Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Respect



"Respect" is a word which is thrown around without much consideration of whether it is a passive process (being respected) or an active process (respecting). Many people who are aggressive and rude demand respect whenever they are confronted on their behaviors or are treated in kind. Respect for what? Bullies often see themselves as simply garnering deserved respect which is withheld by aggressively intimidating others.

Respect is easy actually. Practice giving respect in all human interactions. Getting respect in return will take care of itself. The outward manifestation of respect is simply the practice of good manners. "Please.", "Thank you.", "Excuse me."... these are the keys to respect in relationships, whether they superficial or intimate.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mastery

The concepts of education and mastery have been hijacked by the corporate-educational complex, aided by government-mismanaged loan programs in the U.S.. Education has become a cash cow for banks and university administrators at the expense of indebted students. This process is mirrored in the corporate-medical complex.
 
Mastery of anything requires practice for all but the rare savant. Anyone who studied a foreign language which was never used in daily application will understand this. Use it or lose it.
 
My humanist practice is an attempt at mastery. I attempt to master my own mind, my own body's functionality, my own immediate environment, which falls under my maintenance and responsibility. I believe this is the most important form of human mastery, from which all other functionality evolves more effectively.
 
What good is a PhD if I am sick, deluded or disconnected from my environment? What contribution can I really make to the world without first mastering my own inner world? How much of the dysfunction in the world is propagated by those who attain power based on institutional credentials without also mastering their own humanity, their own compassion, their own truthfulness?
 
The quest for mastery of the self can begin in this moment without tuition and fees. Learning the map of my own mind begins with internal evaluation and honesty. It is aided by daily meditation, daily exercise and daily human interaction. Being the master of my own life is the only way I know to become the better person I wish to be.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Community

Yesterday I volunteered to sweep, pick up and shovel in my neighborhood as part of an annual Boston-wide clean-up campaign. I shared the work along a stretch of a busy 4-lane road with two neighbors who pronounced me a "baby" at 63. Marcia and Mike may be at least ten years my senior.
 
Our white-haired team worked efficiently. Marcia raked. Mike had equipment and room for filled garbage bags in his station wagon. Mike and I wielded a shovels to gather Marcia's piles of dead leaves, broken bottles and pieces of damaged cars. We did well. Our patch was obviously improved by our efforts.
 
Much is said about community. In my own world, I often refer to the gay community, the humanist community and the "community" of  online social networks. But yesterday I was really participating in community, an actual process of being together in a shared place for a shared purpose.
 
The reactions of those who passed us in cars and on foot were interesting. Two young sagger-clad hip-hoppers passed us and made fun of us loudly between them. A man in a car with open windows turned up his already-too-loud salsa music as I cleared the gutter next to his car which was idling at a stop light. An elderly woman, who looked like a retired and widowed dancer with ballet-bun hair and black clothes, purposefully gathered some weeds from a nearby front yard and brought them to our barrel like a votive offering. I said, "Thank you." She proudly said, "De nada." A spry little man on a bench in front of a store smiled and said, "Thanks for helping the neighborhood."
 
The definition of the inside and outside of our neighborhood became clearer. The passers-through and inhabitants observed us very differently. The sense that I was doing what I was doing for both groups was satisfying. This was truly a civilized action, a contribution to my urban world, whether appreciated or not by individuals in it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Harassment

I grew up gay in the 1950s and 1960s in working-class, urban America. I learned about harassment very early on. I learned to recognize the assessing eye of a bully right off. Once, amazingly only once, I was attacked by a hooting gang of schoolmates on my way home from elementary school. It was a test of my own propensity for violence by a smaller classmate whose family life was far more dysfunctional than mine. I refused to fight and returned home with torn clothes and assorted bruises. My mother, infuriated by the torn clothes, called the tormentor's mother and threatened to punch her out if it happened again, as I recall.  
 
Fifteen years later I cared for my tormentor's mother in a locked psychiatric unit. I learned the depth of depravity of his childhood from her history of being battered and raped by her alcoholic husband. Somehow that successful therapeutic relationship with my tormentor's mother healed more than one wound which I still carried from childhood. She and I developed an enduring respect and affection.
 
Somehow I turned that early incident of being bullied into a personal strategy to avoid violence for the most part. In an all-male high school, dominated by outwardly homophobic Jesuits, I did not encounter any bullying. I established myself as a peer tutor in Math and Science with certain large members of the varsity football team. I extended my umbrella of protection by these stalwart icons of brutish masculinity to several of my more fey classmates, who were my close friends.
 
One of my early intimate relationships was tarnished with an invitation to violent arguing by my partner of the time. He came from a home where he has been abused by a violent father. Despite his tantrums, I refused to engage in the madness of it all. His dish-throwing and rage attacks horrified me. After a neighbor called the police during one of his rages, I packed and left him the rent-control apartment I had striven for years to obtain. I have never regretted that choice.
 
Lately I have been harassed by frequent heavy-breather phone calls from someone in Concord, Massachusetts, an affluent community. I could speculate this petty nuisance was inspired by something I have written here. The cause is irrelevant when dealing with a deranged mind which turns to antisocial behavior to vent anger or disapproval. My attitude is simple: Deal with the behavior.
 
I called the number back. I was greeted with a generic message by an answering device. I politely said, "You have been calling me. You have my number. If you wish to discuss something, simply leave a message or speak with me when I answer." This resulted in more frequent hang-up calls throughout the day and evening. I have subsequently dealt with it technologically with my phone provider. I will most likely call the Concord police to make them aware of the behavior of this person in their community. After all, monitoring a community for aggressive antisocial behavior is what I consider a useful function of local police.
 
I have been rather fortunate as a truthful public writer of my own thoughts and feelings. There have been the occasional aggressive responses to my written ideas in the 15 years I have been publishing on the Web. This phone thing, if related to my writing, would be a first. If it is related to my writing, my speculation would lean toward a guess that it may be related to my thoughts about the recent Marathon Bombing and police response. I also think it may just be the random actions of a sociopath.
 
Learning to deal with aggression without internalizing it is very difficult stuff. Even after a lifetime of practice, I must meditate on it and come to an internal peace with my lack of control over other people and circumstance. I must confront my own anger, my own defensiveness, my own sense of self-worth. I then must use my skeptical and inquisitive mind to reach an nonviolent and practical solution. This is all part of what I consider humanist practice.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quiet

There is a time to think. There is a time to speak. There is a time to simply embrace quiet.
 
Reaching quiet and appreciating it is a skill which is rapidly fading in our buzzing media culture. People walk around speaking aloud at machines without hesitation or consideration. Cars cruise around quiet neighborhood streets with blasting music pouring from open windows. Some individuals change out car mufflers for noisier versions to assert some kind of misguided machismo. In the quiet of nature reserves, hikers wear earplugs attached to iPods or iPhones.
 
Is there any reason to wonder why governments feel free to ignore climate change? Is there any reason to wonder why industry does not hesitate to make plans which are destructive to the natural environment? Why would governments or capitalists attend to nature's quiet grace if populations are enthralled with the noise and pollution of technology?
 
Today is my day for embracing quiet.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bangladesh

More than 200 hard-working and poor Bangladeshis have died in a garment factory collapse. They were not attending a sporting event. They were not well fed and well paid middle class people with the physical health and wealth to travel somewhere to run 26 miles as a hobby. In fact, they were slaving away for poor wages to clothe well paid middle class people around the world cheaply. Yet there is little outrage about their deaths here in the self-absorbed Western media. This represents the injustice and inequity of the current corporate capitalist system which has taken control of the planet's governments.
 
I am not saying that the worth of individual lives or deaths should be at all comparable. In fact, I am saying quite the opposite. Until the deaths of garment workers in poor countries cause as resounding an outcry for proactive change as the deaths of comparatively wealthy Westerners in wealthy countries, those who work for universal equality and universal justice cannot rest.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Memorials

We are becoming a culture of unbridled, childlike neediness. This does not bode well for a difficult environmental future.
 
The insane bombing at the finish line of this year's Boston Marathon was a despicable violent act. Many unfortunate people will suffer for the rest of their lives because of it and because of the obsessive nature of human beings who will insist on going over the details again and again. Some of the latter group will do this for profit. They are as despicable, in my opinion, as the bombers themselves.
 
A woman came forward this week to 'curate' the makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, nationalist paraphernalia and track shoes which overt, public grievers left at the bomb site. Her stated intent was to preserve this pile of sentimentalized junk for posterity. I wish her the best in her pursuit, if this somehow fills some hole in her life. My hope is she finds some discreet place for the litter out of the public space.
 
In my own neighborhood, a rabid nationalist has commandeered a highway overpass on a public avenue to display an elaborate arrangement of large American flags, ribbons and photocopied pictures of the deceased victims of the Marathon tragedy. He/she has posted a carefully laminated letter on this display. The letter is a threat to anyone who may think to remove his/her stuff from this public space. It is an ode to patriotism and nationalism with undertones of self-righteousness. Frankly, I would classify this individual as dangerous.
 
Those who have been religiously brainwashed and remain entranced love this sort of thing. It makes them feel secure. "Nothing has changed." That is the deluded mantra of the subconscious which refuses to acknowledge and move on proactively. Religion, after all, is the enemy of any proactive change which countermands ritual and dogma. Nationalism is the safest religion in a fearful nation which is gradually losing its ideals of civil rights in favor of a police/military state.
 
True grieving, from an established mental health perspective, is moving through pain to acceptance to proactive progress. Grieving is not superimposing my own neediness for attention or recognition on the suffering of others. Grieving is not patriotic. Grieving is not holy. Grieving is a personal process and, when it is done with conscious maturity, a personal responsibility.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Humanism?

Humanism is as good a word as any to describe the basic premise of my daily practice. In fact, I have used the word for 45 years, since studying the Humanism of the Reformation and the later agnostic Humanism of the Renaissance in college. The word is currently being repackaged and branded. However, I frequently clarify in my own mind what it means in my own life and practice.
 
My humanism is:
  • a daily practice of mental and physical health-promotion
  • a responsibility to myself and my environment
  • a nonviolent and meditative way of being, a way of living
  • an ongoing process and relationship with myself and my environment
My humanism is not:
  • a religion to be preached and sold
  • a monolithic identity
  • a form of communal conformity
  • a networking tool
  • a career
My humanism is practical. This simply means that I attempt each moment of each day to apply my personal ideals of mindfulness and compassion. It also means I fail at this many times a day. The awareness of my shortcoming is a tool to encourage myself to try harder.
 
I live in a congested urban world. Some unconsciously turn to conformity in this world as a way of feeling secure. However, conformity automatically implies tailoring personal behavior to the lowest common denominator of group behavior. This is antithetical to the concept of mindfulness and open-eyed compassion. When individuals with strong habits of practice at being better people come together, great things can happen. However, when masses of the unconscious and irresponsible come together, the worst results can be expected.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vengeance

Learning to take life's insults without becoming reactionary is a central challenge and developmental process of humanist practice. Taking time, once ensuring my survival and well being, to consider what has happened and to learn from it has proven invaluable in my own life. The opportunities to do this are endless in mortal lives, no matter what cushions of wealth or perceived security exist around us.
 
The cycle of violence is fueled by thoughtless reaction. Immediate retaliation in a nuclear-armed age could extinguish our entire species from the face of a ruined planet. Therefore, the quest to eliminate violence and vengeance on an individual human level through personal practice is a contribution to this exceptional planet and all lives upon it. It is what one mindful and compassionate person can do in the face of the uncontrollable in his/her environment.

 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pundits


Our media culture has become awash with pundits. From Andrew Sullivan, the eccentric Right-Wing gay journalist, to author-screenwriter Dennis Lehane, who is now speaking as the voice of post-Marathon-Bombing Boston, we get lots of opinions from the wealthy and famous. This has skewed our culture in strange ways. Our talking-heads media is dominated by academics and accomplished journalists. Our mainstream media is dominated by KFC, Macdonald's and pet food manufacturers, the sponsors of trashy broadcast television and internet pop-ups, the main media of the masses.
 
I am a listener and sometime-supporter of public radio. I used to be a regular supporter. However, I have found public radio's shift to Right-of-Center politically on more and more issues to be less supportable within the margins of my ethics. This concerns me greatly. There is a growing media vacuum on the Left end of the political spectrum. Our local Boston public radio outlets went far beyond Right-of-Center to the Right in the recent aftermath of the Marathon Bombing of April 15th this year. Their unbridled and skepticism-free reporting of police and military actions in the city was a departure from their traditional attempts at politically and historically mindful balance.
 
What happens when a country's media goes further and further to the Right? What happens when disaster and crime are used to justify media surrender to being a mouthpiece for police, government or military authority? When does reporting cross the boundary to propaganda? If you know the history of the previous century, you know the sobering answers.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Perspective

The metropolitan Boston area was subjected to a military-styled "lockdown" all day yesterday. It was largely a voluntary process, encouraged universally by a police-controlled media. There was no visible or audible objection to this appropriation of the news media by government forces. Thousands of police rushed to the Boston area. While some claim to have been driven by a sense of duty to the public, I am quite sure others were driven by testosterone. Unrestrained bullying of the public in the public and private space occurred. This surfaced in radio reports I heard in which police voices were  recorded as they yelled roughly at private citizens to go in their houses, leave neighborhood streets and lock their doors.
 
The object of all this government-induced hysteria was an armed and wounded nineteen-year-old bombing suspect, whose 26-year-old brother had already been killed by police. Many media interviews of people who know the hunted suspect indicated that he was a perceived as a decent young man prior to this incident. He is a suspect, yet to be questioned or indicted. The public has determined him to be guilty at the urging of an opportunistic media.
 
The "lockdown" of the area where the suspect was most likely to be found was actually called off at 6 PM. The police had not found the suspect. They had raised public awareness and a great deal of fear. A homeowner found the suspect after the "lockdown" was cancelled. The bleeding boy was found in a stored boat in the homeowner's back yard. Police apprehended the weakened suspect and sent him to the hospital, where he is in serious condition.
 
I may be alone in my opinion that this event displays more fear and dysfunction than great police work. I feel this way because a pressurized, drunken mob, not unlike lynch mobs of another era, gathered on Boston Common last evening. Celebrating. Celebrating what? Celebrating their participation in mass hysteria?  Police officers who arrived at the mob scene were lauded and embraced. Whether any of those police officers had been involved in the actual apprehension of the suspect is questionable.
 
There are congratulatory kudos going to police for their handling of this incident in the media. I find this rather disconcerting. There is no voiced skepticism. There is no questioning of the impact this process had on a civilian population of a large city. There is no consideration of the thousands of commuters who were inconvenienced and treated roughly by police as they were ejected from train stations. No transportation alternatives were provided for these people. They were left to their own resources. Cabs were even told not to pick up fares in Boston and other cities.
 
Yesterday metropolitan Boston turned into a police state at the blink of an eye with the full cooperation of the population at the urging of all media outlets. All this to apprehend one wounded 19-year-old. Previously there have been group executions in Boston's Black community. In recent years, an execution occurred on a public street after the murder of a mother and baby in a nearby home. There was no "lockdown" for the pursuit of drug-dealing killers who were suspected. The public and media would not have tolerated it, I'm sure.
 
The attack on the Boston Marathon was an attack on the white middle-class masculine paradigm. It was an attack on the event-obsessed and alcohol-intoxicated  life of a media-driven culture. It was an attack on American materialism and American commercialism. The response, fueled by full support of a media which is also driven by commercialism, is not  surprising. What is surprising is that Bostonians, once a skeptical and thoughtful bunch, have become a complacent population who bow to police authority without rational protest.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Militarism

I am writing this in a city closed down by virtual martial law, described tactfully by police officials as "shelter in place". The manhunt for the remaining bombing suspect of the Boston Marathon Bombing of April 15th has led to the killing of one young man from Chechnya and one college-police officer. A second Chechen man is being hunted. There does not seem to be much progress with this extreme approach to bring him in.
 
Violence begets violence. Fear propagates fear. Oppression pressurizes reactions. Terrorism succeeds.
 
Yesterday, as we sat in a static subway station, no credible explanation was given for the lack of transportation. Soldiers in military fatigues and body armor were everywhere. When we left the train station, having decided to abandon our trip into the center of the city, we boarded a shuttle bus for the state university, so we could walk along the harbor. The shuttle bus was nearly empty. There were perhaps six students aboard, other than Peter and I. Two soldiers in body armor and fatigues boarded the shuttle and walked up the aisles inspecting every empty seat and us.
 
During the anti-war protests of the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans poured onto streets and into parks in this city to stand up against violence, against fear of government and against oppression. A military presence like the current one may have exploded into civil war, especially after the cold-blooded murder of peaceful protesters by National Guard at Kent State University.
 
I am shocked by the complacency of the local media in this situation. Not one comment has reached my ears concerning the suspension of civil liberties by the government in a metro area of three million people. We have been ordered to not leave our houses, not to drive and not to walk the streets. I received a phone call from the city government to this effect this morning.
 
Perhaps the only light side to my experience of this militarism this morning is the appearance of the sewer construction crew who went about digging up the same hole at the center of our street for the fifth time. Apparently, when all else grinds to a halt, the toilet remains sacrosanct.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Unity

There is an ancient human reaction to publicly shared trauma. There are cries for 'unity' and 'solidarity' in the face of some faceless enemy. This reaction is ancient, perhaps hard-wired in a neurological sense, but it is not very conscientious or rational. It does not advance peace. It does not advance humanity.
 
This is the reflex which causes people to unite against any common enemy. It is the reflex which kept segregation and racial oppression going in the American South for a century after slavery was abolished. It is the reflex which persecuted decent people during the McCarthy purges of the 1950s. It is the reflex which supported our invasion of Vietnam to prop up a corrupt regime. It is the reflex which led to the futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after September 11th, 2001.
 
Two radio spots this morning brought all this to the front of my mind. One spot was a recording of blood-lusting pro-hockey fans singing a nationalist anthem at Boston's hockey arena as some sort of expression of bewildered emotion in the wake of a senseless bombing on April 15th. The second was an interview with a Black Boston minister who has exploited ghetto violence to make a media career. This gentleman has never wasted any opportunity to turn any tragedy into a media-op for himself.
 
Both radio spots were presented as examples of Boston's great coping ability in the wake of violence. I found this quite annoying. Falling back on sentimental nationalism by people who love violence led to Fascism in Europe in the 1930s. Preaching about 'god's plan' in the wake of senseless violence by someone who is part of the violence problem in his own isolationist community is an insult to an intelligent mind.
 
Our national and local politicians feed on this knee-jerk human reaction to bolster their images and to gain publicity. Rather than produce a sense of intelligent realism that there are many bad people in a country which affords many opportunities to kill people with guns and explosives, they foster the delusion that this event was somehow an anomaly. This is a way to diminish the possibility of a different kind of unity of purpose in the public.
 
The unity of purpose which should come out of the Marathon bombing should meld with the unity of purpose which is being demonstrated by the people of Newtown, Connecticut, after the atrocity at their elementary school. The unity of purpose should meld with the work of survivors of the Columbine massacre. The unity of purpose should face down the paranoid lunatics of the National Rifle Association and others who cling to their ability to own mass-murder weaponry.




Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First




 
 
Probably one of the most important elements of my daily humanist practice is my morning exercise. I have been doing it for many years first thing every day.
 
I exercise for about 15 minutes every morning before I have breakfast. This is a combination of sit-ups, push-ups, yoga stretches and yoga positions. It is a routine...like a dance routine. In other words, I do the same ritual every day with minor variations which are dependent on my mood or where I feel my body needs attention. For example, if my lower back feels achy or tight, I focus on my stomach muscles and stretches which stretch and re-align the spine. If a muscle group feels fatigued, I focus on those groups which are less fatigued.
 
This beginning to every day is essential to my sense of well being. That sense of well being is a source of energy to attempt mindfulness and compassion throughout my daily life. Whole bodily health is the key to working at living humanist ideals.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Narcissism

In 1992, two of my chosen family were nearly stabbed to death in broad daylight on a busy South End street in Boston. They are gay men. They were targeted by a Latino youth gang from a nearby housing project, owned by the Roman Catholic Church. There were many witnesses, who all denied seeing anything. They were members of the African-American or Latino communities of the neighborhood, which was undergoing gentrification. Both victims of this terrorist act are alive now, but both suffer every day from the post-traumatic scars and some of the internal physical damage of this attack.
 
The Boston Police did next to nothing. No perpetrator was ever brought to justice. My friends were harassed by police detectives who implied that the victims deserved being attacked for living in the neighborhood. They implied that the victims attracted the attack by "acting gay". I call this "harassment" because my friends were both hospitalized for some time in intensive care while officers interviewed them without doing anything on the street. When the first of the victims was released from the hospital, the police made a big show of driving him around the crime area so he could identify his attackers. His attackers, as he had told the police, were wearing hoodies and had stabbed him from behind before he rapidly lost consciousness. One victim was later told that some of the witnesses, his neighbors, knew the perpetrators but refused to testify. The police or the courts did not press them to do so.
 
Gay men of my age know terror all too well. And that terror came from people in the society who were considered superior human beings by authorities because they were heterosexual, even if they were murderous little bastards.
 
Yesterday's blasts in Boston, like the terror of 911, pierced the narcissism of the mainstream. This is the horror experienced by the general public when these things happen. Like the recent massacre at an elementary school, this horrific act wakes up the self-satisfied from their sleep. They realize suddenly that anyone can be a victim of hate and violence. No guardian angels or gods have deigned them immune because they are pious Christians or rich or beautiful or even just minding their own business.
 
The narcissism of the mainstream, who are not regularly targeted by violence in this violent society, enables the violence in this society. There should be hundreds of thousands of anti-gun protesters in Washington as Congress deliberates gun control. There should be much higher expectations and transparency of Homeland Security's effectiveness against all violence in the nation. But a narcissistic mainstream does not care as long as they themselves are not targeted. Terror is converted into entertainment.
 
Violence in public is indiscriminate and unacceptable. Violence in private is unacceptable in a civilized society. Our society is awash in violence. It is my hope that these most obvious acts of violence permanently pierce the narcissism and melt away the apathy of more Americans. This is the only way to decrease violence in society. It will not be significantly decreased by the frequently ineffective reactions of authorities alone.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Addendum

I seldom do two blog entries in one day, but I felt compelled to add to my earlier post concerning the Boston Marathon as an event for internationals who are wealthy.
 
I abhor the kind of violence which occurred today in my city. I abhor all violence, as anyone who regularly reads my blog can attest. Blasting explosives among peaceful civilians is the work of maniacs, cowards and ruthless governments. The sociopolitical realities of any culture are never resolved constructively with this kind of terror. In fact, this kind of terror solidifies disparity and inequality as reactionaries use it as an excuse for repression.
 
I am saddened that this form of terror has come to the streets of my city. As I was gardening this afternoon, I heard sirens blaring for hours. Each siren wailed out some personal horror: A burn victim, a blown-off limb, a dead body. Horror brought to civilian life. As a nurse, I can fully appreciate the implication for those who were directly affected.
 
I am angry as well. Since 911, we as taxpayers and citizens have expended vast resources and suspended some of our freedoms to the Department of Homeland Security. Yet someone was able to plant a bomb at an international event in the heart of my city. There are no suspects. There is apparently no intelligence which would have foretold this danger. Why? I hope time will answer these questions as well as shed light on the motivation behind this senseless act.

Internationals

Today is Patriots' Day here in Boston. It is the traditional day of the Boston Marathon, a 26-mile race from suburb to city along paved roads. No resemblance to the historic run associated with the famous Greek battle site. However, the winners will be crowned with laurel wreaths from Greece. Go figure.
 
Boston is becoming a stop on the parade of wealthy internationals, the new global, corporate aristocrats. As a Bostonian, who grew up in the Boston of student anarchists and frequent protests against injustice and justice at times, I am astounded to see Boston's streets barricaded the day before an event, geared to glean dollars from these new lords and ladies of global capitalism. But here we are.
 
Peter and I went to Back Bay yesterday to enjoy our annual admiration of magnolia blossoms, always a welcomed harbinger of Spring in this snowy city. The roaming crowds of internationals, herding to brunches at fancy eateries, lent an air of Disney to this old neighborhood I once felt was my homely home. No more. We doubted we would enjoy navigating these streets around the gangs of the well-heeled. We moved over the river to Cambridge, where we took a much more enjoyable amble through the quiet streets of Sunday in a deserted business district by the Charles River.
 
Yes, change is the only constant. But seeing a slick European taking a picture of a barricaded section of historic Charles Street from the middle of the street made me wonder where this change is going.
 
My own Boston neighborhood is middle class, I suppose. However, it lies between South Boston, which is rapidly becoming gentrified into a bedroom community for stock brokers and bankers, and Uphams Corner, a traditional business center of the African-American community. Boston Street, which intersects my own, is a pedestrian and bus route for people who work in the center of the city at the service jobs which keep the buildings clean and in repair. These commuters are the low-paid clerks and laborers who really make a city functional.
 
The contrast between the internationals here for the Marathon event and the people who walk through my neighborhood is disturbing. That contrast illustrates the growing disparity and socioeconomic inequality of the times. My neighborhood pedestrians are tired as they pour off buses and trains at evening rush hour seven days a week. They walk with a determined trudge. Many seem older than their years. They wear the stress of living in a high-priced city on low, stagnant wages. The internationals walk in chatty gaggles in expensive designer clothes. Their accompanying children play with the latest smart phones. Both men and women of a certain age show signs of cosmetic surgery and tanning booths. They are limber and self-assured to the point of pushy arrogance.
 
In a way, the human species is running a marathon. The field grows larger and larger with overpopulation. The vast majority will finish at the back of the race, if they finish at all. They will reap no laurels or prizes for their efforts. However, their numbers support the magnitude of wealth for the few under capitalism. Their admiration of the winners in this race supports the pyramid which crushes them. They are given mesmerizing encouragement by shining media screens to keep them believing that they and theirs can all expect to be winners too. But the race is rigged against them.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Suggestion

Mid-April here in the Northern Hemisphere is a good time to start a seasonal interaction with environment. It is one of my favorites.
 
In an urban setting, pick a small yard or patch of soil which you pass on foot every day. It can even be a crack in a sidewalk. Simply check in every day or whenever you remember to. Look at what is happening there. Take it in. Apply it to your own life.
 
In a more natural setting, pick a yard or a field or a patch of woods. The process is the same. Look, observe for a few moments. Apply what you've seen to your own life.
 
If you are a gardener or a farmer, I have just been preaching to the choir. I apologize, but even a farmer may lose some appreciation or application of the impact of change in Nature on his/her own life in ways other than financial. This could account for the damage some farmers do to the Earth in the name of productivity.
 
I have planted a plot of wildflower seeds. This is my intentional screen for observing seasonal change. Yesterday I unveiled and greeted the first tender shoots as they emerged from the soil, which had been covered against frost with some garden cloth for a couple of weeks. I have kept a photo journal of previous gardens. This plot is simply there for my daily appreciation and contemplation. It is also my contribution to my concrete-bound environment.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Conflict

I seldom engage in the kind of conflict upon which the angry and aggressive thrive. I listen with absolute astonishment to professional football players talking of "taking out" other players as part of their job. I am equally astounded by the pride with which military leaders talk about "service" which has entailed killing civilians on the other side of the world.
 
I find conflict with the aggressive to be very draining and mostly a waste of time. Many people, especially heterosexual men, are invested in picking fights. This accounts for much of the lack of human progress throughout our history.
 
There are programs in urban ghettos which treat violence as a disease, perhaps an addiction. While I believe people can be habituated to violence in violent environments, I also believe a violent act in most cases is still a choice. I assert this as a psychiatric nurse who spent years working with violent people who were psychologically impaired by genetic illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
 
In 1977, I said "No." to an alcoholic schizophrenic man who was particularly childish and manipulative. He demanded to be allowed to leave a locked psychiatric unit, over which I was in charge. He wanted to go to the street to beg for money for alcohol and cigarettes. This would have led to another arrest and readmission at his state of recovery at the time. He had a long history.
 
I withstood his usual tirade of abusive obscenities, spat into my face from centimeters away. He had a habit of leaning into people to get his way. His lack of personal hygiene and lack of any dental care tended to get him results with this method. I was inured. "No." I persisted. I was twenty-seven and less cautious.
 
My patient kicked my shin with full force with his steel-pointed construction boot, which he had salvaged from the donated clothes closet we had in this impoverished state facility. I collapsed to the floor. I thought my leg was broken. Luckily, some of my staff witnessed this. They took him off to isolation before he could apply the boot to my head.
 
My leg wasn't broken, just sore for weeks. However, I was perhaps the first nurse in the employment of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assert my human rights under the law. I pressed charges against the patient. This was not an easy decision. I was harassed by police, psychiatrists and social workers all the way up to the Director of Mental Health Services for the Commonwealth, a stern psychiatrist of Viennese origins, who tried to convince me I had no legal rights as a psychiatric nurse. I was not convinced or dissuaded.
 
My peers were very supportive. They, like myself, were used to being injured by the truly out-of-control. We all knew when an injury was intentionally inflicted, as in this case.
 
The hearing occurred just blocks away at the county courthouse. The patient had been arrested after my criminal complaint and was held in the county jail. I was terrified, since I had to take the witness stand in open court. After all the criticism and shunning by supervisors  I had endured at the hospital since filing the complaint, my confidence in my decision was somewhat eroded.
 
I was sworn in. The judge asked me to describe the incident. He inquired about my injury. The court-appointed defense attorney made a brief declaration that I was, in essence, unprofessional in bringing charges against a patient. There was derisive laughter in the courtroom at one point during his statement.
 
The judge, who was quite well known in the media for his no-nonsense character, looked angry. After the case was presented, he narrowed his eyes in my direction. I felt like I was being x-rayed. Then he looked at the patient, who had been cleaned up and was playing the cutesy, imbecilic darling. The judge made a brief statement that no professional person sacrifices his civil rights when performing his duty correctly. His statement had a shaming effect on some who had been snickering at the defense attorney's subtle defamation of my character.
 
The patient plead guilty with the qualification that he did not know what he was doing. The judge accepted the guilty plea and sentenced the patient to six months in a high-security facility for the criminally insane. In his sentencing remarks, the judge looked at me and said he could imagine what pressure I had encountered against my asserting my civil rights. He commended me for using the legal system in this case.
 
Over the subsequent decades, I have had my share of challenging situations, in which I have been aggressively approached in and out of mental hospitals. This is part of urban life, especially as an openly gay man. Part of my practice is to avoid conflict. If avoidance is not possible, I seek to neutralize it. If neutralizing it is not possible, then I will engage to the extent that my person and human rights are defended.
 
I have found that being intentionally peaceful (not aggressive or competitive) has very much reduced the incidents of aggression in my life. I do not participate in situations which are prone to bring out human aggression. If confronted with aggression, I always look to the higher issue involved. Most people who are aggressive are also needy in some fundamental way. I ask myself, "What is the need behind the aggression?" Most importantly, I do not engage in aggression by countering it with more aggression, unless physically threatened. Being patient and addressing the aggressive behavior later through legal or institutional channels is a more effective way of avoiding damaging conflict.
 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Stress

Unconscious stress is a quiet killer. When the brain in not intentionally engaged in dealing with environmental or psychological stress, the body works out its own attempts to compensate. If the stress builds over time, the body can maintain itself in a state of high defensiveness hormonally and neuro-chemically. This causes terrific wear on organ and vascular systems. Cardiac problems, stroke and general collapse of immunity can result.
 
The practice of maintaining conscious psychological and physical health is in the best interest of every human being. However, human society does not place its focus on this ideal. Human society focuses on power and wealth, spiced with conflicted sexuality and unrestrained procreation.
 
The humanist perspective looks beyond its acceptance of the status quo, while accepting it as the only real starting point for positive change. On an individual level, this humanist perspective should begin with the humanist who adopts it. Dealing with unconscious and conscious stress is the responsibility of each person who adopts a daily practice for the betterment of humanity. Betterment of humanity begins, and perhaps ends, with betterment of my own human state of being and becoming. Doing otherwise is simply preaching without any real substance. Another word for that is "hypocrisy".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gratitude

My attitude toward gratitude is very reality-based and practical. I am truly grateful in the moment for any unsolicited kindness. This extends from the person who recognizes me as another person when he/she holds a door open for me to the person who stops a safe distance from me as I use a crosswalk on my urban neighborhood's streets. I acknowledge my gratitude and their kindness overtly with a "Thank you." or a friendly wave at a car's windshield, even if I cannot see the driver clearly.
 
This level of gratitude, as a regular experience and expression, was intensified after I was first immobilized by AIDS and then immobilized by cancer several years thereafter. In both case, I rehabilitated myself from using a walker to using a cane to walking feebly in the public space. I felt I must regain my confidence walking in the world, as opposed to hiding in safer environments until I felt whole again. I am an outgoing urban person, born and raised.
 
During my periods of severe physical disability, I learned a great deal about human beings as individuals and in groups. Many of the lessons were unpleasant and disappointing. The occasional experience of kindness was a truly intoxicating uplift. I learned that individuals in public are generally kinder to the disabled than groups. Perhaps the individual pedestrian or subway rider can better identify with the vulnerability of the challenged. I learned that all-male groups and all-female groups, especially when composed of young people, can be callous or even dangerous to the vulnerable or challenged. I was particularly grateful if the member of a group of adolescents showed me any concern whatsoever. I viewed that young person as courageous as well as kind. Peer pressure in childhood and adolescence is particularly brutal.
 
My recent experience here on my street with a group of male construction workers and subsequently with their superiors has reminded me of these past-learned lessons. The construction workers in a group indulge the most macho and alienating behaviors. I do not encourage these behaviors with any interaction, as long as they do not threaten my person or environment directly. Their superiors, when I dealt with each individually with a complaint, were patient and attentive, for which I was grateful.
 
I avoid generalizations like "I'm lucky to be alive!" I do not feel lucky to be alive much of the time. This comes with pain, chronic disease and normal aging. I understand now, better than I ever have, that birth itself is a ticket to inevitable suffering for all living beings. I do feel lucky to have been born with many of my genetic capabilities and familial circumstances. This is, after all, a matter of pure luck. I have met many people who were better human beings than I am who were not so lucky with the resources provided by their births.
 
Developing a practice of conscious and expressive gratitude is very helpful in the general process of self-development. Observing and acknowledging kindness and generosity, or its absence, can be very educational. It can tell me a great deal about how much kindness and generosity I am putting out into my environment. Kindness and generosity attract kindness and generosity. Selfishness invites alienation. Recognizing acts of kindness and generosity in my life, especially when I am alone among strangers, builds my tendency toward general compassion toward those in my environment.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bullying

Jennifer Hancock, a practicing humanist, has posted some interesting videos on Youtube about childhood bullying. As I listen to her ideas, I become more and more conscious of the bullying process in current daily life.
 
My street has been under construction for weeks. The local water-sewer system is being revamped to diminish waste spillage into Massachusetts Bay. This is a good thing.
 
Unfortunately, on the ground, the construction company which holds the contracts is badly supervised and given free rein by municipal permit-granters to use my street as their own. Parking along most of the street has been banned all day from Monday through Friday. This is absolutely unnecessary when the actual work is limited to a small area of the street on some days.
 
Last week I filed a complaint against a police officer who was in the employ of the construction company. She had unnecessarily, and probably illegally, banned me from entrance to the street to access my own driveway. I received the standard response from the representatives of the project, middlemen who are hired to deal with supervising the project for the water-sewer authority. A verbal apology was made during a phone call, but was modified with excuses for the police officer's behavior and an assertion that the contractor makes every effort to accommodate people who live near the work. This assertions I totally unsubstantiated by the workers' behaviors.
 
Yesterday was payback by the bullies. An empty, unused dump truck was parked with idling engine in front of my driveway, where my car was parked. There was no driver in the truck as it idled nearly all day. When I needed to leave my driveway around 1 PM, the driver appeared and sat in the truck without any indication he would move. Then a huge bulldozer entered the act. Truck and bulldozer did a ballet in front of my driveway for several minutes as I sat waiting to exit. The bulldozer came close to grazing the back of my Toyota Echo at one point.
 
When I returned from my shopping 90 minutes later, the truck was parked and idling without a driver in front of my driveway. The policeman at the entrance to the street had been quite congenial when he waved me up the one-way. I had hoped to just scoot into my driveway. When I saw the unoccupied truck, I knew this was no happenstance. There were hundreds of feet of empty curb away from driveways where the truck could have been left.
 
I parked my car at the curb. I got my groceries and other items into the house in three trips up and down my driveway, as a few construction workers watched from 50 yards up the street, where the actual work was being done. No truck driver appeared from among the gang. No effort was made to accommodate. I then had to move my car off the street by driving back down it and around the block to a parking space at the curb.
 
As I walked toward the construction site on my way back to my house, a construction worker pointed at me and gestured toward my house. He was laughing as he apparently explained their prank to a man in business clothes. The construction worker avoided my glance as I passed. The man in the business clothes gave me an embarrassed and insincere "Hello" which I ignored. The truck had been removed from in front of my driveway as I had been driving around the block.
 
I have radar for bullying. I grew up gay in America in the 1950s and 1960s. The construction workers of today were the my teachers and my fellow students of yesterday. I also know how to deal with it in my own practiced way. Today I will be filing formal complaints with various state and municipal authorities. The idling truck was not only a violation of transportation laws and vehicle registration laws but also a violation of city, state and federal environmental-protection laws. The word can indeed be mightier than the sword, or the backward aggression of adult men who have never grown up.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peace

It is hard to achieve peace without letting go of bad habits which are born of everyday stress. This is true of nations and individuals.
 
The infant human being is at peace in an environment which is full of affection, adequate feeding and adequate physical care. The infant has no concern with possessions or control. A sense of physical well being dominates the infant's sense of psychological well being. The infant responds immediately to the environment.
 
We lose some of these qualities as we become autonomous adults. Our focus shifts from peace to active defense of our livelihoods. The wealthy are absolved from this. Hence their inability to relate to the poor or struggling workers. The trust-fund or privileged child can extend the peace of childhood into adulthood more readily. One skeptical look into the face of the younger George Bush or Mitt Romney tells that tale.
 
The wealthy are at peace with their world. They have no reason not to be. Those who dip their toes into geopolitical waters do so from the position of the missionary who strives to bring 'the word' to the primitives. This is the gospel of making money to be just like them. Since they feel immune to geopolitical and local social deprivations or struggles, they feel that the way the world works is just fine. It just needs a little tweaking in their world views. This is why they have largely ignored or minimized global climate change. After all, Mother Nature would not dare invade their gated communities.
 
Those who are not wealthy in this materialistic world face an increasing challenge to achieve or maintain personal peace with aging. A personal practice to achieve a sense of personal peace is necessary to counteract the everyday stresses of living in a world which can be unkind and uncaring if you have little or no money. Learning to detach from the materialism of the environment is a good first step in achieving personal peace. Focusing on the elements of the environment which promote health and well being is essential.
 
As long as an immune wealthy class rules the world there will be no real environmental peace for those who must serve them for their own sustenance. The wealthy depend on war and deprivation to maintain their wealth and control. This explains in part why capitalists refuse to believe in the obvious fact of human overpopulation. This also explains the use of religiosity by the wealthy to rationalize their own positions in society and to absolve themselves for subjugating others.
 
I do not advocate class war. I do not advocate war of any kind. My premise is that personal peace leads to environmental peace. I do not believe peace will come to most individuals from outside themselves. I do believe attaining personal peace is an ongoing process, never a permanent passive state.
 
With the peace achieved and maintained through a daily practice comes a special kind of joy. It is the joy of liberation from worry and anxiety. This peace and joy comes to a mind and body which is free of the toxicity of drugs and alcohol in excess. This peace and joy comes to the physically fit and well-rested body and mind. This peace and joy come to the well-nourished body and mind. Attempting to achieve profound personal peace and the accompanying joy cannot be accomplished without intentional daily effort. There are no infomercial products to purchase which hold special secrets. Any person who can read can find the health information required.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Thatcherism

 
Margaret Thatcher has died. She will be canonized by corporate media. Like Ronald Reagan, she bolstered crony capitalism on the backs of the working class and poor. The growing disparity in wealth across the planet can be traced largely to the Reagan-Thatcher Era. By canning "The Fall of the Soviet Empire", Reagan and Thatcher, both militaristic nationalists themselves, covered their tracks in history. The fact that the Soviet Union fell from within is now ignored. This morning I listened as Henry Kissinger, a war criminal, lauded the late Thatcher in iconic terms. Birds of a feather. It is unfortunate that the New Feminism among the middle class look to Thatcher as a model.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Art

I bought and sold old things for years as a second job. I would schlep to Backwoods Maine on my days off from my nursing jobs. My cars themselves were close to antique. The trips were always adventures on many levels.
 
I found everything. Old clocks and music boxes became specialties of my inventory after a while, but I also bought furniture and decorative items. I found a genuine Ming-era Buddhist gong and an 18th century clock on one lucky trip. I didn't make a fortune at this business by any measure. However, I learned a lot about restoration, materialism and small business.
 
Objects have value for their rarity. Often rarity trumps beauty or condition. Once an item has value, based on its rarity especially, it can be ugly as sin and reap a lot of money.
 
The experiences I had selling old things affected my feelings about art very deeply. I realized that art in commerce, like beauty, is in the eye of the wealthy beholder. In other words, what is considered 'great art' is the stuff that brings in the gold. Art as a business is the height of materialism and often the low-point of good taste.
 
I recently finished a small creative project myself. It's a piece for my living room. I wanted a 'window of color' on a wall. A specific size and shape to compliment an old drop-leaf table beneath it. I generated paintings in a computer program and applied the print-outs in tiles to a painted canvas. The result was very close to what I imagined. In fact, it was better...less formal and stiff than my imaginings.
 
I've learned to make simple frames from stock lumber from Home Depot. My first frame adorns a lovely abstract of a birch forest which Peter created for our living room. Peter stained and finished it to compliment the colors on the canvas. I think it is stunning.
 
None of our art has any value in a commercial sense. It has no provenance. We haven't done one-man shows in a trendy gallery. Yet we prize it for the experience of creating it, for framing it, for sitting together and appreciating it. This is art as practice and the art of practice.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ebert



Roger Ebert died this week. He was a paragon of film criticism. He was also an exemplar of grace under fire. He shared his cancer experience without self-pity. He carried on, despite tremendous loss and suffering. I have missed his intelligent speaking voice. Now I will miss him.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Police

I recently had an unpleasant encounter with a young traffic cop. She was monitoring a construction site on my street. It is called a "detail" in police parlance.
 
My late father, a career policeman, made a middle class life for us by working many details, paid for by construction companies and event promoters. His meager police salary in the 1950s and 1960s would have kept us in a low-income, working class lifestyle. He worked details in his off hours, often three or four days a week while he worked the night shift at his regular job.
 
I have been related to several police officers. My uncle and two cousins were police officers. Our next-door neighbor when I was a boy was also a police officer. I spent many boyhood hours at the local police station, where I was treated to stories and shown the cells. The building, an 1880s structure, had a grimy and ghostly atmosphere.
 
So, when Officer Kathy, stood before my car at the entrance to my own street the other day, I was predisposed to like her. "I live on the street. I just need to scoot up to my driveway, " I explained with a smile. The sewer contractors had blocked the other end of the one-way street, so I was seeking Officer Kathy's dispensation to drive the few hundred feet the wrong way to my driveway.
 
"It's a one-way street," Officer Kathy yelled after pulling down the ski mask she was wearing as protection against the unseasonable cold. "I know. I live on the street," I replied. I then explained that the crew of tractors and excavators had progressed beyond my driveway, and I had to access it from this unconventional direction. "It's a one-way street! Are you sure you can access your driveway?" Officer Kathy was not in favor of my request. It became obvious I had challenged some territorial impulse.
 
Traffic on the busy cross street where I was stuck due to Officer Kathy was now piling up in both directions. Horns were beeping angrily front and back. After a few more "It's a one-way street" responses, I decided to proceed differently in the interests of public safety and my neighbors' needs to get on with their lives. "Never mind," I yelled back at Officer Kathy as I pulled off, "I will deal with this through the water department."
 
I returned home after parking some distance away from my house. I carried what items I could from my shopping. I sat down and emailed the liaison for the construction project. I received an email in return and a call from a friendly engineer, who apologized for the inconvenience and said he would educate Officer Kathy on standard protocol for giving abutters access to their property.
 
So here we are. The engineer has to educate the police officer on her job and the law.
 
Police departments nationwide have adopted a reactionary model for police work. They are "first responders". This is unfortunate for them and for the public. They have managed to alienate the public trust by becoming enforcers, as opposed to being daily fixtures in the life of a neighborhood. They have many excuses for this. However, as I see it, the excuses are mostly hollow. The simple fact is that the police departments have encouraged this alienation by allowing officers to reside in their cars. The result is a police force which does not know how to prevent crime by establishing a friendly and vigilant presence. The result is a police force which enables petty crime while avoiding enforcing the law against the biggest criminals.
 
As a retired registered nurse, I know very well how difficult it is to work with human beings under stress on a daily basis. I respect the difficulty of the "first responder" role. However, I do not believe police departments and police unions are making things any easier by encouraging their officers to see this as their only role. The net result is the public's mistrust and dislike of the officers, who have become associated with a harshness inherent in the "first responder" role.
 
My encounter with Officer Kathy was not traumatic, though aggravating. However, I saw in this very young officer the roots of bullying behavior, born of defensiveness. This is particularly disturbing in a female officer, who might be more sensitive to exception and flexibility within her role. As a humanist, committed to nonviolence and universal justice, I became concerned that young Officer Kathys are being conditioned to be rigid and inevitably brutal from lack of regular community contact in non-threatening situations. There is no rational justification for this.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Unexpected

Life comes unexpectedly, despite all attempts to structure it. This is a realization of any practice. It is twelve hours later than my usual posting time. Events of the day took precedent. This happens. My practice to post daily is still a commitment I honor. The point for me is this: Even if things do not happen ideally, an attempt can still be made to continue a commitment as best as I can.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Worry

Why worry or complain? One of the benefits of developing a personal practice as a life focus is the banishment of worry and complaint from daily life and its problems.. With my practice to turn to,  I have no reason to become mired in anxiety over a future I recognize as in process. I am becoming my future by virtue of what I am being in my present. If I am being an ineffectual worrier or complainer, I am becoming an ineffectual worrier and complainer. This is contrary to any concept of healthy personal development. Practice is a process of working at being who I wish to be in the hope of becoming who I wish to be.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Change

The test of the human species will be its ability to intentionally change. On a superficial level, technology has spurred mind-spinning changes in a relatively small time of human history. On a deeper level, many a priori assumptions about human behaviors on a community, national or governmental level mire human beings in violence, poverty and endless suffering.
 
Human population is capable of exhausting its accustomed resources for heat, cooking fuel, electricity and synthetic products. The deterioration of the planet from human population has already caused serious climate change. There is no ready cure for this phenomenon which will inevitably cause further deterioration of ecosystems. The feet-dragging denial of some of the world's most influential bodies, like the U.S. Congress, does not bode well for human capacity to change for its own well being.
 
The current sniffing and circling around the mad regime in North Korea is another example of human vulnerability to its own inability to institute remedial change. The human species has created this mad monster through inaction and old-fashioned Cold-War diplomacy. It is now ineffectual in dealing with the madness, like an enabling family with a spoiled lunatic child.  This process also bodes badly for human capability to change on a scale commensurate to its huge population and its effect on the planet.
 
Meanwhile, religions are encouraging unbridled breeding in the poorest human communities. Well-meaning advocates for women's rights take a staunch stand against any form of health-minded dissuasion of female reproduction. Women with HIV, the virus causing a world pandemic which has killed millions, are encouraged and enabled to reproduce. Frankly, this is perhaps one of the most dysfunctional examples of human incapacity to apply science and rationality to human change.
 
As a single humanist, I have abandoned any imaginings of a human species which will somehow adapt for its own good and the good of its home planet. I live with an expectation that human beings will fall subject to a natural correction, not an intentional human one. This is why I live within an individual practice as responsibly as I am able. This is why I encourage others to do the same. Being attached to a vision of a glorious human future seems delusional to me. Taking satisfaction in my own ability to live mindfully and compassionately within my own environment is the best path to my own functional future.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Planting

 
 
Saturday I planted some wildflower seeds. I know, this sounds somewhat contradictory. If they are wild, why would they require planting, right? But we are here...a species which packages and sells wildflower seeds in plastic bags.
 
I chose a butterfly mix. The flowers are supposed to be irresistible to butterflies. My urban neighborhood may prove resistible to most species of butterflies, but I am hoping some stragglers will pass through and be delighted by my labors.
 
I have found nothing quite as gratifying as turning over urban soil which has been neglected for years. Pieces of brick, a fragment of an old bathroom tile floor, assorted field stone. There was a large spring from some long-dead mechanical device. The mixture of clay, soil and sand was suitably rich when mashed around with my spade. The mulch from last summer mixed in to lighten, acidify and aerate.
 
A hand fork was the best way to make my furrows and cover them as I spread the fine seed mix. The whole piece of land is about the size of a small bedroom. It has a full southern exposure. It is also right off the sidewalk and unfenced. So, I'm trying this experimental treatment as a hedge against defecating dogs. A thick patch of weedy growth may discourage all but the most desperate hounds. If it fails, I will try something else.
 
The whole thing is covered now in black garden cloth. They may be wildflower seeds, but I thought they deserved the sophisticated handling of an urban site. I hope they appreciate this and respond accordingly. So far, the skunks are not impressed. They have tried to edge around the seams to do their ritual foraging. One adventurous skunk tried a taste of the plastic cloth. That was not repeated. I have to admit being amused at the thought of the skunk's face at it chewed on the plastic.
 
Whatever develops from my efforts will be an extra delight. I have already enjoyed getting my hands dirty and setting the whole thing up. As with all things in the process of a daily practice, the point is enjoying the activity. It now feels like Spring. Summer will bring what it will bring.