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Daily Reflections Earth Healing

Daily Reflections
by Al Fritsch, S.J.

A series of written meditations and reflections

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Table of Contents: Daily Reflections

December, 2011

Copyright © 2011 by Al Fritsch


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Picture 1787
Late autumn fruits of the sweetgum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua.
(photo: Janet Powell)

Reflections December, 2011

      December is a month that never gets a major description except "the last month of the year."  It is generally too cold to be autumn, and yet too warm to be deep winter.  At least in these parts, December generally has little snow for we have few white Christmases here -- and for one small spell of time envy those in more northern climes.  Also, December is often devoid of major natural disasters (through a few floods have occurred in that month).  However, after all the hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, tornadoes, and floods of 2011 we had better not speak too soon.  

      December comes with its own blessings: holly and street lights, smell of cedar, clear calls of the screech owl, crow, wild turkey and coyote, crystal-flowing creeks, wood smoke curling from chimneys, clean frost-covered objects in early morning, walnuts ready to be shelled, brilliant and colorful early sunsets, and Christmas carols interlaced with added cheer.  The smoke smell is a predominant sensory mark of December for that is the month my dad smoked the hams with hickory wood.  Such sights, sounds, tastes and smells make December a comforting month.

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Picture 1865
Early December splash of color, following extended warm weather period.
Marbled orb-weaver, 
Araneus marmoreus.

 (*photo credit)

December 1, 2011       Select Relevant Information

      Did you ever go to a state or world's fair or a national convention or conference?   Was the parade of colorful attractions all vying for attention somewhat disconcerting?  Our world of emails, phone calls, TV ads, and reports offer instant and plentiful information, but does that improve the life quality?  Information is certainly available, overly available: some good, some perverse, some worth pondering, and much worth passing over -- but the selection process can become burdensome in itself.  In fact those who study creativity find that focus is a necessary ingredient -- and ill-directed information is distracting.  Can we avoid what Alvin Tofler coined in 1970 "information overload?"   

      First, we need essential information -- bus schedules, currency exchange or withdrawal outlets, restaurants, rest facilities.  Certainly, in order to stay abreast of friends and family we need the basics about health, suffering, marriages, births, deaths, and other vital aspects of our loved ones lives.  Essential information extends to staying alive (where is the food, water supply, and transport system?).  Generally, governmental information may be a good source, but having trusted companions who know where to go for essential information is always best.  

     Second, we need semi-essential information such as current news, data about candidates for election, the offices of those who care for our health, spiritual sources of comfort, and auto repair places.  Managing this information is challenging enough for most of us (see May 14, 2008).  In fact, much of such information is from word of mouth, from trusted relatives, friends and neighbors.  How else to determine beforehand who will give us the best service? 

       A third level is current information of what is occurring in our world today.  Here the picture rapidly gets far more complicated.  Information outlets must be selected wisely or else there is a blur.  If it takes three times the amount of time to get news due to ad breaks, try another source (public radio or daily briefs from specialized news services such as those dealing with environment, energy, health or religious news).  Weekly news magazines of a more serious nature save energy and time as well.   

      A fourth level is entertainment or free-time information.  The caution light goes on, for here people can happen on dissipating sites that consume time and include chat rooms, needless phone contacts, and non-serious blogging.  Use that rich source of information, the Internet, wisely.  Employ a method of sorting and removing junk mail and phone calls including restricting time when cell phones are on, or the limited use of the Internet for emails.  Information seeking can become time-consuming.  Before we know it, we can become addicted to information seeking and that is not good.

      Prayer: Keep us, Lord, informed as to how to act in a world of multiple detours and false attractions; keep our eyes and ears modestly fixed on your inspired directions. 







Picture 1849
A false morel in December.
 (*photo credit)

December 2, 2011 Are All Charities Effective in Poor Lands?

      Assistance programs in poorer nations are going through a period of soul-searching in recent years.  Throwing money at people is certainly no answer -- and there is less to throw anyway.  The poor are truly out there with food, health, and lodging problems that must be addressed right now.  Those seeking to help are not all the same, and good sound bites and colorful promotional sheets can be misleading.  Effectiveness depends on how well these groups enter into solidarity with the suffering multitudes in the target lands, and whether group members decide to enter into a lifestyle akin to that of the poor and thus think with them. 

      Brandon Kohrs, whose family is a member of my parish in Stanton, Kentucky, and a medical school student at Ohio University, spent his recent summer break with a medical team helping to treat the poor (mostly children) in and around Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As with all such volunteer experiences, this became for him a steep learning curve about the needs of sub-Saharan Africans.  He shared his rather complete and highly insightful journal with our parish, and a portion of his insights have been hinted at before in the serious media and are worth repeating here:  

      By our knowing the right people, progress (in health assistance) can be made.  Mindlessly throwing money at a problem is not the answer; it will only make things worse.  If you want to make a difference, you need good moral people on the ground who will see your project through.   

     I saw a number of ineffective charities during my time at Goma.  Heal Africa, which was in the center of Goma and is supported by Oprah (and American TV celebrity), seemed to be more worried about maintaining their image and keeping their staff happy than they did about helping the people. (People who work there stay in beautiful houses overlooking Lake Kivu; they drive cars that will never break down, and they get a month of paid vacation to any destination they would like, while charging 100 dollars a night for any room in their hospital). All this does is create a dual economy that prevents need from getting to the places where it needs to go.  I am not saying that Heal Africa does not do a lot of good; I am sure they do.  However, when people begin to worry more about maintaining image than maintaining lives, they become incredibly ineffective, and their goals are not reached.  Sustaining the goals becomes a bigger goal than sustaining the people.  It is amazing that small charities like the Project Congo and the highly criticized Catholic church, have done as much if not more good for the people here than all the multimillion dollar charities combined.  It is because their focus is still with the people. 

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to know when to give. and to give with all of our hearts for the sake of others.  Let us never forget that our love for you is expressed in our loving service for and with others. 








Summer into Autumn
The Jefferson salamander, Ambystoma jeffersonianum, native Kentucky species.
 (*photo credit)

December 3, 2011 Is Creation-Centered Spirituality Green?

      How can one dare fashion such a title?   The good reason is simple: creation-centered people focus on creation and overlook or avoid the need for redemption.  The environmental crisis has all to do with the misdoings of people who misuse the environment.  A purely rational focusing on creation forgets the addictive nature of our consumption-based economy and its horrifying effects on Earth and her resources.  Merely focusing on the goodness of creation ALONE has as much positive effect as conducting tours to well-managed distilleries for alcoholics.  Creation-centeredness does not get at the problem (see our reissue of Earth Healing: A Resurrection-Centered Approach on this website).

      We as individuals tend to deny our wrongdoing, excuse ourselves of the blame, and seek to escape to a wide assortment of allurements that will consume our attention.  Our society fails to confront individual wrongdoing and looks elsewhere for solutions. Environment is in the detail -- and part of that detail is involvement in the practicality of appropriate technology and renewal processes that will heal our wounded Earth.  Emphasizing the glory of creation as such does not make the necessity to confront environmental degradation go away.  Talk about curbing human-induced climate change is countered with increased fossil fuel emissions in 2010 and probably in 2011 as well.  Can Earth damage be halted without taking those detailed practical steps that seem uninteresting?  

       What people fail to realize is that some of the early promotional money to fund creation-centered spirituality came from the affluent and super-rich back in the 1980s.  The unspoken caution was: Don't question the political/ economic/social system and the misdeeds of the caretakers of that system; undertake some tweaking of the status quo and everything will be okay.  Focus on creation in an academic way; it sounds good.

      An integral approach (resurrection-centered spirituality) involves a conviction that to save our wounded Earth practical, radical change is necessary.  If addiction to consumer products is so widespread, a confrontation of the addiction (redemption-centered) is utterly necessary.  However, this approach goes beyond changes at the individual level and includes the entire economic and political system.  Rational persuasion goes only so far; voluntary conversion to simpler living goes only so far; we must work to change the system through stricter environmental controls and regulations and fair and comprehensive taxes on the wealthy. 

      The smugness of creation-centered spirituality includes its avoidance of radical change.  Such change does not come simply through individual change; only by the grace of God can this Earth be saved from the utter destructive path that it is on through the relentless advance of materialism -- and we all must participate.

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to see the big picture and to respond with a generous heart by working through and among the poor. 








June in Kentucky
Awaiting a devoted friend.
 (*photo credit)

December 4, 2011     Practice Patience in Troubled Times

     The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you.
  (II Peter 3:10)        

    On various occasions I am told I lack the virtue of patience.  Such an admonition makes us humble.  Astute observers are correct, and yet to practice patience is quite difficult for those of us who are aging, living on the fast track, eating (even home-prepared) fast foods, driving often near or above the speed limit, and using fast-track forms of communications.  In short, lack of patience in our fast-moving world is a cultural defect afflicting more than a few of us.  We expect more, from cooperative traffic lights to instant checkouts, from banking service to electricity delivery.  Lack of instant service frustrates us and we forget a "thank you."  

      A holy impatience is possible and even needed.  If we see someone beating up another, we would do more than say to the poor victim, "Brother have patience for the Day of the Lord is coming and your oppressor will get his just desserts."  Rather we show our impatience and attempt to halt the assault either through our powers of persuasion, passive resistance, physical restraint if necessary, or by calling 911 for police protection.  Thus when troubles involve another, we assist them, and merely not knowing them does not allow standoffishness.  Failure to defend another is never a mark of patience but of cowardice. 

      Patience is something to do with our expectation of the Lord.  We help prepare the world for the coming but realize that we are imperfect, and even our sincere efforts may lack total success.  By realizing our limitations we are challenged to grow in patience.  In fact, if we reflect upon it, limitations become an opportunity to grow in the Lord.  We trust in God's own patience and mercy; we beg to do better with divine grace.  However, others, upon seeing us not lose heart in our imperfect efforts, may admire us.  We are doing the best we can and pray for improvement.  In turn, those who observe this that we do may take heart and improve themselves.  

      Holy impatience involves not being satisfied with efforts we and others undertake to bring about social injustice to others; this requires an internal balance, namely, a holy patience with our own limitations and shortcomings.  Even these, when sincerely acknowledged, have a sense of powerful witness to the need for God's grace.  We can stand honestly before the Lord and before our fellow human beings; we admit limitations; we offer ourselves as a witness to the need for all to improve together.  We may even beg from others some hints on how to be more patient; they accept delays and lack of success and yet retain a trust in the Lord.  

      Prayer: Lord, help us to see ourselves as people in need of your mercy; show us the balance we need to have between a holy impatience with injustice to our suffering neighbors and a holy patience that our imperfect works are at least a noble try at helping them.  Help us do this with equanimity and good humor.  







Springtime in Kentucky
Appreciating the December evening sky.
 (*photo credit)

December 5, 2011 Renewable Utilities Need Not Be Massive Projects 

      Part of the difficulty with transfer to renewable energy sources is a large-scale mindset -- large wind or solar farms, hydropower plants, biomass plants near burning wood wastes, or geothermal systems producing electricity.  We have been conditioned by our economic system to think large and mega- in scope.  The government is partly to blame for funding large-scale showcases.  We hear about larger profile wind farms and solar industries hiring hundreds of workers and yet going bankrupt during this difficult financial year.  Competition for lower-priced solar photovoltaic equipment has been fierce; new ideas are slow to become commercial and gain attractive economies of scale. 

      Massive renewable projects mean higher profiles, larger employment and output numbers and broader access to investments and government funding.  However, ought these to be major considerations?  In fact, smaller renewable projects, though not as attractive from a media stand point, can make major contributions if more numerous and widely distributed.  In fact, many have held for years that these small-scale solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel resources when coupled with comprehensive energy conservation would reduce new powerplant needs to zero, and enhance a more sustainable energy program for the nation as a whole.  Thus, failure of big projects should not delay renewable energy advances. 

      Today, a host of environmental groups call on Congress to slash oil, coal, ethanol, and nuclear subsidies with savings of $380 billion over the coming five-year period.  How about returning some of this in the form of loans and tax write-offs for small-scale renewable energy projects? The 45 cents-per-gallon current ethanol tax credit is now regarded as the very first subsidy to go.  How about a quick start by halting the tax breaks to the big oil companies with their record-breaking profits?  As we have stated on numerous occasions, loan guarantees for the nuclear industry are horribly far-fetched, since renewables come at a far safer and lower cost than that industry and are growing far faster.   

      Paybacks on the small-scale may come slowly, but they can surely come when applying the newest technologies in wind and solar -- and the fuel sources are essentially free.  On the other hand, the hidden environmental costs of non-renewable coal and oil especially are never fully publicized.  The carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 were the highest in the U.S. since 1988; and total global emissions (mainly through China and India and other emerging economies) also rose even with strong conservation measures being effected by some European nations.  In fact, the goals sought at the beginning of this century to avoid major global climate change by 2050 are not being met.  A major undertaking must be made to reverse large-scale powerplant construction and to focus on decentralized domestic solar and wind projects.    

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to be concerned about our domestic quality of life, and to turn our minds to simpler things.








Summer into Autumn
Gift of home-baked pawpaw pie.
 (*photo credit)

December 6, 2011 Thirty Possible Non-Monetary Christmas Gifts 

      Every year this website makes some sort of effort to reduce Christmas commercialism and, thus, to attempt to put Christ back into Christmas.  This always comes around today's feast of St, Nicholas, for in many countries of Europe and elsewhere this is a period of giving gifts to youth.  Today, a convenient gift is some money or a purchasing card at specific stores in the vicinity.  When two-thirds of the sluggish economy is based on consumer buying it appears unpatriotic to do what we suggest: Buy essentials.

      Instead of money, here are this Christmas gift suggestions: 

      1. Promise to visit an homebound person each season (or more frequently) in 2012.

     2. Exchange periodicals with a friend who has some of the same reading habits.

     3. Assist a neighbor in pruning, watering, raking, composting, or weeding.

     4. Help some youngster with homework, or promise to give him or her some quality time in 2012.

     5. Fast once a week to assist another to abandon the smoking practice. 

     6. Offer a day of sacrifices for a sick person and let them know exactly when it will be.

     7. Connect with a loved one on the Internet.

     8. Pick and share some wild greens, berries, nuts, or fruit.

     9. Invite a reader to trade books.

     10. Give some time for garden work or assistance.

     11. Be open to go at any time to chat when a depressed person has a bad moment.

     12. Help with hints for "year-round" gardening and spend time showing an amateur just how to go
            about doing it.

     13. Donate a special cooking dish to someone this month.

     14. Review clothes wardrobe and offer surplus to charity.

     15. Watch over a residence when another desires a vacation.

     16. Do a good deed for a caregiver.

     17. Share info from Internet information sites.

     18. Remember a loved one who passed away on a special date.  

     19. Celebrate or host a special occasion during 2012.

     20. Volunteer to do something special at church.

     21. Assemble information for someone on this year's political candidates.

     22. Read aloud Scripture to an elder with poor eyesight.

     23. Carpool on some special event this coming year.

      24. Remove the snow on one of those rare events of a storm.

     25. Connect newly arrived residents with like-minded people.   

     26. Bake something for another.

     27. Recycle a treasured item and explain why it is special.

     28. Take a hike together in each season.

     29. Promise to decorate the grave of a loved one.

      30. Carol, decorate, or extend Christmas greetings.      

      Prayer: Lord, at least allow me to do some of these in 2012. 







Albert Fritsch Memorial Smokehouse
The Albert Fritsch Memorial Smokehouse.
© Kit Yoon (click here for blog post)

December 7, 2011   Smokehouses and Fire Safety Day     

     My dad smoked hams and took great pride, rising in the middle of the night to stoke the hickory fire as an essential part of the smoking operation.  This generally was a December exercise though much depended on when the "hog killin'" occurred.  The cold weather and the perfect condition of the fattened animals had much to do with the times and the subsequent meat-smoking operation.     

      Smoking food materials is a convenient low-cost preserving technique used through the centuries.  Many primitive people found that by applying smoke to salted meat and fish, and even to apples and certain fruits and vegetables that the materials could be preserved through the winter months.  One must realize that some Appalachian apples were treated with sulfur for preserving, and that meats are treated with salt and nitrates (health effects must be noted).  The wood used for smoke is selected for smoke flavor: hickory is the favorite in eastern U.S. and mesquite in the western part.  Pine and other softwoods could give off tar and volatiles that mask the good flavors.  Actually, the utilitarian reasons for smoking food compliments the gourmet aspects of scent and salt- & sugar-cured flavor, and preserved texture of the food.  Enjoyment is a collection of various sensations.   

      Health considerations today limit the popularity of smoked products.  Of course, smoke has its small amounts of carcinogenic substances.  The poorer folks who could not eat large quantities of smoked meat most likely would have died from other causes long before the smoke ingredients did their damage -- and that is sufficient cause for telling those living longer to eat everything in moderation, for excess of anything harms us.  Enjoy smoked products with limits as to amount and duration. 

     Domestic smokehouses demand care in construction, because builders tell us that construction materials can enter into the taste of the product.  My brother Charlie sought to build a perfect smokehouse so it could replicate the taste of smoked ham and sausage that our dad had achieved.  My mother's people prided themselves in meat-smoking expertise, causing some competition.   

      Specifications in constructing a building include an eight by twelve foot structure with a concrete floor.  Asphalt roof tile is avoided due to possible flavor contamination, though certain wooden shingles are possible; a metal (steel) roof is preferred.  The building siding can be rough-cut, neutral wood (no pine or synthetic formaldehyde plywood or treated materials).  Obviously there are no windows to the smokehouse and the only major aperture is a front door.  However, eaves are vented to allow accumulated smoke to exit.    

  Prayer: Lord, the Scriptures testify that good aroma pleases you, Creator of all our senses.  Help us preserve what is good, and to see that, by enjoying such higher quality food experiences, we serve you more fully. 






Our Lady of Guadalupe, Good Shepherd Church,  Frankfort, KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 8, 2011      Mary, Mother of the Poor 

      On this day we recall Mary's Immaculate Conception, God's special gift.  Doesn't this make her wealthy?  On the contrary, we also see that Mary's total purity and transparency opens her to being "poor in spirit," sharing with the poor, and identifying as being in solidarity and thus among the poor.   

      Being Poor in Spirit: Mary is the first and most purely the one who is "poor in spirit."  This quality of a Kingdom person that Jesus speaks about in the discourse on the Beatitudes (Matthew Chapter 5) concerns a radical dependence on God, the knowledge that all that we possess we owe to our Creator.  Mary shows a total trust in God in the Magnificat upon her visit to Elizabeth; she is the precursor of those called to totally trust in God's will.  While some trust in their talents or wealth, trust in God makes one forsake the false gods of money and material possessions.  By pondering these gifts in our hearts and by trusting in God we abandon self-centeredness and jealousy; we discover a freedom that results in a groundswell of gratitude.  We enter the world naked and leave it so, except for acquired love, God's gift to us.

     Sharing blessedness: Also in her Magnificat, the hymn of total dependence on God, Mary shares with her cousin and with all of us her unique situation of being most blessed among all.  Instead of separating from us as an elite person, Mary invites us to share the discovery of hers and our blessedness by God's generous hand.  God showers blessings on all creation, and utter gratitude is to be our initial response.  We share in Mary's blessing through our Baptism in which we are immaculately conceived into the community of believers -- though we are people who stumble, and our imperfections hold us back.  However, our moments of acknowledging God's gifts floods us as well as Mary who is able to recognize spiritual poverty transformed into plenty.  Through greater sharing in community, we gain a better grasp of our unique individuality -- particular blessings God gives us to share.  

      Being in Solidarity with the poor:  In the middle of a federal security prison while celebrating the Liturgy with humble people on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), I was able to understand a little better Mary's solidarity with the poor.  While some regard their individual possessiveness as their own "right," others see the fullness of their impoverished condition and cry out for God to be with them.  Mary, fully united with her son, hears the cries from prisons, hospitals, and abandoned homes.  She appears to the poor in special ways and at special times.  Mary offers compassion, a suffering with others, just as she did at the foot of the Cross.  In the fullness of her pure heart Mary sees the Calvary of everyday life among the poor.  She is mother to us all; she stands with us.  Mary says without hesitation, "We the Poor." 

  Prayer: Lord, help us to imitate Mary's spirit of poverty, her desire to share her blessedness with all of us, and her willingness to be in solidarity with all the world's poor.








Muhlenberg Co., Paradise, Kentucky
A coal-fired powerplant in western Kentucky.
 (*photo credit)

December 9, 2011 Non-Renewables Must Give Way to Renewable Energy  

      Switching from coal to natural gas is a popular energy option in the past few years with the ability to fracturing shale formations and freeing the gas.  However, is this focus on a change in fossil fuel energy sources effective in curbing expected climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions?  Natural gas combustion emits less carbon dioxide levels than coal, but coal emits sulfur oxides and other emissions that actually block sunlight with a counter-cooling effect.  Tom Wigley of the National Center of Atmospheric Research and the Univ. of Adelaide in Australia reports that using more natural gas could also release more methane that has more than twenty times the warming effects of carbon dioxide; the natural gas shift will accelerate climate change.  

      Renewable energy substitution made impressive gains in 2010 and in 2011.  It accounted for 13.97% of net U.S. electrical generation during the first half of 2011 (26.14% increase over the same period in 2010); wind increased by 35.1% and solar by 43.6% on a much smaller base.  At the same time nuclear power declined to 19.12% of net U.S. electrical generation (a decline of 3.8% compared to a similar period in 2010).  During the same period natural gas increased by 2.4% and coal dipped by 4.8%.  However, coal, while declining in the U.S., is in a global boom period with China starting one new coal-burning powerplant per week.   

      Environmentally, the continued high fossil-fuel utilization, even with some cleaner combustion methods and hypothetical trapping of carbon dioxide will result in the predicted two to four degree temperature rise.  Though sounding small such rises will have a profound global climate change effect, resulting in melting of glaciers and rising of ocean levels; these will displace tens of millions of some of the world's poorest people (especially in Bangladesh and Pacific Island nations).  When snow- and ice-cover at the poles melt more sunlight is absorbed into the open water and reduced reflection back into the atmosphere results in increasing water temperatures and release of methane in land permafrost areas.  The warming will increase.  Add to this environmental effects from fossil fuel use include mountaintop removal in Appalachia, oil spills in areas of ocean drilling, and damage to groundwater sources for drinking due to increased fracturing of shale formations in natural gas extraction.  Also tar sands, especially in Western Canada, will be a source of dirty fuel extraction.   

      We urgently need to convert non-renewable energy sources to renewables ASAP.  Yes, global carbon dioxide emissions reached an all-time high in 2010.  Fossil-fuel perks must be transferred to developing renewable energy sources -- wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, tidal, and a certain portion of biofuel, provided it is not derived from food sources.  A rise of about a half of one percent renewable energy of total energy expenditure is the stated 2012 goal, yet insufficient to curb negative climate change.

      Prayer: Lord, give our policymakers a dose of common sense. 







Old Man
 A mighty old tree. Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.
 (*photo credit)

December 10, 2011 Trees: Celebrations or Vestigial Paganism

      I celebrate trees and many of these ponderings appear on these "Daily Reflections."  However, our ancient Germanic ancestors may have thought trees to be gods.  To admire  trees for beauty, color, shape, utility, toughness, shade, fruit, nuts, moisture retention, wind control, and added property value is one thing; to give trees divine attributions is another.  Trees certainly attract us with their height, strength, and power.  Those peoples of old turned their veneration of trees into divine attributes and thus a trace of idolatry is still with us. 

      Trees entered into my early and later life: picking fruit, climbing, trimming, and raking leaves.  In fact, a prize family tradition was an annual hike on our nearby hillsides to select a cedar tree for Christmas (we were depression children); we enjoyed cutting it, bringing the prize home, inhaling the aroma that would fill our humble domain, and preparing the stand on which it would be decorated by the women of the house (distinct tasks were apportioned).  It was also the boys' task to take the shotgun and blast down some mistletoe to hang in unsuspecting parts of the living quarters.  The decorated tree became a center place with its blinking lights and its tin "icicles" that were recycled from year to year as were the cotton, the top star, and the "made in Japan" ornaments.  Under this beautiful tree were placed humble gifts to be opened in a family circle on Christmas Eve.    

      Age takes its toll on good things and distant memories.  Upon maturing I have had my doubts about Christmas trees and have even said so to our late editor, Sally Ramsdell, who had a Christmas tree farm and sales program for a period.  As my sense of resource conservation grows I have come to see cutting live trees for decorations as wasteful.  Digging them up and replanting in one's yard after Christmas and as shade or wind breaks has value.  However, an artificial tree allows reuse and less expenditure of materials in annual selections and purchase -- and then disposing of the dried waste material in January. 

      I have now reached a third stage running from affirmation of the humble cutting of a Christmas tree to a neutral stance, and now in older age to a more cantankerous approach.  Is the Germanic Christmas tree too reminiscent of the practice of worshiping the god Thor?  Didn't Boniface hack down the last grand tree god and must there be some sort of residual respect verging on adoration in the bones of descendants who saw the tree fall?  I am now convinced that Christmas trees are residual or vestigial remnants of a long forgotten paganism that comes to light with the coming of God among our own at Christmas -- and it is deserving of being rooted out.   Am I right about this, or is this a way of transforming older pagan practices?    

      Prayer: Lord, give us the grace to see the beauty of trees left in the woods; help us find the Lord in our hearts and homes and know where to look for both. 







Point of contact: Sandstone over Limestone at Cascade Caverns
December hike in Carter County, KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 11, 2011    Advent Joy Comes with Good News 

          The spirit of the Lord God has been given to me,

            for God has anointed me.

          God has sent me to bring good news to the poor,

            to bind up hearts that are broken;

            to proclaim liberty to captives,

            Freedom to those in prison... (Isaiah 61:1)    

      Lighten up!  The Light of the world is coming.  This is Gaudete Sunday, a time to rejoice.  We show our enthusiasm for what must still be done in 2011 and our preparations for next year.  Yes, the shortening days are almost over, and a new growing season will soon begin.  Advent is a time of careful preparation for the coming of the Lord.  Actually we know that this is a time of Good News through deeds -- the actual coming of the Word of God, while Pentecost ushers Good News through spreading the word, which is preparing others for their own advent season.  Our Advent efforts this month involve practical solutions: dispensing charity, giving practical gifts, cleaning up environmental disasters, placing prisoners in community service, and making practical plans for 2012.  Late autumn is time to prepare for a slower winter ahead. 

      We rejoice in knowing that we participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God that has already begun in our midst.  We recognize imperfect human actions as cause of the damage done to our world; we are energized to participate and to constantly give thanks for what God has given us.  We look back to the first coming of Christ; we look ahead to his second coming.  Seeing all advent as a gift, and responsibility flowing from that gift, converts our hearts at this moment to ever deeper gratitude.  No, we are not satisfied with present world conditions, but rather satisfied that we are called to assist in renewing a broken world.  That means we are to be grateful for being called to be agents of change. 

      We focus our attention on Jesus, the liberator, who goes before us. Amid the terrorist bombs and financial downturns there is a spirit of freedom stirring in the hearts of people everywhere.  This should be affirmed with enthusiasm (the God within).  This enthusiasm expressed by those of faith can be contagious and reach out to the homeless, unemployed, those in prisons and hospices, the elderly, the homebound, and those overlooked in any way.  All are invited to take part in this liberation.  The world need not remain captive to those of military or financial power; all may be able to share in what God has meant for us to participate in the commons.  To proclaim a favorable year of the Lord is to say we all are to share in generating justice and not leave this to the graces of the elite.   

      Prayer: Lord, make us the steady people who testify to your goodness, but being thankful always for gifts given.  In these hard times, keep us from being dispirited by injustice all around and help us to be constantly enthusiastic in spreading the Good News to others, helping them be transformed into agents of joy and change. 







Snow squall
Snow squall, Rowan Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 12, 2011  Celebrate International Mountain Day 

      We can celebrate International Mountain Day in several ways: go on an international tour of another mountain range far from home and spend some time sightseeing; take a virtual trip through viewing a film involving mountain settings; hike into the nearby mountain range or spend an afternoon picnicking; read about distant mountains or review photos of mountains on another continent; or just appreciate highlands that one lives near (though not everyone lives near mountains).   

      May I make a suggestion?  Obtain a copy (instructions on our website - click here) of my co-authored Mountain Moments, with well over two- hundred color photographs by Warren Brunner, a Berea-based elder with a skilled eye for capturing good photos.  Several who have copies of the book tell about sitting and just paging through and viewing the many scenes (and interspersed texts), and finding that the mountain-related pictures ease their tensions. 

      Reflection from Mountain Moments: 

           Mountains have strengths and weaknesses.  High places mean power and haughty might, but those seeking such places will be brought low on the Day of the Lord.  The Appalachian range is hardly lofty by younger mountain standards (Rockies, Himalayas, and Andes), since at best this range reaches a mile above sea level.  Being older and wiser, the Appalachians teach us that all creatures need to bow low before the majesty of God.  The irony is that in doing so, one receives a more elevated state for, through humility, we discover our true worth.  Note that we speak in spiritual terms, for we do not advocate mountain top removal nor the physical cutting of each of us down to a legless state.  In finding our true condition we also find our true elevated state, for ultimately humility breeds honesty, and in truth rests justice for all.  

      We have appreciated the many modes that we discover in our lives when considering mountains near or far. The beautiful is just one thing; others could include: the majesty, power, grandeur, loftiness, challenge, mystery, haunting attractiveness, and sheer energy contained in our association with mountains.  I always see mountains as the hands of Earth lifted to the heavens in prayer of praise -- and that these have been such for billions of years before the advent of we human mortals on or near their surface.  We are the agents announcing the Good News of what they so silently portend.  They have been here longer and deserve our utmost respect. To reshape them for the pure greed of getting the coal cheaply is a desecration.  Unfortunately, the leveling of mountains for quick energy is a global problem, and thus makes this International Mountain Day all the more worthy of our attention.  

      Prayer: Lord, help us to celebrate the great gift of mountains, and to draw from them the utter emotions that assist our own practice of respect for your creation. 









A hurried shopper.
 (*photo credit)

December 13, 2011 Consumer Addiction and Former Addicts

     Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.

                                (Matthew 19:30)

      Jesus spends much of his public ministry curing the sick.  When the ill seek curing, Jesus obliges.  However, he does so in an effort to elicit faith from the sick person.  Total integrity of the human person is his goal, and it is ours as well.  For Jesus, forgiving sins is a cherished goal, and the forgiven person -- whether he or she be Peter or Paul or Mary Magdalene -- joins the ranks of disciples in a full sense.  In following Jesus, we help restore others to integrity and bring wholeness to our troubled world, and do so in part by asking them to help save our wounded Earth through the use of their own talents and experience. 

      Sickness, recognized in its full reality, can become an opportunity to assist others (as we mentioned in various reflections) through understanding the power of God at work within the condition of an illness that cannot be easily remedied.  By offering their sufferings with and for others, the ill enter into the healing ministry through joining in Christ's sufferings on Calvary.  For the willing sufferer, the ones obedient to God's will, their respective conditions become platforms for helping to change the world -- care-giving while on the sick bed. 

      How about going a step farther?  We have come to believe that social addiction afflicts the consumers of the world.  What about those who overcome some addiction and want to go beyond mere staying away from substance abuse (e.g., Alcoholic Anonymous)? Is it possible to direct attention to enlisting those on the road to recovery?  Do builders of a new integrity have their own Hippocratic Oath: we must do all in our power to heal others who suffer from the addictions of which I was once plagued?  My own concern about tobacco users is a case in point. 

      Those who used substances such as tobacco or "consumer products" in an unconscious manner, and then were able through one or other method to break the spell, now have an experience worth sharing.  Our culture is addicted to consumer purchases and even thinks it is patriotic to do so.  Scaling back and publicly down-sizing in a deliberative manner allows the ones so blessed to have an ability to assist others on a one-by-one basis.  Through their own public interest work they can bring about structural change -- to bring the material profit-motivated consumer with insatiable urges to his or her senses.   

      The challenge to be compassionate and caring while also hard-nosed and effective is immense.  Agents of change have a unique role to play: they discover new means of success when profound change of motivation is called forth; and they ensure that they remain on the road to recovery and integrity.

      Prayer: Lord, let us see the ex-addict as a humble person worthy of being enlisted to tackle the consumer culture of our age. 








First Frost in Kentucky
Ice on leaves.
 (*photo credit)

December 14, 2011       Heaven and Earth Kiss 

               Send victory like dew, you heavens,

                and let the clouds rain it down.

               Let the earth open

                for salvation to spring up.

               Let deliverance, too, bud forth

                which, I YHWH, shall create.  (Isaiah 45:8) 

      Dew is a gentle substance; it seems to come down from above and yet condenses down below.  We look up to "the Heavens" and in a loose terminology regard this earthly phenomenon as coming from an outside source.  Dew arrives quietly at night when we are asleep; it settles down on our landscape.  When we stroll in the dew-covered grass as the sun is rising we see it sparkle as though a million jewels.  We turn in one direction and these are rubies, in another and sapphires, and emeralds in another.  They are truly God's creature blessings that will soon evaporate. And when dew wets the plants in dry times, it helps give them life as well.

      The Isaiah scripture passage is appealing for here we see the coming down from heaven -- that eternal leap of the Word; and at the same time the springing up from our evolutionary roots through a long lineage that comes to Mary in the House of David.  Incarnation is that coming together of God and humanity into a single blessed person who is the center of the universe -- Jesus Christ.  Herein rests the mystery of the Incarnation. 

      Incarnation is the meeting of Heaven and Earth; this is a work of God's mercy and care.  God walks again with the people and divine power and love is manifest.  Creation is a blessing that includes a vast array of gifts that are now visible in their entirety through this coming together, this sacred moment of history.  The coming together is momentous, and Mary at the center of this incarnation event, is the one who shows her passivity in humility (that is, knowing her greatness and blessings but understanding that these are totally from God); she also shows her activity through the balanced response that involves her total consent to do whatever God so desires.  She presents the double blessing to all humankind of what is given and recognized as given. 

      The kiss of Heaven and Earth gives way to the new-born who is the savior of the world.  The offspring, springs up in human ways, is born, cries, grows, learns to walk and run and read and write, acquires a trade, makes friends, reflects on the Scriptures, and departs on his mission.  This tiny vulnerable offspring becomes "Light of the World" with heavenly grace and an Earth-tanned appearance.  Salvation comes in deliverance that is initiated at the Incarnation event -- an event where and when Heaven meets Earth. 

      Prayer: We see the meeting of God and all of us as a sacred event worth memorializing -- and so we prepare to celebrate Christmas throughout this Advent season.  







Straight to the top
A view through the treetops.
 (*photo credit)

December 15, 2011 Environmental Protection is THE Pro-life Issue  

      Originally my intent was to say that environmental protection is "A" pro-life issue, but several recent developments may lead us to take a more dramatic stance, and change "A" to "THE": 

      1. The politicizing of pro-environmental stances now reaches a point where there is a fundamentally new situation.  The first Earth Day in 1970 was politically neutral; today environment is regarded as a strongly Democratic partisan position.  The issue has not changed but rather aggressive anti-environmental thinking is now proclaimed by an increasing number of legislators and presidential candidates who call themselves "pro-life."   

      2. A false concern has been fostered by corporations and the same promotion agencies with a small group of scientists-under-hire who cast aspersions on the medical research showing smoking as cancer-causing -- and the three decades of manufactured doubts offered tobacco companies the time to make tens of billions of dollars of profit.  History repeats itself with oil companies and so-called doubts are being artificially inserted into political debate. 

     3. The fate of our Earth hangs in balance, since the United States has had a leadership role in resource utilization and consumption; the vast emerging world strives to imitate our consumer practices.  Unfortunately, what we do, they want to do as well.  Chinese and Indians and others want nothing more than to consume with the impunity of wealthy Americans -- and our Earth cannot handle the processing and pollution that results from such consumption. If we fail to impose curbs, then the spasm of consumption will grow all the greater and ruin our Earth. 

      4. The potential bridge exists where what is pro-life will bring together all people of good will.  This desire to protect and enhance life calls for a new solidarity that strengthens our resolve to save our wounded Earth at this critical time.  Life in all its forms is threatened, whether that be plant or animal or human.  Fostering quality of life in all its forms demands a basic respect for this "seamless garment," an interdependent web of life.

      5. A teaching moment involves the inadvertent quibbling over whether it is "a" or "the" pro-life issue.  Critics will see the connection and even argue that this is a legitimate issue worth distinguishing. Death under any form is death, and so is life -- even Earth vitality.  Destruction of life on this planet is a form of addiction that must be addressed immediately with an urgency affecting people throughout the world.  Allowing resource consumption to go uncontrolled causes everyone to suffer.  

      Prayer: Lord, give us courage to become public on this issue and to champion the vitality of our Earth -- a pro-life issue. 








Naked Moon
Moon on a cold, blustery December night.
 (*photo credit)

December 16, 2011  Downsizing Expectations and Radical Sharing  

     Downsizing of lifestyle has become a necessity for many families in these troubled financial times.  For instance, cutbacks have occurred in such luxuries as restaurant meals, computer games, TV subscriptions, extended vacations.  The degree of the downsize usually depends on the financial condition of the individual or family.  We have heard some have to decide between cigarettes and food, or TV and basic utilities, or even severe limitations on food budgets and rent.  Amazingly, even with the good will it takes individuals and couples to make such sacrifices, it is often assumed that this is a temporary situation and that better times will soon come.  In such cases, expectations are NOT downsized. 

      Our Earthhealing efforts for affluent people to simplify their lifestyles ought to be a permanent downsizing commitment; this is done for the sake of the human community sharing a commons.  People can fast before a medical test and be back on the routine food diet in a day; they can fail to drive while sick or during a bad weather incident.  The temporary inconvenience is ordinary and can be handled with grace and good will on the part of many.  However, the material expectations of many go unchanged; with prosperity comes more affluent lifestyles, and children are taught this early by parents, schools, and even prosperity churches.   

      Is the effort to refrain from downsizing worth it?  The ones who seek to keep up with the neighbors can find out in sincere conversation that neighbors are trying to keep up with you -- and that the panic to remain or become prosperous is a false expectation that denies peace of soul, proper sleep, and undue stress on all members of both families.  The challenge is to accept downsizing as a more permanent and sustainable condition of our community and nation, and to see this as somehow as a worthwhile goal to which all ought to aspire.  Yes, it is patriotic to downsize, for thus the rest of the struggling world has a better chance of sharing in resources now consumed (with accompanying pollution) by a privileged and powerful wealthy society.   

      We need not stop here.  Downsizing can also be seen as a benefit, and thus the permanence is something to be praised.  In downsizing, gas-guzzling vehicles are forsaken because they cost more to maintain and operate, second homes are a burden to keep, longer vacations can be a bother when too numerous, home-cooking surpasses costly restaurants in creativity and flavor, and extra electronic devices are unnecessary and quite intrusive in the blessedness of rest time.  All in all, the stress to make much money becomes a consuming interest that says volumes to youngsters and even causes them stress in their educational and recreational programs.  Why be the greatest in a worldly sense?  Why not downsize and spread the word and thus challenge the system in the process?  

      Prayer: Lord, give us the courage to see a downsized life as a goal worth doing, encouraging, preaching, and demanding. 








Kentucky Burgoo - $14
A hearty serving of Kentucky burgoo.
(* photo by Mack Male, Creative Commons)

December 17, 2011   Burgoo: The Kentucky Food Specialty

      Someone asked me, what does "Kentucky burgoo" tastes like?  Oddly enough, there is no distinct taste for authentic burgoo in the Kentucky tradition, for we are people who do not always like precise recipes and we enjoy variation in tastes.  However, specific recipes can be found on the Internet, but these are well doctored and quite different from the original stew, the name of which originated in nautical slang and referred to an oatmeal porridge; eighteenth century Kentucky pioneers meant by burgoo a community salted and possibly spicy stew that contained meat (preferably wild game) and vegetables (edible vegetation and herbs at hand).  A secret in old fashion burgoo is the long cooking time (usually a day) and the open air cooking pot.  This demands a concession -- twenty-first century environmental consciousness dictates replacing open fire with a crockpot; this closed crockpot also cuts cooking time considerably (to about eight hours).  

     Most modern burgoo consists of combinations of pork, chuck beef roast, and chicken (generally legs) and various meat stocks.  However, the secret to modern authentic Kentucky burgoo is "wild game," which means hunting it yourself or contacting hunters who will donate their in-season catch.  This may be rabbits, squirrel, geese, deer, elk, and turkey or even more exotic raccoon or possum.  Some of these involve the Commonwealth's thinning of overstocked game that is allowed at various prescribed hunting seasons.  I have access to venison (deer) and use this as the basic ingredient since I neither hunt nor buy meat.  For meat variety, I would prefer wild boar but they are harder to obtain in these parts, and so I allow the substitution of donated pork that my brother Charlie has cured. When venison or pork sausage is used, little browning is needed, but for chunky meat portions this ought to be done before cutting into manageable pieces for cooking. 

      Normally, modern burgoo includes the following vegetables: fresh peppers, potatoes (preferably new ones), onions, carrots, celery, along with canned tomatoes and frozen corn and lima beans.  My favorite vegetables are always those at hand during the growing season.  One can add okra but that was probably not in early pioneer burgoo.  I like carrots, onions, peppers, winter squash, and tomatoes (when in season).  Others that are easy to add include collards, kale, or cabbage and just about any other member of the brassica family.  Some would say to slice larger vegetables, but the better way after a period of long cooking is to keep them as whole as possible, and thus they retain their texture.  Cut up the cabbage.  I add dried potato flakes to thicken the liquid stew.  If meat has insufficient fat content, one ought to add cooking oil.

     Add salt, herbs, and spices according to taste and creativity.  I grow garlic, basil, parsley, dill, and various peppers, but I leave out spicy peppers and offer eaters a bottle of hot sauce.

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to cook native foods and to relish ways of giving satisfaction to those who enjoy good simple foods. 









I will miss this tree when I move...
Early morning view of a December snow.
 (*photo credit)

December 18, 2011           House of David 

      This is the last Sunday of Advent.  We have moved through this season from seeing Jesus at the end of his public life telling us to always be watchful (Mark 13: 33-37), to the beginning of that ministry, when he is pointed out by John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8), and that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1: 6-8, 19-28).  Now we move further back to before Christ's birth (Luke 1:26-38) and approach the time of his full coming into the world. We are preparing for the coming of the Lord and see the total sweep of history leading up to the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us -- the heart of our Christmas celebration.  The Angel Gabriel says that God will give this new-born the throne of his father David.  

      Jesus is from the House of David, that overlooked shepherd boy, the slayer of Goliath, the harpist entertaining the distraught King Saul, the anointed at an early age, the unifier of Israel, the establisher of Jerusalem as a seat of power, the psalmist, prophet, aging monarch, and ultimately saint.  Now if he can get the last ranking after all that, why can't many others as well?  The Scriptures in the Old Testament gives David more narrative space than any other figure.  He was destined to start the House of David with the assurance that "your house and your kingdom will endure forever."  The "house" is more than his son Solomon's temple; David's structure is a human family with a Messiah descendant.  

      All families have bright and dark sides, and David's was no exception.  The Holy Book pulls no punches and offers no excuses.  David, the innocent youth, moved through life and sinned seriously by taking Uriah's wife to himself and then having Uriah placed on the front lines and killed in battle.  When confronted by the prophet Nathan as to the one who stole the little lamb from the poor person, David was righteously incensed and wanted to bring justice to bear; however, Nathan's words, "You are the one," struck David so deeply that he repented his terrible deed and in his sincere repentance again found favor with God -- for God is always forgiving.  Even more so, Solomon, son of that sinful event, was kingly heir and builder of the grand temple of the Lord.   

      The human house with a divine destiny manifests its strengths and weaknesses.  That tells us again what we as Church are always called to do and be, namely, to acknowledge misdeeds and to seek sincere repentance so that our merciful God shows us favor.  David confessed; so should we as we prepare for the coming of the Messiah in our own lives.  In some divine way, we are invited as adopted sons and daughters into the House of David.  We are favored by this special invitation through our baptism; we are God's people; we need to learn from our past mistakes and experiences and show true repentance.  Then the Christmas spirit fills our hearts and the mystery of Word-made-flesh dwelling among us fills our spiritual life and inspires us to act in a truly godly manner.    

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to see your mercy with our family and community, and to always act according to gifts given to us.










Kentucky Ice Storm, 2009
Oak leaf, encased with ice.
 (*photo credit)

December 19, 2011  When Being Called Radical Is a Compliment 

      Some with hesitancy and considering this an accusation say, "You sound like a radical."  My only answer is, "I hope so."  To go along with a dysfunctional system and not set oneself apart is not a wise thing to do in this age.  We must be radical if we hold true to our convictions.  "Radical" from the Latin word "radix" means root; we must get to the root of our environmental crisis and seek to find solutions based on proven ways and resources at hand. 

      Having worked on environmental issues for over four decades, it has become apparent to me that problems are not solved on ad hoc or individual cases one-by-one.  Individual actions are good and sometimes needed but not perfect; cleaning up roadside garbage does not address the consumption of convenience waste containers with no deposit for return and no regulatory oversight for paying litter fines; nor is wasting electricity at enormous levels going to be fully addressed at the level of individual conservation efforts -- though that is needed also.  We must accept a social or collective blame and confront real problems for what they are. 

      A radical stance is not a popular one.  Some advise that taking such a stance will not get donations from wealthy donors nor votes from the electorate.  True enough!  However, ought we to be looking beyond money and votes to say what needs to be done?  We must change a material profit-motivated system that allows some to be super-rich and influence the election of policymakers and ignore the essential needs of America's 46 million and the entire world's poor.  We must see that an economy based on consumer spending for "wants" and not "needs" is unhealthy and unsustainable -- and material appetites are insatiable.  Being "Radical" goes a step farther than exposing a misleading practice; corrective measures must be made at all levels: locally, we continue conservationist measures; regionally, we work for policy changes in policies dealing with blatant waste; nationally, we monitor and press Congress to live up to environmental and social justice obligations; globally, we work to change systems through use of the Internet for communicating, educating, and organizing others. 

      Lastly, a radical position may be proposed based on longer term success and commitment.  If we believe in the future, then we trust that what we say today will be brought into effect in a future that may most likely be beyond our lifetimes.  Roots are nurtured for trees that take years to grow.  Accepting the risk of being misunderstood or marginalized has a certain prophetic quality.  "You mean you do not mind that others scoff at what you say?"  The answer is that we are pained, mainly because others do not understand and join forces in our efforts.  Perhaps we trust too much in the ultimate outcome to let the threat of opposition dampen what needs to be said here and now. 

      Prayer: Lord, in awaiting your coming we listen to the exhortations of John the Baptist.  We are to make straight the way, and this takes effort at road-building -- a radical proposition.








A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), claiming a spot above backyard birdfeeder.
 (*photo credit)

December 20, 2011      Must We Feed the Birds? 

      Why feed birds: I was always resolving to initiate a birdfeeding project since in 1998 fellow Jesuit Jim Grummer suggested that bird feeding is legitimate, as so much of natural habitat has been disturbed.  A good convincing argument, and so an artificial assist to our wintering wildlife ought to be encouraged.  Furthermore, birds are under stress from predators such as diseases and cats and hawks.  Birds have a hard time in our winter landscape, and even though we hope for milder weather, birds still must endure what is lying just ahead, and that could mean a harsher winter season.  Vulnerable wildlife, our companions in stressful times, do raise our spirits and entertain the shut-ins and birdwatchers of all ages (see "Become Friends with Wintering Birds" 12/14/09).  None of us like to see other beings suffer, and thus hungry birds need assistance at this time. 

      How to start: First we need a bird-feeding device, but this depends on which birds we intend to feed and other factors: how do we protect the feed from squirrels, raccoons and other critters wanting to devour bird feed as well?  Do we have answers for the domestic cat problems?  Do we make the feeder close enough to observe and yet removed from clashes with windows?  Do we give birds a clear vision so that they can avoid the hawks overhead?  Project Feederwatch (see Internet) indicates just how complex the overall feeding process is: type and location of feeders, selection of proper bird seeds, protection of feed against weather, and how to protect birds from window crashes, cats, and from scavengers.   

      Which ones to favor: We have a wide variety of wintering birds, some of which can handle their winter needs such as owls, crows, hawks, and wild geese (the last could go further south except they are opportunistic in taking advantage of corn fields with unharvested grain).  The more favored for our largess include the colorful cardinals and bluejays -- quite aggressive in their own right -- and the smaller chickadees and wrens and songbirds that dart about in winter time, their twitters and tweets always lifting our spirits.  Most often, the species of birds will be somewhat combative and yet, with sufficient variety of feed, all can eventually get their fair share.

      I have noted that the holly trees outside my window have red berries that in mid-winter are suddenly attacked by a swarm of starlings, and the fruit consumed in a matter of minutes.  The same holds true for the persimmon (though fruitless this year) tree, that on a winter day is subject to a flock of hungry attackers.  Granted, this occurs throughout our region, but is there enough fruitful habitat for all the hungry bird species?  Maybe feeding the birds is a good 2012 environmental resolution.   

      Prayer: Lord, allow us to be sensitive to wildlife in need and to do something about it.  Help us encourage those who are in the feeding practice and expand the process in these hungry times. 








 (*photo credit)

December 21, 2011   Oil Spill Clean-up Using Wool  

       This is Forefather's Day, and it's a good bet that many Americans and others care less.  However, our ancestors give us many good lessons in taking responsibility and we owe respect through taking advice.  One salient feature in their collective wisdom is their practical conservation ethic: if you make a mess you have the responsibility to clean it up.  No descendant wants to clean up the thoughtless practices of a previous generation -- and one simple solution is to clean up right after accidents occur. 

     Simple cleanups may take time and patience.  In this past summer when Hurricane Lee came hurling ashore on the Gulf Coast, tar balls appeared on the beaches, remnants of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spill in April, 2010.  News accounts mentioned that the BP Oil Company sent workers along the shore to pick up what could be found of these congealed globs; so much for the manual cleanup that had taken millions of dollars and many booms and buckets and tons of oil dispersants.  At times in our modern era, it seems the more we try to become convenient, the more it takes to repair the unforeseen resulting inconveniences.  Maybe our forebears would tell us something about messes left after cutting woods, damning waterways, or waging wars.  

      One simple environmental cleanup technology for oil spills that is bound to become more popular with the expanding ocean oil drilling: wool.  Yes, it is found that wool strips can mop up oil spill on the surface of water bodies.  Italian researches suggest that since wool "repels water and absorbs oil" it is a natural and efficient mop for the oil spills.  Tecnomeccanica Biellese, an Italian engineering firm has found that course wool can absorb ten times its own weight of oil at a time.  Like a wood fabric that can be cleaned, these woolen mopping strips laid down on the water surface can be brought into mother ships with water dripping off and the attached oil collected for commercial use.  The oil-free woolen material can be reused over and over. Is the Wool Recycle Eco System method really so?  Time, experience, and future spills will tell. 

      Commercial cleanup applications depend on costs.  The patent holders estimate that ten tons of wool can recover one-thousand tons of oil and that cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon spill with its estimated five million barrels of oil would have been doable if the application would have been made at the start, namely by the use of about seven thousand tons of wool (Reference: The Economist Technology Quarterly, September 3, 2011, p. 10).  Actually, producing that much natural product would take a great number of sheep but at least it would not be a petroleum-based cleanup material -- and a godsend to the sheep growers throughout the world.  Our forefathers would glory in clean up practice more than oil drilling in our vulnerable water bodies. 

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to accept all forms of assistance when accidents occur; inspire us to take corrective measures.   







Morning sunrise on cold Kentucky December day.
 (*photo credit)

December 22, 2011     Welcome the Winter Solstice

      Each year we pause to reflect on whether any good things can happen on the shortest day of the year, and always think of one or other, and find them worth noting in a whimsical way: 

      * Being the shortest day of the year makes it the longest night of rest for all who need to relax; 

      * Remember all the Christmas errands that must be done before Sunday; 

     * At least the shortening of the daylight has ended and for the next six months we can look
        forward to ever-lengthening days;

      * Darkness comes soon and leaves late but that makes us welcome tomorrow's sunrise
        with extra vigor and delight;

      * Short days are like shortening lives that occur with everyone starting right after birth,
        and with each year of Winter Solstices we commit ourselves to making the best of
        mortal life's ever-shortening span;

      * Longest nights make us aware of the need to read and reflect in a less hindered manner in the upcoming winter, so compose a list of what ought to be achieved in this new season; 

      * Somehow the long nocturnal season of darkness (coyote, screech owl, wolf, hound dogs, etc.) makes night sounds clearer, more distinct, and ever more haunting; 

      * Welcome a new growing season, for the roots of the apple trees will come to life in a few weeks; 

      * Winter scenes are now approaching with the expectations of new-fallen snow and
        extended winter walks;

      * Get out the snow removal equipment and any sanding material for the driveways; 

      * Blazing home fireplaces feel more comforting than at any other time of the year on the
         longest night;

      * And no other day offers so much challenge to so many -- but isn't that what life is all about
         on this shortest day?

      Prayer: Lord, we trust in you as days will soon lengthen and an eternity stretches before us. 





Elegant patterns emerge in frozen Kentucky creek.
 (*photo credit)

December 23, 2011 Prisoners, Community Service, and Economics

      At Christmas my thoughts turn to prisoners who crave to be home for the holidays, family people who hurt and know their loved ones hurt as well.  This year my federal contract for serving prisoners has just expired, and travel difficulties have made me choose not to renew it.  Why be the oldest government contractor?  Virtually the only benefit (I loved serving prisoners) is being free to speak about current prison practices.  The jailing process is expensive, one hundred dollars plus per day to lodge these poor souls, and results in long-term personal and social detrimental effects.  Is this a truly restorative or transformative approach to justice, or just a way of placating vindictive voters?  Should non-violent offenders be imprisoned at a terrible taxpayer expense?  Reference: Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America, The New Press, 2011. 

      Retributive justice: Prisoners find this season the hardest time to endure prison life, to comfort fellow prisoners, and to be nice to guards.  Even the compassionate prison personnel (and there are many who are not hardened) find it difficult to deal with prisoners in such seasons of exterior joy and happiness.  While the razor wire of the Manchester prisons shines with a "holiday sparkle" especially at Christmas, still joy is hard to find within.  Many realize that their own loved ones suffer (often expressed through phone calls) by their absence, and that adds to the "holiday pain."  The ones needing correction are needed by others. 

      Restorative justice: Offenders agree that restoring right balance is needed in the damaged society; however, community service is an excellent option that can be a win-win situation.  How about allowing these prisoners to work as local volunteers for non-profit groups (not the low-wage prison manufacturing operations)?  The entire community (offender, offended, and general public) can all benefit from such service.  Healing is given a productive opportunity to be achieved (see June 4, 2008).  Ernie Muhly has pointed out that asking offenders to be more accountable in community is a two-way street; we must ask communities to be more responsible in how they treat offenders, and this obligates them to discover ways to help convicts to reintegrate into society. 

      Community Service can lead to restorative justice.  The ex-prisoner is now able to prove him or herself and to exhibit responsibility in doing good; the agency gets assistance; a genuine liberation has occurred.  The correctional justice system could pay minimum wage for a forty-hour week and still save 60% or more of the incarcerating cost of each prisoner on community service release.  The monitoring and paperwork could be the responsibility of the non-profit system, where the prisoner works -- and its only expense.  The total community benefits from the prisoner and the genuine needs being met by the prisoner changes his or her life.   

      Prayer: Lord, as we near Christmas, help us earnestly promote the liberation of prisoners for the benefit of everyone. 








Unidentified bract
Sighting on a Christmas Eve hike.
 (*photo credit)

December 24, 2011  Make Christmas Special for Young and Old 

      Tomorrow comes but once every seven or so years: a double feast -- Sunday and Christmas.  How do we make this double feast most enjoyable to all, the young and the old, without tiring too much each group?  Yes, for those with energy and mobility it is to be a challenging day: a time to shout, sing, discuss, joke, carol, laugh with, cheer games, and meet another's vocal tones with near matching repertoire.  Activity seems the order of the day, but this usually leaves some elders exhausted.  Granted, we like to think of Christmas with all the thrills and starry-eyed enthusiasm that we had early in life when Santa visited, gifts were opened, and all the lights were aglow.  Hopefully, the day will include a time of worship for the coming of the King of Kings -- and some prayerful blessings before a major meal. Also hopefully this is not a feast only for children; it is also a feast for elders -- Joseph, Wise Men, shepherds (generally all adults in that era). 

      A Day of the Young: This calls forth extra energy by the young, parents of young children, those who want to entertain the young, and those who are old but think they are young.  Youthful enthusiasm gives a different flavor to Christmas than that of older folks.  Some churches make it an important part of the eve of this day to have a young people's choir, a play, and skit where the young recite the Christmas narrative with toddlers dressed up as shepherds and angels, and an older child playing Mary cuddling a real live "cherub" who is friendly enough not to cry at this occasion.  All in all, youthful Christmas reflection comes through action whether it be preparing the house, caroling, or just preparing for actions to come tomorrow.  They should pray for suitable weather.

     A Day for the Elders: Yes, older folks are involved in cooking, gift-wrapping, decorating, driving, parking, greeting, visiting, eating, watching TV, and playing with the new games of the young ones.  However, the day must be more -- a day of praying in different ways depending on one's age and inclinations.  Ought it be a day of the Lord with a quiet moment, a getaway to a corner, a shrine, a wooded walk, a garden apart from others?  Take this precious savored moment and thank God for all the gifts given, but especially the gift of Jesus Christ.  Make this reflection into a prayer of thanksgiving for peace, family health, and life itself.   

      Christmas is a feast for everyone of every race, male and female, sick and healthy, young and old.  Young people sing and recite words written for them -- and they often do it well.  Mature people can give a moment of reflection and say "Thank you, Lord." Let this night before Christmas become a sacred time for all.   

      Prayer: Lord our God, with the birth of your Son, your glory breaks on the world.  Through the night hours of a darkened earth, we people watch for the coming of your Son.  As we wait, give us a foretaste of the joy that you will grant us when Christ's glory fills the Earth with a fullness we celebrate in many ways. 









New Albany shale creekbed
Muted tones of winter, beauty to inspire.
 (*photo credit)

December 25, 2011  Current Knowledge Extends Our Christmas Blessing 

      Sun and moon, bless the Lord; Stars of heaven bless the Lord;

      Nights and days, bless the Lord; Ice and snow bless the Lord;

      ... and on and on... (Daniel 3: 63-ff.)  

      On this and all major feasts the prayer of the church includes this oft-quoted Old Testament passage recalling the praise of God by all creatures.  Since the praise of all is given constantly, it still reaches a crescendo at the historic moment when the Incarnate Word came to dwell among us.  However, this crescendo continues in our own time, when newly acquired scientific knowledge increases and our wealth of information tells all the greater the extent of praise to the Lord:

      All countless galaxies stretching for billions of light years, bless the Lord;

      Millions of stars in each galaxy of different hues and shapes, bless the Lord;

      Super-nova that flashes now or did 2000 years ago at Christ's birth, bless the Lord;

      Land masses laced with rivers, lakes, swamps, deserts, and plains, bless the Lord;

      Tectonic plates moving, slipping, sliding and causing earthquakes and volcanoes, bless the Lord;

      Vast oceans with waves, currents, storms and hurricanes, and subtle affects on global
       climate, bless the Lord;

      Viruses, bacteria, and all minute creatures that inhabit land, sea and air, bless the Lord;

      Plants of a multitude of types and those that have evolved for millions of years, bless the Lord;

      Trees of forests holding soil and moisture and furnishing fruit, nuts, and wood, bless the Lord;

      Mammals and all land animals that frequented the land, sea, and air for countless ages,
      bless the Lord; 

      Whales and other sea creatures with their migrations, way of communication, and unique
      habits, bless the Lord;

      Birds of the air of a thousand species with unique plumage and beautiful and varied
      songs, bless the Lord;

      Human beings of cultures barely tapped and with thousands of strange sounding tongues,
      bless the Lord;

      Intellects seeing ways for all people to communicate in instant messaging and enormous
      volume of content, bless the Lord;

      Health care providers, who are foremost in innovative techniques that add to quality of life,
      bless the Lord;

      People seeking peace and freedom, bless the Lord; and

      Priests and people, who chant God's praises in solemn and joyful liturgical celebration,
      bless the Lord.

     A blessed Christmas to all our readers! 

      Prayer: God of power and life, glory of all who believe in you, fill the expectant world with your splendor and show the nations the light of your truth -- Jesus Christ.  









The Kentucky River
The Kentucky River.
 (*photo credit)

December 26, 2011       Time to Rest and Time to Act                                                 

    Like Jesus who had to break away from a needed rest period to attend to those who sought him, we are sometimes required to give up free time for pressing matters.  We have to balance the Judeo-Christian emphasis on Sabbath and other rest periods, and the need to assist others when they urgently seek help.  We need time to pray, and offer the blessings of Christmas to all with whom we come in contact.  As 2011 draws to a close, we thank God for all gifts given during this year of challenges. 

      In Israel, I brought a milk glass from the previous meal down to breakfast and was met at the door by someone who was visibly shaken.  I did not realize that the dish could not be included in the current meal by the rules of the religiously observant boarding place.  Were the small rules too overly important to the hosts or was there something I was culturally missing?  These are culinary and culturally established rules and at first sight seem to be somewhat oppressive, and yet they were meant to show respect for the Lord.  Do we have a respect for all religious traditions?   

      We read in the Gospels that Jesus was engaged enough to do what had to be done and yet free enough to take time off to pray.  He teaches us to be innovative --even when our rest sometimes must be sacrificed.  That requires a freedom to move as the Spirit directs us.  Jesus, Incarnate Word and Lord of the Sabbath, is not enslaved by the Sabbath.  He freely goes off to rest and have spiritual refreshment, not only on days required but at given times in his ministry.  He encourages his disciples to go and rest after their emotionally expended "high."  Yet he is free to become active when called upon by the spiritually hungry people. 

     We acquire the art of physical, emotional and spiritual balance, a condition that is of importance to those we serve.  We become a "Christmas event" or coming of the Lord to those who have difficulty finding themselves.  As models for others to follow and as healers of our wounded Earth, we discover when to rest and when to be active; we realize the importance of Sabbaths and annual feasts and occasional jubilees and celebrations in our lives.  We are to master our personal demands, for these may differ from those of companions and loved ones.  We ought to be free enough to take care of ourselves and also rest for the sake of others. 

     Do I make the time to rest, or do I see life as more and more work?  Am I a workaholic in a world where the average time spent working has increased during the past decade while the labor-saving devices should have shortened work time?  Do I pack more and more in shorter periods of time?  Do I appreciate the rhythm of rest and activity?  Am I free to judge correctly when a rest period must be shortened or abandoned for the sake of helping others?  Do I know when to start and when to stop?  Am I well-balanced? 

      Prayer: Lord, teach us to rest when we ought and work when we ought, and to know how to be at ease with each.










A sycamore leaf in an early winter snow.
 (*photo credit)

December 27, 2011  Extend Seasonal Warmth and Comfort into 2012

       As a kid we probably asked at some point in the holidays -- "Why can't this last all year?"  And parents rolled their eyes!  They may have then asked themselves how to answer that one.  Feasting is our special seasonal holiday but do not the Jewish, Hindi, Sikh, and Moslem people have feasts as well?  Isn't this time the season of African-American Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1), which celebrates family, community and culture?  Special festive periods for all groups are times of joy, warmth, family togetherness, and love.  Perhaps all of us ought to discover how we can extend celebration not of our single feast but the plethora of other feasts throughout the year. 

      Personal care: To feast well means we must feel well enough to do so.  Maybe we ought to resolve for the new year to select recreation practices that require less energy and resources (hiking, walking, biking) as opposed to high intensity and noisy forms (motor boating, joy riding, extensive auto travel).  Another approach is on the opposite end of the activity spectrum.  Maybe our comfort and joy can be better expressed through more rest and sleep and less work.  Either more or less activity may ensure a physical balance that carries us through the year. 

      Local actions: Our works can have immense significance if offered up to the Lord in a kindly manner.  Do we enclose ourselves into our own cocoon and forget the broader neighborhood that our cheerfulness helps solidify?  Do we find others in need and respond as the Good Samaritan to individuals who hurt?  Do we extend our respect and warmth to the birds and squirrels and the plants and herbs in the garden and nearby grounds?  Respect is extensive for it is not reserved only for single individuals who hurt, but to entire classes of flora and fauna, e.g., trees, birds.   

      Atmosphere in Our Work: When we extend our outreach to every person we make "local" a broader action.  This reflection was first drafted on September 10th, the feast day of the Jesuit brother, Blessed Francis Garate of Spain (1857-1929).  For the last forty years of his life, Brother Francis was the doorkeeper at the University College in Deusto (Bilbao).  The astounding thing is that he was known for his constant fidelity, hard work, cheerfulness, charity, and courtesy.  He treated all, young and old, notable and beggar in exactly the same manner and always showed great joy in his work.  The impression he made on so many was a legend and yet his was a humble work. 

      Reflection on How We Do.  Let's make this extended warmth and joy a New Year's resolution.  Okay, we do not always keep resolutions and often cannot remember specifics at the end of January.  However, if this becomes an ongoing theme of a daily review, we may do better.  Godspeed and good luck!  

      Prayer: Lord, give us the true sense of this holiday spirit, and make it part of our everyday life.









A chimney rock
A mighty chimney rock. Bell Co., KY.
 (*photo credit)

December 28, 2011    The Power of Suffering with Jesus 

      It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.

                       (Colossians 1:24) 

     On the feast of the Holy Innocents we consider the seemingly senseless suffering of so many people in this troubled world.  The innocents suffer, but why?  However we gradually become aware that a law of Conservation of Suffering occurs: no effort is lost; all goes to building up the New Heaven and New Earth.  We affirm this belief through our Earth healing ministry and authentic efforts we undertake.  Our work is not "make work;" it is meant to be real healing; it includes selfless caregiving by unsung heroes and heroines; it fosters advances of medical technologies (e.g., today, leprosy can be easily treated in early stages); it encourages healers to use all resources at his or her disposal to alleviate the condition of the sick, and to follow in Jesus' footsteps. 

      The healing ministry extends beyond being directed towards the sufferers and includes the active willing offering of sufferers themselves.  Whether these be at home or in a hospital, hospice, or senior citizen's home, they have something positive to offer to the world.  Far from being a "burden" on society, an untapped spiritual resource yearns to be utilized.  This needs to be communicated to sufferers; they may offer what they endure with Jesus for the sake of others who need healing.  Through willing suffering one's faith can grow.  People realize that God's power can act within a cheerful giver -- and all the more through the offering of suffering people.  Ever so gradually we are aware that no suffering is ever lost; all will ultimately lead to God's greater glory.   

      While limited in mobility, at least sufferers can offer their impoverishment in union with Jesus who suffers on the Cross -- an act that extends in space and time.  Calvary is ongoing and makes good the present suffering as an immediate energy source for global healing -- something localized that is transformed into a global action.  We can offer our sufferings along with Mary, John, and the holy women at the foot of the cross.  We are one with the Lord and in that saving moment we enter into Christ's work of salvation through extending Calvary in space and time in each Liturgy.   I make a point to ask shut-ins to offer one or more days of their lives each week so that others search and read our "Daily Reflections," and linger awhile.  The willingness to do so makes the praying person enter into a single global action as part of salvation history.  Faith involves the power in this union of sacrifice.  Proclaim Good News to others, so that their sufferings need not be lost; ensure them that God works through their willingness.  Make this a precious moment to do great deeds -- a fulfilling of suffering at its very source. 

  Prayer: Lord, help us to convince the innocents of this world that by offering their sufferings they help heal our wounded Earth.









mas alla
Mas alla (beyond)...
 (*photo credit)

December 29, 2011        365 Ways to Prepare Oatmeal 

    In an effort to share my food budget with a Indian orphan, I have heard comments that my food variety is compromised -- due to paucity of commercial items on a limited budget.  Thus, for the past three years I have attempted to vary soups (2009) and salads (2010) each day (see the Special Issues on the above website).  This year I have just completed varying oatmeal dishes without losing my enthusiasm for that versatile grain.  At the end of the year I have achieved 365 varieties with two days to spare.  Please see "Special Issues" on this website. 

     Actually, oatmeal variations like those of soups and salads were not exhausted in the single year span.  Oatmeal has much use in its being mixed with other dishes such as legumes or stews, but only a few of these are noted here.  Essentially the oatmeal variation feat was achieved by varying the ingredients used in three basic types of preparations: cooked oatmeal as cereal with fruit, nut or berry variation; mixing of oatmeal within scrambled eggs with mainly vegetable variations but did include some nuts and berries: and mixing oatmeal as part of pancake mix with variations of fruit, berries and/or nuts).  The various liquids or sweeteners were not included in variation, nor the other basic ingredients in pancake mix.   

      I only used Save-a-Lot Food's Old fashioned Rollin' Oats for all the meal preparations.  I liked the texture of this basic form of oatmeal and found the quicker cooked beyond my favor.  Yes, some people use "metal cut" oatmeal and other varieties but I am unsure why they are superior, nor was I willing to do the added work of preparing them.  The oatmeal I selected could be prepared in two minutes in the microwave, and the egg and pancake preparations with virtually no extra time.  

      Are there other areas of potential food variation at low costs?  One could suggest principal meals, deserts, baked products, or vinegar-related applications, and see whether 365 variations of these exist as well.  Yes, of course they do in all four of the suggested categories, but some of these require cooking and baking skills that are time-consuming for someone who likes fast meals.  I do not buy meat products and am at present somewhat limited on eating deserts, and so a new 2012 foods project is emerging as problematic.  However, the use of herbal vinegar (wine, apple, etc.) stands out as a challenging possibility.  The options are related to what simple people can do easily with low-cost accessible foods.  These may include a wide variety of meat (if donated), fish, or vegetarian meals that one could eat for lunch or a main meal.  The goal is to incorporate a specific type of vinegar that will give a unique flavor and is worth mentioning to others.  Again, suggestions are most welcome from our viewers.

      Prayer: Lord, enrich our tastes for spirit and matter; help us be creative in using the simple but essential things of life. 










Spirobolid Millipede, Narceus americanus
Spirobolid millipede, Narceus americanus. 
 (*photo credit)

December 30, 2011    Domestic Planning and Fidelity 

      On Holy Family Day it is good for us to review the past year and prepare for the next one.  Many at the domestic level have a genuine sense of gratitude for surviving 2011 and they have a hope that 2012 will be better.  This combination of past review and future hope becomes the present moment, a NOW of our lives; when we focus on the place of our residence where things have happened and hopes are to be fulfilled this becomes the HERE of our lives, a locus of our attention and action; when we realize that we must work together to be successful, this becomes the WE working as a cooperative body.  Knowing the time, place and community situation affords the best possibility for healing our troubled Earth and its inhabitants at the domestic and at broader levels of our society. 

      Fidelity.  Past achievements are measured but we realize that the measuring devices are not perfect nor are the ones doing the measuring.  Some of this judgment is left to the Lord.  In wrapping up the year we ask pardon for our mishaps and failings and know they are fully forgiven.  Faithfulness involves willingness to look back thoroughly and find there a forgiving God of mercy and love, a faithful God.  We pray to keep our feet planted firmly on the ground of where we have come from, for that helps us obtain the orientation, the HERE, from where we continue our journey into the future.  Our past experiences become the history of caution and enthusiasm with which we prepare for our future. 

      Planning.  Do some people exist from day-to-day and never plan anything ahead?  Do some glory in this informality about tomorrow or the distant future?  However, this a low quality of life and a lack of sensitivity for the welfare of a community and a domestic setting as well.  Yes, some who have terminal illness focus more on the importance of today.  In such cases, we need to give some space for even the Lord says as much at times.  However, watchfulness, stewardship, and astute planning are asked of every responsible citizen and all who must be homemakers in some degree in order to know the NOW.  Planning adds to our physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial, and environmental health and balance. 

      Living today. Our past and future come together within the local and domestic scene.  Domestic means home and the word "eco" for ecology and economy indicate the order in our lives that include experience from the past and careful planning for the future.  To see ourselves where we have come from and to hope for a future requires prayer today.  We depend on God's help for we simply cannot do it all ourselves, no matter how hard we plan in rational ways.  The unanticipated will throw some plans awry -- but not all.  Even if we do not survive 2012, our hope is that WE will continue or at least those who survive at the domestic scene.  Our prayers are down-to-earth and a promise of fulfillment. 

      Prayer: Lord, help us to look back without stumbling backward; help us look forward without totally wandering; help us to be able to do both as we trust in our journey with you. 







Work in progress as butterfly visits flower.
(*photo by Sally Ramsdell)

December 31, 2011  Eagles and Butterflies: Sally Ramsdell

     On this last day of the year we want to celebrate the memory of Sally Ramsdell, our Earthhealing team member, who passed away on August 22nd (notice found on that day).  This entire December set of monthly reflections has been illustrated by her wonderful photographic treasure.  We suggested to her to submit some of these wildlife masterpieces to the National Wildlife Foundation for 2012 calendar consideration; however, her battle with cancer in the summer took her attention -- except to do editing for us virtually to the end.

      On the last day of 2010, we memorialized a second Earthhealing team member, Kristin Johannsen, who died on October 7, 2010.  A third 2011 deceased editor, Mary Davis, was honored on her 75th birthday on September 30th.  Three in ten months!  We miss them.  

                    Eagles and Butterflies

         I suspect eagles admire butterflies,

             their grace, busyness, and flying style,

            and their ease to know what's down below. 


        I suspect butterflies admire eagles

             their majesty, grandeur, watchfulness,

             they soar and try to reach up high. 

        And I doubt whether they ever eat each other;

             you see, butterflies are herbivorous

             and eagles aim for larger game.


           You understand Sally was our golden eagle,

              ferreting flaws that we overlooked,

              watching what had begun as simply fun. 

           Sally, also admired the butterflies --

              their color, beauty, their charm,            

             Captured in photos we never tire to admire. 

          Sally soars on above us like an eagle;

             she flits about like a butterfly, a

             social soul with ease who strives to please. 

           The moment Sally died her friend looked up,

               a soaring raptor's shadow passed above;

               a second shadow passed by, a butterfly.          

                                      Al Fritsch

      Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for good people like Sally, Mary, and Kristin.  Those who recently enriched our lives so much are now enriching the heavenly court and helping us still in many ways.

Copyright © 2011 Earth Healing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Earth Healing team:
Albert J. Fritsch, Director
Charlie Fritsch
Janet Powell
Mark Spencer

Excerpts from the JERUSALEM BIBLE, copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd. and Doubleday & Company, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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