Sunday, March 30, 2014

#130 How to Love the Earth

Dear friends,
    My love for the earth has led me in a couple of strikingly different directions this week, and I'm feeling called to share, even though you heard from me not that long ago. 
    Last Saturday was a warm day that seemed like a herald of spring, and I realized that this was the time to prune the cherry and peach trees that I'd planted in the community garden.  It feels like a great responsibility--doing right by the trees that help nourish us, and I put time into doing it as well as I could.
    Then on Monday, I participated in a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline**. I went with the intention of risking arrest--a big stretch for me--but ended up standing aside.  It was clear that those of us who stayed all day, singing and supporting the civil disobedience were critical to the success of the event as well, and I went home with tons to think about:  different kids of courage; what it means to stay fully awake to both the situation around me and what's going on inside; the puzzle of how to put your body on the line when the line is not visible.  All that will take some time to brew, and you may hear more later...
    But I also came home very much under the weight of the threat of the pipeline, particularly since it looks likely that the President may well make a decision on it in the next couple of weeks.  So I decided to do something that can't be more different from risking arrest:  writing a letter to the President.  Actually I've written three so far, with two more in the works, and posted them on several FB pages.  I'd like to invite you to join me.
    So here's what I've got for you today:
Five letters to the President, and a link to his e-mail page (you're welcome to any or all of my text).
A promise to be in touch about the issues the protest brought up for me.
And a poem from last March about pruning.
**For those of you who may not be aware, this is a plan to pipe crude oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada through the prairies of the midwest for export from the Gulf coast.  It seems clear that exploiting the tar sands fully would tip climate change to a trajectory that is irreversible and life-threatening, and that the pipeline would not only encourage that exploitation, but also pose enormous threat to the land and water supplies on its route.  For more information, go to

Dear President Obama

I implore you to do what you know is right, and stop the Keystone XL pipeline.  Big money will hate and vilify you for it, and your short term legacy may be compromised by their lies.  But if you do the right thing, and we end up with a future on this planet, all the world's grandchildren and great grandchildren will thank you for the single most important action that you took to ensure their chance to flourish.

In making your decision about the Keystone XL pipeline, please keep the needs of the seventh generation in the front of your mind.  You don't have to be re-elected.  You have the luxury to do the right thing.  Go down in history as a climate hero--the one who turned the tide. 

You have an unprecedented chance to make a difference for the whole world by stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.  Please do the right thing.  Don't give in to big money.  I bet you'll sleep better at night. 

We're smart enough to find a way to live with less oil.  Please choose for the potential of our intelligence rather than for the pressures of greed.  Say no to the Keystone CL pipeline and yes to a still-unknown, but potentially livable future.

I could offer pages of scientific reasons to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, but at root I think it's a simple moral choice:  health is more important than money.  Ultimately we can't build a healthy economy on the foundation of an unhealthy earth.  Our children and grandchildren won't thrive.  Please do the right thing.

And here's the link:

On a fruit tree pruning workshop at Bartram’s Garden

The melody line dips and soars
through roots, buds, branches
soil, sun, fruit.
The base is a steady
love, love, love.

The buds will lead the way in spring
while the roots are still asleep—
They touch the sun.

Remember the children when you prune—
They need a place to sit
a way to climb.

Feed the trees with a woodsy compost mix—
Think of what they love
and how the fungi nourish them.

I’d cut back on the branches here—
Make it so the sun can find a way
to kiss the fruit.

I would have stayed all day
never mind the standing or the cold
just to hear that song.

I don’t remember all the words
I wish I could—
I treasured every one.
But the base stays with me
heartbeat of the universe
love, love, love.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#129 Honoring Our Elders

Dear all,
I was privileged to spend a week in February with the extended family we have claimed in Poland.  It is always good to be reminded that my country is not the center of the world.  For me this time, it was even more important to be reminded that our connections with each other are the threads that make up the fabric of community, Any change for the better requires those threads to be strong, and my thread is more important to the lives it crosses and weaves through than I can easily remember.
Thanks for crossing my life--and I send warm hopes for spring!

Honoring our elders

Last spring I had the privilege of participating in a local event to honor our neighborhood elders, organized by a friend of mine. She had encouraged neighborhood groups and congregations to nominate an elder from their midst whose life had been long, fruitful and inspiring.  Then friends and neighbors gathered at a local community hall to honor them.  For each, a brief bio was read, they stood up (as able) to share a few remarks, and then received a certificate and the appreciation of those present.  Black and white, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish, everyone in our diverse and changing neighborhood was united in being thankful for the lives of these eight elders. The concept was simple, the impact unexpectedly profound.

Our society in general is not that great with aging, and our heady faith that technology can win out over old age and death is troubling on many fronts.  Our love affair with youth verges on obsession.  The last 300 years has been a whirlwind of innovation, with newer and better replacing the old and familiar at a dizzying rate.  With our newest gadgets now completely obsolete in a matter of years, what used to be valued as wisdom is easily consigned to the trash bin of irrelevance.

But there are more and more signs that a viable future requires a concern for our roots, that we need all the wisdom from the past that we can get our hands on and our minds around.  There is the great  accumulated wisdom of our ecosystems; the wisdom of our cultural traditions, and of indigenous peoples from all over the world; the wisdom of our grandparents.  My grandfather took delight in a hole well dug—and in the digging of it.  My grandmother coaxed bounty out of her garden, and used the smallest scraps of fabric to create both utility and beauty.

There is wisdom; there is also vulnerability.   As we are coming through the bitterest winter I can remember, I’m getting better at remembering my elderly neighbors.  It was a shock to realize that I’m not good at this.  Raised in a community of all young families, we had no elderly neighbors—nobody to shovel for, nobody who needed looking in on when the power was out.   I grew up with an unaware assumption of physical competence and self-sufficiency as a norm, and I now wonder if that assumption fed a lack of attention to vulnerability in other forms and places.

I’m up for the challenge of embracing more fully both the wisdom and the vulnerability in our communities—the long-time ecosystems that support us; our native peoples; our elders.  In the midst of winter, I am shoveling for my elderly neighbors, calling shut ins—and I am looking forward to spring and another opportunity to honor our neighborhood elders.

Language density

The week was dense with Polish--
all those deep and subtle sounds
that fill the air
in homes, streets, subways, shops
as people go about their Polish days
and talk, and talk and talk.

We were with friends, family to us
cocooned in English and their love.
Others were kind and helped us on our way
so we were not lost.

Translation helped.  I listened, tried
remembered more from day to day
rejoiced in all I understood.
But still the language did not bend
to ear or tongue.

Even leaving, at the airport, on the plane,
the signs and sounds stayed true
to native land.

Animated Polish filled those narrow chutes
as we came out to London’s vast Heathrow—
then lost its density, thinning away
in moments to nothing but a wisp
in that great space filled solidly
with English.

More comfortable, but all the same
a loss, somehow.

Imagine:  A new economy is possible!

Local  currency

Just days into the job last year, the mayor of the city of Bristol in England announced his decision to be paid in Bristol Pounds.  This local currency  is designed to support Bristol’s independent businesses, strengthen its economy and keep the city’s high streets diverse and distinctive. A not-for-profit social enterprise run between the Bristol Pound Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union, the Bristol Pound is the UK’s first city-wide local currency.

Bristol Pounds are purchased with British Pounds and can be spent with any of the more than 500 businesses that have signed up. Additionally, the program operates online banking and has a text message payment system.  Says Bristol Pound director Chris Sunderland, “Of all the money spent in a city, most of it leaves the city almost as soon as it’s spent. It goes up to the financial institutions and gets lost. What people can be sure of with Bristol Pounds is that they’re circulating in the city and that’s where they’ll stay,” he said.

Some things that have made me hopeful recently

How fruit and vegetable auctions in rural Ohio area are getting fresh vegetables into food deserts, building community, and helping rural Appalachian farmers earn a living.

How peace, faith, environmental and union groups got Connecticut, one of the most defense-dependent states in the nation, to pass  legislation  convening a broad-based Commission to come up with a plan to diversify Connecticut’s overly defense-dependent economy.

A reduction  in  homelessness in Utah by 78 percent,  based on a recognition that it is more cost effective to give people an apartment and social work services than  to pay for the annual ER and jail costs associated with homelessness.

The new constitution,  recently agreed upon in Tunisia, which  includes guaranteed equality between men and women, a mandate for environmental protection, a declaration that health care is a human right, and a democratic system with rights to due process and respect for freedom of religion.

More resources

Posts on other people's blogs: 

NEW:  Check out my friend Daniel Hunter's new book, a narrative of direct action campaigning:  Strategy & Soul: A Campaigner's Tale of Fighting Billionaires, Corrupt Officials, and Philadelphia Casinos:

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at