Rolling By the River’s Edge


Returning Home

THIS MAY I LOOKED FORWARD TO A SPECTACULAR MIGRATION in the midst of Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, and Medford (MA). With species in rapid extinction, I had given up on this migration, much as the grey whales disappeared from migrating the 2,000 miles up the Atlantic Ocean. I was wrong.Read more

Rivers in a Viral Desert

As summer’s soft breath greets wisteria and peach trees, stores are closed and schools have barricaded doors. In Massachusetts, the plague still hovers close. COVID asks humans to shut bodies inside, not to shut off attention. Fear is on steroids but hiding helps noone. Thin iris blades are rising, and swans arrive ready to nest.  I want to show up too. Early in the morning I start by running off yesterday’s stress. Being on Earth, 60-something years, I should be a pro at curbing stress. Keep dreaming! My spine is riddled with ropes of tension. Luckily I can still run the Quinibecquin River that meanders through Watertown and Cambridge. I go most days... religiously. Quakers don’t worship the church. But without doubt the riverbed runs sweetly in my soul--it's a religious experience. You doubt me?Read more

Is the US Election Over?

~~~ Our lives on the line~~
~~~ Our lives on the line ~~~

Dear Ones — know that you are love and are living on Earth to love. This is not a social media announcement. I’m probably breaking the rules~not the first time.

We can do acts of kindness. We can give more from our larder, walk in the shoes of a mother from Honduras, tutor in a poor school with immigrants, open our homes to Syrians. This is Christian charity, and it is good. We can give from our hearts. And often in charity we only give from our excess. Is this all we are called to do? Is kindness in safe measures what Jesus did? Or what the Holy Spirit today is asking us?Read more

Plagues Revisit us in 2013

Meteorologists predict forest fires, storms and gargantuan flooding.

Hope During the 10 Plagues
Hope During the 10 Plagues

So if tornadoes are predicted we need to fly into action. NOW. Today. With a Clif Energy Bar in one hand, and a photo of our child’s first day of school in our pocket. We need to work on the environmental crisis with hope.

We work tirelessly like angels flying in front of the greedy fulcrum of the fuel industry. We are Justice-welders. We create gardens of beauty. We compose curves of music and golden rhapsodies. We work under the looming storm to protect our Holy Planet.

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause” of global warming since 1950.”Announced the UN scientists last week. Did you hear NPR discuss the difference between very likely and extremely likely? I laughed out loud. In 2007 the likelihood that humans are the cause was 90% (very likely for plebeian parlance); now the likelihood is 95% (extremely likely). In 2001, the UN group cautiously said the

Pollution Collected from Riverbank
Pollution from Riverbank

likelihood was only 66%. Scrupulous Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote the UN‘s Climate Change published a report of 700 pages. Humans’ gas emissions cause our droughts and capricious tornadoes. Goodbye Ice Caps.

So we are living in times of crisis. But I don’t fear, because humans are amazingly creative and we can reinvent our oil-greediness. I get inspiration from the strangest places. The story of Moses helps me with looking at global climate change. Moses and his scepter brought on the plagues, and the Israelites as a people survived the devastation. Imagine 3,000 years ago and you had just heard a prophet, Moses, talk about getting out of Egypt. Would you be afraid or hopeful? Maybe they were both. At first many Israelites didn’t want to pick up and leave the Nile delta. They had food (pomegranates barley), lots of children (thanks to Shiprah and Puah) and they had work (as slaves). They had always known slavery and pharaohs. Then God sent the plagues through Moses. Remember, Moses, repeatedly spoke to the political titular, the Pharoah warning him of environmental crisis. Pharaoh begged Moses to lift the first plague of rivers running with blood. Pharaoh promised Jews freedom. Pharaoh, like a politician, changed his mind. Then the second plague came, then the third. The plagues of infestations of pests and disease were terrible, --deteriorating, -- similar to

Charles River after Storm
Charles River after Storm

the current crisis.

Today we are waking up to one plague at a time. Maybe you know of plagues where you live. Have you heard of  frogs or bugs as pests? Can you imagine a red spill in your drinking water plaguing you?

We have the same case study this decade. In 2013 it wasn’t the first time a river turned red, but the Indian River in FL was particularly horrible.

The 156 miles of the Indian River in FL boasted huge diversity with 600 species of fish and 300 kinds of birds. Now with immense algae blooms over 47,000 acres, the water is a killing zone. One hundred and ten manatees, 300 pelicans and 46 dolphins died by June 2013. River pollution dominates from the Connecticut to the Columbia and from the Rio Grande to the Missouri River. The Cuyahoga River out of Cleveland caught on fire several times, its-flames leaping from the water engulfing a ship. The Mississippi pours pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico causing a Dead Zone. The algae bloom, sometimes reddish brown deprives the water of oxygen and kills all living organisms. We suffer for the 2010 BP Deepwater oil spill, the largest spill in world history.. Name a river near you and see if this plague from human oil addiction is affecting your health. Global Warming is huge, and the rivers feed us life or death.

This is horrifying, but it’s more than depressing. Are you going to be a slave to doom and destruction?
How long will we be shackled to dirty fuel industry? Let us plead, sing and shout. "Let my People Go."

10 Plagues on EgyptIn Moses time   Results 10 Plagues in USA 
1 Nile river full of Blood Algae blooms of 47,000 acres over 156 miles of river, killed manatees, pelicans, fish, dolphins. Indian River FL turns Red 2013. Killing of many other rivers: Cuyahoga, Mississippi, etc.
2 Frogs
3 Gnats or Lice
4 Flies
5 Cattle die



Robin by the Tree of Life

I saw the bird in passing, as I loped across the intersection. I hopped up the curb to the sidewalk and I saw it in my mind’s eye--the head contorted, the legs splayed
out, the lower beak jerked out like a huge thorn. It was a robin: it must have been a road kill. If you can imagine The Scream with the mouth of a robin, that was what I saw.

I hate the idea of jogging but that’s what I was doing when I passed the dead robin. I prefer to see myself running. But, actually, I’m mostly plodding through life. The river is beautiful with the waterbirds skimming the water’s edge.

My darling towheads are teens now. They shrug when I suggest we eat a special meal together. My sisters live too far away. Jupiter! I dodge a mud puddle: I put away any guilt for not visiting my Mom down on the farm. That bird, stranded by the curb, was distressing. The black rhinos and the Indian tigers are not long in this world, my Dad gloomily predicted.

I want to blot out that bird; I want to scoop it up and bury it by the riverbanks. It’s a grey day, full of the moist promise of spring. I could feel smug about running instead of jumping in the car to drive to the gym. But the bird, a witness to fossil fuels consumption kills off many species.

This run is not releasing me. Days ago Doris confided in me that she was being knocked around by the father of her children. That bothered me, the worry shot up my back, lodging somewhere below my trapezius.  That night I nodded sympathetically. There’s not a dam thing I can do but listen. That’s too negative. I rephrase it saying metalically, “The best thing I can do is the gift of listening to her. I didn’t ask Doris detailed questions.

I want to know, but Jesus, I don’t really want to know.  How many shades of grey can one sky hold? Knowledge is responsibility. I feel heavy with death. My body puffs and legs leaps over muddy bike tracks. I’m free of death, yet physically I am moving towards dying. The dark riverwater lugubriously rolls toward the Atlantic Ocean. Does the Boston marathon really start at the headwaters of the Charles River?

Should I listen to rumors that my muscle soreness might be a sign of early diabetes?  I want to care for myself and I long to be carefree. I want others to fawn all over in love with me and I want to be alone to listen to my inner path. I remain thick with desire.

The river seemed elastic, never tarrying over indecision. It doesn’t wait for dead birds. God’s promise is like that. Even as we pollute and scream; even if we ignore the vultures circling, the earth moves. Doesn’t love embrace the carrion?. If I knew come hell and highwater, what my purpose on earth is, I’d be glib and unbearable. How boring to know exactly what Creator has in mind for me. A 5 year old gets as much pleasure in opening the rusty treasure box as in finding a jewel within it.

I finish the running by the Anderson Bridge. My body sweaty, my mind cleared of morbidity. Grey skies are a blanket, warming the dark earth. I will stay open to the promise. And there inscribed on the bridge in 1912 the passage in Revelations 22:2, often called the River of Life:

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing
twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

River Runnels

Today the river was liquid cellophane, silver and lugubrious. Thank God I am ambulatory and up before the Harvard hordes.

I had a nightmare the night before. The dream was a bad car accident where I was terribly hurt but without a drop of blood. Do you ever wonder where pain comes from? Does the river feel the pain of all the chloride and aluminum metals? Do beetles have receptors, knowing when your boot crushes them? Such were my thoughts on this early morning run by the Charles River. I was running despite the groaning of my joints and the dullness of my head. Often when I’m stuck or in trouble, I just run by the river edge. Sure , just rationalize it as exercise to relief stress, but I know better. I’m actually trying to become the river, to move over this earth soaking knowledge like water.

Today I was not disappointed. Spring came in the strangest form, not daffodils, not the bluegills running downstream. There, next to the packed earth of my running trail were little 5 centimeter mounds of dirt. These primordial mounds were tiny bubbles.  Not linear ziggurats my brother made of sand, no they were pebbles of dirt piled by a blowhole. Scattered like confetti They were everywhere. The worms of spring had awoken.   Not a one of their congregation was visible, just these tiny portals crested with a posy of earth. This way I knew the worms are doing their work without having to step over the slimy buggers. The geese were out trumpeting and cropping the grass to a nub. Among bright green tufts sat the worm piles,  like drip castles made on the beach. They are fine decorations without their slithery blind carpenters. I know worms are the farmers of dirt, composting our soil. It’s nicer to see delicate mounds instead of a toilet thimble.

Running under the majestic sycamores, I saw buds all about. My stride stretched. I made my shoulders drop with my exhale. I and the worms are sharing this plot of earth. Do worms have nightmares? I just steamrolled over a worm hole pulverizing the mound. Oh well. “Sorry, for destroying your day’s work. Sorry for being a chunk in a delicate world of new growth. I can’t claim to be an animal rights maniac when I kill so many species with my gluttonous lifestyle. On a material plane, I take up more space than an elephant.

These squirmy, gutsy worms not just making rich loam for mammals, but aerating the surface. I run, thud,  stretch, thud. My heavy steps harden the earth. I am planning Seder dinner, I pray for my son in New Orleans, I will build a garden bed. But the worms, they are preparing the earth better than a horse and plow. I run hard over the land, and the worms, one by one pull out the dirt, leave earth in piles, dive under and push the organic stuff.

Two Quakers taught me a lot. The first one I listened to and the second one I argued with. The first one, John Calvi, is a well-known healer who pronounced, “If you can’t pray, at least do something for 10 minutes daily where you are not thinking of yourself.” Oh-kaay. That way I’ll be ready, and open for the Messiah, who has come and is coming. So though my turbid brain wasn’t pray, my song to earthworms has saved me for today. The other Quaker, Lita, told me that history wasn’t important, but the fact that Quakers believe in continuing revelation is. I protested, I love the story of daredevil Quakers. This history informs me. But reveling in Quaker past glory is hubris and bunk. I lost the argument with my friend.

I feel strong and relaxed as I run over the last bridge. Revelation comes in small increments.  I dodge a patch of daffodils on my way home. My nightmares met into the dank soil. But my foot comes down flat onto a worm mound. Splat!

Silvia Suñé



Trash or American Inheritance

We have much to be thankful for. My life is bedecked with gifts in this rich country in 2012.  This Spring in melting America can’t come early enough. What are we waiting for?  The Arab Spring is sprung and carried on by Egyptians and Syrians to this day. I can't say we live in a democracy, but I am not afraid to walk in the streets.  I saw 5 daffodils that had opened their yellow fingers. We have food, fast food and slow food, bakeries and ovens. We have Roseta

Kali bakes a cake

Stone and WeeAvatars and glass windows. We have waterslides, frisbees and libraries. Weeeee.

With all the gloomy predictions of climate change, the rise in FEMA natural disasters, we are a people holding our breath, waiting for the sky to fall. And if the sky doesn’t fall on us, we are petrified the oceans will rise to engulf us. We have the same fear as Chicken Little. Some of my friends are depressed when they see sunny balmy days in January. What! They want cloudy and bitter weather because it’s typical for New England. I personally think people take the climate change to a serious level if you are disgusted by good weather. Let your body take delight, don’t be a fusty, vainglorious egghead. Of course we have to work hard to stop carbon emissions and oil dependency. My head is scared; but I still enjoy completely a sunny warm February day. Be in love with nature “with no forethought of grief.” **

Instead of hyperventilating about winter weather, Susan and I have gone out weekly at 7 am to pick up trash around Weeks Bridge. Many Charles River elves polish the River parkway. Within a stretch of 150 yards we’ve gather amazing debris. Even 10 years ago I would have said, “!Que va!! The tramps and Harvard drunken bums, and the pooping geese, and the careless tourists are screwing up my view. It’s not my problem. I should complain in a letter to the local paper. Sh*”%*!”

Now, without cluttering my mind with blame, I clean the deluge. It’s our collective baggage. It’s a bit like Hurricane Katrina with a time lapse. Filling trashcans are as good as changing into a clean diapers: (cloth diaper of course).

Beauty or Mess?

What do we pick up? Hubcaps, baseballs, buckles, bottles, shot glasses, Mylar bags, parking tix. Lots and lots of plastic bottles, Gatorade, Dasani, Vitamin water or bug juice all in crackling wrapping. (More trash listed near end.) One old juice bottle stuck out of the edge buried under 4 inches of turf. Once I picked up a leathery object the size of a lime. It looked like a busted pingpong ball powdered with dirt. Well, it was a broken through goose egg. How wonderful to find that detritus. Cheery-o.

**The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things Read more

Looking for a Beauty Queen?

Beauty Queens at Harvard

Did you come across Cambridge’s beauty queen this week? She is a regal site with a Guy Fawkes mask and leather feet. Strolling by the Charles River in December is feasible while balmy breezes punctuate the NE climate. From pre-dawn to sunset the river hums with hawks, drills retooling bridges and crew boats with thumping paddles. And then in full force is our Charles Beauty Queen.  She struts along the riverbank with other Canadian geese. She is a symbol of rich food, a land of bounty, filling the evening sky with bassoon-like calls, a master of aerial navigation.

With their slender neck and masked face, Canadian geese usually alternate between resting on water or munching on grassland. Females brood on nests in April. Watch for a gander standing guard near the clutch of eggs. Geese are remarkably amiable neighbors, rarely angry at the thousands of humans that pass by. But watch out! If you cross a gander protecting the nest, the gander will explode into shrill warning, like a loud trumpet in HONKFEST. The gander charges while hissing and glaring, but rarely attacks. The charge is a flurry of webbed feet, waggling tongue and beak tough as a battering ram. If you turn away the gander staunchly resumes his watchful stance, a faithful mate and dutiful father.

Golfers, swimming pools and park rangers consider these marathon flyers to be pests. Dogs become fascinated by geese. I saw a woman in a short skirt reign in her lovely Rottweiler by Magazine Beach. When he saw 2 geese plucking the soft grass as the canine strained on the lease. The owner tottered and pulled as if she were reining in a mainsail. Off balance, she lost her grip on the line and the dog bounded away, a windmill of legs and pumping jaws. But the geese lifted their solemn bodies skimming the parkland, without the predator coming close. Geese are graceful, with less litter than dogs. And to beautify parks, geese poop light green, mostly grass.

Canadian geese on the Charles have 2 separate populations, those that migrate (1000-2,000 miles) semi-annually, and those that the state calls resident population. Our permanent residents descend from the by-gone era of Canadian geese who were kept as living decoys by hunters outside of Boston. Captive geese were outlawed about 1935, and the geese were then released. Why? Humans released flocks carelessly, not knowing the impact. After jailbreak, the geese never regained their navigational memory, and nested in Massachusetts year round. By 1975 the resident geese in MA reached 75,000. These grazers are known as illegal immigrants, as opposed to their migratory geese, our eat and run guests. Golf clubs in MA have sought permission to shoot hundreds of these vegans who come to trim grass on golf courses (and poop green slime). The putting green is not a restaurant.  Animal rights activists will protest these killings saying “No blood for Golf”. Other golfers use the expression, “fowl play” when cleaning the soles of their shoes.

The flocks of geese aren’t hazards; after years of human captivity they neatly share our city. The goslings will float in a line behind their guardians in May, in September we’ll watch the lazar-black wings cut through the sky. In Cambridge by the shore, geese will lift their head if a hawk lands on a limb or if runners bounce past the flock. Often the geese let me run within 30 inches of them if I look straight ahead. Their black beaks glisten stamping their intelligent faces dark with ebony like a A# on a piano. Their calling is gentle cooing (not just honks), their excrements are fertilizer (not kaka) and their parenting is excellent (hence, the overpopulation). We can’t raise farm animals in the metropolis, but just around the corner are free-range birds. They are homey yet wild; friendly but protective; gorgeous but not ostentatious. They are our indomitable beauties. These neighbors, in the air or on water, augment our city lives.

What ways are we being responsible to our habitat? Humans without forethought, build nuclear plants near our waterways, while our houses drain their runoff into rivers.  Factories and industries have poured years of pollutants into the chestnut waves of the Charles. Oceans have dead-zones. Now the sediment of the Charles riverbed is a glut of copper, lead, and petrol mixed with excess sand and gravel. Fish don’t want to sleep on that sticky mattress.If you are mad that the state’s budget cuts prevents funding the clean water bills in Massachusetts; if you are dismayed that Draper Labs in East Cambridge still makes nuclear reactors; if you are frozen in fear that nuclear radiation will leak into potable water like what happened in Japan, listen. There is hope. You don’t have to wait until Earth Day to clean our rivers.  or

Without toxicity, our birds will preen and parade down the Charles River as if we were rolling out the red carpet. Cleaning the river shows respect to Beauty Queens more than a first prize.

Poseidon & 100 Demi-Gods Swim

paddle-web-2010Would anyone dare swim in the Charles River, the open gutter of Boston? Isn't the water polluted, cold, and filled with blue green algae? Talley ho. In the 1850s Boston alderman called the marshes around the Muddy River a cesspool. Yes siree. Swimming in Cambridge was outlawed in 1950s with the build-up of industrial waste. So sad. It's a disgrace that our oceans are dying. Yes. I plead to the oracles of water and wind, is it safe in 2011 to swim the Charles? Yes and No.

I joined 100 people in swimming a mile race on June 4th 2011 in the Charles. We all survived. We are all passionate about swimming and, all of us, are slightly nuts. The river in May is 58 degrees which is fine for seals and but not human waifs. The race is open water, no feet are allowed to touch the river bottom. The water quality is immensely improved in the last 15 years, but in rainy weather the channel receives excess run off. The floor of the river is caked with heavy sludge. Therefore, the entire swim is done in deep water.

My spouse asked me, "Why would you want to race a mile in muddy water?" I had selfish reasons. I wanted a physical challenge. I love the River and I want to dwell in it intimately. "Rolling in the Charles" is like having a little nooky and "a roll in the hay." Seriously, my body feels alive in water more than in air.

Charles River Basin
Charles River Basin

I started practicing early this spring. I needed to swim a mile in under 40 minutes to qualify for the race. At the end of March I swam a mile in 42 minutes, which was close. Close, but not true. Swimming in open water is quite different. Swimming in a constricted pool you must stick to a narrow lane and every 50 yards you get to push off from the side of the pool. When you get a leg cramp or swallow water you can hold onto the side and declare recess. I needed practice  for 3 full months so as not to embarrass myself.

Since 2006 the Charles River Swimming org has planned the mile race. Weeks ahead of time the water protection gurus measure the bacteria and sediments in the Charles to determine whether it's safe to swim. In 2006 the rainy days increased the storm drainage into the river and the race was canceled.  Bostonians wag their fingers and explain that in the 1970s and 80s if you entered the Charles, you had to get a tetanus shot. Swimming was worse than stepping on a rusty nail. In 1983 MDC claimed the Charles River would never be swimmable.

It appears we need to reverse our position. The tide is changing on water pollution. The new Boston holding tank system stops our sewer pipes from treating the river like a toilet bowl. Since 2006 six annual races were carefully planned and half were canceled due to water quality concerns. The water quality was good in 2007, 2008 and now 2011.I swim in the race for the splash effect to prove that our city's clean-up efforts are working.

I felt unsettled. Maybe I wasn't swimming for splash effect wasn't the right attitude.  I prayed to Osiris, Poseidon, and  Mark Phelps. Then my prayers turned to Moby Dick, and even Mother Goose. I can attest to the power of prayer. FYI, praying with Moby Dick did not help this swimmer. Choose well how you pray.

Read more

Bridging the Charles River

river daffodil
admit it. The Charles River is a gem. I have been living in Cambridge for 25 years and the river is an effervescent, sentinel part of our life. We have River festivals and wildlife; cruisers and duck boats. The river is an artery cutting through Cambridge much older than Mass Ave. It's as royal as any wedding fruitcake.
Some lack an appreciation for the 129 km river. It starts in Hopkinton (just like the marathon),snakes through Waltham and rolls out broadly as it enters Cambridge.
Although not in tip-top health, the River is beauty queen material. I run 4 miles along the Charles River several times a week. I'm not an engineer, nor a Greenpeacer, nor a Harvard professor. Any foot soldier can enjoy the Charles in infinite ways. You can kayak along its shores, without falling overboard  (my son at 14 did this after a dare). Instead of bemoaning the dirty water , you can take litmus tests of Charles' toxicity every month. Harvard students jump off Weeks bridge into deep water after exams. Or go goggle-eyed watching Mallard drakes paddling against the current and geese laying eggs. Did you see the rare spotted turtle by the boathouse? Wave to our new neighbors: two swans like twin towers have moved in near the Western bridge.

What did original settlers call it before the royalists named it Charles? Boston was founded on Indian land:  a slinky little Shawmut peninsula jutting into a deep water harbor (1630). I say founded, but not without homage to the Algonquin people, Pequossettes and Wampanoags who thrived along the waters. The first name for this scarf of water was Quinobequin. Although no one knows how to pronounce this word, it means meandering river. With some shame and deep honor I remember the peoples that cared for the river 4 centuries ago.
When the Europeans first set anchor near the Shaumut peninsula; the South End, Fenway, and the Back Bay were mere tidal pools behind the expansive river. Boston in 1775 was a scrawny isthmus with a big lopsided head (789 acres). The peninsula's Neck was merely 100 yards wide, about twice the width of the street at high tide. This was so remarkable: imagine a goose's slender neck with head perched on top the size of a bear.  Boston was blanketed with forest.  Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Dudley and early settlers scrambled from Fort Hill, over to Charlestown and upstream to Cambridge looking to find clean water. The Charles River was slow-moving brackish sometimes with a distinctive fragrance.
The water was the beacon. Maybe the world watched Winthrop who settled in 1630 in Watertown near the Perkins School of the Blind. But the river was the attraction. Governor Winthrop, a pioneer and an aristocrat, Read more