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.

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…

Letting Go…Felt Like a Loser

I know my blog is about positivity and all that; however, life is not always a bucket of love filled with beautiful flowers. Sometimes life is trashy and makes one feel so low, like a real loser. It happens and that is okay. We pick ourselves up, often with the love and kicking support of a best friend, or more than one as at times it takes a village to get us back up on our feet and seeing rays of sunshine. Hard times make us tougher and teach us how to activate that protective shell, which can be a detriment when we need to feel and love fully.

I am working through Zen as F*ck – A Journal for Practicing the Mindful art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Monica Sweeney. It would offend the more sensitive folks but it has become my backup journal to my regular blank pages of random, or not so random, recordation of my thoughts. Anyway, the pages I fell upon this morning involved on one side to write down “What is something someone said about you or to you that made you feel like the contents of a dumpster?” This one was easy, even after so many years…why…because it hurt so badly that so far, only one other shocking life event has ranked right up there with the one from 1996…yes…1996. I was serving on Active Duty in the US Army, nearly halfway through my twenty year career, and had completed my training to become a Warrant Officer, a technical expert in my field. Here is what I wrote: 1996 – Divorce Trial Judge, Manhattan, KS…He told me I had done an admirable job in taking care of my family but due to my career I was unfit to be a mother and primary care giver, custodial parent, for my young daughter. Therein I lost custody of my dearest little one, my Alexandra. My best friend with whom I grew up…Care Bear…saved me from myself and giving up on my career I loved by resigning my new commission and quitting, which was my dumpster trash thought after being shredded to a pulp of anger and savage pain in court. On to the light.

On the next page my assignment was to then write down “What’s one thing someone said about you or to you that made you feel incredible?” Two circumstances actually popped into my head so I wrote them down. Both had to do with my work in academia, with my two Master Degree programs – MS in 2001 and MA in 2020. In September 2001 my US Army senior advisor gave me a glowing rating and recommended me for PhD work in Russian Studies. The latter did not happen for several reasons, among them our prevailing focus in the Middle East…that is OKAY. In October 2020, my amazing thesis professor loved my Literature Review and complimented my overall work, as she had during the other two courses I took with her. The connection here is not lost on me. These are the thoughts that prevailed above many others because they are TANGIBLE achievements, ones that I can hold onto FOREVER and that NO ONE can take from me…period. I WON and cannot lose these awards and rewards for my diligent work. The third step of this drill was to “Scribble out the first one with abandon. Circle the second one [two in my case], say it out loud, and take in all its goodness.” I scrawled over the entry from 1996 with my pencil at random and circled my 2001 and 2021 entries in blue, of course as blue/teal are my favorite colors…okay I also really like purple/lavender.

The author summed this up as “cherry-picking” one’s feelings. She is on to something in terms everyone can appreciate, even those who may be offended by her frank and raw approach, which good/bad/indifferent, it suits me. Cherry-picking one’s feelings is easier said than done; however, if we try it, we can achieve progress. It is about one’s perspective, adapting and overcoming the ilk in life. Growing up I loved Erma Bombeck and her approach to life. I still love Erma and as books tend to move around over the years, I bought a volume with four of her “best-loved” works at my favorite used bookstore out here, Wonderbooks in Frederick, MD.
The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank;
If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries – What Am I Doing in the Pits?;
Aunt Erma’s Cope Book – How to Get from Monday to Friday…in 12 Days; and
Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession.

So, this post really is about the positivity in one’s ability to at least try and let go, adapt and overcome adversity. I try to remember that too many people have been through worse events. I have my adult daughter and grandson, although they live halfway across the country, in my life and inner circle of love and friendship that keeps me spinning in a glow of warm yellow light and blue sky. Namaste.

Thank You Dr. King

Not EVERYBODY can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service….YOU ONLY NEED a HEART full of GRACE and a soul generated by LOVE. – Martin Luther King Jr. (18 Jan 2021, The Old Farmer’s Almanac Daily Calendar)

May humankind learn from Martin Luther King Jr. and do its best to live in better and kinder manners.

Thank you Dr. King

I found this stamp whilst reorganizing my old collection. Cool.

Enchanting One’s Senses

“What Delights My Senses”
– An exercise for oneself from the Apr/May 2020 Yoga Journal magazine

Last night I began reviewing journal entries from the last year or so. Yes, there are recurring themes of frustration and anger, akin to an LP that is skipping and stuck in a loop. There are also insights that I buried, wallowing in my own little microcosm of misery, at times self-inflicted by my Type-A/OCD personality. I want to share something I learned from the Apr/May 2020 Yoga Journal that can help one focus on what is going right, rather than all the icky chaff that is cluttering our energy fields. It is an exercise called “What Delights My Senses” and includes five simple questions to answer generously, per the column. I share with you, dear reader, my simple answers from 23 June 2020 as an example of looking inside oneself and going with the first thing(s) that pop into one’s mind. You see, they are mostly what is right before and around us, in our humans, animals, and purities of nature. This is a rewarding exercise that can help one focus on the good and positive aspects of life, especially this year, and refocus on the potential to renew one’s energy and spirit in 2021.


1. What do I love the sight of?
– My family – wife, daughter, grandson, parents, etc…Our Pets
– My friends – inner circle
2. What do I love the smell of?
– The woods…mountain pine…pure streams
3. What do I love the sound of?
– Birds, the ocean waves, silence, a trickling brook
4. What do I love the taste of?
– Cold water, dark chocolate, coffee, a good beer, ice cream
5. What do I love the feeling of on my skin?
– Water, soft & clean sheets, my wife

Namaste