Sunday, May 29, 2011


Email from Tokyo:

Dear Friends,
I do not normally bombard my friends and family with petitions, but this is critical. We live on a ranch in Central California -- an area that is breathtakingly beautiful -- AND only a few miles from the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

I am in Japan right now where the nuclear disaster is an on-going nightmare. It is the beginning of rainy season and damaged facilities at Fukushima Daiichi are now being flooded with rain water -- the new threat of radioactive contamination. We wait anxiously to see what else may happen, as the radioactive materials seep into groundwater.

There's only been a trickle of new news about Fukushima in the US/World media, but here, it is a daily reality. The newspapers are filled with new information, as are the tv shows. Daily regional radiation counts appear in the newspaper like weather forecasts, or sports scores. It is surreal.

The anti-nuclear movement has been put on hyperspeed in Japan. One good thing to come out of the Fukushima disaster. People who have been working hard, despite opposition from pro-nuke neighbors and government, are finally beginning to feel like their decades-long struggle has not been in vain. The other day, there was a news item on tv about a lady who lives 300 meters from a nuclear plant they had just started to construct. She was the only one who refused to sell her land to the power company!! It was a tiny house (a small log house she built herself for her mother!) but equipped with solar panels and wind turbines. In a conformist country, you can imagine the kind of struggles she's had to go through. But she was feeling optimistic, at last. The plant's construction has been put on hold for the moment and she hopes it will be canceled. She was saying how glad she was that things have started to change before they had brought in any radioactive materials.

Another news item was about rural areas trying to do small-scale hydroelectric, using the abundant streams and rivers without damaging the environment. Everyone is thinking of renewable energy. I believe a non-nuclear future IS possible -- if we all work together.

It is raining today, too. Back on the ranch, I can go outside, spread my arms and enjoy a downpour. Here, I will be covered from head to toe. I am reminded of the line from Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi. "You don't know what you've got til it's gone." PLEASE click here. PLEASE forward this to as many people as possible.

With gratitude and respect,

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wings of Joy

"I think they've hatched," my brother writes me from Tokyo last week. "I saw the male taking bugs back to the birdhouse over and over."

During the first week of April, he noticed a shijukara building a nest in the birdhouse his son made last summer. (I looked up the bird. It's called a "Japanese great tit" in English but there's something so oxymoronic about "Japanese great tit" that I prefer to use the Japanese name.) Back and forth it went, for about a week, carrying bits of string and fluff. And then, they stopped seeing the bird. He went online to find out more and read that it takes about 2 weeks for a shijukara egg to hatch. "So I think the due date is around the end of April," he wrote a while earlier.

"It was raining all day yesterday and so there wasn't much bird action, but the chicks must be starving because the male was real busy today. He flies out, gets a whole bunch of food in his beak, and then perches on a branch to the left of the birdhouse. He looks around to make sure no predators are watching, then darts into the house. About 30 seconds later, he pokes his head out of the house, looks around cautiously, and then he's off again looking for more food." Bro's emails are all bird reports.

Thousands of Japanese are still living in shelters. Tens of thousands will have a long year of rebuilding. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, will be affected by the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster for months to come. No one knows where Japan is headed or what the future holds. I'm glad the shijukara couple and their brand new chicks are giving hope and peace and strength (not to mention hours of entertainment) for my brother and his family.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gardening Life, Planting Hope

Two months.
That's how long it's been since the Triple Disasters in Japan.

Two months of chaos, pain, despair, anger. Two months of love, generosity, pride, hope.
Two months of an emotional roller coaster ride.

For me, it's been a month in Hawaii and a month at the ranch. My month at the ranch must have been especially healing because I am a little calmer, a little more hopeful. You can't help but be affected by the miracle of nature. A frantic month of planting, planting, planting and getting my gardens ready for the summer has given me an inner peace I could not have hoped for anywhere else. Little seeds a fraction of a millimeter have germinated into nice, healthy plants. Even my asparagus seeds that weren't doing anything for weeks have all germinated, sending the tiniest of stalks up above the soil. Just when I thought my eggplant seeds were duds, here they come! The tea plants haven't germinated yet but they could take a couple of months so I'm still waiting, patiently. Gardening is not for the impatient.

When humans, or the things they create, destroy, there is only destruction. But while nature destroys, she also rebuilds.

Lettuces sparkling in the afternoon sun...

Chamomile growing on all our driveways!

Not from The Ranch but the butterfly sanctuary in Angangueo, Mexico. I am praying that the narco violence does not destroy their habitat.

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