Archive for August, 2010

31
Aug
10

vigil

Last evening we had a tremendous storm while Dave and I were driving to visit a friend. I didn’t enjoy the visit, though, because I was preoccupied the whole time by the thought that I had left my windows open before leaving home in the late afternoon. I was disappointed to cut the visit short because we were visiting someone I’d really like to get to know. I was honored to have been invited into his home.

Yet I only had myself to blame. Even though the sun was shining and the day was hot, I had not been observant and seen the great banks of clouds building on the horizon; otherwise I might have thought “just in case” and closed those damned windows. I should have remembered that the flies were biting.

The storm intensified as we returned closer to home. Our headlights barely pierced the dark and downpour. Water was sheeting across the road and broad ribbons of lightning briefly illuminated the mountains. As we began climbing the rocky road that approaches our house, I was thankful that so much of our road traverses bare rock. There was no chance of becoming stuck in one of the mud patches which suddenly appear in so many roads in weather like this.

But I couldn’t get my mind off of those damned open windows. I imagined blowing rain drenching my papers and computer and causing untold other damage. When we pulled into the driveway I could see the wind had blown open our front door. This didn’t look good.

I walked in the door and switched on the light expecting to see everything drenched in water, but the room was exactly as I’d left it. I walked over to one of the open windows, brushed my hand across the window sill, and it was dry!

“Dave, it’s a miracle,” I shouted. The wind had come from the west. It had blown through the open door and out the windows which face the east. The open door had been protected by roof expanse all around. Not a drop of water had gotten in.

It was a happy night as Dave and I made pork sandwiches and made a deal about a small propane oven and cooktop I’m going to install as part of a galley kitchenette for the existing house. Otto crunched contentedly all night on a shoulder bone that had come out of the pork roast. Sadie was probably comfortably ensconced in one of Alana’s easy chairs.

But as I discovered this morning, not everybody at Estrella Vista was happy. When I entered the end of the chicken coop that houses our chicks, I could see two of the smaller ones cowering in the corner while the others were gathering around the food. When I approached them to investigate, I could see that they were standing on a third chick that had literally been trampled into the ground.

There must have been a great panic here at the height of the storm, and this poor chick had the misfortune to be at the bottom of the pile. I lifted her pathetic body out of the corner and was surprised to feel her quaver in my hands. She was still alive!

Even though she was covered with mud and droppings, I could see this was one of the three white chicks in our flock of browns. After spotting the other two whites, I deduced that this is the one I have taken to calling “Blago” on account of a puffy tuft of feathers on her head that made her look just like (I swear to god) Rod Blagojevich.

So here was poor trampled Blago, all covered in shit and stinking and shaking in my hand. I held her close to my body hoping to transfer some warmth. Warmth. Yes, that is what she needed.

I brought Blago into the house, put her in a soft nest made from a t-shirt, and placed her in the sun. The pecking order of the coop was cruel to her last night and she was now nearly dead. I am curious whether human benevolence might bring her back.

As the sunlight moves across the floor, I keep repositioning the chair on which her nest is perched. Once she complained, which I took as a sign of fighting spirit. A fly landed on her tattered wing and she flinched it off. Alert and still fighting. This is good.

So today I am keeping a vigil for poor Blago. I’m beginning to think that just maybe she will not die. She has just raised her head and opened her eyes. There is a slim chance. Only time and the day will tell.

30
Aug
10

ticking clock

A couple days ago my friend Dusty sent me a link to a calculator which, based on health, lifestyle, family history, and other factors, provides an estimate of how long one can expect to live. The answer in my case is “not long enough.”

Before you accuse me of falling for some Internet flim-flam (after all, we’ve all learned time and again that you can’t trust everything you read, especially on the Internet), the result I got from this site almost exactly matched a number I calculated a few years back by analyzing the life-spans of my parents and grandparents and averaging their weighted values all together.

I must hasten to tell you that I’m not afraid of death. I’m at a stage of life when things long taken for granted—like teeth and eyesight and hearing—are beginning to disappear bit by bit. I believe that when I do die, I will return in a fresh new vessel, an infant with the potentialities squandered in this lifetime and more, all losses restored. This is something to look forward to. The most influential mentor in my life called death “graduation.”

Yet I have plans and hopes which require more time than I’ve probably been allotted to see them through to fruition. So what is a mere mortal to do? One must be realistic.

The first thing is to be thankful. Five years ago a doctor told me I probably had just months to live unless I followed his advice and went under the knife. I did not let them cut me and ever since have been experiencing what I call “bonus time.” My health has improved and I’ve had the good fortune to have experienced rich and meaningful years which have been the happiest in my life.

The second thing is to remember that only so much can be well-done each day. I can only do today what I can. Life’s not a race for the most prizes. There can be no winners anyway, because winning is a fleeting thing and we all die in the end. The only “winners” are those who follow us. Life’s essence is about continuity—a chain of life that can perpetuate values and characteristics through the generations which hopefully are well conceived and wisely chosen. Creating love through a coherent vision is therefore the only thing worth my remaining time because it is the only thing which will survive me.

The third thing is to make my plans explicit enough so that others can carry them through with or without me. I’ve devoted my whole working career to working on the front end of projects—to being a pioneer and not a settler—and I visualize what I do as positioning a log at the top of a hill and letting gravity do the rest. Taking good aim is the critical thing.

Last night was movie night again, and Val and I watched the 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road (2006), which I read last year.

The Road follows an unnamed father and son journeying together across a desolate and gray landscape. It is a decade or more after an unexplained cataclysm has destroyed civilization and almost all life on Earth. Crops, livestock, even the crows are all dead.

Realizing that they will not survive another winter in their home country, the father leads the boy south along a vacant highway towards the sea, sustained by the vague hope of finding sunshine and warmth and more “good guys” like them.

The “bad guys” are marauders and cannibals and their greatest fear. They’re what drove the man’s wife, the boy’s mother, to commit suicide sometime before the story begins. “Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us,” she had said. “They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you won’t face it,” she accused. The calmness and rationality of her last act was her final gift to the man and the boy.

Now on the road, and carrying with them only what is on their backs and what will fit into a damaged shopping cart, the father coughs blood every morning and knows he is dying. Yet he struggles to protect his son from the constant threats of attack, exposure, and starvation, as well as from what he sees as the boy’s well-meaning but dangerous desire to help other people they meet.

They are the “good guys.” They would never eat other people. They are “carrying the fire” inside them and the boy keeps believing that nothing bad will happen to them as long as this is so. Yet despite having succeeded in defending the boy through extreme hardship, the man succumbs to his illness and dies, leaving the boy alone. The boy grieves over his father’s corpse with no idea of what he is to do next.

His dilemma is resolved when the boy encounters a man who has been tracking the father and son. This man has a wife and two children of his own, and invites the boy to join his family after convincing him that he is indeed one of the “good guys.” He too carries the fire, and the boy survives. Through the boy’s survival, the father lives on too.

The movie probably had a lot to do with my mood when I awoke this morning. It is a sobering thought to be reminded of one’s mortality, whether by a doctor, a web-based calculator, or a harrowing film. Yet the fable in the book and film also reminds me that everything I value depends on love.

It is the thread upon which hangs through time any immortality we might have.

29
Aug
10

visitor

Yesterday David Sutherland, the Diary reader who greeted me the other day at the Grub Shack, came up for a visit. He had decided to cut short his Big Bend visit and return home to Florida, but wanted to stop by to see Estrella Vista and me before he headed out in the evening. He told me that his wife Susan, who is also a Diary reader, had insisted that he do so. (She is still in Florida and David had made this trip solo; I’d guess she wants a first-hand report when David returns.)

Thanks, Susan. It would have been a shame if David had headed back without stopping here, because yesterday’s visit is definitely the beginning of a close friendship which I know will include you!

Here is the thing which most impressed me about the visit: it was not a meeting of strangers with all the guarded, halting conversation that one might have expected, but a reunion of old friends. This of course is because of the Diary.

David already knew all about me and the people who fill my life—and it seemed so strange to me that I could speak of Henry, Paul and Sarah, Val, Paco and Derek (none of whom David has ever actually met), and it was as if he already knew them.

But the most remarkable thing is that David, who is normally a very reserved person, was so comfortable and open in telling me about himself and some of the deep things which are important to him.

This was an “ah-ha” experience for me because it confirmed for the first time that the Diary is doing what I had hoped it would, which is to help create the conditions for providing spiritual hospitality at Estrella Vista.

People come to the Big Bend for renewal in their lives. They find it not only because they can find beauty and solitude here, but because this land exudes a numinous energy that has a healing and restorative effect on so many people in so many ways. The biggest impediment to people benefiting from this place is that it takes time for them to shift from the tempo and mindset of the outer world and harmonize with the time and mind we experience here.

Most people’s visits here are limited by the number of vacation days their employers allow them, the amount of time, distance, and money it takes them to travel here and back, and the remaining mental space their outer-world responsibilities, commitments and worries do not crowd out. Whatever we can do to prepare and free people to make the most of their limited time here will help them experience the spiritual renewal they seek.

As we begin receiving more visitors who will stay here with us at Estrella Vista, I am imagining that the Diary will play a greater role in drawing them—and maybe you—here.

Oh, I did promise you that I would ask David if the place is anything like what he’d expected.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he answered. “The one thing I can say is that I’m worried about bringing Susan here. She will like it too much and ask me to build something like it on our land.”

28
Aug
10

old fashioned love songs

My postings this week have all been so serious; since it’s the weekend and we’re all presumably kicking back, I thought you might enjoy hearing some old fashioned love songs by someone other than Three Dog Night.

I’ve been having quite a lot of fun lately collecting classical vocal music over the Internet. For a while I focused on choral music which ran the gamut from boys’ school choirs to the Red Army Chorus, and then became intrigued with particular songs and how they are treated differently by various ensembles and soloists.

My latest discovery is that you can enter an MP3 download search into Amazon’s system and automatically sample a playlist of the same selection by different artists and performers. It’s a fantastic music self-education tool. It is amazing all of the new things you can learn by looking at the same thing in different ways.

This last week I learned through my research the stories of two wedding feasts where guests other than the bridegroom fall madly in love with the bride; one is a story of unrequited love, and the other is a story of scandalous passion. Both weddings resulted in love songs which are among the most beautiful written, and sung by two of the greatest tenors in the history of the musical world.

The first story begins in 1636 in Prussia at the wedding of a 17-year-old girl named Anna Neander. She was married there to a minister named Johannes Partatius (who really doesn’t figure into this story except to explain the “unrequited love” bit). You see, one of the wedding guests was a 31-year-old poet from Memel named Simon Dach, and he fell head over heels in love with the bride. He was so taken by her that it is said he wrote a seventeen-stanza love poem about her when he returned to his lodgings that night. (The long-lived Anna took two other husbands after that, but sadly the lovelorn Simon Dach never had a chance.)

Dach’s poem declaring his love for Anna later became a much loved and performed German folk song titled “Ännchen von Tharau.” (The words to the song in German and English appear as a comment to this post.)

I found many performances of the song, but my favorite is a 1960s recording by the lyric tenor Fritz Wunderlich, who died of an accidental fall when he was only in his 30s and who, according to one respected music magazine, is the fourth-greatest tenor of all time:

Listen to “Ännchen von Tharau” performed by Fritz Wunderlich

The second wedding story begins 108 years later at the Theatre Royale in  Covent Garden in London, with the first performance of George Friderick Handel’s oratorio Semele. It was a wedding staged in mythic Roman times in the city of Thebes. The bride was Semele and the groom was to have been Athamas.

However, one of the wedding guests was the god Jupiter and, like poor Simon Dach, he fell madly in love with the bride. Yet unlike Dach—and as only pagan gods and Dustin Hoffmann are wont to do—Jupiter abducted Semele from the wedding ceremony and took her off to a palace at Cithaeron where they indulged in wild erotic exploits that enraged Jupiter’s wife Juno and drove the story to a dramatic conclusion resulting in the birth of the god Bacchus (whose name is rightly associated with the concept of debauchery).

Because Handel had scheduled his premiere during Lent and the audience had been expecting something of a more Biblical and uplifting nature, the performance caused a scandal and the show was shut down after only four performances. Yet this love song, sung by a smitten Jupiter to Semele, became one of the most beloved English-language love arias of all time.

Listen to John McCormack performing “Where’ere You Walk”

As an old guy who regularly falls in love with young girls from afar, I can personally attest to the danger of attending weddings. Even the homeliest girl can appear radiant on her wedding day and reduce poor fools like me to jelly.

27
Aug
10

cindy

I slept in this morning and didn’t awaken until nine. The first thing I did after descending from my sleeping loft was to call my friend Cindy, who is undergoing radiation treatments in Minneapolis for breast cancer.

Cindy had called me two days ago, returning a call I’d placed a day or two before. I could tell she was tired and not really in the mood to talk. Just after she’s called, her daughters had begun quarrelling and provided an excuse to cut the call short.

One of her first questions had been, “Have you been reading my journal at Caring Bridge?” and I had to admit that I’d forgotten all about it—it was outside the established pattern of how we’d stayed in touch and I am normally so slow to change old habits. Cindy had established an account at this web-based service to spare herself the burden of fielding numerous calls such as mine, as well-intentioned as they might be.

I was so ashamed to have neglected reading her journal, I immediately went to Caring Bridge, downloaded her journal, and read the whole thing. I’m glad I did. It was reassuring and inspiring to read how Cindy is facing her ordeal. She is making the most of it, and continuing to grow through it all.

“I read your entire journal and just want you to know how much I admire you. You are so brave and philosophical about everything you’re going through,” I told her this morning. I could hear her voice brighten as she responded.

“And all those people who are saying your last few entries sounded gloomy—just tell them to go to hell,” I continued. “They’re the ones who have never been through anything like this. They’re clueless. It’s perfectly normal, healthy even, to have some downs as well as the ups.”

I knew these people wouldn’t understand what I said next, but Cindy did: “This may sound strange to say, but the hard times are to be cherished as much as the good.”

Cindy knew exactly what I meant because, as proved time and again in her journal, she is spinning straw into gold. She told me that writing the journal has been an important and positive outlet for her.

If you have the time and inclination, you can read Cindy’s journal at www.caringbridge.org by typing in cynthiarogers in the “Visit a Website” box.

26
Aug
10

alarming possibility

A couple days ago my research uncovered a story I had not heard about before which has implanted a troubling doubt in my mind about the system of “child protection” which has evolved in our country.

On March 26th the bodies of Bruce and Nancy Schaefer were found in the bedroom of their Georgia home by their daughter. Both had been shot. Nancy Schaefer was a former Georgia state senator who had been spearheading a movement calling for the audit and reform of the Georgia Department of Child Protective Services. She was about to release a documentary film about Child Protective Services and take her campaign national.

The authorities in Georgia were quick to label the deaths a murder-suicide, but many people close to the couple believe it was a professional hit staged to look like a murder-suicide.

Senator Schaefer gained respect from both conservative and liberal family rights advocates for her work exposing the corruption in Child Protective Services (CPS) and the US family courts. In 2009 she gave speeches in the Netherlands and Sweden where she accused the US government of being involved in human trafficking through an all-powerful CPS system which rewards states with federal dollars for abducting children from their families and keeping family members separated. She said that our national child protection system has become a huge industry that’s “all about the money.”

She accused the CPS “industry” of other gross malfeasance including complicity in the sexual abuse of children. Her messages were obviously embarrassing and discomfiting to politicians, bureaucrats, social workers, lawyers, judges and others whose livelihoods and power depend on continuation of the status quo.

You can view Senator Schaefer’s August 11, 2009 speech in the Netherlands at the World Congress on Families by clicking these links:

“The Unlimited Power of Child Protective Services” Part 1 (6:32)

“The Unlimited Power of Child Protective Services” Part 2 (6:26)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y73nFp0Y19c&feature=related

 

The speech is worth the small amount of time it will take you to view it to get an idea of the significant direction Senator Schaefer’s life and work had taken in the years before her murder.

Yet here is the curious thing that makes me so suspicious of the official version of the circumstances surrounding her death: there was a complete news blackout in the mainstream media about her campaign to reform the CPS system  in America. Don’t believe me?

Watch this local news report about Senator Schaefer’s murder:

How can anyone explain such a glaring omission—one which has been perpetuated so very effectively since then—except to question whether the powers-that-be have suppressed the real story behind her death? Think about it.

I certainly am, especially now that my work is putting me in contact with the child protection system here and elsewhere in the country. From now on I’ll be paying attention with eyes and mind opened to the alarming possibility that CPS may not be what it purports to be.

25
Aug
10

almost famous

Yesterday I was at the Grub Shack quietly enjoying a cup of Eva’s homemade chocolate ice cream when a stranger with a Jamaican accent arrived.

“I saw the Ford Explorer parked here. And you’re eating ice cream,” he declared. “Dan Dailey, right? And that’s Otto in the car?”

Oh my god, I thought. This guy knows more about me than my mother would if she were still alive.

(She never could figure out what I did for a living. Her last advice to me before she died was. “Why don’t you just get a job?”)

“I’m David Sutherland from Florida,” he explained. “I read your blog.”

“David!” I exclaimed as I jumped up and pumped his hand. “It’s so good to meet you!” I said with all sincerity. This was the first time one of my Diary visitors had come looking for me. A milestone, so to speak.

We spoke for a few minutes and promised to visit another time. He didn’t ask for my autograph, but his recognition did make me feel a little like a celebrity for a just a moment.

After David comes up to Estrella Vista for a visit, I’ll let you know if the place is anything like he imagined.

۞

Today at 10:00 am is David Champ’s formal arraignment in juvenile court. I’m on pins and needles right now awaiting word of what will transpire behind the court’s closed doors.

Last night young David’s grandfather called to tell me that David believes he will be returning home after today’s hearing. “Do you think there’s any chance of that happening?” he asked hopefully.

“No way,” I told him.

The boy doesn’t understand the magnitude of what’s happening to him. I just hope poor David will not be too distressed when he learns he will be returning to the detention center this afternoon.

He will have to begin growing up very fast right about now.

(postscript)

According to a news report by one of the local TV stations, 11-year-old David was brought to the Family Court in sweats and shackles, surrounded by his family, mother, and lawyers. The hearing was postponed to September 15th and the court was petitioned to order a “screening for residential placement,” which was granted. This is all the public was told.

Let me translate.

The arraignment hearing was postponed so the prosecutor can delay a decision on what formal charge, if any, will be filed. The prosecutor wants to know the child’s state of mind and development before making a decision about an appropriate formal charge. Hence the “screening” which is really a psychological evaluation.

This is all good. The Missouri prosecutor is taking a good look before taking the leap. Everyone appears to be sincerely concerned about the boy’s welfare. They seem to be getting it right.

If only such a responsible approach had been taken in Pennsylvania!

24
Aug
10

confused

By the end of the day yesterday I must have been blushing. I hate being wrong.

If you read the comments to yesterday’s post, one very well-informed visitor, “Fallo,” told me that my information about state water catchment prohibitions was out-of-date. Several states have recently repealed or changed their laws and now allow—or even encourage—people to use the rain that falls on their land.

I had based my paragraph on information in an article published just a month ago, and now I’ve learned that author’s information was itself out-of-date by several months if not a year or two. I just hate it when I am told something is so, I act on it, and then find that it is not so.

Yesterday I was dealing with some similar dissonance in Missouri, which is the thing that had me most red-faced and frustrated. While sorting out the facts in young David Champ’s background, I’ve been presented with two different interpretations (or representations) of the same reality, and I frankly don’t yet know what to believe. The discrepancy concerns matters which are not insignificant, and this is distressing. I’m also working under the disadvantage of conducting all my interactions over the phone and not in person, so at this point all sources appear equally credible. Yet I know I must bring a healthy dose of skepticism into my evaluation of everything I am told.

It is my basic tendency to want to take what people say at face value, and yet I’m dealing with a parricide situation which will inevitably reveal humanity in its worst light. Except in a case of the most extreme and rare mental illness, the murder of a parent by a child is always the result of horrible and sustained abuse which reaches a breaking point that overrides the most fundamental hard-wiring and instincts that human beings possess.

Children never kill their parents on a whim (or over “jealousy” as the Pennsylvania prosecutors allege in Jordan Brown’s case). Parricides only result from the most extreme forms of child abuse by parents or care givers—abuse which is allowed to continue uninterrupted by other members of a child’s family and community—abuse which was not a factor in Jordan’s case (and which makes the prosecution’s claim that Jordan committed this crime so fantastic and ludicrous on its face).

At least I know I am doing no worse than the Missouri Department of Family Services which, I’ve been told, received four anonymous calls on their hot line about young David’s situation and made two visits to the home before the tragedy—and yet they, with the advantage of having eyes, ears, and feet on the ground in Independence, did not raise any red flags which would have resulted in David’s removal from his father’s custody. So I think I can be forgiven for being temporarily confused and frustrated at this point while I continue to give everyone’s accounts and veracity the benefit of a doubt.

The one thing which is beyond doubt is that—and I am only repeating what several people have told me—the world is a far better place without David’s father in it. He was a monster as awful as any of the characters you might see in a Wes Craven horror movie. Few people who knew him are mourning his passing—except young David who, despite everything he suffered at his father’s hands, still loves his dad.

My confusion is nothing compared to his.

23
Aug
10

outlaw

The true state of the laws in America deeply troubles me.

In many Western states  individuals are outlawed from what we’re doing here, which is collecting rainwater from our rooftops and storing it for personal use. According to officials in those states, rainwater runoff belongs to the government and cannot be diverted and captured by private landowners.

Organic farming would be criminalized through bills being pushed through Congress, HR 875 and S 425, under the guise of “food safety modernization.” These bills are backed by giant food companies Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, and ADM, and have 40 congressional sponsors (Stan Greenburg, a political strategist and husband of the lead House sponsor, Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut, is on Monsanto’s payroll). The bills are so broadly written, even backyard gardens and orchards would fall under the government’s authority.

In July, federal agents swarmed Pennsylvania farmer Dan Allgyer’s farm in a 4:30 am raid while his family was still sleeping and falsely accused him of selling raw milk across state lines. Mr. Allgyer is Amish and runs his dairy operation in accordance with his traditional values. He is not engaged in interstate commerce, even though the feds are claiming jurisdiction under a 1930s-era ruling (Wickard v. Filburn) which says that practically everything can be considered to have an effect on “interstate commerce,” even if a defendant is not directly involved in cross-border sales transactions.

These are but a few examples of how government is attempting to control and micromanage basic human activities which have a material bearing on people’s abilities to survive and sustain themselves as free and self-reliant citizens.

The direction things are going in this country is that, if you are doing something a big corporation can’t make money off of or that the governments cannot tax, your right to do that thing—and maybe even your personal liberty—will be taken away from you. Little by little the shackles of slavery are being tightened.

An FBI brochure published by its Phoenix office states that defenders of the US Constitution against the federal government and the UN should be monitored as “potentially murderous and fanatical terrorists and, by extension, should be considered mentally unstable.” According to recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health established by George W. Bush in 2002, mentally unstable people are to be medicated on a compulsory basis with psychotropic drugs.

Uh, I don’t think so. Isn’t that what the Soviets did to keep their dissidents under control?

I moved out here to be free of such oppressive constraints, to make my own power from the sun and the wind, to grow my own food unadulterated by chemicals, to live in accordance with natural law, and think and speak in accordance with the Constitution and the Natural Rights of Man.

If this makes me an “outlaw,” then so be it—I’ll wear that label proudly.

A few weeks back, one of my friends told me, “We’re all outlaws out here. You just have to decide which gang you’re gonna run with.”

It’s time to decide.

22
Aug
10

thinking of food

Sadie came up to the house yesterday for an extended visit. My first thought was that maybe Alana and Bill had run out of pigs’ tails, but I later discovered that they were just away from home for the day. When their car rolled down the road in the late afternoon, Sadie chased after them as if she were tethered to their bumper by an invisible thread.

Sadie’s visit happened to coincide with my re-screening of Food Inc., an excellent documentary by filmmaker Robert Kenner and investigative journalist Eric Schlosser. Food Inc. lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the collusion of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA, which are headed by food industry insiders.

The nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of giant corporations that regularly put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers, and our environment.

We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are plagued with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults and children–all of which is absolutely linked to the foods we eat.

This film had special meaning for me because, having ordered an omelet at a restaurant in Marathon last week, Paul became sick with food poisoning. Apparently he had been served eggs which are now the subject of the massive recall of eggs originating at two Iowa farms which have recalled half a billion potentially tainted eggs. “You almost had to make funeral arrangements for me,” Paul said without a hint of hyperbole. “I was sure I was going to die.”

I’m glad it didn’t come to that. Yet until I viewed Food Inc., I did not understand how an egg or two could have become so dangerous to someone as robust and healthy as Paul. The federal Centers for Disease Control said yesterday the number of tainted-egg illnesses, so far estimated as high as 1,300, will likely grow.

The problem, of course, is the high degree of centralization in our nation’s industrialized food supply, and the situation is becoming more acute as companies like Monsanto are forcing out of business independent farmers who refuse to buy into that company’s genetically-modified soybean system. Monsanto has hired private investigators and legions of lawyers to wipe out farmers who try to cling to traditional farming methods, and they’re being backed up by the government’s courts and regulatory agencies.

As Oprah discovered a few years back, in thirteen states that have passed so-called “Veggie Libel Laws” it is now illegal to make disparaging remarks about certain kinds of foods and you can be sued by these huge food companies and industry groups which can spend you into the ground and render you defenseless, the first amendment notwithstanding.

I tried to find an Internet link where you can view this important film, but came up dry. (For readers who are Netflix members, the full documentary is available as a “View Instantly” online video.) I did however find a link to PBS’s NOW, where host David Brancaccio interviews Robert Kenner and shows a few clips of Food Inc.’s highlights.

The 25-minute interview can be viewed here, and I strongly encourage you to take the time to view it:

 http://video.pbs.org/video/1143263943/

This is a serious issue affecting every single person in America. We all eat something everyday, after all. The film reminds me that we must redouble our efforts at Estrella Vista to become self-sufficient in the production of our own food—food that we can trust not to kill us or make us sick.