Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

Grace Notes

"Men Like My Father Cannot Die"

"They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 17, 2017 9:26 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Albert John ('Van') Van der Leun: A Sharp Man

alooksharpbesharp.jpgMy father liked sharp. He was a Gillette kind of man. He liked to look sharp, feel sharp and be sharp. I never saw him unshaven except very early in the morning before he’d had a chance to lather up. Beards? He was a child of the hard parts of the Depression and beards were for bums.

My father favored the flat-top for himself and his sons. Butch Wax was a staple in our house and four males could go through a jar a week. He grudgingly accepted my 3-inch “Ivy League” cut once I went off to the university, but was never reconciled to the longer and longer hair that came later.

My father was a sharp-dressed man. He liked the snap of a freshly laundered, starched and ironed white shirt. His suits were always cleaned and pressed and his shoes shined to a military gloss. I still have many of his gold and silver tie-tacks and cuff-links and although I seldom wear them, I do wear them. They make me feel sharp.

My father was a car salesman and a good one. He was a sharp salesman; one that was always looking for what the customer actually wanted as well as what the customer could really afford. For every minute selling, he spent five qualifying. He didn’t boast about being the top salesman at the lot, although he usually was. He did boast that he had the fewest repos of all the salesmen, and the most repeat customers. He liked to sell people cars that he knew they could afford. His most repeated instruction to me was, “Never try to profit off of another’s misfortune.”

My father hated smooth. He liked plain talk and despised euphemism and manipulation, especially among salesmen. He’d fire car salesmen working under him if he caught them lying or even shading the truth to make a sale. He looked at every deal brought to him for approval that the buyer didn’t have the credit for as a failed sale and wouldn’t approve them. “A man that will lie to a customer will lie to you,” he’d say. “Bad for the buyer and worse for the business,” he’d say. “If you let a man buy what he can’t afford on credit, you’re going to be taking the car back and making an enemy. We’re here to get cars off the lot, not see them come back after repossession. A man who can’t make his car payments is a man who can’t maintain his car. A salesman who’s so smooth he’s selling people cars bigger than they can afford is a salesman who’s taking a kickback from the repoman.”

My father was a man for whom honor was essential. Did my father sell as many cars as he could have? Probably not, but he raised three boys well and without want. My mother worked hard, day in and day out, as my mother and did, in the final analysis, a pretty good job of it. My father saved carefully and retired all debt as quickly as possible. When he died, a relatively young man after years of expensive medical treatments, my mother was still set up comfortably for life.

My father despised debt and avoided credit. Educated by himself, he’d seen the worst of the depression and, during one hard winter in Pittsburgh in the 30s, had to hang out by the railroad tracks to pick up lumps of coal fallen from the trains in order to heat his home.

My father was a life-long Democrat, and despised Richard Nixon for his five-o’clock shadow, his smooth palaver, and his treatment of Helen Gahagan Douglas in an early California election. He felt the same way about Kennedy. “He looks sharp but when you listen to him he’s just too smooth a talker.”

What would my father think about a President who was a both a sharp-dressed man and was smoothly talking the country into buying trillions of dollars in deficits and entitlements?

Like he said, “A salesman who’s so smooth he’s selling people cars bigger than they can afford is a salesman who’s taking a kickback from the repoman.”


Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 17, 2017 12:01 AM |  Comments (46)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison (with an assist by Gregg Allman)


[Complete with a classic four minute break/riff right in the middle.]

Music is my life's blood. I love music, I love to play good music, and I love to play music for people who appreciate it. And when it's all said and done, I'll go to my grave and my brother will greet me, saying, "Nice work, little brother—you did all right." I must have said this a million times, but if I died today, I have had me a blast.

Gregg_Allman_1975.jpg
I want to rock your gypsy soul / Just like way back in the days of old / And together we will float into the mystic - - Gregg Allman (December 8, 1947 – May 27, 2017)

"'Into the Mystic' is another one like 'Madame Joy' and 'Brown Eyed Girl'. Originally I wrote it as 'Into the Misty'. But later I thought that it had something of an ethereal feeling to it so I called it 'Into the Mystic'. That song is kind of funny because when it came time to send the lyrics in WB Music, I couldn't figure out what to send them. Because really the song has two sets of lyrics. For example, there's 'I was born before the wind' and 'I was borne before the wind', and also 'Also younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was one' and 'All so younger than the son, Ere the bonny boat was won' ... I guess the song is just about being part of the universe." -- Van Morrison


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jun 11, 2017 2:43 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
June 6: A walk across a beach in Normandy

normandy.jpg

Today your job is straightforward. First you must load 40 to 50 pounds on your back. Then you need to climb down a net of rope that is banging on the steel side of a ship and jump into a steel rectangle bobbing on the surface of the ocean below you. Others are already inside the steel boat shouting and urging you to hurry up.

Once in the boat you stand with dozens of others as the boat is driven towards distant beaches and cliffs through a hot hailstorm of bullets and explosions. Boats moving nearby are, from time to time, hit with a high explosive shell and disintegrate in a red rain of bullets and body parts. Then there's the smell of men near you fouling themselves as the fear bites into their necks and they hunch lower into the boat. That smell mingles with the smell of cordite and seaweed.

In front of you, over the steel helmets of other men, you can see the flat surface of the bow’s landing ramp still held in place against the sea. Soon you are in range of the machine guns that line the cliffs above the beach ahead. The metallic dead sound of their bullets clangs and whines off the front of the ramp.

Then the coxswain shouts and the klaxon sounds and then you feel the keel of the LST grind against the rocks and sand of Normandy as the large shells from the boats in the armada behind you whuffle and moan overhead and then the explosions all around increase in intensity and then the bullets from the machine guns in the cliffs ahead and above rattle and hum along the steel plates of the boat and the men crouch lower and then somehow together lean forward as, at last, the ramp drops down and you see the beach and then the men surge forward and you step with them and then you are out in the chill waters of the channel wading in towards sand already doused with death, past bodies bobbing in the surf staining the waters crimson, and then you are on the beach.

It’s worse on the beach.

The bullets keep probing along the sand digging holes, looking for your body, finding others that drop down like sacks of meat with their lines to heaven cut. You run forward because there’s nothing but ocean at your back and more men dying and… somehow… you reach a small sliver of shelter at the base of the cliffs. There are others there, confused and cowering and not at all ready to go back out into the storm of steel that keeps pouring down. And then someone, somewhere nearby, tells you all to press forward, to go on, to somehow get off that beach and onto the high ground behind it, and because you don’t know what else to do, you rise up and you move forward, beginning, one foot after another, to take back the continent of Europe.

If you are lucky, very lucky, on that day, you will walk all the way to Germany and the war will be over and you will go home to a town somewhere on the great land sea of the Midwest and you won’t talk much about this day, or any that came after it, ever. They’ll ask you, throughout long decades after, “What did you do in the war?” You’ll think of this day and you will never think of a good answer. That’s because you know just how lucky you were.

If you were not lucky on that day you lie under a white cross on a large lawn 73 long gone years later.

Weak princes and fat bureaucrats and traitors mumble platitudes and empty praises about actions they never knew and men they cannot hope to emulate.

You hear their prattle, dim and far away outside the brass doors that seal the caverns of your long sleep. You want them to go, to leave you and the others to your brown study of eternity.

"Seventy-three years? Seems like a lot to the living. It’s but an inch of infinite time. Leave us and go back to your petty lives. We march on and you, you weaklings primping and parading above us, will never know how we died or how we lived. If we hear you at all now, your mewling only makes us ask, among ourselves, 'Died for what?'

"Princes and bureaucrats, be silent. Be gone. We are now and forever one with the sea and the sky and the wind and the steel rain. We march on."


Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 6, 2017 9:31 AM |  Comments (60)  | QuickLink: Permalink
A Change of Heart

"And I thought of all the bad luck,
And the struggles we went through
And how I lost me and you lost you."

-- Don Henley

dove_rs.jpgThere's a lot of it being bandied about these days. Change, that is. Mostly in the realm of the Politics of life. Despite all the hand-wringing and introspection that goes on in this area, I've come to believe that the Politics of life are easy. It's the Poetics of life that are tough.

Changing your politics by either softening or hardening or completely reversing your positions on issues is such a simple intellectual feat that almost anyone, even politicians and lawyers, can manage it. At bottom, it is mostly a matter of viewing or "re"-viewing your internal map of how the world should be, and taking up those positions or opinions or policies that you believe will lead the world from "what it is" to "what the world should be."

Thoughtful and engaged citizens of the nation or of the world continually assemble and reassemble their political beliefs to resemble their visions of the world and its continual becoming. All of which implies, to a greater or lesser extent, some individual control over the creation of policies which determine -- to some degree -- political outcomes.

Politics is the great game of our globe. It is now and always has been the only blood sport played well by both warriors and wimps. This is as it should be since blood or treasure must often be spilled to obtain any one of many possible outcomes. In all this, change may be for the better or the worse, depending on where you stand, but change will come, have its way and send the butcher's bill.

And the butcher's bill will always be more than you imagined you would have to pay. In blood and in treasure, the stakes are fates.

All of that is hard and difficult and, more often than not, splits parties, factions, families and friends right down to the living bone. It is played in real time and with live ammunition. But none of it is mysterious. In the end it involves only the process of politics and, while the rules may be at times obscure, they can still be descried and codified.

Not so the changes of the darkest realm of our lives; that realm we know only dimly but tell ourselves, in our error, that we know well. This is the realm of the human heart; a place where change comes more slowly than wisdom accrues, and rolls below our conscious minds like a deep, underground river into which we have drilled, through the bedrock of our lives, the wells of love and the wells of hate.

We recognize and celebrate the deep wells of love within ourselves. So much so that we invite others, be they strangers, friends or lovers, to drink from them; to refresh themselves and thus know us as the kind of human being that can love and love deeply; that can make the deeper vows of love in life and, despite setbacks, still cling to them and draw strength from them. To close down and fill in one of these wells we open in ourselves to another is still seen -- even in this deluded age of no fault for anything -- a large failure in, and a waste of, life. This is as it should be. A deep love is known, by all who have had it granted to them, as the rarest of all moments of grace to be had in this world. Nothing can buy it and nothing replaces it. One can only nuture it or squander it.

We toast the couple who has made it to fifty years of marriage. We are, indeed, amazed these days when half that measure is achieved. We admire the parents who have a deeply challenged child and yet stick by and raise that child into all the happiness of which that child is capable. We honor all those who spend their lives in service to humanity and even, when that service passes all understanding, raise them up as saints, holy or secular.

The water from our deepest wells of love runs clear and clean. It refreshes the soul. Like all the great waters of this life it carries within it no taste at all other than that which is pure and which is true. Tasted once we carry within us forever a ceaseless thirst for more of it.

Then there are, because we are only human and caught halfway up the stairs between beast and angel, the darker wells of which we do not speak, but which run just as deep and just as ceaseless within our hearts.

These are the wells of the black and bitter water that we drink from at that awful hour of 4 AM in the soul. That hour when the bad phone calls arrive, when the arguments and the accusations twist in the soul, when nothing is satisfied and sleep is slight and the dawn delays.

Nothing good ever transpires in an argument carried past 2AM, and it grows almost lethal as it winds on until 4. It doesn't matter whether or not the argument is with another or just with oneself, let it run that long into the night and you will know -- cold and stained -- the darkest secrets of the self. And you will drink them down as night after night and year after year they are drawn up from the heart's core. And the water will be dank and false and carry an ever increasing taint of poison into your soul. Tasted once, you will have a ceaseless thirst for more of it.

I've been drinking my dark bitter glass from my secret well of hate in the dark hours on and off for what is now going on fifteen years. That's a strange measure since it marks just about the same length of time that I loved the woman and was married to her.

But I'm no addict. I'm no alcoholic of hate. No, not me.

Over time I no longer drank from this dark well nightly. I'd lost a couple of years to its intoxicating haze in the early 90s, but I emerged from that in time. Say what you will of the dark water, it did not rule my life, only -- from time to time -- my nights.

After some years had passed it surprised me to realize that I had not really thought of her for months. It was surprising to notice that my once nightly mantra of secret thoughts centered on all the wrongs done, and all the years of my child's life stolen from me, had retreated to a much more infrequent pattern. I was relieved that the thoughts that always spiraled down into the dark (where I would imagine the worst sort of things happening to the woman I once loved above all others) had faded to a sometime thing.

And there it stayed, a sometimes thing. A steady state of hate.

Of course, because it came up from a well of hate I had dug deep into my heart with my own hands, the sometimes thing was always the same thing on those random nights when it filled my sleeplessness. It was a thing fashioned from the shabbiest materials of my soul, all the cheap claptrap that I was capable of pasting to the mildewed walls, all the shoddy stuff that held me up as a heroic "sufferer" at another's hands, the eternal moist "victim of circumstance," the paltry, spurned lover. The husband who had been so unjustly cast aside that he had conveniently forgotten his own hand in the matter. The wronged father who could not be bothered to look at his own failures when the spite and the maliciousness was so clearly all on the other side.... On and on it went in a litany of wrongs unavenged. The trial was held and held again and the verdict on her "crimes against my humanity" was, according to the jury (that would be me as well) always guilty, guilty, guilty.

Then I'd siphon up another glass of black hate from the dark well of my heart, knock it back neat, and get on to my favorite part: punishment. I won't go into the punishments I would imagine except to say that I have an extremely vivid imagination and that being in the book and movie "American Psycho" would have seemed like an all expenses paid day at Disneyland by comparison. After all, it is the nature of hate to feed upon itself and, like all addictions, demand greater and greater quantities to become sated. Let's just say I ate my revenge slow and cold with a table knife.

And that was how my private little melodrama played in the showcase of my soul as a decade rolled by and I waited for it, like some perverted and worn Velveteen Rabbit, to become real. I'd hear of her from time to time but never in any great detail. I could have if I'd wanted to since I still retained connections with various members of her family. But I didn't ask and they didn't tell. In truth, so dark was the hate I held for her that I thought I didn't want to hear anything about her unless the news was bad -- very, very bad.

I honesty and deeply believed that about myself right up until the day I actually heard some very, very bad news about her.

It came in over the rumor mill of the telephone, just like the game of telephone. Somebody told somebody something. That somebody told somebody else something. And that somebody told me. It was a series of anecdotes four times removed from the subject. Little more than the thin gruel of gossip watered down and enhanced four times over.

The tale told was bleak and awful. It had all the things about it that I had, in my hate, been waiting to hear: disease, destitution, loneliness and ruination. My waiting cup was at long last filled to overflowing and handed to me.

And I could not drink from it. I dashed it from my lips. In one stunned instant I knew that everything I had been telling myself for nearly 15 years about my deepest feelings for this person had been one of the most carefully constructed and meticulously executed lies I have ever told. And one that I had told only to myself. One that I had believed.

It was in one moment revealed to me as a lie because my very first and deepest reactions to the awful news I had been waiting for for so long was neither the glee nor the jubilation I had always imagined, but the exact polar opposite of both these states.

My first reaction was one of shock, of concern, or wanting to know more, of thinking immediately of which resources I possessed that could be brought to bear to help her, no matter what the cost.

A second illumination followed almost instantly upon the first and I saw tumble through my mind a host of bright memories I had long thought erased forever. The roses by the cabin door in Big Sur where we had first become lovers. The nights above the fog moving over the Presidio in San Francisco. Her face leaning out of the window of her loft down on Duane Street in New York as she threw down the keys. The wedding at the Pierre in New York. The flat in Belgravia. The villa in the Algarve, the apartment in Paris and the village house up along the Western Front. Her hand crushing mine as our daughter was born. The picnic in the Boston Public Gardens in a blizzard of blossoms from the cherry trees. The Hanukkah/Christmas evening when I looked into our house in Connecticut and saw her and my daughter lighting the candles on the musical Menorah.

Everything that had been good and true and wonderful across all the years before it all went smash rolled back over me, much as they say life does before a drowning man. Only it didn't drown me. It pushed me up out of my chair, out into the sunlight on the dock, and there it.... Sat. Me. Down.

It sat me down beside the still waters of the inlet with a ringing in my ears. Then it cold-cocked me like a ball-peen hammer stroke to the third eye with the truth of what I had been drowning with hate for so long. What I'd been hating darkly was not her at all but what I had let happen, in all the small and large ways that you do, to destroy what we had had and would never have again. A sad and sorry and shabby truth to be sure. All the more sad and sorry and shabby for being, in the end, so very common and ordinary.

After about an hour of this, I got up and went back into the houseboat office and made a call. I knew enough about the ways of the "telephone game" to know that you verify rumors before acting.

In a day I got an answer back that, in fact, nothing very dire was happening at all. Life for her went on and, in the main, that life was good. No threatening diseases, no financial ruin, no more loneliness than is common to single people of a certain age, and that she enjoyed the steady love of our daughter. Some travel was in the offing and, on the whole, everything was all right. Examining some of the details of her recent life made it clear how rumor bred with rumor to yield a dire report, but like all gossip it was only a few flecks of truth that were expanded into a false tragedy. There was nothing in it that called out for my intervention and thus no need to alter the state of no-connection that had suited us both for so long. We'd both, as they say, moved mostly on. No need for change in that regard.

Change. There's a lot about it being bandied about in the political sphere where, as I mentioned, it comes easy enough. Less so, much less so, when it comes to the change of the heart.

And a change of the heart is, I suppose, what I've finally gotten out of the whole long, sad, sorry and sordid tale. In the weeks since this happened I won't pretend that the deep and black well in my heart has somehow been back-filled by God, made whole in some miraculous moment. I don't think God does plumbing like that. He probably sub-contracts it out to free-will and leaves the heavy lifting up to you. I do know that I've managed to cap that dark well at last and am busy carrying in stones to keep the lid on.

Just as well because I'm not going to drink from that bitter water again. You need the power of a lie to work that pump, and once you know the truth about yourself you've got no handle to work it with. But I'm going to keep piling on the stones. Just in case.


Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 1, 2017 8:45 AM |  Comments (45)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Noubliez Jamais

Papa, why do you play all the same old songs
Why do you sing with the melody
'Cause down on the street something' goin' on
There's a brand new beat and a brand new song

In my life there was so much anger
Still I have no regrets
Just like you, I was such a rebel
So dance your own dance and never forget

N'oubliez jamais
I heard my father say
Every generation ha its way
A need to disobey
N'oubliez jamais
It's in your destiny
A need to disagree
When rules get in the way
N'oubliez jamais

Mama, why do you dance to the same old songs
Why do you sing only harmony
'Cause down on the street something's goin' on
There's a brand new beat and a brand new song

In my heart there's a young girls passion
For a life long duet
Someday soon someone's smile will haunt you
So sing your own song and never forget

N'oubliez jamais
I heard my father say
Every generation ha its way
A need to disobey
N'oubliez jamais
It's in your destiny
A need to disagree
When rules get in the way
N'oubliez jamais

What is this game
Searching for love or fame
That's all the same
One of this days
You say that
Love will be the cure
I'm not so sure

N'oubliez jamais
I heard my father say
Every generation ha its way
A need to disobey
N'oubliez jamais
It's in your destiny
A need to disagree
When rules get in the way
N'oubliez jamais


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 31, 2017 6:54 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Transluscent Hands: Christ in the Carpenters Shop

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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 28, 2017 11:03 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
For My Daughter

momandjodge.jpg

1.
I saw you first as some small prized gem
Passed between white-masked men
In rooms ablaze with light, and laid
Wrapped and so precious in my hands,
That I felt then I had somehow stolen
Some full measure of fire from heaven
And held it now on earth forever,
As firm as stone, as light as breath.

In all my days, of all my days,
No gift was given me but you,
And this I knew as we first met
In that bronze-bright room
Where, draped in white, I heard
The music of your newborn's heart,
And knew you'd stand the first in mine
For all the moments mine would mark,
And those moments all of yours beyond.

2.
Since then the years have rolled away,
And separate rooms enclose us now.
Still in the meadows of my heart,
In that first moment, all my circles close,
Like runners rounding third at dusk,
And safe at last come loping home.

That moment was the best of life,
Held in my heart where distance dies,
Yet I am trapped in these thin lines
That cannot paint a love so wide,
And all my mind and meager art
Lies stunned and speechless struck.

3.
In life, our words are clipped and brief.
We do not say what we would speak,
Since saying would in some strange way
Dissolve the moment, reverse the day,
And risk the heart would come to grief.
All is left unspoken, unexplored but sensed,
Our interrupted lives accepted as the wind,
As some red weather over which
We have no control beyond a shrug,
As if to speak of love except at slant
Were to invite the derision of the sky,
And so we must in silence trust
That in not speaking our love will grow.
And if you wish it, why then I wish it so.

4.
Let all that be as it shall be, but here I shall reveal
Those deeper notions that I hold, and always shall,
For you, my only child, as on the dawn
Of this one day in deepest winter I mindful mark
How we began beyond all those winters gone.
And if, in speaking here in such strange silence, I
Will say too much by saying short, I trust
In your emerging love to be, as all doting fathers must,
Forgiven these few words; if not today, in time,
For not to speak in time would be the cruelest way.

5.
Of all the gifts I've lost you are
The single one I seek to find.
But that I know I cannot know,
For I by you must now be found,
As you your child must also hold,
Until the woman you shall be
Unfolds from child and stands apart,
Upon some hill I shall not know
Where all that is spreads out below,
And following paths to trails to roads
You trace your own bright shadow home.

6.
How distant now was that chill day
When wrapped you first drowsed within
My forearm, head cupped in my hand,
And dazed and dazzled, gazed about
That buzzing room as if to see
All the things that you would be,
Awakened now from that strong sleep
That had embraced and nourished you
Since, in another afternoon's half-sleep,
You were begun in a patch of sun,
That fell in softened patterns through the boughs,
Where two doves murmured your as yet unknown name,
And, in the softened rustle of their breaths,
Sang you into being as the music of our dream.

7.
Now that spring has faded far,
Although I hear its music still,
But you, my dearest, darling girl,
Are of that spring in every cell,
And more than dreams could ever tell.

The years from there to here all blur,
Their endless seconds ended each
In their short span, and here we stand
Within another winter's day to mark
The day when first at last we met.

Within that room your gift was such,
I did not think that it could be
Not mine forever, yet now I know
That all our children must be free.
We hold them only through our letting go


-- Written for my daughter on her sixteenth birthday


Posted by Vanderleun at May 22, 2017 6:22 PM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Flowers for Our Mothers


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 14, 2017 9:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Inch Time Foot Gem: For My Mother This Mother's Day is Around Day #37,380.....

aamomportrait.jpg

Strong and yet as delicate as a bird. Her first memory is of being held on the shoulders of her father and watching American troops parade down Main Street in Fargo, North Dakota, on their return from the First World War sometime in what must have been the late Spring (Maybe May) of 1919.

She's been a student of Moorhead State Teachers College and is now their oldest alumni. A class reunion is anywhere she is and at anytime she decides to have it. She still reads the alumni magazine.

In fact she still reads The Saturday Evening Post, having been a subscriber since 1943. "It's a very interesting magazine. Not as important as it once was, but still with a good variety to its articles."

She's taught school in everything from a one room, multi-grade school in Lake of the Woods, Minnesota to the modern modular buildings of Chico Country Day. At that school she put in 6,000 hours of reading classics such as Black Beauty and Treasure Island to generations of children.

She married her husband and lived with him for over 30 years until he died in 1972. Since then there has never been another man in her life.

She raised three sons of her own. All of whom had pretty good lives and none of whom came to any more bad passages than life ordinarily deals everyone.

I am one of them.

Last November she celebrated her 102nd birthday and again I discovered at her party that she has more friends just in the town of Chico, California than I know people in the entire world.

Thirty-seven thousand and three hundred and eighty days.

"Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.

This day will not come again.
Every minute is worth a priceless gem."

-- Takuan


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 14, 2017 12:06 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Wheatfield

12 Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Psalm 85

In 2008/2009, U.S. farmers grew nearly 2.4 billion bushels of wheat on 63 million acres of land. In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average of around 40 bushels of wheat. About half of the wheat grown in the United States is used domestically.

In 2008, the state of Kansas was the largest wheat producer in the United States with North Dakota a close second. Kansas is number one in flour milling in the United States. Kansas produces enough wheat each year to bake 36 billion loaves of bread and enough to feed everyone in the world, over six billion people, for about 2 weeks. An acre of Kansas wheat produces enough bread to feed nearly 9,000 people for one day.

For the past year, Elliot Ross has been photographing the world of farmer Jim Mertens.

Inspired by the empathetic imagery of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans for the Farm Security Administration, Ross created an essay that examines the relationship between the farmer and the land, giving both characters equal focus in “The Reckoning Days.” The grains of wheat and the cracked palms of laborers are given the same attention, depicted in a mesmerizing palette of blues and yellows. This is how bread, the most basic staple of our diet, is made. “Society is generally removed from the processes in which bread and hundreds of other products reach our baskets,” Ross said. "We must protect, nurture, and celebrate the salt of the earth.”

1%20150716_Harvest_0922.jpg

The Wheat Field

From each one in the hard soil a myriad are spun.

Sheaves of gold on bronze in files beneath the sun.

Is it towards the whiteness of the wafer

The field bends on autumn winds;

2%20150715_Harvest_0479.jpg

Towards the body which is breath not flesh

That the body which is only flesh

Scuffs its limbs upon the soil,

And fears at night tomorrow's toil,

And sees in dreams the shade of musk

The trumpets rising in the dusk?

3%20matriarch%2C%20Deanna%20often%20gives%20advice%20to%20others%20that%20she%20interprets%20from%20these%20worn%20pages.jpg

Or is the seed of wheat enough,

Its own bronze parable of blood,

Enorbing in its nucleus

The architecture of the Ark,

The constant covenant of bread?

4%20Andrew%20climbs%20to%20dizzying%20heights%20inside%20the%20new%20bin%20that%20he%20hopes%20will%20soon%20be%20full%20of%20wheat.jpg

On the Thirtieth Meridian, at the pivot of the Earth,

A fan spreads out in silted twists

Pinned by five gold inches to the river's wrist,

And clasped by five white fingers of that marble hand.

7%20thewheatfieldElliotRossStudio.jpeg

Between the rise and fall of speech

The pulse is felt throughout the land,

Its rhythms mimicked by the priests,

Its regulations drawn on dirt

In circles, trisects, lines and cubes

Of numbers and of wheat,

Of incantations scratched on stone

That from their power we may eat

The bread, for we have tasted of the fruit,

And found it, if not sweet, of use

In surveying tombs and gardens that will suit.

5%20combines%20pass%20one%20another%20as%20they%20begin%20cutting%20a%20new%20field.jpg

The wilderness yields only flesh

Of fruit, or fowl, or hunted beast.

It cannot give us wheat and bread,

And it is bread that we would eat.

brimming%20with%20the%20last%20of%20the%20day%E2%80%99s%20wheat%20harvest.jpg

Though our bodies be of infirm flesh, Our thoughts enslaved to blood and heat;

Though we scan the skies with eyes of beasts,

Still we would walk in fields of wheat,

And from such sheaves deduce the laws

Of war and wealth and God, and pause

To build our towns and temples, paved streets,

And gird the very globe with grids,

And make our maps and take our measures,

And populate the final stars with our myriad

Grown from one, in the harsh soil, our single treasure.

8%20grownfromoneintheharshsoil.jpg


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 12, 2017 10:09 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Imagine by B Lewis

Imagine a future planetary exploration team is surveying the surface of Mars. During an excavation, they are astonished to discover what appears to be a computer chip embedded in the rock. Further investigation reveals the object to be a functional integrated circuit device.

"This is the most momentous discovery in the history of science, " says the team leader. "Finally, proof positive that an intelligent creature has existed on Mars at some point in the past. We are not alone!"

"Not so fast," says the chief scientist. "Just because we found a piece of silica that happens to be in the form of a computer chip doesn't necessarily imply that any extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"It certainly does," says the team leader. "Micrographs show definitively that this is an integrated circuit chip. Since no human beings have ever been to Mars, and none of our probes have penetrated to this area, logic dictates that an extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"Nope," says the scientist. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What evidence have you that this 'chip' was made my an intelligent being?"

The Team Leader is nonplussed. "I -- it's a circuit, Chief. A functional electronic circuit! The computer says it could be made to run like any IC chip. Integrated circuits don't just create themselves. Someone designed this!"

"That's an interesting statement of belief," replies the Chief Scientist, "But not a demonstrable fact." He examines his nails nonchalantly. "I can't accept your faith in some invisible sky person as a scientific theory, Team Leader. All I can know from what we have here is that we have found a functional circuit chip. Where it comes from, how it came to be -- all of this remains unknown."

"But somebody had to make it!" The Team Leader is incredulous. "It's obviously an artifact. Complex structures like computer chips don't just appear out of thin air!"

"Sure they do, Team Leader," says the Chief Scientist. "Biological cells. A single living cell is billions of times more complex than this chip we've found, and yet cells just 'appeared', without the aid of some fantastic 'designer' in the sky." He looks up from his nails. "Like a living cell, this chip merely appears to be the product of an intelligent designer. In fact, it's complexity is probably just the result of the random actions of wind, water, and radiation upon local geology over eons of time."

Something Wonderful: Molecular Visualizations of DNA @ AMERICAN DIGEST

He stands, looks the Team Leader in the eye. "Just as we have learned that we need not invoke the supernatural to explain life, we need not posit a race of chip-designing Martians to explain this object. Like us, this chip was produced by the action of natural forces upon natural materials over billions of years of time. It, for lack of a better word, evolved into its present state." He points toward the airlock. "In fact, there are probably ancestors of this chip -- transitional forms -- buried in the rock beneath us right now."

"Sir!" cries a nearby technician. "We've finished the circuit analysis. The computer says this is a data storage chip -- and the data is readable!"

"What's it contain?" the Team Leader asks.

"A raster image sir," says the tech. "I'm calling it up now."

On a nearby screen, an image appears: a creature utterly inhuman in form, but wearing what can only be the Martian equivalent of a clean-room suit. In one hand -- tentacle -- the creature holds a small box containing a duplicate of the found IC chip.

"Holy cow," says the Team Leader. "It's a photo. A photo of a Martian -- and he's holding the chip. I just won a freaking Nobel Prize!"

"Coincidence," scoffs the Chief Scientist. "Over billions of years, local radiation probably flipped the bits on that chip randomly into this configuration. It only appears to our pattern-sensitive brains to be a clear, color image of a blue-eyed extraterrestrial creature in a clean room suit holding in its appendage a copy of the so-called 'chip' we've found."

The tech and the Team Leader stare at the Chief Scientist open-mouthed.

"What?" asks the Chief Scientist. "It's Science 101: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I see no reason to believe in any Martians."

No one speaks for a handful of moments. "What," asks the Team Leader quietly, "would it take to make you believe?"

"Proof," responds the Chief Scientist primly. "I'm a scientist, Team Leader. If I can't poke it with a stick, it ain't real." The Chief Scientist grins ironically. "Call me Doubting Thomas. 'Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.'"

Posted by: B Lewis at August 27, 2012 8:31 AM


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 7, 2017 9:49 AM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Great Souls of Our Time: Van Morrison

>

Morrison9.jpgBut darlin', those days are gone
Oh yeah
Stop dreaming
And live on in the future
But darlin', a-don't look back
Whoa, no-no
Don't look back

-- John Lee Hooker

Ah, but we do, don't we? We always look back. Seeing the shapes, getting the measure, going the distance and finding -- if only for a moment -- the safe harbors of your life requires a spiritual sextant for sighting the fixed stars. It's a ghost ship's voyage with what lies ahead a blank white screen while what is behind fades into the smoke of the world well lost. There are shallows, shoals and the fatal allure of Sirens and the lee shore. Times in irons, then storms, then stretches of clear open ocean on a broad reach, but always with the sense of hidden reefs and an unknowable destination. It helps to track others' voyages, to follow similar arcs, to watch if they pass, or seem to pass, the same checkpoints. Some are siblings. Others are friends and lovers. Still others are artists that, at some point, strike us as sharing if not a life then at least a similar trajectory.

Everybody has a different set of charts, but some overlap. Among these are the singer-songwriter / poets of our era. These are our troubadours, the most influential of which in our time, is Bob Dylan. Indeed, I've often thought that it must gall the endless pile of disposable poets stashed in the academy that, for all their pallid effort, the greatest American poet of this era is Dylan. But Dylan, for all his protean output and achievement, misses the music as much as he hooks the mind.

For my money, the singer-songwriter-poet among my contemporaries, that both hooks the ear and brings the music is Van Morrison.

Not only for his ability to play his voice like some transoceanic jazz choir, nor his manner of mining the blues and jazz traditions and his own life, but also because -- like Dylan -- he endures. Not only that, but he reports back. And like a few others in music, painting and writing, the arc of his life seems to resonate with mine. It may be just a fluke of years lived in the same unfolding history, but it seems larger. It seems, as it always seems with the great souls, that there's an emotional and spiritual concordance happening, as one bell might pick up the tone of another nearby even though it has not itself been struck.

"Take me back, there, take me way back there..."

But that was later, and this is earlier, much earlier. Before there really was "Van Morrison." When he was just a singer. When he was one of THEM.

Comes a-walkin' down my street
When she comes to my house
She knocks upon my door
And then she comes in my room
Yeah, an' she make me feel alright

G-L-O-R-I-A (GLORIA)

Remembering that song the first thought is "Who, but who, was ever that young?" But of course we all were. And the number of times that the 45s of Mystic Eyes and Gloria were spun on the turntables in those years pretty much surpass memory. I do recall they made for some long and fine white nights. Gloria, played at the right time, could pretty much close the deal.

"The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room."

Make-out songs weren't the only thing in Van Morrison's bag, even in those years. Something else was there. Something that lived in the deep and would insist upon rising.

Within two years Morrison left "Them" and soloed, releasing the trendily titled Blowin' Your Mind! from Bang Records. The hit on that album was "Brown-Eyed Girl" and it has, thanks to the continuing and increasing supply of brown-eyed girls in the world, stayed pretty much a perennial since then. Boomers used it first for seduction and later for lullabies.

But there was another song on that first album that foreshadowed Morrison's work much more deeply, "T. B. Sheets." This is a dark and haunting evocation of death and sickness. Junkies like to think it's about them, but junkies think everything is about them. It's bigger than that. Much bigger. And it is, in its provenance as well as it's lyrics, nothing like any pop song that came before, and very little like any that came after. In the other songs on Blowin' Your Mind! you hear a young singer pulling out everything he knows in quest of a hit, any hit. But "T. B. Sheets" is vastly different. In it you hear the song of an old soul, one that has been here before; one that knows the deal and has paid the bill.

The origin of "T. B. Sheets" is, figuratively and literally, in nightmare.

His mother, Violet Morrison said that the song originally had emerged from a nightmare her son had and that he had felt it so strongly that he couldn't tell it to her but sang it instead with verses lasting for an hour.
An hour? The song on the album runs nearly 10 minutes, twice the length of any of the others, and an eternity for a pop album of the mid-60s. But an hour? Just to stay in that mental space for 10 minutes is enough for most people. (The song did not chart.) But an hour is inconceivable.

Still, I'd like to hear it. It's a song that first insinuates itself deep into your lungs and then crawls down your bones:

So open up the window and let me breathe,
I said, open up the window and let me breathe
I'm looking down to the street below
Lord, I cried for you, Oh, Lord.

The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
The cool room, Lord, is a fool's room,
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets
And I can almost smell your T.B. sheets, on your sick bed.

I gotta go, l gotta,
And you said, please stay.
I want, I want a drink of water,
I want a drink of water,
I went to the kitchen to get me a drink of water,

I gotta go baby.
I send, I send, I send somebody around here later,
You know we got John comin' around
Later with a bottle of wine for you, babe.

So much for the easy pop songs from a handsome young jazz singer who had gotten mixed up in rock-and-roll. There's Milton's "darkness visible" writhing at the center of that song, something seldom seen in pop music -- especially in the days of "Do you believe in magic/ in a young girl's eyes?"

"Darkness visible." That was to be a recurring image in Van Morrison's work. That and a search for the light as well.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

-- Traditional hymn, recorded in Hymns to the Silence, 1991

Light seen sometimes in the present, and sometimes in the past. But always with a sense of trying to learn, in the end, what he hears from John Lee Hooker:
Don't look back
To the days of yesteryear
You cannot live on in the past

Ah, but we do. Don't we?

[Bird Dog @ Maggie's reminds us that today is....Van Morrison's birthday - Maggie's Farm He's only 69. Looks 79. Acts 89. We appreciate his work, though.]

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at May 5, 2017 12:10 PM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
God Bless Americans

"Texas. Tornado Alley. In the aftermath of a storm, a truck is overturned in flood waters. Inside the truck: A baby and a toddler, both drowning. What happens next will, well, if you know Americans like I know Americans, it won't astound you at all. Into the flood waters rush bystanders. White men. Black men. Hispanic men. American men. Working together with their bare hands they manage to pull the dying children from the wreckage, get them to solid ground and begin resuscitation procedures. Throughout, a woman on the bank prays fervently to Jesus for help in saving these children's lives.

"And they did."
- - May the Fourth ONT be With You


Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 5, 2017 9:43 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Vuelo Nocturno or Night Flight

Today's flight across the Atlantic Ocean to South America.
Our flight is packed and some 340 passengers are settling in for a long night flight. Its my turn to be at the flightdeck for the first part of the journey, as my other co-pilot gets the chance to rest in the crew bunk above the passenger cabin. We are heading our westbound, along the clearly visible Alps to our left. Just before reaching Geneva and the western tip of Switzerland we are making a shallow left turn to join the Rhone valley leading us to Marseille and onward onto the Mediterranean Sea. Our routing will bring us towards Algeria and on across the northwestern part of the vast Sahara. We will be flying past Dakar in Senegal where we will be heading out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Our south-westerly course will get us across the wide blue – in fact it was pitch-black during the night – to the north eastern shore of Brazil. Landfall is expected just north of Rio de Janeiro and the remaining few hundred miles will get us straight towards Sao Paolo. Our landing is expected around 6am local time, still before the sun will rise.   The chatter of the French and Spanish ATC accompanies us for another hour, we get changed over to Algiers and past the bright city light of the capital of Algeria towards the Sahara. Tonight will be a special night, since its one of the few nights every August where countless shooting stars will be seen all over the night sky. Deriving from constellation of Perseus, these meteor showers will guide us through the night.   Just as the bright city lights are vanishing behind us, the Milky way starts to become clearly visible up ahead. Its now us, pacing at almost the speed of sound along the invisible highway and the pitch-black night sky above this surreal landscape. Ahead of us are another eight hours flight time, but we already stopped counting the shooting stars. Vuelo nocturno – The magic of flying at night - Beyond The Clouds - An Airline pilot's journey

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 3, 2017 6:52 PM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: Nights on Broadway

While recording this, the producer Arif Martin asked if one of the Bee Gees could do some screaming during the main chorus to make the song more exciting.

In response, Barry Gibb began singing higher and higher, eventually singing it in a falsetto that was unexpectedly powerful. He had never known he had such an ability and Barry's falsetto became a trademark of the Bee Gees. Barry Gibb recalled in a May 2001 interview with Mojo magazine: "Arif said to me, 'Can you scream?' I said, Under certain circumstances. He said, 'Can you scream in tune?' I said, Well, I'll try." Nights On Broadway by Bee Gees Songfacts


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 30, 2017 7:45 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Shades of Green in the Green Shade.

aa_agardenofeden.jpg

Set and Setting

"I am the Guardian of the Gates of the Emerald City. May I inquire who you are, and what is your business?" -- Oz

When the winter is long and the sun declines to shine I find my mind begins to glide on green. It’s then that the unquiet ghost of Andrew Marvel appears

“Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade,”

and I attend to the world that is rather than the world as I would wish it. There’s comfort in the “world dimensional” -- cold though it may be, green as it has become. The comfort comes from attending, from paying attention to the shades of green in the green shade.

If you attend you can catch the quick blue crocus jumping over the damp moss tendrils -- bright cups of cerulean with slashes of yellow and orange in the center -- bursting in a day and flash-frozen and slumped to a sigh in one night. Slumped against the earth’s daubed quilt of green which in a motley of hues endures.

Here high on this hill above Seattle, the blocks below form an island of Ireland where green is the keynote color of this time in this place. What lawn I have that is still unconquered by armies of weed is a symphony of greens painted by the tireless fingers of grass, lichen, mold and moss, punctuated by a single errant crocus with a tip of vermillion gleaming at the top of its jade tower at the edge of the walk where no hand planted it. Out on the everdamp peninsula of my postage stamp backyard the slab of aggregate and concrete has taken on an ebony green sheen from an algae bloom on its misted surface. All the flower pots and buckets brim with water waiting for the lotus and the lily pads.

Strolling the sidewalks one sees that this or that car, left too long parked, sports on paint and trim, on safety glass, a dusting of moss. Looking up you see that the roofs of the houses display mainly moss in small gardens on cedar or asphalt shingles. Where their walls touch concrete slabs clots of moss cluster ringed with miniature moats. Behind the moats they seem to make their own soil through some strange alchemy of rain and air and rise in small hillocks higher by the day.

It is early in the year but late in the long winter of 2013/14 and the Great Northwest is the Empire of Ice Green. It is that storied Great Green Room, sans telephone, sans red balloon, lacking comb and brush and mush, where Someone unseen is whispering, “Hush.”

Bridge
Of green, the color out of space.

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.”
-- Frost

If not for the tyranny of the color wheel green would be “primary” color. There is nothing “secondary” about green. Green seen holds good and ill, death and life, upon one tether. Green is growth in stalks, shelter in boughs, splendor in the grass. Seen around the gills green is the sign of sickness, the promise of decay and death. In the realm of the mammal, green bodes ill. In the realm of the vegetable, green foreshadows or announces the edible. In the realm of the mineral, green gleams shows the emerald, glows from the jade, and as patina on copper’s conductivity delivers transmitted, transmutable energy with the sting and the speed of light from sun to socket.

encyc_colorwheel.jpg

Green. Secondary on the wheel of color, primary within the world. Green. The sheen between seed and grain, between the sowing and the harvest, the premise of bread, where waves of green turn amber and from that fruit we form the holy wafer that once blessed becomes the flesh of God -- “This is My body.”

acommunion-wafer.jpg

And in the ages before, in the time after Eden -- previous, previous -- when the ice sheets receded and the green man stirred, and decked in boughs walked the paths in Druid echoes, uprooted and ambulatory along the spine of life, of years, the ancient of days when trees and flowers spoke in glades

thegreenmansign.jpg

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
    like a buttercup
       upon its branching stem-
save that it's green and wooden-
    I come, my sweet,
       to sing to you.

Coda

Of green. Protean, fecund, Leviathan of colors.

“... in a green shade.” Say, rather, shades -- when through enough green leaf the light is rendered as light, light green when seen in shadow on the skin -- for in its sliver of the spectrum the shades of green proliferate beyond the eye’s ability to discern them. There are the greens seen in the light, the light greens. There are the greens seen in darkness, the dark greens. Between? The greens of yellow, black and blue; the greens of the haunted groves, the swollen rivers, the swaths of green seen in the wine-dark sea. The greens on which our games are played. The greens we grind to gray salted dust in our wars. The greens of lovers’ glades.

arousseau.jpg

Green is shy of no colors except the red. In the heat of red times, in the halls of the red death, we seek the cool greens. In the midst of the vast blue, hovering above the deep, we maintain lookouts to call out the first hints of green on the far horizon. Green is either the bass note of our lives in the verdant forested spaces of the Earth, or the high cry sounded when seeing the longed for oases that accent our deserts, inner or outer, of sand, dust, desolation, ocean. Even faring far forward, voyaging beyond now, when we’ve gone out from this home at one AU from our star and scanned the stars with eyes of beasts our bodies space bound will yearn to return; to recline on the slopes of green:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth.
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool green hills of Earth.

coolhillsearth.jpg



2012-02-11


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 29, 2017 12:05 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"Imagine a Future Planetary Exploration"

lookingatmars.jpg

By B. Lewis

Imagine a future planetary exploration team is surveying the surface of Mars. During an excavation, they are astonished to discover what appears to be a computer chip embedded in the rock. Further investigation reveals the object to be a functional integrated circuit device.

"This is the most momentous discovery in the history of science, " says the team leader. "Finally, proof positive that an intelligent creature has existed on Mars at some point in the past. We are not alone!"

"Not so fast," says the chief scientist. "Just because we found a piece of silica that happens to be in the form of a computer chip doesn't necessarily imply that any extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"It certainly does," says the team leader. "Micrographs show definitively that this is an integrated circuit chip. Since no human beings have ever been to Mars, and none of our probes have penetrated to this area, logic dictates that an extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"Nope," says the scientist. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What evidence have you that this 'chip' was made my an intelligent being?"

The Team Leader is nonplussed. "I -- it's a circuit, Chief. A functional electronic circuit! The computer says it could be made to run like any IC chip. Integrated circuits don't just create themselves. Someone designed this!"

"That's an interesting statement of belief," replies the Chief Scientist, "But not a demonstrable fact." He examines his nails nonchalantly. "I can't accept your faith in some invisible sky person as a scientific theory, Team Leader. All I can know from what we have here is that we have found a functional circuit chip. Where it comes from, how it came to be -- all of this remains unknown."

"But somebody had to make it!" The Team Leader is incredulous. "It's obviously an artifact. Complex structures like computer chips don't just appear out of thin air!"

"Sure they do, Team Leader," says the Chief Scientist. "Biological cells. A single living cell is billions of times more complex than this chip we've found, and yet cells just 'appeared', without the aid of some fantastic 'designer' in the sky." He looks up from his nails. "Like a living cell, this chip merely appears to be the product of an intelligent designer. In fact, it's complexity is probably just the result of the random actions of wind, water, and radiation upon local geology over eons of time."

He stands, looks the Team Leader in the eye. "Just as we have learned that we need not invoke the supernatural to explain life, we need not posit a race of chip-designing Martians to explain this object. Like us, this chip was produced by the action of natural forces upon natural materials over billions of years of time. It, for lack of a better word, evolved into its present state." He points toward the airlock. "In fact, there are probably ancestors of this chip -- transitional forms -- buried in the rock beneath us right now."

"Sir!" cries a nearby technician. "We've finished the circuit analysis. The computer says this is a data storage chip -- and the data is readable!"

"What's it contain?" the Team Leader asks.

"A raster image sir," says the tech. "I'm calling it up now." On a nearby screen, an image appears: a creature utterly inhuman in form, but wearing what can only be the Martian equivalent of a clean-room suit. In one hand -- tentacle -- the creature holds a small box containing a duplicate of the found IC chip.

"Holy cow," says the Team Leader. "It's a photo. A photo of a Martian -- and he's holding the chip. I just won a freaking Nobel Prize!"

"Coincidence," scoffs the Chief Scientist. "Over billions of years, local radiation probably flipped the bits on that chip randomly into this configuration. It only appears to our pattern-sensitive brains to be a clear, color image of a blue-eyed extraterrestrial creature in a clean room suit holding in its appendage a copy of the so-called 'chip' we've found."

The tech and the Team Leader stare at the Chief Scientist open-mouthed.

"What?" asks the Chief Scientist. "It's Science 101: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I see no reason to believe in any Martians."

No one speaks for a handful of moments. "What," asks the Team Leader quietly, "would it take to make you believe?"

"Proof," responds the Chief Scientist primly. "I'm a scientist, Team Leader. If I can't poke it with a stick, it ain't real." The Chief Scientist grins ironically. "Call me Doubting Thomas. 'Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.'"

By B. Lewis commenting on Something Wonderful: Molecular Visualizations of DNA @ AMERICAN DIGEST


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 24, 2017 9:40 AM |  Comments (27)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Molecular Visualizations of DNA

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipoténtem, factorem cæli et terræ, visibílium ómnium et invisibílium.
["I believe in one God, the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."]-- Anne Barnhardt

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manly Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 23, 2017 11:35 PM |  Comments (19)  | QuickLink: Permalink
God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

gods-grandeur.jpg

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

a%20ahbrightwings.jpg

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 23, 2017 2:23 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful for "Earth Day": George Carlin, the Arrogance of Mankind, and the Big Electron

Lest we forget how minuscule we really are.

CARLIN: "Let me tell you about endangered species, all right? Saving endangered species is just one more arrogant attempt by humans to control nature. It's arrogant meddling. It's what got us in trouble in the first place. Doesn't anybody understand that? Interfering with nature. Over 90%, way over 90% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet, ever lived, are gone. They're extinct. We didn't kill them all. They just disappeared. That's what nature does.

"We’re so self-important. So self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. We haven’t learned how to care for one another, we’re gonna save the fucking planet?

“I’m getting tired of that shit. Tired of that shit. I’m tired of fucking Earth Day, I’m tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren’t enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. They don’t care about the planet. Not in the abstract they don’t.  You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.

“Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?

“The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles…hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages…And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet…the planet…the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE!

“We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.

“You wanna know how the planet’s doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet’s doing. You wanna know if the planet’s all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

“The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?” Plastic…asshole.

“So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that’s begun. Don’t you think that’s already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let’s see… Viruses. Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh…viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.

“Well, that’s a poetic note. And it’s a start. And I can dream, can’t I? See I don’t worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we’re part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron…whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it doesn’t judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 22, 2017 6:04 AM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Instructions For Wayfarers

They will declare:Every journey has been taken.
You shall respond: I have not been to see myself.
They will insist: Everything has been spoken.
You shall reply: I have not had my say.
They will tell you: Everything has been done.
You shall reply: My way is not complete.
You are warned: Any way is long, any way is hard.
Fear not. You are the gate – you, the gatekeeper.
And you shall go through and on . . .

Alexandros Evangelou Xenopouloudakis


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 18, 2017 6:35 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Mr. T's Waltz

In the episode called “Most Memorable Year Week,” the celebrity participants chose the most important year in their lives and danced to a song that represents that year for them. The sixty-four-year-old Mr. T (“My first name is ‘Mr,’ my middle name is ‘period,’ last name is ‘T.’”) chose 1995, the year he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

The scowling ex-boxer and ex-bodyguard—real name Lawrence Tureaud—grew up in a Chicago ghetto, became a college athlete, then a pro wrestling personality before going on to star in Rocky III and The A-Team TV series. His signature Mohawk haircut, gold chains, and lines like “I pity the fool!” and “Prediction: pain!” turned him into a lovable pop culture icon of gruff masculinity.

Then came the cancer diagnosis. “Back in the day, I had money, cars,” he said in the introductory video to the DWTS performance. “I had achieved what I wanted to achieve and then everything really stopped.”

He suddenly found himself helpless in the face of an antagonist he didn’t know how to fight. “I called on God,” Mr. T says in the video. “I said, ‘God, give me strength to do your will.’ That’s when it really hit me: What’s really real? My faith in God. That was real, because only God could save me.” It worked, because twenty years later he stands as a humble testament to his faith, courage, and perseverance. - - ‘Tough and Tender’ Mr. T’s Amazing Grace

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 17, 2017 12:50 PM |  Comments (11)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Sea of Faith

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The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night

-- Mathew Arnold

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 17, 2017 9:31 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Three Crosses of Easter

The Cross of Moab


from The Eternal City

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

    The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

    The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood --
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Eliot -- from Four Quartets

The Cross of the Anchoress


from The Eternal City

Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement—
Driven by daemonic, chthonic
Powers. And right action is freedom
From past and future also.
For most of us, this is the aim
Never here to be realised;
Who are only undefeated
Because we have gone on trying;
We, content at the last
If our temporal reversion nourish
(Not too far from the yew-tree)
The life of significant soil.

-- Eliot -- from Four Quartets


The Cross of Saturn


from The Eternal City

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

-- Eliot, from Four Quartets


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 16, 2017 12:52 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
A Cut-Rate Resurrection

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"Why seek ye the living among the dead?" -- Luke 24 KJV

Beginning on October 13th of 2011 I spent eleven days among the dead and then was returned to life. Why and for what I still cannot say. What I can say is that, in some brief and infinitesimal way, I have had a small shimmer of resurrection shine upon my dead shadow and raise me back into the light. It was a tiny touch and yet it would seem that was all it took. This time. Next time I have no doubt it will require divine intervention. Perhaps it did this time. I have no way of knowing.

Nor can I say that I know what it "was like" to be dead because of my death I have neither shred of memory, nor the slightest sense of a blank space between one moment of life and the next moment of life. My mind holds only two instants; the one enjambed against the other.

In the first I am standing on the front porch of my house looking across the road at the playground sometime on the afternoon of October 13, 2011. There is the impression of small children running about in bright clothing. The sky is clear and there is sunlight from overhead. Shadows are small pools moving beneath the children. It is in the high 50s neither warm nor cold.

Then, in the very next instant, I am cold. I am lying in a bed covered with only a sheet. I am looking past my feet in a room ringed with drapes hanging on rails from a ceiling. At the foot of the bed a man in a blue tunic is sitting in a pose similar to Rodin's "The Thinker." His arm is bare to the shoulder and he has a Maori tattoo on it. I think, for a moment, that someone is speaking to me from the side, something about being in a coma. Then I am gone again.

Those are the two moments.

One is right next to the other.

There is nothing in between.

I lose track of what happens next and come to know it is not an instant between memories but eleven days and that I have spent that time in a medically induced coma after spending some unspecified number of minutes dead. It was nothing so dramatic as a crucifixion. It was simply a ceasing to be of which I had no awareness. What followed, as dramatic as it was for those around me, was a blank to me; something available to my soul only via hearsay. There were, it would seem, heroic measures involving tubes, machines, drugs, and methods of lowering the temperature of the human body and maintaining it lower for some days. For some minutes I was, it would seem, dead and for some days after that I was, it would seem, as good as dead. I was kept cold and under the stone of coma. Then, after eleven days, that cold stone was rolled away and I was returned to life. It was, I suppose, a kind of cut-rate resurrection. Yet it was mine and I was, and am, glad to have it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

I’ve spent no small amount of time wondering what it is I am to do with this “resurrection.” It seems as if I should do something; something more than I was doing before, something that is somehow “better.”

I ask about this "purpose" in passing in the daylight and more formally in prayer, but I have to date received no answer, no voice out of the whirlwind or the burning bush. I don’t expect such although I would not be utterly unprepared if it happened. I’m used to the mysteries of the universe or the tricks of the monkey mind at this point. Still, it would be nice to get a message neatly laid out, sent in from God’s great cosmic sign factory in the clear and in a crisp typeface. It would be nice but it is clearly asking too much. “Still not satisfied” is not a good attitude to have if one has been resurrected. As they say in meetings, “The attitude is gratitude.” I had that for a long time. It slipped away. Maybe I should try to get it back.

Or maybe I should not.

Maybe I should just drop all that and drop the searching for the BIG MESSAGE. Maybe, just maybe, I should try to see again what we always forget: the Here and the Now of the Miracle. Maybe, just maybe, on this day, I should strive always to recall that Christ is not just the Resurrection, but “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Today, resurrected, I sit here and look through my front window, across my porch, to the playground across the street:

“There is the impression of small children running about in bright clothing. The sky is clear and there is sunlight from overhead. Shadows are small pools moving beneath the children. It is in the high 50s neither warm nor cold.”

That was both then and [two/ three / four/ five / six years later] now.

There is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Of the two it is the latter that remains the larger miracle.



October 13, 2013
Easter Sunday, 2012
Easter Sunday, 2013
Easter Sunday, 2015
Easter Sunday, 2016
Easter Sunday, 2017


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 16, 2017 12:05 AM |  Comments (52)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Holy Saturday: When This World Waits On the Next

Magnified, sanctified
Be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 15, 2017 8:49 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The News of the Day

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There is a world dimensional

For those untwisted

By the love of things irreconcilable.

--Hart Crane

Sometimes, far too seldom, I like to go out into my neighborhood of Queen Anne in Seattle. I like to go out and see what the world dimensional is up to; to exercise my far-too-sedentary body. The problem is I don't do it enough. It never seems compelling. Jogging, walking, reps of all sorts for exercise's sake fill my spirit with inertia. To the sleeping mind all walks seem the same -- pretty flower, overgrown lawn, cute little house, sad big McMansion, jogger with perky breasts, jogger with miles to go hanging from her thighs. As the song says, "All in all, it's all the same. / Just call me if there's any change."

But, from time to time, out I go. And recently when I went out the mantra, "There's never nothing happening," echoed in my mind. I decided to test it. I decided to wake up and take a look around.

Waking up when you're already awake is something that takes constant effort and a life to learn. You first need to wake up to the fact that you are sleep-living; a state that most humans inhabit every waking second of their life. Just knowing you're asleep isn't enough though. You have to decide to wake up, to be present in the present; to inhabit the present moment no matter what lullaby your monkey mind may sing to return you to slumber. It only does that to drown you in regrets for the past and fear for the future. Your monkey mind is a liar, but clever and it gives no quarter. When you put yourself on trial the verdict is always "Guilty.... but with an explanation."

It doesn't take a sage to glance at the current political and social and entertainment landscape of America to tell you that many prefer sleep-living to wakefulness. Not only that, the sleepers have a growing resentment towards those who continue to insist on wakefulness. It is as if much of our nation has fallen "half in love with easeful death;" with freedom and government set on cruise control. That's only one reason why it is more important than ever to know and to act in the world every moment in the belief, "There's never nothing happening."

Looking out into my little world up above Seattle on the crest of Queen Anne Hill, I got Yogi Berraized and "saw a lot just by observing." Then I took a walk.

I recorded it all on my mental video: Here are some jump cuts, zooms, slo-mo and freeze frames:

Couple having coffee outside Bustle. He's expounding. She's listening, smiling a false smile and pretending to be fascinated. Not married. They will marry; him out of a need for love, her out of a greed for things. It will last until his need is not met and/or her greed not satisfied. Written on the wind.

"No good. No bueno. Hustling myself." Wake up!

Pause. And begin again. Look around and look deeper. This moment. This step. This one. The next. Once and once only.

Mixed race couple holding hands and walking with their two beautiful children, boy and girl, the coffee-colored compromise of America made real, heading to the Safeway. Their love as strong and lithe as their children.

Hipster couple coming back from the Safeway. He hasn't shaved. She doesn't care. Their little girl in the stroller is pumping her chubby pink legs trying to kick off her new pink flip-flops.

Trendy young girl with spider-web tattoo on shoulder listens intently on her cell-phone to a friend and then complains that their numbers may be recorded by the NSA. Crosses the street unconsciously confident that no car within ten thousand miles will explode. Resenting the reasons why.

Homeless man sitting half in the street reading a thumbed paperback he's plucked from the garbage can next to him. It's a page turner and he's turning the page.

Couple lounging outside the laundromat. At ease with each other and waiting for their tumbling, mixed laundry to finish drying. Her hand brushes lightly along his thigh. He pushes his thigh against her hand. May their clothes dry quickly.

One overwhelming orange bloom of an Opium poppy growing alone out of a heap of rich black compost in a back alley.

On a half-blown lilac bush a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly with one tip of one wing torn off. The scent of the lilacs.

Scrawled sign above a raft of reeking garbage cans in same alley, "Get Out! Police have been called."

Whirring slapzap of a weed-whacker shaving a small man's small patch of lawn. Scent of the fresh cut grass blowing across the road past the corner house which sports a skull and cross-bones flag on a pole, and a line of worn Tibetan prayer flags strung along the porch.

A sleek jogger swoops by across the street, her bare shoulders pale in the sun, her bright red hair lifting in the lambent light behind her as she runs into a wind of her own making.

The cell phone sounds the opening bars of the 9th Symphony. An old friend reveals a moment of God's grace and the ending of a pain that has been with him daily for decades.

Listening to his relief and happiness, I turn a corner towards my own home and come face to face with a small gray house festooned, roof to lawn, in a thick drenching of lilac blossoms that tumble my mind into blankness with the tsunami of their perfume.

I walk onto my own lawn and stand for a moment under the 40 foot willow shimmering above me and glance into the play ground across the way where a basketball game played by one man flows back and forth across the blacktop. Pass, catch, run, jump, shoot, rebound, nothing but net.

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The light of life and the hand of God lie gently across all of Queen Anne on this April afternoon.

"There's never nothing happening."

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 15, 2017 2:19 AM |  Comments (48)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Four minutes and sixteen seconds. Stop. Watch. And be healed.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 14, 2017 9:01 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you / Which shall be the darkness of God."

earthspark.jpg

t-17.jpghe wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

    The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

    The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood --
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Eliot -- East Coker / The Four Quartets

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 14, 2017 2:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Out of the Great Tribulation

11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. - - Revelation 7

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Of Tribulation, these are They,
Denoted by the White—
The Spangled Gowns, a lesser Rank
Of Victors—designate—

All these—did conquer—
But the ones who overcame most times—
Wear nothing commoner than Snow—
No Ornament, but Palms—

Surrender—is a sort unknown—
On this superior soil—
Defeat—an outgrown Anguish—
Remembered, as the Mile

Our panting Ankle barely passed—
When Night devoured the Road—
But we—stood whispering in the House—
And all we said—was "Saved"!

--- Emily Dickinson


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 14, 2017 1:14 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
"In remembrance of me"

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23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

- - 1 Corinthians 11

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 13, 2017 8:52 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Palm Sunday #1: Before Brunch

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Matthew 21 - And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem....

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,

16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 9, 2017 1:36 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: The Birth Of A Dugout Canoe

This is a documentary movie uncovering the difficult and time consuming process of making traditional expanded dugout canoe using mostly traditional hand tools and techniques.

The master woodworker in this movie is Richard (Rihards Vidzickis) - an experienced green wood worker, wood sculptor and dugout canoe maker. Richard’s passion to green wood and solid wood creations has grown together with him since his childhood days. Richard’s father is also a wood worker and carpenter and has led his son into the beautiful world of working with wood. Richard has gone through all the traditional steps of becoming a master woodworker - starting from an apprentice, then journeyman and then receiving his Master degree in Latvian chamber of crafts. Richard’s passion to wood is not only sculpturing and carving it but also knowing the wood in a scientific level. So Richard has studied in Technical university as a student and reached his degree of Doctor in engineering materials science, so he has combined the craft, nature and science in his life and work. While working in furniture making during the studies, with making different kinds of difficult wood carving for Jugend, Barrocal, Renesance design style furniture, Richard has discovered that he tends to get back to more rustic, robust and natural forms of wood, so he created a park of massive wooden sculptures, wood crafts museum and live workshop where Richard lives and creates wooden bowls, plates, boats and accepts visitors to share his work and lifestyle.

Music - Alan Gogoll, Jason Lowe “When a River Parts”.

Sound - Gints Sola

Camera, edit - Jacob (Northmen Guild)

Revive the guild! by Northmen on Vimeo


Northmen Guild We use our hands to create things that will live on, telling their story in the hands of the craftsmen and people after us. Each thing we create is born with energy and personality – a love and care that will be felt daily by each craftsman; a resonance from the heart of the creation. Towering factories and belching chimneys are not our game. All of our makings are created in our small workshops, using equally traditional methods and techniques. Each craftsman is working in his own workshop, that is located on his own farmland.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Apr 8, 2017 2:20 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Opening Day [2017]: When Life Imitates Norman Rockwell

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"I got it!" "No, I got it!" "No, we got it!"

"The New York Yankees’ Nick Swisher climbed a wall to try and catch a ball in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series..." (via Photo Journal - WSJ )

As long as we have Opening Day every Spring and the World Series every Autumn, I will continue to believe to the adamantine rock bottom of my soul that God blesses America and has an exceptional plan for this nation.

Look at the moment above captured in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series. It could be hung in the Norman Rockwell Museum and not be a tittle of a jot out of place. In every face (except Swisher's) is an expression of pure joy as they all realize that on its way to them, at that very moment, is every baseball fan's most cherished dream from childhood: The chance to catch a fly ball in a World Series game in the stands.

In another few instants only one fan will come up with it, but in this moment all have a chance at it and all are transported at the opportunity to transcend themselves and enter into something bigger, brighter, and finer than their lives would otherwise be.

And that's the way it is in America. That's why we see many footprints leading in and few coming out. For with all our quarrels, our disagreements, our struggles, and our incessant bickering, this remains a land where you can always get another turn at bat, where you can always, right up until six months after death, get another chance to swing for the bleachers. And where, even if you aren't a player in "The Show," you can buy a seat out on the right field line and wait there for the crack of the bat, the rise of the ball against the sky, and... it's coming, it's coming.... and whap, you got it. You're in "The Show."

And in that moment life, the universe, and everything else comes down to one great roar of joy from yourself and the rest of the crowd.

Baseball, from a hot grounder on Opening Day to the World Series and a high fly ball in an Autumn sky is the arc of the essential America. Nothing else like them ever was. "I got it!" "No, I got it!" "No, we got it!"


Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 2, 2017 11:43 AM |  Comments (36)  | QuickLink: Permalink
That's Enough for This Week. Take Us Out of Here, Iris DeMent

Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory
And I ain't saying it ain't a fact
But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory
And I don't like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody is wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me

I think I'll just let the mystery be.

[HT: neo-neocon: Dark energy may not exist ]


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 31, 2017 4:06 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: Streets of Philadelphia

Surprised myself this evening that even after all these years I still weep when this song plays....

And made me recall this from those past, gone years:

Victims of the Plague

           (for the lost boys)

Perhaps our dances, in a thousand years,
will patterned be as drums.
Our bright minds, forged by fate,
will in the musk of eons drown.
Our souls will all rise glorified
as a pod of whales weaves waves.
Our flesh, once firm, relaxed as stones
that serve to mark our graves.
Our pleasures seen as ancient rites
describable as dreams;
Our voices, in a million years,
insubstantial as starbeams.

Perhaps our minuets,in a billion years,
will as steel stiffened be.
Our arabesques as smooth and gestural
as paintings of the sea.
Our nods but inclinations
of the folds beneath the eyes.
Our plans but vague intentions
of the wind beneath the skies.
Our breath, a transpiration
of dust immured in dust.
Our lives, a visitation
of a rush light drowned in musk.

All these, our words and scattered songs,
May come, in time, to less than naught,
As Mayan blocks of hard hacked stone
Embalm the skin we once sloughed off.
But now, like rattles kept within
A jeweled bone box, our hollowed skin
Is shaken in the center of the park
To frighten schoolgirls after dark


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 30, 2017 6:09 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

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Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused or disabused;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Alexander Pope – An Essay on Man


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 29, 2017 10:20 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Lucid Dreaming

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Empty is only the warp of our tapestry,
part of our pattern, is only the interval,
only the silence that shapes our pale music
remembered when drifting from dreams
in that sleep-darkened tent
where our souls slake their thirst
for the new, for the novel,
and the stone still rolls
down the thousand-year cliff,
to the doorsteps of dream, the red heat of the plains,
the search for safe shelter, the consuming of carrion,
the spotted flicker in the grass that cannot be the wind,
the million year from the hand ax to atom.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 26, 2017 12:02 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Patience Please. Rome Wasn't Burned In a Day.

Heav'n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib'd, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas'd to the last, he crops the flow'ry food,
And licks the hand just rais'd to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heav'n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.

abullet.jpg

An Essay on Man: Epistle I by Alexander Pope


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 24, 2017 8:12 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Phases of the Moon

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Please....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 24, 2017 10:21 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Into the Silence [For "World Poetry Day, March 21, 2017"]

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1.
The last sound heard before the silence
Wrapped around my flesh in wisps,
Was the shriek of frozen ambulances
Carved in sharp, revolving red.
Then two holes in my skull sealed shut,
And on my tongue I heard the tang of brass.

At first a ringing whine rose high and faded far,
Then bells began, each dun and laced with smoke,
And merged with walls of wind on water raised,
Bloomed high in white, white only, drifts
Of falling snow that falling softly
Blurred beneath all shapes of sound and speech.

Music's memory remained, and moving lips
Became the only signs of sound that I could see
And all my mind stormed not with silence,
But with dark brushed deep on deeper dark
Within which all stars died, and dying threw
A single trace of song beyond all song.

It moaned and chittered, groaned and sighed.
It grinned at me, inscrutable and blank
As shells evicted by the sea are spurned
By waves and parch above the sand,
Polished first by dust, then honed by rain,
Into white basilicas of bone.

2.
Made new, I loved large gestures.
Marked furrowed face and curl of lip.
Memorized the signing hands that stripped
My half-guessed comprehension bare,
And learned at last to wait upon a glance,
Upon small words scratched on slate.

As days to years enlarged their rule,
All records writ within my skull were smudged,
All songs and music drifted off to send
Pale emblems of their realms as tribute
To that stone that once had formed a throne,
Crowned now with unsensed pleasures shrugged.

All treasure spent, all gems decayed,
All metals melded into dust, all trace of walls
Where once the filigreed firebird sang,
And drums of heroes' skins were stunned,
Were now but shadows strewn as faint
As lines of light on planets seen from space.

And then, with time, all that ... erased,
And sands and seas swarmed over all,
And ruled at last alone a globe of frost,
Of ice, of snow, of sheaves of glass,
Until along that farthest strip of polished shore
One distant crystal glinted, gleamed, and chimed.


Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 21, 2017 5:33 PM |  Comments (36)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Mountain of the Holy Cross: "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."

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Thomas Moran, The Mountain of the Holy Cross, 1875 7'x5' Oil

There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.

-- Longfellow, "The Cross of Snow"

The Mountain of the Holy Cross began as a myth and became a rumor. Then it became a report, a photograph, and a painting. In time it became a destination for pilgrims and tourists. Shortly after that it ceased to exist....

In the beginning Americans who heard of, travelled to, and documented the Mountain of the Holy Cross believed in omens, signs and symbols. By the time the sign collapsed and disappeared, those beliefs too were eroded but not lost. We still have the expedition records, the memoirs, the photographs and the paintings and can sense, distantly, what our ancestors felt when first glimpsing this strange vision that could only be see from the east covering a mountainside in the far west.

The sign / vision / illusion (choose which one makes sense to you) is easy to explain. On the stone face of a certain mountain deep in the Colorado Rockies over aeons of time a pattern of cracks and crevasses held against the melting snow -- under ideal conditions and from a certain point of view for 2 to 3 months a year -- a large white cross below its summit. It was one of those natural coincidences where happenstance runs into the human mind in search of meaning. It was seen because it was there on the mountain but its meaning bloomed in the minds of the faithful. To them the sign on the side of the mountain said, among other things, "In hoc signo vinces" ("with this sign you shall conquer"). It was, after all, the era of Manifest Destiny.

Although it was a persistent whisper from the mountain men and others who had pushed deep into the Rockies, the Mountain of the Holy Cross was first written about by Samuel Bowles in his 1869 book, The Switzerland of America. He saw the mountain from Gray's Peak at a distance of about 40 miles:

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 19, 2017 8:12 AM |  Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Sunday Sermonette: Unstoppable "Love it can weather any storm / Bring you back to being born.... again."

Like a river keeps on rolling
Like the north wind blowing
Don’t it feel good knowing

You find your faith has been lost and shaken
You take back what’s been taken
Get on your knees and dig down deep
You can do what you think is impossible
Keep on believing, don’t give in
It’ll come and make you whole again
It always will, it always does
Love is unstoppable


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 19, 2017 12:27 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
1054 Anno Dominai


1054 A.D.

I.

Titanium skaters on lakes of metallic hydrogen
Etch constant curves of crystalline
Isotopes of orange uranium
All about the vacant house.

Enigmas of equations
Slide lattices to rest
In beds of powdered strontium,
Molding energy as form suggests.

In the place of flux we find new forms,
For flux-formed spaces enfold
Charms of magnet's fever
That conduct the core from pole to pole.

II.

The whiteness of Earth's silences
Are eyes that stare on space.
Orbits chart them ceaselessly,
Etching irises of lace.

The inner of Earth's outer
Is a torus twisted twice.
Balloons ascend within it
Painting shadows in the room.

III.

What can the mind of silence hear
Other than a whiteness past revision, past review?

It evolves from epicenters,
Stretches measureless as sound,

Or is seen as the floor of the void
Where the whine of protons stills....

In the drifts of chromium snow,
and gazes on the bones of matter bare.

At times, men in aluminum cloaks
Descend the neutron ladder,

And move in a sleet of particles
Too scintillating for instruments to record.

At times, men in groups descend
Through the smoke of the universe,

To tend the embers, imprison flame.
Their cascading movements sparkle.

We taste the afterimage of events.
Below us, pale and infinitely silent,

The plutonium leaves arabesque
Through radiant silences of solid helium.

IV.

Sometimes it seems I had a dream, and, as a dreamer woke immersed in mineral baths closed within a cool, dark chamber fed by streams flowing in from the center of nowhere.

Hanging from the granite ceiling a kerosene lantern cast shards of light through the pale steam rising from the surface of the pools.

Ripples radiated outwards from the edges of my body and tapping faintly on the rock revealed the edges of the chamber.

Outside I could hear the wind slide across the spine of the mountains, speaking in a language that I remembered but could no longer understand.

Steam filled my nostrils and heat penetrated my bones until, after a time, I had no body, only a sense of silence and distance and calm.

As if I had just woken from all water into dream.

-- Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, 1973

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 12, 2017 8:43 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Abide with Yo Yo Ma Now and Then
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 12, 2017 1:19 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Ash Wednesday by T.. Eliot

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Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Mar 1, 2017 7:11 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
There Was an Old Woman Who Lived By a Brook [Bumped]

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When the fog forms in Paradise all my ghosts come out, moving like wraiths behind the mist, believing no one can see them. But I do. Everywhere in this small town in northern California in which I was a young boy and to which I have returned as an old man, I often sense that boy and those long ago moments.

This morning the fog was thick here on the ridge as I returned from an errand down on Lucky John Road; a road I had not been on for over 60 years. Even before I came over the crest of the hill and started down the far side my back brain told me there was a brook at the bottom. And sure enough, in a moment, my car passed over the brook as it flowed in a culvert from one side of the road to the other.

Today there were a number of tidy cookie-cutter contractor-built homes on either side complete with their gardens, garages, and water-features. The once forest-thick pines were thinned out to garden specs.

The little old lady’s ramshackle homemade house was long gone to landfill... as was the little old lady herself. Still, as I pulled the car over in the fog and looked around, they appeared. Ghosts moving behind today's new morning; a kind of Balinese shadow puppet epic projected on the far side of the atmosphere by the lantern of memory.

The last time I had been to the brook I was 11 and I walked. I walked from my house on the canyon's edge half a mile to where the brook meandered out of the pines and under Lucky John Road. I did it because my father told me to do it. I did it because my father had decided that at 11 it was time I had “A Job.” My father believed in boys having A Job and having one as soon as possible.

One evening shortly after my 11th December birthday he called me aside. “There’s an old lady named Miss Helen over the hill who needs help,” he told me. “She’s getting on and she has no family. She needs help chopping wood for her heat and other chores.” (“Dad, please.”) “No backtalk. I’ve already told her you’d be there tomorrow afternoon.” (“Oh come on, dad.”) “Did I mention she was going to pay you.” (“Please, dad.... Oh? How much?”) “Four or five bucks a week....” (“When can I start?”)

This would have been 1956 and my allowance at the time was a royal fifty cents a week which kept me in bubble gum and comic books. Barely. The sum to be paid was an expansion of my cash on hand to levels beyond the dreams of boyhood avarice. The next afternoon my Keds crunched through the thin sheets of ice formed in the puddles next to the stream as I reported to Miss Helen driven more by greed than duty.

Thinking back Miss Helen’s place was more of a hut than a house. It had a tin roof and was very small, consisting of a small sitting area just inside the door, a kitchen behind that, and a sleeping alcove behind that with a curtain that was always closed.

The hut sat on what were probably cinder blocks on a sort of islet around which branches of the brook actually made a babbling sound over the mossed rocks. There must have been some electricity since I remember a refrigerator and a radio, but there weren’t any electric lights, only kerosene lanterns that required me to trim their wicks. Her water was drawn from the stream and stored in a large tank just on the other side of the kitchen wall with a pipe that came through the wall to a small metal tub she used as a sink. One of my primary tasks was to carry buckets of water to the tank and fill it.

This job began in the winter and the only source of heat Miss Helen had was a standard issue wood stove that she also used for cooking. The stove took a lot of wood and the old lady’s wood came from a large pile of logs on another islet behind her hut. They were far too big to fit in the stove and my main job was to take a maul, then an axe, then a hatchet, and transform the each log into a pile of kindling that the old lady could use. It wasn’t that bad a job except when it snowed or rained, which, since this was winter in Paradise was pretty much every other day when it was not a continuation of the snow and rain from the day before.

At the start it made me ache but by the end of two weeks I didn’t mind it much. I went to school. I took the bus home and at the bus stop instead of going down the dirt road to home I walked over the hill to chop wood and carry water. When I was done I would walk home. Tired.

Miss Helen was both little and very, very old. Or as old as a person in their late 60s appeared to a boy of 11 in 1956. She was small, stooped, with almost translucent hands, and as roly-poly as my paternal grandmother. She wore thick stockings and heavy shoes. It seemed to me that she wore only hand-sewn dresses that could have been fashioned from large print tablecloths. Over these she always had an apron on. These aprons always had a pocket and from that magic pocket, every Friday, she’d take a clasp-closed leather change purse and count out four silver dollars with their satisfying clack and clink.

Once I got home my father had me hand over two of the silver dollars so he could demonstrate the miracle of compound interest in a savings account he made me open.

“So,” he’d ask every week as he relieved me of half my cash flow,”how do you like going to the job?”

I’d make some kind of half-hearted response to which his response was always, “You don’t have to like the job, but a real man always goes to the job.”

I’d nod and dream of all the extra Fleers bubble gum and comic books my residual two bucks were going to get me down at the Feed Store. Sometimes I’d splurge and get a nickel Coke and read my comics lying on bags of feed with their dusty burlap smell.

And so I went to the job with the little old lady who lived by the brook. For months I chopped wood and carried water for Miss Helen, and saw how even the very old and the very poor still carried on their lives with dignity even when all they had was miserable, mean nothing.

Then, one day, I came home on the school bus and found my father waiting for me at the stop. “You don’t have to go to work today. Miss Helen’s left.”

“Left? Where’d she go?”

“Away.”

“When’s she coming back?”

“She won’t be. But she left this for you.” He reached into his wallet and handed me a ten dollar bill. At the time it was the largest bill I’d ever possessed. “It’s like a two week notice. She wanted you to have it.”

I took it feeling good about having it but disappointed that Miss Helen would leave without so much as a goodbye.

But of course she didn’t leave. She just became a ghost; a ghost my father wanted to spare me. Hence, she just went away. Until this morning when, sitting in my car near the brook on Lucky John Road, she came back.

She came back out of the fog; small, translucent, in her hand-made dress with her apron and her worn change purse fat with its silver dollars.

Which is when, after 60 years, it hit me.

Miss Helen was a very, very poor woman. In 1956 four silver dollars a week would have been a serious sum of money to her. Very serious. Unless she had some sort of secret stash of silver dollars. Which I was pretty sure she did not. In fact I’m pretty sure a secret stash of pennies would have been beyond her means.

On the other hand, my father really liked silver dollars and always kept a jar full on his dresser.

“You don’t have to like the job, but a real man always goes to the job.”

When the fog forms in Paradise, all my ghosts come out.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 26, 2017 3:18 PM |  Comments (36)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: A Day In the Life
Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 26, 2017 2:30 PM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Sunday Sermonette: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

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Most children are afraid of the dark. I know that I was. Parents who are too tough deny you the nightlight or the cracked door letting in a distant glow from the front room or from downstairs. Parents who are too kind leave the door ajar or plug in the nightlight. A lot of parents, tough or kind, help you learn a prayer familiar to hundreds of millions of people:

“Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake....”

It is not clear that the prayer helps allay the fear of the dark and of death in the dark, but as children we learn it anyway. It is probably the first prayer that is learned. Its lesson is that, parent or child, we are hostage to fortune or His will. It is one of the most fundamental calisthenics of faith.

Most children remain afraid of the dark but learn not to admit it. At some point you grow out of it. You become an adult and no longer a slave to childish fears without foundations. You tell yourself, “I’m not afraid of the dark.” You’re lying but, like so many other lies that let you get through the day, you lie so long that you forget it is what it is, a lie.

I feared the dark as a child and when I grew to be a man I still felt uneasy when consigned to a room that was “too dark.” I developed some manly and not-so-manly methods for mitigating the dark -- light curtains, dim baseboard night lights in the hallway, falling asleep with the television on a timer, votive candles, the whole inventory. After some years of sleeping safe within these rituals and relics I forgot that I was, in the core of my being, still afraid of the dark; afraid that “I should die before I wake.” And then I did.

The thing about dying and then being returned to life is that, like a ghost half-seen out of the corner of the eye or in a shadow on the stairs, the experience keeps coming back. You think you’ve pretty much exhausted what you think about it -- exhausted all there is to think about it -- and then you are presented with a new moment, a new cause for reflection.

A bit over a week ago, at around midnight, I decided to go to bed. I went through all my rituals and dressed in my pajamas and went into the bedroom and lay down on the bed. As I lay there the old prayer from childhood appeared in my mind after many years of not being thought of at all,

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I shall die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

It appeared so vividly it was as if an alien, almost feminine, voice had recited it to my ears in that room. I lay there feeling anything but sleepy and thought about this prayer.

The prayer itself is a classic from the 18th century and it was included in most basic texts for centuries including The New England Primer. Like many other things from the 18th century it has been shortened to make it “more efficient.” The full prayer is:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on.
The are four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head,
One to watch, and one to pray,
And two to bear my soul away.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

And, as I looked into the origins of the prayer I discovered that a “kinder, gentler” variant has lately been introduced as:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord, my soul to keep;

Guide and guard me through the night,

And wake me with the morning's light.

I suppose that’s a way of making the poem fit for a more secular society in which nothing fatal ever happens to children. Until, of course, it does. But that’s for another, younger, and more clueless generation. I’m stuck with the original in my memory.

As such it is one of my earliest memories. It was almost as certainly the very first rhyme or poem that I memorized. It would have been taught to me by my mother as she tucked me in in my childhood and calmed me for the night. I know that she, and hundreds of millions of other parents who have taught it to their children, wanted it to comfort me and I suppose it did. Thinking about it in my bed on that night last week, however, it didn’t seem to be comforting. Instead it seemed like a horror sandwiched into the middle of a plea for rescue:

“...my soul to keep.”
“If I should die” “before” “I wake.”
“... my soul to take.”

At most times and in most places, this prayer was simply a tradition, not a reality. But I wasn’t in most times or in most places and it was terrifying.

It was terrifying because, as it occured to me then, I had experienced the reality of the prayer. I had actually died before I could wake. I continued in death for some unknown minutes and then was revived and kept in a deathlike coma for 13 days; a time that I, gratefully, have no memory of whatsoever. And, it came to me, I had died in the bed I was currently lying down in and thinking of this old childhood prayer. I had, without realizing it, gotten used to sleeping in my deathbed.

For awhile that evening this was a very disturbing realization. But then, as now happens to me daily, in time I drifted off to sleep in my deathbed. In time we all drift off there if we are lucky enough to find our way for our time of dying. I’d like to say that as I drifted off my final thought was,

If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

but I can’t. Like my first death, I don’t remember anything about those last moments, or the ones that came after. So I can’t say I said a prayer. I can only pray I did.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 26, 2017 1:57 AM |  Comments (13)  | QuickLink: Permalink
This Day

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Matthew had some strong ideas about prayer. It is in his book that we find the Lord's Prayer, also known as "The Swiss Army Knife of Prayers." This particular prayer, according to Matthew (who should know about such things), is the Alpha and the Omega of prayers. He stresses this when he writes in Matthew 6:9-6:13, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven....

Of late, and for obvious reasons, I've become more likely to pray than to curse. Indeed my new program is to swap a prayer for a curse whenever I find I've slipped into the cursing mode.

In a world that is accursed putting more curses into it is never a good idea. We are full up at present. No shortage of curses that I can see. Still, slipping into the cursing mode is easy to do in today's world. We're encouraged to do it by the very nature of the secular society.

Add to that my thirty year stint in New York City where the standard reaction to almost any event is either a curse that involves the middle initial of the Savior (Just what does that "H." stand for anyway?), or the invocation of unnamed males who have an affinity for crude sex only with females of the motherly persuasion, and you've got, when it comes to my ability and propensity to curse, one crude mother....

It's a bad habit and one that I am trying to break. One way is, whenever I catch myself in an angry cursing moment, to recite a prayer instead. And the goto prayer in these multiple moments is always the Lord's. It's brief. It's beautiful. I can say it at high speed and by rote.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day...

The Lord's Prayer also has a hidden benefit. It has, at is core, one simple but profound request:

"Give. Us. This. Day."

That's it. That's the real core of all prayers. That is the one request of the Lord without which nothing else matters. That is what all our past, lost days flow towards and which all our future hoped-for days flow from. Without the gift of "This Day" the ones that have passed have no meaning and the ones that are to come have no potentiality. Both are but abstractions or, as the poet has it:

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Which is a fancy way of saying that without the gift of this day being given all else is lost. Secular thinkers speak of this as being "in the now" as if "being here now" was all that it took to be really alive.

I lived in that popcult fauxworld for years before escaping and, looking back, I seem to remember it not as replete with luminous headlands overlooking the sea, but as the shadowlands that loom beyond a darker border. It was neither a gift nor a curse, a burden or a blessing. It simply was and, as a result, was rather unremarkable.

That secular world originated out of nothing, out of the limited imagination of the noosphere and, with no reach beyond itself, existed closer to the Alpha than to the Omega. It had, as secular things often do, a tangle of bright, shiny deceivers clustered around it like gnats outside a privy, but when you arrived at the center it had nothing to say about tomorrow, and very little to promise about this day other than that it would be roughly similar to yesterday. There was little inscape and no escape. Its "Now" was always the same day, neither given nor taken but simply existing. It was the kind of day in which the existence of the Human and the existence of Planaria were essentially equal. I, for one, would rather ask for my day than simply arrive in it.

Which is why, when I pray the Lord's Prayer, I always pause -- at the very least -- when I come to the phrase, "Give us this day." And in that pause I remember another phrase derived from scripture, "Tomorrow is not promised."

I once knew that phrase, "Tomorrow is not promised," in a rather dry, academic, vaguely poetic manner. Now, having had my all my tomorrows removed and then miraculously restored, I understand the phrase down to the marrow of my bones. Coming into this day I always ask "Give us this day." Departing the day I find I return to the early litanies of childhood, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake...."

But then, so far, I do wake and I continue in my project to replace curses with prayers. I'm not very good at it yet. Still fairly shaky. Then again, as another poet tells me,

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.

What falls away is always. And is near.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

The Lord give me (and give you) This Day.

[ UPDATE: And now, the First Lady of the United States, in Florida, February 18, 2017 .... ]

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 19, 2017 12:51 AM |  Comments (34)  | QuickLink: Permalink
in Just-spring when the world is mud-luscious

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Loomings. Every year, sometime between the fade of Indian summer and the rise of white drifts, I find myself entering the forgetting. Underneath the rain and the packed ice my world goes brown and brittle, sodden with leaf mulch, sad with weed sighs, and the mind fills with all the past gone years.

The weather becomes predictable and hence I pay more attention to the predictions -- a kind of confirmation bias of gloom; sought to bolster my own pessimism of this time, of that place,

Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

In the forgetting time the sunlight hours of the day seem to drain rapidly away until you mark well, and others underscore for you, the shortest day of the year. But once that passes, the adding of sunlight to the day seems to come on with agonizing slowness and you note, ruefully, on a January Sunday, that at 7:15 it is still dark.

And then, on that same Sunday, only four hours later you open the door and step out into your little corner of the world. And you smell it. You smell it every year and every year you forget until it comes back again.

You smell that faint, distant, almost ineffable, sweetness coming in on a breeze from the south. You look to the north and you see the slate sky swirling away, almost ablating before your eyes, and the washed teal blue revealed. Not the winter's blue of stark ice, but a shade like that seen in a cast-off jay's feather.

It's the hint, the first faint far-off hint. It's a memory's whisper behind the breeze. You remember that to see what's really the news of the day you have to LOOK and look carefully. And so you look and you see what even yesterday you did not.

You see that the green of the pines has gotten brighter and taken on a faint shine. You see that the moss seems to be ringed round and shot through with small shoots of grass. You look and look more closely at the weeping birch and you see, as small as a butterfly's eyes, the buds beginning to push through the bark.

You see what was the rank and sodden leaf-mulch and sad decayed weeds and you think, "Compost. I really have to plant something now."

You pause on the street corner of your little corner of the world and you feel, see, hear, smell and, yes, faintly on the tip of your tongue, taste the return of the world. It's back from winter as the abiding earth swings again closer to our home star. It is today and today is Just-spring.

And in spite of yourself you remember the plaque on the wall at your daughter's school somewhere in all those past gone years:

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it -- Psalm 118

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 17, 2017 11:38 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Ballads: Diamonds & Rust

Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling around
And snow in your hair
Now you're smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there....

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 14, 2017 11:28 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: The Best Ad Didn’t Run Until The Super Bowl Was Over, We Now Know Why…

Hyundai ran an ad at the end of the Super Bowl that featured American soldiers deployed overseas who couldn’t enjoy the game with their loved ones.

The powerful ad had to wait until after the game because Hyundai edited together moments from the soldiers watching the game as the company brought the game, and their loved ones, to them.

The minute-and-a-half ad highlighted stories of the sacrifices made by our military. Hyundai made it possible for soldiers stationed at the U.S. Military Base in Zagan, Poland to experience the big game with their loved ones and a powerful message scrolled across the screen in the beginning.

“Millions of people just watched the Super Bowl. Which wouldn’t be possible without our troops. That’s why Hyundai made their Super Bowl a little better.”


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 6, 2017 11:09 AM |  Comments (12)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Gabriel's oboe - Nella fantasia

Two performances that will heighten your day and deepen your soul. Why? Because betimes it is the case that -- as the poet says --

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Feb 1, 2017 11:50 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Circle of Life

'An incredible milestone for Theodore': Ivanka Trump shares video of her baby crawling on the floors of the White House for the first time. Ivanka Trump's father may have just become the most powerful man on earth - but it was her baby's achievements that she decided to celebrate on Wednesday. Ivanka wrote: 'There were so many incredible milestones this past weekend -- including one for baby Theodore who crawled for the very first time in the White House!'


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 27, 2017 8:42 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Ancient Ones

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Trees in particular were mysterious, and seemed to me direct embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the place that I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings. -- C.G.Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

We should not omit to mention the great admiration that the Gauls have for the ancient ones as well. The druids – that is what they call their magicians – hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is a hard-timbered oak .... Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon.... Hailing the moon in a native word that means 'healing all things,' they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they kill the victims, praying to a god to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal that is barren and that it is an antidote to all poisons. -- Roman historian Pliny the Elder, written in the 1st century AD

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Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 22, 2017 2:34 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Songs for a Victory Concert, Washington, D.C. January 20, 2017:

From a distance
You look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance
I just cannot comprehend
What all this fightings for
From a distance
There is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And its the hope of hopes
Its the love of loves
Its the heart of every man
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance

Comin' over the airwaves, the man says I'm overdue
Sing a song, send some money, join the chosen few
Yes, mister I'm not in a hurry and I don't want to be like you, no, no
All I want from tomorrow is to get it better than today

Step by step, one by one, we're climbing, climbing
Step by step, one by one, we're climbing Jacob's Ladder

I am, and I hope you are, enjoying this day far too much. And yes I know, as you do, that there will be hard days, bad days, tough days, and days of rage. But let us not borrow too much trouble from the future. The future, being unwritten, lets us write our dreams on its shimmering surface as it streams by us into the past. And let us always write those dreams even though we know that we write on water.

"This is the day God has made.
Rejoice and be glad in it."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 20, 2017 3:20 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Fanfare for the Common Man

Then, 2010:

Then, 1984.

Now: 2017


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 20, 2017 12:33 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Just as an aside watch an evening unfold in Washington DC

Okay. The man, his wife, and his family come to Washington in a vast convoy of sleek black SUVs. He stays at his eponymous hotel. Then... he speaks off the cuff from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Then... The Battle Hymn of the Republic is sung. Then... the Fireworks....

Love him or hate him, when it comes to Trump you can only say, "This man has really run the table."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 19, 2017 3:24 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: So, this 92 year old woman walks into a dance hall....

Her name is Jean Veloz. Here she is in a previous life.

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HT: neo-neocon


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 19, 2017 1:45 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
US Airways Flight 1549: "All Souls OK" The Hudson Miracle Approach

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This repays closer study to appreciate what was done.

Several days ago, a pilot friend sent me an email with a most interesting attachment. It seems that Jeppesen, the universally well-known publisher of aeronautical charts, had produced a special edition approach chart, detailing the Hudson Miracle Approach, as performed by the crew of Cactus 1549, the US Airways A320 that famously and successfully ditched in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. -- Aircrew Buzz

Via with a big HT toTrue North:


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 16, 2017 7:37 AM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: Heroes

Hummm, not a bad tune for a forthcoming inauguration.

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day

David Bowie's 'Heroes': How Berlin Shaped 1977 Masterpiece

In what is arguably his greatest vocal performance, Bowie tells a story of determined lovers meeting in the shadow of the Berlin Wall (a scenario inspired, it turned out, by Bowie's glimpse of Tony Visconti and his girlfriend embracing). The narrative is borne by Robert Fripp's otherworldly guitar work. "I went into the large control room with a Les Paul around my neck and a large Marshall stack, and the guitar sound is produced simply by feedback," Fripp recalled. Eno claims he knew "Heroes" would be a great song "from the very first moment those guys started playing it." Recording his vocals after the music had been laid down, Bowie testified that "Fripp's plaintive guitar cry really triggered something emotive in me."

Tony Visconti rigged up a system, a creative misuse of gating that may be termed "multi-latch gating",

of three microphones to capture the vocal, with one microphone nine inches from Bowie, one 20 feet away and one 50 feet away. As the music built, Bowie was forced to sing at increased volumes to overcome the gating effect, leading to an increasingly unhinged vocal performance as the song progresses. Each microphone is muted as the next one is triggered. "Bowie's performance thus grows in intensity precisely as ever more ambience infuses his delivery until, by the final verse, he has to shout just to be heard....The more Bowie shouts just to be heard, in fact, the further back in the mix Visconti's multi-latch system pushes his vocal tracks, creating a stark metaphor for the situation of Bowie's doomed lovers". "Heroes" (David Bowie song) - Wikipedia


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 13, 2017 4:25 PM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Further


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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Jan 6, 2017 10:54 AM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Debbie aka "Tammy"

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May 1954. "Debbie Reynolds with Jane Powell in dance scene from the MGM musical Athena." Kodachrome by Maurice Terrell for the Look magazine assignment "Behind the Scenes -- A Day With the Stars."

I never dreamt of being in the movies. I was from a very average, I would say, a rather poor family, so my big treat was to work hard all week - I mowed lawns and babysat and washed dishes and washed cars - to go to the movies.

On Carrie Fisher: People used to call her “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter,” now they call me “Princess Leia’s mother!”

“I gave it all that I had, and it’s gratifying that others seem to be receiving it so well.”


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 29, 2016 10:17 PM |  Comments (76)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Intelligent Design

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True colors of solar corona Taken by Miloslav Druckmüller

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you. Exodus 3:14

Whose Will decreed This slash of sea
Would frame This sun in gleams of green?
What Plan determines stone's decline,
Or shapes in stars, or shadow's sheen,

Or that we track, as clever beasts,
The passing haze of comet's fall,
And are the glaze of Thought on flesh
That sees the need of Plan at all?

I know, I know... no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen of thought
That seeks to measure more than man?

Look out beyond the far Deep Field,
Beyond the limits of our sight.
It cannot be that All that is,
Is only night on deeper night.

But if that should be All that is,
And All as purposeless as stone,
The Heart still sings the body's chants,
And moves the Light within the bone.

Perhaps this pattern that we know
As time at slant between two lights,
Is but some dance to entertain
What lies beyond our Shaded sight.

Yet what dark mind could find a gleam
Of pleasure from such turns,
Instead of reading evil
In a countenance of burns?

The Countenance of comets,
That the sky at night assumes,
Mutes all equations memorized
On the Continent of Tombs.

To stand but Once within this Field,
And feel the hands of wind,
Is ample compensation
For the Gift the years rescind.

At length our modern marvels
Seem but Blots of haze on slate,
That we note with brief attention
As we step between the Gates,

And dance, to some faint music,
Along the path of day's retreat,
Our ancient, ageless minuet
That rounds this sleep with sleep.




Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 29, 2016 1:19 AM |  Comments (46)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gifts

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The best gift I’ve received in the last few years was a small wooden box, fashioned by hand, and containing a number of carefully selected small objects each with a personal meaning. It has no commercial value. It is a gift of the hand that is filled with the heart. I keep it nearby in my home and, from time to time, I open it and take out each object and hold them briefly before putting them back in their box and the box back on the shelf.

In another time and in another place I once saw the most Christmas gifts I’ve ever seen in a single home. It was in a place where the hands had gone astray and the heart been misplaced. It was the struggle of quantity to overcome quality made manifest.

It was at a home of some people I once knew in a town I once lived in. They had the required large house of many rooms. As a family of four they had about five rooms for every person. It was a house they could all hide in and they did. They hid from each other and they hid all year. On Christmas, however, they came out and pretended they were still a family.


The tree was set up in what these days we call “the family room” even though the room was really just a pass-through for the other rooms. The tree was, as these things had to be in that land at that time, very large and professionally decorated in whatever theme was deemed to be “in” that year. The star at the tip touched and was bent down by the ceiling. The ornaments were so thick that they obscured the green boughs that supported them. The lights were so numerous that the whole tree could have been hauled out and found a place among the approach lights to an airport.

It was good it was a big tree since it needed to be strong to support the wild pile of gifts that started where the two stairs down into the sunken family room bottomed out. The gifts then rose, in a tumult of wrapping paper, in a riot of colored ribbons, to a level of at least two and a half feet by the time they reached the outer boughs. For the family of four there were literally hundreds of presents all wrapped and tossed into the room like some third-world garbage heap until they filled the family room corner to corner.

To pass through this room you had to step carefully along the edges and most people who’d come to the party just went down the adjoining hallway.

In the larger rooms on that day before Christmas the family of four was holding their party for their friends and acquaintances. At that time and in that land the people attending still had lots of young children and their laughter and chatter gave a nice Christmasesque soundtrack to the drinking and eating that went on and on and on.

Our hosts were, to say the least, not getting along that year. Alcohol was taking its toll on the couple, as were the standard infidelities and betrayals common to that set in that land at that time. The hosts tried to put their war into a state of truce on this day so they could pretend, for a little longer, that everything was picture perfect in their world. But as the drinks kicked in their bickering became more and more bitter and I finally sought refuge from the ill spirits and moved off into the house.

I stood at one entrance to the tree/gift room and looked out the window over the mound of presents at the softly falling snow that filled their yard and pool. The winking lights of the tree and the Manheim Steamroller Christmas music coming out of the hidden speakers gave me a moment of Christmas feeling. Angry voices rose for a moment from the far room and then faded.

One of their boys, driven from the room by his parents’ rancor, showed up at the other entrance of the room and looked out over the massive pile of presents. He was a good kid. About four years old and less than three feet high. Red headed and freckled. A Norman Rockwell of a boy. I smiled at him and he smiled at me and then took a step down the first of the two stairs into the gift room.

And tripped.

And disappeared.

Before I could move that kid pitched forward into the gift pile and, with a swoosh and a crunch, was gone.

There were so many gifts piled up that they literally swallowed up the child so that the child could not be seen. He’d vanished beneath the waves of wrapping paper and bows.

After a moment his head popped up like a drowning child in a sea of turbulent affluence and he literally began to make crawling and swimming motions to get himself back to the safety of the stairs. There he climbed out, stood up and glanced at me ashamed by something he didn't understand.

“Looks like you’re going to have a very big Christmas,” I said.

He looked out at the presents that contained at least a hundred with his name on them.

“I guess" he said.

"I dunno,” he said.

Then he went back to the party and back to his parents, The Bickersons.

I had a similar but much smaller Christmas that year in that land. But it was, for that year, a good Christmas.

As for The Bickersons, their marriage and family was finished by late spring of that year. It had gone off to the same landfill that today contains all those hundreds of gifts. It couldn’t, I guess, take the weight. I dunno.

I treasure few things in this world but I do treasure my small burled wooden box containing the things of the hand and the things of the heart. I know where that gift is and what that gift is. And it abides.

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 25, 2016 4:44 AM |  Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve

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And the Light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. -- John 1:5

Throughout the night, the cold drew close,
And wrapped our home in shrouds of frost.
Within, four candles lent us light,
Returning to us what was lost.

Around us, all our village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Four candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.

Then all fell silent round my house.
The snow shown blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood bereft beside my gate.

Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by God's endless grace.
Below me lay the village streets,
Clad in shadow's chill embrace.

The darkness waned, the morning loomed,
Within my house the fire grew bright.
But still I walked on fragile snow,
And prayed for greater light.

As a child I'd lived in dreams of stars,
Of peace on Earth --life's golden seal--
And this night seemed, of all our nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.

Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
In this, the mystery and the gift.

The candles whisper of His gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

for Justine Van der Leun -- Mill Hill Drive, Southport, Connecticut, 1990


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 24, 2016 12:52 PM |  Comments (25)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Yes, Virgina: The Story Behind the Story Behind the Moon

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The question was asked and answered 113 years ago on September 21, 1897. On December 24, 1968, the fourth flight day of Apollo 8, the first human mission to orbit the Moon, the 1897 answer was verified and confirmed by direct observation as Apollo 8 passed behind the moon.

The Apollo 8 Flight Journal - Day 4: Final Orbit and Trans-Earth Injection

089:31:58 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

089:32:50 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston. [No answer.]

089:33:38 Mattingly: Apollo 8, Houston.

089:34:16 Lovell: Houston, Apollo 8, over.

089:34:19 Mattingly: Hello, Apollo 8. Loud and clear.

089:34:25 Lovell: Roger. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.

It was a long, strange trip from an 8-year-old Victorian girl's question to a radio message from just past the dark side of the moon, but "Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus" is that sort of essay. Simple and straightforward, it contains a strange magic that never dissipates but only grows.

Virginia O'Hanlon was beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus in September of 1897. Her father suggested she ask an editor at the New York Sun remarking, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Virginia wrote and Francis Pharcellus Church received the letter and answered it, probably under the pressure of a deadline and to get one more item into the editorial column for the next day's morning edition.

Writers of great popularity and renown struggle their entire careers to write something, anything, that will break out of their work, out of their era, and into history. Few succeed.

Time winnows out the best-sellers as well as the preening memoirs and the pompous pronunciations on "the news of the day," and leaves only those few things that somehow touch the human spirit deeply enough that we decide, without even deciding, that we will keep certain pieces of writing alive forever.

It was that way with the author of this essay, Francis Pharcellus Church. In 1897 he was the lead editorial writer for The New York Sun. He wrote innumerable reports and stories and editorials before this one and he would write countless more after. Nothing else of his survives outside of microfilm, antique volumes of bound newspapers, and a smattering of footnotes. It doesn't have to. Church's work has already outlived five generations of writers and it will outlive five more.

The editorial wasn't even the lead editorial on the day it was printed. It was number seven down the page. That's the spot canny newspaper editors use for small, tossed off, pieces of "human interest." And that's who "Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus" interested -- humans.

People immediately saw that there was a spirit inside the words that reminded them then, as it reminds us now, that there are more important things in heaven and earth and in our lives than just "The news of the day."

Let's pause awhile with this short but immortal exchange between a young girl and a reporter who had seen the civil war and the meanest streets of New York in the 19th century. More than a century later, this short correspondence still holds the real "news of the day."

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? "VIRGINIA O'HANLON. "115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."
His response has lasted. It goes like this.... Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 23, 2016 1:08 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Last Minute Shopping

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One of the abiding delusions of the male mind is the belief it is actually possible to put off critical Christmas shopping until late on the 23rd of December. I am the apostle of this delusion. I take comfort in this false belief every year. No amount of actual experience ever shakes my conviction that it is not only possible to shop like this but economically prudent too. And every year this faith is tested and found wanting. Whatever I may save in last minute markdowns I pay for in this evening's glowing and gut-wrenching angst.

So there I was waiting at the "Information" counter in the local Barnes & Noble in search of, well, "information." I simply wanted to know if this gigantic repository of games, gags, cards, calendars, coffee, and, oh yes, books had a certain title and where it might be located. I was one of a small cloud of befuddled customers hovering about the source of "Information" and the service in the store at this hour of the evening on this last day was not exactly "crisp."

Bluntly stated, the "information" staff of 2.5 employees had had it. Burnt out, tired, tried to the breaking point, they were still going through the corporate mandated methods of "helping" customers locate what they were looking for. At Barnes and Noble these days that means, as it means at so many other stores, a quick look-up and then a guided tour to the book the customer has requested, a hang-out until the clerk is sure they've found it, and then an inquiry of that person whether or not they need anything else. People have gotten married on flimsier relationships.

This mandated hand holding means that those needing a simple data-base query run and simply to be told "That's under the author's name in Philosophy over there," tend to build up at the desk in hordes. And in these hordes on this night nobody's happy. Add to this stituation people actually calling on the phone with "information" requests and you can see the slow steam beginning to rise off the assembled.

Your real need to know means nothing to the "information" clerks of Barnes and Noble. They must, MUST, comply with corporate protocol lest some corporate quality control spy find they are doing things efficiently according to the situation and fire them. They know they could make things run smoother, but they also know they can't. I understand this and, most of the time, I try to hobble my impatience and irritability out of empathy for their plight. Working retail on this day is not a stroll through a heaven of angels wings, babies bottoms, and hot chocolate with teeny tiny marshmallows on top.

However, this was the witching hour of Christmas shopping for me and I was getting ticked off as my, MY!, evening ticked away. The store was crowded and shabby by this point. The lines of my fellow sufferers (90% fellow male procrastinators) were long and growing longer. You could feel their nerve tissues fray and almost see the sparks glinting where the nerves were touching each other and sizzling.

Just when I thought it would be my turn at last to get my measly little question answered and get my own personal guided tour to the book I needed the phone rang at the "Information" desk and the woman, who should have been MY GUIDE THIS INSTANT!, took the call. She listened and said, "I'll see." Then she turned and disappeared into the bowels of the store.

Finally peeved I couldn't help saying out loud in a scathing tone as she departed, "Jesus CHRIST!"

Without missing a beat the man waiting next to me turned and said, "Well, that's Who we're here for, isn't it?"

In the serious practice of Zen meditation, the jikijitsu walks behind the meditators in the hall with a keisaku, a flat stick. If you are having a problem with the depth of your meditation, your focus, you bow slightly in your Zazen posture as the jikijitsu walks by and he gives you a quick and solid rap on the shoulders with the stick. This snaps you into it.

In this case, this man's observation snapped me out of it like a sharp whack on the shoulders from a keisaku. Snapped me out of my bitter mood and back into the reality of the Christmas season instead of the illusion of the bookstore.

"Thanks. Thank you," I said. "You're absolutely right. He is the reason we're here. I needed that."

We both laughed. I shook his hand and left the store and my remaining little needs behind. I'd just gotten what I needed.

Outside in the parking lot you could see the getting and spending still going on in the dark. Beyond the parking lot were the roads and the woods and the streams and the mountains all under a white shawl of snow. Driving back through the whiteness I realized I didn't need to buy any more gifts for anybody. We all already have more gifts than we need or know how to use.

What we all need for Christmas is often the last thing we want -- a sharp whack from a keisaku wielding jikijitsu focusing us to simply accept, at the very last minute, His gift.


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 23, 2016 7:01 AM |  Comments (26)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Pause.... and Begin Again


Sung by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir. Lyrics by Christina Rossetti:

Continued...
Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 21, 2016 6:37 PM |  Comments (32)  | QuickLink: Permalink
One Moment in Time: The Solstice Seen from Newgrange

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Deep inside the world's oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun -- at the exact moment of the winter solstice -- shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.

Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.

Lost and forgotten along with the civilization that built it, the site was been rediscovered in 1699. Excavation began in the late 1800s and continued in fits and starts, until it was undertaken in earnest in 1962. It was completed in 1975.

NEWGRANGE.jpgSeen as a tomb, the function of Newgrange in regards to the solstice wasn't known until 1967 -- and then by happenstance acting on a hunch. It was in December of 1967 that the astronomical alignment was witnessed and understood:

Michael O'Kelly drove from his home in Cork to Newgrange. Before the sun came up he was at the tomb, ready to test his theory.

'I was there entirely alone. Not a soul stood even on the road below. When I came into the tomb I knew there was a possibility of seeing the sunrise because the sky had been clear during the morning.'

He was, however, quite unprepared for what followed. As the first rays of the sun appeared above the ridge on the far bank of the River Boyne, a bright shaft of orange light struck directly through the roofbox into the heart of the tomb.

'I was literally astounded. The light began as a thin pencil and widened to a band of about 6 in. There was so much light reflected from the floor that I could walk around inside without a lamp and avoid bumping off the stones. It was so bright I could see the roof 20ft above me.

'I expected to hear a voice, or perhaps feel a cold hand resting on my shoulder, but there was silence. And then, after a few minutes, the shaft of light narrowed as the sun appeared to pass westward across the slit, and total darkness came once more.'

Since that time, people from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to Newgrange to bear witness to this ancient ritual begun over 5,000 years ago and only brought back into the light for the last 40.

The unknown makers built well. And they built for a very long time:

Five thousand years ago, the people who farmed in the lush pastures of the Boyne Valley hauled 200,000 tons of stone from the river bank a mile away and began to build Newgrange. At the foot of the mound, they set ninety-seven massive kerbstones and carved many of them with intricate patterns. Inside, with 450 slabs, they built a passage leading to a vaulted tomb, and placed a shallow basin of golden stone in each of its three side chambers.

Like so much else from the Age of Myth the "why" of it all at Newgrange will never be known. The people who took 20 years to move 200,000 tons of rock left us no clues beyond the spiraling runes cut into the rock. Like all the mysteries that emerge from time with no footnotes, it is left to us to make what meaning we can from them. But perhaps this one monument from the Age of Myth gives us, every year, one small hint.

No matter what time and the universe can throw at us, we still go on. To remind ourselves that we have and shall endure and prevail, we still mark our small planet's turn around our home star. We mark it with ceremonies every year when, at this moment in time, the sun begins to rise higher to warm us again in our small patch of heaven. And we are still here to bear witness, no matter how shrill the Acolytes of Zero, to the mystery and the gift. We're a tough race and a rough species. It will take more than a few degrees centigrade, one way or another, to finish us.

The light of the solstice pierces to the heart of the tomb at Newgrange, and then, soon after, the Light of World arrives. Two moments that remind us of the many manifest miracles of God. Reminders that no winter is without end and that The Gift is given to us again. If we can but receive it.


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 21, 2016 12:20 AM |  Comments (51)  | QuickLink: Permalink
The Star

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Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.

         -- T. S. Eliot, "The Journey of the Magi"

Theirs was the Age of Myth; a world where night was not dimmed by the web of lights that now obscures the stars. Their nights were lit by flaring torches, dim oil lamps, guttering candles; by the phases of the moon and the broad shimmering river of the Milky Way. As the sun declined and night ascended, life withdrew into shuttered and barred homes. Only the very rich or the very poor were abroad in the dark.

The night sky, now so thin and distant, so seldom really seen, was to them as thick and close as a handful of coal studded with diamonds. They could turn it in their mind's eye even as it turned above them. They reclined on their hill sides, their roofs, or in rooms built for viewing and marking the moon and the stars. They watched it all revolve above them and sang the centuries down. They remembered. They kept records and told tales. They saw beings in the heavens -- gods and animals, giants and insects, all sparking the origins of myth -- and they knew that in some way all was connected to all; as above, so below, "on Earth as it is in Heaven". They studied the patterns of it all and from those repeating patterns fashioned our first science, astrology.

And, like all our other celebrated sciences since, they looked to astrology to give them hints about the future, about what they should do, what they should expect, what they should become. They looked to their science then, as many look to their science now, to remove their doubt.

In time stronger, more intricately argued sciences would rise upon the structures of the proto-sciences of astrology and alchemy; sciences that chained demons with data. These new data-based sciences would push the first sciences into the realm of myth, speculation, superstition and popular fantasy. And, as it is with our advertising, promise, big promise is the soul of our brave new sciences.

The new sciences, you see, are much, much more about "Reality" than the old sciences. They will never be tossed aside as so many playthings of mankind's youth. The authority of our astronomy, our biology, our physics, our chemistry and others is, we fervently believe, as certain as the pole star. Unlike astrology and alchemy, they will never be questioned; they will be built upon.

It is a central tenet of our faith in science that the new will encompass the old in one endless and eternal conservation of sense and sensibility. In this cathedral we worship a database. We can see outward to the edge of what is, and downward into time was to (almost) the moment of Creation. We can see inward into (almost) the mute heart of matter. We have the proven method. We have the hard evidence. We know that nothing is, in time, beyond our knowing. All doubt has been removed. We are the Alpha and Omega. Our science is now as eternal and as deeply grounded in truth as... well, as astrology was in 5 B.C.

Somewhere around 5 B.C. three of the world's leading astronomers/astrologers noticed something unusual in the sky. It could have been a comet. It could have been a supernova. It could have been a rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Whatever it was, it was strange enough for them to travel towards it. Or so it is said. Or so it is written. Or so it is remembered from the time of myth.

Myth or history? What is the reality of this road trip towards an obscure birth in a wretched town, during a not very pleasant passage in history, over 2,000 years in our past?

We do not know. We cannot know. As it is in so much else that we ignore it is not given to us to know.

We have only shards of pottery and fragments of texts snatched from desert caves or teased out of the soil with tin trowels and brushes. We have only the sifted detritus of history; a global jigsaw puzzle where ninety-nine percent of the pieces have long gone to dust.

Our past is a handful of ashes. It is beyond our gift to ever know the difference between an inspiring folk tale and the eyewitness accounts of something that, even today, would occupy the realm of the miraculous. For today, in the realm of the mysteries, we no longer have any time for the good or the beautiful; we have no time for miracles. We have only time for denigration.

In 2004 Time and Newsweek, endeavored, in their ham-fisted way, to gin up some circulation with articles that purported to "examine" the miracles surrounding the intersection of the divine with a world now buried two millennia deep in the ash of the Earth. We shall probably see the same sort of thing this year. The cheapening of the spirit in this culture,"the expense of reason in a waste of shame," by those whose lamp of the soul burns low, is now as predicable as the winter solstice.

In the manner of these publications, and the habits of the sodden intellects that grind them out for small silver, a lot of time was spent on the "question" of the Virginity of Mary, the mother of Christ. It's a scurrilous bit of work. A "hit piece" on Mary, in the jargon of the magazine trade. For all the preening of these publications, the articles were just two chunks of thinly veiled anti-Christian porn, sops to secular hedonists in search of a cheap thrill by imbibing another hit of their favorite pap. These kinds of magazine articles always strike a chord of sadness in me, because I know at last the true cost of creating them. They are a curious kind of self-damnation in life, and, as a result, a waste of life.

Beneath all the buffed prose and appeals to experts and phoned-in quotes from scholars, the articles rose to little more than the coarse chortling of fraternity boys in the early drunken hours of the morning: "A virgin? Right! Sure. Any wife'd tell her husband that if she suddenly..."

In the offices of Time and Newsweek, there is no room for wonder beyond the fact that, for fewer people every passing year, they are still publishing and still making payroll. So far. Anything else, anything that might have within it the spark of the divine, is fit for nothing except denigration. This belief squats at the cold dead center of their editorial philosophy, a philosophy they share with untold millions of our coarsened fellow citizens. And still they cannot comprehend why year after year, no matter how cheap they price their subscriptions, their circulation continues to decline. In none of their editorial meetings do any of those attending look about them and declare that they have become "an alien people clutching their gods" in a land that finds them more and more dispensable.

We will leave them in their conference rooms high above the Avenue of the Americas, and wish them a "Happy Holiday. Have a good one." It is far more interesting to ponder, instead, those ancient ancestors who had no doubts that what they had seen in the heavens was unusual enough to travel.

In 5 B.C. "travel" was not something undertaken lightly. It involved, across distances that would seem trivial today, risks of life and death at every turn. It required wealth and endurance. Few traveled for pleasure. To travel at all required a motivation far beyond the ordinary. So, at the very least, while we cannot know what was in the sky in those days, we can be certain it was something very unusual.

In his short story, "The Star," Arthur C. Clarke's Jesuit narrator of the far future discovers the remnants of a civilization destroyed by a violent nova so that its light might announce the birth of Christ on Earth. The story has that ironic twist that is popular with authors and pleasing to readers. I remember it as making an impression on me when I was around 12 years old. But the story does not age well because the science of it, like all science, does not age well. The story is just 53 years old.

In 1957, when I was twelve years old, we all lived in a far smaller universe with far fewer stars for God to destroy by way of cosmic birth announcements. Now that the inventory of His stars has increased a billion fold, I think it is safe to say He could have found one to suit His purpose that didn't involve destroying a blameless alien race. He could simply pick one deeper in the field and, well, ramp up the volume. That sort of thing is just an afterthought once You've got omnipotence. It might even do double duty if You could use a star in an area that might need a few more heavy elements across the next brief one or two billion years of Your plan.

Sages and mystics, Eliot and Clarke, and a host of others have all had their turns with the story of The Star. In the end it remains what it was when it began, a story. The story of a road trip by three astrologers, kings, wise men. A journey by men who saw something special in the heavens and determined to follow it wherever it led, no matter what the cost.

To see something special. To see something beyond yourself and your imaginings. To follow it wherever it leads. To always remain prepared for miracle. That is the inner music of the story of The Star. Like all stories that survive, it is the music of the heart and not of the head, and like the heart, it will endure.

"Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt."

To have "evidence and no doubt." That is what those that put themselves forward as our "wise men" seem to propose to us day after day from their sterile rooms high above the avenues. They have the "data" from which we should derive, they insist, doubt about all that for which they have no evidence, no data.

First and foremost in their blinded vision is their iron requirement that we should doubt the original myths that have made us and sustained us as individuals and as a people across the centuries. In their pointless world, they would have us cast off the old myths and embrace their "new and improved myths -- complete with evidence;" myths made of purposeless matter "hovering in the dark."

And seeing what these "wise men" have become, we turn. We turn away.

Instead, every year a bit more it seems, a tide has shifted in the hearts of men and we turn like a lodestone to the deeper myths of the human heart; that place where The Star will always shine -- always within and yet always beyond us. In the end, the Mystery is the Gift.


Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 17, 2016 1:18 AM |  Comments (69)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"As roses might in magic amber laid"

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First Dinosaur Tail Found Is Preserved in Amber and Covered in Feathers: The piece—which is about the size of an apricot—had already been partially shaped into an oval by a jeweler.

Rather than damage their research, this actually helped them analyze the cross section of the tail, where they discovered remnants of iron deposits found in dinosaur soft tissue. The sample dates to the mid-Cretaceous Period, some 99 million years ago. And the feathers? While the first fossil evidence of feathered dinosaurs was found in the 1990s, the 1.4-inch preserved appendage is the first time scientists can clearly associate plumage with these extinct creatures. Based on the tail’s structure, it’s believed that it belonged to a juvenile coeleosaur. Coleosaurs are a group of theropod dinosaurs that includes everything from tyrannosaurs to modern birds. -- My Modern Met

Envoi

Go, dumb-born book,
Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
Hadst thou but song
As thou hast subjects known,
Then were there cause in thee that should condone
Even my faults that heavy upon me lie
And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds
Such treasure in the air,
Recking naught else but that her graces give
Life to the moment,
I would bid them live
As roses might, in magic amber laid,
Red overwrought with orange and all made
One substance and one colour
Braving time.

Tell her that goes
With song upon her lips
But sings not out the song, nor knows
The maker of it, some other mouth,
May be as fair as hers,
Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,
When our two dusts with Waller’s shall be laid,
Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
Till change hath broken down
All things save Beauty alone.

-- Ezra Pound

The Creation maybe mysterious in that much is yet to be revealed, but is not a secret. It is pervasive and profound. Just look around. If you wish to see the dinosaurs, look up.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 16, 2016 6:14 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Where black is the color, where none is the number

Accepting the Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan is Patti Smith singing "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall"Even more touching when she loses the thread of the lyric and apologizes and goes on....


Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall | The Official Bob Dylan Site


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 14, 2016 10:31 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Counting My Blessings

Yes, this was sung and filmed within living memory. Seen now its textures, singers, tones, hues and the spirit of a confident culture give it a luminosity that cannot be recaptured no matter our wealth and technical capability. Yet it still has the capacity to soothe and comfort and uplift. It's a song in the affirmative. It would be nice to write and sing songs in that key again.

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
So if you're worried and you can't sleep
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 9, 2016 10:44 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: English for Beginners


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 8, 2016 4:02 PM |  Comments (14)  | QuickLink: Permalink
John Glenn (1921-2016): Now He Is Starlight

"I pray every day and I think everybody should.

I don't think you can be up here and look out the window as I did the first day and look out at the Earth from this vantage point. We're not so high compared to people who went to the moon and back. But to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is, to me, impossible. It just strengthens my faith."

Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 8, 2016 1:02 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. "

when god lets my body be

from each brave eye shall sprout a tree
fruit that dangles therefrom

the purpled world will dance upon
between my lips which did sing

a rose shall beget the spring
that maidens whom passion wastes

will lay between their little breasts
my strong fingers beneath the snow

into strenuous birds shall go
my love walking in the grass

their wings will touch with her face
and all the while shall my heart be
with the bulge and nuzzle of the sea

---by e. e. cummings

"I've had a lot of luck to have such a life. I wish there was some way to pass on with what I've learned of. My God, I was learning fast there at the end." -- Islands in the Stream

UPDATED for the (somewhat) less athletically inclined........


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Dec 4, 2016 12:09 PM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
John Muir's Commentary on his First Ascent of Mt. Ritter

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"At length, I found myself at the foot of a sheer drop in the bed of the avalanche channel, which seemed to bar all further progress. The tried dangers beneath seemed even greater than that of the cliff in front; therefore, after scanning its face again and again, I commenced to scale it, picking my holds with intense caution.

"After gaining a point about half-way to the top, I was brought to a dead stop, with arms outspread, clinging close to the face of the rock, unable to move hand or foot either up or down. My doom appeared fixed. I must fall. There would be a moment of bewilderment, and then a lifeless tumble down the once general precipice to the glacier below.

"When this final danger flashed in upon me, I became nerve-shaken for the first time since setting foot on the mountain, and my mind seemed to fill with a stifling smoke. But the terrible eclipse lasted only a moment, when life burst forth again with preternatural clearness.

"I seemed suddenly to become possessed of a new sense. The other self -- the ghost of by-gone experiences, instinct, or Guardian Angel -- call it what you will -- came forward and assumed control. Then my trembling muscles became firm again, every rift and flaw was seen as through a microscope, and my limbs moved with a positiveness and precision with which I seemed to have nothing at all to do."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 30, 2016 12:01 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Hymns of the Morning: Shenandoah -- "The provenance of the song is unclear"


Arlo Guthrie Featuring paintings by Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Frederick Remington, Howard Terpning, and visual arts by Spadecaller.

There are no "official" or traditional hymns of praise for Thanksgiving. This one, however, will do and do nicely.

"The lyrics tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief; in this interpretation, the rover tells the chief of his intent to take the girl with him far to the west, across the Missouri River. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer's nostalgia for the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia, or of a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home in Virginia. The provenance of the song is unclear."

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 23, 2016 12:31 PM |  Comments (15)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Christmas with love from Mrs Claus

You might think, looking at the title of this video, that I'm pushing the envelope by posting this before Thanksgiving, but there is so much to be thankful for this year it is never too early for something this wonderful. It may irritate your eyes for a moment, but it's worth it. You'll see.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 22, 2016 8:30 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Dogdance Freestyle - Sandra & Lizzy

Yes, it is silly. Yes, you may scoff freely as did I for a moment, but then it became.... wonderful.

HT:neo-neocon A pas de deux


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 18, 2016 3:25 PM |  Comments (18)  | QuickLink: Permalink
In My Old Pew

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For over five years I have always been grateful to the Lord for every extra week I have been granted. This Sunday, however, I woke up to discover that at the end of THIS week I felt especially grateful to the Lord. To make this feeling more formal I decided to attend services at the church nearest my house. In Paradise, this happens to be the Craig Memorial Congregational Church. And Craig Memorial Congregational Church happens to be the last church I attended in Paradise. Sixty years ago.

The last time I was in Craig Memorial Congregational Church was to sing “Oh Mine Papa” while my grandmother accompanied me on the piano. Although I have no actual memory of singing the song I am assured that I did and, as a boy soprano, was a great success; so much so that my grandmother’s tea-drinking coterie complimented her for the rest of her life. What I do remember about that long-lost Sunday afternoon some six decades drowned is that I proudly wore my Boy Scout uniform. I’d recently emerged from the Cub Scouts and the ascension from Cub to Scout was as close to the “Today I am a man” Bar Mitzvah moment that a rural WASP was likely to get. I don’t know how I felt about the song, but I do know I loved showing up in the Boy Scout uniform with all the flare I could find.

This morning I walked up to the entrance to Craig Memorial and was greeted warmly and shown inside. I walked down the aisle towards the altar and noted that it had not been altered. I sat on the outside edge of the second pew back from the front.

Looking in front of me and to the left, I saw the piano my grandmother had played, the pew that I’d sat in waiting, and the place where I had stood in my uniform and sang my song.

As I sat there thinking about that 60 year deep memory, a family came in and sat in the pew in front of me to the left. When they settled in there he was. He was sitting in the same place I sat waiting to get up and sing, waiting in my new Scout uniform.

The boy I was came back again today in 2016.

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"I knew a lad who went to sea and left the shore behind him.
I knew him well the lad was me and now I cannot find him."


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 13, 2016 3:03 PM |  Comments (16)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Onward

... Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-- Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 13, 2016 3:02 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Dance Me to the End of Love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 12, 2016 3:55 PM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Leonard Cohen (1934-November 11, 2016): Democracy

One of our greatest poets. He lived to see the first flickers of the great change.

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 11, 2016 7:35 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Name in the Stone

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On Living with the Loss of a Son in Wartime. Written and first published on Memorial Day, 2003

My name, "Gerard Van der Leun," is an unusual one. So unusual, I've never met anyone else with the same name. I know about one other man with my name, but we've never met. I've seen his name in an unusual place. This is the story of how that happened.

It was an August Sunday in New York City in 1975. I'd decided to bicycle from my apartment on East 86th and York to Battery Park at the southern tip of the island. I'd nothing else to do and, since I hadn't been to the park since moving to the city in 1974, it seemed like a destination that would be interesting. Just how interesting, I had no way of knowing when I left.

August Sundays in New York can be the best times for the city. The psychotherapists are all on vacation -- as are their clients and most of the other professional classes. The city seems almost deserted, the traffic light and, as you move down into Wall Street and the surrounding areas, it becomes virtually non-existent. On a bicycle you own the streets that form the bottom of the narrow canyons of buildings where, even at mid-day, it is still cool with shade. Then you emerge from the streets into the bright open space at Battery Park.

Tourists are lining up for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A few people are coming and going from the Staten Island Ferry terminal. There are some scattered clots of people on the lawns of Battery Park. Everything is lazy and unhurried.

I'd coasted most of the way down to the Battery that day since, even though it appears to be flat, there is a very slight north to south slope in Manhattan. I arrived only a bit hungry and thirsty and got one of the dubious Sabaretts hot dogs and a chilled coke from the only vendor working the park.

We were in the midst of what now can be seen as "The Long Peace."

The twin towers loomed over everything, thought of, if they were thought of at all, as an irritation in that they blocked off so much of the sky. It was 1975 and, Vietnam not withstanding, America was just about at the midway point between two world wars. Of course, we didn't know that at the time. The only war we knew of was the Second World War and the background humm of the Cold War. It was a summer Sunday and we were in the midst of what now can be seen as "The Long Peace."

In front of the lawns at Battery Park was a monument that caught my attention. It was formed of an immense stone eagle and two parallel rows of granite monoliths about 20 feet wide, 20 feet tall and 3 feet thick. From a distance you could see that they had words carved into them from top to bottom. There was also a lot of shade between them so I took my hot dog and my coke and wheeled my bike over, sitting down at random among the monoliths.

I remember that the stone was cool against my back as I sat there looking at the stone across from me on that warm afternoon. As I looked up it dawned on me that the words cut into the stones were all names. Just names. The names of soldiers, sailors and airmen who had met their death in the north Atlantic in WWII. I was to learn later that there were 4,601 names. All lost in the frigid waters, all without any marker for their graves -- except those in the hearts of those they left behind, and their names carved into these stones that rose up around me.

I read across several rows, moving right to left, then down a row, and then right to left. I got to the end of the sixth row and went back to the beginning of the seventh row.

At the beginning of the seventh row, I read the name: "Gerard Van der Leun." My name. Cut into the stone amongst a tally of the dead.

If you have an unusual name, there's nothing that prepares you for seeing it in a list of the dead on a summer Sunday afternoon in Battery Park in 1975. I don't really remember the feeling except to know that, for many long moments, I became chilled.

When that passed, I knew why my name was in the stone. I'd always known why, but I'd never known about the stone or the names cut into it.

"Gerard Van der Leun" was, of course, not me. He was someone else entirely. Someone who had been born, lived, and died before I was even conceived.

Gerard Van der Leun was my father's middle brother. He was what my family had given to stop Fascism, Totalitarianism and Genocide in the Second World War. He was one of their three sons. He was dead before he was 22 years old. His body never recovered, the exact time and place of his death over the Atlantic, unknown.

I was always called "Jerry." "Jerry" is not a diminutive of "Gerard."

As the first child born after his death, I was given his name, Gerard. But as a child I was never called by that name. I was always called "Jerry." "Jerry" is not a diminutive of "Gerard." There are none for that name. But "Jerry" I would be because the mere mention of the name "Gerard" was enough to send my grandmother into a dark state of mind that would last for weeks. This was true, as far as I know, for all the days of her life and she lived well into her 80s.

My grandfather could barely speak of Gerard and, being Dutch, his sullen reticence let all of us know very early that it was wrong to ask.

My father, who was refused service in the Second World War due to a bout of rheumatic fever as a child that left him with the heart murmur that would kill him shortly after turning 50, was ashamed he didn't fight and wouldn't speak of his brother, Gerard, except to say, "He was a great, brave kid."

My uncle, the baby of the family, spent a year or two of his youth freezing on the Inchon peninsula in Korea and seeing the worst of that war first hand. He was my only living relative who'd been in a war. He would never speak of his war at all, but it must have been very bad indeed.

... a helmet shot full of holes; a boot with most of a leg still in it...

I know this because, when I was a teenager, I was out in his garage one day and, opening a drawer, I found an old packet of photographs, grimy with dust at the back under a bunch of rusted tools. The black and white photos with rough perforated edges showed some very disturbing things: a helmet shot full of holes; a boot with most of a leg still in it, some crumpled heaps of clothing on patches of dirty snow that proved to be, on closer inspection, dead Korean soldiers; a pile of bodies on a white snowbank with black patches of blood seeping into it. The full horror show.

My uncle had taken them and couldn't part with them. At the same time he couldn't look at them. So he shoved them into a drawer with other unused junk from his past and left it at that. He never spoke of Korea except to say it was "rough," and, now that he  has quit speaking of anything, he never will. His only comment to me about his brother Gerard echoed that of my father, "He was a great kid. You can be proud to have his name. Just don't use it around Grandma."

And I didn't. No one in my family ever did. All through the years that I was growing up at home, I was "Jerry."

In time, I left home for the University and, in the manner of young men in the 1960s and since, I came upon a lot of new and, to my young mind, excellent ideas. A minor one of these was that it was time to stop being a 'Jerry' -- a name I associated for some reason with young men with red hair, freckles and a gawky resemblance to Howdy Doody. I decided that I would reject my family's preferences and call myself by my given name, 'Gerard.' In fact, in the callous manner of heedless boys on the verge of adulthood, I would insist upon it. I duly informed my parents and would correct them when they lapsed back to 'Jerry.'

This attitude served me well enough and soon it seemed I had trained my bothers and my parents in my new name. Of course, I'd taken this name not because of who my uncle had been or because of the cause for which he gave his life, but for the selfish reason that it simply sounded more "dignified" to my ears.

I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley and it was 1965 and we had no truck with the US military that was "brutally repressing" the people of Vietnam. We were stupid and young and nothing that has happened at Berkeley since then has changed the youth and stupidity of its students. If anything, my era at the University just made it somehow possible for Berkeley students to think that their attitudes were as noble and as pure in their minds as they were stupid and selfish in reality. I was no longer a "Jerry" but a "Gerard" and I was going to make the world safe from America.

"Would you like some more creamed onions, Jerry?"

My name change plan went well as long as I confined it to my immediate family and my friends at the University. It went so well that it made me even stupid enough to try to extend it to my grandparents during a Thanksgiving at their home.

At some point during the meal, my grandmother said something like, "Would you like some more creamed onions, Jerry?"

And because I was a very selfish and stupid young man, I looked at her and said, "Grandma, everyone here knows that I'm not Jerry any longer. I'm Gerard and you've just got to get used to calling me that."

Immediately, the silence came into the room. It rose out of the center of the table and expanded until it reached the walls and then just dropped down over the room like a large, dark shroud.

Nobody moved. Very slowly every set of eyes of my family came around and looked at me. Not angry, but just looking. At me. The silence went on. Then my grandmother, whose eyes were wet, rose from the table and said, "No. I can't do that. I just can't." She left the table and walked down the hallway to her bedroom and closed the door behind her.

The silence compounded itself until my grandfather rose from his chair and walked to the middle of the hallway. He took a framed photograph off the wall where hung next to a framed gold star. It had been in that place so long that I'd stopped seeing it.

"Folks, Here's my new office! Love, Gerard."

My grandfather walked back to the table and very gently handed me the photograph. It showed a smooth-faced handsome young flyer with an open smile. He was dressed in fleece-lined leather flying jacket and leaning casually against the fuselage of a bomber. You could see the clear plastic in the nose of the plane just above his head to his right. On the picture, was the inscription: "Folks, Here's my new office! Love, Gerard."

My grandfather stood behind me as I looked at the picture. "You are not Gerard. You just have his name, but you are not him. That is my son. He is Gerard. If you don't mind, we will continue to call you Jerry in this house. If you do mind, you do not have to come here any more."

Then he took the picture away and put it back in its place on the wall. He knocked on the bedroom door, went in, and in a few minutes he and my grandmother came back to the table. Nobody else had said a word. We'd just sat there. I was wishing to be just about anyplace else in the world than where I was.

They sat down and my grandmother said, "So, Jerry, would you like some more creamed onions?"

I nodded, they were passed and the meal went on. My parents never said a word. Not then and not after. And, to their credit, they continued to call me Gerard. But not at my grandparents' house.

A decade passed.

In 1975, I leaned against a monument in Battery Park in New York and read a name cut into stone among a list of the dead. That long ago Thanksgiving scene came back to me in all its dreadful detail. I tried to understand what that name in the stone had meant to my family when it became the only thing that remained of their middle son; a man who'd been swallowed up in the Atlantic during a war that finished before I drew breath.

I tried to understand what such a sacrifice meant to my grandparents and parents, but I could not. I was a child of the long peace who had avoided his war and gone on to make a life that, in many ways, was spent taking-down the things that my namesake had given his life to preserve. I was thirty then and not yet a parent. That would come a few years later and, with the birth of my daughter, I would at last begin, but only begin, to understand.

Today it makes me feel cheap and contemptible to think of the things I did in my youth to point out all the ways in which this country fails to achieve some fantasied perfection. I was a small part of promulgating a great wrong and a large lie for a long time, and I'm sure there's no making up for that. My chance to be worthy of the man in the photograph, the name on the wall, has long since passed and all I can do is to try, in some way, to make what small amends I can.

Remembering these long ago moments now as we linger on the cusp of the Long War, I still cannot claim to understand the deep sense of duty and the strong feeling of honor that drove men like the uncle I've never known to sacrifice themselves. Lately though, as we move deeper into the Fourth World War, I think that, at last, I can somehow dimly see the outlines of what it was that moved them to give “the last full measure of devotion.”  And that, for now, will have to do.

Since finding his name on the stone in 1975, I've been back to that place a number of times. I once took my daughter there.

After September 11th, I made a point of going to the monument as soon as the way was cleared, sometime in 2002. It was for the last time.

But if you go the monument today, you can still see the name in the stone. It's not my name, but the name of a man much better than most of us. It's on the far left column on the third stone in on the right side of the monument looking towards the sea. The name is usually in shadow and almost impossible to photograph.

Like most of the other names carved into the stone it's up there very high. You can see it, but you can't touch it. I don't care who you are, you're not that tall.

=====
Note: Since this essay was first written in May, 2003, several thoughtful people have supplied me with photographs. As you can see, the name still remains difficult to photograph. I also have found and reproduce here a photograph of the real Gerard Van der Leun, as he was and as he shall remain.

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Gerard Van der Leun, GN, Air Corps, Pennsylvania


The Name in the Stone. Click to enlarge.


Posted by Vanderleun at Nov 11, 2016 1:46 AM |  Comments (120)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Just Boinging Around In the Grass: If I Was in a Good Mood This Morning (And I was) This Is My Mood This Afternoon


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 10, 2016 3:51 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
"That's Impossible"

Abigail Adams points me to this clip for those who still need to understand what just happened to America.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 9, 2016 7:08 PM |  Comments (8)  | QuickLink: Permalink


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 9, 2016 12:16 AM |  Comments (6)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Thank you Lord God of the Universe for the river of prog tears in which we soon will bathe...

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Don Surber: President Trump has a mandate

After he clinched the nomination, things got rocky on occasion. I was ready to throw in the towel a dozen times, but readers were there for me. And I trust I was there for you when you thought things looked bleak. In the end, we knew the polls were baloney, just as biased as the reporters and editors. We did not let them dissuade or discourage us. On Tuesday, the people spoke. Michael Moore was right. It was the biggest F*** You in history. It was the bird flip seen around the world.

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 8, 2016 11:40 PM |  Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Within Living Memory: Simple Gifts


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 6, 2016 12:48 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Sourdough Mountain Lookout

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On the Ridge


Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

-- from Riprap / Gary Snyder


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Nov 1, 2016 2:13 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
It's A Cold Sunday Midnight in Late October. The Storm Is Passing Overhead. The Dawn Delays. Hold Fast.

¡Oh noche, que guiaste,
¡oh noche amable más que el alborada6!,
oh noche, que juntaste
amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 30, 2016 12:14 AM |  Comments (5)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Something Wonderful: Oh Sweet Lorraine

This will make your day/week/month/year:

The most genuine country song you’ll hear all year came from the least likely songwriter. Reeling from the death of his wife of 72 years in May, Fred Stobaugh, 96, sought a way to deal with his grief and loneliness. Despite lacking any musical experience, he could hear the song he wanted to sing to her—the melody, the lyrics, the longing refrain—just beyond his reach. The Daily Dot

Continued...
Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 27, 2016 11:37 AM |  Comments (21)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Small Fires In the Deep

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Bioluminescent bacteria occur nearly everywhere, and probably most spectacularly as the rare "milky sea" phenomenon, particularly in the Indian Ocean where mariners report steaming for hours through a sea glowing with a soft white light as far as the eye can see. -- The Bioluminescence Page

There is another world above this one; or outside of this one; the way to it is thru the smoke of this one, & the hole that smoke goes through. The ladder is the way through the smoke hole; the ladder holds up, some say, the world above; it might have been a tree or pole; I think it is merely a way. -- Gary Snyder- Through the Smoke Hole

These days she wakes before dawn. The sound of the automatic coffee grinder and its aroma is her alarm. Before first light today, out on the deck overlooking the Pacific, she was gazing at the sea and saw, across the flat miles of ocean stretching out to Catalina, bright flashes come and go like wet fireworks exploding under the waves. Binoculars brought the flashes closer but didn't explain them. They were scattered all across the wide water except where the full moon sliding down the sky towards the western horizon smoothed a bright white band across the slate sea.

Later, when he woke, she brought him out on the deck to see the place where she'd witnessed this strange antediluvian light show. After a few more minutes he noticed that, in the rising light, large patches of the sea were dark, as if secret islands had risen just beneath the surface. Secret until his 'compulsion to explain the mysterious' arose.

"It's most likely a large algae bloom," he claimed. "When it was dark and the algae was stirred up by waves, breaking combers probably excited and concentrated the algae. What you saw was bioluminescence."

"Bioluminescence," she said. "That's such a fine, soft word."

They watched the dark islands under the surface of the sea for awhile longer and he wished he'd seen the flashes in the pre-dawn dark.

Toward the end of his life, Carl Sagan wrote a book about how most of humanity still lives in a "demon-haunted world;" and how science drives us relentlessly out of the dark oceans of our ignorance until, like some stump-legged fish, we scramble gasping onto the thin, dry strands of our knowledge about the truth of this world.

One of those strands in his mind was 'knowing' that the miracle of rush lights within the ocean was caused by the phenomenon we label "bioluminescence."

Mystery seen, mystery solved.

Wonder summed by science, our youngest and most robust religion. A religion whose prime attraction is to transubstantiate the miraculous with the dependable; whose creed reverses the Eucharist by rendering the body and blood of God into bland bread and indifferent wine.

He'd long been a lay member of this fresh, muscular faith whose liturgies are written in arcane symbols of mathematics rather than arcane phrases of Latin. As a lay member and mere acolyte his understanding of science is as shallow as his faith in science is adamantine. He has worshiped the Saints Einstein, Darwin, Newton, and Bohr. He has believed that in time all will be known and, when all is known, all will be explained and all mystery resolved. He has not yet read The Testament of the Unified Field, but he hopes to before he dies and rejoins that Unified Field as empty matter glowing in the dark. Some of our current priests growing old in the quest assure him that he will. They currently hope to hunt Higgs-Boson to its burrow.

Yet still he wonders. Still he persists in his scientific heresy.

He wonders, "When we explain what we experience in life in the steel language of science, do we drive the mystery out or merely mix more mystery in?"

Sometimes he answers, "Perhaps neither. Perhaps what we do, through our relentless human need to explain, is to simply dive, as blindly as fish born deep below the light, ever deeper into the miracle. Perhaps we dive deep in the hope that the light from our minds and souls will, on some immensely distant day, grow large enough and bright enough to illuminate one crest of one wave rising once only out of the darkness. And that something, somewhere else in the immense darkness in which we dwell, will see our small fire and answer."

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Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 27, 2016 10:41 AM |  Comments (3)  | QuickLink: Permalink
And I say to myself, what a wonderful world....

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Cherry Blossoms Paint A Lake Purple Making Tokyo Look Like A Fairytale | Tokyo-based photographer Danilo Dungo uses drones to take stunning pictures of Japanese cherry blossoms. Every spring, he goes to the Inokashira Park to admire the blossoms, and while regular photography capture the park’s beauty, the drones reveal something else altogether.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 25, 2016 10:30 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Boomer Anthems: The Sound of Silence

"The Sound of Silence" originally was released to mockery, obscurity, and failure.

The song was written by Paul Simon over a period of several months in 1963 and 1964. A studio audition led to the duo signing a record deal with Columbia Records, and the song was recorded in March 1964 at Columbia Studios in New York City for inclusion on their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Released in 1964 the album bombed and S & G broke up.... for the first time. Simon went to England and Garfunkel back to college. Following a burst of airplay at stations around colleges the next spring, the producer, Tom Wilson, remixed the song without S&G’s knowledge and released it as a single in September, 1965. By January the song was number one and Simon and Garfunkel quickly reformed ... for the first time... to capitalize on the song’s success.

Many people have believed that the song grew out of some prophetic insights into the events of the time, but it actually arose from deep inside your typical teenage boy’s angst.

Simon said: ”I wrote The Sound of Silence when I was 21 years old,” with Simon also explaining that the song was written in his bathroom, where he turned off the lights to better concentrate. "The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I'd turn on the faucet so that water would run (I like that sound, it's very soothing to me) and I'd play. In the dark. 'Hello darkness, my old friend / I've come to talk with you again’.”

The rest is silence.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 4, 2016 8:16 AM |  Comments (4)  | QuickLink: Permalink
HIs Kingdom Is Not of This World. Yet.

I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
But love's the only engine
Of survival

- - - Leonard Cohen | The Future

John 18: 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

2,016 years? Only an inch of Time. And, as a Christian, my faith tells me that the entire history of mankind is one of sorrow, suffering, error, terror, and war.... followed by a happy ending.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21


Posted by gerardvanderleun at Oct 1, 2016 11:20 PM |  Comments (7)  | QuickLink: Permalink
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SIDELINES

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By Mail: Gerard Van der Leun | 6616-D Clark Road #176 | Paradise, CA 95969

Your Shower Is Lame, Your Dishwasher Doesn’t Work, and Your Clothes are Dirty

It’s not just about the showerhead.
The water pressure in our homes and apartments has been gradually getting worse for two decades, thanks to EPA mandates on state and local governments. This has meant that even with a good showerhead, the shower is not as good as it might be. It also means that less water is running through our pipes, causing lines to clog and homes to stink just slightly like the sewer. This problem is much more difficult to fix, especially because plumbers are forbidden by law from hacking your water pressure. | Foundation for Economic Education [HT: Never Yet Melted]


In 2016 the Western political system had a stroke.

The American political system is operating in the curious condition of being an impaired state.
It's not really thinking -- about China, Russia, Syria, Kurdistan. It's not really thinking about anything except half remembered slogans from 1968. Like a person afflicted by a stroke, it can't take a consistent view of external reality because it's regressing into atavisms by a loss of brain function. Impaired


Fake News. At the same time of the political putsch, the mainstream media outlets,

in particular the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the major networks, via broadcasts and social media, began an orchestrated campaign of defamation and delegitimization.
The crazier and more diverse the media mythologies, the better. Melania Trump was a former call girl and illegal alien. Ivanka Trump was peddling her business wares from the West Wing. Jared Kushner was a profiteering collusionist. Steve Bannon was a racist, Sebastian Gorka an unrepentant Nazi. Baron Trump was a spoiled, autistic child. The late elder Trump had run a racist campaign for mayor. And on and on. Resistance & Regime Change: Any Means Necessary – Lies, Leaks, Violence | National Review


Crime simply does not pay as well as politics or banking.

That may be the way to look at something like the Clinton Foundation and, coming soon, the Obama Foundation.
These are not explicitly criminal organizations, but they certainly play outside the spirit of the laws. Obama is out of office and prohibited from running again, but he still controls the Democratic party. The Clintons would be in charge, if not for the fact that the voters took their under boss out in the Tuesday Night Massacre, otherwise known as the presidential election. Even so, the Clinton Family is still a player. Late Phase Capitalism | The Z Blog


Bodymore, Murderville”

Most whites have become habituated to the reality of life in this part of the world.
Everyone, white and black, knows the reality on the street. The blacks with anything on the ball do exactly like the whites and that’s put distance between themselves and the black ghetto. That does not stop the Progressive maniacs from ranting about racism, but they do it from high up in the towers of their whites-only neighborhoods. As a result, no one hears them and so they can be ignored. The Killing Season | The Z Blog


New Blog Arriving Soon

Some have asked, "Gee whiz, Unca Gerard, where is that thar new blog you keeps a promisin'?"

I am hoping for sometime tonight. Hoping. We've been having some issues getting this winged dinosaur landed.


Drink Tea

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Drink tea, together with your friends; pay attention to the tea, and to your friends, and pay attention to your friends paying attention to the tea. Therein lies the meaning of life. The Essence of Peopling

We would love to cut a deal with the noble indigenous peoples across the Earth—

you can have your Navajo panties and aboriginal dot paintings and every last freaking burrito on the planet so long as you give us back our computers and cell phones and cars and indoor plumbing and electricity and air conditioners. Deal?

If people go their separate ways such a divorce would be an astonishing defeat for the Left.

As late as 2016 it was possible to imagine an America led to a "progressive" future by Hillary Clinton;
an EU guiding all of Europe to a similar destiny and the G20 taking the whole world to the same destination. Indeed everyone told they were fated to follow an Arc of History. Yet after Brexit, Trump and G-Zero it is no longer possible to visualize this outcome. A blue-red division would confirm the failure to create a "progressive" world. No conceivable rollback will ever put Humpty Dumpty together again. Opportunity


Trump, Julius Caesar, and killing tyrants

The Roman lower classes, with whom Caesar was popular, became enraged that a small group of aristocrats had sacrificed Caesar. -- neoneocon

Execute Trump? Nah, You First.

Draining the swamp means not only ejecting Trump from the presidency,
but also bringing himself and everyone assisting in his agenda up on charges of treason. They must be convicted (there is little room to doubt their guilt). And then — upon receiving guilty verdicts — they must all be executed under the law. Impeachment Is No Longer Enough; Donald Trump Must Face Justice | HuffPost [Retreived from GoogleCache after it was expunged from the Huffington Post]


A bee in her bonnet

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Thousands of bees took over a car in the UK and beekeepers are struggling to make them leave -
At first it wasn't clear why the bees chose the blue Nissan car and he and a colleague were trying to determine whether this was just a temporary stop or a new nesting site. But as the bees moved to the inside of the bonnet, filling every nook and cranny, things got more serious. "They're building a lot of wax in there now, and of course once they start doing that, they're reluctant to leave it, because it's the start of building a house. They put a lot of effort into producing the wax," Coulson told Hull Daily Mail. "I've got a feeling this might be their chosen permanent home."


[Bumped] "They send one of ours to the hospital, we send two of theirs to the morgue."

Baseball Shooter a Big Wake-Up Call for the Left | Roger L. SimonRobespierre is alive and well in 2017 USA.

This pathetic character in Alexandria is, now was, the left's ungoverned id. By any means necessary -- that's for sure. They will undoubtedly try to shove him under the rug as quickly as possible, just one more aberrant individual to be forgotten, just one obscure Bernie volunteer gone bad. Sanders did his best to separate himself within minutes of the revelation. Yes, it's undoubtedly true that this was just one rotten apple, but it's also true that only five years ago Bernie was recommending Venezuela -- now ground zero for starvation, kidnapping and murder -- as a path for us to emulate.



Greatest antitheft device when the thieves are millenials:

Man leads Jeffco deputies on low-speed chase in stolen flatbed truck after unable to get out of 1st gear The driver - later identified as 29-year-old Randy Dewayne Vert - refused to stop and continued driving south on Center Point Parkway, Christian said. Vert was apparently unfamiliar with the complexities of a modern manual transmission.

The natural impulse of a political system in institutional crisis is to dig in.

Too many institutions in the West remain decades after their birth, frozen in the moment of their creation.
NASA, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the university system and the United Nations rule us from the past. Public life has become a museum of memes from which nothing can escape without a mummy hand dragging the fugitive back into the darkened interior. It is perhaps no coincidence the two most popular leaders of the Western left, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, might credibly impersonate Boris Karloff. They are here to lead us back to 1968. Stuck


The Japanese. Nuked Too Much... or Trying to Get Their Mouths Around Fujiyama Volcano Plate

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We put Japan's most phallic-looking roast beef meal into our mouth at VolcanoKitchen | SoraNews24
Since we’d already become somewhat desensitized to the initially unsettling sensation of peeling strips of meat off the top of the shaft, we mercilessly crushed the egg, sending viscous, gooey liquid running down to the base of the meat rod.
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The power of the press is a figment of the imagination -- humbug --

Oscar Diggs behind the curtain projecting the image of Oz the Great and Powerful!
The Internet did not kill the power of the newspapers. It was suicide. And not just because most of them had Marxist editorials, editors, and reporters. Newspapers lost their sense of community -- and their credibility -- when the heirs to hometown publishers didn't want the paper, sold it to a chain for $1,000 per subscriber to a chain -- Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Thomson -- and moved on. Don Surber: Craigslist killed newspapers


When terrorists enter your children’s school and begin to execute them...

will the gun ban (you favored) in school that prevented abiding staff and teachers from saving your child, come to mind as a good idea?
If the answer to any or all of these and many more reasonable questions, is 'yes,' then you may be a delusional liberal, and likely a coward, and almost as big a threat to our nation as the terrorists who are at war with us." - Morgan K. Freeberg


"Happy birthday, Mr. President...."

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First truth which has been grounded into dust, must spring forth from the earth again.

At the present time . . .he who practices loving-kindness is esteemed and sought after, while he who champions the truth in word and in deed is persecuted and shunned. 
For men desire to base their affairs on everything except the one incorruptible truth which has been set down before us by God , and therefore these affairs have no permanent value . . . only when love and truth meet together, only when men come to understand that the highest act of loving-kindness is to bring men to know and practice the truth, only then will the marriage of love and truth produce that condition on earth in which everyone and everything will occupy the place which has been assigned to it by the will of God. Truth and Peace - Men Of The West


What happened to Nuclear Winter?

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As the media glare faded, its robust scenario appeared less persuasive;
John Maddox, editor of Nature, repeatedly criticized its claims; within a year, Stephen Schneider, one of the leading figures in the climate model, began to speak of "nuclear autumn." It just didn't have the same ring. A final media embarrassment came in 1991, when Carl Sagan predicted on Nightline that Kuwaiti oil fires would produce a nuclear winter effect, causing a "year without a summer," and endangering crops around the world. Sagan stressed this outcome was so likely that "it should affect the war plans." None of it happened. Raconteur Report: Aliens Cause Global Warming by Michael Crichton


If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus.

I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.
Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. - - Woodpile Report


Joe Biden’s niece dodges jail after $100K credit card scam

She walks on a major felony? Of course she did. And who believes she'll keep her end of the deal? In her defense, we're assured she's "a very complicated girl who has a lot of feelings and a lot of issues." Oh ... okay. That explains everything. Hugs from all the little people. Woodpile Report

Why is English so weirdly different from other languages?

There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular.
I’m writing in it. I talk, you talk, he/she talk-s – why just that? The present‑tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? | Aeon Essays



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