Monday, December 27, 2010

Greensboro Christmas Snow

Greensboro Christmas Snow 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joel's Rainy Winter Day Special

Hi Friends,

As the days get colder and wetter the gardening work is slowing down - and I await the new season. In the spirit of "any work is better than no work" I just want to put this out there, and ask you to consider sharing it with anyone you think interested...

I will spend a traditional work day INSIDE and do about anything I am asked to do that is legal and moral and that I am capable of doing - for $100. Anything. I am NOT a skilled handy man so I can't fix your washing machine or your plumbing, but other INSIDE work like cleaning, moving things, running errands, painting, baby sitting, chauffeuring, sanding, scrubbing, polishing, clearing out attics, insulating, taking stuff to Goodwill I can do. I could also clean up/degunk your computer, rip that pile of CD's to your hard drive, write letters, edit stuff - whatever I can do inside. If I need to drive my car as part of the work I will ask for a per mile reimbursement at standard IRS rates. I am happy to work along side or work alone...So...if you know someone who could use something like this pass it on...

As far as outside gardening work at regular rates, winter is a good time to mulch, clear away Ivy and Wisteria and unwanted saplings, transplant, plan, and so forth.

If you have or know anyone who has a child who needs tutoring in math, science, or English composition, bible or theology let them know about me. I'm pretty good at that if I may say so myself. I am a currently licensed teacher in North Carolina and can provide references.



Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Lessons from Nanny

Nanny's Backyard mid 50's, Looking Down from Top Terrace Towards Dixon's Back Yard

Every so often I get up the nerve to go by and look at my grandmother Nanny's old house on McGregor Drive. It takes nerve because even though the house itself from the front looks much the same, subsequent owners have taken liberties with the yard that upset me, so it's a mixed bag of emotions when I drive by.

The thing that bothers me the most is the removal of almost all off the Loblolly pines in the front and several in the back. The McGregor Drive Loblolly's are amongst the very largest in Richland County and I grew up adoring these behemoth trees. Nanny loved them too. She also knew that the pines were the lynch pin of the local garden "ecosytem." Cutting down canopy pines leaves Dogwoods and Azaleas with too much sun, and they become stressed and weakened as a result. It changes everything in a garden.

There is this irrational fear of pines near a house falling on the house. Much worse is when a pine not near a house falls on a house. Some people apparently fear pine limbs cracking in an ice storm and crashing through the roof and ceiling. It has happened. But I just don't know how people could buy a place like Nanny's and then with a wave of the hand dismiss its natural and human history like that, and dismiss those great old trees with a wave of the hand and a check to the tree service. It bugs me.

Had the same owners bought Nandina Hills (see article below) I could see them having all the inconvenient rocks hauled off, the place graded, and a barren pathetic little lawn planted on some measly flat place.

When it comes to gardening I appreciate it a lot when people work within the givens of their property. Large Loblolly pine trees are such a given. They determine how light and shade filters to the ground and thus the kinds of plants and trees that will grow well below. Slopes offer opportunity for gentle terraces and not unnatural grading. Creek bottoms create opportunity for entirely different plant and animal systems. I have always thought that it was better to work within the boundaries of what is given, the form before us, and try to make beauty come forth from that. Land is like genre in music, like meter in verse, like the configuration of the baseball diamond. It's what happens within the boundaries that makes great art. Respect the given. Respect the land.

Most of us don't buy houses built on newly cleared land. And thus most of us, when we buy houses, also inherit the choices and loves of others who have gone before.

There is an old bent Red Bud tree on our property in Greensboro. I happen to know the prior owner who planted that Red Bud and what it meant to him so over the years and through various transfigurations brought about by ice, lightening and bad pruning, the tree continues, gnarly as it may be. It would have taken two minutes to taken it down and made the lawn a lot easier to mow, but I chose to respect the choice of my predecessor.

Often when I am pruning an old shrub I can see how the plant has been pruned over time. That pruning has impacted the subsequent growth of the shrub and also impacts the current pruning. As I see that other hands have shaped this plant I am reminded that in most facets of life there are those that have come before, shaping and informing our current choices. We are no more blank slates than the houses we buy. We were born into certain situations and were shaped by many who came before, and we should respect their love and their effort. We may think we can cut out all traces of their influence upon us, which we cannot do, but even if we could we generally don't do such a better job than they did. Likewise when it comes to gardening I feel inclined to respect the work of my predecessor and thus his or her person and memory. Respect what has come before.

When we let "nature" take its course around here that usually means (in a garden) that Ivy, Kudzu, Grape, Smilax, and Honeysuckle (ironically most of which are non native and thus not really "natural" at all) will soon cover everything, beginning a very long and slow progression toward a mature forest appropriate to the region. Gardening does not respect the laws of natural succession. It is more concerned with nurture than nature, ideally striking a balance between the two (or maybe coming to a truce).

The shapes and colors and smells that make gardens so pleasing are cultural artifacts. They represent nuture. Gardening is an interference with the principle of entropy. It isn't "natural." It is an imposition. Much thought and energy and action must be applied to keep any space from "reverting" back to nature. But those who impose order and design have a responsibility over the whole. In my mind this responsibility includes respect - as considered above. This respect calls us to balance nurture with nature, that is, we respect the natural land forms and native ecosytems as much as we can. Slope and sun and climate all constitute aspects of that form inside of which the gardener creates. But since these factors also determine which species of plant that are most suitable, these "natural" or native species also constitute aspects of that form with which the gardener works.

I am not a zealot when it comes to native vs. non native species. Some of my favorite plants are non-native. But I have wandered the woods and worked in gardens enough to see the damage non-native-plants-gone-wild can do. And I care about ecosystems enough that it is not just plants that matter in a garden, but also insects and birds and other animal species. Urban and suburban spaces can have more of an impact than one may realize on the health of the native ecosystem, and can contribute to its health or to its slow demise.

But there is no such thing as a true "native" or "natural" ecosystem. If we could turn back the clock to find "original" would we go all the way back before the invasion of the continent by Asian peoples 10 or 15 thousand years ago? It is appropriate to be concerned about aggressive invasive plants and animals and to eradicate them when possible. But we have to be reasonable. Even the common lowly earthworm is a species alien to our fair land.

Likewise, the Southern Azalea and Camellia garden is not paticularly native. The imported Camellia has no more native right to a space than the Japanese Honeysuckle covering it up. But Camelias are not invasive. And as a long-time pillar of the Southern garden they call for my respect. My grandmother grafted and pruned and deeply loved her Camellias and I think of her often when I am trying to nurture an old overgrown (and grown-over) Camelia back to shape. Someone very much like her loved this plant for many years, and I respect that.

Nanny also loved her English Ivy. It too is a non native. One difference between the two is that whereas a Camellia left to itself will get gangly and sick and die, English Ivy left to itsef will take over everything. The same could be said - but worse - for Wisteria or Honeysuckle. As these plants take over and out compete native species which have a more direct relationship with local fauna, thus hurting the ecosystem as a whole. Even well-trimmed English Ivy creates problems for other plants, stealing water and nutrients and shading out leaves.

Nanny had Mr. Dove to keep her Ivy constantly trimmed. Most of us don't have a Mr. Dove and the Ivy (and Wisteria and so forth) slowly conquers our spaces. Better I think to get rid of the stuff altogether.

Not a great ending, but enough for now...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nandina Hills

I have been working off and on over the last few years on a beautiful home and property in the Columbia area near to where I grew up. This piece of land slopes down to a lake and has several smaller hillsides contained in it as part of the general irregular slope of the land. These hillsides are covered with large rocks, granite I think, many a couple of yards across. Working on the site has been a lot like playing on a mountain stream bed, hopping from boulder to boulder.

  Going 12-09-11 045

I asked the owner (who bought the house 50 years ago) about the rocks, thinking they must have been brought in as part of a design. No, he said, they were "native." Apparently there is a quarter-mile band of such rocks that runs across this area of the sand hills. I never knew about it even though I grew up not far away.

This property provides a perfect example of the work that I enjoy doing. Obviously much thought and love had once been put into the design and care of the plants and trees. Time and perfectly understandable neglect had taken its toll however. More recently a daughter has been working as much as possible on keeping up the garden and even adding some nice features to the place, but she is a busy person and things around here just grow so fast! Over the years many trees and shrubs have died. Much of this has been due to the loss of a large number of pines to pine borers, and a few giant tulip poplars to lightning and wind.

Vines of all sorts have swarmed the area choking out desired plants. Large saplings/small trees, many less than desirable, have sprung up all around. Many of them have themselves been covered in vines! Although for the most part this is not a typical traditional southern garden, there are many azaleas and camellias in one of the flatter and damper ares. I have done some pruning of dead and overly-gangly azaleas and camellias and am gradually bringing the area back to shape and health.

I have spent even more time trying to conquer the mass of native and non native vines and trees swarming the place like fire ants! Everywhere there is the familiar stuff that grows like mad here, the vines especially - English ivy, honeysuckle, vinca, potato vine, muscadine, moonseed vine, cucumber vine, five leaved akebia, fox grape, crossvine, trumpet vine, and smilax. There is also a lot of native switch cane (which I kind of like but which the homeowner does not), and which I have been digging out gradually. There had been a very large thick grove of honeysuckle bush which has now been tamed, and of course all those saplings - princess tree, mimosa, elderberry, cherry laurel, hackberry, maple, red bud and pine - everywhere. Since there is a large beautiful sweet gum tree on the site - one of the largest I have ever seen - there are thus also sweet gum babies abounding.

I have come across many dogwood stumps. Since the dogwood demise red bud has become the default under story tree, and the owner has wanted the red buds preserved. There are also lots of elderberry of which the owner is fond so have I left those too.

And then there is the nandina...Folks have different and often passionate thoughts about nandina. It is not native and can be invasive, choking out other plants, and the berries, so they say, are not as nutritious for birds as some other native berries. I can take or leave nandinas. But the nandinas have taken to these rocky hills like a fish to water and when they are in full fall regalia they are beautiful. After I cleared much of the unwanted stuff from the hillsides and cleared off ivy and honeysuckle from many of the rocks, and generally just made the place look less unruly, the nandinas have really stood out. And as the sun falls lower into the sky, these nandinas and their berries glisten in the glow. I have to say they are downright beautiful. You could call the place nandina hills or nandina acres!

  Going 12-09-11 021

 I once found several little clumps of wild ginger in damp areas between rocks here and there, and have taken care not to harm them. I also found and was able to save saplings of many interesting local trees like sassafras and black gum (the latter being my favorite tree).

Gradually this amazing property is starting to reflect its former glory, and that is very satisfying,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When I Grow Up

What do I want to be when I grow up? Hmmm. I thought for a long time that that question had been answered, but now I am asking it again. It was tricky at 20; it's trickier still at 53.

So I'm in school again. I keep thinking I am sure as to why, then I'm not, then I am again. Meanwhile to pay most of the bills I am working outside in a niche gardening business I discovered back in the 80's and have rediscovered again now, thanks in no small part to my friend Bill Kunze.

For the most part what I do is help homeowners uncover and restore the beauty of their southern gardens or natural landscapes overrun by vines and volunteer trees of various kinds - mostly invasives. In addition to the general hard work of getting rid of smothering Wisteria, Smilax, Honeysuckle, Ivy and other vines, and digging out Ligustrum and Cherry Laurel and other bothersome volunteers, I also do a lot of careful pruning of treasured shrubs, as well as replanting when needed. These tasks thankfully take some skill - which makes me smile when I think of following Nanny around in her yard and learning to prune, graft, root and so forth. Who would have thought it would come in so handy? A focus on Botany in college didn't hurt either.

Sometimes I do basic labor intensive tasks like old fashioned weeding, spreading mulch, turning ground, and planting annuals. I also do follow up maintenance - bed maintenance - since stuff just keeps growing, and trying to come back...

I use only manual tools. In addition to getting paid a great benefit of the work is the peace and quiet. And I like fresh air. I mowed enough lawns and beathed enough exhaust to last me a lifetime in my younger days, though I don't mind using a manual reel mower. And since I take down lots of small trees you'd think I need a chain saw, but I have gotten really fast with my hand saw, and it's nice not having to deal with a finicky small engine, and who wants to start and restart a chain saw a hundred times over the course of a day. Not me.

When I started doing this work again last May I about croaked from the hard labor and heat. I am in much better shape now. I hadn't realized how important this was to my overall decompression and healing. It's funny how the body takes such a beating in a sedentary busy stressful suburban life. So, manual tools are good.

I don't use chemicals either, except for the occasional concentrated Round Up on a stump. I prefer digging stumps out though. With a shovel, an ax and a mattock - and a little sweat - I can take out most stumps pretty quickly. And they don't grow back.

Most damaged camellias and azaleas take a few seasons to get back into shape, but it is amazing just the good that sun and air will do them. Camellias particularly seem to weather the burden of being covered up for a long time.

Well, anyway, if I am going to do this for a while while I am in school again, I need a proper web site and such. I have been trying to decide on a business name and URL. The front runner idea involves discovering or rediscovering Eden, the idea being that there is much beauty buried under all the mess in your own backyard, and I can help you find it!

A friend sent me a tagline that I like, from Horace..."You can drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps coming back." There are double/triple meanings in that tagline that I could play with.

So, as I continue to figure out what I want to be when I grown up, this business seems like a good thing to do. And whoever you may be reading this, if you have any ideas about the name/URL, let me know, OK?


I awoke AGAIN TODAY to a loud argument. The same argument day after day. Yack yack yack, Scree scree scree. Don't know how she puts up with it, the hawk that is. Would drive me crazy. This is one persistent hawk. He (she) has been in those pines by my window much of the summer and fall. I do wonder if hawks are ever driven totally insane by crows.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tea Olive

You don't really go to a Tea Olive; Tea Olive comes to you. You're walking along minding your own business and there it is - that rich creamy sweet sensation. And so you pause, close your eyes, breathe in, and smile. OK, where is it? Tea Olive aroma wafts and bends this way and that, and has a way of settling in at certain spots, not always next to the plant itself. So you look around.

Tea Olive is a large nondescript bush. The flowers are tiny, and you could walk by one in bloom ten times and not even notice. It's the smell that gets your attention. So there you are in a certain spot, holding onto that last breath while you look this way and that. There it is! You walk up to it, see the small white flowers, put your nose in and breathe, expecting....But, hmmm. It's less rich than the aroma fifteen feet over that way. Tea Olive is funny that way.

As for myself I like to shake the hands of my friends; with a Tea Olive this means shaking a branch. Tea Olive leaves rattle when the branch is shaken. They really do - and it's a dead give away. So go ahead and rattle a Tea Olive today.

There is another thing I like about Tea Olives; they bloom several times a year, at least here in Columbia. But I have never really figured out why they bloom when they do, and it's unpredictable. So after a week or two of enjoying the aroma the blooms drop off and back to normal everything goes. You forget all about that big green bush over there. Until next time that is. You are once again minding your own business, caught up in some really important thing, and there it is again, that smell. It always seems to sneak up on you. It is always - in that first moment- unexpected. It is always a gift.

If you won't tell anyone I will confess to something else about smelling Tea Olive. Usually when I walk into a cloud of Tea Olive aroma hovering in the air, and smile, I always - always - think of my dear dear Grandmother Nanny. And some of those times I cry, just a bit, a tiny tear, not a sob. I miss my Nanny so much. But my tears always turn back to smiles because I think of her loving her Tea Olive so, especially that big one near to the side door to her kitchen. I can see her, getting out of her car in the garage near the kitchen door, being hit by the Tea Olive aroma, smiling, and knowing the same feelings I know. And then I feel close to her.

These days I don't have much, not even a yard of my own. But today I had a Tea Olive. It doesn't matter that it was someone else's Tea Olive because ownership is a lot more than the legal right to dispose of or bar others from enjoying something. As the Apostle Paul said, "All things are ours." Which means for me I get to be thankful that God has blessed my neighbor with such a wonderful plant, feel glad for him, and just enjoy that Tea Olive as if it were mine.

Hope you run into a Tea Olive Aroma today.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Nouwen on the Poverty of Leaders

A friend sent me this piece from Henri Nouwen entitled "The Poverty of Our Leaders." It is primarily about church leaders but I can also see it applying to other leaders. I guess I can relate to this too...I always felt that poverty myself...

"There is a tendency to think about poverty, suffering, and pain as realities that happen primarily or even exclusively at the bottom of our Church. We seldom think of our leaders as poor. Still, there is great poverty, deep loneliness, painful isolation, real depression, and much emotional suffering at the top of our Church.....We need the courage to acknowledge the suffering of the leaders of our Church - its ministers, priests, bishops, and popes - and include them in this fellowship of the weak. When we are not distracted by the power, wealth, and success of those who offer leadership, we will soon discover their powerlessness, poverty, and failures and feel free to reach out to them with the same compassion we want to give to those at the bottom. In God's eyes there is no distance between bottom and top. There shouldn't be in our eyes either."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Christian Work in Progress

I am a Christian. Despite the current hip dislike of using the word Christian and the preference for phrases like "Jesus-follower," I am just fine with "Christian."

"Christian" is not a word that describes my upbringing or ethnicity or country of origin or culture. I wasn't born into it.

"Christian" suggests the union of two things about me. "Christian" first represents a collection of propositions that I believe to be real and true; so to say that I am a Christian is to say that I sign on to these basic propositions. Second, to to say that I am a Christian speaks of a personal engagement with and commitment to the One whom I believe to be represented by those notions. So, one could say that I believe that certain things are true about God and the universe and human beings and creation and so forth, but also that I seek to be personally committed to this personal God.

Life, even life including this personal commitment, is a long road, sometimes bumpy, and always a little messy. It is indeed a process, this being a Christian in this real and messy world.

When I was a pastor I was supposed to be some sort of expert on things Christian and theological. I find myself now - post-pastorate - not as the "professional" Christian but just me as a person who is a Christian. And it is challenging to try to learn again what being a Christian is in the normal every day sense.

Back when I was a professional Christian I was supposed to be very committed to a particular set of principles and propositions about God and the Christian faith as embodied in the Westminster Confession of Faith. What I found over time was that that vow of commitment hindered me from being honest about things I was thinking or wondering or discovering as I studied and prepared for sermons and so forth. Our Presbytery changed in my 20 years there from relative indifference to such commitment to very vigilant concern about such commitment.

I have nothing against creeds mind you. Everybody has one, even if it just to say that they have no creeds. I like creeds and find them most helpful.

When I was blogging a lot in Greensboro and interacting with folks who held all sorts of beliefs about all sorts of things, and yet writing and interacting as a Christian, I decided that it was best for me to find my place in the larger general stream of the historic orthodox Christian church - especially as represented by the three "Ecumenical Creeds" - Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. This meant that I stood in a theological stream much wider than that of the particular creed I had vowed to uphold. Rather, I would indeed stand with and find common cause with all orthodox Christians of the Protestant, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. As time went on, I found myself being deeply impacted by Catholic and Orthodox writers as well as Protestant writers.

I found too that it was really not OK to start to reevaluate certain ideas. I had already gotten used to this of course. I remember the look on people's faces when, for example, I would say that I really didn't believe in the "secret rapture" which is a common often assumed idea in American evangelicalism. I mean, for real, could I even be a Christian and not believe that? Maybe I was a "liberal." There were many examples of such things - many such cases, many such issues. As I began to get a better feel for the larger story of the Bible, the almost exclusive focus of American Protestant evangelicals on individual/personal salvation started to bother me. And then suddenly I started seeing a different sort of narrative in the gospels and epistles than that suggested or preferred in Reformed circles, though to me this narrative was a whole lot more consistent with the progressive outworking of the biblical covenants and thus Reformed covenant theology.

None of this has anything to do with why I left the pastorate which is another story for another time - but what I find interesting now is that as a regular non professional Christian I am finding myself comfortable continuing to identify with the larger stream of Christianity as represented by the Ecumenical Creeds. I am and will remain a Protestant, not because I like the name or identify with it but personally but because it more or less describes me. But I will continue to seek to find my way unpressured by expectation to uphold the letter of more definitive creeds. Most of all, I don't want my ability to make a living ever to be dependent on whether I can sign on to Chapter VII, Article I or whatever.

The historic Christian faith is under attack from so many directions at once that I'd rather focus on more general matters, and as best as I can as a Christian kindly defend the most essential core principles as I have opportunity to do so.

But much more important than that I want and need to find my way with the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ. It's hard rebooting as non professional. It's a challenge rediscovering the life of faith as a regular Joe.

And as regards the most intimate aspects of life and faith, well, I am seeking to find my legs and it's taking a while, all the more since I am not where I anticipated being at this stage of life - as one friend put it - needing to work on a plan B (or C). I haven't fully found my legs but I am working on it. The story that began with God starting a work in my Columbia family through my sister mary, the faith that came through the ministry of TEAM, the peace and assurance that came through L'Abri, the opportunities to grow that came in my time at Regent College, the grounding at First Pres in the 80's, life in the trenches as a pastor for 20 years in Greensboro, and of course mostly the joys and sadnesses of family life, well it's all going somewhere, I am just not sure where, except, in the end, in the New Heaven and New Earth, where the curse will be no more and the tears will be wiped away from our eyes and will be as we were supposed to be and will longer make a mess of things. Meantime there is much beauty and joy to keep to me going despite, well, plan B and all.

I am and will remain a work in progress.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

National Champ Loblolly

Congaree 10-10-10 Giant Loblolly

Congaree National Park, 10-10-10

Check Out on Flickr

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Looking for Jobs

As many of you who know me are aware, I am in a transition time in life vocationally and otherwise. In this period between my last career as a pastor and my next one (still formulating) I still have to pay the bills, and though it is humbling in many ways I have come to realize that I was in a position to help others for a long time and will be once again, and now I need help, in the form of work. There is not a great market out there for former pastors and school teachers and it seems best at this time to work for myself. God has provided a lot of gardening work the last several months but that is winding down as winter approaches. So I thought I’d put this out there for my friends in the Columbia and Greensboro areas. I tagged several folks so that this would show up in different places - feel free to remove it or untag yourself if you want it off your wall.

Here are some things I can do and of course I am willing to provide resumes and references if needed.

Garden Cleanup – I generally do what one friend calls “jungle taming” work – mostly on the other side of the border grass and mostly with overgrown but otherwise established yards and gardens. Fall is not the ideal time to prune but is a good time to get rid of vines, unwanted trees and other things growing where they shouldn’t, replace old mulch, and plant. I can do pretty much any kind of gardening work that does not require power equipment. Not keen about chemicals.

Tutoring – I taught high school science back in the day and have tutored Physics, Chemistry, Physical Science, Biology, Math, and English Composition over the years. Maybe you know of a family looking for a tutor.

Preaching/Teaching – I am not in a place in my life where I can pastor a church on an ongoing basis, and maybe never will be, but I am ordained and can competently fill in in a teaching/preaching capacity if a need is there. I can do simple verse by verse teaching or if needed I can address thorny issues in a measured way if it would be helpful to a congregation or group of leaders.

Windows Computer Degunking – I have done a lot of it and can get your machine running cleaner and faster. Really, I can.

Photography – I am NOT a professional photographer but I do a credible job at family pictures outside where special lighting apart from the sun is not required – fall family pics and so forth. OR, if your organization or business needs a base of solid photographs for web site and/or promotional items I can provide a large quantity of good photographs to get you rolling.

Writing – do you have an important letter you just can’t seem to get right? Do you have a technical matter you need to articulate? Do you have a crucial report or paper you need edited? I am your guy. Writing is my specialty. If you need editing I am experienced at that as well having been managing editor of a biblical theological journal – oh, and having kids in high school and college!

Web Sites – I can set and manage web sites/blogs using the Word Press platform, and can host such sites on my server. Word Press is a great versatile user friendly platform. I am not a coder, and have limitations but I do currently manage several sites, and would love to manage yours. I am also experienced at integrating web sites and social networking tools, and can be your social networking “meister.”

Genealogy - Give me a couple of days and I can get you jump started on that long neglected genealogy project you've wanted to do but haven't

Counseling – I know, “teacher heal thyself” and all that…I am NOT a licensed counselor but have 20 years experience in pastoral counseling. I am available. Believe it or not I do a good job with vocational and pre-marital counseling too. I know, I know…

Digitizing Photos and Documents – I have excellent high end scanners of all kinds and can work with prints, slides, film, old letters, personal records, and so forth. I can get you jump started on that BIG project you have been putting off for so long.

I am sure there are a hundred other things one may need doing that I could possibly do - idea? Try me...

PS - Feel free to check me out - links are below - references available on request

Joel Gillespie
6442 Bridgewood Road
Columbia SC 29206
blog 1:
blog 2:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's been a while since I WANTED the sun to shine to warm me up!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brain freeze while you're driving is not cool

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Going to SC GA football game. Hoping to get even for all the blowouts I got dragged to as a kid. There are many kinds of exorcisms.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Today feels like the first day of Autumn - a perfect warm early Autumn day!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

When the truth is..I miss you. Yeah the truth is...that I miss

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A great day at Sunset Beach with Madeline. Love that place, well, except for the horrendous new bridge.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Madeline and I just shot the rapids on our behinds. Yippie!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bob Bennett - Mountain Cathedrals, Come and See - good stuff. Is BB still around?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watching hummingbirds on a water break. And a bumblebee in the Hosta. And a butterfly in the Lantana. Reporting live from Columbia...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Anyone had success deadheading Knock Out Roses - as in more blooms?

Human Trafficking

Dear Friends,

In a couple of months my daughter Laurel will embark on a courageous year of service to some of the most hurting people in the world in one of the most desperate places in the world. This will certainly be a life altering year for Laurel. She is in the process of raising support for this work with International Justice Mission. I have pasted below a copy of her letter, a story about a young victim of human trafficking, and support information. I post this (and tag some folks) mostly in the hope that people will pray for her, and also in hope that this note might get forwarded around, potentially connecting with those who may have interest in this ministry. Thank you for reading this.


Laurel's Letter

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.” – Psalm 10:17-18

"He wears a clean white shirt, is 40-something and paces outside the massage parlor in a seedier part of the city. He could be any man. A neighbor. A brother. A co-worker. 'Hello, sweetie,' the girl greets him from the doorway, as she's been taught. She has a quota to meet. If she doesn't, she'll be beaten or scorched with an iron by the person running this brothel......The man has no way of knowing—nor does he care—that this girl was trafficked into the city. He also doesn't know or care that this girl is guarded by a man with a gun at all times, is not allowed to speak to others, and is drawn, malnourished and exhausted. He peeks inside. Dim lights. Plenty of girls. What he can't see are the squalid living conditions upstairs, the fetid room with mattresses on the floor, the medication to induce abortions, the drugs to numb the emotional and physical pain of sexual trauma......'Come on in,' she invites him, wondering that if he has a daughter, would he want her far away from home, tricked into prostitution by promise of a good job? The girl forces a smile, takes him by the hand and ushers him inside. She is only 15 years old" (“Caged Birds” by Marielena Zuniga).

As hard as it is to believe, my four years at UNC-Chapel Hill came to an end in May when I received my degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I wanted to look for an opportunity that enabled me to incorporate both my academic training and my faith. I could not get the issue of human trafficking off my mind, and stories like the one above made me want to help even more. Various conferences, conversations and convictions led me to discover the work of International Justice Mission (IJM), and I decided to apply for a Communications internship. I was so happy to receive a twelve month placement in South Asia, where I will be moving in late September to work in the fight against unprosecuted rape and forced prostitution.

It is hard to wrap my mind around these numbers, but the facts are sobering. According to a recent article in National Geographic, there are 27 million slaves in the world today, unseen and unheard by most of us in affluent nations. Worldwide, the total market of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion, more than the annual profit of Nike, Starbucks and Wal-Mart combined (UNICEF). The brutal act of kidnapping children, some as young as 5 years old, and forcing them into sexual slavery is happening to 2 million new children every year (UNICEF). Trafficked girls are often allured with the promise of a good job. Some are kidnapped and drugged, only to awaken trapped in a brothel and forced to provide sex to customers up to 50 times a day. In some instances, these victims are sold by family members in order to pay medical bills or family debts. Police complicity often leaves these girls with no one to turn to for help.

International Justice Mission is a non-profit organization composed of Christian attorneys, social workers, criminal investigators and support staff. IJM investigators spend thousands of hours infiltrating brothels and uncovering the world of sexual exploitation. IJM staff then works with local authorities to lead police interventions and rescue victims from this horrific nightmare, placing them in safe homes where they receive aftercare and begin new lives of freedom. IJM lawyers work to secure the conviction and sentencing of brothel keepers and other perpetrators involved. The goal is address the root of the problem by prosecuting the perpetrators in local court systems and making a way for communities to make structural changes that can prevent such abuses in the future.

You can help. You can pray for the work of IJM in the fight against injustice and for the victims. And you can certainly pray for me. Please post the enclosed prayer card as a reminder.

You can also help support me financially. Because the internship is a volunteer position, I need to raise $20,200 to cover expenses such as airfare, visa fees, rent, meals and transportation—essentially all the costs associated with the assignment. This figure is daunting, and I would like to ask you to consider making a financial contribution. By making a tax deductible donation, you enable me to work with an organization that infiltrates some of the darkest places of human suffering to bring the light of hope to the desperate and hopeless victims of human trafficking. If you are able, you can mail a check to me, or you can give online easily by going to and selecting my name from a drop-down menu. Any amount will help me reach this goal, and all the details about providing financial assistance can be found on the following page.

Two years ago I would never have imagined that I would be writing this now. If you know me well, you are aware that this will be a challenging environment for me. Pray for me as I learn to adjust to life in a new and very different culture and manage my responsibilities there. I see this internship as a huge answer to my own prayers that God would give me a way to serve Him that would both use my gifts and take me to a place of real need. This is a life-changing opportunity for me to see and experience firsthand both abject poverty and unthinkable violence, but most importantly how God ensures that "the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish” (Psalm 9:18).
If you would like to receive regular updates of my time in South Asia, send your contact info to me at Don’t hesitate to call me at (336) 209-7284 if you have further questions or would like to meet in person to talk about it. I’ll be in touch in a few weeks to follow up with this letter and answer any questions you may have.



Manna's Story (from International Justice Mission)


Manna lived with her brother and was beaten by him on several occasions. When she was 14, she decided running away was her best option. Passing through the clutter and scuffle of a train station, a young woman noticed Manna crying and offered to help. She listened to Manna and won her trust, promising a job selling fabric. The woman led Manna to a place to rest and slept beside her that first night, but when Manna woke the woman was gone and another woman warned that her life was no longer her own. She would not sell fabric but her body. Manna refused her first three customers, but the brothel keeper pulled her hair, punched her and beat her repeatedly until she gave in to the men who had come to rape her. She tried to run away and even begged the men who raped her to rescue her or call the police. The nightmare continued for two years until another girl whom IJM had rescued led IJM operatives back to rescue more girls hidden in a soundproof dungeon. Manna was one of four young girls rescued from that dark place. She now lives in the freedom of an aftercare home that provides love, safety and schooling where she studies to become a social worker. IJM helped build a case against her brothel keepers. They were both convicted and sentenced in 2004 to five years rigorous imprisonment. With a smile that filled the room like sunlight Manna said, “I came to prison, but I am not alone. God took me from that place to here. I am requesting to God that like IJM saved me they will save even more. What is impossible for men is possible for God.”

Supporting Laurel

There are several ways to give a tax-deductible* donation to IJM…

1) Give online using your credit card or debit card: The easiest and fastest way to give is to go
online to IJM’s website, Then scroll over the word “get involved” on the top of the page and click on “Internships & Fellowships.” From there, simply click on the link on the right hand side of the page for “Support an International Fellowship or Internship.” Alternatively, you can also follow this link:

In order for the funds to be counted towards my fundraising goal, you must select my name,
Laurel Gillespie, from the drop-down menu when you enter your donation information.
If you do not see my name in the designation menu, you can also type in my name in
the “Comments” box.

2) Set up monthly giving: Information about setting up monthly giving can be found on the link

3) Write a check: If you prefer to write a check, please make the check payable to “International
Justice Mission” and do NOT write my name anywhere on the check, including the memo
line. Instead, please attach the Donor Information Slip below with your check. Checks written
to IJM that have my name appear anywhere on the check will be returned to the donor. Checks
to IJM should be mailed directly to me, and I will forward the check to IJM’s headquarters.

Mail checks to:

Laurel Gillespie
106 East Keeling Road
Greensboro, NC 27410

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no
more.” – Psalm 10:17-18

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Madeline and I Greensboro Fun Fourth

Monday, July 05, 2010

I strongly recommend all Michael Pollan books, and this reflection on "nature" and "culture" (second Nature) is excellent and enjoyable -

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good News about Erskine

It sounds as if the ARP General Synod meeting proved productive and effective as to the the future of Erskine College and Seminary. I have written my views before and am glad, given the news, that the members of Synod did not share my pessimism about the situation. I don't think I would have been able to sit through the whole thing but I am glad my brothers did - at least through Thursday afternoon. If you're interested I recommend that you can read Chuck Wilson's update "The Art of the Possible."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Way to go Gamecocks! Come on Tigers!
The best part of road trips - just listened to Abbey Road all the way through. Never gets old.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

OK, I drive like Grandma. Deal with it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thoughts on the Erskine Debacle

A friend recently wrote to me on Facebook (on my wall) to inquire as to my thoughts on the recent goings on between Erskine College and Seminary on the one hand and the ARP denomination on the other. I answered his inquiry off the top of my head more or less, and he commented back. His comments are the best part of the dialogue and worth reading. I thought I would post the exchange here - with his permission of course.

from Kim Payne to me:

Joel, I was wondering if you would give me your thinking about the current mess with Erskine. I have always appreciated your thought process and would like to add it to my personal deliberations. Thanks.

from me back to Kim:

Kim, Thank you for asking me this question. To some degree I think that the present mess is the result of many many years of tension between the ARP Synod on the one hand and the Erskine Board and faculty on the other. The long standing ARP tendency to dance around issues at Synod and Presbytery out of fear of seeming contentious is coming back to bite the Synod I believe. And there is the all to common passive-aggression that goes with this tendency - the "nice" and seemingly submissive public posture and then the dogged behind the scenes effort to oppose what was decided in public.

Also, as I think to some degree that we each have that feeling (which comes to being non-born-and-bred ARP folk) of not quite having a dog in the fight. In other words, in the necessary "fight" over the direction of Erskine, the old guard, on either side, communicates subtly that this is a family feud, and if you don't have a hundred years or so in the "family" then it's kind of not your fight. It's easy just to yawn and block it out of the mind. It starts all to feel so, well, trivial.

For my part Kim I have never really believed that it was the role of the Church as the Church to be in the business of undergraduate education. Perhaps it is the business of Christian citizens but not the Church proper. Thus over the last 21 years of my experience when Erskine seemed to be, well, resistant and adversarial, I have just felt that we as a Synod should cut them loose and let them sink or swim as an independent institution. I have never really understood the long suffering on the Synod's part.

Nor have I ever understood the mission of the seminary. It has seemed too me that there has been an undercurrent of fear or anxiety over the financial solvency of the school, thus the need to keep it open to the approved list for the UMC and PCUSA and so forth. I don't know how it is possible for the school to remain in harmony with our standards and be approved by the UMC. Makes little sense to me. On the other hand, I am not inclined toward a strict theological party line (with reason). After all, I bypassed the opportunity to go to RTS and went to Regent College instead. So, personally, I don't have a personal vision regarding a strong reformed/presbyterian emphasis. It has just galled me that Erskine Seminary has been so brazen regarding the General Synod. Childish I think.

As to the College, I think Erskine would thrive if it took more seriously the integration of Faith and Learning from a more consistently Biblical perspective. I know lots of evangelical folks like to diss Wheaton or Calvin these days, but I'd rather see Erskine go that route or similar than be where it is now.

However, if the Synod's view of inerrancy requires that undergraduate science classes teach from the standpoint of a "literal" six day view of Genesis 1, then I don't see the College having academic credibility (I don't think the real "literal" view supports the young earth "literal" view). I think there is some cause for concern there.

In the end what really bothers me most of all right now is the lawsuit, and the lack of firm action in light of it. This lawsuit has had the exact effect that the Apostle Paul said that such lawsuits would have. I think it is scandalous to say the least and that Mitchell needs to go, quickly. If he is a member of an ARP church he needs to be disciplined. I don't know the man, but when you taker public actions (such as a lawsuit - even if you drop it) you invite public opinion. So, in the end, if it were up to me, I'd cut both institutions loose and let them find their own way. Joel

Kim back to me:

Thanks Joel. You and I are of like mind which is really scary or good, not sure which. In my background I would use Covenant college as the standard measurement for integration. Belhaven, Geneva and Grove City would also be helpful. As I told the coming moderator, I have no clue how not to integrate my disciplines. It is just a part of what I am and what I've been taught. However, some would say indoctrinated.

I believe the Genesis deal is a contrivance of those who are creating fear that EC become a bible college or Bob Jones. I do know there would be some heat and light from this as there is in the PCA now but I don't think it is "just" 24 hr. that is being demanded. If so, I too would have a problem with it.

You and I both are red headed step children to EC etc. I have never felt so disrespected as I have in reading some of the vitriol hurled at the ministers in this battle. Respect of the ministers was one of the hallmarks I found as I moved into the ARPC. I know it may be a vocal small minority but it is disturbing.

I would not be sad to see them go. To me, they are the sacred cow that made the temptation to be nice so appealing. I understand history, by not really having one. I know how important roots are. Yet, I can't help but see the "Idolatry" that Chuck Wilson is speaking of. Offensive, yet true.

Oh well, in a couple of weeks I will gather a couple of good friends near to me and go get a beer and bitch or marvel at how things are working. I am hopeful with the new president. I do hope he is a man who will not falter in staying the course. It is encouraging to hear the full board voted unanimously.

Now, if only we could get to the point of getting rid of the lawsuit. It has truly been an embarrassment to me and to the Lord and the church. I'm sure we can work to the other side of this morass but I do fear the fallout as it pertains to our unity (of which it may have been a false unity) and our ability to move forward with the Gospel as our cry and not "Erskine or nothing else".

I appreciate you my friend. I wish we had been able to be closer over the years but I still love you and your family. Be well and blessed. Take care. Kim"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Packing up the office on Elm St and saying goodbye to a life once lived - well I hope for the most part. Many memories. Like the Red Book.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Beautiful Carolina blue skies here at Keenan Stadium on graduation Sunday.
Carolina is a great school. North Carolina's not bad either.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I got the KUEEEEE to the highway
Just stuck my nose into a big sweet Magnolia blossom and took a deep breath. Ahhh!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Am installing Adobe CS4 to use on a project for the Geography department. Very exciting. Lynda here I come!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

One more exam!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Falling Slowly on 99.3 WXRY. Love that song!
Wow, what a beautiful day in Columbia SC!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sometimes only Led Zeppelin will do. This is one of those times.
Today is an uncannily cool, fresh, dry, and pretty day here in Columbia, SC.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

is enjoying a Carbon Leaf drive to Greensboro

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Search high and low, far and wide, and you still won't find anything more exquisite, sublime and beautiful as a plain tuft of near-white dandelion seeds
in waiting...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's a beautiful day in Columbia SC. Birds are crazy loud. Cute little baby leaves out every where. Iris blooming.

Friday, April 09, 2010

beautifully cool...air clear...oak catkins covering ground in heaps...good for compost...birds seem happy

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A storm's a'brewing here in Cola SC. Bring it on. We need the rain!
A gloriously clear cool and breezy Carolina April morning

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cruising the Horseshoe

Heather G, Marie B, and Laurel G at the University of South Carolina Horseshoe, Saturday April 3, 2010.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Why I Am Pulling for Duke

Here's my "pullin' fer" hierarchy whuich explains why I am pulling for Duke Monday night.

1. I always pull for Clemson and South Carolina against anybody else, period, always. Though I grew up as a little duffer a UNC fan, I became a rabid SC fan during the John Roche era, and then a crazy Clemson fan when I went to Clemson, and then later I also graduated from SC. If Clemson and SC play each other I usually pull for Clemson unless SC has a lot more to gain by a victory.

2. I always pull for UNC unless they play Clemson or SC. My dad went to UNC and I grew up light blue and pulled for them all the time until the John Roche basketball team captured my imagination.

3. I generally pull for UNC, Duke, WF, and NC State against other ACC teams, except Clemson.

4. When these teams play each other I generally rank it as UNC, Wake, Duke, State - but if one is having a great year I may pull for them.

5. I ALWAYS pull for ACC teams - no exceptions except against South Carolina. Even the new ACC teams.

6. I almost always pull for the mid major teams and underdogs - except when playing ACC or South Carolina.

So, as to Duke vs. much as I'd love to see Butler win an NCAA championship, the ACC trumps a mid major, so I'm pulling for Duke.

In Defense of the Easter Bunny - Sort Of

Over the last few days I have had either my first bad cold in years or my first allergic reaction to pollen in my life. Because my eyes are swollen and burning I think it’s the pollen. So, to spare my neighbors my sneezing and coughing and dripping I am sitting this Easter Sunday out.

But about Easter: the bodily resurrection of Jesus is at the very core of the New Testament revelation and the Christian message. “Going to heaven when we die” is all the rage but really isn’t what Easter is all about. Easter is all about “Jesus is Lord.” He has risen from the dead and he sits at God’s right hand and is the living Lord of heaven and earth. He is not risen as some sort of disembodied spirit but as a human being with a real human body. And yet he also as God the Son is very God of very God and upholds all things by the word of His power. Yeah, heady stuff that…

The Christian faith is centered on the BODILY resurrection of Jesus. It is the central reality of his bodily resurrection that reveals that God who is Spirit has truly broken into the world of human life and history and is now connected to it forever. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the central sign of this world-changing in-breaking of God and His kingdom into our world in order to fulfill His purposes for His creation.

Popular American religion believes that every person who dies goes to a better place. This incipient universalism is no part of the Christian message. It is not creation-affirming but creation-denying. It is also not Jesus-affirming but Jesus-denying, no matter how it is dressed up.

This belief has always made funerals very tricky because everyone wants so much to believe that Uncle Frank has gone off to a better place. Perhaps Uncle Frank has, perhaps not. But where do we get this notion that there is this better place to which Uncle Frank’s spirit gets to go? Oddly, we really don’t get it from Christianity though it is sure dressed in Christian language.

The truth is we have no reason whatsoever to believe that there is a “place” called “heaven” to which we get to go when we die, unless, that is, the bodily resurrection of Jesus really happened. And if Jesus’ resurrection really happened then we have to base our understanding of the fate of our earth and of our bodies and spirits upon His teaching both before and after His resurrection.

Behind the very obvious good news of Easter is the uncomfortable news that Jesus of Nazareth really has risen from the dead and is now King and Lord and judge over all. Yes, over and over in the New Testament Jesus is presented as the judge who is coming back to set things right and bring His Father’s purposes for creation to final completion.

This kind of sucks for us if we don’t really believe that Jesus is Lord and Judge and Messiah.

Here’s the deal. Going to heaven isn’t the deal. Yes, being with Jesus in spirit/soul until the general resurrection is way much better than not being with Him, and it is better than being here in the midst of pain and trial and grief. But that isn’t the goal. The goal or end game is a renewed heaven and earth – a New Heaven and New Earth which is physical and bodily and fleshly. The ONLY connection we have to the possible reality of a New Heaven and New Earth where there will be no tears and where God will dwell most intimately with men and women and all creation is, well, Jesus’ physical/bodily resurrection. That’s it. Because of this connection our only hope of New Heaven and New Earth is Jesus.

The idea of living some permanent blissful disembodied existence for all pretty-nice people (or even scoundrels with “good hearts” and so forth) is not a Christian one. It’s not part of the Christian proclamation. Read all the sermons in Acts – you won't find it there. Read all the teachings of Jesus. You won’t find it there either. Read the letters – you’re right – not there.

I have no idea why so many people who don’t otherwise give Jesus the time of day would want to go to church on Easter. Easter ought to scare the bageebies out of people. I can see why people would flock to Christmas services, you know, God with us, little baby Jesus and all. But Easter – no way. Jesus is the resurrection and the life - for people who believe in and trust in Him as the resurrection and the life. The New Testament witness is that he will return to wrap up his purpose for creation, and how we have responded to him and to those who are His followers will determine whether we are sheep or goats. It’s serious stuff.

But then there is that whole Easter Bunny/Spring Equinox/Fertility thing. I know some of you who have managed to read all this now expect me to distance myself as far as possible from pagan/fertility ideas. But I’m not going to really. There is a connection between real Easter and those Spring pagan fertility rites.

You see, the pagan fertility rites are right about something: the creation does matter, including fertility and how little bunnies get made. Many people are flocking to pagan spirituality because Christendom has for so long dismissed the significance of real world physicality. In fact, it is NOT dying and going to “heaven” that is the goal of the Christian message. Rather it is that Jesus Christ who is Lord and King sitting on his glorious throne surrounded by worshipping angels and elders and creatures of heaven – that this Jesus will come and restore the Earth to its glory and populate it with people resurrected with real new physical bodies perfectly fitting for this New Heaven and Earth.

I have noticed something about myself lately. There have been days in my life when I just wanted a meteor to hit me right on the head and obliterate me, such as in the middle of a really really bad migraine. I am not exaggerating at all. And there have been times of grief or psychic pain when I really would have been happy to depart for the other side. Unrelenting pain – physical or psychic - does this.

But mostly now, when I am about my life, awake, and not so miserable, I find that I live in this amazing “in between” of new and old. I feel so at home in God’s creation. Birds and bees and flowers and trees bring to me tears of joy. I know deep down that as the Earth is "renewed" there will still be an Earth, with (I think), all sorts of familiar earthly things – like the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. Since I know I will rejoice in these things then – later – I can easily rejoice in them now, which gets me back to the Easter bunny. Resurrection does in fact affirm and signify the fundamental goodness and beauty of God’s creation. It affirms bunnies. It affirms sex – animal sex and plant sex. It affirms bounty and fruitfulness and multiplying. It affirms play. My fellow Christians, let’s not drive people to paganism by leaving God’s good and bountiful earth in the dust, OK?

And one more thing: though the idea of Jesus rising from the dead and now seated at God’s right hand “from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead” should sober us up like a cold glass of water in the face, well, there was Good Friday. Jesus who is risen and enthroned at God’s right hand not only is enthroned as a man with a body, but is enthroned as a Lamb, a sacrificial Lamb, and who yet still bears the marks of his sacrificial death. And with these nail pierced arms wide open, He says to us “Come unto me.”

We are all invited to the party. Our Creator has seen to it to reverse our great mistake as a species made in His image, and to rescue us from ourselves. Jesus who is coming back as judge is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, And He can take away your sins too, if you will attach yourself to Him in belief and trust. Though is plenty that is scary about Easter, it’s not all scary; before Sunday there was Friday - and Jesus on His heavenly throne with the marks of death in his hands and side and feet.

Some day someone is going to do your funeral. Don’t make them have to avoid the uncomfortable possible truth that you never gave yourself to Jesus. He is alive. He is Lord, He has born your sins. Trust him. Put your whole self, body and soul, under His care. He will take you home, not to float around as a spirit for all eternity, but to run and jump and skip about in unbelievable joy around the New Heaven and New Earth. Let this Easter be your Easter.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Am selling my 2002 Ford Windstar minivan. Excellent condition. 87000 miles. 6K non negotiable. Great deal.
Hey, stop to tell someone they're doing a good job today - a teacher, a store clerk, a janitor, a child, a friend. Just dn it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All this juice and joy - sheer gift - echoes of Eden, foretastes of New H and New E

Friday, March 26, 2010

Both the hoky and the live oak behind Collcott are blooming. Collcott always makes me think of Stevie Ray...
Ahhh...Today is as perfect a Carolina morning as there could be

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today I Saw a Bald Eagle

Today I saw a bald eagle flying lazily over a swollen Congaree River. I saw a raven-back-blue Carolina night sky - and like an excited child followed the line from the big dipper right to the north star. I heard the southern wind gusting wildly through the swaying pines. I breathed in deeply the sweet goodness of a big yellow dandelion. I felt the sun warm my tired eyes and almost fell asleep waiting for the bus.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Am really enjoying Henri Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love. Highly recommend.
Japanese Magnolia and Forsythia blooming. Lamnia. Ant Lions out in force. Don't tumble in!
It's a beautiul Carolina day and A cool Carolina wind keeps a blowing that group!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sometimes I hate AI. Bye Lilly.

Mary Oliver, "Messenger:" Is She Describing Me? Seems.


Mary Oliver, from Thirst

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lacey, Siobhan, Didi and Lilly were all pretty good, but Crystal is in a league of her own. She has it all - voice, swagger, & star quality.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Jungle taming today in brother's back yard - beautiful day for it. Clemson-Carolina baseball game Sunday. A week of spring break to get life together :-). Mucho school work. Must...get...organized.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Whoever thought I'd be reading about LNAPL's and DNAPL's late on a Wednesday night!
As do Michael, Lee, and Alex.
Crystal, Lilly, and Paige rock (especially Crystal). And Siobham's high note - wow!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Road House Blues. Full Moon. Empty Highway. Ahhh. OK...keep your eyes on the road you hand upon the wheel....
Beautiful moon
Great view of Hanging Rock from Greensboro Urban Loop over Market Street WOW
PS 10 Bucks to the right guess on the blues song
Blues only drive to Greensboro. Blues makes me happy. Guess what's playing? I'll write it down. 919AM.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cold. Eyes closed. Facing into warm sun. Air crisp. Perfect.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Great Snow of 1973

I heard some kids on the shuttle today talking about the "big snow" event this past Friday in Columbia, and...they even had the unmitigated gall to compare it to the great snow of '73 :-). So, I told them the story of that snow fall in a really annoying "I was there" kind of way. It was so much fun thinking of how much that would have embarrassed my daughters that I decided to re-post on Facebook a link to a piece I wrote about the Great Snow of '73 last year. Then I thought I'd do that here too. Thought some of you might enjoy this.

Here is the link -

Would love to hear of any memories you might have of that snow fall.

Friday, February 05, 2010

On the road north. Bad weather ahead. Good music makes such drives calmer and better.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Ps30:5

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A HUGE flock of Robins has descended on my brother's yard zipping up down to and fro - one chubby little guy is on a chair just watching...
Memories of a fun snowy day past in Country Park Greensboro -
It's a beautiful crystal clear winter's day in Columbia today - I bet it's a beautiful clear bright white morning in Greensboro

Friday, January 22, 2010

On a Dionne Warwick kick today. This Girls In Love. Walk On By. Good stuff. Miss you, Dad.
Heading home!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Discovered tonight. Wow. Perfect for me. Thanks @Laurel! No excuses now!
Discovered tonight. Wow. Perfect for me. Thanks @Laurel!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time to Finish the Job with the Confederate Flag

Ever since the Confederate Flag was removed from the top of the SC State House back in the year 2000 I had had it in my mind that it had been placed somewhere on the west side of the State House grounds. Last year on a visit to Columbia I was strolling around the university area and downtown and I walked up the stairs of the State House. I've always liked sitting up there.

It's hard for me not to envision that horrific photo taken from the same spot in 1865 looking out on the city burned and destroyed. I try to picture in my mind that horrible day and week, and I give thanks that the cause of so many of my great great grandfathers (and one great grandfather) did not in the end prevail.

It's perhaps part of the uniqueness of southern culture and identity that I have always had a tendency to consider myself first a southerner and South Carolinian, and then an American. I exaggerate somewhat but the association with my home state and region is deep.

And I always thought it a profound offense to the people of my home state to have the Confederate battle flag flying on top of our State House. I say that as a son of the Confederacy many times over.

What surprised me last summer sitting up top of the State House steps was finding the Confederate flag in such a prominent position on the grounds. Looking FROM the State House steps toward downtown it is the Confederate flag one mainly sees. Approaching the State House from Main Street the flag is perhaps even more prominent now than when it was on top of the dome. I had just been unaware of this the last ten years, and was quite taken back.

I wanted to write about it then but a SC friend suggested it would not be appreciated and might close doors for me as to work in my state. It's pretty sensitive stuff apparently.

Southern secession, the Civil War and the Confederate Flag are an unexcisable part of the history and heritage of South Carolina and many other states. I'm not sure these things should be celebrated, but they should be remembered, and there is a place for monuments and flags and exhibits in their memory. Just not in front of the State House. It its current position and prominence the Confederate flag's presence feels more like a celebration, or if not that a direct statement as to a current identification with the Confederate cause.

The Confederate flag is also, quite understandably and rightfully, a cause of profound offense to a very large part of South Carolina's population. Try as many do (in needful revisions to revisionist history) to disconnect slavery causally from the Civil War, well, it is just not credible. In fact the inordinate political turmoil and sectional politics of the latter first half of the 19th century was due largely to the slavery question and rooted deeply in and around the institution of slavery. There is a direct organic line of causality between the very first importation of African people's here as slaves and what eventually became our darkest hour as a nation. There is no way to disassociate the Confederate flag from the unspeakable inhumanity of the enslavement of millions of human beings by other human beings. I know the hundred objections that may follow. I also know that not one of them holds water.

The Confederate flag in its current placement and position is morally, socially, and spiritually oppressive. It is an unkindness of gargantuan proportions. It's time to finish the job and move the flag - again.

The Memorial honoring the Confederate dead is appropriate and quite prominent enough. One might like to see a Memorial honoring the enslaved dead given as much prominence. And I can see a Confederate flag placed on the west side of the Grounds perhaps, accompanied by a sober and non celebratory Memorial, one that honors the profound deep historical significance and human/cultural/economic cost of the War Between the States.

In the end the Confederate cause is one not worthy of celebration. The untold human stories of bravery and kindness in the midst of the conflict may well be worth celebrating, but not the cause itself.

To this day when I read books about the Civil War, and about battles where the Confederate side lost, I feel a kind of aching sadness. I cannot watch the Ken Burns documentary without coming to tears over and over again. At some visceral level I identify with the South even in her very worst moments. But waking up from pulling again for the military underdog (when I wish that we had taken Little Round Top and wished Lee had not sent Picket up that hill) I give thanks for defeat, and feel a deep sorrow for the centuries of oppression and enslavement that ultimately led to those two great armies clashing in the fields and woods and hills of Gettysburg.

And now, today, we need to stop poking our African American neighbors in the eye, or maybe more accurately, in the heart. The flag needs to move. Let's finish what we started in 2000. Love demands it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A new, good, day ahead. Outlook woes will just have to wait.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Lord show to me your face; Lord show to me your skin; Lord show to me the places, where they put the nails in." Bill Mallonee, VOL

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson needs to shut up. He cannot read Providence. His hubris sickens. His tactlessness is childish.
My favorite seasons - winter in the SC Sand Hills, summer in Vancouver, spring in Hampshire England, and autumn in the NC Mountains.
So this guy was in a "Monster" truck handing out free M-80 drinks in very tall cans. I took one. Wheeeee! So much for a nap.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Just listened tn Love Reign O'er Me twice through as loud as I could take it. After all these years it still gives me goosebumps.