Concordia’s Arbor Lane

Arbor Lane is the west boundary of Concordia.  This is the approach to the Y, where Balsamea Way goes right and Arbor Lane goes left:

June 10, 2009. Meet Foley, young beech in center.

Notice the little beech tree near bottom right center.  In June 2009 the trunk was about the size of a broom handle.  It is at the south entrance to Arbor Lane.  For easy reference, I’ve just now (really, right now!) named this tree Foley (from Fagus grandifolia, American beech).

June 10, 2009. Foley with Grandmother Pometa standing over Arbor Lane.

Another view, looking north into Arbor Lane.  The big beech at center is hereby now named Pometa, the Slovenian word for sweep or sweeping (tapping a bit of my maternal heritage).

I’ve never been big on naming individual trees because there are so many I’d like to name.  So I generalize.  I look up at any spruce and say, “Hey there, Cousin Sprucie.  How are ya?”  Playing on Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow.  He’s done lots of things, but I remember him as the legendary radio disk jockey on WABC (AM 770) competing with “Murray the K” on WINS (AM 1010) in NY City during one of my former lifetimes.

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Starring Nuala’s Maple Tree

(continued from Nuala’s Tree and Concordia post)

Nuala’s Tree is a red maple (Acer rubrum) with four partly intertwining trunks rooted at the edge of a big old pine stump.  I dedicated the tree to Nuala in 2009 or earlier.  The oldest picture I have is from 2009, below.

June 6, 2009. Viewed from south.

September 13, 2019

The brighter background is because of the logging next door. It changes the habitat of Balsamea forever in several ways.  I try not to think about it anymore.

Concordia is a park-like area of about 0.3 acre surrounding Nuala’s Tree.  Almost all of the development of Concordia occurred in August-September 2019.  Before that, there was just some minor maintenance to keep the tree from being overgrown by pines and balsam firs.

I don’t need to give special attention to a tree for it to have personal meaning, nor need I seek personal meaning in a tree.  However, sometimes a tree seeks it in me, like a contemplative interaction probing the soul.  That’s Nuala’s Tree.
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Normal People Anonymous Support Group

I’m thinking about starting a normal people anonymous support group.

Members have the right to define normal for themselves but not for anyone else in the group.

You’re anonymous to each other, at least at the start of your membership.  If you surrender your anonymity with another member, that’s okay.  You can still attend, together or separately, but it is recommended that you come out of the closet about it, for your own good.

If you have sex with somebody in the group, that’s normal, even if you remain otherwise anonymous to each other.

You do peer-led programs, activities or projects together, such as 12 steps, meditation, yoga, hiking, book study, nature study, photography, joke-telling, litter cleanup, gardening, sailing, canoeing, singing, teaching disenfranchised children how to fish, putting Kahlil Gibran in every hotel room, Christmas caroling in July, picketing industrial cattle and chicken growers, making art together, including music, Amazon forest fire-fighting, skinny-dipping (peer-led), putting on a play about climate change and domestic abuse of males, or what-have-you things that normal people do.

The normality of the activity is as beheld by the peer leader, and you quietly accept it and have fun, perhaps expanding or shattering your notions of normal, and squelching the ferocity of your clinging to them.

The peer-led things, the anonymity, and the group dynamic are good for you.  You affirm this aloud in unison at every meeting and outing, holding hands in a circle, a perfectly normal thing to do with strangers.

The anonymity is to help avoid the stigma of being normal, even more normal than most others are.  In the group, you can enjoy — if possible — a place where you can be non-judgmentally welcomed by similarly frustrated normal people.  You define “non-judgmental” loosely, considering its extremely elusive nature, like unconditional love.

You take it all lightly with good humor because you all know that normal exists only from your perspective in the mirror.  That is the guiding principle.  Take your normality lightly.  You affirm it together in unison, religiously, sorta.

Copyright 2019 TheBalsamean.comOver time, with consistent participation, you may be able to give up excessive notions of your normality, as one might give up excessive drinking, smoking, or gambling, and be freed of the pathetic frustration you inflict upon your deluded self.  Amen.

Take your normality lightly.

Nature Writers I Follow #4: Mary Holland of Vermont

Books by Mary Holland:

I marvel at how little I accomplish in my life, relative to the amazing output of others. Nature writer Mary Holland seems to be a whole team of creative and scientific experts, not just one person. Her website, books, articles and professional photographs encompass a seemingly limitless encyclopedic exploration of nature, presented in short, easy-reading, wonderfully illustrated pieces. She creates educational tools for all ages, especially children.  When she’s not doing any of that, she’s spreading knowledge and wisdom in speaking engagements. You can feel her passion for natural history in her work.

(Better disclosure: I benefit nothing but pleasure by promoting the nature writers I follow. I have no investment or business interest except as their customer, I get no freebies or incentives, and I have no family connection with them — that I know of!)

Mary Holland’s qualifications root her as a naturalist with specialization in education, plus leadership in environmental and natural sciences in public and private sector organizations. Did I mention she’s a skilled, accomplished writer and photographer? ==> Please continue reading ==>

The VanWestervelt Declaration and Sacred Texts

Sometimes just saying something does make it so.  Sorta.  For example: The Declaration of Independence.  I have another declaration to suggest we use, as individuals.  It throws the user into an immersive encounter with principles of being an American.

Rus VanWestervelt is an educator and writer in Baltimore (and distinctly, proudly of Baltimore).  You can meet him at thebaltimorewriter.org.

He is also a compassionate, contemplative philosopher (in my view), things he would not say on his resume or business card.  He has good taste in meditative music, too (so sez me).  He put six minutes of Deuter on his Samadhi Sanctuary page.

Yesterday, the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of reading his beautiful article, A Declaration, where he reflects on patriotism in a personal way from childhood to adulthood, learning along the way that the nation does not always live up to its principles.  In his continued commitment to those principles, he reminds readers of the Emma Lazarus words at the Statue of Liberty …

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she / With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

… and he takes it much farther by doing something I don’t recall ever seeing done in school or in any public celebration or at home: he presents the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, and asks us to “Please read every word. Every single word.”  (copy below)

Then he writes, “On this day of independence, on this day that we celebrate everything that America stands for, I offer a Declaration that is a little less of the grandiose and a little more of the introspective contemplation of what it means to be ‘American.'”

With his permission, I share it here, and embrace it.

  • I declare that, as an American, I respect the rights of my neighbors, regardless of political affiliation.
  • I declare that, as an American, I open my arms to the homeless, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses. 
  • I declare that, as an American, I embrace the independence and individuality of my neighbors as long as that independence and individuality does not bring harm or injustice to others.
  • I declare that, as an American, I shout my encouraging words, my art, my music, my ideas, my beliefs of what is right for all to the world regardless of the risk of suppression or judgment.
  • I declare that, as an American, I work hard to support my community, to be honorable in my efforts, and to offer good will toward others who contribute to the wellness of our country.
  • I declare that, as an American, I embrace inclusion, not exclusion, and my words and efforts shall carry opportunities instead of consequences. 

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This Land, Independence Day, 2019

Revised & Expanded July 4, 2019

Sheet Music snapshot

Click for music sheet PDF.

I want a new national anthem for the United States.  I want it to be Woody Guthrie’s 1944 song, This Land, and give him the Congressional Gold Medal for it.

If they won’t replace the current anthem, let there be two.  And why not?

My parents’ generation fought World War II.  Actually, my father and his father were in the Navy in the Pacific Ocean at the same time during the war.  This closeness of my generation to that war made it fresh in our collective mind during my youth.

Fighting with Germans was a very popular TV and movie theme (think Vic Morrow in Combat), and we saw propaganda movies made during the war, too.  “We,” in my case, being German Americans.

That paternal grandfather in the Navy in WWII was a “first-born American” to German immigrant parents.  My paternal grandmother’s family was rooted partly in Berlin, Germany.  My mother’s maternal grandparents came from Slovenia to the coal mines of Forest City, Pennsylvania, near Scranton.  My maternal grandmother was born in Slovenia and “brought over” as an infant.  So I’m the grandson of an immigrant and the great-grandson of several other immigrants.

It’s an amazing world, where my connection to Germany was “flavored” by TV-steeped kids teasing me, calling me a Nazi because my name was German, and the Italians were Guineas and WOPS (“Without Papers” … yeah, undocumented immigrants coming over a wall thousands of miles wide in fathomless water … but they climbed that wall), and the Puerto Ricans were Spics, and the Jews were Kikes, and Vietnam gave us Gooks and there were Slopeheads before them, and the Spooks, the Niggers, the Jungle Bunnies, the African Americans, who seem almost never to get a break no matter how long it’s been since they began “immigrating,” people who are more American than almost anybody.  The nation would not exist without them.  Could we have funded the American Revolution without Black slave labor?  (And this is really “Marlboro Country” when you think about the role of tobacco in the Revolutionary economy.)

In this endless American atrocity of degrading, abusing, cheating, even killing human beings because of their color, ethnicity, nationality or religion, we can include putting an ethnic class of law-abiding American immigrants AND CITIZENS into concentration camps while members of their same ethnicity fought for this country.  This is the Japanese in World War II.

They don’t fit the immigrant model, but Native Americans were subjected to genocide, not merely because they were deemed “savages,” but because they were in the way of American “progress.”

This is America, where there are always people underfoot and people walking on them, power thriving on senseless hatred, until the tides turn.  Then, new groups become the underclass (or get added to the list of existing ones).

I guess that’s an immigrant nation for you, where they fight to get here, fight the consequences of being here because they are lowly immigrants mistreated by the “citizens,” then they go fight and kill their relatives “over there” to protect what they’ve been fighting for over here, then become allies with the enemies.  Amazing.  Pay your dues in the blood of both heart and soul, and become American.

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David Brooks on tap

You might enjoy this hour of David Brooks talking at the Commonwealth Club.  His new book (among several) is The Second Mountain; The Joy of Giving Yourself Away.

Recording (an hour):
https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2019-05-01/david-brooks-quest-moral-life
also available in a Commonwealth Club podcast

Brooks is a “moderate conservative” (he discusses this in the recording, saying he is really more of a 19th Century Whig) NY Times columnist, TV and radio pundit/commentator, book author, philosopher, and now director of a social movement called Weave: The Social Fabric Project with the Aspen Institute (weareweavers.org – you’ll like his 2-minute video on this page; find out about the project in the text under the menu bar items).

I’ve been a big fan of Brooks for many years. I once posted a comment on his Twitter page nominating him for Secretary of Reason in the next White House administration. (I don’t use Twitter anymore. Or Facebook.) But I guess it wouldn’t make sense for the government to have a Department of Reason.

 

You get 61 trees for life

 

Nalini M. Nadkarni (photo source Univ. of Washington article)


In her 2008 book, Between Earth and Sky; Our Intimate Connections to Trees, Nalini M. Nadkarni wrote on page 43,
 
I calculated that the world supports sixty-one trees for each person on Earth [in 2005]. … When I told my husband […] he reflected for a moment and then voiced wonder that the ratio was so small.  “Each person gets sixty-one trees in a lifetime?  That seems hardly enough to supply just the firewood we’ll use in our woodstove for the next few winter seasons, let alone the lumber that’s in our house and the paper I put through my printer.”  His reflections […] reinforced the sense that I need to think about ways to look after my sixty-one trees, wherever they might be growing in the world.
 
To see how she arrived at 61 trees for each of us, see the two scanned images of her text below.

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Disarming Disbelief – Playing for Change

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They push the heart toward believing more about the world than it seems to want believed, something more believable — more real — when they sing about it, something we need them to sing about, to keep the spirit breathing, to strengthen faith and disarm disbelief.

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Endangered Animals Dreaming and Singing for OUR Future

If you liked Les Mis, you’ll love this.  Or absolutely hate it.

I suppose this post is about my faith in art to shape the future.  It is also about my often daunted faith in humanity to gradually see itself more as it really is, not merely as it is in dreams and delusions.  It is also about faith in the good in humanity, the humanity of humanity.  After all, somebody made this art about humanity, this video of listening to animals singing about a broken dream, a shamed belief, a shattered hope.  Somebody saw our place in that process.  Many people do.  So there is hope for us yet.  If you watch this 3-minute flick with an open heart, somebody is you, because we are what we eat. Continue reading