On Dethroning King Coal

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately, having come from ground zero, about coal. It got us where we are today. It can’t carry us where we need to be tomorrow.

First, the practice of getting it that rapes landscapes and communities and endangers the health of living things must stop. Mountain Top Removal must not be allowed to be the source for the proposed 100 to more than 1000 new coal-fired sources of the “cheap” electricity to which we’ve become accustomed. Coal has never been cheap, it will never be clean. And turning it into liquid is NOT the answer.

We are the problem, and it’s getting harder and harder to claim ignorance. I want to give you and me one less excuse.

Kilowatt Ours. Read about the movie and the cause that motivated it and the personal and community actions that can come from it. Make a donation and get the DVD. Or find it being shown locally in your area. See below for one such showing near Floyd.

NOV 13, ROANOKE, VA. Greene United Memorial Methodist Church. 11am — 1:00pm

Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) and other forms of surface mining only provide an average of 4-5% of  the  nation’s  coal energy. With energy conservation alone, we could save an average of 20% of our current energy demands. from Mountain Justice Summer Newsletter (pdf)

Ghost Plant


When I was teaching and in “the field” at just the right place and time with students, we’d come upon this odd “thing”, usually in deep woods and in the dark damp shade of Rhododendron.

“So. Animal, vegetable or mineral?”

Most would soon say it is a plant because it didn’t run away. It seemed rooted. But something wasn’t quite right about it as a plant.

“So what’s not right?” I’d ask them, and finally, one will say “It’s not GREEN?”

Well how can a plant be NOT green? Is the green of plants just a matter of color décor or does it have a particular function? Then how might this plant solve that same problem without being green?

Ghost Plant (or Indian Pipe) here lacks chlorophyll, hence its pale leafery. It can’t carry on photosynthesis without that green pigment molecule that converts photons of light into high energy electrons and ultimately to hydrocarbons–sugars, starches and fats.

It is a parasite. Its roots find the roots of green plants and take up the manufactured foods from that host tree and uses it for its own growth.

We found this little bunch on our regular loop after having walked past that very spot every day for a week. It had been there all along, but this ghost til then had been invisible.

Apple Ridge Farm, Copper Hill

Tomorrow I’ll be attending the “Dedication Day” event at Apple Ridge Farm in nearby Copper Hill. I’ve been there twice to hear concerts on the performing stage and once to gather for the horse-logging demonstration a few months back.

But as far as knowing fully how the facility came to be and what it’s larger mission is, I know only what I learn from the Apple Ridge webpage.

Our mission is to provide outdoor experiences and academic programs for inner city and at-risk youth. More than 300 young people participate each summer in one- or two-week camping periods, at no cost to the children.

The facilities, already very well kept and seemingly adequate, have recently gained some additions: a natural science center, swimming pool, fireplace, observation deck, multipurpose field and dark sky observatory–and it is these new additions that will be the focus of this special event on Saturday.

Of course I am particularly drawn to learn more about their outdoor education programs. It seems a shame to live so close to such a resource and know so little about it. So I think I’ll go tomorrow–and carry my camera, of course–and learn something.

Nature: In The Hands of Our Children

Nature: In The Hands of Our Children

Suffice it to say things will be different around here with Abby gone back to South Dakota where, as she lamented yesterday, “the only thing I can chase is grasshoppers!”

Most of yesterday she spent in the creek with an assortment of sophisticated outdoor toys, batteries not included: a red and a green one gallon pail, a couple of empty sour cream containers, and a small aquarium dip net. The object of her rapt attention: minnows and crawfish–catch and release; and catch again, and release again. Exceptions: the one crawfish that leaped prematurely to freedom, and the two small fish that died apparently from the sheer stress of multiple bucket scoops.

I’ll have more pictures, but thought by way of this quickly cobbled collage I’d be able to show you how our days were spent this week, to recall what this child’s hands have been doing while visiting Goose Creek.

Yes, things are going to be mighty quiet and settled around here now. And the fish breathe a watery sigh of relief!

Beauty, Truth. Truth, Beauty | Part Three


Closer. Closer. Closest.Parts one, two and three bring us to the truth, you might say, of this vagabond beauty, wild Forget-Me-Not discovered along Nameless Creek this week.And I will confess, until now I had missed the lesson, knowing only this plant family, with its uncoiling blossoms, pleased me. The AHA! comes from slowing down enough to see the pattern: the grand design in the apparent chaos of rampant growth. This plant displays the Golden Mean, Beauty manifesting Truth.

There is so much to say in this, more than I can find words for before first light on a busy day. But in the end, the lesson from this small flower and a thousand thousand other tiny teachers will be something like this: we need to move from anesthetic knowledge back toward aesthetic wisdom. Truth is more to be found in Beauty than in Efficiency, more needed to save our world than Power or the Knowledge of least things.

Make a point of finding one thing beautiful today.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” ~ John Keats

“Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; Our meddling intellect misshapes the beauteous forms of things: We murder to dissect.” ~ William Wordsworth

“God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please, you can never have both.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson