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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.

August Ends - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Here is to August!

August ends with a coalition of ’30 peace groups’ giving support to a Nazi hate organization by rallying against it. I wrote to some of the members of the peace groups asking them if they would give as much support and attention, pro or con, to Breaking the Silence nonviolent actions. A few wrote back saying they agreed that by reacting to these hate groups with large protest we are giving them creditability and support. Most just ignored my message.

August ends with the Milwaukee Brewers losing two home ball games to the St. Louis Cardinals, the second place team in their division. They are still 8 ½ games ahead of St. Louis but there is still a month of baseball to play.

August ends with a call for our small group Breaking the Silence to stand strong in nonviolent action to Teach War No More and for No More Money for War. I do not expect much response, even with the faithful, because my criticism of anti-Nazi rally and of our ‘peace liberal’ congressperson for taking Jewish lobby funds for a junket for a vacation.

August ends with my getting some information on what areas on the North Side of Milwaukee about what ares St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) conferences cover or not. SVDP is one of the few groups in the city serving persons in need directly by giving them access to beds, refrigerators, stoves and other necessary home items. Now doing something about the great need is the challenge.

August ends with my front yard garden bursting with tomatoes. The tomato crop gets bigger and bigger each year, a testimony to value of our homemade soil.

August ends with my promise to self to read more not really happening as more and more books to read pile up.

August ends on a sad note with the 1st anniversary of my son’s death from a brain disease but a happy note that so there will be short video accompaning my discussion of the stigma of mental illnesses, hopefully making more people aware of this misunderstood disease.

August does not just end but just fades into September, summer slowing changes to fall. August ends!


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Respite Not Reaction - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Butterfly taking a respite

When being a caregiver to an ill person one often needs a ‘respite care’, short-term, temporary relief for the caregiver. A caregiver is not much help to anyone if the caregiver health fails.

In a sense we are all caregivers, serving those in need or ill in society. If we are awake going through life we see all times of suffering, death and illness around us. We can only do our best as a caregiver but even at that we sometimes need a respite.

Some turn to TV, sports, humor, drinking, and reading to find respite. Some turned to God and spirituality for relief. To live fully alive is to be in need of rest and respite. However, the alternative is to walk through life asleep, not literally but figuratively, reacting not responding. Some persons just ignore what they do not want to know and feel. Some find scapegoats rather than face reality.

I have been getting many emails about a Nazi rally this weekend in nearby West Allis. People are organizing a protest against this hate group. Hate groups like Nazi thrive on publicity and reaction. Now the newspaper, due to the reaction, has picked up on this event. I wrote to friends in the peace movement to just ignore this hate rally, rather than give it creditability by reacting to it. A few persons wrote back agreeing with me but most just ignored me. I told one young man today that was planning to go to the anti rally that I wish the same people would attack, rather than ignore, my views and positions. If I did not react to them it would be great publicity to my views.

A respite, unlike a reaction, is when we get away from the daily grind of living fully and alive. A reaction, unlike a respite, is when we react rather than respond to the crisis we face.


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A Thugs Condominium - Monday, August 29, 2011

The other night the police chief was on TV declaring war on the ‘thugs’, as he calls them, that are causing the increased violence in our city. An hour after his show of police force and tough talk there was another shooting in Milwaukee in the area he was covering with special police forces.

The other day I received a thank you note from the Casa Maria Catholic Worker community for a donation. The card was a drawing of Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. However the unique part of this thank you was the envelope. Inside the envelope was the headline “Thugs”. Below was a picture of a prison and to the side was a poem “A Thugs Condominium” by Kwabena Antione Nixon. Here is the first verse:

We have been waiting on you…
We know you’d rather have ice on your wrists,
than these silver shackles.
We know you would rather be counting money,
than counting time.
We know that you would love to be anywhere but here,
But your reservation was made in third grade…
We have been patient, watching you rise up the ladder.
We are so glad to see you.

The poem goes on about the inevitability of so called ‘thug’ to be in prison. With the increase of violence by young adults in our society we restore to name calling and law enforcement rather than look at the causes. I cannot justify the violence of these senseless acts or excuse the person from responsibility. However, I believe that unless we look at the environment that produces such violence we are doomed to repeat the circumstances where senseless violence is so prominent. What about the high unemployment, the poor education, the hopelessness of the communities which these human beings live?

After 9/11 there was some talk about the environment that caused some great violence and hatred. However, soon the talk was just of vengeance, war and violence. In fact I have noticed in the last ten years the word ‘justice’ has become to mean vengeance, punishment, imprisonment and even death. When the USA killed Osama bin Laden the president and other leaders said “Justice has been served.”

If justice is vengeance than I guess a prison is a thug’s condominium.


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Change of Heart! - Sunday, August 28, 2011

It is the soil, sun and water! Like last year, tomatoes in the front garden are doing well. The soil is homemade, the sun is from Nature and the water comes from the rain in the sky and from the sprinkler and garden hose.

It Mexico we saw a lot of evidence of worship of Sun god, rain god and to Mother Earth. Nature is built in each of us and when we get away from it by war, greed or neglect we get in trouble. A quote I have been using on the bottom of my emails say it all: “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” (Joseph Campbell).

My wife, a friend and I made a number of St. Vincent De Paul home visits today to people in need. One young man had recently got out of prison and was trying hard to get his life together. On the porch of his apartment building a number of the residents were talking and sitting in the shade. We struck up a conversation with them and at the end they were all asking for the number of the St. Vincent De Paul central office so they too can make calls requesting help for basic items like beds, stoves, refrigerators, furniture and clothes.

The number of people in need for basic household items, like beds, is increasing while the number of people and organizations providing these items is decreasing.

I am now doing some research on poverty levels on the north side of Milwaukee, in vast area where the Catholic Church has closed churches like ours and left only one. I can find the neighborhoods most in need but the real challenge will be to find the people and resources to serve this people in the Vincentian spirit of sharing without judgment. We will need to form an open conference where people of all neighborhoods and suburbs can share it this work. There are many blessings to be had from the poor so that might be a draw.

Yes we do need to change the structures of injustice in our society but, in the spirit of the Catholic Worker movement we must start with charity at home to our neighbors in need.

They always say social change comes from a change of heart. Hearts change when they encounter other hearts, especially the blessed ones of the poor, marginalize and ill. It is part of nature.

The founders of St. Vincent De Paul society were young college men who in the time right before the French Revolution left the ivory time of the University of Paris and with a sister of the Order of St. Vincent De Paul traveled to a poor section of the city to bring needed supplies. Their hearts were changed by their experience and so began the largest Catholic lay organization in the world serving people in need.


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Teamwork - Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quarterback hands off to teammate

Yesterday with my son and his family we planted two cheery trees on my son’s land in the fruit garden in memorial of Peter, our deceased son.

We stayed overnight and this morning we went to my 11year old grandson’s Pop Warner football game. My grandson plays quarterback and on his first series he threw a touchdown pass to his teammate. His team missed the extra point play. His team had only about four more players than the required 12 on offense and defense and so players had to play offense and defense. Eventually his team tired out and the other team went on to win by scoring two touchdowns and two extra points.

At the end of the game my grandson’s coach rightly pointed out how hard the team had played and how proud of them he was. The tired team left the field proud of how they played. I subbed for my daughter-in-law as the official photographer for the team and when we got back to their house I downloaded the pictures to their computer. She will send them out the ‘raw’ digital format to all of the team members while I intend to take some of them and fix them up, like the one of the side of this posting.

Watching this game of young players I was reminded of how football of all sports was extremely team oriented. A quarterback can be great but with a missed block on the line can be sacked. A defensive end can fail to contain the outside and allow the team large yardage around end. More than any other sport, even basketball or baseball, football is a team sport.

I deeply feel we are living at the end times of the USA Empire. All empires, Roman or Greek, eventually fall, usually due to greed, militarism and discrimination. When an empire is falling being a member of a team with similar values and priorities is very important. With resistance we can slow down the fall of the empire but we cannot stop it. With teamwork we can build up a new community within the shell of the empire so we will have a team in place during and after the fall.

Our team, like a good football team, needs discipline, cooperation and to work together. The ‘powers that be’ have a powerful team that keeps us divided, competitive and opposing each other. Like my grandson’s team we get tired, but unlike his team, often we stop resisting and building the team and just go along with whatever we are programmed to do.

From children we can learn that teamwork means never giving up, win or lose


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Anniversary of a Death - Friday, August 26, 2011

Deadlast by Peter

Today, the first anniversary of our son’s death, my wife and I talked about the good memories of our son. We decided to do more with all the beautiful art work he left behind. Until we complete the work you can enjoy Peter’s Art on his web site. Be sure to take a look at the digital art slideshow on Flicker on this page. Peter’s art, line drawings, digital art or paintings speak volumes about his experience of life. Peter saw deeply into life and it was very painful for him. As I found out since his death there is blessing walking in the shadow of death. I always told Peter that I had learned a lot about life from him. I do not know if he believed me or not but I certainly know it is true now and he does too.

On the way to visit our other son and his family today we stop by the cemetery that has the niche with Peter’s ashes. We had written on it below and his name and his life dates: “Beloved son, friend and artist.” My wife thought the phrase sound a little funny now, especially the word artist. I do not. Peter was not a recognized artist but his visual art was his way of expressing his inmost thoughts and emotions. At that he excelled and he was a great artist.

Just thinking of his art inspires me to put more pictures and quotes on this web page. Perhaps I can put some quotes with my own photographs.

Check out at Peter’s Art on this anniversary of his death.


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Fathers At War - Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prayer Vigil This Morning

Despite what the mayor and police chief say the violence on the streets of Milwaukee is increasing. We had two prayer vigils for homicide victims this morning and three more tomorrow.

The first prayer vigil this morning was at a house next door to the one my deceased son Peter had lived in for many years. When he was first moved there he was doing good, living with his mental illness, but at the end of his stay he was very sick and had to be removed from the house by police.

There was a man drinking a beer and a child playing in front of the house where my son had lived. Before the prayer vigil I went over to talk to the man. I invited him to the prayer vigil and he responded saying that we would not like him since it was his brother that had killed the other man. It turns out there was a block party on the street and, after a lot of drinking, the two men that were roommates got into an argument that left one dead. I assured the man that we prayed for the victim and the family and for the perpetrator and the family. Both suffered a lost in a homicide. He said he would come and pray with us but did not.

After the vigil when I was parking my car in the garage I saw a man walking up the driveway with a beautiful peace lily. It was from my wife’s sister and brother-in-law in memorial of our son Peter, the one year anniversary of his death being tomorrow.

After I got in the house I went to my computer and did something I have been meaning to do for awhile. I send an email to friends with a link to my friend’s, Francis Pauc, series of reflections called Father At War. Francis, a military veteran turned pacifist describes his concern over his son joining the military and gong to Iraq. It is a very moving set of reflections and in many ways I can identify with his love and concern for his son. At the end of the email I said these inspiring reflections where a gift to all on the eve of the first anniversary of my son’s death.

In many ways I can identify as a Father At War. My son never was in the military but fought hard against depression, illness, discrimination and stigma. As a father I wanted to ‘save’ him from his illness but could not. Like Francis all I can do keep to my own values and principles and respect my son’s decisions.

Many of the prayer homicide vigils are for young men caught up in the violence of the streets of the central city. There are many fathers out there, like Francis and I, that stand strong with our sons in war.


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I only wish - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

St. Paul dealing with conflicts in the early followers of the Way wrote: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Paraphrasing this for politics today in the USA I write: : “There is no longer Democrat or Republican, there is no longer black or white, and there is no longer poor or rich; for all of you are one as Americans and citizens of the world.”

Or so I wish. This thought came to me today as I was criticized and ignored for pointing out how our peace liberal congresswoman had accepted an expensive junket from the pro-Jewish lobby group, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC} although she says she is pro-Palestinian. Also today I received from a peace activist an email about a protest on a nearby Republican representative was limiting who could attend his community gatherings. I thought at least the Republican representative is at home talking with some of his people why the Democrat is off on a paid vacation from a lobby group.

Or so I wish. Today I took an elderly window friend to a food pantry so she can get her monthly box of food for low income persons. The pantry was crowed and there was a long line. I had dropped my friend off while I was parking the car. The line was up the stairs of a church hall. Other persons in the line let my friend, who walks with a cane, move near the front of the line at the bottom of the stairs. When I got to her I explained my moving along side her by saying I was just her driver carrying the bag. This brought some humor to the group since in this culture ‘carrying the bag’ has other connotations. My friend saw some of her neighbors in the food pantry since she lives in a neighborhood of poverty on the North Side of Milwaukee.

Or so I wish. Today I did a little research of how the Catholic Church has abandoned the north side neighborhoods as they became predominately African American and poor.

While liberals and conservatives argue politics, while liberal peace persons and pro war persons talk and talk, while the rich get richer by the poor getting poorer; while people, young and old, go hungry, while education is being cut in the central city schools, while the unemployment rate for young adult African Americans is over 50% and while the veterans walk the streets homeless I cry out.

I cry out to my liberal and conservative friends: “We are one; we are equal in our human dignity; let us stop talking and working together for the common good.” I must cry this out but am just a voice crying in the wilderness. I only wish.


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Nature Peace & Justice - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ecology Peace Sign

The last week or so I have been removing worms from the worm box so I can get at the rich soil, castings or worm poop, created by the worms eating compost. I removed some of this rich soil, put the worms back in the box with some fresh compost to eat and poop. I noticed the worms had multiplied in numbers, a normal and good sign. When worms are healthy they multiply and since each worm eats his weight in compost each day, they cast out more castings. It is these castings of the worm that make soil rich and produce a good harvest.

When I discovered this way of making soil some years ago from Growing Power I thought I had discovered some new. However, when I went to Guatemala I discovered that using worms to produce organically rich soil is thousands of years old. Peoples of ancient lands like Guatemala, Venezuela and India have known about worm power for years. In fact worms have been renewing the soil of the earth since the age of dinosaurs.

I think about all this tonight since this morning we were sharing how to deal with beggars and other people in need at our faith sharing session this morning. Worms do what they do, multiply and cast, naturally. I think it is the nature of humans to share what they have with others but with information and education so much gets in the way of doing with his natural for the giver and of the beggar.

Unlike worms we think and make judgments like “by giving money to this person am I enabling the person to drink” or, on the other side, “I have a right to be supported by others since I am poor.”

War and violence are contrary to nature. I think if one is truly for the ecology they resist war and violence; and those who oppose war and violence would be ecologist. Nature, Peace and Justice are sisters in purpose and being.


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Change Happens! - Monday, August 22, 2011

SVDP conference home visit

Tonight I suggested we change the area our St. Vincent De Paul, SVDP, conference serves so we can better serve the poorest of the poor. A few resisted the change just because it was a change and some were confused of what the change would mean.

Change is all around us, faster that we keep track of it on the news or computer. But most of that change is beyond our control. We can go with the flow of the change or resist it. Change we control, especially ourselves seems harder to make. Many want to change hunger and poverty but when it comes to more than talking about it or giving money to a charitable organization we hesitate.

Peacemaking like change is easy to talk about and desire but difficult to do. Marquette University has a Center for Peacemaking that has many find discussion, talks and retreats on peacemaking. But when it comes to publicly work for Marquette To Teach War No More they are silent. In the early years of the center they used to say they were working on some secret way to control teaching values contrary to the Catholic Church on campus but now they just ignore the issue.

I feel blessed to have a few friends who are in need, poor or ill. When you struggle to survive all the talk and talk about how to improve your life is empty and meaningless.

What to do when someone approaches you for help, judge the person to find how if help is really needed, ignore the person seeking help, say no or give the person some help? Whatever you decide your life and the life of the other persons changes.

When your government takes an action that you believe wrong what do you do: get upset and complain, go along with the action, believe there is nothing you can do about it, protest or take nonviolent action to resist it? Any decision makes for change.

Change can be good or bad; change can be welcomed or threatening; we seek change and are fearful of it. But one thing is inevitable: change happens.


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Vanilla to a Beautiful Garden - Sunday, August 21, 2011

View of Pewaukee Lake
from friend’s house

When we were in Mexico City on a Gate, trip the leader of the trip gave us some real Mexican vanilla to give to a friend in the Milwaukee area. Back home I emailed the friend asking her where I could deliver the vanilla. She invited me to come to the 11th annual Global Partners Running Waters picnic. The mission of this organization is to provide financial resources for rural communities in Latin America to meet basic needs, like clean water, and to offer opportunities to people in North America to experience a reality other than their own. The picnic was at another friend’s house overlooking Pewaukee Lake. One of the motivations for going was that my friend on the lake had built a new garden that we wanted to see.

The garden was beautiful and peaceful. The garden, full of flowers, vegetables and herbs was in full bloom. I did not have a camera to capture the beauty but in mind and heart I was present to the wonders of the garden. As I was quietly sitting in the garden my friend who created the garden came out. She explained some of the design and plants included a ‘smoke’ shrub named ‘grace’ she had planted in memory of my son Peter, the artist.

At the picnic in and out of her house we discovered many people we knew from other experiences that were part of the Global Partners community. It was good to visit with them. An excellent Mexican cook we knew had provided some main dishes and everyone brought a dish to share. The sunny day and the food made good companions with the many good people that were present.

From delivering vanilla from Mexico to this wonderful garden was a good trip. The garden was truly inspirational and made me determined to restore the beauty of my small backyard garden. Good friends, good food, sunny day on the lake, picnic for a good cause and a beautiful garden: it does not get much better than this.


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Supporting Our Troops - Saturday, August 20, 2011

Facebook page picture of
son in Iraq

Last spring a nationally known peace activist, Kathy Kelly, of Voices for Creative Nonviolence was speaking at a local church. Before her talk she announced the Nonviolent Resistant Stations of the Cross?, that some of us in Breaking the Silence? were doing on Good Friday. After her talk she took comments and questions. One of the first speakers was a man named Francis Pauc, a West Point graduate and military veteran. He talked about how he had become a pacifist and raised his children to abhor war. However, now his son, Hans, had joined the military and was soon to be deployed to Iraq. He passionately talked about his concerns for his son and raised a lot of questions of what to do.

Francis came to the Stations of Cross and we got to know each other. He has joined us in other actions since that time with our efforts for Marquette University to Be Faithful to the Gospel and to Stop Teach War and our two drone actions this summer Drone and Clowns Storm the Bastille and Drone, Debt and Clown on Brady Street.

Francis has written a number of letters, brief essays and reflections about his son going to war. It is an outgoing series that, with his blessing, we have put on a web page called Father at One.

The latest reflection came today and is called “Supporting Our Troops.”. It raises questions of how to support our soldiers without supporting the wars they are fighting. This is a question that I have often thought about it. I condemn the wars our soldiers are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan but support our troops. Francis does not answer the question but offers some deep insights into this dilemma.

At the end of the essay he states: “It seems so much easier to send a package to a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan than it does to help a veteran return to a normal life in the U.S. Why is that?” I don’t have the answer but as a Father at War he helps us struggle with this question of what it means to be supporting our troops.


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Persistent Gardener - Friday, August 19, 2011

Persistent Dog

Today was a day of eating the fruits of the garden. Freshly picked tomatoes made for some good pasta sauce made by Pat. She also made some pesto from basil I just picked and used the hot peppers from the garden and more tomatoes to make some delicious salsa. Over the year I have learned to grow what I can grow, pole beans, tomatoes, mint, basil, eggplants, peppers, and a variety of perennial and annual flowers. I still try out a few things new ever year but have my staples.

In gardening, like life, you take what is given to you, but still take a few risks and try something new. Gardening like life is a constant learning experience, learning from success and mistakes. Also gardening like life if you are persistent and do your best, eventually it will pay off.

When I was in the business world, direct mail advertising business, I had to sell my product. Selling, especially something not tangible and outside sales, was uncomfortable to me. I was not the flashy sales person like my partner in business was, but I was very persistent and, after time, became a successful sales persons. I remember one particular business person who I perused for years to sell an ad. He would always say no but I persisted and finally one day he purchased an ad. I knew service was important for future sales and he became a regular customer. After he retired his son took over the business and also became my regular customer. Each publication I never had a lot of new customers but seldom lost one.

In the Gospels Jesus told many stories where the persistent person eventually won out. In gardening a persistent gardener will eventually grow successfully.


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Making Mistakes Gardening - Thursday, August 18, 2011

Backyard Garden Today

The gardens around our house are doing well this year although they are not producing at maximum. I can blame the hot weather that have limited my working outside this year and will do. But there is always more to do and maybe next year, with regular summer climate, I will expand the gardens and help them produce more.

One garden that is most challenging is the one where I started to garden in this house eight years ago, in the backyard. The lack of full sun has made me grow sun hungry plants like peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and basil in the front yard raised garden. But except for pole green beans and mint I have not yet been successful in using this space to grow lots of vegetables and herbs. I have learned some things over the years and maybe next year will do better in growing. But the backyard still looks nice when I care for it and keeps me supplied with mint and green beans for the year.

Many years ago Will Allen of Growing Power, before he was world famous, told me the real way to learn gardening was to make mistakes and learn from them. Maybe he was just trying to get rid of me and my constant questioning but his words resonated with me.

When I was young and worried about making mistakes I read the words of a famous American poet: “Man is made to make mistakes.” These words like the words of Will Allen ring true to me.

My success in gardening is due to my many mistakes. So if I want to be a more successful home gardening I need to make more mistakes. Making Mistakes Gardening can be enjoyable and productive.


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Facing Death To Life - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mike Burke, 1943–2011

As my world spins around me I try to slow down and feel the silence within me, looking inward for guidance. The more I look inward the more I can see outward.

Today we went to the funeral of a family friend from our days living in Madison. He was my age and, although he had been in bad health for many years, died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a father to two sons and grandfather to three children, just like I am.

There have been many deaths in my life the last few years. This friend was a very ordinary guy but his simple goodness made him extraordinary, with many friends and family present today to support his wife and family.

This friend, in his own way, looked inward and saw clearly outward in life. Death is the ultimate looking inward and seeing clearing outward. Many, like I, avoid facing death although it is the only way to face life. Facing death in us is the way to face life outside.


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Gardening as a Risk - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Front yard today

I like working outside in the front yard gardens, rain, flower and vegetable gardens at the time of a Brewers baseball game. As people park their car on our street to walk to the ballpark they pass my front gardens. Often they compliment me on the gardens. Where everyone on my side of the block has grass in the front year I have flowers, perennial and annual of all types, vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant and herbs like basil growing in the front yard.

Perhaps the contrast of front yards is best represented in my rainbow flag up right now saying ‘peace’ and my neighbor’s American flag. My yard produces flowers and vegetables which seem, at least to me, more beautiful and useful than grass.

Doing a rain garden and raised vegetable garden in the front yard was a risk. But now that it is done, even skeptics like my dear wife, seem to agree that it is an improvement.

When I started this web page, originally now called my idea was to connect home gardening with nonviolence.

Home gardening, like being nonviolent, is a risk worth taking


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Mary For All - Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feast day of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of Jesus/God, “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

This day, when I was a child, was big in our Lebanese household, where we joined many Catholics from the Middle East for a celebration at Holy Hill, a National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians near Milwaukee.

For the people of Mexico and Central and South America it is the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe that is close to their heart and devotion. Shortly after the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, 1519–1521, Mary appeared to a simple indigenous peasant named Juan Diego . It is important to people of Mexico and Central and South America that Mary did not appear to the powerful Spanish conquerors but to one of their own. Mary asked Juan to build a shrine at the spot, in Mexico City, where they stood. Juan Diego, after several rejections by the local bishop was able to see him and told by the Bishop that he needed a sign to convince the bishop. When Juan asked Mary for a sign she gave him some roses to present to the bishop. When Juan opened his cloak to give the bishop the roses an image of Mary was inside the cloak. This image is on display today at the Basilica of Guadalupe, now one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.

When we were there last week on an ordinary weekday there were an extraordinary number of Hispanic people there to seek the help of Mary. The cloak there is still one of Juan Diego. The depth of the devotion at this shrine was felt. It was truly sacred ground.

There are many images of Mary in many countries. For the people of Mexico, Central and South America it is the Mary of our Lady of Guadalupe that relates the people of faith to God. Mary relates many ordinary peoples of a variety of cultures to God. Mary is for all.


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Thank God For Mexico - Sunday, August 14, 2011

Climing the pryimad of the god
of the sun or water

We returned yesterday from the land of pyramids, land where indigenous writing systems were invented, land of the gods of the sun and water, land of archeological wonders and ancient civilizations. No we have not been to Egypt but to Mexico, more specifically to Mexico City.

I will have more to say and many pictures of our G.A.T.E. (Global Awareness Through Experience), journey to Mexico City. From the USA media perception of Mexico we hear of drugs, violence and illegal immigrants. This ‘war on drugs’ is only near the northern border of the country, along the USA border. Mexico is a large country and would have been twice as large if the USA had not stolen in the 18th century by violent force whole or parts of what are now California, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

In Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world, 22 million people in the metro area, we discovered people proud of their history that dates back to thousands of years B.C. Although the Spanish invaders wiped out about 95% of the indigenous people by violence or by diseases they brought with them in the 15th century, modern day Mexicans are proud of their long history. The country is full of museums celebrated this heritage and one of the most famous is the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

One of the five ancient civilizations was the Teotihuacans who lived in a largest city in the world at the time from around 100 B.C. to about 700 A.D. No one knows what happened to residents of this great city but when the Aztecs, originally a nomadic people, discovered this city they were impressed by the large pyramids in the city created as temples of the gods and called it the ‘city of Gods.’ They settled there and became a great Empire.

The largest pyramid was originally dedicated to the god of water but the Aztecs, not knowing its name, called it the pyramid of the sun. Climbing this pyramid and looking out over the valley the world seems small. One realizes the deep history of Mexico and richness of culture. Mexico becomes no longer a country of drugs, violence and illegal immigrants but a country of wonder, mystery and appreciation. There are many lessons to be learned from Mexico and we got only a glimpse of this during our brief visit. I hope to write in an essay about my experience with words and pictures. But for now all I can say is “Thank God for Mexico.”


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Time For Silence - Sunday, August 07, 2011

Tree near Gandhi’s
memorial in India

There is a time for everything under the Sunday. There is a time for being busy and slowing down. There is a time for talking and a time for listening. There is a time for noise and a time for silence. For the next week, I will try to slow down, listen and be silent.

Often when one steps back in life, retreats one can then move forward and see, hear, and touch tings more deeply. Next week I will try to minimize checking or writing email, watch TV for reading and reflecting. Maybe I will write some but not this posting on the Diary of the Worm. If anyone regularly reads these postings they will understand. There are plenty of posting over the years, since 2006. Hopefully a few of them make a good observation on life. New postings on the Diary of the Worm will return in a week, Sunday, August 14th.


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Sweet Waters of Discrimination - Saturday, August 06, 2011

With the recent rages of young African American teens and adults after the 4th of July fireworks celebration and in and outside of State Fair Thursday night, I am reminded of an essay I wrote a few years ago: The Sweet Waters of Discrimination. The name ‘Sweet Waters’ came from an urban farm a friend of mind had helped create to grow fresh, safe produce and fish. This urban farm represents the light side of Milwaukee. Discrimination represents the dark side.

Discrimination does not always mean racial discrimination. Discrimination is defined in the wiki encyclopedia as the “prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group.” It can be the refusal of allowing a mental health clinic in a particular neighborhood, not allowing full court basketball playing at a local country park (see Resurrect The Rims, an failed attempt to keep full court basketball at a local park, when rims were taken down without consulting young adults using them.)

We cannot justify the recent violent outrages of African American youth and young adults as we cannot justify other forms of violence. However, we can try to understand the root causes. To deny that the high unemployment rate for the young African American male adult community; the increased poverty of families in the largely African American north side of Milwaukee; Milwaukee being the most segregated in the 2000 and 2010 census; the withdrawal of funding from the Milwaukee Public School system, play a role as a cause of this behavior is to deny reality.

Politicians and police are quick to call the offenders “thugs” and to point out ‘black on black’ violence or to point out the criminal records of African American homicide victims. But what are the causes of this violence?

When my Catholic Church in a largely African American neighborhood was closed my interest peaked of why Churches have increased in this area but Catholic Churches in this segregated neighborhood have decreased to one. Sadly so far my research points to ‘discrimination’.

Some African American as well as most white groups, liberal or conservative, pro peace or war deny that we lived in a city of high discrimination. But those discriminated against, be it racial, illnesses, poverty or message know in their hearts that Milwaukee is the Sweet Waters of Discrimination.


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Past Death To Light - Friday, August 05, 2011

This morning while in the car I heard on the radio a story about the value of poetry, how it can express feelings with less words. Many years ago I considered myself a poet of types. I would call what follows something between a poem and an easy essay that Peter Maurin wrote. Perhaps it is more like a modern day psalm, at least as an attempt.

Past Death to Light

The dark shadow of death surrounds me.
At night I fear going to bed for what dreams may bring.
In the morning I wake up tired and with a headache.
It takes coffee and some sun to get me going.

The darkness of death feels stronger when I am driving.
I fear dying in a car accident and sometimes so worry about it
Then I missed my street or turn.

Yet in this darkness of death a light shines.
I feel it in picking of a ripe tomato in my front yard.
I see the light in the face of a child in the grocery store.

I know this turn toward death was intensified by the death of my son last summer.
I still cannot cry. When I run and hide from it, the impact of his death weighs heavier.

This darkness would be unbearable if it was not for the light,
The moment of silence when I can see deeply into the beauty around me,
Past Death to Light.


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Seek Silence - Thursday, August 04, 2011

Day Lily, Silent Beauty

The other day when I was taking photographs in front of the house of the rain and vegetable gardens I noticed a Day Lily that was particularly beautiful. Day Lily season is fading so I captured this one with my camera. The picture reminded me of Frank Blair an elder friend who died recently. Frank took so many beautiful close-up pictures of flowers that his children gave away many to friends at his memorial service. One of his flower close ups pictures now is in my living room.

I knew Frank only from his political views, harsh, clear and honest. But for anyone to be so insightful in communication I knew there had to be another side of friend. Capturing the beauty of flowers was part of that other side.

Frank’s communications, usually by email, were straight to the point. He did not have a taste for small talk as his daughters reminded us at the memorial service. This is in contrast to so much of today’s communication which I would, like Thomas Merton call ‘noise.’ Merton says…”it is necessary that there be communication between the hearts and minds of men, communication and not the noise of slogans or the repetition of clichés.” Check out the whole quote.

I am a ‘noisy’ person but seek ‘silence’. I went to a modern pop ‘rock’ concert with my wife tonight. The music was loud with non understandable lyrics. I enjoyed the light show and the beat of the music but the show reminded me of how much I seek silence.

It is time to stop the words and be silent.


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Yes or No Over So What - Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Tonight I finished a rough draft of another picture story: Drone, Debt and Clown on Brady Street. The message is the same as Bastille Days but this time the response was different. The Message, “Killer Drones Cost $$$ and Lives” was met by a mild response rather than love or hate it one at Bastille Days.

The response at the Brady Street Festival mirrors more the response we get from any message that people do not want to hear: “That is nice”, “I am okay”, “No Thank you”. These are the responses we get from many students at Marquette to our message: Teach War No More. While the love or hate response we got from some at Bastille Days was more like the response we got in the 60’s in the civil rights and peace movement.

Personally I would prefer that any nonviolent action would be met with the first response. It is easier to love those who clearly have a positive or negative response to your message than those who ignore the message or do not care. It is tough to respond to those who do not seem care or rather avoid the message. So give me a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ any day to a ‘so what’ or ‘who cares’.


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The Least Objectionable! - Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Impatients Doing Their Best

Have you had the experience of sitting down to watch TV with no particular program in mind? You check the various TV channels and not finding anything of keen interest watch the ‘least objectionable’ program.

Perhaps that is a way just to relax but it is no way to run a government. However, that is exactly what happened with the budget deficit bill. After weeks of negotiating but not compromising the congress passed the ‘least objectionable’ budget deficit bill to avoid a disastrous default by the government. Neither party, nor conservatives or liberals were happy with the bill. By taking the least objectionable out congress punted the problem of the growing debt to the future. Congresspersons voted for or against the bill did not like the bill and three congresspersons, including the representative of this area, Gwen Moore, voted ‘Not Voting.’ She could not even decide if voting yes or no was the least objectionable.

Gardens, be it a rain garden or vegetable garden are not created by taking the ‘least objectionable’ approach. They are intended, planned and carefully worked. The seeds are planted, cared for and thus they bear fruit or flowers. If Congress persons took the same care as a home gardener does toward his or her plants the government would grow and bear fruit and flower.

The opposite, in my opinion, of ‘least objectionable’ is doing ‘the best we can do’. I took a lot of pictures today of the front gardens, rain and vegetable under normal light and a red night sky. However, the picture I choose for this posting is one of impatiens in front of the house. They are doing the best they can do rather than the ‘least objectionable’.


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Ready To Change - Monday, August 01, 2011

Grape Leave Fines Gone Wild

Last night in this posting I said I was going to work outside today no matter how hot it was. And I did, but most of the time was spent not in a project I anticipated.

My neighbor sent me this morning the picture on the sides, of how the grape leave vines in the back of my garage and fence had gone wild. He removed the ones moving toward his garage and the first thing I did today outside is remove most of the vines that were creeping over the parking lot of the apartment building behind us. I enjoy picking leaves from the grape less grape vine for making stuffed Grape Leaves but am not excited about removing the vines. But it had to be done and I did it, at least most of it.

This venture made me think how often these days something comes up, from a phone call or an email that I need to attend to, at least I think so. The most well placed plans for the days need to be flexible to accommodate what comes up.

A man with a mental illness called me today from a homeless shelter. How he got my name and number I do not know but it has something to do with my associating with Faith and Recovery, a support group for persons suffering from mental illnesses or ones that have friends or family members suffering from this disease. He had been released from the county mental health hospital and given fourteen days at this shelter. He is from out of town and, if he does not find a place, they threatened him with a one way ticket where he came from. He is on some heavy meds for now and needs a place to stay more than a faith sharing support group. I gave him a lead on a place where he can stay and get some help with his mental illness. He had already heard of the place and was giving them a call and letting me know tomorrow how he is doing. If he calls and I need to act I must be ready to change my plans for tomorrow.

In a perfect world everyone would agree by consensus and all would go as planned. However, we live in a messy world and need to be flexible and go with the flow. We need to be ready to change.


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