Monday, December 28, 2009

An excellent article about how NT Wright has ruined Jesus movies AND Christmas -

Remembering Rennie

I am not sure when I first met Rennie Perrone. My first clear memory of him is fixed however. After his dear wife passed away he moved up to Greensboro from Florida. One day he came to church with Charlie and Terry. As with many people and Rennie, it was friendship at first site.

Rennie was always the best dressed guy in the room. He had suits of every color of the rainbow, with matching kerchiefs. He liked to look good.

I started hanging out with Rennie as did many others, mainly going with him to lunch. We usually ate Italian food – and Vito’s Italian was our favorite hangout. Dennis Frohlich more often than not joined us. Rennie liked the food at Vito's, and he liked talking Italian with the owners. He always insisted on paying. He was a very generous man.

Rennie always had a glass of wine for lunch and usually no water. He would situate his cloth napkin just so, with half of it under the plate and the other half hanging down in his lap. Usually we both ordered Eggplant Parmesan. Well, I always did, and he often did.

It was fun to shoot the breeze with Rennie. I liked it that he would occasionally cuss. Nobody likes to cuss around a pastor and I’m glad Rennie felt free to do so. He always made me laugh.

Usually our conversation at some point would bring to his mind his wife or the business he owned or his time in the army. Rennie was Italian and was very free with his emotions. Thoughts of his wife always brought Rennie to tears. He missed her terribly. He liked to tell stories about his children too – Paul and Terry. I heard the story of Rennie meeting Terry’s future husband Charlie many times.

Rennie looked at me to some degree as one does a priest, and our conversations were often much like a confessional. Rennie was Catholic by culture and upbringing. He was faithful in attending Catholic mass on Saturday evenings. He was of that generation that did not speak easily about matters of faith, and he was also of a generation of nominal Catholicism. He didn’t buy a lot of it, yet he could never walk away from it either.

I think that Rennie had a real and legitimate faith in Christ. Despite his natural generational reticence we talk many many times about faith and belief and about life and death.

I loved sitting by or near Rennie in church. He had a really nice voice and very good song memory, singing not only the hymns but the more syncopated modern choruses very well. He liked my preaching too. “Good speech,” He would say to me. Rennie liked to grab your hands when he talked to you. There was no talking in passing with Rennie. It was hold each other’s hands and talk closely or not at all. As his eyesight failed him, touch became ever more important.

Rennie was a gentleman, and he was at his very best in the presence of ladies, whether five or ninety years old. He was so very kind to my daughters. He always sent birthday cards, and always asked me how each individual child was doing. They had the privilege of knowing and visiting him often along with Susan.

It is not the norm anymore to bring an elderly parent in one’s house to live out his or her days in familiar surroundings, and that is what Charlie and Terry did, thus giving Rennie the stability and the dignity of a home. They lived out in a very real and personal way the commandment to honor your mother and your father.

Rennie’s real name was Arazio, or something close to that. I think the “z” had a “dz” sound. I liked calling him Arazio. I think he liked it too.

Rennie was an army veteran. He served in the European theater in WWII, not as an infantryman but as a cook. He often told the story of how one day his camp, close to the front lines, came under mortar attack. He had been standing in front of the big metal coffee pot making coffee for the guys, and for some reason unknown to him had just moved a few feet to one side and then Bam!, a mortar shell exploded outside of the tent and a big fragment sliced right through the coffee pot. Rennie liked to say how God had given him a chance at more life that day, and he was always very grateful.

Rennie had taught himself to play a Liberace type piano over the years, and Charlie and Terry had set up a very nice digital piano for him in the den. I loved to listen to Rennie play. Sometimes when no one else was around I would play a little with him or sing along. We were a good team.

I had not seen Rennie much in the last six months but so many many times spent with him are etched into my mind and heart. I count it one my greatest honors in life to have been Rennie Perone’s friend. I will cherish his memory all my life, and await with joy holding his hands and talking in the New Heaven and New Earth.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Am reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have a feeling that this book will be a life changer, like "Diet for a Small Planet" was 30+ years ago.
Laurel and her friend Stephanie are painting Madeline's bedroom. Madeline is serving as DJ. Pink walls, white trim.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Southern Gothic

Trees in Winter

There was a time in my life during the season between the end of daylight savings time and the winter solstice, when I think I was prone to a mild case of seasonal affective disorder, or maybe just the early sundown blues. Thankfully that time is long past. I’m too busy now for one thing. And the other thing is that I have fallen in love with the woods in winter. I look forward to winter woods like some people look forward to spring flowers. More than anything, it is the trees. I love trees in winter.

For the sake of modesty and warmth people need to put on clothes. But clothes hide what people “really” look like (though I’ll just take the clothed look, thank you). As for trees, all those leaves, as beautiful and green as they are, hide the unique and often magnificent personality of the tree beneath. The uniqueness of each and every tree is more evident in its nakedness.

There is a White Oak out my side window. It is almost completely leafless now, with only a few red hanger-on leaves dangling here and there. I see its twisted and gnarly branches more clearly than ever. They reveal its story. This White Oak grew up in its early years with some good competition, but then, that competition diminished. About thirty feet up some very stout limbs grow straight out from the trunk. I am guessing, by the size and age of the tree, that the “competition” was cleared for the building of the houses around, and the builders decided to spare that White Oak. It’s a grand old tree, though it’s a little sick, and I worry for it.

It’s easy to notice tree bark in winter. I am one of those odd fellows who thinks that tree bark is very beautiful and quite cool. The sun likes to highlight the bark of a leafless tree, especially the higher-up bark. Winter is time for the bark to shine. Some bark literally does shine. Sycamore trees peel off huge plates revealing a bright chalky white underbark. Take a walk through Latham Park and you will see plenty of that.

Lots of stuff hangs from trees in winter letting you know about the tree. Tulip Poplar balls like to hang around for a while bouncing in the wind. Plus the last Spring flower cups are very visible reaching to the sky at the end of the high stems. Locust Tree bean pods like to flutter in the breeze throughout the winter rattling like old bones. There’s always the stubborn Sweet Gum balls that won’t let go, just waiting to drop in early Spring when your are just first walking out in your bare feet! Gotcha!

Many trees keep their berries throughout the winter. You’d think for example that the birds would eat up all the dogwood berries right away, but the berries often dry out a little and provide food for the birds all winter long. Same for Red Cedar berries, those lovely little gray-blue balls that often cover a Cedar tree. Same for Black Gum. Same for American Holly. I know our Holly bush is not a Holly tree, but it brings joy all winter watching the Mockingbirds eat berries from our Holly bush. It’s like they know how to ration the supply. Interesting.

You may need to be a bit of a tree geek for this one, but tree buds and tree stems are fascinating in the winter. By looking at a bare tree stem you can tell how much it grew the last growing season. It’s really easy. You can also tell a lot about the leaves, even when there aren’t any. You can tell if they come off the stem opposite to each other or whether they come of the stem in whorls. You can also tell how many main tree “veins” feed each leaf. From this, more or less, you can often guess if the leaves are compound or not. You can know a lot about what kind of tree it is by how the buds are arranged. Is there one big bud at the end of the stem? Is there a cluster of buds at the end of the stem? Is the bud really at the end or sort of off to the side toward the end? In fact, you can key a tree, that is determine what it is, in winter, without the leaves at all.

The future fate of life on earth is nestled in those little buds. That is just barely an exaggeration. What is it that protects the life inside that bud (and hence next year's growth, and next year's ability to feed flower and seed) from the cold of winter? It is those scales around the bud. Different trees have different kinds of scales. Some bud scales are like two plates meeting in the middle. Some are like fish scales. You can tell a lot about a tree from those scales.

Winter is the time for Pine trees to make their presence known. They kind of pop out and say "We're here" in winter. Hey, I am a South Carolina boy. I was raised on climbing Pine trees to the top, looking up to the deep blue sky through the black branches and green needles of Pine trees, spending half an afternoon trying to get Pine sap off my favorite jeans, engaged for hours in Pine cone wars with the enemy across the wall next door, and nursing skinned up legs from shimmying up and down Pine trunks. In Greensboro there are a few places where I like to go just to breathe in the Pine tree air, peel off some plates of Pine tree bark, fiddle with Pine tree cones, and just generally feel at home.

It’s nice to walk the woods in winter. You can see farther for one thing. You can tell more easily what has been the history of the land you're walking for another. I like trying to figure that out by the ages of the trees, the kinds of trees, the ways that the terrain has been changed by man, how or where a fire may have swept through fifty or so years ago. It’s a kind of sleuthing that I enjoy.

Maybe my favorite thing to do, especially on a cold winter day, is to find a nice stout tree that I can sit against, one with the sun shining full force right on the bottom of the trunk, and just take a seat. Oh how I love the sun on my face in winter. And there I sit. No bugs. Quiet. As quiet as I can be. If the winds are right, and if I'm still enough, the animals will soon not notice me. Many times right here in Greensboro deer have walked near, hawks have flown and perched close by, even squirrels have nervously scampered quite close to my feet. I cannot measure the joy of such times.

Such joy gives me strength to go back and re-enter the world of people. Trees are not fickle and moody and complicated and proud like people, like me. They just "are." How I love them so.

(edited from a post first written November 17, 2006)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

"Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came."

From As Kingfishers Catch Fire, lines 5-8, by GM Hopkins

I ask myself, what is the essence of this mortal thing here, this being, this self, dwelling in this frame, at this stage and age, and what to do, how to live to be what this self was made to be?

I guess we each in our own way ask the same...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Would the World Be

"What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet."

G.M. Hopkins, from Inversnaid (lines 13-16)

Friday, December 04, 2009

If Every Picture Tells a Story

...then what story does this simple picture tell?

Downtown Greensboro.


I had a comment on my blog today that encouraged me and which really gets at the core of why I take pictures of downtown Greensboro, or anything else for that matter. And though this comment came from "Anonymous" the person gave a valid Twitter username, so it's not totally anonymous really.

I don't repeat this comment in any spirit of self congratulation but simply because it feels good when the purpose for what I do is realized. Here is the comment:

"Anonymous said...Love the Photography!!! Makes me really proud of our downtown. I just started tweeting as GborRealPolitik. I tweeted your blog post this am, I hope you don't mind because I thought it was fabulous. I look forward to reading and viewing your work in the future."

It was the one phrase that stuck me - "makes me really proud of our downtown."

I am the first person to admit that I am at best just a decent amatuer photgrapher. I hope to get better - much better - but Ansel Adams I am not. I may have a mildly artistic bent, and yes, I do often "see" things that other people don't (no, I don't see dead people), but mainly because I'm looking and they're not. There is a way of looking that opens up the mind and heart for impressions and nuance of light, color, perspective, and composition. I hope that as I get better at photography I will be better able to capture these things.

But in the end my purpose in taking pictures is to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of place and of life.

Buildings may not in themselves be "life" but they are given a kind of personality as it were by their designers and builders. The jumbled interplay of forms and styles in a cityscape creates fascinating impressions. And though buildings do not walk around they do change their appearance or "impression" throughout the day and throughout the seaons as light plays upon them in a multitude of ways, the "impressions" changing with the varying backdrop of cloud and sky and sun. And as one walks around in different seasons and at different times of day, always looking, there seem to be infinite combinations of viewpoints and angles. For example, from March 21 to September 21 you will never see sunlight striking the north side of a building. And only at this time of year will be noon day sun be at such a low angle.

For me, the goal of capturing as much of this as possible is that another person may smile, or as in the above comment, feel proud of his or her "place." There is no higher compliment that could be paid to me than this.

What is true of inanimate buildings is of course even more true of forests and trails and the tiny bits of "nature" inhabiting our city. Not only are there countless things to discover along a trail such as odd formations of life and ever interesting points of view, but a trail itself is in many ways a different trail depending on season and time of day. We think of different kinds of light - the slanting light of morning, the overhead light of midday, and the slanting light of afternoon. Each provides a unique impression and opens up different interactions of light and subject. Each season provides its own glory, so that, when you do the math, a trail has twelve personalities, three each day for four different seasons. Not only that but small intangibles like fog and mist and cloud give further variation within the twelve personalities. I could walk the same trail a hundred times and never run out of things to photograph.

But then, again, the point is not that someone would say, "that's a great picture" or whatever (I take enough pictures where some of them are bound to be pretty good even if by accident). The real reward is when, like the person who commented above, someone feels blessed, proud of being a part of such a world as this and community as this, thankful for the people who helped make such views possibile, and thankful to the author of such beauty.

And for me it's not just beauty but even decay in a strange way that I celebrate. Early this week I drove back from Columbia the "back way," taking secondary (and tertiary) roads, going through small towns and seeing many many abandoned and decrepit old buildings and homes. What interests me about these old structures are the stories behind them, the histories of the communities, the reasons why people came there in the first place and why they left. Every abandoned old building was once a person's business, a person's dream, a place where they invested their fortune and their sweat. More often than not there was a time of properity for that business, and I imagine all the people who came and went and worked and shared stories with each other. It's the story of people and their lives that fills me with a sense of wonder and respect walking around an old abandoned filling station with a faded out Esso sign still dangling from a pole.

I think the same way about our own Lee Street. Yes, I'd like to see Lee Street cleaned up, but I also am fascinated by all the stories locked up in those old buildings hugging the sidewalk between Elm and the Coliseum.

Anyway, it's a nice feeling when the purpose of what you're doing seems realized even in a small degree. It inspires me to get better so as to bring more blessing and to make more poeple proud of the community and the world that they live in.

One final note: as I write this it dawns on my how much I have been impacted by my literary hero, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Thanks Gerard.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Center Pointe from Guilford Building

I came across this shot looking for something else and thought, "I like that!" More downtown Greensboro pictures.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Shannon Joy, Vancouver, BC, 1988. See more pictures of Vancouver Days.

The Fear of Christ (an Advent Reading)

“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an excerpt from "The Coming of Jesus into Our Midst." Read the rest of the message here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Is Multi-Culturalism New?

I had just finished reading a rant sent from someone who was certain that multiculturalism meant the sure and certain demise of our nation, when I saw a link to a speech made by Howard Dean praising America as a multi cultural nation, and I wondered to myself, "Self, have we not always been multicultural?" And Self answered, "Yes, we have. There was the culture and language of African slaves, the culture of Southern plantations, the culture of upcountry Southern farmers, the culture and language of German and Irish and Swedish immigrants who didn't start speaking English when they stepped off the boats, the culture of Puritan New England, the culture of Spanish Florida and French Louisiana, the culture and language of many and various Indian tribes, the culture of Roman Catholic settlers in Maryland, the culture of young and old in the 1960's, etc. " I tend in this case to agree with Self. I don't always.

Granted we have never known such a massive influx of non English speaking people as we do today, but are we sure that second and third generation Mexican immigrants, say, won't speak English?

Seems we've always tended to blame our problems on the newest to arrive, or on the politically weakest around.

I went on a four mile walk today. I saw a lot of people working hard. They were all Hispanic. Just saying.

The Beauty of Christ (an Advent reading)

"And this man, whose picture I have tried to draw for you, brethren, is your God. He was your maker in time past; hereafter he will be your judge. Make him your hero now. Take some time to think of him; praise him in your hearts. You can over your work or on your road praise him, saying over and over again/ 'Glory be to Christ’s body; Glory be to the body of the Word made flesh; Glory to the body suckled at the Blessed Virgin’s breast; Glory to Christ’s body in its beauty; Glory to Christ’s body in its weariness; Glory to Christ’s body in its Passion, death and burial; Glory to Christ’s body risen; Glory to Christ’s body in the Blessed Sacrament; Glory to Christ’s soul; Glory to His genius and wisdom; Glory to his unsearchable thoughts; Glory to his saving words; Glory to His sacred heart; Glory to its courage and manliness; Glory to its meekness and mercy; Glory to its every heartbeat; to its joys and sorrows, wishes, fears; Glory in all things to Jesus Christ God and Man.' If you try this when you can you will find your heart kindle and while you praise him he will praise you – a blessing. "

from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sermon, for Sunday November 23, 1879, at Bedford Leigh.

One Left Foot

Thanksgiving, 2009, Columbia, SC - seven first cousins, one left foot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Columbia Thanksgiving 1978

Thanksgiving, 1978, Columbia (Dad must be taking the pictures) - Joe, Mom, Mary, Bobby, Mike

Saturday, November 21, 2009

He is Darkness....But...

He likes Saturdays and holiday and appointments. He comes, like a thief, in the night. He consumes whole days. He is darkness.

But I have seen blue sky through needles and branches.

I have felt sharpness of clear mountain air.
I have walked breathless in ancient cathedrals.
I have known the deep love of friends.
I have held hands as the shadow descended.
I have breathed tea olive wafting in summer
I have heard bluebirds and blue Memphis blues.
I have bathed clean in cool crystal rivers.
I have run fast along knife-edged ridges.
I have seen and I've heard the first breath of life.
I have kissed and told my mother goodbye.
I have been blessed by the laughter of children.
I have watched spiders weaving their webs.
I have held animals while they were dying.
I have felt colors assaulting my neurons.
I have cried tears until no more tears came.
I have watched seedlings burst through to the surface.
I have surfed waves from the morning to evening.
I have known joy in afternoon breezes.
I have enjoyed a hundred great singers.
I have sat on the edge of the Ponte Vechio.
I have joined voices with worshipping angels.
I have stood awestruck above Lake Garibaldi.
I have have smelled coffee at first light of day.
I have helped friends in their hour of trouble.
I have seen sundown from Cadillac Mountain.
I have heard songs that cut right to the marrow.
I have seen lighting bolts split apart pine trees.
I have smelled roses throughout Longwood Gardens.
I have seen countryside from top the South Downs.
I have watched fiddleheads unfurl in springtime.
I have been taken to the gate of third heaven.
I have waded through inlets toes feeling for shells.
I have stood in the middle of vast rustling marshes.

And I have climbed ancient castles and slept along rivers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twin Oaks - Laurel Bluff Trail

from Laurel Bluff Trail, Greensboro Watershed Trails, and NC Mountains to Sea Trail, Greensboro, NC

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Profound Wisdom About Unemployment

A week or so ago I posted a list of "odd jobs" that I would be able to do for people, needing the money as I do and such. Then I received the following comment from "Anonymous." On the surface it looks as if "Anonymous" was using my willingness to do almost anything as an example of a particular kind of "rags to riches" grit. I hate to be used however as a springboard into such a rant.

Before blogging I had never realized there were so many people named "Anonymous." The name sounds as if it must be of French derivation -" a-non-ney-mous." I think "mous" derives from an old French word for intelligence, and "ney" derives from a word meaning "gonad." Using both "a" and "non" does not create a double negation but rather is a doubling for emphasis, typical of French, with "a" meaning "without" and "non" meaning "none" or "zero." So the whole word means something like "without any brains or courage," or, framed in the positive, "stupid and cowardly." I'm glad I don't have a name that means that.

The comment I received however illustrates how the meaning of our names, even if we inherit them by adoption, often has a hidden power to shape us. I hope that you will read this comment over and consider the possible relation between the name and the content of the comment.

A formerly homeless guy was on talk radio this morning. He now is purchasing his 1st house by his sweat, blood and good hard honest days work. He said it makes him very angry to see people sitting around and complaining about no work out there. He said they are just sorry people. He said if anyone REALLY wants a job they can get one but most people who say they are looking for work are just too lazy to work. He said if you have a lawn mower you can make money. He went on to say you have to go after work it ain't coming looking for you. Your efforts indicates how badly you want work. This guy was mad! And rightly so. He proved it can be done.

The talk show host then added that he has a friend who is in the temp business. They can't get enough people to fill the jobs they have!!!!! People come in saying they don't want to do this and won't do that or they want better pay. They are not willing to do whatever it takes to make money.

And you wonder why hard working tax payers are sick and tired of paying the way for lazy a_____ people who are not willing to do whatever it takes to make a living. You see signs for help wanted in practically every fast food place. But some folks think that type of work is beneath them I guess. Let's hold people accountable - no work, no eat. Things would change real fast in this blood sucking society.

Revolt is on the way!
People are getting fed up with people who are takers not givers.

I don't know who is leading the revolt, or whether it will be headed up by the various dumb and cowardly people who write stuff like this or what. I think watching such a revolt will be kind of fun. Maybe it will be called the "lawn mower" revolt. I can see a million people pushing mowers up the mall in Washington.

Speaking of mowing lawns (and having mowed some 8.5 million lawns in my life), I was talking to a good friend the other day who is busting his butt working on lawns and such. It is certainly not a given that one can make a living mowing lawns. There are hundreds and hundreds of "mow and blow" crews out there who work on such volume that they can undercut almost any price. It is very competitive. And there is a point when the cost of mowing yards (equipment, vehicle, etc) requires a certain minimum price per yard and a decent volume. Even that very simple way of making money is not a given at all.

As for myself, I am sure there are lazy bums out there; I just haven't met many of them.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boots Posing in Tree, As Seen by Madeline

I think Boots should be in the movies. As captured by Madeline Sunday 11-15.

Can't Kill Norton - Ideas?

OK, first of all, no smart stuff from you Mac people...:-)

Was asked to fix a problem. Computer a giant mess. Symantec was disabled I think in changeover of ISP. URL's being misdirected, all sorts of crazy stuff. Some malware program or Trojan popping up and in the way of everything. Finally got rid of the malware thing, found an antivirus and spyware that would load, cleaned up disks, etc. Got rid of crazy misdirects to porn and shopping sites - BUT, get this - would let you go to, say, CNN, Craigslist, personal blog, Facebook, but would not let you go to Google, Bing or, would not let you use any embedded search powered by Google, AND, though it would let you go to, would not let you search via Yahoo. All search engines disabled. On third separate spyware scan (this time using Spybot), finally caught the misdirect imbeds - so, solved that problem.

But here is the final kicker. It will not allow removal of, or repair of, or overwriting of Norton 2009 or what's left of it. Norton's online uninstall tool won't work. No trick I could read about has worked. Uninstall keeps saying it wants the CD but the system came with Norton installed so no CD. I've spent 5-6 hours on this. Right click a file in file manager to delete and it doesn't ask you if you're sure you want to delete but takes you right to script asking for CD. Any ideas?

It appears that whatever this was or is had programed computer or browser to block all attempts to repair it - very clever. Also will not boot in safe mode, no matter what.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cat in a Tree

Boots posing for Madeline on our birch tree. A great little model, and Madeline a good shot!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fall Pastels, from Laurel Bluff

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving Goblet

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Odd Jobs - Call Me

While I plan and prepare for a third career - this one in environmental stewardship and creation care, I still need to meet my financial needs, are some "odd job" and "part time" things that I can think of that I can do. On some of these I hate to have a "fee," but time is time. Price per job.

Plant shrubs or trees, rake (or mow/mulch) yard, plant bulbs, baby sit, degunk slow computer, back up hard drive, clean out gutters, edit papers, take close up pictures, deliver packages (legal), take a list of desired photographs, teach SS, scan and upgrade older photos, scan slides or negatives, paint house (exterior), clean out attic, tutor, build web site while you watch, remove overgrown shrubs,write corny poems, counsel, disinfect house and car, lead blessing of house ceremony, prepare garden for spring, do botanical survey, write speech, change out light bulbs, spread mulch, get soil tested, chauffer, digitize medical and/or financial records, bless pets, help with FAFSA, make phone calls, start your family genealogy, grade papers, officiate wedding, run errands, write difficult letters, prune, write essays, clean bathrooms, wash floor, make holiday cards, lead hikes, shred paper, send daily encouraging e-mail, edit and post blog articles, moderate dispute, preach sermon, write your bio, find people for you, send Christmas cards, visit shut ins, send packages, dig up stumps, split firewood, pay bills, remove and deliver to collection center hazardous household wastes, etc.

Contact me...

Joel Gillespie
301 S Elm Street, Suite 516
Greensboro NC 27401
Linked In:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some Rain Songs - For the Occasion (Enjoy)

Easy As the Rain - The Little Willies

Covered in Rain - John Mayer

Early Morning Rain - Gordon Lightfoot 

Why Does it Always Rain on Me - Travis (Live8 London)

Rain - The Beatles

Here Comes the Rain Again - The Eurythmics

Fire and Rain - James Taylor

The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin

Rain King - Counting Crows

Let it Rain - Eric Clapton

Rainy Night in Georgia - Brook Benton version

Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters

The Rain in Spain - from My Fair Lady

Who'll Stop the Rain - John Fogerty

The Lake Townsend Desert, Then (Sunday)

On Sunday I took a hike on the Laurel Bluff Trail. Coming from the east this trail follows the Reedy Creek Fork of Lake Townsend eventually to it's headwaters on the western end of the trail near Lake Brandt Road. Although lake Brandt water levels have been kept up, Lake Townsend has been drying up. The top picture is taken from out in the middle of the lake a few feet from Reedy Fork. It was amazing to stand out there - it seemed like such an expanse. The former lake bottom was covered in the area with grasses that were moist and marsh like - quite beautiful really.

The second picture was taken a little further west, maybe 3/4 of a mile or so further "up creek" than the picture at top. It was taken in that area where all the tree cutting has been done presumably for the safety of the small planes coming and going from the Air Harbor Airstrip. Here the "headwaters" looks like a scene from out west. You just about expect to see a group of cowboys riding out of the brush. The red-brown parched hues were really quite beautiful.

If the above pictures are "before," I hope to get back in there today or tomorrow to take a picture "after" this rainfall (or during). Since Lake Brandt is close to full (I don't know about Higgins) I suspect Townsend will rise a couple of feet anyway.

See more Laurel Bluff Trail pictures here. Some of them are quite "purty" if I may say so myself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Do You See in This Picture?

I see a dragon with a wry smile, with flames coming out of his nostrils. It's actually a broken, knobby, healed over limb of a Beech tree.

You can see the broader view of this odd Beech tree here: My daughter thought this looked like a horse.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Clam-Like Fungi on Old Log

Taken on the Laurel Bluff Trail, Greensboro, NC, also part of the NC Mountains to Sea Trail.

There were bunches of these clam-looking mushrooms up and down a fallen log, even on the drier sunnier side. Kind of cool I thought.

See more pics of Greensboro Hiking Trails Here.

Autumn Reflections - Laurel Bluff Trail

Late afternoon autumn reflections, Lake Townsend, west of Church Street, off Laurel Bluff Trails, Greensboro, also part of Mountains to sea Trail. More Laurel Bluff Pictures.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A VERY Tall Tulip Poplar - Piedmont Trail

Liriodendron tulipifera. Piedmont Trail, Greensboro, NC. More Pictures

Wolf Spiders Rock

There's a Wolf spider on the carpet about three feet away from my foot. He started to run across the room and stopped when he saw my foot move. Oops, my cat just came into the room and went over to check the spider out. Mr. Spider ran under the chair, but I can just see him waiting for the coast to be clear.

I like to get down on the floor and stare at these eight eyed beasts. It's weird because you never really know which eye is looking back you - one, three, all eight? That sort of thing bugs me when people do it and I don't like it with spiders either.

And I always get the feeling that they're watching me back, not in the obvious sense of "how do I get away from this giant" but in a curious sense, or maybe a predator sense. "Hmm, I wonder if I could take him." Personally I always feel like we've bonded.

If the Wolf spider were bigger than me he would eat me. I'm glad he's not.

Sometimes I watch Wolf spiders race across the floor from one side of the room to the next for no apparent reason. I get the impression that maybe it's a race and another spider hiding under the couch has a stop watch.

Wolf spiders aren't dainty and delicate like a lot of the orb weavers. They have thicker and shorter legs. They run around until they see dinner and when they see it they run fast and eat it. They're kind of like a lot of carnivorous mammals that way.

Wolf spiders are hairy like tarantulas. That seems to make them creepier to a lot of people.

I like having Wolf spiders around. They eat all sorts of nasty bugs such as roaches, earwigs, crickets, ants, and pretty much any other critter than they can whip in a fight. All in all, I feel safer knowing we have Wold spiders looking after us.

They can bite if you provoke them but their bites are not dangerous as in necrotic or anything. And they aren't going to just up and attack you for no reason. They're not stupid.

They seem to enjoy toying with cats, which I find entertaining. Our cats don't seem to like to eat them but they do catch them every so often. Usually though the Wolfe spider kicks into gear and races under something.

Sometimes when I am on the couch watching TV like a total slob one will race across my chest or leg. I just say hi and go back to the program. I figure they're on their way to eating a roach or something. Maybe that's why we hardly ever see roaches.

By far their greatest value is in scaring daughters. You'd think the spider were five feet tall and the daughter a quarter inch tall given the screams. With great reluctance and selfishly just to stop the screaming I have caught and disposed of hundreds of them over the years

With a Wolf spider in hand and a threatening gaze you have great powers of persuasion you would not otherwise have with a teenage daughter. It's also very much fun to chase said teenage daughter around the house with Wolf spider in hand.

OK, I'm curious about what happened to the little guy that went under the chair. Think I'll go find out. He may still be shaking with fear because of the cat. I think a kindly eye to eye stare down will make him feel better.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

No, the Greensboro Pregnany Care Center Is Not a Lie Liv at Greensboring said.

What is the case is that the article Liv cites (and one must give due weight to the idea of citing) from the so called journalists at The Carolinian Online is itself a fusillade of lies and misrepresentations.

I don't know about the breast cancer story. I'd like to know the details. Could be a legit complaint, I don't know.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers do not in fact represent the far right of the pro-life movement.

Nor do they claim to be medical clinics, though many have doctors and nurses on staff or who come in as volunteers.

They are generally staffed by caring and compassionate and non judgmental workers and volunteers, volunteers who care both about the pregnant women and their babies.

Yes, they do use ultrasounds. They want the woman to see the life inside of them. Why wouldn't the abortion clinic want to do the same?

Will revisit in 2-3 hours. Liv, you are off the chart smart, and the very last person around I would want to tangle with, but for real, citing as a source an inflammatory piece in the Carolinian...Come on. You're better than that.

Lake Brandt Sundown

From the Nat Green Trail. Part of the Greensboro watershed trail system and the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail.

Nothing New

Roch is right

The outcome of the elections in Greensboro hardly qualifies as "historic" or "monumental."

Do we really know for sure that Mayor Johnson lost because of her politics (or political associations) as opposed to her style?

And the addition of Danny Thompson, I mean, he is a young, dynamic, personable, and energetic new face on the scene - I don't think it's all that historic that he won.

OK, if Robbie Perkins were sent packing by a resounding vote then I think the outcome then we might be looking at a more deep seated rejection of the status quo, but that didn't come close to happening.

Ebb an flow, ebb and flow...

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Knight does when he butts heads against the quiet power structures behind the scenes. He could well end up as a one and out.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Local Color - from Nat Green Trail (NCMST)

Looking across the Lake Brandt cove as the sun goes down behind me. The Nat Green Trail is part of the NC Mountains to Sea Trail as well. I was wearing my Clemson hoodie that day so I fit right in. Props go out to the folks at Greensboro Parks and Rec Trails Division for overseeing, promoting, and generally looking after our trails. More Greensboro Trails here.

I'm Glad for Change but Don't Like the Map

It's probably proof enough that I don't have the killer instinct to be in politics, I always feel bad for the folks who lose elections, even when I vote or would have voted against them.

I wish Mayor Johnson and Council member Sandra Anderson Groat every happiness in whatever is next for them in their lives. I have personally appreciated Mayor Johnson's "chill" attitude, though I think that that's one factor that finally undid her. Too many rambling conversations without much apparent order. I actually LIKE watching channel 13. I hope the mayor elect can take a humble and cautious posture and not come in gunslinging.

I'm glad for change. I may have wanted just a little more but I'll take it. I just hope it ends up being a good change. We'll see.

There is one disturbing aspect to this election which Roch Smith captured on his past You Gotta Show Up...

It's not so much the low turn out that bothers me but the colors on the map.

I see a map of a city still much divided politically along socio-economic lines. Perhaps it is fair to say "along racial lines," but I am not sure if that's accurate. Maybe others can make that connection.

Blue Heron in Cove - Nat Green Trail

I had the privilege of watching this guy from the north-facing bluff on one of the inlets or coves off the east side Lake Brandt. I was walking the Nat Green Trail when I thought I saw a flash of blue below. I really wish that I had had a tripod and a 400mm lens - or binoculars! This is the best view I could get from so far away and through all the trees. After watching him for a while I tried to get closer but my movement spooked him. I post this very mediocre picture of a wonderful bird to show what sorts of delights await the hiker on our Greensboro Watershed Trails.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dancing Sweet Gum Leaves in Glow of Waning Sun

I saw these two Sweet Gum leaves as I walked from the grassy space on the Lake Brandt dike back into the woods via a spur off the Piedmont Trail. The leaf on the left is flipped backwards to reveal the underside; thus the leaves are face to face, like in a dance. It was late in the afternoon.

Twenty Five Great Female Vocalists (Alto, Contre Alto) with Links

I have always particularly liked female vocalists with alto or contra alto voices. I don't know why really. Maybe it is because of the more melancholy nature of the alto voice. Anyway, I've put together a list of 20 favorite of these female vocalists (pop-rock-country - not "classical")) and offered a link to a corresponding You Tube video - preferably live performances when possible. I couldn't find a live performance for Joan Armatrading's The Weakness in Me," so it's just vocals and lyrics there. No doubt studio versions of some of these songs are better and purer, but I can't post them legally.

If you know of a better video of the same song send it my way. I know I've left out some great ones too. I want to make it a "Great 25" so please make some suggestions.

Many of my favorite female vocalists aren't on this list because their voices are higher - remember that.

When I was a kid I had a major crush on Marilyn McCoo, so I had to include her. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

These are VERY roughly in order of preference. KD Lang will knock your socks off.

25. The Cranberries - Linger

24. Fiona Apple - Criminal

23. Mama Cass - Dream a Little Dream of Me

22. Brandi Carlile - The Story

21. Adele - Rolling in the Deep

20. Marilyn McCoo (5th Dimension) – One Last Bell to Answer

19. Karen Carpenter – We’ve Only Just Begun

18. Odetta – Careless Love

17. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Passionate Kisses -

16. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics) – Sweet Dreams

15. Natalie Mains (The Dixie Chicks) – Top of the World

14. Stevie Nicks – Beautiful Child

13. Connie Francis – Who’s Sorry Now

12. Florence + The Machine - Shake it Out

11. Judy Garland – Over the Rainbow

10. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) – White Rabbit

9. Carole King – Natural Woman

8. Etta James - At Last

7. Linda Ronstadt – I Will Always Love You

6. Gladys Knight – Midnight Train to Georgia

5. Natalie Merchant – Wonder

4. Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You

3. Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight

2. Joan Armatrading – The Weakness in Me

1. KD Lang – Crying - or maybe even better, Hallelujah

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sycamore and Tulip Poplar

American Sycamore and Tulip Poplar, Piedmont Trail, Greensboro watershed trail system, Greensboro, NC. This particular tulip poplar is the not the biggest but may be the tallest I have personally seen in Guilford County. The first limbs appear to be maybe 80+ feet up. Sycamore and Tulip Poplar are the two tallest of our Eastern trees. These look like they are in a race. They are kind of. Check out a few more shots of these trees on my Flickr photostream.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dearest Freshness - Deep Down Things

The Peninsula Trail in Greensboro is part of the Greensboro watershed trail system, and the Mountains to Sea Trail. It is perhaps the humblest of our watershed trails, exploring a a small peninsula of land surrounded by Lake Townsend east of Church Street and between the two Church Street bridges. I took a short walk their last Sunday. I wasn't feeling terribly inspired or artsy or at one with nature, the weather was so so, and light conditions were not great for photography, but I took a few shots anyway.

My point: even on the most humble little trail and on a very average day, treasures and joys abound when we slow down take notice - from tiny goings on down on the ground to large trees to all sorts of shades and textures and colors. No matter how badly we have messed things up, the glory of nature and nature's God is always there waiting for us. As Hopkins says, "And for all this, nature is never spent, There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;..." No matter how badly we have messed things up...

I think the same principle holds to life in general. Glory is often most deeply revealed in weakness...

More Penninsula Trail Pics HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The (new) Perfect Tree - and the winner is...

...a Post Oak, again, this one on Highway 150 directly across from Northern Elementary.

It's about twice the size of my previous favorite tree - a Post Oak on North Elm Street.

Shimmering Autumn Reflections

So, I came home about 11:30 or so and walked into the kitchen. The kitchen has a north facing window, and the sun of course is a little east of south by 11:30Am, thus on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen window. Our kitchen is sort of L shaped (or better, upside down L shaped). I walked through the dark kitchen (the long part of the upside down L) toward the window and took the "L" to the right, I immediately noticed light shimmering on the cabinets to my right, AND also my shadow in that light. The light had that glowing quality it often has at sunset.

That's strange, I thought. So I looked out the window thinking maybe the sun was reflecting off my car in the driveway, but it wasn't that. The large yellow-orange maple across the cul de sac was afire in the glow of the sun, and the reflection was off the maple tree itself, off the leaves, and the shimmering was due to the breeze giving motion to the maple limbs. The reflection was so bright I could see the shadow of each of my fingers on the cabinet

I stood there in the moment realizing it was unusual and special, and then it was gone. The sun had moved just enough to change the angle of reflection, and the kitchen was dark again, and the shadow no more. It was a special moment. I am glad I wasn't too preoccupied not to notice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pillars of Poplar

These three Tulip Poplar trunks are from the same tree - the main trunk splits into three just above the base. I crawled up into the middle of the trunk triangle to get this shot. The sky was bright hazy white so all I could get was a silhouette. This three-trunked-poplar is found on what is perhaps the "humblest" of our watershed trails, the short little Peninsula Trail, which begins and ends on Church Street between the two Lake Townsend bridges. We are so blessed to have these trails, kept up beautifully by Greensboro Parks and rec with the aid of many volunteers.

I took a short walk and a few shots, nothing profound, but little glimpses into Creation's wonder.

A Migraine Poem with a Long Intro

It's 12:29 PM. I just got up. No, I wasn't up late last night and no I am not depressed.

I felt a slight "tinge" yesterday while in the car going to the doctor for a TB shot to update my vaccination. There it was again around dinner time. Again before bed. I should have known better.

Not all the hints and feints are precursors of the real thing. You don't want to waste your medicine, which taken in time, can be quite effective.

I didn't take it in time.

I know people who suffer from claustrophobia, or anxiety with a claustrophobia component. They tend often to be thinking, "Now how do I get out of this place if I need to." Even the prospect of being stuck with no escape creates anxiety. It's a little bit like that with migraine. You're always thinking, 'What will I do if one hits? Is there a place to go? How far am I from a dark room and a bed , or a tent, or some private place to be horizontal?" Ah, a tinge of nausea, a small little throb behind the eye - "is it going to be a migraine? Should I take medicine?" This is the migraine life .

Mine woke me up around 5:30 this morning. I am not sure if it was the nausea or the pain. The race to wrest control my brain had gotten started in earnest while I slept, while I was not paying attention. The bad guys had won.

As I write I wonder: is this too private? Should I say anything? If it were you, would you? When such a thing so impacts your life and renders whole days useless and sends you alone into a world so dark and unbearable, would you talk about it? I blog about other things. Is this off limits? Is it too trivial compared to the truly terrible human suffering in the world?

I don't know the answer.

It is hard to describe acute severe migraine. I liken it to a cloud of darkness descending, and oh what a painful darkness! You want to cry, or cry out, but it doesn't help. You lie totally still. Or you writhe. You cover your eyes from light and your ears from sound and your nose from smells. You wrap yourself into a cocoon alone and try to remember that this darkness will in time pass. You pray. Inwardly you are screaming. You feel like "The Scream" looks, but the hell isn't the sorrow of the world it's the dark throbbing in your own head.

Dark and bleak and and horrific as it is inside the cocoon, it's better inside than outside. The few yards to the bathroom seem like a WWI no man's land. Bad things are out there, things you don't want to write about. You crawl, you run, you walk very very slowly - choose your method. You get there just in time.

Nausea is terrible in the best of circumstances. I hate it. I used to get sick every year at the state fair after rides that went in circles. I always thought "it won't happen THIS time," and it always did. No nausea is fun. I've never had morning sickness. I hear it is particularly terrible.

You make it to the bathroom. Sometimes as if to play a joke, the nausea abates. Just sometimes.

Usually it's all you can do to get the lid open. Once it starts you have no control. The muscles in the abdomen squeeze like a boa constrictor. Masses of air shoot through your vocal chords. You make noises to make anyone think you're dying or worse. You hope the windows are closed. The heaves roll one after another like waves. Two, five ten, twenty, you never know.

There are no satisfying chunks of anything because the stomach is empty. Just acid and slime and sometimes a little blood. You look in the bowl and thing, "Damn, all that work for nothing." Well, I look, and I think that anyway, even after thirty years of knowing better.

There are no words to describe what is happening inside your head during this time. You worry. Migraine sufferers are more likely to have stroke, and the pressure during a round of nausea is immense. It's kind of like when you keep you mouth closed and exert all the energy you can muster to blow air out, and your face gets all red and swollen looking. It's sort of like that, like an explosion in your head - with grapeshot added for good luck.

After it's over, the pain subsides, the breathing slows down, and you lie down on the bathroom floor. A short lived peace comes over you. It does not last long but you'll take it. Your throat feels like you swallowed a bottle of HCl, well, because you did, sort of. There will be more. Sometimes I go to the kitchen to drink milk to counter the acid, and to make the next round a little easier on the throat.

It creeps back swiftly. "Swiftly" and "creeps" don't seem to go together. I think of Gollum.

By this time drugs are useless. The triptan medicines are vastly more effective when the migraine is caught early. But I take a Maxalt melt anyway. I would take anything within reach, legal, illegal, good for me, bad for me. The typical migraine answer to "Can I bring you anything" is "Yes, a loaded gun." It's a joke. Kind of.

Back and forth - every 45 minutes to an hour - the same thing again and again. You never know if you've just been through the last round or not. At some point you're so exhausted you fall asleep, and the nausea does not return. You've still got the headache to deal with, but it starts to abate. With the sleep comes some relief. You wake up. The black mist has crawled out of your brain to come back another day.

Three five, eight, eleven hours of your life gone. But you're alive. And until the next one hits you feel perfectly normal. Well, I do. Some people have these things for days. I don't know how they do it.

Migraine brains are hyper sensitive. By that I don't mean in the way that a person is "sensitive" as in easily offended. Migraine brains are sensitive in that they do not respond well to biochemical changes. These changes may be brought about by changes in barometric pressure, certain smells, changes in sleep or eating pattern (too much or too little), bright lights, loud noises, hitting your head, too much exercise, or certain foods like chocolate or red wine. It could be one of a thousand things. Nobody knows why or how such a diverse array of "triggers" can cause the same symptoms of expanding (and contracting) blood vessels in the brain, which then bear upon nerves the way they do.

The reason I bother writing this is to help you love and understand the people in your life who suffer from this debilitating illness. Take it seriously. They're not faking, exaggerating, or lazy. And they don't have the words for how they feel. It's usually worse than they describe.

I started writing this today because I had a TB shot yesterday and when my six hours of hell ended I was curious about whether TB shots have migraine as side effects. They don't. But in the process of looking it up I stumbled across a web site devoted to the subject of migraine, and which had had a migraine poetry contest. Some of them are really quite good. Poetry has a superior way of speaking as compared to prosaic stuff like I write. Read a few of the poems. And if you have a loved one who suffers from migraine share it with them - ask them if that's what it's like. they will probably say yes.

I liked this one:

Mystery of Misery

by Betsy Blondin
after all these painful seconds, minutes, hours, days
of desperately searching to discover your secret
all these weeks, months, years
of steadfastly seeking the key to you
to open you wide for me to understand, for all to see
your hideousness, unbearable pain, sickness and grief
that drive me to darkness
all the minutes, hours, and days of my life
you have stolen, for nothing
while I tried to pierce your heart with needles
destroy your soul with potions and pills
follow the firing neurons, blood vessels, chemical stew
that create you
I stop struggling, experimenting, hating
and instead surrender, accept, live around you the best I can
do what I can when I can
until you attack again with fresh fury, leave a new clue
or I read of more brain science, studies, promising treatments
and wearily, grudgingly, resentfully reach for my sleuthing tools
to begin again my Sisyphean challenge
of solving you
my mystery of misery

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Greensborough Coffee

One of my pics to be displayed on the walls at the grand opening of Greensborough Coffee on State Street on Friday. Kind of cool for me. Hope the new coffee shop has a great run. This photo was taken in Amsterdam, early April, 1978. I loved Amsterdam!

Damned If You Do...

I got an e-mail today chastising me as a Minister (which I'm not really anymore) for remaining silent on the issue of health insurance abuses, particularly the abuse of "rescission."

The e-mail had the phrase "Deadly Silence" in the title.

Personally I think rescission is abhorrent. How best to stop it and how best to reform health care as a whole I am not sure.

But what strikes me is that when Ministers speak out about abortion they are told pretty much to sit down and shut up, to quit mixing politics and religion, and to beware of losing their non-profit status.

But it's OK to speak out about this issue. What is the difference? Both are justice issues. Both are political issues?


Uh, Mr. Hawk, There's a Fence There

A few minutes ago a bird flew into the window a few feet from where I am sitting. It made me jump! I did look over to make sure he was OK. The little guy shook himself sort of like a dog after getting wet, and then flew off. Which reminded me..

...It was one of the very worst days of my life, a trip to Texas for a funeral of a dearly beloved aunt, a huge traffic jam on I-85, a small accident in a McDonald's parking lot, and then a massive awful migraine which caused me to abort the trip.

But in the middle of that came a gift of one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

I think I was on I-20 at the time. I was cruising down the interstate, and, as I am inclined to do, not going as fast as the speed limit (I tend to be a slow driver). I saw well up ahead the figure of a bird, a big bird up and to my left. He (or she) was in a tuck position and diving, but in a very shallow dive, from my left to my right, perpendicular to my path, and due to cross over me up ahead as far as I could tell. I kept driving and he kept diving, lower and lower and lower. It was a hawk and it was beautiful, and really cool to watch. He crossed the highway just a a hundred feet or so ahead of me, maybe by this time ten feet above the ground.

This bird had been on a perfectly smooth incline the whole way, his brain doing the complex math for him. I watched him cross the road and was excitedly expectant to see what he was after.

Then bam! He ran right into a fence, a tall chicken wire fence, and he dropped like a brick. I was just about even with him when he stood up, obviously dazed, shaking his head and his wings.

What was so funny was that he looked around with that exact kind of look that says "I really hope nobody saw that"! OK, that's an anthropomorphism, but dogs and cats get embarrassed, why not birds?

As I passed he was just beating his wings and lifting off the ground.

Whatever was just on the other side of that fence had just had one lucky break.

Amidst my throbbing pain, I smiled, and thanked God for the joy of His world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Were the Champions - Custom Cleaners Baseball

Yesterday an old friend from childhood found me on Facebook, and in his honor, and in honor of his dad who was our little league baseball coach for three years, I thought I would post the pictures of the teams those three years. We were "Custom Cleaners" and we played at the field at Satchel Ford Elementary School. The first picture above was taken when I was ten years old, in the spring of 1968. That's Coach Chavous back left with his son, my old friend, at his left. David Hollis, one of my very best buds from those years is to Larry's left.That's my dad back right, with me and my big ears and goofy smile to his right. We won it all that year.

Here is Custom Cleaners my second year when I was eleven years old in the spring of 1969. In front of Coach Chavous is his son Larry to his left, David Hollis and then me to his right. We struggled that year. I do have one great memory of that season, and that was my one and only ever no hitter. Check out the box score. They just could not hit my famous slow ball.

Here is Custom Cleaners my third year. Larry and I both had late birthdays so we got to play little league in 7th grade since we were still twelve during the season, spring 1970. That is Clint Freeman in the middle back - he was a stud and played catcher. To his left is Larry Chavous our best player and league MVP. Mr. Allday, our team sponsor and assistant coach is back left and Mr. Chavous back right. Debbie Carawan is the bat girl. Tom Lancaster, Greg Allday and Bob Dreher are also in the photo. Yep, we won it all that year too.

The greatest sports day of my life occurred on the last game this team ever played. I have written about it in a blog article My Grand Slam.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaf and Stream

Leaf and Stream (right click and listen in new tab)

Wishbone Ash

from Argus

Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf thats fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.

Alone Ive walked this path for many years,
Listened to the wind that calls my name.
The weeping trees of yesterday look so sad,
Await your breath of spring again.

Far beyond the hills,
Where earth and sky will meet again,
Are shadows like an opening hand.
Control the secrets
That Ive yet to find, and wonder at
The light in which they stand.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Beaver Pond, Mountains to Sea Trail, Guilford County

This picture was taken along the future path of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail in Guilford County NC. It is amazing how beavers can create whole ecosystems with their pond building!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Feeling Nostalgic, Snowfall In Amsterdam, 1978

View more black and whites from the 70's here.

Beaver Dam, Mountains to Sea Trail, Guilford County

On Saturday October 3 The Guilford County Open Space Committee (part of Parks and Recreation) sponsored a hike along what will eventually be a leg of the Mountains to Sea Trail in northern Guilford County. Recently the state of NC purchased a large tract of land and our Open Space Committee is in processing an adjacent large tract as well. Although people trails and public access are probably a year away at least, I can say that this leg of the M to s trail in our county will make us proud. It is a a beautiful and diverse woodland. Beavers are quite active along the many creeks and streams, opening up the woods, providing wetlands, as well as nesting sites for birds such as Great Blue Herons. See a few more pictures of the hike here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Train Passing Behind the Depot, from My Fire Escape

I caught this train passing behind The Depot in Greensboro late on a summer afternoon. Trains are cool, such as the 9007.

Today's Lyric - U2 - Success Is to Give

"Don't believe in excess, Success is to give, Don't believe in riches, But you should see where I live"

from U2, God Part 2, Rattle and Hum

Today's Random Catechism Quote - The Desire for God

A random quote from one of many creeds and catechisms that I find helpful...

"The desire for God is written in the human heart, Because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part One, Section One, Chapter One, I, paragraph 27.

Have You Hugged Your Pastor Today?

October 11 is National Clergy Appreciation Day. I have no idea who designated it as such. As a formerly active member of that class called clergy I would like to name October as Clergy Appreciation Month.

Have you hugged your pastor today? Believe me, he or she could use a hug. Or a note card expressing your gratitude. Or a word of encouragement. Or a helping hand as your pastor or rabbi or priest heads into weekly gatherings this weekend.

Many if not most clergy face profound isolation and loneliness, self doubt, guilt over not doing more things well or better, weariness, and anxiety (I will explain why later).

You know, when you tell your pastor that you are grateful for what he does, also tell him that you're grateful for who he is as a person, not just a pastor.

I can assure you there is much more going on behind the scenes than you are aware, and your pastor carries many burdens, and, harder, faces the profound challenge of trying to keep a congregation together in unity and good will while also speaking the truth as best as he or she can. It ain't easy.

So, if you haven't already, hug your pastor today....whatever a hug looks like.

Season of Mists: John Keats - To Autumn

This is a great poem to memorize, especially the first stanza...

John Keats (1795-1821)


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Rachel - We Miss You

Today, September 16, 2009, would have been my niece Rachel Elizabeth Johnson's 25th birthday. It's hard not to imagine what she would have looked like, laughed like, acted like as a 25 year old yound lady. We miss you Rachel. This is a picture of Rachel and her mom, my sister Mary Johnson, in the surf on Hilton Head Island.

On February 9, 1987, two and a half year old Rachel died suddenly and unexpectedly from an overwhelming bacterial infection that mimicked the flu. Rachel's life touched many people, and deeply impacted everyone in my family. She was my parent's first grandchild. She was my sister and brother in law Mary and Sandy Johnson's first child. She preceded my own daughter Shannon into this world be a mere four weeks. Rachel was a fun and delightful and curious child. She was the apple of my parent's eye. I have dedicated this set of pictures to her precious memory. The world was a brighter place with Rachel in it. Even as a little child she had the love of God in her heart. I cannot sing Holy Holy Holy without thought of her little voice. We all miss you, Rachel.