Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stepping into spring

Spring weather is starting to arrive, with mud and amazing icy patterns forming around the park.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Leaf surrounded by snow and ice

A cottonwood leaf radiated warmth from the sun to melt the snow surrounding it.  Yet the warmth it created was not enough to dissipate the ice below.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Snowfall at the park

Yesterday we had a beautiful snowfall at Bassett Creek Park.  The Great Blue Heron took flight across the pond.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Missouri Botanical Garden

While in St. Louis we enjoyed a tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden.  There mission is driven by the goal of protecting and conserving plants and their ecosystems.

Not only do they maintain wonderful grounds, they also do botanical research around the world, with a goal of sustainability and protecting plant life.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Frosted twigs

Small twigs were heavily frosted in the ice that lay alongside of the walking path around Bassett Creek Park.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Single serve coffee, what a terrible waste!

Did you know that those little plastic containers that are used for individual coffee makers produce a terrible plastic waste product (not to mention the energy needed to create them)?

It estimated that in 2013 the most popular coffee pod sold, K-Cups, would wrap around the Earth 10.5 times.  You can read more about this wasteful product in Your coffee pods' dirty secret.

I'm pleased that my workplace, Second Harvest Heartland, serves coffee and tea to its volunteers, donated by Caribou Coffee. It is not served utilizing these plastic pods, convenient though they may be. At Second Harvest coffee is brewed in traditional carafes and hot water is made available for those who's preference is tea.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Defining "wisdom"

What does wisdom mean to you?  An article in the New York Times, Why older often means wiser, by Phyllis Korkki, explores this topic.

Professor Staudinger, at Columbia University, believes personal wisdom incorporated the following elements:
  1. Self insight
  2. The ability to demonstrate personal growth
  3. Self awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history
  4. Understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute
  5. Awareness of life's ambiguities
One additional feature of the wisdom that can bring with old age is what Erik Erikson coined as "generativity".  This is the last stage of adult development when one gives back without needing a payback. Generativity can take the form of creative, social, personal or financial giving.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

While in St. Louis we visited the majestic Basilica Cathedral of St. Louis.  It was amazing to see the beautiful portrayals of biblical stories on mosaics throughout the building. It provides one of the largest mosaic displays in the western hemisphere.

Note: To view these photographs in more detail you can simply click on them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beautiful birds... National and Baseball Symbols

Cardinal, Namesake of the St. Louis Cardinal's MLB team
While on a trip to St. Louis I was pleased to find some beautiful birds along the way.

This cardinal, to the left, was perched at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Even though it was off season, the garden was was an interesting place to visit.  It included many indoor exhibits as well as few outdoor gardens that weren't quite ready to pop up and turn green just yet.

As we headed home we stopped by the Mississippi river town of Dubuque, Iowa. After turning back from a trip to Eagle Point Park (closed for the winter), we drove down to the river to explore.  It was still mostly iced over.  Then, much to our surprise an American Bald Eagle flew nearby and landed on the icy river.  I got a few shots then off it flew.  Wow, what a majestic bird and fortuitous visit!
American Bald Eagle, USA's national bird

Friday, March 14, 2014

Street reflection

The melting snow made for a reflecting pool along the roadside.  Can't wait to start seeing buds on the trees... next month!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Curbside icicle

The melting snowbanks along the road were at their glittering best yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life lessons from Maya Angelou

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. 

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. 

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. 

I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." 

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. 

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. 

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. 

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. 

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. 

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. 

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Local wood scavenging

Oak woodpile 
I'm part of the "scavenge local" movement.  Since I don't have a pick-up or trailer, I do my best to find wood within the radius of a block or so of our home.

Thankfully I was home yesterday morning when tree trimmers were working on the neighbor's oaks.  With the help of snowshoes I managed to cut and haul a pretty nice pile of wood.  I was amazed that there had to be at least a couple of feet of snow still on our sun sheltered backyard.

It was a "win-win". The tree service didn't have to haul the wood away, and once it is split and dried I get to use it for burning in my Jotul stove! It ALMOST makes me look forward to next winter.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Walking into spring

The walking path around Bassett Creek Park was icy this morning.  However, with the ever stronger sunshine and warmer temperatures the days of snow and ice are on the wane.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring melt

Ever so gradually the snow was melting yesterday. 
The melt promises to increase rapidly in the weeks ahead.

Road river

Icy car tracks

Friday, March 7, 2014

Resurrection through Electro Shock therapy

"There is recovery, there is redemption and there is resurrection."  This is the conclusion of surgeon, author and speaker, Sherwin Nuland, who recently passed away at age 83.  You can hear his amazing story on a TED Video, of how he made a dramatic reversal in his life's downward spiral.  

Earlier in his life he was moved to a Psychiatric Hospital, while suffering from server depression and obsessional thinking.  It was only after a series of 20 electro convulsive shocks that he was able to regain his life, remarry, restart a family and redevelop a successful surgical practice.  

During this season of lent, which culminates in a celebration of resurrection, it is interesting to hear of a life that was literally redeemed and resurrected. Miracles do happen. Sometimes they involve prayer, but other times jolts of electricity.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Religious people behaving badly

In today's paper I read about Christians in Mbaiki, a town in the Central African Republic, who want all of the Muslims to leave their community (In Central African Republic, faith can be a death sentence).  A lynch mob murdered the town's deputy mayor.  Another article noted that an appeals court is requiring the local Archbishop to testify in a clergy abuse lawsuit (Appeals court: Archbishop must testify in clergy abuse lawsuit). Elsewhere one can read about Christians being killed because of their faith by Islamists in Nigeria (Nigeria's Boko Haram targets Christian town and fishing village in latest attacks).

How tragic it is when people become so zealous for their religion that they seek to kill and drive out others who don't share their beliefs, or don't discipline their leaders when they're abusing children.  These actions are anathema to the core message of peace and understanding, central themes for most all religions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

China declares war on pollution

Some of the best news I've heard in a long time was from China's Premier Li Keqiang, who announced at the opening of their annual parliament that the government is "declaring war" on pollution. In addition to working on curbing air pollution, especially around urban areas, China will be reducing outdated steel production and cutting production at many small coal-fired furnaces. Among a variety of other interventions the NDRC will convert marginal farmland to forest and grassland.

You can read more about this in a Reuters article, China to 'declare war' on pollution, premier says.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to be happy

  1. Make up your mind to be happy.  Learn to find pleasure in simple things.
  2. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter out weigh the tears.
  3. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortune that befalls other people.
  4. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you.
  5. Don't let your neighbor set your standards. Be yourself.
  6. Do the things you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.
  7. Never borrow trouble. Imaginary things are harder to bear than real ones.
  8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish jealousy, enmity, grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.
  9. Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places.
  10. Don't hold postmortems. Don't spend your time brooding over sorrows or mistakes. Don't be the one who never gets over things.
  11. Do what you can for those less fortunate than yourself.
  12. Keep busy at something. A busy person never has time to be unhappy.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, March 3, 2014

Minnesota Foodshare Month

Did you know that March is "Minnesota Foodshare Month"?  The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches sponsors Foodshare in order to promote donation of funds and food to food shelves across the state.

While working at Second Harvest Heartland I've learned how much farther a financial gift to a food bank can go, over the donation of food.  Thanks to the generous volunteer involvement and donation of food, a $5 donation is able to purchase food enough for 18 meals through Second Harvest.  Even as a coupon clippin' dollar stretchin' kind of guy, I can't come anywhere close to purchasing food for that cheap.

It is estimated that even in our nation's breadbasket that 1 in 10 Minnesotan's is food insecure.  That figure is as high as 1 in 6 among our state's young people.  If you have food or finances to spare, this is a great month to consider a donation!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Icy footprints in the snow

On a very cold and windy walk yesterday the only thing I could find that struck my interest to photograph was footprints on the walking path around Bassett Creek Park.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Finding peace with what's within your control

What should our response be to Global Climate Change? One response is to say it is beyond the influence of an individual, so don't worry our little heads over it. Personally, I find this passive and fatalistic.

While we might not be able to directly influence what the people in China or India are doing, such as purchasing air conditioners and automobiles, we can make changes within our own lives that will have an impact.

I feel blessed to be able to both walk to work and church, so I don't have to drive a car.  This practice has been great for me, since it provides exercise and a great opportunity to think and reflect upon important matters.

The prayer of serenity seeks to help people consider the things that they can change and those outside of their influence.... God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

Another quote related to this subject was on Senator Cory Booker's Facebook page this morning... You can’t change what’s going on around you until you start changing what’s going on within you.