Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier

Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

There is a saying, “Take time to smell the flowers.” Attributed to many different sources, it means among other things–  take time and be grateful. Take time and relax. Take time.


Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

In that spirit I am sending along pictures from the amazing “super bloom” California is experiencing this spring. It is the most magnificent we have ever had, I think. It happens once a decade, but we are lucky to have had a super bloom in 2017 and now this year as well.  California had an extreme drought last year and then extreme rain this past winter. And now we have flowers…and flowers. Poppies are the state flower of California and they are being celebrated—all over. And people dropping in by helicopter and influencers ruining some of the poppy beds by laying in them for Instagram pics. Yes, it’s been crazy. But, when we were there (my wife and I) on a past Sunday, it felt so magical that so much of Los Angeles it seemed was out to smell the flowers. You can see a picture of folks lined up (my wife at the end in the picture below) photographing the flowers. Flowers suddenly are the new super star!

Continue reading “Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier”

“Calling All Women” to Save the Earth, signed and shared by Carol P. Christ

I contend therefore that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advanced investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife and man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Wangari Maathai

I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. Greta Thunberg

We are calling all women and our allies to come together to save the earth that sustains us all. Is it any wonder that from Rachel Carson to Wangari Maathai to the emerging young leader Greta Thunberg, women have been in the forefront of environmental movements for a century? As daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, we have long cared and advocated for the most vulnerable among us, the very young, the very old, the disabled, those who are the first to suffer the consequences of climate catastrophe and the many kinds of pollution that are poisoning the earth we share.

As cooks, gardeners, and small farmers providing sustenance for our families throughout the world, we speak for the soil and the water, the air and the crops that feed us. As Congresswomen, diplomats, lawyers, doctors, CEOs, artists and scientists we are calling for fair and equitable public policies that address the crises we are facing together. As those who create homes and maintain households, we are speaking out for our first and only home, the planet earth we share.

Today as never before we are witnessing the destruction of the intricate and delicate balance, the miraculous conditions on earth on which all life depends. At this moment as a drastically changing climate and a deluge of poisonous substances, from plastic to coal to pesticides threaten the habitats of living creatures world wide, we are confronted by unprecedented loss of species, what some are calling “the sixth extinction,” a tragic loss reflected in the epidemic of disease in our families and communities.

Like indigenous communities and people of color, because women are so often marginalized, as outsiders we have a crucial perspective including valuable insights into what has caused the frightening and destructive events we are witnessing. We see a world too often governed by ruthless attempts to dominate and win, placing profit above every other value, framed by a world view that describes nature as inferior, lacking in intelligence or the inviolable integrity that all living beings possess. In response we call for an ethic of peaceful cooperation with nature and between nations.

Faced with the consequences of heedless, ignorant and ultimately violent policies that threaten our lives and all we love, wild fires burning our forests and homes, floods and mudslides destroying our towns, fierce storms battering our coastline, lakes and rivers becoming too toxic to drink, as our oceans and the fish that swim in them are choked with plastic, as our air becomes heavy with particles that threaten human health, we are calling for women to unite in an effort to recognize and respond to the failures of political, economic and moral vision behind these crises.

As nurses, teachers, waitresses, secretaries, wives, partners, those who respect and nurture life, we understand we are all dependent on each other and every other living being on earth. And we know too that together we have the creative vision to stop the advance of climate change and the sixth extinction, to put an end to the poisoning of our earth, to build societies that, taking inspiration from indigenous cultures, respect nature’s rights and learn from nature’s wisdom. In this light we urge you now to speak out, organize, rally, protest and step up in every way you can to protect the future of life on earth.

Susan Griffin, Vandana Shiva, Alice Walker, Alice Waters, Vijaya Nagarajan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Deirdre English, Ayelet Waldman, Jane Hirshfield, Arlie Hochschild, Joanna Macy, Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, Claire Greensfelder, Belvie Rooks, Jennifer Berezan, Ruth Rosen, Elizabeth Rosner, Joyce Jenkins, Nancy Shelby, Anita Barrows, Rebecca Foust, Joan Miura, Carol P. Christ

Here are some actions you can take and organizations you can join and support:

Learn about the environmental issues in your own neighborhood. Educate your community and organize to while demanding an end to pollution and the emission of CO2 in every form. Work to empower our communities to allow us to make decisions that protect the environment and our families and all lives Ask your senators and representatives to support The Green New Deal. Call for and support public transportation. Ask the businesses in your communities and chains such as Trader Joe’s to adopt practices that support the environment and cease those that are destructive, such as the use of plastic. Take action to ban poisons such as Glyphosate found in Monsanto’s Round Up from our communities. Boycott Monsanto and companies that fail to adopt green policies. Ask your governments to stop exporting environmental destruction, in every form including dumping waste, mining, drilling for oil, selling pesticides, altering and patenting seeds, internationally. Oppose war and investments in warfare. As the largest source of pollution on the planet, armed conflict and the manufacture and storage of weapons cause irreparable and vast damage all over the earth.

Below is a list just a few of the organizations working to save our planet that can support your efforts and which you can join and support., Bioneers, Black Belt Citizens, Greenpeace, Mothers out Front, Rain Forest Action, Seed Sovereignty, The Nature Conservancy, The Southern Environmental Law Center, Women Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), Women’s Environmental Action, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Collaborative on Health and the Environment, CODEPINK.

Call: written by Susan Griffin with Vandana Shiva

Painting: Mother Earth by Jennifer Cortez-Perlmutter

Note from Carol P. Christ: “Women’s knowledge” that we are part of the earth stems from women’s work: caring for the weak and the vulnerable in all cultures and caring for plants and trees in horticultural and forest-cultural societies. This knowledge is available to men as well but only if they are willing to challenge long-standing cultural assumptions about “manhood” based in the separation of men from women and nature.


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Lasithi, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.


Tree-Hugging Is About Trees and So Much More Than Trees by Carol P. Christ

Not too long ago I heard someone deride members of a seminar who were building labyrinths in the olive groves of Greece as “a bunch of tree-huggers.”  I bristled! I probably first heard of the Chipko tree-hugging movement which is led by women in the 1970s and 1980s. Because I love nature, I naturally assumed hugging trees is a good thing. Originally, I had no idea that the tree-hugging movement was about much more than saving trees from being felled in the interests of short-term profit.

I did not know that the deeper purpose of the movement is to save a way of life based on forest-culture that is being threatened by the imposition of western ideas and practices promoted by colonialism and its successor, the green revolution. Nor did I know that the traditional forest-culture of India is the provenance of women: more than 4000 years of observing and experimenting created a “women’s knowledge” passed down from mother to daughter. Continue reading “Tree-Hugging Is About Trees and So Much More Than Trees by Carol P. Christ”

When the Cranes Come by Sara Wright


I stood deep
in a toad hole
slinging mud
at twilight
when the sky
turned lemon
and gold.
They arced
my head
in pairs,
loose aggregations –
it seemed like thousands
crying out,
the river.
Spirits defying
image or word.

A Mighty Migration begins…

I shivered.
Tears rose unbidden
Who calls them North?
I call out “I love you” –
Believing they know.
A crescent moon listens
cradled by nightfall.

To witness
a sky full
of Sandhill
dark red heads
ebony eyes
long graceful necks
curved gray wings
dripping black legs
descending out of the blue
to roost
along this
winding Red
Willow River,
gracing fields
of depleted grain
is a Gift
at midnight;
the moment
This turning
of the wheel
days full of light
and an empty
sky bowl.

Haunting cries
in my ears
ring in the silence
of beloved crane absence
for another year.
Continue reading “When the Cranes Come by Sara Wright”

Receiving, Giving, Reciprocating vs. Nonintervention: Two Different Models for Environmental Ethics by Carol P. Christ

“Gifts from the earth or from each other establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, to reciprocate.” –Robin Wall Kimmerer

The notion of a gift economy is at the heart of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. Kimmerer shares a different way of being in the world: one that recognizes the gifts that have been given to us and the necessity to reciprocate. In the modern world we have been taught that nature’s resources are ours for the taking. We have not been taught that nature’s resources are not infinite, that they exist in a web of interdependent relationships in which minerals, plants, animals, and human beings all participate. Everything we do has consequences for other living things.

For many environmentalists, the goal is to leave “wild” nature alone. In this model, the destruction human beings have done to nature is recognized. But what is not understood is that human beings are part of nature too. For hundreds of thousands of years, we and our ancestors have interacted with nature. The model of setting aside spaces for wild nature does not recognize that human beings can interact in positive ways with nature and that we have done so for millennia. Continue reading “Receiving, Giving, Reciprocating vs. Nonintervention: Two Different Models for Environmental Ethics by Carol P. Christ”

Tree of Life: The Festival of the Trees in an Age of Treefall by Jill Hammer

Almost every day, I walk in Central Park.  There are certain trees there I’ve come to know: the gnarled cherry trees by the reservoir, the bending willows and tall bald cypress by the pond, the sycamores that drop their bark each summer, the hawthorn not far from Central Park West.  Lately I’ve been taking photos of the trees to try to capture their essence, their posture in the world.  The trees around me feel like friends, which is what an ancient midrash (interpretation/legend) called Genesis Rabbah says about trees: that they are friends to humankind.  To me, they’ve always been a central manifestation of Mother Earth.

Currently, the national parks in the United States have no staff because of the government shutdown. Some people have taken the opportunity to cut down the rare and endangered Joshua trees in the Joshua Tree National Park—just for fun, I guess, or as a trophy of some kind.  Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro of Brazil recently has indicted that he wants to remove protection for the rainforest, in order to allow development.  It appears that my friends the trees have enemies.  Sometimes the enmity is for personal/corporate gain, and sometimes the enmity seems to have no reason at all.

Continue reading “Tree of Life: The Festival of the Trees in an Age of Treefall by Jill Hammer”

Vayigash: Lessons from Joseph’s Behavior by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oParshah Vayigash covers Genesis 44:18 to 47:27.  It involves the reunification of Joseph with his brothers and his father, the immigration of Jacob’s entire family to Egypt and Joseph successfully leading Egypt through famine.  In other words, the parshah provides the backdrop for how the Israelites become slaves in Egypt.

Any mention of women is confined to verses 46: 14-26.  They are not active participants, but are remembered as mothers and (a few) daughters and help explain the size and development of Jacob’s family.  It is most striking that they are mentioned at all as the text is heavily preoccupied with sons.  Nonetheless, according to the account, Jacob’s family has 70 members and a seemingly very small number are women and daughters.

Clearly it comes as no surprise that this text is highly influenced by its patriarchal roots and we could dismiss it for that reason.  Nonetheless, it has become a project of mine in this blog over the past few months to find redeeming qualities and food for thought within these texts.  In other words, despite its sexist pitfalls, there are still holy insights and life lessons as my previous blogs attest. Continue reading “Vayigash: Lessons from Joseph’s Behavior by Ivy Helman”

I <3 California by Sara Frykenberg

It’s Friday. I drive down PCH, Highway 1, at five-o-clock in the morning on my way to the airport. I left early and avoided the evacuation traffic. The sky is pitch black—not just dark, but black. Smoke cloaks the sky, sky presses against black mountains. I can’t actually see the ocean right next to me. I don’t look either, because the wind is pushing my car around on the freeway and I need to pay attention. Don’t look at the invisible water Sara, pay attention.

I admit to myself that I am afraid even though I am doing something I do every day.

I am getting on a plane. Why am I getting on this plane? I need to be here. I want to be here. But life goes on, doesn’t it? We hope that life goes on; even if we live like it does not. All I know is that I want to tell everyone I see that my home is burning. Not my house-home. Not mine. I’m safe just south of Ventura. I’m not on the freeway. I’m safe on a plane. But my home is burning. MY HOME IS BURNING. (Again.) Please somebody talk to me while my home is burning. But instead, I check the news and twitter reports every 5 minutes and worry about my students and my friends. I want to cry.

Continue reading “I <3 California by Sara Frykenberg”

We Have 12 Years. Luckily, Climate Lovers Are Usually Feminist by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee

Climate scientists have been screaming the alarm for literally decades. Despite global efforts, they now say we have 12 years left to contain the damage: the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C warming means tens of millions of lives lost, not to mention the death of all coral reefs and half the world’s plants and insects. In the USA, our oligarchic, oil-funded government seems determined to drive our country off a cliff and take the rest of the world with us. What on this good, green Earth are we to do?

I have been thinking about this a while. Below is a seven-fold strategy that I pray may bring help, comfort, and inspiration to those who, like me, can feel utterly overwhelmed.

Face Reality

It astonishes me to have to include this, but so much money has poured into distractions and strategies to discredit climatology that we must still spread the word. We now know which approaches actually bring people along; a little bit of doom and gloom goes a very long way. Focus on empowerment, action, and most importantly, connection: how do climate issues affect people directly? How do they intersect with issues people already care about? (Hint: the climate affects all life and every place on Earth!) Continue reading “We Have 12 Years. Luckily, Climate Lovers Are Usually Feminist by Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee”

Lessons from Shofetim by Ivy Helman.

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oThis is the first part of a series of reflections on the weekly Torah portions.  For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism, we read the Torah in sections.  There are 52 parshot (or portions), one parshah (portion) is read each week (most often during Shabbat morning services).  It is common for rabbis, prayer leaders or someone of the congregation to offer reflections on the week’s parshah at Shabbat services.

The parshah for this week is Shofetim.  It is Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9 and will be read this Shabbat, 18 August.  Shofetim discusses a range of topics: setting up of a system of judges to make important decisions for Israel; the entitlements of the Levites; the rules of warfare; the importance of justice and just governments; and the acknowledgment of G-d as the true and highest Judge.  It also warns Israel against false prophets and practices of idolatry.  Shofetim contains a number of well-known verses including ‘justice, justice you shall pursue…(16:18),’ and notorious punishments like “…a tooth for a tooth; an eye for an eye…(19:21)”  Continue reading “Lessons from Shofetim by Ivy Helman.”

Emergence: Poem to a Plant Goddess by Sara Wright


Her name is Datura.

Delicate fluted deep-throated trumpets open to

humming honey bees and summer rains.

She communicates through scent.


 In the fall I collect her sharp-needled pods.

They rattle like dry bones.

I chill them.

In the spring I coax seeds to sprout

wrapping each in papery white cloth,

sing love songs  –  siren calls

to rouse each root from winter’s sleep.


I am patient…

 a woman in waiting for the heat of the sun

to unfurl the mystery of becoming

 that is re-acted in spring.


Only seeds know when to swell and burst.

Continue reading “Emergence: Poem to a Plant Goddess by Sara Wright”

 Witches in the Weeds by Sara Wright

In folklore Old women are believed to control all aspects of Nature – Fire, Earth, Air and Water, but in myth and story they have a special relationship with water.

The title “witches in the weeds” emerged after I did some research on the Datura plant. This plant is usually associated with old women and sorcery in myth and story. For example, in European mythology, the dark goddesses, Hecate, and Baba Yaga are associated with Datura. Datura is considered to be a ‘witch weed’ and is categorized as a poison along with deadly nightshade, henbane and mandrake. The seeds and flowers have a history of creating visions, delirious states, and causing death. Datura thrives in wilderness areas. Old women, dark goddesses and Datura have a lot in common.

Women and birds have been associated since Neolithic times. Scholar and mytho-archeologist Marija Gimbutas unearthed many bird-women sculptures that were fashioned out of clay in “Old Europe”. Old women in particular are most often associated with owls, herons, crows, ravens, and black birds of all kinds. It is probably the relationship between women and birds that is one of the roots behind the belief that old women can fly. The other root behind flight can probably be found in the relationship between women healers and the plants they used. Plants like Datura contain alkaloid properties (scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine) that are capable of producing visions of flight and are used by folk healers and medicine women and men. Continue reading ” Witches in the Weeds by Sara Wright”

Four Worlds Poem by Sara Wright

They came from

Life giving Waters,

emerging from a Lake

at the Beginning of time.

Avanyu –


Spirit of the River

pecked into stone

or painted

on canyon walls

embodies their story.


The Tewa settled above

the Great River Banks.

Roaring water flowed

through tributaries

mountain gorges.

The People gave thanks.

  Water meant Life.

Each village was the center

of the Tewa’s First world.


Bound together by

Women who tended

holy household shrines,

prayed for rain,

created fires,

gathered seed,

ground food,

grew babies,

dug clay to shape

earthen pots.

This was the Second world

of the Tewa.

Continue reading “Four Worlds Poem by Sara Wright”

On Belief and Action by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oMy birthday was last Wednesday.  Perhaps more than any other time of the year (yes, even more than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), the days and weeks leading up to my birthday are filled with personal reflection.  Not that religious and secular new years don’t give me pause to reflect, but I think the lack of buzz around this personal event seems to offer me more space and time to think.

This year more than past years, I’ve been thinking about beliefs: what I believe in; how ideas and concepts that were important to me last year are less so this year and vice versa; how beliefs motivate me to act or not; what role belief plays in my life; why some beliefs demand solid resolve and others not so much; and so on.  I wanted to share with you some of my personal reflection. Continue reading “On Belief and Action by Ivy Helman”

Querying in the Context of Religion and Science by Sara Wright

How do we respect materialistic/mechanistic science – the myth of our time – when it continues to use non-human sentient beings for it’s own gain?

How do we respect religions for the harm or damage that these beliefs may cause for animals, plants and people who live on the Earth?

These are important questions, and for me the two are intimately related. Science and religion are two lenses humans use to perceive the world. Continue reading “Querying in the Context of Religion and Science by Sara Wright”

A Feminist Retelling of Noah’s Ark by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

My daughters came to me after Sunday School one day, concerned about a story they had heard in which God drowned almost everyone on Earth. So I sat down and thought about why a community might want to tell that story, and what valuable wisdom might be lifted from it for my children. Here is what I told them:
God/ess  has  many  faces,  which  help  us  understand  different  things we  need  to  know  at different  times.  Sometimes we think of God/ess  as  Crone,  an  old,  old  woman  crowned  with  silver  hair  as  an  emblem  of  her  wisdom,  who helps  us  learn  to  let  go  of  anything  that  is  holding  back  the  wellness  of  our  community  and ourselves.  Continue reading “A Feminist Retelling of Noah’s Ark by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

On the ‘Naturalness’ of Inequality by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oIn some regards, life on Earth seems to depend on some basic inequalities.  For example, differences in size, height, strength, speed and endurance advantages some and disadvantages others.  Depending on another for survival is another type of inequality. Being able to adapt to change increases one’s likelihood of survival as well.  

In this regard, inequality is natural, a normal part of existence.  In fact, the exploitation of such inequalities supports and perpetuates life on this planet.   Darwin said as much. Evolutionary theory does as well. At one point, we, homo sapiens, replaced our Neanderthal cousins.  Lions kill and eat gazelles. Some iguanas in the Galapagos Islands were able to become great underwater swimmers in order to reach edibles; those who couldn’t died. Continue reading “On the ‘Naturalness’ of Inequality by Ivy Helman”

To Love the Earth and Fear the Forest: My Paradox as an Ecofeminist by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

I am privileged to live near a wood where I can walk with my family, my dog, or alone – when I have the courage. I fear the woods, see; not because of physical danger from humans or wild animals, at least, not really. I fear the woods because time in the wilderness forces me to think and feel things I normally can distract myself from.

It took me years to figure out why I resist going to the woods alone. I’m not really alone, of course – there are other people and their dogs on the trails, not to mention all the wild animals and plants whose homes I am visiting. But without a walking companion, sometimes, something rushes in, something that crushes me, so that I can’t breathe. Is it Nature’s Wall of Grief, as nature connection mentor Jon Young posits – the stark reality of the ecological crisis and my own disconnect with my earthly roots? Is it the summation of all my past grief and trauma, or a fear inherited from my ancestors? Is it whatever feelings of fear, inadequacy, or pain that I usually process in smaller, more manageable quantities? All of the above? No, no… it’s much safer to wait until someone wants to go with me. Continue reading “To Love the Earth and Fear the Forest: My Paradox as an Ecofeminist by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards

This past summer, my friend and I were perusing the exhibits at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture when she urgently called for my attention.  “Psst… Isn’t this where you are from?” she asked, pointing at a placard titled African American Life in Montgomery County.  Yes!  I grew up, I was educated, and I was churched in Montgomery County, Maryland.  So I eagerly read the exhibit’s description:

By 1900 there were at least eight African American communities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Unlike many rural African Americans, the residents were not tenant farmers—they owned their property and homes.  This gave them greater control over the land and the crops they produced.  They also directly benefited from improvements to their homes, which was an incentive to make additions and to stay in place.  Descendants of these early settlers still live in these communities today. Continue reading “Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards”

Sheep, Goats, and a Donkey Named Balthazar by Joyce Zonana

JZ HEADSHOTA few days ago, at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, I purchased a six-ounce skein of fine, reddish-pink mohair bouclé, directly from the woman who’d dyed it using the natural pigments cochineal and logwood. My plan is to make a soft, long winter scarf with it.

I recently started knitting again, lured by some thick, heathered purple wool yarn I’d glimpsed in a farm store in upstate New York. “Is this wool from your sheep?” I asked the farmer. “No, but it’s from a farm down the road,” she assured me. “Her sheep and mine are related, and I know those sheep well.”

I was delighted to be knitting an afghan with wool carded and spun from the fleece of Continue reading “Sheep, Goats, and a Donkey Named Balthazar by Joyce Zonana”

Musings On My Recent Road Trip by Esther Nelson

I love a road trip.  It’s exciting to get behind the wheel of a car, get out on the highway (or bi-way), and just go.  The road seems to stretch out forever in front of me, full of possibilities, adventure, and fun.  Again, this summer I drove two thirds of the way across the United States from Virginia to New Mexico and back again.  I varied my route because why not?  The country is vast and diverse.  I want to see as much of it as I can.  The broad, open, colorful skies of Texas and New Mexico.  The wheat fields in Kansas.  The green, rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee.  On this particular trip back to Virginia, though, one of the sights disturbed me deeply.

The second day of my journey eastward, I drove from Amarillo, Texas, to Springfield, Missouri.  All along the panhandle of Texas and into Oklahoma, I encountered feedlots.  These are places where cattle live for several months in order to fatten up before slaughter.  The animals are fed grain (mainly corn), growth hormones, and antibiotics.  They live in crowded spaces and in the feedlots I saw, the cattle had difficulty walking due to the layers of muck, mire, and manure all over the ground.  I could smell a feedlot long before I saw one.  The stench nauseated me.

Continue reading “Musings On My Recent Road Trip by Esther Nelson”

Learning Compassion from Inmate Number 74799 by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

Technically I was employed as a lab assistant at our community hospital. This position entailed multiple responsibilities, from receptionist to actual bench work within the laboratory. The task I dreaded most was my assistance at autopsies. Beyond a strong constitution, it required no measurable skill set. This job was not the high-tech, immaculate setting of any of the CSI programs of today; instead the morgue was a stark, condensed room with two pullout refrigerators for the deceased, a stainless steel table the autopsy was performed on, and the necessary instruments and accouterments, some suspended from what appeared thin air. These tools of the trade ranged from the expected scalpels and retractors to saws and garden-like shears.

Fast-forward fifteen years. It is the morning of July 11, 1991. Prisoner number 74799 has just been transferred from the Department of Corrections, Arizona State Prison in Florence to Tucson County General Hospital in critical condition. Eight months prior to his admittance to the prison hospital, Prisoner 74799 was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. While considered inoperable, he was administered the customary chemotherapy treatments until four months later when the cancer spread to his brain, taking most if not all of his cognitive abilities away. Within one hour of his transport, Prisoner 74799, my brother, Michael Paul, died at the age of thirty-nine.

Continue reading “Learning Compassion from Inmate Number 74799 by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling

bikini atoll bombI wish that in our pursuit of finding cures for illnesses we would do more as a collective species to prevent the causes, sometimes environmental ones. Why do we vote for people to make decisions that represent us but that we would never in a million years agree to? Bombs and the consequences of them raise questions of health and power. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.30, we read that “Yama consists of non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, appropriate use of vital energy, and non-possessiveness.” The yamas are our social restraints. They are a negation of behaviors we might usually partake in.

Ahimsā, or non-violence, is listed first. It is the first element of the first limb of yoga; it is the basis for every other ethical aspect of our lives. Bombs are an example of a common and frequent behavior of violence that make the land, water, and sky increasingly uninhabitable. According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2016 alone, the U.S. is estimated to have dropped 26,172 bombs. Zenko says that this estimate is “undoubtedly low.” (1) This is one year and the bombs from one nation. (2) What is the environmental impact of all of the bombs dropped from every nation since the beginning of bombing history?

When a bomb is detonated, there is not only harm to the immediate life in that vicinity but life in the future and far away. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Weapons (ICAN) website, “the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has estimated that roughly 2.4 million people will eventually die as a result of the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980, which were equal in force to 29,000 Hiroshima bombs.” (5)

According to a statistic updated March 2016 on the Ploughshares Fund website, nine countries in the world have a total of 14,900 nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia holding 93% of them. (3) They have been used twice, both times by the United States, in war, but additionally they have been used in tests over 2,000 times in more than 60 locations over the globe, according to ICAN. (4) There are already unavoidable consequences to the earth and humans because of this irresponsible behavior that is ongoing.  These tests occur in the atmosphere, under the earth, and under water. (6) Continue reading “The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Universe Is on Your Side by Elisabeth Schilling

IMG_0617While I am sure this articulation is on an “inspirational” meme somewhere, my thoughts coalesced to form it while I was looking at the mid-afternoon blue sky in a moment of rare optimism. Too often can I become confused and despondent about the situation of our earth and humanity, myself. “We want healing too,” it whispered. If we are for the sustainable restoration and support of our earth, then we have a whole universe on our side that moves toward this direction as well. Our bodies, one with the universe, join in this want of healing.

Matthew Sanford is a yoga instructor whom I heard speak during an NPR interview. He explained how any reference to “our bodies failing us” does not feel true to him. He explained: Continue reading “The Universe Is on Your Side by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Blue No Gaia Wants: Protecting the Sacred through our Lawns by Elisabeth Schilling

blue lawnIf Gaia is a living body, why are we painting her blue? Whether it is public parks or residential lawns, when there is that special odor in the air, I know to look down and there it is, an endless dye job on the grass indicating treatment. My city is concrete and blue dye for miles. Furthermore, I have sales people knocking at my door monthly asking if I want to spray pesticide around the house to decimate wasps, ants and spiders.  

Many religious texts encourage us to mindfully consider the earth. The Jain Acaranga sutra, for instance, says, “a wise [person] should not act sinfully toward plants” (I.1.5.7). One way we sin against the earth so casually is by these mindless manipulations of our lawns, if we have them. (Technically, I do not have a lawn, but my roommate does, and I try to protect it). I do not think most people think about researching what they allow into the earth. Continue reading “The Blue No Gaia Wants: Protecting the Sacred through our Lawns by Elisabeth Schilling”

Leadership in the Kali Yuga by Elisabeth Schilling


green pathSince the U.S. has elected a reality TV show billionaire to represent our nation, we should be no longer be able to shy away from the ignorance, violence, and frivolity that is within us. Happiness and peace in humanity seem to be in short supply. How many of us experience continuing bliss, or do we only fantasize and find brief reprieves in our suffering? Even the more extreme privileged among us most likely share the same emotional landscape.

In Indian cosmology, Hinduism specifically, there are four stages (yugas) of humanity that occur in a cycle. They represent the ascending and declining spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being of humanity. The Satya Yuga is first (descending) and last (ascending) era, where people are without strife, disease, or fear. Satya means “truth.” Life increasingly deteriorates through out the Treta Yuga to the Dvapara Yuga to the Kali Yuga.

Continue reading “Leadership in the Kali Yuga by Elisabeth Schilling”

Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling

plantsMuch of our lives lack the rich culture of ritual that I think would help us repair the relationships we have with our own bodies and with the earth. The Rg Veda is one of the oldest collection of hymns from India. In them, I find a playful and introspective expression of desires and fears that, at first, did not seem to me to hold much wisdom for a modern contemplative. But lately, I have been noticing how the speakers communicate to or about the earth, and how their lives seem centered around trying to take a part in creation. Mostly, these hymns are stories and supplications for rain, cows, victory in battle, and a long life. But there is a deep understanding of the power and divinity in the universe that is the very earth-based wisdom that our humanity-in- crisis needs. If the Qur’an is God calling for humanity to be grateful, the Rg Veda is a model of a humanity that could be nothing else.

I love one incantation, for instance, found in the tenth mandala, that seems to be from a compounding physician, praying to the healing herbs that might make her client well again. I imagine her alone, in a greenhouse pharmacy, on a damp late afternoon, fingering stems and leaves before crushing them with her mortar and pestle to make a bespoke tincture that holds a cure. She knows the plants intimately, and works as if she is on holy ground: Continue reading “Honoring the Earth in our Rituals of Well-Being by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman

meandminiIt is, I think, quite common knowledge that most Jewish holidays relate to the seasonal cycles of the Earth.  Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest.  Chanukah sheds light on the winter darkness.  Tu B’Shevat marks the end of the dry season and so begin the prayers for rain in Israel.  For Purim, we throw off our winter doldrums and let off a little steam to settle our cabin fever.  Pesach is no exception: welcome spring: birth, renewal and even creation.  The leaves return to the trees, baby animals are born, flowers bloom, warmer weather arrives and somehow the possibilities of the coming summer are endless.

In fact, the associations between Pesach and spring are many.  Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy explains the origins of the connections (pages 133-139).  There were probably two different seasonal celebrations – one of shepherds and one of farmers – that came together around the time of the Babylonian exile into one festival which we can see in Exodus 12 – 13: Pesach.  Farmers in preparation for the harvest of spring wheat cleared out the old crumbs and fermentations of the last year to make room for the new.  Shepherds celebrated the arrival of baby sheep and their flock’s fertility in general by slaughtering a sheep, putting its blood on their tents and dancing around a fire.   Continue reading “The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman”

Renewing Our Spirits in the Wilderness of Our World by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydIn my garden blooming with native wildflowers, in nearby rivers and woods, across the New England landscape, the Earth is healing Herself.  Two centuries ago, New England’s forests had been cleared for farms; myriad species of  animals, birds, fish, and plants had disappeared; the network of waterways had been dammed to make power for mills.

Now trees are reclaiming land abandoned by 19th century farmers seeking better soil westward and today’s environmentalists are reintroducing native flora and fauna and hauling away obsolete dams. As a result, species not seen for generations are thriving, most of New England is again heavily forested, and whole ecosystems are reviving. Creation is once more beginning to remake the landscape into a place of wholeness, life, and connection. Continue reading “Renewing Our Spirits in the Wilderness of Our World by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Earth-Spirituality in the Qur’an and Green Muslims by Elisabeth Schilling

green pathThere is some very helpful guidance in the Qur’an for how we should and should not treat the earth. In my exploration of Qur’anic verses on the environment, I have found a great deal of Earth-love that I want to share.

The first idea is that the earth is not ours to trash and misuse recklessly or indulgently. Sura 2:284 says, “Whatever is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to God.” This sentiment is found throughout the scriptures. Individual wealth and the practice of financial profit and salary as reward has given us the illusion that, if we’ve earned the cash, we can do with it whatever we like. We can buy anything we want, show it off, hoard it, and then trash it. How often do we quell our suffering or attachments through consumerism as if there were no consequences? But we need to begin to shift to the perspective of honoring the earth as not something we are entitled to or even deserve. If we are supposed to be stewards of the earth, then fine. But it seems that selfishness and personal gain have distracted us, making us neglect our duty. The idea that the earth is a bestowed gift is embedded into the Qur’anic “golden rule”: “You who believe, give charitably from the good things you have acquired and that We have produced for you from the earth. Do not seek to give bad things that you yourself would only accept with your eyes closed” (2:267). Yes, we work the land to produce food, but not everything is within our jurisdiction. Continue reading “Earth-Spirituality in the Qur’an and Green Muslims by Elisabeth Schilling”

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