Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cultivating I and Thou relationships

At a study on prayer earlier this week I was reminded of Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, who describes the nature of relationships among people and the natural world, as being either "I-Thou"or "I-it".  It seems to me that one of the benefits of prayer is to more reverently reflect upon our relationships with nature, other people, and life with spiritual beings (God, ideas, art...).

Often our relationships degenerate...“Every Thou in the world is by its nature fated to become a thing, or continually re-enter into the condition of things.”

Without it, a human being cannot live, but with only it, a human being is not human.
                                                      ~Martin Buber, from I and Thou

A video, Martin Buber: Towards fuller relationships, provides a brief description his philosophy.

The Dalai Lama also speaks to the development of relationships in his book "An Open Heart: Practicing compassion in everyday life."  He notes:

The seed of compassion will grow if you plant it in fertile soil, a consciousness moistened with love.  When you have watered your mind with love, you can begin to meditate upon compassion. Compassion, here, is simply the wish that all sentient beings be free of suffering.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Outdoor exercise has added benefits over indoor workouts

Do you want to get the most of your workout?  Well, it seems that rather than paying for a gym membership you might be better off getting a workout in the great out of doors!  An article in the New York Times, The benefits of exercising outdoors, discusses the many benefits of being outside, rather than in, while working out.

The benefits of outdoor exercise include a greater level of strenuousness, improved level of enjoyment. People walking outside versus inside experienced higher levels of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem, while measuring lower levels of tension, depression and fatigue.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The science of addictive foods

It is no accident that so many "junk foods" are addictive.  Major food corporations have been working diligently to make them just so.  An article in the New York Times, The extradorinary science of addictive junk food, describes the great lengths that these food companies go to in order to create cravings for their products.

These food addictions, which are created through product development and advertising, are not unlike the tobacco industry marketing campaigns to children and youth; highly effective and detrimental to one's health. The huge rise in obesity and diabetes among children and adults are evidence of unhealthy diets. Salt, sugar and fat are the primary ingredients for creating cravings. Foods that are tasty, cheap, and easy to prepare have considerable appeal over foods that are more nutritious, and which are more expensive and require greater time to prepare.

So, once again our nation's desire for things that are quick, cheap, easy AND tasty, while providing immediate gratification are also creating long-term problems for us.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Water concerns for lakes and wells

 Water and ice
An article, Minnesota draining its supplies of water, in the StarTribune, pointed out personal and business use of water is causing wells to run dry and some lake levels to drop.  This is of particular interest to me, serving as a commissioner for the Bassett Creek Watershed.  We've had numerous discussions about one of the lakes in our region that has had lower than usual water levels.  It may well be that this is the result of it being drained thanks to the impact of many wells around the lake.

The problem with drawing considerable amounts of water from wells is that it depletes the aquifer. Aquifers are often not fully recharged when wells are used, since after the water is used it is commonly discharged into rivers, which runs the water out of the region. A graphic in the StarTribune helps illustrate the problem, Graphic: A future of water shortages.

Some consideration is being given to pumping treated water back into the aquifer. It is likely that the state will have to create greater restrictions on water usage in order to avoid depleting future groundwater supplies.

An interactive map of Minnesota's water levels is also available on the web, Interactive map: The state of Minnesota's groundwater.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow cracks

Cracks in the snow
Cracks in the snow

Some interesting cracks appeared on the snow which covered the walking path around Bassett Creek Park.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The value of green space

Seems that our parks can actually help reduce stress and support our physical and mental health.  An article, Green space as a buffer between stressful life and health, references research done in the Netherlands on the buffering effect that green space has for people undergoing stress.  I know that a simple walk around the park can sure help me relax, especially when the park is green, not cold and white as it is now.

I wonder if cold white space adds to our stress levels? Perhaps only when were driving in traffic?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Firewood and wood burning stoves

Splitting wood
Perhaps my love of firewood and wood burning stoves is genetic, stemming from my Norwegian ancestry.  I enjoyed reading an article in the New York Times, "Bark Up or Dow? Firewood splits Norwegians", about the popularity of burning wood in Norway.  Seems there is considerable controversy about whether or not the wood should be place bark up or down when it is stacked.

Our dog also loves the wood buring stove
We've got a Jøtul wood burning stove that we enjoy immensely throughout the fall, winter and spring months.  Radiant heat is wonderful.  I also like the experience of cutting, splitting and stacking firewood, most of which comes from trees around our block.

There is nothing much more relaxing than sitting by a warm blazing fire in the cool of winter reading a book or simply watching the fire burn.

By the way, I'm mainly a bark side up firewood stacker.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Us" and "Them", really?

I've discovered though social media there is an awful lot of "us" and "them" thinking going on in our society.  This is most evident when it comes to politics and lightening rod issues such as gun control or global climate change.  Many people identify their side and then dig in their heals, all the while claiming the other side is not open to change or understanding how things REALLY are.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to provide a children's sermon at church on the story of the Good Samaritan.  I love the way Jesus took a Samaritan, who for the Jews clearly would have been one of "them", and cast him as a role model for others, including a priest!  Jesus then reminded us that we were to love our neighbors.

In reading a book by the Dalai Lama, An Open Heart, he conveys the same message. After writing  about how the world has gotten smaller with improved communication and transportation he notes:
"In a sense the concept of "us" and "them" is almost  no longer relevant, as our neighbors' interests are ours as well.  Caring for our neighbors' interests is essentially caring for our own future. To day the reality is simple. In harming our enemy, we are  harmed."

I hope that our political leaders in Washington DC will come to more fully recognize this truth, as they seek to develop legislation that is in our common good.  The recent strident partisanship is clearly harming the nation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saying NO to senior discounts

I couldn't help but say AMEN to an opinion piece I heard on public radio yesterday that recommended baby boomers say no to senior discounts.

As a retired social worker with a mentoring program I witnessed how extremely difficult it was for young single moms to rear children on a minimum wage.  Given their lack of financial clout, they don't  have an AARP to provide legislative support or advocacy with businesses for discounts.

There is something wrong with this picture when the people with the greatest amount of resources are able to get the best deal because they've got the greatest amount of resources.

You can read more about Lori Eber's recommendation from her bog posting, Boomers: Let's give up our senior discounts.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Snow beauty

A recent snowfall dressed up all of the trees and vegetation around Bassett Creek Park.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New York mayor is saying no to polystyrene!

Polystyrene cups found littered in the pond
at Bassett Creek Park
Hats off to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for suggesting a ban on polystyrene, sometimes called Styrofoam.  (Bloomberg pushes for plastic-foam ban in 'State of the City'.)  I hope that this catches on elsewhere across the nation and globe.  I often see bits of polystyrene and Styrofoam littered around the park that I visit daily.  It is likely to stay in the environment indefinitely. Besides the litter effect, some aquatic animals mistake styrofoam for food, which can be fatal.

If instant gratification or quick, cheap and easy are your priorities, this is a great product to use for a fast cup of coffee or as a takeout container. However, if one wants to factor in the environmental costs, it rapidly loses it's appeal.  Thankfully more people and businesses are now starting to consider the environment and sustainability as they make their daily choices.

How cool it was to read about Mia and Sara Hansen, a mother and her ten-year-old daughter, from Carlsbad, California who started a petition to encourage Jamba Juice to stop using polystyrene cups.  They received more than 130,000 signatures, and a resulting commitment from the company to switch to a more environmentally friendly alternative by the end of 2013.  (Jumba Juice: Stop using Styrofoam cups that kill animals!).

In addition to the pollution that it creates while being manufactured and discarded, polystyrene has also long been suspected as a probable carcinogen (Drinking coffee in a Styrofoam cup? Pour it out. Polystyrene can be identified by looking for the number 6 on containers, which include clear plastic clamshells and coffee cup lids.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Snow crystals

Snow crystals,
glimmering like countless jewels.

Their beauty will one day vanish,
as with the pond they become one.

Changed in form,
they will course through the gills of carp.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Key to memory... forgetting!

How do I improve my memory? Forget more!  How's that for a paradox?  This Huffington Post article observes how we are biologically programmed to forget, and this is in fact good for us!  Were we able to remember everything we would be overwhelmed by information.

The author provides the following summery of the value of forgetting thing.... If you cannot forget an old love, how do you fall in love again? Forgetting allows us to mold old memories, to learn, to forgive, to get on with life. Forgetting prunes our neural networks, allowing some to flourish and others to wither, improving efficiency. Rapid, automatic forgetting of all but a minute amount of the terabytes of data we are inundated with every day is a good thing. If your forgetfulness interferes with your function, seek medical help. If not, stop fretting. Relax and enjoy your memory. For everything else, there's always Google!

Monday, February 11, 2013

It pays to relax

An article, Relax! You'll be more productive, in the New York Times, underscores the value of naps, vacations and a good night's sleep.  In our increasingly "go-go", fast pace existence, we are well advised to resist the urge to work without ceasing.  Being a fan of paradox, I'm pleased to report that research confirms that we are better able to get more done when we spend more time doing less.

How sad it is that about a third of US employees are so busy that they eat lunch at their desk, while  half plan to work during their vacations.  Unbelievably US workers left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.  This is up a third from 2011!  It seems that the rat race is getting faster.

Physiologically humans are made to rotate between spending energy and recovering energy.  The period of physiological fatigue comes approximately every 90 minutes. When we don't take time to recover the old axiom becomes evident, "the harder I work, the behinder I get."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Frost on ice

Earlier this winter, when the temps were below zero, hoar frost developed on top of the ice, creating small frosty islands.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reducing roadway salt usage

An article in the StarTribune, A call for less salt in our roadway's diet, speaks to some of the problems salt causes in our lakes and ponds.  A study done by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency discovered that a third of the metro area lakes are chloride impaired.  Once the salt runs off of the roadways it often goes into the sewer system and then into area streams and lakes.  Salt dissolves, but doesn not degrade. Once it is in the lake it is impossible to remove!

To learn more about road salt and water quality check out the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's website.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Picturing Peace Photos

I'm pleased to report that I'm developing a website, Picturing Peace, to showcase some of the photos that I've taken over the past few years.  These photographs primarily reflect nature's simplicity and beauty.

Should you like, pictures and photo items are also available for purchase on this Zenfolio website.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Theodore Wirth Park development as a center for silent sports

Theodore Wirth Chalet
High School Nordic Skier
I read with great interest an article, "Wither Minneapolis' Wirth Park?", discussing the challenges of sharing the expansive 759 acre Wirth Park between golfers, Nordic skiers and mountain bikers.  The Loppet Foundation is interested in expanding the existing chalet to accommodate the great many winter athletes that make great use of this top quality Nordic ski course.

The snow making that the Loppet Foundation has invested in, and increasingly unpredictable winter weather, make this park a very busy site for High School meets throughout the winter months.  For example, four days of this week there are Sectional Nordic meets being held at Wirth.

I hope that the park board will support expansion of the building to better support the growing use by winter sports. A couple of renderings of what the new facility would look like are at PHOTOS: The future of Wirth Park?

Minneapolis Public Library, too public?

Downtown Minneapolis Library
Having recently visited the downtown Minneapolis public library I was intrigued by an article in the StarTribune, Security getting tougher at downtown Minneapolis public library.  The library is something of a safe haven for homeless people, and a great way for them to access email and other features through the internet.  It is estimated between 300 - 400 homeless people visit the Central Library daily.

In reading comments posted on this article it seems many feel this beautiful library is no place for homeless. It is as if they should be sequestered out of sight in some dingy, third class quarters, more befitting of the growing numbers of people who are now jobless.

I'm pleased to have my tax dollars go to this wonderful community resource, that serves all. Here go I but by the grace of God.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Words stand between silence and silence: 
between the silence of things and the silence of our own being, 
between the silence of the world and the silence of God. 
When we have really met and known the world in silence, 
words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, 
nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.
-Thomas Merton

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

President Obama visits north Minneapolis

President Obama visited north Minneapolis yesterday as a part of his campaign to reduce gun violence in the United States (Obama hails Minneapolis gun efforts; his plans still face a fight).

Minneapolis' mayor, RT Rybak, is among many other city leaders tired of inaction on this pressing issue, while about 30,000 Americans die each year to gun shots. He stated "People are dying out there. I am not satisfied with the main sort of front from the people in Washington, that is sort of a game.  Where are the other people on this issue? Get a spine, get a backbone. People are losing their lives."

An interesting website, US Gun Murders in 2012, provides further information on the number of years lost and demographics of those killed by gun violence in the United States.

It seems bizarre that the N.R.A. has the audacity to suggest our gun happy nation needs more guns, not fewer, to quell the violence.  Seems a bit like suggesting to an alcoholic that they need to drink their way out of their problem.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Church handbells

Yesterday while at  Valley of Peace Lutheran I spent a little time in the choir loft, in order to photograph some of the worship service.  I discovered the handbells were left out.

Wish I could add the sounds of a bell choir to this photo.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Twin Cities Loppet

Yesterday it was great fun to watch children, youth and families out Nordic skiing in Uptown, Minneapolis.

The Twin Cities Loppet actually had snow trucked in and piled on top of the street for races and ski touring.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Maple seed and frost

Maple Leaf and Frost
In yesterday's subzero weather I discovered this Silver Maple seed surrounded by hoar frost on the pond.  I don't think it will be germinating anytime soon!

Friday, February 1, 2013