Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RANDOM THOUGHTS

                                             
It seems like only yesterday that it was April and we just got back from Arizona. I was full of enthusiasm for the Minnesota summer ahead and I had a lot of projects lined up. Some of them fun and some of them work. On this, the middle of August and the dog days of summer, I have safely put a check mark along side of most of them. Mission accomplished. This morning as I walked to the mailbox to get the newspaper there was a bite in the air. Fog and dew are now the norm. The nights are getting longer and the warmth of daylight comes later and later in the day. I noticed the hostas are done blooming and the daylilies are drying up too. Now, at least for my flower gardens, the blooms are all finished for the season.

Yes, the best part of summer has been spent and fall looms on the horizon. The lake has weeded over and the vegetables are being harvested. Fairs are over and kids are getting ready to return to school. A few errant leaves have already fallen-- giving up early it seems.  Am I rushing the seasons? I don’t set the pace, I just write about it. Oh the summer heat still comes back from time to time but it’s deceiving for summer has gone its way. Each month is also another chapter gone in this year of  our earth’s life. Each year, another page in our own personal book of life. We seniors’ grow tired and uneasy come autumn and soon we will head south once more looking for that elusive eternal summer but yet the pages still seem to turn and the parts of the book we still have left to experience grows ever thinner. Geography doesn’t help slow anything down and despite our efforts, someday there will be an ending ---we won’t get to write about it-- we just get to live it.

There was a family reunion last July. The seven surviving siblings of my family are trying to pass the torch and keep the tradition going. This year was the fortieth time we got together as a family. As the oldest I never dreamed that the day would come when I would have relatives I can no longer identify. Snuck in the back door they did. My siblings and I are showing serious signs of wear and that’s just a nice way of saying we’re getting old and wrinkled. To be truthful the second generation of this family is showing some effects of the trip too, but life goes on, it has too.


Like summer, we seniors too are fading. We used to go to the doctors when we were sick but now we find ourselves having all of these scheduled checkups. They’re just trying to find some hint that something isn’t working the way it should anymore. They have us drawing clocks and remembering words they just uttered to us a few minutes ago. They want to know if our kids are abusing us. Hell, I could take a little abuse if they’d just come and see me. Half the foods I used to eat are no longer good for me. Half of the other half doesn’t agree with me anyway. Most of what’s left isn’t edible, so I’m back to oatmeal and Melba toast. I got a recipe the other day for fried kale. I have found if you use lots of oil in the pan, it makes it easier to scrape into the trashcan. Just kidding Pat. Had a funny thing happen this morning.  My dog Molly was laying on the porch sleeping with one ear flopped over. A humming bird decided to see if there was anything worth eating in there. Never saw that dog get up that fast before. Until next time

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

COUNTY FAIR



A while back Pat and I went to the Crow Wing County Fair. We try to get down there almost every year and have found that not a lot changes. Same old cows and horses, just a year older, and I guess that goes two ways. But the smell of the barn brings back some farm memories to me that need refreshing from time to time. I have always said, if I had it to do all over again, it would have been on a farm of my own. Something about roosters crowing in the morning and a kinship with a bunch of animals, whose yearning eyes look like Labrador dogs at a rib fest. 

The rest of the exhibits are fun, too, but all of this is just part of the reason we go, and not the main one at that. It’s the people we meet and jabber with that makes it all worthwhile. Pat taught nursing at C.L.C. for a long time, and so she knows a lot of people in the Brainerd area. If not a student, another teacher. If not a teacher, then a patient she took care of somewhere. Then, surprise, surprise every now and then when, believe it not, we find someone who fesses up to knowing me, too. I often try to imagine what couples say about us after we leave. Probably goes something like this. “Wow, the years have been tough on him, haven’t they?  I wonder what she sees in him, anyway. She looked good. Bet he was looking for a nurse when he found her. Old farts get kind of needy in their old age, don’t they?”

All joking aside, the county fairs are the grass roots of the get-togethers that are called fairs. It’s a place where you can show off your canning, crafts, paintings, and photography skills. Where 4H’ers can display their animals and farming skills. For many of them, it’s a prelude to the state fair a few weeks later. It’s a place where farming equipment, from a time gone by, is dusted off and put on display. A place where the little ones get to spin around on the carnival rides until they throw up all the candy and ice cream they just ate. Ah yes, good times.

I remember talking to my father once about farmers and I told him, “They always look so tired.” He said, “Most of them are tired, but it’s that good kind of tired that comes from working at something you love so much that you don’t know when to stop.” It’s a job that is never finished. It’s a job when husbands, wives, and entire families come together to make it work, because it’s bigger than one person can ever handle, and move over prostitutes, because it’s older than your profession. Later, we went down to the grandstand, found a bench, and took in some Country Classics music. Somewhere between “The year that Clayton Delaney Died” and “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” my emotions got the best of me. I looked at Pat and said, “Damn Allergies.”


The Crow Wing County Fair has resisted change over the years. Efforts to serve alcohol, and charge for admission, have been rebuked. People love it for the way it is, and has been, and they know that once the progressive thinkers get their way and the nostalgia wears off, it will become just another beer party or money maker, and all of the wistful affection for the ways of the past will go away. “Yes, they’ll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree, as they lay me ‘neath the green, green grass of home.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

WHERE HAS IT ALL GONE?



It was 1984 when we first started looking for a lake place. We didn’t have a lot of money so we were looking for a “fixer upper.” We found an old trailer house, on a lot with a garage, on Big Pine Lake. I brought an ice auger with me when we met the realtor that day so I could drill through the ice to see if it was sand or muck out front, and bringing up sand, we both said together, “We’ll take it.” So much has happened in the last 33 years. We used the trailer for a while and then we built a new home and retired there. Built another garage and fixed up the old one for all of the toys.

Seasons sped by, filled with a never-ending litany of get-togethers. For me, it was the culmination of a dream I’d had for a long time. A place at the lake for us to retire and a place for the kids to come and visit. For many years it was the family entertainment center. Christmas, Memorial Day and 4th of July; deer hunting and opening of fishing. Visiting grandkids, swimming and water skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. It was Crosslake and why wouldn’t you be happy? Still, I used to take a boat ride around the chain and tell her, “Someday Babe, we’re going to be like the Jefferson’s and move on up to the east side.” She’d smile and say, “No, we’re not.”

Then something happened and it was subtle at first. The kid’s visits were farther and farther apart. Something was always going on with them. Johnny had softball or Susie had dance competition. Their friends and neighbors wanted them to go on trips with them. Work became more complicated for them and they couldn’t get away. Then graduations, college, and weddings, and all of the time Grandma and Grandpa sat and waited for another chance to entertain. The allure just didn’t seem to be there anymore. Then six years ago grandma took sick, and for a while they did their best to visit. Then she passed away, and now my world revolves around my companion Pat and I, my friends, my writing, and Molly, my dog. Oh my son comes when he can, but he works a lot so it isn’t much but I give him credit, he tries hard to be here for me. Last fall I bought a house in Arizona. I have lung disease now and need to avoid the winters. Pat and I enjoy our relationship and that part is wonderful but it’s all so different and I’m sure that’s true for both of us.

I have so many friends that had the same dream I had but have moved on, back to the cities or closer to family. Some of them widowed, some of them not able to take care of themselves any longer. I know my time for that is coming, but I don’t like to think about it. The house is cluttered now with thirty some years of pictures and mementos that I don’t have the energy or desire to go through and weed out.


So I take one day at a time, and try to find happiness wherever I can. I go to church and thank the good Lord for the good life I have had, and ask for a few more good years. I go to coffee and reminisce with the rest of the old farts who have the same problems I do. Pat doesn’t like me talking like this because she’s more of an optimist than I am. Maybe that’s why she’s so good for me. This summer just started and it’s already half over. Lord, where does the time go? Lord, where has my life gone?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

MOVING ON

                                                            

Parishioners of Immaculate Heart Church, here in Crosslake, said goodbye to Father Ryan Moravitz a few weeks back. There are a lot of accolades that I could use to describe the man but with respect for his successor, I will only say he will be missed and I’m sure that’s the way he wants it to be. I have a couple of good reasons to feel so thankful for knowing him. He was just new here when my wife passed away and her funeral was one of the first ones he officiated at. He was a comfort to me at a difficult time. Later on, I was blessed to go with him and others to Rome on a faith filled pilgrimage and got to know him as a man too-- and not just a Priest.

There is always some sadness when you have to say goodbyes to Priests, Pastors, anyone you have turned to for religious guidance and this happens a lot in the Catholic Church. Maybe Father Ryan said it best at his last Mass when he said, Priests are expected to mimic the Apostles to some extent and that’s how they preached and taught while they were here on this earth. They did their job and then they moved on. That being said it isn’t easy to say those goodbyes for either him or us, but its what’s expected of pastors and we his parishioners need to accept it.

I have said a lot of goodbyes in my lifetime besides teachers and pastors. At graduation you leave all your classmates behind. Anyone who has retired after working for years with friends and fellow workers, knows all of a sudden the feeling of not having much in common with people you worked with and for, all those years and soon you drift away.  Or you buy a new home and leave long loved neighbors behind or perhaps they move and leave you behind. You watch your kids grow up and go their separate ways in life, and yes you don’t say goodbye but you do have a degree of separation you’ve never experienced before. Then there is the end of life goodbyes and those are the toughest because there is a finality that eventually sinks in, that you will never see them again. At least not on this earth.

But as each door closes, another opens and new friends, new loves, new relationships and neighbors come into your life. None of them are meant to replace anyone who was part of our lives before but rather they are new friends and family you never knew existed or for that matter knew were coming. Its all part of this journey we call life. I have often said that as we reach our senior years, if we could somehow dissect our minds and personalities, you would find bits and pieces of everyone we ever came in contact with that we have let into our lives. For those of us that took the good bits and pieces and not the bad, we gained something we never could have found in any other place and out of that, we became a far better person and a more complete person.

As for the people of Immaculate Heart. Father Ryan’s leaving is not simply our loss and somebody else’s gain. It’s for us a new adventure, a new opportunity to get it right and yes, somewhere, someplace, where Father Blake our new Pastor just came from, I’m sure someone is feeling just like we do. 



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

THE TREE

                                                           
I think for all of us that live up north, volunteer trees poke their heads up all over your property. Often times in gardens or flower plots and you are constantly pulling them out or cutting them down. Its just part of nature and my yard is no exception. But last year, down on the shoreline, in the rocks that I use to rip rap my shoreline, there was a surprise. A tree started growing amidst the rocks where seemingly there is no soil. At first I was going to go in there and pull it out but then thinking it wouldn’t survive the winter, I just let it be. This spring it was back and when it leafed out I was surprised to see it was a sugar maple and a nice tree. There are none of them around as far as I know. The seed must have washed in from somewhere else on the lake. I planed to let it grow.

I remember a bible verse that said, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.” My little great grandson was born this year and right now he and I are the Alpha and the Omega of my family. It seemed so ironic to me that his birth seemed to correlate with this tiny tree on my shoreline. For some elusive reason this baby boy and that little tree came into my life at the same time. I will never live to see either one of them grow up but it is my hope that as the years go by and they both grow in stature that I will be able to attach some significance to this and share my story with him or his parents.

At some point I will have to relinquish this home and move to something more accommodating. I try not to think about that but it’s always in the back of my mind. At that time, the tree and the house will belong to someone else and its significance will be lost. Maybe they’ll cut it down or maybe-- and hopefully by that time-- it will be too nice to cut down and it will be a beautiful shade tree. If that is the case I want my great grandson to know it’s there and to know why it’s there. If nothing else, for him to come to this lake, get into a boat, anchor out front and bond a little.

Joyce Kilmer wrote a poem about a tree that I learned in grade school a long, long, time ago. He wrote, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” The last verse said, “Poems are made by fools like me but only God can make a tree.” Maybe by that time he will be old enough to realize that both of them are a product of Gods creation. That a foolish old man wanted to leave him something that would grow and change with him. Something that he hoped would remind him of this special place and of that same old man, who by that time will only be a memory.

A few years ago I went back to my hometown and the place where I grew up. It’s now just a parking lot. The house was never much, even way back then, but love and companionship from a caring family made up for the rotting boards and windows. I stood in the middle of this gravel lot and tried to remember what it once looked like and then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Lilac bush. It was all that remained but for me it was all I needed to bring the picture back. I stood by that bush and cried for a while. Cried sadly for what time had done to my family but also happily that the bush was still there. Maybe that’s what brought all of this on today.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CHANGING CLIMATE

                                              

This whole question of climate change intrigues me. We know it’s happening, we can document that. We know why it’s happening to some extent and we can document that. So the question is what can we do about it, and why is it so controversial.

As long as we choose to live on this earth we can’t help but do things that are detrimental to the earth. Even without burning fossil fuels, as long as we leave bodily wastes, inhale oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, we pollute the environment. There are things we can do to mitigate the effects of this but we can’t stop it from happening. The population of the earth in 1800 was 1 billion people. It is now7.5 billion and by the end of this century it will be 11.1 billion. I am not sure where the tipping point is, when the earth is two small to accommodate the population and all their waste, but I am sure there is one.

It seems to be a no brainer that in order to keeps this place inhabitable we should do what we can to slow down this self destructive process. There are natural processes where the earth can and will, heal itself but we have overwhelmed these processes to where they can no longer keep up. In Hamlet we read Shakespeare’s words “To be or not to be, that is the question.” I find that soliloquy to be a good question to ask ourselves when we talk about the long-term prognoses for the human race. At the same time if you’re old enough to read this and understand it, it’s probably not applicable to you. It’s a slow process, albeit one that feeds on itself and at some point will run away with itself. The question then becomes, not if we will survive but if our grandchildren will survive to see it. I guess it basically says if you don’t care about the next generation’s comfort, then no problem. If you do, it’s a big problem and most experts are pointing to the end of this century for the real trouble to start.

I want to talk about Emily. She is my 8-month-old great granddaughter. There is a very good chance Emily will be here at the turn of the next century to witness this. So if I choose to say what is happening is all a hoax, because economically it brings a hard ship on me right now to believe otherwise; then what I am saying is what is most important to me right now, is making money and Emily can just deal with it when it happens. It’s her and her generation’s problem, not mine. Maybe I did help cause it but right now its not impacting me and if what I have said is true, at some point its going to happen anyway, despite our best efforts, so why waste the time dealing with it. Don’t worry-- be happy.

Cancer patients are sometime told they have no chance of surviving their disease. At the same time they are told if they are willing to put up with the discomfort of treatments, maybe they could have another year or two. Surprisingly most of them want that year. It’s called hanging on to life. If we do what we can, to slow down this process of self-destruction, we give billions of people like Emily the chance to have this same life expiernce we had on this planet. The choice is ours. To be or not to be. 


            

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

UNDERSTANDING

                                                         

Jimmy Reeves once sang a song called, “I love you because.” It started out; “I love you because you understand dear, every little thing I say and do.” Yes it was just a love song and although it might be excessively sentimental for this application, it’s meaning can well be applied to everyday and everybody in our society. Maybe that’s what we all are looking for in life. Someone who doesn’t want to necessarily change us but loves us just the way we are, faults and all. To not always see us as right or wrong but yet be understanding of why we believe what we do and want nothing more then for us to be at peace. That was the original premise of this country for its people and yet we have many who aren’t going to buy into that. It gets in the way of their progressive or liberal views.

When the final chapter of history is written for this country, it will be noted that this once great country, which conquered half the world 75 years ago, could not conquer its own greedy nature. They will talk about a country that went from arms around each other’s shoulders, to hands around each other’s throats. Smart enough to invent things no one ever dreamed would exist but too dumb to read the proverbial handwriting on the wall of its greed. They will talk about drugs, alcohol abuse and how they abandoned their Christian roots, but even that will pale in the stories of greed, extortion and power that are tearing this country apart.

We have people in this nation who don’t care what anybody thinks and they prove it in the way they do business each and every day. Then we have the eternal optimists whose world is always glowing rainbows and can’t be bothered with the truth, because they left reality behind them years ago. Like Jack Nicolson said in a ‘Few Good Men,’ “They can’t handle the truth.” Then we have the realists who see what is happening but seem to be powerless to do anything about it.

It pains me to write like this and for many of you it pains you to read it because you are one of those who can’t believe it’s happening. “Leave me alone” you say. “I’m not the problem here, the problem is in Washington.” Yes, But if you’re not part of the solution-- then you are part of the problem. But yet, we are the people who could turn this all around because you don’t like those greedy politicians anymore then I do and really-- we could easily be the majority.

Like waves that tear at a sandy beach, until there is nothing left but ugly useless rocks and sharp crevices, so go’s the moral fabric this country was built on and in the end like a cancer that kills its host but slowly dies with them, we all lose. I once had a lady tell me,” I can’t read what you write anymore because it makes me so sad.” I took that as a positive. It makes her sad because she knows it’s true but doesn’t know how to change it and that helplessness in her, is what is truly sad.


The world will never be perfect. Human nature will always provide objectionable people in society.  It always has and they will always rock the boat, but the real problem isn’t that we allow them to rock the boat—it’s letting them steer the boat.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

ANGER

                                                           

I have often wondered why anger seems to be so prevalent in our society now days. I have also wondered why we seem to be coming more and more desensitized and accepting of anger, as an everyday occurrence in our lives. Indeed there are some in our society that seem to have a penchant for anger, wearing it like a big badge of courage. They see boisterous people as being in charge and quiet mellow people as being weak and timid. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Social media has played a big part in fostering anger. It gives some a bigger platform to spout off and incites others into behaving badly. It not only condones what they are talking about but also recruits some who are on the fringes to join in. Anger is often portrayed as strength, instead of the weakness it is. Many times it manifests with just a smattering of deceptive statements that have no factual legs to stand on. Anger fosters other bad reactions when trying to defend it, like lying and even physically threatening others with some kind of retaliation. It can turn you into something you never knew you could be. It is not conducive to rational thinking.

Society as a whole has been much more accepting of public anger displays and some even find it motivating. We just went through a presidential election and selected a man who is intolerant of those who differ with him. Calling people names and belittling them. He is on many fronts; having to learn how to behave, as that just wasn’t one of his virtues. For the sake of all of us and for our country, I hope he can change. At the same time we have news reporters that do all they can do to fan the flames over every controversial statement that is made. CNN and Fox could not be more different. It’s as if they want to belittle and belie those who don’t agree with them and not have a meaningful discussion of the issues.

When our children were young we tried to shield them from anger and disagreements. We didn’t want them to think or learn they had to resort to that to communicate with others. Now days its almost imposable to keep them out of the influence of angry people because it is so common place. I remember as a twelve-year-old, going up town in Staples to pick up my newspapers for my paper route and seeing two men spill out of a saloon and proceed to pummel each other in the street. I remember that I, a little kid, screamed at them to stop. I was crying and scared yes but more then that I wanted them to keep from hurting each other. They did stop and walked opposite ways with bloody faces. Sixty years later I haven’t forgotten that. Fights like that were rare in Staples but now-- well just read the paper.

I walk each day with my dog Molly. She lives in her own little world of chasing squirrels and exploring this world. Never angry, wanting to be everyone’s friend, totally subservient. She walks up to everyone with her head down and her tail wagging just wanting to be a friend. And we as humans think we’re the head of the food chain.



Friday, July 7, 2017

4TH OF JULY MEMORIES

                                                

Somewhere in the middle of summer vacation, was the fourth of July and although it really wasn’t the middle of summer vacation, it seemed like it. The first half of summer break was always better then the last half because you had been waiting nine months for it to come. June had been packed with so many things to do, projects that I had saved up to accomplish as soon as school was out. But with most of them now done, summer was already boring me with my carefree life style and the fourth was a welcome break. Most days we hitchhiked out to the old swimming hole in the river north of town to beat the heat. The swimming hole was right across from the golf course and most golfers were more then happy to give us a ride. I think of today’s world and how many mom’s and dads would have let their teen age kids hitchhike with strangers and go to a place in the river five miles from home where there had been an old mill and the currents had washed out a hole ten feet deep around the end of a pier that still survived? No dressing rooms, no lifeguards, no toilets. You just left your things on the riverbank and no one every bothered them. To be truthful, I had nothing to steal anyway but an old pair of cut offs and my worn out tennis shoes with a peanut butter sandwich stuffed in the toe. But by the fourth of July, the river was usually running low and most of the fun that there was to be had was now over. So as always, I looked forward to the 4th of July celebration.

The year I remember and the year of which I now write was some kind of a anniversary for that little town I grew up in. One of the contests that would be held in conjunction with the celebration was who could grow the most unusual beard? My dad took the challenge and grew a beard on just the left side of his face and kept the other side clean-shaven. Dad didn’t win however because some old codger who lived in the woods north of town, and hadn’t shaved for forty years came to town with his beard woven into a braid that went to his knees. There was a huge parade on the 4th complete with a National Guard tank on rubber treads and the highlight was when they shot off the big cannon right in the middle of town. Now it was a blank charge but the concussion still took out the windows in the Red Owl store much to the amusement of all of us kids.

That night my now clean-shaven father took all of us kids to Pine Grove Park for the baseball game under the new outdoor lights and then came the fireworks to cap off the evening. The game was free and as much as I loved baseball it was my first chance to watch the local team play. The team kept the game close and they went into the last inning all tied up and then our left fielder hit one over the fence to win it. I was ecstatic. Then came the fireworks and for a while it was the usual rockets and exploding projectiles and the crowd owing and awing. Then suddenly it was dark and all of a sudden out in center field the fence came alive and a huge American Flag was burning, red white and blue. I was mesmerized and when the last embers fell to the ground I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as if I had been there when the Marines hoisted our flag on Iwo Jima. I went home that night in a patriotic fervor, content that I lived in the greatest country on the face of the earth.


Postscript.---If you haven’t had a chance to preview my new book, stop into Reeds Country Market or the Frame Shop and take a look at it. I bet you’ll like it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A TORNADO



Last year, July 12th, the storms that ravaged Nisswa, and the Gull Lake area, spared my home from damage, but they made my mind flash back to 1965—the first year I was on the Fire Department—and the deadly tornados that tore through Fridley and Spring Lake Park. It was May 6th of 1965 and last year was the fiftieth anniversary of those storms. I was 24 years old, and not only just a rookie on the department, but an impressionable one at that.

There is s saying, “The calm before the storm.” It’s a calm that is filled with fear and trepidation, of not knowing what’s coming. But there is a “calm after the storm too” and it’s one filled with shock and disbelief, of what just took place. Often there is a feeling of hopelessness, confusion and not knowing, what to do next, except to be thankful you survived. When you are called to help and you look out over an entire neighborhood, absolutely flattened by the winds, and see people walking aimlessly on the debris-filled streets because they don’t know where to go, or what to do next, it’s heart wrenching. Your training tells you one thing, your heart tells you another. Even though you came to help, you’re not sure just what to do. You see an old lady sitting on her cement steps with just a basement hole behind her, where her house once stood. Her eyes fixed and wide open and her face expressionless, deep in shock, holding all she has left. Her cat. I wanted to go to her but you can’t because you’re too busy. You hear the gas lines still hissing, and somewhere in the rubble, a phone is ringing. You hear a scream and uncontrollable sobbing, and you know they found another victim. Before the night was over a second tornado would come through—an hour after the first one. There were 5 or 6 tornados in all, with thirteen fatalities and hundreds who were injured.

I went home late that night, not knowing what I would find—there were no cell phones in those days. My brand new home, on the other side of the river, was only on the outskirts of the storm but it had no siding left on it. It had been stripped by the wind, and there were very few shingles left on the roof. The hail had wrecked my car. My wife was sitting in the kitchen with the kids in the dark, scared and with tears in her eyes. One of the things about being called out in storms is, you often have to abandon your own family. I told her, “Dry those tears, everything will be fixed. I wish,” I said, “I could accurately convey to you what I saw and heard this night. We are the lucky ones, honey, believe me.” Over the next thirty years on the Department there would be many more storms and disasters, but nothing like that night. After that, when we would get called to help at storms, my thoughts would always go back to that May 6th night in Fridley.


We have come a long way since then. Sunday night the 12th, I tracked the storms on my phone. The media and the sirens gave us plenty of warning, and I knew we weren’t directly in its path. I prayed that those who were would be safe. It turned out that no one was hurt, and that is what counts. The people of Fridley, back then, were a resilient people. They rebuilt their homes, patched up their wounded, and sadly, buried their dead. A year later you would never know what happened to them that night. Not unless you were in the storm or were called to help.

Friday, June 16, 2017

IT''S SUMMER

                                                          

So today is the day we all live for, June 1st and although not the official start of summer it seems to be the day when we all start celebrating summer. May is always a fickle time as when Frost wrote, “The wind blows cold, when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” But June is the hump month; when at least in the Central Minnesota lake country, the tomatoes plants can finally go in the ground. The boat yards, where thousands of blue covered pontoons and boats sat out the winter are now mostly empty and the crafts are back in the lake where they belong. Docks with squeaky wheels got pushed out into the depths and fishing boats now putt along the shorelines trolling for the big one. Patio doors are opened and houses are being aired out. In a week or so school will be out and children’s voices, hard at play, will ring across the lake.

Noisy honkers paddle along the shore with goslings bobbing behind them looking for a lucrative lawn to gobble on. Fawns on wobbly legs scamper to keep up with mom and cautious motorists watch, not only for the does crossing the roads but what is behind them. Babies of every size and shape our coming out of nests and burrows. Alfred Tennyson wrote in his poem Locksley Hall and I quote, “In the spring a young mans fancy lightly turns to thought’s of love.” I maintain it goes way beyond those young men, if the birds, fish, and critters out here are any example of love and courtship.

I still love summer so much, even though I am in the autumn of my life and not as active anymore. As I write today, outside of my office window humming birds dart in and out of the feeder. If man could build a plane, that flew like they do, we would rule the skies. A Robin sits on a fence post a few feet away, half of an earthworm hanging out of her mouth. She built her nest over my back door so she gets interrupted a lot as I come and go but she has successfully hatched a brood and now she has to feed them. Their little bills point skyward waiting for a morsel.

By the time this gets printed June will be mostly over and it will all be old news. As much as June is so repetitive each year it never stops amazing me. There was a time in my life when the rigors of everyday life overshadowed anything Mother Nature had to offer me but old age and retirement now bring it all front and center. I look to Hemingway for a proper explanation of it all. He wrote, “When spring came, even the false spring there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” I have stood and looked into the office window of where Earnest Hemmingway wrote. It is a secluded room over a garage behind the house in Key West and now I know why.


There will be June days long after we are all gone and even if people are successful at destroying all Mother Nature brings to us, she will fix it again and it will live on.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TO THE GRADUATES



So its graduation time again and thousands of young people will take the next step on their trip into adulthood. For some it will be more education, probably something specifically tailored to their life ambitions. For others it will be time to go to work and make their own way in life, free to pursue their dreams. For many, they don’t know what those dreams are yet but they are willing to search for one, instead of waiting for it to come to them and they will make a more educated decision later. For a few, sadly, they will spend a few years living in their parents basement, playing video games and drifting around, until they realize that life will go on without them, if they don’t want to be part of the process.

Knowing what I know now, most of what you learned in school was just the basics, including learning how to learn. It was a preparation time and now comes the curriculum that makes every day a learning day for the rest of your life. So much of our education comes from examples. Choices to make based on someone else’s past experiences. A cheap, but very good education if you pay attention. You see there are as many bad choices in life to make as good ones. Maybe even more. Great things will come to those who pay attention.

Our country greatly needs leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and make good choices. If you search the annals of history you will find good examples of people who filled those roles. If you look at Washington right now you will find a lot of those bad examples I talked about.  I guess it’s up to you to try and change the course of this country and not waste the lessons of those good choices.

One of the things I’ve learned about life is that when choices are to be made, there are always two sides. Getting on what you believe to be the right side of things can be unpopular sometimes but all you can do is try to educate people as to why you think your way is better and tell the truth. Then if your way is not the accepted way, you have to yield graciously to what was chosen by the masses and make the best of it. In life, as in sports there are winners and losers. Being a good winner is paramount only to being a good loser also. At the end of the civil war General Ulysses Grant said to the Confederate troops and I paraphrase, “Go home to your loved ones and lets quit this foolishness. It’s a time to heal.” This was the mark of a great leader filled with compassion for his fellow men that were once his enemy.

Society has evolved to a point where human lives, human suffering have lost much of the true meaning of what they should have represented to us. We give a lot of attention to our heroes who died in foreign conflicts to keep our country free. We owe it to them to take up their crosses and preserve what they fought so hard for. Growing up in a poor family from the wrong side of the tracks my father told me, “Remember that you’re just as good as everybody else--- but not one damn bit better. “ That goes for all of you that are going out into the world today. I wish you peace, happiness, and success-- but mostly always-- love for one another.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HELLO WALLS

                                                
The year was 1960 and I lived in Minneapolis but my heart was still in my hometown of Staples. Every Friday evening when the whistle blew at the shop, where I worked, I would point my old 53 Mercury north and go home for the weekend. Home to my family and her. Her, being the girl I would later marry. I worked the evening shift and I didn’t get off until midnight so the trip was a long, lonely one of a hundred and fifty miles in the dark. She was only a senior in high school that year but she would wait up for me at home. Oh, her mother wouldn’t allow me in at that time of the night, so I would drive slowly by the house and toot the horn and she would shine her flashlight out her bedroom window in acknowledgment. Somehow I always felt better knowing I was back home with the ones I loved and she was still there waiting to see me too.

I was hooked on country music back in those days and on that long trip home my radio would be tuned to W.D.G.Y, which back then was the twin cities country music station. The farther I got from the cities, the fainter the radio would get and pretty soon it was nothing but static and I would twist the knobs trying to get just one more song but in vain. At last it would die out and so I would shut it off. The last forty miles were in silence. No 8 tracks or cassettes or disks in those days. I had a buddy who had a Chrysler product that had a turntable under the glove box and it played 45 records. Talk about distracted driving, flipping records while you drove.

I still like that old country music I used to enjoy and now with a satellite radio it’s always on in my car. Sometimes I have to humor Pat when were traveling and try something else but always when I’m alone the dial goes back to “Willy’s Road House” and those oldies but goodies. County Music for some reason isn’t always about the best of times. Back then though, times were good for me and I just enjoyed the music for what it was and not for what it said.

Fifty years later and shortly after my wife passed away, I was coming back from the cities one lonely night on that same old road, while I had been down there visiting my son’s family. The old country classics were on and a man by the name of Faron Young came on singing that timeless classic “Hello Walls.” It went something like this. “Hello Walls, how’d things go for you today. Don’t you miss her since she up and walked away? And I bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me. But lonely walls I’ll keep you company.” I switched the station.


For so many years it had been just a song about someone else’s bad luck but now fifty years later it was so relevant. She hadn’t walked away, she had just gone away but never the less the song still fit me like a glove. Time and old age have healed my heart now and I can listen to that song once more. My walls are not so lonely anymore. Pat, and my family see to that. But I write this for all the lonely people out there who have only the walls to talk too and no one to sit across the table from. It’s my hope that soon, you will have more then those walls to keep you company.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

MY PEAK

                                                         

Someone once asked me when I felt I’d hit my peak in life. At first I was taken back a little and became a little defensive because I felt they were implying that I was going down hill. And although that might be true, no one wants to hear about that but then I became more analytical about the statement they had made and I thought-- were they talking about physically or mentally? I admit physically there has definitely been a turn for the worse. One look in the mirror or one walk around the block will prove that out. But mentally I’m not so sure where or when my life’s peak was, or if I ever got there, or if I ever will. You see all of us are the sum total of our life’s experiences and although I’m not getting around the way I used too and I’m playing bocce ball instead of basketball, I am still putting one foot in front of the other and getting out and meeting people and learning things I never knew. For me at least, that’s what life is all about.

The people in the know say that physically most of us top out in our late twenties or early thirties. Now because I can no longer remember what my physical prowess was in my late twenties or early thirties I guess I’ll take their word for it. If you were to show our physical life’s journey on a graph and you live to be eighty-five it seems to me to be a short steep hill getting to the top and a long meandering one coming down. It also seems to me that when I analyze this graph and try to convert it to the mental side of life, I come up with the opposite. When I was in my late twenties and full of testosterone and energy and seemingly at the top of my game physically-- knowing what I know now—I was dumb as a post. Even people coming out of college in their middle to late twenties with PHD degrees have a lot to learn in their fields. Most of their knowledge will come later in life when they put into action, what they learned in school. At least what they learned in the classroom.

I once went to a medical doctor who was so fresh out of school he still smelled like the cadaver’s he’d been practicing on. This guy’s acne looked like an adolescents at thirteen and he couldn’t even cover it with a beard because he couldn’t grow one yet. His stethoscope still had the price tag on it and his white coat fit him like a sack. He examined me then left the room for a while—presumably to look something up or consult with another doctor—then came back and said, “I think what you have,” and that’s where my suspicious nature kicked in. I didn’t give a rip what he thought I had, I wanted to know what he knew I had. Now to play the devils advocate against myself, everybody needs to start someplace right, even if you’re a doctor. I’m not implying that doctors right out of college aren’t fit to practice medicine. I’m just saying that twenty years down the road they will be a far better doctor. Or an Engineer, Nurse, Firefighter or a Farmer or most anything except an athlete. But twenty years from now Dr. Jr. might have a few of the things eating at him that he’s been treating in others because mentally we keep growing but physically most of us are going down that long proverbial hill. Now there are places, where for a while you can make up with a lack of speed and agility-- both signs of aging by the way-- with cunning moves and not making so many dumb mistakes. A sign of having been there and done that and fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice shame on me.

                                                            
































Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BABIES

                                                                    

As I have gotten older I’ve turned into a far more sentimental person then I used to be. I used to just get misty eyed over patriotic displays and the death of friends and family. Two different kinds of tears I guess. But something happened to me in the last six months that hasn’t happened before in my lifetime. Three little great grand babies came into my family. “So what’s sad about that you ask? You should be giddy about it.” I am happy and proud beyond my wildest expectations about these babies but yet sad underneath when I look at the world these little ones will have to grow up in. Oh, not their immediate world, they come from good families where they will be loved and cared for. I’m talking about the world they will inherit beyond the nest.

There is a special sentiment for babies of all species and maybe it has to do with their vulnerability and helplessness as they enter into the world. Even the beasts of the forests will fight to the death to protect their young. I’m sure the parents and families of these little ones I’m talking about will go to great lengths to keep these babies safe too. At some point however the tide flows back out and they flow with it and they become part of a greater society and the parental safeguards that protected them go away. For you see, in this world of today, we as humans are turning a blind eye to the future of our young, when it pertains to the world we will leave them to live in. It’s not only the fact that we have poisoned the waters they have to drink and the air they have to breathe-- all seemingly in the name of progress. We also gave them a world laced with drugs and alcohol, cigarettes, greed and promiscuity. As much as decent people abhor this, those in charge, with some convoluted theory about peoples “rights” allow it and by their inability to control it—aid and abet it.

It is a frustrating job indeed to raise your young with high ideals and respect for the earth and those around them. To instill in them a love for God and country and a desire to be decent and a yearning to be a productive part of an ever greater society. Only to have them run head on into those who want to use them as pawns to farther their goals. These in effect brand everything you taught them about growing up the right way – to instead be wrong and inconsequential.

Parents today have an ever-increasing fear of what lies in wait for their kids as they go out into the world. Just the other day I read that deaths from opioids and illicit drugs are now the number one killer of our young people, surpassing automobile accidents for the first time. I look at these babies I talk about and know that as some point in their future they will be tempted by outside movements to join the drug crusade or the sex trade. That leaders of our country will call those fears of their parents fake news and the poisoning of our air and waters a hoax. Oh wait! That’s not just in the future it’s already happening. I grew up in a world largely void of the things I see today. But I fully realize that this scourge happened on my watch and the watch of every other older adult in this county. To my grandkids and great grandkids I can only say God be with you little ones and here’s hoping you can do what my generation couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Make this world a better place to live for your babies.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

EASTER

                                                        
I know Easter will have come and gone before this is ever published. But that’s all right because I want to talk about it anyway. As a Christian man I have always enjoyed Easter because to some extent it’s the one religious holiday we haven’t’ commercialized to death. Oh yes, Cadbury will sell a few eggs and there will be some chocolate bunnies around and some will show off their finest dress or their Easter bonnet, but for most Christians it will be the replaying of the death and passion of Jesus, the cornerstone of our religion. It will pretty much be just a solemn religious journey we take, to reacquaint us with what he did for us on Good Friday.

I find it so ironic that whenever tragedy strikes or things get tough, people who have never seemed to be religious, are heard uttering phases like “God help us,” or “Please pray for us.” Ironic yes, but yet comforting that they still remember that no matter how far we have strayed from the way we were taught to live our lives in the commandments, its never to late to get back on the train. In fact our lord has said, “There is more rejoicing over one sinner who returns, then the ninety-five righteous ones who didn’t need to repent.” What a great promise and you don’t even need an attorney to argue your case. Churches all over this great country are struggling to get Gods message out to sometimes empty pews. They don’t ask much, maybe just an hour of your time once a week. A few dollars to keep the lights on and pay the bills. Easter and when we are despondent shouldn’t be the only time we participate in our faith, but if it is, Jesus says, “Welcome back.”

The decline in the amount of people who practice their Christian faith is mirrored by the decline in some of the virtues we used to enjoy in society. We have gone from a family oriented social system that used to believe that the moral fabric of our children was as important as the clothes we put upon their backs. That the family that prayed together, stayed together. Instead we have embarked upon a journey in life filled with permissiveness and selfish greed and when that bumped heads with a faith that said that was wrong, we either tried to change the rules or abandoned it altogether. Look around you at the problems with drugs and alcohol in this country. Permissive sex and lying and cheating to get what we want.

Were not the first nation in history that has taken this course and we won’t be the last. History books are full of examples of countries that decayed like this. It’s been going on for centuries. So what is the recipe for a lasting peace in our lives? If you celebrated Easter in Church you might have heard about it. It’s still being taught and amazingly the curriculum hasn’t change much. Not in my lifetime anyway. Those rules God gave to Moses still exist the way they were handed down thousands of years ago. They are time tested and true. Oh, we have done our best to change them into something more comfortable to live with. Just as we have done with our countries laws that have been litigated to pieces and look where that has got us. The big difference is God is saying, now that you have tried and failed again, I still want you back. I have something for you that you won’t get from Uncle Sam and its called forgiveness and it all started with the miracle of Easter.