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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

My oldest brother turned 72 years old this past Friday. He asked for a hike for his birthday. His wife, two brothers, his daughter, and two grandsons came along. It was an exceptionally humid September day, but not unreasonably hot, particularly because the hike was in the shade of a forest. The particular forest was Lone Mountain State Forest in Morgan County, Tennessee. I drove with my older brother. He pointed out a waterfall along the Hwy TN62 as you go up onto the plateau.

Roadside Waterfall

The signage at the parking area shows all of the trail names, distances, and marker colors. I wish that I had a map to indicate how these interconnect. We had planned a 7.0 mile out and back hike to Coyote Point Overlook.

Below is the crew minus my brother’s wife who is taking the picture. We all look fresh and ready to go.

Some things, fungi in particular, have the ability to look both beautiful and ugly at the same time it seems to me.

The next button of a mushroom seems to reveal the face of a proper English gentleman with Mutton Chop sideburns and lace collar.

The Cumberland Plateau has shallow, sandy soil that dries out quickly. In a normal year, August and September would see soaring temperatures and many days without rain. That has not been the case this year, resulting in the mushrooms popping up through the leaf litter in profusion.

The next two pictures show an interesting variety with gill-like structures on the stalk. Do these shed spores like the cap? The second one looks to me like a bright version of a WWI army helmet set on top of the frilly stalk.

The ray of sunshine pointed out this next beauty to me. It looks like an overextended parasol. The green ribs were barely observable in the bright light and it was somewhat translucent.

Spreading Yellow False Foxglove Aureolaria patula
A mint variety?
Doll’s Eyes Actaea pachypoda

The following Earth tones of decaying root and leaf and cap contrast nicely with the green of renewal.

At a trail intersection about three miles out from the parking lot, we stopped to reconsider the length and difficulty of the hike. GPS and seasoned legs told us this was farther than the signs said. We milled around and considered and ended up eating lunch here before continuing.

I am confused by this spring cover. It seems that it was built (or rebuilt?) crooked on purpose. The spring needed cleaned out, having an orange rust appearance in the water (Click here for an explanation.).

The distance to the overlook was over 4 miles, so that the GPS of several relatives indicated around eight and a half miles of hiking by the time we finished. There are several very steep sections of trail, though not terribly long. The view looked out over the ridges of the Cumberland Plateau. If you look closely, you can see two smoke stacks which we believe are Kingston Steam Plant at perhaps 15 miles away. Ridges far distant behind that were discernible to the eye.

View from Coyote Point

So common to this area is the sandstone cap rock over limestone. This point is a flat area ending in a sandstone outcropping of perhaps 20 feet in height at the top of a ridge, sufficient for a decent view.

Coyote Point
With my older brother at the overlook (photo credit: my niece)
At the local mud puddle

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Partytime! The little man just turned two so we had a party. Grandparents don’t need much excuse to visit. Growing slowly but steadily, he is a wonder of modern medicine and a trophy of God’s grace given his heart challenges at birth. He takes a bit of time to warm up to you, and dons quite a serious expression, but he studies everything quite closely.

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Distracted attention

He is always up to go for a ride in the truck, especially since we went to see a front-end loader dump topsoil in the bed of the truck. 

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“I’m tied down at the moment.”

While daddy was in the store, we listened to hymns and pretended to be going somewhere.

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In the driver’s seat

Besides Mamaw and Grandpa, his uncle and wife came, along with a friend and her parents.

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Party!

The friend’s dad has a job collecting stories from WWI and II veterans and their families. Here the little man’s dad is telling his great-grandfather’s story of being in the Med, the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Pacific for over three years. The many stories friend shared were amazing. The one about General Patton’s personal pilot was fascinating. Escaping from a Swiss prison camp was amazing.

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War Stories

A storybook with moving parts is the best. I don’t know how much reading or literary learning goes on, but it is non-stop fun. Everyone wants to see the new gifts.

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Opening presents

Big Sis has a few stories of her own to tell. 

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Hanging out

The pictures don’t show it, but the little man actually laughed and ran around quite a bit. Others were focusing on their various forms of media.

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Always the serious one
It was good to be together. We moved dirt. We heard a sermon and sang. We ate a feast. We talked to family and new friends. We cleaned up dishes. We talked and talked and talked. We walked. We read and took pictures and googled. We came home tired. 

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I had small amount of business out town early this week, hardly seeming worth the 3 1/2 hours of driving I would have to do to accomplish it. I decided to make more of a trip out of it.

Firstly, I connected up with my present climbing partner for a quick outing to a hidden crag. You have to hike downhill a full mile to get to the creek side cliff. It is always cool and lush at ground level, but the wall dries fairly quickly. My partner led the 5.8 and an overhung 5.9. I followed by leading a 5.10 and we set up a 5.11 on toprope that I climbed clean on first try. As you may have discerned, the real workout is the 1 mile uphill hike after climbing. It is both cardio- and leg power intense. Our conversation reflected our different stages of life and our mutual love of God, truth, and the outdoors.

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Setting up for the warm-up, Jigsaw (5.8)

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“Belaying Blues”?

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Lowering after cleaning the climb

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Beautiful, cool setting for climbing

Secondly, I went to visit my middle son. I ordered Mexican to go and we went up to Wilbur Lake to eat at a picnic table at the boat ramp. People were pulling their canoes and Jon boats in and out and families were wading. The water comes off of the bottom of Watauga Lake above at about 40 degrees, bone aching cold. We waded and ate and talked and reminisced. We had left this area when he was just over 3 years old. I asked him if he remembered being here. He described it in an insightful way: “It was more like a snapshot than a video.” That pretty much pictured it. The area is called the Horseshoe because the Watauga River, now Wilbur Lake, has an extreme horseshoe shaped bend. The next picture shoes the late afternoon Sun shining over the central spine of the Horseshoe. If you walk up this spine, at one point you can look back and see both legs of the horseshoe below you. After supper he drove me up the short hill to the house we had lived in for those 7 years, 1986-1993. It was some of the best and worst times for our family. Best because of the closeness and nature and gardens and church and tangible provision of God. Worst because of the hard work and lack of money and difficulty in finding direction. In retrospect, I think the two correlate. Difficulty precipitates more trust in God and more awareness of His blessings. We went back to his house, watched a few Youtube videos, talked about his new job and went to bed early. He was up early and left earlier than he had said to get to another day of his job training. It was good to see his diligence and drive, not that I have ever seen it lacking.

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Bone Chilling Wilbur Lake

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Horseshoe Homeplace

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Son’s new leased house

Thirdly, I met up with my brother and sister-in-law for two hikes, one to see wildflowers and trees at Warrior’s Path State Park and the other to see the same plus several small waterfalls in a little gorge at Laurel Run Park on the north flank of Bays Mountain in Hawkins County. The first hike was short in distance but long in time because on this limestone slope below the campground down to the lake I saw many varieties of trees that I just don’t see in NC. I was pointing them out and how to identify them to my sister-in-law and my brother as he took interest.

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Three disparate barks

Though I use leaves as well, I was trained to recognize deciduous trees by their bark, learning them in the Fall mostly after the leaves had fallen off. The above three trees are from left to right, Black (or Wild) Cherry, Chincapin Oak (not common and the bark very nearly resembles White Oak), and Hickory (Mockernut or Shagbark most likely though it is hard to tell at this early stage). Before we left the park we had identified 36 trees species, only one not native. 

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Butterflies and Mildweeds

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One of those, “Which do you see first” pictures: 1) reflection of the tree 2) fish 3) foreground leaves and twigs.

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Holston River

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Some uncommon orchid late blooming.

The Laurel Run hike was a bit longer and steeper, but the shade and conversation were good. People had eked out living in these draws where they were left alone and used whatever resources were available. It is a pity that the American Chestnut was not one of the trees we saw. They exist here but are minuscule in size compared to the great trees of the past that supplied so much livestock with food. With the trip between parks and this second hike, my sister-in-law and I identified 52 species of trees with only 3 exotics. We are blessed with a bio-diverse area. 

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Cultural Residual

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Sis and Bro

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typical limestone layering and color; I wondered where the cave entrances are.

It seems most every wildflower is 10 days to two weeks late this year. We speculated that the warm March and very cool April may have been the cause.

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Rattlesnake Plantain not quite ready to bloom. 

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First waterfall- about 15 feet

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“Waterfall” 2 was about 4 feet but with an inviting pool

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Waterfall 3 was about 10 feet. These would be amazing looking after a good rain.

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Sandstone overlaying Limestone?

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Cultural Art: Tractor oil pan perhaps

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Wild Flocks and Stinging Nettle and a Butterfly that moved too fast for my camera.

I find it amazing how you can fill up a 24 hour period with so much that feeds the mind, emotions, and body. These in turn bring a measure of rest to the spirit, best experienced as you thank and praise the Creator for the beauties before you, the health to enjoy them, and the relationships which are more permanent than either.

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My children threw me a retirement party this past Saturday. They cooked the food, set up, and thoroughly cleaned up. It was all such a blessing. Four of my children and their spouses, all seven grandchildren, my three brothers and their spouses, and even my newest daughter-in-law’s parents were there. Besides lots of eating and general catching up, I played with grandchildren, helped make ice cream, and told stories. My oldest son’s three oldest children sang songs and recited Scripture. Most of the stories came from a little activity my son came up with. He had fourteen questions printed on a paper for attendees to answer about me. Later I gave answers. One of my sister-in-laws is also a retired teacher, so we kept the flow of stories going for quite some time. Earlier in the week the weather forecast had called for 92 degrees in the afternoon on Saturday, but clouds and Saharan dust kept the temperature to the low 80’s. And there were periodic breezes that kept the mosquitoes at bay. The gathering went well past the three hours set apart for it. I so hope we can find excuses to have these get-togethers on a regular basis.

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Trying out some new swings

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Newest grandchild

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All seven

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A mother story?

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Productive waiting

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Technical story?

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Healthy skepticism

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Youngest son and spouse

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Next to impossible to have 100% happy campers

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Still standing by the grace of God

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Rare to get us all together in the same place at the same time

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“His banner over me is love.”

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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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I love to observe the beauties of nature. Some of the following pictures are from before the pandemic and many are part of my coping mechanism since it has started. The first picture shows algae with what I believe to be a brown spore case. If I am wrong, I wish some algae expert would set me straight.

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Algae under a microscope

Cameras can be deceptive. The pizza place was actually rather dim with little points of light. We enjoyed the cauliflower crust pizza with organic toppings of veggies and cheese.

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Upscale Pizza place with my Valentine

It is convenient that my son has several downed trees in his side yard that I have cut off of a few times. I had never been so low on wood, oh, except for the time many years ago when I had been sick for several months and nearly ran out. At that time a friend felt sorry for me and brought some wood. The present wood is dry and off the ground with very little rot. The day was pleasantly cool for work.

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A little more wood needed

I gave one of my 9 year old Sunday School students an adult coloring book. The next Sunday she showed me the following:

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Sunday School student’s art

A mobile lab comes to our school each semester to do a DNA Electrophoresis Lab with our Biology students. It is a very effective use of their time.

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DNA Electrophoresis Lab

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migrating DNA in a gel

A friend of ours from Bible School days came by to visit. She is retiring from many years of missionary work in the Philippians. It has been a privilege to be in contact with her all of these years, following what God has been doing with and through her.

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A friend and missionary

All of the previous pictures were pre-pandemic. The following ones are various fresh air excursions since warning to keep apart from others. The trillium are going wild in a little triangle of woods about 1/2 mile from my house where I frequently walk.

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Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)

I like the beauty of my own yard in Spring as well.

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Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

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Just a week before the restrictive stay at home orders came, my daughter and two grandchildren came to visit.

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He can look so serious

Only 3/4 of a mile from the house is a small waterfall in a draw (small vale or notch for those of you from a different neck of the woods) surrounded by wooded suburbia.

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Neighborhood waterfall

We hiked one day to a much larger waterfall. It is a short but steep walk, which I would have thought nothing of had it not been for the little ones to help along. We have had so much rain lately that the ground keeps giving water.

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Upper Creek Falls

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Mama enjoys time outside, too

I can’t paint a still life, but I can appreciate one.

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Colors, Contrasts, and Tones

When my daughter went home, my granddaughter wanted to stay. We did several fun and relationship building things. When we went to the climbing gym I told her to watch me climb at first, knowing that she takes time to warm up to things. After about 45 minutes of following me around, she asked if she could have some climbing shoes. She was really quite good.

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More time together

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Only thing lacking was confidence

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roughed up a little

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Historic times

My wife is a wonderful cook. The only problem is her food doesn’t last long around our house with me there.

 

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Yet another fabulous dish from my favorite chef

On the way back from a doctor across the state line, I decided to stop for a leg stretcher. In warm weather it is one of the best and most crowded swimming holes.

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good flow

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Elk River Falls

Two more backyard blooms and a small neck of the woods trillium follow:

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Backyard Beauty

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Pontentilla sp.

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There is little for perspective, but this huge, perhaps 12″+ in diameter.

At 5 PM on this very day, they were closing down many outdoor venues, specifically including climbing areas. I went and got in a quick session since both gyms and crags are closed for the foreseeable future. So much time to go and so little availability.

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Mushroom Boulder

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View from just behind the boulder

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Galax

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Bloodroot and Wood Sorrel

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Wood Sorrel

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Bloodroot

Having not been outside much to climb lately, I was mostly shutdown by problems that I could previously do. I enjoy climbing for the mental and physical aspects. I needed some success before I went home and this is a good boulder for it.

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Warm-up Boulder

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Shelf Fungus

I bought this ground cover only last Spring and it is covering the ground!

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Verbana sp.

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Red Dogwood

I don’t know why it is named after a snake, but the vividness and pattern of the white lines on the leaves are fascinating:

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Rattlesnake Plantain

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Fiddleheads

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Mayapple

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Wisteria

Many trees can be identified to the species by how they are shaped. Even sometimes their reaction to heavy pruning still comes out identifiable. One bright blue day I took pictures of 8 or 10 treeforms. I won’t bore you with the lot of them but the general idea is there.

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Spruce treeform

If you know what fractals are, then you will see why I mention them before the white oak tree picture.

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Oak treeform

To end this random array of flower arrangements and outdoor excursions and such I give you one more flower that grows by my backyard shed. Enjoy what little joys and beauties you are afforded. They help you deal with the sad and ugly moments of life. They are gifts from a gracious Father who loves beauty and blessing.

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Star of Bethlehem

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The final one of my 5 children to get married was scheduled for the big event on April 4. Travel restrictions were beginning to be talked about and even instituted in one state. They decided to get married two weeks early. I got a call at 8:15 in the morning and was on the road by noon.

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Long distance travel; distance working

There were hours of good conversation and plenty of drivers to make the 15 hour trip seem shorter. 

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sunset over Alabama

We arrived at our destination in Texas at 2:45 AM. The next day was rest, a little distance, online work, getting to know people, and setting up for the wedding. It was surprisingly cool and rainy.

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Set up for the Reception Dinner

The venue has everything you need for a beautiful wedding. There is a two car garage full of props (everything you see in these pictures and more).

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making an aisle

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talented and generous bride

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cozy

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well equipped

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Preparing for a reduced crowd

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The owner told us that this venue had been the home of her family of 7. It would be roomy for a family of twelve, I think. 

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former roommate

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Almost time

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The Bride’s Parents

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The commitment is both a serious and joyous event.

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The Happy Couple

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Her family

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coats after the ceremony

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The couple, in God’s providence, instrumental in bringing them together:

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Rose Petals instead of rice or birdseed

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going away now

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A wedding before a pastor who reviewed the challenges and joys of the commitment of a man and woman before they made their vows and signed a covenant is a Christian event. The whole ceremony points to the larger event one day when the Bride of Christ, the Church, will be presented before the Groom, our Savior and Lord, Jesus. He has and is doing all of the work in presenting His Bride in pure white, purified from all spot or blemish. It seems odd that the One due all of the glory is pictured as standing in duller tones of attire, waiting for the glorious procession of His Bride. But He receives all of the glory for going to the extreme degree to bring about this transformation to present her in this fashion. A lifelong commitment lived out in marriage is the stronger picture of an eternal life lived with the glorious Savior in the abode He has prepared and to which He will whisk away His Bride for the Wedding Feast and life together.

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May God’s bountiful grace and goodness be poured out upon our newest granddaughter. If my source can be trusted, there are not five girls named Idellete in the whole of America. In light of the source of this name, Idellete Calvin, wife of the Reformer, John Calvin, it is a fine name. (Click here for more information on this godly woman.) We are thankful that our grandchildren will be raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord and do pray God’s abundant blessing upon their development, faith, and life work.

Idellete be patient and kind
Industrious and diligent
Faithful and studious of mind
For the Faith be vigilant

As your namesake be strong in faith
Bearing up under trials and loss
Trust always in what the Word saith
Shunning worldly pursuits as dross

Be a Joy to all who know you
For the Savior live all your life
Point the many to life anew
May you bring unity, not strife

May God give you joy in struggle
Peace in sorrow, patience each day
Responsibilities juggle
With power unceasingly pray

With all these things may God bless you
Lightness of heart to meet each day
Toughness that will carry you through
Desire always to God obey

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Who looks happier in this picture, Mamaw or the grandbabies? It was good to see them, talk to them, and hug on them this past weekend. It just doesn’t seem to happen enough. I also helped out my son-in-law a little with a room addition. Time and weather didn’t allow me to help much. We had good conversation and a blessed church service.

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With grandchildren 1 and 6.

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On our hike at Thanksgiving I challenged a great-nephew and niece to prepare for a backpacking trip next summer. Besides asking them to take regular brisk walks around their neighborhood, I offered to do day hikes building up to the overnight trip. Yesterday we went on the first of those trips: Sterling Gap to Mt. Sterling in the GSMNP. When they arrived at the meeting place, they had a cousin in tow. So the four of us enjoyed the strenuous 2 mile hill (~5.2 miles total) and the views from the ~50 feet fire tower. It was just cool enough to make walking comfortable and just overcast enough to make for better contrast in viewing distant peaks. We had interesting conversation and enjoyed the transition of the tree types as we increased in elevation. It’s time to get in shape for the next bigger hill!

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Waterville Hydroelectric Facility: Why does a hydroelectric facility have a chimney?

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The exit is in Tennessee but the hike is in North Carolina.

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Let do this!

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It simply is not 0.4 mile between the trail intersection and the tower at Campsite 38.

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Low elevation outliers

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Big outliers

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Spruce among decidies

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A great niece learning about Galax

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A break in the trees

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Incline

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Almost there

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Notice how it tappers, though you must know that perspective exaggerates the effect

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Mt S BM (Wow, 1928!)

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A camera with the proper filter would better catch what it really looked like with even more distant ridges appearing.

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NE more or less

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We made it. I wonder how any panes of glass survive in what must be a very windy site.

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Enjoying the view?

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Main ridge at Guyot to Cosby Knob

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Campsite 38

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Interesting perspective

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Do you see my great-nephew? Notice how perspective from here makes the tower appear straight-sided.

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After lunch relaxing

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Silly cousins!

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Can you tell which one is his sister?

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At the top and still smiling

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Survived many a storm and wind

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Black (or Wild) Cherry

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White Ash

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Beauty everywhere you look

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Almost down

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On the occasion of my 38th wedding anniversary yesterday,
I dedicate this poem to my good and loyal wife:

In sickness and in health
In poverty or wealth
Commitment I have made
Firm covenant was laid

Living love makes it sure
By God's Spirit made pure
The harder times become
More strength to overcome

Not in us two resides
With tempting, troubling tides
The strength to soldier on
With practice kindness hone

I don't know what to say 
My actions hurts betray
To quiet service go
When good feelings don't flow

But you make no mistake
There's far more here at stake
God's will and His glory
Bound up in our story

I love you more each year
Troubles make it more clear
Losing you would be hard
Like a painful glass shard

And now we onward trudge
No one but God our judge
Work and love together
Nothing our joy tether

Be more affectionate
More kind, compassionate
Consideration grow
Keep irritations low

How can we do these things?
When all hell at us flings
Troubles and trials each day
Our hearts and flesh fillet

I'll tell you beloved spouse
The love that's in this house
Comes from our God above
Spirit of peace and love

I'll never cease to care 
To grow in love and dare
To strengthen what is ours
'Til all see love flowers

We hope for better things
Our future with joy rings
With hope that ever clings
Until our spirit sings

In heaven we will be
Where God's face we will see
Not married at that time
But love will be sublime


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Time to renew the Thanksgiving tradition. Because of extended family gatherings, our Thanksgiving dinner has been moved to Friday. We had more than 30 people in attendance. I didn’t get around to saying more than “hi” to a few, but I did have some good conversations with others. However, I find that some of the best conversations are had on our Thanksgiving Day hike, which once occurred on Friday. This time around, two brothers, a sister-in-law, a great-nephew, a great-niece, and I made the trek. The car trip to and from is frequently of equal or greater length, but there is much scenery to take in and much catching up to do. We went to Wolf Creek Falls near the NC border and up from Del Rio, TN.

(Interjection: I just saw something neat. The big drops of a beginning rain shower began to pelt down on the yard outside the window. When I heard it, I stood up and looked out to see large drops smacking leaves on the ground, making them look like Mexican jumping beans. Showers starting with large drops are not as common this time of year when it is cold and there are leaves on the ground.)

The sky was flawlessly blue and the temperature was refreshingly chilly. The trail was an old logging road and flat. But after one creek crossing and the second one going to require wading, my two brothers and sister-in-law decided to turn back. I didn’t want to stop, so I volunteered to go on with the great-nephew and great-niece. Of five total creek crossings the second one was the only one requiring wading. The other three went back to the vehicles and executed a long circumvention to a shorter approach from above the waterfall. They arrived 3 minutes after we did. We all enjoyed the process and the conversation.20191128_11105820191128_115936

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Largest Frazier Magnolia leaf I’ve ever seen. Umbrella and Bigleaf are supposed to be bigger, but you could fool me.

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Mushroom button and possibly three different kinds of oak leaves (Southern Red, Northern Red, Black), hophornbeam (“musclewood”) and red maple

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Approach glimpse

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Unintended fascinating shadow, oh, and Galax

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Hornworts and Liverworts, Batman!

 

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Over the Edge

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Near the Edge

 

 

 

 

 

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A brother, a great-niece, a great-nephew

Wolf Creek Falls
Serious conversation (picture credit: older brother)
Wolf Creek Falls Selfie
I think us oldesters need to learn something about how to pose for a selfie (picture credit: older, pictured brother)

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Double Cascade

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In Biology class we are studying cell reproduction. The somatic or body cells reproduce by mitosis, yielding genetically identical daughter cells. The gametes (sex cells: egg and sperm) come about by a “double mitosis” as it were called meiosis, that yields genetically divergent cells that have half as much genetic material. Biologically, when an egg and sperm combine you have all of the potential of the mature person. This single cell is called a zygote. After several mitotic cell divisions the zygote is called a blastula. As the cells continue to multiply, they differentiate into various major body parts and systems in what is now called the gastrula. These early stages with their various names are clumped under the name embryo. From 8 weeks on the differentiation is significant enough to recognize some large body form features and the embryo is called a fetus. Most people recognize the fetus as a baby even before he/she is born. The baby becomes an infant, the infant a toddler, the toddler a child, the child an adolescent, the adolescent a teenager, the teenager a young adult, then middle aged adult then senior adult. From fertilization until death the organism is a live person with all of the potentialities of the original zygote. None of us have reached our full potential, but that in no way makes us less human. Therefore, the zygote all the way through the old goat is a human fully deserving the respect of other humans and full protection of the law. Abortion makes no logical sense.

I had a student the other day want to present to me a position speech she was supposed to give for English class as a way to practice it. Several other students were in attendance in my classroom for this “study hall/remediation” session, so she had a willing audience. Her speech contrasted the conditions, laws, and attitudes about abortion in Missouri and Illinois. Then she ended by giving her opinion as the assignment required. She declared that she is pro-life. She stated along the way that she believed that the baby is a human and should not be aborted except under two circumstances. Her two exceptions were rape and incest. I ask her if the child conceived by rape or incest was also human. She conceded that they are human. “Then,” I asked, “Why shouldn’t he/she be afforded the same protections as any other baby whom you claim should not be aborted?” She replied that their conception was a horrible situation that would be harmful to the mother, the baby’s future, and the wider family. “So,” I continued, “You are saying it is OK to abort this baby based on feeling rather than law.” She replied, “The mother has a right to make her own decision.” “But you just said that she did not have a right to abort a baby not conceived by rape or incest,” I rejoined. I went own to say that we cannot ultimately rule by feelings because the whole society will and is falling apart. We must rule by law consistently and that her perspective about abortion did not make logical, legal, or moral sense.

I would throw this one small bone to the pro-abortionists. At least when they desire and demand abortion at any stage for any reason, they are being logically consistent. They are not being morally or legally consistent, however, because according to their scheme, no one has protection under the law. The fetus, like it or not, baby, is fully human at conception. Therefore, they must be given protection like all other humans, or else no humans are guaranteed protection. And of course, this is true. Euthanasia is an extension of abortion “rights”. An “all-wise” doctor, sanctioned by an “all powerful” government decides when the infirm are no longer human, just as they decided when the fetus began to be called human.

Claiming that I have no right to speak about the subject of abortion because I am a man is just another means of ruling by feeling. Besides, I have worked very hard, and by God’s grace, and raised five children. I pointed out to this young logician in my classroom that the problem of unwanted pregnancies could easily be solved by relaxing the adoption laws so that the many people wanting children could raise happy children conceived in less than ideal circumstances. The circumstances of no human are perfect. We live in a fallen world. Much better to make a child’s circumstances better than end his/her life and destroy the mother emotionally and sometimes physically.

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I don’t know if I have enough time even now, but I have wanted to share some thoughts and pictures concerning my second son’s wedding that was on August 24th. The typical wedding comment is, “It was a beautiful wedding.” or “It was a beautiful ceremony.” There are two things that can be meant by that. It was visually beautiful and/or it was beautiful in content. Certainly my son’s wedding was visually beautiful: sunny day, aesthetically pleasing, hilltop venue (Whitestone Chapel), and beautifully dressed young people. But I see the true beauty of a wedding to be in the genuineness of the ceremony, which I define as a combination of giving glory to God, the creator and sustainer of marriage, and matching the couple’s personality by revealing a heartfelt commitment and participation in the ceremony (they are not rote repeating spectators).  And it was that. Beyond the traditional vows which they repeated, they had written what they called promises to one another. My son asked me later, “Do you think we collaborated on those?” I said that it seemed likely since they followed the same line of thinking and simultaneously were complimentary to one another. No, he said, “We wrote them separately and then read each others.” He said that the only change she made was to add a comment about coffee similar to his, a moment of levity in the covenant of their promises. The two hymns, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and “Amazing Grace” focused our attention to how gracious a God we have, Who not only saves us but gives us all good things to enjoy. The pastor directed our thoughts to the reality of how difficult marriage is, “two sinners living together”, and how the need for love is not just a feeling but a commitment to do what is best for our spouse. The ceremony was God glorifying throughout.

Another thing for which I am very thankful is the number of family members who were able to attend. Many family members from my wife and my extended families were able to attend. The reception afterward was held at a barn at the bride’s family property with 150+ people in attendance. All had feared the August scorching heat, but some clouds and a cool breeze prevailed and it was quite pleasant. I felt that the happy couple were carried along by God’s blessing the whole day, and may it be true throughout their lives.

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Rehearsal

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Pianist

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Bride’s Oldest Sister and Family

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Mamaw and oldest grandson

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Bride’s younger siblings

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Amazing, long preparations and carry through

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‘We’re happy but it’s a long day.’

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Bride’s mother and the Pastor and friends

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My wife beside Bride’s parents

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Taking it in stride

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Fellowship

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Uncle with the little chunk

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Hilltop Venue

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Overlooking the Lake

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The Wedding Party

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My Oldest and Family

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My Youngest and Wife

Bean Family

My Daughter and Family

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My Third Son and Roommate (This Son got engaged the next weekend)

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The Growing Clan minus the Married Couple

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The Grandchildren

5 Children

The Children

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Always in Costume

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The Groom with the Pastor and His Wife

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A Portion of My Family

 

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If desperate times call for desperate measures, then tremendous provision calls for tremendous thanksgiving. Our youngest grandchild was born just over a year ago with heart problems. He had major heart surgery about 9 months later. Though small, he is now growing and happy with good skin color. It is amazing that he is alive and progressing. His father decided that in the light of God’s gracious provision of his child’s safety and health and the many people who showed concern, helped out, and prayed that a birthday party might not be enough. Instead, he decided to invite anyone who had been even distantly involved to come for a half day celebration of his son’s life and God’s goodness. 50 people responded that they would come. In the time my wife were able to be there, from 1-5:30 PM, the people came and went at a steady but reasonable pace for meet and greet. Good conversations, good food, and many stories of God’s goodness abounded.

After a year of multiple hospital stays, procedures, tests, and surgery, it is good to see the little man at home, content, and growing. God is good even when things are hard, but we celebrate His goodness when He is gracious to care for us with such largesse. His all sufficient grace is good and praiseworthy and full of joy.

In retrospect, I wish that I had taken pictures of the many people who came, but my few good pictures are of my own family gathered to encourage and give thanks. Also, notice that the little guy is almost always serious. He will go to anyone, probably because he is used to being held by nurses, but he takes a serious look at whoever picks him up.

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First Arrival Greeting

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Mama Talk

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Very Involved Sister

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A Few Moments Together

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Close Siblings (He smiles more often with his sister than any other time.)

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A Story and An Inquiry

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Intense Little Video (Uncle Time)

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With Uncle and Aunt

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With Those Swingin’ Uncles

Gift from a Pilot

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Odd picture: It must be blurred because I was shaky. Her face must be in focus because her movement matched my shakiness. That gives it a cool sense of motion.

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Healthy and Happy

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Mamaw Loves Those Grandchildren

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My daughter was reminiscing about a backpacking trip we took when she was 20 years old. As I pointed out to her, I have always been bad with ‘when’s’ and am slipping with regards to ‘what’s’. So, she reminded me that it was in August of 2008 and that I had blogged about it (see “Casting Cares”). That former blog entry was more about a few impressions of the trip than a diary thereof. At her request I am posting more pictures. I can’t resist a little commentary, but I will keep it to a minimum. Check out the map of the route at the end.

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You can’t hide forever

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I like lichen for the patterns and color variety.

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Beech Gap Trail

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Mutual Support

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Fir Cones

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You can just resolve the fire tower on top of Mt. Sterling.

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Water Filter Blues

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New Style Shelter

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Old style blogging (trail journal)

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“Why do we do these things? I will tell you…Tradition.” Based on the elevation and approximate sequence of pictures, the location is near Eagle Cliffs (elevation 5781 ft.).

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Remembering former days on the trail

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A goodly sized Red Spruce

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The Happy, Rested Crew

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Bee Balm or Oswego Tea?

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Hog Wallow (Russian Bore, that is)

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Tired turns to fatigue

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I don’t even know.

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The Cucumber Magnolia seed pod begged to be photographed.

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Occasional Surprises in the GSMNP

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When it is sharp or slick or both, you have to watch you feet.

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Watching the wading crew

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Spores Galore

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Cool looking mushroom; frustration of automatic focus camera

08-08-16 Backpacking

Trip began and ended at Round Bottom, hiking counter-clockwise. The first night we stayed at Laurel Gap Shelter. The second night we stayed at Pecks Corner Shelter.

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The title comes from the notion that my extended family gathers every Thanksgiving at my oldest brother’s house for a meal and remembrance of God’s goodness to us. That is what feasts in the Old Testament were about, sacrificing animals to recognize and acknowledge one’s sin followed by celebration and feasting with family and friends over God’s goodness to forgive, provide, and protect.

Recently, because of growth within our family, we have had several additional gatherings for meet and greet. The latest one was planned for Independence Day, 2019. That comes under thankfulness for protection within this great country. Anyone thinking we could have what we do without God’s blessing is foolish, and anyone who implicates God in the evil that sinful men and women of this country have promulgated is without any sense. We are blessed and we don’t deserve it, therefore, God has been good to us. <-Period, read it?

On the way over the mountain, my wife and I stopped at the small westbound I-40 rest area in the highest gap for lunch. On our way to the bathroom, we saw several bunches of planted flowers. The edge of the woods had many wildflowers, notably Solomon’s Seal gone to seed. The entrance to the restrooms is the most busy corridor in the rest area, but it also has a dry ledge for mud builders. I took pictures and described to two ladies why it was a barn swallow instead of a cliff swallow, tree swallow, or swift. (Besides facial pattern the forked tail is a big give away.) Several Swallowtails landed among the plantain to warm their blood in the cool, sunny air. The traffic is close and noisy, people are coming and going, and the creatures just accommodate and adapt as needs be. I am sure some adapt by staying well out of range, but I was amazed at how others live so close.

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2 Beauties
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Barn Swallows
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Built on the Rock
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Eastern Swallowtail

Speaking of accommodating, my oldest brother and sister-in-law are very accommodating to have a family party. I think we are sensing the passing of the years, the incredible blessing of extended family, and the need to connect more often and more deeply. I was so busy talking and playing and eating that I almost forgot to take pictures. My wife and I counted 30 souls in attendance, the majority under 15. Many of my children and theirs were not able to attend. They have 15 grandchildren and I have 6.

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A Story, I’ll be bound
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Whack it hard! The “Birdie” is in motion just above her head over the white SUV.
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Get ready…seriously.

The next day, my older brother and I decided to go on a hike while my wife visited her sisters. The grandchildren wanted to go, but the pictures below reveal why that wouldn’t be safe. My brother wanted to visit a tristate marker on the way. It was a very unheralded spot, tying a point on a map to an actual location in the real world. Lines have thickness on paper, but lines in the world have only one dimension, length. It may seem as trivial to most, but the connection between the two is most fascinating, particularly as you stand over the spot.

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Grandchildren saying ‘goodbye’
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Another Tri-state intersection: The arch says, “Tristate Corner Paradise Point Resort”
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Which state is the camera in? And which way is north?

My brother had been to Foster Falls previously in winter when there was abundant rain. I was not surprised to find it simply dripping. This is the way of streams and falls on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. The pool was quite deep and must be well sealed to keep so much water with so little input. It was a beautiful sight, nonetheless.

After the falls, we walked about a mile along the base of the cliff, reconnoitering the sport climbing for a possible future push. I attempted a few pictures but the quality was sub-par due to contrast of shade at the base and full sunlight on the cliff. With the heat it would be best attacked in Fall. The walk back along the sandstone caprock was significantly flat with sandy spots and intermittent seeps, all dry and baked this summer day. And yet a succulent was thriving on the rocky, shallow depressions, Fameflower. My sister-in-law, who is very knowledgeable about wildflowers, named it and described it from this picture I texted her. She said she had never actually seen one in bloom in nature owing to the fact that it only blooms a few hours in the mid-day heat. You frequently don’t know what you are looking at until someone points it out later. I saw 10 or more blooms at the edge of thicker grasses, but only stopped to take a picture of this one because of its extra-ordinarily stressed environment- kinda a “bloom where you’re planted” scenario. It turns out that they are just tough as nails and out compete other plants for such sites.

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Foster Falls- capstone, shallow soil, and infrequent rain result in a boom or bust flow
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Mud Daubers? Cliff Swallows? Dried Mud? No, it’s pitted limestone!
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Topview of Foster Falls
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Phemeranthus calcaricus, Limestone Fameflower
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Natural Pavement, aka Sandstone Cap; Unnatural Meadow, aka Powerline Right-of-way

We made it home late that night, tired but blessed by the family time and brushes with nature.

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The weekend after Resurrection Celebration my wife and I went the opposite direction from Knoxville, to Concord, VA, to visit our daughter, her husband, and two grandchildren. We enjoyed much good conversation and a very relaxed time. Some of the pictures below are not the best, but well record the joy of the time together. In two weekends we had the privilege of seeing all five of our children and all six of our grandchildren, along with some 30 extended family members. It wasn’t even a planned family reunion time.

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Little Ewok with his magic jewel

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Mealtime

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Doting Big Sister

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Not really wanting to eat just now

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Watching the little man

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Mamaw’s favorite thing

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Firelight and Family

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Enjoying a Spring evening

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Feeding time again

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A nearby scene; living in the country is nice.

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Oak-Hickory stand at the rest area

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Crimson Clover in a neighbor’s field

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I told my brother that my wife and I would be in town to visit our children and grandchildren Resurrection Day weekend. Might we get together with him? He replied that he would get the whole family together at his eldest son’s house for a party. Along with his wife, he has three children with three spouses and 13 grandchildren and one on the the way. One was not there. Of my five children, three were there, one with his wife and four children and the another with his fiancee. My youngest brother was also there with his wife. My ciphering puts us at 34 souls. The clan is growing. If you count my missionary brother and his wife and my two other children with their spouses and two more grandchildren, that brings the clan to 42 at present. The last picture is of my 3rd born and his fiancee at his church breakfast on Sunday morning. The conversation seemed to go through catching up and news, serious political or religious conversation, and then crazy old stories, particularly about growing up in my parent’s house. 

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Mothers are always busy

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Food and Fellowship

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Do crossed arms mean it’s a serious discussion?

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Are we skeptical?

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“Candy Land” Carousel

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My second son and his fiancee

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Scotch-Irish blood runs in our veins on both sides of the family. I had not thought all that much of it until I took my young family to the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina many years ago. My oldest son has never been the same. Combined with significant family history studies, he frequently dresses himself and his children in kilts and tartans. His oldest son has a very Scottish name, the middle name of Royal descent and protectorate of our own family name. So, it was no surprise when his eldest son asked for a Scottish birthday party, complete with dressing up, listening to bagpipes and ballads, and Scottish food. The boiled eggs deep fried in sausage, the bannocks, and the leek salad were of most interest to me and very good. With my wife, our eldest son and wife, their four children, and two of our other sons, one with his wife, we had quite a merry event. We even shot rifles and a pistol on an appropriately drizzly day. Check out some of the festivities:

Black Watch?

Old Duffer

The Feast Begins

Sprawled out Uncle

The Matron is ever multi-tasking with a smile

This little box can capture pictures of you!

Mamaw Observes

Dressed for the Feast

Holding up the Royal Standard of Scotland

“Please, kind sir, what is going on in my house?”

Cuddly Moment

Intense Moment

Mamaw gave me new sandals.

Changing of the guard

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