Monthly Archives: March 2012


Each time I walk in the hills above Sonoma, I find reasons to use water sparingly and with care.  The less we withdraw for our own use, the more stays in the creek for others to live in, drink, or appreciate.  Ten species that I know need the water, because I’ve seen them or their sign while walking this month:

1.  California giant salamanders
2.  Steelhead trout
3.  Coyote
4.  Gray fox
5.  Wood duck
6.  Merganser
7.  Raccoon
8.  Mule deer
9.  Bobcat
10. Human children

Yesterday at a valley health club I was visiting, a mother repeatedly urged her tiny son back under the shower after he was rinsed off and ready to be dressed.  He said again and again that he was done; she admonished him to continue to stand under the shower, where it was warm.   She was dressing and not ready to towel him off, apparently.  This went on for many minutes, perhaps seven total.  My estimate of how many gallons of drinking water that used: at a minimum of 2.5 gallons per minute of flow, a shower that might have used 2.5 gallons or less (had the child’s advice to turn off the water been taken) used closer to 20.  Multiply that miniscule person’s use by the 41,300  or so valley inhabitants, and all of us taking a daily shower requires some 826,000 gallons a day — not counting drinking, irrigating, washing cars, and miscellaneous uses like hosing sidewalks.

California giant salamander and monkey flower in Agua Caliente Creek, Sonoma Valley.

Light on watershed, Sonoma Valley.

Perhaps when it rains we think that the water as it falls from the sky is immediately ready for our use as shower water and drinking water.  In fact, it takes the water  time to cycle back through soil and bedrock to the aquifer feeding the creek or feeding our pipes.   An easy way to raise our awareness is to remember the salamander in the creek because we love our children — and to preserve life for them.  I’d like to see mothers think about how their children, if urged to use water with the care it deserves, will also come to know the other creatures in the watershed.  With the creek water withdrawn, either directly or because of depletion of the groundwater that feeds base flow, these species will be gone.


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Prayer writing

Only lately I’ve been reminded how crucial right thought is to right speech and deed.  It’s not enough to hold words of anger in my heart and mind if I hope to live in a peaceful, positive world.  Writing prayer that resonates with me personally is one way I’ve found to hold right thought and spread peace.

In One-Minute Mindfulness, Donald Altman writes, “The old adage ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,’ is false, even in brain science.  For example, recent studies show that verbal abuse is both psychologically damaging–increasing the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and anger–and damaging to the brain.”

We program our brains and world with our inner words.  Gandhi wrote, “There is nothing more potent than thought–deed follows word and word follows thought.”  Although a deed once done cannot be changed, our thoughts can be changed.   They can be nudged over to the positive inch by inch.  I love this saying of Mark Twain’s: “Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”  So can our thoughts, as we make ourselves aware of their inherent violence or anger, be coaxed toward peace one word at a time.

I found this small sampling of prayers that already exist to encourage peaceful thought.

“I earnestly wish that the wind will soon blow away all the clouds hanging over the tops of the mountains.” — Shinto peace prayer

“Deep peace of the Son of peace to you.” — Celtic peace prayer

“Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace of mind.” — Native American peace prayer

“Live in joy,
in peace,
even among the troubled.

“Look within.
Be still.
Free from fear and attachment,
know the sweet joy of the way.”
–Buddhist Dhammapada

“Better is bread when the mind is at ease.” — Egyptian proverb

And, never to forget the peace to be found in nature:

“Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a  while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods . . . It will help you in your efforts to bring to these people something better than gold.” — John Muir

Today I’m reaching for the words of an original peace prayer, or many peace prayers, inspired by those above.  Here is one–what are yours?

Deep peace of the mountains and streams to you.
Deep joy be yours, with your mind at ease.
Bright days be yours and the company of trees.
Deep peace of the earth and sky to you.

Headwaters in Winter, Santa Rosa Creek

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