Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

The opportunities to do things with my children have been spread out more as time has gone along. People get busy, new responsibilities and challenges come along, and time is stretched. So it was good to take two short hikes with my youngest two sons and a daughter-in-law. Coming from two hours away and a half hour away, they met at my house at just after 10 AM. We drove to Catawba Falls, seeing four waterfalls in a mile and a half stretch. Along the way there is an old powerhouse built in 1923 by Daniel Adams. (1,2) My son inspects the foundation and well where the generator once resided.

His wife awaits our return to the trail and bridge on this bright, crisp day.

Right next to the powerhouse is a recent pedestrian bridge from which my son is considering the course and flow of the creek. These new alloys of steel that corrode protectively are a boon for non-maintenance. The trees in this area have been left alone for probably 70-80 years and are beginning to grow decently large.

A tributary crosses the trail a little further up. Just below the trail is a large pile of boulders and little waterfall tumbling between the boulders.

To the right of the falls and pool is a curious little cave that would be a good home for a water side creature. Tree roots provide a eerie entrance curtain.

She patiently awaits our silly exploring again. The boulders are fascinating with their significant overhangs.

The Lower Catawba Falls is a double falls, the upper part caused by the remains of the powerhouse dam. The dam is perhaps a 1/4 mile upstream from the powerhouse. I feel sure that this distance along the creek is to gain sufficient head (3), and therefore pressure, to run the generator. The water looks inviting, but icicles lined the edges of the falling water from the 20 degree morning.

The biggest show is the Middle Catawba Falls. It is said to be a 105 feet cascade. I don’t know where that is being marked from, but I’d say more. I have some better pictures of it when I went with my church group in September. (see “Cascade, Not Falls“) Today I was capturing our enjoyment of the scene.

It’s good to see the guys together and happy and enjoying the outdoors.

In this picture of me you can see icicles just up and left of my head. Pictures of falls in full sunlight are hard. In person the ever changing crystals of reflective light are enlivening to the eyes and mind, but my cellphone doesn’t know what to do with all of that light.

I wanted to see the Upper Catawba Falls. So my sons and I figured out a way to get safely above the middle falls. Recorded as 55 feet high, it is the most beautiful and symmetrical of the three.

I learned a little fun activity when I was at Machu Picchu, Peru. (“Peru 4“) I would go around and ask couples if I they would like for me to take picture of them with their camera. Being a cameraman, I know you can’t take the picture and be in the picture effectively (4). Several people offered to take my picture in return. Being by myself and wanting to record my presence there, it was a welcome offer. So this time I offered an exchange. I took their picture with their phone and they took our picture with my phone. Try it sometime. People are appreciative.

On the way back down there are good views and it is steep.

Next we took a 50 minute drive to the Bearwallow Mountain Trail. I should have taken a few pictures of the very open (no underbrush) woods on the way up (5). The large field at the top with the closely cropped grass and numerous variety of towers, both old and new, was a surprise to me. The short grass turns out to be the result of regular pasturing of cattle.

We lounged and ate in the grass and calm air. There had been a cold wind on the north and west slope on the hike up, but it was calm here.

My cellphone telephoto is not good but it does reveal mountains in the county where I reside some 45 miles away ‘as the crow flies’. The little pointy one is Table Rock and the asymmetrical one two peaks to the left is Hawk’s Bill.

The soil is very shallow at the top of this peak and the metamorphised granite pops out here and there.

Sadly, the old firetower is fenced off. It must provide a truly unobstructed 360 degree view.

The largest domed shaped peak on the horizon is Mt. Pisgah. Even my old eyes could discern the huge tower that resides thereupon.

I present this similar picture for the purpose of showing how large the field is. My three hiking companions stand halfway between the two power poles awaiting my return from picture taking.

The wind was still cutting on the north aspect when we descended, but the conversation was warm and lively, like the greening grass and bright sunshine in the pre-Spring higher elevation we enjoyed this day. I am thankful to God for time outdoors with family and hope that more will come with more of my family many times in the future.

  1. catawbafallspowerhousesidephotobuck.jpg (800×498) (wordpress.com)
  2. Catawba Falls Trail Map (hikingupward.com)
  3. Hydraulic head – Energy Education
  4. I don’t consider most selfies to be effective, that is, good picture taking, and certainly not to be compared to a good portrait.
  5. I commented to my sons that the “woods is sure clear.” My youngest pointed out that it should be “woods are clear.” He was right, but it caused me to be amazed once again at the crazy language we speak. I think that the reason I didn’t have subject verb agreement was our use of the word woods. Based on reading, I am confident that past usage was “wood” rather than “woods”. Therefore, the “wood is”, referring to the forest.

Read Full Post »

Our daughter came to cook and freeze food for us so that I could get some reprieve from a combination of outdoor and house work. While and because she worked and because the weather and other responsibilities that didn’t allow too much outdoor work, I spent some time with the grandchildren.

Besides cooking, there was also homeschool, because in homeschool, “school is never out”. Of course, the saying alludes to the fact that all situations are opportunities, like the more traditional one pictured and all others, to learn and grow.

One day we took a walk at the local greenway, except we got off the beaten path to see something different. I guess we will call it a fieldtrip.

We actually walked about 2 miles after an hour or so of playing on the Beanstalk Playfort*.

The next day brought continuous rain, so while the my daughter worked and my wife and grandson napped, my granddaughter (E) and I went to the climbing wall.

With a little suggestion and growing confidence with exposure, she began using her toes more and getting to the top more. She met a girl her age with whom she climbed abit.

This was only E’s second time climbing but she enjoyed it thoroughly.

The old man couldn’t stay off of the wall either, even though he’s been declared a bit “off the wall” at times.

The unexpected part was that E had picked up my phone and was taking pictures.

We asked the employee behind the desk and new climbing friend of mine to take a few pictures. I would like to encourage you to check out Bigfoot Climbing Gym**.

I did a traverse around the children’s wall, which was quite challenging, especially these pink and orange holds. Actually, I couldn’t go up them at all and barely traversed across*** them.

We had a fun time and I read to her several chapters of “Tales of the Resistance”, second in a three book series, over the five days they were here. All were encouraged, but I think my daughter was just tired.

*Our local playground pictured here from the website, third picture down on the left.

**https://bigfootclimbinggym.com Check out the 1st anniversary events. It would be a good, inexpensive way to check out the gym.

***Is “tranversed across” a redundant phrase, or does it communicate, as I am trying to, that as I traversed I went across these to climbs?

Read Full Post »

I want to give glory to God for my brother and sister-in-laws’ Golden Anniversary. The following is a tribute to their faithful union enabled by God’s faithfulness in theirs lives. So many of my memories of those years are deeply personal, but with a slight bit of vagueness, making it public seems no breech of trust to me.

As I consider the blessing of your 50 years of marriage, I know that your commitment to God resulting in your commitment to each other and God’s work and in and through you has brought about much blessing for others. I am one example of that. It seems that one of my characteristics is that of having been a struggler, sometimes because of poor choices and other times just as the result of life in this world. Through all of that you have supported, encouraged, counseled, and prayed for me and my loved ones. Whether it was teaching me to throw a baseball or strengthen relationships in my life, you have helped me repeatedly.

As a brother in blood and in Christ, you have always encouraged and supported me. I think perhaps you saw that in my struggling that I desired to do what is right though with much floundering and confusion at times. You quietly helped in any way that you could. You performed the marriage ceremony uniting me to my lifelong partner and counseled me in relationships within my family. We enjoyed the outdoors together and reveled in the truth of God’s Word and truth of His creation of all things in the way that He said it happened. You opened your home and helped me financially and many times offered to.

Your testimony to God’s love is strong. You came along and did not merely own your husband, but owned his family as your own. As we have agreed, we are as big sister and little brother. As sister-in-law and sister in Christ, you have always been a great support to me and my family. You have brought much encouragement to our struggling family and provision and laughter to our gatherings. You have not been afraid on occasion to say bluntly that I was pursuing a wrong course. I know you have prayed for me and you are ever an affectionate sister. We enjoyed discussions of wildflowers and trees and singing of hymns.

Because, as you have said, you have put Christ first in your lives and in your life, your union these 50 years has been a blessing to me and to many. It is and will reap deep benefits to your children and grandchildren for generations to come. This is what we mean by a godly heritage. As the psalmist said of Israel, “God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.” (Psalm 67:7) Your marriage is and will be a blessing as you run this race well to the end.

Read Full Post »

While preparing to lead two songs for Sunday worship, I was drawn to the words and odd tune*, by Western standards, of the first song, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. The three verses translated and frequently used in English hymnbooks of the nine originally written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in the late 4th century focus on Christ’s eternality and the praise due to Him. My meditation focused on the first verse:

“Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!”

The concept of begotten of the Father is indeed a mystery. Mothers bear children and fathers beget children, but Christ was not created, so what does it mean? Afterall, this idea is used by the skeptics and cults to deny His divinity and eternality, both of which Scriptures clearly teach. I sought out commentary and interpretation but most importantly related Scripture passages. I discovered two ways in which Jesus Christ is “the only begotten” of the Father.

In the story about Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, God uses the term only son when He commands the act and after He prevents him.** As it says in Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” (Hebrews 11:17-18 NASB1995) How was Isaac his only begotten son when he had an older son, Ishmael? Verse 18 gives the answer: “In Isaac…” In other words, Isaac had a special relationship with his father. We are brothers and sisters who are in Christ by faith in Him. Therefore, since Christ is our older brother (Hebrews 2:11), God the Father has many children also. But there is little doubt that Christ has a special relationship with the Father since He is the second person of the Godhead. So the first reason Christ is the only begotten is the uniqueness of His relationship to the Father.

Jesus says something in John 8:42 that has long bothered me because I didn’t know why He seemingly repeats Himself. Does He repeat for emphasis, because that was a cultural way of focusing the hearers’ attention, or because it really isn’t repetition? “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”” As I considered this turn of words, I considered that “proceeded forth” is a good definition for begotten. In eternity past, and therefore not marked by time, Jesus proceeded forth from the Father. This is not a moment of production but of introduction as God, being one in substance with the Father. Having “come from” God is the act of having “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) I think that Jesus was declaring to these unbelieving Pharisees that He was both God and Man- God by way of “proceeded forth” and Man by way of “have come from”. The second way in which He is the only begotten of the Father is proceeding forth from the Father and revealing “His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father” when “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Jesus is Eternal God, revealed in the flesh. As “Alpha and Omega” He is the “Source” of all things and the “Ending” point of all that ever will be. To Him be praise and glory!

*It was written as plainsong, which means that it has no meter.

**Genesis 22

Read Full Post »

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.

20200801_091040

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. 

20200801_091259

“I’m tied down at the moment.”

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

20200801_101204

In the driver’s seat

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

20200801_151846

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.

20200801_151910

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.

20200801_151938

Opening presents

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

20200801_161612

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.

20200801_174658
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. 

Read Full Post »

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.

20200713_113853

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

20200713_134935

“Belaying Blues”?

20200713_134956

Lowering after cleaning the climb

20200713_143532

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.

20200713_182808

Bone Chilling Wilbur Lake

20200713_183101

Horseshoe Homeplace

20200623_180559

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.

20200714_101754

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. 

20200714_110406

Butterflies and Mildweeds

20200714_100735

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

20200714_110450

Holston River

20200714_102559

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. 

20200714_133803

Cultural Residual

20200714_141524

Sis and Bro

20200714_141725

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.

20200714_141946

Rattlesnake Plantain not quite ready to bloom. 

20200714_142232

First waterfall- about 15 feet

20200714_144237

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

20200714_144835

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

20200714_144915

Sandstone overlaying Limestone?

20200714_145118

Cultural Art: Tractor oil pan perhaps

20200714_153739

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

20200627_094313

Trying out some new swings

20200627_095322

Newest grandchild

20200627_101148

All seven

20200627_112643

A mother story?

20200627_112701

Productive waiting

20200627_112708

Technical story?

20200627_112719

Healthy skepticism

20200627_112731

Youngest son and spouse

20200627_101329

Next to impossible to have 100% happy campers

20200627_125054

Still standing by the grace of God

20200627_125134

20200627_125303

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

20200627_125946

“His banner over me is love.”

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

My son, his wife, a friend, and I went hiking in the Gorge last Friday. The temperature was perfect, the skies were deep blue, the wildflowers popping and beautiful, the conversation enjoyable, and the hiking strenuous. We went down by way of the Sandy Flats Trail which is on maps but no longer marked or maintained. In places the trail was easy to follow, but in others downed trees and shifting creek obscured any remnant. It was always extremely steep with actual rock scrambles in several places. I am glad that we went in this way instead of coming out this way, because we would have been discouraged when tired. Instead, it was an adventure with many undisturbed spots for wildflowers and jutting rock outcroppings.

20200417_145721

Steep descent via Sandy Flats Trail next to Wiseman’s View

20200417_145905

Newlyweds on a jaunt in the woods

20200417_145909

Crazy Friend

20200417_150244

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra eximia)

20200417_151138

Wake-robin Trillium (Trillium erectum)

20200417_153813

Showy Orchis (Gelaris spectablis)

20200417_154513

expanding tree Shelf Fungus (or Bracket Fungus; Polypore)

20200417_154810

Linville River

20200417_155630

Sandy Flats?

Next, we turned up gorge toward Babel Tower. My son felt like the Sun would beat us to our destination, so he set out on a fast pace. With taking pictures here and there, I had the hardest time keeping up. The Gorge is so narrow down by the river that at times you are only a few yards horizontal from the river but 1 to 2 hundred feet above it.

20200417_160252

Trail on the Edge

20200417_160353

Notice the rounded cut outs in the far bank from flood scouring.

20200417_161201

Blue-flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

20200417_164051

Tower opposing Babel Tower

I am beyond frustrated with the autofocus. In one attempt, I even tried to put a large leaf in the immediate background to force the nearer focus and it still chose 1/5 of the field of view and focussed further away. But I did record a flower that I have not seen often. I saw several of these plants as we went along.

20200417_164218

Sessileleaf Bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia) with violets below

Perhaps the most classic and beautiful view of the Gorge is from Babel Tower toward Hawksbill, Table Rock, Little Table Rock, and Chimneys:

20200417_170029

From Babel Tower downstream

The river goes around three sides of the rock outcropping called Babel Tower. A wide angle lens could record in 30 degrees of field of view the upstream and downstream river flowing at an angle about 60 degrees downward. This is extreme topography.

20200417_170158

radical descent

It is always good to have someone to share the journey and the view with, whether the day be pleasant or strenuous, or both.

20200417_170223

And to think, God is pleased to share the journey and the beauty with us and one day bring us to dwell with Him for eternity.

Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

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

20191128_121912

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

20191128_123716

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

20191128_130404

Approach glimpse

20191128_131232

Unintended fascinating shadow, oh, and Galax

20191128_131647

Hornworts and Liverworts, Batman!

 

20191128_130812

Over the Edge

20191128_130958

Near the Edge

 

 

 

 

 

20191128_131647

20191128_131429

20191128_131835

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)

20191128_131804

Double Cascade

20191128_131411

Read Full Post »

I had another few moments of reflective insight upon waking this morning. All kinds of things bubble up when the pressure is only released for a few moments. It works for uncapped sodas and beleaguered minds alike.

Yesterday was an odd day for me. I was questioning my long-term purpose continuing where I am, doing what I am doing. For many years that was not a question as I felt confident as to my whereabouts and ‘whyabouts’. On top of that, my lesson plans were not the most gorgeous pedagogy, rather boring to be frank, and not having the time or creativity to fix it this time around. Add to that the fact that for some reason, for which I had no clue of at the time, I didn’t feel well. In this state of mind and body I experienced what is not an uncommon pair of interactions with two students.

The first interaction happened about noon. This class has informed me that they don’t want me to say “Good morning” when they arrive in class at 11:35 AM, but instead, “Good mid-day.” In the middle of lecture, I stood off to the side preparing to interpret what was on the screen in front of us all. I felt slightly nauseated and when I looked at the screen my eyes were sufficiently blurry to not be able to add memory (1) and read what it said. I took my glasses off to see if they had some outrageous smudges on the lenses and clean them anyway since I can’t really see them. The students were still copying the screen so that there was not an awkward moment. One student nearby looked up at me, having had me a previous semester, had read my facial expressions many times, and said, “Are you OK, Mr. F?” Rubbing my eyes and replacing my glasses I quietly said, “No.” She replied, “Maybe you should sit down.” I was struck by the utter kindness in her words and tone of voice. I was also secretly chuckling at how old a grey-bearded 59 year-old must seem to a 16 year-old. I was able to recover by using my peripheral vision to discern the screen and continue and a few moments later at my instruction the students were working away quietly on a worksheet practicing the concepts that we had just gone over. I went and sat down and the girl came up to my desk and asked if “maybe you need to go see the nurse”, followed by “did you eat breakfast this morning?” (2) There was nothing but concern in her face, demeanor, and words, and I thanked her several times before the period was over.

After lunch, blurriness gone, I entered my last period of the last weekday. Students filed in to and with “Good Afternoons” and other comments about the day. One surly student entered at the last minute, wearing his hood and plopping down demonstrably at the bell. I don’t allow hats and hoods on heads in my classroom and he regularly pushes this rule and grunts when I would say, “It’s not raining in here, ___”. This day I could tell that he was in a particularly bad mood, so I thought to wait and ask privately or let it occur to him from my sideways glances. I know that this expectation is considered deeply old-fashioned and inexplicable to most people, but I think that it is a matter of respect. (3) Once again, upon reflection, I figured out why this student was non-verbally resisting. He had been told, no doubt moments before, of his lunch detention for a fourth tardy to my class yesterday. If this were the only or rare exhibition of disrespect toward me from this student, I could have totally ignored it, but I had also had him another semester, and this was the regular fare he serves up. I try to be patient because he is under significant pressure I believe from parents and siblings and friends to “make something of himself” through success in education. He has a good mind but not an excellent ability, so to succeed he must struggle and work hard. Interpreting what I see, I’d say his bad attitude results from much extrinsic motivation but little intrinsic motivation, daily lessened by the pressure of the extrinsic forms. I am probably among his least favorite teachers because my expectations require either that you prove through testing that you know the material or work and organize hard enough and consistently enough to convince me of your learning. Either one will garner a B, but only both precipitate an A. Therefore, his extrinsic motivations get turned up a notch because he is not willing or able to live up to my expectations, though more effort on his part would solve the problem.

These two deeply contrasting interactions within the span of an hour and a half have triggered my reflection on interaction between people. And in fact, I had intended to comment on this previously (“Review of what we should have learned” #2), and am self-chided for not completing that thought. So, in quick fashion, I intend to say what I believe to be several GLUES (Good Lessons Underpinning Effective Society) of Society. Society here means “a voluntary association of individuals for common ends”, and in particular I refer to that kind which is “an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another”. (4)

These two students teach us what we already know to be two required underpinnings of society: respect and kindness. We will forever battle, literally and verbally, if we do not hold these two expectations of ourselves and our fellow citizens. Respect should be for a minimum of two reasons: 1) All people deserve it because they are made in the image of God (5), and 2) Those in authority: a) government servants including elected officials and police, to name a few, b) those who work for our good such as teachers and preachers, fathers and mothers, and c) elders (6). Without interacting layers of respect a society cannot function with civility.

Kindness and mercy, which includes forgiveness, are the only ways past the juggernaut of hatred and fear that propels us to quarrel and be defensive even when there is no offense real or intended.

Additionally, a society must be characterized by truth in order to long endure. I fear our society will not long endure into the future owing to the fact that we have shed all modicum of truth either as a concept or in practice.

The two areas of the practice of truth that I think are a minimum requirement are the rule of law and integrity. I don’t say justice because human government may not even be capable of that in any real and balanced way. Rule of Law it seems to me is a consistent, that is, not fickle, determination to approximate justice in the black and white and gray areas of human ignorance on what constitutes real justice. (7) Some will argue that if we merely follow God’s Word, justice will always be done. I retort that God’s Word is absolutely true and just but our laws are evidence that He did not illuminate us on every detail of how to carry out His justice, though the principles are all there. It is most certainly due to our blindness and rebellion that we do not carry out His law, but that is where we are nonetheless.

Integrity is a term that seems vague to most people I talk to. They simply say it means honesty, or the more astute say it means honesty when no one is watching. Though true, these two definitions fall short of the deeper meaning that a society needs to function. Integrity involves an internal consistency of thought and action based in worldview that makes honesty the unassailable default mode. To put it simply, a person of integrity can’t lie (8) because his/her worldview comes unglued. As an illustration, a student told me that she was telling the truth. In reply, not really questioning her honesty but questioning her integrity and view of herself, I asked, “Do you ever lie?” She thought a moment and slowly replied, “I have.” I pointed out to her that she must, by in large, be an honest person, therefore, because she admits to the human condition that we all lie. (I John 1:5-9) Without integrity there is no good reputation, so where do I take my car to be worked on and do I ever receive change from a cashier without counting it?

How could I make such a list without love. “God is love.” “Without love I am [we are] nothing.” “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (9) Love holds together everything: self, family, friends, communities, nations. It stems directly from God’s nature and is the greatest need of mankind.

And there you have it, my ideas about the GLUE of Society: Kindness, respect, rule of law, mercy, truth, integrity, and love.

Now this list could go on and I hope the reader will comment with your candidates and reasonings for including other ideas, but I think these seven GLUES can be reduced down to two found in Proverbs 3:3: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” And these two are not dichotomous in nature, whereby you can’t hold one while entertaining the other. Instead, they are two sides of the same coin, whereby you cannot truly have one without the other. As a fellow citizen, yea human being, I cannot truly be kind to you if I do not tell you the truth. And I cannot really be true if I do not communicate and interact in kindness, because you cannot accept it and real truth is always kind by instructing us for our good. And these two can be further be reduced to just love, because it is an essential attribute of God, but not the only one. And that last little clarification is the the reason I think we need to discuss seven or more GLUES for our life together (10) and stop here.

  1. “add memory”- For those of you with good eyesight that means looking at something blurry but being able to discern from size and general shape what it must read.
  2. I told her that I did not know what was wrong and that I had had a good breakfast. Upon later reflection her prompting caused me to realize a possible cause of the episode. I had eaten eggs, sausage, almond meal pancake spread with almond butter missing one ingredient I usually eat that brought carbs to about zero. I have hypoglycemic tendencies from my father. When I ate lunch at noon the blurriness subsided in minutes.
  3. Few know its real meaning. Even this balanced article only hints at the real reason in ignorance: https://www.thespruce.com/etiquette-of-hats-indoors-1216685 I will likely get push back for communicating the real reason, but here it is: I Corinthians 11.
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/society
  5. Ah! there is a sticking point and reason for decay in our society: lack of respect for and subsequent acknowledgement of Creator God.
  6. I am saying more in the footnotes than in the article, but putting it here hopefully prevents bogging down the main points of the article: Romans 13, I Timothy 5:1,17
  7. Victim’s rights balanced with mercy is something I am seeing more that only God can pull off both because of His omniscience and His omnipotence. (This is getting fun to see how many legit. footnotes I can make.)
  8. A person of integrity cannot lie ultimately or consistently and will at some level come back around to admit to any lie stated or acted out.
  9. I John 4:8, I Corinthians 13:2, I Peter 4:8
  10. But since this is not a theological treatise on the character of God, I will leave that for your Scripture reading and systematic theologies.

Read Full Post »

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.

20190823_164807

Rehearsal

20190823_171639

Pianist

20190823_175115

Bride’s Oldest Sister and Family

20190823_175138

Mamaw and oldest grandson

20190823_175205

Bride’s younger siblings

20190823_175322

Amazing, long preparations and carry through

20190823_175414

‘We’re happy but it’s a long day.’

20190823_175512

Bride’s mother and the Pastor and friends

20190823_183139

My wife beside Bride’s parents

20190823_193800

Taking it in stride

20190823_183155

Fellowship

20190823_185440

Uncle with the little chunk

20190824_142939

Hilltop Venue

20190824_143057

Overlooking the Lake

20190824_152631

The Wedding Party

20190824_152811

My Oldest and Family

20190824_153025

My Youngest and Wife

Bean Family

My Daughter and Family

20190824_153043

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

20190824_153155

The Growing Clan minus the Married Couple

20190824_153454

The Grandchildren

5 Children

The Children

20190824_154100

Always in Costume

20190824_184220

The Groom with the Pastor and His Wife

20190824_185021

A Portion of My Family

 

Read Full Post »

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.

20190704_123920
2 Beauties
20190704_123950
Barn Swallows
20190704_131917
Built on the Rock
20190704_125326
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.

20190704_205329
A Story, I’ll be bound
20190704_205444
Whack it hard! The “Birdie” is in motion just above her head over the white SUV.
20190704_205428
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.

20190705_090453
Grandchildren saying ‘goodbye’
20190705_102838
Another Tri-state intersection: The arch says, “Tristate Corner Paradise Point Resort”
20190705_102430
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.

20190705_113404
Foster Falls- capstone, shallow soil, and infrequent rain result in a boom or bust flow
20190705_115538
Mud Daubers? Cliff Swallows? Dried Mud? No, it’s pitted limestone!
20190705_134604
Topview of Foster Falls
20190705_140223
Phemeranthus calcaricus, Limestone Fameflower
20190705_140504
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.

Read Full Post »

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.

20190426_162506

Little Ewok with his magic jewel

20190427_202036

Mealtime

20190427_080553

Doting Big Sister

20190427_201835

Not really wanting to eat just now

20190427_080530

Watching the little man

20190428_085729

Mamaw’s favorite thing

20190427_212039

Firelight and Family

20190427_212025

Enjoying a Spring evening

20190427_201823

Feeding time again

20190427_183323

A nearby scene; living in the country is nice.

20190426_132216

Oak-Hickory stand at the rest area

20190427_172114

Crimson Clover in a neighbor’s field

Read Full Post »

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. 

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 025

Mothers are always busy

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 022

Food and Fellowship

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 020

Do crossed arms mean it’s a serious discussion?

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 018

Are we skeptical?

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 015

“Candy Land” Carousel

20-4-19 Resurrection Weekend 085

My second son and his fiancee

Read Full Post »

It has been a year and a half since we visited our son in Pennsylvania. I felt like I made more connection this time with the grandchildren than previously. We have forgotten how much energy young children expend and parents expend on their behalf. We sword fought, colored, cooked, ate, cleaned and organized, worshipped, ran around in two different yards, shopped, read, ate, recalled, sang, ate, talked, watched film, prayed, ate, played croquet, and cleaned some more.

Two of my younger sons were there for the first evening dinner. I would so like to get the whole clan together in one place, at one time. It is good to see the young ones healthy and happy. I think that their parents are tired. Many changes are coming.

101_1661

A Stance and Grip on Life Ready for Growth

101_1665

101_1659

My Kitchen Is My Happy Place

101_1667

 

I took two walks and a run while I was there. A walk down by the nearby creek occurred when all seven of the other people were napping. I wonder if the woods, creeks, and fields have always felt so lonely in the winter, or did we eliminate so many mammals as to make it so. I don’t mind alone, because it gives me time to process, meditate, consider, and request. I also observe much better when I have un-rushed time alone.

101_1679

The Quiet, Melancholy of a Winter Riparian Scene

101_1676

Natural Impressionism

101_1686

Late Evening Winter Scene

We stayed in an airbnb all four nights. I discovered them this year because of increased travel and motels being a bit expensive for what you get. In someone’s home you have the option to cook, which both saves money and allows for eating what you want to eat. The first night we stayed in a very nice home, beautifully decorated with an inquisitive couple who would have talked into the wee hours if I had allowed it. The next three nights we stayed in a clean but very sparsely decorated older home. We hardly saw the host and had the two story house to ourselves for the little time we spent there. It was from this second home that I took a walk at dusk on the second night. I had to include the poor picture of the falcon sitting on the fence post. It was not more than 30 yards away. The small towns there are surprisingly compact. There were probably not more than 20 houses with a volunteer fire station, an auto repair shop, and a few small business warehouses. You could walk 200 yards from the middle of town in any direction and be in a farmer’s field.

I’m sure locals could tell at a glance, but just because you see a buggy doesn’t mean the occupants are Amish. Many are Joe Wenger, 35er, or Piker Mennonites. What is generally conservative in religious circles elsewhere is moderate to liberal in Lancaster County. 

101_1673

Bad Picture, Amazing Sight

101_1669

Mastersonville, PA

101_1671

They do have running lights and headlights

We came home tired and satisfied. Time with family and time in a new place are refreshing to the spirit and mind, even if not so much to the body. God has so blessed us with children who seek Him and occasional opportunities to break up the mundane with new experiences. Life is good, because God is good.

Read Full Post »

Keeping the Thanksgiving tradition alive on a day after hike is one of the enjoyable ways of renewing our family relationships. I find that the quieter, slower pace and distance between hikers perpetuates more personal conversation. It’s when I really catch up with where family members are at. And I met one new extended family member, too.

The best time to see waterfalls and cascades is when there is plenty of water. This must have been a record rainfall year. Chuck said the area is 10 inches above normal so far. And there had been a big storm just two days before.

The hike we took was on Rhododendron Creek in Greenbriar. I’m told it is not an official trail, but given the traffic, it might as well be. Toward the end of the 2.6 mile stroll we came to cemetery that had numerous Whaley’s in it. There was a curious story about how two distant cousins in my family meet, genealogically speaking.

When we got back to the road, my niece and I ran about 1.3 miles down the gravel to retrieve the cars. I am so happy that I can begin to run again. It was a pleasant hike all around.

101_1552

Ready for a hike even on a damp day

101_1554

Every little stream full to overflowing

101_1555

Hi-ho, hi-ho!

101_1558

I like to slow it down a little

101_1559

Plenty of water

101_1561

The crew at a destination

101_1564101_1566

101_1573

A very bushy lichen (Anyone help with the ID?)

101_1574

101_1579

Leon and Chuck

101_1590

To read and see my brother’s description of this and another hike, click on Chuck’s Description of the Hike 

While at one of the seven cascades, my niece decided to take a selfie. As she described it in her e-mail with the attached picture, this is the picture with my ‘crazy uncle’. That crazy uncle was trying to go see the next cascade up that was hidden in the rhododendron above. My nephew followed and you can see the site below.

 

Emily with me in background

My Niece’s Photo Bombed Selfie

101_1575

‘Crazy Uncle’ Cascade

Some people reading this blog may say that Leon (aka ‘crazy uncle’) seems to think that he has to tag on a thanksgiving or praise to God at the end of a blog entry. I don’t always, but if you look at the title and subtitle of this blog, you will see that it reminds me that He is the one worthy of praise and thanksgiving for our existence, provision, and salvation. I intend never to stop praising His glorious name, and enjoying and thanking Him for His provision of all things good and beautiful. Among those provisions are good health, the beauty of creation, and the warmth of family.

 

Read Full Post »

One of the projects I am involved in is the development of a trail behind our school. Given the committee’s desire to include the community, churches, and 4 schools in the development and use of the trail, I suggested naming it the Enola Community Trail (ECT). And so it is. The timing of this community trail was sequential to a student initiated emphasis on helping others, exercise, and the outdoors. An English teacher at my school took  their idea and coupled it with a trail I had already developed in the woods behind our school. (I may ask her to guest blog that huge side of the story.) She asked me how we could use the trail to get students outside and moving.

The idea for a trail originated with a class I taught for about 6 years called Advanced Biology. I basically wrote the curriculum, a fact that I should not admit to in public. That was probably the demise of the class, since it did not have a state mandated test and didn’t have an approved, curriculum specialist, set curriculum.

Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t work and learn, because there is nothing I hate worse than wasting time. In fact, if a class of 30 students wants to pack up 5 minutes early, I point out that they are intending to waste 2 1/2 man-hours of work. The class included the indoor studies like dissecting cats (once or twice a piglet and shark as well) along with a body organ quiz and extended discussion on binary classification, using stereoscopes to identify student made collections of insects, spiders, wildflowers, and also trees as the season allowed, preparing powerpoint presentations about a body system to present to the class, and researching and writing a paper on an organism of the student’s choice which included characteristics, ecological importance, range, population (including level of endangerment), and usefulness for food, medicine, shelter. The outdoor studies included making collections, trap and release studies, game cameras, succession and soil studies, reflections, creek studies (from dissolved oxygen and macro-invertebrates to erosion) and building projects. We built two bridges, one to cross a creek and one to cross an erosion ditch, two bird nesting boxes with a camera in one, and a pole with bat box and raptor nesting site above. Behind the school there was a small kudzu patch, a large briar patch, two old fields overgrown with trees (one dog hair stand and one with young trees and vines so thick you couldn’t see 15 feet), a monoculture of Eastern White Pines, a large lawn, a hay field, a riparian zone and creek, a small intermittent wetland, and a patch of what seems to be virgin forest (…or at least long undisturbed. It is still there with old growth trees next to a meander in the creek at the odd corner of 5 properties. Mayapples, Doghobble, heavy leaf cover, and 10+ varieties of large hardwoods grace the scene. I call it ‘Beauty Spot’.)

To access these places I had the students begin to build a trail. It was a narrow, single-track path, with two grades cut into the side of banks with mattocks and shovels. The students dug, trimmed, cut, sweated, and occasionally played in the creek. We would frequently stop to talk about a spider someone saw or wildflower, or a bird overhead, or the change in type or smell of the dirt. At first the students whined about the work, but by halfway through the semester they would beg to go out and work, or sit and talk about nature.

One project was fun to surprise the students with. I would lead them down to ‘Beauty Spot’, a solid 1/2 mile walk from our classroom. Then I would explain that they were to lie down in the leaf litter to look, listen, smell, and feel the surroundings for 10 minutes in stillness and silence. It was very difficult to convince them that it is OK to lie down in the leaves. Questions of bugs, snakes, spiders, filth, and more were common. I usually had to plop myself down and call for them to lie down around me. Then I would quiet them and say no talking or movement, or we start over. When I called time, I told them to write down as many things in their journal as they could remember. Next we discussed what we observed. I added as many other things as I could to help them see the need to hone observation skills. Several students would reflect then or later that it was the most amazing outdoor experience they had ever had. I was always amazed since I have spent many hours over many years doing just this, especially on backpacking trips. The opening of their minds and hearts to the significance and love of nature I called ‘Affective Biology’.

I guess we would have run out of trail building and significant maintenance eventually, but it didn’t happen in the six years I had the class. One regrettable reason for this continuance of need to maintenance the trail was the growing kudzu patch. I wrote above that is was a small patch. I warned and pleaded about the coming doom to the wonderful variety of habitats in such a small area, but to no avail. I even had borrowed a goat from a student’s grandfather to test the idea of goats controlling kudzu. In this preliminary study, we checked on the goat every school day to give it water. It was confined in a ten by ten, portable chain link enclosure. That little goat could denude 100 square feet of ground with chest deep (on a human) kudzu every 3 days. Oh, to have a little flock with fencing and small shed to solve the problem ecologically and educationally. Instead, the goat was stolen by a ‘concerned’ student and her uncle who thought we were being cruel to animals by ‘experimenting on a goat’. Never mind that kudzu is nutritious and edible by humans as well as goats. It was quite a surrealistic scene when the goat was returned a week later before the eyes of the class and grandfather.

To say the Advanced Biology class was the best part of my teaching career is an exaggeration and misunderstanding. It was good because of the challenge to me to find new things to study, the truly hands-on activities that didn’t include more than about 3 or 4 lectures from me the whole 90 days, the time outdoors, and the change I saw in students. But the best part of education is the interaction with young people at their moments of wanting to understand the world around them, the meaning of and best way to live life, and humor and warmth of relationship. You have to plow through a load of interaction that is anything but that to experience it, and it doesn’t seem worth it much of the time. I have had those significant discussions with individuals and whole classes in all of the various classes I’ve taught. You just have to seek it and wait for it.

So, I guess this whole blog entry is a side-track, since the title has been largely neglected thus far. When others got involved, they envisioned more of a walking, jogging, eight feet wide greenway style trail, and so it is becoming. In reality, it does not detract from my original intent of nature studies in various habitats, because the trail mostly traverses the growing kudzu patch and might hopefully be the final demise of the same. “Beauty Spot” is still there and the creek is largely undisturbed. The new trail may even result in an outdoor classroom and a wetland/catchment basin to solve an erosion problem. 

One of the problems of such a project like this is conveying and passing on vision. You might have thought I would say getting funding, but as individuals and organizations understand our vision, they want to help. But how do you get the wider community excited about something they can’t see or is only partially formed? It is as if you must reach critical mass of manifest vision before the many contribute money and manpower. We may be approaching that mass, or at least, we hope so.

Read Full Post »

I would write more if I weren’t living life so much, but then it would all be stale reminiscing. That will have to wait for later or never. Last Friday evening my wife and I fought traffic to get to our son’s apartment (usually 2 1/2 hours but nearly 3 1/2 this rainy, dark, Friday rush hour). We ate out and spent the night. Next morning we traveled 2 hours to my daughter and son-in-laws’ house to see our sixth grandchild for the first time and help son-in-law take down two mostly dead trees. He had acquired by purchase and neighborly borrowing all of the equipment except for my larger chainsaw (He bought a smaller one.). 

Felling trees is adventuresome, challenging, and useful. Being a variety of poplar, possibly a cultivar of Eastern Cottonwood, and dying from some disease, made for a threat to his garage and house. We set up the following rig with cable, pulley, and winch. In place of the truck was a neighbor’s skid-steer loader as an anchor and winches on the other side with a pulley at the tree:

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 8.22.05 PM

I set to notching the tree. As I did the wind was widening the gap in the notch, demonstrating the necessity for the cable set-up. Both times the trees were slightly weighted toward the structures and the wind was pushing in that direction, too. But we put them safely on the ground within the approved drop zone.

101_1511

Dying too close to the garage

101_1514

Notching high enough to leave a fence post

101_1516

Relaxed Tension

101_1520

More work to do

The other joy was meeting my grandchild and holding him. He has many difficult days ahead with heart surgery sometime in the next several months to repair deformities. But this day he was happy and content, and looking healthier than he really is. As he grows his heart will not be able to provide sufficient oxygen to all of his body. Conversely, the doctors want him to grow larger and stronger before they attempt surgery. When is the right time? We pray that the doctors will know the time, that God will strengthen this boy, direct the doctors, and grow him in to a blood bought warrior for the kingdom. He is a handful for his parents who must give him special care and manage all of the other parts of life as well. May God superintend all their provisions for life and godliness. We are thankful to God for this young extension of our family and their new arrival.

101_1506

Mamaw holding a precious grandson

101_1510

The little man

101_1507

Nurse (big sister) holds a stethoscope or microphone?

101_1522

Drink up and grow strong, young man!

101_1534

It is good to be home after the long hospital stays.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains