“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  The cotton, corn, and hayfields of my youth have been replaced by Walmart, QT, Publix, countless other businesses and miles and miles of parking lots.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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Red, Gold, and Brown

 

I awoke troubled this Sunday morning…not unusual for any morning.  Nothing earth-shattering…maybe our biannual changing of the clocks or the impending trip to my polling station on Tuesday…or the possible outcomes I will find out about later in the night.  I just don’t know where we are headed.  The time may not be the only thing falling back with the season.

Still, I had a beautiful morning walk.  Well, it ended beautifully.  It began cool and crisp.  Fall is finally here…or early winter, it was thirty-nine as I set out.  There were trees with leaves of gold and red.  Leaves carpeted the narrow road I walked, silencing my footfalls but not my thoughts.

I was still troubled and tried to bury myself in the music coming from my earbuds until the earbuds died.  An irritating voice informed me of “low power.”  Need to recharge them more often…me or the earbuds?  There was nothing to drown out my thoughts, so I was forced to deal with them.

I worked on my latest book…in my head.  An action romance, I’m struggling with an ending…no I’m just struggling.  I worked on how my sterling hero could ride in and save the day.  I came up with a plot twist…maybe.  If I don’t go on and write it down  I’ll soon forget it.

Finally, I had nothing to do but look around at my surroundings.

Glancing down I did a hop, skip and a jump, scuttling sideways to avoid the snake.  “Little guy, what are you doing here?”, a corn snake, all red, gold and brown.  With our screwy weather, he hadn’t realized he should be hibernating and was attempting to raise his body temperature on the side of the tar and gravel road.

So cold!  I thought he was dead until I touched him with the toe of my shoe.  He moved…not much but he moved.  What to do?  If I leave him here, he is likely to get run over.  Oh goodness, I’m going to have to pick him up…I hate touching snakes even though I know they are not cold and slimy as I thought as a child…well, this one was pretty cold.

I saw a moss-covered flat rock and a patch of grass bathed in sunlight.  The brown blades of grass glowed gold, the mica in the rock flashed like diamonds.  Unfortunately, they were in different places.   The rock would soon be shaded as the sun rose.

“Stay here little guy, I’ll get you to a sunny spot.”  I needn’t have worried.  He was still too cold to move.  Picking up the rock I moved it to the sun and then carefully moved “Corny” to a perch on top of it before bidding him a fond adieu.

The lake was as calm, not a ripple.  Fog rose three or four feet before disappearing into the air.  Fish rolled in the shadows and the trees were reflected in the water.  There were more reds and golds and a single purple wildflower.  I paused to bask in the golden sunlight finally appearing from the southeast.  I don’t believe I could have summoned a nicer morning with a Vodun spell.

I had to get back home to clean up and dress for church but not before I checked on “Corny.”  He was gone, and I was glad…he must have taken my troubling thoughts with him.

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

The image came from http://www.outdooralabama.com