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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:

September 2004


Copyright © 2004 by Al Fritsch

Labor Day and all's quiet after summer play,
Blooming ironweed, goldenrod and ragweed seed,
Good smells at tobacco harvest time,
when leaves are golden and hands are grime,
First autumn chill, longer cool nights,
foggy valleys, misty lakes with steamy sights,
Flocking birds in the evening breeze,
seeming to overwhelm the roosting trees.
Tomatoes have now acquired an autumn taste,
and peppers appear as though post-haste,
Elderberries are not eaten raw, and why?
They're destined for a steaming pie.
Root cellars contain butternut and winter squash,
and all sorts of apples, not just Mackintosh.
Prepare the greenhouse for the frosty fall,
we all know well the season's call.



September 2004 Reflections  



September 1, 2004 Labor: Rights and Responsibilities

Right to work. Most of us work just to get through life; but

labor is more than toil and sweat. Labor is our creative

expression of self, our prayer through our hands, the way we leave

our mark on the world around us, our gift to future generations,

our sense of meaning and dignity, our sacrifice for loved ones, and

our use of the gifts given in meaningful ways. We encourage those

unable to actively work to be productive through their willing

offering of their sufferings in the crucible of global labor -- a

spiritually communal enterprise. For the lazy, working may be a

burden which they would prefer to avoid -- or just tolerated

drudgery. But energetic people prefer to talk about a "right to

work," which is part of the right to live, to breathe fresh air,

and eat wholesome food, to raise one's kids, and to have the peace

and prosperity to which every person is entitled by birth.


Poor working conditions. A cruel capitalistic society which

plays off of the pool of the unemployed is not tolerable. People

vie with each other for scarce jobs. Dog eats dog. In China the

surplus of labor is so great, they entice agricultural immigrants

to work without written contracts and then dismiss them when the

paycheck is due. Closer to home are examples of runaway industries

that flee to nations with poorer work conditions which allow lower

wages, harm to the environment, and offer no conceivable worker

benefits. Even in time of relative prosperity we see some of the

highest rates of factory closures in America. Experts project that

a 1% rise in unemployment is accompanied by a 5% rise in violent

crime and family discord.


Labor responsibilities. Rights include responsibilities:

laborers must do a decent day's work to the degree possible;

employers must furnish decent working conditions; and governments

must become the ultimate employers. If citizens are expected to

help defend their country, they have the right to a livelihood

through honest labor. A healthy nations should provide jobs for

all even if it takes effort and resources to do so. Why should

some be allowed to remain billionaires when others are denied the

basic right to make a decent living. Self-employment ought to be

safeguarded by governmental policies of tax breaks and incentives.

The government could transfer some of the immense amounts of

military expenditures to environmental and conservation measures (a

ten percent or 40 billion would have an immense economic multiplier

effect), building affordable housing for all, solar energy

applications (a quarter of a million jobs alone), public works

programs to improve transportation, parks, medical facilities, and

recreational areas (the WPA projects stand as architectural gems

and enduring public works monuments), and enhancing Americorps,

Peace Corps, VISTA and private overseas voluntary agencies.

Constitutional Amendment. We ought to consider an amendment

to the Federal Constitution that gives to every citizen the right

make a decent living, and requires that the government is the

ultimate employer if there are no available jobs.



September 2, 2004 Kind Words and Deeds

 As we advance in years we seem to be drawn more to spending

time at hospitals, senior citizen centers and funeral parlors. The

person who has passed away is a relative or friend, and we need to

go and pay our respects. It is hard to come and give a moment or

even spend a few hours at a wake. During these times we feel like

we are walking on two left feet. We feel self-conscious because we

are speechless or fumble for words of sympathy. That is a common

experience, for only a few of us enjoy being at wakes or at

visiting someone in a hospital room or addressing a letter of



A little is a lot. Let's be forthright about it; the

hospital visit or conversation or message need not be lengthy and

ought to be mercifully short in most circumstances. In cultures

with prolonged wakes, some are satisfied with just sitting in

silence. More than spoken words is the act of just being present

and giving another a sign of love, a hug or a warm handshake or

just show compassion through a silent period with them. We say

this is all we can do but it is often more than we realize. Most

acts of kindness are deeply appreciated; they are the times to say

"thank you" for the lives of those who are approaching and coming

to their own passing. A moment, a sign of thoughtfulness, a small

affirmation is really the spice of human life. Let's keep the

seasoning flowing. It makes the world a better place in which to



On being the consoled. Part of giving consolation is also a

willingness on our part to receive acts of kindnesses from others.

If we do this graciously, we gradually acquire an art of giving the

same or even more generous acts when the time comes for us to be

the consoler. And it comes more often than we imagine.



Words of support

refresh the parched soul

like cool, bubbling water

from an hillside spring.

They are all the more welcome

when unexpected, and arriving

just when I'm down and out,

and have no where to turn.

They awaken within me

a sense of renewed hope

that I'll speak consoling words

to refresh another.


September 3, 2004 Travel Advantages and Disadvantages

Mobility gives a person a sense of freedom, access to

information and materials, and ability to communicate with others

at a greater distance. Too often in the past travel, involved a

journey (the Latin word "diurnata" for day's work); this conveys

the notion of painful exertion in order to get somewhere. In more

modern times, with increasing ease and comfort in conveyances,

travel can actually be enjoyable, as many attest who look forward

to the next vacation travel time and memories of the last one.

With the rise of global touring one can expect that the travel

business (some estimate at three trillion dollars a year) will soon

emerge as the number one industry in the world -- provided

terrorism does not slow the growth too much.


A journey or a trip. For poorer people the curse of isolation

places restrictions on their ability to travel and meet others.

Prior to the airplane, car and train, people had to journey by foot

or on horseback or maybe take a sailing ship with conditions so

harsh that many would not survive the voyage. Few could venture

great distances and some would consider a major journey as a once-

in-a-lifetime event. Modern travel breaks down isolated

communities and allow intermingling of cultures and peoples.


Advantages. The benefits of travel are often told in travel

books and periodicals and expounded by those who like to see the

world: educational opportunities for eager students; cultural

exchanges; religious experiences through pilgrimage; a chance to

return and explore ones roots; and the sheer enjoyment of going to

new places and meeting exciting fellow travelers.


Drawbacks. Travel, however, has certain negative aspects; air

pollution from vehicles; consumption of resources for fuel and

vehicles; land required for building airports, roads, and

recreation areas such as golf courses; a loss of the sense of place

by those residents who are overrun by tourists; environmental

damage done to pristine areas through overuse; noise and

congestion which accompany tourist activities; and the leakage of

the tourist dollar going to non-local agencies such as air lines or

multinational motels.


Overlooked potential danger. An emerging rapid-travel

drawback which is often overlooked is the possible spread of

diseases from one isolated place over a wider range. Infectious

diseases are far more threatening today due to the volume of and

access to rapid transportation. In the past, such diseases

existed, but they ravaged limited areas because fewer entered and

left infected areas. Even so, the 14th century Black Plague

traveled over trade routes at quite rapid speeds. If that was true

then, what about in this age of jet travel. Some of the

disadvantages can be minimized by technical innovations or proper

regulations at the time of travel (health safeguards, pollution

control devices, etc.).

Reference: The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett.



September 4, 2004 Soft Drink Curbs 

With summer ending we can honestly ask: how many times did I

reach for a soft drink when thirsty during the hot season? Maybe

our excuse was that the service station or fast food place had no

water fountain. On the other hand, the soft drink dispenser was

quite prominent -- and the drink was, well not too, expensive. Or

maybe you heard the refrigerator door open, close and the hiss of

the escaping carbonation by a thirsty soul. And then there was

that inevitable question at the eating place of "What will you have

to drink?" It comes with the expectation that you will order a

soft drink. Along with fries, these drinks are the place's real

moneymaker for the restaurant and the soft drink manufacturers.


Are they healthy? Some say the emerging obesity problem among

Americans is due in no small part to the sugar in soft drinks. And

this sugar is why a sizeable portion of that beverage industry is

converting to diet beverages, which some people find distasteful.

A major portion of our over a hundred pounds of sugar per person

per year ends up in the beverages we drink. This cannot help but

have an effect on the weight levels and overall health of many

people, especially youth.


Youth and soft drinks. Along with rising health concerns we

witness the invasion of the soft drink vendors in our public

schools. Are these public places becoming the domain of a few

multi-nationals? Why is there a Coca Cola/Pepsi commercial war

directed to school boards across the nation, over the issue of

which vendor has a right in set up machines in particular schools?

Why should a student who wears a Pepsi tee-shirt be sent home on

Coca Cola appreciation days? These turf wars, while yielding money

for cash-strapped school board coffers, are giving the wrong choice

of products to students. In the past two decades, milk consumption

among youth has been cut in half, while soft drinks (with their

empty calories and excessive caffeine) have doubled in consumption.

Unfortunately, target groups, especially female youth, need calcium

and other nutrients found in milk to provide healthy bodies.

Little wonder anti-soft drink advocates are plugging the vending

machines using a penny with an attached wad of gum.


Keeping right-of-ways clean. And there's the environment to

consider as well. Roadsides are inundated with soft drink bottles

and cans, causing neighborhood visual pollution. We know more

resources go into making the beverage container than the contents,

and so cans and bottles are very important. The number of soft

drink containers produced is staggering, and only a little over

half of the billions are recycled each year. Where do the rest go?

Far better from an economic and resource standpoint is to make

one's own lemonade, fruit drink, herbal tea or other drinks. We

made our own root beer during the Second World War and enjoyed it

immensely. Could we enjoy life drinking other beverages, say

water? Check out how much of a supermarket's shelf space is taken

up with soft drinks and junk food? Are we willing and able to

remove soft drinks from food stamp coverage? Big question!


September 5, 2004 Wisdom, Possessions and Discipleship

Discipleship is truly a calling which some are unwilling to

hear. However, for those of us who call ourselves Christians, we

know this call to true, and faithful discipleship can be difficult

and challenging at times.


"And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is

within our grasp we find with difficulty." (Wisdom 9:16) This

sense of wise decisions come in fits and starts and is seldom

achieved perfectly even at the time of our passing from this world.

We know that things do not come easily. We listen to the wise

advice of not allowing possessions and possible acquisitions to

take up all of our attention. That is the real temptation of the

foolish person who, upon hearing he has one year to live, acquires

a plane, a boat and a fast car. Or it could be the determination

of a wise person to live each remaining day to the fullest with a

sense of gratitude to God for each additional day.


Dispossession is freedom. A reading worth attention is the

revealing Letter to Philemon. Paul sends the slave (Onesimus) back

to Philemon as required by Roman property law while entreating

Philemon to free the slave and return him to Paul. Onesimus had

fled his master and turned to Paul, becoming a follower of Christ

and a valuable assistant requesting his own freedom. Paul is now

facing the slave master situation which would grip America's long

road to freedom. Should not all people be free? How could

Americans ever consider black slaves as three-fifths of a person?

Why did it take so long to abolish slave trade? Remember the

underground railroad, Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation.


Dispossession. Jesus tells us that we are to accept

discipleship in a methodical manner like the experience of building

an enduring product such as a house that was expected to last.

Likewise, discipleship resembles directing an army and the

experience required to do it well (Luke 14: 25-33). We free

ourselves from enduring and energy-draining attachments which would

limit that discipleship; instead we choose the freedom of true

discipleship with Jesus. Then come the words that make one

uncomfortable, found in Luke: anyone who does not renounce all his

possessions cannot be my disciple. Total discipleship involves a

total purgation and that is difficult.


Our willingness. Possessions hold us back from Jesus. We

refrain, sequester, grip, protect and covet these things in our

lives. Often we consider what gifts to give, and find that by

giving away what is most dear is quite satisfying both to the one

receiving and to us for parting with this. Our prized keepsakes,

our freedom, our time, our favorite foods, our very lives, all

these can become the most worthy gifts. For dispossession is part

of letting go, of opening our heart to God, and of accepting a

radical simplicity and poverty which make us able to receive the

spiritual gifts God has in store for us. And we are prepared to

carry back to God our love -- and what we give up too.


September 6, 2004 The Labyrinth

Virtual pilgrimage. In recent years, aging religious

communities have returned to a Middle Age device for aiding in

spiritual growth, the "Labyrinth." This is a form of maze, which

entails walking carefully and thoughtfully over a designed pattern

on the ground or a building's floor. The movement is to a center

and then back out to the outer edge. The movement in and out is

regarded as a metaphor for life's journey.


Spiritual quest. Labyrinths were a popular form of spiritual

exercise and prayer when long trips to the Holy Land were unsafe or

financially impossible. The labyrinths in cathedrals such as

Chartres in France made it possible for people to make a virtual

pilgrimage and grow in faith. The return of the labyrinth's

popularity may be a desire for symbolic action through moderate

physical exertion in a personal spiritual journey. It is a

prayerful alternative experience undertaken by people unable to

endure a true pilgrimage.


Where appearing. This can be done closer to home in such

patterned design now sprouting up at retreat centers, church yards,

religious retirement communities and numerous other places,

especially at Catholic and mainline Christian institutions. While

it has been mainly a feminine practice, an increasing number of

males find the experience quite refreshing. Some regard it as a

choice time for meditation. Other advocates consider it as more

preparation for reflection rather than a prayer itself; some

participants follow afterwards with formal prayer alone or through

journaling or small group discussion.


Prayerful movement. While not inclined to this particular

spiritual exercise, I affirm its value for people so drawn. It

fits into a growing category of such exercises: gesture, dance,

hiking, yogi, and similar practices. It also affirms that prayer

requires concentration and posture/stance/movement are all

important ingredients. Besides, by engaging in an outdoor

labyrinth experience through walking or use of a walker or wheel

chair, the participant benefits from full-spectrum sunlight and

fresh air -- ingredients of a healthy life. Indoor labyrinths can

be used as well for spiritual and physical exercise when the snow,

ice and rain close down the outside ones.


Build your own. Labyrinths invite the creative mind in

variety of design. One may purchase labyrinth patterns coming in

large plastic sheets, which can be laid out on a flat surface.

Many of these designs are so ancient there is no copyright; they

are derived from a number of traditions and time periods. Place

the labyrinth in a place with limited privacy. Some labyrinth

installers paint these on abandoned tennis courts or parking space

which is not constantly used. Others run a lawn mower over a

meadow to build the design into the landscape but that requires

summer maintenance. Others have more elaborate flagstone,

concrete, blacktop, gravel or mosaic designs to accommodate users.


September 7, 2004 The Ten Commandments of the Forest

1. Enter the forest with reverence. Let's walk softly in the

woods for it is holy ground and the divine presence can be sensed

here. Don't bring idols in the form of instruments which can

damage or destroy the forest in any manner.

2. Do not trash the resource. "I only have a few acres and

they were trashed over by a logging operators" disparages the

forest resource and then opens it to further exploitation. Speak

highly of all forest lands as resource and not wasteland.

3. Celebrate the forest. The trees tell us there's more to

celebrate. Let's show joy over the forest's biodiversity and spend

time meditating here; let's encourage others to do the same, to

paint forest scenes, and to sing about the enchanting woods.

4. Honor and encourage native cultivars. Some regard

introduction of species found elsewhere as an important addition to

an economy. However, our forestlands are already rich in native

biodiversity. Shouldn't we first look at what is native, and only

then at what can be introduced from the outside? Reclamation

projects often bring exotic and invasive species that harm the

fragile balance of the forest ecosystem.

5. Walk lightly in the forest. Those who leave their mark by

driving all over the forested areas to cultivate or overharvest

will destroy the forest's fragile understory, threatening many of

the delicate species that need to be left undisturbed. Walking

delicately rather than riding as motorized vehicle also has real as

well as symbolic significance.

6. Do not rape the land. To take a little is acceptable; to

take too much endangers the target species and may threaten its

very existence. The habit of taking just enough wild species to

satisfy human needs is not common modern practice; nor is

restoring the root stock after harvest. If a herb like ginseng is

to be harvested, one should follow proper harvest practices of

leaving the immature and seed stock, and dig only at certain times

of the year.

7. Do not make commercial gain from wild plants. Our woodland

harvests should be for our own immediate needs and not for

commercial gain. Not preparing for the next generation is stealing

from them and infringing on the property "rights" of future


8. Do not bear witness against the forest. The forest is not

an infinite economic resource that could sustain improper timbering

for long periods of time. Not every forest can bounce back. Any

forest is fragile enough that it may not endure the abuses of

wanton exploitation of resources.

9. Do not over-anticipate yields. To fail to see the beauty

of the forest and only see economic gain is to desire what the

forest cannot give. Realize that some diseases and weather

variations will restrict production or harvesting and that such

allowances must be made by the cultivator on a year-by-year basis.

10. Do not covet the commons. The forests of the world do not

belong to individuals to do what they desire. They are the lungs

of the planet, a gift to all, and they are meant to benefit all the

inhabitants, not a greedy few.


September 8, 2004 Solar Greenhouses and Cold Frames

Solar greenhouses are those which are heated by the sun. They

work better in milder climates and need to be well-insulated with

a heat-retaining system such as a water tank or stone. Ample

literature is available on where to buy or how to construct free-

standing or attached solar greenhouses. The free-standing ones are

somewhat harder to heat, because they have more exterior surface,

but it can be done in milder climates by burrowing down and using

the earthen surroundings for partial insulation. Lexan and other

good plastic and glass glazing add much to retaining the critical

heat to keep plants from freezing. All structures should face

south, but can be turned either slightly east or west with some

differences in morning or evening sun benefits.


Winter use. With good planning and proper choice of plants,

the greenhouse can be quite productive without the high price of

heating the structures with non-renewable fuels. These greenhouses

act as large permanent cold frames which provide greens throughout

the colder months of the year as well as some seedlings; however,

they may not prove to be ideal for all varieties of plant

generation. When attached to a building and properly constructed,

a solar greenhouse has the added advantage of providing a

substantial amount of space heating (at ASPI we have received 40%

of winter heating loads on sunny days for a 2,000-square foot space

from its 120-square foot greenhouse).


Summer use. We can use solar greenhouses as storage places

during the hot summer months even though the temptation is to

abandon the building for the hot months. We shade the exterior

with Jerusalem artichokes which form a natural awning that grows

well in summer and dies back in autumn when we need the solar

energy for growing plants. Hot weather plants, like tomatoes and

peppers, can grow indoors in summer, and take less watering in dry

seasons. In mid-summer, we transfer late summer crops for fall

tomato production, as well as Swiss chard, dill, parsley and mint

for winter yields. Also the greenhouse can serve in summer as an

effective solar food dryer.


Other applications. An attached solar greenhouse could be

used as a sunny atrium with flowers and seating space. It can be

used as a place to gather and relax, or serve as a meditation room

or chapel space, or be used to raise fish. Mini-greenhouses,

whether free-standing or attached, can are similar in construction

to larger one but attention is given to minimize space requiring

solar heating. Their lids should be removable to allow for airing.

Non-permanent, low-cost cold frames may be built easily using

natural or synthetic fabric covers; these can be useful for

protecting plants both in spring and autumn. To build the

"caterpillar" variety measure the plot size; make hoops by bending

quarter-inch rib bar and rust-proof the edges; insert hoops every

three feet with about a two- foot air space above; cover with

fabric; and tie down with pegs like a tent side every three feet.

Slip the covering to one side on sunny days to air out.


September 9, 2004 Mold, the Asbestos of the 2000s

Mold, that most common of living kingdoms and comprising a

quarter of the biomass of the Earth, comes in about 20,000

varieties. Mold helps in the recycling process by breaking down

organic matter. Otherwise the globe would be overwhelmed by dead

matter. Mold is useful in flavoring, such as in blue cheese, and

the filtrates of mold are used to make the penicillin that keeps us

healthy. However, by 1991, microbial growth was rated as the

number one indoor air quality problem. The American Hotel and

Motel Association estimates that mold and mildew cause several

hundred million dollars worth of damage each year.


Health problems. Mold becomes more problematic when it feasts

on our homes, especially the indoors. It can do damage to the

buildings and it can affect the occupants. Too often, homeowners

know mold only too well as the cause of headaches, skin irritation,

chronic sinusitis, breathing problems including asthma attacks, and

a variety of allergic reactions. Mold becomes such a severe indoor

contaminant that people abandon the dwelling rather then spend

thousands of dollars in trying to combat the contamination and

attempt permanent restoration. New York City landlords now face

125 lawsuits seeking a total of eight billion dollars for personal

injuries caused by living in these contaminated buildings.


Building problems. Several causes can be given for the

increased mold problems in modern buildings. Older homes with

their high ceilings and airy corridors simply did not have the

cellulose materials that the mold loves to feast on. The increased

use of exterior insulation, the prevalence of air conditioning and

the closed home, and the use of paper-faced gypsum board are

considered some of the causes of the increased mold problems.

Excessive moisture and improperly installed HVAC equipment may be

the more proximate cause. Vapor barriers do not work or are

improperly designed. All of these factors have created a gold mine

for the litigation profession. Additionally, there are few

regulations for coping with building mold problems.


Remediation. Some say it is impossible to set exposure limits

for mold that can be applied to all human beings. Thus remedies

may be helpful, but some such as indoor air sampling are expensive

and not always completely effective. Visual inspection is a good

first type of sampling. Reducing moisture leaks and controlling

the humidity may be the easiest approach. Since the mold may go

far beyond the dark spots on the walls, take precautions to

eliminate all the contamination and strive to contain it in only

the affected parts of the building. Good luck!


See Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor

Environment, NYC Dept. of Health, November 2000  www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doh/html/epi/moldrpt1.html .

General Reference: Environmental Building News, June 2001,

Volume 10, Number 6.


September 10, 2004 In Defense of Wilderness

Wilderness is that part of the world which has not been

changed by human activity and remains in its previous undeveloped

condition. Forestlands or drylands minus trees can be wilderness,

depending on human impact and the natural state of the area.

Value or valueless? American wilderness is under assault.

And this is more easily done by those with chain saws and

bulldozers than in the past with broadaxes and oxen. When a piece

of land is seen to have a commercial value as a resort, a

agricultural commodity growing area, a shopping mall, or a housing

development, it can be ripped up in a wink, and few think anything

of it. Well, some people realize that wilderness has a value in

itself and without regard to human utility. Natural beauty and

wild plants are sources of value, but more than for medicine or in

utilitarian terms. Wilderness is good in itself and has extended

spiritual value for all of us living beings on this planet.


Preservation. Certain conservation-oriented public and

private agencies buy up land that is threatened, in order to ward

off development. This is a noble enterprise, but quite costly and

requires donors with deep pockets. Only the most significant

places can be purchased by the private or the public conservation

agencies. The remainder which has not been deemed unique or highly

fragile is not covered under this protective umbrella.


Wildland corridors. One group described in Vermont's Wild

Earth periodical seeks to establish wilderness corridors in various

parts of the U.S. where wildlife can migrate without being

endangered by roadways and other travel and development strips.

The concept is good, provided proponents do not pencil large areas

of human habitation for removal and return to wilderness. This is

a sure fire way of creating an opposition from residents to be

expelled. Naturally, they will attack elitists who want to change

other people's living practices and habitats. Instead, efforts

must be undertaken to preserve wilderness where possible, and

establish wildlife corridors/tunnels under major highways. This is

now being done in Georgia and elsewhere, though it is costly.


Future thought. Colonizing Americans have battled the

wilderness so strenuously that we need a clear rationale for

keeping wilderness areas, wetlands, and old growth forests thriving

in "developed" and "developing" parts of the world. Holmes

Rolston, III asks, "Can or ought we to follow nature?" and answers

in a number of interesting ways. Activists show that wild areas

are worth protecting. In truth, activism calls one to speak or

express oneself in a forceful manner. That manner does not just

consist merely in writing checks, books and research papers. It

must also include creating wildscape in yards, artificial wetlands,

and conservation areas on farms. It includes getting the U.S.

Forest Service to become protective. A combination of all these

efforts will be a more powerful testimony. Our wilderness deserves

it. Reference: Philosophy Gone Wild, Holmes Rolston,III.


September 11, 2004 Home Hobbies

As the first chill of autumn appears, we think of the warm,

snug domestic environment where extra time will be spent in the

upcoming days of winter. We review the householders' hobbies,

which can give entertainment, but may contain hidden dangers.

Emphasize sociable card games or other participative hobbies. A

quick review may be worth looking at and remembering for future

discussion of hobby choice.




Animal preserving

Chemicals such as formaldehyde

Perform in well-vented space


Kiln exhausts, heavy metals, paints

Good ventilation; use recent products

Collecting items (antiques)

Humidity, poor storage space

Humidity-controlled; open storage space

Computer writing, internet use

Posture, neck, eye, back, and wrist fatigue

No more than 2 hours per day; use proper equipment

Cartooning, drawing, etching

Sharp instruments, acids

Keep from children

Cooking, baking

Hot surfaces and burns

Pace yourself

Crocheting, needlepoint, macrame


Keep from children

Floral design, flower pots

Attract rodents, water spillage

Keep clean

Furniture repair, home improvement

Paint solvents, glues

Perform in well-vented space or outdoors

Gun collecting

Firearm dangers

Render inoperative

Handicrafts, quilting

Sharp instruments

Pace yourself

Glassblowing and cutting

Dust, lead, possible burns

Use mask and vent well

Painting and sculpting

Solvents, lacquers, varnishes, metals

Avoid unvented space (attics or basements)



Use in vented space or use digital cameras

Yoga, calisthenics


Pace yourself



September 12, 2004 The Prodigal Son & the Forgiving Father

(Luke Chapter 15)

Caring. The Prodigal Son Parable is grouped with that of the

lost sheep and the lost coin. Care is needed in the regaining of

each lost animal or person. God is a caring shepherd when going to

find the one lost sheep and rejoicing with the court of heaven over

its return. Often we too need to seek and to freely reach out and

rejoice when bringing back others to proper living. So, too, God

is a diligent housekeeper (a female figure) when searching the

house for the lost treasure. God is always caring for us.


Forgiveness is at the heart of the parable of the Prodigal Son

-- or Forgiving Father -- or Unforgiving Brother. Where do I fit

into the picture? We all are partly Prodigal Son, for we are

wayward in our actions and practices, not being perfect people.

Time flies, and we find that we have allowed our life to pass

before us in a wink. We suddenly come to our senses. In some way,

all of us are prodigal children of our Father. There is also the

element within us which does not want to forgive another,

especially those who have such clear faults that all are aware of

in many ways. Why forgive, when the other sibling caused the

brother harm in squandering half of the possessions? We may see

close relatives or friends lose precious opportunities and find it

hard to forgive them, especially after they hurt us in some way.


God's story. Perhaps the Father figure in the Parable is

difficult to imitate because it is so hard to be godly, and that is

what forgiveness is all about: to imitate God in our way of

treating others. If we do not forgive, we can hardly be forgiven,

and so forgiveness is a prime mandate of those committed to the

road to perfection. The forgiving father looks out each day and

finally spots the son from a long way off. He has so longed for

the son's return. Recall that the prodigal son has memorized a

verse but the Father does not allow him to complete it because

forgiveness has already come before the son speaks. God's mercy is

always at work from the first moment.


Our other story. We may really want to side with the

unforgiving brother. The Father cannot dissuade him from his own

festering anger. The brother does not feel like celebrating,

especially after all the hard work he has expended. Why all the

toil, if the other son is forgiven for doing wrong things? But the

unforgiving one fails in generosity and in sharing in celebration

with his grieving father. He does not show love when needed as a

family, but rather retreats back into himself. It's frightening.


Easter people. We exercise our freedom when we bring back to

life those we dislike and find at fault. "He who is as good as

dead has come back to life." When we forgive, we receive and give

new life. We reestablish a loving relationship. We imitate our

Creating God in forming new bonds of love -- and we care about the

relationships we have with others, for we must always reduce the

barriers that hold us apart -- especially at a time when our

communities are under attack or we hurt deeply.


September 13, 2004 Avoid Commercial Chemicals

Disadvantages. The universe and especially our living planet

contain makes natural chemicals, but for the most part these come

through biological processes and are easily decomposed in the

natural world of recycling and composting. Only in very recent

times have we human beings tried to duplicate nature's ways on a

grand scale; we chemists have produced millions of synthetic

chemicals (I made several in my own short career), creating some of

commercial interest and then proceeding to manufacture in by the

thousands of tons. And, to be expected, many of these chemicals

have proved hard to break down in nature; they are often toxic

pesticides and medicines, and bioaccumulate in the higher-level

members of the food chain. For instance, highly versatile

chlorinated compounds are used in the production of organic and

inorganic commercial chemicals. One such chemical is vinyl

chloride, a primary chemical building block used in making a

multitude of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products. The processing of

chlorinated compounds can involve severe health effects on chemical

workers at processing plants.


Caution! Commercial household chemicals should be avoided

wherever and whenever possible. Most people are unable to

successfully handle toxic chemicals without spillage or failure to

clean up perfectly after use. Substitutes may not be as effective

but are far safer and with care can do the same job at less risk.

It may take a little more elbow grease to clean with natural

products rather than commercial chemicals, but you have no residual

toxic substances around the place which may fall in the wrong

hands. Store petroleum products away from the household and away

from places where food is stored. Internal combustion engines use

toxic fuels and other motor products -- and these should be kept in

safe places away from the living quarters.


Be on the alert! Certainly once lead was removed from fuel

the gasoline became less hazardous when spilled. However,

lead is still found in a number of chemical products in and around

the home. Older houses still have lead paint which can chip and

the dusty conditions in certain areas can be unsafe especially for

infants. Even though the lead problem is becoming less severe than

a few decades ago, still some caution must be taken, for this

substance can accumulate in the body and cause major damage to the

brain and other vital organs.


Some simple guidelines for reducing commercial chemical

exposure: know workplace chemicals and take special precautions

when working with them; eliminate all toxic chemicals from the

home; refrain from eating foods which may be contaminated with

toxic pesticides (go organic and grow organic); air out new

buildings and synthetic materials in refurnished homes (rugs, and

curtains); minimize synthetic medicine use where possible -- though

some drugs are justified for serious reasons; and have water tested

for the possible contamination from chemicals which can slip

through normal water purification processes.


September 14, 2004 Sign of the Cross

Many of us publicly sign ourselves with the sign of the Cross

and this we do almost unconsciously. Our reverence in signing

ourselves shows to others that we are Christians who profess that

Jesus died on the Cross and that the Trinity of persons makes up

the Godhead in whom we believe. This has been a central belief for

Christians for two thousand years. Some of our ranks have carried

this sign to other parts of the world through evangelization or the

spreading of the Good News. It is the sign by which many have gone

to prison, some have defied civil authorities by making or wearing,

and some have died for what it signifies.


The mark of the Trinity. Are we aware that we are steeped in

the Mysteries of the Godhead with each and every action we perform?

The way we think follows the way the Word is begotten and how it is

generated, and thus leads to the spirited action which really shows

us for who we are and how we act -- members of the divine family

and trinitarian in how we act. We reflect on the mystery of

procreation and how husband and wife enter into the action which is

an imitation of the Trinity at work in our world. Since God is

love, it is all the more important that acts of love manifest that

Trinity pattern with greater intensity. The same can be said of

the creative actions which we are engaged in the world around us,

in our work and in our recreation, in the way we live and die, in

how we keep our house or plan our lives. All have a trinitarian

character when performed properly.


Baptism into a community of love. Baptism is that important

moment in our life when we enter on the road to salvation and join

with a community of believers. But we don't rest with our own

entry, but rather we are energized to go out and help bring others

into this community. The act of incorporation is marked by the

Trinity. Baptism is the primary sacrament of an outward sign,

instituted by Christ to give grace. Through baptism the Good News

comes to others in a concrete fashion and they are asked to carry

this cross in and throughout the world.


Cross and Good News. How can this sign of ignominy be Good

News? Isn't it possible by entering into others' suffering and

inviting them to participate in ours, so that there is a community

of persons co-suffering or capable of having that deepest of love

expressions -- compassion. Through baptism, the invitation is

formally given and received; the suffering of those outside is now

brought within, and the intense suffering within is shared by those

who have just entered. This "within" is part of the Divine plan,

the fullness of Christ's own suffering and death. It is into the

intense heart of this love that those who are baptized enter. Now

through the eyes of faith we can perceive our individual crosses as

joined with others in a universal Calvary event stretching

throughout time. It is the present "now" of the cross that we all

enter. All of this is part of the signing of the Cross -- and act

requiring ever greater reverence.


September 15, 2004 Successful Organizing

Organizing has been in the blood of public interest activists

for a long time. It doesn't mean we are always successful, but we

have to keep on trying. I look back over a number of decades and

find that about half the movements, organizations and coalitions

have been "successful' for at least a period of time. In some

cases, the efforts succeeded or were handed over to others; in

others, a collective "we" still thrives. Saul Alinsky, a Vietnam

War era community organizer, helped many programs get started. He

stressed choosing good issues, obtaining results through the use of

community resources, making the results known, and moving from

minor successes to bigger ones. Successful organizing includes

the following:

Knowing the issue. Not every issue is worth organizing

around. It is highly possible that a good cause can be handled

successfully by an already functioning individual prophetic

witness. If the issue demands citizen participation, start the

process on your own with like-minded people, knowing the power of

united efforts, votes and political action. Be focused on the

particular issue and learn the facts. In our recent organizing of

ginseng growers, we find that the situation, on closer scrutiny, is

far different than we originally thought. Some organize too

quickly and soon burn out. Others fail to see the totality of the

issue and prefer black and white views, and shun the complex gray

areas where opposing sides should be heard and allowed their chance

before immediate action is taken. Sound judgment as to how much

deliberate speed is required is part of successful organizing.

Anticipating results. Crystal balls give no future. Still we

can estimate what could be achieved if we limit ourselves to what

is practical. Often, the best approach is one of public

demonstration or practices which encourage people to seek further

action. Some organizers get carried away and dream of far-reaching

results, far beyond what is reasonable. We stand always amazed

that our founding fathers (and mothers, like Abigail Adams) were

able to envision a great nation during the dark years of the

American Revolution. Keep up the efforts for organizing can be

tricky and exhausting, but it contains a high potential to be

rewarding and influential.

Learning from failures. Citizen groups have a good record of

achieving success -- but not always. Others stumble over too

limited a set of goals or outlive their purpose. Others fade due

to lack of funding, loss of their reason for existing, over-

dependence on one or another person, waste of time or resources,

lack of proper publicity at the right time, over-rigidity in

tactics or objectives, internal battles of staff or decision

makers, external harassment, failure to diversify funding or over-

dependence on a few people or a single "fat cat," fraud or

mismanagement, diluting the focus, and lack of analysis or staying

in touch with community problems. But even some with one or other

of these weaknesses still manage to succeed. Keep fighting.


September 16, 2004 Insulation and Weatherizing

Mid-September is a time to think ahead to winter and home

weatherizing comes to mind. Let's look about for possible leaks at

soleplates, wall outlets, external doors and windows, fireplaces,

and kitchen and bath vents. We are aware that leaks caused by

pressure differences escalate heating bills in winter.


* Weatherstrip with commercial metal strip, wood or adhesive-

backed foam rubber, rolled vinyl with aluminum channel backing,

rubber or neoprene strips, or felt strips (cheap, but not very

durable). Local hardware or home building supply dealers will help

in what you need to weatherize. Remember to look between door and

window frames and other places. Where weatherstripping is not

suitable, consider caulking for foundation sills, corners formed by

siding, along outside water faucets and electrical outlets, at wire

and pipe penetration of ceilings, between porches and main parts of

house, at chimney or masonry meeting with siding, and where the

wall meets the eave at attic gable end.

* Caulking, like weatherstripping, is a good low-cost way to

winterize the home or office. Caulking comes in all types of

cartridges, fillers, rope caulking or glazing compounds. Don't

caulk in cold weather, and apply it on clean surfaces. Cut the

plastic cover at a slant to allow for better "bead" control in the

application. Oil-based caulking materials are the least

expensive, but last for several years. On the other hand, caulking

small and medium cracks with more expensive polysulfide,

polyurethane, or silicone will last for two decades. Fillers are

used for larger cracks (more than a quarter of an inch) and made

from hemp treated with tar, glass fiber, caulking cotton or sponge

rubber, and then the cartridge caulking is used. Rope caulking is

good for temporary jobs around AC units and storm windows.

* Insulation is a good investment, with rapid payback and

ultimately immense savings. Determine your existing needs

depending on your heating zone location and the "R" value (measure

of resistance of insulation to heat flow). These values are found

on every package. In shopping consider several factors: price,

ease of application, the area needing insulation, and availability.

Some rock wool, glass fiber and cellulose fiber must be blown into

spaces with special equipment by a professional contractor. This

is the method of choice for retrofit insulation of wall and some

ceiling space. Unfinished attic floor can be insulated by loose

fill which is poured in (rock wool, glass fiber, cellulose,

vermiculite or perlite), or by batts (foil side down for barrier

effects between insulation and attic floor). Don't hand pack loose

insulation; keep it fluffy. Use protective clothing.


Note: Cellulose insulation can be made from old newsprint

using a chopping machine and a fire-retardant chemical such as

boric acid. Don't use corrosive retardant chemicals. When buying

cellulose insulated materials, look for third party testing such as

Underwriters Laboratory for fire safety and corrosion.


September 17, 2004 Citizenship Day: The Soul of America

On Citizenship Day we Americans should realize that our day in

the sun as the only superpower may be a brief time in history, for

empires since 1500 rise and fall faster than in ancient times.

A corporate soul. While Christians along with those of other

religions believe in individual immortality, they know it does not

extend to a national "soul." In this age of terrorism we sense

that those nations with larger accumulations of power and wealth

have become targets of terrorists. Americans as a people have

attained the highest collective wealth in human history and so our

nation is a target. On Citizenship Day we recall the struggles to

establish colonies, free ourselves, form the longest enduring

constitution in history, come to terms with oppressed minorities,

welcome immigrants, secure seniors their retirement years, protect

the health of all, and attempt to distribute rights and duties

according to justice, an imperfect but envied record as a nation.

However, we still need to examine our American soul:

1. Addictions -- A crass materialism leads to insensitivity to

the needs of others. Our nation is far down the list of donors to

the world's less fortunate, a situation worsened by a biased media,

a muffled religious establishment and an indebted citizenry.

2. Simple lifestyle -- Unsustainable lifestyles include overuse

of resources, expansion of space requirements, use of SUVs which

undermine efforts at conserving resources, and purchase of immense

amounts of materials from great distances when we could be

utilizing renewable sources right here at home.

3. Corporate power -- Corporate scandals have eroded the

democracy and multinational companies have became the oligarchs of

the nation and the world through unique power-grabbing techniques.

This corporate power feeds a military-industrial complex which is

massive and growing (the U.S. spends more than the next eight world

military powers put together). We should not forget that Rome had

its highest military expenditures immediately before its collapse

in the fifth century.

4. Family breakdown -- We witness a breakdown in families with

rising divorce rates and broken homes. Holding households together

is an integral part of holding our nation together.

5. Total environment -- The sacred web of life involving the

human, animal and plant worlds is under attack, e.g., widespread

abortion, use of the death penalty (other nations have rescinded

this barbaric practice), mistreatment of animals, damage to and

destruction of the physical environment, invasion of exotic

species. Some possible allies can't agree about all these issues,

thus limiting overall support on life issues.


Good citizenship. America's lifestyle in its present form

must change. True American Citizenship thinks ahead to the unborn

as well as those living today who lack the basics of life. Good

citizenship means planning to vote in the upcoming election,

studying the policies of the candidates, praying for insight in

making the right decision, and encouraging others to do the same.


September 18, 2004 International Assistance and Charity

I confess I always feel uncomfortable about pure charity of

any sort. It can be so easily misconstrued, misdirected and

misplaced. However, we should see international assistance not as

pure charity or a temporary band-aid but something due in justice;

it can and ought to make real change in our world. To reach a goal

of cutting hunger in half by 2015 requires much international

assistance. After World War II, the U.S. engaged in foreign

assistance, but since the 1991 end of the Cold War this aid has

been cut in part due to the following myths:


(1) Foreign aid doesn't work.

Answer: Some 20% of U.S. aid goes to Israel and Egypt, not

the poorest lands. However. when aid is directed to poverty, it

works. Since 1960 adult literacy in sub-Saharan Africa increased

by 280% and infant mortality in East Asia declined by 70%.

(2) Most foreign aid is wasted by corrupt bureaucracies.

Answer: Recent aid programs are tougher on corruption.

Democracy has grown in many countries and their governments are

being held accountable through international agencies.

(3) Foreign aid is a big slice of the federal budget.

Answer: Only one percent of our budget is foreign aid, and

only a third of that is slated for development. The U.S. ranks

last of 22 industrialized countries in percentage of national

income given away in development aid, less than 0.1%.

(4) Americans want to cut foreign aid.

Answer: Some 83% of Americans favor reducing world hunger by

half by 2015. Alleviating hunger and poverty and encouraging

economic development are reasons for aid.

(5) We should take care of problems at home rather than devote

resources to helping others.

Answer: U.S. is the only industrialized nation with a massive

amount of poverty within its boundaries -- 31 million people,

including 12 million children. Overseas development is good, for

it reduces crises and thus increases security in an unstable world.

(6) Charities can do the job of helping poor people around the


Answer: David Beckmann mentions that Catholic Relief

Services, Lutheran World Relief and World Vision do excellent, much

needed work, but cannot do it all alone.

(7) Foreign aid isn't important.

Answer: Foreign aid programs do influence how local resources

are invested, and encourage countries to use their resources well.

Beckmann continues that aid to agriculture is the most important

form because 70% of undernourished people live in rural areas. It

does seem that AIDS is rapidly spread by pervasive poverty, and

that is all the more reason for taking such steps as debt

cancellation. In recent years, when 22 of the poorest countries

have had $34 billion canceled.

Reference: "Debunking myths about foreign aid: Not a Band-

Aid." David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World in Christian

Century, August 1-8, 2001.


September 19, 2004 Resourcefulness and Stewardship

No servant can serve two masters. (Luke 16:13)


Totality. As we prepare to vote in the upcoming election it

is important to set the priorities we expect of a candidate. How

about looking for replies to the following general questions: are

the candidates resourceful in use of their own gifts? Do they

understand the limited condition of physical resources available in

our country or state? Do they understand that one serves God in

fulfilling civic duties and these duties have social, political and

economic consequences?


Trampling. In the eighth chapter of Amos the Prophet we are

reminded that we are not to trample upon the needy. But trampling

is so often done by those with heavy military boots or explorer and

exploiter intentions. But too often others of us trample without

hardly realizing it. We tend to take advantage of the poor when we

buy materials made in sweat factories overseas, when we allow

industries to escape the responsibilities to long-time loyal

workers and go abroad, and when we overlook the earnest efforts of

our minimum wage employees. What about egregious examples, e.g.,

the thousands of Chinese day laborers without a written contract

who work a month and are dismissed without pay; the grave and

artifact stealers who move across Native American lands and dig up

pottery fragments and sacred objects worth thousands of dollars;

the people who live downstream from unsafe coal slurry



The Parable. Jesus tells us in Luke 15 that we must be as

resourceful as those who are the clever but evil-spirited stewards

of the Earth's resources. You mean bad guys have good qualities

worth imitating? Jesus affirms for us in this quite vivid parable

that the answer is "yes." We can learn from those who are

resourceful in pursuit of profits and fortunes. We know that good

stewardship must have such basic ingredients as realizing that the

our gifts are from God and we have only a short time to use them

properly. These characteristics bring us both to reverence for

what God has created and resourcefulness in the way we use things.

Those who have yard sales for recycling clothes and furniture know

how to use resources well; those who teach or care for the sick

learn how to keep people interested and cheerful; those who have

little know how to squeak by on less.


Good stewardship. We realize that our God-given gifts are

here for a brief period. Do we recognize these as gifts and learn

from the models of the saints how to use them in ingenious ways?

Do we believe in our causes enough to enlist others to help? Are

we constantly on the lookout for new ways to get our message across

to those we have contact? Do we take time to evaluate how well we

operated and used those gifts last year, month, week or day? Do we

see our works as prayers, and offer them each day to God? Do we

take seriously what is still left to do, and meet our challenges

with a sense of enthusiasm?


September 20, 2004 Gardening as a Social Enterprise

Gardening can definitely be a social enterprise engaging the

natural community of plants, animals and people of all ages. This

intergenerational collection of family and neighbors includes the

expertise of elders, the enthusiasm of youth, the energy of the

able-bodied, and the attentiveness of learners and part-time

observers. Elders know what and when to plant and harvest; youth

take pride in their budding gardening skills. They like the

opportunity to experiment, and are relieved to know that the elders

still have things to learn as well. However, enthusiastic youth

have limited attention spans and that can be telling in the

gardening enterprise. The major social contribution of a long-time

gardener is fidelity to the work at hand.


Risk to the garden. All can share together the sheer delight

and joy of assistance in gardening. However, some cannot

distinguish plants and may risk damaging them or pulling out the

wrong ones. Gardening is more than socializing; there must be

times of pointing out what each plant is and which deserves

cultivation and which removal. It takes time and patience to show

the inexperienced where to stand, walk, step or pick. All realize

that a total informality does not make good gardening practice,

just as rigid formality can be oppressive. Establish a middle

ground. People acquire gardening skills at different rates and

need specific tips:

Involve the family -- The saying that "the family that prays

together, stays together" involves the entire group, not just a

few. If young and old can pray in their own way simultaneously,

why can't they all garden together? A gardening exercise can be a

happy occasion when all who desire can be present (even when some

choose not to take advantage of full participation). Be welcoming,

make rules clear and simple for the protection of plants, assist

the old, and reign in toddlers for the garden's sake.

Include the neighbors -- Quite often, gardeners exclude

neighbors through the plea of wanting privacy in gardening.

However, social gardening as explained here, is a public act, and

one that may intrigue nearby inhabitants. One possibility is to

create an occasional gardening event to include others. The ripple

effect of gardening extends out to wider concentric circles, and

certainly can easily embrace neighbors who have a hidden interest

in what is going on. Make them feel at ease in coming, seeing, and

even helping in the harvest.


A limited invitation. "Come and pick your own" is one

solution to oversupply. First invite neighbors, then others. When

you keep tabs on harvests, remember to weigh or measure the

gatherers' pickings. I tell visitors to come and take specific

produce, but make sure to tell us to a quarter of a pound what they

took. Neighbors may want to be co-partners in expertise and co-

sharers in produce. Invite them to see and encourage them to

garden their own piece of land by starting simply and methodically.


September 21, 2004 Recording Travel Experiences

As autumn approaches we find it a time to reflect on a summer

well spent. Did we record those travel experiences or we going to

let them pass out of memory? If we stayed home during the normal

vacation period we may wisely wait until the kids are back in

school and the parks and roads have become less congested, thus

postponing some of the year's travel until autumn.


Recording selections. If we want to travel about with our

camera and see autumn sights, we should question whether some

scenes are worth one more shoot. Recently I was on the top of the

Kentucky Natural Bridge and a tourist asked me where he could get

the best picture. I said "at the souvenir shop. It's too

difficult without a helicopter ride and the professionals have done

a good job already." Maybe that reflected my lack of photography

skills but I try to be a realist. However, let's do record things.


Recording devices. When a team of us went to Peru in 1983 one

of the party immediately got his camera stolen from his backpack at

the Lima Airport. And modern digital cameras are worth much more

than his small one -- and are quite desirable targets for thieves.

A small audio recorder could be almost as effective along with

purchasing scenic postcards at choice places visited. Or even a

handy notebook for recording proper names, places, new friends,

addresses and road directions may be a good option -- and people

are not interested in stealing it either.


Recording time. Some things are jotted down at the moment for

fear of losing them; a length of experiences of the day can be

recorded in the evening before retiring; a longer term set of

reflections are left for after returning home. However, in

anticipation of that longer record, the handy notebook with proper

dates could prove to be a gold mine of information. If using a

modern camera with its capability of recording short messages at

the time the picture is taken, the notebook might be omitted. The

more specifically it is written, the less chance of error later on

when trying to organize the materials.


Maps. The best recording may be done by tracing on a map the

exact route taken and add abbreviated notes on the map as well.

Familiarizing oneself with both the countryside and the urban areas

makes for less stress on the driver or travel leader. Acquire maps

as early as possible and spend some time looking them over. Some

detailed maps are expensive but can be worth the price.


Keep records. Recalling travel experiences later on proves

the worth of all recording efforts. Keep the souvenirs and other

items in an accessible place. Did we succeed in or neglect to

fulfill the many promises we make to gracious hosts in the last

trip? Assemble thank you materials and add some of the pictures or

a copy of the written record as a token of appreciation. Also,

this allows for the records to have separate repositories.


September 22, 2004 Celebrate the Summer

Seasonal changes come way too soon for some, and never occur

fast enough for those bored by the weather or scenery. It is

interesting to see how different people view the seasons. Much has

to do with one's age, health, culture and history. Some of us

change our choice of favorite seasons with years. I used to prefer

summer because of vacation but now like spring and fall better.


Memories and hopes. No matter what our opinions are on

summer, the autumn offers a time to celebrate the end of one and

the beginning of a new season. For some it is the hot weather and

humidity that is now past as well as the end of mosquitoes and

snakes. Summer people think longingly about past vacations,

swimming pool sessions and freedom from heavy winter clothes.

Autumn people eagerly await the changing leaves, cooler days,

football games and parties. It is the memories and the

anticipations which flavor our need to celebrate, for we can look

back and forwards with some thankfulness for good times spent and

fresh expectations of what will soon come.


Undecided. Some people allow each season to come, and are

willing to savor the challenges and opportunities of each time of

the year -- each being a good in its own way. Solstices and

equinoxes have been and are times to bring us together, for those

who celebrate with reminiscences about a loved season or for those

looking forward to autumn's coolness and colors. Those who can't

decide should serve as hosts or hostesses.


Celebration and human integrity. Hopefully we have not lost

the ability to celebrate who we are, where we are, and what time it

is. Activists often become overly serious, seniors fret over being

bored, youth only dwell on their hang-ups, and all of us are way

too busy. Smile, laugh, say a good word, stand around a while,

strike a balance between the serious and the whimsical, give

quality time to sorting out the light from the heavy side of life.

Solving problems requires a harmony of thinking and doing,

reflection and action, serious talk and laughing. Making a better

world is a concerted activity involving a wide variety of people

and emotions. We join groups, reach out to help others, organize

and come to some joint action that reaches out to people far beyond

our neighborhoods. Conflicts arise when one approach is considered

the only way. To change the world for the better takes the

concerted efforts of all inhabitants -- and when we succeed, it is

an action worth celebrating.


Celebrate no matter what. A special birthday party or

anniversary is worth conceiving at this time of year. This is

harvest time, and thus our gardens may provide some of the food.

Autumn often has the pleasant days when the party can be outdoors.

There we can extend the celebration to the broader neighborhood of

the world of plants and animals. Celebration is part of being

godly and should be planned for, organized and executed with all

the care possible. A new season is a time to do it.


September 23, 2004 Convenient, Nutritious and Non-Processed

At the end of last year I bought some blackeyed peas because

the Appalachian tradition is to fix these on January first. The

grocery checker asked what I was going to do with them and I said,

"Cook them." She asked in astonishment "You, a man? My husband

can't boil water!" So much for a fading mountain tradition, and so

much for the art of cooking -- and I'm no gourmet cook, mainly

because I like things prepared fast and still be nutritious. Can

we have both? Here are some hints for foods which take less time

to cook than purchasing, though social and economic benefits to

service employee may be lacking in the do-it-yourself meal:

"12 variety salads"-- I can fix these every month of the year,

even (once) in January, with my own garden produce. It takes some

time to cut up, wash, and mix, but the salad excels in freshness

the deli mixes -- and we can guarantee our own organic produce.

"12 types of crockpot meals" -- It takes less time to fix most

crockpot or solar cooker prepared meals than to buy, unwrap and

prepare a tv dinner, and they are far more nutritious. My favorite

is vegetarian chili.


"12 variety soups" -- This has the same ingredients as the

salad, except it is cooked. Rice or noodles may be added to give

body, and a large batch is made to last for several meals and to

add other ingredients as the week progresses. A quart of tomato

juice from the garden's Italian tomato crop with garlic added gives

the soup its liquid base.


Breakfast on the run -- A cup of coffee, toast, bowl of

oatmeal or one's own prepared granola and a glass of tomato or

orange juice make a substantial breakfast for most, and it can be

gathered together in less than ten minutes. And the number of

dishes to wash (along with the amount of grease ingested) is far

less than that of the standard meat and eggs breakfast.

Nutritious snack foods -- carrot or celery sticks, dry popped

popcorn, or fruit.


Avoid processed varieties. Processed foods are becoming the

mainstay of any home-cooked meal, that is for those people who do

not eat meals out. I once inspected a can marked "spaghetti with

tomato and cheese" and found it had hardly three tablespoons of

pasta, mixed with a thin tomato juice. The ingredient listing gave

water first, and the main advertised ingredient second. Truth in

advertising would require saying it was water with spaghetti added.


The beef bouillon cube should be labelled "salt with beef flavor."

And such a Federal Trade Commission ruling would bring the food

processors howling. And the relatively expensive processed food is

doused with fat, salt and refined sugar, none with much nutritional

value -- and certainly lacking in authentic flavor. Preparing

one's own food get around the chemical preservatives in much

processed food. Resolve to go unprocessed.


September 24, 2004 Simple Funerals

Funerals are never a nice topic, especially on a misty autumn

day. But deaths come unexpectedly and in all frankness anytime is

a good time for occasional reflections. In the past, funerals were

simple, (laid out at home), locally focused, and low-cost. Today,

funerals require planning, contain gimmicks, and cost a bundle.


1. Make preparations well beforehand and store a record of

them in an accessible place with a few relatives and friends

knowing where located. This will make life simpler for the ones

who have the responsibility, especially in cases of our sudden

demise. Records should include details such as the listing of

preferred hymns, pallbearers, services, manner of eulogy (maybe

even composing one), and other specific burial arrangements.

2. Keep the arrangements simple. Funerals today have

escalated in price and contain elements of unscrupulous

commercialism. It is best that all parties help keep things in

moderation, with even considering the new practice of renting a

coffin for viewing and then be transferred to a pine box.

3. Select underused cemeteries. Over half of designated

"cemetery" space is unused, and may remain so due to movement of

people or population. Using a seemingly forsaken cemetery is a

chance to renew interest in and upkeep of older family plots.

4. Be buried rather than cremated, if custom permits. Natural

decomposition uses far less resources (especially energy) and

permits a natural approach to composing and returning to dust. If

burial space is limited, remember a cemetery is greenspace which

could be conserved and used. In some countries plots are reused

after loved ones have died and the person is no longer remembered.

5. Request charitable donations for memorials instead of

flowers. A memorial action in the name of the person may also be

a fitting tribute. A single bouquet or a few select bunches of

flowers (local or wild if in season) should suffice.


6. Build a coffin together with friends and family if this is

possible and time permits. Simple lifestylers may prefer that this

be done while alive and able.

7. De-emphasize the viewing. This takes on a rather

unrealistic activity of commenting on how natural the person looks.

Simply put, the dead are not the living. It may be preferable in

simplicity to keep a closed casket with a good picture of the

person in a central position.

8. Prayer is far more meaningful than mere praiseworthy words.

Consider helping others through the bereavement period and through

a meaningful and spiritually uplifting final service. Remember,

death is not putting out the light ... it is switching off the

lamp, because the dawn has come.


September 25, 2004 What about Insurance?

Enough is enough. Some people are locked into all types of

insurance -- automobile, health, life, fire, homeowners and other

property, hail, earthquake, accident liability, non-profit Board

liability, mail, travel, etc. In fact, ASPI couldn't afford fire

insurance and so it self-insured. That did not mean it was without

all the other forms of insurance just listed. Today insurance

rates are so high that this is becoming a major detriment to the

opening of new organizations and hiring people. The high priced

insurance bills will kill you. What is causing this is a matter of

dispute. Is it the poor investments on the part of insurance

companies or the escalation of settlement costs?


Self-insurance. A while back, I joined others in proposing a

community insurance plan where all would pay into the plan and help

out in the event of a disaster. The basic plan imitates what the

Amish do when their community has a catastrophe -- get together and

rebuild the barn in a day or so. This can work if all the people

will get together at a given time, if they are willing to build

according to a common design, if the workers are all efficient, and

if they can work together easily and without major friction under

a common leadership. Group insurance may work on a level of pre-

existing bonding (church, civic group, professional associations),

but does it work in an amorphous geographic local community? We

began to have our doubts.


Weaknesses. While a tightly knit community could do a

serviceably good job rebuilding after singular disasters, the fact

remains that not all communities are bound together in such a

trust. Some residents would be accused of not being willing to

pull their own weight or of using a disaster as a time to upgrade

their residential structure. If the basic community trust is

lacking, the system would not work. A second drawback is

expectations on the part of the one served or the disaster victim.

While rebuilding the structure, we may want to incorporate some

safety and other features -- all which take time and other

resources. Disagreements could easily arise, and extensive

criteria would have to be spelled out ahead of time.


Advantages. Community self-insurance through joint planning

and implementation allows money to stay in the community instead of

being bled to distant state insurance companies. The outflow from

poorer states like ours is massive, and the community self-

insurance is one way of addressing the outflow. What if not just

one single barn burns or is destroyed by a tornado, but all in the

locality are damaged or destroyed? There are not enough local

resources to make up the difference following a disaster. Who

deserves first treatment while funds are available? One answer to

such vexing problems would be a governmental back-up insurance or

disaster relief fund which insures the self-insurers in unusual

circumstances. This could be a model for the nation. At least,

the government could be able to back up local insurers to protect

when a major community wide flood, tornado or earthquake occurs.


September 26, 2004 Lazarus, Affluence and a Prayer for Kindness

Only Luke tells us about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:

19-31). It is a vivid tale and one that causes us to cringe and

feel uneasy -- and wasn't that what it was suppose to do? We need

to confront our comfort levels and ask whether we are more on the

side of the rich man than that of the destitute Lazarus. We are

haunted by the fact the rich man saw Lazarus, but he really didn't

see him as a person in need. He contentedly passed him by.


The parable. Lazarus, the only named person in all the

parables, challenges to us down through the ages. We are in a rich

land and poor little Haiti is at our door step. And with

television bringing scenes to our homes, still more millions and

maybe a billion hungry people are at an ever widening doorstep.

These hungry folks would be willing to consume the massive amounts

of food wasted in America. It is estimated that several million of

these people could thrive on our dog food because it meets basic

health standards for human consumption and is nutritious. American

pets are fed better than a billion human beings on this planet.


Learning from the parable. The risen Christ tells us how to

live and why we must be sensitive to the needs of our fellow human

beings. The affluent in our world live in risk of becoming

insensitive and thus associated with the rich man's brothers in the

parable. Are we the audience for the lost soul who would like to

return in some dramatic manner to shake us in our collective boots?

But the parable tells another dramatic story -- that the message of

salvation has already been told, and that in any time period some

are too insensitive to hear it.


Sin of affluence. Many would never use the term "sin" to

define the so-called blessing of affluence. But affluence can dull

us to the needs of others and make us insensitive to their plight.

Did you see me when I was Hungry? The failure to see or experience

the needy in our midst is the heart of the Lazarus parable and this

strikes us deeply as people who have excesses beyond the reckoning

of any past generations. It is not a sin of commission, but one

of omission. How can we shake people addicted to consumer goods to

change their ways and live the simple life? What will they need to

see while there is still time to see? Maybe the more challenging

question is -- what will move us to see before it is too late? Why

do terrorists hate America's affluence so much? Is it because

others covet it or that it will have the power to contaminate their

own culture and people?


Prayer of Kindness. Oh, gentle Bonder of the Universe, bring

our family closer together and cement our growing togetherness with

your kindly love. We need to look out to find those in need.

Teach us when to discern who is at our doorstep, whether the person

really needs help, and how to treat all with kindness. Allow us to

be generous, not miserly, open, not closed to others needs, free

with gifts given so that we can pass them on in an atmosphere of

loving kindness.


September 27, 2004 Micro Hydropower

Micro hydropower plants are those with an electric generating

capacity of less than 100 kilowatts. Many sites exist where there

is a plentiful flow of water. While this is a potential energy

source which will help meet energy shortages, it is a pollution-

free one as well. For instance, a moderate size 100-KWH plant

could furnish electricity to 20 energy conserving homes that do not

use electricity for resistance or space heating. Average non-

electric heated homes have a demand of less than two KW and a peak

demand of about five KW. Such a micro hydropower plant could save

thousands of gallons of diesel fuel per year.


Advantages. Micro hydropower is renewable energy and that

means no air or water pollution. The plant can be built where

power would not otherwise be gained from the water flow. It is

easily maintained once built and operating. The payback is

relatively rapid, if the operator can sell the surplus power back

to the utility grid. Furthermore, there is no need for high-priced

dams and lakes that could disturb the forested cover, flood fertile

alluvial valleys or disturb the river flow and wildlife migration

patterns. The micro facility is an excellent demonstration for

those wanting to live more simply; it is clean and efficient.


Problems. Installing a micro hydropower plant takes some

effort at design, planning and construction. Among major problems

that have been experienced by vendors and architects include the

following: obtaining finance, governmental red tape, design and

construction assistance, cost and availability of equipment,

utility interface and buy-back rates (less of a problem in many

states in recent years), price comparison with subsidized non-

renewable systems, compliance to all environmental regulations

(generally involving water flow), and finding equipment

manufacturers. Obtaining tax credits and determining power

potential siting could also be challenges when one has determined

to go through with the project.


Interest. Favorable sites exist in many places whether high-

head (large drop) and low-flow facilities. However not all

property holders actually have access on their own land to both the

best site for the plant and the right-of-way from plant to point of

use. Some source/consumer sites do exist and these are prime for

development. Micro hydropower plants need some technical

experience to design and construct, if one has visions of doing

this on their own. For such builder candidates more discussion is

needed at one's locality to understand federal, state and local

regulations. The federal Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act

(PURPA) requires utilities to help provide interconnections with

these privately owned powerplants, but no standards are set at the

Federal level for the interface or protective equipment at the

point of interconnection. For possible workshops or consulting as

to micro hydropower potential contact Paul Gallimore at Long Branch

Environmental Education Center, POB 369 Leicester, NC 28748

(828) 683-3662.


September 28, 2004 Practice Networking

Decide to network, use every letter you write, every

conversation you have, every meeting you attend, to express your

fundamental beliefs and dreams. Robert Muller.


The champions of networking prior to the era of Internet and

e-mail realized that every available means would be required.

Networking: The First Report and Directory by Jessica Lipnack and

Jeffrey Stamps (Doubleday, 1982) was one of those noble efforts to

get more and more people involved. In years past, mail was

uncertain and slow, and other indirect means of communication were

expensive and scarce, the need for more and more networking was all

the more important to spread and clarify ideas. We live in an age

of instant communication -- phones, e-mail, radio, television. The

reduction in time and effort required has lessened the demand for

networking. In fact, we hesitate being put on mailing lists

because of information overload. Both state and federal agencies

have gotten involved in limiting unsolicited commercial calls and

Internet spam pollution.


Ministry of networking. Some people see that others do not

have connections which they themselves feel are quite important,

and so they take it on themselves to spread their firmly held

beliefs, gossip, good stories, personal feelings, and basic

insights by the click of an e-mail button. We all feel some

pressure to communicate for that is part of our social nature.

Most often, we prefer to do this through face-to-face conversation,

but that is not always possible because of distance or barriers.

Certain sectarians and other committed individuals will take their

message door-to-door, and are not phased by doors slamming in their

faces. Others preach in the public squares. Still others feel it

a mission join the junk mail bandwagon.


Internet and E-mail. The Internet has brought the networking

process into our eating places, bedroom and private recreational

space. At virtually no expense we are able to converse with people

in very distant places -- and some might appreciate a contact

provided we don't do it in an intrusive manner. Chatting once done

over the backyard or on the home phone has now extended to the

world of Internet and cell phone. Instant communication. Are you

okay? How do you feel? What will we have for supper? And the

Internet brings a million sources to our fingertips in an instant.

Has networking been taken to its outer limits?


Phone. A more touching network method than merely writing e-

mails or letters is the phone conversation. This can be

interpreted as an intrusion by the busy, or as a godsend by the

depressed, isolated, sick and the forsaken. Ease of networking

demands our sensitivity to how long to make the conversation, for

some people need silent space as much as fresh air. Building the

bonds of civil society through networking requires more than just

quantity time; it needs good quality that may call for a

thoughtful letter sent over snail-mail.


September 29, 2004 Ear Lower on the Food Chain

Can we follow a nutritious diet and yet eat far lower on the

food chain? The smell of fat simmering at the fast food

restaurant fills in the surrounding area and beckons us to come and

eat more meat -- hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, chops, ribs. Maybe

eating lower on the food chain would allow others in the world to

fill their basic food requirements as well. Should we Americans

continue the habit of consuming over two hundred pounds of meat per

person each year? Increased consumption of whole grains and

vegetables would actually improve the average American's diet.


Eat less meat, more vegetables -- It takes far less resources

to produce a pound of vegetables than a pound of meat, for the

vegetative matter must first be consumed and digested by the animal

and turned into muscle and fat. That takes many pounds of feed

per pound of resulting meat for human consumption. Non-renewable

resources must fuel vehicles and be required to process, ship, and

preserve the foods we buy. Vegetarians say that they can sustain

a balanced diet with no meat -- and offer tasty veggie burgers and

hot dogs to prove it. Meat eaters counter that meat is low-priced

(at least in America) and highly nutritious. I now make a veggie

chili which can be quite similar to its meat counterpart.


Select fish and poultry -- A variation on the vegetarian

versus meat battle is to select fish and meats which are lower on

the food chain. It takes one-fourth as much feed to produce a

pound of poultry as it does to produce a pound of grain-fed beef or

about half for pork. However a range-fed buffalo will have a

reasonably tender cut of highly nutritious meat and yet it never

requires extra grain, since it lives on land suitable only for

grazing. On the other hand, ocean-caught fish is becoming a more

scarce commodity and is being supplemented by pond-raised catfish

and shrimp. Consider also that chickens come from corporate or

contract farms and often are raised in quite inhumane conditions.


Eat home-grown seasonal foods -- The resource cost of shipping

fruit and vegetables from distant parts of the world can mount up.

Think of the practice of airlifting perishable foods thousands of

miles, or using refrigerated container trucks or ships. These take

far more resources than picking and eating a fresh local crop.


Bulk foods -- Individually packaged items take up far more

resources than larger packages of beans, dried peas, lentils, and

whole grains. The difference in resource use between a two-pound

package of dried beans in a plastic bag and its equivalent in four

one-pound cans of cooked beans is eightfold, counting the added

transport and handling costs.


Reduced processed food use -- A TV dinner is highly processed

when considering the preparation, the use of the aluminum tray, and

the deep freeze and shipping costs. It takes more resources to

produce the soft drink bottle than the contents, and disposal of

all the packaging is an added environmental expense.


September 30, 2004 Route 68: A Warning

U.S. Route 68 stretches across Kentucky and beyond like a

string tying together our American North and South. It started as

a buffalo trace as did many of our Commonwealth roads. Honestly,

when one bison dodged a cow pie, U.S. 68 still has that bend today.

Only with recent engineering has the curved straightened out.

Still it is a historic span passing such places as Bluelicks

Battleground, Shakertown and Jeff Davis' Birthplace.


U.S. Route 68 has a way of getting under your skin. It

certainly haunts me still. My folks told me to avoid riding the

bike on it and I stretched the command allowing me to ride across

68 from our home road to the golf club. A car popped over the hill

and swerved to avoid my unsteady bike. That was close.

So it was a year or so later down near Smokey Hollow where

U.S. 68 starts it scenic curves up the Maysville hill. I was

hitching home and an approaching truck loaded with railroad ties

started blowing its horn wildly. Something or -one made me lean

back against the guard cable and the ends of the tiles shaved off

some of my peach fuzz. That too could be called a warning.


Years later, Bob McDonald and I drove Joannie Grupenhoff back

from college to her home in Winston Salem, North Carolina. We left

that town early in a summer morning to make Maysville, Kentucky by

night. In those pre-Interstate days you had to go right through

the heart of Asheville, Knoxville and Lexington. Knowing the road

better and bone-tired, I drove the last leg on 68. We cleared the

curves at Bluelicks with my old green 1950 Oldsmobile jumping

around the bends for, if it could be elastic, its front would have

kissed its rear. We made it in one piece but with a warning: don't

press it too much if you want to see old age.


A few years back, I was stopped on a foggy Monday morning for

speeding on U.S. 68 and I pleaded with the cop "Sir, I was home to

see my mother on her birthday." He replied "that's the dam...,"

cut short his words, scratched his head, and gave me a warning.

As I carefully glided away from his cruiser I said under my

breath. "It's not my first warning on U.S. 68."


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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