Welcome

I am a freelance, nonfiction writer who cares about the environment, individuality, creative expression, and simplicity. I'm glad you've found my blog, and I hope you'll join in the conversation by leaving a comment. Disagreements are allowed, even encouraged, but cruelty, vulgarity, and slander is not.

United in Independence

July 3rd, 2018

The Fourth of July: Our nation’s prime summertime holiday. We may choose to celebrate with a vibrant parade, picnic, or fireworks display, or we can observe while quietly sitting on the beach, hanging in the air conditioning, or reading under a tree, all because we are free. Still, every American should take at least a few moments to reflect upon the reason why we celebrate this national holiday.

sparkler

On the surface, we commemorate a document, one carefully written more than a decade before the United States had its Constitution. Of course you know it's not just any document, The Declaration of Independence inaugurated the first 13 states of America as a unified force for freedom, paving the way for the nation we know today. With acknowledgment of its continued relevance, I have summarized its contents below with quoted material indicated with capital letters.


-------

A summary of the Declaration of Independence

Declared was the intention of America’s founders to DISSOLVE THE POLITICAL BANDS WHICH HAVE CONNECTED THEM WITH ANOTHER while putting in writing THE CAUSES WHICH IMPEL THEM TO THE SEPARATION.

The self-evident truth that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and the rights to LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS are probably the most quoted of all the declaration’s 1300(+) words, for these summarized what Britain's FORM OF GOVERNMENT had become DESTRUCTIVE OF. Thus, they declared, IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT. Subsequently, A NEW GOVERNMENT would be instituted, LAYING ITS FOUNDATION ON SUCH PRINCIPLES, AND ORGANIZING ITS POWERS IN SUCH FORM as most likely to effect their SAFETY AND HAPPINESS.

They did not take this political separation lightly. PRUDENCE, INDEED, WILL DICTATE THAT GOVERNMENTS LONG ESTABLISHED SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED FOR LIGHT AND TRANSIENT CAUSES. But they also recognized that MANKIND ARE MORE DISPOSED TO SUFFER than to abolish THE FORMS TO WHICH THEY ARE ACCUSTOMED. And so they banded together against A LONG TRAIN OF ABUSES AND USURPATIONS (illegal encroachment, infringement, or seizure) that clearly illustrated ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM (absolute power or tyranny).

They acknowledged THE PATIENT SUFFERANCE OF THESE COLONIES and deemed it a NECESSITY to ALTER THEIR FORMER SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT. Then, they outlined the following abuses by THE PRESENT KING OF GREAT-BRITAIN:

  • He refused to follow the laws.
  • He refused to pass necessary new laws unless the people first gave up their right of representation.
  • Legislative decisions were made at PLACES UNUSUAL, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND DISTANT ... FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF FATIGUING the public INTO COMPLIANCE WITH HIS MEASURES.
  • He impeded elections and DISSOLVED REPRESENTATIVE HOUSES REPEATEDLY, endangering the state and the peoples' rights.
  • He obstructed the LAWS FOR NATURALIZATION OF FOREIGNERS to prevent the population of these states.
  • He blocked the establishment of courts and judges and paid off existing judges to follow his will.
  • He created a MULTITUDE OF NEW OFFICES, AND SENT HITHER SWARMS OF OFFICERS TO HARRASS OUR PEOPLE.
  • He maintained a military presence without their consent and RENDERed it INDEPENDENT OF AND SUPERIOR TO THE CIVIL POWER, pardoning murderers and QUARTERING LARGE BODIES OF ARMED TROOPS AMONG US.
  • He feigned laws, cut off trade, and imposed taxes.
  • He deprived them of a trial by jury or transported them to BEYOND SEAS TO BE TRIED FOR PRETENDED OFFENSES
  • He abolished A FREE SYSTEM OF ENGLISH LAWS as well as their charters, and he crippled their legislature’s power.
  • He quit governing them BY DECLARING US OUT HIS PROTECTION AND WAGING WAR AGAINST US. HE HAS PLUNDERED OUR SEAS, RAVAGED OUR COASTS, BURNT OUR TOWNS, AND DESTROYED THE LIVES OF OUR PEOPLE.
  • As the document was being considered, he was deploying LARGE ARMIES OF FOREIGN MERCENARIES TO COMPLETE THE WORKS OF DEATH, DESOLATION, AND TYRANNY ALREADY BEGUN WITH CIRCUMSTANCES OF CRUELTY AND PERFIDY (treachery), SCARCELY PARALLELED IN THE MOST BARBAROUS AGES, AND TOTALLY UNWORTHY OF THE HEAD OF A CIVILIZED NATION.
  • He captured OUR FELLOW CITIZENS on the high seas and forced them BEAR ARMS AGAINST THEIR COUNTRY, TO BECOME THE EXECUTIONERS OF THEIR FRIENDS AND BRETHREN or else fall.
  • He stirred up the MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES to act out against them.

IN EVERY STAGE, they claimed, WE HAVE PETITIONED FOR REDRESS IN THE MOST HUMBLE TERMS, only ANSWERED BY REPEATED INJURY.

They wrote, A PRINCE, WHOSE CHARACTER IS THUS MARKED BY EVERY ACT WHICH MAY DEFINE A TYRANT, IS UNFIT TO BE THE RULER OF A FREE PEOPLE.

Of their family back home, WE HAVE WARNED THEM FROM TIME TO TIME OF ATTEMPTS BY THEIR LEGISLATURE TO EXTEND AN UNWARRANTABLE JURISDICTION OVER US. WE HAVE REMINDED THEM OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF OUR EMIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT HERE. WE HAVE APPEALED TO THEIR NATIVE JUSTICE and nobility as well as THE TIES OF OUR COMMON KINDRED. THEY TOO HAVE BEEN DEAF TO THE VOICE OF JUSTICE and kinship. Ultimately, the founders considered them as the rest of mankind: ENEMIES IN WAR, and IN PEACE, FRIENDS.

WE, THEREFORE, THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ... IN THE NAME, AND BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE GOOD PEOPLE OF THESE COLONIES, SOLEMNLY PUBLISH AND DECLARE, THAT THESE UNITED COLONIES ARE ... TO BE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, THAT THEY ARE TO BE ABSOLVED FROM ALL ALLEGIANCE TO THE BRITISH CROWN. By disconnecting political ties, the states could LEVY WAR, CONCLUDE PEACE, CONTRACT ALLIANCES, ESTABLISH COMMERCE AND ... DO ALL OTHER ACTS AND THINGS WHICH INDEPENDENT STATES MAY OF RIGHT DO.

The Declaration ends with a sentence that summarizes the commitment required for a country like ours to succeed. It is this line that I think, above all others, we would do well to read aloud on this holiday, regardless of our individual beliefs about God. AND FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION, WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE, WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE TO EACH OTHER OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES, AND OUR SACRED HONOR.

Celebrate the holiday with whatever plans you prefer, just be sure to remember such a pledge, for it is in unity that we remain independent.

by Ruth Heil & Thomas Jefferson

They're Here: Spotted Lanternflies Hatching

May 30th, 2018

Last summer I considered myself lucky. I had been spared the experience of living inside a swarm of the latest (and possibly greatest) pest problem to fly into my region of Pennsylvania. I found something this week, however, that proved my luck has ended. The lanternfly is here.

(image obtained from https://extension.psu.edu/how-you-can-comply-with-the-spotted-lanternfly-quarantine-regulations)

Beyond being a significant public nuisance, the Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is likely to ruin agricultural orchards, grapes, and some lumber products wherever it lives and feeds. If you haven't already heard about the problem, familiarize yourself now, because we must come together to battle this enemy.

Here are two key resources:

The authorities have taken this threat very seriously, and they are reaching out to the public for help. For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is looking for contractors to bid on the work of removing tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). The tree, like the lanternfly, is considered an invasive species and has long been an enemy of our healthy, native ecosystem. However, research has now connected the tree to the sustained survival of the lanternfly. Destroy the Ailanthus and you reduce the lanternfly population.

Additionally, PA's Dept. of Ag posted its latest Order of Quarantine and Treatment, which can be found by jumping to Page 28 (i.e. 3094) at this link: PA Bulletin of May 26, 2018. It essentially states that it is the responsibility of every property owner in the region to help control the lanternfly.

Since the adult pests die off over the winter, last season's initiative was to find and destroy the egg masses. I looked but didn't find any. Sadly, I hadn't looked close enough. About a week ago, a tiny insect clinging to a pruned branch in my backyard caught my eye. Having seen many photographs of the nymph-stage lanternfly, I immediately knew what it was. I tried to crush it, but it hopped free with the quickness of a flea. Suspecting that nymphs don't move far, I vigilantly searched the area again. Within a few days, I found two nymphs hanging on the side of my shed. Then three. Then four. I was getting closer, perfecting my swatting technique to a 90% kill rate as I went.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

I returned to inspect and slap the shed numerous times over the next few days. Then one morning, I found a congregation of about 29 nymphs clinging to the bottom of one of the shed's wooden shingles. There was the egg mass, hidden cleverly from view.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymph
Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

I have killed about 100 lanternfly nymphs and removed three egg masses over the last five days. Some nymphs were found on the nearby woodpile, which represents thousands of hiding places. I've come to realize there are two ways of looking at the matter. One is to feel hopeless about the obvious fact that I've removed only 100 drops from a bucket that is about to overflow. Add this to the numerous other bug battles to contend with, such as the Emerald Ash Borer and the disease-carrying ticks. The other way is to be motivated by the fact that I am certain there will be 100 fewer of the buggers come summer. Add this to the work of the many dedicated individuals who are tirelessly seeking a solution as well as the everyday people like me who are multiplying my meager efforts.

Thus, I am sounding the alarm: the nymphs are hatching! PLEASE take the time to educate yourself about the lanternfly, including identification at all stages and methods for eradication, mechanical and chemical.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymph
Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

Same shot as above from a greater distance to show how tiny these creatures are.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

The diameter of this log is less than two inches.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymph
Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

The visibility of the white dots depends on the nymph stage (1 to 4). At nymph stage 5, the black begins to turn red.

Assault Weapons, Entertainment Violence, and a Culture We Must Change.

April 3rd, 2018

I don't believe outlawing guns is the answer. I don't believe arming teachers is the answer. I don't believe any one faction is to blame for the atrocities that keep happening in our safe zones--such as our schools and churches--and other places where the public gathers. No solution is that simple. Instead, the change we need is far more drastic and difficult. We must abolish our cultural affinity for madness.

To do this, each of us must move away from acts of aggression and toward acts of kindness. This includes how we behave when we are driving, what we say when campaigning for office, how we phrase opinions on social media, how we shop on Black Friday, and what we shout from the sidelines. It also includes what we demand be done to our enemies. And it includes banishing the ferociousness, hysterics, and injurious disorder in that which we are willing to call entertainment. We reward violence in this country by the mere fact that we light it up on our television, movie, and gaming screens ... seemingly everywhere and all the time.

circle

Like a raindrop in a pond, the energy wave of every action (thought included) has the power to alter the entire surface surrounding it. Which energy do you want to be a part of spreading?

My post today was launched last Saturday night. The groceries were put away. Our stomachs were full. The dinner dishes were washed. The doors were locked. Our cozy, comfortable clothes were on, and it was time for a quiet night. Relaxing on the couch, I grabbed the remote and turned on the television for a little entertainment. That’s when it all went bad.

I got caught up in a documentary on CBS called 39 Days. Here was my chance to learn more about what the activist students from Parkland, Florida wanted after a gunman opened fire inside the place where the students were mandated to spend their day. I had been hearing about them on the news. Who were they exactly, and what was their message?

Like any effective documentary, 39 Days had a limited focus: the student-led, grief-to-action campaign for gun control following the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Not surprisingly, I was left with mixed emotions. Did they fully understand the implications of the constitutional change they sought? Was there really some corrupt force in the National Rifle Association hiding behind first amendment protection? Could this innocent-yet-violated emotional experience bring about the change so many other citizens have failed to achieve in the recent past?

Terrified Parents

You must remember, I am not a mother. I do not have to send a child or grandchild out into the dangerous world every morning. Also, I am not adept at navigating through teenage drama to find authenticity in their fears and concerns. In short, there is distance between me and the current state of affairs inside America’s public schools.

I do know that I rarely hear good things. Almost every parent I talk to has a personal story about a bully. Almost every parent I talk to has a story about a letter that came home communicating a district-wide concern about safety and security. Almost every teenager I speak to seems a bit agitated, nervous, and self protective.

Gun

Terrified Citizens

Plus, as I watched, my mind applied a broader experience to the context:

  • Texas First Baptist Church Shooting (Nov. 2017)
  • Las Vegas Slaughter (Oct. 2017)
  • Orlando Nightclub Massacre (June 2016)
  • San Bernardino Massacre (Dec. 2015)
  • Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting (Dec. 2012)
  • Aurora Colorado Theater Shooting (July 2012)
  • Virginia Tech Shooting (April 2007)
  • Pennsylvania Amish School Shooting (Oct. 2006)
  • Columbine Colorado (April 1999)

...just to name a few.

And I was thinking about more than just shootings:

  • The Austin Package Bomber (March 2018)
  • A truck driver who plowed through a crowd of protestors in Reno, Nevada (Oct. 2016)
  • A car driver who plowed through a crowd of protestors in a Ferguson suburb in Minnesota (Nov. 2014)
  • The Boston Marathon bombing (April 2013)

All this along with thousands of no-less-disturbing stories of random acts of death, big and small. Violence. Weaponry. Aggression. And media coverage that feeds a warped sense of glory.

Terrified Students

I don’t think anyone would argue that the Parkland young adults don’t deserve to be heard. Every voice matters. And when that voice comes from a direct witness to such pain and fear, it shall be heard with compassion and a sincere ear. It shall be heard with a quest to understand so that the proper, preventative changes can be made.

However, whatever your opinion of gun control, whatever value we may receive as a benefit of keeping assault weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill, this won’t fix the hard fact that America is not just in serious pain, it is in love with serious pain.

39 Days ended with a dramatic reading of the 17 names of the dead, timed to the very few minutes it took for the shooter to inflict his carnage. My heart ached. I wondered how frightening it must be to go to school today. I prayed for a resolution.

Peace Sign

Media Exploit

Then, after a commercial break, CBS seamlessly moved into the next item on its broadcast agenda. I didn’t know what I was watching, but I could smell the tension in the first scene. Pretty adult cheerleaders, a hug from a coach, a glare from a fellow girl in uniform, lights and activity and cheers from the crowd as the squad jogged into the stadium’s back hall. “This is a crime show, isn't it?” I said, appalled at timing. “Here comes the next killing, right on time.”

Flash to the coach-hugging cheerleader in her bath rob. Candles. Soft music. A test of the water’s temperature. I was about to see death unfold fewer than three minutes after an hour-long, heartfelt plea to stop the killing. I didn’t want to watch, yet I had to know if my hunch was true. A few seconds later, her face was underwater, eyes bulging, resisting, struggling, pure fear...death.

In that moment, I became furious. Enraged even. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

How dare they? How dare the network flow from one ratings grab to another with such immunity to consequence? How dare they air entertainment from murder within moments of an exhibition on the heartfelt campaign to stop the murdering?

When the students chanted “enough,” they were referring to assault weapons and the like. Although I missed the beginning of the special, I heard no mention of outrage about the culture of violence behind the spark that ignited a young man’s desire to send bullets into his peers?

It turned out that the second show was a rerun of the criminal law series called Bull. This was one of a thousand drops in a lake of shocking scenes, the energy of which has turned our hearts to ice. Most people--myself included--would say that’s a pretty good show. We are numb to the violent images that exist to grab our attention and keep us watching.

At War Always

What is remarkable about the campaign of the Parkland students is they are underdogs against giants. These meek peacekeepers are up against a government that has grown to lead the world in military action, the nation to call when there’s a need for warlike conflict. That started because we are willing put our might behind the protection of freedom and human life. Yet it has grown into a military doctrine that has failed our own citizens.

Stirred up by the fear of terrorism, we have employed a hostile security strategy. Now, to our children who look up to us, we are the men and women who solve the world’s problems with grenades, tanks, missiles, and guns. Consider that our president just agreed to sign a flawed national spending bill only because it contains adequate funding for military conflict. Further, as our own public schools rot in disrepair or struggle to inspire kids under the constant stress of inadequate funding, America finds the money to build or rebuild foreign learning centers in the places it bombed to smithereens.

This is the message to our young citizens: bombing deserves greater financial investment than they do. How are they to know the implications of peace when this is the path down which they have been lead for all of their lives?

Television Past

With each generation, fewer of us grow up with the leadership of creators such as those who made programs like public television’s Sesame Street. What once spewed from our picture sets while Mom or Dad busily completed the chores of daily life now has barely enough funding to survive. Still, its inner city main street community -- with its big yellow bird and cute little muppets -- hangs on as it strives to build the character of its audience. Yet, are we willing to send them even a few of our entertainment dollars?

Name me a television show today on a major network that is akin to moral standards of Little House on the Prairie or The Brady Bunch. Who wants to watch that anymore? Sure, there are stories about communities and families, but the average program disguises cruelty as humorous insult or bad behavior as a necessary evil of the times. There is rarely a strong moral lesson. The characters in today's sin-based plots abuse and hurt each other in ways that John Boy Walton could have never comprehended.

Meanwhile, the networks must do whatever it takes to maintain viewers. Since they can’t shock us with petty punches and innuendo any more, they must get tougher, more graphic. We need greater potency with each hit. This crescendo, designed for the adult with the pocketbook, effects every viewer, especially the young and impressionable with the developing personality. And unlike Sesame Streets’ desire to build character and knowledge, what does the CBS network strive to build? Ratings. And the formula it uses? Violence and vice. Can the young child tell the difference between what is virtuous and what it is self-indulgent? How can the new puppy tell the difference between the words “sit” and “stay” if the teacher doesn’t take time to explain?

And for our teenagers, what do we teach when we flash without a moment’s pause from a documentary pushing for constitutional change to stop the killing spree to a popular television series that starts with a glamorous kill?

We can’t point fingers at the weapons, the law enforcement, the legislature, or the parents. We are all responsible for letting this happen. Entities such as Hollywood keep giving us violence and vice because that’s what we keep tuning in to. Are we really surprised that some of our unstable children are aspiring to be the next murderous psychopaths?

Entertainment is said to follow reality, but when do we pull the curtain in order to foster a new reality? How can we expect to raise the national level of human decency when we refuse to turn these images off? When do we shut down this nationwide attraction to violence and vice?

Vision for America’s Future

The fact that we as consumers of entertainment have allowed our culture to spiral down this vicious path is very hard to swallow. It's easier to turn away and lay the blame on someone else.

But while the reality of our part in America’s violence problem may be difficult to accept, it’s also remarkably empowering. I may not be able to fix how others act, but I can darn well do something about how I act. I can control my knee-jerk response. I can stop laughing when others fall down. I can stop yelling when others step in my way. I can turn off the screen before the act goes down. I can hug a friend, not as a trendy way to say hello, but as a means of spreading truly good energy. I can smile and hold the door, not just when I feel the warm beauty of spring, but when the ice of winter has made me cold and grumpy. And I can stop trying to pretend that I am bold, tough, admirable, and strong, and let those close to me see that I am timid, sensitive, flawed, and weak.

I can talk openly about my mistakes as way to both fix them and to divert those who follow me from doing the same. “I was wrong, kid; be kind.”

Peace Lily

What kind of woman mauls down a crowd with her car? What kind of person ignites a bomb full of nails at a finish line? What kind of man opens fire on a fun-loving crowd from the security of his distant hotel room? The kind of person that enjoys watching a cheerleader’s face as she drowns. For the bulk of us who view such an image, we keep watching to find out how the detective solves the crime. But we cannot forget the consequences unleashed subconsciously when we see that image nor can we ignore the consequences of publicizing graphic murder, night-after-night, in the first place.

Imagine where we’d be if, after every massacre, we debated the need to reinvent our culture with same fervor with which we point fingers? What if we campaigned for a grassroots effort to invite the ill and the outcast into a social club of good health? And if we do accept that the influence of violence hangs over all our heads, do we react to the problem with more violence? More anger? More fear? Or do we come at it with kindness? Do we dare? Can we be brave enough to lay down our arms? Can we trust in our assumptions that the majority of people are good? Can we seriously think peace could ever been as contagious as violence? It’s risky business, being a peacemaker. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Peaceful Shoreline

PLEASE NOTE: It came to my attention that comments were not posting successfully. I believe I have fixed the the issue. Please email me at blogger at thewritebeat.com if you have any trouble commenting. Thank you for your patience.

The Case of the Missing Bat

October 27th, 2017

NOTE: For photos, I suggest you visit the various blue links throughout this post.

Beyond the ghosts and goblins (and now zombies), Halloween is a time for bats. I'm not sure why this is so, but I can guess it's because they are spooky, elusive, misunderstood creatures of the dark. Our rare encounters usually involve the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). Because, it's the least selective bat in my home state of Pennsylvania when it comes to habitat, it is often the lead character in the story that starts, "My wife screamed that there was a bat in the house."

Yet, if you choose to go to a costume party dressed as a bat, you should do so with reverence. That's because the big brown and, more particularly, its cousins in the Vesper bat (Vespertillionidae) family are experiencing a mass extinction for numerous reasons.

The most devastating is the deadly White-nose syndrome. For example, when all of Pennsylvania’s main hibernation sites became contaminated, 99 percent of the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) using those locations died. That's just in Pennsylvania. As of 2016, the fungus had spread to 28 states and five Canadian Provinces. To give you a better sense of the impact, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), for example, hibernates in clusters of about 250 bats per square foot. White nose has killed at least 6 million bats in the Northeast and Canada.

The fungus that causes it threatens hibernating bat species, of which there are six in Pennsylvania. For those that migrate (of which there are three), wind turbines are the enemy. Fortunately, responsible turbine manufacturers and operators have worked closely with scientists to reduce the mortality rate by 44 to 93%, just by implementing a few design and operation techniques.

Regardless, we need bats. All of Pennsylvania's bats feed exclusively on nocturnal insects. This includes the disease-associated mosquito and the tree-killing Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. One study estimated that their insect management work contributes $3.7 billion annually to the farming community.

Part of our problem with bats is that, like most nocturnal beings, we don't know them. We can't love what we don't know, and we don't protect what we don't love. So here are few facts to help you get to know them better:

  • Bats are the only true flying mammal.
  • Bats are NOT rodents.
  • The Indiana bat is the only mammal in Pennsylvania that is on the Federal Endangered Species list.
  • Some wild bats have been known to live to age 25.
  • A bat's body's flight mechanism differs from that of a bird's.
  • Bats typically weigh less than birds. The tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) weighs less than two pennies.
  • Mines and quarries have attributed to the existence of bats in Pennsylvania.
  • Bat boxes provide summertime habitat, but bats do not hibernate in them.
  • A bat sleeps through about 80% of its life.
  • A bat sleeps (hibernates) so deeply, its heart rate slows to one beat per minute.
  • It is believed that of the hibernating species, one bat consumes a million insects per year.

Researchers are greatly concerned, not just because of the implications of a sudden decline in bat existence, but because so few people are talking about them. Meanwhile, Jason Collins, a wildlife biologist with Normandeau Associates described this as, "the number one conservation emergency in the world."

Foremost, humans must stay away from hibernating colonies. You and I must stay out of the caves. After that, ironically, one of the best things you can do to help the bats is to improve insect diversity. We need to improve their food supply. This means allowing space for tall grass in your yard. It means allowing water to pond in wooded places, which is the opposite of what the mosquito-control specialists advise. And it means avoiding fertilizers and pesticides in order to prevent the accumulation of toxins in their bodies (the implications of which are not yet fully known).

Bat presentation slide

Jason Collins' bat decline presentation to the 2016 Watershed Congress Along the Schuylkill, available for viewing on YouTube.

You can also provide habitat by allowing dead trees to remain standing (some bats use them for roosting during the summer) or by installing bat boxes, high up, facing the sun. (email Jim Kerr of Feathered Friends Log Homes at featheredfriendsLH@gmail.com for a price.)

If you want to donate to or get involved with the cause, Jason recommends Bat Conservation International or The Save Lucy Campaign.

Moreover, add this to the proof that protection of native species is our best hope for the protection of native ecosystems which have been protecting us all along. Learn about your native bats (Pennsylvania fact sheet). And this Halloween, take on your bat persona with honor.

The Ruins of Ego

September 15th, 2017

Wouldn't it be great if we could fix America's suffering of chaos and disarray? But how? The venomous president, the violent protests, and the incomprehensible injustices: these are all symptoms of a disease no one seems to able to get a handle on. And how is this country to lead the world when it has fallen so low? The only answers I have involve the only person I can control: myself. And each solution I find starts with one action: the proper care and treatment of that pesky troublemaker named ego.

flag

The ego tells us we are good. It tells us we are bad. It tells us we need more. It says we have too much. While it's supposed to control the floodgates of our self-centered emotions, it can overtake the dry ground on which stands individual talent. Therein is where ego inflicts its greatest harm.

Now, mastering the art of ego is not my forte'; I fail to meditate, nor do I fully grasp the teachings of the enlightened few who have the ability "be" without ego in control. However, the infection crippling America is no longer hiding elusively under the skin, where ego buries itself. It's burst into plain site. And thus, our best chance at recovery lies in the effort of each of us to at least try to care for our own egotistical sores.

Obvious is the rampant egotism we read about daily, given the mental state of the president. Favorite words such as beautiful, tremendous, incredible, great, and fantastic are not used to describe tangible objects, but rather promised intangible benefits, assured to those who follow. For everyone else, there is disaster. The ego on display here demands that any "unbelievable" outcome reflects only the "fantasticness" of the self to such degree all the world shall envy it.

Far less obvious and far more prevalent is the egotism that hinders the majority of the people I know. Called humility, it is the opposite of boastfulness. It is the squashing of our own talent with modesty. These people, like I, suppress the best of who they really are, for reasons that are hard to understand. Here the ego demands that we avoid casting an image into the mirror, fearing any reflection, negative and positive, that will surely come back, visible for all to see.

The real me is an artist. The real me appreciates creativity that flows from other people. The real me cares about the real people around me. Yet, I offer too little of this to the world. My ego blocks much of it before it gets out.

blockaide

Therefore, I submit that the majority of us subconsciously refuse to let our individual talents shine, whether they be artistic, analytical, emotional, mechanical, etc. And quite often, the greater the talent, the greater the suppression.

Why? Is it because we were taught not to brag? Is it because we don't want to intimidate those less talented? Because we don't want to be associated with the boastful lot? Or are we just plain afraid of just how good we are?

Americans judge, no doubt. A clear symptom of our ego disease is present in the popularity of television shows such as Big Brother, Top Chef, or America's Got Talent. Capitalists have tapped into an affinity to judge with entertainment such as this. They further pad profits by reducing expenditures once paid to writing talent for creating the programs, the sitcoms, the documentaries, the prime time fictional dramas these reality television shows have replaced. The result: the public owned airwaves are clogged with stages set to show a supreme winner rise above all the rest. Characters are teased into participation with the possibility of a huge payout, like a lottery, wherein all contributions are funneled to one. We judge; ego wins.

Yet, when it comes to REAL life, who among us cares to compete? How many times have you been given a positive comment that you respond to with an argument? Like the proper hero we declare, "No, it was just part of the job." How many times have you belittled your own creation after someone compliments on it favorably? "It's really not that good," we say and then go on to point out its flaws in order to enlighten the observer to all its ugly imperfections. Forget competing, we don't even remember how to accept a positive sentiment with grace. This is ego.

Further, how many times have you held back from caring about a stranger when your inner light begs you to help them? Maybe you see an elderly man struggling to load his groceries into his trunk. You know you can help, but before you offer you look around to see if anyone is watching, like weakened prey scanning for a predator. This, too, is ego.

We are each good at some things and bad at others. While pretending otherwise, America has sadly become a culture in which it is better to accentuate faults than spotlight strengths. And so it is our faults that we speak of freely, quickly, before others can point them out. What happens then to the endowments of the selfless, those leadership-worthy people I'd prefer to follow? They are observed in private. Their talents are cloaked in secrecy, so that no pin-holder can burst the tiny bubble of hope that tells them, "Hey, we are actually good at this."

This is ego. And the more it sees, the more it wants. Thus, the older we grow, the more difficult it becomes to control. For some, it latches onto lavish material things. For others, it beats down compassion, logic, and art. Meanwhile, for the few enlightened ones, it is a thing that is there, something to be both recognized and ignored.

What America needs now is for us all to strive for the freedom of being our true selves. Yes, even the ignorant. Because only when we step freely can we trip on our mistakes and learn a thing or two.

path

I can't fix America's problems nor can I run away from them. All I know is that we are not who we pretend to be. We are not so harsh, so colorless, and so ugly. We are talented in a million different ways. I believe America needs us each to be our best right now. Unleash the wise. Uncover the compassion. And let the art flow.

circle