Archive for November, 2008

Take It All

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I take much more from my National Wildlife Refuge than I ever give in volunteer work. With my animal senses of sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste, I take a wealth of wonder.There is the crunch of leaves underfoot, the delicate fuzz of the woolly bear curled against the elements waiting to develop into another form. The pile of dirt kicked up by gophers is an engineering marvel my fingers and toes could never duplicate.

Many animals are in hibernation in a near-sleep state coping with the shorter daylight hours: mammals in hollow spaces, amphibians in mud, reptiles in air pockets below the frost level. I know this because of an uniquely human development — that of storing data and observations on printed pages. I smell decaying plants. I hear the swish of thousands of feathers as waterfowl rise to escape the hunter’s shot. I hear their call as they point southward toward their wintering grounds along air routes established eons past by their demands for food they can no longer find in the frozen north. I see blurry forms caused by the fog which is water caught between being wet and being invisible. The forms within are covered with a gray opaque softness seen under no other circumstance.

All this I take while I walk in my national wildlife refuge. I notice the passage of raccoons, pheasants, weasels, deer, and coyotes from the footprints left in the soft sand along the trail. I take all this because of the sensory abilities of my eyes, nose, fingers, ears, and mouth. Nature is there but I must take the treasures because nature is benign. Nature simply is. What is there is what I take and treasure for the health of my body and the comfort of my soul.

Tax The Churches

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

We who want the best for Americans are quite happy over the election of Barack Obama for the next president. Many of the senatorial and house election results give rise to expectations for a better political atmosphere in Congress as well. Help with jobs, bridges, health, and a more respected place in the world community.

Let’s look at states where results of initiatives rendered lives of targeted citizens very bleak. Loss of abortion rights. Increased intolerance for personal life styles. How does it happen that ordinary civil rights are denied? The source of money is a clue. Millions of dollars from church headquarters were spent in those states. The sources were blatant about their efforts to force their ideological choices on citizens.

And some folks say: Isn’t that their right? Is it really the right of church leaders to take money from parishioners and go all out against citizens’ civil rights? Churches are immune from taxes. They do not have to report their income. And we thought that was fair when their income was spent on ways to enrich the poor and tend to the sick. Now being their brother’s (and sister’s) keeper is not enough. They choose to make civil laws.

Did the woman who took her raped daughter for an abortion know what her church donation now denied her? Did the man who wanted to visit his partner’s sick bed know what his church donation now denied him? The people who occupy the pews for sermons do not ask where their donations are used.

It is time to hold church leaders accountable. It is time for all the multi-million dollar incomes to be taxed. The IRS and our country’s treasury should welcome a grass roots movement to demand the taxing of churches. Millions worked together to change our political environment. Let’s work together on another great idea. Tax the churches.

No Clean Sweep

Friday, November 7th, 2008

With a clean sweep of Republicans from office across Washington state on November 4, 2008, I puzzled why we did not remove one of the worst offenders from the fourth legislative district. Surely the voters knew of his abuse as head of the ethics committee when he obstructed justice for years. I thought back to my childhood on the farm during the FDR presidency. We were fed the Republican rhetoric every day of the year, not just during the period of electioneering. Before radio and TV, farm magazines were bad mouthing any action that would equalize benefits for all, every worker – not only farmers, every day, in every article. My dad would have none of the glitzy farm journals.

Agriculture has been the backbone of America since colonial times. Jefferson sent The Corps of Discovery to the west to stake claim on all land from ocean to ocean. His intent was to populate the land with people. That’s what people can do – grow their own food and survive.

I watch grain pile up by the Snake river as it comes by the barge to be held until demand for wheat improves. Overseas is the target. This morning I found a news item where wheat imports are curtailed by Japan because of safety rules. Has our grain been carriers of disease or insects or dirt to alert that government to change its imports?

A law in our congress allows farmers to apply for the privilege of getting subsidy price for their wheat and hundreds of farmers expanded their acres of wheat. They applied for easy welfare. The market glutted.

Four conical piles of grain were heaped on the ground in the Snake river storage in July. Two were hauled away in September. Two remain protected by enormous canvases and elaborate aerating systems to maintain the integrity of the grain. The Department of Agriculture makes the rules.

Believing the propaganda from International Agra-businesses, most of my tax-paying neighbors once more preferred the bad guy.

Once A Year

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Briefly, ever so briefly, there are times when I think how pleasant it would be to not have to rake leaves. That opportunity means no trees. Out of the question. I want my trees — the thirty foot tall English and Black walnuts, the fifty foot Lodgepole pine and sixty foot Douglas fir, and various twelve foot flowering shrubs and fruit trees, all grown from seeds or seedlings on my 50′ by 150′ lot within the last thirty-five years.

Still, I had moments when the leaves caused real pain. Like when I skinned my shins climbing up to clean the leaves from the shop roof. Wind swirls the desert dust and holds its breath to allow dirt to settle in the quiet space under the overhang on the shop roof. I can ignore that for the summer but when the leaves gather there that’s a different ball of wax. Well, between the soil and the moisture held in the leaves there would be a veritable plant explosion come next spring. All manner of plants would sprout and a roof garden would emerge. An event I definitely do not want.

So I set up my ladders and up I go. The weather cooperated. Although the sun did not shine upon me, the temperature was pleasant enough to encourage working without a cumbersome jacket. I stretched from the top of my ladder with a rake to push the leaves off then I hosed down the roof. Nice job. Well done.

The leaves lay contentedly in heaps below. How tempting it is to let them lay there. Properly digested by roly poly bugs and millipeds and angleworms, leaves turn into soil, rich and nutritious to nurture new plants that burst from seeds alive with energy, excited about breaking into a brave, new world. Leaves make wonderful compost but in the desert that rarely happens because the animals that decompose will not do so unless there is moisture of some degree. And to make matters worse, the dry leaves piled around plants prevent dew or any other precipitation from getting to the roots. You see, in my desert less than six inches of rain falls during the year but plant leaves extirpate oxygen which cools to its liquid state and falls as dew during the exchange with carbon dioxide that the leaves absorb during the day.

I know those leaves will remain there. Inside my wonderfully protected back yard no wind that blows will take them away as it does in the open front yards of my neighbors. The burden is on me. What a good thing that I need exercise and will expend my energy to move the leaves into bags for the city to haul away. That, too, is not without pain but it will pass away. And you know what? Leaf removal is a one time job. Once a year I wonder about the wisdom of loving my trees. During the remainder of the year, I relish the shade, enjoy the variety of nature, and appreciate the magic of the seasons. Leaves come forth, develop, senesce, and finally drop at my feet, with nary a concern of their affect on my life. I accept that and act accordingly.