Saturday, December 27, 2008

Read this book

This book was given me by a friend who pays attention to my endless rants. I must have had my head in the sand not to have heard about it. Quite inspiring and cogent rationale for pursuing an Apollo moonshot-scale national project to convert our energy economy from fossils to renewables within 10 years. It wisely brings to the fore subjects often overlooked by pundits who parrot the promotion of renewable energy sources without examining context: namely, conservation and efficiency, social justice, and power politics; distributed energy generation is democracy-enhancing, while centralized, privately owned power production concentrates power in the hands of a few.

The Apollo Project is promoted by many, including Gore's spin-off group,
the We campaign. Let's see how seriously Obama's administration takes its lessons.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


This morning I got up just before the sun and was treated to a genuine sunrise, something that hasn’t happened here in a week or two, given the cloudy weather. I saw the first rays glowing on the bathroom wall; that pulled from me twice the smile because it meant a sun-drenched shower awaited me after yoga. I like the window in the bathroom. It makes me think of a glass-block wall in a bathroom I’ll someday design for my house, which makes me think of architecture, which makes me think of passive solar design which makes me think of natural materials which makes me think of teaching about renewable energy which makes me think of sustainable living which... reminds me of the richness of life both inside and outside my head.

This was my first yoga class in my adoptive city; I can’t be sure who has adopted whom at this early stage, but we seem to be caring for each other well enough: more than cordial, less than love-at-first-sight. The thought of yoga in the morning does not inspire unmixed delight for me; I prefer the advantage of a day’s limbering activity to a cold-start stretch. Ah, but this morning-- how the body rejoiced to this new kind awakening, putting the lie to the ego’s warnings of uncomfortable and ungainly poses. Here was something the body liked because it felt good: to move with the dawn, to surge its fire through cold-wary limbs. Triangle pose had me tingling (aided by the certain knowledge of the sun, outside, rising into blue on a cold morning) and by virabhadrasana II, I was boldly channeling energy through eager muscle and sinew, one of Arjuna’s warriors ready for battle. Yes, a good start to the day. I must burn that old belief about morning yoga.

After the anticipated shower of sun and water, I went to a local church service, not because I would normally do so on a given Sunday-- I wouldn’t-- but because it’s solstice, a time for community and gathering together to welcome the return of the light. And in a few weeks, I’ll be teaching evening classes at this church; here I could see the community in action, socially, some of whom I may later meet professionally.

I interrupted the drive home (southward, toward the ebullient sun) with a stop at the grocery to pick up a bag of food for my neighbor, who’s running a bit short this month. This isn’t like me either; not to say I’m ungenerous. Those who know me would confirm my generosity. The difference: I don’t usually think of it first, unbidden. There are many side roads and alternate routes in my thinking; the impulse to generosity sometimes has an extra mile to find its way out. And sometimes not so. Not absent-minded professor, just... different drummer.

Later, took in a matinee. I picked the quirky romantic comedy over the animations (eye candy for my inner designer) and the heartfelt drama (soul lessons for the fervent humanist). Why? It had a call to affirmation that I have needed to answer. So I answered it.

And here it is now, the longest night of the year. The night of doubt and promise, of fear and anticipation. Will the light return? Will it triumph over the darkness? Or-- will light and darkness meet in their semiannual embrace, exchange loving whispers, and willingly, beautifully, trade roles once again in their eternal pas de deux, the one now graciously giving over the lead to the other?

I will take a moment this evening to sit and consider the past year. I’ll recall where it’s taken me (far and wide, before landing here), what it has taught me (too soon to tell?), and evaluate what to keep and what needs letting go. And that last I’ll write on a slip of paper and, with honest love for the generosity of the lesson, I’ll set fire to it.... and let it go.

I’m encouraged that change is possible where it is needed because today had so many--if small-- differences over other days. And great things are possible from small beginnings.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Among the unaccountably undercelebrated members of the many species of edible North American flora, here is a photograph of a fine example of the Bagel Tree (Rotundus deliciosus), distant relative of the breadfruit plant of the southern Pacific islands (family Moraceae).

A native of Central America, this large (25-30m.) flowering tree bearing large (10-12cm.), round, spongiform, edible fruits, is very hardy and is thought to have had a range up to at least 45 degrees N. latitude in pre-Columbian times. The subject photographed is located in Columbus, Ohio, at 40 degrees N. Indeed, based on recent research into 16th and 17th Century Spanish and Dutch New World expedition documents, it is now thought that the Bagel Tree once flourished in tremendous numbers throughout the Americas across a wide range of climates.

Evidence of its popularity among explorers and colonists alike is rife in the literature, once translations of the plant's many colloquial names are teased out. The great popularity in part accounts for the comparative rarity of the tree today; the fruits were harvested in such great numbers that the species was unable to replenish itself (the seeds being edible and frequently appearing on the outer surface of the fruit, they were typically consumed with along with the fruit). Today most agree that, outside of New York City, it's hard to find a good Bagelfruit.

The fruit pictured here has clearly been subjected to the attentions of a Great Northern Knifebill, another American species in decline.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

why we SHOULD drill, baby, drill here at home

Wow, this just hit me in a flash while I was reading this email message (below) from Robert Redford (Can we talk? Can I call you Bobby?), via NRDC Action Fund. Let's start drilling domestically for crude! I'm utterly serious!

We've become so dependent on foreign oil in part because we keep ourselves at a safe remove from the most direct experience of the environmental degradation we claim to abhor: the drill sites. Yes, there's Texas (sigh... there will always be Texas), and certain sites scattered here and there in Pennsylvania and California, etc., but by far the vast majority of our petroleum (net 58% per E.I.A. 2007 stats) comes from somewhere else. We even put a lot of our rigs offshore, I'd argue, because it offers the (piss-poor) illusion that we're keeping the front yard nice 'n' clean that way (well, okay, there's also the minor detail of the oil deposits actually being out there on the continental shelf... picky!).

Ahem. So, why is Mr. Redford asking me to help stop Bushco's last-ditch effort to help out his oil cronies? Because we all love the natural beauty of Utah's Canyonlands, of course. But that's exactly the reason we should drill there: because we love it! Because if we were honest with ourselves about our addiction to The Juice, we would not try to sweep the dirty work of drilling under the rug of our collective unconscious. We should put up rigs in our neighborhoods and our city parks and our state and national parks-- all the places we treasure as pure and beautiful and worth protecting-- and refineries, too! Let's not forget the 2nd act of our morality play! Mini-refineries beside every drilling site... and distribution (trucking) stations next to those! Yes! Do it!

And why all this madness? Because only then would we see the truth of our folly; then, like the unruly dogs we've become, we would begin our proper training and put our own faces right there in our own mess. It's creepy, really, when you think about it: we decry the destruction of Gaia's glory, we teach our kids to recycle and turn off the lights-- our whole modern aesthetic is founded on glorifying nature-- and yet every day we take our blinders off the shelf, put them securely on our heads, and get into our effing cars! and turn on more lights than we need! and take long, hot, luxurious showers! and eat kiwi fruit shipped from New Zealand! and drink water from effing Fiji! WTF?! Doesn't this seem a bit... oh, what's the word?... insane?!

I say let's drill in the most conspicuous places we can find any crude-- no field too small. Let's drill to make that visual, visceral connection between action and consequence so that we can no longer sweep it under the "foreign sources" rug (that rug's getting a bit full anyway!). Let's stop pretending it's OPEC's fault that we're stark, raving mad. Let's do the dirty work here, as soon as we can and in earnest: let's bring it on home.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

so it's true...

Eventually, we really do all come to the church.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Beautiful Idea

What will you be doing over the next 29 days?

Chrysti will be giving stuff away.

"There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, December 01, 2008

rediscovering what works

It seems we're now learning what our parents (and their parents) knew long ago: waste not, want not. This NPR article is an encouraging reminder that we don't have to maintain a blind faith in technology to save us in our times of need; we can just use good old-fashioned common sense.

I mean, if we're already buying too much food, at least find somewhere to donate your party leftovers or retail excess where it can feed hungry people. (Better still: don't buy or prepare more than you need. But in the meantime, your extravagance and waste should at least be used to help those who are hungry.)

We're all in this together.