Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The best gold is on the trees

Who needs mining and panning when we're surrounded with this every autumn? It's free, and earth-friendly. If human beings could only see the beauty of the planet as our wealth instead of silly things like gold and diamonds, mansions and limos...






Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Love and fear

Lately, listening to all the Canadian electoral rhetoric, the response of different countries to the Syrian refugee crisis, and negative opinions voiced on various talk shows has left me with the title of this moodling stuck in my head. I knew that I had read a fantastic quotation about love and fear somewhere, but when I googled "Love and fear" nothing like what I had in mind came up. The closest thing was a Ghandi quotation, "The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear." A good one, but not the one I wanted.

This morning, as I sat in contemplative prayer, it dawned on me where to find my 'quotation,' which is much more than a quotation. It's in my favourite little book that has a permanent home on my desk, called A Common Prayer by Australian humourist and cartoon artist Michael Leunig (Dove, Harper Collins 1990, ISBN 0 85924 933 6). Mr. Leunig's little poem/prayer is just too good to keep to myself, so I share it and its original artwork here, hoping he will forgive me, and praying that the world will wake up and choose love instead of fear.


Monday, September 28, 2015

On being followed

After a lovely afternoon walk in the river valley yesterday with my hubby, 
he sent me the following picture with the caption, 

"Careful... little black bears follow people in the woods!"


It was such a gorgeous afternoon for a stroll.


Autumn is awesome in my books!
And so is Lee!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #10... No indifference allowed

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.   
-- Elie Wiesel
There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference. (paragraph 52, Laudato Si)
-- Pope Francis in Laudato Si

Wow, there are so many things I could say about these two quotations, but there's too much to cover in this week's reading of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. When it comes to the theme of indifference, I think Elie Wiesel and Pope Francis have pretty much nailed it, so I'll plunge into our reading.

Today I'm looking at the encyclical's section on Global Inequality in paragraphs 48-52, which can be accessed by clicking here. As usual, they are packed with ideas worth noting and discussing.

When I began studying (and practicing) voluntary simplicity, the fact that a lifestyle like mine is lived by only the top 8-12% of the world's population hit me like a ton of bricks. You could say that I finally began to wake up to the way that my life was depleting the lives of those in the developing world. "Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest," as the pastoral letter of the Bolivian Bishops quoted in paragraph 48 notes -- and the attacks on the environment are arising out of our throwaway consumerism which depletes and pollutes places far from our sight, often in the Global South. What's worse is that these effects "are insufficiently represented on global agendas" to the point that most of us go through our days without giving much thought to our brothers and sisters in developing countries (the other 88-92% of  world population) whose lives are negatively impacted by our consumer demands.

Paragraph 49 begins by stating that "there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded... one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought... or... treated merely as collateral damage." Ouch! But if it wasn't true, it wouldn't be so painful to consider! My brothers and sisters in the developing world are paying for the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" -- and those like me -- with the resources of their already impoverished countries. In the meantime, climate change is causing droughts and hurricanes, multinational companies are decimating and polluting the earth through mining and misuse of natural resources, and the powers that be (our governments) are looking the other way. Here's one example from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (I have two more for the next two Sundays):



Pope Francis nails it when he says: "...we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (paragraph 49). Connecting with Development and Peace (or Caritas Internationalis in other coutries)is one way to hear -- at www.devp.org there are many Canadian resources to help us listen to these cries and participate in helping them diminish.

I have a bit of an issue with paragraph 50 of Laudato Si because it seems the Vatican will never acknowledge the fact that the Church's stance on birth control has an impact on our planet's rising population. The Pope and his writing team would rather shake their finger at "forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of "reproductive health"" than acknowledge Humanae Vitae's obvious blind spots. It seems that they prefer to blame the spectre of overpopulation solely on inequities created by the over-consumption of the minority, while insisting that everyone practice natural family planning, even in developing countries where education about such things isn't as important as finding the next meal. I'd like to suggest that the Church focus on continuing to call people to live simply and choose life, and remove the word 'sin' from simpler methods of contraception. But maybe that's just me.

Of course, Francis and his writing team are right about the fact that "attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life" (paragraph 50).

Paragraph 51 clearly lays out the biggest problem -- the fact that the Global North's appetite for the planet's resources is huge in comparison to the Global South's, but it's the South that is feeling the worst effects -- environmental devastation through pollution, climate change causing drought and calamitous farming outcomes, the North's habit of exporting waste to the South ("take it out back, throw it down the hillside, keep the front yard lookin' good..." sings Chuck Brodsky again).

At the end of the paragraph, a quotation from a letter by a group of bishops in Argentina sums up what we in the North leave for the South to handle: "...great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable." All because we want the products marketed by our multinationals, many of them 'wants' rather than 'needs'!

It's kinda like the dodge ball game my daughter uses to explain the concept of social justice to junior high school students. She divides the kids into two highly imbalanced teams, say, five against twenty-five. The twenty-five kids (representing the Global South) have the odds stacked against them -- they can only use the five red balls (out of twenty multi-coloured balls), if they get hit they have to sit down and can't get up again, and they can't cross the line dividing the two teams. When the Global North team gets hit, they can keep playing, they can use all the balls, and they have no boundaries. It's the most ridiculous, lopsided dodge ball you'll ever see! What's interesting is that, quite often, the North feel guilty for their success and try to level the playing field in their own ways to make it a bit more enjoyable for the South. Kids have a stronger sense of what's fair than multinationals!

Paragraph 52 points out that "The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to the ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relationships and ownership which is structurally perverse." The rules are stacked against them. But Pope Francis wants us to change the rules, calling the northern rich to help pay ecological and social debt "by significantly limiting [our] consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development." To level the playing field!

Probably the most important sentences in this entire section are the last two: "We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference." Yes, you read that final line already at the top of this moodling. We're back to the indifference theme.

Before radio, television and internet, we didn't know as much about our world or people in other countries. Now it seems we know more than we want to, and have become numb to the plight of people we should consider to be our brothers and sisters... that, or we've simply adopted indifference as our modus operandi so that we don't have to change. Do we like our lopsided dodgeball game too much to give it up?

What would Jesus do? We see it over and over again in the Gospels. He invites the rich young man to sell everything and follow him, inspires a true conversion in Zacchaeus, reminds us to consider the lilies and the birds of the air, and shows us how to bring good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, and help to the broken.

All we have to do is follow his lead, drop our indifference and start making a difference.

How have you heard the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor this past week? How have you responded to those cries? What is one thing you did? What is one thing you could have done?

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Up next: #11... Toward stronger action

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A morning with my other sisters

Let me start by saying that I have two perfectly marvellous, fun, and brilliant sisters (that I love deeply)  from the same mother. And then let me tell you about how I rediscovered two of my "other sisters."

Recently I decided to look up my very first best friend from when I was 7-9 years old. I'd tried to look her up online previously, and though I found her on a travel website, I was unable to jump through all the right internet hoops to be able to contact her at that time.

So it was exciting to find her again, this time on Facebook. I sent a message to be sure I had the right person, and a few weeks later, received a message back. She was the right person, indeed, and we actually lived in the same city (I always thought she lived one province over)! So we chatted a little bit via the internet, and I promised her that when my second batch of strawberries were ripe, I'd invite her and her grandson over to help me eat them.

My friend and her little guy came to visit on September 4th, and to be honest, it seemed a little awkward at first. So much water had flowed downriver since we were kids. We had missed so much of each other's lives. As she came up the sidewalk, I was looking hard for some hint of the girl I once knew. Her face vaguely reminded me of my childhood friend... but it took until she laughed before I knew her once again -- her laugh was like hearing a song that I loved but had nearly forgotten! We hugged each other tightly, and both our eyes filled with tears.

Today, I hugged her older sister, and it happened again. These two women meant so much to me as a kid that it nearly broke my heart when our family moved away from them. Today I called them my "other sisters" because my morning with them was sort of like coming home. Rediscovering them has been something of a miracle in my life, and it's such a joy knowing that they're both doing as well as can be in spite of the heartaches and struggles that came with their lives.

Playing with these two friends as a child, I just played. I didn't think to ask personal questions because knowing the details of each others' lives wasn't as important as rowing our imaginary canoe down the river; building snow tunnels through the lilac bushes after the blizzard; seeing how deep we could wade into the flooded area at the park before our rubber boots filled with water; or making a perfect, smooth, crab racetrack by sliding our bums across the sandbox.

It's only now that I finally know that these other sisters originally came from Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, but were taken from their family of origin at ages 3 and 4 (during the so-called '60's Scoop) and placed in a foster home -- until they reached the age of 18 and were told they were on their own.

Life has not been easy for them, but they have managed to reconnect with their biological family and build strong relationships. It's such a relief to know that they have come through many hard times and will continue to thrive because of their love for each other. They are amazing women, definitely part of my Amazing Club.

This morning, my eyes filled again as my rediscovered sisters invited me to smudge with them. I closed my eyes and prayed, "Thank you, Creator, for bringing us back together. Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Afterward, we sat and chatted for a long while, reminiscing, jogging each others' memories and laughing about things that happened in our almost forgotten shared past, trying to remember names and places, catching up on bits and pieces of each other's lives in the years since, and losing track of time.

It was holy ground.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A long autumn and a short fall?


It's that time of year when I keep my camera in my pocket every time I go for a walk. Just can't get enough of the golden trees and changing forest. The river reflects the sky, the trees on the banks reflect in the calm water, and really, the camera can't do nature justice, but I keep on trying...


It froze last night, a light frost, but still enough to kill squash and tomatoes. I had covered some things, but wouldn't you know it, the wind blew the sheets down. I was hoping to give my cherry tomatoes more time to ripen on the vine, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Fortunately, I picked all the squash and larger tomatoes I could yesterday afternoon, and what a haul it is. There's enough this year to be canning tomatoes to my heart's content (and my stomach's)!


We also have a few nice squashes and pumpkins 
for jack'o'lanterns and good eating.

Autumn doesn't officially arrive until 2:21 MST on September 23 (the wee hours of tomorrow) but it feels like it's already here. Our drought stressed trees seem to be dropping leaves early this year -- but of course, that could be my imagination and the fault of the winds we've been having these last few days. Autumn is only beginning, but the fall (of leaves) is happening in a hurry.

So enjoy the beauty while it lasts. And the bounty. This is the best time of year to visit farmers' markets -- and friends with too much produce!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #9... How do we really want to live?

All week I've had a song stuck in my head: "It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark..."

I'll say one thing about this encyclical -- its survey of what is happening to our common home feels dark and heavy at times, and maybe that's why I needed a little candle song playing in my head.

This week's section of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is all about the "decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society." Darkness. But I'm realizing that we human beings seem to learn better from our struggles than our successes. I'm starting to suspect that's why God made us so much less than perfect!

This week's Sunday Reflection is looking at paragraphs 43 to 47, which can be accessed by clicking here. They're a pretty decent summary of what's wrong with human life in general -- as I said, a downer. They point out that we have a right to life and happiness -- but that we've screwed up our chances for both through causing environmental deterioration with our flawed models of development and the throwaway culture that goes with them (paragraph 43).

In skimming through paragraphs 44-47 of this week's reading, I came up with the following litany of modern woes, a sort of slam poetry summary of what Pope Francis is decrying:

Unruly growth, urban chaos, poor transportation,
noise, unhealthy neighbourhoods, visual pollution.
Gated homes, crowded slums, inefficient cities,
cement, asphalt, glass and metal, no access to beauty.
Wasted energy and water, lack of green space,
technology assuming human interaction's place.
Social breakdown, violence, new forms of aggression,
drugs and trafficking, the silent rupture of cohesion.
Digital overload, distraction, loss of identity,
lack of wisdom, deep thought, and loving community.

In an effort to make my slam poem work better, I've left out quite a bit of what the Pope and friends name as contributing to society's breakdown, so I really encourage a reading of paragraphs 43-47.

Now, lest we fall into the "harmful sense of isolation" (paragraph 47) that can arise from an awareness of all this heavy stuff, it might be good to realize that these things have been going on for as long as we've all been alive -- and we have put up with them. What choice do we have?

Ahh, but there's the rub -- we do have choice.

Door Number 1 opens to reveal a certain politician -- "Society is always breaking down, but I'm running for president and my life is excellent, so why rock the boat?"

Door Number 2 opens to reveal me -- "These things are beyond my control, and there's nothing I can do."

Door Number 3 opens to reveal Jesus -- "There's no way that people should have to live with these things. What shall we do to make a difference for them?"

I know that I've been stuck behind Door Number 2 for way too long. It's only when we go through Door Number 3 with Jesus that things start to change. We've been brainwashed by the way things are, asleep in a hopeless dream. But Jesus, who faced down the most hopeless situation of all on the cross, calls us to join him in a new dream.

Standing with Jesus, we can ask ourselves, "Is this really the quality of life we want? How do we want our society to be? What do we need to change? How do we go about changing it?"

And the slam poem changes...

Careful growth through wise planning, good transportation,
birdsong, healthy neighbourhoods, no more pollution.
Inviting homes, empty slums, highly efficient cities,
parks, trees, flowers, and a plenitude of beauty.
Energy and water saved, open growing space,
activism and conversation in our meeting place.
Friendship and happiness, no form of aggression;
sharing what we have is the creation of cohesion.
Wise use of media helps build true identity,
wisdom, deep thought, and loving community.

Sounds like utopia... and unfortunately, we've all been raised to think that utopia isn't real. Of course, it has no hope of becoming real if we don't believe in it or work toward it together.

Jesus believed in utopia. He was always saying, "The reign of God is among you." He knew how we really want to live, and showed us how to go about it -- by loving. He was always building community.

Almost twelve centuries later, St. Francis tried to reintroduce us to Jesus' way of love for the poor and for creation -- and now Pope Francis is at it again, reminding us that we need to love more than just our own lives, families, and friends -- we need to love those on the margins, and everyone and everything else besides. The difference is that in this new millennium, the cry of the earth and the poor means that there's even more urgency to our learning how to live in love for all.

Choosing Door Number 3 means I can ask myself a few questions: How can I live and love like Jesus so as to bring about a higher quality of human life and a healthier society? What is one small thing I can do today? What's the one little candle I can light? How can we all work together to make a difference?

There are people who do make a difference. I'm thinking of volunteers with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the folks providing prayer, lunch and place for the innner city community to gather at Bissell Centre every Sunday, the city planners here in my city who are looking at ways to end homelessness... and maybe there are many among us who are waiting in the wings, looking for support for new ways to turn the litany of modern woes into the reign of God....

If you have any ideas to share, as always, I'd love to hear them. Oftentimes through discussion, change takes shape...

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Up next: #10... No indifference allowed

Friday, September 18, 2015

Simple Suggestion #240... Smile!

Are you a smiler? I am. And according to Ron Gutman's Ted talk, it helps me get through life more easily. Happy Friday... Enjoy!



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tomatoes galore! and my 5th Moodle-versary

Wouldn't this be a pretty Christmas wreath?
It's a banner year for tomatoes.
Ralph's Romas are bigger than ever,
the cherry tomatoes are oh-so-sweet,
and there are still too many out on the vine.
I've been working hard on pears this week,
and next week, tomatoes!

A few of Ralph's Romas
On another note, this is my 1001st moodling, 
and Simple Moodlings celebrates its 5th anniversary
on the 19th. It has racked up over 137,000 hits,
I've posted 239 Simple Suggestions, and participated in 
536 exchanges (comments) with readers.
 How does one celebrate something like that?
Maybe I'll have a piece of pear pie --
or a tomato sandwich!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fog magic

This week it's pretty rainy, and last week we had some amazing fog. Here are some pictures taken in the same places two days running last week. I took the fog pictures first, and then walked the same route for the clear pictures the following day. Pretty cool, eh?








Monday, September 14, 2015

Guest Moodler: The burden of stuff

It's been a long time since I've posted a moodling by my best friend, Catherine Coulter, who is too far away for my liking. But she wrote a great little piece this weekend, and I have her permission to share it with you.

The Burden of Stuff
Catherine G. Coulter

This summer I had the task of clearing out my late mother-in-law’s condo. I saw it as a holy undertaking, in some ways. Sifting through the contents of someone’s life is a way of honouring them and processing our own loss. There were some peculiar finds (bank statements from the 70’s), poignant messages from the past (letters and a journal), and treasures (evidence of a forgotten safety deposit box with some precious jewelry).  Seven boxes of china were shipped to a grandson in Australia, many of our household items were swapped out for hers, and most of the stuff came to the church stage for the Harvest Fair garage sale.

Later in the summer, a few volunteers and I helped a friend pack up the remnants of his belongings after he downsized into smaller accommodations. Several carloads of this life lived also made it to Heritage Hall at the same time as another truck pulled up to unload. The stage was already full so the new arrivals flowed over onto the floor. Ten days out from the garage sale there was a river of stuff. I joined an impromptu team of good church people to reorganize the stuff on the stage, price the incoming, and restack it in mountains at the back of the stage. We were there for hours and toting yet another box into the overflowing abundance, I said passionately, “I’m never going to buy anything again, ever!” My summer of sorting and boxing, loading and unloading, and shifting and schlepping stuff had gone on too long and all I could see was too much stuff, mine and everyone else’s.

I know I’m not the only one who feels I have too much stuff. But it’s not just the material possessions filling my shelves. There’s also the papers to be filed and dealt with, craft projects to be finished (or yet to be started), instruments to learn to play, books waiting to be read, chores to be tackled inside the house and out, calls and emails to be returned and a calendar of activities and meetings to remember to attend. It’s not just stuff that I have but stuff that I have to do. My life gets as cluttered as the church hall stage!

Displaying image1.jpeg

I think we can all relate in one way or another to Cathy's feeling of "stuffocation." She wrote this piece as part of an invitation to her church's "Grass Roots" group this fall -- she'll be facilitating for a group of friends who will gather to look at simplifying their lives while creating a good life that is more environmentally friendly, less cluttered and more satisfying overall. Makes me want to get a Simplicity Study group going again where I live. As she says to those considering joining the group, "You might just find exactly what you're looking for, and it won't take up any space!"

If you're new to Simple Moodlings and the idea of Voluntary Simplicity, I'd invite you to check out the 200+ Simple Suggestions tab at the top of this page, and you'll get an idea of some of the things that might come up in discussions at Cathy's Grass Roots group. (I wrote a lot of them because of past Simplicity Study Circle conversations!)

I wish Cathy and the Grass Roots group lots of wonderful, meaningful, life-changing conversations!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #8... Biodiversity? What's it worth?

I've always been something of a worry wart, so the issues that Pope Francis and friends are covering in the latest encyclical are nothing new to me. I've been fretting about them and feeling guilty about my participation in them for ages already. But as a friend of mine likes to say, guilt is only good for about ten seconds. Then what matters is what you do with it. What I'm doing with my guilt is allowing it to propel me into a simpler, non-consumeristic way of life, and sharing that life through these moodlings.

Moodling about Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home is definitely a challenge (especially when I have a whole tree full of ripe pears that need attention this week!), but I'm enjoying it because the Pope and his team of writers have covered the bases of our present environmental crisis really well for the most part. All the things I've been worrying about are in this "letter to the world," along with corresponding challenges to change our ways.

If you haven't given much thought to the importance and value of our planet's biodiversity, and even if you have, I'd suggest a quick read-through of paragraphs 32-42 of the document, which can be accessed by clicking here. I'm covering all ten paragraphs on biodiversity at once -- otherwise we hear all the problems and nothing of a solution.

Paragraph 32 begins by pointing out that the plundering of the earth's resources for the sake of the economy, commerce, and production means that we are losing species that could be important for our future on this earth. At this point in my July reading of Laudato Si, I wanted to scream, because it looked as though the Pope and his writer friends were adopting an anthropocentric (human-centred) way of looking at creation -- the "what's in it for me" way of thinking that assumes human beings are the pinnacle of creation and everything is ours to use, as it says in the lyrics of a few old church hymns.

But, whew! The first line of paragraph 33 says, "It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential "resources" to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves." Every little bit of creation reveals to us an "other" aspect of God, and in our lack of care for all creatures, we are losing what we can learn from them not only about God, but about our world and ourselves. And of course, our lives are not just about us. We often talk about human rights, but not enough of us focus on the fact that all creatures have a right to exist, even if they're living in a mosquito-infested swampy area that we'd like to drain and turn into a suburb. I often wonder if, in God's eyes, our human projects are as important as the creatures we displace...

Let's face it, we humans have been making a lot of adjustments and interventions when it comes to planetary ecosystems -- everything from creating synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (those agrotoxins mentioned in paragraph 34) to building highways, subdivisions and hydroelectric dams (paragraph 35) to cutting down the great rainforests (paragraph 38) to replacing highly biodiverse virgin land with monocultures (paragraph 39) to overfishing our oceans (paragraph 40) to creating the fossil fuel emissions that are raising the temperatures all over the globe and damaging our coral reefs (paragraph 41).

But I have to back up and quote the entirety of paragraph 36 just because it's so well put:
Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental degradation.
In other words, there's just no way to place value on life in all its forms. Turning trees into commodities helps us to put a value on tree products, but do we ever think about the way trees add value to our lives? To the lives of other creatures? To entire ecosystems? Here's a completely anthropocentric look at the value of a tree:


The graphic doesn't take into account the ecosystems and creatures that are completely dependent on trees for food and shelter, or trees' beauty, or the micro climates they create and protect. Just as there's no calculating the worth of a human being, there's no real way of determining the monetary value of our forests, our oceans and all of creation, or the value of our projects vs. the value of nature. And we all know that the value of money is arbitrary at best, especially the way the global economy has been riding the roller coaster of late. The things our human projects create are of value to us now, but what are we losing for the future when we clear cut old-growth forests or pave over arable land or warm the planet with fossil fuel emissions to the point that our forests burn, our glaciers melt away and our rivers dry up?

I'm bouncing around, I know, but the end of paragraph 34 sums up these ten paragraphs about biodiversity pretty clearly:
"... a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves."
That summarizes the problem. The solution is found in the last paragraph of this section, and if Laudato Si was a song, paragraph 42 is the first time we hear its chorus. As I read through the entire document in July, it came through to me loud and clear, eight or nine times, the same idea with slightly different lyrics, and I'll number the instances of this chorus as we progress through the document. It goes something like this:
"Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another (paragraph 42)."
That's it in a nutshell, folks. We are all connected. The web of life excludes no creature, and what happens to the planet's honeybee populations, for example, impacts every other living being on earth somewhere down the line even though we might not notice for a while...

But it's one thing to read about cherishing all creatures with love and respect, and another thing entirely to do it... how do we go about cherishing all creatures?

This week, I offer you a challenge, a start toward a practical and mystical appreciation of creation: go outside and find a quiet place where nature can be observed, and spend a half hour there looking for signs of life. Take a blanket to sit on and make yourself comfortable. Sit very still and watch for birds, insects and other creatures. Notice the plants, trees, weeds -- everything around you -- and then let your mind become aware that, as you were created in the secret darkness of your mother, so all the living things around you had their own secret beginnings because God willed you all into existence at this same time, for a sacred reason unknown to you. Rest in that awareness for a while, and then say a few gentle words to the life around you about how you want it to flourish. Return to that experience throughout the week, and don't forget to thank God for the creation in which we are all immersed.

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Up next: #9... How do we really want to live?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A platform worth considering

We're in federal election mode here in Canada, and have been for most of the summer, with more than a month to go. It drives me a bit crazy that the election was called so early, because the former ruling party has the most money to advertise and seems intent on emptying the smaller election chests of everyone else by forcing a lengthy election campaign (and frankly, their attack adds make me queasy). What's worse, though, is that there are four parties in most ridings, and only three party leaders are in the news coverage most days.

Unfortunately, it's the fourth leader who gets the least press and who has the best plan for our environment. Elizabeth May leads the Green Party, whose candidates understand that we can't continue exploiting our resources and polluting our air, soil and water the way we have been and expect to thrive. But the Greens are about more than the environment -- they have ideas about running the country in a manner that protects the environment, yes, but also looks after people, provides jobs and supports business, health, education, families and seniors.

The Green Party released its platform yesterday. Click here to read it. I'm not saying that everyone should vote Green -- that might cause vote splitting that could give us the same government for another four years and I'm not sure there are Green candidates in every riding -- but it can't hurt to read some new election ideas, especially since we've arrived at a time when the earth is counting on us to make choices that preserve its health. Bottom line, if the planet becomes too polluted to sustain life, we have nowhere else to go, and our most recent government seems to be in denial of that basic fact. We can't eat money, and we can't drink oil. As for breathing... well, the work of scientists that could tell us about Alberta's lousy air quality has been suppressed for who knows how long. Time for a change!

I have no idea what that change will look like, but let's all do ourselves a favour and imagine a healthy planet, a robust country, a compassionate society. Then, let's find a way to move toward them by letting our politicians know that they are what we want! If you're Canadian, quiz your local candidates about his or her plans for defending the environment, and don't forget to consider it when you vote on October 19th.

I last moodled about this video of Penelope four years ago, and can't resist sharing it again. It's an ad from Ontario that should apply to every election. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mother Earth's entertainment

Lately, our home has been graced by a very special "guest greeter," a small squirrel who sits on our front step with folded hands and observes visitors who come up the front walk -- until I unwittingly open the front door to let them in and scare the little critter away.

Mother Earth provides us with so much more entertainment than we realize. On my morning walk today, there was another squirrel way up on top of a spruce tree, throwing down pine cones. I stood at the foot of the tree, wondering how long it would take the squirrel to land one of his prizes on my head. They were flying fast and furious, bouncing down branches, and Shadow-pup was quite confused about where they were coming from.

But the most interesting entertainment of all came in the dead of night last week, when Lee and I were awakened by an almost unearthly, blood-curdling howl outside our bedroom window. My immediate reaction was that something had frightened Shadow or he was having a nightmare and yowling in his sleep, but where was he? Snuggled into bed with Julia, blissfully unaware. Lee jumped up, went to our window and saw a coyote on the neighbour's lawn under our oak tree, howling his or her heart out. Not the nicest lullabye, but pretty cool all the same, especially when we realized that there was a whole chorus of coyotes singing back up vocals in the distance.

From the antics of magpies to the flight of a bumblebee, Mother Earth's creatures are ready to entertain us whenever we open our eyes (and ears) to her.When was the last time nature entertained you?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #7... What are you made of?

My funny suntanned feet in the icy clear waters of Lake Minnewanka
I'm guessing I'm made up of about 60% water, a whole slew of minerals, with an intellect, some love, and a soul thrown in for good measure. You?

That first ingredient, water, is the topic of paragraphs 27-31 of Pope Francis' encyclical letter, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home (the entire encyclical can be accessed by clicking here.) The Pope and his encyclical writer friends preface their comments on water use by pointing out that "... the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we have still not solved the problem of poverty." (paragraph 27).

And water is one of those things we waste and discard without thinking. It isn't just important, it's essential to life of all kinds. The Pope's main focus is on human life, but he doesn't forget "terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems" in his concern: "Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences.... Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production." (paragraph 28).

Of course, it's always the poor -- those who lack security, wealth, and political power -- that are most affected, as noted in paragraph 29. In the developing world, they often don't have access to safe water, or have to walk long distances to access it. But even here in a "developed" country like Canada, on June 30, 2015, there were 132 drinking water advisories on 92 First Nations reserves, 4 of them ongoing in my own Alberta backyard. Inadequate water treatment, or pollution of water sources through industrial activity are an issue faced by our marginalized brothers and sisters all over the world. Too often humans are desecrating the fresh water God gives us, which flows and flows until it reaches the oceans, polluting them as well.

To add insult to injury, the poor face inadequate fresh water supplies in some places because large corporations are privatizing and bottling water, selling it at higher prices per litre/gallon than gasoline. Paragraph 30 states that "access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights." And yet we in North America continue to use water and buy bottled water as if it is an unlimited resource, even during drought times like we in the west experienced this summer. Will suburbanites always think green lawns are critically important? One hopes not!

Every so often, we visit the Athabasca Glacier from which our North Saskatchewan river takes its waters, and every time, I feel anxious as we walk the the stony path that holds markers showing how much it has melted over the years. Global climate change means that some parts of the world are already facing acute water shortages. Water is a gift that we are given. We forget that we can't create glaciers, or rainstorms, or a single molecule the way God can.

Paragraph 31 points out the possibility of water shortages within a few decades, but our brothers and sisters in Australia, Brazil, California and so many other places know what it is to live with water scarcity. They have already been forced to implement measures to conserve and protect water sources. Fresh water is anything but infinite, and we should all be doing the same.

St. Francis sang the praises of Sister Water, "so useful, humble, precious and pure" in Il Cantico del Sole (Canticle of the Sun), as if she was a person standing right beside him. He may have guessed that she is within all of us, a big part of our bodily composition. We would all do well to treat water with the kind of love and respect God wants us to show all of creation.

So today, I'd like to invite my readers to get themselves a glass, go to the kitchen faucet, and fill it. Is it clean and clear? Does it have an odor? Is it drinkable? Take a sip. How much does it cost? How do we take it for granted? How much do we waste or pollute it? How can we pollute it less? Where can we find phosphate-free dish soap and laundry soap? What other kinds of things do we pour down our drains without thinking? How can we remember to carry our own water bottles instead of buying bottled water, so that water sources aren't commodified for our convenience? Can we cut down on lawn watering, sidewalk spraying and car washing for the sake of the environment? How can we support our brothers and sisters who are affected by water shortages?

Do we treat Sister Water with the respect she deserves? Or is there room for improvement?

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next up: #8... Biodiversity? What's it worth?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Simple Suggestion #239... Get to know an immigrant or refugee

The Syrian refugee crisis finally hit home this week for some of us. The picture of a little child washed up on a beach woke many people up. The outrage and tears over the photo are all over the internet and TV. But have our hearts really changed?

The world has always known immigrants and refugees. Because of war, disaster and climate change, it always will. But until we know these people as our brothers and sisters, until we recognize that their children are our children, until we understand that we are all one and that what affects one affects all, pictures will come and go, outrage and tears will wax and wane. We have to make their troubles personal. But how?

My Burundian sister, Alice, opened my eyes to the horrors of the genocide more than any book or movie ever could. Her story of fleeing with her 8-month-old son from killers who spilled into Burundi from Rwanda opened my eyes to the suffering of refugees. I am often afraid to ask for updates from my Syrian sisters, Rima and Maria, because I know that some of their family members are still in danger. But fear is no excuse -- it's more important to offer a hand in friendship, and to find out if there is anything I can do to help them in their efforts to bring their families and friends to Canada. Today I wrote a letter to my Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration asking for an opening of Canada's borders to allow more refugees now, before the October election (!), and for the cutting of red tape preventing groups ready to support our brothers and sisters who are looking for lives far from war and persecution. There are many church groups and individuals just waiting to help, and they need us now.

But today's actual challenge is to notice those around us who have come from other places, to open our hearts to their stories, and to abandon our fears about reaching out to help in whatever ways we can. If you want to join me in writing a letter or three, that would be good, too. We need to remember that we must all sing with one voice if we are to survive this world's crises.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Have your say on Alberta's Climate Change Strategy

The aftermath of July's forest fire at Medicine Lake near Jasper
Here's a really quick moodling to encourage my Alberta readers to share your thoughts about dealing with climate change. The Alberta government is looking for input about how to proceed toward the December climate conference in Paris.

Have your say by clicking here.

What our world is doing now clearly isn't working -- we are having more instances of severe weather that is leading to floods, forest fires, food shortages, the melting of our glaciers and icecaps, and that's all just the tip of the iceberg. What are you willing to sacrifice so that future generations have a chance? I don't mean to be alarmist, but if the alarm bells aren't already ringing, it's only a momentary reprieve. We human beings seem to think that if we're okay, the world is too... but there are too many places in the world where climate change is making life more difficult for all living things.

Our family continues to look for ways to reduce our energy use and cut our greenhouse gas emissions, and we hope that our leaders will do the same in Paris.

What do you think?

Have your say by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Winding down -- the September garden update

Autumn is coming, and the garden is definitely starting to feel the shorter days and the decreasing intensity of the sun. Mornings and evenings are cool, and I can't get over how far the sun has shifted to the south. Garden production is slowing, harvest is ongoing, and kitchen activity to save all those veggies is ramping up.

So I thought I'd moodle a few pics of the yard before I start emptying the beds just to show you what's still going on.


Dad's marigolds and borage are still providing some colour...


The Columbus wheat is ripening...


This crazy spaghetti squash has produced 9 big ones...


while the 2000-year-old squash is taking over both sides of the fence...


and we've had 4 humungous gourds from it!


The pumpkin plant is trying to take over the composter...


and it's still fruiting and flowering...


Tomatoes have been pretty prolific...


And Ralph's Romas didn't disappoint either. 
Two jars of spaghetti sauce right here, once they ripen!


The carrots, which were so sparse in the spring, seem to be filling out...


and here's my last red pepper.


Our Russian Giant sunflowers reached at least nine feet...


and these peony poppies just won't quit...

It's been a pretty good garden summer, all in all. Potatoes, beans, and onions didn't do much, but the rest exceeded expectations, and I have processing to carry me to the end of the month, I'm sure, as I'll soon have to pick pears and bring everything in. It's all good, thanks be to God!