Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks

I suppose as a college student on her Thanksgiving holiday break I could be excused for wanting to sleep in a bit late today. Catch up on the “Z’s”, rest and all of that.

And, yet, I woke up just after 5:00 AM today and sure am thankful that I could not go back to sleep.

No Name Key was cool and quiet in the pre-dawn darkness. With a cup of coffee and my phone in hand I enjoyed the early morning from our back porch overlooking the mirror-like calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico as the sun’s first light edged above the horizon. And what a sunrise it was! Filled with bright red, orange and yellow pasted against the black, blue and purple of the eroding night sky above and water below. No matter the reason for waking so early, I am most certainly thankful to have witnessed today’s Thanksgiving sunrise.

And I am thankful for the peace and quiet here on No Name. There are many reasons to protect places like No Name, a Federal wildlife refuge, and to keep them different from the developed places that increasingly surround us and the quiet is one of them. The frequent silence here is incredible and as dawn broke, it was only interrupted by the sound of the breeze blowing through the palm, mahogany and mangrove tree leaves. Literally not one other sound but the breeze blowing through the trees for nearly an hour.

I am also thankful to have seen No Name’s nature vividly come alive right before my eyes as that sun crept even higher. The first sign of life was a Key Deer walking quietly along the peninsula that is part of our property. My view was her reflection in the still water through a window-like opening in the mangrove trees. No sooner than I saw her reflection I could see the rest of her family, a buck and a doe, farther up the peninsula where they had spent the night under a star filled sky. I sure am thankful that we have laws protecting animals such as the Key Deer and the places that they live in like No Name.

As those deer disappeared in the distance I began to hear the unmistakable sound of a bird’s claws walking on the porch’s metal roof above me. I’ve heard that “tip-tap” many times before and knew it was the turkey vulture that so often is perched there so as to keep watch over the land below and anything that might move along it that qualifies as prey. Not long after hearing his claw steps he was airborne right in front of me, swooping back and forth perhaps 20 feet away. It was an incredible sight, his flight one way and back the other, but also an equally incredible sound as each turn led to a deep audible “swooping” as his wings caught the air while turning in the opposite direction. To have dawn’s silence broken by the sound of his flight, much less to see it up close, was a humbling reminder of nature’s perfection.

And perfectly fitting for a Thanksgiving morning is what led that bird to so elegantly swing back and forth; his unmistakable hunt for food. As the sun light became brighter I could see that the turkey vulture had spied his morning meal: a dead raccoon floating at the water’s edge under the mangrove branches.

It was a remarkable sight, the type of thing one could never fully experience buried in our phone or computer-driven virtual worlds. And as that thought sank in, another turkey vulture joined the meal. And then another and another and another yet again. By then the birds had dragged their meal up the bank and onto land to enjoy their feast together in a circle of life display that was simply perfect on Thanksgiving.

And that’s when the American alligator showed up to begin its Thanksgiving.

No Name is filled with many magical creatures including the American crocodile and its “cousin” the American alligator. This one in particular is a juvenile, about 4 feet long, and lives under our mangroves on the peninsula. I see it virtually every day in the early morning light and just before dark as it patrols the waters next to our home in search of food. And this morning it found a bounty worthy, well, of Thanksgiving. The turkey vultures, as numerous as they now were, did not have a chance against the young gator as she crawled up the bank and pulled what was now her meal into the murky water as you can see in the video below.

So many things to be thankful for again this year, and that starts with our amazing natural environment. From the peace and lively nature that is No Name Key, from my family and me, to you and yours, here’s to hoping that your Thanksgiving is filled with friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving.

Attack dogs, rubber bullets and mass arrests. Tear gas too.

Attack dogs, rubber bullets and mass arrests. Tear gas too.

Those are some of the weapons being used against innocent Americans in the climate change war right here in the United States as 2016 nears an end. You read that right, good, innocent, unarmed American citizens who care about protecting our environment are being assaulted by attack dogs, rubber bullets and tear gas, as well as being subjected to mass arrests.

Over an environmental concern.

In America.

In 2016.

Before I tell you about these atrocities, I first need to tell you a few things about me that most reading this blog never knew.


Over the last two summers I have been honored to participate in humanitarian efforts to help members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota. I’ve lived among the Cheyenne River Sioux in rather primitive conditions and I’ve seen what’s left of the remnants of a once proud Native American nation.

I’ve learned how these proud people have been abused by our government and forefathers for well over 100 years and, sadly, I have also seen the resulting poverty, ravaged environment and limited resources that have been left behind.

The  Cheyenne River Sioux are never far from my thoughts and as we think about Thanksgiving I find myself thinking of how the souls of generations of Native Americans were stolen in the Dakotas (and elsewhere), along with tens of millions of acres of land and the priceless natural resources in and on them. What I’ve seen and learned is, itself, shameful but only gets worse when we consider what is happening in that region today in the global climate change war.


Perhaps calling what’s happening ‘shameful’ is not strong enough. Appalling might be a better word to describe what is happening to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe of North Dakota. As I write this I’m not even sure what is more disturbing:

The fact that local police, along with private security forces likely hired by a Texas based oil company, Energy Transfer Partners, that is intent on building a 1,134-mile long pipeline next to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, have resorted to using attack dogs, rubber bullets, tear gas and mass arrests to fight the peaceful demonstrators trying to stop construction of the pipeline or;

The insane injustice the Sioux face by learning that the pipeline was moved from the state capital closer to the reservation because people in the city had more political influence than the tribe or;

That, in 2016, we are even building another crude oil pipeline in the first place.

Frankly, I don’t even understand why we have to build another pipeline anywhere on the planet when the crude oil it carries will end up being turned into carbon dioxide that will further pollute and warm our planet’s atmosphere. The entire scenario from the pipeline to the location to the bullets, everything, seems like it should come out of a science fiction novel rather than modern-day America.

Sadly, this is not a book.

It is the reality on the front lines of the global warming war and I fear that the weapons and the war are only about to get worse. News that our new national leadership wants to expand the use of coal, install new pipelines and drill new oil rigs should scare every American not working for the fossil fuel oil and utilities industry.

And after it scares you, I hope that it will make you SO very mad that you will stand with me and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We have a world of clean, sustainable, affordable options such as solar power that can help solve the climate change crisis and in the process create new industries and tons of jobs.


So on this eve of Thanksgiving 2016, allow me to suggest that we must stop building new pipelines, drilling for more oil, increasing our fracking, pretending ‘clean coal’ exists or that carbon dioxide does not pollute our atmosphere and oceans. We must put an end to this madness before we destroy our planet and the very soul of America.

We’ve already nearly destroyed Indian nations like the Sioux and their lands and while I would have thought we would have learned lessons from history, I can tell you that I’ve seen with my own eyes that that’s not the case.

But we have another chance to change things and I remain hopeful, ever hopeful, that Americans will put a stop to what’s happening and demand an end to the use of fossil fuel and the pollution that comes with every drop. And while we are at it I need your help in protecting the sacred Sioux. If any of this concerns you then fighting for Standing Rock and helping the Sioux would be a good start. They can’t do it alone, nor should they have to this time around.

As you give thanks this week for what’s important in your life please consider learning more about the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their fight by visiting or I am positive that they will be grateful, thankful, for your care, concern and support.

To learn more about musician Dave Matthews’ benefit concern that will take place later this week in DC click here (or view Dave Matthews’ live stream of his benefit concert by clicking here). To learn more about Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt’s benefit concert from Standing Rock please click here.

I stand with Standing Rock.



And as the Lakota people of the Black Hills say, pilámaya (thank you), and Happy Thanksgiving.