Saturday, August 3, 2019


Wild blackberries.  
  • Finding 'em.
Finding 'em was a cinch. Right there in front of me. Almost daily I walk the trail; you can see a hint of the trail just behind Lucy in the first photo. The Gettman Loop Trail (click the link for great photos) in Newberg, OR.  

I told Lucy about the berries. They line parts of the western section of the trail for 1/4 mile or so. Lucy is a real berry picker from childhood on. I figured she'd be tempted. But there was a surprise and here's how she surprised me.

A couple of days later, after I'd forgotten the conversation about the berries (blame dementia I guess), I was preparing for my daily walk. (4 miles around the Gettman Loop plus getting to the Loop from, and then returning to, our home.)

Anyhow, Lucy said, "Can I go with you today?"

"Sure," I said, surprised that she'd want to walk that entire distance. 

We walked and walked: down into the Stonybrook gulch, back up the other side, through the forest, south along the farmer's field on the left and the golf course on the right, then down through the primeval forest again for a second crossing of Stonybrook, puffing back up the slope to the golf course, and then finally heading north toward our home. 


But before we left the trail we reached the long hedge of berries, Lucy surprised me again. She pulled a plastic Kroger grocery bag from her pocket and said, "Can we pick some berries?"

See that grin on her face? I said "Yes. " She enjoys picking great berries, especially if they're free.

  • Pick 'em.

So we picked. And picked. These blackberry bushes have enormous thorns--for self-protection against pickers like us I guess. We continued despite the risk. Suppose you stretch to reach a berry, trip and fall forward into the hedge of berries. I don't want to talk, think, or write about that right now! But it did cross my mind while we were picking. No pain, no gain I guess. 

A male hiker stopped to inquire about our picking project. We chatted gleefully about the free berries. As he turned to run on, I called out, "These are for sale, you know."

He chuckled and kept on jogging.

A second young jogger stopped. She and Lucy chatted for some time about the varieties of berries in Oregon: raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries and, of course, wild blackberries. When I asked Lucy about the conversation she said, "What a pleasant hello." 

When we'd half-filled the bag we headed for home.

  • Bake a pie.

Back at home Lucy washed the berries and prepared them for pie filling. After supper we ate a couple of  pieces of the award-winning level pie. I mean, if she'd entered the pie into the contest at the Oregon State Fair she'd have won the blue ribbon. I just know that. Fantastic taste: pungent, sweet, powerful berry taste that I'd been missing for decades since my berry-picking as a kid.

The next evening we hosted a family event: a visit from our adult daughter and her two teenagers plus her adult friend and her teenage son. We shared the rest of the pie together after our Friday evening walk visiting art galleries in downtown Newberg. The pie was a hit!

Now I'm thinking that next summer we'll be out on the Gettman Loop picking berries and then (I hope) preparing pie (or even pies--plural! Why not?) 

Do you have a wild berry pie story to share? Please click "comment" and have a go at it, either here or on Facebook. Let's build a wild blackberry picker community!

P.S. Supportive prayers for those shot dead in El Pasto and their  bereaved families! Just as I posted this, the news arrived.    Dear God, when will we develop the guts to control guns? Don't get me wrong. I've owned a rifle. I've killed my game. I'm not opposed to gun ownership. I live in the once-wild West of the U.S.A. But I want my grandkids to feel safe in their communities. I myself want to feel safe as I walk through the dense woods on the Loop Trail in my community. I want strict gun control.)

Saturday, July 27, 2019


My dear wife and I live in a community--Newberg, Oregon--that celebrates "the old days" every summer.  The Newberg Old Fashioned Festival is in full swing this weekend, July 25-27. It's a weekend of summer fun: kids towing their homemade floats in the parade, jazz band entertainment, and aisles of booths with vendors selling things old and new, including food items like "elephant ears." 

Ever had elephant ears? What are they? A sort of thick, pliable pancake. Perhaps you've seen them--at your state fair maybe. We ordered one elephant ear. We decorated it with toppings. One elephant ear divided equally between our friend and the two of us and we were absolutely stuffed!

A week earlier my wife and I noticed perhaps thirty-some antique cars in a parking lot a half-block from our house. What had brought them to our neighborhood? we wondered. We walked over to the display to find out. We examined cars from the 1950s and even earlier. Obviously their owners had restored them to tip-top shape and now were making them available for inspection (but not for rides unfortunately.) 

These cars brought back wonderful memories of our own youthful days. My wife posed beside one old Chevrolet that reminded her of a car she'd owned for a couple of years just after her college graduation.

Next and below, a makeover of an even older car and its owner.  Beside it, a restored delivery van. And so on.

Finally, me, beside another oldie. A Chevy again.

We were filled with joy there, amongst these beautiful restored old cars. It was like we'd seen them before. Just the sight of them brought back tons of memories.

But we still wondered, why were they in this parking lot on this day? When we asked someone, we found that the cars really were there for memory care patients, residents in a specialized memory care clinic across the street. With that we realized, of course! Relatives and care staff were bringing the patients--most of them in wheelchairs--from the clinic to the car show, where they could exercise their memories of cars like ones they might have used decades ago. The car club, we learned, showed their cars here, annually, to help memory care patients re-kindle some images from their earlier lives. 

Why not go old-fashioned for a day or two on a fine summer afternoon/evening time? 

I'll tell you that for us our city's old-fashioned days gave us these three really valuable experiences:

  • 1, remember trips from home to college, dormitory to drive-in or to the movies, in cars that resembled some we'd seen in the display;
  • 2, appreciate community support of patients who've basically lost their memories but will re-discover some if prompted by sights like the old cars; and 
  • 3, an experience away from our house, away from our devices like phones, computers and TVs, to get out in the open air with others of every age, having fun with varied age groups under a glorious blue sky dotted with white cumulus clouds.

You CAN really help keep your community or nation healthy and great. Bring people together over social/class/racial lines to celebrate something in common, such as the best of the old fashioned days.

Are we ridiculous for lifting up community-building while leaders on the right bash critics with wild words of abuse that have never been equalled in the U.S.? You decide.

For me, it's better to recall, build, face the future with memories of the past to guide you.  Build on that foundation. Make your community and nation great.

P.S. I try to post each weekend: building community and society with positive ethics and values.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


You survey your cultural landscape. Maybe you're looking at a boundary. Well, perhaps more than one. Many boundaries around you? Probably. 

Down below in the photo, you see the fence? On this side of the fence, a patio. Note the potted bamboo to the left. I bought the plant in Seattle about ten years ago, planted it in a tub and hoped for growth. The plan has lived in DuPont, Washington and in Manzanita and Bethany, Oregon. But my hope for beautiful bamboo wasn't realized. The plant stayed alive, but barely. I sometimes thought of dumping it.  ("Toss it out! Toss it out!"}

But I always decided that I liked the plant, maybe because of nostalgia. It reminded me of the Greenwood neighborhood where I bought it, very close to the Tibetan monastery. So, despite its failure to fulfill my hopes for it, I saved it anyhow.

When we moved to Newberg, OR, the bamboo traveled in the moving van. Here, amazingly, now it's really, finally prospered. Same tub, same care, but lots more life and more green. Hope realized? I'll say so. But only after a very long wait, a lot of patience and some care-giving.

(If  Trump reads this he'll invent a new campaign cheer: "Green It Up! Green It Up!" But he'd probably be thinking of American paper money, not bamboo.)

In the photo, beyond the fence and across the street you'll see another reminder of hope. The building houses Marquis Newberg, a medical specialty business suppling licensed nursing care for people in need.

Image preview

A typical example: an older person is admitted to a Portland area hospital for surgery. The hospital sees realizes that after surgery the patient is ready for discharge but not directly to home. The discharge staff connects the patient for post-op care with Marquis Newberg. Just across the street from my patio, just past the bamboo, ill and recovering patients arrive every day by ambulance, medical transport van or private car. I visited a patient in Marquis. He was grateful for the staff and their skills. . .they gave just what he needed at that point in his recovery. They give hope beyond. 

Those are signs of hope I see when I look out of the window at the patio and the neighborhood. Scenes of hope up close.

People weaken and stumble if they don't have hope. If you're looking at America across the pond from your home in Asia or Europe or Africa I know it's become difficult to be hopeful about America's role in the world. It's not like the days of President John F. Kennedy, when the U.S. began to send Peace Corps volunteers to assist communities in Africa, Asia and elsewhere with their needs. Many, perhaps most, Americans themselves are losing hope also.

What to do? Take a few days to rest and recovery, like a patient in skilled nursing. Get the emotional care you need--maybe from a group you've joined or from your reading or meditation. Come back to hopefulness, like the bamboo. The potential is there; we need to create the right conditions.

If you regain hope, others will too. Together, we can move our nation, our world, back to our central values: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, peace and justice. It won't happen without plenty of care and cultivation. When election time comes, vote for candidates that espouse values: "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


My "implanted computer chip" told me to review this book:

How long has "mankind," (hereafter referred to as "Sapiens" to be consistent with Harari's usage) been around on earth?

Where did humans originate?

What about the domestication of plants and animals: when, where?

How and when was the planet knit into a single area by Sapiens?

These are  questions addressed by Harari, but also by previous scholars.

So how is Harari unique? What's different about his book that makes it worthwhile reading?

Harari points out that history writers tend to focus on great thinkers, warriors, saints and great artists. (P. 396.) That focus leaves a big gap--a lack of attention to the happiness and suffering of individuals. Specifically, in his chapter entitled "And they lived happily ever after," he writes that ". . .happiness consists in seeing one's life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. There is an important cognitive and ethical component to happiness." (P. 391.) He intends to fill the gap, which makes his history of Sapiens unique and worth reading.

But the final chapter is a true denouement, a real surprise. After writing for four hundred pages on the amazing rise of us Sapiens, he ends the book with Chapter 20, "The End of Homo Sapiens."

In Chapter 20, Harari asserts that "the replacement of natural selection by intelligent design could happen through the engineering of human beings. (P. 399.)  ". . .there seems to be no insurmountable technical barrier preventing us from producing superhumans." (P. 403.)  "Tinkering with our genes won't necessarily kill us. But we might fiddle with Homo sapiens to such an extent that we would no longer be Homo sapiens."

Even now, researchers are attempting to create cyborgs: ". . .beings which combine organic and inorganic parts." Imagine humans with bionic arms that are operated by thought. Even more revolutionary, think of a two-way computer-brain interface. (P. 407.) 

Harari writes that "culture is releasing itself from the shackles of biology." (P. 409.) Future technology will be able to change "Homo Sapiens" , including emotions and desires. Perhaps his strongest statement: ". . .all the concepts that give meaning to our world--me, you, men, women, love and hate--will become irrelevant."

Questions that occur to me:

1. Who, exactly, would program the control computer that directs the future cyborgs?  

2. Would a democracy be possible in a cyborg world?  

3. Are there any safeguards designed to safeguard freedoms such as freedom to believe?

I admire Harari's writing style. He's dealing with heavy stuff but writes in a popular and witty manner. That's a strength of the book. Another strength: his concern for us Sapiens and our futures. 

My advice: get the book, read it, react to it.

Friday, June 21, 2019


We know the exuberance of it. But do we know the why?

You need only go to simple science to understand the mechanics of the solstice.

Each year there's a solstice, right? Yes, but in fact there are two summer solstices. One per year in the northern hemisphere of the earth, one more per year in the southern hemisphere.

Whatever, the soltice makes people go crazy with celebrations.

Seattle Solstice 2019 photos

Another twist. While Seattle celebrates the longest day of the year with the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade  (photos above) and England celebrates with activities at Stonehenge, Southern Africa turns on the lights for the shortest day of the year. My granddaughter lives in Seattle, near to the Fremont neighborhood. Just now, however, she's on an expedition in southern Africa. Imagine: she'll have two shortest days this year because she jets back to Seattle before the northern hemisphere shortest day. I'm thinking it's disorienting, really.

How astonishing is that? Simply by bouncing from north to south or south to north on just the right days of the year you can double up on two important holidays. You must only cross the equator with good timing. 

Summer Solstice over Stonehenge, England
Sunrise with jet trails to boot
Photograph by Andrew Dunn, 21 June 2005.
via Wikimedia

The most noticeable thing is not that the length of days varies, but that it varies in the same pattern year after year. How long has this been going on? A very long time. 

Could the seasonal thing ever stop? Yes, if the axis of the earth were brought to an exact parallel with the sun. Would there be any benefit to such a change? Well, yes. I can imagine several. For example, a person would need only one wardrobe of clothing, matched to a climate that never changes. 

 But for now, at least,  I wish you a. . .solstice.  Happy. Full of good dreams. Promising of a better, more fun-filled world.

(Seattle photos courtesy of my Phinney Ridge family.)

Friday, June 7, 2019


Watching the world of nature--it's absolutely wholesome for your self. For your psyche, I really want to say. Or maybe your soul, your spirit.

Artists like Claude Monet enjoyed painting nature. Millions have been trilled by Monet's depictions of the seasons. Here's a famous Monet depicting Spring.

Claude Monet  

"Spring by the Seine"

Public domain; thanks to Wikimedia Commons

Monet makes springtime to be glorious. But in some respects a realist will find that it's a mess. Here's a photo of a sidewalk in my neighborhood, taken in early June, 2019. On my walk for happiness, I wondered:
  • The weeds are invading the sidewalk. Can anything deter them?
  • The drying out--the aging--of the vegetation. Is that a one-year lesson on the human life cycle? Here today, dried out soon, gone tomorrow. Bent and broken. Then gone for good?

The Lesson of the Weeds

Weed growth and even weed death convey some of their own truths, steeped in realism. But don't focus only on the ugly. Keep in mind other values of the plant cycle and the weather cycle.

Here's a brighter side:

Patches of Sunlight

Come spring and nature has a ton of goodness. In the woodland scene above, you can see an intriguing path from dimness to bright light. No, it's more than that.  It's the bridge, too. A human creation set into the natural world, leading to the light.  

It's like each spring is a bridge from the dark days of winter to the growing light of a new summer. 

This Week's Special Spring Treat, thanks to Head Culinary Expert

How quickly time passes! Seems to me as if the flowers have just begun blooming, but in fact I'm wrong and many one-time flowers have emerged as ripe. All of that happened in a flash of time. That's how it seems to me. Does it seem that way to you?

So, the flower fades; thus the bees must necessarily be very busy in spring. Otherwise they'd miss their cue. Humans are no different, though their seasons stretch out over a few short decades.

For me, observing nature leads to a better frame of mind than I could attain if I were limited to reports of brawls, barriers, blunders, and. . .well, power struggles and battles that mark so much of human effort to control others in order to benefit self. These days, yes, but also in the past.

Let's focus on springtime mode and on keep the dark side in its place. That's a hope. That's a possibility.

Here's a real-life example on 6/8/2019, just in: The American White House tried to block scientific testimony on climate change:  That's part of the brawl, currently. The weedy side of spring. The efforts of conservationists and environmentalists in all walks of life--that's best of the springtime. It's happening all at once. Focus on the light.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


This past week the President of the U.S. threatened trade sanctions, his blunt weapon of late, to push neighbor Mexico to control hopeful immigrants. Trade sanctions would penalize Mexico, the amigo south of the border.

First, to carry out work normally assigned to United States border patrol. 

Second, the tariffs raise the cost of Mexican goods in the U.S. 

We’ve already seen a huge cost of the president’s trade dispute with China. Increased tariffs hurt producers on one end of the trade and consumers on the other.

Now Mexican goods too? Do you own something, anything created in MX? A car? A radio? A paring knife? My wife and I use a lovely, super-useful Mexican-made refrigerator.

Well, there’s a direct cost of Trump's blunt bludgeon to American consumers. 

And an indirect cost to Americans and others too. American stock markets have been in a frightening funk since May 1, 2019, when investors began to show concern about the trade wars. The loss in just that one month is about -6.7%. using the Standard and Poor’s Index as the measure. (Recognized: the market is highly variable; the trend could shift from down to up at any moment.)

So, every American whose savings or retirement account is invested in American stocks (and whose isn't?) is a loser. Imagine this: “I’m sorry, dear, but I’ve just been informed that our retirement income will be lower beginning next month.” That’s a conversation that’ll be heard across America. See what the notable market commentator, Jim Cramer, has just said about the financial risk.

Beyond financial risk, there’s another risk particularly to persons of faith. It’s the faith risk, never more capably defined, in my opinion, than by Jim Wallis, the leader of the Sojourners organization, in his post of the current week, “Applying a Moral Lens to the Mueller Report.”

Wallis concludes: Faith is now at stake. Democracy is now at stake. The evidence of conscience must now be revealed by us.”  

Pastors, Sunday school teachers, synagogue leaders, Friday prayer leaders: PLEASE DO be aware of Wallis’ thought. Read his article at the link. If we can step up to Wallis' challenge, there'll be a hopeful future.

What's hopeful? That more and more Americans would vote in 2020 with the intent to give Trump a short leash of only one term. I hope that we have a chance to vote. I think that Trump, and I'm knowing him pretty well by now, might find a way to cancel the election to keep himself in the president role.