My neighbor, Steve, got a call from someone who reported an orphaned fawn. So, as he has done before, Steve adopted the baby.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
My neighbor, Steve, got a call from someone who reported an orphaned fawn. So, as he has done before, Steve adopted the baby.
News flash from the yard: Our beautyberries are bearing flowers! This is big news because later this summer, the flowers will give way to green berries that will then turn the most bee-yoo-tee-ful shade of purple.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
When I was little, I remember grownups talking about “Decoration Day” around the time of the Memorial Day holiday. I knew the holiday was significant because it honored our soldiers who had died in wars; I had a vague idea that the holiday was somehow connected with the Civil War.
My mother and grandmother liked to refer to the Civil War as the War Between the States or (my particuar favorite) The Late Unpleasantness, because they said there was nothing “civil” about it. They were not really joking; my mom was the descendant of “Rebel George” Falkner on her father’s side, and both women were continually aghast at the atrocities heaped upon Southerners by Union troops, particularly those under Sherman’s command in Georgia. There wasn’t a prejudiced bone in either of their bodies—it’s from them that I learned not to harbor racial prejudice—but they were, at the same time, proud of their Southern heritage.
A few years ago I did some Internet research about “Decoration Day” because the phrase was sticking in my mind. What I found out was that the holiday that we know as Memorial Day likely began in the South:
“Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, ‘Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping’ by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication ‘To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.’”
The earliest grave decorations may well have been flowers of the magnolia tree, Magnolia grandiflora. These huge, fragrant flowers were favorites of my grandmother; my mom used to tell a story about stealing them from a neighbor’s yard to give to her mother, and then having to confess what she’d done.
Here, above, are a couple of giant magnolia flowers in remembrance of Rebel George, my Uncle Kenneth on my father's side of the family, and all who have given their lives for our country.
May we soon reach a day when war will be forever over!
Number two on His Holiness Karmapa’s list of 108 things we can do to help the environment is:
”Read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community.”
Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved the area where I live now that I can’t imagine not being interested in the surrounding environment. Maybe if I lived in some place that I didn’t much like, though, I’d feel differently.
For right here and right now, however, I want to know as much as I can about our local birds, our local water cycle, our wild native creatures and plants, our stars, and how the continually changing cycles of the seasons manifest in North Central Florida.
I first tuned in to seasonal changes several years ago, when I was doing a lot of reading about the new paganism (I did comparative religions in college and am fascinated by that subject), and got acquainted via email with a remarkable writer named Waverly Fitzgerald. Waverly lives in Seattle and produces a web site called School of the Seasons, which I highly recommend. Reading her articles made me realize how out of touch with seasonal changes we can become, given our prevailing culture’s neverending focus on work, consumption, and entertainment.
Now, of course, the area where I live is embroiled in the water wars. So I think it’s more important than ever for us to educate ourselves about our natural resources, so we can stand up for them and protect them. The California Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder had an article in the November 2007 issue of Shambhala Sun called “Writers and the War Against Nature,” part of which is reprinted in the July 2009 (pp. 64-65) issue; in it, he says:
“How can artists and writers manage to join in the defense of the planet and wild nature? Writers and artists by their very work ‘bear witness.’ They don’t wield financial, governmental, or military power. However, at the outset they were given, as in fairy tales, two ‘magic gifts.’ One is ‘The Mirror of Truth.’ Whatever they hold this mirror up to is shown in its actual form, and the truth must come out. May we use that mirror well!
The second is a ‘Heart of Compassion,’ which is to say the ability to feel and know the pains and delights of other people, and to weave that feeling into their art. For some this compassion can extend to all creatures and to the world itself. In a way, nature even borrows the voices of some writers and artists. Anciently, this was a shamanistic role where the singer, dancer, or storyteller embodied a force, appearing as a bear dancer or crane dancer, and became one with a spirit or creature. Today, such a role is played by the writer who finds herself a spokesperson for non-human entities communicating to the human realm through dance or song. This could be called ‘speaking on behalf of nature’ in the old way.”
To really speak for Mother Nature or any of her creatures, it seems to me, you need to know what you are talking about. You need to “read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community.”
I’ve pictured above some of the resources to which I turn when I have questions about our area and its flora and fauna. There are, undoubtedly, many such resources for every area of our country and, no doubt, the world. The Internet itself is one such resource. You can’t see it on the computer screen in the picture above, but I had surfed over to the Water page at Food and Water Watch.
Here in North Central Florida, I always encourage people to tune in to what the folks at Our Santa Fe River are doing. My friend Merrillee, who does an outstanding job of communicating river-related news, also has an e-mail list that provides a wealth of current information (pun intended!); you can get in touch with her through the Our Santa Fe River web site. Rachael Ryals, a journalist with the High Springs Herald, provides a great service not only by writing about environmental issues for that paper but also by administering the new North Florida Nature News web site.
What are you most curious about in your own local environment? What are some resources you can use to find out more? Do you know other people who are interested in some of the same things? How can you begin to speak for your neighbors who are voiceless—the plants, the animals, the outstanding natural features?
Saturday, May 23, 2009
May is usually our dry month here in Florida. I remember taking off from the Orlando airport in May 1985, looking down and seeing what looked like smoke from hundreds of little wildfires practically covering the whole state. The end to our dry season usually comes in June, when afternoon rain showers and thunderstorms become more regular.
This year, though, the rainy season came early. It’s been raining pretty steadily for a week now. The lawn chairs sit empty, viewed through the porch screen as the downpours and drizzles continue over Memorial Day weekend—traditionally the start of summer beach weather.
I’m not complaining, mind you. We need the rain; we’ve been in drought conditions for quite a while now. What this weather means to me is that our plants won’t need to be watered so much, and maybe—just maybe—we can finally have a bonfire sometime soon.
But—my friends Pam and Kathi are in South Florida today; they're going swimming, while I'm stuck inside, writing this blog. (heavy sigh)
Sunday, May 17, 2009
We put up this bluebird house about a year ago, and it's been occupied ever since. This morning, a bluebird flew out of the house right before I took this picture.
This morning I went down to the spring that's near my house to take some pictures while all was quiet and the water was still. The place is a popular swimmin' hole, so it's impossible to get people-free pictures of the water later in the day.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
There is disturbing news in today's High Springs Herald: The Florida Legislature, in its ultimate wisdom (sorry, my sarcastic streak is showing!), has unanimously passed a bill that conceivably could give developers and the water bottling industry exactly what they want—control of Florida's water supply.
"Dear Governor (and possibly soon-to-be Senator) Crist,
Please provide us with some much-needed leadership on Florida's complicated water issues; please either veto or do not sign HB 2080.
HB 2080, as I understand it, will make it more difficult (if not impossible) for Florida's citizens (who are not business owners or members of water management district governing boards) to have input into how our water is used.
The main problem with Florida's water issues, as I see it, is that as a state we have not yet decided whether water is a RESOURCE that is needed by everyone, or a COMMODITY that should be sold to the highest bidder.
I don't think anyone who lives in Florida--business owner or not--wants to live in a state with dried-up springs, unhealthy rivers, and bad water. It does seem, however, that as a state we are taking many actions that will, cumulatively and eventually, lead us in that direction.
Florida desperately needs a leader who will articulate a vision for the conservation and preservation of our rivers and springs, so that our children and grandchildren won't wake up one day and bemoan what they have lost.
Please be brave enough and visionary enough to take a strong stand in favor of Florida's one-of-a-kind water resources. Your leadership on this issue could one day assure you an honored place in our history books. Thank you."
Forrest rescued this beautiful big aloe plant from the last restaurant where he worked, after it closed. Every so often, the aloe puts on a show with a big, beautiful bloom—as you can see!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Far away in the depths of the mountains
Sunday, May 10, 2009
It's Mother's Day here in the USA, and I am reminded of the Buddhist teaching that all beings, in one lifetime or another, have been our mothers—and so deserve to be treated with the same kindness and compassion that we owe our mothers in this present life.
"And with these words, he vanished from our sight. Whereupon I, Tsogyal, made my way to the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, where I caused Namkhai Nyingpo to progress in the meditation on the subtle channels and energies. I granted the attainment of immortality, so that the bhikshu gained accomplishment, both supreme and ordinary.
Afterwards, I abided evenly in the view of the Great Perfection beyond all action, and as the experience dawned on me wherein all phenomena are extinguished in the nature of reality, I was perceived in various forms according to the needs of beings.
To the hungry I was heaps of food and all good things, and thus I brought them joy.
To the cold and freezing I was fire and sun-warmth, thus their joy.
To the poor and needy I was wealth and riches, thus their joy.
To the naked I was every kind of raiment, thus their joy.
To the childless I was sons and daughters, thus their joy.
To those who craved a woman, I became a lovely girl and thus their joy.
To those who sought a lover, I was a handsome youth and thus their joy.
To those who wanted magic powers, I gave prowess in the eight great siddhis, and thus I brought them joy.
To the sick I was their remedy and thus their joy.
To the anguished I was all their mind desired, and thus I was their joy.
To those hard pressed by punishments of kings, I was the loving friend to lead them to the land of peace, and I was thus their joy.
To those in fear of savage beasts, I was a haven, thus their joy.
To those who fell into the depths, I was their drawing out and thus their joy.
To those tormented in the fire, I was a quenching stream and thus their joy.
To those in prey to any of the elements, I was their medicine and thus their joy.
For those who could not see, I was their eyes and brought them joy.
And for the halt and crippled I was feet and thus their joy.
I was a tongue for those who could not speak, and thus I brought them joy.
To those in fear of death I granted immortality, and thus I was their joy.
I led the dying on the path of transference and brought them joy.
To those who wandered in the bardo state, I was their yidam, bringing them to joy.
I cooled the burning heat and warmed the cold of those lost in the realms of hell.
Howsoever they were tortured, I changed myself to shield them, being thus their joy.
To those who lingered in the land of hungry ghosts, I was their food and drink and thus their joy.
I was freedom from stupidity and servitude for those caught in the wordless state of beasts--and thus I brought them joy.
Those beings born in savage lands--I turned them from barbarity and brought them joy.
I was a truce from war and strife for the asuras and was thus their joy.
The gods I guarded from their bitter fall and I was thus their joy.
I shielded all from everything that tortured them and was their every joy.
Wherever there is space, five elements pervade,
Wherever the five elements, the homes of living beings,
Wherever living beings, karma and defilements,
Wherever is defilement, my compassion also.
Wherever is the need of beings, there I am to help them.
And thus I remained for twenty years in the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible."
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
For Earth Day this year, His Holiness Orgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, released a list titled "One Hundred Eight Things You Can Do to Help the Environment."
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Here's a new picture of Steve's sycamore, all leafed out and lush for the summer season.
Sometimes we need look no further than our own back yards for amazing natural spectacles. Such is the case with my neighbor Bonnie's back yard, which (thankfully) she chooses not to mow until the coreopsis have finished blooming.
Trouble is brewing here in the Land of Flowers, and it's something I'd bet that none of us who grew up here ever thought we'd see—a war that will eventually determine who, or what agency or business, controls the state's water supply.