Finding calm and peace in this world, a challenge, a frustrating challenge.

But outside that door or window, nature. This can take many forms and does not have to be as extreme as mountains, deserts, or jungles. I believe what is essential for our well-being is to seek a balance between ourselves and the world around, and this is accomplished when the energy within interacts with nature, encompassing the same building blocks of life and particles as us. When you take a deep breath, the air composed of the same materials will replenish within us what has been lost or damaged. We are truly made of the stars and they, nature, can sustain and nourish us.

It can be wetland grasses covered with snow.

Or the sun shining through trees.

Or a frozen berry clinging to a tree.

As the wind blows across sand, rocks, and driftwood I marvel at the change within me that I am aware of.

Time has not softened the being, but strengthened through experiences and exposure to a world so scary as a child.

Reaching out beyond the close-knit sphere I sought to understand the blood and tears of others.

Reaching within I sought to understand myself and my place in the world.

What was my purpose here?

A struggle developed to find a balance as fragments continued to stack higher and higher.

The mind seeks continuous interactions, energy, connections to keep the fire burning, but this fire will burn if not controlled, if not kept within a moral framework.

How then to make a difference, to find balance, to not proposer at the expense of others? Through time and experience I had to learn empathy and respect. The silence we hear through chaos and the peace we feel through balance, teaches empathy and respect as the world you see circles around and in the middle a portal opens revealing the threads connecting us to everything and everyone.

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I tend to be a private person when it comes to political, economic, and social issues, but the state of the world now is too much to keep inside, to keep from spilling like blood into sands. As a person and part of humanity, with a connection to each living being, I feel sadness and loss when tragedy befalls innocent people. Regardless of a state of war, what sense, what purpose is there to take the lives of women, children, and men as passengers on a plane? What purpose is there to take the life of four children playing on a beach?

These wars have been raging for thousands and thousands of years, and peace or a truce are nowhere to be seen. No matter the cost, the lives lost, any misguided direction, any god complex, wars continue to roll through communities, cities, countries, and take on a life of their own. The war takes over the people and grows its own purpose and this monster has no care, has no feelings or empathy for those that get in the way. In many ways it becomes the sum of each person involved in starting the machine and we lose any chance of controlling or stopping what we have created, what is essentially an extension of our self.

Wars… a battle for power, ideology, resources, respect, and survival. If the causes are addressed before they become a battle cry, can we prevent the war? At the end of day, what do we really want? Safety, food, water, opportunities for us and children, and respect. I believe something. You believe something. As long as it does not interfere with the basic needs of others, has a moral framework, I have no issues and have respect for your beliefs. Wars over religious beliefs, and those demeaning to others, make no sense. If your deity is loving and caring, died for you, do you really think it makes sense to kill over an interpretation of words, arbitrary boundaries, or the thought “my belief is better than yours”? That seems to fly in the face of what you think you are fighting for. Either communities need step up or governments need to step down to find a balance between the people’s basic needs and the government providing a framework for those needs.

Retaliation to an act causes a reaction to the retaliation, and each response escalates. It only ends when nothing is left and neither side “wins”. We will throw out words of peace, balance, and truce. But that will not come about until we understand the people’s needs, the root cause, and sometimes have to swallow pride in the short-term to find a solution for the long-term, to find stability, to find a balance between people, communities, and governments.

There will always be those who want more, how are not satisfied, and will take from others. If the community as a whole is in peace and working together, we can deal we these situations before they become a local and then global war.

There will be no children left to pick up the pieces of a shattered world and move forward, to rebuild, to come together.

Poem – The War-Child’s Innocence

Standing among the ruins.
He looks out over to the west, as the sun sets upon the land
And the smoke billows from the ruins.
Many thoughts at once run through his mind and collide.

He stands alone, afraid to look.
Afraid to ask.
In his arms, he holds all that is left of his life.
The life sniffs the air and hides his eyes under his paws.
He knows what has happened as he howls at the blood red, war torn sky.

A tear falls from both of their eyes.

Clouds part and the setting sun burns the last rays into my eyes before disappearing behind the trees.  Such balance as each of these systems, including my just sitting here, has a role.

Finally the path I am on makes sense.  Pieces from everywhere scattered to the wind are falling into place, and for the first time in this life, I feel at peace, and have reached a balance.  The eternal struggle between what is within and what is without in a holding pattern, and I am in control of my actions and my presence here, in this space.

Now, what can I do?

Everything has roots.  Roots consist of physical reaches into the depths of soil and earth, or emotional connections to places we grew up, or that provided experience and a foundation for the people we are now.  Everything, no matter their size, belief, state of being, needs stability and a grounding.  There is so much more we have in common with everything else beyond basic needs.  We all consist of the same elements, the sub-atomic particles coalescing into lifeforms and beings.  We all struggle to get from day to day.  We all see birth and death.

So why do we fight apart, and not together, when we have more in common then differences?

Sky Into the Sea
Sky Into the Sea

This is an essay from the Huffington Post by Taylor Brorby, titled “The Conversation We Are Not Having“, that I am including in it’s entirety. I normally keep this blog focused on writing and nature, and this fits within nature and the environment.

It is about the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and what we do not know, what we do not see.  Putting aside any political debate and views, this is about responsibility, the environment, conservation, and a healthy planet and future.

There is an awesome quote here that really gets the message home simply:

The noted geologist Stephen Jay Gould said, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well — for we will not fight to save what we do not love.

How do we teach ourselves and children the importance of a bond and connection with the natural world? How do we emerge from a sheltered, technically distant world, and respect the tree, the river, the butterfly, and mother earth? I’m not saying there is no need for this resource, but we need better environmental management, understanding, and awareness of the impact on life, all life.

Few people are drawn to North Dakota — cold, uninviting, and xenophobic, many people believe there is little to love in the Peace Garden State.

Residents of North Dakota can be indignant when it comes to other viewpoints or attitudes, going so far as to take pride in the cold weather, saying it keeps the riffraff out.

North Dakota, then, seems to be the ideal place to host an oil boom. Populated with stoic Norwegians and Germans from Russia, North Dakotans, as a rule, do not discuss exciting topics such as politics and religion. In a recent survey, when the word “conserve” or “conservation” was used, 70 percent of North Dakotans agreed with the statement; when the word “environmental” was used, only 5 percent of North Dakotans agreed with the statement. In North Dakota, like everywhere else, our use of words matters, so let me describe the conversation those of us from North Dakota and we, as a nation, are not having.

The oil boom in the Bakken formation of North Dakota is ruining the environmental vitality of the state.

But no one cares about North Dakota; after all, it is the least visited state. It is a place ripe for an oil rush.

North Dakota has done a shoddy job regulating the oil industry, allowing flames to flicker and fly, flaring off 29-30 percent of natural gas. Given the current market, oil is 23 times as valuable as natural gas, but we know natural gas is a cleaner, more efficient energy source than oil. North Dakota might consider lobbying to eliminate flaring.

Last month North Dakota experienced the nation’s largest inland oil spill near Tioga. Over 20,600 barrels — or more than 865,000 gallons — of oil oozed onto Steve Jensen’s farm. Jensen discovered the leak on September 29. The state took over 11 days to tell the public about the oil spill, and governor Jack Dalrymple was supposedly notified on October 9, one day before the public.

Pipeline leaks are not the only mishaps in the state. All but around 50,000 of the 1.1 million acres of the National Grasslands in North Dakota, roughly 95 percent, is now leased for oil development. That’s nearly one-third of our entire National Grasslands at risk. The Little Missouri State Park is also open for oil development, begging the question: What’s safe from oil development in North Dakota?

In my travels around the western half of North Dakota last month I smelled both sulfur and propane in wheat fields, making my breathing difficult. Flares lit my path down Highways 85 and 2 through the night, making me feel as if I were baking in an oven. The evening sunset reflected pink and blazing orange, highlighting the increasing toxicity of the air.

I’m waiting for new medical studies to release information about exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the Bakken region. I’m waiting for reports of increased toxicity of water in the Missouri River channel. I’m waiting for reports of diminished plant and animal life. But I worry that those reports will be too late.

The noted geologist Stephen Jay Gould said, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well — for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”

So far we in North Dakota, and we as a nation, have voted to love the bottom line rather than draw the line and say enough. We have allowed corporations to remain simple, allowing the destruction of vital ecosystems and environments — including the environments of our own thinking. We have lapsed into thinking that we should have a life of abundance, rather than an abundance of life.

It is time for North Dakota, and the nation, to reexamine what it loves and protect what is desperately necessary to life on this planet — clean water, air, and rich ecosystems. We may soon realize that the biggest inconvenient truth of our energy independence is that we have bypassed the moment to practice self restraint.

Image courtesy of:
Image courtesy of:

Since getting back from Alaska, I have been out of touch with this blog, friends blogs, and generally anything outside of a close sphere of personal projects and work.  And writing anything has been a challenge.  It seems my mind has become a blank slate, and the pieces I was working on, are drifting elsewhere.

One thing we have been working on quite a bit is Stone Path Review.  From a business perspective, it is published by our non-profit, 418 Publishing, Inc.  We are constantly looking for new artists, established artists, other literary and artistic journals to collaborate with.  And now, we are in the process of publishing our first book, a chapbook of poetry.  This fits in perfectly with our vision and dedication to the arts, and the artistic community.

Another side project that has consumed much time the past month is a wildlife retreat that we are building, and coming along nicely.  The physical aspects should be complete within a month, and then we can start trail building and prairie grass restoration.  The more time I spend at the retreat, the more I write, so I am eagerly awaiting more quality time with nature.  I feel like I have gotten a bit lost lately, perhaps disconnected.

Before the sun winks, I am on my way to start another day and wondered, is this what summer smells like?  The air is damp and thick with moisture that has encased fragrant flowers.

The trip to Alaska is coming up quickly now.  I find myself in the same predicament as the trip to Mt Rainier, knowing I need to train more, but not.  Writing, or an hour on the treadmill?  Now that is a dilemma!   Writing has been winning lately, as the Story of Joline has taken a few twists and turns, and what started as introductory prose to the poems, is fast becoming chapters of a longer story, pieced together by individual days.  I know better than to wait and push it aside.  I will forget the words if not written now.

I guess getting older is about priorities, and within those priorities, balance.  To some degree, getting a dog, forced the issue, much to my chagrin.  While at first glance, having another responsibility, seemed counter-productive, and would get in the way.  As time progressed, I find it has flipped, and I am more delicate with how I spend my evenings, and often I am plugged into music, keyboard at hand, puppy asleep or eating dinner.  Again.

This weekend is a poetry conference at the Loft Literary Center.  I am fortunate to be in the same city, and have spent much time there writing, attending events, classes, and drinking my fair share of coffee.  I have chosen breakout sessions focusing on writing about historical events, publishing, and building community.  Featured artists are Mark Doty and Tracy K. Smith, who was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.  Those artists in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota are fortunate souls.  If you are attending the conference this weekend, I will be the one that looks like me.

In closing, write because that is what you are and to deny that is to close part of your essence, a part of you that is engrained, that is a gift given to you.  The treadmill is not going anywhere on its own.