The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- November 2004

Last Update:  November 28

Highway 337 - The "Ridge Road" looking east towards the Medina River Valley.

November 1 - morning

A hard rain has been falling for several hours, watering in the sweet peas (Royal Mix) , swiss chard, and amaryllis (Scarlet Baby and Milady) that we planted yesterday. Fortunately, the weather has also turned cooler - I hope that our prolonged and somewhat depressing Indian Summer is finally over. We were able to do a lot of work in the garden yesterday, the first real garden work day I have had in some time and it makes me feel so much better about things. I hate it when the weeds seem like they are winning the war!  Though, just the act of planting something yesterday felt very hopeful.

In a few hours millions of my countrymen will be heading to the polls to vote in an election that is widely perceived as the most important in a lifetime. I am glad that this day has come but remain torn about what I fear will happen. If we have a fair election, unlike 2000, then I think that wisdom will prevail and we can begin to put the extremism and cynical lies of the past four years behind us. However, the fear sown by the current administration runs deep and the results are uncertain. I like to think that justice and decency will prevail, but quite honestly, I have begun to doubt the capacity of the Fox News addled American public. To my fellow Americans - open your eyes, ACT! Vote! To our friends abroad, pray that the nightmare ends tomorrow.

November 4 - morning

While I can take some comfort in the fact that my small corner of the world, Austin, voted overwhelmingly to defeat the appointee, I have to admit that my dismay at my countrymen and at the likely course of events in the United States is nearly complete. I am faced with the reality that I live in a nation  where a majority of the people have turned their backs on the Enlightenment and seem determined to replace reason and the pursuit of justice with a primitive and overtly infantile form of Christianity. This morning, I read one analysis after another that the election turned on questions of "character" and by the turnout of the evangelical right. How these people could look at Bush and see any character trait worthy of praise is astonishing. How can people call them selves "Christian" and turn around and vote for someone who had a direct hand in the deaths of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians? Who allows corporations to poison our skies and waterways and labels his efforts the "clear skies" initiative? Who sends the youth of poor American families to fight a war based on personal motivations of revenge? Who dons a uniform he once disgraced, throws his arms around servicemen and women, and then turns around and cuts their benefits?  Who targets a select group of citizens to create a "wedge issue" that fans the base prejudices of the ignorant? And finally, who looked the other way when the mass murderer of 3,000 Americans slipped over the Afghan border and beyond our grasp? The list, depressingly, could go on for pages... And why did millions vote for this man? Because, he says he prays. Our  culture has grown so desperately cold and crass that the only commmunity many people have found is in churches based on the simplistic belief that one leap of faith absolves you of all sins and your actions no longer matter. It is an easy sell because it has grown from  a culture based on self-serving convenience. These people have turned Jesus into combination kewpie doll - G.I. Joe. Sadly, their act of voting for Bush will matter to us all.

I ask your forgivness for this rant on a website devoted to gardening and spirituality. But, in my spiritual universe, everything is connected and every act has consequences. Leaps of faith won't weed my paths - or ours. The world turned into a much darker and more ominous place this week, we don't have the luxury of waiting until the next election to start the work that is needed. Begin.

This quote was in my inbox this morning...

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me
to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been
enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the
money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working
upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few
hands and the Republic is destroyed."
-Abraham Lincoln

November 8 - evening

The Frio River south of Leakey lined by Bald Cypress trees.

On a happier note... I made my annual pilgrimage to the Sabinal River Canyon and Lost Maples State Natural Area this past week and feel somewhat refreshed by the beauty of that area. The night-time sky is still amazing out there despite the creeping glow from San Antonio's sprawl (about 90 miles away!) and we spent several pleasurable hours identifying the constellations. I feel a very special reverence when I see the Milky Way, meteors, and the planets - scientists tell us that ours is just one of billions of universes and I feel strangely comforted by that. The vastness of space and the intricacy of its design can never fully be comprehended by us. Astronomy and physics can help us appreciate its complexity but there will always be new questions and new discoveries to be made. Some of us may choose the childish and highly irreverent certainty of "creationism" but I prefer to embrace both the majesty and mystery of creation. Someone once asked me rather pointedly, "What do you believe in?" My answer was impulsive yet still satisfies me today, "Mystery and Love." These are somewhat mysterious times, but the world has a way of righting itself. I believe that Love will prevail.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and science.

- Albert Einstein

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.

-  Frank Lloyd Wright

The nearly circular mouth of a small canyon in Lost Maples.


A Sycamore leaf floating in the pool of a major spring, one of the sources of the Sabinal.


The Sabinal in the early morning light, note the "allee" of Bald Cypress trees along its banks. My allee was inspired by scenes like these.


The pool, once again.


One of the tributary canyons along Can Creek on the west side of Lost Maples.


Another view.















A maple in Can Creek Canyon.


A rather forlorn looking watering can  hung from a shed in Comfort, Texas.


After Saturday I couldn't resist... go Longhorns!

November 14- morning

A giant Agave americana from the grounds of Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas.

I spent the better part of the past week shooting two documentary features, one on the historic county courthouses of Texas and another on the Spanish Colonial Missions scattered around the state. It was interesting to bounce back and forth between the "civic cathedrals" of nineteenth century small-town America and the sacred/imperial churches of eighteenth century Spain. Once again I was reminded of our contemporary struggle over the boundaries of the sacred and secular. Two weeks ago, I touched off a small storm with my "rant" about the election. I received several dozen e-mails, most of which were completely supportive. However, a few people were offended. One even suggested that she could never again visit my site because she would risk being tainted by its "liberalism." Several others called me a pagan (as if that was the supreme insult.) It shocks me how little some people understand the history of their own religion. Paganism and Christianity are deeply intertwined - not in Christ's teachings but in Paul's strange blending of the Mithraic cult with Jesus's profoundly humane version of Judaism. (Something that made sense when you were selling a new religion to a pagan audience.)

This morning, on one of the national Sunday morning talk shows, a Republican spin artist  (opposed by the typically lame Democratic spin artist) was going on and on about the hatred of the "secular left" for Christians and about the demonizing of Christianity after the elections. She talked about the persecution of Christians as if the Roman legions were banging on people's doors and martyring masses. I guess rants like mine were what set her off. This is an extremely effective political weapon for the Republicans at this moment, but is based on diversion and lies. Sure, there are people who think Christianity is just stupid, and even a few half-wits who like to try to shock people with disrespectful art, movies, or music. (The laziest kind of "art" to make.) But most "liberals" like myself are waiting for Christianity to reclaim its true heritage and reinvigorate itself, we are not interested in its demise. I believe, that in many ways Jesus's message was just too radical, too difficult, and yes, too liberal for many people to comprehend much less actually practice. So, instead they have bought into an easy pop-christianity and let themselves be manipulated by preacher/politicians.

I realize that this is beginning to sound like another rant, and that is not my intent. In the future I would like to be able to avoid these kinds of entries all together. However, I feel as if I need to be as clear as I can on this point. I understand why many religious people feel as if their values are under attack - all you have to do is turn on your TV and you will see crude, vulgar, hyper-sexual, violent trash. The impact of what we see on our televisions has real consequences - it frightens and repels us, attracts and titillates us, and the long term consequences are truly debilitating. But who is watching and listening to all of that garbage? Many of the same people who complain about it. They fund it with their eye-balls and dollars. American capitalism is a very vital but soul-less machine, anything that sells will be sold, even the death of American culture. Some pathetic loser may dunk a crucifix in a foul bottle and call it "art" but he won't rake in millions of dollars for it. However, a major media corporation, like Fox, can dole out hour upon hour of foul programming and laugh all the way to the bank (and the Capitol!)

The people who built those magnificent courthouses I visited this week believed in God, and for the most part, called themselves Christians. There is no reason to try to run or hide from that fact and the tiny minority of people who insist on doing so are accomplishing nothing (other than arming right wing demagogues with very effective weapons.) But the people who built those courthouses also believed in the power of democracy, law, and justice. These were the values they celebrated when they constructed the grand public monuments of their time on humble town squares. The enemy of democracy, law, and justice is not religion it is ignorance. Ignorance comes in many forms - liberal and conservative, secular and religious, and it knows no national boundaries. I believe the great battle of our time is to overcome the ignorance that blinds people to the values that should be uniting us, not tearing us apart.

At this moment, a cold rain is falling in the garden. Despite this, I am allowing myself to dream of springtime projects. Two weeks ago springtime seemed very far off. I am choosing, for now, to be optimistic despite my rants and those I hear on TV. The "work" I referenced two weeks ago is the work of a people who reason together, for reason is the enemy of ignorance.

The courthouse in Lockhart, Texas.


Commercial buildings along the town square in Goliad, Texas.


The courthouse in Gonzales, Texas.


A scene on the town square in Goliad, Texas.


The mission Espiritu Santo in Goliad.


The chapel of  Presidio La Bahia in Goliad (with a stone guardhouse in foreground.)


Inside the mission Espiritu Santo.


Inside one of the work spaces at Espiritu Santo.


I have always loved the elemental simplicity of mission architecture.


Another  window view.


A marsh in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.


Where an oak forest meets the Gulf of Mexico in the Aransas Refuge.

November 28 - evening

I have just returned from a short trip to Big Bend National Park - the crown jewel of Texas Parks, where I spent the last few days hiking with friends and relaxing with Victor.  I will have to go into the details later (after I have recuperated from our drive!) but here are a few pics...

The South Rim looking towards the Rio Grande and Mexico.


Looking over the Rim towards a ledge with an Agave havardiana and a Pinyon Pine.


A view of Casa Grande from the Laguna Meadows Trail heading up to the Rim.


Sunset and moonrise over the Chisos Mountains.


Another sunset view with Yucca and Ocotillo.


A close up of an Agave havardiana, also known as Chisos Agave, with volcanic redrock etched with lichen.


Along the Window Trail - Agave silhouettes and dramatic cliffs.


Sunrise this morning just north of Big Bend.


Another sunrise view.


Continue to Daily Muse for December 2004

Return to Daily Muse Menu