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

 

 

 

 

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 

Tribute To Summer

Posted in Poems, Uncategorized with tags , , on November 17, 2015 by Drogo

On The Wild Side essay for November 2015

A TRIBUTE TO SUMMER

When the roses have opened,

when the bee hums again,

Wait for me by the ocean

when old June comes again.

Only say to me, Summer,

that you’ll always come true –

Then go way from me Summer,

let go of me, do .”

– verse of a song by Kentucky folksinger Jean Ritchie

*

This is the last warm day before the first frost, or so the weather forecasters are predicting. I am exulting in the sun and the warmth, but my heart grows a bit melancholic knowing of the impending freeze. Today the wild asters are blooming profusely here, and thousands of bees are humming while hard at work storing up nectar and pollen for hibernation. I know that in a couple days, after the frost, many flowers will be dead. However, if it is not a hard frost some wild asters will continue to feed the bees right on through October. Also, about this time, box turtles are thinking about digging into the soft soil of the forests, soils which will be as hard as a rock all too soon. Migrating birds are congregating for the flight further south, many have already left, and my doors are mostly closed to keep in the warmth. As well, we humans are all in the midst of the change from light clothes and jackets to corduroy pants, heavier coats, hats, gloves and boots.

I love the song by Jean Ritchie called “Let Go of Me Summer”. Her words and the haunting melody capture the feelings many of us have at this time of year. I hope to sing it soon, if only to myself and the gardens I love. It is what I call a seasonal song. Most native indigenous tribes around the world had spiritual songs about the change of the seasons and, in fact, songs for daily changes from sun up to sun down. The birds certainly have no trouble singing at appropriate times, and so I know that I am no different. I will sing this song to strengthen my heart against the cold front and the losses that follow. I will sing it out to the valley, to the garden which was so abundant this year, and I will sing it out to the memory of open windows and doors and the easy flow of bodies from house to the gardens.

However, I will also enjoy the refreshing difference which this change brings. The trees are already putting on quite a show and the cooler air is most welcomed. Indeed, the gardens, as well as the gardeners, deserve a much needed rest. Finally we have time to write those letters or that book, do some cross stitching or woodworking, cuddle up by a warm wood fire on long cold nights, or clean those places we neglected while we were out in the garden growing our crops and mowing our lawns. Preparing for the holidays will take priority in many of our lives, though it can also become a crazy time. I suppose the important thing is to always have a thankful heart and to do our part in creating love and joy in the world, no matter the season.

Well, I must soon stop typing and get outside into this glorious day. There is still work to be done. My house plants which have benefited from being out under the arbor need to be brought in before the frost, as well as any tomatoes lingering on the vine. Even though I planted my garlic on time, I still have not planted lettuce, spinach, parsley, tah tsai and radish seeds in my cold frames. Once those seeds are planted, French intensively, Indian summer warmth and regular sprinklings will get them off to a good start. Then, as in many years past, I will have my salad greens through the cold weather. It is amazing how well cold frames work. (but that is another subject for another article).

I will leave you now with another verse of that wonderful song by Jean Ritchie. It reflects a sentiment which runs deep in the soul of many a person and cuts to the core of what is precious in life.

 

Let go of me summer, let go of me please.

I love your slow music, I love your green trees.

But I’ve miles for to go now and promises to keep,

So let go of me summer, let go of me please !”

Enjoy the season, whichever one is upon you !!

*

Christine is a Master Habitat Naturalist in the State of Maryland and is available for consultations as to how to make your property , no matter now small, wildlife and wildflower friendly. Songbirdschant@gmail.com

Misunderstood but Beautiful – Flowers as People

Posted in Organic Gardens, Poems with tags , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2015 by Drogo
Much of the beauty and value of the natural world will be missed,
and lost, if it is constantly condemned as unimportant, and destroyed.“
– from Garden Ramblings

In a very real way, flowers are a lot like people. Fragile, they are born vulnerable, and if fortunate to receive the proper care, will thrive and bear much goodness. However, many people, like flowers, are misunderstood. Some of us are late bloomers and get cut down while struggling to grow, while others of us may express ourselves in the wrong way, or the wrong place, and are criticized.

True, it is about the world of plants and flowers that I mostly write, but the connection between humans and the natural world being what it is – ever constant and essential—it is ofttimes impossible to separate the two. Many of our greatest writers and teachers refer to nature, recognizing the wisdom that is to be gained if we but open our hearts and our minds to it. Many of these people have been misunderstood as well.

Four of my very favorite wildflowers are the lavender bergamot, rarely seen anymore due to mowing, the shy blue chicory, the wild asters of which I have 4 species on my property, and the tall rarely seen white and yellow wild sweet clovers (which look nothing like clovers, but are in that family). Both chicory and bergamot are blooming profusely right now here at my Mystic Meadows and I can never see them enough. The wild bergamot has cross pollinated with its relative the gorgeous red monarda, creating two new shades of purple and maroon. I am blown away by their beauty and their usefulness. Standing very still by each large cluster of flowers which are shoulder high, the hundreds of flowers seem literally in motion with the activity of hummingbird moths, various butterflies, and bumble bees large and small. Of course, even a hummingbird cruises by for a nip on the way to its favorite mimosa tree. Sadly, I see very few honey bees this year.

Chicory is the most tenacious wildflower I know. It tends to grow right up against the country roads people drive down in their early morning rush to work or school, gracing our journeys with their joyful blue color, brightening our moods if we but see them. Even when mowed down, they grow right back, undeterred. If permitted, they will bloom right through the summer into fall, providing nectar for bees and later, essential seeds for small birds like finch. They usually close their blue petals during the heat of the day, and so are seen as ugly by most people as they have tiny leaves and look spindly when their petals are closed. But oh, when the day is cooler and the flowers are open, behold the powdery blue profusion !

Wild asters spend the entire summer growing slowly into tall, elegant plants full of elongated leaves. There are 4 varieties which I grow throughout my gardens, and the reward for my patience is a glorious, end-of -summer show of tiny, daisy-like flowers, a final bust of white and purple beauty which goes well into the fall. These plants, besides being a welcome source of inspiration for me before the long, cold days of winter, serve as essential nectar and pollen for our bees. Without these wildflowers the bees could easily starve in their hives. Goldenrod, which I will write about in a sequel to this article, is also significant for bees, and even butterflies, to stave off starvation. It is and has been mostly misunderstood as well.

Many years ago I was enjoying the beauty of my back road where, unfortunately, the white and yellow wild sweet clovers were growing embarrassingly close to the road. They are somewhat guilty of looking gangly, like some people I know, and were very tall. I knew they would eventually be mowed, so I decided to cut them with more care by myself. So, I went home and came back laden with an arsenal of cutting tools, only to loose my resolve when I put the blade to their stalks. I thought to myself “what is more important, the flowers or the road”. I had observed very few of these particular flowers being permitted to grow anywhere, so I put down my weapons and joined the ranks of the misunderstood. After that day, they moved themselves to a safer place. They now grow, undisturbed, in various spots on my property. Plants come to me that way, and I welcome them with open arms !

I love the late bloomers and the misunderstood ones, be they human or flower. Perhaps our biggest challenge in life is to embrace these ones, to accept them as amazing creations on this miraculous planet which is full to bursting with diversity. I leave you with an ancient Indian quotation I love which reflects the awesomeness of it all…” Flowers are the footprints of the dancing steps of God.”

Now off I go to enjoy the rest of this glorious summer !!

by Christine Schoenemann (Maccabee)

Christine is a Master Naturalist in the State of MD.. She welcomes any questions and feedback at songbirdschant@gmail.org

GARDEN HELP (Shadow Black Cat)

Posted in Organic Gardens, Poems with tags , , , , , , , on July 10, 2015 by Drogo

by Christine Schoenemann (Maccabee)

*

Wishing for a shadow

as I do my morning chores…

Another “me” to follow

lifting buckets of manure.

Like a streak my little black cat

races past me down the path.

I smile…

he makes me laugh.

After watering I go into the house,

and there he quietly sits,

My shadow…

beside his dinner dish.

My garden help,

little Black !

Lucky One #5: Now I Know

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 31, 2015 by Drogo

The Lucky One #5 “Now I Know”

Now I know why I’m so lucky

Why I still have all my limbs

Though there is still pain

in my hands, shoulder and knees.

Wartime warriors missing limbs

Missing eyes and faces

Missing out on life

as I so luckily live.

Now I know why I am being preserved

Still healthy and vital and increasingly free…

So I can preserve and protect

The natural wonders around me.

Now I know

why I am getting stronger…

so I can be strong

for others !

– Poem by Christine S. Maccabee

Hibernation

Posted in Health & Fitness, Individuals / Members / Monsters / Creative Writing with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2015 by Drogo

HIBERNATION – “a state of being during extreme cold, forcing many creatures to become dormant in their hibernacula (their winter quarters or place of retirement…Florida ?)”

It’s winter. It’s very cold. Climbing out of my warm nest to put a log on the fire, I feel like a turtle in its shell. I would much rather just stay under my warm covers and hibernate !

My theory is this : it is natural for warm blooded humans to slow down in cold weather. I will call it the burrowing impulse. I suppose this goes against many other theories which suggest that humans need to speed up and keep the blood flowing to keep warm, but somehow this does not always work for me. So, I resort to a cup of coffee in the morning, as many of us do, and pasta dishes become increasingly important for energy. Then there are energy bars, and some strongly caffeinated drinks which are really not good for people. Sometimes plain old inspiration provides motivation to get going, and then there is always the fear of loosing ones job if late for work. Perhaps the most popular incentive is the pleasure of foraging for food at a favorite local market place. One way or the other, warm blooded humans rally to the cause of living in this human world we have created.

After running around, doing all the outdoor chores on this icy, windy day, all I want to do is lay down and curl up with a good book, or a good man if I had one, and relax. My fingers and feet are cold, and I am lethargic. Is lethargy a form of mental hibernation? There are many types of dormant conditions in the natural world. So I contemplate hibernation, and how nice it would be if only…

.if only I were a bear or a coon or snake or turtle. However, in my reading on the subject I have learned that many critters do not really go into true hibernation. Such is the case for most bears, especially the polar bear, for the female usually births her cubs, cleaning and feeding them as well during hibernation. The male is usually out fishing !

Here in the mountains where I live I am thankful that the black snake, by now in deep hibernation, is no longer after my chicken eggs, although fewer eggs are laid due to the cold, shorter days. Perhaps I should get solar panels on the roof of the coup as a source of electricity ! Not a bad idea. The woodchucks have happily withdrawn into seclusion, dormant in their burrows. Their breathing and heart rates are slower and body temperatures lowered. I am happy, no, thrilled , not to see them! Of course, they are no threat to the vegetables in my gardens as there is nothing growing right now, except for the salad bar in my cold frames, which I mostly keep closed from the weather.

One thing I always miss throughout the winter is the wonderful music of crickets, katydids, frogs and toads, and so I must patiently await their emergence from sleep. Spring cannot come soon enough for most of us, but winter is a necessary time of renewal. Most seeds need stratification, or a period of deep freeze, in order to germinate in the spring. Also, many pests who do not manage to sneak into your house or find a warmish place to hide, will die off. I am thinking specifically of the infamous stink bug !

Of course, the butterflies have disappeared too. Some, like the Monarchs, migrate south. However, one tough cookie, the Mourning Cloak, spends the winter in hollow trees and some live to “talk “ about it. I wonder what they would say about their time in the tree all winter. Maybe something like “Boring !” Same goes for moths which are in the pupa stage, all wrapped up in cocoons. I am beginning to wonder if I really want to hibernate. Maybe I should go south, but one needs money for that, plus I really am not retired, and likely never will be.

I would be remiss if I did not mention turtles, one of my very favorite animals. A good friend of mine who lives in Northern Minnesota, where temperatures have already been down as low as -25 degrees, said in an email that he does not know how turtles manage to survive winters there. Most winters the ground freezes anywhere between 3 and 6 feet down. So how does the soft body of the turtle, encased in a thin shell, manage not to turn into an ice cube ? This has always been my question too. Perhaps we should just chalk it up to one of those Great Mysteries of Life. Any theories ?

Not all turtles manage to emerge from the ground in the spring, as was the case of Timothy in a semi-true story by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Told from the turtle’s perspective, his last thoughts were, as recorded in the book :

I dig and dig. Settle the dirt on my shell. As deep as I can go into the warmth of earth. Carefully overlaid with autumn’s debris. Anchored. Immured. Landlocked. Becalmed…” and never to rise again from his hibernaculum, dead about the age of 60.

I believe I shall be content with that cup of coffee in the morning as I watch the snow fall, find delight in the variety of birds eating black sunflowers at my feeder, take that brisk, life giving walk to care for my chickens, and sing Silver Bells as I give thanks for being a warm blooded human being !

Many Blessings, Christine

Christine S. Maccabee Dec. 2014

War Weary (re-edit)

Posted in Environmentalism with tags , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Drogo

WAR WEARY : Turning to Nature for Solace August 2014

There is no one on this earth who is not affected by all the wars, and rumors of war, these days. Of course, all through the history of mankind there have been wars and rumors of war, and according to some thinkers and writers this is how it will always be, forever.

However, that is not what I want to debate, or discuss. I only wish to convey a few of my personal feelings about how war is affecting people, all people, and the natural world upon which we depend for survival. Whether people are aware of it or not, those in the muddle of the Middle East conflict, or here in the USA where we are not hearing air raid sirens daily, or starving on a mountain, we are all affected. There is not one thing on this earth that does not affect another.

Now how can I say that ? Aren’t we insulated from the worst of it here in America? Actually, we are not. “Whatever happens to the least of these happens to us all”. Some very wise person said something like that over 2,000 years ago. Actually, the words are more like this: “Whatsoever ye do to the least of these, ye do also unto me.” No wiser words were said.

Most natives of America thought along the same lines. They were natural ecologists, born and bred with “all our relations” in mind as a way of life. Some wise native said that we are all connected, that what befalls one part, affects another, and more…that a great sadness would befall us, as human beings, when there are no more sounds of nature and we loose the company of wild creatures. The natural world uplifts our spirits with its amazing beauty and diversity. To a degree it is here for our use, but not for our abuse. So, as I look around at what war, greed and materialism have done to the natural world, and are doing, I feel a profound sadness that I cannot seem to shake.

Such is the sadness we all feel, whether we are conscious of it or not. We are all affected, we are all war weary, weary of wars between each other, and war against the natural world. The earth itself is weary too, its water, its air, its swamps and rivers, its plants, its butterflies, bees, birds, the polar bears, and on and on. Shall I list every remaining species?

I turn to the purity of nature for solace everyday. As I wandered my gardens today, picking dried peas for next years planting (now there is an act of hope) and herbs for a healthy tea I need to make, my thoughts were solemn. What if there comes a day when there is no pure air to breath, or clean water to drink, or swampy breeding grounds for myriad birds and amphibians to thrive and procreate? In Syria, Gaza and Iraq, and many other war torn places around the world they are already experiencing serious problems, and my heart bleeds for the innocent, hardworking people, little children and old people, all suffering due to the ignorance of their leaders and ruthless radical movements. There is no clean drinking water and poor sanitation is pervasive. Women are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. If the perpetrators care that little for women, think how much less they care for the environment. Swamps are drying up, rivers and lakes polluted. The inhabitants are traumatized, are war weary, so am I, so are we all, and so is the Earth.

Yet, there is always hope. There are people doing their best to keep the balance between … and I will say it as it is…good and evil. To water it down, saying between dark and light, life and death, is stoically philosophical, though certainly true. However, this is not a philosophical exercise. This IS a war, another sort of war, a genuine fight for survival, and not just for survival of humans, but for the entire delicately balanced ecosystem. Every time a bomb is dropped, a missile fired, precious Life is despoiled, contaminated. For that matter, every time we climb in our car and turn the key, or turn on a light switch, we are contributing to the problem. Does this mean we should drop out of society? Maybe…

It is important to question why are we throwing this precious gift back in the face of the Giver, the Great Spirit, as well as our OWN spirits. Doesn’t, shouldn’t, everyone know that without the purity of the earth, we will all sicken and die, together, some sooner, some later? I suppose some people simply do not care enough, or think, or feel for that matter. If ignorance and misled materialism continue as they are, and if misguided leaders feel only pride, hate and fear, then we are doomed indeed.

Am I war weary.? You bet ya I am. So are you. Now, what to do about it ? I say, turn to the purity of nature, and fiercely protect and nurture it, wherever, however, you are able. Do what you can to lessen your footprint on the earth, assist other brave souls who are working in the front lines to remedy the ills, and pray for strength to persist. That is our only salvation, our only hope. Then someday, when we are truly weary of this life and it is our time to say farewell, with forgiveness in our hearts for those who knew not what they were doing, we will die in peace knowing in our hearts that we did the best we could.

Walk gently, but with a strong walking stick…Christine

WAR WEARY : Turning to Nature for Solace

Posted in Critical Commentary of Civilization, Homesteading, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Spiritual with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2014 by Drogo

August 2014

There is no one on this earth who is not affected by all the wars, and rumors of war, these days. Of course, all through the history of mankind there have been wars and rumors of war, and according to some thinkers and writers this is how it will always be, forever.

However, that is not what I want to debate, or discuss. I only wish to convey a few of my personal feelings about how war is affecting people, all people, and the natural world upon which we depend for survival. Whether people are aware of it or not, those in the muddle of the Middle East countries, or here in the USA where we are not hearing air raid sirens daily, we are all affected. There is not one thing on this earth that does not affect another.

Now how can I say that ? Aren’t we insulated from the worst of it here in America? Actually, we are not. “Whatever happens to the least of these happens to us”. Some very wise person said something like that 2,000 years ago. Actually, the words are more like this: “Whatsoever ye do to the least of these, ye do also unto me.” No wiser words were said.

Most natives of America thought along the same lines. They were natural ecologists, born and bred with “all our relations” in mind as a way of life. Some wise native said that we are all connected, that what befalls one part, affects another, and more…that a great sadness would befall us, as human beings, when there are no more sounds of nature and we loose the company of wild creatures. They are here for our use, but also to uplift our spirits with their amazing beauty and diversity. The earth and all of its inhabitants are a profound miracle! So, as I look around at what war and materialism have done to the natural world, and are doing, I feel a great sadness that I cannot seem to shake.

Such is the sadness we all feel on different levels, whether we are conscious of it or not. We are all war weary. Weary of wars between each other, and war against the natural world. The earth itself is weary too, its water, its air, its swamps and rivers, its plants, its butterflies, bees, birds, the polar bears, and on and on. Shall I list every remaining species?

As I wandered my gardens this morning, picking dried peas for next years planting (now there is an act of hope) and herbs for a healthy tea I need to make, my thoughts were solemn. What if there comes a day, due to rampant human ignorance upon the face of this beautiful earth, what if someday, there is no pure air to breath, or clean water to drink, or swampy breeding grounds for myriad birds and amphibians to thrive and procreate. In Syria, Gaza and Iraq,and many other places around the world they are already experiencing serious problems, and my heart bleeds for them. Innocent, hardworking people, with children and old people, all suffering due to the ignorance of their leaders. There is no clean drinking water and poor sanitation is pervasive. Swamps are drying up, rivers and lakes polluted. The inhabitants are war weary, and so am I, and so are we all. So is the Earth….

Yet, there is always hope. There are people doing their best to keep the balance between … and I will say it as it is…good and evil. To water it down, between dark and light, life and death , is stoically philosophical, though true. But this is not a philosophical exercise. This IS a war, another sort of war, a genuine fight for survival, and not just for survival of humans, but for the entire delicately balanced ecosystem.

So, how not to groan and lament the demise, the poisoning, of such a gift? Why are we throwing this precious gift back in the face of the Giver, the Great Spirit, as well as our OWN spirits. Doesn’t , shouldn’t, everyone know that without the purity of the earth, we will all sicken and die, together, some sooner, some later? I suppose some people simply do not care enough, or think, or feel for that matter. If egotistical ignorance and materialism continue as they are, and if misguided leaders feel only hate and fear, then we are doomed indeed.

Am I war weary.?… You bet ya I am. So are you. Now, what to do about it ?

I say, turn to the purity of nature, and fiercely protect and nurture it, wherever, however you are able. That is our only salvation, our only hope. Then someday, when we are truly weary of this life, and it is our time to say farewell; with forgiveness in our hearts for those who knew not what they were doing, we will die in peace knowing in our hearts that we did the best we could.

Walk Lightly, but with a strong walking stick…

~ Christine SCHOENE Maccabee

CSM 3

Thin Veil … A Chicken Tale …

Posted in Farming, Homesteading, Memorials / Obituaries / Epitaphs, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2014 by Drogo

THIN VEIL  …A Chicken Tale… of sorts…

There is a thin veil between yesterday and today, between our present moment and our past moments, between our experiences yesterday and those of today. Something happens in the present moment and WHAM, there we are again facing our past head-on. Something happens that we are not totally in control of, triggers a sad or a happy response, and we are suddenly reliving our past, immersed in similar / familiar sorrow, or joy.

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to distinguish between the two, between our past and our present, as they are such an integral part of the fabric of who we are. There is no way to consciously control what comes filtering through that thin veil, between then and now, and all the emotions trailing behind the memories. I guess the best we can do is acknowledge the veil, and then try to embrace it as a part of who we are, both the good and the bad. For example….

Last night I was so busy I forgot to close the chicken hatchway. My body was so tired, my knees and arm ached from the days activities, and I could not wait to fall into bed. Just as I was drifting off, I heard a chicken shriek, and I knew what had happened. Pissed at myself, I jumped out of bed, threw on my robe, and rushed down to the chickens. Golden girl had been slaughtered by a fox, and poor Red was beside herself, looking around warily and squawking. I pet her and comforted her and little Belle, my blue egg layer, even as I tried to comfort myself.

Old memories of loss of precious birds came flooding back as I kicked myself for forgetting. But I had to stroke and comfort myself, understanding that I was exhausted and overly tired from a huge day of music playing and car driving. I was consciously taking a small break last evening from all my responsibilities, watching a movie and emailing friends. I was so relaxed and spent, that I forgot to protect my chickens, one responsibility I forbid myself to forsake. I had let my guard down, just as I did the day my yurt burned to the ground last year. Yes, such things have happened before and no doubt will happen again. I will mourn the loss of my lovely gold chicken who laid huge brown eggs. Later today I will do as I have done in the past with other good birds. I will take her body to the field for the vultures to feed on her, I will bid her farewell, and I will go on with my life. Yes, there is a thin veil between yesterday and today.

What is that saying that I really did not like nor completely understand? “The more things change, they more they stay the same.” Now I understand the meaning of these words. They apply appropriately to this latest episode in my life here as a mini-homesteader. And then there is the ongoing problem with a woodchuck eating my soybean plants and broccoli…yet another difficult perennial problem to solve. Nature is consistently indifferent and does not care about me. I tire of trying. Perhaps it is time to stop. I have no help here…there is too much for me to do…so what’s new? The thin veil, the triggers, are intact, there is no denying it. Nothing has changed. Would I really expect it to ? Perhaps that is my problem… I keep trying, and all I am doing is spinning my wheels.

Pretty morbid, mournful thoughts today. Thanks for letting me vent. See me tomorrow once the garlic is harvested and the blueberries and the peas are picked ! The Indefatigable will continue to pick up the pieces, get beyond the grief, and continue on with life with even more humility than before.

Humility…human…humus…hmm… Still, darn that veil. Would it could be a high, thick, impenetrable wall, protecting us from pain and sorrow !!

But such is the stuff of stories… I suppose I should be happy they keep coming !

CSM 2

Christine Schoene Maccabee – July 3, 2014

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