Years ago, when I was perhaps in my pre-teens, I dreamt the simplest of dreams, but it is one that has always stuck with me, and it is one that I have occasion to remember multiple times a year.  After several decades, I just had the most striking insight about that dream.

In the dream I am riding in the car with my mother as we’re driving through a small, idyllic farming town.  In my dream it is the town of Henderson, though I don’t know if the images in the dream were true-to-life of the actual Henderson of that era.   The road we are driving on is sloping downward as it wends toward the Minnesota River valley, on which Henderson is perched.  It is a warm and drowsy summer afternoon, and I’m serenely gazing out the passenger window, watching the town pass by.   The one image that sticks with me is of an old grain elevator and feed mill, a quintessential representation of such buildings that were found in every farm town during my boyhood.   I have always cherished that image of that feed mill.  It captures a set of feelings that I can’t quite express, feelings that are so evocative of the rural culture that I grew up in.

Dream images – so difficult to capture – none of these pictures adequately depict the image from the dream, but some amalgamation of them might come close…

sold-feed-mill  old-mill

feed-mill2   feed-mill


From the time that I was a very young boy, I would ride with my father in one of our grain trucks to the village of Lafayette to take a load of corn or soybeans or wheat to sell at the grain elevator.

Our oldest truck was a 1950’s vintage Studebaker much like these, though we did purchase larger, more modern trucks as I grew up.  The weathered, red wooden box on the left image is an exact match of what our truck looked like:

studebaker-truck studebaker-2

We would pull the truck into the massive structure of the elevator, at least massive to a 7 year-old, and no matter how bright and sunny it might be outside, within the cavernous mouth of the elevator, it was always a shadowy dusk.   There was always a hint of grain dust, motes floating in the air, and the smell of grain and old wood.

Of course, the grain elevator in my memory was more rustic, more impressive, more quaint than these:  🙂

lowe-farm-grain-elevator grain-elevator

The truck would be weighed while still loaded, and then one of the workers would walk up to the back of the truck, open the endgate, and a flood of golden kernels would  pour out the truck into the hopper built into the floor.  The worker would then use a flour scoop to gather a sample of the corn as it poured forth, take it to a heating mechanism of some sort, I don’t recall ever having seen it, and soon the smell of burnt corn would permeate the air.  Through this test they would know the moisture content of the corn. Once the truck was emptied of grain, it would again be weighed.  Between the weight of the corn and its moisture content, they would determine how many bushels we had unloaded.



I would then follow my father into the office, he would walk up to the worn, wooden counter and be met with bantering greetings from the staff, men he had known his entire life, to receive his small, paper receipt for the literal tons of golden treasure we had just bestowed upon them.   Also in the office there was one of those old-fashioned candy dispensers, half red metal, half glass, with the coin slot and hand crank, and the small metal flap, so reminiscent of the endgate on the truck, from which would flow its contents.  But this dispenser did not hold candy, but cashews.  And when I was lucky enough, my father would have the right coins with him. How I loved those cashews.  Still do.

In my current life, multiple times a year I now make the drive from Minneapolis to Mankato to see my sister Julie.  About half way there, there is a sign on the highway for the exit to the town of Henderson.   And I of course think of that dream every time I see that sign.

This past week, during a luxuriant January thaw after weeks of bitter cold, perhaps 45 years after I had the dream, I picked up my mother and drove us to Mankato for Julie’s art show. Along the way, I see the sign for Henderson. And remember the dream.  I make note of the fact that I am the one now driving and it is my mother who now spends more time serenely gazing out the passenger window, watching the world go by.

And then the image of that feed mill fixes itself in my mind.  And it strikes me, that those grain elevators and feed mills were the intersection between the farms like ours that produced the grain and the populations, near and far, that consumed the grain.  Granted, it was only one step in a long chain of processes that ultimately resulted in the loaves of bread and boxes of corn flakes in people’s cupboards.  But those grain elevators were the first step in the that process.  They were the  portals through which passed the fruits of the earth on their way to feed the world.

While I find my deepest connection to Spirit in the wilds of nature, I have always enjoyed lingering upon the thought that churches and other sacred buildings are intersections between heaven and earth.   Chapels, Temples, or Cathedrals, they are built with the physical elements provided by the earth, and are portals to the experience of the spiritual realms.  They are “supramundane”, places set aside for people to put aside their mundane day-to-day cares, hungering to connect with what has eternal and essential meaning.

In that moment that I saw the grain elevators as intersections between farm and city, between the fertile earth and a hungering humanity, they too took on a supramundane significance.  Chapels, Temples, and Cathedrals in their own right, they are sacred structures in the great chain of being that links our tender bodies to the tender land.


grain-elevator-4 grain-elevator-3


[all of the photos in this post are from random websites.  My apologies for not giving adequate credit to their sources]



Where the Buffalo Roam…


This post is dedicated to my beloved sister Julie, a visionary artist who is transforming the cityscape of her adopted home of Mankato, Minnesota.


On this Thanksgiving Day, we might pause to Give Thanks not only to our Creator who provides for us, but also to the animals that sustain us.  To Give Thanks to the spirit of an animal which gave its life to support one’s own,  this sacred act practiced by indigenous peoples around the globe, perhaps once practiced even by my ancestors, the indigenous Europeans –  perhaps we can add this to our Thanksgiving rituals and traditions?  Perhaps, one might speculate, this lesson was imparted to those beleaguered pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving? We can Give Thanks to both the Creator and the Creation.

For the Dakota people, whose ancestors called home the land of my homestead for millennia before my ancestors claimed it as their home, how elevated must have been their Thanks Giving to the spirit of the Buffalo?  It is so well-known that Tatanka supplied them their food, their clothing, tools, and their shelter.   To consume the buffalo, to use it’s bones to fashion other necessities of your life, to dress in the skins of the buffalo, to dwell within a tipi made of buffalo hides – how does one adequately honor such a Creature that sustains you, clothes you, and shelter’s you?  By taking it within yourself, by giving yourself a second skin with its skin, by dwelling within its protection, do you not become this Creature?  And perhaps they did, acclimatizing, adapting themselves to the prairies, just as the Buffalo did.

About 25 miles, as the crow flies and as the eagle soars, from the farm where I grew up on the Minnesota prairie, a land now draped with the unending tapestry of the row crops of agriculture that feeds the mouths of millions, a land once populated by native grasses and native peoples, and where once the Buffalo roamed, about 25 miles away is Reconciliation Park in Mankato, Minnesota.

Near the site of this park, in 1862, 38 Dakota people were hanged in the aftermath of what once called the Sioux Uprising, and now, out of greater consciousness, “Sioux” being a derogatory name for the Dakota people, is called the “Dakota War”. It was primarily fought in New Ulm, Minnesota, where I attended high school.   It was a war spawned out of rising tensions between the Dakota and the European settlers, stemming from limited food and supplies reaching the Dakota as was promised in various treaties.  As the Dakota were starving, one trader, insensitive to their plight, and in their presence, uttered the fateful words, “Let them eat grass.”  He was the one of the first fatalities of the war, later found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.  It has not been recorded whether this was Native grasses or European grasses, but, in any case,  he did not enjoy a “Happy Thanksgiving”. His words are considered one of the primary causes that incited the “uprising”.

At the conclusion of the war, hundreds of Indian prisoners were tried by a military commission.  303 were condemned to death. Their death sentences were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln for all but the 38, who were executed in Mankato on December 26, 1862.  The day after Christmas Day.   Their hanging has the distinction of being the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.

In 2012, on the 150-year anniversary of the execution, Mankato hosted a Memorial and Dedication of Reconciliation Park, calling for healing and forgiveness of this 150 year-old wound.  The park features this sculpture of a Buffalo, this most potent symbol of the life that this prairie creature bestowed upon these warriors of the plains.

As of this summer, directly behind this statue of a bull buffalo, one can now find, as part of a larger mural, this painting of a buffalo cow and her calf:


The mural is found on the wall that protects the city of Mankato from the flooding of the Minnesota River.  The mural is almost 500 feet long.  It was the brain child and labor of love of my sister Julie.  Julie conceived its vision, and fought for it through various governmental bodies and organizations, including city, county, and the Civil Core of Engineers.


The flood wall, while protecting the city, also was a scar on the face of the city, obscuring its once magnificent view of the river itself.  Julie’s vision was to depict the river on the wall, to reconnect the city with its flowing roots.  She ultimately won approval and headed up a team of artists who brought her vision into reality.  The painting is called “The Mni Mural”.  “Mni” is Dakota for “water”.   The mural extends from sunrise in the east to sunset in the west.   Here are more pictures of the mural, from  west to east:

img_6328 img_6329 img_6129 img_6116 img_6117  img_6325-1

Julie’s concerns extend far beyond the confines of her adoptive city’s limits and the surface of this wall.  As it turns out, the agricultural runoff from farms in Minnesota  contribute to the ever-growing “dead zone” that forms in the Gulf of Mexico each year.  Which contributes to the creation of the “red tides” in Florida, which directly affects other members of our family.  Her inspiration for the mural was in part to raise consciousness about this ever-growing problem.   As it turns out, in my work with environmental groups several year ago, I also sought to stem this tide of agricultural pollutants that made their way to the gulf.  So, in our own ways, we have fought the same battle, which begins on the doorstep of the farmhouse where we were raised.

It is so interesting to me that this parallels our sibling relationship.  As we were growing up in a large and troubled farm family, Julie and I were always there for each other.  Safe havens for each other.  Though, credit must be given to Julie, being my older sister, it was her large and encompassing heart that first saved me.

Several miles up river from Julie’s mural is Minneopa State Park. About a year ago a small herd of Buffalo were released on a restored prairie on this flood plain of the Minnesota River.  I visited this herd for the first time today.  Here are some pictures:




Once again, this is about 25 miles as the crow flies and as the eagle soars from the farm where Julie and I grew up.  Close enough to consider it as part of our stomping grounds. And, as it happens, a Bald Eagle did fly over as I was communing with the Buffalo.

One other small anecdote – years ago when I was in my late teens, at home from college, several members of my family were driving from New Ulm to Mankato and, very near this park, we saw this large “thing” running along side the road.  I pulled over to see what it was.  It was a wild turkey.  I ran along side of it for some yards, so astonished to see it.  It was the first one I had ever seen in my life.  They were not here when I was growing up, but they were in the process of returning.  And now they are abundant throughout southern Minnesota.  Even on Thanksgiving Day.

Restoration happens.

But not without consciousness and not without effort.

Several years ago I read a book that had a significant impact upon me, entitled: “Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American Prairie.”  One of the salient points of the book is that we have replaced about 45 million Buffalo, that were adapted to the scarce water of the Great Plains and were an integral part of that ecosystem, we have replaced those Buffalo with about 45 million cattle that are not adapted to the aridness of the great plains and instead destroy the native ecosystem.

Watching the Buffalo at the state park today, I observed various groups of people come and go, always eager to see the Buffalo, always excited, but frequently wondering why the Buffalo were just “sitting there”, not doing anything.   Buffalo are ruminants. They feed and then chew their cud.  Resting there in the desiccated remnants of prairie grasses and flowers, they were embodiments of the prairie earth itself.  Massive bodies, impervious to the weather, at home in their ecosystem.  Adapted to their environment.  Adapted to their place on the Earth.

More and more, it seems that humanity must adapt itself to the Earth. We have had centuries of humankind, seeking to improve its odds of survival, adapting the Earth to meet its perceived needs.  Now, if we are to survive, we must adopt a different strategy.  It is we that must adapt ourselves and our activities to the needs of the Earth. Siblings of humankind, we must work in concert to save each other and save the Earth.



Oh, Sweet Canada

This is a White-throated Sparrow. It is a spring migrant here in Minnesota, and then spends its summers in its nesting grounds in Canada.

As it passes through, we are blessed to hear the males court the females with their distinctive voice, a syncopated series of clear, high-pitched notes that is rendered as: “Oh, Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada”.    You can listen to its beautiful song on this site, from which I’ve also borrowed the picture:

Early this morning, when I stepped outside, I was greeted by its call.

But things are not so sweet in Canada at this moment….

[picture from:

The Canadian Wilderness has always held a magnetic pull for me.  The boreal forest of pines and spruces and firs and birch and aspens, punctuated with thousands of lakes and streams, with its granite bedrock still laid bare from the scraping of the glaciers 10,000 years ago, it is a remarkably primeval landscape.  It is a wilderness in which one feels truly close to the raw elements of creation and to the Creator itself.  Its siren call has lured me north time and time again, at least in spirit if not always in body.

As a wilderness guide in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and Ontario during my college years, I led many groups of boys and young men on canoe expeditions through that enchanted land. And then for a period of 10 years in my later adulthood I introduced groups of spiritual seekers into that enchantment.

Nature touches us all, and there countless sacred niches and sublime landscapes throughout this majestic planet of ours, but few have touched me as deeply as this primitive land; and I believe that every one I ever led there was, to varying degrees, transformed by their experience. To paddle a canoe through this rugged environment, from lake to lake, never seeing a building or hearing a motor for days on end,  soaking in the bliss of fair weather and enduring the challenges and discomforts of foul, it was always a journey of the body and the spirit.

The adventure camp where I worked summers during my college years was reachable only by water; one had to drive to the very end of the Gunflint Trail, and then make the rest of the journey by boat or canoe. Even when not out on trail, we were always immersed in the elements – the cabins and dining lodge had pine wood walls only the first four feet up from the ground, the remaining four feet being simply screened in. We slept in pine-scented breezes every night. There was no electricity.  Even in basecamp we were camping.  The official song of the camp captured the spirit of that wilderness so richly, in both tone and lyrics. Sung under the stars by the light of a crackling fire, it was an entrancing drone of solemn male voices, who, out of reverence and sentimentality, did their best to carry the tune. Here are the words:


The Life of the Voyageur

The life of the Voyageur
that of a sojourner
travels around and round
but not from town to town

Paddles the lakes and streams
follows his distant dreams
peace on the waterways
blue sky and cloudy days

My heart has but one home
from which I’ll never roam
land of true happiness
Canadian wilderness

The call of the lonely loon
wolves are howling at the moon
wind rustles through the trees
that’s a Canadian breeze

Smoke rising from the fire
up through the trees in a stately spire
all is calm in the evening glow
sun goes the down the north wind blows

My heart has but one home
from which I’ll never roam
land of true happiness
Canadian wilderness

You can listen to a young man sing the song here:

Given my deep connection to this land and its spirit, I have been deeply distressed by the intense wild-fire that is burning near Fort McMurray, Alberta. I have been intently following the news since Wednesday.

Here in Minneapolis, about 2:00 am Saturday morning, I was awakened to heavy smoke in the air and had to close my all of my windows. At 6:00 am there was white haze in the sky, covering the city. The air quality was considered “Very Unhealthy”, given all the suspended particulate matter.  We were warned to not engage in strenuous outdoor activity.  It turned out that the smoke was from the Fort McMurray fire, 1,500 miles away. Southerly winds soon cleared the air, but at its worst, the acrid air could bring tears to one’s eyes.

I later learned that the smoke had reached all the way to Florida. Truly, what happens in distant parts of the planet can affect us all, and the forces of nature know no boundaries.  As of yesterday, the fire was nearing a half million acres in size and is considered uncontrollable; it is speculated that it may burn for months.

Today, Sunday morning, when I stepped outside,  and heard “Oh, Sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada” resounding through the clear air, it brought so many emotions home. And, once again, Canada brought tears to my eyes.

Our northern brotherland has had a warm, dry winter and spring.  Millions upon millions of acres of forests are stressed and highly vulnerable to fire.  And the fire season is just beginning.

Add to this, after an extraordinary winter of unheard of warmth, the arctic ice cap is in the poorest spring condition it has been in for hundreds of years.   The ice, already greatly diminished in thickness and volume over the last 20 years, is the thinnest and weakest and the smallest extent ever recorded for this time of year. And it is melting rapidly.  The weather of the next four months will determine how much of it melts.  Some scientists fear the worst.

Should the arctic become ice-free, or nearly so, during the summer melt season, it has the potential to disrupt climatic and weather systems around the world.  The impacts upon daily life and food production could be catastrophic.  Again, some scientists are concerned that we could experience this within a few short years.   The conditions this year do not bode well.

The addition of the CO2 and soot entering the atmosphere from the forest fires is considered a “positive feed-back loop” of global warming.  The increase in forest fires that results from global warming in turn contributes to increased warming. It adds vast amounts of CO2, and the dark soot, landing upon sea and glacial ice, accelerates its melting.

Perhaps I will get in to more of the science in a subsequent post. But, for the moment, I ask that, as we are moved, we all take stray moments out our days, to send prayers of healing and to hold a vision of the Canadian wilderness in all of its sweet splendor.


For those interested in more of the hard facts and a scientific account of the fire and arctic conditions, please check out the exceptional and highly respected blog by Robert Scribbler:

Drops of Jupiter = Diamonds


I could not resist this opportunity to write about one of my all-time favorite songs, when science has so graciously given substance to one of its central metaphors.

This brings to mind a quote by Sigmund Freud, reflecting upon his exploration of the human psyche: “Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”

In this case, that poet, and dreamer,  was Pat Monahan of the rock band “Train”.

As it turn out, “Drops of Jupiter” can in fact be diamonds….

Lightning storms make it rain diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter

….in the dense atmospheres of planets like Jupiter and Saturn, whose massive size generates enormous amounts of gravity, crazy amounts of pressure and heat can squeeze carbon in mid-air — and make it rain diamonds.

The diamonds start out as methane gas. Powerful lightning storms on the two huge gas giants then zap it into carbon soot.

“As the soot falls, the pressure on it increases,” Baines told the BBC. “And after about 1,000 miles it turns to graphite – the sheet-like form of carbon you find in pencils.”

And the graphite keeps falling. When it reaches the deep atmosphere of Saturn, for example — around 3,700 miles down — the immense pressure squeezes the carbon into diamonds, which float in seas of liquid methane and hydrogen.


But about the lyrics of the song…

“Drops Of Jupiter”

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s a time to change, hey, hey, hey
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

But tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated?

Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star–
One without a permanent scar?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?

Now that she’s back from that soul vacation
Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey, hey (mmm)
She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo
Reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey, hey, hey (yeah)

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
I’m afraid that she might think of me as plain ol’ Jane
Told a story about a man who was too afraid to fly so he never did land

But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the Milky Way?
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?
Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance, five-hour phone conversation?
The best soy latte that you ever had and me

But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back toward the Milky Way?

And tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated?

And tell me, did you fall for a shooting star,
One without a permanent scar?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself?

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

And did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day?
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
And did you fall for a shooting star, fall for a shooting star?
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na
And now you’re lonely looking for yourself out there.

I fell in love with this song the first time I that I heard it. And immediately formed my own interpretation of its words. Which, it turns out, is dead wrong.  But, nonetheless, I will share my explication…

The song is about a someone whose significant other has returned from an extensive spiritual retreat and who has been transformed by their experience.   And that someone is simultaneously 1) in awe of what their lover has experienced,  2) afraid that their lover has transcended them and will no longer find them sufficiently interesting, and 3) wanting to remind their lover that life on earth is in part made up of simple, earthly pleasures.

So much of the transcendent, inspiring imagery found in the lyrics is so reminiscent of shamanic (trance) journeys that I have experienced myself, or heard reported to me from those whose journeys I have facilitated.   I have danced upon the Moon, been dissolved and transformed by the heat of the Sun, traveled to distant planets, explored the wonders of the Eagle Nebula, and experienced the birth pangs of the Big Bang itself.

[Picture of the Eagle Nebula taken by the telescope on Kitt Peak]

But back to the song…about these lines in particular…

And tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated?

And tell me, did you fall for a shooting star,
One without a permanent scar?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself?

That someone wonders, did their lover find a purer partner, one who does not carry persistent wounds from their childhood that continue to affect and limit them?    And that someone questions their lover – as blissful as the spiritual search might be, is it not lonely in the disembodied ethers? Do you not miss the human connection that is so much a part of the human condition?

It is a song of tension, between the empathetic awe for what their lover has experienced, the recognition of  their transformation, the fear of no longer being enough, and the realization that part of the spiritual experience is inhabiting a human body.


You can listen to the song itself here:


And you can learn the real origin and meaning of the song here:



top image from:

The Alchemy of Magnetism & Resonance


The ecstatic magnetism that unites lovers. The sweet resonance that unifies friends. The rapture of body and soul when these two are met in One.

Magnetism draws opposite energies together. Resonance draws similar energies together. Alchemy transpires when these converge.

The ferver of desire and bliss of contentment. The allure of the exotic and the comfort of the familiar.   The encounter with the Other, and the embrace of the Self.

Opposites attract.  Like attracts like unto itself.  Two contradictory truisms that are indeed both true.

Scientific & Spiritual Areas

As soon as you enter this woods, a sacred hush falls upon you, envelopes you, permeates you, and you know that the Mystery is powerful here. Even the most casual strollers you encounter seem to be under its spell, and walk with a more reverent air.
In this woods Sugar Maple Trees over 200 years old tower above you.
This woods is one of the few significant remnant old-growth parcels of “The Big Woods” left in Minnesota. While we have the Boreal Forest of conifers, birch and aspens in our north country, “The Big Woods” was a deciduous hardwood forest that once covered nearly 2 million acres through the central portion of the state. This remnant virgin woods is 220 acres. Virtually everything else of the original “Big Woods” is now gone, or second-growth.
Technically, this woods is a “Scientific & Natural Area” – in Minnesota SNAs are used to “preserve natural features and rare resources of exceptional scientific and educational value.”


Though we may know that the entire Earth itself is sacred, and we may tune in anywhere, there have always been those places where Spirit has felt more present. In my experience SNAs, these little niches of preserved pristine nature, are often times liminal spaces – thresholds between the ordinary and the non-ordinary reality.
I like to believe that the sacredness of these places was strong enough that even humans hell-bent on subduing the landscape could feel it….and were inspired to preserve it. But it must also be acknowledged that many times it was the rugged form of the topography itself that saved an area, being unfit for commercial or agricultural development. And it is this very topography that feels like an eruption of the more profound Sacred into the more commonplace landscape.  In the case of this woods, the topography and its Sugar Maples combined so that it was originally preserved because of a commercial use:
I have been making pilgrimages to this woods for almost 20 years. To place your hands upon the trunks of the elders, to embrace them, is to be filled with a flow of energy so sublime and uplifting.   And for a moment you are a part of the tree itself, feeling its crown swaying in the Sky, and its roots firmly grounded in the Earth.


Over the years, I have come to discover, one after another, many of the old giants had fallen to the ground. I still remember the great grief I felt the first time that I encountered one of the fallen Grandfathers. Though placing my hands upon him, his Spirit was still vibrantly alive; he spoke to me, and asked that I carry his energy to one of his sisters.

This one I encountered yesterday. It’s message…”Do not grieve for my departure, for though my individual energy is leaving this forest, it goes to rejoin the spirit of the Earth herself, to assist her in her rebirth.”

The old giants, their numbers growing ever fewer, are scattered throughout the parcel. But nonetheless, the canopy of leaves woven together by the crowns of older and younger trees, remains thick enough so that in most places there is no understory of shrubs, plants, or invasive weeds.  But here and there the ground is carpeted with a multitude of Maple seedlings.  Only the Maples themselves fully know the mystery of why one patch of ground sprouts a new generation while other areas remain bare earth.
But the future of this woods as a continuing legacy of the elder Sugar Maples seems assured, for there are many patches of these seedlings..
one slightly older…
and one slightly older…
and one slightly older…
and one slightly older…
and one slightly older…

and older..

and older still…
This woods holds a space for the sky in its heart…



Double Helix Stairway to Heaven

My musing for the day ~ from the origin of life, through all the steps of evolution, to the rise of the capability of Consciousness to become of conscious itself, the DNA strand is the Stairway to Heaven that we are collectively climbing. Little wonder that spiral staircases feel so magical…

Image from

“The arising of space consciousness—a shift to vertical rather than horizontal awareness—is the next stage in the evolution of humanity, and it’s happening more and more as our awareness remains in the now moment.”
Eckhart Tolle


“I am saying that I see the emergence of space consciousness as the next stage in the evolution of humanity. By space consciousness I mean that in addition to our being fully conscious of things—that is to say of sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and whatever happens in our lives—there is at the same time an undercurrent of awareness or Presence operating in us. Awareness implies that we are not only conscious of things, such as the objects and the people around us, but we are also conscious at the same time of being conscious.”
Eckhart Tolle


Grand tree of life study shows a clock-like trend in new species emergence and diversity


Temple University researchers have assembled the largest and most accurate tree of life calibrated to time, and surprisingly, it reveals that life has been expanding at a constant rate.

The tree of life compiled by the Temple team is depicted in a new way —- a cosmologically-inspired galaxy of life view —- and contains more than 50,000 species in a tapestry spiraling out from the origin of life.

The study also challenges the conventional view of adaptation being the principal force driving species diversification, but rather, underscores the importance of random genetic events and geographic isolation in speciation, taking about 2 million years on average for a new species to emerge onto the scene.


Image from the movie, “The Tree of Life”




Led Zeppelin

“…And it’s whispered that soon,
if we all call the tune,
then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
and the forests will echo with laughter.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow,
don’t be alarmed now,
it’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by,
but in the long run,
there’s still time to change the road you are on.

and it makes me wonder

Your head is humming and it won’t go,
in case you don’t know,
the piper’s calling you to join him.
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
and did you know
your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

And as we wind on down the road,
our shadow’s taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
who shines white light and wants to show
how everything still turns to gold,
and if you listen very hard,
the tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all,
to be a rock, and not to roll.

…and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

The Beginning of the End of an Era

May his memory Live Long and Prosper

As a boy growing up on a farm, I remember being transfixed, watching the original series of Star Trek on a black and white TV.  Despite the lack of color and the ever-present static haze of rural television reception, the show had a profound effect upon me.  It introduced me to so much that was outside the narrow bounds of my world, transported me (if you will) to a broader universe, and inspired me to think in much grander vistas.  As its rise to a cultural phenomenon attests, Star Trek has done the same thing for millions and millions of others.

Perhaps more than any other TV show, Star Trek opened our collective psyche to consider possible futures and possible worlds and possible thoughts and possible philosophies that we never would have imagined.  I wonder if our ability to readily embrace the innovations of the technological revolution isn’t in part a result of the influence of Star Trek.  Having watched the crew of the Enterprise employ miraculous devices, this opened the door, and the desire, for us to do the same.

While it’s likely that the character of Captain Kirk had the greater influence upon me personally, Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock certainly had a profound impact as well.   I would attribute some of my interest in science, and in logic, of course, to his influence.   Mr. Spock also gave me one of my all-time favorite words to use:  Evidently.   Just love how that sums up so much so concisely – all the available data points to the most logical conclusion that one can draw – i.e,  Evidently.

That attribute that he is most famously known for, the use of the intellect to control the emotions, while seemingly one-dimensional or “de-humanizing”, was actually neither.   As Eckhart Tolle teaches us now, and the Buddha taught long ago, we are not our emotions, we have emotions.  We are a consciousness that can step back from our emotions and regard them dispassionately.   And we can choose to identify with the emotions or with that deeper consciousness.

I have also found it noteworthy that Spock’s approach to logic and emotions evolved over time, a transformation that required decades and several movies to take place.   In Star Trek VI he utters a very memorable ( very memorable to me, at least!) paraphrase of a biblical passage, to a younger Vulcan protégé.   The original passage goes:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” which the movie turned into:  “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.” Signalling an embrace of his humanity and his emotions.

Growing up in a Scandinavian farm community, I had no exposure to other races, cultures, philosophies, or religions.  The character of Mr. Spock introduced me to all of these.  It was mind expanding.   Leonard Nimoy, through his compelling portrayal of Mr. Spock, opened many doors for greater understanding. With his passing, the era that Star Trek ushered in is beginning to close.  One wonders what trajectory the next era will take.

May the gifts he has given us Live Long and Prosper.


I shall miss him greatly.


As A Tree


A friend of mine posted this image on Facebook.   Such a fantastic concept!

Which prompted me to share this thought:

“How cool would it be to create a “living cemetery” of these that is a Food Forest ~ could literally feed one’s descendants, and they would be fed by their ancestors…   [see the link below for a description of a food forest]

Then someone else made this comment:

I like to think of me as a tree !!!

Which inspired me to write this little poem:

I like to think of me
as a tree ~
with roots sunk deep
into ancestral dreams
and ever nurtured
by the fecund earth
with a willing embrace
of this world of form.

I like to think of me
as a tree ~
with branches reaching
toward what is to be
and ever enlivened
by the radiant sun
with a willing embrace
of the Élan Vital.

I like to think of me
as a tree ~
past into future
heaven into earth
energy into form
dwelling within
the omnipresent.


And as long as I’m dwelling upon thoughts of trees, it feels fitting to share this talk that I delivered at a 911 Tribute in 2005.  (I was speaking in front of 3,000 people, and was so nervous that my knees were wobbling the entire time.)


As we begin our program this evening and prepare for the invocation, I would like to first bring everyone’s attention to the tree festooned with ribbons and streamers that stands to the west of the band shell. This is a Valley Forge American Elm, a testimony to survival – it is naturally resistant to Dutch Elm disease, and it has just been donated by area businesses to serve as a living memorial to all those who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Throughout time, trees have always served as inspiring symbols, symbols of hope, of strength, of peace, and even the symbol of life itself. And in our country specifically, trees have been a symbol of the political principles that we treasure so deeply. The first Liberty Tree, located in Boston, was an Elm tree, just as this one is. The Sons of Liberty gathered and held their meetings in the shade of its branches. They flew their banners from its branches. In time, all 13 colonies each had their own Liberty Tree, which served as rallying places for the ideals of the American Revolution.

The original Liberty Elm in Boston was cut down by British soldiers, as an act of war, in 1775. The last of those original 13 Liberty trees to die was in Maryland, in 1999. It died as a result of a hurricane.

So in trees we see living symbols of our guiding principles, and we also see how those principles might be lost. We find ourselves gathered here this evening with two events in our minds and in our hearts – one, an act of war, 4 years ago, the other, a natural disaster, hurricane Katrina, mere days ago. Both of these events have presented our country with immense suffering and sorrow. Both of these events have presented us with immense challenges. They have challenged us to respond in a fashion that maintains and upholds the democratic principles that we hold so dearly, “that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It has been said that the true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit – to plant trees for generations that are yet to come. The founding fathers and mothers of this country planted many trees, in the principles they fought for and the institutions they created. We benefit from these trees which they planted so long ago. And so it is now our turn to plant trees. Thus, tonight we dedicate this Elm tree, as a living memorial, as a testimony to survival, as sign of hope for healing and peace. May we also plant trees of principles and institutions that will shelter and serve generations yet to come.

The goal of the Beacon Food Forest is to design, plant and grow an edible urban forest garden that inspires our community to gather together, grow our own food and rehabilitate our local ecosystem.


What is a Food Forest?
A food forest is a gardening technique or [Permaculture] land management system, which mimics a woodland ecosystem by substituting edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Fruit and nut trees make up the upper level, while berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals make up the lower levels. The Beacon Food Forest will combine aspects of native habitat rehabilitation with edible forest gardening.