Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Winter Daydream

December 4, 2019

Having grown up in Louisiana, I moved to the Blue Ridge mountains while in my mid-20’s.

Ever since that time—the late 1970’s—I have lived, married, parented and grown steadily older in an Appalachian culture.

Truthfully though, the two cities I have lived in reflect a post-Appalachian culture.

Ole long-bearded Zeb with overalls—you don’t notice him so much anymore; he’s probably running a landscape business to service the manicured lawns of well-heeled snowbirds.  And barefoot Ellymae in threadbare calico on the front porch—she’s more likely now to be monitoring the  gas-pumps from behind a convenience store checkout.

To some extent, mountain culture has become homogenized with the dominant American obsession with superficial style and commercialism.

But not totally.

One thing that is nevertheless still quite different  from living down the mountain is the temperature. We typically see a 7-12 degree lower thermo up here.

We actually have four seasons here!

In the Deep South . . . not so much.

When this southern boy first arrived in the high country, I cultivated some romantic notions about the cold weather. I suppose this is because—in spite of the painful nipping in fingers and toes —it was such a refreshing experience after growing up in twenty-four blistering deep south summers.

The immanent—and in some ways, dreaded— arrival of our 2019-20 winter comes as no surprise.

WinterComin

This morning I woke up remembering an old song that I had written and recorded, many years ago, shortly after becoming a mountain man myself. The song is, on one level, about the coming of winter.

On another level, it is about a very noticeable shift in our American culture that has happened in my 68-year lifetime—single parenthood.

I am not one of them. But being a man married, thankfully, for forty years, and a grandfather. . . now provokes rumination about the many challenges  young parents must face in this age of temporary partnerships.

We have many more single parents in 2019 than we did back in the 1950’s-60’s when I was growing up. My old song that crept into my imagination this morning presents a romanticized image of a single mother as she contemplates past and future. In her foreground is the upcoming winter outside her window on a cold, crisp early-winter day.

Since memory of  the song seems to have popped out of nowhere this morning in my awakening dream-state, I thought sharing it with you might be something to do.

      Portrait of a Lady

Glass half-Full

Wisdom?

November 25, 2019

Perhaps my 68 years of dealing with this life’s challenges has enabled me to render a helpful opinion on an important question: what is wisdom?

Wisdom is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.

Wisdom is throwing away whatever is not useful, but disposing it in such a way that you do not make a mess for someone else to clean up.

. . . unless they are being rewarded for cleaning it up.

Wisdom is knowing what to accept, what to reject.

. . . and knowing when to wait until you’ve decided which of those two categories is appropriate in any given situation.

. . . and knowing that sometimes we don’t have time to decide . . .

good luck with that!

Wisdom is using what you have acquired to improve your own life and the life of those with whom you are in community.

Wisdom is listening;

it is also discerning, when the appropriate time comes, to suspend listening and speak.

Wisdom comes in noticing that the world is not a perfect place—there is something wrong with it.

So wisdom then requires discerning the good from evil.

. . . while understanding that there is a purpose for the presence of both in this life.

Wisdom calls us to identify what it wrong, and resist it.

And even to defeat evil when that is necessary.

Wisdom may be conceding that different persons, different people groups, have different definitions for what is good or evil.

And so therefore, in some cases, the grace to forgive wrongness may be more appropriate than judging evil with punishment,

Sometimes even defining what is really good  should be re-evaluated.

Wisdom is realizing that the complexity of this world is largely—though not totally—unexplainable, and there may be—there just may be— a God who operates at a level that is beyond our power to comprehend or measure.

. . . a God Who, at the very least, set it all in motion, as the ancient purveyors of wisdom have insisted.

There will always be someone who knows more than you do. Get used to it.

Wisdom is finding people to love.

Wisdom requires responsibility for those we love.

‘. . . and sometimes accepting responsibility for those we are unable to properly love.

Lighten

Without love we are lost forever.

Love requires sacrifice.

Wisdom means being thankful when someone has made sacrifice for you, because you have not done all this on your own.

You were getting help even when you didn’t know it.

PS. It’s not all about you.

Glass half-Full

Carbon and Silicon

November 17, 2019

Someone said that carbon gives life,

while silicon gives sand.

But now there’s buzz about carbon causing strife,

while silicon wields a magic hand.

The someone was referring to element six on the periodic table,

CarbonSilicon

because carbon provides for life a grab-bar that’s organic,

Lifemicro

while silicon fourteen, just below it, is merely able

to direct our circuits like a transistorized mechanic.

Digiboard

Now we should notice, or so I’m told . . .

carbon seems to be forsaking its own self-styled mission;

it has grown quite uppity and bold—

SmokIndust

whereas silicon swirls predictably in wave-like submission.

Sand3

Maybe we should put our silicon bots to work

to affix restraints on the unsheathed carbon beast,

so the little busybody, carbon number six—that jerk!

can’t grab control and crash our worldwide feast.

Glass half-Full

Head in the Clouds

September 10, 2019

Have you ever had  the feeling that our view of things is  somehow clouded ?

CloudDapl

It seems that we are somehow not seeing things rightly; we are missing something; we fail to read the signs of our times correctly.

I think we are similar, in some ways, to that guy the Beatles mentioned . . .

Well on the way

Head in a cloud

The man of a thousand voices

Talking perfectly loud

But nobody ever hears him 

Or the sound he appears to make 

And he never seems to notice . . .”

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the fool on the hill.

But one thing I have learned—it’s my story and I’m sticking to it— Somehow each one of us will find life easier to manage if we find a way to see the bright side of any given situation.

Because there are, you know, the storms of life that hover in our expectant travel path . . .

CloudStorm

Let’s be aware of the storms, but not let their darkness totally occlude our hope for brighter horizons to come.

To get a balanced perspective, we need to see the good and the bad in this life. And we do well to strive at  accurately evaluating how those two entities are  opposing each other in any given scenario, or . . . how they may be intertwined as some kind of difficult-to-discern mixed blessing or cluster-fuhgedaboudit.

We oughta take notice of Joni’s observation:

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s clouds’ illusions I recall . . . I really don’t know clouds at all.”

So let us understand that, realistically, we do not fully know clouds—that is to say, metaphorically, life’s ups and downs—at all, even though we may believe that we’ve got it all under control.

For instance, we don’t wanna be stuck on Cloud 9 when Cloud 10 might be the better way to go!

And although many traditions may tell us of an Uncloudy Day, let’s not be sideswiped by that unexpected sidewinder that could, in this present scheme of things, drench us with unmanageable discouragement.

Although we often  catch sight of some new development— that rising cloud the size of a man’s hand—let us keep eyes trained on it long enough to anticipate whether it brings the needed  rain or just fizzles to nothing.

And let us try to evaluate what pursuits are truly helpful in this complicated life. We don’t need to be stuck, for instance, in PC mode when it could have been more advantageous to collectively store whatever good we can find in “the cloud.”

As for me, I’m hoping to, one fine day, be caught up in the clouds with the one who brought me here.

CloudBrite

I surmise that this faith expectation is probably the ultimate “looking on the bright side.”

Glass half-Full

Let us do it

September 7, 2019

Let us make love.

Let us make children.

Let us feed our children.

Let us do work to support them.

Let us teach them.

Let us make places where children can romp on grass.

Let them run and jump and romp and stomp.

Let them build treehouses.

Let them grow.

Let them learn.

Let us learn.

Let us try.

Let us fail. Let us repair and recover.

Let us do.

Let us do what is right.

Let us make stuff.

Let us make goods.

Let us craft.

Let us think.

Let us prosper.

Let us profit.

Let us do business.

Let us excel. Let us hope.

Let us cope.

Let us worship God.

Let us take care for one another.

Let us give.

Let us breathe.

Let us laugh.

Let us sing.

Let us speak.

Let us preach, teach, and reach as far as we can.

Let us keep a world where men and women can choose to do what is right.

Let us ride. Let us glide. Let us confide.

Let us hide every now and then.

Let us go; let us stay.

Let us pray.

 

Glass half-Full

what the Original artist did

July 28, 2019

While universe was expanding in all directions, Creator chose one lump and began working with it, rearranging its underneath mass so that water could rise to the surface. The hydrogen/oxygen element would move in a purposeful way instead of just sloshing around.

Creator spun that world into motion so that the sunlight which struck its surface would brighten half of world for a day while allowing the other half to return to darkness during the same interval.

Thus did this division between the lightened side of world and the darkened side establish a cycle which would become known to us as day and night.

Then Creator used the interaction of sunlight and water to introduce an earthly cycle by which water could morph between two different states: liquid and vapor. The liquid would generally flow on, and within, the surface, while the vapor would rise to celestial functions.

This was a heavenly arrangement, although it was happening on crude earth—pretty cool, definitely an improvement over the old lump. Let us just call it day and night. Makes sense to me. You?

Creator was inspired, and so, kept going with it, stirring the flowing waters, gathering them together and thus separating the water from a new thing that was emerging—dry land.

Formless

Thus did we have earth and seas. Once again. . . pretty cool, and btw, cooling; by this stage, progressive processes had definitely been set into motion to produce something worthy of a good narrative.

RockStory

But Creator didn’t stop there. Next thing you know, from out of this developing earth—this interplay between light and dark, active and passive, wet and dry—here comes a new kind of stuff having the coding wherewithal to sprout new stuff never before seen or heard of. Long story short—plant life that could and would regenerate itself on a regular purpose so that Creator could go on to bigger and better things. Awesome!

Jungle1

Through the veggies and their seeds, it was obvious that things were getting better on earth, through the continuing interplay of this very predictable, dependable alternating cycle between light and dark, day and night, active and passive, living and dying.

All in all, not bad for a day’s work, as we say out here in flyover country.

But, hey, that was just the beginning. . .

SSetBrite

Glass half-Full

Search for Blue

June 5, 2019

The Traveler’s main burden is a restless soul. He has carried it dutifully for a long time.

Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. Having  traversed many a mile of land and sea, this sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place.

   At least for now.

   From a continental origin he had sailed o’er channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through  unknown , and out the other side of somewhere . . .  arriving for a season upon an ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected  weary legs to ascend yet another gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.

   The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.

    By ‘n by, the traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista.

    Pausing to catch breath, Travis trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.

He had never seen such a thing.

BlueRidg

So  this must be the  beginning of Search for Blue . . .

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

Corals and Us

May 21, 2019

Corals build:  secreting  calcium carbonate aragonite structural coenosteum through living coenosarc tissue situated between corallite cups, to form coral reef.

Shore

In this way, the coral grows and grows, and grows . . .

(Thank you Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral 

We build too: We stack stones arrange rocks mix mud mix mortar concoct concrete lay block lay brick blah blah blah

ShoreBuild

We walk out from our built structures. Corals do not; they remain in their little aragonite colony that they have built.

Corals stay while we stroll.

From a distance, them corals don’t look like anything alive. They just look like rocks.

But they are colonies of living critters,

Coral

and they help other living critters to stay alive.

Including us. Corals break up the wave action so we can build our stuff on the beach. Even more than that, they can, over long periods of time, build whole islands for us to dwell upon and enjoy.

When the ocean recedes from corals, they dry up and die. It is only then when we can walk around on them and live on their vast skeleton structure islands.

So we understand that when corals die, they leave that coral colony structure as their legacy—their gift to us and to the rest of the world.

And they don’t even know it.

When we die, we also leave a legacy.

The coral ought to be part of our legacy. We ought to leave the coral for our kids. Don’t step on it; don’t poison it. Let it grow.

Think of that sign you may see while riding on the highway. Referring to the workman who build and improve our roads, it says:

Let ‘em work. Let ‘em live.

Because even though the corals don’t look like it, the corals are alive and working all the time, building habitat for their fellow ocean inhabitants— the fishes and all them other water creatures— and building reefs to protect our islands, and building a fascinating shore world for us to gaze up while strolling on the beach.

Them corals . . . you gotta love ‘em. They just keep quietly doing their thing. Not like us who get all hot ’n bothered about stuff.

Glass half-Full

The Mystery of Mastery

May 12, 2019

Are you angry? Why? , , , and why is your attitude down?

If you do well, won’t your attitude be lifted?  But if you don’t do well, despair is crouching at your door.

But you must master it.

Choose discouragement, or improvement. Which will it be?

You have freedom to choose, you know.

Learn how to use that freedom. Master it.

Life brings good things to us, but life also throws some bad stuff at us along the way.

When life is a walk in the park . . . well, that’s great. Enjoy it. Make the best of it. From that favorable circumstance, move forward by taking measures to strengthen the stability that comes from that advantage.

But when the bad stuff again plops itself down in your garden path, what then? What you gonna do about it?

Don’t let it get you down. Although failure is lurking in your path, overcome it. Defeat defeat. Take mastery over discouragement.

Understand and accept that Life is going to drum up a certain amount of setbacks. Trouble comes with the territory in this life.

But you must master it.

Choose to master life; it will take awhile, maybe a whole lifetime.

We do have this choice, you know.

The ability to choose our own attitude, and thus set our own course—this is what we call freedom.

Freedom—you must master it.

We are free to choose where we go from here.

You are free to choose which way you will turn when that inevitable obstacle suddenly blocks your road to wherever it is you are going.

When the big one hits and throws you into a tailspin, will you wallow in your own discouragement?  Or will you master it?

Life itself was created for you, with this choice built into it.

But there is a good purpose for that challenge.

Having that choice is called freedom. Make use of the freedom. Master it.

Sometimes freedom is a pain in the ass, but Life would be a drag without it.

While you’re out there discovering life, you will surely run into some counter-productive influences . . . for instance, the idea of determinism.

Determinism is when some person or group wants to convince you that the obstacles in your path will surely defeat you, because the System is stacked against you.

The current strategy of the Determinism crowd says, for instance, Capitalism is against you . . . it cannot work for you.

But hey! . . . not if you master it. Take hold of any good opportunity to move forward.

Capitalism is what you—or perhaps your great great grandparents— entered into when they stepped off the boat, into America. Capitalism, with all its perils and pitfalls, is part of the territory here.

Master it.

America

You  can put capitalism to work for you, instead of against you.

The Determinism idea says that capitalism is nothing more than all those rich people and corporation manipulators who are perpetually stacking the deck against you.

But hey, that’s only a part of what capitalism is. Along with those unfavorable elements, capitalism includes also your freedom to choose something different, if what you presently are doing is not working for you and yours.

You must master it. That’s your end of the deal.

In America, you would do well to master capitalism. Make it work for you. Work?

Work—yes, that’s important. Capitalism doesn’t properly function without it: work.

Can’t find work?

Make your own work. Find something to do. Find something that needs to be done and do it. Present your bill to whomever is benefitted by your work. Even if you’re collecting unemployment or disability benefits or whatever, find something helpful to do. You’ll find yourself feeling better.

While the System is, yes Virginia, in some ways stacked against you, do not accept the negative assessment that there is no way around the obstacles.

Obstacles are standing outside your door. You must master them.

Obstructions are just around the bend. Master them.

If you don’t master them, who will?

Big Brother? The Fairy Queen?

Capitalism includes  your freedom to adjust your own attitude, and strategy, to get around, over or under whatever the System throws at you.

Master it. Learn when to work with it and, when to work against it.

It is true that working with the System is not always the best thing to do.

So this is also true: sometimes you will indeed have to work against the System, running against the wind, swimming against the tide.

That does not mean you allow the mob to convince you that the system is hopeless and the only way around it is to stir up trouble and destroy the System. There has, in the history of the world, always been them Powers that Be working against them that need to carve a new way out of the wilderness.

Knowing at any given time whether to work with the system or against it—this is called Wisdom.

You must master it. You must learn to use wisdom; cultivate it.

Wisdom is key to mastery in this life, but it doesn’t come easy.

Wisdom only comes through encountering both adversity and success.

So understand that adversity is part of the program for your obtaining mastery.

When you are at the crossroads of adversity and success, don’t cultivate discouragement; don’t malinger in bad attitude.

And don’t be hoodooed by  that Determinism that’s out there and wants to incite the rabble to riot. Don’t go there.

Determinism is when some person or group convinces you that the obstacles in your path will surely defeat you, because the System is stacked against you.

Determinism says the outcome of your life has already been determined by an exploitive Capitalist System.

Determinism wants to convince you that you cannot muster the power to master your own destiny.

Determinism says, for instance,  you’re not making enough money to make a living, and you never will.

It is true, yes,  that  making more money could improve your situation.

But that’s not the whole enchilada.

Master the money thing: when you get some, make it work for you; don’t fritter it away. Put your money to work. Don’t let the Determinism crowd convince you that it’s all about money. Life is not all about money.

Life is all about what you do with life.

Determinism also  says you cannot improve yourself through discipline and study, and work.

Determinism says the only way you can outwit the system is to yield to the trending decadence and anarchy that perpetually wants to destabilize you and everybody else.

But don’t let it take control of you. Take control of it.

Master it.

Master life, and you will do well.

Don’t raise cain. Instead, make yourself able.

Learn to make some sacrifices.

And thank God.

Glass half-Full