Category Archives: Animal Issues

Liz is parked in A.I! News from the Worcester Boys and Girls Club

Celebrating Boys & Girls Club Week, March 7th – 12th!

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Dear Friends,

Happy Boys & Girls Club Week! As the new Executive Director, I want to thank all of you who have provided me and the Club with support during our organization’s leadership transition. It has certainly been a busy three months, and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve our kids in this new capacity. We have accomplished a great deal during this transition; our board, executive team and staff have been evaluating our strategic plan, and we have also received valuable input from you, our supporters, and the kids we serve.

The Club’s strategic focus is three-fold: Invest in the professional development of our staff, continue to develop a culture of assessment and accountability, and enhance and grow our fundraising and resource development efforts so we will be a strong and impactful organization for our kids for many years to come.

In 2015, we served over 6,000 youth at our three sites, and we have made great strides to ensure that our programs and services provide the necessary tools that our kids need to succeed both professionally and personally in our ever-changing and complex world.

Summer is coming.

It’s an exciting time of year for our kids, but the summer months also provide challenges, especially for disadvantaged youth, such as exposure to violence due to lack of supervision, and learning loss due to lack of stimulation. Where do kids without financial means go during the summer? They attend the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester.

Where can kids attend a summer program that offers robotics, reading literacy, athletics, swim lessons, job-readiness programs, dance, music, drama, and social recreation?  The Boys & Girls Club of Worcester.

We have something for everyone: a gymnasium, a music recording studio, a collegiate-size swimming pool, education lab, games room, teen room, and Kids Café.

For 127 years we have been a safe haven for kids who would not have a place to go and whose families are not able to pay for summer camp.

The diverse offerings are unrivaled, and are provided by a professional youth development staff. Our organization addresses both safety and educational challenges that summer brings, and we help develop happy kids who are ready for the school year in the fall.

We can’t do this alone. We need your help. In order for us to provide our life-saving summer programs we will need to raise $250,000 from individuals, businesses, and grantors. Please consider sponsoring a child for the summer. Although we only charge $50 per week for our summer program (and we provide scholarships to families who cannot afford the discounted rate), the actual cost is approximately $200 per kid. Please consider giving the gift of summer to a child in need. You will make a world of difference and it is an investment that truly impacts our community. To make an online donation, please visit our website http://www.bgcworcester.org/support-our-club.

Sincerely,

Liz Hamilton
Executive Director

Gordy’s parked in A.I: Green Rainbow Party of Massachusetts holds its regional convention at the WPL!

Green Rainbows and the Quakers

By Gordon Davis

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The Green Rainbows met at the Worcester Public Library, located at 3 Salem Square
 
The Green Rainbow Party of Massachusetts held its regional convention yesterday to select state committee members. The state committee sets the policies for the Green Rainbows.

At the convention the presenter from the Society of Friends (Quakers) Anti-Mass Incarceration Network stole the show with his strong condemnation of the unnecessary and unfair incarceration of millions of people in the United States.

Phil said the USA has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. More than any so called authoritarian country or feudal country on earth!

He also condemned indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement as counterproductive and torture.

He referred to a United Nation protocol that solitary confinement for greater than 15 days is torture.

Phil also said most of the arrests are for non-violent “crimes” such as drug possession. He pointed out that for decades many of the so called drug crimes were no crimes at all. Before the early 20th century there was no prohibition on any drug. Each of the drug laws prohibition had at least a partial basis in race. 

The presenter pointed out that modern drug laws are a continuation of the slave plantation mentality of the majority society. After the Reconstruction Period in US history the vagrancy laws were enacted to prevent Black people who had little or no resources from travelling to look for work. These laws were a means to repopulate the prison labor system, especially in the Southern United States. 

The modern day drug laws and anti-panhandling laws to some extent are a continuation of the system to keep the prisons full.

Eileen, an activist from Northern Worcester County, spoke about gas pipelines being built in Massachusetts. Her message was new gas pipelines are not needed and that they would be environmentally harmful.

What she said was not entirely encouraging, as it seems to be a done deal that the pipelines in the Boston area are a done deal. However, the pipeline in Northern Worcester County was likely going to be diverted through New Hampshire.

Brian, a town representative from Shrewsbury, spoke on the use of citizen petitions to have issues placed on the Town agenda.

Dave, a co chair of the Nashua River Green Rainbows Chapter, reported that Jill Stein got 50 percent of the primary vote in the March 1, 2016, state election. She will get half of the ten delegates from Massachusetts committed to her at the Green Party US national convention in Houston, TX.

This will be Dr. Stein’s second run for President of the United States. She, in the 2012 presidential election, received the highest number of popular votes that any woman had received in any previous Presidential election. I wish her well this time around, although she will be overshadowed by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump!

The Iditarod is truly March madness

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Jett is half Siberian Husky and hates the snow! “Mush” is anathema to this little guy!

By Jennifer O’Connor

Running a marathon is a physically grueling feat — one that most of us don’t even attempt. For those who do and finish, it’s considered a remarkable accomplishment.

So try to imagine running four marathons in a single day, and throw in biting winds, treacherous terrain and freezing temperatures.

Then do it all over again for eight more days.

That’s exactly what the dogs used in the Iditarod are forced to do.

Since 1995, the top finishers have covered the approximately 1,000-mile course in nine days or fewer, including one mandatory 24-hour stop.

This means that dogs run more than 100 miles a day while pulling sleds weighing hundreds of pounds through some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet.

Temperatures have plummeted to 60 degrees below zero. Mushers revel in taking the credit for finishing the race, even though they ride, eat and sleep while the dogs burn 12,000 calories a day and do all the work.

Sports writer Jon Saraceno, who coined the term “Ihurtadog,” calls the race “frenzied lunacy.”

Although death records were not kept in the early days, we do know that 26 dogs used in the Iditarod have died just since 2004. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod rules says that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.”

The animals have been run over by snowmobiles or died of pneumonia after inhaling their own vomit.

Countless dogs suffer from diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. In referring to the Iditarod, veterinarian Barbara Hodges said, “The race would violate animal cruelty laws … in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Of course, Alaska has no such law.”

Many dogs are routinely given antacids to try to prevent gastric ulcers. A veterinarian who studied the race’s effects on the animals found that exercise-induced stomach disease may affect 50 to 70 percent of the dogs who enter, a number significantly higher than is seen in non-racing dogs.

Dogs with ulcers typically show no symptoms until the condition becomes life-threatening and they start to bleed internally and vomit, which may cause them to choke and die.

Life off the trail is equally grim.

Most kennels keep dozens of dogs, who live on short chains with only overturned barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter, their world extending no farther than their 6-foot tether. And slow runners are doomed. As sports columnist Jeff Jacobs wrote, “The cruelty is in the vast distance. The cruelty is in some training techniques that would turn your stomach. This doesn’t begin to address some manuals that recommend killing dogs that don’t cut the mustard. They call it culling. Really, it’s murder.”  There’s no requirement to report how many dogs are “culled,” so the death toll is unknown.

Although organizers attempt to put a historic spin on the race, winning the Iditarod is all about bragging rights and the cash and truck awarded as prizes. Gambling with animals’ lives is ethically indefensible.

From bear-baiting to cockfighting, many activities once considered acceptable have since been condemned as we learn more about the suffering endured by all living beings when exploited for entertainment. Dogs deserve to be part of a family, not treated like snowmobiles with fur.

Upcoming events at Worcester’s Broadmeadow Brook!

You must preregister for these wonderful activities!

REVEL IN NATURE!
 
A Sampling of Programs Offered by Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary!

414 Massasoit Rd.  Worcester, MA, 01604

tel. 508.753.6087  
email bmbrook@massaudubon.org
 
Programs are held at Broad Meadow Brook unless otherwise indicated.
 

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Friday Morning Birds

4/1/2016, 7:00 AM-9:00 AM

Fee: Free for Mass Audubon Adult Members, $5 Adult Non-members 

Description: Enjoy a leisurely birding experience and help document the sanctuary birds over the season. This time walk helps us confirm which birds are migrating and which are year-round residents. We’ll explore different corners of the sanctuary each week … you never know what we will find. Birders of all levels are invited. For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
 
Saturday-Morning Bird Walk for Adults

4/2/2016, 7:00 AM-9:30 AM

Fee: Free for Mass Audubon Adult Members, $5 Adult Non-members 

Description: Explore the sanctuary grounds in search of birds during this program for casual and novice birders alike. Come discover the immense variety of birdlife that exists at this large urban sanctuary. We’ll teach you the basics of birding and bird identification during an easy-to-moderate walk along the trails.  Bring binoculars and a field guide, or borrow them. Dress in layers for changeable weather. Wear sturdy shoes for the trailos.. For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
 
First Saturday of the Month Volunteer Days at Broad Meadow Brook

4/2/2016, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM

Fee: Free  

Description: Help care for the sanctuary and enjoy a few hours of fresh air, fun and fulfillment.  Come once or every week and become part of our growing group of sanctuary volunteers.  Together with Mass Audubon staff, put up signs and markers, look for wildlife tracks, pick up branches, fill bird feeders, tend the gardens, and distribute program information.  Some tasks may require heavy lifting.  Ability to work without supervision required.  Carpentry skills welcome.  Nature lovers appreciated. Sponsored by Wheelabrator Millbury. For more information call 508.753.6087
 
Junior  Badge Workshop – Detective

4/2/2016, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM

Fee: $8 Child Members, $8 Child Non-members.  

Description: Broad Meadow Brook offers workshops for Junior badges and journeys. This program meets at the Visitor Center and includes indoor and outside trail activities. Come explore the Sensory Trail as you work on your badge! Due to limited space, please register at sfarnam@massaudubon.org or 508-753-6087 x15. Large troops are invited to arrange a separate workshop date.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.
  
 
Drawing from Nature: An Introduction to Scientific Illustration

4/3/2016 to 5/8/2016, 6:00 PM-8:30 PM

Fee: $150 Members, $180 Non-members. 
 
Description: Explore the natural wonders found at Broad Meadow Brook while learning traditional drawing techniques used by illustrators of natural science. Through lectures, demos, practice, guided critiques and assignments, students will learn how to render accurate black and white drawings of natural objects. This course is for anyone who wants to polish their drawing skills while learning about nature. Instructions for purchasing materials will be provided at registration. For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  Sponsored by Mass Audubon at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary
 
 
Volunteer Day at Broad Meadow Brook

4/6/2016, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Fee:  Free

Description: Help care for the sanctuary and enjoy a few hours of fresh air, fun and fulfillment.  Come once or every week and become part of our growing group of sanctuary volunteers. Together with Mass Audubon staff, put up signs and markers, look for wildlife tracks, pick up branches, fill bird feeders, tend the gardens, and distribute program information. Some tasks may require heavy lifting. Ability to work without supervision required. Carpentry skills welcome. Nature lovers appreciated. Sponsored by Wheelabrator Millbury.For more information call 508.753.6087
 
Discovering Nature as a Preschooler – Spring 2016  Monday Session II

4/11/2016 to 5/23/2016, 9:30 AM-12:00. No Class week of April 17

Fee: $100 Mass Audubon Child Members, $125 Child Non-members.  

Description: This six-week series of nature classes is designed for young children ages 4 to 5 unaccompanied by a parent. Each week we will explore nature through self discovery, games, activities, stories and crafts. Children will be guided through their hands on inquirybased explorations with one (or more) of our trained natural history guides. Join other children as we learn and play together and foster a lifelong love of nature in a safe environment. No class week of April 17. Monday session. For ages 4 to 5.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Third Week Wonders Preschool Series: Salamander Room

4/14/2016, 10:00 AM-11:00 AM

Fee: $3 Child Members, $4 Child Non-members, Adults Free  

Description: If you are between the ages of 3 and 5, bring your favorite adult for a thematic hour of a story, an activity, and a naturalist-led walk. Choose from the third Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday of each month.Please dress for the weather and be prepared to go outside.
 
Nature Adventures for 5-7 Year Olds

4/14/2016, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Fee: $8 Mass Audubon Child Members, $12

Child Non-members.  

Description: Join us for a hands-on nature program designed especially for five, six, and seven year olds. Each month we’ll focus on a new nature topic. We’ll explore our nature topic indoors using investigations, crafts, and activities and outdoors in Broad Meadow Brook’s beautiful 400-acre wildlife sanctuary. These classes will provide in-depth learning in a supportive social environment. (Homeschool classes for 8-16 year olds meet at the same time.)   For ages 5 to 7.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Homeschool Programs at Broad Meadow

Brook – Vernal Pools

4/14/2016, 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Fee: $8 Child Members, $12 Child Non-members.  

Description: Several sanctuary animals, such as the wood frogs and spotted salamanders, need seasonal pools to breed.  Explore a sanctuary pool, identify the amazing creatures that live there and learn what you can do to save these important pools in your “backyard.”  Wear long sleeves and pants and bring an extra set of clothes (just in case). Broad Meadow Brook’s homeschool programs offer a friendly, cooperative learning environment for people of all ages! Our homeschool programs are designed for the homeschooling family.  Parents are welcome to attend, students may stay on their own if a medical form is on file with the sanctuary. At the end of all programs, students will receive follow-up information and activities so the learning can continue at home. We look forward to learning with you! For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Millbury Days

4/16/2016, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM

Free to Millbury Residents

Residents of the town of Millbury receive free admission to Broad Meadow Brook four times a year, thanks to the generosity of Wheelabrator Millbury. “Millbury Days” celebrates the company’s longtime commitment to the sanctuary.  Drop in for a visit and walk the trails. For more information, call 508.753.6087.

April Vacation Week – Mon
4/18/2016, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Fee: $45 Mass Audubon Child Members, $55 Child Non-members.  

Description: Need something to do during school vacation week? Come to Broad Meadow Brook where we will explore the sanctuary to see what is waking up! Every day will feature a new theme, and this week promises to be filled with new discoveries and new friends as well. Parent letter and medical form will be attached to your confirmation e-mail. All children must have a medical form on file. Children should bring a snack, lunch and water bottle. Sign up all five days and receive a discount. For ages 6 to 11.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  

Volunteer Day at Broad Meadow Brook
4/20/2016, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Fee:  Free
Description: Help care for the sanctuary and enjoy a few hours of fresh air, fun and fulfillment.  Come once or every week and become part of our growing group of sanctuary volunteers.  Together with Mass Audubon Director and other Mas Audubon staff, put up signs and markers, look for wildlife tracks, pick up branches, and fill bird feeders. Projects are mainly outside. Some tasks may require heavy lifting. Ability to work without supervision require.  Carpentry skills welcome. Nature lovers appreciated. Sponsored by Wheelabrator Millbury. For more information call 508.753.6087
 
April Vacation Week – Wed
4/20/2016, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM
Fee: $45 Mass Audubon Child Members, $55 Child Non-members.  
Description: Need something to do during school vacation week? Come to Broad Meadow Brook where we will explore the sanctuary to see what is waking up! Every day will feature a new theme, and this week promises to be filled with new discoveries and new friends as well. Parent letter and medical form will be attached to your confirmation e-mail. All children must have a medical form on file. Children should bring a snack, lunch and water bottle. Sign up all five days and receive a discount.   For ages 6 to 11.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
 
Dance of the Woodcock

4/20/2016, 7:00 PM-8:30 PM

Fee: $5 Adult Members, $7 Adult Non-members, $3 Child Members, $5 Child Non-members.  

Description: Love is in the air as the sun sets in early spring and the male American woodcock, a member of the sandpiper family, performs his aerial mating display. We will visit breeding grounds at the sanctuary to view the performance of this spring ritual. As sunset nears, you can hear the male woodcock peenting before he spirals 300 feet up into the night sky. Don’t miss the spectacular show of this amazing shorebird!   For ages 8 and older.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Friday Morning Birds

4/22/2016 7:00 AM-9:00 AM

Fee: Free for Mass Audubon Adult Members, $5 Adult Non-members 

Description: Enjoy a leisurely birding experience and help document the sanctuary birds over the season. This time walk helps us confirm which birds are migrating and which are year-round residents. We’ll explore different corners of the sanctuary each timek … you never know what we will find. Birders of all levels are invited.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
April Vacation Week – Fri

4/22/2016, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Fee: $45 Mass Audubon Child Members, $55 Child Non-members.  

Description: Need something to do during school vacation week? Come to Broad Meadow Brook where we will explore the sanctuary to see what is waking up! Every day will feature a new theme, and this week promises to be filled with new discoveries and new friends as well.  Parent letter and medical form will be attached to your confirmation e-mail. All children must have a medical form on file. Children should bring a snack, lunch and water bottle. Sign up all five days and receive a discount. For ages 6 to 11.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Volunteer Day at Broad Meadow Brook

4/27/2016, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Fee:  Free

Description: Help care for the sanctuary and enjoy a few hours of fresh air, fun and fulfillment.  Come once or every week and become part of our growing group of sanctuary volunteers.  Together with Mass Audubon Director Deb Cary and other Mass Audubon staff, put up signs and markers, look for wildlife tracks, pick up branches, and fill bird feeders. Projects are mainly outside. Some tasks may require heavy lifting. Ability to work without supervision require.  Carpentry skills welcome. Nature lovers appreciated. Sponsored by Wheelabrator Millbury.  For more information call 508.753.6087
 
Friday Morning Birds

4/29/2016 7:00 AM-9:00 AM

Fee: Free for Mass Audubon Adult Members, $5 Adult Non-members 

Description: Enjoy a leisurely birding experience and help document the sanctuary birds over the season. This time walk helps us confirm which birds are migrating and which are year-round residents. We’ll explore different corners of the sanctuary each time … you never know what we will find. Birders of all levels are invited.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  
 
Family Birdwalk at Broad Meadow Brook

4/30/2016,9:00 AM-10:00 AM

Fee: $3 Adult Members, $4 Adult Non-members, $2 Child Members, $3 Child Non-members.  

Description: Broad Meadow Brook is a great place to watch and learn about birds. Kids and grownups can appreciate the beauty and amazing abilities of our feathered friends. This program will introduce you to some common backyard birds, their songs, and birdwatching techniques, just in time for spring and Bird-a-Thon. Bring binoculars if you have them, or we have some to lend. For ages 6 and older.  For more information and to register, call 508.753.6087.  

Worcester’s Broad Meadow Brook is parked in A.I!

“New England Landscapes” Art Exhibit Opens at Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary!

Cherry Valley Artist Employs “Old Masters” Techniques to Tell a Story

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Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary is thrilled to announce the opening of a new art exhibit, by local artist, Genevieve Grenier.  Grenier, a resident of Cherry Valley, is a 30+ year student of art, as well as a local art instructor. She has been interested in art since a young age and always liked to draw. This wasn’t surprising, since she was born into a family of artists. When she was three years old, her grandfather brought her to the Louvre.  In the years that followed, there were frequent visits to area art museums, like the Worcester Art Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.   

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“Seeing the work of the Masters, inspires and encourages artists.  Of course, there are times it also inspires artists to go home and throw their own paintings in the trash,” jokes Genevieve. 
 
Ms. Grenier studied with Rockport artists – Bob Benham and Mike Stoffa, but her greatest influence was Helen Van Wyk. Genevieve explains, “Helen taught art in an “Old Masters” method, where you establish your composition, tone and values in acrylic paint, and over that layer, you proceed with color in oils.” 
 
Genevieve’s favorite artists are Rembrandt, Vermeer, John Singer Sargent and Camille Claudel.  She has participated in art competitions in Rockport, Fitchburg Art Museum and the Northborough Art Guild of which Genevieve is the past Secretary and the current President.  Her style transcends mediums and she is well-versed in oil, watercolor, acrylic and pastels.

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“The subject usually dictates which medium is selected,” says Genevieve.  “I typically use oil for portraits and watercolor for floral paintings.  Landscapes can be either oil or watercolor, depending on the ‘story’ to be told.  Each painting, from subject matter to the medium used, plays an intricate part in the ‘story’ the painting expresses to the viewer.  That draws the viewer into the painting and holds their interest.”
 
To celebrate the opening of “New England Landscapes”, a reception with the artist will be held March 6, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at Broad Meadow Brook, 414 Massasoit Rd, Worcester. The public is welcome to attend.  Ms. Grenier’s “New England Landscapes” will be on display in the Fuller Program Room until mid-May.

Gordon’s parked in A.I! … War Crimes, Mr. Trump and Worcester’s Mr. Hoar

By Gordon Davis

Recently Presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would authorize the use of torture (waterboarding) by American forces. Torture is forbidden by international law; it is a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Trump subsequently doubled down on his commitment to torture. He now says he would execute Muslim prisoners by firing squad with bullets dipped in pork. Summary execution also is a war crime. Some Muslims believe that they cannot enter Heaven when their bodies are polluted with pork.

Former President George W. Bush has an arrest warrant against him by the World Court for his authorization of waterboarding torture. This is the reason that he rarely leaves the boundaries of the United States. Like what happened to the fascist Allende, a country recognizing the World Court could arrest Mr. Bush.

The crime of executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pork is not new to Mr. Trump.  The American General Pershing during his tours of duty in the Philippine American War was rumored to have committed this crime several times.

The Philippines American War is little known, although some estimates are that close to 500,000 Filipinos were killed.  The southern Philippines have had a majority Muslim population that resisted the American occupation.

In contrast to Trump and Bush is Worcester’s George Frisbee Hoar. Mr. Hoar moved to Worcester in the early 19th Century. He, similarly to Samuel Clemens, opposed the Spanish American War and the American occupation of the Philippines. He thought it to be Imperialism. Mr. Hoar was a member of a commission that found that Americans had committed war crimes during the Philippine American War.

When George Hoar came to Worcester he became a Free Soiler. He opposed the expansion of slavery into the so called American territories. With the establishment of the anti-slavery Republican Party Mr. Hoar joined it early on.

Hoar fought for the rights of Black people and Native Indians. He also sided with those in favor of equal rights for women.  He defended Italians who were immigrating into New England and he opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute can claim Mr. Hoar as a founding member. Like most Republicans of that time, he was a supporter of industrialization.

A statue of Mr. Hoar graces our City Common, here in Worcester.

Hoar

The anti-war movement went silent during the Presidency of Barack Obama, even though there were American wars through his time in office.

With the election of a Hoar like Senator Sanders the anti war movement will again find it difficult to act.

I suspect that should Mr. Trump be elected to the Presidency of the United States, there will be more wars. Like President Obama, Trump will be constricted by material conditions. I think the anti-war movement will be revitalized, using the Blacklives movement as a model.

During the 1960s there was a confluence of the old civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. Dr. King and Malcolm X were some in the leadership of this confluence. 

It is not clear what the new leadership will look like in the fight against war and for economic and social justice in the 21st Century.

Edith is parked in A.I! … Spring approaches …

By Edith Morgan

Didn’t last week invigorate us all? The wild gyrations of the temperature kept us all on our toes, and we had a great topic for small talk, as speculation as to what weather we might have next fills in the blank spaces in conversation.

But there is plenty else to discuss: Worcester is in for some more great changes, in addition to all the new buildings, streets, trails, park improvements, plantings and other projects taking place in all parts of our city.

Two great decisions face us: the selection of a new superintendent of our schools and replacing Steve O’Neill, former head of the WRTA. Even if we do not have children in school and do not  use public transportation, the domains of these two critical institutions in our city touch us all, even if indirectly.

And of course there is the primary election on March 1 – and preparing for “the BIG ONE” – the presidential election in November.  All these decisions are “heavy duty” stuff – requiring deep thought and research, and we will need some relief from these heavy duties.

So, let’s think SPRING!
 
I know: spring is really three months or more away, but so much of the pleasure of enjoying it lies in anticipation! Looking forward to that first crocus pushing up through the ground and going out at the first sign of warmth to see if anything else has survived the winter.

During the cold months, I have been in the habit of pushing seeds and bulbs into the ground around my houseplants, quickly forgetting what I buried where.  So, about this time of year, shoots are raising their heads, in unexpected places, enjoying the warmth and increasing amount of sunshine indoors as the days grow slowly longer. And every time we eat an avocado, I save the great oblong pit and in a fit of eternal optimism save it and try to get it to propagate. Avocado pits are very deceptive: They will remain dormant for months and then suddenly develop a root first, split and send out a straight shoot into the air, very quickly. And turning into an impressive sapling in what seems like no time at all.

This is also the time when all the catalogs arrive, and even though I am on a 70 X 70 foot lot, mostly occupied by my house, I still start out with high hopes every spring and try to whittle away at the grass more and more each year to make room for gardening. 

The catalogs are crammed full of eye-dazzling photos and mouth-watering pictures and ideas for growing things in so many ways, there is scarcely any home that cannot accommodate SOME kind of growing thing.
 
Remember the “Victory Gardens” of World War II? It was patriotic to grow things in every nook and cranny and almost every American tried some kind of gardening. Would this not be a great time to bring back that idea?  The Regional Environmental Council (REC) does such a great job of helping Worcester neighborhoods. REC staff and volunteers teach young people to grow, plant and produce their own food. We should all help and follow their example.

Lilac!

By Rosalie Tirella

I was shooting for the stars: a purebred German Shepherd (gorgeous! majestic!) puppy (trainable, no bad habits/baggage) – a rescue (fixed, vaccinated, relatively inexpensive compared to a GSD pup from a breeder) who looked like the Old Injun Fighter’s vicious German Shepherd, Sparky (my dog would be the squirrely love tunnel back into the heart of the ex-beau I WILL NEVER EVER GET OVER) but acted like Rin Tin Tin (brave, loyal, serious, smart – just the ticket for my rough, crime-ridden Worcester inner-city neighborhood) ….but some how, like it always happens with me in life, love and dogs … I ended up with the POLAR OPPOSITE of my expectations! I ended up with Lilac!

A jingly jangly, wicked smart (plott?)hound-collie-shepherd-(coon?)hound mutt from Tennessee who runs circles around this old lady’s heart! She’s ALL Star American athlete while my other dog, 7-year-old Husky-mix Jett, and I wallow in middle age. She is strong and sure-footed while Jett and I sometimes miss a beat and stumble during our afternoon walks. She is silly and high-spirited – Jett and I are more serious, wise … philosophical.

She is spring. Jett and I are autumn.

She climbs trees! That’s the coon hound in her! Have you ever seen a dog pursuing a squirrel so relentlessly, so “doggedly” that she chases it right up the tree and climbs into the tree after it? It’s a wild sight! Lilac, just 9 months old, but three times as strong as Jett, with all her muscular grace bounding up to the tree, then her paws “running up” the tree trunk, four paws off the ground … and she’s all ecstasy, all fearlessness, no distracting thoughts, despite my yells of COME LILAC! COME! as she clambers up that tree trunk, in the most insane, ungainly way! Beautiful!

I have never hung out with such a natural hunter. My first dog, Grace, was a greyhound mix, and her prey drive was sky-high. But all she could do was run amazingly fast after rabbits, squirrels and deer (yes, Grace was a deer hunter!). But she didn’t like to swim – she would stop short in a pond or stream once the water reached her chest. But Lilac is super aquatic! She doggy paddles in various and sundry bodies of water with childlike abandon! Did I mention she can swim, run, climb, hop! hop! as in all four of her paws go off the ground in Tigger-like joyfulness, leap, scamper, lope and bound in pursuit of prey? She does all this with magnificent ease and sometimes grace, with a compact strength that’s overwhelmed me, once knocked me to the ground, left me squirming and crying in pain with a sprained ankle … watching Lilac glide on by, a loose, canine smile spread across her long face, her tongue lolling merrily, as if to say: See ya later, Mommy!

LILAC!!!! I yell as the college kids are lifting me up and gingerly placing me in my car … LILAC!! I scream in agony. But I do not – will not – leave the field until a tuckered-out, panting, chest-heaving Lilac finally notices me from a great distance, finally heeds the call and comes racing back to me, bounding into the car, splattering me and Jett (he never leaves my side these days) with mud and fetid water (Lilac took the scenic route and swam in the little pond) making us all one unholy mess!

Once home, I am busy wrapping my ankle with an ace bandage and popping Advil like PEZ, Jett is sitting on my bed, visibly upset (we had such a nice routine when it was just we two! he seems to say to me), Lilac is sleeping on a mat on the hardwood floor, sleeping a heavy sleep punctuated with sighs and deep moans, as if still chasing that damned squirrel in a dream. …or maybe it’s a wily raccoon in her home state of Tennessee. She is all wet and smelly from her jaunt over fields, through woods, under water, but I want her on the bed with Jett, I want her to feel his equal, build her self-confidence. I go to the linen drawer and pull out an old sheet, fold it in half and spread it over the foot of my bed. LILAC! UP! LILAC! UP! I say to my little athlete, tapping the bed with my the palm of my hand. Lilac rouses, sits up and stretches all the way back, yawning, like a little bathing beauty. She looks so pretty and soft – even with muddy underbelly and paw pads. Then she lopes over to my bed and with the slightest effort (like the true athlete she is) is lying next to Jett, curled up in a ball, in two seconds. Lilac plops down and plops down hard whenever she goes to rest. She never merely lies down. This makes her seem more raw-boned and “country” to me! Which I love! But her long tail always looks slightly feathery and oh so elegant!

We are home.

Jett is annoyed.

I am in pain. I will go to urgent care tomorrow – my ankle has swelled up to grape-fruit size and is KILLING me. I’ll have it x-rayed. Could it be broken?

But Princess Lilac, the little abused puppy who was dumped outside the Animal Control building in a Worcester County town … pretty, dreamy Lilac with limpid brown eyes and white feathery chest … pretty, sensitive Lilac who was kept caged in a too small puppy crate for hours at a time and S-T-R-T-C-H-E-D O-U-T on floor, mat, bed when I first brought her home, pretty collie Lilac who seems to read my mind when I am lonely and comes up to me and plops down hard against my side and rests her head on my chest or stomach and makes me feel warm, safe and, yes, loved, pretty not-so-little-any-more Lilac who drops her wet, chewed up doggy toys in my face when I’m lying on the sofa and talking on the phone with a friend (she does this to grab my attention), the lovely Lilac who takes Jett’s leash in her mouth and tries to lead him where she wants to go, smart Lilac who carries her empty water bowl to my bed and flicks it onto the comforter as if to say: FILL ‘ER UP! PRONTO! I’M THIRSTY, MA! has totally, absolutely won my heart.

… What German Shepherd puppy?????

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Lilac, resting in Rose’s bed