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Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

Perspectives in Shadow and Light

December 22nd, 2010

Perhaps we’ve turned that corner… passing the shortest day of the year.   Maybe in other ways too?    I had a comment recently from someone enjoying one of my older photos that prompted a little searching around, and smiling at the beauty of life around here just a few years ago.   I found some perspective, of winter shadows and light, from late winter of 2007.  

I love the contrasts between the ice and water, the shadows and patterns from the landscape.  Everything changes, and all is beautiful- even if such moments are fleeting.  It speaks to me of peace and change…  and for how we see and experience the world around us…   and how that world may be viewed in such different ways by different people.  

May you have a Blessed Christmas and Holiday Season, and a wonderful New Year!




Those Who Have and Are Serving Still

November 11th, 2010

“Oh, what a glorious morning is this!”  

Samuel Adams to John Hancock, April 19th, 1775 – On hearing gunfire at Lexington

Samuel Adams and John Hancock were en route to Philadelphia as delegates to the Continental Congress and were staying in Lexington at Hancock’s aunts home.  The story is that Paul Revere rode to the house sometime after midnight to warn the two Patriots that British troops were on the way to arrest them and send them to London to be tried for treason.

Men standing guard outside of the home warned Revere that he was making too much noise, and that the two delegates were sleeping.  Revere is said to have replied, “There’ll be noise soon enough! The Regulars are coming!”

Hours later, John Hancock and Samuel Adams watched from a distance when the “shot heard ’round the world” rang out on Lexington Green as Massachusetts Minute Men and British troops exchanged fire in the start of the Revolution.

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So many other mornings, and sunsets through the generations… and those who have served their nation far from home.   

My brother, and many others, are serving still in the Middle East and all around the world. 

Worth reading in USA Today:  “WWII vets still deserve our attention”

“These veterans are leaving us. Now in their 80s and 90s, they are dying at the rate of 797 a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I urge families to seek out these veterans.  Thank them for their service. Ask them questions.  Let your children listen.”

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From a personal view…

In 1996, I was stationed overseas in Japan,  deployed on board the now decommissioned USS Independence, and flying the F/A-18.  Living and flying in Japan was a wonderful experience, and I had the opportunity to review much of our WWII history in the Pacific.

I will never forget the times our squadron flew to the remote island of Iwo Jima, the site of the famous flag-raising on top of Mount Suribachi.  We flew there to practice landings for a few days before actually flying off the aircraft carrier.   We  would fly to Iwo Jima, rotating aircraft every few days, totaling a week or two with the air wing, and living in a small dormitory.

That tiny island, less than 6 miles in length, and marked by the single prominent volcano was the site of some of the fiercest combat, and most challenging combat efforts of the war in the Pacific.  In all, over 6500 Americans were killed on Iwo Jima, and around 18,000 wounded, most of them Marines.   Around 22,000 Japanese soldiers died in the fighting as well.

When I was visiting, so many years from the scene of that carnage,  many of us would try to explore the island firsthand with few more than a dozen of us there at one time.  I can hardly describe what it felt like to wander off alone on that island, walking through the underbrush and seeing pieces of equipment left forgotten since the war’s end.  A truck tire here, a piece of rusted metal there… And even walking by caves which lay undisturbed for more than a half-century, and said from stories to be filled with remnants of such things as ammunition or eating utensils, or more.  I wouldn’t find out, and was unwilling to walk beyond the sunlight and trespass across thresholds of death.  It was both moving and unsettling.

I woke up early one morning as the sun rose and walked the very beaches where the landings were made some 52 years before.  I walked alone,  into the surf and climbed the steep slope of sand…   they were tiny smooth black pebbles that made your feet  slip with nearly every step, falling to one’s hands and knees to make any progress up the slope of the beach.

There I was in 1997, alone on a piece of beach on a tiny island in the Pacific, trying to scramble up a hill of slippery sand.  In the distance loomed Suribachi, and my heart pounded as I imagined young American soldiers 52 years earlier, weighed down by heavy equipment, trying to scramble up the very same beach- while being shot at from every direction.  I could only imagine what courage it took, and what determination to even keep moving.  I could only imagine that every one of those valiant men knew inside that they had every chance of dying on that island, far from home and family, and many did.

Later I spent a late evening on top of Mount Suribachi with several friends.   Like military folk do, we brought some beer along and each of us quietly surveyed the island from on high as the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon.  It was our way to toast in remembrance to those who were there before, and those who never went home.

I spent many other days flying over that tiny island. Each time I practiced landings in my small fighter jet I would gaze in heartfelt amazement that so many had fought and died over a foothold on such a tiny piece of land…

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November 10th, 2010 marked the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps…

Crossing Decades with Health and Good Cheer

September 21st, 2010

I have always been amazed and heartened by longevity.  Not simply that things, or people, can be very old.   It’s something more about the fact that as we age, the history of the world goes with us.   That and the nature of how we age are simply interesting to me.

I was amazed to read today that the World’s oldest man has marked his 114th birthday in Great Falls, Montana.   How incredible!

Walter Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and moved to Montana in 1918, where he worked as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway for 50 years.

His wife, Agnes, a railroad telegraph operator from Butte, died in 1957. The couple had no children.

Breuning inherited the distinction of being the world’s oldest man in July 2009 when Briton Henry Allingham died at age 113. Allingham had joked that the secret to long life was “Cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women — and a good sense of humor,” according to Guinness World Records.

Now there’s some advice I could never imagine that would help to foster longevity!  Mr. Allingham must have lived a charmed life.  And hey, who am I to argue with success and a 113 year old sense of humor?

The Guinness organization and the Gerontology Research Group each have verified [Walter] Breuning as the world’s oldest man and the fourth-oldest person. Three women were born earlier in the same year as Breuning.

“Walter wasn’t in last year’s edition,” Young joked. “He was too young.”

The Great Falls Tribune reported that Breuning gave a speech before about 100 people at an invitation-only birthday party at the Rainbow Retirement Community, with a guest list that included Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and representatives from Guinness World Records.

Breuning was helped up to a lectern from his motorized cart, appearing somewhat frail but speaking with a strong voice.

He recalled “the dark ages,” when his family moved to South Dakota in 1901 and lived for 11 years without electricity, water or plumbing.

“Carry the water in. Heat it on the stove. That’s what you took your bath with. Wake up in the dark. Go to bed in the dark. That’s not very pleasant,” he said.

How simple and abundant our lives have become.  I think of the water he mentions, and what we take for granted today.  We flush the toilet a half a dozen times each day, take showers whenever we feel like it, cook, wash and clean using a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, use the hose to water plants and gardens outside the house, and even fill up the chickens’ and pets water dishes…

He [Breuning] said men and women may be able to enjoy life, but they can’t be content without a belief or faith. His parting message to the crowd was one of tolerance.

“With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another,” Breuning said.

Breuning has celebrity status at the retirement home, with visitors waiting in line to see him, Ray Milversted, 92, told the Tribune.

Before his birthday party, Breuning declined to name a favorite among the 114 years he has seen.

“Every year is the same,” Breuning told the Great Falls newspaper.

But he criticized one modern invention — the computer.

“When the computer came out, that was one of the worst things,” Breuning said. “They laid off all the clerks on the railroad.”

But, he added, “Every change is good.”

My goodness, what a spirit this man has.  Some of the notes about his life were fascinating too:

  • Breuning is in excellent health, even after a lifelong habit of smoking cigars, completely quitting in 1999.
  • He is able to walk, and eats two meals a day. He still maintains a sharp mind and accurate memory.   For example, he can remember his grandfather talking about his experiences in the American Civil War when he was three years old, and remembers the day President William McKinley was shot as the day “I got my first haircut”.
  • He has no prescription medications. In November 2007, at the age of 111, Breuning was fitted with hearing aids.
  • On his 112th birthday, Breuning said the secret to long life is being active: “[if] you keep your mind busy and keep your body busy, you’re going to be around a long time.”
  • In a recent interview, Breuning said, “Every day I exercise. Every morning I do all my exercises.”

During his 113th birthday celebrations, Breuning said:

“Remember that life’s length is not measured by its hours and days, but by that which we have done therein. A useless life is short if it lasts a century. There are greater and better things in us all, if we would find them out. There will always be in this world – wrongs. No wrong is really successful. The day will come when light and truth and the just and the good shall be victorious and wrong as evil will be no more forever.”

I can hardly imagine the things this man has seen and experienced. But I also wonder about his feelings for not having had children.

Obviously we don’t really know how long we’ll live, and truthfully I don’t have a feeling about that, other than to say I’d like to live a happy, healthy life that is long enough… whatever that may be.

Maybe that’s a timely declaration as I have lately become more interested in my health, and working to live a more constructive life.   I’d like to share that with others, especially my son, in terms of helping him to achieve a baseline of character strength and well-being that will carry him through his own life in a positive fashion.  He’ll be ten years old soon… and as time passes so quickly, the mark of his life will be up to him.

Our lives are filled with change. There is no other way. Like Walter, I strongly believe that change is good, in that we can embrace uncertainty. We can indeed move forward with courage, faith and the conviction that better days will surely come as we face the inevitable challenges that the years bring to our lives.

Walter Breuning is 104 years older than my son… just think, many of our children could live out their years spanning two centuries from Walter’s birth.   We can only wonder what the world will look like one hundred years hence.

Walter,  may we all share in your wisdom and age as gracefully as you have… and Happy Birthday!

 

Update:  Walter passed away into the next life on April 14th, 2011. He lived a full life.  Thank you for sharing your life Walter! :)

America

September 11th, 2010






Late August Days

August 27th, 2010

Where has the time gone this week!? Between back to school and priorities at home, I have not written a single word… I think it’s time to start a few of those “wordless” photograph days :)

It has been a beautiful, dry week with cooler temperatures. To provide a little emphasis to his “back to school” week, the boy was stung by a wasp last Monday. Yeeouch! It was a doozy… and after a couple of days of itchy red swelling, his foot is nearly back to normal but very bruised and purple-red looking. Wasp stings can be very unpleasant, moreso than a bee sting. When I am stung it’s usually just a little red and itchy and some swelling for a day or so.

But wasp stings last longer and seem to bruise more. I’m trying never to take the bees for granted either… I found myself running out in a t-shirt and shorts “just to check” on the hives a time or two this year.   Big mistake… although I was never stung severely, the bees let me know that a good veil, protective suit and a smoker can really help keep things under control.   Sometimes however, the bees go crazy for no apparent reason…  I’m glad Warren is okay, and hopefully I will never have that experience!

Speaking of going crazy, I let the chickens have the run of the garden this afternoon and they were simply nuts! They ran everywhere chomping veggies and weeds, chasing bugs and diggling little holes to wiggle into and squirm all around. I never knew chickens liked to lay on their backs! This one was too funny…  a red hybrid upside down next to a Barred Rock.

After a while she leaped up like she had forgotten herself and shook all her feathers.  We can’t complain about their oddities… they’re laying about 6 eggs per day now, either in or near the nest boxes.    

Of course the boy had to go around petting and picking them up.    He managed to pick up none other than Captain Jack all dressed in black.   Jack is five months old now.  Funny, the kiddo has that pirate wink thing going on because of the sunlight.

The good ‘ole Captain runs the show around here… even the New Hampshire Red rooster takes second fiddle to the Captain. I’ll have to get a good picture of him, but when he puffs out all his feathers he puts on quite a sight! He’s got quite the crowing call as well. He put up with the boy’s attentions and I fed him a little scratch while he held him. Jack ate the scratch grudgingly, pecking my hand with a little extra fervor.

Saw this critter cruising along the shoreline of the pond the other day.  I’ve only seen the non-poisonous variety of snakes around here, but it’s enough to give you pause if you were thinking about swimming!

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I also took a day this week to drive down to Arkansas and attend a memorial for the father of a family friend.   His son is a good friend of my brother who is serving in Afghanistan right now, and the gentleman was a navy veteran.  So it was a privilege to put on the uniform and attend, and especially to meet his family and friends.   They hail from south of a  small town, back in the rugged Ozark mountains.  

It was a beautiful afternoon.    There was a small military contingent presenting a flag, and a bugle player.  Driving home late that night promoted much reflection, and as events of that nature tend to do, put many things in perspective.  This good man’s sons and grandsons helped to bury his remains, completing a circle that we often don’t consider until later in our own lives.   

I’ll write a bit more later…  summer is quickly winding down and the garden is a mess.  I should think about planting some peas or something, but my jar of garden motivation seems to be missing right now :)   I hope you have a great weekend.



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