Archive for August, 2013

Feasting on Nature’s Bounty

August 29, 2013

This year, with our profusion of spring and summer rains, we have a profusion of lush blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, dewberries, cloudberries, and you name it! They all seem to love granite underpinning, especially on our mountain summits where they can count on plenty of sun.

Some prefer extreme conditions. They like to be baked in the sun or pounded with hail and wind or packed in ice and snow. Others abound near bogs, dips in the granite where water collects and moves through slowly even in the higher elevations. They won’t survive transplanting to temperate home gardens. Our White Mountain ridges are virtual alpine gardens that provide continuous bloom from May through October.

Any hike is immediately rewarded, especially to the less traveled summits. Recently, we skirted the Chocorua summit to avoid the crowd and went over to the Middle Sisters. They were covered with abundant blueberries. A lush wild raisin bush was loaded and still seasoning to supply us when the blueberries finish.

Hikes in the mountains inspire people from all walks: writers, maintenance people, artists, designers, builders, teachers, homemakers, tourist and recreation staff; the list is endless. We welcome a change of pace whether we walk or take a gondola or tram to explore some mountain, some place away from our usual stomping ground.

Whether our hike is a short snort up to Artist’s Bluff or a longer one up to Franconia Ridge, stopping at outlooks along the way, there is something about looking out across vast beautiful stretches of woodland that begins to put the rest of life in perspective. Whatever pressures we carry with us in our daily lives get released and we feel refreshed. The berries we graze on seem powerful in their ability to satisfy even in small quantities.

One caution: poison ivy is in the same family (Rhus) as dewberry and shares the 3 shiny leaves/bristly stem identifiers. I recently found a bed of dewberry on a trail that was mixed with poison ivy. Dewberry fruit looks like a black raspberry when ripe. Poison ivy fruit is gray or whitish and the whole plant is very poisonous to the touch in all seasons for most people.

Here’s to keeping a sharp eye and enjoying the whole feast!

Diversity, Dirt Quality, Health Quality: Same Thing

August 22, 2013

Civilizations come and go, come and go. The quality of dirt has always been a huge factor whether we’re talking about the Irish Potato Famine or the US Tobacco monoculture that led to soil depletion and the practice of constantly moving westward, buying up new lands to deplete, rather than amending soil with manure. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, “We can buy an acre of new land cheaper than we can manure an old one.”

Today, there’s no west left to move to and what’s left is being steadily destroyed by Roundup Ready monoculture farming. Such farming not only depletes soil of enriching diversity but is developing and spreading Fusarium Blight in wheat and Sudden Death in soya. Soil borne pathogens are developing in response to glyphosate (Roundup). We now have the potential to experience a massive Roundup Famine the world over, not just in the US.

We either learn from past civilizations or just add ourselves to another geological layer to be studied in years to come. We can decide whether our species remains or is fossil fodder. Geologist, David Montgomery’s book, Dirt: The erosion of civilizations, gives us a detailed update.  Also see Brian Fagan’s book, The Great Warming: Climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations.

The Irish Potato Famine was the result of lack of diversity. Peru has thousands of varieties of potato. Ireland had only imported four of them so it was simply a matter of time for blight to develop.

Today, managing healthy dirt is even more crucial as we’ve reached the limit of arable land and cannot afford to turn any more of our forests into farmland if we want enough water to keep people and soil irrigated. In NH, we take our forests for granted. Only 37% of the forests that were here when the settlers arrived remain. We need to sit up and take notice if we want to assure our great-grandchildren’s survival.

Forests mean stored WATER which is predicted to be the subject of future wars unless we can conserve it so there is enough to go around. Corporations are already moving to strip towns of their water by setting up bottling companies, then brainwashing and deluding people into thinking that bottled is the only safe water to drink – and it’s pricey.

Today, wind farms, whose future in NH’s 6 mph winds assures us that the only people benefitting in the long run will be the corporations selling the towers and the power companies selling power at increasingly exorbitant future rates.

As land continues to be gutted to make way for towers of any kind, more of our forest land begins to erode and more of our forest diversity is being lost. More species become extinct. Those of us with farming roots know the value of well composted soil. As people become disconnected from those roots, Roundup and the use of herbicides and pesticides instead of manures will continue to replace healthy farming practices.

Civilization sagas have always been about money for a few people at the expense of the many. How many scenarios do we need to witness before we act? The earliest known agricultural people lived between Iraq and Iran around 1,000-9,000 BCE. Class distinctions arose once everyone no longer had to work the fields in order to eat.

As ever, we have a choice. We can throw up our hands and resign our futures to corporate takeovers. Or we can take an innovative leaf from our Nebraska neighbors who are raising a solar barn in the immediate path of the proposed pipeline that threatens both soil and water. Or a leaf from the Barnstead folks who stopped a bottling company from draining their aquifer. We can join the Sept. 3 Grafton Community Meeting (6:30 PM at the new church) to see what can be done to rein in the ever metastasizing wind farm towers. We can view the film, Northern Trespass, to update ourselves on the proposed NP current status and what it means for NH. (Theatre Schedule at northerntrespass.com.)

Closer to home, we can save and recycle our own compost around our homes and see for ourselves the diversity that develops in our soil. Caring for our own plot raises our consciousness and wakes up creative thoughts about how we can care for the rest of the environment. Fagan encourages us to “think of ourselves as partners with rather than potential masters of the changing natural world around us.”

Yoga and PTSD

August 13, 2013

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), most often used to describe a condition triggered by combat trauma in returning veterans also includes survivors of rape, kidnapping, child abuse, spouse abuse, natural disasters, accidents, concentration camp experiences, incest, and burns. Current wars, protests, and catastrophes continue to generate more PTSD. Many of us have such past experiences in need of our full attention to move beyond the trauma.

Nightmares are often exact replicas of the traumatic event. People with PTSD sometimes move from stimulus to response without realizing what makes them so upset. They either overreact and threaten others or shut down and freeze.

We live in times of perpetual trauma generated by fires out of control, wars over water and energy, earthquakes, hurricanes, unemployment, disease, drug abuse, and so much more. Depending on the severity of the stressor, genetic predisposition, a person’s social support system, prior traumatic events, pre-existing personality and other variables, long-term adjustment to such trauma varies.

Bessel van der Kolk, a Boston University  psychiatrist, did research to discover how trauma affects the brain. He was interested in discovering a way for people with PTSD to still the cacophony of the mind that is continually reacting to ongoing stimuli.

He found that Yoga could get people to safely feel their physical sensations and develop a quiet practice of stillness. Yoga invites people to move through many postures that are named after the animals, birds, and people they represent. Students are instructed to, as an example, be the cobra, arching the neck, extending the tongue, raising the feet, while giving full attention to being the cobra.

Victims of violence have routinely been trapped, pinned down or unable to move.

Some postures, such as the backward bending camel or the child may trigger traumatic memories. Rather than avoiding such postures, students are advised to include them in their routine and observe that discomfort can be tolerated until they move into the next posture. Gradually, as one is able to hold the posture with full attention for longer periods, the memory is replaced by the ability to safely feel physical sensations and develop a practice of quiet stillness.

Because silence is often terrifying for people with PTSD, beginning emphasis is on first developing and regulating breathing practices, postures and relaxation before attempting meditation. If meditation is attempted too soon, it can become a terrifying rumination.

For more information on treatment of PTSD with Yoga, van der Kolk recommends David Emerson at demerson@traumacenter.org.

Practices such as Tai chi and martial arts serve a similar purpose: to develop the ability to attend closely to the present moment. These ancient practices we are rediscovering today may well lead us to the balance we need to navigate around today’s world.