A recent article got me thinking about our contact with the natural world. How do we form connections with the natural world and what does it mean to be environmentally aware? For those fortunate few who grew up (or still live) with abundant exposure to the natural world it may be as easy as stepping outside your front door, taking a walk in the woods, or working in your garden. For others with less access it may be more difficult to find such opportunities. If we didn’t grow up with access to nature communicating may seem like asking us to speak a foreign language we’ve never learned.
My father died on Dec. 24th and my husband and I returned to Minnesota for his funeral. At 87 he had lived a long and full life. It seemed like he went “downhill” very fast. In the last two years each time I saw him I couldn’t believe the changes. In some ways I feel fortunate that the end of his life came relatively quickly. He lived to a “ripe old age” and enjoyed his life almost up to the very end. We were fortunate that a family wedding last August brought most of our family together in celebration and my father’s health was still good enough to share in it. The picture above of my father was the one taken last August and the one we used at the funeral. When the end came it came relatively quickly, although I know it didn’t feel that way to my mother or sisters who sat by his side for four days.
His memorial service was a beautiful celebration of his life. It was held at the small Lutheran church that our family attended most of my life. It was bitter sweet. The church was filled with people and many of them came up to me to offer condolences. They would often say “You probably don’t remember me…” and all too often I didn’t. Many people I hadn’t seen for years, even decades, but their words always touched me. Their stories brought tears and laughter. They all thought so much of my father. How can one explain what it means to belong to a community? These were my people. I was Bob’s daughter. I belonged. Somehow sharing with each of them it felt as if the emptiness I was feeling was filled. The hole in my heart that I wasn’t expecting…was somehow filled. These people in one way or another made me feel that my father was important. His life mattered and by extension …my life mattered.
How absolutely essential it is to belong in community. Our roots go deep and our soil is enriched because our father tended it. He wasn’t perfect. Nor are we. But we would not be who we are if not for him. To me he was my idol because I was the proverbial “daddy’s girl”. He was my first teacher and I learned so much from him. I would not be who I am without his influence. We belong to a family within this community. My mother, my siblings, my nieces and nephew, their spouses, their children…we gathered together as family. We cried, we laughed, we hugged, we looked at pictures, and we hoisted our drinks. We came together as family. This is a time when you feel we are more than just individual people living our separate lives.
I could feel my father’s spirit and I know he was smiling. I thought “Look what you started dad. Look what you left behind.” I could feel his approval and his love. His spirit was with us. The mystery of life came full circle, we are born, we live and reproduce, we die…the way we only hope it can be. We all hope we can live a long and full life and in the end to know it is our time, to know that we were part of something larger than our self.
A week before he died my sister asked him about death. “Are you ready?” His answer was straight forward. “Yes. I’m pretty sure I am. ” Can we hope for more than that?
image: Apostle St. Simon the Zelot
When are we willing to fight for our views? Simon the Zelot was a disciple of Jesus. He advocated aggression with the Romans. He literally fought for his views. I find it odd that Simon was one of the twelve disciples because Jesus seemed very much against violence (unless one considers the story of the money changers in the temple!) Politically I consider myself a moderate independent and normally I do not view political views something to fight over…disagree certainly, but this does not include violence!
the pendulum swings to the end of its travel
the shortening of days slows and stops
the full cold moon lights the world
the wind briefly holds its breath
the tides come full and stop
a moment of absolute calm
to breathe, to be present
before beginning again
the high holy night
We all have our point of view, literally and figuratively. I have lived in a home powered by solar energy for more than seven years. I am convinced that more Americans must do the same, and soon, if we are going to have any chance of keeping climate change from becoming catastrophic. Continue reading “Differing Views”
How many times do we say: “Well, it would be better in the long term if we all did X but it would not make money?” Or, “there isn’t enough money?” Or “it would not be competitive?” Or even worse: “We all know that X is a destructive thing to do but we all have to make a living.” In a sense, we say that last line to ourselves every day because that is how our economy works; it is built on “growth”, which, as the world stands, is a code word for exponential extraction and destruction of natural and social resources.
How did it come to be that we are controlled by money? How is it that our creation is controlling us? It’s fashionable to worry about the advent of AI (artificial intelligence) – and with good reason. We have already created a technology, a relatively simple technology, that is out of control – money and the system of valuation that underlies it. It is for money that we are burning up the only world we have. We are already fooled by and the slaves of our own creation, and our financial system is nothing as sophisticated as what it will be when augmented by AI, blockchain, cloud-computing and big data.
Now would be a good time to get a handle on our creation. Now would be a good time to think about where we are going. Continue reading “Money & Life”
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to address climate change in terms of policy at the local level, at the smallest organized unit of government for my area, which is the County of Hawaii, encompassing the island of Hawaii. I am not an expert on climate change or climate change policy in any way, shape, or form, but this may well be the mother of all situations where we will need to learn by doing, rather than waiting on expertise that does not yet exist. Continue reading “Climate Change: Do Politics or Do Nothing?”
“Stereoscopic vision, depth perception, certain emotions and other perceptions, and the ability to stretch our thumbs farther than most other species, the ability to build and destroy things, and many other traits individually or in combination separate us from other species, not necessarily all species though. Other animals with opposable thumbs include gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and other variants of apes; certain frogs, koalas, pandas, possums and opossums, and many birds have an opposable digit of some sort. Many dinosaurs had opposable digits as well. Granted, most of these are primates, as are we. I wonder if rationalization is something unique to humans. The ability to ponder may be as well.” Continue reading “Our opposable thumb”
It rained for the first time in three months the other day, a deliverance of a sort. The hurricane Hector had come farther and farther north, closer and closer the whole week as it made its way west from the Baja, then skirted the south part of the island as it roared by, dragging a little rain in its wake. A near miss. No real wind and a little rain. A godsend. The fires had been loose around the island for some time so the crews finally had some needed help. The pastures have begun to green again in quick response.
Deliverance and hope.
But then the news that my brother Bryan had worsened. He had been undergoing treatment for a blood cancer, had endured the lengthy ups and downs of chemo and isolation, a second bone marrow transplant, and surgeries, until the doctors said at this point he was not coming back. His wife and daughter were beyond exhaustion. Bryan awoke long enough to say the sun is good, and he wanted to go to the sun.
There are no coincidences, and today NASA launched the first ever spacecraft toward the sun, designed to spiral in ever closer over many years…
The owl came at dusk and circled once to tell us it was time.
Tonight the Perseids meteor showers blossomed, glowing tears across the sky, sorrow and celebration all at once…
Safe passage Bryan on your journey to the sun… Sail on