Marshall Street Bridge, Minneapolis, MN

IMGA01011 copywrite 2015 Patricia Stachelski

Prayer for the first day of snow.
Icy streets, slippery bridge, slushy sidewalks for pedestrians. Fill up the bird feeder if you have the means, get ready for the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Consider how you can make this world a better place for all, for Syrian refugees, for the neighbor who lost her home, for the people who don’t have health insurance, for families who lost someone, for people disowned by their families, for people in transition, people who don’t know where to go. Winter is harder when there isn’t a warm place to retreat to for food and human love. Sunshine in short supply makes us all needier. A need can’t be fulfilled by new products such as a phone or a car, but by human comfort, forgiveness and assistance.

What is Nature?

According to Pattiann Rogers, “Nature is what is, everything that is, everything that has been, and everything that is possible, including human actions, inventions, creations and imaginations.(This Nature, 1999). Rogers’ definition dismisses value judgements about events. All are part of nature; nature is cruel and kind. This includes war, poverty, murder, addiction, slavery, destruction of habitat, extinction of species. It also includes giving birth, protecting natural resources, building an aquaduct, planting trees, raising chickens in the backyard, giving up the car to use public transportation, equal employment opportunities, gender equality and same sex marriage.

Guilt is a part of human moral development. How people choose to act in a given situation determines if he or she will feel good about the decision or somehow wrong. The feeling that someone was hurt by an action creates guilt. This is the basis of moral development. An individual’s upbringing, culture our personal experiences affect it. If someone was abused or was denied basic needs, that person will bear the scars of suffering. Can this suffering be overcome so he or she will feel happy and complete? Because nature is all encompassing, nature embodies these questions.

It is expansive and liberating to know that all life is connected. It suggests that all experience is known in some vast way; even the unknown is simply waiting to unfold. One thing spins off of another or affects the development of another. As history unfolds, nature opens up to encompass more change. Change is constant, and everything is new. We humans have the opportunity to learn and evolve by feeding ourselves on the best of human accomplishments and nature’s beauty.

Henry David Thoreau and the Transcendentalism spoke of the “Oversoul.” There is a “spark” that is shared with others. This spark connects us to others. People can develop an awareness of it through meditation, a quieting of the mind. By quieting the mind, humans can listen to their bodies and nourish their connection to other animals. These acts develop intuition and a deeper understanding of the self and the self’s place in the world. If we have this soul connection, then we have the proclivity to nourish the good in ourselves and the world, to heal and to offer a healing hand to others, in short to love. Love brings joy, and love and joy are what keeps the soul in connection with the divine and with the divine in others.

Longfellow Farmer on Patrol or the Matron of the River Gorge

Longfellow Farmer on Patrol suggests a police officer, in the male role of law enforcer. The Matron of the River Gorge, on the other hand, suggest a mother figure who watches over and takes care of others. Both men and women play these roles. I use both titles to describe myself as I walk along the river gorge.

This morning as I walked the river gorge, I noticed tents set up along the most beautiful bank of the river, the part that offers a great view up and down the river. Marsh grass grows along it, and there is obvious signs of beavers’ work, gnawed and felled trees. Somewhere, no doubt, is a beaver dam/house. What disturbed me on my walk was the plastic bags and bottles strewn about by the campers. The obvious disregard for the beauty of the environment and the assumption that this was a place where these people could homestead here and trash it bothered me greatly. As the self-appointed patrol officer and matron of the gorge, I said out loud to the two tents which I assumed held sleeping revelers: “Hello, anybody here? ” No answer so I asked again. Finally someone in a very quiet voice answered me. I then said that they were causing a lot of pollution here in this spot. I informed them that this garbage would end up in the river and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. I then issued a threat: I said that if it wasn’t cleaned up by tomorrow when I returned, I would report them for camping in a national park where it is prohibited to camp.

The river gorge is part of the national park system. It is the only true gorge along the river. Over and over again in the spring, I have seen people leave their garbage, including human waste in seeming ignorance of the ramifications of their actions. This lack of self-discipline is indicative of the apathy and lack of global awareness that people in this country have come to represent around the world. As a patrol officer, I remind them of the law. As a matron, I look out for the gorge and its needs. We need beauty in our lives. Without beauty and places of beauty we can physically visit, we humans lose our sense of humanity. Beauty keeps us connected to higher values. It encourages love and a vision of ourselves in our world.

What it Means to Lope

Loping is described as a “3 beat” gate. I find the lope the most challenging because it demands that I sit the horse balanced and go with the rhythm of the horse, to not lean forward or backwards, but straight in the saddle with control, yet fluidity. A rider shares this rhythm in such an intimate way as she sits atop the horse’s back. I believe when the relationship is a good one, that is when it is humane and sensitive to the horse’s needs, horses and riders enjoy the bond they create, enjoy the flow they find together. It is a unique and beautiful occurrence when the rider and horse meld into one being, and this is clearly observable in the lope.

Learning to Ride Bambi, The Quarter Horse

Bambi and I

Bambi and I

Bambi the quarter horse is an 8 year old bay mare with white markings. Together, she and her owner and trainer Anne Marie Sojquist teach me how to ride. My goal is to align my body’s movement with the horse’s. When we trot around the arena, I listen to the directions of Anne Marie. When I take the correct lead with Bambi on the trot and we move together, we enter a flow. For those few minutes, we are one being. The Greeks depicted this relationship with the mythological creature, the Centaur: human torso and head attached to a horse’s body and legs. The Centaur illustrates how much humans have admired horses and been enthralled with their movement and the opportunity to meld with the creature itself.

The quarter horse breed was developed during the 17th century from the Spanish conquistadores’ Andalusian, Barb and Arabian horses who were cross-bred with the early thoroughbreds brought from England in 1611. Quarter horses were first used as racing horses when races were usually only a quarter mile. Later, they were trained to work with cattle. Dependable in the heat and cold of the cattle drives before the range became fenced in and trucks and trains took over, these horses became the favorite of rangers for their endurance and even temperament. Today at rodeos you can still see quarter horses at work following cattle in short bursts of speed, then abruptly stopping for their riders who jump off and tie up the calves in a race against time. When I wake up on Saturday morning and head to the ranch on the other side of the St. Croix River, I feel a sense of excitement and adventure. Riding Bambi is one way I let out my “inner cowgirl.” It ignites a deep yearning for challenge and adventure. It gives me an opportunity to learn the language of another species and command the power of a 1000 pound animal.

Possession

Since it is Halloween or All Souls Day when the veil between this world and other realms is very thin, it is a good time to speak about a spiritual dilemma or should I say, a spiritual conflict. It is Possession, a noun; possessed, a verb, to be owned by something. In possession, a noncarnate takes residence in a living person much like a bloodsucker attaches to a fish or turtle, a flea to a dog or cat. They are extremely dangerous and destructive unsettled souls who have not found rest. With evil machinations, they can drive the human host to a premature death. The antidote to possession by such entities is to clear and cleanse the environment, have hope for a positive change and believe in love. Love is stronger than hate and evil. Love will save a person from falling prey to these noncarnates. You can tell them to go away and leave your body free by praying to God in whatever name you use, the God of love and the love that exists in the universe. These are your allies.

Hmong and Native American cultures are some of the cultures that have published stories about this phenomena. Sometimes through diseases like alcoholism or another addiction, a person undergoes an alteration in personality and physical form. By explaining it as a possession, people are able to separate the loved one from the behaviors. This is a healthy perspective. It also suggests that the person can be cured from this condition by exorcising the noncarnate. How is it possible to exorcise a parasitic incarnate from someone? By calling on the name of Love and the Divine which always has more power than an evil noncarnate. This is the job of shamans or other spiritual wise ones. The possessed person can also call for help in the name of Divine love or by asking for help from the angelic realm, the spiritual helpers.

That the veil is thin should not evoke fear, just awareness that there are other realms with both good and bad energies. The wisdom and confidence to know the difference is useful, and that is why I chose this topic tonight.

Minnesota Vikings, the New Stadium and Bird Collisions

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Below is my letter sent to Governor Dayton regarding the new Vikings Stadium that is still in the construction stage:

Dear Governor Dayton:

I am a resident of Minneapolis, a sports fan and an aware citizen who cares about environmental issues. I am perplexed why the new sports facility for the Vikings football team is not taking the easy and economical steps to utilize bird safe glass. Many fans would love to see the Viking Stadium represent the cutting edge of environmental alternatives to the old glass where research and documentation proves millions of birds have died by flying into it.

Since the stadium will have the prestigious location situated in a park on the Mississippi Flyway where residents and tourists flock to see the migrations of endangered and protected birds, why not have them also look up and see the amazing stadium that has set the stage for others to follow in its choice of bird safe glass?

The stadium authority has the opportunity right now to change the public sentiment towards it and offer a new direction, an important direction that takes into account what the people of Minnesota value. It also has the opportunity to offer a hope for our children and grandchildren to be able to observe amazing creatures who migrate great distances to live and reproduce in our state. It is an opportunity to embrace the fans at many levels and make them proud to live in Minnesota.

Please take the time and consider the Viking fans who love birds and want to celebrate the new stadium because it is not just beautiful, but it represents a future we can all appreciate.

Sincerely,

Fried Green Tomatoes and Dandelion Wine

The State Fair marks the end of summer and the growing season for tomatoes. I have harvested 2 beautiful Big Boy varieties. Green ones remain on the vine. Once the first frost arrives, it is too late to ejoy them and all their goodness will be ruined. If picked before the first frost, green tomatoes can be pan fried in a little olive oil. It is a way to enjoy some summer freshness and nutrition into the cool weather. Tomatoes originated in South America, most likely Peru. Tomatoes were brought to Europe probably by the Conquistadores and enjoyed in Europe long before they became popular in the United States. In Colonial times of North America it was considered bad luck to eat tomatoes and they were grown for decorative purposes only. Only after waves of European immigrants brought the tomato to the United States did they become popular for cooking and eating here.

The wisdom of place teaches that we can survive best on the plants that grow locally, but local is constantly changing. What was once considered foreign is now considered native. Dandelions, one of the most prolific plants in the world, are believed to have been brought here on the Mayflower. Their value as a medicinal plant dates to the time of the ancient Egyptians. The leaves can be stir-fried in olive oil or eaten raw in a salad. The roots can be made into a tincture for sinus problems. Harvest the plant straight from your garden to make a delicious wine to be served at next summer’s garden party.