Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web 2 I came upon this spider and her web during an early morning outing when the dew was heavy and the sun shone through the trees. Upon snapping a few photographs my mind immediately recalled the wonderful children’s book, Charlotte’s Web, written by E.B. White in 1952. This well-renowned book of many awards and untold numbers of happy readers has thrilled children and adult alike since it was first published. Mr. White was born and lived in New York, served in WWI, attended Cornell University, was a journalist for the United Press and the New Yorker magazine (among others), author of many adult books and three beloved children’s books: Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan. We lost E.B. to Alzheimer’s in 1985.

He was a brilliant writer who occasionally conveyed his messages in unconventional ways. Take Charlotte’s Web, for instance. As one website author stated, “She manipulates events which lead to the outcome that we read about. The story of Charlotte’s web is written by Charlotte in order to save Wilbur”. White was quite humble and he avoided public recognition despite the plethora of awards he received over the many years he wrote. In this case, he hid behind Charlotte. It is rather interesting to note that his initials are an anagram of WEB. I told you he was brilliant.

I am reminded of the parallel between Charlotte’s love for Wilbur and her ultimate sacrifice and that of Christ. Just as Charlotte gave many signs by using her web-writing ability to create affection for the doomed pig, so Jesus gave us many signs by using parables, miracles and encounters to create affection for His Father in Heaven. He, too, sacrificed his life, and just as Charlotte’s offspring continued to leave a living legacy through their births, so Christ gives those who are drawn to Him eternal life.

Smoke Stacks


Misc. 10-20-14 017On a recent chilly morning I witnessed the release of steam mixed with smoke bellowing out of various manufacturing buildings. The sun was wakening and revealed herself in a blanket of light which illuminated the buildings, stacks and the fast-moving, vertical clouds in marvelous ways. Smoke stacks are created to carry away the by-products of various manufacturing operations. These stacks are in the same lower industrial district called Fairfax, in Kansas City, Kansas. This is the same area where I photographed the starlings on wires. Interestingly, during WWII, much of this area-including the old General Motors automobile plant-was transformed into a mighty war machine, producing everything from bombers to nuts and bolts. There was even an aircraft strip made for the bombers to depart from their plant. It is long gone. I can envision a Thomas Hart Benton painting as America flexed her industrial might which transformed her into an industrial giant in the twentieth century. Instead of products for war being fabricated, domestic products such as fiberglass insulation, electric motors and new automobiles are currently produced in this area.  Misc. 10-20-14 019 I don’t like pollution, but I understand there is a certain amount of it pouring out of these stacks as materials are mixed and burned, etc. I’m sure there are processes in place to scrub the pollutants out of the by-product that we call smoke. In the case of these photographs, much of what appears to be smoke is actually steam which is readily visible due to the moisture in the air and the sunlight reflecting off the steam and smoke. Most of my photographs are of nature because I am so drawn to God’s creation, but I still find beauty in other things, including smoke and steam clouds !Misc. 10-20-14 025 As I drove around the area my angle of attack shifted from the east looking west to the west looking east, into the sun. This perspective provides a more etherial quality to the images as the smoke and steam are semi-translucent. A few minutes after these photos were taken the sun leaped above the horizon and I was on my way to another project. I hope you find these images interesting, and perhaps a bit mystifying, too. Thanks for viewing my post today!Misc. 10-20-14 026

What Are They Talking About ?

10-14-14 016 A very odd occurrence happens every morning; thousands of what-appear-to-be-starlings gather together on the wires, steel posts and beams of an electric substation adjacent to a local business which is located in the lower industrial district known as Fairfax.10-14-14 002 These black streakers skirt about from wire to wire, post to post and pole to pole without any logical sense of order, but that is where the mystery stops. If you look closely, they are having quite a time of it. Each in his or her own way is sharing the latest gossip about the “other” birds on the block, and boy, is it juicy stuff. I think that is why they just keep flying around and around to share what shouldn’t be shared-much like humans. Or, perhaps it is the magnetism created by all of that electric energy? Regardless, they make for an interesting start to a morning, whether it is cloudy or sunny.  Really, what are they talking about?10-14-14 004

It Seems Like Only Yesterday…

misc 024 “It seems like only yesterday….”, so goes the old, but oh-so-true adage about our concept of time amid obvious changes that we cannot fully grasp occurring in a particular span of time. Case in point is my grandson, Elliot Michael. It was only one year ago that the little guy was born to my daughter and son-in-law. That was such a joyous occasion (If interested, I revealed that experience in a year-old post called, A Son is Born). Today, I would like to share some thoughts and feelings which are a culmination of observations and experiences I developed over the course of my life, and in particular this past year.

I was twenty-four years old when our son was born. Jared came a bit early, but we were thrilled, and totally unprepared for what the next two decades would bring to our lives. When Ramie was born two years later, we had a better understanding of what to expect and how to respond, but we were still in ‘learning mode’. As a parent, I don’t think we really ever graduate from Raising Children; we simply advance from course 101 to 203 or 404. I am still learning about parenting, and the funny thing is, I have been granted the title of grandparent without graduating from the prerequisite. Now that I have been thrust into another classroom about something I am ill-prepared for, ie. grandparenting, I will try to do my best to assist Elliot’s parents in whatever way they may need me. Cheryl is already on top of this. I am confident Elliot will receive every good thing necessary to live a fulfilling life (even in spite of me!).IMG_2001

From total helplessness to walking (still a bit unsteady), from staring blankly at objects to observing people intently, from barely following movement to never being still, and from simply mimicking what others do to cognitively acting out as a result of astute reasoning and trial-and-error is an amazing transformation in such a short period of time! It is almost inconceivable that each one of us started out this way. Truly, watching a child grow is likened to one of those time-lapse videos of a plant which breaks forth from the earth, grows the stem with leaves unfurling, and a bloom forms which opens to a flower. Or, witnessing this same dynamic with a simple caterpillar spinning a cocoon and eventually emerging as a beautiful butterfly. “Wow!” is about all I can say. The development of a child in year one is dramatic. And, there is so much more change to occur. Already, Elliot is babbling as if he were carrying on a conversation with us. I so much want to know what he is thinking. That would be fun!                                                                                                                 From the very first caress and the fragrance of a newborn’s breath, I knew my life would never be the same. That was true with my children, and is also true of my grandchild. Despite the struggles involved with an infant–little rest, a variety of illnesses, disposition issues, bumps and bruises–the payoff came when I held that little one in my arms and gave nourishment through a bottle, all the while marveling at the wonder which I embraced. The silence of such moments inevitably ended, but the spell that was cast cannot be, no, will never be broken. Elliot is now a toddler, and then there will be other stages of life which will zoom by too quickly. I know this, and so do you. So, enjoy them all…even the tough ones.

When I see my grandson, I see Jared and I see Ramie. When I witness Cheryl caring for Elliot, I see her doing the same for our children. As I have watched Matt play with Elliot, I recall doing the same with our children. And, when I watch my daughter interacting with her son I have to remind myself that this mother was once my child. And then my thoughts turn to Elliot’s future. What will he be most interested in?  Will he be athletic like his dad and mom? Will he have a sense of humor like most of his family (both sides)? Will he read a lot and enjoy nature, and like animals?  I was going to ask if he would be shy, but I believe I know the answer to that question! Too much to consider so I will attempt to focus on the here and now…the rest will sort itself out.IMG_2025

I have been truly blessed in so many ways. I feel like Lou Gehrig, the NY Yankee who contracted ALS-later to be known by his name-when he gleefully stated at his farewell address to the fans of New York, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth”. To him, being a ball player for a successful major league baseball team for 17 years while having adoring fans was paramount to a life of ultimate fulfillment (in spite of his disease). Humbly, I feel the same about being a parent and grandparent. I am reminded that one day Elliot will become a man, yet he will always be my grandson.   Happy Birthday !Elliot & Carson 10-3-14

Sigh of Relief

Autumn morning 10-20-12 006“You are free of the virus”, stated the doctor to my wife. Her response…”What?” “Your viral load is zero. You no longer have any Hepatitis-C virus in your body”. When Cheryl told me, my first thought was, “What?”. We both wondered how can that be when she was forced to stop the Interferon treatments due to severe reactions to the drug regimen after only three weeks of a forty-eight week, multi-drug administration? That was in 2008. So, since that time we have waited for a new drug to become available which has less side effects and is more effective than the treatments used during the past several decades. Fortunately, that drug is ready to be introduced to the public, and Cheryl was ready to try it. However, she doesn’t have to which is news almost too good to be true! We both breathed an extreme sigh of relief.

Cheryl acquired the Hep-C virus during blood transfusions given her after our first child was delivered by C-section. She needed blood, and got it. Unfortunately, it was tainted, and she received something she didn’t ask for or even know much about. That was 1979 when blood wasn’t screened for a host of virus’, including AIDS. We didn’t find out she had the Hep-C virus for another ten years until our family doctor noticed some elevated liver counts and prescribed further testing. We learned that Hepatitis-C is called the silent killer because it is so subtle in the way it attacks the liver and can eventually lead to liver failure or cancer. If it is active for too long and the symptoms become clearly noticeable, it is usually too late to do anything about it. In that respect it is similar to certain types of cancer.

There is the possibility that even though Cheryl’s treatment was cut way short, just enough of the viral-killing drugs stopped the virus from reproducing. Also, there is the possibility that because many of her friends and family prayed very specifically that what little treatment she received was sufficient to halt the disease, those prayers were effective. I prefer to think both theories are correct…God used the prayers of many to supercharge the medications which, in turn, stopped the virus. It may have stopped immediately or taken years, but the great news is she is free from this dark cloud of the unknown hanging over her head. This fantastic news is similar to how I felt when my younger sister was pronounced cancer-free after dealing with breast cancer a few years ago.

Am I grateful for this blessing? Of course, I am. But, that is only the beginning of my thoughts and emotions concerning the health of my best friend. For there are loved ones and acquaintances, work associates and strangers who carry with them grief and pain, loss and fear. We are all are aware of the devastation diseases such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, Ebola, etc. can have upon an individual and, sometimes, upon an entire nation. I have lost loved ones to disease and am aware of far too many who are currently dealing with cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and the list goes on and on. I don’t think there is anyone untouched in some way by some sort of disease.

For those who are the sick ones, and to those who are not (but are directly affected) my heart goes out to you. Human suffering is as old as man and the consequences today are no more or less than those of yesteryear. Pain and loss are not respecters of anyone, any time or any place. I have witnessed the grief of so many in my brief lifespan, but by grace I have not become callous by it. On the contrary, when I learn of another’s plight, I can almost feel their pain and the heartache which accompanies the illness and treatments. I guess one might call this association a form of empathy. I state this because I, simply one among many, am affected when another is infected. I have seen some of the greatest acts of compassion during the greatest of trials, and for every one of them I stand in awe of what others do to assist those in need. And, I praise God for what He does. Whether He heals or doesn’t, He is always available to comfort.

I wish to end on a positive note by stating that there is much to rejoice about in spite of the scope of disease. New medical treatments and breakthroughs for specific diseases are actually eliminating some and curbing others to a point where folks may once again experience a better quality of life than ever thought possible just a few years ago. Although there is so much more that can be done to prevent or stop the flow of diseases like cancer, we are gaining ground. Just as God has placed intelligence within the soul of man, He continues to expand his mind to find cures, and increases the compassion of others to comfort the hurting. I have learned that there is usually something good which comes out of something bad. That is His way. I do not understand it, but accept it, and rejoice because of it.