Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In Search of Saint Patrick


[Nyerges is the author of several books, such as Enter the Forest and Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City (co-author), and How to Survive Anywhere.  He has led wilderness expeditions since 1974.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041 or via]


            There’s a lot of green right now in our town.  Saint Patrick green: shamrocks, leprechans, beer. But who was Saint Patrick?  Was he a real person?  Children are told  "Saint Patrick wore a green suit, talked to leprechans (he was probably drunk at the time), and while trying to convert the pagans with a shamrock, he marched all the snakes out of Ireland."  Will the real Saint Patrick please stand up?

            His real name was Maewyn Succat, born around 385 A.D., somewhere in Scotland, or possibly somewhere else, as there is conflicting historical data on his exact date and place of birth.   His baptismal name was Patricius. 

            Around age 16, he was sold into slavery in Ireland and worked for the next 6 years as a shepherd.  Keep in mind that human slavery, as well as human sacrifice, was considered normal for those times.

After his six years in slavery, he believed that an angel came to him in a dream, prompting him to escape and seek out his homeland.  He actually walked about 200 miles to the coast, where his dream indicated a ship would also be waiting for him.  He successfully escaped, and spent the next twenty years of his life as a monk in Marmoutier Abbey. There he again received a celestial visitation, this time calling him to return to the land where he’d been enslaved, though now with a mission as a priest and converter.

            Patrick was called to Rome in 432, where Pope Celestine bequeathed the honour of Bishop upon him before he left on his mission.

            Patrick returned to Ireland not alone, but with 24 supporters and  followers.  They arrived in Ireland in the winter of 432.  In the Spring, Patrick decided to confront the high King of Tara, the most powerful King in Ireland. Patrick knew that if he had the King's support, he would be free to take his Christian message to the people of Ireland.

            Patrick and his followers were invited to Tara by the King of Laoghaire. It was there that he was said to have plucked a shamrock from the ground as he tried to explain to the Druids and the King that the shamrock had three leaves just like the idea of God’s   three aspects - The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. This was called the Trinity. 

Of course, triads and trinities were a common concept among the Druids.  In fact, one could argue that the trinity (a term not found in the Bible) was a concept given to Christianity by the Druids, rather than the other way around.  Nevertheless,  King Laoghaire was very impressed and chose to accept Christianity. He also gave Patrick the freedom to spread Christianity throughout Ireland.

            When Patrick returned to Ireland, he treated the "pagans" with the respect implicit in his dream. Part of this respect was attempting to communicate with the Druids on their terms, which is why he used the shamrock as a teaching tool.  He also blended the Christian cross with the circle to create what is now known as the Celtic cross.  He used bonfires to celebrate Easter, a Holy Day that Christianity supplanted with the already-existing spring equinox commemoration. In fact, he incorporated many of the existing symbols and beliefs into his Christian teachings.

            He spent his last 30 years in Ireland, baptizing the non-Christian Irish, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding, since Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick's Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland.

            Patrick was also unique in that he equally valued the role of women in an age when the church ignored them. He always sided with the downtrodden and the excluded, whether they were slaves or the “pagan” Irish.

            According to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick's influence extended far beyond his adopted land. Cahill's book, which could just as well be titled How St. Patrick Saved Civilization, contends that Patrick's conversion of Ireland allowed Western learning to survive the Dark Ages. Ireland pacified and churchified as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick's monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy.

            When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.

            Veneration of Patrick gradually assumed the status of a local cult.  He was not simply remembered in Saul and Downpatrick, he was worshipped. Indeed, homage to Patrick as Ireland's saint was apparent in the eight century AD. At this time Patrick's status as a national apostle was made independently of Rome.  He was claimed locally as a saint before the practice of canonization was introduced by the Vatican. The high regard in which the Irish have held St Patrick is evidenced by the salutation, still common today, of "May God, Mary, and Patrick bless you".

            Patrick was not Irish, had nothing to do with leprechauns, almost certainly was not a drunkard, and didn't drive all the snakes out of Ireland.  In fact, there were no native snakes in Ireland, though this story is believed to be an analogy for driving out the so-called “pagans,” or, at least, the pagan religions.

            Patrick was one of the "greats" of history who nearly single-handedly preserved the best of Western culture when much of Europe was devolving into chaos and ruin.  He deserves far better than remembering him in the silly ways we do today, such as wearing green, pinching each other, and getting drunk.  Rather, he deserves an accurate memory, and our emulation.  Unfortunately, like all true Saviors of history, they are either killed off, or relegated to the closet of ridicule. 

            Perhaps it's time for all of us to re-think how we commemorate this special man, and his vast contribution to world culture.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why Keep "Daylight Savings Time"?

Why should we continue this useless relic from the past?

Let’s return to Standard Time All Year!

[Christopher Nyerges writes a regular blog at, posts regular YouTube videos, and has led outdoor trips since 1974.  He is the author of How to Survive Anywhere, Extreme Simplicity, Foraging California and other books. He can also be reached via School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]
Our lawmakers, in their infinite wisdom, continue to tinker with time.  Manipulate the clocks and we can trick the people into saving energy.  And twice a year, we’re all subject to the changes and inconveniences that occur as a result of the springing forward or falling back.  We have to quickly adjust.  It is part of our annual ritual, our relic from the past, where we go back to standard time from  daylight savings time.  And now we are expected to extend this “better” time a few more weeks.

But are there real and tangible benefits from doing this?  Must  we continue to do so?

Daylight savings time is a manipulation of the basic solar time within each time zone’s standard.  It was said to be an idea of Benjamin Franklin, and was begun in the United States during world wars one and two, and eventually became “official” in all but two states. That right!  At least two states have said “No, thanks, we’ll stick to standard time.” And now a few states are saying, “We’re sick of changing our clocks twice a year – we want to keep daylight savings time all year.”

Daylight savings time is like a quaint tradition of a bygone era that refuses to die.  It is a pointless habit with little recognizable merit.  Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time,” demonstrates that the clock-change saves energy in theory only, but not in practice.

David Letterman once asked the question to his audience during his monologue: “Why do we practice daylight savings time?  It’s so the farmers have more light,” he laughed, answering his own question.  “But how does that give the plants more light?”  That’s a Letterman joke for you, but there is a truth hidden under his humor.  Most people queried on the street don’t know why we have daylight savings time, and fewer still experience any tangible benefits from it, except perhaps the pleasantness of a later sunset time in the summer.

There are two often-cited reasons for the use of daylight savings time.  One is so that the children can have more light going to school in the morning.  But consider:  the  children have an hour more of morning light in late October, when the clock is set back (“fall back”) to standard time.  That is, it is the very use of daylight savings time which creates a darker morning as the days get shorter and shorter.  The “falling back” an hour merely puts us back in sync with the local time zone.  It is the use of daylight savings time that created the problem of less light in the morning, and only in that sense can you say that the “falling back” to regular time gives children that extra hour of light.  In other words, this is a problem caused by daylight savings time.  This is not a bonafide benefit from daylight savings time.

My grandfather, and all my uncles on my mother’s side were farmers.  I have some knowledge of the schedule of farmers.  There is not one that I know who does not arise at the crack of dawn, if not sooner.  There is no other way to function as a farmer.  You then proceed to work as long as needed, and as long as you are able, daylight savings time or standard time.  The manipulation of clocks in no way affected how much work they got done, or not done. 

I have talked to many people about daylight savings time. Some like it, some do not. Some are annoyed by it, some find the long afternoons of summer very enjoyable.  Everyone has arrived late (or early) on the first Sunday (even Monday in some cases) after the changing of the clocks.  Daylight savings time thus gives millions of people a quasi-valid excuse for lateness at least once a year.

Let’s end daylight savings time entirely and adopt a year-round standard time.  If I were asked to choose between daylight savings time all year, or standard time all year, I would definitely choose standard time. Why? Simple! Standard time is the closest approximately of actual solar time. It more closely represents the real world than does the manipulation of daylight savings time.

Those who wish to start school or go to work earlier can do so!  Such voluntary time alterations are fine if those individuals and schools and businesses choose to do so. It may even make the freeways less crowded at rush hours.  But keep the standard time year-round.

Yes, this is a small thing in the context of a world at war, with hate and suspicion in all political camps, and endless economic hardships all over the world.  In that big-picture sense, this is just a little issue.  But this is still an issue that should be resolved, and dealt with.

Since daylight savings time is a state-by-state decision, we can begin with California. Write to Governor Brown and ask him to implement year-round standard time. You can write to Brown at Office of the Governor, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814, or phone at 916) 445-2841, or on-line at  (if you live in another state, write to your governor if you agree).

Take a poll of your friends and acquaintances before you write to the Governor.  See if you can find anyone who derives tangible benefits from daylight savings time.  Secondly, there is always the initiative process where a Proposition can be put on the ballot to be voted on by the people.  This is a process that would take an organized effort and cost at least a million dollars, and probably more.  

Monday, March 05, 2018

No map? Charting a Course with only a Compass



 [Nyerges has been teaching outdoor survival skills and preparedness since 1974. He is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild Foods,” and other books. He can be reached at, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

Let’s say it’s dark, or overcast, or you’re traveling in thick woods.  You don’t have a map, but you have a compass. You’re not traveling in a straight line, but going here, going there, finding out what’s out there.

There’s a way that you can take records of your travel, and then chart a direct path back to your camp or car.  It’s not that difficult, but it does require a compass, and a pen and notebook.

Let’s say you’ve driven to a remote area in the forest and you want to explore a large area for possible camp sites. You set out at 27 degrees, and you walk for 20 minutes.  You make two columns in your notebook, and you record 27 in the degrees column, and you record 20 in the time column.

Then, you decide to change directions, and you head out at 150 degrees. You write that down in the “degrees” column.  You walk for 30 minutes before you pause, so you record 30 in the minutes column.

You continue this way for the rest of the day, always recording the degree in which you walked, and the amount of time you walked in that direction.

Now, before we get too far along, let’s review (for you beginners) how to determine what degree you are walking. With  your orienteering compass, you point the “direction of travel” arrow – which is the printed arrow on the housing of the compass -- in the direction you are traveling.  So far so good?  Now, you turn the round dial until the printed arrow is directly over the north end of the needle.  OK?  That’s pretty basic compass use.  Sometimes we refer to that step as putting the dog in the house.  The printed arrow looks sorta like a dog house, and the magnetic needle (the “dog”) must be kept aligned with the “doghouse.”  As long as you keep the dog in the house, and follow your “direction of travel” arrow, you’re accurately traveling at whatever degree you’ve decided to walk in. 

Obviously, for this system to work well, you need to walk in fairly straight lines.  In fairly rugged terrain, this system might not be practical or possible.

So, let’s say you’re done exploring for the day, and your notebook contains 6 entries for degree traveled, and 6 entries for amount of time traveled.

With that information, you are now going to create a simple map to determine a straight path back to your camp or wherever you started from.

Let’s take a look at the notes  you took, in the example, and how to turn those notes into a map.

Here is an example of what your notes might look like.


Remember, this is just an example, and in the example, we have kept the units of time all divisible by 10 minutes.  In real life, your units of time would likely be much more diverse.

Using your notebook, or using sticks on the ground, you will turn the units of time into linear lengths. So, for example, each ten minutes of time traveled will be one inch.  It doesn’t really matter whether you make each ten minute segment represent one inch or five inches or the length of your finger or the length of your Swiss army knife – just be consistent with whatever unit of conversion you use. 

So let’s say you are going to use sticks to create a map. For your first 20 minute leg of your journey, you cut a straight stick 2 inches long (10 minutes = one inches).  Lay the stick on the ground and align it at 27 degrees, your direction of travel.

Your next leg of your journey was 30 minutes, at 150 degrees.  So you cut a stick that is

three inches long.  From the leading end of the first stick, set down your three inch long stick and align it at 150 degrees.  So far so good?  You are creating a map of your journey.

Next, you cut a two inch stick and align it at the end of the last stick at 240 degrees.

Next, cut another two inch stick and align it at 180 degrees from the end of the last stick.

Finally, you cut a stick three inches (30 minutes = 3 inches) and set it at the end of the last stick at 285 degrees.

OK? You have just created a visual map of  your journey using stick, converting time into linear lengths.  When you have completed your stick-map, you now place your compass at the end of the last stick (which represents where you stopped, and decided you wanted to go home), and point it to your starting point.  That is your direct line back to your camp.  Put the dog in the house on your compass, and simply follow the direction of travel arrow back home. 

And because you have chosen each 10 minutes of travel time to represent one inch, you can just measure your straight line back to your camp to get a good idea of how long it will take you to get home.

From my reckoning, it appears that you can now walk straight at 30 degrees, for about 35 minutes and you’ll be back in your camp!  Not bad, considering that your entire journey so far took two hours.

Now, we did not discuss the variables that come with uneven terrain.  That is, if you had a lot of uphill travel, you probably couldn’t cover as much terrain in 10 minutes as you could if the ground were flat.  So you should record these terrain changes in your notebook.  If you walked for 20 minutes, that would normally represent a two inch stick.  But if the terrain was very sharply uphill, you wouldn’t have been able to cover the same distance in the same time.  You would estimate, and probably use just a one inch stick for that leg of your journey.  You should also record any changes in the speed of your hiking, though this works best if your speed is more or less the same.

There’s a bit more to this, so please come to one of my Orienteering workshops when you can. 
See the Schedule at

Also, get a copy of each of these following books:

The Green Beret’s Compass Course,” by Don Paul, 2006.  The technique described in this article was based on  his book, available from Amazon.

Be Expert with Map and Compass” by Björn Kjellström is still one of the best overall guides to map and compass use. Available at Amazon.

 How to Survive Anywhere” by Christopher Nyerges includes a short section on navigation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Ghost of Mrs. Killman

During this last weekend, while at Rick's 70th birthday dinner, we got to talking about ghosts.  Here is one experience of mine, excerpted from "Squatter in Los Angeles," available from Kindle, or the Store at, at a cost of way less than what  you customarily leave for a tip at a restaurant.

Dealing with the Ghost of Mrs. Killman

By “ghosts,” I am referring to the presences of people who have recently died.  Shortly after Edward and I moved in as squatters, we became aware the “something or someone” was still around in this old house. We presumed it was the recently-deceased owner, a Mrs. Killman who I later learned had been bed-ridden, overweight, and heavily medicated.

“She probably didn’t even know that she died,” my friend and associate at the non-profit, Ellen, told me.

One night while Edward and I were in our rooms – I had my door open and could see right through the kitchen – the kitchen door began to shake violently. I could both see and hear the door shaking. We both rushed into the kitchen to check it out. It was clear that there was no earthquake, and inexplicably, the kitchen became very cold. We looked around outside. There was no one in the inner yard, and we would have heard it if someone opened the creaky gate to enter, or exit.

This happened another time, and Edward and I talked about it for a long time, assuming it was some sort of psychic presence, but not really knowing one way or the other.  Then there were at least two occasions when we heard dogs barking in the kitchen.  There were no dogs in the yard, no dogs next door, no dogs in the yard. The barking was emanating from within the kitchen.   The dog barking could not have been an  “echo.” 

It turned out that Mrs. Killman did have two large dogs.  We determined that Mrs. Killman must have been a paranoid woman, for she had written multiple wills and various trust deeds pertaining to her property.  All this was unresolved when she died.  And maybe she was forgetful.

I was unsettled by these events, and at the earliest convenience, I shared these details with both the head of the non-profit, REW, and Ellen who resided in the non-profit’s facility. 

Shortly thereafter – within a week or two – REW asked me if I could come over at 3 p.m. the following day to view a show with him.  I said "yes."  He added that this particular program was extremely important, and that I should find a way to view it even if I couldn't return to his place.  He said that the show would help me to deal with the “ghost” that had been “visiting” at my home.

Of course, I returned the following day at 3 p.m., and seated myself comfortably in his cold “learning chamber.”  The show was about to begin, which was "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."  During the commercial just before the show, REW told me to watch very carefully for the clues telling me what I should do about the "ghost" in my house. 

I had already told REW and Ellen all about it – barking dogs though there were no dogs, and no possibility of echoes, or underground passages, or a dog walking by.  We knew that there absolutely was no dog in the house, or near the house.  However, the old woman did have dogs that stayed in the house with her.  Also, the house’s glass doors rattled furiously on two occasions when there was no one around.

Since I had carefully inspected the many papers left in the house when I moved in, I was likely the only person aware that the old woman may have been the victim of foul play.  Also, since the old woman took massive amounts of medication, and Ellen  told me in her insightful way that Mrs. Killman was probably was very confused in her initial after-death states, and possibly didn't even realize that her body had died.  These circumstances were the classic ones which coincide with the presence of ghosts, or spirits of the recently deceased.

"The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" illustrated a couple who moved into an old house, and eventually began to have "appearances."  REW told me to be particularly alert during those scenes depicting the way in which the woman and man interacted with the ghost.

I watched the movie carefully, generally wondering what I was doing there, since I didn’t see anything that pertained to my situation.  It was an interesting movie, but seemed to be something other than what I needed.  When the movie was over, REW restated the practical lesson within the movie.    

"They depicted the proper two-step process for dealing with ghosts," he told me.  "What was the first way in which the people tried to interact with the ghost?"  Really?  I shrugged.  I tried to remember, but could remember nothing useful.  Ellen then spoke up, saying, "She asked the ghost, 'Who are you?  What is your name?’"  

"That's important?" I asked.  REW responded in the affirmative, as I began to recall that particular scene.  The first step was the name-challenge, and involved asking the entity its name.  Then the woman in the movie asked the ghost why it was there in the house. 

"That's right," said REW. "The woman queried the ghost as to its purpose.  And when such entities are queried using this formula, they are compelled to respond," he told me.  I found this fascinating.

"So this is the way you should interact with the ghost of the old woman," Ellen  told me.  “First make certain you know who, or what, is present, and then find out what she wants of you."

I wondered aloud how I would do that.  Ellen then began to explain a method which would make it easy for the ghost in my house to interact with me.  She pointed out that you don't always get vocal words from ghosts, nor do you often get writing on paper.  However, Ellen suggested that I lay papers on the floor for all the letters of the alphabet, and of numbers 0 through 9, as well as all of the key documents that I found which might be of some value.  Ellen suggested that I could talk to the ghost when I felt  “her” presence, and then ask her to communicate by moving the papers on the floor to spell out words, or numbers, or move key papers.

"You need to decide for yourself if you can help her in any way," Ellen told me, "and what you're willing to do.  She's contacting you because you're there in her house, and you are the most likely person to provide help.  But you'll have to use some creativity to get answers if you really desire to help.  She may not be able to just speak like you and I speak."

I wasn’t really certain about all this, and it sounded vaguely like some sort of séance session, and I wasn’t sure what I was willing to do. But Ellen was right, I was in her  house, and I would rather that the ghost of Mrs. Killman move on to somewhere else and not haunt my kitchen.

Lastly, according to both Ellen and REW, once I performed this task, or resolved the issue that was keeping the ghost of Mrs. Killman close to the earth plane, I was to tell her that she has passed away, and that she should now go on, that her work is somewhere else.

I listened quite intently to all of this, having a curious mix of excitement, anticipation, and even fear.  I recorded all the details into my notebook.

That evening, I prepared myself to interact with the presence of the old woman's ghost. 

Onto the floor of my room, I placed the key papers which had to do with the deceased woman.  I also placed squares of paper on the floor, one for each letter of the alphabet, thinking that perhaps "she" would rattle papers, and might even spell out some message by sequentially rattling letters of the alphabet.

By 1 a.m., I had everything set up, since the usual time of the "appearance" was about 2 a.m.  I wanted to be ready.  I sat there reviewing the papers, wondering how I would react if anything actually visually appeared.

At around 1:40, the room became very cold with an oppressive presence. The cold was very penetrating, and I felt some fear.  I knew that "she" was there.  I attempted to vocalize the words "What is your name?" but was unable to do so.  I literally could not speak.  This was a unique sort of fear. I tried hard to speak aloud, but could not!  I mentally stated the question, and I intently watched the papers on the floor.  I remained in a kneeling position which I'd originally adopted so I wouldn't fall asleep.  But I was now keenly alert, intently aware that something else was there in the room with me, and painfully aware that I could not utter a word.  My intense fear was not a rational thing, for I was aware that "she" could not hurt me.  Yet, I was actually sweating there in that ice-box cold room. 

None of the letters moved.  I  recalled the Biblical quote about “there is no fear in love, for fear has to do with punishment…” and so I worked to calm my fear-emotions, and made the strong effort to emanate  a Feeling of Real Love.  At first, I was simply attempting to allow that Feeling of Love to be there, within me, and to “send” it outward.  Once I was able to do that, I specifically attempted to send that Feeling of Love to the old woman, while letting her know that I could be of some assistance.  I mentally asked her to tell me what I could do, as I tried to squeak out the vocal words.  Then one of the old legal papers in the middle of the room rustled.  There was no chance of a breeze moving the paper, since all the surrounding papers right there on the floor didn't move at all.  A second paper moved.  I took note of which two papers rustled.

I sat there stiffly for another 15 minutes in the cold room, with its cinder-block walls.  The night outside was quiet, and dark, and cold.  After a while, it was clear that the presence was gone and I knew it was over for that night. 

I tried this on two more nights, but there was no presence, or cold, and no reaction at all. 

There were no more shaking doors or barking dogs, and that was the end of the “appearances” of the ghost.

Some months later, I gave those two specific documents to the lawyer for the heir of the old  woman.  The lawyer and heir thanked me profusely, for apparently those papers contained clues of foul play and forgery, and contained the name of the culprit.  The lawyer did ask me -- with a bit of suspicion in her voice -- how I came to find those two specific papers out of all of the many boxes and piles of "stuff" that was in the house.  Had I actually gone through all the papers that carefully?, I could almost hear the lawyer asking.  I was tempted to tell the story of how I actually did "find" those two papers, but decided it would be better to let her think that I just randomly happened to notice those documents, and just thought they might be important so I kept them.

The exact details of the resolution of Mrs. Killman’s mountain estate was never revealed to me, but I did learn that the identified culprit who attempted to illegally obtain Mrs. Killman’s land never did gain them.  This was partly the result of those two documents I gave to the lawyer, and partly due to other factors.  It seemed that the desire to disallow an unloyal "friend" from taking hold of her lands was strong enough to keep the old woman on and near the physical plane until it was resolved. 

Though I never again had a ghost encounter of this level, it left me with the lifelong impression of the reality of the spirit world.  I respect the deference that the old generation and indigenous people have towards cemeteries and burial grounds.  And when someone tells me that they believe that a place is “haunted,” I accept that it’s certainly possible that the spirit of a deceased person is residing there.  I know that some people do not believe in ghosts, and say they are simply figments of an excited imagination.  I always felt that there was probably something to the phenomenon of ghosts, and might have remained ambivalent had I not had my own experience. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Notes from a past eclipse

This is an excerpt from "Searching for the Meaning of Life in the City of Angels" by Woodenturtle, from Kindle, or as an e-book from the Store at


Interacting with the moon’s energy during an eclipse

In the mid-1980s, Shining Bear told us that there would be a full eclipse of the moon one night. It was in the newspapers, of course, but none of us had read it or taken any special notice of it.

We were talking with him around 2 p.m., when he explained that there is way to utilize the special lunar energy during this unique eclipse time.

"This is not a way to get something, or to feel good," said Shining Bear. "Rather, this is a way that you can choose to channel that very refined lunar light – the healing power of the light of the moon – to the benefit of your fellows on this prison planet." "Prison planet" was how he typically referred to Earth.

He instructed us to find a place where we can sit cross-legged comfortably, and face the moon directly. It would be around 8:30 in the evening. 

"This is best done with pure silver, since silver transmits the lunar energy best. I don’t know what the effect would be if you used sterling silver, but ideally use three pure rounds of silver." A "round" is simply the coin-dealers term for a round piece of silver that is not a government coin. They are made by private mints so that someone could buy pure silver with no numismatic consideration. And there are also pure silver coins issued by governments. Either way, it needed to be pure silver, 99.9%.  He spent perhaps an hour telling us how to interact with the special lunar light.  

I knew I had some silver coins at home, and some at my parents house.  But my living conditions were somewhat hectic, and I had some things in storage, and wasn’t precisely sure where everything was located.  I found some sterling silver coins – which were 90% silver.  I quickly drove up to my parents house, and searched around for some coins I had stored there in the basement.  Finally, after having to endure the suspicions of my father, Dancing Moon and I were seated in the upper terrace of the Island with the silver that I had managed to locate. 

We set down a blanket on the dirt, and then sat cross-legged.  We positioned ourselves so we could face the full moon as it went into eclipse. Shining Bear had indicated that we were to create a triangle with three pieces of silver and our body.   This meant that silver  should be in each hand, and another piece of silver held in the thyroid area.  Holding the silver in the hands was easy – each palm was simply held upwards and resting on the knees.  Holding the silver next to the thyroid was challenging.  We found that we could wrap a silver coin in a cotton kerchief, and then tie it behind the neck so that the silver was secured and stayed close to the neck.  That was sufficient, since we wouldn’t be moving around, and we’d only be there for 20 minutes or

We sat there on the blanket, getting things arranged.

“Look,” I said after a while.  The shadow of the earth was starting to cover an edge of the moon.  There was a feeling of mystery in the air, an electrical excitement, a buzz.  Even the wild animals sensed it.

It was a bright full moon night and everything was visible. There were no clouds.  In a few minutes, the night would darken and many more stars would be visible.

It was a little chilly so it took a bit of maneuvering to hold the silver in each hand, keep one next to the neck, and to sit with a light blanket over our shoulders.

Dancing Moon was in position, and was quiet. She seemed deep in thought as she watched the moon, and appeared relaxed.

We didn’t say much. I sensed that my runaround to find the silver was viewed with disdain by Dancing Moon, another sign of my being unorganized, chaotic, confused.  But there was nothing that I could say or do – at least not now.  Now was the time to go into the moment.

So we sat, focused on the theme of healing that Shining Bear told us about.  Nothing for ourselves, but for the earth, for all earth’s inhabitants.  Of course, there is always an enlightened self-interest in such things – we would benefit personally in some way if the spiritual and mental health, and the level of harmony, was collectively raised.

The moon was nearly in full eclipse now. 

“Let me cast a healing balm,” began Dancing Moon, slowly, thoughtfully, methodically. At first I tried to say it along with her, but our timing was off so I just continued on my own, focusing on the moon, canting in my own timing.  I mentally worked to feel the lines of energy to the three pieces of silver on my body, and the triangle of light between the three pieces of silver, from hand to hand, and from each hand to the throat.  I visualized the triangle of light and the silver lines extending outward to the moon. 

I continued my canting, focusing on sending a healing balm over the earth.  My eyes closed gently, and I could “almost” see the lines of light extending to the moon.  I could feel a hush fall over the land, a calm that was both physical and psychic.  The landscape had become eerily darker, and the animal sounds were different.

Ten minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes elapsed.  I continued to cant and realized my voice was now in sync with Dancing Moon.  We continued our slow methodical canting, looking at the moon, watching the shadow move across the surface.

The moon was nearly full again when we stopped and put away our silver, and packed our things.

It was been an exhausting evening.  We had no tangible way of knowing if this had any positive benefit or not. There seemed to be “something” detectable that was calmer, more relaxed, peaceful.  Everything was the same, but somehow we had interacted with a force of nature, and somehow, in some not fully tangible way, the world was now different.

We were tired but very relaxed  and the edginess and irritation from earlier was now gone.   I went home and slept soundly.

We didn’t speak of it until the following Sunday when everyone shared their experiences at the regular Sunday gathering. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog

 [Nyerges is the author of “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books. He teaches survival and self-reliance at Pasadena City college and throughout the community. He can be reached at, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

As we are about to begin the Chinese Year of the earth Dog on February 16, it is a good time to take note of all the good things about dogs. It seems that everyone has something to say about the character of dogs.  They exhibit unconditional love, they are loyal, and they really seem to want to be a part of your life, to the extent that they are able.

Dogs are deeply loyal to their families and friends. They are regarded as honest and straightforward, and they can be deeply responsible for the welfare of those around them (remember old episodes of Lassie saving someone?).

Many of our most profound observations about human nature come from our observation of dogs.  For example, Sigmund Freud noted that “dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”

James Thurber observed, “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.” 

One of my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone was “The Hunt,” where Hyder Simpson and his dog went for a hunt one day.  Hyder’s dog jumped into a pool, and didn’t come out and Hyder looked for him, eventually finding him.  They both had died, but Hyder didn’t know it, and he strolled down a road where a man informed him he’d died and that he was now at heaven.  Hyder was about to enter but the gatekeeper said dogs were not allowed. So Hyder just kept strolling, saying he’d not go anywhere if his dog couldn’t go.  He eventually came to another gate and the gatekeeper again invited him in.  “What about my dog?” asked Hyder hesitantly.  “Oh, he’s welcome” said the gatekeeper.  It turned out that this was the real heaven, where both Hyder and his dog were welcome.  The other gatekeeper was at the entrance to hell!   It’s an excellent episode and makes you think about what is important to you in life – and after life.

Ann Landers once wrote, “Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”  And I really like the bumper sticker I once saw that read, “I wish I was half the person that my dog believes I am.”   A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself, said Josh Billings.  And Andy Rooney noted that the average dog is a nicer person than the average person. How true that often seems!

We make fun of some habits of dogs, like going in circles many times before they will lie down, or sniffing everything, because perhaps we do not understand dogs.  Dave Barry once comically noted that “dogs need to sniff the ground; it's how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard.”  Funny, but probably true. I remember walking my pit bull Cassius Clay in my Altadena neighborhood, and there were certain lines of bushes which he had to slowly sniff before we could move on. It took so long to get by that area that I would sometimes avoid it entirely or I would never get home.  What did Cassius smell? His brain was likely translating the different odors left by other dogs, just as Barry suggests, and those odors conveyed a complex picture of each dog that had passed by and probably a few things about its history.

As for the intelligence of dogs, I believe it is quite high. Much has been made of the supposed higher intelligence of pigs vs. dogs.  I don’t doubt that some scientist conducted some tests of brain activity and found that pigs were higher functioning in some areas.  Pigs certainly have incredible memories. When I had both a pig and a dog, I observed that my pig, Otis, had an incredible memory, but the memory was largely limited to food: where he once found it, whether he liked it, and whether he might find more there again.  Whereas the pig seemed to be less interested in humans and wanted to live for food and pleasure, the dog’s mentality was very much geared to the human “master,” and very much included the concepts that we humans call love and loyalty.

I have so many dog stories – stories that are uplifting, sad, hilarious,  stories of how our dog pal made our life more meaningful, and taught us to love even more. I realize that if you’re not a “dog person,” you’re not going to get this.  I remember once on the Dennis Prager radio show – not a “dog person”, by the way --  he talked about people who love dogs dearly.  In his attempt to figure this out, Prager concluded that people who love dogs more than people have some sort of deficiency, and they are trying to make up for it by loving dogs.  Respectfully, I think you got that one wrong Dennis.  Granted, no two people are alike, but I see that people who can love dogs too are people who are big lovers, not small lovers. They are people whose hearts are big, and they see the beautiful life force and vitalistic energy within these non-human beings. 

I have spent some time attempting to master human-to-dog communication.  It is definitely not about words.  Yes, dogs will remember certain sounds and what they are intended to convey, regardless what human language you are speaking.  But they primarily pick up on your tone and intent.  They know anger, fear, uncertainty, love, respect, and many more of the so-called human emotions.  I also believe that Beatrice Lydecker got it right in her book, “What the Animals Tell Me,” where she shared her “secrets” to animal communication.  Essentially, Lydecker explains that you need to think in pictures, and to then attempt to convey those pictures to the animal, mentally.  I experimented with the Lydecker approach many times with Cassius and found that, towards the end of his life, we had some very deep and profound exchanges of ideas.

Welcome the Year of the Dog!  What an auspicious year. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

An Argument for Frugality

[Nyerges is the author of various books such as “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” “Self-Sufficient Home,” “Squatter in Los Angeles,” and other books. He has led outdoor field trips since 1974. His schedule is available at or at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

I don’t like seeing people waste money, their own or other people’s.  For most of us, money represents the transfer of our work into a tangible abstract which we use to get the things and services we need in life. Money equals our time, our work, our life. If you think that I am placing too much value on money it’s undoubtedly because I place money right up there with oxygen as something that is essential. (yes, stolen quote)

I am not optimistic about the state of our economic health, with the government doing what no one of us can do – survive decade after decade with “deficit spending,” which means money we don’t have, which means, literally, bankruptcy!

The individual should do everything possible to live within their economic means both as a lifestyle, a mentality, and as a way to avoid personal disaster. 

Though this is part of a much longer series about personal economics, let’s start with credit cards. 

The convenience of a credit card is obvious.  I can go to Trader Joes and not have to worry about carrying sufficient cash, and I can buy what I need, slide my card, and go home with groceries.  The problem with this is that too many users – especially in the beginning – get addicted to the card in the same way that one gets addicted to heroin.  It is so easy, and it feels so good, but it is not free.

Let me begin with my conclusion, something that too many have learned too late. If  you cannot pay off your credit card at the end of each month, you cannot afford what you have purchased, and you should not buy whatever it is you think you need or want. There are a few exceptions, however, as my friend Robert Blair always told me: A house, obviously.  An education, because the education presumably will enable you, long-term, to earn much more than you would have earned without it. And, unfortunately, a vehicle. More on these three later.

Remember, if you cannot pay off the balance of your card every month, you cannot afford the items in question, and should not buy them in the first place.

But everyone forgets that last sentence, at one time or another, to their peril.

The balance – and interest – build.  You learn to pay the minimum required by the credit card company, as the principle gets bigger.  Eventually, you learn to juggle your credit card debt from card to card to try and find the lowest interest rate to handle your balance.

Eventually, all your money goes to paying off the minimum amount due, and it seems that you will never get out of debt.  Was it worth it?  You’re now a slave of the banks. 

I once overhead a conversation where the individual was describing how much money they had left. “What does that mean?” I inquired.  They were describing how much more credit they had left on their credit card, as if that was their own money in a wallet somewhere. In fact, the person had NO money “left”—the amount being discussed was simply the amount of more money that the credit card company would allow the person to go even deeper into debt without worrying too much. 

Though lots of people use credit cards without any serious problems, for many others, the use of easy credit is part of the fast road to financial failure.   If you’re one of those people, one of your best courses of action is to first take a complete assessment of all your actual needs.  Stop buying anything you absolutely cannot live without. In fact, if you are having difficulty paying off your credit cards each month, you might be well advised to cut up those cards and operate on a cash basis until you know you are back on solid footing. 

There are also legitimate agencies that help you manage your debt so you can get out of debt. This means the agency will re-negotiate your debt so that you can pay one fee each month, often at a lower interest rate.  Obviously, however, you must change your behavior or you will never get out of debt, and you will be “poor” forever.

When I read statistics about how up to 90% of the American public are dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their life, I have to look at the possible reasons. One of the biggest reasons is a dissatisfaction with one’s chosen employment, because – let’s face it – everyone needs an income and sometimes we take whatever we can get.  If we do not continually seek employment that is more personally fulfilling, we begin to wonder what our life is all about. I have seen it all too often.  Then, too many of us try to find fulfillment or happiness with the junk that we buy, and then we lose ourselves into our technological world of emails and smart phones and facebook and twitters and television.  And that choice to seek meaning with more stuff, and more technology, proves to be a futile path, where we don’t find happiness and we get even poorer.

Yes, I know this is just the tip of an iceberg.  In summary, you really must work hard to stay out of debt by always delineating need from want.  If your life doesn’t depend on it, don’t buy it. And your fulfillment in life will come from your face-to-face interactions and workings with other people.  Go on a diet from your technological toys for a while. You might find a new life that was there all along, and you might find that your wallet is a bit healthier too.