Tag Archives: life

Where I shall live until I live no more…

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Double click for a larger version of the image…

In a small pond in the rolling hills of Vermont, about 8 miles from the town of Woodstock, lives a blossom in a pond. It was “born” there and it shall live out its days in the sunshine of the Vermont summer. Then fall will come and with it the drop in temperatures until the cold chokes the life out of the blossom.

I have often wondered if other living things are more sentient than we suspect. Do they sense the shortening of the days and how it becomes hard and harder toward the end to find warmth and strength? Do trees grow weary of standing against the wind?

I don’t know, but I somehow suspect that if they are living things, there is more to them than we might surmise. I don’t think, however, that this blossom regrets for a single second having spent its days in the Vermont pond where I photographed it. I think it, like we, should rejoice in the days we have been given, even though many of those days may have been more filled with rain and clouds than sun. Those days are still a gift…and a precious one at that.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1572, King Charles IX of France, under the sway of his mother, Catherine de Medici, ordered the assassination of Huguenot Protestant leaders in Paris, setting off an orgy of killing that resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots all across France.

Two days earlier, Catherine had ordered the murder of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader whom she felt was leading her son into war with Spain. However, Coligny was only wounded, and Charles promised to investigate the assassination in order to placate the angry Huguenots. Catherine then convinced the young king that the Huguenots were on the brink of rebellion, and he authorized the murder of their leaders by the Catholic authorities. Most of these Huguenots were in Paris at the time, celebrating the marriage of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister, Margaret.

A list of those to be killed was drawn up, headed by Coligny, who was brutally beaten and thrown out of his bedroom window just before dawn on August 24. Once the killing started, mobs of Catholic Parisians, apparently overcome with bloodlust, began a general massacre of Huguenots. Charles issued a royal order on August 25 to halt the killing, but his pleas went unheeded as the massacres spread. Mass slaughters continued into October, reaching the provinces of Rouen, Lyon, Bourges, Bourdeaux, and Orleans. An estimated 3,000 French Protestants were killed in Paris, and as many as 70,000 in all of France. The massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day marked the resumption of religious civil war in France.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The first on-screen kiss was shot in 1896 by the Edison Company. Titled The May Irwin-John C. Rice Kiss, the film was 30 seconds long and consisted entirely of a man and a woman kissing close up.

It’s a Long and Winding Road

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Double click to see a larger version of this image…

It was Sir Paul McCartney who wrote the haunting lyrics to “Long and Winding Road.”  The song is both wistful, hopeful, and yet also about one who is broken by what has happened in the past.  While there are many theories about what was in Paul’s mind when he wrote it, perhaps the real meaning will die with him.  Perhaps there is a clue in the fact that it was the 20th and last number one song released by the Beatles…and the last one released by the super-band.  Was it in essence a love song to their fans and their past…hoping to come home for one more time, even if for just a momentary glimpse of home?

We don’t make it through life without scars. To think otherwise is merely a pipe-dream.  Some may make it through without scars on the outside, but even they bear scars on the inside.  We all are wounded.  We all experience pain.  And as we approach the end of the long and winding road, we gain a richer perspective on the meaning of life as we come to realize that the scars themselves, are also beautiful.  They are part of our stories, our intricate weaving of lives with others as we travel the road.  Every person, every story, is beautiful in some way.  Some are tragic, but there is also beauty in tragedy.

What matters is not that we are scarred, but how we react to the woundings and whether or not we will let them shape us, teach us and grow us, or whether we become so filled with bitterness and anger that we become nothing more than a shadow of a human merely biding time until we take the last step on the road.

Today’s photo was shot at the flea market.  I don’t know how old these battered dolls are, but they reminded me of life and the Long and Winding Road.  May you journey it well!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, in what may be the first true western showdown, Wild Bill Hickok shot Dave Tutt dead in the market square of Springfield, Missouri.

Hollywood movies notwithstanding, the classic western showdown happened only rarely in the American West. Rather than coolly confronting each other on a dusty street in a deadly game of quick draw, most men began shooting at each other in drunken brawls or spontaneous arguments. Ambushes and cowardly attacks were far more common than noble showdowns.

Nonetheless, southern emigrants brought to the West a crude form of the “code duello,” a formalized means of solving disputes between gentlemen with swords or guns that had its origins in European chivalry. By the second half of the 19th century, few Americans fought duels to solve their problems. Yet, the concept of the duel influenced the informal western code of what constituted a legitimate-and legal-gun battle. Above all, the western code required that a man resort to his six-gun only in defense of his honor or life, and only if his opponent was also armed. A western jury was unlikely to convict a man in a shooting provided witnesses testified that his opponent had been the aggressor.

The best-known example of a true western duel occurred on this day in 1865. Wild Bill Hickok, a skilled gunman with a formidable reputation, was eking out a living as a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. He quarreled with Dave Tutt, a former Union soldier, but it is unclear what caused the dispute. Some people say it was over a card game while others say they fought over a woman. Whatever the cause, the two men agreed to a duel.

The showdown took place the following day with crowd of onlookers watching as Hickok and Tutt confronted each other from opposite sides of the town square. When Tutt was about 75 yards away, Hickok shouted, “Don’t come any closer, Dave.” Tutt nervously drew his revolver and fired a shot that went wild. Hickok, by contrast, remained cool. He steadied his own revolver in his left hand and shot Tutt dead with a bullet through the chest.

Having adhered to the code of the West, Hickok was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Eleven years later, however, Hickok died in a fashion far more typical of the violence of the day: a young gunslinger shot him in the back of the head while he played cards. Legend says that the hand Hickok was holding at the time of his death was two pair–black aces and black eights. The hand would forever be known as the “dead man’s hand.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: When a child loses a tooth in Spain, a small mouse called “Ratoncito Pérez” leaves a surprise under the pillow.

Almost Gone

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As I write this, my last surviving uncle is dying.  I don’t know how long he will survive, but it sounds rather immanent.  He is in Iowa and I am in Georgia, so I won’t be there for his passing.  He is, however, surrounded by family that he has loved so much for so long.  That is how we all would wish to go when the time comes.

My mother was an only child but my dad had five sisters and three brothers (one of whom died in infancy).  All my life, my dad’s family was “the family” that I grew to love.  Out of the eight siblings who lived to adulthood and married, only four of their spouses and none of the original brothers and sisters are left…and soon there will be only three of the sixteen total.  It’s rather sobering, this inexorable marching of the years, one generation yielding to the succeeding one.  There is nothing one can do to stop it…nor, I suspect, should we if we could.

I was reminded the other day by the leaves that have been falling all over the place where we live that even trees have to find rest.  The science books and teachers describe the falling of the leaves as a time for the trees to rest and recover.  I wonder: do they have a sense of resting?  Do trees ponder how long they may yet stand?  And if so, do they fear falling as humans dread the footsteps of the Grim Reaper?

I don’t know, but this photo that I shot this past Saturday was taken because as I saw the tree driving past it, I thought to myself, “It’s almost gone.”  And so is my last remaining male from my father’s generation.  He shall be deeply missed.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1942, the Soviet Army under General Georgi Zhukov launched Operation Uranus, the great Soviet counteroffensive that turned the tide in the Battle of Stalingrad.

On June 22, 1941, despite the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, Nazi Germany launched a massive invasion against the USSR. Aided by its vastly superior air force, the German army raced across Russia, inflicting terrible casualties on the army and populace. With the assistance their Axis allies, the Germans, by mid October had Leningrad and Moscow under siege. However, the Soviets held on, and the coming of winter forced the German offensive to pause.

For the 1942 summer offensive, Hitler ordered his Sixth Army, under General Friedrich von Paulus, to take Stalingrad in the south, an industrial center and obstacle to Nazi control of the precious Caucasus oil wells. In August, the Sixth Army made advances across the Volga while the German Fourth Air Fleet reduced Stalingrad to burning rubble, killing more than 40,000 civilians. In early September, Paulus ordered the first offensives into Stalingrad, estimating that it would take his army about 10 days to capture the city. Thus began one of the most horrific battles of World War II and arguably the most important because it was the turning point in the war between Germany and the USSR.

In their attempt to take Stalingrad, the Sixth Army faced General Zhukov leading a bitter Red Army employing the ruined city to their advantage. In a method of fighting the Germans called Rattenkrieg, or “Rat’s War,” the opposing armies broke into squads eight or 10 strong and fought for every house and yard of territory. The battle saw rapid advances in street-fighting technology, such as a German machine gun that shot around corners and a light Russian plane that glided silently over German positions at night, dropping bombs without warning. However, both sides lacked necessary food, water, or medical supplies, and tens of thousands perished every week.

Joseph Stalin, determined to liberate the city named after him, in November he ordered massive reinforcements to the area. On November 19, General Zhukov launched a counteroffensive out of the rubble of Stalingrad. German command underestimated counterattack, and the Sixth Army was quickly overwhelmed by the offensive, which involved 500,000 Soviet troops, 900 tanks, and 1,400 aircraft. Within three days, the entire German force of more than 200,000 men was encircled.

Italian and Romanian troops at Stalingrad surrendered, but the Germans hung on, receiving supplies by air and waiting for reinforcements. Hitler ordered Von Paulus to stay put and promoted him to field marshal, as no Nazi field marshal had ever surrendered. Starvation and the Russian winter took as many lives as the Soviet troops, and on January 21, 1943, the last of the airports held by the Germans fell to the Soviets, cutting off the Germans from supplies. On January 31, Von Paulus began surrendering his forces.  By February 2, only 90,000 German soldiers were still alive, and of these only 5,000 troops would survive the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.

The Battle of Stalingrad turned the tide of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union. General Zhukov later led the Soviet drive on Berlin. On May 1, 1945, he personally accepted Berlin’s surrender.  Von Paulus, meanwhile, agitated against Adolf Hitler among the German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union and in 1946 provided testimony at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. After his release by the Soviets in 1953, he settled in East Germany.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The term “G-string” does not derive from the fourth string on the violin (G string). Rather, as linguist Robert Hendrickson suggests, the “G” in G-string or (“geestring”) stands for “groin.”  (Now, aren’t you glad you know how it got its name?)

 

..of Things Gone By

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Double-click the picture for a larger version of the image…

Younger people laugh at older folks who sit around and talk about “the good old days” or the days that have gone by.  Why do we who are older talk so much about those good old days?

It’s not that these aren’t good days (though they may be good in far different ways), but I think it is because our  minds are filled with so many images and memories that our brains have filed away over oh-so-many years and the young don’t have that wonderful gift!

I have recently joined a gym and for the first time in my life, I have a trainer who has worked with me for the last four weeks (I have two more to go!).  It has reminded me of things gone by.  Why?  Well, I used to be rather athletic.  I played lots of sports, even up until I was nearly 50  years old.  I used to be able to run, jump, pump iron and all sorts of activity without hurting.  Now?  Well, not so much.  The aches and pains have left me reminiscing of things gone by, like my youth.

I used to be able to eat like a horse and never put on a single pound.  My folks even said that they never had to have a garbage disposal when I was teenager because there never were any leftovers.  I used to look in the mirror and see a young man starting back at me with nary a wrinkle at the corner of the eyes or mouth.  No longer.

Do I begrudge that?  At times, if I am to be honest.  I wish I could do all those things again without hurting…when I could run forever and never even seem to breathe hard.  Now, well, it doesn’t take much.

The photo today is of an old trailer/wagon that also made me think about how all things age…even the universe is getting old at the same rate as I am.  It is the nature of the game, isn’t it?  Hopefully, along the way, we amass a fortune of wonderful memories that we can look back on and think as I do, “What a wonderful life it has been!”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in a bizarre incident in 1982, a truck exploded in the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan, killing an estimated 3,000 people, mostly Soviet soldiers traveling to Kabul.

The Soviet Union’s military foray into Afghanistan was disastrous by nearly every measure, but perhaps the worst single incident was the Salang Tunnel explosion in 1982. A long army convoy was traveling from Russia to Kabul through the border city of Hairotum. The route took the convoy through the Salang Tunnel, which is 1.7 miles long, 25 feet high and approximately 17 feet wide. The tunnel, one of the world’s highest at an altitude of 11,000 feet, was built by the Soviets in the 1970s.

The Soviet army kept a tight lid on the story, but it is believed that an army vehicle collided with a fuel truck midway through the long tunnel. About 30 buses carrying soldiers were immediately blown up in the resulting explosion. Fire in the tunnel spread quickly as survivors began to panic. Believing the explosion to be part of an attack, the military stationed at both ends of the tunnel stopped traffic from exiting. As cars idled in the tunnel, the levels of carbon monoxide in the air increased drastically and the fire continued to spread. Exacerbating the situation, the tunnel’s ventilation system had broken down a couple of days earlier, resulting in further casualties from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.

It took several days for workers to reach all the bodies in the tunnel. Because the Soviet army limited the information released about the disaster, the full extent of the tragedy may never be known.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Pope Innocent VIII condemned cats as evil and thousands of cats were burned. Unfortunately, the widespread killing of cats led to an explosion of the rat population, which exacerbated the effects of the Black Death.

 

Today, Preschool…Tomorrow, Harvard

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How does time get away from us so easily?  We start out life waiting for so many things: to go to school, to get to junior high, then high school, to get a driver’s license, to go on our first date, to get out of high school, go to college and get out of college….then get married and have kids…and then to have the kids grow up as we wait for retirement.

But, in hindsight, when our children are grown and gone, we wish we could turn back the hands of the clock for a few hours at a time and have them back on our laps as little ones again, to hear their youthful chortles and squeals, to watch them as they are caught up in wonder at the sight of a butterfly or bird.

There is nothing from this earth that is more precious than the gift of our children.  While at times we may think our kids will never grow up, we will spend the rest of our lives missing them and wishing we could relive some of the delight of those early years.

Today was “Grandparent’s Day” at the preschool where our two youngest grand daughters attend, and we were delighted when we were invited to come to their “classrooms” and celebrate.  As it turns out, it was also the day they were taking their school pictures.  The oldest of the two is graduating this year from kindergarten and will be in first grade next year, so she had her picture taken in cap and gown, and her Pop-Pop was on the scene with his camera, too.

I can’t believe she’s already reached this milestone in her still young life, but I know this: her parents will one day look back at this day and think to themselves, “Where did the time go?”

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: it was in 1997 following an anonymous tip, police enter a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, an exclusive suburb of San Diego, California, and discovered 39 victims of a mass suicide. The deceased (21 women and 18 men) were all found lying peaceably in matching dark clothes and Nike sneakers and had no noticeable signs of blood or trauma. It was later revealed that the men and women were members of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult, whose leaders said that suicide would allow them to leave their bodily “containers” and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

The cult was led by Marshall Applewhite, a music professor who, after surviving a near-death experience in 1972, was recruited into the cult by one of his nurses, Bonnie Lu Nettles. In 1975, Applewhite and Nettles persuaded a group of 20 people from Oregon to abandon their families and possessions and move to eastern Colorado, where they promised that an extraterrestrial spacecraft would take them to the “kingdom of heaven.” Nettles, who called herself “Ti,” and Applewhite, who took the name of “Do,” explained that human bodies were merely containers that could be abandoned in favor of a higher physical existence. As the spacecraft never arrived, membership in Heaven’s Gate diminished, and in 1985 Bonnie Lu Nettles died.

During the early 1990s, the cult resurfaced as Applewhite began recruiting new members. Soon after the 1995 discovery of the comet Hale-Bopp, the Heaven’s Gate members became convinced that an alien spacecraft was on its way to earth, hidden from human detection behind the comet. In October 1996, Applewhite rented a home in Rancho Santa Fe, explaining to the owner that his group was made up of Christian-based angels.

In 1997, as part of its 4,000-year orbit of the sun, the comet Hale-Bopp passed near Earth in one of the most impressive astronomical events of the 20th century. In late March 1997, as Hale-Bopp reached its closest distance to Earth, Applewhite and 38 of his followers drank a lethal mixture of phenobarbital and vodka and then lay down to die, hoping to leave their bodily containers, enter the alien spacecraft, and pass through Heaven’s Gate into a higher existence.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Researchers believe that the proportion of left-handers has remained constant for over 30,000 years.

Overgrown

Who once lived in this house?  When did they live there?  When did they leave?  Why did they leave?  Did they die there?  What brought them to this place?

When I see an old house like the one in today’s photo, I can’t help but wonder not just about the house, but the people who once filled it with, hopefully, laughter.  But one never knows, do they?  Was this home filled with laughter or with pain and tears?  One can only surmise that this home, like our own homes today, have a mix of joy and sorrow, laughter and weeping.

This old home sits alongside of Woodford’s Station (a combination deli and small store) in the “town” of Woodfords in the Hope Valley area of northern California, south of Lake Tahoe.  To call Woodfords a store is really pushing it.  And, to be honest, the service at Woodfords Station left something to be desired.  They seemed far more interested in selling lottery tickets than in taking our money for some soft drinks and some chips, and the attitude of the workers was one of stand-offishness and wasn’t very friendly at all.  But when I went back outside to get in the truck to go somewhere else, beside the station on the hill to the east was this old ramshackle dwelling.  It was surrounded by brush and has been empty for decades, I’m guessing.  It make an interesting subject for the camera, even as I pondered how our lives can get overgrown with cares and worries, struggles, responsibilities and duties.  It would take a lot to get this home “livable” again.  It takes a lot of work to get our lives “livable” again if we’ve let things take over our lives that aren’t healthy.  Houses come and go, however we only have one life…and hopefully we’ll do whatever it takes to make our life worth living.  Even if it means clearing away a lot of the things that have overgrown by virtue of a lack of attention.

_MG_7723ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1965, during part of what would become known as the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, a battalion from the 1st Cavalry Division is ambushed by the 8th Battalion of the North Vietnamese 66th Regiment. The battle started several days earlier when the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry engaged a large North Vietnamese force at Landing Zone X-Ray at the base of the Cheu Pong hills (Central Highlands). (NOTE: this part of the battle was turned into a movie, We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson.)

As that battle subsided, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, was ordered to move cross-country to Landing Zone Albany, where it was to be picked up by helicopter and moved to a new location. The U.S. unit was moving through the jungle in a long column when the North Vietnamese sprang a massive ambush along the length of the column from all sides. Companies C and D took the brunt of the Communist attack–within minutes, most of the men from the two companies were hit.

The North Vietnamese forces had succeeded in engaging the U.S. forces in very tight quarters, where supporting U.S. firepower could not be used without endangering American lives. The cavalrymen returned fire, but the Communistss were fighting from prepared fighting positions and many of the American leaders had been felled in the initial stages of the ambush. As night fell, the cavalrymen waited for the North Vietnamese to attack but illumination flares provided by air force aircraft made the enemy cautious. By morning, they had withdrawn.

Senior U.S. military leaders declared the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley an American victory. That had clearly been the case with the fight at Landing Zone X-Ray, where the three-day battle resulted in 834 North Vietnamese soldiers confirmed killed with another 1,000 communist casualties likely. However, the battle at Landing Zone Albany was another story. Although there were over 400 enemy soldiers lying on the battlefield after the fighting was over, the battle had been an extremely costly one for the 1st Cavalry troopers. Of the 500 men in the original column moving to Landing Zone Albany, 150 had been killed and only 84 were able to return to immediate duty. 93 percent of Company C sustained some sort of wound or injury–half of them died.

The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley was important because it was the first significant contact between U.S. troops and North Vietnamese forces. The action demonstrated that the North Vietnamese were prepared to stand and fight major battles, and senior American leaders concluded that U.S. forces could wreak significant damage on the communists in such battles. The North Vietnamese also learned a valuable lesson during the battle: they saw that they could negate the effects of superior American firepower by engaging American troops in physically close combat, so that U.S. artillery and air fire could not be used without endangering American lives. This became standard North Vietnamese practice for the rest of the war.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the South Pole is actually a desert environment, averaging about the same amount of monthly rainfall as the Sahara Desert.

 

The Dust Bin of History

Have you ever thought about how many people have ever lived on earth and how few names are remembered?  No one knows how many humans have ever lived, but one web site I checked said they estimate 100 billion humans have walked the surface of the earth throughout human history.   Other estimates are much more conservative – a lot depends on your assumptions.  Any way you look at it, most of those humans have lived…and died…in obscurity.  They walked the length of their days under the same sun, and looked up in wonder at the same moon (to borrow some phrases from Neil Diamond) and all or nearly all, came to the end thinking it was ending too soon.

Few people in history have their names carved in granite to be remembered for generations to come.  Moses, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, St. Augustine, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Washington, Lincoln, Hitler, Neil Armstrong are a few of the names that are, or will be, remembered for a long, long time.  But what about Galen Dalrymple?  I am under no illusions that when I pass I will be remembered for long.  My children will remember, my grandchildren will remember.  But great grandchildren?  There it starts to get a bit fuzzy.  I have to struggle to recall the names of my great-grandparents (who I never met).  Beyond that I need a lot of help to keep names and generations in the right place.

Does that disturb me?  No.  Not in the least.  I recognize my place in history and am content with it.  I will be relegated to the “dust bin of history” along with most of the 100 billion others.  I’m cool with that.  It’s been a whale of a ride so far and I expect and hope to finish it strong!  I hope we all can get to that point in our lives and be cheered with the decisions we made, those we loved, and what we made of our lives!

This picture was taken in a dusty corner of an old shed.  It shows artifacts from the past that have been covered with dust, forgotten…but which were once useful and treasured.   And after all, isn’t that what it is about – being useful and treasured while we are alive?  I hope to treasure those around me as I should.  Love, the great apostle said, never fails, never will go away…it will be around forever, long after names and faces are forgotten.

_MG_3063ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On this day in 1945, the USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sinks within minutes in shark-infested waters. Only 317 of the 1,196 men on board survived. However, the Indianapolis had already completed its major mission: the delivery of key components of the atomic bomb that would be dropped a week later at Hiroshima to Tinian Island in the South Pacific.

Shortly after midnight on July 30, halfway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, a Japanese sub blasted the Indianapolis, sparking an explosion that split the ship and caused it to sink in approximately 12 minutes, with about 300 men trapped inside. Another 900 went into the water, where many died from drowning, shark attacks, dehydration or injuries from the explosion. Help did not arrive until four days later, on August 2, when an anti-submarine plane on routine patrol happened upon the men and radioed for assistance.

In the aftermath of the events involving the Indianapolis, the ship’s commander, Captain Charles McVay, was court-martialed in November 1945 for failing to sail a zigzag course that would have helped the ship to evade enemy submarines in the area. McVay, the only Navy captain court-martialed for losing a ship during the war, committed suicide in 1968. Many of his surviving crewmen believed the military had made him a scapegoat. In 2000, 55 years after the Indianapolis went down, Congress cleared McVay’s name.

The story of the Indianapolis was made famous in the movie Jaws, where the crusty old shark fisherman (Robert Shaw playing the role of Quint) tells the story of having been on the ship when it sank and how terrible it was as those in the water were killed by sharks.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: each year, the moon moves two inches further away from earth.  At this rate, I may never get there!!!!

 

On the Back Side of a Barn

Farmsteads are photographic treasures.  The older the farm and the buildings the better.  It’s even great if the buildings are near collapse, or if the premises has been abandoned for some time or if it is suffering from maintenance neglect.  Things tend to accumulate beside the outer (and inner) walls of barns and they can make for some interesting scenes.

This weekend I was at a family reunion and I stayed with one of my cousins on Saturday night.  Sunday morning I got up and went outside with my camera to snoop around a machine shed.  On Friday, I’d noticed some interesting things hanging on the inside walls and I wanted to be sure to get pictures of them before I had to return home.  Time didn’t permit me that luxury on Friday, so I made a point of it early this morning (Sunday).  You’ll see some of those in the next week or so, but what I’m sharing today was on the backside of that same machine shed.

I loved the way the colors came through, and the living and dead things that are in the picture which goes together to make the composition more intriguing.  In a way, it told the story of our family reunion.  There are very few of the “Greatest Generation” still living in our family, and only one was able to make it to the reunion this time.  That means that my generation is nearly the oldest generation.  This past year we lost three of the cousins.  It could get depressing, like the dead, inanimate things in this picture, but we had little children scampering around the reunion, laughing, cuddling stuffed animals, being fed while sitting on mom or dad’s lap.  It was a reminder of the tremendous resilience of life, the pugnacious tenacity that though the years and generations roll past, life renews itself over and over again, just as the green plants that are co-existing with the dead or worn objects in the photo.  It is beautiful…thoroughly lovely.  I hope I will treasure it more than I have.

I hope you had a good weekend.  I sure did! _MG_3064ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1520, Montezuma II, the last Aztec emperor, was killed during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Grand Rapids, Michigan is the “SpaghettiOs Capital of the World” because per-capita consumption is highest in that city, per the Franco-American company. Reportedly, there are more than 1,750 “O’s” in a 15-ounce can of SpaghettiOs.

 

The Farewell

Today I want to share a rather poignant photo with you – one that I took on Saturday in East Union Cemetery in Manteca, CA.

This carving was at the top of the face of the tombstone…actually, the same image was on several of the tombstones.  It was interesting as I walked the cemetery to see that certain motifs and images were popular on tombstones for a while, then a different image seemed to gain favor until it was eventually replaced by another.  Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising – because the same thing is happening with the people who are buried there and who visit them.  The ones who are now visiting those already buried will eventually be buried, too, and another set of people will come to replace them.  Cemeteries are wonderful reminders of the great cycle of life.

I liked this particular image, though.  Or rather, I should say it spoke to me.  As  you look at the two hands, you’ll note that the grip is not a tight one.  In fact, if anything, the hand of the lady on the left seems to be withdrawing or slipping out of the grasp of the man’s hand on the right.  Farewell, indeed.

As I looked at it, I was struck with a sharp sense of melancholy.  In just a few days, I’ll be leaving for an internship in Africa where I’ll be for 7-1/2 weeks.  It will be almost twice the longest period of time that my wife and I have been apart since we were married way back in the stone age (1970).  I can’t bear the thought of being away from her for so long.  When I am not with her, it is as if my life is less than 50% present.

Please understand that I don’t always act that way.  Like everyone else, when I am in the presence of those I love, I tend to take them for granted.  But this picture reminded me that such will not always be the case, and when the time comes for our hands to part, when the moment of farewell comes, I’ll wish I’d not spent these 7-1/2 weeks apart from her.  At that moment, I feel certain that I’ll wish we’d never been apart…and that we never would be.

On the other hand, if there is a farewell, somewhere there must also be a coming back together.  From the dawn of human history we’ve been captivated by the idea of a life beyond this one…a far better life in most cultures.  The Babylonians and Egyptians believed it, as did the Incas, Mayans and native Americans.  There is something in us that insists that there must be something beyond where farewells are no more.

I expect that I shall return safe and sound from Africa and that my wife and I will have more time here.  But just in case that isn’t the case, I hope she knows that I have cherished our years together more than I could ever explain with mere words.

Someday, you, too, will say “Farewell” to those you love the most.  If you are with them tonight, please go tell them now what they mean to you and how you love them!  Don’t let your hands part in the final farewell with those words being unspoken!

There is not too much time…but there certainly is never enough.

FarewellON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1807, the slave trade in England was abolished.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: baby rattlesnakes are born in August and September.  It’s a bad time to be in the brush, because baby rattlers don’t have the discipline to keep from injecting a victim with their full load of venom…a skill they learn as they grow older.

 

Islands in the Stream

When I was in junior and senior high school, I was an Ernest Hemingway junkie.  I read every book he wrote that I could lay my hands on, including Islands In the Stream.  Islands in the Stream (published 1970) was the first of the posthumously published works of Ernest Hemingway. The book was originally intended to revive Hemingway’s reputation after the negative reviews of Across the River and Into the Trees. He began writing it in 1950 and advanced greatly through 1951. The work, rough but seemingly finished, was found by Mary Hemingway from among 332 different works Hemingway left behind after his death.

In 1983, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton sang a song, Islands in the Stream, named after Hemingway’s book.  It was written by the Bee Gees and was the number one song of the year.  In case you don’t remember it, here’s a link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiwcOaaRo1Y

Sometimes don’t you feel like an island in the stream of life?  Life seems to swish and swirl past you, nibbling a bit at the edges, trying to devour you.  In enough time, I’m sure that just as the river will obliterate the island in the picture today, life will move on past us, too.  That’s okay.  I don’t think I want to live here forever, do you?  

I love life and I enjoy it.  I’m not as young as I once was, but I still am able to enjoy life and delight in the people I love, the things I love to do, sights I hope to yet see and experiences yet to be shared.  I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. 

There’s no use getting maudlin over the stream that pushes past us, nibbling at our edges.  We can’t do anything about that.  Let’s enjoy the ride…and wait with expectation for what is on the other side!

IslandsInTheStreamON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY: the year was 1844 – The newly built “USS Princeton” fired one of its guns while on a demonstration cruise on the Potomac. The gun exploded, killing Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of State; Thomas W. Gilmer, Secretary of the Navy and David Gardiner of Gardiners Island, New York along with several others. United States President, John Tyler, was on board and narrowly escaped death.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The properties and characteristics of a particular member of the plastics family, PET (polyethylene terephthalate), causes carbonated drinks to bubble more in plastic cups.