Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Delicate Balance: Realism and Hope

Have you ever been accused of being naive (“deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment”)?  Have you ever been labeled a Pollyanna (“a person characterized by irrepressible optimism with a tendency to find good in everything”)?  Have you ever been accused of being an idealist (a person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes or goals”).  I have.  When subjects such as  community, peace, love, and reconciliation are bandied about, I have often been labeled naive, a Pollyanna, an idealist (a visionary or impractical person; a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are; a person who lives in an ivory tower).

I am well aware, however, that natural human goodness is not the whole truth about humanity.  It doesn’t take 20/20 vision to see that self-centeredness has been and will always be present among us.  I am not utopian.  A thousand years from now, if there are still people on this earth, there will still be self-centeredness.  This is the price of personhood.  Physical things, like machines, computers, etc., are not free agents; they do not think; they do not make decisions.  Persons, on the other hand, are free agents, they do think, and they do make decisions. 

The seven deadly sins are still hanging around in us and with us, and  they are just as deadly as they have ever been:  lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.  G.K. Chesterton once noted that, “Certain theologians dispute original sin [various definitions are given for this term, but I don’t have the space to spell them out here], which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

Antelope Canyon, Page AZ--2016
My faith consists of a delicate combination of realism (yes, we are self-centered) and hope (yet, on occasion, we can and do rise above that self-centeredness and include others in our scheme of things).  My faith is that there is “that of God” in every human person as well as “that of sin.” My task is to call out “that of God” in me and in all persons, knowing full well all that we are (realism) but also sensing who we can become (hope).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The World Is Our Family

Yesterday, our granddaughter, Katherine Maria, celebrated her 26th birthday.  I remember so well the day Katie was born.  She weighed in at just a little over 4 pounds that day of her arrival.  Since then, my little “Katydid” has grown to be a beautiful young woman.  In October, Katie and Liam will be married here in Maryland and they have asked “Grandad” to officiate at the wedding.  “MomMom,” with Katie’s assistance, is busy creating the wedding dress.

Back in February, we were in Flagstaff, Arizona, visiting with Ethan and Eleni, our two youngest grandchildren.  Just a month or so ago, I had lunch with grandson, Matt, up in Pennsylvania.  He was driving a big rig to Watkins Glen, NY and then on to Toronto.  Matt and Emily have a daughter, our first great granddaughter, and live some distance away.  In July, I was with Austin and Nick as we celebrated their birthdays (born on the same day, two years apart).  They are now back at their respective colleges.  Katie leaves this weekend for the UK to spend a month with Liam and his family before their big event.   Our family has no geographical boundaries these days.

This “little” world of family (your’s and mine) is a microcosm of the world at large.  It has its ups and downs and all the troubles, problems, and joys that go with “growing up”  and “becoming.”  No family is immune—“life” tumbles in”—just as it does in the wider world.  I do not know of any family that is not dysfunctional (“not operating normally or properly”—is there a normal or a proper?) in some way or another, mine included.  But, we are bound together by love and we hold together in spite of whatever comes along, no matter how well or how poorly we handle it, no matter the geographical boundaries.    

John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.”  We need to come to the place where we can say, “The world is my family.”  My “grandchildren” are those little ones being rescued out of the flood  waters in Texas and Louisiana today.  My “children” are those huddled in refuge camps in Syria.  My “brothers and sisters” are those who struggle for life anywhere, everywhere, regardless of creed, race, or nationality.  We grow, become, and thrive only when we reach out to take others into “the family.”  “Enlarge the limits of your home, spread wide the curtains of your tent.  Let out its ropes to the full and drive the pegs home” (Isaiah 54:2, NEB).


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I Owe. You Owe. We Owe.

It bugged me.  The statement has lingered in the back of my mind for days. It disturbed me.  It rankled.  It irked my soul. There was something wrong with it, something terribly wrong.  Here it is:

"I am white and I am proud to be an American! I was born white, I didn't choose it. I do not owe you anything, whoever you are.”

Does that statement bug you?  Does it disturb you?  Does it irk your soul? Do you see something wrong with it, something terribly wrong?

Robert Fulghum wrote, “The closest I ever come to angry violence is in the presence of someone who says he will not even bother to vote because it doesn’t make any difference.  I see a bumper sticker on the back of an old Buick:  ‘If voting really changed anything, it would be illegal.’  I felt like giving the driver a bumper bang from behind.

He’s typical of those who have a shallow view of history—those who don't understand that nobody has a right to ride on the bus without making some contribution to the cost of the journey.  They don’t respect the fact that somebody else paid the price to build the vehicle of civilization in the first place.  They owe.  We owe.  It’s a moral obligation to participate in the work of society.  If you take from the pot, you must put into the pot.  Even those who have no money can sing and keep the driver of the bus awake and hopeful.”

I owe.  You owe.  We owe.  I am able to write this blog because I was provided a public school education and learned “reading, writing and arithmetic.”  We owe the children of tomorrow the right to write.  The GI Bill and government loans (which I paid back by the time my children began their public school education) made it possible for me to further my education.  I took from the pot and I must put into the pot.  I owe.  You owe. We owe.

The bus we ride was once limited to only white people.  We owe Rosa Parks for making that bus available to all.  We can sit in the back or the front of the bus as we please, but we all ride the same bus.  The “vehicle of civilization” was built at a price.  To ride it, you must pay for the gas—whatever it takes to keep that bus on the road.  I owe.  You owe.  We owe. The arrogance that says, “I do not owe you anything, whoever you are,” is morally repugnant and destructive to society.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A New Day Dawns With A Smile

This morning as I read through my “Notes of Note” (binders containing various things I’ve copied down over the years) I found some quips that made me smile.  Why I wrote these down  as “Notes of Note” and where they came from, I have no idea.  Will Rogers said, “I have always noticed that people will never laugh at anything that is not based on truth.” So I guess there is  some truth about me in the following.  Why would I smile if there were not?

You are getting old when you don’t care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don’t have to go along.

Middle age is when work is a lot less fun—and fun is a lot more work!

Statistics show that at the age of seventy, there are five women to every man.  Isn’t that the darnedest time for a guy to get those odds?

By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.

You know you are getting old when you realize that caution is the only thing you care to exercise.

The aging process could be slowed down if it had to work its way through Congress.

Doctor to patient:  I have good news and bad news—the good news is that you are not a hypochondriac.

You are getting old when you wake up with that “morning after feeling,” and you didn’t do anything the night before.

I’m grateful for Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Dr. Seuss, and a host of others who can still make me smile.  Mark Twain puts it this way:  “So you see, the quality of humor is not a personal or national monopoly.  It’s as free as salvation, and I am afraid, far more widely distributed.  But it has its value, I think.  The hard and sordid things of life are too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and touch them…without some mitigating influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.”

Ethan & Eleni--2011

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Why We Can't Wait!

“For everything its season, and for every activity under heaven its time:  a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time for mourning and a time for dancing…a time to tear and a time to mend; a time for silence and a time for speech…” says the writer of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8, NEB).  The writer prefaces all this with “What has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles. 1:9).  What a dismal perspective!  I much prefer Isaiah’s perspective:  “Cease to dwell on days gone by and to brood over past history.  Here and now, I will do a new thing; this moment it will break from the bud.  Can you not perceive it” (Isa. 43:19, NEB)? 

Is there nothing new under the sun?  Will World War II have to be fought again in some future day?  Will the evils of yesterday, segregation,  bigotry, the denigration of women, the KKK and Jim Crow, be repeated in our time or in our children’s tomorrow?  Is that all we can anticipate—“what has happened will happen again, and what has been done will be done again?”  This “whatever will be will be” mentality puts us in what Dr. Seuss called “The Waiting Place—for people just waiting.”  He called this Waiting Place, “a most useless place.”

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.  Everyone is just waiting.”

History does repeat itself if we are ignorant of it and simply wait around to see it and let it happen again. How can we dwell in Dr. Seuss’ “Waiting Place” and let 35% of the people (unless the polls are fake news) determine the future of this nation?  There is a time for silence and there is a time for speaking out—and that time is NOW.

“Everyone is just waiting. No! That’s not for you!  Somehow you’ll escape all the waiting and staying (and letting things just happen).  You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.  With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!  Ready for anything under the sky.  Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!”  I believe we, as Americans,  are that kind of a people!  

"Can you not perceive it?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Remembering Two Hazels

As Hurricane Harvey batters the Texas coast this morning, my thoughts and prayers are with those in its treacherous path and also for those folk, who, in these next few days, will be caught in its aftermath.    

On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel, the deadliest and costliest hurricane of that year, made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near the border between North and South Carolina.  The hurricane was expected to move off-shore, but instead moved northward at 60 mph, spanning the distance from North Carolina to Ontario in just 12 hours.  Upon reaching the mid-Atlantic states, Hazel interacted with a cold front from the West and was suddenly transformed and reborn as a ferocious, extratropical storm. It wreaked havoc in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and is still remembered in Toronto (where 81 people died) as the “storm of the century.”

I was 11 years old at the time.  No one expected the storm’s rebirth and the “Weather Channel” was non-existent in those days.  A friend joined me for a bike ride that October day.  We were totally unaware of the encroaching storm.  When we were about two miles from home, Hazel was re-born and came into northern New Jersey with a vengeance—strong winds and lashing rain.  We sought shelter in an old barn (more like a shed) in a nearby field and there we hunkered down to wait it out.  I remember the roof boards of that old barn being blown off over our heads and the wind and rain seeping in through the shuddering walls.  We huddled there for what seemed like ages—and when the storm abated, we jumped on our bikes and made a beeline for home through the wind and the rain.  

The wrath of Hazel (the storm) however, was out-matched by the wrath  (and worry) of Hazel (my mother).  She had no idea where I had gone—I forgot to tell her I was off for a bike ride! I remember two Hazels this morning.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Voice Within

Moses was shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep in the land of the Midianites when he heard a Voice through a burning bush.  Jeremiah was a teenager when he heard the Voice.  Amos heard the Voice while trimming his sycamore trees.  Elisha heard a Voice, not reading or praying, but while ploughing the field.  Isaiah heard the Voice speaking to him in the temple.  John the Baptist heard the Voice in the desert wilderness.  St. Augustine heard a childlike Voice speak to him in a garden in Milan, saying, “take up and read” [the scripture].  He later wrote, “Thou didst call…and burst my deafness…and dispelled my blindness.”  St. Francis of Assisi heard the Voice speak through the crucifix in the chapel of San Damiano, “Francis, rebuild my church.”  Mother Theresa of Calcutta  heard the Voice (what she called “the call within the call”) on her annual retreat in Darjeeling, instructing her “to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.”  N. Gordon Cosby heard the Voice while conducting the funeral of his friend on the beaches of Normandy. 

This Voice is not restricted by any one book, or any one place, or any one historical period, or any  one religion, or any one nation, or any one race, or any one person.  Nor is this Voice audible in the sense that it comes through the organs of hearing.  It is heard from within— a “still, small voice” that calls us “to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time.”  Thomas Kelly expressed it this way:  “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice….”

Some will say that this inner Voice is a figment of the imagination or perhaps simply auto-suggestion.  It could be, I suppose, and, indeed, it may be, for all I know.  But what I do know at this moment and what I feel this morning, is that when on rare occasions I have heard this Voice, and in my feebleness responded to it, I’ve had a feeling of intimacy with the “Love at the heart of all things.”  

“Amidst the manifold and confusing voices heard in the world” and within us, there is one Voice, a “still small voice,” that seeks our attention.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Theodor Seuss Geisel (1924-1991) is best known as the author of children’s books under his pen name, “Dr. Seuss.”  I remember reading his books to my children:  Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, etc. 

In Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss wrote of the journey of life—it wonders, expectations, hopes, mysteries, issues, defeats, and trials.  It is worth reading wherever you may find yourself on your life’s journey.   

It isn’t just sports people who get into a slump.  We all pass that way on occasion.  Are you in a slump and need “Un-Slumbing?”  I suggest you read Dr. Seuss.

“Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that
Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.  You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an 
unpleasant bump.  And the chances are, then, 
that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for 
much fun.
Un-Slumping yourself is not easily done.”

“Un-Slumping yourself is not easily done,” and you may need others to give you a hand.  The good news is that Un-Slumping can happen for you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

While It Is Day: American Gullibility

A gullible person or society is one “easily persuaded to believe something; easily deceived.” Synonyms include words like “naive, exploitable, and dupable.”  If you are gullible, it means that you are easily fooled.  The word gullible might be derived from the verb gull, which means “to swallow.”  That’s interesting, because gullible describes an overly trusting person (or group) who tends to swallow the stories he hears whole.  Gull can be used as a noun, “don’t be such a gull!” or as a verb, “you can’t gull me into believing that!” Wikipedia defines gullibility as a “failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action.  It is closely related to credulity, which is the tendency to believe unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence.”

A charlatan is a person who makes false claims that are believed by gullible people.  Synonyms for the word charlatan, include:  “quack, fraud, imposter, hoaxer, deceiver, mountebank,  and con man.

Now this is all I’m going to write in “my own words,” because I don’t want my words to be distorted by a "dishonest media" and I don't want to get “carried away” (on a stretcher or have my head accidentally bumped).  But I do want to share some quotes about gullibility, a prevalent and contemporary malady in American religion and politics.

“Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind.  With such persons, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck” (Thomas Jefferson). 

“Gullibility is a knife at the throat of civilization” (David Wong).

“Faith never means gullibility.  The man who believes everything is as far from God as the man who refuses to believe anything” (Aiden Wilson Tozer).

“Extreme skepticism and extreme gullibility are two equal ways of not having to think at all.  And I don’t think I’m the first to say that” (Neil deGrasse Tyson).

“On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish useful ideas from the worthless ones” (Carl Sagan).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


“Good to see you,” I would say to her as she left the church after worship each Sunday.  Her response was always, “It is always good to be seen.”  On occasion I would say to her, “I was thinking of you the other day,” and she would respond, “It is always nice to be thought about.”  This woman’s responses came back to me as I read the following story this morning:

Eric Hoffer tells about a Bavarian peasant woman who cared for him after his mother died and during the years that he was blind:  “And this woman, this Martha took care of me.  She was a big woman, with a small head.  And this woman, this Martha, must have really loved me, because those eight years of blindness are in my mind as a happy time.  I remember a lot of talk and laughter.  I must have talked a great deal, because Martha used to say again and again, ‘You remember you said this, you remember you said that…’  Martha remembered everything I said, and all my life I’ve had the feeling that what I think and what I say are worth remembering.  She gave me that”  (Elizabeth O’Conner, Eighth Day of Creation).  Martha’s “remembering” was an affirmation.  To think of another,  to really see another, to remember what he or she has said, is to say, “YES,” to their existence and their worth as a person.

Often we tell our children (and others, too) what they should do and what they should become, instead of paying attention to the hints and signs they give us of the way they must go.  It is not our way—it is their unique way—a way that only they can discover for themselves.  Our task is to avoid putting stumbling blocks in their way and to help them, however we can, to fulfill their destiny.  It helps to let others know that you “see” them, “think” of them, and “remember” the things they have said.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

An Eclipse of a Different Kind

The day of the total solar eclipse has arrived.  Some are calling it “The Great American Eclipse.” People have traveled far distances to be in the “Totality” zone.  Little towns like Carbondale, Illinois and Glendo, Wyoming have more visitors than residents today.  The special solar viewers needed for looking at the eclipse have been sold out and those who couldn’t get the glasses are preparing their cereal boxes as a substitute for safe viewing. Depending on where you are, the eclipse will be glimpsed for only a minute or two. It won’t happen again until 2024.  

The word “eclipse” means “an obscuring of light (from one celestial body by the passage of another between it and the observer) …between it an its source of illumination.”  Synonyms for eclipse include such words as “obscuring, blotting out, blocking or covering.”  Another kind of eclipse could happen today.  Clouds could move in and eclipse the eclipse. 

How often have we, both as individuals and as a society, obscured light (like an eclipse or a cloud) by getting between the light and another person or group, blocking them from their destiny, blotting out their dreams, covering them with darkness rather than light? And how often do we wear our “glasses” to avoid looking at what we have done and what we are doing to these persons and groups and to ourselves?  It is an almost total eclipse and it might also be called “The Great American Eclipse.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Catastrophic Misprints

The excitement generated by the total solar eclipse tomorrow reminds me this morning of the sense of wonder that came to me when I first read Mark Twain’s biography as a young boy.  Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) was born the same month as the passing of Halley’s comet in November 1835.  This comet passes in 75 year cycles.  Twain believed that he would “go out” when the comet passed again on April 20, 1910.  He did!  Twain died on April 21, 1910.  This coincidence astounded me when I first read about it, and it still does.  I’m not into astrology, horoscopes, or the zodiac, but I am a big fan of Mark Twain.

Mark Twain unknowingly offered sound advice for living in this twenty-first century, with its access to 24/7 news and the Internet, when he wrote, “Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint.”  With the plethora of drugs available “over the counter” (or prescribed) most of them having a long list of drastic side-effects, a misprint can really be disastrous.  A physician advised his patient not to look up her particular malady on the Internet because it might scare her to death!

We are bombarded by so much information through the various media outlets (including social media) that it has become extremely difficult to know what is fact and what is not fact.  “Misprints (misinformation, disinformation) abound.  The side-effects created are just as disastrous and catastrophic for society as a misprint in a health book.

My witty friend, Mark Twain, suggested, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”  Unfortunately, we are distorting things (misprints) that aren’t even facts!

I must also be willing to look between things and not always at them,
since a direct gaze often misses what may be glimpsed at the corner of the eye.
The space between two branches may become more promising than the branches themselves."
(Barbara Brown Taylor, "The Preaching Life")

Saturday, August 19, 2017


If I had grown up outside the Christian Church, without the Bible, without knowing about Jesus, without religious education,  would I be aware of “Love (God) at the heart of all things?”  The question itself assumes that somehow or another we have to be told by the church, the preacher, or some other witness that God is and that we must at some time or another acknowledge this God by a profession of faith (in order to obtain life everlasting).  There are many Christian ministers who use every opportunity to introduce this god to the so-called godless (those who haven’t made that profession of faith) often using weddings, funeral services, and other similar occasions to do so.  This need, this vulgar and presumptuous attitude on the part of church and clergy suggests that God is a stranger among us (an abstract presence residing somewhere else other than here) rather than a  living presence here and now in this world—this world as we know it and touch it and smell it and live and work in it.  

A god who needs to be introduced to us and to our anxieties, issues, and joys, by church, clergy, etc.,  is not much of a god to my way of thinking.  Indeed, I don’t believe there are godless people anywhere, because all of us live in a world where God is present and active, whether this fact is acknowledged, accepted, or professed, doesn’t make any difference at all.  A god dependent upon our acceptance or our profession of faith is not a God! 

God is (Love is at the heart of all things).  God speaks to us, to all of us, in the very events and relationships (all of them) which make up our existence in this world.  God is not held in bondage by Bible, church, synagogue or mosque.  God is not an unknown or an abstract being up in the sky, who must be introduced to us.  God is already with us in everything and has always been with us, and will always be with us.  I think, even without Bible, church, or clergy, etc., I would have come to the conclusion that Love is at the heart of all things.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Mother’s Dahlias

My Mother’s Dahlias, planted along the fence, greeted me as I returned home yesterday and smiled at me again this morning.  I’m not quite sure how long it has been since I brought my Mother’s Dahlias from New Jersey to Maryland.  My guess is that it was about 35 years ago.  

Each fall I gently lift the dahlia tubers from the soil and store them over winter.  A few years ago, I tried to store them in the shed, but it was too cold for the tubers there and I lost a good number.  Fortunately, my brother in New Jersey also preserves our Mother’s Dahlias and replenished my supply.  A friend now stores the tubers for me in a garage over the winter months.

The dahlia tubers begin to sprout in mid-May and I normally get the 30 or so tubers planted by Memorial Day weekend or shortly thereafter.  Little care is needed as the plant pops out of the soil and begins to grow.  Because the plants grow to almost 6 feet tall, it is necessary to tie them against the fence to prevent them from being damaged by wind and rain.  By late July the buds appear and soon burst into full bloom by mid-August.  The blossoms continue through mid-September.  After the first frost, the tubers are again lifted from the soil and stored over winter. 

Once my Mother’s Dahlias were a wide array of colorful blooms, but over the years they have become just one color.  Each fall, when the time comes to lift the tubers again and store them away for another winter, I question whether or not I should continue to plant dahlias. The digging up, the storing away, the planting again each spring gets old sometimes. That question always fades away, however, when the dahlias stand tall and produce their magnificent blossoms that  greet me and smile my Mother’s smile each morning.


I was unable to post this blog yesterday…so I share it now.

My mini-adventure will come to a close today, but not until the 1 o’clock check-out requirement.    I’m going to stay till the very last minute.  That will give me ample time to see if there is any thing larger in the fish pond than the five little bluegills caught and released yesterday.  The Park brochure says, “The pond has a healthy population of large mouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish.”  Perhaps that is true—but only bluegills seemed interested in nibbling on my fish-line yesterday.

Solitude (“alone time”) is necessary for our growth.  It provides a “space,” within and without, for us to take measure of our journey.  For nearly forty-five years I found such solitude and  space for reflection by attending religious retreats.  These days I find solitude and needed “space” in my study at home, or sitting on my little deck in the back lawn, or puttering around in the flowerbeds.  But sometimes it is necessary to leave familiar surroundings in order to find a deeper solitude wherein one can more fully assess where things are within his or her life and thought.  This kind of reflection is what I mean when I say,  I’ve ‘Gone Fishin’.

Only by persistent inner attention can we determine our realities, our possibilities, and our next steps on the journey of life.  Only in solitude, or so it seems to me, can we cast our line into deeper portions of the pond.  There are probably more than bluegills there.

Gone Fishin’

Even torrential rain could not keep Odysseus from getting on the road again yesterday afternoon.  The rain only added to the adventure!  Halfway to our destination the rain subsided.  One of the blessings of retirement is the freedom to travel during the middle of the week when others are not free to do so.  The park is nearly empty of campers and people this morning.  I feel like I have the whole place to myself.  

The first order of business was to find the campsite, back in, plug in the electric, locate the water supply (though Odysseus carries water) and the restroom and showers.  The second was to report in at home.  The third was to take a long walk to get oriented, and in particular, to find the fishing pond.

The evening was spent enjoying a pasta dinner (Rachel Ray’s microwave pasta cooker makes that easy), watching the national news (yes, I have a TV, though I wish I hadn’t watched it last night) and then some reading.  The high humidity issue was resolved by turning on the air-conditioning for an hour or so.  Later,  as the air became more tolerable, I turned off the A/C, opened windows, turned on the fan, and fell asleep on my comfortable queen-size bed listening to the sounds of the night.  How’s that for primitive camping!

I awoke later than usual this morning (2 hours later).  It must be the mountain air, or perhaps the comfortable bed.  As soon as I finish my breakfast (eggs and bacon) and several cups of coffee, I’ll take a walk along one of the trails.  Then, I’ll post a ‘Gone Fishin’ sign on Odysseus and meander down to the pond.  It is not important that I catch any fish.  What is important is that I have  ‘Gone Fishin’.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Just Odysseus and Me

Odysseus (our miniature RV) has been sitting dormant since our last trip across country in March.  Occasionally, Odysseus has been given a little exercise out on the road, but not nearly enough for such an adventurer with 120,000 miles of travel history.  It is past time for a little jaunt!  

I, too, have been “parked” since our return from Greece in early May.  Like, Odysseus, I need some exercise.  So, together, Odysseus and me will get back on the road again today.  It won’t be a trip across country, but at least it will be something to fulfill our yearning for adventure.

Several years ago I purchased a Senior Pass for Maryland State Parks, thinking at the time that I would (with Odysseus) visit each of Maryland’s State Parks for a day or two, while it is day.  Odysseus and I have only managed to visit four of them so far, which means we have about 36 left on the list.  We better get a’movin’.

And so we will get moving, and we will do so today.  We’ll visit Gambrill State Park in the Catoctin Mountains, just northwest of Frederick, MD.  It is only a two-hour road trip, but at least we’ll be on the road again.  The park has 16 miles of hiking trails—a fishing pond—and a campground that provides electrical hook-up—all the amenities needed.  “Just can’t wait to get on the road again!”

I love to go a wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
"Come! Join my happy song!"
I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev'ry green wood tree.
High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o'er the world we roam.
Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God's clear blue sky!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hanging on to the First Amendment

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is essential for any democracy to develop and thrive.  Every American should hold it dear.  It prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.  The First Amendment was adopted back in 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

I’m not a constitutional lawyer or a Supreme Court Justice, but it seems to me that the words are self-explanatory.  We can peaceably assemble and speak freely.  It is a “right” of every citizen to express his or her views whatever they may be, whether those views are right or wrong.  To give this right (freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble) only to a majority point of view and not to a minority point of view constitutes a violation of the First Amendment.  The same holds true for the freedom of the press.  Any infringement, encroachment, or intrusion (allegations of “fake news” comes close to encroachment) upon that freedom is a violation of the First Amendment.

Today, in the light of Charlottesville and Seattle, the deep divide in our politics, the rhetoric about fake news, the banning of certain religious groups, etc., we must be extremely cautious not to allow our opposition to a certain ideology (no matter how detestable) undermine the very freedom that allows us to peaceably assemble to “counter” that ideology.  The First Amendment gives us the right to peaceably assemble whether we are protesters or counter-protesters. 

A new law (not so easily interpreted as the First Amendment), set forth in the USA Patriot Act, defines domestic terrorism as (a) acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (b) appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping and that occur within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

What a conundrum!  We have rights and restrictions!  “Acts that appear to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” can be interpreted in many ways.  It can be used by a majority or a minority, and even by a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.”  The First Amendment is essential to our survival as a democracy, even when it gives “voice” to despicable ideologies.

A democracy does not consist of "Clay Soldiers" embedded
in the earth, but of people who act!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who Is To Blame?

Tears, anguish, sadness, anger, and frustration dampen my spirit this morning after yesterday’s disturbance in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I’ve tried to get the facts about what actually occurred, but haven’t really been able to do so.  What happened?  Surfing the cable channels and listening to the conjectures of the various pundits and reporters only added to my futile search for facts.  What happened?  I heard and read the reactions of many government officials and I still don’t know what created the violent chaos.  I’ve checked out the NYT and other press releases, but I’m still not sure exactly what happened?  Hopefully, today, I’ll learn more.

Maybe I’ll learn that the White Nationalist group consisted of only 40 or 50 people rather than hundreds (as reported via the different cable networks) attempting to peaceably assemble under their First Amendment rights.  Maybe I’ll find out if they all bore arms, wore helmets, and had brass knuckles and threw tear gas capsules at the counter-protesters.  Maybe I’ll get a clear picture about whether or not the protesters had their own militia to protect them. Maybe I’ll find out if most of the counter-protesters came from out-of-town and were paid to confront the White Nationalist protesters (as reported on the various cable networks).  What happened?  I don’t have a clear picture.  Do you?  

Do I want a clear picture?  Do I really want to know the facts for truth-sake?  Or do I want to simply know who to blame for yesterday’s violence and chaos?  To point my finger at somebody, some group, some politician, is a way of not having to look at the “blame” in me for the way things are.

Who started and continued the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan and the Middle East crisis?  Who ruined our water supply? Who is responsible for global warning?  Who put so many homeless people on our city streets?  Who crushed the poor?  Who makes our health care system the most expensive in the world?  Who is responsible for the racial, religious, and political divide?  Who poisoned the Chesapeake Bay and the oceans?  Who corrupted our banks, our politics, our judicial system?  Who has raped our natural resources? Who is responsible for this nation being racked with fear?  Who can I point to and say, “You are to blame for this, for that?  

I wonder if finding someone to blame would eliminate my tears, anguish, sadness, anger and frustration that overwhelms me just now?  I doubt it very much.