She-Wolf: Transitioning to the New Year of 2012

Tulips in Bloom, Chicago

Right now I’m caught up in series of novels titled Game of Thrones, and the HBO series based on the novels.  Creatures called dire wolves–from the Ice Age and now extinct–are central to one of many over-lapping  story-lines, with dire wolves in symbiotic relationship with young royals. 2011 transitioned so quickly cart-wheeling into 2012, and I am embracing my she-wolf. I don’t bite but am running hard and fast down two different paths: the environment and health. Like the story-lines in Game of Thrones, the two paths have and continue to overlap. I’m including some of my favorite photos from 2011 some with and without rhyme and reason in relationship to the text. Put simply, these photos like so many I took last year simply touched me.

The first path is environmental. I continued my life’s work, a ministry to people and the earth, sharing the gospel of African Americans and the environment. Back in 2010, I published Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Continuing into 2011, non-profit organizations invited me to do speaking engagements, some of the content based in part on the book:

At Barnes & Noble with a Little Fan

I also did a radio interview with Groovin 1580 FM and a book-signing with the Wildlife Federation at Georgia Tech. In 2012, I will continue to share an environmental gospel, speaking at the Tuskegee Institute Historic Site in Alabama and Getty College in Pennsylvania.

From Fall 2010 to Summer 2011 when I  continued my environmental opus, I was in an intensive Clinical Pastoral Education Program training for chaplaincy. I managed to complete the program, while still blogging.

Interestingly, the Rooted in the Earth WordPress Annual Report differs from my favorite blogs “penned” during part of the program. The highest ranking blog going back to 2010 was (drum roll please) Predators: Survival of the Fittest in a Busted Paradise. Perhaps not so surprising since my blogs on film and television ranked higher than some of the historical blogs. People like popular culture. Well, so do I.

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2007 (ok, not 2011!)

I also love history and my personal favorites included Kentucky, African Americans, and the Environment, Harriet Tubman Working Nature, Barack Obama: An Alternate Environmental History, and 2011 MLK Day: Remembering Martin Luther King, the Environmentalist. Hey, I’m a historian. What can I say. I’m back on the steep happy hill–that’s the she-wolf in me on the move–blogging again in 2012 with a call for blogs for a State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival.

So what’s that second path as I continue loping on winding path?  Back in 2010, I never imagined that graduating with an M.Div. in “Faith, Health and Science” at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University would be life changing concerning my health. Over the last year I lost 17 pounds and hope to lose about 20 more. No rush. One pound at a time. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers . . . make it happen like Mariah belts out in the recent Jenny Craig commercial.

I continue being heart healthy with nutrition and exercise. I serve as a pastor at Crafton United Methodist Church and some of the members have followed my example joining Weight Watchers. Others have been serving healthy options like veggies at Coffee Hour after church. And yes, I found time to blog about spirituality and religion at BeingEphesus.com.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

I am grateful to everyone in my personal life who patiently listened to my stories about being on paths of the environment and health. In addition, so many colleagues invited me into their institutions trusting me to share one vision of  an African American environmentalism. I did not take that trust for granted because many of the people in the audience were college students. I honored to continue working with young people, my favorite “demographic.”

Now I stand among many talented and committed in an environmental family with shared interests in diversity. One kind and generous person in stood out in 2011: Na’Taki Osborne Jelks. I knew Na’Taki for years going back to 2005 when I went on a hike with Keeping It Wild in Georgia. It wasn’t until she organized several events for me that I got to know her better. I am grateful for Na’Taki and so many others devoted to the cause.

I invite you to continue with me embracing your inner-she-wolf (or whatever creature works for you) on paths to protecting the planet and good health, with a dash of science. Thank you for coming along with me.

Photos by Dianne Glave

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To Fear or Not to Fear Nature?

My family got me outdoors starting as a child. My father took my brother and me to the beach. We also went as a family for a week at a time to wooded Upstate New York. My mother also sent me to her parent’s farm in Jamaica in the Caribbean.

So I was surprised–though I should not have been–when talking with a staff member at Olmsted Manor Retreat in rural western Pennsylvania.

I told her I’d just returned from having lunch alone at Wildcat Park, not far from the retreat. She asked if I wasn’t afraid. I responded no and shared some of my background including my parent’s influence on me. The staff member went on to tell me that people often stop short at the entrance of a trail just at the edge of the forest, a few steps from the retreat. And that those people who falter, stopping before going under the canopy of the trees, were often from metropolitan areas.

When it comes to being afraid of nature, I realized after the conversation that I have experienced fear too. There was a moment this week where I understood fear. A bat got into my room in the dark of night. When I awoke hearing the flapping wings, I knew it was a bat. I scrambled out of the room and slammed the door on my fear. Fortunately, the bat flew out of my room, under the door, and into the hallway. I was grateful I didn’t have to herd the bat out of the room.

There’s no shame in being afraid of nature. What’s important is how we respond to that fear. Do we let it stop us? Or do we push up against the fear so we don’t miss out on the benefits of nature: fresh air, open spaces, leisure, and contemplation.

Olmsted Manor PA: Retreat Retreat Retreat!

Everyone should think about going to a retreat with access to multiple green spaces. I did just that at the Olmstead Manor Retreat. A few photos reflect the spaces I entered into:

The moments were spiritually refreshing.

Photos by Dianne Glave

South Georgia: A Dashboard Picturelogue

I headed down to Tallahassee last weekend. To get back to Atlanta I drove through South Georgia. I think this was my first drive through the pine nurseries and stands, pecan groves, and cotton fields in the region. I snapped a few photos during a drive that took about five hours but turned into seven hours because I was fascinated by every little thing I saw on the road:

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I saw–smelled it too–prescribed or controlled burning of the pine on the road. The burn reduces the fuel to limit larger uncontrollable fires. The pine is fire resistant but can still burn. Yes, this stuff is delicate and is best left up to the professionals.

Later, I picked up a sack of pecans in the shell at Ellis Brothers. I shared some with co-workers and am still enjoying cracking a few open every day. There’s something powerful about eating food in the form closest  to the the earth, in this case from the branch to the limb to the tree to the trunk to the earth.

The trip is over but the pecans keep giving.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Being Black & Green: SoGreen Network Summit at Florida A&M

I was so touched to see so many gathering together on sustainability, and being black and green in Tallahassee, Florida. On February 18-19, 2011, the Southeastern Green Network (SoGreen) with Florida A & M University (FAMU) organized and met for the “Embracing Our Tradition of Partnership” Summit. Together we focused on “climate change, alternative fuel sources, sustainable agriculture, and the role our farmers and landowners play in becoming partners that will work toward changing our regional environment.” (http://www.sogreennetwork.org/guyc/)

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Some of the participants included:

  • Shirley Sherrod, the keynote speaker
  • Mayor John Marks, City of Tallahassee
  • Representative Alan Williams, Florida State Representative District 8

I was honored and privileged to share the stage with Dr. Owusu Bandele from Southern University. His talk was “Our Deep Roots in Agriculture: The Role of the 1890 Land Grant Institutions,” filled with the history of African Americans and the land with references to Paul Cuffee and George Washington Carver. He even wove in musical references to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth.” He was a tough act to follow but I did my best sharing on “Being Green in the African Diaspora” emphasizing blood diamonds in Sierra Leone.

Many thanks to the organizers including Cynthia Hayes (SoGreen), Kwasi Densu (FAMU), and Lynn Pinder.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Zora Neale Hurston and Floods: To Those in Brazil, Australia, and Sri Lanka

Zora Neale Hurston

I have been thinking of the people in Brazil, Australia, and Sri Lanka who have been suffering because of the floods. African American Zora Neale Hurston’s best known and most compelling novel Their Eyes Were Watching God focuses on the grief surrounding a watery natural disaster.

It’s the fictional love story of Janie and Tea Cake set against the backdrop of southern Florida during the early twentieth century. Hurston describes the aftermath of the flood of the1928  Okeechobee Hurricane:

Janie buried Tea Cake in Palm Beach. She knew he loved the ‘Glades but it was too low for him to lie with water maybe washing over him with every heavy rain. Anyway, the ‘Glades and its waters had killed him. She wanted him out of the the way of storms, so she had a strong vault built in the cemetery at West Palm Beach . . . No expensive veils and robes for Janie this time. She went (to the funeral) in her overalls. She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief. (Zorah Neale Hurston, Novels and Stories, 330)

Remembering tragedies past and present. Remembering my sisters and brothers around the world who are suffering.

 

Cab Ride II: Haitian Muses About Post-Katrina in New Orleans

New Orleans. Charles, my Haitian cab driver, escaped Katrina, and quickly came back to work in the city. Quite the irony but more on that later.

I told him I’d returned about the same time seeing few women but plenty of male contractors and military. I shared with him that I was afraid seeing so few women around and smelling death.

Haiti. He told his story in a more matter-a-fact way. Charles escaped Haiti many years before the recent earthquake and cholera outbreak on the island.

New Orleans. He returned to transformed a limping distressed Crescent City two months after the hurricane and the flood waters had receded. He told me he got good pay but faced a housing shortage. A friend of a friend got him an hotel room.

Haiti. When I asked him more about Haiti. A fraught weighted silence filled the car signifying that his life had surely been troubled in Haiti, perhaps more so than his experiences in New Orleans before, during and after Katrina. As many have said to me, “Katrina was a bad girl.” Based on Charles’ heavy silence,the troubles in Haiti seemed a wicked step-sister in comparison

The irony: Charles escaped tragedy in Haiti but found another sort in New Orleans. He seemed happy though, grateful to be working and alive in New Orleans.

Cab Ride I: “The Birds,” Said an African American Man in Atlanta

“There’s something very wrong?” he said looking up at the overcast sky standing between my house and his cab. As I locked my door, I turned my head  to look at him knowing more was coming.

A young African American man in his early twenties sat in the driver’s seat. He turned over the engine and rap poured out a single speaker wedged between the two seats pointed at me. Jay-Z was spitting rhymes. Sounds of 21st century angst and protest filled the cab.

He said again, “Something is wrong.” He added, “There are no birds in the sky. I’m stuck in this cab all day so I only hear bits and pieces of the news.”

I almost said turn on NPR but that would have destroyed the mood edging on protest, real fear in the cab.

I told him a winter storm was coming, which might explain a bird-less sky.

He protested saying, “No, no. There have been birds dropping dead from the sky all over the world.”

I’d said I’d heard one story in the news. It was beginning to feel like an M. Night Shaymalan movie.

We went back and forth sharing two theories as Weezy rapped in the background. I had to speak up because he’d cranked up the music, I think, reflecting a strumming anxiety. Theory 1: fireworks. Theory 2: a storm swept the birds up.

He said, “You know animals are the first to respond to environmental problems.”

I agreed adding that for decades creatures like frogs with delicate skin have long been a barometer of toxic environments. When they disappear, die, because of pollution, it indicates a damaging climate and environmental havoc.

More than fifteen years ago when I began my work in environmentalism this conversation with a young African American man about the modern environment would have been a piece of fiction. Now it is non-fiction and I’m living it. And the people of color expressing concern is ever-increasing exponentially.

Photo by Dianne Glave

127 Hours: The Movie

We are soft sitting in front of computers and flat screen televisions. Yet the idea of rugged individualism remains with us. Americans pushed the frontier. Pioneers moved forward on the frontier after landing in the East at the edge of the Atlantic with settlements like Jamestown during the 17th Century. Americans kept going, moving, crossing the Mississippi River until reaching the wall, California and the Pacific Ocean.

What does this have to do with 127 Hours? Hold on. The movie recounts the harrowing and true story of Aaron Ralston, lover of the great outdoors. As he rushes out the door leaving behind a message from his mother, civilization, he hurdles towards the frontier.

Aaron drives his car  in the middle of the night headed to Utah. He arrives at a dry barren startling vista barreling off on his bike for some time spent bouldering, the cousin or variation of rock climbing.

He’s alone, he’s the rugged individual who would have been comfortable in the world described in Frederick Jackson Turner’s in “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”(1893). Ralston is much like a mythologized figure described by Jackson: “Daniel Boone, the great backwoodsman, who combined the occupations of hunter, trader, cattle-raiser, farmer, and surveyor-learning, probably from the traders, of the fertility of the lands of the upper Yadkin, where the traders were wont to rest as they took their way to the Indians, left his Pennsylvania home with his father, and passed down the Great Valley road to that stream.” (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/TURNER/)

Being a rugged individual comes at a high cost. Most went to the movie aware of the harrowing dénouement: Aaron’s arm gets caught between boulders and after a grueling 127 hours, he amputates that arm himself.

During the 1990s, I went hiking alone all the time. I’m no rugged individual but I do love having church by myself under the trees. No talking. No distractions from someone moving along beside or behind me. Alone. I gave it up because my mother and brother asked me to. Sigh. I go to a local state park alone of late. Many people are on the more active trail. And I let someone know I’m out there. I also keep my phone with the number of the park ranger. And I don’t forget my red whistle.

See the film for the love the outdoors, beautiful vistas, and the morality tale of checking in before hiking or bouldering. The latter is a critical point.