Largest Aspen “Clone” Ever Identified Is in Central Utah

A couple of years ago, my daughter, her children, and I visited a large aspen grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest.  According to Erin Alberty writing for

For 106 acres on the southwest bank of Fish Lake in Sevier County, a single root system unites this forest. Pando is the biggest aspen “clone” ever identified, the single most massive living organism known on Earth. Though little known in Utah, Pando has gained fame as a tourist destination and as a symbol of sustainability and interconnectedness. It is being researched, photographed, talked about.

My Grandchildren in the Pando Aspen Grove

So my family and I are not the only ones interested in the aspen grove; it has become somewhat of an international celebrity, with visitors from around the world making pilgrimages to central Utah.

Some feel that the aspen grove is an important religious symbol.  Episcopal priest Ed Bacon likes the aspen-human metaphor:

What we see appears to be a massive grove of thousands of individual trees, but what it is, in fact, is one single tree, genetically the same, sharing a single root system … and when any part of that organism needs nourishment, the other parts come to its aid.

My friends, in a Pando understanding of life … we are members of one another. We are all Pando. We are interdependent, interrelated members of the whole, with a capital W, who can never say, I have no need of you.”

Celebrated Process Theologian John B. Cobb Jr., as part of group visit organized by Pando Populus, traveled to Utah to walk the grove, meet locals and learn how to best save their beloved icon.

A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence Alfred North Whitehead describes as “”world-loyalty.”

For Cobb, Utah’s aspen grove exemplifies “ecological interdependence.”

Utah Aspen Grove in Fall Colors

Unfortunately, Pando is in trouble largely because of mule deer, elk, and cows nibbling on the young shoots:

The main culprit is mule deer. About 50 live in and near Pando and are ravenous by the time new shoots appear in June, says Jim Lamb, a biologist with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

The clone’s mature and growing trees put energy into their massive, shared root system to form new sprouts. As old trees die and are not replaced, the canopy becomes more sparse, and the entire clone becomes less able to reproduce and thrive.

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Installing 3 Playgrounds in the Cuzco, Peru, Region

In July, my grandson James and I worked with the Cardenas-Torres family to install 3 separate playgrounds.  The first was installed at a preschool in Calca, located in Sacred Valley.  Because of limited space, we only installed a 3-seat swing set and a climbing tower.

Playground Equipment Installed at Calca Preschool

Next, we traveled to the highlands above Cuzco.  There at a rural school in Choccayhua, we installed monkey bars, a climbing tower, and a 4-seat swing set.

Installing Playground Equipment in Highlands of Peru

While staying with the David C-T family, we made the acquaintance of a teacher who worked at a nearby school in the Cuzco area.  After we left Peru, the C-T family installed at double 4-seat swing set and arcing monkey bars at Anta School.

Arcing Monkey Bars Installed at Anta School

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Frying Pan and Other Lightships

While I was stationed in Wilmington NC with the USCGR, I came upon the Lightship Frying Pan as it was temporarily moored in Southport.  The lightship, LV-115, was the last of nine ships that served at the Frying Pan Shoals station during and since the American Civil War.

The lightship served at Frying Pan Shoals from 1930 to 1942, and again from 1945 to 1964.  During World War II the ship was used as an examination vessel, as part of training.

It was retired from duty at Frying Pan Shoals in 1964.  It served briefly as a relief ship at Cape May, New Jersey, and then was decommissioned in 1965.

Frying Pan Lightship After Being Decommissioned

Soon after I saw the lightship in Southport, it was sold to a salvage firm and moved to Chesapeake Bay:

Lightship Frying Pan has led a remarkable life. After being abandoned for 10 years while docked at an old oyster cannery on the Wicomico River in the Chesapeake Bay, she sank due to a broken pipe. She was underwater for three years before being raised by salvors. Instead of going to the scrapyard, the ship was sold to its present owners. After tons of silt and shells were removed from the hull, the ship was outfitted with a new engine and, in 1989, was sailed to New York City. Frying Pan is now docked at Pier 66 Maritime which is located on Pier 66a in the Hudson River Park at West 26th Street and 12th Ave. in Manhattan, NY. While the outside of the ship has been restored to her original appearance, the inside retains the barnacle-encrusted, sunken-ship motif that acknowledges her storied past.

In 1999, the Frying Pan Lightship was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Frying Pan is one of about 13 surviving American lightships, out of about 100 built.  Three other lightships, Ambrose at South Street Seaport, Nantucket at Oyster Bay, Long Island, and Chesapeake at Baltimore Inner Harbor became National Historic Landmarks and are open to the public as museum ships.

In 2016, I had the pleasure of touring the Lightship Chesapeake now moored in Baltimore Harbor.

Chesapeake Lightship on Permanent Display in Baltimore Harbor

The ship’s interior has displays about life aboard the lightships, and their history.

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LDS Church and Guns

Guns are banned in LDS places of worship.  According to the website:

Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world.  The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law.

It’s my understanding that guns are also banned on LDS university campuses.

I applaud this policy.

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Christian (Including LDS) Theology: Who Is Your Neighbor?

Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, in a recent LDS General Conference talk related the following story:

Sister Linda K. Burton told the story of a stake Relief Society president who working with others, collected quilts for people in need during the 1990s.  “She and her daughter drove a truck filled with those quilts from London to Kosovo.  On her journey home she received an unmistakable spiritual impression that sank deep into her heart.  The impression was this: ‘What you have done is a very good thing.  Now go home, walk across the street, and serve your neighbor.'”

This story is troubling because of the implication that the directions the sister received were from on high, and that it has general application.  That we should prioritize physically close neighbors over international ones.

Sister Oscarson goes on to say:

How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice?  Heavenly Father may have placed those who need us closest to us,  knowing that we are best suited to meet their needs.

Soon, if not already, the majority Church members will be residing in developing countries (primarily those in the Southern Hemisphere).  Many of these members are in real need.

Isn’t She Our Neighbor?

While there is no argument about helping your family first, I have real trouble with the idea that your neighbor is primarily those in close proximity.  The LDS Church has an excellent welfare system to handle need in the USA.  And the need is so much greater abroad in developing countries.  That need is way beyond the Church’s current commitment in humanitarian aid.

If the Church would concentrate more on person-to-person contact between the haves and the have-nots, instead of on boundary maintenance, maybe the problems it is having retaining members would diminish.  In developed countries, it would give members a reason to stay active, plus it would provide needed assistance to those in developing countries.  How can there be any community building between the two groups without contact?  Doesn’t the LDS Church aspire to being a truly global church?

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Anxiety, Depression, and Mental Illness in Fine Art

At times, we all wonder about our mental health.  When I see someone who is obviously struggling with life and sanity, I think:  There but by the grace of God go I.  Perhaps that is why I relate to illustration and fine art that graphically displays the fragile nature of our psyche.

While not directly related to mental health, I’ve always enjoyed the work of M.C. Escher.  His “Rind” illustrates how I occasionally feel; like my sanity is slowly unwinding and my ability to function in society is becoming depressingly impaired.

M.C. Escher’s “Rind”

And when life is oppressively overwhelming, don’t we all just need a primal scream.  And Edvard Munch’s “The Scream of Nature” illustrates perfectly this necessity.

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

Francisco Goya in his latter years, descended into madness.  His “Black Paintings” that covered his house graphically display his horrific nightmares.  His end-of-life paintings were eventually transferred from the walls of his house to a room in the Madrid’s Prado, where they remain one of the museum’s most popular draw.  Perhaps the work below is a precursor to his darker paintings.

Francisco Goya’s Concept of Madness

Vincent Van Gogh had a rough time relating to life.  He cut off his own ear and eventually committed suicide (although this conclusion is in dispute).  But there is no arguing that life tortured him.  And this extreme anxiety had a great impact on his creative work.  He obviously felt a strong connection to the suffering of the gentleman below.

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Old Man in Sorrow”

I love art, and have visited many of the world’s great museums, several multiple times.  Art can affect us in many ways.  Having empathy for the suffering of others is important to our own emotional well being.  Understanding that our own lives have ups and downs is also important.  Life isn’t all happiness.

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What Is an LDS Spiritual Experience?

Even on “liberal” Mormon blogs, it is not uncommon for posters and commenters to mention that they have had deeply spiritual experiences.  Experiences that reaffirm their faith in the Church.  Occasionally, making it difficult when they start to question church history, doctrine, and leaders.

One of my past Bishops has had spiritual experiences on a regular basis.  On one Sunday, he was able to complete his priesthood tasks over long driving distances on an empty tank of gas.  He didn’t want to have to buy gas on the Sabbath.  On another occasion, he and his family were rescued in the Virgin River Gorge after their car broke down.  The rescue happened after they had family prayer.

Highway Through Virgin River Gorge, Arizona

My father served a mission in New England and the Maritime Provinces.  He strove throughout his mission to receive some confirmation of his faith, but it never happened.  He ended his mission with an ulcer.  During my mission, I had no spiritual experiences.  And many of the experiences related by my fellow missionaries seemed  rather hokey.

Several of the faith promoting stories and experiences related by GAs have turned out to be exaggerations or even fabrications.  Elder  Jeffery R. Holland, a man whose opinions I deeply respect, has been caught twice recently with stories that proved to be exaggerations.  Paul Dunn had very public problems with the truth.

In Church meetings, like Fast & Testimony Meeting, members frequently relate their spiritual experiences.  Many turn out to be eye rollers.  But many are not.  They are the foundation of a member’s personal belief system.

Denver Snuffer said he talked to an embodied Christ.  And he was excommunicated from the LDS Church.

Playground Installed in Northern Uganda

Have I had spiritual experiences?  Yes, very definitely.  My hobby is installing children’s playgrounds in remote corners of the world.  Watching the children enjoying their new playground is a spiritual experience for me.  I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time my family, friends, and I install a new play area.  Unfortunately, I don’t get that same feeling when I attend church.

Swing Sets Can Even Be Therapeutic for Adults

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