My Idea, Mr. Muir: Part 2

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

The year is 1861.

John Muir is 23 years old. He is attending the University of Wisconsin, where he will develop an interest in botany.

In California, photographer Carleton Watkins, a contemporary of Muir, straps his 40-pound camera and accompanying paraphernalia to his mules and ventures into Yosemite Valley.

At some point Muir and Watkins will meet and become friends, connected by their love of Yosemite, their avid environmentalism, and photography.

Why Yosemite? Watkins will publish a book of his Yosemite photos that will prompt President Abraham Lincoln to pass a law designating Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as a California state park.

Muir, as his career develops, will direct much of his advocacy towards establishing Yosemite as a national park.

Why photography? Watkins will create a portrait of Muir. Muir will walk the photographic route of Watkins book.

           Portrait of John Muir (c. 1875) by Carleton Watkins

Which brings me to part 2 Muir’s quote.

Part 2: Who reports and works the ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains? And what record is kept of Nature’s colors – – the clothes she wears – of her birds, her beasts, her live-stock? (John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, pp. 220-221).

By asking these questions, was Muir commenting on the state of wilderness photography in 1875?

While Watkins was able to record great detail in his landscape photographs, clouds, and any sky detail, are conspicuously missing from his work.

This seems typical of photographs of this era, which hints at a limitation in the capabilities of the cameras at that time.

Example:  Photo taken by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

And then there is Muir’s question about Nature’s colors.

Color photography was in an experimental phase in 1875 when Muir wrote those words. Techniques had not yet evolved that could reliably capture and preserve color in a photograph.

For Muir, nature’s colors, all the tones nameless and numberless, as he once described them when writing about the Grand Canyon, (John of the Mountains, p. 363) were essential to the authentic wilderness experience. (I wonder how he would respond to the photos of Ansel Adams.)

And then there was Muir the inventor. In addition to his gift as chronicler of nature, Muir was endowed with mechanical prowess and imagination. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that he would lament the lack of technological advancements in photography that could have opened up the possibilities for recording clouds and displaying Nature’s colors.

When I think of Muir’s desire for technological advancement, however, I think of the expression, be careful what you wish for.

Now that we have the technical skill to capture images of nature in a way that Muir might possibly never have imagined, there is the danger of the virtual experience replacing the natural, ironically, deepening our disconnection from nature.  But that would be the subject of a future blog.

In the meantime, watch this film of starling murmuration (thank you Joe Frank) and ask yourself, does this make you want to experience this live, or is this enough.  How do you think Muir would respond to this?  (Here’s some information about murmuration.)

My Idea, Mr. Muir: Part 1

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

In 1875, environmentalist John Muir wrote:

How little note is taken of the deeds of Nature! What paper publishes her reports? If one pine were placed in a town square, what admiration it would excite! Yet who is conscious of the pine-tree multitudes in the free woods, though open to everybody? Who publishes the sheet-music of winds, or the written music of water written in river-lines? Who reports the works and ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains?  And what record is kept of Nature’s colors—the clothes she wears—of her birds, her beasts—her live-stock? (John of the Mountains: the unpublished journals of John Muir. P. 220. 1938.)

When I first came across this quote, I copied it into my file titled, Quotes to Use in the Future. Most of the items in that file have languished there, forgotten. But this quote, this single paragraph, stayed with me and kept drawing me back.

I have read and reread the quote many times and have come to the conclusion that it is a giant complaint, Muir venting about popular culture (sheet music), city life (the pine tree in the town square), and man’s indifference to the wonders of nature.

This seems strange to me.  While Muir had strong opinions in all of these areas, and while he had no problem expressing them, and while he sometimes verged on preaching and telling folks what they should do, it was not his usual style to vent, especially about everything all at once, in one long string of questions.

Maybe it had something to do with the effects of his having lived in the Bay Area during this time, earning a living writing magazine articles.

In any event, my interest has been stirred. So, in the next three posts I will take a look at these three sources of Muir’s annoyance.

Part 1: Sheet Music as Popular Culture

The period we are talking about is roughly 1870-1880, the post-Stephen Foster (d. 1864) era, and before Thomas Edison’s record player would become a household fixture. This was a time when sheet music was being churned out by the thousands, mostly by a group known as Tin Pan Alley. These were New York publishers, songwriters, and composers who virtually dominated the sheet music market.

Sheet music had become big business during this time. The artistic cover designs appealed to the tastes of the growing middle class. Parlor music, a form of home entertainment using sheet music, became popular, allowing people to sing their hearts out about things that mattered to them.

The compositions dealt with topics of every kind, reflecting the complexity and richness of American life.

War. Religion. Cowboy life. There were songs about love and temperance, prairie life and mining. A song titled The Mill is Closed speaks of the logger’s plight.  The song, Should Women Vote?, enabled women to make a statement about their civil rights.

            Cover Art 1870s

In 1874, J. L. Truax composed Falling Waters, a piece of sheet music that is supposed to depict the sound of waterfalls – thus the title.  The piece sounds classical, rather than purely popular.  Perhaps that is because it represents an abstract theme – cascading water – as  opposed to something more concrete, like lassoing a horse or marching to war.

The question raised by Muir in his 1875 lament, Who publishes the sheet-music of winds, or the written music of water written in river-lines?, seems to imply that he was unaware of the existence of Truax’s piece. One wonders whether his statement would have been tempered a bit, had he heard it.  Possibly not, as his complaint seems to be about the popular culture that surrounded the sheet music and not the music per se.

Here is a YouTube performance of Falling Waters.












You can do it! Maybe

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

In 1993, in an article in the New York Times, naturalist Natalie Angier wrote, Even the most elite human athlete is thoroughly pathetic compared with nature’s other aerobic masters. She goes on to give examples: the cheetah’s seventy miles per hour sprint; the hummingbird’s twenty-four hour migration vigil powered by wing beats of thousands per minute; the pronghorn antelope’s ability to maintain runs of sixty miles per hour over long periods of time.

We enjoy these comparisons. It’s also fun to compare the records of elite Olympic athletes to animals’ skills.

  • The Sprint: The Jamaican runner, Usain Bolt, 27.4 miles per hour vs. sprinting animals, the cat at 29.8 to the Cheetah at 61 miles per hour.
  • The Lift: Soviet/Belarusian weight lifter, Leonid Taranenko, 586.4 pounds vs. the elephant, 661 pounds.
  • Swimming: Brazilian swimmer, Cesar Cielo, 5.34 miles per hour vs. water animals, 22-80 miles per hour.
  • The Long Jump: American jumper, Mile Powell, 29.4 feet vs., snow leopard, 49 feet

These are impressive numbers for both the humans and the animals. What is missing in these comparisons, however, is the recognition that, while an animal can excel in one ‘event,’ human athletes can excel in all, aerobic as well as those where length or height or strength is the basis of achievement.

Now the Olympics are upon us.  Unlike animals, who  compete for food, water, shelter, and safety, Olympic athletes compete for status and for being the best in their event. And in that regard, the athletes of today are facing some challenges that did not exist twenty or thirty years ago.

Recent analysis of all of the Olympic records set between 1896 and 2016 has lead researchers to believe that Olympic athletes can expect fewer opportunities to set new records in the future. These data show that the pace at which sports records are being set has slowed, and might have even plateaued during the 1980s. In addition, records that are being set are happening in smaller increments.

As an example: in the 2014 Olympics, Joseph Schooling bested record holder Michael Phelps in the butterfly event by a mere two tenths of a second.

Can an athlete feel pride and accomplishment by overtaking a world record by  two tenths of a second? Or muster up the courage and dedication to train for such a small margin of gain?  Can the loser avoid cynicism and disillusionment?

Then there are big questions which have arisen from all the number crunching:  Is there a finite level of physiological capacity, both for humans and animals? Are Olympic athletes at the end point of skill building?

In his research, biologist Mark Denny asked those questions regarding speed in race horses, greyhounds, and humans, all having been trained to run. Horses and dogs had been racing competitively for centuries. Humans, for millennia.

In dogs and horses Denny identified limits to the speed they were able to cover over a given distance. Also, even when an intensive program to enhance performance was initiated, race speeds in horses and dogs have not increased in the last forty to sixty years.  These animals appear to have reached their limit.

In humans, the analysis of the hundred-year historical data suggests that a limit exists, and that the speed is only a few percent greater than observed to date. But Denny claims that humans have not reached a plateau in running speeds.

Which brings me to my conclusion. Humans and animals, and animals and animals, must not be compared for evidence of superiority of one or the other species. All are a part of one family and, like all families, there are differences among its members.  Yet, each brings something valuable to the mix. Each adds to the whole.

Please enjoy this video that looks at the connection between humans and animals.


A Soundscape of a Different Sort

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

The coffee shop. A self-contained environment with its distinct soundscape.  The whirr of a blender.  The hiss of a cappuccino machine. Music playing in the background, not too soft, not too loud, just right.  All the muted and not-so-muted conversations. An occasional cough or giggle.  A chair being dragged along the floor.

This mixture of sounds happens within the coffee shop, where people flock for stimulation or to get out of the boredom or loneliness of working at home. Some are looking for anonymity and separation, but not aloneness.

The constant hum is comforting for its familiarity and lack of surprises. Out-of-place noises, like people arguing or a mother scolding a child, can cause discomfort. It’s not a part of the natural way of the healthy coffee shop.

As I described in my blog post on soundscapes, in nature all the inhabitants of a healthy habitat create their own sonic territories – called niches – where they can hear each other unimpeded by their neighbors’ voices.

It appears that those who inhabit coffee shops have created their own version of sonic territories. Ear phones and ear buds, cell phones and computers, these help maintain the separateness amid all the sound. Small tables allow for intimate conversations.

Not only can people hear each other unimpeded in the soundscape of the coffee shop, but as research has shown, the ambient sound of a coffee shop may be at just the right level – around 70 decibels – for maximizing the possibilities for creative thinking.

Maybe that would explain why the chat you are having with a friend may seem more interesting than it would if you were standing on a street corner. Or maybe you feel you are more interesting.  Maybe your friend is more interested in the conversation than she would be sitting at your kitchen table with a cup of tea and a slab of homemade zucchini bread.  Maybe that business idea you are proposing sounds more appealing to the potential investor.

If that’s the case, and if indeed the ambient sound of the coffee shop has the effect of enhancing creativity, it will come as no surprise to learn that some very clever entrepreneurial types have latched on to the research findings.

They have created soundscapes of, not only the typical coffee shop, but have come up with a repertoire of sounds that can be downloaded and mixed and matched for escape into one’s own self-designed soundscape.

For those who love ambient noise, maybe rain would be their choice. Or thunder.  Or leaves blowing. Or any combination of the many choices offered by websites such as Coffitivity or Nosili, a couple of the popular companies that produce recorded sounds.

Think of how creative you can be creating soundscapes.

I wonder if Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, would support what seems like an unnatural and artificial way of evoking our creativity. He was concerned about the negative effect on our mental health and on our psyche of gadgetry that separates us more and more from the natural world.

Jung taught that the unconscious, the source of creativity, works with our intuition to creatively solve problems outside of our awareness. Can a recording of a cappuccino machine tap into that part of the psyche?  Can a simulation of rain falling or a bird calling do that?

The developers of Café Restaurant, the ultimate coffee shop noise machine, would say yes. They explain that their product boosts creativity by masking distracting noises. “All you have to do is pop your headphones on,” they claim, “and adjust the volume of myNoise high enough to mask the distractions. The noise will recede into the background after a few minutes. If real world sounds intrude, it will be heard as babble noise and no longer pose any distraction to your work.”

Café Restaurant and Coffitility are two companies that have developed their product around the findings in the research study I mentioned above. The article is often cited in the literature about the digital world and was featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post.

The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research, and appears to have been carried out rigorously. The researchers examined ambient noise and how it affects creativity. With five experiments, they were able to demonstrate that their hypothesis that a moderate 70 decibels of ambient sound – as opposed to a low 50 decibels or a high over 80 decibels – enhances performance on creative tasks.

But a second part of their hypothesis is that such a condition would increase buying likelihood of innovative products.

Excuse me if I end right here. In the end it’s all about buy, buy, buy.



The Language of Trust

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

I spent four days becoming acquainted with a robin.

It all began when the poor creature slammed into my living room window and dropped to the ground, unconscious.

I picked up the panting bird and carried him into the house, where I left him in a spare bedroom in a box with a container of water and bird seed I had run out and purchased from the local hardware store. Like the city girl I was at the time – a recent transplant from Los Angeles to the Sierra foothills – I assumed he would eventually wake up, eat and drink, get well and happily fly off.

When I returned to the room an hour later I was pleased to see he was awake, but he had shown no interest in either the water or the seed. And as I approached the box, he became agitated and made awkward movements as if trying to escape. But he could not fly. One wing and one leg appeared to be injured.

It was then that I saw him, really saw him, for the first time. Not as a robin, but as a being in distress in a strange and unfamiliar environment. Then, almost as an instinct, I began to console him, to talk to him quietly, trying to soothe him. I reached out with one finger and rubbed his head gently.

These actions seemed to come so naturally. And whatever I was doing appeared to have a positive effect. Somehow I had gained his trust, and he stopped struggling.

I picked him up and felt along his body, along his wings, and his legs, all the time I talked to him, gently, telling him he was going to be all right. I can still feel his warm, silken body, relaxed and calm, his little heart beating rapidly in my hand.

The robin would stay with me for four days. Each day I held him and talked to him. Each day he became stronger and livelier. Eventually I took him out of the box and he began to move about.

It was on the third day that I found him sitting up on the windowsill looking outside. Apparently he had gained the ability to fly. The water and birdseed remained untouched.

Since I assumed he was getting ready to leave, I removed the window screen and left him sitting on the sill. When I came back several minutes later, to my surprise, he was still there. My robin – yes, MY robin – would spend one more day with me, flying back and forth from the floor to the window sill.

On the fourth day, when I entered the room, he was gone. I looked out the window and there he was, sitting on the limb of a cedar tree. He sat and looked in my direction for a few moments, and then he flew away. For several days I looked out at the cedar tree, but the robin did not return.

As I’ve thought back on the experience, I realize it was only after I engaged emotionally with the robin that I was able to reach out and to assist him. Something did pass between us, something more than a sincere look, or even a calming voice or a light touch could explain.

Primatologist Frans De Waal, author of The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, focuses his research on emotions in animals. According to De Waal, giving consolation is an outcome of empathy. His book contains many examples of animals engaged in empathic and consoling behaviors.

Perhaps my empathic feelings towards the robin prompted me to console him. Perhaps this created an emotional linkage between us, a universal sharing of feeling that set up the bond of trust that was able to last four days.

Nature’s Soundscapes in Danger

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

In case you’ve not come across the term soundscape, I would like to start with an illustration:

You wake up in the morning to a cacophony of sound: birds singing and calling; a dog barking somewhere outside; a neighbor starting his car; a truck stopping in front of your house. These are some of the overlapping sounds that exist in your environment. They are part of the soundscape of your neighborhood.

In wild nature the neighborhood includes the elements that make it possible for organisms to find food, shelter, and protection, and where they can reproduce and raise their young. The natural soundscape is made up of all the sounds produced together by the organisms within their neighborhood, or habitat.

Soundscape ecologists study the sounds that come from a particular habitat. Typically, a researcher will traipse to a habitat of interest, set up field microphones and recorders, and listen.

Soundscape ecologist, Bernie Krause, has spent almost fifty years recording soundscapes. He has amassed an inventory of almost four thousand field samples, which he calls the intricate symphonies unique to each habitat.

In a healthy habitat, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals create their own sonic territories – called niches – where they can hear each other unimpeded by their neighbors’ voices. These are essential for their survival, Krause explained. In degraded habitat this cohesion breaks down.

An unintentional outcome of Krause’s work has been the discovery that, over the years more than half of the habitat soundscapes he has captured have been totally silenced or severely damaged by human activity.

The natural soundscape is very fragile, said Krause, and it’s disappearing very quickly.

For your listening/viewing pleasure: Bernie Krause and Nature’s Orchestra

Bernie Krause Ted Talk


3 Lines, 13 Words, 19 Syllables

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

A haiku by environmentalist, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gary Snyder: (from his collection danger on peaks, 2004)

Hammering a dent out of a bucket

a woodpecker

answers from the woods

What a poem! A celebration of connection and acceptance and shared space.  Dignifying self-reliance and industry.

In 3 lines, 13 words, and 19 syllables Gary Snyder has offered us a peek into the workings of nature. Individuals going about their lives, each in his own way, but connected.

After I read this poem I thought about my home and its little patch of ground. I thought about all the living beings who cross my lot lines, openly and with no hesitation, entitled, doing what they do…

The neighborhood cats who show up at mealtime and, stomachs full, stretch out in the sun on the deck…

The raccoons who appear after dark to cash in on my having left the cat food outside…

The skunks, whose calling card is their scent, but who rarely show themselves…

The blue jays that hop around the deck, a kind of playful dance, just before pilfering a kibble of cat food…

The squirrel who chatters high in one of the pines or cedars, mocking a cat below who claws at the bark in frustration…

The spider who dangles from a strand of web outside the dining room window…

The deer, who appear silently, graze silently, rest on the ground in silence, and depart without a sound, but who never fail to leave behind a sense of awe and peace…

They know they belong here. But it’s doubtful they are aware that they enrich my life and have become my companions of a sort. They make me laugh. I’m charmed and amazed by them. I worry about them. Sometimes they make me angry. And sometimes they make me cry.  Like….

When a robin slams into a window and drops…

Or when, in the middle of the night a deep-throated scream tells me that a cat has been taken by a coyote or a raccoon, and the air fills with the barking and howling of dogs near and far. I wish I were a dog so I could bark and howl.  But I cower silently in my bed.  My heart races. It goes out to the ill-fated creature, and to his predator, who needs to eat.

It’s remarkable. After experiencing this poem I can no longer think of my home without feeling the presence of the seen and unseen beings who come from time to time to play and seek food and build webs and nests and take rest.  Where sometimes they kill.  And sometimes they die.

This poem has deepened my appreciation for the vibrancy of our little community, where we are destined to share a little piece of turf as we go about our lives.

Gary Snyder has been writing environmental poetry with the power to transform our view of our place in nature since his days as a “beat” poet, some sixty years ago, long before the emergence of a global ecospirituality movement.

We [the beat writers] didn’t have a big theory of what we were doing, the 87-year-old Snyder said in a recent interview. We were trying to just simply loosen up the heart and mind of people and ourselves.

Well, mine is one heart and mind that certainly got loosened up by his poem.

An Ecologic Ethic

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

The idea of creating a global ecologic ethic, as described by Aldo Leopold in his essay The Land Ethic, has been running around in my brain.  I think humanity is ready to pull it off.

  • We are finally acknowledging that the Earth is mortally ill and that we bear some responsibility for its present condition.
  • We are finally ready to take care of the Earth, and hopefully reverse the effects of our bad ecologic habits.
  • The promising ecospirituality movement is helping religious and non-religious people around the globe recognize the need for us to change our concept of and our relationship to nature.
  • Earth Day, since its inception in America on April 22, 1970, has grown to almost 200 countries participating worldwide each year. That’s hundreds of millions of people, maybe a billion. That is a lot of people collectively paying attention to the environment.

The ecologic ethic I imagine would begin with a spiritual mantra: nature is sacred and worthy of care.

Something that is sacred has the power of arousing feelings of reverence and awe, drawing to it devotion and respect. These emotions can affect how we treat each other and, consequently, how we treat the earth.  These emotions call on us to act with compassion, integrity and charity. They call on us to exercise modesty.

I envision a kind of ecologic Sabbath, a weekly, apolitical, non-activist Earth Day of simplicity. No productivity or consumption of natural resources, a time when we buy and sell nothing. A day we share our rest with nature.

Our Earth Day Sabbath would be spent in celebration of Nature’s inherent order, spending time with family and friends, reading and reflecting about the universe and studying ecologic themes. It would be a day obliging us to renounce the use of tools and gadgets and electronics of every kind for twenty-four hours.

The idea of an Earth Day Sabbath came to me after speaking with an Orthodox Jewish woman about nature and spirituality and how she sees their connection to the traditional Jewish Sabbath – which runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

These are her words…

It’s a time to give nature a rest. I have a friend who won’t walk on the grass on Shabbat.  See that fly buzzing around and annoying me?  I would not bother him. He would not be swatted on Shabbat.  It’s also about conservation. You do all your cooking ahead of time. You mete out the food. You can’t be shopping for more. You can’t consume more than you’ve prepared.  It’s a lesson in self-restraint.  Makes you feel stronger as an individual. You feel disciplined, connected. It makes me feel connected to God, but not only God. When I am lighting my Sabbath candles, I know that women all over the world are lighting their candles at sundown.  Powerful – it unifies you.  It’s a spiritual connection.

Touching Nature is taking a holiday break until January 4, 2018.  Happy New Year to you all.

Ecospirituality: Beyond the Oneness

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

This is not a post about climate change. But somehow I’m unable to talk about spirituality and nature, at the same time ignoring the extreme weather events occurring around the world. To me it seems clear that, in Bob Dylan’s words, something’s happening here, and Mother Nature doesn’t seem too pleased about it.

A few stats:

  • The 2016 autumn freeze-up of Arctic sea ice was exceptionally slow, but even stranger things were going on. In mid-November, the sea ice actually started melting
  • Last year saw examples of extreme transitions from drought to above-average rainfall. The most dramatic transition occurred in Australia, which resulted in extensive flooding of inland rivers. (Those of us who live in the foothills of the Sierra can relate to this.)
  • Two separate outbreaks of major hailstorms occurred in Texas, one around Dallas–Fort Worth in March and a second centered on San Antonio in April, resulting in hailstones with a diameter of 4 1/2 inches.
  • Outside the United States, a notable hailstorm occurred in the Brabant province of the Netherlands on 23 June, with hailstones up to 4 inches.
  • The world is getting warmer, but parts of it are actually getting colder. In 2016, northern and central Argentina, Paraguay and lowland Bolivia experienced significantly cooler temperatures on land. South-western Australia experienced its coldest winter since 1990.
  • British Columbia is suffering through its second-worst fire season.
  • By December 8, 2017 Corpus Christi, Texas had received more snow than Denver.
  • In July, Death Valley experienced the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.
  • During a dinnertime conversation, friends who live in foothills of the Sierra express alarm at the unseasonable appearance of flowers in their gardens, the need to continue watering their plants because of the lack of rain, and the early budding of otherwise winter dormant trees.

OK, I said this is not a post about climate change.  So, now to the point….  Ecospirituality.   This is a global, sacred, nondenominational movement aimed at strengthening our spiritual connection to nature, at changing our very view of what nature is.

Ecospirituality affirms the holiness and inherent value of all of nature. By pairing spirituality and religion with science, ecospirituality seeks to transform the human relationship to the land into a healing force for our degraded Earth.

How to understand ecospirituality:

Think of spirituality and religion partnering with biology and ecology, of holiness and reverence and benevolence hooked up with stewardship and responsibility for the land. Imagine justice and equality for all living beings attached to environmental activism, and religious and spiritual transcendence grounded in ethical constraint.

Ecospirituality does not eschew established religion. To the contrary, the broad spectrum of supporters associated with the movement includes world religions, and brings a variety of practice and ritual to the table in a shared commitment to reviving our ailing environment.

Deep Ecology. Green Religion. Dark Green Religion. Ecofeminism. Nature Religion. GreenFaith. These are just a few of the groups that have emerged under the umbrella of ecospirituality .

In 1949, in response to his observation of the rising commercialism and materialism associated with the outdoors, environmentalist Aldo Leopold proposed the establishment of a land ethic.

Leopold conceived of the land ethic as the third step in the evolution of the human ethical experience, as introduced in the Bible: the first was the Ten Commandments, which placed constraints on individuals in our struggle to relate morally to one another; the second, The Golden Rule, which set down a framework for the struggle for the moral relationship between the individual and society.

This third ethic Leopold envisioned as an ecologic one based on the premise that all members of nature, including humans, are interconnected and interdependent. As such, it would lay out the parameters for the moral relationship of man to all the land, including the soils, waters, plants, and animals.

According to Leopold, an ecologic ethic, by encompassing all of life, would impose a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.

Perhaps the ecospiritual movement, in taking up this struggle, will be able to contribute to the formulation of an ecologic ethic, one that reframes the relationship of humans to nature from owner and overseer to that of partner and comrade.

Perhaps, through an ecologic ethic, degrading environmental trends like climate change can actually be reversed.













A Poem, Two Photographs, An Article

Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman

In today’s post I am sharing several reader responses to the article Engaging with Spirit: Awesome Awe.

Marcia Goldberg of Montreal, Quebec writes about three personal miracle days.

Always Waking Up
Awe lies dormant till that realm
in nature flies open, self so small
it’s an icon, a footnote, the screen
of conscious unconsciousness
broadly supplying transcendent couplings,
the parietal lobe blitzed, space awareness
toggled to radical amazement:
the mother-self overriding/undergirding
late morning glacial pond on a pier;
top of the skull peeled, stripped, upthrust
in a rush of clouds at Arlington Cemetery
while standing under a maple by a grave marked Blue;
that day at North Palm Beach afloat
in quiet surf, you an outcast
from a trip-of-a-lifetime experience
comported in a split second to an exact impossible illumination
of Magen David overhead, twenty minutes insistent that this is real.

Susie at writes about perfect reflections and shadowy self blending…

I sometimes walk to a nearby pond in the morning when the sunlight is just perfect for reflections and reflecting.  The reflections give me a sense of being a part of an impressionist painting. There is something about a perfect reflection, where it appears that two worlds have blended into one, that fills me with a sense of being part of another dimension; one that is only composed of tranquil beauty.

If the sunlight is just right, and I am standing in just the right spot, I can sometimes photograph my shadowy self blending into the scene.  When I get home and download the photo, I love the experience of seeing that I have become a small unobtrusive part of what I had witnessed.

Amateur HAM radio guru Joe Frank (W6JLF) recommends……

New Study Links Living Near Forests to Healthier Brains


Tom Jacobs posted Nov 30, 2017

Evidence keeps mounting that, in stressful times, there is much to gain by surrounding yourself with plants and trees. As images of the still-burning Northern California wildfires confirm, living on the edge of a forest comes with considerable dangers. But new research from Germany suggests proximity to a wooded landscape may also have a huge benefit.

People who dwell on the border between city and forest may be better able to cope with stress.

In a study of older urban dwellers, it found living in close proximity to forest land is linked with strong, healthy functioning of a key part of the brain. This indicates that, compared with those who live in a mostly man-made environment, people who dwell on the border between city and forest may be better able to cope with stress.

The findings suggest “forests in and around cities are a valuable resource that should be promoted,” writes a research team led by Simone Kuehn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Its research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.