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A Silent Thanks

As I sat on a rock in a nearby park with my face held up to the sun’s rays, I felt happy.  I was alone with my thoughts on a beautiful pre-Thanksgiving day.  Or at least as alone as I could be with my two daughters playing in the creek nearby.

As I listened to their gleeful chatter and watched as they bounded from rock to rock, I closed my eyes and smiled. With a quiet breeze blowing and the sun gently warming me, I gave thanks for my two beautiful girls and the beauty that was all around me.  I gave thanks for the wonderful life that I had been given and thanks for the people I got to share it with.  I gave thanks just to “Be.”

Suddenly, I had the feeling that I was not alone on my rock in the middle of the woods.  I opened my eyes and looked around.  My daughters were still there laughing and playing, but they were a few hundred feet down the creek.  As my eyes took in my surroundings, I couldn’t see anyone else there with me until I glanced down at the rock I was sitting on.  There, right beside me, was a Daddy Long Legs stretching out his legs and tentatively inching closer to me.  I watched him for a few minutes and then, just as he was getting close enough to touch me, he stopped.  As I quietly watched, he stopped moving and sat on the rock next to me, taking in the silence.

I’m not sure how long the two of us sat on the rock together, silently thankful for our lives as the afternoon sun warmed us.  It felt peaceful as both of us gave our own unique thanks for the beautiful world we live in.  Both of us were taking time out of our busy lives to enjoy the quiet peace of the day. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the company.

As the voices of my daughters got closer, I opened my eyes and looked down again.  My friend had moved on.  He had continued on his journey just as I would be continuing on mine.  For me, the next month will be filled with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But, for a brief moment in time, I am thankful I got to share the quiet and the beauty of the woods with a silent stranger.


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‘Tis the Season

I swear I’m not a scrooge.  I really do love the holiday season – the music, the festivities, the food, the shopping.  Okay, maybe not that last part, but I do love watching as the excitement and the holiday spirit spreads through the Weiss family and extends out to our friends and family.  I even enjoy the nip in the air and the expectation that maybe, just maybe, we will wake up Christmas morning to a blanket of snow.  Yes, sometimes it snows even in North Carolina.

For everything that I love about the holiday season, there is one thing that I simply can not tolerate.  No, it’s not the extra pounds I seem to accumulate each year.  It’s not the endless songs on the radio that start the day after Halloween.  It’s not even the long lines at the post office or the ‘dance’ I do with other drivers while circling in crowded parking lots.  No, the thing that most perturbs me about the holidays is … the junk mail. Pounds and pounds of catalogs, coupons, and invitations to purchase things I have never heard of and most definitely wouldn’t buy. As an aspiring environmentalist, I have dutifully taken myself off every mailing list and I try not to encourage any marketer to send me mail.  And yet, each year at this time my mail box starts to fill up.  Or, as I found out just yesterday, some days my mail box explodes.

Yesterday I opened my mail box to find not one, not two, but over 15 catalogs, 3 invitations to apply for credit, a few magazines that I didn’t know I subscribed to and a reminder to schedule a doctor’s appointment.  With the exception of the doctor’s reminder, I did not need any of these pieces of mail. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t need to receive the doctor’s reminder either. I would have remembered to make the appointment all by myself.

Although I’ve requested to be off mailing lists many times in the past, I’ve once again begun the annual purge of unwanted mail box clutter.  A friend of mine recommended Catalog Choice as a way to get myself off the mailing lists. It’s easy to use, but a bit time consuming.  Today, I’ve dutifully entered all my catalogs.  With each catalog I add to the “do not mail” list, I begin to feel lighter, happier, a better environmental steward.  At least for now.  We’ll see what today’s mail brings …

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The newest source of renewable energy?

I have just found my new favorite renewable energy source. Nope, it’s not solar. No, not wind. No, it’s not even energy from ocean currents (although that’s pretty cool too). It’s electricity generated from stationary bikes. Specifically, stationary bikes pedaled by prisoners. Yes, I just said from prisoners.

A recent NPR broadcast tells the story of a small city near Brazil where prisoners pedal four stationary bikes  that have been rigged to generate electricity. Prisoners volunteer to spend all day in the prison courtyard and take turns pedaling stationary bikes that were donated by a local police department. In return for their efforts, they receive one day off their sentence for every three 8-hour days of pedaling. Plus, they get a pretty good workout.

So how much electricity can be generated by four prisoners pedaling for 8 hour a day? According to the NPR story, the 4 bikes generate enough electricity to power 10 lamp posts. I’m not sure what types of lamps these are, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. The  point is … they are generating electricity. And, with the exception of needing a bit more food to fuel their bodies, the prisoners are not emitting any green house gases to produces the electricity they are generating.  Brilliant.

Which makes me think … what if we took advantage of this great new renewable energy source right here in the United States? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were over 735,000 inmates in local jails in 2011. If each of these inmates pedaled for 8 hours a day, they would produce electricity to power 1,837,500 Brazilian lamp posts. WOW!!

Now, I won’t get into whether these stationary bikes are an efficient means of generating electricity (they aren’t) or whether this is even a feasible idea (it really isn’t), but it is fun to think about. If each prison were given 10 stationary bikes to use to generate their own electricity, it  would at least offset some of the electricity being used to house them during their prison term. And, let’s face it, it’s not like they have a lot of other things to do while they are waiting out their time.

Hmmmm … Prisoner Power. It has a nice ring to it.

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