Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

I am a writer at heart, a proofreader by trade, but without a soul if it were not for the nuthatches crawling down my trees, the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and yes, the much-maligned jibbering starlings that create their own unique concerts. I have wildflowers and perennials squeezed into my front and back yards and along the curb of my house in the city. My greatest job: I was a reporter for a locally-based newspaper, where I wrote human interest and news articles, but now I am a freelance writer, both online and in print. See MY ONLINE ARTICLES on how to ATTRACT BIRDS and BUTTERFLIES, and the HEALTHIEST NATURAL FOODS at my contributor page

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Salutations at This Time of Year

To all of you out there:

Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, some other holiday I’m not aware of, or you don’t celebrate holidays at all,

Whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Islamic, follow Buddhism, another religion, or are an agnostic or whatever,

No matter your race or religion; as long as you’re not a terrorist, or someone who wants to maim or kill others because of their beliefs, or out of sheer maliciousness or greed, or a warped mind,

As long as you’re a human being who truly cares about others because of the goodness in your heart,

Whether you regard this as a wish, a blessing, or just a warmth-filled greeting from one human being who cares about others, to another human being who feels—and acts—the same,

In the spirit of the season, I extend my heart-filled best to all of you. Hoping your days are healthy, happy, safe and fulfilling!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

To What Extent Are We Truly Able to Forgive?

Most of us consider ourselves forgiving people; above holding a grudge, let alone seeking revenge. But what if someone killed your spouse or child, or a parent or close friend? Would you then be able to forgive that person? As easy as it is to say for us to say whether we would or would not now, we can never truly know until it happens, and may we never be put to the test.

I ran across an article entitled “The Courage to Act,” written by Mike Billington, the editor of the Dodge Nature Center’s The Nature of Things publication, in their Winter/Spring edition. Besides being editor of the publication, Mike is a photographer and naturalist at the Dodge Nature Center in St. Paul, MN. The article affected me so much, I had to share it with you.

In “The Courage to Act,” Mike explained how years ago, when his “homestay mother” Violet and her three youngest sons were returning home from a Christmas parade, she decided to walk home and do some errands on the way. They were crossing the street in late afternoon, when a car failed to turn at the bend of the road. It crossed over two lanes of traffic and struck her and one of her sons. Somehow, she had managed to push the other two out of the way. The one who was struck only received minor injuries, but Violet passed away several hours later at the hospital.

Mike and Violet’s family later learned that the driver was an illegal immigrant driving without a license, spoke little to no English, and should never have been driving. Apparently eyewitnesses at the scene had stopped him from fleeing. According to Mike, the man was taken in by the police, and later faced criminal charges and deportation. At the time, that was the last Mike thought about him.

Then, several months ago when he returned to Minnesota, Mike received a national News Zealand newspaper clipping in the mail. The clipping had a picture of what remained of his “homestay family”—his homestay father Tracy, and the three sons. The article itself reported how Tracy had stood up before the judge and asked for clemency for the man who was responsible for the death of his wife, Violet.

To quote Mike: “In the months after Violet’s death, Tracy had heard that the family of the man driving the car had been devastated, and that their son had been riddled with guilt and depression. He realized that two lives had been lost that day—two families had been shattered. Through the pain and suffering from grieving for his wife, Tracy decided that for there to be justice, there must be understanding between their two cultures and that he must take the time to hear the man’s story.” Tracy met the man face to face.

In his article, Mike wrote, “The man’s name was Tomasi Tabokaai, a twenty-six year old from the Polynesian island of Kiribati, just north of Fiji in the South Pacific. The night before the accident he had been up late at a family function. Since he was applying for citizenship and did not want to do anything to jeopardize it, he awoke before dawn with the rest of his family and went to work picking asparagus at a nearby farm. Late in the afternoon he headed home. Little sleep and exhaustion from the day’s long work caught up with him and he fell asleep at the wheel. After the accident, overcome by shock, he did indeed leave his vehicle, but was kept at the scene by bystanders.

“As Tomasi was telling his story,” Mike continued, “Tracy could see in his eyes deep remorse and absolute regret. He too was a man broken, suffering, plagued by nightmares whose life seemed almost over. In the suffering they both shared and mutual understanding he found, Tracy came to realize how easy it could have been for anyone to be in those shoes, and that what had happened had truly been an accident. An accident that not only took the life of his wife, but was also taking the life of this young man. In court, Tracy stood before the judge and against the wishes of many in his family asked for clemency. He said, “On behalf of my wife I forgive him. I know Violet is pleased that I have it in my heart to forgive.”

Mike ended his article by saying, “When I talked with Tracy about all that had happened, I was humbled by his ability to look beyond his own grief and do what was right, even in the face of alienating some of his own family. His convictions would have it no other way. Every day, each of us faces our own battles between what is comfortable and our convictions. The question is, how long are we going to allow the fear of the uncomfortable stop us from finding the courage to act? We must awaken, stand up and be counted. We must find the courage to take responsibility for ourselves, our families, and the environments in which we live.”

And so, once again I pose this question to you. Hopefully no occasion will arise to test our convictions, but: If some person killed someone who was dear to you, who made your life worth living, would you be able to forgive? As for myself, after reading Mike’s article, I think it would depend on the circumstances.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

How to Attract and What to Feed Birds in the Winter: Give them a holiday season all winter long

Every winter the birds seem to be flocked around my feeders in desperation, their feathers fluffed up against the cold, trying to snatch a seed or two before another one chases it away. The ground underneath is covered with other birds vying to grab any seeds that fall down. On weekends, when I’m home during the daylight, not only am I able to keep refilling the feeders, but I toss bits of bread and fruit, or leftover cooked potatoes, peas and pancakes on the ground, and the squirrels and birds compete with each other until it’s gone. After all, I figure, it’s harder for birds to survive during the winter, so why not let them have a season to celebrate, too?

Therefore, I thought you’d appreciate some tips for feeding the birds during the winter that I’ve learned over the years, including how to make your own suet and how to make your own birdseed mix. Quick tips: For one thing, use as many separate feeders as possible. To keep squirrels away from your feeders, hang them at least 5 – 6 in. off the ground and 8 in. from a tree. For seed storage; to keep your supply dry and protected from rodents, we keep our seeds in separate metal garbage cans outside; one for the mixed seed, the other for sunflower seeds. I just keep the thistle in the house, either in the plastic bag it came in, or in a glass jar.

I have one feeder for mixed seeds, which includes cracked corn and sunflower seeds, and that gets the most traffic. The cardinals seem to prefer it, too. (See how to make your own mixed batch of seeds further down.)

At my sunflower seed feeder in the winter, I get chickadees, cardinals and woodpeckers. Where winters aren’t as harsh, other birds you’ll attract are the tufted titmouse, evening grosbeak, white-breasted nuthatch, bluejay, purple finch and American goldfinch.

At my thistle feeder in the winter: dark-eyes juncos, sparrows, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Where winters aren’t as harsh, you’ll get: American goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, pine siskin, house sparrow.

At my suet container in the winter, chickadees, and yes, starlings, (but I love their “music”), and definitely various woodpeckers. Where winters aren’t as harsh: downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch. (See more about suet, and my homemade suet recipe, further down.)

I don’t have a feeder for cracked corn, so I don’t know which birds I’d get in the winter, but in less harsh climates, you’ll attract: mourning dove, bluejay, house sparrow, tree sparrow, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbird.

I don’t have a millet feeder either, so again I don’t know which birds I would get, but in less harsh climates: mourning dove, house sparrow, tree sparrow, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbird.

*To make your own birdseed mix: Pour about 20 pounds of white proso millet, 10 pounds of cracked corn and 25 pounds of black-oil sunflower seed into a metal trash can and use a broom handle to mix it up.

*Suet: The overall winner, health-wise for the birds and their most preferable form, especially in the winter, is those chunks of beef suet I get in the meat department at grocery stores, but they’re hard to find. Ask the butcher, because some say their distributors don’t carry it. Otherwise, you can buy those processed suet cakes where bird seed is sold in “regular” stores, and they don’t turn rancid in hot weather.

To make your own suet: Every time you fry hamburgers or any meat where the fat runs off, pour the fat into an empty soup can and refrigerate it. Meanwhile, every time you have leftovers, be it meat, or vegetables including potatoes and peas, put them together in a container and refrigerate it. When you have enough to fill your suet container, you’ll have to thaw your saved fat first, because it will have hardened, but only make it a bit soft. If you scoop it out into a microwave-safe bowl, you can “nuke” it. Then throw in the leftover food you saved, stir everything together and put the conglomeration into your suet container. How’s that for recycling food?

We’ve only had snow and cold here for about a week, but the birds are getting so used to me clomping out in my boots and jacket to give them more food, they barely fly away any more. Happy Holidays!