Happy Earth Day

Every year we celebrate Earth Day, because we have been given this wonderful, beautiful planet and it is truly a joy to behold.

It is important that we remember that it is a gift to us, and that WE are responsible for its care, from the simple act of not littering, to the most important global impacts of not polluting the waters, reducing the impacts of climate change, and general good husbandry of this magnificent ball we call ours.

For quite some time, there has been political debate on whether there is climate change or not. People ignoring or denying that climate change is true will not change the fact that the planet is in danger, or that we are mostly the cause. People can say that the sky is neon green, but that doesn’t make it so.

Scientists have said that the next major group of animals to go extinct will be human beings. The problem is that we can destroy the planet with us, and the people who ignore the scientists’ and environmentalists’ warnings are only walking down the path of destruction.


In honor of Earth Day and in recognition of all the beauty that still surrounds us, I share here a beautiful man-made and natural scene, the Biltmore House and its gardens here in Asheville, NC.



Biltmore House Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Garden after Garden Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Color upon Color Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
So much color Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
The Garden Wall Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Beauty never ending Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Beauty never seems to end Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Pastels in Bloom Photograph & Copyright Barbara Mattio 2017
Photo and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2019

Set the Ukrainians Free

On day 57 of the illegal and unconscionable Russian invasion of the sovereign country of Ukraine, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister is working to help citizens flee the besieged city of Mariupol.

It had been planned that the remaining approximately 120,000 still in the port city would be evacuated as quickly and safely as possible. The goal for today was to have been the rescue of 6,000 citizens, but when Russia began shelling close to the site where buses would be loaded for evacuation, only four buses — approximately 80 people — were able to make it out of the beleaguered city.

All of this comes days after Russia rejected a request from both the largely Catholic Ukraine, and the United Nations, for an Easter Cease Fire. Russia dismissed the cease fire request as being insincere, stating that it was a trick to allow Ukrainian forces more time to train.

Rational people, of course, will recognize that the cease fire request was both legitimate and reasonable, and would have allowed soldiers and citizens on both sides to be able, however briefly, to feed their souls as they work towards Peace, which is (as always) the only worthwhile objective.

To put the refusal of a cease fire in perspective, one only has to look back to World War I and the Christmas Eve Cease Fire between the Germans and the British forces. Nothing was formally declared on that night in 1914, but soldiers from both sides just stopped fighting, sometimes meeting in the area between the fortified front lines of each side, in the so-called No Man’s Land, to exchange food (and injured men) and sing carols together.

Similar instances happened during World War II, as witnessed by my best friend’s older cousin, Jack Williams, at a church outside of Paris one Christmas Eve. Jack has told me of sketching the church (the print is shown below) while troops of both sides sang Silent Night.

That Putin refused to allow even a single day of peace on a day that is considered by many around the world to be most holy is both sadly indefensible and a true indication of the lack of human kindness, understanding and basic morality that Putin possesses.

The world should remember this when the day that Russian troops are finally expelled from Ukraine arrives, and it should be yet another of the instances of inhumanity that Putin and the upper ranks of his Army should answer for when they are, inevitably, charged with the War Crimes they have committed.

Paris Church, Christmas Eve, World War II – Copyright Jack Williams

Life Changes on the River

I live along the banks of the French Broad River in North Carolina. It is a fun river, flowing south to north. Almost every other river in the country flows north to south. It is the fourth oldest river in the world, and is over 300 million years old. (Gives the phrase Old Man River a new glow, doesn’t it?)

It has watched a lot of history go by, and I think that the river and mountains must, by this time, be good friends. They are both stoic and look like fortresses in time.

The French Broad River likes spring, I think. Old friends come to play on its shores. Deer come to drink at her edge. The little animals — rabbits and squirrels and racoons — come to sip of her coolness, and scamper and play on the banks. Otters swim and court in her waters.

It is wonderful to watch the trees on her shore as they awaken, and the river seems to enjoy their awakening — the soft spring green that begins as a faint haze, so that you cannot quite tell if you are actually seeing it on the branches of the trees, or if it just your imagination heralding the warming days. And then, one day, the green is there beyond any doubt, and the next day, leaves begin to open and it is glorious to see the green in the branches, reflected on the river’s face.

The flower bulbs along the river push up their green leaves through the newly softened earth, and a week or so later, you have spring flowers and spring color smiling at the river. Even after North Carolina’s gentle winter, it is a delight to see.

The river can be ugly and can be most beautiful. It can be an ugly deep brown, reflecting the wash of sediment into her banks after a rain higher in the mountains. It can be very beautiful when the sun is out and reflecting in sudden diamonds of light all over the surface of the water, newly clear enough to see to the bottom. On these days, you will see kayakers or canoers or fisherman enjoying their day with the river.

I have lived here seven years now, and I have seen the river in strange conditions twice. Once was when it overflowed its banks, and the second time was when it froze. I was amazed to see both states, and felt lucky to see such rare occurrences (although I was glad when both were over).



Happy Easter

Many years ago, I found some beautiful hand-painted wooden eggs. They have long been a source of beauty and joy in my life, but it was only today that I discovered that eggs such as these are called pysanka, and that they are Polish-Ukrainian folk art. I also found that they are actually marked with beeswax, not paint as I had thought.

I thought that I would share a few pictures of the ones I own with you today, on this war-torn Easter, with the fervent prayer that, someday soon, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters may be safe again in their homes, and able to turn out such wonderful art.

Happy Easter or Happy Passover to all who celebrate, happy Sunday (or Monday, if you are over the International Date Line), to those who do not, and my wish for Peace for us all.



The power of poetry

The beauty of poetry is that it is healing. It sews up the loose edges in our life. It sews our hearts back together again. It readily will become a friend for life.

Some poetry is lightweight and floats like a balloon in the sky. Some poetry is deep and will actually not reveal its true meaning for a long time after.

House built of breath

Words plain as pancakes syruped with endearment.

Simple as potatoes, homely as cottage cheese.

Wet as onions, dry as salt.

Slow as honey, fast as seltzer,

my raisin my sultana, my apricot love

my artichoke, furry one, my pineapple

I love you daily as milk,

Ilove you nightly as aromatic port.

The words are hung out on the line,

sheets for the wind to bleach.

The words are simmering slowly

on the back burner like a good stew.

Words are the kindling in the wood stove.

Even the quilt at night is stuffed with word down.

When are we are alone the walls sing

and even the cats talk but only in Yiddish.

When we are alone we make love in deeds.

And then in words. And then in food.

— Marge Piercy. From The Art of Blessing the Day

Cats like angels

Cats like angels are supposed to be thin;

pigs like cherubs are supposed to be fat.

People are mostly in between, a knob

of bone sticking out in the knee you might

like to pad, a dollop of flab hanging

over the belt. You punish yourself,

one of those rubber ball kids have

that come bouncing back off their own

paddles, rebounding on the same slab.

You want to be slender and seamless

as a bolt.

When I was a girl

I love spiny men with ascetic grimaces

all elbows and words and cartilage

ribbed like cast up fog-grey hulls,

faces to cut the eyes blind

on the glittering blade, chins

of Aegean prows bent on piracy.

Now I look for men whose easy bellies

show a love for the flesh and the table,

men who will come in the kitchen

and sit, who don’t think peeling potatoes

makes their penis shrink; men with broad

fingers and purple figgy balls

men with rumpled furrows and the slightly

messed look at ease of beds recently

well used.

We are not all supposed

to look like nourished fourteen year

old boys, no matter what the fashions

ordain. You are built to pull a cart,

to lift a heavy load and bear it,

to haul up the long slope, and so

am I, peasant bodies, earthy, solid

shapely dark glazed clay pots that can

stand on the fire. When we put our

bellies together we do not clatter

but bounce on the good upholstery.

—Marge Piercy from the moon is always female



How YOU can help Ukrainian Refugees

As Putin’s War continues in the Ukraine, more and more refugees are fleeing what is left of their homes. President Biden has agreed to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the U.S., but bureaucratic issues with visa applications at US Citizenship and Immigration Services and in Homeland Security are making it harder for refugees who arrive to be properly settled into anything like a normal situation.

4.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, so far. Poland has taken in the vast majority of them, while others have gone to Germany and France, or other countries where the fleeing Ukrainians have family or friends, who have done a wonderful thing to help these lost souls.

I am a strong supporter of President Biden, but let’s face it, this War is a exercise in nuclear terrorism. I think the closest an American President has come to experiencing this type of nuclear terrorism previously, was when John F Kennedy and Russia had the stand off over the Cuban Missile Crisis. I will say, again that 100,000 refugees is not enough. America needs to be taking in at least five times that.

The other problem I have is that it isn’t happening fast enough. We should have opened up humanitarian routes to the United States long before this. It is the right thing to do, it’s just a day late and a dollar short.

On the other hand, Biden is moving to do it, and it will help some refugees.

Ordinary Americans can help by sending books and text books and stuffed animals to the refugees. A lot of these items, in particularly the stuffed animals which are such a comfort to children, were lost in the flight across the Ukraine border. Coloring books and crayons, games, clothes, winter pajamas — all the items we take for granted for our children can be donated through the Red Cross, UNICEF and many other local and regional refugee assistance organizations. The American Federation of Teachers, which I mentioned in my blog yesterday, is also an excellent resource.

I know that UNICEF and International Red Cross would also appreciate any moneys that people would wish to give towards medical care and food.



A closer look at the refugees

The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, has just completed a trip to Poland and other NATO countries, because it’s the middle of the school year. She wanted to make sure that the Ukrainian women and children who fled the War were getting what they needed

She visited a lot of refugee camps, and toured the facilities. She talked to the mothers and to children and was very pleased with what she found.

That said, over 45 million women and children and elderly persons have fled Ukraine for their lives. There’s going to be holes in the system, but from what she saw, it was very organized, very welcoming, and people were doing everything within their power, voluntarily, to help those in such abundant need.

Children who had been taking gymnastics in the Ukraine before the War were able to practice what they had already learned in their home towns there in the refugee centers. The refugee centers were comprised of rows of rows of sleeping cots, which I will say, from the photographs I saw, were all neatly maintained. I have not seen photos of any refugee centers here in America which looked that orderly and well maintained.

The women and the children get up in the morning and make their beds with a perfection that amazes me. I went to Girl Scout camp as a child, and it took a whistle-blowing senior scout to get us out of bed, let alone making the beds once we were up!

The refugee camps are divided into two sections; one for the moms, the other for children. The Polish people are generously providing therapy for the moms so that they can start to heal from the horrors they left behind, so that the moms in turn can provide better care for their children.

The mothers also are in group therapy, and they frequently start out saying “I’m okay, I’m all right, let the next lady take my turn,” only to have the next lady say “I have nothing to say”. It falls back to the first woman, who gives up her control of her emotions and begins to speak in broken sentences, accompanied by a few tears, telling her story. As her story unfolds, the tears wash down her face, and as she begins to speak, she begins to heal a little.

On the children’s side, they are playing with toys and cards. The children are eight and under. They use the dolls they are given to act out what their mothers said as they were getting ready to leave Ukraine. The children often do not realize that their daddies, brothers, uncles, cousins, probably will not come home from war, which will be another issue.

The American head of the Teachers’ Union visited some classes in progress. Teachers in America and around the world have been sending concerned messages to her about the education of the Ukrainian children. She brought with her supplies, books and stuffed animals. She said that American families have been very generous in sending these things, and that they do help the Ukrainian children.

She taught a High School class of students for about 45 minutes, and found them to be well-educated from their classes in Ukraine. One young male student in particular stood out to her. He raised his hand, and stood up tall and straight, held his head up high, and said to her “Please tell American students to be grateful for what they have. One day I had this, and the next day I didn’t.” These students had homes a month ago; nice homes and good schooling and nice lives with promiser. A month later, it is all gone.



copyright CBSNews
copyright Al Jazeera

She gets forgotten during War, and often walks alone during Peace.

The Song of Solomon 2:1-6

I am the rose of Sharon,

And the lily of the valley.

As the lily among thors,

So is my love among the daughters.

As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,

So is my beloved among the sons.

I sat down under his shadow with great delight,

And his fruit was sweet to my taste.

He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

Stay with me flagons, comfort me with apples

For I am sick of love.

His left hand is under my head,

and his right hand doth embrace me

I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,

By the roes, and by the hinds of the field,

That ye stir not up, nor awake my love,

Till he please

The voice of my beloved!

Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains,

skipping upon the hills.

My beloved is like a roe or a young hart.

Behold, he standeth behind our wall,

He looketh forth at the windows,

Showing himself through the lattice.

My beloved spake, and said unto me,

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

For, lo, the winter is past,

The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of the singing of birds is come,

And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,

And the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.

Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.

“O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,

In the secret places of the stairs,

Let me see they countenance,

Let me hear thy voice;

For sweet is thy voice,

And thy countenance is comely.”



Photograph and Copyright 2022 Barbara Mattio

It’s Happening Again

In my reading and studying about the Holocaust, I came up with images that would form in my mind that were horrific, and would comfort myself with the thought that “this cannot ever happen again. I feel so badly for the people who suffered, but it cannot ever happen again. It’s the most terrible thing that life can ever be and we cannot ever go there again.”

Growing up, my grandfather, may his memory be a blessing, would tell me that the story of the Holocaust needed to be told and retold so that it never happened again. I listened very carefully as I grew up, and I have told the story over and over. I have read chronicles and I have taken those stories into my world and shared them. People laughingly call me the Holocaust Scholar, and asked why I bothered, it was never going to happen again, and I would smile and say, “From your lips to G-d’s ears.”

Well, another millenium has arrived, one that I always pictured as refined and full of beauty and art and great new inventions; one where we would fix the environment that we have damaged to the point where the Earth is now fighting back to rid herself of this destructive creature known as Man.

Instead, in 2022, we have a War where a large country with nuclear capabilities has gone to war against a small, independent sovereign country for no legitimate reason. Putin’s War started out more or less as a genteel war, at least when compared to his War today, a mere 41 days since since his first illegal incursion into Ukraine.

There were skirmishes in the beginning, tanks shot at, stray bullets that hit civilians, and some very young Russian soldiers knocked on Ukrainian doors, asking for food. There were protests in Russia against the war, quickly stamped out by Putin’s troops. Russia was making no real inroads and whatever Putin’s plan had been, it wasn’t working.

Putin appeared to get angry — as dictators are wont to do — and suddenly we began to hear news of the war that was the kind of news that we heard about World War II.

I was horrified because we have not listened to history and we have come full circle. It had become clear that Russian troops were aiming for not just the normal targets of war — military installations, government buildings — but were deliberately aiming for civilian targets. There are stories of hospitals being bombed, orphanages, bomb shelters, even the Holocaust museum was damaged by Russian mortar fire. All of these places are far removed from what armies consider military targets. These were no “accidental strikes”. These were — and are — war crimes.

This past Sunday was another turning point. The Russians bombed a Children’s Zoo. Cages were damaged, food destroyed. Animals will have to be put down because there is not time to rehouse them before they could become a danger to civilians and military personnel alike. Animals that are critically endangered, and part of a breeding program for repopulating endangered animals, have all been destroyed thanks to Putin.

Prisoners of war, on both sides, have been exchanged. One Ukranian gentleman who told the Russians to go “F*** themselves” was one of the returned. I understand that prisoners of war are not going to treated to spa days at the Ritz, but there are internationally accepted rules of behavior for prisoners of war. Captured Ukrainian men and women alike were stripped of all clothing, not allowed to use bathroom facilities, forced to squat naked in close quarters. Their heads were shaved, and they were barely fed, and in contravention to international law

The civilians population of Ukraine has been targeted for what can only be called atrocities. Some were done on military orders, others were just committed by soldiers because they could.

One woman has told Ukrainian officials of being in her home, with her husband and child, and Russian troops came into their yard, shot her husband in front of both her and their four year old son. According to the woman, the soldiers were drunk and continued to drink whatever they could find in her home. Then, they repeatedly raped her in front of her four year old son while he wept.

Other atrocities include raping children. The proof is finding their little dead bodies with tears in the vagina and rectum, their hands tied behind them obviously after the rape, and then the children were shot. Old women are tortured, beaten, and then murdered, and branded with a swastika on their hip or thigh.

Just when you think you have heard the most awful thing possible, Russian soldiers are cutting out people’s tongues. When I read that, I got immediately nauseated and almost vomited. There is nothing human beings aren’t capable of, great beauty and compassion, and clearly great evil.

For the sake of the world, and the sake of the Ukrainian people, i pray that this war ends now.




“I am Deepak Chopra, and I have translated the poems of Rumi into English for many years, now. These poems reflect the deepest longings of the human heart as it reaches for the divine. They celebrate love.

Each poetic whisper is urgent, expressing the desire that penetrates human relationships and inspires intimacy with the self, silently nurturing an affinity for the Beloved. They are not direct translations, but “moods” that we have captured as certain phrases radiated from the original Farsi, giving life to a new creation but retaining the essence of its source.” –From the Love Songs of Rumi, translated by Deepak Chopra


In my hallucination

I saw my Beloved’s flower garden.

In my vertigo

In my dizziness

In my drunken haze

Whirling and dancing

Like a spinning wheel

I saw myself

As the source of existence

I was there in the beginning

and i was the spirit of love

Now I am sober

There is only the hangover

and the memory of love

and only the sorrow

I yearn for happiness

I ask for help

I want mercy

And my love says

Look at me and hear me

because I’m here just for that

I am your moon

and your moonlight too

I am your flower garden

and your water too

I have come alll this way

eager for you

without shoes or shawl

I want you to laugh

to kill all your worries

to love you

to nourish you

Oh Sweet Bitterness!

I will sooth you and heal you

I will bring you roses

I too have been covered with thorns

Rio Rose bloom Avon OH Photograph and Copyright Barbara Mattio 2014