Non-Farmer in the Dell

I’ve never considered myself a farmer.  Sure, I plant a garden each summer.  Even I can grow lettuce and tomatoes and green beans and such.  But a farmer?  No.  Except  when I’m watching over my sister’s place for her.  Except when I’m caring for her goats and chickens and gathering the eggs.

But even then I’m not a real farmer.  I know that for sure because I don’t know the answers to farmer-type questions.

What does  one do when an old goat dies?

What does one do when stubborn hens have a secret escape hatch and you can’t find it?

What does one do when squirrels snatch away the eggs faster than you can run from one nest to the next?

What does one do when the animals all seem to snicker at the phony farmer?

I have no idea. Which is why I know for positive sure that I should stick to lettuce and tomatoes and green beans in my own backyard.  (Okay, maybe I’ll take in a kitten, but it will have to grow up to be a city cat.)

But here’s what my short stint as a quasi farmer taught me: I can do anything I have to do.  Anything! 

And that feels really, really good.

Looks like Bugsy and Martin, who showed me how to live like someone left the gate open :)

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Mending Our Mosaic

I’m not into Twitter, but I must say, I really do admire a convicting point expressed in few words. Especially when those few words are expressed by someone who has earned the right to speak them.  Let me show you what I mean:

King Baudouin I of Belgium, who died in 1993, made this astute observation:

“America has been called a melting pot, but it seems better to call it a mosaic, for in it each nation, people or race which has come to its shores has been privileged to keep its individuality, contributing at the same time its share to the unified pattern of a new nation.”

Okay, I agree he could have exchanged a couple of those commas for well-placed periods.  But he was a king, so he was used to doing things his way.  But here’s what I wonder:  Would King Baudouin say the same thing were he to travel across America today?  I can’t know, of course, but I do doubt it. That admirable mosaic is seriously cracked—in some places, it’s broken in pieces. We no longer seem to value much in people we see as different from ourselves.

While you’re pondering Baudouin’s words, let me give you a couple of other quotes to ponder along with it:

“Hatred is a stimulant, but it shouldn’t become an intoxicant.”

Martin Amis, English Novelist

What does hatred as an intoxicant mean? If you have to ask, you must have been asleep for the past several years.  Here is one of many deadly reasons this resonates in the USA:

“We have created a Star Wars civilization with Stone Age emotions.”

Biologist E.O. Wilson

Did I hear someone murmuring “fake news”?  Well, here’s one for you, my doubting friend:

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

American Astrophysicist/Astronomer

 Almost the last word, but not quite.  One more:

“When will we ever learn?  Oh, when will we ever learn?”

Songwriter Pete Seeger

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

 

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My Dad, the Wisdom Keeper

According to an old Yiddish saying: “Old age, to the unlearned, is winter. But to the learned, it is harvest time.”

All week that bit of wisdom has been running through my head.

Yes, I do know why. It’s because all week I have been with my 98-year-old father. He needs so much care… more than I can give by myself. I can’t lift him alone. I can’t catch his breath for him. I can’t make him eat when he isn’t hungry, or drink water when he isn’t thirsty. I can’t still his anxieties. And I cannot give his questions answers that satisfy him.

But I can tuck him into bed the way he likes—with his toes covered, and the blankets secure but not too tight. And I can kiss him and tell him how much I love him. And I can tell him funny stories of my five siblings and myself as little kids, though I’ve told those stories many times before. And I can listen to his stories, though I could easily recite them with him. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first time we hear a funny family story or the 100th time. They are always hilarious to us! I can sing old hymns with him, too…or to him when he is overcome with tears. And I can thank him for being the very best father he could be.

My father, born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, gifted me with a wonderful gift of wisdom and experience, and also a rich faith. I can show my gratitude by becoming a Wisdom Keeper myself and passing that legacy on to those who look at me and only see advancing age. We need Wisdom Keepers in our families and in our homes. We desperately need them in our churches, too, to remind us of the road traveled by those who went before. And we badly need them in our country where wisdom seems to be in such short supply.

We need Wisdom Keepers lest we forget.

“One starts to get young at 60, but then it’s too late.”

~Pablo Picasso~

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Reader Asks: Will Trump Put Coal Miners Back to Work?

Kentucky Blog reader Bonnie Lee wrote: “Why don’t you write about President Trump’s promise to get our coal miners back to work?” 

OK, Bonnie Lee, I will.  That was a compelling campaign line, but as a promise?  Well, let’s look more closely at the reality of such a promise.

  • Economic Reality: Compared to other fuels that generate electricity, coal simply isn’t competitive.  Not with natural gas cheaper, cleaner, plentiful, highly efficient, and US produced.  As the cost of coal power goes up and up, it’s competitors – not only natural gas, but also renewables such as wind and solar – continue to go down. More and more, utility companies are including these carbon-free sources into their portfolios and dropping coal plants. In 2015, wind and solar power made up two-thirds of all new electricity-generation in our country. In some areas, they are cheap enough to compete with natural gas.
  • Geology: In central Appalachia, the easily accessible coal seams are gone. Which means coal operators there must search out ever harder-to-reach reserves. Which means coal from there is more expensive and the mines less productive.  No one blames the miners, Bonnie Lee. It’s a reality of geology.
  • Climate change: You told me you don’t believe in climate change. Well, you are in the minority, Bonnie Lee.  The world certainly does. Which means even if we insist on mining our coal, those other nations won’t be buying it. Not long ago, Canada, the sixth largest market for U.S. coal, announced it would phase out its own coal plants by 2030 so it can meet its commitment under the Paris climate agreement.
  • People are demanding clean energy: If large U.S. corporations want to see their businesses grow, they are must find zero- and low-carbon electricity. In order to power their data centers by “green electrons,” companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple are investing in their own renewable resources.  Others – such as Procter & Gamble, Toyota, and Walmart – have varying goals of getting all or most of their electricity from renewable sources. Energy providers will have to if they want to do business with these large companies.

These things are dimming the future of U.S. coal, Bonnie Lee.  It isn’t over-regulation by the EPA. It is true that the EPA has spoken out loud and clear against mountaintop removal coal mining, though.  And with good reason, given that it involves blasting the tops off mountains and dumping huge amounts of dirt and mining debris into rivers and streams.  And, yes, it’s true that the EPA wants to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Good for them for looking out for us.

Consider this, Bonnie: In 2014, the U.S. coal industry employed 76,572 workers, fewer workers than Arby’s (80,000), the Dollar Store (105,000), or J.C. Penney (114,000). Even if there were as many coal workers as there were 25 years ago (131,000), the coal industry would still employ fewer people than retail shoe sales (224,000)!

Instead of looking back and wishing, Bonnie, let’s join hands and encourage our government to spend the time, money, and energy scheduled for a lost coal industry fight to instead train mine workers for 21st century jobs.

“Nowhere are prejudices more mistaken for truth, passion for reason, and invectives for documentation than in politics.”

John Mason Brown

 

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Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall

 

Winter is an etching,


 

 

 

Spring a watercolor,

Summer is an oil painting,

 

And Autumn a mosaic of them all.

~Stanley Horowitz~

 

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To Believe or Not To Believe?

Standford University researchers, in their study of the “fake news” stalking our society,  found that 82 percent of the kids in middle school could not distinguish a real news story posted on a website from a “sponsored content” post submitted by a business.

What will our future be like?

“It’s impossible to know anything for certain, not even what we have lived.”

Javier Marias

Novelist

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Why All The Activist Groups?

My parents voted in every single election.  Always.  And they marked their ballots exactly alike.  (“Otherwise we’ll just cancel each other out,” they said.)  They talked politics and they talked election, but they never did anything remotely politically active. They would be completely confounded at what’s going on now.  The Tea Party… Black Lives Matter…  Antifa…  America First… Ku Klux Klan revisited.  Activist movements are springing up on all sides, and they are shaking this country to the core.

Why this sudden spate of activists?  “Inequality.”  That’s the explanation generally given.  “Haves and have nots.  It’s an old, old story.”

Yes it is, and that’s the problem.  Inequality is nothing new.  My dad always struggled to pay the bills, while other men who didn’t work nearly as hard had new cars and went on luxurious vacations.  I worked my way through college while my friends’ dads paid all their bills–and even sent them spending money.

Maybe the financial crisis of 2008 was the culprit of today’s activism. So many people losing their jobs… and their houses… and their retirement savings.  Who could be blamed for losing faith in the rich–especially the rich politicians?  Who could keep from growing cynical?  And angry?  And cheated?  Police targeting black men.  Minimum wages kept low.  Elections sullied with money.

It’s mighty hard to fix such injustices at the voting booth.  And although town halls are  good and all, people want to air their own grievances. And have politicians really listen.  And do something, for goodness sake!

So people are gathering together in like-minded groups, and demanding that those on the other side change.

It’s the American way–make trouble to make change.  Only now it’s getting way too dangerous.

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

Leon Trotsky

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From Here to Timbuktu

Yes, Timbuktu is a real place.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that.  It’s far away from us in the country of Mali, inland from West Africa.  Far away from us  in miles, certainly, but even farther away in our geographically challenged American minds.

Recently, a lawyer representing the people of Timbuktu at the International Criminal Court described the destruction Islamic extremists had poured out on Mali’s historical mausoleums. (Yes, this was back in June and July of 2012, but stay with me and you’ll see the relevance.) There in the desert, those interlopers desecrated and destroyed the graves of both the Africans’ ancestors and their saints.

The lawyer insisted the destruction had left the locals overcome with crippling feelings of shame.  I know, I know!  It seems an odd charge to me, too. The pick ax–wielding Al Mahdi rebels had purposely, methodically reduced the simple mud-brick mausoleum tombs to piles of dusty rubble. On top of all that, the lawyer added, the destruction totally crippled tourism.  There went the grieving  people’s income.

Muslim radical Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi pleaded guilty to leading that massive destruction.  Actually, he did more than simply plead guilty.  He went on to express remorse for his part in the purposeful obliteration.  Then he proceeded to urge Muslims around the world to refrain from ever again  resorting to  such acts.

Sounds great.  But really, does  it comfort us?  There are still way too many extremists out there, and they come in all colors, all nationalities, all religions–and in no religion at all.

Comfort and peace come from God alone.  Without Him, there is none to be found:  not from here to Timbuktu.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Khalil Gibran

 

 

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Pray For the Children

Seven-year-old Bana Alabed kept us shocked and amazed as she broadcasted the horrors she saw and heard from her besieged home in Aleppo, Syria.  It was sweet, and sometimes insightful.  It was also terribly sad in it’s painful innocence.

It reminds me of a little girl I met in the blowing hot sand in a Sudanese refugee camp. She asked me if  there were flowers where I lived.  I said, Yes.  She asked if there were trees.  I told her there were.  She looked at me in wonder and asked, “Flowers and trees. Do you live in heaven?”

As Syrian families ran to escape their besieged towns, a car drove up with potato chips for the children.  The excited little ones chased after the car begging for more.  Suddenly the car exploded.  How could the little ones have known the man driving it, smiling as he gave them the treats, was a suicide bomber?

Suffering children is nothing new.  Some years ago, the director of Gaza City’s psychiatric hospital said, “We don’t have a single child in Gaza who knows what it’s like to be a normal child.”  I remember hearing a similar comment about the children in Northern Ireland.

So, what goes through the minds of little ones in the horrors and deprivations of war?  Little Bana, in the midst of exploding bombs and near starvation, wrote that she had lost a tooth, but the tooth fairy was too afraid of the bombs exploding in Aleppo to visit her. “It run away to its hold,” she tweeted.  “When the war finishes, it will come.”

God bless the children.  They have no other hope.

“Insight doesn’t happen often on the click of the moment, like a lucky snapshot, but comes in its own time and more slowly and from nowhere but within.”

~Eudora Welty~

 

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What I Learned From My Cats

I treasure my 18-plus years with the sweetest ever cat, Owen, and her younger sister, Twinkle.   They taught me so many lessons on how to live life.  They taught me…

  • to refuse to give up.  I, too, can land on my feet.
  • to admire leaps of faith, and to risk them myself.
  • to start every day with a nice stretch, then to repeat it as needed.
  • that curiosity won’t kill me.  But a closed mind very well might.
  • that every situation has a boss, and very seldom is it me.
  • to live my life in the here and the meow.
  • to fight stress by taking a nap every half-hour or so.
  • that it doesn’t hurt to stay out all night now and then.
  • that sometimes things get a little hairy, but they can be set to right again.
  • to always face the day with a positive cattitude.

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

~Sigmund Freud~

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