Category: "Celebration"

Who Am I to Save a Planet?

February 1st, 2012

The people around me sometimes don't understand why I do the things I do. I suppose that happens to all of us to some extent. Contrarily, we cannot understand why they can't understand. When the reasons for our actions seem so obvious to us, it isn't easy to explain them if and when they are questioned, doubted, or slurred.

The most common misconception in my world is that I am trying to "save the Earth." I guess the expression is a softer way of saying I'm an environmentalist, and I appreciate the sentiment to some degree. But it is a bit of a fallacy.

, who out there is trying to wreck the Earth, really? Iris Marie Bloom,
director of Protecting Our Waters closes her emails with this Teton Sioux quote in her signature:

"The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives."

While there are some humans stupid enough to do such a thing, they are not worthy of my attention. They will destroy themselves long before they defeat a planet, so while I wish they would see the error of their ways, I need not come to the Earth's aid for fear of them. They will shrivel when their own pond is dry.

, me saving the Earth is like an ant throwing a boulder. If a boulder is ever going to fly, it won't be because of an ant.

Third, the Earth saves me. Every day. Its woods keep me sane when life gets frantic. Its waters refresh my skin when I get thirsty. Its bounty nourishes my brain and keeps me strong.

It offers warning signs to alert me to pending danger and shields me from an uninhabitable universe. The list goes on and on.

Lastly, I do not consider myself a steward. Look up the word. None of its nine definitions in my dictionary apply to me. I am not "a person who manages another property or affairs" nor "a person who has charge" of anything. In fact, I have quiet the opposite. The Earth has charge of me, which brings me to my forth point: I have no doubt that the Earth will persist much longer than me or any of my ancestors or any of the beings that surround me.

Now, if I witnessed an injury to my friend, I would most certainly try to stop the bleeding. I would try to save her. But when that friend lives, she will be alive first because of goodness, not heroics.

Additionally, if a stranger is kind to you, do you kick him in the teeth? If a child brings you a flower, do you tear it to bits? If a neighbor brings you a pie, do you stuff it your mouth and slam the door? The people in my life would answer, "never" to all of the above.

Why then would we take what the Earth gives, manipulate it into something toxic, and then stuff it back into its pores? Earth's gifts are not meant only for us. American society takes and takes, without ever putting anything back where it was found or without offering anything but spent fuel in return. It is I who doesn't understand why people do what they do.

When I recycle, conserve, reuse, abstain, and act in the ways that I do, I'm not doing it to save something. I'm doing it because I appreciate what the Earth gives to me. I'm doing it because I am grateful for yesterday, thankful for this moment, and hopeful for today. And if tomorrow is the day I die, I want to be sure my existence did not rob others of the same experience. I want to leave water in the pond for the next frog, save him though it may.

The fallacy then? When people say, "you want to save the Earth," they infer that you are either more qualified or more naive than them. You become a scapegoat – they don't need to do it because you'll take care of it. However, if they say, "you are grateful for the Earth," they infer either acknowledgement that they feel the same or remorse that they do not.

Life will always bring us past people who cannot understand. In the end, I'm grateful for them too, as they force me to acknowledge my own virtues. They'll have to excuse me though, because I can't linger too long to explain. I have an entire planet to save.

Giving Thanks to the Sun

December 22nd, 2011

I recently overhead a discussion about the greetings people share in December. It was partially sparked by a yard sign that read, "Please wish me a Merry Christmas."

The sign could have been interpreted in two ways: 1.) a Christian's dig against the diluted "Happy Holidays" greeting; 2.) or a Christian's affirmation of his or her beliefs. While I didn't take part in the discussion, I found myself thinking about one greeting that works for all of us ... for every human that walks the Earth:

"Happy Solstice"

Our ancestors once believed magic, witchcraft, or an appeasement to the Gods was at play, but as wisdom progressed, we learned that the Earth's position in our solar system affects the presence or absence of live-giving sunlight. Through scientific discovery, we know why the sun wanes as well as when it will return, and we also have an explanation as to why we feel the way we do during this dark time in the Northern Hemisphere.

Like the full moon that prompts a wolf to howl, a short, nine-hour day has a true physical effect on us. Our bodies do not produce adequate amounts of vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – when the sun is so low in the sky. The symptoms of deficiency include depression, insomnia, and even heart disease. Plus, I'm less likely to get outside and exercise when it's dark and cold, and we all know about the health benefits of outdoor activity.

When I dig underneath the surface, I must admit that I feel retracted, malnourished, edgy, and woeful. The problems of the world get me down this time of year more than any other.

The faraway sun drags out my fears and reduces my resolve.

I try to hear the messages of hope during the religious holidays, but what my spirit really needs is the return of the sun.

There is still plenty of dreaded cold weather to come; today is just the first day of winter. Yet, with each day, my hope is regained as the birds sing a few seconds earlier, and the shadows linger a minute later.

Religious leaders will warn you not to worship a false God, yet I see nothing wrong with anyone giving thanks to the sun. We know of no other planet in the universe that contains liquid water; all other water out there is either frozen solid or evaporated gas. Without the sun -- at a perfect distance from Earth -- there simply would be no life here. Its return is worth celebrating.

We can even thank the sun for the icicles since they form only after the snow begins to melt.

A watered-down greeting is a byproduct of rich diversity, and I appreciate the sensitivity given to all cultures when it comes to "Season's Greetings." Plus, when we get back home, among our community and the ones we love, the precise wishes for happiness are then made all the more special. However, for me, whether I am at home or out in the world, no other greeting is more musical than "Happy Solstice."

Since today marks the return of longer days, I will soon settle down for a less-long Winter's nap.

And my sincere wish is that you find happiness in the solstice too -- wherever you may live.

Assembling a Message

December 18th, 2011

It's a busy time of year for almost everyone, and I'm no exception. You'll notice that my last blog post was written back in November, evidence that the calendar is getting ahead of me.

That's not to say that I haven't been thinking of you. On the contrary, I've been working hard to collect my thoughts in order to continue bringing you encouraging words and thought-provoking posts. This post is an update on what I've been doing in that regard.

Primarily I've been working on the bold answer to the general question everyone asks when they learn I'm a writer: "So what kind of stuff do you write?"

You would think it would have been easy for me – a freelance writer who specializes in simplification – to come up with a one-sentence statement, but it wasn't. It required soul searching, bravery, quiet contemplation, and some fantastic coaching from an adviser at the Connection Revolution.

So after months in the making, here is the answer:

I support caring individuals

as they heal their connections with

the Earth,

each other,

and themselves.

This writing mission acknowledges that we are all surrounded by scattered messages, scattered perspectives, scattered activity, and scattered individuals, but regardless, we can still unite in our desire to restore a healthy condition to our environment(s).

Other Pieces I've Been Working On.

In the meantime, if you are hungry for more reading, here are few other things I've been working on:

I published the latest SOS Signal, my bi-monthly newsletter, in November. If you haven't seen it and are interested in a perspective on non-competitive marketing, you can check it out by clicking here.

I launched my new Website. There are no bells, and it doesn't whistle when you open it. It's just a simple statement of what I do and who I am. Check it out by clicking here.

• In celebration for the holiday season, I wrote an essay for Lehigh Valley Marketplace about the importance of making music together. Read it by clicking here.

Harmony for the Future

The other day I read a Facebook post from a friend who was upset with herself for fighting with a women in a holiday-shopping-mall parking lot. I had no words to console her, but I could completely understand. It doesn't feel good when the chaos gets the best of you and the people around you push you to your brink. Therein lies the importance of a community -- a cluster of individuals who remind you that you are not alone in your desire for harmony.

No matter how you look at it, there are 88 very individual keys on my piano, yet every single one contributes to the harmonies produced.

Though it may seem as if the world has gone mad, people everywhere want things to be better. We won't agree about how to solve every problem. We may not share every belief. But harmony, by musical definition, requires a combination of sounds at varying pitches. The beauty comes when they blend together in support of a unified melody.

So now that my statement is defined, my Website is launched, and the holiday preparations are as complete as they're ever going to get, I return to the task of putting words on paper ... like a mom who kisses a hurting cut in hopes that it will heal soon.

A wiser way to deal with fear

June 19th, 2011

Last week I wrote about how people use fear to make us act. This week I bring you advice for facing those fears (and other inner defense mechanisms).

I am participating in a six-week online workshop, and Thursday's session is what I want to share. The speaker's name was SARK. Really. (It's an acronym for her four-part name). Her session was titled, "Out of Your Heart and Onto the Paper." Briefly, her story goes something like this: Wrote a book when she was 10; never did anything with it; got abused by a family member; and spent 25 years not writing anything. Then, she changed her way of thinking and published 16 books in the next 22 years. Today, she is writing 4 books at one time.

What prevented her from pumping out books for 47 years instead of 22? Fear and inner criticism. What changed? She stopped trying to silence the fears and started to acknowledge them. She sat down, invited them into the room, interviewed them, and wrote down what they told her. Then she went back to work.

Our inner critics are important. "They are there to protect us, but they've grown out of proportion," said SARK. Inside us all are voices such as the perfectionist, the do-more pusher, and the worried skeptic. They need to be acknowledged and cared for, but you must remember that your "wise self" is really the one in control. And if you don't acknowledge the bad thoughts, they'll continue to clamor for your attention, eventually becoming so loud, they'll cripple you with depression or another ailment.

To change your way of thinking when something (however tiny) is bothering you, she recommends writing down as many words as you can to complete the sentence, "I feel..." I feel angry. I feel stomped on. I feel scared. I feel inadequate. Sometimes that acknowledgement may be enough. "The problems are still there, but you'll have changed your perspective," said SARK.

To take it further, write down a refrain to everything on that list. Something like, "I am in control." Finally, don't forget to also write down the good things that happen to you in a day. SARK says that eventually you won't need to write things down ... you'll have reprogrammed the way you deal with fear.

"Feel the sad [angry/fearful/critical] feelings, but don't spend so much time there." says SARK.

SARK's books and workshops offer a more detailed explanation if you want to know more. In the meantime, I'm going to start taking her advice. What about you?

Memorial Day in the Garden

May 31st, 2011

Memorial Day may be a popular time to travel to the beach or mountains, but for me, I like to spend the holidays at home. My secluded backyard is far away from the traffic and crowds that turn well-intentioned, holiday-weekend travel into another stressful activity.

I'll admit, I was dreaming of watching the ocean waves or wading in a mountain stream while I dug post holes in 90-degree heat for my garden fence. Still, both my wallet and my temperament have benefited from my decision to stay put.

Earlier this year I told you that I was finally going to put in the hard work necessary to grow my own organic vegetables, and this weekend, the resulting garden occupied much of my time. Here's an update on my experience so far:

Taking the advice of blog reader, Sarah Besterman, I bought a few plants instead of relying on everything to grow from seed. I purchased kale, cabbage, and Bok choy from the Rodale Institute's early spring sale and then a few tomatoes and peppers after Mother's Day. The professionally grown plants are now giving the garden a lush appearance. However, from an economic standpoint, seed-grown plants yield the best return on the dollar.

So far from seed I've started:

  • lettuce,
  • radish,
  • spinach,
  • leeks,
  • carrots,
  • bush beans,
  • cucumbers,
  • tomatoes,
  • bell peppers,
  • cilantro,
  • marigolds (to deter the rabbits),
  • and sunflowers (after my friend Bob suggested every garden needs them).

Also transplanted into the garden are a few heirloom tomatoes which Bob gave to me -- fondly dubbed "Mrs. T's" for the Italian woman who made them famous among friends. I am now watching with intrigue to see which plants yield the most food.

Professionally started Bok choy and kale add an encouraging lushness to the garden.

The rewards from hard work have just begun.

Started from seed, nutritious lettuce and spinach hide under a makeshift sunscreen to extend their yield into the hotter weather.

I'm also embarking on a secondary experiment. The work I was doing this weekend was to extend the fence beyond the garden boundaries to include a portion of a native wildflower area I'd been unsuccessfully maintaining for the last 10 years. Guests never got to see much when they viewed this wild, rocky mess; deer and other critters chomped down anything worth looking at.

It has always been discouraging to see the flowers disappear while Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) and other invasive weeds get left behind. Now, with a small portion fenced in, I will watch for the contrast to unfold within the safeguarded area.

A high fence now safeguards a small section of the wildflower garden from hungry deer.

Thankfully the deer don't eat milkweed (pictured here in the unfenced area). These plants may not look like much to you and me, but they play a critical role in the life of a monarch butterfly.

It's true I imagined fun times vacationing in a favored spot, but I found home life to be just as rewarding. I got to share a meal with close neighbors and friends. I devoured lettuce, radish, spinach, and kale just moments after cutting. I feel nourished both inside and out.

And every day, an inspection walk through the little garden takes me away from my desk and opens my mind to the possibility of future abundance. I have no doubts that I will experience a few frustrations along the way (the leeks don't look good at all), but I'll take that over sitting in a motionless car for hours any day.

I'm beginning to understand this sentiment -- a gift from my late grandmother -- more and more every day.