Monday, December 31, 2007

Things I'm leaving behind with 2007

Low self-esteem
Fear of the future
Unhealthy food

It's a short list, I know - but a very significant one for me. 2007 has been an incredible year for personal growth and I will always remember it fondly. And I'm not making any New Year's resolutions, either. For the first time in my life, I am perfectly content to enter the New Year just as I am.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Money Angst

Just had a breakthrough over the tied-in-knots, stomach-churning emotions I've always had about money. One of those 'ah-ha' moments we all have, asking "How in the world could I NOT have seen this before now?" Of course our psychological relationship with money is complicated, yet. . . I wonder how many of us have given serious consideration to the source of our emotions about money?

I'd always thought my money angst came from not having enough of the stuff. And while that has surely been a factor at times, I now understand my physical and emotional reactions to money issues have also been as much about anticipated conflicts with others over it. I'm hoping this new understanding will help me, finally, put it in proper perspective.

More money can surely solve many issues for us - but understanding our emotional relationship with money has the power to effect our lives in ways we may never have imagined.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Perception blurs reality

I generally feel pretty good about myself - until I see pictures that leave me wondering "how could I have gone out of the house looking like that?" Adding insult to injury, any pictures of me generally get taken when I've made an extra effort toward my appearance. Just not photogenic? Camera adds ten pounds? Whatever. As a result, I avoid cameras when possible - I prefer my perception to the reality of what I see.

Now it seems I have to add MIRRORS to the mix. We have so few in our house - one on the medicine cabinet and a full length one behind a door - so I seldom think about it until I'm confronted by a large expanse of mirrored wall somewhere.

The thing is - everyone else always looks 'right' to me in pictures. So why does my image look so different than my perception? Just once, I'd love to see myself in someone else's eyes.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Achieving balance

'Adam and Eve Under Glass' photograph by Pascale Soleil, reprinted with gracious permission. Original located at 'Pascale's Wager''

. . . . .It's all in my head. No one directs me but me. Stop and think about what you need, then proceed. Follow your own path. Be your own person.

OK - I direct me. So why is this so hard?

Words failed and I began searching for an image to complete my thoughts. Googling images, I briefly considered scales and yinyang, progressed to images of bell curves and - naturally? - continued on to bell jars and Sylvia Plath. Suddenly, there it was - exactly what I'd been looking for.

If you don't think it's hard, you ain't payin' attention. . . . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I just want to be happy. . . .

A phrase we all use - but one that likely has different meanings for each of us.

Can we think ourselves happy? If people think things are getting better, they can be happy in pretty tough circumstances - so, is happiness a state of mind we experience when we THINK things are getting better?

I know that I can be getting on OK in life, but if I don't perceive it to be 'going anywhere', I often won't feel very happy. I'll get bogged down in day-to-day routines and find myself looking around for anything that will give me a boost - alcohol, food, sex, exercise, some new 'self-help' fix, planning a trip. You get the picture. I bet you have your favorites, too. So is being happy just about the level of certain chemical elements in our brain? It's relatively easy to manufacture short term happiness, but its effects die out very soon - little more than a quick high.

Perhaps it's the PURSUIT of happiness that makes us happy. If that's the case, then setting goals toward things we THINK will make us happy - and setting new ones along the way - should keep us all in a state of perpetual happiness. That might render "the pursuit of happiness" even more profound that Thomas Jefferson realized when he wrote "happiness" instead of "property" in the Declaration of Independence. It could even explain the power of religion - with it's promises of eternal life, streets paved with gold, milk and honey, 70 virgins, paradise. . . . . and, of course, eternal happiness.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Becoming Flexitarian (or Semi-Vegetarian)

It's been happening gradually and I began noticing subtle changes in the way I felt. I may not become a 'full blown' vegetarian, but I'm very pleased with the results of my trend so far. What it really boils down to is that I love the notion (and taste) of healthy, fresh organic food - and, right now, seasonal fruits and vegetables are the most abundant and economical choices we have left.

Let's face it - Americans have been the butt of the joke when it comes to our food supply and it's time we demanded better. I would go so far as to say the long term health of American consumers has been the last consideration of our modern food industry, but a movement of change is afoot and we can make a difference - one person and community at a time. Saying no to unhealthy industrialized farming and livestock operations is as simple as making different choices. With a little shift in our individual buying practices, we can improve the quality of our food supply. Just do a little research into current industrial farming and livestock practices and you'll soon realize that we can't afford not to demand change - after all, we ARE what we eat!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jumping to Conclusions

How many times have you jumped to a conclusion about people or events and acted on that conclusion, only to realize later that you were mistaken? Did you own up to it and apologize? Now think about how many times someone else has likely jumped to the wrong conclusion about you.

Think about how many times you've likely jumped to the wrong conclusion and acted on it - but never found out you were mistaken. You see, hear, or read something - draw a conclusion on the information at hand and act. A careless conclusion can be benign, but can also - unintentionally - cause great harm.

Most of us would like to believe we use sufficient due diligence in matters of great importance to us and others, but how do we know? And how many decisions do we make daily without knowing how harmful the wrong conclusion might be.

It's probably not good to spend too much time thinking about stuff like this. I mean, where does it end?

Resurrection, Witch-hunts and Teddy Bears named Muhammad

The following excerpt is taken from the opening pages of SAM HARRIS' book, THE END OF FAITH "Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason"; Chapter 1 - Reason in Exile. It begins with a young man boarding a bus. Beneath his overcoat he wears a bomb - his pockets are filled with nails, ball bearings, and rat poison.

A BELIEF is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person's life. Are you a scientist? A liberal? A racist? These are merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. If you doubt this, consider how your experience would suddenly change if you came to believe one of the following propositions:

1. You have only two weeks to live.
2. You've just won a lottery prize of one hundred million dollars.
3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts.

These are mere words - until you believe them. Once believed, they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations, and subsequent behavior.

There seems, however, to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like "God" and "paradise" and "sin" in the present that will determine our future.

Our situation is this: most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim to its infallibility. People tend to organize themselves into factions according to which of the incompatible claims they accept - rather than on the basis of language, skin color, location of birth, or any other criterion of tribalism. Each of these texts urges its reader to adopt a vairety of beliefs and practices, some of which are benign, many of which are not. All are in perverse agreement on one point of fundamental importance, however: "respect" for other faiths, or for the views of unbelievers, is not an attitude that God endorses. While all faiths have been touched, here and there, by the spirit of ecumenicalism, the central tenet of every religious tradition is that all others are mere repositories of error or, at best, dangerously incomplete. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed. Once a person believes - really believes - that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility the the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one.

Observations of this sort pose an immediate problem for us, however, because criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not. And so it is that when a Muslim suicide bomber obliterates himself along with a score of innocents on a Jerusalem street, the role that faith played in his actions is invariably discounted. His motives must have been political, economic, or entirely personal. Without faith, desperate people would still do terrible things. Faith itself, is always, and everywhere, exonerated.

The world can no longer afford to exonerate religious faith. Thank you, Sam Harris, for this incredible book on the irrationality of religious faith.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On holidays, weddings and funerals

This past week, while much of the country was going to ridiculous lengths to celebrate Thanksgiving, my husband and I attended his uncle's funeral on Wednesday and on Friday and Saturday his son got married - so we passed on Thanksgiving this year and since "Black Friday" isn't a tradition in our house, there was nothing to give up there.

I can appreciate a good tradition as well as anyone, I think - but if this past week is any example, our life celebrations have become ridiculously ritualistic events dictated by folks just trying to make a buck and keep the economy afloat. It's very natural to want to share the events of our lives with family and friends, but do we have to make a spectacle of them, and ourselves, in the process? I say - next time you find yourself planning a special event, resist the urge to make it 'bigger than life' and just let it be about life. Keep it simple. . . .and real. Let the economy suffer.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Cabin

A legacy - a labor of love - a life-long dream - to be closer to nature - to have a garden - to make a living.

The fall foliage at left is a Sweetleaf tree. This delicate tree is the last to bloom in the spring and the first to turn in the fall. We were not familiar with them before, but they are numerous here and light up the understory with their gorgeous red leaves.

The land has been in my husband's family for many generations and it has always been his dream to build a cabin here. Hurricane Ivan and Katrina taught us how much we were capable of doing ourselves - and me the satisfaction that comes from hard, physical labor and doing the seemingly impossible.

Many years ago I picked up a copy of Your Money or Your Life
by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin and, although I've never fully implemented the concept, I've been on the journey ever since - and two things from the book are always with me. The peak of the Fulfillment Curve - the concept of enough - and the understanding that anything more than 'enough' takes us from 'making a living' to the realm of 'making a dying'. Of course, Dominquez and Robin are only two of many who have urged us to follow this path to fulfillment - which can be as simple as paying attention and finding one's own balance. Awareness is the key.

So many things had to come together for us to be at the place we are now - breaking ground on the cabin - and I am grateful for them all. I am grateful for my husband who feels a deep connection to this land and wants to restore the native vegetation and conserve it for his son and future generations - and I am grateful to his mother for keeping this legacy intact and giving him the opportunity to do so. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

The cabin dimensions are 20ft x 38ft with a 4ft elevation.
A basic 600 sq. ft. cabin with an 8 x 20 ft. screened porch, wood-burning stove and rainwater harvesting system.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

All I Need

We live comfortably in an old beach cottage that might seem like 'roughing it' to many and our soon-to-be-built, small, rustic cabin in the country will be quite basic. The spot we've chosen is already a glorious campsite and we intend to keep it that way - complete with campfire, outdoor shower and harvesting rainwater.

I love to camp and get away from TV, ringing telephones. . . . and people - so our recent trip to Maine was a dream. Except the flying part. There's just nothing natural about flying. Of course, it was great to leave Pensacola in the morning and be camping in Acadia National Park that night - but I had to keep reminding myself we were in Maine. It's hard for my mind to adjust to that much distance in so short a time and I hated not experiencing everything on the ground in between. And flying has become a mind-numbing ordeal instead of the incredible experience it should be. We were lucky, though, and the flights went about as good as they can these days. But flying is essentially about time, after all, and my hope is to arrange my life so I won't need to fly anymore.

Our timing was impeccable. We had the weather we'd hoped for and, since we were tent camping in a rental car, took advantage of several incredible campgrounds there - which we had mostly to ourselves! The picture above was taken at our campsite overlooking the waters of Cobscook Bay. I didn't realize it at the time, but the population of Maine is less than a third of Alabama's. . . . . and nearly everyone was somewhere else! Acadia National Park, Cobscook Bay State Park, Baxter State Park and Peaks-Kenny State Park were all gloriously empty (but Baxter got quite noisy on Friday night and Saturday morning when the weekenders piled in - so, if there is a next time, we'll plan to be somewhere else on Friday night).

A couple of days before we left, the hard drive on my notebook started crashing. I managed to get everything backed up and went without my computer (I'd envisioned some early morning blogging in Maine). I purchased this notebook two years earlier when my first laptop died right before a long trip to Colorado. I'd needed one for work on that trip, so I spent an incredible amount of time trying to save it - ultimately having to give up and start over with a new one. Since returning from Maine, I've now spent many days replacing another hard drive and tediously restoring settings, programs and data. Time that could have been better spent, I'm sure - but I still need it for work and am now hopelessly addicted to the internet.

In the future, I may abandon many modern conveniences - including my cell phone, TV, and flush toilet - but I'm staying connected to the world wide web, no matter what!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Off to Maine

New territory for us. We've never been to Maine and looking forward to some camping and leaf-peeping in cooler weather. Haven't flown for a bit (since we got our little 'Fun-Finder' trailer on ebay, it's been our favorite way to go anywhere) and we're hoping for the best in making our connections and not getting stranded on the runway.

Wish us luck!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another Thousand Years of Darkness?

Properly examined, history can tell us what we need to know about human behavior to avoid mistakes of the past. It's relevant and fascinating - so why do our textbooks and teachers make it seem so dry and boring? Are they afraid we'll learn too much?

If you were lucky, you had at least one history teacher who taught you to examine history in the context of our lives today - instead of just teaching you a boring succession of dates and names to memorize as you marched through time, class after class.

THE RISE AND FALL OF ALEXANDRIA, Birthplace of the Modern Mind by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid is an excellent example of the importance of understanding history - and their work breathes life into this ancient story.

Excerpt from jacket cover -

Most of us assume that two cities - Athens and Rome - dominated the classical world and set Western culture on its present course. But there was a third city that, at its height, dwarfed both of these in scientific and artistic achievement: Alexandria of Egypt. While Athens and Rome spread their influence through trade and war, Alexandria sought to conquer the mind.

This lively, accessible saga explores the birth, death, and legacy of this miraculous city. It was here that humankind first:
· Realized that the earth was not flat
· Invented geometry
· Built the steam engine
· Invented latitude and longitude, drawing the first accurate maps of the world

And when the city was destroyed in the seventh century AD, Western civilization regressed a thousand years.

. . .Here the true foundations of the modern world were laid – not in stone, but in ideas.

Yet it is a terrible irony that here too the seeds of religious extremism were sown, seeds that emerged in the form of early Christian and Muslim militant fanaticism, both of which eventually destroyed first the intellectual then the physical fabric of the city itself.

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria, Birthplace of the Modern Mind by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid

Famed astronomer Carl Sagan understood it.

When speaking of this miraculous city and its great Library he laments, "Imagine how different the world would be if those discoveries had been explained and used for the benefit of everyone". Instead, these discoveries were the guarded possessions of a few powerful men.

Alexandria was the greatest city the Western world had ever seen. People of all nations came there to live, to trade, to learn. On any given day, its harbors were thronged with merchants, scholars, and tourists. This was a city where Greeks, Egyptians, Arabs, Syrians, Hebrews, Persians, Nubians, Phoenicians, Italians, Gauls and Iberians exchanged merchandise and ideas. It is probably here that the word cosmopolitan realized its true meaning--citizen, not just of a nation, but of the Cosmos. To be a citizen of the Cosmos...

Here clearly were the seeds of the modern world. What prevented them from taking root and flourishing? Why instead did the West slumber through a thousand years of darkness until Columbus and Copernicus and their contemporaries rediscovered the work done in Alexandria? I cannot give you a simple answer. But I do know this: there is no record, in the entire history of the Library, that any of its illustrious scientists and scholars ever seriously challenged the political, economic and religious assumptions of their society. The permanence of the stars was questioned; the justice of slavery was not. Science and learning in general were the preserve of a privileged few. The vast population of the city had not the vaguest notion of the great discoveries taking place within the Library. New findings were not explained or popularized. The research benefited them little. Discoveries in mechanics and steam technology were applied mainly to the perfection of weapons, the encouragement of superstition, the amusement of kings. The scientists never grasped the potential of machines to free people. The great intellectual achievements of antiquity had few immediate practical implications. Science never captured the imagination of the multitude. There was no counterbalance to stagnation, to pessimism, to the most abject surrenders to mysticism. When, at long last, the mob came to burn the Library down, there was nobody to stop them.

From Carl Sagan’s COSMOS
See Alex Petrov's The Rise and Fall of Alexandria

The population was ignorant of discoveries taking place in the Library-
intellectuals at the great Library were unconcerned with the general population -
and rulers guarded knowledge to advance their own wealth and power-
a perfect atmosphere for religious fanaticism to destroy it all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who, What, When, Where and Why

Dazed and confused by too much "Breaking News" that isn’t, the daily onslaught of up-to-the minute disaster coverage and opposing view opinion pieces? All-news all-the-time is designed to keep you coming back for more, but too much of what passes as journalism today is about TV personalities and corporate profits, creating an illusion that we are up-to-the-minute well informed - but telling us very little of the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ of the story.

We must demand good journalism from our news sources. For my buck, I choose National Public Radio. NPR provides in-depth analysis of important local, national and international stories. It’s balanced, informative and relaxing - without blaring commercials. Another favorite news source of mine is the internet. I can find the story there and research it online for myself - but I realize that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m a huge fan of PBS, where 'The News Hour with Jim Lehrer' provides informed, balanced reporting – again, without blaring commercials. Plus, many local newspapers still do a great job of keeping us informed. Real journalism.

It's up to us, as individuals, to choose how much or how little real news we need on a daily basis and it's crucial to protect the variety of independent news sources providing unbiased, investigative reporting. Without it, we’ll get only pictures and opinions, packaged to maximize profits and benefit corporations - not individuals. Quality journalism is critical to our freedom.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Redefining Progress

I love our home in Gulf Shores. It’s an old beach cottage surrounded by native sand oak and palmetto, overlooking a small creek and wetland that support an incredible amount of wildlife. The variety of birds is amazing and there are always a few surprises during spring and fall migrations. Sunrises and sunsets provide daily occasions for reflection and I can even see the Gulf of Mexico - though we seldom go to the beach. This picture was taken at the edge of the creek in our front yard, but this small view belies the reality around it.

Monstrously huge condominiums are going up everywhere and the city considers this creek little more than a drainage ditch. Parking lot lights three blocks away illuminate our yard at night and block out the stars. Sirens, car alarms and jet skis are a constant intrusion and traffic often backs up for miles. The Chamber of Commerce calls it progress, but I call it death. This incredible, natural world is suffocating - as I am in it. I can’t save it and it's becoming too painful to live here, but I’m having a hard time letting it go.

The same people destroying it use scenes like this in their ads to draw people here, but visitors will soon be hard pressed to find any natural beauty when they arrive.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Right Brain Exercise

The vines are everywhere! The land that's been in my husband's family for generations is full of wisteria, kudzu, honeysuckle and muscadine vines. Last year we began clearing a small area by hand to create a 'get away' camp that will also be a place we can evacuate to when hurricanes threaten. The plan is to leave it natural and disturb the area as little as possible. Our long-term goal is restoring it to it's original state - before being logged and farmed.

Growing up in Alabama, the wisteria, kudzu, honeysuckle and muscadine were like southern treasures to me. Later on I learned kudzu was invasive and harmful, but I didn't realize for a long time that honeysuckle and most of the wisteria was, too. As we talked about getting rid of the invasive vines, it felt too wasteful not to make use of them somehow and I thought of baskets. I'd never made a basket in my life, but I began reading about it and discovered these vines were perfect for making the random-weave baskets I'd always been drawn to.

This is my first basket filled with cones from the long-leaf pines and I couldn't be happier about it! My husband and I cut the vines and I made it in an afternoon. I filled it full of plants and gave it to my mom for Mother's Day. It felt a lot like being back in elementary school - "here mom, I made this for you!" I can't wait to get back up there to make more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


A particular moment I hold dear was in the Piazza San Marco during a trip to Italy with three of my favorite people - my husband, mother and stepfather. We passed an outside cafe where I was so overcome by the sweetest violin music that I could not stop crying. I believe it was the purest moment of joy I have ever experienced. We left without asking the name of the song, but I can still 'feel' it whenever I think of it. I will be forever thankful for the joy of being there at that moment in time. It was as alive as I've ever felt.

John Prine's 'Hello in There' makes me sad and thankful all at the same time. Emmylou's 'Pancho & Lefty', 'Wayfaring Stranger' and 'Green Pastures' also stop me in my tracks. There are many more, but these make my point. There's the music we like and listen to casually - and then there's the music that just rolls over us, demanding all our attention. And I love when it happens unexpectedly - where I just have to stop whatever else I'm doing to pay homage.

Now, thanks to "Britain's Got Talent" I can add Paul Potts to the list. His voice touches something inside me that brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it. And it seems without "Britain's Got Talent" we might never have heard him at all. . . . . so - and I can't believe I'm saying this - thanks, Simon!

If you've somehow missed hearing Paul - here's your chance!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Impeachment Is Always On The Table

Bush and Cheney have asserted their unchecked power long enough and it's time - past time - for Congress to show it's collective nerve and begin formal hearings on the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney. Nancy Pelosi is wrong. Impeachment is always on the table - impeachment is the duty of Congress. Impeachment is a tool given to us by our founding fathers to keep the Executive Branch in check - to remind them they are not kings. Bush and Cheney have established an Executive Branch that doesn't respect the rule of law and if they are not impeached, they will have established a precedent to allow every future administration to operate outside the law - and Congress will have allowed it to happen.

The following excerpt is from a recent edition of Bill Moyers Journal (July 13, 2007), the topic of discussion was IMPEACHMENT and his guests were Bruce Fein and John Nichols.

JOHN NICHOLS: . . . .On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have.

You can find the full text of the show here:

You can watch the show here:

You can read a history of impeachment here:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

What's in a (pen) name?

A bit of anonymity felt right just starting out - and I liked the idea of a pen name. I thought it would make me feel freer to speak my mind and I've been going through a bit of a metamorphosis anyway lately - so, why not?

I got the idea when I googled my name. Among the hits I found a stuntwoman, a competitive motorcyclist, the victim of a brutal murder, a woman that had murdered her husband, an author of Christian women's books, a flip-flop designer and a wedding photographer. . . .just to name a few.

What I didn't find was me! Maybe I was there if I'd looked back far enough, but by then I'd already started playing with the letters in my name and met Dena Braves. She sort of grew on me and, best of all, she was unknown to Google before I made her up! I haven't gotten much work done this week, but I'm having a great time!

Have you googled your name? Who did you find?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Live and let live

Since moving to our beach cottage 13 years ago, I've developed a real fascination and appreciation of spiders. A few can definitely harm us, so we need to be careful around them - but they mostly keep to themselves and are quite beneficial and incredible to watch.

This yellow and black garden spider, with her web suspended among cattails at the edge of the creek, offered a perfect opportunity to observe and photograph.

Our beach cottage was built in the late-50's as a summer retreat. The original owner worked at a shipyard in Mobile and he and his sons basically built it from scratch using scavenged materials from where he worked. Constructed on pilings with lots of windows all around, it's like living in a tree house that just 'belongs' here among the sand oaks. There's nothing fancy about it, but it's been a wonderful place of self-discovery and, in many ways, my first real home. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Krebs or let him know how much I've loved calling it home.

Our time here is now divided into 'before Katrina' and 'after Katrina'. Three blocks from the beach, the house suffered damage but withstood Hurricane Frederic in 1979, Ivan in '04 and Katrina in '05 - but we lost our roof in Katrina and the house is forever changed. We had to redo the inside and I love it as much as before, but for different reasons now.

Before Katrina it was mostly as Mr. Krebs had left it. A home made house full of flaws, but somehow more real for it. It literally 'breathed' with the weather outside - more like camping with a roof over your head. The outside was kept at bay - but always with you, too. And that's how I learned to appreciate spiders. They spun their webs and occupied cracks and spaces around the windows and where the walls and ceiling met. As long as they were there, other insects didn't stand a chance. We didn't need a fly-swatter, the spiders thrived on them! In the unfinished storage area below, a funnel web grass spider occupied a large gap in the window frame and I was always mesmerized by any opportunity to observe it outside it's 'retreat'. Sadly, it did not survive the flooding of Hurricane Ivan.

If you haven't seen the story already, check out the GIANT SPIDER WEB IN TEXAS . Makes me glad I've learned to live with them!

More detail and a great picture of the web compiled by Mike Quinn is located at

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fish for dinner?

What to do with the fish we catch?

My answer is always the same. Keep enough for a meal and release the rest. After all, the freshest fish is the best fish!
This incredible speckled trout was released unharmed right after the picture was taken.

Fish are a renewable resource, but overfished stocks require years of monitoring and regulatory actions to restore the fishery to a level at which it can sustain itself. As each passing year brings more restrictive recreational bag and size limits, practicing catch and release is one way recreational anglers can help insure the health of future fisheries and guarantee everyone's ability to enjoy a fun day of fishing. Starting out it may be hard to resist the urge to keep as much as you can, but you'll soon realize that the fun of catching is well worth the trip.

Here are a few suggestions to help insure the survival of released fish and provide you with a sense of satisfaction as you return your catch to it's environment and watch it swim away.

  • Match your tackle to the fish you are targeting. If your tackle is too light the fish will be exhausted by the time you land it and an easy target for predators when released.

  • With a pair of pliers, mash down the barb of your hook for easier release and improved safety. Circle hooks are also good additions to your terminal tackle.
  • Leave the fish in the water during release if possible - and if the fish must be handled out of water, wet your hands first to minimize the removal of the protective slime layer covering the fish since removal of this protective layer makes the fish more susceptible to disease.

  • Don't grab the fish in the eyes or gills.

  • Cradle the fish's underbelly while holding it's tail as you rock it back and forth head first into the current until it swims away. This motion moves water across it's gills and will help it revive.

  • Keep current regulations and a measuring device handy for quick determination of legal size.

Sitting down to a meal of fish you just caught is the perfect way to end to a great day of fishing. It's one of the most satisfying things I know of and anyone can do it!

Loving "the Green"

Thank you, Robert Redford! I love the Green !

As I settled in tonight for Episode 7 of It's Not Easy Being Green ( a great little series about a family embracing self-sufficiency) I had no idea of what awaited me in Rob van Hattum's documentary
WASTE = FOOD . It was the most enlightening and hopeful thing I've seen in a long time.

McDonough and Braungart's Cradle to Cradle philosophy goes beyond sustainability with the power to change the world.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God on who's side?

  • I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword,
    In defence of this land and the word of the Lord.

    Lyrics from the song “Bright Sunny South” recorded by Alison Krauss and Union Station tell of a son of the south off to the Civil War with his parents blessing. He is a child, not yet twelve.

    Combining religion with the patriotic defense of homeland has proved a powerful tool for sending boys off to war for as long as men have been motivated by greed and power . . .and throughout the history of man, on all sides, people have gone to war believing God was on their side. . . . . and their cause a just one.

    Some have called America’s Civil War a boy’s war. Minimum age for enlistment was 18, but one could enlist at a younger age if a guardian’s consent was given. Avery Brown was mustered into Company C, 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the age of 8 years, 11 months, and 13 days. Like many enthusiastic young patriots of his day, he lied about his age, claiming to be 12 on his enlistment papers. David Bailey Freeman joined the 6th Georgia Calvary CSA at age 11. Reports indicate, from approximately 2,700,000 who served, more than 2,000,000 Federal soldiers were twenty-one or under and, of those:
  • more than 1,000,000 were eighteen or under and, of those,
  • about 800,000 were seventeen or under
  • about 200,000 were sixteen or under
  • about 100,000 were fifteen or under
  • three hundred were thirteen or under - most were fifers or drummers, but regularly enrolled, and sometimes fighters
  • and, twenty-five were ten or under

John Brown was executed by the state of Virginia with the approval of the national government. It was the national government which, while weakly enforcing the law ending the slave trade, sternly enforced the laws providing for the return of fugitives to slavery. It was the national government that, in Andrew Jackson's administration, collaborated with the South to keep abolitionist literature out of the the mails in the southern states. It was the Supreme Court of the United States that declared in 1857 that the slave Dred Scott could not sue for his freedom because he was not a person, but property.

Such a national government would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. It would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North. It was Abraham Lincoln who combined perfectly the needs of business, the policical ambition of the new Republican party, and the rhetoric of humanitarianism. He would keep the abolition of slavery not at the top of his list of priorities, but close enough to the top so it could be pushed there temporarily by abolitionist pressures and by practical political advantage. (Exerpt from Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES 1492 - Present: Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom)

Why do we keep falling for it over and over? Why can't we learn the lessons of the past? Today war profiteers rake in billions as our men and women sacrifice themselves, their families, and their futures in Iraq and Afghanistan. . .their lives valued in mere pennies compared to the huge profits of the few. Need more evidence? Check out this story posted at The Great Iraq Swindle

Nothing that has happened in the United States justified our invasion of Iraq and the bombing and killing of innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq - however unintentional our government claims it to be. The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the defense of our homeland and it certainly doesn't represent the Christian values this country claims to hold so dear.

If God exists, it's hard to imagine he'd be on our side in this one.


Recently I had the privilege of observing a pair of redbirds tending their young. They’re very secretive, and I'd noticed the male returning to a secluded area several times, so I settled in quietly to watch them from a distance with my binoculars.

Soon after, a scuffle ensued as the parents joined forces to defend their territory from another male redbird and he was soon banished. While I watched, the mother remained close by as the male went back and forth bringing food – approaching from a different direction each time holding a bright green grub. He would slowly work his way toward the nest – zigzagging from branch to branch - cautiously checking every direction for predators. Once satisfied it was safe, he would dart into the nest to feed the young. I could just make out two tiny birds as he appeared to break the grub into pieces to feed half of it to each. They were so helpless at this point, but with a bit of luck and continued vigilance from the adults, they would thrive and soon be able to care for themselves. They are lucky. They will know their story and all they need to survive.

I am a child of the 50’s raised in an industrialized, predominantly Christian country. Surrounded mostly by adults with no particular affinity to nature, a religion that preached dominion over it, and a school curriculum that all but ignored it - my innate sense of wonder and place in the natural world was too easily expelled. The things that replaced it proved poor substitutes.

The authors Daniel Quinn and Derrick Jensen gave it back to me. They opened a door for me to begin regaining my story, stolen in childhood, and I am forever grateful. The life thrust upon me by the modern world had taken me further and further from it, but an unrealized longing and sadness always remained. Brief moments of recognition were there along the way, but the layers of separation would take a long time to shed. I am closer today than yesterday and hopeful for tomorrow.

What do you do to experience harmony with the natural world?