Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition

Moving a 20.5 lb turkey, already cooked, from my house to my son’s house 116 miles away.  Hoping the bird doesn’t suffer too much in transition.  I’m too involved in this project to post new photos, so here’s one of the bird we dined on last night ‘a deux’ – a pheasant courtesy my boss and his bird dog, Bhodi.

thanksgiving dinnerMay your attitude of gratitude bring you joy, today and every day!


Weekly Photo Challenge: …and Baby Makes Three

I had only just bought myself my first digital camera for my 50th birthday 8 days before I went hiking at Lapham Peak State Park and this family of sandhill cranes flew directly overhead.  I knew it would be a long shot that I had all the settings on it correctly programmed, but I snapped away in hope.  There they are…


…and there they go….

and babyOf course, three is a magic number.  We all learned that from Schoolhouse Rock, didn’t we?


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse

 We are heading into the biggest retail season of the year, so I want to take this opportunity to invite you to consider mindfully and gracefully your relationship to….stuff.  How do your buying habits impact the planet?  Where do you shop? Where do the businesses you support get their resources? What do you do with stuff you don’t want anymore? How do you share what you have?


The resources that are expended on the manufacture, trade and transportation of goods on a global scale are staggering and crippling for our planet.  It’s hard to imagine the impact that one shopper has in the whole of that web, but to make ethical and moral choices is the responsibility and joy of citizenry on Earth. You get to live out your values each day.  That is the difference you make.  

Now, I recognize that the urge to buy things can be deeply entrenched in complex psychological motivators, and I’m not about to claim any authoritative understanding of that.  I just know that I don’t have a “shopper’s personality”.  I don’t get excited about buying things or receiving material gifts.  (This was an enigma to my husband, may he rest in peace, who really enjoyed giving me presents.)  I do enjoy using something up completely and never replacing it if possible, finding new ways to use stuff that’s already around, and finding other people who can enjoy stuff that I no longer need. 


With all the stuff that’s already been made and is overflowing junk yards and landfills, I think we can all do a better job at using what’s already here.  My partner Steve feels the same way.  He’s been running an online used book store out of our apartment for the last 10 years or so.  He goes to estate sales, book sales and thrift stores and buys good books, unusual books, quality books and lists them on retail websites as a third-party seller so that people who are looking for a specific used book can find it easily at a fair price.  He loves books.  He’s got a B.A. in English, and his very first job was at the public library.  There’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands or the smell of an old book from your grandmother’s attic! 

Scholar & Poet

Scholar & Poet

Steve’s small business is called Scholar and Poet Books.  If you value or collect books, music, vintage printed material or puzzles, check out our inventory.  You can see our listings on eBay Here, or browse our book list on ABE Books Here.   If you shop on Amazon, you may see our name on the list of sellers for a particular item, but we can’t direct you to our inventory exclusively.  (Many of Amazon’s third-party sellers are actually large warehouses.) If you have friends who are bibliophiles, you can share our Facebook page with them.  Thank you for reading this post and considering my invitation.  May your decisions about Stuff bring you joy and peace!

Think Continually of Those At Risk

I wrote this article for The Be Zine whose November issue was dedicated to “At-Risk Youth”.

Under the light of the half moon, David Attenborough speaks to the camera on Christmas Island, surrounded by a moving mass of red crabs. Tens of thousands of crawling females, heavy-laden with hundreds of fertilized eggs, are approaching the high tide in order to release their burdens into the surf. The water turns reddish brown as a surge of life heads out to sea. Millions, no, billions of little babies are set adrift. Enormous whale sharks cruise the waters nearby, ready to feed. Sir David explains that the hatchlings will spend one month in the water before returning to land to move into the forests and begin their lives as adults.

That’s probably not the first picture you conjure when you hear the phrase “at-risk youth”, but it’s the one that came to my mind. It may not be popular to approach this topic from a biological standpoint, but there is a meaningful truth in this perspective. If the “risk” you are referring to is death, that is something that youths face as much as anyone. Death is certain for all of us, and no one is guaranteed adulthood. The human species, however, is far from the threat of extinction. Our population is dominating the globe, in fact. So, “at-risk youth” is not about the peril of the demise of our race. I believe it is much more about social and behavioral dangers than biological ones. This is where we can be optimistic. We can create and control our societies and our behaviors much more readily than we can our biological tendencies.

What does it mean to “survive” to adulthood in our society? How do we measure the success of childhood? Certainly benchmarks in health, education, safety, justice, self-reliance and freedom come to mind. We set standards and often cast about for whom to blame if they are not met. Aren’t our children entitled to these milestones? Are they goals to strive toward if not guaranteed rights? And what about the risk of “merely” surviving?

My youngest child is now an adult. She has survived the death of her father. She has survived self-destructive behavior due to depression. She has survived being institutionalized in the mental health care system. She has survived living in the third largest city in this nation, finding a job and supporting herself. She has survived coming out as queer and has proudly announced her engagement to another wonderful young woman. Her survival of everyday panic, anxiety and body-image crises is chronicled in her Facebook updates. While all of this is great success that I do not mean to diminish, I keep wondering, “Is the mere survival of the hazards of our society the best our young people can hope for?” My daughter is highly intelligent. She is a naturally talented singer and dancer. She is passionate about history and poetry and science. I fear there is a great risk that these traits may remain embryonic throughout her lifetime because she is so focused on navigating social pressures – in a culture that is probably the most economically and socially privileged one on the planet!

That our systems erect road-blocks to social survival and detour our young people from paths of true greatness is a profound risk, I believe. Read the poem “The Truly Great” by Stephen Spender. I get to this stanza, and I am openly weeping.

“What is precious is…

…Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother

With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.”

We can so easily provide food, shelter, and opportunity to our youth with the systems we have devised, but those systems have become mine fields where kids are sabotaged on the journey. We have become so enamored of control that we have hobbled love and freedom and self-worth, and our young people will always be the most vulnerable to that constriction. Their symptoms are obvious. They are fighting to survive amid an abundance that mocks spiritual destitution. The Dalai Lama commented on his first visit to America that the thing that surprised him the most about Westerners was that so many suffered from a sense of low self-esteem. He’d never heard the term up until then, but everyone he asked agreed that it effected them.

Our young people have the best advantage for living long biological lives. If they are to live good, happy lives as well, we all must take responsibility for creating caring social space within our psyches and our communities. We need to nurture and model the spirit of social justice from the ground up AND from the top down. We need to encourage and not criticize; we need to live as models, not as victims. One of my favorite examples of a person who dispels social danger with kind communication is Fred Rogers. He takes time; he is present; he sees truth and speaks love. Here is an excellent illustration of that.  And a great example of modeling fairness and social progress from the top down can be found in this video about the new Prime Minister of Canada.

We will never be finished addressing the social risks facing our youth. They will be new every moment. If we take up the challenge to face each of those moments with awareness and a commitment to justice and kindness, though, we can be confident that we are living out the remedies even as problems continue to arise.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

“Victory” is a word that makes me rather uncomfortable.  It brings to mind a dualism that causes suffering.  In other words, if there’s a victor, there must be a loser.  I feel sad when someone is put in that role.  I do not like competition.  I do not like war.  I do not like capitalism.  And I do not like losing or feeling “less than”.  So often, winners are unkind, insensitive and arrogant.  I was the fourth daughter in my family of origin, and I probably felt like “the loser” in lots of ways as a child: redundant, younger, dumber, less skilled.  It doesn’t feel good to be on that side of the scale.  I prefer to imagine a way that everyone can win, that we can all share and get what we need regardless of how much or how little we are able to contribute.  I used to tell my own 4 children, “Fair doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing.  Fair means everyone gets what they need.”  May all beings be happy.  May we all feel that we can get what we need.  I am hoping for a kinder Victory for my country, for my children, for myself.

victory 2 victory

Weekly Photo Challenge: Naturally Ornate

My first association with the theme word is the Ornate Box Turtle.  I was just listening to a herpetologist on NPR using that word to describe a different species of turtle; apparently, there are a few that have earned the description in their common name.  I met Boxy when I was volunteering at the Wehr Nature Center.  Boxy is of an endangered species that inhabits the sandy areas of southwestern Wisconsin.  She (I know because her eyes are brown, not red) has a cleverly hinged carapace that allows her to draw her head and limbs in and seal up almost completely when threatened.  This is a picture taken through the not-quite-clean glass of her holding tank.  It doesn’t do her coloring justice.  She appears grumpy because she had just had her beak and nails trimmed at the vet.  When it is grown out longer, the corners of her mouth don’t appear so down-turned. 

boxyHere is another example of the naturally ornate: wild turkey feathers.  These are on a stuffed bird at the Madison Arboretum.  The structural iridescence of  feathers is a fascinating thing.  They are not pigmented.  They are prismed (if that’s a word).  And each branch of the hair-like parts is barbed so that it will knit back together with its neighbor to form a more solid surface.  When birds preen, they are re-knitting their feather edges. 

turkey feathersOf course, Nature is often showing off in flowers.  Ornate, breathtaking, in color and detail that is microscopically fine, often symmetrical, and elaborately patterned.  Here are a few examples: a lily and Queen Anne’s lace.

lily Queen Annes laceNature is extravagant, abundant, opulent, and rich in so many ways.  Oh, and it is free.  Just appears without us having to do anything.  In fact, it becomes even more fantastic when we leave it alone.  What a wonderful world!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Life is a Treat

“We can’t wait to see what brings you happiness!” says Word Press.

I’ve enjoyed more than 50 years of sensual pleasures: tastes, smells, sounds, sights, and tactile delights of all kinds.  I live in the wealthiest country in the world, so I’ve had my full share of opportunities to be treated to finely-produced, man-made “treats”.  Consequently, they’ve become a bit dull.  I find that what really makes me smile are all the unexpectedly lavish surprises of Nature I can discover right in front of me, for free, every day.  

The best treats in life are free….born in freedom.  Like Maple Drops.

maple drops

And Puffball Mushroomallows.


And Teasel Pops.


It’s a world of Pure Imagination!  If you want to view Paradise, simply look around and view it.  (go ahead, click the link to see Gene Wilder in that scene from Willy Wonka that set me dreaming of chocolate for months as a kid!) Enjoy your treats this weekend.