Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bloomin' Comparision Makes Sense to Me

The rain, about 3 hours worth, combined with oddly cool temps for the last day of July (low 70s), provided the ideal moment to attack the looming and surging problem--weeds in the butterfly garden.

Since Helen commandeered (albeit with a limited budget) this lovely previously rock-strewn underutilized space and shaped it (with help from me and others) into a perennial garden with potential, the weeds have tried to dominate. Today was the showdown!

Yesterday, proficient gardener Jeanne joined us for a tour of the space, identifying problem weeds and figuring out what looked like weeds but were not. That was helpful. Today all the stars were in alignment for this concerted attack.

Armed with a big plastic bag to capture the seedy-weeds, sharp clippers to prune and trim, and dressed for this grungy task, Helen and I plunged in. No weed was safe. The tough ones, thistles and other deep-rooted buggers, I carefully tried to extract from the pliable ground. Sometimes I got them out with root intact, sometimes not. Rats. That means they'll be back, probably by tomorrow, incorrigible varmints that they are. The little weed-wanna-be's were removed before they knew they hit the ground.

Helen and I made great progress, ridding the space of unwanted and invasive weeds, moving a few plants, and then hitting a greenhouse sale to get a few more plants to fill in.

Nothing exciting. Just a lot of dirty work motivated by the desire to attract butterflies and to provide folks around Villa St. Benedict and Sacred Heart Monastery a pleasant place to enjoy.

Weeding gives one time to think. I got to speculating about how our task at hand paralleled the nation's approach to homelessness. NO! I'm not comparing homeless people to weeds. I'm looking at weeds as the issues, problems, and challenges that jeopardize the existence of vulnerable wild flowers and other perennials (people who end up homeless).

Our nation's approach, since we've begun seriously neglecting this human "garden" back in the early 80s (read this short but informative report's history of modern homelessness), has allowed weeds to take over. Discarding mentally ill patients onto the streets, inadequate addiction services, deteriorating housing and  severe cutbacks in new affordable housing, half-assed approaches to dealing with homelessness, pervasive and unaddressed poverty--all of that and more contributed to abuse and neglect of our nation's "garden" that left us with the mess we have now.

Not properly identifying weeds, like HUD's documented failure to truly define homelessness (read this vindicating report by the GAO), spreading rumors about the "danger" of working in the garden/on the streets, inadequate tools--support system, insufficient resources--funding for housing and services to keep people in housing, diminished systemic approaches to prevent more weeds/homelessness--a judicial system run amok when dealing with people in poverty, and a perceived lack of interest in gardening--growing disregard for people in poverty or folks with disabilities--all of this and more combined to cause our nation's garden to seriously deteriorate.

Can we restore this treasured "place" in our land? Can we put together resources, workers, and determination to plunge in to comprehensively and holistically create an environment in this country that reduces the number of homeless families and single adults, supporting both independent housing and extra supportive services for those who need them, instead of watching families and individuals recycle through the weed-patch?

Seems to me we have a "Master Gardener," and the window of opportunity is here at long last. If we can get a grip on the weeds, treat the soil, move some plants around, and set up a system of maintenance that will keep the invaders at bay, we can make significant progress. Or we can let our garden go to seed, soon to contaminate the nearby well-manicured lawns surrounding mega-mansions. When the weeds creep onto the golf courses, then we'll see some action.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Instead of Shopping for my Birthday...

Audacious. Nonconformist. Unconventional. Such are the labels that have been deservingly hurled my way. And now Sysomos reports that only 7.1% bloggers are over the age of 51. I guess I fit the mold: I'm an over-51 blogger (my 3 blogs)...

...add audacious, nonconformist and unconventional, no argument there. As my big 60 nears (Hello Google, ya gonna get me something besides senior citizen advertisements??!), I've been I do, being the philosophy major that I am...what a world!
I struggle to keep up with technology, knowing that if I snooze I'll lose contact with most of my world as it has come to be. Living as a gypsy for the past 5 years has been an amazing experience of an unconventional life. I've met more inspiring people, seen breathtaking vistas and heartbreaking poverty, and pushed myself to more new mountaintops than I ever thought possible.

Reading this morning's New York Times (online, their cool Times Reader) I spied a book review that caught my attention: FREEDOM SUMMER The Savage Season That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy By Bruce Watson (Viking). Sounds like a fascinating read. Racism, the topic du jour, may be all the rage now, but back in my days of teen-romping it was all about rage. Mississippi, still not a cutting edge state when it comes to racial equality (but what state is?), burned and brutalized all in the name of honor.

My e-friend, Michaelann Bewsee, blogs a powerful piece about contemporary racism, one which I can identify with, shamefully so. 

I believe we learn from history. Unfortunately, instead of learning history as I sat in high school and college history classes that I deemed boring, I dawdled. Now I find myself in the midst of history-making events and activities. Working on social justice, mainly focused on inequities related to homelessness, is how I spend my days and nights. I look back to look forward.

Looking back at the racial history of my lifetime, I see progress, albeit at a steep price. It wasn't the work of one person or group. It didn't happen overnight. And it took a growing awareness of a clueless public to finally bring about seismic change--the kind that finds our country with a black man at the helm. Anything is possible. Knowing Obama's campaign was an e-grassroots effort, we've arrived at a new way of communicating.

Thus is the thinking of this over-51 blogger. Build a good e-petition for a worthy cause and they will sign. I've been pushing for a credibility level of 5,000 signers on my petition to give homeless families a break when it comes to HUD regulations. My deadline is nearing: August 6th, my birthday. 

Seems to me that I'm letting you off the birthday gift/card hook and giving you a no-brainer. Instead of shopping for me, sign this petition. For icing on my cyber-cake share it and encourage others to barrage HUD with the plea for Amnesty on behalf of homeless families. Maybe someday we'll read the book I'll write about the olden days of rampant homelessness.