Hippies, Good Ole Boys, and my Grandmother: A Rambling

 

Speaking to a gathering of Baby Boomers, I suggested professorially, “We are a product of the generation we grew up in” and proceeded to talk about my grandparents and their life during the depression.  As my brother made clear without saying so, it didn’t sound like a very interesting subject but the people listening to the presentation seemed to enjoy it and I enjoyed giving it…nah, nah…nah, nah, nah!  Only a handful fell asleep.

My grandparents were defined by the age of the Great Depression and to a certain extent, World War Two.  If stories are to be believed, they certainly did their part during the war but continued to “live” the depression right up until the day they died.  My parents?  The depression and World War Two, of course, along with the era of American Exceptionalism.

As I drove home, I thought about my life and the history that had defined it.  Somewhere around the small town of Blacksburg, I began to think about hippies.  An idle mind can be a terrible thing.

I was aware of hippies, as I was aware of the Cold War, Viet Nam, and the Civil Rights movement.  I was aware from a distance.  I was also aware of the protests of the Sixties that went with these events, all playing out in black and white while my brother and I ate our Swanson’s TV dinners watching Walter Cronkite on TV.  Sometimes it was hard to stomach, the TV dinners and the evening news.

The events of the Sixties and early Seventies helped mold my beliefs, but I didn’t realize how much until recently.  I also knew, despite the flattop I wore in the mid-Sixties, I felt a tug toward the counter-culture, one I withstood until recently.

I’ve always felt I was in a battle with two generations, one wearing conservative oxford cloth and khaki, the other a more liberal tie-dye and denim.  Lately, the generation of Weejuns is losing to the generation of “Jesus” sandals.

I have become more “hippie-like” as I have slogged into my “autumn” years and wonder if it is “my generation” defining me or was it my grandmother’s attitude toward her world.  No, my grandmother was not a hippie, but she had some hippie like attitudes.  Some attitudes one might attribute to the greatest hippie cult leader of all, Jesus of Nazareth.

Beliefs the earth’s bounties should be protected and shared with each other and future generations, loving thy neighbor as thyself, and despite her prejudices of the day, live and let live regardless of race, creed, color or religious affiliation.  No, she wasn’t perfect…well…except in my eyes.

Raised in the church she was devout but more to the point, she was spiritual and rooted solidly in the earth.  She planted and fished by the phases of the moon, seasonal “signs” and the Farmer’s Almanac.  Connected to the depression, she lived by the three ‘R’s’; recycle, repurpose, reuse.  Nothing was ever thrown away unless the question, “Can I use this for something else?” was answered.  Yep, my hippie grandmother.

Often, I feel I am an oddity, a “seasoned” man of Caucasian persuasion who has grown more liberal as he has grown older…more liberal than just adopting blue jeans and tee shirts as his primary wardrobe choice since retiring.  Is it that I’ve become more liberal or has liberalism grown more me?  Despite my question, I’ve decided the term hippie transcends the poles of a political spectrum.

When I say hippie, I’m not talking about those who didn’t walk the walk.  Sometimes “hippie” is used as a broad stroke.  There has been much written about Haight-Ashbury’s “Summer of Love”, the Grateful Dead, and Timothy O’Leary’s slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.

I understand the message but believe there were those in attendance just for the drugs, music, and the siren’s call of “free love.”  Mr. Khaki and Oxford Cloth did none of those things…certainly, I never turned on and making love never came without a price tag…but if “marijahoochie” becomes legal in my part of the world…I might turn on…especially as my arthritis gets worse.  Okay, I would turn on for sure and maybe I’ve already dropped out.

Many young people walked the walk desiring to make the world a better place, idealistically believing they could stand up against “the man.”  Some weren’t hippies at all, just young people who thought the war was wrong, all people were created equally, and had no desire to become radioactive dust.  They wanted to create a positive life and were simply lumped into the counter-culture with the long-haired, Commie, hippy freak, “make love, not war”, ni@@%^ loving bunch.  Lumped by the conservative right or “Moral Majority”, something still happening today.  Lumped despite the crewcuts that didn’t allow for “wear(ing) flowers in (their) hair.”1

We have enclaves of “hippie freak” types in areas around us…especially in the rougher and more isolated areas of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  Not exactly communes, they are more like small villages of likeminded people, some living in small cabins, motor homes or aged out school buses.  All attempting to reduce their footprint on the face of the earth.  Most just want to live and let live while loving their neighbors no matter their sexual preference, skin color or religious affiliation.  I might add, regardless of political affiliation.  A lesson we should all learn from I believe.

“Hippies” living a life of self-reliance, the artsy types welding sculptures made from iron collected from the side of the road or junkyard.  Creating colorful paper from kudzu vines and leaves collected from the hillsides near their homes.  Potters throwing local clay and molding it into interesting desirables.  A particularly old “hippie” living near me creates sculptures from the burl wood he searches for from the seat of his wheelchair.  They are all quite liberal in belief…except when they are not.

Others live off the land, creating, and selling organically grown food…and drink…and certain inhalables.  Some create moonshine legally, others not so much.  Some grow marijuana in amongst their tomato and eggplants.  They come from all sides of the political spectrum, united with the belief that the government shouldn’t restrict their freedom of expression and leisure activities.

They still have causes, liberal only because they wish to effect change.  Like me, many folks in my “Dark Corner”2 are concerned about the water and air we breathe and drink and the environment we will leave behind to future generations.

I attended a gathering of like-minded people who were attempting to halt the domestication of a wild, local river in the name of progress.  The meeting was attended by trout fishermen, tree hugging, Sierra Club environmentalist types, and good ole boys who were just worried about the effects a lack of environmental management might have on their “tax-free” alcohol production.  I’m guessing there were more than a few folks attending who preferred to take their herbal supplements in deeply inhaled form.

Weejuns, brogans, work boots, Keen sandals, and motorcycle boots were all found under a picnic table, their wearers breaking bread…well…pulling pork and drinking beer.  There was as much flannel as tie-dye, khaki as denim, buzz cuts as long hair.  From this and other gatherings, the environmental advocacy group, “Save the Saluda”, was born.  My grandmother would have approved.

I’m happy to see young people or those young at heart standing up for issues they believe in, those who peacefully take to the streets or rally for a cause.  I don’t agree with some of their causes. I don’t have to and they shouldn’t care.  They aren’t my causes.  Like my “hippie” neighbors, they come in all shapes and sizes, buzz cuts to long hair, tee shirts and oxford cloth, high school seniors and lifetime seniors.  All want their voices heard.

As I made my landfall from Blacksburg, I still didn’t exactly know what a hippie was or if I am one.  I just know for me it is more state of mind than where I sit on a political spectrum, or whether I choose oxford cloth or tie-dye.  Let’s tie-dye our oxford cloth.  Please label me if you must, I will wear a liberal, hippie freak badge proudly.  Just remember, it is your label for me, not mine.  I am much more than a label…as are you.

“And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine'”3

  1. San Fransico (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) sung by Scott McKenzie and written by John Phillips.  Verse paraphrased by me to fit.
  2. The “Dark Corner” of South Carolina is the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills area of Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, known for resisting nullification and embracing illegal moonshine production during the Great Depression.
  3. Signs, sung by The Five Man Electrical Band and written by Les Emmerson

For other musings by Don Miller go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from https://hippiesonhaight.weebly.com/summer-of-love.html

 

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So I Decided To Write A Blog

My Brother’s new blog. I wish I had thought of the title.

Reflections Of A Gasbag

So I have decided to start a blog.  I have found out as I have gotten older that I enjoy writing.  It runs in the family, my grandmother and my mother wrote poetry and my grandmother journaled back before jouraling became popular. My brother has a blog and also has written several books, so now I guess it is my turn.  I can’t see myself writing a book and honestly I can’t see anyone really reading this blog so mostly it is for my own entertainment.  Call it therapy, I guess. Occasionally there may be something that someone in passing may find interesting and if that is the case, please tell me. I pondered for awhile on what to name this thing, because every blog has to have a catchy name.  I was listening to Dan Le Batard on ESPN radio and he speaks of all the gasbag coaches at press…

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Not Pioneering Stock

 

I am not pioneering stock.  My prayers were not answered.  My satellite went out at two and my power followed at five…in the AM.  It’s seven seventeen and it already seems like a lifetime.  Too much time stuck inside my head with nothing to distract me is the main problem.  At least the morning is brightening…a gray light, but at least I can see without a flashlight.

There is a beautiful winter scene outside my window…hemlocks and cedars laden with snow, their fronds drooping toward the ground.  There is an underlying silence, the sounds muffled by the snow…until a tree snaps under the extra weight of snow, sleet, and ice.  It sounds as if a war is being fought on the ridgeline above us.

It is eight oh two and the “Snowpocalypse” is upon us.  There is nothing to do but wait.  A cheery fire in the fireplace…cheery but not near warm enough.  A cast iron Dutch oven is heating water.  Cheese grits are on the menu…instant cheese grits.  Uck!  At least my coffee had perked before the power went off.

Stepping outside to bring in the wood I heard the winds on the ridges above us.  The sound of an old steam locomotive running at top speed…without the steam whistle of course.  Just a rapid chugga-chugga sound I associate with old movies I watched in my youth.  So far, we have been sheltered from the wind, but I see movement in the cypress cedar just beyond my backyard fence.

The snow, flakes once large and wet, have now changed over to sleet.  I can see my clothesline and it is covered with ice…much ice.  This does not bode well for trees or powerlines I would think.  My hothouse is without power and I worry about Linda’s plants…particularly her thirty-year-old scheffleras.  Worry…but there is not a damn thing I can do about it except feel her pain if they die.

Old poots like me are always talking about the good old days and how much better it was back then.  I wonder?  I surely wonder about the good old days the former tenants of my little piece of heaven had.  Three different sets of families left their imprints and memories before we began to add ours.  I wish their ghosts would speak to me.  I have many questions like, “How did you keep those fireplaces fed?”

Built in 1892, the old farmhouse had five fireplaces.  I am only trying to keep one burning and maybe later an old wood stove to cook on if necessary.  I can’t imagine…don’t want to imagine what it was like feeding four open fireplaces and the wood stove pumping smoke out smoke one end and heat from the other.

No, I’m not sure about those good old days especially as I look at the expanse of white between my house and the old privy.  A book comes to mind, “Ten Miles to the Outhouse,” by Willie Makeit and illustrated by Betty Don’t.  I think the cold is addling my brain…or the Jack and Coke.  Five o’clock in the PM and we still have no power, but we have seen power trucks on the move…and the power flickered once…dashed hopes in the blink of an eye.

I’ve also seen turkeys on the move.  A dozen or so all puffed up against the cold.  They look comical taking high steps trying to navigate the now five or so inches of hard packed sleet, freezing rain, and snow.  Thankfully the temperature is now hovering above freezing and it is now more snow than sleet.

The wind is still up.  Trees are popping all around.  Cannon reports in the distance.  Even if the power comes on soon there is no assurance that it will stay on, but I’ll take what I can get…damn!  A hemlock limb just hit the fence.

Light, heat, and water have returned.  At six PM the lights flickered and then held.  There was the welcome sound of air handlers kicking in and the feel of warm air.  Quick microwave something warm to eat.

This is not the worse “storm” we’ve ridden out.  Our first winter was in 1987-88 and in January we lay buried under eighteen inches…for those of you above the Mason-Dixon, that’s like you getting eighteen feet.  We were in complete shutdown mode for a week with only a VW Beetle and a Thunderbird to motivate with.  I swore I would never be without four-wheel drive again.  I think I’ve HAD to use it once since then.  An ice storm with a hurricane came through in ’93 but the four-wheel drive doesn’t work on ice.  I’ve used my four-wheel drive a lot but not because the weather dictated it.

No, I’m not pioneering stock.  There was once a time.  Now I have grown old and lazy…and hate the cold.  I think my next acquisition will be a generator.  Hopefully, I won’t need it any more than I have needed four-wheel drive.

“Bread and Milk?”

 

I am waiting out the approach of our first snowstorm of the winter…except it’s not winter yet!  I despise winter and for the second year in a row, winter is here early.  Mother Nature…what did I ever do to you?

Our local weather prognosticators have predicted anywhere from a dusting below us to an accumulation of twenty inches above us; possible rain, snow, sleet or freezing rain…all the previous possible or none of the previous Imma thinkin’ or hoping.  In the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we are bracing for six to eight inches…of something.  A “Snowpocalypse” by Southern standards.  I’m just going to sit here and wait until it is over and melted.  Just let the meteorologist tell me how much we got.  Since retiring from teaching, snow offers no perks for me.

The impending “Snowmageddon” has claimed its first victim…me.  I’m sitting not because snow is falling, it isn’t yet…wait was that a wet snowflake or a big, slow raindrop?  I’m sitting because I hyperextended my knee while cutting and splitting “emergency” wood in preparation for the attack by “Snowzilla.”  If the monster is successful with its evil-minded plan, I will at least have wood to burn should the power go out.  By the way, I’m okay, just feeling clumsy and stiff.  Thanks for askin’.

The injured knee was once called my good knee and I guess there is no particular advantage to having one good knee as opposed to having two bad ones…. I do have to flip a coin to decide which knee I should limp on and I’d just “ah soon” not to lose power by the way.  I don’t want to limp out and bring in wood to feed my fireplace.

I went grocery shopping yesterday morning before the slip with an eighteen-inch diameter log and screw up your knee event.  A stop by at Wally World is a normal activity for a Friday morning…right after my two-hour walk and coffee with a best friend, “Hawk.”

As I approached the bread area, I found bare shelves and the aisle deserted.  I expected to see customers locked in an epic battle over a loaf of French bread or such.  Maybe two ordinarily sane mothers pulling at each other’s hair, fighting for the last loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread.

The fresh Italian bread I usually buy, gone.  So was yesterday’s Italian bread and all other bread.  Same was true with the milk shelves…and eggs it seems…bare.  The milk and eggs were, to quote John Hiatt:

“Gone like a Nixon file

Gone like my landlord smile

Gone like the furniture

Gone like the rest of her”

There may be no French toast in my future.

I really don’t understand the rush on milk and bread.  I always wondered if there was a conspiracy between the weather services, bakers and the dairy industry.  Payoffs slipped under the table to just mention the possibility of snow.  If I were going to stockpile for the blizzard of the century it would include bourbon and barbeque…not bread and milk.

It is not just a “Southern Thang” I found out.  Those odd cultures above the Mason-Dixon line also rush out and sweep the bread and milk shelves clean.  Who knew.  It’s wasn’t even begun by Southerners…I believe they lie.

I am ready.  Bring your best Snow Monster.  Books to read if the satellite goes out.  Wood to burn if the power goes and batteries for the flashlights and lanterns.  Most importantly, Jack Daniels in the pantry and pulled pork barbeque in the fridge….  Okay, I did find a loaf of day-old French bread and a dozen extra-large eggs.  My bride boiled up a half-dozen but kept six for French toast.  Like a true country boy, I will survive.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Lyrics from John Hiatt’s song “Gone”.

Snow image was liberated from https://marcusashley.com/artwork/elm-tree-blizzard

 

Crescent Moons, Puppy Dogs, and the Universe

My puppies have interrupted my sleep.  They are blind and if you are blind, I don’t guess you know it is three in the morning instead of three in the afternoon.  It is cold for early December and I don’t guess we got them out enough during the day…maybe we didn’t get me out enough during the day.

I let them out, not to go “wee-wee”, but to lay down in the backyard.  “Girls…it’s twenty-eight degrees.  What are you doing?  Geez…will I ever get back to sleep?”  No, not much.  There is an afternoon nap in my future.

My wife’s flowers are housed in a makeshift hothouse.  At five I decided to walk up and make sure the heat had them toasty.  It was a tropical fifty-five.  I may have to mortgage the farm to pay the winter electric bill.

As I turned to return to the warmth of my home, I looked up into the southern sky and saw a sliver of a crescent moon framed in the leafless branches of a walnut tree.  Low on the horizon, the outline of the dark side was clearly visible as was a shining Venus above it.  The air was clear and the sky cloudless.  A morning an astronomer might dream of. The scene took my breath away and I paused, despite the cold, to bask in the reflection of both the moon and my thoughts.

I struggle with my beliefs.  I do believe in an afterlife…” energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be changed.” Changed into what, I do not know, but I believe the law works for the universe and everyone in it.  I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, but…I struggle with the universe and our place in it.

Divine creation?  Big Bang?  A combination of both.  Are they one and the same?  And “God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”

I struggle with the concept of God…or god.  Despite my struggles, my lack of faith, I talk to him often…I just wish he would talk back.  Just prattle a bit.  There doesn’t have to be an answer to my questions, just answer back.  “I’m here, I hear you.”

Looking through the clear crisp air at the heavenly scene it is hard not to believe in some type of divine plan.  How could something as beautiful as the scene I was viewing not be a part of a divine plan?  As if to add weight to my thoughts I noticed the pinkish glow of dawn approaching.  A most heavenly picture on display and I had been in the cold too long.

I returned to the warmth of my home and found my puppies asleep, Maddie on her back on the couch, Tilly chasing rabbits in her sleep beside her.  How could these two beautiful animals have been created by chance?  Again, God is silent, but I’m not concerned.

Bible verses my Grandmother recited come to mind.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” and “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  And this morning, any morning, in the heavens too.

Further musings can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came, interestingly, from The Tree of Knowledge Coven at https://treeofknowledgecoven.com/2013/08/12/my-love-affair-with-the-waxing-crescent-moon/

 

THE DAY I DIDN’T MEET GEORGE H. W. BUSH

 

I walked in the rain this morning thinking of George H.W. Bush’s death.  My earbuds provided a backdrop I was paying no attention to…until Bob Dylan’s nasal slur entered my ears…” The times they are ah changin’.”  My thought was, “The times they have ended.”

Men like President Bush are dying out and it seems there is no one willing to replace them.  Men who put character and the collective good above personal interest or gain.  A man who believed in compromise rather than partisanship.  Right or wrong.  A man whose legacy was only punctuated by his presidency, a presidency that did not define the man himself.  A man who honorably served his country for over seven decades.  Keyword, “honorably.”  I sure he had his failings but then so do I.

I know, he was a Texas oilman whose family is worth millions and who lived a life of privilege.  Somehow, he, like a certain peanut farmer, managed to rise above their privilege.  They both gave…or give back.  Bush Forty-One and Carter are the last…and maybe the best of their generation of politicians; those who believed service and honor were the most important legacies of man.  They are what politicians should aspire to be and unfortunately don’t.  Their greatest legacies may have occurred after their presidencies.

I almost met then Vice President Bush on a hot summer day as he campaigned in Greenville, South Carolina in the middle-late 1980s.  Almost but not quite.  It is a story I’ve told before but as I walked this morning, it brought a smile to my rain-streaked face and once again muted the music in my ears.

It was a bright late July or early August morning and I drove a tractor pulling gang reels to Sirrine Stadium.  In the Eighties, coaches didn’t have crews paid to keep up a field.  Coaching staffs were the crew.  This day I was my own crew, a crew of one.  Head Coach and Athletic Director or not, this was my day to cut.  Late July is prime grass growing season in upper South Carolina, requiring plenty of water and fertilizer…and cutting.  Lots of cutting as in three days a week.

Hot and humid, wavy heat thermals rose off the black asphalt into a cloudless, silver-blue sky and the milky yellow orb heating it.  As I drove our old tractor to the game field, I imagine my thoughts were on a young woman I was dating…one who became my bride for the past thirty-one years.  My thoughts certainly weren’t on the two men who stopped me at the entry gate.

I didn’t see them at first.  As I stepped off the tractor to unlock the gate, I dropped my keys.  As I stood, they seemed to materialize with the thermals radiating from the tarmac leading to the field.  Two fine specimens of American manhood.  Was I smelling melting asphalt or testosterone?

Despite the ninety plus temperatures and humidity, they dressed in dark suits, white shirts, dark ties, and dark wraparound sunglasses.  Shined black shoes reflected the sun back into my face.  Think Men in Black, except much better looking.

A blond man with a high and tight haircut played Tommy Lee Jones with a youthful and smooth complexion.  Long and lanky, I expected a Texas accent and got it.  His Will Smith counterpart was shorter but made up for it in wideness.  Both had muscles straining the fabric of their suits.  I wondered why they weren’t sweating in the oppressive sun.

“Uh…can I help you?” I stammered.

Tommy Lee didn’t smile but asked, “Who are you?”

“I asked first,” trying to assume a casual air while leaning against the rear tractor wheel.

Tommy Lee pulled his coat aside and displayed a gold and blue shield held in a pocket holder and a black holster on his hip.  Squinting in the glare I saw “US Secret Service” arched across the top and “Special Agent” arched across the bottom.  “Okay, you have my attention.”

“I’m the athletic director at Greenville High School and I’m here to cut the grass.”

“Not today.  This stadium is off limits.  Your principal was supposed to alert you.”  “Yeah, and my principal hates me and would like to see me shot.”

“May I ask why?”

Agent Tommy Lee glanced at Agent Will and simply shook his head.

It turns out Vice President Bush, a jogger, had scheduled a jog and my principal had failed to tell me.

During those days I was not a jogger and pretty much apolitical.  I had a football team to field, grass to cut and a pretty brunette to worry about.  With no more fields or teams to maintain, I became a jogger and more political, especially in the modern political climate.  The pretty brunette said, “I do” and we still are.  One era ends, another continues.

I don’t know if Forty-One actually jogged that hot day in July or not.  I like to think he did and that we traveled over the same ground, he jogging, me driving a tractor in circles, clipping the grass he ran over.  “I cut the grass George HW Bush ran on….”  Do I get a certificate?

I like to think that if there is an afterlife, and I believe there is, he has been reunited with the love of his life, his Barbara.  I’d like to think they are laughing together…maybe ridiculing the present forms of politicians while trying to look out us all from their “thousand points of light.”

Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, I’ll join him someday for a jog.  I wish I could have heard his Texas drawl in person.  Maybe I still can.   Maybe I’ll grow up to be just like him.  Rest in Peace George HW Bush.  I know you weren’t perfect but you were someone to be admired and emulated.  Other politicians…and humans, should take a lesson.

For more of Don Miller’s musings click on the following link,  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.

 

“They Paved Paradise….”

 

I have been asked to speak to a historical group at the “active-adult retirement community” now located where my childhood home once stood.  The home of my youth, a brick veneered cottage located between two hills.  A small house but a house full of memories that spilled out along the river road that ran beside it and up the hillsides flanking it.  A homesite now covered by pavement, retirement homes and businesses.

I’m speaking about the history that I lived as a youth, the South in the Fifties and Sixties.  As I have prepared for my speaking engagement, my thoughts and dreams have drifted to those “thrilling days of yesteryear.  Hi-yo Silver, Away!”

My thoughts run through a gazillion emotions and memories.  They flow faster than I rode my red Schwinn Torpedo through the ruts cutting the old river road leading to the Catawba and my youthful adventures.

It has been fifty years since I left the home of my youth, but recently I find myself thinking more and more about people I grew up with, family and friends, and a place that no longer exists anywhere other than my mind.

Mental images of mixed forests of pines and hardwood cut by streams inhabited by crawdads, frogs, turtles, and salamanders.  Fields of tall corn, cotton bolls bursting white in the fall or thick hay and pastures.  I remember ponds loaded with bluegill and largemouth.  Mostly, I remember a dirt road that led to great adventures concocted by a youthful imagination.

I only spent eighteen years living there before leaving for college and a lifetime of work.  Over time, I became a visitor to my childhood home…until it was replaced by progress.

Yet…I remember those first eighteen years with much greater clarity than what I did yesterday.  No matter how I age, my thoughts wind back…back to the river road where I grew up.

I think of home and smile but find it depressing to return.  The cotton, corn, and hayfields of my youth have been replaced by Walmart, QT, Publix, countless other businesses and miles and miles of parking lots.  Joni Mitchell is singing in my head, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”  It was a paradise, I just wish I had realized it at the time.

Many of the lakes I fished have been filled in or have signs prohibiting the fun I had.  The forests I wandered have been cut down and the river road sparking my youthful imagination supplanted by the perceived modern headway in the form of homes built for the youthful, over fifty-five crowd.

There are some landmarks I recognize, but a library and a small strip mall now sit where a home full of memories once sat.  I do find solace that a library has replaced it.  Both my grandmother and father were voracious readers…as am I because of them.

I have now lived on my little piece of heaven for over thirty years and it reminds me of my youthful residence…except it is hillier.  It’s green in the spring and summer, cut with streams loaded with trout and nearby ponds and lakes are filled with panfish and bass.  Sounds like I need to go fishing.  There is wildlife galore and plenty of characters to study or ignore.

My old farmhouse is also filled with memories that flow out to the hillside it sits on…hopefully with more memories to come.  My adventures are no longer youthful…but I still have adventures…I just don’t run from them as fast.

It is easy to draw connections between my present home and my home from yesteryear.  I wonder?  My daughter will be my present age in thirty-three years.  I wonder what paradise will look like to her?

For more of Don Miller’s wanderings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from Pinterest.

Winter…Sucks

 

It is still over a month away from the winter solstice… the darkness is oppressive.  Last night was thirteen hours, thirty-nine minutes and thirty seconds of rainy, cold darkness.  It seemed longer… I was awake for much of it.  I feel the darkness in my bones…in my soul.  Tonight, darkness will be a minute and a half longer than last.  I am already dreading it.

It’s not just the darkness, it is the angle of the sun, rising low in the southeastern sky and staying low, lower, lowest for the next…forever.  I never saw the sun yesterday and won’t see it today.  Wet, winter doldrums and it’s only the mid-way point in November.

The acronym SAD just doesn’t seem strong enough.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I don’t guess miserable fits…as an acronym.  “I have MISERABLE!”  Or WRETCHED…or DISMAL.  On top of my spurts of just plain depression.

I have inherited much from my Grandmother.  Love for growing tomatoes, reading, bird watching, and wildlife in general.  I also inherited her depression.  Gray days sitting, wishing, gazing out at the winter contemplating when the sun will return.  I remember her “blue.”  Wilting and turning brown like plants touched with a frost.  I also remember her blooming in the Spring.  Hope “springs” eternal.

I see people gaily dressed in ugly sweaters and hoodies.  Embracing pumpkin spice and reveling in falling leaves and bonfires.  Elves in red who can’t wait to get through Thanksgiving.

Give me the sun.  Give me the hot and humid weather with mosquitoes and thunderstorms, lightning bugs and hoot owls to chase the darkness away.  Give me the sun, long and high in the sky.

Daylight is finally upon me…its still raining so I can’t see the sun.  A gloomy day that I feel cutting deep.  I can’t seem to concentrate or sleep.  My wife may be in for a rough day.  I write, check social media, pick up a book and stare at pages without reading, walk around the fireplace and then do it all over again.  I have a book ending to complete…maybe in the spring…or the summer, when my mind is not so fragmented by the dark.

Don Miller’s author’s page can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07B6BDD1

The image is from https://harrisrichard.com/tag/winter-sucks/

True Believers?

 

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

 

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon, the day very being. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.  The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than me.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

 

 

Daniel R. Cobb: Democracy Dies Without You

“Your hopes and dreams must be expressed and infused into our Democracy, by your vote.” It is “YOUR” Election Day. No matter what your beliefs, it is your day to cast your vote for your Democracy.

https://voxpopulisphere.com/2018/11/06/daniel-r-cobb-democracy-dies-without-you/

Vox Populi

Everything that lives needs sustenance.  Every rose. Every child. Without sustenance, life perishes.

Democracy is a living thing because it embodies the vibrant, shining hopes and dreams of the people.  Democracy is not just about the people themselves, but their intentions, their hopes and dreams –  their vote. What good is a dream that is never embraced?  What good is hoped-for change without the courage to pursue it?

We hope for social justice, for sentencing and incarceration reforms for minorities, an end to the rampant bigotry, racism and misogyny, and an end to skyrocketing hate crimes. We demand gun law reforms, campaign finance reform, meaningful Wall Street regulations, drug policy reforms, and affordable and robust healthcare.  We demand responsible corporate tax rates, an end to the trillions in Republican tax giveaways to themselves, an end to the war on Social Security and Medicaid, a government committed to addressing climate change and so much more.

We…

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