March Blue Moon Tea: Dewberry

I have a long history with dewberry plants, since my dad used to grow them along the back fence of our home, when I was a child. He got his canes from my grandparents, who got theirs from my Texas German great-grandparents, who used to turn the berries into wonderful pies, jelly, and wine. Most of the dewberry canes I’ve encountered as an adult living in Austin grow wild in sunny clearings like this one:


The young leaves and flowers make a wonderful tea. I picked less than 10% of the flowers that I saw in this patch, though, to avoid impacting the insects already enjoying them and to avoid substantially decreasing the summer berry harvest.


Sweetened with local honey, this was my favorite wildcrafted simple of the year yet.


Spring in the Texas Hill Country, even in the city, is so sweet.


Happy Full Moon, and hope it’s just as lovely where you are, dear readers.


Notes on Spring Equinox 2018

Happy High Spring! Today I walked with Poe and observed what’s happening outside. The Austin sky is sunny and breezy today, with temperatures only in the 60s F, and thank all the gods, no packages except those that I ordered have been delivered to our front door.

Early spring bloomers like henbit and chickweed now look leggy and wilted, but spiderwort, wind flower, fleabane, bluebonnet, paintbrush, and pink evening primrose have begun to bloom. Redbud continues to bloom, and mountain laurel, too, perfuming the breeze with the scent of grape soda laced with jasmine.


Continue reading “Notes on Spring Equinox 2018”

Growing beyond atheism

Eleven years ago this spring, I participated in a weekend-long mindfulness meditation retreat. Two continuous days of scheduled sitting and walking meditation, dharma talks, and silent meals left me rested and clear, yet inexplicably discontented. On the third and final day of the retreat a choice of activities was offered, including more sitting meditation, attending a workshop, or hiking. I had pined all weekend from my cushion indoors for unstructured time outside in the spring sun, so I chose to explore a trail through the park’s oak-juniper woods.


After walking for some time, I slowed in a sunny clearing of Ashe junipers to admire the the trees, the light, the sky. Unexpected words swelled up, which seemed to roll through my mind and out across the woods around me with the clarity and resonance of thunder. Continue reading “Growing beyond atheism”

Hunger Advocacy: Crop Walk 2018

This afternoon my daughter and I walked with other members of our UU Church in the Austin Crop Hunger Walk, an annual fundraising and education event sponsored by the Church World Service. After a week of rain, the sunny, breezy 2.4-mile walk around Camp Mabry grounds was a treat.


Proceeds from the walk benefitted both the CWS, a non-profit that promotes grass-roots  efforts to combat hunger globally, and several local organizations involved in hunger advocacy and service, including the Central Texas Food Bank, Casa Marianella, Sustainable Food Center, and Refugee Services of Texas.  Continue reading “Hunger Advocacy: Crop Walk 2018”

When Prayers Aren’t Enough

I heard about last week’s school shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on the radio, while I was driving home from work last Wednesday. No, no, no, no, I prayed, but prayer doesn’t work that way, and the disembodied voice kept speaking with a collectedness that I knew neither of us felt. I felt both hollow and heavy, like my belly had been carved out in a single, sharp, cold scoop. Five days later, despair still seems a sane response. Why do we keep allowing our school children to be slaughtered? An ugly question with even uglier answers.

Political corruption enables the violence; our politicians receive a lot of money from the NRA, and as a result refuse to pass common-sense gun laws. Denialism also plays a role. There is clear, unsurprising empirical evidence that communities with more guns suffer from more gun-related violence. However, passionate proponents of a particular interpretation of the Second Amendment won’t budge in the direction that the empirical evidence points. But there were other, more malevolent factors at play in last week’s shooting, too. In a photo on Instagram, the gunman wore a MAGA hat, and although the claim that he trained with a white nationalist group turned out to be false, still a leader of that group tried to claim him.

I was hurting, when I came home from work last Wednesday to reunite with my own school-aged children. Hugging them and seeing the valentines they had received at school that day was a balm, after hearing news of the shooting. Then my children went to bed, and I read an email from their school notifying me that they would participate in a lock-down drill on Friday. The drill had been scheduled before the shooting occurred, the email stated, and while the teachers and administration acknowledged the difficulty of its timing with respect to current events, they felt the safest, most responsible choice was to continue with the drill as scheduled. I silently agreed. Then I wept.

We didn’t have lock-down drills at school, when I was a kid. I asked my nine-year-old daughter what it was like, when I picked her up from school on Friday. Her teacher had locked the classroom door and covered the windows, she told me, while she and her classmates practiced huddling together closely and quietly in a corner.

“Is it scary?” I asked. “To imagine something like that happening?” I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. A shooter. In your school building. Where you are supposed to be safe. Trying to kill you.

“Well, yeah, but it’s good that we know what to do,” she replied matter-of-factly. Then she asked if we could stop for ice cream on the way home. Her tone communicated that there was nothing weird about having to do a lock-down drill, it was just a normal part of going to school. I wept again.

We’ve been wrestling as a society with the problem of gun violence for years; I don’t have any answers in this post. But guns are now the third leading cause of death for children in the U.S., and I believe that I have both a personal and professional responsibility as a nurse to do something. My grief and my prayers are not enough, to treat the wounds that guns inflict on our children and our communities.

Since last week’s shooting, I’ve contacted my representative *again* about the issue of gun violence. I’ve donated to Everytown for Gun Safety. I will continue to vote for candidates who support common-sense, evidence-based gun legislation. I’m aware that what exactly common-sense gun legislation might be is an open question, but I plan to keep learning, and to participate in the goal-oriented conversation that we all must have, if we care.