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Archive for May, 2020

While driving a short distance to run at my local Greenway, I turned on the radio to hear the beginning of a TED Radio Hour presentation on NPR about the idea that “Everything Is A Remix”, a web series and idea by Kirby Ferguson. The host of “Science Friday”, Ira Flato, asked, “Is there really nothing new?” Mr. Ferguson said, “The Big Bang.” This line of thinking dissonated with me because of the worldview conflict, and because it is only correct in a way undisclosed by either of those speaking. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” But what about beyond the sun? And what does this mean, anyway?

Mr. Ferguson’s point is that any song you hear has an association to an earlier song. He generalizes his maxim to say no thought or attempt at creativity is original. The only creativity is found in remixing it to make it your own and make it fresh. Johannes Kepler wrote, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.” My conclusion to Kepler’s quote is that God has made us in His image, which includes creativity, but our discoveries are repeats of a limited nature of His thoughts and plans. We receive joy and He receives glory when we explore, create, discover, and acknowledge.

Create beauty in visual or musical art forms, God has been there already. Create beauty in prose or poetry. He has known it long since. Create sacrificial love and moral purity. He has perfected it. Create novel questions and solutions. He has mused upon and answered them all. The Humanist will be offended by what seem to him or her a deterministic regurgitation of God’s ways. I rather find joy in discovering what He has done.

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When I was invited by an old friend to spend the day in Grandfather Park and State Park, I didn’t hesitate. I had not been to the Private park side of the mountain in at least 15 years. The day was exceptionally calm for this mountain that can funnel 200+ mph winds over its peak. The atmosphere was clear but not exceptionally so. The conversation on the way up was lively and continuous. After the various and many explanations of rules and restrictions, we headed up the steep, winding entry road. The first overlook greets you with the mountaintop vista and a teasing of the ridges that will be seen when you get higher up.

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After conversation with the parking and trail attendants, we excitedly started up the trail. The first small peak allowed a view of McCrae Peak that was framed by a spruce and fir.

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McCrae Peak

The topography, geography, and geology of this place is fascinating and somewhat extreme. There is much metamorphic rock in this area with splatterings of igneous intrusions. Don’t let the signs fool you. This is a Flood remnant from a few thousand years ago with extreme upheavals and collapses opening fissures, grinding formations, and recrystallization of minerals. Under one severely overhung outcropping at the base of the large ladder on the Underwood Trail, are stones and cobbles seemingly glued into the cliff face. Normally I would declare this to be a conglomerate, a sedimentary rock made of cemented sediments of rounded rocks. And that may yet be true, but the cement is metamorphic, gneiss and such. Was it originally sedimentary rock metamophized by the pressure of the upheavals or was it stones that fell into or were forced alongside a magma inclusion that metamorphized the cement? Either way the process was extreme.

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Tiny quartz crystals “glued” onto metamorphized quartzite and feldspar

I did not know until this time that the ladders and all but 1/4 mile of the trail are in the State Park. Except for the huge boulder which is McCrae Peak, I feel confident that there is an easier way up, but the ladders give their climbers understanding of the starkness of the topography. 

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Chutes and Ladders

There is one point along the trail where you are coming to a knife edge of the ridge. Because of the prevailing winds, you may turn this corner and come into the full blast of the wind. This day pictures me with my new friend at that turn, on a calm, sunny day. One time in the past, I was fully surprised by the calmness and reasonable temperatures on an Autumn day only to be rudely awakened by the blowing snow, frosted heather, and fierce winds and chill factor at this very turn.

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A bright day and a new friend

It is amazing how few people have been seriously injured or killed over the years of hiking these trails. Below is a segment of the marked trail that causes one to step cautiously.

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The reflection in the pool of water in the next picture is deceiving, leading one to believe there is a hole in the rock. Actually, the picture was taken to show the Junco bird picking up a bread crumb. These hardy little birds can be seen and heard flitting around on the hottest summer days and coldest winter gales at high elevations.

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The very peak of the mountain at right is one in a series of large boulders that sits on top. The cutting edge of the ridge seems to have been thrust up over the western, American plate.

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There really is no other way up to the peak other than the ladder, unless you wanted to do some real bouldering. The drop is probably 75+ feet off of the back.

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McCrae’s Peak ladder

May 14th and Spring is only beginning to peak its head through the rhododendron leaf litter. I do wonder what the other green leaves are since there were many more of these than fiddleheads.

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Fiddleheads

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Hobble Bush (Viburnum lantanoides) new vegetation

I took many more pictures of the bridge area, but this one taken by a trail attendant best communicates the joy of reopening day. We went past McCrae Peak up through the Attic Window to look back to the McCrae Peak and the bridge beyond. It was a strenuous, talkative, view intensive hike.

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Indeed, this blog entry is cut short, because I could not upload another picture. Now I must decide what to do, because my picture storage for the blog is full. Do I upgrade for a service that I have been thankful to use free thus far? Will deleting old entries free up space for new entries? Is there value in retaining old entries for the occasional reference value to things I have written? How valuable is this blog to me and to those few who regularly follow it and those who occasionally visit? What journal value does it have for me and my posterity? What spiritual value does it have to communicate my journey and God’s goodness, graciousness, power, creativity, and holiness? I will have to weigh these questions against other priorities. For the time being, I am grateful to have had this outlet for my thoughts, thanksgivings, teachings, and creative trice.

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One of my principals came by the house today to place a sign in my front yard stating how proud we are that I teach. I retorted that I thought that I would not get a sign since I am retiring after this semester. No, she says, you should especially get one for all of your years of teaching. I met her husband, who is also a teacher and we began talking “teacher talk” (1). During this crazy time there is much talk about Earth shaking, or at least societal, changes coming to every area of life, education in particular. Both of them were congratulating me on my coming retirement, especially at such an opportune time. I related that it had occurred to me that this was a similar transition that my father had transversed in the late 1980’s as a 39 year veteran of drafting/designing. He said that it was the right time for him to go out because he was not interested in learning this new CAD drawing. He had spent a long career with paper and pencil, or pen on permanent drawings. And here I am, having made my decision to retire before the pandemic occurred, but all the more glad I am retiring once I realized that significant online schooling is coming. Actually, I am OK with the computer. I have some things to learn, but I’m not far from where I need to be. The problem is how to motivate, explain to, tell a story to, relate to, properly assess, or significantly influence students virtually. Suddenly I felt like a dinosaur when I had not felt that way two months ago. A new epoch of online strata had been added to a bed of the technology era. (2) It feels suddenly virtually impossible to teach students subject matter which was fluid such a short time ago. The Great Flood had come (3) and this terrible lizard was stuck in a mud bank.

In the same way that my father was useful to make corrections on line drawing in pen, so I may be helpful if the traditional classroom is a thing again. But as I told my principal, that’s someone else’s problem now. I see the kindness of the guiding hand of God’s Providence (4) in these circumstances. He is no less kind when we get stuck in the middle, for He has an eternal perspective. He is more concerned for our spiritual and eternal good than our temporal comfort. But from this poor man’s view, all is right at the moment with retirement.

1) Every group or profession has their jargon and shared experiences so that you can talk to a teacher from across the globe and laugh about the same tendencies among students and parents in both places, in the same way engineers or salesmen or carpenters can say others just don’t understand.

2) I hope someone understands my paleontological metaphor.

3) I guess some folks won’t catch my extended metaphor unless I say the great meteor rather than Great Flood, though I believe it to be the latter.

4) Notice that I did not say guiding hand of Providence as many of our Founding Fathers referenced, as if it were an impersonal force rather than a personal God.

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Paisley and Plaid
Complimentarily clad
Two who became one
Someone’s daughter and son

Opposites attract
Differently act
Conflicts not abstract
Proceed with much tact

Love is a commitment
A selfless deployment
Not for the faint of heart
Pray from the start

It is not all pain
Nor expect constant strain
There are many a joy
Each other to enjoy

Loneliness at bay
In your heart night and day
Find the other’s delight
In darkness be a light

Not good to be alone
God made from Adam’s bone
A helper and a friend
Each other love, attend

A lifelong partnership
On a common trip
Where paisley and plaid
A reason to be glad

Almost always I either write a poem based on a rhyming couplet that pops into my head or an idea that I want to explore. The preceding poem is an example of both. Hopefully the reader can visualize the metaphor that I intend by envisioning a couple, whose female is wearing a dress with paisley that color matches the plaid the male is wearing. We males and females, as God has created us, are far more different than our physical differences suggest. We have different needs and desires and abilities. In this fallen world of sinful people that can and does increase conflict in relationship, it is because we don’t understand each other and probably don’t want to at some level.* But marriage is not meant for pleasure and pro-creation alone. It is meant to refine and remake us. I am thankful that God has given me a godly wife who has been faithful and diligent for more than 38 years now. At times throughout that journey, neither one of us has been easy to get along with, but by God’s grace we still love each other and are nicer to each other than we have been sometimes in the past. That is God’s work in our life together. And as time goes along, you come to realize that the differences are a good, complementary things that have built you both up.

*The world, the flesh, and the devil are all against marriage with a vengeance. I highlight the part played by flesh here.

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Just before the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, my wife and I went to my school district’s central office to meet with the retirement planner. After many questions I signed the papers to begin the process. I thought that I would be ambivalent about retiring, but my confidence that it was time to go grew as I filled out the paperwork and afterwards. That night I slept contentedly until around 4 AM, when I awoke thinking about retirement. I still had no hesitation, but a poem began to come explaining why I feel that it is time to go:

When the burning desire to teach
Is in its last throe
Gone the desire to grow and reach
Then it is time to go

Knowledge is sweet and learning is good
But when drive is low
To push another’s ought’s and should*
Then it is time to go

Against all odds some came to make
Understanding flow
But when each step uphill you take
Then it is time to go

Hard victories won, stories told
Wisdom you did sow
Delivery now stale and old
Then it is time to go

To new pursuits of love and life
Always change and grow
Putting aside the stress and strife
Then it is time to go

Now my long mission is complete
What good did I sow?
Confidence, ambivalence meet
Farewell, it’s time to go

 

Teaching is a stressful job, but I liked the interaction with students. For many years I felt that it was a calling. I have no regrets about teaching and I have no regrets about ending this stage of my life. I look forward to what God has in store for me. Now to start a new adventure.

*”Oughts and Shoulds” is phrase I have used over the years because it has significant meaning to me. But when I have voiced it, few others seem to understand what I mean. Legalism and compulsion say, “You ought to do this and you should do that,” or “You ought not and should not do that.” Grace says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify”, and “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23,31) But as teachers we are often compelled to compel the student who does not want to learn or make effort at learning. We should drop compulsory learning. Let the parents decide and compel those who won’t do their work to go home.

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