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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.


A series of written meditations and reflections



Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology

by Al Fritsch & Paul Gallimore

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

 Click on date below to read the day's reflection:

June 2004

june calendar

Copyright © 2004 by Al Fritsch

June is the season of the verdant garden, when vegetables grow by leaps and bounds.  Bright red beet plants and leafy Swiss chard punctuate the greenery, as do the yellow blooms of zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers, and the faint blossoms on the many tomato vines.  From the neighboring berry patches comes handfuls of wild black and red raspberries.  The flowers of nearby wildscapes include white and yellow yarrow, baby's breath, the first blooming of wild chicory that will give a blue touch well into autumn, and majestic Queen Anne's lace.  The countryside is ablaze in color and smothered in summer scents.  It is the time of the June apple and mulberry, the sight of growing corn and ripening small grains, and the scent of new mown hay and blooming honeysuckle.  Springtime's freshness wears off in the heated glare of the June sun, which is sometimes punctuated with the rumbling early summer thunderstorms that can suddenly turn violent with wind, hail, and lightning.  June weather is bittersweet, for it brings gnats and mosquitoes, but affords us opportunities to pause from sweaty work, drink lemonade, protect ourselves from sunburn, conserve resources, and mulch.




June 2004 Reflections  

June 1, 2004       Unity: That All May be One

    The mission.  A sense of unity is needed everywhere in the world, from the unity of family, to that of citizens working together, to our country and to our world.  Division is part of the breaking away that began in the departure from the Garden of Eden.  On the other hand, God is One, yet there is diversity in unity.  We are being challenged to recreate that unity in our broken world while respecting our individual uniqueness.  It is all the more reason to have a mission of ecumenism where conflicting and divided factions can overcome their differences and, while diverse, can be united.  This is a far greater challenge than that of hoping to be monolithic, or only allowing one person to speak for and be the "family"  or the "country."  We do not want the autocrats or the domineering type, only those with a singleness in purpose and yet distinctness in person.  Is this not the need of a healthy democracy, a cooperative team, and of a functional family all wrapped into one?

     Life's travels.  Our journey to God is precisely this coming to the Holy One while being who we are.  We are not merged; we do not die and dissolve, leaving only an autocratic supreme being or an Earth out there devoid of personality.  We are finding our way with an emphasis on both differences and similarities, taking the differences as signifying our diversity, and the quest to come together as a testimony to the unity in the Godhead. 

     The goal.  Our destiny is heaven, and that is always before us as a reality towards which we work.  It is our hope.  The disparate troubles and distractions of life get in our way.  We get lost in the maze and see every corner as a hurdle with an idol standing there to distract us and take our attention from the journey before us.  Thus we grope and fumble on our way.  If such is the case, we must look ahead.  We need to stay focused.  For the Christian, this means to be loyal to our Creator and Protector, to those who are with us on the way, and to the many pilgrims who are to come.

     The model.  If we know Jesus, we know the Father.  They are one in a holy unity which we are invited to learn about, to discover, to become one with and to enter into as a final goal.  But that oneness fulfills and confirms our own personality, and does not diminish it, provided that it is bathed in love.  For without love diversity becomes divisive and leads to the breaking of the unity which we all strive to achieve in our whole being.

     Being peacemakers means to have that unity clearly as a goal before us.  We need to seek the Spirit's guidance as did the early witnesses such as Stephen, an innocent, an upright, a visionary person who never let the goal be blurred.  To pray for unity at all levels of life -- in our work, our studies, our family relations and our goals -- is  needed in this late spring season, when we could easily be distracted with the increased and hurried pace of summer that is just around the corner.



June 2, 2004        Think Small in Construction

     There is an inflation in people's demands for space during the last half century.  For worship, educational, living, and commercial space, Americans came to need, in fact, double the amount per person of a half century before. 

     Housing.  The average American household dropped steadily from 3.67 persons in 1940 to 2.64 in 1997.  During that time, the average house size increased from 1,100 square feet in the 1940s and 1950s to 2,150 square feet in 1997 -- from 290 feet per person to over 800 square feet today.  Other features of homes have also increased in size and number.  In  1967, 48% of homes had a garage for two or more cars and this has increased to 79% in 1997.  In 1975, 20% of homes had two or more bathrooms.  Now over 50% do.  And the expansion in size continues in virtually every area from faucets to central air conditioning.

     Academic & Worship Space.  This escalation of size is not limited to homes alone, but extends to all aspects of modern American life.  Sprawling shopping continue to be built.  When a Wal-mart store moves elsewhere, some entire malls are simply abandoned and other businesses purchase land to cluster around the prime mover of the commercial universe.  Enormous malls mean additional urban development and parking areas, more commercial buildings while others are being deserted, and then the clustering of schools and churches nearer to the movement of our nomad population.  Nothing manifests this trend to increased space movement more than educational institutions.  Academic institutions tear down a building after a mere two decades to build an ever bigger one to meet the demands of the more affluent clientele.  Buildings become outmoded very rapidly due to spatial demands.

     Environment Suffers.  People take their spacious car to recycle a bag of metal cans and never count the fuel costs.  So-called environmental awareness is paid lip service by those wanting the added private space.  Such interior spaces not only took precious materials to build, but they place a heavy demand on the resources of the world in heating and cooling as well as maintenance of the expanded interior space.  In fact, this is the number one increase in resource use in our so-called developed world today -- and the toll on the environment is enormous.

     Bucking the tide.  Some say there is no easy solution short of a major economic downturn.  If people are allowed and even encouraged by all society to use ever more space, then they will have to come face to face with limits.  And these limits are reached when Earth itself rebels in some manner.  Part of that rebellion is exhausted resources; part is the AIDS epidemic;  part, the loss of endangered species; part, the global warming phenomenon.  But as long as the powerful are not affected or can escape from global disasters, then life continues as normal.  Instead of awaiting a disaster, we could promote the taxing of properties with larger space and downsize our expectations.


June 3, 2004     Land Stewardship and our Earth

      Caring for land is at the heart of good stewardship. 

      Stewardship.  This concept of stewardship is based on two aspects: gift -- Land is a gift from God and not of our making; mortality -- Our time for caring is of a limited nature.  The greatness of the Giver and gift and the limited nature of our call are sometimes hidden in our land practices.  The land was here before we came;  it will be here after we go.  We have a golden opportunity to do well with our land gift.  Good stewardship demands being mindful of the privilege to receive gifts, most often unmerited.  We may overlook the magnitude of the giver and gift.  Rather, we must be always thankful for and respect of our precious time on the land.

     Land as the primary subject.  Our native place is our center of view, our bearing, our home place, our connections in community.  We may indeed possess some homing pigeon instincts, if scientists could figure out what they are.  Psychologically, we know particular land before we know Earth, but for primitive peoples the two concepts (land and earth) are interchangeable.  For them, their land is the whole Earth.  Since we are of dust, and thus of the land, our bodies are destined to return to this dust.  We have our moment in the sweep of events -- and our native land fits into our personal history in many civic and cultural expressions.

     Earth as basic gift.  The primary relationship of land and people does not neglect our growing understanding of Earth as the substrate on which our land is but the skin.  We realize in time how our land fits into the far greater and more magnificent picture of a treasure bigger than we had imagined.  The land gift is now Earth gift.   Again, the second part of the concept is also of more immense importance, for we are privileged to be part of the gift and care for Earth just as we must care for the land that is our home.  Land care urgency stems from the limited time we have to save our threatened Earth.  When working the land we learn to budget our time due to ebbing physical strength, weather conditions and a limited growing season.  We experience our land by touching and caring for it, and we realize that this is a fleeting delight.  Still this Earth's long-term care goes beyond our own mortal condition.  So we affirm the role of future care-givers, and we realize that we must be the models for those who are to come after us.  Our land stewardship has profound future ramifications.

      Examples.  Land conservation methods in agriculture (contour plowing, rotation of crops, erosion control, use of cover crops, and establishing wind breaks) are examples of good stewardship practices.  It takes a lifetime to make an inch of good topsoil and only a moment's negligence to lose it.  Soil conservation practices are forms of conservation requiring some time to learn, understand and apply.  These practices have developed through a patient effort on the part of many tillers  of the land throughout the world.


June 4, 2004               River Celebration                        

     River Day.  For the past two decades, the first weekend of June has been the celebration of the Rockcastle River.  It is always good to celebrate the finer things in life, and rivers and other waterways fit that category quite well.  We can raise a glass and sing a song to the river of our vicinity, for rivers have been celebrated from the beginning of civilization.  We know the blue Danube, ole man Mississippi, the wide Missouri, the wonderful Shenandoah, the calling Red River, and on and on.  Rivers have frightened us, lulled us, beckoned to us, opened vistas for easy transportation, turned our water wheels, formed our boundaries, acted as barriers in times of flood, and given us the silt needed to grow crops.

      The Rockcastle is a pristine and wild river which has little industry to pollute it, unlike many of the other rivers of Kentucky and the rest of the country and world.  It is a wild and scenic river for part of its downstream expanse.  Its valley lures the off-road vehicles, which have ravaged the stream bed and overridden the banks which contain some of the finest and rarest orchids in America -- making these delicate plants all the more threatened and endangered.  To keep the river flowing and safe is a major undertaking for many of us.  This River has several hundred square miles of watershed, and all of the excess water flows through our constricted valley in times of floods.  This forms a natural bottleneck.  These waters can rise -- and fall -- like a yo-yo with very short notice.  Thus the local folks have come to respect this river, especially in the rainy season.

     Recreation can be a major part of any river and so it is with the Rockcastle.  Canoes and fishing boats find it a corridor of delight, and so can those who swim or wade or find the waters suitable for baptism as many have done in the past.  The river has lured wildlife -- beaver, deer, mink, blue heron, geese, duck, wild turkey, a dozen types of fish and a variety of endangered mussels.

     River sounds.  Perhaps the sights of rivers hold the greatest attraction, though the taste, feel and smell of rivers perhaps have something to add as well.  However, it is the sound, especially at high water, that makes the river special to me.  Living water has its own particular sound, one that can hardly be verbalized except for being what it is.  Add to this gurgling water sound the distinct calls of the birds and the barks of coyotes and one gets a mood that is hard to replace.  There is a wildness here that cannot be tamed too easily.

     Restless movement.  Rivers are always moving, coming into being while still thousands of years old. I find the river alluring only to a certain degree, for the fallen trees and piled up drift wood makes it lacking in serenity.  A river's well-being is ours to nourish.  We have to protect it, preserve it, stand up for it, and let it become part of our being.  These are some of the reasons we are to continue to celebrate rivers each and every year.

June 5, 2004          Celebrate Trinity and Community

     It takes two to make a pair but three to make a community.  The Trinity is the primary community of which we all are drawn to imitate. 

     Creation springs from a community of love -- and it has shown that community in the most elementary fashion ever since the beginning words, "Let us make...".  The Spirit hovers over the waters, the Wisdom of God takes on a more personal character.  All comes about in the visible spoken word of creation and all is good.  The movement of the universe is from oneness, and back to unity.  

    Flora and fauna.  The vestiges of the Creator show plainly in the world to those with eyes to see God's ever-present love.  The pods and flocks and herds and schools all point to the very communal characteristics of our world, the manner in which some socialize with others of their kind, and how this is built into the pattern of existence.  The communities of termites and ants say something profound about the cooperative structure of nature;  in the same way the arrangements of atoms constituting a molecule show the nature of the Creator in a very elementary manner.

     Human advent.  Some see the human emergence in neutral terms.  From a theological perspective, we know human beings do not always actualize the fullness of their calling -- which is translated as sin.  Human wrong-doing divides person from person and community from community.  Wars and conflicts arise, but all the while human suffering points to a more global human family. 

     Human families strive to hang together and look after the weaker members.  The core family itself has a special commitment to purpose and, hopefully, to loving relationships.  This familial striving for community also manifests the beckoning of the Holy Spirit at work, the presence of the Lamb of God who walks the journey with us, who shows the immensity of love, the effects of hate, and the profundity of sacrifice out of love. 

     Human gathering.  All of us struggle to attain some sign of grouping, bonding, interconnecting in the ways that will allow a community to form.  Some of this is conceived in secular ways and involves costly friction that cannot be resolved without sacrifice.  All of us, whether the human village in the same locality, a research team, a committed and intentional grouping, or the participants in an occasional festival or homecoming, are drawn together and seek to cooperate in some way.  This power of attraction is God's work in the world -- the coming together at Pentecost, after the dispersal of Babel.  Where that family and community love is stronger, the imitation becomes brighter and more visible, and God shines out to all in human visibility.  "See how they love one another."  The Church as loving community now stands as a foreshadowing or sign of what the world is striving to become -- a community in the image of the Trinity.


June 6, 2004                    D-Day

     Of all the days of the year that recalls for me the Second World War, it is D-day or June 6th and the invasion of Normandy in 1944.  That was a long-awaited day and we had a school picnic out at Pat and Martha Comers large open estate on the Fleming Road about three miles from home.  Instead of going back to Maysville (six miles away) and then back out to home for another four miles, I thought it best to walk it alone and did.  I arrived home when the folks were setting tobacco.  Cousin Bernard Perraut was helping for the afternoon, and Daddy and Bernard were talking up a storm.  Then we excitedly told them that the D-Day invasion was occurring as reported on the radio.  What a great day -- only two days after Rome had been liberated.

     Our connections.  The war years bring back many memories which are not easy to forget.  I followed that war by the radio and newspaper from its inception even though I was only in the third grade when it started.  My reading abilities were expanded by piecing together the news accounts and marking army locations on large wall maps we had hanging around the house.  With an uncle in the Marines, and other relatives in the various services, we all had commitments to the war effort.  Rubber, gasoline, sugar, meat and shoes were rationed.  Hemp was no longer banned and was encouraged again due to the loss of the Philippines.  We gathered milkweed pods for the war effort -- but they proved a poor silk substitute.  Fewer folks now remember that brutal conflict, as vets die out at a rate of thousand a day.   

     Sacrifice.  To sacrifice means to make holy, and the lives of service members wounded and killed made the starkness of the war come ever closer to home.  When the actual funeral Masses were said for the ones who were fatalities, we began to know the War was more than pictures and film strips; it was a reality that we started to despise more with each passing month.  Then we witnessed the banners with the gold, silver and blue stars that began to appear on front doors and windows telling us that someone had been killed, wounded or captured. Things were coming ever closer to home. 

     Prisoners of War.  I remember the arrival of the German prisoners of war who came to work on the tobacco fields in order to allow the millions of Luckies to go to war and addict our service personnel.  Those war prisoners liked it here, far from the bombs and shells, and with a pleasant countryside and people who held little animosity because they were presumed not to be Nazis.  We would go and watch them play soccer in their confined barbed wire quarters on the Wald Baseball field.  And we waved them goodby when they left towards the end of the war in the truck transports.       

    D-Day memories.  It is fitting that D-Day comes so soon after Memorial Day.  Both tell of supreme sacrifice.  So many passed away on the beaches of Normandy -- to liberate a captured continent.  Lest we forget, lest we forget.


June 7, 2004    Spirit Creatures and Pets

     Spirit creatures.  The native Americans often give people honorary names because their virtues resemble those of some creature (eagles, badgers, foxes, etc.) with which all are familiar.  But that is another relationship with creatures, acknowledging a personal relationship with one or other creature due to qualities which enhanced affinity and special relationship.  It is uncertain whether the relationship continues through life, but the animal stands out at given times as model and partner on some sort of equal basis.  Some regard their spirit creature as a secretive relationship and prefer not to reveal its identity.

     Personal affinities.  I always have had a special relationship with bovines, whether cows, calves or bulls.  Even the bison seems to be part of that relationship.  Once when jogging in northern California, I came upon a bison ranch and the ones across the fence seemed so close.  I also had a special relationship with crows which I have always admired for their tenacity.

     Pet choices.  The concept of "pet" shows a relationship of affinity which is responded to by friendly hugging or petting.

Should we mix spirit creatures (co-equality) with pets (subservience to a master)?  Supermarkets have entire aisles of dog and cat food, a major resource expenditure which causes us to pause.  Some pets assist us (seeing eye dogs, guard dog for security, companions for elderly or youth, etc.); some have economic benefit as animal products (chicks, rabbits, calves); others assist in securing the mental balance of the "owner;" still others teach us to love and care for all wildlife.  Is the category "pets" outmoded, if all animals are friends?  Certainly, cats or dogs express more feelings than goldfish or caged birds.  Should elderly people have watchdogs which they are unable to restrain -- lethal weapons?   Should certain wildlife be caged, which seek freedom (beavers, for instance)?  Choosing a pet involves considerations such as space, type of animal, ability of the animal to be comfortable when you are away, dietary needs and expense, safety of neighbors, noise, and your ability to control the animal on a leash.  A cute tiger might maul a tiny neighbor, a boa may cause a heart attack, a dog's waste may contain toxacara parasites (New York City has 150 tons of dog dung a day).

     Adopt and neuter.  There's one dog for very six Americans, or about 45 million of them out there.  This is regarded by many as dog overpopulation.  The demand for pet food requiring a portion of the limited global protein reserve makes us consider neutering as a pet birth control method.  A quarter of federally licensed commercial breeding kennels have inadequate sanitation, food, water and space.  Many pets sold each year are sickly due to lack of proper care or attention.  A sense of caring concern for unfortunate animals is a good reason to tighten regulations on institutional and individual animal care practices.  Having pets means shots and attentiveness to animal diseases, responsibilities which some accept willingly and others find difficult to assume.


June 8, 2004          Sound and Silence

         Let the heavens be glad, let earth rejoice,

        let the sea thunder and all that it holds,

        let the fields exult and all that is in them,

        let all the woodland trees cry out for joy.

                              (Psalm 96:11-12)

     Joyful June.  The cry for joy in nature is part of the sounds we hear when we listen.  Likewise, when sensitized, we hear the cries of pain from Earth.  Both the harmony and human-caused disharmony found in the universe are evident to the ears listening to God's call.  We listen and we hear and distinguish sounds, and we know the blessed moments of silence which punctuate the divine symphony around us.  When we do not make distinctions or when we strive to do away with silence, we are caught in confusion, like captives in a vibrating steel drum unable to exit.

      Unwelcome noise.  Americans are being overcome by noise pollution.  Some places are experiencing levels of rise in noise at a dramatic rate.  This has an effect on the psychic health of residents and those subjected to such an assault or form of discord.  Personally, I find noise a constant irritant and the value of silence as quite underrated.  To harmonize periods of sound and silence is an ideal environment of distant church bells, playing children and cow bells in the meadow.  On the other hand, noise pollution has placed a heavy burden on ordinary people in congested areas and on others who do not care to admit the effects on them.  We come to appreciate harmony but partly through recognition of the opposite which threatens our tranquility.

        Silent moments.  We hardly aspire to the silence of the abandoned home or that of the deaf.  We seek a rhythm of sounds and silence and thus strive to create a time of silence.  These spans of silence are achieved by going to less noisy places like the mountains, a farm, or the distant seashore.  When unable to get away, we sometimes retreat to our den or silent space or a chapel or library nook.  We insulate our homes with acoustical materials, even if that be inexpensive but efficient egg cartons.  When we do not have the luxury of silent space, we withdraw further into ourselves.  On a noisy airplane or motel we install ear plugs or, when all else fails, we seek to create our silent space in the recesses of our hearts -- a place where the harmony of God returns in a grace-filled mysterious manner.  Silence is precious; silence is treasured; silence is a drink of cool water for the thirsty.

      Reflection .  All creatures work in harmony and this reflects God's perfect harmony which floods the universe with a sound hardly perceived.  However, it is heard by those with ears to hear and hearts to throb in harmonious love.  But to hear demands our silence in the quiet spaces we create and preserve, often with help from others.  Harmony is discovered in real time and with effort;  so is silence for its own sake.


June 9, 2004            Oral & Video History

      We think we have plenty of time to record prized experiences.  While attending a conference in India, I asked an 88-year-old Jesuit missionary bishop if he had recorded his many colorful stories.  "No," he said, "there's plenty of time."  He died shortly after -- stories unrecorded.  Experiences can be easily lost and not really recovered when people pass on.  We're not permanent fixtures, and we need to be convinced that recording experiences is salutary, for our store of personal knowledge is often quite unique.  Conservation of resources includes preserving the experiences of persons who are integral parts of our community.  These are fragile resources which could be easily forgotten as people lapse in memory or slip away.  Treasures of sacred memory have been transmitted at camp fires and the hearth for generations, yielding a living history for the ones who could remember the stories and were the gifted story tellers of the next generation.  Now we lack hearths and time to sit around with elders, but we have more convenient methods of recording, though our "Throwaway" culture often fails to value senior moments.

     Talented story tellers.  To pass on a tradition it takes two, one to tell, and one to listen and record in some fashion.  The teller is the prime character, the focal point of the continued story.  Certain people tell their story in matter of fact fashion.  Others like to have the poetic license.  No tale is without some embellishment, some degree of change and modification, some nuance which is highly characteristic of the story teller.  What is left out?  What is added?  Modern methods can capture these faithfully, provided the recording equipment is not lost through constant reinvention of recorders and media for recording.

     Talented collectors.  Certain community members are more gifted in collecting these tales from older and frail members who may soon be gone.  Regard this exercise of recording the sacred memories as a necessary part of your ongoing growth in environmental consciousness.  Some who can do this best are those who excel in making people feel comfortable.  These collectors can stimulate a conversation and get the person to carry on in a natural manner.  Good listeners are also good interviewers.  Though videotapes are more treasured than audiotapes, still the extra talent it takes to do a good interview may make the latter a preferred instrument for recording.

     Procedures.  Take along a person who has the confidence of the interviewee.  Allow plenty of time, for this can be an unsettling activity for those who are not used to being interviewed.  If need be, give a present or fee for taking the time and effort.  Promise and give copy of the recording so the person can see and listen to his or her own voice.  If the person should die before receiving the tape, ensure that the next of kin will have a keepsake recording.  It will be highly treasured.  Try to make arrangements to donate one copy to the archives of the nearest major library or university that keeps such recordings of older citizens.   


June 10, 2004         Guidelines for Edible Landscape

      The landscape of those committed to environmental awareness issues should be more than ornamental.  The reason is that landscape can be beautiful and useful at the same time.  Most of Earth's people do not have the luxury of having land that is merely a pleasurable place to live and wander about.  By "edible landscape" we don't mean that we literally eat the landscape but that we (birds or wildlife included) are able to eat the produce of the land.  These edible landscapes take planning, some work, tender loving care, and an awareness of an ultimate impact on (maybe opposition from) neighbors.  Some neighbors may resist the sight and even want to take you to a neighborhood zoning committee for differing with what is expected in a uniform lawn-filled world.  Prepare to deal with possible criticism.  Use that as an opportunity to inform others about the value of edible landscape.

      The following are some successful edible landscape steps:

     1) Make a tentative plan. Before buying landscape plants, it is important to ask oneself a few questions.  What are the major uses for my yard?  What kind of look am I striving for?  How much time am I willing to spend on it?  What is good to eat off of the land?

The answers will be beneficial in deciding what plants to purchase and where to place them on the property.  

     2) Start off small.  Overwhelming yourself with a massive project will cause a person to burn out quickly.  Making a few initial changes around the yard will give the one doing the work a chance to experiment, find out what is liked, what grows well in the area, and how to care for the plants.

      3) Make it convenient.  Keep in mind that edible landscaping is supposed to be fun in addition to being beautiful and useful.  Try not to make this more work than it needs to be.  To reduce the time for yard care without reducing its beauty or productivity, try the following: select fruits and vegetables that are extremely low-maintenance, e.g., Alpine strawberries or blueberries; use miniaturized versions of your favorite fruit or nut trees; plant more perennials (productive for more than one year) than annuals.

      4) Include wildlife edibles.  Remember that not all the plants in an edible landscape need to be edible by human beings.  Many interplanted flowers, like marigolds and nasturtiums, attract beneficial insects to the lawn and will actually improve the health of the edible plants.  There are also butterfly and humming bird attractants (see June 25th for Bird Sanctuaries).

     5) Incorporate succession planting and vegetation.  Unlike a grass lawn, edible landscaping incorporates the realities and limitations of plants in terms of growing season and blooming periods.  By realizing that certain vegetation is most productive at different times of the year, one can design year-round edible landscaping.


June 11, 2004           Houseplants

     Having an abundance of houseplants can help remove toxins from air inside the home.  Houseplants can also help remove or mask bad odors and freshen indoor environments.  Let's seek to explore and maximize the beneficial aspects of houseplants:

     *Gift.  Houseplants make perfect gifts for birthdays,  Mother's (and Father's) Day, Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays. Houseplants make appropriate gifts for anyone, regardless of age or disposition.

       *Personal need.  Everyone needs the opportunity to touch the soil and commune with the forces of growth within Earth.  For people who are unable to get outside due to infirmity, houseplants can substitute.  Special spaces in bedrooms, greenhouses or sun rooms can be used by shut-ins for cultivating houseplants, particularly during the non-growing seasons.  Greenhouse tables and other features can be built to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

      *Encouragement.  People may be concerned that caring for a houseplant will be a bother.  Providing detailed instructions on plant care, placement and watering may alleviate apprehensions.

       *Extra Reasons.  Indoor plants can also be a source of produce, providing fruits, vegetables and herbs for the caretaker's enjoyment.  Indoor plants that produce food allow for a unique synthesis between beauty and utility.  Many vegetables and herbs thrive under indoor conditions. 

      *Fruit as Houseplants.  One fruit tree which can be grown indoors is the carissa grandiflora (natal plum).  This is an exceptionally beautiful plant with dark green leaves and year-round white blossoms.  Rarely growing to be more than two feet tall, it produces a plum-like fruit which tastes something like a cranberry.  Citrus trees grown indoors can be pleasing to both the eyes and the palate.  Like the natal plum, they bloom year round and can be kept under four feet tall with careful pruning.  The Meyer lemon produces an extremely high quality table fruit while the myrtle leaf orange or the Otahiete orange bear only cooking quality fruit.  Pollination problems can be overcome either by moving plant outdoors during summer or by hand pollination.

      A wide variety of non-tree fruits are also quite well-suited for indoor planting.  Following the same rules for vegetable container gardens, many fruits like alpine strawberries and tomatoes will thrive indoors.  More exotic fruits are also available to provide beauty and flavor to the home.  Pineapple plants (ananas nanus) perform quite well indoors and produce beautiful purple flowers in addition to a table- quality fruit.  Bananas can also be a tasty and colorful addition to the home.  The Cavendish or Chinese varieties tend to be somewhat shorter than other banana plants, reaching only five to seven feet in height and bearing six to eight inch fruit suitable for eating raw. 


June 12, 2004        Cisterns: Conserve Rain water

    Cisterns or containers which hold rainwater or spring water have been used for millennia to store plentiful water supplies for times of scarcity.  Cisterns, if built properly, both save precious rainwater and offer a safe source of both drinking and other domestic water, especially a non-chlorinated water source for garden plants.  For drinking purposes, use of small purifying units at the cistern's domestic intake is advisable.  Cisterns are effective where aquifers are contaminated by human waste disposal practices, lack of proper landfill containment, excessive land disturbance, and poor sewage disposal conditions. 

     Cisterns are usually installed underground; however, some stand above ground or are partially buried, and can store spring and ground water as well as surface run‑off.  Water can be withdrawn manually or mechanically from a cistern with a distribution system similar to those used for other water sources.  Cisterns have a proven track record going back long before Jeremiah the Prophet was thrown into one.  Some American cisterns continue to serve homes and farms long after their installation.  Others have had to be abandoned because they were not properly maintained or sealed at top or sides.  Consequently, cisterns have lost favor among government water management and environmental officials.  However, this unpopularity stems more from the lack of maintenance by some cistern users, than from the concept of the cistern itself.     

    Cistern advantages:

     * They can be built at a low cost per unit and can eliminate the need for municipal water systems in rural areas.

     * They are far less risky than well-drilling.

     * They do not have the high salt or iron content, or other chemical contamination often present in groundwater.

     * They can provide high quality water which is near-at-hand.

     * They are under sole control of the homeowner. 

     * They do not require chlorination, though it may make the water more potable and meet local health requirements. 

     * They are inexpensive to maintain and eliminate water bills.

     * They allow for small rain showers during droughts to be conveniently collected.

     * They provide a good way to conserve precious water.

      Risky cisterns.  If a cistern is improperly constructed or sealed, outside contamination can leak in.  The necessity of chlorination depends on the water source and whether there is outside seepage into the cistern from cracks.  If the catchment area is not contaminated, is cleaned by washing off with the first part of a rain before allowing water into the cistern, and if the cistern is properly sealed, the water will remain potable.  A newly built cistern may be disinfected with chlorine solutions.  If in doubt about cistern water, test it on a periodic basis for bacteriological and chemical contamination.  "Acid rain" has dropped the pH in many places and eroded metal catchments, so you may chose to use your cistern water for non-potable purposes. 

June 13, 2004              Corpus Christi                                         

    Offertory.  Bread and Wine are made from human hands.  Often we undervalue the works our hands in favor of those of our head.  It is important that we all see ourselves as part of the mystical Body of Christ -- a contributing member of the total building of the Church which requires many cooperating hands.

     The bread and wine of Melchizedek.  This story tells the history of Abraham's coming to Faith and the foreshadowing of what is to come.  Our lives foreshadow what will happen in the great gathering of which we are only starting to have a faint awareness.  We must gather and eat together, but we cannot go and do so when some people have overabundance and others are starving or without the basics of life.  We are called to share and that is the purpose of the Eucharist in which we do things in remembrance of the Lord.

     Multiplication. (Luke 9:11b-17). This reading parallels that of the other accounts of this miracle.  The various passages contain some common elements: the basic trust in Jesus in what he says;  the distrust by the disciples and followers as to whether there is enough food in this world; a miracle of either physical multiplication of the food or the opening of the stored food by the many for others who are nearby (a miracle of charity); the example of a youth who is willing to risk radical sharing of what is his bare essentials; and the example of a gracious God giving us well above what is needed to feed the hungry.  A further element is that there is to be no WASTE, for radical giving will be recognized by respectful consumption of what is needed. 

     Example:  It was like in the Concentration Camp in the second World War when the Jewish lady was given the vial by the priest on the way to his death.  The lady distributed to all who asked her, and the vial never went empty though she did not recognize the importance and the miracle at the time.  Truly, it was a miracle but it was only understood as such with time when she told a priest about its occurrence.

     Eucharist is thanksgiving for gifts.  Are we able to say "thank you" to God for gifts given?  We owe our gratitude for the gift of life, the ability to see that we could have had far less.  The sin of affluence is a gross insensitivity, ignoring that these are gifts of God and should be treated as such.  We are to see that this is part of bearing witness, namely, that the world and our lives are truly gifts.  We respond through responsible action.  And we share together with others, a foreshadowing of our future glory. 

    A reason for not wasting.  We resolve to waste less, and that should include our time, our talent, our resources.  Leftovers showing the plentitude of God must also be reused, for that is a gift for the next day as well.  If we believe that all God created is good, then we can waste nothing.  


June 14, 2004               Flag Day

     Flags have been used for thousands of years as signs of a certain allegiance.  People marched to them, sang as they were unfurled, protected them, surrendered them, fought for them.  And in this country flags come in various shapes, colors and designs.  More prominently in parts of America, we see private homes with colorful domestic flags flying on the front, telling us that color and design give a certain decoration or distinction to the home.  After 9-11 American flag display has had an increasing popularity.

     Star Spangled Banner.  We have been living for almost fifty years with a flag of a certain specific number of stars, for prior to that states entered the union at an uneven rate, causing new flags with the correct number of stars to be issued with state admission every few years.   The flag is much a part of Americana.  Many fly it, especially at national and international events such as the Olympics and there they wave it furiously when the triumph of our country is in the forefront.  Our national anthem tells us that it has withstood the bomb blasts.  The pledge is given each day by students that we live by that flag;  the honor guard ushers in the flag for sporting events; flying at half-mast, the flag tells of the death of a great personage.  The flag that drapes the casket of a fallen hero is carefully folded and handed to the next of kin, a ceremony of finality and respect.  We are a people of the flag, waving the little ones in  parades, hoisting the colors on ships, filling the flagpoles in front of buildings. 

     Emotional Pieces.  I'm not a super patriot, but I must confess that when returning to this country it does warm my heart to see Ole Glory.  I'm sure many service men and women have similar feelings with even deeper emotions when coming back as well.  That has been true for veterans of all our foreign wars.  To those who fought under the flag their devotion needs to be included in honoring our flag.

              Fly it Proudly Day and Night  -- using solar energy.


     Too much blood has been shed by patriots who gave all,

        with their lives, their limbs, their peace of mind.

     Then they came back flag-draped in boxes, taps,

        loved ones sobs, a salute, a word, grave-lined.


     For their sakes we fly this flag with pride.

       We need no constitutional amendment to heed,

      but as free citizens we treat this emblem with respect,

        not burning, not desecrating through commercial greed.


     Respect calls for not leaving a flag flying at night

         in the dark.  Thus we look to a renewable energy story,

        and install a solar spotlight, daylight transformed,

         so that the sun never sets on Ole Glory.


June 15, 2004         Global Village

     The United Nations.  For better or worse, we inhabitants of this planet need to learn to live as a peaceful community.  Some more ecologically inclined folks profess that a peaceful world must be patterned after a small unit called the eco-village, where nature and sustainable human habitat meet.

     The village as a human unit has been operative down through the centuries.  The very earliest human beings established such settlements so that the group could mutually defend each other, provide food together, and care for the more helpless members of the community.  Some villages evolved into more sophisticated systems, and included market places, worship space, recreational grounds, and educational buildings for youth.  The village united with adjacent villages and these with more distant ones and became colonies, states and nations.  It was a bottom up process historically speaking.  Today larger conglomerations of settlements called cities seem to overwhelm the village concept -- but these larger places of inhabitation are often of poor quality (polluted and congested) and tend to overload the normal human environment. Is it wishful thinking to expect a return to the village concept except now on a global level?

     Building Blocks.  The global village is an extension of the primitive village to now embrace the entire world and the single human family.  This concept becomes the goal for unifying people of diverse cultures and aspirations who are striving to come together and form community.  Even with an expenditure of time and effort such endeavors are not always successful.  Perhaps one reason is that such systems require much selfless sacrifice, practices not only popular today.   

     Stability.  Forming larger communities demands some prior commitment.  When people try to continue in splendid isolation, they are unable to developing lasting village communities.  History is replete with instances of intentional communities which arise, stay awhile and then die out.  All know only too well that the lack of commitment by husband and/or wife has a chilling effect on the larger basic community building step, for failing to unite at the more elementary family level will cause a weakening of a bond necessary for greater unity.  The village is only as good as the commitment of its individual members.  This is why religious commitment can be such a powerful model for a world seeking stability but tempted to comfort.  And some of them fail as well.

     Long-term Success.  The stability of secular eco-villages is quite problematic.  Can they get off on the right foot?  Are members willing to make long-term commitments?  Do they have long term goals?  Will they follow the road of many land trusts, community homesteads, and small colonies which fell apart after a rather promising start.  Can a world learn from their mistakes?  Can they be cohesive without an explicit religious commitment?


June 16, 2004    Preserve Languages

     Every time the last native speaker of a language falls silent ... we lose one more distinctive way of saying, one more set of insights about living in a place.  Scott Russell Sanders, "Hunting for Hope," p. 106.

     Threatened languages -- Today, young people in the Mountains no longer speak Appalachian;  they talk "televisionese" English.  The United Nations reports that half the world's 6,000 languages will die out during this century.  That is an immense loss, if we value culture.  Some do not, and would prefer a single language, provided it is their own.  When mentioning the death of languages to a Latinist, he said "Maybe they need to die out."  Should one who saw his beloved Latin die, have such a disregard to the plight of other tongues?  Every two weeks a language vanishes as its final speakers pass on to the heavens.  Pawnee, once the language of a large nation of the Great Plains is reduced to a small town in Oklahoma with one surviving speaker.  The double tragedy is many languages will pass unnoticed and unlamented.

     Conservation efforts.  Exceptions exist.  The ancient Hebrew language is now revived as the official language of Israel and has nearly five million speakers.  We have people striving to continue the Celtic languages of the British Isles, and they may yet save Welsh, Gaelic and the Scottish tongue as well as Manx that was spoken on the Isle of Man.  These threatened languages can be saved, if some record remains.  The will to relearn must be strong, and that is not always the case.  The greater the amount of time that passes from those who were former native speakers, the harder to relearn the pronunciation or the nuances that are so important.  When lost, it is difficult to reproduce the culture associated with the endangered language.

     Linguistic conservation is difficult.  The former languages of developed lands are more easily revived and made to flourish than those of tribes and groups in primitive areas where youth strive to learn the major predominant language so that they may get jobs and circulate in a wider society.  Centralization and globalization as well as the Internet and modern communication have led many people to forget their small village tongues for the language of the dominant culture.  Many native people whose cultures have not yet attained recognition by the predominant cultures appear more willing to forsake their language.

     Endangered species -- Sometimes we fail to see that language communicates so much more than practical aspects such as eating or building a house.  Art and culture are contained in the language, along with unique insights which are so easily overlooked.  If there are thirty words for snow in one Eskimo language, then those of us who can't distinguish more than five snow words (sleet, etc.) have lost something by that tongue's death.  Native art, poetry, and song is lost forever in a language's demise.


June 17, 2004     Ten Commandments of Resource Use

     1. Basic Attitudes.  All that God creates is good. We human beings create waste.  We take what is essentially valuable and "good" and, through thoughtless practice (waste as an action or verb), we make it non-recoverable junk (waste as a noun).

     2. Use Properly or Give in to Waste.  To say the Lord allows us to waste is to take the Lord's Name in vain, for it makes God the author of wasteful practice.  In mockery, one says, "The Lord is soon coming, so let's use up resources, for it is our entitlement."

     3. Consecration, not Desecration.  The land is a holy place and to be respected.  Wasteful practice desecrates that place.  It is our most sacred duty to develop ways to keep Earth holy and remember that the Lord has given us care of this Earth.  

     4. Respect and Don't Litter.  Honor your parent, your Earth.  Beautify and enhance her life-giving qualities.  Littering is a thoughtless disregard for the respect we must show our parent.  Instead, we must recycle and continually return life for life.

     5. Life or Death.  To give life is our calling.  But we are able to kill through the slow destruction of our eco-systems through air and water pollution.  Incineration of waste materials gives off toxic gases which can do harm to living creatures.   

     6. Conserving or Using up Virgin Materials.  A form of rape of Earth is using new materials in place of recycled products.  Recycled paper reduces the need for pulpwood and trees;  recycled aluminum requires less energy to process. 

     7. Good Use or Misuse of Materials.  Do not steal from the limited resources of Earth.  To take a precious resource and squander it on desolate living is to steal from the world's powerless, or from future generations.

     8. Sharing Responsibility or NIMBY (Not in my Backyard).  To accuse the poor of being unwilling to accept our waste due to their selfishness is to bear false witness to what they are really saying, namely, "Each of us must be responsible for our own actions and wasteful practices."

     9. Careful or Excessive Consumerism.  Coveting other people's careless consumption patterns and practices is the first step in becoming like despoilers of Earth.  In doing that, we accept deceptive advertising, child labor in making goods, panic buying, and throwaway attitudes.

     10. Durable or Disposable Goods.  Coveting cosmetic packaging, disposable items, luxury goods, and planned obsolescence only adds to an atmosphere of addictive use.  This creates a "wanting" for still more junk in our lives. 


June 18, 2004       Assessment versus Monitoring

      We tend to get things backwards when it comes to self-evaluation, whether on an individual level or on a family or community one.  We often prefer to look to outsiders to monitor our own personal behavior and to tell us what steps should or should not be taken to improve our lot.  Actually, we have consciences, and these are our internal lights, well-equipped to do some monitoring (actual amounts, versus assessing or review of overall practice or policy) for us.  But surrendering our internal monitoring process to others and refusing to accept personal accountability for our behavior is quite popular today. 

     Internal monitoring:  Examination of Conscience.  The serious member of a faith community should realize that monitoring is a personal (or community) enterprise, depending on the level of conduct on which we focus.  I should know what I am doing, and not deceive myself and make excuses.  I come to an understanding of myself and my faults in all their depths, and that is a more humble way of seeing myself before God.  Others turn a blind eye to such private procedures -- and they are not true to themselves.  Spiritual directors tell us we should monitor our conduct on an ongoing basis.  The more individual this is, the more frequent the practice should be.  People who strive to go to confession very frequently should be told that this may be giving to another the monitoring task that is really an individual responsibility.  Monitoring helps us find our reoccurring faults and beg God for forgiveness, to experience the justification that comes with confession, and to move on from there.  But we should also welcome assessment, and thus the role of the outside spiritual advisor who can give an assessment on a monthly or quarterly period as to whether we are using all the resources we have at hand.  INDIVIDUAL EXAMENS ARE DAILY AFFAIRS; INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT ARE MORE RARE DEPENDING ON OUR NEED.

     Community Assessments by Outsiders.  With time our Environmental Resource Assessment Service (ERAS) found that its primary task was really assessing and not monitoring work.  An audit of energy or soil or trees stands should be done on a more frequent basis and can be successfully handled through internal staff expertise given proper training at times.  An assessment is different;  it should be the work of outside persons skilled in the process of objectively identifying environmental resources and examining our use of them.  Property holders tend to overlook both developed and undeveloped (or over-developed) environmental resources.  Just as in spiritual direction, the outsider brings a certain objectivity to resource assessments that is necessary for the clearest picture of what can be done.  The ERAS discusses "development" pressures and the need to leave land undeveloped, where ecological enhancement will be suited and appropriate technology innovations that could be of use.  Monitoring is a frequent practice; assessments are independent practices and are rare in frequency.


June 19, 2004        Garden Disarray & Composting

     In many urban areas, battles ensue between the defenders of orderly lawns and the gardener who risks some disorder for the sake of changing the precious lawn into a space for growing produce.  David Kennedy, an accomplished gardener and director of "Leaf for Life" at Berea, Kentucky,  says he prefers a relaxed garden where the turtles, herbs, bees, snakes, etc., try to sort it with each other.  He says a pretty good garden is what we should aim for.  "A perfect garden is an antique vase on a kitchen table waiting for a Little League team to show up with pizza."  Reference:  Where the Garden Path Leads, David Kennedy, Big Hill, Kentucky, 1998, p. 45. 

     Creative Assortments.  Disarray is a normal part of the creative process.  The building site gets a little messy during construction, though it can't be too messy or the project cannot be completed.  When writing a book, there are reference materials and other papers scattered all about, and they have to be for quick reach.  The perfectly clean desk may be one approach, but it is not the normal one for the creative person.  Some need all within reach, so they can pick and choose with comfort and ease. 

    Growing things.  Gardeners, in the height of their activity, may have hoes and shovels and seeds and other things all scattered about.  Sometimes this scattering may extend beyond a single working period.  However, there are other kinds of disarray in a growing garden.  Some things have just been harvested and some are being planted.  The lack of uniformity, taken by others as "disarray," is really variation.  The gardener needs freedom of expression, for not every person wants a sterile, manicured lawn exactly like their neighbors.  However, the neighborhood committee in our "land of the free" often think otherwise.  If you come here, you must think like us, or else move on.  Gardens are an alternative to lawn growing practices, and the gardener becomes an advocate for variety.  Often, gardeners make up in deeds what they lack in words.

     Composting Materials.  Composting is nature's creative way of recycling the cast-offs into something more productive.  Yard wastes (grass, tree leaves and trimmings) as well as non-meat and non-fatty kitchen wastes can be composted through the joyful labor of earthworms and friendly bacteria.  All the worms seek besides waste materials, is moisture and air and to be undisturbed in either indoor or outdoor containers.  The amount of time required to turn the waste products into humus for the garden will vary with the season and the arrangement of the composting pile, as well as the care given to turning it over time.  A balance of carbon and nitrogen must also be maintained, which is not difficult to do.  Under suitable conditions, animal manures and the wastes from dry composting toilets can also be added to the garden as compost.  Neighbors will be more accepting, if you make the compost bin presentable and place it in a shady spot, preferably at the back of the property.


June 20         Suffering Servants  

      If anyone wishes to come after me, he will deny himself

       and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:21-22)

      Jesus does not want us to be called his servants but rather his friends or companions.  Why would he be called a suffering servant and we not so?  Some distinctions must be made.  When looked at as doing things for others we may be servants when these are in need and below us in some status or economic condition.  When referring to someone who has plenty, then the title has far less meaning.

      Jesus was a suffering servant for us, not for God. 


 June 21, 2004          Heritage Seed

    On the longest day of the year let's think ahead to the harvest time which is only a season away.

     Seed saving is as old as agriculture, and yet it is now being threatened by corporations which demand that the genetically engineered (GE) seed be purchased each year from them.  There's a terrible story of how some who had saved their seed in the western prairies of Canada refused to buy genetically engineered seed and continued to harvest.  However, the pollen from neighboring GE fields contaminated their own crop.  The seed company took it on themselves to bomb the fields of the hold-out farmer with herbicide and found that it was truly GE seed, because it withstood the bombing.  They demanded that a fee be paid for being contaminated by the neighbor's GE seed, because of indirect benefits.  Unfair?  Yes, and more is in store.  The globalization of seed production makes the farmer totally dependent on and in the service of the "Big Brother" seed company (as though George Orwell's 1984 has come true).

     Seed as Heritage.  In so many ways we should be good stewards of our heritage, whether that be cultural, spiritual, or material.  The very living matter is worth conserving, for the goal of all living things is to survive and continue for more generations.  This becomes imperative when we see people trying to damage a living heritage for their own selfish interests -- as in the case of seeds.

     Advantages of Heritage Seeds.  In the past, many different varieties of seed were developed in isolated places and over long periods of time.  These became adapted cultivars to particular climates and soils.  They also acquired resistance to certain insects and diseases and also had the ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.  These had their own flavors and ripening times.  With agribusiness techniques of the past few decades the pressure has grown for uniformity of produce, sturdiness under shipping conditions and similarity in general appearance.  Only a selected few of the cultivars have become widely used commercially.  This has worried many ecologically- minded horticulturists, because it restricts the genetic pool, especially when some of the older (heritage) cultivars have been virtually or actually lost. 

     Seed banks and exchanges are beginning to spring up in efforts to save and propagate these endangered but varied cultivars.  To tell the names and addresses of more successful ones may be reducing the effect of what is expected by this effort.  We are advocating having local and sub-regional seed banks rather than national or vast regional ones.  Thus, the locally adapted seeds can be shared within the community and made even more sturdy and precious with time.  Find out where your state or regional seed banks are located.  And trade seed giving some of yours for the wider good.


June 22, 2004        Respecting Sacred Memory

     At the beginning of the season of family reunions and vacations with loved ones, we should give some extra time to paying out respects to what has gone before us:  our religious traditions, our family and cultural history; and our political and national heritage.

     Religious Tradition.  Christians are very mindful that Christ asks us to do as he did at the Last Supper -- until he comes again.  We also recall that the Seder is the remembrance of the saving deeds of God when the Israelite community was delivered from the hands of slavery and came to the Holy Land.  Sacred Memory is part of our Judeo-Christian vocation.  Our growth in reverence and respect is often tied to our religious practices at sacred places and sacred times.  In such sacred places and times we bow our heads in prayer, we genuflect, we remain silent, we refrain from chewing gum, and we dress properly.  

     Family History.  Respect goes beyond religious practice and enters into our entire lives, from the way we address relatives and friends, to our respect for elders and others.  A sense of lost respect is the beginning of a loss of religion.  By respecting each other, we come to know more of our relationship to God who has done so much for us.  We respect the sacred deeds done and the love and devotion shown, which especially includes parents, relatives, extended family, and friends.  We remember that those who came before us sacrificed much to make us who we are.  It rests on us to respect their memories.

        National Heritage.  It shocks us to read how many times during the Revolutionary War that the American cause was almost lost.  It occurred even in the winter of 1780-81, only months before the collection of the French Fleet and the French and American armies at the Virginia coast and the Yorktown surrender.  We owe much to the fortitude of the fighting men of France, for we simply could not have done it alone.  What we do during this time of year in decorating graves and showing greater respect to the flag is to see that respect is a sign of gratitude and remembrance of what we hold dear to us.  Not to cherish our faith, family or country is to be ignorant and arrogant in every regard.     

     Memories are fleeting.  Memories, even the very sacred ones, last such a short time in any one of us individuals, and then they are gone, quite often far quicker than life itself.  We have to take special care to see that these are continued at all costs.  That is why the Church makes such a special effort to see that the memory of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection is continued in the Mass, which is a continuation of what Jesus did the night before he died.  That is the reason for carrying on traditions in a very detailed manner, and that is why we also honor family members and flags and other areas worthy of respect.


June 23, 2004         Resource Self Control

       Wasting is wrong, but many of us never consider the moral aspects of resource waste.  We will try to halt waste to save money or because the waste itself is inconvenient or unsightly.  But what about waste that happens as part of our over-packaged and throwaway culture?  We have unused clothes because of the latest fashion.  We throw out food because we do not like the inconvenience of cooking with leftovers.  We neglect to turn off lights.  We fail to turn so-called kitchen waste into compost and yard wastes (grass clippings, tree trimmings and discarded weeds) into valuable mulch.  With proper foresight, the valuable living topsoil in development projects could be saved during construction operations and restored around many of the less densely constructed houses to become cultivated space.  

      Controls.  We like to be in control and there is something natural about it.  We don't want others controlling our lives;  we want to remain conscious in health procedures; we like to be the "captain of our own fate." So much for likes.  Let's face it!  We did not choose how we were to be born, who were our parents, and how we were launched in life.  We did not control the beginning situation which has much to do with the rest of our lives.  In the same way, we have little to do with the time and place of death and maybe even the manner of it.  We are at the Lord's mercy at that hour of our end.

     Control of personal resources.  What we do have some control over is our free will, our ability to choose and to choose this or that.  We can have a say in the free acceptance of life, of our opportunities, of our giving, and of our loving.  We do have a gift of self-control and that is a gift worth praising while it is most operative.  Practicing self-control over our eyes and heart and mind allows us to control the important decisions we must make.  We need to see these moments of great decisions as the prime moments of our lives.  Then and only then do we gain the habits that allow for self-control, for saying no, for moderation in food and drink, for realizing our own weaknesses, and for finding the grace to continue in control of our lives.   

    Summer prayer.  Oh God, Conservator of all Life, increase our awareness of the precious resources entrusted to us.  Teach us to use all material things to the degree they assist us to attain our end, and never to overuse or waste resources that You pronounced as good.  Make us stewards of these gifts, aware of how fleeting is our time and how fragile our entrusted gifts.  Guide us to protect and conserve the water that is so precious.  Protect us from becoming a part of this throwaway generation, and teach us to reuse cast-off items and to be sensitive to sharing excess with those lacking in basic resources.   Allow us to value this gift of land, our time, the seasons, the recyclable materials around us, and our own reserves of energy.  Thank you for the wisdom of those who have gone before us with a generous offering of their labors for those who would follow.  


June 24, 2004         John the Baptist

      Preparation: Anticipation and Reverence.  The symmetry of our year is seen in the 3 month intervals revolving around Christmas:  Annunciation on March 25, Birth of John on this day, and maternity of Mary on September 25.  John (Luke 1: 5-17) comes before Christ and announces him, and today's feast tells with solemnity about John's own coming into the world.  His mother was childless in old age like Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Hannah.  While his father was first struck speechless, he regained his voice in the naming of this new-born son.  John's life was to be one of service and thus he prepared himself for the task by eating and living very simply.  Each of us should also see how simplicity must enter into our prophetic mission as well.

      Prophetic Role. (Jeremiah 1:4-10)  John was the last of the individual prophets and from thence all of us enjoy the prophetic witness of our collective ministry in the Church.  We do not stand alone, but at certain times in history some of us like John must stand alone.  Many in times of war or persecution had to stand alone as solitary witnesses to the truth.  Prophecy is the art of knowing how to deliver our public message, and doing so in the hope of touching others in our lives.  "I know not how to speak" says the prophet Jeremiah, and that may be said of John or others called to be solitary witnesses.  But we have God behind us and the Spirit at work in us, and so we can speak.

     For Others and Not Us.  (I Peter 1:8-12).  We live for others and should not live for ourselves.  What we sow, others will reap;  what we start, others must finish.  That is part of the good life, and in fact is what the Lord wants us to do here on Earth.  What he began in the saving work of salvation, he invites us to participate in through the work of the Church.  This is the living and growing body of Christ with all of its wrinkles and difficulties.  The prophets of old testified to what they believed.  John testifies to a Jesus who also will be a solitary witness as he cleans the temple, speaks openly to the leaders of the country, and walks the lonely road to Calvary.  John goes into the desert, giving testimony to one who he will not be fully acquainted.  Part of the prophetic witness is the uncertainty as to entering the desert and what to say when called to speak.  Will this lead to our downfall just as it did John the Baptist?  How many are willing to sacrifice their head as a favor to a dancer?  Yet that is John's fate or destiny.

     Unique?  John gives us a sense of our own well being and that is what is before us in a very special way today.  But we should not glory in another's uniqueness alone, but in the fidelity to living up to the gifts given and the mission called forth.  What is of equal importance is that we are called to see the unique preparation for us; to stand as solitary witnesses; and to be of service without concern about the ultimate outcome.  We need to be like John the Baptist though he may seem an unlikely model at first glance.


June 25, 2004           Bird Sanctuary

      Your property could become a de facto wildlife sanctuary.  Consider it a precious piece of greenspace where birds can come, be protected, and find limited food sources and other basic needs: cover, water and reproductive habitat.   Wildlife-lovers know that modern practices are very stressful for birds as well as other wildlife.  Song birds have been decimated through loss of habitat and need to be welcomed by providing winter feeding areas, nest locations and bird baths.  Some purists oppose bird attractions, but if human activity has threatened birds through destruction of habitats, then we must take positive steps to protect them.  See Sally Roth, Attracting Birds to Your Backyard:  536 Ways to Turn Your Yard and Garden into a Haven for Your Favorite Birds, Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA  1998.

     Bird Habitat Selection.  Select plant varieties that provide birds with materials and habitat they need to survive winter, successfully rear young, and hide from predators (the worst of which is the domestic cat).  Edible landscape doesn't just refer to human food, but can be designed to provide birds fall berries such as the fruit of the cranberry bush (American Viburnum).  Planting such tree species as mulberry might be a welcome change of pace from the more typical battle to keep birds away from ripening fruits.  Edible plant species should not be exotic invasive species such as bush honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet, or Autumn or Russian Olive.

     Landscaping for birds includes encouraging them to come nearer, especially to entertain shut-ins.  In winter, the evergreen cover creates a micro-climate of warmth and wind shelter ideal for the winter-residing birds.  Leave shrubs unpruned at ground level; select ornamental flowers that attract wildlife by doubling as a food source.  The garden sunflower is an addition to a cultivated area that produces homegrown bird seed.  Hummingbirds love the beautiful red flower called bee-balm, also known as Oswego Tea and Wild Bergamot.  Hummingbirds are attracted to this plant and to other tube-shaped (mainly red) flowers as preferred food sources.   Choose berry varieties that are small enough for songbirds to eat, such as serviceberry and elderberry.  Leave dead snags and fallen trees as a source of food for woodpeckers and cavity-nesting creatures.

     Declaration.  A public notice of a formal bird sanctuary carries on the tradition of the church offering sanctuary for people sought after by the law.  We need to speak for birds by providing them a hospitable habitat.  Working with local conservation groups is one way to enlist volunteers, assist with scientific inventories, and obtain donated plants and trees for use.  The nearer land approximates the original conditions, the more attractive such places are for the return of birds.  Contact:  National Audubon Society, Website: http://www.audubon.org.  Thomas G. Barnes, Gardening for the Birds, "Woo Wildlife with Water,"  The University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

June 26, 2004      Observe -- Don't Use -- Fireworks

     The American fireworks season is upon us and we see tents in the supermarket parking lots which sell the stuff.  Selling them indoors would make insurance too costly.  Other countries have their fireworks as well, with fewer safeguards and more mishaps.  A Chinese school which makes fireworks to finance its operation went up in a bang last year killing a number of youth.  In India the fireworks were so loud and ubiquitous during the major holidays that it is like a battlefield -- and each year it is accompanied by burnt fingers and put out eyes. 

    Observe fireworks.  We like to stress participating in sports in place of speculative forms of entertainment (play ball, and don't just watch ball games).  However, this rule has an exception, namely fireworks.  Fireworks are too dangerous for average people, as are many so-called household chemicals.  States like Tennessee allow the sale of an array of noisemakers and pyrotechnic devices.  However, an increasing number of cities and states are becoming restrictive on both sale and possession of fireworks.  This is a step in favor of health and safety.

     Bang! Bang!  Fireworks are part of a holiday of relaxation and frivolity, when attention is short and safety is disregarded.  Children dart about; adults are distracted; pranksters are out in force.  It is the perfect time for the unexpected accident that could hurt someone or start a fire.  Entertainment could best be left to the professionals, kids can be taken to watch the display even if it ends well after dark.  Experts have fewer accidents, but even then the occupation is a dangerous one.

     Fireworks displays have many advantages: they are beautiful and worth occasional demonstration;  they give a special tone to a public holiday with its patriotic flavor;  the fireworks are detonated at a central location and thus can be enjoyed by a larger number of people;  this display can be the grand finale of a day's entertainment and concentrates noise to one time only;  the single performance is less disturbing to neighborhoods; and the handling of fireworks by professionals reduces the number of pranks.  As kids, we hid at the roadside and threw firecrackers at passing cars -- a shock and a possible cause of accident that should not be imitated.  Putting fireworks under the control of careful experts curbs such acts.

      One might argue that fireworks, like guns, should be available to all, and the right to bear arms includes fireworks.  However, this right was meant as a collective or community right.  Here again that right can be restricted in the interest of the greater good and others right to a safe and quiet environment.  Changing from individual to group fireworks may really be more in keeping with Independence Day, when freedom was won by the collective effort of disunited colonies coming together for the betterment of all the people.  Public fireworks are in keeping with this political and collective act.

June 27, 2004    Follow the Lord/ Archbishop Romero's Prayer

    When reflecting on the following of the Lord that is so demanded in our lives, it is wise to reflect on those who gave their all in such an undertaking.  The martyred Archbishop Romero of San Salvador is credited with this prayer, even though the late Jesuit Jim Brockman, a writer and expert on Romero's works, could not identify an original Spanish version.  At least, the prayer is in the spirit of the kindly and generous Archbishop:

    It helps, now and then, to step back

        and take the long view.

    The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even

        beyond our vision.

    We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the

        magnificent enterprise that is God's work.

    Nothing we do is complete,

        which is another way of saying that

        the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

    No statement says all that should be said.

    No prayer fully expresses our faith.

    No confession brings perfection.

    No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

    No program accomplishes the church's mission.

    No set of goals and objectives includes everything.


    This is what we are about.

    We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

    We water seeds already planted,

        knowing that they hold future promise.

    We lay foundations that will need further development.

    We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our



     We cannot do everything,

         and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

     This enables us to do something,

     and to do it very well.

     It may be incomplete,

         but it is a beginning,

         a step along the way,

         an opportunity for the Lord's grace

         to enter and do the rest.


      We may never see the end results,

          but that is the difference

          between the master builder and the worker.

      We are workers, not master builders,

          ministers, not messiahs.

      We are prophets of a future that is not our own.




 June 28, 2004       Resource Conservation Techniques

     During the hot summer we could wisely review a number of techniques for growing things in such a way that time, energy, and natural resources are conserved.  Here  are some to combine with mulching which has been previously discussed this year.

     * Raised-Bed Gardening -- This technique requires human effort to construct, but has the advantages of saving growing space, producing more per unit of garden area than with conventional techniques, and allowing excess water to drain away after heavy rains.  The moist, but not soggy, soil is tilled far more quickly than non-raised-bed areas.  Raised-beds permit more aeration of the produce;  and raised-beds do not require as much bending over by us older folks.  Raised-beds may be constructed by bringing in additional top soil, or by sinking paths around designated bed areas and piling the dirt onto the growing area.  The growing produce can overhang over the paths that are not cultivated and thus there is savings in the areas needing to be tilled and in the moisture conserved by the path cover (which can be made of a number of diverse substances, such as clover, chips or sawdust).

     *  Double-Dug Plots --  Another high yielding but labor intensive domestic garden technique involves digging down and loosening a lower soil layer below the one foot of topsoil with a multi-pronged fork.  This allows for enhanced root growth, and adds aeration to the lower level of the soil.  Double-digging saves on annual tilling, and the looser soil encourages still more earthworms.  On the whole, loosened soil increases yields and thus is a space-saver along with raised-bed gardening for people with limited gardening space.

     *  Natural Pest Control Agents --  Interplanting with some types of flowers (e.g., marigolds) and herbs both attracts pollinating insects and birds and discourages certain types of pests.  

      *  Interplanting of Vegetables -- A great space-saver is to plant early crops and while these are growing, plant a second one within the same area which will be harvested later.  For instance, I interplant tomatoes in mid- to late spring amid the onion, lettuce or spinach rows, and when these early crops mature, the foot-high tomatoes will accelerate growth to cover the area for late summer and early autumn.  I have found that cucumbers and peppers can be interplanted, and that the harvest of cucumbers in mid-summer occurs when the peppers are just climbing in height.  By September and later these peppers will produce, while the now dead cucumber vine serve as ground cover.  Much has been written by other gardeners on friendly vegetable combinations, but I find that the planting of a new crop when a older one is maturing does not depend too much of compatibility.   However, fennel does appear to be really incompatible with many vegetables.


June 29, 2004    Peter and Paul:  True Disciples

      The Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (29th) together even though their personalities and missions were so different?  It is because our individual crosses are unique.

     Peter, the Rock.  Jesus gives a special command to Peter, a person a world apart from Paul.  He was a rugged man, one who  knew his sinful self and yet was called by God to lead others.  No one merits his position and thus deserves it;  in our calling from God as disciples, followers, learners we are the ones chosen by God as Peter was.  The task given was an immense one as it is our.  How well do we do this as Christians is yet to be fully seen for we are on the way?  But we look to God our stable anchor, the rock.  And we look to what God has established on Earth, the Church of which Peter is the head.  We find in our Church stability and hope and focus in a world becoming all the more confused.  Peter is called first at Antioch and then in Rome to be that rock in person and as part of the spokesperson for Christ's body.

     Paul, the Runner of the Race.  We find a different image of Paul than that of Peter.  He was truly a different personality, smart, refined, learned, gifted with words, alert, far-reaching.  Paul was on the move: the act of being mobile in the world, of extending the Kingdom to the gentile world -- the most important decision ever made in the Church.  To go out to all the world while holding the stable Church in place as a destination, a direction, a home and haven.  Paul became the mobile element and this is why his imagery was so often the athletic.  I have finished the race. (II Timothy 4). 

      Two are complementary.  Mobility and stability.  Neither are really greater though in respect to position Peter is first.  Both are gifts needed and that is what makes it important to see these ways as like the body parts all working for one.  We are a community of persons some who like to travel to and fro (visitors, second home owners, etc.) and yet some of us like to stay at homes.  Within each of us at different times in life are the two different tendencies and these must be honored for otherwise we would never really learn and experience things.  Even within our respect for the Earth we must cultivate what we have, and we must visit and gather things we do not cultivate.  Our land is a gift from God and we have a stewardship to stay put even for a short period of time, and then we are called to move on in death.  Part of stewardship is to recognize God's gift;  another is to use that gift fully and leave the place a better one.


June 30, 2004        Reassess the Budget

     As the first six months of the year draws to a close, we make the familiar comment that the year seems like it just began.  In some ways, the calendar year is a fiction of time's continuity.  We have sport years, liturgical years, academic years, crop-growing years, fiscal years, and so forth, each having its own beginning which is generally at the first of a month.  Whatever our budget year, June 30th seems a good time for a reassessment.    

    Knowing the budget.  Set aside time to budget income and expenses.  Unless we are unusual, budgets are not in the forefront of our minds, with two exceptions: we may be hard up for money; or we might be spending beyond our means.  Small comfort, but that is better than not knowing either fact.  If budgets are part of goal setting and conservation of resources, then they fit well in the theme of this month.  But making them controllable is often another matter, and mere knowledge of where we are may not be sufficient to bring about those controls.

     Assessing the Budget.  An assessment is an overview, a judgment after taking into consideration pertinent facts in the data gathering process.  While we gather the data, the ideal is to have someone else do the assessment, for it gives an added dimension of objectivity.  How well did we fare in the last half-year?  Maybe we would be too optimistic or pessimistic -- the glass half-filled, or half-empty.  Were things far better than expected or far worse?  Most likely there is a good reason for reassessment.  Were we realistic in the initial budget?  Can the belt be tightened, if our regular budget is not met?  Are there overlooked categories? 

     Revising the Budget.  One solution when we are in control of budget formation is to construct a low (pessimistic), medium (realistic), and high (optimistic) budget.  Make the low budget the level of survival, the medium that of normal operation, and the high one of expansion.  Revision shows a sense of control and an openness that allows us to be creative within the realms of resource possibilities.  For the pessimist, revision is a burden; for the realist, the practice of budget revision is a challenge;  for the optimist, we have an opportunity to be creative and find new ways to gather or conserve.  Revision cannot be mere line-item readjustments or putting off for another time to consider.  A certain freedom may be demanded in revising budgets for, otherwise, we will be enslaved to numbers set down a while back without full knowledge.

     Living with a Budget.  Many do not use a budget and adjusting existing ones may seem a strange mathematical exercise. However, the day of reckoning is always harder on the unbudgeted.  Time used making, auditing, and assessing is well spent, whether it is for a business or our own private domestic or spiritual life.  We are all limited in many ways, and confronting our limitations is the first step to living within our means -- a salutary goal.


Copyright © 2007 Earth Healing, Inc.  All rights reserved.

Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Janet Powell, Developer
Mary Byrd Davis, Editor
Paul Gallimore, ERAS Coordinator

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