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.

The Old Oak

I saw you today
Like the first time
Like an old friend
I had passed by
My attention elsewhere
Walking our pups
Staying on the path
But not today
We were restless
Needed to see you
Yet more…

First I met your friend
You know her
With the twin trunks
I touched her
Caught in her trance
Then I turned
And saw you
Late winter glory
Magnificent strength
Awed by your beauty
Touched by your strength
When I felt you
Shared your heartbeat
Grounded in your roots…

I needed you
To meet you today
To feel your presence
To sit in silence
Feel your energy
Feel your love
Listen to you
You are old
You are wise
You are strong
I had shields up
Yet felt your flow
Glimpsed your glow
Lessons another day
I shall return
Connect then
On your invite
Come sit beneath you
In the safety of your arms
In the comfort of your heartbeat
Grounded in your roots…


The Celtic Circle of Belonging

The title of this post is taken from a section heading in Anam Cara – A Celtic Book of Wisdom by John O’Donohue. Since my childhood I have been one with nature and animals. Later in life I finally learned why and am now on the path of my choice…my destiny. My ancestors are the Celtic peoples – primarily Irish, Scottish, and Belgic. Belgic Gaul was comprised of tribes of Celtic peoples, Celtic-Germanic, and those who were primarily German, and the Belgic Gauls were among the first to immigrate from Continental Europe to the southeast coast of Britain when fleeing Belgic Gaul during Caesar’s conquest of Gallia Belgica (58-55 BCE).1 The Celtic peoples have a rich history that is replete with the arts and scholarly learning, among other traits, honoring of Earth Mother, the waters, trees and sacred spaces via which to practice rituals to honor our ancestors and God/desses.

The Celtic circle around the well, the fire and the tree is something I have understood at my core but was unable to realize fully due to various life circumstances. It is in this circle that I can now be comfortable, belong…be myself and understand who I am and have always been. I find the freedom to practice what I believe and continue to take action to protect our natural resources. I share a poem from a book my Irish Mom gave me and that I also gave to my own daughter – Anam Cara-A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

I arise today
through the strength of heaven, light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

(Trans. Kuno Meyr)

John O’Donohue, Anam Cara – A Book of Celtic Wisdom (1997; repr. New York: Perennial, 2004), 3-4.

The citation is from my recent MA thesis entitled Revisiting Ancient Celtic Civilization: Threat to Roman Supremacy? (Oct 2020)
1 Maureen Carroll, Romans, Celts & Germans: The German Provinces of Rome (Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2001), 17; Julius Caesar, The Gallic War 2.4/Edwards, 93-95; ed. Jeffrey Henderson, trans. H. J. Edwards (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1917).

Some days it is difficult to rise out of bed and greet the day. Everyone is unique with her/his/their own beliefs and religion. Whatever your religion is get up, be thankful, honor it, live it, and devote yourself to virtuous action in our shared society.

Find your own circle…Blessings…

Gwendolyn Brooks and Her “Anniad”

I bought three new books, selected to honor Black History and enrich my perspective. I just read through The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks edited by Elizabeth Alexander, American Poets Project, The Library of America, 2005. As with all poetry books I read, I ran straight through it and will return later to focus on the contents and Ms. Brooks’ words more closely. Her work is raw and revealing, especially to a white woman. Yes, I have experienced prejudice based on my gender (ignoring and/or countering my expertise in being technically correct), and who I love (cannot simply hold the hand of my wife in many places). Yet, it does not compare to the racial bias and violence deployed against our Black friends and neighbors that enrich every aspect of our collective human experience called life – if we enable them as equal members of our society – which is who they are by our given rights.

One epic poem that stood out based on my concentration and interest in Ancient & Classical History was “The Anniad.” The similarity of the title and thematic narratives should not be lost on those familiar with The Aeneid by Roman poet Virgil (T. Vergilius Maro, 70-19 BCE). To read Virgil’s Aeneid online, a scholarly-sanctioned Loeb translation, go here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0054%3Abook%3D1%3Acard%3D1. Gwendolyn Brooks gives the reader a view of feminine sexual idealism and the struggles in a world focused on patriarchy, to include love, imagined and real, warfare, and other tangential scenarios. Dr. Ann Folwell Stanford, professor of multidisciplinary and literary studies, provided a detailed analysis of “The Anniad,” in her article “An Epic with a Difference: Sexual Politics in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Anniad.” Dr. Folwell discussed not only “The Anniad,” but also the underlying currents running throughout its cover volume Annie Allen (1949).

Gwendolyn Brooks’s second volume of poetry, Annie Allen (1949), furthers a resistance to white racist hegemony begun in A Street in Bronzeville (1945) but extends its analysis to the confining ideology that (mis)shapes gender and distorts sexual relationships. Many of Annie Allen’s poems interrogate femininity and romantic love, looking at how such constructs restrict women to an oppressive and ultimately unworkable notion of love. Annie continually experiences conflicts be- tween opposites within herself: realism/idealism, assertion/submission, and expression/repression. These dialectical terms dictate struggle, and that struggle inheres in many of the volume’s best poems. Feminized both by title and subject matter, Annie Allen foregrounds a resistance to male co-optation and female passivity and offers a critique of sexual politics focusing on the imbalance of power that frequently characterizes relations between the sexes.

Ann Folwell Stanford. “An Epic with a Difference: Sexual Politics in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Anniad,” American Literature 67, no. 2 (June 1995): 283, accessed 18 February 2021, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2927790.

I share below the opening lines of Brooks’ “The Anniad” to wet your appetite to engage her work. I will be reading more of her work, which is beautiful in its complexity and simplicity, and raw portrayal of life impacted by gender inequality and racism.

Think of sweet and chocolate,
Left to folly or to fate,
Whom the higher gods forgot,
Whom the lower gods berate;
Physical and underfed
Fancying on the featherbed
What was never and is not.

Gwendolyn Brooks, The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, ed. Elizabeth Alexander (New York: The Library of America, 2005), 36.

With this brief introduction, I now challenge you, dear reader, to explore the world of not only Gwendolyn Brooks, but of other black and female authors who bravely broke the codes through their artistic expressions. We are bound to honor and thank them.

Death Comes for the Archbishop

I vaguely recall that I read something by Willa Cather…decades ago. Like many of us, my life became focused on other missions and their recommended or relevant readings. Furthermore, I generally have not been focused on American literature. That is changing as I continue to evolve and broaden my scope. I will read all of Willa Cather’s books in due time as her work is revealing and so descriptive of the Native American Southwest and other adventures that pioneers endured in settling America’s breadbasket, where I grew up.

Within a few phrases I realized why Claire Messud referenced Death Comes for the Archbishop in her book that I briefly discussed in a prior post. I was hooked and could not wait to keep turning the pages. Those of us who have visited our American Southwest, especially New Mexico and Arizona, understand the awe of the desert landscape and its reverberating energy…Native American spiritual energy that is unmistakable in its mystical, pure, and raw forms. When I visited the Grand Canyon in 2002 and arose early with my friend to watch the sunrise, it was a priceless moment, an exquisite example of nature’s splendor. More recently, when my wife and I visited Sedona, and when I visited Taos, the energy was ever-present, tingling one’s senses with its wonderful vibrations. Each time I go to the Southwest, it calls me to be there and live among the ancestors.

Willa Cather paints a beautiful and picturesque scene with her words, strung together like an artist, perfect in their description and ability to transport the reader into her book, a vibrant movie reel in one’s open mind. I share a passage below that popped out when my book simply fell open to its pages. Cather painted the natural yet deliberate array of the vast rock mesas, the grandeur of the Indian pueblo at Ácoma, New Mexico.

In all his travels the Bishop had seen no country like this. From the flat red sea of sand rose great rock mesas, generally Gothic in outline, resembling vast cathedrals. They were not crowded together in disorder, but placed in wide spaces, long vistas between. … The sandy soil of the plain had a light sprinkling of junipers, and was splotched with masses of blooming rabbit brush,—that olive-coloured plant that grows in high waves like a tossing sea, at this season covered with a thatch of bloom, yellow as gorse, or orange like marigolds.

This mesa plain had an appearance of great antiquity, and of incompleteness; as if, with all the materials for world-making assembled, the Creator had desisted, gone away and left everything on the point of being brought together, on the eve of being arranged into mountain, plain, plateau. The country was still waiting to be made into a landscape.

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927; repr., New York: Vintage Classics Edition, 1990), 94-95.

Come one, come all and join Willa Cather to vividly explore the adventures of America’s construction. Through her illustrations, find rays of light and rainbows that shone and glittered, in the bitter and destructive wake, of those who were strong and fought for the right to live, and the missions who understood, respected, and supported their way of life. Reminisce in the stars that shine down upon us in our own worlds.

Claire Messud

Last week I finished reading Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write by Claire Messud (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2020). We learned of this book from a NYT book review and it peaked our interest enough to buy it, which I do not regret. In addition to insight about an author with whom I was unfamiliar, Messud expanded my list of authors. I consider myself to be well-read but there are ALWAYS more books worthy of one’s attention and considering people can get into certain genres, we miss other gems.

I have several works by Albert Camus that I regularly re-read, and read Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro a very long time ago. However, I must confess she highlighted others that have intriguing lives and works. I even enjoyed her coverage of artists, which is definitely out of my scope although I cannot wait for the National Gallery of Art and other museums to re-open for sitting and studying silence their offerings.

I ordered Pulitzer Prize winning The Wild Iris (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992) by American poet Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. I read it straight through quickly for my first read. I will return to it again and contemplate each verse more slowly as her work demands such attention. I also ordered American author Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927; repr., New York: Vintage Classics, 1990), which I am currently reading and will finish by the weekend. Searching for poetry led me to poetry and essays that by three black women that I felt compelled to read to further educate myself about Black History as a part of American History. We are supposed to put ourselves in others’ shoes; however, that is easier said then done in many cases. My desire is that to read from a black woman’s perspective will expand my own aperture to a deeper level of understanding. There are great works by black male authors but as a woman, I turn to these awesome pioneering women for enlightenment. More on them in a future post.

Now I turn back to Messud to close this Friday morning train of thought. Kant’s Little Prussian Head offered numerous insights but there is one in particular that I highlighted, yes in our new hardback copy, toward the end that resonated with my senses. Through the love of books, one can learn connectedness. Just think…

Connection—whether in love or in art—entails risk; risk entails awkwardness. And it is through vulnerabilities that, as humans, we speak most profoundly, from the heart.

Claire Messud, Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2020), 285.

Renewal via a Prior Path

I have wandered for long enough.
Tried to belong where I did not fit in
Always uncomfortably out of place.
Formally- and self- taught
Educated and career-oriented.
It is time to seek my spiritual path
One that I know suits me…my ancestry.
Deep inside I have always known
Always been at one with nature and animals.
I have many books, my skulls and stones.
It is time for me to enter the grove
To seek my enlightenment, enchantment of my soul.
I begin this journey without fear…
My journey to who I am supposed to be.
I ask Earth Mother to welcome and embrace me
Cleanse me and open up my senses
So that I may comprehend, heal myself, and
Potentially help others heal.