Into the vacuum: China

NX_whitehouseClimate change is real, advancing, and draining the world’s resources country by country–and causing tragic migrations of families across the earth in search of places where people will take them in. This is just the beginning of woes should the world’s leaders not act decisively to stem carbon dioxide emissions.

The spectacle of our times is awesome and terrifying. Anticipating the ascension of a world leader who denigrates science and promises to focus America’s interests inward, world leaders at the latest global summit to implement the Paris Climate Change Accord have already moved on without us. China quickly stepped in to realize the benefits of leading other countries toward a fossil free world community.

P.S. America: the green economy is leading in economic sectors as our new leadership prepares to dig more coal and suck more oil out of the ground.

Have we entered into a new paradigm of Selective Science? We believe in science when it comes to curing disease, or making weapons, or making us money. But, selectively we denigrate the agencies charged with studying and protecting the earth–the planet from which our lifeblood flows. Does that make sense, I ask you?

How would Americans feel if the world’s leading countries imposed trade restrictions on us for our irresponsible behavior? Tables turned? How would it feel to be the cause of suffering across the planet due to our lack of participation in reducing emissions? I hear a refrain, from another misled politician: Burn Baby, Burn. That will come back to haunt the source and us if we do not realize our responsibility to greater humanity and to our children and generations to come.

Americans must be vigilant like in no other time before in our history. We must oppose any policies that destroy the democracy and tear asunder our fragile international relations. We must recognize our responsibility to continue to be an integral member of the international community–especially now.





What is America?


Vanity Fair magazine sponsored a nationwide contest in 2004 for an essay on The True American Character.  As I prepared to write an essay and enter the competition, I spent about six weeks thinking about the topic, reviewing American history, interviewing family and friends, and allowing my thoughts to distill over time.  Then, one morning I awoke with the intent of writing the essay.  I had no preconceived idea of what I would write.  I just sat down and it flowed out exactly as it is printed here.  Its poetic nature surprised me, its metaphor.  I realized how passionate I feel about my country.

America has existed as a beacon of hope in the world, ever since our founding.  But, we are teetering on the brink of losing the confidence of people world-wide that we can live-up to the principles our constitution requires of us.

Will we be the first generation of Americans who forget what being an American truly means?  The world views most Americans as supreme shoppers, a self-centered culture uninformed about the world community.

What does it mean to be an American today in the 21st century? Here is what I wrote that morning when my heart was so full of love for my country:

The True American Character

Some people believe that America exists in forever spacious skies, purple mountain majesty, and the fruited plain.  America is not a place.  America exists within the mind.  It is an ideal that ignited into its brightest flame on the North American continent, thousands of years before colonists settled on Eastern shores.

It was an idea whose time had come. 

Birthed from the loins of Liberty, it came like a bright light in the midst of human strife.  It came like a gentle rain on hardened soil, loosening each grain of rock for a seed to grow.  The idea that all could be free…it was present on this continent.

The American mind was here when Europeans first stepped upon these shores.  As pilgrims felled trees, and the air was filled with the sharp sound of the ax and saw and the heavy scent of hardwood, Liberty gazed through dark eyes in the green of thick woods.  Liberty was bronze, bedecked in eagle feathers and soft hide.  Liberty was sleek, bounding in a sunlit meadow, and silk-haired diving below blue waters.  Liberty was vigorous.

It set minds to dreaming.

America is a belief, a principal of life – that all beings are free and self-determined.  America means harm no thing.  America means respect for all life.  That is what America is and what a true American lives by.  To live otherwise is to diminish it.

Those who came and still come to America are changed by Liberty.  Immigrants think they made America.  They think they thought of her.  But Liberty made them think America. It was she who changed their minds and made their thoughts go to dreaming.  She was already here among the people and the animals and all throughout the land.  A true American understands this.

Liberty whispers in the ear: Let them all be free!  Take only what you need and share the rest.  Glory in the abundance therein.  See the sunrise and the sunset, swim the clear lakes, and eat the flesh of my fruit.

Liberty is a shimmering light on the rounded lip of water spilling over stones.  Liberty is the glint in the eye of a child.  Her voice is the high pitched scream of a hawk soaring off its prominence. Liberty is the cry of a man to be free at last!

America is an impulse.  Americans are animated by it and driven to play out its creed.  America’s elixir is Liberty, and once tasted, nothing will ever satisfy the soul again.

Liberty stalks the dark places.

Liberty walks the land with sure feet and white garments that dazzle the eye.  She has a voice like a bell ringing.  Americans listen for her coming.  Sometimes she awakens them from their sleep.  Liberty stalks the dark places in peoples’ hearts and minds.  She says firmly: Let them all be free!

 Americans like the sight and sound of Liberty.  She is their beacon of hope and great teacher.  When confusion comes and when strife and conflict arise, true Americans look for Liberty.  They listen for her voice across the land and through the woods.  When they hear it – the bell that rings so clearly – they can go on… they can endure anything.

A true American is ever vigilant. An American dissents if Liberty is threatened.  An American has a certain kind of angst when told what to think or do: call it “democratic irritability.”  It is the sign of true Americans.  Listen to their voices:

Is there not something worthy of perpetuation in our Indian spirit of democracy, where Earth, our mother, was free to all, and no one sought to impoverish or enslave his neighbor?  ~ Ohiyesa, Santee Sioux (1858 – 1939)

Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.  ~ Susan B. Anthony, Women’s Rights Leader (1820 – 1906)

When I first decided to take a firm stand against the war in Vietnam, I was subjected to the bitterest criticism, by the press, by individuals, and even by some fellow civil rights leaders. There were those who said that I should stay in my place, that these two issues did not mix and I should stick with civil rights. Well I had only one answer for that and it was simply the fact that I have struggled too long and too hard now to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to end up at this point in my life segregating my moral concerns.”  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.,Civil Rights Leader (1929 – 1968)

 No face which we can give to a matter will stead us as well at last as the truth.  This alone wears well….  Say what you have to say, not what you ought.  Any truth is better than make-believe. 

~ David Henry Thoreau, American Dissenter (1817 – 1862)

Because we have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything – even our lives – in our struggle for justice.

~ Cesar Chavez, Leader of the Farm Workers’ Civil Rights Movement (1927 – 1993)

The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives… is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.  ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Women’s Rights Leader (1815 – 1902)


Marjorie Rawlings: Warm or White Christmas?

Florida Humanities Council posted a wonderful story about Marjorie Rawlings learning to love Florida at Christmastime. It took some time for the writer to adjust to warm air and green plants at Christmas but once she did, she was in it lock, stock, and barrel. Great article.

Paralleling Rawlings, but humbly drawing no comparison in talent, I am spending Christmas in Tucson to promote my new novel, Threshold, in very warm BUT DRY weather. Here we might be sipping margarita’s with lots of lime.

Below are photos I took at Rawlings’ Cross Creek home, now a Florida State Park, and great place to visit on your way down to Key West.

The cherished indoor bathroom.
The cherished indoor bathroom.
All the original furniture.
All the original furniture.
Garden and Trip to Silver Springs 149
Ernest Hemingway slept here and maybe Scott Fitzgerald. A steady stream of writers stayed at the Rawlings’ B&B.
Marjorie wrote at this table, probably with an icy margarita!
Marjorie wrote at this table, probably with a whiskey near at hand.


Garden and Trip to Silver Springs 154

The Path We Choose

Paths We Trek
Paths We Trek
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Civil Conversation

Susan Feathers  Photography
Susan Feathers Photography

Many Americans are searching for a civil conversation. After the vitriol of the election, and the general turmoil of our digital lives, we seek a quiet space to make sense of where we are and what is happening.

The Civil Conversations Project provides a wonderful resource of great performers, artist, and thinkers in video, audio, and written form that inspire and provoke deeper thought, and give clarity to the great movements of our time.

Simone Campbell, Nuns on the Bus, explores how we reach out to each other to create a society that supports each person with a fair wage.

Terry Tempest Williams reflects on the vitality of the struggle to protect our public landscape, in a personal testimony to her family’s long history in Utah.

In Threshold, neighbors gather together to make their families safer, to grow food together, and to mentor youth into a sustaining society.


The New Leaders in Our Midst

Visionaries of the future
Visionaries of the future
Leaders of the future
Future leaders and parents

They are all around us, spinning in front of you as their parents wait in line at the department store, or running around the school yard, and they are the sweet babes in bundles on their mother or father’s back or in their arms. The cherubs coming into the world that all of us adults have made for them. They are the new leaders of tomorrow.

How can we support them, groom them for taking over the stewardship of our societies?

There are two ways that come to my mind. First, we tell them stories, lots of stories, about their family and where they come from, the relatives whose lives give us lessons to learn from. We tell them about the places where they live: what land it is, how the wildlife and soils, and vegetation all blend and work together, and what the needs are of the land on which we live. This lesson is often missed in our modern day societies where people walk above the land like ghosts because no one has instructed them about where they are and how to live there in concert with the natural world –the world to which they belong.

Arabic Muslim mother with baby
We teach our children

Second, we teach our children values and ways of being that promote compassion, vision, and daring to be all they can be for the sake of not just themselves but for everyone. Children need to know how important they are, in a balanced way, not bravado, but as one who is responsible in the world. This second task of us older folks requires the most important ingredient in the universe, sorely missing most of the time: ENCOURAGEMENT. Yes, we must encourage, not discourage, our children. Even the most sparse comment given freely and genuinely to little ones around us, can spark development in the right directions. We adults are responsible to be agents of encouragement, like Johnny Appleseeds planting the earth.

Children at Sacred Stone Camp

In a time of great disparities, hunger, violence, and disarray among our leaders and governments of the world, this task is our most important one. Our children must have clear vision and bedrock values that will see them through these turbulent times to create a compassionate society that is not only possible, but in the making right now.