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Every War Has Brought Us Here

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The times and experiences of today may differ, however, when we take a close look, they often easily add up to the situations we find ourselves in today.

The Revolutionary War was a victory for the obvious underdog-US-the United states of America. There were celebrations all along the East Coast of the Colonies, now States of a new Country. No doubt, the world found its self in a bit of shock. Citizens shouted that we were free. We were of one soul, one mind-freedom. We read the declaration of Independence, the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even with the knowledge that the fight was far from over, we felt victorious. But who among us, was really “free.”

Women? People of color? The poor, illiterate immigrant? No. On paper, we had freedom of (or from) religion, freedom of taxation without representation and so much more. The document that stated these things was beautifully written. Unfortunately, those old prejudices lived on. Many still do.

We had another war with Great Britain in 1812-again, the United States of America “won”.

About 85 years after the Revolutionary War,, we were fighting amongst ourselves. Was it about “states rights” or“slavery” . Most likely, it was about much more. A new and restless nation, part which had become a leader in world industry and another which had become an agrarian based society with little modern industry. It had found itself dependent on slave labor to make the growing and harvesting of it’s crops profitable. In Europe, such differences in culture and life-style generally produced a new “kingdom. Here, many saw the power of a nation of such size being “one country” as vital to being a world power. Among these men was Abraham Lincoln.

My great-grandfather spent three years without this “freedom”, as a Confederate Officer during the War between the States. He was called up to serve, went with quite a few family members to sing up and was later captured in what was written up as a cowardly surrender by his superior officer near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The letters that he wrote to his wife and children are still tucked in a drawer in my mother’s cedar chest.

This man did not have slaves, he fought for hearth and home, as the average Southern man did. He, in fact, went to court to support a “black” woman’s claim to freedom, and helped her win. He was not wealthy. Neither was the common Northerner who got caught up in this horrible tragedy. My Southern family had its homes burned, crops destroyed, women raped, cattle stolen. Does this make slavery right-absolutely not. Brothers were fighting cousins and uncles. Neighbors, who had gone to church together were suddenly enemies.

Over 500,00 Americans killed-still, we have to pay attention to the question that brought our country into being-are we free yet? The Civil War, The War Between the States, which ever one might call it, it was a tragedy that was not healed by the war, not necessary by any means and set our country back decades from what we should have been doing-upholding the constitution that we fought the British Empire to gain.

It is 1918. World war I has just ended. The Unitted States had tried to stay out of the war, sending supplies, money and support but not troops. Finally, seeing Great Britain and France falling, we were forced to enter this war with our troops. Then, as the war ended, our troops come home to confetti parades, electrically-light arches built in cities across the country to celebrate the end of “The War to End All Wars”. Were we “free” yet?

A terribly written and enforced “Peace Treaty”, The Treaty of Versailles” humiliated Germany, Italy and its neighbors, setting the stage for yet another unthinkably horrible war, only 30 years later. These people were ripe fr anyone who would help them regain their dignity and place in world power. Unfortunately, the “men” who showed up to help with this cause were those like Hitler and Mussolini.Even our “Allies”, such as Stalin were to become a scourge to freedom very soon after a war we fought on both sides of our country was ended in a most unthinkable way-the race for the creation of the atomic bomb. We “won.” Were we now “free?”

I think of slogans, some made popular in earlier wars, that each war fought was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. Throughout history, the poor, the weak, slaves, simple farmers have fought and died while the wealthy, for the most part, sat it out, making plans that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

There were wars across the world, the Greek Revolution, the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, the chill of the Korean war, the steaming jungles of Viet Nam, they all haunted the concept of freedom. The violence over human rights and dignity here at home have only gradually began to find some answers. We still have a long way to go. Again, the idea of freedom for all is more a hope than a reality, even in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

I look at the use of religious beliefs as a cause of war. It is not a topic that many like to address. Yet, it is true,historically, many battles have been fought over religion, many people tortured and killed for holding the “wrong” beliefs at that particular time. There are fanatics in every faith. That makes no sense. If we are Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Catholic, Judaic or any other in our belief, why can we not just live in peace and have respect fr the views of others? Will we every find this illusive “freedom” as long as fighting over just about any difference of opinion continues?

How many rows of graves, or ancient crypts will it take to obtain peace? This is a question without answer. I humbly remember and deeply respect all of those who gave their lives in the quest for what some leader demanded was necessary to finally procure “peace’. I will never understand how we can, “fight for peace”. What a horrible oxymoron. There has been so much loss, over and over. This essay may be too long, but it barely touches the history of war.

Why can we not coexist-live in a world where everyone is free from war and hate? The first step is to simply live our lives in a way that is respectful of others, moral, and honest . To continue to repeat the mistakes of the past is entirely useless.

 

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On a Stormy Night

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As I listen to the rain spattering against my cabin’s window,
I think of that night when we were stranded here.
The roads were washed out and the creek overflowing,
but I was in your arms , safe, warm, a long-awaited dream.

I saw the lights blink on the alarm clock, the bang on the transmitter.
I smiled, we were alone, you and I , no one would check on us.
I tugged on grandma’s quilt and you tugged back-asleep.
I listened to the sweet sound of your breath, soft, even.

When I awoke, stars glimmered in the window, the clock was flashing.
Darkness still surrounded me, along with your strong, hard arms.
I wanted this night to last forever, the moon seemed satisfied with just a peek at us.
You and I, finally in a place where life brought a freshness-alone, together.

 

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The Ephermals of an Appalachian Forest in Spring

As a teen, I often wandered in the forest and grassland of my grandparents pasture. The sight of the ephemeral flowers of spring always brought me great joy. It seems one dy, in late February, I would notice a tiny Spring beauty growing below the deciduous tress deep in the woods. Then there wold be another and another. I would round a curve on an old logging road and discover a bank filled with Bloodroot. I felt as though I had found a treasure, as all ephemeral rise up, bloom and disappear within a few weeks, before the leaves are much more that a pale green bud.

There are “arguments” among locals as to which wild flowers of early spring really qualify as ephemeral-meaning flowers that appear, bloom, fertilized each other (sometimes themselves) and disappear within a very short time. I never really cared. I knew which ones fit that category in “My woods” and that was all that mattered. After the first flowers had begun to disappear, others wold take their place. There were Clinton Lily’s. Pink Orchids, common violets, Pipsisewa, May Aapple and many more as spring progressed towards May. Between mid-April and mid-May, the forest was covered with these small shy flowers. I found them to be fascia ting, often getting down on my knees to explore each leaf and bud.

I always enjoyed the sounds of busy squirrels and chipmunks, I loved the way that the sound of the creek became louder as I got closer to a small pond that someone had long ago built for cattle drink from. Occasionally, sight of a foot-long ground snake, would surprise me. We would stare at each other, her head held high,and then she would slowly crawl off into the brown leaves still littering the ground. It was always exciting to pick up a stone and find a resting lizard, remaining still underneath. I often had to put the rock back down right beside the creature for fear of crushing it.

I was raised in the woods. My mother, aunt and grandmother would go on walks with me. We knew where natural springs flowed from depths of the earth, with water as fresh as a spring shower. We would lift rocks with a hoe from the creek where the cattle drank and catch crawfish (who, of course shoot backward when disturbed and were easy to catch.) DON”T argue, crawfish is what we called them! Salamanders would hide in the s shallower areas near the edge or the water plants swishing near the edge of the creeks.

By mid June, blackberries were starting to ripen, and the chiggers that lived on and around them were waiting for a dog, person, any creature that spelled “food” to walk by. When I was 12 years old, my parents made me go pick blackberries and I got 103 chiggers bites. I swore that I would never go again, and I didn’t, until I was a young adult and had to decide on my own whether the seedy berries were worth the briars and chiggers.

The fields are gone now, either grown up or a mansion has sprung  up in the middle of a big “lot”. It should have never happened. It breaks my heart that only my mom cared enough to want to save it and she was out-voted.

Times have changed over the decades. The big houses have chased the bears, wild turkeys, coyotes, even bobcats down into the valleys. There, they have found easy meals from scraps and trash cans. My grand kids will never see the world I knew. I take them to the Botanical Gardens at the University or the Bird Sanctuary at the man-made lake.

There, they can see mallards and red-headed ducks, turtles resting on logs, frogs jumping into the slim-filled swampy areas, birds of all kinds. That is as good as it gets near my home any more. I have always hoped to one day convince an old farmer that what I could offer him to save his land was worth more to his descendants than the crowds of houses the developer wanted to build, smiling and offering him an exorbitant price to destroy his land. I have about given up hope, it seems the green on money means more to even the old farmers than the lush, lovely green of trees.

Perhaps someone with more money than I have will come along, or some old timer with a mind that loves nature like I do, will donate his land to a nature conservancy. In the meantime, I will go to the edges of the woods , when it has just started to sprinkle rain and the fragrance of soil and plants fills my senses and remember what this place was like before the leaders of surrounding towns turned paradise into pitiful.. The Singing Group called the Eagles wrote a song when I was a teenager that said, “Call a place a paradise, and kiss it goodby.” How sad, how true. But I have my memories. Please take time  listen to the song that plays on this blog.

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The Oregon Trail and the Modern World

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History Majors are an ever-smaller group at our university it seems. If we aren’t finishing a degree in Computer science, business, accounting or the like, there is little need to get in line at the job fairs held on campus or at the mall. In my mind, that of a Public History Research major from the 1980;s, our “learning” is s far out of date we have little chance of being noticed. Yet, as I see my youngest son, obsessed with his computer and coding, never picking up a book to read, unless it is required, I see more and more need for courses to be required in subjects that teach us not only about the future, but how we got here. Who we are, where we came from and the process of learning are just as important to a Computer major as to one of us poor “do you want fries with that’ majors we used to joke about 30 years ago.

I may be wrong, but this photograph looks like one I once saw of the Oregon Trail. It was amazing to me that over a hundred years later, the ruts from the hundreds of wagon wheels traveling somewhere west of where ever the settlers had begun were still visible on the tall grass prairies which led settlers not only to Oregon, but many other places which, today, are as crowded and crime ridden as the ones these brave souls were escaping when the trails were made.

As a historian, genealogist and general lover of the studies of past places, countries and ways of life that lead us to the unbelievable places we can go today, I find learning about these cultures and how they thrived and often ultimately died of fascinating interest.

I admit, I almost agreed with some of my older children when they called the “Humanities” courses “Department Funders” In other words, they had no real use in the modern world. But as I get older, I have changed my mind. Hear the news about Vladimir Putin taking over the Crimea reminds me quickly of the horrors of Sevastopol during the wars with Great Britain in the 1850′s. It reminds me that thinking an event, or one similar to it will never happen again, is not only foolish, it is simply wrong.

I encourage all Universities, colleges and Even Technical Colleges to require students to have some knowledge of world history so that they can have a basis on which to prevent the errors of the past from repeating themselves.

And, lastly, I would like to see today’s children understand why they have the technologies they now possess and what their ancestors endured in order for them to live their lives of luxury, or at least,lives of hope.

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The Most Difficult Job

DSCN1871In my 58 years, I have had six kids. Raising them, loving them, being their mom was the greatest joy of my life. Sadly, I lost a son at age 15 from a sudden heart event during a baseball game. But this is not about him, it is about all children.

I look at my grandchildren now, and see their innocence, their joy at pleasing me, their “Beebee”. I walk in parks with them and their moms, along with my youngest son. It brings back such wonderful memories. We laugh, I take pictures of them climbing fallen trees, seeing fish or turtles or a red-headed ducks out on the lake. A bug skitters by and elicits a squeal from one of them. A snail, slowly making his way across the boardwalk delighting a grandson.

Besides the horror of loosing a child, one of the most difficult things a parent has to do is teach them to be adults, to allow them to grow up. When your child can fix his own lunch or lay our her own clothes(and they match!) is one of our first lessons in letting go. Of course, even before that, going to the potty alone or cleaning up a mess is a step in that direction. Believe me, it gets more difficult.

When your life has been centered on being the best mom that you could be, it is a tearful adventure to hear your youngest child talking about his plans for his future. For 38 years, I have had our own form of home-school on Saturdays, in summer, or even on school vacations. We have walked the paths of Gettysburg and splashed in the waves of beaches from Santa Barbara to cape Hatteras. It gos by so fast.We have been on educational trips, anywhere from the mountains at our doorstep to the Grand Canyon or Washington D.C..

Suddenly, the oldest will not come along and a new one will ride in a stroller. Perhaps some of the older “kids’ will meet you at your vacation spot with a car full of their friends. For a while, it is simply a milestone, and then your little group becomes smaller and smaller. They choose what they want to do on the trip, even where they want to go. You realize that the best days, the most precious days are rushing by, and a tear often trails a mothers cheek.

I have been through a lot, I will not try to put these ordeals, good or bad in numerical order. I will simply say this to those of you who still cuddle sleeping babies, go to “Kindergarten Parents Night”.

gently stroke feverish heads with a cool damp cloth-to breathe in every second, every sleepless night, every leap of joy when the school bus comes home, because, soon, they will be gone.

I picked up my teen at school today with a stomach virus, all ready to comfort him, bring him cool drinks, obsessively check on him, all those “mom” things that we learn to do, and realize that the ride home was all he really needed. He will get his license soon and independence is on the horizon.

Oh, he appreciated the kind words, the stokes of my hand through his hair, the cold drinks or peeps into his room, but I could tell that his smile of appreciation was more for my benefit than for his.

One feeling that I know I will keep with me forever is the joy of being needed, loved, appreciated by a child. There is nothing like it. I will still talk my teen into taking the grandchildren that I keep after school to the store and let him hold their hands and escort them to the toy section while I shop. I will ask him to go with us to the park and go to the grocery store with me. But I know, that it is my son, now, who is going for my pleasure, rather than me going for his. It is his joy at seeing me smile that that makes the day so fine. It is his reaching for the keys as we get in the car that makes me smile back.

I look at him with pure pleasure, 6 foot 3 inches tall, (taller than his father),shaving on occasion, his low-pitched voice asking me which store to go to, and know that I was one hell of a mom, and am now one hell of a grand-mom, and if I succeed in the hardest part of all-letting him grow up and be the man that I have worked so hard for him to be, that I will have done the hardest, most wonderful, rewarding, frustrating job in the world-be a parent, and one day walk with him as he skips through the park with his child.

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Mission Acomplished!

He woke up with a startled jerk. “Where the hell am I?” he thought.

 Realizing that he knew noting of his situation, he closed his eyes to a squint and played dead or at least asleep. Around him, he saw white sandstone walls, it reminded him of photos of terrorists camps hat he had seen on TV.

 He heard voices-foreign voices coming from the other side of he walls. Through a partially opened gate, he saw a group of men, dress in similar outfits, again, similar to those he had seen on news reports from new reports.

 He tried to listen for any word he might understand, any clue to where he might be, or why. He could hear the foreign voices, shouting, perhaps arguing, then, suddenly, one group disappeared around a corner out of his range of sight or hearing.

 Slowly, he rolled slightly to the left and observed a grove of trees surrounding the walls. He didn’t recognize the kind of tree, but the sky was soft blue, dimmed by a layer of thin clouds. No rain in sight, it seemed.

 He heard the sound of footsteps approaching and assumed his position of unconsciousness as they drew nearer.

 “I think we got ‘em” whispered a voice in English. Not American-type English, but European or Australian, he didn’t know which.

 His heart was beating out of his chest, yet he forced himself to breathe slowly and remain still.

 Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that one of he men had rounded he crumbling corner of the sandstone wall and spotted him. What should he do? His had could just reach his ankle, and he felt for the knife he always carried strapped to his leg. Good, it was there.

 “Good Lord!” said one of the voices as it gave him a gentle kick on the back. “I think its him!”

“Hey, Marcus, is that you?” The voice said. Marcus squinted and looked at the face hovering over him.

 Marcus nodded slowly, uncertainly.

“Well, I’ll be damned!” he laughed, “We did it.” We found the crazy bastard!”

 Just then, a loud explosion went off a few hundred yards from the walls. Marcus heard the sound of a helicopter landing on the other side of the grove of trees. A shout of joy went up among the men,as they lead Marcus to the helicopter and pushed him aboard.

 “Have you got it?” asked the taller of the men. Marcus felt a heaviness in his pocket and nodded, handing in to the man, with a smile. Suddenly, he remembered his mission, his last thought, and sighed with both relief and pride. He never said a word as they patted him on the back and welcomed him “home.”

 All he could think about was Wisconsin, his wife and young boy, and how nice that job at the training school sounded.

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Baby Boomer Barrier

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Barriers-the story of my life. It seems that the harder I work, the more perseverance I put into something, the less likely I am to achieve my goals to my satisfaction. Since the prompt ask for last week, I must say that the frustration I have with getting my computer to work has to top the list.

 I often ask people to help me find a “wordpress 101”, but find it difficult to understand if I do have a chance and often with my back and hip problems, have to limit my time on the computer. I won’t forget to mention that my computers do not like me. I pay a good price for them and yet I have had three completely crash in the past three years, one to the point where my hard drive could not be saved.

I had failed to back up everything-it is more difficult that just pushing “save”, and lost a years work.

Computers are to people who grew up in the days of electric typewriters are a night mare. My 15-year-old son wants to make a career of computer technology and was raised on today’s electronic whirlwind. It is very discouraging. If I ever get to the point where I can enjoy my creativity rather that agonize over my frustration with computers, that will be a good week!

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A Country Girl Meets the Big City

Arriving on Cecelia’s block had been quite an adventure. Everything looked the same. Rows and rows of tall brown buildings, each apartment with its private fie escape-seemingly the only thing “private” about the north-eastern metropolis. The noise was so uncomfortable, everyone seemed to be in such a rush. Honking horns and sirens filled the background. She had resorted to parking blocks away at a price high enough to buy a good meal in the Carolina’s, where she lived. Why hadn’t she just invited her cousin to her house where she could have at least have experienced a breath of fresh air!

Arriving on Cecelia’s block had been quite an adventure. Everything looked the same. Rows and rows of tall brown buildings, each apartment with its private fie escape-seemingly the only thing “private” about the north-eastern metropolis. The noise was so uncomfortable, everyone seemed to be in such a rush. Honking horns and sirens filled the background. She had resorted to parking blocks away at a price high enough to buy a good meal in the Carolina’s, where she lived. Why hadn’t she just invited her cousin to her house where she could have at least have experienced a breath of fresh air!

She walked quickly into the entryway where four elevators and some vending machines resided. Pushing the button to the fifth floor, she looked cautiously around her, hoping to see nothing that dwelt in this checkerboard city. As the door opened, a man emerged. Just a regular man, she sighed in relief as she went in and he emerged.

She took the note card with her cousins apartment number on it out to refresh her memory. “519” it said, as she began looking from side to side on the hall. At last she found it and breathlessly knocked at the door.

“Sophie!” her cousin said as she opened both the door and her arms. “It’s so good to see you! Welcome to my humble abode.”

“Humble?” thought Sophie, “we’ll see.”

She walked into the apartment and was pleasantly surprised. In contrast to the outdoors, it was surprisingly individualistic. The colors were bright and welcoming. The space, though relatively small, was well arranged and felt roomy. She began to feel better, more at home.

She thought of her home in the mountains, the sound of the trees whooshing in the wind, her dogs barking at squirrels in the woods, the long dirt driveway, the peace and solitude.

“What drew people to a place like this?”She thought. Money? Friends, and education, a boyfriend. She sighed and whispered, “who knows?” to no one.

Cecelia had gone to pour them a cup of coffee. This would be an interesting adventure. Next time, Sophie smiled, she would be inviting Cecelia to her house.

She walked quickly into the entryway where four elevators and some vending machines resided. Pushing the button to the fifth floor, she looked cautiously around her, hoping to see nothing that dwelt in this checkerboard city. As the door opened, a man emerged. Just a regular man, she sighed in relief as she went in and he emerged.

She took the note card with her cousins apartment number on it out to refresh her memory. “519” it said, as she began looking from side to side on the hall. At last she found it and breathlessly knocked at the door.

“Sophie!” her cousin said as she opened both the door and her arms. “It’s so good to see you! Welcome to my humble abode.”

“Humble?” thought Sophie, “we’ll see.”

She walked into the apartment and was pleasantly surprised. In contrast to the outdoors, it was surprisingly individualistic. The colors were bright and welcoming. The space, though relatively small, was well arranged and felt roomy. She began to feel better, more at home.

She thought of her home in the mountains, the sound of the trees whooshing in the wind, her dogs barking at squirrels in the woods, the long dirt driveway, the peace and solitude.

“What drew people to a place like this?”She thought. Money? Friends, and education, a boyfriend. She sighed and whispered, “who knows?” to no one.

Cecelia had gone to pour them a cup of coffee. This would be an interesting adventure. Next time, Sophie smiled, she would be inviting Cecelia to her house.

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Forest Primeval

IMG_0073I have been “kidnapped”, or so it seems. let’s just say I have awoken in a new place,in a new home,you might say optimistically.It is a forest somewhere that I have never been. I have everything I need to make a home, then begin a plan to find out where I am and someone I can communicate with. First step-find water. Mark my way back to where I began, so I will at least have a “starting’ point. Hopefully the water will lead to civilization, where I can observe the people, the buildings, read signs, get some idea where I am. Where that first step leads me, who knows? My second step will have to consider what I have found out there.

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An Ocean of Trees

Somewhere in the shadows of his dreams, the young man drifted in and out of the haze. Trees seemed to be every where, he looked around and everything looked the same. Here and there a branch would be different or a limb wold be broken off, but nothing in the real world went on and on without variation!

The, within his dream world, he thought of the ocean, how it went on and on, the waves crashing, the winds pounding, shells sprinkled about. There were a few things that went on and on without variety. But what did it mean? What was the purpose of this dreams.

Within the mist of dreamworld, he recalled what he had been thinking of as he went to sleep. What would I like to be when I am grown, what do I love? He thought of hikes he had been on, the whispers of the forest, the gentle breaks in its continuity. Its peace, the way it drew him back, time after time.

Suddenly, his eyes opened- “An OCEAN of trees!” the forest was like the ocean, simply a different entity. It went on and on, it was tranquil, yet mysterious. Forestry, that’s what it was, he would study forestry! Somewhere in that never ending topic, he would find himself. His eyes softly closed again.

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