Checking in and out

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Checked my computer for emails, posts, and tweets; found there is nothing needing my attention, so, I am checking out, mindful that:

What we do we may partly compute, but what we experience can only be felt.

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And what we say will never be understood by those who don’t experience life as it really is.

What do you say when asked?

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Leaving the Apartment, Holly and Paul

[Holly looks directly at Paul, head slightly cocked, chin up, arms back. ]

“What do you do, anyway?”

[Paul, hands in pockets, chest out, meets her gaze directly; his hesitating voice belies his confidence.]

”I’m a writer, (pause) I guess.”

“And you?”

“I am a very stylish girl.”

Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, as mismatched lovers Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961.

To my first Irish visitor, a blessing

 

Blessed be the butterflies – An Irish blessing

May children in fields of flowers run
To pick daisies, to let petals fall one by one
Until each and every child
Finds a love truly won
And before this day is done
May butterfly wings kiss the sun.
And find your hand to light on
To bring you luck, if luck is what you need
Today, forever and beyond.

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Family Reunions

For twenty-three years I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now, well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it! – Auntie Em, Wizard of Oz

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Tell ’em Auntie Em

 

The Great and Wonderful Oz is leaving home and going to a family reunion in Asheville, North Carolina. The reunion is coming up quickly, and Oz is driving so he can think back on all the forgotten years and, more importantly, what he has to say. How strange it seems to reconnect with cousins one hasn’t seen for so many years.

The gathering will include old and new, cousins who hardly know one another except by name; and surely a spouse or two who scratches their chin and wonders, did I marry into this?

And if someone did a blood test, they’d find we are mostly English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and French, with an odd lot thrown in for a surprise.

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As George Burns said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in a city far, far away.”

It rained last night

Sorry sailors on open decks curse the rain which tender corn, worrying farmers and losing ballplayers wish for in vain.

It rained last night in the Land of Oz. Farmers, birds, and the sweltering crowds at a ball game all celebrate the event especially if their team is losing.

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How to write a sentence #1

quillLet us have a conversation, friend, on how to write a sentence, and if we do it right my friend, let it be a pleasure, not a penance.

The ancient Greek poet Homer knew that language needs to be sonorous to be remembered. Long lines of disconnected, harsh sounding words are hard to memorize. Words must make sense and should sound pleasing, language being music to the ears and food for the soul.

In her writing Gertrude Stein famously avoided commas as unnecessary interruptions in the flow of thought. One made up thought floating out there in the internet is this:

Commas are the slaves of the sentence, according to Stein, and we know that slavery is never a good thing. If the sentence can’t make sense without multiple commas, rewrite it.

We know it is made up because it has several commas and repeats. Wait, I take half that back since, “a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”

Stein did say this:

“A comma does nothing but make easy a thing that if you like it enough is easy enough without the comma.”

Now isn’t that nicely said without a pause or a comma?

So, should I say:

Let us have a conversation friend on how to write a sentence; and if we do it right my friend let it be a pleasure not a penance.

If you noticed the switch from comma to semi-colon, give yourself bonus points.

Disons nous une conversation mes amies sur la façon d’écrire une clause; Et si nous nous la faisons bien mes amis laisse faire plaisir et ne pas pénitentiaire.

 

The school of hard rocks

 

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Does it matter, she asked herself, does it matter that all this must cease to exist – the jagged rocks, the warm sand, the wide ocean and the blue sky, and even the birds that glide on the gentle breeze itself must go away when she dies. Or, is this why we have children?

This is not an original thought, she thought, and then she realized, we do not procreate with a purpose other than to find relief. To momentarily escape reality before reality again rears its ugly head. Oh, she realized, that it is only in the long years of child rearing that one signals one’s hope that life should go on and that others should ask this same question.

Then she had a strange thought that life is an endless series of steps. One starts and stops, like life itself. The distance from beginning to end being both insurmountable and unknowable.

A lesson from the school of hard rocks

Memorial Day 2017

The days in France in September can be glorious. The air is warm, freshened by the evening rains, the autumnal colors begin to show, and the wheat and the grape harvest are well under way with all their attendant festivals.

Not so in the year of 1918 after four years of war. 

I had two family members on my mother’s side who were involved in World War I. One is my grandfather, the other my great uncle. One is on a memorial in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which began on the 26th of September 1918, ended with the Armistice of 11 November 1918. More than one million American soldiers were engaged. My grandfather, James Madison Pearson took part.

So too did my grandfather’s cousin, Varlaurd Pearson*, as a member of Company I of the 137th Regiment. This regiment was formed in Manhattan, Kansas and was part of the 35th Infantry Division, composed of Kansas and Missouri National Guard units.

This is his story.

September 1918

It is a short week before the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the last battle in what was then carelessly called The Great War.

The 137th Regiment, formed from members of the Kansas National Guard, have gathered their gear, their rifles and bayonets for the trip by truck from their staging area in the Foret-de-Haye, between the French towns of Nancy and Toul, for the trip to Auzeville, a small village west of Verdun.

Auzéville en Argonne, Clermont-en-Argonne is the French designation of the small farming community. There is nothing special about the village of less than one hundred souls. It is a place to gather troops for the coming offensive and there are dozens of similar gathering places.

Varlaurd Pearson is at Auzéville. His cousin Madison Pearson is at Graffigny-Chemin. Their existence to each other is probably unknown.

The evening of September 25th, 1918

Five days later, and the sun has set.

It is 7pm, the evening of the 25th of September, 1918. Under the cover of darkness, Sergeant Varlaurd Pearson and the men of the 137th Regiment march to their front-line position near Aubreville and Vauquois Hill. As they walk, an American artillery barrage is laid down upon the German lines and the evening sky lights up. The barrage continues well into the night.

There will be little sleep for soldiers on both sides.

The morning of September 26th

At 5:30 in the morning, the soldiers went “over the top”. The now familiar phrase meant that the troops left the relative security of the trenches where they lived with mud and rats, to cross into no-man’s land through barb wire and a cratered landscape all the while suffering the withering fire of machine guns and artillery fire, and occasionally having to deal with deadly gas attacks.

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Vauquois Hill

Vauquois Hill

The regiment’s initial objective is the formidable Vauquois Hill, won and lost many times since the beginning of the war and the scene of battles between French and German troops.The hill now resembles a moonscape with its pock marked landscape. Despite the constant warfare for control and the barrage of the evening before, the Germans are well-entrenched. The hill is honeycombed with tunnels.

Perhaps the Germans are tired of defending it, for Vauquois Hill is captured early in the day. Perhaps the Germans wish to draw the Americans in and then counter-attack. Perhaps it is simply a matter of giving up ground by attrition and hoping that the Americans will be bled dry.

In fact, more than 26,000 Americans will lose their lives in the six weeks of fighting and almost 100,000 will become wounded casualties.

The 137th Regiment is certainly glad to be rid of Vauquois Hill. It then fights its way through the woods towards Varennes and the smaller village of Cheppy, short of Charpentry. The regiment had advanced about three miles.

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View of Bois de Cheppy from Vauquois Hill, image taken several years later

September 27th

The 28th Division, fighting to the left of the 137th in the woods of the Argonne, is having a tougher go of it. So, the 137th Regiment shifts its actions to the west and northwest where together with the 28th, they take Varennes and Montblainville.

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Google map today of Baulny and Charpentry

Then they proceed on to Charpentry and Baulny.

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near Baulny, France

The 137th Regiment has now become a salient into the German lines. Other American units press on trying to keep pace but the battle lines are confused.

By the evening of September 27th, the 137th rests on a ridge east of Charpentry overlooking the ravine of Mollevaux. The Germans take this opportunity to regroup and place machine-gun units on the ridge overlooking the ravine.

September 28th

On the 28th the Germans counter attack with an artillery barrage and the 137th suffers its heaviest losses while pressing on towards Exermont.

The conditions are describes as this:

There was a cold autumn rain. The soldiers advanced through the open fields under heavy machine-gun fire. Their boots were soggy from the wet grass and the streams they crossed. Artillery support which would have suppressed the fire from the German lines was often missing because of delays in bringing the artillery units up.

Future president, Harry S. Truman was captain of Battery D. It is said that his unit was often in advance of other artillery units and his battery was forced to pull their guns one at a time by double teaming with 12 horses, in order to get them through the muddy, shell-torn and German mine-laid fields. They were lucky to arrive to their forward positions by 10 at night in order to prepare for the assault the following morning at 5:30.

Orders from higher up restricted the use of artillery in support of the advancing units, an order Truman often disobeyed.

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Varlaurd Pearson’s citation reads:

Varlaurd Pearson (Army serial number 1449077) sergeant, Company I, 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division. For extraordinary heroism in action near Baulny, France, September 28th, 1918. Though wounded three times by shrapnel and machine-gun bullets, he refused to be evacuated and continued to lead the advance of his platoon, remaining in command for several hours, until he received a fourth wound, which proved fatal.

Distinguished Service Cross

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Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial
Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France
Varlaurd Pearson
Plot: Plot B Row 10 Grave 40

Notes.

There is a written history of Company C.

*Varlaurd is elsewhere spelled Varlourd.

I have tried to discover the origin of the name, but without success. Varlaurd’s father was General Charles Lafayette Pearson of Dadeville, Alabama, who spent time in France. The surname Varlourd appears there, but infrequently.