Archive for christine

John Muir, Nature’s Visionary

Posted in Book Reports, Nature Studies, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2016 by Drogo

ON THE WILD SIDE for SEPT. 2016 by Christine Schoene Maccabee

 

Choked in the sediments of society, so tired of the world, here will your hard doubts disappear…and your soul breathe deep and free in God’s shoreless atmosphere of beauty and love.”

– John Muir, 1903

The above quote was part of John Muir’s impassioned invitation to President Roosevelt and Vice President Howard Taft to join him in Yosemite and camp out under the stars. Together they talked about protecting the giant redwoods from timbering, as well as preserving the ecological wonders only Muir, and the natives who had lived there, knew intimately. Upon returning East the Roosevelt Administration created 5 national parks, 23 national monuments, and added more than 148 million acres of woodland to the national forest system. Muir was also founder of the Sierra Club of which most of us are aware and some of us members.

In my 20’s I knew next to nothing about the person of John Muir until I read a book, Baptized into Wilderness, which is filled with many inspiring writings from his years spent as caretaker in Yosemite. How he managed to brilliantly overcome the trauma of living with his tyrannical father, a Scottish Calvinist Minister of the worst sort who beat him daily, is nothing short of a miracle. As Muir wrote in his autobiography,“by the time I was 11 years of age I had about three-fourths of the Old Testament and all of the New by heart and by sore flesh.”

Fortunate to be nurtured by the love of his mother and sisters, and due to his fascination with nature and inventing, he grew into a strong young man, fully determined to make his own way in life once the family moved from Scotland to Wisconsin. Helping to clear land and create their homestead was no easy life, but in his free time, Muir invented all sorts of crazy things made from scraps of iron and wood. At age 22 he decided to show his inventions at the state fair in Madison and was a smash hit with his “early rising machine” which tipped a person out of bed at an appointed hour. His father accused him of the sin of vanity.

He avoided the Civil War on the grounds of passivism while attending the University of Wisconsin, which he dropped out of after his sophomore year, little knowing that 34 years later he would receive an honorary degree, Dr. of Laws, from that same college. With a beard as bushy and long as any had seen, he headed to Canada on foot, “botanizing” along the way. The things of nature were always his first love.

After loosing his eyesight due to a freak accident at a machinery factory, Muir gasped, “My right eye is gone! Closed forever on all God’s beauty.” His left eye also failed, leaving him blind. However, after endless nightmares and despair while convalescing in a darkened room, his vision slowly returned. Muir proclaimed “Now I have risen from the grave” and he forever shunned the work of factories. Instead, he took to further journeys by foot, with his plant press on his back, heading south to “anywhere in the wilderness” which took him through the Appalachian Mountains and swamps of Georgia . He sketched and journaled and pressed plants along the way.

That first long walk of 1,000 miles took him to Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. However, his longest journey by foot, which he called “my grand sabbath day three years long” drew him West, climbing Mt.Ranier, exploring glaciers in Alaska, and ultimately settling in the California Sierras. It was there that he wrote his most inspiring words describing the beauty and wonder of the plant life, animals, boulders, sequoias, and experiencing ecstatic moments at the top of a tree during a hurricane. Muir proclaimed his reverence for all life forms, becoming a “voice for the voiceless”as he worked to convince others as to the need to preserve as much of the untouched purity of the natural world as possible.

Muir’s invitation to go out and become “steeped in the wonder of creation” was not only for people back then. It is still an invitation to us all today. My own life has been shaped by Muir and many other voices for the voiceless ; that is how I have come to write of my own passion to preserve and enhance wild places, allowing even more habitat on our properties and in our backyards .

Fortunately for us there is a monthly meeting of the Sierra Club at our library in Thurmont ! This month we will meet on Saturday, September 3 from 10-12. Do come join us as we work on a variety of projects to help preserve the goodness of our planet for generations to come.

With John Muir’s Vision as our inspiration we can make progress in spite of adversities. If he did it, so can we !

* * * * * *

Christine is a member of Thurmont’s Green Team and a Master Habitat Naturalist. She would be happy to help you with habitat, particularly plant ID, on your own property and can be reached at songbirdschant@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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Habitat Fragmentation and Land Ownership

Posted in Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2016 by Drogo

Essay for ON THE WILD SIDE January 2016

Our land is more valuable than your money. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit, so we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us. As a present to you we will give you anything we have that you can carry with you; but the land, never.”*

In this present time civilization humans are finding themselves in the midst of more than one environmental quagmire. How to get control of the plastic and junk in the ocean ? How to keep air clean enough to breath in China ? How to rid old pipes of poisonous lead and our water of pharmaceuticals waste which go into toilets ? Am I getting too personal ?

Actually, everything we do and have done in the past are exactly what professional scientists/ecologists are dealing with now. If there ever was a field in which our children will find ready employment, it will be as research problem solvers and maybe even politicians who care about cleaning up our messes. The question we all have is, however, how did we ever get to this point anyway, and what can we do about it as individual home owners, as people who care ?

To their credit, in 1621 the people native to America, the “Indians”, after prayerful consultations with their elders, dieing and weakened due to disease brought here by previous white explorers, and weary of warfare, decided it was in their best interest to make peace with the Pilgrims. In spite of the Mayflower crew robbing them of their seed corn and burial treasures, they made a pact together that would endure long enough to get squash, beans and that same stolen corn planted, harvested and then shared.**

Peace, for the natives, was the best and most productive remedy, even though strangers were encroaching on their land. Interesting…and perhaps something we can learn from during this present time of anxiety about refugees. Unfortunately, back then that fragile peace did not last very long. There will always be the good mixed with the bad, the greedy mixed with the philanthropists, and I assume this is how it will always be. Nothing seems to have changed since the beginning of time.

Of course, as years passed and more settlers arrived to colonize America, the natives were totally kicked off their land. The settlers had brought with them an entirely different ethic of land ownership from Europe, as well as military hardware far more effective than the natives hand crafted bows, arrows and spears. Over the centuries their precious land has been stolen, divided and subdivided…fragmented… sold, and some of it has sadly been misused and polluted.

I am fortunate to live in a sub-division of a beautiful old 200+ acre homestead here in the Catoctins, Due to my love of and concern for diversity in the natural world, I am allowing my 11+acres to not only feed me, but to feed all my other “relations”. The native idea of “other relations” extends far beyond human relatives and includes the wonderful diversity of flora and fauna which most of us care about…bees, butterflies, birds, wildflowers, trees. etc..These are things our children are learning to care about in school, and as wise elders, we should also.

As home owners, and landowners, we can begin to bring these various fragments of land together by allowing native plants to grown, by creating native wildflower gardens on part of our lawns, and planting native trees. That way, the habitat fragmentation which has been going on since the pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock can be somewhat remedied. If you ever feel like giving up in despair, there is one very real thing you can do, and the opportunity is right in your own back yard, or front yard too (why not ).

The vision is to create a beautiful tapestry right here where we live of yards and properties dedicated to the health and well being of our earth. It already looks like a quilted pattern here in Thurmont, but the work is not yet finished. If anything, the work has just begun !

I belong to the Green Team here in Thurmont and am heading up a project along the rail road tracks which will not only beautify our town with wildflowers, but create habitat for wildlife. I am presently seeking volunteers to clean it up a bit in February and then spread seeds. All this must be done before March, as seeds need the time to stratify (to get the benefit of freezing weather), so as to enhance their germination.

If you are interested in helping me with this project, please do be in touch with me at songbirdschant@gmail.com. If not, then consider doing something on your own little fragment of land, no matter now small. As I always say, “Every little bit helps !”, and THANKS !

* Response of a Chief of the Blackfoot Nation when told to put his signature on a land treaty in Montana; from Touch The Earth by T.C. McLuhun

** as documented in Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

– Christine S. Maccabee

Don’t Ever Tell Me

Posted in Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 21, 2016 by Drogo

 

Don’t ever tell me the past is past, it is over,

so move on, get over it, forget it;

for the ancient glacial rocks at my doorstep,

making walls and lining garden paths

would not be there were it not for the past and

neither would I in the form I presently exist .

There are ancient trees the world over,

like the Redwoods which stand yet

as monuments to past centuries of change

scars where branches fell,

and circles in their wood which tell their age

as well as years of drought and rain.

Don’t ever tell me the past is gone, so get over it,

for I feel as old as those trees, those rocks ;

My body with scars which speak of history and

my stories which you may hear if you listen.

Feelings too run just as deep as a trees rings do,

for my present is built upon my ancient past.

So don’t ever tell me the past is past,

so get over it,

Because I really couldn’t even if I tried !

– Christine S. Maccabee

Always Remember

Posted in Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 5, 2016 by Drogo

Always remember

how truly beautiful

life is.

There will always be

death and decay

trials and

tribulation;

But always remember

to witness the red sunrise

to enjoy the cardinal

at your feeder,

to brave the snowstorm

in all its glory,

and feel the peace

of the sky at dusk,

the warmth

of home.

Breath it in,

see it,

feel it

and

Always remember

how truly beautiful

life is.

–   Christine S. M.

Song of the Piper

Posted in Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 5, 2016 by Drogo

There is a little bird behind my house

whose first song speaks of the start of day ;

He heralds his voice like a piper’s tune

and very soon the others follow.

Then when dusk comes on and the day is done

I hear his melody once again

As he ushers out yet another day

and tells us all it is time for bed.

I may not sleep once his tune is sung

For unlike him I am restless ;

Still his song lingers on in my heart,

in my dreams,

‘Til I hear him again in the dawn.

  • Christine S. M.

A CALL TO ACTION

Posted in Critical Commentary of Civilization, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2015 by Drogo

Reject excess, honor nature.” – Gandhi

Essay on Gandhi’s quote By Christine Maccabee for ON THE WILD SIDE Jan.2016

Depending on your political, religious or philosophical positions, you may or may not read this essay. Some say it is too late to do anything, some say it is not necessary, and still others say “who cares?”, However, many do care, and care a lot. I am one who cares, and dares to write, so read this at your own risk.

If there ever was a time for all of us to make a difference for on-going quality of life on this our planet, it is now. Of course, I and many others had those very same thoughts way back in the 1970’s. Back then, plastics still had carcinogenic chemicals in them, (even baby bottles!) and industrial chemical wastes were dumped into water like Love Canal and other places, creating severe health problems for people and wildlife living near them. Acid rain was killing off the beautiful trees in Germany’s Black forest, and here in the States many lakes were becoming too acidic for fish and other aquatic creatures to survive. If it were not for EPA regulations, many of these problems would still exist !

You may or may not be aware of the many late 1900’s environmentalists who were at the forefront of revealing damaging pollution sources and actually doing something about it. Legal groups like the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have been great watchdogs and have made a huge difference in keeping our planet’s resources and wild areas relatively free of pollution. Then there were the individuals who took it upon themselves to fight against rampant environmental degradation, two of the most well known being Julia Butterfly and Erin Brockovich.

Julia was a young idealist who had the guts to save some of the last remaining ancient Redwood trees in California by camping out in the top of one of the largest (which she called Luna) and staying there for over one year without coming down ! Her goal was somewhat achieved, making deals with the lumber company to preserve the trees surrounding Luna before she descended back to the earth. After that she formed a small movement of earth caring people, and I actually heard her speak years ago at Hood college. She is one of my heroines, and a major inspiration for many others. Perhaps we too can do something , perhaps not so grand , or brave, as Julia, but SOMETHING….

Another woman who stuck her neck out in order to make a difference was Erin Brockovich. Perhaps you remember the movie made about her efforts staring Julia Roberts, the far too sexy version of Erin but nonetheless interesting and entertaining. Erin became a “whistle blower” when she discovered major groundwater pollution due to the negligence of the gas and electric company she worked for. After a difficult fight, the company repented of its ways and Erin became a heroine for all of us who care the heck what is happening to our water and our air. We may never do anything so noble and scary as she did, but the day may come when we too will be confronted with something we can do to make a real difference.

Mahatma Gandhi was a wise man, as was Jesus. Both of them said that we should, and CAN, live with less. When Gandhi died all he had in his possession were his eye glasses and his sandals. As far as I know, Jesus didn’t own anything. My question, and the question of so many others, especially young people I know, is how in the world did we get to this place where all that we own and buy, besides being way too much, is polluting and basically wrecking our planet ? These are huge, important questions for all of us to be asking, and many of us are.

Why did Gandhi feel as he did when he said “Reject excess, honor nature”? Perhaps he knew what Jesus knew…that “heaping up treasures on earth” will lead to spiritual disease. I am sure they both knew how our materialism would injure this precious gift of life we have on our planet. One only needs to see, on line, the photo of a dead pelican whose stomach is filled with plastic trash, which is filling our ocean and marshlands, to know this to be true.

Is there no remedy, no hope? Of course there is, so long as people jump in to solve the problems. After all, the most basic and useful trait of human beings is our ability to problem solve. Our children are learning to do this in school everyday, and so are we adults in our everyday lives.

So live lightly on the earth, and take action. As I always say, “Every little bit helps”, but “do more if you can.” I .

I Worship at the Altar of Creation

Posted in Poems, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 1, 2015 by Drogo

I worship at the altar of Creation.

Call me pantheist if you will

but labels cannot describe

the mystical connection I feel

while gazing upon the faces

of myriad aster flowers

or hearing the songs of birds

which live in my Sanctuary

where its altar is strewn

with diversity of flora and fauna,

on this Earth filled with infinite species

numbers still not counted

and wiser than any human

fabrication of religion

or material contraption.

I worship at the altar of Creation

not just at the all too human

cloistered inside chapel

where hymns of praise are sung

but air is filled with stagnant odors,

windows closed to the great Outdoors.

Give me more ! the outer air,

the sweet perfume of springs mimosa

the healing aroma of every flower

entwined together as if by plan

all singing in harmony

with profound profusion

in this Sanctuary where I dwell,

my Mystic Meadows.

 

  • Christine S. Maccabee