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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

Garden 08/02/09

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Maybe or Maybe Not - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Asian Carp, Coming to the
Great Lakes, Maybe or
Maybe Not?

Being tired in general helped me to observe how when modern day politicians say something often we need to add “Maybe or Maybe Not.” For example, in his speech on TV to us about the oil spill President Obama said that by June 30th, 90% of the oil leaking would be captured. It is now June 30th and only about 40% of leaking oil is being contained, so maybe not.

Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was promised to begin in July, 2011. In the confirmation hearings for General Petraeus, as the new commander of Afghanistan, he was asked about that day. He said that was the plan but depending on conditions in the country at that time, maybe not.

The president as a candidate said he would fight to stop invasive species form entering the Great Lakes. Now that there is talk of preventing the Asian carp from entering the Great Lake by closing the man-made canal connecting the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes, his actions say maybe not.

People come to expect, sadly, politicians to say one thing and do another. Politicians seem to be elected on what they say more than what they do.

Taxpayers cry out for less taxes and government spending but yet when it comes to military spending, the greatest part of our budget, they quietly say maybe not.

We all practice saying one thing and doing another thing. We are all hypocrites, maybe or maybe not.


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Sun & Water, Tomatoes & Basil - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Basil and Tomatoes

With the recent hot, humid and rain weather the tomato and basil plants in the front yard garden are flourishing. In fact, I picked some basil today. Both these plants like it hot and wet. Some cool dry weather is coming but the good growing of these two plants should continue.

The tomato crop of past years at this house was not as good as expected. No matter where I planted the tomatoes in the backyard garden, and no matter the quality of the soil, they never seem to do well. I suspected it was a lack of sun, since all spots in the backyard get sun part of the day. A big tree behind my yard is the main sun blocker.

Last year when I planted the tomatoes in the front yard the crop was better, although I was late, due to construction of the raised bed. Now with an early and good start and with good sun the crop is promising. Some plants just need direct sun and good water to be bountiful.

Some of us humans, even in down times, need good light and watering, to flourish. Sun and water are just essential to growing, be it basil and tomatoes or persons.


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Remembering - Monday, June 28, 2010

Remembering: My
granddaughter’s last visit
with her great grandmother

Remembering is important to live in the present and to prepare for the future. When my father was suffering dementia, diminishment of the brain from Alzheimer’s, I became aware of how important remembering is to even basic functions like eating or walking. Although remembering is essential to living, it can be hard.

Today is the one year anniversary of the US supported coup in Honduras. This denial of democracy is hard to remember but word came today that the Honduras Resistance is still strong.

Today the Supreme Court ruled by a 5–4 vote that individuals have rights to bear guns under the 2nd amendment, and that most city and state gun control laws are illegal. Just when we face so much violence on the streets, we face the situation of more handguns on the street. I remember with sadness all the homicide prayer vigils we have conducted over the years. (See Mothers Against Gun Violence Homicide Memorial pages.)

My heart is heavy with remembering, especially today when my busy day did not allow me to do much outside work in the garden. I can keep busy and hide the memories, or I can stay awake and take the hard memories with all the good ones. I guess I will stay awake and take the heavy heart that comes with living in the present while remembering.


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From Pandora Radio To Rolling Stone Magazine - Sunday, June 27, 2010

Civilian victim in Pandora Box
of the war in Afghanistan

I recently set up my free Pandora Radio station on the Internet. I picked the music of Bob Dylan to form the heart of my radio station. Listening to it today I heard a popular song by “The Youngbloods” called “Get Together”. Although the refrain, which in part is “Everybody get together, try to love one another right now” was familiar, I had not really heard the verses. The first line of the first verse really struck me. It is “Love is but a song we sing, and fear’s the way we die.” Love is a song and fear is dying kept running through my mind.

I read today in my son’s Rolling Stone magazine the infamous article about General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, the article that cost him his position. I can understand how he lost his job for his demeaning remarks about politicians, but what really struck me was his efforts to change the rules of engagement in Afghanistan to avoid civilian casualties. He called it “insurgent math”: that for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies. His efforts were met by a tremendous backlash among his own troops who had been trained in reflexive killing, shooting on instinct and not conscience. His actions were based on a controversial counterinsurgency theory called COIN. This theory changes the military, expanding its authority to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare. Soldiers are to live among the civilian population, win its trust and help to rebuild the society. The article goes to great lengths to say how ‘real soldiers’ were not buying these new rules of engagement. The article makes one wonder if these new rules of engagement did not have as much as his words to do with his removal. A military based in part of love of persons we are there to protect is quite different than one based on fear of all persons.

As any reader of knows I have low tolerance for the teaching of reflexive killing at an Army base like the officer training program at Marquette University. Reflexive killing is based on fear; kill anything that might be a danger in a war zone. If a soldier dares to work and know the people of Afghanistan, it makes it difficult to kill civilians.

Pandora Radio plays the songs we sing, love, and the Rolling Stone, a music magazine, article describes what happens when the fear of war, dying, gets in the way.


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Lily of a Friend - Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lilies from a friend

The lilies that are now appearing in my gardens around my house were a gift last summer from an old friend from the sixties. I met this friend, usually called by his last name, Godsil, when we both students at St. Louis University 1965–67. We shared some classes and a concern about peace and justice.

Except for a brief encounter around 1969 or 70 when Godsil moved to Milwaukee, we did not see each other till after 1995 when I returned to Milwaukee. The last 10–14 years, till about a year ago, Godsil seemed to be everywhere in my life. He was the person that introduced me to Will Allen, Growing Power, worms, and to the wiki web design on Milwaukee Renaissance which led to this wiki web page of the

I knew him as a person that would start something new and then pass it on. However, about a year or so ago he and some others persons started Sweet Water Organics. Sweet Water Organics is sustainable urban farm, built around the aquaculture system of Growing Power.

About this time I stopped receiving his frequent emails, hearing his new ideas and about him from common friends. Perhaps the reason is that now he is grounded in this pioneering project in urban farming.

I see him occasionally now at events and one of the last times was last summer when he had received a major amount of lilies and was selling them as a fundraiser for Sweet Water Organics. I went over to his house to purchase some and he gave me many more to share and to plant in my gardens. Now in front of the vegetable garden on the front lawn, in the rain garden out front and in the backyard garden you will find beautiful yellow lilies booming. Besides blooming for a long period of time these lilies multiply. New ones are emerging by the old ones. Like worms or mint I now have more to share. They add beauty throughout the gardens.

I hope Godsil’s and my lives intertwine again. He has given me so much by his presence and friendship. He is the lilies that come up in the garden of my life bringing joy and beauty. He is a lily of a friend.


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Day Off - Friday, June 25, 2010

March on Summerfest

Updating the Breaking The Silence web page tonight I thought how easily my ‘work’ involves a smooth transition between the kitchen, the garden, being of service to those who need a ride, to working for nonviolent action for social change. All four of these actions seem to merge together in my life, which is a source of joy and of a paradox.

As we were on the Breaking The Silence March on Summerfest the other day a man going to Summerfest said to me “Find something to do”. I am not sure what my response, if any, was but I wished I would have said: “I have work. It is ‘Breaking the Silence’ — the silence that allows violence, war, greed and militarization to control our lives.” I guess he did not see our nonviolent action as work. I doubt if others would see my cooking, driving persons in need, and gardening as work also.

Today my dear wife had a day off from work. She read, did some things on the computer, went for a walk and out to dinner with some friends. As I was doing my work today, cleaning out the sun room, putting pictures on the web of the nonviolent action yesterday and working in the garden I wondered when my day off was. I realized I do not need a day off, for every day of my work, which I get to decide, is a day off and a day on. Having work that gives you 365 days off a year is good work if you can find it.


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Healing Front Yard - Thursday, June 24, 2010

Front Yard Today

Today we had our first Freedom Funeral March in Breaking the Silence. We marched from a nearby parking structure to Summerfest, the biggest music festival in the world. We were met with interest, indifference and indignation.

Later in the day the media reported that part of facade on this parking garage fell and the concrete slabs killed a youth. Our march against the greed that breeds war and violence combined with this major local news story made me think of all the children killed in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the drone attacks on Pakistan. All this dying made me very sad but more determined than ever to break the silence about all this death and destruction. (Tomorrow I will post pictures of the march on Breaking the Silence web page.

The quote by Martin Luther King Jr. on our flyer today was inspired by his awareness of the children being killed by the war in Vietnam. The quote is: “Never again will I be silent on an issue that is destroying the soul of our nation…” The person who marched with us today who was most vehement in his opposition to the war and militarism that has grasped our country was a veteran of the Vietnam war. On the way back he told me that he was injured in Vietnam in 1967 but after recovering went back for another three years. Three of his companions were missing and he felt that by going back he could find them. The senselessness of the Vietnam War and the death and destruction it caused strengthens his opposition to these new endless wars.

The healing today for me came when I went out this evening to do a little work on my gardens. The front yard garden, led up front by 13 lilies in full bloom, is starting to take shape. Not many persons have a front yard that brings healing to the sorrow of his or her soul. But I do. A healing garden is blessing.


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Where Have All the Signs Gone? - Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In a letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel someone wrote that the “Stop the War” yard signs have disappeared from his neighborhood lawns over the past year and a half. He points out that the war in Afghanistan has been escalated and the war in Iraq continues.

This week ten thousand activists are getting together in Detroit for the US Social Forum. One wonders how much stopping the wars will play in their deliberation and action plans they take home. My fear is that many issues and concerns will be talked about but no one or two priority issues to act on will be chosen.

Reading more of Dr. Luther King Jr. it is interesting to note how two issues, civil rights and stopping the war in Vietnam, held the focus of activists of the 60’s. Specific steps on these two issues, like the Montgomery Bus boycott or the March on Washington, is where the energy of organizing took place. There were many other issues at the time but social activists seemed to sense that working together in a focused way on one or two issues was the best way to get things done.

In this day and age of lots of energy on lots of issues going in many directions, it is good to read the signs of the times and ask: Where have all the signs gone?


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Pray For The Cherry Tree - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cherry Tree

This Tuesday, the second full day of summer, we had our somewhat regular faith sharing sessions at a the home of a friend who is dying and in hospice care. Another friend dying was too ill and near death to be there. We called him on the phone at the end of the session and passed the phone around. Faith sharing with two persons close to death is an unusual and graced-filled event. This morning, at the suggestion of our host, we talked about our personal experiences of death.

One of the persons at these regular gatherings, who is active in school issues, invited me over to his nearby house to check out his garden of flowers, shrubs and trees. In his backyard he had a cherry tree full of cherries ready to be picked. He told me that this particular cherry tree was a second reincarnation of an earlier one in the same area. In fact this tree had sprouted some young seedlings that were growing. He asked me if I wanted one and I said yes.

A tree behind my rain garden and next to my neighbor’s driveway had died. We planted another young tree there but it too had died. So as soon as I got home I planted this young cherry tree tenderly in the spot. I pray and hope it takes root.

This evening when I took this picture there were signs of life and death on the young tree. I guess I will know more in a few days. A couple of neighboring young children were playing in the driveway when I took the picture. I told them that I had planted a cherry tree. They both told me they liked cherries. I told them that, hopefully, when they grew up the cherry tree will grow and one day they could pick cherries.

My two friends are facing death with dignity and acceptance. Unlike the two young children they will not be around if the tree grows and flourishes. Let’s pray the tree grows and my friends die in peace.


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What One Person Can Do - Monday, June 21, 2010

Illustration by Deb Hoeffner

Yesterday for our Faith and Recovery session at Church we used a quote from Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. She says:

“People say, ‘What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes.”

The quote fit well with some of us who are trying to live in the present moment but feel there is too much to do. Also many of us feel that our small actions do not matter much. When Dorothy talked about ‘one action’ she was not talking about voting or sending an email. She was talking about doing the works of mercy or trying to make a change in society.

I thought of this quote today as I was shuttling two persons back and forth to the same medical clinic, one in his teens and another in her late forties. They did not meet each other today as they had appointments in the same place but at different times and different offices. Yet they are connected to each other but my small action of driving each one of them to the clinic.

My four small garden spaces around my house are not connected physically but experience the same rain and sun and are connected by my gardening action on all four.

Cooking stew to go with Ella’s cornbread for my wife, son and myself was another small action I did today.

Also tonight I put pictures on the 2010 Homicide Vigil List at Mothers Against Gun Violence.

These small actions, gardening, cooking dinner, adding pictures to web site and driving two friends to the clinic are all small actions. But if they are actions of the present moment, with grace of God, they can multiply, just as Jesus did with the loaves of bread and fishes. Who knows, we might have another Miracle of the Leftovers.

Small actions can be big when they are done in the present moment and with love. Who knows what one person can do?


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Grape Leaves Heritage - Sunday, June 20, 2010

I thought today, June 20th, was the summer Solstice, but according to the Wikipedia it is 11:28 am June 21st. This means tomorrow is the longest day of the year and the first day of summer. Either way summer is finally here at least according to astronomy and imagination.

Today was also Father’s day, an American-born holiday honoring Fathers, now celebrated in 55 countries.

My sons wished me a Happy Father’s Day and my wife and I celebrated by taking a bike ride on the Oak Leaf Bike Trail which ends near our house. Actually I call it the Grape Leaf trail since I see more grape leaves on the trail than oak leaves. Grape leaves are an important ingredient to well love Middle East dish made in our family, grape leaves.

Grape leaves vines, with or without grapes, grow all over the world and are just about everywhere. My mother took us children to a neighborhood park to pick grape leaves for this meal. Now I have grape leaves growing all over my fence around my garden as the picture of my backyard garden in last night’s posting will testify to.

We stopped along the bike trail to pick grape leaves, collecting over 350 to be cleaned and frozen for some great eating someday. People wonder what we are doing when we pick grape leaves. Today a lady came up to me to ask me. I explained that this was a vital ingredient to our cooking. I also felt obliged to explain how when one picks a grape leaf another one grows as well as the vine. The more you prune the leaves the more you get. This explains why our yard a few years ago had a lot fewer grape leaves on the vines.

June is the best time to pick grape leaves. As the summer wears on the leaves become old if not picked, eaten in part by bugs and polluted. Also now, as explained in the posting of June 10th, I can solo make stuffed grape leaves.


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Find What You Are Looking For - Saturday, June 19, 2010

Backyard Garden Today

Today I took my wife on a tour of our backyard garden which I thought was looking good. She appreciated it but found some weeds and spots not looking so good.

Today I went to the Juneteenth Day Celebration in Milwaukee. This festival commemorates the end of slavery. If you were looking, as many were, for good African American food and music, it was easy to find. I did notice a number of groups of about 5 police officers that were on the lookout for trouble. Fortunately, while I was there, they did not find any.

There is an old saying that “you find what you are looking for”. Being a naturally optimistic person I usually find the good in all things. I feel sad for persons who, when depressed, find what is wrong with anything. Sometimes I am that way. But my base position is to seek good in all. In the retreat exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola it is called Finding God in all things. But no matter what you call it, you usually find what you are looking for.


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Tweet It - Friday, June 18, 2010

This morning I saw a young woman walking her dog past our house as she talked on her cell phone. Seeing someone walking a dog past our house is a common sight, especially since we live a few blocks away from the Wisconsin Humane Society. Volunteers daily walk through the neighborhood with dogs. Also seeing someone walking down the street talking on the phone is a common site. In this day and age cell phones are everywhere with almost everyone. Someone that seems talking to their self in a grocery store is probably someone with a cell phone ear plug and mike.

The digital revolution — computers, email, texting, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter — have changed our way of communicating. Communication can be nearly instant. Something can happen in one part of the world and be known by the entire world immediately. I fear that it has also changed our way of thinking and looking at the world. So much information, so many images and thoughts come to us each day that the only way we can deal with all of it, is to ignore it or make it shorter.

Twitter, a social network where messages or tweets can only be 140 characters, allows someone to follow every little move of another person they are following.

My fear is that with instant information in small bites and with so much of it, communication becomes shallower. We can communicate with more people, even at one time, but how deep is the communication? Information, ads, opinions and facts are flashed to us in such great number that it is impossible to consider them all. Doing nothing, one of my favorite pastimes, makes one feel guilty. Taking a position of what is right and wrong is left for conservatives. We get lots of information on major news events but learn little from history. We move from issue to issue, concern to concern as if knowing more was better than deeply understanding what we know.

This ‘attention deficit culture’, as I call it, is tiring and depressive for persons that take responsibility seriously. There is no way to keep up with all there is to do. We can react or ignore but have little time to reflect.

I have mentioned before Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.” It means that the form of a medium “embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.“ I think this thought applies with the new digital media. Media like Facebook, text messages or Twitter is brief, flashy, and superficial like how some people perceive the messages.

Some of this new digital media runs contrary to my basic philosophy that almost all we need to know is within us. The digital media says there are always more information and opinions to consider. How do we practice Martin Luther King’s or Gandhi’s expression to “speak truth to power” when the very idea of a truth in the message of this media is relative?

Notice I made every sentence in this post 140 characters or less (not counting spaces) so you could tweet it.


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Four Roses for Mary - Thursday, June 17, 2010

Four Roses for Mary

Today two of my ministries, driving and computer word, suffered a breakdown. On the way back home after driving a friend to a health care appointment I stopped at a custard stand for a cone of flavor of the day. When I went to restart my car it would not start. My driving ministry came to a halt when I had to have the car towed to repair shop.

My computer keeps freezing making doing any work on my computer difficult and time consuming. Fortunately I had the money to get my car repaired and am using my wife’s computer for this posting. Hopefully the computer problem will work itself out before I need to call a repair person.

In this age of technology, ministry that is dependent on its use, like my car ministry or computer word ministry, can come to a screaming halt with technical difficulties.

However, my gardening work, or gardening ministry you may call it, is impervious to technical difficulties. Weather might affect it but not technology.

So today with my technology-dependent ministries on hold I checked out my backyard garden. I noticed four roses on my wild rose bush (I spend no time caring for it), which is alongside the circle of flowers with statue of Mary and bird path in the middle.

I thought to myself these four roses are for Mary, Mother of God, and source of wisdom and guidance to many of us. The four roses are for Mary, technology free.


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The Calling First - Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Calling

Today I was checking out a starting site for the first of our Breaking the Silence Freedom Marches next week. I picked out a site at the lakefront at the end of Wisconsin Avenue at a modern art sculpture. Although it has been there since 1982 I did not know much about it. I found out today it is called “The Calling” and was created by Mark di Suvero, an American abstract expressionist sculptor born Marco Polo Levi in Shanghai, China in 1933 to Italian expatriates.

I did know a lot about the Milwaukee Art Museum wing designed by Santiago Calatrava in 2001. This architecture, simply called the Calvatrava, in the background of the “The Calling”, has made Milwaukee world-famous.

However, today my attention was the work of modern art. “The Calling” is a good name for the site where we will hopefully start this summer of Freedom Marches. In this day and age of so many wars and so many good causes it is easy to spread ourselves out thin and thus never really delve into one cause or issue.

Expressing this frustration of so much to do and what to do, a wise person in the peace movement advised me to take one or two areas to which I feel called, and where I can best use my passion and talent, and focus there.

Presently I am focused on two related issues: Teach War No More and No More Money for War. Even with these two large issues I have been accused of being narrowly focused and single-minded. Although my issues have changed over the years I firmly believe it is better to limit the majority of one’s attention, based on what we are called to, and being as specific as possible.

There might be better and bigger works in the background but focusing on our calling, what is right there in front of us, can lead to a deeper understanding of other concerns and issues. We must see “The Calling” first before we can truly appreciate the “Calatrava”.


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Present Is a Gift - Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Partly Cloudy

As spring nears an end, the dark and raining days continue. I know I said in last night’s posting that one can find energy, like the tube worm, in the dark; but it is hard and tiring work.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is “partly cloudy”. That does not sound great but I will take it as long as I can get a chance to work outside. A little ‘partly sunny’ would also help.

This morning at our faith sharing session we were asked “how do we pray”? My response was to say that I try to accept where I am at and to make the best out of it. If I am in the car driving someone or waiting for someone to see a doctor, I try to make the best of the situation, be it reading a book or in a conversation. When I said it I was not sure how that was prayer but later in the day I was given a chance to understand it.

When my friend came out of the doctor’s office today she told me how this Catholic hospital/clinic had a box full of bible quotes or anonymous sayings. She had taken two quotes. One was from the bible, with Jesus saying “Ask and you shall be given it” and the other one was an anonymous quote that went something like this: “The past is gone forever, the future is a mystery, but the time right now is a gift and that is why it is called the ‘present.’”

Without light or sun it is more difficult to see the gift of the present but it is there. The present is a gift that keeps on giving.


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Tube Worms in the Dark - Monday, June 14, 2010

Tube Worms

I was watching a 60 Minutes segment last night on Bob Ballard, the great explorer of the ocean. Although he is the man who found the Titanic he would really prefer to be known for his discovery of the six foot tall tube worms he found by accident on an expedition he led near the Galapagos Islands. Before this discovery it was thought that the origin of all life on Earth was in sunlight. Yet these tube worms were 8,000 feet below the surface, living in total darkness, thriving off the energy of the Earth, not sunlight.

The knowledge of these Giant Tube Worms was fascinating to me, sometimes called the ‘worm guy’. My small red wiggling red worms do not like the sun but do depend on it for food. But here are giant tube worms drawing energy from around them in the deep darkness of the sea.

The lesson of these worms for me is that on dark, dreary days I can find the uplifting spirits I receive from the sun in other things of the world around me. Like a tube worm we can live in the dark.


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Up Front Garden and Smiles - Sunday, June 13, 2010

Up Front Flowers in
Front Vegetable Garden

They say first impressions are important. They say put your best in the front row. They say serve the best wine up front. I am not sure who ‘they’ are, but when I built my front lawn vegetable garden I wanted to make a good up front impression. So in the front row below the raised bed vegetable garden I put some nice flowers, perennials and annuals. It is especially important these late spring dates that the front row look good since the tomato, basil and eggplant plants in the raised garden are just developing. The front row of flowers works, as many persons have walked by the garden when I was working in it and said that it was a good looking garden.

Personally I do not put much stock in first impression or what a person puts up front. I wait to look deeper into a person before making any judgments. However, accepting that first impression are used I suggest a smile.

A smile is like a flower in the front row of the garden. It makes a good impression and puts the other person at ease.

The other day at a “Stand for Peace” I was holding a sign up on a street corner that read: “No War”. A pickup truck pulled up and the driver pulled down his window and started screaming in anger with foul language at me. I just stood there and smiled at him. When the light turned green he had to pull away but I think if he would have stayed my smile would have trumped his vulgar and violent language. My upfront smile would have outlasted his upfront anger.

Upfront flowers and smiles their role in gardening and life.


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Discernment To Awareness - Saturday, June 12, 2010

Icon of St. Ignatious
of Loyola in Discernment

Today at lunch at an African American buffet restaurant, and tonight at a theater review of the music of Gilbert and Sullivan, I felt out of place. Both events were enjoyable. The food was good and the play was well done. Thinking about the rest of the day, the time I felt most comfortable was the hour or so working in the garden alone.

Lunch at the restaurant was to meet with persons about our “Breaking the Silence” summer marches of resistance. Not many showed up, which left the four of us regulars feeling like we were a failure until one member reminded us of a saying from Thomas Merton:

“Sometimes in life failures can outweigh successes and prove more beneficial in the end. Success has a way of trapping us and defining us. This brings us to recall Dante’s Inferno and Purgatatory. A life trapped, based on others desires whom we try to please and deny our own true destiny. The love of God is our highest good.”

Maybe it was the sense of failure that threw me off slightly at the restaurant.

At the play I feel it was the all-white audience that made me feel a little uncomfortable. At the Asian restaurant we went to before the play we mentioned to the waitress that we were going to see Gilbert and Sullivan. She asked what that was. Gilbert and Sullivan music is memorable but strictly appealing to a homogenous white culture. With some of their songs, especially the rhyming ones, I felt like a rap version of the song would have more cross cultural appeal.

Working in the garden was just simple. I sifted some more worm compost


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To Tire Is Human - Friday, June 11, 2010

As the day progressed the weather got warmer. This morning the weather person said it was 67 degrees and tonight it was 87 degrees. As I was working the garden this afternoon I could feel the weather get warmer. As the weather got warmer I got more and more tired. Finally I had to come in and drink something cold and rest. The heat made me beat.

My wife also has been very tired recently. I blame the heat although she works in an air conditioned library and comes home to an air conditioned house. Over the years I have noticed my body tire on warm and humid days in late spring.

I also noticed that these days when people work on some issue like to end the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and they are not successful, they get tired and go to another issue. In the 60’s we just kept going, be it on civil rights or the Vietnam War, even when we failed. There was the belief that if we were on the right side and just persisted we would win. Nowadays when the heat goes up and we get tired of an issue we just move on. There are now so many issues, causes like war or unjust situations, that we have no trouble finding another one. Also in the 60’s leaders like Martin Luther King saw the connection between issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam. Nowadays I hear people say that is ‘your issue’, and I got ‘my issue.’

The sun and heat can tire us but it cannot stop us from going on. We only can do this. So too, the lack of victory cannot make us give up on an issue. Only we can do that. To tire is human but to give up is a choice.


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Picking Grape Leaves? - Thursday, June 10, 2010

Since I was a child I have picked grape leaves off the vine, helped to wrap them with a meat and rice stuffing and, of course, help to eat them. I even started the Graf Family Grape Leave club which basically means that at a family get togethers we, from youngest grandchild to oldest family person (me), enjoy a stuffed grape leaf meal.

My wife learned how to make stuffed grape leaves from my mother and has passed the recipe on to other family members and friends. There never was a set written recipe until a few years ago when friends asked my wife to write one down. She took one off the web and modified it.

This is grape leaf picking season in Wisconsin. I do not have to go far to pick grape leaves, which grow everywhere, since they grow in my back yard. Last week I picked about 100 in the backyard and froze them, and yesterday about 120.

However, this time I decided that I would make them by myself for friends coming over for dinner on a day when my wife works during the dinner hour. So last night I carefully went over the instructions with my wife and got the ingredients ready. I found out that the recipe at Stuffed Grape Leaves was not exactly how she makes them and made some notes on the recipe.

All was going well until I came to roll the grape leaves, a method I know very well. Normally we used leaves that are frozen, blanch them and roll them. However, I was using fresh-picked leaves that were dry, and found them not rolling tight. I realized the reason was because the frozen ones had been blanched in water and were wet when they were rolled and these were fresh but dry. So I sprayed them with some water and things went well as long as I carefully put them in the pot so they did not unwrap.

The dinner for friends and my son was a great success and the grape leaves taste good. I realize that I am making a big thing of this simple act of making stuffed grape leaves, but for me, it was a major boost in my confidence in cooking.

Soon I will modify the recipe at Stuffed Grape Leaves but in the meanwhile, get out in the yard and park and start picking grape leaves!


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Tea for Two - Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Two Teas Today

Today I prepared two teas, one for drinking and one for growing. I dried and prepare mint leaves from the garden to be crushed and put in bags for tea. Countries colonized by England, like South Africa or India, say that one of the great gifts England brought to these land was tea. Tea time is enjoyed around the world.

The other type of tea I prepared was worm castings or as children would say ‘worm poop.’ This organic black fertile soil is put in painter’s bag, like oversized tea bags, and soaked in water to make a natural and effective fertilizer to spread on the garden plants. Some say it is better than any fertilizer one can purchase and it is natural.

The mint tea leaves were easy to grow. They just come up every year and spread out to any area they can. All I need to do is to pick them, and like grape leaves, they come back again and again. Pruning and cleaning takes a little effort but the dehydrator does the rest. The dry leaves need to be crushed and put into tea bags.

One can find these two types of tea, drinking kind and fertilizing kind, all around the world. And both have been around for many years. I thought that I had discovered something new when I first heard about castings and casting tea at Growing Power. Shortly afterward I was in Guatemala and discovered that coffee growers there have been using worm castings for many years.

Tea for two takes on a new meaning in light of these two teas.


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Rain and Shrine Stop Not Homicides - Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Home Shrine

It rained all day today making it impossible to work outside in the garden. However, it did not stop the three MICAH prayer vigils for homicide victims. As the weather warms the number of homicides increases. At the first prayer vigil for a young man killed outside of his house, I noticed that the house next door was unique. I am not sure how to describe it but would probably say it looked like a shrine rather than a house. A collection of statues, structures and flowers gives this house the feel of a personal shrine.

I had my camera present at the vigil since I take pictures for the Mothers Against Gun Violence (MAGV) memorial pages. For 2010 my friend with MAGV is behind in listing the homicides and I, although I have pictures, have not added any yet. I need to put vigil pictures on the ones listed for 2010 and we both need to update the 2010 Homicide Victim list.

The rain halts gardening, the home shrine stays the same but the homicides go on and up. Rain and home shrines do not stop homicides.


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Overburden - Monday, June 07, 2010

Peony Bush in Rain Garden

In last week’s posting Thanks Be, I talked about the Peony bush in the front rain garden. However, the picture on the posting was of peony bush with three flowers that I had taken off the internet.

Here is a picture of the actual peony bush in the front rain garden of our house. It too has three flowers but these three flowers look overburdened by their own weight and are drooping. The flowers are as beautiful as the picture last week, but are bent over by their own beauty.

This observation reminded me today of how even when life is going well and everything is great, it sometimes seems like we are overburdened, albeit with good stuff.

You will notice in this picture that the bigger the flowers on the peony bush the more they droop. Sometimes in life we have so much stuff that it becomes a burden.

Peony flowers are beautiful when they are full, but just last a short time. Soon the flowers will die and will only return next spring. But while they are here in their full beauty they are overburdened.


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Miracle of the Leftovers - Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mosaic found in the floor of the
Church of Loaves and Fishes

A woman in our parish church gave an excellent homily on today’s Gospel of the multiplication of loaves and fish. However, she did not answer the question which comes to my mind whenever I hear this Gospel about this miracle. The question is why, after Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish so all the crowd had enough to eat, were there twelve wicker baskets of leftovers? Jesus was not known as a person of excess and waste.

When I was at the Church of Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha in Israel in the 90’s I heard this story, which may answer this question. In the days of Jesus where walking on dusty roads was the main form of transportation and there was no food stops, persons carried around their neck a small pouch with bread or dried fish. The story goes that when the crowd saw Jesus take the five loves and two fishes, all his disciples could find, and share it with the crowd they were moved to share the little bit they had. So with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes by Jesus and the sharing of the persons in the crowd there were leftovers.

I was impressed with this story when I first heard it at the site of the miracle and continue to be impressed every time this Gospel is read. Jesus multiplying the five loaves and fishes to feed the crowd was one miracle. But this miracle inspired the second miracles of the leftovers.


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Lone Red Knockout Rose - Saturday, June 05, 2010

Another day of driving has passed. This morning I took a friend of my wife’s on a driving lesson to prepare for getting her driver’s license. I drove to the Lake Front to Stand for Peace and this afternoon I drove a friend to Oak Creek to visit his aging mother in a home. During my driving journeys I kept seeing roses in full bloom. I was especially impressed by what one of my neighbors call the ‘knockout’ rose.

I have been thinking of adding a rose bush to our perennial rain garden in the front of the house but have not got around to it yet. My experience with rose bushes in the gardens has not been so great.

I finally got a little time late this afternoon before more rain to work in the garden. To my pleasant surprise there was a lone knockout red rose on a bush I had planted a few years ago. Here I have been looking all over town at beautiful rose bushes only to discover that I had one in my own backyard. It might be just one for now but it is beautiful and to be appreciated.

Due to the rain and my driving to another event I was unable to get a picture of my lone rose. However, due to the Internet I can call up a picture like the one that appears in real life in my garden.

We are all looking for beauty like the red knockout rose provides. This season roses are everywhere and you just might find a lone red knockout rose right in your yard.


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Class of 2022 - Friday, June 04, 2010

Class of 2022

Politicians are good at talking about the future of our children and grandchildren but they are better yet at pushing back problems, like the USA national debt and the militarization of the USA onto future generations.

Today I attended the Kindergarten graduation of my granddaughter’s class, which the principle introduced as the class of 2022. These are the ones we are talking about when we talk about future generations. They will grow up inheriting the growing national debt and interest on that debt and all the enemies we are making around the world by wars of aggression. These children will inherit the result of the national disaster of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They will inherit the results of taking money from education and directing it to more money for war.

These children are the blessed ones economically and socially but they can sense the violence and suffering of the world today. My granddaughter witnessed today an expression of anger and frustration by an individual. She knew it was not right but could not understand it.

After the graduation my son was telling his daughter, my granddaughter, about some of the things she will be learning in her future education. She is anxious to learn more like her older brothers. In this exchange I was reminded of a title of a popular book, “I Learned Everything I Need to Know in Kindergarten”. This title goes with something I deeply believe: everything that is important to know and understand is within us, and all we need to do is to bring it forth.

Yes, the Class of 2022 will get a lot more information and intellectual knowledge before they graduate high school. However, let us pray and hope this class of 2022 preserves the real knowledge, imagination and innocence they have graduating Kindergarten.


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Eye On The Prize - Thursday, June 03, 2010

Eye on the baseball

Watching my grandson play ball today I noticed how intensely his eye was on the ball. Young children are taught at an early age to keep their eye on the ball in order to get a hit. My grandson also played catcher where keeping the eye on the ball was essential to catching the pitched ball. A missed ball usually meant a stolen base or two.

Growing up and in the civil rights movement, I often heard the phrase keeping the eye on the prize. For me it meant keeping focused on what we were trying to accomplish and not allowing ourselves to be sidetracked and distracted.

Keeping our eye on the prize is something we in the peace movement need to hear. The ‘powers that be’ have become very good at moving us off on a tangents and throwing distractions for us to react to, thus getting our eye off the prize.

The recent event of Israeli attacking humanitarian aid ships on the high seas is a good example of a massive effort by the Israeli and USA governments to distract us from the prize of breaking the inhumane siege of Gaza. Immediately as attention was focused on civilians defending themselves from soldiers’ attacks, there was talk of Israeli doing an investigation, and how Israel was at war with Hamas, the elected government of Palestine and on and on. It was easy to get our eye off the prize of breaking this deadly siege of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

In this culture of multi-tasking, high technology, busy schedules and always doing and doing more, it is easy to take our eye off the prize. Life is full of distractions that make it hard to even see the prize.

I find that using time today waiting for a friend at a Doctor’s visit or watching my grandchildren’s soccer and baseball game tonight a good waste of time to reflect and to empty my mind some, so I can better keep my eye on the prize.


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Thanks Be - Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Thanks Be for a Peony Bush
in the Rain Garden

There is a time for protest and crying in the wilderness, and a time to give thanks and express gratitude to our God and the people who do God’s work or politics. Today was a time of great gratitude.

Thanks be to Rep. Gwen Moore for saying No to More War Spending by voting No on the 760 billion dollar National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011.

The father of the young man that I took to the emergency room of a hospital last night reports that he is doing well today. His body has healed from an attack he suffered recently and now his mind is having time to heal. Thanks Be.

Thanks be for an active young man from a local university who wrote me today of his interest in taking direct nonviolent action with Breaking the Silence on Teaching War No More and for No More Money for War.

I feel deep gratitude for the two hours I was able to spend today working in the gardens outside, getting some Sun and Soil therapy.

Thanks be to my Wiki Gnome for making this wiki web page possible day after day.

I can go on and on in gratitude for today but there is tomorrow, thanks be, to get ready for.


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Free At Last - Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Free Palestine

After a demonstration tonight at the Federal building to protest Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid ships to Gaza some of the Palestinian mothers organized the children for a group picture. The children sense from parents, family and friends that something is wrong with the treatment of Palestinians in their own land occupied by Israel. Although I had some candid shots of the children present, I could not resist this staged photograph.

After the demonstration I went to a meeting of adults trying to figure out what to do next on this issue. A few of the regular members of this Middle East Committee seemed to be upset by the presence of us new comers. When I proposed a direct action with our US Senator who is a strong proponent of money and arms to Israel, one lady made a comment that I gather a few friends and do “my thing” while other groups did their thing. I was upset and when another member said that this talk of direct action or any action was a “distraction” to what was going on it was time for me to leave. The adults were locked into a way of doing things, protesting, calling, and writing letters and had a difficult time being free to think about creative nonviolent action.

Actually I had being planning to leave the meeting soon since I had received a call from a distressed mother that her teenage son who suffers from illnesses was missing. There was not much I could do about the situation but wanted to available to these friends. After I got home she called to say her son was home and was willing to go to the hospital. We took him to the hospital and after four hours of waiting he finally was admitted and given a room. Since his illness is of the mind it took a lot longer, despite the severity of his illness, to get admitted.

During the long waiting time the young man kept talking about all that was happening in his mind. He was locked in his mind and could not free himself. It made for intense listening and at times I felt as if I were staring at the sun.

I am home now, early the next morning, but pray for the children of Palestine that they can live in a free country; pray for the adults of the meeting that they can put their fears and difference aside and work as one with all, especially the poor, marginalized and oppressed. I pray for this young man, who needs to free his mind to continue his life.

Hopefully all three groups and I can one day say: “Free, Free At Last.”


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