Delisting the Wolf – Your Help is Needed!

If wolves are removed from Endangered Species protection, the day may soon return when there are none in the lower 48. I’ve worked with these magnificent creatures as a volunteer at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, and in my opinion, that would be a tragedy. Please read this article and make your comment on the Federal website.
Update: As of November 6 at 5:00pm, the website is up again and I was able to comment.

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in its comment period on their proposal to remove the wolf from the Endangered Species Act in the lower 48.  Hearings are being held throughout the country.  If you can go, please do.  If that’s not possible, please write or call.  They need to hear from people who want the wolf protected, not only from those who don’t.

AMENDMENT
Many thanks to my good friend, Carmen Mandel, for providing a DIRECT LINK to add your comments. Please add yours. There are almost 32,000 signatures, as I write this, but this figure falls a long way short of previous opportunities.
This is so important
Please add your comment now
Your Voice in Federal Decision-Making

ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO COMMENT
Please click here for details

Click here for more details:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Related links:
Defenders of Wildlife
Grey Wolves Left Out…

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101 Things that Made America

Apollo suit.  NASA photo, Public Domain

Apollo suit. NASA photo, Public Domain

The Novermber, 2013 issue of The Smithsonian Magazine is devoted to 101 things that made America.  The magazine lists 33 contributors who chose these items from among the 137 million artifacts housed in 19 Smithsonian museums and research centers.

Animals, vegetables, and minerals are represented, and the objects chosen evoke the range of both light and dark aspects of our history.  The opening photograph of a stuffed buffalo is as sad as it is iconic, and the inclusion of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atom bomb, reminds us that weapons of mass destruction are part of what made us what we are.

The chosen artifacts include:

– The Lewis and Clark Compass (1804). At a cost of $5, it wasn’t cheap, but it survived the 7,000 mile trip.

– A California Gold Nugget (1848)

– Polio Vaccine (1952)

– Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat (1865)

– Barbie Doll (1959)

Edison Light Bulb.  Public Domain.

Edison Light Bulb. Public Domain.

– Louis Armstrong’s Trumpet (1946)

– Glass Shards from the Birmingham Church Bombing (1963). Barely a month after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream,” speech, a bomb blast killed four African-American girls at their sunday school. Outrage over the murder of children at church lent a powerful impetus to the civil rights movement.

– Birth Control Pills (1965)

– The original, tattered Star Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Keys to compose the national anthem.

– Table and Chairs from Appomattox Court House, where General Lee surrendered to General Grant to end the Civil War (1865)

– The Model T Ford (1913)

– Section of a California Costal Redwood tree.

– Passenger Pigeons: Once there were billions of these birds, but 19th century communities slaughtered them to bake in pigeon pies. The last surviving bird died in 1914 and is stuffed in the Smithsonian.

– The Eniac Computer (1945). I would have chosen an Apple IIE, or even a TRS-80, since it was personal computers, not this behemoth, that changed the world.

Geronimo, 1887.  Public Domain

Geronimo, 1887. Public Domain

This photograph of Geronimo, taken in 1887. The previous year, Geronimo surrendered his small band and was transported from his beloved Arizona to Florida. He spent the rest of his life in federal prison, though in 1905 he was brought out to ride in the inaugural parade of Theodore Roosevelt. His request to the president to return to his home was denied. On his deathbed in 1909, he reportedly said, “I should have fought until I was the last man alive.”

– Levi’s Jeans (1873)

– Singer Sewing Machine (1851)

– The Colt Revolver (1839)

– Alexander Graham Bell’s Telephone (1876)

– Wright Brothers’ Airplane (1903)

– The Huey Helicopter (1966).  Think of the “Ride of the Valkyries” scene in Apocalypse Now

– Section of the Aids Quilt (1987)

– The first Kodak camera (1888)

– Stage Coach (1851).  I would have included a covered wagon.

– The Teddy Bear (1903).  During a hunting trip in Mississippi, President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that guides had tied to a tree.  This inspired a political cartoon which featured a wide-eyed cub, and led to the toy that is still found in millions of nurseries.

Vintage Teddy Bear by David Crane, 2003, CC BY-SA-2.0

Vintage Teddy Bear by David Crane, 2003, CC BY-SA-2.0

– Ruby Slippers – the ones that Judy Garland wore to take us home in the 1938 Wizard of Oz.

– R2D2 (1983). Here’s the fun story from the Smithsonian Magazine: when filmmaker, George Lucas was finishing production of American Graffiti, the sound designer called for “R2-D2,” which meant, “Reel 2, Dialogue 2.” Lucas, who was already working on Star Wars, said, “What a great name!”

***

This is just a partial list.  You can see all the choices on the website.  No two people are likely to agree on all the artifacts.  What do you think is missing?  Which items should be dropped?  And for those who live in other countries, what are some of your key artifacts and their stories?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Bandon, Oregon, 2013

Bandon, Oregon, 2013

Elle est retrouvée.
Quoi? – L’Éternité.
C’est la mer allée
Avec le soleil.
– Arthur Rimbaud, 1872

Bandon, Oregon, 2011

Bandon, Oregon, 2011

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea gone away
With the sun.
– Arthur Rimbaud, 1872

Bandon, Oregon, 2013

Bandon, Oregon, 2013

The Four functions of a living myth and the evening news

In The Masks of God: Creative Mythology, 1968, Joseph Campbell identified four major functions of a “living myth:”

1) ” To awaken and maintain in the individual an experience of awe, humility, and respect in recognition of that ultimate mystery, transcending names and forms.”

CC By-NC-ND-2.0

CC By-NC-ND-2.0

2) “To render a cosmology, an image of the universe.”  Today, Campbell notes, we turn to science for this.

Andromeda galaxy.  Nasa photo, public domain

Andromeda galaxy. Nasa photo, public domain

3) To shape “the individual to the requirements of his geographical and historically conditioned social group “

January from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 15th c., public domain.

January from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, 15th c., public domain.

4)  “to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual…in accord with himself, his culture, the universe, and that awesome ultimate mystery.”

Leshan Giant Buddha, 2010, by Wilson Loo.  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Leshan Giant Buddha, 2010, by Wilson Loo. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Forty-five years ago, when conflict during the sixties was rending the social cohesion Americans had forged during WWII, Campbell wrote:  “The rise and fall of civilizations in the long, broad course of history can be seen to have been largely a function of the integrity and cogency of their supporting canons of myth.”

A mythological canon, said Campbell, is a group of symbols that “organize and focus the energies of aspiration.”  When the symbols no longer work for an individual, there is “dissociation from the local social nexus,” and, “if any considerable number of the members of a civilization are in this predicament, a point of no return will have been passed.”

In Creative Mythology, Campbell wrote at length of an earlier period of time when a different mythical canon broke down.  In 12th century Europe, Christianity ceased functioning as a socially cohesive world view.  Enough people stopped believing (even though belief was strictly enforced) that Europe went beyond the point of no return.

Many stories emerged during that era concerning the quest for the grail, which in the earliest written versions, had nothing to do with cup of the last supper, but everything to do with a quest to heal individuals and the land.  In Wolfram Von Eschenback’s Parzival, the grail was called lapis exiles, another name for the philosopher’s stone of alchemy.  The philosopher’s stone turns base metal into gold; the grail heals the wasteland, for that is what a country and culture become where there is a drought of aspiration and meaning.

Scenes from Perceval's quest of the grail, 1385-1390.  Public domain

Scenes from Perceval’s quest of the grail, 1385-1390. Public domain

That is where we are in America today.  In the absence of a shared core of attitudes and beliefs to unify us as a people, we are a nation of warring factions at all levels of culture and government.  For now, the party is over in the land of opportunity.  Even if our politicos won’t admit it, a “considerable number of members of our civilization” know this is true.

Campbell ended Creative Mythology by asking what might feature in a new and vital mythology.  In my opinion, he dithered with his answer, as he sometimes did in his writing.  Twenty years later, he answered the same question when it was posed by Bill Moyers at the end of the Power of Myth series.  This time Campbell suggested that any world view adequate to our times and our future would have, as a mandala, a view of the earth from space.

Earth from space

Neither Campbell nor one else back then knew the full extent of the danger climate change would pose.  Now we know it’s worse than anyone thought, (see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released Sept. 27).  Our governments are as impotent as the wounded Fisher King of the grail legend when it comes to enacting meaningful change.

Yet as Campbell said, the quest for the grail of healing begins with individual searchers venturing into the forest alone, at the place that seems best to them.  Like Nelson Kanuk, a University of Alaska freshman, whose home in a remote Eskimo village was swallowed by the sea as a result of melting permafrost.  Kanuk sued the state of Alaska for not curbing carbon emissions and his case is now being heard by the Alaska Supreme Court.  Similar suits are pending in 12 other states.  Such headlines echo words I recently quoted by Wendell Berry, who puts his trust in “ordinary people” and said:

We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not.  The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?”

We don’t even have to rush out and sue our state governments, for as Campbell suggested, stories and world views spark action and change when a critical mass is reached.  Hopefully, we are at or beyond that point. All we, as individuals, have to do is be still enough to hear what the world is asking of us, and then enter the forest at the place that seems best.

Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity

“It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered.” – Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry by Lou Gold, 2012.  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Wendell Berry by Lou Gold, 2012. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Wendell Berry, 79, is a poet, farmer, and author of 40 books.  He is also an outspoken advocate and activist for a radical change in our treatment of the earth.  “We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not,” he says.  “The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?”

In a rare TV interview with Bill Moyers released on October 4, this gentle poet, who works a Kentucky farm that has been in his family for 200 years, reveals the fire of his determination.  Speaking of recent demonstrations against mountain top strip mining, which poisoned Kentucky rivers, Berry said,  “This is intolerable. There’s no excuse for it…there’s no justification for the permanent destruction of the world.”

I invite everyone to watch this brief trailer and if interested, tune into the full interview, or read the transcript here:  Wendell Berry on his hopes for humanity

Berry is eloquent in denouncing the “disaster of being governed by the corporations,” and he speaks of both the importance and the difficulty of holding onto hope.  He finds hope in the growing number of people who share his views and in his certainty that the present order of things cannot last because it runs counter to “creation itself.”  He also puts a lot of hope in “ordinary” people choosing to do the right thing.

There’s a eloquence in Wendell Berry’s interview, and there’s an equal eloquence in this poem, which fills me with hope and a sense of the love he feels for the forests and fields, the river and animals – the whole of creation – which he has spent a lifetime defending.

Manifesto:  The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

The Rim Fire, day 22

rim fire

Smoke from the Rim Fire, photographed from the Glacier Point road some 30 miles south.  The photograph fails to convey the sense of scale of the smoke plume, even at this distance.

On day 22, the blaze is 80% contained.  It has burned 394 square miles of timber, watershed, and wildlife habitat.  More than 3,600 firefighters are on the lines, and efforts to contain this 3d largest fire in California history have cost $89 million to date.

A team of 50 scientists is moving into the burn area to assess erosion and mudslide dangers once the rainy season comes.  Of particular concern are the Tuolumne River and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir which provides drinking water to 2.8 million people in the greater San Francisco area.

The fire began when a hunter’s illegal campfire burned out of control.

Nights of shooting stars

I wasn’t even thinking of the Perseid meteor showers when I posted my review of Stardust, a movie in which a shooting star is central to the story.  Since then I’vs spotted news articles which reminded me that the annual peak time to see shooting stars is upon us!

Nasa photo: public domain

Every August for the last 2000 years, we have been treated to meteor showers as the earth passes by remnants of the Swift-Tuttle comet.  This year, because light from the waning crescent moon will be dim, the celestial light show should be especially dramatic.

The meteors will be visible from now through August 24, peaking this weekend, on the 11th and 12th.  NASA estimates we could see as many as 80-100 shooting stars per hour on those nights.  Best viewing will naturally be in places away from city lights, but in past years, I’ve seen the Perseids from the back yard, where there is plenty of ambient light.

This is really worth checking out if you get the chance.  No matter how many other distractions we face, celestial events like this can stop us in our tracks, open our eyes of wonder, and remind us again of the things that really matter.

Light and Shadow

Light and Shadow 6 blog

These photographs were taken in Wawona, just inside the south entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Light and Shadow 4 blog


Light and Shadow 5 blog

April is warm this year.  Mornings in the 30’s, daytime temperatures sometimes reaching the 70’s.  A few days ago it snowed, though all traces are gone.

Light and Shadow 8 blog


Light and shadow 1 blog

I think of the Summer King and the Winter King in Celtic folklore.  Their battle for ascendency never ends.  The King of Summer is winning now, but they’ll meet again in autumn.

Light and Shadow 2 blog


Light and shadow 3 blog

The sun is so bright and the shadows so deep they stop you.  Their interweaving patterns, stirring in the breeze, shift from moment to moment.

Light and Shadows 7 blog

The world changes before our eyes. Always the same and never the same.