Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hummingbird Visits

Hummingbird gave us a cameo today, feeding on delphinium.

Posted by jackie.

End Of June Reminders

Summer flowers in the garden remind me of where I learned gardening.  My grandfather George, on dad's side, came to Chicago in 1920 as a young man from a farm in Missouri.  He brought with him an enduring love and skill for gardening.  He lived on the south side of Chicago and had an acre of land filled with flowers, fruits, berries, and vegetables.  I shared many hours with him in this garden planting, watering, weeding, feeding, and harvesting.  The summer nights were warm and fireflies filled the garden with dancing lights, accompanied by cricket song and the murmur of neighbors.  We sat in steel lawn chairs near the garden and enjoyed the evening sounds and smells.  He smoked a big cigar and the mosquitoes saw fit to remain on the sidelines.

Grandpa told me tales of the farm and of his early years in Europe and Chicago.  Several items stuck with me.  I learned that gardens are filled with many ideas and seeming contradictions of color, smell, taste, and texture.  Gardens are places where ideas and experiences blend and find their common ground; full of blossoms and the fruits of summer sun, rain, warmth, and deep soil.  Grandpa was like his gardens.  He studied at the University of Chicago for a Ph.D. in Divinity, became a Baptist minister, and then quit that to become an insurance salesman.  Through all of these experiences, he grew dinner plate-sized dahlias and gave them to people he visited and at the church suppers attended through his life.  He loved people and did what was needed to help them, whether it be ministry or insurance; he remained true to his garden of ideas and actions.

Every year Grandpa began the garden season by cultivating a big load of composted horse manure from the Illinois country-side into the soil.  He knew the value of including waste into growth and was not afraid to make sweet-smelling flowers from barnyard manure.  He instinctively avoided using manufactured chemicals in his gardens.  Plants grew on abundant animal nutrients and a gardener's love, beyond the reach of disease and insects.  When I enjoy the flowers of summer, I remember how Grandpa found a place for conflicted ideas in his garden and inspiration from the people around him.  He showed me that growth and creativity of ideas and gardens came slowly from careful work with the elemental forces of wildness.  

Posted by michael

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Salmon Fry In Beaver Creek

Salmon fry are abundant in Beaver Creek waters now.  They are in backwaters, culverts, side channels, and the main channel.  Fish are many different sizes and are feeding and growing well.  If you walk up to water quietly and stand still, they will come to the surface and begin swimming and feeding.  You can see fish moving just beneath the surface by the ripples that appear on the water.  In the main channel, fish hold position, swimming against the current and capturing food as it comes by them.

Posted by michael

Monday, June 28, 2010

Moment on Beaver Creek

Rest a moment on Beaver Creek.  When your head is filled with thoughts and rushing to conclusions, let wildness be your guide.  Direct experience leads you to a state of natural grace, unencumbered by attachment and aversion.  The creek embodies all of the elemental forces that naturally arise when we open our eyes in the dawning day of activity.  Merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

Posted by michael

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bobcat Returns To The Garden

Bobcat returns to the garden.  Sitting on a rock, sniffing the warm evening air.  Walks through the clover, finds a bunny, and chases.  Jackie taps on the window and distracts bobcat.  Bunny escapes into the ferns for cover.  Bobcat looks and looks for bunny; then walks off past the house and the sunset.  Wildness captures our attention with its enveloping experience.

Posted by michael and jackie

Saturday, June 19, 2010

View From The Hill

Views from the hill in the Beaver Creek State Natural Area which is 1.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Beaver Creek drains into the ocean at Ona Beach State Park. You can walk trails and fields on the hill. Enter the hill in the natural area by turning onto Beaver Creek Rd. from U.S. Hwy. 101 at Ona Beach State Park. Drive 1 mile on Beaver Creek Rd. and then turn right onto South Beaver Creek Rd. and go south, crossing two bridges. After the second bridge, there is an entrance to the natural area on the left (east) side of the road. Park nearby and enjoy your walk!

Posted by michael

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Mirror Of The Mind

Consider the mirror.  A mirror is an object with at least one reflective surface.  While anything can appear in it, the mirror is not changed by appearing images.  If the reflective surface becomes clouded or distorted by impurity or wind, then the image changes.  Still the mirror is not changed by the image, the image is changed by the mirror.
Mind is a mirror.  In it we see thoughts, perceptions, and emotions that are reflections of the causes and conditions which surround us.  Strangely we have lost perspective and identify the thoughts and perceptions as us, the self.  I feel, see, or think this or that way.  Returning to the natural state, our gaze is shifted to the mirror of the mind and we see the reflective surface in which everything arises.  This surface is called awareness and is spacious enough to include whatever may appear.  Images, thoughts, and emotions appear from the reflective surface as luminous movements of awareness, which we do not cling to.  So in the natural state, we are awareness; open, spontaneous, and responsive.
How peaceful to be luminous space rather than a confused self composed of constantly changing thoughts, perceptions, and emotions.  Wildness reminds us of this natural state that has always been and is not created or destroyed by causes and conditions.   
Posted by michael

Monday, June 14, 2010

Upper Beaver Creek Marsh

Short 360 degree tour of upper Beaver Creek marsh on a sunny, windy June day.  The marsh is 1.5 miles east of the Oregon coast and is part of the State Parks Beaver Creek Natural Area.

Posted by michael

A Consistent Reminder Of Mystery

This delphinium has been with us for twenty years.  It flowers near the beginning of summer and is strong beyond its years.  The hummingbirds enjoy its nectar, the chipmunks enjoy its seeds, and we enjoy its size and history.  It reminds me of the many moons that have been experienced here on the hill above the marsh.  I cannot look at this flower enough and wonder at its persistence in the face of weather, animals, and time.  It is a true perennial that marks time in our flower clock.
The delphinium is like the sun, peering through the avenues of time, to reveal the nature of life in the mind.  The world around here is clearly apparent, yet not existent.  On a cloudy day look around and say that the sun is not shining.  This is the appearance of not shining.  Yet we can know through experience that the sun is shining above and beyond the clouds or the shadow of a planet, and does not cease to shine.  Context makes it that the sun is not shining and is shining at the same time; and we live in both worlds together.  All other appearances are understood in the same way.  Carefully we can untangle this web of deception called perception and begin to understand that seeing is not always believing.  “ I would not have seen it if I did not believe it.” 
I can trust that unchanging awareness is underlying all of these phantoms of perception and be relieved that the delphinium appears at the start of every summer.  The movement of awareness through time, space, and memory conjures perception.  Unchanging awareness is like space.  Everything rests inseparably on space and is permeated by space.  In the same way everything is dependent on awareness for its context.  Be unaware and you fall into a state of illusion, just like the sun on a cloudy day is not shining.  Wake up and you remain in a state that has always been, like the sun shining in space.  When a light is turned on in a room called your mind, the darkness of untold years is dispelled instantly.  What great mystery is this nature.

posted by michael  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Natural Beauty Experienced

Does your mind sound like an echo chamber?  Are there so many thoughts of this and that bouncing around looking for some choices.  We value freedom to make choices and don't even recognize that this freedom limits the potential for direct experience.  Here are some flowers for your enjoyment.  Natural beauty supports spacious thought without the filter of freedom choice.  Let that smile come across your face and feel the fresh breeze coming off the ocean, meandering through the marsh, and up over the hill in the bright morning sun.  Those other decisions and distractions can wait for you to breath deeply the gay colors of the kingdom of flowers.

In memory of Ruth, the gold miner's daughter on her burial day.
Posted by michael

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Calculating Personal Energy Use And Carbon Equivalents

In the previous post I gave an example of energy use calculations for our residence and car.  When energy is produced, transported, and used, CO2 is produced.  CO2 is an important greenhouse gas and recent research suggests that monitoring and controlling its production and release is necessary for good policy formation.  We can begin this process by calculating our personal production associated with residence and car.  
Using the numbers for annual energy that I gave before and CO2 equivalents for fuels, our annual production of CO2 can be calculated.  
400 gal propane      =  36.64 Mbtu  x 139.2 = 5,100 lbs
120 gal gasoline      =  13.80 Mbtu  x 156.4 = 2,158 lbs 
3 cord firewood        =  72.00 Mbtu  x 195.0 = 14,040 lbs
550 Kwh electricity   =    1.87 Mbtu              =  0 lbs
Total residential        =  124.31 Mbtu            = 21,298 lbs 

Car gasoline            =  55.20 Mbtu  x 156.4   = 8,633 lbs 
Waste disposal        =  (EPA calculation)      = 1,493 lbs 
Total annual household CO2 production for 2 people = 31,424 lbs 

(Assumed 1 Mbtu propane = 139.2 lbs CO2; 1 Mbtu gasoline = 156.4 lbs CO2;  1 Mbtu firewood = 195.0 lbs CO2; electricity was solar generated with no CO2 production).

The EPA calculates that average U.S. annual residence and car CO2 production for a household of 2 people is 41,500 lbs CO2.  So Jackie and I are at 75.7% of the average.  Assuming that less CO2 is better, we can begin to contemplate ways to reduce our “carbon footprint”.  As pointed out in the previous post, these calculations only include energy and carbon used and released by annual use of the house and car and do not include carbon released from production, transport, and marketing of food, clothes, shelter, appliances, education, and cars.  These latter items need to be accounted for by life cycle calculations that are beyond the scope of this post.
So have some fun and do your own calculations for energy use and carbon release.  
See here and here for examples.  
Posted by michael

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Calculating Personal Energy Use

Recent events in the Gulf of Mexico have reminded me that producing, transporting, and using energy has many obvious and hidden costs, including the potential for catastrophic environmental costs.  To make informed decisions about potential changes in energy use as individuals and as a nation, it is useful to begin by calculating energy uses.  If wildness and the ecological services that we receive are to be conserved, part of this effort requires a better understanding of energy uses.  
I have prepared an example using our home on Beaver Creek marsh.  We use propane for space and hot water heating, cooking, and refrigeration; gasoline for a backup generator; douglas fir for firewood; and solar electricity.   Energy comes in various forms and making comparisons requires having common units.  I have converted types of energy we use to Mbtu (million btu; British thermal units) for comparisons.  Jackie and I built and live in a house that has 1248 square feet of space.  In a year for the house, we use: 
400 gal propane      =  36.64 Mbtu
120 gal gasoline      =  13.80 Mbtu                                       
3 cord firewood        =  72.00 Mbtu
550 Kwh electricity   =    1.87 Mbtu 
Total residential        =  124.31 Mbtu
(Assumed that 1 gal propane = 0.0916 Mbtu; 1 gal gasoline = 0.1150 Mbtu; 1 cord fir wood = 24 Mbtu; and 1 Kwh electricity = 0.0034 Mbtu).
How do these numbers compare with average use?  In Oregon, total annual energy use per capita = 297 Mbtu.  This total is derived by adding up total energy used in the state and then dividing by the number of people.  The total includes residential (24.2%), transportation (31.3%), commercial (18.9%), and industrial (25.6%) sectors in the state.  So the average annual per capita residential use in Oregon is 71.87 Mbtu and for two people is 143.74 Mbtu.  Jackie and I use 124.31 Mbtu, or approximately 86.5% of the Oregon average.
This is a simplified picture of our residential energy use.  We have not included the energy required to produce and transport the propane, gasoline, firewood, and electricity that we use.  We could assume that those btu were included in the other sectors for per capita energy use.  But these fuels are not all produced in Oregon, so that assumption is not valid.  Dividing up energy use by state borders is an arbitrary comparison that does not match our purpose.  We need to expand our data base to include much more information that is beyond the scope of this post. 
We have not included the energy for building, furnishing, and maintaining the house and its appliances.  That energy derives from both economic and ecological sources and may be considered in more complex life cycle calculations.  Other personal life cycle energy uses include energy for producing, transporting, and marketing our food, clothes, entertainment, education, and car.  
How about fuel for personal transportation?  We have one car and use 480 gal gasoline per year, or 240 gal per capita.  The average per capita use of car gasoline in Oregon is 434 gal.  So we use 55.3% of the average.     
So Jackie and I use less energy in our residence and car than average.  We assume that less energy use is better for the world and may be able to reduce our uses without reducing quality of life.  To begin we can make an audit of our residential uses and potentially improve the efficiency of energy uses, i.e., get more out of each btu and use fewer btu.  We can begin to consider the life cycle energy for our food, clothing, entertainment, and transportation.  Too complicated?  It is no wonder that many people simply want to go into a room and turn on a light switch, saying “don’t bother me with these details”.  They usually forget to turn off the light when they leave the room.  “The lights are on but nobody is home”.
Posted by michael