Why leave?

Why leave at all?

After all, as Dorothy Gale said, “There is no place like home.” But that was only after she “left” home to save Toto from mean Miss Almira Gulch. And along the way, she met some wonderful friends, had great adventures, learned a lesson or two, and discovered a little more about her self and the ones she loved.

Be careful. As I have learned, it can be rough out there, and a little lonely, but it beats staying at home, doesn’t it?

snow-hiker

 

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Green is Good

Green, in all is manifestations: green in the turnips that grow in spring, in the spinach and kale of summer, and even the green of cabbage and onions in fall and winter, they are good; yes, money too, but money can not nourish the body; green, for want of a better word, has marked the upward progression of man from hunter-gatherer to urban dweller, from cold wet cave to a nice home with a family with a two-car garage, and everything one could want to become complaisant, unaware of the sad fact that we eat too little green, that we have again become hunter-gatherers happy to munch on meat an endless and ready supply off Big Mac’s and starches from supersized French-fries, ordered by those too lazy to get out of their cars, in response to faceless aggressors who ask, “Can I help you today?” Beware, my friends of these mechanical incantations. Green, mark my words, can prevent heart disease and stroke, it can be the salvation of this once great land called the USA. Thank you very much. This will be your only wake-up kale. Spud Knox: Sun-tzu: Between enemy and friend, let-tuce choose kale.

Inspired by an article on NPR and, of course, Gordon Gekko.

Not yet

It is not yet
Spring
Again
And so
The turtle is still submerged
The snake has not stuck out his head
The birds still fret and know
It is not time to make a nest
No
It is not spring
And yet
One notices
The days are getting longer
The wind is from the south
The cat is at the window
Watching
The squirrels begin to play
Along the fence as if to say
Begone you winter day
And though
The trees are brown and bare
I know it in my bones and heart
I know it as
I walk by my closet
And leave my coat inside

squirrel-nuts

How to teach your brain something it won’t forget

A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Agnostic walk into a bar.

The bartender says, “Dammit! We don’t like jokes here. So, if you guys are a part of one, you’re gonna have to leave… Right now!”

So, the priest, rabbi, and atheist leave and a chicken walks in.

The bartender says, “We don’t serve CHICKENS here!”

The chicken says, “Do you know somewhere that does?”

The bartender says, “Yeah…, across the road.”

Memories

I came across this joke on the internet at about the same time I saw an article on remembering things. As Bob, my father-in-law, likes jokes and is in memory care rehab, I thought this a timely topic.

Besides, they say, laughter is the best medicine.

The point of the article on memory is that cramming, that thing we did in college before a test, works well only in the short term and sucks in the long term.

Little steps, as Bob (Bill Murray) repeated in the classically funny movie, What about Bob? The movie with Richard Dreyfus as Bob’s uptight psychiatrist, was more about coping, but the same principle applies to memory.

Little bits.

One plus one is two. It is a hell of a lot easier to remember and understand  than the Pythagorean theorem. Don’t load your plate up with lots of facts. A few at a time works better than bucket fulls,  just like a meal, or a new exercise program, or a …

The other critically important about memory is to keep it relevant. My father-in-law’s care providers are always asking who the president is, what is today’s date, etc., etc.

Who cares?

Laughter is the best medicine

Bob likes jokes, so I am going to tell him the one about the priest, the rabbi, the agnostic and the chicken.

I bet he laughs.

And even if he doesn’t remember it. I can tell it again and again and again.

Flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther

Tuesday, I am leaving Oz and flying to Atlanta with Martin Luther.

Flying time is just over two hours, which gives me little time learn about this fascinating man of faith and letters. While in Atlanta for three days, I will find snippets of time in the early morning and late evening to read Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther: the man who rediscovered God….

This is unfair to a holy man of God, but work creates its limitations on pleasure. And Martin Luther was a man who worked much and suffered for it.

Never talk politics or religion, my mother advised me, and never speak of both. Martin Luther spoke of religion, and tried to avoid politics, but one is always forced to choose. Erasmus did, though he would have preferred to stay on the side lines observing and commenting, but not committing himself.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther had no qualms about where he stood on religion and famously said in April of 1521:

“Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me, Amen!”

“My conscience is captive to the word of God,” Luther explained. “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” His remarks to the so-called theologians and politicians at the Diet of Worms put forth the idea of man’s own ability to read and interpret the Bible.

This earth rattling idea made Martin Luther the first existentialist of the modern era.
I say modern era because Gutenberg printing press had thrust Europe and the world into the information age, the precursor to our own digital age. I say Luther was the first existentialist because he had the temerity to challenge the pope and state on matters of belief.

Every Man a Priest

Every man a priest he said.

He would walk back this idea in time as he realized the many “false” interpretations of scripture that man was capable of. He also chose to become an instrument of state and recognize the value of submission to authority. Anarchy was the only other choice.

Amazingly, his idea took hold. Not without centuries of religious conflict, not without heretical burnings, wars, and murders, all fought in the name of God, an irony he recognized. An irony that we still live with and perhaps always will.

Sorry, John Lennon.

Luther’s idea of personal responsibility would in time become the bedrock of the American political experience, expressed eloquently by Thomas Jefferson, All men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights, those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Freedom of thought is liberating, it is daunting, it is challenging. It is the existentialist’s mantra.

It is your choice.

Which is why I find it ironic that Martin Luther came down on the “wrong” side of the question about Free Will. We have none, he said. It is all a matter of faith and love, and nothing else.

Paradoxical, yes, so too is life. We are such imperfect creatures, made in God’s image, but poorly.

I have, you will noticed, used quotation marks around certain statements of fact. This is because very little in life is certain. We may be certain of in-certainty, but that is it.

And…

Death, as Luther observed, and our ultimate destiny to meet with God, alone.

martin luther painting cranach
martin luther, lucas cranach the elder painting

 

Today, of course, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Eric Metaxas points out the historical trivia that after a visit to Germany, a certain Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, and his son became Martin Luther King Jr.

In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

 

What will the New Year bring?

It is that time of year when we all pause to think back on what the past year meant, on friends no longer with us, and what will the New Year bring.

Friends I have lost keep piling up like the round smooth stones hikers leave on the way up to the peak of Colorado’s Mt. Long. Hikers know what I mean, the rest of you need to get off your chair and hike a mountain to know.

Words and songs that keep coming back to mind. How about Donna Fargo’s What will the New Year bring? Friends, if you have tears, listen and prepare to shed them now.

And yes, I know this is copyright material, but I can’t help but think it is fair comment and a salute to a great artist from Mt. Airy, North Carolina and all the folks in Mayberry, including Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee and Gomer, who are now gone from us.

If you don’t know what I mean, you are under thirty and you don’t watch TNT.

This past year was good to us the one before just a little rough
The one before that was an awful thing what will the new year bring

Will it bring us a little boy to fill our lives with love and joy
We’ve had our share of growing pains what will the new year bring

You’re still one and one makes two now one and one make one
I hope you will love me throughout the year to come

We’ve made our mistakes with love we learned that it can’t promise us
Tomorrow and forever things what will the new year bring

Wish I hadn’t read our horoscope things look stormy for Scorpios
Virgo’s posed to sprout their wings what will the new year bring

Will you want me to love you the way you know I do
And will you walk through life with me another year or two

Or three or four or five or six hundred years or more
Happy New Year darling for whatever is in store

winter-2

I heard the bells

winter-2

Christmas Day, 1863, Washington, D.C.

 

Outside his window on Christmas Day, 1863, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow heard the Christmas bells and the carolers singing “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men”.

That cold December day he was in Washington, D.C. called to the bedside of his son who, less than a month earlier, had been wounded in the shoulder at the battle of Mine Run Campaign, the follow up to the Battle of Gettysburg, and an unsuccessful attempt by Union forces to defeat the Army of the Potomac near Chancellorsville.

 

The north wind blew fierce that day in fitful gushes that banged the shutters on the windows that were not secured. The carolers, attempting to dispel the gloom, pulled tight their winter coats and scarves, their voices accompanied by sleigh-bells from horses making their way to their appointed destinations, and in the air one smelled a mixture of sweet egg-nog and the stench of death.

Worried, disconsolate, and inspired, he wrote these words:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

vermont-farm

My candle burns at both ends

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
Edna St. Vincent MIllay

edna st. vincent millay eyes

Friday already, and I haven’t done half of what I need to do. That is life in the digital age.

Time out!

Edna St. Vincent Millay died at the age of 58, the result of a heart attack after a coronary occlusion. She was dressed in a nightgown and slippers when her body was found by James Pinnie, a caretaker, (who cares?) who had arrived to light a fire for the evening. “Miss Millay,” as the New York Times called her, had lived alone in her home in the Berkshire hills of New York, close to those same hills that James Taylor sang of (he lives there), since her husband died ten months earlier.

The Times continues to say: “Miss Millay was born in Rockland, Me., on Feb. 22, 1892, in an old house ‘between the mountains and the sea’ where baskets of apples and drying herbs on the porch mingled their scents with those of the neighboring pine woods.”

She had friends, she had foes, she acted, she wrote, she lived in The Village, she escaped to Florida, the Riviera, Spain, and finally, she escaped to Maine.

She was, the Times continued, “a frivolous young woman, with a brand-new pair of dancing slippers and a mouth like a valentine,” young, red-haired and unquestionably pretty.

What we remember is what we choose, ’tis the pity, she was much more.

My choice…

Figs from Thistles: First Fig
By Edna St. Vincent Millay

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

For this and other poems, Millay won the the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923.

Friday already, and I haven’t done half of what I need to do.

millay-poster

Tolkien Variations

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
Hands that touch warm the heart
Such is the nature of love.

Tolkien Variations

forest-couple-1280