ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Mayday blessings to all! This is the time when we overtly weave together our combined threads (our hopes, dreams and lives) to create whole cloth. All of us together represent a fabric of associations, each made stronger by the many threads that we know as work, family, community, avocation, parish, etc. This is festival time, celebration of balance and union between the sexes. Our Spring Rite is our emulation of what is going on in the world around us. The pollinators are busy, the rabbits are breeding, all life is joining the chorus and swell of exponentially greater acceleration of life itself. By weaving our dreams into one cohesive fabric, aligned and in synch with others, tying together a diverse set of knowledge, skills and attitudes,  we magnify our effectiveness in creation of ways of life that really matter.

One of my dreams is to teach using the Montessori method. I have a relationship with Maria Montessori. I have read precious little about what others think about her, but I have read her words. I did much the same reading the Bible. My thoughtful great grandfather handed down a red-letter edition. I would read the lines attributed to Christ and perhaps a few stanzas before of after for context. What I learned from getting to know him that way, enlightened me about the supreme resonance and realization that he and I are both children of Goddess, as well as God.

I could never understand the people who read the whole Bible and didn't realize that virtually nothing of the man, Jesus, is represented by any of the various flavors of X-tianity. Alas, there is plenty of distracting discussion about wee differences between many beliefs, not just in X-tian circles but among Mormons, Jews, Muslims, and others. My contention is that we all know the score, I expect we have all been paying attention, but I forget that most people have not spent thirty plus years actively educating themselves about the Great Lakes Region, fossil fuel use, nuclear issues, toxic chemical exposure, riparian ecosystems, forestry, herbal and allopathic medicine and natural history. Perhaps none of these could be completely understood , but the underlying truths in all of them point to the same question. Will we rip and tear our way through the entire planet or not. Will we choose to reclaim the planet or wreak havoc upon it. The current power structure dictates to us that breathing polluted air, as long as someone else is making a profit by it, is our obligation to economic interests. I do not accept that premise.

The tools that Maria Montessori expounded upon are available to all, if one stays true to her methods. One could contend that Jesus of Nazareth, as he was called in this, most recent version of the story was a representation of the best that resides within all of us. Few would disagree that being more "Christlike" would be good for everyone. So too Maria's ideas need to thrive and be replicated amongst the crew of Starship Earth. We are learning organisms and we know no other way. Enigmatically, we run rackets on ourselves routinely justifying mal-adaptive behaviors, neuroses and phobias, spinning our wheels mentally and emotionally, sometimes for our entire lives.Sharing the living traditions of breaking bread with loved friends, being able to reflect agape love for them, as well as ourselves, this is the ultimate ECO-Tour. Transformation of how we see ourselves fitting in to a larger whole is essential if we are to be the change we wish to see in the world. Find a Maypole near you and dance that baby like there is no tomorrow!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earthday Blessings

A hearty thank-you to all of our readers, donors, ecotourists, guests and friends! Without the thousands of volunteer hours, the helping hands and the donations that we have received, none of the valuable work that has been done would or could have been done. This Earthday marks the twenty-ninth year since I began to pursue the idea of planting trees as a way of life. Throughout childhood, adults had modeled certain behaviors that set the stage for me to become a worker bee, part of a larger community and selfless givers of time and talent, but they could not know what their efforts would lead to when combined with my own unique passions and dreams.

ECO-Tours has allowed me to formalize my tree planting and share it with hundreds of other participants, develop methods and techniques that have exponentially increased the effectiveness of our planting efforts and created oases in places where there had been no relief or protection from harsh wind, blowing snow and unrelenting summer sun. Some of the first places we planted now have trees that dwarf the homes near where they were planted. It is always surprising to visit areas that we have planted and see the remarkable change that has occurred there. Far too often I hear stories of people who say that their favorite stream as a child has become a muddy ditch, harboring alternately foetid muck and blowing over its banks when Spring floods or a heavy summer rain shower pass by.

Turning the tables on ecological insensitivity and destruction requires tenacity, commitment and an understanding that above each and every one of our homes, offices, schools and shopping centers lies the headwaters of local streams. The "flashiness" of local streams that result from creating more and more impermeable surface is at the heart of ecological imbalance. Water, more than any other factor, needs to be considered when we seek to heal the planet. The more accepting and understanding of water we become, the better able to manage it we will become. Like a dam-builder seeing water as potential energy, or the flood victim seeing it as a scourge, we often have little choice about how we relate to water once we have accepted a certain relationship with it.

The blessing we are all given is to be able to make up our own minds about the world around us. Endless hours of blather are put out into the very public, political discussion of issues.  Much of what passes as "news" is designed to confuse issues, prop up straw dogs or lead us down a primrose lined path to our own destruction. Understanding that there is a problem is the first step toward recovery.

At ECO-Tours, we often speak about the fact that history has gotten things wrong. The tail wagging the dog is the unrelenting series of names and dates of Kings and Queens, battles and wars. This is like saying that saltwater, made with a swimming pool and a single grain of salt is salt. The vast human experience that is our history is more about individual experience in the face of their time. The millions killed as "casualties" in war all had people who cared about them. Children, mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, wives and lovers whose lives, though usually undocumented, bore very real consequences of this battle or that. Who the generals were is of little consequence, nor is the date of the carnage. Similarly, thinking of Earthday as a day in isolation, or set-aside for the healing of the world around us is like taking a general or battle out of context. We are blessed by an unbroken chain of significant events that has led us to where we are and if we want to change our direction it will require planting a lot more trees, walking more than we drive, sharing what we have with one another and aknowledging that cleaning up litter once a year will not stem the flow of toxic compounds that are daily injected into our atmosphere and watersheds across the planet.

We are all blessed with heart, enough to feel the anguish of the planet if we allow ourselves to. We are all blessed with awareness and a mind to interpret what we see, hear or feel. We are all blessed with a body which we can utilize to create change in the world around us. We are all blessed with the opportunity to make very real differences in the lives of others. How we go about making our way in the world is a far more important part of history than might ever be acknowledged, but should that mean that we do not try, or stop living according to principles of honor and respect for the planet? ECO-Tours has always stood for everyone's right to clean air, clean water and healthy soil. We have always known that these things lead to healthy bodies, healthy relationships and a deep sense of inner peace. May you find the time to experience the bliss of knowing that you are part of a solution!

Monday, April 15, 2013


Naniboujou, the spirit who lives in relation to the forest, the sky, glade, glen and vast prairie, the realm of all of our animal brothers and sisters. I have read that Cree and Anishinabe storytellers regaled their audiences with Why Deer Fly a Flag as They Run, How Woodpecker Got Splotched Red, Why Beaver's Tail is flat, as well as, Why Geese Fly in "V"s and this trickster figures into all of them. Although, he is a sometimes vengeful and capricious trickster, he is bearer of great many gifts for humans, even though it can frequently be by mistake or accident. He taught humans about medicine and agriculture, but frequently through hard won lessons. To think of him as benevolent, is dangerous folly however, honoring and respecting his many disguises is essential.

This fellow is first of four brothers. Chipiapoos, lost to the Great Water, considered to be lord of the dead and forever returning to the depths of Lake Michigan. Wabasbo and Chakekenapok, whose very birth seems to have killed his mother. Naniboujou eventually takes revenge for his mothers death out upon his youngest brother, ripping him asunder, leaving behind flint for humans and his entrails are forever among us as vines.

There can be nothing wasted or overlooked within the watershed of the Great Lakes. Among freshwater systems, the Great Lakes are unique in that most of the water that comes into them is from rain or snow, not tributaries. Except for oceans, most lakes have large drainage basins and relatively small surface area. The Great Lakes are approximately 25% of the total drainage basin that feeds them. In other words, if you sprinkled a single gallon (3.78 liters) of water evenly across the watershed, one quart (.95 liters) would go directly into one of the five Great Lakes.

Just as Naniboujou has had to have relations with Father Sky, Grandmother Moon, the sacred waters and Mother Earth, so too must we. The trickster is as alive today as he has ever been and lives within and among us. Honoring and respecting the presence of this great teacher and healer can be the beginning of an old myth that can serve us well today. Keeping alive the memory of the great circle of life is our responsibility. Our stories will reveal eternal truths but only if we continue to utter them.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Innovative Fiction

I have explored the idea of cognitive dissonance, the ability of humans to hold two diametrically opposed views simultaneously. I have written about the concept of epistemic closure, the truncating of our imaginations that leads to inability to integrate new data because of our preconceived ideas. The tours we take readers and guests on often point out the need for new folk tales and fresh creation myths, that create a new landscape in our world view.  I have even written at length about the various ego defense mechanisms that jump to defend our sensitive and naive nature, every bit as impenetrable as an armadillo or turtles carapace. Many of the tours that we provide here at ECO-Tours of Wisconsin are on the level of imagination. Frequently, these writings stray into very real territory, for us, that may remain unexplored by many. Frequently, the spiritual realm is the domain of our explorations. As we reach more and more ecotourists through the internet, it is perhaps reasonable to explore areas that lie off most maps, as long as it helps us to inform ourselves about where we are and how our interactions with the physical realm affect the planet. Innovative fiction can help us inform better choices by lessening our investment into tired old lies, foisted upon us by the ruling class.

Who we are certainly leads to what we can achieve and the limitations on our thought, whether imposed by external forces or our own ideation. What we need to do, it seems to many, is to resurrect our own imagination. The ice in the arctic began to break up several weeks ago, a full month earlier than ever before. Record amounts of freshwater drained into the ocean off the surface of Greenland this year. Nearly every parameter we look at closely has been perturbed in ways that break records, defy conventional understanding and set us on a new course of perception. Even in our political and spiritual underpinnings, we have become shaken by the range and scope that is taking place. The way we conceive ourselves and our environment spills over into social policy, educational institutions, even our interpersonal relations.

Today, we can investigate the discreet ecological quality of intestinal flora, there are "boutique" methods of using phages, developed to specifically correct unique colonizations by unwelcome intestinal bacteria. About half of my readership lives in places where these methods are illegal under FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulations. That is not to say they are not effective, just unavailable. Understanding of ecology is both global and local. It seems that most of what we are seeing reported in all areas of our lives are so incomprehensible, that if one had written it as a novel or screenplay just a few years ago, no publisher would have printed and even Hollywood would have rejected it because it would have been seen as too unbelievable.

We, here at ECO-Tours actively encourage all of our readers and guests to use your imagination to vision quest into realms that can grapple with the impending change that confronts humanity. Re-prioritize your life in ways that circumvent what we know to be the destructive tendencies that abound in technology, medicine, agriculture, energy, transportation, politics and the educational institutions that are charged with passing on the collective knowledge of our culture. Allowing the exploitative and destructive actions to cease and encouraging the growth, nourishment and facility for creation that is our birthright. We are stardust, we are one. It is high time to start acting like it. Tell the stories of your life that reveal the power of love over fear, perhaps that way we can heal the sick, house the poor and eliminate the need for poisons and prisons. The Earth and her creatures are infinitely resilient but cannot be expected to come back from exponentially changing conditions. I could draw you a map of how to find peace, but it will only depict how I get there. It is for each of us to resolve how we will help to re-create Eden. Perhaps if my terminology strikes you as naive, think of it as becoming responsible crew upon Starship Earth.

How each of us responds to and reflects the "spirits" that are recognized as Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is unique. It cannot be mediated and there is no "proper way" to do it. To step away from the abyss that raping Mother Earth has represented, we need to learn not only how to heal ourselves, but how to inflict the least damage in our passing. Instead of the tried and true ideal of "Leave no trace" ethics, we need to understand that there is the possibility of enriching and enlivening the planet with our lifestyles. We have the power to rewrite the myths of our time, encourage others to see things from new perspectives and to respond to what the Supersuckers refer to as awesomeology, the giving of more than anyone could have possibly bargained for at a lower cost than they ever could have imagined. Cultivate peace, sew the seeds of compassion and spew forth love, as aggressively as some choose to spew hate. It is the only thing that has the power to change the world for the better. I believe it was FDR who said,

“The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”
This wonderful message, penned on the back of a foundry worker's jacket describes well the urge to "clean up" our conceptualize the world around us. When impurities float to the top, we need to skim them off to reveal the glistening white hot metal that will be used to forge a new civilization.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The frost has come out of the ground...many believe that the earth is waking up, but the bio-dynamic folks see things a bit differently. For many of the deep ecologists and earth worshipers, we recognize that the Earth is most awake and alive in the depths of winter. The unmistakeable crystal clarity of a below zero (sub -16C) day is often one of the best times to see the Earth aware, awake and alive. Seeing it in this clarity, just for itself, can help us come to terms with our relationship with it. What people recognize this time of year is all the creatures that inhabit the planet having their way with it. The creatures acting upon it and making their living in or on it are masking the being that is the planet. A farm, village or town, even a single residence or park lie upon the surface of the planet, each having their own ecology, their own relationship with place, but for the Earth itself to express what it truly is, the best time to see and understand it is when the life upon it has been reduced to stasis or has been inactivated by stillness. The long nights and short days of winter are often the best time to get in touch with the land, the energies of place and the geographic identity of the land itself. Now that the frost has come out of the ground, we are looking at many things, but none of them are the foundation of life itself.

We saw the first robin eating the first worm this first week of April. As soon as they are able, the creatures begin to overwhelm the land with such a profusion of life that we often forget that the Earth itself is separate and distinct from the life upon and within it. When we act upon the planet, we may work from the neck down, but having the heart of the land in our awareness is not enough, understanding how to feed and dispose of the fundamental "waste" products of the land is not enough to harmonize with the planet either. We need to understand and develop a relationship with the head, the hopes and dreams of the land as well as the intellectual capacity and understanding the planet has with what goes on around and within it. When we begin to develop a relationship with the foundation of life, we can gain a better understanding of the whole. The natural phenomena that take place in and around us are mere reflections of the Earth but especially now, as the biological activity increases, it is easy to mistake the profusion of life that depends on the planet as the important part.

This week I have been coming to a much deeper understanding of this fact and this is what I have found. We typically go though life looking at the tops of great pyramids. We use the elements which we are aware of to navigate and create meaning in our lives. To begin to grasp this idea, say one pyramid (since it is topical at this particular moment) is religion. We conceptualize or see a pope, or the Buddha, perhaps a priest or pastor. We look to education and see a teacher or principal, perhaps a school board or state superintendent of public instruction. We go to a store and see the products on the shelves. Each of these "entities" or objects is dependent on a vast support system, nearly beyond our comprehension. Tens of thousands, millions, perhaps billions of discreet relationships were required to create each and every one of these towering pyramids, but we have been trained to think that the apex is the important part.

We have been led to this belief through our own hierarchy of needs, our desire to make sense of the world around us and the predominant focus on soaring heights rather than the basis of our existence. As long as we are willing to forget the foundations and revel in the uppermost part of the structures around us, we will miss the most important part of life itself and remain unable to come to terms with relationship. Like a pyramid, the lives of the slaves who created it are every bit as important as the Pharaohs whose tombs they were built to house. The ruling class has a good laugh at the expense of the lower classes, but without them, the entire system would collapse. I believe that if we went far enough back, the construction workers who built the pyramids would have joked that the first few slaves who were crushed under the extreme weight of the building blocks would work as lubricant and make the stones move more easily, but that if too many were crushed under the blocks it would make them more difficult to move. This dehumanization sounds crass, but we are far too willing to buy into the seductive belief that what we do is justifiable and that the goals which we have, no matter how high aloft, must rest on the exploitation of resources that we rely on for us to build to ever-higher levels. Exploitation rather than relationship are the watchwords of the failed systems, be they religious, economic, political or spiritual.

The value of and sheer number of people who have been willing to sacrifice themselves to the creation of the "pyramids" that we recognize today must be taken into account if we are to see the whole more clearly. Producing grain and meat in the Desert Southwest, or upon the Great Plains has depleted the largest aquifer in North America. The Colorado River has been reduced to a salty waste discharge in Mexico that never reaches the sea. The massive debt that has led to the formation of our food system has enslaved millions of farm workers. The "belief" in god has translated into exploitation and oppression of millions of souls for the enrichment of a precious few. Even the bald eagle cannot thrive without a billion minute creatures filling their specific niche in the environment. When we look deeply into any of the systems that lead to our current state of affairs, we will be struck with the power of relationship and the Earth itself only creates a stage upon which these relationships can be played out. Change never starts at the top. We are each responsible for making new foundations if we are to grow a new system that values relationship and humanity, true peace and security depend on relationship, not the soaring peaks of power and control.