Archive for October, 2008

A Frail Little Maple

Friday, October 31st, 2008

     I just walked inside after a long, late afternoon walk with Andy.  It was a lovely walk along the dirt road at the top of the ridge on which we live.  The air was colder and damper than it had been before a night and a day of rain, a night and day that have brought us from Indian Summer to Almost Winter.

     During the walk, I had a special time with a little tree.  While Andy paused to write down one of his many ideas, I stopped too and stood gazing into the woods at the side of the road. 

     Soon my eyes rested on the slenderest of trees.  The trunk–if you could call it that–was only as thick as a small tree branch.  It was as if someone had picked up one of the many branches lying in the leaves by the road, and stuck it in the ground.  The ‘trunk’ of this tree rose from the ground toward 10:00 and then veered sharply toward 1:00.  Its shift in direction was marked by a distinct ‘elbow.’ 

      Given the little maple’s slight stature, I was surprised to note its full crown of leaves.  This  fragile-looking tree sprouted numerous stems at the top, all of them tipped with reddening leaves fluttering in unison.

     The lines of the little maple pleased me.  A very slender, angled line on the way up, with a soft-looking, light and leafy cloud on top.  I marvelled that this very tiny tree, a mere stick in the ground, had generated so many leaves;  this tree couldn’t have been more than a baby.  The tree may have looked frail, but it was strong enough.  It had all it needed to live–to withstand wind, cold, rain, and snow. 

     This little tree, so common, so ordinary, and such a wonder.April Moore

Man Donates ‘Wild and Wooly’ Park

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

     I regard it as wonderful news that a generous donation of more than 800 acres of Missouri woodland will become a park the size of New York’s Central Park. 

    The donor, Don Robinson, lives very simply on this land.  And he loves the spot where he has gone to bed to the sounds of coyotes and awakened to the sounds of crows for more than 40 years.  At age 81, he wants to ensure the land’s protection after he is no longer around.  Having no heirs, he has decided to donate the land for the creation of a state park. 

     And so, the land will be protected, and others will enjoy it for years to come.  The forest land will remain pretty much as is, ‘wild and wooly’ as Robinson describes it, with no visitor center or camping facilities planned.

     Learn more about this interesting gentleman and his gift by clicking on the link below:

 thttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081025/ap_on_re_us/missouri_s_central_park

The Juncoes Are Back!

Monday, October 27th, 2008

     Yesterday morning, instead of my usual meditation with candle and altar, I decided to do a walking meditation.  And I needed it.  Since Andy and I moved back to this beautiful mountain ridge in the Shenandoah Valley two months ago, I have been so focused on unpacking and trying to make the place look good that I have not felt deeply connected with what it was that brought us back here–nature.

     So my outdoor meditation was a time to just be in the beauty that always nourishes me–not taking a walk, not clearing out dead branches, not carrying up firewood–but just being.

     And I was richly rewarded.  As I stood in the driveway and looked into the brush, I soon began to notice some quiet movement.  A little bird, and then another, and another, were hopping, pausing, fluttering their wings softly. 

     I looked more closely and realized that these little birds were juncoes!  Grey from the top of their head to the middle of their breast,  they are white below, with a yellow beak.  Remembering that they winter in our area, I was surprised to see them here so soon.  Had they already moved in for the winter?

     Well, I’ll be ready for them!  A great pleasure I had, living here before, was watching the juncoes do their characteristic little dance, a dance that seems to be, for them, part of eating.  I would put some birdseed on a plate on the balcony outside our bedroom.  The juncoes, who eat off the ground, would eat some seed from the plate, then jump forward and back, eat some more, jump forward and back again, eat and jump, etc.  It’s a delight to watch!   

     So I’ll be buying some bird seed in the next few days.  I’ll put some on a plate on the balcony and hope that the little guys show up.  I can’t wait!–April Moore

Choking on Too Much Stuff?

Friday, October 24th, 2008

     The Boston-based website www.consciousconsuming.org encourages people to throw off the usual identity of ‘consumer.’  Instead, we should think seriously about our deepest values, and then align our purchasing decisions with those values. 

     Susan Donohoe of Dedham, Massachusetts, writes in Orion magazine (January-February 2008):  “Somehow the ability to throw things away to buy bigger, better, newer models became a status symbol in our country, and buying secondhand or not buying at all became a vision of poverty rather than thrift or conservation.  Yet most religious traditions advocate sharing over hoarding, community over commodities.  Studies show that after the basics (food, shelter, clothing) are taken care of, human happiness ratings do no increase as wealth increases.”

     At www.consciousconsuming.org, you will find challenges to act in ways that will make our lives less of a strain on the planet, while likely increasing our satisfaction in the process.  Just scroll down to the lower right portion of the site’s home page, to the section titled ‘Stuff.’–April Moore 

God in All Things

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

     These wise words are from Meister Eckhart, a thirteenth century German theologian and mystic.

Apprehend God in all things,
for God is in all things.

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.

Every creature is a word of God.

If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature–
even a caterpillar–
I would never have to prepare a sermon.  So full of God
is every creature.

Manhood and the Fate of the Earth

Monday, October 20th, 2008

     Versions of the following short piece, by my husband Andy Schmookler, were published in newspapers around the country.

     The United States faces two kinds of threats to its national security.  One is from external enemies, the other from the degradation of the biosphere.  Over the years, our leaders have been willing to spend billions to counter cold war enemies or to make war on terrorists, but to divert us from environmental disaster, they’ve scarcely lifted a finger.

      And in our current presidential campaign, while the threat of terrorism receives a great deal of attention, we still hear very little about climate change as a threat to our security. 

     Why is that?  Why is it that, despite the fact that there’s scientific consensus that global warming might bring about catastrophic consequences for human life on this planet, such a threat gets so much less attention than threats from other groups of people that might do us harm?

     At the heart of the answer, I suggest,  are deeply ingrained ideas about manhood in America.  There are some concerns that it is thought manly to attend to, while others are sissies’ stuff.

     The image of the warrior is central to our idea of manhood.  So it’s always manly to prepare to fight an enemy, another man whose power can hurt us.  But showing concern for environmental dangers–which means being willing to limit our own exercise of power in the world–does not look so glorious in American eyes.

     Thus, while it’s manly to make worst-case assumptions about an enemy’s capabilities and intentions, one who looks at worst-case environmental scenarios is derided as a “Chicken Little.”

     While the business of guarding what’s ours seems manly, the task of caring for what’s been entrusted to us sounds, in our culture, suspiciously like women’s work.

     There’s good reason why warriors have long been the heroes of civilized societies.  For millennia, it is from outside enemies that the greatest threats to social survival have come.

     Only in recent generations has this begun to change.  Now, the explosive growth of industrial technology has so altered our relationship to this living planet that it is from the destructive impact of our own peacetime activities that the gravest threat to our security may now come.

     Meeting this sudden new challenge requires new virtues of us, but our ways of thinking change far less quickly than has our impact on the biosphere.

     There is another ancient image of what a man might be.  It is the image of the good steward, the man to whom the care of things can be entrusted.  We will not again be secure until the good steward seems to us as manly as the vigilant warrior.

Death Is the Mother of Beauty

Friday, October 17th, 2008

     I have been thinking about the line from Wallace Stevens:  “Death is the mother of beauty.”  How true it feels.   I recently had the joy of spending several days with loved ones at Maine’s Acadia National Park at the peak of fall color.  Never before had I seen such flaming fall brilliance.  How gorgeous are the trees when the life is draining from their leaves.     

     For me, the awareness that everyone and everything I love are temporary, makes it all more beautiful, more precious.  Would a sweet-scented rose be as lovely if it were not so ephemeral?  Would I love the world as much if I were going to be here always?  I don’t think so.

        Death is indeed the mother of beauty.  Not just an unpleasant fact of life, death is an integral part of life’s beauty.–April Moore

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California Leads the Way

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

     California has taken a significant step in protecting its citizens and the environment from hundreds of toxic substances commonly found in consumer products. 

     Two new state laws, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, launches a new approach to dealing with toxics in the environment.  Instead of the usual, relatively ineffective chemical-by-chemical approach, the legislation authorizes the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to identify and prioritize a list of chemicals of concern and to ban them from products sold in California.

     With the newly enacted laws, “we will stop looking at toxics as an inevitable byproduct of industrial production,” says Schwarzenegger.  “Instead, they will be something that can be removed from every product in the design stage–protecting people’s health and our environment,” he explains. 

     Schwarzenegger calls his state’s new approach to toxics “the most comprehensive green chemistry program ever established” and promises that the legislation “will spur a new era of research and innovation that will drive economic growth and competition in the green chemistry sector.”

     The legislation is a response to growing concern by scientists and public health advocates about unsafe and untested chemicals in a wide range of consumer products.  A report by the California Policy Research Center shows that every day the United States produces or imports 42 billion pounds of chemicals that may cause problems for humans and the environment.

     In addition to enabling the state to ban products that contain harmful chemicals, the legislation also outlines the creation of a Toxics Information Clearinghouse.  This online resource will make it easy for the public to learn about the toxicity of thousands of chemicals used in the state every day.

     I look forward to the day when the other 49 states will have similar laws!  Thanks, California, for paving the way!–April Moore

Ours for the Looking

Monday, October 13th, 2008

     The following is an excerpt from the book Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein, M.D.   While the natural wonders he notices are a metaphor for deep awareness in general, I appreciate his discovery that an abundance of natural wonders can be enjoyed if we but open our eyes and notice them.  The author is attending a meditation retreat.

     ”I was in western Massachusetts during a very cold February, sitting silently over a 10-day period.  Every day after lunch, instead of taking my customary nap, I decided to put on five layers of clothing and walk in the surrounding countryside for an hour. I tried to time my excursions to be back in time for the first afternoon meditation.  The winter had been filled with snowstorms, and the rural forests and farmlands surrounding the meditation center had taken on the ghostly and sparkling look of Alaskan tundra.

     “Each day I would walk briskly and meditatively with my eyes down and my attention focused on my body’s movements.  There were empty roads and paths leading every which way so that for 30 minutes I would always be in a completely different place.  At that point I would stop and look around with the full force of my concentrated awareness before turning and heading back.

     “The first day I found myself in the middle of a frozen lake with a windstorm swirling the snow in circles about me.  The second day I was halfway up a hill looking up at the sky at the instant that the first flakes of a new snowfall came fluttering down in slow motion on to my upturned face.  The next day I was standing silently in the middle of a completely still forest when, with a sudden whoosh, an owl swooped low over my head with one huge dark wing extended.

     “I began to think there was something awesome about my timing.  How was it that, at the exact moment of my stopping, such incredible things were happening?  It took me longer than I am prepared to admit to realize that such things were always happening.  It was only that I was finally paying attention. 

     ”These walks taught me much about the function of meditation.  My practice was like the methodical 30-minute walk.  It could take me somewhere, but I had to remember to look around once I got there.  Those moments of silent awareness in the forest were precious because of how open and connected I felt.  Rather than feeling one with the universe, I still felt my own presence, yet my experience of myself was altered.  Like a child whose mind is free to roam because he is secure in his mother’s presence, I completely let down my guard.  I had the awareness of just how unimportant my efforts to understand myself were.  Relaxing my mind into its own deeper nature, as I was doing spontaneously when I interrupted my walk I could reach beyond my personality into something more open.”  

Save Money by Going Green

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

     I like win-win propositions.  Who doesn’t?  Well, you can live more gently on Mother Earth and save money at the same time.  The following are a few suggestions from Jeff Yeager, who calls himself THE ULTIMATE CHEAPSKATE.  The following suggestions are from his book The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches:

  • Stay close to home.  Each U.S. household now generates an average of 10 vehicle trips per day.  With the price of gas at close to $4 a gallon, if you consolidate or skip just two or three of those daily trips, you’ll save big money–and reduce pollution.  According to the American Automobile Association, it costs $9,369 a year (excluding loan payments) to keep the average car on the road.  So after excluding fixed costs, such as insurance, finance charges, license and registration, a 25% reduction in use could mean a savings of $1,782 per year.
  • Use your library.  You already own almost every book worth reading–your tax dollars were used to stock your public library.  So instead of buying books, borrow them.  You’ll save trees and help reduce the publishing industry’s War and Peace –size carbon footprint.  Also borrow music CDs and movie DVDs.  If you borrow one book a month instead of buying a hardcover for $25 and borrow two movies a month instead of spending $5 per movie at a video store, that’s a total savings of $420 per year.
  • Drink tap water.  It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil every year to manufacture disposable plastic water bottles for the U.S. market.  That’s enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.  Also, if you drink only bottled water, you’ll spend about $1,400 annually to get your recommended daily amount of water, as opposed to 49 cents for one year’s supply of just-as-healthful tap water.  Use the calculator at www.newdream.org to calculate your savings based on your actual consumption, but it’s likely to be more than $1,000 per year.

For more of THE ULTIMATE CHEAPSKATE’S earth-saving and money-saving ideas, visit his website www.ultimatecheapskate.com

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