Archive for the ‘Keeping Each Other Well’ Category

The Sentinel Pine’s Gift

November 24, 2017

After “the storm”, a sentinel pine stretched itself across the Tri-Town trail at Smart’s Brook. The pine died many years ago but remained standing long after its heartwood had disintegrated, opening up homes for many forest beings in the nooks and crannies of its huge interior space.

Peering inside, I was drawn to what looked like a classic shoulder muscle, the deltoid, beautifully sculpted. Branches were missing but a tennis ball sized opening adjacent to it in the trunk framed small ferns below and I was blown away by the thought that tree branches also have shoulders.

Shoulders help us to swing our arms for balance, to raise a hand in greeting, to hug loved ones,  to carry our grocery bags, push and lift snow shovels, reach down to secure shoes, boots, that keep us grounded.

I admit to not having considered that trees have similar needs for branches that help them stand upright, balancing snow, ice, wind and leaves. Branches resilient enough to accommodate squirrel, possum, bear, bobcats and the whole woodland community.

I wondered how many birds had flown in through the hole left by the branch, nested there to hatch their young, found bugs to tide them over, prelude to a successful fledge.

Lying across the trail, the tree invites exploration, a generous offering even in death, separated from its roots which lie in wait for a new seedling to support.

Tree seems to leave a message that life goes on; life is tenuous but sustainable. To be healthy, our task is to be present, enjoy all beings on the planet (plant, animal or otherwise). In this extraordinary world that seems on the brink of becoming a caring world, people the world over are called to share with others, help with survival, keep each other well and give thanks.



‘Each Other’ Includes Donald Trump

November 14, 2016

When we look at the healthiest, happiest countries of the world, such as Scandinavia and Costa Rica, an essential quality their citizens share is a need to see that everyone in their country gets a fair shake, enough to eat, decent living and work opportunities. The         high priority is on Keeping Each Other Well.

Post election, no matter how we voted, we are all responsible to address the problems that stand in the way of present and future health in the U.S.

In the early morning of November 9, I was shocked when this thought went through my mind: I wondered what would happen if we collectively made a goal to enable Donald Trump to be the best president of all time. President-elect Trump said he wanted to be president for All Americans. We all have absolutely nothing to lose by projecting kindness to the extent that President-elect Trump himself begins to emit kindness to all citizens.

Too many people in the United States feel hungry, sick, and hopeless. Too many people are unjustly detained in our prisons, depriving family networks of support systems, depriving us all of a clear conscience. No president can clean up this mess on his own. We lead the world in the percent of our population we imprison.

What would happen if we made it our goal to become the happiest country in the world, when happiness includes and is measured by all our citizens? Will we have the courage to insure that we have open spaces and forests accessible for everyone to tune in to the natural world? Will we save our farmland, our food supply, from final chemical destruction? Will we protect our aquifers and rivers? Will we invest in clean energy that respects First Nations and the natural environment? Will we stimulate ingenious answers to our problems by providing everyone with an exemplary education?

Big job. And it is all possible. People have already begun to organize. Instead of protesting, can we begin to promote, protect, provide, praise, plant, prove, and play?

Will Thanksgiving become a true celebration for all our citizens? Will we be able to give thanks for living in a country that values everyone’s health?

Will we be able to allow ourselves the freedom to make such a Thanksgiving celebration possible?

Decentralized Energy for Health

July 28, 2016

This week’s news that Switzerland’s Bertrand Piccard flew a solar powered plane around the world without a drop of fuel sends our hopes soaring. We could not receive a stronger signal that help is on the way for alternatives that meet our energy needs.

Solar is but one of the new technologies in need of our attention and support if we want to make the shift to 21st Century technology. As far back as 2013, The World Energy Council recommended that utilities markets move toward decentralization. This would give customers more control over their power usage in their homes or businesses.

In January this year, HydroQuebec (HQ) announced that the Northern Pass Project (NPP) would cost $2.8 billion but HQ would only pay $607 million. New England would pay the rest. That does not sound like energy savings for NH or control over power usage. And there is no guarantee that a power failure further north would not generate a massive outage to the south. NPP is a grand example of stifling 20th century technology.

Long-term contracts for large scale hydropower from Quebec will not bring cheap or lower consumer electric rates, as HQ has already demonstrated with their Newfoundland Churchill Falls 40 year contract.

What might NH develop if so many citizens did not have to throw so much time and energy into stopping the NPP from destroying NH land and diversity, pitting families against each other, and threatening our future water supply by degrading our water-sequestering forests? People come from the world over to savor our lush forests, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, and wildlife. All are threatened by this and the many other NH projects Eversource plans to pursue.

Solar and other yet-to-be-developed energy sources clearly demonstrate the power of decentralized energy to avoid large up-front capital investments and encourage pay-as- you-grow systems.

Time to embrace 21st Century technology, reclaim our right to safeguard our forests, diversify our energy technologies, say NO to centralized utilities, and enjoy the health and well being that comes with care-full actions.


Interspecies Communication For Health

June 30, 2016

Interspecies Communication – what a mouthful! Leadership for Sustainability- another mouthful! Yet, we will be hearing more about both, and they represent seeds of hope for an exciting healthier future for all of us Earthlings.

We treasure awesome moments when we connect with an animal, bird, or plant or when we sit in absolute stillness. Since 1900, many Eastern forms of meditation: Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, Zazen, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Vipassana, Metta, and more have helped us here in the US to still our hyperactive minds.

Perhaps we need to look to Interspecies Communications (IC) for leaders who can help us communicate positively with each other and the rest of life on Earth. Science warns us that if we want to enjoy good health, we need to maintain safe water and food supplies, save our remaining forests, stop polluting the oceans, figure out how to speak to each other with respect and maintain the diversity needed to survive and thrive.

An IC Google search brings up several researchers with compelling stories of their work interviewing animals. Universities are developing Masters programs in IC and Leadership for Sustainability.

This week I read “The Last Wild”, a junior children’s book by Piers Torday. Written as fiction, The Last Wild is about finding a cure for the strange fatal disease called Red Eye in an overdeveloped corporate world of Facto. The book reads like a cross between Orwell’s “1984” and Anna Breytenbach’s  work relaying messages from animals in her native S. Africa.

Jon Young’s, “What The Robin Knows: How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world” is even more encouraging! Young studies birds and deciphers the signals a robin, one of the most expressive birds, uses to send out warnings that are different for a hawk or a cat and more. Other birds and animals understand robin language. Each animal and bird species has a language other species understand.

We do respond to many of the sounds birds make to warn us of storms or when a nest is being raided. We have been expanding our ability to speak other people languages. Bacteria and viruses are certainly teaching us that we are not the grandest tigers in the jungle. What might we learn from other species that will help us all to move toward  healthy lives?

What if we never built a road or building without first tuning in to what would be most beneficial to all species?  It is no longer far-fetched to think Interspecies Communication is possible on a much larger scale than ever.  We have an urgent call. Time to tune in.

Everyday Healthy Listening

May 27, 2016

“Listening Is an Act of Love” proclaims the title of David Isay’s book about his founding of StoryCorps, popular radio and Youtube broadcasts. His book contains 49 of the 45,000 interviews taken since 2003 when StoryCorps was launched in an NYC Grand Central Station booth.

The theory is, “if we listen, we’ll find wisdom, wonder and poetry in the lives and stories of the people all around us.” The question is, are we listening? How much does our health depend on our ability to listen to the people around us?

The beauty of  Isay’s book lies in the diversity of people interviewed: people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Isay’s book is a nugget that can help us figure out how to get along with the rest of our world family with a respect that keeps us all healthy.

Especially at this point in history when many of us actively look for answers for ourselves, our families and the future of our state and planet, we need wisdom that gives us healthy perspectives on possibilities for the future.

Studs Terkel called StoryCorps “celebrating the lives of the uncelebrated!” Each story represents an act of love and respect. People talk about happiest moments, favorite moments, their regrets, something they have never told but want to tell now, the kindest person in their life, their hurdles, and more.

The stories are not all pretty; many are poignant, some are hilarious, yet they all demonstrate the strength of human ingenuity, resilience, and respect for others as they are shared.

Given our world conflicts, climate change, political campaigning, food, water, and energy concerns, we would all do well to strengthen our listening skills.  The wide array of protests in the US alone attests to human needs to be heard, understood, and respected.

One clear sign of positive listening in NH was the NHSEC ( Site Evaluation Committee) May 19 decision to extend the Northern Pass final decision date for 21 months (September, 2017) so that the SEC has ample time to consider the exhaustive data to date (which includes many of our stories).

Our NH stories are as unique and important as the corporate stories bombarding us. Our health depends on our ability to continually come together as we share those stories.

Hear ye! Hear ye! Kindness is Contagious!

December 19, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut, POW in Dresden before, during and after US bombs destroyed it, returned from WWII to spend the rest of his life urging us to be kind.

Arthur Clarke, inventor and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, said on his 90th birthday, “I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle. I hope we have learned something from the most barbaric century in existence (20th). I would like us to overcome our tribal inhibitions and begin to think and act as if we are one family.”

Our tribes, our religions, all developed rules and regulations aimed at seeing to it that people got along as the groups survived and grew in their own locales. Now, as our tribes and religious preferences intermingle in travel through sophisticated transportation systems, shared art, science, music and electronics, the reality is that our groups, tribes, religions, and countries are now One Multi-Talented Family. This extended family needs to learn how to get along together for our mutual benefit.

Winter solstice gives us the opportunity to reset our sites and begin to think and act as the Family of Humans on Earth. How do we need to behave with each other to thrive and grow as a family? Our health depends on our ability to be kind.

Here’s what researchers are saying about the benefits of random acts of kindness: such acts make us feel good, reduce stress, make us live longer, and tame the “selfing” regions of the brain lost in thoughts of past and future instead of staying in the Now. Being kind gives us healthier hearts by releasing oxytocin which releases nitric oxide to dilate our blood vessels, makes for better relationships by releasing endorphins, the spirit boosters, and serotonins that give us the feeling of satisfaction and well-being. And, best of all: kindness is contagious.

Dacher Keltner, Dir., Social Interaction Lab at UCBerkeley, has a book out: Born To Be Good: The science of a meaningful life. Keltner says that our species has remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence and self sacrifice- all vital to the task of evolution – survival, gene replication, and smooth functioning groups. He notes that Charles Darwin also studied compassion and found that the most compassionate human societies fared better.

So, here’s to the coming light! May we use it to remind ourselves to be kind and spread the condition everywhere!

Health Effects of Giving Thanks

November 25, 2015

On the heels of a generous fall of light and color, when bright pumpkins and squash signaled the coming Thanksgiving Feast, the plight of Parisians, of Syrians fleeing their country and our complicity in the chain of world events jolts us. We are no longer simply New Englanders; we are all world citizens who need to figure out how we can share this bountiful, beautiful Earth.

How can the spirit of Thanksgiving help us? Fortunately, several academic studies of the health effects of grateful people are freely available by googling ‘gratitude researchers’.

Lisa Aspinwall (University of Utah), and Robert Emmons (UC Davis) both study the health effects of giving thanks. In separate studies they found that grateful people have higher levels of alertness, determinism, optimism, and energy; they take better care of themselves, have less stress, exercise more, are happier, have stronger immune systems, and hold a brighter view of the future. Their academic studies and more are on the internet (google ‘gratitude researchers’). The health effects Aspinwall and Emmons found are attributes we need if we are to bring a healthful spirit of cooperation to the world and end our relentless competitive streak.

So, what do people do to build the habit of giving thanks? Options are wide open! Everything, every person, and every interaction is fair game.

One option is to keep a daily list of whatever makes us feel grateful. We begin to notice and observe more. At the end of the first day, we may jot down a special tree or path, a kind person, bubbly children, and a sunset. Day 2 might include the veto of the Tar Sands Project, a family gathering, a mentor, a bird that seemed to connect with us, lunch full of laughter with friends, a good day’s work. Day 3 might include a good night’s sleep, a warm jacket, a gentle snow, a call from a friend, fresh eggs, a raise in pay, snow tires, a great mechanic, and an awesome concert. My experience with this list keeping is that the list keeps getting longer each day as I ‘see’ more.

This habit gradually shapes us to be on the lookout in all our ordinary experiences, lets us see how much we do have to be thankful for and to acknowledge! Our expressions of thanks relax us and give us the energy to come up with positive possibilities for life here on Earth.

May we use our energies to figure out ways to share the earth’s bountiful resources so that we and the rest of the world can join in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Keeping Well is a Community Project

October 30, 2015

A recent misprint of my column passively titled, “Keeping well with each other”, triggered my need to emphasize why I chose the more active title, KEEPING EACH OTHER WELL, as my springboard for the last five years.

Whether we tick off Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, or Aldo Leopold’s, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” both approaches recognize that Keeping Well is a community project, not something we can do on our own. Everything we do impacts everything else alive in connections we may only begin to recognize.

Maslow’s list has to do mainly with human needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, self esteem and self actualization (some form of enlightenment). Leopold adds a much deeper need or recognition that we are connected to every living thing, including animals we kill. I’d add birds, chipmunks, frogs, cabbage worms, trees, and the infinite more that are out there breathing along with us.

Today, Thoreau’s dictum, “In wildness is the salvation of the world,” continues to gain in relevance. Whether we stand on the Sugarloaf Mts. in full view of the Presidentials atop a huge valley of fall foliage brilliant among the evergreens, or the nearest maple in our neighborhood, we can see the tree’s transition from live leaves that drop, yet leave spring buds behind to wait out the winter.

Something softens like a healing balm when a natural panorama presents itself, whether it is a valley, a couple of fawns crossing the road or a cub rambling back into the woods, a surprise waterfall, or the sight of a few rainbow trout in a stream, all possible because we or people before us saved the wilderness. What kind of legacy are we actively pursuing that will keep our people healthy in the future?

Bill McKibben says we need to learn how to fit in rather than dominate the planet. Will we figure out how to fit in?

How keen an eye are we keeping on our water supply, our soil, our air, the safety of our power lines? Do our laws reflect how much we value available health care and education for everyone, and a living wage for work done? Are we committed to Keeping Each Other Well?

The Power of Place for Health

June 7, 2015

I just viewed Jerry Monkman’s film, “The Power of Place”, a documentary that combines interviews with experts and NH residents with awesome cinematography of the places that would be impacted by the Northern Pass. The film triggered the memory of my drive west several years ago, to spend nine months volunteering in the Tetons.

As I left New York State and picked up Route 80 West, Big Sky presented itself. What made Big Sky so obvious were the cobwebs of power lines replacing trees all the way from Ohio to Rock Springs, WY. There, I headed north, leaving the flatlands and smothering web. After I passed the stench of the last cattle holding pen area and the beginning of hill country, a miracle happened.

I entered an enchanted forest, enchanted because I drove past plants, shrubs and trees I’d never seen before, all arranged by nature’s finest landscaper and thriving on sandy soil. The hills became small mountains and then everything grew and all of a sudden, I felt energized, not tired after a long drive. November gave way to wild winter experiences and I learned to share space with moose, bison, elk, antelope and so much more.

I was amidst people who valued that shared experience. When they flashed their high beams on the road at night, it was to warn that a herd of elk or other wild life was up ahead, time to slow down. In Kelly, WY, where I lived, if you saw a dog asleep in the middle of the road, you drove carefully around it so as not to disturb its nap.

Viewing the Monkman film in Bethlehem, I was again in the midst of people who value the land and the opportunity to share it with the rest of the natural world. It was a relief to be there with them and to be viewing the mountains that always energize me, especially when I hike the peaks and ridges here in NH. Thanks to the AMC and WMNF, our north country is laced with maintained trails that are free for everyone, and provide rest and renewed energy to NH folks as well as people from all over the world, who still come here to recharge.

This mountain energy is threatened, not only by the Northern Pass, but ISO New England’s plan for a suffocating web of power lines blanketing our whole state, including our forests. When I saw the ISO New England prospective power grid for the first time a few years ago, I cringed at the thought that our state could ever become like Route 80 West – desolate.

When I check out products on the internet, I cringe at the Northern Pass ads that are plastered over websites, full of empty promises. I wonder how many times Hydro Quebec/Eversource Energy has paid out the cost of buried lines in advertizing alone. They must really plan to make a bundle if they can ever fool enough people to just let them in the door.

Solar and yet to be developed sources of renewable energy definitely threaten the monopoly power companies have held over us. Future projections of reasonable rates from alternative sources mean we will have choices that spread the wealth instead of being at the mercy of a monopoly. Such choices will enable us to share this land as a health sustaining space for all life.

Time to continue contacting legislators with requests to fund development of new sources of energy that respect all life. Bottom line: how can our efforts bring a better deal for everyone? Therein lies the possibility for real health and happiness.

The Value of Seeing Others Happy

May 1, 2015

I just read Russ Roberts’ eye-opening book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. The book is about Adam Smith’s real message to us. Smith, who wrote, The Wealth of Nations, a book that seemed to be the backbone of what has evolved as our US business model, had something far more potent in mind than the idea of creating corporate monopolies.

Smith wrote an earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, detailing his philosophy on the futility of pursuing money with the hope of finding happiness. Rather, it is our interest in the good fortune of others that brings us pleasure.

It is not enough to make a lot of money, get ahead and acquire. We need to sense that we are contributing to the health and well-being of others, that the way we make our money must not leave others miserable.

This week, signs that we are waking up, are encouraging. Lisbon’s zoning board denied the asphalt company’s move to relocate in Lisbon because the town has a rule that no pollution can result from plant operations. The Army Corps of Engineers has just told Canadian hydropower that it has to bury it’s VT/NY line deeper to meet safety regulations, which will raise the cost possibly beyond what Canada is willing to pay for someone else’s safety.

People are signing up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships that assure them GMO-free produce this season. More organic produce is being offered at grocery stores. Workshops on composting, and planning home gardens are lining up. Northern Pass Opposition, now in it’s fifth year, is growing stronger as Hydro Quebec’s empty promises unfold. Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District (PVWSD) has followed the Bristol Library’s lead with a solar array.

More research is coming in that documents the effects of GMO seed, food and pesticides that erode the health of humans, animals and wildlife. Follow-up studies document a return to health when GMO-free food is resumed (see Jane Goodall, Seeds of Hope).

Harry Hintlian, who vacations in our area, manages Reforest The Tropics (RTT), a UN sanctioned carbon sequestration program in Costa Rica to replant the rainforest. These scientifically planted forests absorb over 10 times the amount of carbon dioxide compared to temperate zone forests. This project is supported by companies committed to 100 percent balancing of their carbon footprint.

Bottom line is: how can our efforts bring a better deal for everyone? Therein lies the possibility for real happiness.