Where Are We Headed?

The blatant takeover of the Supreme Court and the bold and reckless words of Clarence Thomas are telling us what’s at stake. When Thomas declares war on anything he deems Constitutionally challengeable, like abortion, gay marriage and contraception, he and the rest of his ilk are forgetting the most unchallengeable – the separation of church and state.

As Jefferson penned in 1814, “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law”.

So when local folks running for local office tell us they are going to bring back Christian values, its time to say, hold on partner, lets review history, not re-write it.

It ‘s time for all clear thinking people to step out of the red and blue boxes designed to divide so that we can see the current power grab as it is. We’re being played. We have been for the past fifty years. We’ve been divided by ignorance, our own and that which is thrust upon us.

Abortion will not end because of a law. Women of lessor means will suffer greatly as will their families, as will our society. The hypocrisy of this moment is only lost on those who blindly follow and those who corruptly lead.

So when I see a candidate running for the sheriff’s office proudly posing with a man who was unapologetically part of the January 6th coup attempt on our government, I have to ask, “Where are we headed?”

We’re fortunate to have some very fine people running for office, principled people putting their necks on the line and challenging us to make history again, to become the people we have believed we could be. 

We have the opportunity to mend the divide, to come together. 

And please do your homework, for all our sakes.

Here are a few worthy candidates of consideration, running in Vernon County, Wisconsin and the greater Wisconsin area: Turben for Sheriff; Swiggum for the 96th; and Cooke for Congress (WI 3rd District)

There is Enough

It took a huge effort to get the family of groundhogs eating and sleeping in our garden to leave, but we did it. And then of course we discovered the deer have been eating our corn. It’s always smart to plant enough for everyone I reckon. 

The days will be shortening and the winter’s wood supply is coming in bit by bit. I always feel a touch of relief at the Solstice, knowing that the reduction of light will shorten workdays as well. 

The apple harvest looks to be promising this year and I marvel at how human beings survived this dance on the Earth. I guess our ancestors did, as we must now do, be thoughtful, be creative, be frugal and above all be grateful.

Being thoughtful implies deliberate and careful consideration of the land, what it offers and how best to care for it. Being creative happens with the realization that we’re inextricably bound to the Earth in a realm of endless possibilities. 

If that’s confusing to you, stop by and watch the wizardry of my wife (welcome to Pride Month) as she gathers from the gardens and the wilds to create delicious life sustaining foods. And while some of that comes from being frugal, at its core it is an act of love and gratitude. It’s in recognition that the Earth can and does provide all that we need if we can take the time to remember what some have always known: There is enough. 

Another lovely awakening of this time is Juneteenth. Celebrating the beauty and the strength of those who survived the inhumanity of slavery are steps towards all of our healing. We have much to overcome, but we are one people finding our way on this precious Earth. Let’s get to it!

Loving Makes It Easy

The days keep growing longer. The birds, crickets and frogs break the silence with sweet sounds. The fireflies are back and their magic still enchants. Walking through the forest, the scents are a tonic, each plant offering its own special gift. The soil in the garden is a balm for feet and hands. Senses are heightened and gratitude comes easily. 

And I wonder why we ever took ourselves out of the garden.

If you look at your family history you’ll find it’s not been that long that our ancestors coexisted with the earth. It hasn’t been that long since they “made a way out of no way”. There is something so very basic in our relationship to the earth, so very integral. It’s in our blood. We are made of this earth and we return to this earth. It’s natural to appreciate it. It’s natural to learn from it and to celebrate it. What is unnatural is to do it harm. And this we have been doing for some time now.

From industry to industrial ag, from chemical herbicides to chemical fertilizers, this need to make our lives easier has made it a living hell. 

I’m always happy to hear of people trying to end the harm. Most recently a Canadian company, McCain Foods, asked their Wisconsin potato growers to adopt regenerative practices by 2030.  There are a growing number of voices both consumers and producers ready for change. 

And how hard will that change be to make? Loving makes the need for change come more easily. When we fall in love with the earth and all its wonders, when we appreciate the delicacies it offers and delight in our ability to co-create, we will change. Our health and the health of the planet depend on it. 

Here Comes the Sun

If you’re thinking of putting up a home solar array in 2022 you will qualify for the 26% federal solar tax credit. That credit will drop to 22% in 2023 and will conclude in 2024. 

For those tempted to take the solar plunge, learning about your energy use and your energy waste are perhaps the most important considerations. Reading your monthly statements, understanding your peak times of use, changing to LED bulbs and using energy efficient appliances will dramatically reduce your electric bill.

It’s an exercise in conscious living and it’s very satisfying to your pocketbook. 

Most rural people have forgotten the history of how electricity came to the countryside. It was the establishment of cooperatives that allowed the forgotten regions of this country to obtain electricity. 

Today most are cooperative members, but seldom understand our roles as co-owners. Happy for the lights to go on, we have entrusted the financial workings of the energy cooperatives to boards and stakeholders. As we move to renewable energy, this may be a moment to reconsider inaction and become involved. 

If you’re holding out hope that your energy provider will increase their use of solar and that it will decrease your costs, it’s time to think again. Out of state third party developers are taking advantage of this leap towards solar and are investing in local solar systems. What you aren’t being told is how much you will be paying for this “service” as our cooperatives sign on to contracts that in many cases will outlast our lifetimes. It’s estimated that Vernon County ratepayers export $76 million yearly in energy costs.

So on top of your conscientious reduction of energy waste, it’s time to let your coop board know that you would prefer to keep our dollars local. 

For a great presentation by Vernon County Energy District members Samantha Laskowski, Kaila Wilson and independent solar enthusiast, Rob Danilelson, click here.

Make It Count

Today is my birthday and with it the recognition that I’m inching ever closer to the finish line. People want to celebrate birthdays and thoughts of the finality of life are not usually mentioned, but I’ve always been the sort to take life seriously. Not gloomily, but in full recognition of life’s finite nature. These sobering thoughts may lead one to a lifetime filled with choice and I am fond of the saying, “Choice not chance makes destiny.”  

Some people invest in the after life. I’m not one of those people. I love living and I’m quite content with heaven on earth, regardless of the hardships that may come. 

Some people invest in material gain; I’m not one of those either, as I have seen enough burials to know you don’t take it with you.

For me, I thrill at the possibility of filling my days with gratitude and I’ve found that with a bit of practice one can get very good at it. It’s the same with kindness. 

And when we refuse to drink of the cup of fear, it’s amazing what beauty and sweetness awaits.

I have lived long enough to know that I am unique but not special. Unique we all are, individually wrapped by the hand of the Creator. Our specialness is in that and it holds what we all share: the gift of life, and the opportunity to love and to be loved.

In the stillness of our hearts we know that we are loved. And that knowing is the sweetest birthday gift. 

When this magnificent ride comes to its end, I want to be able to say, “Thank you”. 

And if the chance should be offered to come again, I want to say, “Put me in coach.    I’m ready to play.” 

photo: Creative Commons

The Will of Life

I found a pile of feathers and straw in the barn. It was a barn swallow nest that had fallen from the rafter. When I moved the fluffy haven three fledgling birds were struggling underneath. Instincts kicked in to save them and I found a basket to hold them in hopes that their mother would hear their cries.  A closer look on the ground showed another seemingly lifeless sibling. I decided to hold it; in case it was not dead and in hopes that the warmth from my hand would ignite its will to live. Within moments it was squirming and I delighted in the will of Life to live. 

This on the morning I learned of the massacre of nineteen children and two adults at the hand of an eighteen year old. And I wondered what experiences had ripped compassion out of that eighteen year old heart? What twisted mindset had found a home in this unfortunate that had him ignore the will of Life?

Gratitude kicked in for all that has been given and for the choices I have made. I have learned to choose compassion over inhumanity, and I have allowed myself to hold kindness over hopelessness. It appears that many are struggling in an abyss of darkness, letting the will of Life pass them by. We have all participated in this growth of despair. It is a choice to belong to the voices that champion our goodness over our evil. And to still believe there is a way out.

We are born with a will to live, to thrive and to flourish. Circumstances will come and go, but the key remains. The will to love life is ours to protect, to learn from and to share. 

We cannot let fear destroy it.

  • The photo is not a barn swallow, but another fledgling that found its will to live.

What Part Do I Play?

Many are weary of hearing the phrase “systemic racism”. They don’t want to think about racial inequity. They’re sorry for the loss of life brought on by white supremacists but are not ready to call them domestic terrorists. Ok, you can keep playing your word game, but I’m more than ready to call out the disease for what it is: white christian nationalism.

What is christian nationalism? It’s the twisted ideology that arrived on these shores and allowed the attempted genocide of Native people and the enrichment of capital through slavery. It gave wealthy men like Carnegie and Mellon king-like status and continues to glorify extreme wealth even as many suffer. It was and is used to promote imperialistic wars with the claims of American exceptionalism.  

It is the thought process that disavows anyone who is different. It is the steadfast belief that white ethnocentrism is superior and “others” may harm their “way of life”. 

It has reduced a gospel of Love to a gospel of abundance and power. Perhaps the most deplorable of all, it has people believing there is nothing to be done, just sit back and wait for your heavenly reward.

But christian nationalism has nothing to do with Christianity. 

When an 18 year old walks into a grocery store and kills ten people because of the color of their skin, it’s time we ask ourselves: What part did I play in this? Is my silence worth the suffering of those victimized families? Does sheltering myself from hate fulfill my divine destiny? Or more importantly, how can I help my human family end this division we call race?

Christianity taught me about Love, not fear. It was hopeful and inclusive. Anything else, my friends, is illusion.

Wake up and call it out.

The photo is public domain from the Library of Congress.It is entitled Cross Burning, KKK from 1925.

How far have we come? Where are we going? And while the 18 year old killer proclaimed he is not a Christian one only needs to look at the beliefs that radicalized him to see the root of the disease. White christian nationalism. Hopefully White Christians will stand firm against this ignorance instead of turning away and ignoring it. Call out your pastors who preach hate. Stop supporting the fear mongering on your radio stations and virtual forums. Stop voting for racists. End this human betrayal.

Love’s Need

Sometimes you hear a song and its full value and timeliness hits home. That happened as I listened to Stevie Wonder singing, “Love’s in Need of Love Today”.

What kind of empathy drives those words? What kind of passion? What arises in us as we contemplate his question, “Did you ever think that love would be in need of love?”

We’re all capable of the compassion expressed in those words and the hope…but we have to wonder what makes a person raise their voice for the only cure that humankind requires, while another will do all that they can to fuel hate?

What is it? What makes a person bitter and cynical and another resolute for change? 

I am of the firm belief that it is not a question of experience, nor is it the coincidence of birth, nor the spin of the wheel of fortune. I believe that for those who can Love, even in life’s hardest moments, it is a choice. 

Hatred and confusion are human defaults. They are throwbacks we cling to when we have not yet learned of our capacity to Love. In the song there is a plea for everyone to give Love, because it is possible, and because it is needed.

People, who have cultivated seeds of empathy, and compassion, can give love. They have turned their backs on fear. And when the purveyors of love pray, sing and dance they open a door for all hearts to enter. When the purveyors of love plant and tend their gardens it is in full knowing that the earth can feed all of us. That the sun shines for all of us. That Love awaits all of us.

Here’s hoping the passionate voices of Lovers continue to call us home and that we open to it.

And for a special treat here is Billy Porter and Michaela Jae singing Stevie Wonder’s, “Love’s in Need of Love Today”

Find Better Ways

The world has been upended again. This time by a leak of something that has not and may not happen. Reactionaries on both sides are swift to lay blame, while caring people are scrambling to salvage what bit of sanity may still prevail. 

The issue is abortion. It’s successfully divided people for fifty years. And while nearly 60 % of us favor legality, those of religious dogma and political control use it as a power grab. And people who oppose making abortion illegal have yet to garner the clarity, unity and focus to make the issue go away.

Abortions will happen. Safely and legally or unsafely and illegally should be the most important consideration. Women suffer through patriarchal dominance and prohibitive laws will add to the suffering.

What is needed is not a battle. What is needed is a change in behavior and a revival of consciousness. Ensuring human rights would be a good starting point.

There are doctors, social workers, ministers and the like scrambling to find ways to help women who are caught in states criminalizing abortion and removing health-care facilities. These state laws are creating a health crisis that is unnecessary and inhuman.

Women with difficult pregnancies; ones who miscarry and are held suspect; those raped by family or friend; and those who did not know the rapist will all be harmed. Mothers who cannot afford to have another child will suffer, as will their families.

We need to stop the battle and deal with reality. Abortion may again become illegal in some states. Abusing women with antiquated laws is not the solution. Teaching respect and providing adequate free health care including birth control would be a better way. Caring for one another might actually be the key.

Image is Creative Commons. Author is Becharaia.

The Human Potential

Another Earth Day has past. Outside the green of spring finally emerges from winter despite the cold winds still ripping through. Broken branches and downed trees tell their story, as do the streams, which are strikingly low. And while this drama is playing out there is the slowly creeping reality of food shortages setting in. Our usual fifty-pound bag of oats is back ordered and feed prices are going up. One has to wonder if this is the moment we realize the folly of mono crops and dependence on grains from far away. We can hope to return the bounty lost from the advent of industrial agriculture. We can grow food for people.

And then there is the war. One of many waging on the earth, but this one is a triumph for profiteers. The same failed tactics and worn storylines are telling us what to fear. Women and children suffer, and men become robotic killing machines in the name of patriotism. Governments lie and people accept.

There’s no escaping the intersection of violence against people and violence against the Earth. But the spin-doctors are good at smoke and mirrors and we’re good at keeping truths from our self. 

If ever there was a moment for the human race to snap out of it, it’s now. If ever there was a time for kindness to win it’s now. Now we need the singular voice for peace.

And how will it look, this divergence from violence? Respect will be the dominant force and it will be guided by common sense. We’ll stop destroying the only home we have and begin to care for one another. And when and if calamity should come, we’ll meet our challenges with courage, not fear.

This is the human potential; a worthy goal.