Veterans Day

sergeant varlourd (varlaurd) pearson, france, died in action spet. 28, 1918

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day, a day that honors military veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces. It’s significance is that it is the day when the Armistice was signed in 1918, ending World War I. My grandfather, and his cousin, and countless men and women, fought in that “great war”. Some came home. Some did not.

A well-known poem of that war goes like this:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair…

The poem was written by New Yorker Alan Seeger who joined the French Foreign Legion.

On July 4, 1916, he joined his fellow Legionnaires in the Battle of the Somme, attacking German lines in a green corn field already strewn with bodies. Their destination, the village of Belloy-en Santerre. With bayonet affixed to his rifle he charged the field with his fellows, and soon disappeared.

The village would be taken, the Legionnaires would celebrate, but not Private Seeger, who was among the first to fall that day.


It may be he shall take my hand

And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

The 28th day of September, 1918, was the third day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which the US First Army squared off against units of the German Third and Fifth Armies.

A young American soldier, Varlourd Pearson by name, hailed from Tallapoosa County, Alabama, but leaving Kansas State University in Manhattan and enlisting in the Kansas Reserve and joining the 137th Regiment, found himself in the middle of battle.

The first day of the offensive the regiment was ordered to assault Vauquois Hill. Having taken the hill, the regiment moved on through the Montrebeau Woods to a point south of the village of Cheppy on the way to Charpentry.

As so often happens in battle, the artillery does not keep pace with the enthusiasm of the advancing soldiers. The resolve of the enemy stiffens. The fighting becomes hand to hand.

sergeant varlourd (varlaurd) pearson, france, died in action spet. 28, 1918

Headquarters 35th Division, American Expeditionary Forces,
October 17th, 1918.
(General Orders, No. 83.

The Division Commander takes great pleasure in citing in General Orders the following-named officers and enlisted men for gallantry in action during the six days’ battle from September 26th to October 1st, 1918.

Sergeant Varlaurd Pearson, Company I, 137th Infantry.
Although wounded by machine gun fire September 30th (sic.), displayed excellent leadership in handling his platoon, which he kept well organized, and succeeded in dislodging several machine gun nests.

By command of Major General Traub

 

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Bringing in the sheaves

peace-of-mind

I was just thinking

How many times have you said to yourself, where did this thought come from?

You are alone, sitting in an easy chair at home, or on a crowded bus in the midst of strangers, or out for a walk in the woods with only your dog for company; and some strange, distant image comes to mind, a ghostly and distant memory, mostly forgotten, until…

Stirring up memories

Where memories comes from I don’t know.

I am looking at the words, “bring in the ____” and searching my mind to fill in the blank. It is an old memory, stored somewhere in the trillions of images kept somewhere in the thick skull of ours. Drum my fingers on the table, tap my feet on the floor, then I start to hum, until it finally comes to me.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall…

Curious?

The lyrics were written in 1874 by Knowles Shaw, who was inspired by Psalm 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

This explains that the sheaves are the grains of wheat sown in the spring and harvested in the fall.

Tennessee Ernie Ford sang it proudly and loudly.

The first three stanzas:

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,
Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

The Act of Creation

It is said that the human mind has the capacity of a flash drive when it comes to simple facts. The amazing fact, however, is that the synaptic connectivity of neurons allows for around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes) of combined images, or about the same as Google’s database.

Wow!

What’s next?

And like Douglas Adams’ Arthur Dent and company, I am already zinging around this amazing thing we call the human brain with other thoughts of who knows what and where.

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

red-door-1

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

blue-hydrangeas

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.

img_6123

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