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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden July 31, 2009

Front Lawn Garden 08/09

Garden 08/02/09

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Trick or Treat? - Saturday, October 31, 2009

Graf Kids Halloween 2008

The month of October ends with Halloween and an extra hour of sleep tonight as we move out clocks back. Children of neighborhood were out in full force tonight “trick or treating”.

My wife and I were out today raking the leaves into garden and compost piles when technology and nature played a trick on us. I went to the front to rake leaves and when I returned to the backyard my wife was on the grounds sorting through the leaves. She told me that she had been listening to her MPG player when it fell out of her coat pocket and was in the leaves. We racked and looked through the leaves and were about to give up when, now done on my knees, I found it. My guess is that nature, gravity and leaves, were giving her a message that MPG players and nature do not mix.

Tonight my grandchildren are probably trick or treating, however you do that in a rural area. Tomorrow we will head north to their house so I can go to the Green Bay Packer’s game with my daughter-in-law while my wife watches the grandchildren. My son is a police officer in Green Bay and will be at the football game ‘working’.

My son and his wife have two season tickets to the Packer games. Since my son works the game my daughter-in-law offers family members a chance to go to one of the games. I picked this game before Bret Favre, the former Green Packer, everyone loves and hates, decided to play for Minnesota, the opponent tomorrow.

My son withdrew my option to purchase the ticket when, due to Farve’s return to Lambeau field he looked he could sell the ticket for lots of money. That trick, however, was reversed. My daughter-in-law really wanted to go the game so she set the price so high that he did not sell the tickets. So thanks to Bret Favre’s decision to play for Minnesota and my daughter-in-law I will enjoy a treat of the game.

All week in the media there has been talk if the fans will cheer or boo Bret Favre when he takes a field in a Minnesota uniform. I do not know or care. The question for me is, will it be a trick or treat?


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Fall Into Darkness - Friday, October 30, 2009

The morning started dark with the news that someone close to me took another step falling deeper into a harmful illness. This afternoon my friends in India wrote to me of devastating floods in their province of India.

Outside today was a dark, windy day and full of falling leaves. The warm air and wind caused a great number of leaves to fall and cover the ground. “Manna” from heaven for the soil was abundant today.

Inside I stayed all day waiting for the computer repair man to come and fix my wife’s computer. I said I would do this today and I did but all this inside waiting tempted me to use my mind for technology stuff while balancing it with natural stuff. By the time he came in the late afternoon my mind was tired. When he left I needed to rush out to some radio stations to pick up some concert tickets my wife had won.

Now my head hurts, my computer is acting up and I feel like wallowing in the dark side of today. But there were some bright spots; a few people contacted me with words of encouragement in some of my struggles and all those leaves that fell today will mean more food tomorrow for the compost pile and worm depository. Also I saw tiny plants poking above ground in the Growing Power Box in the sun room.

So with the dark and computer glitches some glimpses of hope. I need to look at some jokes that came today by email, shut down the computer read, relax and sleep. Maybe the sun will shine tomorrow and my fall into darkness will look better.


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New and Old Friends - Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today, entering the Marquette University library, I saw a sign promoting someone I want to know, a Jesuit civil rights worker who was giving a talk tonight at the Memorial Union. I have been meaning to call and visit with this person ever since I was aware he was at Marquette, but never got around to it.

During the talk I saw one Jesuit sitting up front that was very familiar looking. After the talk, as he was walking to the back, I recognized who it was, a person I entered the Society of Jesus, Jesuits with in 1961. Since I left in 1968 I have only seen him a few times at various events. He told me today that he had returned from teaching in Rome to find out he had some cancer in the heart area. He is recovery at Marquette University waiting for a new assignment, hopefully doing parish work.

So going to hear a possible new friend I met a very old friend and all this happened because I went to the Marquette University Archives today to doing more research on Catholic Workers and Military Training on Catholic Campuses.

Over the years I heard that my old Jesuit friend was a liberal turned conservative. I really do not know about that or care. I do not see myself as a liberal or conservative and as I discovered in my research on Dorothy Day she certainly was not considered a liberal or conservative. These terms, like left or right, Republican or Democrat, are just labels put on people. As the bumper sticker on my car says: “God is not a Republican or a Democrat.” You could put left and right or liberal and conservative into the same category of tags.

Being around persons with brain illnesses, some would call “mental illnesses”, I have learned that labels or, worse yet, stigmas, are major obstacles for persons with mental illnesses for recovery. I heard recently a movie star with bipolar disease say she signed herself in at the mental health hospital as “shame.” I have heard a family member with this terrible illness describe himself in negative terms. I have seen persons struggle to accept illnesses of the mind because they cannot accept the stigma or label society puts on them by society.


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Conscience Is Natural - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One quality that separates humans from all other creatures is conscience, our sense of right and wrong. People I admire in history, like Franz Jägerstätter and Dorothy Day were champions of following one’s conscience. Conscience plays a central role in all religions and ethics. Dorothy Day recognized the importance of following one’s conscience “[e]ven when one is following a wrong or ill informed conscience.” (CW 12/1965: 1)

My feeling is that following one’s conscience is natural to humans just like seeking water and sun is natural to many plants in the garden or the worm seeking compost. When one goes against nature, as we now see with global warming or in the tragedy of New Orleans, there are dire consequences. As the officer at West Point points out in last night’s posting “soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively.” Conscience can be suppressed but it cannot be eliminated.

We are one with nature from plant to the worm to the guerrilla, but we are the only creatures who can say with Emmanuel Kant: “I think therefore I am.” With conscience comes responsibility.

St. Ignatius of Loyola and Mahatma Gandhi, two of my other models, like Dorothy Day and Franz Jägerstätter, were strong believers of the “priority of conscience.” St. Ignatius asked his followers to do a daily “examination of conscience,” and Gandhi believed that the power of God and truth was within us.


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Paradoxes of Nature, Hope and Despair - Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Growing In Light and Darkness

It really is surprising how a little bit of sun today and some letting go of things I cannot control left me feeling good. I got outside for awhile, but also got the lights up and the seeds in the box in the sun room. The transition from outside gardening to inside garden is almost complete.

With the lights in the sun room on a timer the plants in the box can get 12 hours of light each day with our without sun. As the plants need light to grow, so I need light to feel good. Perhaps I should install more light in my office so that even on a cloudy day I can look up in light.

Darkness is part of life we must endure. But we all need the light to live fully. We stumble in the darkness and walk tall in the light. Plants grow in the darkness but need light to grow. This play between light and darkness is a paradox we need to live with just as nature does.

Another paradox of life is that the deeper we go down into life the more we grow up in life, just like the plant’s roots go down into the ground as the plant grows up toward the sky.

We are planning a nonviolent sit-down at Marquette so the school will stand up for conscience. We are trying to dismantle the military bases that now are hosted at Marquette University, which teach values that deny the primacy of conscience. By sitting down in the lobby of the library we hope that Marquette will stand up for conscience. This is a paradox of hope for the future.


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End of Peace - Monday, October 26, 2009

Betrayal of Christ
1596–97, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Nature might be harsh and cruel, like in a tornado, but nature never betrays. Despite my rash and harsh exterior I am very much a trusting person, childlike in that regard. I believe persons and when I find out they were not telling the truth, in fact just using the misrepresentation of truth to betray me, I feel very down and upset. It is hard to just let it go and practice the nonviolence described to Gandhi by Judith Brown as “striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.” Unlike nature I fight for my vision of truth.

This does not mean that the way of nonviolence is not full of struggle. It is, but struggling for truth is not the same as fighting for truth. A nonviolent person absorbs the blows of lies and betrayal and keeps on struggling for the truth.

This brings me to the use of the word Peace. At the Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference a presenter from India who has extensively studied all the works of Mahatma Gandhi told me after my presentations on a Conversation between St. Ignatius of Loyola and Mahatma Gandhi that Gandhi seldom use the word peace in his many writings.

The word peace is overused. It has lost its meaning. I am guilty of overusing it, even signing my letters “Green Peace”. Like many other words and phrases like “family values,” it has been taken over by all kinds of persons of all viewpoints to mean what they want it to mean. But before I end or severely limit the use of the word “Peace” I would like to submit, with the author’s permission, a poem called Peace.


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Naturally Automatic - Sunday, October 25, 2009

Naturally Automatic Cow

Last night, thinking about today, I thought my Sunday was all figured out and would be a delightful, automatic day. Everything started as planned. This morning we picked up a disabled friend and took him to an assisted living home where his mom lives; and then all four of us went to church. In fact on the way to pick up our friend’s mom I answered any suggestions of how to drive there saying my brain was programed to automatically go there.

After we got home I started to watch, as planned, the Packer football game. I had a little distraction during the game as I was trying to fix my wife’s computer at the same time. After the game, as planned, I went outside to work in the gardens. A Catholic Worker friend called to come over to use our computer for a college assignment. That was okay and it kept me on schedule to enjoy a nice dinner my wife was cooking and an evening of reading, watching sports on TV and some computer stuff.

But after a shower, getting dressed and going into the kitchen to dinner, my wife told me that our friend, who has been suffering in pain for years, had called and needed to be driven to the emergency room of a local hospital.

Now my automatic day came to a screeching halt and I needed to spend over four hours in the waiting room of the ER in the hospital. However, all was not lost since the waiting room had a TV with the baseball playoff game on and I brought along some good reading fare. Waiting rooms are now my new reading rooms since I spend so much time in them. So my day was almost automatic but when you do what you need to do it is ‘naturally automatic.’


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Piling It On! - Saturday, October 24, 2009

Worm Depository 10/24/09

Today, when the sun came out, I continued my preparation of the worm depository for winter. A worm depository, as it is called by Growing Power, is a mound of “cooked” compost where worms live, feed, procreate and cast. To keep the worms healthy it constantly needs a mixture of carbon (brown) material, wood chips and leaves and nitrogen (green) food stuff, coffee grounds and garden scraps. A worm depository is different from a compost pile or worm box since its main goal is to grow healthy working worms not to make soil or castings. I will need to add “worm depository” to my glossary of growing terms.

Since worms need a fairly even temperature, in the summer I need to keep the worm depository cool and wet. In preparing for the winter, as I am doing now, I need to make sure there is a heavy layer of carbon — wood chips and leaves — over enough food — nitrogen — for the cold months. In real cold weather the top layers of carbon will freeze while the bottom soil stays warm enough for worms. Snow and rain going through the outer layer provide water, and the carbon, like wood chips, provides plenty of air spaces necessary for worms.

The first couple years of my worm depository I was real worried that the worms would not make it through the winter. After spring thaw I would go out to the pile with a pitchfork and turn it over. There always was wiggling worms below.

So now before the cold, snow, and winter freeze I am just piling it on, some nitrogen food and lots of carbon cover. Waste and worms go together.

In life I have learned a similar lesson. I have noticed that if you really believe and work for something consistently, just piling it on, it sometimes happens. Some persons find my consistency annoying, especially when it is a message they do not want to hear. But like a worm consistently eating and casting or preparing the worm depository for winter, I just keep piling it on.


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Delicious Cultures - Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicken Biryani

Rain, rain go away. Another rainy day kept me away from working outside in the gardens. I could have and should have worked on the inside sun room garden but I did not. The lure of communications with the computer and with the phone kept me occupied for most of the day. But I had to escape the house and did so by driving down to one of my favorite stores, Attari’s Supermarket, a Middle Eastern grocery store on the south side. There, today, I was able to purchase not only homemade fresh pita bread but three large home made chicken Biryani meals for dinner tonight at a very affordable price. Yes Chicken Biryani is Indian food but carry out dinners are available every Friday at the store. A local Indian family makes and provides the food and runs a small catering business.

As I noticed in India, Indian dishes share many of the same spices and ingredients as Middle Eastern dishes, food I grew up with. Perhaps this is why I was so attracted to Indian cooking after our Pilgrimage of Peace to India. In fact, tonight I feel like adding to the Indian Recipes on this site.

The food of a culture can tell you a lot about a culture. The connections between my Lebanese ethnic origins and my attraction to Indian culture are delicious.


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Mind and Body - Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peace of Mind by Paul Heussenstamm

Another day of all day rain tested my threshold for dark days. Mind over body is hard to practice when the body feels the damp, dark days. But I did my best and focused on cleaning the house and doing some things on the computer that I normally would put off.

One of things I did was put on the Catholic Workers and Military Training on Catholic Campuses web page the quotes I researched yesterday on the refusal by Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, to receive honorary degrees from a Catholic University with military on campus. Also I was able to put together a picture of Gandhi and Ignatius for the main page of in announcing the new essay, the imaginary conversation between St. Ignatius of Loyola and Mahatma Gandhi.

Cleaning around the house and cooking dinner was not quite as exciting at the computer work but it was more physical and thus better for the body. Tonight a few of us met to discuss what to do to for Marquette to stop hosting the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. We have tried to have a dialog, discussion and debate with Marquette on this moral issue only to be denied and ignored. All that is left to us is nonviolent action. Now nonviolent action takes mind and body.


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Good Noise and Wonderful Silence - Wednesday, October 21, 2009


On my way to the Marquette University Library Archives this morning I stopped at McDonald’s for some coffee and an Egg McMuffin. I wanted to sit down and write out some questions for the Catholic Worker archivist I was visiting. I expected some noise at McDonald’s with people talking. However, I was not expecting there would be four TV’s, one in each corner, featuring two different stations with sound on high. I struggled to write out my questions with the overwhelming noise in the background. My spirits were tired and low.

The weather was gloomy outside but once I entered the Library all went quiet and my spirits started to rise. I could even hear myself talking with my friend in the conference room. After our conversation I got to work on my research on Dorothy Day and her thoughts on military training in our education system. The silence in the reading room was wonderful and after a few hours of research I felt really good and refreshed. As I was going downstairs on the elevator a student entered and said hello. I noticed she was shaking her head in rhythm but then I realized she was listening to music on ear plugs from her iPod. Silence on the outside and organized noise, music, in her ears.

When I got outside the sun was shining. I realized that I had been in the library so long that the meter on my car had run out. But things were going well and there was no parking ticket on my car.

The rest of the day went well. I got a chance to read while silently waiting for my wife to get treatment for her pain. The pain seems to be deceasing. When I got home from her appointment I went outside to work on the gardens. The silence of nature was, as usual, outstanding.

Tonight for dinner my wife felt so well that she taught me how to cook one of my favorite meals, Middle Eastern kibbeh. The Phillies won the National League Championship tonight. That was noisy but in good way. There is good noise and wonderful silence.


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Beauty of the Tree Across the Street - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The tree across the street

As the furnace man was leaving the house today we started to talk about the weather, and the cloudy day today as contrasted with the last few days of sunny weather. He asked me if I got to enjoy the fall color of trees last Sunday. I was dubious in my response because I thought he was asking me if I had gone anywhere last Sunday which was a beautiful fall day. I had not gone anywhere to take in the fall color. As he started to describe the beautiful fall colors he had enjoyed Sunday I remembered that I was working in front of the house on Sunday and noticed the beauty of a tree across the street. Since we were talking in our driveway I looked up and saw the tree was still full of color. I guess you can travel to find fall color or just look up.

Finding beauty where you are by looking deeply is something I found in both the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola. For a presentation at the recent Peace and Justice Studies Conference here in Milwaukee I had written an imaginary conversation between these two great persons, the founder of the Society of Jesus and the father of India. Today I put the conversation on the Nonviolent Cow at Conversation between Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola on Nonviolence and Sustainability.

Although both men live in different times and different cultures they both excelled in “finding God in all things” to use a phrase applied to the spirituality of St. Ignatius. Both persons lived in the present and would have seen the beauty of the tree across the street.


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Nature Is What It Is! - Monday, October 19, 2009

In nature everything is what it seems to be. Outside today was another beautiful sunny day. And it was. In technology everything is not what it seems to be. Perception can easily be misrepresented.

Emails are great technological ways of communicating. We can now, regularly and almost instantly, communicate with persons all over the world. This is something we could not do in nature. We would need to personally face a person to communicate if there was no technology. Emails are a technological wonder but have faults due to the lack of nature in this way of communicating.

Written words on a screen are cold. With no visual view of the persons speaking and no hearing of how the words are spoken, the frozen words can be easily misunderstood.

A case in point was an email I received today from a friend on a peace list server. He was upset that someone had ignored his comments on Medicare not being socialism in an online discussion of socialism. I wrote back to him a comment asking him excuse the offender since the person was old. The person that upset this other person is old but I was making a tongue in cheek comment blaming a forgotten mention as the result of old age.

However, the person offended by being ignored in another person’s email took my email seriously and was offended by it. He let it be known. I wrote back to him asking him to lighten up and asking him if he considered the fire department a socialist institution since it was run by the government and had red trucks. I hope he got the humor in my words this time.

Nature is what it is. In nature you get all five senses, touch, hearing, seeing, taste and smell. In emails you just get the words without any use of the senses. Nature is what it is and uses all the senses.


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Where Did All the Leaves Go, a Long Time Coming! - Sunday, October 18, 2009

September was like summer, warm and sunny; October, till today. was mostly cold and rainy. Today was a beautiful sunny fall day, at last.

Although most of the leaves are still on the trees, it is time to begin raking. Leaves form from the tree buds in the spring, grow on the tree branches throughout the summer and with fall change colors, die and fall where the wind may take them. My neighbor, like most residents, was raking his leaves into the street.

Leaves are like manna from nature. These leaves of the tree are rich in nutrients gathered by the tree from the soil. Left to themselves they fall to enrich the soil once more.

My neighbor, like most residents of Milwaukee, rakes the leaves off of the lawn and garden onto the street where the city of Milwaukee collects them and pays a contractor to haul them away to a field in the country. There they rot, compress and form a rich composted soil which the contractors sells to a manufacturer who, perhaps after adding chemicals, sells it back to residents of Milwaukee as soil or fertilizer.


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Spot Matters - Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dorothy Day on the spot

Today I went fishing with my friend and his girlfriend’s seven year daughter. Expectations of catching salmon were high since just the other day my friend had been at this location along the Milwaukee River and had caught all the salmon he could handle.

When we got there the exact spot along the river bank he favored was taken, so we went to a spot next to it. There were signs of salmon in the river but they were not abundant today as they had been just two days before. The three of us worked for the fish but got none. Since my friend’s spot was still occupied when we were ready to leave, we drove up-river to another spot. No one and no fish were there. My friend thought we would have caught fish if we’d had his lucky spot. I am not sure if the spot mattered.

They say it is better to teach someone to fish than to give someone a fish, but today I would have settled for a fish my friend had caught earlier. In fact my friend was going to bring me one of the salmon in his freezer but forgot. This was our second attempt this year. Now we will need to try again or wait till next year for the salmon to run.


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Fall Cleaning - Friday, October 16, 2009

Spring cleaning is when we clean the house. Fall cleaning is when we clean the outside. There are leaves to rakes, plants to cut down, things outside to be put away in the house or garage. In spring cleaning in the house we usually throw things out, like unused furniture and clothing, to garbage. In fall cleaning, we usually throw things in, like leaves and dead plants, to the compost pile. Much of the garbage in the spring cleaning goes to landfills. Most of the waste in fall cleaning goes to the compost pile to be recycled into more soil for spring.

Spring cleaning is done when the days are becoming longer and fall cleaning when the days are becoming shorter. We need to do both to keep out house and outside clean.

Today I was able to get outside for some fall cleaning. Hopefully the fall weather we are just now experiencing will stay for awhile so we can get outside and clean some more.

Due to a late fall, with leaves just now starting to fall in earnest, the salmon fishing season is just beginning. One of my son’s friends called today and said the salmon are running up the Milwaukee River from Lake Michigan. The large salmon from the Pacific can grow in the fresh waters of the Great Lakes but not breed. So after they grow to full size and are ready to breed and die, they come up the river to where they were let go as babies to grow. The Department of Natural Resources breeds them in fish hatches and we, lovers of catching large, good tasting fish, catch them while they are fresh and before they die. If I catch salmon tomorrow, after cleaning, I will take them to be smoked.

Here is a good example of a fall cleaning turning into a delicious meal.


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Seed Saving - Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saving Seeds at Navdanya

The rain all day kept me from experiencing the power of the now in the garden today. But in between doctor waiting rooms, working around the house and on the computer, I did get a few garden-related tasks in. One was taking the bean seeds out of the dried out brown green bean pods from the garden. They are from vintage beans a friend gave me and, unlike bought seeds, should come back when planted along the trellis in the backyard garden next spring. I am saving lots of the been seeds since I do not have much confidence yet in my seed saving skills.

Seed saving had been a traditional way for farmers and gardeners to get seeds in this country. However, nowadays there is a shift to purchasing seed annually from commercial seed suppliers. These hybridized or cloned plants do not produce seed that remains “true to type” — retaining the parent’s characteristics — from seed. These commercial seeds do not lend themselves to being saved, and lead to less variety of plants. The art of seed saving is being lost, and farmers and gardeners are becoming dependent on commercial seed producers.

However, there is a movement to reintroduce seed saving. In India, I attended a the Navdanya rural institute that has a large seed bank and is working hard to once again make seed saving “traditional” for farmers. In the USA there are seed saving co-ops that I will need to investigate for next spring’s seeds.

I wish all plants were perennials, saving and planting their own seeds each year. But they are not and the next best thing is to learn how to save seeds and join together to share saved seeds.

Saving seeds is like composting, taking the cycle of life seriously and using the leftover past to grow the future in the present.


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The Power of Now - Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Today was one of those days. Between computer glitches and driving persons in pain to a health care clinic, one in morning and one in the afternoon, I did not get much done of what I wanted to do. I especially wanted to work in the gardens outside and inside the house. The computer glitches were the most annoying and time delaying. At least with driving persons to clinics and waiting for them to see the doctor there is a sense of doing something meaningful. Not with techno mishaps.

Going to pick up a friend this afternoon for a doctor’s visit I started to listen to public radio show Speaking of Faith. Today’s conversation was with the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. He was talking about the power of living in the now of the present moment. His bestselling book is called “The Power of the Now.” This is a subject of great interest to me.

However, as he was talking on the radio my friend came to the car and she wanted to talk. Talking with her in the present was far more important than listening to the master talk about the now. However, I felt somewhat disappointed missing the interview till I realized that through the power of the same computer that was causing me so much trouble today, I could listen to the broadcast anytime I wanted on the web.

The power of the now of listening can become the power of the now whenever I am ready to listen. Hopefully tomorrow the now will take me into house gardens and I can enjoy the power of the now in the garden.


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Nature Cures - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recently I have been surrounded by people in pain, in body and mind. One person in pain, currently, is my wife who has had a terrible pain in her side for some time. Hopefully, the pain will be healed by a hospital procedure tomorrow. Others in pain now are family and friends suffering from loss of a loved one, or illnesses of body and mind. In fact, after I take my wife to a hospital/clinic to relieve her pain in the morning, in the afternoon I am taking a friend to the same place to see a pain doctor about relief from a pain she has been suffering from for over three years. Both my wife and my friend, although they have good health insurance plans, are battling insurance companies for health care. In helping my wife get care I discovered from the insurance company that there has been a change of ‘networks’ in our health care. This means I can no longer, without great cost, see my own personal doctor of the last fourteen years. Pain of body and mind is hard enough, let alone with the need to battle with insurance companies for health care.

How to be compassionate and sympathetic to persons in pain without allowing the other person’s pain to affect you is a difficult struggle. Here, I believe, we can learn from nature. If a plant gets sick and dies, others ones will live and grow if the sick plant does not have a contagious diseases. When trees feel winter coming on they shed their leaves so they can survive better with reduced sunlight. Some trees need to be pruned so the branches left can grow. Certain insects and plants protect other plants from being affected. I am told that the marigolds that surround my front lawn garden deter some insects. When fires naturally burn forests they leave ashes that revitalize the soil for more trees to grow. When a plant, animal or insect affects nature there is usually something else to counteract it and restore the balance. Parts of nature works together to heal the whole.


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Lessons Learned - Monday, October 12, 2009

Sometimes in life it is important to stop and take time out to reflect on lessons recently learned before moving on. This was one of those times.

Ten Lessons Learned

The recent Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) conference at Marquette University affirmed for me that the militarization of our educational system is at the heart of our American society. How we deal with this issue can determine if, like the great military power of the Roman Empire, we become morally corrupt and fall or if we will start a new American revolution, this one with the weapons of nonviolence and sustainability. Here are some lessons learned from this conference.

  1. There was strong support from around the country for our message to the host school, Marquette To Be Faithful to the Gospel and No Longer Host the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force on campus.
  2. Persons living the lifestyle of nonviolence, especially Catholic Workers, were supportive and understanding.
  3. Making a fool of yourself like I did in the introductory event by standing with a sign on front and back when my name was called for special recognition is not so difficult when your message is well received. The sign on my front read: “Marquette University Hosts PJSA for 3 days on campus;” the sign on my back read: “Marquette Hosts the Army, Navy/Marines & Air Force 365 days a year on campus.”
  4. Our sign outside the theater for Sister Helen Prejean’s speech saying: “MU Teach War No More” said more than our flyer to those entering the theater.
  5. When our message is ignored and rejected in our home university, Marquette, it is nice to have it accepted by persons from universities and colleges around the country.


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Technology Makes Haste - Sunday, October 11, 2009

Working with collecting garden waste, I was able to add tomato and other plants to the compost pile that will make the soil for next year’s plants. Working on the computer today I was able to get on a group email to some folks but do not believe the effort will bring much results. Collecting waste in the garden to make new soil took a brief amount of time compared to the time it took to form a new email group list. I learned the lesson over again, that nature trumps technology each time.

When I was young there was much discussion of what we would do with all the leisure time that technology would offer us. Now that I am older and we have the technology we are more busy with less leisure time than ever.

Some accused Mahatma Gandhi of being anti-technology by his emphasis on local products and natural ways. However, he said that he was not against technology but how it was used — the means are just as important as the end. Often technology does not make life more simple and easier, but more complicated and tougher.

Now clearly I am not anti technology and this message is brought to you only by technology. However, a wiki web site, like this one created by my friend Tegan of Emergency Digital, is a lot simpler and user-friendly that a normal web site.

Like I have found in the five pane Air inserts, quite often the low-tech ways of doing something are more effective as well as affordable.

Technology often makes haste but not always more leisure or renewable waste as nature.


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Tired But Renewed - Saturday, October 10, 2009

A soldier of conscience

Now that the presentation at the peace and justice conference at Marquette is finished I feel tired and renewed. The presentation went well and our efforts to stop the military bases located on Marquette‘s campus were supported by the participants, peace and justice persons from all over the country. If only the local Marquette University Center for Peacemaking supported us as well. Rejection at home since be part of presenting our message: Marquette Be Faithful to the Gospel and No Long Host the Army Navy/Marines and Air Force military bases on campus. The efforts put in the presentation and to highlight the military training Marquette Hosts leave me tired.

I went to a presentation today from three women from Northeastern University in Chicago where they conducted a successful effort to stop their university from being a host school for the military and to be a partner school only. It was inspiring to see this systematic effort to defeat the militarization of their school. One of the women was a lawyer who gave us hope that the Solomon Act that forces universities to offer recruiting and ROTC programs would eventually be overturned on the 1st Amendment rights of the Constitution. She said that the recruiting part of the law will stand, but that forcing a program contrary to a school’s principles and values is against the 1st Amendment rights of the University. First amendment freedom of speech gives schools the right to limit what is taught on campus. This would mean the type of “reflexive killing” that the movie “Soldiers of Conscience” shows happening in military classes on campus could be restricted, since it violates the Catholic social values that Marquette is founded on.

Tonight will be our first very cold night. I went around the gardens picking vegetables and bringing in potted plants. I was too late for the basil. Yesterday it was okay today it is dead.

If only we could demilitarize our schools as easily as we tend to the garden. Nature, if left alone, always survives and renews itself. But humans need laws to do the right thing and training to kill. When one is tired but renewed, as I am tonight, one longs to go back to nature. Just let it be.


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The Last Rose - Friday, October 09, 2009

The Last Rose

With all the rain recently and now the cold, the growing season is ending. This picture is of the last rose our backyard garden will see this year. This is sad but we know the rose bush will grow once more next spring and roses will come and go in spring, summer and fall.

Tonight at the Peace and Justice Studies Association conference at Marquette I watched a movie called “Soldiers of Conscience”. It was a well-balanced account of how the military now trains soldiers to kill instinctively, without thinking. The military has learned from past wars that when soldiers thought about what they were doing they were sometimes reluctant to kill another human being.

One of the scenes in the movie was from a ROTC class, the kind Marquette hosts, where the teacher was telling the students about this way of fighting and the merits of it.

However, the story was also about four soldiers who put conscience over the military value to kill without thinking. They were rejected, imprisoned and dismissed from the military. One has been in the military for over 10 years but just could not kill without conscience any longer.

The military does not allow selective conscientious objection; one must be against all wars to be an official conscientious objector, and even that is made difficult and painful.

The military justifies this type of training, on the campus of Marquette or at another military base, because they know that when conscience is a priority, as our Catholic faith teaches, many will not kill and blindly follow orders.


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Militarizing the Young! - Thursday, October 08, 2009

Children & Weapons of War
at DoD Starbase

Tonight we took our message for Marquette University To Teach War No More to the streets once again. However, this time our reception was much better than ever before. Naturally, this time our audience was more open to our message, since they were members of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, PSJA, or peace and justice persons coming to hear Sister Helen Prejean (of “Dead Man Walking” fame) talk about the injustice of the death penalty in our society.

Our main message tonight was that ‘Marquette hosts the PSJA for three days on campus but the Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force for 365 days a year on campus.’ Our hope is that as people learn more about the moral issue of using schools, particularly Catholic ones, as military training bases they will wake up and demand demilitarization of our society. To find out if your local college or university is just a military partner school or actually hosts a military base on campus check out the Nonviolent Action web page.

We all knew about the JROTC, the high school program to recruit and train high school youth for the military. However last night our house guest told us about the Department of Defense’s Starbase youth program for grade school kids. The vision statement of Starbase is “To raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which will provide for a highly educated and skilled American workforce that can meet the advanced technological requirements of the Department of Defense.” The program takes youth to military bases and trains them in skills that “will nurture a winning network of collaborators and build mutual loyalty” of youth and military.

Already our culture is engrossed in violence, TV, video games, wars, guns, street violence and more. Now the military is dipping down to grade schools to prepare kids to kill or be killed. In the slippery road to demilitarization of our society what is next, pre-schools on military bases? Oh, we have that already. How young will the militarization of our society go?


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Treasure Is In Your Heart - Wednesday, October 07, 2009

October is in full swing, rain falling down, winds blowing and leaves turning colors. Flowers like the marigolds in the front yard garden are still in full bloom while some in the rain garden are fading away. Dying is hard but needs to be done in nature and in life.

Today a peace activist came to our home from Oregon. He is in town for the Peace and Justice Studies Association. He will read the Gandhi part in my presentation on A Conversation between Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola. A local friend came by who will read the St. Ignatius role. After a dinner of Indian Vegetable Curry and Middle East salad and some conversation between us we read our parts in the conversation. After the presentation on Saturday I will display the full conversation on the web page.

Most of the vegetables for our vegetarian meal came from the gardens around the house. The recipe for the Indian dish came from my friend Kranthi in India. The conversation between Gandhi and Ignatius came from my mind after years of reading and thinking about these two men of history. I guess you can say the food and dialog in the presentation were home grown.

Both the meal and the script were good examples of Swadeshi, the use and service of our immediate surroundings over those more remote or foreign, that I was talking about in last night’s posting.


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When the Lights Go Out - Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lights Go Out in London

I was planning on doing this posting on Ghandi’s principle of Swadeshi, the use and service of our immediate surroundings over those more remote or foreign. This principle of starting with the local first applies to economics, politics and even religion.

I better understood what Swadeshi meant when I was writing the “Conversation with Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola on nonviolence and sustainability” for the Peace and Justice Studies Association this week at Marquette University.

I thought of this principle this morning as I was driving my wife around for some medical appointments. I have been doing that for friends recently but today needed to do it for my local family, my wife. I had this chance to practice Swadeshi .

In considering this thought I sensed our dependence on outside resources, for food, energy and life. I thought about Gandhi’s statement of how he was not against technology but trying to establish how we use technology is just as important as our goal using it. I started to think how dependent we are on technology, especially electricity, when the lights went out.

When our electricity went down for a few hours tonight, not only the lights were out but our internet, home phones, refrigeration, TV and much more were out.


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Back to Health & Garden - Monday, October 05, 2009

Healing Garden

Flying back to Milwaukee from a wedding out East this morning my wife’s pain in her leg started acting up. We had to get a wheelchair to help her to the baggage area to get her in the car. When we got home she put in a call to her doctor.

When I was going through the mail that arrived when we were gone I noticed a letter from our financial adviser with our statement. In the letter he put his “two cents” in about health care. Sadly his statements about state control health care systems like in Canada, France and Great Britain being a failure were misinformed and misleading. I was especially upset about his comments on the French Health system since they had a private/public system that is more effective and less costly than ours. This is a system we could learn from.

The reality of his misinformed statements came home as the day progressed and we attempted to get help for my wife. We discovered that our health care provider had changed networks and some of our doctors, rehab places, health and urgent care clinics were no longer allowed under our new health network. In fact I discovered that my primary doctor of 14 years was no longer covered in our new health insurance network. We stayed focused on my wife’s pain and finally got her some care.

Due to this and some other catching up I was not able to get out to the gardens today. Fortunately nature does a good job taking care of itself and ‘urgent care’ is not usually necessary. Our health care system could learn from nature as well as from other countries.


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