Critters outdoors Photography

Resigned forests

By 6:30 it had cooled enough to go walking and I went to my favorite path. I thought I would see the deer, but wasn’t expecting to see them right at the start of the walk: the mother and her twins I’ve seen so much over the summer. This time I grabbed my camera to take pictures, but it was too dark to get much of a shot.

The forest is in that end of summer green, where the leaves hang heavy in resignation, and even the birds fall silent, exhausted. If I were to write a story and wanted a scene thick with meaning, I would pick dusk in a late summer forest after a heavy rain.

Towards the end of the walk, I was amazed to find a fawn still sporting spots eating leaves by the side of the trail. She came close enough for me to get a passable photo before walking over by a tree and lying down. Her mother was no where to be seen.


To my terraphile friends

I don’t know what it is about people who love gardens, but every time they leave a comment or send an email, or write a new post, I’m immediately uplifted and cheered by their writing. If more of us read gardeners, I think we’d all be happier.

As a thank you to my gardening and other plant loving friends–because this all is virtual and I can’t exchange cuttings with you, or offer you any fresh cherries or tomatoes–and in case you didn’t see this link– Sheila Lennon put together a page of links that has enough gardening weblogs and resources to make even the most dedicated terraphile blissful.

Is that a word, terraphile?

When I was taking a break from weblog writing, I still read weblogs, even commenting on some. I found that the political and/or historical posts either frustrated me or inspired me, the technical posts stimulated me, and the posts with photographs made me want to get off my butt and start going through some of my old photos.

But it was the posts by people writing about everyday life – movies, family, friends, sharing recipes and giggles, hikes and trips, and most of all, flowers – that made me feel good. Nothing wrong with just feeling good.

(Of course, a post like this requires photos. Lest you think that I won’t be posting photos much until I get my new camera, think again! I have about a thousand photos, never before published. I think I can find one or two, now and again, that will be passable enough to put online.)

Culture Diversity

Nonlinear: God rocks the Ozarks

A key question in the marriage amendment vote here in Missouri is whether it would have made a difference if the forces aligned against the marriage amendment had used different approaches. Those who fought the amendment acknowledged they did make mistakes, and hoped to learn from Missouri. Those in support of the amendment chortled about it in the press and elsewhere, calling it a mandate for the country. After all, Missouri is the bellwether state, the state at the cross-roads of the country . Where goes Missouri, goes the rest of the nation.

Though I think this is true in the upcoming election where more traditional conservative/liberal alignment comes into play, I don’t think this is true for issues such gay rights–or issues of choice for that matter, either. The reason behind my perspective is Missouri’s unique religious infrastructure.

The following are diary passages from an itinerant Episcopalian preacher who traveled about Missouri in 1836:

March 13th.-Sunday: — Preached in Potosi great seriousness prevailed but no excitement took place.

Monday — In great body weakness I attempted to preach at Bro. Lances on Brush Run, and I do hope that a revival is about to burst forth here.

Thursday. 17th. preached at a house near Bro. Z. Hughes and bless God we had a glorious season. One woman took what used to be called in Tenn. the BARKING EXERCISE. This was something I had never witnessed before and something I am not able to account for on any principal.

Sunday 20th. At Caledonia [Washington County] meeting house had a very nice congregation and some apparent good feeling. Unfortunately this class which numbers more than half a hundred is about to be convulsed to its seats by internal broils. The most influential members are engaged in their disputes.

Wed. 23rd. In the morning I rode 12 miles to the little school house near what is called three forks of Black River [Reynolds County], and at 1 p.m. preached to the blacks as they are numerously [sic] called. Some of the people seemed to be very devoted. All seemed to be exceeding poor in the world’s Goods.

I . . . pursued my round to Bro. Robert Johnson’s the next appointment expecting to find them comfortably circumstanced, but was badly disappointed. . . . I was amazed and chagrined to see the filthy appearance of the sisters and everything else. The beds were ridiculous and the women were foul almost beyond a savage. I was very hungry haven’t eaten anything since morning, but thought this is no place for a hungry and weary traveler.

In reference to “barking exercise” you see the beginnings of the pentecostal faith here in Missouri. You can also begin to the see the foundations for the disparate, though kindred, religious organizations that form the infrastructure that so characterizes this state.

I found these quotes in the online version of OzarksWatch–an interesting publication about life and culture in the Ozark mountain region, which encompasses southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and bits of Oklahoma and Kansas.

(The site shows publications only up through 2000, but indications are the publication is still active.)

The following was from another article, written in 1988 by Stanley Burgess, a professor of religious studies, where he takes a closer look at religion in the Ozarks:

Ozarks religion in the post Civil War era witnessed increased pluralism because of ethnic and cultural, as well as theological, conflicts. Struggles between conservatism and liberalism have been persistent for a century. Conservatives favor more literal interpretation of Scripture, and the need for spiritual regeneration. Liberals adapt religious ideas to modern culture and modes of thinking, emphasize social action, and approach Scripture historically more than literally. Thus far, conservatism seems to have prevailed.

Though focusing on the Ozarks, Dr. Burgess’ statement could very well demonstrate much of the difficulty gay rights advocates (and pro-choice advocates, and separation of church and state advocates) have had in this country–religious conservatives tend to maintain a fairly static, dominant view of their faith, even within a changing culture; while religious liberals are more willing to adapt their faith to fit modern ideas and concepts. What makes things interesting is that the lines between the two–traditional/conservative and adaptive/liberal–don’t always fall cleanly outside of membership in faiths.

The Catholic Church is an excellent example of a idealistic split between traditional and adaptive church members. The Catholics in the North, east and west, tend to separate some church doctrine from their votes and act accordingly. Because of this, you have people like John Kerry who is Catholic but still supports choice; though he doesn’t support gay marriage, he doesn’t actively not support it, either.

On the other hand, though, you have people like the influential Archbishop Burke from St. Louis, propagating a very traditional Catholic view about applying one’s faith to one’s vote. Though the Catholic Church disagrees with the invasion of Iraq, supports the worker over the corporate, and is against the death penalty, make no mistake that its primary target in US elections is gay rights and procreative choice. So much so that Bush has been actively courting what has been, traditionally, a Democratic voting segment of the populace.

The impact on this state in elections this year is an interesting one. While some Catholics will go so far as to not support Kerry, I believe that most will probably support him, primarily because on issues of gay rights and abortion, he’s not an active supporter of either. He has taken a neutral stance on both, and is maintaining this through the election. Moreso, he refuses to get into dialogs on these issues, which is probably the wisest course for him to take in this election.

No, other factors outside of choice and gay rights, such as the growing backlash against the fighting in Iraq, corporate distrust, strong conservationist viewpoints, as well as the Union membership in this state helps keep the Presidential race on an even split in Missouri – even with people like Ashcroft and Limbaugh being born here.

(Perhaps because others like Truman and Twain were also born here.)

But on votes that separate all other factors out and focus on these two issues, of choice and gay rights, especially when it comes to challenging something so traditional as marriage, the Catholics in Missouri will most likely side with the Church, as will other rural Catholics in the United States. I believe this is represented in the votes cast in the recent marriage amendment ballot, where St. Louis City voted against the amendment, but St. Louis County, which includes my home, voted overwhelmingly for it.

Adding the Catholic vote to the other primarily fundamentalist religions in the rest of the state, the fact that the marriage amendment was passed was a foregone conclusion–especially when those critical of the amendment focused primarily on its being ‘meanspirited’, running ads paid for by out of state money.

(Out of state money and influence is sure to have negative reprecussions in this strongly independent, state; that old saying, “Stubborn as a Missouri Mule” was earned honestly here.)

Both the proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment have said that this election could be an indicator of how the country will react to upcoming elections on this issue. However, this really isn’t born out by the demographics–that unique religious infrastructure I talked about earlier.

Those in favor of gay rights should not be so quick to be discouraged by the Missouri vote. Consider the following about this state:

Due to early Spanish and French influences, Missouri is home to a large, and fairly traditional Catholic population.

Missouri is also home to the fundamentalist Christian movement in this country, with Springfield, Missouri termed the buckle of the bible belt (all due respect to Dr. Burgess’ dislike of this phrase).

The Assembly of God Church, a leading pentacostal (and fundamentalist) church began here in Missouri.

The Baptist Bible Fellowship and the Pentecostal Church of God are also headquartered here.

Several traditional Christian publication houses are headquartered in Missouri.

The Mormons actually engaged in civil war with Missourians in 1838, in a battle called The 1838 Mormon War.

Though not as widespread today, the ties between racism and fundamental Christianity are still reflected in organizations such as the Council of Conservative Citizens – the new face of the KKK in the United States. A group, I am forced to add, that originated here, in St. Louis. This follows on the fact that the Ozarks is home to the Christian Identity Movement.

And I could go on. As Professor Burgess states:

Renowned for the natural beauty of its changing seasons, the Ozarks is clothed as well year-round in a religious coat of many colors. But it is a diversity of color, not of fabric. Nowhere in the United States is religion more central to the life and practices of its people than here. Ozarkers share a commitment to things religious which in large measure provide the community, the education, and the values which make up their everyday lives.

Change “Missouri” for “Ozarks” and you can account for most of the state, except for the tiny pockets of Kansas City and St. Louis, cities too large and disfuse to support any one dominate religious belief. This shows up more readily when you look at a graphic of the vote for the marriage amendment, by county.

(In case you’re wondering about that lighter color in Boone County, in addition to those around St. Louis and Kansas City–Columbia is located in Boone County, and Columbia is home to the University of Missouri.)

Of course, when you look at the history and religious influence in this state, trying to extrapolate from it to the rest of the country as regards voting on issues that come with such strong traditional religious bias, is, frankly, ludicrous. The strong vote in favor of the marriage amendment in this state no more reflects how the rest of the country will vote, then our religious demographic reflects the rest of the country.

Diversity Political

Nonlinear: where is the grandma on the side of the gays?

A few weeks back I went to my regular polling place–the Catholic Church associated with the Archbishop’s offices next door to our home– to cast my vote in the Missouri primary. On my way I passed the Catholic run retirement community across the street, as well as the Seminary that forms the land around our housing complex.

When I got there, I was asked which ballot I wanted among the options of Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and so on. Most of the parties had full ballot books, but the Democratic one looked like it was down to the last few pages. The state predicted there would be a heavier than normal Democratic turnout this year, as there was a battle among the Dems for both state and national positions. The Republican candidates ran uncontested for the most part.

On the ballot were two main initiatives: one in support of increased river boat gambling, and the other, a marriage amendment that would alter the state’s constitution to say that marriage was only between a man and a woman. I voted “No” on both, taking extra care to make sure I punched the right hole on the Marriage Amendment. Unfortunately, my caution was for nothing as the amendment won, and by a considerable margin.

The anti-marriage amendment forces fought to put the Marriage Amendment on the primary ballot instead of the regular ballot in November thinking there would be more Democrats voting in this primary than Republicans; more Democrats, to them, translated into more ‘no’ votes against the marriage amendment . That’s all well and fine – but what I couldn’t figure out is why those against the amendment assumed that most Democrats would vote against the marriage amendment, while most Republicans would vote for it. After all, Democrats aren’t traditionally the forerunners when it comes to social change.

Much of the early support for the Democratic party, in fact, came from southern slave holders, back before the civil war. It was this that led to the formation of the Republican Party: a group of people opposed to slavery got together in Wisconsin to create a party specifically to fight expansion of slavery*.

Remember George Wallace standing on the steps the schoolhouse in defiance of the courts, trying to bar blacks from entering a segregated school? Well old Governor Wallace was Democrat. In fact he was from that part of the southern Democrats that Howard Dean was referring to when he talked about attracting the confederate flag flying southerners–a statement that lost him most of whatever respect he had in this state.

It was the 1964 election between Johnson and Barry Goldwater that signaled a change in both the Democratic and Republican parties when it came to social issues. Many of the Southern Democrats, previously united with their northern brothers through FDR’s New Deal policies, became angry at Johnson’s overt support of the Civil Rights Movement, and made a mass exodus to the Republican Party.

There has, historically, been strong ties between slaveholding and southern fundamentalist Christian faith, with many slaveholders using religion as a defense of their actions. When those who supported segregation between blacks and whites made the move to the Republican party, they also took along much of the southern faithful with them.

This didn’t mean there was a mass exodus of people of all faith to the Republican side. For instance, members of several Protestant groups, in addition to the Jewish and the Catholic faiths have been some of the more liberal elements of the Democratic party, and have long fought for equal rights for blacks and other minorities. Rather than run from the Democratic party when it embraced civil rights, they were right there in the forefront, cheering the move on.

All well and good. Why, then, did the marriage amendment have such a success if the primary vote was mainly Democrat? since this state voted for Johnson over Goldwater, as well as Kennedy, Clinton, and other very liberal Democrats, it was a given there would be enough Democrats to help defeat the marriage amendment–or at least help contain and minimize the margin of victory.

The challenge is that even among the Democratic faithful, the fight for minority rights for blacks and adherence to other liberal causes doesn’t necessarily translate into support for some of so-called ‘personal morality issues’ –such as the support for choice, and gay rights.

It was Archbishop Burke in St. Louis – yes, the man who has offices right next door to where I live – who originally came out with the statement about denying communion to John Kerry because of Kerry’s support for Choice. And it is the same Archbishop Burke referenced in the following:

Archbishop Raymond Burke has become the effective spokesman for the orthodox Catholic position among the US bishops with his unabashed criticism of Catholic politicians who support abortion. Burke has been equally forthright on the subject of homosexual ‘marriage.’ He has issued a letter addressed to the Catholics of the St. Louis Archdiocese in which he urges his flock to participate in the decision and offers a document for instruction. Burke says, “The action in question has profound implications for the future of marriage and family life… I urge you to exercise your right and fulfill your duty to vote on Aug. 3″

Within the Republicans, on the other hand, are people who joined this party because of economic policies or issues of gun control or, most recently, the war on terror and within Iraq. Though they may be members of a particular faith, they’re not necessarily supportive of conservative religious doctrine. In fact, many Republicans are indifferent to gay rights as an issue, at worst; even supportive of gay rights, at best–when they’re gently reminded of the proud legacy of social justice that forms the history of the party.

Rather than support these initiatives, many of these Economic Right Republicans (I’ll call them for want of a better term) believe that the government has no business getting involved in people’s personal lives. Whether a woman has an abortion or not is up to the woman and her doctor. If two men who are gay want to live together, well, that’s they’re business.

The only time they’re likely to take note of these issues is when they might be impacted by them, such as having to pay taxes for welfare. Or having to fuss around with the expense of adding another amendment to a constitution.

But these people weren’t targeted here in Missouri. No, most of the effort to reach out to voters here was focused at the Democrat’s traditional base; the same base that was almost guaranteed to support the marriage amendment here in Missouri.

While the church members in support of the amendment were on the phone – I myself received three phone calls in the week before the election, and I don’t even belong to a church – those against the amendment were airing ads on TV, talking about discrimination and rights of all people, and calling the amendment “meanspirited”. But, says the kind, gray haired, sweater wearing grandma on the phone, this isn’t discrimination–all God’s children are welcome in his eyes. This is just keeping marriage to its traditional definition of being between a man and a woman.

“No one is discriminating against homosexuals in this state,” Grandma says. Heaven forbid.

Where was the kindly, gray haired sweater wearing grandma on the side of the gays?

Oh. There she is.

Those who fought the amendment continue the fight in other states, saying:

“We’re already reaching out to these other states, sharing with them what we learned, what worked, what didn’t work, and we’ll move on,” said Doug Gray, campaign manager for the Constitution Defense League. “Ultimately we’re right and they’re simply wrong.”

Ultimately we’re right and they’re simply wrong.

Doesn’t sound like proponents for gay rights learned all that much from Missouri.

*The Republicans weren’t just socially liberal when it comes to blacks, either: the first women elected to Congress in the United States was a Republican – Jeanette Rankin elected in Montana four years before women were given the right to vote in 1920.


Mother nature is a bitch at times

Good to hear from folks I know in Florida that they’re okay after the storm, but sad for those who have lost loved ones. The New York Times has both a video and photos posted that show the damage this type of storm can create.

This is going to be a cluttered year in the Atlantic, as Charley is now followed by Tropical Storm Danielle and Tropical Depression Five. The experts had predicted a busier than normal season this year — estimating 14 named storms will form in the Atlantic.

As the hurricane season ramps up with a vengeance along the east coast, the tornado season winds down for much of the Midwest. In fact, the record breaking cool weather continues here in St. Louis, giving almost perfect days for hikes. An amazing year of weather.


An AP Photo Slideshow, though I don’t know how long it will be accessible.