June 14, 2017

Can We Agree?

Shots rained down on the baseball field.
Is this the field of battle at Antietam, or the field of dreams?
I shot you because you are Republican,
and I disagree with you.

You cannot serve this Great Country as a prosecutor,
because you are a Democrat,
and that makes you a bad person.
You Democrats are all bad people.

The gates to this Land of the Free are closed
to all you Muslims.
We believe in freedom of religion
provided you believe as we do.

You cannot be confirmed for service to our Nation,
because you are a Christian,
and your beliefs make it impossible for you
to serve all people fairly and equally.

So now this is what we have become.
The test of good or bad, right or wrong, qualified or unqualified, live or die,
is whether you agree with me or not.

But can we agree on one thing?
Can we agree to disagree?
Can we agree to respect each other and celebrate our differences?
Can we agree that the measure of goodness is not what we believe
  but how we treat each other?
Can we learn to love others, however different, as we love ourselves?
Can we agree?

July 15, 2015

Key Questa

July 15, 2015

1.  The Southernmost Point

There is a marker in Key West, Florida, billing itself as the southernmost point in the continental U.S.A.  It isn't really the southernmost point, but if you say something boldly and often and sound like you mean it, people will believe it.

2.  Hot and Cool

Key West in July is typically hot and humid, and this past week was no exception.  Four days there produced low temperatures of 81 and high temperatures of 92 with a constant humidity of approximately 75%.  We went there for a little vacation with one of Cheri's sons and his family. They rented a house in Key West for a month.  After they rented the house, and after we booked this trip, serious marital tensions have arisen between her son and his wife, and they currently are not living together.  However, we were all together there, and enjoyed our time and out visit with everyone.  At times, though, despite the heat, there was a palpable coolness.

3.  Putting It All Behind, Setting It All Aside, and Pushing It All Away

A good vacation should give one time for reflection.  Sometimes we don't want to reflect on that in our lives which isn't pretty and pleasant.  There are different ways of using our time away -- our reflection time.  Some choose to put all the disconcerting stuff all behind them and not look at it at all.  Some choose diversion in activities so they don't have to think about it.  Our grandsons, age 10 and 12, seem to not want to think about, nor really talk about, the separation of their parents.  But you can only push reality away for so long before it insists on being looked at and dealt with.

4.  The Iguana

The rented vacation home was a lovely waterfront oasis on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys.  The home had coconut palms and tropical plants all surrounding a multi-deck yard with a pool.  And Iguanas.  Lots of Iguanas.  Iguanas are colorful and fascinating creatures, and also a little revolting and scary.  The smaller Iguanas are brightly colored with multiple shades of green and specks of other colors.  The boys had a good time naming them all.  There was one Iguana much bigger than the others which was brown in color -- kind of a black sheep of the Iguana tribe.  I named this Iguana "Big Bad Daddy."

5.  Little Havana

Cuba is only 90 miles or so across the ocean from Florida.  I read an article last month about a group of Cuban refugees trying to flee Cuba to the U.S. on a non-motorized barge.  According to the article, if a Cuban refugee sets foot on any part of U.S. soil he can stay, but if intercepted in the water he must be returned to Cuba.  This particular group of refugees wanted to land on U.S. soil on the 4th of July as a symbolic quest for independence and a better future.  They drifted within sight of Key West before they were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and returned to Cuba.

Cuban influence is everywhere on the Florida Keys.  We went out for dinner one evening at a Cuban restaurant and tried some Cuban food.  Cuban food is distinctly different than other foods I have tried.  Sometimes you can successfully blend food types together and sometimes you can't.  Core values in people are like that too, sometimes.  When people have different core values, sometimes they can't be successfully blended.

6.  Day-Oh

After our Cuban dinner we walked out to Mallory Square to participate in the nightly Sunset Celebration for which it has become famous.  Among the many street musicians, magicians, vendors and shysters were two old Jamaican musicians.  They recruited some of the audience to help them sing the old banana-pickers song, Day-Oh.  The recruits were to sing the chorus "Daylight come and we wan' go home."

Come, Mr. Tally Man, and tally me bananas.  Daylight come and we wan' go home.

7.  A Terrible Hurricane

At some level we all wan' go home, whatever and wherever home is.  Trouble is, you can't always go home.  On Labor Day in 1935 the strongest and most intense hurricane ever recorded to hit landfall in the U.S. devastated the Florida Keys.  Many homes were destroyed by violent winds and an 18-20 foot storm surge, and more than 500 people were killed by the category 5 storm.  Lesser storms in our lives sometimes leave us wanting to return to a home that simply doesn't exist anymore.

8.  Rain on the Deck

On our last day in Key West a rain storm blew in and we sat under the eves of the roof on the deck enjoying the rain.  Unlike the hurricane of 1935, this gentle rain was a cooling, cleansing and healing kind of rain.

9.  Up In A Parachute

As a culminating fun activity on our last day in the Keys, some of our group decided to go parasailing.  Parasailing is where a boat pulls a parachute into the air with people dangling from harnesses under the parachute.  I didn't go, but by all accounts it was a truly uplifting experience. Sometimes we just need to be lifted up and to find a little joy.

10.  Lost In Miami

We drove to Miami on our last night so we could catch an early non-stop flight back to San Francisco.  We programmed the hotel address into our phone, but the phone led us to the wrong place.  For about a half hour, until we could get it all figured out and straightened out, we were lost in Miami.  We all get a little lost in life, both figuratively and literally.  Fortunately, for most of us, we eventually find our way again.

December 17, 2014

Ageless and Evergreen

At the gym where Cheri and I go to ward off the effects of age and food/drink indulgence there is a pretty steady group of usual suspects working out from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.  We run the gamut in age from early 20's on up, and there are a surprising number of older folks who work out on a regular basis.  John is one of the regulars who is quite a bit older than me.  The other day John and I were sitting at weight machines a few feet away from each other, resting between reps, and John said "I think I'm getting too old for this, George."  I didn't know how old John was, so I said "If you don't mind my asking, how old are you, John?  "I'm 95," he said.

I was stunned.  Here's a 95 year old guy who shows up at 6 a.m., rides a stationary bike, rows a rowing machine for a while, then does some resistance and weight work on his upper body. John's got me by 40 years! I often find excuses to not go work out, and sometimes after a good workout I wonder how many more years I can keep this up.  Am I good for another 40 years?  I am skeptical about that.  In fact, I doubt it very much.

We've had some good storms here in California the past couple of weeks, with much-needed rain and some serious wind.  Well, serious for the San Joaquin Valley of central California. So finally, a week before Christmas, the leaves are mostly off the trees.  But I can't figure out why, with all the trees denuded, there are still a few green leaves on the Japanese Maple tree in my back yard.  Are these some kind of mutant leaves, impervious to the effects of cold and wind?  Are they, like John, simply destined to live longer than most of their now-fallen generation?  Or maybe the Japanese Maple is morphing into an evergreen?

Another thing I wonder about is this:  Why are some plants in my yard fading into a long winter's nap, and others, like this Christmas Cactus, are just now waking and coming into the fullness of their bloom?  It is a little bit like the ebb and flow of faith among the myriad people I know.  Faith in some is dying, or at least going dormant, and in others it is coming into full bloom.  If ever there is a time for faith to bloom it is during the Christmas season.

At the invitation of another gym friend, Trish, Cheri attended the annual Christmas benefit lunch for the local Salvation Army.  Who should be there getting an award for years of service to the local Salvation Army but John?  95 year old John, whose faith and belief in giving some of our many blessings back to others in need are seemingly evergreen.

Speaking of evergreen, we have three Christmas trees this year.  One in the living room, one on the front porch, and this Fisherman's Tree in my office.  I am annually delighted by these little fishing ornaments which have been given to me over the years by many family and friends.  This Fisherman's Tree, in its many forms over the years, has helped keep my Christmas spirit in full bloom.  

Traditionally the use of evergreen trees at Christmas time has been a symbol of our hope of everlasting life with God.  Here's hoping that you have the good health and giving spirit of John, and that your faith also may be, or become, ageless and evergreen.