Old Elm on Xerxes Avenue

There have been some beautiful old trees taken to make room for new construction in our neighborhoods while, at the same time, old ones are dying of natural causes.  Does it make sense to take a tree before it is diseased because it might get a disease or suffer pestilence, or choose sites or routes for new construction where old growth trees are thriving? Will we ever learn to make better decisions concerning our environment and our long term welfare?

When we could choose to live humbly and sustainably but don’t, what does this say about our priorities and our long term chance of survival?

Footprints

Our steps take us many places in our short, fairly eventful lives.  We brave the elements and the various courses essentially as though we have a choice.

I have spent most of my life believing that I had a choice, that each course before me was created anew by that choice and my will to make it happen.  I never gave much credence to some grand plan or destiny,  ordained by the stars, by God, by a greater power.  Life seemed a grand frontier, an open plain waiting for each one of us, depending upon our will.

Silly me.  We can see but not understand.  We can be made to look away or excuse what we see.  The truth is often hidden from our innocent eyes.  In my young life, there was poverty before me, all around in the city streets of New Orleans, Maracaibo, Caracas, South Dakota, Houston, and in towns around California, especially visible closer to the border … and now in Minneapolis, where I have spent almost fifty years.

What happens to young children when they have only their wills to get them through a life of poverty, a life without good education or opportunities to lift up and broaden their perspectives, their choices?  What is the greater part of society missing when this happens?  We all suffer.

Does a child in this kind of situation have a choice?  Do any of us have a choice?  Our environments set our choices for us much of our lives.  It is easy for a man or woman of means to say we have choices.  It seems so obvious to someone who has options, opportunities and a hand up in life, all of one’s life … someone with money, with time and people who love and support them.  It’s not a given to those without.

The will to survive is a powerful and necessary ingredient in our lives.  It can make us saints or criminals, and most often it makes us products of our environment.  What else could be expected?

When women and men enter lives of prostitution, for instance, are they not products of their environment?  Why does anyone enter “the life” selling that most precious of commodities, their spirit, their bodies to be used and abused by others?  What has been done to a man who would buy or sell another human for profit or pleasure?  What kind of choice is this?  It is not the person, but the environment, that needs profound change.

I finally understood that so much in our lives is determined for us by our environments, and that understanding is necessary to change society for the better.  We need to understand that many people have few options and therefore enter lives that they would rather not, if only they were given a better playing field.  Treating the symptoms will never cure the dis-ease.

I found that my own choices were determined not only by my own potential, but initially and essentially by my environment.  I was lucky in many ways, had the education, the mother and father who loved me so perfectly imperfectly, the experiences that broadened my perspectives and gave me an understanding of the life before me.

How many children are we losing every day, how many lost opportunities for a better world?  How many beauties are being lost to a world with no vision?  When will this change?  When will we open our eyes wide open and understand that every child deserves to be loved; and put that understanding in action providing the best educational opportunities we can give them and lives with options.

Things need to change holistically.  Love needs to be our profound all-encompassing business for the betterment of all society and the love of beauty as we take our steps through this life.

A copper sulfide mine in the Arrowhead of Minnesota will change the meaning of “north woods” as we know it.

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Over a century’s toll of mining iron ore in the uplands of the Laurentian Divide:

For the sake of our waters and the northern ecology of this priceless watershed, please send your comments:

MPCA’s NorthMet Project Webpage

DNR’s NorthMet Comment Portal

What does wealth mean to you?

 

I had long ago decided to be happy … but got distracted along the way by so many things that occurred to cloud the issue, the issue of living honestly and with integrity … finding joy as a child would, naturally.

One cannot be happy without this and there is no wealth without it either.  Where do you find your joy?

To be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth.  As long as one sorely needs a certain additional amount, that man isn’t rich.

Mark Twain

In the Shelter of a Tree

fall_walk_painting

One can view this house on the way to Silver Lake by bus.  The tree on its east, now gone, was a reminder of the elms that stood majestically along the boulevards in Minneapolis over 45 years ago.  These trees have been taken down in great numbers … because, it seems, it was more cost effective to lumber them than to save them.

Trees are money of course.  Never mind that they harbor and nourish wildlife, birds of all kinds and others, including humans, that require the shelter, the food, the shade, breadth and breath of an old tree.

Heart-sick watching these giants being harvested in the city of Minneapolis … to make room for more big box houses and parking lots, water parks, roads, sidewalks, and for pulp, mulch, or table tops and doors.

When will we, as a society, learn that old growth trees are essential … that we need clean air … clean water … and earth that is growing?  In this regard, trees are vital.  Money will not provide this. We will continue to see species extermination until this is learned in earnest throughout the whole of human society.

Do we own our technology, or does it own us?  Do we own our possessions, or do they own us?  Will we be happier with bigger houses and fancier cars, trips to somewhere else when we have no true investment in the places we live? Better not to grow any investment if it means destroying our base and, with it, the living legacy of our old trees.

I miss the canopy that stood over the boulevards in Minneapolis when I arrived almost 50 years ago … replaced by saplings, which are being trimmed regularly to optimize board feet when harvested. The arbor that arched over our streets cannot be replaced in an entire lifetime.  What kind of world are we making on our way to making money?

 

Migizi, gichi-manidoo

It was believed by the Native Americans that eagles served as messengers between humans and the Creator, a spiritual messenger and symbol of courage and truth and, to some, the embodiment of the Great Spirit.  To almost every Indian Nation, the eagle is sacred.

As one Indian legend tells it, a thundercloud appeared on the horizon when the Earth was created, descending upon the tree tops in thunder and lightning; and as the mists cleared , an eagle sat perched upon the highest branch. Gliding slowly from his perch, extending his talons to the ground, he became a man … and so the spiritual representation of eagles as messengers.

As Indian summer arrived this month in beautiful color along the Mississippi River bluffs, we spotted this bald eagle in a solitary old tree over the site of “wakon-teebe”, observing him for quite a while, well aware of our presence, until his descent to the ground out of our view.

On the Bluffs over Wakon-teebe

st_paul_overlook_2016

The pictured overlook stands on the bluffs above a cave that the Indians named wakon-teebe, known by various names as Dwelling of the Great Spirit or Mystery, House of Spirits  and the Spirit House.  It contains a crystal pool fed by spring water that had reported flows of 25 gallons per minute and held ancient Indian hieroglyphs, until they were destroyed by railroad construction.  A shadow of the original visited by Jonathan Carver in 1766, this cave stands on the banks of the Mississippi in the bed of what was once the great river, Warren, which discharged glacial waters from the largest lake ever known, Lake Agassiz.

What stood thousands of years took relatively little time to desecrate.  St. Paul & Chicago Railroad condemned the strip of land along its river bank, dug it down and nearly destroyed it.  Most of what was carved away held the cave’s petroglyphs.  The entrance is now sealed by a steel door following habitation during the Great Depression, curiosity seekers and landscaping for public and private use, all of which could not help to change the essence of what it was for thousands of years to the Native Americans.  The Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is now home to this “spirit cave” and there have been improvements in the surrounding park.

The bluffs above wakon-teebe, designated Indian Mounds Park, hold sacred burial mounds many of which have been destroyed for expediency.  Only six were spared of at least 37 known in the area, to be registered as historic preservation sites.

At the overlook above the cave, garbage was strewn everywhere, the only two garbage cans, overflowing … plastic bags, pop cans, trash in abundance down the side of this bluff.  Votive candles on the stone walls below a solitary old tree testified to the still sacred nature of this place, where a vigilant bald eagle perched above the river valley.

Views from the bluffs are breathtaking and reveal the immensity of this river valley, filled now with artifacts of our “progress” — an airport, trains and tracks, barges and, among other things, Pigs Eye Waste Treatment Plant, while the Great Spirit has, evidently, been evicted and locked out, perhaps perched in the old tree above the cave.

The ironies still amaze and befuddle as mankind’s journey to full cognition remains, seemingly, elusive.

On the shore of the Olympic Peninsula’s rainforest

Cedar_driftwood_painting

We walked along the shore looking out over the Pacific Ocean, wandering around giant cedars that had drifted up along the shore … nature’s taking  …. and yet mankind continues to take so much more – clearing  mountaintops of ancient stands of cedars in the Olympic National Forest.  Giants felled, and man the so-called “conqueror”.

Was this path intended all along?  Civilizations have come and gone for much the same reasons; and we never seem to learn that these resources are finite.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Seems the only answer to this dilemma; and yet, where are we along that path?

Photos of Clearcutting on the Olympic Peninsula

Fall color?

To take a trip to look at the leaves, observe and enjoy the changing season perhaps might seem a distant and impractical use of limited time in a busy schedule, but don’t we all need this at some point in our lives?  Isn’t it a necessity to enjoy whatever color lights your path along the way? It has been said so many times that life is all about moments and that the best things in life are free.   In spite of this age tested advice, we have traveled too far away from true wealth, so that we can make a life that looks good on a balance sheet.

Too many people are living on a see-saw in a volatile financial market.  The “worst in us running the rest of us”.  As vested pensions were replaced by market driven portfolios, retirees, then, were chained to perpetual investment strategies at a time when enjoying the fall color might be warranted.  A lifetime of  paying into social security (double for baby boomers) and medicare, wall street retirement plans, insurance policies, mortgages and rents have left retirees wishing they could take that time. While young people with a lifetime of college debt ahead and low paying jobs, high rents and food costs are literally immersed in a world that sells everything but the things they need for happiness.

Perhaps we could all use a little color.