Things We Can Do


Perhaps we need a Jango face today.

It's been really easy to get caught up in despair about, well, everything from racism and sexism to politics and paying the bills; but in the end that despair can be either a distraction or a catalyst. If you choose the latter, you realize that while you really have no control over the whole system, you DO have control of your daily actions and attitudes. True change has to happen--really can only happen--on a local level; there is no person that can change the whole system with the passage of a bill or a moving speech or whatever. We've got to get our heads focused on the community and people around us if we want to see positive things happen. Here's a checklist of things that we can all do to empower ourselves and our communities:

1) Shop locally; support small businesses, local artists, and farmers. If you spend money in your community, that money benefits your community and not some massive corporate a-holes that don't care about you.

2) Call out racism and sexism when you see it or hear it. We are just as guilty as the perpetrators if we allow this garbage to happen without doing something about it.

3) Support progressive local political campaigns. Guess what? In a borough that nearly unanimously voted for Trump, we just elected a Democrat with dark skin as our mayor, as well as a few young and/or awesome candidates for Borough Council.

4) Volunteer. Spend time giving back to your community through service. Come out to the Community Garden next week and help us dig potatoes for low-income families, volunteer at the Soup Kitchen, after school programs, church initiatives, etc. Everyone has skills and/or resources that they can share with others.

5) Vote with your dollars. Divest from corporate banks that support things that ultimately destroy us. Invest, if you can, in renewable energy, more fuel-efficient vehicles (better yet, public transportation!), and small businesses. Everything you buy, you support. Every dollar spent should be a weight on your conscience.

6) Support people who are standing up for their rights and their land! Most protestors are not violent and are pissed off for a good reason. If we don't stand up for what we believe in, then we've already lost the battle. Support Camp White Pine, for example, in their fight against Big Oil, who is stealing their land for private profit. (If you think that pipelines are beneficial to people and our planet, do some research.)

7) Learn how to be more self-sufficient. It's empowering and will save you money that you won't have to slave away for. Plant a garden, learn how to fix things, build your own structures, learn how to make stuff, and use reclaimed materials. It's amazing what you can find for free that is completely useful.

8) Educate yourself. Stop listening to corporate media and the embedded beliefs of those around you. Think for yourself and learn how to find good, peer-reviewed information. Don't be a sheep!

9) Stay focused and remain positive! Despair is what the powers-that-be want. We've got to be willing to do some work in order to see things happen, but with some effort and positive action we can change our communities for the better, and, ultimately, the world.


Good luck!

Dear America, Shut the F@#& Up (and Do Something About It)

I have held my tongue for too long, and I must finally say: everybody shut the f*** up about this election.  Stop cutting each other down, stop blaming everyone else for your woes, stop denying that racism exists and there's no such thing as white privilege, stop blaming immigrants and the sitting president for all of your occupational frustrations, and, please, pretty please, turn off your TV and social media for even just a little while.  This election and recent news cycles have pushed us to the point of self-destruction by thoroughly polarizing our society, force-feeding us the false realities of black and white, Trump or Hillary, and conservative or liberal.  Take a step back and realize that this is what the People With Money want us to do.  Both of the major presidential candidates are people with lots of money, and if you think for even a moment that either of them has your interests in mind, you're quite honestly foolish.  You will not find the answer to your problems in a bigoted, sexist, xenophobic, egotistical, childish, self-serving ass; nor will your find a change with a career politician who is tied to corporate monsters, a person who will continue to order deaths on foreign soil and cater to those who have given her huge sums of money. 

Everyone is understandably upset with the way things are in America and in the world.  But the prescripted reasons for our woes are fabricated as a distraction by the folks who are really in charge.  If you're upset about your job and your unlivable wage, demand and fight for higher pay.  Stop supporting chain stores that take advantage of their workers and buy from local businesses.  Go to your local cafes and restaurants that support the community and local farmers.  Frequent local art galleries and buy gifts for people from local artisans.  Spend your money locally and invest in your community. Visit the farmers' market.  Vote every day with your dollar--everything you buy you support.  Imagine casting a vote every time you buy something.  Investigate where things come from and how they are produced.  Ask "can I buy this locally?"  Start growing your own food and learning how to fix and build things.  Volunteer anywhere--a soup kitchen, a community garden, revitalization campaigns, old folks' homes, and after-school programs.  If there aren't any of these then gather other concerned citizens and do something about it.  Hold meetings, make plans and DO something. 

I'm sick of all of this talk: all of this bitching and fighting on social media and in opinion lines.  Get off your computer and take your nose out of everyone else's business and start actually doing something to help humans other than yourself.  Remember that the people we are demonizing are our neighbors, often our friends, and that compassion--not this disgusting, self-righteous, childish attitude we have adopted as a culture--is the only way forward for us.  If you think you're so patriotic, then live by the words "united we stand, divided we fall."  Our strength lies in our diversity.  We must meet each other with open hearts but at the same time not put up with bigotry and sexism.  To all of you reading this who believe in "white power," I'll be happy to sit and talk with you and try to work on understanding, but I'll burn your disgusting rebel flag if I see it.      

Wake up, everyone!  The shit you read and pay attention to is exactly that: a pile of rotting words that are meant to distract you and keep you from the real work ahead of us: demanding equal pay for women, revitalizing local businesses, investing in education and mental health, and realizing that skin color has nor more significance that the color of one's eyes.  Go out and meet your neighbors and make friends with local law enforcers.  Elect local officials who actually care about you and your rights and not the interests of corporate entities.  Get to know people who have different political views than yours, people with different skin colors, and people younger and older than you.  I think you'll find that nearly all of us want to be good people and do good things.  The problem is in our understanding of reality--a reality that is fed to us by people who don't really care about us.  Start forging your own reality with the people you interact with on a daily basis.  That's all you can do, and it's the best way for us to truly make a difference.  Don't listen to any of the naysayers; there's no time for negativity.  Don't even listen to me--figure it our for yourself: turn off your computer and stop reading these posts.  Stop feeding into the hate that "they" want us to perpetuate!  Just get out there and be a good human!

Meditations on a Night at Arts Fest

Last night I found myself in the midst of the human circus known as Arts Fest in State College, PA.  I was downstairs in Zeno's Pub dancing to a friend's band when I began to get a familiar, creeping feeling that something was not right.  I looked around at a scene that began to seem more and more foreign, as if I were a traveler from a distant land or time that was suddenly placed in a situation far removed from his own. 

I took to the street and pondered the passersby with their eyes locked on little electronic screens wearing clothes most likely made of petroleum.  What a strange concept--plastic that you can wear!  Cars whizzed by, and people bustled.  Was I born in the wrong century?  The question is silly, really, because I obviously exist right now and must be destined for this moment of existence; but still I feel drawn to a place either long gone or far away.  I think these moments are a realization of what Hindus call "Maya," the sudden understanding that this construct we live in is an illusion and "reality" is what you experience with your eyes closed sitting out in the forest or the desert. 

But I guess this world we live in is as real as anything, as much as I'd like to believe otherwise.  It's like we're living a perverse self-fulfilled prophecy brought about by doomsayers and apocalyptic movie narratives.  People are being shot by those who are supposed to protect us without any just cause.  Mass killings are happening all over the world.  Genocide, climate change, racism, and gender inequality is pervasive in every facet of our social world.  And, ugh, this presidential race: a battle between a misogynistic, racist twiddle twat who hasn't progressed emotionally past third grade and a member of political royalty who is being puppeteered by the agendas of corporate entities that have funded her campaign, both of whom are fighting it out to see who is most egotistical and self-serving.  Gross.  The human world is taking over the planet, and it is becoming increasingly foul.  This American bubble we live in is likely to pop soon, everyone--you best get ready for the next century of water struggles, hostile growing conditions, and general warfare. 

Heaviness is what I feel having written that last paragraph, and yet here I sit typing in a hammock strung up between two towering oaks overlooking small sandstone cliffs that delineate the southern border of the family forest.  My dog seems to think all is well, and I could also be easily tricked into feeling so.  But the wind that blows through the summer canopy brings with it the ill tidings of distant and not-so-distant lands.  If you take the time to open the eye in your heart, it's easy to feel it.  If only I had been born in a century much earlier or perhaps much later, I could have lived my hermit's dream of self-sufficiency away from the human condition.  But my heart's eye will not close, and so I must accept the fact that I am here now.  I'll walk back to sow more seeds and grow vegetables and post these words on the internet for all to see.  To what end?  I don't know.  But it's what I feel I must do.   

Dear You

Dear You,

I've been looking for you.  Waiting, I suppose...but waiting implies a bit of impatience, which, I guess if I'm honest, there's been a bit of that.  I wonder sometimes while my mind drifts out in the gardens where you might be right now.  What are you doing?  What thoughts are playing across your mind?  What does your little eye spy?  Perhaps I already know you, though I get a feeling that I don't.  Maybe there is no "you," but rather a collection of glorious moments and people and periods of my life that make up, collectively, the You that I dream of, though the hopeless romantic in me keeps telling me there's just one of you out there.

I think I can almost see you sometimes; I catch glimpses out of the corner of my eye of your hair in the wind, your feet up with mine in front of the fire, your hands stained with dirt pulling weeds.  Sometimes I hear you breathing next to me.  When I'm in the woods I can almost hear the sound of your boot steps just ahead of me.  But I can't see your face--always your face is hidden, so when I see you I might not recognize you at first.  That's my fear, at least--that I may not recognize you and miss you somehow.  Something tells me that I will, though.  Know that it's you, that is.  My heart will be able to tell straight away, and if it doesn't then I guess you're not You. 

I'm 33 now and to some that may mean I'm "getting old."  But I'm trying my hardest not to live in a world of numbers and quantities; it's just too limiting.  I'll wait until the day my body stops working to meet you.  I won't settle for someone else if you're still out there somewhere.  I'm trying my best not to be impatient and to know that you'll come in your own time, but there's an excitement ready to burst from me, an aching, welling-up of emotion that is nearly impossible to contain, much like the tears wanting to scream from my eyes in this little coffee shop but having to contain them because I don't want people to look at me and think "what the hell is that guy crying about?"  I don't even know why I want to cry--maybe it's the only way I can physically express the way I feel about the fact that you're not with me right now.  Where are you?  I'm 33 and it feels like it's getting late.  Wait, I'm trying to keep it together and not think in time or numbers.  Damnit, linear social construct!  You've fed my left brain too much with your discreteness and preconceived ideas!  I'm free, I'm free from all of that now, at least as much as I can be, but still my schooling remains etched in my skull. 

So maybe you're reading this right now.  Maybe you don't know I'm Me.  I swear I can feel you out there looking for me, too--I just want you to close your eyes and try really hard to find me across the space between us.  Maybe you're already doing that, and that's how I know you're there.  Yep, that's it, I'll tell myself.  I believe in that kind of magic, and so do you.  We'll find each other.  I've been working on stuff; and while I love being alone, I think I'm ready now.  As ready as I can be.  To meet you.

I love you, that's for sure.  I just don't know you yet. 


Will Sunoco's Mariner East 2 Pipeline Really Benefit Us?

For those who missed this Letter to the Editor, published on Tuesday, April 19 in the Huntingdon Daily News:

To all concerned citizens,

Throughout my life I've been told that in America we have freedom, we have personal rights, and that nobody should be able to take those basic rights, those freedoms, away from us.  But that is exactly what Sunoco is doing to families all across Pennsylvania.  Sunoco's Mariner East 2 Pipeline is to be a 350 mile natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Ohio to southeast PA.  It will transport 275,000 barrels of natural gas every day to the Marcus Hook Refinery in Delaware County. According to Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields, nearly all of the gas is to be shipped overseas.

Most will say, "but the pipeline is good for the economy." As I personally witnessed, cutting crews are brought in from out of state.  Landowners, farmers and family-owned businesses have had their livelihoods destroyed as a result of tree cuttings for the pipeline. Once the cutting is done, what will be left? A 350 mile gash in our beautiful landscape.  And where will the gas go?  It won't stay here, it will go overseas and ultimately up into an already struggling atmosphere.  So who will benefit from the pipeline?  Certainly not us.  The profits will make a faceless, multi-billion dollar company and its associated industries even more rich and powerful.

Sunoco has used eminent domain to take land from approximately 2,700 private properties for this project.  Eminent domain means "the power to take private property for public use;" and it is typically reserved for utilities like the electric company or for PennDOT, which provides services to the general public. But if all the gas goes overseas, how will the American public use it?  Currently, Sunoco has not been federally deemed a public utility. So how can they legally claim eminent domain? You should ask Judge Zanic, who sided with Sunoco in a dispute over their claim filed by the Gerhart family, whose land has been taken for the pipeline--land they pledged 34 years ago would never be developed under the Forest Stewardship Program, or "Clean and Green."

Recently Sunoco clearcut 3 acres of the Gerhart property, including a beautiful wetland that is home to birds, bats, fish, and other creatures. In order to cut a wetland, permits are required from the Department of Environmental Protection. Those permits were never acquired by Sunoco, who claims they did not cut in or around the wetland. I saw with my own eyes giant trees being felled on and around the surveyors' signs marked "Wetland Boundary" and "Water Crossing," trees literally crushing those signs. Their case is currently in an appeals process, and so we must ask: "If the decision could be reversed in a higher court, what kind of system allows for a company to create irreversible damage to someone's property before a final decision is made?" 

Sunoco and other multinational corporations don't care about you.  They don't care about the environment. They don't care about our legal system. And if we keep electing officials who allow these criminals to walk right in and take and destroy our land, then you will see more of these projects happen, creating more destruction and pollution. With 30,000 miles of pipeline slated to be built in Pennsylvania the next ten years, they may even end up in your backyard ready to take whatever they want. As Americans we must make our voices heard above the growl of chainsaws and the swish of pens in privileged offices, the sounds of our basic rights slipping away from us.

This is an issue that affects all of us either directly or indirectly, regardless of politics or personal beliefs; and the purpose of this letter is not meant to be divisive. Rather, we should be working together with our local officials, Judge Zanic, and environmental agencies. If you are upset about this issue you can call the DEP, the governor, the Public Utility Commission, and anyone else you think may have an impact on future decisions. Exercise your hearts and your voices. For the good of the land, our friends, and our rights.

With sincerity,

Nicholas Miller

From an Old Journal; Ramblings Revisited

Well, I may as well use this website for something. And honestly, writing is something I've been meaning to reconnect with for some time now. Ultimately, I write for me, for my enjoyment; though part of this is for you. You know who you are.

Maybe I'll publish some stuff someday, but for now I'm content typing away at this computer by the fire, deep now into my down-time away from the gardens and the farmers' market and soccer balls...deep into my reading time, cutting wood and burning it time, writing songs time, time for no time kind of time. I just now picked up a journal from my last journey to India back in 2009. I found an entry and liked it, and it's actually what made me think about writing again. I was on a train from the south speeding toward the northern city of Varanasi.


Squat houses with clay shingles, circular patties of cow dung drying on the roof. Dry washes hinting of the rainy season as a bull kicks up dust outside a newly tilled field. The rains will come to wash away the dust and fill this arid landscape with green harvests and mud puddles. Small paths leading to seemingly infinite somewheres. No trash out here in the country; a white heron perched on the shore of a grassy river gives the only colorful contrast. Girl of my age across from me in the train, peach saree betraying subtly her smooth features, a gold nose ring drawing attention to her soft face, looks out the window and smiles.

The sun sets behind this place seemingly out of time. Few electrical wires hint of the modern world. As we approach a town, the piles of trash begin; and the air smells of rot and shit. 'What have we done to this planet?' I thought yesterday when we left Chennai.

Back in the country now, nothing seems to stir, not even leaves in the trees. A man in white cycles down a dirt track before dark. More leafless trees...undergrowth blackened by brush fires. A few Mother Trees amidst the fields. I'll never know this place--never walk its dusty paths, though I long to. To be one of the goat herders and know this somehow lonely landscape. But this is not my life. I am on the train, and the land is outside.....

More to come.  I promise.

When the Snows Melt

                              Jack-in-the-hedge, or Garlic Mustard.  Native to the UK.  An invasive species, but it's yummy.

                              Jack-in-the-hedge, or Garlic Mustard.  Native to the UK.  An invasive species, but it's yummy.

It goes without saying that this was the first real winter in many years, rivaled only by those I experienced when I was a kid.  I remember the snows being deeper then, though...or maybe it was just that I was smaller; but I can never recall the abundance of close-to-zero days and nights we had this season.  

Winter has not lost its grip.  Like a weary traveler come home, it is not wishing to depart again so soon.  Frost outlined the blades of grass struggling out on the lawn.  Crystalline patterns were etched on car windows on my bike ride to school this morning.  Smoke is still coming from the chimney, and the sawdust is still accumulating outside the woodshed--all marks that winter still wishes to have it's say on our planting schedule.

Nonetheless, I have in the past few days put spinach, kale, mustard green, beet, and lettuce seeds in the ground in hopes that the soil has warmed enough in the sun for decent germination.  Always an experiment, this farming thing.  Tubers went in as well.  I dug up part of our patch of Jerusalem Artichokes (or "Sunchokes") and planted scores of their ginger-looking appendages in a few beds around the house.  Potatoes were planted just yesterday in random containers.  This year I have red, gold, and purple potatoes in addition, of course, to James' assorted stock of fingerlings and such.

And not to mention all of the cute little seedlings springing up under fluorescent lights indoors--the tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, a whole assortment of herbs and flowers, and so forth.  They look happy despite the still-cold outside temperatures.  I think they are delighted to be inside with the wood fire.  

There is some harvesting to do already, though only for edible wild plants.  Wild Garlic and Garlic Mustard, or "Jack-in-the-Hedge," as the Brits call it, has made its appearance in legions all through the woods surrounding the house.  Wild garlic is the oniony-looking stuff that springs up in grassy, chive-like patches.  Good tasting stuff!  But my favorite of the edible wilds has got to be the Jack-in-the-Hedge.  It's excellent mixed in with salads, put in stir-fries in the last minute of cooking, or made into a pesto.  I'll even munch on it raw when I'm meandering through the trees behind the house.  It's pretty unmistakable stuff, and it pops up everywhere--even in town.  I've included some pictures so that you can identify these things yourself.  As always with wild foraging, err on the side of caution, though the Wild Garlic and Jack-in-the-Hedge are easily identified and aren't to be confused with anything poisonous.  I also recommend getting a wild edibles book so you can identify other free-growing tasty foods.  By the way, Morel season is coming!  Best of luck out there, intrepid wild foodies...    

           Wild Garlic; it grows all over the place.

           Wild Garlic; it grows all over the place.

                                    Wild Garlic bulbs.

                                    Wild Garlic bulbs.