Archive for July, 2010

The Warrior Ideal of Manhood and Global Warming

Friday, July 30th, 2010

     I invite you to click below and listen to an illuminating commentary my husband Andy Schmookler delivered recently on our local NPR station, WMRA.–April Moore

We Can’t Give Up on a Senate Climate Change Bill

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

     Despite the pleas of thousands and thousands of Americans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told us last week that the Senate will not pass climate change legislation this summer.   

     Why?  The votes just aren’t there, says Reid.  There is no Republican support, and even some Democrats do not support the bill.  While Republican opposition is in keeping with the party’s lock-step opposition to virtually anything the President supports, it seems that the upcoming November elections have some Democrats worried they might pay too high a political price if they support a bill to cap carbon emissions.  But even some Democratic Senators who are not up for re-election this fall have done nothing to move the Kerry-Lieberman bill forward in the Senate. 

     Another reason we don’t have the Senate votes we need, says Eric Pooley, author of The Climate War:  True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Planet, is that President Obama missed a key opportunity to build support for the measure.  He failed to encourage the public, angered by the BP gulf oil disaster, to channel their anger into calls to their Senators to enact climate change legislation this summer.  

     Many Senate observers believe the next chance for passage of a Senate climate change bill will be the lame duck session, following the November elections.  If the Senate fails to pass a bill by January, the coresponding bill passed in the House last year dies, and we must start over.

     We can’t give up!  Despite the sorry current state affairs, we cannot forget that climate change is the moral issue of our lifetime.  We can’t afford to let up in our efforts to get Congress to do what the country desperately needs.   Based on recent messages I’ve received from national organizations that are working on this issue, here are several actions we can take now:

1)  Call your two Senators.  Let them know you are angry and disappointed that the Senate has failed to enact an economy-wide–or even utility industry-wide–carbon emissions cap.  Even though the bill is dead for now, you are urging your Senators to work for its passage by the end of the year.  Click on this link to find your Senators’ phone numbers. 

2)  Call your Senators, and urge them to vote for the Home Star Energy Retrofit bill.  This bill is being promoted by some Senators who are determined to pass SOME sort of energy bill this summer.  The bill would make substantial sums of money available to homeonwers for making energy-saving retrofits to their homes.  While no substitute for a strong climate change bill, this bill would save money, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse emissions.   

3)  Make use of the August recess.  Arrange to meet with your Senators when they are in the state during the recess.  At your Senators’ public appearances, express your opinion that  you are angry and disappointed that the Senate backed away from doing its job in passing climate change legislation this summer.  Try to get a commitment to pass a strong climate change bill this year.–April Moore


Friday, July 23rd, 2010

     It never ceases to amaze me that whenever I go into the woods just below our house, I invariably see something I’ve never noticed before.  And this morning was no exception.

      After strolling down the hill into the forest, I took a seat on a spread of dead oak leaves.   Then I proceeded to take in what could be seen from this particular vantage point.    Lots of tall chestnut oaks, some hickories and tupelo.  There were smaller red maples, slender and leaning in one direction or another.  Some moosewood, a few as tall as the maples, others no taller than a shrub.  And here and there a little ’tree sprout,’ no more than a foot high and sporting just a few leaves.  And there was no shortage of fallen branches strewn about, resting at various angles and some partially covered in a year or two’s worth of dead leaves.

     As I sat looking, I began to take in more.  A large ant on a mission, determinedly carrying some little white sphere uphill and down through the leaves.  The cicadas, I noticed, were almost silent, after having made quite a din yesterday.  Only a couple of birds were singing.  A woodpecker tapped for a few moments. 

     And, perhaps most dramatic of all, the sun cast streaks of light through the trees–onto a patch of forest floor, onto leaves fluttering from certain trees, onto a few tree trunks.

     Then my eye caught something I don’t remember having seen before. 

     About 30 feet away, on the trunk of a hickory tree lit by the morning sun, was a very large shadow of a leaf.  The shadow came from one of the few chestnut oak leaves that hung on a spindly tree between the sun and the hickory.  Of course I had to capture the tree with its leaf shadow on film (if one can refer to digital photography as film!).  Moving nearer to the tree to take my picture, I noticed, on a pine tree farther on, a much more pleasing, even delightful shadow.  There on the reddish pine bark danced several small leaf shadows.  As the breeze rustled the living leaves on a nearby red maple, their shadows moved gracefully in the sunshine against their scaly pine bark background.  The sight gave me joy, and I eagerly snapped a couple of pictures.

     Feeling very happy as I hiked back up the hill to the house, I paused to observe a daddy long legs ambling along nearby.  It too paused, and with a couple of its legs, sensitively investigated my shoe.  Then the daddy long legs moved on.  I watched as its small body, suspended among many long, arched legs, cast a little oblong shadow that followed along on the ground.–April Moore

maple leaf shadows dancing on a pine tree in the sunshine

maple leaf shadows dancing on a pine tree in the sunshine


an oak leaf shadow on the trunk of a hickory tree

an oak leaf shadow on the trunk of a hickory tree

Good News for the Arctic North

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

     I often wish the U.S. were more like Canada.  Canada has been much more serious about protecting its natural treasures than has the U.S.  Nonetheless, the following good news story from Canada is good news for all of us.           

     Over the last year or so, the Canadian government been putting in place important protections for its Arctic north.

     Last summer, Canada declared a large chunk of Ontario’s boreal (northern) forest off-limits to further development.  Then, soon after, Canada went further, establishing three National Wildlife Areas in the Arctic.  The designation means that the areas’ natural features will be protected from disturbance and from activities considered harmful to species living there or to the habitat as a whole.

     All three sites are located on Baffin Island.  Some of the species that will be protected, thanks to the recent designations, are bowhead whales, polar bears. walruses, seals, and many species of birds.

     The Inuit people, who live in Canada’s far north, had been advocating with Canada’s federal government since 2001 for the National Wildlife Area designations.  The day the designations were signed into law, was “a big day for Inuit,” stated James Eetoolook, acting president of the Inuit organizations that had worked to bring about the federal protections.

     And just this month, the Canadian government extended last year’s protections.  Now, vessels, foreign and domestic, must report to Canada’s Coast Guard when they are traveling through Arctic waters.  ”With mandatory reporting,” explains Gail Shea, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, “the Canadian Coast Guard will be able to keep watch on vessels carrying pollutants, fuel oil and dangerous goods, and respond quickly in the event of an accident.”–April Moore 

northern fulmar, one of the birds protected in the Canadian Arctic

northern fulmar, one of the birds protected in the Canadian Arctic


Pod of the Milkweed

Friday, July 16th, 2010

     I have written before about the milkweed, about its starring role in ensuring a healthy population of monarch butterflies, about the winter beauty of  its pods, dry and open, still embracing some of the fall’s silken seeds.  

     But now, it’s mid-summer, and this year’s pods are just getting started.  They are small, soft, and green, clustered under the  dying flowers so loved by butterflies and bees.  As I visited and photographed a stand of milkweed along our road yesterday, I delighted to see a monarch caterpillar stretched along one of the leaves.

     I hope you will enjoy my photos below, as well as Robert Frost’s poem.  It is a beautiful poem, I think, full of wonder at the wild enthusiasm the unassuming plant inspires among butterflies.–April Moore

emerging milkweed pods among dying flowers

emerging milkweed pods among dying flowers

monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf

monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf


Calling all butterflies of every race
From source unknown but from no special place
They ever will return to all their lives,
Because unlike the bees they have no hives,
The milkweed brings up to my very door
The theme of wanton waste in peace and war
As it has never been to me before.
And so it seems a flower’s coming out
That should if not be talked then sung about.
The countless wings that from the infinite
Make such a noiseless tumult over it
Do no doubt with their color compensate
For what the drab weed lacks of the ornate.
For drab it is its fondest must admit.
And yes, although it is a flower that flows
With milk and honey, it is bitter milk,
As anyone who ever broke its stem
And dared to taste the wound a little knows.
It tastes as if it might be opiate.
But whatsoever else it may secrete,
Its flowers’ distilled honey is so sweet|
It makes the butterflies intemperate.
There is no slumber in its juice for them.
One knocks another off from where he clings.
They knock the dyestuff off each other’s wings–
With thirst on hunger to the point of lust.
They raise in their intemperance a cloud
Of mingled butterfly and flower dust
That hangs perceptibly above the scene.
In being sweet to these ephemerals
The sober weed has managed to contrive
In our three hundred days and sixty-five
One day too sweet for beings to survive.
Many shall come away as struggle-worn
And spent and dusted off of their regalia,
To which at daybreak they were freshly born,
As after one-of-them’s proverbial failure
From having beaten all day long in vain
Against the wrong side of a windowpane.

But waste was of the essence of the scheme.
And all the good they did for man or god
To all those flowers they passionately trod
Was leave as their posterity one pod
With an inheritance of restless dream.
He hangs on upside down with talon feet
In an inquisitive position odd
As any Guatemalan parakeet.
Something eludes him.  Is it food to eat?
Or some dim secret of the good of waste?
He almost has it in his talon clutch.
Where have those flowers and butterflies all gone
That science may have staked the future on?
He seems to say the reason why so much
Should come to nothing must be fairly faced.



The Amazing Burdock

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

     My husband Andy and I have been marveling at the burdock plant growing alongside our driveway. 

     The plant’s basal leaves, growing close to the ground, are about a foot and a half long and at least a foot wide.  Since the spring, a central stalk has shot up, so that now the plant is a good four feet tall.   The tall, sturdy stem indicates that this is year two for the biennial plant.  During year one, the burdock remains low to the ground, its leaves large, but no stalk. 

     The burdock’s newer upper parts are quite different from the large lower leaves.  Now, in mid-July, slender branches reach up and out in several directions, and they sport leaves that are tiny, compared to their counterparts lower down.  The burdock’s flowers have given way to ‘fruit’ in the form of burrs.  These burrs are flexible and green, but as the season progresses, they will turn brown and dry and will snag onto any clothing or fur that gets too close.  In fact, according to my research, it is the burrs in burdock that spurred that revolutionary invention, Velcro!

     Widely considered a weed, burdock grows in disturbed areas throughout North America, except for the Deep South.  But it is a weed that has many uses, both nutritionally and medicinally.  

     The root of the burdock is a popular food in Japan and Europe.   A first year root is smaller and easier to dig out of the ground, and it is less bitter than a second year root, according to what I read.  Burdock connoisseurs recommend scrubbing the root rather than peeling it, and then slicing it, diagonally, into razor-thin slices.   For a Japanese-style dish, the slices may be sauteed, along with ginger and carrots.  Add soy sauce, Japanese wine, and simmer.  When the slices are tender, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.   Sounds good;  I haven’t tried it yet. 

     The stalk of the burdock is also edible.  Late spring is better than summer, since the stalk toughens as it grows.  It can be cut, shorn of leaves, and then peeled to remove the tough outer layer.  Then just cut it into short lengths, and add it to stir fry.

     Burdock’s medicinal uses extend back hundreds of years.  In the seventeenth century, according to A Druid Fellowship (ADF)’s website, burdock was placed on the navel of a pregnant woman to help keep the foetus in the womb until it reached full-term.  And the root was combined with pine nuts and given to “them that spit foul, mattery, and bloddy phlegm,” according to ADF.  The juice of the leaves were given with wine to treat snake bites. And the leaves have been helpful in treating burns and insect bites.  Burdock is also a vulnerary (a new word for me!), which means it is effective in treating bruises and cuts.

     Burdock also played a magical, protective role.  In England, according to Ana Spiritdancer, writing for ADF’s website,,  people used to scatter burdock (called Personata) around the outside of homes to ward off negativity.  And the root was gathered during the waning moon, cut, dried, and strung on red thread.  This necklace was then worn to ward off evil. 

     Now that I have learned a little about burdock, I find the plant awesome.  As I think about the burdock, I am reminded that in generations past, people routinely knew a great deal about the plants around them.  I imagine that many of the plants I see every day have medicinal uses of which I am completely ignorant.–April Moore    

April with burdock

April with burdock

burdock by our driveway

burdock by our driveway

Why Doesn’t Nature Banish Hatred From Our Hearts?

Friday, July 9th, 2010

     I have long been a fan of the writings of Leo Tolstoy.  But until recently I didn’t realize how deeply he loved nature.  The following short passage from his story “The Invaders” is poignant in his incredulity that humans who share the glory of this beautiful world can still hate and kill each other.–April Moore 

     “Such silence reigned in the whole detachment, that there could be plainly distinguished all the harmonious voices of the night, full of mysterious charm.  The distant melancholy howls of jackals, sometimes like the wails of despair, sometimes like laughter;  the monotonous ringing song of the cricket, the frog, the quail;  a gradually approaching murmur, the cause of which I could not make clear to my own mind;  and all those nocturnal, almost audible motions of Nature, which, it is so impossible either to comprehend or define, –united into one complete, beautiful harmony which we call “the silence of the night.”

     “This silence was broken, or rather was unified, by the dull thud of the hoofs, and the rustling of the tall grass through which the division ws slowly moving. 

     “Occasionally, however, was heard in the ranks the ring of a heavy cannon, the sound of clashing bayonets, stifled conversation, and the snorting of a horse.

     “Nature breathed peacefully in beauty and power.

     “Is it possible that people find no room to live together in this beautiful world, under this boundless starry heaven?  Is it possible that, amid this bewitching Nature, the soul of man can harbor the sentiments of hatred and revenge, or the passion for inflicting destruction on his own kind?  All ugly feelings in the heart of man ought, it would seem, to vanish away in this intercourse with Nature–with this immediate expression of beauty and goodness!”

Tips for Using Less Oil

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

     Well over two months since BP’s deepwater oil rig exploded, thousands of barrels of oil are still spewing into Gulf waters every day.  Nothing I have seen in recent years has focused attention on the urgent task of breaking our addiction to oil like this terrible incident.

     We’re all in it together.  Our society was built on fossil fuels, and currently, we all depend on oil for many of our daily activities and needs.  But we can make choices in our daily lives to at least reduce our oil consumption.  The following are some tips from the National Audubon Society for reducing your consumption of petroleum-based products. 

     By the way, in addition to acting on Audubon’s suggestions, you might also talk with others about the changes you’re making.  Quite likely you will find that others are also looking for things they can do in their own lives to cut their petroleum consumption.

     Here are Audubon’s tips:  

  • Drive less. Take public transit. Carpool.
  • Combine your driving errands to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Insist that meetings and other activities be held near public transit.
  • Stop using plastic bottles. It is estimated 17 million barrels of oil are used to make them. Nearly 90 percent are not recycled but go to landfills where it takes many years for them to decompose.
  • Stop using plastic bags. It is estimated 100 billion plastic shopping bags are used each year, made from around 12 million barrels of oil. They are slow to biodegrade and many end up in trees and waterways and threaten wildlife.    

     These are all good suggestions.  An especially easy and effective tip, I think, is to avoid bottled water.  If  you like having water with you when you go about your day, a good option is tap water in a non-BPA thermos.  You’ll save money too.

     And it’s easy to avoid plastic bags if you keep a few canvas, reusable bags in your car.  Then you’ll have them when you shop, and you won’t need to take a plastic bag from the store.–April Moore



Awakening to Nature

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

     I have been thinking about my love for nature, which I would describe as still growing.  And did I always love nature?  I’m not sure. 

     I certainly did not consciously love nature as a young child.  But in my many, many memories of childhood, the outdoor world plays a starring role:  drinking in the sweetness of lilac as I roller skated past our neighbor’s hedge; walking home from school in crisp October sunshine;  examining the season’s first snowflakes as they fell;  chasing lightening bugs, barefoot through the grass, on a summer evening.  All of these moments are pleasant to recall.  But did I ever think to myself, at the time, that I loved the nature around me?  Never.  Nature was simply there, as were family, home, everything else in my life.  I took it all for granted, as kids do.

     It wasn’t until early adolescence that I knew I loved nature.  I remember vaguely, as a sixth grader, going alone on a Saturday morning to the University of Washington arboretum, near our Seattle home.  The one clear spot in that hazy memory is standing, in wonder, by a tiny stream that ran through a meadow-like space in the arboretum.  The stream was a pretty little thing, running clear and unencumbered between grassy banks.  The stones, mosses, and twigs in the stream all looked vivid through the moving water.  I felt a stirring inside, an excited new aliveness. 

     Today I am not sure just why that scene was so special;  no doubt I had seen prettier sights before that morning at the arboretum.  The specialness of standing by the stream, that has stayed with me all these years, must have had something to do with my age.  Early adolescence is a time of ‘waking up,’ I remember my son’s sixth grade teacher saying about a decade ago.  I assumed he was talking about sex, but I think adolescence is also a time when many young people begin to come alive spiritually.    

     Yes, I believe I was looking at that little stream through new eyes.  And they were the eyes of one who had decided on her own to visit the arboretum, who had gone there by herself, just as a grown-up might.  I had chosen this experience all on my own, and it belonged to me.

     In the months that followed my visit to the arboretum, I began seeking other opportunities to be alone in nature.  On weekend campouts with my Girl Scout troop, I needed to be the first one up in the morning, so that I could take a walk by myself in the quiet woods.  There I found delight and a deep happiness. 

     Even now, the forest is where I go to soothe my spirit, to center myself.  And while sharing the forest with a loved one can also be a fine experience, it is when I am in the forest alone that I am most deeply connected with the earth’s sacredness.  These days I frequently go into the woods alone for what I call ‘Spirit time.’   These forest forays have given rise to many of the most heartfelt writings I have shared here. –April Moore 


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