I recently read Cultivating Delight – A Natural History of My Garden by Diane Ackerman. It was a delightful read and went well beyond her extensive knowledge of gardening and into insights on human nature. She takes the reader on an adventure through her garden and the wonderful mysteries of nature by season. I learned quite a lot from this book and will be referring back to her insights and wisdom as time allows. Her detailed descriptions made me feel as if I had been transported into the environment that she was describing. I bought my copy used through Abe Books, my personal go-to resource for small booksellers. I highly recommend Cultivating Delight to gardeners and lovers of our natural world.
Wondercide – Great for Yard, Garden, Pets, You
We have completed an annual cycle of using products from this company. The bottom line is they work, and work well, and are gentle on our environment, our plants and yard, our pets, and us.
For the yard, we did not buy each individual product (e.g. bug, flea & tick, etc) but opted to work with the Outdoor Pest Control Concentrate for Yard and Garden in the 32 oz size. It worked great and was effective against ticks, which were a problem in 2020. We have never seen fleas…knock on wood. It also helped mitigate those nasty stink bugs we have in the Mid-Atlantic. It did not take them out 100% but it sure knocked them down to a minimum. I will hit their favorite areas again as the weather turns warmer and they start coming out; earlier than I did last spring. Now that we know this works, I will order the larger bottle of concentrate. I mix it up in a one gallon sprayer that we bought at our local ACE store. I do recommend to not use this product with another at the same time. I did and damaged the leaves on some of our garden and yard plants, which recovered for the most part. Something in the competing products did not play well, although we use mostly natural products with the OMRI/Bonide seal.
We bought two different scents (cedarwood and rosemary) of the Flea and Tick Spray for Pets & Home in the 16 oz bottles, and the same two scents in the Insect Repellent for Kids & Family. If we forget “ours” we simply use those for the pups if we head out to a park where we either suspect or know there is an active tick and potential flea presence. The only issue we have had is the little pump action on the human bottles gets stuck and I keep forgetting to mention that on their website to see if there is a fix. At any rate these are good, safe products that really do work.
The latest set of products is the Ear Wash and Treatment Kit for Dogs and Cats. Again, these work and smell great. I groom our dogs, which includes their ears. pedis, and haircuts for the Bichons. Yes, we have complete spa days together, one-on-one time that I enjoy with them. Naturally, they are not a replacement for prescription products in the event of an ear infection, which our Poochon has been susceptible to since he was a puppy. However, they work well and are not greasy.
Here is their website – https://www.wondercide.com/. I am signed up for their e-mails and they have a new Fruit Fly Trap that I want to order and try. We have been using ACV in little traps we bought, which has kind of been working but not as well as desired. I will add one to my shopping list. While all homes and yards are different, we found these products to be effective even in our very humid Maryland.
Mahabarata – A Modern Retelling
For some reason I saw this book and felt compelled to read it, which derailed me from my other studies. That is okay. I finally finished reading this modern and easily digestible abridged version of the epic Vedic poem/story and religious text that British poet Carole Satyamurti deftly composed in blank verse. It was very interesting and enlightening, with numerous similarities to other religions and/or belief systems. This tragic story is told through the ancient bard Ugrashravas as relayed to brahmin seers. I will highlight only three thoughts. In no way can I do justice to this work; however, do recommend it as an easily read and followed poem/story all 888 pages no including the Forward and Preface, which are important. I would also recommend going to the back and reading the Afterword, which further defines the extent of Ms. Satyamurti’s work. I consider it is worth keeping handy among my other religious texts and studies. I include only page numbers behind quotations and the pagination is the same in the hard and soft cover versions. I initially discovered it at our local library then Kathy bought me a used copy in December that I can tab and write in, which already has some helpful highlights!
In the Prologue, the assertion that runs throughout the story, is that “‘What the poem contains concerning dharma, pursuit of wealth, pleasure, and final freedom, may be found elsewhere. But you can be sure that what it does not contain is found nowhere.'” (6) I consider this to be an interesting and relevant assertion when one compares some of the foundational characteristics found within Mahabarata to other beliefs. Placing to the side the three monotheistic religions of the book, are there essentially X numbers of god/desses, stories, teachings, etc, parts of which bards, seers, scholars of various religions/beliefs have adopted to their own belief systems? This is plausible and one among several regions in which such an adaptation occurred was Roman Gaul and Britain where god/desses were different yet the same, in simplistic terms. The beginning assertion is found verbatim in the Epilogue (843), and elsewhere…the beginning and the end meet in the middle of the war.
In the Prologue the gods are summoned by Brahma based on a please from Earth due to the ensuing havoc that the human world was spreading throughout her world. Earth pleaded with Brahma and bowing before him said “‘O Lord Brahma, I am overwhelmed by so much wickedness. I shall be destroyed!'” Brahma told all of the gods that “‘Earth is in danger. You must each be born as humans, using a portion of yourselves to endow a human being with god-like power. Employ your attributes as you see fit. Pitch your strength against the demonic forces which threaten to engulf the entire earth.'” (9) While this story begins with concern the Earth Mother, the bulk is about brutal warfare and fulfilling one’s duties in their current life based on the karmic influences on actions and outcomes. Modern warfare is brutal but we have learned that ancient warfare, especially that on a grand scale was truly unrelenting with its extraordinary vicious acts. The gods in Mahabarata bestowed upon men, some who were conceived by the gods, celestial weapons of mass destruction, to use modern terminology. I have to wonder that mas destruction of a dynasty of humankind was not exactly what Earth Mother envisioned as the end state of Brahma’s guidance to the gods.
Is there such a thing as karma? I believe nothing is mere coincidence yet really dislike the adage the everything happens for a reason, blah and so on, and so it goes says Voltaire in Candide. I can put in a working context the idea of karma shaping one’s life through actions in past lives and souls (good and evil) being “reborn” into new forms. How else can one explain the continual downward spiral of humankind and its treatment of all living beings, destruction of Earth, Waters, everything? In The Teaching Continues, after the massacre of two dynasties, Bhishma exonerates the royal cousins of blame saying instead that “A person’s karma shapes their life and death. And, beyond that, there is the cosmic plan, the grand design constructed by the gods.” (747)
I would be interested in what other Folk know and understand about the Vedic pantheon. I am primarily Celtic but have aspects of Greek and Egyptian, and am quite interested in the Vedic.
Satyamurti, Carole. Mahabarata – A Modern Retelling. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2015.
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 consultedJohn 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.
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
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.Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 183.
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.
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.
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. RockNancy 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.
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.
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.