Friday, August 30, 2019

2019 garden report

You know it's been a busy summer
 when there haven't been regular garden updates in my moodlings. 
So to make up for it, here's my single 2019 garden report, 
posted on a rainy Friday morning with pictures from earlier in the week.

2019 has definitely been a year for flowers.
I've never had dahlias like these, or sweetpeas. 
Our "sunrise" rosebush hasn't stopped blooming!
It seems they all like cool and rainy weather,
and we've had no shortage of either in 2019.

It also helped that the feet of our sweetpeas 
are shaded by carrots that seem to have done very well this year.

Unfortunately, 2019 has also been the year of slugs and voles.

My poor kohlrabi and some beets look like lace,
and between the slugs and the sparrows, 
our peas didn't amount to more than two feeds (out of 30 sq ft).
The lettuces and chard went to pieces, pretty much.
I'm afraid that next year I'll have to put up a scarecrow 
and spend my beer on the slugs, 
much as I'd rather drink it myself!
(They'll die very happy!)

I had a dozen cabbages to start with, 
but voles ate out the roots of five of them
before I understood what was going on.
Thanks to serious vigilance with BTK,
a yeast-based organic treatment
for dealing with cabbage moths,
I still have seven cabbages left, 
and managed to freeze 18 500 mL servings
of cauliflower. We ate our broccoli as it matured,
and when I didn't pull out the rest of the plants,
they went to flower, much to the joy of local bees!

I started my onions from seed back in March,
and they've done very well -- the slugs don't like them! 
We also have some really nice leeks, 
even though my seed packet said 2005 on the back 
and I didn't think they'd come up at all.

Also grew some hard neck garlic for the first time, 
and it did very well. I'll be sure to plant more this fall.

I wish I had planted more pepper and pansy pots.
(Maybe that could be turned into a tongue twister...)

On Mother's Day weekend, Lee rebuilt our cold frame, 
and as I'd already planted lettuce elsewhere, 
I put the three sisters in it. We've had two lovely feeds of corn,
but, as you can see, the scarlet runner and purple peacock beans
 got so heavy, they pulled the corn down!
 I'm not sure what happened to the 2000-year-old squash plants,
 but I'm guessing the slugs got them too, sigh.

Fortunately, a few spaghetti squash have their own space elsewhere.

There will be lots of fava (broad) beans if it doesn't freeze too soon,
but my snow peas seem to have gotten lost in them somehow.
I had thought they'd do well climbing the walls, but they kept climbing
into the beans. Next year the snow peas will get their very own dedicated boxes.
Or maybe I'll just plant more broad beans because my family really loves them!

Should have taken this picture BEFORE I picked. 
Our bush beans turned out really well this year 
in spite of slug bites here and there. My best friend
gave me a bean mix that included Kentucky blue,
yellow wax, and these purple ones.
I love colourful produce!

Including these black cherry tomatoes. 
(Forgot to take a picture of the red and gold ones!)

I spent a fair bit of time with my 94-year-old friend, Ralph, this summer,
and he gave me several pointers on how to grow tomatoes,
but I'm afraid I didn't listen to some of what he told me. 
With our weather being so unpredictable in this era
of climate emergencies, I decided not to prune anything 
so that in the event of a hailstorm, at least 
some of the fruit will be sheltered by foliage.

These two strawberry beds were transplanted just this spring, 
and I'm delighted how well they've filled out.
I'm hoping frost will hold off, as they're flowering like mad right now,
and producing the odd humungous strawberry.
I'd also like the cucumbers to have a bit more time, 
as they've been really slow thanks to the chilly weather,
and they're loaded with the possibility of pickles at the moment.
Everything has been a bit slow this year -- I've never found myself 
still picking raspberries at the end of August before!

I am grateful that so much of my knowledge about gardening
 has come to me from family members and friends like Ralph
 Even the internet is helpful on occasion. 
But I suspect more of what I know has come from trial and error. 

Next year, I will definitely be doing some things differently. 
But in the meantime, our freezers are filling
with good things from the back yard, 
so I won't complain too much about my mistakes with our 2019 garden. 
I'll just put in an order for a little more sunshine next year!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

We can't wait another 4 years

This election, it is critical to vote for climate change solutions. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humanity less than 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions and keep the warming of our planet under 1.5 degrees, we need to act now. We just had the hottest July ever, and if we don't do something, the deep trouble we're already in will only get deeper.

The video below is rather tongue-in-cheek, but it points out that kids see the real threat to their future and want to do what we adults have delayed doing for far too long. I would like to see the voting age dropped, maybe not to eight years of age, but you have to admit that it would be interesting to see what would happen in our world if kids could vote.

Today's food for thought. Also a pretty cute website, if you click here -- especially the FAQs! (Toward the bottom.)

Monday, August 19, 2019

Simple Suggestion #281... Ten tips for an almost waste-less wedding

Our eldest daughter's wedding took place at the end of June, and the celebration of her marriage to her chosen partner was a delight from start to finish. Not only did it completely reflect Landon and Christina and their love for each other, their families, and their friends, but it was pretty waste-less and sustainable -- right down to the fine details.

So how did they pull it off? Keep in mind that they're very progressive young people who don't necessarily hold to the ways traditional weddings are celebrated. They did at least 10 different things that not all couples consider when it comes to having a simpler, more earth-friendly wedding.

When Christina proposed to Landon two years prior to the wedding, we knew immediately that it wasn't going to be a conventional wedding. She had 1) two simple silver rings fashioned by a silversmith friend that she used to propose, and they also doubled as their wedding rings. So on the wedding day, their little "ring bear" (complete with a bear-eared hat) delivered the same two rings into their hands to put on each others' fingers as a sign of their permanent commitment.

2) Their wedding invitations were all online (except for a few mailed to less computer-savvy folks who probably preferred paper copies). They put up a nice little website at so guests could read up on all the details of the day.

3) Christina said "No to the Dress" because she had a perfectly lovely one in her closet already. Who says a wedding dress has to be long and pure white, and worn only once? My mom found a crinoline in her own closet and did a few alterations for her granddaughter. It turned out to be the perfect dress for our girl, a simple white cotton print with splashes of lilacs, peonies and roses. Christina didn't even buy wedding shoes, but went barefoot for most of the day and kept her Birkenstocks close at hand for longer, rougher distances. Her dress was the "old" (she's had it since Grade Twelve), a white wrap I crocheted for her was the "new," my own wedding earrings were the "borrowed," and she painted her toenails "blue."

The bride and her attendants all wore Baby's Breath in their hair, but that was the only matchy-matchy thing about them. 4) The wedding party were invited to wear their own comfortable clothing with pink, green or purple accents from their own wardrobes, things that they can also wear for other occasions. The groom picked out a sharp new suit that he will wear in the future, and his attendants joined him on a little shopping trip to buy new ties that all worked well together. The only clothes specifically "made" for the wedding were the bride's crocheted wrap and two bow ties my mom made from fabric left over from the wedding dress alterations, a surprise worn by the bride's grandfather and great uncle. Seeing those two in their floral bow ties saved our emotional bacon as Christina and I giggled our way up the aisle! (I didn't cry until the vows. They were just beautiful!)

5) Bouquets came from local gardens -- mine, my sisters, and MCR friends'. A rural friend of Christina's had some late-blooming lilacs that we kept in my cold storage room for three days prior to the wedding (heavenly fragrance in there!), and one of the bride's attendants picked some wild grasses (from the nearest ravine) that found their way into every unique bouquet put together by florist friend, Annette. Because the bouquets would have wilted if left too long out of water, they were kept in vases to decorate the hall for the evening -- and our back doorstep for the gift opening the next day. Once they wilted, they found their way into my compost bin.

One of the things Landon and Christina insisted upon was that 6) no wedding decorations be sent to the landfill after the wedding. Landon and his dad, Greg, built an outdoorsy wedding arch from birch harvested from the family acreage, and it was decorated with lengths of tulle salvaged from an event at the Stony Plain Library. It now sits over a bench at the family firepit.

There was enough re-purposed tulle that we hung it across the front of the community league hall with some borrowed fairy lights to create a lovely ambiance for the evening. Landon's mom, Sandy, got to work re-purposing jam jars as herb planters that wedding guests could take home as gifts, and grew little pots of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley to go into them. They were set on cut "plates" of downed tree trunks also from the acreage, later to be used for firewood. Tiny fairy light strings borrowed from a friend were put into jam jars decorated with jute bows and used in the place of candles on the tables, and tiny (compost-able) pine cones gathered by someone on the decorating committee were strategically placed on the tables to add a little more outdoor elegance.

7) There were no stretch limos or parades of wedding cars emitting fossil fuels. The wedding was a twenty minute walk from the bride's home, and photos were taken on the hills near the Cloverdale Community League hall, where the banquet was held (it takes its electricity from solar panels). Driving was pretty much kept to a minimum, though the parents of the groom and some guests had further distances to travel.

8) The weekend's meals were almost waste-less. For the rehearsal party and day after the wedding, I borrowed MCR Suzanne Dennis' party boxes. Su had enough colourful plates, cloth napkins, cutlery, and other useful items that we didn't have to use a single paper plate or serviette, just washed it all up and used it again. For the wedding banquet, Christina and Landon rented dinnerware and linens for 120 from Special Event Rentals, which doesn't expect everything to be washed before it's returned. Unfortunately, the plates came in packs of ten, wrapped in plastic shrink wrap, but that's minimal waste when you compare it to the amount of single use paper plates and plastic cups/cutlery that weren't thrown out in the end. We recycled pizza boxes and bottles, as should be the case. Leftover food was eaten by friends and family in the week after the wedding (we just finished eating the cookie bar cookies because Christina and Landon didn't want wedding cake), the unopened booze was returned to the liquor store, and some pop was passed on to Christina's cousin for his wedding two weeks later.

Landon and Christina's friend, Alexis Hillyard, (of Stump Kitchen -- check out her videos!!) catered 9) an amazing, lower carbon vegetarian meal of pancakes with both sweet and savoury toppings. Because Landon and Christina are vegetarians, they didn't want animals to be harmed in the making of their banquet. Some guests were a bit skeptical about a pancake supper for a wedding, but Alexis really pulled it off, and I'm thinking about trying some of her savoury recipes for myself. Who'd have thunk putting roasted mushrooms and onions, basil cream cheese, avocados, pineapple or pulled jack fruit on a pancake would taste so good? There were four different recipes to try (named after different aspects of the newlyweds' life together), and from all reports, each one was delicious. For the less adventurous, pancakes with fruits and syrups were also available.

Most fun of all was the evening's entertainment. After supper and speeches, the happy couple and various friends with whom they form several different bands got up to sing and dance with the crowd, playing 3-song live sets, interspersed with dance music. I will never forget Landon, Christina, and Landon's brother and best man, Matt, performing A Thousand Miles (Vanessa Carlton) with the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. We danced to music of all descriptions, and it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.

The thing about simple and sustainable living is that it's not exactly convenient. 10. The couple and their family and friends worked pretty hard to make the wedding celebration a sustainable one that we'll never forget, and because "many hands make light work," it came off with hardly a hitch. There's something extra special about pulling together as we did for two people who are so special to us -- a real sense of community formed at the event. Resources were conserved rather than wasted, the weather co-operated (the sun even came out as the couple shared the heart-felt vows they had written themselves), the ceremony was both delightful and beautiful, the supper was delicious, family and friends had a wonderful time together, and our newlyweds have plenty of memories to cherish from their special day. And me, I was simply awash in mother-love for both of them!

Christina and Landon celebrated their marriage in their own inimitable way, without stressing their bank accounts or their planet. Of their creativity, sense of fun, and desire to do things as simply and sustain-ably as a wedding for 120 can be, we are prouder than parents have any right to be. And we don't doubt for a minute that, in working together to create such a beautiful day, they proved themselves capable of facing the logistical and emotional challenges that marriage brings, too. With friends and family to back them up, we're sure their life together will be made of love, wonder, sustainability, goodness, joy and beauty! We're so proud of you both; God bless your life together!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Christ's fire in our hearts

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Luke 12:49-53.

You came to bring fire to the earth,
O Christ,
but not the fires blazing due to climate change.

Your fire
is the fire that should burn
in each of us --
fire for justice and peace,
fire for community and harmony,
fire for equality and goodness,
beauty and truth.

But we are divided
by our desires
and what you want for us.

Help us to see
as the source of all goodness
and to put it,
not possessions,
as the center of our lives.

Let your true fire
burn within us.


* * * * * * *

This week's piece of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, fits quite well with Sunday's gospel reading in that it focuses on Chapter 2, section 7, The Gaze of Jesus (you can access the entire document by clicking here). Paragraphs 96-100 have me thinking about what it would be like to see our present world through Jesus' eyes. What would our world be like if the fire of  Jesus' love, the fire that burns through all the clutter in our society and in our hearts and souls, was our guiding force?

I like this section of the encyclical, because it reminds me that if Jesus and I were to go for a walk, he'd be as happy as I am to walk down to the river and just watch the ducks for a while. He might like spreading soil amendment from my compost pile, and eating garden vegetable soup at our dinner table. But what would he think of all our computer gadgets? The noise of traffic? How my husband is stressing about impending job cuts under our new Premier?

Paragraph 96 says that Jesus was always reminding his disciples of the intimate relationship between God and God's creatures. In the scriptures he often reminds us about how God clothes the lilies in splendor, notices every sparrow -- and counts every hair on our heads.

Jesus also "often stopped to contemplate the beauty sown by his Father, and invited his disciples to perceive a divine message in things," says paragraph 97, to the point of using creation in his teachings and parables and thus indicating that he was a nature-lover who was deeply aware of and in love with the great Lover who had created everything around him.

In paragraph 98, Pope Francis and his letter-writing team note that "Jesus lived in full harmony with creation, and others were amazed" -- the others, of course, being those who witnessed him walking on water, calming the storms, and enjoying the fruits of the earth. Jesus wasn't someone who "despised the body, matter and all the things of the world" -- he noticed and appreciated life in a holistic way. And yet, there are long periods in Christianity where so-called spiritual ideals were elevated so far above ordinary moments of daily life -- like birth, death, sleep, sex, food, drink and work -- that "unhealthy dualisms... disfigured the Gospel."

The end of paragraph 98 notes that Jesus was a carpenter who spent a lot of his life as a labourer, endowing work with a holiness of its own. He didn't let big theological ideas unbalance his love for life as a whole even though he was God. He was able to see the big picture, and the way he lived gave extra dignity to our human existence and its day-to-day work and play.

I like the idea of Jesus
being part of the Green movement.
No idea where this photo-shopped pic
originated, but kudos to the person
who created it!
The fact that Jesus came to live in the middle of creation gives everything a sacredness: "One person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing his lot with it, even to the cross... Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy" (paragraph 99). The fact that God entered creation as a human being is a sign of how loved and valued we and the rest of creation are. God didn't create the universe and leave us on our own, but joins in the life we live and knows firsthand what creation is all about. Jesus saw -- and continues to see -- the world through eyes like ours.

The section concludes with paragraph 100, which says "the risen One is mysteriously holding [the creatures of this world] to himself and directing them toward fullness as their end." But what does an earth living out of this kind of fullness look like? How does Jesus see it? The old question, "What Would Jesus Do?" applies not only to our relationships with each other, but also to how we treat our earth and live our lives.

So here's an exercise for the week ahead. Let's imagine that Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and son of God, moves in next door. What kind of house does he build for himself? How big is his moving van? What are his yard and garden like? Who are his friends? How does he entertain them? What does he buy at the grocery store? How does he travel around? What are the key issues affecting his vote in our next election? What does he wear? How does he spend the bulk of his time? How does he care for our earth?

And then we can imagine our lives changing to match his... and we can continue to live with his fire burning in our hearts, for all of creation's sake.

Friday, August 16, 2019

An incredible short film

Guillaume Néry and his wife, Julie Gautier, recently released an amazing film of Guillaume freediving (holding his breath for up to seven minutes and moving around in fantastic ways with no diving gear) that has just blown my mind. I share it here because it is so beautiful, and because I didn't know that sperm whales sleep vertically. If you're interested in learning more about the couple and this magnum opus of theirs, click here. Their film is gorgeous, and worth a look. Enjoy! (And don't forget to breathe!)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Faith-ing it until we make it

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 11:1.

O God,
your servant,
tells us that
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the conviction of things not seen.

I struggle to hope and to believe.

Not in you,
O God,
but in the human beings
that think they are in charge
of various parts of your planet.

My faith that you are there
in spite of this mess
that we have made of your creation
is unshakable.

But my faith
that we can turn things around
before it's too late
is very shaky.


Help us human beings to wake up
and realize
that care for creation
is top priority
in this time of fires,
dying species,
unbearable heat
and ever more violent storms.

Help us to change our ways,
to rise and call for change,
until world leaders have no choice but to listen.

Help us to become change
for the sake of all of your creation.

Our faith,
our hope,
and our conviction
lie in you.
We need to trust
our climate scientists
and to work together.

Help us to faith-it --
to put our faith in you and those who understand
the kinds of changes we must make --
until we make it --
to the kind of world
you want us to live in.



* * * * * * *

This week, I've been feeling quite anxious about the state of our planet. Our odd-weather summer --and all the climate emergency news stories that the media is finally reporting -- have me worried that we're running out of time. It's getting harder to have faith that our human race will be able to tone down our consumption of fossil fuels and planetary resources in time to prevent our climate issues from doing us in.
Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels
But then our local mayor talks about the changes our city plans to make, and calls dealing with climate change our "moon-shot" moment. Don Iveson was comparing our present challenges to the race to the moon, and reminding us how North Americans threw everything they had into putting Neil Armstrong onto the moon on July 20, 1969. Don was telling us that if we put everything we have into reducing fossil fuel emissions and preventing further planetary warming, we can mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

But we have to act now. And Don Iveson already has, making Edmonton one of the world's cities that has signed on to trying to reduce our collective emissions to align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recommendations. "While nations plan, cities take action," he said, when he made Edmonton a C40 city back in March of 2018.

Where does faith-ing it come into all this? I suspect we need to put some of our faith in God's goodness, and the rest of our faith into listening to what evidence-based science and leaders like our mayor are telling us so that we can make the necessary changes to save our earth from further damage.

This week's paragraphs (91-95) in Pope Francis' encyclical letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, carry some pretty sharp words. (see for yourself by clicking here). We finish the section on A Universal Communion and begin the one on The Common Destination of Goods, and guess what? Our North American lifestyle is a clear sign that things aren't shared very well around the globe.

If human beings really believed that care for each other and care for creation are inextricably linked, would our world be in its present state of pollution and climate-related issues? Paragraph 91 notes that "It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted." Once again we hear the chorus [for the third time], "Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society."

Our sense of community and universal communion can exclude "nothing and no one" says Paragraph 92, because "our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings.... We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality.... Everything is related" [that chorus again, fourth time].

And yet, we are always disregarding aspects of our reality. For example, and this is just one of many, how often do we think about how or where our clothing is made? Are the people who make our apparel being treated fairly? Are the processes involved compatible with a healthy environment? It takes research to find out those kinds of details, and most of us simply don't have the ability to interrogate the CEOs in charge, or the time to look into the business practices related to everything we wear. But here's a thought -- buying our wardrobe second hand, or wearing hand-me-downs is actually recycling and opting out of the consumerism that insists upon the latest style and the most recent market-created trend...

I feel as if I'm always singing the same song from this encyclical, and not just because the everything-is-connected chorus is playing over and over again. Awareness of where we can improve the planet's health by using fewer resources eventually makes all these suggestions I'm offering rather obvious. At least, they're obvious to me. Are they obvious to you?

Unfortunately, awareness can be a dangerous thing. It means we have to change!

Paragraph 93 says that "every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged." Here I would carry our social perspective even further than that yet again -- because it's not only human beings who are poor and underprivileged in this world -- we regularly impoverish other species as well by our lack of consideration. Saint John Paul II said that "God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone." But I think God went even further than that -- the earth isn't just for the human race! It's for all living beings. I can't disagree, though, when he says that "it is not in accord with God's plan that this gift be used in such a way that its benefits favour only a few." (See footnotes to this section).

Unfortunately, it's too true that 1% of the world's population possesses more than half of its wealth, and that many of us in the cities of the western world have more than our share of the planet's goods. Paragraph 94 reminds us that "The rich and the poor have equal dignity," and quotes the Bishops of Paraguay regarding the rights of every campesino to "a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life... [with equal access to] education, credit, insurance and markets."

Do any of us really have need for more than these kinds of basics: food, water, shelter, clothing, right livelihood, education and community? Paragraph 95 tells us that nature is a collective good which belongs to and is the responsibility of everyone. If we are honest, we don't actually 'own' anything. So really, those things we consider to be possessions are things we just administer "for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others." The last sentence of the paragraph is the real zinger: "the Bishops of New Zealand asked what the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" means when "twenty percent of the world's population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive."

I'm guessing that you and I are in that twenty percent. I know that if everyone lived as North Americans do, we would probably need another five planets like earth to support our lifestyles! Which tells me that I need to tone it down! But how is the way we live killing people in the developing world -- or in the future?

It's not like we're doing it directly. It's the little things that we often aren't aware of that are the problem. Wasting or being careless with what we have. Buying more than we need. Thoughtlessly adding to global climate change by unnecessary use of fossil fuels. Eating too high on the food chain (did you hear what the ICPP scientists said about eating meat this week?). Taking what we have for granted. Feeling entitled to more than our share because we've worked hard for our money. Going overboard to keep up with the Joneses.

The better way? Appreciating everything. Owning less. Travelling less. Eating simply. Sharing. Living in sufficiency instead of excess.

And participating in events and organizations that make us and the world more aware of how we can become more responsible for our planet, reducing climate change and other negative impacts created by over-consumption and unequal distribution of the world's common goods. The fact is that a lot of us have gotten used to living pretty "high on the hog." I'm suspecting that Laudato Si is Pope Francis' gentle way of telling us that we're going to have to tone it down several notches when it comes to our lifestyles in order to save the lives of those in the developing world and the generations to come, never mind our own lives!

We are not to despair... we are simply to have faith, to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly (by living more simply) with our God and each other.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: So many vanities

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 90.

O God,
are our home,
our source and our final resting place.

We live short lives
and turn back into dust.

For you,
time goes on infinitely,
but our time is like
dreams that come and go.

Teach us to appreciate every moment
and give us wisdom to seek you at every turn in life.

Help us to remember that earthly things,
those found in shopping malls,
are not what a good life is made of.

Remind us that all that you have given us
is meant to be shared,
not hoarded.

Let your blessing flow through us to others
so that all may rejoice and be glad all our days,
so that your favour may rest upon all your creatures.

and only then,
can we relax,
be merry
as you intend for your children.

Let us not wait for the heavenly banquet,
but celebrate your kin-dom soon!


* * * * * * *

If there's anything that drives me crazy about Pope Francis' recent letter to the world, it's that it had to be written from the angle where we human beings with our theologically-approved ability to relate to God seem more important than the rest of God's creation, even though creation would probably manage better without us! As the writer of Ecclesiastes says this weekend, vanity of vanities... All is vanity! I suspect that God loves as if it's not just human beings who are special.

Halfway through section IV, which is called The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation, paragraph 86 notes that "God's goodness "could not be fittingly represented by any one creature. Hence we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships." Actually, the writers of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, are quoting different pieces of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, which were written in the 13th century! (You can read this week's paragraphs, 86-90, including the footnotes about where to find Aquinas' ideas, by clicking here.) The Bible says that God created humans in His and Her image, yes, but Saint Thomas tells us definitively that God's image also exists in the rest of creation and we need to understand the importance of everything. How did we miss this? Perhaps our intellectual vanity has gotten in the way.

Another piece of vanity -- the idea that we all deserve our very own fill in the blank -- means that there are too many of the earth's resources being spent on duplication of our belongings. But what if we decided to try some interdependence, also known as sharing? We might have to depend on one another, build stronger community supports, create fewer emissions that lead to climate change, and maybe live a healthier life, but would that be so bad? Not according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which points out at the end of paragraph 86 that "Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other."

Sound like Utopia? Or maybe heaven on earth? It would be if human beings didn't see the world and our possessions as our rights rather than as gifts from God. This Anthropocene era in which human activity has had a major impact on our earth's ecosphere since the Industrial Revolution has seen an incredible increase in population and pollution, partly because we've gotten out of the habit of working together. The increasing suffering worldwide due to climate change-related weather events seems to be a catalyst for the beginning of a conversion in us, where we see the necessity of living more simply, co-operating with our neighbours, and respecting the sacredness of creation. I just hope we're not starting too late.

Paragraph 87 seems to be designed simply to allow for the reappearance of Saint Francis' Canticle of the Creatures to aid us in praising God. I just wish they had printed it in its entirety, including the part about Sister Death. I can't help but think that if we were all better friends with our mortality, we wouldn't spend so much of our lives accumulating the earthly treasure Jesus warned against, "that moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal" (Matt 6.19). If we are constantly aware that Sister Death allows us to take no possessions with us, maybe we'd leave fewer behind! As a friend reminded me when we were talking about this Sunday's readings the other day, "I've never seen a hearse pulling a U-haul."

In paragraph 88, we are reminded that "The Spirit of life dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship" by cultivating the "ecological virtues" that are part of the social doctrine of the Church. Every creature in creation has its role to fulfill, and human beings in particular need to acknowledge our "right and proper place" instead of thinking ourselves the pinnacle of creation, or of creation as merely the fulfillment of our wants. Not the left, but the right, below.

I'd love to know where this graphic originated so I could give the artist credit, because it pretty much sums up my feelings about our relationship with the earth. Who says human beings are the highest level of creation? Human beings! But the true picture is on the right. We are not the top of the pyramid, though that's the image that consumer culture (and the beginning of the book of Genesis) may have imprinted upon us.
God (not us) owns everything, says paragraph 89, and
all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate respect... God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.
Paragraph 90 underlines the importance of the role of people in the care of creation, stating that
we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, where we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights.
Enormous inequalities breed enormous anger and terrible division. My church pretends to be blind to the greater rights it gives to men over women, and how that only feeds the inequality of women around the globe, many of whom are left to feed families and care for the elderly without much support from the males who are seen as having greater value in so many cultures.

But again, it's all of a piece, and we'll never get to equality and heaven on earth if we ignore sexism... or any of the other "isms" that divide us from other beings in creation. All that God made must be valued and considered worthy of care... and it would be good if all living things were accorded similar rights, though it would require much more effort on our part to care for them all. At the moment, we only care for the things we value, and heaven knows we haven't always valued the right things!

For the week ahead, let's give some thought to the things we value and how they fit into the web of life that God created. If a fire was to come and swallow everything we own, what would we miss the most? What could we easily live without? How much do our "needs" impact our planet and its ecosystems? How much impact do our "wants" have on the earth?

Let's give some thought to the idea that the needs of creation are important too.

It's time to chuck human vanity. This life, this planet, is not just about us.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Seven weeks later, I'm back

And what an interesting seven weeks it has been. Lots of interesting things went on -- a few reunions, two moves, two weddings, plenty of dancing and singing, not quite enough camping, and plenty of blooming beauty in our garden. It's hard to know where to begin. I won't be covering it all in chronological order, so no worries about long "What I did on my Summer Vacation" posts. With the garden needing attention, I just don't have that kind of time. Short bytes only, I promise.

Today I'll start with this beautiful picture, taken by Lee while we were at our campfire near Long Lake, AB. He didn't hear a sound -- it was movement that caught his eye, as she was completely silent when she landed on the stump. She didn't stay long -- other small things on the ground were more interesting than we were!

I was laying on the bed in our tent trailer, all screens open, reading, when an intermittent screech eventually reached my book-absorbed consciousness. In the dusky light, it took me a minute to spot a young owl perched in the old pine tree beside our vehicle. So I grabbed the camera and went out to see if I could get a picture, or perhaps a video.

Turned out it was two young owls, perhaps offspring of the beauty we saw earlier. By the time I turned on my camera, the larger of the two had flown to a more distant tree, but the young one was curious, and stayed to check me out. The video below isn't great quality and it ends abruptly (darn mosquitoes!) but it gives you an idea of our evening visitors. 

For the remaining nights we were camped there, we heard the young ones in the darkness, calling to their mom, or to each other. It made me happy to know that they're living in such a beautiful and relatively unspoiled place.

Stay tuned for more stories from the past seven weeks.