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

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full, and to post your comments on it.

No Excuses! - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Excuse Me!

July is passing away and there is so much undone. One undone plan is garden work. I have been using this long heat wave as an excuse not to work outside but it is getting to time of no more excuses. Excuses are like blaming others be they politicians or friends. We need others to live and can create environments affecting others but only can control ourselves.

This radical view of life means I am responsible for war, not working in the garden and the harm being done the poor is this new debt reduction bill. Now we must take personal responsibility but not too much for bad things or we would be too depressed to move on.

We need to take responsibility for good things also. That is easier. Last night I talked to a friend of my deceased son, Peter, who has lived a very hard life for forty years. Now he has taken responsibility for his life and with spouse and family moved out west. When I was talking to him by phone last night he expressed gratitude to me for saving his life. I did not but did try hard to provide him with an environment to do the right thing. At times when he failed I was there in a non-judgmental role to encourage him on. But no matter what he or his mom may say he was responsible for turning his life around.

As Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement said all we can do is to create an environment where it is easier to be good. My son Peter used to say “I am doing my best” and for me that was enough. All we can do is do our best, make no excuses or blame nobody.

So tomorrow heat or no heart I will get out in the garden and work, maybe. But no excuses!


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Response to Drone and Clowns - Saturday, July 30, 2011

March on Brady along Extreme Sports

Today we took our Breaking the Silence message about Drones cost $$$ & Lives to the Brady Street Festival. We expected less concern from police and security but I was surprised by the lack of expression for or against the message. For most it was just another protest and were not interested in our ‘million dollar’ bills giving some information on drone warfare. With the big talk of the national debt in the news and with the article on explosion and cost of drones in my mind, I tried to drum up interest in the message by saying cutting Killer Drones would eliminate our national debt. The same article had pointed out how there was 70 drones in the beginning of 2011 and now there was 70,000. At an average price of 4 million dollars per drone with $5000 an hour to operate I think with the elimination of drones the savings would help eliminate out national debt. But that take on the message was not effective as other statements. Although one person did point out to me that the cost of lives was more important than the money. I agree.

I sent out a message on the peace talk list server yesterday with the message of how to eliminate the national debt by eliminating drone warfare. But no response to that message.

Why the difference between response at Brady Street Festival and Bastille Days to our action? It is the fact we had less clowns today or the weather was hotter? The only thing that made sense to me was the fact that the first crowd at Bastille Days was more diverse, especially politically. People more easily loved or hated our message, while the crowd day at the Brady Street Festival was more politically together on the left as liberals. Although, I am, I do not mean to categorize persons but for a long time I had thought ‘peace liberals’ who talk peace were the tougher crowd to appreciate nonviolent action, be it small as our drone and clown action today.


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Radicals Seek Truth - Friday, July 29, 2011

Doorthy Day, Catholic Worker

I received an email today regarding the meaning of the word ‘radical’. The author was complaining how easy the word was used, even describing ultra-conservatives. He suggested that they should be called ‘reactionaries’ not radicals. I agree but say the ‘liberal progressive’ should stop using the word and call themselves reactionaries.

My eight wasted years of taking Latin came into play for with a little bit of help from reference sites I remembered that “Radical comes for the Latin word radicalis “of roots” and from Latin radix “root”, which means getting at the root of things.” I used the word ‘radical’ to describe myself but stopped when the meaning of the word got confused when liberals were called ‘radicals.’ In my opinion, politically, a ‘radical’ is not liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic, Muslim or Catholic but someone with a listening heart that goes to the root of the issue.

I do not like any labels or tags but recently been attracted to the term ‘radical middle’, referring the someone who takes a balanced view of life and is a ‘truth seeker’ no matter how the ‘truth’ will come out.

Jim Wallis, an evangelist wrote a book called “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.” I think he was at getting to the meaning of the word ‘radical’. God is the ultimate radical and, by the way, God is also Truth.

I am reminded of another quote that came recently: The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” (Joseph Cambell). By changing of few words I think we can get at the heart of being ‘radical’. “The goal of life is to make your search for the truth match Truth, to match your nature with God.”

Radicals seek truth, seek the basic nature of all things and are not satisfied till they find it.


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Power of Nonviolence is in Suffering - Thursday, July 28, 2011

Power of Nonviolence

Passive Resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the opposite of resistance by arms” (M.K. Gandhi, CWWG, Vol. X, p. 48.)

Today I heard from a friend that some other friends were saying that I was the problem, not the message, Marquette University, Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science., in the resistance to Marquette University hosting the Army, Navy/Marines, Air Force on campus and teaching values contrary to the Gospel.

My first instinct was to react, not respond to my friend. But then I remembered the lessons I had learned from nonviolence. Also I got a picture quote above and side from Gandhi. Early in his experiments with truth, what we now call nonviolence was called ‘Passive Resistance.’ Gandhi did not like this description because the word ‘passive’ did not communicate the active work of nonviolent resistance. So he decided to use the word ‘ashima’ which we translate as nonviolence. When he tried to describe the struggle of nonviolent resistance he could not find a word. He was struggling for human rights in South Africa at the time and ran a contest in an Indian newspaper looking for a good word. The winner was the made-up word ‘Satyagraha’. This word describes Gandhi’s “weapon of nonviolent resistance.”

One principle that remained the same in all the descriptions of soul or truth force is in the quote above: “a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the opposite of resistance by arms”. It is the same message we received from Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Ignatius of Loyola, Dorothy Day, Nelson Mandela and others. I frequently used Judith Brown’s description of ‘satyagraha’: “striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.”

So in this spirit I wrote my friend about what he heard from other friends that I was the problem not the message, the fact that I had tried and failed to reconcile with these common friends. Thus I was going to try to practice passive resistance or nonviolence on this issue. It is hard for me to love my friends as well as I ‘love my enemies” but I must try. The power of nonviolent resistance is accepting personal suffering.


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Did We Know Frank? - Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Frank Blair: RIP 1922–2011

Tonight I went to a memorial service for my friend Frank Blair. From the remembrances of his three daughters, a few of his grandsons, friends and a slideshow of his life I learned a lot about this person who I thought I knew. I learned he was an artist, photographer and devoted family man. However, surprised as I was to hear more about Frank, more so was neighbor of the last four years. All he knew was a friendly neighbor who would engage frequently in 5 minutes conversation with him and his family.

I knew Frank a long time ago but more so in the last 10 years. Due to his age and fragility he did not get out of the house much but he was a frequent communicator on the computer by emails and list servers. He wrote about the times we live in. He saw, as many others see, the fall of the American empire but he not optimistic about doing something about it or even slowing it down. Some years ago he wrote a piece of a general strike but no one give him serious attention. I really appreciated his insights on politics and considered him my ‘elder’, a wise man, 89 that I could learn from.

Now most of my elders have passed away and I found myself at 68, as an ‘elder’ to a few persons. Inside the program there was a short piece written by Frank when a friend asked him who he was. Frank is blunt and plain spoken answering the question ‘Who am I”? There is a lesson, ‘say it as it is’, that I learned from Frank.

You can read an obituary about Frank Blair but you will not really know him. One of daughters said that even she had learned things about her Father tonight that she did not know. Death brings out things we did not know about a person but, until we die perhaps, do we really know anyone?


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Words of the Heart - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Words are just words and without heart they have no meaning.”
- Chinese Proverb

Tonight we had a Breaking the Silence gathering to discuss our next Drone action next Saturday at the Brady Street Festival. All was smooth but then we went on to discuss our strategy for our message Marquette, Close the School of Army on campus. our discussion went down the path from signing petitions to the statement to be a true Christian is to be a pacifist. I felt I was somewhere in between calling for nonviolent action, not just petitioning but not setting up absolute positions. We all exchanged words in creative conflict yet not always agreeing. Being in the middle is something new for me.

In this day and age of partisan politics, people taking extreme position and not allowing compromise seems to be the norm. Being in the balanced middle seems to be taking a relative position, not taking a stand, being wishy washy. Perhaps it is when words are just words and without heart. But I believe being in the radical balanced middle and speaking from the heart is meaningful.

I have been thinking a lot recently of what nonviolence really means. Tonight I think it means speaking and acting from the heart even when the message might bring insults, or even worst, being ignored, yet not reacting but keeping on the message. A petition for me is just asking in a nice way. Making absolute statements leaves no room for change. Speaking and acting from the heart is the way of nonviolence. The heart is inside and in the middle of our body just like nonviolence is in us and in the middle of our life.


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Exceptionalism - Monday, July 25, 2011

Tonight I started to write an essay about exceptionalism, “the perception that a country, society, institution, movement, or time period is “exceptional” (i.e., unusual or extraordinary) in some way and thus does not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.” This seems to be the new philosophy of what we call “the greatest country in the world.”

It seems to explain how we can send killer drones into other countries but would not tolerate another country sending one into the U.S.A. It explains what our presidents calls ‘pre-emptive war’ or ‘war of necessity’ whereas other countries are restricted only to wars of self defense. This philosophy also helps explain why the rich and powerful can break laws with punishment but the poor and outcast cannot. In a country of exceptionalism there are individuals and institutions that are exceptional.

This growing USA philosopher explains why as a country we can take more from the poor and middle class and give it to the wealthy. Money buys exceptionalism. Paul Ryan one of our local congressmen believes in American exceptionalism. He said Ryan spoke at length about American exceptionalism as it relates to America’s role in the world. “America is an idea,” he said. “And it was the first nation founded as such. The idea is rather simple. Our rights come to us from God and nature. They occur naturally, before government.”

There will be many more examples of ‘exceptionalism’ in the essay but for now I am trying to discover the opposite ‘ism’ of exceptionalism. Any thoughts of what is the opposite ism?

For anyone who read last night’s posting on the Diary of the Worm I apologize for forgetting the picture and an obvious mistake. I was extremely tired and I am not exceptional or believer in exceptionalism.


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The Beat of the Drum Goes On - Sunday, July 24, 2011

Recently I have heard about the power of music in our life for healing and motivation. In one of the picture quotes Gandhi says “To Know Music is to transfer it to life.” I am not sure what that means but is sounds important. Also recently I heard a PBS radio broadcast on the healing power of music from a former group of child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

Today my music was provided by my grandson and his middle school band at the Pulaski Day Parade in Pulaski, Wisconsin. After a ‘polka mass’ on the fairgrounds my wife and I made their way to the parade route to meet up with my son and his family.

The parade consisted of military displays and lots of tractors. But the middle and high school band did entertain us. My grandson plays the drum, one of the oldest instruments in human history. The drum beat runs deep in the heart of oldest civilizations of humans.

Last winter I saw a production of We are the Drum, a celebration of African American Journey through Music. It was an inspiring story of how the beat of the drums goes on.


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Rain Or Shine - Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rain or Sun, Homicide Victims
are remembered

We had four prayer vigils for Milwaukee homicide victims this week, two on Thursday, two on Friday, all were African American young adult males. At the two on Thursday umbrellas were used to block the hot sun. At the two on Friday umbrellas were used to block the rain that was falling. Sister Rose, the MICAH community leader, who organizes the prayer vigils, carries umbrellas in the truck of her car, for sun or rain.

It is by no accident that African American young adult males have the highest unemployment rate and the highest homicide rate. At one of the vigils a participant prayed to God for forgiveness for creating an environment with no jobs but one easy to get killed for the young men in these neighborhoods. When one of these young men is killed the media barely mentions it and with the police is ready to mention if the victim had a criminal record. If the victim knew the killer, as is true in most homicides, the media and police are quick to mention it if the victim is African Americans.

We pray and remember, often with family members, the too many homicide victims in Milwaukee, rain or sun. But how do we change the environment in the central cities that in rain or shine more young men are employed and not homicide victims?


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Death and Joy in Nature - Friday, July 22, 2011

“The goal of life is to make
your heartbeat match the beat
of the universe, to match your
nature with nature.”
Joseph Campbell

I have been writing a lot of about death and suffering the last 9 months. It probably was brought on by the death of my son Peter last August. Writing about joy and humor was refreshing tonight. The combination of joy and humor with suffering and death seems to be natural and healthy. This might explain why the picture story “Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille” has received a lot of ‘hits’ on the worldwide web.

A picture-quote was sent to me today that may also explain, in part, why death and joy go together. The quote from Joseph Campbell reads:“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” In nature the sorrow of death is followed by the joy of life and vice versa.

Perhaps to be a ‘natural woman or man’ means is directly our lives to match the heartbeat of nature and accept the fact that in life, like in nature, joy and humor goes with suffering and death.


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Joy and Humor - Thursday, July 21, 2011

In this serious world of Killer Drones, Homicide Victims, more wars and illnesses we can all use some joy and humor.

The joy came to me by way of email with a link to an article in the NYT Society section about the joyful wedding of Frida Berrigan and Patrick Sheehan Gaumer. Frida is the daughter of Philip Berrigan a friend from the 60’s and Milwaukee 14 days. I had the privilege of meeting Frida a few years ago at a Catholic Worker resistance retreat in Chicago. She, like her father, was full of determination to make peace and resist war but also like him had a great smile, sense of peace and good sense of humor. The article described a love affair full of joy.

Humor came to me today in an email that two people sent me. The subject of the email was “Hot Outside?” It is very hot outside this week so and there more heat promised for tomorrow. So this was timely humor. You can find the humor on the side, below and in the Jokes web page on this site.

Yes, in face of this world full of Killer Drones, Homicide Victims, more wars and illnesses we need joy and humor.


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Striving Nonviolently - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Striving Nonviolently in Egypt

I fell again to the temptation to react to a hint of persons talking behind by back negatively about me. So many people in the peace movement, like me, waste time competing, reacting and with too much talking. The answer, my friend, is to bear it, insults and all, and just keep on doing the right thing the best we can do.

Taking suffering on oneself and not returning it on others is a trademark of what we call nonviolence from Jesus on the cross to Nelson Mandela spending 27 years and coming out forgiving his enemies and still working to free his people. I often use the quote from Judith Brown in her book on Gandhi: “Gandhi defines his Satyagraha (or creative nonviolence) as ‘striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.” But it is difficult, as Gandhi said “to be the change you wish to see in the world.”

One of my dear friends has been suffering, without much support, from a painful illness the four years. The other day I drove her to a pain clinic which was supposed to be the last time till December. However, the medicine they gave her caused more pain and she needs to go back tomorrow. Driving my friend in deep pain reminds how small the suffering I need to take, a few rejections and insults are so little. My suffering is self inflicted, caring what other people say about me, her suffering is imposed on her.

There is enough pain and suffering in the world and in my life that I need not seek more by reacting to negative comments about me, true or false. I am no Jesus, Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. but I can strive nonviolently in a little way by not reacting to violence of word or action but taking the small suffering on self and keep on striving nonviolently.


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Going Green - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mint & Basil from Garden Today

When our friend from India was here last week he told us a story about an Indian doctor in Illinois who seeing the good health of cows in India decided to be like them and only eat leaves. Now there are lots of green leaf good foods but that seemed to be going to an extreme.

I thought of this story tonight as I was picking mint and basil leaves from the garden today. They are both healthy food but rather than eat them directly I clean, take off the stems and dehydrate them. They add spice to salads and cooking and the mint makes good tea. The raw basil can be made into pesto, if need be, by my wife. Mint is used a lot in Middle Eastern dishes. But eating these leaves directly is another story.

Thinking about it and looking around the gardens green leaves dominate on tomato, bean, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, eggplant and other plants. Maybe the Doctor is only eating plants that have green leaves. That is not too hard to believe. However, I am sure our friend meant that his doctor friend only eats green leaves. I believe in going green but not that green.


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Ozone of Public Life - Monday, July 18, 2011

Healthy, well-informed,
balanced criticism is the ozone
of public life” (Gandhi)

Ozone, a molecule, “in the lower atmosphere is an air pollutant with harmful effects on the respiratory systems of animals and will burn sensitive plants; however, the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere is beneficial, preventing potentially damaging electromagnetic radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface.” It is the second meaning of ozone, the beneficial one, which Gandhi is using in this quote about ‘criticism’: “Healthy well-informed balanced criticism is the ozone of public life. (M.H. Gandhi, Mahatma, Vol. 4, p 208)

Like many I have a difficult time handling criticism but find it easier coming from a friend I trust. However, in this day and age I find that many people do not criticize you but just ignore you when they do not agree, have a conflict or have another point of view. I find this type of ignoring suffocating, as if the ozone layer was damaged.

I am reminded of two other Various Quotes. One about ignoring or indifference: “The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, its indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, its indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, its indifference.” (Elie Wiesel) The other one is about conflict that criticism brings: “I am not trying to abolish conflict. There is great value in healthy conflict. And the dangers of group-think are real. Conflict can inspire creative leadership. Where there are fundamental conflicts over values, they should not be ignored in a sentimental yearning for consensus. The problem in our communities today is not that we have conflict, but that we manufacture conflict and exaggerate differences to the point where it is very difficult to make meaningful change.” (Frederick Douglas in a speech in 1857)

Be it the debt crises, Tea Party vs. Liberals, viewpoints on gay rights or abortion, people seem to take a positions on one side or other, ignore each other, thus abolishing true conflict and criticism and manufacturing conflict and exaggerate differences.

Today I published my picture story about our nonviolent action Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille. So far there is little criticism, positive or negative. Let’s hope for some ‘ozone’ of public life.


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A Message We Do Not Want To Hear - Sunday, July 17, 2011

Drones Kill Children

A friend recently wrote me an email to say I was getting to much into the drone thing. Here is my response:

Dear Friend,
Yes, I am caught up in killer drones the USA is using in six countries presently to kill men, women and children. Yes, I did compare it to the biggest technological development in warfare since the use of nuclear bomb.

By the comparison to nuclear bomb I was not comparing the destruction of human lives to the two nuclear bombs the USA dropped over Japan. But I am saying that just like the explosion of nuclear bomb changed the nature and morality of warfare so has drone warfare.

I always wondered why a person planting a bomb in a building and killing innocent persons was called a “terrorist” while a person flying a plane, bombing, and killing innocent persons was labeled ‘self defense.’

Now comes drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV’s) where a person operating a remote control device like a video game can sit somewhere in the USA and kill innocent persons in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan or Libya and there barely any question of the nature and morality of this type of warfare.

A ‘killer drone’ is the ultimate form of impersonal warfare. Drones are in increased use by USA and new drone training centers are being built all over the USA, including one here in Wisconsin.

There are drones of all sizes and capacity to spy and kill from Blimp drones, Drone airplanes, to tiny drones the size of a bird. I agree with the author of the New York Times article who says that war has evolved with drones: “Large or small, drones raise questions about the growing disconnect between the American public and its wars. Military ethicists concede that drones can turn war into a video game, inflict civilian casualties and, with no Americans directly at risk, more easily draw the United States into conflicts.”

Tonight I just created a picture\story about our creative nonviolent action at Bastille Days this weekend: Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille. We used clowns and million dollar bills to get out our deadly message that not many want to hear: “Killer Drones Cost $ & Lives”.

I can relate to your desire to change the subject of our correspondence. No problem, but I cannot stop Breaking the Silence on Killer Drones. Warfare has changed with the use of Killer Drones might be a message we do not want to hear but need to speak. Perhaps the humor of Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille will help.


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Drone and Clowns Storm the Batille - Saturday, July 16, 2011

Drone and Clowns Get Ready to Go

Today at Bastille Days, a French Festival in Milwaukee, we gave out nearly 1500 (fake) million dollar bills with a message on the back about drone warfare. We did it with class with a (fake) drone,signs with our message: “Killer Drones Cost $ & Lives” and real clowns handing out the bills with our message on back. Some people were glad to learn about drones, some they did not like our presence and many just smiled, took a picture and maybe one of the million dollar bills.

Last year at we did a funeral march on Bastille Days with a message of No More War Spending. At the start of the march last year we were stopped by local security saying we could not march on the public sidewalks or hand out our flyers. They threatened to call the police if we did not leave. Knowing we were within our legal rights we asked the security guards to please call the police. Instead they called the head of security that, after a discussion, let us march. This year, as we were gathering, four real police officers were present to talk with us. We told them what we were going to do and they said fine with warnings about doing stuff we were not planning to do. They followed us around for a time but after awhile just stood under a tree in the shade.

I got some great pictures of the drone and clowns that tell the story better than I could in words about what we did and about our 1500 million dollar message of Killer Drones Cost $ & Lives. Tomorrow check Breaking the Silence or Killer Drones to find the web page telling the whole picture of “Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille”.


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Thank You Marquette University High School - Friday, July 15, 2011


This weekend is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of my class at Marquette University High School (MUHS) here in Milwaukee. Marquette High School was and is a school for wealthy and well connected. I was and am neither. I was from a middle class working family, had no family that had attended Marquette but somehow got in. Actually a number of boys from my parish school got in to Marquette but for various reasons, money or grades, dropped out the first year. I was a quiet ‘outcast’ in high school but somehow made it through. The 50th anniversary weekend includes an expensive get together at a local country club which we will not be attending. But there is a ‘free’ Mass or Liturgy tomorrow afternoon which we will attend.

The older I get the more I feel in solidarity with poor, sick and other outcast of society. I just would not feel comfortable at a country club with all the doctors, lawyers, academics and wealthy the class of 61′ produced.

However, I deeply appreciate that I did get a chance to attend this Catholic Jesuit high school. It was in high school that I felt this strong need to bridge the gap between what you say and what you do. This “being the change you want to see” has gotten me trouble over the years, even with the Jesuit religious order that were my teachers in high school. But no matter how many mistakes I make or how imperfect I am, I feel an overwhelming passion to be a ‘truth seeker’ and to put my faith into action.

If that means being an outcast, like I was in high school, so be it. This lesson of trying to practice what one believes has done me well. Thank you Marquette University High School.


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Daylilies Are Back - Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today’s Daylily

Today I saw my first Daylily of the season. I decided to take a picture since this perennial plant last in full bloom for about 24 hours. Other ones will appear tomorrow and the next number of days but this one has a full life of about a day. You need to enjoy them when they are there. They come in many colors and come back year after year.

When I lose perspective on my life I need to think of daylilies. In the bigger picture of life what seems so important to us in the moment is only a speck of time in our life. Our whole life on earth is but a tiny speck of time in the history of the world.

The lesson of the garden learned from daylilies is to enjoy the beauty of the moment. If we live in the past or in the future we will not see or hear the beauty of the presence. Daylilies come back for a day each year, perhaps to remind us to live in the present.


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Grow and Let Grow - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A flower let grow

In the early spring I could not always tell what was a weed or a flower or a food plant. When I was in doubt I decided to error on the flower side and let the plant grow for awhile. In the Mary circle garden in the backyard I had a difficult time telling perennial weeds from flowers. There were some I had to let grow for awhile. As the plants grew I could tell the difference of most but it was very difficult to tell the difference for some plants. One that I let grow suddenly the other day bloomed into a flower. (See picture on left.) I am glad that I let it grow.

In my garden there is always ‘volunteer plants’, a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by the gardener. For some reason I had many ‘volunteer’ tomato plants this year. I transplanted them to areas where they could grow and flourish.

In life, like in the garden, sometimes we must let grow and decide to weed it out of life or let grow more at some other point. In life, like in the garden, something the unexpected, like a ‘volunteer’ plant in the garden, can be a welcome surprise.

We need to grow and let grow.


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Most Segregated City and Church - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Catholic Church we attended on the north side of Milwaukee was closed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It had existed for 114 years, since 1897, at this location. There were many Catholic Churches on the north side of Milwaukee, now, with the closing of our Church, there is only one. The pattern of closing Catholic Churches on the north side is in direct relationship to the growing African American population in the area.

In the 2010 Census, in cities of over 500,000 persons the Milwaukee Metro area is the most segregated city in the USA. (See maps for the top ten segregation cities here.)

In research why our Catholic Church was closed, although we have the most active St. Vincent De Paul Society in the city serving persons in need, I made a map of the north side and of local Churches. There is only one Church left, at the edge of the area. It is considered an “African American” church but is struggling. If you put the two maps together as I do below you will find the most segregated section of Milwaukee (red indicates 85% or more African American) is the same area as the area where the Catholic Church has closed all its churches but one.

Do we have the most segregated city in the USA and the most segregated Catholic Churches presence in the USA in Milwaukee? The maps below speak for themselves.


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Balance of Doing and Being - Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Being

After two days of driving and hosting my friend from India I needed a catch up day. That was today. No one ever catches up with all they need to do but at least we can get some things done. The bigger question for me is not doing but being. In doing, driving people medical appointments, work in the garden, cooking, writing this post and more I seem to be very good. However, in being, reading, praying, reflection, listening and being quiet I have problems.

I know I need to be more balanced between doing and being but keep placing doing over being. Perhaps in the garden I can find some glue for being balanced. A garden needs care, watering, weeding, compost making and other doing. Yet unless the plants are being in sun, enjoying good soil and rain they will not grow to full potential. So a fertile garden needs a balance between the doing of care and the being of nature.

So rather than a catch up day of doing I need some time to step back and be. To get this balanced between doing and being takes some discipline, something all my mentors, including Gandhi, spoke and practiced. But only in the disciple of balancing doing and being can we, like gardens, truly grow and flourish.


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A Bike Ride - Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prasad on the bike

Today my friend, Prasad, from India and the Pilgrimage of Peace was at our house in Milwaukee. A group of friends gathered to listen to Prasad share some of his insights into Gandhi and the application of his ways to our daily life. In the course of our discussion someone mentioned that he had ridden his bike for the first time in many years. After the open house when most had left Prasad said he wanted to get out and take a walk. I said great and a group of us got ready to walk. But what he really meant was he wanted to bike. After our walk along the bike trail nearby it was still was light out and Prasad said let’s go bike riding. So we went along the same trail, but this time on bikes.

Now this man wise in the ways of Gandhi became like a child when riding the bike. After a week and a half in this country and being busy giving talks it was a great joy for him to get out and ride a bike. When we came back from the walk and ride and started to talk again Prasad mentioned how important it was to practice our ways, like Gandhi, as ‘truth seekers’ with great joy. No matter how much suffering and pain we had to endure to live a truly nonviolent way of life, laughter was essential.

Prasad put all of our questions of what to do into a bigger perspective of time and history. When seen in this light, as just little specks of time, everything does not seem so important. We can simply enjoy a bike ride.


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Our Only Enemy - Saturday, July 09, 2011

The hour is late and I have spent all day and night driving my pilgrim friend from India, Prasad, from Racine to Madison back to Racine and now here to my home in Milwaukee. The blessing of the day was that I got to listen to him speak three times with people about the wisdom and actions of Mahatma Gandhi, the ultimate pilgrim seeking truth. As the days go on I will digest what I heard today from Prasad and from the people we visited and share it with you. For now I will just share one thought with you. Prasad spoke of it differently but Pogo, the cartoon character, said it simply: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


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Wood Chips Are Back! - Friday, July 08, 2011

wood chips on a compost pile

The wood chips are back! Today when I went to the city dump they had wood chips, a key ingredient of growing soil. For years I have been picking up free wood chips at the dump for mulch and for composting.

However, the other day when I went there was none. I noticed a dwindling pile the last couple times I had been there, something unusual this season when city is out trimming trees and shredding the branches. I even called the city dump people to see where all the wood chips were going. They insured me they were going to the city dump. Maybe they were right and someone just took truck loads away or maybe they resumed placing them in the dump after I called to complain. Whatever, all is well that ends well.

Wood chips are my main and best source of carbon for composting. Wood chips when decomposed with mix of nitrogen waste, like coffee grounds, leave air pockets in the soil. This is important when using worms in growing.

You might have noticed that after a rain storm some words come above ground. They are not coming up for water but for air. The rain often makes the soil too compressed, leaving little room for the worms to breathe.

Other carbon waste work but have a downsize. Shredded paper is good but is condensed and slow to decompose. Cardboard is better but without a big time shredder it takes lots of time to cut up the cardboard into small pieces. Leaves are great but only available in the fall.

We all need wood chips in our mix of life, something that will give us energy but leave us room to breathe. Wood chips are back!


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Tiger Lilies Rising - Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tiger Lilies are growing taller and blooming. It is sign that summer is here. Their health is good and I hope it stays that way.

I got a bitter taste of the making money on people illnesses in the USA as opposed to the rest of the developed world where profits are taken out the health system.

I took my friend from Holland to a walk in clinic here in Milwaukee in early May since he was experiencing some lung problems. After a few hours he got some treatment and medicine that helped. However, his insurance company in Holland is part of the European health care universal health system, where money is not made on illnesses. The local clinic, however, operates under the profit from illness system.

After a lot of hassles we got the clinic and the two Doctors my friend saw to send bills to the insurance company. However the way money is transferred in Holland is by electronic means. No checks, like no profits, are involved.

However, the clinic here will not release the name of bank and ways to have the money to transfer. They want a check which my friend or his insurance company cannot do.

My friend’s wife, like my own wife wants to pay the bill and get it done. My friend says ‘cool it’, not to worry about it as I say with my English slang saying ‘Bob’s Your Uncle’ which means something like, don’t worry, be happy, all will be well. My friend’s wife says they have a similar saying to Bob’s Your Uncle in Holland which is Klaar is Kees. It literally means “Kees (a male name) is all ready”, She asked me what we say in USA. We do not have a similar saying. For awhile the phrase “Be Happy, Don’t Worry” from a popular song was going around. But that faded away.

In the USA where ‘privatization’ is king and making money is more important than good health I think that corporate powers rather keep us uneasy, tense and fighting with each other. Speaking of privatization I recently noticed we are privatizing space exploration by closing NASA and give the job to private companies.

With all this discussion of how to control the growing national debt that threats the future of the USA I have a simple American proposal. We can simply sell the USA for the 14 trillion dollars of debt the amount of our debt. By privatizing the country we can honestly be a government for profit for corporations.

In Europe they are taking a more direct approach cuts and tax increases across the board.

As the Tiger Lilies rises, the need for a few to make more profit in the USA, even from illnesses, rises.


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General Strike - Wednesday, July 06, 2011

General Strike called for 09/11/07

We lost two elders who were connected by the Milwaukee 14 nonviolent action in 1968. One I knew and one I did not. The death of the one I knew, Frank Blair, was the hardest to bear. I probably met and knew Frank in 1968 but it has been the last 8 years or so years that we became friends. In January 2003 we have a gathering of members of the Milwaukee 14 and early supporters. Frank was present. I called him Frank the Elder, since he was an elder to me in the true sense of the word, a person providing wisdom and insight based on experiences. He liked that name. Although I have seen him a half dozen or times over the years we have kept in contact by email, in private and public emails.

In 2007 I started a web page on the Milwaukee 14 today web site for Frank’s letter. You can find it here. For some reason the only email from Frank that appears is the one called It is Time to Strike. A General Strike as was Frank’s choice to stop “perpetual war to promote capitalism and the corporate mentality.”

When came close to a general strike during the major protest in Madison this year. I remember being in the largest crowd at the Capitol with words of general strike in Wisconsin floating around when the Democratic Senators, called the Wisconsin 14 and just returned spoke to the crowd and said vote don’t strike. I thought of Frank at that moment and his desire for a strike and how we shared a philosophy, like Dorothy Day, of non voting, at least until we had a true democracy and our votes counted.

Now I can tell you that Frank confessed to me that he had left the house in last congressional elections to vote for Senator Feingold. Feingold lost to corporate interest as we both expected to happen.

My elders are dying as I become older leaving my generation the new elders. Frank’s body was not too cooperative in recent years but his mind was full of wisdom and grace.

The other person, I did not know, that recently died was Kit Tierman in the Boston area. A friend writes: “Kippy was simply blown away by the commitment of the M-14, she began organizing on their behalf almost full time, within a couple of weeks she quit her job at the Dairy Council. As she often said, she couldn’t turn back and she didn’t.” She went on to found Rosie’s Place, the first women shelter in the country and organize and promote many other groups to serve the poor, marginalized and to be a “voice for the voiceless”. My friend writes: “Here she was a high school dropout and she probably has 18 honorary doctorates, including one from Harvard.” You can read more about this wonderful woman in her long obituary in the Boston Globe.

I lost two friends this week, one I knew and one I did not know. But Frank, Kip and I are connected by one nonviolent action. It makes one wonder if there were many such nonviolent actions of civil disobedience across the country or maybe just one General Strike.


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Like the Lilies - Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Yesterday my wife and I took a hike at Lapham Peak State park, formed by a glacier in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. It was a warm but beautiful sunny day and wandering the trails in the park was relaxing and good exercise.

Today I spent nine hours driving a friend to a hospital, waiting while she had day surgery and then driving her home. One of the benefits of the long wait today was I had a chance to read a good portion of my friend Jim Forest’s biography of Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. The book is called “All is Grace. I was fascinated to learn that Dorothy, a person I admire, was a gardener and had written articles about gardening.

Yesterday was a day in Nature and today was a day in the technology of a hospital. In between there is Dorothy Day, a gardener and writer, who did the works of mercy and works of peace in daily life. She balanced the technology or urban life with the nature of rural life.

Recently a friend called one of my emails “well balanced.” I thought about this and think the balance is always between nature and technology, the urban and rural.

My front law raised garden is a work of technology. In front of the garden is a row of flowers. Now yellow lilies lie in a row between the raised garden and concrete sidewalk. Like the lilies lined between the concrete blocks of technology our life is balancing act between Nature and Technology. Like the lilies we need to flower in the in between.


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God Bless Amerca of Old - Monday, July 04, 2011

For the first time in the years I can remember, I watched the July 4th fireworks on T.V. rather than in person. The “big bang” fireworks at the lakefront last night draws people reserving spots days ahead of time. They are major for around here but lose a lot of bang on T.V. The other one I saw on T.V. tonight from New York are considered to be the largest one in the USA. The coordination of the music and the multi fireworks display along the Hudson River was spectacular. I can only imagine what it might have been being there.

Just as watching fireworks on TV is nowhere near the experience of being present at fireworks, reading in the paper or watching war TV is nowhere near the experience of being present in war. One can only imagine, as I did on TV tonight, what it meant to be there at war.

But the imagination of adults in the USA is rapidly diminishing. Movies and TV shows live little to the imagination. The amount of violence and war in movies and TV desensitizes us to the experience of violence and war.

Perhaps this is why fireworks displays in the USA get bigger and bigger each year. When I was a kid my parents took me to Washington Park to watch fireworks that were a fraction of what we now watch. I can remember as an adult watching a small fireworks display with small children. With their imagination the small fireworks were large and their thrill affected me.

The newspaper today printed the Declaration of Independence from the first Fourth of July. The word ‘war’ in mentioned twice and, even then, indirectly. There is no mention of soldiers fighting although that was the result of declaring independence. There is no mention of fighting for oil or natural resources and no mention of ‘preemptive war’ or a ‘war of necessity’.

There is however, a strong statement of beliefs and values and the dignity of all human beings. The war of independence was a defensive war, fighting for human values. War was a last resort. Now with the rise of technology to fight wars, like drones and the increasing desensitizing American public to war and violence the USA is involved in military conflicts in six nations at one time. War is only personalized when an American is killed. God Bless America of old. May we replace our present wars of violence and killing with attacks of kindness and justice.


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Crying and Dying - Sunday, July 03, 2011

Hans and Frank
Father and Son at War

As fireworks light the sky’s of Milwaukee tonight at the lake front news comes today the present US administration is flying hundreds of bombing raids over Libya. The vote of liberal and conservative congresspersons not to limit war funds for Libya looms big as more die in Libya and more enemies of the USA are created. Now word comes tonight that the US is using drone attacks, in Somalia. When will ever learn that war breeds more war and the cost in lives and dollars is a “crime against humanity.”

In the meanwhile my friend, Frank, says good bye to his son who is off to war. (See Father at War. As more men and women go to war and we spend more and more on war the more war(s) there are. The cost of war is trillions of dollars and more significantly hundreds of thousands of deaths. With the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and US drone attacks in Yemen and Somalia how many more men, women and children must die before we say No More Money for War and No More Teaching War.

On the fourth of July, tomorrow, we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, the declaration of war against Briton, now our closest ally in declaring more wars.

The sense of death that I started to feel a few months after the death of my son last summer makes me want to cry when I see so much violence in the world. Yet I cannot cry about my son or this violence. For if I started to cry there would be so much that I could not stop.

My only hope is that our struggle of nonviolent love, bearing suffering and death will make a difference one day. We must keep on trying even when it means crying and dying. What else can we do?


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Sailing the Hot Streets of Athens, Greece - Saturday, July 02, 2011

As some of you may know there is a flotilla of ships that are trying to leave the ports of Greece and bring hope and supplies to the Palestinian people held in siege in Gaza. The American ship is called the “Audacity of Hope” On this ship is the Pulitzer prize winner Alice Walker. The cargo of this ship is love letters from children in America encouraging the people of Palestine to stay strong during the long ordeal of the military siege by Israel. At last message from the ship he had sailed out of the port only to have been brought back by the Greek Coast Guard and the captain was thrown in jail. This poem by Alice Walker describes better than I can in words this experience.

Sailing the Hot Streets of Athens, Greece

It has been so
Is it hot
where you are?
Penned up
in a destroyed
In Gaza?

The whole world
by its weathers
& other
still is watching
as we yearn
towards each other.

Trying to embrace
each other
to give each
to ourselves
a simple

The whole world
is watching
& it is
wondering how
turn out.

They are making
it hard
for us to move
& sometimes
we are
in despair
but I remind
that you
of all people


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Father At War - Friday, July 01, 2011

Afgan father with child at war

Today I received a copy of a study of the cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The study is by the nonpartisan Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University’s. They claim the three wars have cost us up to four trillion dollars and 225, 000 killed, around 6000 U.S. soldiers.

The money spent on war is important since these wars are the first ones in our history that we are not paying for. We are borrowing money for these wars and thus our national debt crisis. This report on the financial cost of war should be part of the debate how to reduce our debt. The authors of the study rightfully claim the financial cost of the war should be part of our present debate on budgets and debt.

The other cost of these three wars, in my opinion is more commanding, the 225, 000 killed. Would these countries, USA, and our allies lost as many human beings if we had not gone to war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, I doubt it.
At a talk by Kathy Kelly a few months ago about the war in Afghanistan a man got up and talked how he had been a soldier, graduate of West Point, but over the years had become a pacifist. When his son became 18, he talked to him about the horrors of war the courage of being a pacifist. His son went to college but after graduation could not find a job. A military recruiter told him he could pay his present debts for college and get money to go back to graduate school if he joined the military. He did and soon will be assigned to the war zone.

The Father has written a number of letters to editors of newspapers about his stance on war and his experiences of his son going to war. These letters are powerful and we have put some of them are the nonviolent cow at Father at War. He is a Father at War trying to save lives of those in war, including this Father’s son.


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