Red door, white brick

#11 Jan Miraelstraat

Behind a door is a home, with secrets untold and stories unknown, of people who live their lives far from our prying eyes, curious though we may be, we have no right to invade their privacy, it is not polite to stare or look inside, the only thing they will share, and all that can be found, is left in a bag of trash outside the door at night.

Bruges, Belgium



Great Northern Railway

Great Northern Railway engine

“Nothing lasts forever,” Jeff Bezos acknowledged, and someday the mighty Amazon, having outlasted its usefulness to the American consumer, will find itself in the history books.

Great Northern Railway engine

The Great Northern Railway

The Great and Wonderful Oz comes across many oddities in his travels. The world is full of them, oddities we call them because they are unusual, persons and things defying common description.

It is easy to see them, but harder to find them.

Here in Whitefish, Montana the railroads still run, hauling timber, coal, cattle, and crops. The railroad now is the Burlington, Northern, and Santa Fe (BNSF), but once upon a time it was just the Great Northern (1899-1970). The idea of 19th-century railroad entrepreneur James J. Hill, The Great Northern ran from Saint Paul, Minnesota, through North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, to Seattle, Washington. One of the oddities of the Great Northern is that it was built without the the financial aid of the United States government.

No land grants, no bonds, just pure capitalism at work.

Where are the railroads that built America?

The railroad tamed the west, crossed this vast land and made America great. It brought immigrants to new lands and provided a means to ship crops and produce from the productive west to a starving east.

The Great Northern created value from tourism. Another oddity about the railway is that it promoted legislation that lead to the establishment of the Glacier National Park in 1910. Then, it developed mountain retreats, built touring cars, and promoted the trip as a tourist destination. Indeed, the Great Northern Railway built fabulous trains like the Empire Builder, Western Star, and Oriental Limited, that whisked thousands of curious tourists each year to and from the Pacific Northwest.

But, the automobile and paved roads defeated the railway’s hopes and dreams for a profitable tourist business.

cars and trucks in Glacier National Park

Change is the only constant

No, Oz is not suggesting that the railroad, like the buffalo, will vanish from the American landscape. In Montana and elsewhere freight trains still travel the tracks delivering goods more cheaply and quickly than other means of transportation. This has given rise to a new concept, the Inter-modal station where goods are delivered by train and then distributed to trucks for local shipment.

Change, Oz knows, is the only constant, the only means to staying relevant.

Yes, the sight of a railroad track, the sound of the faraway whistle, and the rumble of a passing engine and cars still stirs Oz’s imagination with thoughts of long ago.

Odd, how the mind wanders from thought to thought.

Hear the train blow

Speaking of which, Oz fondly recalls a mother softly singing to her child the sweet words from Down in the Valley:

Late in the evening, hear the train blow
Down in the valley the valley so low
Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
Hear the wind blow love, hear the wind blow
Hang your head over, hear the train blow…
Purple wildflower Glacier National Park

The Brown Box


Life Mysteries

We have all heard of a black box, a metaphor for an object which can be viewed in terms of its inputs and outputs without any knowledge of its internal components. It is “opaque,” the Biblical “glass darkly” and its contents and workings within can not be seen. In this same way, a home (though brown, tan, and shingled) is a mystery to all who walk by. Its contents and the people within are unknown to passersby-ers.

Oz is fascinate by the shape of things and homes in particular. Homes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lovingly cared for, some worn down and sadly forlorn.

Oz likes simple homes, plain and boxy though they may be, a cottage in Cannon Beach Oregon, just off the ocean, with a white picket fence and blue hydrangeas in full bloom. These few adornments are the wrappings on a gift to the homeowner.

Many images come to mind when one thinks about a home, a refuge, a safe haven, a castle, a place they have to take you in (if you are a relative), but perhaps the strongest image comes the 1964 ballad recorded by Dionne Warwick and written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David:

…[A] house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss good night

Oz, you have learned by now, is a wanderer.  He lives by the saying, “All who wander are not lost,” though now and again Oz gets lost and serendipitously finds something new and exciting.

The Wizard of Oz

You may also have observed that Oz is an illiest, that is, one who speaks of himself in the third person. Some people say that that is a sure sign of narcissism, but Oz thinks that is unfair. After all, isn’t it a way of taking oneself less seriously rather than more-so.

His full name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, and he ruled the in The Land of Oz, until one day he hopped into his hot air balloon and left for “parts unknown” (RIP Anthony Bourdain).

Then again, Oz must be part Dorothy, who discovers in his/her travels that, “There is no place like home.


Stairway to Heaven

Stairway at Nye Beach, Newport Oregon

Oz is on vacation on the Oregon coast. The sky is gray, the ocean mist brushes his face and he feels something special.

Jacob left Beersheba a went to Harran to the home of his Uncle Laban, and on the way he stopped to sleep, and as he slept, he dreamt of a stairway to heaven, and then in wonder he beheld the Lord.

Surely, I am in heaven here in Oregon.

Stairway at Nye Beach, Newport Oregon
Stairway at Nye Beach, Newport Oregon

Genesis 28:10-17

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said:

“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought:
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Time is on my side

“Time, time, time is on my side, yes it is, …”” is the line, line, line sung by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Of course, it isn’t. No one wins a race against time, time, time.

Good morning

Good morning, good morning, the best to you this morning along the Oregon coast.

Alone I walked along the sea until I met a man who walked along the beach with a dog on a leash

Madame Pommery

It takes vision and a will and a woman, to find a way to success in Champagne, France.

A champagne toast to Madame Veuve Pommery (Widow Pommery), the greatest Champagne widow of the 19th century, who steered the world’s taste in sparkling wine from sweet to dry – a taste that became liquid gold.

Madame Veuve Pommery, Bouzy, France

Pommery was born Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Melin in 1819. She married Alexandre Pommery, from a prominent wool family in Reims. They had two children about 17 years apart, and it was the imminent birth of the second child in 1856 that prompted a just-retired Alexandre to enter the wine business with Narcisse Greno. Alexandre Pommery died in 1858.

Madame was 38.

“I have decided to carry on with the business and take the place of my husband,” said the widow Pommery. For “heath reasons”, Narcisse Greno retired from the business in 1860.

She adopted the motto, Qualite d’abord, quality first, then changed the direction of her wines from red to white. Having been schooled in England she understood that the English preferred wines less sweet. Also, she modeled her winery as an estate to cater to a growing flock of American and English visitors to the French wine regions. When rumors that her winery was on shaky financial grounds, she purchased Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners” for 300,000 francs, with the proviso that it would be donated to the people of France at her death. The gesture endured her to the public and captured the notice of the press.

The above statue dedicated to the memory of Madame Pommery is in Bouzy, France, cute name n’est-ce pas?

Bouzy is unique, since hard-headed winegrowers here make a non-bubbly Bouzy Rouge, a Pinot Noir that is expensive because, it is counter-intuitive in Champagne. There is also the Pommery Brut Royal, Variety: 35% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier.

Oooh la la la, c’est magnifique!

bouzy france winery grape vines on a hillside

Always stay humble and kind

always stay humble and kind pillow, the little birdie

When your britches don’t fit and your hat is too small, when you got a big house on the beach, and a nice car that people admire, when everyone call you sir, and they step aside as you walk through the door,  when you get where you are going, and you forget what it was like to begin…,

Remember what Mamma said, “Always stay humble and kind.”

Mamma said so many things. Go to church, visit Grandpa, it will never be wasted time. Give a helping hand to the next person in line. Always stay humble and kind.

Tim McGraw took Mamma’s words and turned it into a beautiful ballad guaranteed to make you cry.

Enough said.



The Little Birdie took mamma’s words and put them on a throw pillow and now you know what the words mean.

Robyns Lake House

always stay humble and kind pillow, the little birdie