Depriving Our Children

I took my nieces on a camping trip to Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona last weekend.  They rarely have the opportunity to get out of the city and I want to expose them to nature as much as possible in the hope that they will grow to appreciate the natural world. 

Just as I expected, they had no problem adjusting to play in nature versus the built playground.  They immediately took off their shoes and dug their feet deep into the sand of Oak Creek.  I kept insisting that they keep their shoes on, but the urge to feel the earth beneath their feet was too great to listen to their supposedly wise old aunt.  Instead, they ran around the creek in bare feet and I gave up trying to force them to wear shoes. 

When my mother saw the video I posted of them in bare feet in the middle of the woods, she scolded me for allowing them to run around with their shoes off, then sharing it on Facebook so everyone could see. 

But I’m not sorry.  Given the opportunity to commune with nature in this way seems only natural to want to feel the earth beneath our bare skin.  Afterall, John Muir ran barefoot through the woods, too.  Maybe we would all be a bit better off if we all did it once in awhile instead of spending all our time standing on concrete.

According to Richard Louv, in Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, children do not play outdoors as much as they did in previous generations.  Today, children stay inside playing video games and watching T.V. more often than they play outside, and when they do play outside, it is often in a man-made playground, rather than a natural area. 

Gone are the days when children spent hours exploring the creek behind their neighborhood catching tadpoles and climbing trees.  The modern childhood tends to be more experienced with the X-box than skipping rocks.

Part of the reason for this is due to safety.  Parents rarely let their children play unsupervised outside anymore.  Instead, they schedule their children’s outside time with structured activities like soccer practice and little league. 

These activities keep children out of trouble, but they lack the experimentation that unstructured play in natural surroundings can provide for children.  Louv cites several studies that demonstrate natural play areas enhance children’s creativity more than a man-made playground. 

Another reason children do not play in natural areas anymore is simply that natural areas are getting harder to find as we pave over meadows and clear forests to build parking lots or new roads. 

We are raising a generation of children who have less experience in nature than we have had.  You may think this is obvious.  You may think it is not that big of a deal, but it could have long term consequences. 

Louv argues that if we are not careful, we will lose the nature preservationists in our society as fewer and fewer children experience the wonders of nature.  Who will be the natural scientists of the future?  Who will go out into the back country of our National Parks and research the plants and wildlife?  If we don’t teach children to appreciate nature in childhood, how will they preserve it as adults? 

Who is to blame for this loss of natural values?  Well, in a word, we are: the generations who came before.  Through our grossly wasteful modern lifestyle in wealthy developed countries we treat nature as if it exists simply for our own use and exploitation. 

Those of us who grew up playing in nature suddenly turned away from it for the convenience of our SUV’s and single use plastics without realizing how we would impact future generations.  Now we wonder why Johnny would rather play video games than go outside. 

It is our own damn fault and you must wonder, do our children know what they are missing?  Do they know the childhood we are depriving them of?

For the answer, I direct you to Greta Thunberg, Swedish climate change activist and her army of young school strikers.  In 2018, Greta started a school strike for climate change by standing in front of the Swedish Parliament to urge politicians to take immediate action before it is too late. 

She argues that we have talked about the problem for thirty years, but nothing has been done.  Now, is the time for action. 

Her generation will see a direct impact from our wasteful lifestyle and, she asks, why should they attend school, studying for a future that does not exist? Clearly, she knows what she is being deprived of.

And she makes a good argument.  Humans cause the extinction of two hundred species per day.  How is it that we assume, we will never be one of those species?   

The earth has been here 4.5 billion years, while humans have only existed a fraction of that time, just 200,000 years, to be exact.  The dinosaurs went extinct before we roamed the earth, why do we think our fate will be somehow different? 

Species have gone extinct long before we came on the scene, but we may be the only species that directly causes its own extinction with complete knowledge of what we are doing. 

The planet does not need us.  It was here long before we were, and it will be here long after life on earth is destroyed.  We, however, desperately need it. 

In fact, it is all we really have.  Everything we have comes from the earth.  All our clothes, buildings, cars, even the money, which we are so consumed with, is made from trees.  If we do not have a planet, we do not have anything.  The earth is all we have.  No, let me rephrase that, the earth has us.  We are completely dependent on it.  It’s best not to bite the hand that feeds us.

And that is why I will be joining Greta Thunberg on September 20th for the global climate strike.  I know that my generation has contributed to the problem for far too long and it is time to change. 

Maybe, someday, my nieces will want to take their children to play in Oak Creek just as they did when they were children, but that won’t happen if we don’t ensure the survival of Oak Creek and other places like it. 

In my lifetime, the ecosystem of the creek has changed drastically.  As a child, I knew a much wider creek, full of gushing water, while today, only a thin ribbon of water trickles over rocks leaving a mostly dry creek bed along the sides; evidence of the abundance that once existed but does not anymore.  

If we do not do something to prevent the warming of the earth, I fear my beloved creek will run dry and future generations of children will never know the marvel of playing on its banks. 

Worse yet, our cities will run out of water forcing population centers, here, in the Western United States to migrate to places with enough water to support life. 

If I want my nieces to experience nature the way I did when I was a child, I need to make sure natural places continue to exist on this planet.  That will not happen if we continue to do nothing. 

We know the technology exists to provide clean energy to our homes and businesses through sources such as, wind and solar. 

We know the technology exists to power our vehicles with clean sources, such as electric and hydrogen fuel cells, eliminating fossil fuel emissions all together, but those in power refuse to transform their profitable industries into a more sustainable market because they don’t think they can afford it, when what we really can’t afford are the lives lost in disasters resulting from climate change like that of Hurricane Dorian. 

It is time to hold the big corporations causing mass pollution accountable and force them to find solutions that are sustainable for life on this planet.    It is time that our governments and businesses invest in the mass production of clean energy.  We have been complacent for far too long.

How can we deprive our children of the spectacular wonders of the world we know and love? It is time to change our lifestyle so our children can have the opportunity to experience this miraculous existence of life on earth that we have, so shamelessly, taken for granted.

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Our Racist President

This week our illustrious president, if you can call him that, has yet again disappointed us by targeting four Congresswomen of color, claiming they hate this country simply because they were elected to congress as women of color. I do not need to tell you how his supporters responded: with a blatantly racist chant of “Send her back.” While he claims to disapprove of the chant, he did nothing to stop it and, in reality, provoked it in the first place.

This week’s actions represent an escalation in the hatred instigated by the Trump administration. Unlike the chant of “Lock her up” heard during the 2016 elections, the Congresswomen did nothing to provoke it. It was a matter of debate whether or not Hillary Clinton did anything with her emails. There was a specific event they were talking about when his supporters chanted, “Lock her up.” It was about something she may have done which they believed was wrong, but this time, the Congresswomen have done nothing, but get elected while being women of color. His attacks are clearly unwarranted. They have done nothing and Trump is accusing them of no inappropriate activities. He can’t. He has nothing on them because they have done nothing wrong. Their only crime is disagreeing with him, leaving him no recourse but to attack them simply on the pretense of who they are and his supporters are quick to jump on the bandwagon.

When people attack others and our leaders allow it and even provoke it, simply for being who they are, we plummet into a severely dangerous situation. These are the tools of fascism, the likes of which we have seen in societies plagued by genocide, such as Nazi Germany. If this is the new normal of the Trump administration, we have just tumbled one step closer to dictatorship. This is not the same as sending back undocumented immigrants. There is a national debate on immigration which existed long before Trump. We are talking about U.S. citizens being told to leave the country which is their home. All members of the U.S. Congress are U.S. citizens. They cannot be elected otherwise. This is a new level of hatred we are dealing with: indiscriminate attacks on U.S. citizens. Who will they come for next?

First they came for the Muslims by banning them from entering our country and I did not speak out because I was not a Muslim.

Then, they came for the undocumented immigrants by putting them in cages where children were killed and I did not speak out because I was not an undocumented immigrant.

Then, they came for the transgender soldiers and I did not speak out because I was not a transgender soldier.

Then, they came for the scientists by forcing the USDA to move or lose their jobs, erasing years of expertise and research on the environment and I did not speak out because I was not a scientist.

Then, they came for the American Congresswomen and I did not speak out because I was not a Congresswoman.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pretty Pretty Girl

I have been going through old journals and found this poem I must have written about twenty years ago.  I never did anything with it, but it seems relevant now with the Me Too movement.  Maybe I was twenty years too early.  Of course, I was full of anger and passion back then.  Now I am much calmer, but still angry over great injustice.

Oh pretty, pretty girl

Why are you so sad?

Pretty, pretty girl,

Why don’t you get mad?

You would be if you could be,

but you can’t

because there are bills to pay

and mouths to feed

and an asshole making promises he can’t keep

and doesn’t really want to.

And you want to believe him,

so you do,

but you can’t live on empty promises

in an old shoe.

But you keep on surviving

and your looks are fading fast,

but it’s your inner beauty and strength that lasts.

You don’t even know you have it in you,

but you could if you looked,

but you don’t,

because you might heal yourself

before someone else hurts you again,

then maybe you’d be happy.

Oh pretty, pretty girl,

Why are you so sad?

Oh pretty, pretty girl,

Why don’t you get mad?

You would be if you could be,

but you can’t

because the boys can’t keep their hands off you,

so you learn to like the attention

because they want you to.

Do you even know what you want anymore?

And it makes you feel good when they say you are pretty,

so you start wearing clothes that are skimpy.

Then you feel like a star,

until some scumbag takes if too far.

Violated, vomiting and victimized,

they taught you to blame yourself for their actions,

so you do.

Diminished, disgusted and desperate,

you learned your only value is your body,

so now what do you do?

And your whole life feels like one big struggle.

It’s like you were born stuck to the sticky floor of one of those open ended cardboard roach motels.

You can see the free world from here,

you just can’t get there.

So after awhile you give up.

Your legs are getting tired

and your not going anywhere anyway.

In fact, it is too painful to even look outside the box

when all you will ever know is inside.

Why tempt yourself?

And it’s all your fault anyway, right?

You took the bait and now your stuck,

so you stop your foolish dreams and give up.

Oh pretty, pretty girl

why are you so sad?

Pretty, pretty girl,

why don’t you get,

why, why, why don’t you get

why don’t you get

MAD!

The Story of the Stones

The sign at the trail head barely even mentions the Native Americans who inhabited this area on the Hieroglyphic Trail, named for the petroglyphs that can’t be missed at the top of the trail. These rocks tell a story of a time when people in the area knew they were interconnected to the animals that shared the same land.

Rock carvings of deer, snake, lizards, coyote, tarantulas, and scorpions demonstrate all the creatures who gathered at this waterhole; an oasis in the arid desert.  Today, it is just a pool of mucky water, but I have seen it after a rain when it is fed by a descending waterfall which collects in the pool, then moves on through the canyon.

Life granting water to the thirsty desert creatures. Shared by humans and animals alike, the Hohokam and the Apache knew they existed along side the many other life forms that belonged to this land.  There was no us and them. No human world versus the natural world. Humans were not separate from the nature. We were nature. A part of this mysterious thing called life on this planet. They knew not why they were here or where they were going, but they knew something brought them all together at the watering hole.

They knew everyone, animal and human alike, needed water to survive and they respected that.  Mother Nature provided all the resources needed for everyone’s survival. And when they killed, they did it out of respect for the cycle of life and death. They thanked the Earth for giving them the means of their survival.

They did not go to the grocery store and buy a pound of ground beef or get a taco from the taco truck. No, they worked for their food. They harvested plants and hunted deer for their meat.  Today, we are so disconnected from our food that we don’t realized where our food comes from. We need to see this. We need to be out in nature and see the animals, hear the birds chirp, see the art left by ghosts from the past and how they were, we humans, were once a part of it all.

The truth is we are still a part of it all, no matter how hard we try to disconnect ourselves from nature.  We cannot separate the human-made world from nature.  We are a part of nature.

You may think I am stating the obvious.  Of course we are a part of nature, everyone knows that, but the more time we spend in our cars and office buildings, the less time we have to observe how life really works on this planet.  We need to get out of the city once in a while and experience what life is like without concrete and plastic.

Nature finds ways of showing us that. There are little reminders infiltrating our cities, from falcons perching on high rise buildings to mountain lions and bears popping up in suburban backyards. We cannot escape from the natural world because it is our world; the only world we have.

The Story of the Stones

These stones whisper a story.

A story of the human animal living along side many other animals.

A story of a watering hole in the desert.

A gathering place for all.

Water cooler chit chat.

Water cooler art.

An acceptance of all,

recognizing fundamental need.

Trusting the Earth to provide enough without greed.

Respect the mysteries of life.

Hear the story of the stones.

Listen with your heart through the pages of time

and you will know you are home.

Imprisoned by our commodities,

we have forgotten from where we began.

Our complicated lives are really quite simple,

it has been the same since the beginning of woman and man.

Remember, we are still a part of humble beginning.

The truth is, we can be nothing more,

no matter how many black Friday deals you think you get at the store.

Even are “advanced” society cannot make a machine of a human.

We live, we breath, we eat, we drink.

We laugh, we cry, we anger, we think.

And if we ever do become a systematic, well oiled machine,

the odds are, we’re causing suffering.

So, remember the story of the stones.

Hear the whisper of ghosts’ past.

Know we did not get here alone,

and we will not be the last.

Getting Back on the Horse

I just read a blog by a woman a little younger than I am, but middle aged nonetheless, who wrote about the courage it took her to go back to school at her age and to follow her dreams.  It seemed sad to me that something so common place should take so much courage and that she would feel so much resistance in her path.  I know that such obstacles exist, especially for many woman, whose dreams get pushed aside for more important things, like raising a family.

While it seems sad to me now, I remember when I did something which I thought of as wild and crazy for my ripe old age.  I started taking acting classes at thirty-eight and while it doesn’t seem so crazy to me now, having done it, at the time, I felt like it was  a little crazy for my age.  I was in a class primarily full of twenty-somethings with big dreams.

Why do people assume we stop dreaming as we get older?  We assume that young people have the world ahead of them.  They have all the potential for success, but we rarely recognize the role of experience and failure as stepping stones to success.  As I see it, potential exists in experience and failure.  Maybe we do not see the potential in older adults because we know it becomes harder to get back on the horse the more you fall off.

The young person has not fallen yet, and no one knows if they will have the determination it takes to keep going.  Their optimism is inspiring, but they may not have the stamina it takes to endure.

The key to happiness, I have found, is the ability to constantly get back on the horse.  Putting your foot in the stirrup and pulling yourself up is the place where I live.  Success is sweet, but it doesn’t last very long, and then what?  You must create the next challenge.

The potential for the most growth exists in that moment when you are working toward a new goal.  You’ve experienced failure or maybe success, in the past, but in that place where you struggle to achieve a new goal, you learn the most about yourself.  This is the time when you must have an unwavering belief in yourself and your ability to conquer what challenges you.

All to often, as we grow older, we forget how satisfying challenging ourselves can be.  As we achieve success, we must continually strive for something better.  Add one more thing to the bucket list that never ends.  We can always find some new way to grow whether your eight or eighty.

I often see a ninety-eight year old woman in my mother’s retirement community who suffered a stroke and walks with a walker.  Her challenges look a lot different from mine, but she faces them head on.

Every morning she gets out of bed and walks her dog around the block at a snails pace, but she gets up and does it rain or shine.  She has a seat on her walker, but makes a point of saying, “I never sit down.”  She is always going.  May we all have the courage it takes to pursue our dreams and tackle our challenges to the very end.  I will always get back on that horse no matter how hard it is.
Continue reading “Getting Back on the Horse”

Swim

Swim

Life energy water encompasses my body,

I feel its positivity healing my rotten body and soul

and I am reborn.

Creek waters trickle over rocks,

smoothing the jagged surface,

teaching us even the hardest stone

can be changed by cool flowing

love, hope and purpose.

Now, I’m floating in a sea

thick with cooperation, trust, hope, regeneration, invigoration.

The thunder cracks,

the rain pours,

the lightening bolt strikes,

giving renewed energy,

bringing the walking dead back to life.

I begin moving my feet in a different direction,

now that I’ve seen the light.

When your just trying to fit in,

with storm clouds over head,

survival is a struggle,

unless you teach yourself to swim,

but the surf is nutritious,

when people are vicious,

and sea gulls see all,

even those who can barely crawl,

so I pull myself up time and time again,

and drift in the ocean breeze.

The wind hits my skin and my body sucks up its strength and flexibility,

the ability to go around road block the size of yesterdays,

up side streets and down alleyways,

to continue past your destination,

right there where land meets sea,

drifting, floating, constantly rolling,

that’s where you’ll find me,

and the spirit of nature guides me,

soaring above, blind searching below,

life is just a matter of perspective,

whether you’re riding a wave,

or caught in the undertow.

Have patience with the journey,

I tell myself,

for every experience is a part of life,

the love, the joy,

the pain, the strife.

Then, maybe a true and honest life will come my way,

proving that I’m here to stay.

When they misgendered you at your memorial.

Let's Queer Things Up!

There were drains hanging from my chest when I made the first phone call. Not even two days before, I was under the knife, having a surgeon — an artist — remake my chest. These are scars that you will never see.

“Hey,” I say softly into the phone. “I think you should come over. I’ll explain when you get here.”

When I hang up, I straighten my spine and I slap myself across the cheek. Our friends are coming over, and I remind myself that I can’t crumble, not now. I’ve never had to disclose that someone is dying, to shatter the world as they knew it with a single sentence. I guess because I was the one that was usually on the brink of death.

This was not the thunder I wanted stolen from me.

There’s a knock on my door, and the words are falling out…

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Nature Poetry

Life

The Goddess speaks to us

and we listen to her.

She shows us where to go,

for stress, she is the cure.

We are renewed in her Clear Creek

searching for relief

from a world of constant greed.

Gently moving waters

flow into our lives,

a life force energy

reminding us we are alive,

and connected to every other

living thing on Earth.

Every link in the chain

has inherent worth.

For us all I send out this message,

be kind to each other,

respect all life,

the Earth is our only, true mother.

 

River of Tears

The Grand Canyon:

dry gravel appearing to be devoid of breath,

disguises a hidden oasis,

a rapid river of depth.

The Colorado river is a river of tears,

cried by those who survive

this unforgiving land,

for those who have died,

to become part of the sand.

Tears so strong they cut through stone,

cut through years past

to create a home,

for so much life,

from the rattlesnakes and the scorpions,

to the big horn sheep and the mountain lion,

to the California Condor and the Peregrine Falcon,

to the javelina and the Havasupai.

The great circle of life,

the violence of death

and the pain of birth,

all to sustain new life,

new experience,

new value,

and worth.

Because each life means something to another,

we are all mother, father sister and brother.

A place where tears of sadness turn to tears of joy,

a canyon, the Earth, our planet,

our only home,

it’s not a toy.

So, treat it with respect,

the only home we’ll ever know,

with it’s ups and downs,

the world spinning round,

for billions of years,

our insecure fears?

Just a thirty second commercial,

in an ancient river of tears.

 

Manhood in America

Today marks the eightieth anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass where Nazi’s destroyed thousands of Jewish owned businesses in Germany, leaving numerous Jews dead, injured and incarcerated. It also marks only thirteen days since the Pittsburg synagogue shooting in America where a ninety-seven-year old woman, who remembered a time when Nazi’s ravaged Europe, lost her life for being Jewish.
I sit in front of a blinking cursor trying to figure out what to write next. How can this happen in our country, the leader of democracy? What was going through that man’s mind? Why do we have people who carry so much hate? But nothing I say can express my utter disgust for what is happening in our country today.
As violent hate crimes continue to rise in America, fed by the rhetoric of one Donald Trump, I feel the beauty of American ideals being crushed by a very loud, and bold minority, namely white men.
Mass shootings conducted by white men in America have been increasing at an alarming rate. While I believe we need to address the issue of access to the weapons of hatred, it is more important to address the cause of all this hate.
White men clearly are losing their grip as they lose the power to control the rest of us. Sensing a growth in diversity and finally being held accountable for their actions by movements such as, Me Too and Black Lives Matter, some white men no longer welcome the ideals set forth by our forefathers, like equality and justice for all.
I am not referring to all white men, in fact, I know many white men who do not feel threatened, and even welcome the opportunity to relinquish some of the responsibility of a social position of power, but many reluctantly accept these changes.
So, what can we do to change the way white men react to their changing social position? How can we teach them their position of power over the centuries has been unjust, yet prevent them from reacting with greater injustice?
We need a different model of manhood in America. We need to raise our boys to empathize with the suffering of others. We need to nurture our boys more instead, of expecting them to achieve. We need to stop glorifying violence in the movies made for boys and teach them that it is okay cry. We need to teach them to understand their humanity.
Remember Mr. Rogers? What if every boy in America grew up idolizing someone like Mr. Rogers instead of, oh I don’t know, any character that KILLS the bad guys. You name it, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, the Avengers, Batman, Spiderman. They all kill people. Violence is deemed okay, if they only kill the bad guys. Boys are inundated with images of idols who kill, but Mr. Rogers displayed a sensitivity that we do not view as manly. Why can’t that be manly? Must manly mean killing the bad guys?
Maybe as our society changes, we can develop more male role models with greater sensitivity for humanity, I just hope it happens before more lives are lost.

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