How We Eclipse


When it’s Eclipse weekend and we live in the path of totality…

…and your home parish’s feast day falls on Eclipse day…

…you go to an Eclipse party where you introduce your kids to a teeter totter (the real kind)…

Eclipse 1

…and tug of war… (they lost, if you didn’t catch that)…

Eclipse 2 tug of war

…and Mom gives herself a concussion on the slip ‘n slide. (I’m only sort of kidding about that. I went down hard and banged the back of my head on the ground but the pain was all in the front, and it was hard to focus the rest of the day.)…

Eclipse 3 slip n slide

…and merry-go-rounds. (Nicholas’ reaction: hold out a shaking hand and say, “Grandma, can you help me off?” Michael’s reaction: <giggle giggle> “That was AWESOME!”)

Eclipse 4 merry go round

A short night, spent worrying about whether it will be cloudy and we’ll see nothing at all, and my company arrives: my uncle and my cousin whom I used to babysit when I was Alex’s age.

Eclipse 5 compadres

We spend the morning putting together a picnic and then head out to the park.

Total Eclipse 14 food

And the SLR takes a bow before taking center stage:


Eclipse 7Eclipse 8

It is cloudy and getting cloudier all the time, but the sun is strong enough to overcome it. Most of the time. Still, with the glasses on sometimes it fades unexpectedly as heavier clouds drift across.

Eclipse 9 clouds

Two minutes before totality, it’s finally feeling darker. Thirty seconds out, the light becomes pale and cold, without the warm tones, almost fluorescent. And then…totality.

Eclipse 10 totality

Everyone whoops. No picture can quite capture the moment, the clarity, the wonder.

Eclipse 11 totality

Yes, the streetlights come on, and the sky around the thunderheads surrounding us is yellow. I’m fiddling with the camera, trying to catch the right setting, and then I see it: the diamond. “It’s coming, guys, it’s coming!” I shout.

Eclipse 12 diamond

…and just like that, there’s light again.

Eclipse 13 emergence

Within 5 minutes, an enormous, heavy cloud rolls over the sun, obscuring the eclipse for the next 15 minutes. “Wow, was that ever a close call,” we say. But we saw what we came for, and it was amazing. I always thought it would be cool, but not worth traveling for. Now, I understand.



The Everyday Environmentalist


With Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement yesterday, those of us who are passionate about care of the earth are, if not surprised, still frustrated. What we are not is powerless. If the data in this chart, or this one is accurate (and as I’ve been hearing variations on this theme a lot the last two days, I have no reason to think otherwise), then we, as individuals in the U.S., have a lot of room to reduce our carbon footprint. There’s no rule that says we have to wait for our leaders to mandate it. Why don’t we, as individuals, take the lead?

Today I re-present:


35+ ways to green up your real life (and often save money in the process)


In the Kitchen

  1. Take your own bags to the grocery store. Cloth is even better than paper or plastic.
    2. Buy fresh, not prepackaged. Making mac & cheese or pancakes from scratch really doesn’t require more time, and veggies you cook yourself lose less nutritional value.
    3. Buy organic.
    4. Buy local.
    5. Grow your own vegetables.
    6. Compost.
    7. Recycle.Yes, even so far as bringing home the plastic ware from the fast food restaurants which don’t offer recycling. This is a biggie!
    8. Wash and reuse Ziploc bags.
    9. Wait to run the dishwasher till it’s full.

Vehicles and driving

  1. Turn off the car. (Another biggie.) Why run your engine while you check your phone, wait for kids at their lessons/practices, or for your spouse at the grocery store? Every bit of that is unnecessary pollution. Turn it off.
    11. Slow down! The faster you drive, the more gas you burn, and it really doesn’t make a significant difference in time, anyway.
    12. Make one trip to the grocery store for the week—IOW, plan and shop with a list.
    13. Combine trips & walk from errand to errand when possible. Not when convenient–when possible.
    14. Take advantage of public transportation.
    15. Carpool.
    16. Make sure the tires are at the proper pressure (you get better gas mileage).

Around the house

  1. Buy refills on cleaners instead of a new squeeze bottle every time
    18. Buy used, and don’t buy things you don’t need. (Another big one!)
    19. Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
    20. Turn the lights off.
    21. Turn the computer off, or at least put it to sleep. Why have it running while you’re sleeping? And in the summer it’s adding to the heat that the air conditioner has to fight.
    22. Unplug electronics. They draw power even when not in use.
    23. Use Recycled Paper.
    24. Print on the back sides of used paper for rough drafts.
    25. Turn the thermostat up a degree in the summer and down a degree in the winter.
    26. Seal doors & windows with caulking or weather strips.
    27. Get double pane windows.
    28. Replace old appliances.
    29. Set the water heater no higher than 120.
    30. Take shorter showers.
    31. Dry clothes on a line instead of in the dryer.
    32. Plant a tree
    33. Replace parts of your lawn with native plants–wildflowers, low-maintenance ground cover, and so on–so the mowing takes less time and gasoline.

For the Family

  1. Use cloth diapers. There are diaper services that can do the cleaning for you.
    35. Toilet train early. In my experience, the success or failure toilet training has much more to do with parental commitment than a child’s “readiness.” (Since I’ve toilet trained four kids, and the only one who was over 2 was the one with a disability, I stand by that statement.)
    Bonus: Practice Natural Family Planning. No plastic, no chemicals going into the water supply, no waste. And despite what you may have heard…it works.

(This post was originally published on May 29, 2007, but I fine-tune it every time I re-post it.)


Why was I excited for the papal encyclical? The challenge of Laudato Si (Reblog)


I’ve been following blogger Margaret Felice for quite some time, and when I read the following post late last week, I felt as if it was written just for me. I admit I have not had time to dig into Laudato Si yet, but I officially downloaded it onto my computer for an upcoming road trip. In the meantime, I give you Margaret:

The first point at which I thought the Pope might be laughing at me was paragraph 55.

55. Some countries are gradually making significant progress, developing more effective controls and working to combat corruption. People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive.

I can almost see him writing “smh” in the margin, shaking his zuchettoed head. Those Americans and their air-conditioning.

Pope_Francis_South_Korea_2014_(1)There was no air conditioner going in our house on the morning the encyclical dropped, but I was basking in the breeze of our overhead fans as I scrutinized the document Thursday morning. I hunched over my laptop until moments before I had to leave for an appointment, ignoring my husband (except when he brought me an english muffin, God bless him) and ignoring my visiting brother (except to show him where the eggs and frying pan were – breakfast is an important thing in our house). I was so excited to read Laudato Si.

I should admit, I was expecting my lifelong environmentalism to be vindicated, and it was. And if I’m being honest, I should admit what I was not expecting: to also be admonished.  I suppose I knew dispassionately that such criticism was likely, but it still stung when it came.

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

203. Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. Romano Guardini had already foreseen this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon him by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just”.[144] This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power. Amid this confusion, postmodern humanity has not yet achieved a new self-awareness capable of offering guidance and direction, and this lack of identity is a source of anxiety. We have too many means and only a few insubstantial ends.

The encyclical contains a lot of hope, and some practical solutions which I hope to share in a later post. But what has stuck with me more than the suggestions and the exhortations is the realization that I’m not perfect, either. After running out the door to get to the first of that day’s appointments, I made this admission on Twitter:

I recycle and don’t use air-conditioning in the house and hang my clothes outside and grow food and eat locally and teach my students that care for the environment is care for people.

One can do good things and still have more good things to do. 

Read the rest here.

Where Have The Fireflies Gone?


Photo by jamelah, via Flickr

I miss fireflies.

When I was little, the fireflies were everywhere. I remember trekking through the tall grass north of the house to the pond with my cousin and catching one to bring back and put in a jar, where we watched it all night. Apparently as a child I wasn’t as creeped out by the prospect of ticks as I am now, because I’m pretty sure I was wearing shorts. Maybe the vividness of that memory comes from the fact that this cousin was my first-ever best friend and since she lived on the west coast, seeing her was a once-every-other-year occasion.

In the past decade or so, I had thought that my memory of the fireflies was skewed by time and by the tendency of a fanciful child to enlarge all enchanting things. But there was a night, a few years ago, when Christian and I stood on the deck looking down over the lawn and the deep, dark places in the woods, at the profusion of silent lights blinking lazily. I said, “This is what I remember. Why isn’t it like this all the time?”

Not long after, I found out that there really aren’t as many fireflies as there used to be. Mostly it has to do with the destruction of habitat and the uptick in light pollution. There’s also some speculation that the “fogging” done by cities to discourage mosquitoes also discourages fireflies. But it hasn’t been studied a whole lot yet, as best I can tell.

It’s hard for me to accept the thoughtlessness I see unfolding around me in people’s interactions with the world. It’s much bigger than the fireflies; they’re just an example that comes to mind at this time of year. I don’t think the people who sit with their cars and air conditioners running for half an hour in the parking lot while their kids take swim lessons or piano have hostile intentions toward the world. I think they just don’t want to put up with any discomfort. I don’t think the people who dump huge amounts of recyclables in trash bags bound for the landfill are hell-bent on squandering the resources and the space that make this precious world so beautiful. I think they just don’t think it through and live intentionally.

And that’s really the key. We’re so used to our comfort, our convenience, that we aren’t intentional about how we use things. We get so caught up in our TV shows and our social media and whatever other “strange gods,” as Elizabeth Scalia put it, that it doesn’t occur to us that every single action we take, or don’t take, has a ripple effect on the world.

Nothing we do is without consequence.

Pope Francis is due to release an encyclical next week on climate change. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he has to say, and I’m praying that it makes a difference.