Abstract

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My father-in-law for forty-two years died Wednesday after a seven year battle with Alzheimer’s; that dreaded disease of the brain which also kills the body. Ugly.

Cheryl and I remarked that we are now the oldest generation within our immediate families…all of our parents and grand parents are gone. Strange feeling.

So many memories and situations. Not all were terrific, but the majority were good. Charlie always treated me with respect and with generosity. I am grateful.

Life goes on, but I feel like this abstract painting I photographed-it is full of mystic and interpretation, but leaves one wondering. I wonder about so many things.

Rest in peace, Charlie. Rest in peace. This is your time of reunion.

 

D A D

Funny thing, dad is one of few words when spelled backwards is still spelled the same. One can invert the word: start it from back to front or down to up and vice versa. Not sure why I started this post that way, except to lighten how I feel.

Dad, we miss you; your daughter and I. Cheryl, too. You left us too long ago…so, so long ago. Yet, our memories of you are alive and your blood pulses in our veins. We bare your name, and your imprint is stamped on our hearts acknowledging we are your possession.

Valerie reminded me that today commemorates the anniversary of your passing. Your grandchildren were so little then. How you loved them. And, how they would have benefitted from your presence in their lives for years to come. But, that was not to be.

We were fortunate, though. Too many don’t know their dads or are mistreated by them. Fond memories for these are far and few between-if ever. So, in that respect, we are rich to have know such a grand gentleman as yourself. Perfect-far from it, but we can take solace in that we bare the same imperfections as you. We also carry within us some of the more grand characteristics of lives lived with a sense of integrity.

To dwell on the sorrow is okay for a moment, but our lives move on. Everyone knows this truth, but it is sometimes difficult to accept. So, I conclude this more serious than usual post by simply saying this. I honestly hope that when it is my time to vacate this mortal body, my loved ones will know the same love I have for them as you gave to us.

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Stained glass from the chapel where dad’s last tribute was made by his family & many friends.

Shadows

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Shadows can be fun, mysterious, frightful, intentional, random, and even boring. Regardless of how they are viewed and make us feel, they can all be explained by a law of physics: light is interrupted by an opaque or semi-opaque object and darkness is created in the form of the object on the opposite side of the illuminated object.

The shape and degree of darkness are controlled by several factors: light intensity, angle of the light source illuminating the object, movement of the object or light source, opaqueness of the object being illuminated, location of the viewer with respect to the object, the terrain upon which the shadow falls, and the distance of the shadow.

In the case of this lengthy shadow, I was atop the lighthouse with a clear view of the shadow being cast. The sun was bright and at an angle as it was afternoon. The lighthouse was opaque, except for the glass windows which reveal the light fixture. Although the type of surface which accepted the shadow changes from land to water, both are relatively level and flat. Hence, the shadow is directly in-line with the lighthouse.

However, aside from a scientific explanation there is something else about shadows-perhaps something almost sinister. Our imaginations can run wild so-to-speak when we allow the shadow to come ‘alive’ in our minds. We ‘feel’ its presence which can send chills up our back and make us look over our shoulder repeatedly. Yet, logically, we know shadows are not alive, but they are attached to the object casting it via invisible cords. Those cords which lead us to the objects are what we really fear-the shadows only confirm their existence.

There are more to shadows than meets the eyes. It is what they reveal which makes them so special..so ethereal. Not only do they reveal a hint of the object casting the shadow, they often expose something deep inside of us which is only triggered by the faded image. When I gaze upon this scene I am reminded of warmth, relaxation and discovery-all very pleasant feelings. Fortunately, I viewed this shadow in bright circumstances and there was no negativity attached to it or the lighthouse. That is not always the case.

I recall a memory of shadows which affected me unexpectedly. Many years ago I hiked to the top of a 12,000 foot mountain in the Rockies of Colorado. The day was sunny and the weather pleasant. After a while I noticed dark, swiftly moving shadows rolling across the rocky terrain. Clouds, and then more clouds. Fast and then faster they came. With the sun blazing above them they cast menacing looking images onto the mountain top. I recall vividly how I suddenly felt so very small and insignificant in comparison to the grandeur of nature’s power. The majesty of the mountains coupled with a storm fast approaching made me very aware that had I stayed on top of that mountain when the full force of the storm passed over, I would not have returned from whence I started. I was amazed that all it took were shadows to evoke these thoughts and feelings.

With a slight chuckle I think of the movies with sinister plots and shadows which scare those acting as well as those viewing.  Feelings of fearfulness and harm cause the heart to race-all because of shadows. Or, is it the shadows? Perhaps deeper reasons exist.

Memories

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He leaned heavily toward the house and could have done considerable damage to the structure and overhead utilities. So, he had to go, as painful as it was to make the decision to take him down. I arranged the felling of this tree, paid for it’s removal, and even assisted the forester. Cheryl was sad to see him go as she and her siblings played under his branches when they were children. Memories remain even though the curled bark can no longer be touched nor the trunk scaled and branches climbed.

If this big tree could talk, he would speak of fields full of crops and of farming. He witnessed yearly plantings and harvests, grazing animals, and a farmstead with family members fulfilling their chores and friends sharing picnic lunches. Many a sunny day bathed this tree’s leaves while rain and snow drenched his roots. This old boy provided shelter for birds and squirrels who built countless nests in his secure branches. He knew the sounds of children’s laughter swinging high above the earth on homemade rope swings. This once proud maple eventually witnessed the development of a housing subdivision in the late 1950’s. Farmland was replaced by neatly organized neighborhoods with modern streets, utilities, houses and nearby amenities. Yet, he remained standing-like a sentinel.

Eventually, the process of rotting began within his lower trunk, thus reducing the ability of this tree to support the upper trunks and branches as they leaned uncomfortably toward the house. Yet, in spite of this gradual deterioration, he still managed to stand tall, grow leaves in the spring, and even provide a home for raccoons and opossums.

However, there comes a time when the risk outweighs the benefit and he had to be taken down. Watching this 125+ year old maple reduced to firewood made me think about life…and memories. Since there is no Fountain of Youth to drink from, no eternal elixir to be swallowed, and no magical spell which will stop aging; much of what will remain when we leave this home we call Earth are memories. In some cases there may be ongoing programs and inventions created by individuals, and great legacies of victories and cures. However, when one is remembered and even honored, the memories reign supreme.

Although my father fell 32 years ago, his birthday anniversary is today, February 4th. He would be 92 had he reached this day. I am grateful to have known him in a positive sort of way, and to have been loved by him even though I was only a young father when he died. To be sure, I recognize that all memories may not be pleasant for some, and may often be very painful to visit. Too many children don’t even know their father which is a travesty. However, my hope is for all of your future ones to be filled with much joy and fondness. Never take for granted the sweet moments when wonderful memories can be made, and then act upon them like there is no tomorrow. Spring is just around the corner!

 

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This Old Barn

Misc. 10-25-14 008 I chose to shoot this barn a few weekends ago when the sun was rising in the east and burning off a rather thick drapery of fog. By the time I arrived, the fog was little more than a thin illusion. But no matter, as the brilliance of the sun’s rays began to illuminate the old barn minute-by-minute, it was like watching a video image brought into focus. The closer I walked towards the structure the more I understood that I was treading on hallowed ground (quite literally).Misc. 10-25-14 012This old barn has served her purpose. She sheltered her livestock and hay alike, provided storage for the master’s tools, encouraged folk to sit on her porch after a hard day’s work, and with her proud silo she stored the treasure which was harvested. But now she is in a state of disrepair, but not forgotten or she would have been torn down years ago. No, she has accepted retirement gracefully and awaits her final fate…the same fate that awaits us all. Whether one is seven, twenty-seven, fifty-seven or eighty-seven, all will end up retired. Not in the sense of investment advertisements, for they paint a picture that is foreign to how we were originally wired. Rather, retirement is a matter of accepting what is inevitable and responding in a positive manner-regardless of what difficulties may exist or await us.Misc. 10-25-14 035

Coming of Age

The term Coming of Age is roughly translated to mean the period when a youth transitions into an adult. Ages vary from culture to culture, but the adolescent years are generally considered to be in-sync with this term. Sometimes this period is marked by special ceremonies which celebrate this passage from childhood to adulthood. However it is defined (or wherever) there is a universal sense about this period in one’s life. In America, many adults recall this season with fondness. Like the carnival sign below, very often our youth is remembered as a magic carpet ride, full of fun, fun, fun and zero difficulties or troublesome issues. That’s not exactly how I recall my youth, although there were plenty of fun times and the occasional magic.

The other morning – without any forethought – I began to think about this term which, in turn, took me back to my childhood, through my teen years and into the early adult years. Funny how the mind works sometimes because I can’t figure out what triggered this avalanche of mental images. Although this piece may seem like a vain trip down nostalgia’s road, this is not what I want to explore or present. Rather, I desire to probe the era where so much change occurred and I developed so many of my habits, convictions, perceptions and responses to life’s challenges. Perhaps some of my examples may resonate with you.

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My childhood years were pretty wonderful with few cares in my world. The only serious issues during this period were my asthma which put me in the hospital on a pretty consistent basis, and my mom’s second divorce. Life for me and my family wasn’t always easy, especially as we entered our second decade of living, and there were real hardships, and even dysfunction for a while, but mostly the memories are positive, and I count my blessings. Memories are powerful and can transform my mood in either direction. When the bad ones pop up, I strive to reject them so they won’t haunt me. When the good ones sprout I grab onto them and relish their soothing effect on my soul. Memories, moods and behavior are inseparably linked.

Enter adolescence with the exuberance and the baggage that comes with it. These are the years that most think about when a child develops into a young adult. Do you remember? Some days I would be on top of the world-I could hardly stand how great I felt- and other days I was so uncertain of myself and growing up that I barely coped. Mood swings, the blues, jumpin’ for joy at times, and periods of serious contemplation attended these lean years of growing up. Life seemed either superbly great or fearfully awful. Certainly there were many mundane days, but life as an adolescent seemed like an uncertain adventure most of the time.

Those were the days of close friendships and enemies; independence and peer pressure; standing tall and compromising; achieving and failing; caution and recklessness; confidence and self-doubting; dares and stupid follow-throughs; puberty, attractions, dating and lots of questions; first loves, first jobs, heartaches and disappointments; courage and fear; learning and repeating the same mistakes; muscle cars and fist fights; rock-n-roll and solitude; learning and ignoring; war and peace; politics-good and bad; Wide World of Sports and soap operas; bell bottoms, mini-skirts and ugly glasses; drugs and the war on drugs; family mealtimes and TV dinners; regular visits to the moon and ballistic missiles; peace rallies and riots; drag racing and getting caught; hanging out and clicks; drive-in movies and drinking. Yes, we had it all during my coming of age years, and I probably just touched the surface.

My later teen years morphed into the early twenties and shared some of the same dynamics as adolescence, but not nearly as extreme. Maturity began to overcome the child in me and what I learned actually made sense. I began to see the world in a different light and comprehended the vastness of the universe and complexities of life. There were many wonderful moments during these years, and there were just as many tough ones, but they all contributed to my development into the person I am today. During this period of my life I was similar to most other young persons, in that I thought I knew more than most adults-including my parents. You can laugh now! Time and the School of Hard Knocks have taught me the folly of such thinking.

It has occurred to me that our entire lives are really coming of age times. As we mature we become wiser, thereby reducing the mistakes, failures and mishaps. Obviously, we are never free of these negatives and their consequences. On the flip side, the positives and their consequences accompany us, as well. Each day…each year produces new experiences and sensations; some feel completely fresh and alive while others seem routine and pedestrian. Some are short-lived and others stretch-out for what seems to be too long. Regardless, we are still coming of age in the same way as when we experienced the transition from adolescence to adulthood. I believe the difference is one of perspective: the traditional concept is more or less age-based, while our current transitions are reflective-based. By that, I mean we transition from one level of understanding to another through the process of evaluating the past, present and future. We have a lifetime of experience and learning to fall back on. As we are constantly being presented with new and challenging concepts and situations, we can respond with increasing assurance.

What was once a mystery usually turns out to be a truth or a lie. Yet, some ambiguity remains in our lives because we live in a world with ever-changing dynamics. We are finite creatures with limitations which restrict our full understanding about everything we encounter. This frustrates many…the not knowing. That is not to say I turn my back on education; by no means! For each new day we probe deeper and deeper into the unknown, we discover abundant and new facts which challenge and change us. This is a wonderful thing about being human. However, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking we can know ‘it ‘ all…we will always be left wanting.

For me, the only constant is found in a God who was and is and always will be the same. This is my reality. I recognize it is not everyone’s. I find security in this truth, for no matter how much chaos surrounds me, I know God doesn’t panic or wring His hands wondering what will happen next. He has it all figured out for He is sovereign over all creation. Amazingly, all He asks of me is to simply trust Him. And, I do. Hopefully, you do, too. The ultimate coming of age will occur when I see His glorious face in the light of eternity.

Color My World

Fall Flowers 9-30-13The senses, especially our eyes, are treated to an explosion of color when the season changes from summer to fall. The foliage in our area is late this year to turning various shades of color due to milder than usual weather conditions. However, two weekends ago I was treated to this vivid reminder of how beautiful Autumn is (and will be). The subject matter is not extraordinary, but merely a potted plant at a local hardware store. The photo was taken with my Samsung’s camera. No enhancement was performed, and that’s the beauty of this image. It’s pure natural delight!Last Rose of Summer (Cheryl, 9-11-13)In contrast to the first image with the noticeable fall-like colors of ambers, oranges and such is this simple rose. Cheryl named this bloom The Last Rose of Summer (at the time she took this photo it was the last rose in her flower garden). The vibrant red petals and striking green leaves contrast sharply with the variegated plant above, yet both reveal the magnificence of nature’s glory. Soon, the trees and vines will burst into myriad colors, like a fireworks display, and the grass will give way to a carpet of leaves. The smell of burning wood will waft over us like perfume and wild animals everywhere will be scurrying about in preparation for winter. Football is in full force, and The Boys of Summer are playing like there is no tomorrow. A stroll in the woods can become a nostalgic vehicle for memories of carefree days when youth was innocent and the great outdoors was a giant playground.9-4-13 002 Speaking of vehicles, I couldn’t resist.