to meet, not conquer.
2. Reflect daily on your experiences; seek to deepen your
understanding. "What enriches you may rob or violate others."
3. Be environmentally friendly; use energy, water and other
resources efficiently and in keeping with local practices. Only
bring necessary technological gadgetry. Participate in local
recycling programs where available. Try not to bring into the
country any containers that you don't plan to take out.
4. Don't create barriers; take advantage of opportunities to
walk, bicycle and use other forms of non-motorized transport.
5. Acquaint yourself with the local customs. Be culturally
sensitive, especially with photography; people will be happy to
6. Realize that the people in the area you visit often have
time concepts and thought patterns different from your own; not
inferior, just different.
7. Be economically beneficial. Spend money so that it stays in
the community. When buying, remember that a bargain may be
obtained because of low wages paid to the producer. Don't purchase
products made from endangered species.
8. Cultivate the habit of listening and observing, rather than
merely hearing and looking. Discover the enrichment that comes
from seeing another way of life.
Travel alternatives. Maybe this is the year for each of us to
consider an alternative vacation (mentioned in 2004) that may not
involve much additional travel. It is the time to travel less and
handle more business by phone, conference calls, or e-mail. And t
may be the year we need to stay closer to home with shorter and
more regional alternatives. Extra guidelines apply if the travel
is considered eco-tourism -- and this is extensively treated in our
book Ecotourism in Appalachia (see advertisement on this website).
Pack Carefully. I have found an additional suggestion very
worth the effort. Think ahead on what is needed. Set these items
aside and then consider how the pile of items could be reduced. So
often we can reduce the weight by pounds and be thankful later for
our forethought. Pack well ahead of time.
January 12, 2005 A Winter 12 Veggie Soup
On rare occasions I proclaim that all should be cooks and
proud of their cuisine. While making no claims to be a cook of any
sort, I do have a specialty -- a twelve-ingredient vegetable/herb
soup which never comes out with the same taste. Twelve vegetables
is chosen because the number just sounds right. Truly, I am no
gourmet but can create some unique tastes. Cookbooks are nice, but
I champion the "innovative cooking" category. Add the seasonings
and spices that come into mind during the winter season.
On January 12, 2002 I made a soup from local garden,
greenhouse and stored canned food. The ingredients for that soup
were tomato juice (including greenhouse Tommy toes, dill, mint,
Swiss chard and Chinese cabbage), and the following from a
protected but late garden -- parsley, Jerusalem artichokes,
salsify, carrots, garlic, mustard and kale.
January combinations may include these items:
Tomato juice -- thick and red made from Romas which can
withstand a variety of conditions for base
ingredient. This contains peppers mixed in the juice.
Squash or zucchini -- kept in the deep freeze for just such
culinary creations and body.
Garlic -- also found under the mulch. Garlic adds that
distinctive and best liked of all cooking aromas.
Carrots -- just dug from the garden when not frozen for these
are filled with vitamins needed in winter.
Salsify -- a truly winter root vegetable (also known as
oyster) plant that has all the taste of seafood itself
along with its own distinctive texture.
Jerusalem artichokes -- also fresh from the garden for added
gourmet touch at the end of the cooking process.
Parsley -- from the snow banks where it is fortified with
sugar to withstand the cold for flavor.
Swiss Chard or Collards -- from greenhouse or protected areas
Kale -- Either from the temporary cold frames in the
garden or from the deep freeze for green bulk.
Mustard -- With a cloth cover this can endure the early winter
until well into January or February in Kentucky.
Dandelions -- hidden under the mulch cover and able to add a
special batch of nutrients to the mix.
Dill -- A final greenhouse remembrances of seasons past.
Cooking: The pepper/tomato juice base (one quart thick canned
juice with one to two quarts of water added) is brought to boil,
and ingredients added after cleaning and dicing. I add black
pepper and soya sauce but no salt because the juice has canning
salt present. Other cooks prefer to do some sauteing, but I add
the onions, garlic and aromatic herbs last. The almost one gallon
soup mix is boiled for about one hour and then left on a simmering
low heat until time to serve. I don't offer further details
because every soup is different -- and you may want to do what
seems best at the time.
January 13, 2005 Start Small: Grassroots & Appropriate Technology
This is the time to do grassroots work using appropriate tools.
Grassroots: One grassroots project developed in the 1980s is
Community Regeneration (CR). People have the responsibility to
determine and create their own future in their local communities.
CR has twelve guidelines:
* CR has a hopeful outlook and goes beyond identifying problems
and points to positive and constructive solutions.
* Communities are not merely economic entities. They are
social, cultural and spiritual places as well.
* Change begins with small steps that provide a sense of
accomplishment, hope, possibility and local control.
* The economy, environment and overall quality of life are
linked and must be considered simultaneously.
* People, not policy, are the primary focus. Don't assume that
all the answers will come from legislation.
* CR emphasizes imagination and creativity and recognizes the
possibility of many different answers to one question.
* CR appreciates diversity and moves beyond the adversarial,
identifying common ground and building cooperation.
* An environment of CR reinterprets and redefines the concepts
of progress, development, growth, security, health, and wealth in
a more positive light.
* People in community are the only ones who can decide what is
best for them and must be so respected by outside experts.
* Residents must articulate their own goals for the future and
their own conception of "progress." All development plans must
proceed from that vision.
* The community must respect its heritage.
* Identify and build on capacities rather than just focusing on
trying to meet immediate needs.
Reference: "The Regeneration Project,"
Rodale Press, 33 E.
Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098
Appropriate Technology. E.F Schumacher, who wrote Small is
Beautiful, is the father of appropriate technology. This is
defined as "technology of production by the masses, making use of
the best modern knowledge and experience conducive to
decentralization, compatible with the laws of ecology, gentle in
its use of scarce resources, and designed to serve human persons
instead of making them the servant of machines." Appropriate
technology is not a technology per se but a process which champions
smaller scale means of production, is willing to learn from
unlikely sources such as primitive cultures and technologies, and
desires what is simple to install, operate and maintain. It
strives for lower costs and greater durability, seeks to use
renewable resources and recycled materials, enhances self-reliance
at the local level, encourages ownership of the means of production
or worker coops, and challenges the inappropriate such as nuclear
power and agribusiness. Appropriate technology promotes equity,
self-reliance, stability, soundness and other values of a stable
January 14, 2005 Seed-Buying Time
January is the time for one ritual which I have enjoyed over
the years, namely, ordering garden seed for the coming season. One
begins by sketching out what space is available for seed sowing,
and purchase accordingly. We have some seeds from a previous year
or obtained through seed-saving exchanges, and thus tailor the
order to new varieties of vegetables and herbs that lend to further
diversity. The same applies later when obtaining fruit and berry
This is the time of a new start, a looking ahead of what seems
best to do. We reaffirm that the gardening is physical and
spiritual exercise, a neighborly and family-building opportunity,
and a source of fresh organic food. We may only have a backyard,
a roof top, a converted parking space, a small front yard, or some
pots for gardening. If limited space we focus on compact varieties
-- carrots, radishes or certain greens which take less space than
sweet corn or sunflowers. Also, if limited in space, we may think
about a trellis of trained vines which afford vertical gardening.
Gardens for us. Gardening is for each of us, here and now. We
have some limited time for changing a little limited spot -- and to
do so while pursuing our own spiritual journeys. Gardening is for
all who challenge the class distinctions between experts and
inexperienced and between producers and consumers. We can fulfill
our food needs with what we produce, and we will do this in such
ways as to enhance the environment. We can become gentle
revolutionaries who believe in the power of starting small at the
grassroots, and gradually influence others to imitate our example.
Know the Season and Place. As gardeners, we become attentive
to the weather and the place. Spring is full of energy, summer
offers endurance, autumn is right for thankfulness, and winter
harbors a sense of pensiveness. Since gardening cuts across the
different seasons, it takes on a different character with each
month of the calendar and virtually each week. We enjoy the
exquisite pleasure of picking tomatoes, digging carrots, gathering
crisp greens and just enjoying the garden in the gleaming foliage
at summer sunrise or sunset.
TWELVE SUGGESTIONS FOR JANUARY GARDEN PLANNING
1. Determine to garden well.
2. Decide and lay out where you are going to garden.
3. Select what varieties you are going to plant.
4. List perennials present on the land.
5. Put your garden tools in order.
6. Collect seed catalogs and look over on a wintery day.
7. Inventory your own home seed supply.
8. Exchange or order your seeds.
9. Sow the first batch in greenhouse --
Swiss chard, brassicas, celery, tomatoes.
10. Prepare hotbeds.
11. Harvest the remainder of last year's root crops.
12. Plan specific floral interplanting.
January 15, 2005 Eradicating Racist Residue
Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King. Let's see how we
should improve racial relations. One way is to examine our
attitudes, which so often are there without knowing it. So often
we will say we have no biases, and yet if we are perfectly honest,
we discover them lurking in our interiors. We are all products of
our somewhat racist culture and it takes time to root out those
hidden elements. Yes, racism emerges when and where we least
expect it because it is already there. Recently I listened to
excerpts on BBC of a book on the interning of Japanese Americans
during World War II. It suddenly occurred to me that I harbored a
bias to this group from the time of that war.
* Am I a racist in explicit ways or through preferences for
hiring, interacting and associating?
* I once knew someone who made it obvious when talking on the
phone to a person of another color. I could tell by the way he
spoke -- even though I didn't know specifically who he was talking
to. Does this apply to me as well, even if I deny it?
* Do I harbor stereotypes of people of a different color or
race? (Click link to take Harvard University's Implicit Association Test.)
* Do I tell or tolerate racially or religiously-based jokes
which disparage others?
* Do I given preference to people of one or other race over
others who are not be of that color?
* Have I tried to overcome the barriers which separate us, and
tried to help bring about full equality among the races?
* Do I champion a program of restitution for descendants of
slaves who helped build this nation for virtually no compensation
except their daily bread?
* Do I believe in affirmative action and, if not, why not? Do
I have an alternative plan which would improve race relations? Do
I support civil rights issues? The goals of the NAACP?
* Do I pray for and conduct my life so that full integration of
the races will soon occur in this country?
* Do I feel like celebrating such days as this birthday to the
degree which is befitting? Does it become part of my American
* Am I as concerned about African and other overseas health and
hunger problems as about the problems in this country?
* Do I do something special to help break down the barriers
that separate us as citizens of one nation? Of one world?
January 16, 2005 Embracing Ordinary Time
The homilist at St. Benedict's Center near Madison, Wisconsin
preached about the need to see the long period of ordinary time in
the Church's liturgical calendar as important, since it is more
than just filler time. It has importance by offering us an
opportunity to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. We are
people of the ordinary -- and yet we can see these ordinary parts
of life as more than testing or resting before the next festive
season. It is the time to perfect who we are, the fulfillment of
life in the things we do.
Ordinary People and More. I often marvel in reading history
that the books always speak of royalty and famous generals, but
hardly ever of nameless citizens or soldiers who lived through
periods of great events. Yet it is the humble people who furnished
the background, the total effort of what is achieved. Do we ever
honor those ordinary people -- by more than a Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier? Thank heaven for heaven, for there the ordinary takes on
special significance, and ordinary people have extraordinary
The NOW Time is always Extraordinary. I receive a Valentine's
Day greeting, as I do every year, from Elizabeth and David Dodson
Gray, and since it is the only one I have consistently received, it
is very special to me. One was a single eight-and-a-half by eleven
red and white sheet with the quotation "We have so little time to
be born to this moment" by a St. John Perse. I think the statement
is well worth remembering. It is the moment that is neither past
or future, not the terrible length of history from whence we came,
nor the infinite future toward which we are destined. It is the
NOW in our lives. To make it the center of our existence is to
truly live this moment in a very extraordinary way, for no other
time is colored in the uniqueness of this moment. It is here in an
instant and then recedes into a memory which fades as we get older
and fail to record it. The average life of 75 years has 900
months, 27,393 days, 657,432 hours and 39,445,920 seconds. Think
of it, not a single two of those hours or even seconds are the
same. They are unique but not recognized as such.
Making the Extraordinary. We can help create the extraordinary
by the enthusiasm that is "the God within." God works in and
through us at each moment of our lives, and that is wonderful
creative work, a marvel to behold. Are we mindful of it? Some of
us are more drawn to thank God for being alive when we have not
expected to live so long; others see such life in other people and
take immense joy in their being alive and present. We do not
create much if anything, but we are invited to help co-create the
present moment to be unique, to be a time linking the whole miracle
of our past and the miracle of what lies ahead in our future. The
more intensely we create this moment, the greater will be the
enthusiasm for living, and the more extraordinary it is, for few
are so filled with life and thankfulness -- even though all aspire
January 17, 2005 Stay Busy: Learn from Ben Franklin
Today is Ben Franklin's 299th birthday and it would be good
for Americans to refresh themselves on the accomplishments of this
extraordinary founder of our nation. Maybe his many noteworthy
achievements may overwhelm the reader. Rather, let's focus on one
characteristic of his life that would be worth imitating: staying
busy and open to new things. That is not too much to ask, but the
couch potato and television viewer in us may find it challenging.
Here are my suggestions for being more Franklin-like in activity:
Help others. Some people chalk up immense amounts of service
time by giving their free time to the benefit of people who need
help in housework, study, or health care.
Exercise when time allows. The type depends on your physical
condition and temperament.
Read widely. Do this in a variety of fields. Franklin lived
in the age of the Encyclopedists who were seeking a wide range of
knowledge in science, the arts and philosophy. Wider reading keeps
us open to new ideas.
Exchange ideas. Participate in lectures, discussions and
workshops to the degree that you are able. Talk over new ideas
with friends either through the Internet, letter or phone.
Become a hobbyist. Choose a hobby or craft and stick with it.
Another suggestion is to choose several and focus on the one giving
the most satisfaction at a given time.
Communicate through written word. Today communication is far
easier than in former times. Networking with others is a wise
enterprise provided the time is not spent in chatty exercises.
Waiting time. Often we can expect a waiting period at
appointments and before boarding a plane or train. Carry
literature that will keep you occupied.
Double occupations. When exercising in a manner that does not
require much concentration, it is an ideal time to meditate; when
preparing a meal or some daily chore, it may be a perfect time to
listen to the news; when driving, you may want to listen to
language tapes; when toileting, read interesting articles. As I
wake early in the morning I listen to the British Broadcasting
Do real puzzles. There are a multitude of problems needing
solutions but no one has thought about how to remedy them. If you
are attracted by one or other, spend spare time reflecting on what
to do. What is the longest word you can construct without using a
letter the second time. Can you get 26 letters? Let me know if
you get more than ten.
January 18, 2005 Do and Encourage Daily Exercise
January is a time when we are tempted to backslide on physical
exercise. The temperature and outdoor weather conditions in the
areas of America that experience moderate to severe winters to not
entice us outdoors on a regular basis. Few people resolve to begin
some form of outdoor exercise in January. There are outdoor winter
sports people -- ice fishermen of the Great Lakes, trappers and
snowmobile operators, and the skiers who flock to winter resorts.
But for the great majority us, winter is difficult, and we think
more often of how to find excuses to be inside or how to escape to
warmer climates. We crave the day the sun will melt the snow.
Indoor Exercise Programs. This does not answer the question
of what are we doing about daily exercise whether indoor or out.
Some people like swimming or working out with stationary bikes,
moderate weight lifting, calisthenics and yoga exercises. The cost
of indoor exercise programs hardly matches the health bills that
could come from deteriorating health due to lack of exercise and
overweight. Better to have health club bills than hospital bills.
Year-round Gardening. Year-round opportunities do exist for
gardening to some degree, depending on the size of the greenhouse
or the mildness of a particular winter. Temporary or stationary
cold frames can be utilized. Gardening in all its varied forms can
reduce stress. Gardening allows us to set our own pace, to curb
strenuous exercises, to make proper adjustments by taking advantage
of different times of the day, and to use virtually all body parts
-- legs, arms, back, and hips. We should assist shut-ins who have
a more difficult time getting outdoors. Help them with hobbies,
crafts or even caring for potted plants in the shut-ins' bedrooms.
Outdoor Moderate Exercise. Winter time is not totally sleet
and drifting snow. Even in severe winter areas, there are mild
days when one can get outside for fresh air and full-spectrum
sunlight. Some find an answer in sheltered parts of the grounds or
woodlands where one can cut firewood or clean brush. Others find
roadways less dangerous at certain times of the day, and thus have
the leisure of brisk walks using shoes which offer good traction.
It may be possible to jog in winter and combine this exercise with
vigorous indoor workouts when one does not wish to venture
outdoors. Walking has all the good effects of jogging though that
is hard to convince a longtime jogger. Take it from someone with
forty-four years of past experience! However, winter challenges us
to exercise moderately.
Other Steps for Anti-Aging: Besides exercise, the following ten
points are suggested for senior citizens: don't smoke; follow a
healthy diet; use supplements wisely; drink enough water (6 to 8
glasses a day); avoid excessive exposure to the sun; reduce stress;
challenge your mind; limit alcohol consumption; cultivate
satisfying relationships; and consider preventive medicine.
Reference: John Hopkins Medical Letter.
January 19, 2005 Redeeming Tobacco
The final 70-year-old tobacco auction market season is closing
and we see immense changes in the Tobacco Belt. The golden leaf has
been a principal cash crop that benefited a hundred thousand small
and medium income farm families. Times are changing; markets
shrink; adult smokers quit; tobacco growing spreads to other less
labor costly regions. And cigarette smoking is the single largest
cause of premature death in our country and much of the world as
well. Some 400,000 American smokers die each year prematurely.
A turning point. Those of us who worked with the golden leaf,
and thought in our youth that it was for enjoyment and release of
stress, have come a long way. We are now aware that what we
thought was beneficial was harming users -- including people who
shared living space with smokers. But was this really the fault of
tobacco or its misuse through enticement from commercial
advertisers who focused on hooking unsuspecting youth?
Redeeming Nicotiana tabacum. The fault lies in the ones using
or enticing others to use tobacco, not in the plant itself. This
beautiful plant has unique characteristics which can be beneficial
to human beings. Researchers have found that the tobacco mosaic
virus can trigger the infected plant to produce the proteins of the
virus. When selected genes are slipped into the tobacco plant it
becomes a protein factory with its capability of incredible biomass
production in a very short period of time. A tobacco vaccine is
much less expensive than traditional methods. One groups has
created a vaccine by genetically altering tobacco plants to carry
a protein that "looks" like the malaria virus to the human body.
As with other vaccines, the body produces antibodies thus building
up an immunity to later infection. Work is being extended to
cancer and other ailments such as non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The
drastic nature of the disease involves copying itself endlessly
unless inoculations of an antibody produced can stimulate the
immune system to attack the patient's lymphoma cells. Using
tobacco plants, the customized vaccine can most likely be produced
rapidly and cheaply. Genetically engineered mosaic virus can
produce large quantities of the cancer antibody fragment. This is
currently undergoing animal tests though not yet reaching the stage
of testing with human beings. The same type of work could be
extended to treat breast, prostate and other forms of cancer.
A unique plant. Tobacco is called "the fruit fly of the plant
kingdom" because of the ease in which it can be genetically
engineered. Among the many possibilities besides vaccines,
specifically engineered tobacco could produce a variety of human
enzymes, polymers, plastics, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals,
and a variety of consumer product ingredients. Tobacco is an
amazing biomass producer; the tiny seed can produce plants 4 to 6
feet tall in three months; tobacco has been optimized for leaf
growth; each plant can produce up to a million seeds; genetically
engineered seed could produce many acres from the first generation.
Tobacco can be redeemed to the benefit of all.
January 20, 2005 Reuse the Underused
So often the consumer product and junk-filled world would be
better off making less and reusing more. It takes energy and
resources to extract, grow, transport, fabricate, advertise and
sell the items we use -- and half the time they are hardly used at
all after we acquire them. What a waste to acquire, store, and
fret about things which have little use. Here are some hints:
* Make underused items available in a local community. If we
just convinced ourselves that all in the vicinity could share just
one tractor, one lawn mower, one leaf chopper, one of all the
seldom used items, we would be better off. That is, provided the
items are stored and maintained properly -- a major challenge for
those with common property.
* Strive to get the very old items to the museum or into other
public uses. Remember, if you have kept items around long enough,
they may become antiques and repay their storage costs. Half of
the types of tools I used as a kid are museum pieces today.
* Take items to a flea market or generate a yard sale. One
person's junk is another's treasure, a general saying that can
easily become a reality. Strive not to be a collector of what
others discard, but always be on the lookout for an item which is
needed down the track. Going to the yard sale requires a certain
discipline. One way to act properly as a yard sale buyer is to
have a list of items needed in the future, and resolve to go to a
sale looking principally for them. This is easier said than done!
* Refurbish old furniture or doors or other building materials
for needed furnishings. Some people have a more creative eye to
reuse of such items, especially furniture and building materials.
* Reuse containers for storage and make them attractive enough
that they can be prominently displayed on open shelving in the
living and office space.
* Turn the store room into a pleasant guest room where people
can spend a fascinating evening looking through your own treasured
items. They may even want one or another item.
* Learn to recycle Christmas gifts or add a little trim to make
something a light-hearted present at special occasions. People
moving into your town may have to refurnish their homes. Be
generous and offer them a look at your stored items.
* Look for artists who like to work with materials such as
unique older appliances or tools. They may be happy to reuse what
you have allowed to collect dust for only too long.
* Reuse building materials. A major area of waste with immense
creative possibilities is the ever growing amount of used and
salvaged building materials. Think reuse.
January 21, 2005 A Forest Pledge: National Hug Day
On National Hug Day give this sign of endearment to a special
friend -- and don't forget trees. I hug trees to measure their
girth accurately (my extended reach to ends of middle fingers is
exactly 6 foot). If you don't want to hug at least pledge:
Knowledge --I will be a champion of a healthy diverse forest
and resolve to know the multitude of plants that compose the
Commons -- I affirm the commons of all forestlands and the
materials that grow therein. We are stewards of the lands under
our control and not absolute arbiters of particular forest
practice. Thus we are accountable to the laws and regulations that
will preserve forests for future generations.
Value -- I believe that forest plants have an intrinsic value
apart from current or future economic uses. Their presence and
biodiversity is a richness in itself worth espousing & preserving.
Respect -- I respect the private ownership habits and
boundaries of other forestland property holders and will not
trespass or remove plants from these lands without owners'
Prudent Revelation -- I refrain from telling others about any
species that could be of economic value, unless I am certain the
person will not harvest or encourage others to harvest the plant in
an unsustainable manner.
Protection -- I will not introduce exotic species into the
forest that may threaten the native ecosystem, nor will I engage or
allow excessive unsustainable timber harvesting of the forestlands
under my control. Furthermore, I won't introduce related species
that may infect the genetic pool of the native species present.
Preservation -- I will not remove or encourage others to remove
plants that are rare, endangered or threatened species, or that
Enhancement -- If physically able, I pledge to improve the
quality of my private or neighboring public woodlands by careful
forest management that includes removing exotic species that
threaten the biodiversity of the forest understory.
Green Economics -- I pledge to favor speaking about
economically viable non-timber forest products that will, in turn,
demand a healthy forest as a canopy and thus a necessary cover for
the crop to be successfully harvested.
Sustainable Harvest -- I will only take from the forest for
economic or other reasons modest amounts and in a manner that will
allow the plant to reproduce and thrive in the forest.
January 22, 2005 Car Care
Automobile care is a serious consideration in the roughest
weather and so it is natural that we should be especially watchful
over our vehicle in January. The reminder is as much for me as for
you. Let's be more aware of tires, brakes, battery, windshield
wipers and lights when we may need it most. Nothing beats having
a good car to start with, with all the emergency equipment needed.
Good Regular Maintenance. Autos give better service when cared
for properly, such as with routine oil and oil filter changes. One
mechanic tells of a new car which never had an oil change in twenty
five thousand miles -- it was essentially ruined when it should
have had ten more years of life. It happens. All drivers can
check the fluid levels in a radiator, batteries, window wash
container, transmission and motor oil. In winter, it is good to
have the car washed frequently to remove the salt.
Intermediate Maintenance. At a more intermediate level,
remember to have gas filters checked. Then there's the timer belt
which will need changing after a period of time depending on the
car model (usually about 60,000 miles). This is the time to
consider spark plug replacement, brake performance, a thorough look
at engine performance, and checking the exhaust system for rusting
and punctures. A tune-up is often worth about 10% in gas mileage.
Extraordinary Maintenance. If people are forgetful or do not
want to do their own maintenance, then get a regular car "doctor"
who knows and takes pride in keeping your car in running order.
Even if the extraordinary inspections are done by the state or
city, it is good to know the diagnosis. All drivers should stay
alert for any strange sounds and watch mileage per gallon to
determine whether there has been a sudden loss in efficiency.
Tire Care. New tires (especially radial ones) are some of the
soundest investment for highway safety and fuel efficiency, giving
up to ten percent better mileage. Most drivers know that proper
inflation adds to better wearing tires, and brings the very welcome
benefit of fuel economy. When the car is on the rack for oil
changing, it's a good time to examine the tires to check for
excessive wear and the need for wheel balancing or other
Start-Up Time. We like to jump in and roll away. The car-
conscious person will start and idle the car for 30 seconds before
going, then drive at moderate (25-30 miles per hour for the first
mile or so). When it is very cold allow more moderate driving
time. Accelerating too rapidly wastes fuel and is hard on the
motor as well.
Proper Driving. We need constant reminding to drive within the
speed limits; this adds both to the life of the car and saves fuel
as well (a twenty percent savings, if within limits than when
driven 15 miles over). Need we say more?
January 23, 2005 The Seasonal Calls
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light. (Matthew 4:16)
The Gospel is the call. Jesus leaves his home and went and
settled in Capernaum as part of his mission journey. He hears his
call and obeys as the one who is to bring Good News and light to
others. In much the same way he immediately calls Peter, Andrew,
James, and John. It was a seasonal call for them.
Continued calls. In the summer or autumn of life we hear
Melville saying in Moby Dick, I am a man running out of time. We
are called to be good stewards, for we have a fragile, time-
sensitive gift of life to be used well. We have a very short time
to do the things assigned, and we are asked to do them well. We
must treasure our limited span of time and listen intensely to
God's call to each of us. Let's pray that all respond well.
Icy stillness in that timeless span,
A cipher in the majestic divine plan,
Spoken against first winter's spell, "God-man."
Within that majestic spoken Word
Our names are called, though the sound be blurred,
But, by another, first heard.
Spin the rushing wind, the earthquaked rocks rend,
--Or is it maybe a kid's boom-boxed din?
And then a blissful moment's silence when
God speaks to me in gentle whispers hence,
Mockingbird, dogwood, redbud dispense
Early springtime's luminescence.
Summer's bright red comes rightly soon,
Blazing sun, heat waves at life's high noon,
Drifting upward as though an endless tune.
Vows and promises of youth seared heat, a retreat
And within God's sweet sounding drumbeat --
Repeat, repeat the words, repeat.
Gold and crimson autumn's scene arrived,
Fast lane's withered leaves survived;
But mercifully my soul is not deprived
Of the chance to soar. Wiser I can't ignore
No whisper, no roar; still God does implore --
There's more in store, explore the more.
Then finally winter's frost-covered finality
or is it unworthy dignity
In reaching to the light of eternity?
An Ave's mercy at the hour of death;
Only a curtain call is left, encore bereft;
Beseeching new birth in dying breath.
January 24, 2005 Windpower for America
Some themes are worth considering several times. We mentioned
the need to consider harnessing windpower (March 27, 2004), but now
let's focus on a number of advantages to our country through
endorsing the fastest growing energy source in the world.
Potential. Many U.S areas are ideal for producing electricity
by wind: Pacific and North Atlantic coasts, the Great Plains, the
Midwest and parts of Appalachia. California leads the nation with
2,043 megawatts from wind, followed by Texas with 1,293, Minnesota
with 563, and Iowa with 471. With a determined policy to utilize
renewable energy, a sizeable amount of our electricity could be
generated by wind and solar sources by the mid-21st century.
Today, 6,374 megawatts (January 1, 2004 statistics) are generated
in this country which is about one-sixth of the world's total and
second only to Germany's 14,609 megawatts. (A megawatt is the about
of energy needed by 300 modern homes).
Pollution-free. Except for the swishing sound (300 yards away
it is as quiet as a library reading room) and stray birds (directed
elsewhere through certain attached devices), there is virtually no
environmental impact from wind generation. In fact, it is regarded
by environmentalists as the least harmful of all energy sources.
Think of the replacement of a coal-fired plant by wind turbines in
a field where cattle are grazing all around and the air is pure.
Besides, farmers who permit wind turbines get sizeable leasing fees
and still farm almost all of their land as previously practiced.
Jobs. Wind as a source currently furnishes less than one
percent of America's total energy -- thus showing there is an
immense potential for expansion and also for jobs. Recently,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania landed an agreement to build a wind
turbine blade factory by a Spanish company Gamesa Corp.
Technologica S.A. This will create one thousand jobs and an
initial investment of $25 million for the Quaker State. In fact,
advocates for renewable energy over non-renewable fossil fuels and
nuclear power, say that unit-for-unit jobs will be approximately
the same -- not decreased by going to a wind and solar economy.
Reducing costs. The great hesitancy with renewable energy is
the high costs of installing the initial equipment. However, with
more efficient and longer lasting equipment, the price has been
declining. While liquified natural gas for electric generation is
currently at about 6 cents a kilowatt hour, wind with a tax break
included costs from 2 to 5 cents. And besides it is cleaner than
even natural gas and is not as dangerous in handling and transport.
Opportunities. Wind is a win-win situation. One gets the
energy and yet the economic and environmental costs are reduced.
Much depends on our willingness to support this form of energy and
give tax breaks equivalent to what non-renewable sources receive.
American Wind Energy Association <www.awea.org>.
January 25, 2005 St. Paul's Day and Ecumenism
Celebrating St. Paul's Day (the saint's conversion) is not a
popular reenactment even in the Apostle's namesake, the capital of
Minnesota. Who wants to be knocked off a horse? Still there's one
way we could celebrate, namely, by helping establish the unity Paul
so desired in his writings. We should reflect on our attitudes and
actions with regard to ecumenism -- the principles or practice of
promoting cooperation or better understanding among differing
Know one's limits. Some would restrict "ecumenism" to
Christian bodies and "interfaith cooperation" to all religious
groups. However, ecumenical is derived from Greek and means the
whole world. Let's work for ultimate unity of all who are sincere
believers. We are fully aware that some are not bent on getting
together but being divisive; limiting the arena is not contrary to
ecumenism because we are limited human beings -- and time is short.
Where to start. Some would like to begin with the roots of
division and stress differences through a rather historic approach.
Others prefer to discuss theological differences from an academic
standpoint. A third body of believers perceives needs for unity on
a host of everyday matters from political and economic stability to
caring for the Earth; these are convinced that lowering the
barriers that separate us is the best way to generate a cooperative
spirit in which much good will ultimately flow. And we firmly
believe that this is possible with God's help.
What to do. We need to determine a limited area of
cooperative efforts. Sometimes people bite off too much, as a
number of us once did with the North American Conference on
Christianity and Ecology. The actual conference in 1987 was
successful, but the aftermath of planning for other activities cost
many people considerable psychic energy. Set a limited goal and
stick with it -- and take it from bitter experience.
Respect for others. Religious practice and cultures differ.
A prayerful sensitivity is required so some do not feel compiled to
sacrifice too much. Ecumenism is something that must be practiced
over time and not just principles uttered in haste.
A vocational mission. Many of us are reminded through
homilies, sermons and papal exhortations that our prayers and
efforts must be directed toward ultimate unity among all people.
If we are to share an eternity with others, must we not begin now?
Who knows, maybe irreconcilable differences will vanish.
A necessity. Disunity is nothing to be elated over; our
divisions with fights, terrorism, backbiting and discrimination
tear us apart. Unity is a goal and needs not mean sacrificing what
we hold most dear. In fact, ecumenism leads us to a growing sense
of compassion for others, even those we hesitate to call brothers
January 26, 2005 Saving the Hemlocks
One of the saddest stories that we have heard recently is
that the insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), can kill the
stately hemlocks of our eastern mountains in a matter of a few
years, once these stately trees are infected. The disaster that is
happening is similar to the blight that befell the American
chestnut almost a century go. This hemlock destruction could
change the landscape of the Appalachians and threaten the plant and
animal species which find a haven in these cool dense trees.
The insect. The HWA came from Asia and was first detected in
the western United States in 1924. Unfortunately, it moved east and
came to Richmond, Virginia in the 1950s. From there it spread
northward along the Atlantic coast. In the Virginia Shenandoah
National Park it is reported now that 80% of the hemlocks are dead.
The HWAs are starting to do their deadly work on the thousands of
acres of hemlock-dominated forests some of which are old-growth.
We need to remember that some hemlocks can live to be 800 years
Control methods. U.S. Forest Service managers recommend three
methods to control the HWA spread: systematic injections of
pesticides, insecticidal oils and soaps, and biological control.
For small stands and individual trees the pesticide-based methods
work best. Biological controls are needs in larger hemlock stands.
These involve releasing either of two nonnative beetles:
Laricobuius nigrinus (Lari beetle) or Pseudoscymnus tsugae (Pt
beetle). Both types actively hunt the HWA as prey, feed
voraciously, and eat only HWA. When no HWA are present the beetles
quit reproducing. Needless to say, it is difficult to rear these
protective beetles that have exacting requirements for survival.
Hemlock protection. Locate bird feeders away from hemlocks in
your yard. HWA can be managed in home and nursery settings if
detected early (white wooly tufts are easily observed clustered on
hemlock branches). The soap solutions must be sprayed on the
entire infected tree; for taller ones (over 30 feet) it can be best
done by a professional arborist. Only spray the infected trees,
for the oil sprays and soaps are not deterrents. Don't fertilize
infected trees, nor use Pt beetles in a home or nursery; that would
be costly and ineffective. Be sure not to brush against an
infected tree and thereby carry HWA to uninfected hemlocks. Report
infestations to your extension agent as soon as detected and obtain
information on available treatments.
Become concerned. We hate to lose whole stands and species of
our American trees. This has happened with the American Chestnut
and is happening today to several species. All who love the
forests should take measures to help protect what we have, for it
is a precious heritage. And hemlocks have been part of it.
For more information visit <www.saveourhemlocks.org>.
January 27, 2005 Protect Wildlife
Wildlife thrived on this lands long before our ancestors came
to these shores and highlands. Too often we take them for granted.
Mammals. The larger carnivorous mammals suffered as farmers
feared for their livestock and parents for their children. Wolves
were exterminated in large parts of our nation. So were the red
and grey foxes. So were cougars or mountain lions. These species
have only recently made a comeback and some wildlife lovers are
striving to protect them and other specific wildlife species. The
destruction of predators and their habitat has led to an explosion
of their prey -- rabbits, squirrel, deer, and turkeys. And
regulated hunting seasons are often not sufficient to bring about
control in the manner that nature handles best. It is heartening
to see the expansion of the coyote's territory to the eastern part
of the United States, for these have the ability to adapt to many
different situations and still keep small game under control.
Bird Populations. We are mere observers -- not protectors --of
migratory birds which wing to the south for winter. Those heading
further north are often also in need of resting, feeding or nesting
places. Granted, the geese and ducks are far more opportunistic
than other migratory fowl and birds; they flourish in our warmer
winters by feasting on uncollected corn in the Mid-American fields.
around the countryside of mid-America. However, many small birds
which must head further south for food and more comfortable winter
conditions are disappearing or migrating in greatly reduced
numbers. It is all the more reason to initiate bird protection
programs -- for migratory and permanently resident birds alike need
all the sanctuary we can give them.
Amphibians. The frog populations have had dramatic declines in
a number of American states, and biologists are baffled as to the
cause. Some blame the pesticides and other pollutants, others
blame natural causes exacerbated by human-made stresses and
reduction of wild space. We must be sensitive to threats to
wildlife in every form, especially those of native amphibians.
Butterflies. The Monarch butterfly has a very limited area of
winter quarters, and these parts of Mexico are now being affected
by development. Add to this, genetically engineered plants are
reported to affect these majestic butterflies in the feeding areas
in this country during the milkweed growing cycle. Are we going to
experience their demise as well? It is all the more reason to grow
the various butterfly attracting plants in special gardens devoted
to these colorful insects.
Fish. We are uncertain whether the genetically engineered
fish will escape to the wild and affect the free swimming
populations as well. Even our native fish may be threatened and
require protection, especially since some of the world's most
abundant fisheries are reaching the limits of their production and
suffering from overharvesting using modern techniques.
January 28, 2005 Rural Experience
You can take the boy out of the country, but not the country
out of the boy. This adage is repeated by the many Americans who
have left farm life and now live in towns, suburbs or cities. We
farm escapees or exiles would like to continue and intensify our
country identity, and to do so as a yearly or year-round
experience, for example, through returning to farming after
retirement, helping out during the summer on a farm, or through
gardening on a regular basis.
I don't know why January brings back remembrances of farm life
so vividly. Maybe it was the month with the harshest weather to
endure and the month with the least outdoor farm work. It was
difficult leaving the stove and going out to do farm chores. But
it is also a time to reminisce about the things that make you a
country person all your life. Here are several rural patterns:
* Weather -- You can step outside and know what it is going to
do today -- it didn't take a weatherman to tell you. You know.
* Outside -- You feel uneasy being indoors when the weather is
pleasant and there could be outside things to do. It is part of
* Animal Ways -- You can size up the way a cow is going to turn
by just looking at it from a distance. You know how to take care
of animals when they are sick and how to give them some distance
when they are mean. No one tells you. You know.
* Outdoor Work -- You know when something has to be planted
and that waiting for a week could be the wrong strategy. You know
how to pace yourself in working in the hot sun. If you overexert,
no one else is to blame.
* Orderliness -- You enjoy seeing a well-kept place with fences
and gates in working order and good farm buildings. You know how
much effort it has taken to make straight and evenly spaced rows of
corn and other field crops.
* Seasons -- You know the year begins with winter, for that
is the first of the growing season, when daytime lengthens and when
the sap starts to rise and the roots start to extend themselves.
You don't start the year in spring, for life begins in winter.
* Directions -- You know how to get your bearing quickly and
how much is needed to regain it when lost for a moment. You can
size up the lay of the land in a short time, how the water flows
and which are the sunny parts and the shady parts of a place.
* Farming Gifts -- You know the people who are not energetic
enough or smart enough to make a success at farming. And you know
how dead wrong urbanites are when they look down on the farmers and
January 29, 2005 Activate Retirees
Following the Second World War, a youth culture developed in
America, with vast amounts of resources devoted to the formal
education of youth. Gradually, an aging population began to make
its own needs felt, especially when the elders voted in much larger
numbers than the youth. Another phenomenon was beginning to emerge
as well, and that is the retirement of fifty and sixty year olds
while still enjoying good health and vigor, and having acquired
experience which could be put to service for others. The elderly
were not only those who sat and expounded from their store of
wisdom. They included the active mobile types as well.
Answer the Call. In January, the call of God is celebrated in
many different ways. We often conceive of the call as coming to
youth in the springtime of life. Actually, the spiritual calls to
older people in the summertime or autumn of life can be quite
profound. Many started working early and had little opportunity to
do volunteer work or go to distant places to help the less
fortunate. These late volunteers have a sense of regret in missing
the early calling. Now this omission can be addressed through
autumn calls, with the retiree assisting in the many areas which
need volunteers these days: church outreach work as well as
traditional ministry, school auxiliary programs, visits to prisons,
literacy training programs, drug rehabilitation centers, hostel
work, and clinics in poor areas. A vast arena needs the services
of loving and experienced people.
Encourage Further Education. A number of colleges are
recruiting the growing numbers of retirees as students. Some offer
discounts to senior citizens and other direct programs to what they
would like or accommodate them through the virtual universities and
colleges which are sprouting in many places. Mobile retirees
prefer the popular Elderhostel non-credit programs. These are
conducted in a variety of subjects using facilities that are
otherwise not occupied, such as colleges in summer or summer camps
in fall through spring, depending on comfort levels sought. The
program started in 1975 by Marty Knowlton and became immediately
popular with registration demanded early from senior citizens who
find the low-cost programs helpful in broadening their horizons.
Be Locally Present. While it may be nice to do interesting
things like volunteering for specific purposes at a distance or
through educational credit or non-credit programs, there is still
another key way to contribute during retirement years. Giving
general support to local fledgling groups can be a needed catalyst
to community rebuilding and development. That involves a sense of
presence and willingness to help those who cannot afford salaried
employees or staff. We need to have people with experience who can
slip in and repair a home, offer hospitality or dispute mediation
when needed, or just be there when someone is in need of talking or
comfort. The networking aspect of local presence is always a most
important social asset. Maybe the day of the wise elder is
returning, and community leaders are seeing the benefits of calling
on those who live near and can offer help from their pool of
January 30, 2005 Beatitudes and Blessings
We read and reflect upon the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12) and
recall the many times we have pondered over an atmosphere of
happiness in the midst of adversity. If all of these blessings go
to people of such different circumstances, why should we not give
blessings on others and do so profusely.
Blessings and beatitudes refer to happiness. We seek a peace
of soul when others would say no peace could be found. Thus the
future is bright for those who suffer or those who suffer with
others (such as the peacemakers).
Curses are the wishing of evil on another for reasons that may
be anger or fright or surprise or competition. Do we use God's
name in vain in cases of expression in some languages? We could
proclaim God's name as a religious expression or blessing.
What about non-verbal forms of cursing. When we waste things it is
nearly equivalent to a curse, for it says that blessing of good
things God made for our use are made worthless or wasted.
Particular blessings -- Some of the happiest people I've met
are also those with greater suffering and what would appear to
others to be misery. In little ways we seek to add to their
blessings. When we discover opportunities to give blessings we
become a blessing to others. Everyone of us should be
practitioners of blessings:
* Blessings of persons especially those who bring Christ to
the homes of the shut-in people who suffer so much. Remind them
over and over that their sufferings offered with Christ on Calvary
is part of the healing of the entire world.
* Blessings at Church for groups designated for the particular
season or day. This is done in designated liturgical service as
the St. Blaise blessings or different groups. Give a special
blessing to someone or group every day.
* Blessings at meals which we tend to ignore, or forget, or
feel embarrassed at a restaurant or public places.
* Blessings for travelers are special. Many of us know that
those who are prayerful aware of our journeys are helping us cope
in some way with the unexpected delays and fears.
* Blessings at homes before bed for the youth, especially the
many who find it frightening to sleep alone or in dark space -- a
common occurrence. The evil spirits are removed by blessings.
* Blessings of the home are often overlooked. Fright is part
of the aftermath of 9-11 and that fear of dark or being alone
extends to older children and even adults. The presence of the
picture of Jesus brings peace to the home and thus eliminates the
fear that many have. Jesus promises that whoever places his
picture in a prominent place the home will be blessed with peace.
January 31, 2005 Food First
Starting this year, we will feature a public interest group at
the end of each month. We start with the Institute for Food and
Development Policy or by its better known title of "Food First."
This group defends the right to be free from hunger; it was
founded in the 1970s by Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins, the
authors of Food First. The Institute is located in Oakland,
California and directs its attention away from governmental
agencies and universities because so many of them are bought and
paid for by agribusiness.
Alternatives actually exist and ought to be known by the
general public. The Institute says what people need is not
genetically modified foods, but living-wage jobs, land reform, and
access to nutritious and safe food. It reaffirms the right of
countries and peoples to define their own farming policies that are
ecologically, socially, economically, and culturally appropriate.
It says that ecologically sound and productive alternatives sustain
family farms and vibrant, healthy rural communities in Mexico,
Brazil, India, Thailand, Kenya, and many other countries. These
examples are shown in two books: To Inherit the Earth: The
Landless Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil and Sustainable
Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba.
Through research, the Institute seeks to show that producing
and trading locally benefits both farmers and consumers. The
research proves that small, ecological farms produce plenty of food
to feed farm families and their neighbors. In fact, diversified
family farms are far more productive than large corporate ones.
The Institute works closely with some of the successful farm groups
in other countries such as Via Campesina, the Brazilian Landless
Workers' Movement, and poor farmers in Chiapas, Mexico. They have
a collaborative website <www.landaction.org>.
Growing food for all is about more than calculating bushels
per acre. It is about who gets to eat and who goes hungry. It is
about who can pass down a thriving farm to their children. It is
about the health of communities and their culture. And it is about
the survival of native seeds and diversity in farm fields and the
surrounding streams and forests.
If you are moved to find out more and offer support to Food
First, you may write to them at <www.foodfirst.org>.