“Celebrating” Memorial Day

 

Grills will be lit; beer will be iced.  Pool parties will be scheduled.  Many will celebrate a three-day weekend.  Many will not consider, “What cost?”

Memorial Day is a remembrance of horror; the costs of war, in blood and bone, in flesh, in broken bodies and minds.  It is a remembrance of loss.  The day should not be a celebration but too many of us treat it as if it was.

We have fallen in love with the idea of war.  We have been at war for far too long.  I was born during the Korean “Conflict”, came of age during the Cold War and Vietnam.  I have lived through too many wars, lived through what has become almost continuous.

We glorify our military conquests and denigrate anything other than total victory.  Memorial Day should be a sobering recognition of what glorification cost instead of a drunken celebration of war.

Local VFWs and other veterans’ groups will sponsor parades and tributes to our fallen heroes.  Old men in ill-fitting uniforms will stand at attention saluting as marching bands play.  Small flags will flutter in front of grave markers and trumpets will sound over cemeteries in villages, towns and cities alike.

TMC will broadcast an all-day marathon of war movies featuring brave men dying for a cause.  We should remember, these matinée idols are playing a role; the men and women they portray did not get to go home after a day in front of a camera.  Many of these roles never came home at all and no one is left unscathed when the battle is over.

For those who returned, far too many servicemen and women came home having left a part of themselves on battlefields around the world.  In deserts and swamps, they left more than their footprints, they left a piece of their humanity and a bit of their sanity.  War is not always a noble enterprise even though most of the men and women who fight it are quite noble and brave.  War is not a movie on a screen.

I once enjoyed watching movies with John Wayne facing down the enemy.  Sitting with my father, a World War Two veteran, the Sunday Matinee might offer “The Fighting Seabees”, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Flying Leathernecks”, “In Harm’s Way”, “The Horse Soldiers” and “They Were Expendable”.  The craggy-faced, steely-eyed hero squinting down his gun barrel, facing insurmountable odds and yet somehow prevailing…too often at the cost of his own life but never at the cost of his humanity.  His bravery displayed in technicolor on the silver screen.

I have become a pacifist.  I never intended to be one, it just happened.  As a youth, I was gung-ho with my mother’s metal mixing bowl upside down on my head, defending the red clay hill behind my house against the enemies of the “American Way” with my Mattel Thompson machine gun.

I know in my Autumn years I’ve become just that, a pacifist.  I suspect my course of study in college, Kurt Vonnegut, the effects of living through the Vietnam War years and an almost continuous series of military conflicts during my lifetime are to blame for my change.  Too many dead, too many broken.

War, policing actions or skirmishes are all the same to the dead and wounded.  Young people fighting old men’s wars.  The poor fighting for the rich.  All dying for ideology, religion or to line the pockets of those who benefit from the business of war.  I have become quite cynical and am not apologetic.

I was a participant in the first Vietnam draft lottery, my brass ring was number two hundred seventeen.  I say brass ring because the number was never called.  I knew I was a coward and didn’t want to go fight in Southeast Asia or anywhere else for that matter.  I also knew I would be the bravest coward in the world if called up.  I would go and fight if asked to.  I could do nothing else.  I would do what was expected by friends, family and my nation.  I wonder how many called to fight felt the same way.  How many were called up and went because it was expected? I felt I must have been the only one.

We have become too fond of war.  We eat and digest the propaganda.  War makes too many people rich, too many people powerful…too many people dead.

We have a love affair with our expensive and destructive toys of war.  The one percent pushing the ninety-nine percent to the brink.  Pulling our six-guns and coming out blazing.  Let God sort it out in the end because diplomacy doesn’t make enough money.

The greatest “celebration” to our fallen would be to end the killing and bring our people home, ceasing to create more fallen.  But there is no money to be made in bringing our people home and we learned from Vietnam, there can be no hint of defeat.  I fear we will continue to memorialize until there is no one left.

As an anonymous philosopher once posed, “War does not determine who is right — only who is left.”   I visualize a lone man celebrating victory as the world burns around him.

Yes, I am cynical…and quite morose this morning.  I can think of no better way to “celebrate” Memorial Day.

To those who serve, to those who have given all, to those who have lost their loved ones, you have my gratitude and I hope, the gratitude of a nation.

The image of Arlington Nationa Cemetary courtesy of https://www.military.com

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

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Hot Spells

 

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

–Russell Baker

We appear to be suffering a hot spell here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Marilyn Monroe dances in my mind, a song echos in my head, “We’re having a heatwave…a tropical heat wave….”  Seeing her costume in my mind, I wonder what was causing the heat wave.

The humidity is not quite high enough to be tropical but it is as if a heavy weight has descended from the mountains, pressing the air down around us, compressing it and turning it more liquid than gaseous.  This high-pressure weather system has added to my misery in the same way collard greens wilt in a pot of boiling water.  As I mow the grass this morning it is as if the oxygen has been squeezed out of the air.

The weather is July-August hot.  F. Scott Fitzgerald would probably describe the weather as “sultry.”  Sounds real nice.  Maybe like a 1920s flapper dancing the Charleston or Lindy Hop. Sultry.  I wouldn’t describe the weather that way unless the flapper had been dancing for hours in the unairconditioned Cotton Club in August wearing a fur coat.  The problem with our “sultry” July-August hot spell is…it is just now late May.  Doesn’t bode well for July and August.

Humid enough to be uncomfortable but not so humid to give us any rain.  The sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds to block the sun.  The weather pundits say our air is too stable and will remain so for at least another week.  If you say so.

We were flooding in the cold a month ago.  Now we are drier than camel bones in the Sahara.  We water something every day which adds to the muggy misery…and seems to attract the mosquitos and gnats.  God, I love it.

The people living in the mid-west would love to have the mosquitos and gnats.  Theirs have drowned or blown away.  I am not attempting to make light of their disastrous weather.  Major thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods should not be made light of…nor should the results of global warming.

Several years ago I suffered through an early season baseball practice featuring near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries.  I swore never to gripe about the heat of summer again.  My resolve is eroding…and we haven’t made it to June yet.

My weather conditions trigger memories.  I grew up without air conditioning and wonder how I survived. We spent our days outdoors working or playing in brutal heat and humidity, or if indoors, where it seemed even hotter.  You’ve never been hot like in the middle of a cotton or hayfield hot or inside of a cotton mill hot.  How did we survive?

I would attempt to sleep, fitfully at best, my head at the foot of my bed trying to catch what little bit of breeze might find its way into my small bedroom from the one window.  Laying spread eagle making sure body parts never touched, adding to the heat, humidity, and discomfort if they did.  I wish I had been smart enough to invest in the talcum powder industry.   Later when my parents bought a small window air-conditioning unit for their bedroom, I found heaven when I inherited their window fan.  Blow baby blow.

The same was true of the old school building I attended.  Tall, wide, screenless windows allowed everything to enter…except a cool breeze in the late spring and early fall.  Taking notes while trying to keep the college ruled paper dry was almost impossible.

Sundays were no better.  Church windows wide open, hellfire and brimstone could be no hotter than those pews.  Funeral home fans fluttered in the breeze doing nothing more than moving the heat around.  Shirt sticking to the pew heat and humidity.  On a particularly brutal Sunday morning, the minister shouted to the heavens, “If you think it’s hot now just wait.  Hell is a lot hotter.”  I don’t know.  Heat seems relative.

Yesterday evening I ventured into my garden.  I waited until the shade had found my tomato and squash plants but found them wilted in the oppressive humidity and heat.  The beans didn’t look too much better.  The one crop that should be loving it, okra, refuses to peek above the hot ground.

Despite having watered the day before, dust swirled wherever my hoe contacted the ground.  A clink rang out as my hoe struck rock…seems I have a bumper crop of rocks this year…like every year, no matter how many I throw into the creek behind my garden.  Rocks and weeds…my bumper crops.  Along with squash bugs and bean beetles.

The metallic clink took me back to my grandmother’s garden as did the sweat running off my nose.  It never was too brutal to keep her out of her garden and the old sack dress she wore would run with sweat.  My grandmother was a Southern woman but unlike the heroines of a Faulkner or Wolfe novel, she did not glisten with perspiration, she sweated like a horse.

I paused, leaning on my hoe.  It was her pose I saw in my mind’s eye.  An old woman, with a face browned by the sun, wearing a big straw hat leaning on her hoe.  She was framed in bright summer sunlight, sweat running down her face.  She always defied the hot spells and I shall too.

I have memories of ice cold sweet tea and a watermelon cooling in the nearby stream.  Somehow the heat has made the memories a bit more sweeter…despite my sweating.

Don Miller has published several books.  To access them click on the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image came from worldatlas.com

Crime Sprees, Black Snakes, and Killer Birds

 

Pondering the meaning of life,  why nature can be so cruel, and the evil of man began with the theft of a trailer and continued with the murder of four wren hatchlings we had been monitoring in their little nest perched precariously above the front porch fan.  Four wren hatchlings we had been protecting from attacks from below when we should have been more concerned with attacks from above.

I find I’m much more distraught about the loss of four birds than the pilfering of my trailer.

I watched as a  juvenile black rat snake climbed the front porch swing chain looking for a way to traverse from chain to fan to what his reptilian brain saw as lunch.  I moved him…and later, the big brother he brought with him a half dozen times before my minuscule brain realized that if I took down the swing, he’d have to find another restaurant.

Sneaky snake must have enjoyed our time together.  He still hangs around as if waiting for me to pick him up again.  Ride me, Daddy?

It didn’t bother me the snake was trying to dine on jeune oiseau…after all, he was a snake doing what snakes do.  More importantly, I had stopped him.  The killer birds…I didn’t know I needed to stop them.

I never knew sparrow parents would attack wren young and kill them to ensure there is a steady food source for their young.  They must be new to the neighborhood.  There is no lack of food sources.  My wife has made sure of that.

I saw them hanging or flying around but was too stupid to realize they were up to no good.  We found the little broken and pecked bodies on the porch floor and with their distraught parents flitting about, felt their loss. 

I am telling myself, it is the way of nature.  I haven’t convinced myself.

And then there are the evils of man.  The trailer was just one of several grand heists over the years.    Bad people are found everywhere…and bad birds too.

The thefts began with a tractor stolen from the middle of my “hundred-acre woods.”  I ran out of fuel and didn’t return to where I had left it, literally in the middle of my forest, until a couple of days later.  I couldn’t find the John Deere and Winnie the Pooh wouldn’t help me look.  I guess Winnie was trying to get his nose out of his honey jar.  My nose was just out of joint.

An antique FJ 40 Landcruiser was taken from my front yard.  It was returned much the worse from wear.   A beautiful piece of Japanese engineering turned into junk.  The one time it ran after its return, “Kamikaze Cruiser” caught fire.  I hope the thief joins my beloved cruiser and burns in hell…well…metaphorically, I reckon…may be.

Not that everything has been “take, take, take.”  A would be Robin Hood decided to share the wealth.  A stolen pickup truck with two weeks worth of trash loaded in it, missed the curve at a high rate of speed, flipped and crashed into my creek.  It was laying on it’s top mocking a dead cockroach, two weeks of trash scattered hither and yon.  The old Ford had taken down my fence and my billy goat stood on top of the truck’s bottom as if he had ruled triumphant in a game of king of the hill.

I felt satisfaction when I learned of the malefactor’s capture, a young man found battered and bruised at a nearby restaurant frequented by our local constabulary.  I doubt the owner of the totaled truck got any satisfaction and I was left to clean up the mess that was left and mend my own fences.

There were other occasions to call the authorities.  Enough occasions to put together a pattern.  Every deputy who came out to investigate uttered the same family name.  “I’ll bet you  ‘Old so-and-so’ is responsible.”  “Old so-and-so just got out of jail, bet he’s at it again.”

I’m not going to say the name because I really don’t know if they stole my trailer or not.  If they didn’t it would be a first.  True to form though, as I met the deputy about my trailer, he brought up the same name again.  “You live pretty near Old so-and-so.  Bet it was him or one of his sons.”  Now grandsons.

I still haven’t seen my trailer, but the backcountry crime family tried to strike again.  This time it was my neighbor.  I slept through most of the event despite the blue and red lights flooding my yard at one until three A.M.  My neighbor filled me in.

A young man with the same last name as the redneck crime lord, a grandchild, was apprehended attempting to steal my neighbor’s travel trailer with a truck the boy had stolen earlier and elsewhere.  He even posed for a picture before attempting to flee after he realized no one wanted his autograph.

Attempting to escape in the stolen truck the clown prince of crime found himself reduced to running when the vehicle broke down at the scene and caught fire.  Poor baby.  He was later found hiding in a kudzu filled ditch…kudzu covering blackberry filled ditch.

I wish I had seen his dismay when he dove face first into the ditch only to find his soft landing impeded by blackberry thorns.  That had to smart…I wish it had been multiflora rose.  I do feel great satisfaction envisioning his surprise landing and ask for no forgiveness as I smile.

It seems the torch has been passed from one generation to another.  Grandfather to son to grandchild.  I wonder if the godfather of redneck crime is proud.  The old man showed up and according to my neighbor, just shook his head as if to say, “I thought I taught him better than that.”

My father told me once he could tolerate a thief more than a liar.  The reasons for his comment will remain between my father and me but I was in the wrong.  I understand his sentiment but would pose to him, “One might go hand in hand with the other.”

The image of the angry bird is from https://twistedsifter.com/2012/04/40-actual-real-life-angry-looking-birds/

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

“Thank You For Accepting People as They Are”

 

There was an envelope in my mailbox.  Addressed to my wife I turned it over and saw “Thank you for accepting people as they are.”  Maybe some of you have received this envelope after having contributed to the Special Olympics.  I didn’t directly contribute but my wife has always made sure we contributed and during our teaching years were actively involved…as in she involved me during her days as an elementary physical education instructor and while cosponsoring the high school’s service-learning program.  I am thankful for that.

She has always been the poster child for accepting people at face value.  Accepting people at what they were.  Offering love and discipline but no criticisms as to what they were or where they came from.

I remember visiting her while she taught on occasion.  Smiling, snotty-nosed children of different genders and races rushed gleefully into her class, expecting to receive and returning hugs, refusing to be denied.  Sneezes, mucus, mud be damned.  Terms of endearment flowed from Miss PE, “Sugar or Honey Lamb, Snookems, Babydoll,” etc.  I saw love and acceptance.

Don’t be fooled.  She could get after them pretty good when they failed to get to or remain on their spots, but she distanced the person from the offense.  She accepted people as they were.  I wondered as I looked at the envelope…and fell down Alice’s rabbit hole.

When I saw the phrase on the back of the envelope, I asked myself, “What if we accepted people as they are?”  Gay, different races, transgender, poor, different religions, forget where they came from and accept who they are as opposed to what they are.

We are quick to criticize people who look differently, speak differently, have different religious beliefs than us.  People who don’t love the way we love or eat the same foods that we eat.  We seem to get upset because we must press one for English.  How many seconds of our life does it really cost us?

We create divides by pontificating loudly and listening little, passing judgment on one before delivering our sentences to all.  Our loud language and sharply delivered words can only be interpreted one way by those they are directed toward.

We are quick to label people with all sorts of names, explain that they are bad or different because they are a product of a lax home environment and because we have thrown god from the halls of education.   We don’t like their pink hair, their tattoo or their nose piercing and we look no deeper.  We don’t make the effort to listen to what they might want to tell us…what we might actually learn.

We make no effort to understand their thinking or consider what they might have woke up to or went to bed to.  We don’t seem to care they might have gone to bed hungry and went out into the world the next morning the same way.  Again, we pontificate loudly that it is not our responsibility.

We dismiss many kids as kooks, fruitcakes, freaks, goofballs, wingnuts, mentally ill and the one that knifes me the most…retards.  Honestly, I don’t like the label “special”, but we must have a label of some type.  After all, we are the normal ones with our normal convictions and conventions.  We must have a way to delineate the differences between us and them to make ourselves feel more important, more worthy.

I hurt for our teens.  Teens at best are troubled and all we’ve done is add to their troubles.  Dealing with those raging hormones is bad enough…and now we call them crazy because…well because.  We tell them they’ll never amount to much.  They are lazy and the worst generation ever.  They are the most disrespectful…but I notice it is always the other person’s child.

If you tell a kid enough times that he is a duck, at some time or another he will begin to waddle.  We get what we expect.  If you expect nothing you won’t be disappointed.  I notice we point our fingers but offer little cure…especially if it costs money.

We bully, we attempt to push their little round bodies into little square holes. As they attempt to find themselves, we attempt to make them into the image of ourselves.

I taught forever plus a day and found that the most interesting students, who became the most interesting adults, were the kooks and fruitcakes.  The ones who thought outside of the box, colored outside of the lines and looked at the world sideways and created something beautiful.  They were the leaders who refused to follow tired old lines.  They were the ones who hated to hear “We’ve done it this way for….”

There was a time when we put a premium on free thinkers.  Now it seems we don’t want free thinkers.  They might be left thinkers and that just wouldn’t be right.

We want our mini-mes to toe the party line, drinking deeply from the propaganda Kool-Aid.  It seems we want everyone lined up in rows like dominos, standing at attention, all boringly the same…and like a row of dominos when one tips over, they all tip over.

What if we just accepted people as they are.  Nurtured instead of ridiculed.  What is wrong with nurturing?  You can be nurturing and not be soft.  Put their little seeds in the ground not caring what the seed might be.  Add water and fertilizer, weed the bed occasionally and see what they turn into.   Provide a fertile bed for plants instead of chopping them off at the roots like weeds.

What if we accept people as they are?

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

 

“No Unloved Flowers”

 

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox

There are no unloved flowers on my little piece of heaven.  My bride makes sure.  From wild morning glory to thistle; she loves them all…much to my vexation.

My little piece of heaven is a wildlife refuge; a jungle, the bush, the wilds, at times a rain forest.  Ninty acres of tangles, bramble, and bushes.   No area is more tangled than in my backyard.

No animal is unwelcomed, no reptile reviled, not even the juvenile black rat snake I’ve twice moved from the porch as he tries to find a way to the wren’s nest built on the fan.

Squirrels and ground squirrels battle cardinals for the sunflower seeds I carefully place in the bird feeders…bird feeders Linda Gail…they are bird feeders.  Make that squirrel and bird feeders.

A passing raccoon looks up and briefly contemplates making them raccoon feeders.  I’m sure she’ll be back once she comes up with a plan to scale the deck the feeders rest under.

More importantly and to the point, there is no blossom too small not to be called a flower.  Miss PE has never met a weed; flora, fauna or human.

If it were cold it would be blackberry winter, but it is already blackberry summer.  The white blooms are so bright they seem to glow in the dark.

It is the spring grass cutting season and my bride’s proclivities bring us into conflict.

I have spent a goodly portion of my life cutting grass, endlessly walking or riding in mindless circles.  From cutting hay in fields of tall fescue or oats as a youngster to the well-manicured Bermuda playing fields of my coaching career.  From pristine lawns of zoysia…to, my weed-filled yard.  No more mindless circles with Miss Linda in control… she is, most certainly, in control.

Don’t cut the clover, bees and rabbits love it.  Stay away from the small yellow flowers put off by the wood sorrel that’s mixed in with the white blossoms of the wild strawberries.  Nice little red strawberries that taste…they have no taste at all.

Those little purple thingies…No! No! No!  We have plenty of Vinca minor and periwinkle.  They put off bigger purple thingies!  The wild violets and purple basil, No! No! No! Not unless you want to lose a body part.

Don’t touch the milkweed, butterflies feed on it…except that’s not milkweed, it’s burnweed.  It never blooms and the butterflies have plenty of other plants to feed upon.  We will have these stalky things all over the place.  Six feet tall if an inch and not one butterfly flying about its blooms because there are no blooms.  Not going to argue, who knows it may bloom this year.

We have plenty of butterflies on other blooms.  Butterflies and bees, and yellow jackets building in the ground under the grass I’ve been forced to leave uncut.  Mosquitoes by the gazillions hiding in all our greenery.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love wildflowers, real wildflowers.  Our trillium, the wild sweet peas, the honeysuckle, wild iris, and other plants I have no name for.

I don’t like pokeweed.  The birds don’t seem to like it either. And dammit, the privet is blooming…it is quite pretty.  Pretty like my bride and a big pain in the butt to control.  You are free to think about what I am thinking but I won’t say it for fear she might hear.

She was right about the native honeysuckle.  I suggested we trim it up a bit…to the ground?  Oh no!  My fences are now covered in yellow and white. The yard smells wonderfully no matter which direction the wind blows and I just saw three hummingbirds and a half dozen butterflies buzzing about.  See, we don’t need those spiky things.

The red-throated anole likes to hide in the honeysuckle.  He suns himself on the gate, bright green in the sunshine. He blows out his little red-pink neck before running for cover when I approach. I hope he continues to hide well. My persistent black rat snake is now stalking him I think.

I must face the music.  She’s right about everything…even when she’s not.

In case there is not enough color in the yard she’s made friends with a local nursery owner…flowers in baskets are everywhere.  She can’t drive by the nursery without turning in.  Cana lilies and begonias because our Tiger lilies and old-fashioned begonias haven’t bloomed yet I guess.  Caladiums in and around the irises that are just now blooming.  Colorful baskets of cascading blooms because…just because.

Despite the color they add, my yard will look like a jungle until fall when she finally lets me clean it up.  Gee.  I was hoping for a long summer anyway.

The image is from https://phys.org/news/2017-05-dandelion-seeds-pipette-lab.html

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

 

 

 

 

 

Silence as I wander in the Valley of Death

 

“Yea as I walk through the shadow of the valley of death…” I hear nothing.

I first wrote and posted about Silence in December 2015.  Here it is May 2019, and the silence persists when I talk to my God.  The silence reverberates even more loudly than before as more hatred floods the airways sweeping up more and more in its wake.

My God doesn’t answer me.  Daily I give him an opportunity.  I usually converse with him as I perform my walkabout.  Out in the open, in the elements, in his creation…it should be a good time to talk, a good time for answers.  Wish he or she would answer a few questions…maybe it’s the way I frame them…I’m sure it is my fault. Sometimes my questions to him just pop out from nowhere…or from everywhere.

There are many times when I wish the voices in my head would shut up, this is not one of those occasions.  I’m waiting for a Saul/Paul moment. Maybe it is the voices in my head asking the questions instead of me or my road doesn’t lead to Damascus.

I grew up in the church…and then like so many young people wandered down a divergent path.  Later I would come back and then diverge again…a couple of times. I fear I might be in the divergent mode again.   

During those divergent days, my issues weren’t with Jesus, it was with organized religion…it still is.  I have problems with the “My God is greater than your god” group.

I have problems with people who are so sure of their beliefs whether it is a minister, layman or political pundit.  My issues were or are with Christians who spread their hate in the name of God, seemingly forgetting the love of Jesus, many masquerading as political pundits.  Is it hate or am I missing the point of Christian generosity? Can you quote from Leviticus and the teachings of Jesus?

My first divergence occurred because of a young minister who was so sure that if my mother truly believed she’d be cured of her terminal disease.  Well, she wasn’t cured, she did believe, and I was an angry young man whose religious beliefs had been shattered.

Now my confidence is being tested by the hatred I see…good people pulled to the fringes of their religion while I, if anything, seem to move in the other direction.   Hellfire and brimstone seem to swirl about me as I ask my questions. The smell of sulfur hangs in the air of my head. The punishing God of the Old Testament seems to be loading up his burning stones and aiming them at anyone not toeing the fundamentalist line…I should be ready to duck.

If you believe in a fundamental, punishing god that is your right.  I will not attempt to convert you. I just can’t believe in or worship that kind of god.  I promise I won’t attempt to transmute you to my way of thinking. Please give me the same consideration.

Generally, I’m not very open about my religious beliefs…nor outspoken at all.  Writing this is an unbelievable stretch for me. Yesterday I stretched even further as I engaged a very good friend, metaphorically laying myself bare.  She is a non-believer…maybe, sometimes I wonder. She has better than a good heart.

After laying myself bare, she attempted to apply a soothing balm, “(You are) a caring human being and a spiritual soul. The goodness I see in you doesn’t require a grand biblical gesture or event to validate or verify what and who you are.”

Her comment lifted my spirits but this morning I wonder.  I don’t feel very spiritual or validated but I do keep asking myself questions and mulling while waiting, hoping for an answer.

Rewritten From December 2015

I worry. Worry for family, country, and friends. Friends of all races, creeds, sexual preferences and colors. I pray. There is no answer, nothing but silence.  

I ask, What happened to “live and let live?”

I agonize over students having to face death in what should be one of the safest places in the world.  Students giving their lives to protect others when the people we entrust with their safety seem to only to offer “thoughts and prayers.”  While we have plenty of suppositions, we offer little else other than “It is God’s will.” It’s this, it’s that, it’s not something else but we do nothing.  The silence is becoming oppressive.

I worry about worshippers of all religions, unable to praise their god for fear of bombings, burnings or the sound of rapid-fire weapons echoing in the foreground.  There seems to be no answer from above or here on earth. Does God help those who help themselves? We might try that.

I wonder. Wonder at how the world has come to this. I pray and then I rage. Rage at Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheist, Liberals, Conservatives, anyone in between and any religion I failed to mention.

I pray. Again, there is no succor, only silence.

I hate. Mostly I hate myself for hating. I pray for the hatred to be taken away. From myself and from people I don’t even know.  It does not relent. The silence swells in my mind.

I ask for enlightenment. Understanding, Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight. Why do we do nothing but debate? Why do we do the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome?  It is insanity.

Why do we do nothing but wait until the next episode of terror…? I pray. There is nothing but deep, dark silence.

My grandmother instructed me to “lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”

I pray to look “unto the hills” but the silence has become a deafening roar in my ears.

I must keep looking unto the hills. I will keep praying…hoping God will take the silence away.

Thanks, Lynn, for listening.

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

The image is from https://gravitycenter.com/silence/

 

Apologies to the Church Bus

 

In honor of World Naked Gardening Day, a short story of semi-nakedly “tripping the light fantastic.”

My apologies.  There are times when it’s okay to show one’s naked, blindingly bright derriere…well, my blindingly bright derriere.  Taking a bath or shower, weighing oneself, sleeping in the buff, skinny dippin’ or faire l’amour…I guess the last two or three could be related.  You’ll notice gardening wasn’t on my list because Southern gardens ain’t a good place to be naked.

I would say, unless you are in a nudist colony, baring your butt outdoors in your bean patch should be avoided.  ‘Specially if your bean patch is adjacent to a well-traveled highway during the height of mosquito season.

I should point out, here in the South, we have some three gazillion forms of stinging or biting insects just looking for the chance to attack a warm, yeasty area of the body.  We have another gazillion insects that are just downright irritating even if they don’t sting.

I digress, back to my point.  My apologies are for the three carloads of folk and the loaded church bus passing by while I was trying to get out of my shorts and skivvies.  My intent was to run and get behind my small stand of raccoon ravaged corn. Best laid plans and all.

I was embarrassed because it’s hard to get out of your shorts if you’re not trying to get out of your boots first and I just didn’t have the time.  I was embarrassed because there were no cheers emanating from any those vehicles as I displayed my butt and other body parts.  I guess it could have been the shock.

I was also embarrassed by the face and head plant into the stand of crooked necked squash plants when my boots became tangled in my shorts.  It could have been worse; the cops could have shown up.

Why was I trying to get out of my shorts and underwear one might ask? I promise yea shall be enlightened.

In a previous post, I admitted to weed-eating while wearing shorts because I found myself to be less susceptible to multiple yellow jacket stings that way.  Well…to be honest I wear shorts all the time this time of year unless I am picking blackberries or raspberries.  I have found yellow jackets to be the meanest of God’s stinging minions and can’t really understand why they were allowed on Noah’s Ark.  They’ll sting you just for the sheer joy of it.

One of the devil’s stinging minions decided my pant’s leg would be a great place to fly up and into.  Note to self, when wearing shorts choose jockey style underwear and not boxer style.  With the little bastard zeroing in on my soft inner thigh, just under my danglys, one might understand why I wasn’t too concerned about embarrassing myself in front of a church bus full of passengers.

Oh well, in case you were wondering, I avoided major injury or a hornet sting to my physical person.  I think the little devil was laughing too hard to sting me.  My pride might have suffered just a bit…and I don’t think some of my crooked neck squash plants will survive…hope the folks on the church bus do.  I’m sure they might have been blinded by the glare.

Hope y’all enjoy World Naked Gardening Day…me?  I’m staying out of the garden today.

This is an excerpt from the book “Cornfields…in my mind” and the book may be downloaded or purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Image from CNN Entertainment

 

A Question of Education

 

I apologize ahead of time.  This may be meandering pig trail, but I feel the need to speak out.  Sorry for the ramble.

My state capital, Columbia, SC, will host a rally for educational reform on May 1st.  A similar rally is being held on the same date in North Carolina and will mirror other rallies that have been held in other states.  I am a retired teacher and feel I should go.  But I can’t.  It is a debate I have had with myself for the past week but I just can’t go.

I’m not the only one debating but at least my debate is with myself.  The Governor has made his feelings known as has the Superintendent of Education.  They are not fans of #ALLOUT…and they will not receive my vote next time around.  Various local superintendents and district spokesmen have made their feelings known and I am not a fan of them either but being retired means I don’t have to work for them or play nice.

What really bothers me is the attitude of everyday South Carolinians.  The rally has been characterized as a “walkout” for better pay by its opponents and maligned by them.  I’ve seen all the arguments.  My favorites are “You knew what you were getting into and if you don’t like it get some other job” and the biggest lie in the world, “You get three months off in the summer and still get paid for it.”

First of all, it’s not a walkout.  You know how South Carolina dislikes anything suggesting a strike.  Teachers are using their personal days or paying for their own subs, and while better pay is an issue, the issues go much deeper than pay…although having to take on a second job to pay for the day you’re taking to go protest is an issue…there I said it.  A protest…but I’ll keep calling it a rally.

The rally is about reducing class sizes, reducing standardized testing and having to teach to the test, not being allowed to teach to anything but standards, not feeling safe or supported in their classrooms, not having the materials to do the job teachers are called to do…not that I really know what that is anymore.  So…keep thinking it is just about pay.

Most importantly, it’s a rally about respect and support, something teachers have lost through no fault of their own.  Something our politicians have given no more than lip service to recently…if ever and which statements like “You knew what you were getting into…” exemplifies.

I am a product of the South Carolina public school system, a product of in-state colleges. I taught in the South Carolina public school systems for forty-five years.  I never considered it a job.  I knew I had been called to teach.

I have been fully retired for four years and it seems a lifetime ago that I last set foot in a classroom.  I saw many changes through the years, a few were good and those that were were fostered by actual educators, even if it was at the request of a politician.

“No Child Left Behind” was not one of the good changes.  The decline in teacher moral escalated with “No Child Left Behind” and the constant testing, teaching to the test, and meeting about the test “ad nauseam.”

Not that “No Child Left Behind” is the only culprit.  South Carolina ranks near the bottom of a bunch of national statistics, education is just one of them.  We rank forty-eighth out of fifty-one in education by pretty much everyone’s ratings.  Fifty states plus the District of Columbia for those who wonder about my own education.

I hang my head wondering how we got that way…oh yeah, we’ve been that way.  I blame it on what I call our “Cotton Mill Mentality” and our Southern desire to maintain a cheap and uneducated workforce.  Too harsh?  Sometimes the truth is just that.

I began attending school in the Fifties, during the hay day of cotton textiles.  Unfortunately, I began teaching as cotton textiles were in decline, finally lost to cheaper foreign labor.

Cotton textiles were a great educational tool for the Carolinas and other Southern states.  Fine people who were not academically inclined could graduate, or not, and still find a position at one of the local cotton mills; make a living, provide for their families and most importantly it seemed, pay taxes.

Unfortunately, those opportunities fled the South and our political leaders were slow to realize that our educational system had to change to meet modern job descriptions.  This was despite warnings issued from educators  I heard as far back as the early Eighties.  I believe we are still paying for that mindset and waiting for cotton textiles to come back.

We have yet to recognize the effect of an educational system hamstrung by backward thinking.   An educational system crippled by politicians and a tax base that refuses to pay for any meaningful change.  A system that is politically driven and slow to involve educators in the process.

An educational system injured by a belief that education is really not important and why do I have to pay when I don’t have a child in school…or why should I worry about what is happening in the I-95 corridor if I live in the upstate.

Recently it seems another fear has emerged from our strongly conservative base, a fear that teachers are teaching liberalism and socialism, turning all our students into little communists.  It seems that to protest or rather rally helps to stoke those fears.

Teachers are asked to do more and more with less and less.  More testing, more planning for testing, more collaboration about testing.  More time pouring over statistics trying to analyze test results you are not allowed to see.

Less time to prepare for the actual class.  Paying for materials out of their own pockets or doing without.  Open disrespect and a lack of support.  This what the rally is about and if it inconveniences someone…well good.

More teachers are leaving the profession and fewer students are picking education as a life’s work.  Why would they?  Fewer teachers mean more students per class which means less time.  If you believe the student per teacher ratio means anything, I’ve got some land I’d like to sell you.

Curriculum requirements have changed but the time to teach all that is needed has decreased.  Fewer resources, less time to do their jobs. Less time for teachers to make a meaningful dent in the problems facing our youth in a modern world…a world they didn’t create but will have to pay for.

Who suffers in all this…besides the teacher?  The one most significant change I suffered as class sizes crept up was a loss of contact with students.  I didn’t get as close to my students because I didn’t have the time to get close to my classes.  I didn’t get to find out what was bothering Bobbi Jo or Tyrek.  I tried, but it just isn’t possible.  Someone slides through the cracks.  That might be the greatest loss of all.

Okay, I guess I have ranted enough.  I pray for positive change.  Our children are our futures…they are our legacies.  They deserve our best efforts and teachers deserve the tools to make those efforts…they deserve the respect.

I should be there, marching, “rallying”, channeling my inner hippie…my inner liberal…my inner communist. LOL.

The picture is from the Post and Courier, Charleston, SC

For further ramblings please follow my author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM