Dogs and Paradise

In last Sunday’s comic section, the “Mutts” cartoon by Patrick McDonnell featured a person bundled up out in the snow with their dog. The pup had a little sweater on and was bounding gleefully through the snow with a stick in their mouth. The quote attributed to Milan Kundera is “Dogs are our link to paradise.” This and more is true about the love and joy that dogs selflessly give to their humans. We are their pack.

I am better with dogs, and often even a more balanced human because of their steadfast love and positive energy. They know when I need more care and surround me in a protective shield. I adore them and need them, perhaps as much or more than they need me, depending on the day or night. I grieve deeply and for a long time after I have to tell my beloved pup that I will see her/him later when it is my time to cross the bridge, knowing they will all be there to lead me over and continue to guide me on my next journey. Those who wait across the bridge, running around again and playing ball (Lucy), still watch over their pack…their family, along with their feline pack members who have joined them along the way.

To live with dogs as companions gives one a glimpse of how humans should live and treat one another. Dogs love unconditionally and may bark at each other, which is how they communicate. They do not hold grudges, even against evil and hateful humans who harm them. They are smart and know what we need, when we need whatever it is that we need, or they think we need, like a personal escort everywhere in our own homes. Humans obviously have no idea how to do anything on their own, let alone safely, so they protect us from ourselves and others, like the weekly trash and recycle collection trucks. They let us know the “threat level” then go back about their business, which is usually a nap because they are all seniors, but never underestimate their ability to guard our home and property. Nothing moves without notice.

Dogs pick us up when we are down, or even when we do not yet know we are down; they make sure we are okay. They are the best snuggle buddies and make sure we are safe when we sleep. They rouse us by washing our faces and perhaps ears that somehow got dirty overnight whilst sleeping. They look at us with love and gift us with more of the same. They miss us while they watch us work outside in the yard when their “help” is not needed, often for their own safety. They get excited to take us for walks in the neighborhood, but especially at the park where there are fewer rules about where they may wander.

Dogs are perfect examples of unconditional love and foster scenarios of paradise for the ones they love, even their cats. Dogs are companions. Dogs are guardians. Dogs demonstrate love. Dogs give humans a glimpse into what could indeed be a version of paradise on Earth Mother. For the love of Dog.

Welcome Back to My Consistent Inconsistency

Last week our world greeted 2022 and year three of humankind’s global pandemic. Our NYE was spent simply at home with our furry family members, a nice dinner, fun movies, and little fanfare. It was great!

There are several things that I want to improve this year, and many are repeat offenders. One thing I want to do better again is maintain some type of consistency regarding my blog posts. I have a goal in mind but do not want to disappoint anyone, including myself, with the ideal that I have dropped into my head. I am not going to beat myself up anymore, or at least try not to when I do not achieve my self-imposed goals. Does that remind you, dear reader, of anyone you happen to know intimately? The point is we try to do our best and some days getting up and dressed is an achievement and that is okay. Realize it!

Our new year here in the Mid-Atlantic began fairly benignly, having benefited from a seasonably warm period. Then the weather-makers realized that it is indeed winter so on Monday we were gifted with a beautiful dose of snow. I bundled up out on our screened porch to “listen” to the serene quiet beauty of a gentle snowstorm. Once it stopped snowing, I took my Nikon outside and snapped some pictures before nature’s picturesque white scene began to fade. There is something about being outside in general but also during and after a fresh snow that cleanses one’s entire being. So get out there!

I send blessings with hope of health and peace to become the norm among the various diverse peoples on our planet, and for healing our own nation. Let’s get back to humanity and being decent to each other as we really are one race, the human one with many unique cultures that enrich our experience on Earth Mother. I hope the human collective learns to tread gently upon our gift of Earth that we may all survive. Take time out for yourself to contemplate how you are living and sustaining our precious resources. Do it!

Cleansing Symphony of Rain

I frequently review my journal entries. The one I ran across today and wanted to share is about listening to the melodies of rain in her gentle purity, and within one’s surroundings. I love sitting on our screened porch that overlooks our back yard and property, ensconced in the sanctity that is our own grove.

Woke up to the day’s cleansing rain. The birds are mostly quiet although I can hear some, including the chatty one [who I later learned is a Carolina Wren], through the sounds of the rain hitting various objects.
The rainwater is flowing through our yard along its usual route but also within the small riverbeds I dug this week. I will rock these in to provide some guided flow and protect our yard from further erosion. I can watch its distinct flow and know where to help it along its natural path.
The rain, if we listen, creates its own symphony. Pinging as it hits our aluminum patio table. Thudding with a deeper tone as it falls upon our woodpile tarp and grill cover. Sounding like a gently running brook as it nourishes and replenishes Earth Mother, and our precious and sacred water supplies of the Chesapeake Bay watersheds that sustain life. There is naught a breeze, so rain is coming straight down to Earth Mother and her beings.
Our birdbath was still full from the last rain and I had the honor, pleasure of watching a robin fully soak Friday when aerating our yard. Robin rolled around as I crouched and remained still, not wanting to spoil the moment and interrupt its
[her] cleansing and nourishment.

If humans make and/or take the time to listen to the sounds of nature, we can learn more about living than most books can teach, and certainly reflect on our own actions and perhaps become better humans…if we listen and observe. Time away from the constant blur of multimedia and social media is critical to our well-being and survival as a human race. A human race that has become hurried, impatiently demanding everything now, acting with disregard and disrespect to other humans and the creatures of nature – all of whom are living beings with whom humans share this planet called Earth. So, carve yourself out time to sit, listen quietly and observe the wonders of our living Earth. Breathe them into your mind’s eye and replenish your own body, mind and soul; be cleansed from the detritus of humans.

The Trees Are Crying

I have not written anything on my blog since late May and my entries have been sporadic since late spring hit and with it the abundance of yard work. Then I flew back out west to help my family. Life has been busy for us but that is okay.

Nearby…too close…developers have cut/are cutting down all of the trees, clearing yet another area for more stores and townhomes. This work began while I was out west with my family and I asked my wife what is going on when she picked me up from BWI. It is not only going to add to our traffic backlog but create worse results for our friends in nature. They are destroying more of Earth Mother’s habitat for her living beings outside of the human race. Too many people do not comprehend how important the trees are to all life on our planet that has been gifted to us and that we are destroying them on a daily basis. I doubt that the construction workers with their big machines asked the trees or said even a quick prayer of thanks and apology before they felled them all, clearing the path for the real estate developers. The industry of humans involves wanting more and more, well beyond what each of us really needs. We waste our natural resources that provide for our daily lives. Trees are the filters of our planet. They give us oxygen.

In my daily somewhat random readings in Earth Prayers, the pages opened this morning to a poem that is relevant to the disturbing mass felling of trees in the section entitled “Healing the Whole.” We must be better stewards of Earth.

Let the Trees be consulted
before you take any action
every time you breathe in
thank a tree
let treeroots crack parking lots
at the world bank headquarters
let loggers be druids
specially trained and rewarded
to sacrifice trees at auspicious times
let carpenters be master artisans
let lumber be treasured like gold
let chainsaws be played like saxophones
let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees
give police and criminals
a shovel and a thousand seedlings
let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns
let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods
walk don’t drive
stop reading newspapers
stop writing poetry
squat under a tree
and tell stories

John Wright, in Earth Prayers from Around the World – 365 Prayers. Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, ed. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1991), 105.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is one of the best books I have read, ever. Dr. Kimmerer’s writing and teachings had me hooked at the “Preface.” I learned about sweetgrass, which we burn along with sage for cleansing our home and other spaces and take for granted. I learned about this wonderful gift from Earth Mother and her other gifts that we take and use, sadly often more than we need, then fail to replace them to replenish Nature and ensure there is enough for everyone to share. Every section seamlessly weaves into the next and every chapter offers a lesson from Nature deftly interwoven with indigenous knowledge and the science of botany, which is fascinating. Dr. Kimmerer’s sharing of indigenous knowledge and her writing encourages reflection.

Per my usual, I tabbed chapters or pages that perhaps imparted even deeper lessons. The chapter on “Allegiance to Gratitude” reveals the Thanksgiving Address with which the kids of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of the Onondaga Nation begin and end their school week. I am a Veteran, career US Army Chief Warrant Officer and am loyal to our Republic; however, I believe that if all kids were to learn at least some portions of the Thanksgiving Address they would grow into humans who would take action to care for and nurture Earth Mother and tend to our beloved Republic and her citizens. I share below one such verse that the kids know by heart and recite in their native language.

Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013), 107.

A theme that ran throughout Braiding Sweetgrass is that of asking Earth Mother for permission to take what we need and only what we need and what is given to us. I think of the abundance of waste humans create that includes food and other natural resources, and things we buy that we think we must have then toss aside later…parts of the unnecessary clutter that disturbs our spaces and our lives. This applies to the gifts of Nature and other commodities. The human race as a collective is and hoarding species and not a responsible steward of our planet and her resources. Dr. Kimmerer lists the guidelines of what may constitute an Honorable Harvest.

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a wat that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 183.

Braiding Sweetgrass is so much more than the tidbits I shared here. Check it out for yourself. I am growing better from its reading. I look forward to reading Dr. Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss, which she wrote prior to this beautiful book. In the meantime, let us learn to value the cherishments that Nature is willing to share as long as we ask permission.

Earth Day 2021…Reflections

Greetings on this Earth Day, 22 April 2021. For many of us, every day is Earth Day and we do our best to make a positive impact to repair and sustain Earth Mother, she who gives us all everything we need to survive and thrive. Some of us are fortunate to have plenty while others live and struggle daily worrying from where their next meal will come, how they will pay their bills, if they will ever have a place to call home besides our cities’ shelters and areas where tents or other makeshift structures are allowed. Citizens and governments can work together to bridge the chasm between those to have and those who have not the physical means to survive, based on one’s circumstances.

While discussing issues about disparity and racism with a friend, she highlighted that we are all of one race, the human race. It had crossed my mind throughout the years as to why I had to always select a color, among other characteristics that really should not matter, except for perhaps a census or medical records. Progressing the global mindset from categorizing humans into different, even disparate races, a practice that began in ancient times, to realize and act like we are the human collective would be a good start. Realizing that everyone, and by this I mean humans, flora, fauna, the lives in our waters, forests, and so on, embody an energy and are living beings would be another step to honoring all life on our Earth and working to repair the damage and envision a better hope for sustainment for generations to come. Our ancestors surely did not foresee the widespread destruction, intentional in cases, that is killing our Earth Mother. Education about the resources that sustain all life should be at the forefront of discussions regarding reparations, yes I said reparations to Earth Mother for bad human behavior that is killing us all. We have been endowed with plenty yet while our needs are met, we want more…more things that do not benefit our lives but end up in the landfills once they no longer seem to meet our temporary desires. This excess of garbage we have the means to stop.

I do not want to be all gloom and doom on any day. My wife Kathy and I are supporting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation tomorrow by volunteering at Clagett Farm to pot saplings. The weather is supposed to be nice so it should be a good experience working in the soil, helping to secure the future of our forests. I have always loved trees and their energy that gives life to everyone and provides shelter for so many beings. As a Junior Scout, I worked hard to sell cookies so I could attend Meadow Mountain Ranch summer camp in my Colorado Rockies. The mountains and woods called to me, then and now. I read a poem last night when perusing a book this friend recommended that connected with my soul.

My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.

Earth cure me. Earth receive my woe. Rock
strengthen me. Rock receive my weakness. Rain
wash my sadness away. Rain receive my doubt.
Sun make sweet my song. Sun receive the anger
from my heart.

Nancy Wood, Unnamed Poem under “Healing the Whole,” in Earth Prayers from Around the World – 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1991), 97.

Our Favorite Earth-Friendly Companies and Products

We do our best to help the environment and others in need. Last year my Subaru Drive magazine included information about environmentally-positive companies. We noted three that seemed to be right up our alley, tried their products, liked them, and are regular customers. Below are three of our new go-to businesses for household necessities.

Bee’s Wrap – It is no surprise that this company is based in Vermont. Say goodbye to plastic wrap! We have numerous Bee’s Wraps of various sizes and they work great and are reusable. Check out their story at https://www.beeswrap.com/

Stasher – Goodbye ziploc bags! Stashers come in multiple sizes and colors and we just added four of the newest travel stashers with carabiners to our growing collection. We have given them to family as gifts. They are awesome. Check them out at https://www.stasherbag.com/.

Who Gives a Crap – This company makes bamboo and recycled paper products – toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, and dream cloths. Having tried both types of TP we recommend the bamboo in the black, gold and white wrapping although the colorful wrapping is fun. All shipping and wrapping materials can be recycled! They build toilets for people across the globe who do not have this luxury sanitation device. Check them out at https://us.whogivesacrap.org/.

We have quite the lovable and needy pack of four-legged family members so we need a lot of cleaning and other supplies, so we try to keep it as earth-friendly as possible. Many we make ourselves, to include laundry soap and rinse. We recycle and compost everything that we can but still have a least one trash bag weekly. Our favorite bags for daily litter box cleaning, and pup poop patrol are: EcoLeo Cat Litter Waste Poop Bags – X-Large, Compostable, Plastic-Free, Thick, Leak Proof, Pet/Dog Poo Bags with Easy-Tie Handles,10.5 x 18.5 inch, (120-Count). They fit the scoops that hold grocery bags, which take forever to degrade. I buy these on Amazon. For the tall kitchen bags I prefer Hippo Sak Tall Kitchen Bags Made with Recycled Ocean Plastic, 45 Count after reading reviews of similar items and bought these. I also buy these on Amazon.

If each of us does something it adds up to saving our planet, her natural resources and species, to include the human race, which is the most destructive animal residing on Earth Mother. As a collective, humans have the knowledge to save our planet and precious resources that are vital to the survival of all living things and the entire life cycle. So be it.

Most Americans are Immigrants…and Could Be the ‘Other’

The only Native Americans in the CONUS are the American Indians, and OCONUS are the Aboriginal peoples of the Hawaiian Islands (Kanaka Maoli), and the Indigenous peoples of Alaska (Inuit). Most Americans are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came to America to begin new lives. Sadly, American immigrants include descendants with ancestors who were brought to America against their will as victims of the global industries of slavery and/or human trafficking.  Without the uniqueness of all American peoples whose ancestors are from everywhere, America would not be what She is, and our collective lives would lack diverse enrichment. We are a young Republic of immigrants.

Ancient Europeans’ (and others’) History has restated itself here in America, uplifting the supremacy of white patriarchal society, whilst suppressing and targeting those perceived as lesser beings, the ‘Other’. In particular, hate Crimes against the ‘Other’ continue to tear the fabric of America. These are our fellow human beings and hate crimes must be addressed from the grassroots local levels through state to national organizations and government. Why is it so difficult for too many people to simply be good humans and realize that we are a human collective on our beloved Earth Mother together, each of us living, loving and trying to do our best in life? When an individual or group behaves in a racist manner and conducts violent acts against innocent beings of the same race…the human race…it impacts everyone whether they realize it or not. It makes the oppressors, who are cowards, feel powerful when they attack vulnerable people. America has fallen into ignominy as a segregated and divisive Republic, one who was a pillar of promise for all peoples. We the People can restore promise.

My Afghan Girl Who Touched My Heart

One of my favorite photos from my US Army career is one that a friend took of me with the young Afghan girl who came to me the handful of times I got to visit Kabul, Afghanistan whilst deployed there in 2002. I came to call her “my” Afghan girl about whom my daughter asked me, to include would I have adopted her if that had been possible, gifting her a sister. She was about my daughter Alex’s age at the time. I would have brought her home if I could have, and of course asked her politely if we could take a photo together. Even in war-torn Afghanistan, I got the feeling that she was a gentle and kind little soul.

I gave her $1 or $2 for new shoes on my last visit and told her to keep it hidden from her father and brothers. I knew they would take it from her and she needed new shoes, probably sandals. She had a scar on her pretty face – probably abuse/torture from male family members. Perhaps it was a scar of the fighting. I will never know but often wonder how she is doing now and if she is even still alive. She sought me out as a female figure. I respected that and in my own way, came to care for her although I never knew her name and never asked, to protect her.

We never know who, when, or where someone may place a indelible imprint on our hearts and minds, one that we live with good, bad, or indifferent. My meeting of this young girl was a positive experience, one that left love in my heart amongst so much bad. I can only hope that she is doing well and thriving on her own accord, in her own right. She is one of too many little girls around the world that do not get a fair chance to excel and live in their own rights…to be free of oppression. We must lift them up and continually hope that the lives of such innocents will get better.

Audre Lorde

I completed Sister Outsider – Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. She delivers to the reader honest and raw truths with nothing held back. I appreciate her bold, intelligent approach to speaking out for black women and others who society perceives as the ‘other,’ and has throughout the history of most of the world. I consider myself to be aware and receptive. Ms. Lorde broadened my insight and opened my mind and heart to the degree and methods of racism and classicism that fellow humans enact against people of color. The issues surrounding women rights and inequality and loving women resonate with me; however, her powerful words about the struggles against and among black women disturb me. They disturb me in the sense that with my mere glimpse into black society I cannot fathom how our fellow beings of color have struggled and continue to struggle in this day and age with racism and classicism. It is disgraceful. It is inexcusable. It is cowardly…those who feel insignificant harbor the need to exert some sort of power over others who they perceive as essentially lesser beings, when in actuality the oppressors are the lesser beings.

Within many of my books I read, I take notes and/or highlight and earmark chapters/pages that contain passages that leap from the paper into my being. In her paper entitled “Age, Rage, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” which was delivered at the Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College, April 1980, Ms. Lorde succinctly defines conditional racism/classicism, a global issue.

MUCH OF WESTERN EUROPEAN history conditions us to see human differences in simplistic opposition to each other: dominant/subordinate, good/bad, up/down, superior/inferior. In a society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, there must always be some group of people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to feel surplus, to occupy the place of the dehumanized inferior. Within this society, that group is made up of Black and Third World people, working-class people, older people, and women.

Audre Lorde, “Age, Rage, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” in Sister Outsider – Essays and Speeches (1984; repr., New York: Crossing Press, 2007), 114.

Audre Lorde was a brave and intelligent woman – a poet, a writer, an activist, a black, lesbian, feminist with two children whose partner was a white woman. Now think about that for even just a second, if you can about how society to include her own, and I mean her black society and sisters, considered her and her family. Yes…surely as the ‘other’ – bad, down, inferior – less worthy than the good, up, superior oppressors. Who do we think we are as a society of such rich global culture to sit in judgment of our fellow humankind, people who are trying to make a life for themselves? We are supposed to be in this thing called life together because it is not easy for everyone and I would argue that even the wealthy who grew up knowing nothing about poverty, racism, classicism, bias and more, have indeed had times of unhappiness. Happiness is inside each of us and we hold up and are held up by our fellow humans, or put down by them. It is a choice, to be a good human, and it is not…should not be so difficult to understand.

Thank you Audre Lorde for helping me view the world through an enhanced, clearer lens. I am a good human but like all of us, not without faults, and when pitted against those I perceive to be bad humans I can run into trouble. Thinkers like you help me to seek what is inside and really study myself and others, to be a better human and continue to improve myself.

Note: The photo of Audre Lorde from the Poetry Foundation website, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/audre-lorde, accessed 9 March 2021.