Farmers Could Help Reduce Climate Change Impact

In Threshold, Dr. Carla Connors takes a 2-yr sabbatical from her job as a climate scientist to learn from ethnologists at the Mission Garden in Tucson who are growing heirloom seeds to test for viability in new climate conditions, while demonstrating many previous cultures’ farming practices in their Timeline Garden.

Carla investigates the potential of plants to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil. While this is a normal activity of some kinds of microbes in the plants we call legumes (barley, soy, clover), she wants to know if the ways farmers planted, grew, and harvested crops actually may be important clues to how farmers might help stem global warming.

carbon-farming-heroIts called CARBON FARMING. See this article from Modern Farmer, “Carbon Farming: Hope for a Hot Planet” by Brian Barth, March 25 2016.

Scientists now believe carbon framing could become an important and beneficial tool in fighting the rise of carbon dioxide in the air and could potentially reverse it while producing healthier food and enriching top soil.

Waters of the U.S. Rule

AmazonA recent executive order to review the Waters of the U.S. Clean Water Rule is one more thread being unraveled from the fabric of environmental protection laws to make way for unfettered development and resource extraction.

The Clean Water Rule was carefully constructed to solve previous problems in protecting bodies of water from pollution that would impact downstream waters used by cities and communities for drinking water and for the health. The rule carefully defines each kind of body of water (wetland to prairie bog, to small streams) and how to determine its contiguous relationships with the Waters of the U.S. (meaning those bodies we recognize as streams, rivers, and lakes to which it contributes water) and how each contributes to a larger body of water.  See this Supreme Court Definition. rapanos_decision_2006

The Rule was highly scrutinized by thousands of scientists, members of the public, and congress before being implemented in 2015. **The Rule was instituted in light of climate change, i.e. drought or floods, that is impacting municipal drinking sources and will intensify over time. IT IS A LONG TERM SAFETY MEASURE THAT GUARANTEES PROTECTION OF OUR MOST BASIC NEED: WATER.

Contact your state representatives to prevent the unraveling of the rule for short teem economic gains and campaign promises. Work with them to make sure we do not lose an important protection of our watersheds and drinking water. Finally, do you know your watershed? If not, go here to find it.

Our Lady of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Americas


Our Lady of Guadalupe inspires millions of believers, offering a mothering balm of love, peace, and forgiveness through her Blessed Son. Read the legend of the appearance of the Holy Mother on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. Her apparition was witnessed by Juan Diego who had gone to the hill at the request of his Bishop to gather roses for the church. The Bishop’s actions were inspired by a request for a sign from the Holy Mother after she asked the Bishop to build a church on the hill. When Juan Diego returned with the roses, an image of the Holy Mother was embedded in his tilga–a garment that has remained without any sign of wear or age for the last 485 years.

Miracles do happen but we never know how or sometimes why. The universe and the Earth herself are imbued with numinous qualities that we intuit but can never “prove”.

Guadalupe Shrine on Tumamoc Hill

In my novel Threshold, Dolores Olivarez is a devout Catholic who recites the Rosary as she hikes the mountain to the top.

At the summit, she looks out over the vast metropolis, and then down at the Birthplace of Tucson at the base of the mountain. cropped-cropped-mission-a-mt.jpg

From a place of reverence, Dolores seeks to understand the meaning of her time and place, much as Juan Diego climbed to gather his roses.

Threshold in the Classroom

Teenage friends spending time together
Teenage friends spending time together

Threshold will be read at Tanque Verde High School this month. It is also being reviewed by Green Teacher Magazine.

Several educators have encouraged me to use sections of Threshold to develop lesson plans for high school students. One elementary teacher will read to her students and plan an activity and discussion around the story. I am very encouraged about this way of extending the story.

Three adolescents from Threshold emerge as strong characters–youth you feel will become leaders. However, each is working out certain personal challenges and social realities.  Below are excerpts to give you a window into the layered stories:

Enrique Santos: 

Enrique lifted his grandmother, thinking she felt even lighter than last time, like a ghost in his arms. But he felt blood coursing in her legs, and heard the rasping sound in her chest. She was barely able to sit herself on the commode.

In the kitchen he opened the cabinets and refrigerator, surveying what he could scrape together for a snack and what his mother had cooked for dinner. Refried beans and rice, a package of tortillas. He’d hoped for a fresh tomato or onions, but the vegetable bins were empty. It was close to payday for his mother.

“Enrique?” his neighbor’s voice called through the screen door.

Mrs. Carrillo held a hot dish in a towel. “I brought you all some burritos.”

His stomach growled as he opened the screen door to let her in. She heard it and laughed. “Boys are always hungry,” she said with the same grace with which she did most things. She knew what kind of hunger Enrique really experienced.

Enrique thanked her and followed Mrs. Carrillo into the kitchen, where she set the dish on the counter, looking around. She turned to Enrique and said, “Be sure to leave some for your mother, and refrigerate these after you and granny eat, okay?” she touched his arm with affection.

Enrique smiled shyly. Mrs. Carrillo noticed his long eyelashes. Then she eyed his tattoos. His gaze followed hers. He looked up and she said, “Why do you kids ruin your bodies with these marks?”

He shrugged and smiled, “I dunno.”

Luna Lopez:

Luna loved both summer seasons—the hot, dry time from March through June, and the wet, humid season from July to September. Like clockwork, right after the Fourth of July, the rain clouds appeared over the Santa Rita Mountains. Luna anticipated the cold dollops of summer rain, the torrents of water running in the washes, and the scent of the creosote bushes after the storm. She loved to be inside when the giant cloud beings grumbled and heaved their lightning swords onto the earth.

But in this twelfth year of her life, the elders were perceiving a pattern change—a pattern that had governed life on desert lands for thousands of years. The monsoon was late. July stayed dry. Rains came, but they were often more like the other rainy season—the gentle, steady winter rains. The people who gardened in the old ways, letting basins fill with summer storm water, noticed first.

 Daniel Flanagan

After they had finished the gray-water system, Daniel excused himself to shower. As the trickle of cool water spattered on his hot skin, he thought about the sudden turn of events in his life. A woman was now in the picture. It was like a bomb had dropped from the sky on the brokered peace he’d managed to create for himself since his mother died. He realized suddenly that his father, as clueless as he could be, might actually be moving on. It was shocking to Daniel. He felt a knot of resentment in his gut. But shouldn’t he be glad? Living with his father this year had been like living with a stone statue. Was it possible a woman had moved his father’s broken heart? He wondered what she was like. What if he didn’t like her?

Hunting for Treasures Not on the Internet

Digging for ...
Digging for …

The art of finding nuggets of wisdom and truth telling in a world of data, false fronts, and confusing messages, has never been more challenging–but worth it.

In the blog, Brain Pickings, Maria Popova, is one of the best. I can see her with her “miner’s cap” flooding unlikely places with new illumination. Piles of old books, letters, and memoirs are her digging ground.

Maria, a young social entrepreneur, who looks back to old but wise sources for directions. Then she presents them in exciting new media formats. She is a curator of moral, ethical, and social discourses from which we can continue to pull jewels. has rebroadcast an interview with Popova, which is refreshing and inspiring. Check it out when you feel the need for a mental floss!


Rain, rain in desert land!

Rain in Desert
Rain in Desert

The last two days in Tucson have me swooning. When rain comes in a typically dry region, it is truly a blessing. The scent of creosote floats low on the ground like a perfumed decongestant, it opens my lungs when I breathe deeply. The sound of winter rain is gentle because these are the slow soaking rains. I lay in bed listening to the drips and little drumming sounds as each precious drop falls to the ground.

Then I dream of the places — streets, homes, and businesses — where rain is being collected for later use. Shining swirled metal on cisterns by homes and shops, landscaping that directs rivulets of blue water into the roots of trees, along garden paths, and to fruiting citrus trees. Lemons, tangerines, kumquat, oranges and grapefruit trees are full now, gaily greeting passersby. On a morning’s walk around the neighborhood, I pick up a lemon that has dropped and rolled to the sidewalk. Fair game?

This is food security, at least part of it, besides enhancing the world in which we live. Collecting rain water is an old, maybe ancient, human art. My grandparents in Tennessee had a huge cistern on their farm. But, here in the desert lands of America that are heating and drying, it is an essential skill. Brad Lancaster, a local Tucson resident, has spent the last two decades of his life teaching himself and others how to harvest rainwater. This coming weekend he is a featured presenter at the Tucson TEDx conference. To learn more go to Brad’s website. I highly recommend his books. He is one of many many Tucson Treasures. Videos by Brad

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.
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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.


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